Archives December 2020

Motivation Sins: Get Off Of The Naughty Boss List

Motivation Sins: Get Off Of The Naughty Boss List

Who do you look to for motivation? For many of us, it’s our leaders we go to when we need that push to get things done. If you’re the leader, how motivated (or not) your team is, can come down to how you lead.

Motivation Sins

So ask yourself: are you guilty of these motivational sins?

1. Supervising by merely giving orders, especially in the form of emails

Remember: Positive personal and human contact raises morale. Lack of personal communication with employees will put you out of touch with the good ideas and creativity of your staff.

2. Using expressions such as “I do it this way.”

Remember: The jobs of team members are all different. And each requires a different type of person. As a result, you should encourage employees to stand on their own two feet and develop their approaches to doing things.

3. Falling into or encouraging office politics

Remember: Politics can destroy people’s spirit and enthusiasm. It leads to low morale and will lessen your ability to achieve your objectives. Making frequent personal contact is the most effective way to prevent jealousies and office politics from thriving.

4. Giving answers rather than problems to solve

Remember: Encouraging, even forcing, employees to make decisions is a great way to help develop the team.

In my conversations about leadership, I continually run into an interesting theme. People are frustrated in their role as a volunteer. Or conversely, people can’t figure out how to engage volunteers. Oddly, the frustrated volunteers are precisely the type of people the other group tends to look for.

After spending a significant amount of time in the non-profit sector as well as working with military reservists and cadets, I see several comprehensive programs designed and put in place to lead volunteers effectively. Quite frankly, those efforts kept those who didn’t know how to lead employed and gave consultants a decent revenue stream.

Another tool for being a great leader? Curiosity! Here’s how it can help you survive as a leader.

Volunteers vs. employees

In my opinion, the only difference between leading volunteers and leading employees is compensated.

At a staff meeting, a manager was describing the performance problems she was having with volunteers. An employee had delegated some work to a volunteer and, after some months, discovered the work was not done satisfactorily.

I spoke up and asked the manager, “What would you do if one of your paid supervisors left another employee for months with poorly defined tasks and then got angry when it wasn’t done right?”

The response? “I would discipline them!”

So, I thought to myself, “Really?” As the person assigning the work to these volunteers, is she the pot or the kettle?

A terrific friend of mine, who is a very accomplished businessperson and a community leader of the highest order, relayed to me she had been asked to take part in a membership drive.

A consultant sat everyone down and lectured the volunteers about proper protocol at the inaugural committee meeting. These volunteers are all very accomplished in their own right, so to be treated like five-year-olds would be very off-putting.

How would you respond if this were your boss talking down to you? Now, how might you respond as a volunteer?

I have served with volunteers who—when given authority and responsibility and held to account—led the responses to some of the most complex disasters of our time. I saw reservists who, if treated like the professional soldiers they are, can accomplish superhuman tasks.

Motivation and Money

I know first-hand money isn’t the most critical motivator!

Whether paid or unpaid, people want to:

  • Have honourable and engaging work to do
  • Receive clear expectations
  • Feel they are part of something bigger than they are
  • Be employed at or above their current capacity.
  • Be shown respect and appreciation.

What Is Motivation?

The long-studied art and science of human motivation are complicated. It’s often the subject of debate by academics and business practitioners alike. One thing is sure: the ability to inspire others to perform is a crucial element in ineffective leadership and a key concern of organizations dedicated to quality and achieving results.

To motivate means to inspire action. What can managers do to encourage their employees?

To answer that question, we must know what our people seek from their jobs.

Many managers assume that all people want from a job is money. If this were true, then all we would have to do to motivate people is to give them more money to produce more, or better, work.

This rarely works.

It seldom has any long-term impact on motivation or performance.

Not sure what kind of leader you are? Take our quiz to find out.

What People Want from Their Jobs

If you want to get the best results from your people, you should know what rings their bell. To do so, you must know people’s goals and how they look at their jobs.

Do you understand the aspirations, ambitions, and competitive spirit of those you lead? How do their personal lives affect their work?

Managers need to treat team members according to their personalities. People are different, and no two people respond precisely to the same situation or circumstances.

So, managers need to get close to their people, understand them, and inspire them under varied circumstances.

If you’re on the other end of this and need to find a way to better partner with your boss, don’t miss this post.

Light That Fuse

In your efforts to inspire team members to achieve great results, remember that motives incite people to action.

This means, in effect, that all motivation is self-motivation. So, it’s your job to help your employees find a cause that compels them to act while achieving the organization’s goals. It’s also your job, as their manager, to get your people to want to do what needs to be done.

8 Actions to Get off the Naughty Boss List

Here are some ways to fire up people’s motivation:

  1. Set clear, well-defined, and high (but attainable) goals. Be sure they understand and accept them.
  2. When discussing goals with your people, get their ideas and suggestions. Don’t forget to review the problems they may encounter. People who are involved in producing plans and goals will usually work harder to achieve them.
  3. Assure your people that you rely on them and have confidence in them. They need to know that the boss believes in them.
  4. Back up, your people and fight for them when necessary. Public support, when appropriate, gives people confidence that they have the authority they need and shows that they have your trust. Show an interest in your people and listen to their triumphs, their problems, their ideas, and their grievances.
  5. Demonstrate that purposeful, dedicated, and consistent effort leads to meaningful results.
  6. Demonstrate how their work relates to their future and the advancement of the team.
  7. Give deserved praise and recognition.
  8. Get rid of “deadwood.” Workers are more productive when every one person contributes to the team effort.

What are you going to do today to stay out of purgatory?

Two things you can do if you need help?

Click here to have a conversation with Steve.

If you’re interested in going even deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

A Curated List of Crisis Leadership Articles
9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on December 8, 2018, and has been updated.

5 Steps You Can Use To Build a “First Team” Mindset

Credit to:

Patrick Lencioni & The Table Group for the “First Team” concept,

Jason Wong of

and  Dalmau Consulting for the image

I loved my job.

I was part of a powerful and effective executive team to whom I was loyal. I had no problem identifying that they were the team I was personally responsible for and accountable for.

They were my ‘First Team.’

I had built my team into a great team. People took on some of the most complex projects you could imagine and not just succeeded but excelled. I felt great loyalty to everyone who directly and indirectly reported to me.

But there is no doubt that my division was my ‘Second Team.’

Read about what Punk taught me about this situation.

First Team?”

A First Team – best articulated by Patrick Lencioni – is the idea that true leaders prioritize supporting their fellow leaders over their direct reports—that they are responsible to their peers more than they are to their individual or “Second” teams.

If you’re not entirely on board with that concept, I get it.

In my experience, a “First Team” mindset has been transformational in creating a high performing organization by improving the quality of leadership and management practiced.  

When leaders have built trust with each other, it becomes significantly easier to manage change, exhibit vulnerability, and solve problems together.

I was part of a team who looked and functioned as like example A in the drawing:

When I fell out of my “First Team.”

Things changed when I got a new boss close to me and considered myself a trusted confidant. Over time she went quiet, stopped sharing reasons for decisions and stopped responding. People were hired onto the leadership team I belonged to, whom I believed did not demonstrate the standards I expected of them. My performance began to slip, and my reactions to events were not always as professional as I either hoped or was expected of me.

In retrospect, all the signs pointed to the simple fact that I was nearing or had gone past my best before date as far as she was concerned. To be clear, I have never purported myself to be perfect in any regard. Still, in this case, I was dealing with a boss who was not providing me precise and proper performance management nor effective leadership.

As pictured in example B, I lost faith in my boss and much of the leadership team.

So much so that I focused on my team, and slowly but surely, I became more and more isolated from the organization’s objectives.

 Other Examples of a Broken “First Team”

Imagine a world where the top leaders in your organization are gathered to solve the company’s most pressing challenges. Instead of coming together as a team focused on solving that problem, they approach the exercise more concerned about their self-interest than solving the company’s needs, as pictured in example D above.

Or are you part of a leadership team so disconnected from the rest of the company that they have

no idea what is happening on the shop floor? Picture example C above as the worst of ‘Undercover Boss.’ Where leadership has no idea.

But probably just another day at work for many people, and it’s why I spend a lot of time building a First Team mindset with my clients.

Read more about unaligned leadership teams.


Here are some of the ways I’ve had success in creating a First Team mindset:

Be Explicit

Be explicit about the behaviours you expect from your leaders. Be clear with my managers about their responsibility to one another, including detail of the First Team expectation in the job description and interview for how they’ve practiced it.

Treat Them Like a Cohort

If you don’t treat your leadership team like a cohort, they won’t become one. Ensure you regularly bring together your leadership team, including everything from mailing lists and slack channels to team-building exercises and social events.

Information and trust are the currencies of leadership, and demonstrating an equal distribution through shared experiences is a powerful tool.

Help Them Help Each Other

Encourage interdependence and normalization of help-seeking amongst team members.

Please encourage them to talk to one another about their problems and refer them for help.

Role-play difficult conversations with a fellow manager role play it.

Help Them Help You

Invite your First Team to help you solve your problems.

This vulnerability may feel scary, but it has proven beneficial to leverage your leaders’ capabilities to lead to better outcomes for your organization. And it is a great development opportunity because it exposes them to the types of problems they will face at the next level of their career.                   

Make it Stick

To ensure that you and your leadership team is adhering to the First Team concept, I recommend reviewing the following with your team:

    • At every opportunity, point out the priority of Team #1 before making any critical decisions.

This will put leaders in the correct frame of mind.

    • Demand that team members prioritize the executive team over all others.

When the executive team is truly cohesive and prioritized appropriately, their ability to face complex challenges with further confidence bonds the team and models unity to the organization, this requires an absolute, unwavering commitment to the First Team.

