It’s time for the midyear review. How am I doing?

midyear reviewAt midyear we stop and reflect on where we are in relation to our goals.  You will be looking at your employees’ accomplishments and talking to them about the second half of the year.  If you have an employee who is not quite where you would like them to be, what do you do?  Start at the beginning and refocus.

All employees are given resources like money, training, equipment, and sometimes a team of their own to lead.  These resources are an investment from their owner intended to fulfill the goals of the company.  If the goals are not being met then the employee is spending the resources that were provided in areas that don’t generate the expected return for the team or the company.

If you find that one of your team members is fully using every resource that you have provided but not generating the success that was expected, they are likely focused on the wrong goals.  From the surface it often appears that they ignored the goals that you had for them and pursued other goals that achieved individual success but did not accomplish the purpose of your team.

Before you settle on the easy conclusion that this employee only cares about themselves, I suggest you follow the advice from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  In essence he said, “In times of success great leaders look out the window to credit others, and in times of trouble great leaders look in the mirror to evaluate what they could have done better.”

You see, people are very capable of generating success when provided adequate resources.  Your job as the leader is to focus your team’s strengths on successfully accomplishing the vision of the team.

Here are four questions to review together with each employee that is not on goal:

Do you understand the purpose of the team? If you have not fully defined the purpose of the team, your team has two choices; operate with no purpose or define their own purpose. Absent a clear purpose, the employee who is geared to success, will have chosen their own purpose.  You are responsible for defining the purpose of the team so each employee will seek to accomplish the same end.

“You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived,” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS

Do you understand how the vision achieves the purpose? Even if you have a clearly defined purpose for your team, there are many ways to achieve it.  Your vision sets the route your team will take to reach its purpose.  If you don’t over communicate how your team will achieve its purpose than you aren’t communicating enough.  Left undefined, the employee will define their own vision.

The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” - Theodore Hesburgh, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Does you understand how what you do fits into the vision? Ok, so you have a clearly defined purpose and vision for your team.  There is one more level of understanding you must focus on: taking the vision down to the employee level.  The employee may struggle in seeing the connection between their individual goals and the larger vision and purpose of the team.  Remember, employees are success driven, without this connection they will instead focus on what they think will help achieve the team’s goals.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who…offer a solution everybody can understand.”  - Colin Powell, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Are you achieving personal success in accomplishing the success of the team?  Each person is looking for personal satisfaction in their life and in their job.  For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion and it must have an immediate impact on your team members.  With each success, they need to feel that their job satisfaction is improving, along with the purpose if the team being accomplished.

“Successfully achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small successes for each team member.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS.




Can you have too many Type A people in a group?

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type a personalityCardiologist Dr. Meyer Friedman and his 1974 book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart first documented his study of what he called “Type A” personalities and the link to heat disease.  This linkage was first identified when Dr. Friedman noticed the chairs in his waiting room wore out on the front of the seat and the arm rests; different than expected as patients sitting for periods of time should wear out the back of the seats.  After careful observations he noticed that these patients tended to get up frequently and ask how much longer they would have to wait.

Here is one way that Type A is described:  A competitive drive, whereby the “victim” struggles constantly against time to a number of goals which the victim themselves has accepted.

Before we go too far let’s settle one thing, Type A is nothing more than a group of strengths that, like all other strengths, can be positive or negative if not managed.  Here are some examples:

            Positive Type A Qualities                  Negative Type A Qualities

            Competitiveness                                 Self-Critical (Never good enough)

            Time Managers                                  Impatient

            Ambitious                                           Aggressive

As a leader of people with strengths, some which may be Type A personalities, here are ways to draw the most success for the person and the team from their unique strengths. I hope that you will find that the suggestions below are just plain old good leadership techniques applied to one set of strengths – those of the Type A person.


Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on doing their best at all times in all things.  Recognize their success in meetings, sales presentations, projects, or while on vacation (tell them things ran smooth while out because of their dedication before they left).

“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.  And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” – Michael Jordan

Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on their strengths.  Everyone is more successful when they work within their strengths.  The Type A person will work their hardest to succeed and will succeed faster and better in their strength zone.

