Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gaining Trust on Day One

Guest post by Paul Smith:

It happens every time you join a new company, or even when you change roles at the company you work for now. You have to spend months winning the trust and respect you’d already earned with the last group of people you managed.

Or do you?

Consider the results of a July 1999 New York Times/CBS survey. It asked, “Of people in general, how many do you think are trustworthy?” The average answer was 30 percent. Then it asked, “Of people you know personally, how many do you think are trustworthy?” The average answer shot up to 70 percent!

What does that suggest? It suggests that people who don’t know you default to not trusting you. But people who do know you default to trusting you unless you’ve given them a reason not to.
The good news is, there is a shortcut to earning trust – storytelling. Storytelling almost magically builds trust. Telling a personal story can move you from the 30 percent to the 70 percent, because it provides a personal, intimate, and perhaps vulnerable glimpse into your world. Reading the facts on your resume doesn’t really let someone get to know you, and spending enough time together could take months or years. A story is the shortest distance between being a stranger and a friend.

A great example of this happened in January of 2005 when Procter & Gamble bought the Gillette Company in the largest consumer packaged goods acquisition in history. As you might expect, Gillette employees were naturally concerned about what would happen to their jobs, pay, and benefits.

A few days after the deal closed, the CEO of P&G, A. G. Lafley, and several senior Gillette officials, held a huge meeting at Gillette headquarters in Boston’s Prudential Tower. The purpose of the meeting was to put employees at ease over the change in ownership. They invited as many Gillette employees as could fit in the auditorium. One of them was Mike Berry.

The Gillette officials spoke first. In their prepared remarks, they covered a number of reasons why this was a great deal for Gillette employees. “P&G is a market leader in almost every category they compete in . . . they have a 160-year history of treating their employees well . . . they have a very generous profit sharing plan,” etc. When it was A. G.’s turn to speak, he also had his list of reasons why this would be a good thing for Gillette employees. But before he got to those details, he told the audience a little about himself personally. How he started his career in the military, a little about his family, his hobbies, where he likes to go on vacation, and so on.

When the meeting was over, Mike’s reaction reflected the sentiment of many in the room. “Wow. I know A. G. better after five minutes than I know Gillette leaders after five years!” And that’s exactly what they needed to know—a little about A. G. personally. After all, what those Gillette employees needed most at that moment was to trust the man in charge of the company that just bought them. A. G. could have told them, “Trust me. We’ll take care of you.” But that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective as letting them get to know him a little. A. G.’s story moved him in the minds of his audience from the 30 percent to the 70 percent.

Don’t be afraid to share a few personal stories early in your tenure of a new job. It can take months off your start-up curve of earning trust and respect so you can start making a difference on day one.

© Paul Smith, author of Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale (AMACOM)

About the Author:
Paul Smith is the author of Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust and Close the Sale (AMACOM, 2016). He is a widely sought out speaker, coach, and trainer on business storytelling techniques whose clients include Hewlett Packard, Bayer Medical, Progressive Insurance, and Ford Motor Company. As the author of Lead with a Story (AMACOM, 2012), his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Time, Forbes, The Washington Post, Success, and Investor’s Business Daily. A former Procter & Gamble communications research executive with an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business, he lives in suburban Ohio. For more information, please visit

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Leaders need to Lead

Guest post by Ken Marlin:

Leadership is one of those concepts that management gurus like to throw around. There are tons of books and articles on the subject. One article I read said that leaders look forward while managers manage what just happened. I don’t buy it: good leaders do both. Another said that leaders “influence” while managers “direct.” Nah … Leaders direct too—when their suggestions don’t get the desired result. An HBR article a few years ago talked about the need for leaders to create value vs. just measuring it. I like that concept. But how do you do it? To me, most of these books and articles are more about “managing” than about “leading.”

There are also a fair number of military-themed books, many of which take advantage of things such as the 14 Leadership Traits I learned while serving in the Marines, or they leverage the teachings of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher. But there too, there is a link missing. 

