“What Great Bosses Know”: Practical advice for managers & leaders from Jill Geisler.

10 ways we limit our success & how to overcome those artificial barriers

I believe there’s a bounty of buried treasure in organizations: ideas, solutions and talent that lie untapped. Among the reasons: management fails to recognize the potential in employees or even discourages their aspirations.

But let’s not pick on bosses today. Instead, let’s look at how good employees can actually get in the way of their own success. Remember, I’m talking about already valuable contributors who could be offering more.

I was inspired to write about this challenge by a participant in a recent workshop. She’s not a manager, but she has impressed her supervisors with her talent and positive influence on her team. So they nominated her for additional leadership learning. They’re investing in the future.

At the end of our workshop, when participants talked about things they’d do in the future (in leadership areas like innovation, collaboration, coaching, conflict resolution and communication), she made a statement that grabbed my attention.… Read more

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Monday, Dec. 31, 2012

Don’t wait to thank someone great

At this time in 2011, I was eagerly awaiting the New Year. My dream of publishing a book for managers would be realized in June. In that book, amid the advice and research, would be stories from my personal experience. Two of those stories involved bosses I worked for. They were two men who could not have been more different in their leadership styles, but both made an indelible impact on my life.

One of them, Andy Potos, knew he would be in the book. In fact, my editor insisted that I run the copy past him; she thought it might offend him that I revealed I almost quit rather than work for Andy when he became my boss. I described him in the book as a “brash and bottom-line fixated sales guy, and he saw me as a holier-than thou newsperson, bunkered in a silo with my team.” There was more:

He came from the Vince Lombardi school of leadership.

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Friday, Dec. 21, 2012


Take the ‘Threshold Test’ as you cross into the new year at work

As we cross the threshold from off-duty to on-the-clock when entering our workplaces, we ask ourselves, “How much do I matter here? Is my work respected? Am I growing and learning? Do my ideas make a difference?”

I call those questions the “Threshold Test.”

Even the most highly qualified contributors in an organization ask themselves those questions. It’s human nature to want to know where we stand.

Too often, the very people who could answer these unasked questions and enlighten us, don’t. Managers miss opportunities to engage because they fail to deliver feedback that is sincere, specific and ongoing. Many are more focused on products than people. They are quick to point out flaws because they know their job is to protect the organization and those it serves from mistakes and missteps.… Read more


Thursday, Dec. 06, 2012


10 key skills today’s leaders need to succeed in 2013

What sets the most successful managers apart from others? You might be an expert in your field, even the smartest person in the room — but that’s no guarantee of success. You need an array of skills that are particularly well-suited to times of change and challenge. Here are 10 I recommend.

1. Strategic Thinking
Don’t just immerse yourself in today’s tasks. Think big picture. Step back from the dance floor from time to time and take the balcony view (Hat tip for that great metaphor to the book, Leadership on the Line.”) Review systems. Set priorities aligned with major goals. Learn new and scary things. Encourage innovation by backing good people who take smart risks.

2. Collaboration
Overcome the four barriers to collaboration I’ve written about before.… Read more


Monday, Oct. 15, 2012


10 secrets your Great Boss never told you

I have to confess. Were it not for a desk calendar that highlights various holidays,  I’d never know that Tuesday, October 16 is “Boss’s Day” in the United States. It’s an occasion that’s never been on my radar.

I also suspect that many employees think: Wait, What? Bosses get their say, their way, their pay — do they really need a day?

Frankly, the best bosses out there would probably agree. They didn’t sign on to management for the accolades — or to put it more bluntly, so that people might suck up to them on a daily or even once-a-year basis. As I write in my book “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know,” true leaders do what they do for the joy of helping other people succeed, while making products and services better at the same time.… Read more


Thursday, Aug. 09, 2012


The 10 powers of leadership and why they matter

Jill Geisler delivered the commencement address to this year’s graduates of Duquesne University’s School of Leadership and Professional Advancement, where she received her master’s degree in 2004. This is an adapted version of her speech.

Because I sat where you sit today, dressed as you are, I can truly say I know what you are thinking. I know that the men and women in this room are asking themselves one compelling question about the future:

What is my hair going to look like when I take off this mortarboard?

You will look fine. Trust me.

And you will BE fine going forward.

How do I know? Because I believe you have power. In fact, I want you to recognize that, fully and even ferociously. Here’s how:

Would you please turn to the people nearest you in your row and introduce yourself.… Read more


Monday, July 16, 2012

8 ways the Penn State leadership meltdown could happen in your organization

The Freeh Report is a chilling indictment of the leadership at Penn State. People at the top build, sustain or change organizational culture, and clearly, Penn State’s needed a radical change. It took a tragedy to make people believe it.

Rather than looking upon it like head-shaking witnesses to a horrific train wreck, let’s focus on how situations like this evolve. Because, in truth, a failure of leadership could just as easily happen to any of us, if we’re not vigilant.

Smart, successful people who see themselves as ethical and moral still cultivate a collection of blind spots. In their book, “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It,” authors Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel say we overestimate our ability to act ethically.… Read more


Monday, July 09, 2012

The 4 D’s that can derail a difficult conversation

It ranks among the least appealing but most important management duties: conducting tough talks with employees. Bosses are required to hold people accountable, let them know what’s expected of them, and keep them informed — even when the news isn’t good.

Many managers tell me they wish they were better at handling difficult conversations. Their reasons for avoiding or bungling them can range from “I hate conflict and come on too soft” to “I have a short fuse and talk myself into trouble.”

Few managers get specialized training in this area, other than perhaps an HR primer on company policies and protocols. But a real, practical immersion in what works best in a variety of situations — that’s a rarity. Managers usually learn by trial and error.… Read more


Monday, July 02, 2012

Great bosses know: Hire good people, but don’t leave them alone

Ever have someone send you a link to an article, knowing it’s a hot button issue for you? It just happened to me, as my Poynter.org editor Julie Moos called my attention to a brief post on The Atlantic’s website, by the author of “Quiet,” a highly regarded book about introverts. Susan Cain makes an excellent argument for hiring introverts and I say “amen.” Unfortunately, Cain tried to buttress her good case by invoking a dusty management bromide that’s more than a pet peeve of mine:

Hire good people and leave them alone.

I know what Cain is trying to underscore: that many introverts do great work in solitude and managers should respect that. They shouldn’t assume that quiet employees are devoid of ideas or initiative because that’s simply not true.… Read more

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The 5 ways great bosses win the battle against their evil twins

Consider this fair warning, managers. Lurking nearby, ready to make an uninvited workplace visit, is your “evil twin.” That substandard sibling is the one your staff sees when they misinterpret your behavior.

I’ve met countless “evil twins” while reviewing the 360-degree feedback of managers I’ve taught and coached. I’m not talking about truly bad bosses. These are skilled supervisors, trying to do something positive, but their actions are misread by those they manage.

I see it so often that I’ve made the eradication of “evil twins” an essential part of my management teaching and writing, so leaders can know and do something about it.

Released today, “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know” is a management workshop in a book. Based on her Poynter teaching, Jill Geisler offers practical help for anyone who wants to be a better leader.
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