5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

When I was in my early twenties, within the space of about three weeks I lost my job, my grandmother passed away (her funeral was on my birthday, no less), my dog died, and I became fairly ill. It was like a country song gone bad.

During that season, I worked for a guy that was a micro-manager. I was in a job that stretched me, for sure. But I was willing to work on the things that I didn’t know, and I was committed to do whatever I needed to make things work with my boss.

No matter your situation there are leadership lessons that you can learn. Regardless of circumstances, there are always “take-away’s.” These are lessons you can learn if you give it a little thought and reflect on your experiences.

Here are five such lessons I learned from my experience working with a micro-manager:

Be willing to work on your differences

One of my takeaways from that experience is to always be willing to work on the things that make you different. Everyone has unique gifts and strengths to bring to the table.

What are your strengths? What are your boss’s strengths? What are your subordinate’s strengths? What differences are there? How can your differences complement one another?

If you sit down and go through these, chances are you’ll find that your strengths and even differences complement each other and, if you use them correctly, can really move your team from being so-so to being awesome!

Hire the right people for the right position.

Knowing about strengths and personality can also help on the front end. Before you ever hire someone, it would serve you well to perform a personality test and a strengths assessment. Using these two things can tell a boss or hiring manager up front if they are the right person for the position you’re hiring for (and, just as importantly, if they’re not).

There are a number of professionals that use the Stengthsfinder 2.0 assessment for hiring. Leadership guru and virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, is one of them.

Give people the freedom to do their jobs.

Once you hire a person, you’ve just given that person your endorsement. If you feel a need to micro-manage, then the insecurity is really with yourself. So, back off and let the person do what you’ve hired them to do.

Give your new hire time to adjust to the new position, responsibilities, and culture. If you discover they need additional training for technical skills, then provide

If you discover that someone is not as proficient as they first seemed? You have at least two options:

  • Provide more training.
  • Let them go and rehire that position.

The issue with the second option is that it usually will cost you more to re-hire than to invest in some training.

Develop your people as needed.

Every company should have a training culture. The best companies know that it is easier and cheaper to train staff than to rehire for those positions.

Few people come into a new job or position knowing everything they need to know. Whether it’s a matter of training on company culture and process or learning new hard skills, there is a learning curve for every job. (Even for people that move within a company, different departments can even have their own unique culture within the overall company culture.)

Investing in training leads to more engagement and better retention of employees. Commit to a culture of training and development.

Work on Yourself as the Leader

There are a number of companies that have a great training culture…initially. Does your company continue to develop and encourage the development of its employees beyond the first few weeks or months?

Amazon’s training includes a 1-month initial training program as well as prepays 95% of employee’s tuition for in-demand fields.

Bonobos, a leading retail company, has multiple offerings to train their employees in leadership, management and customer service.

Randstad US not only offers programs in management, leadership, communication, and presentation skills, but also offers its employees both mentoring and coaching services.

As you may have gathered, my boss was not committed to working on things as I was, and I was let go. It was disappointing, but I definitely did learn a lot from that experience.

There are some things that both of us could have done to really make that situation better. I have learned to be a better communicator. The pastor I worked with could have committed to working on the relationship and helping me get better instead of asking me to leave immediately.

It may not have been the right position for me anyway; however, that’s why it’s so important to know more about people on the front end of hiring. I definitely believe that every company, every boss, and every hiring manager could benefit from doing their due diligence before they hire anyone. And every company can engage their employees by providing training to get them familiar with the company culture and continue to develop them as leaders and people.

What does your company do before hiring someone? What kind of on-going training do you provide? 

[photo credit: Nosnibor137 and Bigstock Photo.]

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

Why Every Leader Should Use the DiSC Assessment with Their Team

Why Every Leader Should Use the DiSC Assessment with Their Team

I first used the DiSC assessment years ago when I was working at a church in Phoenix, Arizona. Our church hosted a workshop and one of the speakers led us in this personality assessment. Since then, I have used it multiple times and with multiple teams to help me discover more about who I’m working with and how to lead and/or work with others best.

Depending on which DISC test you use (there are a few variations), it will tell you how you respond to certain situations. It’s really more of a behavioral predictor (according to some) than an actual personality test, but it will tell you a lot about both.

