Ignore the Overhype — Leadership Qualities That Really Are Everything

Originally published July 28, 2017 By Lindsey Pollak

We all know the “it” words for leadership qualities today, those buzzwords that pop up over and over to describe the qualities leader aspire to. Frankly, I’m totally over words like “ninja” and “guru.” But there are several words that are common in today’s management vernacular that really do describe great leaders. If you’re a leader or aspiring to be one, I hope you’ll find these valuable.

Authenticity (my personal favorite…)

“Authenticity [is] the continuous process of building self-awareness of our whole person, as well as being transparent with others about our whole person, both strengths and limitations. As a result, more often than not, the authentic leader’s beliefs, values, principles, and behaviors tend to line up. Commonly referred to as ‘walking the talk,’ authenticity also means being your talk at a very deep level. The practice of authenticity is so much more than simply being true to ourselves, it also requires being true with others.” — Read more at Forbes.com.


“[Self awareness] is made up of two types of knowledge. One is what people normally think of, which is that introspective awareness, seeing ourselves clearly, knowing what we value, what we aspire to do. But equally importantly and frequently neglected is the idea that we should also know how other people see us. What I found is there are quite a few people who possess one of those types of knowledge, but not the other. That’s really where it gets in their way. What we’ve learned through our research is that people who have both types of self-knowledge and balance them are the ones who are the most successful at work and in life.” — Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.

Emotional Intelligence

“Leaders need THE critical leadership skill: emotional intelligence (EI) [or] ‘regulating emotions.’ The benefits of regulating emotions include collaborating effectively, being more empathetic, communicating to produce desired results, interpersonal skills, amicable conflict resolution and so on. Studies have proven that organizations whose leaders have higher EI are more profitable. … EI is thus more valuable than technical competence.” — Read more at TrainingIndustry.com.


“Employees’ understanding of and alignment with the company’s purpose should be regularly discussed and measured as a predictor of outcomes related to safety, retention, performance and profitability. Managers should help employees understand why their work matters and how it aligns with the company’s purpose. Discussions connecting individual and team successes to the larger organizational mission or purpose need to be frequent. Recognition programs — in addition to highlighting exceptional work — must connect performance to the purpose of the organization.” — Read more at Gallup.com.

Growth Mindset

“Great leaders are governed by growth mindsets. They understand that they can continue improving and help those around them do the same. … With a growth mindset, you can see the good in every situation. Even when you fail — and you’re human, so you’ll fail from time to time — you won’t be defeated. Instead of giving up and going home, you’ll begin to look at every situation as a learning experience. When you fail, you’ll figure out what went wrong and work on making sure it doesn’t happen next time.” — Read more at TinyPulse.com.

What’s a leadership quality “buzzword” that you actually like — or on you have heard more than enough of? I’d love to hear in the comments below.


The Mistakes That are Killing Your First Impression

Originally posted 26 May 2017 By Lindsey Pollak

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

It’s one of the most clichéd pieces of advice. That’s because it’s true — especially if you are job hunting.

Research shows that recruiters typically only give your resume a six-second glance, and some people say the first seven seconds of meeting someone are the most important, so you don’t want to squander that initial chance to shine in person, on paper or online.

Here are some common ways job hunters undermine that crucial first impression — and how to avoid them:

Minimizing the Importance of Small Talk

“As you make your way to the interview space, the light conversation you exchange is a great opportunity to develop rapport. In an interview, there is no such thing as small talk. If the interviewer asks about upcoming weekend plans, talk about a hobby or personal interest of yours that you pursue in your free time. You might not have specific plans for those interests this weekend, but you don’t have to answer this question so literally. Don’t talk about errands to run, and certainly don’t say you have no plans! People want to work with people they like, and small talk is an opportunity to be sociable and therefore more likeable.” — Read more at Forbes.com.

Dissing the Receptionist

“The person at the front desk may not be the hiring manager—but that doesn’t mean his or her impression of you doesn’t matter. In fact, some companies specifically ask their front desk attendants to report back on the demeanor of interviewees who come through the door. And that likely plays a role in the ultimate hiring decision—so it’s important to treat that person as well as you’ll treat your interviewer.”  — Read more at The Muse.

