4.01.2014

Skill Assessment: Joys and Discomforts of a New Leadership Position


Congratulations.  You have been promoted to a management position you have been hoping to receive for quite some time.  You have set goals, worked hard, kept your nose clean, excelled in your former positions and you finally made it.  Now, the hard work begins.  How do you motivate your staff to give their best?  How do you help your team see you as a team leader (when you have been a peer up until now)?  How do you manage your time to accommodate all the extra tasks on your plate?  How do you make decisions like a leader?  How do you coach people?  How do you let people know they have to be let go?

You certainly need more education and experience to handle all of these situations.  It does matter.  The number one reason why people leave a job is because their boss did not know how to lead.  The quality of the boss/leader/supervisor/manager/team leader is one of the single most influential elements on the quality of life in a workplace.  You want (and need) to be in the category of “great boss.”  I encourage you to be very self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and work to develop in your areas of need.

Today we will look at five behaviors of effective new leaders that are vital to their success by looking at Julie.  She has just been promoted to a new management position at a bank and is doing a great job.  Her team trusts her.  She is sending her division of the bank in the right direction.  How is Julie accomplishing this?  Following are five insights:

1. Julie let go of the thoughts and processes she had as a team member. She learned quickly how to put decisions, emails, conversations, etc. through the filter of leadership. Her experience as a team member is certainly beneficial. However, decisions as a team leader can be more complex, weighty and require a more measured approach.

2. She asks questions when necessary. Julie understands that she was not hired to be perfect and because she knew everything. She was hired because she was an exceptional team member and because she had the potential to be a highly trusted leader. Julie looks for opportunities to sharpen her leadership skills.

3. Julie knew going in to the position that there would be push back from two groups of people – those individuals she used to be team members with and those individuals on her new team with more experience and/or age. She focuses on not taking offense to these dynamics, nor does she allow them to apply unnecessary stress on her work life. She takes every push back, big or small, in the proper context and stays focus on the work at hand.

4. Julie expects to have to continue to earn trust. She does not assume that her position included an instantly high trust level from everyone. This allows her to lead by example – working harder than her team, showing up early, leaving late, sticking to commitments, etc. She maintains her work-home life balance; being a leader doesn't equal zero home life. However, she is a living example of the old saying that no leader should ask his/her followers to do anything they are not willing to do also.

5. She was a likable, personable person before the promotion, but has worked hard to increase these traits. She forgives first, trusts others quickly, replies to requests of her time/attention quickly, listens actively, doesn't make other people fight for her time/attention, encourages and builds up her team genuinely and often, coaches her team members in privacy, and is a source of optimism in the office, etc. Julie is a meaningful source of joy for not only her team, but for the bank as a whole.

I experienced push-back from my co-workers when I took one of my first jobs soon after college.  I had a Senior Director position and two of the Directors (less pay, but more experience and older) actually set me down individually to let me know I had no say over what they did.  It was a rude awakening to work life as a team leader, but I didn't let it tarnish my excitement or my commitment and passion to providing great leadership for that office.  Congratulations on your new position.  There aren't many parts of professional life more meaningful or significant than being a leader others want to follow.

2.20.2014

RELAX: Five Steps to Stress Management


My newest keynote/breakout session content focuses on stress.  What it is, how it impacts us and what we can do to make the most of it. The program is titled RELAX and is based on five actions we need to take to ensure stress is helping us, not hurting us in both our personal and professional lives.  

Before we look at the five actions, let's cover some basics.  Stress is one of the responses your body triggers when it is under pressure.  The basic principle of the RELAX program is that we can control what stresses us and how we respond to stress.  Stress can improve our quality of life or be detrimental to it. These five actions below are designed to help you respond positively to stress.

(Click here for a RELAX poster to print and display.)

Reset to normal - When we are under fire, our mind-set influences everything.  Stress is a physical response and works automatically in most situations. Our first goal in a stressful situation is to make sure we control our mindset by resetting to normal thought patterns as quickly as possible.  Leave the room, put your thoughts on something else, take a five-minute break, etc.  These tactics clear our mind to think about next steps.

End in mind - Stressful situations force us to have tunnel vision and only see what is right in front of us creating the frustration.  You need to break this habit by putting your thoughts on the goal, project completion, change, etc. that you are trying to achieve.  Keeping this end in mind will remind you of the value and purpose for the stress you are under.  Tell yourself that the stress might be bad right now, but it is worth it for the greater goal.  RELAX is not about chilling out.  RELAX is about taking positive action under stress and creating an environment where you are fueled by stress, not defeated.

Listen to stress - One of your most important tasks during a stressful situation is to become self-aware of what type of stress you are under.  Not all stress is bad and everyone responds to stress (no matter what it is created by) in different ways.  Giving presentations is a great example.  Many people get negatively stressed out thinking about and giving presentations.  However, this is a choice they are making.  Thousands of people give presentations every day and view the stress as positive. Listen to your stress, examine it and then decide if how you are responding is based on the condition of the stress, the situation or you.

Acknowledge what works - Choosing to respond positively to stress is the grounding principle behind RELAX.  Figure out what works for you and make it habit to repeat those actions, thoughts, etc.  These might include listening to great music, going to the movies, taking a day-trip with your family, positive self-talk (more important than people realize), playing golf, reading a good book, etc.  Acknowledge what works for you and stay disciplined to it.

Xpress needs - Life is a team sport and so is RELAX.  Stress can damage our quality of life in many ways, but a common way is preventing us from sharing our needs with those around us - family members, friends, co-workers, etc.  Make sure you express your feelings and thoughts with a close ally that can help you keep things in perspective and remind you to RELAX.

Contact me if you have a future conference, retreat or team training where you think my RELAX keynote/breakout session would be a great addition.  Thank you.

11.22.2013

Ten Vital Leadership Questions

Ask yourself the following ten questions (one per PLI Essential) to check your leadership pulse:


  • Vision - What am I doing today to be where I need to be in 5 years? 
  • Integrity - How am I helping my team trust me?
  • Innovativeness - What are the challenges I am facing today that require more "solution thinking"? 
  • Wise Judgment - Who do I consult with before making major decisions? 
  • Service Mindedness - Do I model volunteerism in my life? 
  • Goal Processing - Do I have challenging goals that stretch and grow my abilities? 
  • Skill Assessment - What is my core strength and have I put myself in the position to do that everyday?
  • Emotional Maturity - Do I handle struggles and failures with grace and a growth attitude?
  • Fostering Relationships - Am I working daily to improve the health of my most important relationship? 
  • Masterful Communication - Do I listen to others with focus?

