The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz  thought he didn’t have a brain. When he met the Wizard after helping Dorothy find her way on the Yellow Brick road, he found out he had one after all. Even still, it would have been a lot easier if he had used the SMA2RT Tool!

How to be a Smart Manager: Use the SMART Tool to Set Clear Objectives
If you want to be a smart manager you need the SMA2RT Tool!

After teaching new managers for over 15 years in several major companies, I’ve heard dozens of excuses why the objective-setting process doesn’t work. I’ve heard about the non-flexible IT systems HR keeps designing to store the objectives, or maybe it’s the cascade process that takes until the middle of a given fiscal year, or it’s might be that people see objective-setting as nothing more than paper work – not as a key capability of a great manager to get work done through other people.

Regardless of the ‘system’ HR requires you to follow, it’s essential that you as a manager set clear objectives with your people and create an on-going follow-up system to en[……]

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Setting clear objectives is essential to being a great Leader-Manager as I discussed in my last post, The Need for Clear Objectives – Part 1

Need for Clear Objectives

There I listed seven problems that prevent making objectives clear. Here I want to add seven more:


  • Using vague terms: When we ask for something ASAP – what does that mean? For the employee who already has a full plate, “as soon as possible” might mean 2 weeks from now. If you mean Wednesday at 2:00 – say, Wednesday at 2:00. Be specific when talking it through – both of you discussing what success looks like and what the boundaries are will ensure you have the same assignment in mind.
  • Not keeping them in the loop when things change: This one ties to the many conflicting priorities in peoples’ workloads. If this new objective is a higher priority – you need to let them know that. If priorities change tomorrow – you need to let them know ASAP (I mean, as soon as you know!) Here’s NOT what I’m talking about: a colleague of min[……]

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The first topic in this series on “Your First Year as a Leader-Manager” is: The Need for Setting Clear Objectives. It is absolutely essential that the objectives you set for your employees are CLEAR!

Need for Clear Objectives

Otherwise, the consequences might be pretty serious. In fact, your role as a manager depends on it.

Almost by definition, the core activity of being a manager is getting work done through other people.  Once you are promoted into management you are not only responsible for the work you deliver but you are also responsible for the work of everyone who reports to you.  They succeed – you succeed.  They fail – you…well… will probably no longer be a manager. This is why setting clear objectives is so important.

One of my favorite examples of setting clear objectives comes from a colleague of mine at Xerox.  While travelling on business, she called home to check-in with her family.  As she hung up the phone with her husband, she relayed the following story.  The objective given to[……]

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The goal of this series is to help you become a great Leader-Manager in your first year – so you get off to your best start possible!

Getting off to a good start in your first year as a managerAs a new manager you might feel a bit overwhelmed. What will your first year look like?What are the essentials you must know apply in the next 12 months if you are going to be successful in leading your team? Even as a veteran manager there may be a lot you wish you’d known or could do over.

I invite you to let me lead you through the next year as we tackle 12 key skills – skills that are essential for you to lead your people.  Each month I’ll introduce a new skill area – and support each skill area with 4-5 posts.

My company name is Leader Know How, so in these blogs you’ll get more than just an interesting idea, I’ll show you HOW to apply the idea to how you lead your people.  I’ll kick off each month with some theory and background, but then dig deeper into tools, case examples and practical exercises to help you immediately apply what we dis[……]

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wacky |ˈwakē| (also whacky)

funny or amusing in a slightly odd or peculiar way

eccentric, unconventional, uncommon, abnormal, irregular, aberrant, anomalous, odd, queer, strange, peculiar, weird, bizarre, outlandish, freakish, extraordinary; idiosyncratic, quirky, nonconformist, outré; way out, offbeat, freaky, oddball, kooky.

 Brain Ruts

Why do we get stuck in our ways of thinking, such that new possibilities keep eluding us?   Brain RUTs!  It’s as if the wagon wheels on our thinking trails just keep carving deeper and deeper ruts.

how to get unstuck in your thinking

 Try this to see how deep our “thinking ruts” are.

Ask people to give you a color, a type of furniture and a flower.  Did you hear a lot of red or blue, chair or table and rose or daisy?

Established patterns in our brains can be a good thing.  It helps us tie our shoes without thinking. It helps us attend to the whole and not have to painstakingly think about the parts.  It is why we can see the forest, and not just the trees. These patterns help us.  But sometimes these thinking patterns can get us stuck.  They can hinder us from finding that break-through idea.

Get out of the Rut:  Be Wacky!

Being WACKY can help us break out of our repetitive ways of thinking. Teams begin to see what was hiding behind their mental blinders when they take diverse, creative, and even silly perspectives. These out-of-the-ordinary perspectives can then be used to generate new paths of action.


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We all know what a financial bank account is.  We make deposits into it and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to.  An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship…If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve.  Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.  I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it

Stephen R. Covey on The Emotional Bank Account

How do we build Trust?  The Trust Bank Account

By looking at the different facets of Trust we get an idea of how we can build Trust – as Stephen R. Covey (the senior) would put it – How do we make deposits?

Trust-full relationships - How do you build trust?

Sincerewe both mean what we say; There are no hidden agendas between us

If we notice hidden agendas or question another’s[……]

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Speed of Trust“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.  On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life.  That one thing is trust.” — Stephen M.R. Covey

 What is Trust?

Trust is the critical element of a relationship.  As Stephen M. R. Covey (the junior) puts it… Lack of trust destroys; Presence of trust creates.  My favorite definition of Trust is ‘firm reliance’.  As leaders we must ask ourselves – how would I describe the bond between the people I work with and myself?  Is it Full of Trust?  When I work with others – do we seem to give each other the benefit of the doubt – or is there constant doubt and questioning.  Would people say you are credible or question the accuracy of your statements?  Do others know we mean what we say, or do others always check for a hidden agenda?  When we hit a roadblock in a project, does the team seamlessly adjust to overcome, or does the roadblock stop the team in its track – needing crystal clarity to proceed.

iStock_hands joined Medium

At work, we want relationships where we can firmly rely on each other, so that even when the inevitable problems and issues arise, we can continue to adapt and move forward.


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Brain functioning tips to help you focus and get more done!

Stressed businesswomanMany leaders that I work with tell me that they feel overwhelmed with how much they are asked to do. Quite simply too much to do plus too little time equals stressed! These same leaders search out time management techniques that will allow them to cram more into their very full days. But I wonder? Are they focusing on the right culprit? Is it really a lack of time? Or is it a lack of energy (mental energy that is)?

Here’s a easy to read Harvard Business Review article written by a medical doctor that helps us understand what goes on in our brains when we try to cram too much into our days:

Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform – Dr. Edward M. Hallowell of the Hallowell Center, – HBR: January 2005

Attention Deficit Disorder – This is the focus area of Dr. Hallowell’s practice. Dr. Hallowell was seeing an emerging trend in his practice. Adults were showing up in his office, complaining of ADD symptoms, but their brain was functioning properly.   In sum, they couldn’t focus – seem scattered and overwhelmed.
The Big Question: So what might be going on in the work environment that is causing the lack of focus?
Conclusion: Overloaded Circuits – Dr. Hallowell calls it ADT: Attention Deficit Trait


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Recently I was asked to give a talk on body language. People wanted to know: What does it mean if I cross my arms? Should I be leaning forward or leaning backward when giving feedback? Is it okay to talk with my hands? What about eye contact? Should I…? Shouldn’t I…?

Well… the answer is… IT DEPENDS!

Communicating through body language is less about specific gestures and more about what the entire stance communicates. This applies to both Receiving and Sending information through body language. Here’s what I mean.

Receiving Information through Body Stance

stress-women-istock_000003830772small-300x198Receiving information through body stance is intuitive. In my talk I show this picture. Everyone instinctively knows this woman is stressed. We don’t need a degree in Body Language Interpretation to understand what is going on internally. However, the part of understanding body stance where leaders often need development is the emotional intelligence connection, i.e., is my empathetic sensor working such that I slow down, interpret what I’m seeing and adjust my conversational approach? When she’s in this stressed-out body stance, saying to her, “What’s going on with project X? Why is it behind schedule and over cost?” is not a very effective way to start the conversation. I know this is blatantly obvious, wrong behavior, but I’ve seen leaders do this many times; not observe the audience, fail to adjust the approach and then act shocked when the message is poorly received!

So the first lesson of interpreting body stance is: Remember – what’s happening on the inside is creating what is happening on the outside. So use what you perceive on the outside as clues to what’s happening inside and SLOW DOWN – ADJUST YOUR APPROACH!

Sending Information through Body Stance

To quote Niels Bohr:  “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a great truth is another great truth.”


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Think (FIRST about INTENT) Before You Speak

Think before you speak.  Have you ever been told that?  It’s wise advice.  When I coach people about being more effective in their communication, I remind them to FIRST figure out what you are trying to accomplish through a conversation.  By establishing the INTENT of the conversation, the right words will form in your brain.  And if the right words form in your brain, it is more likely that the right words will come out of your mouth and the wrong words will not.  Simply put – Your communication mantra should be:  1st Mind (Intent), 2nd Body (Stance), 3rd Mouth (Words)

Businessman With Duct Tape On His MouthExample – Randy, please shut up and listen:  A manager I was coaching a couple of years back, asked me to follow him around for a day to see if I could figure out why people didn’t want to work with him – (that’s the polite way of saying… they thought he was a jerk).  So Randy and I went off to his first meeting.  I asked Randy:

CNM:  “So who called this meeting?”

RANDY:  “The director we are meeting with”

CNM:  “And what is the topic (INTENT) of this meeting?”

RANDY:  “I have no idea”

CNM – to myself:  “OK then, this is going to be good!”

Do you know what Randy did?  He sat down in the director’s office and started talking!  And TALKED… And TALKED… and TALKED…  For 20 minutes, he hijacked the conversation and did not let the director get a word in.  Finally, in frustration, the director said, “Randy! I asked you here today to discuss…”

CNM – to myself:  “Oh, thank goodness she finally stopped him!”


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