Expensive leadership programs are (usually) bullsh*t - Try this instead

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Expensive leadership programs are (usually) bullsh*t - Try this instead

I was ALMOST sucked in.

I was loving the explanation of the program, the type of support I’d get, the results I’d see in my skills as a leader… and then they landed the kicker.

‘Yes, you get all of these amazing results for only $14,500, and we have payment plans!'

Oh for f*ck sakes.

(So in case you’re wondering how the story ends, no, I have not done said program)

Let me be very clear here: yes I am absolutely an advocate for investing in yourself and your skills (obviously), I have spent many thousands on my own career development.

And yes I’m quite confident I would have had an amazing experience and gotten some real transformational skills and learnings from this program. 

But you DO NOT need to spend crazy amounts of money to become a better boss.

Look if you have the cash sitting around and want to take that crazy expensive program then hells yes, go for it.

But DO NOT hit ‘add to cart’ because you think it’s the ONLY way to become a better boss (and certainly don’t go into debt for it!).

What I’ve always found with myself, and the clients I work with, it’s the small day to day habits and behaviours that make (or break) you as a boss. And those you truly can get better at with a much smaller financial investment.

Here’s some of the top ways to get better as a boss (while not breaking the bank):


Join a Local Improv Class

Sounds weird but trust me! Being a leader demands that you’re able to think on your feet, stay in the present moment and truly LISTEN to the person across from you. And there’s no better way to easily practice listening skills than with an Improv class. Yes I realize it definitely doesn’t sound like fun for the introverts, but who knows, you might have a laugh or two as well as learning deep listening skills!

 

Get a Practice Buddy

Have some tough client feedback you have to give to a team member and sweating bullets? Grab another boss you trust and have a practice. Say it out loud to them, play with the wording a bit until you feel confident you are delivering the message you mean to deliver, while not totally crushing their confidence.  A practice buddy is a great free way to think out loud and prepare for some of those tougher moments.

 

Habit Tracker

Your day to day habits are absolutely what makes you the Boss that you are. So start getting conscious of them. Start a list of 5 things you want to do daily or weekly that will make you a more impactful Boss - and actually track when you’re doing them. What you pay attention to and measure is where you’ll see growth and change, make this a priority and you might be amazed at not only what you notice about your default habits but also the positive changes your team starts to notice about you and how you lead.

(Not sure what new habits to try? Check out the Top 5 Morning Habits of the Best Bosses)

 

360 Feedback

Easy one - grab a google doc, throw some questions in there about your boss impact and send it out to your team. Bonus points if you also send it to suppliers, contractors and potentially a client or two!

Now be careful here, keep in mind that feedback is ONLY people’s perspective, it is NOT objective reality, so think of it as useful data not facts about you and your personality.

(Not sure what to ask? Get in touch and I’ll send you a FREE 360 feedback Boss Template)

 

Mindfulness Meditation

I know I know, this option seems a bit hippie for you. But you don’t have to wear birkenstocks and diffuse patchouli to appreciate this one, it’s all the rage in leadership programs in companies like Google, Apple, Nike, General Mills and even Goldman Sachs! Try a little challenge, download the Headspace App right now (no I'm not an affiliate), try it for a week and just notice what it's like to take those 10 minutes a day (yes that's all) and just inhale/exhale. This is going to help you with skills like resilience, patience, calm and empathy - all key Boss skills.

 

Telling your team - and PRACTICING

This is the biggest one I’ve seen make a huge impact… but a lot of bosses just aren’t comfortable with the vulnerability it requires.

This is a simple one: Tell your team what you’re working on.

Tell them you know you have some challenges with listening, or collaborating, or not bulldozing people into agreeing with you. Tell them that you’re working on it, how you’re working on it, and that you want their help. You’ll be asking for feedback from time to time and looking for them to give you insights into where they see you still doing this - and bonus points for telling you in the moment.

This is the absolute top way to get better as a Boss… might feel like the riskiest one on the list, but it’s also the one with the best chance of a big payout.


Ok Boss, what are you going to commit to trying to up your skills?  Let me know in the comments or drop me an email!