Print this list and write your answers in a journal.  Work to identify goal areas where you need to adjust behavior to improve your leadership effectiveness.  Good luck.

2.22.2013

Fostering Relationships: What Clicks Reveal About Human Nature

Clicks (using this spelling instead of cliques) aren't bad. Using clicks as leverage for negative peer pressure is. Clicks exist in schools and businesses for some very basic reasons and leaders within these groups should learn how to leverage them for good.

Why do clicks exist?

1. We are pack-minded people. We desire to be around people who think like us, dress like us and believe in the same things we do.

2. We like to know the rules and have those we hang out with know (and follow) them also. It gives a sense of grounded-ness.

3. We defend what is ours. Clicks define who we are. They hold truths about the individuals within them. If we will fight and defend anything it is our beliefs and our identity.

4. We fear the unknown. This is the source of many "click-battles". If I'm operating from a known set of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs, when I come across someone who doesn't operate from the same set of rules, there is a sense of mystery about what that person or group will do or say. This is retaliated against often in hostile, negative and even violent ways.

Leaders operating within a click need to understand these basics of human nature and discover ways to work effectively within them. Following are a few ideas on how to do that.

1. Operate from a home base of understanding and curiosity. Learn what makes them click (pun intended) and be ok with it.

2. Educate your click on how to overcome fear-based and negative tendencies. You can rarely help people lose these as an initial reaction to opposing or different clicks, but you can help your crew understand the value of not taking negative action on these tendencies.

3. Stick to your values and beliefs, but work to not belittle the values and beliefs of others. Different does not always equal wrong.

4. Work to educate other clicks on the positive reasons why your click exists and why you hold true to your ways. However, don't expect them to agree with you or change their ways. There is much truth to the approach of "agreeing to disagree".

2.04.2013

Wise Judgement: You Can Only Choose One


1. Your house is on fire.
2. You have a spouse (in their 20s like you) and three children. John is five and in perfect health. Susan is one and in perfect health. JoAnn is three and has a rare blood disease that prevents her from walking.
3. You can only save yourself and one person.
4. Who do you save?

This extreme dilemma is tragic, no matter the outcome. It also serves to highlight five decision-making elements high-level leaders must understand how to deal with.

1. The facts can't be changed.
Reality is the home field of leaders great at making critical decisions. Things are complicated enough: creating a reality-distortion field isn't prudent. This requires facing the hard truths head-on, being disciplined to gather facts from all necessary input streams and not using assumptions or (even experienced) opinions to fill in too many gaps.

2. Every decision has a downside.
Decisions create tension and silos. High-level leaders are naturally equipped, trained and/or emotionally prepared to deal with both the upsides and the downsides of decisions. Be ready to handle them by expecting the downsides, preparing accordingly and not letting fear sway the decisions that must be made.

3. Some people will benefit from your decision and some won't.
Trying to keep everyone happy will not fully satisfy anyone. Many times tough decisions involve picking sides. Success in this area requires being diplomatic with both. Don't get too cozy with the winning side and talk openly and directly with the other side. You can't expect to have the losing side to like you right then, but you should strive to demonstrate your logic and reasons to earn (or rebuild) respect, trust and credibility.

4. Your beliefs/values will guide you.
One of the most important benefits of being clear, resolute and convicted of your beliefs and values is they provide a firm guide for critical decisions. Of course, the secret is to be disciplined to follow your beliefs and values, but you must have them first. Set beliefs and values that you firmly believe in and that can serve as an inspiration for those around you. High-level leaders don't have the luxury of following mediocre beliefs and values.

5. As the leader, you carry the burden of making the decisions.
True leadership is not easy.  It is demanding, challenging and weighs heavy.  Accept this burden and take it for those who can not.  Never use the high-pressure as an excuse for poor decisions and never hold others ransom with it. Carry it freely as the price you pay for stepping up and arming yourself with the traits, skills and expertise necessary to make the tough decisions for those around you.


(What decision would you make in the situation above and why?  Comment below.)

1.18.2013

Integrity: The Lance Armstrong Lesson



It is very simple. He doped. He lied. He personally hurt people to protect his lies. He finally told the truth.

Lance Armstrong has now joined the ranks of Pete Rose, OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Roger Clemens and many other sport celebrities whose personal failures (yes, choosing to use performance enhancing drugs is a personal decision) out-weigh their sporting achievements.

Lance Armstrong is someone who should not, today or ever, be held up as a model for anything other than a perfect case study of how far someone will go to protect their reputation and win at virtually any cost.

What about his foundation, Livestrong, improving the lives of millions of cancer survivors and family members? Does this (as has been stated by many people in the sporting world) hold up his moral character to a certain degree?  In my opinion, no. He is not making a personal decision every day to improve people's lives. His foundation does. It is their mission and the people working for the foundation care deeply about it.  He invested years making personal decisions to dope, lie about it, hurt others to protect his lie and stand behind that lie for as long as he could.

The Lesson

The lesson here is simple, as well. Leaders must protect people's trust above all else. Without it, nothing else really works.

Lance Armstrong is, and forever will be, a leader.  He has and will continue to influence millions of people through his cycling fame, cancer struggles and foundation work. However, he chose to make personal decisions that undermined his credibility, integrity, moral standing, and trust with everyone he will associate with for the rest of his life. 

Was he in a high-pressure, high-stakes world in elite cycling? Yes.
Did he think doping was justified because it was common place in competitive cycling? Yes.
Was his stature in the cycling world and the humanitarian world going to crumble if he told the truth? Yes.
Will his position, influence, power and abilities as a leader ever have strength and merit again? Sadly, no.

12.09.2012

Fostering Relationships: Five Essential Skills



We invested fully this weekend with 500+ young leaders working on one thing only - helping them to understand how to be better at relationships. We covered many topics and worked on many areas. However, the following five lessons are the relationship techniques that will stick to their ribs for many days to come.

Five Essential Relationship Skills

1. Don't make people fight for your time and attention. Quickly and easily put your focus on others. When they share something with you, be impressed, encourage them, lift them up, etc. Don't fall into any of these three categories: Know It All, Always Better Than Others, or Indifferent About Others.

2. Talk up about others not in the room. Stephen Covey says this is one of the most powerful way to build trust with people in the room. A foundation of trust is an essential building block for healthy relationships.

3. Follow-through. People who stick to commitments are always in high-demand. Learn to say yes only to those meetings, projects and commitments that you are fairly sure you can keep. I'd rather you say no to me early than no to me late.

