I returned to the office after being on vacation, and I noticed that my manager was acting really strange toward me. I’d been reporting to him for about six of the ten years I’d worked for the company, and we’d actually had a really good working relationship. But this week after vacation, he never once said hello, he wasn’t acknowledging anything I was doing, and then he openly ignored me as I stood inside of his office for about 15 minutes while he spoke to one of my direct reports.
This form of behavior continued on between he and I for about eight months, but it also was uncovered that this behavior of his had happened for 15 years among over a dozen other employees. This behavior is a form of bullying, but what’s come to my attention is it is also a way of quiet firing. This particular manager was using bullying-type tactics in order to quietly fire employees that he was not aligned with.
But there are two buckets that I want to bring to your attention about how managers who care deeply are potentially quiet firing – because I know that you showing up here right now are the type of leader, the type of manager who cares about your employees. But you may actually be engaging in quiet firing without knowing it. So let’s talk about the two biggest danger zones, if you will, of where you might be quiet firing your employees.
Number one is by avoiding crucial conversations. You might have an employee, or multiple employees, who aren’t meeting their performance standards. Maybe there’s been a conflict in the workplace, there’s been a major error, and you as a leader are really uncomfortable and don’t know how to have a crucial conversation, so you avoid it. You avoid it, hoping they’re going to course correct, or if they don’t, they’ll eventually get pushed out of the organization.
That type of behavior is really close to the same bullying type of behavior. Avoidng crucial conversations is one way that you might be at risk of quiet firing. The second area is through withholding coaching. Again, I don’t think that you’re necessarily intentionally withholding coaching. You yourself might be so busy that you can’t even think about how to go and coach your employees.
But look, as a formal people leader, formal people manager, you’re responsible for the development of your employees. So by not actively coaching them, by not finding out what their needs are for development, you are quiet firing; you’re engaging in that behavior. So today, even if you haven’t been intentionally quiet firing, you do need to be intentionally learning – going through training on how to have crucial conversations and how to be a better coach as a leader.
You’ve got to meet your employees where they’re at. You need to develop your skills in order to develop theirs, whether that’s through getting them above and beyond the performance standards, or just developing them in general. Don’t be that manager who is engaged with quiet firing – even if it’s unintentional. I know you care about your employees, let’s be aware and be intentional to not engage in this behavior. Go out and learn the skillset that you need to be the most successful leader that I know you can be!
I was picking up my son, Ethan, from a birthday party when he was in about fourth or fifth grade. It was at a laser tag place, where you play laser tag and then you go into a separate room for pizza, cake, and the birthday boy opens gifts. So I am picking him up, I go into that room and I see Ethan sitting at a table by himself, which was pretty odd behavior for him.
We got in the car, I asked him how the party was, and he goes on and on, telling me how much fun he had, as he’s telling me all about the laser tag. And when he’s done, I say, “Well hey, I noticed you were sitting at a table by yourself. Tell me about that.” And he says, “Well, mom, I was sitting with the rest of the kids, but they started texting each other. So I got up and moved.”
During this time in fourth or fifth grade, Ethan didn’t have a cell phone, but a lot of his friends did. And it turns out at that party, possibly the novelty at this age of having a phone, they were sending text messages to each other. Ethan got frustrated, and sat by himself. Of course, as a mom, I use this as a teaching point to both Ethan and Reese, who was probably in about second or third grade, and also in the car with us. I said, “Hey kids, listen, we need to have the basic skills of technology. But if we take two people in the future who have the same skill in technology, who is the one who’s going to get ahead? Who’s the one who’s most likely to earn a scholarship, get into that college they want to, earn the job, earn the promotion, or get what they want in life – it’s going to be the person who has the greater communication skills.”
In fact, it’s one of the top emerging trends that we’re seeing in the workplace today. It is about not only developing, but elevating, communication skills. And interestingly enough, I was just sharing that one of the top three rules for women in leadership this year is to elevate your communication skills. So you as a leader, I want to shift and broaden this a little bit more for you, because you know you’ve got to elevate your communication skills.
It is what is going to make you an effective leader. However, we need to expand and broaden to offering the same kind of training for your employees. Your employees are in desperate need, and what we’re finding is that organizations who actually invest in training communication skills with their employees, they are a more attractive company to hire top talent; it is a great tool for retention, because employees want to be working at a company that say, “Hey, we care about you. Here’s some training that we’re going to offer you.”
It also raises the bar of communication internally, making an organization that much more successful. And when we bring elevated communication training to our frontline employees, and we really enhance their skills, you are filling the leadership pipeline. You are finding your successors before they’re even necessarily leadership ready. So this is a win across the board for the employee, for you as a leader, and for the organization overall.
