Mind the Gap!

mind-the-gapIt’s a saying you hear every time you step onto or off the London Underground train. During a recent visit to London, this phrase had me thinking about leadership gaps.

Unknown gaps, or blind spots, can quickly cause us to misstep, triggering both ourselves and others’ frustration, anger and misinterpretation. As a coach, I often observe client’s unconscious habits, hidden patterns and actions that cause them to not show up and be seen or heard the way they intended.

As leaders, our effect on others is deep and wide. Having the capability to mind our leadership gaps gives us new choices and different modes of thinking and action.  One of the quickest ways to understanding these hidden patterns is to understand our emotional intelligence fitness. Unlike our IQ, our emotional intelligence can be greatly improved with attention and intention.

Our feelings are at the root of most of our actions. Emotions provide us both information and a gift. When we dial our feelings down we lose the information and the gift; when we dial them up we can get into trouble.

Let’s take fear.  The information it provides us is “there’s a threat!” The gift it provides us with is protection and safety. Feelings are a necessary component to effectively connecting and communicating with others. They guide our decision making by providing us important information to make well informed decisions.

“Emotional competencies are twice as important in contributing to excellence as pure intellect and experience. 90% of leadership success can be attributed to emotional intelligence. At the highest levels in leadership positions, emotional intelligence competence accounts for virtually the entire advantage.”– Daniel Goleman

How do I know what my EQ fitness is?

The EQ in Action Profile is an assessment tool which maps our activated hidden patterns in difficult relationships at work. It offers a guide for ongoing self-development for high-performance, successful relationships, as well as an overall sense of wellbeing and vitality in our life.

The Profile measures our internal experience under stress in the moment in relationship. It helps us to see those hidden patterns and filters we unconsciously apply during a stressful interaction or situation. Some patterns and filters lend to our success, others derail us without our knowing it.

The EQ in Action Profile offers leaders a laser-like focus on how to take their leadership to the next level of excellence. To vividly see the lens though which you view the world provides rich insight to enhance key relationships and grows your capacities as a leader.

Ready to understand you EQ fitness level? Contact BenchStrength Coaching info@BenchStrengthCoaching.com.

**BenchStrength Coaching helps companies build a pipeline of diverse candidates, ensuring leaders are ready for greater levels of leadership.


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How Great Leaders Drive Engagement

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4 Leadership Lessons From the Drought


There are leadership lessons are all around us if we just pause and look around for them.

IMG_0728The other day I went for a hike on a local peak where I live. (The picture to the left was taken on my way up.) It was 9:00 AM in the morning and the temperature was already 85 degrees. We’re used to the heat this time of year due to our Indian Summer, but because of the last five years drought, the heat has been particularly hard on our little slice of paradise.

As I hiked, I surveyed the scorched hills and drought stricken plants – there was anguish all around me. Tree leaves were sparse and brown, many of their smaller limbs died in an attempt to save the rest of the tree; the bushes were dehydrated, barely alive and the hiking path was dusty, cracked, and baked. I could actually smell the distress of the dried drought stricken earth.

IMG_0731Yet, periodically I could see a hint of new growth as it struggled with its decision to creep out of the ground – to grow during such harsh times. These spots of hope, of new life, made from struggle got me thinking…..What leadership lessons can we learn from the effects of the drought?

On the parched hill I observed adversity, resilience, opportunities, and hope.

  1. images-2Adversity is a reality of leadership. As a leader, we’re going to go through some tough times. It doesn’t matter how effective we are, we’re going to face extremely tough days and since we’re the leader, the brunt of the stress falls on us. We must be prepared. If we let the added stress from adversity get to us, it WILL take over and corrupt our ability to lead.  Adversity should be viewed as an opportunity. By taking stock in what we have available to us, we can hold firm to what we value, collaborate with others, lean on valued relationships, learn from the multitude of opportunities, and sacrifice the small stuff for the big picture.
  2. images-5Resilience is a requirement of survival. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, threats, and significant stress. During times of stress leaders need to lean on their sense of purpose when they analyze situations so they can successfully plot their next move. During times of adversity, we need to choose our response rather than let our emotions choose them for us. During times of hardship we need to remind ourselves to look for self-discovery opportunities as a result of these struggles with loss. Also, we should perform an After Action Review (AAR) by asking ourselves: 1) What did I think was going to happen; 2) What actually happened; 3) What can I/we learn from it. This simple three-step process can yield deep and transformational learning.
  3. images-6Maintain a hopeful outlook. Maintaining an optimistic outlook enables leaders to expect that good things will happen in our organizations and our careers. We need to visualize what we want rather than worrying about what we fear. Leaders need to look beyond the obvious and open their eyes so they can see the opportunities previously unseen. Leadership requires us to be able to see around corners to prepare for the roller coaster ride of business.
  4. UnknownHave a change management strategy. Having a strategy for change is an ultimate form of leadership accountability. We need to think carefully and critically about every move we make as well as the required talent, resources, and investment it will take. One of the keys to being successful with change is to accept the past, focus on the future, and anticipate what’s coming ahead. Leaders need to remain flexible – instead of changing because you have to, make it a habit to change ahead of the change.

