My Top 5 Strategies for Motivating Your Team

Great leaders know how to motivate others. 

Since the amount you can accomplish on your own is limited, it’s necessary to have the assistance of others. Someone that can motivate others to do their best has an incredibly valuable talent.

Here are my top 5 strategies.

1️⃣Be emotionally supportive. To help others shine, removing the fear of failing or looking foolish is critical. Most people are frozen by fear and prefer to remain comfortable. When fear is greater than motivation, nothing happens. Removing fear can be just as effective as instilling additional motivation.

2️⃣Ask for ideas. You might hear a few ideas that are better than your own. It’s easier for others to get excited about their own ideas than to get excited about yours. Using ideas from your team will create a sense of purpose and involvement.
⚠If you ask for ideas but never use any of them, you turn this into a demotivator.
🤐Also, if you use the idea and never follow up and tell them that you did, they won’t know!

3️⃣Be clear. Vagueness breeds confusion. Confusion saps enthusiasm. When the objective and the necessary steps are clear, motivation is easier to generate. Ensure that everyone is clear on their roles.
😵I’ve had the unfortunate experience to work in an organization that didn’t value this. As a result entire teams wasted hours and hours trying to figure out their specific roles instead of using that energy toward innovation or continuous improvement.

4️⃣Be publicly supportive. It’s one thing to support an employee in the privacy of your office. It’s quite another to be supportive in front of her co-workers.
💡 This also holds true for your peers. Nothing motivates a peer to get on board with your initiative than you publicly complimenting them or supporting them in front of the boss😉

5️⃣Deal swiftly with dissenters. It only takes one dissenting, charismatic employee to bring the whole thing crashing down. There’s often one complainer that tries to undermine the enthusiasm of everyone else. Don’t underestimate the damage this one person can do. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with them. They may have legitimate objections that you can address. However, if they don’t, then you will have to develop a plan to minimize their role.

P.SWe are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

How to Get Your Innovation Team in Peak Performance Quickly

Need to get your innovation team at peak performance quickly?

Forget about taking the team out for a beer.

Ask these 9 questions instead.

It’s common to have a social event to kick off a new project or major initiative. The idea is that this will translate into better collaboration in the workplace. By helping the team get to know each other better and build rapport and cohesion.

It’s a nice idea.

But, it doesn’t actually work.

💡Collaborations fail because people have different motivations, communication styles, work preferences, and priorities.

Not because they don’t like each other.

Think about it.

When you are on a project and your colleague doesn’t respond to your emails as quickly as you think they should, are you really thinking to yourself, “Well, I really like this person because learned in the project kickoff meeting that we both like to play Minecraft, so I’m sure it will be OK…”

No.

You’re thinking, “My colleague is a nice person, but right now I’m very frustrated that they aren’t being responsive! They are useless, we need a new team member !”

But, what if you knew in July that your colleague was going to be out of town for 2 weeks in September because of a conference?

That is useful information! You could plan around it.

🎯Successful innovation leaders help their team discover what those different motivations, communication styles, priorities, and work preferences are, so they can ease friction in the day-to-day work environment.

Here are 9 questions that help you discover what everyone needs to know.

  1. What does success for this project mean to you?
  2. What is your preferred mode of communication?
  3. How would you like me to keep you informed of the status of the project?
  4. Would you like to be invited to social gatherings or other events that I might do with the project team?
  5. What is your typical response time to emails/voicemails, etc?
  6. Do you have any major projects, deliverables, or life changes coming up that might impact your availability that I should be aware of?
  7. Are there any seasonal factors I should know about that could impact the availability of resources (planned maintenance, major conferences, etc.)
  8. When you think about other people you’ve collaborated with, what are some success factors that made that a good relationship?

🏆Here are a few best practices:
Give these questions to the team in advance and share them in a meeting.
As you add people to your team, even for short duration activities, invite them to share their answers.

🌟Bringing a new product or service to market takes an ecosystem of various stakeholders. Each with their own motivations, priorities, and work preferences. Successful innovation leaders build ecosystem cohesion but helping their team discover how best to work better together.

Inclusive Leadership: The Right Way to Onboard a Diverse Hire

Even the most well-meaning leaders get this wrong.

Here’s the bottom line:

❌Stop talking about your new hire’s diversity.

✔Start talking about your new hire’s credentials.

Oftentimes inclusive leaders jump to announce that they have just hired a woman or a person of color, or someone with ability differences…however they are defining diversity in their organization.

I get it.

They want to let their organization know that they are trying to improve the situation.

Leaders are under a lot of pressure to make real improvements in diversity and inclusion (as they should be).

