Are you ready to WIN? (and that’s NOT what you think!)

Graphic of a multi-armed sign reading "Pulled In Too Many Directions"I am not a fan of long hours, hustle-at-all-costs, and burnout. Been there, done that, and I don’t even want to see the T-shirt!

Yet I’ve attended plenty of meetings where the team was exhorted to “crush it,”  “kill your numbers,” “beat the {unreasonable} deadline,” and so on.

Frankly, even typing those terms makes me feel slightly ill.

So when I ask, “Are you ready to WIN?”, that approach is not what I mean. In fact, quite the opposite!

As a leader, you’re trying to keep up with a million things at once. Especially if leadership and management are new roles for you, figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing, never mind how to handle it all, can be overwhelming and exhausting.

Did you know that for 500 years from the first known occurrence of the word “priority” in the 1400s, there was no such thing as “multiple priorities”?  Yep. “Priority” was never plural until, sometime in the 1900s, someone brilliantly (not!) decided that we could get even more done if we had multiple “top priorities.”

Does that sound familiar? Maybe so familiar that you hadn’t even noticed that it’s a little … odd … to operate as if there could be several Most Important Things To Do?

There can be only one Most Important Thing.

And so when you’re swamped with all the things, stop. Breathe.

And ask yourself:


Right now, this moment. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, not this afternoon.

What’s important now?

That’s the WIN I’m referring to.

And that question can change your life, if you let it.

(This question, and the data regarding “priority” vs. “priorities,” is from Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown. I’ll have more to say about this book, and a few others, in a future post on books every leader should read.)

gljudson Management & Leadership

Whatcha gonna do about that?

White board with the words "Today I will..." in red marker“I’d love to get a promotion.”

Whatcha gonna do about that?

“I want to change careers.”

Whatcha gonna do about that?

“I’d be a good team lead!”

Whatcha gonna do about that?

“I dream of a house in the country.”

Whatcha gonna do about that?

“I’d like to be CEO someday.”

Whatcha gonna do about that?

Wishes, dreams, wants, desires, ambitions…

Whatcha gonna do about that?

Without taking action, they’ll always be “someday.”

And as the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Whatcha gonna do about that?

gljudson Career development

Do you have Tall Poppy syndrome?

Photo of a vivid red poppy against a lightly-cloudy blue skyTall Poppy syndrome is the desire to mow down those you feel are above you or head of you – those who seem more successful, wealthier, drive better cars, have nicer offices, and so forth.

It comes with a desire to not be a Tall Poppy yourself.

But there’s a big difference between arrogance and well-earned pride.

And if you find yourself wanting to cut the Tall Poppies in your life down to size, you’re probably not as confident or self-assured about your own accomplishments as you could be.

In fact, you might want to take a good long look at your achievements and give yourself credit for them.

You’ve done many things that seemed daunting when you started out… but which now, in hindsight, seem like no big deal.

You did them well, and they are a big deal.

Your skills, talents, and triumphs are important. And there’s a big gap between the arrogance of a braggart, and the invisibility of someone who thinks “Oh, it wasn’t such a big deal” and “I shouldn’t have to self-promote.”

Whether you’re an employee in a mega-corporation, or a self-employed individual practitioner, or something in between, if you want to be successful, you must let people know about your accomplishments.


You can start by not downplaying your ideas.

Eliminate “This might sound stupid, but..”, “I’m not an expert, but…”, and “Maybe this is obvious, but…” from your vocabulary.

Instead, say, “Here’s my idea!” – and say it with certainty.

Never say, “Thanks, it was nothing!” in response to a compliment on your work.

Instead, say, “Thank you! I’m really proud of the work I did!”

Don’t say, “Oh, it was all my team’s work!” (Unless, of course, you had absolutely nothing to do with it.)

Instead, say, “Thank you! I’m really proud of the work we did!”

You get the picture.

Because here’s the thing: no one else will do it for you.

No one else will notice the level of effort you put in.

No one else will be aware of just how much you’ve done over time.

Only you.

So go do it. Give yourself credit. Take credit when others give it to you – and take it with confidence and pride.

It’s not arrogance when you’ve earned it.

gljudson Career development, Self-talk

Can you learn empathy?

Photo of scrabble tiles spelling "LEARN"Some of the foremost leaders in business and science believe in the importance of empathy in the workplace – and in the world.

“People will try to convince you that you should keep empathy out of your career.  Don’t accept this false premise.”
~ Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.

