Thursday, October 22, 2020

Three Classic Negotiating Mistakes

Guest post by Clint Babcock:

Recently I was teaching a class on negotiation for salespeople. I set up a buyer–seller role play scenario and I asked two participants to work through the scenario in front of the rest of the class.  Both were provided with the pertinent information they needed to secure a good deal; all they had to do was negotiate the price.  I specifically narrowed this role play down to this one issue; neither one of them knew what they were selling.  Such a scenario allows participants to focus on how best to work through the money issue.

The point of doing an exercise like this is not the end result.  It’s observing the process that people go through, the great moves they make and/or the mistakes they fall prey to. Analyzing the process used is what creates learning and growth opportunities for everyone, including the observers.  Whenever I do an exercise like this, and lead the discussion afterward, I’ve noticed that there are three mistakes that always seem to present themselves. As I predicted, all three showed up during this role play.

Mistake #1: Talking too much. This is the single most common mistake. Salespeople, I’ve noticed, tend to defend and justify their solution, apparently under the impression that the more they say, the better the solution looks. They pile on the features and benefits of working with their company.  As you might imagine, the stream of words they unleash gets them nowhere, because the prospect already knows all of this. If they didn’t, why would they be negotiating? A better approach. Don’t talk about your features and benefits. Focus on the pains that your solution will solve by asking questions about how they see the solution solving their problems.  Become inquisitive and curious as to their position; keep in mind that the more information you uncover, the deeper your understanding of the situation will be – and the better positioned you will be to reinforce your position as the right choice for them.

Mistake #2: Offering or agreeing to concessions immediately. All too often, salespeople fail to recognize that they are even in a negotiation, and they volunteer a concession.  For instance: The buyer asks for a better price, or better terms, and the salesperson’s knee-jerk response is, “What were you looking for?”  Very often, we have not prepared for this all-too-predictable moment. We fail to process the reality that we may well be dealing with a strategic negotiator, someone who has prepared and planned for this negotiation and who has created leverage they can use against us.  Giving up something without getting anything in return is a no-no! A better approach: Instead of encouraging the other side to ask for concession after concession, do your prep work. Recognize that you will be in a negotiation at some point in your sales cycle. Identify what, specifically, you will ask for in return when someone asks you to make a concession. Hold onto concessions for as long as you can; don’t give them up until late in the sales or negotiation process, and plan to get something in return, such as a firm commitment to do business. Preparing ahead of time is the key to ensuring you don’t simply react, but instead respond appropriately to a request for a concession.

Mistake #3: Believing that money is the only issue. A lot of sales and business negotiations focus on money.  Remember: The best negotiations have little or nothing to do with money.  The best negotiation discussion is about finding the best fit solution. Yes, people want to pay as little for that solution as possible. But if we make it all about money, we both lose. A better approach. Even if buyers try to make the discussion about money, you need to stand your ground, and make it about solving their pains and issues with your solution. Yes, this takes practice! But what’s the alternative?

Most companies and sales organizations have no idea how often their teams make these mistakes during a negotiation process. Why? Because negotiation is rarely trained or practiced. What ends up happening after a long series of negotiating errors is that senior. leaders are brought into the process – because they know how to handle these situations.  This is not an efficient solution. With guidance and practice, salespeople can learn to avoid these common mistakes.

Clint Babcock is the author of NEGOTIATING FROM THE INSIDE OUT: A Playbook For Business Success. A Sandler trainer based in Florida, Babcock has over 25 years of sales, leadership, and negotiation experience; he has worked with senior executives at companies in a wide range of industries to help them strategically build their sales forces. For more information, please visit

Thursday, October 15, 2020

It’s Great to Lead with Smart Experiments

Guest post by Steven K. Gold, M.D.:

Leadership is all about decision and action. As leaders, our goal is to make the best decisions

that lead to the most productive actions. As the world becomes less certain, even highly unpredictable, how do we go about optimizing our chances for success?

Fortunately, we have a group of experienced leaders who have been grappling with the challenges of uncertainty for many years: successful entrepreneurs.

For over 20 years, I have studied entrepreneurs. As an academic and as a thought leader, I have conducted studies of thousands of entrepreneurs of all kinds, on three continents. This has included embedding myself within various accelerator programs to observe the daily (and even moment-to-moment) decisions and actions of successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs. This led to the idea of Smart Experiments.

Experiments are investments of a first set of available resources that produce a second (hopefully more valuable) set of resources. I use the term “resources” broadly, and they include human connections (networks), knowledge, experience, expertise, and ability to influence others, among many others. Resources are the foundation of experiments.

Experiments – like everything else in life – can be done poorly or well. Despite this, most of us have never been taught how to do an experiment in a way that predisposes to success. Expert entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have developed and mastered a particular process that I refer to as a Smart Experiment.

