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Good Leaders Don’t Ignore Their Personal Lives December 15, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Good leaders put aside their own needs for the good of the organization — but that doesn’t mean they completely sacrifice their personal lives. Leaders who subjugate their need for exercise, sleep, and recreation eventually succumb to brownout: the graduated loss of energy, focus, and passion.

Brownout is often imperceptible to outsiders, but it affects a significant percentage of the executive population. Today’s superstar leaders supplement their commitment to others with an equally important commitment to themselves. Whether it’s promising you’ll stick to your exercise routine, enjoy hobbies, eat dinner with your family, or reflect on what’s important to you, putting aside time for yourself makes you a better, more fully realized version of yourself.

Start by making one small but meaningful promise to yourself — and keep it. If you’re successful, try another promise. It shouldn’t take long for the performance benefits to be obvious.

Now to just listen to my own advice….



Mistakes to Avoid When Taking Over a Team November 19, 2015

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Taking over as the leader of a team is daunting. Your team members are used to how their previous leader liked to do things, and adjusting their habits can be a challenge. The team’s response to your new processes or style can make you feel a little like the evil stepmother who’s stepped into their formerly happy lives. Your team was once someone else’s team. They’ve developed habits in response to the preferences of the previous leader. But it’s important to avoid the most common mistakes that new leaders make when trying to ease the transition:

  • Being a friend rather than a leader. Investing too much energy in befriending the team can confuse the power relationship. Most teams want clear, confident leadership.
  • Expressing frustration with the quality of the team. What team members are good at is a reflection of what the previous leader expected of them. If your expectations are different, you need to help the team make that shift.
  • Attempting to force trust too quickly. Until team members have had time to see how you handle uncomfortable topics too much candor will do more harm than good. Let trust build over time.
  • Share your story and your owner’s manual. Team members will appreciate you sharing your backstory and helping them understand the evolution of your preferences and idiosyncrasies.

What makes it so easy to follow a great leader… May 19, 2015

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I would follow him anywhere. That was the response from a friend when we were talking about how much they enjoyed their job. They have worked with this person for several years and have a great rapport. We talked about how their boss is easy to work with, which is a primary reason for their success and job satisfaction.

So how easy are you to follow? As a leader I’d like to think I am, but of course, the only real opinion that matters is that of my team members. So what makes a person a good leader or easy to follow? I think the answers are pretty straight forward and common sense, but often not common practice because our own personality quirks and baggage get in the way.

Here is a recognized list of common sense leadership practices considered characteristics of leaders who are easy to follow:

Be nice – It’s kind of sad this has to be called out but it does. Too many leaders are jerks. They let power go to their heads. Don’t do that,  just be nice. Smile every once in a while. Say please and thank you. Ask people how their day is going. It doesn’t cost you a dime to be nice and you’ll be amazed at how much more engaged and productive your team will be if you treat them nicely.

Don’t expect everyone to be like you – This can be challenging, particularly for leaders who have personalities that favor perfectionism. It’s great to have high expectations for yourself, that’s probably what helped you rise to a leadership position. It’s good to have high expectations for your staff as well, but remember, they may not do things exactly the way you would. Give people the freedom to be who they are and leverage their strengths to help them achieve their goals and those of the team.

Show a sense of humor & make work fun – Making work fun and showing a sense of humor is a hallmark of leaders who are easy to follow. Create a sense of camaraderie within the team and keep the mood light when times get tough. Showing a sense of humor and laughing at yourself once in a while shows your vulnerability and authenticity. That’s what draws people to you, not away from you.

Treat people with respect and create an environment of trust and safety – It’s the leader’s job to foster an environment of trust and safety that allow team members to unleash their power and potential for the good of themselves and the organization.

Give people your time – The greatest gift you can give your people is a few minutes of your time. Leaders like to say they have an open door policy, but is that really the case with you? Does everyone on your team know without a doubt that they can meet with you regarding any topic?

Solicit and incorporate people’s ideas – Many leaders are great at asking for ideas but only a few actually do anything with them. One of the quickest ways to alienate your team members is to tell them you want to hear their ideas and are open to feedback, but not actually do anything with it when it’s shared with you.

Empower people – Good leaders establish the boundaries of the playing field for their team members, make sure everyone is clear on the rules and objectives, and then let them play the game. They don’t micromanage and dictate how the work should be done.

Recognize and reward good performance – Leaders who are easy to follow are experts at finding people doing something right. They take the time to acknowledge the good performance of their team members and to celebrate their (and the team’s) success. People crave hearing positive feedback about their hard work.

Maintain perspective on the most important priorities in life – Work is important but life is more important. Easy to follow leaders maintain the proper perspective about what’s most important in life. These kind of leaders understand they have to lead the whole person, not just the worker who shows up to do a job every day. Kids get sick, employees have personal challenges, life happens….good leaders understand this and are sensitive to the needs of their team members.

