Leaders: Beware Comparisons

When we were kids, my younger brother had to put up with teachers comparing the two of us throughout his school years. He was a star athlete, I was more of an academic. He didn't like the comparisons and neither did I. Most of all, the comments did nothing to change either of our lives for the better. To this day, he doesn't care much about "A's" and I still can't kick a field goal.


Adults at work hate those kinds of comparisons, too. "When Kris was in your job, she always contacted the sales managers to get the monthly updates. I think that was a better way than how it's being done now." These kinds of remarks don't prompt positive changes or win over employees. When you get the feeling to compare one person's work with another, simply stop and think about one or more of these:

What To Do?

1. Compare performance and behavior against agreed-to goals and expectations

2. Compare performance against the standards set to earn a bonus or reward

3. Compare performance against some desired goal that your employee has expressed

"He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help."

--Abraham Lincoln

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Caution: Invisible Assumptions

When 300 engineers at a major East Coast utility were told to re-apply for jobs in their department as part of a major reorganization, they were livid.

"I've been here 18 years."  (Longevity means immunity to change)

"I hired the idiot who's running this thing." (If I gave someone their job, they won't mess with mine)

"They already know what I can do." (I only have to prove myself once)

"No other utility has ever had to go through this." (This place isn't being run according to the norm)

"No one told me this could happen when I was hired." (This wasn't part of the deal)

"My wife and I have planned our retirement for 23 years." ('They' are responsible for my cradle-to-grave existence) 

The Danger of The "Invisible Assumed"

When you signed on with your current employer you probably discussed:

Salary, benefits, corporate vision, the marketplace, performance expectations.

Chances are you won't become really upset as a result of any of those items changing a bit. It's the ones you assumed to be true that will come back to haunt you.

You'll become disenchanted as a result of someone breaking the implicit contract.

The contract that you created in your own mind. Visible only to you.

In the real-life example above, the implicit contract had to do with the unspoken nature of Utilities:

Stable, Secure, Lifetime Employment, Methodical Career Progression...

No one ever said those things out loud. They were just "known."

Q: Do you and your spouse get upset about what you talked about before you got married or what you assumed would be true?

Tips for Employees and Employers


1. Before you sign on the dotted line, check out your assumptions.

2. Make a written list.

3. Check out their validity with your prospective company or boss.


1. Before introducing a change, take a look at the culture.

2. What is it that drew people to your company in the first place?

    Security? Action? International travel? Work close to home?

3. If one or more of those traditional characteristics (the unspoken attraction) will change, then help neutralize the impact by discussing it openly.

Tell what is going to happen and why. Explain the reality of implicit agreements and that you realize this might be one such example. You'll give people a mental model to understand what they are experiencing.

Finally: What happened to our 300 engineers?

a. They had been told before the process started that no one would lose a job with the company. They would hopefully be better matched as a result of the process. And, everyone did remain employed.

b. The department as a whole was more effective.

c.  About 10% chose to retire rather than  make the change.

What is your implicit contract? 

If you have to act on it, will it match the explicit reality?


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What Are You Paying Attention To?

There's an incongruity between  time and money devoted to leadership development and the number of articles about bad bosses.  Maybe its' time to re-visit the definition of "bad."

Here's why:

People do that for which they are rewarded. Period.

RewardsI've seen very few organizations care about bad bosses who "make the numbers." In fact, the very people described by employees as "bad bosses" may be the very bosses who keep the shareholders happy.

We all pay attention to what our bosses pay attention to. When people get rewarded solely for behavior that produces profit, then that behavior becomes acceptable--even if it's bad. You can send those folks to ten different leadership development programs that model respectful practices. But you're still going to get the behavior that is actually rewarded.

What's getting rewarded in your organization?________________________________________

A little help for job seekers (we receive no compensation in any form--hopefully this will help someone):

Starting today (September 1st)  ocubicle.com is running a contest for those looking to get hired. The prize is not only the chance to find your dream job, but LinkedIn Advertising and potential interviews. Take a peek at the contest here: https://ocubicle.com/contest/


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Do Your Leaders Coach?

That isn't a "gotcha" question. It's simply a direct one.

Regardless of the job title, if we're responsible for how other people perform then we're responsible for how they learn to perform even better. One of the things we now know from organizational research is that employees not only want a coaching relationship with their boss--they expect it. (If you want some coaching tips for yourself or to share, please download the free e-book in the column on the right).

So. . .

What Happens When Leaders Coach? Coaching_3

You may already have the right people to enable your company to "win"--however you define the word.

A couple of years ago I was involved in designing a leadership program to develop the top talent in a global company. We created a model that used the senior management team as coaches for the structured learning activities. First we coached the coaches on how to coach; then we turned them loose. It's been the most effective learning we've experienced in nearly 30 years of leadership development and design.


What's happening that works?  

  • The top leadership learns a lot about their own abilities.
  • They learn about their people while developing closer relationships with them.
  • The high potential participants receive coaching and company insight from the leaders who know it best.
  • The participants also "step up" their game. How often do you see the top leadership in a company totally dedicate two full days to the talent beneath them?

You Can Do It, Too

Leaders are the natural lighting rods for developing talent. Coaching isn't another job--it is their job.

Companies are always looking for ways to develop people economically but effectively. Every research study on the planet shows that employees are most influenced--pro or con--by their immediate boss. That's exactly why leaders at every level have the ability to make the most difference when it comes to grooming people for the future.

The mission: Give them the capability

actions leaders can begin now:

  • Appreciate: Focus on Identifying the very best in others.
  • Encounter:  Seek the truth, wherever that path will lead.
  • Improve: Insist upon personal responsibility for performance growth.

When leaders coach, we get "two personal bests" for the price of one.

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Three Persuasive Ideas

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I'd spend six sharpening my axe.--Abraham Lincoln

We never outgrow our need to be persuasive. Managers have to persuade employees to "get on board" with a new idea or change; salespeople get paid to persuade customers to buy; and potential customers persuade salespeople that a change in the "deal" just might make them a paying customer.

We're all faced with the challenge of persuasion and influencing. Here are three ideas to help meet your next challenge:


Create the Right Atmosphere

Did you know that participants rate educational seminars higher when they are held at a resort location? That factoid comes from the meeting planners who have to schedule them. Diners linger a bit longer in comfortable restaurants, and are prone to ultimately have a more expensive after-dinner refreshment and a dessert. Shoppers spend more time shopping if there is background music. Job applicants sign on the dotted line more often if they are interviewed in plush surroundings vs. the loading dock.

The next time you have a meeting, with one or one hundred, what's the best atmosphere to put your listeners in the most receptive mood?