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco


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Got Mojo?

UnknownOkay, I must admit I laugh at the goofy slapstick humor of the Austin Powers movies but this post isn’t about sex drive…or is it?!? 😉

I’m referring to professional Mojo from Marshal Goldsmith’s book titled: Mojo – How to Get it, How to Keep it, and How to Get it Back When you Need it.

Unknown-1Mojo is that positive feeling of what you are doing – it starts from inside us and radiates to the outside; we experience both happiness and meaning in what we are doing and we communicate the experience to the world around us.

Okay that did sound a bit Austin Powers-ish – Oh Behave!

For me Mojo is our own brand of secret sauce. It’s our life’s purpose, our personal why. When we have it, we make progress on our goals, overcome obstacles, pass up the competition and we seem to do so with ease. Mojo using a sports metaphor is called “being in the zone.” In business we use the term in “flow.”

Mojo is vital to our pursuit of happiness and meaning in life because it is about achieving two simple goals; loving what you do and showing/sharing it. According to Goldsmith, Mojo is impacted by four key factors:

  1. Identity – Who are you? Without a firm handle on our identity we won’t understand why we gain or lose our Mojo.
  2. Achievement – What have you done lately? These are the accomplishments that bring you meaning and impact.
  3. Reputation – Who do other people think you are? Your reputation is a scoreboard kept by others. Although you can’t take total complete control of your reputation, there’s a lot you can do to influence or improve it – both of which can enormously impact your Mojo.
  4. Acceptance – What can you change and when do you need to just “let it go.” Be realistic about what we can and cannot change in our lives and accommodating ourselves to those facts.

When I think about the truly successful people who I’ve met in life, these people succeed at what they do and how they feel about themselves, its evident that they have Mojo. But I’ve also met people who have Nojo. Huh? What’s Nojo?


Nojo is the opposite of Mojo. It’s people who have a negative perspective toward what they do and again it starts on the inside and radiates outwardly. We all have experienced and know individuals who have lost their Mojo. They are bored and frustrated about their life in general. They are confused about the dark tunnel their career has drifted into and they regularly share their bitterness with the rest of the world. You know, I can feel a Mojo sucking sound whenever I’m around these “Eeyore’s.”

Here’s a comparison between the two:


Through using self-awareness, you can perform an instant status check on your Mojo. You can then ask your questions such: As does this activity make me happy? Do I find meaning in the activity itself? Are the results achieved from this activity worth my effort? Is the successful completion of this activity going to have a long-term positive impact on my life?

Goldsmith goes on to review what he’s identified as the five modes of behavior and how they can characterize our relationship to any activity – either at work or at home.


  1. Stimulating = these activities score high in our short-term satisfaction but low in long-term benefits. For example, drinking beer, watching TV, playing video games. A life spent solely on stimulating activities may provide a lot of short-term pleasure but we’ll be headed nowhere.
  2. Sacrificing = these are activities that score low in short-term satisfaction but high in long-term benefit. Example: working out, saving for retirement, getting your Masters Degree, etc. A life spent solely on sacrificing activities would be the life of a martyr – lots of achievement, but not much joy.
  3. Surviving = are activities that score low on short-term satisfaction and low the on long-term benefits. We do these because we feel that we have to do them just to cope. A life spent solely on surviving activities would be a hard one indeed!
  4. Sustaining = activities that produce moderate amounts of short-term satisfaction and lead to moderate long-term benefits. Examples are answering emails, working on projects, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. A life spent solely on sustaining activities would be an acceptable one – not great, but not too shabby.
  5. Succeeding = these activities score high on short-term satisfaction and high on long-term benefit. We love to do these types of activities and they produce wonderful benefits. A life spend on succeeding activities is a life that is filled with both joy and accomplishment.

imagesMy suggestion for you is to spend a week tracking how you spend your time. At the end of the week calculate how many hours you spent on stimulating, sacrificing, surviving, sustaining, and succeeding tasks and activities. Then ask yourself what changes can you make to help create a life that is both more satisfying in the short term and more rewarding in the long term.

