Shoes off or on?


When I come to your house, should I take my shoes off or leave them on?

How would I know what’s expected? Would I see the rows of shoes? Would someone tell me? Guess what- that’s culture.

Now let’s talk about company culture. It’s important because it exerts a powerful influence on employees’ behavior. In some cases that power can turn toxic, driving us and our employees to compromise our values and do things we normally wouldn’t.

You probably can’t change a toxic culture on your own, but there are steps you can take to insulate yourself from its effects.

  1. Figure out the kind of environment you need to be effective — and happy — at work. Ask yourself: Which of your values have fallen by the wayside? Do you feel healthy and content? Are you proud of how you behave toward colleagues?

  2. Talk to your teammates about the culture you all wish you had. Ask what’s important to them at work and how company norms have affected their behavior.

  3. Have a team meeting and discover your ideal culture and what behaviors do or don’t belong.

Adapted from “Keep Your Company’s Toxic Culture from Infecting Your Team,” by Annie McKee

Need help? We’ve got a great workshop called “Culture By Design” - email us to get a copy of the outline, audience feedback, and pricing.

Do you Trust Me?

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To be effective, leaders need their team’s trust. But how do you get that trust — and how do you get it back if you’ve lost it? Three behaviors are essential. 

The first is to create positive relationships on your team. There are a number of ways to do this, including: helping employees cooperate, resolving conflicts between others, giving honest feedback, and checking in with people about their concerns. 

The second behavior is to demonstrate expertise and judgment. People are more likely to trust you if they believe you have technical know-how and the experience to make good decisions about the team’s work. 

The last behavior is to be consistent. You must do what you say you will do. Follow through on your commitments and keep any promises you make. You don’t need to be perfect at these three behaviors to be a trusted leader — but you do need to be good at them.

Adapted from “The 3 Elements of Trust,” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Tell me something good 🎶

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If I told you something you did well and something that was critical, which would you remember?

Most of us remember critical feedback. It can feel threatening and personal as it tends to stick in our brains.

Imagine, getting the good to stick. You can! Here’s how:

  1. Create a space (digital or physical) where you save the praise you get, anything from thank-you cards to written notes in your evaluations to comments in email threads. Try a ‘YAY-ME’ file.

  2. When you get mixed feedback, tease apart the positive and negative aspects, and put the positive ones in your kudos folder as well.

  3. Set a time in your calendar to periodically review and reflect on what you’ve saved. Ask yourself: What patterns or themes can I identify? How could I use my strengths in new situations? What else can I learn about my strengths, and who might provide that perspective?

It may feel immodest or uncomfortable to bask in the positive feedback you get. But think of it like this: Someone has gone out of their way to highlight what you’re good at — so use it.

Disorganization the problem? Understand why


Managing a disorganized employee can be a maddening experience — especially if their bad habits are hurting the team.

To address the problem, help your direct report understand the ripple effects of their disorganization. Maybe they keep missing deadlines; maybe they’re causing other team members to fall behind; or maybe it just looks bad to clients.

Detailing the consequences of their behavior will drive home the importance of staying on top of meetings, calendars, and email.

Talk to your employee about ways to remedy the situation too.

  • If you have a good system for staying organized, walk the person through it.

  • Show them how you handle your to-do list and how you file, label, and review things.

  • You could also start a team-wide discussion about organization to exchange tips — but remember to let people be themselves in how they approach their job. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Adapted from “How to Manage Someone Who Is Totally Disorganized,” by Rebecca Knight

Keep it Consistent


How would your direct reports describe your behavior when under pressure? Many bosses become emotional, controlling, and close-minded — which can have a hugely negative impact on their team’s morale and productivity.

To lead effectively when the pressure is on, think about the team dynamic you want to build over the long term. Then think about whether your stress-driven actions support that dynamic or undermine it.

For example: In normal circumstances you wouldn’t try to motivate people with fear or threats, so don’t do it during stressful times, either.

Instead, talk to your team about why you’re under pressure and what you need from them, and thank them in advance for putting in extra effort.

Another example: Normally you wouldn’t get angry or shut down in tense conversations.

So don’t let stress keep you from listening to others and engaging thoughtfully.

Once this period of stress is over, your team will remember how you led during it — so make sure their memories are positive!

When you mess up, make it clear


Admitting that you’ve made a mistake as a manager can be a hit to your ego. But arguing with or blaming others (or trying to dodge by saying something vague like “Mistakes were made…”) will only make things worse. It’s much better to take responsibility for the situation so that you can clear the air and move on.

Swallow your pride and simply say “I was wrong,” offering a brief explanation without making excuses. If your error had a negative effect on others, acknowledge it.

  • Really listen to their reactions — don’t get defensive or interrupt.

  • Then explain what you’re doing to remedy the mistake, including its substantive impacts (money, time, processes) and relational impacts (feelings, reputation, trust).

  • Finally, be open to feedback about what you’re doing. And tell those affected by your error what you’ve learned about yourself (“I realize I sometimes ignore people I don’t see eye-to-eye with”) and what you’re going to do differently in the future.

Adapted from “What to Do When You Realize You’ve Made a Mistake," by Deborah Grayson Riegel

You can't take it (home) with you

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It doesn’t take much for work stress to bleed into your home life, isolating you from the people you care about most.

To disengage and recharge, be deliberate about refocusing your attention at the end of the day.

  • Create a little ritual to help you make the mental transition from work to home. Whatever it is, the ritual should be a tangible reminder that you’re setting aside the day’s stress until tomorrow.

  • It may be useful to make gratitude part of the ritual, since research has shown that feeling grateful for the things in your life can reduce stress.

  • You should also talk to your family members about why you’re stressed out, explaining that they aren’t the cause. Being open about your struggles can build feelings of closeness and help your family understand what you need right now.

  • Find someone to vent to, whether it’s a trusted friend, a colleague, or a coach. The person can be a sounding board and provide valuable advice.

You deserve to take a break at the end of the day. Set a plan to recharge so you can be ready to rock tomorrow!