Three things a manager needs to coach

Three things a manager needs to coach:

  1. Establish expectations
  2. Continually coach
  3. Create accountability
  1. Establish expectations

According to Gallup, employees whose manager involves them in setting goals is four times more likely to be engaged. But only 30% of employees ever get this opportunity.

  1. Continually coach

Employees are three times more likely to be engaged if they get daily feedback than annual feedback.

  1. Create accountability

Metrics are needed.

Learn moreStrong Management – Strengths based training for managers to help their people be at their best.


(data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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Five steps to building a strengths-based culture

According to Gallup, there are five steps to building a strengths-based culture. 

  1. Start with the CEO or it doesn’t work.
  2. Require every employee to discover their strengths.
  3. Build an internal network of strengths coaches.
  4. Integrate strengths into performance management.
  5. Transform your learning programs.

Here are some notes on each of these.

  1. Start with the CEO or it doesn’t work.

People watch what their leaders do and say. And there’s a finely honed BS detector. In team building sessions if I see the leader isn’t engaged and involved, I know the team is going to struggle – during the activity and beyond.

  1. Require every employee to discover their strengths.

Using StrengthsFinder or MBTI gives everyone on a team a common language to talk about unique abilities.

  1. Build an internal network of strengths coaches.

Who are your strengths champions in the organization? How can they coach your high potentials?

  1. Integrate strengths into performance management.

Mangers need to know their own strengths and use them. Then they need to know their people’s strengths and unlock them.

  1. Transform your learning programs.

Get rid of any learning programs that don’t focus on strengths. Strengths are your rocket fuel.

Learn more: Strong Management –  Strengths based training for managers to help their people be at their best.


(data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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Six changes Millennials and Generation Z want

Millennials (born 1980-1996) and Gen Z (born after 1996) want something new from work. According to Gallup, here are six ‘wants’ that are different.

Past (workers used to want this)Future
My paycheck My purpose
My satisfactionMy development
My bossMy coach
My annual reviewMy ongoing conversations
My weaknessesMy strengths
My jobMy life

What does this mean?

  1. A paycheck is no longer enough. There needs to be meaning to the work. Who and how is this helping?
  2. Beer kegs and ping pong tables don’t get workers excited anymore. Their growth is what they care about.
  3. Less hierarchy, more help.
  4. Feedback once a year is useless. Short ongoing feedback, especially digitally, instead.
  5. Strengths develop infinitely. Focus on strengths.
  6. “Does this organization care about who I am, what I do well? Can I do what I do best every day? If not, I’m gone.”

Learn more: Generations Collaborate – Learn about the different generations that make up your workforce and team. Set the stage for true collaboration on your team by finding out what makes each generation unique, how they prefer to communicate, get work done, their triggers for excellent performance, and their triggers for conflict.


(data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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Someone is waiting at the cross walk

Someone is waiting to cross the street. The person is standing there as traffic streams by both directions. There may or may not be a cross walk there. Or that person is on a bicycle, also waiting. You’re in your car and you see the person. You may or may not know if they’ve been waiting a while or just got there. What do you do?

While I was waiting on the cross-walk of the Norwottuck Rail Trail, someone stopped for me in one direction, the side I was closest to. We could make eye contact. I waved in thanks to him and started across the street. Seeing that car stopped, the next car coming in the other direction then slowed and stopped, allowing me to fully cross. I carried on, a little more inspired about the human race, at least on that sunny Sunday morning.

That’s how influence works. One act of generosity influences/shames another person to also be generous. Norms – unspoken standards of behavior – are created constantly throughout the day based on where we are and who we are with. The airport has norms, the airplane has norms, the subway or train has norms. The rush hour traffic in New Jersey has norms. We are – unconsciously – what those around us repeatedly are.

And when someone sets a higher standard, in this case as simple as delaying his journey 30 seconds, it influences another driver in a different vehicle to do the same. 

Behavior is contagious, emotions are contagious. 

So, going back to the first paragraph. You’re in the car. What do you do? What norm will you choose to live by? What influence do you want to be on your world?

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Are you still above ground? Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams has played his entire NBA career there with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was traded to the Rockets over the summer. This will be the first year that New Zealander (one of only four Kiwis to ever play in the NBA) Adams will be there without him. 

