leadership tips managing emotions

Frustrated or Focused – Leadership Tips for Managing Emotions

“David, I know I shouldn’t take this personally, but I’m so frustrated and I just want to yell at my team and walk away. I need help managing emotions or I’m going to have a meltdown.”

Amanda is a team leader for an international clothing producer. She loves her work, finds it inspiring, and she cares deeply about her people and the quality work they do. Like many leaders, however, her passion has turned to frustration as she struggles with managing emotions.

Leadership is challenging. Things never go exactly according to plan, disappointments creep up where you don’t expect them, and people can be erratic. Leading means you’ve got to deal with the human element.

If you’re going to succeed over time and achieve breakthrough results that last, you can’t walk around stressed out and frustrated all the time. You’ll break down or you’ll lash out at your team. Either way, your credibility suffers.

6 Steps for Managing Emotions

Recently one of our workshop participants mentioned a manager who said, “I’m here to manage results, not manage emotions.” Frankly, I think that statement is naïve, dangerous, and self-sabotaging. Managing emotions, starting with your own, is a critical leadership skill. Here are six ways to help you stay grounded and manage your emotions:

1. De-personalize issues.

Like many leaders, Amanda was taking her team’s behavior personally. She was basically saying, “How can they do this to me?” But here’s the thing: another person’s behavior is almost never about you. They are living their life, trying to do the best they can with what they have. They didn’t wake up that morning thinking about the best way to anger you.

In short: You are not the center of anyone else’s universe. (Unless you have a dog – then you’re totally the center of their world.) De-personalize the issue by recognizing that this isn’t about you. You need to lead through it, but it’s not about you.

2. Name your feelings.

This is a powerful way to lessen the grip of powerful emotions. When you realize you’re feeling tense, upset, tight, or can’t breathe, take a moment and try to name the feeling. Eg: I’m feeling scared, I’m feeling frustrated, or I’m feeling sad.

Your emotions are there for a reason. They’re like a warning siren calling for attention. When you ignore them or try to push them away, they turn up the volume. Over time, consistently ignoring them can do serious damage. But when you name it, it’s like you’ve acknowledged the warning call by saying “I see you – thanks for alerting me.” Just naming the feeling helps it to move through you and loosen its grip.

3. Apple catching (choose what you allow in.)

Imagine someone tossed an apple to you. You would not catch the apple with your mouth, immediately chew it up, and swallow it. You would catch the apple, inspect it, and then decide if and when you want to eat it.

Feedback is the same way. Don’t automatically internalize every bit of feedback you receive. If a 4-year-old stomped their foot and said “I don’t like you very much” it probably wouldn’t offend you.

But have a 44-year-old colleague say those same words and many people automatically take offense. They swallow that feedback without first evaluating it and whether or not it has something useful for them.

4. Get perspective.

Imagine holding a penny right in front of your eye. It blocks out your entire vision. Even if there is a huge mountain right in front of you, you won’t be able to see it because that small penny is consuming your vision. Move the penny farther away from you – get it back in proper perspective and it no longer blocks your vision.

Leadership problems and frustrations are often similar. You care, you devote so much of yourself to your work, so of course, the problems seem huge. But without perspective, it’s often impossible to find the healthiest solutions.

What helps you restore your perspective? For me, it is nature, sunsets, stars, forests, rivers, and mountains that remind me that this is a small problem in a very large universe. Time with family and friends restores my value of what matters most in life and gives me the energy and reserves to tackle the challenges I’m facing. Moving your body helps – a short walk, run, or bike ride can do wonders and give your mind time to process and work through what you’re feeling.

5. Give yourself room to feel.

You’re a human being and those emotions that have you in their grip are there for a reason. Anger is a sign that something’s wrong. Sadness is an acknowledgment of loss. Fear is a normal feeling when faced with the unknown. It’s okay to have these feelings. You can’t erase them. Rather than ignore them or fight them, acknowledge them and allow yourself a moment to feel. This doesn’t mean you’ll wallow in them or stay stuck.

When that promotion doesn’t happen or your team lets you down, give yourself time – maybe an hour or even a day or two to feel sad. Then move forward. Let the emotion do the work it needs to.

6. Move to “How can I…?”

After you acknowledge your feelings, it’s time to figure out what comes next. One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself a “How can I?” question. For example, if you didn’t get a promotion, ask “How can I better position myself for the next opportunity?” When your team lets you down, ask “How can I ensure they are able to do what needs to happen the next time?” Maybe you need to clarify what success looks like or have an overdue INSPIRE conversation.

Moving to a “How can I?” question re-empowers you and produces positive energy. Don’t move to this step without first identifying what you’re feeling or you may ask the wrong “How can I?” question.

Your Turn

When you’re feeling more frustrated than focused, remember that your feelings have a job to do. At the same time, if you don’t develop the skills for managing emotions, they can also cripple your leadership. Effective leaders lead themselves first. They acknowledge their own humanity and lead their team through theirs.

Leave us a comment and share: What is your best strategy for managing emotions at work?

PS: If you’re unable to cope with your emotions over time – whether it’s depression, rage, or anxiety, please seek the help of your doctor or a mental health professional. Your mental health is every bit as real a need as your physical health – take care of yourself.


Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

leadership skill no one talks about

The Leadership Skill No One Talks About

The Secret to Transform Your Culture or Results is One Often-Ignored Leadership Skill

“I’m so frustrated.” Martin, the Senior Vice President of a rapidly-growing communication hardware company serving the United States, leaned back in his chair and blew a heavy sigh past his mustache. “I’m hoping you can help me. It’s like there’s some key leadership skill I never learned.”

He continued: “Three of my direct reports are behind on projects I delegated. I walked through our contact center and customer service was a mess even though we invested all that time in training. Our quality initiative is stuck in neutral…it just seems like we can’t seem to get anything done.”

Martin is well versed in leadership and management. He knows the M.I.T. (Most Important Thing), how to set clear shared expectations, how to make sure everyone knows how to succeed, he knows how to reinforce what success looks like, and he knows how to inspire, to celebrate when it goes well, and how to hold everyone accountable when it doesn’t.

He knows all of these fundamental leadership skills.

So what’s the problem? What’s the leadership skill that Martin feels like he’s missing?

The Missing Leadership Skill

As we work with thousands of leaders around the world and watch them start using Winning Well leadership and management strategies, we’ve seen a common theme when it comes to who succeeds over time:

When it comes to changing a culture or transforming results, they don’t just start – they finish.

Sadly, organizations are littered with leaders who start, but never finish:

  • The leader who says the meeting starts at 9, but when someone is late, doesn’t say anything.
  • The manager who declared that a customer call must begin with empathy, confidence, and connection, but he only said it for two weeks and never got back to it.
  • The team leader who facilitates a great meeting, helps the team dig deep to make tough commitments, but doesn’t follow up to see that it happened.
  • The manager who has a brilliant performance coaching conversation with an employee who needs to improve in one key area, but three months later has never reviewed the desired new behavior.
  • The team leader who declares a new era of entrepreneurial teamwork, but then never asks for a single new idea.
  • The manager who delegates a project, but never receives it back.

It doesn’t take many of these failed commitments before your team loses faith in your ability to make change happen, and worse, you lose faith in yourself.

Make Your Choice

When you set an intention and follow through your confidence increases. Your team knows they can believe you, trust you, and rely on you. You credibility builds.

Finishing is a choice. It doesn’t happen by chance. In fact, the chances are it won’t happen at all.

Here’s the deal: life is busy. You’ve got more to do than time to do it. Your plan is going to get interrupted and your interruptions are going to get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen.

Effective leaders consistently choose to finish – but they don’t leave it to chance or a heroic act of willpower.

Make It Automatic

If you have to spend energy trying to remember everything you need to finish you’ll never do it. There’s just too much going on and your brain has limited energy. Just thinking about every open loop can be exhausting.

There’s a better way: schedule the finish.

The moment you set an intention, make an appointment with yourself or with the other person where you will complete the intention or take the next step. The key is when. What moment in time will you follow up, follow through, and finish?

Here are some examples:

  • When you have a performance conversation using the INSPIRE model, the final step (E) is the Enforce step. Schedule a brief meeting to review their desired behavior. Eg: “Sounds good. Let’s meet at 10 next Tuesday to see how this is going and if you have any questions.”
  • When you delegate, schedule a time where the other person will meet with you in person or by video to return the project to you, answer questions, and discuss next steps.
  • When you lead a meeting, conclude the meeting by asking who will do what, by when, and “How will we know?” The final “How will we know?” are scheduled commitments to the team. Eg: “We will all have our data to Linda by Friday at 4 pm. Linda will send us the new process by Wednesday at 3 pm.” Everyone puts the times on their calendar. If Friday 4 pm comes and Linda doesn’t have data from Bob, she calls him. If 3 pm Wednesday comes and they don’t have the process, they call Linda.

The key in all these examples is to make an appointment. There is a difference between a to-do item and scheduled time on your calendar, particularly when that time is scheduled with another person. The likelihood of you both keeping your commitment increases significantly.

For items that don’t naturally fit in a calendar appointment (eg: you’re rolling out a new process to improve on-time delivery and quality), you can still make appointments with yourself to reinforce the initiative (communicate at least five times through five different channels) and to review performance.

When you create an expectation – particularly a new one that is the result of training or a new process – follow through on behavior quickly. When people get the behavior right, celebrate it, acknowledge it, and reinforce that this is what people like us do.

When it doesn’t happen, have quick INSPIRE conversations to redirect people back to the new way of doing things. If there are problems that prevent people from doing what’s needed, solve them quickly and visibly.

(This is the strategy at the core of the Confidence Burst strategy.)

Your Turn

Finishing isn’t flashy, but it’s a leadership skill with a huge payoff.

Martin didn’t need to learn a new strategy or read another book. His only missing leadership skill was to finish what he started.

Finish. Schedule the follow-through. Don’t leave it to chance or your to-do list.

We’d love to hear from you: As a leader, how do you ensure you finish what you start?


leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

the best secret to holding tough conversations

The Very Best Secret to Holding Tough Conversations (with video)

So often when we’re asked to train teams on how to hold tough conversations, we find a deeper underlying issue that must be addressed first.

Has this ever happened to you?

Watch the Stage Version of this Story and Key Insights Here

The Very Best Secret to Holding Tough Conversations

Karin’s story.

I had promised to take pictures of my son, Ben’s, last marching band performance during his senior year of high school. This was a great job for me since I love my son and I hate sitting through an entire football game.

I raced into the parking lot just as the band was coming around the track during halftime, grabbed the camera, threw my high heels in the back seat, and ran down the grassy hill.

Thank goodness the band was just lining up on the far side of the track surrounding the football field. The sun was beginning to set, which I knew would make for perfect lighting.

I set up the tripod right on the fifty-yard line, adjusted the telephoto lens, and got some great shots: the mellophones doing their sideways stunt, some up-close headshots–I even made sure I got some great ones of his love interest crossing right in front of him.

I immediately went home to upload them to Photoshop for fine-tuning before he came home. I even put them into a powerpoint presentation. As soon as Ben walked in the door, I had him sit down for the show.

