The Secret To Communicating With Executives

Without executive support your project will fail. You need funding, headcount, and time. Your team’s counting on you to manage up well. You’re looking for the secret sauce to convince your boss. Start by avoiding these 5 mistakes.

5 Big Mistakes When Communicating with Executives

  1. Over Confidence – Executives are suspicious of rose-colored glasses. Water down you exuberant optimism. If it’s going great, speak to “early positive indicators.” or about being “cautiously optimistic.” Throw in a few things you’re worried about for good measure. Execs like to worry. Throw them a bone.
  2. Lack Of Confidence – Don’t send him to bed at night worrying if you’re the right guy for the job. Show up strong and knowledgeable. Listen to his questions carefully and share your expertise. Balance accomplishments with plans to resolve your biggest concerns.
  3. Over Disclosure – Tell the truth elegantly, and then shut up. You know a lot, avoid the temptation to prove it. You don’t want that exec getting involved in minutia. Unless you’re a big fan of more readouts and escalations, share what’s relevant and move on.
  4. Forgetting To Breathe – The tendency to spew will undermine your credibility. I’ve been in more than one exec review where the speaker was instructed to “take a breath.” Pause for questions. Make it a conversation.
  5. Ignoring The Ask – Even if they don’t ask, have an ask. Execs want to contribute, but aren’t sure where to jump in. They’ll feel better, and you’ll get what you need.

The Secret

The secret to executive communication is credibility. Work on building trust and connection in every interaction. Trusted advisors build a track record of solid decisions and successful projects. Layer on appropriate confidence and carefully crafted words, and your project and relationship will prosper.

23 Great Thoughts On Leadership Development: A Frontline Festival

I’m delighted to present the September edition of the Frontline Festival. This month’s focus: Leadership Development. I encourage you to read the insights and share your perspectives. Namaste.

Leadership Development

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference offers, You Are Born to Be Brave: How Do You Sustain It. “To be an effective leader, we need to understand where our bravery comes from and what empowers it so that we can lead with purpose and solve problems with the right actions.” Amen.

Julie Winkle Giuliani of shares Everything I Needed to Know About Leadership, I Learned When My Kids Entered Kindergarten. So great that we get to relive these important lessons with our kids. I must say, I’m learning a lot from second grade and freshman year in college too.

Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak shares his post How Peter Drucker Mentored. The best point: “Accountability requires a volunteer.”

Jesse Lynn Stoner, Seapoint Center, shares The Space Between Closely Supervising and Delegating. She shares practical advice for leading in the space between closely supervising that can be too much, and delegating which can be too little. Fantastic read for frontline leaders.

Dan McCarthy, of Great Leadership shares his recent post 10 Succession Planning Best Practices. For a practical guide to implementing leadership development and succession planning programs check out his ebook as well.

David M. Dye of Trail Blaze brings us 18 Truths You Really Can’t Avoid if You Want to Stay Relevant, Effective, and Connected. Leaders who avoid landing in the dust-bin of history do one thing consistently: they learn. David provides 18 principles that will help you both learn and grow as a leader as well as ensure your team remains relevant no matter what happens.

Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within, brings us The Wisdom of Insecurities. As leaders, when we are honest about our insecurities we become vulnerable in our state of development. Attention to our own experiences can provide insights into the ways we can grow.

Matt McWilliams of shares You Are Not a Natural Leader. “There is no such thing as a natural leader. Great leaders are great by choice.” So, agree. Leadership is never handled.

Pete Friedes brings his Lead Change Group post, 16 Beliefs Held By Effective People Managers. Your personal beliefs can enhance or limit your effectiveness as a manager. Here’s a checklist. How are you doing?

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding shares What’s Outside Your Comfort Zone. I love her list of small ways we can begin pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

Dan Forbes of Lead With Giants shares an important post about developing your leadership authenticity, 5 Words that Changed the US Army and Leadership.

Leaders cross our paths every day, many of whom go unnoticed. This post Leaders, Leaders Everywhere Every Day, by Robyn McLeod of Chatsworth Consulting Group shares what to look for – the traits and ways of being – to find the leaders in your midst who are having a positive impact on your employees and your organization.

Joan Kofodimos of Teleos Consulting shares How Hardship Creates Leaders. So many young leaders aspire to an unbroken chain of “successes.” But it’s actually hardship that more powerfully builds wisdom in leaders. What does hardship teach leaders, and how can you best survive and thrive as a leader when these hardships inevitably occur?

