Reflections for a New Year

The New Year is a wonderful time of reflection, to think about where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to be. Rather than making resolutions that slip away within a month, how can you use this time to create meaningful and intentional strategies for your professional future?
Where am I?
The first step in this reflection is to think about where you are in your career.  Are you still on an upward path?  Are you looking for new opportunities within your organization or across your profession? Are you in a position that satisfies you? How do you go deeper and continue to grow within the position? Are you winding down in your career?  Ready for new but less demanding opportunities? And, do you have a realistic sense of direction – of your potential, of where you are and where you can go?
Who am I?
So step two is self-reflection, how much do we know ourselves.  How open are we to possibilities? How much do we acknowledge our own strengths?  How confident are we in our skills and capabilities? How comfortable are we in taking risks? How adept are we at looking into the future? How do we see ourselves as leaders?
This aspect of self-reflection can benefit from a variety of tools and assessments.  Consider CliftonStrengths[1] (formerly Strengths Finder) that helps us learn which of some 36 strengths help us to best achieve our goals.  When I think of my colleagues, I am always amazed by the talents they bring to the table.  Dorothy Sisneros, one of Thunderbird’s managing partners, knocks my socks off all the time with two of her top strengths as a futurist and a maximizer.  When we work together, I’ll talk about a plan (I’m very present oriented) and Dorothy will ask questions about future impacts and possibilities, things I never even begin to think about. She’ll think about how we can best use our people resources using her maximizer strength.  I always learn from her perspective.
I recognize my own ability to synthesize ideas and take big picture concepts down to practical applications and appreciate detail-oriented people who ask questions to get us even further in implementation.
Knowing what we are good at, what we love to do and how to interface those skills with people who have other talents is critical to success.  I want to talk more about the people interface in a minute, but first I want us to dig a little deeper into our own styles.
We’ve mentioned DiSC numerous times in our blogs…one of our favorite assessment tools.  It helps to understand our way of approaching our work and allows us to consider how our preferred approach can be an asset or a liability.
So, as we consider future career decisions, DiSC can help us recognize where we are on a caution v. risk spectrum.  Are you more likely to “ready, fire, aim,” or get paralyzed in analysis? I have a tendency to look at everything as possible and exciting – yes, I/we can do that.  I’ve learned that it helps me to find more cautious people who will help me identify the risks, the questions that need to be answered before I jump in.  By the same token, I’ve worked with folks who prefer a full year of planning before they implement a project.  Together, we’ve found a middle ground to pilot strategies and get the project started sooner rather than later.
Where are you on the risk/caution spectrum?  How does this relate to finding opportunities and being prepared to take them?  In the McKinsey Quarterly[2], they report that women are more likely to believe they need 100% of requirements before they apply for a position, where men will reach for a new possibility if they have about 60% of requirements.  What does this say about confidence (and social conditioning)? DiSC D’s and I’s are also more likely to take a leap where S’s and C’s will hold back, study, analyze and have higher expectations of themselves before they step forward.
How ready do you have to be?
Who Can Help?
And this is where the third step in reflection comes in: using colleagues, mentors and friends to help us expand our perspectives – whether to keep us from jumping without a parachute or moving us forward out of our comfort zone.  Who are the people in your life who see you better than you see yourself? Who will challenge you, support you and encourage you?
As you reflect on your next steps, use your people resources to help you refine your focus on your self, your capacity and your potential.  Brene Brown recommends identifying trusted friends and allies where you can be fully human and vulnerable.  Who are the people in your life who can see you at your worst and be there will you, and still lift you up.
Tom Rath[3] describes 8 necessary roles people need to fill for us to achieve success in the workplace. He describes a “vital connection” as a person who “measurably improves your life or a person you can’t afford to live without.”  Think about the important people in your life.
Rath’s eight roles are: navigator, connector, collaborator, builder, companion, champion, mind opener and energizer.  No one person can or should fill all of these roles. As you consider your direction in 2020, who do you need right now in order to move to the next step in your career.  Is it a mind opener? An energizer? A connector?
I think back to a mind opener in my life from very early in my career. I still remember a conversation I had with a professor when I was in graduate school. He said something to me about taking the lead on a project.  I replied that I was not a leader, I was a follower. He looked at me earnestly and said, “that may have been true in the past, but it is not true now.  You need to rethink how you define yourself.”  That conversation happened some 40 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.  In that moment, I had to rethink who I was, eliminate old messages and baggage, and consider the possibility that I had leadership qualities.
How do you see yourself as a leader? Are you stuck in a singular, old leadership picture?  How do you influence others? What skills and capacities do you bring to leadership?  We know that the most effective leaders are thoughtful, humble, and good listeners as well as inspiring and visionary.  Be careful that you do not recognize your own capacity for leadership and growth.
Who helps you rethink who you are? Who sees things in you that you don’t see in yourself?  Jill, my colleague on this blog, is an amazing partner for me.  Not only is she a collaborator, but she builds me up and increases my confidence in writing and she energizes me.  Talking with her always leaves me more excited about my work.
Who Can I Help?
And that bring me to the fourth step in New Year’s reflections.  Who do you support, build up, energize, champion, challenge?  Consider that these roles are always a give and take.  How are you growing others.  Who can you invite into a conversation at the start of this New Year and help them see possibilities and opportunities they might otherwise miss?
[2] Desvaux, G. et. al. (September, 2008) A Business Case for Women, The McKinsey Quarterly.
[3] Rath, T. (2006). Vital Friends. Gallup Press: New York.

Tip of the Month, December 2019 – Reflections II – TIPS from this year’s Summit

Jill began to highlight the events at this year’s Summit in her last post. I thought I’d format the second part of our Summit reflection as TIPS.  What did we learn, what can we take away?
I really appreciated the balance of evidence-based information as well as the exploration of personal renewal at this year’s Summit. Here are some highlights.

  • When dealing with multiple generations in the workplace, first and foremost, see your employees as individuals.

