Adjusting Your Leadership Behaviors? Go Slow… Be Subtle

If you want to adjust your leadership style and connect better with your team, take a lesson from this executive’s experience and:

  • Go slowly if you want to change some of your behaviors
  • Be subtle and specific when offering praise, especially if you don’t usually (or ever) do it; don’t go overboard
  • And always be authentic, whether speaking one-on-one or in public

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Engaging Your People – Part 3 of 6

In the previous article of this series, we talked about how to make the WOWplace respectful. This week’s topic focuses on Rule #3: a WOWplace is HUMAN… not HUMANOID.


What I mean by this is that we all have feelings that seek to be satisfied. We want to laugh, cry, feel. We do not want to (nor can we) check our emotions at the door to the workplace.

Therefore, those who say there is no room for emotion in the workplace are just fooling themselves. There already IS emotion in the workplace. Too bad much of it is negative. So, if we are forced by human nature to make room for negative emotion, we must choose to balance it off by making room for positive emotion, as well.

Just think of the “humanoid” characters in any of Star Trek or Star Wars series:

  • Mr. Spock, half human/half Vulcan (Vulcans have had all human emotion “trained” out of them);
  • Data, an android incapable of feeling or displaying human emotions;
  • C3PO, R2D2 and BB-8 from the Star Wars movies, who are all cute and do seem to have personalities, but lack true human emotions.

While it may be cool to dream about working with any of them on a starship light years into the future, the fact is that today – here and now – we are all human at heart… at our core. And we all have emotions that accompany us everywhere we go – even to the workplace.

Therefore, human compassion and empathy are key factors in a leader’s effectiveness because they allow us to recognize that we are all human, and all dealing with something at any given point in time. How we react to the all-too-human situations that others are experiencing can mean the difference between success and failure when asking for their help, support or even simply their engagement at work, in return.

The following story illustrates our ability (and human obligation) to allow empathy and compassion for others to guide our actions – and their reactions.

My husband has a friend named Joe, a burly, 6’5″ guy with a shock of white hair on his head and a completely infectious laugh that can be heard from one end of a room to the other. Joe absolutely loves life and people – and it shows!

Joe told us of a time when he was a debt collector. I know, that sounds like a contradiction in terms because how many debt collectors do you know who absolutely love life? But I believe Joe was the perfect person to tackle this challenging job.

He told us of a couple who had gotten so far behind on their stove payments that Joe had to repossess the stove. But when he arrived at the couple’s home, the wife was cooking dinner on the stove and it wasn’t done yet.

Any “humanoid”” would have asked, “That’s my problem – why? Oh no, it’s not!” and they would have taken the stove anyway. But not Joe, who had gotten to know and like this couple. Better yet, they had gotten to know and like him.

So, the wife suggested, “Let me finish cooking dinner. Then, please join us for dinner and afterward, you can take the stove. Will that work?” So Joe stayed for dinner!

How many debt collectors do you know who would get invited to dinner at someone’s home, especially when they’re trying to take their personal possessions away? Not many! But not many debt collectors are human enough to get an invitation to dinner, as Joe did.

Joe proves beautifully that you can be human and still get your job done.

How can we apply this in our workplaces?