Blair Glaser of Blair Glaser wins the award for best title, Three & A Half Words That Will Make You An Exceptional Lover & Leader.

Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group, LLC share their art, Shopping for Leadership Development.

Kate Nasser of brings us Leadership People Skills: 5 Essentials to Spark Team Agility. My favorite, “untie the nots”.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership shares Becoming a Great Leader is Up to You. If you want to become a great leader, you have to take responsibility for your own development.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, shares Practical Ways to Respect People. Leading people effectively requires more than authority. Change has to start from the top. You need to understand people (and organizations as systems) in order to take effective action as a leader.

Leigh Steere shares her clever Lead Change Group post, 10 Management Lessons From Harry Potter. Need a break from your diet of business books? Consider some management wisdom from Albus Dumbledore and the Potter cast of characters.

Frank Sonnenberg of Frank Sonnenberg Online shares, Attention Leaders We Need to Talk. For more about Frank, read Lolly Daskal’s interview with Frank in the Huffington Post.

New to the Frontline Festival

Kimunya Mugo of Lead By Choice shares his powerful experience of personal growth in his post, Rise Up Titans. My favorite point, “leadership is complementary, not competitive.”

Jarie Bolander of shares 4 Proven Methods To Encourage Others To Step Up & Lead. My personal favorite #3, “Ask others to encourage them.”

Chantal Bechervaise of Take it Personel-ly shares her post Seek Criticism In Order To Improve Yourself. I love her examples of practical questions to ask if you really want constructive feedback.

Call For Submissions

Have a post you’d like included in an upcoming Frontline Festival? Contact me at for more information.

October – Vision and Values
November – Gratitude
December – Gifts

Cross-Training To Strengthen Leadership Skills

Today’s cross-training moment is a guest post from David Tumbarello. When he’s not guest blogging for Let’s Grow Leaders, David provides data and writing solutions in the health care field. The leisure activity he enjoys the most is coaching children in the art of creative writing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cross-Training to Strengthen Skills

I was injured – it was another summer when I couldn’t run as much as I would have liked. My body told me it had to exercise but my Achilles wouldn’t comply. The solution was as old as the sport – begin another exercise and work out different muscles. I pulled down the bicycle and began biking around the lake. It was my summer of biking.

In athletics this is called cross-training. Instead of repeatedly using the same muscles every day, the athlete develops complimentary muscles. Instead of strengthening the running muscles, it was time to let those rest and develop the biking muscles.

I think about leadership muscles. One leader might be strong with her project management muscles. One leader might excel with coaching. Another with leading in creative purists. And another might be good with running a successful meeting. Those are strengths and leaders should maximize their strengths.

But occasionally, a leader should take a sabbatical from their primary leadership muscle. Step back from the typical routine. Begin to cross-train. Instead of running meetings, a leader with this strength should delegate the responsibility. While resting that muscle, the leader can act as a secretary or take notes on the white board or volunteer for a committee. Instead of mentoring, a leader can take a year off and find a way to improve the feedback loop for the enterprise. Let one muscle rest. Let another grow.

A leader at church recently said that there are years when the land produces an abundance of crops and years when it must lie fallow. It’s a cycle. The resting land will reward the farmer the following year. In the same way, leaders should consider resting certain muscles which will allow those practices to come back stronger.

With cross-training, the leader will benefit by learning a new practice — and with new eyes. And then upon returning to the first strength, after some time off, the leader will be able to see that old routine with new eyes. Strengthen, rest, and repeat.

Leadership Development Made Easy

Leadership development used to be easier. Early in my career, my team was small, and I was in HR leading other HR folks. We all spoke the same language, and everyone believed in leadership development.

Then a move out of HR to a team 50 times the size in a union environment. More tricky, but all in a few large call centers. I could physically model the leadership I was looking to grow.

Next to a sales role, with a team of 2000 spread out in 100 locations within a 9 hour radius. Still close enough to show up to support as needed, and to easily pull groups together for leadership development sessions.

Today I lead a team in 22 locations across 3 time zones supporting 7 companies. We need to develop leadership capabilities on our internal team and influence 10,000 leaders and followers. I have fantastic leaders at each level contributing to this mission. Leadership development is up to all of us. I could just delegate, but this is vital. How do I also personally touch as many leaders as possible?