Dustin Fennell talked about managing multiple generations in the workplace and ultimately concluded that we are not that different after all.  He emphasized a wise, long-standing leadership practice: see your employees as individuals, learn about them – what excites them, motivates them and affirms them, and use that information to support and encourage them. His personal strategy is to:

  1. Value each employee’s perspectives, talents, experiences, ideas and uniqueness
  2. Make caring visible through your presence, your appreciation and your acknowledgement of their feelings
  3. Provide them with something to believe in – provide vision, purpose and their part in it
  4. Know what makes each employee tick
  5. Enable their success

I would also add that learning about general tendencies of different generations may help you understand why people approach things the way they do. When people behave contrary to our personal expectations and norms, it is easy to discount them as rude, uncaring, insensitive, unmotivated, unprofessional, etc.  When we understand different cultures, generations, DiSC styles, personality types, etc. we gain insights that can help us override our own personal preferences and assumptions.
So, absolutely yes, to learning about and valuing our employee’s unique needs, drives and perspectives as Dustin recommended…and when you get lost in your own assumptions, you might want to research how someone might see things another way.

  • Confidence and self-assurance are critical to success. How they present may be gender linked. There are strategies to strengthen one’s confidence and self-assurance.

Mara Windsor presented on issues of confidence and gender and brought compelling research that suggests that women may not be as confident as men because of differences in genetics. Check out The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Whether confidence is genetically or socially influenced (or both!), there are things we can do to strengthen our sense of confidence.  Her suggestions include:

  1. Know that you are not alone – find safe places to share your concerns about confidence.
  2. Stop attributing your success to luck.
  3. Take credit for your accomplishments.
  4. Don’t get caught up in perfectionism (over-preparing, over-rehearsing)
  5. Take action, take risks, fail fast and keep going!
  • We choose how we respond to situations and people’s actions.

Another theme emerged numerous times during the Summit recognizing that we have the ability to manage our emotions and reactions to things…nothing “makes us” angry. We interpret input and choose how we respond.  This message came through in our “café conversations,” (brief small group opportunities exploring different themes about leadership) as well as in Noushin Bayat’s presentation about Leading from Within.
I trained as a therapist in a former career life and relate these concepts to cognitive-behavioral therapy. We receive input, interpret it (in a nanosecond) and then respond with feelings.  Several of the groups in our café conversations wandered into that arena.  Colleen Hallberg’s topic stands out as it stated it the most clearly, “It is only information.”  Wow!
Think about meetings where things feel uncomfortable.  Rather than getting lost in the emotion, what can we ask ourselves? What is happening here? What can I learn from this?  I can step back and assess the data I am receiving.  What is it telling me?  When we recognize that we have a choice in our interpretation and response, we are empowered to take control of our role in the situation.
At a previous Summit, Noushin quoted Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”  Those words continue to resonate in her presentation – finding space outside of right or wrong, win or lose to breathe, reflect and reconnect with what and who is important. As leaders, finding this space and time is essential to our effectiveness.  Noushin’s gentle words belie a powerful way of being.

  • Use an Appreciative Leadership approach to respond effectively to complex work environments by identifying and building on what is working. 

Kathy Malloch provided a preview to her recent work with partner, Tim Porter-O’Grady, on their new approach to leadership.  (We are waiting for the book to come out.)    Some key learnings from Kathy’s presentation include five core strategies of Appreciative Leadership. Consider how you could shift your mindset to be a more appreciative leader and how these approaches could change your organizational culture and results.

  1. Inquiry rather than inquisition
  2. Illumination (strength finding rather than fault finding)
  3. Inclusion (intentional strategies rather than just an invitation to participate)
  4. Inspiration (envisioning a greater future)
  5. Integrity (setting personal boundaries)

Kathy asked a series of provocative questions that are beyond what we can list here.
We’ll continue to share what we learned in future posts.  There was enough to help us plan our 2020 topics!  So, count on us to revisit confidence, generations and appreciative leadership. We really appreciated all the inspiration we received from the day and are already looking forward to next year. Mark your calendars for Friday, November 13, 2020.
We also continue to appreciate the generosity of our participants who contributed over $2,500 in our Silent Auction. Proceeds will be split between the National Alliance to End Homelessness ( selected by the Summit planning team and the Yarnell Regional Community Center ( selected by a drawing of organizations recommended by our participants.
And finally, I want to recognize the work of Carla Rotering and Kevin Monaco who provided an amazing time of meditation and reflection.  Kevin shared his music with us (, and I want to conclude our reflections and the year with words from a magnificent poem Carla shared with us during the meditation.  At this time of year, may we all celebrate, reflect and appreciate our own gifts and the gifts of those around us.
For my mother Rosemary
November 14, 1930 – November 14, 1965
Aruba, August 2002.
Carla J. Rotering, MD ©
Is there any way I’ll have enough time or enough courage or enough whatever I need enough of
To take the grace of the ordinary and recognize holiness?
To just come into agreement….
And allow one breath,
One single diastole
To solemnly be splendid?
To magnify the simplicity of my heart that moves and shifts everything into the world of sanctity?
If there is, I’m ready for it.
I’m ready to bring forth my heart, in its small, red roundness
To be pierced with utmost tenderness
And there stand open and revealed
Without the shield of my terrible fears to frighten away the gods.
To stand in the light of who I am
And to sit in the power of my own Presence
For one single moment
Even if everyone….or no one….ever notices.

Celebrating Dr. Carla Rotering’s Health Care Heroes 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award

Please join me in celebrating Dr. Carla Rotering’s Health Care Heroes 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the Phoenix Business Journal.  (Watch video here.)  Dr. Rotering practices Pulmonary Medicine at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center and White Mountains Regional Medical Center.  She has a long history of leadership and education positions including Director of Critical Care, Chair of Medicine and Chief of Staff.
At Thunderbird Leadership, we know Carla as a leader, mentor and coach who is deeply committed to people–to their growth, upliftment, resilience and purpose as they strive toward the best version of themselves in their professional and personal lives.
Her story is compelling and inspirational, but even more so, her way of being is a model of compassion, integrity and genuineness so it is no surprise that she has been recognized for lifetime achievement.
Carla’s story teaches us about opportunity and possibility. Her consulting company is named BoXcar International because she spent her first six years living in a boxcar on the prairie in North Dakota.  In her achievement award comments, Carla explained how that experience informed her perspectives.  First of all, she explained, she did not see anything unusual about living in a boxcar.  It was just the way it was.  Secondly, though, on reflection, she viewed the boxcar for a metaphor about repurposing.  When the boxcar was no longer needed by the railroad, it served a new purpose for people in need.
That metaphor of repurposing appears to have carried through Carla’s life.  She went from clerical roles to medical school in her 30s when she realized this was even a possibility, supporting and nurturing her children at the same time.  She engaged full-heartedly in her practice only to discover, after many years of dedicated work, that she was physically and emotionally depleted, a condition experienced by many medical providers.
Carla found another opportunity to repurpose, getting a degree in Spiritual Psychology, training in Crucial Conversations and Emotional Intelligence and two coaching certifications.  This study and work helped her regain her inner strength and gave her a new area of focus. While continuing her practice of pulmonary medicine, she founded BoXcar International, providing coaching and facilitation for people in the medical profession to help them take care of themselves so they can continue to care for others.
In the process of her work, she connected with kindred spirits, Amy Steinbinder and Dorothy Sisneros of Thunderbird Leadership.  Together, they conceived a Leadership Summit that is unique in design and application, promoting a philosophy of self-care, mindfulness and reflection.  Now, in its thirteenth year, the Summit continues to offer participants an opportunity to step back from the never ending demands of doing, to reorient themselves and listen to the deeper meaning of their work and their lives.
Carla’s influence on the Summit is profound.  Her poetic language defines the event and her teachings, meditations, poems and presentations create a tone that helps us all hold ourselves and each other more gently, more kindly. Carla’s way of being and seeing emanates from her heart and touches us all.
Lifetime Achievement! Doctor, coach, facilitator, poet, presenter, educator, parent, friend, mentor and guide.  All done with humility, compassion, intellect and wisdom.
Congratulations Carla! Once again, join me in celebrating her success and join us all at the thirteenth Leadership Summit on November 15th, 2019 at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Register before October 1 to avoid late registration fees.
For more information click here.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve got the Clash’s earworm stuck in my head.

