Best Practices in Leadership

Best Practices in Leadership and Productivity: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival!  This month, our contributors share their best practices in leadership and productivity. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

The August Frontline Festival will be about leading remote or non-traditional teams.  We’ve expanded the Frontline Festival to include other formats such as podcasts and artwork and are always looking for new thought leaders to join the party. We’re always on the lookout for new ideas and best practices, Won’t you join us?  Send us your submissions here!

Best Practices in Leadership

Julie Winkle GiulioniJulie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds asks, What’s Your Disposition Toward Development? The ultimate leadership hack involves developing your people. Cultivating the mindset and skillset to make that happen supports individuals growth and organizational results. Follow Julie.


S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture provides us The Leader’s Most Powerful Tool, a three-minute video on the most powerful tool a leader has – expressing gratitude!  Follow Chris.


Robyn McLeodRobyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog provides, Change May Be Good, but is Your Organization Ready for it? Change readiness is the prelude to change management and it can spell the difference between successful change and failed change. Adopting best practices such as devoting time and resources to establishing a clear vision and strategies, opening and prioritizing robust communication channels, employing change management tools and principles, and aligning leaders around a shared commitment and messaging will get your organization ready to successfully plan and implement change. Follow Robyn.

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS gives us Six Questions You Should Never Ask.  (a contribution to Careers In Government.) Leaders have a real opportunity to make a difference through the questions they ask. Taking the time to be deliberate with their questions can pay huge dividends. Here are some tips to help you do just that. Follow Jon.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader provides Easy Ways for Everyone to be a Better Leader. No matter how long you’ve been a leader, certain basic principles can help you improve. Here they are and how to implement them.  Follow Paul.


John HunterJohn Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement gives us How to Successfully Lead Change Efforts.  Leading change efforts requires paying attention to the existing conditions: the culture, the motivation to adopt this change and/or the motivation to resist it, the history of change where the change is being attempted and the reasons the change is desired (by at least you and hopefully others.) Then you will need to build a case for the change and manage the process. Follow John.

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group shares Leaders: Stop the “Slide Shuffle” and “Overdone Outlines” for Your Next Presentation. You have another presentation and you begin preparing by pulling slides together from various presentations you’ve given. If they worked before, they can work again, you think. A scrambled or rambling presentation is often the result. Here’s a strategic approach to creating an effective presentation.  Follow David.

Kairn Hurt and Charles Fred

Karin interviews Charles Fred, Author of the 24 Hour Rule and 2019 ATD chair, on how leader’s stress impacts productivity in organizations and what to do about it.

There’s a great conversation happening on LinkedIn about this. We’d love to have you join us and offer your perspective,  Click here to add your thoughts 



Best Practices in Productivity

Maria Tanski of Patriot Software gives us 8 Ultimate Time-Saving Tips for Small Businesses. To help boost productivity in your business, you need to learn how to cut down on time suckers. Use these eight time-saving strategies to save time and get back to your business. Follow Maria.


Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership gives us Productivity and Me, what he’s learned from a half-century of trying to be more productive.  Follow Wally.



Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us Four Tips for Vacationing without Worry.  Do you worry about leaving town for vacation or a conference? These tips from Shelley’s two-week trip without a computer or checking email show how you can lead and be productive even when you take some extended time away from your business. Follow Shelley.


Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited asks, What Can You Unsubscribe From? Some Questions to Help You Target the Emails to DitchMost leaders have a never-ending flow of email which can become a diversion and distraction from the important work at hand. Use this simple method to declutter that inbox for the more important messages. Follow Beth.

And additional time-saving tips …

Julie Winkle Giulioni suggests we start with a sloppy copy! It’s easy to procrastinate on the important tasks out of a desire for perfection. So, short-circuit that by setting out to do an 80% job. It takes the pressure off, establishes some momentum, and frequently yields something that’s pretty darn good in the process.

Chris Edmonds saves time by tracking commitments & to-dos with Nozbe.  It is a simple, clear, and available system that saves countless hours (and worry)!

John Stoker finds it helpful to take more time to plan before he executes.

Wally Bock finds it helpful to set up his work for the next day, before quitting for the day.

Beth Beutler keeps her to-do lists consolidated into two main apps, depending on their environment-of-use. Outlook is used for recurring tasks that are mostly completed at her home office, and Asana handles tasks and projects that she can work on in any location.

Want to Play?

Do you have a topic you would like to see covered in a future Frontline Festival? Please leave a comment with your ideas,

Are you a blogger, vlogger or podcaster? We would love to have you join us. Click here to learn more about submitting to the next Frontline Festival,

11 inspiring leadership secrets from bonsai

11 Inspiring Leadership Secrets from Bonsai

A mature bonsai tree commands attention. With a single tree, a master evokes an entire landscape and tells a story of power, perseverance, struggle, or abundance. As I’ve studied bonsai, I realized there are many leadership secrets available for leaders who want to help their people and teams to grow.

Inspiring Leadership Secrets

To accomplish this elegant combination of grace and strength, great bonsai practitioners must be both gifted horticulturists and artists. In the same way, leading people entails both vision and cultivation. Here are eleven inspiring leadership secrets from the art of bonsai:

1. Focus on strength and directing energy, not fixing weakness

In bonsai, the artist looks for a tree’s strengths. What is unique and special?  What can they showcase?

Similarly, effective leaders look for strengths and build on those. Know of weaknesses to manage them and keep them from hindering strength, but focus on ability – in people, in yourself, and in your team.