“Obviously it’s a bit tough, mate,” he replied when asked how it felt to lose his teammate, “but you know, you deal with it. Still above ground.”

Still above ground. 

The more comfortable our lives get – and they’re pretty comfortable compared to 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 200 years ago…even 10 years ago – that comfort doesn’t seem to lessen the tragedy we feel when unwanted things happen. The difference? 

The more comfortable we get, the smaller the things we get upset about. A dropped call while driving, shaky wifi makes you wait while streaming something, an extra-long traffic light. The grand parade of smallness that upset marches on all day, sunrise to sunset.

One antidote?

Still above ground.

Sure, get upset that your coffee isn’t as hot as you’d like. AND say out loud, “still above ground.”

That gift of being above ground is with us every moment we’re alive and can be recognized any time to bring a wider perspective to the daily discomforts that wear the mask of tragedy.

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What happens if you ask for happiness?

“If you ask the grail for happiness, that demand precludes happiness. But if you serve the grail properly, you will find that what happens and happiness are the same thing.” – Robert Johnson

The grail mythology says we are on a life quest for something precious, something unique, something just out of sight…yet in plain sight. We just don’t have the eyes for it yet.

Many of us choose pleasure, some form of happiness as an unspoken grail. 

If you demand happiness? That’s a sure way of being unhappy. As William Blake wrote, “it is right it should be so, man was made for joy and woe.”

What if you don’t struggle against what happens in life, that mixture of joy and woe?

Johnson says we will find happiness in what happens. The war is over.

Blake agreed, “joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine.”

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This isn’t music

“This isn’t music!” I said to myself in frustration. Clearing out file after file of song charts and show notes, I thought, “what a waste!” 

All that time over the last decades I thought I was working on music. I wasn’t. I was ‘preparing to work on music’. Preparing for a future that is never going to come. Bag after bag into the recycling bin.

I had to go through that process – preparing instead of doing, then finally purging. It’s what brought me here to this moment. And it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

But when a core realization – “this isn’t music, actually playing music is music!” – lands it’s vital to pay attention. 

We can prepare for something until the end of our days, but the next, scary step is what actually makes our dreams come true – actually doing it. Time to make music.

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Ready, Fire, Aim

They decided not to use their planning time and leaped into Better Get Better. The first results were not good. “That’s our score? That’s it?” 

Subsequent rounds weren’t much better. It wasn’t until the debriefing at the end of the activity that a quiet man who had hung back during the exercise said, “I was really frustrated. We didn’t have a plan. We need a plan for success. It’s just like the way we dive in at work without looking.” 

Every team has one of two blind spots. Some take too much time planning and never get around to action in time. 

But most teams are itching for action and don’t want to do the hard work of ‘nothing apparently getting done’ at the beginning to come up with a plan of attack. The tension is too much for them. I call it, “ready, fire, aim.” 

The same team, when forced to take their full planning time in the next activity aced it. The same gentleman simply said, “See?” to a few sheepish but exhilarated faces. They had seen.

The next activity, no forcing was needed. The team took their planning time and came up with a plan to ace it. It was a good one. It needed tweaking on the fly – all plans do – but the results were incredible.

Today, like every day, gives our teams a choice. Will it be ready-fire-aim? Or will we be brave and aim first?

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If you’re a leader is safety or happiness more important to focus on for your people?

If you are a leader, start with making your people feel safe. Address their fears first. Then work your way up to happy. Calming the amygdala in the brain is the first step. Then you can engage the frontal cortex. That’s the order. 

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Safe or happy?

The amygdala part of the brain wants to keep us safe. It’s its primary function.

The frontal cortex part of the brain developed after the amygdala. It is more interested in whether you’re happy, fulfilled, have good connections with the people you care about or not.

In any given moment one or the other is in charge. Not both.

So that means in any given moment – like this one – you’re either focused on feeling safe or being happy. What we say we want and what we act like in daily life are often two different things.

Lastly, safe and happy are in two different categories. They don’t happen at the same time. When I say ‘happy’ here I’m not talking ‘yay!’ Happiness in this case is a sense of fulfillment of flourishing of being at your best. You won’t find safety there. This is the Hero’s Journey – the trip into the scary unknown. You leave safety in search of happiness.

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