Thursday, March 26, 2015

How Leaders Can Get People to Tell the Truth

Guest post from Peter Romary:

Harry S. Truman once said, “My definition of a leader . . . is a man who can persuade people to do what they don’t want to do, or do what they’re too lazy to do, and like it.” If we can be generous enough to overlook the sexist element of that quote, and disregard for a moment the notion of labeling anyone as “lazy,” we can learn a lot from the crux of Mr. Truman’s insight. We can even learn the secret behind a skill that any leader would do well to master: getting people to tell the truth.

If a leader is someone who can persuade others to do what they don’t want to do and like it, what we have found is that he can tap that quality to convince a person to reveal truthful information, even when that person has a very good reason to want to conceal it. No doubt, this is a feat that almost everyone considers to be extraordinarily difficult to accomplish—the art of getting someone to disclose information that he is strongly incentivized to withhold is the stuff of crime thrillers and spy movies, and very few of us can easily identify with characters who are challenged with that task. But think about it. As a leader, you’re faced with that challenge every day. Is that job candidate being truthful about his claim that he instituted processes for his previous employer that saved the company millions of dollars? Is that manager being honest with you when he says he never engaged in the harassment that your employee is alleging? Does the CFO of the company you’re looking to acquire really have confidence in the revenue numbers he’s projecting?

In our new book, “Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All,” we outline a methodology, born in the secretive world of the CIA and practiced throughout the intelligence and law enforcement communities, that’s inextricably linked to Mr. Truman’s definition of a leader. It’s a methodology that compels a person to do something he doesn’t want to do—disclose truthful information that he has a reason to want to withhold—and to feel good about doing it. It’s all about getting the person in a state of mind that we call “short-term thinking mode.”

To understand this concept, consider that people tend to conceal information for a very simple reason: They fear the negative consequences of disclosing it. The trick to getting the information is to diminish that fear by distancing the person from the perceived negative consequences. We can accomplish that by shifting his focus from those consequences, if only temporarily, to a focus on why it’s OK to tell you the truth—and why he should be happy with that choice. If he’s no longer thinking about the long-term consequences, and is instead thinking about the sensible reasons you’re giving him to tell the truth, human nature will likely prevail, and he’ll base his actions on what’s immediately in front of him. To get him in that state of mind, here are some of the key elements you’ll need to incorporate into your game plan:

·    Understand that up until the point when the person demonstrates a willingness to tell you the truth, you don’t want his lips moving. The more you allow him to articulate a lie or a denial, the more psychologically entrenched he will become, and the more difficult it will be do persuade him to reverse course.

·   Since you’re the one doing all the talking, start by ensuring that you maintain a very calm, low-key tone and demeanor. Success in taking the person’s mind off of those perceived negative consequences will require him to listen to you, and he’s much more likely to do that if what he’s hearing from you is a sense of understanding, empathy, and sincerity.

·   Give him compelling reasons why it makes sense for him to tell you the truth. If he has committed an act of wrongdoing, for example, rationalize the behavior by assuring him that everyone is human, and that sometimes good people just make bad decisions. Minimize the seriousness of what he did by pointing out how important it is not to blow it out of proportion. Socialize the matter with the observation that people in all walks of life have found themselves in the same situation he’s in. Project the blame for his actions so he doesn’t feel so alone—also at fault might be the economy, the system, management, political enemies, unsupportive parents.

·    Choose your words carefully. Remember that implicit language is more valuable to you than explicit language—when you say you want to “resolve” the issue, let the person infer that that might mean a slap on the wrist, when you’re thinking more in terms of firing him. Never use language that invokes consequences—the money wasn’t “stolen,” it was “taken.” And since you’re the one doing all the talking up until the point at which the person is prepared to tell you the truth, don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. Repetition is a powerful tool—the more frequently a person hears something, the more likely he will be to accept it, or to at least open the door to the possibility of accepting it.

This methodology has been used to remarkable effect to get the truth from terrorists, spies, and criminals, and to equal effect in dealing with the situations that leaders encounter every day in their professional and personal lives. As Mr. Truman’s insight suggests, a strengthening of these skills will yield stronger, more influential leaders.