Focusing on weaknesses builds nothing. Strengths produce results. What abilities, talents, and energy do your people bring to your team?

2. Growth requires patience

A fully developed bonsai can take decades to reach perfection. You collect material, let it rest and grow out for two or three years, prune and shape, then wait some more.

One of my very favorite trees is on display at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. It is a Japanese pine that’s almost 400 years old! It’s an awe-inspiring sight, made all the more so by the fact that this tree survived the bombing of Hiroshima.

patience inspiring leadership secrets

Nearly 400 years old, atomic bombing survivor

There are no shortcuts to produce growth. Nothing less than four centuries make that tree what it is.

But sometimes we force ourselves and our teams out of season. We push when we should rest. Or rest when we should study. Or move when we should question. Or question when it’s time to act.

To be effective, how can you be aware of your own seasons and your team’s season? You can use the competence-confidence model to give people what they need at this moment.

3. Treat individuals as individuals

A skilled bonsai artist knows that you cannot prune a trident maple at the same time of year as a juniper. Not all trees are the same.

People are also unique. Different people should be treated differently. What motivates one person may terrify or humiliate another.

How can you better understand the people you lead and learn how to maximize each person’s potential?

4. Healthy conditions produce growth

You cannot force a tree to grow. Rather, you provide the right nutrients, fresh air, sunlight, water, and soil and the tree will naturally grow. That’s what trees do.

People and organizations are much the same. Healthy organizations have healthy cultures and in healthy cultures, healthy people accomplish great things.

If your people aren’t growing and producing what you believe they’re capable of, examine your culture and systems. What can you do to help?

5. Appearances don’t tell the whole story

With certain trees, there are times of the year when you might swear the thing is dead. Some of the greatest abstract juniper trees have vast amounts of dead wood. A tree (and a person’s) potential is not just what you see.

look for life - inspiring leadership secrets

In a tree, you look for life in the roots, in the channels that carry sap to the branches. In a person, you look for character. For integrity. For the desire to learn and willingness to try.

And when those are there, you:

6. Nourish or encourage what you want more of

A bonsai master knows which of three buds on the tip of a branch will be strong and best serve the tree. That bud is encouraged. If other buds would steal energy, they are removed.

You cannot wave a magic wand in bonsai or in leadership and have the right branch, team, or skills spring into existence. These things must be grown. If you want:

  • More creativity, encourage it and remove barriers to healthy risk.
  • More ownership, nourish responsibility and remove impediments to implementing ideas.
  • To strengthen customer relationships, remove policies that prevent people from serving.

7. Pruning is beneficial

Sometimes a bonsai master will remove a branch or an entire limb for the health of the tree or so it can realize its full potential.

In your organization, do you regularly ask what we need to stop doing?

What methods, products, or services are no longer beneficial or serve the mission? You have limited time, money, and people. Set aside activities that do not serve your team or the mission. You can use the Own the U.G.L.Y. method to facilitate these conversations with your team.

8. Every part needs light to thrive

When caring for a tree, masters give great attention to ensure that every set of leaves or needles receives the light it needs. Without this care, interior leaves weaken then wither and die.

In organizations, we can shade out essential people who make a difference every day but aren’t the glamorous ‘face’ of the organization.

Do you treat your cleaning staff with the same dignity as your executives? Do you show appreciation to everyone in the organization for their contribution to the mission?

9. Make mistakes to grow

“Killing trees is the tuition you pay for learning bonsai.” – John Naka

No one enjoys making mistakes, but they are the price of knowledge. How can you create a safe environment for your team to make mistakes and learn what to do next time?

10. You cannot change the core

When selecting a tree, the bonsai master knows that some qualities of the tree cannot change. The general shape and strength of the trunk, the position of key limbs, the way the roots spread into the ground … these things are core to the tree and you cannot change them later.

Likewise, one of the most important leadership secrets to know is that you can’t change people. No matter how hard you work at it, forcing a gregarious people-person to work in isolation all day will end in failure.

Find people with a passion for the mission and the skills their work requires.

11. Nothing is perfect

Inspiring bonsai often tell a story. A tale of a lifetime fighting salt-laden storms blowing in from sea … or the struggle to survive hostile conditions in a rock cleft far above treeline.

These stories and a bonsai’s grace often result from the tree’s imperfections. The masters incorporate dead wood, twisted branches, and even wounds into the design to reveal the essence of the tree. They specifically select the best viewing – you don’t view most trees from every angle.

Leadership isn’t about perfection. It’s about improving the condition of your team and accomplishing the mission. Just as there is no ideal tree, neither is there one ideal person.

Abraham Lincoln reportedly answered complaints about General Grant’s heavy drinking by telling the complaining party to find out what Grant was drinking and to send his other commanders a case.

Your Turn

As in bonsai, effective leaders look for strengths, manage imperfections, and aim for magnificent results. We’d love to hear from you – Leave us a comment and share: What is one of the most important leadership secrets you’ve learned from an unusual source?

Developing Ownership and Commitment: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival!  This month, our contributors share their thoughts about developing ownership and commitment (and a few shared things they were most proud of.)  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

The July Frontline Festival will be about best practices in leadership and productivity hacks.   We’ve expanded the Frontline Festival to include other formats such as podcasts and artwork and are always looking for new thought leaders to join the party. Won’t you join us?  Send us your submissions here!

Now, on to the June festival where we learn to Develop ownership and commitment through shared values, vision and mission, by building a culture of respect, growth and service, with clear communication, expectations and accountability.

