Workplace Wisdom

21 Oct 2014

Do You Need to Cope with a Conflict-Averse Executive?

When an executive disagrees with a proposal or approach, the situation can go in two directions: In the best-case scenario, the disagreement gets worked through collegially, even if it means that other people — other executives, even — have to change their approach in order to achieve a resolution. But in the worst-case scenario, for whatever reason, the executive feels that she can’t, shouldn’t have to, or doesn’t have the time to work things through. She may make some gentle […]

23 Sep 2014

7 Methods to Maintain Momentum

Whenever you have more than a handful of people on a team or at the same level in an organization, you run into countless opportunities for people to fall out of synch, misunderstand each other, and drift off course. For the leader, it can be extraordinarily frustrating to introduce or support an initiative and sponsor crucial discussions only to see the necessary change fade away. It’s hard to maintain momentum for initiatives and programs: Employees lose focus or get caught […]

16 Sep 2014

The Iceberg School of Problem-Solving

In business, lingering problems rarely have a single or simple solution. That’s why they linger. Many problems are relatively unambiguous and easily understood by the people who deal with them every day. We solve them without thinking about them too much: Problem X → Action Y → Resolution Z. It’s easy to get used to that level of thinking being sufficient, even if we have to solve the same problem over and over. In the Shoals and Shallows People tend […]

05 Aug 2014

So You Think Your Manager’s Like a Bad Joke? Part 2: Improving the Routine

Last week’s post began with the Critic, the Control Freak, and the Micromanager walking into a conference room. (You’ll find their characteristics here.) Unfortunately, it can be very challenging to change these tendencies. After all, these individuals may have behaved this way as early as middle school when they had to work together on group projects as kids. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! If you know you’re one of these folks, try the suggestions below. And if […]

01 Jul 2014

What’s the Workplace Equivalent of Making the Bed?

The right ritual can get your day off to a productive start. For me, the best mornings begin in a quiet house, making and drinking my coffee just the way I like it. Everybody’s got their own way to meet the day. Some people believe in heading outside immediately to stand for a moment in natural light, no matter the season or weather. Others like to make the bed the minute they’re out of it. Neither of these options ever […]

08 Apr 2014

Three Tips for Tenacity in the Face of Ongoing Change

No matter how hard you’re working to give your team a sense of direction, as in To Follow the Leader, Employees Need a Sense of Direction, or to help them cope with the realities of change, as in Two Truths and Four Ways of Driving Successful Change, it can be a little draining to see how much more remains to be done. And that’s true even if you’re an optimist. Or maybe particularly if you’re an optimist, since surely you […]

01 Apr 2014

Two Truths and Four Ways of Driving Successful Change

Declaring the need for change is not enough. And implementing a “change program” may not even be enough to get you the change you want. The basic bargain of an effective change initiative is that if we keep expending effort, we’ll see the impact. No matter what changes you’re considering or attempting — whether you’re trying to shift personal health habits or organizational tone and values — the last things you’ll want to hear are: “We don’t do it that […]

25 Mar 2014

To Follow the Leader, Employees Need a Sense of Direction

Most employees want to know where their leaders are headed before they’ll follow with energy and enthusiasm. But if they can’t tell where you’re going or how you plan to get there, they’ll feel like they’re being left to wander — or even being abandoned — and they’ll become disheartened or disillusioned. So if you’re the leader, how can you get everyone on a single path — not in lockstep, but headed in the same general, purposeful direction? The Leadership […]

18 Mar 2014

How to Cope with a Colleague Who Can’t Cope

Is it really possible to do good work with managers who are unwilling to accept and absorb bad news? What can you do if you’re the subordinate, colleague, or boss of someone who’s avoidant at best, and downright passive-aggressive when things are going badly? I’ve worked with overwhelmed, deflective, and (just a few) downright destructive managers at multiple levels in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations of all sizes. To be successful with them, you must be exceedingly concrete and specific, […]

04 Mar 2014

Don’t Threaten Me With the Truth

On a recent trip through yet another airport, I passed a man whining into his phone: “I cannot take any more bad news! I cannot!” It’s possible that he was having a terrible conversation about a personal tragedy. But it seemed much more likely that he had just hit his quota of annoyances and frustrations for the day. This particular call probably put him right over his limit, and he couldn’t think of a more creative response than kvetching. Some […]


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