Spring Cleaning for Leaders

Housewife With BroomHas Spring sprung for the embattled Northeast and Midwest of the United States or Europe yet? I’m seeing wet roads and capri pants vs. snowpiles and puffy jackets when I look at my Facebook feed, so I feel it is safe to say, yes, spring is here for the Northern Hemisphere.

Don’t worry—I won’t foist any Martha Stewart cleaning tips or Gwyneth Paltrow spring detox recommendations on you. Spring in the air makes me think about spring cleaning for leaders.

Yes, that’s right. Spring cleaning—the annual ritual once practiced solely by housewives with coiffures secured in kerchiefs—has a place on your calendar, too.

How can the concept of spring cleaning help a leader of people?

First, there is the obvious way to consider the part spring cleaning plays in a leader’s success:

The physical environment of your workspace: your office or cube (or wherever you work at home).

I know my physical workspace affects my productivity and well-being. My office is not as neat as I want it to be—and it’s not as organized as I need it to be.

Taking a few minutes to dust my desk and bookshelves is a welcome distraction that makes me feel efficient and tidy. One Kleenex does the job. You don’t need to buy dust wipes, but, sure, they’d do a better job.

  1. Dust to improve the look and clean of your desk and workspace.
  2. Pick up and move items vs. work around them: It takes less time to lift up that paperweight than work around it—and you’ll do a better job.

I think a dusty desk speaks to your brand as a leader. Dust says unused, not occupied, not present. Messy.  Being “too busy” to dust, throw out snack wrappers, cups of dried gummi bears, etc. is a lousy excuse. No solid leader is too busy to consider his or her workspace as a place to engage.

Once you’ve dusted off your desk, consider the figurative nature of the word “dust”:

In terms of EQ, are you muddled or focused? What do you need to let go of? Clear out of your head?  What to-do items are lingering?

These dusty items may be emails you’re not going to send. Or lunch meetings that simply won’t get scheduled for a quarter.

  1. Write down what is covered with dust—still lingering around, waiting for a decision.
  2. Use ten minutes to write down these tasks.
  3. Now, tackle or toss.  Which items—thoughts, feelings, worries, random little action items clogging your brain—can you dust away from your mental windscreen so a better view is possible?

Dust is a physical and mental distraction.  Clean your workspace and a bit of headspace, so you execute towards your goals vs. dwell upon what, *sigh*, is simply sitting there.

What type of spring cleaning are you doing or will you commit to doing over the next week?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best wishes from the Bay Area,


Bouyancy and the New Year

Happy February!

Can you believe we are already two months into the year?  Last month many of us started off the new year with resolutions: What should I change? What should I do new? What do I want this year vs. last?

But then as the month’s go by, meetings pile up and illness creeps in these resolutions quickly get dismissed.  At least that’s the way it has been for me.  So rather than giving you more things to do, I am simply going to tell you a little story about a man I met a couple of years ago.

I met Daniel at my friend and client Kelly’s house. She holds a regular author and thinker salon, and it has been a cozy living room where I have met some amazing people.

I’m a huge fan of Daniel’s books (check out Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, and Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, and of course I wanted to have my photo taken with him. I asked him, “Nerdy or OK to take a picture with you?” He laughed, and said, “It’s cool. Not nerdy.”

The topic of Daniel’s newest book, To Sell is Human, is…well, selling. This subject is one I want and need to learn more about, and it’s one that scares me at the same time. Selling being “human” I can understand immediately: many of us do not consider selling a skill or tactic we willingly use regularly or want to employ.

Clients tell me I don’t sell them on my services. They do not feel as if I meet them with a proposal in hand and spend initial meetings together discussing what I can do for them.

This is always lovely (and a relief) to hear because I have no idea how to sell. And no training. And no desire to be selling. Yet it is something I do in many ways, to develop my role and business.

Daniel’s research opens our eyes to the numbers of people who engage in some type of selling every day of their role. It is not just a car salesperson who is selling to you. It is the peer who asks you to help him with a project. It is your manager delegating a task to you. It is your child asking you for TV time.

The ABC Daniel speaks of in his book stands for “Attunement, Buoyance, and Clarity” — not “Always Be Closing.”

I will focus on Bouyance this year. I do a fair job of it — bouncing back — but it’s not a strength. Rejection is not something I can dismiss easily.

I hope you read this book and select which ABC you will spend energy towards, as you sell — as a human.  And if you have already read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Again, Happy February!

Kind regards,


Tough Conversation of the Month: Asking for a Raise

top-performerTough Conversation: Asking for a Raise

Highlight your strengths. This is a business discussion, so focus on how your strengths have added value to the business. Remind your manager of your key skills—hard and soft—and how valuable they are. Share what training you’ve done, the ways you’ve kept up and maybe ahead in your field. “Here are 3 examples of how my work this past year has increased revenue/market share/retained customers/built our brand . . .”

State what you want: the number. And, again, stick to business. Don’t bring the personal into the picture: buying a house or having a child isn’t a compelling reason to ask for a raise. In addition, don’t compare yourself to your peers. Do your
research on comparable positions and salaries—trying to get as many facts (not stories) as possible. “Looking at similar roles in this area of the country, I feel the salary that accurately reflects my contributions is . . .”

If the answer is “No,” don’t take the rejection personally. It’s OK to ask why the answer was no. It’s not OK to argue with your manager; doing so will almost certainly not change his/her mind.

Thank your manager for his/her time and thoughts and express your disappointment in carefully stated words: “I’m disappointed” or “I wish the answer were different.”

If you wish to broach the subject again, one strategy is to wait until review time, as that’s when most merit increases or raises are given. Continue to build your case of how you’ve dramatically affected the business.



10 Cyber Monday and End of the Year Tips

Cyber MondayHello Leaders,

Last year, Cyber Monday purchases from US websites topped $2 billion. Roughly half of the purchases made originated from work computers.

Are you shopping online, Cyber Monday 2014?

As we enter the crazy holiday period in many countries and cultures, here are 10 Cyber Monday and end of the year tips:

1. Help your team focus on the big goals. No matter what you do or say, people are distracted this time of the year. Don’t put off other projects or discussions; instead, prioritize.

2. Begin setting goals now—not in January 2015. Start discussions regarding 2015 team and individual goals with your team members, and you will then have an opportunity to begin the year with goals already in place. January moves fast, and it is amazing how many organizations enter the first and second quarter of each year with fuzzy goals in place (not good).

3. Another tip regarding goal setting: SMART never gets old. Really.

4. Don’t wait until January performance reviews (if your organization holds reviews on a calendar year) to begin performance management. Begin or continue to give constructive criticism now; the “holidays” are not an excuse to put off giving solid feedback regarding weaknesses.

5. Confirm with your team who is taking time off during December and what the coverage plans are. Don’t assume that things will figure themselves out (do they ever?).

6. Yes, it is OK to show appreciation during this time of the year. A luncheon, cards, perhaps small tokens. Make it meaningful vs. make it “big.” If your team isn’t impressed by how you operate now, a substantial gift card or fancy lunch won’t make much of a difference.

7. Thanksgiving is over, yet the time to be grateful and express worthwhile praise and thanks is not. It never is over.

8. Don’t wait for the new year to begin changing your own behaviors. Just like goal setting, start doing it now.

9. Cyber Monday provides a nice opportunity to provide your team with metrics around their performance and that of the business. Do they understand the “numbers” behind what they do—and how their work affects financial results?

10. Holiday parties are not the time to loosen up. There is no “what happens here stays here” in terms of holiday celebrations. Even in a festive setting, you are under a different microscope than your team members. Sure, have fun, but don’t “party!” Yes, I’m a party-pooper. You will thank me one day.

If you are shopping on Monday, I would love to read your hot tips below in the comments below, even if they are just shopping tips.  Happy Holidays!

Emotionally Intelligent Decisions

traffliA new season is creeping up on us: winter. While the seasons change in terms of weather, one season that does not hibernate is that of emotional intelligence or EQ. “Now” always seems to be the season of high-profile people making poor emotional intelligence decisions.

Emotional intelligence is the ability you have to recognize, manage, and understand how your emotions govern your decisions and relationships.

Your IQ and title do not correlate to high levels of EQ. Well-known figures fall into the trap of being far less emotional intelligent that their IQs or resumes would lead us to believe.

The former CEO and Founder of Groupon makes me laugh the most lately (and frown, too). Before he was relieved of his position as CEO, Andrew Mason held a company-wide meeting to discuss how the organization had to grow up and stop taking “stupid risks.” While speaking, he also seemed to have his voice “break.” He then apologized for drinking too much beer (it was available to everyone during the meeting).

I’m trying to figure out his message: “Time to grow up, folks–burp–whoops, sorry about that. OK, let’s first finish our drinks and start that growing up tomorrow.”

What’s wrong with Andrew? Right now, I will point out just one thing: low EQ. Also, maybe not just a good idea to allow the media to observe such meetings.

EQ comprises self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. In Andrew’s case, I would argue he is lacking solid self-awareness and self-management: he hasn’t yet mastered what he can and can’t do as the CEO of a high-profile and public company.

Here’s another great article on this event, by Tom Post of Forbes.

We all make mistakes. Being emotionally intelligent means you begin to catch yourself before you make some missteps. You train your brain to allow some gut reactions to be paused, so your rational, logical side can consider if the automatic reaction is the best one for you, the situation, the people involved, the business, etc.

We see the EQ foibles of CEOs documented often in the news; we personally are affected by such follies committed by people around us at work all the time.

So, how can you avoid some mistakes of your own–saying or doing things automatically and then regretting them?

Start by identifying your hot buttons at work. What things drive you nuts? And when you are being driven nuts, how are you reacting? For example, if people arriving late to meetings makes you angry and you regularly throw out some snippy remarks, then test yourself to not say anything in response to tardiness just once a day. Instead of speaking, take a quiet, deep breath as the late arrivers walk in.

Then, do some reading. For a primer, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0: a great, short book with an online assessment included and amazing training materials. For a deep dive, read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, as he is the #1 expert and researcher in this field.

Finally, ask others for help. Ask trusted peers and your manager to share with you some of the triggers they see in your behavior. Self-awareness involves looking inward as well as asking others for their insight and help.

Choosing just one hot button to focus on can make a big difference. Retrain your brain one step at a time. Doing so will make raise your EQ a little yet can dramatically influence your effectiveness, engagement, and health (really, it’s true).

Need some help? Let me know in the comments section what your hot buttons are and we can discuss how I can hold you accountable.

Too bad there aren’t any Groupon offers for emotional intelligence, eh? I wish it were that easy.

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