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Dear Madeleine,

I work in a very matrixed organization. My actual boss works remotely and I seldom interact with him one-on-one, but we have a team lead on every project.

In my work group, we all work on different projects as they come in. One of my peers in another group is causing real problems for me. He never keeps his agreements and tends to hold up every project he is involved with. I’ll call him B.

He agrees to his role and then makes excuses, but no one in charge seems to know or care. It isn’t my job to give B feedback—and I wouldn’t know what to say—but it’s getting to the point that everyone in my group tries to avoid working with whatever group he is in.

I was just invited to be on a really fun and interesting project that I said yes to, but I heard B will be on it. I have a good relationship with that team lead, and I’m thinking of giving him the heads up about the chaos B causes.

What do you think? I hate to tattle, but I also hate knowing what’s going to happen and doing nothing.

Tattler

Dear Tattler,

This sounds like mayhem. The only way the matrix can work is if there is some solid oversight and everyone can be trusted to pull their weight. The fact that you are having this conundrum is an indication of poor leadership—because sometimes if everyone is a leader, no one actually has to step up and take responsibility. There’s a lot to be gained in terms of nimbleness and creativity with matrix organizing principles, but this is a classic example of one the potential downsides.

I understand this doesn’t really help you.

This might: Think about your basic values. What you are reacting to is the general unfairness of the situations caused by B. Unfairness essentially reduces all of us to four-year-olds. It literally affects brain function. It is important to be aware of this so that you don’t do something that is not aligned with your values and that you may regret. You may think that reporting someone’s past bad behaviors to an authority is the right thing to do, but your choice of label for yourself – “tattler”—indicates that you would judge yourself poorly. Frankly, you seem to be judging yourself for even thinking about it.

I sense some real doubts there, which leads me to say: don’t do it. I’m not sure what you would have to gain, but you definitely would have the respect of the team lead to lose. Because, as you well know, nobody likes a tattle tale.

Here’s what you can do. As the assignments are being divvied up, ask the group what the consequences are for slipping on deadlines. Agree as a group how you will behave. Keep your own commitments and acknowledge when others keep theirs. The first time B shows up with an excuse, call out that his lateness is going to slow everyone down and refer back to original agreements of the group. If the group doesn’t step up, then you can talk to the team lead and mention it isn’t the first time you have seen this behavior from B. You don’t have to be mean about it, just truthful and factual. Then it is the team lead’s problem.

Also, I would recommend that you make it a priority to develop a relationship with your actual boss. He is probably so busy that he figures no news is good news and that if you needed him, he’d hear about it. But you don’t want to be in touch only when there is a problem.

In my world view, it is your boss’s job to know his people and make sure they have what they need to succeed—but since that isn’t happening, you need to step up and be on his radar. Get on his calendar and be prepared with a list of all your projects so that he knows who you are and what you’re up to. To the extent possible, research his goals and priorities and ways you might be able to help him. Maybe then, when you really need his influence, he’ll have your back.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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Dear Madeleine,

I work for a small company in a small city. I really like my job, but the atmosphere in my office is so toxic I am not sure I can live with it.

This is my first real job. My immediate boss took me under his wing, taught me the business, and he has my back. He is not without his flaws, but I have made my peace with them and I appreciate everything he has done for me. His boss is the owner of the company—a great guy who hired me and gave me a chance.

The problem is that each man trash talks the other one when the other one leaves the office. Our space isn’t very big—just an office manager and eight or ten guys at any given time—so everybody hears it. Then, when the absent one comes in, it is all “Hey, how are you?”—buddy buddy.

It is weird and off putting. Is this normal office behavior? Should I try talking to my boss? If so, what should I say?

Hate the Trash Talk

Dear Hate the Trash Talk,

No. It isn’t normal. It’s messed up.

I am sorry you have to deal with what sounds like a negative and hostile work environment. You sound like a nice kid who expects adults to behave themselves. I guess it is a rude awakening to know that even fundamentally decent people can get into bad habits. Talking trash behind another’s back is essentially gossip and it can be hard to resist the little hit of pleasure it can provide. I personally have to resist gossip with every fiber of my being, but still succumb at times and then feel bad about it.