What I like About the DiSC assessment…

There are a number of things I like about this behavior assessment over others. It has really become one of my go-to assessments when working with teams or even individuals. I even use it on the fly when dealing with colleagues or leaders (and I’ll explain how and why momentarily.) Here are a few of the benefits of DiSC that I see.

It’s Quick

The DiSC assessment takes no more than 15-20 minutes for the full profile. Again, this can vary somewhat depending on which specific assessment you take. I’ve also seen facilitators do a “quick” version of this profile technique in about 5-10 minutes (or less).

It’s Easy

I’ve worked with a number of personality tests and used them for students, leaders, and myself. There are some that are great and may go into more depth than the DiSC; however, I don’t think any are easier both to use, understand, and teach others to use.

This is really key for me. You don’t have to remember strange-sounding words like “choleric” or “phlegmatic” or remember which personality each of those represents. (For some reason, I can never keep those straight.)

You learn 4 letters, and each letter corresponds with the type of personality associated with the letter.

D stands for “dominant”. These are your Type-A people who fall into the natural leader category. They are driven and determined.

I represents the “influencers.” These are your everywhere-and-everything-is-a-party people. They are outgoing and love to be around a crowd.

S represents the “steadiness” personalities. These are the nice people that are very supportive. They are the encouragers and your loyal friends.

C describes the “conscientious” types. They are the organizers and effective members of your team. They thrive on detail and “doing it right.”

It’s Intuitive

This is where it gets FUN! 🙂 Once you get the DiSC assessment down (it doesn’t take long, remember, it’s easy!), then you can begin to use it to improve communication for your team, family, friends, etc.

It gets a little addictive to begin to see people in a different light. Here’s the thing: when you know how people behave in certain situations (or in general) you can drastically begin to improve your communication with them. You can vary your communication style depending on who you’re talking to.

You begin to anticipate  what each person needs:

  • Do they need the big picture or a lot of detail?
  • Do they need to know who’s coming or what the agenda will be?
  • Will they need to know how productive it will be or how much fun they’ll have?
  • And on and on…

The DiSC test doesn’t just help with communication, it also helps you know what each person would be best for specific roles:

  • Who can lead a team?
  • Who can hammer out the details?
  • Who can get everyone at the meeting or function?
  • Who can make sure all feel valued and cared for?

Can you imagine what you’d get done? Can you fathom what your team would get done? Feeling appreciated and understood. Feeling like you really know them and listen to them.

How Your Team Benefits from the DiSC assessment…

Develop Trust

One significant way to build trust with your team mates is for them to know and feel that you understand them and can relate with them. The DISC test helps by showing you what each person needs from you and one another in areas such as leadership, communication, work environment, and more.

Trust grows when you feel safe and know what to expect and what is expected from you. As a leader, it is important to know how to relate to each of your team members.

Increase Productivity

Imagine a work environment where you felt understood, appreciate, and valued. Your team leader gives you just the right balance of freedom and direction. You have open and honest communication with your manager and you feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and asking for clarification if needed.

How productive do you think this team would be?

You can also build on the DiSC assessment by using Strengthsfinder 2.0. This profile allows you to identify the top 5 strengths of each of your team members. The identification of these strengths can then be used to align people into their giftings and further increase the productivity (and satisfaction) of your team.

Strengthen Collaboration

How well your team works together is a direct result of leadership and trust. Here are a few ways that the DISC personality assessment can increase collaboration:

  • Capitalize on each person’s strengths
  • Increase understanding between coworkers
  • Enhance communication strategies
  • Place people in the right roles (the first time!)

Collaboration and employee engagement go hand in hand. The better your team collaborates, the more engaged they will be and the more they will enjoy working on your team.

Communicate more effectively

It’s hard to communicate as it is. What if you could simplify that process and make it easier for you to communicate with others and for them to communicate with you? Each personality style communicates differently and understanding others and how they communicate will increase your communication strategy exponentially.

Have I convinced you yet? It really is a quick and easy way to improve your leadership and develop your team.

If you’re interested to learn more about the DISC or use it with your team these are the resources that I would recommend you start with:

DiSC Assessment (Individual) [Discounts start at orders of 10+ reports or more.]

DiSC Leadership Assessment

I’ve recently switched to PeopleKeys for all my DiSC assessment needs. They’ve been great to work with and their selection of assessments is amazing!