Smart Experiments are done in an ongoing cycle that includes four steps:

1) DESIGN. Entrepreneurs always look around to assess their available resources. What resources do I have – human connections, material, knowledge, experiences, expertise, finances, etc. – that I can combine in creative ways to design a possible experiment? Entrepreneurs make formal and informal lists (referred to as Opportunity Registers) of all of their possible experiments, based on the resources they have at hand. Expert entrepreneurs like having many opportunities, and options.

2) DECIDE. Given a long list of possible experiments, entrepreneurs categorize them. They do this continuously, and are always reassessing their resources in light of the results of ongoing experiments. Any possible experiment that has been Designed in Step 1 can be placed into one of four categories: a) do it now, b) do it later, c) find a partner, or d) forget about it. This prioritization determines what happens next.

3) DE-RISK. Before embarking on the “do it now” experiments, entrepreneurs de-risk their experiments. This means that they identify the most likely potential causes for failure, and prepare for them in advance of doing the experiment. This step recognizes that certain easily predictable and fixable issues can make a big difference, and they are addressed up front. This predisposes any given experiment to success.

4) DELIVER. Only then do entrepreneurs do the experiment, which almost always involves a series of small steps. Since every experiment is an investment of resources intended to secure (more valuable) resources, expert entrepreneurs harvest all of the value that results from any given experiment. They do not leave value on the table.

We can each choose to do our experiments poorly or well. Doing Smart Experiments – and helping others to do them properly – increases chances for successful outcomes. The best entrepreneurs encourage everyone around them to do Smart Experiments.

Here are a few take-away lessons for leaders:

First, Smart Experiments involve thought and action. Entrepreneurs rarely get stuck in “analysis paralysis” because they break down risky activities into less risky, small steps. Instead of jumping across a room, they take it a step at a time. By taking a step at a time they increase the likelihood that each step will go well, and they are much more likely to make it across the room – even if they encounter an obstacle. Obstacles (representing uncertainties) are easy to walk around, and much harder if you fly right into them. This is one way that expert entrepreneurs deal with uncertainty.

Second, the best entrepreneurs understand that succeeding and failing are two sides of the same coin. Smart Experiments, using prioritization and risk mitigation, mean that our failures become smaller. That said, failures do occur, and are expected to occur. If an entrepreneur is not failing at least a good portion of the time (remember, they are taking small steps and so these are relatively small failures – or learning adventures), this means the entrepreneur is probably not trying hard enough.

So why is it great to lead with Smart Experiments? First, understanding resources is the best way to understand the value you have to invest. The more you have to invest, the more you are likely to reap greater returns. Second, Smart Experiments prioritize those actions that make the most sense – to do now, do later, partner, or not do at all. Smaller steps that make up Smart Experiments are also easier to get started with, and to make successful. When things go awry, as they often do in uncertain environments, smaller steps lead to smaller failures, which protect resources. All of this predisposes to a higher probability of success, which has a dramatic compounding effect.

Leading with Smart Experiments means one more thing: prioritizing intelligent action over results. If people are empowered to do their best, to do their best experiments, then they are pursuing their potential. They will succeed much of the time, and fail at other times, both of which are indicators of effort. With this in mind, celebrate Smart Experiments. Teach Smart Experiments. Be a role model for Smart Experiments.

Steven K. Gold, M.D., is the author of HOW WE SUCCEED: Making Good Things Happen Through The Power Of Smart Experiments. He is Chairman of Gold Global Advisors, a firm that advises leaders and teams in the science of sustainable success. For more information, please visit

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Accountability Under Pressure

Guest post from Helen Horyza:

Under pressure, when you have been disappointed or your direction has been ignored, do you
lose your temper? Do you attack the person who made the mistake? It can happen in a split second. Unfortunately, the memory of your behavior will linger much longer in the hearts and minds of your employees. Over time, you create a culture of fear and mistrust.

So, how can you take an “accountable perspective” it the heat of a stressful moment? The answer lies in your values. Ask yourself the following questions:

· What is your why?

· What are your leadership values?

· What principles guide you at the deepest level?

When you answer these questions, you have the basis for choosing accountability under pressure.

Here is a real-life example. Dave, a former client of mine, was a Chief over about 700 people. He was working hard to create a healthy work culture. As part of this effort, Dave held a multi-day off-site meeting including both middle and top management.

On the second day of the event, one of Dave’s senior-staff members (without consulting Dave) sent middle management home to save travel and hotel costs. When Dave found out, he was livid. His entire motivation for the event was to include everyone. He was ready to attack.

I happened to be presenting at the front of the room that day and could see Dave rocking back and forth on his feet, clearly agitated. I walked to the back of the room and stood next to him. I asked him what was wrong. He explained the situation, red faced and irritated.