Should I stay or should I go
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
This indecision’s bugging me
If you don’t want me, set me free
Exactly who am I’m supposed to be[1]

One of the hardest decisions we have to make is whether to stay in a job that is not satisfactory or whether to move on.  How do you decide?  What factors make a difference. Where do you begin?
There are a few core factors that must be considered:

  1. Financial security – this may determine when and how you leave, but should not determine if you leave (based on other factors below). We hear people talk about golden handcuffs – making so much, healthcare, pension, stock options, vacation time, standard of living, retirement benefits, etc. — that as miserable as the job is, it feels impossible to leave.
  2. Health – the job is making you sick physically or emotionally
    • If you are suffering from physical or emotional illnesses – stomach ulcers, migraines, depression, anxiety
    • If it is impacting your relationships with those closest to you
    • If you are not willing to address your health concerns because your job is too demanding…
    • You have tried to address the concerns but the cure is worse than the disease…
  3. Ethics – the position requires you to do things that are illegal, unethical and/or against your value system.

You do not want to end up in bankruptcy or out of your home or car.  However, staying in a job that causes you to compromise your values or your health is generally not recommended.  This is a case of how and when you leave, not if you leave.
In preparing for this article, I explored numerous quizzes about whether to stay or go and all of them reinforced that if your health and ethics are compromised, you need to get out! Ideally, you do so by finding a new job first. In the meantime, you can evaluate your life choices so that the financial consequences are manageable during the transition or if you find a better position that pays less.
What are other factors that suggest it is time to move on?
A number of years ago I participated in training to facilitate the Everything DiSCä  assessment.  At the time, I had a great team, was doing some exciting work and was very energized.  However, we had a new senior executive who was making some changes to what and how the division was working.  On page six of the report, I read about what motivates and stresses people with my DiSCä style[2].  It was amazingly accurate and told me a lot about my work situation.  With the new changes being implemented, I was losing all the things that motivated me and beginning to experience all the things that stressed me.  It wasn’t even close. Our new senior executive’s vision and mine were not aligned at all.  I sat down with my boss and asked him if there was light at the end of the tunnel, if he thought things would improve in the future.  He honestly told me that he did not.
If you are not feeling fulfilled it may be time to move on.
One of the recurring themes in positive psychology asserts that when we are able to employ those things we do best at work, we are more productive and effective. Clifton et. al.[3] explains it this way, “A talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied…They are among the most real and most authentic aspects of your personhood…There is a direct connection between your talents and your achievements.  Your talents empower you.”  Using our talents, developed through skill and knowledge application, provide us with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in our work.
One of the 12 questions that Gallup[4] poses to quantify employee engagement is, “I get to do what I do best every day at work.” So, one of the critical aspects of whether you stay or go is are you doing not just what you are good at, but what fulfills you and empowers you; what gives you energy rather than draining you. Gallup research indicates that only one third of workers are engaged at work overall.  And yet, there are companies that seek to have 90%+ engaged workers…folks who truly care about what they are doing, provide discretionary effort and are committed to quality. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a work environment where everyone felt that way?
Most of us have to do mundane, routine or annoying tasks at work, but these should be counter-balanced by those that replenish us, provide us with meaning and satisfaction.  When I looked at my motivator/stressor dichotomy, I could see that my future with the company would restrict those behaviors and activities that energized me.
Are you experiencing an unhealthy amount of stress?
Some stress is considered good for us.  It keeps us on our toes, on edge, working a little harder, with a little more urgency.  However, if the stress you are experiencing is soul crushing, maybe it is time to go.
If your values are being compromised, if you are being asked to do something unethical or illegal, this is a no-brainer.
Additional stressors tend to come from the work environment, often shaped by your supervisor/manager/boss. We’ve read many places that people quit bosses not jobs.  Scott Mautz[5] identifies five indicators that it might be time to go.

  • Your boss makes you feel like you’re shrinking.
  • Your boss makes you feel like your values are being compromised.
  • Your boss gives oversight, not oxygen.
  • Your boss causes you to question yourself more than your situation.
  • Your boss’s own career isn’t exactly going well.