A fundamental premise of the Marine Corps approach to leadership is that it is inextricably linked with winning. It begins with a clear articulation of a unit’s long term strategic objectives—and the development of a disciplined strategy to achieve those objectives. Simply managing effectively—killing more bad guys or making more profit—isn’t a strategic objective, and it isn’t enough. Leaders decide which battles must be fought as part of a longer term effort to win strategic objectives. And they decide which ones to skip. They decide what resources to allocate. They think three steps ahead.

It never ceases to surprise me how many CEOs don’t understand the concept of linking leadership to actually winning—not just managing. Like too many politicians and too many on Wall Street, they just keep pushing forward along some path, such as reducing costs, improving profit margins, growing the company 15 percent, getting promoted or re-elected. That’s not leading. It kills companies.

Marine Corps Leadership also requires that leaders have true “domain expertise.” There are far too many organizations led by generalists. My father is a retired engineer with his Master’s degree in thermodynamics. He worked on the Mercury and Gemini space programs before moving to Cummins Engines where he helped develop the small diesel engines now used in pickup trucks. He used to bemoan senior managers that knew a lot about finance, labor negotiations and “leadership” but couldn’t tell a crank shaft from a piston rod. “Develop real domain expertise,” he told me. Unless you do, you will be at the mercy of subject matter experts. You won’t be able to challenge them and you will never be able to lead the organization to the next level. Marines embrace that concept. 

Leadership also requires that leaders actually lead. Managers work within the realm of what’s possible believing that they are constrained by what they see as the facts on the ground. Marines (and other leaders) certainly take note of the facts on the ground but often they see those facts differently—and then they bend them in their direction. They motivate a team to accomplish things that others believed impossible and lead them to victory. Dwight Eisenhower; Douglas MacArthur, Chesty Puller are military examples. Nelson Mandela, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, and Aung San Suu Kyi are political examples, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are recent business world examples. George Bernard Shaw once said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” 

Over the years, I have come to appreciate that these principles Marines practice in an effort to successfully execute their missions also can lead to success on Wall Street and on Main Street. I have seen first-hand that those who lead units without applying these principles succeed far less often than those who do. I won’t call them doomed to fail—some people do just fine. Some people win lotto. But those that do apply these principles have a much higher likelihood of success—and along the way they have less drama and feel good about how they got there too. I like that. It’s the Marine Corps Way.

Ken Marlin is founder and managing partner of the award-winning investment bank Marlin & Associates and the author of The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street (St. Martin’s Press; August 30, 2016).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How to Manage 5 Difficult Personalities at Work

Guest post from Merrick Rosenberg:

At extreme levels, our most admirable personality traits undermine us. Charles Dickens said it best in his novel Dombey and Son:
“…vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!”
To understand the vice, and address it, we must examine the virtue first.
In your work environment, you manage four main personality types. No one style is superior or inferior – they all complement each other. Indeed, effective leaders learn to employ and mirror each style, like a chameleon. I’ll introduce you to the virtues and vices of each style, and then I’ll explain how to counter the extremes.

Eagle: Dominant to Domineering

Eagles are impossible not to spot. Direct, confident, and results-driven, they soar into the situation with an appetite for action. In crises, you want an Eagle on your side. 

When Eagles take their virtues to extremes though, they become what I call The Commander. Their natural leadership ability morphs into bossiness and aggression. Their frankness can devolve into callous insensitivity. They degrade and even frighten their coworkers in the insatiable pursuit of results.

When Commanders emerge, understand their inner need for achievement and respect. They must do what they perceive to be great things in order to validate themselves. Counterintuitive as it may seem, giving the Eagles that desired recognition can tame their vice.

Parrot: Passionate to Promotional
Parrots are the social birds who rally the team. Enthusiastic, outgoing, and optimistic, they have a knack for engaging people. Parrots can talk your head off and keep you enthralled.

When Parrots go overboard, they become The Promoter, a self-involved chatterbox. Their emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills lose sight of any objective. In their clamoring for attention, they distract themselves and their coworkers. Meetings become pontification sessions, as Promoters love the sound of their own voices.

Parrots need to feel liked, and a little positive feedback can quench their desire for appreciation. Something as simple as, “Hey, I really need your opinion on ____,” can guide Promoters back into productive conversation.

Dove: Conciliator to Martyr

Doves help their coworkers feel supported. Harmonious, helpful, and compassionate almost to a fault, they genuinely want others to be happy.

But when Doves go too far, they become The Martyr, their passive-aggressive twin. Because Martyrs must solve everyone else’s problems, they become overwhelmed. They suffer quietly rather than voice their frustration. If no one recognizes their sacrifices, they’ll dish out contempt instead of empathy.

The Dove finds self-worth in service to others – a virtue, no doubt. But if others fail to acknowledge that service, here comes The Martyr. Commend Doves for the specific things they thought no one would notice. It’s the little things, not the massive achievements, that Doves want recognition for. 

Owl: Analytical to Unpleasable

Logical, detail-oriented, and accurate, Owls sweat the small things, and we love them for it. They charge headlong into data analysis, strategy, and planning with an obsession for getting it right. Let’s just say that Owls tend to make better accountants than Parrots.

But in excess, the Owl becomes The Critic. Such Owls become hyper-skeptical of people and new ideas. They overwhelmingly find faults instead of solutions. Nothing will work and no one is to be trusted in a Critic’s opinion.     

Know that Owls are perfectionists. Work is integral to their identity, so they take shortcomings very personally. Change the dialogue to bring the Owl back. Questions like, “How would you improve this?” and “How you would add to this?” help the Owl become a builder instead of a bulldozer.

Energy Vampires: Personality #5

Many people lose passion for their work. They go through the motions, count down the minutes, and leave the office as soon as they can. Eagles, Parrots, Doves, and Owls can all become The Energy Vampire, the disgruntled person who sucks the spirit out of coworkers.

Rather than firing Energy Vampires outright, or telling them that negativity isn’t tolerated, identify the root of this disengagement. If you don’t address the cause, it will create more Energy Vampires.

Remember, you didn’t hire a dead battery. You might find that a new project, a change in teams, or more self-direction recharges the person in question.

Don’t Hesitate

You cannot tolerate difficult personalities without bringing down the person, the team, and, eventually, the whole organization. When you enable and tacitly condone toxic personalities, you lose credibility with the people hurt by them. Without credibility, you can’t lead.

Rather than fight the symptoms, fight the disease. What stressor, situation, or dynamic fuels the negative behavior? What virtue, in excess, has a become a vice?

The good in people doesn’t vanish into thin air. Usually, it hides behind a cloud of unmet needs. Stay calm, find the need, and pull the virtue back down to Earth.

Merrick Rosenberg is the author of The Chameleon and CEO of Take Flight Learning.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Leadership Growth Starts with Courageous Communication

Guest post from Matt Paese

Talent Exec:  So, we have a serious leadership shortage and it’s getting worse.

CEO:  So hire more people.

Talent Exec:  We’re doing that. It’s not enough.

CEO:  What about our development programs? Aren’t they working?

Talent Exec: Not quickly enough. We need to get more people into the pipeline. Like now.

CEO: Which people?                                

Talent Exec:  The ones with leadership potential. The ones who will grow the fastest.

CEO:  Okay. What do we say to everyone else?

The decision to accelerate leadership growth comes quickly and easily. There’s often no alternative.  But things get messy when you have to decide whom to accelerate. That means differentiating between people by their levels of potential. This too can be done, with the right approach and tools, and it works particularly well in a private conference room, far away from the eyes and ears of the rest of the company.

