Symbolic Leadership

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Key Traction-Point:

Everything communicates. Walk the talk. Actions speak louder than words.


Through the behaviors they demonstrate (or don’t), actions they take (or don’t), and choices they make (or don’t), leaders send constant and powerful messages to those around them. What they do (or don’t do) telegraphs their values, priorities, and more. And followers are highly attuned to these messages.

Public actions, traditions, rituals and even stories communicate volumes for leaders who use them well. But it’s easy to abuse this leadership strategy. People quickly see through the clever stunts, artificial contrivances and photo-ops of an inauthentic leader trying to manipulate a situation.

Becoming a genuine, skillful, symbolic leader involves more than doing things “for show.” It involves…[continue reading: Symbolic Leadership.]


10 Ways to Build Better Coworker Relationships

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Key Traction-Point:

Fancy plans aren’t always needed. The simplest of approaches
(read: common sense) is often the best.


1:  Practice common courtesy
2:  Use effective communications
3:  Respect other people’s time
4:  Help yourself
5:  Proceed with caution on social media
6:  Stay on the level
7:  Don’t gripe about work at work
7a: Bonus: Don’t gripe about work at home, either
8:  Put out a welcome mat
9:  Don’t pass the buck
10: Follow up with people

Get the particulars on each by reading the full article at TechRepublic.


Your Best Under Stress

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Key Traction-Point:

Stress is not necessarily the result of too much work or too many interruptions – it stems from when their demands on you exceed your perceived ability to control them. The key, then, is to focus on better controlling the parts you CAN control.


If you’re like 75% of other Americans, you’ve experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and often lie awake at night because of it.

Trying to balance the demands of your work and family life can stretch even the strongest among us to the breaking point. But there is a way to be successful and productive even when under stress, says Sharon Melnick,  PhD and author of “Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On.”

In her book she writes that stress is not necessarily the result of too much work or continual interruptions, but rather when the demands of your situation exceed your perceived ability to control them. Every challenge, she writes, can be divided into the 50% you can control and the 50% you cannot.

Read her interview at the Intuit QuickBase blog.


The Exactly Perfect Time to Drink Coffee

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Key Traction-Point:

Your coffee will probably be the most effective if you enjoy it between 9:30am and 11:30am, when your cortisol levels are dropping before the next spike.


Most people drink coffee first thing in the morning. But is that the right way to do it? If you’ve ever had coffee and felt like it didn’t work, you’ve run into the field of chronopharmacology — the study of how medications and drugs interact with your biology.

When it comes to coffee, the main piece of biology to consider is your body’s level of cortisol—a hormone related to stress and alertness. The more cortisol in your body, the more naturally alert you are. Similarly, the more alert you are, the less effective coffee is going to be. So you should really time your caffeine doses with your dips in cortisol.

And if you really want to get the most out of your maximally optimal coffee experience, LifeHacker suggest taking a 15 minute (no longer) nap right after you chug your coffee—a strategy known as the “caffeine nap.” [bz: I do this on the weekends and thoroughly enjoy how much more active my dreams are! LOL]

Continue reading this Smithsonian Magazine article.

Post Script: Here’s another excellent, related, article – What Are The Health Benefits of Power Naps? – that’s over at www.healthambition.com. Give it a read.

Post Post Script: How to Take a Caffeine Nap: A Definitive Guide for 2018 – I’m definitely a fan of this technique. (Although, on the downside, I personally tend to ‘caffeine nap’ for longer than Natasha recommends. On the upside, though, I definitely feel like I benefit from having significantly more active dreams!)


Mentors Guild Q&A

Earlier this year, I became a founding member of the Mentors Guild, an on-line service that helps individuals and businesses maximize their performance. One of the services they offer is a nifty Ask an Expert program.

From time to time, I’ll be posting some of the questions (and my answers) from there here at the LeadershipTraction blog. Like these:

Their Question: What recommendations do you have for HR when execs think they know it all because they’ve read a few HR books?

My Answer: If it were me, I’d read those exact same books, schedule some time with the exec, and have a series of pseudo-book-club-type conversations where you discuss the parts of the books that you both agree with, the parts that you both don’t, the parts where your opinions differ, and (most importantly) the parts that have particular applicability to what you call the ‘business of the business.’ Then you can check back in, on a regular basis, to insure the key points are kept top-of-mind.

Their Question: How does one develop an ability to “see the big-picture”?

My Answer: A good way to differentiate the “forest” from the “trees” is to think in terms of the precedence or implications of a decision or recommendation. “Trees” (more tactical decisions/recommendations) are typically one-and-done — good for the particular circumstance/situation, but not much more. “Forests” (more strategic decisions/recommendations) are more “one-and-some,” meaning they address both the current circumstance/situation AND future choices relevant to it or that may arise as a result of it.

To get a better feel for the difference, look at a decision one of your more strategic coworkers recently made. Consider its depth and breadth. Why THAT decision? What sort of precedence does it establish or work within? Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them about it, how they approached the matter, identified possible options, vetted those options, and ultimately came to a conclusion. Ask them to explain their thinking in as much detail as is helpful to you.

Now look at one of your more tree-like decisions and ask yourself the same questions. Compare and contrast the two and notice the differences in approach and methodology. Now ask another coworker. And another — until you start to recognize some patterns behind big-picture skills and how you can incorporate them into your own decision-making. Share what you’ve learned with your boss and get his/her input and insights, as well. Make better “big-picture” thinking a routine part of your 1-on-1 meetings.

Hope this helps get you started.

Their Question: How can I drive consensus in cross-functional projects?

My Answer: “While my experience in working relationship one-on-one is excellent, it becomes really difficult to manage conflicting priorities when the size of the team pushes 4 or so members.” Yes, welcome to the world of herding cats — and IT cats are the hardest to herd!

So let me suggest that you consider the level of support you NEED from each person on your key issues by using the following  continuum:

I need them to LET it happen » » » » » I need them to HELP it happen » » » » » I need them to MAKE it happen.

Then, using the same continuum, consider the level of support you CURRENTLY HAVE from each person on those key issues.

Less confident/practiced IT project managers tend to spend most of their time with the people who are already giving them as much, if not more, support than they need for a given issue and not enough time with the people from whom they need more support than they currently have.

You can substantively increase your impact and influence, without having to engage your executive sponsors in the minutiae, by focusing your attention on those who’s support you currently NEED > CURRENTLY HAVE. Then, the conversations with your executive sponsors can focus, instead, on more meaningful updates and progress reports and maximizing executive-level support and visibility for the initiatives under your charge.

I’m happy to talk through some ways the make this happen for you, if you’d like.


How Effective People Handle Email

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Key Traction-Point:

Those who feel overwhelmed by email usually work from the assumption that if someone sends them something, they absolutely must read it and respond. However, effective people tackle email differently.


If you’re like most people, you feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the amount of email you receive. You would rather spend time on high-impact projects instead of digging through your inbox. But as we advance in our careers, and add responsibility to our jobs, the amount of emails (and texts, and calls, and meeting invites) we receive are likely only to increase.

Getting on top of your communications—and staying ahead—requires subtle, yet important shifts in your mindset and strategies.

99U offers seven ways how the best-and-brightest do it.