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Spark Positive Thinking with Questions


Questions that are crafted and timed well can change people’s stories, habits, and motivations in a powerful way. There are four major types of questions that promote positive change:


Appreciation leading to positivity

1. Digging for gold. Successful positive broadcasters know how to gather information by asking open-ended questions. Just asking “why?” can yield beneficial information.

2. Shifting the focus. By using the appreciative inquiry (AI) approach, those who want to become positive broadcasters can help shift the focus of a conversation from negative to positive. Examples of AI questions include:

*When are you at your best?

*What are your three greatest strengths?

*What was the best part of your day?

3. Next best. This sort of question is used when there are negatives beyond a person’s control. It helps all parties make the best of a bad situation by focusing attention on those factors individuals can control.

4. What else? Positive broadcasters know to ask the question, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” This question helps the broadcasters learn about things they may not have even considered.

Leverage Past Wins to Fuel Future Successes


The first thought a person has when hearing a word is called a flash memory. For example, if people hear the word “campfire,” they may think of marshmallows or of a time they got burned. The flash memory associated with a word, person, or topic shapes how a person feels about it. When people’s flash memories are negative, they avoid the person or thing that spawned the memory. In contrast, people gravitate to those people or things associated with positive flash memories.

IMG_8627People’s memories help them process the world around them and guide them through life. However, new information can influence how people remember things. It is possible for a person to shift his or her flash memories and those of others. By providing new information and highlighting success stories, a person can make someone else’s memories more positive. When rewriting flash memories, there are three keys to success:

1. Spotlight the wins. Positive broadcasters can motivate others by highlighting current and past successes. In studies, athletes who received praise and encouragement in addition to instruction put more effort into subsequent activities.

2. Select the package. Positive stories have much more impact when they come in the form of a personal message. For example, fund raisers at a college worked harder and raised more money after getting a visit from a scholarship recipient. Messages are best delivered in person or by video.

3. Choose the frequency. Repetition is the key. One study found that it takes three exposures for a person to connect to a message.



Prime the Brain for High Performance

Those who want to become positive broadcasters must learn how to use power leads, which are positive openers that set the tone for a conversation. These positive power leads prime the brain to focus on growth. The human brain receives 11 million bits of information every second. However, it can only process about 40 to 50 bits of that information, so people choose what they will pay attention to. By focusing others’ attention on the positive, a positive broadcaster can influence the social script. For example, a clerk at Wal-Mart primes interactions with customers by saying, “It is a great day! How are you doing?”

Thanks to evolutionary influences, people may be on the lookout for threats and be prone to see the negatives in a given situation. Negative individuals fall into three categories:

1. The PSA expert: This is a person who warns others about the bad things that could happen to them.

2. The tornado: People who begin conversations by talking about their most recent traumatic experience fall into this category.

3. The squasher: These people highlight the negative in order to express the seriousness of a situation.

People who want to start using power leads should focus on one of the areas below and add 1 power lead per day for the next 21 days:

*Conversations. People should think of something positive and share it. Others will likely respond with positive remarks. This works well with coworkers and clients.

*Meetings. Sharing positive news and showing gratitude are great ways to prime a group for a productive meeting.

*Email. Starting a message on a positive note can reduce miscommunication. A simple “Hope you are doing well” can go a long way.

*Reports. Reports can start with a positive goal to focus the reader’s attention.

Transformative leaders


Transformative leaders can be everyday heroes–ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things. These leaders display seven key mindsets of success: high aspirations, courage, resilience, positive, accountability, collaborative, and growth.


Having high aspirations means daring to dream and to create the future. It involves transforming and disrupting–that is, not just trying to make things better but making them different. To make a difference, leaders must be unreasonable in pursuing goals, yet reasonable and flexible about the means to achieve them.

There are three major obstacles to having high aspirations:

For the best leaders,

1. Living in a comfort zone of high standards without learning and growing. high aspirations are

  • Focusing on achievement in current roles rather than preparing for next at the heart of how roles. they think.
  • Falling back to lower standards and aspirations over time. To overcome these obstacles and attain and sustain high aspirations, leaders should imagine the perfect future; seize opportunities that are presented every day; work in a culture that is running, not walking; act as a partner, not a follower, of powerful people; and know what they want and work to achieve it.


