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Friday, November 27, 2009


Tascha is a manager in small town near St. Louis. Tascha works hard to be a good manager and leader. There are problems, though. She is realizing that, based on some strong employees who have left, things are not right. Tascha would tell you that she never saw the departures coming.

She remembers what she was taught about employees leaving bosses before they leave organizations. Therefore, Tascha wisely looks inward to try and understand why people might want to leave. There are different reasons why her team members might have been thinking of their exits. Tascha wonders, "why didn't my people talk to me? I had their best interests at heart. I've always tried to be approachable."

Let's focus on the "approachable" idea for the rest of this post because it could really have had an impact, not only on Tascha's understanding of what happened, but also on a key way that the problems might have been avoided.

Was Tascha really approachable? She thinks she was and she felt she let her people know that. The questions that come to mind are 1) did Tascha actually let her team members know that she was interested in talking with them? 2) If she did so, did Tascha's actions match her words; in other words, did she make a habit of talking with her people and were her mannerisms (facial expressions, etc.) aligned with the approachability she was trying to convey?

If Tascha wasn't overly approachable, then that would definitely be something she could work on. Let's say, however, that Tascha's people found her very approachable. That's great, but the problems haven't been resolved. What else could it be?

Once Tascha's people approached her, was Tascha really engaged in their communication? 1) Did she actively listen to what her people said? 2) Did Tascha take what they had to say seriously or did she dismiss their comments? Even though some things her people would have told her might have been frivolous or even inappropriate, did Tascha let the staff know they were important by expressing her appreciation for them coming to her?

Strong communication is so often the key issue when problems surface and, just as often, a great way to fix or even ameliorate problems before they get out of hand.

Look at yourself. Do you see any Tascha in there?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Perception and Reality

I had the pleasure of discussing the saying "perception is reality" with a friend of mine today. My friend and I didn't completely agree.

It can be considered trite and naive to believe that reality is up for grabs. As far as people, people management, people science, and all that are concerned, there are typically some, at least, socially acceptable truths. Someone's reality might be based on bigotry and this person might foster the belief that all short people are somehow inadequate, for example. There is no basis in conventional wisdom for that belief so one might say that this person's perception is not, in actuality, reality even though the person believes it. Norms of reality exist, huh?

So, we're comfortable with the idea that reality does exist. Great. The rub comes, however, when we get too wrapped up in what we call reality as opposed to what others call reality. We all have filters through which we look at life (see my post here on Reality Filters). These filters are often composed of our experiences both as children and as adults, as well as what we've been taught by people who have been influential in our lives. These filters are really powerful and can help us shape our personal reality. They can even help us slant the "conventional wisdom" realities to where they fit better into our beliefs. The bigot I mentioned above most certainly used filters to shape his "short hate"., reality exists, but we have trouble pinning it down. Or, perhaps we have NO trouble pinning it down ourselves, but everyone around us just does a lot of head scratching, wondering what the heck we're thinking.

Perhaps the best thing we can hope to do is have faith. For me, that means faith in God. It also means that, except when I'm being really cynical, I have faith that people are basically decent, as a group. Other than that, we should look really hard at what our reality is and try to help it align (I didn't say agree) with those who are important in our lives.

The other thing we can to do is try to have empathetic spirits. We can to try to understand the reality of those around us. We don't have to agree with those realities, but we can to try to understand them so we can use what we've learned to better interact with others. We can be willing to accept (gulp...) that our ideas might be wrong or, at least, not necessarily the best ideas around. Since many of us have pretty strong beliefs, we should to try to temporarily "suspend" our assumptions (see my post on that here) and beliefs on a subject to help us better listen to other ideas and perceptions. Maybe the group will agree that I am right, that someone else is right, or that we both are (we can have multiple ideas, can't we?).

What about you? How do you handle the idea of reality and your views on it?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Consider Almost Everything

Different people have different outlooks on life. Some are pretty open-minded and some are fairly closed-minded. Regardless of our outlook, almost everyone has areas where their minds are already set, already decided.

For whatever reason, whether it's based on upbringing, painful experiences from the past, having a "particular" attitude about certain things (like different people or cultures), or just being difficult because we like it, we can often shut out some possibly great ideas or experiences.

The thing is, just because we look at or consider an idea doesn't mean we have to agree with it or do anything about it. There are plenty of bone-headed ideas out in the world (I might mention a few, but then maybe that would just be me acting closed-minded). Aristotle wrote:
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Think about the great achievements and advancements in medicine, science, and business that might have never happened if leaders had not been willing to tolerate another person's ideas. Humans might not have advanced near as far with automobiles or airplanes. We might never have traveled into space or mapped the ocean floor without leaders thoughtfully considering ideas.

Now, grounding the topic a little bit and considering our daily lives, it's our responsibility as managers and leaders to try and consider pretty much everything that we run across. We should look at suggestions and ideas from all angles to see if they have merit in our particular situations. That's how we can help others grow as well as move our organizations and ourselves forward.

Just consider it, OK?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Daily Motivation

"People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily." ~Zig Ziglar

What I'm seeing Zig say is that we need to take time every day for self-motivation and to motivate our folks. On one hand, that seems kind of overkill. The last thing I would want to experience is a new motivational video every day from YouTube. Just thinking of it makes my brain hurt.

On the other hand, it's easy for us and for our team members to get weighed down -- weighed down by the stresses in our personal lives that come from things like family, money, health, and safety. Add to it the stresses from work and before we know it we could feel like we've got the weight of the world on our shoulders. It can happen quickly and easily.

In that respect, I definitely can see where Zig is coming from. It's part of our job as leaders to help lift and maintain our people's spirits (and, therefore, our own since our people often mimic our moods). It's part of our duties to help them feel like work is a place they want to be which should help them be more productive and pleasant to work with.

I like the idea of morning huddles (see my "huddle" post here) with my folks. What about you? What do you do to daily motivate your people and yourself?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pride in the team

As bosses, we often spend a significant amount of time putting out fires and dealing with problematic issues. We have more to do than there are hours in the day. It can, at times, seem overwhelming. It can, at times, cause us to take a "head down" approach to our work lives, focusing on the bad stuff.

Hopefully, if we're fortunate enough and we're doing good stuff as a leader, we lead a great team. Maybe the team is great in spite of us, but more than likely the team is strong, at least in part, because of our efforts.

We need to take a moment, every now and then, to celebrate our blessings. We need to come up out of our funk, take a breath, and take pride in the team of which we're a part.

When we look at our folks, imperfect as they are (just like us), we can hopefully revel in their great efforts: in helping keep the operation moving forward, in providing outstanding service, in making your office a wonderful place to be.

Now, go de-funkify and take some pride in the team.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Humility...a sign of weakness?

Most of the leaders I've observed and worked with over the years have been concerned with appearing strong and in command of their teams, their position, and their lives.

Some of them were naturally arrogant and some developed an arrogant posture to seem tough and strong. Some even took to bullying others. Sometimes the bravado appeared to be a thinly veiled attempt to cover up a fear of inadequacy.

There were a few leaders who were different from the rest. They were calm and self-assured instead of seeming full of themselves. They were even deferential with others, knowing that they weren't special, but just another member of the organization who was trying to do their best. They respected those around them, both above and below, for the contributions they made, knowing that all team members are capable of sharing.

Instead of an air of cockiness, these people adopted one of humility. They knew they weren't perfect, but they also knew they were competent. When they made a mistake, they didn't try to deflect the responsibility on someone else. When they messed up, they stood up and were accountable; then they worked to correct the problems and make modifications to ensure the problems didn't reoccur.

Leaders should always want to deal with issues from a position of strength. So, what does that position of strength look like? Is it all about strutting around and looking superior or can it be quiet confidence rooted in maturity, experience, and self-awareness?

So I ask, is humility a sign of weakness...or is it a sign of strength?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Double Standards

Do as I say and not as I do.

Isn't that what we often like to tell our children? Isn't it often what we subliminally say to our team members at work? Don't our actions often give us away here?

It's been a long time since I was in the Service, but waaay back then, we used to have to periodically wear our chemical protective suits and gas masks 4 hours at a time while performing our normal duties. The idea was to help us get acclimated to wearing the gear so we would be better prepared in case of a gas attack. As you might imagine, the suits were very hot and the masks were very hard to breathe through, especially when making any exertion at all.

If any of the soldiers were caught sneaking a breath of fresh air during the exercise, they would definitely get in trouble. However, many of the leaders would find opportunities to sneak away and peel off their masks for a few minutes. The thing is, the troops weren't stupid. They knew their supervisors had gone "missing". Sometimes they even saw their bosses "cheating."