Not Paying Attention to Your Non-Verbal Communication

“Rob Riker, the founder of the Social Winner blog, says confident body language does more than make you look good — it helps you make a great first impression. To do this, Riker suggests suggests having a firm handshake, standing up straight, and maintaining eye contact both while listening and speaking.” — Read more at Business Insider.

Forgetting That the “Eyes” Have it

“It’s imperative to making a strong connection — but how much is too much? Here are three ways to perfect your gaze. Hold it. Eye contact during a conversation increases brain stimulation and, as a result, recall of the conversation. … But not for too long. Research shows that holding eye contact longer than three seconds without taking a break can be interpreted as aggressive, causing listeners to feel defensive and resistant to what you’re saying. And take breaks. Eye contact and word generation share cognitive resources, according to a 2016 study. That means maintaining too much eye contact can sap your brain and impact your ability to verbally respond.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.com.

Missing the Big Picture

“If I ask, for example, about your university telefund job, don’t bore me with mundane details like your donation numbers. Show me how it trained you to be the problem-solver you are today. Maybe you found yourself discouraged by the percentage of alums who hung up on you after 10 seconds, so you volunteered to revise the standard call script. In just a week or two, donations started ticking upward. Every employer wants to know they’re hiring someone who can absorb information, understand the details that matter, and can make smart decisions on their own.” — Read more at Fast Company.com.

What are some first impression hits or misses you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments below.


The One Conversation That Can Instantly Improve Your Career

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 27 June 2017

Do you generally prefer emailing, texting or talking on the phone? Do you love it when people write their whole message in the email subject line or does it make you cringe? How do you feel about voicemail? Emoticons? Infographics?

What these types of questions reveal is commonly known as your “communication style,” that is, your preferences about how people ideally should communicate with you. And understanding other people’s communication styles is essential to building successful working relationships with them. But, oddly enough, it’s a topic we rarely discuss.

This is a mistake.

Understanding the communication style of your colleagues, clients and — most importantly, your boss — has a lot bigger effect on your short- and long-term career success than you might think.

There are so many choices for communication —  and so many ways it can go wrong

Communication is a lot like today’s professional dress code: The options have exploded, and there are fewer rules than ever. That means that what’s appropriate depends on your particular workplace, industry norms and the specific person you’re interacting with.

Back in the day, we had just a few choices for communicating — write a letter, send a memo, walk over or pick up the phone. Now in addition to those stalwarts, we have email and texting, plus upstarts like bitmojis and Slack. (You don’t “Slack” at work yet?  You might soon; as a recent article in New York magazine said, “Slack…is likely either as integral to your workday as email or you have never heard of it before.”)

These endless options are a major reason that communication has become so complicated. There is literally no way to guarantee what method another person might prefer.

Not sure how your boss (or any VIP) likes to communicate? Ask!

I recommend becoming the world’s leading expert on how the people important to your career prefer to communicate. This is especially true of your direct boss: There is no better use of your time than knowing his or her preferences.

Sure, you could study her communication for clues to what she likes, but it’s easier and more effective just to ask directly. As Henrik Edberg recently wrote for The Positivity Blog, “Ask instead of guessing. …. This will help you to minimize unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, negativity and [wasted] time and energy.”

Cover everything, once and for all, in a style conversation

How exactly do you ask how your boss and other VIPs like to communicate? I recommend the “style conversation” approach. I give 100% of the credit for this concept to Michael Watkins, who wrote about it in his classic book The First 90 Days. He recommends having this conversation at the beginning of any new work relationship.

Depending on your needs and company culture, here are some topics you might want to cover in a style conversation with your boss, an important client or any VIP you come across in your career:

  • What form of communication do you prefer for routine matters? (e.g., face-to-face, phone, email, etc.)
  • What about emergencies? (My assistant, for example, texts me only if there’s an urgent message, like a cancellation or client issue. That means that when I power up my phone after a speech, I don’t have to check my email right away because I know from my texts if anything is urgent.)
  • Can I respond quickly from my phone or do you expect longer, grammatically correct messages?
  • Do you generally prefer a summary or all the background? (I have a client who sends two versions of some emails; one is a summary she calls “TL; DR. The “too long, didn’t read” variant hits the high points for a quick scan, then underneath she adds in the background for those who want more detail.)
  • How often should I communicate routine information or updates? (e.g., as it happens or one weekly summary)
  • What kinds of decisions should I consult you on and which can I initiate myself? For example, can I schedule meetings for you?
  • What is your preference for being copied on emails? Someone shooting for inbox zero might want fewer emails coming in; other managers want to read all the emails, or at least all client communication. Some people don’t read anything on which they are cc-ed.