Get At The End of a Parade

If you find that you are one of a number of presenters at a meeting, ask to go last. We've all had different experiences with this but here's what I've realized happens more often than not:

1. By the time the others trot out their list of pie charts, statistics, and million-dollar ideas, the listeners are growing tired as well as forgetful. Your presentation will at least be the last one on their minds. 

2. If you are last, you stand a chance of being bumped completely and then end up getting a courtesy re-schedule. This now puts you in the position of being the only thing on people's minds at your new presentation. (There's also something of a sympathy factor for being bumped. Bask in it).

Stand Up

When I work with a small group--6-8 people--I start off seated at the table with them. When it comes time to make a serious point or convey urgency, I stand up and draw on a flipchart or whiteboard. It changes the dynamic, adds to the point trying to be made, and lets people know I believe the issue or idea merits special consideration.

How will you be a bit more persuasive today?

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Employee Engagement: Pay Attention to These

The notion of Employee Engagement has been with us for a while now.

I noticed in a meeting last week that everyone was passionate when we started discussing "engagement". But the longer we talked, the less I was convinced that we were talking about the same thing. In fact, we all had a personal, sensible, gut level idea of what it meant. But the "definition gap" emerged when we began talking about how to approach the issue.

Engagement Motivation QuotePredictable, actually. Whenever you find yourself in disagreement about "how" to do something, it's a signal to back up a step and agree on a common definition of "what" you are working on. 

How Do You Define Employee Engagement?

The Conference Board researched the issue of definition and came to the same conclusion: different studies reflected different definitions of Employee Engagement. So they came up with a "blended" definition and some key themes that represented all of the studies.

The definition of Employee Engagement: "a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work".

That makes sense and is easily understood.

What I think is truly helpful to those involved in creating Employee Engagement is the Conference Board's synthesis of 8 key drivers of engagement. These offer concrete targets for development:

  • Trust and integrity – how well managers communicate and 'walk the talk'.

  • Nature of the job –Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

  • Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company's performance?

  • Career Growth opportunities –Are there future opportunities for growth?

  • Pride about the company – How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with their company?

  • Coworkers/team members – significantly influence one's level of engagement

  • Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee's skills?

  • Relationship with one's manager – Does the employee value his or her relationship with his or her manager?

Can You Work With Those Eight?

What do you think?

For those of us who have to turn theory into practice, I like the simple and concise one-liners that can lead to purposeful action. They provide starting points for meaningful discussions as well.

Bonus: If you want an ongoing look at what's happening in employee engagement, a terrific resource is my friend David Zinger and his Employee Engagement Network.


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Paying Attention To People

Last week I was discussing the Hawthorne Effect during a speech on performance. It led to a lively Q&A, so I thought I'd re-visit this post from December, 2009. The original experiment and its impact on management and human behavior are timeless. 

In the 1920s, physiologist Elton Mayo conducted experiments at the Hawthorne Electrical Works in Chicago.

He was trying to confirm his theory that better lighting led to greater productivity. So, he had the lights on the factory floor turned up. Voila! As he expected, production levels increased, too. Done deal?

As an afterthought he decided to turn the lights down just to see what would happen. Production went up again. In fact, he found that whatever he did with the lighting, production increased.


Novel thought: Mayo discussed his findings with the workers who were involved. They told him that the interest Mayo and his researchers showed toward them made them feel more valued. They were accustomed to being ignored.

While the increased lighting no doubt made things brighter and healthier, it was the increase in morale that most impacted improvement in productivity. This became known as the Hawthorne Effect

Most people schooled in management & organization development are well aware of the studies.  However, I'm finding more and more business folks who haven't been exposed to them; I thought it might be a good idea to revisit what is the beginning of the "human relations"  movement in management.

While scientists and pseudo-scientists have argued everything from methodology to the number of toilet breaks employees of that era received, the simple learning is this: When you pay attention to people, tell them what you are doing, and ask their opinion about things, the response--all else being equal--is a boost in morale and productivity. I dare say that Elton had stumbled upon Employee Engagement long before the term became popular.

I'm wondering: after 80+ years, why isn't this fundamental learning a part of every organization's modus operandi?

photo source: www.library.hbs.edu

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Meetings: The First 15 Minutes Matter

Beginnings make a huge difference. 

Meetings offer a perfect example.

I was working with a VP who started off her 3-day, first quarter meeting with a 20 minute introduction. In that 20 minutes she crisply and energetically laid out:

  • The purpose and expected outcome of the three days
  • Three highlights and three lowlights from the previous year
  • Why people were seated, by name card, at their six-person tables. (There were actually two reasons):

Meetings   1. To include representatives of different functions at each table

    2.  To have a new manager at each table who had never been with the 60-person group before. 

It really beats spending an hour having new people introduce themselves, tell their histories, and then know nothing about the rest of the group. As a result of meals, breaks, and small group sessions, everyone knew everyone else pretty darned well by 6 p.m.

The overall impact of the opening? High energy, enthusiasm, and clarity.

The learning: Give people lots of information in advance so they can participate quickly and effectively.

Each day included small group sessions focused on product lines, operations, and continuous improvement. By 8:45 all participants knew which small groups they would be a part of on each day (they changed); why they were in that group; and what the task would be for each. By the time the first breakout sessions started at 1 p.m., everyone was mentally prepared to participate.

This isn't revolutionary stuff. It's the kind of intentional, thoughtful planning often forgotten in the haste of organizing agendas and travel plans. Yet these process details are the ones that make or break a successful meeting.

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Learn How To Develop Others

"Developing Others" ranks dead last on just about every organizational skill level survey with which I've been involved or have read. 

It's not because people lack awareness of its importance; quite the contrary. It's because development takes time. It involves getting to know people and their capabilities at more than a surface level. To develop people, you have to follow a few fundamental steps.

Here's How To Begin

1. Start with an accurate picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses. They can't grow if they don't have good information about themselves. And managers can't help them develop without the same kind of clarity.

Develop Others Flower Bud2. Get ongoing feedback from multiple sources. The key words here are ongoing and multiple

Ongoing: Performance improves with information that is provided as close to an event as possible. That way, the situation is still fresh and the details clear. If I get feedback in November about something that happened in February, what am I really supposed to do about it? And I have to ask myself: "If it's so important, why did you wait this long to tell me?"

Multiple sources: We all have bosses and peers; if we're managing, we also have direct reports. When I do 360s for clients, I always insist on feedback from people outside of the person's direct chain of command, even external customers if there is a lot of customer interaction. When someone is working across boundaries on a project, there's a wealth of information available about the ability to build relationships and influence outside of the "power" sphere. 