His anger was intense. He needed to be grounded. I asked Dave what his top three leadership values were. He looked at me like I was insane. How dare I ask such a stupid question at a moment like this? With some effort, he pulled himself together and answered.

“HIT” he said. “Helping Others, Integrity and Team Work.” I looked at Dave and calmly suggested he handle the situation based on those values. I walked back to the front of the room and continued teaching.

Several days later I checked in with Dave to find out how he resolved the offsite debacle. “I didn’t do anything” he said. “What was done was done. My values helped me remember the bigger picture. Confronting or blaming was not going to change anything. It was a mis-communication.” He now had a tangible life experience to fuel his efforts to be accountable under pressure.

Choosing accountability allows you to clear your emotions and focus on what you want to accomplish and preserve relationships. Take a few moments to identify your top three or four values. Write them and post them where you can see them every day. Practice filtering your choices through your values, driving you, and the people you lead, towards accountability.

Helen Horyza is the President of Elevate Your Career Inc., and a recognized leadership and career development expert, Helen integrates psychology, talent management and employee engagement to elevate organizational culture. Her most recent book is Elevate Your Career:  Live a Life You’re Truly Proud Of.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Three Main Organizational Drivers

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

Is your company primarily power-, profit-, or purpose-driven?

Approaching a meeting with the CEO of his organization, one of my culture clients (a senior executive of a major retailer) said, “I’m going to ask him whether he thinks we are a power-driven company, a profit-driven company, or a purpose-driven company.” I’d not heard about those differentiators, so I asked him to define them for me.

Organizations are not exclusively driven by a single one of these approaches,  but their primary drivers are not that difficult to diagnose. An organization’s plans, decisions, and actions provide very clear indicators of their core interests and drivers.

Power Driven:

A company that is primarily power-driven

     seeks to be a standard-setter, a “big player” in their industry that others must work with to gain a foothold in their marketplace.

     seeks to make profits, but their primary actions are designed to increase their influence, their market share, their breadth.

      exhibits behavior that can be seen as self-serving and arrogant.

Based on these criteria, I see Microsoft as primarily a power-driven company. (Full disclosure: I’m running Microsoft 365 on my Macs & iPad. I’m as culpable as any other Microsoft product user for helping them extend their power.)


A primarily profit-driven company:

     seeks to create organizational wealth, first and foremost.

     analyzes potential products, services, and markets carefully to identify the most profitable avenues, then pursues those avenues for as long as the profits meet expectations.

     exhibits behavior that can be seen as self-serving and manipulative.

     are known to take advantage of existing rules and/or laws to create profits.

Based on these criteria, I see pharmaceutical companies as primarily profit-driven. (Full disclosure: I’m a big believer in Western medicine. I take prescription medications daily to keep my heart healthy and my knees working smoothly.)


A primarily purpose-driven company:

     seeks to engage employees and customers in helping the organization’s service vision to become a reality.

     often promote social responsibility and demonstrate service to their communities regularly.

     employees typically are very vocal about their organization’s purpose and community benefit.

Certainly, purpose-driven companies must be profitable to continue their good works; profits serve a purpose, rather than being the primary desired outcome.

A few years ago, celebrated four terrific examples of corporate social responsibility. Based on these criteria, I believe that Newman’s Own, the late Paul Newman’s charitable organization, is a purpose-driven company (they’ve given over $300 million to charitable causes since 1982). (Full disclosure: I LOVE Newman’s Own products, particularly their black bean & corn salsa. Amazing quality & taste, and I’m helping community organizations every time I inhale a jar of it.)

The Rest of the Story

I connected with this client after his CEO meeting, and he said the conversation was a rich one. “He thinks we’re a profit-driven company that wants to be a purpose-driven company,” he related. “I like that – it means we’re not ‘done,’ that we can evolve to the kind of purpose-driven company I think we can be.”

I’m optimistic, as well. Creating a purpose-driven company is more art than science, pulling together key pieces that make a cohesive, vibrant whole. This client has the heart, skills, and commitment to help his organization evolve.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Playbook for a New Leader’s First 90 Days on the Job

Guest post from Kristin Harper:

The first 90 days of a leaders’ tenure set the foundation for their future success. Below are five time-tested approaches for new leaders to get off to a fast start.  I’ve written about these and other crucial tools for helping leaders improve relationships, gain executive presence and succeed in my new book, The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career.

1) Focus on Learning and Listening

Prior to starting a new role, read as much as you can, for as far back as you can about the business, strategy, plans, performance, people, opportunities, and challenges. Meet with your predecessor and other stakeholders to ask questions that seek to understand and not judge. Forming conclusions and making decisions too early in your role can be disastrous. Marry your independent research with insightful conversations to accelerate your on-boarding and business mastery.