Don’t make people guess about your preferences

By the same token, if you’re the boss, you will be a much better leader if you tell other people how to communicate with you. Some creative examples I’ve heard lately:

  • One executive with crazy busy mornings prefers status updates sent in the afternoons so they don’t clutter her email box or get lost.
  • One client likes to answer emails on Sunday afternoon, but makes clear to his team that he doesn’t expect a response that day so they don’t feel pressured to interrupt their weekend.
  • A millennial manger I just met schedules one hour of open-door morning office hours on his daily calendar. It provides accessibility to his direct reports, but also saves his day from being interrupted by constant requests.
  • A former boss of mine would become annoyed if someone used a cryptic subject line in an email (making it harder for her to scan messages on her phone), so she shares her preference for descriptive subject lines with new employees right off the bat.

These little quirks are exactly the reason that a style conversation can benefit everyone. If you truly want to be heard, you have to communicate the way someone wants and expects it. And, when you are in the more senior role, you can ease your employees’ jobs by expressing your own preferences.


I Lived for My To-Do List, But Here’s Why I Ditched It

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 13 June 2017

Is there anything more satisfying than checking things off of a to-do list? I didn’t used to think so. But I recently decided to kill my to-do list obsession—and here’s why you might want to ditch yours, too.

A Love Affair with Lists

I’m not sure anyone loves a to-do list more than I do. I have bought special graph paper notebooks to make my lists even neater. I have bought countless apps that promised productivity nirvana. I’ve been known to put things on my to-do list just to check them off.

But here’s the thing—making a list and actually getting stuff done are two very different activities. Lately, as my life has gotten busier, I’ve had to admit that the tasks on my glorious to-do lists just weren’t being completed.

Attempting to solve this problem, I avidly read books and blogs on productivity and list-making (Never check email in the morning! Combine personal and professional tasks in one single list! Limit yourself to three daily to-dos!). But I just wasn’t checking off the items I really wanted to complete. And then I stumbled on a strategy that has been life-changing for me, and might be for you as well.

Goodbye, List, Hello…

Ready for the big reveal? Instead of putting tasks on a list, I started to schedule action items on my calendar. So, for example, instead of having “review Q1 profit and loss statement” or “take Zappos return to UPS” on a to-do list, I scheduled 30-minute blocks on my calendar to actually get those tasks done. All of a sudden, every task had a place and things were getting done. The strategy is so simple, I can’t even remember where I first learned about it.

(I should mention that I still use the classic tip from David Allen’s Getting Things Done that you should just do something right away that will take two minutes or less, rather than writing it down at all. I highly recommend it.)

Now, if I don’t do something at its allotted time, I have to reschedule another time to get it done. And if I move a task more than a few times, it’s a big hint to me that that particular activity may not be essential enough to do at all.

Calendaring tasks has been a total game changer for longer-term projects like a proposal for a new book I’m writing. I’ve been wanting to get the proposal completed for a while, but it never seemed to move up my to-do list when daily client tasks intervened. Even though I was so excited about the book (and can’t wait to tell you more!), I never seemed to find a window to devote to it, until I started scheduling blocks on my calendar. Now it’s almost complete.

I love to hear unconventional hacks from others, and that’s why I wanted to share this little tip with you.

Do you already use this method or would you consider trying it? What other productivity hacks are your favorites? Please share with all of us in the comments.


More Career Advice Nobody Talks About: Everybody Bombs

Originally posted 9 May 2017 by Lindsey Pollak

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries – in March, it was  backup singers in 20 Feet from Stardom, and this month it’s stand-up comedians in Dying Laughing. (Please send me recommendations of what to stream next!) I love finding career advice in movies, and this doc did not disappoint.

The documentary features a who’s who of famous comics — Jamie Foxx, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld, the late Garry Shandling, Sarah Silverman and many, many more – sharing raw tales of what it takes to succeed.

What I found most fascinating and impressive was that these entertainers who are at the very top of their field were so willing to talk openly about their failures. And while I certainly didn’t think it was easy, I had never fully appreciated the angst and pressure that goes into the career of a stand-up. Comedy is no laughing matter.

