One Hurdle Some Leaders Can’t Overcome

people skills

Cracking the code on effective leadership includes a wide range of attributes and considerations. With all the combinations of factors making a great leader, there is one set of personality traits that I find the most challenging for some clients to adjust.

people skills

You seldom hear the words “introvert” and “leader” in the same sentence. The common perception is that great CEOs are very outward going, good public speakers and powerful networkers; things that introverts are not known for doing.

In fact, a poll conducted by USA Today cited 65 percent of executives who believed introversion to be a barrier to leadership.

Interestingly, the same article highlights that roughly 40 percent of leaders are introverted — they’re just better at adapting themselves to situational demands. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Charles Schwab are just a few “innies.”

Social Proof

The use of a 360-degree review is common when beginning a coaching assignment. The 360 gives the coach and the coachee a baseline from which we can work. The presence of an introverted executive gets called out in 360 reviews time and again.

The one prevailing observation is that those who report to this kind of manager are hungry for more personal interaction.

As an example, I know one very successful executive who is quite introverted. He is widely respected in his field of expertise, yet those who report directly to him confess a need to “know him better”.

What does that mean? His people say he seldom shares personal info. They have no idea about his view of the world beyond the exact tasks they work.

He is known for being very hard to read. Even coaching with him was difficult because it took a long time for him to really open up about his inner concerns for the changes he thought he wanted to make.

As you might guess, the walls he keeps guarding are the primary factors we needed to focus upon. None of his other desires could be achieved without first breaking through the outer skin that protected his deep introversion.

Busting the Barrier

What I’ve found effective is to discuss the subtle difference between being personable rather than personal.

While some may think this is a detail too insignificant to talk about, I’ve found introverted managers and leaders tend to thrive once they embrace the nuance.

Here’s why it works. First, being personal is a threat to the deeply introverted individual. Voluntarily divulging details of one’s life outside the workplace is a bridge too far. Yet this is exactly the material that fellow workers want to understand.

It’s not about prying into their boss’s life, but rather it’s about getting to know them as a person. From the employee’s view, it’s about answering the question, “can you even relate to me?”

Next, because of the former, the introverted leader tends to shy away from asking relatable questions of his/her employees. Exchanges are all business. That comes across as cold and calculated, nothing more.

As cliché as it sounds, we all still work with people; it’s a relationship thing. By becoming aware of the hunger most employees have for hearing their boss relate to them, the introverted manager must find ways to feed this beast.

This principle applies to all people in positions of authority. You must be able to relate to those who may be following you.

  • Simple, relatable questions are:
  • How was your vacation?
  • How was the weekend?
  • Did you see that game?
  • How is ___________ doing with ______________? Fill in with family members dealing with life changes; illness, moves, step changes, etc.

Then as you get answers, tie it to something in your life. Respond with “Yes, I remember when ____________ was ______________.”

Slowly begin adding your own life experiences to the mix. Let the momentum for having more personal interactions build.

Soon colleagues will feel more comfortable around you. Also, don’t shy away from making statements like “Well, here’s what I am thinking.” You can open up by sharing thoughts. You have thoughts, right? As business unfolds and interactions happen, share your thoughts specifically.

By doing so, you reveal the world inside your head and inside your heart. That makes you far more relatable.

coaching call

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

Leaders: Looking for Advice? Where Do You Go?

managing up the organization

Leaders are looking for advice. Business people often need it. New challenges and ever-changing priorities leave us looking for fresh ideas.


Businesses operate at such a fast pace that owners and leaders are looking for advice wherever it is available. More often than not, you may reach toward the wrong resources. Un-tested advisors and questionable sources can send you down the wrong rabbit holes.

There are so many demands upon entrepreneurs and senior management of companies. Each organization is confronted with challenges and opportunities, both real and perceived. Without new ideas, it is tough to tackle all the obstacles and feel that substantial progress is being made.

It Is Lonely at the Top

From the owner’s seat, the need exists for comprehensive business ideas and growth strategies. Problem-solving solutions are valuable commodities. Couple these with the ever-present need for leadership development among senior executives and finding improved management skills, you have a serious thirst for new thoughts and ideas.