I wish I had pithy words for you, but frankly I think both your boss and his boss are unprofessional and immature and would not respond well to your feedback. In the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of your office, you could always drop a hint like “Hey, I am going to get some lunch—don’t talk trash about me while I am gone.”

On the other hand, you really don’t want to be stooping to the middle-school behavior of your supposed betters.

One option is to take your newfound valuable experience and go search out a better work environment. Of course, they will both say terrible things about you when you are gone, but who cares?

Another option is to just roll with it. It seems to fit with the good-old-boy-type culture of the office and probably doesn’t mean anything. You can just observe, let it roll off your back, and remember it when you think about the culture you want to have in in your next job and the culture you want to create when you are the boss.

Keep in mind that bad boss behavior is often as instructive as good boss behavior. You can take the opportunity to notice the urge to gossip in yourself and practice rising above it. Don’t join in. Don’t say anything at all unless it is to defend the person who is not there. Be the model for the behavior you would like to see in your bosses.

Honestly. It makes you wonder where the grownups are, doesn’t it?

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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Dear Madeleine,

About three months ago, I was promoted to COO in my organization. I wasn’t expecting it—a lot of changes happened at once. A large group of people were fired and the next thing I knew I was COO.

I have no real senior leadership experience, but here is the crazy thing: I’m pretty sure I can do this. I’m super organized and I have an exhaustive knowledge of the mechanics of the organization. My problem is that when I try to prioritize on what to tackle first, I get completely overwhelmed. I’m not sure where to start.

I thought about asking my new team, but they seem as mystified as I am about what I’m doing in this role. I really don’t want to reveal my ignorance to them but at the same time I don’t want my boss to lose faith in me. Any ideas would be helpful.

Unexpected Success

Dear Unexpected Success,

It’s obvious your boss also thinks you can do this—so you should absolutely play hard, and play to win. You have some leadership experience and you will figure out the senior part. You have nothing to lose.

Thomas Leonard, my mentor and a pioneer of the coaching profession, says, “Anything worth doing is worth getting help with.” The first order of business is to get help. The fastest way to bomb out would be for you to try to do too much, too fast, all by yourself. Do you have anyone from your past work life you might call to mentor you? Are there any COOs in your industry you could reach out to for advice? I suggest you hire a very experienced executive coach—someone with whom you can discuss everything you need to work through in total confidentiality. Your organization will probably pay for it. Also, lobby for an assistant to help manage your time and keep you focused. The more support you can get for yourself right now, the better off you will be.

Sit down with your boss and ask them to outline your top three to five priorities. Decide what you can do in what time frame and check it in writing with your boss so there is no misunderstanding. Focus only on your boss’s priorities and on building support for your leadership.

To succeed as a leader you need your team to trust you. Begin by spending what will feel like precious time getting to know each member of your team so that you can understand their strengths, experience, and expertise. The more you can empower them with crystal-clear goals to lead their own teams, the more you will be able to get done. Build trust and connectivity with your team by creating and sharing your Leadership Point of View.

You also need to understand your peers and your unofficial influencers in the organization. Create a relationship map to identify all of the critical players in your organization, and make a concerted effort to get to know them and understand their goals. Build a coalition of support by helping others achieve their goals and leveraging their help to achieve yours.

Once you have some clarity about your priorities, are moving toward your goals, and have started to build your network of support, then you can worry about building your own strategic point of view and influencing as a strategic leader. That day will come after your very high functioning operational machine is built.

You have a rare opportunity to take advantage of an odd situation. If you can keep your wits about you, get the right help, and stay grounded, you will be fine. Better than fine—great!

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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Dear Madeleine,

I am a senior executive with a lot of experience who is on the leadership team of my organization. I have a problem I’ve never had before, which has been developing over the last year.

Since we got a new CEO (my new boss), there has been a lot of turnover on the leadership team including three new leaders who have come in from the outside. They are all young and extremely confident (read: arrogant and brash). The problem is that, somehow, I seem to have lost my voice.