3. Give first-time tasks that progressively stretch people. In a series of leadership conferences we conducted between 2006-2009, participants told us that the single most valuable contributor to their leadership growth was a series of stretch assignments. No one grows from doing the same thing more and more. '

4. Build a learner mentality. Encourage your people to think of themselves as professional learners as well as (job title). In meetings and one-on-on one, ask:

  • What are you learning that's new or different?
  • Where have you seen yourself improve most in the past year?
  • What have you learned in one situation that you can now use in others?

5. Use coaching, mentoring, classroom, online, books, coursework, and stretch assignments to promote and reinforce learning and development.

One of the byproducts of developing your people: you gain satisfaction and stature as a result of their success. 

Who will you help today?

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5 Tips Leaders Can Use Today

One of the benefits of working with lots of leaders in many different organizations is the chance to see what really works, regardless of the individual personality or industry. 

So, here are:

5 Tips That Make A Difference

1. Leading starts with clarity. The time that a leader spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in quickly-focused effort as a result of increased understanding. 

When things aren't clear, the day doesn't  go well. Minds and bodies gravitate toward something that does seem clear. The world abhors a vacuum. When a vacuum is created, people will fill in the blanks with their own content.That content seldom matches your fuzzy intent and is frequently a more negative interpretation.


2. The Leader is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.Your kids will tell you to "make it real." Your employees are thinking it.

3. Leaders Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn and work differently. Really successful leaders take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value. Hands-on 'Doers,' Readers, Questioners, Ponderers. . .

4. Leading Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? (Go ahead and add your favorites to this list).

5. Leaders Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good leader out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

Consistently add these five to your repertoire and you'll bump up your game exponentially.

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Leaders Connect Visually

Influential people create compelling images.

But of what?

6a00d8341c500653ef0147e0a31f1d970b-320wiOf the benefits those around them will gain from the ideas they propose. They take time to let us know what we'll see, hear, and feel. You can do this, too. Take time to choose words that create pictures, sounds, and feelings that will make your ideas connect in different ways all at once.

For example: "Using this plan offers clear benefits that are in total harmony with our goals and will have an impact on customer satisfaction." In one sentence, you've touched the visual, auditory, and feeling senses of your listeners.

It's not about manipulation, it's about communication. The kind that successful leaders carefully craft before stepping into a meeting.

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Consistency and Trust

"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say."

ConsistencyThat line was spoken by an associate to a speaker at a recent business business event we attended. The interaction between the speaker and the audience was totally out of sync with what he was professing. The result: Great words, no credibility. A few attendees even referred to him later as a "liar."

Not good for his business.


We communicate through our actions, not just our words. Which policies you decide to enforce or ignore, what you say and don't say, what you reward and what you punish, what you fund and what you don't fund--all tell the truth of your heart. Every instance of consistency builds credibility; a single instance of inconsistency can begin to build doubt about your trustworthiness. 

It's a lot more difficult to regain trust than it is to build it. 

Where will you show consistency today?

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Coaching Your People?: Manage Risks

We all want to stretch the capabilities of our team members. At the same time, think about minimizing failure when someone has a "stretch" goal with high risk attached. Any high risk goal can damage your reputation, your staff member, and even the organization. 

RiskManagement__300x285 (1) Manage risks by discussing the actions your person plans to implement. Then, monitor the results and agree on frequent reviews to catch anything that needs adjusting before things get "off track." Stretch goals are great confidence builders for everyone involved; they also require more follow up conversations than low risk goals. 

Speaking of low or lower risk activities: it usually works well to have the person you're coaching act first, then report back and discuss how things went and what was learned.

Important point: Solid coaching agreements include mutual responsibility. Show loyalty to your staff even if something goes wrong, then help them pinpoint lessons learned for the future.

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How to Boost Excitement About Creativity

This Post appeared earlier and was requested by a long-time subscriber.


You want to be creative and breed creativity in your workplace, right?Images7

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?"

I was just talking with my cousin, Len, a long-time public school teacher and Principal. Len is also a master coach  He noted that if you ask first-graders how many of them are "creative," pretty much all of the hands in the class go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later? The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Are you and I seeing the same thing here?

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we've got bigger little kids who don't think so anymore. Now we've got adults who are sure they aren't creative being asked to create--and with a deadline.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. (Well, a little one). It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, tell them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Nine things to encourage creativity

Silvano Arieti  wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So now we go to our boss and say "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

You can act to create creativity

Then next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number 9 it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

Graphic Source: www.bhmpics.com

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Four Ways You Can Impact Learning

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?"

If they don't like the answer they may keep looking.

For leaders, managers, and heads of projects, helping people learn is a critical contribution to individual and organizational success.

So, here are Four Ways to Impact Learning that will serve you well.



Impact on Curiosity:
For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact on self confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact on motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact on Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into the topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps. When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

What are your unique methods for impacting learning?

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360 Feedback: All About the Conversations That Follow

Feedback_icon Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your company using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, and improved performance.

What has your experience been with 360 feedback? 

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Your Next "Aha!" Is the Beginning, Not the End

Exclamation02_2(Re-issued by request)

How many times have you studied, thought, worked, conversed, or meditated in order to reach an "Aha!" moment?

It seems to me that we have a tendency to treat "Ahas!" as if they are a result.  Yet when you look at them carefully, they signal a beginning; a sign that there may be a new path to pursue, something new to learn, or a situation to re-visit in a different way.

In fact, I received that "Aha!" in a conversation with no less than the Conversation Agent herself, Valeria Maltoni. Some time ago we were discussing just about everything from marketing to book writing to organization effectiveness when she wove her "Aha!"into the conversation. It was a beginning that led to today's post.

Some Aha! Questions to Ponder

1. When was your last "Aha!"?

2. Did it lead somewhere?

3. If  so, where?

4. If not, why not?

5. Is it time to re-visit it to see what you might have missed?

(Almost) Everything I Know About "Ahas" I Learned From Fourth-Graders

When I got out of the Army, I went back to college to complete the last few requirements for my degree.  I also went back to being a working--and paid--musician.  Life was good. Except for the next "Aha!."

You see, at that time in the history of the universe, there was a strange, quaint phenomenon known as dating.("Dating" was a very common ancient ritual that involved asking a young woman to go out with you alone to a movie, or a restaurant, or an event. The idea was that if you could get to know each other better, you might want to continue and develop an even deeper relationship. If this sounds strange and you want to learn more about it, go to a garage sale, buy a 45 RPM  record (they look like oversized CD's with a big hole in the center), and listen to the lyrics. Hint: you will notice that the lyrics rhyme. Oh, and you'll need to buy a 45 RPM record player,too.)


Back to the related "Aha!" which was known as:

"Come in and meet my father"

Me with mandatory strong handshake: "Hello, Mr. ____, nice to meet you. "

Father: "Hello, young man (fathers do not utter the actual name of the perceived weasel-disguised-as-a person. Now that I am the father of a daughter, I understand the dynamic. But I can't reveal it, otherwise I would betray the other fathers-of-daughters-about-to-be-dated-by-the-weasel).

