Sunday, August 31, 2014

10 Stupid Games that Managers Play

This post was recently published at Smartblog on Leadership:

Most managers are rationale, logical, practical problem solvers when they first get promoted. Then, through organizational conditioning, they learn to play silly games. They are like the frog in a pan of boiling water. The change is so gradual, these silly games eventually begin to feel like “real world management.”
How many of these silly management games do you play? More importantly, do you have the courage to speak up and stop the insanity?

We’ll start with some silly budgeting games:
1. “Use it or lose it budgeting.” This is when you are getting close to the end of the year and your budget is running under your forecast. In previous years, when you underspent, your next year’s budget was set based on that year’s actual. So, in order not to have your budget cut again, you go on a shopping spree — buying stuff you really don’t need or stocking up just in case you might need it.

2. “Lowballing your forecast.” This one is kind of the opposite of No. 1. In this game, the idea if to “sandbag,” or undercommit to what you think you can actually do. That way, then the powers above ask you to increase your goal, you know you can do it. Then, you look even better for exceeding your target.
3. “The shell game.” This is when orders are given to cut expenses in one category, i.e., travel, so you increase spending in another catalog, i.e., conferences, and bury the costs. Or, management says to reduce money spent on postage, so you spend more money on bike couriers. There is a net gain of zero, perhaps even an increase in spending.

Human resources’ silly games (a category with infinite possibilities!):
4. “Pass the trash.” This is when you “encourage” an underperforming employee to apply for other jobs within the company. When you are asked for a reference, you give glowing reviews, or use code word phrases like “Oh, Wally is a great guy! He just needs an opportunity to leverage his skills in a new environment more suited to his strengths.”

5. “A warm body is better than no body.” Hiring freezes bring out a lot of silly management gamesmanship. This one is when you have an underperforming employee, but you won’t take action because you’re afraid you won’t be able to replace the headcount. So the rest of your employees get to suffer the consequences.
6. “Gladiators.” This is when you ask two employees to work on the same problem. Let ‘em duke it out and let the best solution emerge!

Organizational silly games:
7. “Risk” (empire building). “Risk” is the game of conquest, where one army invades another country and captures the land in order to build up an empire. I’ve heard managers also call this game “a land grab.” The idea is to lobby to your boss and anyone that will listen that your department can do the other department’s job better than they can, so you should take it over.

8. “Shaking the bird cage.” Some employees call frequent, questionable reorganizations “shaking up the bird cage.” You get a lot of noisy chaos and ruffled feathers flying, and at the end of the day, the same bunch are sitting on different perches, albeit a little dizzy from all of the cage-rattling. Nothing else seems to change.
Strategy silly games:

9. “Trivial Pursuit.” This is when the company has no strategy, so the manager keeps everyone busy fighting day-today fires, jumping from one hot priority to the next.
10. “Clue.” This is when the company does have a strategy, but it’s such a secret or so high level and vague that the manager has to guess what it is or make up their own.

How about you? Any to add to the list?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Social Media and EQ in the Workplace

When employees are unable to manage their emotional intelligence there can be a negative impact on your organization. And when social media is added to the mix, the impact can go viral and be more significant. 

Read Beth Armknecht Miller's guest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how to deal with this tricky issue.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Connect with An Audience—It’s One of Your Most Important Leadership Skills

Guest post from Gary Genard:

Perhaps the biggest public speaking mistake emerging leaders make is to focus on delivering information. But a leader never gives a speech to convey content. Instead, the aim should be to influence—and often activate—listeners.

Your purpose, then, needs to inform all of your other choices when you speak.

In fact, things should be much easier for you if you think like that.  The dry delivery of information is seldom interesting. But the speaker who can put that information into context and reveal why it matters vitally to the audience—well, that speaker will likely be both more memorable and successful.

Connecting with Your Audience is Critical to Effective Communication Skills

To achieve such effective communication, you need to pay particular attention to the planning stage of your speech. Don’t be like the leader who says, “I know this stuff cold . . . I’ll just go out and talk about it.”

Your speech or presentation must have shape—in fact, you need to recognize that speaking is a strategic activity. Neglect to consider how your talk will be perceived in the minds of your listeners, and you’re almost certain to ramble. After all, to quote 19th-century novelist Sarah Orne Jewett, your job as a speaker is to “be brisk, be splendid, and be public.”