During your first 90 days, absorb as much information and insight as possible. Besides periodic questions aimed at deepening your understanding of the organization, business, people, and processes, most of your time should be spent listening. Capture your hypotheses, ideas, and observations in a journal. As you meet more people and learn about the business, validate or invalidate your hypotheses, which will become the basis of your future vision, strategies, and/or operational plans.

2) Establish Yourself as both a Person and Leader

Change of any magnitude naturally causes anxiety. Ease your new team’s worries by hosting a Day 1 meeting. This is your first opportunity to establish your personal brand. Demonstrate self-awareness and authenticity by sharing the following content, which will help build trust, establish expectations, and accelerate relationship development with your new colleagues:

A summary of who you are as a person and leader, what you believe, how those values and beliefs guide your actions, and how you operate

- Why you accepted this role

- What you are committed to for the team, business, organization, and culture

- Address questions and concerns

- Team introductions plus an interesting fact or icebreaker

- Paint a picture of the next few weeks

- Close with your optimism about working with this team

- Consider telling stories, which demonstrate vulnerability, emotional intelligence, and can help create connections that translate to a more motivated team.

3) Build Multiple Relationships

Within your first week on the job, host 1-hour on-boarding meetings with each of your direct reports. Within the first two months, host a 30-minute 1:1 meeting with team members across multiple levels in your organization plus cross-functional colleagues. In preparation for these meetings, review the organizational chart, form a cursory understanding of their roles and projects, and read their last performance review and résumé, if they’re on your team.

Onboarding meetings are one of few meetings without much two-way dialogue. Send the following questions as a preview, then listen and take notes as they share:

Tell me about your background.

2) What motivates you?

3) What are your professional goals?

4) What should we Start/Stop/Continue?

Be cautious not to rush to judgment about talent during 1:1 onboarding meetings. Give yourself 60-90 days to determine if you have the right mix of talent to achieve the goals and objectives.

4) Stay Connected

Engage with your team through impromptu conversations, team meetings with direct reports, 1:1s with direct reports, all-team meetings, annual skip-level meetings, quarterly development conversations and end-of-year performance reviews. Monthly all-team meetings help build camaraderie, and provide a forum for recognition, to discuss business performance and key projects. These meetings also provide an opportunity for your team to demonstrate their talent, and for you to demonstrate inspirational leadership.

5) Reflect and Envision

After 90 days, reflect on what you’ve learned, key observations, and early wins. Share this information with your manager as a head start to your performance review. Reflect on what changes could make the biggest differences in the outcomes, performance, and culture of the business and team. Then develop your vision, objectives, strategies, goals, measures, action plan, and solicit feedback from your direct reports, wise council, cross-functional colleagues, and manager.

Once you’ve secured buy-in, cascade the vision and measurable goals throughout the team. Be cautious about change fatigue. Changing too much at once could overwhelm your team, dilute the impact, and put them on the defense if not done thoughtfully.

Creating a culture of trust, open communication, accountability, recognition, and commitment to a common vision is the #1 job of a leader. These strategies and tactics will help you engage your team, develop healthy relationships, and build a healthy culture that delivers stronger results. 

Kristin Harper is CEO of Driven to Succeed, LLC, a leadership development company that provides brand strategy consulting, market research, and keynote speaking on leadership and emotional intelligence. She is also author of The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

5 Tips for Inspiring Leadership

Guest post from Karlin Sloan:

As a leadership development consultant, I have spent my career with people in business, NGOs, government, and not-for-profits who are focused, competent, talented and who have a
deep sense of their personal power to impact those around them.  Recently, those same people are having doubts. They doubt their ability to lead their companies through increasingly challenging times. They doubt their ability to protect their loved ones in a world experiencing ecological, health and social crises. And they doubt our collective human family’s ability to solve the problems facing us on a global scale. 

Our organizations, both large and small, are facing the need to adapt to rapid change that is not predictable or particularly controllable. If those who lead us are in doubt, then who can we turn to to inspire us, to calm our fears, and to build a path to a better future? How will we effectively address immense changes as individuals, groups, organizations, and as a world community? There is no more important time for inspiring leadership. 

Inspiring leaders are those who practice ‘alignment’.  They are leaders who cultivate personal and organizational openness, adaptability, and meaning. They are leaders who practice confidence in our ability to create a positive outcome no matter what the circumstance. They are the ones who will get us there.  They are capable of aligning themselves to their higher purpose and inspiration, aligning others to a shared goal, and to aligning resources to get the job done.

