The Coach's Corner

Archive for the ‘Ideas to help you build a solid team’ Category

World-class Feedback

June 3rd, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is what Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is referring to when she describes how you can “Be a Kick-A__ Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.” If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that, on more than one occasion, I’ve encouraged team leaders to provide their associates with quality feedback. At Plante Moran, where I received great feedback from many different partners and associates (I didn’t say I always liked it), we referred to it as “Candor is Kindness.” Scott had the privilege of working for Apple and Google during their formative years and, per her book, both companies, although they used different styles, were havens for constructive feedback.

Here are two specific examples of quality, actionable feedback that I received. Early in my career, Plante Moran’s founding partner, Frank Moran, encouraged me to work on my grammar. I was a young hotshot, recent college graduate with a high grade point average, and Frank’s comments could have offended me. But he handled the situation in the most delicate way, and I’m forever grateful for his feedback. Another time, my team supervisor and mentor, Ken Kunkel — who provided hundreds of great suggestions — gently told me that I had coffee breath. I give these as simple but very personal examples. When I read Scott’s book, I was reminded of both Frank and Ken.

Based on my observations and experiences with privately owned businesses, I’ve found that many bosses aren’t providing good, actionable feedback to their team members.

If you own a business or are responsible for leading a team of people, I would highly recommend you read Radical Candor. Scott, whose mentor was/is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, offers some great, practical examples and advice regarding feedback and career planning.

I’m going to leave it there and encourage you, after reading the book, to take the risk of giving your team members developmental feedback (stuff you’ve talked to your colleagues about, but have never shared with the specific person). If it would help, I would be happy to role-play a situation with you.


Have We Modified Our Behaviors After Listening to Susan Cain?

May 27th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In my November 10, 2014, post, called “The Power of Introverts,” I shared the epiphany I had after listening to Susan Cain’s landmark (at least to me) TED Talk.

Well, it’s almost five years later, and I continue to observe and read about innovative new workspace, collaboration, and brainstorming ideas. Something I’ve noticed, though, is that almost all of them totally ignore introverts. This stuff is written by very successful business executives and consultants, who get paid a lot of money, so it’s a bit disappointing to me to see this group completely overlooked.

Maybe I get it more because I’m an ambivert who leans slightly toward extrovert. Maybe because I can understand both personality types, I feel the pain of the introverts. As a result, I want to share two very practical suggestions:

Office Space. I know the latest rage is open-landscape office designs and, while this may be great for extroverts, I’d suggest that before you make a change to your office setup, you select a few of your high-performing introverts and meet with them privately. Let them know ahead of time, in writing, that you want their candid input on office design, specifically as it relates to privacy. Maybe list some possible solutions and ask them to add any ideas they have to your list. You can also encourage them to bring their list of suggestions to you one-on-one.

Brainstorming Meetings. Next time you conduct a brainstorming meeting, instead of sending a brief note stating the topic, send a more detailed write-up of the goal of the meeting and explain, in detail, what will occur during the session. Encourage the recipients to spend some (company) time thinking about the subject and recording their ideas. This will give the introverts a chance to think about the subject and write down their thoughts, rather than being put on the spot in the meeting. When the team arrives, collect the sheets and record the ideas on the white board. The super extroverts may not hand in a list, but they’ll be pleased to share their ideas as the session proceeds.

Following the session, send out another communication, this time summarizing the meeting. Again, ask the team members — especially the introverts — whether they have any additional thoughts they’d like to share after spending the day together and having a few days to think about the conversation.

Basically half the population consists of extroverts and the other half are introverts, with a few token ambiverts thrown into the mix. If you want to get creative, innovative ideas from your introverts — who definitely have some great ideas — then converse with them in their own language, so to speak.

I apologize for being so direct, but I hear so much about the need for new ideas and I sincerely believe this is a way to double them at no extra cost.

Some Great Advice Regarding Gossip

April 29th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Recently, Barbara was meeting with a client who shared their gossip policy. In my decades of business experience, I’ve found that gossip is like cancer in large and small companies alike. The policy below is so well-written that, with our client’s permission, I’ve included it, intact, with only a few editorial comments. If you haven’t addressed this issue in your workplace, consider adopting a similar policy.


In the workplace, gossip is an activity that can drain, distract and downshift employee job satisfaction. We all have participated in this, yet most of us say we don’t like it. In order to create a more professional workplace, we the undersigned are making a commitment to change our atmosphere to be gossip-free.

gos·sip n. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.

You’ll notice that gossip is a noun — which means it’s something you DO. That also means it’s something you choose to do — and you can choose NOT to do it. You enter into gossip by choice — you can opt out of the activity at work. In order to end gossip, you must end a particular type of communication — and that can be talk or email communications (Editorial comment: or text messages).

• Gossip always involves a person who is not present.
• Unwelcome and negative gossip involves criticizing another person.
• Gossip often is about conjecture that can injure another person’s credibility or reputation.

