Having Difficult Conversations – Just Have a Beer!


Giving feedback (especially negative feedback) can be uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, clear feedback is integral to effective leadership.  Indeed, feedback helps us grow – all of us.

The BEER technique is a simple way of giving difficult feedback.  There are an number of steps.  But you must first summarize the situation you must address. What is the issue? Who is  involved? Make this 100% clear from the outset. (more…)

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Delegation in Five Easy Steps


Delegation is the cornerstone of effective leadership. However, few people know how to delegate. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to delegate effectively:

Five steps:

Step One: Get clarity! What does success look like? What roles or tasks are you delegating? Define the desired result. Make the goal 100% clear.

Step Two: Get commitment from the person accepting the new tasks or role. If he is not 100% committed to assuming the additional task, delegation is doomed to failure.

Step Three: Define an action plan to accomplish the delegated task or role. (Managers must be ready to accept ideas, or new ways of accomplishing the task. This is where the person doing the delegated task can propose changes in the process for improved efficiency.)

Step Four: Dedicate necessary resources (human, financial, technical) so the person doing the task, or role, has the requisite tools to succeed. Moreover, the Manager (who is delegating the task) will commit to helping out if the person doing the delegated task needs more support. This is a safety net.

Step Five: Check results at a specific future time. If the work is well done, the delegation is complete. However if the job is inadequate, the Manager must give his colleague more training, and other resources, ensuring success going forward.  This is key. Shortcomings are learning experiences.

Delegation is simple, but not easy. British comedian and management consultant, John Cleese, summarized delegation: “Take your hands off but keep your eyes on.” (more…)

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The Three Best Ways to Build Trust:

A recent study by Signal vs. Noise – including of 597 operations and managerial workers – discovered three powerful ways of boosting trust; namely:

Show vulnerability

Over one-quarter of the people said leaders build trust by acknowledging their shortcomings. That’s no surprise.  Lencioni’s classic work on teamwork says that trust is all about vulnerability.  Team members who trust each other are more comfortable sharing information about failures, weaknesses, and even fears. When people are willing to admit the truth about themselves, they won’t waste time on political games, wasting precious time and resources.  Vulnerability is a shortcut to authenticity.

It is a two-way street: The vulnerable leader appears more empathetic, and trusted. Each person knows the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial information. Effective teams have no mysteries. No one gains from keeping skeletons in the closet.

Explain the intent behind your actions.

Over one-quarter of the people said leaders must explain the intent behind their actions.  Why? The labor force is increasingly sophisticated, educated, and informed.  They want to understand why the leader is taking various steps. Intent is part of a three-step process.  First, clarify the goal.  Then formulate action plans.  Finally, explain why the action steps are necessary to achieve the goal.

Ambiguity on overall intent is toxic to the team’s overall commitment.  Your intent needs to be crystal clear. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” (more…)

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How to be a Meeting Rockstar

What type of a meeting do you want to have?

Directed Meeting:  This is quarterbacked by a single person (let’s call him the Manager).  The Manager talks to his colleagues, perhaps asking questions. Usually there’s no collaboration between the participants.  This is the most over-used and boring style of meeting. However, Directed Meetings are useful when managers need to address a crisis or pressing problem.

Presentations are meetings where one person presents information on a specific topic.  There’s no collaboration, aside from questions, usually at the end.  Presentations are useful. Just make sure the speaker knows his stuff, has pertinent material, and keeps it lively.

Status Reports are presentations, but often with several experts.  Again, there is no collaboration. Use them to convey information. That’s it.  Often you can accomplish the same goal with a note, newsletter, or blog. Don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings!

Collaborative Meetings:  The Manager delegates topics to his colleagues.  In turn, the colleagues present those topics to the entire group. This has three big advantages over the “Directed Meeting”.  First, participants learn presentation skills. Second, engagement is higher because the meeting is a team effort, rather than a Manager monologue. Third, the Manager can learn from others, rather than preach from the podium.

Collaborative Meetings are an easy upgrade from Directed Meeting.  Collaboration makes the meeting more interesting, for everyone; but you need a few more riffs to be a Rockstar: (more…)

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DiSC Basics

William Moulton Marston created the DISC model in 1931.  The DISC is based on behavioral studies, dating back to the time of the Greek Doctor, Hippocrates (400 B.C.).  DISC is derived from two observations:

Observation #1: Some people are more OUTGOING, while others are more RESERVED.
Outgoing people are decisive.  They want quick results.  They readily adapt methods in order to achieve goals. These are “go-getters.” Outgoing people are involved in projects, civic clubs, PTA, church groups, and various organizations. They gravitate towards leadership.

On the other hand, reserve people are slower, more careful, studious and patient.   Reserved people are reluctant to get involved in too many activities. Socially they are less active. They are critical and attentive to quality.  They dig into fine details. While outgoing people wants quick results, the reserved people focus on quality output.

Observation # 2: Some people have TASK-FOCUS, while others have PEOPLE-FOCUS. Some people are focused on getting things done (tasks), whilst others are focused on the people around them, relationships, and feelings (people).

The DISC starts with a 24-question survey, probing people on these four tenancies (i.e., outgoing-versus-reserved, and tasks-versus-people). (more…)

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First Things First

‘First Things First’ is the habit of organizing activities around goals and priorities, rather than managing time.  Okay, but how do we focus on priorities, when our lives are full of urgencies and distractions?   It starts with a model:

Every action has two drivers; namely, urgency and importance.  If we put urgency and importance on separate vectors, they are the backbone of Steven Covey’s four-quadrant model:

Quadrant One actions are both urgent and important. You must do them immediately because delays have serious consequences.  For example, if your baby has a high fever, you must look after your baby now!  The fever is urgent and very important. Yes, urgent and important issues are unavoidable, but many of us spend all our time in Quadrant One, leaving no time for long-term goals and values. Effectiveness means shrinking the size of Quadrant One.

Quadrant Two is the heart of powerful leadership.  These tasks are critical to long-term goals and values, such as: building meaningful relationships, writing mission statements, exercising, learning new skills, planning, and true recreation.  Inherently, we know Quadrant Two is crucial, but this quadrant is neglected because we waste  time in Quadrants Three and Four.

Quadrant Three is the zone of urgent yet petty things.  These tasks feel important because they matter to someone.  Nevertheless, they are irrelevant to your long-term goals. Quadrant three includes shallow relationships, aimless meetings, most incoming calls, and dumb reports.

Quadrant Four is a pure waste of time: This includes trivial discussions, busy (but meaningless) work, redundant emails, gossip, checking cell phones every 5 minutes, listening to perennial complainers, surfing the Internet, reading junk mail and so forth. (more…)

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