Yes, this will take some time and effort but tracking the activities that take up our time can serve as one factor to determining our happiness and achievement. Our attitude toward these activities can function as an equally important factor in determining the ultimate quality of our lives. Heck, if we aren’t in the position to change our activities, we can at least try to change our attitude toward them.

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Rethinking Thinking Using the Ladder of Inference

ladderIn today’s fast-moving world, we are under pressure to act swiftly, rather than spend time understanding the facts and reasoning things through. Not only can this lead to incorrect conclusions, it can also cause conflict with others who may have drawn different conclusions.

You can’t live your life without adding meaning or drawing conclusions but you can improve your communication through reflection and using the “Ladder of Inference” in three ways:

  1. Becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoning: AKA reflection.
  2. Making your thinking and reasoning more visible to others: AKA advocacy.
  3. Inquiring into other’s thinking and reasoning: AKA inquiry.

We need to make sure our actions and decisions are founded on reality. Likewise, when we accept or challenge other people’s conclusions, we need be confident that their reasoning, and yours, is firmly based in accurate facts. The “Ladder of Inference” can help us to achieve this.

The Ladder of Inference describes the automatic thinking process that we all go through, usually without even realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action. The thinking stages can be seen as rungs on a ladder and are shown below:


Starting at the bottom of the ladder, we have data and facts. From there:

  • We select some portion of the data/facts based on our beliefs and prior experience;
  • We interpret meaning;
  • We apply existing assumptions (sometimes without considering them);
  • We draw conclusions based on interpreted facts and our assumptions;
  • We develop beliefs based on these conclusions;
  • We take actions that seem “right” because they are based on what we believe.

These automatic reflexes can create a vicious circle because our beliefs have a big effect on how we view reality, and can they lead us to ignore facts altogether. Soon we are literally jumping to conclusions; missing facts and skipping steps in the reasoning process.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

By using the Ladder of Inference, we can learn to get back to the facts and use our beliefs and experiences to positively effect outcomes, rather than allowing them to narrow our field of judgment. Following this step-by-step reasoning can lead us to better results and shared conclusions thus avoiding unnecessary mistakes and conflict.

The Ladder of Inference can be used at any of stage of our thinking process. To help navigate the ladder, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this the “right” conclusion?
  • Why am I making these assumptions?
  • Why do I think this is the “right” thing to do?
  • Is this really based on all the facts?
  • Why does he/she believe that?

images-3From your current “rung,” analyze your reasoning by working back down the ladder. This will help you trace the facts and reality that you are actually working with.
 At each stage, ask yourself what you are thinking and why. As you analyze each step, you may need to adjust your reasoning. For example you may need to change some assumption or extend the field of data you have selected.

“Beliefs can’t change facts. Facts, however, should change your beliefs.” – Author unknown

The following questions help you work backwards (coming down the ladder, starting at the top):

  • Why have I chosen this course of action? Are there other actions I should have considered?
  • What belief lead to that action? Was it well-founded?
  • Why did I draw that conclusion? Is the conclusion sound?
  • What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid?
  • What data have I chosen to use and why? Have I selected data rigorously?
  • What are the real facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?

UnknownWhen you are working through your reasoning, look out for rungs that you tend to jump – we all have at least one or two that we jump often.

Do you tend to make assumptions too easily? Do you tend to select only part of the data? Note your tendencies so that you can learn to work that rung of reasoning with extra care in the future.

With a new sense of reasoning and perhaps a wider field of data and more considered assumptions, you can now work forwards again step-by-step up the rungs of the ladder.


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12 Simple Concepts to Becoming a Better Leader

UnknownWhat’s the number one component that drives every organization’s bottom line?

Answer: Leaders who empower, educate, encourage, and engage their teams!

Leaders are focusing too much on the day-to-day tasks and not spending enough time empowering, encouraging and engaging with their team. Team’s need to know whats happening within the organization and no, a blanket email blast isn’t enough. The team needs to hear the good, bad, and ugly directly from their leader and how it directly affects them.

To value each team member’s voice, leaders need to provide a safe and confidential forum for them to share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This can be accomplished through regular 1 on 1 meetings. Teams want their leader to encourage them, help them set stretch goals, and to use their strengths to contribute to meeting strategic goals and objectives.