No one on this new leadership team seems to be listening to me when I do manage to get a word in edgewise. Here’s a typical scenario: I say something and no one pays attention. Ten minutes later someone else says basically the same thing and everyone—my new boss, in particular—agrees with the other person and remarks on what a good idea that was.

I know I need to somehow change my MO because I am doing something that isn’t working. But I don’t know where to start. I am afraid all the ideas I have for speaking up will make me come across as whiny or needy, and I really don’t want that.

Lost My Voice

Dear Lost My Voice,

It seems that something essential has shifted: your voice has always been heard and respected and, all of sudden, it’s not. You haven’t changed but your environment has. So it is you—but only in that you haven’t adapted to your new environment. Yet.

Here are some questions: What was going on in the former team environment? I presume you had a longstanding relationship with your old boss? You had a track record with the other members? The meetings were run differently? I have no way of knowing, but you do. Identify what is different and analyze how you might close the gap. Some ideas:

  • Talk to the CEO about your concerns and ask for support in holding the space when you speak and acknowledging what you say. They probably have no idea that they are bowing to the loudest and most aggressive voices.
  • Develop one-on-one relationships with the new members of the team. Go to lunch, have coffee, meet about specific projects, ask for their help with your goals, offer to help with theirs. Once the new people begin to see you as a human being, they will be more likely to show respect.
  • Don’t let people interrupt you. The only reason people get good at shutting down interruptions is that they have to. In your past team meetings you probably didn’t have to, but now you do. When someone interrupts, hold your hand up and say, “I’m not finished,” or “Please wait until I finish,” or simply “Hold on.” Watch the others—I’ll bet they do that all the time. People will only interrupt you if you let them.
  • Formulate your ideas so that when you do speak, you are brief, clear, and direct. Use a volume slightly above what you are used to using—and if you are female, make sure you keep your voice in the lower register.
  • If someone repeats an idea you just shared, and now all of sudden it’s heard, you have a clear example that you can discuss with your boss. Ask your boss after the meeting what you are doing that causes others’ voices to be heard, but not yours. The feedback might help you to use more effective language—you might learn something useful.

The thing you really don’t want to do is lose confidence and stop trying. Don’t take the bad behavior personally, because it probably isn’t personal. Sit up straight, look people in the eye, prepare for the meetings so you can be bold and succinct, and don’t give up. It might take a long time. It took time for you to be comfortable with your old team and it will take a while for this one to gel. Keep at it. You haven’t lost your voice—you’ve just misplaced it. So get it back.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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Dear Madeleine,

I am so frustrated with myself. At the beginning of the year I set a whole bunch of goals. Then Q1 whooshed by and guess what I have done? Nothing. I stayed really focused for about two weeks and then forgot all about my resolutions.

One of my big goals was to have regular one on ones with everyone on my team, and it just isn’t happening. Something always seems to get in the way.

I feel like such a loser. I am never going to be the manager I want to be. I am racing around like a squirrel and everything seems like the most important nut. How can I reset and be successful?

Need to Try Again

Need to Try Again,

I love your metaphor. I can really relate! I’m so sorry you feel like a loser, though. I can sense the downward spiral you’re in.

The first order of business is to reverse the spiral so you can start thinking straight and get yourself back on track. To do this, make a quick list of every way you are winning—things you’re doing well, projects that are going according to plan, tasks you’re great at, goals you’re reaching, goals your direct reports are achieving. I’ll bet it’s a decent list.

The main reason you feel terrible is that you aren’t winning at some new goals. Just ponder on that for a moment. Then, if you’re still feeling like a loser, add to the list all the things you’re grateful for. It will literally change your brain chemistry.

Now let’s take a look at those new goals. How many are there? I’ll bet you an acorn you have too many. The number two reason people don’t achieve their goals is that they have too many of them. The number one reason is that they set unspecific, unclear goals.

I challenge you to choose one goal. Only one. Let’s go ahead and choose having regular one on ones with your people, since you brought it up. You may decide to choose something else on your list, but you can use this thought process.

Ask yourself: What is driving your desire to do this? What makes it important right now? Are you sure your people even want one-on-one meetings with you? What will the benefit be for them? For you? Decide for yourself what a good job looks like—how will you know you’re successful?

Then get support—who can help you with this? The obvious choice for this is your people. Ask your direct reports to take responsibility for their own one on ones. They can each put their own regular time on your calendar or otherwise make sure the meeting gets scheduled.

Finally, once you decide you’re going to commit, then really commit. Once the one on ones are scheduled, they are sacred. Nothing gets scheduled over them. (Okay, we all know that probably isn’t going to work, but you make sure the meeting gets rescheduled.) If you schedule them for every week, nobody will mind if you end up having to miss one, or even two. Then at least your people get two one on ones in a 30-day period, which maybe isn’t ideal but it isn’t bad—and it’s a lot better than none.

Take 7 minutes at the beginning and the end of each week and review your calendar to make sure those one on ones are there, and move them if needed. If you start feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of why you decided to schedule them in the first place.

Now you can see how much work it is just to get on track with one thing—and you had a whole laundry list! No wonder it didn’t work. Get one thing nailed down, whatever it is. Get it into your daily actions, and at a certain point you will not be able to remember a time when you didn’t do it. Then you can add something else.

Calm down, take three deep breaths and choose. One thing. You can do this.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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I recently spent time at Alcatraz…as a tourist, of course. The old federal penitentiary hasn’t housed prisoners since 1963. As a history nerd it was fascinating to walk the same halls as some of the world’s most famous criminals like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Stroud, the “birdman” of Alcatraz.

Some of the prison cell doors are open so you can walk inside and get a sense for what it must have felt like to be confined in such a small space. The cells are five feet wide, seven feet tall, and nine feet long. I could reach my arms out to the side and place my palms on the walls of the cell. The concrete walls hold the frigid chill of the San Francisco Bay and the steel doors are hard and unforgiving. It’s difficult to imagine what it must have felt like to be confined in such a small space for hours on end, day after day, year after year.

Prison cells aren’t just concrete rooms with steel doors; they can be rooms of our own making. (click to tweet) All of us, in various areas of our lives, have constructed cells that imprison us and constrain our ability to experience true freedom and joy.

In the realm of leadership, some of us are career criminals doing hard time and the only life we know is within the four walls of our prison cell. These leaders are guilty of crimes like wielding power as a weapon, hoarding information, sucking up to the hierarchy, micromanaging, breaking trust, playing politics, and over-reliance on command and control styles of leadership. Most of us leaders aren’t hardened criminals serving a life sentence, but we dabble in our share of petty theft that puts us behind bars from time to time.

There are ways you can escape from the prison of ineffective leadership practices, but it takes planning, patience, and perseverance. You didn’t build those walls overnight and it’s going to take time to tunnel your way out. Here are four steps to break out of your leadership prison cell:

Discover Your Leadership Purpose

Why do you lead? Answer that question and you’ve discovered your leadership purpose. Discovering your leadership purpose is an introspective process that takes time and effort, but the result is an internal clarity and drive that inspires and fuels your work as a leader.

The process for discovering your leadership purpose begins with reflecting on your own leadership role models. How did those people influence you? What about the way they led others inspired you? What did you learn from them and how do you display that in your own leadership style? Second, how does your leadership connect with your larger life purpose? Do you see your role as a leader integrated with your overall life purpose? Are you clear on your greatest strengths and how you can use them to positively impact the world around you? Third, what is the legacy you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered for the way you influenced those you lead?

As you wrestle with these tough questions, you’ll eventually gain insight into your leadership purpose. Writing a simple purpose statement will help crystallize your thoughts and provide a reminder of why you do what you do as a leader. Do an internet search for “writing a personal mission statement” and you’ll find dozens of excellent resources and templates. As an example, my purpose statement is To use my gifts and abilities to be a servant leader and a model of God’s grace and truth. 

Define Your Leadership Values

Leadership is an influence process. As a leader you are trying to influence others to believe in certain things and act in specific ways. How can you do that if you aren’t clear on your own values? What drives your own behaviors? You have to be clear on that before you can expect to influence others…at least in a positive way.

