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Keep Your Finger On the Pulse of Progress

Keep Your Finger On the Pulse of Progress

Time gets away from us. The calendar is overflowing with meetings. How can we find time for others when we struggle to find a moment for ourselves? We fear that if we get connected, we will get pulled into too many issues.

We convince ourselves that the townhalls, meetings, and email blasts are enough to convey our messages. But we’re not sure that the messages are appropriately cascaded, and that people are actively executing on the key initiatives.

When leaders are not available, it is easy to become isolated and distanced from the real issues. Without those valuable conversations, we do not have the data to make accurate decisions and without out input, people are left to figure it out for themselves. Often this is where project implementation goes off track. 

Here are ways to get connected using what I call the Visibility Matrix:

Free Up Time – Make effective use of your time by finding five, ten or even 15-minutes in your day. Shorten appointments, focus conversations to one topic, arrive at meetings early and end meetings early with the focus on using these precious minutes to increase your face time with others.

If you are like me and tend to sit at my desk all day, ask a colleague to take a 10-minute walking break which is a terrific way to stretch your legs and walk and talk with a colleague.

Instead of bolting out the door at the end of the day with cellphone plugged into your ear, bock the last 10-15 minutes of the day as personal wrap-up time. Reflect on the day and lay out the next. Then make a smooth transition from the workday into your evening activities.

Pay attention to the transitions in your day – It’s easy to blow by the transitions from meeting to meeting, and one activity to another until it all feels like the day is one big blur. Use the time between activities to regroup, and reconnect. Stop by a colleague’s desk on the way to or from the restroom, or getting a glass of water.

You can access more tips and ideas in the attached YouTube segment.

By being visible and connected with others, you get a two-way dialogue going. You find out what’s going on. You can ask questions, make comments, remove obstacles, provide insights and coaching, and give feedback to others. Through your visibility you show the work is valued, it’s important, and you can be involved in the right way to help. 

Hilary Potts is a leadership strategist who advises senior leaders to navigate today’s intensively competitive business world with success. She is the author of leadership books; The Executive Transition Playbook and The Truth About Change, available on Additional leadership tips, tools, blogs, podcasts, and videos are available on

How to Fit In

How to Fit In

It’s the cultural and emotional intelligence that can blindside leaders entering new roles. This is what happened to George who found himself out of a job after the first 15-months.

George is a hard charging, passionate, results-focused executive. He’d worked at many prestigious companies significantly growing their business portfolios.

When Nancy, a long-time friend, and business colleague, asked him to join the organization as the chief operating officer, George jumped at the opportunity.

George’s marching orders were to turn around the recent dip in sales. He came in and quickly reorganized the sales force to operate more like one of their competitors. The implementation hadn’t gone smoothly. George had misread the vast differences in the two company’s cultures.

There had been some tough conversations and he’d rubbed some people the wrong way. At the time he chalked this up to their resistance to change so he kept driving ahead. Isn’t that what the CEO and the board had told him to do?

Had George paid more attention to his assimilation, could he have avoided this situation? What can we learn from this misstep?

Assess the Cultural Fit – Many executives get so excited by the business opportunity; they end up joining an organization that isn’t a cultural fit. Before getting all excited about the offer, take a hard look at the culture of the company. Look beyond the business and delve into the company values and culture. Ask yourself, “Do I see myself working and thriving at this company?”

Set Mutual Expectations – Busy, action-oriented leaders can shortchange these conversations. Work with your boss and set expectations and goals. It pays to discuss your 90-day transition plan before you accept the role. Even if there is a prior working relationship, don’t assume you are in lock step in this new situation. Schedule regular check-ins to review the business and how the assimilation is progressing.

Gain Knowledge About the Business – Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh look at the business. This includes the cultural, political, and emotional aspects of the business. Assess all the business levers to understand how the entire business ecosystem works. Stay objective and avoid making hasty assumptions based on your own preconceived notions.

Foster Key Relationships – Knowing the people and how they work makes it much easier to make business changes. Take the time to build meaningful relationships both inside and outside the organization. Understand the needs of others and treat them with respect. By building credibility, trust, and respect with colleagues, it will be easier to navigate through challenging situations.