Here are five tips to create alignment in yourself and your organization, with the goal of being a truly inspiring leader:

Tip #1 - Accept Reality and Focus on the Future

Accepting reality and focusing on the future is sometimes easier said than done.  “Jamie” is a successful entrepreneur who I’ve known for many years.  During the first three months of the Covid-19 shutdown, she’s had to cope with some very difficult realities, including the fact that her booming events-based business was in deep trouble.

Tip #2 - View Challenges as Opportunities

Reframing is the capability to look at your reality from new frames of reference. If you viewed the challenges of present circumstances as an opportunity for the future, what would it look like? 

Tip #3 - Build Relationship and Community

The most inspiring leaders know that we all need each other, and that during times of stress and change we need to feel connected and part of something larger than ourselves. Despite social isolation we need to be ever more present to each other. Part of the leader’s role is to reach out individually and collectively to boost morale and allow people to express their concerns and their ideas. 

Tip #4 - Practice Physical and Mental Discipline

In order to cultivate peak performance we need discipline. Regular daily practices keep us grounded, focused, positive, and healthy. These may be as simple as taking a short morning walk, listening to music that inspires you, reading or working out. Anything that you can establish as a healthy ritual optimizes your performance in other areas of life. My favorite ritual I’ve heard this week - say no to doing something at least once per day. 

Tip#5 - Remember a Bigger Purpose

Every organization has a core purpose for being. Every brand that is driven by purpose has the capacity to connect directly to a customer need. As a leader, it’s your job to bring people back to why they are working in the first place. What is most important about the services or products you provide? What is important about each and every team member’s contribution? 

Times of change bring out the best and the worst, and inspiring leaders focus on the best of themselves and others.

Karlin Sloan is a global leadership & development coach, CEO of Sloan Group International and author of new book, Inspiring Leadership for Uncertain Times.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Makes a High-Performance Leader?

Guest post from Rob Hartnett:

“What is a high-performance leader?” a leader asked me in a Facebook Live session. One of the many I have done since Covid-19 as we pivot to new ways of working.

A high-performance leader is one who is intentional about their leadership. They are not a leader because their position entitles them to be; they see leadership as a verb, a skill to continue to develop and hone. High-performance leaders operate with a growth mindset and are great communicators. A growth mindset means they operate with:

1. Agility

2. Curiosity

3. Persistence

From my research and experience I have observed high-performance leaders look to instill these traits in their people as well. The reason they do this is high-performance leaders understand that their number one goal is to create more high-performance leaders so they can move up to their next position and create more value. They operate with an abundant, as opposed to a scarcity, mindset.

“Titled Leaders” operate from a scarcity mindset. They are only intentional about protecting their role, their title and see all others as a threat to their current role. When you have too many leaders like this you have a fixed mindset, scarcity culture and that is not good for anyone.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the words high-performance. High Performance does not mean they are demanding, relentless, egotistical or high “D” people if you are familiar with DISC behavioural styles. What it means is that a high-performance leader operates like anything that operates at a higher performance than the norm. 

I have grown up around high-performance sport. Motorsport in cars and motorcycles and more human powered endeavours in sailing and cycling. High-performance in the context of sport covers a process that goes like this. 

Practice – Event – Learning – Rest – Practice – Event – Learning – Rest and so on. Each time a Formula One race or MotoGP bike finishes a race the data is downloaded from both driver/rider and machine, learnings are gathered, the machine is then stripped down and rebuilt ready for the next round of practice and event with the new learnings included. The process is then repeated with the aim of improved performance and stronger results. It is the same in every sport where high-performance is the ticket to the dance. 

It is no different with leadership. One of the most important things you can do is create margin for yourself and margin for your team. Margin is the difference between what you can do and what you are doing. If they're exactly the same level you have no capacity, you are run off your feet, you're not going to think strategically. If you are doing more than you are capable of for too long this will result in burnout and no one benefits from a burned out leader.  How do you create margin? You must break your time into three sections. 

Section one – what you do on a daily basis with your people. BAU if you will. 

Section two – Time for you to do what leaders need to do and only leaders can do. Still BAU. 

Section three – Time for you and you only to think strategically, grow, invest and upskill. 

As a leader it is also important you model the way for your people and carve out the same regime for them as well. One highly successful global leader I know carves out 20% of his month for section three and holds his team accountable for the same splits.

High-performance leaders are also very strong on accountability and discipline (routine and process). 

Let’s now discuss a growth mindset. Despite Professor Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking book “Mindset” and numerous TED talks I still think most leaders don’t fully understand it. The most common misconception is that we are either growth or fixed mindset people. We are not. It is true that we have a leaning one way or the other but we can be growth, fixed or even mixed about different things. For example I have a growth mindset about my career but I have a fixed mindset about the upsides of parachuting from a perfectly flyable aeroplane! I also have a mixed mindset regarding certain economic strategies, meaning that I am fixed in my mindset but if the right circumstances presented themselves I would be willing to consider my fixed mindset approach. Overall, I am a growth mindset person however at times I do slip into fixed mindset until my growth mindset subconscious or an external coach snaps me out of it. This leads me to defining a growth mindset. My explanation is this – having a growth mindset means: 

I believe with the right strategy, effort, coaching and persistence I can achieve whatever is important to me. With a growth mindset I seek feedback as this accelerates my learning and I see not succeeding as experimenting and learning on my way to achieving my goal. 

