Archives for March 2013

Attack the behavior not the person

I was taught to “praise in public and criticize in private.” Recent research and advice suggests this is the wrong advice.  It shifts the burden from the team to the leader.  But bear in mind that when criticizing in public you NEVER attack the person, only the behavior.

hbrIf you’re like most leaders, you believe in the adage “praise in public and criticize in private.” So when a team member does something that negatively affects the team, you usually talk to the team member in private. But this can be a dangerous adage to follow because it significantly reduces accountability, the quality of team decisions, and your team’s ability to manage itself. As Richard Hackman said reflecting on his research, “[T]he most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves.” Here’s why criticizing in private undermines your team, and what you can do to build a smarter team starting today.

Why do leaders unwittingly shift team accountability to themselves? First, they’ve been taught correctly that they’re ultimately responsible for the team. Yet they misconstrue this ultimate responsibility and adopt a “one-leader-in-the-room” mindset; they believe that they are primarily, if not solely, accountable for how the team functions, including providing negative feedback to their direct reports. Second, research by Chris Argyris and Don Schön and my 30 years working with leadership teams shows that in challenging situations almost all leaders try to minimize the expression of negative feelings: If it’s difficult for you to give negative feedback, you prefer to do it in private than in the team setting. Read more

The book “Leadership and Self Deception” by the Arbinger Institute is one of my recommended reads.  It contains a similar scenario and how a true leader followed up on it. 

A Simple Ritual for Harried Managers (and Popes)

Some articles stand by themselves


The genius of this simple practice becomes obvious when we consider the environments that executives (or Popes, or parents) must navigate every day: we surf a tide of emails, texts, meetings, calls, day-to-day problems, and distractions. We never find time to step back. The fallout is obvious: I’m stressed about a bad meeting an hour ago and end up lashing out at a subordinate who had nothing to do with it; I finish the work day without attacking my number one priority, because I was swept along by lesser day-to-day concerns; I never focus my best thinking in a concentrated fashion on any one issue, because three or four issues are always rambling around my head; or, we slowly drift into an ethical mess of a transaction because I never stopped along the way to ask myself, “Hang on, is this the kind of thing we really should be doing?” The Jesuit tradition is giving us (and the Pope) a very simple tool to cope with these varied business problems, which all happen to be rooted in self-awareness lapses. 

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How To Interview For Great Employees: 14 Super Questions


Interview questions: Everyone has them.

And everyone wishes they had better ones.

So I asked smart people from a variety of fields for their favorite interview question and, more importantly, why it’s their favorite and what it tells them about the candidate.

1. If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?

“For me, the most important thing about interviews is that the interviewee interviewsus. I need to know they’ve done their homework, truly understand our company and the role… and really want it.

“The candidate should have enough strategic vision to not only talk about how good the year has been but to answer with an eye towards that bigger-picture understanding of the company–and why they want to be here.”

Randy GaruttiShake Shack CEO

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Death Cafe’s: Truth Stranger than fiction

As we continue into this 21st century world things seem to be reaching a point where we are unwilling to say something won’t happen.  Conversations about death and dying are becoming mainstream spontaneously.  Deathcare seems oblivious to this trend.  I think this is at our peril.  We need to be right at the center of it.

A relatively new concept known as a “death café” is growing in popularity. This article explains what happens at death cafés and their origin.

What is a Death Café?
Despite the off-putting name, many participants describe these events as life affirming, and even life changing, because a death café is a frank, unscripted, non-directed discussion about the subject of dying and death conducted at a “safe” location, such as a community center, church, coffee shop or, yes, even a café.

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What are you arguing about?


 All firms have strategies and cultures. But sometimes the quickest and surest way to gain valuable insight into their fundamentals is by asking, “What’s the most important argument your organization is having right now?”

The more polite or politically correct might prefer “strategic conversation” over “argument.” But I’ve found the more aggressive framing most helpful in identifying the disagreements that matter most. Of course, there’s frequently more than one “most important argument.” And arguments about which arguments are most important are — sorry — important, as well. (If people insist there are no “most important arguments,” the organization clearly has even bigger unresolved issues.)

The real organizational and cultural insights — and payoffs — come not just from careful listening but recognizing that, as always, actions speak louder than words. What role is leadership playing here? How is the CEO listening to, leading, or facilitating the argument? Is disagreement viewed as dissent? Or is it treated as an opportunity to push for greater clarity and analytical rigor?

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What a great question:

What is the most important argument your organization is having right now?

Ready, Fire, Aim

     Take some time to view the full video.  This is really great advice



View the full 4 minute video here


Obamacare: Things you ought to know

There is more to Obamacare than we know.  I expect things to slowly come to light as the year progresses.  It’s just good to stay in the loop.

Government auditors would determine whether a worker misclassification triggers the health-care law’s employer mandate. That means the stakes are higher for employers, particularly those who have close to 50 full-time employees. They could have to pay back taxes in addition to potential penalties associated with the health-care law, should the revised classification push their employee headcount over the threshold.

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