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Newsletter Issue 49

Every few weeks, I ask one question to a founder, CEO, manager, or business owner I respect…

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The Heartbeat Podcast: A chat with Matt Westgate

Matt Westgate is the CEO and co-founder of Lullabot – a strategy, design, and Drupal development agency, with clients ranging from Martha Stewart to Georgia.gov to MSNBC to IBM – for the past almost 15 years. Matt’s been named as one of the 50 Best CEOs among small and mid-sized businesses, as published in USA Today, which doesn’t surprise me. I’ve known Matt over the past few years, and have always admired his thoughtfulness and principled views. In our conversation, we talk about the power of authenticity, admitting what you don’t know, and what remote teams tend to do better than co-located teams.

Watch or listen to the full conversation below…

Listen to the podcast and read the transcript of the interview here.

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What I’ve been writing lately

28 performance review phrases to consider using
“Figuring out how to phrase something can be tricky. Lean on these 28 performance review phrases to guide your more nuanced one-on-one conversations.”

What I’ve been reading lately

The Leader as Coach
“In one study, 3,761 executives assessed their own coaching skills, and then their assessments were compared with those of people who worked with them. The results didn’t align well. Twenty-four percent of the executives significantly overestimated their abilities, rating themselves as above average while their colleagues ranked them in the bottom third of the group. That’s a telling mismatch. “If you think you’re a good coach but you actually aren’t,” the authors of the study wrote, “this data suggests you may be a good deal worse than you imagined.” Written by Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular, Harvard Business Review

Leaders Don’t Hide Behind Data
“Leadership is the art of doing things you’re not sure of, and doing them with enrollment instead of authority. Leadership is often conflated with management, but they’re completely different ways to expend time and energy.” Written by Seth Godin, strategy+business

Bosses, Get Out of Your Employees’ Way
“Workers are often most productive when their bosses leave them alone. Here’s what both bosses and employees can do to make that happen.” Written by Robert I. Sutton, Wall Street Journal

Past performance is no guarantee of future results
“In the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years (which was criticized for rewriting history), Henry Kissinger wrote, “History is not, of course, a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.” The same goes for CEOs.” Written by Theodore Kinni, strategy+business

A handy leadership tip

From our online leadership community of 1,000+ managers in The Watercooler in Know Your Team

How do you praise people for doing something well?

  • Don’t force it. Praise is positive and helpful for encouraging your team – it but should come organically and not be forced.
  • Don’t just recognize your team – recognize individuals. You don’t want Lone Wolf behavior, but at the same time you do not want people to feel invisible.
  • Praise people during 1:1 meetings. In these settings, you can go into detail why you value their work, and how they have contributed to the overall goals of the company.
  • Use group meetings to your advantage. When you’re in a group, you can highlight and publicly praise people that have made progress since last meeting. This helps establish what “good work” looks like to the entire team.
  • Place a “kudos” system in a digital communication channel (e.g. Slack) where good work is recognized. (Note, this can come across as disingenuous in some companies, so it’s something to ask your team if they’d enjoy it, or test it out before committing.)
  • Make sure praise comes from peers – not just managers. Encourage your team to praise one another.
  • Keep in mind that tangible gifts (e.g. money or vouchers) can backfire and offend some people who find it transactional – but also really motivate others. In this situation, it’s best to ask people what they prefer on a individual basis.

Ideas for things to say when you’re not sure how to praise people:

  • “I like the way you’ve been showing up lately. I don’t care about the mistakes; you already know what they are. I love how you’ve been taking accountability for them.”
  • “Thanks for helping me with X. I had no idea how to execute all of it, and I would have been up a creek without you.”
  • “You taught me something I didn’t know today. Well done.”
  • “You’re making this job so much easier for me lately. I feel like I can fully trust you with X now.”

I wrote about how to praise employees sincerely here.

An interesting read

Divided by history: why Japan-South Korea ties have soured
My brother sent this to me (our family is South Korean), and I found this to be a fascinating read.

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.