Are you really a “people person”?

When was the last time you heard someone say “I am a people person”? Candidates for various management jobs often describe themselves as a people person. What is that exactly?

I have a friend who is an HR professional. He tells me the response they use is “Oh good. If you are a people person, we can pay you five people a week. Will that be OK?”

But seriously folks. Most of us know where that concept came from. Originally when someone said they were a “people person” it meant they could deal with others in a positive way. It also likely meant they liked doing it. It was supposed to indicate a sincerity for interaction, the ability to relate, a consensus builder. Do you think people really do that anymore?

I fear the truth is we have lost some of the drive, desire, and ability to truly relate with people. Of course some of us are really good at it. But I don’t see where we teach that anymore. Instead, it seems young people are being encouraged to get better with computers and automated interfaces, but they do not get the same encouragement when faced with facing a live specimen.

When have you heard about training for one on one communication? What about simple social graces like waiting outside a conference room right before the meeting starts. Instead of making small talk, faces are buried on smart phones or tablets. Leaders can build more rapport with their team in those short moments outside the meeting than they do inside the meeting once the official discussion has started.

Social media is not really that social at all.

One indication: A recent Pew Research survey of adults in the U.S. found that 71% use Facebook at least occasionally, and 45% of Facebook users check the site several times a day.

That sounds like people are becoming more sociable. But some people think the opposite is happening. The problem, they say, is that we spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships. Too much chatter, too little real conversation.

Others counter that online social networks supplement face-to-face sociability, they don’t replace it. These people argue that we can expand our social horizons online, deepening our connections to the world around us, and at the same time take advantage of technology to make our closest relationships even closer.

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is distracting us from our real-world relationships. Keith N. Hampton, who holds the Professorship in Communication and Public Policy at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, argues that technology is enriching those relationships and the rest of our social lives.

Let’s rally together and do something different. If you struggle with making new friends, try baby steps first. Try simply saying hello to someone at the grocery store. Wave to a neighbor you haven’t spoken to in a while.

A second issue is the difference between connecting and communicating. While we may have hundreds of Facebook friends—people we never would have met otherwise, with whom we can share many new things—do they really provide the kind of human interaction that is so essential to our emotional health?

Psychologists define social capital, or the benefit we derive from social interactions, in two ways: bonding and the more superficial bridging. Research shows that virtual-world friends provide mostly bridging social capital, while real-world friends provide bonding social capital.

Larry Rosen states

“For instance, in one study we found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

To be a true people person, the number of friends or connections on social media has nothing to do with the people you can influence with your day-to-day behavior. Can you add value? Can you emote empathy and support for someone in need of encouragement during a tough time? Are you genuine?

The next time a friend or co-worker expresses something personal, decide whether you are truly a people person. Or will you simply brush it aside so you can get back to posting on Twitter or Facebook.

Let’s try to be a real “people person”.

What Is Your Go-To Leadership Style?

you manage your world

With much of the western world turning its attention to the Easter season and the recognition of the Easter story, I want to reprint this article, extracted from my book, “The Uncommon Commodity”. Since Jesus gave us the perfect example of servant leadership, it seems appropriate to share the teaching here again. This is my Easter message to you.

As a leader, taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary involves understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker, [shareable cite=”Peter Drucker”]Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.[/shareable]

In her article “6 Leadership Styles, and When You Should Use Them,” Robyn Benincasa (2012) writes,

“Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success. They ensure that their people have everything they need to be productive and successful; that they’re well trained, happy, and have minimal roadblocks in their paths; that they’re being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges.”

To transition from manager to leader, you must first understand that leadership takes many forms. Various studies have been done to identify leadership styles. Prevailing thought suggests that no one style is the universal answer to effective leadership. Rather, it is suggested that leadership styles should be used much like the way a golfer selects a club from his bag. The situation dictates which style to use.

I have found that while adjusting my approach to people and situations is definitely more effective, there is a central principle from which my leadership style stems. This approach could be referred to as “servant leadership.”

What Is Servant Leadership?

While it’s a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader.” In that essay, Greenleaf says:

The servant-leader is servant first. . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. . . . The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? (1970)

A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform to their best capabilities.