  1. Start by being more observant. You can’t be human, empathetic and compassionate to anyone if you don’t notice the least little thing that’s wrong – or even just different – about them! Pay attention to their moods, smiles, frowns. Notice when something is different and ask about it. (Or, you can ask your assistant about it – they are usually in the know about everything! They can help you stay in tune with what’s happening with your people.)
  2. Say something right away. Whether you notice someone doing a great job or want to thank them for their help, don’t just PLAN to tell them how much you appreciate them at a later time. Later never comes! Do it immediately, before you get interrupted, forget or just get too busy and never get back to them.
  3. Make what you say meaningful. Studies show that peer reinforcement and praise are often more meaningful than praise from a leader. But this is usually because praise from peers is specific, while praise from a leader is pretty generic. It is obvious when a leader has been told simply that someone did “something good” (who knows what? and who cares?), and they should praise the associate for their “good work.” Thus, it feels like mere lip service, rather than authentic praise. But if a high level leader gets specific about what the person did, how well they did it and the positive effect it had on the organization or their team, the value of that praise rises tremendously because it is genuine! And the higher the level of the leader, the more meaningful that kind of praise becomes because it is so unusual for someone at a much higher level to actually know what their people at all levels are actually doing.
  4. Put your actions (not necessarily your money) where your mouth is. Many small gifts of appreciation cost absolutely nothing to give… or their cost is minimal. A verbal thank you or a hand-written thank you note cost nothing to give, but can have a tremendous emotional effect on someone who continues to serve every day in a (seemingly) thankless job.
  5. Put a tiny amount of money, coupled with action, where your mouth is. A chocolate bar, or a small plant or flower arrangement costs almost nothing, but has the same emotional effect as a thank you note, but amped up by the extra action it took on your part to get it for them. This is especially true if you know the person well enough to know what would really mean something to them. Don’t just give the same generic gift to everyone… find out their favorite chocolate, flower, plant – or even store… and buy something they would truly love.

When a leader is more human in the workplace, engagement, satisfaction and trust/ respect rise proportionately to the level of humanity displayed by that leader. So, truly be a human in the workplace, rather than simply a “humanoid” who looks human, but lacks the emotional aspect of humanity, empathy and compassion for all the other humans around you.

The more human you are, the more your team will connect with, respect and LOVE you for it.

In the next article of this series, we’ll take a look at Rule #4: A WOWplace is Innovative, Creative and Fun!

Have a great week!


Posted in Be Human... Not Humanoid!, Nuances That WOW, Recognition, WOWplace Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Your People – Part 2 of 6

Last week, we talked about how to make the WOWplace safe for people to engage and contribute. This week’s topic focuses on Rule #2: a WOWplace is RESPECTFUL.


We all work hard to be respected… and to show respect to others. But, often when we’ve worked for years to achieve a certain position of status or income, it is tempting to think, “I’ve earned this level of respect throughout my life; it should be given to me automatically at this point because of all I’ve done in the past to get here!”

While this may be a tempting thought, let’s not forget a few critical facts:

  1.  Many of the people who were around while we were “earning” our respect are not around now, so they don’t really know what we’ve done in the past to get where we are today.
  2. We may be a TITLED leader, but that does not make us an ENTITLED leader. We are not entitled to anything except benefit of the doubt. Once we reach a certain level of success, we should at least be afforded the courtesy of receiving benefit of the doubt that we’ve done something right (often MANY things right) in order to reach that position. But the position, power, income and title do not entitle us to any more than that. Beyond benefit of the doubt, we must earn whatever is to come our way… which brings us to the third fact to keep in mind:
  3. Respect is not something you do once and then you’re done. On the contrary, respect is earned and RE-earned every single day.

The best way to earn respect is to give respect. So, I say: GO FIRST!

For example, if you’ve ever watched the movies The Freedom Writers or The Ron Clark Story, you know they are about teachers who try to prevent students in inner city schools from dropping out and reducing their chances of success in life. But the students didn’t want anything to do with these teachers. In fact, they actively disrespected them in an effort to get them to quit and leave the students alone. But both of these teachers summoned extraordinary courage in the face of active disrespect and decided to show the students respect first – earning the students’ respect in the process.

Someone had to go first – and it wasn’t going to be the students. If both parties had decided to wait for the other party to go first before showing any respect, the stories would not have ended in the successes that occurred. By deciding to go first, the teachers earned the right to have the students listen to – and more importantly, trust – them.

One more thing to keep in mind – actually two more things:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should…

Just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t…

Quick story to illustrate these two points:

My husband and I visited Japan and while there, we visited with the high priest of the second oldest temple in Japan (whom we had met through my Japanese language tutor a few months before the trip). Due to Japanese custom, this man’s status in his country is very high and there are very few people to whom he is required to show respect. However, almost all are required by custom to show him respect.