Develop Ownership and Commitment

… through Shared Values, Vision, and Mission

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer gives us Three Ways to Develop Ownership. Learn why Joe Tye and Eileen McDargh believe that organizations are built around people who have a shared sense of values and mission. This is not something that can be mandated by a mission statement. Follow Eileen.


Rachel Blakely-GrayRachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC offers Sparking Commitment in the Workplace Boils Down to this One Thing.  The majority of employees aren’t committed to their work. If you want commitment in the workplace, inspire your employees to take ownership of their work with these five tips.  Follow Rachel.


Julie Winkle GiulioniJulie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds provides Vision: It’s a Verb.  Visioning ensures the level of buy-in and ownership required for sustainable attention, effort, commitment and results…. when leaders do it with their teams. Follow Julie.

Julie is most proud of her family.

From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better. ~ Richard Branson

… by Building a Culture of Respect, Growth and Service

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership gives us What You Can Do to Help Engagement Grow.  Engagement is more like a plant than it is like a building. It grows, you don’t build it. The best way to help it grow is to create an environment where growth can happen. If you’re responsible for the performance of a group, you’re the gardener. Here are some things you can do to help engagement grow. Follow Wally.


 Dr. Artika Tyner of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership gives us Students Learning About Making a Difference. She says, “I am most proud of our team’s commitment to service in the community. Together, we shared the message of Planting People Growing Justice with thousands of people across the world. We hosted book giveaways, promoted literacy and fostered leadership development. Together, we are planting seeds of social change.” Follow Artika.


S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture gives us a (vide0) Culture Leadership Charge: Insights into a Healthy Work Culture. Chris enjoyed a wonderful “behind the scenes” look recently at a popular food store – Trader Joe’s. He shares the employee’s reasons for their joyful commitment to their jobs.  Follow Chris.


Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership provides Transformational Leadership: 5 Steps to a Brighter Future with Your Team.  In this post about developing a sense of ownership on the team, Ken unravels the meaning of a quote from a surprising source and shares five ways to build commitment in ways that strengthen bonds and increase productivity.  Follow Ken.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.  ~ Bryant H. McGill

… with Clear Communication, Expectations and Accountability

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting  asks, Who is Responsible?  What is your default setting when you discover something didn’t happen as you expected, or something happened that you didn’t expect? What could you gain by re-setting your default? Follow Nate.

Nate is most proud of The Compassion Mindset – just launched at ATD in DC.


Robyn McLeodRobyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog gives us The True Meaning of Accountability.  As a leader, you have to create an environment that fosters accountability and you have to be accountable yourself if you want people to be accountable. Doing the right things to foster accountability and reward those who demonstrate the best in personal accountability will reap tremendous rewards for your organization. Follow Robyn.


Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates provides Proactive Communication: Easy Ways to Create Certainty.  From a personal experience she shares where she experienced vendors who were committed to excellence, Shelley helps us see how simple steps in communication can bring a sense of certainty to your employees, clients or customers and make you stand out in your field. Follow Shelley.


David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group provides Leaders and Communicators: We Often Get in Our Own Way. It’s a habit that’s easy to fall into – focusing on a communication opportunity from a tactical perspective. What we’re really doing is making a choice to not be as effective as we can be, and to waste valuable time and energy. There’s a better way.  Follow David.

The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.  ~ James Cash Penney


what no one tells you about leading

What No One Tells You About Leading But You Desperately Need to Know

Leading is tough enough without ignoring these critical truths.

“I wish someone would have told me some of this before I started leading. Life would have been so much easier. I bet my team wishes I knew it too.”

We hear this sentiment after almost every leadership workshop or keynote speech we deliver. And we get it – we wish we had access to all these leadership tools and strategies earlier in our careers. That’s why we built them, and are so passionate about sharing.

But you know as well as we do, leading well isn’t JUST about mastering tools and techniques. It’s a mindset.

So today we bring you six leadership realities we wish we learned sooner.

6 Leadership Realities  to Ground Your Leadership

1. Everyone is a volunteer.

Control is an illusion. You don’t control anyone or anything except for yourself. Everyone you work with chooses what they’ll do and how they’ll do it. Yes, your team is paid and if they choose not to perform at a certain level, they can lose their job – but that’s still their choice.

When you remember everyone is a volunteer you know that the effort you want your people to give is their choice. Sure, you get to influence that choice. When you recognize that everyone chooses what they do, it transforms their work into a gift, and that changes everything.

2. You’re in the hope business.

This is one of the most neglected truths about leading a team. Leadership is the belief that if we work together we can have a better tomorrow. Together we can do more, be more, and add more value to the world.

That’s a big deal.  It might be the biggest deal of all.

And some of the time your team will be stressed and discouraged, your job is to help them find the hope.

Without hope, you’re done. When your team has hope, you have a chance.

3. Change isn’t a choice.

When you’re leading you’ll never have it handled.

There are moments of dazzling teamwork where everyone aligns and you achieve more than you ever thought possible. But next week, one of those team members moves away or technology changes or your competitor does something different that you can’t ignore. Now you’re working hard again to create the next future.

Leadership is a journey where are no final destinations. At some point, you will leave your team – hopefully, in the capable hands of leaders whom you’ve invested in and developed. In the meantime, whatever you did last week opened the door for the new challenges and change you will face this week.

4. Effective or right?

Many new leaders (and more than a few experienced leaders) get stuck because they cannot see past their own “rightness” and do the things that will help them achieve results and build relationships.

