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Dear Madeleine,

I started a new job as a senior leader for a large manufacturing firm about four months ago—and I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the disaster I’ve walked into. All I heard about when I first came on was how much everyone loved my predecessor, how smart he was, how much he got done, and how much fun he was. It seemed that he generated incredible results. He sounded like Superman.

The further I got into the details, the more clear it was to me that the results were, indeed, incredible—because they were faked! But get this: he wasn’t fired, he quit. So nobody, including senior leadership, knows about this.

To make matters worse, he was everybody’s best friend. He never set goals with his people, gave feedback, or did performance reviews. He somehow charmed HR into letting him off the hook, but now I am being held accountable and my people aren’t used to anyone actually acting like a boss.

I don’t want to trash this guy—it wouldn’t make me any friends and it just isn’t my thing. But how on earth am I supposed to get things back on track here without making people hate me?

New Guy

Dear New Guy,

The last time I worked with a client in this position, she thought she was alone—but it turned out that the wool hadn’t been pulled over everyone’s eyes. I’ll bet if you diplomatically poke around, you will find the same thing. When the emperor has no clothes, there are always a few people who can see it.

It’s imperative that you come clean with your boss and your HR business partner. You can’t fight this fight alone. You may find out that they know all about it—that your predecessor was, in fact, fired, and they are testing you. That would be messed up, but I’ve seen it happen. However, if the news is all a big surprise to them, you will want to be gentle and stick to the facts. No need to call anyone names or place blame. Just share what you have uncovered as dispassionately and objectively as possible. Either way, you’ll create a few allies and buy yourself a little time to become the model manager.

Then do what you can to figure out what the true past results should have been and share that information upward. Your team doesn’t really need to know, and you might be able to preserve their fond idea of him.

Once you get a sense of the actual results, you can set your goal numbers a little above those—at least for starters. Approach your team by talking about team goals at first. You don’t have to trash the big faker; just talk about yourself. Share that you are goal oriented and a fan of goals and goal setting. Heck, show them this video of Ken Blanchard talking about it. Teach your people how to set goals and make it clear that you expect everyone on the team to have their own. You can also share your experience with giving feedback to help people stay on track.

Make clear that you think it is your job to help the business succeed by helping your people to succeed, and you want nothing more than each person’s success. Be kind. Be fair. Be patient. Go slowly and carefully and you will be okay. Yes, people may still hate you at first, but once they see you truly mean them no harm, they will stop hating you. And just remember, none of it is personal.

Forge ahead, do as well as you can, and stay positive. Everything is going to be okay.

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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During my time as a coach, I have often utilized SWOT analyses to help teams analyze their organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a simple, user-friendly method to help a team or a board focus on key issues affecting their business. This type of analysis often can be used as a precursor to a more comprehensive strategic planning session.

One benefit of the SWOT process is that it encourages teams to not only brainstorm ideas but also face untapped opportunities and potential threats. Consistent use of this framework can give an organization a competitive advantage through dialogue regarding brand, culture, new products or services, and capabilities.

What some people don’t realize, though, is that SWOT analysis can also be an effective personal strategic planning tool. Crafting your personal SWOT matrix is a powerful technique that can be used, for example, when you are seeking a career change or facing a major shift in your life.

Here are three steps to get started:

Step 1 – Identify what exists now. List all strengths that exist now. List all weaknesses that exist now. Be honest.

Step 2 – Look to the future. List all opportunities (potential strengths) that may exist in the future. List all threats (potential weaknesses) that may occur in the future.

Step 3 – Create a matrix/get a plan. Enter your ideas in the appropriate quadrant (see figure). Notice that strengths and weaknesses are internal forces; opportunities and threats are external. See how each quadrant has a relationship with another? What strengths exist that could overcome weaknesses? What weaknesses need to be overcome in order to embrace a new opportunity? Review your matrix and think about a plan.

Here are a few helpful questions to increase your awareness around internal and external factors:

  • What skills and capabilities do you have?
  • What qualities, values, or beliefs make you stand out from others?
  • What are the skills you need to develop?
  • What personal difficulties do you need to overcome to reach your goal?
  • What external influences or opportunities can help you achieve success?
  • Who could support you to help you achieve your objectives?
  • What external influences may hinder your success?

A SWOT matrix can provide a foundation to help you create goals and action steps. You may consider addressing your weaknesses by building skills or self-leadership capabilities. Carefully review your opportunities, as they may be used to your advantage. And consider how threats could be minimized or eliminated by shifting personal priorities or gaining new knowledge.

It’s common for people to experience blind spots around their own strengths and weaknesses, so don’t hesitate to seek out opinions from friends, family members, and colleagues. Also, be willing to share your SWOT matrix with a partner who will hold you accountable for action steps and celebrate your progress.

Best of luck—and happy personal planning!

About the Author

Patricia Sauer is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 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 have an employee who hates me. I have been supervising and managing people for 25 years and this has never happened to me before. I’ve been to training classes, attended webinars, read books on managing, and worked hard to hone my leadership skills over the years.

I am generally a likeable person, so I am flummoxed. He was warm and friendly during the job interview. He had the right experience and skills and he started off fine. However, after the three-month probationary period passed, he had a total personality change.

I’ve been told by others that he complains about what a slave driver I am. He sits silently through our regular meetings without contributing. And it’s not just me—he doesn’t seem to like anyone else either. He does his job but is so unpleasant that his peers avoid him.

I know you will say I need to talk to him, but he canceled his last few one-on-one meetings. I’m going to be traveling a lot over the next few months, so I can’t really catch him in person.

With all the craziness going on in the news these days, this whole situation is getting under my skin.

Hate Being Hated
_________________________________________________________________________

Dear Hate Being Hated,

I was going to give you some quick and friendly advice until you mentioned workplace violence in the news. That made things very serious, very fast. I think it is a clue to something you may not have told yourself in so many words, which is that you are afraid of this employee.

You must go to HR and talk about this situation right this minute and create a plan for the possibility that you might have to let this person go. I think it is critical here to honor your Spidey sense—you don’t want to overreact, but you do want to take proper precautions in case the day comes that you actually need them.

I asked a group women in my master mind group once what their biggest regrets around work were. To a person, each of them said they regretted not honoring a strong intuition they had because they didn’t want to offend someone. You really don’t want that to happen to you.

And yeah, you need to talk to him. You can catch him in person if you really make the effort. Make it clear that you are setting up a meeting that isn’t optional for him, and go straight at it. Tell him that you have noticed him acting extremely unhappy, that you have heard through the grapevine he feels his workload is too heavy, and that you are very worried.

Ask him what is going on—and then just stop talking. If he refuses to be candid with you and says something like, “Nothing’s wrong; everything’s fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about,” be clear that this is the moment for him to give you the feedback you need to work with him and help him get to a better place. Make sure he understands that you have his best interests at heart and want him to succeed.

If he continues to stonewall, ask him to behave the way he did during his first three months on the job—warm and friendly, eye contact, contributing in meetings, etc. He will either agree to try, or he will refuse. That will give you the information you need to move forward. It is completely fair to have a standard where people working for you are minimally civil, polite, and not overly stressful to work with. If he can’t maintain that standard, he will need to accept help from HR, work with a professional through your EAP, or he will have to go.

Schedule the conversation as soon as you can. Change a trip if you have to. The health of your entire team is at stake here—and if they haven’t already, they will judge you for not dealing with the situation.

This clearly feels personal to you and your emotional response to it is clouding your judgment. Try to remember this isn’t about you. This is about him, your team, and your business—and you must deal with it head on. If there is danger here, letting more time pass will only exacerbate things.

Don’t duck this. Act now. Be brave.

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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A common topic in my coaching sessions is work/life balance. Heavy workloads, daily abundance of emails, competing deadlines, required meetings, and other concerns can be so overwhelming that work can become the focal point and main priority in life. As a result, we can feel obligated to dedicate long hours to our work. We struggle with setting and honoring boundaries that could give us a more balanced life. Many of us know the benefits of a work/life balance, but fall short in achieving it.