“The reason why I use the word ‘empathy’ is because the business we are in is to meet the unmet, unarticulated needs of customers. That’s what innovation is all about. And there is no way you’re going to do that without having empathy and curiosity.”
~ Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

“Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.’”
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium

Despite what these eminent leaders say, there are a lot of people who believe that empathy has no place in the office.

There are also a lot of people who believe empathy is an innate personality trait: you either have it, or you don’t.

Both beliefs are wrong.

Empathy is a crucial skill in dealing with employees and with customers – and skills, by definition, are things you can learn.

When you read this next quote, I encourage you to read “customer service and employee engagement” in the first line, and “customers and employees” in the following sentences.

Empathy is a core skill in customer service.

Customers often experience negative emotions. When that happens, the rational part of our brain cedes control and can’t function properly. Everything stops until those emotions cool down.

Empathy is the magic that can take angry customers out of the red.
~ Jeff Toister, Toister Performance Solutions

And while Alan Alda may be less well known for his work in communication than as an actor, he’s having tremendous success teaching empathy and communication to scientists and medical professionals through the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook, as he comments in this interview excerpt.

“What I found, and this is really interesting, [is] that you can get better at empathy. There are people that I have interviewed, who teach empathy, and one might think that one is born with a certain amount of it and that is going to be it. And that turns out not to be true.”
~ Alan Alda, Alda Center Visiting Professor, 7-time Emmy award-winning actor, and podcaster

Yes, some people have a natural talent for empathy, just as some people have a natural talent for logic, speaking, or writing – or for any of a myriad capabilities that are also learnable.

I don’t recommend bringing the same level of empathy into the office as you’d show to a struggling friend or family member. But I strongly recommend taking the time and making the effort to understand your employees and customers well enough to display appropriate professional empathy.

It’s also worth noting that your skill at empathy can make – or break – a negotiation, and can be the difference between escalation or transformation in conflict.

Here’s a quick, fun experiment you can easily conduct – and deepen your own skill at empathy.

And if you’re interested in digging deeper, here are all the posts I’ve written (so far!) on the topic of professional empathy.


gljudson Professional empathy

Is leadership bad for you?

Cartoon of upset, screaming womanAccording to workplace research giant Gallup, 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is directly attributable to management.

Translating that to plain English: if you’ve got a good manager, you’re more likely to be happy, engaged, and productive than if you have a bad manager.

Aye-aye, Captain Obvious! Like many research studies, this is hardly surprising. I think we’ve all been there, done that with the bad manager. (Hopefully also with the good manager!)

Here’s another statistic: at least half the people you work with either have quit in the past, or will quit at some time in their career future, just because of a bad manager. As the saying goes, people join jobs, and quit managers.

Yet many people don’t realize that they’re not alone in this struggle to cope with bad leadership – which means that however obvious these statistics are, they can help people feel less isolated. And they’re useful to start the conversation about what to do about the problem.

Because the benefits of good leadership are important for everyone involved:

  • The leader operates from a place of confidence, displaying sound decision-making skills and professional empathy for their team.
  • The individuals on the team feel understood, cared for, and appropriately challenged by their leader.
  • The company (and therefore senior leadership) benefits because their teams are meeting or exceeding expectations, thereby directly improving corporate outcomes and the bottom line.
  • Even the customers benefit, because the product or service they experience is likely to be of higher quality.

Here’s another unhappy statistic: 60 percent of new leaders fail in their first year.

This is hugely expensive and deeply tragic.

Hugely expensive

Google “cost to replace a manager,” and you’ll get numbers in the range of 15 to 20 percent of total compensation.

That’s low by a factor of almost 250 percent. That’s not a typo: two hundred fifty percent. And that’s a conservative estimate of how much it costs when you factor in failed or delayed projects, diminished team engagement and productivity, and all the myriad costs of hiring a new first-line manager.*

Deeply tragic

When we’re unhappy and stressed at work, we’re going to take that home with us. Family relationships suffer, relationships with friends suffer, and we struggle with even more stress when our support structures falter because we’re unhappy, cranky, and hard to live with. And if we’re one of the 60 percent who fails … now our self-image is beaten down right when we’re in the middle of having to find a new job.

And our health suffers

More studies: statistics show that people who are stressed at work are significantly more likely to experience illness, including cancer and heart disease.

That’s probably another “aye-aye Captain Obvious” statement, since I think we’re all aware that stress is bad for our health … but I also think we tend to shuffle that awareness aside, not wanting to look squarely at what it means for us and our situation.

Leadership and wellbeing

The thing is, leadership doesn’t have to be bad for your health – physical, mental, or emotional.

As a leader, you know there are things you don’t know about leadership, no matter what level you’ve achieved within your organization. Even CEOs know this: Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, was quoted in the New York Times recently as saying that every CEO has times when they have no idea what they’re doing and are sure everyone knows they’re just faking it.

Newly-promoted first-line managers need and deserve training and support to learn good management and leadership skills (and avoid developing bad habits). It’s that simple.

Because 60 percent of leaders shouldn’t fail in their first year. And work shouldn’t be a stress-inducing, illness-creating, emotionally-draining experience for anyone.

* To see the employee replacement costs calculations – which have been verified by multiple senior HR executives – click here to download the costing spreadsheet. It includes an example, and allows you to fill in your own data as well.

gljudson Management & Leadership

That ostrich in the office – is it you?

Photo of ostrich from the neck up, looking directly at the cameraIs there an ostrich in your office?

Maybe it’s you?

And what in the world am I talking about?


More specifically, hiding from risk. (For the record, ostriches don’t really stick their heads in the sand. But you get my point.)

Risk management and risk mitigation are key skills for leaders at all levels. Yet they’re seldom discussed and even more rarely taught … or, let’s face it, practiced.

Most of the time, we can get away without assessing risk factors for our projects, initiatives, and goals … but sometimes we can’t. And those times when we didn’t and should’ve tend to come back to bite us in the form of high stress, expensive delays, and flat-out failures.

With that in mind, here’s an outline of basic risk management steps to follow. This is far from a complete description (that would take a book, at least), but it will give you a starting point.


What could go wrong?

It’s not a question we like to think about or ask aloud, but it’s an important question – and the more important the project or goal, the more important it is to ask.

Let’s say you’re managing a project expected to take 12 months. You have a team of six people. You’ve done your project plan, and you’ve identified your milestone dates.

Risk factor number one: all six of those people are likely to take vacation time and probably a sick day here or there.

Wait. Vacation time is a risk factor?

Yep. Because I’d be willing to bet that in creating your project plan and schedule, you didn’t factor that in. (Stay with me; the assessment step will help make this more clear.)

And there are other personnel-related factors to consider: what if someone leaves the company? What if someone becomes seriously ill or injured?

What about external resources? What are you assuming will be available to you, but which might (because of some right-now-unknown factor) not be?

And don’t forget the whims of technology, the need to improve skills, and so forth.

And speaking of vacations, let’s say you’re planning a summer trip with your family. Delayed flights, illness and injury (don’t forget the sunscreen!), weather, car breakdowns, Internet availability, and other factors (depending on where you’re going) – all these should be considered.

I’m sure you can come up with more than I’ve listed (and you should!).


Some of the risk factors I listed in the identification phase probably seem trivial or unimportant to you. After all, we all know people get sick, and we all know people take vacation.

The assessment phase is where those factors are broken out and, yes, assessed for just how destructive they may be.

Each factor you’ve identified gets two numeric ratings: likelihood and impact.

Likelihood: on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is this to happen? Employee vacations get a 10; in the course of your year-long project, everyone is going to take some vacation time. And as for your own vacation, depending on where you’re travelling and how many connecting flights are involved, your chances of having a delay in transit are (sadly enough!) a solid 7 or even 7.5.

Impact: on a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the potential impact? Employee vacations probably rank around 1 or 2 on the severity scale, but please note! Some employees are more important to any project or initiative than others, and a combination of multiple employees all on vacation at once could amp up that impact rating significantly. Meanwhile, if, for instance, you have a big event planned for the day after your scheduled vacation-destination arrival, that missed connection could turn into a big problem. (Let’s not forget delayed luggage. Argh.)

Now add the two together – likelihood plus impact – and presto: instant prioritization for the next step.

Note that this automatically manages the high-likelihood / low-impact risks versus those that are low-likelihood / high-impact.


You’ve come this far; don’t leave your future self scrambling to recover from something you knew could happen! Now’s the time to decide what you’ll do if a particular risk factor actually comes to pass.

For employee vacations, it’s probably obvious: make sure employees schedule their vacations in advance, and be careful not to have more than one or two people out at any given time. Similarly, if you have a mission-critical employee, be sure to have a plan in place to handle their absence. Will you conduct a clear, thorough knowledge transfer before they go, schedule their contribution to the project around their planned time off, or something else?

And for your family’s vacation, it might be best not to have that big expensive and / or meaningful event right after your scheduled arrival – or else have rock-solid fallback plans in place in case you’re delayed by weather, technical difficulties, or any of the other myriad travel challenges that might arise.


This has been a super fast, super high-level zoom through the most important steps involved in risk management and mitigation. In other words, it’s a starting point, and far from complete!

That said, you don’t need to practice this level of formal risk management for every project, and certainly not for your average day-to-day tasks. However, it’s worth going a little overboard in the beginning to establish a habit of thinking about these things. That way, even for those projects or activities where you choose not to complete the full, formal process, you’ll still be aware and alert for potential problems.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking a few moments up front to run through these steps can save you a world of future hurt!

gljudson Management & Leadership

How do you reward?

The cover of Punished by RewardsSeveral years ago, I read a fascinating book called Punished by Rewards: the trouble with gold st★rs, incentive plan$, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn.

The basic premise is that, as the back-of-the-book blurb summarizes, “people actually do inferior work when they are enticed with money, grades, or other incentives. The more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we’re bribing them to do.”

That word – “bribing” – is telling, isn’t it?

And we know from studies by Gallup and other researchers that money (salary, bonuses, commissions, and so forth) is not the primary driver behind employee engagement and job satisfaction.

So how do we reward?

The challenges of incentives, engagement, and motivation are far from straightforward. In fact, Kohn suggests that we cannot “motivate” someone to do something; instead, “All we can do is set up certain conditions that maximize the probability of their developing an interest in what they are doing and remove the condidtions that function as constraints.”

That’s a mouthful. What I understand from it, on a very basic level, is that we need to follow a few simple steps.

Understand your people

It should be no surprise to you that people are different, which means how they prefer to be appreciated varies from individual to individual.

At the very broadest level, an extrovert typically loves public recognition, whereas an introvert typically prefers more privacy. Please note the word “typically”; this is not true of all extroverts and all introverts… which is why I say, Understand your people!

If you’ve read some of my articles on Professional Empathy, especially the three listed below, you’ll have a good sense of what I’m recommending. (Each opens in a separate tab, so you won’t lose your place here. The second – the three levels of empathy – is one of my most-read articles.)

What IS empathy, anyway?
The three levels of empathy
A simple, fun empathy experiment

“Fair” is not “equivalent”

If you’ve taken the time to think about the differences between your team members, you’ll quickly come to realize that equivalency is a trap.

Fair means treating people according to the good old Platinum Rule: how they want to be treated. Not how their cubicle neighbor wants to be treated (that’s the equivalency trap), and not how you want to be treated (a variation on the equivalency trap). How they want to be treated – each individual – that’s what fair means.

(Here’s another relevant article: Is that fair?)

Reward appropriately

That, of course, is the punch line.

And there’s a LOT that goes into that simple statement: reward appropriately.

I’ll break it down into a few ideas for you, but remember: the first step is always to understand your people. And understanding your people means knowing them well enough to have a sense of who they are and what they enjoy.

A few ideas

It starts by knowing what you’re rewarding them for. Is it a big achievement? Go for one of the ideas below. Something smaller, but something they did especially well? Check out this article: Why thank you isn’t enough.

These ideas are just to get your idea-generator going. And remember, in some cases a bonus, raise, or promotion (with raise) is absolutely appropriate. I’m leaving out the financial rewards here because your organization undoubtedly already has a well-established process for them. It’s the non-financial aspect of reward and recognition that we’re exploring here.

Speaking as a knitter myself, if I had a knitter or crocheter on my team, I would absolutely get them a gift certificate for a good local yarn shop or online outlet.

Pay attention to what they talk about (understand your people!). Lots of family time and kids’ activities? According to the season, there could be any number of fun events to offer. They love gourmet cooking? Try specialty stores such as Penzey’s Spices or a local gourmet outlet.

Are they ambitious and career-oriented? Perhaps you can introduce them to a valuable connection or mentor. (Be careful about offering to mentor an employee yourself; that can lead to perceptions – and even accusations – of favoritism.)

You get the idea, right? Paying attention to what someone enjoys makes the reward personal and meaningful, and therefore special.

Yes, it takes work

It takes work. It’s an effort to understand each of your people at that level. But you can systematize it easily enough – for instance, take a few notes when you hear someone talking about what they enjoy.

