Listen even when it’s difficult

Listen even when it’s difficult

Listening can be hard. There are typically many things vying for your attention while you try to focus on someone else, from the speaker to your own mental and emotional state and even the setting where you receiving the message. 

Here are some factors that make listening difficult at times and what we can do to help ourselves listen better.

Barrier 1: The Speaker

There are many ways that the speaker themselves can be a barrier in order to listen to them effectively. Their speech, dialect, or accent may be hard to follow. Also, the speed, or lack thereof, of verbal communication can be hard to comprehend. 

To tackle this part of the barrier, politely let the person know that you are having trouble following them and ask for any slight adjustments. I recently interviewed someone from the Northern US, where people have a tendency to talk at a very fast pace. People talk at a much slower pace here in the Southern US, and while I could understand him, it was becoming a bit taxing after a while. After a question was answered, I gave us a time check, affirmed their excitement for the role, and asked if they would mind slowing down just a bit for me.  The rest of the conversation went great as a result. 

The speaker’s physical appearance can be a distraction as well. Maybe, it’s the way they are dressed, something in their teeth, or perhaps something entirely inconsequential that’s calling our attention. 

If it’s an easy fix and appropriate to do so, you can help the person and yourself out by letting the speaker know. If it’s something that they can’t be fixed in the moment or perhaps just a personal hangup that you have, mentally acknowledge it and then put extra effort into focusing on what is being said. 

Barrier 2: You, the Listener

It’s been said that when you see a problem, that you need to first look in the mirror to make sure that the problem isn’t you.  Sometimes our barrier to listening is the messenger instead of the message itself. 

If you have an issue with someone or a personality difference that is causing a barrier in your ability to listen, then ultimately the responsibility falls on you in that moment, not the other person. Lean in your Emotional Intelligence skills to set aside personal differences in order to give yourself a good opportunity to listen and truly hear what the other persona has to say. 

Another way that you can be a barrier to yourself is by distractions that you bring along with you on a daily basis. Phones, smartwatches, and computers can all tug at your attention even if it’s just for a moment. Turn off notifications, or shut the device down entirely especially during critical conversations where you need to be at your highest level of listening ability and attention. 

Barrier 3: The Setting and Environment

Even when we are fully engaged with the person delivering the message, the setting and surroundings can be a distraction. Sometimes I find myself susceptible to environmental distractions when either A) The importance of the conversation is low while being in a very public setting with a lot going on. B) A disinteresting lecture in a very quiet setting. 

During a one-on-one, ask to move to a different location if possible when the importance of the message is high. This will not only help you be a better listener in the moment but will also show the other person that you value what they have to say. 

For those times where there is very little mental stimulation, create your own! Take notes, listen to what is not being said, ask questions if possible and mentally sort info to keep engagement high.

Understand the main factors that hinder your ability to listen to others at times. Mentally acknowledge them, adapt and overcome the barrier to keep your engagement and knowledge transfer with the other person.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Plan, monitor & assess your goals

Plan, monitor & assess your goals

I love when New Year rolls around. I’ve typically taken some time during the last month to think through how the previous year went both personally and professionally and I’ve set some goals (PTB 301) to kick off the new year right.  A goal without a plan or accountability is nothing more than a wish or dream. Today we’ll look at how to plan monitor and assess your goals so that you can turn your goal into reality. 

Embrace Accountability 

Without accountability, your goals fall victim to circumstances and excuses. in over 6 years at PTB, we’ve never missed a weekly show average because we truly feel accountable to deliver you leadership content on a regular basis. Without that accountability, the likelihood of late or missed shows would be significantly higher. 

How are you going to own your goals this year? Hold yourself accountable to reach your goal and include a few trusted others as accountability partners to help keep you on track. At the end of the year, I always take my wife out to a nice lunch, and I cover what my goals are for the next year. She’ll then check into seeing how things are going, and it gives us another topic of conversation to have throughout the year. 

I also keep my goals written up on my whiteboard so I see them every day. They only come down once they are done. Think of posting your goals somewhere in a space that you are in on a regular basis. I know of people that have them in their car, at their cube at work, and even their lock screen of their phone. 

Plan your time and check-ins

If you built your goals using the SMART format from last week, you’ve got some kind of timeframe that you want to complete your goal by.  Be intentional in planning out time and the path you are going to take to get to the finish line. Some goals may need a weekly check-in while others may need a monthly or quarterly check-in to see how you are progressing. 

Remember not to be too hard on yourself as you check in on your goal progress. Think progress over perfection. It’s ok to adjust your goal if life has thrown you a curveball during the year. 

Celebrate along the way

As you check in on your goal status, reflect back and celebrate the progress that you’ve made so far.  Sometimes in our drive to accomplish our goals, we forget our starting point and how much things have changed along the way. People are quick to adapt to a new normal! 

Celebrate with yourself. Celebrate with others. Acknowledge and appreciate the hard work that you’ve put in so far. 

Leverage technology

There are a ton of great apps out there that can help you track and monitor your goals. 

No doubt you have some type of technology around you on a daily basis, from smartphones to watches to all-out smart homes, leverage what’s around you to help you stay on track. 

Find inspiration in tough times

Sometimes you just hit a rut and things aren’t progressing as you wanted them to for a number of reasons. Take some time to find inspiration to help pick yourself up or to give you a new perspective on your goal and how to achieve it. Search online for groups around your shared interests, articles, and books that may help you get back in a positive direction. 

You’ve taken the time to plan out some great goals this year. You can do it! Hold yourself accountable, keep them top of mind, leverage all the resources around you, and celebrate that progress. You can accomplish some amazing things this year. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

How to set a goal that sticks

How to set a goal that sticks

Setting a goal is easy, but getting that goal that sticks can be an entirely different story. To help give yourself a better chance to reach your short and long-term goals, it’s important to set your goal in a way that is easy to follow, has tangible steps, and sets the time to get it done. It’s the ambiguity that often gets the best of our goals. 

Today we’ll follow the SMART format to set goals that are actionable and attainable. 


Your goal has to have a specific foundation to be built on. I am often critical of goals that are overly subjective and abstract (ex. I want to grow in my development) because you can’t hit something when you don’t even know you are shooting for it.

The specific subject can center around many things

  • A culminating event. ( I want to run the NY Marathon)
  • A time or efficiency (Do a task x% faster)
  • An achievement (accreditation,  an award, promotion)
  • An increase or decrease in number (weight, finances)

What specifically do you want to do or accomplish? Spell it out exactly to get a good start to the goal. 

M- Measurable

Now that you’ve got what you are shooting for in a goal, how are you going to measure its success? You need measurables in place to evaluate your progress and if you need to change or adapt things along the way.

In the NY marathon example, I need a qualifying time to get in. My measurable may be tracking my time as I try to hit my ultimate qualification time. In your professional career, it may be how many resumes and job applications you are going to complete a week. 

You should have some type of action attached to your goal and a way to measure the progress, if not, take time here to outline tangible ways to track your success. 

A- Achievable

You’ll want to take a realistic look to determine if the goal is reasonable enough to hit within your timeframe.  For your aspirational, long-term goals, build short-term goals that build and elevate you towards your ultimate goal. 

A stretch goal is perfectly fine to shoot for, just make sure it doesn’t stretch you so far that you break in the process. 

