Ask Alice: Advice for Leaders

When the Boss is a Bully

Question:  I need help with the worst boss in the world.  90% of the time she is great to work for; the remaining 10% makes me want to hide under a rock.  When she is being the Good Boss, she is warm and supportive.  But the Bad Boss has screaming fits and shouts expletives at me in front of my peers and staff.  The problem is, I never know who I am dealing with minute by minute, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

Alice Waagen says:  Your boss is exhibiting classic bullying behavior that can be highly destructive to your self-confidence and ability to do your job.  If this is habitual behavior, it is not something you can expect to change.  My first piece of advice is to run – get away from her if possible by getting another job or internal assignment.  If that is not possible, then quickly kick off these survival techniques: (more…)

What’s Love got to Do With It?

Question:  I am the CEO of a small startup and am sick and tired of the office drama around dating.  Don’t get me started on the headaches that come when there is a break up.  I sometimes think I am running a High School, not a business.  I want to institute a policy that prohibits dating work colleagues.  Can I do that?

Alice Waagen says:  Sure, you’re the boss, you can do anything.  But good luck enforcing such a policy.  Soon you will have your HR folks turned into the Dating Police which will drive them nuts!

The whole issue of having personal relationships with coworkers is a murky minefield. (more…)

Avoiding Micro-managing

Question:  I just found out that I’ve been promoted to manage my team.  My whole career, I’ve suffered by being micromanaged by high control, demanding bosses.  How can I avoid micromanaging my new staff?

Alice Waagen says:  In the last three decades that I’ve been in the workforce — as an employee, manager, and now a business owner who coaches managers — I’ve seen a lot of managers in action. Sometimes their style is to be a micro-managing maniac. Other times, they are the invisible manager who dumps assignments then walks away. (more…)

Volunteer Leadership Development Programs: An Essential Solution For Sustaining Association Leadership

Consider the following scenario:

Helen sat at her desk and put her head in her hands. As an experienced association Executive Director, she was well-versed in managing the dynamics of marshalling paid staff and dedicated volunteers to achieve mission. Her staff is wonderful but the volunteers are causing her to have many sleepless nights.

The current Board is having difficulty getting things done. Most of the Board members are experienced professionals with 15 to 20 year service records. The challenge is that they are all highly experienced technical professionals with little to no leadership experience.  The members with leadership titles in their organizations lean heavily on a command and control leadership style which is pretty ineffective with volunteers. The result? Board meeting are like herding cats; Board members stick to their own opinions like glue and consensus decisions drag on for hours.

To compound Helen’s woes, three Board members are stepping down next month and the pipeline for new Board talent is virtually empty. The younger association members seem reluctant to serve on task forces and committees.  Incentive for devoting the time needed for serving in a leadership capacity just don’t seem to appeal to the younger generations. Helen reached for her bottle of aspirin and sighed.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, it should. (more…)

Giving Feedback That Makes A Difference

Giving good feedback is so much more than dropping a casual hint here and there. Good feedback requires thinking about what you want to communicate and planning the best way to share that information.  In my work I witness leaders who give great feedback that really makes a difference in performance.  I also see feedback that is ignored even when it can help a person improve their work. (more…)

Feedback: A Critical Tool For Leaders

Feedback – how can one little word cause so much confusion and strife in the workplace?  Feedback – communication from me to you about performance – should be a valuable tool.  But it is tricky to use; used inappropriately or for the wrong reasons it can cause huge damage to relationships and work results.

When I explain feedback to leaders, I like to use the analogy of driving a car.  When we drive down a road, we are bombarded with feedback about our performance.  We hear engine sounds and the sounds of other cars.  If those sounds vary from the expected, as in a car horn or a siren, we adjust our driving accordingly.  We have visual feedback cues when we look to see other cars, pedestrians or cyclists in the road.  Even the car itself provides us feedback via the speedometer and various gauges.  We use this feedback to change how we drive the car, to ensure maximum efficiency and safety, which makes us realize that the need to have a 60 Gallon air compressor in our cars is essential. (more…)

The Grammar of a Good Question

Since September is back-to-school month, I will give a free grammar lesson on Modal Auxiliary Verbs.  A Modal Auxiliary Verb is a verb that combines with another verb to indicate mood or tense and is used to express necessity, uncertainty, or permission.  Examples of these verbs include:  can, could, may, might, ought, and shall.

Why am I focused on verbs and grammar?  Simply this:  the key to coaching performance is to use strong, reflective questions to probe for insights and analysis.  A good question makes one stop and think; it helps to connect disconnected dots and examine thoughts in a new light. (more…)

INactive Listening: Strategic Silence

I am going to make a bold statement:  we are dramatically underutilizing one of the most valuable tools for communicating with others:  silence.  The occasional use of quiet in a conversation allows for thought and reflection and can increase the positive effects of talk.  Yet silence is avoided, even feared, in dialogue.  Rather than allow for quiet thought, conversations race from topic to topic as if the shear quantity of words equates to quality of communication.