Category Archives: Success

Getting Things Done Without The Title

How Do You Get Things Done When You’re Not the Boss?

I deal all the time with people in organizations who are trying to get things done without the direct authority to ‘order’ people to do it.  These are people who sit in one organization who need the cooperation of people in another organization.  These are Senior Executives who need their peers’ cooperation to accomplish their own division’s goals.  These are Project Managers who need business leaders or other project leaders to do things before they can deliver their own project goals.  These are entry level people who need the collaboration of more senior people.  Back in the day when we all worked in purely hierarchical organizations, this is the way it worked:

Getting Things Done Through the Hierarchy

The person who needs something from another person in an organization asks his boss, who asks her boss, to asks his peer, who tells her subordinate, who tells his subordinate and it gets done, unless there is a dispute.  If there is a dispute, it reverses and goes back up and back down, then back up and down.  Usually many days, or even weeks have transpired before the original need gets fulfilled.  This is a pretty inefficient way of getting things done, unless everyone is completely committed to moving things fast.

Organizations today are less hierarchical, flatter and more networked.  In an ideal world, this is the way things would work:

Being able to get things done this way depends on RELATIONSHIPS, trust, communication, urgency, political savvy, persuasiveness, and understanding organizational economics.  Being able to do this can make the difference between being stellar standout and being stuck in your position.


It is who you know, who knows you and how much they care about you.  You need to have relationships–friendly, bi-directional relationships that are mutually win-win.  It is not about rank and power so much as about knowledge and cooperation.  If you look at the picture above, if the people at the bottom of the organization know how to help you AND ARE WILLING, then you get as much done as if you boss’ boss talks to their boss’ boss.  People will generally do something for you if there is no skin off their nose AND if they see it as beneficial. They generally see it as beneficial if you have at some time in the past done something for them, or if they think that that is likely to happen in the future.  Do things for people throughout the organization without requiring return,and eventually, you will get significant return from it.


If people trust you, then they are likely to help you whether or not you have the authority to “make” them do something.  People don’t have to trust you with their life, but they have to trust you not to sabotage them in some way, to stand up for them if necessary (after all they may be technically breaking a rule by doing something without appropriate hierarchical authority), and to reciprocate if they need something. For more on creating trust, read Trust Me, Damn It!  Ironically, sometimes asking for something helps improve a relationship and builds trust.  Ask for what you need–don’t be afraid.


The best way to get help from people who aren’t in your organization is to explain WHY you need what you need.  If they can understand the context of your request, if you can make it real for them, then they are much more likely to go along–especially if there is little to no risk to them.  If there is risk to them–to their own deliverables, to the schedule they’re supposed to hit, to their relationship with their peers or their boss–then your communication needs to be much more compelling.  You need to be clear about what is in it for them to help you that overcomes those risks? 

Unless you have a well established relationship–and even then, think twice–do not make these requests via email.  Email is too easy to ignore, to hard to be clear and too hard to be persuasive.  Talk in person (preferable) or by phone.  It is better to have worked on these relationships before you need them, but even so, be friendly and interested BEFORE you make your request.


If people believe that what is needed is needed quickly or else important things will be slowed down or blocked, they are more likely to do it than if they feel no urgency.  Creating a sense of urgency must be done carefully, lest you get a reputation of “crying wolf,” and lose your credibility.  Why do you need what you need quickly?  Be honest, but also believe what you’re saying.  Speak with urgency and you’ll likely convey urgency.

Political savvy

In order to successfully get things done in your organization, you need to understand the politics in the organization.  Who has the power?  What relationships exist across your organization.  What are the rivalries?  Who is the ‘core’ group in each organization that you work in and around?  In other words, who are the three or four people who make the decisions?  Who do they listen to? Who can help you get the decision/resources/help you need go your way?  Are there hidden agendas?  What are they?  How does what you need to do fit into those agendas?  Whose agenda is supported by what you’re trying to do?  Whose agenda isn’t?  Trying to get things done in an organization without understanding these things is like driving on a road you know nothing about–where it goes, whether it dead ends, how fast you can go, whether there are any gas stations along the way.


Being persuasive is a critical skill for getting things done in organizations.  There is no tool that is more valuable.  Being persuasive begins with understanding the other person’s issues with regard to your argument, and then finding a way to reduce or overcome them by helping the person see very clearly WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) about what your trying to get done.  Provide a context that helps the person be persuaded.  A great book to help you learn to be more persuasive is Robert Cialdini’s, Influence. the Art of Persuasion.


