This is What a Manager Does

What is the job of a manager? Conventional wisdom says that managers hire and fire, assign work, coordinate work across the team and between teams, ensure team members are present and working on assigned work, and handle unusual situations, special requests, and other emergencies.

If our work were repetitive grunt work, then a conventional manager would be fine. But there is no more grunt work. We and our work have enjoyed a broad evolution over the past half-century. Today, every job demands people who think and act for themselves.

Our conventional understanding of management hasn’t evolved to keep up. Today, managers get to set the goals and standards. They still hire and fire. They coach. Mostly, managers must build and sustain an environment where the rest of the team members succeed.  The team members do the rest.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Stuart Chalmers via photopin cc


Career Checkup

The criteria: Our work is successful and meaningful to the extent that it uses our talents, engages our passions, meets our needs/wants/desires, and helps others (individuals and/or organizations) solve problems that we find compelling or interesting.

With these criteria in mind, let’s do a career checkup. Explore the following questions. Write down your answers.

How would you rank your current work against those four criteria? How could you adjust your current work to better match these criteria? What projects, roles, or businesses could you do next that would best match these criteria? What obstacles might stand between you and your next career move? Finally, how might you navigate past those obstacles?

So, Doc, how is the patient doing?


In your corner,



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Why We Cannot Afford to Focus on Bad Things

Here’s another habit we all seem to have inherited: focusing on bad things and trying to prevent from happening. Like other inherited habits, this one costs us: we waste too much time, energy, and effort on it.

First, we anticipate a bad thing happening (e.g. a lost sale, a loss of prestige, position, or money, a rejection, a tough conversation, a criticism). We fret about what this would mean and what else would go wrong if this bad thing happened. Then we think–in tangents and circles–of ways to make the world (and others) conform so that we don’t have to experience this bad thing. We work hard at this because we don’t even want to feel the fear of these things–they feel very bad–let alone experience the things themselves.

But we cannot control the world. Not with that low-buzz thinking.

We can, though, control our reactions. When we anticipate something bad–instead of focusing on the bad and the fear–we can choose to raise our buzz, to feel good.

Then, unusually quickly and without all that wasted energy, workable solutions will appear.


In your corner,



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How to Stress Well

Stress is what we feel when we notice the gap between the way something is and the way we want it to be.

Good stress is what happens when we feel neutral or good about this gap. Good stress drives us past our edge. It moves all of life towards more happiness, growth, and freedom. Bad stress is what happens when we look at that gap and fear the future or regret the past. Bad stress damages. It distracts us and drives us away from success.

Notice how good vs. bad has nothing to do with the situation or the size of the gap.

Yup. Relax. It’s all in how we choose to look at it.


In your corner,


PS: Good stress and bad stress have similar triggers; they both start as a small pang.

PPS: Try these tools to shift from bad stress to good stress.

PPPS: If those tools don’t work, do grab help from a trained pro. You are so worth it.


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We Need Not Be (the) Experts

A high-tech sales and marketing executive joining a law firm. An English major starting a mobile apps company. A teacher running an international shipping company.

Contrary to what many believe, we don’t have to be experts in a field to start or join a business in that field. We can contribute our talents to build or help build something of value in any field.

The only requirement is that we stay firmly planted in our SweetSpot.


In your corner,


PS: …an engineer becoming a business coach…


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deck chairs

Time to Set a Strategy

Stagnation. Lack of results. People spending time on intrigue, politics, silo building, or just rearranging the deck chairs.

When we see signs like these, it’s time to set a strategy. A compelling strategy–one that everyone understands and supports–is an amazing cure-all. With everyone focused and in the game, results become more important than the distractions.


In your corner,


PS: We don’t need everyone to agree on the strategy. We just need everyone to get it and support it. Here’s how we can do that.

PPS: It’s also time for us to set a secondary strategy: evolving our leadership so that everyone always knows how they contribute.

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It Does Take Two to Tango

Because, as leaders, we enter many relationships, we often find ourselves bothered by and reacting to other people’s actions. Whenever and with whomever we repeatedly feel angry, rejected, unsafe, or criticized etc., we have joined them in an unpleasant dance.

Intellectually we can see that it’s not all them; we own at least half of the problem. But we join the dance before our intellect knows what’s happening. Subconsciously, we run a program that says, in effect, “When they do X, I judge them in this way–it feels bad to me as I do, by the way–and respond like this. To do otherwise would be wrong or hurtful to them or me.”

And it’s not true. We have better choices.

We can catch ourselves getting tripped by their behavior. We can flip our judgments to thoughts that feel good. We can commit to win-win.

Doing so, we put our best foot forward to lead a new dance.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: J’ via photopin cc


Are Your People Geniuses or Not?

We can see people as either geniuses or not.

If they are not, they are like machines; they have a fixed performance capacity. And we believe our job is, first, to figure out what that capacity is. We ask them to step up. Then we give them tasks that meet that capacity. We monitor them for mistakes. When the work we have for them exceeds their fixed capacity, we replace them.

If they are geniuses, they have indeterminable capacity. Our job is to release more and more of the genius. We still ask them to step up. They still take on new tasks. When the work we have seems beyond them, we step up. With a quiet, respectful curiosity, we expect they will be able to grow. And we coach them to find the key that unlocks this growth.

Let’s be very clear. It is a heck of a lot easier to think of people as not geniuses, like machines.

It’s a heck of a lot more profitable (and delightful) to think of people as geniuses.


In your corner,


PS: Yes, I am saying that it is your call. You get to choose whether people are geniuses or not.


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story book

Our Story of the Future

More often, when we tell the story of our future, is it of the future we want or of what we don’t want?

Is our future assured? Will we be okay? Is everything going to work out well? Is life, in general, safe?

We each have the power to choose how the story turns out because only we can evaluate our own leadership, work, and lives. And because things have that very odd way of lining up with our expectations.


In your corner,


PS: Of course, not knowing the future (or doing an excellent job of pretending not to know the future) keeps the zip and zing in this adventure of a lifetime of ours.

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to-do list

The To-Do List is Dead…

Long live the to-do list!

Even people who are good at making lists of their tasks get overwhelmed. Despite having up-to-date lists, they find it impossible to prioritize, delegate, or know when to say, “no.”

Yes, to-do lists are great for holding all our tasks in one place. Yes, they give us a sense of being at least a little more in control. But they can’t tell us which, of the hundreds of tasks on our list, we should do now.

That’s because our standard to-do list is flat, meaningless, just a list.

We need a to-do list system that would capture why each task is important to us. It would remind us which tasks are part of larger projects. It would help us group similar tasks (e.g. “Show me all the calls I could make right now.”) so we can be efficient. It would tell us what tasks we have promised to someone else by a certain time and date. And this system would track reference material and the tasks we don’t need to do now but may someday do.

With a system like this at our fingertips, we have all we need to prioritize, focus on what’s most important, and step away from overwhelm.


In your corner,


PS: Learn more about this system of lists, the habits you can build to run this system, the quick start option, and the barebone edition.


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