An Individualized Approach to Developing Your Employees

“No matter how much success you’re having, you cannot continue working together if you can’t communicate” –James Cameron

Managers play a critical role in developing the people on their teams. Without strong leaders and a strategic management plan, people often become complacent or feel unfulfilled and “stuck” in their jobs. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. recently shared A Winning Approach to Employee Development, making it personalized to the individual by noting the following for each direct report:

  • Individualized assessments of the employee’s potential
  • Employee’s career and development goals
  • Identifying employee’s motivators. Such as do they appreciate acts of service (helping them)? Gifts (coffee cards, lunch certificates)? Quality time (regular meetings, going out to lunch together)? Words of affirmation? Etc.
  • Identifying the employee’s preferred work personality style (DiSC)

Curious about how to tailor your development approach to the employee’s preferred work styles using DiSC?  Here are some simple ways to get started:

  • For D-style employees, consider development opportunities that have the potential for impressive results, as success is typically their bottom line. Review the big picture with them and encourage them to come up with appropriate long-term goals.
  • When working with i-styles, allow them to lead small groups, as they thrive in a collaborative environment. Help them stay focused by pointing out the negative consequences of not taking enough time to develop skills with deliberate effort. 
  • For developing S-style team members, be mindful to push them gently to grow and develop—slow and steady tends to win with them. Show them that they have what it takes to work autonomously, and don’t be afraid to offer constructive feedback when necessary. 
  • With C-styles, try putting development opportunities into clear, well-organized framework. Make sure that these independent and logic-driven employees see the drawbacks of always playing it safe, and remind them to fill you in on their progress.

By communicating with our employees in the way they are wired/prefer, shows them we see and hear them – making them feel valued.  And that is a critical component to developing people.

Aha! Leadership is an authorized partner for Everything DiSC® and its tools and assessments.  If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or your employees, please email

Challenge: Touch Emails Only Once – 2 Easy Tips

Let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again?  Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. You’re just procrastinating.

I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once, then take the appropriate action. The goal is “Inbox: 0” every day. Now, honestly, I don’t do it every day.

I do it almost every day, and I always keep my emails under a hundred. But I have met people who have thousands of emails in their inbox—with hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand, unread. This is not helpful. Not only is it potentially bad for your personal brand, it also makes email far more time-consuming than it needs to be.

The key is not to get bogged down, to keep moving, to deal with each email message once and only once. The way you do this is to start by asking, is this email actionable? Does somebody expect me to do something with this email, or is it asking me to do something?

  • If no, there are three possibilities;
  • If yes, there are three different possibilities.

These are taken from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. And this summary will help you deal specifically with your email.


If the answer to the question ‘Is this email actionable?’ is NO, then you have three options.

  • Delete it. Yes, there really is a delete key when it comes to email. My own philosophy is if it’s really important, somebody else somewhere in the world has a copy.
  • Add it to you Someday/Maybe list. If I don’t want to lose the idea but there’s nothing to do with it just yet, I can drag it into Evernote or a saved folder and return to it another time.
  • File it. When in doubt, file. Why? Because you can always get back to it if need be, and it really doesn’t take up a lot of space. Here is what’s important: I use one and only one folder for my filing. It’s called “Processed Email.” The reason I do this is because it keeps me from getting distracted and wasting time. The moment I have to start answering questions like, “Where am I going to file this? This is about Project X from Client Y, so do I file it in Project X? Or do I file it under Client Y? What if it’s about two projects? Do I make a copy and put a copy in each folder?” It can become very complex very quickly. And that means time down the drain. Instead, I just put it all in one folder and let the software do the searching when I need to find that message. I can get back to almost any message in a matter of seconds. It takes less time than me having to remember what folder I filed it in. But what if the email is actionable?



  • Just do it. Here is where I use David Allen’s two-minute rule. If you can take care of the action in two minutes or less, why even take the time to put it in your task list? You run the risk of losing it, not getting back to it, or not being as responsive as you’d like to be. So just go ahead and do it.
  • Defer it. It may need to get done, but it doesn’t need to get done now. So go ahead and put it on your calendar, create a reminder, but defer the action until a later time. You can drag the email to Processed and set a reminder in a task manager like Basecamp. You can also drag the email into Evernote or Notes and add a reminder. Email apps like Dropbox’s Mailbox let you defer emails with a swipe or place it on a todo list. However you manage it, the thing is to get it out of your email inbox.
  • Delegate it. I am preaching to myself here, by the way. I’m kind of a control freak, and I have this unspoken assumption that nobody can do it as well as I can do it. But the simple truth is that we’re not always the best person to handle every task. You probably have other people on your team more competent than you at one task or another. They may be colleagues. They could be contractors.


Recommended Resource: Robyn Marcotte’s note:   One of our favorite Podcasts is Michael Hyatt’s Lead to Win

Check it out here:


Source: Excerpt From Michael Hyatt’s “How To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week”

Create Accountability—Reignite Your 1:1 Meetings

Great 1:1 meetings drive accountability by continuously keeping top priorities, top priorities.


