Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's Really Being Shredded?

So there's this company called LifeLock that offers identity and personal information protection for a flat monthly fee. You may even remember their television ad from a while back where they pasted its CEO's Social Security number on the screen? By the way, their web site now includes (I've circled it in red, above) an asterisk: "Never share your social security number unnecessarily." (Okay, so apparently, advertising IS necessary! (See yesterday's Accenture piece for more on that.)

But LifeLock now has an even more puzzling full-page newspaper ad that says:

Enroll Today and Receive a FREE Shredder!

Okay, someone explain this to me: Why would a company that guarantees you against identity theft be offering something that you wouldn't need after signing up as an enrollment incentive?!

Don't get me wrong, shredders are good things. But, in this context, isn't that like offering a free steak dinner to anyone who becomes a vegetarian?! Isn't that like offering you free cat litter for as long as you own your dog?! I guess you could give the shredder away to a loved one, but you'd think LifeLock would rather you give them a subscription to their service instead, no?!

Mixed messages, like these, are a pet peeve of mine -- like the TV ads that basically say, "If you're stupid like the people in this TV commercial, then our product is perfect for you!" Argh!

So, too, are mixed messages in the workplace -- especially in the leadership space:
  • Like a boss who who gigs people for tardiness but takes long lunches and sneaks out early himself
  • Like a boss who insists on work/life balance but expects a timely reply to her Sunday afternoon emails
  • Like a boss who stresses professionalism, but says, "Do as I say, not as I do"
  • Like a boss who encourages you to do better but won't say what's specifically needed to bring your performance up to the next level

The only thing that these things "shred" is your leadership reputation. So take a moment to consider what mixed messages might YOU be sending -- not just in your company's advertising campaign, but in your own leadership style, as well. Protect your Leadership Identity.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Conflict Hot Buttons?

What "triggers" you into conflict?
What's your hottest HOT BUTTON?

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

GGCI's Executive Coaching Flow

Recently created this diagram to help explain what I do when a company hires me as an executive coach for some leadership development work. Thought it'd make sense to post it for a wider GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. (GGCI) audience to see, as well, so here it is:

GottaGettaCoach! Executive Coaching Flow Feel free to call (847-291-9735) or email ( to discuss.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

ManagementSushi Guest Post #2: Time-Management, the TV-Marathon Way

Courtesy of ManagementSushi, UK-based marketeer, brand expert, and SME business strategist, Bernie Ritchie's blog, my latest guest-post is now live.

Titled, "2010 : Year of the TV Marathon Work Week Approach?!" it's a tongue-in-cheek strategy for managing your way-too-busy work-week, based on how television stations schedule those program marathons.

To start things off, Bernie's included some of her favorite (or 'favourite,' as she'd spell it) time-management resources, as well.

Here, then, is an excerpt of the post:

"Monday could be "Email Day" where all we did was respond to what was in our in-boxes. Now many of you get *zillions* of emails, no doubt, but I gotta believe that if you had an entire day to focus just on that, why you might even be able to come in a little bit late on Mondays. And wouldn't that be a nice way to start the week?!
"Having eased into the week like that, Tuesday would then be "Commitment Day." This would be when you'd be responsible for doing all the things you said you'd do in your emails, a week ago Monday. Just imagine: "Sorry, boss, I can't help you out right now, I'm too busy honoring the commitments I've already made to other people."

"Of course that would mean that Wednesday would have to be "Commitment Overflow Day" (COD for short). Why? Well for two reasons ..."
(... continued at

Image Source:

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dissent and Other Keys to Success

Even in the worst of times, Bad Management causes dissension. In "Developing Managers for Team-Driven Success" (Baseline Magazine, November 2009) William Moskal identified several examples of bad management behavior:
  • Micromanagement: "Decisions are imposed, not delegated."
  • Communication gaps: "Goals, strategies, expectations and timelines are not shared. Feedback is withheld."
  • Inconsistency: "Abrupt reversals, deadline changes and frequent new priorities." (Although in fairness to everyone, that's really become fairly typical in many (most?) organizations, hasn't it?!)
  • Intimidation: "A disproportionate focus on discipline, not coaching, including public criticism and rudeness."
  • Self-promotion: "Opportunities are not shared, and credit is hoarded."
  • Lack of mentoring: "Managers are not groomed for advancement. Cross-training is not encouraged and access to upper management is restricted."

"The reassuring news," says Moskal, "is that managers who unwittingly build barriers can also remove them." (Yes, when it comes to professional development, sometimes you actually can teach old dogs new tricks!) His solution: "Senior executives should take a wide-angle look to identify opportunities to empower and motivate front-line managers, while avoiding corrective approaches that stigmatize and single out individuals."

Okay. Anyway, he also had an excellent approach to helping managers improve their engagement, strategic analysis skills, and conflict management capabilities:

Have each executive establish - and rotate - an "official dissent" role among his/her direct reports.

Per Moskal, "Sanctioned opposition can be a powerful tool for collaborative decision-making, analytic skill-building and improved outcomes." I agree. It 'permissions' the quiet ones to speak up. It encourages those who always play 'devil's advocate' to stretch beyond just that.

(Hmm, dissenting with the official dissenter is tantamount to agreeing with the original idea, is it not?! And agreeing with the dissenter is, well, agreeing! Watch out you devil's advocates out there, this official dissent thing could rock your world! )

Having an official dissent role in your organization might unlock some truly superb ideas. And in these worst of times, superb ideas are exactly what's needed, are they not?!

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Remember THIS Job Interview Strategy?!

Friday, November 13, 2009

RockStarLeader Guest Post #2: Rock Star Leadership in the Key of … “See”

My newest guest post at the Rock Star Leader blog was published today. Titled, Rock Star Leadership In the Key of … “See”, it looks at what music can really teach a leader about how to be a Rock Star Leader:
"So can music really teach a leader how to be a Rock Star Leader?!
"Well, let’s see what M-U-S-I-C has to offer:
  • "M reminds us to always strive to Motivate Others. As a Rock Star Leader, it’s not just about helping others to raise their game when it’s convenient, or when you feel like it. It’s about ever-being the role model, the one others look up to, and the one who doesn’t just play the (Leadership) music, but someone who understands the (Leadership) music – and can explain it to others in increasingly powerfully engaging and relevant ways.

  • “U” suggests we always Utilize our Resources. A Rock Star Leader knows who’s good at what, who likes doing what, and how to those very skillful (and willful) people to stop what they’re working on, and willingly do what the Rock Star Leader needs done.
(...continued at

Image Source:

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

RockStarLeader Guest Post #1: Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music

Creative marketeer, Tom Schulte, recently started - "the intersection of music and influence" - and asked if I'd do some guest blogging for the site.

My first post was published today. It's called, Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music. Bascially, it's a riff on how leaders might not be as strong at communicating with their staff as they may think ... and what can be done about it.
"Subtlety is often considered a more “refined” form of communication. The problem with subtle communications, though, is that they ask the listener — they require the listener — to be much more discerning when listening. And depending on circumstances, that could be asking a LOT from someone.

"Too much, perhaps.

"Indeed, expecting someone to give you their full and Undivided Attention could be far more than they’re ready for — or capable of — in this busy, distracted, juggling priorities, go-go, world of ours."
To read the entire piece, link on over to Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music.

And while there, see what else is going on at

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Squat with Yer Spurs On!

Selected words of wisdom from "A Cowboy's Guide to Life," volumes I and II, by Texas Bix Bender:
  1. Never take to sawin' on the branch that's supportn' you, unless you're bein' hung from it.

  2. A lot of good luck is undeserved, but then so is a lot of bad luck.

  3. Go after life as if it's something that's got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

  4. Don't let so much reality into your life that there's no room left for dreamin'.

  5. Ain't never seen a wild critter feelin' sorry for itself.

  6. Honesty is not something you should flirt with -- ou should be married to it.

  7. Avoid flasharity, foofaraw, and fumadiddle in dress, speech, and conduct. leave the peacocking for the peacocks.

  8. You can't weigh the facts if yo'uve got the scales loaded down with your opinions.

  9. When you forgive and forget, forget that you forgave while you're at it.

  10. The best way to knock a chip off a shoulder is with a friendly pat on the back.

  11. Work lessat worrying and more at working.

  12. Advice is like a pot of chili: You should try a little of it yourself before you give anybody else a taste.

  13. If you ain't pullin' your weight, you're pushin' your luck.

  14. Nothin' keeps you honest more than witnesses.

  15. The purest metal comes out of the greatest heat.

  16. You're not being diplomatic just because you put "please' in front of "shut the hell up."

  17. Smetimes it takes a lot more thinkin' to deal with changes than to make 'em.

  18. You'll feel better when it quits hurtin'.

  19. The bigger the mouth, the better it looks shut.

  20. You can't tell how far a frog can jump by its croak.

  21. Always walk tall and keep your head up -- unless you're walkin' in a cow pasture.

  22. The best way to break a bad habit is to drop it.

Thanks to A.W.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

ManagementSushi Guest Post #1: Management Sushi, Johnny Appleseed Style

Management SushiLong-time marketeer, brand expert, and SME business strategist, Bernie Ritchie, over at, asked if I'd write an article for her blog. So I did!

The post, titled, Management Excellence, Johnny Appleseed Style, talks about a boss' responsibility to plant and cultivate motivational Growth Seeds.

"Growth Seeds are those special insights we share with others when we have their undivided attention. They are what inspire continued learning and growth. They are what enable greater creativity, motivation, and decisiveness. They are what help make good things happen for people that might not happen otherwise.
"So how does a manager effectively plant and nurture motivational Growth Seeds, if so inclined? The acronym "S-E-E-D-S" suggests a number of ways of doing exactly that."
To read more about motivational growth S-E-E-D-S, link on over to Management Excellence, Johnny Appleseed Style.
And while there, see what else Bernie's got going on at

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Conflict Trigger Mitigation and Avoidance

Here's the scenario:
  1. Person A wants to talk with Person B about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person A raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person B.
  3. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person A.
  4. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  5. Person B, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons A and B - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person A or Person B to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Or maybe, it goes like this:

  1. Person B wants to talk with Person A about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person B raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person A.
  3. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person B.
  4. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  5. Person A, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons B and A - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person B or Person A to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Likely both scenarios turn into one, big, round-and-round, ongoing, mess-of-a conflict.

Now keep in mind, no one actually has to be at fault here - Person A (or B) can be triggered just because Person B (or A) did, said, or even just *wore* something that reminded Person A (or B) of a trigger-worthy something/someone in his/her past. It's all very Pavlovian, for you Classical Conditioning fans out there. The point is, though, that triggers can be triggered for reasons totally unrelated to the "triggeree".

But, if Persons A and B can get more "consciously aware" of this whole triggers-triggering-triggers thing, they will likely WANT to work, in true partnership - yes, in TRUE partnership -, on:

  1. Trigger Mitigation - that is, helping each other to UN-trigger more quickly and effectively, should they inadvertently trigger, or be triggered by, each other;
  2. Trigger Avoidance - that is, helping each other to NOT trigger, or be triggered by, each other, nearly as often in the future.

Not to sound sales-y about it, but coaching (along with a Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) Assessment) is an excellent way help someone better understand his/her own triggers, how they may be unknowingly triggering others, and how to better manage these conflict dynamics.

So if you and someone - or someone and someone else you know - are in seemingly constant conflict with each other, there very well might be something we can all do about it to make things better.


*Triggers --> Whatever causes one's fight/flight instinct to suddenly, and dramatically, engage.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

4qtr2009 Not Just Talk! Newsletter Now Available

The 4qtr2009 Not Just Talk! quarterly newsletter from Barry Zweibel and GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. is now available and ready for viewing at


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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where They Sign What They Sign

Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor and author of Predictably Irrational, has been studying how to prevent cheating.

In a recent study, he found that when people are asked to sign their name at the TOP of an insurance application (instead of the usual signature spot, at the bottom) they were more honest about their driving habits, even though higher annual mileage meant higher premiums.

Extending this notion to more of a B-to-B setting:
  • The next time you query vendors on their Request for Proposal (RFP) submissions, or the like, have each vendor contact person sign the RFP response ... at the top of page 1 ... before reviewing it with them.

  • The next time a customer wants to review with you their Service Level Agreement (SLA) status report, or the like, have him/her sign that SLA status report ... at the top of page 1 ... at the very start of the meeting.

And just to keep yourself on the up-and-up:

  • The next time YOU need to submit some written information on something to someone, or the like, put YOUR signature ... at the top of page 1 ... before completing it!

source: "When People Recon it's O.K. to Cheat", BusinessWeek magazine, October 5, 2009, p25.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting More Done

"We all face the same constraint: there are only 24 hours in a day. But some people seem to get so much more done each day. How are they able to fit it all in?"

So starts a very helpful article, titled, Time at the Top: Productive Work Habits from CEOs and Top Executives, by Ann Gomez, a productivity expert, and President of Clear Concept Inc., and Mark Ellwood, an internationally known productivity consultant, expert on how people spend their time, President of Pace Productivity Inc., and buddy of mine from up in Canada.

They collaborated (quickly and efficiently, no doubt) to provide, based on their interviews with CEOs and other top executives, several "straight-forward techniques that employees at any level can use to fit more into their days":
  1. Know Your Priorities: I've blogged and tweeted about tracking your own "T-O-P 3", Today's (three) Overriding Priories - my version of doing this.
  2. Focus on One Thing at a Time: Developing one's “focus muscle” is an important, yet often overlooked, prerequisite for this.
  3. Manage Your Interruptions: To effectively switch gears and focus on their issue, Gomez and Ellwood recommend coaching people on how to give you some context and background, when interrupting, so you can better understand the issue they want to talk with you about and more easily segue from what you had been focusing on.
  4. Be Strategic About Your Email: Using the preview pane to scan the subject line
    and first two sentences is helpful to some, as is using "non-prime working time" to respond to the non-urgent ones. Others use the Touch it Once principle, acting on each email "the first time they read it." Regardless of strategy, though, it's important to "train" others as to your preferences and processes regarding email so important communiques don't get lost in the cracks.
  5. Run Efficient Meetings: One of the interviewed executives "consistently reinforces
    the designated start time by always closing the door when he walks in, and starting right away." Another, "recognizing that people need time to transition from one meeting to the next, scheduled most meetings to start exactly five minutes after the hour."
  6. Be Decisive: "Executives talked about the importance of committing to a decision, once made." Per one of the executives interviewed, "I make a decision once and go with it. I don’t allow my executive team to revisit a decision unless there is a case that is so compelling (i.e., brought on by new information or the discovery of a mistake)."
  7. Leverage Your Team (a.k.a. Delegate): Encouraging your staff to engage in Unsolicited Updates, is key.
  8. Take a Break: "All of the executives [interviewed] placed great importance on their lives outside work." And, yes, it does take some practice.