In the absence of clearly defined values, I believe people tend to default to the more base, self-centered values we all possess: self-preservation, survival, ego, power, position. As an example, my core values are trust, authenticity, and respect. I look to those values to guide my interactions with others. Just as river banks channel and direct the flow of rushing water, so values direct our behaviors. What is a river without banks? A large puddle. Our leadership effectiveness is diffused without values to guide its efforts.

Declare Your Leadership Brand

Your brand image is not only how people perceive you (your reputation), but also what differentiates you from everyone else in your company. When your colleagues and team members think of you, what is it that comes to their minds?

Tom Peters, the guru of personal branding, says, “If you are going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, what you’re proud of, and most important, what you can shamelessly take credit for.” Now, I’m not into shamelessly bragging about personal accomplishments, but I do think it’s important, and possible, to tactfully and appropriately share your successes.

Forget your job title. What is it about your performance as a leader that makes you memorable, distinct, or unique? What’s the “buzz” on you? Forget about your job description too. What accomplishments are you most proud of? How have you gone above, beyond, or outside the scope of your job description to add value to your organization? Those are the elements that make up your brand.

Deliver on Your Leadership Promise

If you’ve ever removed the cardboard sleeve on a Starbucks coffee cup, you may have noticed this statement printed on the side of the cup:

Our Barista Promise

Love your beverage or let us know. We’ll always make it right.

My experience with Starbucks is they live that promise. Whenever I’ve not been satisfied with my drink, they’ve always made it right.

Your leadership promise is the combination of your purpose, values, and brand. It’s who your people expect you to be as a leader and it’s how they expect you to behave. Whether you’ve articulated your leadership purpose, values, and brand to your people or not (which I strongly advocate you do), they have ascribed a leadership promise to you based on your past behavior. You are setting yourself up to break trust with your followers if their perception of your leadership promise doesn’t align with your own.

Escape from Alcatraz

It was simple for me to leave the island when my time was done on Alcatraz; I boarded the ferry and rode across the bay to San Francisco. It wasn’t nearly as easy for the prisoners who once called Alcatraz home. Likewise, it won’t be easy for you to escape your self-constructed prison cell of dysfunctional leadership practices, but it is doable with intentional focus and effort. Discovering your leadership purpose will direct your energies, clarifying your values will guide your activities, declaring your brand will let others know what you stand for, and delivering on your leadership promise will hold you accountable to being the leader you aspire to be and the leader your people need and deserve.

Randy Conley is the Vice President of Client Services and Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies. His LeaderChat posts appear the fourth or last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

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Dear Madeleine,

What should I do about all of the requests I get from people who want to “pick my brain” or schedule an informational interview? My friends’ kids are all reaching the age where they are getting serious about having lucrative careers and satisfying jobs, and they’re all following the advice they’re getting to talk to people who have the jobs they think they might want some day. I have to be honest—I gave that advice to my own kid.

The problem is that if I said yes to all the young—and not-so-young—people who ask, I wouldn’t have time to do my actual job. I do have a great job. I’ve been lucky and worked hard. I don’t want to be a jerk, but one more request to have coffee will push me over the edge. How do other people handle this?

In Demand

Dear In Demand,

That’s a good question—and I had no idea how to answer it, so I asked around and did some Googling. The first thing that became clear is that the frustration is real and universal. Many report that it seems the folks who are requesting an informational interview are actually hoping you might be interested in hiring them or recommending them to someone else.

One woman I know who has a very cool job now does a 30-minute webinar once a month. When she gets a request, she just replies with an email or text invite with the date, time, and link for the next group call. She shares a couple of things that people might not know about her industry and then does Q&A. Sometimes she gets 3 people, and once she had upwards of 30. I thought that was a creative way to deal with way too many requests.

Most people I talked to came up with variations on putting the work back where it belongs—with the person making the request. Ask the requester to send you an email with their specific questions. Advise them to ask questions that they can’t get answered with a little bit of research. If enough people do this, and you write back enough answers, you can create an FAQ that you just respond with. To those who ask really insightful questions, you might offer a 15-minute phone call.

One very successful guy I know invites the interesting and insistent people to meet him at his local park to walk his two dogs with him at 5:00 a.m. That seems to really limit the field to those who are truly committed to a meeting!

You can’t be all things to all people, so you are right to set some boundaries and get a grip on this. Experiment with some of these ideas and find what works best for you. The people who are willing to meet you halfway and will be grateful and will self-select in, and those that are just checking a box will fall away.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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Think of a time when you experienced truly excellent service. It may take you a few minutes—I don’t mind waiting.

Got it? Now compare that to a time when the service you received was just acceptable, but nothing special. Which organization do you want to do business with again? I’ll bet it’s the one where someone made you feel valued and cared for—someone who understood what great service really means.

What we know from working with companies of all sizes is that most organizations recognize that they need to offer great customer service—but few really get it right. They zero in on specific tactics or trendy catchphrases, or they provide training to a small number of people in customer service roles. They don’t understand that the best companies create a culture of Legendary Service—where taking care of customers is the responsibility of every person, not just people who work in the customer service department.

Organizations that have a true service culture look at customer service from three equally important perspectives:

  • Frontline service providers. Frontline people play a critical role because they are the ones who have direct contact with the customer. To the customer, these people are the company. If frontliners don’t know how to behave with a customer or how to answer a question or solve a problem, it can reflect badly on the organization in the customer’s eyes. On the other hand, if they serve customers with care, answer their questions, and solve problems on the spot, customers will happily return.
  • Managers. Managers in a true service culture empower frontline people to provide exemplary service. They also act as role models as they demonstrate service excellence to both internal customers—the people who work in the company—and external customers—the folks who use the company’s products and services.
  • Senior leaders. Top executives must fully embrace the service vision and communicate desired behaviors to the entire organization. Their goal is to create an environment where every person in the company feels cared for as a valued internal customer of the organization. Those folks, in turn, make sure external customers also feel cared for and valued.

You can see how, at an organizational level, creating loyal external customers begins by caring for internal customers—people who are empowered to create that loyalty with every direct contact they have with an external customer.

We use the CARE model to show the four qualities present in every Legendary Service provider: Committed, Attentive, Responsive, and Empowered. We’ve found that the lessons of this simple model, when applied, will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers—both internal and external—will receive. Here are descriptors for each quality:

  1. Committed: Being Committed to customers means living the customer service vision by knowing and understanding the impact of poor service on your organization; acting on the belief that service is important; performing tasks with the customer in mind; and having goals and metrics for providing great service.
  2. Attentive: Being Attentive to customers means listening to identify customer needs and wants by paying attention to customers’ verbal and nonverbal cues; being aware of surroundings and ignoring distractions; asking open-ended questions to draw information from the customer; acknowledging the customer’s needs; treating internal customers as if they are paying customers; and doing analysis on both internal and external customers.
  3. Responsive: Being Responsive to customers means taking action that shows you care, such as listening actively to gain understanding; acknowledging feelings; offering solutions within your authority; gaining agreement; and expressing appreciation.
  4. Empowered: Being Empowered for customers means unleashing the full extent of your power by practicing good self-care habits; being aware of the power you have to serve customers; continuing to increase your knowledge about your job; knowing your company’s policies and procedures; and personally handling all customer situations you may encounter.

I’ve always said profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people so they will take good care of your customers. A true service culture creates an environment where people feel involved, appreciated, and cared for at work.

If you empower your internal customers, train them well, and care for them, they will take care of your external customers. Those people then tell their friends about you and become raving fans and part of your sales force. That takes care of the company shareholders or owners as well as the bottom line. And that’s how Legendary Service leads to great relationships and great results.

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I’ve been coaching executives for about six years now. Recently I was working with a leader who proudly identified himself as a perfectionist. He considered it a badge of honor that he routinely works ten to twelve hours each day. Even now, in his sixties, he has his company cellphone on him at all times and feels he needs to respond to emails, texts, and calls right away. When I asked him if he could set a lower expectation—such as replying within 24 hours—it seemed like a foreign concept to him.

This leader told me, unsolicited, that working so much meant he had missed many of his daughters’ milestones growing up. When they were kids, he told his daughters nothing was acceptable but A+ effort. He is proud that he set such high standards and believes his kids are successful because of those standards. I wonder whether he imposed his standards on his daughters to the degree that they, too, will miss out on parts of their lives trying to be perfect.

Over the years, I’ve heard many renditions of perfectionistic tendencies from my clients. This tends to show up most often when I’m debriefing a 360 or other assessment with them. It surprises and saddens me that many with the highest assessment scores—obviously very qualified people—don’t believe they are doing all that well. Inevitably, most of these people are perfectionists. Their perfectionism distorts their thinking.

Most of us believe it’s good to have high standard. Working hard and performing well are positive qualities. But there’s a difference between having a strong work ethic and striving for perfection.

When I Googled perfectionism, I found a quote from my old friend Wikipedia that sums up the definition well: “Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness AND setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”

Perfectionism is a huge, complex subject. My intention here is to touch on just a few simple but effective ways people can begin to combat their perfectionistic tendencies.

  • Recognize your own perfectionistic tendencies. Increasing your self-awareness of perfectionistic thinking patterns and/or behavioral tendencies is very enlightening.
  • Notice your critical internal dialogue (which is usually hard to miss). An effective way to disrupt those self-critical thoughts is to replace them with more realistic and helpful statements—often called affirmations. Every time the internal critic surfaces, silence it with an affirmation. One I like is “I’m okay just as I am.”
  • Try living by a “done is better than perfect” philosophy. I first heard this statement from my boss. It’s a good one. As a recovering perfectionist myself, this thought has stopped me many times when I’ve found myself working to make something perfect. Of course, for most perfectionists, their “done” is usually much better than their non-perfectionistic colleagues’ best efforts.

Why should organizations care about helping their perfectionistic employees, you ask? Because perfectionism is linked to accident-related disabilities, absenteeism, burnout, and turnover.

Do you, or someone you know, tend to be perfectionistic? Try these first steps and let us know how they work for you. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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Dear Madeleine,

I am the general manager of a hotel property. I have always received great performance reviews, have high employee retention numbers (a big issue in my business) and my teams seem to really like working with me.

About nine months ago I got a new boss and she is a crazy micromanager. She doesn’t seem to understand that I have been doing this job successfully for five years. She is always breathing down my neck and questioning every decision I make. It takes more time to keep her satisfied than it takes to do all the other things I need to do.

It is demoralizing and exhausting. I want to tell her to back off and let me do my job. How can I do that?

Over Managed

Dear Over Managed,

You can’t. You can fantasize about it, but it isn’t going to get you what you are looking for, which is more autonomy. Your new boss is probably just nervous about doing well herself and is operating out of old habit driven by an overabundance of caution.

Here is what I suggest. Ask for some extra time with your boss after you have addressed the day-to-day nuts and bolts. Tell her you want to check in about how she thinks you are doing and about your working relationship. Be prepared to ask some big, open-ended questions to get her talking, such as:

  • Is there anything I am doing that keeps you from having confidence in me
  • How can I make it easier for you to trust me with __ (fill in one of your responsibility areas)?
  • What can I do to increase your belief that you can rely on me?
  • What would you need to see from me to be more comfortable with less supervision?
  • Why are you so uptight? (Totally kidding on this one, just checking to see if you are paying attention.)

See what she has to say. Don’t let yourself get defensive if she gives you feedback. Listen, take notes, and say thank you. Be prepared to take a stand for being left to your own devices with one or two areas that you know you have down pat—not the whole job, just a few areas, so you have someplace to start. With any luck, once you prove yourself to be dependable with one or more areas, she will ease up. The key is to consistently demonstrate competence.

Side note: In a new manager/employee relationship, it is better for the manager to start with tight supervision and then back off as the employee demonstrates competence. If the manager starts off being laid back, it is almost impossible to tighten up in the event it becomes necessary.

If it’s really hard for you to fight the urge to tell off the boss, I recommend getting it all off your chest with a good friend or your dog. Just get it all out so it doesn’t get in the way of your being open and curious when you do talk to her. Asking questions and drawing her out will get you much better results.

Your courage and openness should help get things on an even keel—but she may not change her MO. Ever. She may not be able to. If that ends up being the case, you will have a big decision to make. Good hotel GMs are in high demand!

Love,
Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine?  and look for your response here next week!

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