Archives For Leadership

What comes to mind when you think about leadership responsibility? Taking charge? Casting vision? Setting strategy? Getting results? Every time I get to ask this question in a workshop setting, the list gets long very quickly.

Let’s make it more personal with this sobering question: are the people you lead better or worse off because of you? What is the experience of each person on the other end of your leadership?

Since there are so many leadership responsibilities, let’s focus on just a few that have enormous implications for the people in our wake.

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“How can I get my leaders to do a better job coaching their teams?”

That’s a question I frequently field from the executives and HR partners I support. I hope you’ve asked that question for yourself as well, because it means developing your team is high on your radar. I’ve shared the key skills of coaching as well as my favorite coaching conversational model GROW. That said, a new question arises, which is when should you coach and when shouldn’t you?

If you get this question wrong, you’re likely to either confuse your team or neglect to use your coaching skills to their maximum effectiveness. But if you get it right, you’ll grow as a coach and so will your employees.

Here are three situations when you should not coach and five situations when you should.

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The new three-part video series Jump-Start Your Employee Engagement has now launched. Join communication expert Josh Erickson and myself for three ideas in three days – all in four minutes or less. This video series will only be available for a limited time – click here to enroll.

How do people learn to be leaders?

That’s the question leadership consultant and thought leader Robert J. Thomas answered at a leadership academy event I recently helped organize. Speaking from his book Crucibles of Leadership, Thomas demonstrated that simply taking a course on leadership would do little to transform leadership abilities. In fact, knowledge plays only a small role in a leader’s effectiveness, despite the high price often invested in higher education.

Here is a sample of the elements that transform ordinary people into great leaders.

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Becoming a Coaching Leader

December 5, 2016

We hear so much about coaching these days. Leaders need to coach more. Employees need more coaching. High performers need coaching. Low performers need coaching. As leaders, how can we know we’ve done enough? And what does a quality coaching conversation actually look like in action?

Over the years, I’ve adopted a simple definition of coaching: “To coach is to develop another person by listening and asking questions to clarify ideas and commit to action.”

If you look closely, you’ll notice five key characteristics. I’ve listed each of them out below:

Business Conversation

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There’s incredible power in language. Words don’t merely convey ideas, they can change the course of history.

The words you use as a leader matter too. Here are some simple but powerful phrases that set great leaders apart from the rest.

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In the 16th century, political consultant (for lack of a better term) Niccolò Machiavelli’s works were published in the controversial manuscript The Prince – which is still in print today. In it, Machiavelli shared his theories on how a ruler could maintain control of his province – especially when gaining new subjects through military or political conquest. Essentially, it’s a dictator’s best practices manual.

Dictatorship is alive and well in the world of global politics, but it’s a not-so-subtle organizational management style as well. So if you want to lead like a dictator, here are some unfortunate suggestions for you, including some from Machiavelli. And if you prefer a more serving style of leadership, note the contrasts.

Angry Man

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Where Do We Go From Here?

February 1, 2016

What happens after a big win? For all the focus (and press) directed at planning and executing, what comes next?

Whether your team has achieved a significant goal or is looking to get back on track after a shake-up, here are some basic ways to get everyone back on course.

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Just about all of us are Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to leadership. Everyone has an opinion. But how grounded are those opinions, especially if we’ve never been there before?

Here’s the thing: if you wait until you receive a leadership role to get a leadership education, you may not last long. We all need a leadership development plan that includes work experiences, formal training, networking and self-study. But don’t overlook the easiest, cheapest and most accessible one of all: observation.

Here are eight observations to make of the leaders around you.

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How exciting is decision-making?? I’ve always enjoyed the logic that goes into navigating the personal and professional crossroads of life. Sometimes things work out. Other times it’s a disaster. Did we make the right call? How can we know for sure?

I read a book a couple years ago that took decision-making to a whole new level. It was Decisive by Chip & Dan Heath. I don’t think I’ve heard as comprehensive (or creative) a thinking process as it relates to decision-making. And the best part is that is applies to nearly all circumstances, from business (should we sue a bigger company? offer a discount on our products?) to personal (should I break up with my significant other? let my adult child move back home? buy a new TV?).

Here is a brief summary of the WRAP decision-making process the Heath brothers use:

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I was able to attend my fourth Leadercast seminar earlier this month. This year I attended a simulcast in Orlando, FL. As always, it inspired me with both new and familiar ideas. The theme this year was bravery. Here are some of my key takeaways – and you can also catch up on the social conversation with the tags #leadercast and #thebraveones.

Leadercast 2015

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Is complexity leaving your organization behind?

That’s a question we considered at a workshop I attended recently. Author Mark Miller and a team of facilitators walked a large group through the content of his new book Chess Not Checkers. The boardgame imagery? It’s symbolic for what happens as organizations grow. In the early stages of most small organizations or teams, the rules are simplistic and team members may play interchangeable roles much like the game pieces in a checkers game. But as growth occurs, complexity kicks in. Roles require specialists to address additional complications. The playing field starts to resemble a game of chess, rather than checkers. If we’re not careful, we’ll fall behind.

Chess1

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As a University of Kansas basketball fan, I’ve never rooted for Duke. But there is a Duke moment that stands out in my memory. It occurred probably 10 or 15 years ago. Duke was in the process of getting upset in the NCAA Tournament. They were playing hard that day but not well. Near the end of the game, the senior star player fouled out, highlighting the frustrating day for everyone. As he exited the floor for the last time as a college athlete, he headed straight for Coach Mike Krzyzewski with tears streaming down his face and the two shared a prolonged embrace.

My first thought was that Coach K must have really messed up his black suit hugging a really sweaty guy (probably a sign that I’d make a terrible basketball coach). The second was how evident the bond between the leader and the followers was that day. It wasn’t an expression of victory, but one of commitment.

Coach K Sideline

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