5,500 Copies and Counting!

5,500 Copies and Counting!

5,500 Copies and Counting! The Approachability PlaybookYou’ve probably read (or at least seen) The Approachability Playbook. Most readers of this blog own at least one copy (thanks!!!). Some have bought many copies for their teams.

I looked up our sales figures a few days ago and noticed The Playbook has shipped over 5,500 copies! I couldn’t believe it. Especially when only about 2 percent of books ever sell more than 5,000 copies.

We are so blessed around here and we are grateful for the amazing support of our followers and fans.

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by my good friend Greg Hawks about The Approachability Playbook. It turned out to be a great introduction to the key themes and teachings around being a more approachable leader. Take a look:

What do you think about The Playbook. Hit the comments and let us know:

  • What is your favorite part of The Playbook?
  • How has approachability improved your leadership or life?
  • Is there another topic you think Phil should cover in his next book?

Let us know in the comments. Again, we appreciate every single one of you.

PS. If you’re so inclined would you mind sharing this post with your network? Now that I know we’ve cracked the 5,000 copy club I’ve started thinking about !0,000 🙂 Know someone who might enjoy a copy? You can take care of that right here.

4 Relationship Struggles that Indicate Your Employee Is Considering a Move

4 Relationship Struggles that Indicate Your Employee Is Considering a Move

Relationship struggles matter.

Do you ever “phone it in” in your relationships?

I’m pretty sure there’s an annual conference somewhere in Mexico each summer where marketing executives from the greeting card, candy, and flower companies get together. I imagine they have spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations all laying out this year’s plot to get a bigger and better share of the husband/father/wife/mother/son/daughter’s wallet each year. I have this vision most often in early February. Right before Valentine’s Day.

I know many couples agree not to celebrate these so-called “Hallmark” holidays. That sounds like a great plan on paper. After all, I love and adore my wife and kid every day of the year. So why make a big deal about it? Why drop a bunch of money on flowers that will be dead and on candy we’ll regret eating a week later?

Then I catch myself. Really? Is it too much to ask to take one day of the year and celebrate the most important relationships in my life? What kind of husband or father just gives the middle finger to his wife and kid on Valentine’s Day? This is the point where I imagine that the marketing executives in Mexico vigorously nod in agreement.

Then I do what every self-respecting husband or father does. I take the middle road. I phone it in.

For those of you born after 1980, “phoning it in” means calling someone when the appropriate response would be a face-to-face conversation. Today that’s “texting it in” or “tweeting it in” – but you get the idea. Phoning it in means performing something without enthusiasm. Doing the minimum amount required to say you did it. In a relationship, “phoning it in” is a signal that you’re taking things for granted.

The difference between “settling in” and “settling”

Not every second of every relationship is going to be a “highlight reel” moment. One of the best things about a long-term relationship with someone is there is less pressure to always be “on.” You can settle in. You feel safe and comfortable just being you and (thankfully) you don’t always have to be your best. However, there is a risk of getting too comfortable. You can take things for granted. Eventually you may forget all the things you appreciated at the beginning of the relationship, causing the connection to slowly slip away. In the worst cases people may feel like they “settled” in the beginning. This is when they start treating their partner with contempt.

There’s a guy – Joel Gottman – who can watch a couple talk for 15 minutes and tell you with about 85% accuracy who will still be married 6 years later. You know what he looks for? Signs of contempt. Nothing destroys a relationship with more certainty than contempt.

Now I’m not a marriage counselor and I’m not giving advice on marriage relationship struggles. But this dynamic plays out in all our relationships. At home and especially at work. We start a new job. Everything is fresh and exciting. Connections are strong. Energy is high. But it’s a lot of work. Eventually things settle in and get more normal. Natural. It’s not as exciting and unpredictable as when everything was new – but it’s also a lot more comfortable. Now comes the hard part: How do you know if you are losing the connection?

Do you remember Vanderbilt University Business Professor Tim Gardner’s study on behaviors that predict turnover? (Read our blog post on the 5 Performance Issues that signal turnover intention here.) You probably won’t be surprised that one of the key categories of behavior that predict whether someone is about to quit their job (and leave their relationship with their boss) is relationship struggles.