Gel with the Team – High performing teams are critical to an organization’s success. The entry of a new leader changes the dynamics of a team. Accelerate the assimilation by facilitating open dialogue using a New Leader Assimilation Exercise. Discuss goals, objectives, purpose and preferences to build mutual understanding. In a short time, the leader and the team can get to know one another.

Enhance Your Leadership – It can be a mistake for leaders to assume they can lead the same way they did in the last role. What may be a “normal” way of speaking in one organization may be arrogant in another. Leader transitions are a great time to make enhancements and establish new leadership behaviors.

Prepare to Lead Change – Both the timing and approach are critical to making strategic changes. Start by understanding the organization’s culture and history with implementing change. Assess the implications and risks associated with making the change. And clearly get others agreement, alignment, and commitment before charging ahead.

Leaders can avoid career missteps by managing how they assimilate in the new organization.

Please share your comments on the best practices you use assimilating into a new role.

Unlock the Opportunity Through Others

Unlock the Opportunity Through Others


Are you so focused on the end result that you are charging ahead, assuming everyone is with you?

Before you find yourself all alone, here are simple steps to lead through even the trickiest situations:



  • Help others see “why”  the change is important to make
  • Set clear direction and get buy-in for what needs to be accomplished
  • Prepare yourself for the change and know what it will take to enroll others
  • Map out an implementation plan so others can own the solution
  • Be consistent in your own actions
  • Keep people in the know with open lines of communication
  • Provide frequent feedback and remove obstacles in the way of progress
  • Celebrate even the smallest of advancements and people will begin to move in the right direction

When leaders enable others by gaining agreement and buy-in, the momentum of the change begins to shift from the actions of one to the actions of many.


Why Should Others Follow You?

Why Should Others Follow You?

What steps are you taking so others “want to” follow you versus feel like they “have to” follow you?

Could you be spending too much time on the business content and not enough time coaching, and leading others? Are you working too much “in” the business and not enough “on” the business?

In these challenging times, businesses are clamoring for results. Leaders tend to spend more energy in the business and less time ensuring their interactions with others yield the desired impact. It’s easy to run out of time and short change key discussions that can help others do their job. Acting takes over thinking time and the flurry of activity can feel like you are doing something, but you’re just treading in place.

Savvy business leaders pay attention to their leadership actions. They balance working both “on” the business and know when to and when not to work “in” the business. Experienced leaders know when and how to shift their leadership to bring out the best in others. They realize it’s not a one size fits all. They constantly assess the situation and make changes in their approach. They know when they take care of people, the results will follow.

Leadership is a balancing act. It takes the agility, resilience, and mindfulness to be aware of the impact one’s behavior has on others. When employees feel they can trust and respect their leader, they are more apt to go the extra mile.

Make it easy for others to work with you. To unlock your leadership potential and those of others, consider the following:

  • Find the time to think, strategize, and plan. How are you showing up and is this the most effective approach?
  • Get clear on the direction, then align and engage the team. Actively seek ideas and solutions from others. Getting buy-in leads to commitment and action.
  • Look for opportunities to observe and listen before jumping to conclusions too soon. Chances are your teammates actually hold the keys to some brilliant solutions.
  • Be visible and available to remove obstacles and challenges that get in the way. When a leader is engaged, others follow suit. Help others get unstuck so they can use their energy to move ahead.
  • Provide positive feedback early and often on individual actions versus waiting for the end result. Seek every opportunity to celebrate the small wins to encourage others to stay energized and focused on the prize.

Make it a point to ask for feedback from direct reports and colleagues to fine-tune your leadership to meet the situation.

The next time you are sitting in one of the many meetings, observe your actions to determine if you are helping or hindering the advancement of the discussion. What adjustments would you make to create more effective engagement and dialogue?

The author of “The Executive Transition Playbook: Strategies for Starting Strong, Staying Focused, and Succeeding in Your New Leadership Role.”

Sidestep Four Impediments to Learning

Sidestep Four Impediments to Learning

“The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.”

Brian Herbert

There is a ton of pressure to perform in a new or expanded role. It can be tempting for leaders to dive in and start making decisions without fully understanding how their actions impact the business.

Actually, the first weeks in a new role, leaders don’t know what they don’t know. The only real thing a new leader can do is make mistakes.