"The issues facing executives at the top of an organization are not fundamentally different from managers at any level. A lot of work needs to be done and there are always opportunities to do more. A major theme that emerges from our interviews of senior executives is that they are pro-active about how they manage their work. Rather than haphazardly allowing themselves to be overtaken by activities, they are clear about what needs to be done to be their most effective. In articulating how they achieve maximum effectiveness, they are simply preaching what they

Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Mark. Very helpful information and insight.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Unsolicted Thank Yous

I've written several times before about the importance of Unsolicited Updates, including:

This, then, is a variation on the theme, called Unsolicited Thank Yous. It works like this:

Taking the time you thank someone - again - especially when they're not expecting it, builds good will ... and increasing loyalty.


  • "Thanks, again, for the head's-up on [that issue] the other day. It really helped me do so much better at the budget review meeting."
  • "Thanks, again, for forwarding me that magazine article on [that topic]. The statistics it quoted came in handy that very afternoon!"
  • 'Thanks, again, for facilitating that meeting with [you know who]. I don't think it would have been nearly as fruitful if you hadn't."

Get the idea?!

  • "Thanks, again, for sitting in for me at [that meeting]. I was able to get so much done with my door closed and no one knowing I was in my office the whole time!"
  • "Thanks, again, for handling [that mess] the way you did. Everyone seemed pleased with how it turned out."
  • "Thanks, again, for coaching Tony on [his screw-up]. He seems to understand what went wrong so much better now."

Of course your thanks has to be authentic and real. And they have to 'speak to' the situation at hand. The key is to share how pleased you truly were by the effort.

That's about the giving of Unsolicited Thank Yous, but did you know you can help solicit them, too?

  • "So how did I do with [that gnarly problem] the other day, boss? Did I handle it well?!"
  • "So what did you think of [that crisp, one-page, memo] I drafted for you? Did it save you any time?!"
  • "So with all the things we've done for [your company], haven't we gotten anything right?!"

Try it - from both ends - and see.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

New Leadership Moves for You

As a leader, it's hard not to feel like you're feet are stuck in the mud sometimes. Or worse, yet ... in quicksand. In many ways, leadership is about finding good choices when there are seemingly none to choose from. A multi-tined Morton's Fork, if you will. That's one of the reasons why it's so important for executives to be so vigilant about their continued professional development -- each new problem you're assigned is likely increasingly complex and pressure-packed as compared to the last 'impossible' task you were given.

That's why keeping your staff properly motivated, productive, and engaged is so essential to your own ongoing success -- you simply don't have to time to be an ineffective leader. It's an unsustainable position to hold. And once you start losing traction, you might as well stick old Morton's fork in it because you're, d-o-n-e, finished.

But many executives sometimes do struggle with knowing what to say, or how to say it to their staff. And that's why I created an email learning series called Leadership Moves. Here's the logic:

  • Since the more you think about how to be more effective as a leader, the more likely it is that you will actually become a more effective leader, Leadership Moves automatically sends you a new and different email lesson every 2-3 days SO THAT you CAN think about how to be more effective as a leader more consistently.

  • Since there really ARE a lot of subtleties in (capital L) Leadership, Leadership Moves is a compilation of 32 different leadership "moves" SO THAT you can develop a full picture of the real breadth and depth of (capital L) Leadership effectiveness.

  • Since aspiring (capital L) Leaders really ARE busy people, Leadership Moves is delivered to your email inbox in small, digestible pieces, each one taking only a few minutes to read SO THAT you actually CAN, and more importantly, actually WILL read them, and learn from them.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest to you, please visit to learn more.

(And save 15% all this month by using coupon code 50819C when ordering.)

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Levels of Delegation

Some great content from over at, by Alan Chapman:

These examples of different delegation levels progressively offer, encourage and enable more delegated freedom. Level 1 is the lowest level of delegated freedom (basically none). Level 10 is the highest level typically (and rarely) found in organisations:

Level 1 - "Wait to be told." or "Do exactly what I say." or "Follow these instructions precisely."

This is instruction. There is no delegated freedom at all.

Level 2 - "Look into this and tell me the situation. I'll decide."

This is asking for investigation and analysis but no recommendation. The person delegating retains responsibility for assessing options prior to making the decision.

Level 3 - "Look into this and tell me the situation. We'll decide together."

This is has a subtle important difference to the above. This level of delegation encourages and enables the analysis and decision to be a shared process, which can be very helpful in coaching and development.

Level 4 - "Tell me the situation and what help you need from me in assessing and handling it. Then we'll decide."

This is opens the possibility of greater freedom for analysis and decision-making, subject to both people agreeing this is appropriate. Again, this level is helpful in growing and defining coaching and development relationships.

Level 5 - "Give me your analysis of the situation (reasons, options, pros and cons) and recommendation. I'll let you know whether you can go ahead."

Asks for analysis and recommendation, but you will check the thinking before deciding.

Level 6 - "Decide and let me know your decision, and wait for my go-ahead before proceeding."

The other person is trusted to assess the situation and options and is probably competent enough to decide and implement too, but for reasons of task importance, or competence, or perhaps externally changing factors, the boss prefers to keep control of timing. This level of delegation can be frustrating for people if used too often or for too long, and in any event the reason for keeping people waiting, after they've inevitably invested time and effort, needs to be explained.

Level 7 - "Decide and let me know your decision, then go ahead unless I say not to."

Now the other person begins to control the action. The subtle increase in responsibility saves time. The default is now positive rather than negative. This is a very liberating change in delegated freedom, and incidentally one that can also be used very effectively when seeking responsibility from above or elsewhere in an organisation, especially one which is strangled by indecision and bureaucracy. For example, "Here is my analysis and recommendation; I will proceed unless you tell me otherwise by (date)."

Level 8 - "Decide and take action - let me know what you did (and what happened)."

This delegation level, as with each increase up the scale, saves even more time. This level of delegation also enables a degree of follow-up by the manager as to the effectiveness of the delegated responsibility, which is necessary when people are being managed from a greater distance, or more 'hands-off'. The level also allows and invites positive feedback by the manager, which is helpful in coaching and development of course.

Level 9 - "Decide and take action. You need not check back with me."

The most freedom that you can give to another person when you still need to retain responsibility for the activity. A high level of confidence is necessary, and you would normally assess the quality of the activity after the event according to overall results, potentially weeks or months later. Feedback and review remain helpful and important, although the relationship is more likely one of mentoring, rather than coaching per se.

Level 10 - "Decide where action needs to be taken and manage the situation accordingly. It's your area of responsibility now."

The most freedom that you can give to the other person, and not generally used without formal change of a person's job role. It's the delegation of a strategic responsibility. This gives the other person responsibility for defining what changes projects, tasks, analysis and decisions are necessary for the management of a particular area of responsibility, as well as the task or project or change itself, and how the initiative or change is to be implemented and measured, etc. This amounts to delegating part of your job - not just a task or project. You'd use this utmost level of delegation (for example) when developing a successor, or as part of an intentional and agreed plan to devolve some of your job accountability in a formal sense.

Thanks, Alan.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Defying the Downturn

From a sidebar on page 36 in the 9/14/2009 edition of BusinessWeek magazine, here are 5 tips for keeping your job (and my comments -- and Key Coaching Qs -- in green):
  1. Get Ambitious - be prepared to work long hours, take on difficult tasks, and relocate if necessary. A raise? Don't hold your breath. I like the 'get ambitious' point, but not sure that the flippancy of the last sentence is called for. Key Coaching Q: What absolutely and positively needs to get done today and what will it take to get it done before turning off the lights tonight?
  2. Get Positioned - Identify bosses who are moving up or are overwhelmed. then volunteer to help. Aligning yourself with an 'overwhelmed' boss is good, counter-intuitive, thinking. Coaching Q: Who could benefit most from having you apply your natural talents and skills to a problem they're grappling with?
  3. Get Creative - Suggest ways to save your company money or generate new revenue - and play a role in the effort. I've you haven't done -- that is, already aren't doing -- this, it you're likely already at significant risk. And there's nothing flip about that whatsoever so you better get those creative juices flowing ASAP. Coaching Q: What are 5 improvements that you know can be made without disrupting ongoing operations or processes?
  4. Get Noticed - Recessions are no time to fly under the radar. Tell bigwigs about achievements but avoid shameless self-promotion. I agree with the radar comment. Better than you telling bigwigs about your achievements, do such good work that others can't help but tell the bigwigs about what you've been up to. Coaching Q: How can you meaningfully increase your impact ... as in TODAY.
  5. Get Networked - Be indispensable. Work with other units and stay in touch with newfound allies -- you may need them later. Indeed, in the distant past, it' was "WHAT you know"; and more recently, it was "WHO you know." And, while those both are still important, it's "who knows YOU" that helps most these days. Coaching Q: How are you helping others get to know you better than they already do?!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Executive Coaching and/or SME-ness

Over in the Q&A section of LinkedIn, Trisha asked,
"Must a Coach have more expert knowledge than a Coachee?"
Here's how I answered:

The seemingly obvious answer is "of course" – and being more of a Subject Matter Expert (SME) than your coachee definitely *does* help ... if the goal is to stimulate a coachee's learning through the transfer information alone.

But if the goal is to stimulate a coachee's learning through his/her own discovery and realizations, then a coach's subject matter expertise is far less important than the coach's ability to stimulate and facilitate a deeper conversation with the coachee about his/her beliefs, assumptions, sticking points, strengths, and possible Next Steps.

That said, "Time is (ALWAYS) of the essence" in the business world. So, in my opinions, a coach that can use his/her “SME-ness” to help jumpstart a coachee's learning and discovery is likely to find his/her coachee demonstrating greater confidence, savvy, poise, interpersonal influence, organizational impact, and executive presence, etc., far more readily … providing sufficient room is maintained for the coachee to connect the dots and discover his/her own insights and answers.

In my opinion, though, the *ultimate* answer has less to do with any particular coach’s subject matter expertise, or coaching acumen, as it does with the coachee’s *readiness* to be coached. As such, it’s essential that the coach be able to establish and maintain a deep, meaningful, relationship with a coachee quickly and effectively so to sustain and leverage that readiness.

Regrettably, many SMEs simply have no clue how to do this.


(Note: Several other LinkedIn responses to Trisha's questions have been posted in the comments section, as well.)

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Risk Tolerance and Reality

Financial Advisers talk about Risk Tolerance -- the amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your investments trend in the wrong direction. But Risk Tolerance applies to more than just Wall Street dynamics.

Consider where you stand with respect to:
  • Career/Job Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your employer choose to restructure or eliminate your current position.
  • Leadership Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with as the boss of those facing current, impending, or recently-experienced Job Risk.
  • Interpersonal Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should an important relationship of yours hit a rough patch.
  • Self-Confidence Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should these or other things at work or in life not go as planned.
  • Self-Esteem Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your self-confidence dissipate and work/life continue to trend in the wrong direction.

The underlying question here differentiates between PLANNING for potential realities...and dealing with ACTUALITIES.

So what do we do when we find ourselves needing to cope with more risk than we would typically tolerate?

When financial advisers talk about money-matters, many (most?) suggest that we not 'change horses in the middle of the stream' but rather establish, and then stick with, an allocation strategy or plan that's properly aligned with our overall Risk Tolerance level. That, they say, will serve us BEST in the long-run.

Yet isn't it true that airplanes never actually fly in a straight line from here to there but, instead, must make a series of continuous, albeit minor, adjustments along the way to properly correct for the realities of what's going on in the skies around them?

Planning for Reality is important. But effectively handling Reality is more so. Is it not? (This reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- self-actualization may be the ultimate goal, but if you aren't getting your basic needs met, it's sort of irrelevant.)

So how ARE you handling the REALITY of your work and personal lives these days --not just your financial reality,but your entire reality?

  • If you're struggling some, what might you do to bolster yourself and your situation?
  • If you're not, how might you help someone who is?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leaders as Effective Explainers

From an article titled, Great Communicators Are Great Explainers:

Explanation is a key attribute of leadership communications. Leaders know to inject their communications with verve and enthusiasm as a means of persuasion, but they also need to include an explanation for the excitement. What does it mean and why are we doing it are critical questions that every leader must answer with straightforward explanations.
Author John Baldoni continues with three ways to become an effective explainer:

1. Define what it is. The purpose of an explanation is to describe the issue, the initiative, or the problem. For example, if you are pushing for cost reductions, explain why they are necessary and what they will entail. Put the cost reductions into the context of business operations. Be certain to explicate the benefits. [BZ note: Don't overlook defining the underlying rationale, or "why", behind your explanation -- it not only helps others to properly understand what you're saying, it also provides a over-arching context for how you see the issue. So don't just explain that there is a need for cost reductions, explain why the need is legitimate before going on to your solution, next steps, explanation, etc.]

2. Define what it isn't. Be clear to define the exclusions. For example, returning to our cost reduction issue, if you are asking for reductions in costs, not people, be explicit. Otherwise employees will assume they are being axed. Leave no room for assumptions. [BZ note: I particularly like this one. Just as with contracts, it's best to read them twice -- the first time to see what's intentionally (or otherwise) included in the terms and conditions; the second time to see what's intentionally (or otherwise) excluded.]

3. Define what you want people to do. This becomes an opportunity to issue the call for action. Establishing expectations is critical. Cost reductions mean employees will have to do more with less; explain what that will entail in clear and precise terms. Leaders can also use the expectations step as a challenge for people to think and do differently. Your explanation then takes on broader significance. [BZ Note: Those who know me know that I'm not a big fan of using the word expectations -- I much prefer the word requirements. So, while 'establishing expectations may, indeed, be critical, I believe that 'articulating the requirements' is more appropriate ... and even more helpful.]

This said, I'd like to add a fourth facet to the recommendation:

4. Listen for how your explanation lands. Effective Communication can be defined as "Insuring that the message you intended to be heard is identical to the message that actually was heard." As such, it's advisable to "check in" with your audience to insure that your explanation was, indeed, understood as intended and if not, respond accordingly.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Reprimand Someone at Work

  1. Say it clearly -- "I'm finding the way you're handling this assignment unsatisfactory at this point in time."
  2. Provide the justification -- "As a result of you missing your Phase I deadline, everyone downstream must now revise their schedules to accommodate the delay."
  3. Articulate the implication -- "This not only unnecessarily complicates things, but it also jeopardizes our ability to complete this project on time/to budget."
  4. Pair it with some good news -- "Fortunately, you're working with some very talented people who are ready, willing, and able to help you however they can."
  5. Ask for compliance -- "So in this next phase, can I - can we all - count on you to step it up and not leave us hanging like this?"
  6. Thank you.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stretching Yourself

“Women who stretched themselves said that they enjoyed more success compared to those who didn't keep stretching.”

So said Nellie Borrero, director of global inclusion and diversity at Accenture, in Roaring All the Way to the Top, an article in the May 2009 issue of T&D magazine.

Based on her online survey of 3,600 global business executives, it was also reported that:
  • 78% of women who are are very successful agreed that "I am learning new skills to move to the next level." 67% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 81% of women who are very successful agreed that "I take on additional responsibilities and complexities to advance." 67% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 75% of women who are very successful agreed that "I regularly stretch myself beyond my comfort zone." 61% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 65% of women who are very successful agreed that "I regularly ask my supervisors for new challenges." 50% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 76% of women who are very successful agreed that "I am willing to consider a new position or role to advance." 67% of women, overall, agreed.

Draw your own conclusions.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

(Big C) Collaboration

(little c) collaboration is about Obligation, talking to others because you MUST.

(Big C) Collaboration is about Idea Synergy, 1+1>2.

Play BIG.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Implied, Inferred, and Actual Commitment-Making

Over in the Q&A section of LinkedIn, Brian asked,

"What are the subjects of the more difficult or challenging conversations that you have at work?"

Here's how I replied:

I think many (most?) difficult or challenging conversations result from IMPLIED or INFERRED commitment-making in lieu of *ACTUAL* commitment-making.

(1) ACTUAL Commitment-making – this is when Person A specifically requests that Person B do something … and Person B specifically agrees to do it.

Person A: You’ll turn in your report by noon, right?
Person B: Yes, I will.

Now if Person B doesn't deliver, Person A has every right to hold Person B accountable … and Person B knows it. No fuss. No muss. Just guilty, as charged.

(2) IMPLIED Commitment-making – this is when Person A does *not* make a specific request, but *assumes* that Person B knows what s/he wants, anyway.

Person A: You’ll turn in your report *soon*, right?
Person B: Yes, I will.

Now because Person A never said it out loud, Person B has no idea that *soon* means “by noon”. So when Person B doesn't turn in the report until several hours later, Person A feels wronged, and fully justified in blaming Person B. Person B, feeling totally blindsided (again), justifiably blames Person A back and the conversation immediately becomes exceedingly more difficult and challenging.

(3) INFERRED Commitment-making – this is when Person A *does* make a specific request, but Person B answers in such a way that it seems s/he’s made a commitment, but actually has not.

Person A: You’ll turn in your report by noon, right?
Person B: I understand you want it by then.

Note that Person B never actually committed to turning the report in by noon, s/he really just acknowledged the request. And as with IMPLIED Commitment-making, when Person B doesn't turn in the report until several hours later, Person A feels wronged, and fully justified in blaming Person B. Person B, feeling totally blindsided (again), justifiably blames Person A back and the conversation becomes exceedingly more difficult and challenging.

The key, then, is to insure (and confirm) that all commitments are ACTUAL commitments … not IMPLIED commitments ... not INFERRED commitments ... but ACTUAL commitments.

Just to be sure, I also recommend asking for the following CONFIRMING commitment:

“If for some reason you cannot honor this commitment you just made, will you be sure to let me know ahead of time so that I can make other arrangements?”

Doing so makes the follow-up conversation, if the deliverable is missed, far *less* difficult or challenging. No fuss. No muss. Just guilty, as charged.

Hope this helps.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Personality Conflict Détente

Diane Crampton posed an interesting question on the LinkedIn "Leadership Think Tank" discussion board last week:
"From your experience, what have you found that resolves conflict the fastest for long term sustainable results?"
Here's how I responded:

Hi All ~ I assume we're talking about *personality* conflicts here as they typically have a much longer *shelf life* than any particular issue-based conflict, yes?

That said, it seems to me that most personality conflicts *sustain* because there are no real, lasting, consequences to Person A for NOT resolving their conflict with Person B, and vice versa. If they’re *allowed* to disengage from each other, of *course* they’ll become more insular.

But, assigning both Persons A and B to a joint, *public*, assignment – one where they both *must* work together in a meaningful, and respectful, way – sets the stage for the Cold War to thaw and reconciliation to begin.
  • Example 1: Doug was charge of the IT repair desk and Ethan ran the Moves, Adds, and Changes department. They didn't get along. But, when they were *both* given the joint responsibility for hosting a Customer Forum, they each quickly realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively.
  • Example 2: Robert ran operations and considered Heather, who handled the budget, an annoyance. Heather didn't care much for Robert either. But, when they *both* learned they’d be representing the department at an upcoming Finance Committee meeting, they each realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively, as well.

Afterwards, each reported that they were surprised and impressed with what their nemesis had to offer.

Being made mutually accountable to an *external* audience, who couldn't care less about any internal squabbles going on, allowed (read: necessitated) Robert and Heather, and Doug and Ethan, to each re-engage, without losing face, and achieve a sustainable détente.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Stress and Performance

You've seen the classic Human Performance Curve before, right?

Where would you say that you are on the curve right now?

As noted in an article titled, Anxiety for Fun and Profit, "anxiety, for all its negatives, is not the problem; the problem is how we often choose to deal with it."

Indeed. Robert Rosen, author of Just Enough Anxiety: The Hidden Driver of Business Success, said it best:
"We're all like strings of a guitar: We need the right amount of tension to function properly."
Too much tension, and we easily become too wired, or sharp, to continue the musical analogy. Not enough tension, and we go flat.

Hmmm. Finding what's "just right" reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears!

Maybe we should sit down, have a bowl of porridge, and figure out where YOU need to be on the Human Performance Curve, huh?!

Thanks, Art.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Expert In" AND a "Student Of"

Just read a very interesting post by Andrew Bryant in which he talks about the importance of Intentional Practice:

"Intentional Practice is perfect practice and perfect practice makes perfect. Intentional practice requires knowing “Why” you are doing what you are doing and complete “Attention” to the task."
It reminded me of the value of striving to be BOTH, "expert in" and a "student of".

Perhaps some examples would help:
  • An Attorney can be both expert in intellectual property law and a student of litigation.
  • An Architect can be both expert in residential housing and a student of eco-responsible design.
  • A Musician can be both expert in music theory and a student of creative expressionism.
  • An Executive can be both expert in getting things done and a student of leadership.
  • A Life Coach can be both expert in asking the right questions and a student of the human condition.

Indeed, embracing the "mind of a student" often helps the Expert get past the ego-imposed limitations of not wanting to look foolish from, or be embarrassed by, not already know everything there is to know about their particular area of expertise.

Students continue to learn and grow as a matter of course. Experts, similarly, continue know and do with incredible skill.

Striving to be BOTH "expert in" AND a "student of" may take a fair amount of Intentional Practice, but it's most definitely a worthy goal.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Collaboration? Why Bother?!

“Collaboration? Why bother?! It only slows things down.”

So who hasn't said that to themselves – or aloud? Taking the time to properly ‘socialize’ an issue, to get input from key (and not-so key) players, to spend yet another round of meetings seemingly obfuscating the obvious, can feel like an incredible waste of time, effort, and resources, can’t it?

So why collaborate? What IS the upside that makes so many companies think that collaboration is the Holy Grail of effective decision-making?!

Building a Better House through Collaboration

Let’s say an architect is designing a house and specifies doubling the amount of insulation for the house. While that will increase the cost of the build, it makes sense because it will also decrease heating and cooling costs on an ongoing basis. No collaboration, per se, but not a bad plan, either.

Now consider what could happen should the architect reach out and collaborate with the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) guy.

Knowing that the walls will be better insulated (and will have fewer leaks), the HVAC supplier knows he can install a smaller (read: less expensive) system than he might otherwise. So not only will the ongoing heating and cooling costs be less, but the cost to build the house will be less, too!

Building Better Relationships though Collaboration

Let’s say you’re working on a project and pretty much have everything figured out. So you go ahead and begin implementation. No collaboration, per se, but not a bad plan, either.

Now consider what could happen should you reach out and collaborate with some of your peers on the project.

While, yes, it may slow things down at first, the rapport and willingness to collaborate you’re showing today, will likely pay dividends in the future on projects where you really do need others’ help.

What examples can YOU share about how collaborating helped you learn something you didn't already know or resulted in saving you, your company, or your customers, time, effort, and/or money?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

"Leadership Moves" Email Learning Series

If you subscribe to the GGCI Mailing List you might have seen in the March 2009 blog digest that I'm putting the final touches on a 32-part email-based learning series called:

Leadership Moves ...
Superbly Motivating Direct Reports, Every Day, Every Way

The idea behind the program is this:

In order to become truly effective, leaders must be able to interact with staff -- that is, to "move" -- flexibly and consistently, responsively and proactively, powerfully and respectfully.

If you can't do that, you can never become a (capital L) Leader. Period.
End of story.

But, because aspiring (capital L) Leaders are typically so busy, they rarely make the time to actually think through how to actually become a better leader. They just "go from their gut", "wing it", "shoot from the hip". No real plan. No real learning.

No real progress.

That's why Leadership Moves was designed the way that it was -- as an email-based learning series. Here's the logic:

  • Since the more you think about how to be more effective as a leader, the more likely it is that you will actually become a more effective leader, Leadership Moves automatically sends you a new and different email lesson every 2-3 days SO THAT you CAN think about how to be more effective as a leader more consistently.

  • Since there really ARE a lot of subtleties in (capital L) Leadership, Leadership Moves is a compilation of 32 different leadership "moves" SO THAT you can develop a full picture of the real breadth and depth of (capital L) Leadership effectiveness.

  • Since aspiring (capital L) Leaders really ARE busy people, Leadership Moves is delivered to your email inbox in small, digestible pieces, each one taking only a few minutes to read SO THAT you actually CAN, and more importantly, actually WILL read them, and learn from them.

Consider the Leadership Moves program as your very own "virtual mentor," sharing with you what works, what doesn't, why it's essential for (capital L) Leaders to keep certain things top-of-mind. and providing you wherewithal to do just that.

If this sounds like something that would be of use to you, you can learn more, or subscribe, at: And, if you're one of the first 50 to order your subscription -- and use coupon code 3019Z --you'll receive a 20% discount on your purchase.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Demons of Effective Goal Setting

Ever try to get something started ... only to not?! Ever start with the best intentions ... and then nothing?! Effective goal-setting is a tricky wicket ... especially when the demons start looking you in the eye.

Five such demons consistently like to do that:
  1. The Demon of Procrastination -- Too frequently "Later" morphs into "Whenever" which morphs into "Never".

  2. The Demon of Limited Accountability to Oneself -- It's amazing how so many people are so capable at helping others, but when it comes to helping themselves, fugetaboutit!

  3. The Demon of Poor Prioritization -- The classic mistake: Over-Prioritizing the Urgent, and Under-Prioritization the Important.

  4. The Demon of Trying to Take Too Big of a Next Step -- Doing so either makes the task impossible, or distasteful.

  5. The Demon of Inadequate Support Systems -- It's not always a straight line between wherever you are and whatever you want, so it's essential that you have the proper support in place, from both the people around you and the processes you're engaging.

These demons have an incredible power to derail. And they're just a few of the demons that are out there.

What demons do you see when goal-setting? What sorts of things do you do to avoid their fiery stare?

Fiery Eye courtesy of:

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wouldn't You Agree?!

thumbs-upLooking for some positive feedback?
Trying to build some better camaraderie?
Want to soften up the old boss a bit?!

Here's a Quick Tip -- After making your point, ask a rhetorical, "Wouldn't you agree?!"
  • That question I asked was a pretty important one, wouldn't you agree?!
  • We make a good team together, wouldn't you agree?!
  • I thought your presentation went really well, boss, wouldn't you agree?!
Go ahead, try adding "wouldn't you agree?!" to the end of a few of your sentences and see how people react.

I suspect, quite positively.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Commitment versus Compliance

Over at LinkedIn, a fellow named Jesse posed an interesting question: "How do you get commitment from followers?"

My response:

I think an important distinction needs to be added to this thread -- "Commitment" versus "Compliance".

You already know that in a crisis management situation (your blog indicates you're a crisis management "tiger") success has very *little* to do with a follower "agreeing to do something" (commitment) -- but EVERYTHING to do him/her actually "fulfilling official requirements" (compliance).

I, therefore, submit that if a leader successfully resolves enough crises (through others' complying with their specific, meaningful, and appropriate, "official", requests), followers will almost *automatically* become increasingly loyal and committed to that leader. (Which really just means that these followers will more-readily comply with what the leader requests from them, next time.)

Non-crisis situations, if such things still exist (!!), work in much the same way -- success flows *less* from people being "committed" to achieving certain ends than from them intentionally "complying" with what, needs to be achieved. Again, if a leader successfully enables enough of those needed outcomes to occur, followers will routinely start exhibiting more loyalty and commitment to that leader (by complying that much more readily to their requests, moving forward).

Just for laughs, let's put it even more provocatively -- I assert that compliance (and all the good, value-added, stuff that employees can, and do, bring to an assignment) does not result *from* commitment; rather, commitment is a byproduct *of* compliance … after that compliance results in the successful completion of intended outcomes, of course.

Following this view, leaders do not need to seek the "commitment" of others -- they just need to get crystal clear on the business imperative of their assignments, what probably needs to be accomplished, and who probably needs to accomplish it, in order to increase the probability of actually achieving those ends … because if they
*can* increase the probability of achieving those ends, followers will naturally, readily, and increasingly -- and self-servingly, I might add -- commit to those leaders in the future, without additional inducement.

Helpful?!What are your thoughts on this?

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Growing More Go-To People

When something particularly urgent, important, or high-profile comes up, many (most?) bosses rely only on a few of their direct reports as true go-to people - the one's they know they can count on to get the job done right.

Imagine, though, what it'd be like if you could count on your entire staff as go-to people? Imagine what all you could get done if that was the case!

Here are the rules of the game:
  1. Identify the overlap between what each direct report likes to do and what s/he is good at doing -- the veritable "sweet spot".
  2. Talk with each of them about the importance of nurturing and growing their "sweet spot" as a routine, ongoing, and necessary part of their job.
  3. For any task-at-hand, guesstimate its "success probability", if delegated to each of your direct reports, using a simple High/Medium/Low rating. (Note: If you've completed step #1, this should take all of 90-seconds!)
  4. Delegate to an H only if you have more than one to choose from. Otherwise, choose an M or L, making sure they understand that the assignment is twofold: (1) to successfully complete the task-at-hand; and (2) to permanently expand their "sweet spot".
  5. Monitor progress to minimize any "gotchas".

You see, the real problem is not your staff's abilities -- it's your willingness to insure that they grow their abilities.

This go-to game makes that apparent because the game does not allow you to delegate an assignment to an H if you only have one to choose from. It's, therefore, incumbent upon YOU to nurture and grow your go-to people more purposefully than you might otherwise.

What this game also makes apparent is that it's not all that difficult to "frame" an assignment in terms of an individual's sweet spot, regardless of who that individual is. That's a very powerful competency to have.

If you stick with it, you'll soon have far more options, when delegating, than just a chosen few. And that's the whole point.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

16 Supervisor Competencies of Note

16 Supervisor Competencies* of note that apply, equally, to assistant managers, managers, directors, senior directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, executives and all leaders, for that matter, as well:

  1. Influence – Persuading others to accept a desired point of view; gaining support and commitment from others; and effectively change in behavior of others
  2. Facilitation – Leading meetings or group efforts without directing the outcome; creating an environment of openness and trust; and leading groups to decisions where all participants feel a sense of ownership
  3. Planning and Organizing – Developing comprehensive project plans; monitoring progress against goals; assigning clear responsibilities; and breaking work down into manageable portions
  4. Analysis – Gathering relevant information; considering broad range of issues and factors; perceiving relationships among diverse information; and using logic effectively
  5. Decision Making – Making timely and effective decisions
  6. Delegating – Assigning tasks effectively to others while maintaining responsibility for results; considering skill-level of employees and challenge-level of assignments given
  7. Follow-up and Commitment – Following plans through to closure; persisting despite obstacles; keeping their word
  8. Communication – Insuring that the messages that they intend to have received by others are the same as the ones that actually are received
  9. Listening – Demonstrating attention to, and conveying understanding of, others
  10. Managing Conflict – Identifying sources of conflict; using conflict as a constructive process to exchange ideas; keeping energy focused on desired outcomes, rather than on what they feel is happening “to” them
  11. Fostering Teamwork – Clarifying roles and responsibilities with an eye beyond whatever crisis is driving current behaviors
  12. Technical/Functional Expertise - Possesses current knowledge of profession and industry and is regarded as an expert
  13. Time Management – Setting efficient work priorities; working on several tasks simultaneously; effectively balancing important and urgent – and short-term and longer-term – tasks
  14. Motivating Others – Encouraging others to achieve desired results; creating enthusiasm and commitment in others
  15. Coaching and Developing Others – Giving timely, specific, constructive feedback; and providing challenging, developmental assignments
  16. Providing Direction – Providing clear direction and sets clear priorities; fosters a common vision
from "New Supervisor Training" by John E. Jones, and Chris W. Chen

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Put the Big Rocks First

[An oldie, but goodie from Daniel Scocco - in his own words - originally posted at:]
Stephen Covey is one of my favorite authors. In the book “First Things First” he describes a story that one of his associates experienced on a seminar. In the middle of the lecture the presenter pulled out a wide-mouth jar and placed it on the table, aside to some fist-sized rocks.

After filling the jar to the top with rocks he asked, “Is the jar full?”

People could see that no more rocks would fit, so they replied, “Yes!”

“Not so fast,” he cautioned. He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

This time the students replied “Probably not.”

The presenter then reached a bucket of sand below the table, and dumped it on the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once again he asked “Is the jar full?”

“No!”, the students shouted.

Finally, he grabbed a pitcher of water and filled the jar completely, asking to the public what they could learn from that illustration.

One of the participants answered, “If you work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”

“No,” said the presenter. “The point is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first. . . would you ever have gotten any of them in?”

Daniel completes the post by asking: What are [your] big rocks? More importantly, are you making sure that they are going first into the jar?

Thanks, Daniel! I was looking on the web for the retelling of this story. Yours is the best one I found.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Super-Serve Your Sphere of Influence

As reported in today's Chicago Tribune, ESPN will, starting in April, "launch its first Web site devoted to local sports fans." While this may be excellent news for sports fans here in the Chicagoland area, that's not what prompted this post. Rather it was how Marc Horine, vice president with ESPN digital media, spoke about it:

"At its core, the mission is simple: to super-serve Chicago sports fans."
To "super-serve" -- that's what appealed to me, particularly how it applies to leadership and being a better leader.

Recall a prior GottaGettaBLOG! post about an executive's sphere of influence and ...
  • Consider how you, as a leader, might "super-serve" Up the Chain (your boss, Board, and key stakeholders).
  • Consider how you, as a leader, might "super-serve" Employees (your direct reports, their direct reports, and other personnel).
  • Consider how you, as a leader, might "super-serve" External Contacts (customers, vendors, and other outside partners).
  • Consider how you, as a leader, might "super-serve" Co-Workers (peers, team members, other internal contacts).

Consider what you might do differently -- read: better -- if you approached your leadership responsibilities from the "super-serve" perspective ... not just as a servant leader, but as a SUPER-servant leader.

What might it look like if you tried that on today?

  • What might you say differently?
  • What might you ask differently?
  • What might you do differently?
  • How might you listen differently?
  • Who else might you talk with?
  • Where else would you spend your time?
  • What else would you think about?
  • What else would you likely learn or be interested about?

Similarly, what might it look like if others in your sphere of influence tried that on today?

  • What might they say differently?
  • What might they ask differently?
  • What might they do differently?
  • How might they listen differently?
  • Who else might they talk with?
  • Where else would they spend their time?
  • What else would they think about?
  • What else would they likely learn or be interested about?

Super-serving doesn't really take all that much extra time or effort. It's more about where you're "coming from" with the things you already think, feel, say, and do. If you "come from" a respectful place, it's easier to be all-the-more respectful. If you "come from" an inquisitive place, it's easier to be all-the-more inquisitive, etc.

So, too, if you "come from" a judgmental place, it's easier to be all-the-more judgmental. But that's not really super-serving anyone, now, is it?!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is This You?!

Cat: Bah.
Dog: Do you know the only thing you're good at is complaining?
Cat: Yes.
Cat: Practice makes perfect.
courtesy of Mutts, 2/17/2009

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Heart of Effective Personal Management

Inspired by meeting with a team of managers yesterday, I reopened my old, worn, highlighted, dog-eared, Post-It Note-filled copy of Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to the section about the Time Management Matrix:

Some definitions:

  • Urgent activities requires immediate attention. "Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action." We REACT to urgent. They seek our attention. Addressing a crisis is urgent, even if it isn't always always important.
  • Important activities, on the other hand, have more to do with opportunities. "If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals. Important matters that are not urgent require our initiative to get going."

Identifying and addressing the Root Cause of a crisis is important, as example, but urgency often "trumps" important. Too, if we don't know, or aren't quite sure about, what IS important, we'll almost certainly automatically default to working on only what's urgent, whether it's important or not.

The Four Categories or Quadrants of Activities:

  1. Activities that are both urgent and important (Quadrant I)
  2. Activities that are not as urgent as other things, but nevertheless important (Quadrant II)
  3. Activities that may be urgent, but are not particularly important (Quadrant III)
  4. Activities that are neither urgent, nor important (Quadrant IV)

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Important (Quadrant I) -- intentionally or not?

"As long as you focus on Quadrant I," says Covey, "it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you. It's like the pounding surf. A huge problem comes in and knocks you down and you're wiped out. You struggle back up only to face another one that knocks you down and slams you to the ground.

"Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. The only relief they have is in escaping to the Not Important/Not Urgent activities of Quadrant IV. So when you look at their total matrix, 90 percent of their time is in Quadrant I and most of the remaining 10% is in Quadrant IV, with only negligible attention paid to Quadrants II and III. That's how people who manage their lives by crisis live."

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Not Important (Quadrant III) -- intentionally or not?

This quadrant is particularly important to understand as, per Covey, there are many people who spend a great deal of time in Quadrant III, thinking they're actually in Quadrant I.

But the reality of the situation is that the urgency they feel for these matters is often based on the certainly pressing, but possibly unimportant, requests and wishes of others.

What happens when you over-focus on the Not Urgent/Not Important (Quadrants III and IV) -- intentionally or not?

Simply said, "People who spend time almost exclusively in Quadrants III and IV basically lead irresponsible lives."

Quadrant II -- The Heart of Effective Personal Management
Quadrant II deals with things that are not urgent, but ARE important. "All the things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren't urgent," live in Quadrant II.

The most effective people have figured out how to spend most of their time in Quadrant II. In this regard, "Effective people are not problem-minded; they opportunity minded."

That's because Quadrant II activities can have a tremendously positive impact -- on how things go ... on what happens next ... on how you and others think ... on what you and others think about ... on what becomes doable ... on what is improved ... on what can be accomplished.

So given that,

  • What can you start doing (or start doing more of) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?
  • What can you stop doing (or start doing less of ) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?

Hey, I know that these questions may not be all that easy for you to answer. But consider:

If you find yourself saying that you're too busy to even try and answer them, trust me -- while they may not be the most urgent questions for you to answer, they just might be two of the more important ones that have come your way in quite some time!

That's what's at the heart of effective personal management.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Makes Good Employees "Quit" Helps Better Employees "Stay"

According to a February 10, 2009, USA TODAY Snapshot survey*, here are the top 5 reasons why good employees quit:

  • 35% -- Unhappiness with management
  • 33% -- Limited opportunities for advancement
  • 13% -- Lack of recognition
  • 13% -- Inadequate salary and benefits
  • 1% -- Being bored

Okay, fine. But how many of those "good employees" found the same or similar issues recurring in their next job? My guess: Most of them. Why?

Because life likes to repeat its tests until its lessons are learned!

Now contrary to what you may be thinking, the Lessons-to-be-Learned here are NOT about what CAUSES a boss to fall out of favor with a direct report (35% of the "problem") or HOW COME opportunities for job advancement are so limited (33%), or WHY there's a lack of recognition (13%), or inadequate salary and benefits (13%), etc.

Nay, the Lessons-to-be-Learned are actually quite different. They are:

  1. How can you PREVENT such things from happening in the first place? and
  2. What steps can you take to better RECOGNIZE, ADDRESS, AND RESOLVE these issues once they start up again?

(To get you thinking in the right direction, let me suggest that it has a LOT to do with knowing what's important -- as in really and truly important -- to you and engaging your boss to work with you in making them more of a reality in your current job.)

That said, what's something you totally know about what's really and truly important to you that your boss seemingly doesn't realize? How might you establish an ongoing dialogue between the two of you on exactly that?


* based on a Robert Half International survey of 150 senior executives

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Fast-Track the Possibilities

Quick -- Name one thing you can do, one person you can call, or one thought you can complete, in the next 10 minutes, that could make a difference.

Then fast-track the possibilities before you get distracted by something else.

Name one step you can take, one question you can ask, or one idea you can share, in the next 15 minutes, that could increase your impact.

Fast-track those possibilities before you talk yourself out of them.

Name one step you can build on, one conclusion you can re-validate, or one recommendation you can support, in the next 30 minutes, that could truly help make things better.

Fast-track the possibilities before you forget what you were even thinking about.

Use the next hour to get that much more interested what possibilities are readily available to you, to become that much more aware of the possibilities around you, and to commit that much more fully to furthering these possibilities, sooner, rather than later ... rather than not at all.

Quick -- fast-track the possibilities before the moment is gone.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

"Fall Down Five Times; Get up Six"

A Haiku by Barry Zweibel:
    How could I miss THAT?!
      Things soooo not going as planned.
        Resilience is key!

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Simple Checklists Work!

    checklistBased on a Special Article published by the New England Journal of Medicine and reported on by Harvard Science:

    "A group of hospitals in eight cities around the globe has successfully demonstrated that the use of a simple surgical checklist during major operations can lower the incidence of deaths and complications by more than one-third."

    If using simple checklists can help reduce surgical deaths and complications by more than a third, is there any credible justification to NOT use checklists in the work that you and your staff do?!

    Sometimes effective leadership is simply about insuring that proven solutions are consistently implemented.

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    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Impact Competencies - Who Gets Listened to and Why?

    Ever been in a meeting where you raised what you thought was a really powerful objection to something and everyone else in the room roundly dismissed it as off-point?

    Ever been in a meeting where someone else raised what you thought was a totally irrelevant objection to something and everyone else in the room roundly hailed it as amazingly spot-on and insightful?

    What's that all about, actually?!

    Here's your assignment: Look for this dynamic - when comments are validated or not - and see what you can glean from what you see. Find the patterns.

    • Compare and contrast who gets listened to ... and who really doesn't
    • Compare and contrast how they say things ... their tone, their rate of speech, their affect, etc.
    • Compare and contrast any key words they use that seem to engender, or dilute, the support of others
    • Compare and contrast what's said immediately before they comment
    • Compare and contrast what preparatory work they have/have not done on the topic

    From this exercise, develop a list of Impact Competencies - that which helps people get listened to.


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    Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Developing Your Leadership Development Plan

    Welcome to 2009. Here's wishing it's the best one yet for you - at work and in life! From a work standpoint, what's developing with respect to your leadership development efforts? What are your plans with respect to what I like to call the five Key Domains of Leadership?
    GottaGettaCoach! Key Leadership Domains
    Key Leadership Domain #1 - Managing UP the Chain. Establishing and maintaining - and growing - your relationship with your boss and others above you in the organization, is an essential component of being properly recognized (and rewarded) for your results. Too, it helps determine how much of your boss' value-added flows back down to you. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage UP the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

    Key Leadership Domain #2 - Managing DOWN the Chain. Effectively leading A-caliber players is one thing, but more likely than not, your leadership success will ultimately be determined by how you lead your B- and C-caliber staff. Getting people to consistently over-achieve is a definite leadership competency. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage DOWN the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

    Key Leadership Domain #3 - Managing ACROSS the Chain. Leading without formal authority is another essential competency in business. Without an ability to influence your peers and get them to willingly follow your lead, you significantly limit your organizational impact. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage ACROSS the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

    Key Leadership Domain #4 - Managing OUTSIDE the Chain. Vendor personnel, contract employees, consultants, industry contacts and connections ... valuable resources, all. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage OUTSIDE the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

    Key Leadership Domain #5 - Managing YOURSELF. Although isolated here for simplicity sake, your ability to make meaningful improvements in any of the aforementioned domains is contingent upon your ability to manage yourself ... and the gap between your self-perceptions and how others - up, down, across, and outside the chain - perceive you. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can meaningfully try to improve how you manage YOURSELF and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

    Effective leadership development best happens when it's more than just an ad hoc effort. Taking a few moments you take here, in January, to develop your leadership development plan will likely yield considerably better results than by just winging it.

    So what are some things you're likely to list out - and focus on - this year? Who can you encourage to work on this exercise, as well?

    (For more on the five Key Leadership Domains, see:

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