Here are 4 Relationship Struggles that Signal an Employee is Ready for a Change

One: Less interested in pleasing their manager

This is the “phoning it in” behavior, and it plays out more often than any of us realize. A member of your team feels “stuck.” They don’t enjoy what they do anymore. Maybe they’ve been in the same position for a few years now. The days run together. They’re in their own, real-life version of “The Office.”

They’re unhappy but they’ve also got a pretty good gig. It’s hard to leave when you know you can do the bare minimum and still keep your job. (Stay tuned for a discussion on this in a future blog post: What are you doing to make your employees feel like they don’t have to do as much?)

Employees who feel this way sometimes daydream about getting let go. There’s a glimmer of freedom on the other side. It’s exciting to imagine doing something new or working with someone different. Whether that’s reality or not doesn’t matter. Our lives are what we imagine them to be. Fire them or don’t fire them. One thing’s for sure, they’re not worried about it.

If you have an employee that is visibly less interested in staying in your good graces, you have a problem. It could be that the pastures are greener elsewhere. But most of the time that longing isn’t really about a new company or a new team. It’s about a lack of connection and excitement about what they’re doing now. You really don’t want to lose this person. She wants more and she’s not getting it here. You can either identify ways for her to learn and grow here. Or watch her attitude and performance slide right up until she tells you she’s found a better job.

Two: A negative change in attitude

Consider how you felt the last time you started a new job. Excited. Anxious. Here lies a fresh opportunity to be whoever you want to be. We love that don’t we? Opportunities to redefine ourselves. Of course, these opportunities can also come with a bit of nerves. We want our new coworkers to like us. We want to feel a part. In a word, we care.

Now jump back to the last time you wanted to quit a job. You weren’t worried about impressing anyone. In fact, by this time, you probably have a coworker or two that you’d just as soon never talk to again.

From daily processes to company culture, people that are invested in your organization get excited about opportunities to make things better. Those who have one foot out the door see the down side of everything. And misery loves company.

Three: Expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor

This one is different than the first signal on this list. Your teammate moves from “phoning it in” to outright contempt. Not only do they not care about impressing you, but now they’ve concluded you are the problem. They’ve decided and said (to their teammates and perhaps even to you) one of two things:

  1. They don’t like you.
  2. You’re doing a bad job.

You’ve probably felt this way about a manager. We all have. But, since you wanted to keep your job, you kept it to yourself. If you start hearing complaints like these, your coworker is at the end of their rope. Expressed dissatisfaction is a tell-tale sign your team member is on the way out.

This is an urgent situation. Check out our recommendations for corrective action below.

Four: Shown less interest in working with customers

Have you ever walked up on a conversation one of your team members was having with a client and thought, “Oh no. That’s not good.”

We have to keep our customers happy. I’m no math genius, but this equation I understand: No customers = no business.

But I don’t subscribe to the belief that “the customer is always right.” Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a business opportunity to stand up for a valuable teammate. That’s not the situation I’m talking about here.

Instead, I’m talking about a member of your team who seems to have stopped caring about the customer experience. Their contempt for the company or their manager has turned into contempt for the customer. This is unacceptable. It’s also a tell-tale sign of a larger problem – they just don’t care anymore.

What to do when you’ve noticed one of these 4 relationship struggles

You’ve spotted one or more of the relationship struggles. What do you do now? First, acknowledge that this person might be considering a move. Then ask yourself, do you want them to stay?

Did you answer yes? Then you have some work to do. Start by sitting down with them and having a real conversation. This shouldn’t feel like a performance review. Don’t just squeeze it in. Consider changing the scenery – maybe take them out to lunch. Remember power distance. Any time you are discussing something like a change in attitude or performance, you immediately raise the idea “am I about to get fired?” Even if your employee has daydreamed about their next job, very few people look forward to getting fired. People are often much more willing to speak freely when you step outside of the environment where you are clearly in a higher power position.

By the way, one of the relationship struggles is feedback about your performance. Practice being vulnerable and asking for honest feedback about how you’re doing. Make sure they know you want their honest opinion.

Next step, listen. What’s going on with them? Personally? Professionally? Dealing with any frustrations at the office? Anything I can do about it? What can I do better as your boss? Do you enjoy the work you’re doing?

Ask these (I’ll be honest) not-so-simple questions. And then sit back. Really listen. Try to understand. Share experiences where you may have felt the same way.

Not only does a scenario like this work wonders toward giving you a better perspective of what your team members experience at work. It’s also a relationship game-changer. Nothing replaces one-on-one time. Nothing makes a person feel more important or valued.

What if you answered no?

If you answered no, my advice is the same. Have a conversation. Ask them the same questions. Except this time, when they say they are unhappy in their current situation, acknowledge that it might not be the best fit. Offer to help them make a change.

Don’t shy away from the subject. Again, acknowledge power distance. They may not want to talk about it or fear you will push them out. Help them understand that you want what’s best for them long-term. That might be outside the organization and that’s OK. Even if you mutually decide that their future is outside the company, you’ll often be surprised at the performance improvement you see while they are looking for that greener pasture.

As a leader your goal is to keep a strong connection in your long-term relationships. Approachability is all about growing and maintaining strong connections with others. (Our leadership model is called the “Connection Model” for a reason!) So make sure you are constantly looking out for these signs of relationship struggles. When you spot them, do what you can to connect.

Relationships are hard. Especially when we’ve all got work to do. But take the time to look at how your people interact with each other. Notice how they interact with you. Hopefully, you feel good about your organization’s culture and the people you have creating it. But don’t be surprised if one of these 4 relationship struggles show up. Recognize it. Then dive in. Your team will thank you.

Larry Nassar: What Leaders Should Take Away

Larry Nassar: What Leaders Should Take Away

What can the Larry Nassar trial teach us about leadership?

Larry Nassar has been sentenced to a total of up to 360 years in prison for child pornography and the sexual abuse of more than 250 girls and young women over the last two decades.

As the father of a 14-year-old daughter – who resembles in so many ways all the women abused by Nassar – I cannot tell you how glad I am to see justice served on this horrible person. I don’t support the death penalty, but I’d make an exception for this guy.

I had a long talk with my daughter about Nassar (and some of the recent #MeToo revelations). We discussed what happened and how it happened. How these girls (and boys) shared so much in common with her. How someone you respect or trust can take advantage and turn it into something awful. How important it is to let her mom and me know anytime she feels uncomfortable or unsafe around someone. Not my favorite talk I’ve had with her, but one of the more important.

I want to protect my daughter. One way I can do that is to teach her to be situationally aware. Look out for horrible people like Nassar. While this feels like good advice, it also doesn’t feel quite right. Like I’m saying it’s up to her to avoid abuse. Or that these victims are to blame for getting abused.

Don’t blame the victims

I am an optimist and a glass-half full person. Looking for sexual predators around every corner makes for a pretty bleak world. And the reality is (thankfully) that the Nassar’s and Weinstein’s and Sandusky’s of the world are the rare exception. But it is not the victims of abuse that are to blame. It is the cultures these abusers find or create. Cultures that give them private access to potential victims. Cultures that make reporting abuse unlikely. Cultures that won’t take complaints seriously or respond appropriately.

As leaders this is where we MUST focus: the cultures we create. On the heels of the Nassar trial attention has turned to this question. What could school administrators, the Olympic gymnastics organization, and the investigators themselves have done different? What sort of culture allowed this abuse to start and continue for so long?

But it’s not just “those” administrators. When I look at myself in the mirror I ask: Would I have asked the right questions? Would I have brushed away something that didn’t seem quite right? Would I have spoken up or forced others to investigate? Would I have created the kind of space where a victim felt safe and comfortable sharing their pain? That’s the true culture question.

I want to focus on what leaders and HR professionals should consider in the wake of the Nassar trial and as the #MeToo movement continues to unfold. I believe there are two main takeaways.

One: What kind of culture do you create?

