The value of values

Did that title turn you off? I understand. Values are an eye-roller for many people. Organizational leaders love to create their core-values lists, but … how real are they? And when it’s just a bunch of nice-to-have / wish-we-followed words framed on the wall, who can blame people for rolling their eyes? Especially when we witness the mis-alignment between those nice …

Don’t follow me, I’m lost too!

A colleague, having read my recent post “Leadership, Power, and Conflict,” shared his definition of leadership with me. “A leader is someone who has followers.” He added, “So, if you want to be a leader, you need to do two things: (1) Pick a direction and (2) Get people to follow you.” Simple, thought-provoking, and  eye-opening, this demands that we ask ourselves: in …

End the tyranny of the urgent!

The tyranny of the urgent over the merely important – it’s a very real thing for many of my clients and, admittedly, often for myself as well. One of the key tools I use to keep that tyranny from running (and ruining) my schedule and my life is the weekly Reflective Review process that I write about in an Action Paper. …

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer

It’s an old saying. “Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.” Despite the passionate counter-statement “There are no stupid questions!”, there absolutely are questions that invite a stupid answer. How does that happen? All too easily. A question asked without providing context for how the answer will be used significantly reduces the likelihood that there will be a real …

Sticks, stones, and name-calling

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s a familiar refrain we learn from our parents as children, meant to soothe the pain of being called nasty names by playmates. However, if you’re like most of us, you’ll remember that it wasn’t particularly effective either in helping us feel better or in stopping the name-calling. The …

Leadership, power, and conflict

I know someone who equates leadership with power-over, and vehemently rebels at any sign that his business partner wants to encroach on his territory or take an active leadership role in their business. (I’ll call him James.) I once worked with someone who didn’t have and didn’t want an official leadership title, but who by the simple force of her personality, intelligence, and insight was a powerful thought leader …

Don’t clothe the skeleton!

“So, I’m going to tell them that I know this has been hard for them. I understand how the disagreements we’ve been having have triggered a lot of unpleasant memories of things that went badly wrong under past leadership. For instance, I know Sam really feels – ” “Wait! Stop!” I said. My client and I were planning an upcoming meeting …

Hearing – or understanding?

“I hear what you’re saying.” Whenever someone says that to me, I always want to reply, “Sure. I hear the birds chirping, a car driving past, and someone on the phone 20 feet away. So what?” People are hesitant to say, “I understand you.” Maybe they don’t understand. Maybe they fear they’ll be misunderstood as saying, “I agree with you,” when, in fact, …

Why “thank you” isn’t enough

“Thank you.” It’s the nice thing to say. It’s what our parents taught us. Even when it’s no more than a polite reflex, it’s still a real expression of gratitude or appreciation. And when you’re in a casual situation with someone you don’t know or with whom you don’t have an ongoing, meaningful relationship – such as the clerk at the grocery …

I must be getting somewhere…

At a planning and strategy meeting the other day, a client gloomily confessed that she’s going to have to do something about one of her employees. “She’s always very busy, but she’s not getting anywhere,” she said. “She’s great at writing reports …” “That say nothing,” I finished for her when she trailed off. We’ve all been there: the challenge …