Thursday, April 30, 2015

Great Bosses Don’t Discount Others, They Validate Others

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

I believe we are all leaders in our families, communities, and workplaces. “But wait,” you say, “I’m not a formal leader in my organization.” That may be - but it doesn’t mean that you’re not a powerful influencer. The reality is you are - we all are - in daily conversations with others.
Our conversations with others might have neutral impact. More likely, though, our conversations have a powerful impact. Those conversations inspire, discount, validate, or erode others’ skills, ideas, efforts, and accomplishments - whether we’re aware of it or not.

As powerful leaders and influencers, let’s carefully consider a leader's responsibilities - and a leader's reason for being.

In a recent post and podcast, I proposed this draft purpose of leadership:
“Effective leaders set high standards for performance and values, validate efforts and contributions, and ensure cooperative interaction and performance in a trusting, respectful work environment.”

So far, most people have said this rings true for them as they consider their best bosses, how those bosses behaved, and how they inspired top performance and great team citizenship. I’d love your feedback, as well.

I hope you can see how this purpose of leadership statement applies not only in the workplace, but in our communities, neighborhoods, and families, too.
I believe we are at our best as leaders and influencers when we express gratitude for people’s skills, efforts, and ideas . . . when we clarify purpose and goals . . . when we praise progress . . . when we redirect instead of punish . . . when we celebrate cooperative interaction, not competitive interaction.

What prompted this was a number of unfortunate interactions I overheard or observed recently. These were “you’re not good enough” messages, delivered unkindly.
The intent of the influencer (some were parents, some were formal leaders, some were peers) might have been to inspire greater performance from the listener. Their impact, though, was deflating and defeating. You could see it, immediately.

If what people are doing and saying is not beneficial, effective leaders and influencers must engage - to educate about the opportunity or reset the agreed-to goal or to listen and learn about what's getting in the way of aligned behavior and contribution.
There are hundreds of options available to us, as influencers, to value the listener while inspiring aligned behavior.

Degrading, deflating, dismissing, or discounting a person’s efforts, skills, progress, and ideas is not going to create an engaged, willing partner.
Those behaviors certainly don’t create a safe, inspiring, engaging, productive environment with colleagues, family, or neighbors.

We leaders and influencers need to make civility a minimum standard in all of our interactions. We can control our words, our tone, our intent, our decisions, and our actions to be civil to others.
With a little extra consideration, we can extend that civility and reach towards acknowledging others and validating others' contributions.

How might you live the leader’s purpose in your next interaction? Plan ahead, be of service, and dive in.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. He’s the CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year career leading and managing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Since 1995, Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. 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. His blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don’t Let a Bad Apple Spoil the Bunch

One of the most effective ways to manage difficult employees is using a 90-day performance improvement plan. These plans, when structured and executed properly, can help coach an employee through the steps needed to change their behavior.

Read Beth Armknecht Miller’s new guest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

12 Ways to Develop Leadership Confidence

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

I was in a talent review meeting recently and we were discussing the strengths and development needs of a promising young leader. When I asked what the leader’s biggest development need was, the answer was “confidence”.
When faced with a development need, I can usually adlib a pretty good development plan, but I drew on a blank on this one. Total brain cramp. So I asked the rest of the group “So, how do you develop confidence?” The only answer they could come up with was “experience”. More specifically, to give the person time to build up a track record of wins.

But that can’t be the only way to develop leadership confidence, right? Sit back and wait? That wouldn’t explain why some young, early career leaders are oozing with confidence, and other more experienced, successful leaders still project a lack of confidence.
After doing a little research, I came up with the following 12 ways to develop leadership confidence. I’m sure there are way more, but these resonated with me and my own leadership development experience.

Next time, I’ll be able to rattle a few of them off, and I hope anyone wanting to develop leadership self-confidence can use the list to create their own development plan.
1. Learn about leadership. Take a course, read a few books, subscribe to this publication, and study the great leaders. Learn what leaders do and don’t do. Learn the frameworks, the tools, and the skills required to lead. The more you know about subject, including leadership, the more confident you’ll be.