Hiring a new team member and want to get it right?? Get your checklist to make sure you're covering all the bases!

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Three times when 'You're Fired' is the kindest option

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Three times when 'You're Fired' is the kindest option

‘But  he’s such a nice guy, I really like him… but oh his quality is so bad even though I’ve been giving him feedback for over 6 months… I mean… maybe he’ll get better??’

‘Uuugh her work is good… but the team hate working with her and she is kinda… well… mean to people’

‘He’s great at what he does… but it’s like pulling teeth to get any work out of him, I’m spending hours each day just getting him to do his job!’

Ok Bosses, I’ve heard it all before.  You don’t want to fire someone because… well there’s a multitude of reasons - don’t want to have to recruit to replace, too busy to deal with it, hoping it will go away, actually really like the person, and the big one: don’t want to be an ass-hole.

And you know what, firing is DEFINITELY not the first option on the table! Have those tough grown up conversations to talk about what’s not working, what you would expect to see changed and agree on what they’ll try differently (and how you will support).  Of course that’s the first approach.

But sometimes… you HAVE to be willing to be the bad guy and get someone off your team, even though it feels like crap. And of course HUGE disclaimer here, before going down this route you MUST check in with your local employment legislation to ensure you're doing it the right way.

Here are the top 3:

1. Creating Toxic Team Culture… aka they are an asshole

This one should be easy but bosses get seduced with the person’s quality of work. I get it, they write good code or create good graphics or whatever the task is. BUT if they are always miserable, treat the rest of the team like garbage and bring down EVERYONE else’s motivation… to the point where some of your other team may even be thinking of leaving to avoid working with them??  It’s time to go. They obviously aren’t the right fit for your team and NO ONE wants to be that person on a team (even if it seems like they don’t care, trust me, they’re not happy either)

2. Skill mismatch… aka unable to do the job no matter how much you help them

This is such a hard one. Because you LIKE them. You probably spend a ridiculous amount of time chatting and talking about personal stuff during your meetings, you genuinely think they’re great… they just can’t seem to do a good job no matter how much support, training or feedback you give them. I KNOW this one is hard, trust me, it freaking sucks. But it’s time to let them go. No one wants to be bad at their job, and being continually told their work isn’t good enough isn’t right for them or you (or the rest of the team who are likely picking up the slack). I know it feels like shit but they need to be in a role where they are liked AND valued for their work.

3. Motivational Swamp land… aka can do the job but really doesn’t seem to want to no matter what you do

Ah the good old ‘can do it but won’t do it’ team member.  And this one is truly frustrating because you know they CAN do good work, you’ve seen it before… they just don’t. You can’t figure out why.

Full disclosure… this one might actually be your fault. Maybe they just struggle with the way you manage or give direction or the team dynamic. There is a chance this one can be saved with a grown up conversation. But likely it’s a mismatch and they would be more successful somewhere else, and you would be better off having a team member who naturally seems to work well in your team’s dynamic and can hit the ground running, without you constantly checking in with them. This one is hard because it is more of a grey area, but just keep in mind, as a small biz owner you don’t have the luxury of oodles of money to hire people who sometimes do good work. You need the dream team who are just as in it as you.


And remember, you don’t actually say ‘you’re fired, get the f*ck out of my company’ and never talk to them again! Believe it or not you actually CAN terminate someone’s employment with you AND do it while being kind and respectful.

It’s time boss. Free up you and your team’s workload and get those people off the team. Let me know what questions or comments you got!

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How to find out what your team REALLY thinks about you (and why it matters)

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How to find out what your team REALLY thinks about you (and why it matters)

Ah that dreaded little sentence… ‘Hey, can I give you some feedback on that?’

Stomach drops, palms sweat. And yes we all say things like ‘I love feedback’ and ‘feedback is such a gift’... but deep down we all get that ‘oh shit’ feeling when we hear that sentence. EVEN when you’re the boss you still get it… which seems extra crappy, you’re in charge and you STILL don’t get to escape the ‘oh shit’ feeling!