He watched unenthusiastically as I flipped through the shots.

“Hmmm. That one’s alright. Uh huh. Okay, what else you got?”

I finished the show and Ben asked, “Mom, did you get the guitar?”

“Huh? Benjamin, you play mellophone.”

“Mom, the band moves into a fantastic formation. It looks like a giant electric guitar right in time with the music. Did you get a picture of that?”

“Ughhhhh, no, I didn’t.”

I had completely missed the big picture.

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re working hard. Your team is working hard. You care. You have the tools. You want to do the right thing. And somehow you don’t meet expectations.

The #1 Secret to Tough Conversations: Avoid the Need For Them

What do you think I would have done if Ben had said, “Mom, no matter what, the most important thing is for you to get a picture of the guitar.”

I wouldn’t have been down at the fifty-yard line, with a telephoto lens, I would have been up in the bleachers with the panoramic setting on my phone.

expectations conversationsI would have asked about the timing to ensure I didn’t miss it.

If communication is breaking down, start first by ensuring expectations are clear.

One good conversation about expectations prevents fourteen, “Why didn’t you?” conversations.

Related Posts

How to Communicate Remarkably Clear Performance Expectations

Executive Visits: 4 Strategic Approaches for Influence and Impact 

The Simplest Way to Set Clear Expectations

Critical Thinking: 5 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Capacity to Think

how to lead a meeting make effective decisions

How to Lead a Meeting and Make Effective Decisions

Lead a Meeting that Gets Results by Clarifying Who Owns the Decision

“This is so stupid—you asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother! From now on, I’m just going to shut my mouth and do my work.” If you’ve heard this or said it yourself, you’ve experienced a critical mistake many managers make when they lead a meeting: lack of clarity around decision ownership.

If your meetings aren’t working, look at your clarity of decision-making. Fuzzy decision-making leads to frustrating meetings.

People hate feeling ignored. Unfortunately, when you ask for input and appear to ignore it, employees feel frustrated, devalued, and powerless. In contrast, when you are clear about who owns the decision and how it will be made, people will readily contribute, the team can collaborate, and are far more likely to own the outcome. Clear decision-making improves results and relationships.

Four Ways to Make a Decision When You Lead a Meeting

This isn’t difficult, because there are only four ways to make a decision when you lead a meeting:

1. A single person makes the decision.

Typically, this would be the manager or someone she appoints.

In this style of decision-making, you might ask your team for input and let them know that after hearing everyone’s perspective, you will make the decision.

2. A group makes the decision through a vote.

This might be a 50-percent-plus-one majority or a two-thirds majority, but in any case, it’s a decision by vote. With this option, you ask everyone to contribute input, and they know that the decision will be made by a vote at a specific time.

3. A team makes the decision through consensus.

Consensus decision-making is often misunderstood. Consensus decision-making means that the group continues the discussion until everyone can live with a decision. It does not mean everyone got his or her first choice, but that everyone can live with the final decision. Consensus decision-making can take more time and often increases everyone’s ownership of the final decision.

4. Fate decides.

You can flip a coin, roll the dice, draw from a hat, etc. There are times where flipping a coin is the most efficient way to make a decision. When time is of the essence, the stakes are low, and pro-con lists are evenly matched, it’s often good to just pick an option and go. For example, if you have 45 minutes for a team lunch, it doesn’t make any sense to spend 30 minutes discussing options. Narrow it down to a few places, flip a coin, and go.

Each way of deciding has advantages, but what’s most important is to be very clear about who owns the decision.

Start With How

When that frustrated person said, “You asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother!” he was under the impression that the team would decide by vote or consensus when in reality it was the leader’s decision. This type of confusion wastes tons of precious time and energy and sucks the soul from your team.

The next time you lead a meeting, take time before the discussion begins to state how the decision will be made. You get yourself in trouble (not to mention that it’s unfair, disempowering, and quite soulless) if you suggest a vote and then change back to “I’ll decide” when you think the vote won’t go your way.

Before discussion begins, be clear about who owns the decisions. How will this decision be made?

Be specific. For example, you might begin a decision-making session by saying, “Okay, I’d like to spend the next 40 minutes getting everyone’s input, and then I’ll make the decision.”

Or, you might describe the decision to be made and say, “We’re not going to move forward until everyone can live with the decision.”

You might even combine methods and say, “We will discuss this decision for 30 minutes. If we can come to a consensus by then, that would be great. If not, we’ll give it another 15 minutes. After that, if we don’t have consensus, I’ll take a final round of feedback and I’ll choose, or we’ll vote.”

You save yourself grief, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings when everyone knows up front how the decision will be made. You also empower your people to be more influential because when they know who owns the decision, they also know how to share their information. Do they need to persuade the single decision maker, a majority, or the entire team? They can choose their most relevant information and arguments.

Your Turn

Think about the next time you will lead a meeting to make a decision with your team. Who owns the decisions? Is it you, the team through a vote, or the team through consensus? We’d love to hear from you.  What questions or comments do you have about clarifying who owns the decision?

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Motivate Your Team Stop Treating Them Like Family

How to Motivate Your Team – Stop Treating Them Like Family

Thinking they’re a family doesn’t motivate your team.

You’ve probably heard leaders say it and you might have even said it yourself when you were hoping to motivate your team.

“I treat my team like family” or “We’re one big family here at XYZ Corp.”

It feels like a nice thing to say. You want them to know you care about them as people; that everyone cares about each other; and we may fight at times, but we always come back together.

We are all about genuine caring and connection. Winning Well leaders focus on both results and relationships.

However, there are three problems with comparing your team or company to a family and they can badly undermine your leadership and your team’s effectiveness.

1. You don’t know what “family” means.

Each team member will interpret “family” differently depending on their past. For some, the definition of family is “that safe place where you are always accepted no matter how badly you’ve screwed up.”

For another team member, the family might mean a dysfunctional, tense situation that they left as soon as they could.

For another team member, family means they just wait for their parent to tell them what to do and they don’t have to think for themselves.

As soon as you use a word like “family” you’ve lost a shared, mutually understood set of expectations about what success looks like.

2. You’re not a family.

When it comes to motivating your team, one of the biggest problems “family” language creates is the obvious one: you’re not a family. One big difference that I’ve seen create problems for many businesses is the idea that you can’t fire a brother or sister for poor performance.

I’ve listened to sad employees receive a letter of separation and tearfully tell their manager, “But we’re supposed to be a family. This isn’t right.” And they believe it, and they’ve been allowed to believe it, because the manager so frequently spoke in terms of family.

Teams exist to achieve a shared goal, whether it’s to serve your customer, create change in the world, or solve a significant problem. When your behavior doesn’t align with that goal, you can and should be removed from the team. Families may or may not share a common goal, and rarely does poor behavior get you removed from a family.

3. You make growth difficult.

Small teams and businesses will often speak of themselves as a family. It’s natural–the constant time spent with your team, high pressure, the informal meetings, and lack of structure that often come with small organizations can feel very family-like.

However, this mindset makes it very challenging to motivate your team when you want to grow. Team members who enjoyed the casual environment and lack of structure start to complain when you introduce role clarity, define MITs, and increase accountability.

This is where you hear things like, “We used to be a family, but now we’re becoming so…corporate!” Corporate is said as if it were a poisonous snake (and, to be fair, if their experience of corporate has been to be treated like a number, not a person, it may have been poisonous.)

How to Motivate Your Team When They Talk About Family

When you hear your team talking about being a family (or if you’ve used this language yourself), I invite you to Ditch the Diaper Drama with your team and have a straightforward conversation. You might start with:

“I’ve heard us talk about being a family and I’ve said it as well. I want to talk about that. Family can mean different things to different people and I’d like for us to make sure we are on the same page and understand one another.”

In this conversation, you want to reinforce that you are a team (or organization) focused on both results and relationships. Clarify the MITs and What Success Looks Like. You might use the Expectations Matrix to facilitate a conversation and identify gaps in expectations.

Clarify your culture (How people like us act) with regard to how you will treat one another with respect, compassion, and hold one another accountable. If growth is in your future, talk about how it will require more role clarity and more structure, and how treating one another with respect, compassion, and holding each other accountable should never change.

Your Turn

Remember that “family” can mean something very different from what you intend and create bad misunderstandings for your team. To motivate your team, take the time to clarify shared expectations about your purpose and the ways in which you will respect and care for one another.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about what it means for a business team to be “like family.”

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

How to start team accountability when you never have before

How to Start Team Accountability When You Never Have Before

It’s never too late to begin team accountability.

“Karin and David, can I ask you a question?” We had just finished a keynote where we gave leaders the tools to have the tough conversations. Sarah, a middle-level manager, came up to talk to us, looking nervous. “I’ve been a pleaser manager my entire career, but I hear what you’re saying. It’s time for team accountability, but I don’t know what to do next. Where do I begin?”

What a great question, and one we hear frequently. If you’ve allowed your team to slide and have chosen being liked at the expense of achieving results, you’re not alone. In our surveys of managers, over 2/3 have a preference for getting along over getting results.

The good news is that when you recognize the need to practice team accountability, you can start with a few achievable steps. We have worked with many managers who have transformed their leadership from people-pleasing to human-centered results and accountability. Here are six steps you can take to transform your leadership and your team’s accountability when you haven’t done it before:

  1. Take responsibility

Before starting a new initiative, it’s vital to let your team know what you’re doing. You are a role model for everything that happens going forward so you need to demonstrate accountability right now.

You can say something like: “I haven’t been the best leader in this area. Frankly, I’ve preferred being liked over achieving the results we’re here to achieve. I haven’t done the best job when it comes to accountability, but that changes today. I owe it to you and we owe it to one another and we owe it to our customers.”

You don’t want to say this unless you’re serious about making a change. When you take responsibility and reset expectations, can massively improve your credibility and role model what it looks like to make a positive change. At the same time, if you aren’t serious and don’t back up your words with actions, your credibility will suffer.

  1. Reset Expectations

The word “accountability” can be scary to your team, particularly when you haven’t talked about it or practiced team accountability in the past. Take time to talk about it. Be clear about what success looks like going forward.

Eg: “Accountability doesn’t mean beating people up for poor performance, it means we’re going to keep our commitments to one another. When we do, we will acknowledge it. When we don’t, we will work to understand why and what to do next time (or to make it right, now).”

You may need to reframe or emphasize the values you’re working from. For example: The team’s success is more important than our individual discomfort and when you don’t hold me or one another accountable, you’re hurting the team and the people we serve.”

Finally, start small. Try confidence-burst strategy for accountability. Pick a time period between two team meetings. Eg: “For the next 10 days we’re going to practice accountability. We’re going to keep our commitments to one another, and when we don’t, we’re going to address it directly.”

  1. Equip Everyone with the Basics of Team Accountability

Unless they’ve been part of a highly effective team in the past, most team members won’t have the skills to hold one another accountable. You will need to teach them to Ditch the Diaper Drama and share the INSPIRE model with them. Here is a quick refresher on the INSPIRE model:

I – Initiate: Create space for the conversation.