2. Network with other leaders. While it’s good to learn about leadership from courses and reading, putting those good ideas to practice is hard and mistakes will be made. Having a network, or support group of peers is a healthy way to share common, real world challenges. It will give you a feeling of “I’m not the only one who feels this way”.

3. Develop realistic self-awareness. Knowing your leadership strengths will give you confidence, and facing up to your development needs will help you determine what you need to focus on to get better.
Feedback will give a leader realistic self-awareness. Leaders that ask for feedback are seen as more confident than those that don’t.

4. Help others be more successful. Leadership confidence isn’t just about building your own track record of wins. The essence of leadership is helping others around you become more successful. Help other gain self-awareness, coach them, and help put them in the best position to be successful.
5. Celebrate wins. When your team or colleagues hit a milestone or does something awesome, let them and everyone else know! This isn’t about tooting your own horn – it’s about getting into the habit of looking for and recognizing the wins of others.

6. Look confident. Pay attention to your physical appearance. Losing weight, getting in shape, a new pair of glasses, new hairstyle, a new suit, or a new pair of shoes can make you feel and look more confident. Watch your posture, make eye contact, smile, and use a firm grip when shaking hands.
7. Learn and practice positive psychology. Optimism and happiness can be learned.

8. Develop your emotional intelligence (EQ). Self-confidence is the mark of an emotionally intelligent leader. EQ isn’t something you are born with, it can be learned and developed.
9. Project confidence. While you may be terrified inside, learn to “fake it till you make it” by appearing that you are confident. Terrified of public speaking? Take a presentation skills course.

10. Ask others for help. Confident leaders know what they know and what they don’t know, and are not afraid to ask for help. They draw on the talents of others without feeling threatened.
11. Stop asking “mother may I” and make a decision. Confident leaders would rather ask for forgiveness than permission and are comfortable making decisions without having 100% certainty.

12. Develop a sense of humor. Well timed humor will break the tension in a stressful situation and help put the situation in perspective.
Working on all twelve of these at the same time would be overwhelming and impossible, so try picking 1-2 at a time. Look for incremental improvement and celebrate your success, and before you know it, you’ll feel and act like a more confident leader!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Growing Yourself, Your Team, and Your Business

Every person, every organization, and every business gets stuck. For successful people and businesses, it can be very hard to recognize that they are stuck and even harder to do what is necessary to break free of old ideas and habits to get back on the growth path.

Read David Greer’s guest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning from the Innovation Leaders

Guest post from Rowan Gibson:

Not since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has there been a greater need to learn the art of innovation leadership. In today’s hyper-accelerating, value-based economy the churn of “creative destruction” has become more intense than even Joseph Schumpeter could have imagined. Successful products, services, strategies, and business models now have a shorter shelf-life than ever before in business history, which means that “innovate or die” is not just a cute bumper sticker; it’s a brutal reality of twenty-first century competition.

As innovation moves from interesting to urgent on the corporate agenda, many leaders are recognizing that they feel much more comfortable with improving execution than with the creative challenge of industry revolution. Generating new ideas, recognizing those with breakthrough potential, and then mobilizing an organization to drive those ideas from the mind to the market – often in the face of substantial risk and uncertainty – is not something every CEO feels cut out to do. But as execution capabilities become commodities, and the life cycles of new offerings get increasingly shorter, it’s precisely these innovation skills that need to be learned. And who better to learn them from than the innovation leaders themselves?

Who do we think of as innovation leaders? In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was the industry-builders like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. In our own day, it’s industry disruptors like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or Richard Branson. But what exactly can today’s business leaders learn from these iconic innovators? What if individuals like these are simply wired differently from the rest of us, making them capable of innovating in ways that mere mortals, or ordinary companies—cannot possibly hope to match? This is certainly what folklore, and often the innovators themselves, would have us believe. But it turns out not to be the case. In fact, any leader – and any organization – can learn to emulate the thinking patterns of the world’s greatest innovators.

If one looks deeply at hundreds of examples of business innovation, an interesting pattern begins to emerge. Specifically, what we find is that, time and again, innovation came not from some inherent, individual brilliance but from looking at the world from a completely fresh perspective. It came from an alternative way of seeing things – a different set of “lenses” – that enabled the innovators to look through the familiar and spot the unseen. In fact, four essential perspectives or “perceptual lenses” seem to dominate most innovation stories, and often also characterize the entrepreneurs behind them:

1. Challenging Orthodoxies: Questioning and overturning common assumptions inside companies and across whole industries about what drives success. Innovation leaders never accept that there is only one “right” way of doing things. They take a contrarian stance. They are willing to challenge even the most deeply entrenched beliefs, and to explore new and perhaps highly unconventional answers.

Recall how Nicolas Hayek trashed traditions in the Swiss Watch industry by introducing Swatch. Or how Ingvar Kamprad turned furniture retail on its head with IKEA’s radical self-pick-up and self-assembly model. Or how Herb Kelleher upended air travel with Southwest’s low-cost, no-frills, fun-in-the-air approach. Consider James Dyson’s bagless vacuum cleaner, or Michael Dell’s rejection of computer dealer channels in favor of manufacturing and selling individually configured PCs directly to customers.

2. Harnessing Trends: Spotting patterns of change that could substantially change the rules of the game. Innovation leaders pay close attention to nascent trends and discontinuities that have the potential to profoundly impact the future of an industry – changes that others often ignore until it’s too late. Innovators make sure they are riding these waves of change rather than being washed away by them.

Jeff Bezos recognized the revolutionary portent of e-commerce back in 1994 when he read a trend report about the explosive growth of internet usage. He asked himself what kind of business model would make sense in the context of such exponential growth, and his answer was Amazon’s original online bookstore. Soon afterward, he expanded this business to become the “Wal-Mart of the Web” while Wal-Mart itself hesitated to grab this opportunity. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix understood what Internet-based video streaming would eventually do to DVD-based rentals. At the right time he shifted his business model to ride the oncoming wave of on-demand media while Blockbuster video got hit by the tsunami.

3. Leveraging Resources: Thinking of a company as a portfolio of skills and assets rather than as a provider of products or services for specific markets. Innovation leaders look for ways to repurpose, redeploy, and recombine various resources to create exciting new growth opportunities.

Consider how Walt Disney – or the folks from ESPN – leveraged core competencies and strategic assets to build global entertainment empires. Or how Richard Branson turned a single record store in London, UK, into a conglomerate comprising over 400 companies in a range of different industries. Or how Larry Page and Sergey Brin stretched beyond search, expanding into productivity software, operating systems, hardware, self-driving cars, advanced robotics, and even life-extension technologies.

4. Understanding Needs: Learning to live inside the customer’s skin, empathizing with unarticulated feelings and identifying unmet needs. Innovation leaders put themselves in the customer’s shoes and are able to feel their “pain points.” Then they design solutions from the customer backward.

Gary and Diane Heavin noticed that gyms were not catering to the needs of women. Their answer was Curves—a women-only club which is now the world’s largest fitness franchise chain. Fred Smith saw the need for a global, overnight courier service and turned his idea into Fedex. Nobody asked Steve Jobs for an iPod, an IPhone, or an iPad but somehow he knew that we would want – and need – these things.

So what can we learn from the innovation leaders? A great deal. In my new book “The Four Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool For Creative Thinking,” I explain exactly how we can use the above four perspectives to emulate the mind of the innovator and to unlock the brainpower of our organizations.

Rowan Gibson is recognized as one of the world’s foremost thought leaders on innovation. His new book, The Four lenses of Innovation (Wiley), examines the thinking patterns or perspectives that have been catalysts for breakthrough innovation throughout human history, and shows you how to use these perspectives to infuse creativity into your organization.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

10 Tips for Hiring Awesome Employees

Management is easy when you have great employees! Invest the time in hiring the best people and you won’t have to invest the time later in in dealing with difficult employees.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 10 tips to select great employees.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Poor Listener Syndrome (PLS): 7 Causes and Cures

One of the most important skills for any leader is listening. Listening demonstrates respect, concern, an openness to new ideas, empathy, compassion, curiosity, trust, loyalty, and receptivity to feedback – all considered to be qualities of an effective leader.

Listening isn’t rocket science. We are born with the ability to listen, yet somehow we seem to forget how to use this natural born gift. Listening is one of the most consistently lowest rated behaviors in 360 degree feedback assessments for managers.

It’s a management disease – Poor Listener Syndrome (PLS)!

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to learn about the 7 causes and cures for poor management listening. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

8 Tips to Leading a Great Strategic Planning Session

Guest post from Patrick Thean:

In business, a leader’s ability to strategically plan for the company’s future is of the highest importance. Your company will not be successful if you don’t have the strategies and execution plans in place to reach your objectives.

Great plans stem from great planning sessions. However, planning sessions are traditionally viewed as boring and unproductive. In fact, according to a recent survey, 71 percent of professionals in the U.S. felt that meetings were fruitless. This is a direct result of poorly executed meetings.

The key to leading a great planning session is to keep them effective, engaging and able to produce results. In my book, “Rhythm: How To Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth,” I provide practical tools and tips on how to effectively lead your team toward strategic goals and objectives. Here, I lay out eight key tips that can turn a boring planning session into one that is engaging and productive.

1.     Have a goal already in mind.
Set clear objectives for each planning session. Make sure that your executives are fully aware of the end goals and come prepared with different ways of reaching them.

2.     Create an agenda.
Put as much thought as possible into an agenda that outlines the meeting and send it to your executives a week before the meeting so they can be prepared to discuss the topics at hand and make well-informed decisions. 
3.     Come prepared.
Spend some time before the meeting thinking about the past year or past quarter. Know what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be improved to achieve goals in the future. And of course, make sure your team comes prepared as well.
4.     Set the right tone.
It is very important to have the right tone during these meetings. Having each team member share something positive, a successful business outcome perhaps, is a great way to start a meeting on a high note. It can also be useful in getting people acclimated to participating in the discussions. 

5.     Be effective
Don’t worry so much about getting through everything on the agenda; rather, focus on the right discussions that will deliver concrete results. Be sure to slow down the meeting during the more important and sensitive topics. 

6.     Have an idea repository.
When a topic comes up that is not on the agenda, put it on a list for later. This way, the meeting can always come back to the person who brought up that specific topic. This tactic helps your executives to know that their thoughts and concerns are important and will be heard throughout the meeting.

7.     Make light of every issue.
Every company has an ‘elephant in the room’ that it doesn’t want to discuss. Making light of these topics is great for clearing the air and coming up with a plan and a solution. Don’t be afraid to address these topics. 

8.     End the meeting at a reasonable time.
Tired people don’t always make the best decisions. If the session is running too long, end the meeting – especially if there are big decisions that need to be made. Thinking about these choices overnight never hurts. Be sure to have a backup plan for the next day to cover the information that didn’t fit into the first session. 

Planning sessions are essential to the success of an organization. As a leader, it is up to you to cultivate a discussion that can successfully prepare your teams while producing positive ideas and more importantly, results. 

About Patrick Thean: 
Patrick Thean is the CEO and co-founder of Rhythm Systems, a cloud-based strategy execution software platform that facilitates airtight execution and measurability for mid-market CEOs. A serial entrepreneur, bestselling author and frequent speaker, Patrick is best known for helping companies accelerate their growth by focusing on great execution.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Things That Employees Can do to Annoy Their Managers.

I recently published a list of 30 things that managers can do that are sure to annoy their employees.

It only seems fair that I should give equal time to management, so read my latest post over at About Management and Leadership for a list of 10 things that employees can do to annoy their managers.

Why 30 and 10? It was way easier to come up with annoying manager behaviors. Hmmm..., wonder why?

