12 Rules for New Managers – #2: Know Your People

Last week I started a new series, Rules for New Managers, with one of the biggest lessons I have learned as a manager: Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

This week I’m excited to share the second rule. It’s one that will completely revolutionize a manager’s effectiveness, but very few managers seem to really get it. When I began to understand it and put it into practice, it made all the difference in the world.

If you know any managers, please share! If they don’t need to hear this lesson, they’ll at least know other managers who do.

Rule #2: Know Your People

Most managers seem to have completely missed one of the basic facts of life. And it makes them miserable. If only they knew: A person only does what he or she wants. Let that sink in.

So what? Why does it matter?

If I make my team “want” to do what I say to avoid a penalty, as soon as that penalty is no longer a threat, they’ll go right back to what they wanted before. They don’t want the actual thing I want, they just want to avoid the penalty.

How does this look in the real world? It looks like a team that quickly shapes up when you’re around, but goes right back to cutting corners when you walk away. It looks like a team that acts out of fear, not out of inspiration. It looks like a team who doesn’t really have your back now, and certainly won’t in the long run. So no long-term results.

How can you truly motivate your people? It’s about your people and their desires.

Here’s how it works:

     • I sit down with my employee Javier and chat for half an hour. Just chat. About life. About him. I learn that Javier has been through a lot in life and has had to fight for where he is. So he is a very serious person. He is very soft-spoken, kind-hearted, and respectful. He’s very thoughtful and has a young family to provide for. His family is the most important thing in his life.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Javier is to work very honestly and thoughtfully with him. To make sure his job helps him take care of his family, and doesn’t hurt his relationship with them. To show him what incredible opportunity he has, if he takes the job seriously, to earn a higher and higher income and to secure his family’s future.

     • Next, I sit down with my employee Jackson. We just chat for a while, too. Not about work, about him. I learn that Jackson has spent a lot of time in the army. He’s rough around the edges, but takes authority very seriously. He talks a lot about being disciplined and dedicated. You can tell he thinks very linearly, though. He waits for your questions, and answers them with precision. He’ll do anything, as long as you lead him clearly and with authority.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Jackson is to give him especially clear direction. In fact, giving him much autonomy might demoralize him, though most people love it. He clearly loves challenges and discipline, as long as he has a clearly-structured environment and a clearly-defined role.

     • Finally, I sit down for a full hour with my employee Mitchell. He loves to talk! He has a lot to say. His thoughts aren’t very organized, but the consistent message seems to be that he’s very proud of his work–and rightly so! He’s been exceptionally talented all his life, and he sees everything as a challenge to excel! He hates being put in a box, and unlike Jackson, he hates micromanagement.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Mitchell is giving him opportunities to show his value and develop his skills. Micromanagement will demotivate him, so I need to give him room. Sure, he might go off course. But if he does, I know that when I approach him, it should be about the quality of the work he’s proud of, not about me and my disappointment.

Do you see the difference really getting to know your people can make? I used to get teased for how much time I just spent sitting and chatting with my employees. But it worked! It made a huge difference in their performance! I knew them. I knew what they really desired, I knew what each one really wanted! That’s power!

Knowing your people gives you the key to unlock true inspiration and motivation on your team.

Takeaway: Nothing you use to externally motivate your people (threats, rewards, manipulation) will inspire them long-term. They’re going to do what they want. So to truly motivate your people, you have to leverage the power of their own desires. Which means you have to know your peopleTalk to them. Lots! Figure out what makes them tick, and then lead each one accordingly. Make sure to keep in touch with them and their ever-changing needs and desires. Know your people!

How do you go about getting to know your employees and team members?

Create a Powerful Speech in 2 Minutes (Step 3 of 5)

This week I get to share the third step I use in creating a great speech, even with little to no time for preparation.

The first step is the most important and, when your preparation time is limited, may require most of your attention. You have to make sure you have a subject and purpose, a “thesis,” that resonates with you and your audience–a message you can really speak from your heart with tangible conviction, and one that your audience will really want to hear.

The second step is almost as important and a little more technical: Picking your intro. You need to choose one that will both grab and hold your audience’s attention; one that is very natural for you, so that it won’t require much attention while you prepare mentally to continue your speech; it might be a personal story, a shocking statistic, an audience activity, etc.

Decide What You’re Going to Say

So what are you going to say?

Try approaching it as simply as that. Not “What are my three points?” or “What is my outline?” When you’re trying to figure out your content, the body of your speech, especially if you’re under pressure, it helps to think very naturally and simply: “What do I want to say about this subject?”

If you were just speaking to a friend, what would you want to tell them? Just keep in mind–that friend would have to fit in the audience. If you’re speaking to a convention of doctors, don’t ask “What would I want to tell my accountant friend?”

So what is it that you would like to say? And what is it that your audience would like to hear? Don’t worry about organizing an outline until you’ve got a couple or a few ideas in your head. Those ideas will become your “points.”

