Workplace Wisdom

18 Apr 2017

How to Up Your Team’s Game with Questions

A media director asked me for a simple, straightforward approach to developing his very new team’s knowledge and proficiency. He explained that he has no time or budget for formal training or workshops. My strong recommendation: Ask questions! There’s nothing like a boss asking questions about why things are the way they are, or how things should be, to get employees focused and their brains working. When it’s their boss asking, employees will want to give an acceptable answer. When […]

11 Apr 2017

Sorry, Leaders Aren’t Entitled to Be Opinionated

“But I’m entitled to my opinion!” a vice president insisted. I was facilitating a work session with a client’s leadership team. Our goal was to resolve a longstanding business problem, with the full participation of dueling factions within the group. If you’ve ever been part of a management team that’s going in circles on a crucial issue, you know the process can cause great offense, and fuel anger and resentment. That’s why a facilitator can be useful: to help participants […]

28 Mar 2017

This Is How to Lead from the Ground Up

Leadership can be a function of raw power, or of influence. Based on analysis of a current news item, here are seven underlying principles that, when applied properly and consistently, ought to make any leadership coach proud. They’re not easy to practice, but they’re laid out clearly in the story of controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Leadership Lessons from the Field of Play Do everything you can with whatever you’ve been given, even if it’s less than others have. Colin Kaepernick […]

14 Mar 2017

Accountability: Be Careful What You Wish For

“Why is no one ever held accountable here?” A vice president was fuming at me, and not for the first time. “Why do we always act like everything’s fine instead of holding people accountable?” I’ve worked with a lot of companies, and the topic of accountability doesn’t come up unless someone thinks another person or group isn’t managing their end of things, and ought to take the blame. Sometimes it’s actually a veiled request for the leadership to swoop in […]

07 Mar 2017

Want More Engaged Employees? Help Your Leaders Improve

Do an online search for “employee engagement” and you’ll get 10.6 million hits. Search for “employee attrition” and you’ll come up with 1.38 million hits. The old line is that employees don’t leave companies, they leave their manager. In fact, Gallup’s 2015 study, The State of the American Manager, found that fully 50 percent of employees left their jobs “to get away from their manager,” and that “managers account for up to 70 percent of variance in engagement.” So, if […]

28 Feb 2017

A Surprising Example of Disruptive Skill

This morning, on the train heading into New York City, I watched a woman put on her makeup. She had the application down to an art: reaching into the cosmetic bag on her lap to find the next product; holding up her mirror with one hand and her makeup applicator with the other; and occasionally putting down both to sip from the travel mug gripped between her knees, or interrupting her process to text and take calls, always easily returning […]

21 Feb 2017

How to Reduce the Risk of Shooting from the Hip

Years ago, I had a client who actually used to say, “Fire! Aim! Ready!” when he was issuing some decree or other. This business owner acknowledged he was shooting from the hip, reacting suddenly and without considering the impact of his words or his actions. Often there would be collateral damage, when his of-the-moment command or policy didn’t account for all the aspects of a situation or account for other initiatives that were already under way. Too frequently, employees ended […]

14 Feb 2017

4 Powerful Steps on the Way to Cross-Functional Agreement

I had a call with an up-and-coming middle manager who presented a complex situation and then asked a sincere question. A small cross-functional working group was trying to resolve some interdepartmental workflow and boundary issues. They had been dealing with — and avoiding — the same difficulties and discrepancies for almost 18 months out of fear of impending loss of status, staff, self-determination, etc., for at least some of the group’s members. “We have the brains” to work on the […]

31 Jan 2017

Stay Out of the Trap of One-Off Leadership

Many business owners prefer to make all their decisions on a case-by-case basis, as determined by their deep understanding of individual circumstances and well-developed gut instinct. They resist creating formal policy, believing that each situation calls for unique, specialized treatment — whether it’s resolving customer complaints or dealing with employees’ problems. An Argument on Behalf of Policy But the one-off approach isn’t always efficient or appropriate. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who started out with the assumption that decisions made […]

24 Jan 2017

How to Find Agreement When You Come from Opposite Sides

I’m very lucky to experience much less disagreement or outright conflict on the job than most people. Although my clients’ views may differ from mine in many ways, it’s implicit in our relationship that we’re mutually committed to figuring things out together and coming to the strongest possible joint solutions. But some of the folks I work with have dozens of crucial disagreements every week as if they are explicitly job responsibilities! In fact, I often coach or counsel people […]

 

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