Even if a leader knows the business, it’s best to take the time to learn, explore and uncover the issues about the business, people, culture and customers.

 “It’s what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”   – Claude Bernard                  

Unfortunately, leaders can sabotage and impede essential learning opportunities in a variety of ways.

When we hear things that challenge our view of the world, our listening and processing of information can shut down and we can start to discount what we hear. Learning requires objectivity and getting the unvarnished truth. Before jumping to conclusions, ask open-ended questions and listen to all sides of a topic. The knowledge gained can aid in decision making later on.

A transition tends to pull leaders in many different directions, so it’s easy to get distracted and not be fully present. And people know it. We arrive late, fumble with our papers, look at our smartphone. It’s clear we’re not fully listening.

High performance requires leaders to show up physically, mentally and emotionally ready. Instead of hopping hastily from meeting to meeting, it’s best to take a pause, capture actions from the last meeting and get clear on the purpose of the next one.

The third impediment to learning is arrogance which pulls us away from gaining knowledge and distances us from others.

You’ve seen it, “It’s the all about me” syndrome. There’s one side of the story.

Arrogance actually sub-optimizes and shuts down the conversation. It becomes a monologue.

When people realize a leader isn’t interested in what they have to say, they stop sharing and vital information is missed. Best to check the ego at the door and leave some space for others to be experts.

Finally, fear can be a real saboteur to the learning process.

Few people in business settings talk about their fears, but they are there and surface in many different ways. During times of transition, leaders can sometimes play it safe and not want to make changes to their approach.

An entry into a new role is a time for leaders to step out of the comfort zone and develop new skills.

Ask yourself, “Could I be sabotaging my learning without realizing it?”

Don’t miss an opportunity to learn about the business whether you have been promoted into a new role, are entering a new company or are expanding your current role. There is always something to learn.

Explore the business from different vantage points — the enterprise, divisional, regional, or country level. Go beyond your own area and look cross-organizationally to pick up information about how the business operates. Each area of the business may have a slightly different perspective of how things should work.

I advise clients to talk less and observe more. It’s easy to get caught up on the technical aspects and fail to see the emotional and social aspects of how work gets done. The “softer” aspects of the business can actually be the harder areas to navigate especially when leading changes in the future.

Better Conversations: 5 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd

Better Conversations: 5 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd

Too often I see leaders “wing” initial conversations. Later on, they struggle with the crucial conversations required to achieve results. Better conversations build credibility, trust, and respect which lead to better business decisions.

Don’t leave your conversations to chance. During times of change, people need more information, not less. Unfortunately, leaders fall into the trap of not communicating enough. Sometimes this happens when leaders think they don’t have anything definitive to say.

When smart people lack clear communication they chart their own course. Others make up their own stories, most of which are wrong. Without proper communication, people lack clarity and productivity will suffer.

By now you might be thinking a more spontaneous, free-flowing conversation better suits your style. But wait a minute, this may not be a prudent choice.

When businesses want results, now. And with change happening at such an alarming rate. You will want to make the most of each interaction. Spending time on the front end will definitely save you time and aggravation on the back end.

Great conversations start with preparation. Then, you can focus more on the person versus on what you want to tell them.

Consider the following as you cultivate better conversations:

1. Know Your Audience – What’s on their mind and impacting their world? Before meeting for the first time, research the people, their backgrounds, and interests.

2. One Single Purpose – You are more apt to make headway if you come prepared with a single purpose and goal for the discussion versus a laundry list of items.

3. Get Comfortable Asking and Fielding Questions – Questions and answers are at the heart of conversations. Think through what you wish to ask. Be ready to respond to those more delicate questions.

4. It’s All About Them –So often preparation time is filled with deciding what to “tell” someone and not enough time on how to handle the interpersonal and emotional aspects of conversations. Put yourself in their shoes.

Slant the conversation to be more about what they need versus about what you need. Make a point to understand their world and their concerns. Use this knowledge to determine if you can make their work just a bit easier to handle. When you enable others, you are unlocking the potential for greater outcomes.

5. Take Action – A conversation is a terrific first step, it’s the follow-up that takes conversations to action. Get clear on what actions to take following the conversation.

So before you jump into that next conversation, prepare with the end in mind.

Where could your conversations use a bit of a boost?