Let’s look at three ways you can do so in your preparation to speak as a leader, and one method of achieving that aim in performance.

How to Start a Speech with a Strong Introduction

The concept of primacy states that audiences will retain best what they experience first. That means you must think carefully about how to start your speech. How, in other words, will you get your audience on board immediately, and keep them there?

The way to do so is by using one of the rhetorical devices that presenters have been employing for centuries to grab their listeners’ attention. You know what many of these devices are, because you’ve heard them used often. They include a story, quotation, statistic, personal anecdote, case study or client testimonial, demonstration, visual, expert testimony, or even today’s headline or a musical cue. Remember, your audience and the speaking situation are the best guides to choosing an approach that will get you off to a strong start.

Ending with a Clincher Will Help Seal the Deal

And what about the other end of your speech? Actually, a similar communication component is taking place here—the concept of recency—that says that audiences strongly retain what they experience last.

In other words, you want what you say to continue to resonate in your listeners’ minds. If your speech is persuasive, you may want audience members to take some action. In either case, you need that effect to occur after you’ve finished speaking, sometimes long after. Will that happen if you have a perfunctory closing, or simply recap your message? Not a chance.

Here’s the good news about this part of your presentation: you can choose from the same rhetorical devices you consulted for your introduction. Not the same device; just the same list. If you opened with a quotation, consider ending with a story, etc. The idea is to conclude your remarks in a way that goes beyond mere content, to be vivid and memorable.

Leadership Qualities Must Include Rapport

Let’s say you’ve thought strategically about your speech and have come up with an effective grabber and a great clincher. You know that the actual body of your speech—the part between that opener and closer—is solid content and will take care of itself in keeping listeners interested.

Well, no, it probably won’t. If you want to actually lead audiences, you need to strongly establish rapport with them. That means keeping them interested throughout your talk, not just in the high-visibility Introduction and Conclusion.

To do so, you need to think consciously about that audience’s engagement. How will you take the information you’re ready to impart, and shape it in a way that will never let your listeners disengage? I once had a client who asked me to help her with a full-day training she was going to be conducting. It turns out she was planning to give three long PowerPoint presentations to make up the day. You can believe we started seriously exploring how she would build in engagement instead.

And Now for Performance: How’s Your Body Language?

If you proceed according to the above suggestions, you’ll be thinking in both strategic and tactical terms, and the chances are good you’ll have planned wonderfully. Once that’s done, you’re ready for the really fun part of your talk or presentation: the performance.

Here especially, the content will never be able to carry the full load of influence you’re aiming for with your audience. You need to tap into that vast reservoir of successful communication that depends upon nonverbal communication.

And that, in turn, means effective body language. Forget what you’ve heard about the “meaning” of specific gestures—for it’s the context of the body language an audience sees that matters. Think in terms of physical expression, i.e., using gestures that amplify, support, or strengthen what you’re saying. Consider your movement and position in your performance space as well, whether it’s the front of a boardroom or a large elevated stage, or something in between.

When you move, you are more visually interesting, you show that you can command a stage (as a leader must), and you actually improve your own thinking as you’re speaking. It’s one more way to connect with your audience and demonstrate your leadership skills.
About the author:
Gary Genard, PhD, is an actor, communications professor, and speech coach, as well as author of FEARLESS SPEAKING:  Beat Your Anxiety • Build Your Confidence • Change Your Life.  Creator of The Genard Method of performance-based public speaking training, he has spent the past fifteen years helping people from all walks of life cope with speech anxiety and stage fright.  Genard coaches executives and senior professionals in speaking for leadership, and has worked with Citigroup, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, the U.S. State Department and Congress, the United Nations, and many others. For more information visit

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees

I know, you've heard it a zillion times before: the importance in taking the time and effort to develop your employees.

So why aren't you?

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees.

How many of these are you engaged in for each of your employees?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Leadership and Management Lessons from Fantasy Football!?

I, along with approximately 36 million other knuckleheads, am a fantasy football addict. I've been playing in a league for few years now and love it!

Are there any leadership or management lessons to be gleaned from fantasy football? May a few, but read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out

Why You Shouldn’t Lead Your Real Team Like You Manage Your Fantasy Football Team.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leaders: Tame the Brain’s Fight-or-Flight Response and Give Helpful Feedback

Guest post by Anna Carroll:

Almost every boss recognizes the need to give honest and frequent feedback to their employees about what they are doing well and what needs improvement.  Yet, according to my research with over 1100 leaders at all levels, almost half of all leaders avoid feedback altogether, and over 80% don’t do it all that well. Less than 5% are delivering super-helpful feedback on a regular basis.