Peter Romary is general counsel and a partner in QVerity, Inc., a Greenville, N.C.-based company founded by former CIA officers that provides training and consulting services in the detection of deception, critical interviewing, and elicitation. He is a contributor to the book, “Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All,” to be released by St. Martin’s Press on March 24.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Prepare for a Performance Review so it won’t Feel Like a Root Canal : Employee Version

The annual employee performance review is an important opportunity to get feedback from your manager in order to make sure your performance is meeting expectations and to learn what you need to do to improve. Performance reviews can be used to justify raises or promotions, so it’s important to make sure you performance is accurately documented.

However, the annual workplace ritual been compared to a trip to the dentist to get a root canal.
Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to learn how an employee can prepare for an annual employee performance review in order to make it a productive and painless discussion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

7 Ways to Prepare for a Performance Review so it won’t Feel Like a Root Canal: Manager Version

The annual employee performance review is an essential human resource process for documenting how well an employee performed throughout the year, an opportunity to provide feedback to the employee, and serves as a springboard for setting performance and development objectives for the coming year.

However, the annual workplace ritual been compared to a trip to the dentist to get a root canal.
Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to learn how a manager can prepare for an annual employee performance review in order to make it a productive and painless discussion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

10 Ways to Get Brutally Candid Feedback

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 10 ways to get candid feedback.

Just make sure that when you do, you listen, keep your mouth shut, and say “thank-you”!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Art of Giving Critical Feedback: 10 Tips

Feedback can be one of the most powerful ways to develop employees and improve performance.

It doesn't cost anything. Most employees say they want it and yet they don't get enough of it. So why are many managers so hesitant to give it?

Read my latest post over at over at Management and Leadership to find out why and to get more comfortable in giving feedback so your employees will be receptive to receiving it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Work with Who Your People Are, Not Who You’d Like Them to Be

Guest post from Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan:

Traditional models of leadership have a rather judgmental flavor to them – they tend to favor the triangular shape and place those of us who are leaders at the top, with increasing numbers of obedient minions beneath us as we track down through the layers of the hierarchy to the poor wretches who support us at the bottom.

However, as anyone who has endeavored to manage people in the past decade can attest – this model of leadership rarely shows up in the real world - certainly not in the modern age of business.

But these flat models of organizational culture are not merely the result of political correctness taken to ridiculous extremes, they in fact reflect the new employee, one who is more demanding and critical of the performance and capabilities of their leaders.

In other words, if we wish to lead, it is we who need to lift our game.

So what does this really mean for the leaders of today? Are we all doomed to be the buddy-leader, the father figure or matriarch who’s “more like a friend than a parent”, or is there something more significant in play here?

We’d suggest that this is an opportunity for greater leadership, not less. In other words, leadership today is less likely to be positional or organizational and more something to be earned. This, we contend, is rather a good thing.

In many ways, the freedom and increasing professional promiscuity of modern workers means that titles like “the boss” are less to be relied upon than merit. Not that true meritocracy is at hand, but it certainly looks increasingly like a nod in that direction.

So how do we become the kind of leaders modern workers will follow?

Leadership in this new paradigm requires a greater understanding of what drives human behavior, what makes us buy and buy in. Of course, leaders have always relied on their charisma as one of the tools of persuasion, but persuasive intelligence alone is not enough, today’s leader must also possess mental agility and deftness with behavioral strategy.

In other words, rather than leaning on traditional tools like motivation and discipline, leaders must learn to embrace process and systems design that create a bias towards success.

Gallup’s Global Workforce Engagement Study reveals that virtually half of the workforce is not engaged in the work that they do – almost 20% are actively disengaged. This kind of research is the kind of thing that sends HR managers into a panicked frenzy as they try to bolster internal morale and lift engagement scores.

But if we’re completely honest about it, a very large proportion of the workforce will never be engaged in the work that they are doing. For many, a job is just a job!

But this is not necessarily as disastrous as it initially sounds. What it does mean, is that we need to design the work we do in such a way that employees can deliver the results we want, regardless of their engagement levels. After all, even our best employees have off days, get sick, have fights with their significant others or worries about their children, parents or pets.

But we seldom take these human factors into planning our strategies as leaders, instead planning for ideal conditions when average conditions are more likely.

So, what are the nuts and bolts of this kind of leadership?

1. Firstly, ensure that there is a clear articulation of ‘What’s in it for them’
Human beings are rather more driven by self-interest than we’d like to admit. And yet, most leaders and managers are too busy outlining what they want, what they need, what they require, that we forget to create buy in by anchoring our goals in line with the values of those we lead.