Here’s a little known secret that as a Boss you really need to know: feedback is NEVER about the person.  Yep, even when you give that well meaning constructive criticism to your team member… that’s not about them.  It’s about you. It’s about YOUR views and beliefs and expectations.

Does that mean it’s useless and we should just ignore it??  HELL NO!! Just because it’s not about YOU doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly useful data and information… but it does mean you can relax and not feel so emotional about getting (and giving) feedback.

Here’s the deal, feedback simply gives you a view into someone else’s perception. No more, no less. And perception is NOT reality… but it sure as hell is what people use to make decisions.  

So you need to have an inside view into what your team thinks about you. Not because it’s ABOUT YOU, but because it will be what they base THEIR decisions on - how motivated they feel, how loyal they’re likely to be, whether they’re happy to continue working for you or desperate to find the next job! And let’s be honest, you hired a team for a reason - to grow your biz, increase your audience, free yourself up to focus on your own zone of genius - so the last thing you need is a demotivated team who are looking to escape.

I know, I hear you thinking ‘well I ask them for feedback all the time and they just say everything's good’. Yep, that’s called Power Dynamics at work my friend. Even if you’re the most amazing boss in the world there is STILL a power differential between you two and that makes it uncomfortable (at best) for them to be honest with you about your Boss performance.


Here’s a few ways to peak behind the curtain and see what they really think about having you as their Boss:

1. Stop - Start - Continue

Often saying ‘can I have some feedback’ will result in crickets. Give your team member a structure which makes it much easier to come up with points for you. The benefit of this specific structure makes it feel much less personal and focuses on behaviour so can create a lot of comfort in being honest.

  • Stop - What is one thing I should STOP doing because it’s not adding any value?
  • Start - What is one thing I don’t currently do that I could START doing?
  • Continue - What is one thing I’m currently doing that is working out really well that I should CONTINUE doing?

2. One Suggestion

At a team meeting ask the whole team (even if it’s a team of 1!) to come prepared with 1 suggestion that they have on how to do things better. Although this isn’t direct feedback for you, it will give you an idea of how things are going in general and where people’s pain points are, which you can then take and use when reflecting on what you want to do differently as a Boss.

3. 360 Feedback

An oldie but a goodie! Set up an online form and ask everyone to go in and put some feedback on your performance as their boss. You can make it anonymous if that will help create more comfort but if possible try to have people own their advice and thoughts for you. And no need to over complicate this, you can even use something as simple as a google forms document to gather the feedback

4. Hire a Consultant or Coach

If you don’t already have a Coach or Consultant that supports you on the people side of things, you can find one who can help you regularly with your own development. Not only can they say things to you that your own team can’t because it’s a different power dynamic, they can also interview your team to get some juicy tidbits of where your top development opportunities lie.


Remember boss, professional development ain’t just for your team! Walk the walk and make sure you have your own goals you’re working towards. And HUGE bonus points if you actually share with your team what you’re working on and how they can support you!

As always, get in touch with any comments or questions!

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So you’re hiring your first team member… now what???

So you’re hiring your first team member… now what???

YES! Congratulations, you’re at a point in your biz where you are ready to bring someone on so you can keep on growing and doing your work. Seriously take a second and think of how far you’ve come and how great it is that you’re here - so many new businesses don’t ever get to this point!

Ok, now let’s get down to business, you have your new hire ready to join your team and you’re stoked… now what? Being a boss comes with a whole new set of responsibilities, where to even start?

Here’s a cheatsheet of the top few things to make sure you’re thought through and are ready to action before their first day:


1. Onboarding Plan

Did you know it can take up to 6 months before someone is 100% competent in their role??  Yeah, I know, you hired them to REDUCE your workload so this can be a scary statistic. But the good news is you can cut this onboarding time in half and reduce your own workload by putting in some work before their first day. Create a detailed 6 month onboarding plan for you and your new team member, add and change it as you go (you can download your FREE New Team Member Checklist here!)

2. Role Description

This is something that you’ve likely thought through long before hiring but do another sanity check, especially since you’ve found the person and they might have different skills than you were originally intending. Does their role and responsibilities still make sense?

And as importantly, do THEY know what their role entails and what the expectations are of the role?  Sounds silly but it's actually one of the number one ways new employees and bosses get frustrated - lack of clarity on what the work is supposed to be and the results expected. Get it clear up front to save a lot of headaches and rework!

3. Compensation

Have you agreed all the aspects of their compensation with them? Salary, when/how they’ll get paid, any benefits or perks you’re supplying and how they can access? What about a bonus or profit sharing, how/when will that work out? Have you penciled a date in your own calendar of when you’ll review their salary to make sure it’s still fair based on the value they’re bringing to your biz? This can be a big stressor for new hires, make sure it's all clear so they don't have that in the back of their mind and can just focus on the new exciting job!

4. Your Own Development

Being a boss is hard work - but doesn’t need to be as lonely as we sometimes make it out to be. Do you have a biz bestie, consultant or coach to work with to think things through, bounce ideas off of and check in with? Make sure you have someone you can rely on to keep your head on straight!


For more detailed info about this and to make sure you’re hitting all the right areas for their first six months download your FREE New Team Member Checklist.

Questions or comments?

4 Team Building activities for virtual teams (and why it's not a waste of time!)

4 Team Building activities for virtual teams (and why it's not a waste of time!)

Oh man has hollywood given Team Building a bad rep with that whole ‘fall backwards and I’ll catch you’ trust exercise. I have run countless Team Building workshops and never once have we fallen and caught each other, I promise!

Team building activites are absolutely important. Getting a team to really trust each other, debate about the right direction, challenge each other, give each other useful feedback, hold each other accountable, praise and celebrate each other… this is ALL the stuff Bosses desperately want to see in their teams. It’s the secret sauce to getting a team providing super high value back to a biz effectively and efficiently… not to mention freeing you up to work in your zone of genius instead of constantly being middle man between your team members!

But how the hell do you do it in a virtual team when you can’t just all gather in a room together, give high fives and do a group hug??


Here are some of the easier ways to build this dynamic up in your group:

1. Virtual Launch Party

When you’re celebrating a launch that you’ve pushed over the finish line, have a party! Get everyone on camera, make sure everyone had a budget to get themselves some celebration bubbly and/or nibbles, and celebrate together. Keep this very much in the ‘party’ mode, you can even have some topics of conversation prepared in the background to throw out to the group to make sure it stays in celebration mode rather than back sliding to work updates mode. This can be a little challenging when in different time zones but you can still make it work!

2. 2 Truths and 1 lie (and other quirky meeting starters)

The idea here is to very regularly have bite size ‘get to know each other’ actions on the agenda. This could be something as simple as ‘how was everyone’s weekend’ before diving into the ‘to-do’ part of an agenda, to funny learn about each other icebreakers like sharing what they wanted to be when they were kids. A common one used is ‘2 truths and a lie’ - everyone says 3 things about themselves, 2 true and 1 lie, and the rest of the team have to guess which are which.

3. Regular All Hands / Townhalls

Although I’m the first one to be hard on regular meetings, this can be a useful one. A regular virtual meeting that includes everyone and gives a little window into what everyone else is working on can help people feel connected and part of something bigger than a daily to-do list. Each person gets 30-60 seconds at the MOST to give a quick peak into what they have going on, challenges they’re coming across or where they’ll want help from others in the team that week. And keep it super brief - the longer this goes on the less effective it will be. Bonus points if you pay for lunch or nibbles on a monthly basis!

4. Team Outing

Ok, yes this one seems odd given you’re all living in different cities (and possibly different countries!). The idea here is that you pick a day when everyone is going to knock off work early, even just an hour or two, and go explore somewhere interesting in their local area (ideally with company funds, set a modest budget ahead of time).

Everyone then does their own local activity, with their family or friends - could be the zoo, a ball game, maybe a hike in the local park. And they share photos and videos to a group spot throughout the day! Point out interesting aspects, share some livestream videos with all of you, so even if you’re not in the same timezone you can appreciate the outing.


Ok over to you Boss - which ones work for your team? What will you try to get the team building action going? Comments and questions welcome!


Hiring a new team member and want to get it RIGHT? Click below to get your checklist!

Top 5 Morning Habits of the Best Bosses

Top 5 Morning Habits of the Best Bosses

My dream morning routine:

I wake up at 5:30am. I cuddle my baby and think about how great she is. I do a 30 minute work out, then brew a large tea while looking out the window and practicing gratitude. I drink my tea and skim emails to prioritize the top actions. I eat a high protein breakfast. I look at my calendar and how I organized my time the night before. I use the pomodoro technique to hit the ground running and get more done before 9am then I used to in an entire work day.

My actual morning routine:

I wake up. I drink tea and watch my baby with bleary eyes while thinking this is what being a zombie must feel like, minus the need to eat brains. I go on my phone. I check my laptop. Hug the baby. Drink more tea. Check my phone. Get to work 3 hours later for about 15 minutes and then the baby needs me again.

Sigh.

It's a work in progress. But luckily the other parts of my day are not quite as much of a complete mess because I've curated great HABITS to make my day easier and free up my brain to do the work that is useful for my biz rather than loving on Oprah's instagram account... again.

Habits… ah habits, the good, the bad and the ugly.  They have an impact on everything from your productivity and output at work to your relationship health to your pant size.  It’s even been argued that our day to day life is actually a collection of our habits.

And yet we rarely consciously create our habits, do we?  We let whatever well worn groove we’ve built over time continue to be our default - checking social media for hours in the morning, eating those cookies everyday around 3pm, having that cigarette after a stressful meeting.  

Here’s the deal: Habits are the best way to up level your boss impact without having to expend a huge amount of extra effort or brain energy.  

To make it easier on you, I’ve listed the highest impact habits bosses can start doing every morning to make a big impact on their team’s motivation and productivity levels.  And why morning habits? Simple, your day hasn’t been taken over yet by the crisis du jour so you’re simply more likely to actually build these in as sustainable actions.

1. Say Good Morning… and mean it

In an ideal world this is face to face, in person or over video conference, but even a quick slack chat or email works

2. Connect with one team member

And mean it - follow up on their kid’s flu, find out how their mom is doing since her surgery, ask about their weekend holiday at the cottage.  Genuinely connect human to human without the to-do list clogging up the interaction

3. Remove a roadblock (hint, you are the roadblock)

Sign the PO. Approve the travel funds.  Sign the recruitment request. Whatever that small menial thing is to you is likely holding up someone else’s work.  Get something out of the way for your team member even if it’s not on YOUR priority list.

4. Praise or appreciate someone

Someone did something good yesterday, I guarantee it.  Start looking for it, start noticing it and start commenting on it.  And be genuine, fake praise is the most cringe boss behaviour, even just a simple 'thanks for getting that to me' works.

5. Schedule interruptions… and then leave your team alone!

Face it, you are the biggest distraction your team members have.  Not Facebook or youtube or Game of Thrones discussions… but you. Stop interrupting them everytime you have a question or need something, pick a time, preferably around natural breaks in work like lunch or afternoon coffee, to ask them all the questions or get updates, and keep a running list as questions pop into your head rather than interrupting them each time.  Working virtually is hard enough without the added need to constantly be breaking concentration to check emails, chat or text for your latest question!


And here's the deal Boss, the common concern I always hear is ‘I have so much to do already, I don’t have time for 6 new things’.  And I get it… but still have to (lovingly) call bullshit on you for the following reasons.

First, each of these 6 things take 1-2 minutes tops, so we’re talking about a maximum of 12 minutes added to your day to supercharge your boss impact, very small investment.  

Second, this is an investment in time to get your team off to the right start and enable them to do awesome work - meaning less work for you, talk about a win-win.  

And lastly, the point of creating habits are so that you have regular actions that happen without having to think about them, freeing up that valuable brain space for the stuff you really need to focus on to move the business forward.

Start these today.  Just give it a try for a week to see what happens, or even try them only on Tuesdays for a month and see if you notice a difference.  Don’t take my word for it - give it a try and see what you get out of it… I’d be willing to bet you’ll like your return on investment


Hiring a new team member to join the gang? Get your FREE checklist to make sure you've covered all the bases and can relax in the knowledge that you're an awesome boss!

Thinking of Hiring HR Support?? You May Be Making a HUGE Mistake...

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Thinking of Hiring HR Support?? You May Be Making a HUGE Mistake...

I sat down with my new boss as their brand new People Team Manager.  First day jitters. First day excitement.  And the big question yet to be answered:

‘So what is my main goal over the next 6 months?  What results do you want me to achieve?

His response made my stomach drop.

‘Oh I just want the team to be happy.  Just make them happy’

Sigh. Oh no no no no no… just no.

And here’s why my stomach dropped.  It’s not because it wasn’t an admirable answer.  It wasn’t because I questioned his motives, they were awesome (he went on to be one of my favourite bosses).  It wasn’t because I had an ego response to being more than the clown in the corner who told knock knock jokes and actually contribute to the business (although I admit that was probably in there a little).

It was because what he wanted was NOT MY JOB and was setting me up to fail.  What he wanted was to outsource his job… only he didn’t know it. His motivation was great, wanting his team to thrive, but his idea for how to make that happen (hiring me and delegating) simply wasn’t the solution.


Here are the top 3 times when you should NOT hire an HR person for your biz:

1. I need someone on the team to give tough feedback and help them with their career development

STOP.  These points are all parts of YOUR job (or a leader on your team’s job).  Feedback, praise, communication, development conversations - these are jobs of someone’s direct leader, someone who has a day to day relationship with them, knows what they do and are accountable for the team’s results.  

What to do instead:  If these are the things you need to delegate, and it’s totally ok if you need to as you grow, what you need is a general manager or team manager who is the direct Boss of your employees, NOT an HR person to try and ‘band-aid’ solution it across the whole group.  They simply won’t have the day to day knowledge or responsibility to do this well, even the most amazing HR person is set up to fail in this scenario.

2. I need someone to figure out what our ‘company culture’ should be and make it happen

No.  Seriously, just no, I can’t tell you how disastrous this one is.  Here’s the deal, a company culture, regardless of the size, is made up of the said and unsaid things we reward, things we tolerate and things we punish.  Literally that’s it. Culture is the unwritten rules of an organisation, and you can definitely work to change that culture - but not by asking a stranger to come in and do a ‘culture change’ program.  

What to do instead:  walking the walk (do what you want others to be doing), setting super clear expectations and being consistent.  This is a leadership responsibility, you do not need to hire someone to do this for you. However this can be a good time to get yourself a coach or consultant to be your expert in the background and support you as you go through the inevitable bumps and bruises of change.

3. And the classic ‘I need someone to make my team members happy’

Ok this one on the surface seems pretty innocuous.  You care about your people, you want them to be happy and motivated and love work, so it’s very tempting to want to bring in a ‘people expert’ to be accountable for this measure.  There’s two problems with this, (1) people will think it’s not important to you, hence why you’ve delegated it to some new person and (2) this new person very likely won’t actually have the power to truly impact the things that make or break employee’s happiness levels.  

What to do instead:  Hire a qualified amazing HR / People expert.  Hear me out - what I mean is to hire a fantastic People Expert to coach and advise YOU on how to do this, give you inside insight into what’s blocking people from loving life, have an outside set of eyes on what’s working and what’s broken, set up tools, resource and structures to allow people to make themselves happy.  Their responsibility is not to DIRECTLY motivate and make people happy, but instead is to enable YOU to create the right conditions for happiness and motivation. They can be invaluable as long as it’s very clear who’s accountable for what.


Get super clear on WHAT expert you need on your team and WHY you want them there before you hit the green button and hire an HR professional!

Questions or comments?  Get in touch I’d love to hear from you, get in touch


Hiring a new team member to join the gang? Get your FREE checklist to make sure you've covered all the bases and can relax in the knowledge that you're an awesome boss!
 

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