Follower: How Often Should I Get Feedback?

I am in the process of reading/reviewing Jodi Glickman’s book Great On The Job – What To Say, How To Say It – The Secrets of Getting Ahead.  Jodi has an impressive list of college clients, two being Harvard and Cornell, that bring her in to prepare their students for success on the job.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

I think our society is confused when it comes to feedback.  We lighten it with kids, with the intention of preserving their self esteem.  We worry about Millennials because the research says they need more.  In fact, at the height of the economic meltdown a study was done about what motivates people and managers said “positive feedback/thank you”, while their people said “making progress on my work”.  So what is the bottom line for feedback?

Jodi Glickman addresses the topic with new/soon to be new graduates in a way that anyone can benefit.

First, she shares a window – asking for it once a year is not enough and once a month is too often.

Secondly, she shares a very simple method for setting up the situation so the feedback can be given and has value for both the leader and the individual.  The two steps are:

  1. Phase I:  Preparation
  2. Phase II:  The Conversation

While both are good steps, I love Phase I.  Too often I see people jumping into a deep conversation with a peer or leader with no preparation for the person being asked to give it.  It usually ends with something generic like “It was great”.  Glickman’s quote about feedback that should be posted on cubicles everywhere is:

. . . the goal of the feedback is not to make you feel good.  The goal is to make you better at your job. (p. 129)

The author points out the best way to setup a good feedback session is to plant the seed before asking for feedback.  For example, if your focus is presentation skills, maybe planting the seed would sound like this:  “Julie, I am really trying to focus on my presentation skills, so could I ask a favor?  I’d welcome some feedback on my presentation after our client meeting next week.  If you could jot down some thoughts, I will setup some time for us to talk the following week.”

This builds off a core belief I have around Building Rhythm(from my trUPerformance™ model) in how we talk about our work, our priorities, and our needs.  Inherent in the one one one template I use with clients is the routine nature of our conversation and the predictable topics so feedback is continually mined (both positive and negative) without having to ask for it.

Talent management is about great conversations.  This book is loaded with tips on how, as a follower, to make those happen.

The final review of this book is coming next month, but so far I have really enjoyed the content and the way it is presented.

Social Media, Relationships, and Leadership

Relationships are built through connections.  Connections happen when we have great conversations – – over and over again.  The numbers I preach to leaders and followers alike are:

  • 5 to 1: The optimal number of positive to negative interactions in a marriage
  • 3 to 1: The optimal number of positive to negative interactions in a work relationship
  • 3:  If we have this many close friends at work we are 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with our life
  • If I were a smoker and a loner – I will live longer if I keep smoking and find some friends

Then comes social media.  Recently I was wondering if some day I would read a headline that would turn my world/beliefs upside down.  Something like:

  • Facebook changing the way we build close friends
  • The Tweets/day  = Happiness number is known:  14
  • Top 5 social media tools for creating healthy marriages and friendships
  • Keep Smoking, but open a Facebook account

My gut tells me that ignoring social media at work and in my life, in general, is the wrong move.  I also believe the fundamental things I preach to leaders and followers about success in work, building healthy relationships, building strong teams, and building strong companies will not change.

Then I stumbled upon a great TED talk that took on the topic of social media from Sherry Turkle called Connected, but alone? . I think I will stick with what my gut tells me – even as I continue to use Foursquare.  fyi – I just became Mayor of my street and no one treats me differently. 🙂

EXTRA:  An idea for using this video with high potentials/leadership groups: Watch the video (18 minutes) and explore the following questions:

  • How do I personally use social media tools?  What benefits do they provide me?
  • How do some of the important people in my life use them?
  • What comments from the video stand out for me?  Agree?  Disagree?
  • How can I use this to become better – Leaders?  Teammates?  Friends?  (Make one commitment)

Do You Know How to Start and End a Conversation?

I am in the process of reading/reviewing Jodi Glickman’s book Great On The Job – What To Say, How To Say It – The Secrets of Getting Ahead.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

I watch the eyes, because they always tell the truth. 

Have you ever experienced the glazed, lifeless stare that happens within 10 seconds of starting a conversation with someone?  It is most often the result of them being in the middle of something and me being too urgent to simply ask “Is this a good time?”

Jodi Glickman shares her secrets to opening and closing a conversation under a section she refers to as The Basics.  How to avoid the lifeless stare is addressed up front.  It made me chuckle when she talked about the feedback she received initially from two trusted friends that this section was too basic.  I loved it!  When I talk to people about talent management I stress the partnership between a leader and a follower, and the transparency that has to exist for the relationship to work.  Being specific about What I need is critical, and recognizing that this is not the right time to talk is equally as critical.  In the era of open office doors/no doors at all and cell phones that make everyone accessible 24/7, it is important to be able to say not the right time.

One of the unique pieces of her approach was the ending.  In it she shares two steps:

  1. Thank you
  2. Forward momentum


I love the concept of forward momentum.  Think of it – we have talked and here is where I am going next.  Imagine if every interaction led to some sort of forward momentum?  In talent management: forward momentum = ownership = engagement = great followership

An exercise: What percent of your conversations today lead to forward momentum?


Introversion (TED video) and trUYou

At the most recent TED conference in California there was a great presentation about introversion by Susan Cain, who recently published a book on the topic.  It has been watched 1 million+ times already and is a good message.  The title is The Power of Introverts.

I preach talent management as being a conversation, and I like this video because understanding our tendency to think more vs talk is important.  Having a conversation means two people showing up and talking/listening in equal parts.  Susan also makes the distinction that introverts can do public speaking (after all, she is presenting), but it is an activity that taps her energy stores, not fills them.  Her power is in thinking problems through by listening to others share their expertise, researching, and drawing on her own experience.  A great gift for a team, but often hard to tap into.

Here is my add-on to the video:

  • For Introverts – Speak up.  The world, your company, the planning for your neighborhood party will go on without you because you are surrounded by people that have a more natural style to talk and influence.  It is not easy, but with the world moving faster, you are at risk of being marginalized more now than 10 years ago because your leaders/peers have more noise in their lives.  Whispers do not cut it anymore – and a tweet, text, or email is too often just a whisper.
  • For leaders of introverts – How hard have you tried to listen?  To set them(introverts) up to be successful?  At any point in team discussions do you stop the free for all and just go around the room and give everyone 45 seconds of input?  Do you meet one on one with everyone regularly so listening is a habit?  Does your challenge (speak up) come with encouragement and purposeful moves to help them step out?

This is not the only thing a person needs to know about themselves, but it is a good start because how we communicate (or not) is one big measure the world will use to measure us.  Here is a link to a tool I use called my trUYou model. It is a guide for what we need to know about us.  Introversion/extroversion is one piece to us, but it is pretty important.

Want to know how introverted or extroverted you are?  Try this free Jung Typology Test (basically the same as the Myers-Briggs).

Book Review: Steve Jobs Biography (by Walter Isaacson)

When Steve Jobs retired I posted an entry recognizing him for his rebound/recovery from obvious failures.  I have always been impressed with that – even more so than the products he created.

I just finished his biography, and posted a review on LinkedIn.  For this blog entry I thought I would post a few thoughts for those of you thinking about reading it or those wanting to compare notes.

  1. Is it a book about being an effective leader?  Yes and no – there are great leadership lessons in it, but I still ascribe to the Blanchard definition of leadership – “Leadership is an influence process.  It is about working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.”  This is worth a longer conversation – but do not make it a book study for your exec team or high potential leadership group. 🙂
  2. Is it for an Apple product lover or a non-Apple product owner?  Yes and yes.  Based on sales numbers, I am not sure there are too many of the latter, but the product chapters are fascinating.  Remember my perspective is that of a new iPhone owner (4 months) and I bought it for two reasons:  1) Look cool(er) to my kids  2) Explore all the Apple hype many of my friends have been preaching for years.  (fyi – it is still just a phone, but a cool phone. 🙂 )
  3. The best part of this book for me is the completeness of the story.  The good and the bad are told, and in the end Steve Jobs was just a guy doing lots of great things and making lots of mistakes along the way.  Some he fixed, and many he did not, and that is what all our stories would look like if they were written down.  It is well written and when I finished the book I felt like I do not need to read any more about him – I get him.

