Love, Part 3: “This isn’t for you”

I’ve written about Pat Lencioni’s books before.  Really good stuff.  Weighted heavily towards the so-called soft stuff.  The same stuff, I believe, that creates separation from the pack and great companies.  I bring him up because the last two posts about “love” in the workplace or “love” as a leader remind me of a story he tells.  I think its a good illustration of what I tried to convey in Part 2

Pat’s POV — January 2014
When Meg Whitman Loved Me

No, this is not a tabloid headline. It’s a true story, and not a steamy one.

It was more than twenty years ago, long before Meg Whitman became the CEO of Hewlett–Packard, or candidate for governor of California, or CEO of eBay. I was just out of college in my first job as a research analyst for the management consulting firm, Bain & Company, and she was the lead partner on one of the projects I was working on, which made her something of my boss.
As a senior in college, I had decided that management consulting sounded really interesting. Management had always fascinated me, and being a consultant seemed like a wonderful way to help people. It was a perfect fit. So I applied for one of the most coveted jobs available to me and my classmates, and somehow was hired.

After about eighteen months on the job, Meg invited me to her office for a meeting. She said something pretty close to this: “Pat, I think you’d be a really good partner some day, but I don’t think you’re a great analyst.” Meg wasn’t one for fluffy conversation or saying things she didn’t mean. I knew that she was being sincere about both of her comments, and while I was simultaneously flattered and wounded, I was a lot more wounded. But I had to confront the fact that in the competitive world of big consulting firms, I was not on the fast track, and needed to find a new track.

Looking back and understanding my Myers–Briggs and DiSC profiles, I can see that I was never cut out to be a research analyst (I’m an ENFP and a high I and high D). My attraction to management consulting had to do with the work that partners did, but the only way to rise to that level in a big firm was to be better at quantitative analysis and number crunching than my peers. Meg made clear what I already knew, even if I didn’t want to admit it: I wasn’t ever going to love or be good at that kind of work.

I won’t say that I took the news easily. I certainly didn’t stand up and hug Meg (I don’t remember her being a big hugger). I probably agreed with her assessment a little sheepishly, and slinked back to my cube to begin pondering the future of my career (which would eventually take a new turn that has been a great blessing in my life). As I look back at that moment today, I realize it may have been the kindest thing anyone did for me in my career.

Let me be clear. I’m sure that Meg didn’t particularly enjoy having that conversation with me. But she did it anyway. She was gracious enough, direct, and most important of all, honest. And that’s a form of love. Love is not an emotion; it is a verb. What Meg did is take responsibility for helping me, regardless of whether she felt like it or how it would make me feel about her.

More leaders need to understand the power of honest feedback, because they would better serve their organizations and the people who work there. Keeping people in jobs or situations that are not suited to them is almost never an act of kindness, even when intentions are good. In most cases, it only prolongs suffering and prevents the pursuit of a better life. That’s not an argument for abruptly dismissing people who need to move on, but rather an invitation to have difficult conversations that give them clarity early and help them begin to take responsibility for their own success.

Ultimately, kind but direct feedback reduces the number of painful and expensive surprises that too often result in lawsuits for companies and personal scars for employees. If this seems like a simple message, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, this kind of love is all too rare.

So here’s to loving our people enough not just to hug them, but to tell them the kind truth. And here’s to Meg (I promise not to hug you).

Pat Lencioni

You can read/follow Pat on his website here:

Love, Part 2: Wuv, Twooo Wuv

princess bride marriage love

In my last post, I talked about how important it is for leaders to not allow a void of communication to be created.  I want to drill down a bit on this with what and how we fill that void. I certainly didn’t intend to say in part 1 that we should only praise or shower people with love. What I believe is that we, as leaders, need to communicate honestly, clearly, directly, and … kindly. Depending on the employee’s performance, those conversations can be threatening, rewarding, or stabilizing.

“Tough Love” is really a misnomer.

If you really care about the individual as a person and you see him/her as a human being with hopes, dreams, fears, and responsibilities every bit as important as your own, you see beyond the job or task they may be failing at.  You see them and their happiness.  Nobody is going to thrive, over time, if they’re in a job that’s a poor fit with their strengths, values, and/or desires.

Here’s a real-life example (some details have been ‘vagued’ out to protect the innocent) …

“It’s evident to me that you’re unhappy here.  I say that because I’ve observed that in your demeanor but I also have some new concerns about the work you’re doing (Here’s what I’ve observed: X, Y, and Z).  Job satisfaction and job performance are usually pretty connected so I’m not surprised to see things that concern me on both fronts at the same time.  Life’s too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something you’re unhappy about or find unfulfilling.  If this is something you really want to do, then I will do everything within my power to help you be successful at it.  What are your thoughts?

[Whoa.  Do I answer him honestly?  He’s not attacking me, but he’s also forcing me to deal with the issues that I’ve been trying to avoid.  Do I answer him honestly?]  

I think the answer to that question, Do I answer him honestly?, depends a lot on your intent as a leader.  If your intent is to “performance manage out” this problem child, that will come across.  You may not think so, but sincerity is something that is really hard to fake.  If someone is being genuine with us we can generally tell, can’t we?  It’s a feeling we get.  Let’s continue with the feedback conversation:

In order for you to really be successful here, though, I’ve got to see the following changes (1, 2, 3).  Here’s the thing, I want two things.  I want you to be happy and I want you to be happy here.  And, because that’s what I want, I’ll do everything I can to help you be successful.  I’ll be more clear about my expectations.  I’ll follow up with you about your progress and I’ll listen to your concerns.  I won’t hold back my opinions.  IF, however, you disagree with my concerns and counsel and therefore disregard it, I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be having a difficult discussion like this again very soon.

The choice is completely yours.

To me, that conversation shows true love (twooo wuv as he says in Princess Bride).  We’re deceiving ourselves when we avoid the honest and direct conversations with employees.  We’re not being more kind.  We’re not doing them any favors.  We’re actually doing more harm than good.

The longer you wait, the harder the conversation becomes.

Don’t wait.  If you make it a common practice to give direct, corrective feedback as close to the issue as you can, you bring clarity to your team and you avoid mole hills turning into mountains.  Show the love.  Don’t wait.  Tweasure your wuv.

Love, Part 1: “Have I told you lately that I love you?”



Who knew that Rod Stewart was such a management guru?  He doesn’t look like one.  But let’s judge the man by his words not his appearance, huh?



“Have I told you lately that I love you?”

And with that simple question, Rod does more good in the world of “performance management” consulting than most consultants ever could.

Have you ever wondered what you’re boss was thinking about you and/or your performance?  I have.  I’ll get to that in a second.  I was speaking with a colleague the other day whose performance over the course of the last 24 months has been staggering.  As a new leader in the industry he has assembled a team, collaboratively defined its vision, elevated care and customer service, and has achieved fantastic financial, clinical, compliance, and regulatory results.  Can I paint a more successful picture?

And yet, after another record breaking month of results were posted, he was concerned that his boss wasn’t happy with him.  Why?  Because he hadn’t emailed him or called him to comment on his performance.  It had been a few months now.  No thank you.  No Attaboy.  Silence.  So, instead of appropriately celebrating or feeling satisfaction, this top performer’s strongest emotions were concern and doubt.

I experienced something similar several years ago.  My boss was on the road almost all the time.  Not only that but he had the weight of the organization on his shoulders and hundreds of people wanting a piece of his time.  As the weeks, then months went by I tried to just give him (AND MYSELF) the benefit of the doubt …

I’m sure he would call or email me about my performance if he had any concerns.

I know he’s just really busy.

He hired me because I don’t need the supervision or direction.

But, given enough time, its natural to FILL THE VOID with the worst case scenario.

I began to do what my colleague was doing.  I began to not only doubt my boss’ appreciation of my work but I began to doubt if he thought my role was even important to the organization.  After all, if nobody’s talking to you about your work (good or bad), your work must not be that important to people.

The benefit of the doubt turns into the TYRANNY OF THE DOUBT.

Maybe its just me and my colleague, but I don’t think so.  I’ve had people I’ve managed express similar feelings during overdue conversations with me as well.

A few months ago, I kept missing a 1:1 with one of my department heads.  Things kept getting in the way.  One postponement after another.  Sure, we’d talk briefly in our daily department head meeting or in the hallway but we missed quality 1:1, focused time to talk about her department (employees, goals, challenges, etc.)  When we finally met, I told her how impressed I had been by her improvements and resident/patient satisfaction I was seeing.  She was stunned.  She fought back the tears.  You see, she thought I was avoiding her because I was unhappy with her.  I had inadvertently created a void and she filled it with the worst case scenario.  Shame on me.

As leaders, we can way too easily fall victim to the illusion that silence creates.  “All is well.”  We can forget that even (especially) our top performers need regular feedback. Ironically, too often we spend an inordinate amount of time with under-performers at the expense of quality time grooming, coaching, rewarding, and recognizing those whose work we rely on so very much.

Let’s make the time.

–> Let’s set reoccurring appointment reminders on our calendars to reach out and fill the void with true conversation that builds loyalty and reaffirms mission.