Out in the hallways, talking about accelerated leadership growth gets tricky.  Sitting down with the top performers to share the good news is easy and rewarding.  It’s figuring out what to say to everyone else that hijacks good intentions.  Referring to some leaders as “high potential”, or to development efforts as “acceleration programs” can be like tip-toeing through an employee engagement landmine.  Say the wrong thing and you’ll signal a secret in-group.  Only the cool kids get development.  Same old no-diversity boys club.  Enter: morale crisis.

But leadership shortages cripple business progress and create urgency for accelerated development.  It’s not like there’s an option to do nothing.  Still, we’ve seen some of the most determined organizations embark on the effort to identify high-potential leaders, only to be stymied by philosophical resistance. The rationale goes like this: "We can’t create an elitist culture," and "What will we say to the ones who aren't identified?"

So, when your business situation mandates that you grow leaders faster from within, and you can’t accelerate everyone at once, what are the right messages to share?

Start With Acceleration Ground Rules

Acceleration is an investment in the business that also has big impact on culture.  Although not all people in an organization will be involved, it’s fair to say that acceleration affects everyone – by inclusion or omission.  So it’s essential to establish some ground rules that can be discussed openly with the entire organization.  Below are the basics of a clear and public communication plan.  If you can’t discuss these freely, chances are you’ll get resistance, and ultimately struggle to grow leadership:

·         We need this. Accelerating the growth of a subset of leaders (with high potential) is a business necessity.

      Everyone is eligible, although not everyone can participate at the same time. Diversity is a value.

      It’s not a club.  Those receiving specialized development experiences will rotate periodically.

      It’s not a promise.  Those receiving specialized development are not guaranteed promotions – all promotions are based on readiness for the requirements of the role.

      It doesn’t deny growth for others.  Everyone in the organization still receives development.

      Everyone matters to the company’s future.  Not being offered special accelerated development does not lessen one’s value to the organization, or limit ones prospects for advancement.

Each organization has to customize these messages, but establishing a clear narrative that people can discuss, and even debate, is part of the essential foundation of an organization that truly works at growth.  Making adjustments is healthy.  In fact, doing so signals to the organization that you’re listening.

Be Straight with Accelerated Learners, and Offer a Choice

Most people appreciate the opportunity to learn at work.  But when the objective is to learn faster, that’s different.  Apprehension is not unusual.  But one thing is sure: People won’t learn faster if they’re not aware that doing so is the objective.  Translation:  You have to tell people that they’ve been identified for accelerated learning.  You don’t have to call them “high potentials”.  In fact, you don’t have to name people at all – just name the experience they’ll be part of (e.g., specialized learning, the leader experience, etc ).  That helps to avoid perceptions of permanent designations.

But be careful.  It's not enough to simply tell high-potential leaders that management thinks highly of them and explain what will happen next. That alone won't cultivate the engagement needed to drive accelerated learning.  Individual leaders must be offered the choice to participate, or to opt out without negative consequences.

Oddly, this practice is routinely overlooked. Perhaps in days gone by leaders were more predictable in their desire for advancement.  Not so anymore.  Fewer leaders seek leadership advancement, and those who do often have conditions.

Step Up to the Conversations Your People Want

It’s easy to have healthy discussions with top performers.  But it’s tough when someone asks, “Why not me?”  Weaknesses in the performance management system, coupled with a lack of skills among top leaders to navigate these conversations, can create resentment among those not identified as high potentials.  They don’t get a sound explanation of why, or they're left with a feeling that their advancement possibilities are limited.  

Wary of these outcomes, many organizations adopt policies of secrecy, keeping the names of high-potential leaders known only to an inner circle of senior players.   But while this approach seems to sidestep the communication challenges, it undermines the original intent of the acceleration effort.  It’s not necessary or prudent to make lists of names and potential status public, but that doesn’t make saying nothing the better alternative.

Imagine you’re the high potential leader: You’re experienced, work exceptionally hard, and your track record shows it.  Management has plans for you, if you can grow.  They not only hope, but need you to acquire new skills and capabilities, and quickly. You’ll need to stretch yourself to take on new challenges. You may be asked to participate in key projects that can teach you crucial lessons, or you may attend formal learning experiences that provide instrumental insights.