Culture is another buzzword du-jour. I don’t know about you, when some expert starts talking “culture” I often have to catch myself before I roll my eyes. “What more is there to say?” People wonder.

While discussing culture can get tiresome, you can’t overstate its importance. Especially in situations like this. Culture determines what is allowed, encouraged or rejected. If you don’t fit the culture you won’t last long. And if you do you won’t leave. That’s why it is so critical to get culture right. It either reinforces good behavior or encourages bad.

As I listened to the testimonies of Nassar’s victims, one thing struck me most. He carefully crafted an environment where he could abuse his position of power. But he didn’t (and couldn’t) do this alone. It was perpetuated not only by him, but through the massive negligence of others.

This ESPN article gives a glaring insight into just that. Rachael Denhollander, one of the Nassar’s victims, put it like this:

“The culture of enabling is absolutely vital to why pedophiles flourish…You don’t get someone like Larry Nassar, you don’t get a pedophile who is able to abuse without there being a culture surrounding him in that place. Until we deal with the enablers, this is going to continue to happen.”

This begs the question, what does your culture enable? What are you enabling? I know the Nassar example is extreme, but it is a reality. His behavior continued for twenty years. And over the course of those twenty years, many people had many chances to stand up and say, “enough!” To force a serious investigation. To stand up to Nassar and the many others who enabled his behavior. And they didn’t.

My advice?

Pay attention to the small things. The micro-cues that something’s not quite right. The unstated but felt discomfort. When you catch an eye roll or uncomfortable body language, make note. If you overhear a discontented comment, don’t blow it off. Dig a litter deeper. Does someone seem down? Ask them what’s up.

Leaders matter more than we realize. Yes, our technical skills are important. But our most important role is setting the tone and helping others understand the kind of culture we have (and the kind we don’t have).

Culture isn’t some poster on a wall. It is how we treat each other every day. What we allow, encourage, and reject. And that’s all about people. As leaders we must fully care about our people and truly listen to them. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable telling us the good, bad, and ugly about their lives at work and outside of work. When we do that, our teammates will treat each other the same way. And no Nassar, Sandusky or Weinstein can survive in that culture.

Two: How prevalent is power distance at your organization?

Shrinking “power distance” is the goal of Approachable Leadership. Power distance is the very thing that keeps leaders in the dark. In our workshops we show how plane crashes and medical mistakes often start with power distance. It’s brought down companies like Nokia. It is the primary culprit in scandals like the one at Volkswagen last year.

Power distance also played a huge role in Nassar’s scheme to abuse his victims.

From the same ESPN article (emphasis mine):

“Geddert’s [USA Gymnastics Head Coach] coaching style was largely based on fear and intimidation…[He] and Larry were like this perfect storm…You become so unapproachable that your own gymnasts don’t feel comfortable telling you what’s going on. There’s no way any of the girls would have felt comfortable saying anything to John [about Larry]. Kids were terrified of him.”

Power distance at its worst.

Now, would John Geddert have stopped the abuse if he knew what was happening behind the scenes? It’s hard to say. One would hope so. But then again, some argue that he must have known something was going on and never said anything. Either way, we’ll never know. No one ever actually told Geddert.

They were too scared. Geddert was the one with all the power. There’s the power that comes with being an older man working with young girls. The power with being bigger, stronger and louder than everyone else. And the power of being placed in a position of authority – the power to make or break the careers of these aspiring athletes who knew he was their ticket to Olympic stardom.

This is how it works. It’s that simple. Leaders hold the power. And you are either the kind of leader that listens with empathy when someone needs to talk  – or you’re not. And if you’re not, then no one is talking to you.

What to do next

Hold your people up. Let them know you value them. Encourage them to be their best self. Make sure they know they can come to you with bad news or when things aren’t going well. Ask them for honest feedback and accept it.

You can do all this by being an active participant in the community you create with each other. Make some time to hang out. Pop in for a visit here and there. Be on the lookout for things like:

  • Mitigated speech. Are your employees direct when they speak to you or do they beat around the bush? Do they seem comfortable stating their opinion? Do they quickly defer to you?
  • Evasive behaviors. Do they avoid eye contact and keep a physical distance? Do they seem uncomfortable and fidgety? Do they hang around or beat it as soon as they can?