The excuse was that they were older and had issues with heat or lung capacity, but I suspect the real reason those leaders took off their masks was they thought they could get away with it AND they deserved special treatment because their rank afforded them such. It was just one more bit of "evidence" to the soldiers that a double standard existed even though it was regularly denied.

We probably wouldn't like it if our bosses adopted a "do as I say, not as I do" attitude, would we? Then why would it OK to embrace that same attitude with our folks?

I challenge all of us to take a look at the requirements we place on our team members and ourselves; then we need to evaluate how we measure up to our requirements. Our team members probably know, so we should, too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What, How, Do

I've heard someone say, "I pretty much know everything about leadership. Oh, there might be one or two small things, but very, very little. I don't need those seminars. I don't need those books. I already know what to do. My problem is that I just don't do it."

On the surface, besides the arrogant nature of the comments, this person seems pretty dialed in on the whole leadership thing: lots of training, lots of exposure. Then the question is asked, "So, why don't you do it?" The answer might be, "Well, none of us is perfect, blah, blah, blah." Cop-out...

Could it be that there's a piece missing? Could it be that the reason the "expert" isn't doing what he or she knows, is that the person doesn't know HOW to translate the knowledge into action? Could it be that it's not:

Knowledge -->> Action
But, instead, it's:
Knowledge -->> Practice -->> Action?

Could it be that there's been no practice, or more likely, not enough practice (if there's such a thing as enough practice)? Does this example work?
I know what to do to fix a computer. I have the instructions right here. Still, I may not be an expert at fixing computers until I've practiced fixing them: breaking parts, frying components, and corrupting or erasing files until I've made enough mistakes and fixed more computers than I've broken on a regular basis.
Now, I'm picking on leadership folks right now, but perhaps this idea of practice could extend to any number of areas, like service, management, or coaching (Hey! These are the things I write about!).

The saying is "practice makes perfect" and since we can never be perfect, I guess that means we must endlessly practice. Of course, that may lead to another question of "If I'm not perfect, can I truly be an expert in my field?", but that's a topic for another time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Common Vision

When have you felt the most fulfilled at work, in your current job or some time in the past? For me, it was when I was a part of an organization with a common vision.

The absolute best organization I was ever part of was NOT the place where I had the best job. I had better jobs that I liked more with other groups. This organization, however, was the place I felt most energized and alive. It was the place where we had the most compelling common vision.

I briefly alluded to this organization a few days ago when I wrote about being the Communications Officer for 8-43 Air Defense Artillery at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas (see the post here). The core group of us (about 25-30) shared this common vision: to build a battalion of 700 soldiers, equip it, train it, and move it 8,000 miles to West Germany where its PATRIOT missiles would help protect our forces from the enemy.

Our commander lived and preached the vision. We were his disciples and we made believers of the soldiers. We knew what we had to do, we knew the importance of our duties, and we had an aggressive timeline to meet. We took the 10 months the Army gave us and, through exceptional leadership, made a cohesive unit, rolling to the field every week for 16 weeks. At first, we were inept and awkward. Tasks seemed to take forever to complete. However, over those 4 months of intense, repetitive training, we built and honed our skills until we could practically perform them in our sleep.

We had our vision, we had our culture, and we made it happen. It was glorious.

Unfortunately, and perhaps almost inevitably, when we got settled into our facilities in Germany, we got into the habit of our duties and things got kind of humdrum and monotonous. Our great adventure was over.

I've looked back at that experience periodically, over the years, and wished I could recapture that spark we had. I've been in organizations that came close, but never quite made it. I've worked to recreate it in places, as well, but the current culture was just too strong and never allowed it to take hold.

What about you? Have you ever been in a group that had a great common vision? Have you ever been involved with a vision that just swept you up and swept you along?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Skilled Incompetence"

"Skilled Incompetence" is a phrase coined by Chris Argyris, a business theorist who taught at Harvard and is known for his work in the area of "Learning Organizations". I was reading some of his ideas on this phrase in my favorite management book, "The Fifth Discipline" by Peter Senge. Senge is commenting about this during his comments about "the myth of the management team".

Skilled Incompetence, according to Argyris, is the consequence of "teams full of people who are incredibly proficient at keeping themselves from learning". This is in reference to business teams who keep from learning because it's not "safe". The thing is, this problem is often present in any organization, be it business, volunteer organizations, charities.

What's one the main reasons for skilled incompetence? It's the culture. It's a culture of knowing instead of a culture of learning. It's a culture of protectionism, ensuring each of the group members look good, instead of a culture where it's OK to disagree and to make mistakes in the search for the best way to operate.

How many times have you heard (or even thought, yourself) someone say, "I don't agree with that idea, but I'm not going to stick my neck out..."? How many times would you love to be able to say what you are thinking and be in a dialogue where you and your teammates are free from fear of challenging the status quo and are allowed the freedom to truly brainstorm and create?

As long as business is good, skilled incompetence doesn't necessarily show or, at least, seem to get in the way, too much. However, when there's crisis or chaos, teams like Senge speaks about often fall apart.

Have you ever seen or experienced Skilled Incompetence? What, if anything, has the organization done about it? What can be done to rid teams of this malady?

Making A Difference

Good leaders make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. I didn't write "good leaders make a difference in the lives of people who serve them". I also didn't write "GREAT". I wrote "good". Most of us are not and never will be great leaders even though we hopefully strive to be great every day.

I have written several other posts on "leaders" in this blog. Some are: Visibility, Leaders are There, Leaders Never Quit, Servant Leadership. This time the post is about how we, as leaders, can make a difference in the lives of our people.

I've been blessed to have several really good bosses over the years. The "hands down" best boss I ever had was Colonel Joseph J. "Jake" Simmons, IV. Why was he the best boss I've ever had?

It's because he:
  • invested in me.
  • believed in me.
  • challenged me.
  • helped me grow.
  • cared about my well-being.
  • patted me on the back and kicked me in the butt.
  • helped me believe I was a winner.
Good leaders have the most unique of abilities and opportunities...the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.

On Veteran's Day, I remember Colonel Simmons and say "thank you, sir" to his service to his God, his country, his people, and to me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Change...a clean slate

Change can be a scary thing. So much of what we want, as human beings, is to feel secure. We like things the way we like them and we don't want them to be different.

Of course, change is inevitable and it's really hard to have growth without change. One thing I do find very inviting about change is often the ability, in a sense, to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. When we start in a new position at work with a new group of people, or we take a new job, or the makeup of our team changes, it can give us the opportunity to "start over", even a little bit.

We all make mistakes and, hopefully, we learn from our mistakes. Still, our mistakes can haunt us or taint us a little bit, if only in our own minds. Change can give us the chance -- can be the catalyst -- to leave some of our mistakes and baggage behind and start fresh.

This attitude toward change is very positive and can help us move forward more energized, focused, and dedicated than we have been in a while. It can allow the real, "improved" us shine to those around us.

A clean slate is good, don't you think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Checking Up

Do bosses have to know how to do their people's jobs in order to be able to check and ensure they're being performed correctly?

I remember having a discussion with one of my team leaders about spot-checking the work of our teams. He was adamant that a boss needed to know exactly how to perform his people's work in order to accurately determine if the work was being performed and performed correctly.

I disagreed with him. I said that key indicators often let a boss know whether work was being performed. Sure, the quality of the end result or product will let bosses know 100% (more traditional key indicators), but then it's too late to make any corrections. Let's face it, bosses are supervisors, not worker bees, and it's often not possible to realistically know how to perform every step of every team member's job.

I gave the team leader my example of ensuring that maintenance was being performed on a fleet of trucks. I said that, while I didn't know how to perform all the preventive maintenance, checks, and services on the trucks, I could check the tire pressure, the cleanliness of the oil dipstick handle (it was very large and easily got dirty), and battery cell levels to get a decent idea if the maintenance was being performed. I believe I convinced him of my argument.

What do you think? Are there checks that bosses can perform that allow them to see their teams' work is being done? What examples do you have?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Before we "jump"

How many times have we KNOWN the right answer before we even knew all the facts?

How many times have we gotten upset with someone because we jumped to the result before we heard all the information?

How many times have we jumped in and tried to solve the problem before we even knew if our team member wanted our help?

How many times have we Looked Before Leaping?

If we, as leaders and bosses, are to have any credibility with our team members, we have to stop, listen, and think before we act. Nothing turns our people off more quickly than knee-jerk reactions from us.

Credible leadership is mature and thoughtful leadership. Let's take a minute to think about that.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


ARMY Story (this is a follow-on to this post "Leaders are there").

When I was the Communications Officer for 8-43 Air Defense Artillery back in the 80s, we spent a ton of time doing maneuvers out in the New Mexico desert. The reason we were out in the field so much was that we had just formed the unit from an initial group of 25-30 of us and built it up to about 700 soldiers in preparation of our move to Germany as part of the air defenses against the Russians and the Soviet bloc (this was before "the wall" came down, you know).

8-43 ADA was a PATRIOT missile unit that was heavy on communications (some called it a communications system that shot missiles). Anyway, I digress.

If the control vans and the launchers couldn't communicate, the unit was useless, so we trained, trained, trained. Back in the 80s, the doctrine was to move at night because we were less visible to the enemy in the dark. I did my best to be on site whenever a missile battery moved into position so I could watch the Commo guys get everything set up. Those days, people like me didn't get much rest because some unit was always moving and when that wasn't happening, other communication issues had to be dealt with. I would sit on the hood of my vehicle, watching the soldiers getting the equipment all set up and operating, trying to stay awake. I often looked at my watch to see what time it was...0200, 0300, 0330 and thinking about when I'd get some sleep. That's what I did.

"OK, great. You looked at your watch", you say. Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to the point. After our 4 months of rolling to the field every week was finally over, I was speaking to the Commo section sergeants from one of the PATRIOT batteries about how fast and efficiently his team had been...even more than the others. His response surprised me. He said, "we had to be fast, sir, since I saw you were constantly timing us." I started laughing. He asked what was funny. I said, "I wasn't timing you. I was just tired and kept looking at my watch to see how much sleep I'd get that night." He said, "And all that time, we thought you were timing us and I was determined my team was going to win the competition." I wish I had thought of that.

Visibility and interest by the leaders are key to the success their people. Even though I didn't realize it, I was giving the sergeant the perception of my keen interest (and I was interested) and my expectations of him and his team.

Do you have other examples of how leader visibility positively impacts the team?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Down the wrong path

You're working on a project or task and, after working on it for a while, you realize you're just heading in the wrong direction. You've got a lot invested here. There's a lot of visibility to your work and your reputation could be at stake. What do you do? Can you afford to deviate? Can you admit you made a mistake? Should you just move ahead down the wrong path and make the best of it?

From my perspective, there's only one thing to do: S T O P !

You need to stop, regroup, realign, and get on the right path. Think about hikers out in the woods. They probably use a map to keep heading the right direction. If they find out they're heading the wrong way, do they typically keep on going or do they stop, get back on the right path and move on? Of course, they do otherwise could be disastrous.

So it should be with us. As bad as it may seem to admit you've been going down the wrong path, it could be many times worse to stupidly keep going just because you can't be wrong.

Is there ever a time to keep on going down the wrong path?.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What do you have to get done today?

There are a million things to do and a hundred deadlines to meet. You've got to write emails, you've got to make phone calls, you have to sit in meetings and try to be engaged...and in between all of it, you have to get your daily work done.

How many of us feel this way on a regular basis?

What do we do about it? We get flustered, we respond to the loudest voice or the squeakiest wheel of the moment, and we try to get everything done. Or maybe, we run and hide, thinking that "doing the ostrich" and burying our heads in the sand will make it all go away. Regardless, we're most likely not being efficient and effective and we may be rough to live with while it's all happening. This kind of living stinks.

Is there a way out?
  • Well, the first thing you have to do is ask yourself if you need to be doing everything you're doing. Are you doing some relatively simple work just because you like to do it or you're really good at it versus delegating it out?
  • Moving on, is there anything you can say "no" to? As far as work is concerned, maybe that's not reasonable, but maybe there is. There may be some opportunities personally, too.
Great, you've delegated and you've pushed back and you still have a ton of things to do. There's no end in sight. Where do you turn? Stop and ask yourself this simple question:

"What do I HAVE to get done today?"

Just ask it. It seems so simple, yet when we are frazzled and feel overwhelmed, we often just forget. We forget to take a few minutes and prioritize.

So, shut the door, take a deep breath, and ask yourself the question. It may help you get through the day.

What other ways work for you in dealing with too many tasks on your list?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Benefit of the doubt

It's really easy to misunderstand someone else, especially in writing and especially on email. If people can start wars with the flick of a pen, think about the damage we can do with email. In fact, I wrote about this a while back (see post here).

The thing is, most of the time we're not trying to be difficult when we write to someone else (although I could be wrong). When misunderstandings take place, it's more about the receiving party taking the meaning differently than intended. We miss the tones and inflections and so we take the words however we want to or based on the mood we're in.

So, how many times have we misunderstood the message? How many times have we received an email that was innocent or benign, put a negative spin on it, and taken it as an attack? How many times have we ripped off a scathing response, one that anyone would KNOW was negative, only to find out later that the original message was not intended to be antagonistic?

We need to give email writers the benefit of the doubt. Unless we know the person at the other end is out to hurt us (and has proven it in others ways besides email), we need not jump to the negative.

We have several choices of how to take an email's meaning. Let's choose to put a positive spin on them and give the writers the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You Don't Have To Be A Superstar

I used to work with a sergeant whose platoon (around 35 soldiers) was always the best. These men and women were head and shoulders above the rest of the platoons in my company (and probably in the entire battalion of about 600 soldiers). Typically, a platoon is led by a lieutenant and a Sergeant, First Class. This sergeant was so young in his career that he hadn't made it to Sergeant First Class, but was still a Staff Sergeant AND he had no lieutenant most of the time. When we were short of officers, I would let this sergeant lead on his own.

One time, Sergeant H and I were talking and I asked him, "why is it that your platoon is so strong? Why is it that they're so obviously superior to every other platoon around them?" His reply was, "Sir, my guys aren't superstars and I don't expect them to be. All I expect them to do is their jobs. All the others around them who don't perform will make them look like superstars."

Now, depending on how you choose to look at it, you can see this as an indictment on most of us OR you can look at it from the perspective of focus, teamwork, guidance, and expectations. Sergeant H didn't expect his people to perform miracles. He just expected them to do their work; he expected them to do their jobs.

What do you expect of your people? Do they know your expectations?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Is it your honor?

Do you consider it your honor to be a leader? Is it your honor to be a boss?

When your people come to you for guidance or advice, do you consider it an honor that they ask or are they being pests?

When one of your team members is messing up, do you consider it a pain to have to coach them or do you see it as an honor that you're entrusted to help him or her grow?

When you have customers who are unhappy, does it upset you to have deal with them or do you consider it an honor to be able to perform great service recovery and help them be even more loyal patrons?

Sometimes I think that, as bosses and leaders, we forget that we have been chosen and entrusted to help grow our organizations, develop our teams, and make fanatic fans of our customers.

It IS our honor.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What does it take to get you to act?

Specifically, I'm talking about discipline. What does it take to get you to respond to behavior that is not up to your standards?

Anger: When I was a young leader, it often took me being upset or angry before I could openly and directly face someone not doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. I used to have to mentally "fire myself up" or have one of my junior managers help me get riled, reminding me of the inappropriate actions, in order to go take care of business.

Prodding: Sometimes it takes an event to get bosses to act, perhaps like some evaluation, especially if it's an evaluation of you. Maybe your boss is wondering how you're handling a situation or situations. Regardless, you're not going to act unless poked or prodded. Is it OK to take this approach as long as the behavior gets modified?

Self-prodding: This is the approach I've seen taken a lot by good managers. Someone isn't performing up to standards and you know you need to take action. You don't want to. It bothers you, perhaps to the point of almost making you nauseous, because you really don't like confrontations. However, you're a professional so you don't stick your head in the sand. It's your job and you know it. Your mind won't let it go until you deal with it. Eventually, you make corrections, but you've probably spent a fair amount of time worrying about how your team member will respond or how good a job you'll do at the correction. Your focus may be taken away from other priorities. Is all this OK as long as you get your person back on track?

Just another task: You are a mature, self-assured manager. You just see the need for a correction as another task on your list for the day. You don't worry about it. Sure, you may be a little disappointed that the correction is needed, but it's a part of life. Of course, you do think about the best way to proceed with that team're not cavalier about it. Perhaps you have such a strong relationship built with your people, based on open communication and mutual respect, that it's not a big deal to correct, coach, and move on. This approach seems the most healthy.

Think about it. Where are you among the different approaches to discipline? Can you identify with one of these or is your approach different? Are you at the place you want to be? If not, what will it take to help you get there?