Promotion to Management: To Do or Not to Do?

•June 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When to promote and who to promote? In my work as a leadership coach, I see people succeeding as individual contributors; their strengths are being used in the best possible way. Then because they are dependable and effective they get promoted to a managing or supervising role and suddenly they are no longer responsible for doing the work, they are in charge of assuring that others do the work.

Many first-time managers are not even aware of this distinction and will continue doing the work and just expect their direct reports (many of whom used to be their peers) to keep doing the work. But who is overseeing the work and what are the new skills that are required in the new role?

People who enjoy being in the technical role (detail, precision, doing what they do best) may not want to be a manager. They may never stop to even ask the question: What will be different in the new role I’m being offered and are those differences something I think I would enjoy? Most people when offered a promotion and a pay raise will jump at the opportunity without asking important questions.

The same applies to the company’s talent management department, are they asking the right questions? Does this person like to work alone or in groups? Does this person have good people skills? Can they influence people in a positive way? Do they have good time-management skills? Can they mentor and teach those below them? Can they discipline if necessary? Can they assure their team delivers on time and within budget? Does this person realize they will be responsible for annual or semi-annual employee evaluations? How well will they handle relationships with those peers that will now become direct reports? What evidence do I have for any of these answers?

Asking these questions and having discussion are very necessary steps in the promotion process. Then if it is decided that promotion is the next step please set the new manager for success by getting him/her the support they need: training and coaching!

The Cultivation and Collapse of Trust

•May 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Trust is such a big word. It’s the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective. It’s also the confident expectation of something; our attitude about the future; and it’s a decision-making skill as to what or who you can or cannot put your faith in.

Many of us believe trust has to be built from the inside out; if you can’t trust yourself, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to trust anyone else. Perhaps you’ll spend a few minutes reflecting on the following: Do I trust myself? Can others trust me? What evidence do I have that this is true? What evidence do I have that it’s not?

How does one cultivate trust? Since people will usually not do business with you, if trust is absent; will not want to be your friend, colleague, or team member (if given a choice) and certainly will not commit to a close relationship such as spouse or partner; it seems to me that trust is vitally important to both your success and your happiness.

Let’s first discuss the framework that trust is built upon. I believe it to be these areas:

  • Transparency – your actions match your words. You do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. You don’t have hidden agendas. You don’t say words that will manipulate someone into doing what you want them to do, as opposed to saying what you think. You don’t tell one person one thing and another something else. You have integrity.
  • Competent – you don’t promise to do something without first having the skill to do it or a plan to acquire the skill. You clarify standards, expectations and timelines before wildly promising something just to make someone happy. You ask for support and/or resources to fulfill any promise you do make. You are realistic and honest.
  • Reliable – you are consistent. People know what to expect from you. Your attitude or mood is not like a roller coaster. We all have days better than others but reliability means we don’t hold our colleagues or family members hostage to our moods. It also means we can be counted on to do what we commit to. We take our commitments seriously and hold ourselves accountable to deliver.
  • Humble – show your vulnerability. You know you don’t know it all. You are open to others opinions; you take the time to listen and are open to changing your mind. You don’t hold yourself above others; you show your humanity. You don’t talk about others behind their backs. You admit your failures as soon as you realize the mistake and without pointing fingers.
  • Kind – you are kind. You treat people with respect. This won’t necessarily make you a great leader, but it will create an environment of safety. Only in a safe environment can relationships be built, collaboration occur, teams grow stronger, people be happier and productivity rise.

So what happens when trust is corroded? The collapse of trust has a high cost for both personal relationships and business. Sometimes this corrosion begins with such a small or seemingly insignificant incident. For example, once I showed up at my Naturopath’s office to pick up supplements on a Friday afternoon about 3 pm only to find out they close at noon on Friday. The next month I was careful to stop by before noon on Friday, only to discover they are now closed all day on Friday. Is it so much trouble to post a sign on the door a month in advance indicating a change in office hours or to send a mass email to clients?

A similar thing happened with another vendor; first he moved his office (no problem with that) and he posted office hours as 9-5 Monday through Friday (no problem here either)…the problem begins when I call the office and never get an answer. My call will eventually be returned but I find what they really mean is ‘Open 9-5 by Appointment’, but that is not what is posted on the door, nor what the answering machine says.

My trust begins to erode when I think that these businesses are not acting like businesses. Are they out of integrity? They are not being clear and specific enough about what they are offering me as a customer. Post a sign that says “Next month we will begin closing on Fridays” or “We are open by appointment only, Monday through Friday” – don’t keep your customers guessing or your customers will take their business elsewhere (I did).