These are two of the most tell-tale signs of power-distance. Actively look for them. They’ll show up. And this is good news! It is your chance to show your team the type of culture you want to create. And it is the only way to make sure predators like Nassar have nowhere to hide.

Phil Interviewed on Leading with Purpose Podcast

Phil Interviewed on Leading with Purpose Podcast

What does it mean to lead with purpose?

Kind of hard to answer, isn’t it? That’s because in a lot of ways, it’s individual. To the leader. To his goals. And to the company’s mission. What challenges are you and your teammates facing today?

All of these considerations help to determine what a leader’s purpose might be at any given moment in time. But one thing is for certain: To be a great leader, one must have a clear purpose.

This is what is so compelling about Nathan R. Mitchell’s podcast, Leading with Purpose. Mitchell is founder of Clutch Consulting and a Certified Member of The John Maxwell Team.

In his podcast, Mitchell speaks with experts about topics like “The Truth About Workplace Culture” and “How to Become a More Authentic, Vulnerable, and Mindful Leader.” Even something we all know a little about: “What Does it Mean to be an Approachable Leader.”

That’s right! We’re excited to share that Mitchell interviewed Phil in Episode #26 of his podcast. It was a great conversation and we hope you’ll all make some time to check it out.

Leading with Purpose Podcast

Click here to go directly to the show notes page. The episode is also available to listen to on iTunes.

Phil Interviews Steve Browne on His New Book HR On Purpose!!

Phil Interviews Steve Browne on His New Book HR On Purpose!!

We are excited to introduce our community to Steve Browne and his great new book, HR On Purpose!! Those of you in the HR community may already know Steve (he’s kind of a big deal :)) But for many others you are in for a treat.

HR On Purpose is not just an HR book. Steve tells many stories (and it is full of great stories!) about being a good leader. Dare I say, an approachable leader!

This was our first video interview so apologies for any technical issues. And the two exclamation points aren’t a typo – Steve insists you use them. He’s a two exclamation point kind of guy!!

If you enjoy content like this let us know who else Phil should interview. Enjoy!

Follow Steve on Twitter @SBrowneHR

Buy HR On Purpose!! at Amazon.com

5 Performance Issues that Signal Your Teammate is About to Quit

5 Performance Issues that Signal Your Teammate is About to Quit

When Performance Starts to Slip

Jason’s one of those guys you can count on. Not flashy or a top performer. But reliable and consistent. He does his job and contributes to the stability of the ship.

Recently though, you’ve noticed Jason’s performance slip. It’s not so bad that you’re going to write him up or anything. But you have to double check his work – too many mistakes. What’s more, you now have to remind him to do things that used to be automatic. It’s annoying.

What’s going on with Jason? You know it may be nothing – it’s not the first time you’ve seen this. There was that time he was distracted because of an issue with one of his kids. Or the time he was having problems with Mike over the quality check process. Maybe it’s something like that.

Or maybe Jason is on his way out the door.

Gallup recently found that, on average, 51% of people are actively looking for work elsewhere. Which isn’t that surprising, given what Gallup has shown about employee engagement.

Drops in performance are one of the key indicators an employee is thinking about jumping ship.

Here are 5 Performance Issues that Signal Turnover Intention

Work Productivity Decreases

This is the easiest one to recognize because at some point, your employee’s decreased output creates more work for you. Like with Jason. His lack of focus means you spend more time double checking his work. Or reminding him about that deadline. Like you need something else on your to-do list. That’s not good for anyone.

I could advise you to jump in and have a performance discussion every time this happens. But let’s be realistic. You’re busy. Performance discussions take time you don’t have. They’re one of those “crucial” (uncomfortable) conversations that are easy to avoid. Soon this commitment will find itself on the “good intentions” pile. Or turn you into that micromanager we all know and love. (Not.)