R- Relateable

Some goals you shouldn’t pursue! That’s not to say it’s a bad idea or a wrong endeavor to work towards. Maybe the timing is off. Perhaps you are already loaded up with other things. Sometimes a goal can take away from other important areas you need to master and win in first. 

Make sure that the goal or pursuit is timely, aligns with your current responsibilities and capabilities, and matches your personal values. Don’t waste your time on things that you shouldn’t be doing.  Your goal should contribute to your long-term aspirations in some way. 

T- Time-bound

No goal is complete without a time deadline to accomplish it. Set sometime around when you want to accomplish the task in order to stay motivated and focused on completing it. 

If you don’t hit your goal in the desired or set timeframe, it’s likely not the end of the world. Step back and assess why you didn’t make it and what you could do differently. Adjust, set a new goal, and get back at it. 

A few examples


  • I want to hit a 3:02 marathon time to qualify for the NY Marathon on Nov 3rd.
  • I want to lose 24lbs during the year and focus on 2lbs a month. 
  • I want to learn Morse Code and have the ability to pass the Morse Code interpretation test by June 30th. 


  • I want to earn a promotion in 18 months and take on 3 new responsibilities around operations and finance. 
  • I want to get a new job in 3 months. I’ll complete 4 applications a week and network with 5 new people a week. 
  • I want to earn my certification in my field in 12 months. I will join 2 study groups and the local chapter affiliation to help in my prep. 

Design goals that are clear, attainable, and have a set deadline to get it done. You’ll give your focus and motivation a boost while significantly raising the likelihood of meeting your goal. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

People over positions

People over positions

The talk of the great resignation is the hot topic these days in the business world. Some companies are working to get ahead of the exodus of talent from the organization, others are afraid to even broach the topic in fear of speaking it into existence and a small group just blames the workers for not wanting to work anymore. (EP 292, 4 Phrases to remove from your leadership talk)

The dynamic has shifted and people feel more empowered not to settle and are looking for a place that pays fairly, allows them to have a healthy personal life, and equips them to grow in their careers. 

I’ve led for years with the mindset of People Over Positions. As I teach the concept to other leaders, I always frame it up in terms of resources. With enough time, I can fill any role in any organization, but I only get one (your name here). If you knew that you only had one of a particular resource, wouldn’t you want to take care of and nurture it like your life depended on it?

The concept, while simple, certainly has been an Ah-ha moment for leaders as they think about how they currently treat and prioritize their people and key roles across the organization. Here are some tips on how you can live out the People over Positions concept with your team and build a highly efficient team and sticks around for the long term. 

Make the person’s personal time a priority

You’ve heard countless stories of people that have sacrificed large periods of their personal and family lives in order to get a job done. I was that person for a while, and it caused me to have a weird sense of a badge of honor and a chip on my shoulder like the company owed me something. I took realizing that I was out of balance and stepping up to difficult conversations at times to get back on track. 

Your team should never feel like they can’t have a life outside of work or have to sacrifice large personal goals in order to collect their paycheck. Some ways that you can make your team’s personal time include:

  • Be as accomodating as possible to time-off requests: Ensure that the person doesn’t feel guilt for taking the time.
  • Cover small investments like books and seminars. Could the person cover the cost of a $22 book? Likely, but the gesture is worth far more. 
  • Be authentically engaged in their personal hobbies, passions, and family adventures. Learn family members’ names, and take a genuine interest beyond, “How are you?” Open up your conversations with the personal aspects to show them it’s a priority for you.

Help them move on

Part of People over Positions is helping people move on to the next thing that they want to do. I’ve had leaders struggle a bit with this point in the past. “Why would I want to give up someone that’s so important to my team?” (We call that a Blocker in my world because they are blocking the talent pipeline behind them)

Everyone is where they are for a season. Eventually, you are going to move on from your role and so will each member of your team. Now imagine how that person feels when you are actively involved in their career aspirations. 

  • They feel cared for. It’s an active effort that shows you are caring for them on a personal level. The fun benefit here is that they begin to care for their teammates in a very personal way when they themselves feel cared for.
  • They are more effective than ever. As you invest in your person, that investment begins to pay off before they move on. Their larger sense of the business or the added context of an entirely different area makes them better in the role that they are in today. 
  • Your hiring costs go down. When a person feels cared for they are going o stick around longer. They are also going to shorten your time to fill open roles because they will be willing and ready to take on the new challenge. You also have an advantage of a person coming into the new role with a strong sense of context to have more of an immediate impact on their new work. 

Ways that you can help 

  • Support academic learning – from books to classes
  • Support time needed to learn and study. 
  • Give them stretch assignments
  • Provide them opportunities to explore curiosities and career journeys across the organization
  • Be a connector. Connect them to other key people in the company that can help propel their career
  • Help them prepare their successor

Model it yourself

In order to fully live out the People over Position concept, you’ve got to include yourself in that process as well. That means you’ve got to bring balance in your life and not have your job be your life. Certainly, it’s a part of your life, but it’s not healthy for it to be all-encompassing in your life. What would happen if the business folded or your position went away? Not only do you lose your income, but your sense of purpose and value also disappears in an instant. 

Show others that you are prioritizing your health, time away from work, and investing in yourself so that others know it’s ok and safe to do the same themselves. You can give them all the empowerment in the world, but you don’t live out what you talk about, then the person is much less likely to take healthy action. 

Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) became a hot trend at forward-thinking companies and continues to be the norm in some industries and circles. What people found is that while the company offered unlimited PTO, people were actually taking less time off than other companies with a more traditional vacation policy. It’s the classic example of talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Be sure you are walking your talk. 

Keep it in context

People over Positions can be a game-changer in the mindset of how you and other leaders engage your people. While the approach puts a priority on care, it doesn’t mean you put your business at the bottom of the priority list. With this concept you still on occasion:

  • May ask a person to make a small sacrifice in time to help the team meet a critical goal. 
  • May need to connect in “off hours” on something that can not wait until the next business day. 
  • May ask them to do a task that they aren’t happy with. 

Absolutely keep your accountability high with this approach to your team. They will be more willing to step up when they know that you care for them. Don’t be afraid to reach out about asks from the above points, just be mindful not to overuse the asks, and that it’s an appropriate level of urgency to warrant the interaction. 

Care and invest in your people. Remember that you only get one of that unique individual for a set amount of time.  Your legacy will grow as others go out and model your influence, your business will become stronger and you’ll have a higher sense of purpose as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

2021 Book Recommendations

2021 Book Recommendations

Today Zack and Mike share their 2021 book recommendations!

Zack’s Picks

Clarity in Crisis by Marc Polymeropoulos

“I really enjoyed Marc’s book. It’s an engaging read that follows his career in the CIA while pulling out leadership and team-building lessons that can be applied to every team, no matter the size or industry.” – ZH

Marc was a guest on show 288

Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell

“This is one of my favorite book recommendations for a new leader and a leader looking to raise their effectiveness. Lee shares a number of great tips and stories in order to care for your team and your customer.” -ZH

Lee was a guest on show 200

The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff

“This book does a fantastic job of helping the reader experience what it was like to be close to the events that unfolded on 9/11. The book leans heavily into first-hand accounts from interviews that tell a powerful story of heroism, loss, luck, and trama. A powerful read that took me longer than usual to read. I found myself reading a bit and then reflecting on what the people in the interviews experienced.” – ZH

Mike’s Picks

Pivot by Jenny Blake

“Jenny does a great job a helping the reader put a plan in place to pivot to that next role that they want to be in. It’s not always realistic to say that you want to be the CEO fresh out of college. Instead, she helps the person realize what steps they need to take to get to their ultimate goal.” – MF

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

“I love all of Malcolm’s stuff from his books to his podcast. I like how Malcolm dives into what is behind a person’s success and what makes a person successful that we don’t initially think about.” -MF

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

” I love a good biography and have always been interested in Steve Jobs and what he was able to do as a leader. I really appreciated that the biography shows both the good and the bad behind Steve and lets the reader decide what their takeaway is. ” – MF

Why you need skin in the game

Why you need skin in the game

In order to be successful in something, you have to have something at stake, otherwise, what’s the point of the effort? Some may answer by saying that there isn’t a point. That’s the root of why many projects, endeavors, tasks, and jobs fail to be successful; no one is invested in its success or failure. 

The term skin in the game originates from Horse Derbys. Owners had their skin “horse” in the game. Everything was riding on how successful they were at the race. What is your level of risk in what you do or lead? 

Risk versus rewards

Some people think that having skin in the game means tying rewards or incentives to the goal or their performance.

Is it really?

Without risk, the person truly doesn’t have skin in the game. Let’s say an employee is offered a bonus if they hit their quarterly goal. Sure, they lose out on the bonus if they don’t make it, but their base pay is still the same. You will get some extra effort in an incentive program, but that alone will not buy in their full commitment. 

Having skin in the game means you are putting something at risk in order to see the project or goal through. It could be monetarily based, but it could also be reputation, honor, relational, or job-based. When a person puts these things on the line, they are fully bought in and committed to giving it their very best. 

It increases your credibility as a leader

If you and your peers were to put things that were important to you on the line for a work goal, and your boss didn’t, what would you think of them? Certainly, their credibility would take a hit, and your likelihood to follow them would suffer a setback. 

Trustworthiness and credibility are your two highest commodities as you lead others, especially if you are new in your role. I feel like these two things are always on the line to some degree when I am leading my team. This is partially what drives me so hard to advocate for them when they are not in the room, to clear hurdles to their efficiency, and to assist them where I can. Though they have no monetary value on the surface, trustworthiness and credibility is always my minimum skin in the game. 

When others see that you have skin in the game and they realize that you are looking out for their best interest, they will be much more likely to follow you and risk something themselves in order to see the goal through. 

The bigger your investment, the bigger your return

The more you put on the line, the more you are going to do to ensure it’s a success.  Think about new business owners, writers, artists, speakers. For them, everything is always on the line. If they don’t hustle to grow new business, they will go out of business. 

Your level of drive will always be tied to your level of skin in the game. When you are all chips in, you are likely going to push for excellence, look for new solutions, and innovate along the way to a level of success that meets or likely surpasses your expectations. 

Trust others with skin in the game

There is an automatic level of trust built-in with someone when you know that they have skin in the game. Whatever that motivation or risk may be for them, you know they won’t abandon you. Here are some ways to determine what the other party has invested or is at risk. 

  • Do they live out what they coach, teach, and say? Do they walk the talk?
  • Ask the person what they would do in your situation. They may give different counsel if they were the ones needing advice and help. 
  • For financial planners, ask what they have invested in. Don’t partner with them if they want to play with your money in an area that they wouldn’t put their own money into. 
  • Don’t put much weight in commentators on the internet that don’t use their real names. #1) They can pretend to be any kind of expert. #2) There is no risk on their part when using an anonymous screen name.  Did you ban my user account for trolling and misinformation? Guess what, I now back as Mortyrules12 instead of PickleRick887. 

What’s at stake for you in what you do? Why does success matter? What does it mean if you fail?  Understand your skin in the game, help others put things at risk, and together push past expectations. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Dealing with passive-aggressive people

Dealing with passive-aggressive people

We’ve all seen passive-aggressive behavior in the workplace. It’s the avoidance of saying hello, the side-eyes, talking past you to someone else, having fun with everyone but you, and many other ways. 

The recipe for passive-aggressive behavior is simple:

1 part Anger (or substitute annoyance, frustration, jealousy, or envy)
1 part Avoidance
Mix the two ingredients together. Apply heat and then serve to co-workers, friends, and family members. 

Passive-aggressive behavior is rooted in frustration and feel like they can’t communicate the behavior actively. Perhaps they are too scared to address and issue head-on. Maybe they’ve learned not to share openly because of past experiences. Either way, they don’t know to express their anger and frustration properly and now it’s time for you to deal with it. 

Here are some precautions and steps to consider when engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. 

Don’t fall for it or feed the behavior

When someone’s passive-aggressive, it can be very easy to take offense and become defensive. Do your best to suppress that urge because it gives the other person ammunition to blame you, which gives them a release from their own anxiety. 

Show that you are the bigger person by not responding to fire with only more fire. You’ll likely exchange that instant gratification for regret later for your counter-response and actions. 

Take ownership for your half

In all likelihood, something that you’ve done has led to the behavior of the other person. Take time for some self-reflection. Have you also been passive-aggressive to the other person? It happens to the best of us from time to time. Have you slighted them in some way and need to clear the air? 

Own your part in the relationship and be proactive in taking responsibility for your half of the relationship dynamic with the other person. 

Watch the approach

When you approach someone about their passive-aggressive behavior, you want to avoid the term “passive-aggressive” altogether. If you call out their behavior specifically in that way or accuse them of it, they will only become more defensive and shut down on you. 

Take the approach of addressing the behavior directly, how it affects you or others, and how it impacts them in return. 

Instead of:
“I don’t appreciate your passive-aggressive attitude towards Sally in our weekly meetings. You’ve got to stop this.” 

Try this:
“When you talk over Sally in the meeting, it makes her feel like you don’t value her opinion and it also hurts your credibility with the team. Tell me what’s going on and how I can help.”

You’ll have a much more productive conversation with the second example. It lowers their defensiveness enough that they can hear you and you are asking to help and truly listen to the person. 

What about extreme circumstances?

Sometimes the person is so persistent in their behavior towards you and others that it becomes a serious issue in the workplace. 

For someone who reports to you: 

  • Coach, coach, coach! Take the approach above to have a healthy starting point.
  • Include others to protect yourself. Partner with HR, and include your supervisor for their awareness of the issue and your work to resolve the issue.
  • Call out the behavior as close as possible to when the event occurred. 
  • Seek info from other parties to get their take on what is going on. 

For someone you work with:

  • Let your supervisor know, but take a similar approach to the example above. You don’t want to come across as a complainer, and you may not know the full extent of the relationship between your boss and that person. 
  • Keep contact to a minimum if possible. 
  • Try to work more in group settings with the person. They are likely to show better behavior when they are around others. 

Understand that the person acts the way that they do because they have a need that is not being met. Focus on the message that they are trying to convey, even if they do so poorly, and take a step back to be sure that you are approaching the person with a high level of self-management and emotional intelligence. 

You don’t have to let a passive-aggressive person run over you. Take control of the situation, help the other person even when they don’t deserve it, and grow in your leadership in the process. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

The art of staying focused

The art of staying focused

Staying focused is hard to do. There are so many personal and professional things that are constantly trying to get your attention and pull you away from what you are working on. 

How well do you do staying focused on your task?

