3 Shifts that Expand Influence

3 Shifts that Expand Influence

The way you treat others is the chief culture building influence in your organization.

Lousy leaders act like individual contributors. Incompetent leaders can’t see the impact of their attitudes, words, and actions.

Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The relationships you enjoy, for example, begin with you.

When you focus on weaknesses and ignore strengths, others build protective walls.

Adversarial leaders invite conflict.

Passive leaders create anxiety.

Teams don’t practice accountability until leaders follow-up and follow-through.

When you confront tough issues with kindness, others have tough conversations with greater confidence.

3 shifts that expand influence:

#1 Shift from who is right to what is right.

In one sense, leadership isn’t personal. The issue is the issue. It doesn’t matter who comes up with solutions. The person who screwed up last week might be this week’s genius.

#2. Shift from talking-at to talking-with.

Engagement requires “with.” The more you talk “at” the more you lose “with.” Talking-with requires humility, honesty, curiosity, openness, and forgiveness.

  1. Humility acknowledges the perspective and strengths of others.
  2. Honesty explains issues without hidden agendas.
  3. Curiosity asks, “What do you think?”
  4. Openness listens and explores. Defensiveness is the end of innovation.
  5. Forgiveness gives second chances after responsible failure. Honor sincere effort. Don’t punish ignorance.

#3. Shift from right and wrong to better.

Most issues are solved with progress. It’s about next steps, not moral imperatives. Stop judging so much. Start cheering more.

Complex issues have more than one answer. Their answer is better than yours, even if it’s not quite as good, because they own it.

Bonus: Shift from punishing to learning.

Treat responsible failure as a learning opportunity and risk is easier. But treat people like tools and you propagate self-serving attitudes.

Carol Dweck says the #1 quality of a growth mindset is learning from failure.

What shifts expand a leader’s influence?

What behaviors short-circuit a leader’s influence?



3 Ways to Identify Arrogant Leaders

I recently heard a great speaker in Atlanta named Clay Scroggins (Author, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge). He made this point:

“Arrogant people don’t ask questions.”

I had to think about that.  Test it against my experience.  See if it was an exaggeration – or could it be so?

He went on to say….”they not only don’t ask you questions, they do not ask themselves questions either.”

Hmmm. Thinking over all the arrogant people I’ve ever met.  List very long. May take a while to conclude.

(a minute passes)

Dang.  I think it’s true!!!

Here are three easy ways to find out if a leader is arrogant…


Count the number of things the leader came to TELL you, compared to the number of open-ended questions they ASKED you.  Anything  above a 3:1 ratio may indicate a problem (just a hunch).

A surrogate for this test would be – how long did they talk relative to how long they listened.  Try this in your next project meeting with your supervisor.


If you think you are working for someone arrogant, take note of how many times they declare things to the organization that they do not actually know to be true.

  1. “We will launch a new product by X.”
  2. “We will have that problem solved by Friday.”
  3. “We will overcome this adversity.” (Just to mention a few possibilities.)


Ask the leader to share one of their most difficult experiences and what they learned from it.  If they can’t think of one, well, you know what that means.

Another version of this test?  Ask them to name your three children at the next company picnic.  If they smile, nervous laugh, and walk away…


  1. Listen carefully.
  2. Ask inquiring questions.
  3. Know yourself and know your team members.

That’s humility.  And it drives performance.

Serve well.

What are some signs that a leader is arrogant?

How might leaders practice humility?





Are you Brave Enough to Be Dumb

The courage to ‘not know’ may be the greatest leadership courage of all.

Mark Miller, the VP of High Performance Leadership at Chic-fil-A, told me that he would tell his younger self, “Stop trying to have all the answers.”

Not-knowing seems weak. Ego hides behind a facade of knowledge and competence.

Don’t pretend you know when you don’t. Most people know you’re faking it anyway.

Double benefit:

Humility enables leaders to not-know and makes space for others TO know.

Everyone waits for instructions from the all-knowing leader. Can you afford to have people waiting?

Courage to not-know instills boldness in others.

If you always know, they’ll stop offering suggestions.

Courage to not-know honors the skill and creativity of the people around the table.

Brave enough to seek advice:

Greg Dyke, Director of the BBC from 2000 to 2004 asked two questions when he took the helm of the struggling company.

  1. What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?
  2. What is the one thing I should do to make things better for our viewers and listeners?

Francesca Gino observes that new leaders often feel a need to have answers (Like Mark Miller) and explain THEIR vision. It might seem weak to ask questions before establishing your competence as a leader.

Gino’s research indicates the opposite, “… asking for advice increases rather than decreases how competent you are perceived to be.” (Rebel Talent)

Tip: The use of “could” is better than “should”. There’s more space to answer openly if you ask, “What’s one thing I COULD do to make things better for you?”

