Sarcasm is Not a Leadership Competency

I’m not sure why so many people in positions of power think sarcasm is a leadership competency. Sure a quick wit, used well, can energize the team and lighten the load. But a sarcastic remark meant to belittle those who don’t dare fight back diminishes confidence, degrades trust, and leaves folks looking for the nearest escape route.

In fact, an audience member asked me again last week (anonymously through my polling app), “Can you talk about the danger of sarcasm? Our VP uses it often with people he doesn’t know and it ruins his presentations and upsets people.” I thought, “I know that guy.” I bet you do too.

Why is sarcasm so rampant in the workplace? Why would a manager demean someone they’re trying to “motivate?”

Why Sarcasm is So Dangerous

  1. It creates shame in the target.  People will do almost anything to feel good about themselves. If you shame a person when you have positional power, you have put them in a difficult “fight or flight” position.
  2. You get the opposite of what you want. A very skilled self-aware person might come and talk to you about it, but otherwise, they’ll find another way to “get even” – perhaps they resort to similar “humor” behind your back, undermine you, or reduce their work effort.
  3. You give permission for everyone to do it. Before long, your clever comeback has turned into a caustic workplace where negativity reigns. (At the extreme, this can even cause human resource problems with hostile work environments.)
  4. It doesn’t build anything. You might make someone stop doing something by being sarcastic and shaming them, but you’ll never create a new positive behavior this way.
  5. You limit creativity. Consistent sarcasm creates an atmosphere where no one will try a new idea. The risk of failure and incurring shame is too great.
  6. It drains energy. We do our best work when we’re in “the zone” – feeling competent, challenged, and ready to do our best. Sarcasm and humor at another’s expense create doubt and negative energy.
  7. It destroys trust.

How to Be Effective and Funny

  1. Start With Results: When you’re tempted to use sarcasm, stop and ask yourself what you really want. What results do you look for? Encourage, inspire, teach, coach, demonstrate…these are always more effective than sarcasm.
  2. Address Issues Directly: Never use humor to deal with behavior or performance problems. As we’ve seen, it creates more problems and does nothing to help the situation. Address these issues directly and professionally.
  3. Use Humor Effectively: Any comedian can tell you that there is always one safe target to make fun of– you. Self-effacing humor displays humility and tells your people that you don’t feel like you’re better than they are and that don’t take yourself too seriously. It builds trust because people know you own your problems and understand your own shortcomings.
  4. Deal with Your Own Junk: If you’re carrying around hurt or insecurity and regularly mask it with sarcasm or making fun of others, take some time to reflect on what’s going on there – maybe work with a coach. If it’s deep, talk with a counselor.
  5. Clean Up: If you have potentially hurt others in the past, apologize, and make it right.

We love to laugh and we need far more of it – but if you’re a manager or seeking to influence others, avoid sarcasm or making fun of anyone (except yourself) and watch your credibility grow.

David Dye and I write more on this topic in our book being published by AMACOM this February. Winning Well: A Managers Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul. Please call me on 443-750-1249 if you would like more information about including your organization in our Winning Well Speaking Tour this Spring.

7 ways to show your team you trust tehm

7 Ways to Show Your Team You Trust Them

Trust begets trust. The best way to get your team to trust you is to trust them. Hire for trust. Require trust. Rid your team of untrustworthy players. And then, show your team how much you trust them. Here’s how.

7 Ways to Show Your Team You Trust Them

1. Set Audacious Goals

Oh sure your team may grumble. But there’s no greater gift you can give your team than leading them toward head-turning results. Set the bar high and then look them in the eye, “I believe in you. I know what this team is capable of. Now let’s figure out just how, together.” Show trust by believing it’s possible.

2. Tell The Truth

Even when it’s hard.  Don’t sugarcoat the bad news. Play it straight. Show trust by treating them like grown-ups.

3. Invite Them To Come Along

I’ll never forget of my best first bosses, Gail. She would constantly take me along to senior level meetings, arguing that “no one could explain it better” than I could. Of course that wasn’t true, she was one of the most gifted explainers I know. But she trusted I would do okay, and was secure enough to give up the spotlight. I’ve been amazed at how many bosses are afraid to give such opportunities to their team. Show trust by sharing the stage.

4. Admit What You Don’t Know

Show your team you trust them by admitting you don’t have all the answers. Trust them with your concerns. Trust them with your questions. Show trust by being real.

5. Encourage Them to Meet Without You

This one took me a minute to get used to (you can read about that here), but a great way to show trust in your team is to give them a big hairy problem and ask them to meet to figure it out. Make sure that any information and parameters they may need gets out of your head and into theirs first, otherwise they’ll spin their wheels. Show trust by getting out of the way.

6. Tell Them

This one might seem obvious or even silly, but I guarantee it can’t hurt. Can you imagine how good it would feel to hear, “I really trust you because_________.” Show trust by telling them why.

7. Forgive Them

If your team screws up, talk about it, help them learn, and then move on. Show trust by letting it go.

PrintTrust Across America has once again released their list of Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior. See the list (and lots of other great content) in their lastest online issue of Trust Magazine. I feel very honored and humbled to be included with such amazing trust leaders.

Are you looking to build greater trust with your team? I’d love to help. Give me a call at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

6 Reasons Your Team Yearns For Authenticity

If you bring all of who you are to the leadership table, some people will hate your style. In fact, it’s likely that a few “important” people will not “like” you. Authenticity is intimidating, and scares those with the most to hide. Far easier to lead like everyone else and be groomed to fit a mold.

Similarly, letting people see who you are and hear what you really mean makes you vulnerable. Rejection of your idea stings. Rejection of some company line you’ve practiced and perfected feels much less personal.

But easy leadership doesn’t change the game.

If you won’t bring every ounce of who you are and what you have to give to your leadership, your team will know. And, they’ll follow your lead.

Your team will hold back who they are and what they have most to give. The cycle continues.

Your team needs you to be you. They yearn to experience the rare game-changing results that happen in a genuine environment of candor, deep respect, and trust.

The world’s future depends on growing more leaders with the confidence to audaciously bring all their gifts and ideas to the table.

6 Reasons Your Team Yearns for Authenticity

1. They’ve been screwed before

Oh, they have stories. Trust me. I hear them. Assume somewhere along the line they’ve felt betrayed. Even if it’s not at your company or even under your watch, once upon a time a leader has lied to them. Guards are up. They need a good guy to restore their trust in leadership. They need reassurance in action, not words.They’re not going to tell you the truth until they’re perfectly sure you’ve been doing the same… over and over.

Your team also desperately wants to know that the good guys can (and do) win. There’s no better gift you can give your team than leading from who you are toward head turning results.

2. You’re wasting YOUR energy

Keeping up appearances is an energy-sucking, never-ending vacuum of misery. Trying to lead like someone else, or spin the truth, will wear you down and make you cranky. When leaders spend time working to show up differently than who they are, to win the game and keep up a facade, they waste precious energy that could be invested in creating breakthrough vision, developing people, and working on the work.

3. You’re  wasting THEIR energy

If your team senses you’re playing a game, they’ll spend a lot of time working to figure out the rules. In fact, if you’ve got surface success, they’ll be taking notes to learn to play it too. All that contagious facade building pulls hearts and mind from the important mission at hand.

4.  You’re their lifeline

Particularly in a big organization, the immediate leader makes all the difference. You can’t outsource leadership, not even to your boss, or to HR. They want to hear the story from you, and they want to know you’re not reading talk-points crafted from someone else. If they can’t trust you to be genuine where will they turn? That answer may be really dangerous.

5. They want to be like you- maybe

Some folks on your team have serious aspirations to move up in the scene. But they don’t want to lose their souls in the process. They’re watching you to see how you handle the pressure. Do you stay true to who you are, or are you being groomed to be “just like THEM.”

6. They have important news to share

They’ve got ideas and solutions, but your team wants to ensure they’ll have a receptive audience. If you’re afraid to share with them, they’ll be reluctant to share with you.

5 Ways to Lead More Authentically

How would you answer the question:  Do most leaders lead with true authenticity? Sadly, if you’re like my MBA students, the majority of you will likely vote no. You’d share stories of strategic ambiguity, or leaders letting greed and stock price trump once solid values. One student shared, “I honestly think most leaders start out being authentic, but after a while with all the pressures it’s just too hard to maintain.” When everyone’s playing a guarded game, it’s hard to win if you’re the only one playing the vulnerability card. Easier to blend in and go with the flow.

So, what if I changed the question just slightly and asked: Do YOU lead with true authenticity? I imagine the percentages would shift in the favor of yes. But if we’re honest with ourselves, for most of us the true answer is  “unless.”

  • Unless the other guy’s playing games.
  • Unless I have to salute and tow the company line
  • Unless we have to make our fourth quarter earnings
  • Unless the truth will lead to employee disengagement
  • Unless my boss is around
  • Unless…

Most of us don’t get up in the morning looking to fake it. Authenticity breeches are seldom blatant acts of self-betrayal, but more likely minor shades of grey which we convince ourselves (often unconsciously) are okay.

What does it mean to be truly authentic? I’ve been asking that question of everyone I meet lately (my MBA student’s answers are cloud sourced in the pic above). Most definitions involve the word “being:” being genuine, being consistent, being transparent, being trustworthy. Being is such a richer word than doing.

Authenticity stems from who you are which manifests in what you do.

5 Ways to Lead More Authentically

Know Yourself:  Be constantly curious about your leadership and the impact you are making, both good and bad. Have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Admit your weaknesses and how you are working to improve on them

Be Yourself : Be true to your leadership values and style. Avoid emulating someone else’s style to fit a certain mold. Strive for integration and consistency of who you are across various contexts (e.g. work, home, church)

Say What’s True:  Be trustworthy and honest. Do what you say. Don’t withhold information. Be willing to have the tough conversations.

Commit to the Cause:  Be committed to the mission at a deep level. If your heart’s not in it, consider your motives. Doing what’s right trumps any personal agenda.

Connect With Others:  Be genuinely interested in other people as humans, not just for what they can do to make your life easier. Make extra effort to connect at a deeper level up, down and sideways.

I’m conducting a quick authenticity poll if you would be willing to join the anonymous research click here.

 

6 Things to Do When You Don't Have a Clue

Perhaps you convinced them you were ready, or maybe someone convinced you. Either way, you’re in a new job or staring at a new project and don’t have the slightest clue where to start. You feel stupid on the inside and you wonder how badly it’s showing on the outside. Everyone’s looking to you for direction. Now what?

A Story of Not Knowing

“I know one thing, that I know nothing”-Socrates

I recently conducted a workshop on trust and strategic partnership for a group of Nigerian leaders. On paper, this was right up my alley. Trust and authenticity is my gig. I’ve lived the world of strategic partnerships. But after a few minutes listening to their stories, I realized I didn’t have a clue about building trust in their world: 6pm curfews that caused premature closings of universities and businesses; corruption and bribes; lack of tracking and systems. I was not in a position to teach, but only to help in their exploration.

I confessed.

“I’ve never been to Africa. The trust concerns you’ve shared are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I can’t tell you what to do to fix these issues. But like you, I am an experienced business person who cares deeply about trust and knows something it. Like you, I am a parent who longs for a better future for our children. Like you, I want to make Nigeria better. I am humbled to be your guide today in this exploration.

We worked together to build a plan.

6 Things To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

1. Chill

It’s likely that your panic is not showing as much as you think. Breathe. People will respect that you don’t have all the answers, but they won’t follow a basket case. Show up poised and confident.

2. Trust your gut

You likely know way more than you think. As Michael Hyatt suggests just doing the next right thing. You’re in the position for a reason, trust that it wasn’t an accident. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and make some bold moves as needed.

3. Admit what you don’t know and articulate what you do

Chances are they already know what you don’t know. Faking it will just reduce your credibility. Begin with confident humility. Admit what you don’t know, but reassure them with what you do bring to the game.

4. Surround yourself with trusted advisors

Somebody around there knows what they’re doing. And all those somebodies put together have an arsenal of the knowledge you need. Tapping into their expertise creates engagement and gets you out of the gate quickly.