Below is a picture of the pages that I really liked reading – page number on the left and a few words describing it on the right.  I do this in many of my books so I can go back and find passages I liked.  It is a good read!

An Interview and Book Giveaway with Leadership Expert & Author David Baker

As readers of my blog, you know that I like to meet intriguing people, and I share some of those meetings with you on these pages.  I met author David C. Baker first through reading his book, Managing Right For the First Time:  A Field Guide For Doing It Well.  I liked his book because it was focused on providing managers with tangible tools/knowledge they needed to be successful.  I could also see this as a tool a mentor could use in helping a manager learn and grow in their role. 


A little about David (although a full bio can be found on his website) – He was born in Michigan, but lived in San Miguel Acatan, Guatemala with a tribe of Mayan indians until he was 18, after which he moved to the United States.   He went on to earn advanced degrees in ancient languages and theology.  He has consulted with more than 650 firms, and has written three books, including Managing (Right) for the First Time and Financial Management of a Marketing Firm. His work has been discussed in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, CBS Business Network, MarketingProfs, and BusinessWeek. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Julie. David plays racquetball, rides fast motorcycles, loves photography, and enjoys aviation (as a helicopter and airplane pilot).

It is a worthwhile read and a great addition to any leader’s toolbox, which is why I interviewed David.  My only advice is that this book is best read in a group of two or three so the peer/mentor support can be used to help apply the things that you will learn about management and leadership.  As I was preparing for the interview, Inc Magazine recognized David/his book as a 2011 Best Book for Entrepreneurs.  Now I cannot say I found him first. 🙂

Book Giveaway:  In addition to the interview, I am giving away five (5) copies of his book.  (Information below on how to qualify)

Here is my interview with David . . .

You have worked for a long time helping people become better leaders and managers.  What moved you to write this book?

I was speaking at a conference in Atlanta to 700 new managers, and I began to ask them what they were struggling with, thinking I might adjust my presentation to address those particular needs. Then at the end of the presentation I said, “You know, this seems like such a big issue with so many common themes, that I ought to write a book about it.” I then gave them my email address and asked them to submit their struggles. I received about 150 emails.

Since your book was published in 2010, what are some ways you have seen it used by individuals and organizations?

It’s been a little surprising, because the primary audience was intended to be the person who was managing others for the first time. But from what I can tell, it’s had more impact on existing managers who would like some guidance on how to do it well.

What is the biggest mistake you see new managers make?  What is your message to them?

The biggest mistake by far is to misunderstand the fact that a promotion means that you “do” less and “manage” more. Someone who is not so much promoted but “sentenced” to management hides in the “doing” and ignores the managing. That’s the fatal mistake. What makes it particularly sad is that very few people complain about bad management—what they complain about is no management.

What is an emerging trend you see around the role of managers in the last 5 years?

One would be learning how to manage remote teams, either permanently living/working somewhere else or just working from home from time to time. Another would be the flexibility that employees value in their jobs, to attend a soccer game or a doctor’s appointment. Finally, I think the culture in an organization is far more important than it used to be, especially as benefits are stripped away, pay increases are curtailed, and the workloads have increased.

You mention parenting being a part of your experience as a manager.  What is a personal example of how a parenting experience helped develop your skills as a manager?

I think primarily it’s been about just talking over things. It’s easy to live in the same house but never really talk about meaningful things. As a friend of mine says, you only feel tension about the things you DON’T say, not the things you DO say. So addressing things in an honest, straightforward, truly listening sort of way as a parent has helped me a lot as a manager.

A discussion of competency building is often the focus of new manager training, but not a big part of what you share in this book.  Where do you see it fitting in?

There are tools out there that help a manager first be self-aware, and then if they are successful, they will transfer to that developing a management style that matches the style the managed employee prefers.  It’s a shame, really, but there’s a criminal lack of attention to management and leadership skills in undergraduate work. Yet you have graduates who want to “change the world,” not realizing that their best chance at doing that is through their management style, one by one.

From a technical standpoint, I don’t think managers need to be super competent, and I certainly don’t think they need to be the most competent person in the department. That’s a huge fallacy. Some of the most well-run (and largest) companies in the world are led by good leaders, not competent technicians.

If you were going to make sure a new leader read two chapters of your book, which ones would they be?

Chapter 12 on a performance review you might enjoy, and chapter 14 on being a leader they want to follow.

You end your book with a compilation of advice from current managers.  What is the best advice you have received in your career and who provided it?

I invited a friend, Michael Gerber, the author of “The E-Myth Revisited,” and I’ll never forget his emphasis on working on the business instead of in it. To me, managing is about working on the business.

Thanks David for a great interview.

If you would like to win a copy of David’s book, Managing Right For The First Time, here’s what you need to do to qualify:

  1. RT this post on Twitter or Share on LinkedIn
  2. Comment on this post
  3. Make sure I have a valid email address (I ask for it when you post to my blog)

All posts made by the end of this week(week of Jan. 16) qualify – and from that I will randomly select the 5 winners.

Find a Leader . . And Listen. My conversation with Jeno Paulucci

Like many people, in the next month I plan to tackle the biography of Steve Jobs.  I like reading about interesting people, especially leaders.  While we learn by doing, slowing down to learn here and there is one of the key things leaders can do to raise their own performance.  But do not forget the living biographies that are around us.  Here is my story of pausing to hear a living biography.

Jeno Paulucci died Nov.25th at the age of 93. 

I met Jeno in 1999 when I went to Duluth, MN to run Grandma’s Marathon.  When I planned the trip I thought of Jeno because my Grandfather had talked about him years before.  The family story was that my grandfather, as the dean of Hibbing Junior College, had convinced Jeno to stay in college.  He went on to become the second most famous person to come out of Hibbing, Minnesota (behind Bob Dylan – aka:  Bobby Zimmerman).  The highlights of his business career:

  • Founded Chun King – sold it to RJ Reynolds for $62M
  • Founded Jeno’s Pizza Rolls – sold to Pillsbury for $135M (rebranded to Totino’s)

*if you want more his Wikipedia page has more details

I wrote Jeno a note, and he answered with a handwritten note to accept my offer, so I setup a meeting.  He met a friend and I for a couple hours and we talked about his memories of my grandfather, why he started his business, his current business (Michelina’s pasta), and life stuff.  The line I most remember was him sharing a decision point he had as to whether to sell Michelina’s in his 70’s or keep it.  He went home and told his wife that he thought he should sell it so he could spend more time with her.  Her response was “Jeno, if the only reason you are selling it is to spend more time with me then keep it.  Having you around every day, all the time, will drive me crazy.”  He decided to keep the business. 🙂

Jeno and I - Grandma's Marathon 1999

The other thing that struck me about Jeno was that his office was very plain and he was very normal.  He knew my grandfather and made time for me to just talk, and the conversation was very easy.  When I met him at the end of the marathon he ordered me to go get my jacket so I would not get cold.  He was kind of bossy. 🙂

Often times the holidays puts us in rooms with people that we do not know that well, and much of the time is spent figuring out how to escape.  When I see a room full of people I see it as a kind of a library of biographies.  Storied that can be heard by asking things like: Where they lived?  Where they grew up / went to college / worked? What were some highlights from past jobs / holidays / vacations?  Who is the most famous person they have ever met?

I never talked to Jeno after 1999.  The one thing about his obituary that caught me eye was the piece about his wife.  She died 5 days before Jeno.  Apparently she must have been pretty important to him.  Go figure. 🙂

How long do you listen?

I make it a habit of spending time with people smarter than I am.  This past year I went to see a neuropsychologist named Tim Royer talk and within a few seconds I knew I was in the right place. 🙂

He shared a startling fact:  On average, doctors diagnosing a brain disorder (ADD, ADHD, Depression, etc.) spent just under 7 minutes with their patients before making the diagnosis?

Really?  I was actually relieved because the other statistic I knew from a study was that when you visit the doctor’s they spend an average of 23 seconds listening before making a diagnosis. 

Good news:  The brain is complex so physicians spend more time (maybe 18x) before diagnosing you. (assuming the 7 minutes is spent listening, questioning, and observing)

Bad news:  Is that really enough?  For an organ that has 10,000 miles of neurons, 20 terrabytes of storage, and consumes 80% of the energy your body produces – is 7 minutes long enough?

People are complex.  Teams are complex.  How much time do you spend listening or trying to understand peers?  Your leader? People on your team?

Activity:  At your next staff meeting or one on one – Keep track of the following things: 

Number of questions you ask vs # of times you tell people something 

Time spent listening vs time spent  time talking (fyi:  doodling or answering texts is not actively listening)  

What does it tell you?

What I admire most about Steve Jobs – and it is not the iPad

As I watch the opinions pour out after the announcement of Steve Jobs stepping down from the CEO role, it makes me wonder if we are talking about the right things.  There are certainly lots of worries about not having him leading Apple.  Whether you are a shareholder, a reseller, a supplier, or an Apple lover worrying about future technology, this is certainly the changing of the guard at Apple and future success for the company is a big question.

As of today I do not own any Apple products (that might change tomorrow with an iPhone purchase) and up until I read the Fortune article about Apple several months ago I did not know much about him as a leader. 

I do know enough about his career to see some special accomplishments.  What I admire about Steve Jobs is that he did not quit, and much of his success came after he had been fired from his own company.   Often we forget that he lost his job at Apple and went on to a pretty mediocre second run with NeXT.  If I could talk with him for 5 minutes I would ask him two questions:

  • What did you learn from your time away from Apple that allowed you to be successful the second time around?
  • How has cancer impacted how you live and how you lead?

On a recent family vacation I dragged my family 30 miles off a main road in Iowa to visit the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa.  It was partly because I was interested in seeing it and partly because I wanted to hear my kids complain for years about what a crazy Dad they had.   I love his movies, got a kick out of the memorabilia that adorned this small house, and the complaining exceeded expectations.  But the thing that impacted me the most was some letters on the wall that came from stars asked to record some memories to put on display in the museum/home that opened shortly after his death.  In a quick summary, George Burns said he “was tall” and Ronald Reagan said he “made great movies”.   I left wondering – That was it?

With Steve Jobs there is lots to talk about and a lot that I don’t know about him, which is all fine.  I just think there is a lot more to him than the touch screens, easy to use products, and well integrated services. 

Steve, thanks for trying again and not giving up.

My Lessons from the The Go-Giver – and why Millenials are way ahead . . .

I do not do a lot of book reviews in this blog, but I just completed The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  First, let me say that I resisted reading this book until three different people that I highly respect recommended it.  The following entry was inspired by the thoughts this book generated.

Why did I start a business?  How do I measure my success?  

When hearing a story of success we often focus on the opportunity presented to make money.  Sometimes a genius (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs) or sometimes an ordinary person (look at the people around your town) see an opportunity to fill a need in the market and turn it into successful business.  We call them entrepreneurs.  In our history as a country, many of our super wealthy focused solely on building their wealth, and became socially concious later in their lives when the “What is my legacy?” question started swirling in their mind.  We should celebrate their conversion, but recognize that they did not start their business with that as a priority.  The Go-Giver fundamentally challenges the notion that giving comes after success.

The Go-Giver generated two questions for me that have been rolling around in my head. 

  • Who (or whom) do you serve?
  • How do you/will you measure success?

I think of some young entrepreneurs I have met recently and they don’t necessarily think of these questions because their answers are already woven into the fabric of their life and business.

For anyone over 35ish, remember there is a generation behind us that has these questions as part of their fabric.  They have experienced  the fragile nature of life (9/11), the uncertainty of employment (2 major economic downturns in 10 years), and the ability to build meaningful relationships with a keyboard (internet).    I wonder how a millenial would view this book?

Worth the read, but don’t do it alone.  Find a partner, with the goal of writing two question that it generates for you.  Then spend your time together trying to answer them.