Development: Who is in the lead?  


I was working with a client recently and one of the leaders asked, who is responsible for his direct reports development? He is a self-starter and has created his own development plan without the help of his leaders. His question was, ‘do I write my direct reports’ development action plan (DAP) or do they do it?

His employee has not taken the initiative to write his DAP. He wanted to know if he should do it, ignore the situation or “make” the employee do the DAP?

What do you think?

My thinking is that it is a 50-50 contract and the leaders will want to go first. The leader should highlight why development is important. Next, the leader should ask the employee what they would like their desired outcomes to be in the next year. What is the gap between the desired outcome and current reality? This is the starting point for the development plan.

Who owns it now? The employee owns the plan. The leader’s role is providing time, resources, and support for the plan. The employee will be the one working on their growth, keeping track of their plan and etc. What happens if they do not do anything? The leaders should follow up and check on the progress. Ask if they need resources, guidance, etc. If they do not do anything, you have owned your 50%. The employee will have trouble keeping up until they work on their development.

Here is the coaching model I use for these conversations –

               G – Goal

               R – Reality

               O – Options

               W – What’s next?

Finally, I ask the person to envision completing the plan. How do you want me to recognize you for when you complete the plan?

Let me know what your development best practices are and good luck on growing yourself and your team!



It is the holiday season in the U.S., what are you thankful for? What went right this year? When did you grow this year? Where do you grow in 2018? Before we plan too much, I would like to stop and assess.

My favorite easy tool is called GAP. Here is the tool and how to use it.

G ------> What am I grateful for?

A ------> Who do I appreciate?

P------> What am I proud of?

I turned 50 this year and it has been a reflection year. A few things I am grateful for are –

A loving family

My health

Healthy parents

Next, I think about who I appreciate. The first is my wife and co-owner of our business. Beth is the calming presence I need to stay tethered to reality. I also appreciate the amazing leaders and organizations that I am bless to work with. I also appreciate the Voltage Team and how they have grown.

Finally, I reflect on what I am proud of. It was great to be recognized by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) as a Regional Connector. I also appreciate the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce for recognizing Voltage LC as a Small Business of the Year in the Business to Business Category. As important as these achievements were, I am most proud of my family. I love the life that Beth and our four kids have created. It is a fun, crazy, and joyful life.

Okay, now it is your turn. Take a moment to think out your GAP analysis. Next, go celebrate the people that you recognize as having an impact on your life. I do this daily as a wrap-up in the day. Quarterly, I try to do this as a deeper dive.

I hope you had a great holiday season and thank you for being in our lives! Have a great 2019!



Each person, group and organization develops an operating rhythm, but do you take time to notice the rhythm and decide how to maximize that rhythm?  Let’s start with a brief definition of what I mean by operating rhythm:  simply put, it is the way we get things done around here.  It is the patterns of our work:  busy vs. slow, high stress times, or even best times of day to get your own work done.

I work with an organization that supports a lot of school districts and the school’s budget cycle is July 1 - June 30.  Thus, May and June are a scramble to get all the contracts into the final budget for the school districts.  August is crazy as well as it is time to train all teachers on the software that has just been bought.  As you interact with this organization, you learn that these months are always a bit hectic, team members can lose perspective for a moment and momentum for some projects gets lost.  After observing this for a couple of years, the Senior Management team started to understand their own rhythm and how they were contributing to the feeling in the organization.  The team now has regular updates, pizza parties and celebrations during this time period.  They also encourage days off right after the busiest season and plan fun events for the team.  The stress is still there, but the perspective and framing of the work is much better now.

What about you?  What are your busy seasons?  What are the best times of the day for you to do your work?  I have learned that I am a morning person and so I do my best work in the morning while the late afternoon can be a fog for me.  I used to run first thing in the morning, but I found that, while it was great for training as my energy was high, I was missing out on my best mental clarity time.  I now do my run most days around 4:00 or 4:30 to get a second shot of energy.  This allows me to release the stress of the day.  I then wrap up a couple of follow-up items, prep for the next day and have the energy to connect with my family.  In the morning, I line up my facilitation and coaching sessions to match the peak of my mental and physical energy.

I would also challenge you to think about your week and year to maximize your rhythm.  I work with some clients who love Monday morning meetings to kick off their week and make sure their team is ready for an awesome week.  I work with other leaders who avoid Monday meetings so they can plan first thing on Monday to launch a great week.  Either can be right, but it is about being intentional. Another client knows that their most productive time of the year is January - May and September - early December.  This leader works extremely hard during both stretches and travels a lot during these months.  However, he takes off almost all of the summer because his clients do not really need a lot of his attention in the summer months.  He does some periodic check-ins, but also spends his time relaxing and enjoying his time away from the office.  Now, I know his schedule will not work for all of you, but I would encourage you to start noticing your own rhythm and see if there are ways to proactively get more out of your day.

When are you most productive?  When are you least productive?  What part of the week are you most creative?  What steps can you take to set up your schedule to maximize your productivity?  

Conflict 101: Setting the Ground Rules and Refereeing the Team


Conflict. It is an essential ingredient for high performing teams, but when it is not productive it’s a destructive force that kills creativity and saps institutional energy.

To ensure the conditions are right for productive and healthy conflict, be sure 2 things are present:

1.      Shared Ground Rules

2.      Good Refereeing

Anytime more than one person is involved it is good to have Ground Rules.  Ground Rules help people understand the basic expectations and rules of engagement for a group, a team, a partnership, or an organization.