Implementation Using the Best Example

From my experience, servant leadership is a lot of things. It is a mindset, a mantra, a credo, a spirit, a unique set of values, a vision, an inspiration, a core, and above all, a sixth-sense connection. Connection with the whole team, the enterprise, and the purpose.

Servant leadership was demonstrated by Jesus throughout his ministry, and best summed up by the following verse: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Some will argue that being a servant-leader is weak. The so-called “old school leaders” who dictate their directives with iron-fisted demands are far from servant-leaders. While businesses ran for decades under this kind of tyranny, enlightened workers began searching for better work environments. Servant leadership provides that better solution. I suggest to you here that there is no better style of leadership.

With servant leadership, you can still be firm when needed. You can be decisive. You can be the tiebreaker. You can carry the proper authority and exercise it with discipline and grace. When those things are done, you can still inspire, respect, and command a faithful following.


Question: Do you know a business leader who exhibits servant leadership?



Leadership Character v. Perpetrating Fraud


In the financial services world, fraud is a big deal. After 30+ years in and around that industry, I have seen things both great and small when it comes to fraud. When it comes to leadership character, being a fraud is a huge problem.

There is a basic definition of fraud that can be explained by these three parts.


My question is whether you, as a business leader, have ever perpetrated fraud? I don’t mean in the criminal sense, although that certainly would be a significant issue with respect to your effectiveness as a leader. No, I mean the practical sense; the one where you deceive those around you. You have a lapse in judgment and make false representations about facts or circumstances. Have you ever needed to misrepresent a material fact? Have you had less than honorable intent to deceive an audience? Have you used your influence to adversely affect a final decision?

Perpetrating this kind of fraud is a serious act, causing sometimes permanent damage to reputation and trust.

Your Motives

Why would you ever feel the need to misrepresent something? Here are a few reasons why.

  • You get caught coming up short. You’re not prepared, you’re not ready, the “dog ate my homework” sort of thing.
  • You’re feeling small. You look in the mirror and you know you have shortcomings. You haven’t quite yet figured out everything you need to know to deal with the situation you’re now in.
  • You made a mistake and you are not ready to own it. It could be about a small mistake or it could be a big one. Regardless, the sense that you made something go wrong is always hard to handle.
  • Also, you might believe you really need to get out of the situation that is swirling. You have not yet figured out the escape route, so the easiest way is falsify information, lead the discussion in another direction. Dodge the bullet as it were.

There Is Always a Cost

Regardless of any justification, moral, ethical, or character fraud always carries a cost. All of the effort to build and grow a following can disappear overnight when a leader commits fraud.

The let down people will feel when you decide to defraud them, is damage from which you may never recover.

The biggest damage is to trust. Fraud erodes trust. People start to think, “well if he/she did this then, then when again?” The looks you get after the fraud is uncovered are frequent.

You can try to excuse it, but you better be prepared to pay the price. You may need to stay in someone’s penalty box for quite a while.

Look at all of the national figures who have been caught in a lie. Oh how mighty the great may fall. Yes, we often see second chance redemption to the celebrities who defraud us, but day to day, those of us living a more common life are usually not so lucky.

Relationships crumble, business partnerships dissolve, and the people you need around you start to fall away.

It’s a Character Thing

The temptation to commit a fraud is truly a character thing. It has been said:

[shareable]Character is not what others see, but what you do in the privacy of your own heart.[/shareable]

How’s your character? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you living the life that builds trust for those around you?
  • Have you been ready and willing to admit shortcomings without trying to mask over them?
  • Do you have an accountability crew with whom you seek counsel?
  • Do you value the people around you or are you willing to skim over their significance in your life, minimizing the risk of letting them down?
  • If you see a flaw in your heart and mind in a certain area, are you working to strengthen that weakness?

These are just a few the ideas necessary to prevent fraud. You owe it to your team, the people around you, to rise about the temptation. Avoid committing fraud. You won’t like the price you have to pay.


Building Trust – Why It Matters

Team Trust

In any relationship, trust is a key element. Without it, things don’t last very long. With trust you can withstand most anything. Managers at every level of an organization must seek first to build a foundation of trust within their circle of influence.

The world is craving a new story about leadership and business, one that underscores the way people trust and contribute to each other. Without trust, the chances for a long-term success are diminished. Those who recognize the importance of building business and leadership foundation on trust are likely to find themselves doing what is right and what is good for stakeholders in the long run. ~Lolly Daskal

In business, trust operates at many levels. A company’s customers or clients must obtain a level of trust in the product or serve before agreeing to buy. Achieving this dynamic can work in either of two ways. First, the prospective customer gets to know the representatives of the company. If they learn to like these people, over time, a trust builds. Once that trust is established, the decision to buy is easier (not automatic, just easier).

On the other hand, a product or service gets a reputation for reliability and performance. Trust grows, clients consume. Sometimes the public never really knows the people behind the product, they just know they trust the brand. Think about Google or Apple. Most of us never get to know an individual Googler or an Apple genius in person, right? Yet we trust the brand to bring us the service we crave.

Team Work

We all know it takes teams to build a brand. Within those teams, the highest performing ones have their own levels of trust. Therefore, while we may never know the people behind the product we like and trust, they make it happen nonetheless.

That brings us to the leadership that drives those teams. There is a six part model that clearly does a breakdown of the primary elements for building high trust team who will perform at higher levels that team without such trust.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Following this process, you can find ways to build trust within your team, growing the depth of the trust relationship. Once trust is established, there is no limit on the things your team can produce.

Here are the 6 steps to building trust within your team

1. The People –  Trust begins with each employee answering their own key question “Do I even want to be on this team?” Jim Collins in “Good to Great” calls it getting the right people on the bus. Clearly your hiring decisions impact the potential for a positive answer to this question. If you hired the wrong person, they may quickly question whether they even want to be on the team. Yet even with the best hiring decisions you can make, the individual must answer this question for themselves once they land. After orientation, there is a buy-in period that is inevitable. Trust cannot begin until everyone on the team is positive that “yes, I want to be here”.

2. The Purpose –  Team trust requires agreement with what the team is trying to accomplish. In “Tribes”, Seth Godin talks about the nature of a tribe as being aligned with a central purpose. Every work team is its own tribe. The purpose must be aligned.

Businesses build operating units for a purpose. Teams within those units operate as a contributor to the overall success of the organization. Trust grows from the alignment with team purpose, and, again, individual understanding of that purpose. A leader has to build understanding. If the purpose is not clearly articulated to everyone, then trust lags.

3. The Plan –  How will the team get this done? Many of us are planners, others are followers. Either way, knowing about the existence of the plan makes the way forward more achievable. Belief in the plan also builds trust.

Even when employee buy-in (#1) happens and a clear purpose is understood (#2), the plan is critical for establishing trust. The plan helps the team understand steps, goals, and means to get their work accomplished.

4. The Practice –  Is what we are going to do consistent with the plan. Are skills sets accounted for? Are resources made available? Said another way, have we eliminated any notion of being set-up to fail?

Policies, procedures, and practice makes the way clear for high trust performance. If rules and regulations become a hindrance, the trust erodes. The confidence for being able to perform is put in doubt.

5. The Performance –  Once we begin working, is our performance going to be measured in ways that are accurate, meaningful, and valuable. Measuring performance offers proper feedback for fine tuning the purpose, plan, and practice. Therefore, adequate performance measurement is vital.

Employees who never receive coaching about their performance cannot be expected to give trust and higher performance. This is why more modern tools like Big 5 Performance Management make such a big difference. Rather than waiting on tired and untimely reports like the old fashioned annual reviews, Big 5 offers real-time feedback that can be communicated and coached every month.

6. The Payoff – Success begets success. Momentum is like the big flywheel. It takes time to start turning, but once it is in motion, it is hard to stop. Teams who celebrate success can taste it. Realizing that all of the effort used for steps 1 thru 5 result in success builds higher trust within the team. The payoff instills a desire for more effort and more momentum.

Trust Reward

The end result is a high trust team environment. Once the tribe establishes this bond of trust, there are few things that can deter their ongoing success.

The manager/leader who sets the tone for building this kind of trust will themselves reap the rewards for higher performance from the team.

In upcoming articles, I will dive deeper into each step. In addition, I will be offering practical tools the leader can use to perfect each step.

[reminder]If you have an experience operating within a high trust team environment, please share your story here.[/reminder]

Or, if you want to start NOW with improving your team’s level of trust, call me for speaking, coaching, or facilitation of a team exercise.

Need a coach


Professional Growth: The Triple-A Approach to Change Management

In the business world, a large movement of “change management” has arisen. Companies large and small know about the need to manage change in their organization. Regardless of the reason for change, managing the change is always a challenge. A dedicated discipline for change management has been adopted.


For leaders, individual change management can be useful too.

Fred Nikols writes “One meaning of “managing change” refers to the making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion. The aim is to more effectively implement new methods and systems in an ongoing organization. The changes to be managed lie within and are controlled by the organization. (Perhaps the most familiar instance of this kind of change is the “change control” aspect of information systems development projects).

However, these internal changes might have been triggered by events originating outside the organization, in what is usually termed “the environment.” Hence, the second meaning of managing change, namely, the response to changes over which the organization exercises little or no control (e.g., legislation, social and political upheaval, the actions of competitors, shifting economic tides and currents, and so on). Researchers and practitioners alike typically distinguish between a knee-jerk or reactive response and an anticipative or proactive response.”

Let’s consider the proactive response in terms of any professional who is looking for ways to accomplish greater things. Rather than dealing with the need for change as an unpleasant reality, you can focus your effort for change in a more positive way. While it is human nature to avoid change and rebel at the thought of making a change, there can be easier ways to implement  a change if one is needed.

The science of change management aside, the easiest source for deciding on the need for change is a quick look in the mirror. Here are a couple of tips to ponder:

  1. How’s your Aura? You know, that “luminous radiation” generating from your face and posture. Do you project the image of what you want to be. Is it professional, confident, and bold?
  2. How’s your Attitude? Are you depressed, angry, uncertain, fearful, full of angst? These are all negative energies that block any potential success for effective communication with the people around you.
  3. How’s you Angle? Are you ready to tell a story that communicates who and what you are? By story, I do not mean a fabricated lie. I mean a clear, cohesive statement of the values you want to represent.

If any or all of these are out of balance, you my friend are a candidate for CHANGE.

Making Things Bigger Than They Really Are

Chicken Little courtesy Disney Corp

Do you sometimes make things bigger than they really are? Managers and leaders need to be on watch for overstating what is going on. More importantly, they need to throttle their internal reaction to the things around them.

The great social activist Chicken Little was quoted as saying “The sky is falling” when he had merely been struck in the head by a falling acorn.

Chicken Little courtesy Disney Corp
Chicken Little courtesy Disney Corp

Blowing things out of proportion can be a problem if you are the one in charge. Yes, that would be a challenge if you do it on a regular basis.

One of my clients introduced me to a new term – “catastrophizing”. This means making a situation far greater than it really is. The way we entered this discussion was talking about limiting thoughts. I had asked the client to give me some examples of limiting thoughts they suffer. While a few of the answers were the usual, this one surprised me.


As an executive, you are confronted with problems almost daily. Things happen; often not as planned. You have to field questions, hear news, and make decisions.

What if everything you were given was turned into something far more tragic? What if something someone failed to do was declared a disaster when, in fact, it is was just a setback or a simple honest mistake?

Think about the energy both emotional and physical you would spend dealing with such catastrophes.

If you act like Chicken Little you will get yourself worked into a panic. You will be running around in a frenzy, stirring up others to join your panic party. Even if you leave others out of it, your own waste of energy and emotional can conflict and confuse the situation.

[shareable cite=”Mark Twain”]There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.[/shareable]

Why do people do this?

I don’t practice psychology, so I cannot even venture a technical argument as to why some are prone to act this way. However, I can share observation from years of experience on the job.

People who catastrophize often do so for several reasons.

  1. A Sense of Dread –  They are convinced life has been mean to them. The proverbial cup is half empty all the time. Therefore, any new event that arises must be bad. They are blinded to any possibility of a favorable outcome.
  2. Lack of Trust –  People who lose trust in mankind look at problems as people problems, all the time. Their way of thinking says the other person is the reason these things are bad.
  3. No Hope –  Theirs is a world of doom and gloom. They are convinced things are hopeless. In their minds, blue skies are really just a funny shade of gray.

Sadly, I have run into these kinds of co-workers and professionals most of my career. Thank goodness they are not everywhere, nor are they in leadership very often. But when they are, look out.

The biggest problem I see with catastrophizing is the waste of energy and resources. Whether the energy is emotional or physical, the expenditure of energy trying to avoid the catastrophe is great.

The Solution

One of the wisest words I ever heard was the phrase “The problem is not the problem.” Think about that. Whenever you are confronted with what seems like a problem, check first see if what you are being told is a problem is really the problem. Here’s an example.

Missed deadlines are usually a problem anywhere. Unless that deadline is a life or death situation, most missed deadlines are bad, but not the end of the world. Having a missed deadline, though it seems big and real, may not be the problem at all. Rather, the real problem may be with process, procedure, or people. Are the deadlines even reasonable considering the mix of the above elements? Or has someone failed at their task?

Being able to properly discern the root cause of an issue is preferable to simply catastrophizing and running around like Chicken Little.

The sky is not falling. It’s just an acorn.

The Margins in Life

Life Margin - Changing Lives

Do you think about margins in life like a business thinks about profit margins?

For business, the different between its total/gross revenue (income) and its expenses is its margin. Without margin, you can never grow. Clearly a negative margin means you are going backwards, headed to bankruptcy or liquidation.

Life Margin - Changing Lives
Life Margin – Changing Lives

Life follows a similar paradigm. While few of us think about margins in life, the dynamic is still present.

Life margins give us a better sense of balance between work, life and faith. Rather than seeking the elusive notion of life balance as its own end game, you can seek margins and a sense balance becomes a pleasant reward.

In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances. We don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Options are as attractive as they are numerous, and we overbook.

If we were equipped with a flashing light to indicate “100 percent full,” we could better gauge our capacities. But we don’t have such an indicator light, and we don’t know when we have overextended until we feel the pain. As a result, many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life pre-scheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.

When we run at full speed all the time, we burn out. Our tanks get empty. We suffer mental and emotional breakdowns. I’m not trying to over-dramatize this issue, but talking about these extremes gets us to a better understanding.

Here’s an example. I am overwhelmed at the number of young people who, when asked “how are you doing?”, respond “I am so tired!” Is that you? I ask tired over what?

Yes, maybe you have filled your time with countless obligations to do things, running here and there. Young, growing families feel the tug of this tiredness for having chased little kids all day long. I get that (been there, done it).

Creating margin starts with better management of obligations. The first key is to say “NO” on a regular basis. Just stop taking on all the commitments that others may place on you.

Here’s why this is important

Being a man of faith, I submit to the idea that we are all here for a bigger purpose; a divine appointment. We need to be good stewards of the things God has given us. This includes not just money, but time, relationships, knowledge, and wisdom and so much more.

We all have the mandatory commitments; job, family, and perhaps church. On top of those demands, if our days are consumed with less than meaningful trivia, we are not being good stewards. Saying no to certain people and events gives us margin to use for the greater good, which, ironically, often involves other people and events.

Therefore, having margin means we still have something to give to the greater good; our family, our friends, or our communities.

When we give in this way (again, it’s not all about money) we receive the blessing of knowing others have been helped. Getting outside of ourselves and sharing life with others brings the sense of balance. It rewards you with a new found energy for life.

I was fortunate to live this path in 2008. During the U.S. financial crisis and recession, I had to close a company I had worked for 5 years to build. It was brutal both emotionally and financially. At the bottom of the trough, I chose to create a non-profit for job seekers, called Jobs Ministry Southwest (JMS). We were a non-denominational, faith based ministry. While I could have been overcome with grief about losing my company, I chose to adjust my margins. I made an intentional decision to get out of myself and do something for others.

JMS opened in September of that year. Then, over the next several years, we served over 2,500 professionals who were in transition. They had suffered life altering job loss. JMS helped them through those changes.

Creating more margin involves making some tough choices. When those choices are made for the right reasons, not selfish ones, you will be blessed by the outcome.

Managing “Up” the Organization

Toxic people at work

Managing up the organization is a great catch phrase. It gives comfort to those who feel their boss is less than a good one. I’ve seldom heard this concept used in relation to having a good boss.

Managing Up the Organization
Managing Up the Organization

Working for a good boss, you merely do your job. You hope your effort is rewarded appropriately (which it likely will be since you believe the person to be a good boss).

The “managing up” concept frequently appears when the immediate manager is not so good. I find a serious conundrum when trying to coach these principles to a junior executive who is having trouble with their boss.

The better idea may be to forget “managing” your boss since that really will never happen. There are reasons he/she is your boss, whether you can accept them or not. The organization has made a choice to align the structure the way it is with the people who are there for the moment. It is unlikely this person will respond in any way other than hostile to any attempt you make to manage them. Your effort may actually backfire, causing you to be tagged as a rebel or malcontent.

I submit that the better concept is to manage yourself; get hold of your own expectations and values. Then begin crafting a strategy to build the relationship with this challenging boss. It’s often an all-hands on deck call to action. By that I mean you must muster all of the skills and abilities you possess to build the bridge and get to the other side.

As Mike Myatt writes in his column:

“Here’s the thing – the best way to be looked upon favorably by those you report to is not through various charades and other forms of skulduggery, but by simply doing your job and serving them well.

Good leaders want you to succeed. They welcome a sincere challenge of their instruction so long as the question comes in the form of finding ways to make a better team. They get that.

Bad managers take offense at the occasional question. They see such action as a threat to their role. While they may never respond directly, they simmer and boil over your effort to “one up them”. Regardless of how well intended your message may be, they may still see it as a threat. There is no good way for you to know the difference.

When it comes to dealing with a boss you feel needs to be managed, here are some suggestions.

  1. Engage –  Be present in the moment. Do not let prior disappointments cloud today’s topics. Soldier on! Keep doing what you believe is the right thing.
  2. Be open –  Take your shots at sharing the plan, vision, practice, and standard you have set for your own team. Seek ways to align those things with the values the boss is laying out. If the boss has failed to share such information, then yes, you have a bad boss, but you must lead the effort to find alignment. Leading is far different from managing. Exert your own brand of leadership for the moment when alignment is missing.
  3. Show loyalty – Never let the boss have a reason to believe you are not loyal. Reinforce the ways you support the goals of the department. You should never be a ‘suck up’ about this, but you can be clear in your communication. If the trust you are giving is violated too many times, then you have no choice but to seek another role or another job elsewhere.
  4. Give advice –  Ask for permission to offer another opinion before doing so. If your input is rejected on a routine basis, then see #3 above.

The most common theme in worker/boss relationships where the employee feels a need to manage up is the absence of meaningful communication; solid, two-way flow of information and understanding.

Yes, bad managers fail with communication regularly. As the person reporting to such a boss, I go back to the gold standard: do your job. This is why I love the Big Five Performance system. As an employee, Big 5 gives you a regular monthly method for focusing on the 5 things you plan to accomplish in the new month and the 5 things you achieved last month. Give this simple, one page (sometimes half page), bulleted list report to your boss. Ask them for feedback.

If the boss aligns/agrees with what you submit, then you have some degree of harmony. If they don’t agree, then hopefully it creates a moment to connect, coach, and discuss the matters that are out of alignment. If the manager won’t respond at all, then refer again to #3 above.

Using a simple tool like Big 5 creates the catalyst for open, nonthreatening communication about what is going on. Plus it provides the added benefit of documenting what you have been doing. If there is ever a question of performance, you have a collection of actionable items that were either agreed or endorsed before you began them.

[offer-box href=”https://dougthorpe.com/call” linktext=”For more information about Big 5 Performance – Click Here” securecheckout=”false”]

As communication improves, trust grows. As trust grows, you begin to see the imperfections melt away. I’m not being naive about this. I have worked it this way myself with several of those to whom I have had to report. Most situations worked out quite nicely. Yet there was the reality that I chose door number three (above) on a couple of occasions.

While you may never really manage up the organization, you can do things to build a better relationship with the superior who may need such handling.


Career Moves: What’s So Special About Me?

I Am Special

Professionals in all walks of life often struggle with one key element. When asked about their strengths, they sometimes stumble through the answer.

I Am Special
I Am Special

From all of my coaching experience, I find that most people have a hard time accurately describing their greatest accomplishments and their core strengths. It seems that social standards keep us from “bragging” about ourselves.

I contend it is actually deeper than that. When we have a gift or a natural talent, we take it for granted. It feels natural, so you don’t think it’s all that special.

Here’s an example. Pro golfers who hit tee shots over 300 yards don’t think that is very special. They are concerned with hitting a few feet left or right of a target spot out there over the 300 yard distance. Any other golfer though is in awe of being able to hit a ball that far.

There are similar analogies in business. A finance chief who can run detailed calculations in his head does not see that as a gift. Rather he is concerned with decimal accuracy. The engineer who can see a detailed design in their mind doesn’t count that as a talent, but rather a natural facet of their work.

The list of examples goes on. So what’s the point?

As we make career moves, we must be able to explain core strengths, talents, and accomplishments. You have to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition for a job. The best way to do that is to describe key strengths and unique talents, evidenced by key accomplishments.

Regardless of how routine YOU think those accomplishments may be, they might be very special to a potential hiring manager. The thing you can “do in your sleep” may be the missing link at a new company.

If you think about it, finding a fit for your highest and best use is the perfect opportunity; one where you are able to perform what comes so naturally and what can be in high demand at a new job.

In his breakout book “Promote!”, author, speaker and superb career coach Rick Gillis explains:

Your career success depends on your ability to properly promote yourself. Yet most people can’t express their value in a way that wows without also bragging or being obnoxious. As an employment and careers expert, Rick Gillis has come to consider this skill gap a deadly deficiency. Left unaddressed, it kills careers.

Here are six PROMOTE! points for your consideration.

  • Don’t assume that your boss knows exactly what you do. S/he doesn’t.
  • Embrace the difference between articulating your value and bragging.
  • Adopt an accomplishment mindset and narrative.
  • Quantify your worth.
  • Source and shape your wins.
  • Master the three-part accomplishment statement.

Your accomplishments demonstrate ways you build value for your current or potential employer. You have to be able to talk in terms of those value-adding attributes when you want to make a move or ask for a raise/promotion. Don’t leave anything on the table. Just because something you do feels natural and “easy” for you (like hitting a golf ball 300 yards), to a hiring manager or your boss, that can be a big deal!


As you start the new year, take a moment to look back on your skills and abilities plus the key accomplishments in your career. Build an inventory of all of that valuable information. Write them down! Keep the list handy when you decide to talk about raises or career moves.

Four Responsibilities A CEO Cannot Delegate (and why)

CEO Duties

Here is a guest post from friend and HeadwayExec colleague Keith Okano. You can read more of Keith’s work on his blog at ClosingStrong.com

One of the most common tasks I have is to help a CEO in writing their own job description. Since they work in a variety of industries and possess diverse talents and strengths, much of the job description is different for each individual. But there are four responsibilities essential to a CEO’s job description and which only the CEO can do.

CEO Duties
CEO Duties

The four non-delegable responsibilities are culture, vision, strategy, and CEO sales (from my experience, this is not what most CEO’s immediately think).

  1. Culture. Culture defines who the company is – or in other words, its character. This includes its values, ethics and expectations. It is the way you expect every employee, starting with yourself, to think, speak, and behave. Embracing culture is a must for promotion. And lack of compliance a reason for dismissal. A strongly defined culture is essential for Collin’s “flywheel” as described in “Good to Great”.
  2. Vision. Vision is the where and why for your company. It is the company’s manifest future defined in terms that everyone can understand. It is the charter that empowers your team to utilize all of their creativity, intellect, and other resources to pursue this destiny. Name it and claim it!
  3. Strategy. Strategy defines the what, how and when. A strategy defines how the company will progress from its current position to the one described by the vision. Not to be confused with the notorious 200-page document, a strategy might be recorded in a single-page. It is not the strategic plan; it is the basis for the plan. Add budget, milestones, execution, and timeline to create the appropriate sized strategic plan for the organization. Please delegate the creation of the strategic plan.
  4. CEO Sales. Everyone knows there are things that can only be sold by the CEO. Absolutely correct! But they are not the company’s products or services. The CEO is the only one who can sell the company’s culture, vision and strategy to all of its stakeholders, from employees and suppliers, through customers and owners, forming the types of relationships essential to trusted partnerships.

All of these responsibilities can only credibly belong to the CEO, and their implementation essential to guide the organization. If you do NOT have all four defined and in place, it is more than likely that you are not the CEO, you are the “Answer Man.”

If you would like assistance in how to write a CEO job description, or to how to right-size the implementations of these responsibilities for your organization, I’m happy to help. Just contact me by clicking here.

“The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don’t grow vertically; they grow exponentially.”

— Indra Nooyi