How To Ensure Others Get Stuff Done

When we lead, sell, and influence others, one of our biggest challenges is having them follow through on things we request of or delegate to them. Here are five things we can do to ensure that what we want done gets done.

  1. Ensure there is a win for them and for us. Let’s understand what makes a win: no guesses allowed.  Let’s specifically discuss why the topic at hand is important to us and to them. Then we can work together to meet their needs and ours. Sometimes, a win for them is just being helpful or acknowledged.
  2. Who, How, When. We make sure we discuss and agree upon who will do what by when. If we are the leader, it’s powerfully helpful to ask them to come up with their own plan for How. It’s also helpful to ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help you with your part of this?”
  3. Prevent obstacles. We consider what might go wrong and plan around those obstacles, together, now.
  4. Confirm understanding. We ask them to summarize–or we can summarize–what we agreed are the conclusions and next steps. And we listen for and seek to correct misunderstandings on both sides.
  5. Review, Retune, Repeat. We agree to check in with each other at a specific date and time. At the agreed time, we review progress, make adjustments to the plan/approach, and book our next review time.

Note how much longer this will take than simply asking for or telling them what we want. And notice how much more effective this will be than the usual request or delegation.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Johan Lange cc


We Don’t Know (and We’re Okay With That)

We want to be seen and to see ourselves as competent. So we are tempted to become some form of The Expert at work. Defensively, we reach for this title because, deep down, we see this scary truth:

We don’t know.

Because none of us has seen this exact situation before, we can’t be certain. And so we can’t know exactly what to think, say, or do. To an extent, we can try to apply what we recall from past situations to this one. But reliance on experience and expertise can be risky: we may miss the important cues and clues that make this situation unique. We also can remain closed to new, better solutions from others or even ourselves.

Plus, we waste a ton of mental and emotional energy defending our position as The Expert.

If we drop this defense, if we let ourselves say, “I don’t know,” we free ourselves. No longer blinkered or defensive, we open up to both seeing what’s unique now and to trying new ideas and solutions. In this state, we still draw upon our experience and expertise. We blend it with new, creative insights from ourselves and others.

And people will give us a new title: The Wise.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Hilary Perkins cc

gold star

Give Positive Feedback ASAP

As with negative feedback, positive feedback is best when we make it specific and deliver it as soon as possible.

Positive feedback is far more valuable than negative feedback, though both are necessary. And it’s not just because people ache to know what they are doing well. Lots of honest, positive feedback lays a strong foundation upon which we can build trusting relationships, create highly effective work teams, and earn the right and respect to lead them.

Who has done something well or (for starters) even close to well today? Tell ’em!


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Epic Fireworks cc


Give Negative Feedback ASAP

Giving negative feedback is tough. None of us, really, likes conflict. Giving feedback or correcting can be so tough that we will go to great lengths not do it.

But not giving negative feedback has undesirable consequences. It lets our frustration build, denies the other person the right to know and correct problems, strains the relationship, makes it harder and harder to finally have the conversation, and makes it even harder for the other person to do something about it all.

Instead, let’s give feedback as soon as possible. If it feels tough now, it’ll be so much worse if we ignore it.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Dennis Skley cc

one step

One Step at a Time

We handle some unfamiliar things with grace.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve never been to, say, Amsterdam. We trust that there will be unfamiliar challenges like acquiring and using transit cards or reading menus printed in Dutch. We trust that we will handle things in Amsterdam as they occur, one step at as time.

It similarly doesn’t matter that that new app behaves differently. We will explore and figure it out as we go, one step at a time. Nor does it matter that we’ve never repaired that kitchen appliance. We know enough to shut off the power and get a screw driver. We can figure out what’s wrong and fix the silly thing, one step at a time.

We handle other unfamiliar things with far less aplomb.

Sometimes we encounter a new thing (or, for many of us, an old thing that we keep on tripping over) and freeze. Rather than proceeding one step at a time, we anticipate the worst, feel bad, then scurry back to the safety of our old ways.

Maybe we think these other things are too complex, too important, or too threatening. But notice that the only difference between us handling the new things confidently or scurrying away is in how we choose to think about the things.

We can manage anything…and manage them very well…one step at a time.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Terri Monahan cc


Don’t Try to Understand Why When You Feel Bad

Feeling bad detracts from our productivity and enjoyment of work and home life. We don’t think as well. We make bad assumptions and decisions. Tempting as it may be, we don’t really help ourselves much by trying to discover why we feel bad when we do.

We may look outside to what we think life and others have done to make us feel bad. Or we may look inside at how our habits, “flaws,” or “nature” make us feel bad. Either way, we won’t find satisfying answers that will help us feel better. That’s because the logic we apply when we are feeling bad is convoluted and insufficient. And any focus on feeling bad just prolongs our bad feelings. Yuck.