4. Share smiles with many. Share frustrations with one. People who are great at relationships understand this principle. Look for, celebrate, cultivate and share the good spaces in life. When you have gripes, whines, complaints, etc., share them with your closest people only. That's one of the responsibilities of being a close family member or friend. We are called to be the proverbial shoulder.

5. Forgive first. This last one is the heaviest. True forgiveness is never earned. It is given freely with heroic effort. If you have someone who has broke trust with you in any way and you are waiting for them to earn your forgiveness, you will be waiting forever. Forgiveness only works truly when you decide to pay the debt for them and take that burden off your heart. It's one of the rarest and most powerful relationship acts.

You can tell the running theme here is taking personal responsibility for the condition of your relationships. This is how any great team works - each individual investing fully and personally working hard to make it great. As your relationships go, so goes your quality of life. Make them great.

10.22.2012

Vision: 4,543 Words of Great Leadership


Guest post by Ryan Underwood @teamtri_CEO

Politics and a presidential election is such an interesting time for those in leadership development. It's one of the few times so many of us stop and pay attention to just the idea of leadership, what it is, what it isn't and the impact of it.

If this election season has you interested in leadership, pause for a moment and read one of the greatest leadership reads around. It’s just four pages. It’s co-authored by 55 of the most talented minds America has ever known. It’s EPIC. It’s 4,543 of gripping awesomeness we call the Constitution.

I love that our Founding Father's made us stop every four years and assess who is running our nation. It's good to stop and evaluate. You can decide if you’re on the right path or need to make a course correction. I wonder if that's why high school is four years or a bachelors degree takes four years…so at the end of that time you can stop and assess? While you’re assessing for the next few weeks who should lead our nation, stop and assess how the president of YOU is doing and if you need to stay on track or change directions.

I love that our Founding Fathers started the Constitution with "We the People."  Our future has always been more about what "we" do rather than what "they" do. We worry about who lives in the People's House when the Founders knew that America's success was more about the leaders and people living in your house.

I love that our Constitution outlines our principles as a nation…justice, tranquility, defense, general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty. Have you established your principles?  What do you stand for? Have you defined them or have you allowed others to define them for you?

I love that our Constitution wasn't perfect.  55 talented minds wrote it, but only 39 actually agreed with the final product enough to sign it. And, even then we've amended it 27 times. You are not perfect. Leaders are not perfect. There’s nothing wrong with expecting things to be perfect—it makes us strive harder to be our best. But, in reality, the key is to fail forward; to fall ahead; to strive for perfection and fall short with just awesome. Where do you stand? Do you line up with the 16 negatrons that didn't get perfect and took their ball and went home? Or do you line up with the 39 people who pushed ahead and said, “it’s not perfect, but, it’s still pretty awesome” and changed the world? Will you just sit there and complain about how your life is going, or will you stop, realize you can amend you at any time, and lead a better life?

I love that our Constitution has three basic qualifications to become President: be at least 35; be born in the U.S.; and, while it’s not specifically noted, you have to decide to do it. Hundreds of millions of people could be President:
  • A “C” student (President Bush)
  • A guy whose federal experience was serving 4 out of 6 years in the Senate (President Obama)
  • A guy who was the Governor of a state half the size of San Bernardino County in CA (Candidate Romney)

Like this election, the world comes down to a few types of people: decided, undecided, and those who will just sit it out. If you are in the last two categories chances are your life is being led by those who have decided and you complain a lot. But, it doesn't have to stay that way. You can decide any day to lead your life…and…you don’t have to be 35 and where you were born makes no difference either!

In the end, you are the President of YOU. Will you stop and assess your leadership? Are you more concerned about what happens in someone else’s house or your own? Do you have your principles? Do you realize that you are not perfect, but are perfect enough? Will you decide?

If you've still got questions, take a moment and read 4,543 words…it’s just four pages. It built the greatest nation in the history of the world. Perhaps there is an answer in there that can inspire you. 

10.21.2012

Fostering Relationships: A Quick Study in Teamwork

The following five questions/answers contain the top lessons I teach audiences about effective teamwork. Cross-reference these with your life and examine how you can improve the positive contributions you make to your teams (family, friends, work, school, etc.)

Why is becoming an effective team player important?
  1. Life is a team sport.
  2. When our teams are good, life is good.
  3. People need great people-people around them to give their best.
What is the definition of effective teamwork?
Effective teamwork occurs when each individual clearly understands how their core strength plays a valuable role in the team accomplishing its shared goals.
What are the common traits of great teams?
  1. A trusted leader.
  2. An agreed upon goal.
  3. An agreed upon decision-making system.
  4. The creation and revisiting of big memories.
  5. Each individual engaging a core strength.
What are the common traits of great team members?
  1. Intensely focused on their work, trusts others, are trustworthy and therefore creates an environment where there is low drama and high trust.
  2. Optimistic and create the impossible by focusing on solutions and the positive.
  3. Identify, put into action and develop habits that create an environment of encouragement, excellence and high expectatIons.
  4. Skilled at maximizing change and solving problems by seeing things differently and getting to the true core of challenges.
How can you help team mates give their best?
  • L.E.A.D. - Look for, Encourage, Appreciate and Draw out the best of others. How most people treat you is based on who you are to them, the environment your interactions are in & how you treat them. Make them good.
  • Be a lover of what other people are doing. Be Interested. Make someone else feel more important than they think they are and you instantly become more important to them.
  • Build up others when they aren't around. Stephen Covey said, "A great way to build trust with those in the room is to talk up those not in the room."


9.30.2012

Goal Processing: Time Management Pillars of Success

You either manage your time or it manages you.  Simple as that.  Time is one of the most commonly used excuses for poor performance (at home and at work). Not enough of it, not allocated properly, not in control of it, etc. It is so commonly used that it is widely accepted as truth. And many times these excuses are truth. Not because of the realities of time, but because of our poor use of it.  IE - Ruthie absolutely didn't have time to complete the project assignment. However, it wasn't the lack of time that caused the problem.  It was the fact that she didn't prioritize or plan appropriately.

The following list is a short collection of the mission-critical time management strategies I use daily and I teach in my time management workshops.  Before you work through them, click here to see if you even need them.

T-COIN
This stands for Take Care Of It Now.  Much of our ineffectiveness with time management is caused by fatigue - low energy, low focus, etc. Much of this fatigue is caused by things "piling up". If you can take care of a task in two-minutes or less, do it.  Get it off your desk, out of your inbox, out of your life. This will prevent you from getting to the end of your day with a million little things to finish up. This technique also helps you to conquer, what David Allen calls, Open Loops.

