Category Archives: Positive Leadership

Let’s Happen To Things

WP_20150414_029It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~~Leonardo daVinci~~

2015 has been a tough year for a lot of people. Already. And, it’s not yet half over. Between the crazy weather, the crazy economy, the tragedies, the illnesses… it’s hard for me to sit here and tell you that everything happens for a reason.

Personally, I have to hold on to the notion that there’s a greater plan, and that I can’t possibly begin to understand that plan, but that’s not the practical advice that “you can use today” that I’ve become known for. So it’s time that I happen to things.

What if, instead, we look for ways to make something good happen from every situation? Yep. It’s time for us all to happen to things.

I had a job search client tell me that his recent unemployment has given him the time he has not made in a while to take care of himself and get a few things off of his to-do list. He’s been to the doctor, fixed a few things, did some preventative maintenance… and in light of the recent weather, some of this may have saved his house…

I had a friend tell me that her (more long-term) unemployment has given her the opportunity to volunteer. As she tries to stay busy and be useful (as well as keep the gaps off of her resume) she has been working hard in her town to increase the amount of food in the local food pantry and raise awareness about the hunger issues very close to home.

Leveraging social media, total strangers are reaching across the globe to help others in need. From encouragement and financial aid, to fundraising for little-known but highly valuable causes… the world is getting smaller in these times…

People are happening to things.

So, what does this have to do with talent management? Truth be told, nothing. At least not on the surface. But… just imagine for a second if every leader, every manager, every recruiter actually went out and happened to things. In a good way. In a positive way.

A little corny? Maybe. But what a difference a little “pay it forward” can make. Or, a kind word despite a mistake. Or, a voice of encouragement instead of criticism.

I challenge us all to find a way to make something good happen every day, in every situation, no matter how difficult.

Let’s all happen to things.

3 Leadership Strategies for Positive Communication


Open and positive communication is a necessary component of success in business. Of all the successful CEOs with whom I have worked, not one has said that their success was the result of operating in vacuum. Each has credited the teams they have built, developed, and led by nurturing professional relationships and fostering two-way communication.

Here are 3 basic strategies, which, when put into daily practice, will change the culture in any organization to one of positive communication.

Ask Questions and Listen To the Answers  

Even when only assumptive, too often managers tell their staff what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, what they should learn from it, and what they should do about it. This shuts down communication. It is much more powerful when we ask what happened, what the employee thinks caused it, how they feel about it, what they learned from it, and how they think they might fix it. Asking “what”, “why” and “how” questions instead of assuming you already know the answer fosters open communication and development.  Managers who already know it all don’t grow, and neither do their employees. Learn to ask questions and to really listen to the answers. And, keep in mind that HOW we listen can either encourage or discourage further communication and interaction.

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Ask; Don’t Tell

Employees often tell me that they wish their managers would give them autonomy to do their jobs their own way. Unless you’re running an assembly line, presumably, it’s the outcome, not the process, which really matters. People create productivity in different ways and have developed their own work habits that really work for them. Trusting your employees to get the job done, and to come to you when they need to, goes a long way in establishing open communication. Employees should not be afraid to try something new or even to make a mistake, as long as they are achieving the desired outcome. There’s a big difference between “Finish this project.” and “What is your plan for getting this project completed?” Allowing for creativity in the process and providing support and guidance when asked is a sign of a communicative and collaborative leader.

Follow Through

Too many managers don’t say what they mean, mean what they say, or follow through consistently, leaving their employees (and likely their customers) feeling discouraged. Set and communicate reasonable expectations, decide what you will do, and then do it. (Point of Information: Decide what YOU will do, not what you will make your staff do.) This is a natural part of setting your team up for success.  Following through means taking action and keeping your word. It is a perfect way to avoid power struggles and other barriers to positive communication. An example might be letting your team know that you will begin your training session at exactly 10:00, instead of asking them to be on time. By the way, in this example, you really need to start your session at 10:00, even if only two of ten people have arrived. That’s the “follow-through” part.

These highly effective leadership tools will help you create and retain a successful organization based on trust, cooperation and collaboration.


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7 Steps to Build Trust

The boss doesn’t have to have all the answers. Just the brains to recognize the right one when he hears it.

~Katherine Plummer, Newsies


Establishing a trust culture, which, as I mentioned in my last post, I think may be the culture all businesses should strive for as a foundation for everything else, starts with mutual trust.

Mutual trust involves not only you trusting your employees, but also them trusting you. Really trusting you, not just blindly following you. Those Bold HR folks I referred to? Their employees would have done anything for them. Why? Because they trusted them, believed in what they were working towards, and felt like they were part of something bigger than themselves.

Establishing a trust culture may seem daunting, but it could be easier than it seems if you’re willing to do the work. While we can’t assume that people will trust us just because of our titles or roles, trust can be earned over time. Here are 7 tips to get you started.

  1. Listen. Many managers for whom I have worked liked to talk. Let’s face it… Ilike to talk. And, it’s not just because I like to hear myself talk. I actually think I have some really important things to say. But that needs to come AFTER I listen. Listening to what your employees think, and really hearing what they’re saying, can set you on the right path to establishing mutual trust. People are more likely to listen to you after they feel listened to. It’s human nature. And, I’ll bet they have some really helpful things to say.
  2. Set and communicate your expectations. Be clear, and be honest. If you have concerns, don’t make your employees guess. The more honest and open you are (dare I use the word transparent??) the more likely people will trust you. And, people trust clarity over ambiguity.
  3. Coach. Don’t lecture. It’s hard to share ideas or participate in joint problem solving when you feel like you’re being lectured. Encouraging group brainstorming, asking questions, and actually having multi-sided conversations are much more likely to help you establish mutual trust than acting as if you already have all the answers. Show faith in your employees and share some control.
  4. Lead by example. People trust those who practice what they preach and walk the talk. Leaders who lead from behind closed doors, who are perceived as being “out at lunch” or “on the golf course”, and who are not perceived as helping to really deliver results are often mistrusted.
  5. Stay relevant. Learn from your staff, and allow them to learn from you and one another. Offer joint professional development opportunities. If it’s good for you to see or learn, perhaps it’s good for others as well. People have trust in those who are willing to both learn and share.
  6. Connect. People trust people they know and like. Create closeness with your employees. Know people’s names, what they do, and how they contribute. Acknowledge them. Appreciate them. Say “Thank You” and “Happy Birthday”. Ask about their families or their pets. And tell a little about yourself, too. We spend far too much time at work to not feel like we’re part of the family.
  7. Follow through. If you say it, mean it. It you mean it, start it. If you start it, follow through. Enough said.

And, since mutual trust is required to establish a real trust culture, don’t forget to share this with your team.

How About a Trust Culture Instead?


This past weekend I was thrilled to participate in my first HR Evolution. I enjoyed all of the conversations I had, both inside and outside of the actual event. There were some brilliant minds in attendance; people most professionals in my field would consider to be real thought leaders and true influencers in HR and Talent. I felt honored to be among them.


One session, facilitated by Broc Edwards, was called Bold HR. I’m not sure I realized then the impact it would have.

After defining together what bold looked like for those of us gathered, Broc asked us to get into small groups, think about the most Bold HR Person we knew, and discuss what made them bold.

I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my career. Two really stand out for me as being bold as we defined it. Interestingly, the characteristics that I believe cause me to attribute bold HR to each of them are the same.


They took time for training. And then they trusted their teams to do their jobs.

I have touched on this in many posts previously, always as part of how to engage employees at work. It’s a big part of Positive Leadership. But I can’t stop thinking about these two things specifically since returning to work after HR Evolution.

If we, as managers (leaders), take on the responsibility of ensuring that our employees (or our clients) have all the tools they need to be successful… If we train them, mentor them, guide them, support them… and then empower them, trust them, let them do their jobs… what could that look like for us and our companies?

The receptionist who is empowered to do more than pass along calls and messages, who really understands how important their role is, could bring in all sorts of new business, even though “sales” is not in their job description.

The customer service rep who is trusted to do the right thing for the customer, even (especially) if it’s a little outside the norm, can increase loyalty, repeat business and the bottom line.

The IT tech who is allowed to innovate and make changes to how things have always been done can improve workforce productivity, process efficiency and maybe even cut significant cost.

But this can’t happen if people don’t speak up; if they’re afraid to make a mistake for fear it could cost them their job.

This won’t happen without mutual trust.

There’s a lot of talk around creating Innovation Cultures, of Performance Cultures, even of Recruiting Cultures. Maybe it’s all a matter of trust. (Sorry for the earwig.)

What do you think?

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