Big Impact
Employees, especially young and hard-to-retain workers, complain that their bosses deprive them of feedback. HR professionals spend a lot of time preventing or dealing with the damage that occurs from avoiders, and companies lose big when talent isn’t developed and mistakes go uncorrected. 

So 95% of all leaders have room to grow in the feedback department. Why is this such a pervasive problem for organizations of all shapes and sizes?

Fear and Stress
There are a number of reasons given for the feedback gap. But the most common and hard-to-budge problem experienced by leaders is the fear and stress they experience when attempting to talk honestly to an employee or colleague about the need to improve, why they need to improve, and how they can improve.  Being asked to give feedback is similar to being asked to physically harm another person. So no one really wants to go there.

The Emotional Brain Rules
If it sounds irrational that leaders skip over something as important as feedback, it quite literally IS illogical. MRI studies of feedback givers’ brains trace which parts of the brain “light up” as they attempt to give feedback. The task of giving feedback triggers so much fear and trepidation that brain cells rush from the frontal cerebral cortex where the brain’s reasoning ability is coordinated toward the emotional parts of the brain where cortisol and other emergency chemicals are shot off to fight or escape the feedback “enemy.”

Calm Your Brain for Success with Feedback: 4 Steps to Success
You are already ahead of the game by simply knowing the effects of feedback on your brain. If you take conscious actions that will tame your brain, you can become one of the top 5% of great feedback-giving leaders.

Step #1: Recognize your brain states as a natural human tendency and notice when you are experiencing emotional responses as you prepare for giving feedback. Take a few deep breaths and continue observing your own thoughts.  Imagine a picture or symbol—such as a blue ribbon or a smiling, successful employee to focus on each time you feel a surge of stress during a feedback conversation. Know that at first, there will be an ebb and flow of stress, but that with practice the stress will lessen.

Step #2: Reframe the meaning of feedback. Remind yourself why you wish to give excellent, helpful feedback and what it will do for each of your team members. De-sensitize the old associations you have with feedback and fears that people will be hurt by it.

Step #3: Redirect your feedback actions so that it creates more positive associations by you and your employees. In the past, you probably waited too long to discuss issues which could have been more readily resolved. Now your team members can trust that you will initiate a helpful feedback conversation right away.

Step #4: Revel in your success. This sounds goofy but there is a scientific basis in reveling. MIT researchers and others have discovered that the brain’s neuroplasticity can be activated subconsciously through the experience of success. After you and your employee benefit from the feedback experience, the brain takes note of what it did right and increases your motivation to give even more helpful feedback in the future.

You have begun a virtuous cycle. The more comfortable you are with giving feedback, the more effective you will become as a feedback giver. Less and less negative associations will be present to trigger fight or flight brain chemicals. Your fear will transform into enthusiasm for great feedback conversations!

About the author:
Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an author, speaker, and organization consultant who specializes in workplace trends and leadership excellence. In her recent book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, she helps leaders at all levels overcome their obstacles to giving feedback. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Manage Your Boss So Your Boss Won't Micro-Manage You

What is “managing up” and why is it so important? Managing up means establishing and maintaining a positive and productive relationship with you manager so that your manager’s needs are met and you get what you need from your manager.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how to manage up.

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Fatal Flaws Managers Make When Setting Annual Employee Goals

While no employee goal setting process is perfect, there’s one that I would recommend that seems to address most of the flaws of others.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to Create Persuasive Presentations with PowerPoint

Guest post by Laura Brown:
According to one estimate, 30 million PowerPoint presentations occur every day throughout the world, and most of us are pretty jaded by now. PowerPoint was originally conceived as a persuasive tool; in a 1986 marketing report for its predecessor, an early program called Presenter, developer Robert Gaskins writes enthusiastically about the "very large number of businesspeople" who regularly make presentations to "persuade others to make a decision, to approve a course of action, or to accept a result."i In the wrong hands, however, PowerPoint can become a real demotivator, as anyone who's ever experienced "PowerPoint hell" or "death by PowerPoint" can attest. All is not lost, though. These tips can help you create a truly engaging PowerPoint and harness the persuasive power of the world's most popular presenting tool.