McKnight’s Guest Column: Show Me The Money!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I just realized that another guest column was posted to McKnight’s.  This topic of whether or not staff should EXPECT a raise with their review came up when a friend of mine, Josh (new administrator) asked my opinion about it.  His question reminded me of when a CNA taught me a valuable lesson years ago at my first facility … You can read the entire article by clicking HERE or on the article image below.

Guest Column for McKnight's regarding annual reviews and raises
Guest Column for McKnight’s regarding annual reviews and raises

#1 Cause of Death or Monkeys: A How-To

I recently trained many of our leaders on Monkey Management.

I’m convinced that this principle is the #1 cause of death in new leaders.

So … how do you recognize the problem & overcome it?  Let’s go through it.  Unless, of course, you don’t have the time 🙂

Take a minute to look at this To-Do List.  It’s not uncommon from many leaders’ lists.  It contains things that came up today (on the left) and things to do from yesterday and before on the right.  Normally, one’s list is spread out on Post-it Notes, 3×5 cards, Notepads, Computer To-Do lists, Calendars, and email In-boxes.

To-Do List

Do you see the MONKEYS?!  They’re all over the place!  Remember, ‘a monkey is whatever the next move is when 2 parties end a conversation.’  Whoever has the next move has the monkey.  If you have to respond to an email, memo, or voice mail, you have a monkey.  If you’ve agreed to do something for someone else (buy, research, analyze, look into, make, meet with, write, etc.) you have a monkey.  Unless you’re paranoid about attracting monkeys, you likely have A LOT of them …


Remember the Monkey Gospel Truths:

Procrastination vs Insubordination
Possible Insubordination = Getting work done

Hopefully the reasons why you must destroy monkeys from your plate before they destroy you are obvious.  But, in case you’re skeptical.  Let’s reason together …

  • If you are doing work others could/should be doing, then you are, by definition, NOT DOING work that only you can do.
  • Monkeys keep you from working on what Steven Covey illustrates so masterfully in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as Quadrant III stuff (next slide below).  The Non-Urgent/Important quadrant of our to-do list.
  • Regardless of your motive, you are stunting your direct reports’ ability to grow and develop by doing things for them.  Stop it!  Let’s see if they can sore.  If they fail (which is practically guaranteed eventually), teach them and help them grow.
Monkeys laugh when they keep you from Quadrant III

Take your ‘Total Plate’ which, again, includes your to-do lists, post-it notes, voice mails, emails, projects, etc. and strike a line through everything that doesn’t ABSOLUTELY have to be done by only you.  Look at my list below and notice in the next 2 slides how I identify other people’s monkeys that landed on my back and how I returned them to their rightful owner.

What can you – AND ONLY YOU – do?
Kill the Monkeys before they kill you

Wow.  Compare my list now (below) to my original list.  FREEDOM!  Freedom to finally lead.  Freedom to run my operation instead of being run by it.  If you don’t take a stand against monkeys and commit to a discipline of spotting them before they land on your plate and deflecting them, you will NEVER get to quadrant III.  If you’re too busy for quadrant III then, SOONER OR LATER, you will fail.  You will get burned out.  You will be frustrated.  You will remain miles away from your potential.


One last thought about Monkeys.  They hate you.  They will only be happy when they not only destroy your professional life, but your personal life as well.  Talk about Non-Urgent/Important!?: date night with your spouse, being home for dinner with your kids/family, family vacation, personal fitness/health, reunions with friends, community/church service, etc.  All these things are, to a degree, sacrificed when we lack the discipline and understanding to treat monkeys as the enemy they are.  You could have all the talent, charisma, & smarts in the world.  But, none of that matters if you’re spending 75% of your time on monkeys others should be doing.

Remember …
Managers Do Things Right.  Leaders Do The Right Things.

Take Monkeys personally.  If they could, they would spit in your mother’s face.

No more monkeys jumping …

As a follow up to A Leader’s Downfall, I want to comment on one of the most common mind sets that new leaders lack – to NOT take on too much themselves.  There’s several reasons why we try to tackle too much ourselves.  Here’s what we normally tell ourselves:

  • My direct report(s) are incompetent
  • I can do a better job than they can
  • I need some hands on in this department to completely understand our current situation so I can better supervise in the future
  • My direct report(s) are too busy to pile on them more stuff
  • I’m afraid that if I ask them to do this stuff they’ll burn out

So the big question … are those legit?