Action Lists
To do lists are vital for anyone juggling more than one ball.  The key to effective to do lists is to only put actionable items on them - not line items that involve fifty smaller actions. Only put the next step necessary to accomplish at task.  This will allow you to mark things off quicker and give you reachable benchmarks instead of just a long list of items that each contain their own to do lists.

Open Windows
There is a difference between time to do something and the "right" time to do something, called an open window. Open windows are unique to each person and each task.  Picking your open windows involves understanding what time of day you work most efficiently, what location works best for which task, when your distractions are lowest, which hours of your day you can accomplish flow (described below), etc.  The open window strategy is a true example of taking control of your time. Learning, leveraging and taking actions based on when you work most efficiently and effectively.

Flow
This is a time management strategy based on brain science.  Flow is described as the mental state when you are working most efficiently.  Every task requires a complex coordination of functions in the brain.  It normally tasks around 20-minutes for your brain to get "up to speed" and work most efficiently on a task.  This post-20 minute state is called flow. If you are not controlling your little distractions and interruptions (email, phone calls, walk-ins, etc.) throughout your day, you are probably never accomplishing true flow and never working most efficiently.

Empty Inbox
Your email inbox should not be used as a to do list.  Primarily because that is not what it is intended for and because it is a totally reactionary tool. IE - the items were sent by others and when they wanted to send them. Whenever you do check your email, do something with each.  Take action, delegate, move to a to do list, put it in a folder (you can search to find it later if you need it), archive it, delete it forever.  A hefty inbox is a major source of fatigue (even if you don't notice it) and is a sign of poor time management.  Take control and get your total email count (read, unread, etc.) to under 15 every day.  If you want to learn more about how to do this magical trick, email me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com. My strategies in this area were originally inspired by Merlin Mann.

Just Say No
The magic bullet for most people when it comes to managing their time better is to get better at saying no to any commitment that you know you either can not do or can only do halfway.  I would personally rather you say no to something than say yes and not follow through. And so would most people.  This also includes commitments given to you at work.  You know your work load better than anyone.  If your boss or team leader gives you a task and you are already over-committed, be honest and let them know that something will have to not get done if this new commitment is to happen. Of course, this strategy will only fly if you have built up your trust account with others and it is well known that you are working hard and committing fully to your current tasks.

Tenacity
Focus longer. Set realistic, but stretch goals for the task in front of you and get them done. The tools listed above (and the thousands of others out there) will only work if you will.

Click here for another quick list of techniques.



Tweet That
Following are a few pre-made tweets to share with your network.
Follow us - @pli_leadership

@pli_leadership says to spend your time with T-COINs - Take Care Of It Now. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says that your inbox should not be used as a to do list. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says to let your co-workers know if their request will over-commit you. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership recommends reading the works of Merlin Mann and David Allen for time management tips. http://ow.ly/e6re6

9.22.2012

General: Performance Capacity

Performance Capacity is the level of available resources to accomplish a task. Here is a short list of mission-critical metrics most professionals (students or adults) have their eye on:

- Time Management
- Stress Management
- Job Specific Tasks
- Networking Skills
- Presentation Skills
- Active Listening
- Feedback/Coaching
- Work Ethic
- Emotional Maturity
- Goal Processing
- Energy Level

Any highly successful person will tell you they are good in many areas, but great in a few. Your task is to identify which metrics are absolutely critical and then follow this process to develop:

1. Get clear on where you are today. Self-awareness is the key.

2. Identify what "excellence" looks and feels like. Set a clear, specific goal.

3. Develop a reasonable, routine-based action plan to reach that goal. It's all about creating the correct patterns in your life.

Expanding Performance Capacity is not achieved by short-term actions. It's reached through daily excellence habits that become part of your lifestyle.

9.11.2012

Emotional Maturity: The Failure Factory

(This is a repost of one of our most popular posts...)


Failure is a reality of life for all of us. None of us achieve what we want all the time. Expert leaders do not have less failure than novice leaders. Expert leaders simply have a better built Failure Factory.

This Failure Factory is not the production line; failure is a given in life and is produced just by being alive. This is a processing factory and everyone has one. Failure goes in, how we choose to respond or react to it is the processing part inside the Factory and our leadership effectiveness is strongly impacted by what comes out the other end, which is how we are fundamentally changed (for good or bad) by the failure.

Expert leaders positively influence people and situations to create value and growth. This means they are able to remain positive, still influence others and have the uncanny ability to create value even when failure is fed in. How?

Expert leaders have developed the ability to...

1. Recognize and be okay with the fact that they are flawed. They are very self-aware.

2. View failure as temporary. They have their sights set on the long-term.

3. Actively seek out learning lessons by asking why did this happen, not just how did this happen. They look for meaning.

4. Laugh at themselves. They take their job seriously, but not themselves.

5. Risk, Fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, etc.

Take a good look at your Failure Factory. You can drastically improve your ability to create value and growth by improving the inner-workings of your Factory.

9.10.2012

Vision: Cheetah Leader

Click on the image to download the high-res version.

The following text provides on overview of seven human qualities that tend to be stronger when we are younger that help us make a positive impact on others. Basically the concept is that, in many ways, we are born leaders and then we lose many of these natural traits over time. The information below also provides insight into how to get these back, strengthen them and even retain and excel at the natural leadership traits you had when you were young in the face of the challenges, pressures and responsibilities of adult life.

Curiosity
Being curious allows you to discover new ideas.

When we are young, we want to learn about everything. Our favorite question is "why?" No item is too trivial to be asked about. Our entire world revolves around learning and satisfying curiosity's appetite. Our knowledge jars are open and constantly being filled. As we age, we thrive on looking smart, doing right and knowing all the answers. The most popular, longest running TV show ever made is based on this one fact - Jeopardy! We take our knowledge jars, put lids on them and put them up for good. This diminishes our passion for asking questions. Make a change and see yourself as a life-long learner. Get great at what you do, but live out the quote, "When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." Stay on top of the newest trends, techniques and material. Avoid the common leader pitfalls of arrogance, behind-the-times, stuck-up, etc. Think like a student, but act like an expert. Surround yourself with learning environments and people who are willing to push you to learn more and do more.

Hopeful
Being hopeful allows you to push the envelope.

