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How to Show Appreciation In A Way That Makes A Lasting Impact

We had a great time last Saturday as three of my sons graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. It was a fun trip, though it included a two hour visit to a local urgent care facility for a couple of stitches. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you know my son Jon, “enough said.”  
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  As you can imagine there was a lot of congratulating and applauding that took place throughout the trip, but especially at the commencement. All of the celebratory shouting, hugging, and hand shaking got me thinking about a topic. It’s probably one of the most important topics we can consider if we want to be leaders who have significant influence with those we lead.   Significant influence is a powerful lever for creating high levels of engagement with our team members (or family members) and that is what leads to outstanding performance and results.   I remember early on in my leadership journey hearing repeatedly about what truly motivates people. What surprised me was that money was usually not in the top 5 (of research studies). Another thing that surprised me was when one of my mentors told me that appreciation and recognition were almost always #1 and #2. I found that hard to believe as a young leader. But the last 15 years have confirmed the validity of that again and again.   You may have noticed that I listed appreciation and recognition separately. They are distinct. The basic difference is that appreciation is typically given privately or one-on-one. Recognition is public.   I learned many years ago how important it is to know which one people prefer. I actually had a team member who really disliked being publicly recognized. I might even go so far as to say that he hated it. He disliked it so much that if I were to have recognized him publicly I’m confident it would’ve had a negative impact on our relationship.   The other pitfall I have fallen prey to, and have witnessed countless other times, is appreciation expressed poorly. Because of how the feedback was delivered, in some cases, it even wound up having a negative impact.   Give me 30 more seconds and I’ll give you two quick ways you can give appreciation or recognition that will create maximum impact.

Hitting the Target

Most of the time when we think about showing a person appreciation we think of saying things like, “Thank you” or “Great job!” The problem is that while the sentiment is nice, this is one of those times that “it’s the thought that counts” might actually not apply.   1. Be specific about what they did that you appreciated. Hearing “Great job!” feels nice for a few seconds. But often people are left wondering what you meant. Let’s face it. The people you want to appreciate do a lot of things. Which one did they do a great job with? What was it about what they did that you really liked?   The more specific you are with your appreciation the more likely you are to get the behavior repeated. If you aren’t specific you might actually end up leaving the person frustrated because they don’t know what you appreciated. And they aren’t likely to ask.   Saying, “Thank you” is nice, but doesn’t take much effort. Taking the time to clearly think through and then articulate what you appreciated adds tremendously to the weight of your gratitude. It’s a simple, but powerful difference.   Here are two examples:
  • “Bob, I really want to thank you for the amazing detail you provided in that report for me on the fabrication department’s productivity.”
  • “Susan, I really appreciated how you handled that frustrated customer this morning. You were patient and walked them through the situation with great care.”
  2. Clearly identify the positive impact or value of what they did and for whom. It is just as important to tell them how their action or behavior had a positive impact or added value. Don’t assume they are aware of all the benefits that were derived from what they did. In many cases they won’t be. Take the time to be thorough.   Additionally, be clear about who benefited from their actions. There will be many cases where they lack full visibility to the depth or breadth of the impact.   Even if they are aware of all these things, hearing about them from another person is meaningful and rewarding. Just as with the previous point, the fact that you took the time to think this through and share it with them speaks volumes about your true level of appreciation.   Here are two examples connected to the previous point:
  • “The details were extremely helpful because they uncovered some important flaws in our process that could easily have been hidden by numbers reported in summary. If it wasn’t for that report I would have made an incorrect decision on how to proceed. I thank you. Our stockholders thank you. Well done!”
  • “Your ability to handle that customer was witnessed by a number of your co-workers. You perfectly modeled our values and that really helps to reinforce the kind of culture we want here. And, it also allowed me to stay focused on a task that really needed my attention. Thank you!”
Showing appreciation is one of the most effective ways to boost your leadership impact.

Joe Denner


Maximum Impact

This is decidedly one of the best ways to increase the effectiveness of your leadership. American poet Maya Angelou is famously quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Authentic, timely and specific appreciation is a great way to make people feel valued and important. That creates long-term value for you, your team, and all other stakeholders.   Question: What do you need to say to someone on your team or in your family to show appreciation? [question]how-to-show-appreciation[/question]  
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This ONE Thing is Holding You Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s May already. You and I are already one-third through the 2nd quarter. I hope your year is off to as good a start as mine is. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of unpleasant and painful bumps in the road, some of which you may have read about, but all-in-all I’m pleased with the direction things are heading.  
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  There is one thing that has been on my mind quite a bit over the last six months and I’ve been waiting for the right time to engage with you on it. It’s a subject that weighs heavily on me, and I’m pretty sure weighs even more heavily on you.   Do you remember watching Sesame Street when we were growing up? They had this segment with a little ditty that started like this, ”One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”   Unless you’re a solopreneur, or a very rare exception, there’s a good chance that there is someone on your team that doesn’t belong.