But no one has mentioned any of this to you.

Somehow, when leaders graduate to senior management, they become weirdly hesitant to talk honestly about the performance and potential of others.  But this doesn’t square with what most people want.  Ask nearly any employee, particularly the high performers, and they’ll beg for more feedback, not less.  It’s no secret that people want to know how they’re doing, and what their prospects for the future look like, even if the news isn’t good.  These fundamental truths are core to the effort to grow leaders.

One thing is sure: Avoiding these conversations makes the problem worse, particularly when the organization is facing a critical leadership shortage.  Closing the gap is not a task management can accomplish alone.  And for that reason, it’s essential to confront a leadership crisis by starting with your communication plan.  Learn to talk about leadership potential with all your people, and you’ll soon learn to do what it takes to grow the leaders you need.

About author Matt Paese:
Matt Paese is a vice president of succession management and c-suite services for Development Dimensions International, or DDI. He is the co-author of Leaders Ready Now, out in June, and Grow Your Own Leaders. In his work at DDI, Matt consults with senior leaders to design and implement strategic organizational talent initiatives, including succession management, CEO succession, executive assessment, executive coaching, development and team building. His insights have been featured by media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and the Financial Times.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Teach Millennials how to use their Power

Guest post from Dan Negroni:

When we think of leaders and when we think of millennials, there are usually conflicting descriptions. We describe great leaders as honest, hard working, empowering, transparent, generous and so many other positive traits. Millennials are often described as lazy, entitled, selfish and so many other negative traits. However, after working with thousands of millennials, I can assure that these assertions about millennials are myths.  And I am sure you are thinking this is a relief.

Millennials have the hunger and potential to become great leaders. But they lack fundamental leadership skills and don’t understand how to tap into them. It’s up to us as the old guys, the parents, managers and leaders to teach them how to tap into their inner leadership power. Lead by example, through coaching and teaching, so we can demonstrate how to understand their valuable skills and access their inner leader. The big question is…how? Here are 4 ways to develop your millennial workers into leaders of the future. 

1.)   Lead from Strength
The best leaders are effective because they know what they’re best at and they lead with those skills. In order to create effective millennial leaders, we must help them first understand their strengths. Consider using a strength finder assessment or the Power of Why? to unveil your millennials’ strengths, passions and values. Each of your millennial workers has their own gifts and talents. Your job is to identify what these skills are so you can place them in the optimal position for them to succeed. This is how millennials can tap into their true leadership power—by leading from their strengths

2.)   Teach the WIFThem strategy
Knowing your strengths is critical to being a great leader... but it does no good do if you can’t communicate your strengths to others. Teach your millennials how to communicate their value so it’s relevant to whomever they’re speaking to. At launchbox, we use the WIFThem strategy, which stands for “What’s in it for them?” We must show millennials that when they shift the focus from “me” to “them,” they can deliver the most value. As the most purposeful generation, they get this.
Lets say your millennial is talking to a prospective client. He can either say a.)  “I am a people person,” or b.) “I offer impeccable customer service, anticipate people’s needs and go above and beyond to solve customer problems.” Which sounds better? Show your millennials how to align the WIFThem method with their strengths so they can lead effectively. This is true leadership power.  

3.)   Teach them how to listen—and prove that they listened
Great leaders understand the power of listening and being able to be influenced. They listen to client and employee frustrations, new ideas and opportunities before they act and speak. Millennials grew up with the ability to voice their opinion 24/7 365 days a year. In such a noisy world, they need to understand value of being a good listener. Coach your millennials that they can’t learn while they’re talking, but only when they’re listening. Show them how that works by demonstrating that skill with them.
Teach your millennials not just to listen, but to show that they are listening and retaining what they hear. Have them repeat back to you what they’ve heard. Have them ask powerful questions to show they are curious and engaged. This powerful strategy proves that your Millennials truly care. By conveying that they not only listened, but retained information as well, your Millennials will naturally lead with confidence.