One of the biggest secrets in organizations is that people at all levels of the organization can get things done across the organization.  The most important step is to Do It. Figure out who can help you.  Figure out what is important to them.  Figure out how to approach and persuade them. Then ask.  Don’t give up.  If one way doesn’t work, try another.  Keep taking routes till you find one that works.  Make positive relationships along the way and PAY PEOPLE BACK.  Go for it!

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The Transition From Manager to Leader

manager to leaderLeaders v. Managers

I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the differences between managers and leaders.  Managers do things right and leaders do the right thing–right? I think that this is an interesting discussion, but it isn’t that easy.  Managers do leader things and leaders do manager things. Each of us is naturally oriented toward one or the other–we either are inclined toward structure, processes, policies and systems or toward strategy, inspiration, vision and people.  But we can all learn to be either a manager or a leader or both a manager and a leader.

The Leadership Continuum

Many have described this as a dyad–either/or, a choice between two options.  I see it more as a continuum.

Manager to Leader

A continuum that ranges from supervisor to manager to leader to Executive Leader to Global Leader. This is not to say that supervisors can’t be leaders or that Global Leaders (positionally) aren’t managers.  There are cumulative skills, though, across those roles that are needed to deal with increasing complexity as a person accumulates more responsibility.

Moving Along the Continuum

Michael Watkins, whose books I’ve recommended in this blog before (The First 90 Days and Your Next Move) has a recent article in Harvard Business Review that is well worth the read.  He writes How Managers Become Leaders in the June issue of HBR.   Watkins identifies seven “shifts” that are required to grow managers into leaders.  These shifts are:

  • From specialist to generalist
  • From analyst to integrator
  • From tactician to strategist
  • From bricklayer to architect
  • From problem solver to agenda setter
  • From warrior to diplomat
  • From supporting cast member to leading role

These shifts require developmental experiences that change your perspective and force you to step out of your comfort zone.  You also need to be exposed to regular 360º feedback that allows you to understand whether or not your behavior is working for you in the situation.  And finally, you need to be dedicated to continuing to grow your self by challenging your assumptions, habits and behaviors to move along the continuum.

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Get a Mentor. Use a Mentor.

Get a Mentor

I know you’ve heard it.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve heard it from me.  You need a mentor to help your career.  Easier said than done, right?

How Do I Get a Mentor?

Typical questions about mentors and mentoring are:

  • What is mentoring?
  • How do I find a good mentor for me?
  • How do I ask someone to be my mentor?
  • How does having a mentor work to help my career?
  • What if my mentor and I don’t get along?
  • What if my mentor won’t meet with me?
  • How do I end the mentor relationship?

What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring, first and foremost, is a LEARNING relationship.  The old-school model of mentoring was that the senior, experienced successful mentor took the junior, inexperienced mentee under his wing (yes, it was always a ‘he’).  Today’s mentoring is much more complex, but much more productive.  It is different depending on the people involved.  It could be a senior person helping a junior person succeed in an organization.  It could be an expert helping a novice speed up the process of learning.  It could be a junior person helping an executive understand social media.  The key parts to a mentor/mentee effort are LEARNING and RELATIONSHIP.  It is a collaboration, not a one-way relationship.  Both parties, but most importantly the mentee, take responsibility for the success of the relationship.  The mentee must have a plan, goals and the willingness to step up and reach out for the mentoring to be maximally successful.

How Do You Find A Mentor?

You start with what you need.  When you think about your career, what is it that you need?  Do you need to learn how to navigate the organization’s politics?  Do you need to learn how to be an effective executive?  Do you need Executive presence? Do you need to learn how to manage technical people?  Do you need to learn to manage your peers?  Think strategically?  Present your ideas better?  Whatever it is (and don’t focus on everything at once–pick the biggest/most important thing), think about who you know, or know of, who can do it well.  If there is more than one person who fits that description, who do you think has the best ‘chemistry’ with you.  Who do you most want to learn from?  Who might have more time? Who do you think might be the better teacher?  Based on these questions, pick someone who could mentor you in what you need.

How Do You Ask Someone To Be A Mentor?

Once you’ve identified someone, make a plan.  What do you want to learn from the person?  Over what time period?  What format would work best for you?  Informal–like over coffee?  Formally scheduled meetings?  Asking questions?  Your mentor talking and telling stories?  Once you’ve thought through these, what kind of proposal can you make to your mentor?  Something like:

I’ve admired how well you navigate this organization to get things done for your organization for a while now.  I was wondering if you’d be willing to mentor me on how to do that?  I was thinking maybe we could have coffee some morning and you could share with me some of the things you wish someone had told you?

Imagine if someone approached you this way.  It’s likely that you would be flattered.  If you had the time, it is likely that you would be willing to do this.  You’re not asking for a long term commitment in this situation.  You’re testing the waters.  If you have the first meeting (which, if it is more comfortable for you, you could formally schedule a meeting), and the chemistry seems good and the mentor seemed to enjoy it as much as you did, then you can ask for another meeting.  In the second meeting, you can ask the person about him/herself.

  • How did you get to where you are in the organization?
  • What have been your biggest career learnings?
  • What do you wish you had known that you know now?
  • Are there things you would have done differently?
  • Which jobs have taught you the most?  Which bosses?

If this conversation goes well, then it is time to suggest that the person be a mentor.  Ask if he is willing to be your mentor.  Tell him what kinds of things you’d like to learn from him.  Over what period of time?  How often would you like to meet with him?  (Be very reasonable here).  Show him that you will take responsibility for learning with him as your guide.  If he agrees, ask him how he wants you to be prepared before your conversations?  What kind of follow-up and follow-through does he want?  Get clear on your goals.

If you approach it in these stages, you get to feel out the relationship element of the mentoring–do you think it will work?  Push yourself to ask if the relationship works for you, because it will be worth it.  If s/he says no, don’t take it personally.  It is probably about time commitment or, just as likely, about the mentor feeling inadequate to the task.

How Does Having A Mentor Work?

The mentoring relationship is about learning–usually both the mentor and the mentee learn.  Sometimes the mentor is able to open doors for opportunities, but almost always the mentor opens minds.  The mentor helps the mentee see the world through different eyes (usually higher ranking eyes).  The mentor helps the mentee have a new perspective–thinking strategically instead of tactically, thinking like a sales person instead of an HR person, understanding how decisions get made at the top of the organization.  These new perspectives are JUST AS IMPORTANT as if the mentor helps the mentee land a new job.  It is these new perspectives that enable the mentee to succeed at the new job.

What If We Don’t Get Along?

Sometimes mentors and mentees don’t get along.  Having a couple of exchanges before you ask for a more formal mentoring relationship can sometimes help avoid this, but not always.  If you don’t get along with your mentor, ask yourself why.  Is it because she is speaking truth to you and you don’t like it?  If that is the reason, it is probably very worth hanging in there.  It is really hard to get people to tell you the truth–it is easier to learn to deal with it than to find someone else who will tell it.  Is it because the mentor reminds you of someone who you haven’t gotten along with in the past?  Your father?  Your older sister?  Your first boss?  Again, it’s really better to work through these issues than to find someone else–this is the kind of issue that will continue to bit you until you learn to deal with it.  Is it because the person is a bully or abusive?  If so, then it is best to end the relationship.  Don’t end it by stomping out.  Just thank the person for all the help s/he has provided (this is VERY important) and tell him/her to be sure to let you know if you can return the favor.  Then don’t schedule any more appointments.

What If My Mentor Won’t Meet With Me?

It is highly that anyone you want to mentor you is a very busy person.  When you have the conversation requesting that she become your mentor, you need to agree how often you will meet.  The more you can talk it out–what to do if one of you has to cancel, what to do if scheduling becomes a problem, what are the expectations, what to do if this becomes too burdensome–the less likely this is to be a problem.  After a number of cancels–this number should be different if it is a CEO v. a manager–then it is appropriate to ask whether it would be better to take a break till a time that is better.  Then go find someone else.  The biggest risk here, though, is that you will interpret normal scheduling problems as the mentor not wanting to do this.  It is likely that the mentor just has a busy schedule.  Don’t read too much into it.

How Do I End The Mentor Relationship?

It is best that you make some kind of arrangement for the end of the mentoring relationship (not the end of the relationship) in the initial agreement that establishes the relationship.    You can make it time specific or task specific–get through your next performance review, or do an Executive level presentation, but you do need to identify what the goal and timing of the mentoring relationship should be.

Many, many mentor relationships end and friendship remains.  That is ok, but be careful to make the shift in your mental model.  Be sure to thank your mentor in a meaningful way.    It’s great to keep notes as the mentoring proceeds and to write a summary of what you learned over time for your mentor.  It will help cement the learning in both your minds.  This could be one of the most important relationships of your working life.

A Good Book That Will Help

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Stephen Covey and his Gifts to Business People

All business people owe a lot to Stephen Covey, who died this week at the age of 79.  Covey wrote his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in 1989.  There were no earth shatteringly new concepts in it—to be highly effective, people should:

  • Be Proactive
  • Start with the End in Mind
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win-Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw (balance and renew yourself)

At some level, most of us know that these are things to do.  In a way, though, Covey took it a step further.  He seemed to say, these are a good way to BE.  Practice these behaviors until these are a part of who you are.

Covey infused his work, and his speaking and teaching, with what is known as Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).  In his 2004 book, The 8th Habit, Covey defined Spiritual Intelligence :

“Spiritual Intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the Intelligences because it becomes the source of guidance for the other three . . .  Spiritual Quotient [is] “conscience, ” having the following characteristics:

  • enthusiastic
  • intuitive
  • takes responsibility
  • moral
  • wise
  • integrity
  • servant
  • humble
  • fair
  • ethical
  • abundant
  • compassionate
  • respectful
  • cause-oriented”

Covey was one of the first, and certainly the first popularly available, to bring this kind of thinking into the workplace.  It was Stephen Covey who helped leaders understand that there was something greater than the bottom line, something somewhat intangible—you know it when you see it– to bring to the table when leading organizations.  Covey helped people understand their own personal responsibility for ‘leading’ themselves through self-management and positive interaction with others.  He encouraged people to “find your voice” and inspire others to find theirs.

His writing and teaching encouraged people to be whole, to focus on all the parts of their lives and to do that which was most important, not what was more urgent.  When I read Jim Collin’s later book, Good to Great, I was struck by the description of Level 5 Leadership and how closely these leaders seemed to follow Covey’s 8 Habits:

Level 5 Leaders

  • They are humble and modest.
  • They have “unwavering resolve.”
  • They display a “workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.”
  • They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results. They “attribute much of their success to ‘good luck’ rather than personal greatness.”

One of the most important things that I ever heard Stephen Covey say was his description of how he came to these ideas.  He said that he went through all the theories of leadership, all the writing on leadership and pulled these behaviors on leadership from that research.  At the time, I was envious of the research that he had done, and I took with a grain of salt his conclusions.  I have since done my own research, traveling through many of the same thought leaders and historians that he did, and I now know that his conclusions are pretty right on, and much more coherent and inspiring than anything I could have come up with on my own.

R.I.P.  Stephen R. Covey, October 24, 1932 – July 16, 2012

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Onboard Yourself


Onboarding is the process that organizations use to get their employees up to speed enough to do their jobs.  Another term for it is “organizational socialization.”  Organizations have informal and formal methods for the knowledge transfer or processes, tools, methods, culture and introductions that is sufficient for the employee to be effective in his/her new job.  I’ve seen really good onboarding and really horrible onboarding.

The best onboarding I ever experienced personally was as a consultant when I was going to work for a group of consultants.   The onboarding was a combination of providing me with detailed “playbooks” of how the organization did its work and of having me spend intense time with each team of consultants to see/understand how they put the playbook into action.  I traveled weekly for my onboarding and in three weeks’ time, I felt that I understood the whole and was fully able to go do it myself.  It was the combination of the intensity, the excellent documentation, and the seeing it all in action—including being given tasks I didn’t know how to do, but being surrounded by people who could/would help me.

I’ve had so many “worst” onboardings that it is hard to pick just one.  They range from putting me in a room with a year’s worth of reading and leaving me to read for two weeks to putting me at a desk and spending less than 10 minutes telling me what to do and walking away, never to return.  I think that I eventually did OK, even at the jobs with these onboardings, but the time it took to get me up to speed and to be productive was vastly different.

I finally decided that I needed to take responsibility for my own onboarding.  As a consultant, it is critical that I hit the ground running and know enough in a week to make a difference.  If I wait for people (who all have other jobs and many of whom are not sure they want me here, anyway) to tell me what/how/when/why in the organization, then I will fail.  These processes can apply for anyone, in any job, including people who have been in the job for a long time.

DIY Onboarding

Steps to Your Own Onboarding:

  • Make a Plan:  Identify what you want to accomplish and how fast.  You have a fairly short period of time before people get over you being new and expect you to “do” something.  They are very open to questions in the early days; they think you’re dumb if you’re still asking questions later (even then, you need to ask questions to learn—deal with what they think).  Who do you need to know?  What do you need to know?  What do you need to be able to do?  Ask people what they think you need to do to be successful.  Then put in place a plan that gets you there.  Fast.
  •  Meet People:  Meet people at every level.  Set up meetings.  Invite people to lunch or breakfast.  Accept all invitations.  Learn the power structures.  Learn the informal networks.  Learn the ‘go to’ people.  Learn the whiners.  Learn who to listen to and who to avoid.  The only way to do that is to throw yourself into meeting people.  (Even introverts need to do this)  Ask people to help you.  Ask people who you should meet.  Ask people who helped them when they started.  Target someone to be a mentor in this process and ask for his/her help.
  •  Figure Out the Tools:  Luckily, today most organizations use the same fundamental tools—the Microsoft Office suite plus SharePoint.  If the organization uses different/other tools, however, learn these as soon as possible.  Learn Oracle,, EPDM, or whatever other tool your organization uses.  You need to understand it and be conversant in its strengths and weaknesses.  (Every tool you learn makes you more marketable—use the opportunity of being new to dive in and learn new tools).
  •  Understand the Culture:  Every organization has its own culture.  This is like the water the fish swim in—the people inside the organization are not very aware of it consciously, but it shapes all behavior unconsciously.  When you’re new is the only time you can actually “see” the culture.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming it is like the culture you just came from.  Just because engineers are the dominant players in the new culture as they were in the old, there will be huge differences.  Learn these differences with “new eyes.”  Learn what the organization thinks about what makes success, who are the people who seem to “get it.”  What are they like?  How much does the leader shape the organization?  Is the founder still there?  How long since the founder was there?  What are the left over influences from that?  (These are frequently the things that don’t seem to make sense because they started a long time ago but are still there).  Write down your observations of the culture.  Make a mind map.  How does the culture influence the way that you will get your work done?  How can you use the culture to be more effective?
  •  Learn the Product/Customers/Processes:  Become an expert.  Take all the classes you can.  (Organizations frequently have classes for new sales people that are available to others).  Ask people about the processes.  Become best friends with the Intranet.  What’s there and what can you learn from what’s there?  What do others outside the organization say?  What do people in the organization say in reaction?  Everyone in every part of the organization needs to thoroughly understand the Product and the Customers.  You need to at least understand the processes in your own organization and those that take product to market and get money to the bank.  Like I said, BECOME AN EXPERT.
  •  Take Actions:  You have a very short window before people start to see action.  Look for opportunities to take early action.  It is better to be right about these actions, so be careful—but not too careful.  Action is better than no action, even if you make mistakes.  Ask your boss and peers what kinds of actions they are expecting from you and deliver them as soon as possible.

 Good Books That Help With This:

The First 90 Days, Critical Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels  byMichael Watkins

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by George Bradt, Jamye Check, and Jorge Pedrassa


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Trust me, damn it!

Demanding Trust Doesn’t Work

I once had a boss demand that I trust her again.  We can talk later about how I made the mistake of letting her know that I didn’t trust her (not a good career move, and no I didn’t TELL her that), but DEMANDING that someone trust you NEVER works.  If you have the kind of relationship where you’re demanding anything, it is a trust-less relationship.

Trust is hard to define.  I knew what she meant.  She wanted me to go back to being willing to do whatever she needed/wanted without doubting her intent or integrity.  She wanted our relationship to be based on mutual “confident expectation.”  I would have liked that too, but she had done something (that I felt was dishonest) that so violated my confidence in her integrity, that I no longer gave her the benefit of the doubt.  When I told her that I might be able to trust her again, but that it would take time, that was unsatisfactory to her.  At least it was all out in the open.  The consequences, however, were not pretty for either of us.

Since then, I’ve had the experience of people not trusting me.  Some didn’t trust me because I outranked them.  Some didn’t trust me because I was a different race, or age, or had a different nationality.  Trust is not an automatic gift, it has to be earned.  Not being trusted, however, is definitely not fun.

Trust MeYou CANNOT Be a Good Leader If They Don’t Trust You

Think about the people who you have trusted.  Have you trusted a boss?  A friend?  A stranger?  Someone from a different generation?  A pastor? A car dealer?  A banker? A lawyer?  See . . . all of these invoke different levels of trust reactions in you—and they are just labels.  What made you trust the people who you trust?  For most of us, it is consistent, persistent behaviors that we can predict and (for the most part) agree with.  It is rare that we trust someone instantly, although it happens.

Excellent leaders are trusted.  It is that trust that enables high performance teams.  All leadership gurus talk about the necessity of trust for great leadership.

So . . . How Do You Get Them To Trust You?

Want people to trust you?  Here are some important prerequisites:

  • Be trustworthy—Well, duh.  You’d be surprised, however, at how many managers bemoan the fact that no one trusts them while they are working secret agendas, regularly mislead co-workers, subordinates, and/or the community.
  • Trust others—It’s amazing how well this works!  The very experience of being trusted generates the willingness to trust in most of us.  When you trust people to do something they haven’t done before, or to speak in front of a group, or to represent you in a meeting with your boss, that makes them more willing to trust you to be telling the truth, to takes risks, or to move forward without all the details.
  • Be real.  Let people know who you are.  Let them understand your motivations.  If you are trying to do something and the motivation isn’t clear—people make it up.  If they trust you, they give you the benefit of the doubt.  Until they trust you, you are better off making your motives clear.  Even if they don’t like what you are doing, they learn to believe that there is nothing hidden.  It’s more important that people understand than that they agree.
  • Listen.  When people believe that you are listening, that you are trying to understand, they begin to trust you.  When you don’t listen, they stop trying to tell you.  When that happens, there is no trust.
  • Treat people with respect.  When people feel respected, they feel whole.  They feel more open to understanding and trusting.
  • Be loyal.  If people know that you are loyal to them, they are much more likely to be loyal to you.  Loyalty is closely related to trust.

These are simple things.  They are not easy to do.  When we are caught up in the day to day tasks of work life, it is hard to remember to do them all.  They are behaviors, though, with huge payoffs.  People who trust you can deliver miracles sometimes, because they are willing to go above and beyond and take the chance that it will be worthwhile.

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Promoted to Manage Your Peers? Awkward.

Promoted to Manage Your PeersThey’ll Hate Me!

If you spend enough time climbing the corporate ladder, or if you work in a small organization, eventually you’ll be promoted to manage your peers.  This is one of the toughest developmental experiences there is.  It’s hard for you.  It’s hard for your peers.  It changes things forever.  It doesn’t have to change things in a bad way, though.  If you handle it right, you and they can grow from the experience.

I’ve known people who’ve turned down such a promotion because they don’t want to lose their friends.  This, of course, is an option.  It’s a short sighted one, in my opinion, though.   We’ll get to that.  First, let’s talk about how to handle it if you decide to take the promotion.

Get Your Head Straight


  • Think of the best manager you ever had and act like him/her.  Don’t go into super boss mode.  Your peers will be super sensitive to any ‘power play’ and if you start making decisions without input, ordering people around, showing who’s in charge, then you will send off alarms that will be hard to turn off.
  • DO NOT go easy on everyone to keep friends.  First of all, it won’t work.  Second of all, you will fail as a manager.  Third of all, you will lose your subordinates’ respect.  Go back to the advice above:  think of the best manager you ever had and act like him/her.
  • Don’t assume that your friends among your peers will support you.  Don’t assume that your non-friends among your peers will sabotage  you.  You can’t count on anyone’s reaction to be as you expect.  Approach the situation as if you just got hired from the outside.  Look at each subordinate through fresh eyes.  What does s/he bring to the table?  What are his/her strengths?  How can you help him/her grow?  How can you form a real team from these folks?
  • Be trustworthy, and just as important, be trusting. Delegate things that you used to do.  Deal (in private) with the fact that others can’t do things as well as you did them–you didn’t do them as well when you started, either.   Never, ever use anything you know from you friendship to get someone to do something.  Give people the benefit of the doubt. DO  NOT play favorites.
  • Your job is to get results for the organization.  Your job is to understand your boss’ priorities and deliver them.  Your job is not to be ‘one of the gang.’  Do your job.
  • Your boss, your new peers and your subordinates will all be watching how you handle this new situation.

Now Learn From My Experience

  • There are people who will not like your promotion, although which ones might surprise you.  They will get over it (likely) or they will leave.  Either way, the problem won’t last long.  There are people who will not only accept your promotion (again, who these folks are may surprise you), but who will also help you succeed at delivering the results you need to deliver. Appreciate these folks.
  • Doing this right is hard.  You won’t be perfect at it.  All you can do is keep trying.  Treat people with respect and for the most part, they’ll appreciate it.  Everybody has to get used to the new normal of this.  It takes time.  Keep trying.  Act like (you should know where I’m going with this) the best manager you ever had.
  • I am friends, close friends, with people who have been my boss, people who have worked for me and with  people who have been both.  Friendship grows, changes, stalls, ends, and re-emerges (Facebook with anyone from high school lately?).  Work relationships affect friendship, but in and of itself, does not make or break friendship.  Take the promotion.

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Multiple Intelligences: IQ, EQ, SQ and the other SQ

What kind of intelligence do you have?

We’ve all heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) which measures our ‘intelligence.’  Most of us have  heard of EQ (Emotional Intelligence), first mentioned by Wayne Payne in  1985 and made famous by Daniel Goleman in 1995.  A few of us have heard of one of the SQs–Spiritual Intelligence or Social Intelligence.  What do they really mean, though?  How important are they to career development?

IQ:  Intelligence Quotient which measures rational thought abilities,  is  considered a critical ‘trait’ for leadership.  IQ associated learning is step-by-step rule based learning.  To be successful, you don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room, but you have to be smart enough.  What ‘smart enough’ is depends on what kind of organization that you’re leading.  Meredith Belbin, a British researcher who focuses on teams, started his research with the assumptions that if he created a team of the smartest people–“A” players–then it will be a high performance team.  What he found was that intelligence itself was not enough.  A high performing team needs team members with a variety of skills and perspectives.

