Two Leadership Tips for 2024

And that’s a wrap on 2023! What a year, right? My work saw clients struggle with and overcome many obstacles. But the work is not done! As we look to 2024, I want to give you two key recommendations from my many observations and development engagements this year.

Don’t Focus on Nice and Polite

Stop initiating and cultivating relationships by being polite and nice. Usually what this translates to is saying YES to everything. I’d rather see you start a relationship by being fair and objective. I’m not saying you should avoid being polite or friendly. But you must be realistic and expect that they will be, too. Are their goals out of line with their budget? Does the scope of the work exceed your team’s capabilities? Approach relationships objectively and fairly to determine what matters most to your client’s business AS WELL AS YOUR BUSINESS. Hey, you are not a non-profit…you are in business to drive revenue just like they are.

Therefore, in the New Year, finding what is most important to your client/team and the impact of not achieving it is critical. Then, and only then, can you be fair, objective, and urgent with your solutions.

Here is a tactical tip to make sure that when you are speaking with a client (current or potential), you are keeping them focused on their main goals. When responding to them, start with “As you said…” and then remind them about what they said was critical. You can then base your recommendation on that. You’ll keep their attention, let them know you’ve been paying attention, and structure the conversation about the most important issues they are facing rather than getting into the weeds with every little problem.

Trust Yet Verify

Trust yet verify what clients say. Trusting a client is okay, provided they’ve earned that trust. Often, they’re evasive and peripheral. You must discover why and move them to a place of discomfort. Yes, you read that right…discomfort. This is an art. An art I enjoy teaching. It’s not like a lawyer cross-examining, but it is a heartfelt interest in defining a client’s CORE problems. And many times, they want to hide those core issues, not wanting to admit they exist.

Example: Your client might say “Our last agency didn’t get the work done we needed. They spent way too much time on small projects that didn’t move the needle.” To which you might say, “Who was giving them instructions on what to do? Oh…I see. Everyone had access and could direct them. Do you see that they were only doing what they were told? The lack of leadership on your team seems to have created an ‘every man for himself’ environment. Is that what you wanted?”

Sure, that’s an uncomfortable thing to say to a client. But it gets to the truth. From there, you can have an honest conversation about real issues from which you can make a well-informed recommendation.

In 2024, I’m looking forward to more and more people experimenting with the above from my coaching and facilitation, along with being more commercially candid. As long as you prove you care, you can lead people and sell anything.

Thank you for all your trust and followership this year. It means the world to me. Happy New Year!

How to Manage a Micromanaging Boss

A client of mine has been lamenting the meddling her boss frequently does. We determined her boss is often deep in the weeds of her business versus touching the weeds as bosses should.

Her peers feel the same way and frequently answer the boss’s questions hoping the boss will get distracted and meddle elsewhere.

Actually, all of the above is wrong.

If you really understand and empathize with your boss, you’ll realize that smart, successful bosses merely want to understand what is going on to contribute to the success of the business. They do not mean to be an overbearing boss. They don’t want to create extra work or move the project onto a tangent.

Rather, bosses will often ask questions that feel like an inquisition but in reality it’s their passion to understand the situation in a short amount of time that drives their “in-your-face” behavior.

So, how do you manage their expectations and continue with your work schedule?

Update Your Boss Well…and Often

Want to get a break from your boss? Preempt their interruptions with a formalized, brief, consistent update system. Don’t hear “burden” when I recommend this; hear “proactive management.”

All you need to do is notice the type of questions your boss is asking over a period of two months to understand what their values are and what concerns them.

Write these issues down, prioritize them and create an update system/agenda that preempts the asking of these questions. Make sure you present the linkage to each issue that concerns your boss. The more you do this, the more your boss will appreciate your pro-activeness and empathy.

Illustrate Your Concern and Judgement

Your boss will also appreciate your concern for them. You also illustrate your commercial judgment by mirroring their concerns and presenting preemptive road maps the team can follow. Even if one of your recommendations are off-base, you still illustrate your desire and will to move the issue forward.

Do you feel under the microscope all the time? How does that affect your work? Let me know in the replies below.  – SG

Handling a Passive-Aggressive Leader

"not" symbol for passive aggressiveWhen someone openly criticizes your work, at least you know where they stand, directly. But someone who uses indirect expressions of blame, upset, or complaint can grate on anyone. This passive-aggressive behavior can create an atmosphere of constant stress, doubt and fear, which I’ve never seen lead to good things. Rather, the result is a team that resents their leadership, hides out so as to not come into the crosshairs of the boss and privately complains about the state of the department/company. Is this familiar to you?

You can handle passive-aggressive leaders. First, you have to realize that they likely are not aware of their behavior. So, don’t take it personally (they do it to everyone!). But more importantly, you have to determine YOUR behavior in these situations and whether the effort to manage your reactions is worth it to you.

Here are somethings to consider and decisions to make:

Decision #1: Do I trust and want to follow this person?

Always remember, you don’t HAVE to work for this person. Sure, changing jobs can be a whole other source of angst but, it could alter your situation for the better. So, before you starting looking at how to handle a passive-aggressive leader, answer these questions:

  • Are they a good person deep down?
  • Do they have the level of integrity I want in a leader?
  • Is their strategic plan one I can fully align with?

If you can’t answer positively to all of those questions, then consider whether it is worth continuing in your current role. If it is, proceed to your next decision.

Decision #2: Am I willing to be the one who stands up?

You must realize that if you have been the target of passive-aggressive behavior, others have as well. You may have even observed this with others. In order for things to change, someone has to make the first move and stand up to the leader.  Is that going to be you? If so, you have to have your company’s health and future at the forefront of your mind as you do so. You’ve got to believe in yourself and your goodwill towards the firm’s mission. This will give you the confidence to know that you are doing the right thing.

Decision #3: Can I separate the person from their behavior?

It is essential to see the person for their good versus blaming them for this often involuntary behavior. Most likely, they’ve been practicing this behavior for so long it’s just become who they are. But that doesn’t make them “bad.” It may mean that no one has pointed out this behavior and the damage it is causing. Separate the behavior from the person to realize that most everyone wants to be liked, wants to be good at what they do and wants to improve. If you approach them with this in mind, you can start a meaningful, constructive dialogue.

Decision #4: Can I outlast them?

Remember, the first decision you made was that you wanted to stay and make the situation better. So, now that means you should outlast them. They may show great fortitude in holding on to their negative behavior! Essentially, your goal is to remain resilient to the behavior and presenting yourself and your ideas in an enthusiastic, well-thought out manner. Let them know through your persistence that you are going to keep working towards creating a new dynamic between you. Trust that you are a valuable member of the team so, losing you should not be a risk they are willing to take. And again, outlast them!

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then create a plan to begin altering the situation. Here’s how.

  • Create a dashboard of information you share with them on a formalized/calendared basis that illustrates your work product in a terse, positive fashion.
  • Ask for their opinion of the dashboard and if need be, create it together. This illustrates your desire to partner with them and present data you both agree on.
  • Proactively illicit their opinion of issues, listen and probe into these issues to understand their values. Once you understand their values you can formulate your recommendations inside their aperture of value (not yours).
  • Ask them how your doing, regularly. Feedback is important to everyone. This takes a fair amount of courage but it says to them, “I’ve got the constitution to ask and transform my behavior when we mutually agree it needs to transform.”

Most ingrained behaviors cannot be changed overnight. Give it time. Practice patience. And most of all, stay on it. Know that BOTH of you will benefit from this transformation in the future.

Do you have a passive-aggressive boss? In what way does this behavior show up? Let me know in comments below. Thanks! – sg


Leadership Planning for 2017: Developing Your “A” Team

This is part three of a three-part series designed to help you plan your leadership and get your team ready for 2017. The other articles are focused on Looking Back to Move Forward and Creating Your Mission Statement

Now that you’ve studied what’s worked with your organization, critically reviewed your go-to-market strategy and established your 2017 vision, what’s next? I’ll tell you…make sure you’ve got the “A” team to execute it and the metrics to measure it!

You can’t accomplish these goals alone. You need a team of dedicated mature people who are in sync with you. That requires knowing each person on your team, intimately, the lieutenants certainly. It’s important to determine the type of individuals you want on your team, the behaviors you want manifested and the level of collaboration you require. When was the last time you reviewed your team?

Managing Your Best Employees

One way to insure this collaboration is to formalize it. Determine how you’ll stay in sync as a team. You also need to determine what you’ll measure as an organization that everyone understands.
List out how you’ll remain in sync:

  • Weekly participation calls
  • Formalize an On-Boarding Plan
  • Create valuable incentive plans
  • Set clear territories for your client managers and new business development execs
  • Commit to a sales protocol that you don’t vary from

Determine what you will measure:

  • The number of client calls per week
  • New prospects researched per week
  • Meetings conducted with prospects
  • Business derived from existing clients
  • New business closed

What each client/prospect meeting must include:

  • An agenda
  • Completed client probing questions
  • An understanding of each client’s goals and challenges
  • A debriefing meeting with management to determine the next step to take

Developing a Plan for Weaker Players

You also need to formalize a development plan for strengthening your “B” Players and a formal review process with your “C” Players. Make sure your lieutenants are capable of coaching and developing your team. I’ve seen it happen that some leaders may orphan their direct reports which will prevent the achievement of your business goals. You can’t let that happen. Help them create a formalized Development Action Plan that you and your directs need to structure and use. Lastly, create a pipeline vetting process. Determine what questions each team member must be asked to separate a deal from a dream as you enter into 2017.

You may also determine at this point that you have to cut some people who will never achieve “A” level, or even solid “B” level, status. Those “C” players are holding back your whole team. Start the year knowing that every member on your team has potential and is eager to achieve it. You, and they, will be more satisfied when they look back at 2017 to assess the accomplishments you’ve achieved together.

Is your team full of “A” players? If not, what is your plan for developing your “B” team members? Let me know if I can help. -sg

Leadership Planning in 2017: Create Your Mission Statement

blank-sign-1316376-638x421Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” movie famously proclaimed to her dog, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Well, neither are we!

In these transformative times, it’s essential to insure that your mission statement mirrors the direction in which your organization must travel. Your mission statement from two years ago needs to be created anew and critiqued for its timeliness and purpose.

This will take some time, which it should so that the result is worth the effort. It is not a one-hour conference call. Gathering stakeholders and getting them to focus on this will be key to creating a mission statement that everyone can buy into.

To start, here are a few key questions:

  • What type of organization do you want to be known as?
  • Are you proud of the statement?
  • Is your team inspired by it?
  • Who curated it? When?

Your Mission is Your Foundation

Your mission statement is the foundation on which you then build your corporate behavior. It’s also an ethos that can/will permeate your organization. Many of my clients go deep with this process. It’s quite valuable and healthy to pinpoint specific behaviors with which you will govern your company.  It’s the litmus test to so many decisions you and your executive team will make throughout 2017.

Does Your Team Get It?

A mission statement is also a recruitment evaluation tool. As you interview throughout the year, look for individuals you feel can embrace your mission statement. As you coach your “A”, “B” and “C” players reflect on this mission statement and notice they’re level of connection and ownership of it. In my next post, we will look at what to do about those who don’t get it.

Does the Outside World Get It?

It’s all well and good that you create a mission statement that works internally. However, does it resonate with clients, partners, prospective employees? How people describe your company and its achievements “out there” is critical in shaping your company’s brand. A few questions to ask here are:

  • What adjectives do you want clients and the general public to use to describe your organization?
  • How important is it for everyone to embody these behaviors?
  • What behaviors will you commit to?
  • What behaviors will distance you from your competitive set?

How Does Your Mission Shape Your Culture?

Once you create your cultural values you, on a de facto basis, create a covenant of behavior with your organization. That’s how powerful this process can be.
This set of values governs how people relate to one another, procure business and manage client relationships.

Some companies labor over their mission statement…intensely choosing each and every word after much debate. But then, when it’s “done” it disappears from the day-to-day culture exhibited by those who represent the mission….your teams! They must have a sense of ownership for the mission if it is to become a guiding force behind everything the company sets out to achieve. Get your teams involved and ask them these questions:

  • What is our culture based on?
  • How important is hard work?
  • How important is having a team of hungry executives striving for strong client relationships?
  • How important is winning in the marketplace in 2017?
  • How essential is new business versus driving existing client loyalty?

Creating a new mission statement at this time of year is a very rewarding, healthy process to go through. It instills in everyone a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility to your organization and the difference it makes in the world. The world needs it.

Do you know your company’s mission statement? Does everyone? Let me know what help you need. -SG

Seven Reasons to Change!

As you grow as a leader, you will change, whether you like it or not! How you change and the impact that has on your development, your team and you future is up to you. Sometimes, the changes are requested by others who see your potential, even if you don’t. I work with many people in this capacity. Here’s a quick video where I explain why YOU wanting to change is the first, most important step:

7 Reasons to Change

There are a lot of reasons to change. Here are seven that I’ve found can be strong motivators:

  1. Someone, or some people believe in you: you’ve got a team of people who see more in you than you might see.
  2. Trust people who care about you, beyond your own opinion: the person who desires this program for you wants to contribute to you, don’t get in their way.
  3. Be grateful versus critical with this opportunity: WAY too many of us are not grateful often enough. An executive development program is an investment in your growth, not a scarlet letter, ever.
  4. Think about how many executives and potential peers of yours will never will get this chance/investment in them?: think about this, there are people around you who may have plateaued and have been passed by, don’t let this happen to you.
  5. You can’t do it alone: it takes a village to demonstrably change behaviors. It must be done carefully and professionally.
  6. It’s not about being right with your current behavior, its about being effective as an executive who can lead others.
  7. It’s healthy to stretch yourself: there will always be something to get better at, seize the opportunity now.

Use these reasons to be straight with yourself regarding what might be thwarting your adventure and how these could impact your growth as a leader.

Want to discuss changes you want to make? Contact me at 

Barriers to Achieving Objectives, aka No Client Left Behind

Recently, a client lamented that he and his firm lost a multi-million dollar order. The CEO, who had not been involved in the process, stopped the expected transaction…after my client had invested a year’s worth of relationship building with the two execs that reported to the CEO. Hence the phrase; no client left behind!

I felt terrible for my client when I heard the news. As we deconstructed the crime, we realized there were THREE other executives who factored into the decision making process that were not met with, let alone tucked in. We’ve all heard and respected the phrase, “Selling starts at ‘No.'” My client didn’t get a chance to hear “No” from many decision makes until it was too late. A great client once said to me “In business, it’s always good to be a little paranoid.” He’s not wrong. In fact, this needs to be an operating principle.

The Money Guy Does The Talking

When you operate from the idea that something can always go wrong, you naturally understand it’s mission critical to determine early on in the process who the decision makers are who will factor into choosing, or not, your product or service. As I explain in the video below, it’s paramount not only to know who these people are but, to meet with them separately. Otherwise, you’ll only hear from the person in the room who makes the most money!

Do not only meet with people in a group. As you meet/vet each decision maker,  you will uncover what’s core to them relative to your recommendation. This will move you closer to a “Yes” and further away from the “No.” The executive will start to get a feeling that their individual wants and goals are being considered, giving them a vested interest in the outcome…not just a group mentality.

Understand Everyone’s Barriers

Many years ago, my first sales manager, Nick, once said to me “You’ve got five minutes to understand what the barriers are to your recommendation…and it’s the first five minutes.” That’s a little too abrupt, but he was correct in that as you initiate relationships with these four to six decision makers, you must understand what barriers could block you early on in the process. As Nick also said, “If you get the objection when you’re closing, it’s too late.” Give yourself a chance early to discover roadblocks and determine how to resolve them.

You’ve got to endear yourself first, then your recommendation, to each decision maker. You will do that by listening first, selling second.  The deeper you understand what’s important to each decision maker the clearer you’ll be in how to communicate and compel them.

Ever get blind-sided by a “silent” decision maker…the person you never knew about who holds the strings? Tell me about it in the comments. – SG

Time for Giving and Acknowledging

christmas-star-1420864-639x953In this blessed holiday season there is a lot to be grateful for as I’ve blogged about in the past. It’s also the time to acknowledge people.

Assess Your Relationships

From clients to associates, take a moment to assess this year’s relationships with people you’re close to professionally. Assess their importance to you, how your year has been helped by them and how you’ve grown by associating with them.

Personally Acknowledge

Then, formulate a specific, personalized acknowledgement to them. It can be as simple as “thanks for all our work together this year, especially on the X project. It’s been a lot of fun and very successful,’ to “thanks for all your trust and confidence, our work together developing your value proposition has been very fulfilling; we’ve made a great difference together.”

These acknowledgements make-a-difference. They say to someone; “you’re important to me, and here’s why.”

Remember the expression; “Turns go around.” This applies here. The goodwill you’re providing will come back to you so, it’s smart to seed the clouds now.

Thank You!

And with that, I want to thank you for reading my blog this year. I wish I could thank you individually, as I’ve suggested above. But for now, let it suffice that the feedback you’ve provided has helped me stay focused on providing useful content to help you navigate the intricacies of your career and leadership. I wish you a very happy holiday season!

You Don’t Get a Free Pass

football-5-1186483-639x416In our instant access, instant disclosure world, it’s important to bear in mind that as a leader you don’t get a free pass on inappropriate behavior.

What you get is a write up in the National Inquirer that you lost your cool. Of course, I don’t mean this literally, I mean it figuratively. But the point is that you will have shone a light on your bad behavior and lots of people will notice.

Remember Tom Hanks’s famous line in the movie “A League Of Their Own”… “There’s no crying in baseball!” Well, there’s no aberrant behavior that come from emotions in business. Being emotional, and making rash decisions based on those emotions, gives you a scarlet letter you don’t need. It says to people you’re not as stable as they thought you were.

Practice Patience

An example of what I mean is making a personnel decision after being provoked to do so. Rumor disguised as information may come your way and you quickly react, thinking that that is what a good leader does. No, it isn’t.

To neutralize this behavior, it’s important to have forebearance, meaning having patient restraint when provoked. I often coach leaders to catch their emotional moments and substitute the emotion with foerbearance and an illustration of a higher level of groundedness than the issue merits.

Keep Your Cool to Win

Think of an NFL Quarterback. Those who lose their cool, who overreact to what’s happening instead of anticipating it, those who get flustered when things don’t go their way…well, you won’t see them in the Hall of Fame any time soon (or ever!). But those who maintain a steady composure, work the problem at hand instead of fretting about it and keep their emotions in check, you’re likely to see one or more championship rings on their fingers before their career winds down.

Act calmly and appropriately. Because remember…the Inquirer is always watching!

New Leaders…Stay Insecure For a While

The opportunity has arrived! You’ve been anointed as the heir apparent. Congratulations…you are now the boss. You can start telling everyone what to do.
NO! Keep your humility, drop the swagger… I said drop it! Keep a clear head as you proceed.

Lead First…Delegate Later

Sorry to be so immovable on this point BUT, in my experience coaching new leaders, far too many executives move from being in the weeds to only touching them. Too often the first skill they hone is delegation when they should be leading by example. People know when you haven’t done the required homework for important corporate events/moves.  You can’t fool them!

Collaboration Builds Their Confidence in You

The reason I recommend remaining insecure a bit longer is that it forces you to collaborate with everyone and gather feedback in whatever form or tone it takes. This illustrates your humility and forbearance with people. It says their voice is important to you. It affirms people. And in turn, they gain confidence in your abilities.

Avoid Forcing Change

As you start your new leadership position, act as though everyone around you will remain as they are both in character and in their ability to guide your leadership actions. By operating this way, you can adapt your style to fit how they work best and persuade people from the character they have presented, not the one you want them to have. Eventually, you can affect the change you want but first, you have to see things from their perspective. They’ll make note of that effort and are more likely to accept your future plans.

Are you new to your leadership role? Let me know what your biggest challenge is below in the comments. Thanks!