A fixed mindset believes that no matter what strategy or effort I apply I won’t succeed, I will look like a failure and therefore it’s not worth trying. I was born in this circumstance and nothing can improve it. Feedback simply reinforces my view that I can’t do it. 

Mixed mindset says that I don’t believe I can do it, I don’t believe it is possible however if these factors changed or I was in this position I might be persuaded to try again. 

For those of you who believe you are growth mindset oriented through and through try this question on. Have you ever gone into a one-on-one review with one of your team, for whom you already had the opinion that they were not going to be successful? And you were only coaching them as you had a monthly KPI to do so? I think we have all done this. This means we had a fixed mindset about their potential. How might our coaching session go if we went in with a growth mindset? 

Coaching, mentoring and accelerated learning is all part of a growth mindset and it can achieve remarkable results. A recent example from Hollywood was the successful remake of “A Star is Born” driven and starring Bradley Cooper. Cooper not only starred in it, he also directed it and was a co-producer of that movie. Six months before they started filming, he couldn't play guitar, couldn't play piano and couldn't sing. However, working with experts in these fields such as Eddie Vedder, Lucas Nelson and Lady Gaga, combined with a solid routine of effort and persistence, resulted in an award-winning movie, a best song award at the Grammys and the best original score award at the BAFTAs. 

Microsoft has done probably the biggest shift in growth mindset at a global corporate level. Led by Satya Nadella, their CEO, they had to change the game, and change their culture quickly. Chris Capossela their CMO said "We went from a culture of know-it-alls to a culture of learn-it-alls." Which means they had to ask, "Who's doing stuff better than us? What programmers, coders, what businesses? Who do we need to partner with next?" This is a significant shift for an organisation that had been incredibly successful in the past by being inwardly focused. 

Don’t forget that high-performance leaders fundamentally need to inspire. Leadership gets the team going and management keeps it going. That's the difference. You need leaders and managers and sometimes that hat swaps many times during the day.

There is a saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, get a team”.  I disagree with this. I say if you want to go further and faster than your competition you will only do it with a team. 

Maybe my cycling has proven that to me. As a leader whether you are leading a Fortune 500 business, a new team, even your family you need to know how to inspire them and this comes from your ability to communicate. Every high-performance leader I know has excellent communication skills. The emphasis being on skills. People are not born communicators. It is a skill that can be developed and must be developed if you wish to cross the chasm from manager to leader. Great communication makes people feel something, it connects and it’s authentic.  For example, we all know it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said "I have a dream” in a powerful live speech. Please note he did not say “I have a dream and it’s in Slack with a 72 page PowerPoint deck you can read.” 

When you want to inspire someone, when you want to get them to do something different, three things you need to ask yourself are:

What do I want them to Feel?

How do I want them to Know?

What do I want them to Do? 

I believe we all have the capacity to be high-performance leaders. I believe leadership is a skill and therefore something that can be developed and continually enhanced. You may not be a high-performance leader yet… but with a growth mindset, agility and persistence it is well within our reach.  

Rob Hartnett has worked in senior management roles at global organizations such as Apple Computer, Publicis Mojo, Hewlett-Packard, and Miller Heiman Group. Hartnett is an independent Executive Director in Leadership with the John Maxwell Team as well as a Certified DISC Facilitator & Advisor. For more information, please visit

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Unwrapping and Managing Difficult Employees

Guest post from Beth Miller:

We’ve all been challenged with at least one difficult person at work. Why do they have to be so rude, dismissive, abrasive, etc.? Difficult employees aren’t the person who has a bad day and acts out in appropriately, they are the ones who have gained a reputation for being difficult.

And, if they are spreading their bad behavior to others and having a negative impact on the team, then they are more than difficult, they are toxic.

Why are they so difficult? This is the first question that you need to ask yourself. Experience has shown me that there is often an underlying reason for the person’s unwanted behavior. Schedule 1-1 time with the employee, as soon as you notice a pattern of bad behavior. Not addressing the behavior in a timely manner is just an initiation for more of the same thing.

Get curious first. Is it the job? Is it a personal issue? Are there team members that are causing stress? Or, is it just who they are?

If you find that there is a reason behind their behavior and not just their personality, then it’s time to help.