N – Notice: Make an observation of the behavior in question. Eg: “I noticed that you didn’t bring the report you committed to…”

S – Support: Offer supporting evidence as needed.

P – Probe: Ask “What’s going on?” or a similar question that brings them into the conversation.

I – Invite: Ask them how they can remedy the situation.

R – Review: Check for understanding to ensure you have understood their commitment.

E – Enforce: Set a follow-up meeting when you will both check to see you’ve kept your commitment.

  1. Reinforce expectations

If your team is a rock band, you are the drummer. Keep the new accountability commitment in front of them. For this accountability confidence burst you can literally review it daily. Remind everyone what you’re doing. This is the MIT (Most Important Thing.)

  1. Celebrate every success

You get more of what you celebrate and encourage so be on the lookout for acts of accountability, especially when a team member holds YOU accountable. Stop the meeting, congratulate them, draw attention to it, encourage and celebrate the team for holding one another (or you) accountable. Then return to the meeting.

  1. Practice accountability about accountability

This is a powerful opportunity to reinforce new behaviors. When the team doesn’t practice accountability, stop the meeting. “We’ll get back to the sales strategy in a minute, but first we need to talk about what happened. I noticed that I didn’t bring the data I said I would – and no one said anything. What’s going on?” You’re using the INSPIRE model to reinforce that they didn’t hold you accountable – and they should.

Your Turn

It’s never too late to begin practicing team accountability. When you take responsibility, reset expectations, equip your team to practice accountability, and celebrate as you practice new behaviors together, you create a foundation for transformational and breakthrough results.

Leave us a comment and share your best strategy to start practicing team accountability when you never have before.

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

Jessica approached me after my keynote last week. “My boss is about to make a REALLY big mistake and I don’t think I have the influence to stop it. What can I do?”

She continued:

My boss says we need to eliminate my team due to cost reasons. But that’s a terrible mistake! It’s not so much the people I worry about. They’re highly qualified and will find other roles in our organization. It’s that the work we do actually saves the company money, not to mention how much we enhance the customer experience. I care so deeply about this organization, and I want my boss to be successful too. He doesn’t see it.

The truth is, I don’t think he has any idea all the gaps we fill. But I feel like when I’m advocating for this, it looks like I’m just trying to save my team. The organization is really going to suffer if we go down this path.

How do I get my boss to hear me? How can I influence him to do the right thing?

Of course, after a ten-minute conversation,  I can’t claim to understand all the financial and other nuances of this decision. But as she continued, I WAS convinced she had a solid argument worth hearing out.

I asked:

What if you approached your boss exactly like you just spoke to me? Come from a place of deep concern for the bigger picture. Acknowledge the need for financial savings AND paint the picture of a future where your team is not in place? Is it possible to outline the downstream financial consequences of both scenarios?

She smiled. “Yup. I can do that. And I think it’s worth a try.”

Of course, it’s worth a try.

What’s worth a try for you? And where are you holding back?

What truth would you share if you only felt you had more influence?

5 Ways to Up Your Influence and Accomplish More

If you’re not having the influence you desire, start here.

1- Meet Them on the Path They’re Already On

Jessica’s boss had a clear MIT (Most Important Thing) on his mind–to drive costs out of the business. Jessica needed to meet him on the path he was on. If Jessica tried to take her boss down the “let’s improve the customer experience path” while he was racing down the “cost savings road”, she would likely be ignored. She had a solid argument that eliminating her team would cost more money in the long-run. She should lead with that. The customer experience point is influence gravy.

You will have more influence when the people you’re trying to convince know that you “get it,” with “it” being whatever it is they most care about.

2. Ask Great Questions

This HBR article explains why.

Questions give you the chance to hear what the other person is thinking, giving you more opportunity to accurately determine his or her influencing style. By really listening to the person’s response, you will know whether you can move on to your next point, or if you need to back up and readdress something in a way that helps the other person see your perspective and brings him or her closer to your position. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, when people feel listened to by those trying to influence them, their liking of, commitment to, and trust in the influencer increases — all of which strengthen your influencing capability in the situation and overall.

3. Echo Back the Smart Words They Say

Great listening is more than half the influence formula. If you’re trying to influence someone, start by listening deeply and reflecting back what you hear. People will listen when they know they’ve been heard.

4. Build Trust By Being a Truth Teller 

Do you have someone in your life you can always count on to tell you the truth? Be that guy for others. Trust breeds influence. I love this point in the Inc.’s article 7 Way to Build Influence in the Workplace, 

If you want a healthy and influential working relationship, you’re going to have to cultivate trust. The easiest way to do that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions, and don’t keep secrets. It’s as simple as that.

5. Rock Your Role

Although competence does not necessarily lead to influence, it’s a necessary place to start. Results buy freedom, and they also build influence. You can never go wrong by being the guy everyone can count on to hit it out of the park.

See Also:

The Winning Well Leadership ModelGlowstone Peak Available Now (quick video overview)

Why Bother Speaking Up (our very popular post on FOSU– Fear of Speaking Up)

The V.O.I.C.E. Approach to getting your voice heard.

How to P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. your boss

And if you’re looking to help your children think more about courage, influence, and hope, check out our new children’s book, Glowstone Peak.

what no one tells you about leadership

What No One Tells You About Leadership

Welcome to the Hope Business

If I could give a one-page orientation manual to every person who takes a management or leadership position, at the top of the page it would say:

You may have taken this job for the money (it’s not going to be enough),

for the power (you don’t actually have power – it’s an illusion),

or for the prestige (no job will make you feel good about yourself).

Maybe you took this job because you care about the people you serve and results your can achieve together. If so, you’re off to a great start.

