Seven Questions that Help You Coach Up (and ensure you get the feedback you need too!)


Regular, direct communication between a direct report and their leader is what grows and develops employees, yet so often I find the time people have together is not used effectively. The most common issue: the conversations are largely transactional.

What gets covered in these meetings are the needs of the day: the tasks that need to be accomplished. Left unaddressed are the conversations about employee performance. What do they both need in terms of communication from each other to be successful? What behaviors are helping and what behaviors are hurting both the relationship and their individual performance?  These issues all too often remain unaddressed.

If you are a leader, when was the last time you had a conversation with your direct reports about their professional growth? One thing to remember: you might think you have had these conversations, but if it was not explicit or intentional your direct report may have missed the coaching. Be intentional and take the time to have regular professional development conversations with your people.

Often someone is able to change and do something differently, but they don’t know that a different behavior would be helpful. Perhaps they don’t know how to do the behavior at all, and they need coaching from their leader in order to learn a new way of operating.

This kind of regular coaching and feedback helps people grow and perform better and better in their role. It impacts the bottom line, grows your culture, and creates more successful team members.

If your leader does not offer this kind of feedback, you do not have to wait. Here are seven Coaching Up questions you can use to get the conversation started. Add this habit into your 1:1s or ask for a few minutes at the end of your weekly or monthly meeting, and let me know what happens!  

Seven Coaching Up Questions

Find out how you are doing:

·        What did I do well?

·        What could I do differently in the future?

·        What did I miss?

·        What do you want me to accomplish next week/month?

Share what will help you get better:

·        What do you appreciate that your leader is doing?

·        What could they do differently that would help you perform better in your role?

·        Is there something new you need from them so you can be successful?

Imagine how well you and your team can perform if you were asking and answering these questions regularly. Now ask yourself: what can I do differently next week so that I am getting and giving performance feedback to my team? What is the next opportunity I have to ask one (or all) of these questions?  Decide who you want to talk with, what you want to ask, and when you will ask those questions. Enjoy the conversation! Performance conversations are a gift that you both give and receive.

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?”

For additional leadership content click here

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. 

Check Your Assumptions


People struggle to communicate. We struggle to say the important, vulnerable thing to our spouse. We struggle to ask for raises or reassignments. We struggle to set boundaries with or make requests of our colleagues.

Oftentimes we are struggling because we have already drawn a set of conclusions about the outcome of the conversation so we never bother to have the actual conversation. Or we think we know why someone is doing something we don’t like or appreciate, and that assumption about some else’s motives turns into a story about that person. Slowly those stories we have about other people begin to feel like facts.

But something feeling like a fact does not make it true.

Judith Glaser, in her work around Conversational Intelligence, called this habit we human beings have “climbing the Ladder of Conclusions.” (Glaser, 2014)

We all make up stories in our lead about why another person says or does something.

· When someone talks over us in a meeting, we write a story about why they did that.

· When someone is late with a reply or promised project, we make up a story to explain why.

· When someone else is praised for their work and we are not, we create a story about this too.

In every case we are trying to explain “Why?” from our point of view.

But we are trying to explain “why” in relationship to our own emotions, because first we feel, then we think. It is our feelings, layered with our thinking about our feelings that creates our beliefs about other people, and color our conclusions about their intentions.

I am continually reminding people of two things:

1.      Learn to assume the best intentions in others.

It will make your life happier, and your relationships easier.

2.      Check your assumptions.

Investigate. Ask. Find out. Not from one third party, from the person you are making assumptions about.

Yes, I am suggesting you go and actually have a conversation with the person you think doesn’t like you, …who looked at you “funny , … who did not reply to your invitation. 

Here’s one approach:

Ø  Ask if you can talk over coffee or lunch or a break. This signals more time, relaxed environment.

Ø  Let them know you are curious to learn what you can make the relationship better.

Ø  When you meet, let them know you want to better understand their point of view, and offer your own firsthand experience. Then share your stories. Both the facts and the story you are making up in your head. Use the language, “the story I am making up in my head…”. For example: “When you didn’t reply to my email, the story I made up in my head was that my idea was bad, and you don’t like me.”

Ø  Share the impact your interactions have had on each of you. Describe also the positive impact you want to have on them in the future.

Ø  Talk through your ideas about how to make the relationship better in the future.

We spend a lot of time believing the wrong thing about other people’s intentions. I know, because at least 30% of my time coaching leaders is spent helping them find ways to think through the stories they are making up about other people, and figuring out how to simply talk with them directly.

So the next time there is someone you have written a big story about, take a moment to walk down the ladder of conclusions: set aside your conclusions, challenge your beliefs, separate your thoughts from your feelings and then from the actual facts.

Remember, even the best relationships have some tension in them from time to time. When we check our assumptions, assume best intentions, and seek to understand the other point of view, more often than not we find common ground. And common ground is where trust is found.


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”

                                    For additional leadership content click here

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.