RUMBA Your Way to Achievable Goals

How do we set goals that are rigged on the side of success? If you know us, you know how much we love to dance — so we decided to use one of our favorite dances as a model! So here goes: Measure your goals and objectives against the RUMBA Formula:




  • Relevant: Does the goal have a direct relationship to your mission, the services you provide and the expectations of your customers? Will a positive change have a positive effect on your bottom line?
  • Understandable: Is the goal clear? Does everyone who needs to be involved have the same picture of what it means? Is there any ambiguity about what is expected, and what success looks like? If so, it needs to be clarified.
  • Measurable: How will you know when you have achieved the goal? Measures may be tangible or intangible, but should be clearly defined and understood by everyone involved. Measures need to include a completion date, when appropriate.
  • Believable: Do you really believe the goal can be achieved in the timeframe set? Avoid the temptation of setting lofty goals to stretch people . . . it creates a futile feeling of inadequacy and impossibility. Instead, set goals that are just beyond reach, but not out of sight.
  • Accountable: Does everyone involved in achieving the goal understand how they will be held accountable? Do they have the appropriate resources, authority and skills to do what is expected?


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How to Handle Difficult People

Angry-team-ca22990125-webAs long as people have words and emotions, we will have difficult encounters in the workplace that sabotage success! In fact, one of the biggest reasons I am called in to organizations is to facilitate team building sessions to help people understand each other better and learn how to be extraordinary as a team, even if team members don’t necessarily “like” each other.

As a leader, one of your major roles is to model extraordinary ways to deal with the variety of difficult behaviors employees exhibit, and guide people to come together to create extraordinary results!

Here is a handout I use in my Leadership and Team Building sessions, addressing what, from my research and experience, are five of the most difficult behaviors to deal with, and some tips to handle them effectively. Be sure to download your own copy of the chart that captures all this information, so you can keep it in front of you and share it with your folks.

Microsoft Word - Filled-in Prob. People wkst.

Microsoft Word - Filled-in Prob. People wkst.





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How Employees Learn: The Key to Extraordinary Coaching

Everyone has areas that need to be developed. Learning new skills doesn’t happen overnight. Part of your job as an extraordinary leader is to coach your people so they gain confidence in the process of learning new skills.

There is a very specific process that takes place when someone learns a new skill. By understanding this process — and embracing your role in it — you can help your employees continue to grow and express their fullest potential with enthusiasm, engagement, and excellence.

Let’s build the process so it makes sense to you! Here’s an initial picture of the process:


First of all, it’s important to understand that there is what I like to call an “Unconscious Skill Gap.” This means there is some skill your employee needs to develop, but up until this point he/she does not even realize the gap exists. For example, I may not know how to use a certain computer program, but since I did not even know that program existed, I am happily unaware that I don’t know how to use it.

Once I become aware that I don’t know something, and there is a need to learn it, I have a “Conscious Skill Gap.” You have informed me that I will be required to integrate this new computer program into my daily job, so now I am painfully aware of the fact that I have a training need! If I want to be successful in my job, I need to learn the program. I am motivated to learn because I see the reason and purpose for it.

I begin the training and start using the new program, moving into the “Conscious Skill” area. In this phase, I am learning how the program works, memorizing skills to use it, and thinking through every process as I try to use it. I may move slowly because I have to consciously think through everything I am doing.

Finally I move into the phase called “Unconscious Skill.” This is when I become so used to the program that I can use it without thinking. My muscle memory kicks in, and I am able to use my intuitive understanding to get the most from the program.

As a coach, your job is to lead employees through this process. Let’s add your role to the picture:


You basically use three Extraordinary Leadership Skills to guide your employees through the Learning Process: Feedback; FLIP; and the 2 R’s.

To move someone from Unconscious Skill Gap to Conscious Skill Gap, you will use your feedback skills. During this phase, it is important to share with the employee where the gap exists and why it is important for them. It might be for continuation in their current job; an extension of their role; an opportunity for future advancement; or personal enrichment that will contribute to their growth and development. Be specific and descriptive as you explain the skill gap, and the reasons for closing the gap. Your goal is to get the buy-in and understanding of the employee.

To move someone from Conscious Skill Gap to Conscious Skill, you will be providing training, coaching, mentoring, and feedback. This does not mean you will always be doing the actual training … but you will be responsible to ensure it happens correctly. I use an acronym to help Extraordinary Leaders guide employees through this phase of the process. It’s called FLIP.