There is certainly an art to staying focused and getting the job done in an efficient manner. Here are several easy and practical things that you can do today to help you be more focused at work. 

Keep your work area clean

The space that you work in can be a distraction to you in subtle or obvious ways depending on how much you clean up your workspace. Some areas to be mindful of:

  • Your desk should be clean except for the things that you need to work on your current task. Just like at home, surfaces tend to collect things. Get organizers as needed to ensure you don’t have stacks of folders, files, paperwork, or other items that can add distractions and stress. 
  • Streamline your personal effects. I always encourage people to have some personal items in their workspace. If nothing else, it helps for people to see a different side of you and a way for them to connect with you outside of the workplace. Be mindful not to go over the top here. Instead of two dozen pictures, what’s your top four? Rotate them out from time to time to stay fresh. Keep knick-knacks to a minimum as well. 

Keep a daily calendar and to-do list

I can’t stress the importance of keeping a monthly/daily calendar to help you stay focused. It helps you stay focused in a number of ways.

  • Set it and forget it! Requests for time, meetings, and other projects that pop up throughout the week and cause you to lose focus on what you are doing at the moment. Set those times and dates as quickly as possible so they won’t be a distraction and you can get back to work. 
  • Pull the day off of your monthly calendar. Have your daily calendar handy so that you quickly see what you’ve got going on that day. I use a mousepad size pad (7in x 8 1/2 in) to write out my day similar to a to-do list. I have a good friend that prints her daily calendar view off.  Many people are list junkies and this helps you stay focused on knocking each thing off of your list. It’s also an easy way to add things that need to be done today but don’t have a specific time attached to them. 

Have a place to park your ideas

We’ve talked before about chasing after the proverbial rabbits that pop up in our daily lives, both at work and at home. Have a place to capture the idea, need, or topic so you can address it later. This is one of the reasons why I use such a large pad of paper for my daily calendar. I can capture several days on it, plus I have room to park these types of ideas and distractions on so I can address them later. 

Minimize outside distractions

While you often can’t get rid of all outside distractions, there are steps that you can take to eliminate some and minimize others. Some simple things that you can do include:

  • Move to a quieter area. 
  • Close the door to your space.
  • Let others know not to disturb you for a set amount of time.
  • Shut down windows, tabs, and apps that you don’t need on your computer while you work. 

Take care of your phone

Your phone can oftentimes be an enemy when it comes to staying focused and getting things done. There are a number of easy things that you can do to minimize its distraction on you. 

  • Set your phone to Do Not Disturb.
  • Have a dedicated charger at your desk that is just out of your normal reach. This will keep it nice and charged when you are done and makes it a little less tempting to pick up suddenly. 
  • Minimize the number of notifications you get, especially ones that are pushed to your lock screen. 

Check out Episode 248 (Tips to strengthen your attention) for more help to stay focused on a daily basis. 

Stay focused, stay productive, and rock your workday!

Make a better tomorrow. 

Navigate change and conflict

Navigate change and conflict

Life is full of conflict and changes whether we like it or not. Look no further than the last two years across the world to see how change and conflict have impacted each of us in a personal way. While we generally don’t like conflict on a personal level you are guaranteed to encounter it as you continue to grow in your leadership. 

Here are some steps to help you navigate those times of conflict and change well. 

Know which battles are worth fighting

Sometimes we consider ourselves peacemakers or a neutral party and want to get involved to mitigate the conflict and help find a resolution. While rooted in great intentions, your involvement may actually make the conflict worse by adding an unneeded layer of complexity to the situation.

If you’ve got two people on your team that are in conflict, step back, and assess when you need to get involved. It’s better long term if they can work it out amongst themselves without your involvement. They will both grow from the experience and lead to less of a reliance on your intervention in future flare-ups. 

Not all conflict requires your involvement. Guage when the appropriate time to enter the conversation is. Jump in too early and people begin to rely on you for every little conflict. (Think of a child running to his mom every time something doesn’t go their way) Wait too long and you lose trust and credibility as a leader as the problem grows and escalates. 

Steer clear of assumptions and investigate instead

Assumptions can get us in trouble with other people because the picture is often not as clear as we think it is. We then fill in the blanks based on our perspective or experience. Think of any normal change or conflict as a giant color by number picture with some of the numbers missing. Yes, it’s easy to fill in the spots that are clearly labeled, but it becomes a bit more difficult to fill in the rest.

Some questions that you may ask yourself to help fill in those gaps include:

  • What am I missing, or what else should I know?  This is a great starting point of self-reflection to understand which pieces of the piece you are missing as you look to have an informed perspective on what action needs to be made. 
  • What is the other person asking me to do? Is the request really from a true need or is it rooted in self-interest? Sometimes there really isn’t an ask from you. The person just needs someone to vent to. 
  • Would the other person agree with what is being said? Many times when an issue is brought to you, it’s from one person; one side of the story. Put your empathy hat on and think about the other side. Would they agree with the situation that is being laid out or would they have another opinion? Do you know about some challenges that the other person is going through that could be a contributing factor? 

Openly listen and move forward

Once you hear about or observe and conflict that requires your attention, take time to listen to both sides individually if possible.  Come into the conversation with care and empathy to set the right tone with the person. “Scott shared about a billing issue that happened yesterday. What’s your take?” As you listen, ask a lot of questions for clarity. Taking an inquisitive and curious approach will keep the person’s defenses down and allow you a chance to hear their honest perspective on the situation. 

Once you have all the information you need to decide your next step and level of involvement. Some of those roles include:

  • Moderator of a discussion between the parties
  • Decision-maker to end the dispute
  • Table the discussion for a set later time

Make sure that you don’t take too long to get to and through this phase. Unresolved conflict only hurts other areas of the business and relationships. 

Find the balance in intervening in the conflict. Know when to stay out of it and when it’s time to jump in. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Leading through the hybrid hurdle

Leading through the hybrid hurdle

Many people have found remote work to be a personal game-changer. Gone is the wasted time in the commute, additional expenses for lunch and go as far as less clothing and work expenses. 

Along with all the benefits of remote work comes new hurdles in leadership in order to lead everyone equally to a shared goal. Today we’ll look at three common hurdles that leaders need to overcome with people to keep them engaged and empowered to do great work at home. 

Be intentional in inclusion

When you think of the term “inclusion” in the workplace, you may think of cultural, gender, or age-based topics, and while those are right among many other things, Remote and hybrid work bringing introduces leaders to the proximity bias hurdle. 

While it’s incorrect to say that office workers are more productive than those that work remotely, there is truth that the people that work in the office have a relational advantage over their peers if their shared leader also works in the office. It’s simply easier to pop in on your leader and they are more inclined to share those small relationship-building moments with those they are physically around more. 

Support those that work remotely to make sure that they are visible to their peers and key players and that they are engaged and contributing to high-visibility projects. 

If you are a remote worker, push your leader (politely) to be included more in meetings and projects. 

Hold all of your meetings online
A lot of information and non-verbal communication can be picked up in a meeting that is in person. You can clearly see how someone reacts, or doesn’t, to the topic being discussed. Holding hybrid meetings creates inequities for the team. The team members that are physically present enjoy the full context of what is being communicated and the ones online miss the extra context as they look at your video feed on their computer screen. The equity grows much further when the meeting is in person, but only through audio for remote workers. 