One Of These Things

You know exactly who I’m talking about. The bigger problem is that everyone else on your team knows exactly who I’m talking about and they’re waiting for you to do something about it. Every month that passes by without you doing something to remedy the situation serves to erode your team’s trust in your leadership.   You know they need to go. Yet you hesitate.   There are a lot of reasons. Some of them are financial. Some of them are mental or emotional. Maybe you can’t imagine how you’re going to get along without them. Maybe you’re just not sure how you’re going to replace them. Maybe they’re related to you and you’re wondering how Thanksgiving is going to look after that.   Many of the reasons you delay have a measure of validity. On the other hand, I’d like you to consider what it’s costing you to hold back.  

What’s It Really Costing?

Here’s a quick exercise. Add up:
  • the time you spend trying to figure out what to do
  • the time other people are spending talking about the problem or wondering when you’re going to do something about it
  • the time you spend listening to other people complain about the problem
  • the time others spend working around or compensating for the problems with this person
  • the lost hours (productivity) that’s arising from the erosion of your team’s trust in you
  Now take your salary, or an average salary for all involved, add on the all the fringe benefits costs, including payroll taxes, and calculate the hourly rate. Then multiply that hourly rate times the total number of hours that you came up with above.   Next, add the cost of replacing other good employees who have left or will leave because of this person.   What’s the total? The number is astronomical and will only get much larger. And that’s only the financial cost.   In addition to all that, I want you to consider the mental and emotional energy you are expending on this problem. Is it really worth it? Is it really a smart business decision to hold on to this person?  
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Close To Home

I know that family businesses are especially hard hit by this dilemma. In those cases it’s not just the factors I mentioned above, it’s the real damage that can be caused to family relationships. One thing I would ask you to consider is whether the relationship you have with this family member is authentic or is it fabricated because you’re not being honest about your feelings toward them.   Some of my clients have had to deal with these very issues. There’s no sugar coating it. It is unpleasant at the very least and indescribably painful at it’s worst. But leaning into and dealing with it is the best thing for everyone involved. Everyone.   Let me encourage you not to delay any longer. Make the decision, create your plan, and take the first step. It won’t be fun, but you’ll back on this years from now and be glad you did it.   Question: What is the very next action you need to take to get things rolling? Don’t share you answer. Just think about it and then move forward.  
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How to Prevent “Death By Meeting”

Have you ever read “Death By Meeting?” You may not have read it, but you probably feel like you’ve lived it.  
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  I met with a client yesterday who had attended a particular meeting for the first time at his company. I asked him how it went. His response was less than positive and included a distinct eye-roll.   I asked him what the purpose of the meeting was. He couldn’t answer that question. I inquired about what he felt was accomplished during the meeting. Again, no substantive answer.   I’m sure you’re familiar with the sickening feeling that was welling up in my gut as I continued my line of questioning. You’ve been in those meetings, probably more times than you care to remember and certainly more times than you wish to admit. You’ve probably led some of them.   Meetings are certainly not at the top of most people’s wish lists.   However the answer isn’t to eliminate meetings altogether, or even, necessarily, to have less meetings. The important thing is to only have meetings that matter and make a real difference in the life of your organization and in the experience of your customers.   As a leader, the ability to lead productive, effective meetings is an incredibly important skill that you need to learn, and can master.   Here are three quick keys to leading great meetings that people will actually look forward to.

How To Lead Effectively

1. Start and end on time. Do this one thing and you will raise the level of your meetings immediately. Why? Starting late or ending late is simply disrespectful and leads to an enormous waste of time.  
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  While the money wasted is probably astronomical over time, the larger damage to your leadership brand is caused by the disrespect people feel when their time is disregarded. Most people today are extremely busy, overloaded with tremendous demands on their time and talents. Many of those people have carefully planned out their day and have planned around the meeting time you set.   When you fail to start and end on time, you are telling them that their time is not important to you, or that you think your time is more important. Neither message is the message you want to send, if you’re interested in being a person of significant influence.   At your next meeting give your team fair warning that, going forward, your meetings will begin and end on time. I encourage you to apologize for your past missteps and for being disrespectful of their time. Tell them it’s time that you start a new chapter. End the meeting on time and remind them of the new practice.   When you send out the next meeting invite, tell them one more time and follow through on your commitment. Start on time and end on time. Make it a sacred habit in your organization. People will respect you for it, and likely will begin to follow your example.   2. Be clear on the purpose and desired outcome(s) for your meeting. It’s important that we all know why we’re here, where we’re headed, and what success looks like. This eliminates confusion and enables everyone to bring their most valuable contribution.   Too often we get sucked into the minutia and can easily lose our way. By clearly establishing the target, you and others are able to keep the meeting on track, or make necessary course corrections along the way, so you reach the intended destination by the end of the meeting.   This step is especially important for keeping your intuitive, big picture thinkers fully engaged. If the purpose isn’t clear, you’re going to lose them and their energy quickly. It’s also important for recurring meetings. When you meet week after week or month after month, it’s easy for things to become mundane unless you keep a meaningful target clearly in view.   One useful tool to minimize distractions and “rabbit trails” is the Parking Lot. Whenever someone brings up something that is off-topic, put it onto a list called the Parking Lot. This allows you to come back to it in a later meeting without derailing the current one or devaluing the person’s contribution.   3. End the meeting with clarity of action. Start the meeting with clarity of purpose. End the meeting with clarity around clearly defined next actions. I talk about “next actions” more in my e-book, “10 Ways to Live on Purpose.”   Because of a variety of deficiencies, some which I’ve already mentioned, people often lose interest or steam by the end of the meeting. Everyone heads for the exits and very few, if any, have a clear idea about what’s been accomplished or agreed upon.   This will literally kill the productivity of your meetings.   Regardless of how well you’ve led the meeting up to this point, it’s essential to the bottom-line effectiveness of your meeting that you end by clearly identifying Who will do What by When.   Execution of the plans made or solutions identified rarely happens during the meeting. That’s not what meetings are for. So, it’s critical that people leave knowing exactly what each person is responsible for and when it must be completed. Ensure there is full agreement on this.  
Leading productive meetings will strengthen your leadership brand.

Joe Denner


Take Steps Forward

Meetings are an essential part of the life of any successful organization. Implementing these simple steps will transform your results and how people in your organization think and feel about the meetings you schedule.   Question: Which aspect do you think would have the most immediate, positive impact on your meetings? [question]prevent-death-by-meeting[/question]  
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Six Ways to Handle Conflict Effectively

I spend a good portion of my time working with CEO’s and senior leaders of small businesses. One of the primary topics we deal with together is how to effectively handle conflict. Some of the conflicts have been relatively small, but others have completely changed the landscape of their organization.  
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  If there’s one thing I‘ve learned over the years it’s that conflict is inevitable. It is positively unavoidable. That may sound like a defeatist attitude, but I think you know it’s true.   Three important things at this point. First, though conflict is unavoidable, too many people try to act as if it weren’t. They either falsely believe that if they just doing everything right they can avoid it. This is a delusion. Or more often, once it does raise it’s ugly head, they actually do avoid it at all cost. And the cost of avoiding can become enormous.   Second, I didn’t say that a bad outcome was inevitable. As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that you, yes you, can become (if you’re not already) extremely skilled at handling conflict in a way that leads to very positive outcomes on a consistent basis   Third, conflict can be a very good thing. When handled well, it leads to deeper and stronger relationships built on understanding and trust. I believe that if an organization’s leaders can learn to model and mentor skillful conflict resolution, it can become a clear competitive advantage.   Disclaimer: Nothing I, or anyone else, can teach you will guarantee a positive outcome. You can only control your part of the conflict. However, the more skilled you become at these things, the more likely you will be to succeed and create a track record of successes.   Dive in with me as we take a brief look at six ways to handle conflict effectively.