F = Focus. Focus on a specific skill. Don’t try to change everything at once.

L = Learn from a pro. Pros are people who already understand the skill and know lots of great tricks and techniques to make it easy to learn. It’s best to have someone provide the training who has performed the skill in the same context as the person learning it.

I = Incorporate memory pegs and gimmicks to help the learning stick.

P = Practice and get feedback often. Nothing is worse than practicing how to do something to the point it is creating muscle memory, then discover you are doing it wrong! This is where ongoing coaching and feedback during the learning process comes in. Remember, practice does NOT make perfect! Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect!

Once an employee has the basic understanding and knowledge of the new skill, we want to move them from Conscious Skill to Unconscious Skill. This is where the 2R’s come into play.

R = Refine the skill through additional coaching and feedback.

R = Repeat. Keep using the skill until it becomes second nature.

By understanding this Learning Process, you can equip your employees with the skills they need to be successful. And by the way, the same process works for you! Never stop learning and growing! It’s what keeps you extraordinary!!


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The One Question to Ask Every Team Member

QuestionMark-DesignerThere are tons of books and hundreds of classes out there to help leaders build powerful, engaged, productive teams. Heck, I even wrote some of the books and facilitate some of those classes! But I recently read something that jumped out at me, and led me to this awareness: There is only one question to ask every team member that will spur them on to be greater than imagined.

Let me credit my source first! As I scanned he most recent issue of Fast Company (which I have been reading since its inception in 1995, and still find relevant, current, and edgy), I read an article about one of my favorite leaders of all time, Steve Jobs, entitled  The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs, by Rick Tetzell. In the article, Tetzell describes how much Steve Jobs changed after his stint at Pixar, returning to Apple a changed leader. He had learned how to create and inspire a team that worked. Now here is the quote that made me sit up and take notice. It came, from all people, Bill Gates:

“That is a really crack team that bonded with each other in toughness. I mean, you can point to every member of that team and say, ‘Okay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay.’ There’s no weakness in that team.”

So there’s the secret weapon question that every leader can ask every team member every day: “Did you earn your pay today?”

Simple? Yes! Direct? Absolutely! Insulting? Not unless a team member needs to answer “no,” in which case the next question needs to be “What is keeping you from earning your pay?” And that can open up all kinds of discussions that can lead to either an improved and more productive team member with better resources or skills, or to the restructuring of the team.

Leadership is one of the toughest responsibilities anyone can be asked to perform — and yet, it can also be the most rewarding. So take that deep breath, suck it up, and inspire your teams to be extraordinary!

Check out our latest program, Power Up Your Engagement , designed to help each team member be extraordinary! There is a version for leaders, and a version for team members.

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How to Be an Authentic Leader: Avoid Mass Confusion By Practicing Mask Unfusion

Leadership MasksWith Halloween approaching, it’s a great time to talk about masks — but not the kind you wear to a holiday party. Those are fun! The masks we’re talking about are those dangerous masks we wear as leaders — masks that cover the true, authentic us and get in the way of being extraordinary. Masks like Perfection, Fear, Martyrdom, Anger, and all those other cover-ups that build walls between us and our employees. And don’t kid yourself: your employees are wearing masks of their own! So let’s figure out how to get real, and transform mass confusion into Mask Unfusion to reveal our authenticity and build trust.

Clapbd-TakeActionStep 1: Identify your masks!
You can’t do anything about your masks until you know they are there. Our masks can be sneaky, kind of subtle and insidious. Sometimes our masks wear masks! For example, a mask of Fear can wear a mask of being certain things are done correctly and ensuring we have all the information we need. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with being certain things are done correctly and ensuring we have all the information we need — unless it is grounded in a fear of not being capable of doing the leadership job we have been given.

Practical example: In researching a team building activity we use, we discovered that there have been people who were lost in the desert and died of dehydration, even though they still had water in their canteens! The deduction was that they feared running out of water, so they avoided drinking it, then dehydration set in and the effects left them incapable of making wise choices. They had allowed the mask of fear, masked by a desire to be conservative with resources, to overtake them!

 This is why we want to always check ourselves out, to be sure we aren’t wearing any unhealthy masks. You know when you have one on, because it is extremely uncomfortable. If you are feeling out of sync, unhappy, frustrated, scared, angry, or any feeling that is not the feeling of alignment with your Extraordinary nature, then it’s time to evaluate what mask(s) you’re wearing.