Young people not only have great big goals and life dreams, but they also fully expect them to come true. They are filled with hope for the future, for the weekend, for the afternoon. However, as we age we lose our faith in others and we lose our ability to trust. We lose faith in our abilities and we lose our hope. We set low expectations and stop dreaming big. Make a change and push the envelope, see the future before others do, motivate the best from your team, etc. These actions are driven by having an intense sense of hope for the future. Believe in the truth behind the quote, "When the world says give up, the leader whispers "try it one more time."

Energetic
Being energetic allows you to get more done.

One look at a garden variety playground demonstrates this trait. We have a ton of energy when we are young. Always running, always playing, always going until we literally fall into bed. However, energy boosters are a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. We adults are starved for energy. Most of our diets, exercise routines and lifestyles are not designed to give us energy. They deprive us of it. Make a change. Run fast. Get twice as much done as others. Do big, meaningful work that demands a large quantity of time, attention and energy. The average corporate CEO lives on five hours of sleep per night, yet they have the energy of a five-year old. Use effective time management strategies. Use natural energy boosters: sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, etc. Refuel often. Use effective stress management techniques. Make time for a hobby you enjoy. Make time to relax.

Expressive
Being expressive allows you to communicate fully.

As children we are OK with outwardly expressing our feelings, emotions, frustrations, happy days and sad days. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. Whether you want to hear it or not, we will tell you or show you what's going on in our world. Personality and extrovert/introvert factors play a role here, but generally speaking we are less skilled or willing to express ourselves as we age. We fear speaking in public. We don't raise our hands in class. We have to work at clearly, authentically, and consistently communicating our world with others. I'm not suggesting you start running around shouting and crying all the time, but make a change and work to improve your ability to express your thoughts and feelings when necessary and meaningful moments arrive. This requires continual practice, separating judgment of self from judgment of performance and learning the foundational success principles that guide each unique (yet repetitive) communication experience.

Trusting
Being trusting allows you to bring the best out of others.

Young people believe in others. They are shy and reserved at times, but have a natural faith in other humans. They don't know any different. We are born to trust one another. Then life happens; too many people break trust with us. We begin operating from a starting point of, "guilty until proven innocent." We expect to be disappointed, heart broken and stepped on. Make a change by choosing a starting point of, "innocent until proven guilty" when dealing with other people. Develop a core faith in other's character, abilities and talents. This will serve as the spark and fuel to those people actually living up to the your expectations. Again, surround yourself with great people. View failures/shortcomings as temporary. Work through challenges with people. Most importantly, never work from assumptions or misinformation. Communicate clearly with people and expect the same from them.

Awe-Struck
Being awe-struck allows you to enlarge value.

Everything was new, awesome and inspiring when you were young. You were in constant awe of your surroundings, your future, etc. You got excited about the smallest things. Then you became used to everything. You started taking things for granted. Now it probably takes a true effort to catch and hold your attention. Make a change and see yourself as a risk taker, dream waker and love maker. Appreciate and lift up the ordinary to make it extraordinary. Be easily impressed by others; don't make them fight for your approval or attention. Seek out new adventures, new people, new routes, new books, new thoughts, etc. It is easier to fuel your awe-struck trait when you surround yourself with inspiration.

Happy
Being happy allows you to attract others.

A 5-year old laughs more in one day than the average 50-year old does in a year. They find fun and laughter in everything. It helps that our lives at that age revolve around having fun, but even the "non-fun" things spark laughter and joy from us. However, at some point we stop laughing. We see "happy" as foolish. Its not grown-up to be smiling and laughing all the time. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to wipe that grin off your face. Make a change and decide today to love your life. Smile often because you find reasons to be happy and work hard to delete, diminish or dilute those things that bring you down.

Follow us:  @cheetahleader

Download the poster here.

8.22.2012

Vision: Three Success Patterns for Students

Source: Ben Heine

Students are back in school and the American Dream Factory is in full force.  Study hard, keep your nose clean and you too can have the life you want.  Scholarships, college of choice, great career, etc. However, what the best students know is there is more to getting what you want in the future than just getting good grades and being a good person.  Following are three patterns that are non-negotiables for students who are putting themselves in the best position for success.  These are not "do more and you will get more" principles. These are "do more of what works and less of what doesn't" principles.

1. Create and expand your network. Its not what you know. Its not who you know. Its who knows you. Students (secondary and post-secondary) need to pick a target career goal for many reasons. One of the most important is it gives you an industry to get involved in.  Seek out internships, attend industry conferences, network with professionals who are successful doing the job you want to do and ask them questions. Companies don't hire people; people hire people. Schools don't give scholarships; people give scholarships.  Get to know people.

2. Build up a robust trust account. Future "gatekeepers" are going to check all the basics of your past: grades, extracurricular activities, etc. However, they will place just as much stock (if not more) in what your references say about you as a person. Character, work ethic, integrity, creativity, people skills, willingness to learn, flexibility, emotional maturity, etc. You need to invest a ton of time and energy in building trust with people in your life today; especially your teachers, school administrators, bosses, etc. You will need their help in the future. Be trustworthy - worthy of other's trust.

3. Go above and beyond expectations. Build a reputation as someone who will do more than expected. And not because you are always asked or because there is a "prize" for it, but because it is who you are. Figure out how to maximize your school opportunities (inside and outside of the classroom) and then act. This list includes: internships, student organizations, helping your teacher with projects, etc.

The competition for scholarships, college admission and jobs is higher than ever. Put yourself in the best position for success by incorporating these three patterns in your school routine. Good luck!

Book recommendation - How to Be a High School Superstar, Cal Newport

"Disguised as a peppy college-admission guide, Newport's book is actually a profound, life-affirming manifesto for ambitious high school students. Forgo the sleepless and cynical path to college acceptance. Instead, blaze your trail to the Ivy League by living a full life and immersing yourself in things that matter. Relax. Find meaning. Be you." David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us

8.09.2012

Fostering Relationships: The Value of Team Bonding


Pop Quiz: Which method of communication most effectively conveys every aspect of a message?

A. Face-to-Face
B. Phone Call
C. Email
D. Text Message

The answer, of course, is A. Face-to-face communication is the most effective method for delivering and responding to every element of a message: words, context, body language, emotional content, etc. As you move down the line from face-to-face to phone call to email to text message, the complexity of the message is filtered because the amount of information given and received diminishes. 

