Workplace Wisdom

09 Aug 2016

How to Screen Out a Star to Save the Team

In the recent Harvard Business Review article “How Facebook Tries to Prevent Office Politics,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, advises against hiring “empire builders, self-servers, and whiners” — even if they’re also smart, skilled, and experienced people. How sensible! And how strategic! Organizations always need competent people who care about growth and progress, know how to focus attention, and can play the “squeaky wheel” when an important issue needs attention. But they can’t afford employees who […]

02 Aug 2016

Please! Recognize and Reject Reductive Rhetoric in Business

While following the 2016 Republican and Democratic Party conventions, I noted, with some concern, how gullible people can be. Despite the complexity of real-world situations, many voters seem too ready to trust politicians who give superficial, vague, and bombastic answers. This worries me. I wish we would turn down the sloganeering in favor of pursuing well-crafted, lasting solutions to societal problems. But this acceptance of reductive rhetoric isn’t limited to politics. There’s an interesting analog between the rhetoric of presidential […]

26 Jul 2016

How to End Meeting Madness and Get Better Results

Some of my clients go crazy with meetings. They schedule them back to back, invite a cast of thousands, start late and in disarray, drag on unproductively, and end late without closure. Suddenly, everyone is grabbing their stuff, still talking as they push past the people standing clustered outside the door, waiting to come in for the next meeting. At these meetings, even when discussions seem to result in agreements, it’s hard to tell afterwards if anything actually gets done. […]

05 Jul 2016

How to Get the Best from an Anxious Leader

After working for a number of months with a vice president who’s had a successful career trajectory in a well-regarded firm, I realized that every few years I meet leaders who are noticeably anxious — even among the senior ranks. They’re usually intelligent, knowledgeable, technically proficient people who care about others and want to perform well for their organization’s sake as well as their own. Unfortunately, they may not have had the right development at crucial points in their careers, […]

28 Jun 2016

When Being Strategic Is a Weakness

During a recent visit to a client company, I spent time with two different leaders whose initiatives weren’t progressing satisfactorily. The first leader was chatty and made sweeping motivational statements. Her team was deeply committed, but their work had been dragging along at a slow pace, never meeting their growth targets. The second leader, who was less outgoing, was spearheading a new project that drew participants from various areas of the organization. The members of his ad hoc group were […]

21 Jun 2016

Four Conditions Required for Motivation

A successful sales manager was feeling demoralized and out of sorts. When we met for coffee, she sat knee to knee, radiating intensity. “Of course, motivating the team is one of my biggest responsibilities,” she told me. “But when the powers-that-be say, ‘Motivate the team,’ what they really mean is, ‘Get the results.’ My boss is under the gun for numbers, so it’s push, push, push all the time. “It’s true that not all my guys are meeting their targets. […]

14 Jun 2016

Getting Our Signals Crossed at Work

One day last week after lunch, while walking back to my office, I noticed a man parking in the last of four curbside spots in front of the Post Office. He maneuvered a bit and then stopped his car just as another car pulled up, right behind him where there was no official spot. The windows in the second car were open, so I could hear the driver exclaiming to her passenger: “What’s he doing?! Why doesn’t he move up!?” […]

07 Jun 2016

Stop Swinging the Service Pendulum

“Why can’t we keep our customers happy?!?” a CEO called out during a meeting with his department heads. “Just take care of the problems! What’s the big fuss?!?” And he meant it. But that was before he learned how much it would cost. Over the years, I’ve heard numerous owners, presidents, and CEOs vacillate between making prideful service promises and declaring angrily that too much is being spent on customer service, or employees are giving the store away, or customers […]

31 May 2016

How to Bring Bad News to Your Boss

In most jobs, you have to learn how to integrate your leader into your plans. Unless you own or run the place yourself, part of your job is to help leadership be successful while you’re taking care of your own responsibilities. This holds true until you’re ready to walk away from the job, whether you love or respect your boss or not. Bringing the Bad News So how can you effectively deliver bad news or uncomfortable truths — stuff your […]

24 May 2016

Leading from the Middle of an Indifferent Leadership Team

A newly hired VP called me the other day, expressing frustration with her indecisive and apathetic colleagues. My unspoken response was: “They’re not even strong enough to be a Team of Rivals.” When a leadership group appears weak, confused, or in disarray, employees at all levels lose their drive and their heart. That’s a recipe for stasis and failure throughout the business. The VP’s question: How could she encourage her peers to come together and take steps to move the […]

 

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