4.)   Be Transparent
Millennials grew up in a world with little to no privacy. Social media is the norm for them and they’re used to people seeing every part of their life via Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. They are also jaded by being bombarded with messaging. They crave authenticity: being real.  As a manger, teach them the power of transparency. In order to lead effectively in this noisy economy, what you say and what you believe in must align with what you do. Show millennials that the best leaders are transparent with their beliefs. Teach them to communicate from the inside out. Share your company vision with your millennials and have them contribute to your mission statement. Show them how to communicate their value so it’s congruent with their “why.”  Once millennials understand this, they can lead with transparency.

Millennials have the ability to become great leaders. We just need to teach them to recognize and lead from their innate strengths, communicate effectively, listen well and be transparent in what they do. Start today and lets awaken the leaders of tomorrow!

About the author:
Dan Negroni, Author, Speaker, Attorney, Kick butt business consultant, coach, and proud Dad of a few Millennials delivers actionable solutions.  He is the author of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage and Maximize Next Generation Leaders in the Workplace. Different from all other millennial experts, Dan's empowering business approach at launchbox, creates quick value and seamless connections with millennials and management each on their own terms.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three (Not So) Surprising Lessons of Leadership

Guest post from Joel Peterson:

For the past decade, I’ve been privileged to teach a leadership course at Stanford with Professor Charles O’Reilly. The amazing array of leaders who’ve visited our classroom has included Greg Boyle (the Jesuit priest who founded Home Boy Industries) and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s former long-time CEO); star athletes like NFL quarterback Steve Young and MBA point guard Kevin Johnson (now mayor of Sacramento); former White House chief of staff Andy Card, Bloomin’ Brands CEO Liz Smith, and retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal.

Such outstanding leaders – and others from the ranks of startups, politics, popular culture, and big business – hail from every ethnicity, family and educational background, and rung on the social ladder. Some emerged early in their careers, while some blossomed late. Some of these leaders are reflective, others instinctive. Some are funny, others humorless. Their leadership styles are similarly variable. Some work their magic from positions of informal influence, others from the top spot on an organizational chart. Some are visionaries, others are tacticians. Some lead by charisma, others by consensus building.

As diverse as they are, I’ve found that leaders do have certain things in common.  And that the following three characteristics of leadership still surprise many:

1. Leaders get results through others. The ability to delegate might seem obvious, but it’s a major challenge for young people who have excelled because of their ability to deliver results. In many cases they stumble as leaders for the very reason they’ve been such good producers; what served them well when they couldn’t trust others to do the job becomes their Achilles heel as a leader. The transition from being a producer to being a leader is one all of our standout guests have learned.

Learning to “scale” through delegation means dealing with the imperfections and occasional failures of others. But more than that, it means becoming really good in the first place at hiring talented people and retaining them – as well as at replacing those who don’t “fit” so well. It also means using one’s leadership position to inspire. The job of a great leader is less about hands-on execution than it is about being confident enough to create a team of competent people who are on the same page. I like to remember General George Patton’s advice: “Don’t tell people how to do things – tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”  

2. Leaders teach inductively.  Great leaders, unlike great scholars, tend to be inductive thinkers, reasoning from the specific to the general, from the story to the principle. They are storytellers, illustrating core values with memorable, colorful anecdotes. These leaders have often achieved a “far-side simplicity” that reflects the statement of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity; but I would give my life for the simplicity the other side of complexity.”

3. Leaders have wisdom. Popular culture seems to cast many leaders as merely ambitious or politically savvy, even greedy or self-referencing. By contrast, great leaders are trusted. They’re trusted because they have wisdom, being able to “see around corners” and lead an organization to “all-things-considered” optimum results.

Great leaders are rare. They invariably leave organizations better off than they found them, empowered to sustain and improve on the foundations they’ve laid. Great leaders are at the center, but they are not the center –precisely because they’ve learned to trust and to delegate, to identify and celebrate a unifying narrative, and to predict and deliver results. When leaders internalize these lessons, the like-minded followers they attract ensure an enduring legacy.

Author Bio:
Joel Peterson (Twitter: @JoelCPeterson), chairman of JetBlue and a longtime consulting professor at the Stanford Business School, is the author of the new book “The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

10 Ways to Kill Off Your Star Employees

I wrote this post for another publication in 2014, but it appears they have deleted it. I’m preparing to do a workshop on how to nurture high potentials and found it in my archives. Still looks relevant to me!
Warning: the following article contains a heavy dose of sarcasm. Read at your own risk, and whatever you do, DO NOT follow the advice!

A high potential employee is one of your highest performing employees that also is showing signs of being able to handle greater responsibilities. They are an organization’s top guns, rising starts, and typically represent the upper 10% of any organization, or the cream of the crop.
Unfortunately, organizations don’t always do a good job when it comes to nurturing, developing, rewarding, and retaining their high potential employees. In fact, it often seems like they are going out of their way to sabotage their best employees.

Of course, most organizations don’t intentionally try to kill their high potentials. It’s just that many managers don’t know how to manage a high potential, and end up doing well-intended things that get unintended results. Or – in some cases – they actually do set their high potential employees up for failure, as a result of feeling threatened or jealousy. 
So – if you want to kill your high potentials, just follow these 10 steps:

10 Ways to Kill your Best employees:
1. First of all, recognize that high-potential employees are a threat to your own job and treat them that way. These eager beavers are always exceeding expectations, are ambitious, and want nothing more than to step all over you to climb their career ladder. Watch your back, and keep them on a short leash!

2. Put them in a job rotation program, with a never-ending series of short assignments with no real accountability or opportunity to contribute. These people have short attention spans anyway, and will love the variety. Move them around to remote ends-of-the-earth locations without asking them. Cost-of-living differences? School systems? Trailing spouses and families? Cultural differences and hardships? Hey, it’s all part of the development experience.

3. Because HIPOs are so good, you can ignore them. No need for
feedback, as feedback is only for losers. Great employees are like self-licking ice cream cones, they need little time or support from their managers. This will free you up to spend more time on your under-performers, and other important management responsibilities, like your reading your email micromanaging the rest of your employees.

4. Give them impossible and unrealistic goals. We call these “stretch” assignments, or “development challenges”. And a lot of them too. They’ll need to learn how to prioritize and learn from their failures. Don’t bother offering training or coaching to support these stretch goals – save those limited dollars to spend on your underperforming employees.

5. Although you can call these “developmental”, treat them like assessments, a never-ending gauntlet of impossible challenges. Then step back and watch them stumble and fall. When they quit or fall off the fast track, you can congratulate yourself for being a keen evaluator of talent.

6. Tell everyone around them that they are a HIPO. Give them little “HIPO” name badges and frequent public displays of affection. Their peers will love them, welcome them with open arms, and want to be just like them!

7. Make sure they change bosses frequently. You don’t want them to have time to develop a relationship with any one manager, constant change and variety is much better. The same is true for
mentors – put an end to those relationships before the employee gets too dependent.

8. Take credit for their accomplishments. That’s one of the few benefits of managing HIPOs - they do produce fantastic results. Taking credit will help to keep them humble.

9. Ask them to help out your underperforming employees. This will teach them how to mentor and coach – they’ll love it!

10. Whatever you do, do not provide them with positive feedback. That would just swell their inflated egos even more. They already know how good they are, so it’s more important to point out their faults.

There you go! Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to end up with nothing but a team of underperforming,
lazy, C player slackers. You can blame it on HR, upper management, or your organization’s compensation and benefits package.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

When You Just Aren’t Feeling It in Your Coaching Relationship

Guest post from Judy Nelson:

What happens when you no longer feel the enthusiasm you once had for your coaching sessions?

You know the signs of problems:

ü  Sighing when you realize it’s time for another call or meeting

ü  Thinking about all the other things you could be doing instead of the session

ü  Wondering whether it was a good use of your time when the call ends

Or worse…

ü  Dreading the call

ü  Saying you need to sign off early when you don’t

ü  Considering rescheduling even though you don’t have a good reason

ü  Cancelling altogether

Most coachees have been there—and so have most coaches! If one of you feels this way about the coaching session, then in all likelihood the other does, too.

Neither of you mentioned it because it’s uncomfortable. However, avoiding the discomfort of bringing up uncomfortable subjects is just further proof that the coaching process is derailing.

It’s time to address the uncomfortable issue directly. Maybe not asking point blank, “Do you dread our sessions, too?”, but rather, “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to spend a few minutes today talking about where we are in the coaching process.” Another option could be, “I’ve noticed a decreased energy between us in our last few sessions. Perhaps we could think about whether we need to make some changes.”

Recognizing your negative feelings is an opportunity to take necessary action. Here are four more tips for addressing what could feel like an awkward issue:

1.    Email ahead. Ask for time to be set aside to discuss progress or next steps. It ensures that both of you will come to the session mentally prepared for the conversation.

2.    Rehearse Your Lines. Having the right words ready makes it easier to say and helps you find the ones that communicate in the best possible way. Some examples could be, “I noticed that I’m not putting as much into the coaching process as I was early in our relationship.” Or you could try, “Sometimes, I’m unprepared for our sessions and I think about canceling.”

3.    Be ready with suggestions. He or she might ask for suggestions on how to make the process work better for you. Be ready to answer. A possible response could be, “Sometimes, it feels like we’re losing focus.” Or perhaps try, “There are times when I’m not feeling engaged with our process.” Solutions could include stepping up the timeline or modifying the sessions tone or style.

4.    Read the room. If the other person reacts defensively or sounds irritated with your discussion, it might be time to take a break.

Coaches: Are You Wasting Your Client’s Money?

Professional coaches have set goals and timelines for the client along with scheduled, periodic reviews. However, these measures do not preclude a decline in energy required for coaching success.

Try this exercise to see if your coaching experience needs work:

Make a list of all of your current clients. Imagine that you have a coaching appointment in one hour. Assess how you would feel in anticipation of the meeting:

Excited, Energized
Resigned, Bored

·         The clients who received checks in the excited/energized or positive columns probably feel the same way. All clear here.

·         Anticipating a client call in a neutral mood could be a warning sign for troubled water. Is it time to right the ship?

·         If your anticipatory reaction as the coach is resigned or negative, it’s a red flag and a call to action: the coaching relationship is headed for rocky shores.

·         And dread? The moment of truth is upon you. How will you respond?

Clients: Are You Ready to Step up Your Professionalism?

Executive coaching develops a client’s self-awareness and self-management skills to become a more competent professional. Like the coach, the client also has a responsibility to monitor progress (or lack thereof) toward his goals. If the client feels bored with the coaching process, then she has every right to suggest a pause for reflection.

It is not easy, especially for people with a natural high need to please, high anxiety, and insecurity (or all of the above). But true professionals embrace and manage discomfort. Moreover, practicing this skill is exactly the type of exercise to try in a coaching session.

The bottom line? Both coach and client have an obligation to address negative feelings as soon as they are aware of them. To continue the sessions without exploring these concerns is, at best, unprofessional. If unaddressed, the feelings will make the remainder of the coaching process even less effective and more dreaded.

In other words, if you don’t fix the problem together, then you two will end up wasting both of your time and the client’s money. And nobody wants that—least of all the client!

@CoachJudyNelson has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor. As a former CEO, Judy has been a Certified Professional Coach since 2006 and assists leaders and career seekers to develop and reach stretch goals. Her new book, Intentional Leadership (Motivational Press, 2016) debuts later this year.