5. Do your homework

Get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Research best practices. Study failures. Dig deep. Nothing beats experience, but if you don’t have much, leverage someone elses.

6. Look the part

This one’s not vital, but a bit like chicken soup, it can’t hurt. If you’re not feeling overwhelmingly confident at least look good. It just might increase your confidence.

An Unusual Conversation on Trust: For LGL Regulars

I’m going to start with a pre-apology. This won’t be my best post, but  I always believe in showing up when expected- and transparency. Muck is all part of leadership, pretending it’s easy doesn’t help grow leaders.

The Plan

I had planned for a productive weekend:  A glorious cocktail of preparation for some very important work I am doing on trust with a group of Nigerian higher education leaders this week; a number of proposals and design work (game on); and getting the blog ready for this week in English and Spanish (check out our new Spanish site).  Oh yes, and another surprise coming soon for you. And then of course the family fun like watching little league baseball, a birthday party, and some Father’s day celebration. I was hoping to have a brilliant Father’s Day post. If you’re newer here, read this one from my first year of blogging (about my Dad who this year spent his Father’s Day supporting me at the hospital… yup, foreshadowing)

The Story

My son, Sebastian, broke his arm and was medi-vaced from one hospital to another to address complications. It’s been a long 24 hours and we’re all exhausted. He will have a full recovery. I am full of thanks to the doctors and nurses who truly care. Sebastian now sleeping, I’ve got a moment to reflect on how important trust is during our most frightening times: From the receptionist at Hopkins ER who took one look at my stressed face and said “the paper work can come later,” to all the doctors with straight talk about “risks and choices”  who then shared their honest opinions based on their personal perspective (all with children the same age); To my husband and the rest of my pit crew who executed elegantly. The hospital wing was filled with moms, dads and children all trusting strangers and one another do their very best in situations much more serious than ours. My family got to go home today feeling lucky.

Back to Trust

And so in lieu of my usual fare, I offer up a quote with which I will start my upcoming trust workshop to tee up our week on LGL.

“I believe in trusting men, not only once, but twice. In giving failure another chance.” – James Cash (JC) Penny

As well as the old chinese proverb:

 “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”

When is it time to trust again? When do you stop trusting? How do you know?

stuck in the middle with you

Stuck in the Middle With You

The other day I got the kind of feedback that kicks you in the gut and makes your brain hurt for days. I’m sure you know the kind, it stings with truth, but you’ve got a gazillion counter points you would never say out loud, for fear of appearing to not be listening. It’s from an amazing leader who worked on my team for several years, and is a regular reader of LGL.

This is a long one, so for those of you who prefer a musical soundtrack with your pondering, click here.

She writes:

One area of frustration for me in business is much like my frustration in the collection and recording of history down through time, and that is the winners make the history, it’s from their perspective and rarely is it all-inclusive of the realities of the time. Many leaders go through their career (certainly once they get to a higher level) believing that their station or title in their company validates that their perspective is somehow best, or more insightful. These leaders don’t leverage the best from their people or their organizations, and the idea that they understand how their employees feel is somewhat silly. To me your book represents a leader saying why and how I should relate to them, excuse them, allow for and understand their human nature.

That’s where the disconnect was for me, at what point do leaders really need to understand, and act on how their behaviors, their decisions affect the masses below them? In short I want leaders to improve, have better sight, understand and truly grow about those in their care. I want leaders to see more than market share, and stack ranks. I want leaders to see and appreciate intention, effort and of course results. But more over I want leaders to be real with me, and I want them to strive as hard to understand me as I strive to understand them. In doing this leaders improve the lives and careers of their employees.

Karin I think you are a great leader and I will admit I expect a lot from you, to that end the brilliance I’ve seen in your past writing and have referenced and yes even bragged about to others simply was not here for me. Frankly this seemed safe, when what all leaders really need (throughout their careers) is to be grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time and forced to remember from whence they came, to understand the politics of our world are their making, and thusly they have the power to unmake it. Knowing that leaders in business buy and read this type of book, I feel you have the knowledge and credibility to improve them in their view down their chain of command as opposed to another attempt to give line employees better understanding of how and why their bosses do what they do so they can advance.

The gist of the issue: Hey, whose side are you on here? The imperfect bosses or the people?
The short answer is: Yes.

You see, I’ve been running around talking to every podcast, radio station, or media outlet sharing my opinion that your boss is just an imperfect human being doing the best she can, just like you. I’ve been firing people up and empowering them with practical tools and advice for advancing their career, even if their boss is a jerk. I believe strongly that helping people defend themselves against an imperfect system and regaining their power is vital.

And I’ve also seen the other side. I do agree there are leaders who need to be “grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time.” I can’t stand the arrogance and abused power. I hate it when leaders forget about the human beings they’ve been entrusted to support. I worry about a system that over-grooms their leaders and the cycle of intimidation continues. I cringe when leaders are too busy to understand their impact.

The question on the table: Am I cutting the leaders too much slack?
The longer answer is: Yes and no.

We’re All Stuck In The Middle of Something

Sure the system is imperfect. People are imperfect. There are good guys and bad guys at every level. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about getting unstuck on both sides of the equation. I must help, and will do everything in my power to help you, them, and the guys in the middle.

We must work together to create the conversation that will build better organizations through meaningful visions, great cultures, and brilliant execution. Such results come from imperfect, inspired people who care for the big picture – at every level.

I’m not ready to pick a side. The best good I can do is right here, stuck in the middle – with you.

5 Subtle Ways Leaders Lose Credibility

Credibility is hard to establish and easy to lose. The sad truth is I’ve seen really good leaders lose the confidence and credibility of their teams by making well-intentioned and innocent mistakes. I’m not talking about the big stuff like lack of follow-through or breaking commitments, but the subtle shifts that undermine all the trust you’re working to build. Don’t fall into these traps.

  1. Word Choice – Leaders use dramatic words to create a vision and gain attention. That’s good. I’m all for colorful language and exciting words. But leaders lose credibility when the words in play are too big or small for the situation at hand. I once worked with a leader whose rally cry of the year was, “we’re in the fight of our lives.” Now, it’s true the competition was fierce, and we needed every brain, heart and hand actively engaged in the struggle. The trouble was many in her audience were literally in the fight of their lives in one way or another: the second bone marrow transplant, a dying sister, a son still in Iraq. I could see these dedicated leaders squirm when she said these words. Sure they knew what she was trying to say, but the words did not inspire the cause. It works the other way too. Words can be too small. If it’s time to be impressed, be impressed. Don’t say, a project was okay when you should have said Wow! 
  2. Too Close, Yet So Far Away – Leaders don’t necessarily need to be able to do the job of the people on their team, but they do need to understand it. I was talking to a sales VP the other day who was in the long-term relationship sales game. He said his boss was asking him to call his prospects every day to follow-up. Having had this VP sell to me in the past, I can’t imagine a worse approach. Our relationship worked because of deep trust and long-term commitment, nagging would have been an immediate turn-off.
  3. Out of Touch -A close cousin to #2, leaders lose credibility when they can’t relate to the personal circumstances of their teams. The other day, I heard a customer service VP on stage talking to a team of call center reps trying to inspire great customer service. She shared, “if you’ve ever been on a Disney Cruise, that’s the kind of service I need you to provide.” These reps were worried about putting food on the table and gas in the car. The sentiment was spot on, but she needed another example.
  4. All About Me– Leaders often take on a celebrity status. People will ask lots of questions about their background, career path, advice. It’s great to share. But leaders lose credibility when they talk about themselves without turning the tables and taking a genuine interest in others. Listen more than you talk. Ask provocative questions. Get to know their background, hopes and dreams. Provide opportunities for others to share.
  5. Strategic Ambiguity – Some strategy and information is secret. If you can’t share, say that. But masking the truth with spin, far-fetched positioning, and other bologna will diminish your credibility fast. People will see through it and wonder what else, you’re not saying.

You’re working too hard to build credibility with your team and organization to throw it away with a sloppy mistake. Pay attention to these potential derailers. Get others involved, sometimes they’re too subtle to see from where you sit.

Saying It With Soul #meanit

As part of our Mean It Madness Month I invited Kathryn Cramer to share her approach to speaking with authenticity. Say it with soul.

A Guest Post from Dr. Kathy Cramer

Saying it with soul is about meaning what you say—and saying something meaningful. It’s about putting yourself and your message on the line. It is about showing your skin in the game.

This can be a tall order for leaders, even when the core of their message is something positive. But why?

It Exposes Your Vulnerability – Whenever you communicate what something means to you, you are revealing something important about yourself. You, not your words, are the message. Soul is something you already have—it is your values and beliefs, your character, your mighty cause, your unique, authentic leadership presence in the world. Communicating with soul is a matter of revealing and demonstrating what you already have.

A Sense Of False Modesty – We are socialized not to brag and to view ego as a turn-off. But authentic humility is also about having the confidence to own and express the best of who we are.

You Think That Nobody Cares – Often leaders think their teams are not concerned with what the leaders think is important; people only care about their own well-being. That statement is true. People do care most about their own well-being, but that is why they need to know that their leaders have personal skin in the game. If you are genuinely committed and personally invested in a cause, then it lowers the bar for your team to get on board. People have a built-in Geiger counter as to whether leaders are being true to what they value, and showing your skin in the game creates authenticity over time.

An Exercise

The more aware you are of when you are perceived by others as sincere and authentic, the more intentional you can be about demonstrating those qualities. The following feedback exercise from Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do helps increase your awareness of these occasions by seeking feedback from trusted members of your circle.

Identify five people who have regular contact with you. Ask each person to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you remember a time when you felt like I was speaking sincerely and authentically?
  2. What was I talking about?
  3. How could you tell I was being sincere?

The patterns from this sincerity feedback process may surprise you. For instance, one sales executive who prided himself on his self-confidence found out, to his surprise, that it was when he opened up about his struggles that people saw him as most sincere and authentic. His respondents recommended that he reveal his critical thinking process when trying to sell to a potential customer.

For this sales leader, all he needed was the feedback about letting people into his thought process. There was no new skill he needed to develop; it was simply a matter of being more open and transparent. That is precisely what saying it with soul is all about.

Sincerity Experts Share Advice: March Frontline Festival #meanit

This month’s Frontline Festival is an extension of Mean It Madness on Let’s Grow Leaders. You don’t need to be a blogger to share your story. Click here to share how saying what you mean has made all the difference. Thank you Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx for the great feature pic (above). Follow Joy @joy_guthrie.

Speaking with Sincerity & Kindness

Jon Mertz – This Difference, opens the Festival with, Uncomplicated Meaning. At times, we can over-complicated how to mean it. If it is wrapped in meaning, then to “mean it” should be simply natural and real. Follow Jon at @ThinDifference

Matt McWilliams – Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way, brings us Why I Hate the Feedback Sandwich and What to do About It. Feedback is intended for one reason: to cause the desired future behavior, by either reinforcing a good one or correcting a bad one. It’s best to keep it simple and sincere. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Kate Nasser – Smart SenseAbilitiesTM, shares Leadership Sincerity: Are You Leading w/ Honesty & Civility? How can leaders say what they mean and mean what they say without insulting people or crushing morale? Here are 6 key steps from The People Skills Coach™ to engage others w/ honesty, authenticity AND civility. Leaders, be real not rude. Follow Kate @KateNasser

Jennifer Miller – The People Equation, offers THINK: 15 Ideas to Help You Talk Less and Listen More. Before you say what you mean, be sure your words aren’t mean. Jennifer offers up four questions to ask yourself before you open your mouth so that the conversation will be productive and encouraging. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller

Bill Benoist Leadership Heart Coaching, brings us Active Listening One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is our undivided attention. When we focus on what the other person is saying rather than forming a response as the person is speaking, we are letting the individual know we value what he or she has to say. Follow Bill @leadershipheart

Julie Pierce – Empowered by Pierce, shares Say What You Mean to Say: A lesson in sincere leadership Excellent leaders are overflowing with integrity and sincerity. Leadership Coach Julie Pierce shares a lesson on sincere leadership. Follow Julie @julie_pierce.

Bernie NagleZunZhong,  shares Speak With The V.O.I.C.E. Of Sincerity Credibility is the currency of Leadership. Draw the account down too far and you risk losing your team…and your job. A simple tool to help your remember how to use your VOICE.Follow Bernie @altrupreneur

Jon HunterCurious Cat Management Improvement Blog, brings us Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism Personal attacks are not useful. Attacking bad practices and bad thinking is showing respect for people. An environment that is so emotionally immature that criticism of bad practices and ideas is seen as disrespectful is an environment that is in need of improvement. Follow Jon @curiouscat_com

Wally Bock Three Star Leadership, shares Gentle Honesty Brutal honesty is supposed to be a good thing. Gentle honesty is better. Follow Wally @WallyBock

The Dangers of Insincerity

Chery Gegelman – of Simply Understanding Blog shares her post, The greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage John was offered a position with another company. He accepted the position and relocated to take the job. In his first week in the new job John receives multiple warnings from co-workers and community members questioning the authenticity and sincerity of the people and the organization he is now employed with. What would you do? Follow Chery @GianaConsulting

Mike Henry Sr. – Founder of the Lead Change Group, shares Sincerity and Office Politics.  Trust lubricates relationships and makes organizations and teams effective. This post outlines 6 ways to shore up trust and sincerity in a team or organization. Follow Mike @mikehenrysr

Eric DinglerEricdingler.com, shares The Most Important Leadership Lesson You Can Learn A quick look at the leadership axiom; More Is Caught Than is Taught and how it plays out in personal, family and workplace leadership. Follow Eric @familylifeuni

Scott MambryElumn8, shares Stop Playing Leadership Hide and Seek The unfortunate thing about hide and seek in organizations is that leaders are often the main perpetrators. Follow Scott @scott_elumn8

New to the Festival, Herwig W Dierckx, Great Business Life Stories,  shares Medieval consultant jargon. A funny story on the over-use of business buzzwords and corporate jargon; in the hope to convince the reader to move to more authentic and clear leadership communication. Follow Herwig @HWDierckx.

Being Sincere With Yourself

 Alli Polin Break the Frame, offers Find the Courage to Be Yourself Too many people seem to have a game face and think that if everyone is playing the game, they have no other choice. Why not say what you mean and show the world who you are? Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Tom EakinBoomLife- Values Driven Success, shares Hey Leaders! What Do You Want? Want to lead an organization where people do great things? First, you need to understand what great things you’re willing to do and, more importantly, why. Follow Tom @goboomlife

Living an Integrated and Ethical Life

Jesse Lyn Stoner – of Jesse Lyn Stoner Blog, shares Your Greatest Source of Influence, Your character is your greatest source of influence, no matter what your role or position. Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner

Barbara KimmelTrust Across America, shares, Ten Trust Busters Are your actions ethical? What impact are they having on others? Is unethical behavior just “business as usual?” Follow Barbara @BarbaraKimmel

Skip Prichard Leadership Insights, shares Do What You Say You’re Going to Do  What’s one trait that all successful people have in common? They do what they say they will do. Whether a small thing or a big one, consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of success. Follow Skip @SkipPrichard

New to the festival, Bob Whipple, The Trust Ambassador brings us , 7 Ways to Improve Your Integrity Before we can learn to trust others, we must learn to trust ourselves. Sounds simple, but many people exhibit low integrity in their own life. Follow Bob, @Rwhipple

Linda Fisher Thornton – Leading in Context, shares Developing Globally Responsible Leaders Developing leaders who are sincerely committed to and capable of fulfilling their responsibilities as global citizens. Follow Linda @LeadinginContxt


Call For Submissions: April Frontline Festival.  April’s Theme is Employee Engagement. New participants welcome. Click here for more information.

Unlikely Collaboration-The Secret to Success

Unlikely Collaboration: The Secret To Success

Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself competing for work with a common client? Meaning your customer isn’t choosing your or them– but both of you. And you find yourself constantly looking for ways to get a bigger share of the pie. What if instead of just competing, you also looked for opportunities for a bit of strategic collaboration?

A Competitive Turned Collaborators Success Story

My last role as a Fortune 15 executive was leading our 10,000 person outsourced function. I managed the strategic partnerships with the BPO call center companies who took many of customer service calls. What a fantastic study in the power of culture. We had 6 competing companies and dozens of contact centers, essentially doing the same work. Some were thriving, some were struggling.

We thought, what if we could bring these leaders together to talk about their common leadership challenges and share best practices?

We considered all the important issues before suggesting we bring all the senior operations leaders together for an event.

It started with buy-in. I called each senior leader and had a candid conversation about their willingness to have candid conversations. Then we set clear ground rules. No talk of pricing or anything that might be considered proprietary.

The collaboration centered around questions such as:

  • How do you inspire call center reps to care deeply about customers?
  • What’s the secret to finding time to coach when the queue’s backed up?
  • How do you build better leadership in a young front-line team?
  • How are you leveraging technology to communicate more effectively?
  • What can my team do to be more helpful as the “client?”

The passion in the room was palpable. As common frustrations surfaced, competitors shared their leadership best practices, followed by brainstorming and collective planning. Everyone was focused on getting better results and doing the right thing for the customer.

“What if we had a week where we all concentrated on developing our leaders around this difficult challenge.”

“What if we produced inspiring videos to reinforce the vision each month?”

On the breaks, leaders would pull me aside and affirm the approach: “This is fantastic, it’s great to know it’s not just us; Everyone’s in the same boat; It’s awesome to collaborate on these challenges.”

And my favorite: “No other client of ours ever does this, they should.”

What is True Collaboration?

What made this work? What’s missing when collaborations go South?

Collaboration works when:
  • Vision is bigger than ego.
  • Everyone has something to gain.
  • The mission is clearly defined.
  • Parameters are established.
  • Leadership is shared.
  • No one keeps score.
  • People play by established ground rules.
  • Folks take time to get to know one another as people.
  • Strengths are leveraged.
  • It’s okay to put on the brakes as needed.
  • Dissent is encouraged and accepted.
  • Contributions are recognized.

How about you?

Have you had a great experience collaborating? What made it work?

See Also: The Secret to Innovative Partnerships

7 Reasons You Won’t Hear The Truth

Your team decides what you can handle. Like parents protecting young children, they safeguard you and themselves. They anticipate tantrums, and work around them. They’ll even throw in a few things “they’re worried about,” to make you feel better.

Don’t blame them. You’ve taught them well. Your well-intended intensity sends them to the nearest diaper genie to package their story. To get the real deal, avoid these common traps.

How To Ensure You Won’t Hear The Truth

  1. Rush To Fix It – They’ve got this. Your “fix” may aggravate the situation. Escalating may damage peer relationships they’ve been working hard to develop. Instead ask how you can best help.
  2. Model It – Your team watches how you manage your boss. Watch what filtering you model. They’re picking up these skills from you. Show them how you give your boss bad news.
  3. Freak Out – Breathe. Nothing will shut them down more than high-emotions.
  4. Use It Against Them – They don’t want their mistakes to haunt them. If you don’t know, you can’t “ding” them. Encourage them to come to you with problems and solutions. Commend them for their honesty.
  5. Assign More Work – They’re already overwhelmed working the issue. Roll-up your sleeves to brainstorm solutions, but don’t just start assigning to-dos.
  6. Bring In The experts – Sure suggest folks who can help, but resist the urge to bring in a superhero to take over.
  7. Require More Updates – Now you’re nervous. It’s natural to want more frequent updates. If you need more info, make it easy. The team doesn’t have time to build more Powerpoints to update you. They’ve got work to do.

How To Encourage The Truth

  1. T – Time: Be sensitive to scar tissue from previous bosses. Raise the issue one person at a time. Ask how you’re doing and what it will take to nurture their trust.
  2. R – Receive well: Really listen to what they’re saying. Gently probe for more information. Ask follow-up questions, including how you can best help.
  3. U – Understand: Reiterate what you’ve heard. Use empathy statements, “Wow, that must be really frustrating”.
  4. T – Take it offline: Casually talk to team members one-on-one. Ask what worries them most, and how you can help. Ask what they think you should be worried about.
  5. H – Honest: Calmly articulate any concerns. Being real with them, will encourage them to be real with you.