Top management regularly needs the creative inspiration to take the company to new heights. Cutting-edge executives (the very top and those about to take the mantle) need seasoned advice and inspiration.

The Go-To Ways We Find Answers

Here is where senior leaders and managers tend to go to get ideas, strategies, and help; in the order commonly used. The lower numbers represent the early choices. The higher numbers are where you should be reaching.

1. Hearsay and third hand – the “low lying fruit”, easy to find in abundance. Examples are comments heard at parties and networking functions, uninformed sources, friends of friends, high participation networkers, random research, and surveys.

2. Special Interests – narrows the expertise just a little more. These sources include websites containing educational material as a way to sell services, surveys, and their feedback.

3. People Selling Stuff – the Internet and social media is flooded with teaser offers to look like good information; vendors who distract you, using expressions like “funding to grow your business”, online marketing firms, Internet solicitors and sellers, website consulting

4. Internal Management – your own team should be reliable sources but can be risky at times. These are the people you work with, Mid-managers and supervisors, and Corporate leadership

5. Niche Experts and Consultants – moving up the chain further towards more reliable information: Trainers, Freelance consultants, niche solutions like banking, insurance benefits, human resources, etc. Then there are technology consulting firms and researchers.

In general, consultants are ranked lower on this scale for two reasons. First, the consulting field is over-crowded with sole practitioners who have lost jobs and cannot find work elsewhere.

Selecting a consultant is tricky business, not always much better than choices 1, 2 and 3 above. Plus, the better, more proven consultants quickly advance themselves to the higher ranking categories below; senior business advisors or outright gurus.

6. Educational Programs – better still might be dedicated educational platforms like speakers, seminars, panels at forums, workshops, trade conferences, webinars, and material published or broadcast in the media.

7. Books and Articles – sounds old school, but still valuable inspirations and information; books that withstand the test of time, articles excerpted for meetings, blog material posted online, self-published books by people with credible platforms, online articles and blogs, reputable authors already recognized as experts, and lastly cutting-edge books with original material (think Seth Grodin and Simon Sinek).

8. Advocacy Groups – these are everywhere. Some have long tenure, others not so much. Evaluate the reputation as you know it. Yet these can be rich resources for counsel and advice.

  • Business clubs
  • Chambers of commerce
  • People with whom you work in community and charity leadership roles
  • Boards of directors
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Small Business Development Center
  • Trade industry groups
  • Associations
  • Community alliances
  • Professional alliances
  • Consortiums of business
  • Cross-industry cooperative initiatives

9. Mentors – having a trusted advisor serving in a mentoring relationship can be a rich and rewarding experience for valuable ideas and wisdom. These are some of the better-known sources:

  • Peer advisory groups such as Vistage, Silver Fox Advisors
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Peer-to-peer CEO roundtables
  • Corporate heir apparent training or high potential programs
  • Programs such as Shark Tank, Fox Den, Ted Talks
  • Leadership programs

10. Senior Business Advisors – these are the professional service firms, including lawyers, accountants, marketing, public relations, quality management.

11. Major Business Gurus – top of the heap, proven thought leaders with wide, effective audiences who have used their advice and prospered. These experts have proven track records with many years in strategic advising, consulting or mentoring. The price point might be high, but the results are often 5x to 10x the investment.

Choose Wisely My Friend

With the field so full of choices, you must select wisely where you look for ideas, Then you must carefully decide which information to use for your next big decision.

Question: Where do you turn to look for inspiration and clear thinking about new ideas? 

coaching call

Author’s Note: Portions of this article were produced by permission from Hank Moore, a colleague of mine at Houston’s Silver Fox Advisors.

Hank Moore is that rare 1 out of 100,000 senior business advisors, a Big Picture strategist, with original, cutting-edge ideas for creating, implementing and sustaining corporate growth throughout every sector of the organization. His Business Tree™ is a trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business while mastering change.

Who’s Going to Lead Them?


Better than anticipated results have recently been reported for the US job market.  According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, “Employers added 223,000 jobs last month, more than economists expected and an uptick from April’s hiring rate of 159,000.”  The US Department of Labor released more data.

leadership[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]“Never before have we had an economy where the number of open jobs exceeds the number of job seekers,” said US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.[/perfectpullquote]

With the lowest unemployment rate in over 18 years and the rise in new opportunities, the competition among employers for qualified candidates is strong. And, with a growing job force, the need for qualified leaders grows too. There is an ever-increasing need for qualified managers with effective leadership skills to guide businesses to achieve the results they expect.

Next Man/Woman Up

Sadly, we are plagued with a business mindset that resorts to promoting the best performer when there is an open manager seat. And, without effective leadership coaching, the person who gets this job either sinks or swims. If they sink, the company loses in many ways. If they swim awhile, they might even get promoted further. All of that without effective leadership training.

In the small business and entrepreneurial realm, we see people with great product and service ideas start companies, but fail within the first 5 years. Why? Generally, because the great thinkers aren’t always the best managers and leaders. The bright idea may only go so far without strong leadership muscle. “If you build it they will come” doesn’t work very often either. Without leadership that can sustain forward progress and growth for the enterprise, the business folds.

Leadership Coaching Naysayers

In another article circulated on LinkedIn, the author questioned the impact of leadership coaching, calling it the “buzz du jour.” He argued we all can’t be leaders, citing an army of generals and no soldiers. The basic word picture is true, we don’t need everyone equipped to lead at the highest levels. Yet we must equip leaders who are put into those positions so that the outcome potential for the organization is realized.

Back to my First Statement

I’ve known too many professionals and business owners who land on great opportunities but quickly hit the ceiling of their own ability to lead. We know this phenomenon as the “Peter Principle.” Or, the observation that in an organizational hierarchy, people tend to rise to “their level of incompetence.”

As people are promoted, they become progressively less-effective because good performance in one job does not guarantee similar performance in another. Named after the Canadian researcher Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1910-90) who popularized this observation in his 1969 book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.

The perceived incompetence for senior managers is seldom about technical ability. Rather it is about the ability to manage and lead a larger team, balancing people issues with business growth and change. John Maxwell calls the Peter Principle “The Law of the Lid”. Leadership coaching can help raise the lid on leadership effectiveness.

Don’t Invest in Coaching, Invest In Results

Busy executives and business owners don’t need reasons to spend money, they need results. Leadership coaching can help you get the right results:

  • Find new ways to better utilize direct reports
  • Improve communication
  • Foster higher levels of team trust
  • Provide sound advice for change management initiatives
  • Uncover blind spots in a person’s leadership ability
  • Raise executive presence

In addition to all of those opportunities, solid leadership coaching also provides the Executive with a private and confidential sounding board for ideas, fears, doubts, and concerns.

“It’s lonely at the top” is a very real and present danger for leaders. You can’t share just anything with anyone. Having a coach to hear the thoughts keeping you awake at night can be very freeing.

On that note let me stress, coaching is not psychotherapy. That is reserved for other licensed professionals. Coaching is about looking forward to a future state you plan to achieve, not looking back at one’s past.

coaching call

The Choice Is Yours

Whether you believe in coaching or not, someone is going to have to lead the next wave of our growing workforce. Why leave it up to chance?

Before you choose an executive coach, there are things you should consider. Learn more about what to look for from your coach. Click Here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

How Does EQ Impact the Bottom Line?


The CEO was fed up. If she got one more complaint about the VP of Operations she was going to fire him.  It was obvious when he was in a bad mood because he yelled at his people and slammed doors.  The team was easily upset and often distracted which affected their productivity. The outbursts from the VP influenced how the team dealt with customers.  Clearly, the ripple effect of the VP’s bad moods negatively impacted the company’s bottom line.


Human behavior is like an iceberg.  We see how people behave but we don’t always understand what drives the behavior.  Using Emotional Intelligence is like putting on your scuba gear to check out what is hidden beneath the surface.  Once you know which emotions are influencing your behavior, you can use those emotions more effectively.

What is EQ?

Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as Emotional quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ),[1] is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately. EQ can be used to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman cites research indicating that leaders whose styles had a positive emotional impact on their teams generated measurably better financial results.  Teams with higher engagement have lower turnover, above average productivity, higher customer loyalty and higher profitability.

Ways to Improve

Below are some ways in which you can cultivate and increase your EQ:

  • Self-awareness.
    This is the ability to label, recognize, and understand your own emotions. Self-awareness requires us to tune in to our feelings and not avoid our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and sadness. Recognizing our own emotional states and how they affect our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions is the key to cultivating self-awareness.
  • Emotional regulation.
    Emotional regulation has to do with our ability to control strong emotions by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive or destructive manner. Developing the ability to sit with unpleasant feelings and to give ourselves the time and space to decide how we may alleviate or reduce negative feelings cultivates self-confidence. Emotional regulation also helps us develop the ability to consider various solutions to a particular situation or problem. Not reacting solely to an emotionally charged state results in better decision-making outcomes.
  • Empathy.
    When we empathize with others, we develop deeper, more intimate relationships. Empathy is the ability to recognize how and why people feel the way they do. Empathy allows us to anticipate how our actions and behaviors influence other people as well as our own. Developing empathy skills enhances our experiences, relationships, and general understanding of ourselves, other people and the world around us.
  • Social skills.
    This is a very broad term. In general, having strong social skills means having the ability to communicate in a clear, concise, and courteous manner. In a nutshell, good social skills are the summation of all of the components of EQ: self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy.

The Fix

If you want to positively impact your bottom line, find a coach or trusted advisor who can provide assessments and suggestions for improving EQ for yourself or someone on your team.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Cheryl Smith Bryan, an ICF Certified Coach, and advisor. Cheryl has served as a board member of the Houston Chapter of the International Coach Federation, a committee chair for the Women’s Energy Network and a mentor for at-risk children. She has been quoted in local and national business publications and has made presentations to a number of industry and professional associations. Visit her blog HERE

Here’s the One Topic Always Missing from Everyone’s Top 10 Leadership Lists


Are you curious when you read a headline about leadership “Top 10”? I know I am.  There are certainly some great thoughts that get covered in the popular lists of success factors attributed to great leadership. Goodness knows we need good leadership.

Leadership attraction
Leadership attraction

Yet there is one topic that seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?

It is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.

Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life. Perhaps it will be the missing ingredient you need to round out your leadership toolkit.

What is Grace?

Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.

1. I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between our head and our heart. We can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, we can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what we might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.

2. It does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.

3. In modern terms, grace gives us the ‘break’ in ‘give me a break‘. It cuts you some slack. Grace soothes the hurt. Having grace takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son suggested ‘breathe’.

There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.

Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?


First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.

Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple your effort to move forward. When you look back in life, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament decisions you made? Are there any serious regrets? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?

If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that you can move forward without hurdles.

Your Team

Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? There are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work, but your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace.

It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal. Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.

Sidebar –  Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?

Your Family

Family is the other area in your life where grace is vitally needed. Starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?

Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.

Here are 5 key questions about grace.

  1. When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
  2. Have you received any grace lately?
  3. Do you owe yourself some grace?
  4. Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
  5. Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit?

Think about your use of grace; at work, at home, and in your relationships. Are there ways you can share more grace?

Leadership Retreat and Reflection

Today is something a bit different. Instead of my usual message, I am providing you with a collection of leadership quotes and quips sent to me by readers.

Please ponder these thoughts. Some are from great leaders you may know about and admire. Others are from unusual sources; places I didn’t expect to get these nuggets of gold.

Enjoy! Oh and at the end, if I’ve left out one of your favorites, leave a comment or share it on social media. Let me know what you think.

Here we go….

Perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who … have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

J. K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.

JOHN C. MAXWELL, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.

PETER F. DRUCKER, attributed, The Fundamentals of Leadership

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.

SAM WALTON, attributed, The 101 Greatest Business Principles of All Time

To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.

JOE NAMATH, attributed Friday Night Light: Inspiration for the Game of Life

Great leaders genuinely care for and love the people they lead more than they love leading itself. Leadership without love degenerates into self-serving manipulation.

RICK WARREN, Ladies’ Home Journal

Leadership is not a starring role. True leadership describes the unified action of leaders and followers (stakeholders) working together to jointly achieve mutual goals. It is collaborative.

GILBERT W. FAIRHOLM, Leadership and the Culture of Trust

Leadership is defined not by the position you hold but by the people who follow you.

CHARLENE LI, Open Leadership

People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard. But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or philosopher — a Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It’s the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over.

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, This Side of Paradise

The best leaders turn their followers into leaders, realizing that the journey ahead requires many guides.


Effective leaders are made, not born. They learn from trial and error, and from experience.

COLIN POWELL, “10 Leadership Tenets from Colin Powell”, Stanford Graduate School of Business

While managers focus on the task to be completed, the process to complete it, and supervising a set of people to get there, the leaders role is more ambiguous. They must envision, set new directions, and inspire and value their team. To be a leader, it is absolutely essential to listen to people and understand their needs.

JACOB MORGAN, “What Does Leadership Look Like In The Future Of Work?”, Forbes, March 28, 2016

The first act of leadership is coming to grips with yourself, who you are, where you are, and what is of value to you, and shaping yourself by acts of conscious will into what you want to become.

FENWICK W. ENGLISH, The Art of Educational Leadership

Decisions: The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

The squeeze

Making things happen takes effort. Leaders know that sometimes all the best effort gets wasted on outcomes that fall short of expectations. You face leadership decisions throughout your day. How do you make the effort worthwhile?

The squeeze about decisionsConsistently making the best of your own effort and that of your team is what separates one leader from another.

You know the types of decisions:

  • Organizational change
  • Moving your facilities/offices
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Simply growing the business
  • Expanding your vision

What ways can you drive better outcome and avoid the squeeze?


Much is written about data-driven decisions. In big business gathering the data is both more achievable (deeper pockets to spend on big data) and harder to do (broader range of variables). Yet you don’t need the high end, rocket science-like data to drive your planning. You do need valid information.

For smaller companies and entrepreneurial endeavors, you need simple trend line information like:

  • Recent sales, perhaps seasonal data
  • Expenses, what are you spending?
  • Payroll information
  • Materials/supply usage
  • Buyer profiles, who’s buying your product or service?

The process of planning for your next big decision can uncover blind spots, things you haven’t yet thought about. Once the unknown is revealed, you may decide the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. That is, you will not realize the return you expected for the effort and resources you may be planning to spend.


The culture of your team drives everything. The team effort derived from a healthy work culture can often produce amazing results. Culture can overcome limited resources.

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sources say he never meant that literally, but it does indicate a bias toward the power of a high trust team effort. A powerful and empowering culture within your team is a more reliable path to success.

Culture isn’t inherently about workspaces and perks, like comfy chairs and ping pong tables. It’s about the habits people have formed, how they make decisions, how they respond to challenges, pressure, and discomfort, and what they believe is good or bad for success. Culture is based on what’s been incentivized, rewarded, reinforced, and possibly even punished in their workplace.


What process has your company or team developed to be able to execute on decisions made?

Ready, Fire, Aim! Is not a process. It’s a train wreck. ~Doug Thorpe

The process you devise for achieving success accomplishes several things, all at once.

First, it allows you to score some wins. Finding the right blend of people, technology, and a procedure is a process. When a particular combination of those elements is producing good results, you have a winning process.

Scoring wins for your team builds momentum. Strong, viable businesses have their unique momentum. But you must have some wins to be able to build momentum. Overnight success is seldom that. Rather it comes from sustained hard work and dedication to winning ways.

Keep finding ways to improve the process. The business world is not static, it’s dynamic. That is, it keeps changing. So, too, must you.

The Bottom Line

While you certainly have learned a lot about making better decisions, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to executive decision making. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources to help you get the most out of the decisions you make:

Check them out – you’ll be glad you did!

Question: What are some ways you avoid making decisions that “aren’t worth the squeeze?” Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now! or schedule a brief introductory call.

Is Your HR Department Lying to You?

Employee Performance Review

It might seem silly to even suggest this. Human Resources is supposed to be the very definition of ethical behavior; creators of the fairness and equity policies, modelers of proper corporate standards.   Yet when it comes to employee performance review, there is a lot of slanted truth. In my 30 plus years in business, I have found two significant ideas coming from today’s HR departments that are just troubling to me.

Telling the truthIdea #1 The Revised Employee Performance Review

The first idea got a lot of press.  It is the premise that organizations can eliminate their annual employee evaluation process in favor of quarterly check-in sessions. The hope is to improve both the quality and quantity of manager/employee communication.

Lowe’s, the home improvement giant, calls their program, “Sync Up” and provides managers with a series of seven questions they are supposed to ask each employee quarterly (“What is going well?”, “Where are you getting stuck?”, “Last time we talk about…, “, “Do you have everything you need to do your job?”, “What are your career goals?”, “Where do you see yourself next year?”, and “What can I do to better support you?”).  These questions, and the discussion that occurs when these questions are asked probably do work to improve communication and enable alignment. Heck, I even endorse these questions (see my prior article).

What Lowe’s does not address is the need for documentation that must be collected and available should there be any disputes that might lead to claims or charges.  Are they still doing annual performance appraisal in addition to the quarterly check-ins?

The related premise, also making the news (Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft) is the elimination of scores or ranking in the employee performance review process.   This practice may or may not be effective but has little impact on one key fact. All of us must collect data to justify our employment decisions like hiring, firing, promotion, corrective action, and compensation. No amount of creative quarterly check-ins can change that fact.

Idea #2

Less progressive HR professionals rally around a second idea that traditional, annual, employee appraisal systems work well “if only managers would take it more seriously.”  The key, in their mind, is that we just need to provide more training for our management teams.  Once they realize just how important this issue is, they will step-up and improve the time and attention they place on employee development.

Nonsense.  Managers are smarter than most think they are.   Bosses know, all too well, that today’s traditional, annual employee appraisal is a compliance process, not a coaching exercise.  How do they know?  Those in HR have taught them.  After all, HR checks to make sure the process has been completed but rarely have the time to ensure the quality of the feedback.

Managers know that the process is not effective and that their personal return-on-invested-time for their effort is a simple case of “the juice not worth the squeeze!”

So the traditional process does not work and efforts to modernize the process don’t seem to be effective either.  What are we to do?

Here’s The Fix

For the past three years, Roger Ferguson, of iSi Human Resources Consulting in Houston has been evangelizing an innovative idea he calls Big Five Performance Management.

In its most basic form, Big Five requires employees to submit monthly production reports to their managers providing two simple but effective pieces of information:

  • the employee’s five most significant contributions from the last month and
  • their five highest priorities for the current month.

Nimble, concise communication is valued over lengthy narratives. Most employees can adequately respond to each item with only one or two sentences.  Managers read the employee reports and then provide affirmation and praise. Managers can then coach to help improve the planned outcome. If needed, possibly corrective guidance can be shared if the team member is not aligned with departmental or organizational goals.

Twelve of these monthly reports put together provide a much better picture of the employee’s contribution for the entire year rather than the traditional employee performance review. Over a one year period, Big Five will provide the manager (and your labor attorneys) with 120 (10 a month for 12 months) rock-solid data points regarding the employee’s contributions. You get the built-in documentation needed.

How well does this process work?

In organizations that have installed Big Five so far:

  • The frequency of coaching has increased 37.6%,
  • 95% of employees say the amount of coaching they receive is “About right”,
  • The quality of coaching (openness, honesty, directness) has improved 8.7%,
  • Traction- the coaching actually helps to improve bottom line performance is up 9%,
  • 6% of employees say Big Five takes less time, and
  • Employee satisfaction with the process has improved 49.8%!

And the best news?  Big Five totally replaces the need for the tired, ineffective, traditional, annual appraisal process!

Plus, Ferguson and his team have developed a cloud-based app to deliver Big Five in client companies of all sizes. Using mobile-friendly technology, the process is even easier to administer. Behind the scenes, the system keeps up with reporting and documentation for easy access as needed.

Personal Testimony

I don’t share solutions like this without direct, personal experience. I have known about Big Five long before it was a commercially successful (and award-winning) HR solution. Big Five is scalable. I once used it to manage a project that had a very short fuse.

Weekly status reporting was required. I adjusted the Big Five tools to accumulate weekly status reports and set priorities. The team worked exceedingly well, winning the client better than a 10x return on the money invested in my team. Big Five helped drive the high returns and smooth operation.

If you want to know more. visit Big Five Performance or click the button below.

Growing Influence: Using Easy Leadership Moments

Lead in the MOMENT

Key executives and business owners get consumed by thoughts of big picture responsibility. Thinking big is a valued trait, right? Sure, we expect our leaders to provide us vision. You have to be able to see the big picture to become a successful executive.

Lead in the MOMENT

However, there is one big catch to this blue sky thinking. Sometimes you get so heavenly minded you are no earthly good.

While good leadership helps build and communicate the vision, great leadership does something really small too. The best leaders know how to lead in the moment; right here, right now. They don’t wait for the stage at the shareholders meeting. They use the easy moments to demonstrate their ability to lead. They seize each and every moment with their team to assert their leadership influence.

Living in the moment is a concept we know too well in sports. The quarterback who leads his team to a come-from-behind score as time runs out (think Brady, Manning, Brees, and Favre). The golfer who sinks a 20 foot put to win on the 18th hole of the final round of a 54 hole tournament. The hitter who swings for the fences and hammers a home run with the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning.

All of these are memorable moments that make sports history but wouldn’t have happened unless the athlete had trained for that moment. Leaders can do that too. By preparing for and making ready for each little moment, the small things can make a leadership career famous.

What are some examples?

Before the Meeting – The senior exec who has called a meeting of his team can exhibit some amazing leadership skills in the small moment right outside the conference room. Walking up, he or she sees the attendees waiting. Making small talk can become a make or break situation. Rather than hurriedly rushing into the room without eye contact or a warm comment, use the moment to acknowledge those present. Say something to express a connection. Crack a simple joke or tell a short story about how proud you might be of this “amazing team”.

When I’m in this mode, I’ve sometimes said something like “I hope this is going to be good.” The joke, of course, is on me because I called the darn meeting. I can control how good it may be.

You have to be genuine and sincere or don’t try it at all. But those leaders who can pull this off create huge volumes of goodwill with their staff.

One on One – For many executives this is actually the toughest thing they do; holding one-on-one meetings. Don’t let the intensity of the moment consume you. This is a great moment to shine. Break the ice. Help the other person feel at ease. Welcome them into the discussion. Be clear and specific about what you’d like to talk about, but make the moment feel real.

Avoid the pompous air. This moment might be happening in those stuffed chairs in your private office, but help the other person feel at home.

Once, I worked for an executive who led a group of over 400 employees. She had developed the uncanny ability to recall everyone’s name. Passing them in hallways or seeing them in meetings, she spoke to them by name. Her stock value as the department head was greater than any other manager at her level. I wish I could say I too had developed that skill. Not so. Yet I have made it a practice to be open and available, even vulnerable when I engage employees and team members wherever we may be.

In Small Groups – Great leaders really shine in small groups. Those with the best reputation often know how to tell a story to set the tone, ease the tension, or make clear, decisive points. Then the meat of the discussion can open up. Again, warm and genuine wins the day.

With Their Peers – The best leaders can work the moment with their peers. Some of the same traits that work for the moments mentioned above work here too. Being able to connect with your peers despite the known edge of competition that might exist, is a delicate balancing act that only the best leaders figure out how to perfect. However, it still comes down to living in the moment.

What can YOU do?

Think about the next time you’re going into one of these situations. Try a new approach. See what comes of it. Building your leadership muscle takes practice. Build a repertoire of warm, genuine comments and questions to ask those around you. Engage them whenever possible. I guarantee you’ll see a rise in the relationships and a new respect for what you are trying to do.

[reminder]What do you do to lead in the moment?[/reminder]

The Power of a Personal Vision Statement

Finding Vision

If you’ve ever gone through an attempt to write a company’s vision statement, you know how tough it can be. If the end result is 50 words or less, it is likely there were 500 drafts before the final statement came out. Yet it’s easier to think about a company’s vision statement than think about your own, personal vision statement.

Finding Vision
Finding Vision

Stephen R. Covey is famous for teaching us to “begin with the end in mind” (this is part of his “7 Habits” book). What does that mean?

Beginning with the end in mind is so easy in many parts of our life, but very hard in the most important aspect. It’s easy to decide on a restaurant for dinner or choose a movie to go see or even pick a destination for an awesome vacation trip out of the country.

Yet when our future is on the line, few of us really have a vision for what the next 3 to 5 years should look like. Instead, we wake up in the morning and let destiny happen. How’s that been working out for you?


Much is written about relying on leaders to give us vision. Whether the leader wrote the vision statement or was given the vision by stakeholders or the Board, the vision becomes the rally point for the team/organization to drive toward.

Without vision, the people perish. ~Prov 29:18

In addition to executing on the corporate vision strategies, successful leaders invest the time and energy to periodically review their own personal vision statement. Your view of who and what you are will directly impact your ability to perform and win in this world.

Our lives are perfectly designed to give us the outcomes we are currently experiencing. If you don’t like the experiences and/or outcomes you are having, in your life, then you should give serious consideration to new possibilities, be open to new paradigms, and redesign your life in a manner that will give you the outcomes that you desire and deserve. ~John Younker, Ph.D.

The absence of a personal vision plan creates drift. By drifting from day to day, week by week and month by month, you find yourself on a course that has no particular purpose.

Just as you drifted through an entire day without a plan and accomplished nothing, some people drift through their entire lives. They do it one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time. The months run into years and span a life. It happens so gradually that they are unaware of how their lives are slipping by them until it’s too late. ~Mary Kay Ash

Personal Vision or Charter Statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal charter statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for the future.


The Process

Definition: A Personal Vision Statement defines and describes, in sufficient detail, an individual’s “ideal future state.” A well-conceived and written out Personal Vision Statement energizes and mobilizes the individual, in question, to realize and live out their ideal future state. It empowers you and creates enthusiasm, within us, by describing the unique and distinctive contributions that we intend and will make in our lives. It is a statement of both affirmation and purposefulness. (excerpted from John Younker’s “Vision-Based Personal Charter Statement Guide”).

To begin the process of preparing your personal vision statement, you will need to write out the information for the following five steps:

What are your core values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” charter statement for a reason. Core values encompass your whole being, not just work related endeavors. Think big here. Include family plus really personal, and community life too.

For starters, I usually ask clients to get five close friends to provide three keywords they would use to describe them. It is always amazing to see the patterns this feedback reveals. Use that trick as a starting point for yourself.

What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year and over the next five-to-ten years, of your life? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.

One of the best programs for goal setting I have ever known is Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever. He’d argue it’s much more than just setting goals. I have to agree. He only offers this material in Q4 each year, so if this interests you, be on the watch for his offerings.

What image (vision/outlook on life) do you hope to project for yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your future image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals. State this in terms of the future state.

Look at it this way. If I ran into you at an airport five years from now and said “Wow, you look great! What in the world is going on with you?” What might your answer be?

What are the action statements that come from each core value? These action statements describe how you will use those core values to achieve your three goals. Start the statement with “I will…”

The journey toward realizing your true future-self begins with action statements to get you moving toward your new future.

Rewrite your personal charter statement that includes your action statements. Put it all together. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office. Refer to it often. Some actually commit this to memory, reciting the creed to reinforce the behavior.

You deserve the future

That’s a loaded statement. Do you want consequence or accomplishment? It’s all up to you.

I offer a special acknowledgment to my friend and colleague John Younker, Ph.D., Vistage Master Chair, Silver Fox Advisor, PEP Executive Volunteer, Trusted Advisor – A Career-Life Coach. John introduced me to this way of thinking and has been my mentor to revisit this critical planning step, one which I now review and refresh year over year.