Courage is required to take the risks that separate great leaders from others. There are three main types of risks:

  1. Rational risk is the risk undertaken in such projects as drilling for oil or financing motion pictures. Dealing with rational risk is a basic management routine; it does not separate great leaders from the rest.
  2. Ambiguity, or risk of the unknown, is disliked by most companies. It is seen as risk by managers but as opportunity by leaders and entrepreneurs.
  3. Personal risk, the fear of failure and ridicule, can be the most daunting but is accepted by the best leaders.

Leaders can build their courage mindsets by making the unknown familiar and routine; by believing in a mission where a greater commitment will match a greater cause; by creating a bigger fear, which causes the fear of inaction to become greater than the risk of action; by focusing first and foremost on outcomes and benefits, and then developing plans to mitigate the risks; by finding support and sharing the burden; and by managing fear through recognizing it and visualizing the benefits of success.

Be a Coach



Coachability: How to Reach Goals Faster and Better

One of the quickest and most effective ways for a middle manager to make an impact on the organization is through coaching; unfortunately, it is an often underutilized tool. Coaching is different from advising, preaching, counseling, and persuading because the last four are all done from the viewpoint of and for the person offering it. Coaching is the opposite. A coach’s focus is on the recipient’s goals and possibilities. High-impact middle managers have a genuine interest in knowing how to help employees be successful, and they themselves are also coachable individuals who are receptive to change and always ready to improve.

Managers who are highly coachable:

* are not defensive when challenged or offered an alternative view.

* welcome feedback and ideas for improvement.

* ask for coaching.

* consider and use ideas offered by others.

* seek training and development in the form of reading, classes, new assignments, and coaching from others.

* have a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

* handle failures and setbacks with grace.

Managers who are uncoachable, on the other hand:

* do not listen to ideas offered by others.

* staunchly defend current ideas and approaches.

* believe they must do things on their own and that asking for input is a sign of weaknesses.

* appear to be unreceptive or not interested in coaching.

* do not engage in conversations about development with their manager. In addition, they view suggestions that they should develop new skills as a criticism.

* can be dismissive of others.

Techniques for Improving Coachability

Middle Managers who need to improve their coachability should keep the following in mind:

* Coachability starts with a mindset. When managers realize they are being uncoachable, they should pause, take a deep breath, and decide to let go of the feelings or resistance and be more open.

* Ask more open-ended questions to glean more information about projects and processes.

* Ask follow-up questions to understand ideas and suggestions fully.

* Take the initiative to ask for input on one problem, idea, or topic each day.

* Resist the urge to defend themselves or argue why an idea will not work. They should focus on the desired outcome, not being right.

* Schedule brainstorming and problem-solving meetings during the time of day or week that they are most coachable.

Using Coachability to Attract a Breakthrough

Some middle managers are like sponges, happily soaking in new information. More often than not, however, preconceived notions, fears, and the ego shut out the opportunities for change that these managers seek. Those who are eager to attract a breakthrough might want to try the following practices.

* Let peers, managers, and employees know about the most important or interesting topics or challenges that you are working on.

* Call a meeting to brainstorm new ideas and novel suggestions.

* Seek nontraditional avenues of information and ideas.

* Do not be shy. Call or email thinkers and researchers in the field and ask for their perspectives.

* Focus on defending the ideal desired outcome and asking questions about what conditions are needed to support this outcome.

* Take (and be fully engaged in) a course on the subject.

* Make a request that you would normally consider unreasonable. It does not hurt to ask, and it may even work. Most middle managers are so conservative about what they ask that their unreasonable requests are not likely to be that unreasonable.

* Adopt a “this shall be” mindset. There seems to be some legitimacy to the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, so managers might as well have this phenomenon work in their favor.

* If important enough, ask an outside facilitator to lead a group of people through a work session to brainstorm ideas, approaches, barriers, and desired outcomes.

* Benchmark other admired and respected companies that perform this particular task or process extremely well.

Best Practices for Organizational Alignment


In addition to navigating through common problems in the workplace, middle managers must make sure they stay organized and focus on setting up their departments for success. High-impact organizational alignment is a set of practices that enables middle managers to keep their structures and processes relevant and productive. These practices are founded on the fundamental question Is this department set up for success? Once the big picture is clear, managers can begin to focus on aspects of the structures and processes that need attention to deliver results. Organizational alignment should follow these best practices:

Practice 1:Clarify the Department’s Vision, Purpose, and Goals. The middle manager, the manager, and the team should all agree on the vision of the department’s success and the expectations the company has for the department.

