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Thursday, February 25, 2010


It's natural...bosses typically have a team member they regularly "favor" and someone who's on their "list". You see it time and again. It's not fair and it's often not right, but it happens.

The best boss I ever had in my entire career thought I was great while one of my colleagues got on his last nerve regularly.

So what is it about favorites? Do we play favorites with people who have common likes and dislikes? Is it about ideas and ideals where team members who think like us get more of our positive attention?

And what about the one (hopefully it's only one) who just irritates the snot out of us? Is it the flip side of our favorites, above? Is it that what we find so unappealing in others are the same traits that we hate the most in ourselves?

Regardless, it's our job, as leaders, to be fair, "bend over backwards" fair. Remember a time when you felt someone else was being favored over you and how it kind of stunk.

While worry isn't always that positive an activity, it's OK to worry about being fair...because it's that important.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too Many Chiefs

I attended a volunteer group meeting last night for a local charity. Our team leader is a very capable man who did his best to build consensus and still move us in a direction.

The biggest challenge I think this team leader had was to manage team members who were used to being in charge. He did fine.

It reminded me, though, since I was there, I'm used to being in charge, and I was just another team member in the meeting, that I was part of the challenge.

I reflected afterwards that I didn't want to be a problem. I wanted to be considered a helper and supporter.

What we all need to remember, when we find ourselves in situations like this, is to work towards heightened sensitivity and situational awareness. It doesn't mean that if we're not in charge, then we need to shut up and be submissive. It does mean that we need to allow ourselves to be led.

Good leaders are good followers...we just have to keep reminding ourselves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"No Problem is Unique to you"

I've been working through Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell for a 2nd time.

On page 19 Tony, the mentor in the story, tells his new "mentee", "When it comes to leading people, there is no problem that is unique to you."

I know there are a few readers out there who are not leaders or managers and some say that what I write about doesn't apply to them because they don't hold one of those positions.

OK, so let me change the quote: "When it comes to relationships with other people, there is no problem that is unique to you." Does that make all of us feel better now?

The point is that human beings are the same the world over. We all have issues with communication, with perceptions, and with sensitivities/sensibilities.

When we have problems with others, whether in leadership or in any kind of relationship (maybe it's with a spouse or with a boss), they are not unique to us.

We can take solace in that. We can hold our heads up high, even when we face problems, because we know we are not alone...and there's probably someone out in our world who we know and who can relate to what we're experiencing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ends Justify the Means...Do They?

Man, this is tough. I was asked to write about this topic a few weeks ago and I'm just getting around to it. Partially, it's been because I had easier topics and partially, because I'm not sure what to say.

"The ends justify the means". It's a very famous quote. It's also an endless struggle for most of us. Does it matter how we do something that will benefit us, or perhaps many, as long as we get the results desired...the results we want?

I can write a big, long post about the ends justifying the means when it comes to national or international politics, relationships, power, etc. I could cover subjects like right to life, capital punishment, welfare or some other social crises. I'm not going to do that.

There are enough issues relating to to this idea in our everyday lives. What this post will touch on is a bit of the struggle this idea causes when it comes to relationships, leadership, business, and our personal lives.

BEFORE I START: There's a big difference between making tough business decisions and treating other people poorly to help ourselves. I just wanted that to be said.

Do the ends justify the means? YES, they do...sometimes. Then again NO, they don't...sometimes.

Look at these examples and think about when the end might justify the means. Then read the examples again and think about when the end might not justify the means:

Is it OK:
~ to lie in order to make people feel better about themselves?
~ to lie in order to make other people like you better?
~ to lay one person off in order to keep everyone else employed?
~ to cut everybody's pay in order to not lay anyone off?
~ to manipulate a boss to do what you think he or she should be doing because that's the way you think the boss should act?
~ to manipulate a team member into believing an idea was his or hers in order to help them feel more engaged about the idea?

Where do the examples end? They don't. They go on forever.

Here's a little advice:

  • 1. Remember the golden and/or platinum rules:
  • GOLD: treat others like YOU want to be treated
  • PLATINUM: treat others like THEY want to be treated (not how you think they should)
  • 2. Applying integrity to situations based on #1.

  • Other than that, we need to weigh the options/outcomes in any decision, do a cost-benefit analysis, and ensure that whatever decisions we make are not being made for personal reasons or personal gain.

    So, do the ends justify the means? I really don't have a clue. I could go either way, depending....

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Your boss doesn't want bad news

    Nobody does.

    What can you do? Not tell him? That would be bad.

    So what can you do? You make the news as easy to take as possible:

    1. Tell them early: bad news isn't like fine doesn't get better with age.

    2. Give them all the facts: going in with only some of the details almost makes it worse...keeping #1 in mind, gather as much info as you can and then let the boss know.

    3. Give them a plan or options to fix the problem: just dumping a problem in the boss's lap isn't that helpful and won't be very appreciated.

    Bad news is going to have to be shared eventually, but it doesn't have to be overly painful. Take a proactive approach, keep as positive a demeanor as possible, and be honest.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Bloom where you're planted

    A long, long time a far away place...I was given some very sage advice. I was a young Army officer who wasn't getting the breaks like I had hoped or expected. I could give you a list, but I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that I never got my first choice of anything...and that was frustrating when I'd see some folks around me who got theirs.

    OK...the advice. I was sharing my above frustration with a very kind soul who I really didn't know and have only a vague memory of today. He was some Major or Colonel and he was listening. What I do remember was that he quietly heard what I had to say and then said something like, "Let me give you some advice. Life's too short and most of us never get all the breaks we're looking for. Bloom where you're planted. That's what you can do. That's what you can control."

    Bloom where you're planted.

    You may have heard this saying before. I hadn't ever heard it before this gentleman shared it with me. I guess, to me, it means we can't control everything. We can't always get everything we want. We can't always end up with the job or position that we would like or think we deserve. Decisions like these typically belong to someone else.

    What we can do is be our VERY BEST with whatever job we have, in whatever place we are, working with whatever people are on our team. For some of us, it means quitting our whining and bellyaching and just doing what needs to be done.

    This is what we can control and this is where we can excel.