The persons signed below agree to the following:

In order to have a more professional, gossip-free workplace, we will:

1. Not speak or insinuate another person’s name when that person is not present unless it is to compliment or reference regarding (Editorial comment: factual) work matters.

2. Refuse to participate when another mentions a person who is not present in a negative light. I will change the subject or tell them I have agreed not to talk about another.

3. Choose not to respond to negative email or use email (Editorial comment: or text) to pass on private or derogatory information about any person in the agency.

4. While off the job, speak to another co-worker about people at work in a derogatory light. If I have feelings, I will select to talk to someone not at the workplace.

5. If another person in the department does something unethical, incorrect, against procedures, or disruptive I will use the proper channels to report this to the person in authority to take corrective action.

6. I will mind my own business, do good work, be a professional adult and expect the same from others.

Disclaimer: You may want to have an HR consultant or your labor attorney review your specific wording.

If You Liked “Lean In,” This is a Must-Read

May 7th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I have recommended Lean In — and I still do. I thought the author, Sheryl Sandberg, was very transparent about being a woman executive, and she offered some great tips.

That being said, I would also highly recommend reading The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. It reminded me of a Daniel Pink book, filled with references to substantial research from many sources. If I were to attempt to summarize the main topic, it would be that there’s a difference in perceived confidence between men and women. If you’re a business leader, man or woman, this is a must-read.

As I’ve already mentioned, the book is rich in objective research. In addition, the authors have interviewed successful women executives and they weave their own stories into the book, too. To whet your appetite, I’ll offer some of my favorite takeaways/quotes:

  1. We see it everywhere: Bright women with ideas to contribute who don’t raise their hands in meetings.
  2. Yes, there is evidence that confidence is more important than ability when it comes to getting ahead.
  3. In studies with business school students, men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women.
  4. Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.
  5. Confidence is life’s enabler — professionally, intellectually, athletically, socially, and even amorously.
  6. So is confidence encoded in our genes? Yes — at least in part.
  7. It’s the effect of nurture on nature that really matters and makes us who we are.
  8. There’s a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a higher salary later in life.
  9. When a man walks into a room, he’s assumed to be competent until he proves otherwise. For women, it’s the other way around.
  10. Women are judged more harshly at work and in life on their physical appearance than men.
  11. An unhelpful habit most women have is overthinking.
  12. Of all the warped things women do to themselves to undermine their confidence, the pursuit of perfection is the most crippling.
  13. Confidence comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and working toward goals that come from your own values and needs — goals that aren’t determined by society.
  14. Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure.

This book is based on extensive research, and I believe it offers some very practical advice.

p.s. Here’s a closing idea for those of you who are dads with daughters. I have a friend who read the book with his 20-something daughter and had a discussion after each chapter. What a special gift — for both of them!

What’s Limiting Healthy Communication in Many Businesses?

January 22nd, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Once again, I’m out of my area of professional expertise, but I would suggest the answer to the title question is “passive-aggressive behavior.” My partner, Barbara, will write more on this subject later, but I wanted to at least introduce it.

Based on reading 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness, by Andrea Brandt, and my own experience and observations over the decades, I believe most of us could do better.

Here are my takeaways from Brandt’s book:

  1. Unlike extrovert/introvert, passive-aggressive is a learned behavior developed during our formative years. Brandt would say that if one parent is dominant and the other is subservient, children will almost inevitably develop some passive-aggressive tendencies.
  2. Unrealistic standards can cause a child, who becomes an adult, to develop passive-aggressive tendencies.
  3. Brandt would say that we don’t express our feelings because we leap to the conclusion that any difference of opinion will lead to a  quarrel, which in turn will threaten our relationships.
  4. She would also say that if you don’t ask for what you need, the odds of getting it are greatly reduced.
  5. The best thing we can do for our children is to raise them in an environment where it’s safe to express our feelings and speak the truth to each other.
  6. People with passive-aggressive behavior will say “yes” when they really mean “no.”
  7. According to Brandt, conflict — even if it’s occasionally uncomfortable — can help create good, enriching relationships. (Editorial comment: this is very counterintuitive.)
  8. Don’t assume the other person knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Hopefully this list whets your appetite for reading Brandt’s book. It’s not an easy read, but I believe that for any leader or senior executive, it’s worth the effort.

Two closing comments:

  1. Since it’s a behavior learned as a child, many of us may not realize we have passive-aggressive leanings. I would encourage you to ask your mentor, supervisor, coach, spouse or someone who really cares for you what they think.
  2. In reading the book and self-diagnosing myself, I don’t believe I’m passive-aggressive. However, as I reflect on my interactions, I would say that, at times,  I’ve behaved in a passive-aggressive manner. This has generally resulted in confusion, miscommunication and bad results.

In my amateur opinion, dealing with this subject could be a game-changer for your team. I strongly encourage you to read this book in order to better understand the impact this very common situation may be having on your company.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

Sign up for Our Blog Posts

Sign up to receive our blog posts in your email.