"Tell me, young man, what do you do for a living?" (This is a man-question to determine the extent of your slackerness).

Me: (proudly): Mr. _____, I'm a professional musician and I play at ______and ________.

Father: (Silence)

Father again: (Continued silence, furrowed brow, followed by look of disdain).

Father, turning to wife while walking out of the room: "Ethel, tell him to have her home by midnight."


I learned that:

a. "I am a musician" was not a good thing to say, no matter how much money I made.

b. I would have to do something that appeared to erase my perceived weaselness and make me respectable.


I will be a teacher.

So I did a little stint at a Junior High School.

Aha! Working with 13 and 14 year-olds clearly wasn't going to do it for me. I concluded, rather hastily, that every existing 13 and 14 year-old should be universally housed in their own country or state--say, North Dakota--until they are 15.

Obviously, High School would work out better for me.

Aha! I apparently had a very short memory and forgot that, between the ages of 15-18, Homer and Hemingway were completely overshadowed by Heaving Hormones. That leaves:

Elementary School. Yes, but what grade?

Third graders still had "accidents."

Fifth graders were reaching puberty. And if I were to be somehow elected President, they would soon be sent to North Dakota anyway.

Aha! Fourth grade.

. . .and Here Are The 5 Things I Learned About Business from Fourth Graders

The kids--and all of us at work-- show up each day hoping that we'll have an Aha! experience. And that it will lead to something new, engaging, and satisfying. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to attempt to create the conditions for that in the context of what was to be learned. So I had to do five things:

1. Be crystal clear about the learning goal.

If I wasn't clear, the day didn't go well. Minds and bodies gravitated toward something that did seem clear. The world--even the world of fourth graders--abhors a vacuum.

2. Show them the connection between what they would learn and how it works in life.

If they couldn't see how "it" was real, eyes glazed over.

3. Understand each of the kids and how they learn.

Hands-on doers, Readers, Questioners, 10-year-old Cynics. They were all represented.

4. Create an experience that would allow #3 to be satisfied.

I always thought that this was the toughest part. How do you achieve the learning goal in the designated amount of time with so many different kinds of learners?

5. Manage the experience and follow up with each of the kids.

Once I put the activity in motion, I had to touch base with each of the students, check out how they were doing, tell them how they were doing, and then formally evaluate how they did.

Do Any of These Related Management Applications Give You an "Aha!"?

1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused effort from increased understanding.

2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of  the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.

3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value.

4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this list.

5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

I hope that something has sparked a thought or idea that will create the beginning of something new for you.

And I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe using the Big Orange Button, email, or one of your favorite feeds. It will be good to see you back again.

Graphic Source: A Perfect World www.aperfectworld.org


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Managing a Change? Here's A Solid Solution

Is everyone getting what's needed when you make changes?

Earlier this month I was working with a manager who had gotten some feedback from his boss. He was told that he didn't jump in alongside his people to get new projects and improvements off the ground. As a result, things weren't getting done on schedule. So I asked him why he managed from a distance. His response:

"My people are long time employees. They're highly educated and have a lot of experience. If I start managing too closely, they'll lose their motivation."

I'm thinking,"What motivation? Apparently they aren't getting much done!

His approach to the situation isn't at all unusual, is it? We live in a time when managers are getting messages that say they should be consultative and participative. OK. But what happens when the work group doesn't know what to do or how to do it?

When there is a change, people want clear, strong direction. We all want to know what, where, when, why, and then, if the situation warrants it, how. Think about it: when we face the unknown, we start to get a little insecure. What do we look for? Direction. Strong leadership. Clarity. Help.

It has nothing to do with longevity or advanced degrees. It has to do with diagnosing the willingness and ability of the people and then adjusting management style accordingly.

In the case of my manager friend, he used misguided assumptions instead of proven research in his initial approach.


Meet People Where They Are

I'm a big proponent of Situational Leadership and have been since it was introduced. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard teamed up to introduce the practical application of the Ohio State Studies (Go Buckeyes)! As Manager of Management Development at Pfizer in 1981, I was involved in bringing Situational Leadership into the developmental track; it's still a critical part of development there today.

So what's it all about?

The principle is: Before you know how close to manage or how consultative to be with your people, you need to know where their willingness and ability is in relation to the task at hand. The less people know, the closer you manage. The more mature and effective they become, the less you have to direct and the more consultative you can be.

If you've ever taught a child to ride a bike, then think of that as the model. When they start, you have to demonstrate, help them on the bicycle, hold onto them, and not leave their side. As they get a little confidence and are able to go a short distance on their own, maybe you jog alongside if you have to catch them. When you see them smiling and riding a block or so on their own, you shout encouragement. And when they disappear from view; well, yell "I'm going to the house for a cup of coffee." That way they'll know where you are if they need you.

Managing people is a constant series of diagnoses and appropriate responses. It's never all of one thing. And it's never 100% direction or 100% behaving as a consultant to your team members. It's always based upon what people need from you in order to move forward along the performance curve.

And just to emphasize the point once more: Change=More Managerial Direction. Any manager who is introducing something new has to be prepared to communicate more,  provide more direction, and continually diagnose where individuals are throughout the journey.

What's your experience? Are you giving or getting the right thing at the right time? If not, a little diagnosis and and the appropriate leadership response will take you where you --and your folks--where you want to go.

Photo Source: www.situational.com

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"Who Do You Want to Become?" vs. "What Do You Want To Be?"

Which question are you asking yourself?

Your choice will help determine the depth of your life as well as the comfort-level of your career.  Treegrowingtall0

I've been watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company. He is very comfortable listening, talking, giving direction, and saying "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What I'm really seeing is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was slow and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or do you want to play a role?

Think about the how the difference will affect your life.

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Presentation Success Tip: How To Help People Follow You

Create Transitions


"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue."


How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next--and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it.



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Inclined to Collaborate? You Should Be

"Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence)."

As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It’s just that simple.”

That is a pretty powerful claim. It is substantiated by a research study done through a collaborative effort of Frost & Sullivan, Microsoft, and Verizon.  

CollaborateThe researchers created a collaboration index to measure a company’s relative “collaborativeness” based on two main factors:

  • An organization’s orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audioconferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging
  • The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork

Do You Play Well With Others?

This may seem like an abrupt switch from the serious tone, depth, and breadth of the study. But I needed that kind of data to help lead into an important career trait: playing well with others.

The study is right on target by highlighting the need for the right tools, systems, and culture. Yet it ultimately comes down to the individual. If you work in a global organization, you've got some extra challenges: time zone differences, language differences, cultural differences in what constitutes teamwork...(add your own experience by sending a comment!)

