Articles


Managing Others


Separating Mistakes from Misdeeds in Performance Management

You’ve probably heard – and may even believe – that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not trying hard enough. So, are we all supposed to start making mistakes to prove we’re trying? And what if we start making mistakes and getting in trouble for them? Then what good is this old saying to […]

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Mistakes versus Misdeeds: A principle you can grow with

You might have heard it said that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not trying hard enough, and it’s one of my favorite, difficult topics in leadership! Before we explore this any further, let me be clear that the kinds of errors that I’m addressing are not the kinds of mistakes that literally put […]

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Like a ship’s navigator, leaders need to approximate their position, make a decision, and move on

I recently interviewed Scott Wallinger (left) for my podcast, an iconic manager and leader in the forestry profession (http://leadershipnature.com/podcasts/s1e13-scott-wallinger/), and Scott reflected on his lessons in leadership through the lenses of history and experience. Near the end of this episode, Scott talked about the tendency of foresters to analyze things until they have the answer […]

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Site Preparation for Leadership: What every manager needs to do to help leadership stick

If you only got a 10 to 35 percent survival rate on your next reforestation project, would you be happy with the result? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, that is the success rate of most training – including leadership training – not necessarily because of the quality of the training itself but because of what […]

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Don’t Waste Your Time Training

Training is great. Don’t get me wrong. I make a good living as a leadership trainer. But entirely too much training is thrown at fixing performance challenges when the root cause of the problem lies elsewhere. This wastes their time, your money and opportunity cost for everyone of taking better action. Much like teaching a […]

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Feedback is the Fuel of Leadership

When you’re an individual contributor, you measure your results by sales, acres, widgets and reports, but when you’re a leader, you measure your results by feedback. This was on my mind as I cut, split and piled firewood last weekend. I had felled the dead trees months before, and they had been collecting fungus and […]

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Leading Volunteers and Earning Discretionary Effort

How to lead volunteers and others because they don’t have to be there and they don’t plan to stay. Partially retired and looking for meaningful volunteer work, my wife called a local animal shelter to offer her services, but what happened next is a lesson for anyone who cares about, depends upon, and leads volunteers. […]

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Eating Your Vegetables at Work: Quit Whining about Giving Performance Appraisals

Like making fun of Donald Trump’s hair, performance appraisals are an easy target, and I’m tired of the whining. For example, a recent Cornerstone OnDemand/Harris survey reports the following: “Of employed U.S. adults who have experienced their employer’s performance review process Less than half (45%) said the feedback they receive is a fair and accurate […]

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Institutional Baggage: When looking back keeps you from going forward

My foot was still on the accelerator when the air bags collapsed in my lap. I had been looking back into traffic and looking for a gap to pull into far longer than I should have and failed to look forward at the car in front of me, who’s driver had changed her mind and […]

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Who’s the Fairest Leader of All: Because One Person’s Fairness is Another Person’s Affront

In working with a team of supervisors recently, I asked them to prioritize a list of 14 leadership competencies so that I could coach them on the topics in the right priority for them, but the exercise took an unexpected turn. A leadership competency is a bundle of behaviors” or a set of related skills […]

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When personal business becomes your business

In a litigious world, new managers and experienced leaders alike can become overly cautious about addressing performance problems, but that should not be an excuse for letting performance problems slide. Here are two examples: 1. A disabled worker is falling behind on productivity or not accomplishing his or her work to needed standards, but you […]

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Who Moved Your Generational Cheese?

Since 2003, new managers and experienced leaders alike have discussed the fabled mice in Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson, who coped with change in very different ways and got very different results. But what if we changed the title to represent how the major current generations cope with change? The Veterans or the […]

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Resurrection Moss and the Root of Motivation

On a recent trip to southern Utah, I visited several of the magnificent parks that dot the landscape there, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Canyonlands National Parks. Because of my combined interest in ecology and leadership, I took time to hunt for a particular species of moss in Canyonlands that survives in some of […]

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What Christmas Trees Can Teach Us about Succession Planning

It’s the time of year when thousands of Christmas tree lots dot the countryside, bringing millions of these uniquely groomed trees to homes everywhere. In this video message, I describe how Christmas trees are shaped and how their leaders are groomed for the top job of each tree. Please enjoy and use the metaphor of […]

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Communication Camouflage

Camouflage is the act, means, or result of obscuring things to deceive an enemy or prey by painting or screening clothing or objects so that they are lost to view in the background. The root of the word in French means, to disguise. Communication camouflage is the use of words that disguise the truth in […]

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Thanks Giving at Work – Because…

There is one word that is sometimes missing from our lexicon when giving thanks. It’s the word, “because.” What better time to think about how we thank others than on Thanksgiving, celebrated this week in the United States and October in Canada. While many of us enjoy bountiful meals, loving families and football, others of […]

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Medicine for the Performance Appraisal Blues

One of the most dreaded but important conversations you have as a manager is probably fast approaching at or near the end of the year – the annual performance review. Why do people dread the conversation? Because they Don’t like judging other people’s performance Risk positive working relationships by having to deliver bad news at […]

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Communicating Change

Downsizing? Upsizing? Strategic realignment? Product launch? Divestiture? Plant closings? Plant openings? Merger? Acquisition? Benefits changes? Budget cuts? There’s no shortage of change in the workplace, but there’s always a shortage of sufficient communication about change. While you may not always be privy to changes as early as you’d like, you are still responsible for communicating […]

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Want Your Ideas to Get More Traction?

You’ve come up with “the what,” a great idea, a needed solution, or a strategy to reach that illusive goal. You unveil it at a meeting, tell your boss about it, or write it up in an email and wait for the kudos and support to roll in. But nothing happens. No one picks up […]

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Feedback is a Gift: How to Make Your Positive Feedback Stick

It’s often said that “feedback is a gift,” but this is sometimes stated with a degree of sarcasm in its attempt to reframe what often feels like a negative into a positive. While much has been written about how to give feedback, it often focuses on providing negative or constructive feedback on someone’s performance. This […]

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