“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” – Colin Powell

Focus the competitiveness of the Type A person on helping others succeed.  If you really want to harness the power of the competitive spirit for the betterment of your entire team, set goals for the Type A person to share their knowledge and empower others to be successful.

“Put completing fellow leaders ahead of competing with them. The whole goal of healthy competition is to leverage it for the corporate win.” John Maxwell

Time Managers

Focus the time management of the Type A person on achievable goals.  They will accept as much as you delegate and work their hardest to accomplish all of them.  Be clear on the expectations.

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publius Syrus

Focus the time management of the Type A person on short goals that will lead to the big goals. This keeps the recognition of success coming at shorter intervals. 

“Make measurable progress in reasonable time.” – Jim Rohn

Focus the time management of the Type A person on helping someone else on the team every day.  The success of others that you helped multiples success across the team, and the Type A person will multiply their feelings of their own success.

“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.” – Charles Dickens


Focus the ambition of the Type A person by helping them achieve their dreams one success at a time.  Use your leadership to provide opportunities for additional responsibility after each success.  Don’t let fulfillment of your team member’s ambitions only come after years of trying or at the expense of others’ success.

“Ambition can creep as well as soar.” – Edmund Burke

Focus the ambition of the Type A person on their personal life.  Get to know them as people not just employees.  Ask them about their vacations, graduations and other personal life events.  Care and show you care.

To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” – Samuel Johnson

Focus the ambition of the Type A person on helping others succeed.  In your team make the very definition of getting ahead the results of helping others get ahead of where they were to where they can go. 

“People say it’s not ambitious, but it is actually quite ambitious wanting to help people.” – Prince William


Manager or Micromanager?

micromanager directs everythingWhat is the difference between being a manager and a micromanager?  In one simple statement, “A manager delegates, while a micromanager suffocates.” Let’s take a closer look at how each of these impacts employees.

A manager sets vision, goals, and timelines and lets employees decide how to achieve.  A micromanager sets vision, goals, and timelines and tells employee how to achieve.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executives are the ones who have sense enough to pick good people to do what they want done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

When a manager delegates, employees learn how to make appropriate decisions within their level of authority.  When a micromanager suffocates, employees are afraid to make decisions outside of the status quo.  Micromanagement stifles new ideas.

A manager checks in at key steps to give encouragement, answer questions, and provide course correction.  A micromanager directs every step to keep control, give answers, and provide course direction.

If you always tell your employees how to do everything, you will have to always tell them how to do everything.” – Denis McLaughlin

Employees like to be encouraged and hear they are on the right track once in a while.  A manager stops by at just the right time to say, “Keep going, you’re doing a good job.”  A micromanager discourages employees when they stop by all the time and say, “Here is what you do next.” 

A manager gives credit and takes responsibility.  A micromanager takes credit and gives blame. 

A good leader takes a little more than their share of the blame, and a little less than their share of the credit.” - Arnold H. Glasow

A manager empowers their employees to grow by allowing them to try out their new ideas in a controlled environment without fear of failure – after all that is how we learn.  A micromanager expects employees to follow the ideas given to them and failure is attributed to not executing correctly.

Be a manager and not a micromanager

Employee rewards and motivation

rewards show me the moneySHOW ME THE MONEY!

Cuba Gooding Jr. says that line many times in the movie Jerry McGuire.  As a professional football player, Gooding’s character knows what other players earn and he wants to be similarly paid for his contribution to his team.  As you watch the movie it becomes evident that the line, “Show me the money,” wasn’t really just about the money; it was about recognition and respect for the character’s abilities.

In a recent survey by Gallup, people were asked if they would continue to work if they won a $10 million dollar lottery. You may be surprised to find that even among those actively disengaged, only 40% would stop working, and 20% would stay in their current job.  At the other end if the spectrum in terms of job satisfaction is those who are engaged.  For this group only 25% would stop working and 63% would stay in their current job.

These hypothetical lottery winners now have at least a comfortable $5 Million after taxes, yet the majority of them will still keep working. Why?  Because job satisfaction is not just about being shown the money.  Certainly employees want and deserve to be fairly compensated for their work.  However like Maslow’s hierarchy, once the need for food, shelter, personal and financial security are met, people seek relationships, respect, and opportunities to do their best.

The great Zig Ziglar put it like this, “Employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

Interesting work.