Establishing Ground Rules

How do you establish Ground Rules? Start with a Communication Conversation. Here’s how to get started:

Invite your team or colleague to a conversation:

"I want this team/partnership/project to be successful. Can we talk about the communication rhythm and process that will allow both of us to perform at our best? I want to hear what you need/prefer, and want to be able to share what I need/prefer with you. From there I am confident we can find a process that will help both of us."

At the meeting:

1.      Frame your desired outcome.

2.      Ask what communication processes help the other person/team perform at their best.

3.      Listen carefully and reflect back what you hear.

4.      Share the ways you are able to meet some (or all) of those communication preferences.

5.      Ask the other party if they are willing to hear your communication needs.

6.      Share your communication needs. Make clear requests about which of these are most important to you.

7.      Communicate back what was agreed on by both parties.

And, finally,

8.      Agree to follow up the following month to check in on how it’s going.   

Some questions you might ask during the conversation:

·        What do you need from me, in what format, for this scope of work to be successful for you?

·        How do you best like to manage your time and communication?

·        Based on what we have heard from each other: At what interval should we communicate? In what format?

One of my teams created the following Ground Rules:

1.      Work at a sustainable pace.

2.      Take the time regularly to ensure that what we are doing aligns with the vision, values, and current mission of the team.

3.      When there are problems speak up, speak directly, and when you speak say the last 10% or what is bothering you so that it can be out on the table and we can address it.

4.      Regularly recognize what is going well on the team.

5.      There are no bad ideas: be creative, be forthcoming.

6.      Once a decision is made, we speak with one voice, and support each other within the rest of the organization.

A Final Thought: Refereeing the Team

Now that you have great Ground Rules, you have to referee the team. People mess up. It is what happens next that makes all the difference. Once you have your plan in place, before you leave the conversation agree on when you will check in next to evaluate how it’s going. Plan this up front! For ongoing colleagues, a monthly check in is an important collegial habit. Also, agree at the outset how you will signal each other when something has gone wrong, so the issue can be addressed quickly. It is when mis-steps and mis-alignment are not addressed that mis-trust begins to grow. Be sure you have a follow up plan, so that you start and end strong together.

We May Not Have It All Together, but Together We Have It All


Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a team offsite for a major bio-tech client. They were an impressive collection of talented and highly skilled professionals. Helping them formulate their unique guiding principles was my contribution. These principles help to create the operational framework from which the team will focus and coalesce around their leadership direction.

What continues to strike me is the amount of productive synergy that is obtained by teams focusing on:

                  a) why they exist,

                  b) where they are going and

                  c) the agreed upon behaviors that will make that happen.

The phrasethe whole is greater than the sum of its parts” was originally coined by Aristotle.
It helps the team understand the concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports,
it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym—together, everyone achieves more. Whether you call it synergy, teamwork or something else, there is something special that happens when we work together towards a common goal.

Stephen Covey puts it this way, “Synergy means ‘two heads are better than one’.  To Synergize is to foster the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems.”

Everyone has a role to play and a job to do. When we understand our role and strive to do it
in an excellent way, what happens –synergy! Gaining a better understanding and greater appreciation of each team member’s style gives the team as a whole the ability to work together more effectively.

Consider a time when you might have quit, given up, or simply not done your best. Whether it was with your family, in school or even in the gym, was there a time when somebody urged you not to give up or offered a new perspective? While it didn’t always change the outcome, did it not equip us with more confidence and capability going forward?

Team synergy capitalizes on these qualities:

1. Consensus – we may not agree with the chosen path forward and that is OK. However, we agree, by consensus, to move forward as one unit once the rationale for the direction has been shared. This also presumes the directive passes muster with ethics and integrity.

2. Commitment– unless there have been some extenuating circumstances by which not all voices were heard, the team ceases from anything counter-productive, i.e. drama, politics or noise. Decisions have been made and synergy does not continually look back over its shoulder.

3. Collaboration – this means speaking up. Is there some request that is off task or out of scope that the leader needs to make the priority call on? Collaboration means adhering to team boundaries as a unit and allowing leaders to lead.

4. Collegiality – is the relationship between colleagues united in a common purpose. We win
or lose as a team. Winning is fun and it feels good. It builds confidence which builds more confidence. People don’t get too jazzed about running and yelling we’re #6, (and they shouldn’t).

So, the challenge is to understand our roles, be excellent at what we do and think in terms of the team approach. Whomever goes first in taking one for the team will very likely have their efforts recognized and rewarded.

 And as my wife Jane frequently reminds me and she is right (even when she is wrong!)

    “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”

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Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Navigating the Obstacle Course: The Importance of a Beginner’s Mind


When I train groups of leaders I often bring in an obstacle course that 2 participants have to navigate -- blindfolded! -- with the help of the rest of the group.  Here is the trick: the group that can “see” may only use their voices to guide their blindfolded team members through the course.

When the exercise is over and we are debriefing the experience, people tend to have a few takeaways:

"People in other departments, people in outside organizations, and new hires all have blindfolds on when it comes to my work.  They don’t know what I do. The don’t know what I need.  I see and understand the situation; they don’t.”

Other departments are ignorant about things you are expert in and that is normal.  They are experts in other things! 

What can you do to help others better understand your world? 


Have a beginner’s mind. 


How would you explain your project, your request, your issue, your department, your assignment to someone who:

1.      has no experience or expertise in your subject;

2.     has their own demanding job and expectations that they have to deliver on.


Reach out and be curious about their area of expertise and the current scope of their work.  Understanding the project pressure and deadlines of others will help you plan what you need from them and decide when, how, and what to communicate to them when collaboration is necessary.

