The Strength Behind Invisibility

The Strength Behind Invisibility

I had been with the organization for about seven or eight years, so I thought I had a really good pulse on who the strong leaders were at the company. But I decided to ask some of my colleagues, especially those who were in different remote offices or at our corporate office, and I was so surprised to hear that the person named most often was not one of the two I completely expected, the two leaders that I had watched really rise the ranks.

They were very outgoing and they possessed a lot of those natural leadership abilities, especially when it came to being on a sales division. But this leader, the one I didn’t necessarily expect, was the name that kept coming up, and the reason why they weren’t top of mind to me is because I just really didn’t know this leader at all. I don’t even recall that I had had a conversation with this leader before they were brought to my attention, and they had been there longer than me – so seven, eight years of opportunity. But for many reasons, we never crossed paths, and I never had a chance or reached out to speak to this leader.

Well, this was my opportunity!

In speaking to this leader, they were the opposite of what you see. They were much more quiet, much more reserved, and quite possibly the type of employee before they were promoted that didn’t necessarily speak up a lot in meetings or in other places – or maybe spoke up but didn’t have the frequency that others did, and didn’t necessarily bring it about in the same way. That’s exactly the type of leader we should be looking for. We have a tendency to lean toward those with those really outgoing, charismatic, kind of traditional, what we believe are strong leadership characteristics.

But who on your team, or who are you surrounded by, that isn’t always the one speaking up? Which leaders truly are the ones who are hesitating? They’re not jumping up and raising their hands saying, “I want to be the next manager!” Could those quite possibly be the best leaders? Like the best-kept secrets, sitting right there.

I will share with you, my son Ethan is not an outgoing, super social person, but he has been elected to be the leader among his peers and his teammates. He never raises his hand, he never asks to be the leader, but they see it in him. So again, as a leader today, or just as an individual, who might you be overlooking?

Who might you be missing for those opportunities to truly become a strong leader in a formal capacity at your organization? Who might you be missing? Just simply because they aren’t exhibiting what you naturally think would be a good leader? I encourage you to open your eyes, start taking in a true assessment, and find those best-kept secrets that are right there in front of you!

You May Be Quiet Firing Without Realizing It

You May Be Quiet Firing Without Realizing It

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.

What’s most appalling to me and most shocking if you can believe it, is that quiet firing actually happens a lot with managers who are the opposite of this; managers who actually care deeply about their employees, who would never in a million years use intentional bullying tactics.

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!

It’s the Who Not the How

It’s the Who Not the How

About 10 years into my career as a leader, I acknowledged that just as easily as I could identify my strengths as a leader, where I felt passionate, where I saw people coming to me, I could just as easily say, “Hey, I’ve got gaps.” But it was harder for me to identify exactly what those gaps were.

There were other leaders that I was just mesmerized by, I just thought they were unbelievable. And then I would hear from my peers about their leaders as they would tell me how amazing they were, and I’m thinking, “Okay, I want more of that, but what IS that?!” I wasn’t sure what it was. So I reached out to some of those leaders, the ones that I observed being amazing or that I heard from other people that were amazing, and I set up time with them to ask, what is it that you believe makes you a good leader?

What are things you’ve learned on your leadership journey, what are you thinking about?

I had a call with a particular VP who had a very opposite personality to me; I tend to be very extroverted, and I use big facial expressions and hand gestures all the time. This leader appeared, from the outside at least, to be a little bit more introverted, a little more serious. So I was extremely intrigued to know what his secret was, what really kept him going and made his team see him as an extraordinary leader.

He shared with me that he went into every single conversation, situation, and experience, always with curiosity. That was it; it was all about asking questions and staying curious, but I knew that wasn’t a strength of mine. I didn’t know how to do it. So I asked him, how do I learn how to do that? And he gave me a recommendation that I followed through on.

If you have an area, something that you are trying to become better at, but you’re not sure either exactly how to pinpoint what it is, or you know what it is but you’re not sure how to do it, I invite you today to take a step back and think about your network, people that you interact with either professionally or personally, and say, “Okay, who do I know that possesses these qualities? Who has achieved this? Who do I see that I would love to emulate?”

