Author Archives: Karen Snyder

Communication - Meaningful Conversations - Workplace

Is Your Leader Wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Your colleague just bombed his presentation to the board. He went on way too long, and the data portion was so confusing. But when he asks how he did, you reply, “Nice job. Is that a new tie?”
Our basic survival instinct tells us to answer positively, even if there is room for improvement. But here’s the rub: What if people are doing the same to you?
I have heard of CEOs and senior-level executives who were terminated, even though they had no idea that anything was wrong…or certainly not anything big.  They were baffled by their newfound unemployment, yet their colleagues had known about their problematic behavior. Likely they were very competent at the nuts and bolts of the job, but clearly the relationships and respect were not there-and that’s 80% of a senior leaders’ effectiveness.


So if people aren’t going to offer up constructive feedback, what can you do about it? First, ask yourself: Do I have the respect and relationships I need to move myself to the next level?


If you aren’t 100% certain of the answers to these questions, you might consider our Executive 360 process. Think of it like “This is Your Life” for business people.


Here’s how it works: We interview 20 to 30 people from your entire sphere of influence-from the receptionist to the director of the board, as well as employees, clients, vendors, and members. We ask them what it’s like to work with you, and we discuss your strengths and what you bring to the organization.   The feedback is shared with you as a composite, not singling out any respondent, so they are incredibly honest in their remarks.
Senior leaders benefit greatly from the feedback and know what to focus on to move themselves and their businesses to the next level.


It’s win/win for everyone…


The 360 process benefits CEOs and senior leaders who want to improve their job performance, and it’s also good for subject matter experts who have personnel issues that could potentially leave the organization vulnerable to a hostile work environment.
So, if you want to get a clear picture of how you’re perceived and what you need to work on, talk to us about the Executive 360 (you’ll soon learn that we don’t have to be constrained by that survival instinct I spoke of earlier!).
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Self Reflection

Terrible, Horrible Day?

At some point, we all have what my nowtrain-station
18-year-old daughter liked to call “stinky-poo days.”  It’s an amusing way of recognizing that sometimes you just have to get over yourself and deal with the circumstances at hand.
In fact, my epic stinky-poo day involved my daughter, that eloquent word-master,  when she was just six-months old.  It was September 1999 and I was slated to speak to a group of 35 people in New York City. Unfortunately, Hurricane Floyd was also planning a visit to the area.  So, even though my breastfeeding daughter usually accompanied me on my engagements, my husband and I decided that I would leave behind some milk and she would sit this one out.
I showed up at the event to an audience of one.  We were soon informed that a state of emergency had been declared.  So I, and what seemed like the rest of the city, arrived at Penn Station to get the heck out of Dodge.  We were stuck there for hours.  And while my husband and daughter were prepared for me to be gone all day, my breasts were not!  I had to find a way to relieve the situation (my trusty pump), but I needed somewhere to plug it in and, obviously I needed  some privacy.
As it turns out, Penn Station’s restrooms do not have outlets.  So, I approached a policeman whose only suggestion was that I go to a hospital.  Not keen on that idea, I did the only thing I could.  I gathered in the waiting area with all the other professionals who were catching up on their work. And instead of pulling out a laptop, I started up my breast pump and covered myself the best I could in my black coat.  Now, if you’ve ever been around cows at milking time, you know that pumping is not a silent endeavor!  I saw many a quizzical face searching for the source of that “whirr-whirr-whirr” sound.  But, I just kept a straight face and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Finally, we boarded a train and I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with my seatmate when our train came to a halt.  We were stopped at a bridge, waiting for the wind to settle down.  We waited and waited, and it became evident that we would be waiting a long time.
It was clear that I was not going to make it home without another pumping session.  Thankfully, there was an outlet at my seat, but there was the matter of the gentleman beside me.  I sheepishly told him my situation, and frankly, he couldn’t get away from me fast enough. Again, I put my black coat into service and, again, that “whirr-whirr-whirr” caused a lot of puzzled glances.
So, what did I learn from my stinky-poo day?  Life and business throw us curve balls.  We have no choice but to quickly adapt to the situation at hand.  Those with the most resilience tend to have the most success in their work.  Sometimes you just have to do what the day asks of you — and never underestimate the versatility of a black coat.
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Communication - Conflict Resolution - Employee Feedback - Workplace

The More Specific, The More Terrific

You can’t improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. Makes sense, doesn’t it? In reality, many of us complain about underachieving co-workers, but don’t give them the type of feedback they need to do their jobs better.karen-small-mtg
Let me give you an example: Several years ago, I was the training director for a regional bank. Our assistant, Keri, was an efficiency wiz. Her grammar was impeccable and when she proofed a document, she not only made corrections (in red), she made stylistic suggestions (in yellow) that improved documents tremendously.
Keri handled the workload of six vice-presidents with time to spare, whereas our previous assistant had always been behind. She revamped our filing system (yes, they were paper files back then!), cross-referencing everything, without being asked.
You’re thinking, “What a joy!” right? Wrong!
Within a few months, it became clear that no one liked Keri. All six VPs were avoiding her, and she was being left out of meetings because no one wanted to deal with her.
Roger, one of the VPs, tried to give Keri feedback. He told her that she was grumpy. “You would be grumpy too,” she nearly screamed, “if you were up all night with a toddler, had to get up at 5:30am to get her to daycare, and your life was nothing more than drudgery!”
Well, that was the end of Roger giving her feedback.
We decided Keri needed a performance improvement plan, but what would we write? She was so talented and efficient. My colleague, Laurel, said she would take Keri on as her project and see how she could help.
Laurel asked what specifically Keri did that annoyed us. What made her grumpy?
We weren’t sure. We talked about it for a few minutes. Finally, Juan said, “I don’t like that she grunts when I walk in each morning.”
“I thought she only did that to me,” Gary said. “I think it’s because she’s focused on what she’s working on,” said Bea.
Laurel scheduled a meeting with Keri. She said simply, “In the morning, when each person arrives, please look up from your work and say any polite version of good morning.”
Keri turned red. “It rarely is a good morning!” she exclaimed. “I don’t want to stop what I’m doing. It’s not in my job description.”
Laurel responded calmly, “You are the first person your colleagues and our visitors see each day. It is important that we create a positive work environment. If you would like, we can modify your job description to include greeting your colleagues and visitors professionally.”
The next morning, Keri grumbled a greeting as people entered the office.
Many of us greeted her back and smiled. Each day her greeting seemed a tiny bit more sincere.
At the next staff meeting, everyone mentioned the difference. Laurel said, “Next we will work on asking Keri to keep us updated on her status on our projects.”
Within a year, Keri applied for a role as an entry-level consultant-a position that was a much better match for her considerable abilities. We were able to give her excellent recommendations and she got the job!
So what made the difference between Roger’s and Laurel’s approaches? Lauren modeled direct, supportive feedback.
How can you use direct feedback?  Is there someone in your office who is awesome?  How so?
Someone lazy?  What are the actual behaviors of laziness?
Give us a call if you are having trouble isolating the behaviors, and we can help you figure it out.  The more specific, the more terrific!
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