Say you picked “Public Speaking” as your subject, and your purpose is to inspire your audience to learn oratory. You move onto your intro, because time is ticking, and when you get up to speak, you’d at least better have an intro that will keep them listening. So you’ve nailed down your speech’s “hook.” Now it’s time to pick the points. “What do I want to say?”

“Oh,” you think, “my life has changed incredibly since I began speaking. What else? I could tell them how much more confident I am. I should tell them how much happier I am, for sure. Lots more self-esteem! Maybe I should assure them once you make yourself try it, it’s not nearly as scary as it seems. I could tell them stories about how nervous I was at first, so they know there’s no reason to be scared.”

How You’ll Say What You’ll Say

Well you’ve thought of lots to say. And if you let the juices flow, and ramble in your mind–instead of trying to construct an outline from the first moment–you can think of quite a few things to say within just a few seconds. Only now do you get to actually organize it into an outline.

What stays? What goes? At this point, you have a number of options. But that’s a good problem to have! Now it’s up to you! The only skill required at this point is decisiveness.

Just make sure your points flow together and accomplish your purpose.

Remember, it’s completely up to you now. There’s no “perfect speech.” There’s just you talking. So ask yourself what you want to say, and then organize it as quickly and decisively as you can.

Here’s an outline that would make a lot of sense given the earlier example:

1. Public speaking is scary at first.

2. It gets much easier with practice.

3. In the end, it changes your life.

Why All You Want is a Bare Outline

Whether your speech is 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes (ugh), all you really need is that bare outline.

Does that sound scary? Here’s why it works:

For one thing, if you have only a minute or two of prep time, trying to figure out exactly what you’ll say under each point is absurd.

For another thing, if you do script a bunch of ideas under your points, one of three things will happen:

a. You’ll have to read or consult your script or notes during your speech.

b. You’ll have to memorize your speech (not an option if it’s an impromptu), and the more rehearsal, the more difficulty you may have being genuine.

c. Or you’ll awkwardly stumble through your speech as you try to remember what you planned.

There’s a much better option–especially if it’s an impromptu:

Just talk.

Once you’ve got your bare outline–intro, 3 points, a conclusion (more on that next week), and you know the purpose of your speech–it shouldn’t be hard, if you approach it like you’d approach speaking to a friend.

Think that’s too much to ask? Think you’d lock up? Then you’ll have to come back in 2 weeks and hear my strategy for turning this quick, bare preparation into a smooth, confident, well-delivered speech.

Takeaway: Choosing your outline shouldn’t take long. Just ask, “What do I want to say about this subject? And what does my audience need to hear?” And then let the juices flow. After a number of things have popped into your head, it’s time to just be decisive. Pick two or three of them and make sure they flow well together. Then just get ready to talk about them like you’d talk to a friend–from your heart!

Any techniques you can share for choosing speech content?

12 Rules for New Managers – #1: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

There are 12 things I wish someone had told me when I first became a manager at the young and impressionable age of 20. It would have made the next few years a lot easier.

The bright side is, I learned those 12 lessons for myself, inside and out. And over the next 12 Mondays, I get to pay those lessons forward in a little crash course: 12 Rules for New Managers.

If you know any first-time managers, or seasoned managers looking to re-focus and revitalize their leadership, please share!

Rule #1: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

If you’ve been a manager for any length of time, I know you can relate. Whether you’re managing projects, a team, customer relationships–the same 3 things will burn you out if you let them: Hurt, distraction, and overwhelming details.

Hurt: You are going to be criticized and pushed around. No matter how progressively you go about it, your job will still include pushing things around and calling shots. That’s not going to make you popular with everybody. When people aren’t happy, the manager will get blamed. When results are missing, the manager will get blamed. That was one of the toughest things for me about management. I had no idea just how much emotional and verbal abuse could be directed at one person. And it’s almost always the manager.

Distraction: Just as inevitable as offense, distraction can quickly become your entire life as a manager. Paperwork, voicemail, inbox, post-it notes. Goodness, post-it notes! Those can quickly drive the most productive person insane. Nobody else on the team has your special job description: Managing. Keeping things organized and running. But nobody else gets more distractions and superfluous junk thrown at them, either. One of the hardest tasks of the manager is also at the very heart of their job: Staying focused.

Overwhelming details: Your team has lots of specialists. In fact, you might be the only one on the team who is not supposed to be a technical specialist. Your job is to facilitate the work of a bunch of other people who are doing the details. As a manager, though, it’s hard not to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Especially when you’re being held responsible for a project or team as a whole, it’s hard to let go of the details, so you can see the entire forest instead of just a few trees. But if you don’t–if you instead let those details overwhelm your vision–if you focus narrowly on a few specifics–the rest of your project and team will fall apart before you even notice.

Hurt and discouragement, countless distractions, and detail after narrow detail. They threaten to completely overwhelm you as a manager, leaving you burnt out with no results. So what’s the solution?