If you feel that your one-on-ones aren’t especially useful, then it’s time to improve your process. I truly find that 1:1’s are the single most important meetings of my week. It helps me set expectations, communicate priorities, and listen to the struggles/challenges that each person on my team is having.  When done well, 1:1’s drive engagement and accountability.


Trap: Don’t get caught by the misconception that 1:1’s are just another meeting or that the “open door” policy is better.  I truly believe by focusing 30 min of time each week on each of your direct reports, you will free up hours of meetings by delegating decision making power, and eliminate last-minute fire drills by getting ahead of problems before they blow up while results by motive each person to stay focused on your team’s top priorities.  When done well you will also reduce email and phone calls because both of you have a predetermined weekly time to talk through or share key information.


How to create more effective 1:1 meetings

1-Recurring, scheduled meetings:  Weekly, bi-weekly depending on your role/business.

2-Brief – 30 minutes.  It may look like this:

15-20 min:  Progress on goals and priorities

  • Progress should be reviewed for each goal; share with your leader any issues or blockers they may need to help with to ensure that the target will be achieved.

5 min:  Share recent accomplishments – ask for feedback

  • Ask for feedback from your leader. Any good work or praiseworthy behavior should be recognized and encouraged. Be open to it. It is a gift!

5-10 min:  Development and open-ended Communication

  • Leave this open in the agenda – where does your leader need help? It may be an opportunity!!
  • What are you working to further your career development? Discuss ideas.

3-Location:  Consider having your one on one meeting outside or out of the office – the change of venue can contribute to a more relaxed session.

4-Timing:  Consider the timing for the recurring meeting.  4pm on Friday is not ideal for a focused conversation about your career development.

5-Commit to your 1 to 1 meeting – make it a priority: The first thing you need to do is make your one on one meeting a priority. It’s easy to skip meetings, so schedule a recurring calendar event each week to ensure the appropriate time is set aside.

6-Establish the 1:1 Meeting Agenda Format:  Setting a mutually agreeable agenda allows the both participants to show up prepared and with aligned expectations.

7-Prepare so you can look forward, not backward:  Thoughtful preparation. If you submit your template to your leader the day before your one on one meeting, each will arrive at the meeting knowing what will be discussed and allow you to spend the bulk of your time looking to the future, brainstorming, creating action items, and connecting personally.

8-Focus on you and your projects and development:  Avoid discussing other employees’ work during your time together, unless it’s specifically applicable to the conversation.

3 Excuses Leaders Make to Avoid Hard Decisions

Leaders have to make hard decisions, and the further you are in your leadership journey the more tough calls you have to make. As a leader, it’s important to know not only how to make tough calls, but when to make them.

All too often leaders push tough decisions down the road.  Hard decisions get more complicated the longer they’re deferred, and delays can cause more damage than whatever fallout the leader was trying to avoid.

As a leader, you can learn to recognize when you are putting off making a decision because it seems unpleasant. Here are three of the most common excuses, and their consequences:

  1. “I’m being considerate of others.” If leader is afraid of disappointing their team they might delay a tough decision. This only puts off the inevitable emotional fall-out, and gives team members less time to process their disappointment.
  2. “I’m committed to quality and accuracy.” If a leader is uncomfortable with uncertainty they may delay action under the guise of gathering more data. This behavior sends the signal that “looking right” is more important than “doing right”.
  3. “I want to be seen as fair.” Instead of recognizing high performers and coaching low performers, leaders may fall back on treating every member of their team in the exact same way. This type of behavior can undermine performance and ultimately cause friction down the line.

As a leader, how you make hard calls shapes the culture of your team, and the culture of your organization. These excuses teach team members that self-protection and self-interest are legitimate motivations for making difficult choices. Whatever temporary pain you might incur from making a tough call should pale in comparison to building a culture of thoughtful, positive decision-making.

(Adapted from Harvard Business Review)

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” – Nelson Mandela

3 Tips to Create Lasting Motivation

If motivation were an exact science, leaders would have no problem keeping their teams motivated and moving forward. From experience we know that motivation is an art that requires a mindful approach. Especially when our goal is to motivate others to do something not because they were asked, but because they want to do it. Inspiring this kind of lasting motivation is an important skill for leaders to develop.

Here are three strategies for how you can motivate others in a way that lasts:

  1. Model motivation. Make sure you are motivated, because that sets the tone for your team. If you’re lacking passion, eventually your team is going to lack passion. If you lack motivation, your team is going to lack motivation. The team follows the tone the leader sets.
  2. Create a culture of appreciation. The single biggest reason a person leaves an organization is they don’t feel appreciated. If you want to motivate, appreciate. Appreciate more than you think you should, and then double the appreciation you show.
  3. Address performance issues directly. One of the most demotivating things we can do is consistently accept unacceptable performance. Ignoring destructive behaviors means the whole team suffers.

As a leader, your role is to set up your team for success. You have the power to create a motivating atmosphere that keeps your team motivated through almost any challenge.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Stop Wasting Time: 3 Tips for Getting the Most out of Meetings

Team Coaching Aha! Leadership

We all spend a lot of time in meetings, and we’ve all spent time in meetings where nothing really got accomplished. As a leader, you can change the culture of meetings and make them more productive and collaborative by following these three simple steps:

  1. Only include agenda items that require a meeting. Some things require human interaction and collaborative thinking. Problems that don’t have solutions yet, or conflicts that haven’t been explored. Meetings are best used when we need to take time to let creative solutions emerge.
  2. Everyone necessary should  be present. Sometimes we send our bodies to meetings while our mind focuses on other things. Pull folks out of their smartphones by including agenda items that focus on decisions that make a difference.
  3. Communicate what needs to be accomplished beforehand. No one should be hearing about something for the first time in a meeting. Send out an agenda beforehand to let folks know what to expect, and give them time to process and prepare before they arrive.

By following these three tips, you can create an environment where attendees become active participants. In other words, great meetings are not only pointed at getting things done, but also create an atmosphere of reflection, focus, and collaboration.

“We cannot waste time. We can only waste ourselves.” – George Matthew Adams

10 Truths for Making Successful Change

Change is inevitable, but intentional change takes work. As a leader you guide your team through changes, and you often act as a change agent yourself. Here are some truths about change management that will help you navigate even the choppiest waters.

  1. Change is about people. You can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves.
  2. Change takes time. Changing hearts, minds, and workplace cultures can’t be done at the snap of your fingers.
  3. Change requires vision. Describe what success looks like, and allow that vision to guide the change process.
  4. Change requires buy-in. Identify who will be affected by the change, and get them involved and invested.
  5. Change means trade-offs. Making new priorities means reducing or letting go of old ones.
  6. Work with the willing. Assemble a team of people who share your vision to champion the change.
  7. Overcommunicate — and then communicate some more.
  8. Listen. Look hard for the useful nuggets in what people tell you, and incorporate them into your plan.
  9. Empower the silent. Reserved team members may be more comfortable communicating their thoughts in private or anonymously.
  10. Learn as you go. Create new learning opportunities and career paths to support the change.

Each of these tools has its place, and success lies in its application. While knowing these tools is important, the role of a leader is modeling the behaviors you want to see your team demonstrating.

5 Powerless Words to Remove from Your Vocabulary

Great leaders are communicators who deliberately refrain from using weak, indecisive words and phrases and instead use language that injects clarity, focus, and positive expectations into their conversations. Here are some powerless words and phrases to avoid that can hinder communication and set negative expectations:

  1. “I’ll try…” Instead: be clear and firm. Candor and honesty will go farther to build trust with your customers and colleagues than “trying” ever will.
  2. “I’ll have to…” This can imply that supporting your team is a burden. Instead: replace this negative line with the hospitable phrase “I’ll be glad to…”
  3. “Basically…” This and other filler words take up space without adding value. Instead: Drop the filler entirely, and say what you intended to say.
  4. “To be honest with you…” Saying this phrase can leave your team wondering “wait… you’re not honest the rest of the time?” Instead: Remove it, and simply say what you were planning to say.
  5. “I should be able to…” This sounds like a weak commitment, and your team deserves better! Instead: tell them what you will do!

Your team takes cues from the words you use; consciously eliminating negative, powerless expressions and projecting a more positive, resourceful image will build your team’s confidence in you as a leader.

“Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

3 Good Tips for Dealing with Bad Leadership

We believe that everyone has the potential to become a great leader. Developing leadership skills is hard work, and sometimes you’ll find yourself working with a leader whose skills are a work in progress. If you find yourself in a situation, here are three tips of how you can make your job more bearable:

  1. Own it. Focus on what you can control. What can you do to make the project, meeting or job better? If you get stuck dwelling on the problem, you risk feeding it.
  2. Focus on results. Concentrate on what you need to accomplish by thinking about how your role supports the organization’s success. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re delivering high quality results that align with the organization’s needs.
  3. Ask for feedback. Engaging in a round of healthy feedback without getting defensive can build a bridge to a healthier relationship.

While there are many factors outside of your control, you can own your part in forging a positive relationship with your leader.


“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens.”
– Wade Boggs

7 Questions That Lower Resistance to Negative Feedback

business women disagreeing with each other

Your  feedback was rejected. Now what?

Giving feedback is part of being a leader, but sometimes recipients don’t recognize feedback as the gift it is intended to be. What can you do to help the recipient move past resistance and into understanding?

Gut check

Before responding to the individual, take a moment to consider your motivations in giving the feedback. Do you really want what’s best for the recipient, or do you have a bone to pick? If your goal is to be helpful, keep going! If you’re motivated by your own self-interest, move on.


When you come up against a wall of resistance, don’t keep hammering your point home. Instead, ask these questions and listen to their answers.

  1. What’s going on for you right now?
  2. Go through the senses. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are you hearing? What are you seeing? Hitting their preferred way of thinking may help them open up.
  3. Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you say next?
  4. Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you ask?
  5. Explore intent vs. impact. What did you intend? What is the impact?
  6. When someone is resistant, what do they do?
  7. What’s at stake for you right now?

From: The Leadership Freak

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”  – Frank A Clark