Can you see how disempowering these behaviors are?  What happens here is that as you buy in to your boss’s negativity, it may make it even harder for you to consider leaving.  Who would want you after all? It is important to know that you do not have to live in this type of work environment, although many of us believe this is just what bosses do.
Most people are not negatively impacted by working hard if the support and appreciation are there.  It is the emotional toll of negativity, lack of recognition, respect and trust that cause long-term stress and harm.  Employees who experience these behaviors try to stay under the radar, live in fear (stress, pain anxiety) and perform only adequately.
In my work in leadership and coaching, we spend a lot of time on effective people-management. The most successful companies understand that performance excellence comes from excellent management – supporting and growing people, not squelching them.  Find those people and be one!
Are there opportunities to grow in your current situation?
Another consideration is aspirational.  What do you want to be doing in a few years? Where do you want to be? Does your current environment provide you with opportunities to grow?  This doesn’t necessarily mean moving up.  Some people are seeking advancement and want to be sure there are promotion opportunities in the future.  Others find meaning and satisfaction where they are.  This does not mean that nothing should change.  Even in a situation where you do not want to change jobs, there should be opportunities to learn more, to dig deeper and to become more skilled at what you are doing.
Daniel Pink[6] identifies three elements that provide motivation and satisfaction for people: mastery, purpose and autonomy.  Are you given opportunities to develop and improve, to master the skills related to your work?  Learning new skills and/or having new projects and responsibilities are powerful energizers, even if your position hasn’t changed. Do you have the ability to make decisions within your area of expertise (autonomy)? Does your work have meaning (purpose)?
And of course, there is the desire to advance.  How possible is it? Is the organization providing you with the training opportunities you need?  Is there a track record of hiring from the inside?  Does your supervisor know you want to move up?  Is there a leadership program you can participate in? Can you find a mentor?  Have you applied for new positions and not succeeded?  What have you learned?
In some organizations, even when opportunities exist, they may not be available to you if your boss doesn’t support participation.  That is another indicator that something may need to change.
So how do you know when it is time to go?
We’ve all heard the fable/myth[7] about putting frogs in water and heating it up versus putting them in boiling water.  If the water is boiling we know to jump out.  But what about when the water is warm, warmer, etc., how do you know when it is too hot?  How do you know when the physical, emotional and career costs outweigh the benefits of stability and golden handcuffs?
At this point, you’ve considered your health, your engagement and your career potential where you are.  If it is still tolerable, what will let you know it is time to jump?  Chip and Dan Heath[8] suggest setting a trip wire, some kind of indicator that will let you stop and pause.  I’ve often recommended people set a date on the calendar – maybe six months from now – and invite them to rethink their decision based on the factors that are of concern.  Other trip wires would be: applying for advancement and not succeeding (repeatedly, with no helpful feedback), having projects taken away, being uninvited to meetings, a poor performance review, increased health issues or on the positive side, being asked to take on something new, getting good feedback or recognition, discovering you do feel happier and more satisfied at work.
And in the meantime, it never hurts to freshen up your resume and dip your toe in the water to see what else is out there.  Network, check the want-ads, apply for a few positions (good practice), and talk to trusted friends and colleagues. [9]
Our work takes up a huge amount of our lives and contributes to our sense of self-worth and identity.  No matter what we are doing, we can find meaning and satisfaction that adds value to our life.  As Rumi says,
Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
[1] Downloaded 8/12/19 Source: LyricFind, Songwriters: Joe Strummer / Mick Jones, Should I Stay or Should I Go lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
[2] For more information about DiSCä, contact us at Thunderbird Leadership Consulting.
[3] Clifton et. al. (2001) StrengthsQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond. New York: Gallup Press.
[4] Forbringer, L. (2002) Overview of the Gallup Organization’s Q-12 Survey. O.E. Solutions, Inc.
[5] Mautz, Scott. (Aug. 3, 2019) If Your Boss Does these 5 Things, It’s Time to Quit, According to Science. The Inc. Life.
[6] Pink, Daniel. (2011) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.
[7] James Fallows discredits this fable as pure myth when it comes to frogs…our challenge is, is it true for humans? Fallows, J. (Sept. 16, 2006) The Boiled Frog Myth: Stop the Lying Now! The Atlantic.
[8] Heath, C. and Heath, D. (2014) Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions.  The Crown Publishing Group, Kindle Edition
[9] Reddit has a helpful article about preparing if you are resigning or are asked to leave.

About This Year’s Leadership Summit – Reconstructing Leadership: Owning Our Power

I first became connected to Thunderbird Leadership through the Annual Leadership Summit.  Unlike most leadership learning opportunities, it is not focused on developing skills, but rather developing our sense of leadership self. It is a unique leadership experience that asks us to consider who we are as leaders from wherever we sit in our organizations and our world. It is about leadership as a way of being.
I have to admit that I am much more at ease talking strategy and tactics and getting things done.  For me, the Summit is a day-long retreat from doing. I am required to reflect and look inside.  I know it is good for me and appreciate the sometimes-uncomfortable challenge to think and see differently.  Every Summit I learn new things about myself that allow me to be more effective in my work and life.
The Summit is designed by a volunteer planning group. After my second Summit I asked how I could be involved.  Members of the team talk about what they are seeing in their world and how it impacts leaders and leadership.  A theme emerges from local, national and international trends and the discussions give us a chance to hear from different disciplines, geographic regions and generations.
This year, our theme is Reconstructing Leadership: Owning our Power.  Our conversations touched on the teachings of Brene Brown, showing up, being enough and daring greatly, Peter Block who speaks about change not being about magicians but about us and the concept of Communityship, and Kevin Cashman who speaks of leading from the inside out.
We talked about research on effective leadership and why it is so hard to shake old paradigms and ultimately asked ourselves, why reconstructing leadership is so important. We believe that when we are not bound by old paradigms and constructs of leadership, we are free to contribute fully and freely to create a better world.   We move from a powerless question of “why don’t they…” to an empowering challenge of “what can we…” And this allows us to lead from wherever we are, to claim our power and influence.
At this year’s Summit, we will be exploring how we deconstruct the messages that limit us and embrace new ways of being and doing, reconstructing leadership.  In the process, we’ll meet a wonderful cadre of people from across the country and make new connections to inspire us to be our whole, capable and courageous selves.
The Summit was conceived thirteen years ago by a group of colleagues and friends who discovered the joy of being together, supporting each other and challenging each other to grow as leaders.  Each of this dynamic group knew a few more people who would enjoy the conversation, and a few more after that until the Summit grew to some 75 – 100 people annually through personal contacts and connections.
So, if you have found your way to this blog, you’ve made a connection to the Thunderbird Leadership world.  If you are interested in the Summit, please follow the link to the 13th Annual Leadership Summit and join us for a day that has been described as “a spa day for the soul.”
November 15, 2019  Phoenix Art Museum
Summit website link

Summer Professional Beach Read II – The Art of Gathering

What could be better for a Summer Professional Beach Read than The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker?[1]  I was, in fact, on my way to the beach with my children, grandchildren and several other family and friends. We had carefully planned the type of house we needed to meet the needs of families and generations.  We assigned sleeping quarters based on waking and sleeping schedules as well as family needs. We had a spreadsheet for food, menu planning and activities. Plane tickets were purchased, vehicles and drivers allocated, luggage packed. I had even indicated that we needed to discuss expectations of each other to make the week a success, although that conversation slipped away from us in the hustle and bustle of getting ready. We had it all planned!
And then I began reading The Art of Gathering in which Priya Parker dissects what is really necessary for meaningful assemblies of all kinds, whether family, friends, colleagues, conferences or in fact total strangers.  She cautions us to rethink how we approach coming together and avoid getting so bogged down in the logistics that we forget to shape our gatherings around the people. And she counsels us to be clear on the purpose of our gatherings – that every time we plan to meet, we should know why and structure the meeting to address that purpose.
So, while madly dashing down the road to the beach[2], I told the people in my vehicle that we should have a clear purpose for coming together. (Note that this was the 11th time we had done this trip.)  Why were we coming together? What was our purpose? Did the structure of our time together, including the location and logistics, address the purpose?  Was it the best way to do this?
When we skip this step, we often let old or faulty assumptions about why we gather dictate the form of our gatherings. We end up gathering in ways that don’t serve us, or not connecting when we ought to.[3]
Parker cautions us not to confuse a category for a purpose…e.g. a category is a family vacation or a beach trip, or a staff meeting.  A purpose requires us to dig deeper – why are we going on vacation as a family? Why are we having this staff meeting?
Once we have identified our purpose, Parker has suggestions for how the event should unfold, from planning logistics (yes there is a place for that), invitations – the who, the how and the when, welcoming and setting the stage, hosting for purpose and closing the event.
I have been a facilitator for many years and some of her suggestions are strategies that I have implemented intuitively.  But Parker has provided a precise framework and rationale for how to create and manage the environment to accomplish our purpose.  She has made the implicit and intuitive explicit, to allow us to create meaning without missing necessary steps for success.
One of the most profound sections for me was chapter three entitled, “Don’t be a Chill Host.” Parker wants to empower us to host with “generous authority.”
In gatherings, once your guests have chosen to come into your kingdom, they want to be governed—gently, respectfully, and well.[4] 
The role of the host with generous authority begins by being clear on the purpose. It continues by:

  • Inviting those who should be there to meet the purpose of the gathering rather than for political ends or to avoid someone getting angry. As a host, it is my responsibility to manage the invitation list.
  • Sending an invitation that helps participants understand the purpose and expectations so they can choose wisely whether to attend.
  • Creating a powerful welcome that states the purpose clearly from the start. Parker emphasizes that our first few minutes together should not be given over to logistics or a word from our sponsors.
  • Developing a structure that meets the purpose – and adhering to it. This can be both about place, set-up and agenda.
  • Orchestrating closure so that it is both clear and compelling.

Parker provides wonderful examples of all the chronological steps in the process for both personal and professional gatherings from intimate dinner parties to international economic forums and gatherings of over a thousand strangers!
So here are my plans for our next beach trip. Wait! We may have to ask if a beach trip is the best way to do this – avoiding getting stuck in old rituals. So here are my plans for our next gathering.

  • We all need to be clear about our purpose, why are we getting together? We want to sustain and deepen our relationships as a family…and we want to relax.
  • I will have some welcoming activity the first night that gets us started in family-gathering mode. After a fun starting activity, we might want to co-create ground rules that our just for this trip.
  • I will take ownership of the host role – yes, I am the host – I will include some structured activities to allow people to connect across the extended family. This year, others put together a plan to share responsibility for menu planning and cooking.  It was a great idea! I want to try something like having people draw cards of people they have to do activities with during the week – a game, a walk, bowling. I’d also like to move people around at dinner time – table tents – so people talk with each other.
  • Discuss in person our expectations about the week and what we need from each other. I tried this through email – it was a major fail!!! (We all know the dangers of email – and yes, my communication was misunderstood.)
  • I will create official and sacrosanct check-in times to be sure everyone knows what is being planned. This will be one time during the day when all adults and interested children talk about what is working, clarify any misunderstandings, and talk about plans and needs for the next day.
  • We need to have a structured farewell before the wild and crazy clean-up morning. We need to close the week with a sense of appreciation for each other and for this important space in our lives.

Imagine what you could do for your next office retreat.  How could rethinking how you gather change your dreary staff meetings? What steps can you take to add meaning to your meetings? It has to be more than donuts!
Right now, I am working with our Thirteenth Annual Leadership Summit[5] Planning Team.  We describe it as “…not the usual offering of leadership skills and tools. We are devoted to expanding a deeper sense of self-honoring qualities that enhance our leadership.” 
Are we clear on our purpose?  Does it pique your interest? Do you expect to experience something different from lectures and panel discussions?
I can’t wait to apply Parker’s principles with the team to see how this year’s Summit can be even better than the twelve before.
[1] Parker, P. (2018) The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Riverhead Books: New York.
[2] Please note that we were madly dashing within legal speed limits – it just felt frenzied.
[3] Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[4] Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (p. 74). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[5] Thunderbird Leadership Summit, November 15, 2019 from 8:30 – 4:30 at Phoenix Art Museum.    Registration information will follow in our next blog post! For more information about participating contact