This dynamic is pretty well-known; even though many people do not have the willingness or understanding to apply the proper medium to the right message.  However, this communication lesson actually serves as the best explanation for the value of team bonding. Here is a quick overview:

Text Message = Working on a project with someone you've never met.
Text messages are great at conveying quick information, but are ineffective at conveying tone and meaning. Similarly, it is difficult to work efficiently with someone you've never met because all you know about them is right-now information. Therefore, you have to take everything at face value and tasks can take longer because everything has to spelled out and clearly explained.  Assumptions are not always a bad thing, but they are almost always a bad tactic when you have no prior knowledge of the other person's intentions, actions or behaviors.

Email = Working with a new team member.
Email is the preferred "quick" and "traceable" method of communication in the workplace. It is efficient to a point. Everyone has had that moment five-minutes into drafting an email when you hit delete and then just call the person because you realize it is faster. Email is clear to a point also because tone is not always easy (or front of mind) to explain. When a new team member arrives (especially if the team is already robust) many people will simply not take the time to explain tone or context to the "newbies" and just skip past that step.  Therefore, the complexity of the messages are left to assumption by the new team member. This creates miscommunication, confusion and, in many cases, no clear person to blame.

Phone Call = Working on a team with someone you know professionally, but have never learned anything about personally.
Phone calls are many times just as useful as face-to-face in terms of fully conveying the message at hand. However, they are not quite as good. One of the major differences is what choosing the medium conveys.  If you have the option of meeting face-to-face or over-the-phone with me and you choose phone, it does place a lower value on the interaction; except in all the cases where the context is just a quick chat. This same dynamic works with office relationships. If you don't take the time to get to know me or learn more about me, I don't feel a sense of investment in the relationship from you (and vice-versa). This can create a working relationship that is not as powerful and robust as possible.

Face-to-Face = Working on a team with someone you know both professionally and personally.
The most effective medium for delivering and receiving the complexity of a message is face-to-face. I can read your body language. I can see your tone.  I can see, not just hear, how you are responding to me.  It is efficient, effective and clear (as long as the words are clear). This is the perfect metaphor and support for the value of team bonding.  When two people take time to learn more than just surface level knowledge about each other, they are better equipped to read intention, context, purpose, understanding, etc. Only a small percentage of the messages we send every day are conveyed in our words. The vast majority of the message exists in our body language, tone, assumed intent, etc. When teams invest time in bonding and understanding how each other ticks, these larger messages are more clearly delivered and more appropriately received.

Tweet the lines in italics - @pli_leadership

8.01.2012

Skill Assessment: Solar System Leadership Lessons

A simple, fresh metaphor is a powerful tool in gaining clarity on what's important and meaningful. Leadership is a complex and diverse subject. Following is a look at how basic, effective leadership and team motivation works.



The players in this metaphor are the sun, moon and earth (it's difficult to find a more basic and simple metaphor). The earth represents each team player. It is an intricate entity comprising of a million moving parts - much like each person on your team. It does work, provides value, is difficult to keep in good working shape and exists in its present form because of one primary energy source - the sun.

The sun, obviously, is the earth's energy source and represents a team player's energy source - motive. Each person is motivated wholly by a complicated mix of inputs, but the lesson here is that leadership is not the primary motivator. The source driving action is personal motive.

So, what does the moon represent? This is where the team leader enters the picture. He or she uniquely plays the same role as the moon in the ecosystem. Visually, the moon reflects the sun's light. It is similar, yet all together different from the earth. And it influences certain movements on earth - i.e. the tides. An effective team leader does the same. He or she works hard to reflect back to the team their core motives. He or she is self-aware of the similarities they have with the team, but also recognizes core differences. And, of course, the leader's work (and primary utility) revolves around positively influencing the team's actions.

I think one of the biggest ah-ha moments this metaphor serves up is the recognition that neither the leader nor the team players are at the center of the ecosystem. That position is held squarely by motive. When leaders try to play this role they become overbearing, self-centered and out-of-whack with how true leadership and motivation work. When team players try to fill this position, they aren't in tune with their role within the organization.

Remember this solar system metaphor next time you are attempting to either build a high-performing team, fix one that's off kilter, or working hard to take a team from average to excellent. Continue to sharpen your understanding of each team member's authentic motives, be a reflective model of positive motives and keep those motives as the center of your team's ecosystem.

Tweet this post - @pli_leadership

7.30.2012

Fostering Relationships: How To Become a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator


I had the wonderful pleasure of speaking once again at the St. Jude Collegiate Leadership Seminar this weekend in Memphis. The conference is designed to educate and inspire college students and advisers across the country who raise money on their campuses for St. Jude. The purpose of my workshop to the advisers was to give insights on how to strengthen relationships across campus. Following are the main lessons; they are applicable on and off of college campuses.

1. Own it. Take responsibility for the condition of the relationships you have with persons of influence on campus.

2. Make two lists - Friends (people who support your work on campus) and Future Friends (people who either don't support your work or don't actively know you or your work). The goal is to turn Friends into Raving Fans and to turn Future Friends into Friends.

3. Work hard to change the way you view the power hierarchy on your campus. Especially those views that you have that are holding you back from moving forward with certain requests or relationships. A step in the right direction is added the words "Right Now" to your vocabulary. Instead of saying, "The athletic department won't work us," say, "The athletic department won't work us Right Now."

4. L.E.A.D. - Look for, Encourage, Appreciate and Draw out the best of others. How most people treat you is based on who you are to them, the environment your interactions are in & how you treat them. Make them good. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership) Take your Friends and Future Friends lists and turn them into a Campus Water Well Book - a place where you keep track of relationship activity you are involved in.

5. Be a lover of what other people are doing on campus. Be Interested. Make someone else feel more important than they think they are and you instantly become more important to them. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership)

6. Build up others when they aren't around. Stephen Covey said, "A great way to build trust with those in the room is to talk up about those not in the room." Example - Use we, never us and them. Master Ninja Level Relationship Coordinators do not have the luxury of having a loose tongue. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership)

7. Be Intentional. Foster a relationship weekly or bi-weekly with at least one person in each of the areas of campus that directly impact your work. Lunches, coffee, share resources, etc.

8. Piggy-Backing. Investigate how your core work can help another department's core mission also and do more cooperative activities.

9. What comes to mind when people hear your name/office/projects? What habits do you have that are creating or blocking the pattern of others seeing you as a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator?

Action Steps


- Develop or sharpen your Campus Water Well Book.

- Discover actions you need to start or change or increase.

- Start now. Take action. Email. Call. Schedule.

- Identify what's holding you back from making certain calls to Future Friends.

- Get clear on what other people are saying about you/your department/your work.

- Think of yourself as a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator. Be self-aware and own this title.



7.16.2012

Masterful Communication: Absolutely Dominate the Interview


Following are my top tips on how to rock in a job interview...

  1. Be early. 15 minutes before is on time. If you are interviewing on a large corporate complex or institutional campus, be in the parking lot no later than 30 minutes before.  Give yourself time to get to the interview room in a relaxed, focused and ready-to-go fashion.
  2. Call beforehand and find out what type of attire your interviewer will be in. Dress at the same level. Your first impression is huge here.  This first impression will be largely based on your face (smile, direct eye contact, friendly) and your attire (polished, ironed, everything-in-place).
  3. Research the company. Strengths. Weaknesses. Early years. Big changes. Future plans. Etc. Memorize some facts and practice discussing the company's industry in conversation form. Be knowledgeable about the company you are seeking to start a relationship with.  This process is just as much about you picking the company as it is the company picking you.
  4. Research the job you want. Talk to someone in that position or someone who used to be. What is the job really like? What are the best parts and worst parts? Most importantly, what skills/attitudes/behaviors are needed for success? Then cross-reference those with genuine skills and strengths that you have. What are the worst days/weeks like and why?  How can you demonstrate that you can handle these down times effectively?
  5. Do as many mock interviews as you can. Have a friend or family member ask you a list of random questions from your resume. Practice putting your answers into one of these three templates: the story structure (answer with a brief, visual, concrete story), the list structure (put your answer in a list of 2-4 items) or the anchor word structure (answer with one word or phrase and then give evidence of why you chose that answer). The most important step here is remembering that evidence is king.  Don't just say you are a good time manager, have good people skills or can handle high-stress situations.  Say that and then tell a story about a time you applied that strength.  Provide evidence.
  6. Maintain an eager (but non-Red Bull) body language. Speak up. Hold eye contact. Have variety in tone (serious, jovial, light-hearted, factual). Lean forward. Take notes.
  7. When discussing a weakness or shortcoming, follow this template: 1. Answer honestly. 2. Discuss how you are working on the weakness or have developed a strength to off-set it.
  8. Stick to your core values, beliefs and standards. Don't be someone who "will do anything to get the job." Demonstrate a willingness to learn, be flexible and grow, but also demonstrate you are a person of conviction.
  9. Be very clear on the top three to five strengths necessary to be successful in the job you are applying for. Work to model or discuss evidence of ownership in the interview.   Provide evidence with Concrete, Visual, Simple (CVS) stories from past work experiences or from your personal life.
  10. Every job involves other humans. Model and discuss evidence of ownership of your people skills. Be gracious. Compliment. Be honest. Demonstrate trustworthiness and credibility. People get hired for their resume, but get fired for their people skills.
A bonus tip is how to approach the job-hunting world in general.  Act exactly like getting a job is your job.  Wake up in the morning.  Get showered and dressed professionally (biz casual is fine). Go to your "sales job" with you as the product. Call more people than others.  Submit more resumes than others. Go to more interviews than others. Work hard to be okay with rejection or delayed responses. Work it and it will work.

(A part of my business is teaching interviewing skills.  Email me if you would like discuss working with me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com.)

7.11.2012

Service Minded: 12 Principles Revisited


I have been training a ton lately on customer service.  Here are the direct links to the posts overviewing each of the 12 Principles of Remarkable Customer Service:

The 7-Iron Principle - Excellent service is elemental.
The Chicken Little Principle - Emphasize the positive.
The Open Space Principle - Build on what works.
The Platinum Rule Principle - Do unto others as they'd like done unto them.
The Tony Bennett Principle - Have a veteran's expertise and a novice's energy.
The Irving Principle - Get clear on why you are successful.
The Fresh Air Principle - Ask great questions.
The Toddler Principle - Friendly first.
The Toyota Principle - Enable and encourage problem solving right now.
The Walking Billboard Principle - You are the brand.
The YourSpace Principle - Your way + My way = Our way.
The Thunder Principle - Have one face for the organization.

Contact me when you'd like to discuss my customer service keynote and/or seminar training options.

6.27.2012

Innovativeness: The Seven Great Barriers to Creative Work

Creativity is a key element of leadership. In fact, it is essential. Leadership is measured by results. Good results = good leadership. Poor results = poor leadership. Creativity is not something you do or are or make. It is an output. It is a result of other factors at play - risk, failure, brainstorming, awareness, perspective, etc. You can't "be creative" just like you can't "be respectful". You do something that then results in both of those happening. Creativity is a vital part of a great leader's results list.

Since creativity is something you produce, not something you do, the question isn't, "How can I be more creative?" The question is, "What do I need to do to produce creative work?" That answer depends greatly on the nature of your work. However, if you work to overcome the following seven barriers, your capacity for producing creative work will go up.

The Seven Great Barriers to Creative Work

  1. Silos - Every person thinks differently, but no one knows everything. Silos is the barrier of either intentionally or culturally (read: work culture) not asking for or seeking out help, opinions, experience, ideas, or facts from others. This creates a debilitating effect on ideas, motivation, solution-seeking and more. Creative work thrives and dances in interconnected environments.
  2. No WOO - There are very few work environments that are not social or built around team contribution. Woo is a monicker from Strengthsfinder's personal assessment tool and stands for "Win Others Over"; meaning the quality of likeability. Creative work is highly social work and when WOO is missing, ideas are not shared as freely or as frequently.
  3. Chicken Little - In the cartoon world, he yells, "The sky is falling." In the real world, Chicken Littles are negative people. They contribute ten negatives to an idea session before even thinking of one positive. This constant focus on what is wrong snaps the oxygen supply from creative work. You have to deal with challenges if problems are going to be solved, but Chicken Littles simply never get to the second part - the solving.
  4. Run Forrest, Run - This barrier has a Catch 22 title. If there was one thing Forrest Gump did not do, it was run from who he was. He embraced and pursued every aspect of life. However, most people run from the scary, new and risk-laden projects or ideas at work. This is sourced from a variety of things, but one of the strongest sources is a fear of the judgment of others. Creative work requires bold actions and risky moves. Most people run from those things.
  5. Leftovers - Creative work also requires you to see new things. This is challenging to do when all you see at work are leftovers; projects, ideas, people, concepts, tasks, etc. that were in the fridge yesterday. Very few people are working on brand new, never seen before projects. The standard for most creative work is taking something old, seeing it as new and then making it so.
  6. My Brain Runneth Over - Fatigue sets in for professionals (in many ways) and creates barriers. One of the most damaging to creative work is the lack of desire to learn more. When learning stops, creative work stops.
  7. Lost Hope - You can see there is a running theme of emotional content through these barriers - fear, negativity, etc. Lost hope is the strongest emotional barrier and is the nail in the creative work's coffin. Once you decide something great cannot be created, it becomes an absolute certainty. Additionally, once you lose hope that you could ever do creative work, it is decidely so.
These seven barriers all have wrecking balls - strategies for breaking them down and not allowing them to dilute, diminish or delete your creative work. We will take a look at those over the next few weeks.

Because creative work is so vital to your leadership effectiveness, I encourage you to print this page, give it to someone who knows you well and ask them to give you feedback on whether or not these barriers are negatively impacting your work or personal life.

Tweet this: 7 Barriers to Creative Work: Silos, No WOO, Chicken Little, Run Forrest Run, Leftovers, My Brain Runneth Over, Lost Hope. @pli_leadership

6.24.2012

Vision: Marco YOLO

We've been having some fun with a new catchphrase at conferences - Marco YOLO! Yep, Marco Polo is so five minutes ago. This YOLO stands for You Only Lead Once - a concept that should guide your vision as a leader. The lesson is two fold:

1. The change from polo to YOLO is a fun metaphor for the change effective leaders make in how people talk, label, converse and interact. Leaders don't just help people do better, they help people be better. Many times this transformation begins with improving, sharpening and "classing-up" language. How we speak is a reflection of how we think. Yet, leaders who make an impact understand that how we speak greatly influences how others think.

2. The personal application of YOLO - You Only Lead Once is about total commitment to every opportunity you have to lead today. View each leadership moment as your last and apply full personal resources. Anything less is not leadership; it's averageship. This is not about wearing yourself out all the time. This is about acting on the understanding that the people you lead deserve your best every time.

Marco...

6.20.2012

Integrity: Six Actions of Great Leadership

How do you know if you are actually creating results as a leader? Focus your work around the following six actions and the results will follow.

#Engage

#Support

#Connect

#Contribute

#Inspire

#Impact

5.25.2012

Fostering Relationships: Parent = Leader

 

 

Parents are some of the most influential leaders on the planet. Following are four key behaviors of parents who make the most of this influence and are creating children ready for the best of times and the worst of times.

1. Secretly pay the debt for your children.

My wife is in the middle of a bible study that contains a key lesson of Christian leaders: we must pay the debt for others who are either not strong enough to handle it on their own or who can't pay it. We must unselfishly act with resolve, integrity and responsibility. Effective parents do this for their children. The key here is to do it "secretly" without ever expecting your children to earn it. They deserve it because they are in your care. You must be strong for them and never use these acts as a reward for good behavior. This creates a home environment filled with unconditional love and support.

2. Be filled with a genuine desire to learn and love their ways.

The generational difference can create barriers. It can block understanding, compassion and a sense of community in the home. Effective parents tear down these barriers each time they seek to see life through their children's eyes. A simple example is cell phones. Young people use their phones (via text messages, social media, photos, etc.) to create real community and connections with their friends. Embrace this. Set rules and help them understand the dangers, but be a team player in this area (and many others) with your children.

3. Create a home where mistakes are cherished, celebrated and communicated.

My PLI co-leader Ryan Underwood and his wife have a painting in their home that says something similar to this. It serves as a visual reminder every day that life is full of twists and turns and they will talk, learn and grow together as a family through them. Effective parents help their children understand that the best life does not mean a mistake-free life. The best life is created by responding positively in the face of mistakes. Help your children feel safe to risk big, try new things, and be comfortable with sharing their good days and bad days with you.

4. Time is where families grow.

Effective parents create moments in their day regularly where the focus is just on being together as a family. Do things that involve conversation, being present with one another and just enjoying each other's company. This creates a stack of moments that lead to understanding, connections and memories children can lean on for strength when the lonely times come that every young person experiences.

Parenting is tough for many reasons; stress, commitments, work, troubles, etc. However, it is primarily tough because it is the textbook definition of leadership. And leadership is difficult. Because it matters. Work hard to be a leader for your children. One that is inspiring, motivating and worthy of their unwavering trust and devotion.

5.17.2012

Fostering Relationships: Leadership Principles for Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are just about as fun as a root canal, but they are way easier than the pain of not getting the needed root canal. Effective leaders make difficult conversations happen because they are necessary for growth, excellence and the long-term health of an organization or team. Here is a short list of difficult conversations that happen in the workplace:

  • Explaining why someone is not getting a promotion.
  • Confronting repeating unacceptable behavior.
  • Providing honest feedback on poor performance.
  • Respectfully challenging a colleague or customer.
  • Holding someone accountable for their output.
  • Sharing tough decision outcomes.
  • Delegating responsibility.
  • Discussing a taboo issue like hygiene or dress.
  • Thoughtfully saying no.
  • Addressing opportunities for improvement.
  • Explaining options in the face of adversity.
So, why don't these conversations happen? A big reason is because, not only are the conversations challenging, but the skills needed to make them happen successfully are also inherently challenging. The really important skills here fall in the leadership category. The following five leadership principles (which can be applied to many more areas than just difficult conversations) will help you shape your thinking, your approach and your execution of the next difficult conversation you need to have with someone.


Leadership Principle One: Others First. Self Second.


  • Be committed to seeing the other person succeed.
  • Focus on the behavior or necessary changes, not the person.
  • Be entirely focused on the conversation and the other person. Remove distractions.
  • Arrange for a private setting.
  • Speak only for yourself, not on behalf of people not in the room.



Leadership Principle Two: Difficult is Not an Excuse to Delay.


  • We do more damage to others by not saying what needs to be said.
  • The process of the conversation might not be pleasant or positive, but the end result can be.

Leadership Principle Three: An Adaptive Approach is the Only Approach.


  • Honesty must be tempered with compassion and tact.
  • Make decisions on what to say intellectually, not emotionally.
Ask yourself these questions beforehand to prepare:


  • How will I be helping this person?
  • Will telling them this make them better in the long run?
  • Why am I delaying telling them this?
  • If I was in their position, would I prefer to know?
  • How will they react? How do I know?
  • Will they accept advice from me?

Leadership Principle Four: Find the Common Ground Quickly and Build From There.


  • Find something early on that you both can agree on.
  • Get them saying yes.
  • Be preemptive by fostering relationships with people.

Leadership Principle Five: Goals and Values Guide Action.


  • Be clear on the best possible outcome.
  • Be specific with discussion items, needed changes, etc.
  • Be clear on what company or organization value or belief is driving the need for the conversation.