Instead of committing to discuss every productivity drop, notice when you’ve started picking up the slack or getting annoyed. That’s your signal something’s up. It’s time for a quick chat. But don’t make this about you. Instead, start with one of the Approachable Leadership Coaching Questions (like, “Do you have what you need?”) You can bring up the productivity drop at some point if that seems helpful. But the most important thing is to figure out what’s happening. Is it a personal issue? An issue with a coworker? Or maybe your employee is slowly checking out. Regardless of the real reason behind the productivity drop it’s time to leader-up. Make some for a quick chat and dive in.

Doing the Minimum Amount of Work

Maybe you haven’t started picking up slack. But it is clear that your teammate isn’t pushing to improve. He’s getting comfortable with work that’s just “good enough.”

We all do work that’s just good enough sometimes. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut yourself some slack. But when cutting yourself some slack becomes the “new normal” it’s no longer a sanity check. It’s a sign that you just don’t care as much as you used to.

When someone stops caring about their work quality it’s another signal. They are detaching their work from how they feel about themselves. They aren’t associating closely with the work or the company. Perhaps they’re thinking about a future somewhere else. And that is a great time to ask another Approachable Leadership Coaching Question: “What’s next?” Look for ways to help them connect their own personal growth back to their work and to the company.

Less Effort and Work Motivation

During your weekly huddle meeting to discuss top priority items, you notice someone who used to jump at opportunities to be involved has stopped volunteering. She avoids eye contact or hides out when you ask for ideas. It’s as if she’s afraid that if she has a good one, she might be asked to do something about it.

Have you seen this before? I know I have. And unfortunately, sometimes I shrug it off. After all, your employee isn’t doing anything wrong. Nagging her about not stepping up could make her feel you’re calling her out. Then you risk an actual performance problem.

But this change in behavior is still a signal something’s not right. No, she hasn’t “done something wrong” but the change in motivation is worth a closer look. After all, it’s a good sign she’s not engaged. And some people’s “disengaged” work is still pretty darn good – right up until they give their notice. A good coaching question here is, “What would make work better?” Whether this is a temporary struggle or sign of a deeper issue, it’s up to you to find out. Especially if it’s someone you want to keep around.

Less Focus on Job Related Matters

And then you have the “I’d rather not talk about work” attitude. Which is quite the tell-tale sign. Especially when…you’re at work.

Really this is a symptom that an employee is just having a hard time caring. Which doesn’t necessarily mean she’s trying to hit the road. But it does mean she likely has other, more important things on her mind. Maybe these other things are your normal, temporary life issues. But it’s also possible she’s working out her next move. And as we discussed in our last retention article, there’s a lot for a person to consider when they’re thinking about quitting their job. It leaves little room for, or interest in, dealing with current work and workplace issues.

Expressed Dissatisfaction with their Current Job

I know I said a productivity drop is the easiest sign to recognize. But this one – when your teammate tells you they’re not happy or feel they’re missing something – that’s when you know for sure. Whether they say it or not, they’re considering leaving.

Of course, thinking and doing are two different things. But if this is someone you don’t want to lose, then it’s time for a sit-down. Diagnose the problem. Find out what you can do to help them. Is it the work that’s not engaging? Is their current schedule causing a problem? Perhaps a financial issue? Whatever it is, the first step is to find out if it’s something you can help with. And if it is? Then help.

On the flip side, maybe you know that what’s best for this person is to leave. You’re reading the same writing on the wall they’re reading. Your company may not have a role that’s right for their next move. That’s a great conversation to have.

Even if it looks like the best move for your teammate is outside the company you can still help them. And they will run through a wall for you in the meantime. Help you find a great replacement. Tell everyone they ever talk to what a great boss you are and how people should jump at the chance to work for you. Talent pipeline? Full, thank you.

Performance issues are just one slice of the pie.

Remember, turnover intention expresses itself in 3 ways:

  1. Performance Issues
  2. Relationship Struggles
  3. Lack of Belonging

Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll discuss 4 relationship struggles that signal an employee might be considering a move.

What’s been your experience with these 5 performance issues? How often do you notice them and do nothing? Do you think your lack of engagement with one of these problems has ever led the loss of an employee?