Here were some of my favorite career advice takeaways from the film.

Everyone pays their dues

Sure, everyone wants to be the unknown comic who dazzles their first audience and immediately ends up on SNL with no looking back, just as many young professionals yearn for a fast track to the CEO suite. But this rarely happens in any realm.

Garry Shandling tells a story in the film about a newbie comic approaching him to ask “the secret” to bypassing the years of telling mediocre jokes in crappy small town clubs. “I know there’s got to be one,” he says. Shandling shakes his head with a knowing smile and says simply, “There is no shortcut.”

No one is immune from a bad day

The stories the comedians told about bombing were the most powerful, even tear jerking. They talked about bad performances and bad audiences. Material that sounded awesome in front of their mirrors and painfully unfunny when it came out of their mouths onstage. Even Jerry Seinfeld explained how easy it can be to fail: “When you first go on, you start from a dead quiet room full of unhappy people.”

Their tales reminded me that absolutely no one is perfect, and no one is always winning: One day we have an audience or a client who loves us, and the next day we are smacked down. I get it because my experiences as a speaker have also run the gamut. I’ve gotten criticism from some audiences and standing ovations from others. When you first walk into a room, you don’t always know which way the night will end.

The bombs are when you grow

The comedians in Dying Laughing reinforced that bombing has some upside. Every time it happens to you, you get a little better at figuring out what caused the bomb and how to avoid it — or better deal with it — in the future.

The career equivalents of bombing (getting reprimanded, demoted or fired, for example) can occur at any and every stage of your career; what changes over time is how you react and how you recover. “If you come back from the worst bomb of your life, you’ll make it,” notes Keenen Ivory Wayans.

You need your tribe

One of the the film’s most powerful moments comes when comedian Royale Watkins tearfully tells the story of the worst night of his career (the short version of the story is that he bombed in front of basketball star Michael Jordan), and how it all turned around when the late Bernie Mac supported him through it.

A bad day yields the tendency to hide in our shell and eat ice cream, but this film is a good reminder that you should do the exact opposite and reach out to someone who knows your pain. No matter what your career field, it’s critical to have mentors, friends and colleagues. You can benefit from a friend’s tale of a similar woe or even just a listening ear and reminder that you’re not alone — even if your career involves standing by yourself on a stage in front of thousands of people.

Hearing these luminaries share their bombs underscored another truth: Sharing stories of the tough times becomes a strength; it makes you more approachable and authentic. So next time I bomb at a speaking gig, I think I’ll give Jerry Seinfeld a call…

What have been some takeaways you’ve had about bombing? Remember what I said about the importance of sharing with others, and let us all know in the comments below!

How to Lower Stress at Work

Originally posted by Lindsey Pollack 24 March 2017

What stresses out your employees? Deadlines? A never-ending to-do list? An overflowing inbox?

While the concept of work-life integration is designed to reduce workplace stress, sometimes it can have the opposite effect, as schedules become blurry and we try to cope with being “always on.”

And of course, stress isn’t limited to our schedules. Work itself can be a pressure cooker – a 2017 survey by the American Institute of Stress (yep, there is such a thing!) found that 80% of workers reported feeling stress on the job. And while the Institute is often asked to put together lists of the most and least stressful occupations, they note that everyone has a different take on what makes a job stressful: Some people thrive on deadlines and challenges; others just want to feel successful in their day-to-day environment.

Whether your team is dealing with stress brought on by the work environment or their personal lives or both, managers can take steps to help people cope. I hope the tips below will help you create an environment that generates less stress.

Learn to Recognize Stress in Your Workplace

“[I]f you’re an employer or a manager, you might recognize the variety of clues that excessive stress is present in your work environment: Employee productivity is sliding downward despite long hours logged in. Absenteeism is rising; your employees are taking more sick days than they used to. Tolerance for each others’ shortcomings is thinner and tempers are flaring more easily; humor is hard to muster in meetings.” — Read more at Monster.

Reduce Stress at Work by Giving Your Team as Much Autonomy as Possible

“Though it is not one of the most cited issues, feeling like every tiny movement is controlled and monitored is a quick way for employees to become burned out from stress. As the millennial generation becomes the biggest demographic in today’s workforce, it is important to understand how their minds work. One of the most important factors millennials consider when in search of a job is the workplace environment. They want to have at least some control over what they do, and how they do it.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.

Help Your Employees See Perspective

“When you’re bogged down with stress-inducing projects and deadlines, it can be difficult to see beyond them. Even long-term assignments end eventually, so you just need to keep going and remember that the challenges you’re facing now will seem small and insignificant when you’ve finally overcome them. ‘We can all recollect instances that we thought at the time were real deal-killers, only to have them turn out to be a small anthill,’ [John] Koeberer, [author of
‘Green-Lighting Your Future: How to Manifest the Perfect Life’], said. ‘Adopt the thought that this, too, shall pass.’” — Read more at Business News Daily.

Model Good Behavior to Help Your Employees Reduce Stress at Work

“In 2016, Kronos adopted an open paid-time-off policy. And while some ‘unlimited’ time-off policies have gotten negative attention because employees tend to take less time off, [Joyce] Maroney, [director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos], says that’s not the case at Kronos, because senior leaders take time off and the human resources department provides managers with guidance on how to take time off. That kind of role modeling and prioritization makes a difference, she says. ‘Ultimately, employees look to their managers to set the example. If a manager is sending emails on a regular basis after hours, employees will feel pressured to do so, too. Conversely, if a manager treats a day off truly as a day off by unplugging and trusting their coworkers to step up in their absence, their employee will be much more likely to do so, too,’ she says.” — Read more at Fast Company.

Do you think your employees are overly stressed? I’d love to hear the changes you’ve made to help everyone reduce stress at work.


The Most Important Career Advice Nobody Talks About

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 14 March 2017

Have you seen the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom? I recently watched it (a little late, I know), and I was struck by several insights applicable to success in any industry. (Pro tip: You can “rent” it from Amazon for just 99 cents!)

The movie won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and it explores the world of backup singers, the entertainers who sing and dance just out of the spotlight. They are arguably some of the most talented singers in the world, yet they haven’t broken out to become household names like Sting, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder, also interviewed in the film.

Some of them may still break out, and some never will. The movie spends a lot of time pondering the question of what makes some people superstars and not others. Clearly, it’s not just talent.

On that topic, Sting shared an observation near the end of the film that has really stuck with me:

“There’s this idea that you go on American Idol and become a star, but that means you’ve bypassed the spiritual work that you have to do to get here. If you bypass that, then your success will be wafer thin.”

In his opinion, sometimes it’s not solely your innate talent, but also the internal, personal development work (what he calls the “spiritual work”) that makes you not just successful but able to handle that success. I don’t think we talk enough about this — working on yourself and not just working on your work.


It’s a common refrain from younger professionals, “I’m good at my job, so why can’t I get promoted?”

You may want to be promoted after a few months of work. Are you capable of doing some or most of the work that bigger job will require? Maybe you are. But I believe that time has value in and of itself.

As you wait and learn and gather new skills and understandings and confidence and resilience, big changes happen that you might not even realize. And many of those changes aren’t directly related to your job IQ. You’re acquiring maturity and self-knowledge, gravitas and a comfort level that will give you more career success in the long run. You are building a solid foundation that will support you for the rest of your career.


There’s no question we live in an instant gratification society, and that certainly comes into play with the desire for an immediate promotion. But when I look at the people I most admire, I see they’ve amassed deep knowledge that only grows thanks to time and experience.

As a speaker, I’m often asked if I get nervous on stage. The truth is, I’m really not, and here’s why: I have studied my craft for almost two decades. I know my content deeply. I have been challenged on virtually all of my ideas and opinions. I have experienced a multitude of challenges, mistakes, criticisms, snafus and successes. And I can’t really point to one single moment or experience when I thought, “I’m not nervous!” It took a long time and evolved along with my business. For me, there has been no such thing as overnight success.

There’s a story I love in the book Art and Fear about quality vs. quantity. One group is given clay and told to make the best pot possible, while the second group is told to make as many pots as they can. In the end, the group that made the most pots ended up with the best ones as well.

I believe that a quantity of time working can matter just as much as the quality of your work.


So why do we all want to rocket straight to the top?

For the first 10 years of my career, no one was paying attention to my progression. They might have asked how it was going, and I’d give a pat answer, but I didn’t have the pressure of others checking my pace on LinkedIn and measuring my progress building clients and audiences. I’m sort of grateful I started my business before social media really took off.