I just spent 3 hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent, high-performing manager who isn't viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening for a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him--and no one dislikes him personally.)

His side of the story

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn't see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it's necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information--even if it didn't make sense to him--and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He  listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn't make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

What happened?

His management career is finished...at least with his current employer. He'll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.

Some people burn bridges. He never built them. We should take seriously the lessons we can learn from this real-life situation:

1. Organizations thrive because of collaboration. If you want to be seen as a player, then be one.

2. A high IQ doesn't compensate for low EQ. Your Emotional Quotient--your willingness and ability to relate and connect--is important to your company and your career.

3. Task results don't always matter if your behavior disrupts the rest of the system.

4. The study I cited noted the importance of processes, systems, and culture. This company's culture valued teamwork. That was one of their systems. Roesler's rule: Unless you have 51% of the vote, don't fight the system. The system always wins.


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Four Ways Leaders Can Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.


Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.


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What Happens When Leaders Coach?

You may already have the right people to enable your company to "win"--however you define the word.

A couple of years ago I was involved in designing a leadership program to develop the top talent in a global company. We created a model that used the senior management team as coaches for the structured learning activities. First we coached the coaches on how to coach; then we turned them loose. It's been the most effective learning we've experienced in nearly 30 years of leadership development and design.

What's happening that works? Coaching2

  • The top leadership learns a lot about their own abilities.
  • They learn about their people while developing closer relationships with them.
  • The high potential participants receive coaching and company insight from the leaders who know it best.
  • The participants also "step up" their game. How often do you see the top leadership in a company totally dedicate two full days to the talent beneath them?

You Can Do It, Too

Leaders are the natural lighting rods for developing talent. Coaching isn't another job--it is their job.

Companies are always looking for ways to develop people economically but effectively. Every research study on the planet shows that employees are most influenced--pro or con--by their immediate boss. That's exactly why leaders at every level have the ability to make the most difference when it comes to grooming people for the future.

The mission: Give them the capability. 

Three things leaders can start now:

Appreciate: Focus on identifying the very best in others.

Encounter:  Seek the truth, wherever that path will lead.

Improve: Insist upon personal responsibility for performance growth.

When leaders coach, we get "two personal bests" for the price of one.

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Six Things To Pay Attention To In Groups

We're always part of some group

You and I pretty much spend our entire lives in groups. We start off in a family, play with groups of friends, attend classes, and work in groups and teams. So, woudn't it make sense to learn as much as possible about the dynamics associated with groups?


 Some years ago, organizations spent a fair amount of time educating people on the fine points of group dynamics. The research was new and fascinating. New is good. Now that that body of work has been around for a while, it's no longer "what's happening." The human condition--and certainly the organizational mind--is always looking for what's new. The world of advertising slaps the word "new" on packaging and products for a very good reason: new is good. Old isn't bad--it just gets ignored even though it's valid and useful.

There's no ignoring the importance of understanding groups. So here are some things to ponder when you are leading, or part of, a group or team.

Pay attention to these

1. Whenever one person leaves or one person enters a group, the dynamics change. Why? We learn how to function in our groups based on the roles people play, how they play them, and the balance of power and influence that results. 

2. That means that each time the group composition changes, it's a signal to sit down and talk. When a new member enters, the first two things that person thinks about are:   

Why am I here? (Task/Role)

Who are you? (Getting to know more about the other members and vice-versa)

3. If you skip this step, it will only be a matter of time before you notice that something is not quite right with the group.  That's the indicator to stop, get together, and clarify #1 as well as spend time doing #2).

4. When a reasonable amount of comfort and trust is established, you enable the group to be able to make decisions together. The question then is: how will we make decisions? Which ones are left to the group, which are the purview of the leader, and why?

5. Now you are in a place to implement and actually get the work of the group done. That means  you need to agree on "how" things will happen. Note: "How" is important because implementation is the element of group work that allows individuals to use their talents and uniqueness. People lose interest and morale can plummet when they don't feel as if they are uniquely part of the "how."

6.  If you've attended to all of the steps so far, then high performance should be the result. That might mean a great performing team at work, a terrific volunteer organization, or a healthy, well-functioning family.

Food for thought: If you find your group struggling, go back one step and see if you paid appropriate attention to the relevant issue. Keep going back until you take care of the business at that step and then start moving forward again.

Groups are such a huge part of our lives, isn't it worthwhile to develop the related knowledge and skills that will make group life effective?


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Keep It Simple Like Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.


Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too. 

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.


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Communication: Where to Find the Meaning

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

Inluence Blog Graphic.001

So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

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Beware of Feedback In Disguise

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

About 8 months ago I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very generic way and shuffled papers nervously. Then, he said it: "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

Hippies_use_back_door My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the desired and useful need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly. So, they decide to enter through the back door.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship workers at all levels rely upon when making decisions about what to do and how to do it 

Deal With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them; otherwise, the the coaching would be (rightly) viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one actually agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to identify the specific feedback and practice giving it. And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.


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On The Air: Crack the Leadership Code

Enjoyed good interview by Dr Michelle Pizer; had a chance to discuss leadership and its available today on Crack the Leadership Code. Register FREE! @steveroesler ow.ly/zpyXu

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Crack the Leadership Code: Lead with Confidence, Inspire Performance and Make a Difference

Hosted by Dr. Michelle Pizer

The 21-day event has just begun--and it is FREE!

Click to reserve your seat! <www.cracktheleadershipcode.com>

We hear all the time about the suffering of employees, but what about the silent suffering of leaders? The truth is, leadership can be lonely and we need a place to reflect and learn.

Thats why Im speaking at Dr. Michelle Pizers special summit, along with 20 other leadership experts. Dr. Michelle Pizer is an executive coach and organizational psychologist bringing credibility and compelling strategies to the idea that great leaders arent born - theyre bred.

Great leadership is a mindset. It’s not just about getting the job done; it’s about how you get it done. It’s about humanizing the workplace.

Over the course of the 21 days of the summit, learn essential skills from conversational intelligence to finding your charisma and cultivating talent in today’s changing business environment.

No matter where you are in the hierarchy, you can turn your silent suffering into productive and dynamic leadership and your employees will thank you for it. That’s good news for the workplace – and good news for the bottom line.

Crack the secret code of leadership.

Click <www.cracktheleadershipcode.com> to register. 

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Nobody Follows A Tentative Person

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of numbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.Meatcounter

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time. stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", meeting leaders or speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--uncomfortably--to get to the topical meat counter.

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group.

So remember: no one follows a tentative person.

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Self-Awareness Matters

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Self Awareness Dog MirrorWhat recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.


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Changing Something? Start It Right

If you're about to change something, remember that it's your change.

You've thought about what you want to do--most likely for a long time. You've weighed the risks and benefits. You've visualized what things would look like if your new idea/project/improvement is implemented. You've even thought about at least some of the details. But most of all. . .

You are convinced of it's worth and you feel good about it.

Hey, I'm pumped up! Why isn't everybody else feeling good? 

When you introduce your new thing, you are at the end of your process. Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get to where you are without you laying out your full process--including your own apprehensions.


What have you needed in the past to commit to someone else's new idea? Think about it and see if these match pretty closely

To maximize your chances of gaining commitment, be real and. . .

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.
2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.
3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.
4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.
5. Tell them you are committed to it.
6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then give people a reasonable amount of time to think about it, question it, be uncomfortable with the newness of it, begin to accept it, and then be involved with how it will be  implemented.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the size of the change, the time line for building critical mass of acceptance and action will vary. Your relational behavior--physical presence, clarity, direction, ability to listen, and encouragement--will help determine  your success.

Remember that it's your idea. Do what it takes to help make it their idea. Well, that sounds manipulative. I hate manipulative.  Let's look at it this way: It's your idea. But ownership by others comes through being allowed to use one's own ideas for the implementation. After all, the people involved know best how their operations work.  So let other people develop and mold the "how to." Then provide a reasonable amount of time along with your support.

The outcome: you stand a great chance of other people making your idea even better in the process. Everybody gets a chance at creating something new.  Satisfaction and success follow.

Big win for all concerned.

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Tell The Truth About Talent

If you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.

Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Seek TruthPreparing for a keynote at a healthcare conference, I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make a manager or HR director a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment." 

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for all of us: Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

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Culture and Perception

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, a few years ago Canadian and Japanese researchers  confirmed some very specific distinctions.

East westWhen East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine theprinciples behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work.

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.


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Build Trust By Saying "No"

There's some twisted thinking going on about building trusting relationships. It goes like this:

"If I make people happy by not disagreeing with them they will like me more. Then they'll trust me more because I'm agreeable. Wow. Then when I need something or want something I'm more likely to get it. And if I'm a manager, that's good."


NoThink for a moment about the people--or person--you trust the most. Do they always say "yes? No. And that's why you trust them.

We trust people who have limits and beliefs, then care enough to state what they are. A relationship of "yeses" leaves us suspicious at best.

People don't have to be disagreeable in order to disagree. We often respect someone who tells us not only that (s)he sees things differently, but who then takes time to calmly explain "why." Taking time to explain "why" is a sign of respect toward us.

When you mean "yes" say "yes." When you mean "no" say "no." And share your reason.

In an era that seems to beg for leadership, become someone who people want to follow because they trust that you mean what you say. An honest "no" to others will get you an honest "yes" on their trust scale.

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Make A Difference With Differences

I've always been bothered by the seemingly well-intentioned books and workshops that fall under some variation of  "Managing Differences".

Have a look at the graphic and we'll continue. You  can click on it for a full-page view.

Deep Enough_Difference

Style vs. Substance


It would be safe to say that most "Differences" activities focus on issues of Style. These are attributes that we all see in each other and which become magnified when we try to work together in groups. It's a good idea to become aware of one's own inherent approach to these things and how others inherently go at them in a totally different way. I heartily endorse and, in my consulting business, practice that kind of understanding.

The Style issues reveal more about how you are. However, they're only the tip of the iceberg and that's not what sank the Titanic.



These are the "Why" questions of life. They tell people who you are and what you believe and value, personally and professionally. It's the level of information needed to get past a surface relationship and into a real one.


Workplace rules and legislation exist to protect people from undue and ill-willed intrusion into some of these areas. At the same time, it's pretty tough to be "engaged" with other people if we don't know what they are really about. Taking time to find out hopes and expectations for teamwork; what each person values in interactions and task-performance; and some previous experiences that have led them to those concerns will go a long way toward deeper relational understanding without playing the "let's spill our guts on the meeting table" gambit. However, you might just find that each time you learn something more of significance about each other, the willingness to have even deeper relationships will increase.

Thank You For Your Service. We are Deporting You.

A number of years ago I accepted a 2-year consulting and training gig in the Middle East. It was suggested that we develop a "Time Management" program for the executives. This raised a flag for me since, culturally, the notion of "managing time" showed up nowhere in daily experiences, personal or professional; and, I don't believe in "Time Management." Time is finite and unchanging; one has to be clear about priorities and manage those.

If you are anywhere close to the training and development industry, you know that certain eras produce "must have" programs whose related buzzwords  go unquestioned. And so it was with Time Management. A program was developed and then advertised in the company curriculum newsletter. Which is when we showed up on the front page of the local newspaper with a headline that I won't fully repeat but which included the word Infidels (actually, a lot of companies would refer to their consultants that way) and other unflattering adjectives which had been attached to us by the Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and The Elimination of Vice.

Cut to the chase: Indeed, the notion of time management went much deeper than the typical "we move a bit more slowly in hot climates" type of thing. According to the Cleric who was the spokesperson, "managing" time was an affront to the god of their faith who was in control of all things related to time.

OK. We got it. No more Time Management. Instead, "Setting Priorities At Work" satisfied both parties' underlying beliefs. And we didn't have to pack up and head to the airport.

It wasn't a matter of Style, it was a matter of very deep Substance.

What needs to happen where you are to float your corporate iceberg a little higher in the water?



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Fear: Success or Failure?

Lets be honest:  All of us have doubts that block us from doing things. It's even socially acceptable to talk about some "fear of failure."

But "fear of success?"

Success-FailureIt's just as real. Being afraid to achieve the very things that we want.

How does it happen?

The Future/Change Factor: Personal

The good news is that when we experience this fear, it's because we're imagining a "better" future. We're actually thinking about change.

But we don't know what else that's going to bring. Since it's all about the future, we can imagine anything and everything about what might be. In the absence of factual information we fantasize, often negatively.

  • "I don't deserve it"
  • "If I achieve what I set out to do, everyone will know that I don't really deserve it"
  • "If I get it I won't be able to sustain it. Why try?"
  • "If I am successful, someone will come along who is better than me. Then, what will happen to me?"
  • "If I am successful, the nature and equilibrium of my relationships will change and I'll have to make new friends. My current friends would never accept a more successful (bigger, deeper, better, healthier) me."

(Feel free to list your own and others you've hear in the comments section).

What happens as a result of this kind of thinking?

  • Self-defeating thinking leads to self-defeating actions. Here are just a few:
  • Doing the wrong thing even when you know the right thing to do. That way, one can avoid having to deal with success.
  • Minimizing your accomplishments so they are ultimately negated. Then, you don't have to live up to being all that you really are.
  • Feeling guilty when you have a success. This creates a slowdown in momentum, hesitancy to act, and a self-fulfilling inability to move on to another success.

