Rocking the boat can get you thrown to the sharks

29 11 2016

“The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

You’ve been there.  You and your group are in a crunch-time situation (for example, our current business pilot, and the pressure to hit our numbers), and almost everyone on the team has their head down, rowing aggressively (or in this case, smiling & dialing  🙂 ).  At the same time, someone on the team is checking their selfies on the phone, or shopping for holiday gifts.  They’re basically rocking the boat, by making you work harder than them in order for the team to succeed.

Leaders… Those among you who have a leadership title, or just you line workers who have the respect and admiration of your team.  THIS is the time to step up, and confront the person who is rocking the boat instead of rowing with the rest of the team.   Basically, make it more uncomfortable for them to NOT work than for them to work their butt off.  When they do turn around, don’t forget to praise them.  Positive reinforcement and optimism can be a force multiplier, allowing 10 people to accomplish the work of 15!

Speaking of guys…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


Make your point with a pile driver.

20 09 2016

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever.  Use a pile driver.  Hit the point once.  Then come back and hit it again.  Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” ~ Winston Churchill

You’ve heard me speak many times about how valuable it is to have a very diverse team to offset one another’s weaknesses with another person’s complementary strengths.  That means that some well-balanced teams will have a, let’s say, persuader on the team.  This person will have a good idea, and not be at all shy about communicating that idea.  Sometimes you may not be able to get them to stop talking.  It also means that another person on the team may be more mild-mannered, introverted, or just quiet, and may have a good counter-opinion to that persuader… and may never be heard if they don’t speak up, and project their voice (and opinion) loudly.

Leaders, understand that some of the folks on your team may not have the speaking voice, or aggressiveness to stand up to us persuaders (guilty as charged).  It’s going to be up to you to watch the team interactions, and possibly even stop the talking long enough to specifically ask your quiet person what they think, or if they have a relevant point to make.  Quieting down the room and giving your wallflowers a chance to shine has helped my teams avoid a disaster more times than I can count.  And you… the quiet one over there… yeah… Your leader won’t always notice that you have a pertinent point to make, so don’t try to be subtle – bring the pile driver!

Speaking of hits (and whacks) …


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Managing out the drama.

19 09 2016

“Toxic people defy logic.  Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.” ~ Travis Bradberry

I like it when the comic search delivers a quote like the one above.  It can be delivered as a leadership lesson all by itself… but then, what would I have to write about?  We all know toxic people, who love to stir up the drama.  Some, we’re stuck with, because they are family, or married to someone in the family.  Others, we have to work with, and they seem to just skirt the edge of getting fired time after time.  Finally, there are those that we seem to bump into in social gatherings.  They always seem to know of, or are creating a scandal, when it isn’t necessary.  It’s almost like they feed off other people’s pain.

Leaders, it’s imperative that we don’t let these types of people get a foothold on our teams.  It’s our job as leaders to find the drama kings and queens, and to call them out on any drama, immediately and repeatedly.  We must make it more uncomfortable for them to create drama than it is to be reasonable and calm.  If they don’t get the lesson we’re trying to teach, then we must manage them out.  One or 2 toxic people on a team can either poison the work environment, or can create a toxic team, where the best decide to leave, and the worst hang around making it more and more toxic.  You might get lucky, and have a person on the team who will quiet it down on their own, but don’t put that burden on them.  We own the direction that our culture takes.  Be sure to steer it in the drama-free direction.

Speaking of chaos…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Helping your world smile with you.

7 09 2016

“Children learn to smile from their parents.” ~Shinichi Suzuki

For those lucky enough to have experienced their child smiling back at them for the first time – HOW CUTE IS THAT?!?!  That may be the first feedback mechanism ever.  They smile, you are overjoyed, and smile, and their smile gets bigger.  It’s way before their first word, and for me was the first time I was like “Wow, that’s a little grown-up waiting to happen”.

Leaders, positive feedback mechanisms are important.  When problems happen, you can become withdrawn, and be all grumpy about the issue, and your team will also be grumpy and withdrawn.  Or you can smile, take the challenge head-on, and watch how your team pulls with you against whatever the issue is.  As General Colin Powell said – “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier!”  So, smile, and your world will smile with you.

Speaking of smiles…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Humility, because it’s so damn good!

12 07 2016

“There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.” ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Humility – one of those things that will make it easier to go through life… I wish I had more.  Some of the greatest leaders I’ve worked with were so humble that they’d never take credit, always give it.  Even if something was their idea, they would talk about how great the team did… even when the team just hung around and watched the leader single-handedly tackle a problem.  It’s one of those traits that I try to grow more of, but one that I mostly can just talk about in the abstract – ‘cuz I’m so darn good!  (Come on… that was funny.  You know you want to laugh. J )

If you have humility, you’re much more likely to get your team to go the extra yard.  It’s not the only trait of a good leader, but if you’re already there, then foster that trait in yourself and in your own leaders.  If you could use more of it, try to remember how much easier it was to attend class taught by a humble, caring teacher than a condescending one – or worse… a yeller.

Speaking of self(ie)…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

You can’t carry a sofa up stairs alone.

31 05 2016

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” ~ Michael Jordan

If anyone knows how to win championships, it’s got to be MJ.  For some things, it doesn’t matter how good you are by yourself.  Moving a sofa up some stairs can’t be done by one person.  Playing a board game (like Risk) can’t be done by yourself.  Re-creating your grandmother’s world famous Torte recipe can’t be done without her recipe!  (I know, I tried.)

Leaders, no matter how good you are, and how much of your own talent got you to your current position, remember that you didn’t do it alone.  You also won’t make it to the next level without your team.  Those diverse opinions, and strengths where you have opportunity are going to make your team’s finished product a better, stronger, more resilient one than if you just go it alone.

Speaking of games…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

When you stop learning, you stop living.

29 04 2016

“Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior.  Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

Do you want to be better today than you were yesterday?  Then learn something new!  Education doesn’t only come from going to school.  You can learn from books, you can learn from a daily comic, you can learn by asking or watching.  It’s likely that any person that you see is better than you are at SOMETHING.  When I go fishing with 40 buddies, my goal (besides catching fish) is to learn something from each of those people.  Sitting around the campfire, having one-on-one conversations always means I’m coming home knowing something more than I did when I left.

Leaders, remember that your line staff can improve, too.  Give them the opportunities to increase their skill set.  Whether it’s forwarding along a bit of wisdom that you have, allowing them to lead a team through some challenge, or even attend a training event.  We budget for it, and almost every year, we spend less on staff (off site) education than we budgeted for.  Investing in getting them training will almost always pay for itself many times over.

Speaking of study…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.