Provide Clarity

Remote work lends itself to ambiguity. To overcome this hurdle, you should be crystal clear on goals, expectations and any timelines that are needed. It’s also easy to throw around a bunch of ideas or to-dos in virtual meetings as the meeting naturally progresses. Be clear on what has a priority and what does not to help people see how they need to allocate their time and resources. 

When it comes to clarity:

  • Review to-dos, who is responsible, and priority with your team at the end of the meeting. Gather a sense of agreement from the group before you close out the time. 
  • Answer questions and communicate how new items impact current tasks and expectations. 
  • Have a regular time of meetings on the calendar to keep things fresh and relevant.

As you set clarity around expectations, you should also ensure clear accountability and follow-up as needed. 

When it comes to accountability:

  • Identify who is ultimately responsible for the task. This is typically only one or two people. This doesn’t mean that they have to do all the work, but they do need to lead it to its conclusion. 
  • Leverage tools to track accountability – Dashboards, check-ins, business reviews, scorecards etc. 
  • Ensure everyone understands their part to play in meeting the larger team goal. 

If you are in remote worker and aren’t sure about the direction or who is accountable for what be sure to ask for it. Your leader may not be intentionally injecting ambiguity, they may not understand that their commutation is not clear. 

Take care of their social needs

Virtual meetings are fairly transactional. You meet at a set time to discuss a particular business item and then you go on to the next meeting. Too many virtual calls in a day or week can leave the person feeling disconnected from their peers and others that they work with and for.

No matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all desire a sense of belonging and fellowship. It’s funny how the small things in the office that we took for granted; the small talk, the dumb jokes, and debating silly inconsequential things are types of items that people miss.  

When it comes to caring for social needs:

  • Build time in the calendar with agenda-free items that give people a chance to catch up. 
  • Start off your small team and one-on-one meetings with check-in on personal items. Leaders have a tendency to skip this critical step in virtual meetings. 
  • Schedule get-togethers and team-building activities together. Keep in mind safety, inclusiveness and preferences of the group.
  • Survey the team on how they would want to support their social needs together. 

Eliminate the confusion, make sure everyone feels included in the journey and invest in others’ social needs.  By leading well in these three categories, you’ll be well on way to building a happy and productive remote team. 

Other PTB Remote Resources
Emotional Intelligence in a Remote World (show 258)
The mentality that closes the gap in remote work (show 252)
The habits that close the gap in remote work (show 253)
Become a great long-distance leader (show 212)

Make a better tomorrow. 

When do you start performance management?

When do you start performance management?

Years ago, I was just starting a new role as an operations leader covering the Southeast U.S. It was a fun and exciting time traveling to each location and introducing myself. I dropped in on one of my locations where we had an interim leader and I’ll never forget the interaction. 

“Hey, so glad to meet you!” – Me

“I’m glad you are here, I need help firing _____. They just aren’t going to work out….”  – Interim leader

Wow! What a first impression #1! Secondly, it was immediately obvious that this leader didn’t take the time to walk through the proper steps in performance management. They had a personality conflict and wanted to do be done with the other person. 

So when is the best time to start performance management? 

Catch issues early through coaching

Sometimes when we think of performance management, we think of write-ups, warnings, and other very formal and serious moments. A great leader knows that performance management starts in the small coaching moments that you have with others and is not about a “gotcha” moment but instead is all about embracing accountability with each other. 

Step up to those sometimes difficult conversations early so that the issue doesn’t continue to grow. Remember to separate your affirmations from your feedback. Avoid the sandwich approach to feedback and let your affirmation be endearing and let your feedback stand on its own. 

Document the journey

It’s always best to document the journey of performance management, especially once you see it begin to take more than just informal coaching. I would recommend documenting verbal warnings or formal coaching sessions, Now does that mean you have to sit down in front of them and tell them that you are documenting the process of a coaching session? No, but it helps so you can A) remember the timeframe of the coaching and what was expected going forward and B) Helps you immensely if you need to go further down a formal path because it shows others that you may need to partner with that you didn’t just arrive at where are in the process. 

Take advantage of your companies automated processes if you have those available. If not, I’ve done things like email myself the note and keep it in a specific folder. This way I get the written piece with a timestamp of when it happened. Others keep written notes in locked files to keep them safe and secure. Whatever your method, keep it simple and secure. 

Bring in a partner 

It’s good to bring in a partner to help give you an unbiased take on the situation as performance management gets more formal and is heading towards a  written performance improvement plan. Some companies have HR partners specifically for employee issues, others have an HR generalist or the direct supervisor is involved. Whatever your process is, hear me say, don’t go it alone! 

I’ve seen many situations over the years turn ugly because a leader didn’t bring in a partner during the process and has created quite a mess that others have to clean up. 

We all need help with things in leadership. There is no judgment about you when you ask for help in coaching and providing performance management for people. Reach out, be transparent, and let others affirm and help guide you as you coach others. 

Then there’s the extremes and one-offs

There are going to be times that a teammate has such a break in trust and policy that you should skip steps and go straight to a final written warning, suspension, or even termination. These hopefully are very rare for you though, and the grievance should warrant the consequence. It’s imperative here that you partner with someone else to make sure that you covered all your bases legally and ethically before taking this step. 

It’s hard to be too early in accountability, but it’s easy to be too late. Honor and care for your people enough to coach early with empathy and respect. Document the journey and bring in partners along the way. You serve your team well when you help them stay accountable to the agreed-upon results. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

4 phrases to remove from your leadership vocabulary

4 phrases to remove from your leadership vocabulary

There are just some phrases out there that can drive us up a wall. From “sorry to bother you, ” to “I assumed” and everywhere in between, we all have room to grow when it comes to removing un-productive and downright distracting phrases from our leadership vocabulary. 

Here are four phrases that would serve you well by removing them from your regular communications with others. 

#1 People don’t want to work anymore

Why you should remove it: You are putting the blame of your shortage on others while dragging down the morale of those that do currently work for you. 

These types of signs began popping up in business after the first year of the pandemic.

This phrase really just entered mainstream popularity in 2021. Initially posted at a few restaurant drive-thrus, the phrase and subsequent variations on the theme began popping up in businesses in other industries. I think for some leaders, putting up a “no one wants to work here anymore” sign is an effort to relieve pressure off of the staff that is in the building. In reality, what you are asking customers to do is to lower their standards as soon as they enter the door. 

Think of the impact that the phrase has on your team. If you say that people don’t want to work, then what is compelling them to stay there? Are they a loser for working somewhere that no one else wants to?

Use this phrase instead: What can we do to make the culture and role more compelling to others? Yes, standards and expectations are shifting in the job market. What can you refresh, overhaul or move on from (See Ep 223: Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals)  in order to make a  place a compelling place where people would want to work. Although money does play a part in the equation, it’s not the full answer. What else do you provide and what experience can you give others that join the team?

#2 Does that make sense?

Why you should remove it:  It shows a lack of confidence in your communication skills and can be a distraction to the other person. 

This phrase is often rooted in good intentions. You want to make sure that the person understands the information that you are trying to convey to them. Said enough, and this phrase can slow down a conversation and frustrate the other person. It can also cause the other person to question your confidence in your communication skills.  

Does that make sense, can be used as a crutch as you are presenting to others. When overused the other person may begin to anticipate all the stops that will have to happen in order to affirm you during the conversation and may be less engaged as a result. 

Use this phrase instead:  Any questions? or I look forward to hearing your questions and feedback. This subtly shows that you are confident in yourself and in what you are presenting and still gives the other person a chance to ask any clarifying questions or outright say that they don’t understand.  

#3 Just

Why you should remove it:  It can sound apologetic and undercut what you are really trying to say. 

How can one word undercut your message? Look at the difference between, “I just wanted to let you know,” and “I wanted to let you know” The first can come off as apologetic and very non-confrontational while the other communicates what you really want.   

Inserting the word “just” in any statement automatically lowers the power of the rest of the statement. We have coached leaders for years to avoid the sandwich-style approach to feedback. (Say something nice, give feedback, say something nice) because it dilutes your feedback among other things. The word “just” does the exact same thing in your regular dialog with others. 

Use this phrase instead:  Just stop saying “Just”.  Take the weakening qualifier out and let your statements, thoughts, and opinions stand on their own.  

#4 It is what it is

Why you should remove it:  The phrase inspires no motivation and communicates your lack of ownership of the situation. 

Ah, my most hated phrase to hear in leadership and life! After all the hosts have ribbed me at one point or another about this phrase on the show, there are multiple reasons why you should exterminate this phrase out of your leadership talk. First, think about the message that you are sending to the receiver. You are basically saying, “This is awful, I’m not on board and we’ve got to deal with it.” A leader that resigns themselves to the situation around them is not a leader that inspires you to follow them. 

The phase also invites other people to complain, now or later, about the situation or scenario as well. This either further degrades trust in the problem at hand and also gives others an excuse to not have ownership in the problem either. 

Use this phrase instead: It is what we make it.  This acknowledges that yes, the situation isn’t ideal, but we have full ownership in our part to play and can make the best of the issue. It’s a twist that makes an overly pessimistic view on things into one that is positive and sees the obstacle as one that we can overcome together. 

Remove these four phrases and you’ll be on your way to communicating more effectively while encouraging others to take a positive approach towards any challenge. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Finding Leadership in rocks

Finding Leadership in rocks

A box of rocks may not look like a source of inspiration for your own leadership journey, but the long journey that those rocks took in order to be made can offer us a reminder of our own continued growth. 

Today we are going to find leadership in the three main types of rocks and learn how our own leadership is molded and formed just like the rocks of the Earth. 

Leadership in Sedimentary Rocks

Formed from layers of sand, silt, dead plants, and animal skeletons

A little bit of this and a little bit of that; layers all together are what make up a sedimentary rock. It starts as one thing, (Clay, sand, other rock) and is transformed as more layers and pressure are added on top of it. 

It’s easy as you reflect on your own leadership style to see the correlation to sedimentary rock. You’re probably a little piece of several prior leaders and mentors that you have had over your life. As long as you stay open to be a continual learner and continue to grow your experiences with others, you have a consistent flow of new layers to add to your leadership for your entire life. 

It’s fascinating to think about how layers in leadership from your past help to take on new layers in the present. Think about your interaction with your current boss and team and reflect back on how all your previous leaders influence who you interact with your current people. One day your current team will be another layer as you interact with a totally different team and supervisor. 

Leadership in Igneous Rock

Formed from melted rock deep in the earth.

Change, change, change is the name of the game when it comes to igneous rocks. This type of rock typically starts off as a liquid because it’s so hot and then cools to form a new rock. Think lava flows and how they turn into rock fields. 

Leadership is about embracing change. You are constantly leading yourself and perhaps a team through constant change, and there are going to be times when you’ll need to meltdown aspects of your leadership so that you can rebuild yourself in a stronger and more relevant way. 

For many new leaders going from doing to leading is an igneous moment in your personal leadership. You’ve got to let go of many things that you may have enjoyed doing in the past in order to lead your team well. What do you need to melt down and let go of in order to grow? Be brave and courageous to take those steps in growth in your personal and professional life. 

Leadership in Metamorphic Rock

Formed from other rocks that are changed by heat pressure.

Metamorphic rocks start as any of the three types of rocks and are changed again due to extreme pressure and heat. As you continue in your leadership journey, you’ll encounter metamorphic junctures that will be extremely challenging. Think of these events as tentpole moments that fundamentally change your leadership once you make it through them. 

As I reflect back on my own journey so far, my metamorphic moments are a mix of loss, setbacks, but also great things like promotions, and life changes. I was fundamentally changed from the loss of my mentor and father figure, two instances of employees suddenly passing away and other instances of personal and professional grief. I also had to fundamentally change my leadership as my opportunity to lead in a larger way grew.

What have been some of your metamorphic moments? Are you going through one right now? Know that those moments are just that……moments. If you handle the pressure and the heat in a healthy way you can come out with something beautiful on the other side. Marble is a great example of what can come out of the metamorphic process.

It may not seem like it, but rocks are ever-changing. Continue to add layers of influence and perspective to your leadership. Melt away things that are holding you back and embrace those heated and high-pressure moments that will make your leadership stronger as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Finding Leadership in Chess

Finding Leadership in Chess

Chess is a game that I can honestly say, that I’m ok at but would not do well against a seasoned player. I do love the concept of chess though. Utilizing the same starting resources with the winner being determined by strategic planning and ability to adapt to their opponent.  

We can find leadership in chess in a few different ways that wrap around strategic thinking. 

You need to understand everyone’s role 

The first step in learning how to play chess is to understand the roles of all the pieces (how they move, what they should do, priority, etc) so that you can actually begin to play the game. 

The same has to happen with your team in order to be effective in your job. Yes, it’s important to understand the literal job that they sit in and what that role encompasses on the team, but it’s just as important to get to know the person to understand what unique talents and abilities that they bring to the table. 

Knowing just about the role on the team without the personal context is like knowing only half of what each piece does. Can you still win? Sure, with easier challenges and opponents. You are going to be quickly taken out of a game though if you go in this way against a seasoned player. 

Learn your people’s passions, talents, and motivators to take their role on the team over the top. They can help you move your strategy in a way that you may not even realize right now. 

The best always think ahead

Good chess players are playing their turn, but they are thinking about several moves ahead. Playing chess can help you be a great strategic planner. 

I use the chessboard analogy quite a bit when teaching leaders about being strategic when they think about the future of their talent and the strategy of the team and organization. 

The idea is that you start with a hypothetical that is rooted in the real world and then you begin to play out how you would react and what your next steps would be. 

For talent, we typically start with the hypothetical sudden opening in a key role. Who is the next person? What happens if that option doesn’t work out? Who is the backfill for the new role? Who is the backfill’s backfill? You can quickly find out where your strengths and opportunities are with the current and future strength of your team when you run scenarios like this. 

For your business or goals, it’s a similar concept. Start throwing what-ifs into your work routine that are grounded in reality and probability. They can be rooted in business goals or maybe more soft skills in nature. If the business plan doesn’t take off like planned then what? How do I lead my people if someone were to, unfortunately, pass from COVID?

Running these with yourself and your team on occasion is always a worthwhile time investment. We actually call this type of exercise chessboard when we do it with other leaders. 

Things change and you have to adapt

Even the best-laid plans don’t always work out like they were planned to. Life happens! In chess, you may have to change your strategic plan and begin reacting and changing your plan based on an unexpected move from the other side that just occurred. 

Help your team see the changes before they occur and equip them to communicate their thoughts to you and the team as they occur. Some of the best companies in the US to adapt early to COVID saw what was happening in Asia and Europe and got ahead by beginning to change plans before it hit them. You’ll need to have a high degree of trust and respect built up between you and your people in order to be great here. They need to understand that you will value and take to heart their guidance and you need to trust they are thinking through things with the right mindset and have the right level of perspective for the issue at hand. 

On a smaller scale, think about how you react to the smaller changes that happen to you on a regular basis? Does it wreck your day or stop productivity, or do you make a quick plan, adapt, and move on? 

Handle change, both big and small, well to keep your plan moving forward. 

Just as in chess, you’ll be a better leader when you understand what challenges you’re up against (The other player) understand your team well (the pieces) that execute on your plan well while being flexible to adapt along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Find the full Finding Leadership Series here

Finding Leadership in Michael Scott

Finding Leadership in Michael Scott

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
-Micheal Scott

The Office continues to be a hit show years after the conclusion of the series. It’s both absurd and totally relatable. You’ve probably seen a little (or a lot) of Micheal in your supervisor and the likely experienced workplace drama that mimics the show to at least some degree. For leaders, you may see those cringe moments that Micheal has and can see yourself in those situations. Maybe it’s not to the extreme that he often goes to, but relatable nonetheless. 

As bad of a boss that Miachel was, we can learn a thing or two about leadership from him, to help us be more effective when working with others. 

Michael has a heart for his people

One of the most likable aspects of Michael’s character is how much he loves his team (except for Toby in HR). His misguided antics are often rooted in trying to save his people’s jobs, to do something to motivate his team, or to celebrate personal and professional success. 

What are you willing to do for your team? What would you sacrifice and what length would you go to take care of them? to take that challenge further ask the same question about each individual that you work with. 

A trusting and empowering leader is willing to put some risk on the line as well as their personal reputation in order for someone else to have a chance to succeed. Check your comfortability in letting others have the spotlight and understand where your personal boundaries are and how far your ego extends. You likely have room to further push for growth in this area. 

Michael celebrated the success of others

We’ve talked at length in the past about the importance of celebrating success (ep 143) and having fun with your team (ep 120, 192). Lee Cockerell, retired EVP of Disney World talked about the idea of sharing appreciation, respect, and encouragement on ep 200. He and I have shared examples of cheap and imaginative ways that you can have fun and celebrate others. 

Micheal and the office staff certainly lean into this idea. The Dundies are cheap annual awards that he would give out every year like the Oscars. People in the real world like them so n=mcuh that they by replicas and hand them out to others. The team also had a fun day with their own office Office Olympics. The medals were made out of paperclips and yogurt tins. Several people cherished their cheaply made medals because it held sentimental value to them. 

I love formal recognition programs. They certainly have their place in highlighting someone’s effort and impact. I think there is a large opportunity to recognize others in a more informal, silly yet sincere way as well. Whether it’s the Dundees, Lee’s green hot sauce, or my All That and a Bag of Chips Award, do something different to recognize others.  

Michael was available to his people and there when they needed him

There are many examples of Micheal being there for his people and having a personal investment in both their personal and professional endeavors. Pam had a high personal passion for art and got into a local art show. When she invited the office to the event, no one showed outside of her boyfriend who was very critical of the work. Michael shows up at the last moment and is truly impressed by her work. He buys her small painting of their office building and puts it on display outside of his personal office for the remainder of the show. 

How do you think Pam felt about her leader after that showing of compassion, care, and authenticity? 

Don’t’ let the hustle and bustle of the day or the fact that you aren’t physically with someone on a daily basis hold you back from being authentic and available to others. Check-in with your people on a consistent basis so that there is a consistent flow of communication to fill in the questions and gaps that people may have surrounding their work and expectations. Be sure to connect on a personal level as well.  Instead of asking “How are you?” start the conversation off with a follow-up to something personal that was previously shared. 

You will gain a lot of ground in garnering trust, respect, and admiration from your people when you show your investment in them on a personal level. 

Michael Scott is certainly an over-the-top leader on The Office. Peel away the craziness and you’ll see a person that cares for others, know the power of celebrating wins and 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Find the full Finding Leadership Series here

Leadership lessons learned from the CIA with Marc Polymeropoulos

Leadership lessons learned from the CIA with Marc Polymeropoulos

We are excited to have Marc join us on the show today! I think you’ll enjoy his insight into how to lead in a crisis and other lessons that he learned while serving in senior roles in the CIA. – ZH

Marc Polymeropoulos retired in June 2019 from the Senior Intelligence Service ranks at the CIA after a  26-year career in operational headquarters and field management assignments covering the Middle East,  Europe, Eurasia, and counter-terrorism. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is one of the  CIA’s most decorated field officers. Marc is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal,  the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Intelligence Medal of Merit, and the Intelligence  Commendation medal. His last position was overseeing the CIA’s clandestine operations in Europe and  Eurasia. He is a respected commentator on foreign policy and intelligence matters and is widely quoted in both the US and international media.

Find Marc’s Book here!

Follow Marc on Twitter!

Be your own best boss

Be your own best boss

Sometimes, we push ourselves so hard to be a great leader of others that we forget about ourselves in the process. I’ve seen leaders burn themselves out, lose their passion, and have a drop in health among other things because they didn’t lead themselves well.  Here are some tips to help keep yourself on track and truly be your own best boss. 

Cut yourself some slack

I know a lot of good leaders that treat their teams very well. They are compassionate, forgiving, and lead with empathy towards others. At the same time, that same leader is extremely hard on themselves when they fall short of a goal or don’t meet the expectations that they set upon themselves. 

I know the type well. I used to be that guy!

Even if you aren’t a leader of people think about how you treat friends, family, and those you work with. It’s the same concept. Do you treat others better than you treat yourself?

Cut yourself some slack. Others aren’t expecting you to be perfect. Give yourself the same compassion and forgiveness that you give others. Being too hard on yourself doesn’t accomplish anything, but waste mental and emotional energy. You can dust yourself and get back out there to try harder without beating yourself up in the process. 

Map the deadends and hazards throughout your journey

You can learn just as much from the bad as you can from the good. Reflect back on your work life and think about those supervisors that were just awful. What behaviors made them so bad? How did they treat others? What were some of the other reasons that made it such a bad experience?

Your learnings don’t have to come from a bad boss. Pull from those bad experiences that you had with other businesses, times you’ve seen someone lose their cool or made a fool of themselves, you can even pick up the “don’t dos” from TV, the news, and especially social media. 

I would say my leadership drive and behaviors balance the thought of modeling great behavior and committing to not repeating others’ sins. An example of this comes in many of the change management pieces I’ve launched. They typically start from a very personal place of “I will be the last one to experience (Insert bad experience)” or if it’s someone else “No more (Insert name)”. If I say as a mantra “No more Mike Floyds” I don’t mean that I don’t want any more Mikes. It means that I recognize a bad experience that he had, and we will drive towards a change that eliminates the scenario or the possibility going forward. 

Following this frame of reference as you continue to grow makes you a better leader to yourself and to others. 

Push yourself for personal development

Sometimes we forget about ourselves as we push others to grow and meet their career goals. Map out and plan your own development. It’s great to have long-term aspirations that you want to achieve, so it’s great to think about yourself in yearly blocks as you work towards a larger goal.  How do you want to be different a year from now? What are some small things that you can work on to grow your effectiveness?  Some areas to consider include:

  • Furthering your education
  • Growing your experience in a new area
  • Increasing your depth of expertise in an area
  • Expanding your personal and professional network
  • Growing in a leadership soft skill – coaching, EQ, trust-building, etc

The servant leadership model says that your job as a leader to serve and support those that are under you instead of expecting them to serve you. That doesn’t mean you have to give all of yourself up in the process.  

Your people matter and so do you. be your own best boss and lead yourself well. You’ll take your leadership to a whole new level and have a deeper satisfaction in what you do. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Our 6th Anniversary Show!

Our 6th Anniversary Show!

Thank you so much for supporting us over the last six years! Today we have both Neha and Michael with me as we talk about lessons learned over the last year, a look back to the challenges we all have been through, a peek behind the scenes, and a look towards year 7.

Make a better tomorrow


Overcoming unconscious bias

Overcoming unconscious bias

Unconscious bias, or implicit association, plays a part in all of our lives and how we lead others. Last week we discussed what this kind of bias is and what the types of unconscious bias are. Today we are jumping into finding it in our own lives and then strategies to address it in an actionable way. 

Discover and recognize your unconscious bias 

It can be hard to see our unconscious bias. It’s called unconscious for a reason! Instead of tracking your brain for what basis you may have, look at it from a simpler perspective.

Think about the decisions that you make that center around people that you don’t give much thought to. Take a moment to think about the reasons that you made the decision that you did. Do you task a female leader as the one to provide emotional support when someone is going through a hard time, because you feel like women are more empathetic?  Do you put a male in charge of lofty sales goals because you feel like men are more goal-oriented and action-focused? 

Taking time to reflect and assess the root causes of some of your decision-making processes is s a great place to start in recognizing and discovering your own unintentional bias. 

Take the test

Harvard University can help you get a jump start in uncovering your unconscious bias through a free self-assessment. Once you enter the site, you can choose from 15 different areas of gender, race, sexuality, and a number of other things to assess yourself in. I know that I have an affinity towards our Native American population in the U.S. The assessment proved just that. While I consider native Americans and Whites equal, I have a slight automatic association of American with Native Americans and Foreign with Whites. 

Interestingly, more than 50% of the near 250,000 that have taken the Native American test first reported as viewing both groups equally, but only 20% completed the test that way. The majority found out that a majority of people have a bias towards Whites over Native Americans. 

Focus on the tree

There is a saying about people that miss the big picture that goes, “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” meaning that they get derailed in the specifics or something not important and in turn miss the big picture of what’s going on around them. To help in growing through your bias I want you to try to see the tree instead of the forest. 

The forest in the example is the collection of the characteristics of a person’s background that you believe to be true. Instead of focusing on all the preconceived notions and mental baggage that we attach to people, focus on the individual right in front of you. Let their actions and words stand on their own. Give them a chance to build trust and a reputation with you based on their own merits and abilities. 

Discuss and learn

After you have uncovered some of the biases that you may have, be authentic and vulnerable to discuss them with others, particularly with people from socially dissimilar groups. Many larger organizations are starting business (or employee) resource groups that bring together people with similar backgrounds or interests. Join up with some of these groups to learn more and challenge the notions that you have about them. 

If you don’t have BRGs or ERGs at your workplace, be mindful to introduce yourself to a different view online or in your community. As funny as it sounds, I think it’s easier to find this in the community than it is online. Your social media algorithms push content that aligns with your current thoughts and preferences and suppresses opposing views. (See The Social Dilemma)  You’ll need to go out of your way to find it on social media, but it’s out there. 

We’ve all got unconscious bias. Understand what it is and how it impacts your leadership decisions on a regular basis. Use the techniques and tips above to begin addressing those ideas and become a more inclusive leader as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Understanding Unconscious Bias

Understanding Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something that each of us deals with on a daily basis. If you had a flat tire would you ask a man or woman to help you? Who would you ask to help sew up a hole in your shirt?  Who is more likely to ask for directions if they are lost? These are just a few everyday examples of how our brain subconsciously connects the dots for us without us even realizing it. 

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias consists of learned stereotypes about certain groups of people that we form outside of our own conscious awareness. It’s learned and automatic, unintentional, and seated deeply in our beliefs. It also affects our behavior and while we have a tendency to think unconscious bias is about race, it also includes, age, gender, orientation, and religious beliefs. 

Types of unconscious bias

Unconscious bias covers a spectrum of how you access and interact with others as an individual and how you operate and plan as a team. 

Affinity bias: Affinity bias is the tendency to gravitate towards people that are like you. We all have a few people at work that we gravitate towards more than others. It’s likely because there is some common link there. Maybe it’s shared interest, personality type, same life stage, or any number of other areas; those commonalities act as a subconscious magnet that draws you together. The idea itself is not a negative one, it’s when these relationships come at the cost of excluding others that you need to guard against them. 

Halo effect: The Halo effect says that you think everything about a person is good because you like them. This is a piece of unconscious bias that I consistently coach hiring leaders about when they are looking for new talent. Oftentimes, when we make bad hiring decisions, it’s because of a couple of things. 

A) Asked the wrong questions that led the candidate to the answer you wanted instead of motivation based questions that give you a good understanding of the person.

B) There was some kind of spark during the conversation where you connected and genuinely liked the person.

Pair the affinity bias of thinking they are good because you know like them with softball questions and you know have a recipe that allows the wrong fit to make it on your team. 

Perception bias: This is what you believe about a group based on stereotypes and assumptions which makes it nearly impossible to be objective about individuals. Perception bias is probably what most people think of when they about unconscious bias.  It’s the idea that you assume something about a person because of the group that they are affiliated with. 

We covered a story on how perception bias blocks you from being an empathetic leader on show 247: Roadblocks to empathy

Confirmation bias: This is a tendency to seek to confirm your preconceived notions about a group of people or an individual. We saw this flare-up immensely in the summer of 2020 through BLM protest, the coining of the phrase “Karen” and the lead-up to the election. 

I coach about this idea quite a bit when I do talent calibrations with others (A process where you rate your team and vet them with your peers and leader). These assessments usually around some kind of box that has different categories or ratings. I encourage leaders not to share about what box they put the person in, instead share strictly about their performance and potential. When we start out with “I put them here because….” you are laying a proverbial bread crumb trail that leads you to the pre-determined destination. 

Groupthink: This is the loss of self-identity in order to fit into a culture. Here you will mimick other’s thoughts, suppress your own opinions, and readily agree with the consensus of the group.  

Groupthink destroys creativity, leaves potentially large holes in your strategy is not going to be holistic in its approach, because it doesn’t consider other opinions or perspectives. This one requires some courage and vulnerability in order to overcome on the part of the participants. Organizations will sometimes put a limit to the time an assembled team is together or rotate new members in, in order to combat this trap that teams sometimes find themselves in. 

Next steps

Next week we’ll cover some tips in order to start overcoming some of your and your team’s unconscious bias and assumptions. In the meantime, I would encourage you to think about the above list as you go throughout your week. Think about your interaction (or lack of interaction) and put it through the lens of some of these types of biases. This will be the start of you increasing your effectiveness as a leader while opening yourself to new perspectives and talents of others that you may not have recognized yet. 

Make a better tomorrow.