Tip of the Month, June 2019 – Tips on Passing the Torch

In this month’s blog (click here), Jill discussed how we pass on information, knowledge and wisdom when we are leaving a position and/or a role.  She also discussed commitment to one’s profession, where passing the torch is also about advancing one’s profession to new members of one’s discipline.
In Tips, this month, we will explore strategies to pass the torch across generations, to new members of our field of study and in succession planning.
The most important tip in this article is to be clear about your values and your way of being.  If your goal is to win at all costs, this column is probably not for you.  If you have a desire to improve yourself, develop others, advance your profession and contribute to bettering your organization and its outcomes, then be courageous; share what you know and be open to learn from others.
In The Career Handoff[1], Steinbinder and Ganann (our very own Thunderbird people!) identify six strategies to pass on information.  All of these strategies are relevant throughout your career life cycle.  Thank you to Steinbinder, Ganann, Malloch and Porter-O’Grady for providing the framework for our tips this month.
I: Mentoring is mentioned throughout the book.  It is usually perceived as a more experienced professional/leader imparting knowledge, wisdom and opportunity to a newer/lower ranked individual in the organization.  Mentoring has always been done informally where mentor and mentee self-select and develop a supportive relationship.
One of the challenges with self-selection is that it tends to exclude people of difference from mentorship.  Senior male leaders may be afraid to mentor incoming women for fear that they would look predatory.  People of different race/ethnicities may not self-select or be selected because of cultural barriers or discomfort.  This can result in inequities in advancement for people of difference.  So more formal mentoring programs have been designed to facilitate inclusive growth opportunities.
Effective formal mentoring programs provide clear expectations and role definition for the mentoring relationship and also recognize that both mentor and mentee benefit.  The official mentor offers institutional knowledge, professional wisdom and development opportunities to the mentee.  In a healthy relationship, the mentee also offers important knowledge and wisdom – perspectives from areas of difference (generation, gender, race/ethnicity, technology knowledge, etc.) to expand the mentor’s world view.  This notion of cross-mentoring honors what each member of the relationship contributes and enriches the outcomes for the individuals, the organization and the profession.
Mentoring can still be informal and can start from anywhere.  A college student can mentor high school students interested in the same career path.  A senior in college can mentor freshmen.  A new professional can mentor those in training.  As you can see, passing the torch can start very early.
What do you share?  The Career Handoff differentiates information, knowledge, wisdom and insights. Information is the data, content, how-to’s; knowledge includes application and context; wisdom describes the why’s of application, and insights are those amazing “aha!” moments we celebrate.  In a mentoring relationship there may be times when information and knowledge are shared, but the power of mentoring comes from wisdom sharing and moments of insight (for both the mentor and the mentee).  This often happens through the second handoff strategy, storytelling.
II: Storytelling is a way of transferring knowledge at a deeper level, including context, emotion and humility in the delivery. It humanizes the storyteller and allows for empathy, access and connection even across differences in role, status or personal identity.  Through empathy, we build bonds of understanding that strengthen the learning experience.  We remember stories, we remember the lessons and we care about the story teller.
It is a powerful way to share difficult and uncomfortable lessons, to learn more about individual perspectives as well as organizational culture. It is a way to keep organizational history alive without stifling growth and change.
III: Powerful Questions can be used in both formal mentoring sessions and informal “mentoring moments.”  Rather than “telling” others what to think or what to do, the mentor, the wise or experienced person, invites the other person to teach themselves through open-ended exploratory questions.  Tell me how you came to this conclusion? What was your thought process?  What would happen if? In your mentor role, ask from a position of curiosity, not with a single answer in mind.  (Don’t lead the witness.) You may be surprised and learn something new from your mentee about a different approach to the issue.
IV: Career Planning is another aspect of passing the torch.  What does an individual need to know or do to advance and/or grow in their career? What opportunities are available to them? Once again formal or informal mentoring plays a significant role.  Remember that the old way of advancing may no longer apply.  Generationally, we have different expectations for how we advance.  Boomers believe in “paying one’s dues,” whereas subsequent generations believe in earning one’s place based on abilities and knowledge, not time in the trenches.
One of the most powerful aspects of career planning is helping an individual see possibilities they did not even consider.  Recently a senior administrator I work with was describing a conversation with a newer member of his profession.  He asked her if she had considered applying for an open first-level management position. She responded that she had not because she is not a leader-type.  He pointed out to her that she was indeed a leader-type as he observed the way her colleagues sought out her opinions and advice.  In that 90 second conversation, there was a mentor-moment (a possible “aha!” as well) and a chance for the newer professional to rethink her career trajectory.
V: Collaboration is a practical application of sharing knowledge and wisdom across generations, life experience and expertise.  In successful collaborations, all participants contribute to a successful outcome from their areas of strength in an environment of mutual respect.  If you are the wise elder of the group, be careful not to impose your opinions early on.  Allow your collaborative team to find its voice and direction. Observe their way of problem solving.  Insert your wisdom and perspective in a way that adds strength and context to the team.
VI: Recognitions and Celebrations are ways to honor contributions while ensuring that the torch is passed. Storytelling as a strategy in recognition and celebration offers context, history and emphasizes organizational and professional values.
We always have the opportunity to “pass the torch,” to share what we know and understand with others no matter where we are in our career.  It requires us to be generous with our knowledge rather than fearful that what we share will be used against us or to best us.  Consider “passing the torch” as a way of being and a way of thinking and as Brene Brown might describe it, a whole-hearted practice.
[1] Malloch, K. And Porter O’Grady, T (eds). (2016). The career handoff: a healthcare leader’s guide to knowledge and wisdom transfer across generations. Sigma Theta Tau International.

Engagement Survey! Oh my!

Jill[1] and I were brainstorming about topics for this year’s blog posts. It helps to have a roadmap because the deadlines do catch up to us fast!  We both agreed that we love the topic of employee engagement.  Jill is passionate about the danger of the annual engagement survey.  I get excited about the importance of ongoing and personal supervisor – employee communication to real engagement.  And then we found two thought-provoking articles (see below) about engagement surveys and what to do instead.
So, let’s talk about employee engagement.  Engagement is the intrinsic motivation that an employee feels – that what they are doing is important, valuable and valued.  It is the internal driver that allows for discretionary energy expenditures, going above and beyond, being innovative, and caring about the outcome.
Engaged workforces demonstrate increased productivity and innovation and reduced risk. And engagement is imperative for customer service excellence…you can’t care about the customer if you don’t care about the organization, and you can’t care about the organization if you don’t feel cared about by the organization.
The challenge is to understand the attributes that go into creating an engaged and engaging work environment.[2] And then, in this critical age of accountability, our next challenge is how do we measure it?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “what gets measured, gets done.”  Therefore, if we measure engagement, we should be creating an engaged workforce.  In her article, “The 5 Stages of Employee Engagement Survey Results,” (2019)[3] Elizabeth Williams compares how companies respond to the annual engagement survey results with the five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness and acceptance.  She does a wonderful job of describing how companies go through the process without ever really finding meaningful ways of creating an engaged workforce.  Essentially, the results are discussed, made meaningless and shelved until the following year – except for the poor person or committee that is assigned to fix it all on top of their regular jobs.
What Williams suggests and what is validated in Liz Ryan’s article, “Ditch the Employee Engagement Survey…,”[4] is that engagement is the responsibility of all levels of leadership and is a year-round job.  Ryan describes predominantly low-tech, high-touch strategies to assess engagement levels. She suggests creating easy avenues for people to inform management about the pulse of the organization…and then encourages that management actually listen.
Ryan talks about the difference between content and context in how we gather information. Words are only a small part of the message.  Non-verbals and paraverbals become the context for the meaning and intent of the words.  She sees the survey itself is a disengagement tool.  She describes the context of the survey (what it says about the relationship of management and employee) as follows:
Thanks for completing our survey. We want your opinions, but only in a very specific format and only in answer to certain questions that we have already developed. Our biggest concern is the tabulation of the survey…We’re not trying to develop a relationship with you or anything!…
While her context description sounds somewhat harsh and cynical, her message is clear.  If you want to talk genuinely about engagement, you (managers and leaders) need to be engaged with your people.  Ask them how they are doing, how they like working with the organization, what they need in order to do a better job.  Then listen to their answers and follow-up.
Ryan describes ten formats for gathering this information from informal chats, strategic lunch room visits, and scheduled 1:1s to town halls and suggestion boxes.
And then, there has to be a timely and thoughtful way to respond to the information that is gathered.  For too many employees, sharing their insights is like speaking into a black hole.  It feels like the information is going nowhere.  “Thank you for sharing” is not enough. And of course, this fosters disengagement.
How do you get back to folks and when? I have taken your idea/concern/suggestion to x meeting.  We are discussing it.  Please know that it will take time to implement.  I will keep you posted on progress in y weeks/months – please don’t let it be years! And put that date on the calendar, keep it on the meeting agenda…
If the idea/concern/suggestion is not going to rise to an agenda item, then what do you do?  You can still go back to the employee and let them know.  Discuss other ideas or strategies to address the idea or concern…and/or explain why it won’t/can’t happen now.
And thank them for their suggestion…ask them to continue to bring ideas forward even if every suggestion isn’t acted on.  Remind them that often just asking a question generates a whole new line of thinking.
[1] Jill Bachman is a Thunderbird Leadership consultant who is a regular contributor, collaborator and partner in TLC’s blog and Tips posts.
[2] See as well as references in that article that discuss engagement attributes in more depth:
Forbringer, Louis R. (2002) Overview of the Gallup Organization’s Q-12 Survey, O.E. Solutions.
Wiseman, Liz and McKeown, Greg. (2010) Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. New York: Harper Collins.
Pink, Daniel. (2009) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.

Getting Unstuck!

We all have issues in our lives, professional and personal, that seem to just persist on and on and never get resolved.  How do we manage the “no-solution” situations?  What do they look like?

  • An employee who you like, who tries really hard, is not succeeding in their role.
  • A staffing problem that just doesn’t seem to resolve – resulting in overtaxing valued employees who have to fill in.
  • A process that gets stuck over and over again in the same place delaying necessary action.
  • A position that was fulfilling that has changed because of new leadership.

You’ve tried so many interventions! But nothing seems to work.  You are dissatisfied, folks around you are dissatisfied and yet the problem just won’t go away.
How do we approach these sticking points? My partner-in-blog, Jill Bachman, reflected, “think of getting stuck in the physical world, like lost on a hike, and the first thing to do is stop, stop the struggle, breathe and take stock.”  So, the first thing to do is to step back from the situation and reflect on what is going on.  We tend to do this on our commute, in the shower, doing physical labor (sweeping the front porch, gardening) or when we are away from the office at a concert, on vacation, on a hike.
Reflect on what is really going on.

  • How would you describe the situation?
  • What values and beliefs are at play?
  • What role do you have in sustaining the current “stuck” place?
  • What influence or decision-making power do you have?

Noushin Bayat, one of Thunderbird’s coaches, suggests separating fact from fiction – identifying what we know (observable facts) from the story we are creating about the situation (fiction, beliefs that may or may not be true) and challenging ourselves to consider other possible stories (other possible beliefs?).
For example, with the employee we like who tries really hard but does not appear to be making progress, what do I know?

  • I like the employee.
  • I care about the person as an individual.
  • They are trying.
  • We’ve tried to help.
  • They are not succeeding.

What values are in play?

  • Loyalty
  • Commitment
  • Supervisory responsibility and accountability
  • Organizational success
  • Others?

What role do I have in sustaining the situation? (How do these ideas relate to the fact/fiction dichotomy? What other ways of seeing things are there?)

  • Taking responsibility for their lack of success.
  • If I provided better direction, guidance or coaching…
  • If I advocated for the employee better…
  • Valuing loyalty and caring over organizational success. I don’t want to be heartless!
  • Believing things will get better time after time after time…
  • Not wanting to hurt this person that I like…
  • I am accepting substandard performance and hoping it will get better.

What decision-making power or influence do I have?

  • I can help the individual assess their own ability to be successful.
  • I need to be clear about expectations and goals for success.
  • I have the power to terminate employment.

So how do I decide I have tried hard enough, and they have tried hard enough? How do I know when it is time to act?  How could the following questions help?

  • What will happen if I continue doing what I am doing?
  • How will I know when it is time to act? (Chip and Dan Heath[1] describe this as establishing a trip-wire.) It can be a particular event that would have to happen – e.g. a specific failed project, or it could be a lack of progress by a certain date.  If nothing changes in three more months, I have to act.
  • What would I tell my best friend if they had this problem?
  • If I were leaving tomorrow and someone was taking my place, what would I advise them about this situation?
  • Are there possible solutions outside of the binary: continuing the way things are or termination?

What do you think the answers would be in the above situations?  What will happen if action isn’t taken?  What would you advise someone else to do?  Are there more solutions than the simple binary?
Some of us can do this analysis on our own.  Many of us work better with a thinking partner.  Who do you have in your world that you can be vulnerable with? Who will listen to you? Who will ask you the hard questions? Who is far enough away from the situation not to be stuck inside it?
In Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without[2], Tom Rath describes how important it is to have people in our lives who support us, encourage and motivate us and help us navigate decisions.  He references Gallup research that stresses the importance of having “a best friend at work.”  Having someone we trust, can confide in and be vulnerable with at work increases our engagement, satisfaction and success enormously. Rath identifies various roles friends play in our lives and emphasizes that no one person can do it all.  Our vital friends can be at work and at home, colleagues, friends, family, coaches, mentors and sponsors.
When we get stuck, it is not uncommon to turn inward instead of reaching out.  By being aware of our vital friends (what I consider my “kitchen cabinet), we have the human resources to help us get unstuck.
So, how do we get unstuck?

  • Step back and reflect
  • Ask yourself challenging questions
    • About your role in the situation
    • About what you would tell someone else in the same situation
  • Separate fact from fiction
  • Use a thinking partner

And first and foremost, recognize that you are stuck and need to get unstuck.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – CG Jung
[1] Heath, Dan and Chip. (2013) Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Currency, New York.
[2] Rath, Tom. (2006) Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press.

Tip of the Month, March 2019 – More on Managing Up

In Jill Bachman’s February Blog Post (link here), she referenced Mary Abbajay’s definition of managing up. “Managing up is about consciously and deliberately developing and maintaining effective relationships with supervisors, bosses and other people above you in the chain of command.”[1]  Jill further clarified that managing up is the “how” of doing your work so that you can most successfully align with your boss(es).
For Tips this month, we’ll focus on her first general principle, “Communicate. Communicate some more.”  How do you know what to communicate, when to communicate and how to communicate?
Jill provided some ideas which we will revisit here – and then explore a really uncomfortable one: if your boss has been unhappy with an aspect of your work, how do you help him/her notice the changes you are making?
So, first the basics.

  1. Learn your style and your boss(es)’ style.
    1. Find out if your company uses a personality type inventory for training and development. If so, take advantage of the opportunity to take it, learn about it and find out more about the people you work with.
    2. If the company does not use a specific inventory, research and find one that is relevant to the work environment.[2]
  2. Big picture or detail? How do you know how much to share?
    1. Ask. How do you prefer to get information?
    2. Observe. What do you notice about his/her response to information you have shared?
      1. Have they read it? (And if not, take it as data not an insult.)
      2. Do they just ask you to give them an idea of what is in the detailed report you have prepared?
      3. Do they ask for bullet points?
    3. Cover all your bases.
      1. Send highlights and/or key points within the body of the email.
      2. Attach a more comprehensive report for further reference.
  3. How quickly do they expect you to respond?
    1. It would be really nice if your superior would tell you.
      1. It is confounding when you have a superior for whom everything is an emergency.
      2. It is also troubling when a request is not clear – is this a “nice to have” suggestion or a requirement.
    2. This is a great opportunity to “manage up” by taking the initiative to ask for the clarification you need.
      1. Is this a priority?
      2. When do you need it?
      3. Explain if something else will have to be delayed.
        Especially if you have been having some communication and expectation challenges, do not assume anything.  Your boss may not know or remember your work load, your other assignments, your planned family vacation, etc. if you do not share that information.You might try to find an agreed upon “default” expectation if no other date is given.  I acknowledged to my staff that I don’t always remember to give a due date (awareness of my own imperfections) and said that in the absence of another due date, the default expectation would be one week.  If I needed it sooner, it was up to me to convey that.  It would also have been nice if I could have said, when appropriate, “this is not a priority – can you get to it within the month?”
  4. How do they prefer to communicate? This is a major challenge if you and your boss have different needs/preferences and styles. In the best of worlds, you have a conversation to better accommodate both your needs because as much as you might adapt and manage up, if your communication needs are not met, you will struggle to succeed.
    1. Face to face v. electronic (text, email, etc.)
      1. If you need face time and your boss just wants electronic notifications, you will struggle.
        1. You may need to find a way to explain how much a face to face meeting will contribute to your effectiveness.
        2. And, you need to honor what information and updates can be sent electronically to ensure timely and time-efficient communication.
      2. If they prefer face to face meetings and you see them as a waste of time, propose a format or structure that will help meet your efficiency needs. What can be written up v. what needs to be discussed.
    2. Drop-in or scheduled — Every boss tries to say they have an open-door policy because it is the right thing to do. Some people do really well with interruptions. Others really get derailed from their focused work. As much as possible, know and honor their style.
      1. Try to clarify when “drop-ins” are appropriate – what is really time sensitive?
      2. Keep a list of questions, topics, discussion items for a scheduled meeting.
      3. Text first if something does seem time sensitive – and/or will stop you or your team from hitting your time lines – to see if you can drop in.
      4. Keep the conversation focused and brief.

So now, to the second question.  How do you manage a situation where your boss has expressed concern about your work, and you are making an effort to correct it?  This can be a major challenge where efforts to improve are not observed but any misstep is immediately noticed and reinforces the original concern.
If it is possible, create a written action plan for change with your boss. Describe what you will do, what change will look like and how you and your boss will know it is happening.  Frame this as development and accountability not correction or punishment.
For example, suppose your boss is concerned that you are not staying on top of your employee’s work assignments. He or she has asked you for updates on projects and you were not able to answer – saying you have to check with staff.
You see your boss looking annoyed or frustrated.  They may or may not say anything…but you know…  You can either address it right there or you wait until he/she finally brings it up to you. (Consider the benefits of addressing v. waiting.)
What does an action plan look like?
What is the issue?  Boss expects me to know the status of all projects for my direct reports.
(You may have been a more laid-back supervisor who just counts on things getting done.  Boss is not that way.)
What can you do? Propose a plan. Pick choices that make sense for you:

  1. Have more frequent 1:1 update meetings with staff.
  2. Have stand-up meetings daily or weekly as needed to be sure you have all updates.
  3. Use or create a reporting system that keeps you updated and sure that timelines are being met.
    1. Be sure your reports use it.
    2. Be sure you review it regularly.
  4. Make sure to notify your boss if anything is causing delays, problems, etc. before he/she hears it from anyone else.

Build in accountability. This is critical to your successful relationship with your boss and ensures changes and effort are noticed.

  1. Clarify how you and your boss will communicate about the implementation and impact of the new plan. What does he/she need to know?
  2. Clarify how you and your boss will assess the results and/or identify any other needed changes.

If you do not use a written plan, it still helps to bring it to the boss’s attention if it is a subtle thing, like a soft skill. “I heard what you asked, and this is what I did about it.” And you can help focus your boss’s attention on the requested change by asking them to give you feedback when they notice you meeting the new expectation.
We often assume that our work will speak for itself. We worry that these efforts at communication will be seen as self-serving or manipulative.  And yet, without effective communication, we are relying on other people seeing what we are seeing.
Jill concluded her article by saying, “The bottom line is that managing up involves straightforward approaches, based on assessment and intention, rather than subtle manipulation. Managing up helps you be more effective in your work. The question is, if your boss asked you what you are doing differently in your approach with her, could you comfortably tell her how you are managing up? If the answer is yes, you are good.”
Here’s to “good.”
[1] Abbajay, M. 2018. Managing Up: how to move up, win at work, and succeed with any type of boss.1.Wiley.
[2] Options may include:

  1. Abbajay’design: see note above.
  2. DiSC (which Thunderbird uses quite a bit) – note that one of the features of Everything DiSC is a comparative report providing insight in how two people will work together. Contact us at Thunderbird for more information or go to:
  3. Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI)