Interview: Asking for Money!

Whenever I have a chance to talk with Beth Buelow, one of my favorite podcast hosts as well as one of my all-round favorite people, I’m tempted to learn how to turn cartwheels just so I can express my excitement more completely. (No, clearly I was never a cheerleader…!)

So yes, I was absolutely delighted to return to her show “How Can I Say This” to talk about that thing we all worry about: asking for money.

Whether you’re trying to get a work project approved and funded, seeking a well-deserved raise, preparing a proposal for an important client, or asking for donations for a non-profit that matters to you – whatever your “ask” is – there are steps you can follow that will make it much more likely to get a “yes” answer.

Listen here:

And you can find all my podcast interviews, with Beth and others, here:

gljudson Podcast interviews

What’s the #1 problem for new managers?

A six-level pyramid: vision-missino-goals-strategy-tactics-actionIn an informal (but remarkably conclusive) survey I conducted last year, I asked a group of senior leaders, mid-level managers, and executive coaches one simple question:

What is the single biggest challenge you see for recently-promoted first-line managers and leaders?

The answers were 100% the same – and 100% not what I expected.

Without hesitation, every one of them said: Strategic thinking!

Oh. Of course.

These new, first-line leaders were, up until this point in their career, individual contributors: team members responsible for executing tasks. They’d never been asked – or taught – to think strategically, and in all likelihood seldom considered what “strategy” means or how it affects them.

For their entire career, they’d been rewarded (or chastised) for how well (or poorly) they completed their assigned tasks. And then they were probably promoted into this new leadership role because of their superior ability to execute on – you guessed it – those tasks.

But – oops! – this is no longer what their managers and leaders want from them, as evidenced by the clear notes of frustration I heard when I asked that question.

Strategic thinking is a BIG shift from task orientation. As you can see from the image included above, there are several steps between “strategy” and “action plan / tasks.”

And here’s the really sneaky bit: even senior leaders are often unclear or inconsistent on how they define “strategy” and “strategic thinking.”

It’s no wonder our fledgling managers and leaders are confused.

How do you define those terms? And do you teach strategic thinking in your organization?

gljudson Strategic thinking

Did you fall for “go big or go home”?

Bare footprints heading into the difference

The Internet wants you to set BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Dream big or don’t bother. Shoot for the stars. Follow your passion.

It’s great to have a big dream.

But it’s not enough. It doesn’t stop there – because if it does stop there, you won’t get started, which means you’ll never get where you want to go.

The problem with BHAGs and big dreams and star-shots is that once the euphoria and excitement wear off, well, it’s kind of like the morning after a wild party. And the big-dream hangover can be vicious.

What’s the remedy?

Plan small.

Visualize and imagine and dream – but then understand what it takes to get there. Break it down. Consider what might go wrong. Think about the next steps. SMALL steps.

In fact, think about the smallest possible next step you can take. And then break that down into something even smaller.

It’s not that I think you can’t do it. I know you can. But I also know, from personal experience and from working with clients, that if you try to go too fast or too far at once, it won’t end well.

Take one tiny step at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. And overnight sensational success can take years.

gljudson Career development

How are you playing the game of life?

White board with a "leave your comfort zone" flow chart.

Are you playing to win – or are you playing not to lose?

Here’s what playing not to lose looks like.

  • Not speaking up when you have an idea.
  • Keeping your mouth shut and head down even when you disagree.
  • Hoping “they” will notice how hard you’re working and give you that raise or promotion (instead of asking for it).
  • Staying in a job you don’t love instead of taking action to find something better.
  • Doing exactly what you’re told, instead of suggesting a different, possibly better way.
  • Accepting how you’re treated – by anyone – instead of standing up for yourself and what you want.

( Fill in the blank lines with your own ways of playing not to lose.)

Playing not to lose means playing small. It means being and doing less than you’re capable of. It means marking time instead of taking risks. Staying comfortable instead of growing. Compressing yourself into someone you’re not, instead of stretching into who you are.

Sure, you need to assess the risk factors. You need to pick your battles.

But be careful. “Assessing risk” and “picking your battles” can easily become playing not to lose.

This morning’s blog post from Seth Godin was about opportunity cost. As he says, “Every choice has a price.”

This is the price we pay when we make any choice – we lose the opportunities that might have come our way if we’d chosen differently. We can’t not pay the price, because we’re always making choices. As they say, even no choice is still a choice.

But we can be aware and intelligent about the price we’re paying.

When you choose to play not to lose, what opportunities are you missing?

It’s your life and your career. What are you doing with it?

gljudson Career development

The case for higher employee turnover (yes, really)

Silhouettes of business people walking awayEmployee turnover – the rate at which employees leave your organization, whether voluntarily or not – is often considered just a fact of life. Some people will leave. Some people will get fired or laid off. This is not new news; carry on.

Occasionally, someone will make the effort to evaluate turnover relative to industry averages or some other measurement. And sometimes, when turnover seems unusually or undesireably high, initiatives are undertaken to engage employees and reduce the rates.

But what about times when turnover is unusually low? Should we celebrate? Pop the champagne corks? Give ourselves high-fives all ’round?

Not so fast!

Low turnover can be a sign of a quality culture and top-notch employee engagement.

It can also be a sign that the organization is stagnating, hidebound, and un-creative.

Low turnover, especially in thought leadership and middle-management ranks, means new ideas aren’t coming into the organization. It means that people who have been there for years, even decades, are steeped in “the way we do things here” – even if they never say that directly.

People are becoming aware that diversity of thought is just as important as all the other types of diversity we’re learning to focus on. (For more on this, see my post “Mindset: the new diversity.”) And diversity of thought (and other types of diversity) is typically achieved only when new people come into the organization, at all levels.

I’m aware of all the reasons for promoting from within, and I agree with them (mostly, anyway). It enhances morale, provides motivation for advancement along a career path, and so on.

And of course I’m not advocating firing anyone just because they’ve been around for a while.

Just be aware of where your ideas are coming from, notice if you’re not generating enough new ideas, and consider the best ways to bring in fresh thinking.

Especially if your turnover rate seems particularly low for your industry.

gljudson Strategic thinking

Does your team depend on you … a little too much?

Photo of many hands raised

I was talking with a colleague recently about the “mom” (or, of course, “dad”) factor in leadership.

Teams look to their leaders for guidance and direction, and that’s obviously necessary. But like any good thing, there’s a flip side when it becomes TOO MUCH of a good thing.

And that’s what happens when, for any number of reasons, the individuals on your team become overly reliant on you, their leader, for every answer to every question. We dubbed this the “mom” factor, as in, “Mom, can I have this? Mom, can I do that? Mom, what should I do about …?”

Why is this a problem? Here are just a few reasons.

  • It takes up wayyyy too much of your time. I don’t need to elaborate on this, I’m sure.
  • It takes up wayyyy too much of their time – how much more productive could they be if they made decisions and took action on their own, instead of waiting to ask you?
  • They’re not learning and developing their skills, knowledge, or capacity.

Why does this happen?

  • The organizational culture doesn’t allow people to make mistakes.
  • Your team culture doesn’t allow people to make mistakes.
  • You have a hard time delegating – really delegating, as in, letting people do things their own way rather than yours. (For more on this, read the post “The Dangers of Delegation: A true story with dog.”)
  • Your team members started out as beginners, and you’re still managing them that way.

Clearly, there are some decisions you need to make and some actions you need to direct.

But ask yourself: are you too involved? Do you get frustrated because too many of your team are tugging on your sleeve, “mom”-ing or “dad”-ing away your time?

If so, maybe it’s time to re-set expectations.

Be clear. Hold a meeting, either as a team or with each individual, and explain that the next step in their professional development is for them to start making more decisions and answering more of their own questions. (This makes it “all about them” and their career, instead of being about you and your feelings of frustration!)

Decide before the meeting what level of decision you’re authorizing them to make, and be explicit in explaining that. Let them know it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as – and this is a key point – they can “show their work” – meaning they can explain their thought process and reasons for deciding the way they did. Be clear that, of course, you always want to be notified when a mistake happens, because you never want to be blindsided.

If you’re thinking this will take some work and planning on your part, you’re right.

But isn’t that better than being “dad”-ed or “mom”-ed to distraction?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have time to focus on the decisions and actions that really are important for you to make?

gljudson Leadership

Whose career is it, anyway?

Word cloud focused around Career Development

I wandered into my career by chance.

From liberal arts major, to business intelligence software design and development, to Director of a technology consulting division, to leadership geek …

There’s a thread connecting it all, but I can only see it in hindsight. (More than a thread, really; it’s a consistant theme from early childhood of understanding people’s motivations, needs, and desires, and seeing patterns and options for moving forward. I can explain further if you want to know more (contact form opens in new tab) – but I wouldn’t have been able to until four or five years ago!)

I don’t want to change any of it; it all plays into what I do now, and why I do it. But nonetheless I have great admiration for people who are intentional about their careers. I read about successful people who have plotted out a fulfilling and financially rewarding career from college, maybe an advanced degree, and into their work lives, and I’m just in awe.

I’m happy with where I am – very happy, because I love what I do – but I also wonder if I could have gotten here sooner, with less flailing, frustration, and uncertainty. Because up until I started my own business – and, if I’m being honest, not until some time into that endeavor – I simply allowed myself to bob along like a cork in the stream.

Whose career is this, anyway?

It’s mine, but I allowed circumstance, chance, and various managers and bosses to push me in one direction or another, without ever really taking ownership or control of where I was going.

If you’re doing that, I invite you to take a step back.

Look at the trajectory of where you’ve been, and think about where you really want to go.

And then, of course, consider what it will take to get you there.

Entrepreneurs know we need to invest in our learning and professional development – or we won’t be successful. We write the checks to hire coaches and take classes.

People working in organizations tend to think their company should pay for their professional education and support.

If that sounds like you, you might want to reconsider. Personally investing in your career pays off in many ways, including being able to set your own direction, moving toward what you want versus where the stream takes you – or where your current manager thinks you “should” go. You’ll reap the rewards faster and more plentifully than you might think.

Whose career is it, anyway?

gljudson Career development

Which type of goal works best?

A red and white target with a red dart hitting the center.

Tis the season! Everyone’s setting – or has already set – goals for the year.

But what you may not realize is that there’s not just one type of goal.

Most people set …

Outcome Goals

An outcome goal is exactly what it sounds like: a goal to achieve a specific outcome or result. Lose 25 pounds. Drive an 8% increase in profits year over year. Read a book a week. Run a marathon by September.

And so on.

Outcome goals are necessary: if we want to get someplace, it’s helpful to know where that “someplace” actually is.

But they’re not sufficient. To actually get to “someplace,” we also need …

Process Goals

HOW will you get those results? What actions will you take?

Some actions will be one-off. Some actions will repeat, whether daily, weekly, or monthly.

How will you get to that 24-pounds-lighter you? What actions will you take? Will you go to the gym every day? hire a fitness coach for an initial assessment and plan? walk the dog, rain, snow, or shine? eliminate sugar from your diet?

How will you increase profits 8% over last year? Sell something new? Make more sales calls? Increase your marketing efforts?

As a side note, you’ll want to measure the effectiveness of all your process goals. Are they actually getting you closer to where you want to be? If not, tweak, change, update – whatever is necessary to move you forward.

And then, to support of these first two types of goals, you need …

Feeling Goals

When we set outcome goals and define the process goals necessary to get there, we’re usually trying to create change in our lives – sometimes significant change.

This can be daunting.

(For more on why change is so hard, check out the two white papers on my Useful Papers page – they address change within organizations, but the concepts are relevant for individuals as well.)

It’s important, therefore, to pay attention to how we want to feel as we execute on the process goals and achieve the outcomes.

How will running that marathon make you feel? Strong, powerful, confident, healthy? Or something else?

What about reading a book a week? Will it help you feel more informed, more relaxed, more interesting, or what?

Defining how you want to feel, both when you actually achieve the result and along the way as you do the things that get to you that result, will help keep you motived when the change just seems like too much.

A powerful combination

Together, these three types of goals will help you achieve far more than any one of them alone.

Without outcome goals, you don’t have an objective in mind. As Lewis Carroll is (mis)quoted* from Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Or as Yogi Berra commented, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

Without process goals, you don’t have a road map for how to get to the outcome.

And without feeling goals, you’re at risk of frustration, overwhelm, and discouragement.

But there’s one more type of goal …

Vague goals

You’ll notice that each of the examples I listed at the beginning – weight loss, profitability, reading, and running – had a measurement applied to it. Twenty-five pounds, 8%, one per week, and by September. (Bonus points if you noticed that the weight-loss goal didn’t have a “by when” date!)

All too often, people omit the measurement.

Vague goals are virtually impossible to achieve, because you’ll never know when you arrive.

Don’t set vague goals.

DO set your goals in triads: outcome, process, and feeling.

You’ll be far more likely to achieve what you want – and have a better time getting there!

* To see how this actually appears in the book, click here:

gljudson Career development

Don’t do it!

The word RESOLUTIONS spelled out in Scrabble tiles

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

May I suggest that you don’t?

The last New Year’s resolution I ever made – and the only one I ever actually kept – was to … (wait for it) … never make another New Year’s resolution.

The start of a year seems like a great time to reset and step forward into a better version of ourselves and our lives. And it’s true that anniversaries like this feel relevant and even important.

So we take this opportunity to make a big commitment to BIG CHANGE.

But … change doesn’t typically happen in big jumps; it happens in small increments.

On top of that, the type of change we set for ourselves at the New Year mark tends to be “should” change.

You know…

  • I “should” go to the gym
  • I “should” eat healthier foods
  • I “should” stop drinking / smoking / whatever your “should stop” thing is

And so on.

“Should” changes aren’t very motivating. They’re typically guilt-driven or inspired by external pressure from family and friends.

And then when we don’t follow through – when we break the commitment to ourselves – we feel even more guilty and annoyed with ourselves.

So I hope I’m not too late (since you’re reading this after January 1st) to suggest that you just don’t do it.

In place of the resolution, I offer a different process. An ongoing process that you can do for any time chunk: a day, a week, a month, a quarter, and, yes, a whole year.

You can find the paper describing how it works here: The Discipline of Reflective Review.

Enjoy. And let me know what you think and how it works for you!

gljudson Self-talk

Are you one of the 69%?

Closeup photo of someone holdinmg a can with a cord and shouting into it.According to a Harris Poll / Interact survey, 69% of managers are “often uncomfortable” communicating with their employees.

I think that number is probably a lot higher. I would be willing to bet ALL managers and leaders are uncomfortable in at least some interactions with their teams.

Communication is an essential leadership skill.

It’s also a skill where there’s seldom a definite right answer. People are unpredictable, situations can be tense, and knowing the exact right thing to say to get someone to do what you want (or stop doing what you don’t want) is an unrealistic, and generally unattainable, goal.

The best we can do is … the best we can do.

But for those of us who take management and leadership seriously, that’s not a very comfortable place to be.

Meanwhile, a recent Gallup research poll shows that only 13% of employees feel their leadership communicates effectively … meaning 87% of employees feel their leadership does not communicate well.

There’s a problem here.

But what can we do about it?

Start by recognizing how normal this is

You’re not alone in this. The survey results make that very clear!

What’s really going on?

The minute someone starts feeling uncomfortable in a situation, that person retreats into a “self-centric” world. In this discomfort, even the most empathetic of individuals begin thinking only about themselves – how they feel, what they want, and what they really wish would happen.

As you read this, I’m sure you can tell how unhelpful that is – and also how natural and human it is. 

Another key leadership skill is self-awareness

When you can notice and acknowledge your discomfort, you can manage it.

There’s no silver bullet or magic wand here. The reality is that communication is often difficult and uncomfortable, no matter who you are or whom you’re speaking with. I think we all know this, even though we also all wish it were different!

Adding to this uncomfortable puzzle is that noticing, acknowledging, and managing discomfort in these situations usually means feeling vulnerable.

I suspect vulnerability is another key leadership skill. What do you think?

gljudson Better conversations