Practice 2:Use Clean Slate Creativity to Design an Ideal Organizational Model. The design process should start with a clean slate before considering current resources, processes, and roles. For this exercise, managers should not think about the current processes. Instead, they should define how the work would be designed if nothing were already in place. It may be helpful to have the entire team contribute to creating this design.

Practice 3:Compare Department Needs, the Ideal Plan, and Current Roles and Processes. Once the ideal organizational design is complete, middle managers will be ready to bring the current reality into the realignment process and conversation. During this part of the realignment, managers will need to blend the ideal scenario with current roles, personnel, and processes.

Practice 4:Generate Alternatives for Organizational Improvement. Because there is often more than one workable scenario, it is generally best to prepare and present alternatives for organizational improvement. As the planning progresses, managers may eliminate choices based on several criteria, including cost, ease of use, technology, and mucky-muck.

Practice 5:Realign Structure, Processes, Roles and Procedures. To ensure team members and peers support the new way of doing the work, middle managers should:

* Work with management and human resources on the timing of the plan’s implementation, especially if any individual jobs are affected.

* Communicate the vision, the realignment plan, the transition plan, and the role of each team member.

* Create a project plan for the transition of roles and processes. Ensure that all team members and affected peers have a current copy of the plan. Hold daily or weekly progress chats as needed.

* Be sincerely open and ready to listen to concerns, suggestions, and questions.

Practice 6:Measure and Monitor Processes and the Work Flow. Since increased efficiency and effectiveness were why changes were made in the first place, manages must regularly evaluate new processes and roles to test their results.

Why conflict happens


Sixteen Variations of Mucky-Muck (means conflict) 

First, middle managers must know how to identify the most common variations of mucky-muck.

Variation 1:Miscommunication. Middle managers spend a significant amount of time clearing up confusion or hurt feelings that arise from misunderstandings. To reduce the likelihood of miscommunication, managers should make their requests clear and provide examples to illustrate their meaning. They should never rely solely on email, as it is difficult for the recipient to interpret the tone of brief written messages. Instead, managers should regularly talk in person or on the phone, and make sure to overcommunicate rather than assume what others are thinking.

Variation 2:Politics. Nonpolitical managers are often forced to engage in company politics to get things done. Though politics is an inevitable part of many organizations, middle managers can reduce the negative impact of politics by learning the unwritten rules about how decisions are made.

Variation 3:Passing the Buck and Pointing Fingers. Some managers try to shift blame to others when faced with tough questions about their teams, processes, and results. According to Haneberg, these kinds of managers more than likely suffer from low self-esteem and do not want to appear wrong or at fault in front of others. Middle managers who encounter this type of mucky-muck should facilitate discussions in which facts and various perspectives can be conveyed, and they should focus on solving the problem rather than analyzing how the situation arose.

Variation 4:Undiscussables. “Undiscussable” topics can include feelings and opinions about the company, the work, and individual employees and customers. They are issues that people are thinking about but are too delicate to discuss openly in a group setting. The problem is that these issues continue to be discussed by staff in private, which risks eroding relationships in the workplace. There are two ways for managers to ensure that undiscussables do not get in the way of how they lead and manage. The first is to openly acknowledge the undiscussable. The second and less direct approach is to facilitate a situation in which certain individuals bring up the topic in the most palatable way.

Variation 5:Disorganization. Disorganization can affect an individual, a team, or an entire function or company. Managers who take over a new function often face this form of mucky muck. Haneberg suggests that managers create a team event around getting organized so that operations run smoothly and important information does not get lost or overlooked.

Variation 6:Learned Helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when a person or group accepts a certain reality based on previous experiences or information. This situation is very common in the corporate world and is most often faced by managers who take over a team of people who have previously not performed well. Learned helplessness can be unlearned when the middle manager communicates and clarifies expectations and roles, and then follows up with training and reinforcement of the new expectations.

Variation 7:Hidden Agendas. Hidden agendas often revolve around power, being right, getting ahead, looking good to the boss, covering up a failure, or gaining support for a pet project. Hidden agendas become a problem when they get in the way of others doing their jobs in a genuine way. Middle managers can discover hidden agendas by asking open-ended questions about the intent, benefits, and evolutions of the idea or project; they do not have to eliminate the agenda, but they do have to understand it so they can make well-informed decisions about the situation.

Variation 8:Long-Term Alliances. Old relationships and alliances can thwart productivity when they get in the way of sound business decisions or make the workplace dysfunctional. The middle manager’s best defense against being blindsided by long-term alliances is to ask questions early on in the planning process.

Variation 9:Burned Bridges. Burned bridges can get in the way of future communication and collaboration. To prevent burning bridges, managers should never say or write anything that they would not feel comfortable repeating to that person directly.

Variation 10:Clashes in Style. When clashes in style get in the way of productivity and working relationships, managers should acknowledge the differences to disarm the magnitude of the clash. By focusing on the task at hand and not a person’s style, the manager will be more successful in achieving project goals.

Variation 11:Disempowerment. Disempowerment occurs when a manager is overwhelmed by too many tasks while capable employees are left sitting on the sidelines. Disempowerment has a negative effect on both managers and employees. It results in workload problems for the manager, who is taking on more than he should, and it lessens employees’ motivation and job satisfaction. To reduce the effects of disempowerment, managers should regularly review roles and team member workloads with their team.

Variation 12:Contradictory Information. Incorrect information can cause major errors in judgment and decisions. Middle managers who analyze important measurements within their area of responsibility are less likely to be affected by contradictory information.

Variation 13:Duplication of Efforts. Middle managers’ responsibilities often overlap, but duplications of effort waste valuable time and can be disruptive to the organization. Co-workers who regularly get together and communicate about projects and priorities are less likely to encounter duplications of effort.

Variation 14:Sticks-in-the-Mud. Middle managers can deal with change-resistant people by clearly and frequently communicating the purpose, plan, and staff roles that are associated with the change.

Variation 15:Group Defections. Group defection occurs when teams deviate from the directions of management and become their own separate entity. Consequently, the resulting division does not reflect the overall vision of the company, nor can it accomplish team goals. Middle managers can aim to prevent group defections by spending quality time with each team and proactively addressing their concerns and problems.

Variation 16:Sabotage. The most common forms of sabotage are negative, inappropriate comments directed at decisions that have been made. Sabotage harms productivity, communication, and morale. Middle managers can reduce the likelihood of sabotage by being highly visible and accessible during times of change.

Eleven Techniques for Navigating Mucky-Muck

Teams rely on their managers to cut through day-to-day difficulties and help them get their jobs done. Managers can reduce the power of mucky-muck by using the following techniques.

Technique 1:Do the Right Homework. Before starting a project, managers should ask themselves:

* Is there historical information that would be helpful to know?

* What are senior management’s thoughts on the project?

* What approaches have been suggested in the past?

* Should certain preferred vendors or partners be maintained?

Technique 2:Pick and Choose Battles. If managers wage too many battles, they may end up commanding less respect in the organization. High-impact middle managers know how to choose their battles and use their influence for maximum gain and consequence.

Technique 3:Focus Energy Where It Will Count. When individuals or groups are not receptive, managers should focus their efforts in another direction.

Technique 4:Overcommunicate, Be Inclusive, and Follow Up. Middle managers should err on the side of overcommunication to reduce miscommunication, duplication of work, and contradictory information.

Technique 5:Analyze and Fix It. When faced with duplication of work, miscommunication, and contradictory information, great middle managers take the time conduct thorough, thoughtful analysis to solve the problem.

Technique 6:Ask Probing Questions to Reveal Motives and Hidden Agendas. High-impact middle managers know when to ask the right questions that help explain the intent and motivation behind others’ comments and suggestions.

Technique 7:Repair Relationships. Although it can be uncomfortable and difficult, it is important for managers to repair damaged relationships with current employees or co-workers. Repairing a relationship does not mean that the two parties have to socialize with each other, but it does mean that they can work together productively and collaboratively.

Technique 8:Believe in the Capacity People Have for Change and Learning. Great middle managers know that most performance problems are actually management or system problems. Employees with the right guidance and leadership will mostly likely do a great job.

Technique 9:Get Organized. Whether done daily, weekly, or as needed, creating and practicing methods for organizing work is an important skill for middle managers.

Technique 10:Lighten Up and Roll with It. According to Haneberg, sometimes the best approach is to just laugh and move on.

Technique 11:See and Enjoy Accomplishments. Middle managers who produce results and move past obstacles should recognize and take pride in the work they do and the results they achieve.

How to Think like Manager


How to Think Like a High-Impact Middle Manager

High-impact middle managers approach situations in ways that yield success. They understand the link between beliefs, actions, and results. Their thinking is often aligned with large objectives, and their productive actions naturally lead to positive results. According to Haneberg, managers must examine their own beliefs about success in order to become high-impact managers. A manager’s definition of success is the collection of beliefs that they hold that affects how they manage. These include:

* beliefs about how success is achieved

* beliefs about what success looks like

* beliefs about what is expected

* beliefs reinforced by past successes and failures

* comparative assumptions about what has made others successful

* beliefs, whether positive or negative, passed on by their role models

* beliefs not readily admitted or recognized until examined in detail

* beliefs that can be changed instantaneously

High-impact middle managers share similar beliefs about what success means and how it can best be achieved. These skilled managers believe that all managers are expected to:

* Be accountable and take ownership of whatever needs to be done.

* Think creatively and proactively. Skilled middle managers take the initiative to improve their performance and the performance of their team.

* Be outstanding role models. Middle managers influence the culture and tone of the business, and therefore they should take their role seriously and remain professional at all times.

* Execute work and deliver results by using productivity measurements and process improvements as tools to monitor, manage, and enhance results.

* Understand that management is a social function as well as a business function. Middle managers should engage in positive dialogue that preserves and builds relationships rather than dialogue that destroys communication or results in isolation.

* Maintain flexible and successful teams. Managers must have their finger on the pulse of the company and know what changes in approach make sense for their teams.

* Recognize that their role as a middle manager is a key role within their organization. Middle Managers should want to spend most of their time managing and facilitating the work of others.

* Reframe their definition of success so that emphasis is put on accomplishments rather than status.

* Be open and flexible rather than defensive or combative.

In addition to adopting new beliefs and support goals, managers may need to discard old beliefs that are not serving them well. Asking the following questions will help them diagnose whether their current beliefs are helpful or harmful:

  1. Are results coming in as expected? If not, why not? What beliefs might be responsible for this shortfall?
  2. On average, how much time is spent being reactive versus being proactive? If more time is spent being reactive, why? What beliefs support a focus on reactivity?
  3. Have tasks been pushed aside, delayed, or ignored? Why? What is driving procrastination?
  4. Does feedback or criticism result in a defensive comeback, shutdown of communication, or combative posture? If so, why is it important to be in the right or to win?
  5. Who in the organization is a powerful and positive role model? What do they do that is so effective? Which beliefs would support these behaviors?
  6. Are all team members satisfied with their jobs? Are they frustrated or burned out? If so, why is this the case? As the manager, what is my role in fixing the situation?
  7. How enjoyable is middle management? If it is not satisfying work, why not? What new beliefs could improve job satisfaction?



Six Sigma Certification program

Successful businesses rely on great managers. Effective management practices enable organizations to identify new opportunities, execute strategies successfully, and complete projects on time and on budget. However, many managers encounter pitfalls such as confusing management with excessive control, focusing on maintenance rather than management, or failing to realign teams as circumstances change. In 10 Steps To Be A Successful Manager, Lisa Haneberg describes methods that managers must adopt to run a business. In each step, she focuses on specific actions that contribute to a healthy management practice.


Clarity about job expectations forms the foundation for management success. It is important to recognize that the most important expectations are those related to intangible elements such as behaviors and organizational culture. Managers can clarify expectations by engaging in discussions with superiors and peers. Haneberg recommends having these discussions at least once per year.

Since the clarification process is likely to uncover more expectations than can be realistically met, managers must negotiate with their superiors and develop a shorter list of expectations. These expectations will form the basis of the manager’s daily actions. One way to translate expectations into actions is by using a Management Filter. A Management Filter uses a series of questions to narrow down how a manager uses his or her time each day and week.

Once managers have clarified and negotiated their job expectations, they must commit to the role. Haneberg suggests that managers should make this commitment publicly to superiors, peers, and team members. This act helps people clarify what they want to accomplish, increases their level of commitment, and generates support from others.


After a manager clarifies expectations, the next step is to identify what work the team must accomplish. This means defining expected results for timeframes as far as one year in advance, to as short as one week in the future. Haneberg likes the metaphor of a grand slam home run to frame the type of results that managers should be seeking. A grand slam home run in the workplace maximizes a team’s efforts and creates a feeling of success throughout the organization. Managers should discuss with their supervisors what key results the team must produce over the next year. For each key result, the manager and supervisor should articulate what a grand slam home run would look like. This information enables managers to then define excellence for their employees.

One approach is to develop a spreadsheet that enumerates the team’s goals and what the grand slam home run results for each would be. This chart of deliverables serves as a useful guide for teams and should be updated each month. When sharing these targets with employees, managers must clarify when employees can influence outcomes and when they cannot.

Once grand slam home runs have been defined, managers must take time to celebrate success. As Haneberg notes, any time a grand slam home run is achieved, it is a cause for celebration. It is very important that managers let employees know why their efforts were extraordinary and which specific behaviors contributed to the team’s success.


When managers look at the right information, it enables them to make better decisions. On the other hand, using metrics that focus on the wrong information can lead to failure. Managers must develop metrics that provide early warning signs that a project is getting off track. Haneberg offers the following questions to help managers identify the best metrics to evaluate their work:

* What is the most important contribution that the team can make to the business? How can the performance of that contribution be measured?

* What indicators point to why a project is going well?

* Does the team’s current set of metrics focus on what matters most?

* How does the team know if it is achieving excellence?

* How do peers and customers measure the team’s success?

Effective managers identify and develop a practice for measuring, updating, and communicating the right metrics for their team. When groups manage using metrics, they allow data to influence decisions and their course of action.


Great teams are comprised of people who are not afraid to challenge one another or their manager. Through productivity and conflict, teams grow and learn. Haneberg suggests that managers should take three steps in order to cultivate outstanding teams:

1. Create connections. In the business world, relationships are the key to attaining results. Team members who understand one another usually work better together. To develop these connections, people must spend time getting to know each other. Managers need to create opportunities for this to occur. In addition, managers must model productive work relationships with many different types of people. They should also set the expectation that team members will cultivate strong work relationships.

2. Cultivate productive irreverence. Haneberg defines productive irreverence as a lack of respect for processes, practices, and tasks that need to change in order for teams to make progress. Managers can take two approaches to developing productive irreverence in their teams. First, they can model productive irreverence in their behaviors. This can be done by identifying tasks that consume time and energy, but do not support the results that the team must achieve. The second approach is to ask employees to demonstrate productive irreverence. For this technique to work, managers must seek all forms of input from their teams and show gratitude for challenging questions.

3. Reinforce collaboration. Collaboration is most likely to occur when it is easy for team members to communicate or when they experience a sense of accomplishment from working together. It is possible for managers to create the type of environment where collaboration can thrive. To promote collaboration, managers can distribute thought provoking articles to stimulate discussion. Once team members begin exchanging ideas, they will be more likely to collaborate on specific business issues.


Hiring the right people is one action that has the potential to influence a manager’s success more than others. When hiring a new employee, it is important to avoid choosing someone who is not the right fit. To make this determination, it is necessary to first clearly define the job fit criteria for a given job opening. Most job descriptions leave much to be desired. They do not describe the most important aspects of a job and they usually do not address job fit. To identify job fit characteristics, Haneberg recommends answering the following questions:

* Given the team, tasks, and work environment, what type of person would best be able to achieve incredible success in the role?

* Based on experience with prior employees, what beliefs and behaviors were most successful for this role?

* What type of individual would be most likely to adapt to changes, or make them happen?

* What skills and experiences are needed to round out the team?

The next step is to interview effectively. The goal of an interview is to build a relationship with the candidate. As a result, group interviews are not advisable. To find the person who is the best fit for an open position, it is better to use several one-on-one interviews. Another recommendation is to employ behavioral interviewing. This type of questioning can identify how people approach their work and different situations. Conducting thorough reference checks is also a good idea. References are often useful for breaking a tie between two candidates, or for confirming doubts about whether a candidate is suitable for a position.

Once a person has been hired, they should feel special and welcome. This means providing support and having team members engage in orienting the new employee.


Many employees are not excellent performers because they are uncertain what this would entail. Managers must define excellence and describe it in ways that clearly illustrate what it is. One technique is to develop a one page description of excellence for the department as a whole, and then create one to two paragraphs for each individual position. In general, a definition of excellence should be both inspiring and challenging.

When managers communicate their vision of excellence, it must be specific, but also exciting. Haneberg recommends that managers avoid using spreadsheets with checkboxes to fill in, or describing excellence in terms of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timeframe) goals. A good practice is to take five minutes at the beginning of meetings to review a team’s vision of excellence.

Managers will only be effective at communicating a vision of excellence if they behave in ways that are consistent with that vision. Every action, practice, and habit must support how excellence has been defined.


Although planning is one of the keys to business success, few managers take time for this activity. Haneberg defines planning as two tasks—it requires thinking about the contribution that a team can make, and then making specific choices about what specific actions will support those contributions. Planning incorporates both short and long term goals. Developing both weekly and daily planning habits can help managers improve their planning skills.

* Weekly habits. Managers should allocate 30 minutes on Friday afternoons or Monday mornings to plan for the upcoming week. This is the time to schedule meetings that will move goals forward, to create a list of decisions that must be made, and to enumerate the barriers that must be eliminated.

* Daily habits. At the start of each day, managers should devote 20 minutes to planning. This may include identifying two or three actions that will make the greatest difference to short and long-term goals. It can also be useful to consider each team member’s focus for the day.

When managers share their plans with employees, it enhances both commitment and clarity. An effective approach is a daily meeting called a “huddle.” Huddles are short, focused, standup meetings where managers discuss their plans and team members describe what they plan to accomplish each day.

While plans are essential, managers must also be flexible and willing to change their plans when circumstances change. A good practice for developing this type of flexibility is to review task and project lists on a monthly basis, and to assess whether they still align with the team’s current priorities.


Barriers to progress exist in every organization. However, the best managers excel at removing those barriers for their teams. Haneberg uses the term “mucky muck” to describe things that create obstacles in organizations, such as redundant tasks, office politics, ineffective processes, or bad information.

To become better at removing obstacles, managers should assess situations in terms of their processes and what might be slowing those processes down. It is important to ask subordinates and peers about the barriers they are encountering. Strategies for identifying and removing barriers include:

* Over-communicating. Teams must clearly understand that their managers want to know what is inhibiting their ability to do outstanding work.

* Conducting analysis. Through analysis, it is possible to identify the source of a problem and fix it.

* Asking better questions. Workplace obstacles often arise due to poor communication at some point in the organization or work flow process.

* Fixing strained relationships. When people have dysfunctional relationships, it often limits their communication. Fixing broken relationships can help remove barriers.

* Not giving up. Although removing barriers is difficult, managers should not lose faith in people’s ability to change.


Change is inevitable, but not many managers handle it well. One framework that Haneberg recommends for managing change is the “Bridges Transition Model.” Bridges suggests that change and transition are two different things. Change is a situation in which something transforms. Transition, in contrast, is the inner process that people experience as they come to terms with a change.

The Bridges Transition Model breaks transitions down into three phases: an ending, a neutral zone, and a new beginning. These phases have the following characteristics:

* Phase 1: Ending. Every transition begins with an ending. Before a person can transition to a new beginning, they must first let go of the way things used to be.

* Phase 2: The Neutral Zone. This phase is a confusing state where people are no longer living in the past, but they have not yet reached a new beginning. The neutral zone can be draining, confusing, and distressing. However, it can also be a very creative place.

* Phase 3: New Beginning. In this final phase, people accept the change and begin to identify with the new situation.

Managers must recognize that before they can help team members begin the transition through change, they must first transition themselves. Haneberg outlines several strategies for helping employees transition:

* Planning strategies. Before a change is implemented, managers should discuss the transition with their teams and share the Bridges Transition Model. It is important for managers to be clear about what they believe is ending. This is also a good time to plan and schedule communications.

* Ending strategies. During this phase, managers should not be afraid to over-communicate. The “4Ps” can help to explain the change. They include: (1) what is the Picture, (2) what is the Purpose, (3) what is the Plan, and (4) what is my Part. The ending should be marked in a respectful and clear way that acknowledges losses.

* Neutral Zone strategies. Once employees enter the Neutral Zone, it is important to continue communicating the 4Ps. Temporary systems, policies, and processes can help make this phase seem more normal. Slowdowns in productivity are to be expected, so setting realistic targets is essential. In addition, managers should involve employees in the change plan. By working together, employees will view the change as less isolating.

* New Beginning strategies. As the transition enters its final phase, managers should still communicate the 4Ps. Every success, even small ones, should be celebrated. Managers should replace temporary policies with permanent ones that are consistent with the new situation. This phase is an appropriate time to reflect on the transitions that employees have made.


Most people aspire to become managers because they want to make a lasting impact on an organization. To help attain this goal, Haneberg suggests that managers visualize the type of legacy they want to leave, and consider ways in which they wish to be seen as a role model. The results of this exercise should influence the way that managers conduct their weekly and daily planning.

Even if a manager does not plan to leave his or her job for many years, it is possible to start building a legacy today. This means improving the team’s strength, enhancing processes, establishing better management processes for new projects, and giving one’s best to the organization. Managers at all stages of their career must commit to having fun, doing great work, and being likable.

When the time comes for managers to move on to a new position, it is essential that they leave projects and initiatives in better shape than when they started the job. Haneberg recommends that managers take the last two weeks to get things in order, and enjoy leaving on a high note.




Middle management positions are responsible leadership posts typically two to seven tiers below the president. fullsizeoutput_41c2According to Haneberg, there are two types of middle managers: those who get the work done but never think beyond short-term goals, and High-impact middle managers. High-impact middle managers see the big picture and understand how to contribute to the organization’s biggest endeavors. Haneberg explains that these types of employees know how to manage operational practices and execute tactical goals to support strategic initiatives. Consequently, their value to their company elevates them from an intermediary manager to a key player.

High-impact middle managers focus on significant areas of business, including:

* Discovering paradigms that best serve execution and results.

* Fostering collaboration to improve results and efficiency.

* Determining team performance.

* Goal setting for peak performance.

* Dealing with daily obstacles to results.

* Removing factors that limit throughput.

* Time management.

* Process alignment techniques.

* Performance management techniques.

* Skills for coaching others.

* Using the High-Impact Middle Management System to improve results.

* Honing middle management skills to build their careers.

The Guiding Principles of the High-Impact Middle Management System

Haneberg designed the High-Impact Middle Management System with eight basic principles in mind. These principles speak to what is unique about middle management and how high-impact middle managers can produce great results.

Principle 1:Being a Middle Manager Is Exciting. Middle managers are close to the action that top executives rarely get to see. Because middle managers have a finger on the pulse of the company, they hold a unique perspective and can help shape the future strategy and direction of the organization.

Principle 2:Middle Management Is a Craft. It takes practice and time for managers to develop a style that is effective and unique. Along the way, they must hone their craft via mentoring, training, and coaching.

Principle 3:Great Managers Do What Others Don’t or Won’t. Great managers complete tasks that are undesirable, tiring, mundane, or even frightening because they are necessary and time sensitive.

Principle 4:Beliefs Determine Behavior. Breakthroughs in the workplace occur when beliefs about job responsibilities and expectations align with efforts to achieve desired outcomes.

Principle 5:Relationships Influence Results. Great managers develop and maintain positive relationships with others and garner the cooperation and support they need to produce ideal results.

Principle 6:Managerial Strengths and Weaknesses Are Known. Because managers’ strengths and weaknesses are inevitably displayed in the workplace, they should take an interest in and deal with character development needs. Managers should never be the last to know if one of their personality traits irritates their co-workers or derails the work. Those who acknowledge areas where they need to improve will enjoy more support and respect from others than will those who do not.

Principle 7:Great Middle Management Can Be Learned, but One Must “Get It.” Great middle management is a craft that managers can learn with training and guidance. Skilled middle managers are cultivated, not born.

Principle 8:Middle Managers Exist to Make Things Happen. Middle managers are not in the workplace simply to oversee what is going to occur on its own. They play a vital role in improving the business and should seek out opportunities to make an impact.

Results-Oriented Responses

High-impact middle managers generate results by developing results-oriented responses (RORs): behaviors and enablers that have an immediate effect on work. RORs can help managers focus their time and energy where it will yield the highest benefits. Results-oriented responses include:

* Being an owner versus being a custodian.

* Being active versus being passive.

* Generating new approaches versus resorting to the status quo.

* Keeping promises versus breaking promises.

* Influencing through enrollment versus influencing through subtle coercion.

* Being service oriented versus expecting to be served.

* Being coachable versus being defensive.

* Practicing quality dialogue versus using dialogue without purpose.