    • Explain how the team’s direct reports will be impacted.

We all know that if there is any daylight between executive team members, it ultimately results in unwinnable battles that those lower in the organization are left to fight.

Like many of the concepts I consult on, First Team is as powerful as it is simple.

Learn more about how I work with executive teams

I have seen highly educated leaders with vast experience have an “aha” moment about the First Team concept resulting in an immediate impact on their team’s cohesion and ability to succeed.

Millennials & Beyond: Developing Your High-Potential Employees For A Post Covid Reality

Millennials might be the high-potential employees your organization needs to move forward following the Pandemic. It’s time to stop fighting it and prepare for it instead.

There was a point where I questioned if there are any advantages to being a Millennial in today’s world. Stereotypes portrayed them as entitled, lazy, and idealistic.

But You need to understand one thing – YOU NEED THEM!

The next generation of high-potential employees

Despite that, Millennials, Gen-Y, Gen-X, and soon enough, Gen-Z will be running your companies and organizations before you know it.

Are you ready? Are you preparing these bright and shiny, high-potential employees to be your company’s future leaders?

Do you remember being 20-something? We all had big dreams of how life and our career would unfold.

For me, it was many years ago, but there was no question that I would lead a great organization and achieve great things.

Are you writing off high-potential employees?

I am 100% certain that my old bosses thought I was a cocky little pipsqueak, wanting more, excessively eager, and not wanting to pay my dues.

Sound familiar to the conversations happening at work today? (Read about getting your boss off your back)

Millennials through Gen Z’s have been declared the “ME” generation. The impatient generation.

But let’s be fair; the only reason Baby-Boomers weren’t connected to the Internet was that it was science fiction.

As far as entitlement goes, I wanted the corner office so bad my teeth ached.

Wanting is good. Wanting something pushes us to develop more, achieve more, and create more.

If there are people in your organization that want to develop, create and achieve more, ask yourself this: what are you doing to give them more? Are you preparing them to be the high-potential employees your organization needs?

Are you preparing them to LEAD your company?

Developing high-potential employees

Here are nine actions to engage, retain, and develop your high-potential employees to do more, regardless of the generation:

1. Make the case.

Educate everyone about the importance of developing your high-potential employees.

Action: Host a lunch and learn about the topics that are changing the work landscape to help everyone understand.

2. Recognize high-potential employees.

Let the high-potential employees know they are high-potential.

Tell them so they realize their long-term impact on the company.

Action: Have the CEO or a respected leader meet the high-potential employees over lunch.

3. Big picture.

Younger generations genuinely want to know the reasoning behind why things are the way they are at work.

This is not acting entitled.

Action: Everyone wants to make an impact; take the time to show them how their projects, responsibilities, and future roles tie into the big picture.

4. Provide a map.

People want to be fulfilled and challenged in their careers, so show them the available career path to keep them engaged.

Action: Ask your high-potential employees where they would like to be long-term, tell them exactly how they can get there to see the available options, and an organizational commitment to their goals.

5. Emphasize “soft” business skills.

Soft skills are critical to workplace success, such as business etiquette, writing, initiative, time management, and conflict management are all incredibly important—yet these things are not taught in college.

Action: Make “business etiquette,” a component of your development and training initiatives.

6. Provide experiences.

Encourage your high-potential people to take on new projects and responsibilities.

And give them assignments to stretch their potential.

Action: Allow your high-potential employees to shadow someone else in the company to gain exposure to different aspects of the business and encourage them to join industry and professional organizations.

(While you’re here, be sure to check out Increase Your Emotional Intelligence To Be a Better Leader)

7. Invest.

The long-term success of your organization lies entirely in the hands of your high-potential employees.

So don’t ignore investing in your most valuable asset: your people.

Action: Offer at least one training session per quarter, and institute lunch and learns or roundtables to build on what the training session covered.

8. Mentor.

Give your high-potential employees someone to look up to so they know and trust authority.

Action: Encourage a culture where casual coaching and conversations are an everyday occurrence up and down your organization’s hierarchies.

9. Feedback and recognition.

Younger team members should be confident, but this doesn’t mean they don’t want to improve. Tell them how they’re doing – and often- so they can learn, grow, and develop.

Encourage managers to be open, honest, and direct and share their management philosophy and style.

Action: Challenge your managers to sit down with direct reports once a month to deliver (and receive!) performance feedback.

So, are you ready to take action? Start developing your high-potential employees today. Your organization will thank you.

Did you like reading about how to develop high-potential employees, regardless of their generation? Here are a few more you won’t want to miss:

Six Tips to Partner With Your Boss
80% Of Projects Fail Because Of ‘People’ Issues … Here Are 6 Things You Can Do To Reduce That Risk
People Pleasing Leaders & Soup Sandwiches – 5 Messes You Make When You Try to Make Everyone Happy

This article was originally published in 2019. It was recently updated just for you!