Action steps for today:

  1. Ask a dumb question. “This might be a dumb question but I’m wondering …?”
  2. Ask your team, “What one thing could I do to make things better for you?”

Where might leaders need to practice not-knowing a little more?

How might leaders not-know in a leaderly manner?






Why Humility Delivers More Results Than Arrogance

Courage and humility:

You’d be wrong if you said humility is kin to fear.

Courage is the willingness and ability to fail and try again.

Arrogance needs to appear perfect so it plays it safe. It won’t try unless success is certain. Arrogance fears and rejects failure.

Humility accepts responsible failure and keeps going.

Wisdom and humility:

The arrogant become fools.

Arrogance learns slowly, if at all. It won’t accept advice or guidance from others because it believes it already knows best.

Learning is hard for arrogance.

Arrogance knows. Humility knows there’s more to know.

Humility learns from failure, improves, and gains insight. Arrogance, on the other hand, repeats ineffective behaviors and blames others for failure.

Humility learns because it listens. Arrogance despises listening.

Arrogance points fingers.

Humility takes responsibility and grows.

There is no growth apart from taking responsibility.

Humility and results:

Humility respects and appreciates others. Teams work hard for leaders who appreciate their hard work.

Humility connects with others and honors their talent.

Arrogance stands aloof and feels threatened when others shine.

Five practices of humility:

  1. Learning.
  2. Listening.
  3. Courage.
  4. Connection.
  5. Responsibility.

Which of the five practices of humility are most relevant to you?

How are courage, learning, and results connected to humility?



Nearly 50% of Upper-Level Managers Avoid Holding People Accountable


46% of upper-level managers are rated “too little” on the item, “Holds people accountable … .” (HBR)

You missed the point if accountability is:

  1. Coercing reluctance to do things it isn’t committed to do.
  2. Expecting performance from weakness. Accountability won’t help squirrels lay eggs.
  3. Punishment.


  1. Says we are responsible to each other.
  2. Expresses commitment. Those who aren’t willing to be accountable haven’t committed.
  3. Defines dependability. What’s more insulting than one unprepared person on a team filled with talent?
  4. Demonstrates confidence and self-respect.
  5. Sets the ground rules for respect and trust.

Accountability recognizes strength and honors performance.

Mutual accountability:

I’ve never been asked to lead a workshop on how to hold ourselves accountable. It’s always about others. That is the heart of the problem.

Accountability is something to work on together, not mandate from on high.

One-sided accountability:

  1. Leverages fear.
  2. Depends on carrots and sticks.
  3. Promotes disconnection and arrogance. Relationships disintegrate when leaders stand aloof.
  4. Invites resentment and disengagement.
  5. Dis-empowers those who need to feel powerful.

Mutual accountability:

  1. Requires leaders to go first.
  2. Demands respect-based interactions.
  3. Strengthens connection and relationship. We are responsible to help the people around us succeed.
  4. Honors integrity and courage.
  5. Gives opportunity for humility.

Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, said, “Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.”, and author of, “The Open Organization.”

Practice accountability:

Blurry responsibility leads to vague accountability. Vague accountability is no accountability.

  1. Who owns the project or initiative?
  2. Who makes decisions? The group. A project leader. Someone who isn’t in the room.
  3. What are the deliverables?
  4. What are the milestones and deadlines?
  5. What happens when deadlines are missed?

Complexity is like fog to accountability.

What might mutual accountability look like in your organization?

How might leaders lift accountability out of the category of punishment?


7 Questions that Answer the Ultimate Opportunity of Leadership

The easiest thing leaders do is get things done. The hard part is the people.

Leaders are ineffective if all they do is get things done.

The true focus of leadership:

Leaders focus on people while getting things done.

The greatest opportunity of leadership is developing other leaders.

If you don’t get things done, you won’t be a leader very long. But ultimately leaders enable others to get things done. Now the question is, “What things?”

Leaders advance the welfare of others.

You earn the right to lead by advancing the welfare of others. But serving the greater good is only the first level of leadership. The hard part is next.

Leadership expands when the people you serve become leaders who enable others to serve.

The 3 Levels of Leadership:

Level 1: Advance the welfare of others.

Level 2: Influence others to advance the welfare of others.

Level 3: Influence others who influence others to advance the welfare of others.

How to serve those who serve others:

  1. Honor humility. Won’t honoring humility inspire pride? Not if you think of humility as behaviors and practices.
  2. Break isolation. Establish and strengthen connections.
  3. Clarify ‘good’. People must know what ‘good’ is, if they plan to advance it.
  4. Recognize service.
  5. Celebrate openness.
  6. Show enthusiasm, more than criticism, for others.
  7. Address tough issues with candor, empathy, and compassion.