UnknownI’m a huge fan of Gallup’s engagement surveys. Their recent survey reflects data that managers are the reason for the lack of movement on  increasing global employee engagement.

If you want to learn more, click on the link to get the entire report. It’s a good reminder of the old adage: people usually don’t leave companies; they leave because of their manager.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

So to boost those bottom line results, apply these simple concepts which cost nothing to institute yet the return on investment is priceless.

  1. Listen: Leaders are filled with ideas and it’s in our nature to want to share those ideas with others but great leaders over time must learn to talk less and listen more. We need to ask questions to deepen understanding and ensure our ratio of talking to listening is 2 to 1. Good leaders also listen to what their customers’ want and need, they listen to colleagues, their shareholders, and they are open to new ideas.“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill
  2. Tell Stories. They captivate your audience and drive people to take action. Share stories that are relevant and ignites the team or customers to get inline with your ideas and vision. Stories demonstrate your connection to what your stakeholders are looking for – they empower and inspire.“The telling of stories demonstrates your understanding.” – Alberto Miguel
  3. Be Authentic. Great leaders have integrity, are humble, positive, are willing to be vulnerable and are “real.” Leaders need to be true to themselves by embracing their strengths and managing around their weaknesses. “When you are authentic, you create a certain energy, people want to be around you because you are unique.” – Andie MacDowell
  4. Be Transparent. Open and honest communication, actions, and behavior leads to happier stakeholders. Tell the truth and don’t spin the message; you’ll have followers who will align their talents behind yourself and the organization. “When you’re building a business or joining a company, you have to be transparent; you can’t have two sets of information for two sets of people.” – Howard Schultz
  5. Collaborate. No matter how small an organization is we interact with others everyday. Use the strengths of other team members to support your team’s goals and objectives. Ask for their thoughts and support for your ideas and they will ask for yours. Bonus: developing cross-departmental relationships can lead to strengthening your innovative out-of-the-box ideas. “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler
  6. Be adaptable. There has never been a faster changing market then today. News flash – it isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. We need to be flexible in managing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to turn at the right moment. We need to know how to be both a change advocate and change agent. “We need dynamic and thriving businesses and a skilled and adaptable labor force to produce competitiveness and prosperity.” – David Blunkett
  7. Keep is simple. Teammates and stakeholders will respond more quickly by taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components. “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
  8. Be responsive. Under promise and over deliver with everything you agree to do. You’ll quickly get a reputation for being responsive and reliable. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles Swindoll
  9. Demonstrate passion. Passion is contagious to everyone around you. Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect the organizations’ bottom line! “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou
  10. Encourage. Focus on what your team is doing right and make them aware both individually and as a group. Encourage them to find ways to improve processes, to grow professionally, and to encourage each other. “I like to encourage people to realize that any action is a good action if it’s proactive and there is positive intent behind it.” – Michael J. Fox
  11. Be grateful. Always be appreciative – say thank you to all stakeholders sincerely and specifically. Gratitude helps us to remain focused on the positives and it helps us to feel good about ourselves. “A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” – James E. Faust
  12. Always follow the modified Golden Rule; treat others as they’d like to be treated. Get to know your team as people not employees. Remember their birthdays (if they celebrate them), get to know what they like to do, what are their kids names, where do they see them selves in one to five years, and know how do they like to receive praise and feedforward? “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” – Edwin Markham

images-1Process check…Are you thinking these 12 concepts are “touchy feely” stuff? Well, get over it! Studies have shown that we’re hard wired for human connection and contribution. If we don’t get it we’ll find it somewhere else.

We’re not robots, why would we treat our teammates as such? Don’t hear that I don’t think a targeted focus on bottom line results isn’t important, it is; we just need to move the needle to focus more on our team rather than myopically on the bottom line.

Remember, the team is performing the daily work, so they are the drivers of the bottom line.


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Effective Communication

images-6Communication, communication, communication!

Open, honest, and informative communication is the glue for effective communication in organizations; it is also the transistor that helps us to teach, inform, support, motivate, and empower our team.

Communication is at the heart and soul of our organizational and personal lives. No matter how good we think we are at communicating, there is always room for improvement.

By carefully considering how we communicate we can be more effective communicators. Years ago I came across the 7 C’s of communication. Using them as a checklist when there is something important to relay in writing has been extremely useful in increasing my overall communication effectiveness.

images-1There are a couple of different versions of the 7 C’s – this one is my preference:

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Civil
  6. Complete
  7. Considerate

Clear – it is critical that our message is crystal clear and understandable. Don’t beat around the bush and don’t mix the message with others things you’d like to convey. Clarity makes comprehension easier!

Concise – keep the message to its essence. It saves time for both the sender and the receiver. Be brief and to the point. Conciseness saves time & money!

Concrete – be vivid and specific with your message give facts and figures when you can. Concreteness reinforces confidence!

Credible – speak the truth and be transparent. Credibility lends to trusting relationships!

Civil – keep your ego in check and treat others the way they want to be treated. Civility reinforces common courtesy!

Complete – the message entails all of the necessary information to convey your meaning. Answer questions with facts, details and examples. Completeness brings a desired response!

Considerate – keep your audience in mind and step into the shoes of the receiver. Ensure you are friendly, open, and honest and avoid any passive-aggressive undertones.  Consideration means understanding human nature!

images-9You may be asking, what about some best practices with face-to-face communication?

Unknown-1Did you know that 55% of our communication is conveyed through body language, 38% through our tone of voice, and 7% of communication is the actual words we speak. That means that 93% of all communication is exchanged non-verbally!

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As leaders we need to be fantastic listeners and accurate readers of the non-verbal message to be effective communicators.

images-2When we actively listen we engage our brain to connect with others. We’re able to obtain a deeper understanding of the other person’s views, values, thoughts, and feelings. When we can tap into our senses, we feel, see, and at times taste what the other person is sharing. Listening is a conscience effort that takes focus and hard work but the payoff is immeasurable!

Ever heard of the acronym WAIT?  It can be highly useful for leaders who have a tendency to speak too much.  WAIT stands for:Unknown-2

When I was learning how to be a leader, I used to write this acronym on the top of my note pad when I met 1 on 1 with my employees. It helped me stay focused on listening to them rather than speaking to them.

images-4Here’s a useful analogy about listening that can help us to understand the importance of deep listening – it’s called channel 1 and channel 2 listening.

Channel 1 listening is when we listen to respond – I’ve also heard it called STAN listening (Sh*t, That, Ain’t Nothin’!)

Most of us practice channel 1 listening within our career and our relationships – we listen so that we can tell our own story, perspective, or opinion; not to understand the other person’s perspective.

images-8Channel 2 listening is very different from channel 1 listening because it is what Stephen Covey calls empathic listening.

Channel 2 listening is the ability to consciously be aware of our own biases and judgments; to be present by mentally removing distractions around us. It is not just about maintaining eye contact, it’s keeping an open mind, and not jumping to conclusions as someone is talking.

Channel 2 listening is the ability to maintain a curious mindset so our questions can continue the dialogue and deepen our understanding of what the other person is intending to convey. One of the most sincere forms of respect a person can give is to actually listen to what another person has to say.

UnknownUse of channel 2 listening has transformed my life by helping me to create deeper and more meaningful relationships professionally and personally. It isn’t a natural skill for most of us yet it can be learned through awareness and practice.

“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” – Alfred Brendel


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UnknownGiving constructive feedback to anyone is difficult – let alone giving it to a difficult teammate who repeatedly tests us!

I like to call feedback feedforward.  It changes our mindset to a more positive and helpful one where the conversation supports our team’s growth and development.

Constructive feedback requires a leader to alert a team member to where a problem lies and what actions or behaviors need to change for their success, but it also requires the ability to provide counsel while not undermining their intrinsic motivation or trust.

Unknown-1Here are 12 steps that can be used when we provide constructive feedforward :

  1. Loose the emotion. We are not effective when we are mad or frustrated. It actually takes away our ability to effectively articulate our message in a clear, specific, and respectful manner.
  2. Do it in private. Never provide constructive feedback in front of others. Not even a disapproving eyebrow raise.
  3. Make it short and make it direct. Ensure that you get the point, do not add on other things you’ve been meaning to review with that team member. It just muddy’s up the message and the teammate leaves confused.
  4. Provide feedforward ASAP. Do not wait! Timely feedback with very specific examples will help to provide clarity to what needs to change.
  5. Provide feedforward in the manner they chose. When your teammate first came aboard you asked how they wanted to receive constructive feedback. Provide the feedforward in the manner they requested. Remember that feedforward is a two-way dialogue – it’s about performance results not punishment.
  6. Let them use their voice. Share the specifics of what you witnessed or what a customer experienced in detail and ask for their recollection or experience. Don’t assume what you’ve heard from a third party is accurate.
  7. If they are silent during or after the conversation ask why. Don’t stew over what someone may or may not be thinking. Just ask for their thoughts. It may also be their response to receiving difficult to hear information.
  8. Share your concerns about their actions and/or behavior. People want to do a good job and to be supportive of their leader. Be straightforward, compassionate yet direct, otherwise you’ll risk losing the power of the message. Share how the situation affected their teammates, customers, and refer to the organization’s performance expectations and how their action or behavior is not in line.
  9. Mutually decide on the best course of action. We’re all adults. As a successful leader you have a lot of ideas on how to get things done yet having the teammate set the plan creates their buy in. They will take ownership for something they designed over something suggested.
  10. Connect the dots. Make sure that the teammate is crystal clear on what they need to change or focus on to improve their performance. Ask for them to reiterate the message. Also be clear on the next steps if they are unable to embrace and/or incorporate modifications to their action or behavior.
  11. Set up a follow up date/time to review progress. This is just as important as providing the feedforward. Sometimes it takes time to make a change and your following up with them gives them the opportunity to be held accountable and/or to hear directly from you hat they are making progress. If needed, set up another follow-up date/time.
  12. Documenting the situation in your notes. Always keep notes with regards to personnel related interactions – criticism or praise. Remind your teammate of your leadership role in the organization and the duty you have to them and the organization. If this is a one and done conversation for goodness sakes tell them they can be excused from their job (AKA fired) if they do it again. It may sound harsh but wouldn’t you want to know the gravity of your actions, decisions, and actions?

images-3Here are my thoughts on documenting your team member’s performance:

These notes will help you to write your performance evaluations before the time comes to write them. We’re all busy and cannot be expected to remember all of our interactions from month’s heck even weeks ago.images-3

  1. Create a file either paper or a Word doc with each team members name on it. Include your notes on positive and constructive actions and behaviors. Recording only constructive instances will unfairly bias your evaluation. Update your file after each monthly or bi-weekly 1 on 1 meeting as well as any coaching you’ve provided or teammate or customer praise. Don’t forget to secure and lock your paper files and password protect your Word docs.
  2. Record the date, time and day of the week of the situation. This will help you ID potential patterns or challenge prior to them becoming serious.
  3. Write observations not assumptions. Comments should focus only on specific actions and behaviors that are not in keeping with performance expectations. Don’t make assumptions about the reasons or judgments about an employee’s character. Keep it to the facts and only the facts. Choose the language you use carefully – remember these logs can be used as evidence in a lawsuit.
  4. Keep out biased language. A good rule of thumb is any statement that would be inappropriate in a professional conversation is also inappropriate in the file. That includes references to age, sex, race, disability, marital status, etc…
  5. Be brief but complete. Log examples not general comments.
  6. Track trends. If you begin to see patterns, make notes referencing to previous entries.
  7. Don’t include rumors or speculation about the team member, theories about why they behave a certain way or, information about their family, ethnic background, beliefs or medial history. Also your opinions about the employee’s career prospects or unsubstantiated complaints against them.

images-4I live in California, the most litigious state; this post reviews a few best practices to take care of you if your organization has not yet given you the training or the guidance on how to deal with personnel situations however; always follow your organizations’ policies and procedures with regards to coaching and feedforward.

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Lessons for Young Leaders

“Hey, I’m not going to listen to some young punk kid tell me what to do!”

images-9The first time I had an older teammate be disrespectful and test boundaries I was completely unprepared on how to manage it. Any snide comment, rude tone of voice, or even a sideways look left me puzzled and in search of how I could improve my leadership tool kit.

images-10I was 17 and working at a local pizza parlor when I first became a leader. The training I received was focused only on the technical know how of making pizza, the building’s safety/security, and cash management. Leadership training involved making many mistakes and trial and error. It was slow and frustrating for my team and myself

images-11Back then I didn’t recognize how differences in personalities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and generations effected my ability to lead effectively. I was trying to treat others the way I liked to be treated instead of how they liked to be treated – which left me bloodied and bruised.

Fast forward a few years, I’m now 21. I just got promoted from a new accounts representative to branch supervisor. Again, there wasn’t a leadership-training program so I was left to figure things out on my own. One of my teammates, who was 15 years older, spent a lot of time testing boundaries. I remember there were days I would come home from work exhausted because of her shenanigans. The extra money I was making wasn’t worth the aggravation. When you are untrained and unprepared no amout of money is worth it.

images-11I naturally practiced open and transparent communication with the team, I was nice, truly interested in people, what they liked, and what they were looking for in their careers. I couldn’t understand why I kept being tested, at times disrespected, and discounted.

I wish my current self could have sat down my 21-year old self and provided tips and a “how to” guide on being a new leader. Here are a few things I would have shared:

images-2Communicate, communicate, communicate – Articulate your thoughts clearly and succinctly. Over communicate when change is involved. Always listen twice as much as you speak – ask questions to confirm understanding. NEVER assume! When speaking, understand people will hear the impact of your communication has on them – not what you intended to say. Ensure your words are always in alignment with your actions. Be humble. You don’t know everything. You will make mistakes so ask for patience. Always be transparent, open, and honest. If you don’t know – say that! When possible ask for your teammates thoughts and ideas but remember the final decision or action lies with you.

images-12Get out of the trench – The trench is your strength and where you came from yet it is no longer your role. Get comfortable teaching and sharing expectations of desired end results but don’t micromanage the how to’s. Quickly learn what tasks and processes can be delegated. When delegating ensure the team member is well trained and understands how the task supports the big picture. Your team will appreciate you rolling up your sleeves and jumping back in the trench but do it only when needed. You know what it’s like in the trenches. Remember to shower your team with genuine appreciation – people who feel appreciated will always do more than what’s expected.

images-3Be self-aware – Learn to look at yourself objectively. Study and critique your decisions and actions. Know your personality, your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, intrinsic motivators, and emotional intelligence fitness. Self-awareness is the divining rod to understanding how your actions and behavior are working or not.  Also, this awareness is a key ingredient to making necessary changes in how you lead.

images-4Create boundaries – Share your expectations and ask what each teammate expects of you. This process opens the door to accountability. Consider performance feedback as a gift – actually think of feedback as feedforward. Be timely, specific (with recent examples), compassionate, yet direct with all feedforward provided. Team members need to know how their actions and behaviors affect their team, the organization, and its customers. Always remember that any criticism you receive is given to help you become a better leader.

images-5Build relationships – Help to bridge the work life integration gap by getting to know each teammate personally. Ask for and validate your team’s previous experiences and call on them when needed. Align their natural strengths in their role. Know how each teammate likes to receive praise. How about receiving feed forward? How do they like to learn? What are their intrinsic motivators? Where do they feel they are excelling and where do they feel they need more training and development? Treat each teammate, as they want to be treated. Know that your bias and judgment is a restrictor to developing strong relationships. Note: it is equally important to build relationships with your peers inside and outside of your organization.

images-6Develop leadership presence – Think of yourself as a leader not a manager. You were chosen for the position, don’t apologize for your successes or promotion. Be confident but not arrogant. Walk the talk and don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. Respect your teammate’s ideals and ideas so they will respect yours. Respect takes time to earn and shouldn’t be forced. Don’t demand or command. Loose the need to be liked. Be kind and compassionate and know there are people who won’t like you just because you are their boss.

images-7Find mentors – Expand your knowledge of leadership best practices and learn from others who excel in leadership. Why recreate the wheel? Why not instead find someone who has been there and done that? Mentor’s will provide you with non-judgmental support, and guidance. Older generations have the wisdom that younger generations are still acquiring. Mentors can help you learn to blend old and new ways so that your team buys in and supports the change.

images-8Develop a learner’s mindset – Lean into your discomfort! It makes learning much more interesting and fun. By this I mean you are new at this, chillax and don’t fear being a newbie or making mistakes. If your organization doesn’t provide leadership development training, attend programs through your local university or community college but make sure you have your organization pay for it. Make it a life long habit to regularly read leadership books, magazines, web articles and blogs.

This is by no way an exhaustive list of what a new leader should focus on but if you focus on these areas you will be well ahead of the curve!  My sage advice is just that…take it or tweak it.

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Leading 5 Generations

images-3It’s Monday afternoon and Karen, your 74-year old receptionist comes to tell you that she is fed up with Susie, the 22-year-old who covers her breaks and lunches.

She’s at it again! Karen huffs…..When Susie helps customers she has her head buried in that confounded phone! I swear that its attached to her like a third arm!! She leans in and whispers….You know…. I’ve seen her take it into the bathroom stall! I bet she even sleeps with it!! Argh!

For the first time in history, there are five different generations working side-by-side. Now more people are living longer, staying in the workforce for longer periods of time before retiring, and reentering the workhorse after some time away.

Oimages-1ne of the pressing issues we have as leaders is how to effectively lead the three to five generational differences we have within our teams. Problems arise from differing mindsets and communication styles of workers born in different eras. Friction is further aggravated by technology and work patterns that mix workers of different ages who must work in an ever-changing environment.

Each generation has its own characteristics, values, and attitudes towards work based on its generation’s life experiences. Here are some of the typical characteristics of each generation:


Traditionalist/Veterans born between 1930 and 1945 – watched their parents struggle to make ends meet during the Great Depression of the 193o’s. They fought in World War II or the Korean War, and grew up with the radio and not television. They are careful with money and conservative – have great respect for authority, are risk averse, and very loyal to their employers. They prefer to communicate face-to-face. Job security is very important and switching jobs is not easily embraced.

images-5 Boomers  born between 1946 and 1964 – represent the largest group in the workforce and are the ones who will inflict the greatest “brain drain” when they retire. Often they are involved in child care and elder care. Some fought in the Vietnam War and they experienced important cultural changes such as the pill, the civil rights movement, and the nuclear age. They used typewriters rather than computers yet are highly educated and desire a better lifestyle than their parents.


Gen Xer’s born between 1966 and 1976 – witnessed many dramatic changes in the economy and technology. They are the first generation to be entertained by video games such as Atari. This group saw an increase in the number of divorced parents, dual-income families, and latch key kids. They are familiar with oil shortages, terrorist attacks, and soaring inflation.


Gen Y/Millennials born between 1977 and 1991 – grew up with technology such as the Internet, computers, voice mail, and advanced video games. More globally minded than previous generations.  Population is 3 X larger than Gen X. They are used to daycare and helicopter parents. Like praise and feedback and are more accepting of other’s differences in race, gender, and sexual orientation. They are typically inquisitive, socially and environmentally conscious, concerned about the future and are highly entrepreneurial and lived through one of the largest economic booms of our time.


Born 1992 and later and are included in the “Millennials” group but are also called Cuspers, Zoomers, and Generation 9/11. This is the youngest group in the workforce. They are extremely tech savvy, text and IM is the preferred mode of communication – email is for “old folks.” More activities available to them than previous generations, like to engage in community services, are confident and feel secure.

Leading employees of different generations requires patience, balance, and careful observation of the individual needs and behaviors of each individual. We have to use a generational lens with our leadership style so we may facilitate communication between people who typically don’t see eye-to-eye.

Here are some thoughts on how to work with varied generational team members:

  1. Teach the differences between generations, but be careful this knowledge doesn’t encourage stereotypes. None of us like to be cast into a role using a title that doesn’t fit us. Schedule time for your teammates to really know each other.
  2. Accommodate different learning styles. Traditionalists and Boomers may favor more traditional methods such as PPT and handbooks, while Millennials may gravitate towards more interactive, technology-based forms of learning.
  3. Practice tolerance, loose biases and drop assumptions. Enough said.
  4. Communicate using multiple channels. Check in with those who need face-to-face communication so you can answer their questions and provide clarity.
  5. Offer mentoring between different aged employees. This will encourage more cross-generational interactions. Millennials enjoy learning from those who have more experience and wisdom yet what will be important is to ensure that when Millennials share their ideas to Traditionalists or Boomers their ideas are actually heard and taken under consideration.
  6. Focus on the results your team produces not the processes and how they get things done. This expectation should be shared with your entire team. A Traditionalist doesn’t understand that an absent Gen Xer or Millennial who is working from home in the evening is actually “working.”
  7. Regularly ask all of your team members what they think, what would work, and what are their ideas. Including the team in the decision-making and processes of the work they do daily whenever you can – this will drive their contribution and engagement.
  8. Don’t confuse character issues like immaturity, laziness or disconnection with generational traits. What’s important is that we understand the typical differences but don’t use this information to label teammates.
  9. Each person is unique, craves their own way to communicate, has differing needs that supports their success and fuels their intrinsic motivators. It’s up to us to get to know each individual and how they can thrive in their position.
  10. To help support engagement, provide regular educational, training opportunities and career advice to keep all teammates interested in the organization. Example: provide special assignments outside of job descriptions to Millennials such as working on a task force to solve a problem or developing more meaningful social networking channels for the organization.

imagesLeaders need to understand and tap into their emotional intelligence to connect, direct, and guide their teams. Gen Xer’s and Millennials leave because of management not because of the organization. If we don’t have the ability to lead different generations, this will result in lost productivity, conflict in the workplace and increased turnover.

“Little of today’s technology is proprietary. Technology is easily obtained and replicated and only levels the playing field. An organization’s valued human assets cannot be copied.” – Bill Gates

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