These days, it’s harder to toil away and bide your time, because it seems like everyone’s watching.

Sure, there are those who become highly accomplished CEOs at age 28, and that’s great, but the vast majority of us don’t. And I believe, in retrospect, that those who spent the time developing themselves will agree that it was worth it.

The Supremes – and their back-up singers – know that “You Can’t Hurry Love.” I don’t think you can hurry career success either.

SOURCE: The Most Important Career Advice Nobody Talks About

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 24 February 2017

Do you wonder if you’re giving your employees feedback that can help them excel at their jobs — and feel more included? Chances are, we could all improve at giving feedback at work. In fact, one survey found that 64 percent of employees wanted their supervisor to check in with them at least every two weeks.

This desire for frequent, steady feedback has even been tied to the demise of the annual review. Who wants to look in the rearview mirror at what they did months ago when they could be improving today?

The articles below address the reality that not everyone appreciates feedback (ahem: criticism!) but there are ways you can make feedback at work more palatable — whether you’re on the giving or receiving end.

Share Positive Feedback in a Group to Extend its Power

“It’s probably not breaking news to most people that “one-on-one” was overwhelmingly considered the most effective way to give feedback. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best. It’s important to match the right kind of feedback to the situation. For example, if an employee does an exemplary job on a big project, it may be more effective to give them feedback publicly, in front of their peers. … A few encouraging words of recognition for a job well done in front of peers can go a long way toward ensuring your employees feel their work is valued, which helps keep them engaged.” — Read more at Refresh Leadership.

Forget The Positive/Negative/Positive Structure: Here’s Why

“It’s easier for our brains to process and remember specifics than to handle conceptual ideas. Research has found that we remember concrete words like ‘chair’ better than abstract words like ‘comfort.’ As a result, if we hear a generic positive statement (‘It’s great! You’re great!’) followed by a list of specific things we should change, our brains will quickly discount that quick splash of praise and focus entirely on the negatives.” — Read more at Fast Company.

Receiving Negative Feedback at Work? Take Ownership

“If your boss remarks that you’ve regularly missed deadlines and have disrupted the workflow of others as a result, that’s something you need to own up to. And you need to make efforts to turn it around. … You might say, ‘Thank you for pointing this out. I’m aware that I’ve been behind schedule turning some things in, and I know it’s something I need to work on. Starting ASAP, I’m going to take a look at my calendar and to-do list and find a way to prioritize needs so that I don’t miss another deadline. And, if for some reason, I find I’m going to be late with something, I’ll communicate that as early as possible.’” — Read more at The Muse.

Sort out the Helpful Feedback So You Can Act On It

“If others criticize your ideas or performance, focus on the more relevant comments to narrow the criticism down. This will make it easier to address, and the conversation moves from what you did wrong to what you can do right.” — Read more at Fortune.

Even As a Supervisor, Sometimes You’re On the Receiving End

“For managers who want to avoid these pitfalls and foster a speaking up culture, the research suggests several takeaways. One important one is to actively embrace constructive conflict. Rather than waiting for employees to speak up – thus risking their own professional reputations – start a debate. A structured debate can force multiple perspectives out into the open. Another is to regulate your emotions. Whenever you feel threatened by something an employee says, think about whether you want to escalate a potential conflict further before you react. Don’t shy away from stating — in a direct and constructive way – your own point of view. But don’t let negative emotions come pouring out.” — Read more at Harvard Business Review.


The Importance of Saying ‘No’ at Work

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 13 January 2017

Nope, this post isn’t about my “word of the year.” (If you haven’t read about the word I chose for 2017, get the scoop here!) Instead, it’s about another word I believe everyone should employ to be more productive – and quite likely more sane. That’s the word “no.”

You could barely turn on the radio this spring without hearing Meghan Trainor espouse the beauty of the word “no.” Her anthem might have been all about girl power, but this single word remains powerful for any situation, including your work life.

Of course there are times that “no” is not the judicious thing to say for career advancement: Part of the puzzle is knowing when to say “no” and when not to. The articles below have helpful tips for when and how to employ the power of no.