Whether you work with one team or multiple teams, I would also strongly encourage you to think about getting certified as a DISC trainer. This will not only increase your understanding of the DISC personality test but allow you to train others within your company or organization (including managers, team members, etc.)

DiSC Certification 

This certification is through 48Days and Dan Miller. I highly recommend all of his products and training. They are top notch!

What has been your experience with the DiSC assessment? What other ways and assessments do you use with your team? Let me know in the comments below? 

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, and if you decide to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.  Please know that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something but because they are helpful and useful, .  Please only spend money on these products if you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals or your team’s goals.

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

Leading Others to their A-Ha Moments

Leading Others to their A-Ha Moments

I had the opportunity recently to work with a young man who needed some leadership development coaching. His boss had strongly encouraged (read required, actually – ahem) him to go to three sessions and then any sessions after that were voluntary if he wanted to continue. We ended up meeting for seven or so sessions and during those sessions discovered a lot about who he was and the leader that he was growing into.

During the coaching process, he had several “a-ha” moments. You could see on his face when those would happen and he would say, “I never really thought about it like that before.”

For a coach, those are some of the best moments. You know your client is “getting it”. They are tracking with you and are thinking differently. That’s when change can start to happen. Something clicks within your client and they begin to make progress.

For some clients, it happens very quickly. For others, like this young man I worked with, it happened towards the end of our time together. The other sessions were helpful and useful; however, we had one session where it seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders and we were having one breakthrough after another.

As I reflected on some of my best coaching sessions (and this one), I thought about the why. Why did that session go so well and others haven’t? What made that session so special?

Here are a few ideas that I came up with that hopefully will help you as you coach teams and others into their “a-ha moments”

1. Capitalize on Your Strengths

If you are going to coach someone, you need to use your strengths to their advantage. Some coaches like to coach over the phone. Some like to coach in person. I like to coach in person. I’m a very visual person, so I like to both see who I’m coaching and also write things down for both of us to see. I like whiteboards.

During this session, I used the whiteboard extensively to help my client make connections (I’ll talk about more in a minute) with his past employment and his future career goals. In writing things down, he was able to make connections that he hadn’t seen before in how his whole path was essentially leading him to where he wanted to go.

Learn to use your strengths as a coach to have even more impact with your coaching clients.

2. Create Connections

I’m a visual person (one of my strengths) and love to use whiteboards to draw and write. I’m a strong believer in writing things down (whether it’s goals or brainstorming, etc.). It’s easier to see connections when you have something written in front of you.

As I was meeting with my client, I wrote some things on a white board based on a question I had asked (about his former employment). We wrote those things down and then continued to identify different characteristics of jobs that he had held up until his present one.

As we were going through this process, you could see the light bulb turn on as we connected the dots and discovered that every job he had held had prepared him not only for the job he was currently at, but also for the career path that he was heading down.

Leading clients to discovering connections for themselves will help to create more breakthrough moments in their coaching experience. 

3. Confidently Trust Your Intuition

Whether it’s what question to ask next, what homework assignment to give, or what activity to do next, coaching is a lesson in flexibility and judgment calls. Coaches need to be able to trust their intuition in order to move clients forward.

Often there’s this gut feeling that says “go this way,” “ask this question,” or “do this activity next.” There are times when it seems like the activity may not fit or the question seems a bit off; however, the times I have followed my gut have been far more effective than trying to force an activity that I had planned or trying to follow a rigid structure.

Learn to listen to that little voice when you coach others, and you will quickly become a stellar coach.

4.Cut the Crap (aka, Shut Up and Listen)

When you’re first starting off coaching, this one can be quite difficult. It was for me. At times, I still struggle with it. There’s a difference between consulting and coaching. Consultants give advice and tell people how they think certain tasks and goals should be done.

Coaches, on the other hand, lead people into solutions by asking powerful questions. The client should do most of the talking. I’ve heard that if you as a coach are talking more than half of the time, then you are talking too much. I would encourage you to talk as little as possible. (Depending on the client, this can be very challenging.)

Ask powerful questions and be quiet. Listen to what your client has to say. Don’t be afraid of silent space during the coaching process.

These four strategies are not the end-all be-all to coaching, but they have helped me lead others to their a-ha moments whether as part of a team or individual coaching.

What other strategies have you used to help lead people to “a-ha moments”? Which strategy do you tend to employ the most? Let me know in the comments below.