Ego wins, project loses

Ever have one of those days where you’re feeling blue because something really worthwhile is going to come to an end because the person in charge says they want help but really don’t?

That’s me today.

A leader asked several individuals, myself included, for our help in getting a project off the cliff’s edge of financial collapse. The calibre of the individuals providing advice is impressive; what they have to say moves me. Their intelligence and passion are formidable. They care. Continue reading


Five Ways to Manage Workplace Conflict

It’s the weekly department staff meeting, and your boss  just recognized a colleague for her innovative  idea to improve customer service. Her public praise brought a round of applause from your colleagues.

You can’t applaud because you feel like you’ve just been hit by lightning — that idea was yours! Continue reading


Conflict, character and calm

Jane is guest blogging over at Lead Change Group today!

You’d been angling to get assigned to the special project team at work for a long time. Finally your dream came true. What you weren’t expecting, however, was discovering the team facilitator rubbed you the wrong way, big-time.

Maybe it’s a case of opinions and values being worlds apart. Perhaps there’s open hostility or a personality clash. Possibly there’s…

 continue reading

Poster credit: Keep Calm and Carry On




In praise of mad genius

When Amy and I started offering elearning, we had a business plan full of charts, models and projections. We’d both come out of Fortune 100 companies so we knew the drill. Former bosses would have been proud.

While we were planning rich, the elearning business didn’t unfold as we had expected. The logic was undeniable, yet what we hadn’t counted on was serendipity.

Business planning is fairly linear. Risks and contingencies are accounted for, but their impact must be minimized. The outside chance needs to remain just that – the outside chance. Continue reading


Weekly Leadership Reading

The BIG team’s weekly leadership favorites are an eclectic collection of whatever engaged our interest over the past week. Some items are recent, others aren’t. Some are mainstream, others are off the beaten path. Enjoy! Be inspired! Lead BIG!

10 Ways to Instantly Build Self Confidence (Pick the Brain)

Confidence is the best accessory men and women can wear. Erin’s ten tips are most helpful if your confidence is sagging a little and needs a quick pick-me-up. Continue reading


Feeling Stuck? 5 Questions to Ask

Are you running with the pack (doesn’t matter which one or where) and not feeling totally satisfied and/or content?  If so, ask yourself:

1) Are things going the direction I want, or am I staying the course because I’m afraid of something? Just what makes me fearful?

2) Am I hanging around because I think it makes me look good to belong? Do I think I don’t measure up on my own? Am I trading self-confidence for protection?

3) Do I believe in what I’m doing, or am I doing it because I think it makes me look hip and trendy? Am I trading internal satisfaction for material symbols of success?

4) Am I settling for stability and safety when what I really crave is something new, something a little edgy, something that’s different?

5) Do I feel this is the only way for me to be powerful? Am I silencing myself or speaking in a voice that’s not mine so I can fit in or be successful or have lots of money or whatever-other-form-that-fear-in-your-head-or-under-the-bed takes?

Life is all about trade-offs and awareness.

If you understand the trade-offs you’re making and for what reason, you’re not stuck anymore. It’s just all part of your bigger plan.

Photo:  The Telegraph



7 Dumb Mistakes Managers Make and What to Do Instead

Today’s guest author is Darryl Rosen, a management coach and trainer. His latest book is Table for Three? Bringing Your Smart Phone to Lunch and 50 Dumb Mistakes Smart Managers Don’t Make!

You glance down at an incoming text while an employee is talking to you. DUMB! Or you bark “Just get it done!” to your team and then walk away. DUMB!

According to a recent CareerBuilder poll, 58 percent of managers received no training before starting the job, which often results in avoidable management missteps like these.

Even smart, well-trained managers make dumb mistakes. But the difference between dumb managers and smart ones is that smart managers notice when their people are unmotivated and uninspired. Smart managers work at making small behavioral changes to correct common management mistakes that impede their performance.

Here are seven dumb mistakes managers make and what to do instead.

1) Assuming they’re paying attention

Just because people are quiet while you tell them how to structure tomorrow’s presentation doesn’t mean they’re actually listening and learning. They could be planning tonight’s menu for all you know. Making sure your people pay attention isn’t their job – it’s yours. Check for understanding. Go around the table to gauge everyone’s grasp of the key expectations. Have each team member verbalize his or her next step. Brainstorm new approaches.

2) Turning their job into an episode of “Survivor”

All the weaklings got kicked off the island, and now you’ve got an ace team that’s talented, smart, and resourceful. So you set steep goals, and say things like “Have at it” or “Get it done.” Soon, though, your “tribe” is looking haggard and anxious. That’s because you threw your great performers to the wolves. Instead, ask them, “What information can I provide to help you achieve this goal? What are the best ways we can succeed?” Let them know you’ll support them along the way and provide the necessary resources to meet the challenge.

3) Using email to avoid a difficult discussion

When potential conflict is involved, it’s easy to send a terse reply rather than make the effort to discuss the issue face-to-face. However, is this the behavior you want to model for your employees? C’mon – be a leader and set an example. First, prepare for the talk. Next, ask yourself how you helped create this problem. When you meet, focus on facts, and don’t make assumptions about the person’s character based on his or her actions. Ask questions, show respect, discuss action steps attached to consequences, and come to a mutual agreement.

4) Turning into the Incredible Hulk

Do you lash out at your people figuring fear will motivate them? Here’s my rule: if you wouldn’t put it that way to your spouse, you shouldn’t say it to your employees. Anything that can be said in a negative manner can also be said in a positive manner. Being yelled at makes people feel worse; it doesn’t energize them. Get in the habit of rephrasing negative statements as encouraging ones: “I won’t listen to another angry supplier because of you guys!” becomes “I know you guys are better than this. What can we do differently?”

5) Walking around naked, without mirrors

Are you like the emperor who wore no clothes? Is anyone brave enough to tell you what you don’t want to know about yourself or the company? If your people are telling you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear, it won’t be long before they lose respect for you. Don’t depend on others to reflect back to you. Look in a real mirror. Are you clear about what you expect? Do you share your expectations in a straightforward manner? Can your people count on you to lead them with intelligence, vision, and consistency? Do you hold yourself accountable for everything that happens under you? Don’t forget to reward feedback even when it’s unflattering.

6) Being a helicopter manager

You hover over your employees. Your people stop in several times a day with questions. Your team calls and/or texts you constantly for help in solving problems. You wouldn’t tolerate ten calls a day from your child, so don’t let your employees do it either. Your micromanagement style is making them stupid. Set aside one specific hour a day when they can call or stop by to go over open items, questions, concerns, etc. Let them solve their own problems the rest of the time.

7) Watching their lips move yet hearing nothing

Quick: could you look at every employee and identify each person’s greatest challenge? Uh, do you even know what they do? If the answer is no, you either haven’t asked them lately, or weren’t listening when they told you. Help others feel heard by turning down the volume of your ego and turning up the volume of your listening. When people talk to you, ask them clarifying questions, such as: “What does that mean? Can you be more specific? How did you reach that conclusion?”  Shut up and listen.

Book image courtesy of author



12 Signs of Being a Wimpy Leader

If you’re feeling a little (or maybe a lot) put out that people at work take advantage of you, take this little true/false test.

  1. Your goal is to be well-liked and everyone’s friend all the time, every time.
  2. Your favorite phrase is “we’ll see.”
  3. You’re the one who always gets asked to plan holiday parties, bake cupcakes, organize the potluck — usually at the last minute — and pulls it off no matter if you have to skip sleep to make it so.
  4. Your comfort zone has been the same size for the last ten years.
  5. You’re almost an urban legend for never having been heard to utter “no.”
  6. You are your boss’s go-to person for all last minute project requests.
  7. You quietly finish and/or correct a direct report’s work, knowing they’ll do better next time.
  8. Everyone in your department “meets expectations” on their performance review and gets the same size raise.
  9. You’re the first to be asked to make department budget cuts, and your percent of decrease is larger than other departments.
  10. The last time you defended a colleague, a direct report, yourself was…never.
  11. When asked to define what you’re most passionate about, most people say you’re really nice.
  12. People transfer out of your department but no one has ever been fired out of it.

If you answered true to more than three, get thee to a coach, colleague or close friend who can help you become more assertive!




6 ways to get your leadership big on

The team at BIG isn’t big on new year’s resolutions. They’re gone faster than the time it takes for us to munch our way through a bag of gumdrops. We are big, however, on commitment. Commitment to personal improvement, ongoing learning, exploring, making a positive difference that lasts, and developing others. Why? Because when people feel confident, involved and valued…magic happens.

People build connections, character and confidence to lead BIG. They learn, take risks and work BIG. They inspire themselves as well as others to grow wings and embrace possibilities beyond what they thought or dreamed possible. They give back, believe in themselves and live BIG.

This kind of BIG has nothing to do with size and everything to do with heart…with meaning…with caring…with thinking more about we and less about me. 

Daniel Maher said “confidence is courage with ease.” Achieving this level of personal grace requires getting your BIG on. That means:

  • Understanding your strengths and knowing how to use that knowledge for leading, guiding, teaching and encouraging others
  • Knowing that the small things do make a BIG difference, so don’t be afraid to start small. The important thing is getting started
  • Recognizing that you may be holding yourself back from BIG things because you’re thinking small. Don’t be afraid to take the BIG leap forward toward your dreams - jump and grow your wings on the way up

Audrey Hepburn once said that “the best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” To help others get their big on,

  • Let them know that it’s OK to fail, but it’s not OK to hold back from trying because they’re afraid of failing.  That’s a lot like spending your life in a rocking chair. The ride may be comforting but you won’t get very far
  • Agree to be their accountability partner. Meet up periodically to learn what they’ve done, then encourage them to keep going
  • Help them embrace and practice the polarities of life: things like being both confident and humble or focused on both task and relationship

Grab some big, bold, brave thinking and start living your best life, full of confidence and courage…and help others do the same.

Here’s to you!



4 Ways to Cope with A Crappy Boss

Think you’ve got the worst boss in the world? Well, your boss may have serious competition according to a five-year comparative study commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting. According to this study, seven out of 10 people believe bosses and toddlers act alike. Being self-oriented is noted as the top offending boss behavior. Being stubborn, overly demanding, impulsive and interrupting round out the top five.

A 2010 Gallup management study of one million employed workers confirmed that having a poor relationship with the boss is the number one reason people quit their jobs. “People leave managers, not companies … in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,” Gallup wrote in its survey findings.

While you can’t control how your boss behaves, you are in total control of how you choose to manage the bad boss situation.

  • Is your boss a glory grabber who takes all the credit for your good work? Sure it rankles to see the boss accept all the praise and fail to mention your contribution, but there are a few things you can subtly do to favorably remind others of your involvement. Send e-mails containing pertinent work information to your boss and include other key management personnel in the distribution. Casually mention your input on a project if you get to share an elevator ride with your boss’ boss.
  • Are you dealing with a weather vane boss who changes the rules without notice? The most effective way to deal with this impulsive behavior is to clearly define the work outcomes with your boss when the assignment is given, and then send a confirming e-mail to him/her that outlines the established expectations. When your boss flip-flops on what is to be done, calmly share the e-mail and renegotiate the results.
  • Does your boss remind you of a helicopter hovering overhead, constantly interrupting and micromanaging your work? First, you need to recognize and accept your boss’ deep-seated need for control; and then manage around it. Reassure him that you have the bases covered and keep him updated on your progress by sending periodic e-mails, reports, phone calls, a quick coffee chat or whatever communication vehicle your company uses.
  • Could your boss be doubling as a secret agent, that mysterious person who’s missing in action and who communicates irregularly? With a boss like this, you must take responsibility for getting on her radar (sure it’s a pain, but failing to do so only hurts your performance review) by scheduling meetings or popping into her office to quickly chat, ask questions and confirm work assignments.

Bosses typically fall into one of three categories:

1) those who are totally clueless about their behaviors,

2) those who know they aren’t a good boss and do want to get better, and

3) those who plain just don’t care. They’re bad, know they’re bad and don’t give a rip.

If your boss falls into category one or two, discuss your concerns directly with them. Organize what you want to say, present it in a thoughtful manner and don’t respond in anger, which only hurts you.

If your boss falls in the last category and/or may be behaving unlawfully, talk to your HR representative if your organization has one; otherwise speak with another trusted person in management or decide if you can continue to work for the company.

A LeadBIG reminder: always take the high road in dealing with a bad boss so your performance is above reproach.