Leadership doesn’t have to complicated. A little common sense principles will help us be successful leaders, if only we can get out of our own way.

Top 10 ways to lose a Great Employee November 13, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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I recently read an article on this subject and it compelled me to add my own twists. If you’re a good manager or leader then you probably already know most of this, but it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of them from time to time. Here are my top 10 ten ways to lose great employees;

1. Be dishonest.

Integrity matters. Most good employees and all great ones have integrity. So, lying to them, to their coworkers, to customers or vendors is sure to turn them off. Over-billing a customer, not paying a vendor, having different rules for different people, not following thru on your agreements, and even just “little white lies” are all sure to catch the private ire of those employees who can best help you and your organization succeed. Don’t think they don’t notice; they DO.

2. Micromanage.

Sadly, we have all experienced way too much of it. Micromanagement screams of trust and security issues. And exactly why would your top performers want to work for someone with trust and security issues?

It’s not just classical micromanagement either. We have all seen truly exceptional people who excelled in their role end up with their jobs “dumbed-down” to cater to the lowest common denominator, and to the point they were no longer challenged or motivated. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before they were looking for an opportunity somewhere else.

3. Under-pay them & take them for granted.

Yes, taking advantage of your situation or position with an emplouee will usually get a good person out of your organization as fast as they can possibly find an opportunity elsewhere. I’ve seen organizations under-pay very good people. One executive even said to me, in private, “Well, just what are they going to, do? Leave?  They have no place to go. The (job) market is poor.” This was his way of rationalizing those so many years of reduced bonuses for a dedicated staff of employees who really had earned them – and who were contractually entitled. It wasn’t long before people actually did have someplace else to go, and go they did. As a manager stay tuned to what industry standards are for your employees positions and compensate them fairly if you want to keep them.

4. Don’t take time to communicate (listen to their concerns).

Good people almost always actually want what is best for the organization. They may have differing opinions on what that is, but they can be passionate, even fiery about it. If you’re dismissive of their concerns, when raised, you’re headed down the road to losing top performing people. Above all, communicate with them. Do not leave them in the dark about company policy or directive changes. These sort of issues directly affect your top performers and yes, they take it personal.

5. Don’t say “Thank you.”

It’s a small thing, but it really does make a difference. Even small gestures of appreciation, complements on good work, acknowledging that someone stayed late / came in early / went the extra mile help keep talented people motivated and engaged. A small gift card, permission to leave early for the day or work from home the day before a holiday (if work is getting completed), a kind word, an email, all of these things cost very little but go a long way. People care if someone notices when they are doing a good job.

6. Be cold and uncaring (to them and to their coworkers).

People are human. Why do we seem to forget this so often? They have personal struggles, ambitions, families, crises, etc. One of my favorite bosses from the past was a gentleman who knew my wife’s name, my son’s name, my dog’s name, and more. I met both of his kids and I had met his wife before started working for him. He didn’t go beyond appropriate boundaries, but I really knew he cared about me as an employee and as a person. He was personable and when I needed a friend, a true mentor, someone I could go to with a problem, a “dad” type figure. I knew I could talk to him and he’d help me out however he could. He got a lot of loyalty from me in return. I should also point out that talented people watch how you treat other people, not just themselves, and they take note of it.

7. Forget the values that made your organization a success.

I’ve been part of organizations that truly lived their core values (and even years later can recite them by heart, because they were so prominent). We all knew what they were.We all agreed they were important, or at least accepted them as such. The leadership talked about them, and everything we did as a company HAD to align to them. I left an organization once after it forgot its values and stopped talking about them because it wasn’t long before the entity had lost its way. I have also been in companies that barely even mention their values – and really, what that says is, “Our core value is to make more money for our owners, whatever it takes.”

Not exactly compelling, but that’s what is being conveyed.If that’s what you’re really all about, you may as well admit it, there is nothing wrong with making money. When I build a team, I am very explicit about my expectations.

8. Ignore their personal and professional development.

Note that there are two dimensions to this – professional development (technical skills, industry knowledge, expertise, professional certifications, formal training, etc.) and personal development. Leaders only follow stronger leaders, so if you want to keep current or future leaders, be sure you are mentoring them. Let them learn from your own life experience; telling good stories from your experience can be a great way to do this. Help them become better professionals – and better people. They will appreciate this beyond measure. Additionally, don’t delude yourself into thinking that their career growth is their problem. It is your problem so make a point of investing in it and top notch people will likely repay you for this with good work.

9. Don’t be selective who you hire in the first place.

We all know that hiring people who really fit and are highly talented is tough. We know that the repercussions of a bad hire are awful for everyone. Make sure people really will fit into your organization. I have found that the recruiting process is often commensurate with the organization and role. The better (and more prestigious) the entity and higher profile the role, the tougher the recruiting process often seems – and it should be. Let’s face it, a half hour “get to know you”, or even an hour isn’t really enough to get to know a prospective employee well enough to make a truly informed decision. Talented people often don’t mind a tough (within reason) selection process because they are usually competitive people who thrive on challenge. Invest the time needed to really explore what makes a person tick before you hire them. remember, talented people want to be around other talented people.

10. Set the bar low.

Great people will get discouraged and either leave or adapt to mediocrity if that is what they perceive is deemed acceptable. I’ve seen mediocrity accepted, rewarded, applauded, and even promoted!  The impact of this on team morale (and on the highest performing team members) was palpable. Set the bar high and then become a cheerleader – even if people don’t make it over the high bar, point out how high the bar was set and how high people did get, and celebrate the success they did have at the right level. They may just make it over that high bar the next time.

Three Questions Management Should Avoid October 21, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Questions can engage and motivate people, but they can also discourage them by seeming confrontational. To engage employees (not scare them), reframe these questions:

  • What’s the problem?
    • Rather than fixating on problems and weaknesses, use positive questions geared toward leveraging strengths and opportunities and achieving goals: What are we doing well, and how might we build upon that?
  • Whose fault is it?
    • This focuses on finding a scapegoat when there is likely plenty of blame to go around. To identify weak links without focusing too much on blame, ask: How can we work together to shore up any weaknesses?
  • Haven’t we tried this already?
    • This is important to ask, but the wrong tone makes it sound condescending and defeatist. It doesn’t recognize that failure could have been due to bad timing, not the idea itself. Ask: If we tried this now, what would be different – and how might it change the results?



Don’t let mismanaged priorities take you off track August 18, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Running an organization requires keeping priorities straight. whenever you see leaders mis-prioritize their private time, productive effort, and personal relationships, they risk a crash.

The 3 “Ps” of Priorities:

Private Time

When speaking of private time,we are not referring to leisure time. Rather, we are talking about the time a leader sets aside for thinking, reflecting, and strategic planning. As leaders, we have a bias for action; we want to make things happen. Since private time feels unproductive, we tend to skip it. As a result, our leadership suffers from a thought-deficit. Prioritizing private time replenishes our storehouse of creative ideas and clarifies our vision, better positioning us to lead well.


Production Time

Production time is the time we set aside to do things that bring about desired results and enhance our value to the organization. Routinely ask yourself the following questions to ramp up your productivity:

1) What Are My Strengths? – The percentage of time you spend at the intersection of your aptitudes (where you excel) and affinities (where you find enjoyment) will determine your level of success.

2) What Are My Opportunities? – The best opportunities match your strengths. If your ability in an area does not put you in the top 10% of the population, then search for something else to do. People don’t pay for average.

3) Finally, realize that most opportunities don’t immediately bring results. Often, they only lead to additional opportunities. People who think that the first opportunity they encounter will take them to the top usually aren’t very successful. Those who go farthest in leadership are those who work the hardest to seek out and seize opportunities.


People Time

While entire books could be written about how to prioritize time with people, let’s focus on the biggest time-eater on a leader’s schedule: meetings. Most meetings are not critically important, and the majority of them are useless. If you’re in a position of leadership, practice the following to avoid getting stuck in meetings or yet worse, conducting useless meetings:

1) Don’t go. – Have someone on the team represent you. Typically, the significant content of an hour-long meeting can be summarized in five minutes.

2) Don’t go alone. – If you must attend, have a teammate accompany you who can take notes, identify action items, and carry the load of responsibility after the meeting.

3) Don’t go to important meetings without having met unofficially with your top influencers beforehand. –  In truth, most decisions get made in informal settings and then merely made official at formal gatherings.


A Final Thought to Ponder

A leader’s time follows their priorities. If our priorities are disordered you will most likely mismanage your schedule, your life, your company.

Smart and strategic aren’t the same July 2, 2014

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Strategy is often seen as something really smart people do — those head-of-the-class folks with top-notch academic credentials. But just because these are the folks attracted to strategy doesn’t mean they will naturally excel at it.

The problem with smart people is that they are used to seeking and finding the right answer. Unfortunately, in strategy there is no single right answer to find. Strategy requires making choices about an uncertain future. It is not possible, no matter how much of the ocean you boil, to discover the one right answer. There isn’t one. In fact, even after the fact, there is no way to determine that one’s strategy choice was “right,” because there is no way to judge the relative quality of any path against all the paths not actually chosen. There are no double-blind experiments in strategy.

To be a great strategist, we have to step back from the need to find a right answer and to get accolades for identifying it. The best strategists aren’t intimidated or paralyzed by uncertainty and ambiguity; they are creative enough to imagine possibilities that may or may not actually exist and are willing to try a course of action knowing full well that it will have to be tweaked or even overhauled entirely as events unfold.

To be a great strategist, we have to step back from the need to find a right answer and to get accolades for identifying it. The best strategists aren’t intimidated or paralyzed by uncertainty and ambiguity; they are creative enough to imagine possibilities that may or may not actually exist and are willing to try a course of action knowing full well that it will have to be tweaked or even overhauled entirely as events unfold.

The essential qualities for this type of person are flexibility, imagination, and resilience. But there is no evidence that these qualities are correlated with pure intelligence. In fact, the late organizational learning scholar Chris Argyris argued the opposite in his classic HBR article Teaching Smart People How to Learn. In his study of strategy consultants, Argyris found that smart people tend to be more brittle. They need both to feel right and to have that correctness be validated by others. When either or both fail to occur, smart people become defensive and rigidly so.

This does not imply that smart people should be kept away from strategy. It does imply however that strategy should not be a monoculture — as it can become in strategy consulting firms — of high-IQ analytical wizards. Great strategy is aided by diversity of thought and attitude. It needs people who have experienced failure as well as success. It needs people who have a great imagination. It needs people who have built their resilience in the past. And most importantly, it needs people who respect one another for their range of qualities, something that is often going to be most difficult for the proverbial smartest person in the room.

Bottom line, smart people surround themselves with themselves, strategic people surround themselves with a smart team effort.

Stop Trying to Make Employees Happy July 1, 2014

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For decades, two common thought processes have influenced management. Managers take a “hard” approach when it comes to addressing challenges − creating new structures, processes, and systems. And they opt for a “soft” approach when they need to boost morale − launching initiatives like off-sites or lunchtime yoga. The problem is that both of these are outdated in an age of mounting complexity.

Stop trying to control people or make them happy; instead, give your employees more autonomy and encourage them to work with each other. Start by understanding what your employees do and why they do it, and foster cooperation by giving people the power and interest to do so. If you increase the total quantity of power (don’t just shift existing power around), create direct feedback loops, and reward those who cooperate, employees will feel liberated and empowered to make critical judgments and to come up with creative solutions to problems.

Adapted from ” Stop Trying to Control People or Make Them Happy” by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman.

Working Without Purpose Is A Waste Of Time and Money April 15, 2014

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“Sometimes you can learn best about a topic by identifying what it isn’t before you define what it is.”

This hit home with me when I was asked how you could know when an organization lacks purpose. I thought the question was brilliant because it challenged me to define purpose by first describing what it was like without purpose.

“Listless” sums up the theme when people lack purpose at work they feel like they are on a boat without a rudder. They lack direction as well as motivation. They also feel underappreciated and disengaged. By contrast when people feel purposeful they are engaged and they put forth the effort to succeed for themselves and by extension the entire organization.

Purposeful organizations create an atmosphere of open exchange. People know what is expected of them because management is clear in its objectives. It also goes the extra mile and connects the work employees do to the success of the organization. People feel connected because they know they are contributing not simply in their function – finance, marketing, logistics, etc. – but to the success of the whole enterprise. When you work in a purposeful organization you know how what you do contributes to the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission.

As rich as that definition is, sometimes it can be hard to get your head around and so by defining “lack of purpose,” you get to the heart of the matter. You describe what it is like to work in a place where people lack information or worse where information is purview of the powerful and privileged. People are expected to do their jobs without question because asking questions is perceived as a threat to authority. Unfortunately far to many companies are burdened with executives that constantly feel threatened and questioning their comments or decisions is almost always perceived as a threat to their authority. Such an atmosphere is disengaged certainly but it’s also a cold and dark place to work.

Perhaps Henry David Thoreau said it best in a letter to a friend when he queried, “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?” In other words, hard work is fine, but you want to accomplish anything you need to apply that industrious expenditure toward achieving an intended result.

Purposeful organizations apply intention to what they do. Organizations that lack purpose drift and drag and by doing so waste the skills and talents of their employees.


Joe Buck, NCE

Stop Believing that Everything Is Urgent April 8, 2014

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In an ever-accelerating instant information  business culture, where smaller, geographically diverse teams are taking on increasing workloads, it’s impossible to get everything done as fast as we’d like. Of course, some tasks and projects require more urgency than others – but if we consider everything to be urgent, we jam up the queue and confuse trifles with true priorities. The challenge in this do-it-now culture is to tell the difference between the two. Challenge the assumption that everything needs to be done right away, and work with your team to eliminate unnecessary or low-value work.

As a manager you should always be asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are people tied up with repetitive activities that don’t make a difference? Could those be done less often or with less effort?
  • Can your weekly status reports become monthly?
  • Could a wordy memo become a short list of key points?

Tweaks like these can create the bandwidth you need to tackle truly urgent projects and  help your organization run more effectively.


Joe Buck, NCE

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