Once you understand the underlying reason for your employee’s bad behavior then it’s time to coach. Coaching your difficult employee to understand the impact they have on others and themselves is your first step to mitigating the problem behavior. The next step is getting them to commit to change and taking action.

Explore with them how their behavior is impacting them and their performance by asking these questions during a 1-1 meeting:

How do you think people react when you are __________ to them?

How can their reactions to you potentially impact you negatively?

How does this this behavior show up outside of work?

How does this behavior help you?

What triggers this behavior? A person, a task, a situation?

What do you think will happen if you continue to behave this way?

Once they agree that their behavior isn’t benefitting them or others around them, then it’s time for them to put a plan together to change. Ask these questions:

What steps can you take to decrease this behavior?

How would you know these steps are working?

When do you plan on resolving the situation?

How committed are you to changing on a scale of 1-10?

What would it take to increase your commitment by 1 point?

Communicate Clearly

For some individuals, asking questions to get them to self-reflect may not be enough. This is when you have to give your feedback to them. Give them concrete examples in a timely manner of what you’ve observed. A great technique to use is by starting with “Can I share an observation with you?” I have never had someone answer no to this question. And answering yes gives you permission to share your feedback.

Define for them what behavior is acceptable moving forward, what changes need to occur with measurable goals. Then jointly create a development plan with a specific timeline. I recommend a 30-60-90 day plan. You want to see some immediate small changes that will incrementally become larger over time. Be prepared to have additional 1-1 meetings with the person during this time.

Explain the Consequences

Once you have coached and provided then with direct feedback, they need to understand the consequences of not meeting their commitment. Generally, a loss is more of a motivator than a gain. Determine what will motivate them. Is it a loss of privileges to work remotely, an upcoming bonus, or rescinding a high-profile project?

There will be some people that either can’t or won’t change their bad behaviors and you need to be prepared to part ways with them. Make sure in these cases that you document all the conversations, so you have established a pattern of behavior and the steps taken to address the situation, and the employee’s failure to change.

And remember through all of this, that dealing with negative employees can distract you from more important issues. Don’t spend all your time and energy on the difficult person, just enough to know that you provided the person with the opportunity to make the needed changes. If you ultimately let the employee go, don’t look back.  Just learn from your experience.

Beth Miller is an accomplished author, speaker, and solution provider; her insight and expertise make her a sought-after leadership influencer. A serial entrepreneur and executive coach as well as a former Vistage Chair of 13 years, Beth is featured in numerous industry blogs and publications including Entrepreneur, Leadercast, and Her book, “Are You Talent Obsessed?,” compiles her best practices for business leaders.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Leadership Accountability

Guest post from Vince Molinaro:

Publilius Syrus was a Latin writer who lived from 85 to 43 B.C. He wrote, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” He got it right way back then. Anyone can lead when times are good, when the world is stable, and the sea is calm. It takes real and accountable leaders to lead in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

No truer words have ever been spoken and now in a world gripped by a global pandemic, all leaders will need to be stronger than they have ever been to lead us through the uncertainty and ambiguity we all face. In today’s complex world, leaders are being asked to step up in dynamic and unexpected ways.

But there is a problem. At a time when we need leaders to be stronger, they are not. Many leaders that I work with today tell me they are overwhelmed, disengaged, and underprepared for their roles and the challenges of these unprecedented times.

Unfortunately, many leaders are not equipped with the tools they need to lead under pressure. As a result, they fail to serve themselves and their employees effectively, and put the future of their entire organization at risk.

I conducted a LinkedIn poll a few weeks after the COVID-19 virus shut own the world.  I was curious to learn about the experiences that leaders in my network were having. The top two challenges that came out on the top of their list was dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and coming to the realization that they would have to make some difficult business decisions. Ones that would impact the lives and careers of their employees. As the weeks and months have gone by, it seems these two primary challenges remain for leaders.

So how do you lead when your world has been upended?

I believe that the way forward is to focus on leadership accountability. It is and will always be what sets the truly great leaders apart from the rest.

There is a dual response that will be required: individual and organizational.

At a personal level, you will need to embrace leadership accountability. This means you will need to step up and demonstrate personal ownership for your leadership role.  You will need to be deliberate and decisive in the way that you lead. You will also need to bring a sense of urgency, courage and resilience in how you lead every single day.

But there is more. You will need to go beyond yourself to hold others accountable for being leaders. You will need to build truly accountable teams. You will also need to play a role within and across your organization to build a strong leadership culture and community of leaders.

At an organizational level, you must work to make leadership accountability a priority within a company. Senior leaders will need to define clear leadership expectations for all their leaders. They must also do the hard work to sustain their momentum in building a both strong leadership culture.

Finally, they must invest the time to help leaders create a sense of community across the entire organization.