These types of conversations build rapport. 

Start with the Relationships that Matter Most

To be successful, who do you need to have the strongest relationships with?

Which relationship would you most like to improve? 

Reach out and find a time to connect when you don’t need something – except an easier, smoother, working relationship. Learn about their world. Invite them into yours. With a better understanding of each other’s “obstacle course,” and some agreements about how to best communicate so that you can help each other be successful, you will have fewer “blindspots” as you go about your day.

Who do you need to reach out to and have a Beginners Mind conversation with?



You may be thinking, “Oh no! This sounds complex.”  However, this is not going to be a deep philosophical debate.  I learned this exercise while I was attending my coaching program at Georgetown University.  Take out a piece of paper.  In the left column, write By Saying Yes To…  In the right column, write I am Saying No to…

 Here are some samples from me and from one of my clients:


By Saying Yes to….                                     I am Saying No to…

Coaching Philip’s Basketball Team                 Free time on Tue, Thur, and Sat

                                                                    Dinners with the rest of family

                                                                    Missing an opportunity to connect with Philip


Leaving X Company                                       Stability


                                                                     Short commute

                                                                     Dead end job at X company

                                                                      My frustrating boss


I love to do this activity with people I coach as it helps them go beyond just the pros and cons list.  We rarely consider the opportunity costs of our Yeses.  Instead, we just tend to say, “Yes” and then one of several things occurs: we break commitments, we miss deadlines, we become overwhelmed, we resent that we said yes to the person, etc.  I think this exercise helps leaders start to clarify what they really want to be working on and what are their top priorities.

I was coaching a CEO recently who was overwhelmed and who could not remember when she last had fun.  When I asked her to do this exercise, I began to see that she kept stacking more and more on her plate.  This helped her understand that she needed to be more intentional in what she said yes to and what the consequences of her Yeses were.

This exercise helps people become more mindful.  Mindfulness is a buzz work right now and so let me provide a definition for you:

Mindfulness = Awareness + Intention

Scott Eblin shared this formula in his outstanding book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  Thus, we first have to become aware of our challenges and then take intentional actions.

 I am curious about:

·       What intentions do you have?

·       How do you honor them?

Scott gives lots of ideas and I highly recommend the book. If you want to learn about how to use this content in your workplace or life, please reach out to me.  

Thanks and create a great day!



It is easy to find fault – with ourselves and with the work of our teams.  A critical eye is what allows leaders to find the opportunities and correct the liabilities in their people and processes.  Everyone can miss a deadline, miss the point, or miscommunicate.  Everyday something goes wrong…and we focus on it so we can fix it.

The challenge is this:  what we focus on grows.

If all we focus on is what is missing and what was missed, we rob ourselves of the chance to develop in our people their biggest asset:  their enthusiasm.  We also fail to give people the chance to know, clearly and specifically, what works.

Catching people winning is not the same thing as offering praise.  “Atta-Boy”, “Congratulations!”, and “Thank You” are not enough.  When I encourage clients to catch people winning, I ask them to take intentional time, every day, to stop and:

·       notice

·        name

·       appreciate

something specific that is being done right.  When someone does something well; meet a deadline, make good progress on a project, develop a strong plan, or deliver a great performance in a key meeting, and we let them know on the spot, specifically, what went right, we Catch People Winning.

When we catch people winning we feed them two essential ingredients for success: enthusiasm and wisdom.  Offering specific feedback when people get things right increases their energy and grows their wisdom and insight.  They learn what you value and that you notice the efforts and advancements they make.

Why does this matter?  In a word: Trust.  People trust people who notice and acknowledge the work they are doing.  Catching our people winning grows their inner confidence and grows their trust in us.  They have greater assurance of their own skills and greater confidence in themselves and trust in the relationship they have with us, their leader.  Trust develops and trust is a key ingredient to achieve exceptional pace, productivity, and performance.

When people on our teams experience us noticing and celebrating their achievements, they begin to believe we are invested in their successes and, as a result, our credibility grows.

Catching people winning arms leaders with trust and credibility, offers our workforce a dose of enthusiasm and, together, these create the ideal environment to develop and coach our people for better and better performance. 

The dividend of Catching People Winning is their responsiveness.  It is much easier for our people to act on new challenges when they have strong enthusiasm for their work.  It is much easier for our people to hear difficult feedback from us when they believe we are interested and invested in their success.  Catching People Winning creates the environment for performance excellence.

All we have to do is stop and notice what is going right.  It is happening around us all the time.

Catch someone winning today.  Go find 3 great things and recognize the person today. You will feel more successful yourself when you do.

The Shift of Mid-Career Leadership


I spend most of my days with busy executives at the height of their careers. Now in their mid 40s and 50s, these people are doing the work they had imagined. Successful, seasoned, strong-willed, often there is something more simmering under the surface.

That something more, bubbling under the surface, is a question that perhaps they haven’t thought to ask before (and if they have, it has been a while). It’s a question about identity, about calling, and about purpose.

Many of these successful leaders are wondering:

“Is what I am doing lined up with who I want to be?”

And then,

“Does the successful life I’ve created deliver me to what I actually want?”

These are significant questions, and I always feel privileged when I am entrusted with these deeper conversations. What unfolds as we talk together is an exploration that runs to the core of who that person is: their identity. In these conversations the person I am coaching tends to get quiet. Reflective. They lean back in their seats and really wonder. Often the answer does not come all at once, but bit by bit.

Listening and reflecting with these leaders I’ve found there are 2 important shifts that take place as we dive into their questions:

1.      Re-framing

Their life, their talents, their work and their relationships – both personal and professional – are re-framed to create a new interpretation of their lives. Think about the Broadway musical Wicked, which turns traditional fairy tales into new stories about the lives of those characters: when we re-interpret our own stories, powerful new narratives can be written. Narratives that better inform the lives we actually want to lead.

2.      Reinterpreting

With a new frame around the events and experiences of our lives, perspectives shift. As people re-frame and reinterpret their lives, they come to have a fresh, clear understanding of themselves. Their self-understanding matures. This new viewpoint changes their focus, and they begin to see new futures on the horizon. People move forward with something more than confidence from these conversations.

They move forward with assurance.

At this point the path forward is clearer. Changes in priorities are made. A new life and leadership rhythm emerges. The quality of leadership on the other side of this reckoning is much more powerful, grounded, and trusted by both their peers and their loved ones. A more authentic version of the leader now exists.

These leaders then settle back into their lives with a new sense of ease. Sometimes they have made big external changes. Sometimes smaller ones. At times the only change is how they understand their own story. This new self-understanding, however, brings with it an inner freedom and clarity. It changes the way they make their decisions, both the significant and the small.

If you are at a turning point in your life, wondering if how you are living is lining up with who you want to be, find a conversation partner: a coach who can help you re-frame and reinterpret your life in a way that brings you not simply confidence but assurance. Assurance about who you are, what you are doing, and how you are called to live into the person you were created to be. With this assurance, you will find the second half of your life in leadership profoundly rewarding.

Where is YOUR Team on The Team Work Cycle?


I recently facilitated an executive team offsite with a major client. What continues to strike me is that leaders of all types don’t struggle with the technical aspects of their jobs. However, they often do have opportunities for improvement on the people / EQ side of the equation.

Part of this includes seeing how the pieces of their team fit together in the Team Work Cycle.

Teams move through different phases of the Team Work Cycle as they try to accomplish a task or solve a problem.

The phases of teamwork require equal amounts of time and energy for any given task. Ideally, each task proceeds sequentially through the phases without skipping phases or backtracking.
If any phase is given less focus than another, the desired end results might be jeopardized.

Here are the 4 phases of the Team Work Cycle:

1)    Initiation

                • Defines the Task

                • Identifies and recruit resources

                • Finds ways for all to contribute

                • Encourages sharing of ideas, talents, experiences and expertise

                • Facilitates positive, collaborative work environment

 2)    Ideation

                • Generates alternative approaches

                • Finds novel solutions

                • Reviews useful experiences

                • Sees possibilities

                • Stimulates creativity


 3)    Elaboration

                • Develops plans, budgets, timelines, flow charts, etc.

                • Shapes ideas into concrete structures

                • In touch with realities of the task

                • Develops work plans utilizing people’s strengths, talents and experience


4)    Completion

                • Follows through

                • Patience and persistence

                • Conscientious

                • Keeps team on track

We lay out a grid in the shape of a big cross, with the four phases identified in each of the four boxes. Then we ask the participants to move to the area that best describes them.

This is the Team’s default position and it is a visual depiction of what balance or possible imbalance of the four phases may be present. Remember, each task proceeds sequentially through the phases without skipping phases or backtracking.

Imagine what it would be like if our team consisted of all Initiators or Ideators? How about if it were all Elaborators or Implementors? This leads to a discussion of how each area contributes to the team success or lack of it. Then, like human chess pieces, we rotate the players to new areas of the cycle to explore team dynamics and possible synergies or lack thereof.

What is revealing are the answers to these questions:

            1) What roles are present?

            2) What roles are missing?

            3) Who plays what role on the team?

            4) How do their DiSC profiles relate to the Work Cycle?

            5) What modifications to the team structure might be suggested?

The great benefit of acknowledging and following the Team Work Cycle is Trust. At times leaders may not even be aware that there is a trust issue with components of their work cycle until after this exercise.

Understanding individual strengths and playing to those strengths is an incredibly validating experience for all involved. From our recent offsite, leaders immediately recognized imbalances with their teams and are creating action plans to unlock productivity.

Happy cycling!


Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Conflict: Dealing with Difficult People and How to Have the Conversation You Are Avoiding


In the back of your mind, there is the conversation you have been avoiding. Mostly it’s because it is going to be uncomfortable to share what you want to communicate.  Uncomfortable for you.  For them.  You want things to get better on their own, so you avoid the conversation. But it is lingering there, in the back of your mind.


Your silence changes nothing except:

1.       your frustration level, which increases, and

2.      the quality of the relationship you have with that person, which decreases.


But how do you have a difficult conversation?

Here’s how:

1.       Be curious.  Wonder what the world looks like from their point of view.  Ask about their life. Learn about their perspective. Discover how they view the situation.

Ø  Come to a difficult conversation with a solid set of well, thought out curious questions.


2.       State the factsJust the facts.  What exactly is happening? Erase your interpretations and the hidden meanings you are ascribing to the facts. Allow just the facts.  Getting a handle on the objective reality, and then take a good look at your own “meaning making machine”.

Ø  Distill the situation down to clear, simple facts. What are the simple facts? Be specific.


3.       Illuminate your interpretations.  Then let them go.  Take a good hard look at what the stories your meaning making machine has created.  Delete these narratives.

Ø  Erase the meaning you’ve created. Get ready to be open and ask the other person what the facts mean to them. (Notice that we are back to being curious.)


4.       Clarify your request.  Know what behavior it is you would like to ask for going forward.

Armed with your curiosity and just the facts, aware of your own meaning making machine (that imagination of ours!) go have your conversation. 

