Choose a Great Boss. Be a Great Boss

Guest Post, Leadership

Choose a Great Boss. Be a Great Boss

No Comments 19 March 2015

She has a relaxed management styleGuest post by Ivan Serrano.

The best technique for getting ahead at work is choosing a great boss. Not a great job, a great boss. A great boss is one who listens to employees, who is willing to let employees make mistakes and learn from them, who understands the value of loyalty, who is willing to go to bat for employees and who makes sure employees have everything they need to succeed.

But here’s the problem: great bosses are in high demand, but unfortunately in short supply. So jobs with great bosses don’t open up that often.

What can employees who don’t have great bosses do to get ahead? Here are a few thoughts that will help you get ahead even if you have a lousy boss. They will also make you more valuable to that great boss who may be in your future.

There’s one more big bonus to practicing these tips. They will also make you a great boss when you have the chance to step up and lead others. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s great bosses.

Focus on results

There is plenty of good advice about how to get a job and what to do after you’ve landed one, but results are what matter most in the workplace. That said, results are defined differently for every job and every company. At one job, the most important result may be contributing to growing revenues. At another job, the most important result may be creating loyal or happy customers. At another job, the result may be fitting into the team dynamic in a way that facilitates the group effort. It’s important to know which results matter most and then focus on them.

Once the results that matter most for your job have been identified, it is important to identify the metrics for success in achieving those results and tracking your performance yourself. Make sure you are improving.

Ask questions

If no one is telling you which results matter most and how success is measured, you need to be asking questions. Don’t make assumptions and don’t wait for someone to volunteer the information you need. Get out in front and stay in front with salient questions.

This doesn’t mean ask questions so you will appear to be engaged. Only ask the questions you need answers for.

Show me a solution

No whining and don’t play the blame game. There is no future in pointing out a problem without also sharing a solution.

You probably aren’t the first one to notice the problems you see. The real problem is that no one is stepping up to solve the problem. Instead of just pointing out a problem and waiting for someone else to do something about it, bring a solution to the table.

Admit your mistakes

But then move on. There aren’t really any benefits from mistakes except learning what not to do in a single situation. If you learn your lesson, you’ve already gotten everything you’re going to get from making a mistake. Move on.

Things change

Be ready for change, even before your first day on the job. Chances are, if you stay at a job long enough, you will be asked to perform more than one task that is not on your job description.

Don’t let your title limit you. Ask the questions to understand what results are expected and what the metrics for success are. Do your best not to take on new tasks until both you and the person making the request have a mutual understanding of results and metrics for success. This will ensure you get credit for your work.

Often, taking on new responsibilities means you will not be able to perform a task you have been responsible for. Don’t just assume that task will be taken care of. Make sure you know who will be responsible for your old tasks–it may be you.

Challenge yourself

You’re going to be more engaged with your job if you’re continually doing something new. This translates into personal growth, but it also translates into increasing your value as an employee.

The devil is in the details

Make sure tasks get completed. Too often in the daily hustle from one crisis to the next, many tasks don’t get completed in one sitting. This is a reality of the modern workplace. Juggling more than one project is a skill most employees need to have.

Even though your boss asks you to stop doing something to work on something else, it does not mean your boss doesn’t want you to complete the task you were asked to stop. Always go back and finish up those incomplete tasks.

Have fun

Try to have some fun. Humor and laughter in the workplace can make the day go by quicker and creates an atmosphere that everyone enjoys being in.

Following these tips will help you get ahead in your current job. The real value of this particular set of tips is that they are getting you ready for leadership and establishing the capability you will need to as a leader–leading by example. Keep your eye on the goal of becoming a great boss one day. The workplace needs you.

Ivan Serrano is a business and finance journalist living in the Bay Area of California. Connect with him on Google+.


Guest Post, Leadership

Practicing Self-Care Amidst the Storm

No Comments 01 November 2014

Guest Post by Sylvana Rochet
As the events in Syria and Ukraine unfolded this summer, I got to thinking about how delicate it is for leaders to respond to others’ conflicts and emotional distress, while attempting to maintain their own balance. Not only because it must be hard to witness such turmoil around them – despite the trappings of whatever power they may have – but also because it seems that whatever they do will (almost always) be criticized. For President Obama, that meant being crucified for “going golfing” during his vacation as Putin rolled into Ukraine and an American journalist was beheaded in Syria. If we look closer, we can see much the same happening, albeit on a different scale in our own workplaces, creating negativity among employees and stress for the leaders.

“Empathy” has made its way into the corporate lexicon, and this generates great benefits for the culture of the company when leveraged well, but empathy can also be confused with taking on behaviors like commiserating and being negative. So, how can a Conscious Leader show empathy for others during difficult times, while still remaining present to the task at hand – i.e. running a commercial enterprise?

As a leader you will inevitably get pulled into other people’s problems and conflicts. This is normal, as they likely see it as your responsibility to mediate human-related issues. Indeed, in his book, My American Journey, Gen. Colin Powell noted that, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them, or concluded that you do not care.”

To be fair, most companies don’t give employees much autonomy or tools for addressing challenges on their own, and the default position seems to be to “take it up to the managers or HR” at the first sight of challenge. A likely instance where you’ll be faced with people’s intense emotional states is during times of change. Because change at work feels directly threatening to people’s livelihoods (“Is my job on the line?”), it can violently shake an entire company if the leaders aren’t equipped to powerfully manage it. You must keep your pulse on the collective mood so you can prepare to weather the storm skillfully and, as captain, confidently bring the ship to safe harbor in the end.

By taking from the steps and examples presented, you might find some better ways to navigate hard times, while staying sane and clear-headed (and guilt-free!). These pointers apply to most situations, whether you are 1:1 with someone, or when presenting to the whole department after a particularly hard quarter.

  1. Validate people’s responses, fears, etc. You won’t be taken seriously until you have heard people out and recognized that this is difficult. When doing so, avoid using the “I” person (i.e. “I totally know how you feel”) as this can further pull you into the drama. As the boss, you’re expected to remain calm and objective, yet human. So your statements might sound something like: “Knowing how tirelessly you have worked on X, it is understandable / normal that you feel this way.” Usually, you can’t take ownership of their pain, so don’t try.
  2. Do not gossip or agree with any one story. You appreciate that everything is more complex than one person’s, or one group’s, perspective.
  3. Empower people to create their own solutions. Example: “It must be frustrating when IT does not respond quickly to emergencies. You have great problem-solving skills, so take a couple days to think up 3 ways to address this. I’ll be happy to go through them together and brainstorm some more, and I’m sure you’ll figure out a brilliant way to sort it out.” Bonus: it makes people feel great, and is less burdensome for you.
  4. Practice extreme self-care. Do you know what successful leaders do when things get stressful? They’ll meditate between meetings, sneak out for an afternoon massage or go for a mid-morning walk at the park. They have no problem telling their team: “I won’t schedule afternoon meetings before 2:00 pm because I’m doing CrossFit at lunch these days.” Why? Because they understand that their burnt-out self won’t be effective (or around very long). Your team deserves a leader who is present and energized, so it is your responsibility to do the necessary to be at your best – physically, mentally and emotionally.

If there is criticism for your practicing self-care (“Who does she think she is, going to Yoga after this morning’s meeting?”), first remind yourself that the company doesn’t benefit from you getting sucked into collective despair in order to prove your comradeship. It takes mastery to have empathy for others’ pain while keeping the healthy distance needed to stay productive.

This can also be a perfect opportunity to encourage them to do the same. Showing that you believe everyone deserves to tend to their well-being during stressful times will obtain their best support. This is what Conscious Leaders do: they model wholesome ways for all to become the best version of themselves too. Because that is what will get you through hard times faster.


Sylvana Rochet is a NY-based executive coach and consultant. She works with leaders and organizations looking to optimize what they do with human-centered strategy and approaches.

Guest Post, Management

Managing Expectations: Under Promise and Over Deliver

1 Comment 16 August 2013

Guest Post by Robert Cordray
There’s an old expression, “He who expects little is seldom disappointed.” That’s not a great catchphrase for the customer service department, but it does bring up the topic of managing the expectations of customers and others by “under promising and over delivering”. The premise is simple. Don’t make overblown claims that get a person’s hopes up, only to disappoint them when you can’t deliver.

Instead, make attainable promises that set realistic expectations, and then deliver in a way that exceeds those expectations. The Creole term, “lagniappe” effectively captures the delightful surprise that emanates from that extra morsel of effort or product. That’s a pretty sound philosophy for doing business, and here are five reasons why “under promise and over deliver” is such an important strategy.

Consumers value great serviceAccording to a recent survey by American Express, today’s post recession consumers expect great customer service, and they’re willing to pay for it. In fact, 70 percent of consumers are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more for goods and services with companies that provide excellent customer service. If those statistics don’t motivate organizations to do all they can to exceed expectations and provide a great customer experience, what will?

Customers aren’t getting great serviceIn the same survey, sixty percent of American consumers believe that businesses are doing little to improve customer service. This leaves the door wide open for businesses to stand out by going the extra mile to give great service. Small businesses appear to be a bright spot, as 81 percent of respondents feel that small businesses are doing a better job of providing good customer service than large businesses.

Bad customer service is costlyHere’s a sobering statistic. 78 percent of consumers said that poor customer service has caused them to either abandon a transaction or not make a purchase that they had intended to make. But it doesn’t stop there. When consumers have a good customer experience, they tell an average of nine people about it. But when they have a negative experience, they tell twice as many people about it. Add to that the interconnectedness of today’s consumers through various social media platforms, and that could spell big trouble when negative comments go viral.

Customer service delivers strong ROIAs previously mentioned, consumers are willing to spend more with companies that provide superior service. And consistently “over delivering” on customer service will help build the kind of reputation that attracts new consumers and creates the kind of long-term loyalty and advocacy that is essential for driving solid business growth. Companies willing to invest in whatever talent, training, and tools they need in order to elevate the overall customer experience, will in turn experience a very high ROI.

Workers prefer to be associated with ExcellenceOne of the greatest returns on product or service excellence is the attendant boost in morale of the organization’s staff.  People, all of us, want to be associated with a winner, and conversely, we hate being associated with schlock stuff. Employee engagement surveys consistently identify the organization’s reputation for quality as a primary driver of worker engagement.

In order to successfully implement the “under promise and over deliver” strategy, companies need to understand that it has less to do with lowering the bar on the “promise” end, and everything to do with raising the bar on the “deliver” end. After all, no successful business was ever built on a weak promise. Only by offering the best possible promise—a promise that stretches limitations—and then going the extra mile to exceed the consumer’s expectations of that promise, can a company experience the satisfaction and success that comes from, not just meeting, but exceeding its own expectations.


Robert Cordray is a freelance writer interested in helping HR managers and small business owners build strong teams through employee appreciation.


Guest Post, Leadership

How to Gain the Leadership Experience Employers Want

No Comments 05 August 2013

Looking for LeadershipAlthough most of the posts on this blog are original, every now and then we like to feature articles we think would be helpful to you, our readers. We recently read one such article, and wanted to share it with you. It’s a great read on how younger professionals can gain the leadership experience so sought after by employers today.

Click here, and enjoy!



Guest Post, Leadership

Leaders Ought to Know

No Comments 25 April 2013

leaders ought to knowOur good friend, Phillip Van Hooser has written a new book: Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership, published by our publisher, John Wiley and Sons. Here’s an excerpt from the book: “Honesty builds respect; respect builds trust — leaders ought to know that, but sometimes it’s hard for leaders to maintain honesty and confidentiality.”

Leaders Ought to Know: Maintain Honesty and Confidentiality

“Casey is a front line supervisor.  During a weekly supervisory meeting, Casey’s department manager announced a plan to transfer one of the team’s newest members to another division.  The affected employee was unaware of the transfer decision.  The supervisors were cautioned about maintaining confidentiality.  The manager wanted to meet with the affected employee before the news became public.” Less than an hour after the meeting, out of the blue Casey was approached by the employee in question.  “Do you know anything about me being transferred?” he asked.  “No, I don’t know anything about that,” Casey responded before walking away. “Moments later Casey returned to the employee with this startling revelation.  “I lied to you a few minutes ago.  You asked what I knew about a transfer and I said I knew nothing.  The truth is that subject was discussed during a meeting I was in this morning.  Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to share details — your manager will do that — but I wanted to be honest with you.” ‘The surprised employee responded, “Thanks.  I appreciate your honesty.” ‘Casey voluntarily shared this very personal leadership experience with me.  His admission sparked a wonderful discussion.  We marveled at how easy it is for leaders to play loose with the truth—and how often it happens in organizations.  We also agreed that leaders often disregard the impact such dishonesty can have on their reputations.’

The Honesty Game

Leaders Ought to Know Ground Rule #5:  “Leaders don’t play loose with the truth; Leaders lead from a position of unquestioned honesty.” (Excerpted from Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership, John Wiley & Sons, releasing April 22, 2013.) Thankfully, the most considerate leaders fully understand that honesty builds respect; respect builds trust; and trust builds leadership reputations.  But the converse is also true.  Dishonesty (including those harmless little “white lies”) undercuts respect; unearned respect erodes trust; and eroding trust destroys leadership reputations. Simply put, Leaders Ought To Know the honesty game is one conscientious leaders cannot afford to lose.

Leaders Ought to Know Maintain Honesty and ConfidentialityNow it’s your turn: What are some ways leaders can rebuild a reputation when they’ve been less than honest or confidential?Join the LinkedIn Discussion Now.


Phillip Van Hooser, Leadership Expert, Keynote Speaker, Author – Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership

Guest Post

4 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Recruiter

No Comments 20 April 2013

By Erin Osterhaus, Software Advice.

It’s hard to evaluate a third-party recruiter in advance. The ultimate test, of course, is whether the recruiter brings you high-quality candidates. But you won”t know this until you’ve worked with that recruiter for months. You”ll certainly want to choose a recruiter who has experience hiring in your industry for the type of talent you need. But these basics just scratch the surface. To dig deeper, I asked three recruiting experts for some clever questions to ask a prospective recruiter. The experts:

  • Jessica Miller-Merrell is the President and CEO of XceptionalHR, which provides businesses with recruitment strategies and human resources consulting, as well as the head writer for the well-known HR blog, Blogging4Jobs.
  • Julie LaBrie is the President of BlueSky Personnel, a Canadian recruiting agency based in Toronto. She has worked in the staffing and recruiting industry for 14 years.
  • Jennifer McClure is the President of Unbridled Talent, a consulting and advisory firm that provides services to clients in the areas of recruiting and HR strategy.


The Experts

1. What is the internal turnover rate at your recruiting firm?

This is a great question to help you determine if a recruiting agency or Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) provider you’re considering engaging has a history of hiring dedicated recruiters. The logic: if the agency vets its own recruiters thoroughly, there will be less internal turnover–a good indicator that the agency has a history of hiring dedicated individuals who will be equally dedicated to finding you great candidates. According to LaBrie, when she hires new recruiters for BlueSky Personnel, she tries “To find out first if they’re passionate about what they do and if they really care. At the end of the day, I need to find out if they’re going to dig for that person.”

2. What is the turnover rate of your past placements?

One of the most quantifiable ways to assess a recruiter’s dedication to finding the right person for the job is to determine if they have a track record of placing new hires who stayed on the job for an extended period of time. If their past placements have stayed on for at least two years, it’s a good indication that they know how to source candidates who have the skills required to succeed in a position and are a good culture fit with the employer. Conversely, a high turnover rate could indicate that the recruiter failed to adequately screen candidates.

3. What is your sourcing strategy?

Often the best candidates for a position are passive. In fact, for any given role, only 10 percent of the relevant talent is actively looking for a job. To access the other 90 percent of that talent pool, you’ll want to find a recruiter will do more than just post jobs and search job boards.

Great research skills are essential, because, LaBrie says, “We don’t always get the candidates we want through the postings, so we have to be very good researchers and diggers to get the information.” Your recruiter needs to have a proven method for doing this if they’re going to find those needles in the haystack.

McClure says it’s a good idea to ask how a prospective recruiter typically finds people, and what tactics they then use to engage the candidate. And, she notes, “Once they find the people, how do they connect with them, build rapport? Do they understand what the candidates are looking for to make a move? And how do they sell them on the opportunity, especially if it’s a passive type candidate who they found when they weren’t actively looking?”

4. How do you determine if a candidate fits the culture of the client?

Determining if a candidate will be a good fit with your company culture is absolutely necessary for your (and their) success. As the authors of Who: The A Method for Hiring found, “Not evaluating cultural fit was one of the biggest reasons for hiring mistakes. People who don’t fit fail on the job, even when they are perfectly talented in all other respects.”