They may be true.  But that’s irrelevant.  They are self-deceiving, self-aggrandizing excuses for not doing your job as a leader.  Your job is NOT to do everyone else’s work.  Your job is to assemble, inspire, measure, coach, and train leaders who can take your shared vision to produce incredible results.

I can hear your protests now …

  • Dave, you don’t get it.  I’m a servant leader.  I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
  • Dave, you don’t understand my team.  We have some serious weak links right now and if I didn’t take on this stuff (that they should be doing) it wouldn’t get done.

I do get it.  And, I do understand your team.  Perfectly.  I understand the stress, the frustration, the underachievement, etc.  And, I’m telling you, you’ve got to wake up and do your job!  One of the reasons this is so tough for newer leaders, in particular, is because we feel so much insecurity during the beginning of our leadership.  There’s so much we don’t know.  And, everyone knows it.  Since we don’t have the instant credibility that years of doing this provides, we try to gain it the only we know how … becoming superman for our staff.

  • Dave, we need a HMO contract with XYZ company.  Can you get one for us?  Sure!
  • Dave, I’m having problems with 2 of my staff.  Can you talk to them for me?  You bet!
  • Dave, we need some new landscaping out front.  What do you think?  I’ll go to Home Depot!
  • Etc …

What’s the problem?  Every one of those things (and probably 50% of your to-do list) are things your people should be doing.  After a few years of struggling to become superman for my staff to make up for my own incompetence and lack of experience, I finally took the leap of faith to adopt the mind set taught by Bill Oncken, described as Monkeys.  I’ve posted here a long excerpt of Oncken teaching it himself.

A couple of the main principles:

  1. An inferior job done by your subordinate is 100% better than a superior job procrastinated by you and never done.
  2. If you don’t complete a task you’ve given yourself (or accepted to do for your subordinate), it’s called … procrastination.  If you don’t complete a task your supervisor gave you, it’s called … insubordination.
  3. So, if there are tasks (monkeys) on your to-do list that have been there for a couple weeks that you haven’t had time to get done (procrastination), give it to your subordinate so it becomes insubordination if it doesn’t get done.  Guess what.  It will get done.
  4. This is not a lazy or selfish act.  I had an allergic reaction to this talk of ‘subordinates’ and insubordination, and giving people work that I normally did.  But, then I woke up.  It empowers them!  I pushes them to grow.  It removes you as the constraint in your operation!  Progress speeds up.  Change happens.  Because your doing your job … not theirs!

It saved my career.  I hope you can make time to listen to it.

Myers Briggs (MBTI) Personality Indicator

  • WHAT: I’m not going to take the time right here to repeat what’s already available.  To understand the basics of MBTI, click here:
  • WHEN: You’re ready to use MBTI with your team when you’re ready to start the very long, hard process of creating a high functioning team.  Don’t bother if you’re looking for the flavor of the month.
  • WHERE: Go offsite.
  • WHY: 2 Reasons … 1) Build Trust on your team and between you and those you lead and 2) Bring the Soap Opera season to an end.1) The foundation for a team to become effective/great is TRUST.  I love the approach Patrick Lencioni teaches in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.  Cick here to see his model:  When I work with a team, the first thing I work on is trust vis-a-vis the MBTI.  People who have been working for years together are startled by the things MBTI teaches them about each other.  I’ve found the MBTI to accelerate the establishment of TRUST faster than anything else.2) I’ve found most of the ‘drama’ that walks in my door as a leader is the soap operatic relationship problems among the people I lead.  I’ve also found that USUALLY the source of the drama is a misunderstanding, ignorance, insensitivity to the differences in other’s personalities.  Furthermore, my ability to win loyalty, manage effectively, and inspire is subtly yet totally undermined by my ignorance, inattention, and/or insensitivity to the individual team members’ different personalities.  THE most effective way to solve those people problems is to attack that source of the problems: misunderstanding each other.
  • HOW: There’s a couple ways to go with this.  And, as with all things, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.1) Free: You do some research online; you put a powerpoint together on the history, basics, and application of MBTI; you have your team take a free online assessment like this:; you try your best to interpret the results; you try not to do psychological damage since you’re not certified to administer/interpret MBTI results 🙂  Besides the ‘psychological damage’ you cause, you’ll also be spending A LOT of time preparing for the do-it-yourself way.
    2) Expert: Pay a certified practitioner/facilitator.  Depending on the size of your team, you’ll be looking at around $3,000, give or take.  I know of a couple great facilitators.  Contact me if you need a referral.

Here’s a few slides from my MBTI sessions …


MBTI & 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team
MBTI & 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team
Extravert v. Introvert
Extravert v. Introvert
4 MBTI preferences
4 MBTI preferences