Workplace Wisdom

23 May 2017

3 Practical Ways to Prevent United Airlines-Style Damage

Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, recently ran a public letter of apology as an ad in several major newspapers. A much more detailed, self-abasing version of the apology was sent as an email to customers and ran in the May issue of United’s in-flight magazine, Hemispheres. In the more extensive letters, Munoz referred to the “important promise we make to you, our customer” and admitted that “we broke that trust.” He described concessions that United will make “when […]

16 May 2017

What to Do When Priorities Are in Conflict

Expand your market share. Increase your margin. Reorganize your team. Given the constant drumbeat of new and changing initiatives, it’s reasonable to wonder which priorities are truly the most important. I hear about this from clients with great frequency: “We just can’t get to everything.” “We’re not making enough progress.” “We do a new strat plan every few years, but we don’t seem to have moved any further.” Try Not to Lose Your Way It’s hard to work on more […]

09 May 2017

This Is How to Give Feedback but Not Make People Feel Stupid

“Oh, heavens,” I thought, “I’ve offended her!” I had wanted to be helpful and friendly, but instead I was confusing and possibly insulting — I had given feedback as if the problem was with the person, not with the situation. Here’s what happened: The traffic sequence at the five-way intersection on the corner where I work is totally non-intuitive, and the cycle of lights seems to take forever. So the other day, as I approached the intersection, I did what […]

02 May 2017

How to Counteract Two Hidden Problems of Developing Leaders

Clients often ask me to design or participate in their leadership development programs. These programs require significant investment, so senior leaders view them as a way to groom and strengthen high-potential employees — the ones they hope will become change-makers and their eventual successors. But even development programs meant for high-potential employees can sag in the middle: Maybe only a few of the planned courses are delivered, employees complain that their time isn’t being well spent, or the company doesn’t […]

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 […]

 

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