I see assumptions and unrealized expectations occurring all the time in my work with corporate America. One department is waiting on a new hire and assumes HR is pursuing this new hire, then later finds out HR is busy hiring for another department. All the while, HR has been waiting for the first department to deliver the job description/requirements for this new hire and the CEO thinks HR has been diligently looking for several new hires and must not be able to find the right fit. The truth: nothing’s happening! This is the way trust erodes between departments and colleagues. People don’t clarify standards, expectations or timelines. People don’t deliver, miscommunication occurs, tempers flare, relationships suffer and productivity goes out the window.

Loss of trust also means:

  • People no longer feel safe to speak up – innovation & collaboration suffer
  • They are afraid to clarify, therefore you’re unsure as to what to expect
  • They won’t hold each other accountable so productivity declines
  • They work hard, but out of fear and not commitment (culture erodes)
  • Certain individuals may ‘band together’ leading to ineffective teams in which team members may be at cross purposes
  • The attitude about the future is uncertain = disengagement

Trust can be both easily built and easily destroyed. Once destroyed, it’s not as easy to regain. Just like keeping a customer is easier and less expensive than finding a new customer, trust is the same. Showing kindness, being fair, delivering on what you say you will deliver on and when you say you will deliver it, righting your wrongs, not throwing others under the bus, and clarifying vs. assuming will all go a long way in cultivating a culture of trust.

As Patrick Lencioni said in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, trust is the foundation. Make yours a strong one.

Judy Irving, Executive & Leadership Coach – –

The Two Sides of Perfectionism

•January 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

As a coach, I used to work with a lot of perfectionists. Not so much anymore. I now realize that when I was a perfectionist, I attracted perfectionists. Now that I give myself ‘a break’, love myself more; accept myself more, I am less concerned with getting it perfect. I’m more concerned with living and loving my life.


There are many good things about being a perfectionist: high standards, does the job right, gets the job done on time, responsible, people can count on you, you don’t let things fall through the cracks or drop any balls. All of these are excellent traits and welcomed by most companies and managers. The problem begins when you don’t do these things for the right reasons.


So what are the right reasons? To make something better, to appreciate your own finished product or project, a sense of accomplishment, because you truly believe (as my dad used to say), “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” The wrong reasons are when you set yourself up to ‘earn’ your self worth through your work or deeds. When you try to manage or control other people’s perceptions about you by people pleasing, when you over-focus on the details to the point of multi-tasking and stressing yourself needlessly. When you are so focused on the task, you forget the people involved and are not respectful, compassionate and acknowledging of them.


Tasks matter yes; but people matter more and that includes you. You know that saying that goes something like: “People will forget what you say and what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel”? Perfectionism can make you feel good if done for the right reasons and leave you feeling empty, struggling and striving if done to control others or gain their approval. It can also leave others feeling the same way if you put your tasks and standards above their humanity.

Your self-esteem is yours (that’s why it’s called ‘self), don’t look to others for it – give it to yourself.

The Next Evolutionary Leap

•March 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A fabulous new book, Super Brain, by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudy Tanzi (Genetics and Anti-aging Research at Harvard) is such a great read. It may be a slow read in some places because it touches on areas that make one stop and think. For example, the authors encourage you to be in charge of your brain and not allow the brain to be in charge of you. You control your brain, who then is who is ‘you‘? You is consciousness and that is beyond the brain… I know it’s confusing but nevertheless, you must read the book, this blog post is mainly to share about the intuitive brain.

Of the four areas of the brain, Instinctive, Intellectual, Emotional and Intuitive, I found the Intuitive to be the most interesting and below are some tips on using the intuitive brain to become part of the next evolutionary leap:

  • Don’t promote conflict in any area of your life.
  • Make peace when you can. When you can’t walk away.
  • Value compassion.
  • Choose empathy (incidentally the highest of the emotional intelligence qualities) over blame or derision.
  • Try not to always feel that you are right.
  • Make a friend who is the opposite of you.
  • Be generous of spirit.
  • Wean yourself off materialism in favor of inner fulfillment.
  • Perform at least one act of service every day – there is always something you can give.
  • Show genuine concern when someone else is in trouble.
  • Don’t ignore signs of unhappiness.
  • Oppose us-versus-them thinking.
  • If you are in business, practice capitalism with a conscious, giving ethical concerns as much weight as profits.

These are not just ideals, with everything we do and we say we change the world. There are no idle thoughts, every thought matters. When your own experiences become richer, the universe gets better at serving its purpose which is to foster life and the experiences that life brings. With each thought you change the world.

Survive or Thrive?

•October 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We’ve often heard the phrase: Change is inevitable but growth is optional, choose wisely. Then I read a quote by Edward Deming this week that started me thinking: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”  That’s pretty obvious when we think about  personal lives, our savings accounts, our health and even our relationships. We obviously make the choice to survive and when we make the choice then to  thrive what’s needed?

The first thing that comes to mind is the intention and commitment to do so. Then defining what thriving looks like – now, tomorrow, ten years from now. Next what support, resources and skills do you need in order to make it happen…then putting together a plan to make it a reality. Today almost no one needs to survive alone, even on The Amazing Race they have partners! Surrounding yourself with the right partners (a team): a coach, a financial adviser, a workout buddy, a spiritual adviser, social partners, a community of like-minded individuals, family and meaningful work are all apart of this thriving process.

Over the past twenty-five years even the business world has seen the advantages of teamwork. In the 1980s the word was management. The idea was that a manager was needed to create consistency (for keeping standards from slipping). Yes you are a manager of your own life and you need to define your own standards. In the 1990s the key concept was leadership by the individual. Organizations saw a leader was needed because everything was changing so quickly. Today, they are still changing quickly.Now in the 2000s the idea is team leadership. Why? Because leading an organization has become so complex and multifaceted, the only way to make progress is to develop a team of leaders.

Why not take advantage of the same approach for yourself? After all you are You, Inc. There are many facets to your life, health, body, home, career, finances, relationships and community. You don’t have to be an expert in all areas, you just have to accept responsibility for defining your direction and building the team. Whether its life or business this is true: A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of the others (Norman S. Hidle). When you build a team of experts you become a unit that works together for the common goal. That goal may be you and your success or it may be the success of a charity or a for-profit business. The team works together.

This post would not be complete if I didn’t mention how important communication is to your success. You must communicate with yourself and your team regularly.Don’t stick your head in the sand. The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place. Make sure everyone knows where the bus is headed. Don’t make assumptions, listen, ask questions and clarify. Make sure what you intended to communicate was indeed what was heard. Watch that the expectations are clearly defined and communicated accurately. Watch the messages you give to yourself, are you building yourself up by the words that go through your mind or are you tearing yourself down?

Ask the tough questions. I firmly believe the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves and each other. From those questions come the clarity needed to set the direction of our lives.


The Real Connector

•August 31, 2012 • 1 Comment

Humans have the incredible ability to hear what they have subconsciously decided to hear. Just like you are able to filter out background noise – think air conditioner fan or the television noises while you’re on the computer – the fact is we filter. Think about how you tuned your Mom out when she repeatedly told you to do whatever. We also filter based on our beliefs, past experiences, preferences, and positions.

Rather than deeply listening to another person we are processing and filtering. Think of the evidence room at the FBI, as we hear the other person speaking, we are busy searching our own mental database (our evidence room) to agree, disagree, reposition, judging or simply waiting to talk. Any of which means we are no longer listening and we most certainly are not connecting. Yes, I know you truly believe you are a master at multitasking, but studies show no one is a master at multitasking.

It’s estimated that 50% of what is said in the workplace is not what is heard. You may think the other person is at fault, but we all must assume responsibility for our communication. You are responsible for how your communication is received and for how you receive from others. We are taught to speak as children but most of us have not been blessed with training in the art of listening. I suggest you make a true effort to put all your mind-voices to rest and really tune into the person speaking to you. Listen from an understanding-position not a position designed to agree, disagree or interrogate. Listening deeply makes the other person feel valued. It also stimulates curiosity on your part, from which will come questions to engage them in conversation thereby assisting you to understand their perspective or see the situation through their eyes. This leads to connection.

Conversations are two-way endeavors. Conversations are relationship builders. Conversations are trust builders and sales tools but only if you listen totally and deeply. People grow from connection; businesses grow from connection, one conversation at a time. That’s why God gave us two hears and one mouth; stop talking and listen. Listening is the real connector.

What’s Left Out of the Plan?

•June 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In watching this TED talk by Tom Wujec, it once again confirms how often we don’t check our hidden assumptions before forging ahead with ‘our plan’. THEN when our plan doesn’t work, we not only have a crisis on our hands, but NOW we go back and look at the assumptions we began with. We’ve all heard that ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ What if we aren’t taking the pre-planning deep enough? What would be the benefit of thinking through all the dynamics, the desired outcome and our assumptions about that outcome?

See the video here: