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.