And just pick up the phone, text, email, call, reach out and ask for a bit of their time. Have some questions, find out what it is they’re doing, and then ask how they learned to do it. It’s a bit of a shortcut for you, but it also helps you learn from the best, versus just going out there and trying to find where the answers lie. Go to the source, go to those people that you are just taken by that you know they’ve got what you want, and go ask them how you can get it!

3 Mistakes Leaders Make When It Comes to Team Burnout

3 Mistakes Leaders Make When It Comes to Team Burnout

Are we seriously still talking about burnout? Yes, unfortunately we are. Now, I have some slight good news for you – across frontline employees, there is a slight reduction in those that are experiencing burnout. Great! However, 40% of people cited burnout as the reason that they left their job. Burnout is the reason that 40% of people left their job.

Now you as a people leader, you’re responsible for not only attracting top talent, you’ve got to hold onto them. You have to be able to retain top talent. So if we know that burnout is the reason that 40% of people are leaving their job, let’s focus in on burnout as a strategy to be able to retain your employees. Today, I’m going to address the top three mistakes that leaders are making when it comes to mitigating your team burnout.

Number one: leaders are not addressing their own burnout.

Does this sound familiar? Leaders, you have to be able to address your own burnout. Look, one of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to inspire and mobilize people toward a goal, a vision. How can you possibly do that if you yourself are showing up completely exhausted, depleted, you have reduced professional efficacy.

There is absolutely no way that you are going to lead others, or even show them how to mitigate their own burnout, when you yourself don’t have a handle on it. I mentioned that we’re starting to see some reduced burnout with frontline employees, but unfortunately for people managers, it has only gotten worse. Gallup reported that across people managers, we went from 28% citing that they were very often or always burned out to 35%.

You must address your own burnout and get that under control if you expect to mitigate the burnout for your team. Mistake number two is relying on perks. Oh, I’m seeing it everywhere. Big bonuses, increased salary, game rooms, free lunches. And look, those are some nice things, but to use an old school metaphor, “That’s just icing on the cake.” The cake itself is disgusting right now, we have to fix the cake!

So as a leader, stop relying on perks. You’ve got to be able to provide foundational things that are going to retain your employees. I saw it firsthand, we had this amazing game room at the office I worked at in my corporate job, but it wasn’t the people who were burned out who were using it. The people who were burned out could care less about the game room. They were just trying to survive. Mistake number two is relying on perks, so let’s find new strategies that aren’t just about the perks.

That should be the icing, not the foundational cake. Right?

All right, mistake number three is thinking that increased responsibilities is a way to develop your employees. So you have an employee who is interested in moving up into a different position or making a lateral move into another department. And you say, “Great, I’m going to have you join this task force, or you’re going to take over this project.” What are you doing? You are just throwing additional responsibilities on their plate when they are already burned out.

Unmanageable workload and unreasonable time pressure are two of the top reasons that people are burned out; two of the top causes right there. So if they’re already feeling like they have an unmanageable workload, your attempt, albeit maybe with good thought, your attempt to provide them development by throwing additional responsibilities on them is only adding to the burnout.

Don’t use additional responsibilities as a way to develop your employees. Take a look at these top three mistakes and start to do some assessment. Pull in the data, take a look what’s in front of you, and see if you can start to remove those mistakes and start to shift strategies so that you can mitigate the burnout and retain your top-tier employees!

It’s Hard to Let Go

It’s Hard to Let Go

In 8th grade I had a boyfriend, we’ll call him “Mr. ND;” he wore a Notre Dame jacket every day. On paper, Mr. ND was the perfect match for 8th grade Colleen. He got good grades, he was so sweet, and he was definitely less immature than those other 8th grade boys. So when Mr. ND asked me to go out, I said yes! Over the course of the next few weeks or month, however long junior high relationships last, Mr. ND and I would hang out at the lunch tables, we’d go to the library, he’d even let me wear that Notre Dame jacket.

But eventually, I knew Mr. ND and I, we were not the perfect match. But he was so sweet I just didn’t have the heart to tell him. I waited way too long, but I did eventually break up with my boyfriend. I had an out-of-body experience, so I can’t remember any of the details. But what I can share is that Mr. ND went on to have much more successful relationships, I went on to have much more successful relationships, and we are still connected via social media 35 years later.

Well, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. ND when I was speaking to one of our clients who’s the CEO of a small business, and he was telling me that one of his biggest challenges is not letting go of employees, even once he knows they are no longer the perfect match. He had a situation where more than one of these employees he knew deep down was not the right fit, but he just couldn’t get rid of them, he didn’t have the heart to let them go. He had the right intentions, he felt like this is their livelihood, he was giving them a paycheck, so he was just going to hang on to them as long as he could. He also felt like, “I don’t have a replacement and it’s going make me and everybody else have all of this extra workload. We’ll just make it work.”

Well of course, it didn’t work.

These employees ended up quitting anyhow, leaving him and the rest of his staff in a bind without having any backup. And I know you have been either in that same situation or you’re in it right now, where on paper, that employee was the perfect match; their resume was great, the interview process went well, they looked perfect for all of the personality assessments. But now that they’re in the role, it’s not the right fit.

And you deep down in your gut know that, yet you believe that, “Hey, I’m just going to hang on to them. I feel bad, I want to give them a second, a third, a tenth chance.” You believe that you are actually helping them, when in fact you are doing them a disservice. For every moment, day, or week that you hang on to them, you are stealing time from them. You are taking away the time that they could be investing and looking for the right fit opportunity for them.

Because at the end of it all, you’re going to let them go or they’re going to quit anyhow. You’re also claiming that it is about them, but I’m going to challenge you to look deep and say, is it really about them, or is it about you not feeling comfortable in having the conversation? And if that’s the case, go through the proper channels to get the support that you need. This CEO also shared that immediately after these employees left, his other team came to him and said, “Oh, thank goodness they’re gone. I had this problem, this was going on.”

When you don’t let go of an employee and everyone else sees the issues, you are risking your reputation as a leader. The rest of your team starts to question the strength you have as a leader. They wonder why you are making a poor decision. And potentially, it may cause them to leave or for them to say, “Well, my leader doesn’t care how we respond or behave. I might as well do the same.” So, do not hang on to employees for longer than is necessary. Go through the proper process and procedure, but when you know deep down that it’s not the right fit, do not kid yourself that it’s about them or that you believe you’re helping them. You’re not helping them, you’re not helping the rest of your team or your organization, and you’re definitely not helping yourself.

Move swiftly when you need to get rid of those employees.


Most Leaders Don’t Acknowledge Their Employees

Most Leaders Don’t Acknowledge Their Employees

Recognition – the simple act of acknowledging a contribution. Leaders, the word recognition, the act of recognition is not time intensive; it should not feel daunting. Yet, Gallup found that 40% of employees say that they receive recognition only a few times or less per year. This is insanity because on the flip side, those employees who receive recognition that hits the mark for them, they’re five times more likely to be engaged in the culture, they’re four times more likely to be productive, and they are three times more likely to stay loyal to your organization.

Recognition is very simple; it does not have to be some major program, though recognition programs are great. What I’m offering for you as a leader, a people manager, is that you are engaging in frequent, consistent, simple recognition for your employees. You don’t need to come up with an entire motivational system, or some huge incentive plan. If you yourself offer recognition frequently and consistently to your employees throughout the year, you’re going to achieve these results.

But the recognition has to hit the mark.

We talk a lot at The Corporate Refinery about the personalization need – because look, the people you lead are people; they’re human beings. They have their own thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotions. So if you want to have them generate more and you want to be able to recognize their contribution, you’ve got to personalize it. Personalization is going to be key. The magic question that you should be asking your employees when they come onto your team, when you first hire them (and if you haven’t done it already, go do it now!) is simply asking them how do they like to be recognized?

I had some employees on my sales team who really wanted recognition purely with cash. They wanted that commission, that showed the recognition. Others wanted to earn that big incentive trip. Others preferred flexibility, time off. Others didn’t just want recognition from me, they wanted recognition from two layers above me, from our Senior VP. So I figured out how to make that happen.

Ask your employees how do they like to be recognized, and find ways to do that consistently. One of the big mistakes that we see is that leaders assume everybody likes public recognition. So you build it into your team meetings, hey, I’m going to have a place where I recognize and acknowledge everybody, or certain individuals. Some people do not like that, so they don’t even acknowledge that as a form of recognition.

So find out how to personalize the recognition as best as possible, and then do it frequently and consistently, and you’re going to yield that loyalty, that productivity, that engagement from your employees for the future. Do not overcomplicate it, do not feel like this is a daunting word. It really is that simple to do, yet will give you the best results!