“Teacher’s Pet”

You may recognize this species: A person who can do no wrong no matter how much wrong he or she does. A person who has the ear of the boss no matter how busy the boss is. A person who tries to fit in with coworkers in spite of the fact that no one trusts her.

This description is remarkably similar to that of a teacher’s pet, except this is the adult version.

I’ve seen many variations of this prototype among my clients, and will share three. In variation #1, the CEO is well aware of the games this person plays, but doesn’t want to deal with the severe discomfort that is likely to happen by disentangling the relationship.

Variation #2 happens when one boss favors an employee while another boss feels differently. The outcome of this inherent conflict is that the employee is treated as “protected” while the other boss stews about it. (I’ve seen this play out when the immediate manager does not favor the employee, but the manager’s boss does.)

“I Want Your Job (….Can’t You Just Give it to Me?)”

My friend Glen hired a young man (who I’ll call John), as an apprentice at his company. Glen established ground rules which were of the “work hard, learn as much as you can” variety. If John followed these ground rules, in six months he would move into a new and more challenging position, possibly even a position of his preference.

OK. I know you’re clairvoyant, so it won’t surprise to learn that it didn’t work out. John was lazy and did the bare minimum to get by. Glen had the first of several “shape up” conversations with John during his first week on the job, but John’s behavior never changed.

At the end of their exit discussion on John’s last day Glen asked, “By the way, if you had the choice, which position would you have wanted?” to which John replied, “Yours, of course.”

Leadership Musings from the Blizzard of 2016

Did you survive last weekend’s blizzard? If you live in a large swath of the eastern seaboard of the United States, you experienced quite the storm. Of course, you may be tired of thinking about it because it dominated our lives for a few days, but I wanted to share a few leadership musings.

New York City received 26.8 inches of snow, and just missed tying the record set in February 2006 by a skimpy one tenth of an inch. I was contemplating the idea of “not quite coming in first” which triggered some thoughts about superior performers.

Superior performers strive to be the best and to come in first whenever given the opportunity. Think about what happens when your team misses achieving a revenue record by a scant amount or doesn’t get awarded an important deal.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Leaders often have confidential discussions among themselves and on occasion with their employees. It goes without saying that something told to you in confidence must be maintained as confidential.

But what about the many conversations that aren’t labeled “confidential” as such, but really are private communications?

I’ve noticed that when some leaders get caught up in a crisis or overwork or overwhelm, their guard goes down and they leak a little (or a lot) of information that really isn’t intended for a broader audience.

Should Your Employees be Embarrassed?

While I was sitting with a client, an employee delivered a piece of work that was late. My client quickly glanced at it, tossed it on to the table, then said, “He should be embarrassed to hand in this work to me.”

This employee totally ignored the importance of the assignment, handed in something sloppy and incomplete, and didn’t really care that what he delivered was unacceptable.

My client philosophized that one of the ways he defines a lack of accountability is when employees deliver work that should embarrass them.

The One Thing

As we enter this new year and stumble through resolutions ranging from overly ambitious to half-hearted, it’s a good time to simplify. Don’t overly complicate your life by overly complicating your commitments.

Try this creative brainstorming exercise. Write down everything you can think of that you’d like to do, be, or have this year. Don’t edit – just let your mind open up and allow your thoughts to pour out.

After you do this, circle the 5 words or phrases that strike you as the most important. Then ask “why” – and keep digging with “why” until you find the word or phrase that resonates the most.

Does this word evoke a positive emotion? Does it excite you? Does it make you want to dive in and do great work? Can you visualize a sensational outcome?

Enjoy Life to the Fullest

Happy New Year!

If you create New Year’s resolutions, you might be interested to know that the #1 New Year’s resolution for 2016 is “enjoying life to the fullest”, according to a survey of 5,000 people by GoBankingRates.

If this resolution appeals to you, you won’t be surprised to know that your interpretation of enjoying life to the fullest most likely differs from others. For you to be successful achieving this (or any) resolution, try to be as specific as possible: what does it look like…sound like…feel like…to you.


Resolutions are similar to goals in that the more specific and measurable they are, the more likely you can achieve them.

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Planning for the Unplannable

Another year has flown by and here we are at the end of 2015. I hope that the year met or exceeded your expectations and you can look back with satisfaction on your accomplishments.

But now is the season to think of the year ahead….your resolutions….your aspirations….your goals. If you’re a planner, you’ve probably already mapped out 2016 to guide your way. Even if planning isn’t your style, you’ve probably thought about what you want to accomplish.

I want to take a moment on the subject of how to plan for the unplannable. Many clients and friends finished 2015 punctuated by unexpected activities. If you’re not prepared, you can spend considerable time stumbling while you figure out how to manage these situations.

Holiday Gratitude

I hope by the end of today you will be settling into a three-day weekend where you can kick back and downshift a bit. My observation is that this was one of the busiest months of December in recent memory, so you deserve a breather.

Since we’re going into a holiday weekend, I thought I’d share some holiday-related musings about gratitude.

Remember to acknowledge gratitude for your staff and wish them a great holiday (and – oops! – if you forgot this, it’s not too late to do something as simple as send an email). Simply put, people appreciate being appreciated.

Random Acts of Kindness

CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on “Secret Santa”, an anonymous businessman who gives away $100,000 in $100 bills every Christmas. The story (which has aired in previous years as well) is especially touching because it demonstrates how he lifts the spirits of people he randomly touches.

Random acts of kindness are unplanned good deeds that are extended without the expectation of anything in return. When you offer a random act of kindness, you feel good and the recipient feels good….the classic “win-win” scenario.

Most of us don’t have the means to give away as much as the aforementioned Secret Santa, but we do have the ability to give small, ordinary things. When you offer a kindness to someone, it can even help to put your own challenges into better perspective.