  • Think from your audience's point of view, and build your presentation from there. You may be really excited to tell your listeners all about your new idea or product, but you'll serve your audience better if narrow your material based on their needs. Put yourself in your listeners' shoes as you consider length, scope, and level of detail. How can you solve their problems? What questions are they likely to have? Be willing to trim content if necessary. Focusing on the needs and expectations of the audience can transform the way you plan and build your presentations, and it can mean the difference between a presentation that's engaging and persuasive and one that makes your audience want to jump out the window.

  • Be very clear about what you want your audience to do. Presentations are often used in the sales process, but ask yourself this . . . do people make the sale with the presentation alone? Typically not. If the presentation doesn't clinch the sale or the decision, what exactly is it doing then? How does it move the decision process along, and what is the next step you'd like the audience to take? Is there a demo to try, customization options to explore? A persuasive presentation contains a call to action, even if it's just to invite the audience to learn more about the product or idea. The clearer you are about the role of the presentation in your overall process, the more successful you'll be at creating a presentation that persuades your audience and inspires them to act.

  • Create memorable slides. Your slides have two purposes: to act as prompts for your presentation (see the bullet below), and to reinforce the points you want your audience to remember. Choose four or five main points from your talk that you want your audience to retain -- studies show they are unlikely to retain more than that, so be judicious. Then create graphically clean slides that effectively frame and reinforce your chosen points. The eyes of your audience should be able to light on your slides and register the meaning instantly without any conscious effort at processing the information -- and without diverting their attention from you. Don't clutter your slides with lots of content. You want your audience to remember having seen your concepts as well as heard them: experiencing the content visually aids in retention. Slides that are heavy with text and images are harder to take in than streamlined slides that feature lots of white space. If you have detailed information that you want your audience to have, you can create a leave-behind version of your deck with more complete content.

  • Engage with your audience, not with your slides. When it comes time to give the presentation, your attention should be focused on your audience, not on the screen behind you. Never, ever stand there and read your slides. Your audience can read faster than you can speak; they will read ahead of you and lose interest waiting for you to catch up. Use the content on your slide as prompts for your talk, to keep yourself organized and on track. A presentation is a kind of performance: to succeed, you must rehearse and become thoroughly familiar with your material rather than leaning heavily on your slides for information. If you take the time to get truly comfortable with your content, you'll exude confidence and form a real bond with your audience, rather than limping along constantly looking back over your shoulder. It's the dynamic human connection, even more than the quality of your information that creates real persuasive engagement during a presentation.
Thirty years ago, a software genius named Robert Gaskins had a vision of helping millions of business people create persuasive presentations easily and inexpensively, and PowerPoint was born. Despite its misuse over the years, PowerPoint still has terrific potential to engage audiences because it can combine both verbal and visual information with real live human interaction. Creating and delivering slides with your audience's experience in mind can help you exploit that potential and move your listeners to action. 

Author Bio 
Laura Brown, PhD, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide, has taught writing to just about everyone -- from corporate executives to high school students. She has more than twenty-five years' experience providing training and coaching in business writing, and she has also taught composition and literature at Columbia University. Her expertise encompasses instructor-led training, individual coaching, classroom teaching, and e-learning development. She has worked with clients such as Morgan Stanley, AOL Time Warner, Citigroup, DHL and MetLife. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Please Don't Make me Wear a Funny Hat at Work in the Name of Having "Fun"!

I’m all for creating and maintaining a work environment where people can feel like winners, have a high degree of autonomy, and enjoy the people they work with. Coming to work should not feel like going to the dentist to get a root canal. Work should be challenging, engaging, energizing, and maybe even enjoyable (at least more often than not).

But should work be “fun”?

It depends. Read my latest article over at Management and Leadership to get my take on fun at work.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Exactly is a "High Potential"?

Organizations will often use labels to such as ‘rising stars”, “fast trackers”, or “high flyers” to classify employees who are seen as promotable to the next one or two levels, or the having the capacity to grow significantly – above and beyond their current role.

The most common label I’ve heard used is “high potential”, or sometimes “Hipo” as an abbreviation.

Read my latest article over at Management and Leadership to find out how to spot a Hipo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The August Leadership Development Carnival

The August Leadership Development is up!

This month's Carnival is all about Motivational and Inspiring Leadership. It's hosted by Shawn Murphy and his team over at Switch and Shift.

You can find it right here.