Vince Molinaro, Ph.D., (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) is Founder and CEO of Leadership Contract Inc and is an author, speaker, leadership adviser and researcher. His most recent book, Accountable Leaders: Inspire a Culture Where Everyone Steps Up, Takes Ownership, and Delivers Results, came out in June. Molinaro has helped create one of the leading brands in the Human Capital industry, working in several key sectors including energy, pharmaceutical, professional services, technology, financial services, and the public sector. He is the author of four successful books, Leadership Solutions, The Leadership Gap, The Leadership Contract, and the Leadership Contract Field Guide.  His work has been featured in many of the world’s leading business publications, including The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and The World EconomicForum.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

How To Ask Remarkably Better Questions To Encourage Great Ideas

Guest post from Karin Hurt and David Dye:

You’ve asked your team for their great ideas.

You have an open door.

You’re also committed to MBWA (or in today’s pandemic-constrained world, Management By Clicking Around- MBCA). But if you’re like most leaders in our Courageous Cultures research, you’re still not getting all the great ideas you need. 


In our research conducted in conjunction with the University of North Colorado, despite all the asking leaders think they’re doing, 49% of employees said the reason they’re not sharing their great ideas (to improve the customer experience, efficiency in a process, or employee engagement) is because no one asked.

Laura’s story

Laura, an IT Vice President at a mid-sized energy company, was excited to spend some time with her teams, hold a few skip level meetings, and see their new system in action. Her team had been holding user-experience calls every week and all the feedback had been positive. She hoped to collect some great stories to share with the CEO about how the new system was making things easier for the customer service reps and, ultimately, for their customers.

Before her first meeting, Laura sat down with a customer service rep and asked the rep “Can you show me your favorite part of the new system?”

The rep attempted to pull up the first screen. But after five minutes they were both still staring at an hourglass and waiting for the page to load. The rep looked apologetically at Laura and said, “I’m sorry to waste your time. This usually takes a while.”

Laura’s jaw dropped. The vendor had promised the new system would be seven times faster – not slower. “Can you show me another page,” she asked.

She sat through another slow load time. She turned to the rep, “Is it always like this?”

“Oh, yeah. We’re used to it at this point, but the system has some other nice features.”

Laura thanked the rep and hurried to a quiet conference room where she could call her team. After ten minutes of testing, they realized that the center’s server didn’t have the capacity to run the new system. Hundreds of reps had been suffering through a ridiculous wait that wasted their time and their customers’ time.

Week after week, supervisors had sat on user experience calls, fully aware of the issue, and hadn’t said a word. No one had ever raised the issue.

After replacing the server and ensuring everything was back on track, Laura went back to the reps on the user experience team and asked why they had never brought this up.

“Well, no one ever asked us about the speed. Our boss told us that we needed to be “change agents” and role model excitement for the new system – no matter what. Under no circumstances were we to be negative. So, we just smiled, sucked it up, and dealt with it.”

Laura’s situation is far too common. The “no one asked” reply might be frustrating, but it is one of the most frequent obstacles to a Courageous Culture.

How to Ask Your Team For Their Great Ideas

If you want your teams great ideas, you need to do more than ask questions. That helps, but it’s not just that you ask. In Courageous Cultures, leaders ask regularly and skillfully. You ask in ways that draw out people’s best thinking, new ideas, and customer-focused solutions. Everyone knows that when you ask, you sincerely want to know and are committed to taking action on what you learn. Three qualities distinguish how leaders ask questions in a Courageous Culture: they are intentional, vulnerable, and action-focused.


Cultivating Curiosity starts with intention: you must ask—a lot. Your leaders have to ask more than might seem reasonable. This kind of asking goes way beyond an open-door policy. In fact, most open-door policies are a passive leadership cop-out. “I’m approachable. I have an open door,” puts the responsibility on the team, not the leader. That’s a problem because most of the ideas you need will never walk through your open door. There’s too much friction to overcome: time away from their normal work, not knowing how their manager will respond, or not even realizing they have an idea to share.


Have you ever watched a leader ask for feedback and then defensively justify their decisions and shoot down objections? When you ask questions that assume something needs to improve, you are more likely to get an honest response.

“What’s one thing that’s ticking off our customers?”

“What’s one policy driving everyone crazy?”


We’ve sat through strategic planning sessions and focus groups where leaders asked questions and everyone in the room knew that the answers didn’t matter. Sometimes, even when the leaders had good intentions, they lacked the ability or willingness to act on what they heard.

Your employees need to know that you will act on what you learn. Action takes many forms. It might be that you implement the idea, that the feedback informs your decision, that you take it all in and then respond with next steps, or maybe it’s simply releasing the team to take action on their ideas.

Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their
soul. They’re the founders of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm. They're the award-winning authors of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let's Grow Leaders. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.