Here’s the problem with that approach.

When you focus on how the new hire supports diversity initiatives, you reinforce the bias that all of us underrepresented people face: That we were ONLY hired because of our diversity, not because of our credentials.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard: “We’re so glad you are here, we need more women at the table”.

My new colleagues are thinking to themselves, “Clearly, I’m more qualified than her. I know why she got this role”. ( I know they’re thinking this because some of them say it out loud)

I think to myself, “Really? So the Ph.D., MBA, 25 years of experience and $100MM+ in value creation I’ve delivered is NOT important….interesting.”

Inclusive leaders: Is this what you are going for?

I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

🎯You can help overcome this bias by being vocal about the skills, talents, and experiences that your new hire will add to the team.

You know, the way you talk about majority hires.

Don’t just take my word for it. I polled my LinkedIn followers and the responses were quite clear! Of those who responded, 96% prefer to hear about a new hire’s credentials rather than their diversity. 

🌟Underrepresented people have to overcome biases that they only got their job because they are diversity hires. Inclusive leaders intentionally try to help combat that issue by proactively discussing the diverse person’s qualifications, skills, and team fit.

Are You Having Fun Yet?

“Go play video games!”

That was my parting advice in a recent coaching session with a tech entrepreneur.

We’d spent the time talking about items on his technology roadmap, how client discovery discussions were going, and prep for an upcoming meeting with a potential client. 

Then, our conversation shifted to stress. 

He asked for some tips. 

It’s very common for me to have this kind of conversation with my clients. I inquire about their well-being in almost every session because I know that entrepreneurship is inherently stressful. I do that in the hopes that if it ever becomes a problem, they will feel welcome to raise the issue with me.

Today, he did.

We talked about how severe his stress was (if it was really high or prolonged, I would’ve suggested he consider speaking to a medical professional). Fortunately it wasn’t.

So, we went through the checklist of self-care items (healthy diet, exercise, sleep, etc). Then I asked, “What do you do for fun?”

He said, “I like to play video games but I know I shouldn’t, so I haven’t played in a while”. 

I often hear a similar sentiment from my clients. They are reluctant to do what they consider to be fun for one of two reasons:

1️⃣They don’t think they should have fun because it is “a waste of time”.

2️⃣They don’t think that their choice of fun activity is “appropriate”.

These are both limiting beliefs that need to be overcome.

💡Everyone deserves to have fun in their life! 

And as long as your choice is legal, safe, and doesn’t break the bank, you can do what you want (in my humble opinion).

🎉I am all for, playing video games, reading trashy romance novels, binge-watching videos, knitting, photography, running, squishy makeovers (that was my daughter’s thing when she was 10), Dungeons and Dragons, gardening, whittling wood, playing guitar….whatever YOUR thing is…as long as it brings you joy. 

❓What about you?

Are you stopping yourself from the important stress-reducer of having fun?

If you are, consider adopting one of the affirmations I’ve listed below:

  1. “I deserve to have fun! When I am happy, I am completely alive.”
  2. “I am free to explore life, and I know that each day is an adventure.”
  3. “I am inspired to discover new ways to experience joy.”

P.S. We are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

Client Spotlight: Dr. Rahul Maharsia

Dr. Maharsia came to me in the middle of a career transition. He’d just left his previous role as head of R&D for a large manufacturing firm and was looking for something different. He’d completed several interviews at large and small companies.

His initial efforts proved successful, and he was looking for help preparing for the next interviewing step: presenting his strategy overview to the C-suite. 

We did three things:

1️⃣Prior to our first meeting, I asked him to reflect on my favorite coaching question: Tell me about a time when you were at your peak performance, when things were going really well. What was going on? Who was involved? What feelings did you have? Don’t be humble!

Tell me about a time when you were at your peak performance, when things were going really well. What was going on? Who was involved? What feelings did you have? Don’t be humble!

The peak performance question, from the College of Executive coaching

I learned this question from the College of Executive Coaching. The wonderful thing about it is that it draws out important information about one’s strengths and values. Dr. Maharsia’s answer revolved around a big work project he accomplished. We talked through his answer in detail and set it aside.

2️⃣Secondly, we discussed the outline for his presentations and role-played the delivery and the Q&A. Through several meetings we streamlined his presentation visuals to be more impactful and I gave him a framework for answering questions in a clear and concise way. 

💡Hint: I use the strategy of having a standard opening line for answers to complex questions: “When I consider [Topic of question], I think of three aspects: people, processes, and metrics”. This allows me to buy time to structure my thoughts and preps the audience for an answer related to those three topics. 

Dr. Maharsia continued to be successful in his interviewing and came away with two outstanding offers. One from a large company and one from a startup.

3️⃣Finally, we talked through his offers. He had prepared a detailed pros and cons list (salary, location, level of responsibility, etc.) and was still torn between the two offers. 

He asked for my opinion. 

My answer, “Remember when you told me about your peak experience in your career…the time when you were the most energized and confident? Which of these offers do you think would allow you to be back in that kind of situation?”

“The startup”, he immediately answered. 

I encouraged him to consider that answer in his decision-making process along with the other factors on his list, and told him I was confident that he would be excellent in either role.

He’s now the Chief Technology Officer at the startup.

I hope this helps you better understand how coaching works.

P.S. We are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

My # 1 Recommended Resources After 1 Year In Business

People ask me all the time how I made the transition from corporate to my own coaching and consulting business. It’s a long answer but here are some of the resources that have helped me the most.

Stand Out by Dorie Clark. This book is helpful if you want to learn to use your expertise as a business. Dorie has a simple but wide-reaching framework that you can use to get started and then measure how well you are doing at becoming a recognized expert.

Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Once you start to gain traction in becoming a recognized expert, you need repeatable tactics to turn your efforts into a sustainable business. Michael covers that. Everything from how to talk about yourself and your business, networking, sales calls, etc.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. Once you start making money, you will have questions like: How much should I pay myself? Can I really afford to buy that new piece of equipment or hire a full time person? Mike’s book gives you a simple framework to help you solve that optimization problem so your money goes to the right places (including paying taxes).

Dotcom Secrets by Russell Brunson. If at any point you want to try to leverage the power of the internet to sell to many people and while you’re sleeping then you’ll want to start following RB. His online marketing strategies will help you go from having no idea how to sell something online to having a clear marketing plan, a clear sales plan, and the actual tools to collect money from people who want to buy from you. 

$1.80 Instagram Strategy by Gary Vaynerchuck. If you decide you want to sell online you will need to drive traffic to your materials and that is when having a social media presence will become important. I went from 5000 post impressions a year to 350,000 post impressions just by using Gary’s strategy that he outlines for free in a blogpost. Just replace the word Instagram with LinkedIn and follow his recommendations exactly.

I hope you find these helpful.

What Rockstar Scientists and Engineers Do Differently!

🌟The Hotwash Habit.

A “hotwash” ( or after action review) is a reflection exercise that you do immediately after an activity. It comes from the military and is now used in the crisis management community.

Rockstar scientists and engineers adopt it as a personal habit, and you should too.

Here’s how it works:

🎯After a project, presentation, or other activity you’ve spent some time preparing for, write down:

  1. What was the goal?
  2. What went well (that you want to repeat next time or transfer another activity)?
  3. What do you need to revisit (don’t repeat, improve, change)?

This is a simple but powerful exercise, especially for high achievers like you.

Why?

💡It helps high achievers appropriately judge the impact of their actions.
🔷High achievers typically don’t spend enough time acknowledging wins.
🔷We tend to just brush off accomplishments as luck, or give credit to external factors.
🔷We typically spend too much time focusing on failure.
🔷We often wallow in what went wrong and get into a cycle of beating ourselves up.

📢That is a recipe for Imposter Syndrome: If you don’t acknowledge your accomplishments, you will never feel like you are good enough to do the next new thing.

💎When you build the Hotwash Habit, you’ll objectively look at your actions in real time and realize that almost all of your efforts are a combination of things that went well and things that can be improved.

💡It puts you in a learning and continuous improvement mindset.

🔷When you constantly review your actions and think of ways to improve or transfer learnings you will start to find creative solutions to all sorts of problems.
🔷You will quickly differentiate yourself from the other 99% of people who just walk around in a fog or blame other people for everything.

💡If you are a leader, implement this habit with your team. Teach them that your organization is a learning organization. Be sure to include all stakeholders.

❓ If you’re wondering why it’s called a hotwash, you can get the backstory here:

P.S. Full disclosure, that is my kid’s guitar. He informed me right before I took that picture that I had been holding it wrong!🤣

P.S. We are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

What Introverts Don’t Get About Bragging!

When introverts like us think about bragging, we immediately conjure up certain individuals in our organization. 

You know who I mean, the one who when you ask how they’re doing they say,

 “ Oh well the Chief Operating Officer stopped by my desk to get my input on their major project and over the weekend I went in Elon Musk’s private jet and then ran a marathon with Bill Gates…”

When we hear that we think the person is annoying and self-serving.

❌That is the wrong way to brag! 

It’s a long-winded exaggeration that isn’t relevant. 