7 Questions that develop leadership in others:

  1. If you were to exemplify humility today, what might you do?
  2. How might you help others establish and strengthen connections today?
  3. How might you advance the welfare of others today?
  4. Who might you recognize today?
  5. How might you be open to the suggestions and ideas of others today?
  6. How might you pass your enthusism on to others today?
  7. How will you acknowledge emotions and deal with tough issues at the same time?

How might leaders focus on people while getting things done at the same time?

Humility is the New Smart: Are You Ready?


Humility is the New Smart

SMART used to be a quantity game. “I know more than you. I get more things right.” But Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig say that in the new Smart Machine Age, that’s losing game. The new smart is about quality. Specifically, the quality of your thinking, your listening, and your relating and collaborative skills.

Are you ready?

The Smart Machine Age (SMA) will revolutionize how most of us live and work. In Humility is the New Smart, the authors state that “smart technologies will become ubiquitous, invading and changing many aspects of our professional and personal lives and in many ways challenging our fundamental beliefs about success, opportunity, and the American Dream.” This means that the “number and types of available jobs and required skills will turn our lives and our children’s lives upside down.”

New skills will be needed. Uniquely human skills. Those skills, while uniquely human, are not what we are typically trained to do and require a deal of messy personal development. We will need to become better thinkers, listeners, relators, and collaborators, while working to overcome our culture of obsessive individualism in order to thrive in the SMA. Humility is the mindset that will make all of this possible.

Most of today’s adults have had no formal training in how to think, how to listen, how to learn and experiment through inquiry, how to emotionally engage, how to manage emotions, how to collaborate, or how to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.

In short, say the authors, we need to acquire and continually develop four fundamental NewSmart behaviors:

Quieting Ego

Quieting Ego has always been the challenge for us humans. As they observe, “Even if we don’t consider ourselves part of the ‘big me’ cultural phenomenon, for many of us to feel good about ourselves we have to constantly be ‘right,’ self-enhance, self-promote, and conceal our weaknesses, all of which drive ego defensiveness and failure intolerance that impedes higher-level thinking and relating.” This tendency negatively affects our behavior, thinking, and ability to relate to and engage with others.

Managing Self—Thinking and Emotions

We need to get above ourselves to see ourselves impartially. We all struggle “to self-regulate our basic humanity—our biases, fears, insecurities, and natural fight-flee-or-freeze response to stress and anxiety.” We need to be willing to treat all of our “beliefs (not values) as hypotheses subject to stress tests and modification by better data.”

Negative emotions cause narrow-mindedness. Positive emotions on the other hand, have been scientifically linked to “broader attention, open-mindedness, deeper focus, and more flexible thinking, all of which underlie creativity and innovative thinking.”

Reflective Listening

Because we are limited by our own thinking, we need to listen to others to “open our minds and, push past our biases and mental models, and mitigate self-absorption in order to collaborate and build better relationships.” The problem is “we’re just too wired to confirm what we already believe, and we feel too comfortable having a cohesive simple story of how our world works.” Listening to others helps to quiet our ego.


To create these new behaviors and mindsets, it should become obvious that we need to enlist the help of others. “We can’t think, innovate, or relate at our best alone.” As Barbara Fredrickson observed, “nobody reaches his or her full potential in isolation.” Jane Dutton out it this way: “It seems to be another fact that no man can come to know himself except as the outcome of disclosing himself to another.”

The NewSmart Organization

Optimal human performance in the SMA will require an emphasis on the emotional aspects of critical thinking, creativity, innovation and engaging with others. “The work environment must be designed to reduce fears, insecurities, and other negative emotions.

To do this it means “providing people a feeling of being respected, held in positive regard, and listened to. It means creating opportunities for people to connect and build trust. “It means allocating time and designing work environments that bring people together to relate about nonwork matters.” Finally, it means getting to know employees and helping them to get the “right training or opportunities to develop and provide feedback.”

The NewSmart organization needs to be a safe place to learn. “Feeling safe means that you feel that your boss your employer, and your colleagues will do you no harm as you try to learn.”

The New Smart




What working definitions of humility might you offer?

First-Time CEOs Not Prepared Says CEO Study

First-Time CEOs Not Prepared Says CEO Study

First-time CEOs study

These results are based on in-depth conversations with 75 first-time CEOs on everything from preparedness to biggest surprises to the best and worst parts of the job. The results were not surprising to The River Group researchers or to me. I have focused my efforts over the last few years on the premise that most first-time CEOs are not ready for the role. Based on the interviews – with chief executives on five continents with an average of 8,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue – here are 10 key takeaways and recommendations for first-time CEOs, which I agree with: