Feedback shouldn’t be like limburger cheese

Barry was speechless, first with shock and then with anger, as he read the email from his boss.

“Here’s some input from Kevin on how you handled the last project team meeting. Get it fixed. Fast.”

Kevin and Barry were peers, both managers but in different departments.  Both assigned to a cross-functional project team tasked with improving productivity. They’d joined the company on the same day, went through the same onboarding classes, had attended several leadership development offsites together, and occasionally met for lunch. They weren’t best buddies nor were they total strangers.

“Bill, I thought it would be helpful for you to know my reactions to the last productivity project team meeting. Barry led the meeting. He appeared disorganized and unprepared. His answers to questions from the finance department totally missed the mark. Given this was my meeting, it seemed prudent to share my observations.”

On his way into the meeting in question, Barry had received a call from the project team lead. The lead told Barry he had gotten ill and had gone home. He asked Barry to take his place in facilitating the meeting. Barry knew he hadn’t done his best work in leading that meeting yet was caught off-guard by what Kevin had reported to his boss. Barry wished Kevin had had the professional courtesy to tip him off to the problems before going right to Barry’s boss. It felt like grade school, when someone ratted you out to the school.

Ever been in Kevin’s situation?

3 tips for coaching a peer to improved performance

1) Talk-one-on-one before taking the issue further up the food chain.  Peer-to-peer feedback is a valuable tool for supporting and helping fellow leaders grow into their potential. Leadership isn’t a duel to the finish with one person taking home the spoils. (Or shouldn’t be!)  It’s a collaborative endeavor focused on delivering company objectives.

2) Sharing doesn’t mean conflict. Offering up well-framed observations and/or asking clarifying questions - ”today’s meeting felt disjointed to me. Is there a reason for that?” - sets the foundation, not for conflict, but for performance improvement.

3) Frame without judging. “Man, you totally blew it today. There goes your promotion.” Hey, who isn’t going to get defensive when someone lobs a grenade like that your way (and probably feel like a failure, too).  ”I” statements deflect blame, “I got a little lost in the meeting when you were going over the balance sheet.  Did I miss something?”  They also advance the conversation. When people feel attacked, they may stop the conversation altogether or negatively escalate it.

Peers tactfully providing input on areas of improvement as well as kudos for success to one another is a powerful way to change the stories of leadership and build a culture of collaboration and camaraderie.

“Peer coaching can make a real difference in helping people change.” ~Stewart D. Friedman, Practice Professor of Management at Wharton



Maintaining your integrity: priceless

Setting: Panel discussion presentation

Audience: Young (25 to 40) professional organization

Topic: Finding a job in a tough market

The question posed to the panel was this,  I read that it’s an acceptable practice to ”reframe” my job title to fit a job posting, meaning I can call myself a director even if that wasn’t my title but I did director-level work. What’s your view on this?

Goodness! While the temptation to stretch the facts (whether just a tad or a whole bunch) may be attractive when jobs are hard to come by and you start to feel desperate, getting creative with the specifics of one’s work experience is a no-no. Plain and simple, don’t do it.

Steer clear of the lure of jazzing up your resume in an untruthful way to make your background more attractive. Be thorough in defining and quantifying your contributions. Stick to the facts. Don’t manufacture titles and/or experience.

Where’s the harm in going with the flow to get ahead, one might ask. Losing your integrity is the harm. Your values are your rock, your compass, against which you measure what is important to you in life.

And, that’s how other people determine whether to trust you…or not.


Dealing with the idea stealing, credit-taking boss

Art from Winking Cat Comics

Claire looked pale and drawn as she slid into the lunch booth, joining her work colleagues for their weekly Friday “lunch bunch.”

“Hey Claire, what’s up?” asked Patsy. “You’re not looking so good.”

“Patsy, I’m pretty freaked out. Remember that big project proposal report I did? The one about the new product line I was proposing? The one I was wondering about because my boss never mentioned it again after I turned it in? Now I know.”

Claire slid several clipped pages across the table.  The top document was an email from the CEO of the organization to Claire’s boss, congratulating him on such an innovative idea and well-thought plan of execution that would drive significant revenue to the bottom line. There was even mention of a big promotion for him. The next page was the email from Claire’s boss to the CEO that introduced him to the product concept and the report. This was the page that had floored Claire. In the email, her boss claimed all the credit for the new product idea, using phrases like ”I thought of…I wondered….I talked to…I explored…I,I,I.” The only mention of Claire was a brief comment about  her “administrative” contribution.

Given that many of us have probably experienced something similar, let’s agree Claire’s boss is guilty of ego-overload and certainly isn’t walking the leadership talk. So what’s Claire to do?

3 ways to handle the boss who steals your ideas

1) Get your attitude under control. Treating your boss like crap might sound appealing as a way to get even, but unfortunately you’re the one who will pay (and not in a good way) with this approach. This is where you suck it up, continue to produce excellent work, and generate even more ideas.

2) Avoid the showdown and back-stabbing chatter. The reputation of being an “idea stealer” usually spreads pretty fast via water cooler chats and the office grapevine. Stay above the fray by keeping your cool and behaving professionally. If/when the project does move forward. of course the boss assigns you to the work so you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to the organization.

3) Be smarter next time. Involve others within the organization as you begin your next new idea. Interview department heads and other key stakeholders/players as your work is unfolding. Create ”quiet visibility” around your proposal as you pull others toward and into your work. Use a variety of mechanisms to spread the word, like asking people to read your report and comment on it.

Taking the high road is your surest bet. What say you?


Leadership Friday Favs 9.16.11

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve (Jim Collins, HBR article)

Some days it seems as if it’s the egotistical chest-thumpers who grab, and get, all the glory. Then, one meets a leader who can’t say enough good things about his/her team and deflects/defers any contribution of their own to the firm’s success. Refreshing! Being humble doesn’t mean one is a doormat, and Jim Collins provides some great insights on this in this classic post.

Tone Tools Design Goodwill in War Zones (Dr. Ellen F. Weber on Brain Leaders and Learners)

Having handled labor relations and contract negotiations for many years, the story Ellen uses to demonstrate brain power to resolve conflict totally resonated. In this content rich post, she offers not only a 10-question climate tone survey but also 25 “walkways into brain-powered tone tools.” Fascinating insights into how much more we can be, and do!

When Employees Misinterpret Managers (Ben Horowitz)

While the Get Your BIG On team thinks the title of this post is misleading, it’s the central premise of what happens when there’s over-focus on numbers that counts. It’s a great remember for leaders to really think through what they want. “It’s important to supplement a great product vision with a strong discipline around the metrics, but if you substitute metrics for product vision, you will not get what you want.”

The curse of motherhood (Building Gender Balanced Businesses)

“Men and women are treated equally and the pay gap is rapidly shrinking but the overall picture is somewhat disheartening, especially for women who plan on having children. Any time off work can strike a crippling and permanent blow on future earnings and the solutions aren’t obvious.”

Survive and Thrive-Ten Steps (Irene Becker on The 3Q Blog)

If your self-confidence needs a boost, Irene offers ten ways to “build self-esteem and self-confidence from the inside out by celebrating your passion, purpose and potential.”

The quote corner. A quote that made the GYBO team reflect this week: “It is said that it is far more difficult to hold and maintain leadership (liberty) that it is to attain it. Success is a ruthless competitor for it flatters and nourishes our weaknesses and lulls us into complacency. We bask in the sunshine of accomplishment and lose the spirit of humility which helps us visualize all the factors which have contributed to our success. We are apt to forget that we are only one of a team, that in unity there is strength and that we are strong only as long as each unit in our organization functions with precision.” ~Samuel Tilden


Influence - A Leader’s Energy Drink


Positive Influence by Methec

Do you ever feel envious of that successful work colleague who’s connected to everyone, whose projects and budgets get approved, and whose opinions are actively sought out because people want to know what they think? Don’t waste time being jealous. Rather, focus on improving your abilities in the art and science of influence.

Whether at work or in your personal life, your ability to make an appeal (to influence) based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation is essential for success. Influence and leadership are related in that anyone, regardless of having a job title or not, can be proficient at them. Influence is critical for building relationships, securing support (especially when you don’t have direct control), persuading other people to champion your idea, or when you need to spark someone’s imagination.

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. ~Kenneth Blanchard

People with first-rate influence skills combine interpersonal, communication and assertiveness abilities. The intent of influence is to build a network of win-win interaction between people, not to control or manipulate them.

To determine how effective your ability to influence is, ask yourself:

  • Do I get results through and with people, even when I’m not the boss?
  • Do I have the personal power to shape outcomes and cause things to happen?
  • Do people seek out my opinion?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, polishing up your skills in the following areas will help you increase your sphere of influence.

Become a perceptive observer. Watch what’s going on in your company or around you at home or with friends. Individuals with strong influencing skills examine, ask and validate.

Be knowledgeable and have a bias for action. If you want to have an impact on results, know your organization and its culture, as well as your job, inside and out. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines for getting things accomplished.

Note to self: finding a cool quote and writing it in your journal is not a substitute for Getting. It. Done. ~Betsy Cañas Garmon

Be visible by engaging and involving others. Actively listen to what people are saying. People who have highly developed influence skills first pull people to their ideas, and then push those ideas to the rest of the organization through other people.

Be self-aware. Understand and control your own emotions and actions. Know both your limitations and your strengths, and then position yourself to maximize what you do best.

Give, give, GIVE! When you give, people will give back. Never underestimate someone’s heartfelt desire to leave a positive mark. Make your own constructive contribution while seeing, and appreciating, the gifts of others.

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw

Cultivate meaningful two-way relationships. Help before someone asks. Say thank you. Be there when people need you. Be a broker of ideas and information. People like to be around those who make positive things happen.

Be sincere and authentic. Approach situations seeking to find a mutually beneficial outcome; avoid the “I win, you lose” mentality. Assure that your words and your deeds are consistent and rooted in goodness. As Herminia Ibarra, a professor at the Harvard Business School says, “Integrity can be a source of power.”


Tackling imposter syndrome

Eden held a senior director job title, received glowing reviews, and her educational credentials and reputation were impeccable. Yet she felt like a failure. She lived in constant fear that her lack of ability would be discovered. That she would be exposed as the incompetent fraud she believed herself to be. Eden was surprised there was a name for what she felt – the impostor syndrome, a term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

Image by Corbis

While not an officially recognized condition, imposter syndrome is defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Eden, an amazing woman, lacked self-efficacy. She didn’t believe she had the ability to pull together her social, physical, thinking and behavioral skills to accomplish her goals. The presence, or lack, of self-efficacy determines how you feel, think and motivate yourself as well as how you behave.

Confidence is courage with ease. ~Daniel Maher

Without confidence in our own abilities, it’s very hard to have courage. Having confidence in what you accomplish can remove the sense of failure and the irrational fear of being found out that so plagued Eden.

Albert Bandura, a Canadian psychologist and author of Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, regards the self-efficacy as:

the foundation of human motivation, well-being and personal accomplishments. Unless people believe that they can bring about desired outcomes by their actions they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties. A wealth of empirical evidence documents that beliefs of personal efficacy touch virtually every aspect of people’s lives – whether they think productively, self-debilitatingly, pessimistically or optimistically; how well they motivate themselves and persevere in the face of adversities; their vulnerability to stress and depression, and the life choices they make.

Bandura identifies four sources for building self-efficacy:

1) Mastery experiences, best described as your successes. Success is the most robust source of self-efficacy. As Oscar Wilde says, “Nothing succeeds like success.”

How do you get more successful experiences?

• Evaluate your performance just as you would another’s – looking specifically for accomplishments. Don’t be modest – apply an objective eye toward successful outcomes, e.g. when you improved an operating process, when someone you mentored was promoted, when your management resulted in significant bottom line improvements, when your involvement improved a community function, when you helped someone see through the darkness and regain their footing. These are all successes.

• Write down your past successes as well as the knowledge, skill and/or abilities involved. Know, and accept, that you do have the requisite competencies to make things happen.

• Establish specific, short-term goals that challenge you, yet are still attainable, and work diligently to achieve them. Move past thinking into action and results. Give yourself credit for making the results happen.

2. Modeling experience, defined as observing other people who are similar to you succeeding at a task. Seeing their success can strengthen your belief in your abilities to affect a similar successful outcome.

How do you get more modeling experience?

• Surround yourself with people committed to making their goals a reality.

• Select well-known people whom you respect and whose interests, career goals, etc. track with yours, and watch what they do to make success happen for them.

• Avoid the “Debbie Downers” and being sucked into their downward spiral of belief that comes from talking only about failures or what’s wrong.

The final two elements of Bandura model – persuasion and emotional state – coming up in part two!

What say you about lacking belief in your achievements? How have you helped others believe in their abilities?


Leading Yourself

A reader shared this poem by Dale Wimbrow. It was written in 1934, yet the message remains fresh and true today.



When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf*,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

* means wealth


Leadership Friday Favs 8.19.11

Leading Again for the First Time (Chris Souba, Dean The Ohio State University [go bucks!] Journal of Surgical Research 157, 139–153, 2009)

It’s all here: getting your identity all confused with your role, telling yourself empowering and/or disempowering stories, being mindful of your mental hard drives (what a great turn of phrase!), interpretative versus evidence-based decision-making, and even two views of reality. All great stuff as a either a primer or a review, depending upon where you are in your leadership journey. “The sustainability and ‘thrive-ability’ of our organizations, societies, nations, and world rest on changing the way we currently think.”

Roadmap to a life that matters (HBR post by Umair Haque)

Having spent a big chunk of the last year researching business and power, the folks at BIG believe the fabric of business is badly frayed. Umair’s piece filled us with peace…and hope and joy. “More, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier has built an economy that might just be in furious pursuit of mediocrity. Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.”

The Rainmaker ‘Fab Five’ Blog Picks of the Week (Chris Young, The Rainmaker Group, Maximize Possibility)

OK, OK, including a collection of posts in a collection of posts is perhaps a tad odd. However, there’s such thoughtful content here that touches several of our hot buttons that we couldn’t resist! Insights on employee engagement, leadership values, job autonomy, ethical behavior and more. If you’re a leader looking for a few topics to introduce a thoughtful discussion in a staff meeting, those topics are here.

When You’re Thrown Off Course... (Jesse Lyn Stoner)

It’s been another volatile week on the stock market. The evening news is full of doom and gloom stories. You feel your attitude meter starting to dip southward. If your outlook could use a “pick-me-up,” you’ll appreciate Jesse’s telling of Terry Fox’s story. It’s a true tale of leadership, resilience and spirit. Warning: be prepared to be inspired!

Quote of the week. Gotta love this point of view!

A pessimist, they say, sees a glass as being half empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half full. But a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty. ~G. Donald Gale


10 Rules for Saying “I”

“I” is a tricky word. At one end of the word use continuum, it conveys authenticity, caring and courage. It draws people in. At the other end, it’s grating, shamelessly egotistical, commanding and off-putting. It pushes people away.

As a leader, it’s up to you to decide if you want to pull people toward you and your ideas, or push them away.

10 Rules for Saying “I”

Utter “I” when…

1) The idea you’re presenting is solely and completely your own, not one iota poached from anywhere or anyone

2) You’re the one totally at fault and responsible for making amends

3) You want feedback on how you’re doing

4) You, and only you, did all the work - every single itty-bitty piece of it

5) Your department made the mistake of the century

6) You’re sharing your personal opinion, speaking exclusively for yourself

7) You’re listening and asking clarifying questions to help solve a problem
It’s one of those situations, like a job interview or requesting a raise, when tooting your horn (truthfully and sincerely, of course) is most appropriate

9) You’re sticking up for yourself, confidently making your position clear and perhaps sharing self-knowledge to do so

10) You want to let someone know how much they mean to you


Techniques for building your confidence

Today’s guest post is from Hillary Hutchinson, M.A., M.Ed. Hillary is a certified career coach who helps people manage major life and work transitions. She believes in being happy, helping people create strategic roadmaps to a fulfilling career, and has a specialty in academia. You can contact her via her website.

Why is it that so many of us doubt our own abilities? Until you own your excellence, you will continue to doubt yourself and perhaps stop yourself from taking on new challenges that you most certainly could accomplish. If you are always afraid of saying something stupid or doing something stupid, you might not even be willing to try new things.

Confidence is something that can be learned. Becoming more confident can make you more successful. Success breeds success, adding to your sense of confidence. This creates a powerful, inextricably linked cycle of success, confidence, success.

Confidence comes from real, solid achievements, which no one can take from you. This is not the same as self-esteem, which may be built on nothing more solid than nice words said to you. Solid achievements are built upon a “can do” mindset, then actually doing. Envision success. In other words, say to yourself each time a new opportunity arises, “I can do this,” let go of any negative thoughts about failing, and do it.

One way to get in a positive mindset is to look back on your life and identify past achievements. It doesn’t have to be job related:

  • Did you successfully raise children?
  • Volunteer to chair a committee at school or at church?
  • Buy a house on a shoestring?
  • Learn to play an instrument for fun?
  • Come up with a solution to a scheduling problem?
  • Join an adult soccer team?

Every one of these things is an accomplishment. Your achievements don’t have to be life-altering. Even small achievements are achievements.

Here are some tips on how you can work on building your confidence:

1. Get yourself a notebook and create an “Achievement Log.” You can do this today. Start your log by identifying at least 10 things you have accomplished in your life so far. Here are some more suggestions: Think about the tests you have passed, the times where you did something that made a difference in someone else’s life, or any tasks or projects you completed. Once you get started, you might find it hard to stop at 10!

Put your Achievement Log somewhere you can look at it often. Commit to looking at your list of achievements each week, reminding yourself of the success you have already experienced. Sit up straight while reading and your posture will send your brain success messages, too. The log can be a reminder of what you are capable of and what is yet to come. You can celebrate what you accomplished in the past week and grow your list of successes by adding new ones. Tip: If you are feeling down, re-reading the log can be a great way to lift your spirits.

2. Think about the personal strengths you have exhibited in your accomplishments. If it’s difficult for you to look at yourself objectively and recognize your strengths, try placing yourself in the shoes of a friend or family member. What strengths would these people see in you? What would they consider your talents to be? As you identify your strengths, make sure you take the time to really acknowledge them. Is it easy for you to be organized while people around you remain scattered? This is a natural strength. Enjoy a few minutes of being proud and reflecting on your talents.

3. Think about the things that are really important to you, and what you want to achieve in every area of your life: Work, personal, social, health and fitness, and anything else that is important to you. Make sure you add some deadlines to keep yourself on track. Setting and achieving goals is a key part of building and sustaining confidence.

When you have set your goals, fear, doubt and uncertainty may rear their ugly heads. At this stage, you need to manage your mind. Learn to recognize any negative self-talk and replace it with confidence-building talk, such as “I have already achieved much, and I can do more.” “I can use my knowledge to help myself, my colleagues and my family.” Make a clear and unequivocal promise in your mind that you are absolutely committed to achieving your goals, and that it is in your power to do so.

Building your confidence is a process. Applying these principles will help your sense of confidence to grow, and then your success will follow.