Take Me To Your Leader

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"Take me to your leader" is a science-fiction cartoon catchphrase, said by an extraterrestrial alien
who has just landed on Earth in a spacecraft to the first object it happens to meet and it assumes is an earthling. It is believed to have originated in a 1953 cartoon by Alex Graham in The New Yorker magazine. And thus, a new American cliché was born.                        

If an extraterrestrial landed at work and said “Take me to you leader”, how would you respond?

What factors would we roll over in our mind in order to answer? Does the alien mean the leader by title, or office? Do they mean visible actions and behaviors regardless of position? All valid questions.

At Voltage Leadership, we often speak about the Leadership Attitude. This means intentionally choosing to focus on the greater purpose of our endeavors with no expectation of return. Regardless of aptitude or position, those who demonstrate this attitude seem to have the ability to rally people around them. The opposite is also true. Those that are habitually self-centered have built a leadership moat around themselves. It is typically filled with water and intended as a defense against attack and guaranteed to limit upward mobility

It is also referred to as “CYA” or Choosing Your Attitude or as Charles Swindoll puts it:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

So the next time we face challenging circumstances, remember our attitude is always a choice.

The 5 Stay Questions


I recently attended a professional meeting where colleague of mine presented some excellent and timely information.  As our economy heats up and job opportunities become more plentiful, it is incumbent on employers to fully understand why people stay in their jobs. Improving employee engagement and retention is more important then ever to keep high performing people on your team.

It got me thinking about a recent radio show that Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did on the topic of retention.  We used the term re-recruiting to describe how to keep valuable people from leaving the organization.

Jeff made the point that when a star performer comes to you, the leader, and says, “I’m thinking about taking an offer from another organization. What do you think my chances are for advancement here?” By that time, it’s too late.  The star performer has already entertained and turned over in their own minds the proposition of working elsewhere, (you are just the last to know).

Below are what Richard Finnegan, the author of The Power of Stay Interviews, calls the five stay interview questions. These may be very appropriate to incorporate into periodic re-recruiting meetings in 1:1 mode behind the manager’s closed door.

1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

The opening clause, “When you travel to work each day”, encourages the employee to imagine their daily commute to capture their everyday images in the here and now. Then asking them what they look forward to drives them to their positive images.

2. What are you learning here?

“Learning” in the present tense sends the compelling message that we want you to grow, to prosper for both yourself and our organization. When employees answer and hear their own lists, they
know they are developing and not standing still.

We encourage managers to engage employees in career discussions built around the word “skills”. For example:

“What skills would you like to build?”
“What skills do you think are required for that position?”
“What skills do you possess that are not being fully utilized on your present role?”

3. Why do you stay here?

The goal here is for the employee to drill down, identify, and then verbalize why they stay. The initial response might be something mundane like,” I have to pay the bills” or “Because its familiar and steady”. The manager may respond by saying something like “Of course, me too, but I really want to learn why you stay. Please take a few moments and let me know what you really think”.

The point is that few employees really take the time to consider why they stay and voice them once they have been challenged to think about them. This is a very “local” discussion, one that hits close to home. It needs to be done thoughtfully as the employee just might be thinking, “Yep you are right. I am so out of here.”.

4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

This question gets to the core of retention issues. Everyone at some point in their tenure thinks about
leaving at one time or another. Some of the drill down questions are:

“How important is that issue to you today?”
“Can I count on you to come 1:1 if you ever feel that way again?”

“What’s the single most important thing I can do to make it better?”
“How often has that happened?”

5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

This question is often seen a lip service or as a cliché. It is about building the trust bridge behind the manager’s closed door. It requires the manager to be comfortable in their own skin and not react defensively. The responses from this dialog often provide insight into regarding how the manager can adapt their leadership style with each employee.

 “Do I recognize you appropriately when you do something well?
 “How do you like to be recognized? Privately? In public?”

“Are my work instructions clear?”
“Are there times you don’t always understand what is expected?”

“Do I seem genuinely interested in your career here?”

“Am I with you enough? Not enough? Too much?”


“It was the best of days, it was the worst of days, it was the day of wisdom, it was the day of foolishness.” (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

We recently had the opportunity to present Voltage content at an offsite for a Financial Services group in a large city in the Southeast USA. It really could have been anywhere and our program centered around two main points;

A. Tell us about their best day at work in the last 100 days and why?

B. Tell us about their most challenging day at work in the last 100 days and why?

Here’s What the Best Days and the Worst Days Had in Common

  1. Time
  2. Energy
  3. People
  4. Communication                                                                                            

Many said the Best days were days in which the team hit their marks, delivered time sensitive work product, or where everybody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. These days were full of meaningful interaction between people and energy. The team pulled together to hit the finish line strong. There was satisfaction for a job well done and recognition for those doing it. They had earned a certain swagger.