The definition of work/life balance is different for each individual. For one person, it’s working a set number of hours in a day or week. For another person, it’s scheduling some longer days for more intense work and some shorter days that are easier. And some people prefer a compressed work schedule—such as four ten-hour days—so that they have an extra day off every week.

So how can you achieve much-needed balance between your work and home life? It’s usually a combination of priorities, boundaries, and structure.

Identify your priorities. Depending on where you are in life, your priorities may be different than they used to be. What is most important in your life right now? Think of what work/life balance means to you, based on those priorities. It could be something as simple as not taking work home or checking email on the weekends so that you can be fully present with your family. Or dedicating Wednesday nights to bowling with friends to keep your relationships close.

Set your boundaries. What boundaries might help you achieve work/life balance? It may be getting to work no earlier than 9:00 a.m. on Mondays and going home no later than 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.

Create some structure. What kind of structure needs to be in place for work/life balance? It could be having weekly one-on-one meetings with each staff member to ensure that you delegate more effectively.

Think before you commit. Do you sometimes say yes because you want to be seen as a team player—and instantly regret it? I’ll never forget a thought-provoking edict from my coach training: “Whenever you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.” Pause to think about the potential impact of your answer before you respond to a request.

Honor yourself by applying any or all of these steps. You will instantly feel more in control of your daily life as you move toward the balance you need to succeed—both at home and at work.

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Dear Madeleine,

I am 25, super organized, and I have no problem being direct. On the CliftonStrengths® assessment I come out as having high self-assurance. People just assume I am in charge even when I am not—officially. As a result, I have been given opportunities to lead all the way back to my first job.

Most recently I have been a team lead in a fast-moving technology startup for about 18 months. The company is experimenting with different types of leadership growth paths. One approach the company has adopted is treating new management opportunities as just another job; not a promotion per se, but a “tour of duty.” I wanted to give it a shot, so I signed up to be considered. To my surprise, about six months ago I was assigned five people to “officially” manage―but without a lot of training to go with the official designation. I was given training on how to use the goal setting and performance management system, but that’s it.

I would appreciate your overall guidance on next steps for a new manager, but I am also hoping you can help with an immediate problem. One of my “people” (they don’t really technically report to me, so I don’t even know what to call them) is old enough to be my mother, and she isn’t taking this new deal seriously. Her attitude is condescending; she literally laughed in my face at our first meeting and has blown off all subsequent meetings.

How can I shift this situation?

They Call me The Kid

Dear Kid,

Well, I am old enough to be your mother, too―and I say, “Go, Kid!” Clearly your organization has decided to let you sink or swim on your own, so I will do my best to help you figure it out.

The first thing to do is educate yourself on the nature of the matrix organization. This system of reporting to two or more managers isn’t a new concept, but apparently it is still wreaking havoc. Understanding the context of the system you are operating in will help you.

Next, establish a framework for how to do a good job as a new manager. For that, I offer you an eBook that Blanchard created based on our First Time Manager class. The book gives you four skills to sharpen and teaches you to master four kinds of conversations that will give you a solid foundation for day-to-day management.

As for your cranky new managee―for lack of a better word―I think you just have to name it and claim it with her. Tell the truth about how absurd it is for someone who is 25 to “manage” someone in their fifties who has been around the block a number of times. Say something like, “Look, I know this is ridiculous, but it is an experiment, and we are both in it together, so let’s figure it out together.”

Ask questions:
• If this is to work out perfectly for you, what would that look like?
• If I did a great job for you, what would I be doing?
• What can we both do that will set us up for a win right now?
• Would you be willing to craft a way of succeeding with me?

Be clear that your intentions are good and that you are eager to learn and be useful. She may continue to laugh at you, but if you can laugh along with her, it may at least get you on the same page.

If she still won’t give you the time of day, then I guess you must let the chips fall where they may. You can only reach out the hand and make the effort, the rest will be up to her.

Your Clifton Self-Assurance Strength will certainly come in handy. It will help you to go boldly into the unknown and recover quickly when you make mistakes. The key will be not to get too cocky or believe your own good press (too much). As long as you “take your work seriously, but yourself lightly,” as Ken Blanchard says, you will do just fine.

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 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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