For example:

“Why should I have to tell them again…I said it once.”

Yes, you did – three months ago. People have many priorities competing for their attention. If it’s important, communicate it multiple times in multiple ways.

“Why should I encourage/thank them? they’re just doing their job.”

Yes, they are. Yet people are more engaged when they feel appreciated and are seen as a human being, not just a cog in a machine.

“Why should I hear opposing viewpoints? I’m an expert in this subject and I’ve looked at all the options.”

Yes, you are and we’re sure you did a thorough analysis, but if you want your team to be committed to the idea, their voices need to be heard. Besides, you might be surprised by someone else’s perspective.

If you want to achieve results and increase your influence, look for places where you’ve clung to being “right.” Then let it go…and choose to be effective.

5. Harder isn’t smarter.

“Work smarter, not harder” is a cliché for a reason. More effort isn’t always the answer. Twelve hour days filled with back-to-back meetings may feel busy, but they’re not healthy, strategic, or ultimately productive.

When you’re leading, creating time to think and get perspective will often be far more valuable than pouring in a few more minutes of sweat equity. Once you’ve got motivated people and clear shared expectations, the changes that will do the most good often aren’t more effort, but better systems.

6. You are not alone.

Too many leaders suffer in lonely silence. You don’t have to. In fact, leading by yourself will limit your career and influence.

Effective leaders connect with people. Connect with your colleagues and invest in one another’s success. Connect with your team and they’ll make you better. Connect with mentors or coaches to grow. Connect with a community of leaders for support and encouragement.

Your Turn

When you build on a strong foundation, leading is more rewarding and you’re more effective. Leave us a comment and share a foundational truth or mindset that has served you well.

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

How to Lead When There's Not Enough Time

How to Lead When There’s Not Enough Time

When There’s Not Enough Time Your Leadership Is More Important Than Ever

Sheila raised her hand and asked for the microphone. We were near the end of a powerful leadership development program where the participants had worked hard on culture-transformation. She took a deep breath and said, “I love everything we’ve received today. But realistically, there’s not enough time. My manager doesn’t care about this stuff – so I don’t know what to do.”

Specifically, Sheila was struggling with how to spend 10 minutes each week with each team member to support them, ensure they had what they needed to succeed, and maintain goal alignment.

Can you relate? Sheila isn’t alone. Over the past few months, we’ve heard many managers say, “I want to, but there’s not enough time.”

Let’s be real: many managers receive responsibility for their teams on top of their job responsibilities. Nothing goes away. They’re leading AND doing their old job.

This isn’t ideal, but it happens. If this is your scene, the good news is that you can still lead well.

Four Steps to Take When There’s Not Enough Time

Leading when time is tight requires you to make choices about how you approach your work. With a few shifts in your mindset, you can significantly improve the quality of your leadership.

1. Redefine Success

Leading when there’s not enough time begins with reframing your job.

As a leader, your number one job isn’t to “get the job done” yourself. It’s to get the job done well, through the team. When you take on too much because “everyone else is busy too” the work gets done, but you’re not tapping into the diversity of strengths or helping your team to grow.

We’ve heard the objections, “But Karin and David, my boss doesn’t see it that way. I’ve got to do the job they want. And no one does it better than me.”

Yes, you need to achieve the results you’re accountable for. But if you’re always the best person for the job, you’re in trouble. It’s not an either/or choice. It’s a matter of you choosing how you will get results.

No one makes that choice for you. It’s up to you.

2. Commit to Leadership (Even in a Crisis)

There is an insightful scene in the original Men In Black movie where Jay (Will Smith) tries to shoot an alien in plain sight of civilians. Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) confronts him and emphasizes the need to stay focused on what matters most:

Kay: We do not discharge our weapons in view of the public!

Jay: We don’t got time for this cover-up bull-. Look, I don’t know if you forgot, but there’s an Arquillian Battle…

Kay: There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Korilian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they “do not know about it!”

There will always be a new crisis, another change of the strategic objective, and thirty-seven other tasks you could do today. If you want an excuse to not lead, they are plentiful.

As with the Men in Black, “the only way” it works is to stay focused on what matters most. Treat those urgent moments as opportunities to lead.

3. Recognize the Time You Have

You’re right. You don’t have time to do everything you’d like to do (and that will always be true). But that’s not the question.

The real question is: What is the most important leadership action you need to do next?

Maybe you need to focus on developing your people. Or you want to get everyone organized around key strategic outcomes. Maybe there is a new initiative you haven’t implemented well and need to improve.

You may not have time for everything, but you have time for that. And, sometimes you may need to get creative.

When Karin was in her sales executive role with fourteen remote direct reports, she would often get up early and do a bit of yoga to ground herself for the day. During the last half hour, she would concentrate for a minute or two on each of her direct reports to consider what they needed most and how she might help. She would prioritize her thoughts and make touch-base calls on her drive time between stores.

When you focus on the one leadership behavior that will make the most difference, it’s amazing what you can achieve in a small amount of time. You can help people grow through short exchanges (and it’s often more effective than a long conversation).

4. Choose Progress Over Perfect

Three minutes spent with a team member or a ten-minute huddle with your team may not feel like the comprehensive work you want to do, but we promise: it works.

Small moments of daily progress lead to significant results. Don’t allow your desire for perfection to keep you from doing what you can do today.

If you don’t see how you might meet with each team member for 10 minutes each week, then try meeting with half of them this week and the other half next week. Still too much to ask? How about one person each day for 10 minutes?

Unless you’re in the middle of a rare conflagration, you can find 10 minutes today. That’s all it takes.

Your Turn

Ultimately, leading when you don’t have enough time is a choice. It’s a choice to recognize that you influence your team with everything you do.

Leave us a comment and share your best practice for being a healthy leader – even when time is tight.

Hidden leadership problem with passion

The Hidden Leadership Problem with Passion

One problem with passion is that it’s no substitute for good leadership.

Passion is good. You want team members who love their work and serve their customers with passion. We are big believers in the power of purpose. Connecting what you’ve asked to why it matters is a powerful source of motivation. However, there is a problem with passion that can erode your influence, your team, and entire companies.

Recently, Amnesty International was in the news for what might seem like a strange reason. The human rights organization lost five members of their leadership team following a report revealing a toxic workplace culture.

How does an organization with such a noble purpose as fighting human rights abuses around the world end up with a “toxic culture of secrecy and mistrust?”

It might seem strange, but it’s actually more common than you might think – and it’s not limited to charitable organizations. You can easily find yourself in the same situation if you fall into the Passion Pit.

The Problem with Passion

The Passion Pit is the name I gave to the strange contradiction of organizations that do good work but have poor culture – cultures that are caustic, toxic, and abusive.

You might think that for an organization like Amnesty International, the negative culture, burnout, and employee anxiety would result from the difficult work they do. Observing human rights abuses like torture would be emotionally draining and take a toll on anyone.

But that’s not the problem. According to the report:

“The stress, burnout, anxiety, depression … were more often reported to stem from their working conditions–challenging managers, mistreatment by colleagues, bullying–than from stressful tasks such as interviewing survivors of violence and torture.”

I’ve watched this same dynamic happen before. I’ve lived it as an employee and I’ve witnessed it as a leadership trainer and consultant.

The Passion Pit happens when leaders use people’s passion and commitment as a substitute for sound leadership and management.

If They Really Cared, They Would …

I was working with the CEO of a regional service organization who did amazing work but was having a horrible time keeping employees.

As I reviewed my initial findings with her, she said something that stopped me cold. Rather than address the organizational dysfunctions, the clearly abusive and bullying managers, and the lack of clarity that frustrated employees, she said, “If people really cared about what we’re doing there, they’d get it done.”

That’s the Passion Pit.

This CEO was sincere. She believed in their work, but she was blind to their leadership and management problems (and her contribution to them).

Her perspective was so twisted that she interpreted people’s behavior only as a sign of their commitment–not as the healthy indicator of major issues it was.

Diagnose Your Passion Pit

When you say, “If they really cared about what we’re doing here, they would …” carefully examine what comes next. If your next words would be something like:

  • “tolerate that abusive or dehumanizing person …”
  • “sacrifice their health or family …”
  • “stop asking for clarity or priorities and just work harder …”

I invite you to consider that the person isn’t the problem. Passion isn’t the problem. These are powerful signs that your culture, processes, and leaders need help.

You’re asking people to swim against a powerful current. People can’t fight the culture every day just to do their basic work.

Solving the Problem with Passion

You’re a motivated leader and you care. (You wouldn’t have read this far if that wasn’t true.)

If you suspect that the Passion Pit is at work in your team, one direct way to solve it is to change your language from “If they really cared, they would …” to “If we really care about our people successfully serving our customer, we would …”

Here are some places to start: “If we really care about our people successfully serving our customer, we would …”

As you implement these steps, you’re on your way to building a culture that supports and energizes your people. You’ll release their natural motivation and you’ll make it easier, not harder, to the work that really matters.

Your Turn

When the work is important, it’s easy to fall into the Passion Pit – that’s the problem with passion.

This is a short list to get you started. Leave us a comment and share one way you complete the sentence: “If I really care about my people successfully serving our customer, I will …”

5 Reasons Not to Act Like a Jerk When an Employee Resigns

5 Reasons Not to Be a Jerk When an Employee Resigns

How you treat your employees on the way out the door may have more impact than you think.

What do you do when an employee resigns?

I’m not sure exactly why this is a thing, or if it’s getting worse in a tight economy. But lately, my phone has been lighting up with stories of managers acting like jerks when an employee resigns.

Here’s what I heard from Joe, just yesterday.

I’ve been working here for almost two decades.  I just got my MBA (which I paid for, not the company). When I gave my notice, my boss was so ticked off he wouldn’t accept my resignation (I’d have to go tell his boss). I told him it had nothing to do with him or the company, and that I’ve loved working here. I’m not leaving for a competitor (I would never do that), I gave them a months notice so I could train my replacement. I really care deeply about everything I’ve built here. I’m just ready for something bigger that they can’t offer.

So I had to go to his boss to resign, and he was a jerk about it too. Now no one is talking to me, and treating me like I’m invisible. It’s devastating to me after all I’ve done for this company. I know one thing for sure, I made the right decision. No one really cares about me here.

And, this one really broke my heart, because he didn’t quit, he was RIFed.

I’ve been here ten years, and am consistently the top ranked sales manager. My boss and I got called into headquarters for back-to-back meetings with his boss to tell us we had no jobs. My bosses boss told us,  “I’m taking the department in a new direction, but I haven’t quite figured it out exactly. We just don’t need you.”

Not one ounce of recognition of my contributions, including the last huge sale I had just landed.  No “Thank you for all you’ve done.”  No, “We will miss you. It’s been awesome working with you.” No “Let me know how I can help.” Nothing.

Just “Give me your ID and we’ve already locked you out of our systems.”

I can understand the need for a change, that’s not the issue. But after all the long hours, the sacrifices my family has made for all the travel, not to mention the extraodinary revenue I’ve brought in, why don’t they see me as a human being with feelings?

Why Do Some Managers Act Like Jerks When an Employee Resigns (or is let go)?

Here’s what I’m finding as I dig deeper. Some managers feel personally hurt and betrayed, so they turn the tables right back and inflict some hurt of their own. Or they’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of the extra work of having to backfill the position. Or panicking about all the work that will pile up while they’re looking.

In the case of the RIF, they might feel bad and just move as fast as they can to avoid guilt or conflict. Some managers worry if they say “Thank you” for the contribution they’ll open themselves up for a lawsuit.

Or, let’s face it, it could be they are just a jerk.

5 Reasons Being a Jerk to An Exiting Employee is Bad For Business

1. Karma

Seriously. Life is hard enough. Do you want more trust and connection in your life? Treat people with respect and compassion.

2. Their Co-Workers are Watching

“Did you see the way they treated him? If it could happen to her it could happen to me.”  “No one really cares about us. They’re ruthless.”  Trust me, every time there is a restructure at my former employer my phone rings off the hook, with people saying those exact words. The fastest way to trash employee engagement is to forget you are dealing with feeling human beings.

3. Your Brand (for Prospective Employees AND Customers)

When people feel hurt and betrayed, they don’t just tell their therapist. They tell anyone who will listen. On Facebook and LinkedIn. On Glassdoor. At their son’s baseball game. At church during coffee hour and on the prayer tree. Before you know it you’ve done more damage to your company’s brand than any cheerful recruiter or zippy advertising campaign can overcome.

With just a little effort to say think you, and connect at a human level, your departing employee remains a brand ambassador and is more likely to share all the fond memories of working there with their family and friends—”I’m going to miss that place.”

4. Rocky Transitions

In the first example, Joe is in the process of training his replacement. Do you think his heart is in it? Once an employee resigns, all you’ve got left to hope for is a discretionary effort for a smooth transition. If you want your employee to care about the transition after he resigns, show him you care about him.

5. They’ll Never Consider Coming Back

Most companies have ditched their outdated “loyalty” policies of never rehiring someone who quits. In a high-turnover, gig economy, that high-performer you just kicked in the butt on the way out the door, may have exactly the skills you need in a future project.

The sage employment advice to not burn bridges goes both ways.

If you make people feel like they’re dispensable, the damage runs far and deep. A little gratitude, empathy and celebration can go a long way.

Your turn.

What would you add?

See Also:

How To Build Great Culture in a High-Turnover World

How to Take Your Retention Strategy to the Next Level (Training Magazine)

How to Hold a Better Mid Year Performance Review

How to Hold a Better Mid-Year Performance Review

Tempted to skip the mid-year review this year, particularly with your high-performers? Read this first.

Imagine you’re coaching your son’s football team. They’re up by 7. What do you say at half-time?

“Well, you guys played a great first half. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Or do you just skip the half-time huddle all together and go check your email. After all, you’re busy.

No decent coach misses the opportunity for a great half-time huddle. Why would you?

Why Now?

Mid-Year Performance Reviews are the Half-Time Huddle of Business.

  • There are still six months to impact the year.
  • In most companies, there’s no need to assign a rating or link to compensation. This frees you to be more real and developmentally focused–without the distraction of bell curves and merit payouts.
  • Since a mid-year performance review is often “optional,” conducting them shows the employees you’re invested in them and their performance.

Making Your Review More Meaningful

When Karin was working in her sales executive role, her HR team did an experiment linking performance feedback to employee satisfaction. As expected, those who had received meaningful performance feedback, were overall much more satisfied with their jobs and supervisors. But there was an interesting wrinkle. Those who received a poorly conducted mid-year review were less satisfied than those who did not receive them at all.

It’s important to not just go through the motions. If you won’t invest the time to offer a meaningful mid-year performance review, you’re better off skipping it.

What Feels Meaningful?

A mid-year review should summarize, celebrate, challenge, and inspire

When we ask employees what makes a mid-year performance review meaningful, here’s what they say.

  1. It’s a conversation. We talk openly about what’s working and where I can improve.
  2. No surprises. We’ve been meeting weekly, so there’s nothing new here. We talk about trends, progress and focus on development.
  3. My manager has specific examples and focuses on behaviors.
  4. We talk about my career and long-term goals.
  5. I feel recognized for the extra effort and challenges I’ve taken on.
  6. It’s an opportunity for me to share my new ideas on how to improve the business.
  7. My manager asks great questions and really listens to what I have to say.
  8. What would you add?

Mid-Year Performance Review Conversation Starters

If you need some help to get started, try a few of these questions to get the conversation rolling.

Questions to Reflect on Performance

  • How are you feeling about the year so far?
  • Describe what you see happening with this project.
  • What are you most of proud of this year?
  • What lessons have you learned?
  • What new relationships have you fostered?
  • How are you different now than you were six months ago?
  • Where are you stuck?

Questions to Challenge and Turnaround

  • Have you ever had an experience like this before?
  • If so, what did you do that helped?
  • Tell me about the patterns you’re seeing.
  • What do you think we should do?
  • Which habits would you like to change?
  • What’s the most important thing you can do to turn this situation around?
  • What additional resources do you need?
  • How can I best support you?

Questions to Encourage

  • What would happen if?
  • What’s possible?

Questions to Solicit Feedback

  • If you were in my shoes, what would you be doing differently?
  • What can I do to better support you and the team?
  • What have I done this year that most ticked you off?
  • How have I been most helpful?

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share: What are your best practices for highly effective mid-year performance reviews?

Winning Well: A Manger's Guide to Getting Results without Losing Your SoulWant more tools like this?

Read Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul.  And Download our FREE Winning Well Book Group Facilitator’s Guide.

one surprising secret to being recognized as an expert

One Surprising Secret to Being Respected as an Expert

I was having dinner with a group of senior leaders after a strategic executive offsite. So naturally, the conversation turned to … octopus hunting. Apparently, Carlos, the senior leader sitting across from me was an expert.

He described his technique in intricate detail. I listened in amazement. In all the times I’ve gone scuba diving looking for Octopi, I’ve only seen one of these eight-legged guys (and the only capturing I did was in the photo above).  And here he was bringing home nine or more at a time.

He smiled, “Karin, you can’t see them because you aren’t an expert.” Fair enough.

The Most Effective Way to Show Up as the Expert

But as his story continued, I realized Carlos’ true expertise was how he used it.

We like to hunt as a family. My Dad doesn’t see them as easily as he once did. So when I spot one I linger around it, to draw my Dad’s attention there. But don’t mention the octupus. Then he sees it, and comes back to the family with all the stories of the one Carlos almost missed.

My son is still learning so I find some in the smaller crevices and tell him I can’t possibly get my hands in there, and let him be the hero at dinner because he got the really hard ones.

Carlos gets the results he needs. Enough octopi for his hungry family waiting at home to cook them. He has fun with the people he loves. And everyone surfaces feeling a bit better about their contribution. Winning Well, confident humility at it’s finest.

Above the Surface

The next day, I watched Carlos again when he was handed the mic to talk about leadership characteristics as part of a panel discussion. He spoke in detail about each of his peers sitting beside him, sharing exactly what he admired about them as leaders—most of them he’d only been working with a short while from a remote distance. I watched their faces as he spoke. He clearly nailed characteristics they were truly proud of.

The best experts don’t need to tell you they are, they show you. They encourage, develop, and recognize the expertise in others.

BONUS How to Hunt an Octopus

In case you didn’t know Octopus hunting was a thing either, here you go.


Decision-Making and Problem Solving

Decision-Making and Problem Solving: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival!  This month, our contributors share their thoughts about decision-making and problem-solving (and several weighed in on the choice between coffee and tea.) Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

The June Frontline Festival will be about developing ownership and commitment.  We’ve expanded the Frontline Festival to include other formats such as podcasts and artwork and are always looking for new thought leaders to join the party. Won’t you join us?  Send us your submissions here!

Now, on to the May Festival where our submissions lent themselves to two major themes:

Challenges in Decision-making and Problem Solving


Eileen McDargh of The Energizer gives us Resiliency Routed by Routine. When the track seems clear in both directions, past and future–knowing you can only see as far as the bend in the “road,” move forward. What conscious effort will you now make? Follow Eileen.

Eileen votes coffee.


Tony Mastri of Marion Marketing gives us How to Set Marketing Goals (vs. Objectives) with Examples.  Solving the problem of which goals and objectives you should be setting and measuring at your business can seem like a monumental task. This post will aid your decision-making process for setting goals and objectives for yourself or your team.  Follow Tony.

Tony chooses coffeeeee (sic) (black) unless he has a sore throat. In that case – tea with honey.


Chris Killeen of elitePOD writes, Lesson Learned or Just Observed? A Weapons Officer’s Perspective. Every organization needs to make mistakes to improve. The hard part is capturing lessons … the RIGHT lessons … to learn from for future success. The Air Force Weapons School provides a method to do this rapidly and precisely which increases the decision cycle capability for any organization. Follow Chris.

Chris votes coffee.


Jon MertzJon Mertz of Activate World gives us Holacracy: Achieving Clarity and Productivity. What happens when a company transitions from a traditional business model to one with distributed authority? According to Morgan Legge, of, decision making is shifted into the hands of the role holder. She and Jon discuss her company’s transition to a Holacracy and how it has broken open a lot of old paradigms and ways of thinking about work. Follow Jon.


Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives us How to Handle Decision Fatigue. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make? Here’s some encouragement. Follow Beth.

Beth votes both tea and coffee and even coffee substitutes. She likes to mix it up.


Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates asks, Do You Have Analysis Paralysis?  You strive to make data-driven decisions, but too much data can result in analysis paralysis. Here’s a way to help. Follow Shelley.


Strategies for Decision-Making and Problem Solving


Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group writes What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do where she shares a few simple steps for having more clarity, flexibility, and confidence to make the important decisions you have to make. Follow Lisa.


Maria Tanski of Patriot Software provides Problem-solving and Decision-making: Key Ingredients to the Best Possible Solution. Solving problems and making decisions can be challenging. Use these five steps to help determine the best solution for your business and improve your problem-solving techniques. Follow Maria.

Maria prefers tea.


Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides Problem Solving Like You Mean It. It outlines four ways to give a serious problem the attention it deserves. Follow Wally.




S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture gives us Heads or Tails? Three Keys to Better Decision Making. How good a decision-maker are you? What influences your approach? Humans vary in the pace of their decisions. Chris gives us three ideas to consider in order to improve our decision-making process. Follow Chris.

Chris loves a good cup of coffee.


David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us The Best Way to Come at a Problem. Before you can solve a business problem or achieve a goal, you have to understand what the situation is. Find out how to do just that in the most effective way.  Follow David.



the biggest reason some managers still lead with fear

Fear Factor: The Biggest Reason Managers Lead With Fear

Most leaders know better. Leading with fear and intimidation is so old school. So why do so many managers slip back into destructive behaviors?

Mark’s Story

Mark, a senior executive at a Fortune 50, slams his fist on his desk as he reviews the latest sales results.

He thinks:

“Why don’t they get it? We can’t miss our targets this quarter! Sure there have been some unusual circumstances, but this is no time for excuses. We’re in the fight of our lives! I’d better be sure they understand how serious this is.”

So he calls an emergency meeting with his Director team, and lays the fear on thick. A few F-bombs, table slams, and thirty-seven “OR ELSES.”

He would never talk this way to his sales managers. He’s mastered the art of walking around.….

But he figures these guys can handle it. When his wife, Jenny, questions his “I really let them have it this time” approach at dinner, he laughs nervously. “That’s why they get paid the “big bucks.”

Fear Rolls Down Hill

Grace, one of Mark’s top Directors, leaves his meeting a bit shaken.

She knows her team is all over this. They just came up with a great plan last week. Her gut tells her to leave them alone and let them work the plan.

But, Mark said to have a meeting so she’d better have a meeting.

So she calls an emergency huddle to ensure everyone gets the message. She repeats back Mark’s words verbatim and throws in a few extra “or ELSES,” of her own. “Somebody’s going to lose their job here, and it’s not going to be me.”

Bill, Grace’s most seasoned manager, is a bit shocked as he leaves her meeting. “Wow,” he thinks. “She NEVER acts this way. She’s stopped listening. I could have told her about that big deal my team just closed that gets us closer if she had let me talk.”

So Bill calls a meeting of his team leaders. “THIS IS CLEARLY YOUR EXECUTION ISSUE. YOU NEED TO FIX THIS NOW. OR ELSE.”

He takes a stack ranked report with everyone below quota highlighted in yellow. “I want to know if it’s a will issue or skills issue with every one of your reps. BY TOMORROW.”

Bill knows he’s being a bit rough. If he were actually coaching reps he’d have productive conversations about behaviors and search for solutions. He would dig deeper and figure out how he can help.

He figures his team leaders will know what to do. They’ll figure out a way to coach the right way. They know that people can’t sell well when they are scared.

One of Bill’s team leaders, Kathy, gets the outlier report and hears his message loud and clear. She leaves the meeting and then…

Fear Fosters Fear

Your team takes its cues from you on how to treat others. If you don’t want fear to roll downhill, be careful how you show up “even to the folks that can handle it.”

See Also: Entrepreneur: How Your Leadership Style Could Be Stifling Your Leadership

How leaders make the best ideas work

How Leaders Make the Best Ideas Work

Do you have a plan to make the best ideas work?

Joe has a new idea. The idea isn’t perfect, but with a tweak or two, it just might solve that big problem that’s driving everyone nuts.

What does Joe do next?

If Joe is like half of the people in our research, you’ll never hear about it because he assumes no one will do anything with it.

Good ideas breed more good ideas. When people see a clear path from idea sharing to implementation, they’ll be much more likely to speak up.

On your team, how easy is it for people to bring forward their best ideas?

A Quick “Make the Best Ideas Work” Process Check

How would Joe’s idea flow on your team?

Take a minute to think about this “idea path.”

How does Joe know it’s an idea with potential? Have you defined criteria for what a great idea will do for your customers or the team? If not, that’s worth some brainstorming at your next team meeting.

Once Joe determines that his idea is worth sharing, what would he do next? Would he:

  • Talk to someone
  • Fill out a card
  • Enter it in a database
  • Schedule a meeting
  • Something else?

Then what?

We invite you to write down each step Joe would take – including other people’s activity necessary to implement the idea. Who would need to authorize it? What levels of approval do different ideas require? How long would each step take?

Be honest with how things work in your organization (not how you’d like them to work).

As you review the process you just outlined, ask the following questions:

  • Do you have a coherent plan or are there gaps you can address?
  • How long would it take from the time Joe shared his idea to the time a pilot project happened?
  • What feedback loops are in place to help Joe improve the idea and make it viable?
  • As the revised idea rolls out, would Joe stay involved? If so, how?
  • How would you recognize Joe and thank him in a meaningful way?

As a leadership team (or by yourself if you’ve done this one alone), review your answers to the last four questions and ask yourself: If you were a front-line team member, would it be worth your time and energy to think of solutions and new ideas (much less to share them)?

If your answer is “No”, where can you make changes to improve the process, remove barriers, and increase recognition?

If your answer is “Yes,” but ideas aren’t moving to implementation, ask your team to do this exercise. It’s a great way to check for understanding to see if they’ve got the process and know what to do.

As you review their answers, look for these common barriers to action. Do they:

  • Know what successful ideas look like?
  • Know what to do with an idea that might work, but isn’t perfect?
  • Have a realistic understanding of the timeframe involved?
  • Understand why they need certain approvals?

Your Idea Path

Teams that consistently improve don’t leave the creativity to chance. They have an intentional plan to find good ideas, test, refine, share, and encourage problem-solving.

You can download this free Idea Path pdf to help you, your colleagues, and your team think through how you help ideas move from concept to action.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you – what is your best practice to make your team’s best ideas work?