Make Sure it Aligns With Your Priorities

“Prioritization is critical in today’s 24/7 work environment. I keep a list of long-term and short-term priorities and if a task or project doesn’t fit in one of those buckets, 99% of the time I decline it. My best tip for saying no is to be straightforward and not dance around the subject. Explain that the task, project or activity doesn’t align with your current priorities and, if the situation changes, you will revisit the topic. Also, sometimes you can suggest an alternative solution.” — Read more at Forbes.

A “No” Now Is Better Than a “No” Later

“Instead of saying ‘yes’ now and disappointing the person later when you fail to fulfill the request, say ‘no’ now. Do not say ‘maybe or ‘probably.’ It comes across as unclear. Most people appreciate a solid ‘no’ more than a ‘maybe.’ It’s indecision that can drain energy from all parties involved.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.

Or, Soften The No, As Needed

“Release the guilt: ‘I really do appreciate the offer and I wish I could help.’ That opening does a lot to counter the ‘But….no’ that’s the answer at the end of the reply.” — Read more at Bizwomen.

Say No Confidently


  • Use a harsh or hesitant tone, and don’t be overly polite either. Instead, strive for a steady and clear no.
  • Hold back the real reason you’re saying no. To limit frustration, give reasons with good weight up front.
  • Distort your message or act tentatively because you’re trying to keep your colleague happy. Be honest and make sure your no is understood.”

Read more at Harvard Business Review.


Millennials Manage Differently, and That’s a Good Thing

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 17 January 2017

I’ve shared before that I think it’s time to stop shaming millennials. One of the reasons: They’re no longer all young 20-somethings just starting their careers. More millennials are stepping into management and leadership roles every day. In fact, The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey found that 80 percent of millennials currently define themselves as leaders.

And, in my opinion, their ascent is going to be highly beneficial to the workplace — today and in the future. They bring different experiences, skills and mindsets to the workplace that are well suited to current business challenges and opportunities. Here are four ways that millennials differ as leaders, and my take on how millennial leadership will shape workplace dynamics for the better.

More feedback

Buh-bye, annual review…and good riddance. Millennials are embracing the need to provide ongoing, constant feedback to employees of all generations. As leaders they provide more feedback because it’s what they’ve said they want as employees — one survey found that almost half of millennials crave weekly feedback.

Expect to see more on-the-spot coaching, especially in the form of apps that provide instant feedback. By moving the focus from backward-looking reviews to up-to-the-minute improvements, millennial managers will help their teams make micro-adjustments to enhance performance and results.

More movement

Much has been made of the Deloitte survey that revealed two-thirds of millennials expect to leave their current job by 2020, but it is has significant implications for millennials as leaders. Accustomed to change, they are likely to be more adaptable to shifting team members, and will find it easier to manage employees who work remotely or those who join the team to perform one specific strategic task on a contract basis and then move on.

Millennial leaders are likely to move too, contributing to the concept of a professional trajectory as a lattice rather than a ladder. As they move from one company or department to another, they will bring with them their best practices and fresh ideas, shaking up the status quo that can occasionally plague companies with long-tenured employees.

More work/life integration

In a 2015 EY study, 35 percent of millennial leaders said that managing work-life balance is more challenging in their current role. But that doesn’t mean that they’re shrugging their shoulders and giving in — they’re doing something about it, and that is contributing to the rise of better work/life blend for all.

Since technology infuses nearly everything millennials do, tech is a driving force in their hunt for better work/life integration. They book reservations online at work and answer work email from the comfort of their couch at night. I expect that millennial managers will increasingly jettison the concept of “face time” to focus exclusively on output. This will benefit all generations of workers.

More focus on mission

People and profits will continue as a critical theme in how millennials manage. A whopping 90 percent of millennials say they want to use their skills for good, and 77 percent say culture is as important as salary or benefits, according to a survey by Virgin Pulse.

Fortunately, a culture of purpose and one of profits are not mutually exclusive. A Deloitte survey found that 91 percent of respondents who said their company had a strong sense of purpose had a history of strong financial performance as well.

Millennials will be focused not only on doing good work, but doing good, period, and that will impact the company’s overall culture and goals, while still driving performance.

The best news about these shifts? In my opinion, millennials are taking action on outdated workplace issues that have begged to be addressed for decades. They are starting the ball rolling — and all generations will score.

How have you noticed millennials managing differently? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

SOURCE: Millennials Manage Differently, and That’s a Good Thing