And I can promise you that the rewards of having a high-performing, productive, engaged team that consistently exceeds expectations is well worth the effort.

How you manage your team is just one of the eight key leadership topics covered in the Empowered Leadership program. Come join me in a free preview workshop, the Leadership Launch Pad, to learn the single thing every senior leader wants you to know – but probably hasn’t told you!

gljudson Management & Leadership

How do we fix leadership?

Photo of a class of adult students asleep with their heads on the desksThis is a follow-up post to an article I wrote on LinkedIn last week asking “Where’s the Future of Leadership?”

How can we improve the working lives and careers of all employees and support bottom-line results?

It’s a simple question, and it has a simple answer: we need to develop the skills and confidence of first-line managers and leaders. And the old ways of doing so aren’t working.

We need a new model of leadership education.

The old way relies on “best practices” that are themselves old, arising out of an industrial-era command-and-control hierarchical approach that’s no longer relevant.

The old way either ignores first-line leadership training altogether, or it relies on an intensive educational process that puts cohorts of aspiring leaders through a set curriculum. Everyone’s on the same page at the same time, which inherently limits individual opportunities to learn from other people’s varying levels of understanding and experience.

The curriculum in these programs is set and therefore inflexible, limiting in-the-moment teaching of important concepts and skills based on the students’ needs and situations, and failing to take advantage of the facilitator’s own evolution and ongoing learning.

And these programs often teach with case studies, which themselves have two important drawbacks.

First, case studies are historical. Situations such as Enron, Volkswagen, and Wells Fargo (classic business-school case studies) are presented as self-contained big-bang events. But that’s not how they happen. These corporate meltdowns unravel gradually in small incremental steps. Case studies don’t provide insight into these small steps, and therefore don’t teach practical, useful ways to spot problems before they mushroom out of control.

Second, case studies are extremely difficult for an emerging leader to translate into their individual situations and experience, and so have little practical relevance for their leadership growth.

So what do students learn from case studies?

They learn to debate history. They don’t learn to identify and divert or mitigate problems at the initial, something’s-just-starting-to-go-wrong stage within their organization and its culture.

The old way of leadership development is also expensive, sometimes prohibitively so. High-value programs generally come with correspondingly high prices, putting them out of reach for any significant population of first-line managers and leaders in the organization.

But it’s exactly those first-line managers and leaders who have the highest impact on your employee population as a whole, and therefore – let’s be real! – on the overall success or failure of both your day-to-day work and your mission-critical strategic initiatives.

What I realized in asking this question is:

We badly need a new approach to developing our leaders.

We need a model that delivers foundational leadership skills training in ways that leverage the flexibility offered by technology to maximize student-facilitator interactions and minimize the impact on students’ busy schedules.

In practical terms, this means short, focused video lessons, concise handouts, and hands-on exercises and practices that participants can use immediately in their workplace.

It means extending the curriculum with weekly live videoconference calls. These must be structured, addressing additional topics relevant to the participants’ in-the-moment experience and needs, and never allowing any one person to suck up all the air in the room (sadly a fairly common experience in many group programs). These calls should be recorded for review or for those who can’t make the live call.

Each participant should also receive at least one personal coaching session, timed according to foundational content in the teaching materials. Weekly “office hours” time allows them to come to the videoconference space and receive in-the-moment coaching on any leadership situation they’re encountering or any questions they have about the material.

Finally, offering rolling admission into the program creates vibrant, supportive interaction. Since each participant is at a different point on their learning and leadership journey, they can actively share their different perspectives and discover how to mentor – and receive mentoring – from different types of people at different stages of the process.

Finally, the program must be deliberately affordable: low-ticket and ridiculously high-value.

These are the answers that emerged for me when I asked that question of how we can improve the working lives and careers of all employees and support bottom-line results. And therefore, that’s the program that I created.

What’s your answer to this question?

gljudson Management & Leadership

Vision, mission, strategy, tactics – what’s the difference?

A six-level pyramid: vision-missino-goals-strategy-tactics-actionVision, mission, goals, strategy.

Tactics and actions.

Do you know the differences, the nuances, and how to move from one to the next?

If you do, you’re well ahead of most people – including, I’m sorry to say, many C-level executives.

Yet strategic thinking is the unanimous number-one wish of those same senior executives for first-line managers and leaders.

Unfortunately, strategic thinking is completely off the radar for most of those first-line managers and leaders. No surprise: up until now, their (your?) career has been focused on executing tasks, and not on thinking about where those tasks fit into the bigger strategic picture.

And I get the struggle and confusion; it can be hard to discern the line between strategy and tactics – or, for that matter, between goals and strategy.

Here’s a quick guide through the pyramid, from vision at the top, to action on the ground.


Speaking of confusion, vision and mission are also frequently interchangeable (though they should not be!). If you look at what most companies post on their websites for vision and mission, would you really be able to tell which was which if they weren’t labelled? Often … not.

So here’s where we start.

The vision is an idyllic view of a future possibility, relative to the company’s work in the world.

It’s unattainable by any one person or even the largest organization.

For instance, my vision is of a world where people wake up looking forward to their workday because their jobs are meaningful, interesting, challenging, and even exciting.

Clearly, I can’t accomplish that by myself!


The mission is where this business will do its part in making the vision a reality.

I’m on a mission to make corporate life more fun. Not just livable; not just bearable: fun. Work shouldn’t suck. The corporate life shouldn’t be a rat race.

I can accomplish this within my sphere of action and influence.


The goal addresses the how of achieving the mission.

I have many options for goals that would address my mission, from corporate event planning to executive retreats to … well, I’m sure you see my point.

The goal I’ve defined is to train and support first-line managers and leaders, because they’re the ones who have the most impact on the most employees in the company, and they’re the ones who will become the senior leaders of the future.

(Note in case of confusion: yes, there are also goals that fall into the strategic, tactical, and action phases as well. This is the big, top-level goal.)


My strategy to achieve this goal is to create accessible, affordable training and support programs for individual first-line leaders, and custom programs for corporations, and to make these programs available to the largest reasonable number of individuals and companies.

I hope you can see that there are other perfectly do-able and impactful strategies that I could choose instead. For instance, I could focus on going into large corporations to conduct long-term leadership training programs for emerging leaders. Or I could create weekend leadership retreats. Or I could create self-study programs. Or I could write a book. Or I could become an employee of an organization and influence it from within, instead of from outside as a consultant.


Tactics are often broken down by category – for instance, product and service development and delivery; marketing; sales, operations; and so on.

Looking just at marketing, my tactics include developing and delivering a free online workshop every other Wednesday, in which the attendees learn something about strategic thinking (yes!), and I get a sense of whether they’d be successful in my group program. (To be completely clear, since this is a common confusion, this is a workshop, not a webinar … #notawebinar! … and you can learn more about it by clicking here.) I also have social media tactics, program delivery tactics, and so on.

The all-important key is that the tactics must directly support the strategy, which in turn must directly support achieving the goal. And of course the goal must support the mission, which must support the vision.

Action plan

We’re finally at the task level: what steps must be taken to support the tactics.

This is where most individual team members have lived for their entire career, up until being promoted into a management and leadership role.

And this entire top-down / bottom-up pyramid sequence should make it very clear why it’s such a challenge for them (for you?) to make the shift from task-oriented thinking into strategic thinking.

gljudson Strategic thinking

Conflict-avoidant? Get over it!

Cartoon of male swimmer escaping from a sharkLast year, I was part of a family Thing.

You probably know the sort of Thing I mean.

Words were spoken that shouldn’t have been, and other words weren’t spoken that should have been.

Then the situation devolved into a Bigger Thing because it wasn’t raised as a Thing until weeks later – by email.

One of the participants is, according to her own assessment, afraid of conflict, and therefore avoids it like the proverbial plague. (Or a man-eating shark; pick your preferred analogy.)

I get that. I’m not especially fond of conflict myself.

But I’ve learned that if I allow my fear to keep me from facing what’s happening, if the situation is frustrating or upsetting enough it will inevitably come out later, and almost certainly in a more destructive way.

And for me, if I can’t trust someone to raise an issue in the moment – no matter how difficult it may be for either or both of us – then I can’t trust that person at all.

How is this relevant for you as a leader?

You already know the answer, right?

Don’t avoid conflict with your team, your peers, or your manager.

If you’re fearful of conflict, educate yourself on negotiation, mediation, and conflict transformation techniques. Practice. Role play with someone you trust. Get a coach.

Do something. Because, whether with your team, your peers, your manager, or your family and friends, conflict un-addressed will undermine trust and undermine – perhaps break – the relationship.

gljudson Conflict