✅The right way to brag is to 

🔷Be concise in your statement of your accomplishments.

🔷Be relevant to the topic at hand.

❓Why is it so important that you do this regularly?

💡You need to understand that most leaders walk around somewhere between mildly anxious or in full on panic over where they are going to find the right resources to accomplish the latest mandate. 

📢It is your obligation to inform us if YOU might be the very resource we are looking for!

The only way we’ll know, is if you tell us if you have the relevant experience. 

💁🏽‍♀️Look, even your strongest champions can’t keep total recall of your resume in their heads. It is your responsibility to keep us informed if you have skills that might be relevant. 

It’s not bragging. It’s helping your organization. 

🎯All you have to do is state your relevant experience and ask if they want to hear more about it.

Here’s an example:

Last year, I was working with a non-profit on their strategy. One of their focus areas was increasing the number of volunteers. In the discussion I said, “I worked with another nonprofit on that very topic and we implemented a volunteer management program that achieved a 1000% increase in the number of volunteers and $60K+ in corporate grants in 12 months. Let me know if you want to talk more about what we did”. 

You will not be surprised to learn that they in fact did want to talk more about it.

🎁 If you would like a worksheet to help you organize your experiences so you can easily insert them in conversations like I did, you can grab my Accomplishments Inventory freebie here.

P.S. We are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

Leadership Presentation Mistakes Scientists and Engineers Make

If you get the impression that managers get impatient with you when you present your work, you are not wrong.

🥱😕Technical people are notorious for giving bad presentations.

Most of our experience is from conferences or in our graduate defenses. Those kinds of presentations are NOTHING LIKE how you should be presenting to an audience of leaders.

💁🏽‍♀️Don’t get discouraged, with some practice and feedback you’ll figure it out.

Here are a few mistakes I see all the time and how you can avoid them:

1️⃣NO EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Make sure you have a 1 slide executive summary at the beginning. This sets the context for your presentation and can serve as a stand alone document in case members of your audience have to leave early or want to circulate your materials.

It should cover the key highlights of your slides including a summary of the current condition and target condition of your activities, your analysis methodology, results to date, next steps, and a call to action (see point no. 2).

(WARNING: see no. 4 for a potential pitfall)

2️⃣NO EARLY AND OBVIOUS CALL TO ACTION.

Please tell me in the first 90 seconds why you are in front of me talking. Do you need more money or more time? Do you have results that are better or worse than expected? I just came from back to back to back meetings and I need some context.

And under NO circumstances should you wait until the last 2 minutes of your presentation to give me what you perceive to be bad news. It makes you look like a coward.

3️⃣COPIOUS USE OF TECHNICAL JARGON

Use plain language and basic units like time, money, weight, temperature, volume, # of people. Using technical jargon doesn’t make you seem smart. It makes you seem tone-deaf to your audience and lacking the savvy to translate your work into something relevant to the business.

Even if your leaders are like me and have Ph.D.’s in a technical field, it doesn’t mean that we have the fundamentals of YOUR specific project in our working memory.

4️⃣”WALL OF WORDS” SLIDES. All words, 12pt font, no breaks. If you have to say “sorry this slide is so busy”, don’t show me the slide. Change it. Try a graph or picture instead.

5️⃣ POOR TIME MANAGEMENT. Plan for me to have a bunch of questions, which I will ask you whenever I want. I’m not waiting till the end. So plan about 1/4 of your allotted time for my questions.

P.S. We are creating a membership to help technical experts become influential leaders by providing one-on-one coaching, an expert training library, and a support community. Click here to find out more and to join our early bird list for our best price ever!

Leadership Amplifies You

The senior leaders I work with in my executive coaching practice are often shocked and saddened to learn that their junior staff view them as intimidating bullies.

If that is you, there are generally two reasons for the surprise:

1️⃣You don’t have trusted advisors that give you accurate feedback about your actions. I’ll talk in future posts about how to attract and nurture relationships with people who will tell you the truth about your behavior and its impact.

2️⃣You don’t understand that by the very nature of your role, your power amplifies your behavior. Being terse in a meeting seems like you are flying off the handle. Do it a few times and you build a reputation of being terrifying. On the other hand, make a 2-minute phone call to staff on their birthday and you are viewed as extremely generous.

In reality, you are a normal human who has ups and downs and is trying to do your best. Your role power exaggerates everything.

Now that you know your role gives you a megaphone, what do you want your team to hear?

🙄A note to junior staff: You might find it ridiculous that your manager isn’t fully aware of their impact. But there are legitimate challenges to building self awareness.

🙏🏽You can help. If you find that your leader is doing something you like, thank them.

💡Empathy works both ways.