Far better to just raise our buzz and feel good, first, without explanations. From that better-feeling state, our logic will clear and any insights we have will be productive. And our work and home lives will benefit immensely.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: dominiqueb cc

four stages

The Four Stages

Every organization, division, or program goes through four stages, in order:

  1. Conceive: find something compelling in out clients’ lives that needs fixing and commit to fixing it.
  2. Launch: figure out how to fix it for a few clients; keep trying it, learning, improving, and trying it again.
  3. Flow: find more clients who need the solution and offer it to them; get into a rhythm; add resources and systems to find more clients, manage the volume, and maintain service.
  4. Grow: find even more clients–often in related demographics and psychographics who have the same or similar problem to fix; trim or redeploy resources to maintain profit or stay within budget; keep improving how we fix the problem.

Ideally, our organizations go through the cycle over and over again–returning to Conceive from Grow–to adapt, innovate,  and remain meaningfully viable.

Of course, we can get stuck in any of the stages. Knowing which stage we are in and what stage comes next helps us figure out how to get unstuck.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: joiseyshowaa cc


Is Everyone Rowing In The Same Direction?

Here’s an exercise: Ask everyone at work today, “Who are we? What does our organization do? For whom? Why do we do that?”

If your organization is like most, you will get as many answers as people you ask. And that’s quite a problem. A big part of the success of any organization is having a clear, compelling, and commonly understood goal.  In order to have everyone rowing in the same direction, they need to know what that direction is and why it’s important.


In your corner,


PS: The organization’s goal includes descriptions of what we do for whom, why, and what we get out of it.

PPS: We do not mean for them to regurgitate verbatim the mission statement hanging on the wall of the break room. If everyone gets the general theme, they should be able to say it in their own words. And it’s okay to have variations on the theme. Each person’s unique impression of the theme adds richness and strength.

PPPS: The next question to ask everyone is, “How does or should your work contribute to and benefit from the work of this organization?”


Today’s photo credit: Philip Kraaijenbrink cc


Hiring Well: It’s Not About Skills Or Experience

Hiring candidates who have the skills and experience we need can be very risky. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they are provably good at budgeting, sales, project management, training, coding, operations, marketing, or any other skill.

To see why, consider the main reasons we have for firing people. They don’t care. They don’t understand and manage themselves. They don’t understand what is important to others. They lie. They are not confident; they may be cocky. They go for lose-win, win-lose, or lose-lose. They are defensive. They don’t listen. They damage other people’s work and attitude. They hate, distrust, manipulate, and/or bully. In short, they have a poor attitude.

If we hire people for their skills, experience, or interviewing prowess, and ignore their attitude, we should not be surprised when we have to fire (some of) them for poor attitude.


In your corner,


PS: When we take into account the huge costs of hiring, firing, and replacing people with the wrong attitude, it’s far cheaper to hire based on attitude and train for any missing skills.


Today’s photo credit: George Kelly cc


Responsible for Everything

Some useful thoughts are easily misconstrued into something quite controversial. Take, for instance, this statement:

We are completely responsible for everything that happens to us. 

At first encounter, this idea seems ludicrous. We, offended, say, “How could we possibly be responsible for everything that happens? Everything?! We have no control over the weather, the economy, our clients, our bosses, the diseases, or the bully in the school yard. We have no say in the random events that happen to us!” And we are completely justified when we push back saying, “Don’t blame the victim!”

Stay with me; there is useful wisdom in this controversial statement.

Our reaction to the “responsible for everything” statement comes from our understanding of the phrase. We hear it and think it implies blame, fault, and guilt. So we react strongly and it feels bad.

But there’s a better definition of “responsible for everything.” It points to a better way to deal with whatever happens to us at work and in life.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we can globally turn on or off the blame, fault, and guilt switches. If the switches are on, life is as we know it. If the switches are off, blame, fault, and guilt completely cease to exist. It’s not their fault or our fault because there is no fault. They are not to blame nor are we; blame doesn’t exist. No one, no group, no force is guilty since we’ve shut off the guilt tap.

If something bad happens while the blame, fault, and guilt switches are turned on, we spend our resources (time, energy, emotion, and effort) in not dealing with the problem but in casting or defending against blame, fault, and guilt. We are saying, “No.”

But when we shut the switches off, we get to apply those resources to effectively handle the problem. Instead of defensively reacting, we can respond creatively, wisely, appropriately, and completely. We say, “Yes.” Thus we are response-able. (Get it?) And it feels good.

The neat thing is that those switches do exist within each of us. Being responsible for everything that happens to us simply means we choose to shut off blame, fault, and guilt and handle of whatever situations arise.


In your corner,


PS: A slightly more advanced version of this statement is We are completely responsible for everything. Careful not to take this to mean that we are in charge of everything.

PPS: “Doesn’t a civil society rely on blame, fault, and guilt? Wouldn’t society fall apart without these acting to control things?” If we choose to drop blame, fault, and guilt but not pick up responsibility, then our lives and society would fall apart. Responsible replaces blame, fault, and guilt. We can not wean society off blame, fault, and guilt overnight. But as we choose responsibility over blame, fault, and guilt, we help others change by example.

PPPS: There is a Zen koan about this sort of responsibility: Is That So?


Today’s photo credit: Ged Carroll cc