Your first rule as a manager is to keep your eye on the ball. Remind yourself, every single day, what you’re being paid to do.

When unhappy people and miscommunication are discouraging you, keep your eye on the ball! Comfort and acceptance are not always in your job description. Sometimes you have to let insults and criticism roll right off your back. If you stay focused on what your real goals are, you’ll be able to beat the discouragement, developing mental toughness instead.

When too much noise and stuff are threatening to steal your time and swallow your life, keep your eye on the ball! Prioritize. You might have to have a talk with the team or your own boss. Your job cannot be to pick up little pieces all day. When you try to field every play, answer every question, work every station, your productivity comes to a screeching halt. If instead you stay absolutely focused on the results you’re seeking and the exact tasks that will most strategically accomplish them, that focus will beat the distraction and your productivity will soar.

Finally, when you feel yourself getting lost in the details, keep your eye on the ball! Take a step back and look at the big picture. Grab a notebook and re-organize your thoughts, tasks, and goals. You manage a team, not a corner. You manage a project, not a detail. Instead of losing the forest for the trees, you can develop the ability to see big picture, regain a little sanity, and get back to being a real manager.

Keeping focused was one of the most important lessons I learned as a manager. I found that both my productivity and my own personal life were affected in big ways by my ability (or lack thereof) to stay focused on the big picture.

Takeaway: The very nature of a manager’s job tends towards personal discouragement and offense, distraction, and narrow-sightedness (or tunnel vision). If you want to stay sane and productive, it is vital to stay focused in the face of all of that. Build mental toughness and a little thick skin. Be able to say no to distractions. See big picture. Keep your eye on the ball!

What helps you stay focused on your real work as a manager?

Too Many Promises

How many promises have you made? Can you remember each one? Are there any promises you’ve forgotten? How would you know?

When I fell in love with my girlfriend, I made a lot of promises. Which was sweet and everything, because they were from the bottom of my heart.

But then three years later, I would suddenly remember something. Didn’t I promise her I wouldn’t do that? Or, didn’t I promise her I’d be doing this, instead?

Truth is, I really didn’t know. I’d made too many promises.

Maybe I should have written them down–kept a journal of promises I’d made.

Then again, as we both grew older and continued to change, we decided some of the promises were downright crazy.

Just how much does a promise mean when you’ve made too many to remember?

And just how seriously can your promises be taken when you make and take them lightly?

Promises are great, but they need to mean a lot.

Are you being careful when you make promises?

When you feel like making a promise, slow down and think. Do you really mean it?

What is a promise you shouldn’t have made?

3 Strengths You Had as a Kid

Staring up at giant sky-scrapers. Riding glass elevators. Feeling absolute awe and excitement. It’s one of my earliest memories. I don’t even remember what city it was. Maybe Chicago or Atlanta. But I always remember what it felt like to be a child.

When I was a kid, I had a very big outlook on life. At 7 or 8 I would wake up in the morning and sprint full-tilt around and around our big house, dreaming of the day I would run like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.

I wanted to be a zoo keeper when I grew up. An airline pilot (or spacecraft maybe?). A cowboy. A baseball player. Even a WWII soldier.

What did you want? When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing one day?

And why did you stop?

Most of us, as we grew up, were pressured by people around us to “be realistic.” To let go of some of those dreams. To face the cold, hard reality of life. That we’ll probably never amount to much.

Well with that attitude, we won’t!

There are 3 things most of us grew out of as we grew up. Well, there are lots more, but 3 things we probably shouldn’t have grown out of:


Do you remember how energetic and excited you were as a kid? About simple little things like going to the playground or on a roadtrip? Do you remember how obsessive you got over little projects and hobbies? And how shamelessly you expressed your excitement, happiness, and love?

Where has our genuine enthusiasm gone?


Do you remember how much everything amazed you when you were little? How you couldn’t stop staring at a squirrel, wondering how and why it does what it does? How you just had to know what was hidden in that closet, just because? How you wanted to know everything? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Do you remember how open-minded you were as a kid? Open to anything?

When did this incredible world stop interesting us?


Remember how unstoppable you were as a toddler? Fireplace, balcony, kitchen table, bicycle. It didn’t matter. And you knew if you fell of your bike, you’d pick yourself up and try again. Until you made it. Remember how intent you were on making your dreams come true? How you didn’t care that you didn’t know how to do something yet, you were determined to figure it out? Remember when you believed in yourself?

When did we decide it’s bad to hope and expect great things of ourselves, others, and this incredible world?

Reconnect With Your Inner Child

I miss being a kid. I miss the feeling of awe and excitement in a big, awesome world. I miss the enthusiasm. I miss the curiosity. And I miss the confidence. And goodness knows we could all use a boost of each!

Imagine the power and productivity, the excitement and energy you’d feel if you brought childlike enthusiasm, curiosity, and confidence to your life and work!

The past couple of years I’ve been getting back in touch with my inner child. It’s been awesome! “Growing up” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you think?