Workplace Wisdom

01 Sep 2015

10 Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated

You can’t directly motivate anyone, but you can definitely create conditions in which people choose to contribute, participate, innovate, and push themselves. Demonstrating your own commitment helps set the bar for the team — not just because you tell them something’s important, or you exhort them to care about it, but because they can observe by your actions the energy and effort you apply to that commitment yourself. Move These “Levers” to Shift Your Team If you want to guide […]

25 Aug 2015

As Your Leader, I Could Be Wrong

Challenging a leader’s directives can be frightening. “The powerful are often oblivious to their impact,” writes Adam Galinsky in a recent New York Times article, “Your Whisper May Feel Like a Shout.” So when it comes to questioning a leader, it’s only natural for people to be motivated more by fear of being in trouble than by potential for accomplishment. Nobody wants to be seen as oppositional, which can happen when they don’t agree — or at least go along […]

18 Aug 2015

Don’t Make the Mess Your Manager Made

Everybody’s had at least one boss they didn’t trust and desperately wanted to escape. But you probably learned invaluable lessons from that boss about how people should and shouldn’t be treated. You might even have promised yourself what you’d NEVER do when you someday had people reporting to you. Check In With Yourself Now that you’re in charge, you are you still guided by those commitments? Or are you doing unto others things that you vowed never to repeat? Thoughtful […]

28 Jul 2015

You Know You Can’t Motivate Anyone, Right?

Executives often ask me how to motivate employees who don’t carry out the things they’re asked to do, from behavioral requirements like showing up on time to work quality requirements like capturing customer source codes in the contact center or at the store register. These execs typically want to know the best incentive program to “create motivation.” But buying motivation is only possible up to a point. When pain or prizes are the only options, few people will care enough […]

14 Jul 2015

Who Should Be Responsible for Career Plans?

Not everyone wants to be a manager or should be one. Lots of people are more comfortable as subject matter experts, sole contributors, or administrators than as implementers. Not everyone needs multiple promotions to feel satisfied and productive. And while some people do pursue a career trajectory based on a dream they’ve cherished since childhood, many more find their path through a combination of accident and serendipity. But when the only route to employee growth is up through the existing […]

16 Jun 2015

Four Ways Colleagues Drive Each Other Nuts

You see your colleagues every day, or at least several times a week. You all get along, appreciate each other’s good intentions, and care about the company. And yet, some of your colleagues’ behaviors drive you absolutely nuts. Here are some common types of challenging behaviors, and a few suggestions for thinking about these crazy-making colleagues. Colleagues who point out everything you could — or should — have done better: They may be highly imperfect themselves, but they’re aces at […]

09 Jun 2015

This Is Why Good Leaders Want You to Call Home

Some time ago, James Altucher posted a piece on LinkedIn about bad leaders that I loved. The part I loved the most was his sixth point, relayed here exactly as he put it: “BAD LEADERS DON’T WANT YOU TO CALL YOUR MOTHER “Every day, the people following a good leader should be able to call their parents and say, ‘I’m so happy. You won’t believe what I did/ learned/ met today.’” What a wonderful characterization! Imagine, having something happen every […]

26 May 2015

What You Need to Know If You Work with Overly Urgent Employees

It’s aggravating and distracting to work with a passive-aggressive colleague, but it can be just as frustrating to work with someone who’s too active, too intense, and yet has too little to show for it. Some employees are so zealous that they just have to get things closed, handled, resolved, and OFF THEIR DESKS. They tend to oversimplify because they can’t tolerate having decisions hanging open or problems unresolved. They don’t wait until the necessary data is available, or coordinate […]

19 May 2015

How Praise Can Help Strengthen Strengths

In the last session of a workshop series on teamwork with an up-and-coming group of middle managers, I led the group through an exercise around an activity that we don’t do often enough, either in business or in life: identifying people’s strengths. Here’s what we did: Each of the seven participants wrote down three or four strengths for each of the others in the group. Then they took turns reading their lists aloud. The crucial rule was that the recipients […]

12 May 2015

Don’t Paper Over the Reality of Customer Experience

You’ve probably seen that embarrassing Seinfield episode (weren’t they all?) when Elaine is in a public restroom and realizes that there’s no toilet paper in her stall. If this has ever happened to you, it probably only took a couple of times before you made it standard practice to check for paper when you first open the stall door. (Let’s call that customer awareness, or customer education.) Early in my career, I managed an operation that worked weekends. The building […]


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