So where can you really dig in and offer communication training? I had a client of mine who shared that they recently hired a bunch of interns, so those that are pretty fresh out of college, and there is a huge gap in communication because most of theirs has been across email, across text, across message boards. So they need this foundational training. We also have the older generation that is used to communicating in one fashion, very myopic in their thinking.
So we need training for all generations. We need cross-training. How do we get people to communicate effectively with each other? This is the challenge to you as a leader – where, how, and not just bringing in online, quick, easy communication training. Are you taking this seriously? It is one of the top trends, and I’m going to tell you, it is not a trend in the true sense where it’s going to go away; this is here to stay. So bring that elevated communication training in for you and for your team, and you’re going to see everyone raise the bar!
There was a discussion in my daughter’s eighth-grade history class, Reese was sharing with me how her teacher brought up the fact that kids don’t really have any choices in school; that they are governed by a very set, long list of rules. They have rules about start and stop time of the school day, start and stop time of each individual class, how much time and how they go passing periods, between classes. All of their teachers have a set of rules for how they operate in the classroom. And in fact, schools have rules about when kids can actually eat and go to the bathroom.
I mean, talk about rules – but you and I get it right, could you imagine if middle school students had no rules?! I mean, the absolute chaos that would ensue! So we need those rules, and you as an adult understand that in society we need some rules to set the foundation in order to have safety and protection. Even in your workplace, you need to have a foundational set of rules for efficiency, for productivity. But you may cringe when you have too many rules, feeling like it might stifle you. Well, I want to invite you to flip this on its head and think about rules in a different way.
With no rules there’s no bar to be set, so you don’t have anything to really aim for. So I’m going to be sharing with you three rules that, when it comes to women in leadership, you need to be thinking about for this year. I want you to use and leverage these rules as the bar, not the foundation, to set your standards in order to really challenge yourself this year and accelerate your leadership skills. Are you with me?
Alright, so the three rules. Rule number one: elevate your communication. Every study and piece of research I keep seeing as we’re heading into this new year is pointing to the need to not necessarily develop hard skills like we have been – though you need those – but to really develop your soft skills. And communication is at the top of that soft skill list. In fact, nearly every answer I give to answer a question is, “You need to up your communication.” That the problem could be resolved with better communication.
So you need to elevate your communication as a bar, as a rule, for this year. Rule number two in this coming year for you as a woman leader is you have got to stop forfeiting your power. Stop forfeiting your power! I know that women, on average, have a tendency to be asked to do certain things, and have a tendency to say “yes” to things. Most of the time it’s because, “Hey, I’m a team player. I don’t want to seem like I can’t get down and dirty and roll up my sleeves when people ask me to do something.” But in fact, every single time you say yes, you are forfeiting your power.
You have to find a way to delegate, to say no, to find ways that you can reclaim your power and actually demonstrate your strength as a leader. Finally, rule number three: measure yourself. Measure yourself and do not measure yourself or compare yourself against someone else. You must measure yourself against who you were the day before. If you want to raise the bar and accelerate yourself in leadership, you better start taking stock and measure yourself on it.
Whether it’s a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, on the different skills, your goals – are you even setting goals? Are you looking at what you did yesterday and saying, “Can I be better today?” The only way to do that is by measuring yourself. You’ve got to have the data. I want you to take these three rules when it comes to women in leadership for this year and not use them as the foundation, but use them to challenge yourself. I know you can become the leader that you don’t even realize exists within inside of yourself. You can do it, but only by following these three rules to really raise the bar and get you there this year!
I was recently reflecting on my time and experience in the corporate world; what the cultures were, what opportunities I had, the promotions I received or didn’t receive, just all of the dynamics that were happening. And I found something really interesting – over the course of my 15 years, I worked for two companies.
The first one hired me straight out of being an elementary school teacher. They were taking a risk for sure, but shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to an official leadership position. Now, I didn’t have any formal leadership training, I didn’t have formal leadership title or experience on my resume, yet there was something that this senior leadership team saw in me as an opportunity to promote me.
I was an assistant manager, moved into branch manager, I was running an entire branch, hiring, coaching, responsible for a branch’s P&L. Fast forward three years later, and I moved into the second organization. I now have a track record; I have proven results of my leadership experience. Yet, it took several years of me expressing interest in going into a leadership role before I was promoted.