Likewise, on the Worst days, many said these days were full of chaos and confusion about who was doing what and why. Nobody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. After a certain point this led to tacit apathy. It was an exhausting, draining experience where the buck was passed for accountability and energy was expended deflecting attention. Not only was there was no swagger, there was anxiety about what the next day would bring.

1.      Time – In both cases Time is static / fixed, therefore priorities and rationales about them mattered.

2.      Energy – In both cases Energy is variable, the Best days were when Energy levels and Time were managed.

3.      People - In both cases, Work was being done through and with People. The Best days acknowledged that fact.

4.      Communication - In both cases, it was often the Cause of or Solution to a Best day or a Challenging day.

Our goal should be to make every day at work the best it can possible be, aka “the day of wisdom”. This means leaders must live in a less transactional space, where they are paying attention to how these 4 variables are being managed and applied. If they are out of balance, do not be surprised to hear about the “day of foolishness”.

For a deeper dive into how to help establish and foster contagious positive attitudes at your organization, check out this episode of the Voltcast radio show.



A fresh new year is well underway as we continue driving for results in “Q2”.  Are things unfolding as you had planned during strategy sessions at the tail end 2016? If so, great and congratulations. If not, what actions should be taken and how should they be communicated?

In other words, how hard should leadership push for results and how should they go about it? This is a question that all leaders face at different times. The answer to it often determines how culturally engaged the workforce is.

·       Are leaders “pushing” on the right things?

·       Are these things fully understood before actions are taken?

·       Are the right actions being taken at the right time vs prematurely?

·       What are the leadership skills necessary to rally the troops during these trying times?

If you have been there, or are there now, you will want to explore the use of an excellent management tool we’ve developed called iPUSH to hit the finish line strong and move the needle.

The iPUSH Model:  Please answer these three preliminary questions

1.       What are you potentially struggling with that needs attention now?
2.      What are the right developmental goals to work on over the next 3-6 months?
3.      What are the best ways to interface with you as your Accountability Partner to move the needle?

Then cycle the responses to these questions thru iPUSH

              i PUSH stands for:

              i = Intention, succeeding with intentionality
              P = Problem(s) to resolve
              U = Understanding problems fully before acting
              S = Setting the right actions in motion at the right time
              H = Hitting the Finish Line strong

The goal here is to become an Accountability Partner, one who shares in the real work of ensuring the deliverable is met. In other words, the push-or is on the same Team as the Push-ee and they win together.

So, go ahead and PUSH, but make sure intentions are combined with integrity and that the Problems to resolve are fully Understood before Setting the right actions in motion at the right time, Hitting the finish line strong!

iPUSH, How about you…?


My husband is a fan of American Ninja Warrior.  We sit down one evening a week and watch people move through the incredibly difficult obstacle course that the show creates in cities around the country. It is amazing to watch as each contestant attempts to complete the course.

What wows me even more?  There is generally a contestant or two who nimbly flies through the course, balancing, swinging, climbing, and pulling with such agility, accuracy and speed that I am left speechless, pointing at the TV.  These people blow away the top score of the night by the time they reach the finish line.

Every contestant who completes the course has skills, strength, power, flexibility.

Those who win are also nimble.

Here is what I have noticed:  the most nimble often appear to be the most carefree.  There is a freedom to their movement:  less tension, more fluidity, more speed, and more accuracy.

What is the leadership lesson here?  

If there is one thing that will slow a person down, it is fear.  Scared people move more slowly.

I am not suggesting that methodical preparation and planning are not part of the process, they are.

What I am suggesting is that fear-based performance will usually not earn you a first place finish.

This is what happens on the teams I coach:  trust based teams are nimble whereas fear based teams are clenched, tightly wound, and controlled.  It is not as much fun to work on a fear based team.  It is a great deal of fun to work on and with a nimble team.  Game changing ideas come from nimble teams. Incremental change comes from fear-based teams.

Speed, accuracy and excellence take a nimble player:  someone who feels free to move, practice, learn, try and try again; someone who enjoys the work; someone who is having fun.

Another outcome of a nimble team: resilience.  They weather storms well.  Failure is part of the process, but focus and freedom rule the day.

Focus + Freedom = Nimbleness

Success in a changing world takes nimbleness in precisely the environment which makes a normal person nervous or afraid.

How do we face the challenge?

1.       Focus.  Focus on the Desired Outcome.  What do you want, what do you really want?  Why do you want it?  Focusing on the ultimate Desired Outcome provides focus to individuals and teams.  It gives people a common purpose and vision to pursue.

2.       Freedom.  This often means the leader needs to keep quiet while the team wrestles with HOW to achieve the Desired Outcome.  They need to be free to share bad ideas and good ones and wrestle with them until they find a path and a process that will get them quickly to where they want to be.

Where they ultimately want to be is on the other side of the obstacle course, with yet another great experience behind them, ready to go back to work and prepare for the next round of challenges.

In 2017, I plan to be nimble.  How about you?