EQ: Emotional intelligence is the ability to assess, access and  control your emotions, and those of others.  Basically, if you have emotional intelligence, you have the ability to perceive, understand, use, and manage emotions.  There are lots of arguments about whether this is “real” intelligence, but most of us know people who are good at this and can see that there is something to it.  Again, EQ is considered a requisite for success in leadership.

SQ(1): Social intelligence is the ability to understand, manage, and navigate complex social networks.  It is also called ‘interpersonal intelligence.’  Leaders of global organizations and project managers of virtual teams require this SQ to be successful.  Some assert that autistic children have low social intelligence.  As the world has grown more complex, as organizations have grown, changed, evolved, this intelligence has become more important.

SQ(2): Perhaps the most controversial of the ‘Q’s’, spiritual intelligence is defined as  “the adaptive use of spiritual information to facilitate everyday problem solving and goal attainment.”(Robert Emmons (2000) )  Emmons proposed 5 components of spiritual intelligence:

  •    The capacity to transcend the physical and material.
  •     The ability to experience heightened states of consciousness.
  •     The ability to sanctify everyday experience.
  •     The ability to utilize spiritual resources to solve problems.
  •     The capacity to be virtuous.

Increasingly, companies are paying attention to spiritual intelligence among their leaders.

So What?

Each of us has certain strengths and natural styles.  We have all met (and perhaps are) the person who is incredibly book smart, but who has absolutely no common sense.  We all know the incredibly smart arrogant emotional bully.  Being too much of one of these, and not enough of the others makes you a “flat tire.”  You can be successful–up to a point.  Depending on your job (scientist, lawyer, teacher, executive) you need more of one and less of the others.  To be successful in almost any job, however, you need some of all of these.

There are tools for each of these that purport to measure these ‘Q’s.’  There are books on each of them.  Check them out.  Start working on developing some of your ‘flat’ spots.

Books That Will Help


Filed under Personal Change, Reframe, Success

Become a Great Leader

Leaders and Leadership as a Process

Do You Want to Become a Great Leader?

How you think about leadership has a profound affect on your success in becoming a good leader.  We all have our individual idea of what a good leader is.  Then we assume that everyone thinks the same thing.  And that is what gets us into trouble.

There are three parts to this:

  • What do you think makes a good leader?
  • What is leadership?
  • How can you adjust to be a good leader for others?

What Do You Think Makes a Good Leader?

When you think of the best leaders you’ve ever experienced, what were their traits?  Were they organized?  Were they decisive?  Were they fair?  Were they nice? “In charge?” Inspirational? Ambitious?  Smart? Successful? Charismatic?  Make your list.

We idealize leaders.  We want them to be what we think a leader should be.  There is a bit of magical thinking about leaders—they are supposed to be what you want them to be, regardless of who they are or what their style is.

In the United States, we want our leaders to be out there in front—leading the charge.  That kind of leadership is considered  inappropriate behavior in some other cultures.   Leaders actually come in all shapes and sizes.  When you do the above exercise–asking what the traits of good leaders are–in a large group of people, they don’t agree.  Each has his/her own vision of what a leader should be.  This comes as a surprise to the people in the group, because we all assume that what we believe is a great leader is universal.  If you ask the group WHO have been great leaders, they generally agree on a (very) few–Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Lincoln, but can’t come to agreement on others–Jobs, Bush, Welsh, for instance.

So What is Leadership?

Leadership is more than just a person and who/what/how that person is.  It is results.  It is situational.  It is followers.  It is removing barriers for people.  It is connection. It is behavior.  It is communicating.  It is clarifying.  Leadership is the combination of all of these.  It is a process that combines all of these.

The leader is the instigator of this leadership process.  The leader is the instrument that stimulates and regulates the process.  The leader does not have to be a certain kind of person, but rather has to have the skills to manage this process and to integrate the elements of the process to achieve the results.

Now, rethink the people who you think are the best leaders in your experience.  How did they manage the elements of the leadership process?  Didn’t they do all of these steps well enough to get the results that the organization needed?

How can you adjust to be a good leader for others?

Reframe the way you think of leadership.  Think of it as a process instead of a particular way of being.  When you think of it this way, evaluate your ability to accomplish the skills of the leadership process.  How can you get better.  Depending on the results you need, the followers you have, the situation you are in, you need to remove barriers, communicate, clarify and adjust the integration of the leadership levers until you get results.  By thinking about it this way, it becomes a much more manageable task than if you have to have a personality transplant or develop charisma in order to be a great leader.

This view of leadership allows you to continue to ‘raise your game’ until you are a great leader.  Practice the skills that need development, hone the delivery of these tools, and learn to adjust to the situation and the followers.


Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Executive Development, Leadership, Reframe, Success

Flip the Switch

Reframe by thinking differently

A Story

I’m going to tell you a story so that you can learn an important lesson without having to go through what I went through to learn it.  How’s that for a deal?  Then you’ll be able to do something that is incredibly easy and you won’t suffer through the lesson on how to do it.

A few years ago, I woke up to the news that there had been an ice storm and school was delayed by a couple of hours.  I was a single Mom and I did what most single Moms do when they learn they have a little extra time.   I decided to do something that I should have done and that I had been putting off.  I decided to go check on my empty house that I had for sale.  Now, why I thought it was a good idea to do that on icy roads, I don’t know, but I did.  As I drove across town to my house, my mind was full of all the things that I needed to do for work, things that wouldn’t happen because I was starting two hours late, and all the people who I  wouldn’t get to talk to because of the weather, etc.  You know how that is—work, work, work.

It was still dark outside when I arrived at the house.  I walked up on the porch and looked through the diamond window in the door.  I made my first discovery of this adventure—ice on the inside of the window.  Just so you know, that is a bad sign.  I opened the door and was astonished to find water pouring from the ceiling.  I reached over to turn on the light (bad idea, just so you know, when you’re standing in water).  The light didn’t come on, so I felt my way across the room and down the stairs to the basement where I felt my way along the wall to the water shut-off.  I came back upstairs and saw that the water had been turning to steam as it came through the ceiling (because the air was so much colder than the water) and then was forming ice on the walls and the floors.  The wind on an outside wall had apparently frozen the pipe, the pipe had burst, causing water to flow down to the basement and put out the furnace, which reduced the temperature in the house thereby freezing more pipes that then burst.  It was a mess!

What do you think happened to the thoughts of work?  Right.  Shoved aside.  Now I was thinking, OMG what do I do?  Is this insured?  How do I clean this mess up?  I called a plumber who came over.  He said, “Lady, we’re going to have to figure out what to do once we figure out if this house can be saved!”  SAVED?!  It’s a house!  It’s just water!

I spent the day dry vac’ing and mopping, calling insurance agents, and trying to get the mess cleaned up.  The house made the newspaper being described as “the ice house.”  (There was a spectacular ice flow that had made its way out the bricks and draped itself down the back wall of the house!)

The next morning was a Saturday.  Soccer practice and kid errands.  Before the kids got up, I decided to go check the house.   On my drive to the house, I was thinking about the house—how was it? What would happen?  What would happen to the floors?  The walls?  When I arrived at the house, I was relieved to see that the downpour had slowed to drip drip drips that were being caught by buckets.  The floors and walls looked ok (that was before I understood what happened to wood floors and paint when it dried out after a coating of ice).
I headed home much relieved.

I got out of the car and my feet slipped out from under me on the ice. The back of my head hit hard on the driveway.  As I was losing consciousness, I realized that I was going to be laying outside in way below freezing temperatures for potentially a long time (it was, after all, a Saturday morning and my house was full of teenagers—they wouldn’t even miss me for hours).  The neighbors would just think we left something in the driveway again and wouldn’t come to investigate.  I also realized that I couldn’t move—at all.  It really is true that all of these thoughts can happen very quickly.  I don’t think it was as much as a minute between the time my head hit the concrete and I lost consciousness.

Where do you think the thoughts of the house went?  Right.  Gone.  I was worried—in this order—about moving ever again and about living. I didn’t have a single thought about the house and work was so far removed that it probably wasn’t even in my brain anywhere.  I came to after a while—don’t know how long it was, but my fingers were frost bitten.  I could move when I came to and I crawled to the house and woke up a kid to take me to the hospital.  My brain didn’t work right for a while, but I learned a huge lesson.

And The Lesson

There is switch in your brain that you can flip. You can change your perspective on what is important, how you’re approaching a problem, how you think about things.  You can do it instantly.  Obviously it was forced on me.  But after I thought about it for a while, I experimented with it.  I would try to “flip the switch” about how I was approaching a problem.  Or a person.

I had a problem with my boss.  I “flipped the switch” and decided to think of her as a customer—customer is always right, right?  Once I started doing that, she didn’t get to me as much.  I started “flipping the switch” to look at problems from the other person’s perspective.  When I did it with work problems, it created more energy—it helped get me “unstuck.”

Try it.  Let me know how it works for you.

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