Keys to Producing Positive Outcomes

We are going to approach this from the perspective of you being the one to initiate a difficult conversation. Most of these will still apply even if you are the one who has been confronted.   1. Prepare your own heart and mind first. This is foundational. As I already stated, you can only control yourself in a conflict, so it is paramount that you prepare well, whenever possible. Examine your motives and clearly understand your goals. Prepare yourself to be at your very best.   Here are three questions you can ask yourself with regards to your goals for the conversation:
  • What do I want for myself?
  • What do I want for the other person?
  • What do I want for the relationship?
  I realize that you won’t always have time to do in-depth preparation, but if you make this a habit, you can do a quick version even if you get thrust into a situation unexpectedly.   2. Create and maintain safety. This is the first major piece of the blocking and tackling of working through conflict…no pun intended. No blocking or tackling allowed. Without this there is no meaningful forward progress. If a person doesn’t feel safe they won’t participate in an authentic way.   Whenever we sense danger we move into fight or flight mode. Neither of these mindsets leads to a productive conversation. When we feel safe, we are more likely to open up and share what we are really thinking and feeling. The authors of “Crucial Conversations” do an excellent job of laying out both the importance of and methods for this.   Briefly, let me share the authors’ insight. You create safety by establishing a mutual, or shared, purpose. When you identify and get acknowledgement of something that you both want it has the effect of bringing you together and putting you on common ground.   Safety is maintained by mutual respect. If both parties continue to treat one another with dignity and respect, and the common goal is kept in sight, safety should remain and foster the right environment.  
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  3. Address the issue, don’t attack the person. Be specific in naming and describing the issue as you are experiencing it. Addressing actions (behavior) is fair game, but you want to avoid attacking them or their character. This will only destroy the safety you’ve created and severely hinder progress.   One of the most common ways to stay focused on the issue is by using “I” statements. Here are some examples:
  • I feel/felt like…
  • It seemed to me…
  • I sensed…
  • I wondered…
  The bottom line is to address what was done or said and how that impacted you, especially if this was an isolated incident. If it is a pattern of behavior then the pattern and its effects are the issues that needs attention. In either case you are addressing choices they are making.   4. Take ownership of your part of the issue. It takes two to tango, as the old saying goes. There are going to be very, very rare occasions where a conflict is completely the fault of one party. Most of the time you will be able to identify some way in which you have contributed to the issue, if you are honest with yourself.   The key is to come with an attitude of humility and a willingness to take responsibility where it is appropriate. Your contribution may have been to avoid the issue. Or maybe you exacerbated the issue by the way you responded.   I am not asking you to make up things to confess or to own something that is not yours to own. However, if you fail to take any ownership, it is much more likely that the person will feel attacked.   5. Ask for their input and perspective. Now that you have had a chance to set the table it is time to listen. Be clear and succinct with your input and then turn your attention to them. Come into the conversation, from the very beginning, with a genuine desire to understand.   I have written previously about the skills of active listening and asking powerful questions. This is a perfect time to implement these tools. The better you understand the other person and their perspective, the better able you will be to navigate the conversation and move it toward a positive resolution.   6. Work toward agreement. Winning is not the goal. If we come to win, safety will never be established. That’s why we begin with establishing the win-win element. The minute someone feels as though your goal is domination or victory, they will revert to fight or flight mode (unless they have read this blog and can fight off those feelings to work toward re-establishing safety).   Pursue the win-win. This may involve some level of compromise on your part, but only compromise when you feel that it is an appropriate decision and serves the greater good. Otherwise, continue to work toward the kind of agreement that serves the win-win that you both identified at the beginning.  
Conflict can be a very positive thing…if you handle it skillfully.

Joe Denner

    There is no silver bullet when it comes to conflict. However, following these steps, and becoming skilled in their use will go a long way toward creating favorable results. You cannot control the outcome. You can only control how you participate. But the way you participate can have a huge, positive impact.  

You’re Invited

I want to thank you for being a part of my blog. I especially enjoy the opportunity to interact with you when you have a comment or question. It really adds value to the whole experience.   Finally, I had told you a couple of months ago that we would let you know when our management training product was being released. Well, the time is getting very close. And, to sweeten the pot we have decided to offer it to our audience at a very special, limited-time price of only $297. That is a 67% discount, or a savings of $600.   We have started taking pre-orders and wanted to get this out to you early in the game. The product will be releasing on April 14th, but at a much higher rate. So, I invite you to get in on this great deal and soak up all of the valuable material that this online video course has to offer. Check out this deal. Make sure to use offer code PRE16ORDER7DAYS to get the discount.   Question: Which of these steps will present the biggest challenge for you? [question]handle-conflict-effectively[/question]  
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Three Reasons Why You Should Have a Spring Training

It was 40 degrees on Saturday here in the gloomy, overcast Midwest of these great United States. What made that even more difficult to bear was that I landed at O’Hare that morning after just having enjoyed two gorgeous, sun-filled, 90-degree days in Phoenix, AZ. I can still feel the warmth even as I write to you now.  
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  My son Phil and I were enjoying our first-ever experience with Major League Baseball’s Spring Training. We flew out to Phoenix to catch our favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, playing against the Arizona Diamondbacks and then the Chicago White Sox.   It was a lot of fun. Everything and everyone was super relaxed. And why shouldn’t it be that way. The sun is shining. It’s 80 or 90 degrees (dry heat). The stands are full of happy, relaxed fans. And every day is a great day at the old ballpark.   Oh, and more importantly, none of this counts. It’s all practice. If you strike out, no one remembers. If you make a mistake running the bases, you’ll get another chance tomorrow. If you give up a home run, you can laugh it off. And, everybody wants your autograph.   As I sat by the pool early on Friday after a morning swim, it hit me. Those of us in leadership (and parenting) should be creating our own mini spring training’s whenever we can. As we seek to develop new leaders and allow people room for growth, we need to be intentional about creating safe places for people to fail (and succeed).   We need to be intentional about creating places and opportunities for them to hone their skills and spread their wings without risking the farm or sinking the ship.   All the major sports have a pre-season that works the same way. But one of the keys is that they are in a live environment, with a real opponent and real umpires. For some of the games there’s even real ESPN televising the game to real people all over the real world – like the one we were at on Thursday.   Let’s take a look at three quick reasons why creating your own version of Spring Training will serve you and your customers very well.

Ways to Stretch

1. It’s a chance to hone important skills. When we were at the game on Thursday we were talking with some of the folks around us. They mentioned that earlier that week Cub’s ace pitcher, Jake Arrieta, had walked a batter on purpose, just so he could work on pitching out of the stretch position. I could imagine a pitcher doing the same thing to work on his pick-off move to first base.   You can’t do that during the regular season. Manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t look very kindly on such a move, especially if that runner scored later in the inning. But, this was Spring Training. It’s the perfect time to do something like that. Because even if the guy does score, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have any bearing on the team’s success.   Spring Training is a time for base runners to work on stealing bases or figuring out whose arm they can challenge on trying to get an extra base. It’s a time for players to hone their hand-eye coordination and work on their judgment and decision-making.   In a business setting you and I need to be looking for ways to do the same thing. We need to be intentional about creating situations where we, or other team members, can practice and hone our skills in areas where we already have a level of competence.   Role playing is one good way to begin this process. But, eventually, you have to get people into a live environment or you will fall short of the full benefits. They need to get in front of real prospects or customers where the risks are real, but relatively low.   2. It’s a chance to try and develop new skills. Spring Training is the time for pitchers to work on new pitches they would like to add to their repertoire. It’s a time for batters to try out new or different aspects of their stance or their swing. It’s a perfect opportunity to play someone at a position they’ve never played before, just to see how they do.   My son Phil is still pretty new to the world of social media. But, I am giving him a lot of opportunities to try new things. We talk through strategies, and often review his plans together, but I have given him the lead on this for our business because it is a relatively safe place for him to learn and try new things.   The other thing we’ll be doing is creating opportunities for him to do Myers-Briggs training. This is one of the things he’s most excited about. Before, I send him out to work with our clients, we’ll be doing some dry runs with family members and people in our local community, where the risk of making mistakes is much lower.   3. It’s a chance to give the young kids a taste of the “big time.” All the big name players from the clubs have their usual number and name on the back of their jerseys. In baseball most of those numbers range from #1 to #59. But we saw a lot of younger guys wearing numbers like 83 and 98, and with no name at all on their backs.   These are the newbies. Most of them will not make the big club, at least this year, but play for one of the team’s minor league affiliates. But the coaches think they have some promise or they wouldn’t be here at all.   This is their chance to play on a major league field with and against major league caliber players. Many of them will get a chance to bat against an all-star or even an hall-of-fame-bound pitcher. By the same token, some of these young pitchers will get to face some of the best hitters in the game.   They will spend time in the locker room, at the practice field, and even out on the town with some of guys they would call their heroes. It’s a chance to give them a taste of the real-deal, without all the pressure.   In the same way we need to be taking some of our newbies and allowing them to work on projects with some of our veterans. You will likely need to make some sacrifices to do that. It’s going to cost you, but the investment is well worth it.   I had a manager (client) recently who tried to put a younger worker with a seasoned foreman so the foreman could teach him some important skills. He got a lot of pushback from the Project Manager because of the extra time that would be charged to his job. In situations like that I think companies need to find a way not to penalize job costs (and related commissions) for training investments.  
Your team members need safe places to fail – or succeed – in order to reach their full potential.

Joe Denner


What’s At Stake

If we refuse to be intentional about providing safe places for our team members (or children) to fail, we will limit their growth or unnecessarily prolong the timeframe for their development.   Look for ways to proactively move the process forward for key members of your team or household. If you do it well, you won’t regret it. And they will thank you.   Question: What is one thing you can do today to create a safe place for one of your high potential team members to fail? [question]spring-train[/question]  
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