Welcome to the hope business.

When your team has hope, you have a chance. Hope means they believe in you. They trust you and one another. You are credible and you have a strategy they believe can succeed.

Everything you do from now on will build or erode hope.

I know you can do this.

Welcome to the hope business.

Welcome to leadership!

If you’re like most leaders, no one has ever told you’re in the hope business. That this is the most important thing you can give your team. That without it, you are finished before you ever get going.

Hope is your most important leadership responsibility.

Why Try?

Leadership is the belief that if we work together we can have a better tomorrow.

That’s hope. But if you’re like most leaders, no one’s ever told you that you’re in the hope business.

But every day you ask your team to try, to think, to solve problems. Why? Why should they try?

The only answer is hope.

Hope isn’t a strategy – but it’s a damn good fuel. [Tweet This]

Because when we work together we can make things better – better for our customer, better for one another, better for our families.

When It’s Tough

You might be wondering how to lead with hope when circumstances are challenging. Perhaps a market shift means you have to close some elements of the business that aren’t relevant and regroup to face a changing environment. What does hope look like in that scenario?

Hope is the message that together you’ll get through it. Hope is the gracefulness with which you make the changes. Hope is the way you call your team to their personal best. The belief and practice that no matter what happens, each of you will be better for the way you choose to lead through it.

Your TurnSelvia, leadership, and hope

One of the reasons we wrote Glowstone Peak was to inspire children (and the adults who love them) with the power of hope. As Selvia realized, “Nothing gets better if I stay here. So she started walking.” That’s hope – and the courage to try.

We hope you’ll share the story with the children in your life.

Now, we’d love to hear from you: What role does hope play in your leadership? How do you lead with hope – especially when times are challenging?

Forced Ratings - Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings – Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings Cause More Problems Than They Fix

Recently we were working with senior leaders in a global company who faced a challenging morale problem. They hired talented capable people who were producing good work – but their talent was leaving. Leaders at every level were frustrated at the forced ratings performance management system.

Tracie, the Senior Vice President of Product Management, summarized the problem: “We’re wasting time and energy competing against each other. I’ve got good people on my team and I’d keep every one of them, but I have to rate everyone on a bell curve – so someone gets told they’re not doing a good job even when they are. No wonder they leave.”

It goes by many names: forced rating, stack ranking, and bell curves. You rate people’s performance by comparing them to one another. Those who finish lowest in the ratings are put on performance improvement plans, aren’t recognized for their performance or are even told to leave.

These systems are appealing because it seems like the formula (keep your top performers, replace the low) will ratchet up performance as everyone competes to be at the top of the ratings.

Problems That Prevent Performance

In practice, however, these forced ratings systems run into real-world challenges. There are several problems with stack ranks and bell curve rating systems:

  • You create contradictions as you hire great employees, but then tell a segment of them that they’re not great after all.
  • You create internal competition rather than outward competition.
  • You create strong incentives to game the score rather than play the real game of serving your customer.
  • You’re asking people for their least-best effort (what they have to do to stay alive) rather than their true best.
  • Leaders don’t learn how to lead and manage for sustainable results.
  • Managers aren’t allowed to reward genuine performance when talented performers end up on the low end of the rank.

Forced rating systems are helpful when a leader needs to jumpstart a large organization that’s caught in a morass of sloth, no accountability, and poor execution at every level. A quick ranking to identify truly poor performance and remove it from the organization sends a message that things are changing.

In essence, forced rankings are used to compensate for poor leadership. Successful frontline and middle-level leaders frequently succeed despite, not because of, forced ranking systems. These systems become another barrier they have to overcome on the way to sustained results.

Forced ratings are an attempt to compensate for poor leadership.

For the long-term, however, the answer to sustained transformational results isn’t forced rankings. If the problem is poor leadership, it should be fairly obvious: fix the problem.

Motivate Your Team: The Alternative to Forced Ratings

If you’re struggling to reboot the leadership in your organization, or if you’re a team leader who wants to transform and sustain breakthrough results, start here:

  • Hire fantastic people.  Identify the competencies your top performers share in common and interview for those traits.
  • Cultivate and create systems that help top performers to excel. What is the number one frustration that prevents your team from excelling? What can you do to remove it or lessen its disruptive impact?
  • Align compensation with what you really want. If you need a team to perform at an objective level of excellence, compensate them for that performance. Don’t turn the team against itself with artificial comparisons that don’t benefit the work that’s done for your customers.
  • Invest in your leaders and managers – formally or informally, with budget or without the budget. No excuses. Give your managers and leaders the tools they need to succeed. If you need a place to begin, check out the free Let’s Grow Leaders Facilitator’s Guide that accompanies Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.
  • At a minimum, equip and expect yourself and your managers and leaders to:
    • Set clear, shared, mutually understood expectations that include purpose & meaning and the MIT behaviors that lead to success.
    • Train and equip their people to perform well.
    • Hold themselves and their people accountable.
    • Help team members to grow with training, coaching, encouragement, and challenge for high performers.
    • Celebrate success.
    • Hold leaders accountable for their results and how they achieve them. I often see senior leaders talk about how they expect their team leaders to perform, but they never actually reinforce the behaviors or hold their direct reports accountable.

Your Turn

Remember, you can’t replace the work of a human leader with a formula. Invest in your leaders and hold them accountable for leading.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about forced ranking systems or your #1 tip to make them unnecessary.

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Remote Leadership

Remote Leaders: How to Use the Right Tool at the Right Time

Why Richness and Scope Matter to Long-Distance Leaders

With the ever-increasing role of remote workers, we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Wayne Turmel, co-author of The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

Technology is critical to leading a long-distance team. Email, meeting tools, network and file access—our jobs would be impossible (or at least really difficult) without it. But nearly as important as knowing which tools to use, is being confident you’re using the right tool for the right job.

In The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel offer a simple guide to choosing the appropriate technology. Based on research from Bettina Büechel, it suggests finding the balance between richness and scope.

Richness is the wealth of communication cues at work to ensure understanding in any communication. A face-to-face, in-person conversation is a good example. Not only can you see and hear in real time, but you’re seeing the visual cues on the person’s face, their body language, the tone of their voice, and they can do the same. There’s a really good chance you’re communicating clearly AND being understood, with plenty of time to adjust your message if needed. The problem is that we can’t go person to person on our team… and not all messages require that level of understanding.

Scope is the opposite. Email is a great example. You can get the same message in the same way over time and distance very quickly and efficiently. The good news is that hundreds of people can receive identical messages. Of course, it lacks richness—it may be misunderstood or action might not be taken, and you have no way of knowing if that’s happening until it’s too late.

Remote Leaders Richness vs. Scope by Wayne TurmelNeither richness or scope are good or bad on their own. The question is, “Are we using the right tool at the right time?” For example, if a leader knows they should have a difficult conversation with someone (the richer the better when addressing a performance issue, for example) it might be more convenient and far less stressful to just send an email or a voicemail after hours. True, the message was communicated, but it wasn’t nearly as effective as it could be. This should call for a richer conversation; in-person if possible. If not, you might want to use voice and webcam in a quiet place, rather than simply make a crackly cell phone call from an airport departure lounge.

As The Long-Distance Leader makes clear, this is fairly obvious if one takes the time to think about it, but how many of us take that precious time? We’re often too busy to stop and give mindful attention to the tools we use. We often do what’s seemingly quicker—even if it might be less effective in the long run—or use the tools we’re most comfortable with. An example of this is not taking advantage of the innate richness of a webcam conversation because we’re not comfortable seeing ourselves on camera. Instead, we settle for a voice conversation that doesn’t allow for visual cues to judge whether the other person is really understanding or buying into the discussion.

This is just one of the models Eikenberry and Turmel use to demonstrate the simple but not always easy or obvious ways to address the challenges of leading people, projects or teams from a distance. You can learn more in The Long Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder (along with Kevin)  of The Remote Leadership Institute and the author of many books, including ATD’s 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations.


Wayne-Turmel Long Distance Leader

Wayne and Kevin Eikenberry have co-authored the definitive guide for remote leaders, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

Too valuable to fire?

Employee Too Valuable to Fire? 6 Leadership Strategies

Is Anyone Ever Too Valuable to Fire?

Have you ever worked with an obnoxious colleague who seemed to be protected because the employee was considered too valuable to fire?

Maybe you’re a team leader who has one of these brilliant bullies on your team.

If so, you might not be surprised at what I watched happen at a corporate leadership development program I was facilitating. The HR Director had set out materials on every table – including dishes of candy.

A tall, lanky man entered the room, went straight to the back row, asked the HR Director and his own supervisor if he had to attend the program. When they told him he needed to be there if he wanted to lead a team, he threw a tantrum.

He picked up the dish of candy, threw it against the wall, swept the papers from the table, and unleashed a string of profanity.

In most organizations, that behavior would be a “career limiting move” so I was curious how the HR Director and his supervisor would respond.

They walked away.

I asked the HR Director how she was going to address his behavior.

She replied, “Oh that? That was tame. He’s been far worse, but I’m not allowed to address his behavior. The CEO says he’s too important to lose. He’s really smart and we need him on this project.”

Too Valuable to Fire?

If you’re a leader who tolerates abusive behavior, harassment, or bullying because the employee is smart or talented, you’re making a big mistake.

Think about the messages you’re sending to your team.

First, you’ve told your team that you’re weak. You’re not a strong enough leader to create a positive work environment.

Next, you’ve told your team members that you don’t value them. If you did value them, you would ensure they were treated humanely.

Finally, you’ve told everyone that this kind of abuse, harassment, and bullying is okay. You’ve planted seeds for even more chaos and disruption.

The reality is: no one is too valuable to fire. If you’re doing work that requires a team of people working together, no one brilliant person can do everything themselves.

It’s easy to get caught in a trap when you think you either have to tolerate the bad behavior or else lose the talent. Fortunately, that trap is an illusion. You have powerful leadership tools and choices to make. Here are six leadership strategies to help you deal with an employee who seems like they’re too valuable to fire:

  1. Pick Your Problems

Leaders recognize that they don’t get to chose if they have problems. It’s not “if problems” but “which problems.” The choice is Which set of problems do you want to have? Before you can do anything else, you’ve got to face reality: you have a serious issue here and you’re going to have serious problems.

Which problems do you want? The problems where everyone leaves and the team degenerates into chaos or the problems where you figure out how to address the issues and build a high-performance culture?

  1. What Does Success Look Like?

One of your most important leadership responsibilities is to capture, communicate, and clarify what success looks like for your team. When you’re interviewing, when you’re onboarding, when you’re meeting with your people…consistently reinforce what success looks like. What results will you achieve together? How will you achieve them? How will you work together, treat one another, and build healthy professional relationships?

Clarify what success looks like from the beginning and you’re less likely to hire, much less have to fire, someone for abuse, harassment, and bullying behaviors.

  1. Develop Early

As you work with your people, pay attention to their development from the first day. Use the Competence / Confidence model to quickly give them the feedback they need to grow. Brilliant bullies are often in the upper right quadrant because they aren’t as good as they think they are – they’re undermining their own performance by driving others away.

It is much easier to deal with a behavioral performance issue when you first see it than to address it once it is entrenched.

  1. Ditch the Diaper Drama

One of our favorite Winning Well leadership behaviors is to speak the truth directly, but in a way that builds relationships. Don’t wrap the stink in layers of self-protection (the way that modern diaper pails do) to cover the stink, but don’t solve the problem.

Directly address abuse, harassment, and bullying by describing what you’ve observed. Often, just the act of describing what you saw and heard will help the other person adjust their behavior.

I once had a high-value employee yell at me: “I’m tired of you acting like Hitler.” (His report was three weeks overdue and he’d run out of grace period to get it done.) I responded with the “Notice” step from the INSPIRE model: “I noticed that you just called me Hitler. Last I checked, I hadn’t committed any genocide.” Then I followed up with the “Probe” step: “What’s going on?”

When he was calmly confronted with his own behavior, he calmed down and we were able to talk about the real issue and make an agreement that we would never use that kind of language again.

  1. Manage Up – Quickly

If you suspect (or know for certain) that your boss doesn’t want to lose this person, get in front of it. Don’t do anything without their buy-in. You don’t want to have to back-pedal on a major decision and lose credibility. Talk with your boss about the behaviors, the impact on your team, the way it affects performance, and the alternatives they’re willing to accept.

You can also ditch the diaper drama in this conversation: “What level of abuse and harassment are you willing to tolerate for this person’s performance?”

  1. Rally the Team

One of the most awesome examples I’ve ever seen of a manager who had to deal with an employee too valuable to fire was Allan, a senior engineer facing a global product launch. He had a brilliant, but abusive, team member who was a key contributor to the project. The entire team had spoken with him individually about this person. Allan had done everything he could and it was time to terminate.

He spoke with senior vice president who told him: “I won’t stand in your way if you want to let this guy go, but this is totally your call. You are still responsible for getting the product launch done on time. It that doesn’t happen, it will likely mean your job.”

Allan chose to terminate the problem employee’s employment and then met with his team. “That employee is no longer with us,” he told them. “We still have to meet our deadline. I believe in us and I know we can do it, but without him, it’s not going to be easy. How can we do it?”

The team was grateful, energized, and innovative in coming up with ways they could meet their deadline. Productivity soared.

“It was a major gut check,” Allan shared with me, “I was worried about my own job, but I’m so glad I made the decision I did. I chose to believe in my team – and I’m glad I did.”

Your Turn

You might be wondering what happened to the company where I met the candy-thrower.

I explained to the executive team that if they didn’t confront this man’s behavior, they should stop wasting money on leadership development (because your behavior tells your people that you don’t actually value leadership), should spend the money on recruiting (because no one will stick around to deal with that every day), and prepare to miss their next product development deadlines (because the caustic atmosphere was killing everyone else’s productivity).

Leave us a comment and share your best practices when confronted with an employee who seems as if they’re too valuable to fire.

Employee Engagement - Avoid Tremendous Leadership Mistake

Employee Engagement – Avoid This Tremendous Leadership Mistake

Employee Engagement – Play the Game, Don’t Game the Score

When you see low employee engagement scores, what is your first reaction?

I spoke with a company executive who was upset with his engagement scores. “The numbers are horrible,” he said. “Can you help us with some team-building?”

I replied, “Probably not.”

He looked at me with a combination of shock and amusement.  He wasn’t used to consultants telling him they didn’t want his money.

“Okay, tell me why not?”

It’s not that I wasn’t willing to help – of course, I would. But when morale stinks, employee engagement scores are down the drain, and your people are upset, team building isn’t the solution.

In fact, it’s a tremendous mistake that will almost always make things worse.

Start With Why

Low employee engagement scores are the symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Leaders who are Winning Well focus on playing the game, not gaming the score. That means they don’t try to manipulate the score with team-building, pizza, or incentives – they stay focused on the critical behaviors that drive performance and results.Employee engagement - play the game don't game the score

Employee engagement is no exception. Focus on the score and you’re lost. Instead, play the game: focus on the behaviors that create the score.

When I asked the executive why his people were upset, he wasn’t sure.

As we dug deeper, we discovered that there were significant breakdowns of clarity and commitment. There were problems communicating major organizational changes, one mid-level manager who had become territorial and was needlessly frustrating other departments, and front-line leaders who were driving talent away by scaring people into performance.

Fix The Real Problem

Don’t try to motivate your way out of a mess. Fix the mess. (Tweet This)

For this executive, that meant apologizing for the communication problems, getting the right information out to everyone, listening to and addressing the concerns his people had about the new process, and taking aside the territorial manager for some one-on-one coaching and accountability. Then he invested in leadership development for his front-line leaders and we worked with the middle-level managers to reinforce the front-line leaders’ new focus on results and relationships.

Don’t use team-building in response to problems or low morale. Fix the communication problems. Improve the process issue that prevents people from doing their job.

Icing On The Employee Engagement Cake

Team-building is often loathed and panned by employees and managers alike because it can be such a waste of time – a well-intentioned, but a completely ineffectual response to a problem that takes real work to solve.

Done properly, real team-building is the icing on a good cake.  It takes a solid foundation and makes it something truly special.

Imagine trying to spread frosting on a cake that is only half-cooked. You’d a have a nasty, goopy mess that ends up in the trash. You can’t frost a half-baked cake and you can’t use motivation or team-building in place of fundamentals.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share: How do you make sure you’re not trying to “motivate your way out of a mess”? Or if you’ve got a particularly awful example of this mistake at work, you can share that too.