In fact, it took a different manager of mine to get me into that true leadership position. Now, I don’t know exactly what the reasons are. I’ll give everyone a benefit of the doubt, but this brings me to a stale perspective that we see; that too many organizations expect people to be 100% ready, to already have this 100% proven track record before they get promoted to a leadership role. In fact, where is the training that we’re offering?
I didn’t receive any formal training prior; I was self-educated. Even after I got promoted into a formal leadership role, we didn’t have that training. I took it on myself. Well, where are organizations in terms of training?
And then, where are some opportunities that are maybe soft approaches, where they can exhibit their leadership skills on projects or task forces that already show before they get promoted? There are also a certain group of people that can meet 80% – 90% of the job requirements; put them in that leadership role, give them the concurrent training, and they will rise to the challenge.
So individuals and organizations, how are we partnering together and taking equal responsibility to rise and raise everyone at the same level? Fill that leadership pipeline. If you want to retain your top talent, they are not looking to make the top salary; pay them fairly and invest in their training, show them that there’s opportunity for growth and development and a future for them at their organization.
This is going to grow top leaders in your organization today. Don’t wait for people to be ready, that is a stale myth! Let’s partner together, let’s find that rising talent, and let’s give them the opportunity. If you’re interested in hearing more about how my team and I go in and really forge new paradigms when it comes to women in leadership, I encourage you to click on the link and book a call with me. I would love to have this conversation with you. Let’s take action today and create top-tier leaders in the workforce.
I felt 100% trapped. I was stuck, right where I was. You may have heard the term, “the golden handcuffs.” And that’s what happened for me when I hit my absolute breaking point, and I believed my only option was to quit my job. I couldn’t see how that was possible, because here my family and I had built a certain lifestyle, and it was very dependent upon my job. So I felt stuck – that if I wanted to keep our lifestyle, I had to stay in my job.
In fact, I stayed in the same position for several months, and then I stayed at the same company for four more years. All that while, I was coming out on the other side of burnout. So when people ask me, “Colleen, what do I do when I feel stuck? I’m burned out, but I’m stuck. I’ve got to stay here. What can I do?” I’m going to share with you the very first thing that I did that drastically and immediately changed what was happening for me. Now again, I didn’t change my position, I didn’t get a new family, nothing else changed around me. I started doing this one thing, and I call it my energy remedy.
Every morning I’d get up early, go downstairs before the rest of the house was awake, I’d turn on a soft lamp, sometimes I’d light a candle, I’d sit quietly on the couch, and I’d turn on my phone timer for roughly five minutes. Most mornings was about five minutes; some mornings, maybe three, some mornings, seven or ten. But about five minutes, and then I would close my eyes and I would ask myself one question. Now back then my question was, what makes me happy? I encourage you to just shift that word happy to, what brings you energy?
You are going to ask yourself that question over and over and over again, for the entire five minutes. When the five minutes is done, journal. Pen to paper, old-school pen to paper, write down all of the things you thought about. And then, guess what? You’re going to do it again the next day. I did this practice every single day for about five minutes for nearly two, three weeks, asking the same thing over and over and over again. And here’s why – because when you first asked that question, what gives me energy, it’s the obvious things, the things that are at the forefront of your mind.
You know, going out with my friends, watching a movie with my family, all of the things that are obvious are going to come to mind. But what we want to do is dig deeper. You are going to start recalling times where you had energy. For me, I would think about, what was my best day at work, when was I happiest? When did I have the most energy? Oh, it’s when I went into Rosie’s office and I worked directly with her and we solved a problem together, and I saw the light bulb moment. That’s when I felt the most energy.
Or, I felt the most energy when I would be teaching at the gym and an older member would come up and say, “Colleen, I’ve been coming to the gym for a year and my doctor just told me, I no longer need to take this medication.” Like, oh my gosh, that just energized me so much! So I started to recall these situations, and what was I doing in those? I then took that and started to apply it everywhere I could. So for me, the overarching theme was when I was training in some way; teaching, coaching, training. So even though my current job description didn’t have trainer officially on there, I just tried to find ways that I could integrate that, either in my day-to-day role as a leader, or additional things.
I still had the same job, but I asked my Vice President, my leader, “Hey, could I do this little lunch and learn?’ I felt energized to do that. It wasn’t burning me out; in fact, it had the opposite effect. The more I was doing things that brought me energy, the more that the day-to-day stuff felt lighter. I started to enjoy those even mundane things to a greater degree, and it was helping me start to build out of that burnout.
So I encourage you to take practice, try this energy remedy, and see how it works for you. Uncover what those things are that bring you the purest sense of energy, and find ways to integrate those into your everyday role, professionally and personally, and see how that starts to change your attitude, as well as bring about the perception from people around you!