Workplace Wisdom

04 Apr 2017

Who Needs Attention, and Can I Get a Quality Latte with It?

The other morning, I was feeling cranky, unfocused, and unproductive — the perfect situation for coffee. Sadly, I haven’t been allowed to have caffeine for a couple of years, on doctor’s orders, and I miss it terribly. Coffee gets the day off to a civilized start, provides a boost in the afternoon, enhances all kinds of well-being, and delivers a satisfying snap! of clear-headedness. I still believe in — and crave — coffee’s healing powers, even though it’s not healing […]

01 Nov 2016

Keep Progress Going to Be a Leadership Success

“Nothing’s happening! Why isn’t anything happening?” Strategy, planning, and communication are all crucial parts of leadership and organizational life. But it’s execution that most people really notice, from the CEO to the most junior frontline team member. When your employees don’t see changes under way and progress being made, the best and brightest may seek greener pastures. Even the most comfortable, long-term staffers can become disengaged and disaffected if they believe an organization has stalled. It doesn’t matter how developmental […]

28 Oct 2014

When Leaders Avoid Conflict, They Hurt Their Teams

In last week’s post, an exec who didn’t wish to appear picky or small-minded missed the chance to address difficult and inappropriate situations created by her subordinate Xerxes when they were still small and potentially containable. Her hesitation meant that Xerxes never got the necessary corrective action plans. When he eventually had to be moved out of the organization, it was a shock to the rest of the organization. The Exec Who Hesitates Is Lost It can be awful to […]

20 May 2014

There’s a Right Way to Empower Employees Effectively

We often talk about empowerment when we want to indicate that we trust our people to make their own decisions, handle their own work, and do what’s best for the organization. But much too frequently, empowerment is a hollow promise. And remarkably often, it appears not to work at all: bad decisions get made; no decisions get made; micromanagers still micromanage. Consider two examples of the problems that can accompany empowerment in all kinds of organizations, be they large or […]

29 Apr 2014

How to Help Your Employees Be More Self-Reliant

Luckily, some people have a natural instinct for analysis, judgment, calculation of risk, and recovery from error. Some people were well trained, managed, and mentored before they came to work for you. But every level, we get frustrated with peers, supervisors, managers, and especially with executives who don’t make good decisions or get good results, who create new challenges for themselves — and us — every day. We often wonder why they don’t just do better. But all employees have […]

14 Apr 2014

Why You Have to Deal with the Problem of Role Clarity

Organizational life can be confusing, what with changes in job roles or organizational structure, turnover in management or peers, or even the positive circumstance of company growth. But in too many companies, middle managers are expressing great frustration about their lack of role clarity. And unfortunately, even senior managers sometimes make the same complaint. What do these managers mean? They say they can’t figure out how to move forward on complex projects, or don’t know who has authority over certain […]

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 […]

18 Jun 2013

Why It’s a Problem When Image Supercedes Effectiveness

Most organizations want to convey a particular image to the public, whether it signifies quality, or professionalism, or innovation. And when organizations put thought, care, and resources into crafting their image, they want it to be consistently upheld by all employees. From time to time, though, the narrow pursuit of image consistency can create unforeseen consequences and get in the way of the effective pursuit of a business’s work goals and the execution of its tasks. Case in point: I […]

15 Jan 2013

Do You Need to Work with a Hard-Driving Leader Who Overreacts?

Over the last few years I’ve worked with a number of senior executives who are hardworking and wonderfully competent in their areas of expertise, but are so highly reactive that they create extra burdens for themselves and their organizations. Overreactors typically have a great and visible sense of urgency: Whatever is a problem for them is a problem RIGHT NOW; whatever is important to them must be addressed RIGHT NOW; and whatever they’re curious about should have been explored yesterday. […]

27 Mar 2012

Are You Coaching? Or Just Waving Your Arms?

A lot of what passes for coaching — in workplaces, in homes, even on kids’ sports teams — is really just a lot of exhortations and fervent repetitions of normative statements. It doesn’t help the subject figure out how to do better. Here’s an example from a manager: “What are you DOING?!? That’s not what you’re SUPPOSED to be DOING!” For someone who’s executing inaccurately, and already painfully aware that something is going wrong, is there anything at all in […]


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