Describe the Action, Not the Person

What does “good feedback” mean to you?

As leaders, we give feedback constantly. We do it formally, such as in scheduled review meetings. But we also do so informally, such as when we notice something that we like (which should be the norm) or something that we don’t appreciate (a necessary but hopefully less frequent form.) It could be expressed directly in words, or communicated indirectly, as with facial gestures, tone of voice or even changes in behavior patterns.  

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The 3 I's of effective leadership

For leaders, the letter “I” represents three key elements in their ultimate success. These elements build from the inside out, starting with one’s core identity and purpose and extending far beyond self. They remind us of what we can do and become when we solidify our core and make others’ success our focus.

They are: (1) integrity, (2) influence and (3) impact.

  • Integrity helps us become the best versions of ourselves and communicates what we stand for.

  • Influence allows us to direct and augment the work of others.

  • Impact is all about results. We create impact when we achieve our goals.  

These three do not exist in a vacuum. In fact, they lead one into the next.

When we’re in integrity (A), we become more influential (B). This, in turn, drives results, magnifying our impact (C).

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Focus on Expertise Over General Knowledge

It's hard to run when you can barely walk.

Or read fluently when you struggle to decode.

Or pull things together when each individual task is complicated and onerous.

Last week, I was walking on a sidewalk made from decades-old slate tiles. Between the rain and wet pollen, it made for a treacherous walk.

I slipped a bit on each step and had to walk much more slowly and gingerly than usual.

Walking went from an automatic, subconscious act to a conscious one that required thought and consideration.

My mind, which is free to think, was held captive by my need to get home safely.

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How to Coach Your Team to Success

One of the biggest challenges for leaders is to create and maintain the proper conditions for worker engagement and productivity. We know that if we are to maintain high levels of workplace output and morale we need to ensure that our employees feel valued and challenged. We also recognize that if we want to be able to respond to, if not stay in front of, marketplace change we need to develop workers who are comfortable thinking independently and contributing to the collective brain trust.

Too many leaders and managers, however, fail to achieve this because they do not understand how to motivate today’s workers or how to empower them to think and act independently and more positively.

In generations past people would be told what they needed to do from their earliest years. Parents would instruct children on how to behave at home and teachers would demand student compliance in school. Failure to obey would result in corporal punishment or other heavy handed responses. In the workplace, employees would be given orders and were required to dutifully implement them if they wanted to hold their positions for any meaningful duration.

But times have changed. As younger workers make their way into the workplace, they expect to play by a different set of rules. They want to be given the freedom to experiment, a voice with which to weigh in at staff meetings and the ability to pursue what they view as meaningful, engaging work. Anything less they view as limiting, which spells dissatisfaction and, for the most part, underperformance (if not outside job seeking).

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Coaching: The Key to Getting Unstuck

One of the local papers runs my coaching content weekly.

They use this caption for my "Coach's Corner" column.

I hadn't seen it before. And I love it.

Unlike other interventions, coaching is all about taking the ideas and magic already in a client's head and helping them unravel, organize and make sense of it, while setting aside the things that have been holding them back.

Standard client comments: "I know I need to ___ (take action) but can't because ___ (limiting belief.)"

Coaching empowers people to move forward and get things done.

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Tips to Meet with More Great People

I recently went to Chicago where I was able to hook up with some really great people. We talked about where each of us is professionally, how we can help each other, and I even did some basic coaching as well.

This Thursday I have some more meetings scheduled in NYC, all with folks who have appeared on my podcast.

These are not just regular sit downs. Rather, they are with awesome people that I want to get to know better and either coach, collaborate with, and/or get referrals from.

For me, every meeting has to serve a purpose. It could be a total waste of time for one or both of us to meet without an agenda or underlying goal.  

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How to Deepen the Workplace Bond

One way for leaders to develop a strong bond with their people is to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Not just their own work, but the work of their direct reports, as well as their reports’ reports. Take time to sit in various offices and seats within the organization and seek to develop new skills and make connections on different levels. Ask about existing challenges within the company and develop empathy for those who are tasked to address them regularly. Brainstorm with staff about how best to address these issues to optimize performance. By bringing yourself down to your people, you will gain their admiration as someone who really seeks to know their situations and improve them.

Another, more sustainable approach to bonding with employees is to actively connect with them on a regular basis. Hewlett Packard (HP) founders William Hewlett and David Packard used a strategy that has become known as MBWA, or Management By Wandering Around. As its name implies, MBWA requires regular walking throughout the workplace. It offers many benefits to leaders and their employees

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When to Keep Pushing or Pull Back?

Recently, I needed to have a service performed on my car, so I reached out to some providers. I had used one of them, who I’ll call Jake, in the past and was leaning towards doing so again. At the end, however, I decided to go with someone else and communicated my decision to Jake.

Unfortunately, Jake was not all too happy and would not leave me alone afterwards. Instead of accepting my decision, he continued to text and call me to try to discuss. I made clear that my decision had been made, but it took some time until the “harassment” ended.

Suffice it to say that Jake did not earn any credit towards future work with his choice of response.

After thinking about it, I started to realize that I have more Jake in me than I may care to admit.

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5 Tips to Increase Workplace Engagement

The statistics about worker disengagement are staggering. We read all the time about how workplace engagement levels are low here in the U.S. and even lower around the world. Loss of productivity is estimated to cost employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, if not billions. And it all stems from how disconnected folks feel from the people working around them, the work that they do each day, and the purpose that it serves to them and to others.

Workplace connection results in many benefits, including stronger communication, greater synergy, enhanced anticipation of others’ needs and worries / concerns, and, last but certainly not least, increased worker engagement. When we feel connected, we operate with a sense of purpose and utilize our many talents and abilities to advance that purpose, consciously as well as subconsciously.  

The need for connection at work is perhaps stronger today than ever before. It has become an expectation, especially amongst younger workers, that the workplace be a source of meaning and intention, not just a place at which to collect a paycheck.

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