2. Understand that fear drives us
On either side of action there is fear. Change, even good change can seem threatening to our staff and our ability to allay fears and create confidence and certainty is a benchmark for all effective leaders.

3. Make failure more difficult
We’re all familiar with the acronym, K.I.S.S. But true strategy doesn’t just make things simple, or even easy; it also makes failure more difficult. What this requires is an understanding of the friction and breakage points in our processes and a willingness to make the path to productivity smoother.

Rather than simply expecting our teams to be more effective and productive, today it is incumbent on those of us who lead, to make success more achievable.

Dan Gregory & Kieran Flanagan are behavioral researchers and strategists, specializing in behaviors and belief systems–what drives, motivates and influences us. They have won business awards around the world for Innovation, Creativity and ROI working with such organizations as Coca-Cola, Unilever, News Corp and the United Nations in Singapore. They are passionate advocates for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership. Published by WILEY, Kieran and Dan’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $22.95 from

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Leadership Styles: How to Dress for the Occasion

While some leadership styles may be more naturally comfortable than others, effective leaders need to adapt their style to the needs of their employees and the situation at hand.

Read my latest post over at to find out why and how.

Monday, March 9, 2015

10 Important Leadership Qualities

There are many qualities of great leaders, but IMHO, these 10 qualities are indispensable.

Read my latest post over at to find out what they are.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Job Descriptions for the 21st Century

Supercharging your job descriptions and scrapping outdated versions will result in higher performance levels.

Read Beth Armknecht Miller's guest post over at Management and Leadership to learn why and how.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to Work for a Macromanager

This post was recently published on SmartBlog on Leadership

No one wants to work for a micromanager. Micromanagers are control freaks, always breathing down their employee’s, telling them how to do everything and inspecting every move they make.
Working for a micromanaging boss is one of the most frequently reported reasons employees hate their jobs or hate their bosses.

Employees that work for micromanagers probably wish their bosses would just disappear. They dream about what it would be like to go totally boss-less, going about their work in a state of empowered nirvana.
Well, be careful what you wish for! The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.

While a micromanager anchors the extreme end of the management style continuum (high control), sitting at the far other end of the continuum is the macromanager (laissez-faire).

Working for a macromanager has its own set of challenges. A micromanager is always there when you don’t need them to be there; a macromanager is never around when you do have a question, need support, or need to get a decision made. They have a laissez-faire style of management that assumes all employees are completely competent self-licking ice cream cones, needing no support, feedback, recognition, coaching, or direction.
A macromanagement style may be appropriate when managing employees that are self-starters, experienced, high performing, and self-motivated, but even these employees need a little attention now and then. Where they really get themselves into trouble is when they try to apply their hands-off management approach to brand new employees that need more initial direction and support, or even worse, to underperforming employees that need a strong kick in the behind.

So are you lucky or unlucky enough to work for a micromanager? I have been. If you are, here are a few tips:

1. Set up monthly meetings.  While your macromanager may initially resist this intrusion on their busy schedule, insist on it and take the initiative to schedule them yourself. Explain to the macromanager how it is for their own benefit to stay informed on what you’re doing in case their own micromanager boss asks them for details.
2. Send regular email updates. Keep them high level and brief. Develop a few important metrics for your area of responsibility and report on those. Be sure to make your manager aware of key accomplishments and give them a heads up of any potential problems that they may end up hearing about.
3. Establish measurable goals and manage to them. Create your own goals and development plan, and establish follow-though mechanisms to keep yourself on track.
4. Take care of yourself and your team. Celebrate your own success and the success of your team. Seek feedback from trusted mentors, peers, your employees, and others. Hire a coach if you can.
5. Keep an eye on the big picture. Don’t get myopic and lose sight of your organizations broader mission and goals. Without a manager to provide this perspective, you’ll have to look for other sources to stay abreast.
6. Learn to manage your peers. Given that macromanagers are never around to confront underperformers, you’ll need to have these crucial conversations yourself. You’ll also want to provide support and recognition to your peers, and when you do, you’ll receive the same in return.
7. Have realistic expectations and accept what is. Don’t get all frustrated that your manager doesn’t give you regular feedback, recognition, or respond to your emails. Learn to look for and appreciate the strengths that your manager does bring to the table, and don’t expect pigs to fly.
 Last but not least, count your blessings that you don’t work for a micromanager!