What you can do differently

Here are some suggestions that aren't complicated but do place the responsibility clearly on our personal shoulders:

1. Act in a way that will genuinely help build a sense of self: Find ways to encourage and acknowledge accomplishments of those around you.

2. Get an accountability partner--or maybe a couple. These people have your explicit permission to give you feedback--positive and negative --about how they are experiencing your progress. This is a reality check. Honest, factual, periodic conversations will help you replace the unknown negative fantasies with reality-based information.

3. When someone compliments you, respond with a firm "Thank you!" No false modesty or additional talk. Simply hear the compliments and let them begin to influence how you see yourself.

In the next post, we'll look at how this plays out at work and in organizational life. 

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Ten Life Lessons From Business

I'm not usually a list kind of guy-- and the title might lead one to expect thoughts on marketing, capital, or organization development. But business is part of life, not the other way around. So here are things that have emerged as important learnings for me over the past 30 years of organizational and consulting life:

%2210%22Ten Life Lessons From Business and Consulting

1. You can be in charge, but you're never in control.

2. If you have a Powerpoint slide with a graph whose curve always points upward, you're lying. Delete it.

3. If you look at people through your own eyes, you'll judge them for who you think they are. If you look at them through God's eyes, you'll see them for who they can become.

4. You can't be good at who you are until you stop trying to be all the things you are not.

5. Charge what you are worth. If you don't, you'll begin to resent your employer or client, even though you decided to take the assignment.

6. You can't control circumstances. You can control your response to them. Those who learn to respond thoughtfully and peacefully are the ones who are accorded trust and power.

7. Overt displays of position power show weakness.  Genuine humility shows power.

8. All groups aren't "teams". Often they are just collections of people who work really, really well together. Leave them alone.

9. No one can know how to be an effective leader until they've toiled as a dedicated follower.

10. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied with discernment.

What Are Your Business Life Lessons?

Do you have life lessons from business that you would like to add? By all means, click on the comment box and contribute what you've learned. You'll make an impact on other readers who are looking for real-life advice.

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Strengths, Weaknesses and Engagement

What engages you most, building on your talent or overcoming what you see as some "gap" in your inherent abilities?

Where do you get the bigger payoff?

I read through a Gallup Management Journal article that reflected these findings:

   1. If your manager primarily ignores you your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%

   2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%

   3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%

Barbell-StrengthI think these factoids are powerful in their simplicity. They point the way to what managers and their people should be paying attention to if they're really concerned with being engaged.

First: Managers would be wise to initiate conversation and discussion with all of their people. Otherwise, the numbers show that they'll lose the active commitment of nearly half.

Note to employees: I know that you know that your manager is supposed to know this. Well, clearly they may not. If you aren't getting attention, initiate a conversation with your boss about how important it is to you. Some people, by nature, don't initiate those things. Then, if you find out that this isn't a department or organization where you can flourish, you have some  solid information for making career decisions. And if you do make a difference by initiating the discussion and see it continue, you've helped at least two people.

Second: Here is a way to start thinking about where to invest energy: Building Strengths or Overcoming Weaknesses.

I'll use a sales example:

Let's say you are a sales rep who has a track record of getting appointments and a presentation with 60% of the people on whom you call.  But  your  ability to close the sale is  25%.  You have been a sales rep at different companies for 18 years.(Stick with me, I've been a sales manager).

What you now know is that you're strength lies in building the initial relationship and being able to get in front of the client. No matter how hard you've worked at closing the sale, you've never gotten above 25%.

As your sales manager, I'd start thinking:

If I help you focus on getting appointments and presentations--and you improve just 10%--then I have someone who can get us in front of a prospective client 66% of the time. If I start focusing on your closing deficit and you manage to improve 10%, you still only get to a 27.5% success rate.

So I decide that I --or another "closer" with a high percentage of success--will come along to the presentations. You become the "star" door opener and we find another "star" closer.

I'd be crazy to spend my time and energy focusing on your weakness. It would be the same as telling Yo Yo Ma "You're a phenomenal musician. I know you are a cellist, but we're going to put all of our energy into making you a pianist."

Let's talk with people about about their "star power"--those talents we caught a glimpse of and that prompted us to hire them in the first place!


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Be A Mentor, Learn A Lot

I have an idea.

You and I should simply decide that we will be mentors to someone.Mentor

Why be a Mentor?

1. Most of us want some help in some area of our work but, for various reasons, don't ask for it. That means that there are people who could use some guidance.

2. Your experience navigating organizational life is valuable to those who don't yet have it.

3. Many corporate programs are struggling. There seems to be something unnatural when we try to institutionalize mentoring.

4. You'll learn more than the person you are helping. It's not a selfish thing, but a fact. When you have to teach, you have to prepare. And when you prepare, you learn a lot.

5. You'll have the satisfaction of contributing something positive to another person's life.

How do you get started?

Look around.

Who could use some organizational know-how? Approach them with the idea that you've got some experience and would enjoy sitting down once in a while for a "how are things going?" cup of coffee. Keep it informal and see where it goes. Let the relationships last as long--or as short--as is helpful.

This is a very simple, but practical, idea. It seems as if we are always looking for a good charity or a cause to support. Why not contribute to the development of a co-worker?

You'll even have a chance to see the results!

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Are You Coachable?

This topic emerged while I was preparing for a corporate client webinar for sales managers with the simple title,  "How To Coach with Confidence". A lot of good research plus personal experiences show that most managers want to coach--they just aren't sure of the most effective ways to do it. Or, what people are really expecting.

They also wonder about this:

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on one's own behavior, create a desire to change it, or see their personal responsibility in a relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

CoachingFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. Take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.


Important Update About Comments at All Things Workplace

I just invited comments in the post above and do hope that our readers--many with a lot of managerial experience--take time to weigh in. 

That said, I want to share some information regarding my own ability to engage in the give and take of commenting.

Since May my dear wife, Barb, has spent most of the time either hospitalized or receiving physical therapy at a rehab facility. She has Parkinson's Disease as well as other related neurological challenges. Obviously, my first priority is ensuring that Barb is safe and continually receiving the care and attention she needs, not the least of which is our relationship.

I still read all of the comments submitted. All Things Workplace has been a place, since 2006, where people can create conversations and interactive learning without my presence because of their own interest, experience, and enthusiasm about growth and development in organizational life. 

I'll continue posting regularly; please keep using the site as a place to exchange ideas, tips, and research. I will certainly add my two cents when I can and look forward to learning from everyone who graciously takes time to add to the topic at hand.

Warmest regards,



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Get The Most From Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Online-assessmentAssessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

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When Managers Ask "How?"

I'll tell you how. How to build individuals and teams. How to create the conditions for motivation and engagement.

Here it is: If you are a manager giving an assignment, be clear about the "what"--then let your people deliver on how it will be done.


Why? Because you hired them for the how. Think about it. You looked at resumes and then hired people who had something that seemed unique or different. When you tell people how to do their jobs, you take away their identity. We all want to contribute. And that contribution is in the form of the unique way--how--we do our jobs.

Action: Define and get commitment on what you want done--then let people use their unique talents to decide how to do it. They'll grow by using their own trial-and-error process to perfect their methodologies.

You'll be seen as the manager who knows how to develop and engage your team. Suddenly, you'll find people approaching you and asking "Hey, how do you do it?"

Photo Source: Pittsburgh Glass

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Decisions: Confused or Conflicted?

You and I go to meetings where the decision-making can seem unbelievably confusing.

And how about those decisions where we just can't seem to arrive at a peaceful conclusion?

After giving it some thought and observation, I think I've got a way to look at this that I hope will be helpful.

DecisionConfused or Conflicted?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the two this way:

 being disordered or mixed up. 

The result is not being able to think at your usual speed.

Conflicted: (a feeling of) mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.

The result is inaction, over-reaction, or both.

Yes, both are possible. We can react strongly to the conversation around the decision, but still not be able to make the decision.

Note: Each of these phenomena apply to individual as well as group decisions. Those self-conversations in our heads can get every bit as frustrating as the ones across the table!

What To Do?

1.Stop and diagnose.

(Please remember Steve's rule for everything: "Prognosis Without Diagnosis is Malpractice").

2. If the issue is Confusion, ask:

    a. Are we clear on the goal of the decision?

    b. Do we have the right information, and all of it--or as much as possible?

    c. Do we have the information organized in an understandable way?

    d. Does everyone involved have the same understanding of the goal and the information?

    e. Do we have a structured process for making our decision?

When you are clear that all of the above have been satisfied, then you're probably dealing with Conflicted-ness. (My spell checker is definitely conflicted trying to deal with that one).

3. If the issue is being Conflicted, then you'll probably experience silence or overt argument. You're  seeing the result of deeper issues--perhaps even at the personal values level--that need to be resolved. Whether silence or argument:

    a. Talk straight immediately. Say, "We've got a good understanding and a good process. But there's something else stopping us.What's really getting in the way?

    b. Don't speak again until someone offers a comment. After the first person responds, don't evaluate the remark. Thank them. Allow for everyone to respond without evaluation.

Principle: Until the real issue is named out loud, it will silently undermine the decision process. Once it's named and acknowledged, it is neutralized. When it comes out into the light of day, it can be seen clearly for what it is and discussed accurately. This is the most difficult thing for groups (and individuals) to deal with. Why? There's always the fear that "my issue" will be discounted, misunderstood, or seen as a blockage to "good teamwork."

Yet the person who offers the first bit of truth is the one who leads the group to a more satisfying decision.

    c. After 'b', you will know exactly how to proceed because the substantive issues will be out there in clear view. You'll see both an increase in both energy and collaboration.

Note: Organizations are usually pretty good at organizing. And even those of us with a more casual approach to life still have our own method of organizing it.

If you are really stuck on a decision, go with "Conflicted." In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that more often than not, we aren't confused. We usually know the right thing or best thing to do. It's facing up to our conflicting wants and needs that get in the way. "Having it all," whether in a business meeting or personal life, is a decision criterion that can only lead to internal conflict.

Thought for Today: Clear priorities offer the soundest foundation to decision making.

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Employee Retention: How About "Thanks!"?

Here are some thought-provoking statistics:

"Research by UK performance improvement consultants Maritz has found that almost one in five of us (19 per cent) have never been thanked for our efforts at work while more than a third only hear those two little words once or twice a year.

Perhaps not-entirely coincidentally, that's about the same proportion as another recent survey found have no loyalty towards the organisation they work for and couldn't care less about their job.

Yet at the other end of the spectrum, around a third of us do receive regular recognition and are thanked several times a week, something that (as more than eight out of 10 of those surveyed acknowledged) has a positive impact on their desire to remain with their employer."

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.29.05 AM

"Thank You" & the "War for Talent"

Check out the screen shot of my "the war for talent"  Google search: 138,000,000 results! Books, articles,  training programs, software systems, and academic research. Conferences are being held to ponder the meaning of talent acquisition and retention.

Let's assume for a minute that the statistics noted in the article are true. The third who receive thanks regularly feel positive about their employer and are inclined to remain at the firm.

My suggestion: Executives need to start thanking their managers regularly. Then they need to tell them to start thanking their people. Maybe we could get uppity and call it "Building a Culture of Thanks." Clearly, it would be more effective and less costly than conferences and software.

And it would make our mothers proud.

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5 Ways To Increase Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox


This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.


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Stamina and Leadership

The cheetah survives on the African plains by running down its prey and can sprint 70 miles per hour. But, according to the TV documentary I was watching, the cheetah Cheetah-leapingcan't sustain that pace for long. Inside its long, sleek body is a disproportionately small heart. This causes the cheetah to tire out quickly. Unless the speedster catches its prey on the first try, it has to abandon the chase. 

Sometimes we approach leadership the same way. We zoom into projects with unbridled energy. But lacking energy for sustained effort, we fizzle out before we finish. We garner more resources, try new strategies, cut costs, manage the metrics, and vow to start faster and run harder.

What we need may not be more speed, but more staying power--stamina that comes only from having a bigger heart.

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How Do You Build Performance?

I'll tell you how. How to create the conditions for motivation, engagement, retention, and performance. 

If you are a manager giving an assignment, be crystal clear about the what--then let your people deliver on how it will be done. 


How_to_bowl_ Because you hired them for the how. Think about it. You looked at resumes and carefully selected people who had something that seemed unique or different from the others. 

When you tell people how to do their jobs you take away their identity. We all want to contribute. And that contribution is in the form of the unique way--how--we do our jobs.

Action: Define and get commitment on what you want done, then let people use their unique talents to decide how to do it. 

Does this mean you walk away and totally ignore how things are getting done? No. Your payoff comes when you orchestrate quality, deadlines, and feedback. 

There are certain jobs, especially those related to safety, that don't offer much variation on the "how.": airline pilot, nuclear power plant operator, brain surgeon. For most of us, though, trial-and-error works well to perfect our methodologies and offer a sense of accomplishment. 

This is why more and more employees are looking for managers who coach. If you are unsure of how to do that, go ahead and download the free guide available in the right-hand column. More than a thousand readers have found it helpful and I hope you do, too.


photo source: blog.modernmechanix.com/

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Business or Busyness?

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.


Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

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Still Doing More With Less?

Hope you can join us on the Ken Blanchard Livecast:

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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