While we were at his temple, we were amazed at the way he showed respect to everyone he met! You could see both the respect they had for him and the respect he had for them, regardless of their position or job duties at the temple. He was a striking example of both the incredible relationship-building power of GOING FIRST and proof that just because you don’t have to (show respect to others) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. By showing respect anyway, he earned more respect than he ever could have earned due to his status alone.

Just keep in mind that trust and respect go hand-in-hand. If we always seek ways to go first to earn both, everyone wins!

In the next post, we’ll talk about WOWplace Rule #3: A WOWplace is Human… not Humanoid!

Have a great week…


Sandy’s book is available on

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Engaging Your People – Part I of 6

There is a lot of talk about how to get people to engage at work. Too often, we see employees and colleagues who are just going through the motions, creating:

  • Motion without emotion
  • Performance without purpose and
  • “Improvement” without impact.

There is no reason for any of us to “simply endure” until we get to quitting time (when we can get back to our “real lives” – where we actually feel as though we make a difference).

Enter The WOWplace® Rules, which help us see how to engage others in the workplace, help them realize that they have valuable contributions to make… and allow them to make those contributions to advance their own success and the success of everyone around them.

Rule #1: A WOWplace is SAFE


Don’t let people feel like they are “perched on a cliff”!

This rule is all about building trust.

Let’s take one scenario as an example: Why don’t people share their ideas and knowledge in the workplace? Outside of the obvious reasons that they don’t think of sharing them or writing them down – or they’re too rushed to even articulate their ideas – the reason many don’t share is often because they don’t feel safe doing so.

They need to be able to trust us to allow them to:

  • Make the right choice, even if it’s not the popular choice.
  • Use their judgment to do the right thing for a customer or colleague.
  • Offer suggestions without fear of embarrassment, retribution or having a great idea stolen by someone else.
  • Question the status quo, especially when it’s clearly not working.
  • Suggest a great new idea without having to assume full responsibility for implementing it (on top of having an already overfull workload).
  • Show up at work without having to wonder who will show up with them that day – Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde…

This is just a short list of the many variables that contribute to either creating a collaborative and pleasant atmosphere in the workplace… or making it a toxic environment where no one is truly safe to emerge from the ranks to make a suggestion.

Making the workplace SAFE is not limited to those with formal titles. While leaders can certainly exert more power over people’s careers due to their titles, co-workers can exert more power over people’s morale due to their proximity in the workplace. So, it’s up to everyone to make the workplace a safe place to engage, contribute, and make a difference.

Here are a few suggestions to build trust and make it safe for people to engage:

1.  Learn to compartmentalize, so you leave your personal baggage at home.

Find a way to put personal problems into their own “emotional compartment,” so you can put them aside and focus on your work – and your behavior in the office. Not only will this help you be more productive, but it will help your co-workers as well, since they will be affected to one degree or another by your actions and your mood. Remember that no one works in a vacuum – we all interact with and affect each other every day.

Some suggestions to help you compartmentalize are as follows:

  • Talk to a trusted friend or advisor before coming into the office (maybe the night before) in order to get it out of your system before interacting with others.
  • Make a plan of what to do to handle the situation; nothing feels better than knowing at least the first step in how you will proceed to mitigate the negative circumstances in your life.
  • Even if you just yell, scream or otherwise vent in your own car – get the emotions out of your system. Not only will this let off some steam, but articulating those emotions and feelings could actually help you come up with ideas of what to say or do at a later time. Just don’t come to the office an emotional wreck – with all of those emotions right at the surface, ready to explode out at the first person you meet.

This is especially important if you have a titled leadership role. I once had a boss whose interaction with his wife each morning could be ascertained by the way he entered the office: either slamming his way in or by behaving in a gracious manner. Needless to say, no one approached him about much on the days when he came slamming into the office… which became much more frequent over time.

2.   Think first; talk later.

Good leaders share their concerns only with select others, and only when necessary. Rather than straining even close relationships by constantly going to people with every worry or concern, they first think to themselves about what is happening and how to correct a situation. This can often lead to a simple solution that can be quickly implemented without involving everyone in the department (or anyone else, for that matter).

If a problem is large or complex, thinking first about how to effectively articulate and approach it, then deciding who really needs to know and be involved will make those initial conversations quicker, more fruitful and less stressful for everyone involved… which will also lead to quicker resolution of the problem, with as little impact on others as possible.

3.   Refrain from engaging in gossip.

I know this is “common sense,” but how often do others try to drag us into those conversations? And we sometimes find ourselves smack in the middle of them before we even realize what’s happened! Some people are masters at steering a conversation toward their gripes and those who “cause” them.

This doesn’t mean you should treat every potentially negative conversation as gossip. There are times when negative incidents are happening that must be addressed. Or someone just needs to vent to a trusted friend.

When you start to hear what sounds like a complaint, or another person’s name is mentioned in a derogatory manner, first consider the source. Is the person a known complainer? If so, tread carefully so as not to sound as though you simply agree with them and are joining in the bashing of another employee. If the topic is something you’ve heard over and over again from that same person, disengage as quickly and gently as possible. Or defend the other person by saying, for example, “That doesn’t sound like her at all. I hope nothing is wrong.” This lets them know you don’t agree with their generalization while also offering them a way to “save face” by agreeing with you and grabbing the chance to drop the conversation.

However, just because someone is a complainer doesn’t mean that they will never come up with a valid complaint. If their complaint is valid, again be careful of simply agreeing with them, but let them know you will look into the issue and talk to the person to find out what is going on.

The best part of this strategy is that once a complainer knows you will go to the source, they will usually stop coming to you with invalid gripes because they’d much rather complain “behind someone’s back” than have to confront them with an issue. This also lets others know that you won’t take anyone else’s word for it, but will come directly to them to give them a chance to defend themselves.


There are so many ways to make our workplaces SAFE for others to engage at the highest levels and feel as though they are making a difference with their contributions. These are just a few ideas that can be implemented immediately to help build higher levels of trust in the workplace.

Next week, we will move on to Part 2 in this series – creating higher levels of RESPECT.

Have a great week!



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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #50: Creativity Rules!

Tip #50: Creativity rules!

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Whatever you do, add a dash of creativity and your own unique personality to it!

Everything is enhanced when you take a couple of extra minutes to do it in a unique and creative way!

Put your own twist on things!

Whether it’s in your words, your actions, written communications, promotional materials, e-mails, brainstorming sessions – everything is enhanced when you take a couple of extra minutes to do it in a creative and unique way.

Remember – you can’t create a WOW if you’re doing something that ends up being the same-old, same-old.

Let your creativity rule the day – and you will be sure to  create many WOWs for everyone around you!


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for putting your own twist on everything you do!


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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #49: Be the WOW in a World Full of OWs!

Tip #49: Be the WOW in a world full of OWs!

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Correct something that someone else has done wrong.

Even if you weren’t the cause, if there’s a way you can be the solution, you will create a WOW.

Things go wrong all the time. Sometimes we’re the cause; sometimes others are. But  we can still vow to correct anything that goes wrong (within our power).

For example, when I was a REALTOR, my vow was that “no customer would be harmed in the making of this deal!” One time, one of my sellers bought a new home. We scheduled the closing and 3 days before it, the contractor put the wrong floor in the kitchen… and the right floor was on backorder. Because of this, the sellers couldn’t get a Certificate of Occupancy, so they couldn’t move in. In the meantime, the buyers of their home had given up the lease on their apartment and had to move out.

I asked the contractor’s real estate agent to have the contractors put my sellers up in a hotel for a few days until the new floor could be put in; they refused. I finally got them to agree to allow the sellers to move their furniture into the house and garage so they didn’t have to store it, then I paid for a hotel room for them for 3 nights. It was the right thing to do – and the contractor obviously wasn’t going to do it.

Sometimes, someone has to step up and do the right thing – let it be you!


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for helping correct a situation, even when it wasn’t your fault.


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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #48: Change the Conversation

Tip #48: Change the conversation

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Get customers involved with helping you identify and create WOWs for them.

When you ask people what will cause them to be WOWed, you can hit the mark more often than if you guess.

My husband, Bruce, and I once visited a Toyota dealership to buy a car. The salesman greeted us and immediately brought us to a glass case containing five trophies. They were President’s awards given only to dealerships where all salespeople received a score of 5 out of 5 points for service excellence for every customer all year.

He said, “We want to win that award again; I don’t want to blow that record. So, if at any point in our dealings together, I do something that would cause you to give us less than a 5 on our evaluation, please tell me immediately so I can correct it.”

This changed everything! He set the expectation of what he wanted to provide and what we should do to ensure he provided it. Not only that, but we felt comfortable telling him if something didn’t measure up. What usually happens is that something troubling happens, customers don’t buy, but leave and we never know what happened. Worse, when the evaluations come out – THAT’s when we learn about what happened – too late for us to do anything about it.

So, get customers involved early in the conversation to help ensure that you provide them with WOWs that are meaningful to them.


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for changing the conversation and ensuring you really know what your customers want – and then giving it to them.


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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #47: Proudly Proclaim Your Mission, Vision and Values

Tip #47: Proudly proclaim your mission, vision and values

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Post them as your promise to all who come in contact with you.

Tell people you care enough to have one… and then post it to remind them of how committed you are to delivering it.

If you want to WOW someone, let them know what you’re promising to do… then, of course, live up to that promise.

I once went for an X-Ray at a hospital and right there on the door to the X-Ray Dept. was the X-Ray Dept.’s mission.

I can’t tell you how good it made me feel as a patient to know that the X-Ray Dept. had their own mission that they posted for all to see. The completion of the WOW was that they really lived up to it!

So, let everyone know what you’re all about… and then fulfill that promise.


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for proudly proclaiming your mission, vision and values to let the world know how committed you are to serving them.


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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #46: Be Sure Everything You Do is of the Highest Possible Quality.

Tip #46: Be sure everything you do is of the highest possible quality.

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

Extreme competence WOWs us, no matter where it occurs.

It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about… if you do it, extremely well, it creates a WOW!

Whether you’re talking about art, music, speaking, construction, product development – or cat painting! (above)… extreme competence in our field can’t help but WOW others.

Think about it: what do we share and help go viral on the Internet – extreme examples of competence and expertise. Think of the incredible photography of the surfer who takes pictures from underneath the waves, the 3-D Chalk Art on sidewalks, magic acts on YouTube, singers with fantastic voices… all are demonstrating extreme competence in their fields.

So practice, learn and educate yourself. Make sure that if you make a mistake once, you do something about it to avoid it in the future.

One step at a time, you will become an expert in your field – and no one will be able to compete with the exceptional quality of your knowledge and work.


Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for being EXTREMELY competent in your field.


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50 Ways to WOW Your Others – Tip #45: Be the Opposite

Tip #45: Be the opposite

50 Ways to WOW, creating WOW leadership and customer service

If no one else is doing something, you do it; if everyone is doing it, you do something else.

Don’t let excuses hold you back!

Not to pick on the construction industry, but almost every contractor I’ve ever hired has demonstrated the same not-so-great qualities: they’re habitually late; they don’t pay attention to what you say – you have to watch them like a hawk to ensure they do things as you want them done; they’re extremely messy when they work – and most don’t clean up after they leave… (what’s up with that???) You come into someone’s home and make a mess – and think that’s OK because they all do it?

My husband and I got a humongous WOW one time when a contractor did the opposite: he arrived right on time to install a tile floor in our bathroom. He also worked quickly and quietly, his work was stellar, and when he left, he vacuumed our new tile floor and wiped down the sinks and commode to get rid of the dust he’d created. He even swept our garage floor to remove the dust out there where he had cut the tiles!



Remember, you can also:

Please leave your tips and suggestions for being the opposite and standing out from the pack.


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