McClure recommends asking the prospective recruiter what questions they use to assess whether a candidate would be a culture fit. For example: “Tell me about the best culture that you’ve ever worked in. What made it really enjoyable for you to work there? Where’s a place where you didn’t fit well and what was that like?”

She also emphasizes that it’s important to evaluate how the recruiter poses those questions to candidates. Companies should consider, ”Do they ask open-ended questions, and are they good at framing it in such a way that it really doesn’t give away what they’re looking for?”

Of course, it’s also important to know how the recruiter will get to know your culture before they can assess a candidate’s compatibility with it. Ask how the prospective recruiter would go about that. Miller-Merrell says, “Most third party recruiters will probably go through a checklist, or they’ll spend some time with you on the phone, or they’ll do some research on the Internet to try to get a sense of who you are as a company.”

You’ll have to do your part, too. As LaBrie notes, for recruiters, “What’s important for us when we’re trying to recruit for the company culture is that [the employer] shares everything–absolutely everything–with us. When it comes to who their hiring manager is, his style or her style, it’s very important for us to understand that.”

If you ask these questions up front, you’ll be well on your way to finding a recruiter who will source great people for the open positions your business’s growth has created–and with their help, you’ll be able to focus on what you do best, and keep your business growing.

Guest Post, Leadership

Three Reasons You Should Have a Leadership Program

No Comments 26 July 2012

Guest post by Kyle Lagunas.

Why is the process of finding a leader–whether to backfill someone or to fill a new role–often treated as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process? With the cost per hire only rising, why do so few organizations have a process for identifying and cultivating leaders within their existing talent pool?

Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of YMCA warned us in Finding Leaders for America’s Nonprofits: Commentaries that, “Until [we] become much more intentional about development of internal talent, we are doomed to an ever-growing leadership deficit.” That was three years ago.

Companies need to change the way they are sourcing leadership talent. Rather than look outward when a leader is needed, they should instead continuously look inward to identify candidates with leadership aptitude and invest in honing their skills with development programs.

Regardless of whether you ultimately hire leaders from within, simply having a leadership development program yields important benefits for any organization. Here are reasons to do it:

  • Leadership Programs Boost Employee Engagement

A study conducted by ACCOR found that although 90% of leaders say employee engagement impacts business success, 75% have no engagement plan or strategy. To that end, development programs give employees the opportunity to strive toward something more meaningful and valuable than their day-to-day work. And that makes them happy.

Leadership development is serious stuff. It takes time and dedication to make it work. If you’re going to adopt an official leadership development program, be sure to first identify your goals for the program.

  • Leadership Programs Increase Employee Performance

It’s hard to deny a linkage between development and performance. As John Robak, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Greeley and Hansen, attests, “Those individuals in our organization who are inspired tend to outperform. That’s because the more well-rounded you are, the better you’re able to perform.”

Makes sense, right? The companies outperforming you certainly think so. In fact, the highest performing organizations spend 36% more on development than their less successful counterparts. And the organizations that are doing this effectively understand what their future needs are going to be, and understand how to engage their potentials and give them the opportunity to develop the skills that they need to succeed in the operation.

  • Leadership Programs Improve Retention Rates

Many organizations see investments in employee development–leadership development, in particular–as a gamble. If the employee leaves, those investments walk out the door and potentially into the hands of a competitor. For those who cite turnover as a reason not to invest in developing employees, though, the truth is that leadership development and opportunities are actually a leading retention strategy.

“Gen Y tends to be more fluid and move more frequently, which can be intimidating for employers worried about turnover. We see the exact opposite,” says Robak.

Don’t get me wrong–turnover is a valid concern, but if you’re hemorrhaging top performers, it’s rarely because you’ve invested too much in developing them.

Transparency is King in Leadership Development

As Roback points out, “In the absence of feedback, people tend to create their own.” Whatever decision is made–whether it’s a promotion from within or an external hire, it’s critical to communicate the why. Robak goes on to say that, “We don’t just want our message to be heard–we want to ensure it’s received.” Otherwise, all of your best intentions are for naught.

What successes have you had in developing leaders internally? What challenges is your organization faced with when developing a pool of leadership candidates?

About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is an HR Analyst at Software Advice. He reports on important news, interesting conversations, and what’s trending in the world of talent management, human resources, and recruiting.


Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.


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