Workplace Wisdom

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 […]

25 Mar 2014

How to Give Employees a Sense of Direction

Most employees want to know where their leaders are headed before they’ll follow with energy and enthusiasm. When 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 Compass […]

28 Jan 2014

How to Help an Overwhelmed and Overreacting Employee

At some point in our careers, we’ve all crossed paths with people who create unnecessary drama as part of their daily workplace routine. “Valentina” is a pretty typical example. Valentina believes she has to get everything right or the entire system and her whole career will be at risk. She needs to see herself as the most responsible party, so she has difficulty with delegation. She’s afraid things will blow up, so she takes it upon herself to tell everyone […]

30 Oct 2012

How Can You Get Your Manager to Let You Help?

I heard from a middle manager who struggles with his senior manager’s unclear delegation and occasional absence of direction. The senior manager constantly shifts assignments, switching up what’s urgent today and what’s important tomorrow with virtually no notice — and does this so consistently that it almost feels as if the confusion is intentional. Middle likes to do well, wants to be a team player, and cares about managing his own schedule in a measured, non-frantic way, so he emails […]

24 Apr 2012

How to Use The Platinum Rule to Engage Employees

Remember Silvia, Ophelia, and Felix, from last week’s blog — the senior execs who were turning off members of their staffs? This post will show how we adjusted these execs’ behavior to match the realities of their staffs’ experiences. See if your view of the underlying through-line matches what really happened; to refresh your memory of the three sets of circumstances, review How 3 Leaders’ Mistakes Undermined Their Leadership. Confidence Can Undermine Competence Silvia, the optimistic vice president, had so […]

17 Apr 2012

How 3 Leaders’ Mistakes Undermined Their Leadership

All in the same week, I had the opportunity to deal with three very different senior managers. Each was responsible for a different organizational function, and each had a different leadership style. And yet all three senior managers — we’ll call them Silvia, Ophelia, and Felix — behaved in characteristic modes that unintentionally undermine employee engagement. Silvia: “I trust you to handle things, but I’m here whenever you need me.” As international vice president, Silvia was only periodically physically present […]

28 Sep 2010

Dirty Pots as a Management Metaphor

I like the idea of hosting dinner parties, weekend potlucks, veritable swapmeets of desserts. I enjoy the initial planning, reviewing cookbooks and recipes ripped from magazines, deciding which dishes will go well with which. Am very grateful that my husband does the lion’s share of the shopping, but don’t mind it when it falls to me. Mostly I enjoy the cooking, particularly now that my mother clued me in to the extraordinary usefulness of frozen chopped onions. If you’ve read […]


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