Step 2: Use the MASK Formula to transform mass confusion into Mask Unfusion!
Once you recognize your mask, it’s time to apply the MASK acronym. This is the secret behind turning Mass-Confusion into MASK – Unfusion … the secret to revealing the extraordinary leader you are:

Manage  Authentically and   Simply    Know

Just think about that statement. I know it sounds so simplistic — and yet, it really is the answer to eliminating all the confusion in your life. Here’s how it works.

Whenever you feel a Mask forming — whenever you feel out of sync with the extraordinary leader you are —  in that moment, stop! Apply the MASK acronym:

  • Just Manage Authentically and Simply Know… know that you are in charge of your choices;
  • know that your consciousness is greater than any fear you may encounter;
  • know that you are extraordinary, and you have everything you need to exhibit the incredible leadership skills that will generate camaraderie, productivity, and engagement among your team!

Be Extraordinary!

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7 Lessons About Engagement We Can Learn From Children

kids-PlayingThis past weekend we had the joy of keeping our 9-year-old grandson. As part of our weekend adventures, we made the highly anticipated dinner stop at a local McDonalds – the one with a great outdoor playground, of course! As we sat watching our grandson participate in a version of extreme tag with the other youngsters who were there, I suddenly realized they had morphed their game into a rather sophisticated “Cops & Robbers” game, with some pretty intricate rules, specific locations for safe base, jail, etc., and clearly identified roles for the players. I was even more amazed to notice that, as new children arrived on the scene, they were quickly and easily integrated into the game. Somehow it seemed the rules and roles were instantly telecommunicated to the newcomers!

As I watched this diverse group of children create such a perfect activity with no adult intervention (other than an occasional warning not to climb on the equipment rails!), it struck me that we can learn a lot from youngsters at play related to employee engagement at work. Here are my five biggest take-aways I invite you to consider integrating into your leadership style as you build an environment conducive to engagement and commitment:

1. Let the rules of the game emerge in process. It was amusing to watch the style of communication that the children used to set up their game. They jumped right in and yelled out an idea, which was either instantly incorporated, enhanced, or ignored. There wasn’t a lot of debating back and forth. The rules emerged as the play continued, and no none seemed to care whose ideas were accepted. It was all about the game!

2. Let the team deal with disenchanted players. Anyone who didn’t support a rule that was generally accepted by the team was simply folded into the game anyway, and before long they were back on board! There was so much activity and commitment, there wasn’t any space for pouting or fighting. Not once did a parent have to jump in to resolve an issue.

3. Bring new players on board quickly, and get them actively involved. I was in awe at the ability these youngsters had to include whoever happened to show up. The game didn’t stop while they explained the rules. Instead, they quickly asked what role the newbies wanted to be (i.e., DO you want to be a cop or a robber?). Without thinking, the new player would instantly choose one, and they were integrated into the play. They figured out the rules as they went along. (Note: Me, the adult on the sidelines, was worried that the newcomers would feel left out or might need some instruction about the game to feel like they were a part of it. But no worries! These kids did not need any hand-holding! They were part of the team in no time! Imagine if we could do that in the workplace!)

4. Honor your natural leaders. It became obvious very quickly that some of the children were just natural leaders. IT wasn’t because there was a vote about who would be in charge … and it wasn’t the result of bullying or fighting. Some just naturally rose to that role, and were accepted by the others. And the leadership shifted for different segments of the game.

Team-High55. Celebrate when the game is over! As with everything, there came a time when we had to go home. But just like the rest of this magical evening, the wrap-up seemed to come at about the same time for lot of the children playing. As we gathered up our trash and rounded up our grandson to leave, we noticed the children all cheer that the cops and robbers had all successfully completed the game and had fun together. Lots of cheering, laughing, and high-fiving before we left for home.

Obviously children don’t always play this perfectly together, just as teams don’t always gel immediately. But imagine what would happen if we incorporated these ideas, and allowed our high performers and highly engaged employees to emerge as our greatest supporters. What kind of incredible results might your teams enjoy?

Be Extraordinary!

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5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Team

I am so honored and excited to have this article published in the Lab Manager magazine! Even though this article is focused on those working in a lab environment, the five steps are appropriate for any team setting! Enjoy reading!

Team building article

A great article with 5 steps you can use to jump-start YOUR team for success!

Download your copy here:  TbldgArticle-LabMgr

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