The easiest way to build leadership in a large, remote team is to let them inside.

Easy Leadership Development

Many leaders overlook this vital approach. Teach leadership not only by modeling on the outside, but sharing the feelings, thoughts and struggles happening on the inside. With a large, remote team, this requires even more trust and time. It’s worth it. I choose to.

  1. Leverage social media – Sure I write for you. I’m also highly sensitive to my team. If there’s a message someone (usually someones) needs to hear, it’s in the blog. I can’t tell you how many notes I get from folks saying, “that one was about me, wasn’t it?” It usually isn’t, but if the shoe fits. Sure, I could write using company tools, but then they’d miss the interaction of LGL community. Plus, by separating this as my personal blog, I preserve the right to be edgy. And I can contribute more broadly to you, them, and the rest of the world.
  2. Speak deeply into the microphone – When my team is together, I leverage time to let them in my head. Sure we talk strategy and plans, but we go much deeper. I encourage challenging questions, and they know I will shoot straight. I start. They share too. We talk about:

       •  What scares us and why
       •  Weaknesses we’re working to develop
       •  Challenges we face
       •  What makes us angry
       •  Mistakes, regrets and failures
       •  Hopes and dreams

  3. Real-time learning – We stop action to dissect teachable moments. I debrief my executive interactions and what I’m learning. I call them right back after conference calls to discuss their approach. We hold “virtual teambuilders” on topics we’re wrestling with. I’ll pose a simple question, such as “leaders stop learning when _____” And everyone responds to all via email. Amazing level-less leadership connection.

    Oddly enough, I’ve received more feedback about personal and leadership growth from this large, remote team, than in any other role in my career. We’ve also experienced the important side effect of A players and other “crazies” lining up to join the team.

    Why? We let one another into our heads.

  4. Real leadershipLearning is the 4th Branch of the REAL model. Don’t miss future discussions, enter your email to subscribe.

60 Reasons leaders stop learning

60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

Do you have a leader on your team who thinks they’ve already got this leadership thing handled? There is nothing left to learn? When leaders stop learning, their teams stop growing too.
I’ve been asking leaders across many contexts why leaders stop learning. Here are the top sixty I heard. What would you add? And, why is it so dangerous for leaders to stop learning?

“But, I Already Know How To Swim”

This summer my son, Sebastian, refused to take swimming lessons. Why? Because he “already knows how to swim.” Well, technically, I suppose that’s true. And if he were to fall off a dock, I’d want him to believe it.  Leadership development is a balancing act of inspiring confidence, uncovering opportunities, and giving leaders practical tools and approaches to help them grow.

60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning

Leaders stop learning when they…

1. Stop listening (#1 by a landslide)

2. Stop doing something with what they hear

3. Have closed minds

4. Allow talking to become more important than listening


5. No longer connect with the purpose (#2 answer)

6. Forget WHY they are doing

7. Become complacent

8. Think they’ve accomplished their goal


9. Get distracted by their own desires or success

10. Have their own agenda

11. Let ego get in the way

12. Think they have all the answers

13. Have only “past tense” conversations with themselves

14. Have seen it all before

15. Are not vulnerable

16. Create an appearance of being omniscient

17. Are insecure

18. Assume they’ve learned everything there is to learn

19. Stop focusing outward

20. Believe they’re the accomplishment


21. Lose their passion

22. Lose their flow

23. Become complacent

24. No longer love what they do

25. Lost sight of their dreams and goals

26. Don’t feel energized and inspired

27. Lose their passion to motivate and influence others

28. Feel irrelevant

29. Stop caring

30. Lose interest

31. Become disengaged


32. Are afraid to fail

33. Seldom fail

34, Stop failing

35. Success becomes more important than growth (my personal favorite)

36. Are afraid to develop new skills

37. Are afraid to take risks

38. Stop believing in their ability to grow


39. Are stressed

40.Are marginalized

41. Are exhausted

42. Are comfortable


43. Stop being inquisitive

44. Stop asking “dumb” questions

45. No longer encourage feedback and ideas


46. Fail to connect the dots between where they are and where they want to be

47. Stop challenging themselves and their team

48. Can’t measure progress


49. Stop being creative in their leadership approach

50. Become resistant to change

51. Assume they’ve learned everything there is to learn

52, Aren’t open to possibility


53. Are disempowered

54.Tasks become more important than people

55. Believe success comes from control


56. Stop believing in teamwork

57. Stop developing their team


Your turn. Leaders stop learning when__________.





What would you add? What are the biggest reasons leaders stop learning?

How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

9 Ways to Maximize Your College Leadership Experience

9 Ways to Maximize Your College Leadership Experience

I’m often asked which colleges are the best for “leadership.” The short answer is “most will do just fine.” As with most of life, it’s what you make of it. College is a great place to grow as a leader, but it’s up to you to maximize your college leadership experience.

Much of your leadership learning will come from peripheral aspects of the college experience. Being involved. Living with strangers. Leading without authority. Getting along in diverse groups. Projects with assigned (potentially lazy) teams. Live it deeply. Make mistakes. Try new approaches. Keep leading and learning.

This post is for my son, Ben, and other young leaders graduating high school and heading to college. I’ve collected advice from seasoned leaders across the globe. If you aren’t headed to college, please comment with your advice, and pass the post along to an aspiring young leader.

Annette Schmeling, VP of Student Development at the University of Dayton, suggests making a specific plan.

  • Focus first on Academic Success
  • Identify 3-5 “activities outside the classroom” to be involved in. List the activities, explain why they are important to you
  • Make connections with the career services office and learn about internships and professional development opportunities starting the freshmen year
  • Learn how to utilize social media tools to engage with others. Start early to establish a purpose-fueled online reputation

9 Ways to Maximize Your College Leadership Experience (advice from the online “village”)

1. Solve Problems

Find something you’re passionate about and work to improve it. Dan Rockwell suggests, “gathering together” with other students to solve problems in order to maximize your college leadership experience.

2. Take Risks

Get comfortable with discomfort. Don’t jump out of the 2nd story classroom (like my friend did at Wake Forest did–  it was a stupid stunt, but he’s fine), but do wise things that scare you. Will Lukang says, “take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone.” Mario Marquez shares, “Look for the uncomfortable and controversial situations, the hot potatoes that the majority will stay away from.”

3. Learn who you are

You will do great things and many silly ones. Learn from it all. Keep reflecting on, and refining, your values. Learn to lead and lead to learn. And as Alaska Chick says, “Walk the talk and do what you say.”

4. Volunteer

The most consistent advice I received is “volunteer.” Get involved. Spend time in the community. One of the very best way’s to maximize your college leadership experience is to volunteer.

“Get involved in the college’s outreach programs. Most colleges have programs to tutor high school students who are not passing graduation exams, community clean-up programs, political activist groups, debate groups, open theater programs get involved. Being in college can be about so much more than just getting a degree for what’s next.”

5. Build a Network

Hang out with all kinds of people. Find your niches, but don’t limit yourself. That weird guy may be up to something fantastic. It’s great to build a network of diverse communities. Network extensively through social media and make genuine connections. Mike Henry, Sr. suggests, “select friends carefully.”

“Grow your leadership skills in the place that sparks your passion – opportunities are everywhere. If you don’t feel the click, keep exploring until you do.”

6. Learn Extra

Attend the free lectures. Take crazy courses unrelated to your major. Listen with your heart. Take a full course load. Stay up late talking with your friends about what they are learning. Donald George suggests, “develop a variety of leadership skills and apply the most appropriate approach to fit that specific situation.”

7. Find Mentors

Invest in getting to know your professors. I have a few lifelong mentors (now friends) that began as professors. Help them with their research. Drink coffee with them. You will be amazed at the opportunities that can emerge. Also, find mentors in the community and in areas of interest. Connect with mentors across all walks of life.

“Find leaders you look up to and ask them to mentor you. Serve on their teams so as to watch, observe, and learn. Work hard, build good relationships, and after your studies are done, volunteer your heart out.”

8. Learn Think, Write and Speak

Take classes that challenge you to organize and articulate your point of view. Take lots of writing and speaking classes. Consider an improv or other theater class. Get really comfortable in front of people. If you hate public speaking, keep taking classes until you don’t.

9. Work Hard

Dan McCarthy shared a combination of quotes from Chuck Yeager and Vince Lombardi: “There’s no such thing as a natural-born leader. All great leaders got that way from hard work, not from some endowed gift. Thank goodness. Don’t cheat yourself with the easy way out. Or as Pop Pop says:

“I still endorse the advice from the talk “What college is and what it isn’t ” I heard in my senior year of high school in 1959 from the vice president of Rensselaer Polytechnic.
His point: you need to have a goal that motivates you, and apply yourself passionately in pursuing the goal. It does not matter if you change your goal later on, you probably will, several times. What matters is that you do the best you can with what you are working toward at any given time. I think that advice holds up, in college and after. The connection to leadership? If you know where you are going and give it your all, you will find folks will follow your lead.”

@theteapixie summarizes it well.

@LetsGrowLeaders Get involved. Be an example worth emulating. Be engaged. Be interested. Be active. Make face-2-face happen.”

 Are you looking to make the most of  your college leadership experience? Know someone graduating and headed to college? A Free Subscription to Let’s Grow Leaders makes a wonderful gift for Grads.. and Dads)

Powerful Presentations: Teaching Your Team To Talk Strategy

A “stand and deliver” presentation on your results is always nerve-wracking.But– watching your team do one is down right scary.

Remember when you…

  • couldn’t sleep the night before
  • were so stressed, you missed the main idea
  • failed to anticipate the political dynamics
  • used the wrong words, which took the entire conversation downhill
  • didn’t have supporting documentation
  • couldn’t answer obvious questions
  • left them with the wrong impression?

What didn’t kill you can make them stronger.

This month I am spending time with each of my Director teams conducting “teaching” operations reviews. Modelled after performance meetings all executives at our company do each quarter, we brought the drill-down to the frontline and middle management level. In fact, in the review I just completed, we had 5 levels of leadership in the room, all working together to become better at selling their strategic stories. Leaders teaching other leaders to build powerful presentations. Leaders growing leaders.

The Powerful Presentations Process

We asked each team to develop a formal Powerpoint deck highlighting their results, opportunities and action plans. The teams co-presented strategic stories to a cross-functional panel of leaders. It was an operations review in every sense of the word. They took me deep into their work. I asked provocative questions, with a twist lots of time-outs and immediate feedback and coaching. My Directors asked too, with a different perspective. Slide by slide, we talked about what could make their presentations more powerful.

The Powerful Presentations Ground Rules

  • All feedback is given in the spirit of love and development
  • This is about teaching you to operate at the next level or more. The questions will be tough, and you may get stuck. That’s okay.
  • We are going to interrupt, give feedback, ask questions, dispute statistics, drill down, question slide format, share stories of our mishaps, and raise political dynamics along the way
  • I also promise to share my “inside voice” (this is what I immediately think when you say that or when you show me that slide)

Crafting Powerful Presentations

We encouraged the teams to build their talk track strategically to answer these 3 questions

  • What key message do you want me to remember?
  • What do you need me to do?
  • Why should I believe in you?

What They Learned about Powerful Presentations: (as reported in the debrief)

About Preparation

  • Anticipate the questions based on execs in attendance (i.e. Finance, HR, Field)
  • Understand every number and point on the slides
  • Have back-up data
  • Understand your back-up data (sounds obvious but can be trickier than you think)
  • Ensure your boss is aligned with everything you are going to share (never blind side your boss)

About the Slides

  • Less is more, keep the slides clean and simple
  • Avoid cutesy graphics and distracting movement
  • Include trending
  • Forecast improvement. Based on this plan, I commit to having this metric be at (X) by (Date)

About the Talk Track

  • Begin with a problem statement, then share actions
  • Call out the opportunity first, if something is a problem point it out (before your audience does)
  • Ask for what you need
  • Be brief and be gone (don’t keep asking for more questions, quit while you’re ahead)
  • Acknowledge and thank your peers (in the room and outside of it)
  • Reference previous presentations (“as Jane just share”)
  • If you don’t know an answer. DON’T make one up
  • It’s not about telling me how hard you work

What I Learned

Lots about…

  • my people
  • the real deal
  • what I must do next
  • the team appreciates this kind of development
  • Ideas from other leaders about building powerful presentations

if you are an executive, take the time to teach your team to build powerful presentations. They will be nervous, it will be a stretch, they will work extra hours and leave frustrated and invigorated.

They will thank you.

Volunteer and Grow? Side Effects of Volunteering

Has volunteering made you a better leader?

As I was getting established in my career, going to grad school at night, and becoming a mom, I kept thinking (and saying), “I just don’t have time to volunteer.”

Sure, I would bake the cupcakes or volunteer at church, but certainly nothing that required sustained energy and effort. I thought, “people with more time would surely be better at that than me.”

Looking back now, that sure sounds like an excuse and a mistake.

I regret what I missed in the giving and in the growing that comes from volunteering during that phase of my life. The growing is more fun these days.

I am delighted to have a guest post this week on SmartBlog: Smartbrief on Leadership entitled How Volunteering Makes You a Better Leader.

I hope you will take the time to check it out and leave a comment.

How To Build Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure


I’ve heard all of the following phrases and many more like them uttered over the years.

“I can’t take a vacation, every time I do the whole place falls apart.”

“I had that organization running so well, and then she took over what a mess”

“Well, she was the lynch pin that held that whole place together, now that she’s moved on I am not optimistic”

“I came back from maternity leave early, I just couldn’t stand the thought of cleaning up the mess”

“She built all those relationships, we can’t replace that”

Not only have I heard these phrases, I am embarrassed to say that I have said some of them.

Sometimes they are true.

Sometimes they are not.

Either way, it’s not leadership.

An important sign of real leadership is what happens after the leader moves on.

  • Is there a clear vision?
  • Does the team have a clear brand and shared values?
  • Do the next steps seem perfectly clear?
  • Does each member know how they can best contribute?
  • Can the team rely on one another to get things done?

And yet, some leaders seem to take secret pride when things fall apart in their absence. They exude a quiet form of giddy when their team can’t function without them.

Short-term results are important. But how do you build a team that can sustain results long after you have moved to the next assignment?

If you are a “indispensable” leader, something is really wrong. You are not adding value long-term.

What can you do now, to ensure your impact will last?

Is Your Team Built to Last?

Jim Collins has fantastic research about how great companies do this in his books, Good to Great and Built To Last. Important research, great reads.

But if you are like most of my readers, you are not the COO of a Fortune 50 company. You are you. You have done your best to build a great team. You care deeply about the results you have built. You care even more deeply about your team. How do you ensure all this sustains?

Over the coming days, I begin a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure. In each post, I will share my insights, along with more questions for our Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

I look forward to our conversation on how to…

  • Establish a Strong Vision
  • Develop Key Behaviors
  • Create Interdependent Success
  • Leave a Remarkable Successor

Take a few minutes. Reflect on your stories and get ready to share. Not ready to share stories? Bring on the questions. Together we will explore the excitement, challenge and nuances of building results that last beyond tenure.


Development Deluge: Are You Working Too Hard?

Bob (not his real name) pulled me aside after the meeting.

Another subscriber told me, “I’m going to have to stop reading your blog, it’s getting too expensive”

“Huh?… ummm… the blog is completely free,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but I’ve gone out and bought all the books you referenced.”

“You do know, I am not selling any of those right? That they are just references?

“Yes, but they all sound so good.”

“I’ve been reading your blog and all the books you talked about. I went out and got 5 mentors, all of whom are giving me feedback. I’ve been trying out new behaviors and asking for feedback on how I am doing. I’ve been thinking a lot about my development and career plans and next steps. It’s completely overwhelming.”

Hmmm…perhaps that is why Chris Brogan is inviting his readers to join him on a 3 Book Diet this year. His movement has gained traction.

I told Chris I can’t do the 3 book thing, I need great thinking to inspire my leadership and writing. Reading other people’s work is also helping me build wonderful relationships. But somewhere between 3 and everything in sight seems like the right range.

Have You Ever Been Bob?

Leaders must work on their development to grow. Most folks I know don’t work on their development enough. On the other hand too much development can be overwhelming, even paralyzing.

It’s like working on a marriage. Sometimes you need to talk about stuff. But sometimes, you just need to go throw a frisbee.

Back to Bob, and so I asked him, “what if you just stopped?”

His shoulders relaxed. I am pretty sure he started to breathe again.

“Development work takes time to steep. What if you just steeped in all this for a while?”

Bob is steeping now. That seems to be working well. The truth is, he seems to be growing more than ever.

What’s the “Right” Amount of Development

It depends.

Development should…

  • expose you to new perspectives
  • challenge you to try new behaviors
  • feel a bit uncomfortable
  • involve feedback from others
  • ????

Development should not…

  • feel completely overwhelming
  • involve trying too many new behaviors all at once
  • require constant feedback 
  • ????

What about you? Have you ever suffered from a development deluge? What happened? How did you steep?

Empowerment Run Amok: How One Bad Decision Leads To Another

You believe in servant leadership.

Empowerment is your middle name.

Results are strong.

The team is happy.

And then.

Someone makes a really bad decision.

The consequences are big.

Your boss is not happy.

How could YOU let that happen?

Why weren’t YOU more involved?
And you begin to wonder about the person who made the poor choice.

  • Why did he make such a bad decision?
  • Didn’t he understand the potential consequences?
  • Why didn’t he ask for help?
  • Why was I not informed sooner

It might be hard but stop, and think well before reacting.

If you are not careful, the next bad decision may be your own.

How you react now, matters. Everyone is watching your next move. Do you really believe in empowerment?

The decision you make next will have long-term implications on trust and the relationship with your entire team. People are talking, texting and instant messaging count on it.

3 Steps to Responding Well to a Bad Decision

1. Temper and Reflect

  • Have I carefully considered my approach to empowerment– Who to empower with what decisions and why?
  • Have I clearly communicated the big picture and long-term goals?
  • Have I taught effective decision-making?
  • Have I explained the importance of my involvement in certain kinds of decisions?
  • Am I approachable and available to support?
  • Have I been teaching enough about the political landscape and how to include and inform stakeholders?
  • … what would you add?

2. Take Accountability

  • Own the mistake, never blame
  • Roll up your sleeves and be involved in the fix
  • Involve the employee in the solution
  • Coach in private
  • Carefully consider the answers to the questions above, what do you need to adjust?
  • Communicate any changes without linking back to a specific employee’s mistake
  • … what would you add?

3. Teach

  • Ask questions for self-discovery
  • Share a story of when you screwed up and what you learned
  • Reassure the employee that this can be fixed most things can, even when they look grim
  • … what would you add?


The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit:A Book Review

I imagine most of you are familiar with Dan McCarthy and his insightful blog, Great Leadership. I also know that many of you are also bloggers, who, like me, have aspirations of “some day” turning your posts into a brilliant and useful book. Dan has done just that in his e-book, The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit. It turns out that 500 well-written posts, woven together carefully, can lead to an insightful, practical, and witty “how-to” guide for identifying potential and developing great leaders.

I’ve been on all sides of the succession planning and leadership development process, from developing tools and programs, to facilitating talent review sessions to being the topic of such discussions and “rotational assignments.” I was impressed by the depth and applicability for people working in any of these capacities. If you are an executive starting to build a program, you can easily save significant time and money with the head-starts he provides here. For HR practitioners and consultants, there are rich tools and practical guides you can use with or without adaptation. And, if you are leader at any level, in any box on the proverbial “grid,” this read provides insider insights as well as specific development content.

It’s organized into 4 sections: the foundation, succession planning, development, and leadership skills.

The Foundation

He begins with a compelling argument for why companies must invest in a strategic and deliberate approach to succession planning. He then shares models that fit various budgets and cultures. His four-stage leadership development model is easy to follow.

Succession Planning

He shares practical help on talent profiles and critical positions, and his humor resonates of a man whose seen just one too many talent review sessions, The 10 Dysfunctional Characters at a Talent Review Meeting, It turns out, I’ve met all those characters.


He includes a plethora of tools, from on-boarding to executive education. For fun, he throws in some cool stuff like “20 Great Leadership Development Movies.”

Leadership Skills

So once you’ve selected someone or been selected as a target for development, what’s next? Here’s where Dan comes in with the practical advice like “Lipstick on a Pig: 10 Ways to Improve Executive Presence” and “18 Financial Terms Every Leader Should Know.” My own development plan must be on track since “financial acumen” is always on my plan (I prefer to surround myself with finance-types, rather than have to face too many spreadsheets), but I found I can use every one of his 18 terms in a complete sentence. Quick, someone call my boss before the next talent review.

Why Buy the Book?

So, why buy the book when you can get the posts for free? I love Dan’s site, and particularly enjoy his Carnivals where he brings together the perspective of so much great leadership thinking. It is much more efficient to have him do all the work for you, to organize what you need in an easy to use way. Simple and funny? Priceless.

About Dan

Dan McCarthy is the Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and the new ebook, The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit.

Dan is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management.

You can contact Dan at