Take a look at both lists and come back and comment.

Monday, April 13, 2015

30 Ways to Annoy Your Employees

Read my latest post over at About Management and Leadership for a list of 30 things that managers can do that are sure to annoy their employees, lower morale, and increase turnover.

Feel free to add to the list back here in the comments section. Go ahead, get it off your chest!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Meetings: Three Ways to Respond to Ineffective Behavior

Guest post from Paul Axtell:

Any time you lead or participate in a meeting, you are going to be confronted with situations and behaviors that don’t work. Good people do things that don’t work for others, and often times, they don’t even know it.

Take a moment and answer these two questions:

1. What are two things you do in a meeting that probably don’t work for others?  (Interrupting, using technology, having side conversations, hijacking the conversation, resisting what someone says, etc.)

2. Thinking about the people who work with you, what feedback would you give to each person if they asked you for guidance on how to improve in meetings?

Recognizing these behaviors and addressing them is necessary to maintain the viability of the meeting and the group. In my 35 years working as a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer, these are the most common questions and complaints I’ve heard about meetings:  

§  How do I handle the person who keeps interrupting others?

§  What about the person who goes on and on and on or brings up the same point over and over?

§  What can we do about the person who makes negative comments?

§  How can we get people to do what they say they are going to do?

As a leader, it is your responsibility to provide feedback to your people.  And you need to be a role model for giving feedback.  You need to set high standards in how you interact with people when they are being a bit difficult. Respond in a way that the person you are interacting with will appreciate and so will those who are watching the interaction. Respond in a way that matches your standards. Avoid doing anything that, upon later reflection, you might wish you hadn’t done.

In dealing with behavior that doesn’t work, you have three options in increasing order of confrontation:

Option 1. Let it go and make it work without taking it on.
You simply wait for the behavior to stop, then restart as though it didn’t happen. This often is the best move because it is the most comfortable for everyone and least confronting. The downside, of course, is that the behavior goes unchallenged and perhaps unnoticed, and sometimes the quality of the group conversation suffers as a result. 

Option 2. Stop the behavior in the moment and ask for what you want.
This is a bit confronting, but it does lessen the impact of the behavior. It also allows you to take a stand for best conversational practices. The trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t make someone wrong or upset the group conversation. Your intention to be supportive and your tone of voice are important.

Option 3. Speak with the person away from the group setting.
Let the individual know that the behavior is distracting, disempowering, and costly to you and the group. This is the most confronting of the three options, but it is the mostly likely option for producing a long-term change in the behavior.

Remember, when providing feedback:

• If your intention is to be supportive, you will be.

• Most people appreciate being told, if they feel you are sincere.

• What’s comfortable in the short term isn’t what’s best in the long term.

I’m not advocating saying whatever comes to mind or giving feedback to anyone at any time. I am advocating that you be observant and thoughtful about what feedback you might give to people to whom you are committed. In particular, you want to do something about patterns because they not only disrupt the group, but the pattern lessens the group’s respect for the person.  

If you trust yourself, trust the other person, and trust the conversation, it will turn out. 

Paul Axtell has more than 35 years of experience as a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer. He has spent the last 15 years designing and leading programs that enhance individual and group performance within large organizations. He is also the author of the new book, Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

8 Management Myth Busters!

Do managers make more money? Do they get to order people around? Do the best performers make the best managers? Do managers have more freedom?
Read the 8 common myths about management and the reality behind the myths over at Management and Leadership.

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Questions you MUST Answer Before Becoming a Manager

The decision to become a manager is an important one and should not be taken lightly. It’s important to do some self-reflection, and examine your values and true motivations.  

See my latest post at Management and Leadership for the  3 Questions you MUST Answer before Becoming a Manager.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 10 Commandments of Hiring Great Talent

Guest post from Michael Travis:

Many managers — maybe most of them — struggle with recruiting.