ü  What questions can you ask to find out what their experience is? 

ü  How can you demonstrate both curiosity and compassion during the conversation?

ü  Once you have their version of reality, and yours, on the table, check your request. 

o   If it still applies, make your request.

o   If you want to amend the request, do so and then make your request.

o    If you now have a new understanding and need to make no request, simply share that.  (“This conversation really helped me.  I thought I was going to ask you ___________, but now I realize that is not necessary.  Thank you.”)

Practicing these conversations when the issues are small and seem minor accomplishes 2 things:

1.      Issues stay small.

2.      You have a lot more practice with these kinds of talks.  It’s easier and feels more natural to do. Then, when you need to have a higher stakes conversation you have more practice, which will help you have a better outcome when it matters most.

Enjoy the conversation!



The 3 Critical Buy-In Questions to Ask When Leading Change


 I recently hosted a gathering of CEO’s for a peer problem-solving session. A theme quickly emerged as each of these organizational leaders brought their issues forward to the group: change leadership.

At the heart of each of their situations was the question: “How can I navigate this change successfully?” In every case, thoughtful intention to how changes were introduced, implemented and evaluated was essential. These leaders cared about the success of their change process as much as the change itself. This type of careful attention is the key to their success as leaders.

Whether your change is significant or small, here are some simple questions to ask to ensure your change is successful:

1.      Why?

You will get resistance from your team if they do not understand why. So often in my coaching sessions I heard people express confusion about changes the organization is implementing:

“Why is this change important?”

“How does it connect to our mission and purpose?”

“What business aspiration does it help us achieve?”

Why? They want to know the answer, and they want that answer to make sense. I find that people do not have to agree with the change to move forward. They have to understand the rationale. That understanding greatly diminishes their resistance. Tell them why.

2.      What?

Communication is key to helping people understand change. What is the change exactly? What opportunity does the change respond to? What will change and what will stay the same? This last question, what will change and what will stay the same, is an essential question to answer if the impending change is significant. Reminding people of what isn’t changing eases anxiety, and allows people to maintain some equilibrium through change.  

3.      How?

Logistics matter to people. Not everyone needs great details, but some concept of the process involved in an upcoming change gives people confidence as they move forward. How will the change be undertaken? When will the change take place? Who is involved in initiating and executing this change? How will we check in to be sure the change is going as planned?

When people know the Why? What? and How? of change it is much easier for them to adapt and adopt the new-normal. When people don’t know or understand Why, there is resistance. When they don’t know or understand What, there is confusion. When they don’t know or understand How there is error in implementation.

As you plan for change, take the time to answer these 3 questions:

Why?                    What?                  How?

And then spot-check your communication: ask some of your key stakeholders if they can tell you why the change is important, what they understand the change to be, and how they see the change getting executed.

This last step will help you course correct your communication, and you will get some lessons-learned that you can apply next time. And there will be a next time. The one constant, after all, is change!



Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!

Executive Wanted! Retaining a Great Culture


The economy is rolling along with record high employment and record low unemployment. Along with growth comes the need for experienced leadership.

It is interesting that these areas were list as part of the core responsibilities:

a) Developing Culture,
b) Developing Talent and
c) Developing and Executing Strategy! 

As an onboarding coach, I have seen goals for growth rates that have not been present for many years. With so many getting after it at this pace, it becomes easier for leaders to lose focus on maintaining a winning Culture and letting it slide.

Be on the lookout for these warning signs and symptoms that your Culture may be sliding:

·        Executives becoming overly focused on their personal ‘to do’ list

·        Staff frustration over communication systems that don’t integrate

·        Staff frustration over lack of leadership influence for making things happen that
are important to the winning Culture.

Now is not the time to be tuning out things important to the workplace Culture. Check with HR for exit interviews. Revisit the most recent employee engagement data. Conduct your own anecdotal; executive engagement update by walking around. Don’t lose the positive things that differentiate your organization from just another place to work in an economy thirsty for people.

I think it’s a good time for revisiting the adage “Culture beats Strategy Every Time.”

How is your organization doing in these areas?

1.     Are star employees leaving for a better opportunity?

2.     Have High Potentials or succession candidates been adequately attended to?

3.    Are your people clear about goal, do they align with efforts, vision and strategic plan?

4.     What synergies between people, processes, and strategies can you name?

5.     What do we need to be doing differently?


The text below is excerpted from an actual Executive Want ad.


Executive Wanted!

Schedule: Full-time Job Type: Executive

Develops Culture by:

  • Developing an organizational culture that leads to ongoing excellence and effective growth of the business while maintaining the highest integrity.

  • Creating a staff-friendly culture that attracts and retains great employees.

  • Promoting an environment where employees are engaged and perform at a high level.

  • Providing for the highest level of customer experience and ensures senior team alignment around that experience.

  • Modeling and driving a culture of accountability and discipline to attain and sustain out-performance in quality, service excellence, and earnings.


Develops Talent by:

  • Building a competitively superior organization through attracting, developing, and retaining talent to ensure that people with the right skills and motivations are in the right place at the right time to meet business needs.

Develops and Executes Strategy by:

  • Developing a long-range course of action or set of goals to ensure successful realization of the organization’s vision.

  • Ensuring the development of clear goals that align a unit’s efforts with the organization’s vision and strategic plan.

  • Ensuring synergies between people, processes, and strategies to drive execution of business objectives.

  • Building and driving sustained revenue growth.

  • Building strategic alliances both inside and outside the organization to create business opportunities and execute business strategies.

I hope you have some new insights about your organization and the importance of maintaining a winning Culture Good luck and let me know if you need any help!

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

The Case for Decency


Leaders, what stories are you telling and retelling?  What values and visions do those stories communicate to the people you are leading?  Stories give us a sense of common purpose – they infuse our work with meaning, and give us something more – commitment to shared values, hope for a brighter future, and the passion of a common purpose.

This summer I had the opportunity to travel with my family to West Virginia to visit the Cass Railroad, and, on that trip, I was fortunate to come across a truly great man.  It is not every day that one gets to meet a truly decent person, but let me tell you about Josh and the makings of a decent man and a great leader. 

Josh was the conductor and brakeman on our day-long steam train excursion.  Over the course of our five-hour trip he regaled us with stories about the Cass Railroad, the logging camp and company that had provided work to his great-grandfather and economic infrastructure to the region through the early part of the last century.  He taught us about the local ecosystems and the changes to landscape and climate brought about by the logging of the old grove forests in WVA.  I learned about his great-grandfather as the camp cook in Cass, and how he’d get up every morning at 3:00am to prepare breakfast for all the men.  Then, as they began to eat their breakfasts, he would turn his attention to their lunches, take a short rest, and began dinner preparations.  All the while his wife was back with the family tending their 10 children and their 1000-acre farm!

What I appreciated about the way Josh approached his work was how he told his stories.  They were true stories that he infused with lessons learned, and embedded within the stories he shared was a moral code.  Over the course of our five-hour ride he was transmitting a set of values to his passengers:

Family matters.  Josh wants to live in such a way that his family might be proud enough of how he lived to tell stories about his life to future generations – the way he was telling his great-grandparents' stories to us.

Hard work matters.  It should be rewarded with fair pay and safe working conditions.  The men who worked these logging camps worked hard, but most of their money went back to the company for rent and the goods purchased at the company store.  Traveling out of the camp required transport on company rails.  How do we treat workers who sacrifice so much and work so hard, living apart from family and undertaking backbreaking labor?  Workers who do difficult, dangerous work should be well cared for and given safe tools, and an appropriately safe working environment.

The environment matters.  It is fragile and we should be mindful of our ecosystems.  Think about the consequences of your industry on the land and environment. The rush to log the mountains of WVA dramatically changed the climate of the state.  With ancient trees the forest floor used to remain dark, wild, and frosty permanently shaded by the towering trees.  When they were logged, heat and lightening ignited fires across the region, burning the mountains across the state with wildfires that burned continually for years.  What are the consequences of the emerging industries today?  Are we, as leaders, thinking through the side effects of our rush to bring new tools to market?  Are we thinking through the side effects of the ways we are using our natural resources today?

Diversity matters.  We need each other.  Diversity is strength.  My favorite story was the one he told about the diversity of the loggers who lived in the camps – immigrants from all over the world.   Italians, Swedes, Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Africans, Latinos were all working together, speaking many languages and learning from each other to bring lumber for our country’s burgeoning cities, industries, and railroads.  At the turn of the last century these people were living together, making friendships across their different languages, cultures and faiths.  Long before such relationships were common or even legal in the rest of the country, there was no segregation in the camps.  These people were a team.  Josh concluded, “If they could figure it out on the top of this mountain in 1910, surly we can find a way to be together today.”  A story with a moral for our times.

Every day, up and down the mountain, Josh tells his stories, communicating a set of values that he hopes will equip his passengers to live a little bit of those values once they leave.

In my work with Senior Leaders, I help them shape the stories they tell about their business – where they have been and where they are going, what impact they want to have on the future, and why that matters.  In the companies where those stories are told and retold, people who join the business join those stories in the same way the youngest generation is born into a family’s story.  From time to time those stories are reshaped to help people move forward in a new direction.

What are the stories that will move your people into the future with a passion born of purpose?  This is vision casting – your story about your imagined future.  What stories do you tell to support the values, great work, and good behavior you find in your teams?  Decency should be celebrated!  It gives rise to a culture of trust, and a people who hope and believe that what they do will matter.  People thrive when they are treated well.  And decent people treat people well.




How to Focus Teams for Success


I am spending a lot of time working with technical/scientific type client teams across the USA. Like all businesses in this robust economy, their pace has quickened and they are all moving quickly. In this fast-paced environment, it is easier to lose focus on the big things needed to ensure success. It may become easier to be distracted by things that seem important in the moment,but in reality, don’t contribute much towards the bigger picture or make real progress towards goals.

I wanted to share an excellent tool that quickly focusses (or re-focusses) teams on the
big things needed for success.

We get them out of their routine, off-site and drill down on how they define success for their
teams as they contribute to the organization’s success. This is done for the near term
(the current calendar /fiscal year) and the longer term (the coming year.)

Here is what we drill down on:

1) If we fast forward to the end this year, (or next year – you pick time) and look back,
tell me what must have happened in order for us to call it a successful year?

These may resemble new initiatives started or completed, revenue streams supported,
or results as measured by metrics achieved. In other words, how do they define success?

2) As we look back, verbalize which barriers were removed that had an immediate or significant impact on the success of the team?

These will usually be examples such as, removal of bottlenecks - needless bureaucracy, lack of formalized roles and responsibilities, under-utilization of delegation and disparate competing cultures within the organization.

3) As we look back, how were we seen by the enterprise and how do we want / need to be seen in order to be successful?

This is the internal marketing plan to the greater enterprise to position the team as a reliable
and trusted business partner. It may also entail changing the internal brand, i.e. the way the team’s function is perceived and internally marketed to the organization.

If the year is flying by and you wonder, “Why haven’t we made a bigger dent in our most
important initiatives this year?” try answering these success focus questions above and
then allocate time towards the things that spell SUCCESS!

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Are You Ready? Here Comes Gen Z!

Generation Z.png

Well, you are finally getting used to the Millennials (1981-1995) and now the oldest members of Generation Z (1996-present) have started to enter the workplace. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are retiring in droves—some estimate 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each and every day. What should you expect from Generation Z and what are the implications for your organization?

This new generation are also called the Digital Natives. I can attest to this at my house. My 4 kids range in age from 12-19 so they are all Gen Z. While the older kids (19 and 17) were growing up, we really tried to monitor the amount of screen time they spent on each day. By the time the youngest (12) entered kindergarten, he was expected to do his work on computers, I-pads, etc. Even if we had wanted to stop him from being on a screen, he was required to do homework on the computer. Thus, this generation will be the most technological savvy generation to enter the workplace. However, we will also talk about what this means for communication in a moment…I see you Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers rolling your eyes already!

I would recommend a Deloitte article called Generation Z Enters the Workforce by Carolyn O’BoyleJosefin Atack, and Kelly Monahan.

Here some highlights for you to consider about this new generation—

·       Job security will be more important (many grew up in the shadow of the financial crisis)

·       Greater loyalty (see first bullet)

·       They prefer face to face conversation

·       Entry level roles are hard to find (we expect a ton out of each role post-recession)

·       Global citizens-will have a stronger network than previous generations

·       Will want flexibility in role, work setting, hours, etc.

·       Will crave feedback (they grew on social media where they get feedback all the time)

·       Strong technical skills

·       Will need help with decision making, communication skill and office protocol

A few implications for you, as a leader, as you think about incorporating Gen Z and the Millennials into your organization.

·       You may want to think about how you design your entry level roles. I would recommend thinking more about an apprentice type role where there is lots of mentoring, coaching and skill enhancement (especially soft skills.)

·       You might want to create a small cohort of younger workers and ask them what their needs are for development. Ex. Decision making, communicating up in the organization, influence skills, presentation skills, etc.

·       Mentoring be intentional and with a two-way approach. The “older” worker can learn a lot from the “younger” workers about what is happening in the marketplace, new communication channels and even what is happening the organizations culture.

·       Highlight best practices in communications and help the younger generations know your preferred communication style. However, also be willing to flex your style as needed. The once a year performance appraisal and monthly 1:1 will not be enough feedback from then newer generations.

Good luck! Continue to read and learn about the new workforce. Finally, remember each person is an individual and will have their own set of skills, competencies and experiences. However, understanding what Gen Z has experience will make you a better leader! Have fun connecting with your new workforce.


Are you being Candid?


Jennifer Owen-O’Quill and I had the chance to attend the Valley Business Keynote in July in Harrisonburg, VA (my hometown—Go Blue Streaks!) Kim Scott was the keynote speaker and she wrote the NY Times and Wall Street Journal best seller Radical Candor. She did an excellent job and I wanted to share a few of her key points and my insights. I highly recommend the book for your own growth and to help your organizations grow stronger.

Kim focused much of her presentation on the following 2x2 matrix from her book—

radical candor.jpg

Your goal as a leader is to strive for Radical Candor. This is where you challenge someone directly with feedback (positive or negative), you care personally about the person and you are trying to help them achieve great results. Okay, I can hear some of my clients already not liking the phrase “care personally.” Let me get candid—get over yourself! No really, what Kim is trying to say is when you care about someone who works for you, you want them to personally succeed. You are not trying to be best friends or trying to solve their personal problems but you are trying to help them grow as far as they are capable. Also, if they personal challenges (and we all do!), you are compassionate enough to recognize it and let the person know you do care about the person and not just the performer. What are the most important skills to do this? Listening, seeking to understand the other person, challenging the other person to make decisions vs. making decisions for them, being direct with feedback and connecting their role/performance to the vision/mission of the organization.

Okay, sounds good so far. Why do we not do it more often? There are lots of reasons like time, we do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings, we do not really care about their feelings and we just want results. I would also propose that many of us have not really practiced giving feedback. Kim gives lots of good stories, suggestions and models in the book to help you with this.

My challenge has been ruinous empathy. I have worried too much about someone’s feelings, self-confidence, etc. and not been direct enough at times in my career. The challenge is that in the moment it feels like I am being a nice guy and helping the other person. The truth is that my inability to be direct, keeps the person from hearing valuable feedback that would help them grow and succeed. They may not love hearing the feedback but if I deliver it with specificity and show that I care about the other person succeeding, then it is likely to be heard. If I avoid the conversation, then I might end up having to let someone go, with them never knowing that they were in trouble and that is a failure as a leader.

We all find ourselves in all of the boxes from time to time. Obnoxious aggression is when you are direct but you really do not show you care about the other person. You may be more aggressive than you need to be, your tone may be too strong, you might belittle the other person or you keep them out of certain meetings, etc.

Manipulative Insincerity—this is when you tell the other person what they want to hear but not really what you believe. I see this a lot in my coaching situations. I heard leaders really fussing about the CEO but when given the chance to challenge either in public or a 1:1 they tend to praise the CEO/VP/Founder, etc. instead of stating how they feel. This is not authentic and the person never gets the chance to make changes that will help lead the organization to better results. I get this a lot when I am a speaker. I will ask for feedback and get nothing but love from the audience. I speak enough to know when I have delivered an A performance and when I deliver at B- speech. However, I will have a certain set of people that will still say I was “great!”

What box is your challenge? What will you do about it? One last thought from Kim’s presentation is about positive feedback. It is interesting how much time we practice giving negative/developmental feedback. How much time do you practice giving positive feedback? I would encourage you to take a few minutes to practice your positive feedback next time. Concentrate on what the person did right, what behaviors did you like and what impact did this have on the business vs. saying great job on the presentation. Good luck and let me know what you are learning about your leadership style.


Conduct Yourself with Honesty and Authenticity


This week, a baseball slugger with a 22 year career was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his speech, Jim Thome had this message for young players coming up in the game today:

"If you try to conduct yourself with honesty and authenticity, the result is the most natural high a human being can have."

Jim Thome, July 29, 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

22 words that capture the heart of of Jim Thome's 22 season career. Living this way is what inspired USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale to muse: "Thome, considered perhaps the nicest human being ever inducted into the Hall of Fame." USA Today, July 30, 2018. 

His words beg the question, am I conducting myself with honesty and authenticity? In the face of all the challenges that life is laying before me today, how am I doing? Am I being the best version of myself?

These are excellent questions for all of us to ask regularly, particularly for leaders. Why? Because oftentimes leaders are faced with complicated choices, and they don't necessarily have someone to hold them accountable. Often, I get called in too late to work with the leader, and I see the wreckage left in the wake of inauthentic, dishonest leadership. The cost of these leaders is high: on companies, on communities, and, often most painfully, on their own families. 

Yet, so often the people around these leaders simply comply with their inauthenticity and dishonesty, because they are afraid or unaware, complicit or simply stuck. They can't find a way out yet. Here is the thing:

Character is contagious. 

People of excellent character positively impact the world around them. The school that shines brightly under the inspired leadership of a great Principal. The team that brings creative energy and repeatable success to their assignments because of the synergy that their mutual respect and enjoyment of one other produces. When communities or companies turn around and earn a reputation of excellence, its so often because the character and commitment of a leader has caught on, capturing the energy and engagement of the people around them. 

Under pressure a good leader can begin to fray. I have been known to say to the CEO's I coach through their challenging chapters: "Whatever your goals are for this engagement, I want to be clear about mine: I am trying to get you through this season with your character intact." I want the leaders I coach to look back over their careers and be able to speak with the kind of wisdom and clear character Jim Thome possesses.

Jim Thome played 22 seasons of baseball at levels of excellence rarely seen. And at the end of a long  and satisfying career, he wanted us to know that it wasn't the World Series appearances, or coming from behind in the bottom of the 9th, slamming the 3-2 pitch out of the park that gave him the highs in his life. No. It was when was in the zone, being the best version of Jim Thome he could be. 

Character is contagious. And we need to check ourselves. 

So my question for you, for me and for all of us, is this: how are you doing? Are you being the best version of yourself? 

What do you need to change to be in better alignment?

Are there amends you need to make?

Relationships to repair or reboot?

A habit you'd be well served to erase?

And where are you shining? What kind of light are you casting as you move through the world?

Leaders that live the way Jim Thome strives to live shine. And so do their teams. People that live like this shine. And so do their families, their friends, and the people around them. So go be the best version of yourself today. It's fun. It's rewarding. And it is what you were made for.

If you've got 20 minutes, here's the speech:






As July comes to an end and we find ourselves on the second half of the year, and Voltage Leadership Consulting wants to check up on you. How are you taking your time to invest in yourself before another year is over? Here is an old but favorite blog of ours that is a great reminder to invest in yourself. 


I am always amazed at the number of people who cannot wait until the weekend, the next month, etc.  They discuss how their job, their boss, their peers drive them crazy.  I think of these folks as serving time.  I once worked at a large organization where people would say they only had 15 more years until they could retire.  I would say, “15 years!  You could have several great careers.”  They replied, “Yes, but I would give up my pension, my vacation, my seniority.”  To me, they were giving up 15 years and just serving time…which is guaranteed to no one.

I propose an alternate approach.  How are you investing your time?  You may not love the situation you are in, but what are you doing to improve yourself?  A recent report by The Jenkins Group said that 42% of college grads never read another book after graduation.  In 1978, Gallup found that 42% of adults had read 11 or more books in the past year (and 13% had read more than 50!).  Today, Pew Research Institute finds that just 28% reach the 11 books mark.  Pew also found that in 2014, 23% of Americans did not read a single book.

Are you still learning?  What was the last great book that you read that got you out of your comfort zone?  (For me, it was Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Eblin.)  What podcasts or YouTube videos do you learn from?  Who do you share these lessons with?

I love the quotation, “the only difference for you in five years will be the books you read and the people you meet.” 

·       Who are you networking with?

·       What value do you bring to them?

·       Who are you mentoring or coaching?

·       Where are you volunteering?

These are all investments in time; however I firmly believe that you will wake up in five years from now doing something you are passionate about.  Thus, I hope you will call someone and set up an appointment for lunch and really listen to their ideas.  I think this is a great investment in time.

Here are some of my favorite recent books and podcasts to give you some ideas:


·       TED Radio Hour

·       Harvard Business Review IdeaCast

·       RadioLab

·       Stuff You Missed in History Class


·       Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Elbin

·       Anatomy of Peace by Arbinger Institute

·       5 Gears:  How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

·       Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

What are you interested in?  Go find a book, podcast, or YouTube video on the topic.  Next, discuss the book with a friend and start to apply the practices.  Investing time will provide a jolt of inspiration for your leadership.