For work to be interesting it must provide an opportunity for employees to use their strengths, grow personally and make a difference.  Without these three opportunities work is a drudgery, boring and meaningless. Here’s why:

Using strengths.  According to Marcus Buckingham, former Global Practice Leader with Gallup, and coauthor of Gallup’s best-selling management books First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths,A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” Working in your area of strength is fun because you are good at it.  No one wants to be in a job where you struggle all day.

Growing personally.  People are genuinely pleased when the company they work for is successful; this brings job security and pride in their association with the company.   Sustained good feelings though, come from also having personal success which only comes through personal growth. Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.”

Making a difference.  True fulfillment comes from helping others achieve success.  One of my favorite phrases is, “We don’t use people to complete projects; we use projects to complete people.”  Successful projects really aren’t that hard to accomplish.   Focusing on developing successful people isn’t easy, but the rewards are worth the effort. As Tom Brokaw said, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

Recognition for doing a good job

Everyone wants and needs to hear “Good Job.”  It is one of the easiest rewards to give, and one of the best to receive.  It’s good to hear in private, and great to hear in public.  Sometimes we put too much emphasis on “Producing a Moment,” instead of just telling your employees that you appreciate what they did.  Certainly there are recognition ceremonies for special events and those are worthwhile, but don’t forget the quick email, phone call, or comment in a meeting as well.  As a leader you should also realize that this is not only good for the employee but great for the team and the company. 

Tom Rath, Bestselling Author & Senior Scientist at Gallup has studied the effect of recognition in depth.  His findings show that, “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”

Being let in on things going on in the company

This one has nothing to do with gossip.  It’s not water cooler talk.  Employees feel empowered and will do a better job if they are involved in decision making that impacts their job.  Involve them from the beginning to the end.  Ask for their opinion when writing your mission statement, ask them what the most important projects are, and ask them what they think is the best way to accomplish the important projects.  Not only will you motivate your employees, you will get better ideas and better results in your company.

“Effective Communication creates Engaged Employees who create Loyal Customers who in turn create Bigger Profits.” – Andy Parsley

What is the importance of diversity in leadership?

diversity choicesInformation, knowledge, wisdom – while they all have a slightly different meaning, the overarching theme is it’s good to learn and good to understand different options when you make choices – especially in leadership.  Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you are likely to perceive every problem as a nail.” What he meant by that oft-used phrase is that an individual is limited by their talents and experience in their ability to offer ideas to solve problems.


There is a great book titled Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  The theme of this book is that each of us is born with natural talent, or strengths.  Now this doesn’t say what job or career you can or cannot undertake, but it does identify how you will be naturally good at what you do if you use your strengths.

The book discusses the thirty-four possible strengths that people have.  When you take the online assessment offered in the book your top five strengths are identified in order from one to five.   Here is where the idea of diversity really stands out.  The number of possible combinations of top five strengths in order from one to five out of a possible thirty-four strengths is amazingly high.  There are over thirty three million combinations – 33,390,720 to be exact. 

Imagine, the people who work with you have a very high probability of having a completely different set of strengths – or talents.  It would be a waste to just pick the hammer you know when you have so many other available talents to draw on. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Hide not your talents.  They for use were made.  What’s a sundial in the shade?”


Now you know that your team has a broad set of talents to bring to the forefront in decision making.  Added to their talent is their experience.  While talent is the foundation of what someone is naturally good at, experience gives people a front row seat at what has worked, and likely more important, what hasn’t worked before.  In other words, when you have experience you have made mistakes and seen other people make mistakes. 

As a leader you want every person on your team to share their experience when evaluating options.  Not that you would reject every possible solution just because it didn’t work before, but knowing this information might give you an edge if you decide to try it again.

“Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” Franklin P. Jones


Diverse talents combined with diverse experiences will lead to diverse ideas – that is what every leader needs.  Remember, your job as a leader is not to have all the good ideas, but to find all the good ideas.  As former Yale University President Alfred Whitney Griswold once said, “The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”

Finally, I really like the way Michael Abrashoff, the former commander of the USS Benfold describes diversity by asking this question, “In what way can someone be a superstar?

How many managers does a company really need?

too many managers not enough workersIs there an ideal percentage of managers in a company? Yes, but it depends on the situation.

“The organization chart will initially reflect the first system design, which is almost surely not the right one.  As one learns, the design changes.  Management structure also needs to be changed as the system changes.” – Fred Brooks

So how many managers does a company really need?  In the Human Resource arena this is called analyzing the Span of Control; this means the number of employees that directly report to a single manager.  On one end you can have a narrow span where each manager has few employees – this results in very close supervision and allows for greater coaching and mentoring one on one.  This is useful in situations where either the employees or the team is new, or where the tasks are highly specialized and require frequent interactions.  On the opposite end is a broad span where each manager has many employees – this model has less direct oversight from the manager and is usually used when managing simple repetitive tasks and/or an experienced team.

The trick to picking the right span of control model, is to fit the model to the task and the people performing the task. Which means there is no one right answer. 

Situational Leadership

In the 1970’s Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed what they called the Situational Leadership Model.   This is a four box model that matches the leadership style and span of control needs with the task and competence level of the people performing the task.

“Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation.” – Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey

situational leadership chart 1Leadership Style

S1: Telling – Is the most basic of leadership styles. It is used when managing a new and often repetitive task where the employees are likely to be novices.  In this quadrant the manager can handle many employees as their role is simply telling the team what, how, when to perform the tasks.  The manager can oversee the entire group at once.

S2: Selling – In this quadrant, the manager is still working with employees that are on the more junior experience side.  But now, the role has changed from just getting the work done, to training the employees to become more proficient, learning why the work is done the way it is, and gaining their buy-in to the process.  The manager will have a smaller team so they can invest time coaching, mentoring and selling the process.

S3: Participating – The manager now moves from directing how the work is done as in the prior two quadrants, to partnering with the employees to develop the best methods.  These managers will have smaller teams as they invest significant time discussing methods and drawing out ideas from their employees.

S4: Delegating – In this final quadrant, the manager can once again can handle a larger team as the highly experienced team has been delegated responsibility and authority to perform the tasks and make decisions about the best methods to accomplish the tasks.  The manager’s role is once again to monitor the entire team’s results.

Keep in mind that employees can move amongst the quadrants as they take on new opportunities where they have less experience.  That is why this is called situational leadership – the right style and right span of control depends on the situation.


Leading a company the military way

patton on leadershipI was recently asked if a military model of leadership was adequate to run a company.  When I responded seeking the definition of military leadership, I understood why the question was being asked.

There is a misperception of what military leadership really is: marching and drills, marching and drills…This initial response is usually taken from a movie, or television show that focused on basic training (boot camp) where the very beginning of military leadership is formed. Even children’s stories are filled with these ideas: Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song) from The Jungle Book says it this way: “The aim of our patrol,  Is a question rather droll,  For to march and drill, Over field and hill,  Is a military goal!” 

But the military wouldn’t be successful if this was the full extent of its leadership. The military has eleven principles of leadership.  I have summarized them below with a reference to how each of these is viewed in non-military professions.  You will see from these principles that the answer that a military model of leadership is not just adequate to run a company it is essential.


1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Learning is a lifelong task that you should continue no matter what you are doing. 

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.  View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley

2. Be tactically and technically proficient – In whatever business or profession you are in, aim to be the best.

“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” Abraham Lincoln

3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare – Take time to get to know them and look out for their health and well being. They will notice you genuinely care about them and probably perform better.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell

4. Keep your soldiers informed – Tell those you follow you what your plans are, accept their insight and suggestions, make them a part of the planning.

“We must open the doors of opportunity.  But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

5. Set the example – In everything you do you must do it well and set a good example.

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Make sure you give clear instructions, ask for feedback on what your followers think you said.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

7. Train your soldiers as a team – Create community and teamwork.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

8. Make sound and timely decisions – Look at the options and then make the best choice.

“If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.” – Carly Fiorina

9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Delegate certain jobs and tasks, training up new leaders.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important that hiring and developing people.  At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Larry Bossidy

10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Align strengths with responsibilities.

“The key to any game is to use your strengths” – Paul Westphal

11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions –Taking responsibility for things is a key trait of a leader

Success on any major scale require you to accept responsibility…In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”Michael Korda

Communicating expectations

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communicate expectationsThere are four steps that successful leaders take in communicating expectations:

Write them out – Clearly define your expectations

Hand them out – Overtly explain your expectations

Point them out – Verbally reinforce your expectations

Live them out – Openly demonstrate your expectations

Imagine you start a new job.  You are anxious to hear communication from the top; what is the vision of company?  The head of your division steps up to the front of the room, clears his throat and says, “You are all doing a great job, keep it up.  If you need me I will be in my office.”

Do you have any idea what is expected of you?  What will you do first? How will you know if you are on the right track for success? Was there any communication at all?

Now imagine you are a rookie wide receiver on the 1980 San Francisco 49ers.  In walks Bill Walsh, the head coach, who hands you a playbook and the first twenty-five plays of the next game fully scripted.  He also hands out something called his “Standards of Performance” which lists requirements for your job such as: a commitment to learning and teaching, self-control under pressure, a positive attitude, and continuous improvement.

You read the playbook and your handouts overnight to prepare for your first day of practice.  Later in the week you are surprised when Bill Walsh himself runs over in the middle of a drill to correct your squad and the assistant coach.  He fully explains the route you were supposed to run and why it is important that it be carried out just as it was scripted. 

Now that was leadership communication.  You were given written communication that described exactly what was expected.  This was followed up by verbal communication to reinforce expectations.

Theodore Hesburgh said, “The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

Leaders shouldn’t expect their teams to achieve unseen and unheard expectations.  

Now let’s examine the last step, the one where the best leaders spend most of their time – how to demonstrate your expectations. This one is a very quick discussion.

Leaders must realize that their team will do what the leader says until the leader doesn’t do what the leader says.

Ralph Waldo Emerson described the last step like this, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

Communicating as a leader

art of communicationDo you have to be good at communicating to be a successful leader? The simple answer is yes you do.  When asked about the importance of communication in leadership here is what a few past leaders had to say:

Gilbert Amelio, a pioneer in the U.S. technology industry and former President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp. said, “Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership.”

Author and former presidential speech writer James Humes answered the question succinctly when he said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

And Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

So you are a leader or you want to be a leader someday but you have trouble communicating.  Can a person who has trouble communicating be a leader?  Again the simple answer is yes you can.

Listed below are the four areas that all great communicators focus on.  Learn them and you will be successfully communicating as a leader.

Communicating with a purpose. Can you summarize the purpose of your message in one sentence?  If you can’t, then your audience won’t understand the main point.  You have heard some speakers say, “If you only take away one thing this is it…”  Before you start any form of communication you have to know the purpose.  It’s like Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind.”

The purpose of communication is always to elicit an emotional response meant to inspire action.

That action may be very short term, like getting a laugh or tugging at the heart.  The action could be longer term like embarking on the first step of a life changing journey.

Knowing the purpose of your communication is foundational if you want to communicate like a leader.

Communicating with a plan. Now that you clearly defined the purpose of your communication it’s time to plan how you will accomplish that purpose.

Here a few keys to include in your plan:

Be an expert in the facts before you share the facts. This is not a new concept.  First century Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.

Carefully select your words.  As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Entertain, encourage, and end on time. Not only will the current audience appreciate you, they might also be a future audience.  The great British leader Benjamin Disraeli had advice for communicators: “Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.”

Communicating with practice.  Once you have your purpose and plan, it’s time to practice. The more you communicate the better you will get. According to master communicator Brian Tracy, “Communication is a skill like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life”

Even after communicating as a leader myself for over twenty-five years, I never step in front of an audience without reviewing and practicing what I am going to communicate.

Communicating with passion Your communication is not complete unless the people who heard it feel enlightened, equipped, and energized to do something with your message right now. 

If you want your audience to have passion about your message then you need to have passion about your message first.  You may be an expert in the facts, but are you committed to the message.  Do you believe it? More importantly do you live it?

Jim Rohn said it like this, “Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”


Should you be the boss or the leader?

boss adds to load leader lessens the loadYou’re in charge.  You are responsible for delivering the results.  Does it matter if you are called the Boss or the Leader? As long as your team performs and hits the bottom line should you be concerned with such trivial matters?

If you are new to this area of being in charge, you will quickly find that,

How you achieve the results matters as much as if you achieve the results.”  - Denis G. McLaughlin

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