The reasons aren’t surprising. Recruiting is a complicated skill, and very few companies or business schools teach it. Young managers are thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim, and more seasoned managers have nowhere to turn when grappling with difficult problems, or when they want to tune up their skills.

Given this unhappy state of affairs, it’s worth revisiting the basic tenets of good recruiting practice. Let’s call them recruiting’s Ten Commandments:

1. Make Recruiting a Priority
Doing a great job with recruiting takes a lot of time. Most executives profess recruiting is a top priority, but very few practice what they preach. That’s because it’s so easy to put off recruiting tasks when faced with short-term problems that appear to be more urgent. Don’t let that happen. Delay is the root cause of many of the most common recruiting failures.

2. Know What You Want
Many recruiting projects founder because the hiring manager hasn’t clearly defined the job or the profile of ideal candidates. It goes without saying that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it. You're not ready to start searching until you can distill the job and candidate description down to one page.
3. Treat People Well
Treating people well attracts great talent. Conversely, treating people poorly repels the best candidates first, leaving only those who are so desperate that they’re willing to tolerate poor treatment.

4. Make the Interview a Conversation
If you approach the interview as an interrogation, the only thing you will learn is name, rank and serial number. Candidates are much more forthcoming if you help them relax and engage in a conversation.

5. Get Help
We’ve already established that recruiting takes a lot of time, and managers already have too much on their plates. That’s why getting help from a competent HR professional or recruiter is so important. They provide trusted counsel, and relieve the hiring manager from many of the more mundane aspects of recruiting so he is free to focus on what’s most important — making hiring decisions

6. Remember to Sell
Too many executives approach recruiting solely as a buyer. They fail to recognize that recruiting is a complicated transaction in which both sides are simultaneously selling themselves and evaluating each other. The best candidates will walk away if they don’t hear a compelling case for why they would want the job.

7. Ask for Advice
Perfection in recruiting is unattainable. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. The best hiring managers know they don’t have all the answers, and reach out to trusted colleagues and mentors regularly to talk through knotty problems.

8. Take References Seriously
References are more important than the interview because they provide third-party testimony that balances the candidate’s self-interested story. The old guideline of three references is grossly inadequate — eight to twelve is a more reasonable number. Keep talking to references until you stop hearing new things. Only then are you done.

9. Help New Hires Get Started. A new hire’s start date is the end of the beginning. Next comes the hard work — making him a productive member of the team. Too many hires fail because they don’t learn the new business and new culture fast enough. Don’t let that happen — develop a plan to help new hires come up to speed quickly.

10.Take Charge of Your Education
Don’t expect help. Companies and business schools don’t teach recruiting, even though it’s a fundamental business skill. That means managers who want to excel at recruiting must take charge of their own education.

Following these commandments will improve any manager’s recruiting batting average. It’s worth remembering, however, that recruiting is just one piece of the talent puzzle. After great people are hired, they must be convinced to stay. That means identifying top performers, helping them develop their skills, and showing them a compelling career path.

Michael Travis, principal of recruiting firm Travis & Company, is on a mission to help companies completely avoid the negative consequences of a bad hire by finding the right candidate the first time, every time. He is sharing his tried-and-true techniques to hiring smart in his new book, Mastering the Art of Recruiting: How to Hire the Right Candidate for the Job. Considered an expert in topics relating to executive search, Travis is frequently featured in the media and his insights have been in outlets like The New York Times, Boston Business Journal and Executive Recruiter News. For more information visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Keeping the Devil’s Advocate in Check: Conflict Resolution for Small Groups

Business leaders have long been taught the benefits of cultivating diverse teams made up of individuals with unique backgrounds and perspectives. It has been well documented that diversity breeds creativity and innovation, and diverse teams are usually more productive and more efficient than homogenous teams. However, diverse teams can often experience conflict. In many cases, conflict can be very healthy for a group. In some cases, however, conflict can impede productivity and decision-making.  In order to ensure that diverging opinions do not become a roadblock for success, leaders should take a creative approach to conflict resolution.
Read the rest of Beth Armknecht Miller's guest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how.