Archive for leadership tips

How Do You Retain and Grow Your Best Performers?

With the economy growing and the job market tightening, you have two choices as a manager: either bring high potentials along to succeed in higher-level positions or hire from outside. Many leaders like to bring tried and true employees into higher-level positions in the organization. They like to grow their own.

People are motivated when you let them know you want them to be successful. You can boost your stars and star-potential employees with a highly focused workshop coming up in December.

I’m slated to lead a workshop called Success Factors for Emerging Leaders through the Southern Oregon University Professional Development Series in December. (Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. Please forgive me.)

Scheduled on December 14 in Medford, OR, the half-day workshop is for new managers, emerging leaders and high-potential employees ready to move up in the organization.

We will cover topics such as:

  • How do you make a successful transition into management and avoid tripping over common first-time mistakes?
  • How do you develop as a new leader, making sure you have the right roadmap and directions for success?

This hands-on workshop will explain and demonstrate essential competencies for leading effectively with social and emotional intelligence. Attendees will acquire and put into practice the necessary tools to better understand how others perceive them while being increasingly attuned to the needs of their team, the management team and the organization. With this heightened understanding, participants will be equipped to develop the confidence, relationships and authority required to successfully transition into a new leadership role.

I’m curious—do you have any success (or horror) stories about transitioning to a new role within your organization? What and who helped you? Please share so I can use in the workshop and others can benefit from your experiences.


“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.”
Warren Bennis


5 Annoying Boss Habits That Will Tick off Your Team and Other Lessons from Office Space

Have you ever had a boss who had some irritating foibles that drove you up the wall? Those behaviors may have even become an inside joke among employees, a peculiar turn of phrase setting off a burst of laughter among coworkers or a physical quirk you mimic at the dinner table to make your kids giggle.

As funny as those traits might be, matters turn serious when you consider the high cost of employee turnover in the workplace. Make sure you’re not driving good talent away by practicing any of the following habits.

1) Did You Get the Memo?

Office Space is a comedic crash course on how not to behave as a boss, but the reason it resonates so deeply with audiences is its striking fidelity to corporate life. How many times has your organization adopted a new policy that yields little substance while only creating more busywork for employees? Whether it’s putting cover sheets on TPS reports or keeping a daily task log, it gets in the way of doing real work and drains you of motivation.

2) Eight Bosses

Also perfectly illustrated in Office Space are the hazards of management bloat. As Peter Gibbons notes in the above clip, “When I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”

3) We Need to Talk about Your Flair

Does your company make you wear or do silly things as a cheap way of promoting their branding? Instead of living a brand based on a blend of research, reality and aspiration, they might tell you to use certain catch phrases or wear a particular color on Fridays. These infantilizing habits make you feel more like you’re at a high school pep rally than in a serious workplace.

4) Ahh, I’m Also Gonna Need You to Go Ahead and Come in on Sunday, Too

Have you had managers who spring surprises on you at the last minute and just presume you’re okay with them? Like telling—not asking—you to work on Saturday … and Sunday, and then phrasing it in such a way that you don’t have a choice in the matter. Bosses who don’t respect their team members’ personal time have overstepped their boundaries, and those who decree royal edicts rather than making requests are likely to find themselves without minions one day.

5) The Ratio of People to Cake Is Too Big

Do you have any Milton Waddams at your company? Employees thrive in an atmosphere of quality, fairness and respect, and if one or more team members feel they’re being slighted, that is a recipe for a toxic workplace. Lack of fairness doesn’t have to come from mistreatment, exclusion or bullying—it may also take the form of favoritism. If some employees feel a manager favors one of their colleagues, they will not only come to resent the manager but also to detest that colleague. In other words, if you’re going to have cake, make sure there’s an equal portion for everyone. After all, you don’t want any Miltons setting the building on fire.

More Behaviors to Avoid

Read more great tips on annoying boss habits to avoid in Six Boss Behaviors That Drive Your Team Members Bonkers and Five Meetings Your Employees Will Thank You for Killing or Fixing at The Balance.

Want to Be a Better Leader?

You may not be guilty of the above vices, but you probably have some habits you’re unaware of that may be irking your team. If you’re ready to become not only the best possible boss but the best possible you, get started with leadership coaching by calling Chris Cook at 541.601.0114 or emailing her today.

Blue Ocean Leadership: 4 Steps to Boosting Employee Engagement

Surfer on a Blue Ocean Wave
There are half a trillion reasons why every American should care about employee disengagement. They’re called dollar bills, and that’s how many the US economy loses annually because of the 20% of discontented employees who undermine workplace productivity, according to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report.

That counterproductive 20% is abetted by the 50% of apathetic employees who simply punch the clock and then count the minutes until they can punch out.

What about the remaining 30%? Those are the lonely few who are dedicated to doing the best job they can.

And why do you think one-fifth of the American workforce is so discontented? You guessed it. Poor leadership.

Blue Ocean Strategy

INSEAD professors of strategy and management; codirectors of the Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in France; and Blue Ocean Strategy authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne offer some fresh ideas about how to reinvigorate the dispassionate 70%. They wrote about their findings in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Originally designed as a marketing model aimed at converting noncustomers into customers, Blue Ocean Strategy translates surprisingly well to the workplace. Viewing leadership from this new perspective, Kim and Mauborgne realized the fifth of disengaged employees represent the leaders’ noncustomers. That’s when they decided to apply their marketing strategy to building employee engagement—with stellar results.

Think about leadership as a service employees either buy or don’t buy. What can turn those non-buyers into loyal customers?

3 Leadership Approaches

According to the authors’ hundreds of interviews with managers and employees over the past decade, the following leadership approaches can help trigger the conversion.

1) Focus on acts and activities.

Instead of worrying about what kinds of people leaders should be, concentrate on what actions they can take to boost employee motivation and productivity. Actions are not only easier to change than personality traits, but they are also more measurable.

2) Tap into market realities.

Translated to the workplace, this means asking employees what leaders are doing wrong as well as what they could start doing to inspire employees to thrive.

3) Distribute leadership across all management levels.

Often organizations focus on executive leadership, but it’s the middle and frontline managers who tend to know employees better. By distributing leadership responsibilities across the top, middle, and frontline managers, organizations can access a deep well of often-untapped talent, thus enhancing engagement across the organization.

4 Steps to Stronger Leaders and More Engaged Employees

1) Recognize your leadership reality.

You have to understand where your leadership stands before you can plot a strategy for improvement. By using analytic visuals called As-Is Leadership Canvases, organizations can assess employees’ perceptions of how the top, middle, and frontline managers spend their time and energy. A cross-section of 12–15 respected managers leads this companywide conversation, with three subteams each focused on a different level of leadership. The team then compiles Leadership Profiles after a month to six weeks’ worth of interviews. These profiles identify the 10–15 dominant leadership acts and activities at each level based on how frequently they were mentioned during the interview process. The As-Is canvas charts these factors on the horizontal axis of the grid, while the degree to which leaders practice them is registered on the vertical axis. Typically, 20 to 40% of the acts managers tend to practice offer little value to employees, while on the flipside, 20 to 40% of the acts employees consider valuable are underpracticed by managers.

2) Develop alternative leadership profiles.

Once the team understands what managers are doing poorly as well as what they could be doing better, they can visualize positive alternative profiles. The team looks for cold spots (time-consuming acts that yield few benefits) and hot spots (actions not currently being taken that have the potential to energize employees). A second round of interviews is conducted to create the Blue Ocean Leadership Grid featuring these four areas:

a) Eliminate wasteful acts and activities.
b) Reduce not terribly beneficial acts and activities.
c) Raise existing beneficial acts and activities.
d) Create new beneficial acts and activities.

This grid is used to draft two to four possible To-Be Leadership Profiles.

3) Pick To-Be Leadership Profiles.

These aspirational leadership profiles are then presented at a “Leadership Fair” by the subteams. Participants include top, middle, and frontline managers as well as board members. The original senior team presents the As-Is canvases, establishing the need for change. This is followed by the subteams’ presentation of the To-Be profiles for each management group. The attendees vote on their favorite leadership profile, and the senior executives then ask attendees what prompted their votes.

4) Institutionalize new leadership practices.

The selected To-Be profiles are distributed to the top, middle, and frontline leaders, and meetings are held to discuss the actions that should be eliminated, reduced, raised, and created. Monthly follow-up meetings document employees’ feedback on their managers’ progress toward the new profiles. This routine check-in reinforces the desired changes and encourages accountability.

Fair Process

The principles of fair process—engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity—govern the four steps of Blue Ocean Leadership. Employees and managers at all levels feel ownership in the process, thus overcoming resistance to change and creating a sense of buy-in. Crucially, fair process fosters trust across the organization.

Get Started

Are you ready to try out Blue Ocean Leadership at your organization? Contact me at 541-601-0114 or chris@capiche.us to start the conversation today.

See the Blue Ocean Leadership website for more details.