Do you need a mentor?

Some leaders think they need to formally engage a mentor, advocate or sponsor to advance. Not so. The best of these for me never knew I considered them such.

Sometimes I created a friendship whereby we supported each other in different ways - me being curious, listening and being honest and them opening doors because they wanted to help me.

Some of my mentors never knew me. I simply observed them, their values, their presence, their leadership and their struggles.

And sometimes I asked people to lunch or called them to answer specific questions that I had thought through ahead of time to make good use of their time. Your best teachers are right in front of you. Self-awareness and executive presence build by observing others and then observing yourself.

My clients define leaders they admire and then list why. They watch YouTube videos of presentations and read their material.

Wishing you one person you admire you will study today.

>>> If you are ready to get off the...

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A Client Letter - You're Bad Leader

Below is a note I recently received from a client that although makes me sad, it carries great wisdom. This high performing executive leader was leaving an organization she loved and had relocated for with mixed feelings. As is often the case, she was leaving because of her boss.

 

Good morning Mary Lee,

I have one more week reporting to this woman that has made the last 14 months of my life incredibly difficult. The exit process has been even more difficult.

In 20 years in the workplace I have never experienced anything like this from someone at this woman's level. 

Every leader has opportunity, but I do not believe there are many who behave as badly as what I have witnessed over the past year.

I am also amazed how her leaders look away, an ostrich to this woman's behavior. I am not personalizing this (thank you Mary Lee), I understand it is simply inconvenient to disrupt the status quo or face the difficult conversations or the admit that perhaps it was a mistake to...

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How to Deal with that Difficult Employee Who is Poisoning Your Culture

Here is advice I recently gave to a client who just had two staff members explode at a meeting. Managing bad behavior starts with drawing healthy boundaries.

Boundaries: The invisible line between what you will and will not allow.

Difficult Employees: People who don’t take ownership of their own behavior and spew their dissatisfaction with their perceived powerlessness, victimization and lack of self-worth on others.

Dealing with Difficult Employees: Affirm their unhappiness. Affirm how they must be feeling. Ask them what they want. Then every time they act insubordinately ask them how that is getting them closer to what they want. 

When Difficult Employees are Out of Control: Get the values of the company in hand, show them how their behavior is insubordinate of the values, put them on a Performance Improvement Plan, establish the specific measurable threshold they need to meet, tell them your goal is to help them meet it and revisit in 30 days. That’s a boundary.

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I had to layoff four people in the first 30 days

I had to layoff four people in the first 30 days of one of my roles as a CEO. It was very difficult.

As a leader you most certainly will have to make a difficult decision that will affect someone’s life if you haven’t already. When we can lean in to the difficult feeling this brings us and deal with them first, we can better bring compassion to the situation and others. These decisions can leave us feeling hurtful, frustrated, too practical, disliked and more. Name the feelings. Being comfortable with our own discomfort is a good place to start.

Open communication with others is the first step to building bridges not road blocks. I met with each person in the office and asked very specific questions about what they thought the direction of the office should be, what our strengths and weaknesses were and what they would do if they were me.

They saw the layoffs coming. I placed as many people elsewhere as I could and promised those left behind that we would eliminate...

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