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Why you lead: The one thing I’ve never discussed

Why you lead: The one thing I’ve never discussed

Happy 2018 to you. By now, 80% of you have already broken at least 1 of your new year’s resolutions (I’m not saying I’m in a glass house…) – and we’re looking for the next event to focus past our supposedly new year’s failures. Month by month, we’ve discussed many ways to improve your leadership, your team, and getting time back in your day… but there’s one thing we’ve left out that is the Central Tenet of Leadership.

A leader’s purpose is to ensure his/her team accomplishes the tasks and jobs required.

Put simply?

A leader’s purpose is to make sure his/her team gets the job done.

This year, we’re going to focus on the HOW and the WHAT of leadership. We’ll hear from individuals that screwed up by NOT getting the job done (and how they eventually fixed it). Yes, you need to take care of your people, and yes you need to motivate them… but you still have to get the job done, and sometimes getting it done is not perfectly aligned with those more flexible traits.

A Short Story: My first job

When I graduated from college, I was commissioned as an Ensign and assigned as a division officer to a U.S. Destroyer. I had 18 sailors assigned to my division, of which one was a Chief (a senior enlisted). He had been in the Navy longer than I had been alive – and he was required to call me “ma’am”.

How was I supposed to get the job done when I was (by time in rate) the most junior person there?

I was young, and more than a little nervous. I was the only female and was as green as they come. So I made my potential weakness into a strength. I didn’t talk as much as I listened. I took in the requirements of me and my division from my senior leaders and I listened to what my sailors had to say. They told me what worked – and what didn’t (literally – we managed a 5” gun – it broke at times!). They told me how they had done their job in the past – and what was successful – and what divisions were not.

Eventually, I learned enough to be confident in my own decisions, without asking as many questions as I did those first months. My Chief told me something I’ll never forget: “My job is to make you an admiral”. I truly believe my success as a leader – and the success of that team in getting the job done was because I knew I wasn’t the smartest in the room. And I listened to those that were.

What is your story? As a leader, what tactics or techniques do you use to get the job done? Take 2 minutes to answer here – or connect with me on LinkedIn to share your personal story.

R&R: The 2 things you will need that’s not on your Christmas leadership wish list (and it’s not what you think)

R&R: The 2 things you will need that’s not on your Christmas leadership wish list (and it’s not what you think)

This time of year probably means you are reading this while stuffing your face with some holiday goody that someone made on the way to your 3rd meeting of the day… or you’re trying to figure out how many gifts you really need to get for your peers and employees at work.

But you, LEADER who never does enough for yourself, what are you getting this year? What are you giving yourself?

I’ll be short. More than likely, you don’t have the time for much more than a few paragraphs right now anyway.

I charge you with giving yourself R&R – NOT rest and relaxation (although you may need that too) – but to prepare for YOUR 2018, I challenge you to:

Reflection and Resilience

Reflection: Where have you been? What did you do? Where did you go – that you didn’t want to go? Get rid of regret – move on. Screw up a project? Mess up with an employee it. Chalk it up to learning (it was) and get it right next time (let them know that – too – makes you a better leader, and they’ll respect you more for it).

Resilience: The dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to adjust easily to misfortune or change”. Misfortune OR change? So … they can be in the same category? Maybe you lost your job – misfortune. Maybe your company was bought out – change. How fast do you adjust to that? Are you helping others adjust – without noticing the impact on yourself?

Reflection & Resilience:  You’re closing in on the end of the calendar year – where many take stock in their lives, their families and otherwise. In the next week, I challenge you to take 5 minutes and REFLECT on where you’ve been in 2017, and get over what didn’t go your way. Know there will be obstacles on the way to what you want – don’t let them get in your way.

While you’re doing that… play your favorite motivational song (I prefer Firework, by Katy Perry – but don’t tell anyone) …. It definitely gets you in the mood (to take on 2018).

Three Ways to improve the #1 Skill leaders need (& struggle at) getting right

Three Ways to improve the #1 Skill leaders need (& struggle at) getting right

Take care of your people, set goals and priorities, lead as an example to others. These are fine traits to have as a leader … but they aren’t important. They are really nothing if you don’t have the #1 leadership skill.


In a recent poll, leaders were asked in what area they wanted to improve as a leader – with more than 22 skills listed – more than 75% of leaders said communication. More than 50% of that same group said that their people were their organization’s competitive advantage.

If people are so important, and communication is the way to get it done, why can’t we get it right?

Because we follow the golden rule (do unto others as you’d have them do unto you)instead of the platinum rule (do unto others as you’d have done to… themselves)! It’s hard to see from another’s viewpoint… in this case, communicate the way they need to hear something – communicate on an individual basis.

So… what can you do about it in the next 5 minutes?

1-     Actively Listen. Tomorrow – take 30 minutes and MBWA. Manage by walking around. Talk to each person – call them, if necessary – and see how they doing. No hidden agenda. Look for nonverbal cues for validation, actively listen to how they respond. Find out what’s on their minds – what’s driving them, what’s slowing them down.

2-     Make notes. When you listen to your people… do something. If your employee mentions they have had a problem getting papers signed by another department – don’t just say “uh huh” and pat yourself on the back for listening. Ask a question. Maybe they can solve it (if they can be based on a few directed questions by you – all the better). Maybe you can talk to your friend John – that takes 2 minutes for you and saves them 2 hours – and a lot of frustration.

3-     Recognize your first impression is probably wrongFirst impressions are formed in the first 4-7 seconds of meeting someone, and although those first impressions when you meet people may tend to be right. It is often found that when you listen to people in a situation unless you thoroughly understand the situation AND the individual – 9 times out of 10 – you will learn you have it wrong.

More than 60% of the time – people receiving texts from friends, family or otherwise – get the primary emotion (of how the sender is feeling or what they are conveying) wrong. If you can’t figure out what someone close to you is feeling – why do you think you’ll get it right with your employees – that you may not be as close to?

If it doesn’t make sense, ask. Clarify. If it’s important. Ask. Clarify. Make sure that your message is really being understood. If you’re not sure – ask.

This week – how can you try something new with your team?  How can you try listening in a way you haven’t tried before.

The Square Peg Way: Creating Reliable Leaders

The Square Peg Way: Creating Reliable Leaders

Square Peg Solutions creates reliable leaders & improves long-term organizational & leadership effectiveness.

Leadership development and PROVEN results: Only 5% of leaders are ready to do their jobs, yet more than 60% of people quit because of their manager’s lack of leadership. We partner with our clients to understand their needs and create practical leaders to allow them to continue to focus on their business.

Don’t settle for mediocrity. Guarantee your leader’s results

Don’t believe everything you Google

Don’t believe everything you Google

Don’t believe everything you Google: How to look beyond the Internet’s “magnetic pull” so your employees don’t replace you

*From Trends in 2020 Series*

Fake news on the Internet? Untrue stories that become facts overnight?

Such is the life of those of us working in 2017. Many of you responded in kind after last month’s article (“When the Internet has all the workplace answers”) and shared that you had experienced the Internet’s magnetic pull over employees and leaders alike. In fact, 100% said that they HAVE seen the Internet influence how their employees work with their leaders in the workplace.

100% you say? So… basically, that means that it is rare to find someone who’s ever taking the boss at face value. They are going to Google to confirm if what you said is not fake news.

Ouch. On average, nearly every employee AND leader responded that they go to the Internet weekly if not daily to get their own answers to a work problem, issues, comparison or result.

Here’s where I get scared. The “Internet” (aka, all of the millions of sites out there) gets it wrong. A lot. A study found that, even for something as serious as infant safetythe related websites had inaccurate information nearly 40% of the time.

Ouch squared. So – people are going to the Internet – almost daily – to figure out if you, as the leader, are correct – and a large part of the time, there’s a good chance information they receive is portrayed incorrectly, or is flat-out wrong? One fire chief, who must make life and death decisions daily pointed out his view that the Internet often shows a sanitized and glamorized view of his work environment as a firefighter (Chicago Fire, anyone?). The real environment is very different from the texts and blogs as they individually promote their particular belief structure and point of view.

The Internet is here to stay and the role it plays will only increase.

So…how can you lead with a foot on both sides of the aisle?

1.      Mentoring is key. “You have to be more cognizant of the different generations in the workplace. Encourage more mentoring” The more that the individual prefers the Internet environment to traditional leadership, the more you have the ability to teach them the benefits of using both at the same time.

2.      Get to the point. “It’s important to be succinct and have links/resources at hand.” Be short and sweet. Like it or not, attention spans have shortened in the last 10 years. Think about what you really need to say ahead of time- and keep it less than 5 minutes.

3.      Find out yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers – especially if it’s new to you. “If I need to give answers to a given issue that I do not immediately know the answer to, I will research it online”. Just because you’re a leader (with 1 month or 30 years) of experience, you don’t have to know everything. It’s ok to check your facts (and do it in more than one place, to confirm you’re right!)

4.      Embrace the “new normal”. The Internet, iPhone, and laptop have become disruptive technologies of the last 20 years. “Our grandparents had the same issues with radios vs. newspapers. These technologies replaced getting information from 3rd – hand news at the barbershop.” This technology will move forward, and as a leader, you have the chance to embrace it now and be part of the best practices solution to drive your organization forward.

5.      Internet = information. Employees & leaders go to the Internet for information – fact, fiction, fun or otherwise. “Understand that ‘information’ is a tool and as all tools, it can be crafted to create OR destroy. As a leader, you need to create an atmosphere where the Internet is NOT the only source of information for your organization.”

The bottom line…… Based on the amount of information available on the Internet, and the fact that most employees reference it daily to help do their work, in the next 10 years, businesses will need fewer managers overall.

Many managers, as “vehicles of information” for their organization, simply won’t be needed because they’ll be a redundant source or tool for employees to receive their guidance.

Agree? Not agree? Either way…. are you ready?

How do you lead when the internet has all the answers?

How do you lead when the internet has all the answers?

How do you lead when the internet has all the answers? 3 ways you can prevent being replaced (as a leader) by the internet

Photo Credit: Eva Guralnick, UC Davis

*From Trends in 2020 Series*

How do you take the ROI (Return on Investment) of a project? What are the best ways to interact with a challenging co-worker? What should you do if you want to date your boss? What are the steps in project management?

All of these questions could be viewed as basic information… how would you answer them? What guides how you would answer them? Your experience? Or Google?

Expertise in the workplace is quickly being usurped by the phrase “I’ll just Google it”. Don’t know how to interact with that co-worker? Google it, and you’ll find 200,000 ways to do it – without embarrassing yourself by asking anyone. You also get to get a lot of advice – quickly – and pick the ones that work best for you (because come on – Google may be good – but they aren’t necessarily great at picking the advice YOU need at THIS time). Age doesn’t matter – Millennials may be taking over the internet – but they are just more comfortable in using the provided technology. People in all generations have come to rely on their favorite search engine to point them in the right direction. Our attention spans are shrinking, we want it in bite-size pieces and we don’t have time to wait for someone to explain it to us.

So… how do you lead when the internet has all the answers?

1-     Accept. For the most part, this advice goes to those that have lived in the world before the internet and know another life. The 90’s saw the advent of the internet, and 00’s saw the iPhone and its cousins. These two bites of technology have changed almost everything about the workplace landscape- and just like walking home after a long college night – there’s no going back. Projects will become more complicated – and the internet can reduce the levels of complexity by providing answers in real-time. You can engage your team to include the internet AND you as a leader for best results.

2-     Adapt. Businesses must do this. Amazon changes the game for companies on a regular basis. Why are you as an individual any different? Find ways to incorporate the internet into your leadership styles with your team. Encourage them to go there for certain areas- and help them understand where you can better support – such as building a specific team or company culture, developing skill sets unique to your team, etc. Tell them that with the knowledge that’s out there – you’ll continue asking the questions – so go beyond the textbook answers. This is an open book test.

3-     Overcome. When I started out at 22 as a naval officer, both seniority AND experience meant something. The rank and years people had achieved explained the areas they excelled and their ability to contribute to the organization… they literally wore it on their sleeves. Make that experience mean something again.  Help them understand what you have done; what you bring to the table. WIIFM – What’s in it for me…. Teach them how your experiences can better support where they want to go.

It may sound like I’m recommending accommodating them… I’m not. I am saying that there are changes in leadership that have been caused by a competitor – internet access – that drives the need to adapt your strategy. Accept the changes in the role you play – and find ways to overcome them. recommending a new strategy for how you lead – because you now have competition in the war for leadership.

We’re on a mission for better leaders: If you have 5 minutes – please take this short survey, and you’ll automatically be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card. We will share the results in the next month and those that submit the survey will get a more in-depth report.

So write this down… if you want your leadership to transcend your employee’s need for the internet: Accept, adapt, and overcome.

*YOUR Feedback Requested! What do you think? ….. How have you seen the internet impacting employee’s views/ needs/ interaction with leaders happen in your workplace? What ways have you seen the internet change the way you lead? How have you challenged or overcame the internet’s influence on your leadership in the workplace?

The Operations of Leadership

The Operations of Leadership

The Operations of Leadership: 4 reasons to change your mind about leading like a “turn & crank” operation

If you’ve ever spent a day in operations (ok, let’s be real – you’d need a year, or at least a few months to really grasp it) – you’ve become accustomed to things that others just… aren’t. If you’ve ever seen the movie Groundhog Day you may remember Bill Murray being trapped in time, with the same day endlessly repeating. Some have compared working in operations to the same idea.

However…. Operators know a thing or two about getting things done… and it leads me to ask the question:

What do operations and leadership have in common?

1.      They both need people to get specific things done. Operators often tend to have a list, a quota, or a setup that must get accomplished. This may be accomplished using a checklist, or a guideline – but they have a clear expectation of what needs to be done. Good leaders do this as well – for some, it’s not as straightforward.

2.      There’s a right and a wrong way. Touchy ground – but this still holds true for both. Operators either get it done or not. The 100,000 units are either shipped – or they aren’t. Your people aren’t as simple as a unit – but there are right ways and wrong ways to lead them. What works for getting 1 individual to do something may be absolutely wrong for another. (You get to be the one to be Indiana Jones and treasure hunt for what those differences are – and they ARE out there.)

3.      The best answer solution may be in plain sight. Most operators work in a state of continuous improvement – kaizen, kanban, lean, scrumandon, poke yoke, standardized work. Little by little, yard by yard, they find ways to improve upon the current process. Many times, they find the answer in tweaking a process here or changing a set of steps there. Good leaders do that as well. They don’t just accept that Dan is the laziest of the group or Stephanie is always showing up late and can’t be changed – they look for different ways to improve upon the current situation.

4.      The goal is max capacity/ efficiency/ productivity. This comment goes without saying for operators. We all need to hit a goal, a target, a number – that’s the focus – and we try not to stop until we get there. Some leaders may balk at the austere nature of this statement for their employees – but it’s true. Don’t you want the most – the best – the “all you can be” out of your employees? It does not mean work them to OT hours and burnout – it means to challenge them with their strengths and assist them in working toward doing the most – for themselves – and for you.

Operations and leaders are much closer than you think – you just have to find the right way to thread the needle, wind the machine or load the belt.

How do YOU use operations to help you lead?

It’s not you, it’s me

It’s not you, it’s me

It’s not you, it’s me: The 14 words to get you out of your leadership slump

I believe it was George Washington before the Battle of Trenton that said something like, “You can’t fight the battle you want, you must fight the battle you have”. Many may not remember the details of this relatively small battle during the Revolutionary War – but it was a pivotal one for the early Americans, as it boosted moral from the devastating loss in the New York battles, and convinced more colonials that the fight for freedom was the correct one, and to join the fight for America.

The fight even to get to the battle was not easy. It was winter (Christmas Day and the day after in 1776, to be exact), and bitter weather and a frigid Delaware river made the conditions more challenging. Some of Washington’s troops were not able to cross due to these extremely hazardous conditions.

And still… Washington (GW) went for it. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. But he also knew that if he pushed through the worsened conditions and surprise the other side, his team could potentially win the day. They did.

Luckily for us, we don’t have to cross a treacherous icy river to learn from his experiences:

1.      Some of your success is because of hard work. Some just plain luck. For this one, you have to be honest with yourself. Some of what got you in this situation – with your team, your managers, your work load, etc. is due to your hard work. You stayed up late, working, studying, preparing. You made the conversations – you may have even had to play politics when you thought it was for the best.

But….. let’s be real, some of it is just plain luck. Let’s go to extremes first. Think of the kids of wealthy business people that inherited a successful family business, or the number of child stars that got their start because a parent already made it in Hollywood or Nashville (Miley, anyone?). They started out a few steps ahead… it doesn’t mean they ultimately finished successfully – but they started at a different starting line.

Some of you may work with people that seem to be in a better position than you, for no other reason than luck. YOU may have had the luck at some point too. The point is – it doesn’t matter where you started, or where you’ve been. Or where anyone else is, for that matter. It’s where you currently are (like GW on the Delaware) – you’re in the situation. Get yourself through it.

2.      Fight the battle on your terms, regardless of the conditions. Face it – GW had some less than optimal conditions for anything productive – let alone winning a battle. He was literally fighting an uphill battle in the snow. HOWEVER – he got over it and made it to his advantage. He figured the rivals (the Hessians, German contract soldiers for Britain) would not expect him to be so crazy as to cross in the darkness of night in such conditions – and so he did just that.

GW took a crappy situation and made it his own – on his conditions. If you have a team that doesn’t respect you – or a project that’s not getting done (and you’ve worked your tail off, and starting to feel burnt out) – then stop. Take a step back. Take a deep breath. It’s not the battle you want. Fine. How can you make – what you have RIGHT now – into something that’s yours – your wheelhouse, your strengths – your terms?

3.      Bloom where you’re planted. I heard this several years ago when I actually benefited from hearing the advice I’m giving now. I was in a job that I knew wasn’t challenging me, and no matter how hard I tried, almost nothing I did was recognized as support for the company – nor would I get support on how to improve.

You may not have planned to end up where you are right now. At this age. In this particular job. Leading these people. That’s ok. Think of 3 things that are going well – and think of 3 things that are NOT happening – but COULD – and your life/job/team could be much worse. You may have a few people on your team that drag you down. Bloom where you’re planted – figure out a new way around it. You may not be in the job you wanted to be at this age. Bloom where you’re planted – find the advantage of being exactly where you are (like GW did) and make it yours.

“You can’t fight the battle you want, you must fight the battle you have”

How do you encourage your team to fight the battle?

You only get what you give

You only get what you give

“You only get what you give”- Lessons from pop culture that can improve your daily work

Ever reflect on a path not taken… i.e., if you had taken a different path from a fork in the road, where you would be now?

What about those risks on the path you’ve never taken?

For those that are Gen X’ers – remember the New Radicals song “You get what you give” – came out in 1998? (For everyone else – it’s a good song. Look it up).

The song is about taking a chance, a risk. Maybe you have just graduated from high school and are looking for the “first big move” – be it college or to work. Maybe you’re leaving college, and you’re living in the real world (and work) “Ain’t it fun” – and realizing things are not as they seemed.

Maybe you are in your 30’s and 40’s and learning what’s really important – and finding out what’s important now wasn’t on your radar 10 years ago – and you can’t imagine a life WITHOUT these important things. I went to my reunion this past weekend and found so many amazing people that were in this category… some doing a 180 degree turn from their graduation plans (myself included!).

Maybe you’ve started to believe that the ship has sailed for you – and you should just deal with what you’ve got at this point in your life.

To each group – to where you are right now – I want to tell you this. “You only get what you give”.

–       If you “give” small – if your risk is small, your reward will more than likely be small. Just like Vegas, the chances of you having a large return from taking a small risk tends to be very small.

–       If you “give” nothing – because you feel you just don’t have what it takes – jealous of someone 10 years younger for having a job you should have – looking at a friend wondering why he has the life, and you’ve been the one working harder, the chances of you having a large return is virtually zero

–       If you “give” yourself a minute – an honest one – consider this. What do you do better? Where are your skills, your talents – at work, in your department, in your organization? Where are your limits? Double down in those areas at work – spend more time being AMAZING in those areas.

So…. What do you do about it?

Go for broke. Every once in a while, challenge yourself out of the box – make yourself do it. Take your team out of their comfort zone in a way that flips the status quo upside down. Take an assumption about a weekly or monthly task or requirement and challenge the assumption itself.

Go for broke… but keep the car. It may mean taking a new job, moving to a new place, finding a new department. Don’t forget what’s important though – and know your priorities. Your priorities are yours alone – not others. Don’t covet others’ priorities for your own – because they also have baggage you probably don’t see.

Bottom line – “Don’t let go… You only get what you give”

Take a risk – make an impact – focus on your priorities in doing so. Start today. You’ll never be as young as you are now (Neil Pasricha).

Silos are for Sissies: “Job Blending” and the Work Trend your ‘experienced’ leaders hopes doesn’t catch on

Silos are for Sissies: “Job Blending” and the Work Trend your ‘experienced’ leaders hopes doesn’t catch on

How many of you have looked at a job description in the last 6 months? Hmmm… may not want to answer that if your boss is around

What are the job titles you see? Operations Analyst. HR Generalist. Marketing Coordinator. Merchandise Planner. Civil Engineer. Nurse Anesthetist. Each one has a unique job description which can include a list of job requirements, strengths, needs, KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills & Abilities) that are required to get the job done.

What DON’T the job titles tell you?

If I were to ask you to think back to a previous position – what have you done before that you wish you could do now – what tasks or goals might you say? Perhaps you enjoyed working with the customer and would like to do more of it. Or dig into the numbers and be the first one with the answers? Or simply not sitting in so many meetings? How can you do those things you enjoyed now… and would you appreciate your current job more because of it? Chances are you would.

This is called Talent EngagementGoing beyond the job description. 

Anyone can do it. I once was in operations when I learned I loved to teach (my job at the time had NOTHING to do with teaching, and very little directly involving developing others). I worked with my manager to find something he needed for his team – and found he wanted leadership development training. I created it, delivered it, got results – and became more engaged in the parts of my job I hadn’t been before.

So what is job blending?

Job blending is going between the job descriptions – NOT letting a title limit you to what you can contribute to your organization. Adding marketing to an HR job. Adding Operations to an IT job. Adding Sales to an Engineering job – atypical partners in a typical job.

The larger an organization is, in general, the more focused a title becomes, the more specific the job functions. A person that holds an accounting role for a 20,000-person company will have a very specific task list. He or she will be responsible for certain accounts, due dates, and checklists.

What if you had a little more freedom?

Ok… To be clear, I’m still saying you MUST get your job done. (It’s the #2 rule on my leadership rules). I’m saying BLEND your job. You are an accountant with an eye for organization. Why can’t you also hold a role with the operations team when they bring on a new project? You’re an IT manager but also have an eye for fashion? Blend your job so that you’re part of a contributing team on set up displays for branding in the stores.

Companies are already doing this. Small and mid-size companies can thrive because of job blending – people wearing many hats (sometimes because they want to – and sometimes not!). However, after a time, job blending gives way to structure and order. It doesn’t have to be that way – you can still have the structure and “blend” the order of your work.

Any benefits? Yes. The more you blend – the more you’re cross-pollinating a siloed workforce (on purpose or not). You’re creating diversity in ways you’ve never tried – and oh, by the way – by letting people do more of what they want – you’re going to increase Engagement and Productivity (if, of course, any of those things interest you). Also, the more you reach out with an array of projects- the more skills you develop, the more respect you’ll gain in the workplace, and when asking for that next big raise you’ll have more persuasive power. J

Google “job blending” and you’ll find very little. Job blending is scary for most “experienced” managers – those that are comfortable with status quo, do not like to think out of the box, like control and having expectations.

In the next month – I challenge you. Can you find a way to “job blend” in your workplace? What about the people on your team – have you asked them what they’d like to do – to give more to the team, and the company – but you’ve never asked?

Job Blending works. Join the trend that is out of the box – but within your reach.

#DisruptHR – What do dogs, kids & employees have in common that can help you become a better leader in 5 minutes? Find out.