Caring Critique

We can’t control how people will take criticism or feedback. Any prescription for how we do it (directly, indirectly, gently, or abruptly) might work.

If we want our feedback to be heard and acted upon, though, there is one thing we can do. We can quietly affirm to ourselves our respect for and belief in the other person before we give our criticism. They will feel our caring intent and hear the critique. We will be shocked when they respond better than we otherwise might have hoped.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: catd_mitchell cc


Superlatives Can’t Replace Honest & Effective

Unique! Unparalleled! Exceptional! New! Improved! Unprecedented! Award-winning! Powerful!

When marketing (internally to the team or externally to clients and partners), we must not fall into the trap of superlatives. No one listens when we use flowery words to explain how good our product, project, or service are. Superlatives are no replacement for honest, effective messaging.

What does work is turning the camera. Instead of saying how great we are, let’s show our audience that we understand what they face and how what we offer can help with that.


In your corner,


PS: Hint: try removing every adjective from your messages. If they still make sense, great. If not, keep the camera turned and edit away.

PPS: Impactful! World-class! Leading! Best-of-breed! Ultra! Extra! Hot! …

we are the leaders

We Are The Leaders

We are the leaders. More than half of the successes and failures of our organizations are down to us as leaders. Our organizations–whether they succeed or struggle–are mirrors of our leadership.

We are the leaders. Leadership is the edge that we hone. This is where we find the leverage we need slay the dragons, win clients’ hearts, and do compelling work.

Yes, some of the things that go wrong are “their fault.” But we have to change first. We are the leaders.


In your corner,

Today’s photo credit: cc



We–the noble, effective, and very good-looking leaders that we are–don’t often tell people what to do. We save command-and-control for emergencies. Instead, we give others training, authority, and accountability to make most decisions. We reduce the decisions we make to the key few. When we do decide, we usually seek consensus (i.e. everyone says, “I get it. I may not think it’s the best answer. I’ll support it.”).

We do this for two reasons. First, we know that none of us has or can have a monopoly on truth, the right answer, or the best way. Second, we know our health and the health of the organization will suffer the longer we remain Decider-in-Chief.


In your corner,


PS: Yes, not making a decision that is clearly ours to make is equally unhealthful.

Today’s photo credit: Wally Gobetz cc


Sleepless Nights

When we wake up in the middle of the night worrying, when our chests are tight, guts are in a knot, or fists are clenched, when what we need to have happen fails (yet again) to happen, our buzz is low and we are focusing on the wrong things.  We are focusing on the details of who, how, and when.

Despite what we’ve been taught, we have no control over the who, how, and when. Any planning and actions we do while focused here will backfire or face undue resistance.

Here’s what we do have control over: the what, the why, and our level of buzz. What are the desired end results? Why are these compelling? And what thought can we think now that feels better than this?

Let’s focus on the what, why, and buzz then act as inspired to act. The who, how, and when will take care of themselves.

Sleep tight.


In your corner,


PS: This is the sort of leader they need us to be. You know?


Today’s photo credit: glasseyes view cc


Why Concrete Goals are Better than Specific Goals

They tell us that we should set goals that are specific. But if we shoot for ‘specific’, we may end up with ‘detailed’.

And detailed goals aren’t helpful.

They tempt us to plan and manage every aspect along the way to the goals. Such a focus blinds us to innovation, better ways, and serendipity.

Here is an example of detailed goals: “We will be the number one retailer in the spaces in which we compete. We will have a 10 point increase in same-store sales with a 3 point increase in EBITDA, and a doubling of price-to-earnings. We will achieve this with efficiencies realized from completing last year’s merger, the rollout of 3 new product lines, a refresh of the store designs, a implementation of the online customer care system, a restructuring of short-term debt …” Etc. Ugh.

Far better to set clear, concrete, compelling goals that describe the results we ultimately want to see. Clear, concrete, compelling goals inspire and release everyone to apply their talents, creativity, and caring.

Here is an example of clear, concrete, compelling goals: “In two years, twice as many people will choose to do their shopping with us. 9 out of 10 clients will shop with us at least monthly. Our employees will be half as likely to leave. And we will be twice as profitable with no more than a 25 percent increase in debt.”

No details. Not a word about “how.” Just clear, concrete, and compelling desired results


In your corner,


PS: Read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great for more ideas about concrete, compelling goals.

PPS: Yes, there is room for planning with these concrete, compelling goals. The plans aren’t baked into the goals, though. They are left to the teams to figure out.

PPPS: This approach requires leaders to coach their teams with questions like, “What are all the things we can do to hit these goals? What obstacles can we anticipate? Who can help us and who can we help with their part of this?”


Today’s photo credit: TruckPR cc


A New Type of Leader

Our organizations need something different from us at each size and stage. What had worked so well for us becomes less and less effective as our organizations grow and evolve. Worse, our familiar ways of leading can do damage.

For example, smaller and newer companies need us to be bold, demanding, and hands-on. As they get established, we need to become steady coaches who delegate. And companies that have hit a plateau need us to be visionary, encouraging, and steadfast. Being hands-on, for instance, in the latter stages just gets in the way.

Sometimes we can’t see when we need to learn new ways and shift our leadership. One thing we can do is anticipate it. We can then seek input and guidance from those around us. Another thing we can do is notice the organization itself. When it struggles, it’s likely time for us to become a new type of leader.


In your corner,


PS: What got us here won’t get us there.


Today’s photo credit: debaird™ cc


Your Secret Dream

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sometimes, we avoid saying what we really want at work and in life because the dream is so precious. We try to protect it from the harshness of the world, we hold it close for fear we may fail and damage it, we put it high on a shelf so no one can criticize us or it.

But that’s not how these things work.

Your dream is both precious and extremely strong. It is unfazed by criticism; it accepts the input to improve. It thrives in the light of the day and inspires you and as many others as needed to see it to reality.

So what is it? What do you long to do? Pull it down off the shelf and let’s have a look.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: -Reji cc


Why Bother with a Business Plan?

What’s the value of a business plan?

It’s not the plan.  All plans quickly become out of date from the moment we write them.

No, the value is the act of planning and the concrete goal that we put into making a business plan. By setting a goal and planning how we’ll get there, we get everyone on the same page, expose and deal with obstacles, and show ourselves that, hey, our dream is possible.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: marco antonio torres cc


But What Should I Commit To?

“Ah,” you say. “I would love to commit but I haven’t a clue what I should commit to.”

It turns out that this is also simple. Go with what makes you leap for joy. Pick anything (and there are several things that will work for you) that makes your heart sing, that demands your talents, that meets your needs, wants, and desires, and that serves a compelling need, want, or desire for others.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Saskia Jansen cc