How to Become a Light in the Fog

Dan Rockwell writes some great blog posts on leadership. This one resonated with me this morning, and I thought I should repost it. Thank you, Dan!

I’ve heard managers complain, “These people just don’t get it.”

Poor management is the reason people inside organizations are in the fog.

confusion is your opportunity to become a light in the fog

Impose the job of creating clarity on yourself. Stop complaining about people who don’t get it. Confusion in others is your opportunity to become a light in the fog.

Lean into confusion, not away from it.  Confusion is your friend.

Managers who embrace and then solve confusion move forward. Everyone else is lost in the fog, even if they’re working hard.

Ron Wallace, former president of UPS International has a plan for lifting the fog.

4 ways to become a light in the fog:

#1. State your expectations and then follow up.

“There is nothing more frustrating for motivated people than not knowing exactly what is expected of them.” Ron Wallace in Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver

  1. Describe the results you want.
  2. Explain the standards the results must meet.
  3. Define the deadline. (Is it flexible or set.)
  4. Set the budget.
  5. Identify resources.
  6. Relate any constraints (sacred cows to avoid).
  7. Establish the when and how of reporting progress.
  8. Outline how performance will be measured.
  9. Make yourself available to help.

#2. Translate expectations into deliverables.

Explain expectations. Don’t tell talented people how to deliver.  “You placed these people in positions because they know how to do it.” Wallace

#3. Hold people accountable.

“If you don’t follow through with both inspections and acknowledgements, it is easy for people to think that what they’re doing isn’t important.” Wallace

#4. Check your own progress regularly.

“The gap between a leader’s expectations and a follower’s actions is usually more about their relationship than it is about matters of substance.” Wallace

You find success by delivering results through relationships.

How might leaders/managers create greater clarity?

Original post can be found here: Light in the Fog

Overcoming the Shoe Drop Syndrome

I have followed Dan Rockwells’ Leadership Freak Blog for some time, and I have benefited from reading his posts. This one is particularly good. In part because I have an intense dislike for the critique sandwich. The praise always comes across as insincere. And I prefer a good roast beef sandwich to a bologna (baloney) sandwich any day.

Dan’s insights here are profound, and I will change my approach because of it. That is why I share it here with you.

Recall Carnegie’s admonition to be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” The baloney sandwich is neither.

If you enjoy this, check out Dan’s other posts at Leadership Freak. He is at a place where I am striving to be with my blog.

Here’s Dan on giving praise properly:

Shoe drop syndrome: Waiting for the bad news, after receiving the good.

Manipulative leaders use praise as the channel to give the bad news that’s really on their mind. Everyone ignores the good, and waits for the other shoe to drop.

search for the good

Feedback sandwich:

The feedback sandwich is filled with baloney.

You start and end with praise and slip the baloney in between. Go ahead, use praise as a courtesy, when delivering tough news, but don’t expect it to stick.

If the only praise you give is in preparation for bad news, you’re a jerk.

Search for the good. The stink finds you all by itself.

10 ways to look for the good:

  1. Schedule a daily walk about to look only for praiseworthy behaviors. Take 15 minutes every day this week to bring it up and brag it up.
  2. Use language that expresses emotion. I’m so proud to work here when I see ______.
  3. Think about things that are running smoothly. What isn’t broken?
  4. Seize imperfect moments to offer imperfect praise. Don’t wait for the perfect moment.
  5. Compliment small things. If you wait for the big stuff, you wait too long.
  6. Complete this sentence. I respect you for ______.
  7. Acknowledge effort as well as achievement.
  8. When you see behaviors you want more of, complement it right then.
  9. Who gets along, serves, speaks truth to power, or goes the extra mile?
  10. Use virtual channels if your team is spread across the globe.

Bonus: Ask, “What’s working?”

Look for:

  1. Energy.
  2. Reliability.
  3. Creativity.
  4. Loyalty.
  5. Endurance.
  6. Integrity.
  7. Skill.


Pour energy into contributors.

Don’t allow poor performers to consume your time, attention, and energy. Give them a chance. Help them step up. Offer training. But, don’t let compassion or hope be the reason you neglect high performers.

Focus on high performers and people who are growing, if you want great achievement.

How might leaders aggressively search for the good?

Re-posted from: Leadership Freak

Good Leaders Listen

A number of years ago, I worked as a laborer for a mechanical contractor. We helped build the former Main Street Mall in Park City, Utah. As tenants began to occupy the building, it became apparent that there were some problems with the cooling system.

A meeting was called for all the contractors and many of the subcontractors who worked on the construction of the mall, presumably to discuss the problem. I happened to be there, too, and I learned a great lesson. These busy contractors sat in the room waiting for a constructive discussion. Randy Fields, at that time the “Mr. Fields” to Mrs. Fields of cookie fame, and a principal investor in the building, strode into the room.

Without any acknowledgement or introduction, he began: “We have a problem! I don’t care what it is or who is responsible: just fix it!” Then his tirade was over, and he left.

To say that we were all astonished would be an understatement. These contractors were busy men. They took time away from other projects to attend a 30-second meeting that accomplished exactly nothing. Except that it made a lasting impression on me. And the vast majority of them did not need to be there.

Fast forward to a recent committee meeting I attended. We had a brief agenda, and finished quickly (which does not often happen). Then our supervisor announced “Since we have some time left, I would like for us to have a frank discussion.” He proceeded to talk for 12 of the next 15 minutes, and honestly, he did not receive any meaningful feedback from any of us.

What did these two meetings have in common? The “facilitator” was not interested in listening; only in presenting and defending his own position.

Good leaders listen. A leader who doesn’t listen is more tyrant than leader. It is important for a connected leader to hear and consider what his people have to say. In our church councils, the leader has the ultimate decision-making authority, but the leaders I have served with consider the opinions of all before they present their decisions.

This is why many organizations follow parliamentary procedure: so that all participants may feel that their voice is heard.

An effective leader must be prepared to manage discussions in meetings. At the same time, he can receive useful information that will help him to fulfill his responsibilities.

When a leader cuts off discussion by defending the status quo, or by pushing his or her own agenda, the other attendees will cease to be followers. Particularly in a committee or council setting, it is important that everyone (within reason) feels that his opinion is valued. Many members will be reluctant to contribute if they feel that this is not the case.

Covey taught “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.” Effective leadership demands that we truly listen to our “followers” with the respect we would expect if the roles were reversed. That is often our biggest challenge as leaders. All too frequently we are thinking of what we will say next instead of listening attentively.

I have become a good listener because I have significant hearing loss. That bears some explanation. I have 50% hearing loss in my right ear. This creates difficulty for me in noisy rooms and many social situations. And if you are sitting on my right side, I won’t hear you well. While I do not read lips, if I don’t look at the person conversing with me, I cannot hear them well. Eye contact supports my ear contact. And I can see accompanying facial expressions, too.

Try this for a week. When you converse with someone, direct your full attention to the individual who is speaking. You will be amazed at what you hear.

Listen and lead!