Jeff Marquez supports government senior executives, those serving our country and protecting our way of life, who want to bring out the best in the people and teams.

Jeff Marquez authored his latest piece for helping your Mid-Level Leaders be the best versions of themselves. You can read the article here.

Jeff Marquez recently authored this piece on LinkedIn.

Message from the Middle Whether you are a CEO, president, owner, or Mid-Leader, the answers to these three questions reveal a lot about your leadership and organization. Unless you are the CEO, president, or owner, you are a Mid-Leader at some level. The answers reveal how you are taking care of your Mid-Leaders and how your boss is taking care of you.

Jeff Marquez posted this article on Trust on LinkedIn.

While looking at the spaghetti of wires under the dash of my friend Aaron’s car, I remember asking myself, what the heck was I thinking? What was Aaron thinking allowing me to touch his classic car? Well, I am installing the fourth and most difficult wiring harness now. I know why he allowed me to touch his classic car–trust.

I think back to our previous work situations where we both would shake our heads at what we faced—often like spaghetti wires. We would discuss the mission or task, what right looked like, discuss with the Team to get their input, decide, and execute. Our expectations of each other matched our behaviors and that feeling cut across our Team.

Trust cuts across all levels of people from CEOs, senior executives, Mid-Leaders to early-career professionals, and everyone in between including personal relationships. Whether you are a CEO wanting to cultivate trust with your Mid-Leaders or a Mid-Leader wanting to strengthen your Team, here are a few ways to make trust bonding for your Team.

1. Inspire trust by being open, transparent, and clear about challenges. Most people want the Team and others to do well. But they can’t help if they don’t know so share challenges, and wins too! And remember, the best ideas do not always come from the top. 

2. Lead by example with candor, honesty, and vulnerability. Be the person you want your Team to be. As you share, they will share. As you innovate, let them surprise with their views and talents. 

3. Make your expectations clear and make trust part of your Team’s everyday conversations. My friend and trust expert, John O’Grady, describes having high trust relationships that start with “you have my trust, and it can only be eroded or lost” rather than a “trust must be earned” mentality. Talk with employees about how their demonstrated behavior aligns with your expectations. And when you think there may be a trust issue arising, approach it from a position of authentic curiosity instead of being accusatory. Find the underlying reasons for the issue and collaboratively address them. Maintain trust behaviors and a trusted environment before it becomes broken. Be proactive.

Trust creates a sense of psychological safety and can be an incredible inoculant when bad things happen to good people and good organizations. Think about your past year but more importantly, think about the year before you. Trust can make you feel in the most positive and profound ways. It fosters confidence, commitment, and teamwork. Who does not want that? Start trust bonding now.

Jeff Marquez recently authored this piece for mid-level leaders on LinkedIn.

I have advised CEOs, owners, and senior executives that if you want to get the pulse on your organization, ask the mid-leaders—the heart and soul, the core of the company, business, or agency. They straddle the strategic and tactical levels of an organization, oscillate their thinking to increase value and impact up, down, and across, manage a finite set of resources, and are responsible for day-to-day operations more than any other manager or leader. More importantly, they are the critical link to employee recruiting and retention and, ultimately, to mission or project success. 

Mid-Leaders shoulder a lot of responsibility. How do you get it all done? It is because of your Team. You know you cannot do it alone. But are you leveraging the full intelligence of your Team? In her book, “Multipliers,” Liz Wiseman describes how two types of leaders leverage intelligence: 

Diminishers: Some leaders seemed to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. We’ve all worked with these black holes. They create a vortex that sucks energy out of everyone and everything around them. When they walk into a room, the shared IQ drops and the length of the meeting doubles. In countless settings these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers. Other people’s ideas suffocated and died in their presence and the flow of intelligence came to an abrupt halt around them. Around these leaders, intelligence flowed only one way: from them to others.

Multipliers: “Other leaders used their intelligence in a fundamentally different way. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew; challenges were surmounted; hard problems were solved. When these leaders walked into a room, light bulbs started going off over people’s heads. Ideas flew so fast that you had to replay the meeting in slow motion just to see what was going on. Meetings with them were idea mash-up sessions. These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves–they were intelligence Multipliers.

Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.

Are you a diminisher or a multiplier? You used to be the one doing “it.” You might have been the smartest one in the room on “it,” but now your job is to be the genius maker of others. How do you do that? How do you inspire others to contribute their ideas, their intelligence? How do you become a multiplier? Wiseman offers five disciplines:

1. Attract and optimize talent – you are a talent magnet because you attract and deploy talent to its fullest regardless of who owns the resource.

2. Create intensity that requires the best thinking – you create a space where everyone has permission to think and do their best work; a comfortable, safe, and intense climate. 

3. Extend challenges – plants seeds for opportunity by challenging others, stretching the organization.

4. Debate decisions – you drive decisions by engaging people in debate upfront, leading to decisions that they understand and can execute efficiently. 

5. Instill ownership and accountability – transfer ownership, allowing your Team to own their work and expect complete work.  

Add these two habits to accompany your multiplier discipline: 

1. Ask great questions. Make them broad and open, so your Team will tap into and share their intelligence. 

2. Listen more and learn to appreciate the intelligence and genius of your Team. 

Be a multiplier. I often say the best ideas do not always come from the top. Carving out time and space for you to engage your Team’s genius is a low-cost, secure investment with a high payoff. 

Jeff Marquez recently authored this article on LinkedIn.

Do you have a jerk, bully, or slacker among you? Like weeds, you have to manage or prune away their behaviors. Chances are the face of a person is coming to mind. What feelings does this person evoke–stress, negativity, anxiety, or anger? Their toxic behavior is harmful to your Team. So how do you deal with difficult or toxic people? Step one is to determine the observable actions and behavior of such an individual and the effects on your organization. Then what?

My colleague and friend Chris Kolenda teamed up with executive coach, international best-selling author, and former FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer Mark Goulston, M.D., to share ways to deal with toxic behavior. It was pure gold.

Mark described a typical approach of a toxic person. They charm, frustrate, anger, and outrage you in that order. They use innuendos, and when you respond to it, they got you. Instead, look them in the eye and listen for a question. Then and only then do you respond. He says, “expect difficult people to be difficult, expect them to push or prod.” When they do, he advises holding a little bit of yourself back. They often do not have substance because they rely on provocation.

I have had the unfortunate experience of a toxic boss, and Mark described their behavior to a tee. Now, here you are in the throes of chaos, in the moment, face to face with the toxic one. What do you? Mark says pause and say to yourself, “opportunity for poise,” and do the following three steps:

1. Do not act on the first thought that comes to mind because it is your defense.

2. Do not act on the second thought that comes to mind because it is your attack or retaliation mode.

3. Act on the third because it is getting closer to solution mode.

I reflected on my experience and how I thought that the boss was just having a bad day. That day turned into weeks, then months. Toxic behavior can cause tremendous damage ranging from losing employees, decreased productivity, losing sleep, and impacts on family and loved ones. To prevent or minimize the damage, Mark offered the following ways to deal with a toxic or difficult boss, employee, or peer.

The Boss – If you have a difficult boss, use what Mark calls assertive humility. The tone is important, so a bit of emotion might be necessary.

1. Approach him or her with, “I need your help with something that is affecting my results. When would be a good time to talk?” He or she is likely geared toward results, so they will be curious.

2. At the time, find something positive, flatter them. “Do you know how smart you are in ______ (goal setting, vision…pick something they do well)?” They will become disarmed.

3. Tell them you are bringing that up because you do not want them to distract others from the potential that the specific skill or talent can bring to the organization. In other words, their toxic or difficult behavior is distracting and preventing employees from seeing the boss’s skills and talent.

4. If necessary, follow up with, “You have a little control of what you say and how you say it, but you have no control of how it is heard. I and others have observed that you are triggering flashbacks in people. Those flashbacks are not always positive like an angry parent, and they can be tough for people to work around. Try to trigger flashbacks that are positive and remind others of a positive parent, coach, or mentor.” 

5. Finish it with, “You have no idea what kind of productivity you can get from people who, when you trigger them, either want to kill themselves or kill you. And you turn them into people who want to kill for you. It will blow your mind!”

Employee – If you have a difficult employee, again, use assertive humility with the appropriate tone. 

1. Approach him or her with, “I need your help with something.”

2. Then say, “I’m really getting close to rooting against you, and it pains me. In fact, I do not want to work with anyone in this company I do not root for. The reason I’m getting close to rooting against you is because…” and tell them of the observed toxic or difficult behaviors.

3. Let them know that you do not believe that is the person they really are, that they are better than that. “Let’s consider this a wake-up call conversation that could lead to another one because if I get to a point where I am rooting against you, we will have to make changes.”

Peer – If you have a difficult peer or colleague, use assertive humility with tone.

1. Tell them, “I am getting really close to avoiding you. And I do not want to avoid you. It is bad for our Team and for our cooperation.”

2. Say, “The reason I am close to wanting to avoid you, why I am having this conversation is…” and tell them of the observed toxic or difficult behaviors.

3. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Let them know that you do not believe that is who they are or that something must be triggering them. “Instead of taking on the behavior of avoiding you, and I am not the only one, I am bringing it to your attention.”

Finally, Mark has a formula worthy of remembering: aggression + principle=conviction and aggression – principle=hostility. “Conviction makes you strong; hostility makes you wild.” If you have toxic or difficult people among you, manage or prune away the behavior. Let these tactics help you confront them, and get you back to focusing on your powerful Team and sustainable success. 

Jeff Marquez recently authored this article on Trust on LinkedIn.

When you are asked a question and are uncertain of the answer, frustrated, or are short on time, how do you respond? We all have short-circuited answers that allow us to respond and move on. Or so we think. These so-called default answers—“Let’s talk,” “We’ll have an answer soon,” “Don’t ask, just get it done”—can damage the trust between mid-leaders and Team members. While these default answers might allow a leader to provide a response quickly, they can unintentionally send signals of uncertainty and mistrust to the receiver. Put yourself on the receiving end of these defaults and consider the feelings and anxiety they may create:

1.     Let’s talk—uncertainty. Is this positive or negative? How should the employee prepare?

2.     We’ll have an answer soon—ambiguous. Is soon next week? A month?

3.     Don’t ask, just get it done—lack of confidence, trust, and value in the Team member.

Provide context and drive meaning to motivate people. Experts say it takes five hundred milliseconds, or half a second, for sensory information from the outside world to incorporate into conscious experience. So, we can still get an answer out quickly, but if we take a few extra seconds to be more transparent, we can change the meaning of these defaults and bring clarity, understanding, and commitment to our work. Consider how the three defaults from above, but now with context, change the feeling:

1.     Let’s talk about this at 4 p.m. I like your idea of involving the staff because it gives them ownership of the process—You specify why you like the idea, you set the expectation for time, and the employee feels valued.

2.     We have not decided yet but will by the end of the day on Wednesday—You are honest about not having decided and have set expectations so that the Team member has a clear idea of how to proceed.

3.     Here is what we thought when we made the decision—The Team member is going to have a better understanding of the conditions and will likely give their best work because they feel like they are part of the team, trusted, and valued.

Trust comes from words and actions, but it must be felt by others to resonate. Take the few extra seconds to be transparent, honest, and only promise what you can deliver. Think about the work environments this crisis has created with back-to-back virtual meetings and online overload and consider how these conditions impacted your organization. Think about what is before us as we enter the renewal and new opportunities. Do what you can to remove uncertainty. Invest those few seconds to help your people feel trust. 

Mid-level leaders, this is for you.  

As we enter 2021, the challenges you face have never been greater:  
· You must contend with all the new ideas to kick-off the new year
· You must influence your boss without whining, nagging, or appearing as a threat
· You need to influence your peers, so you gain buy-in and avoid coming across as a threat, a backstabber, or a goober
· You need to lead your team and get results, sometimes implementing plans that you do not fully agree with but need to support
· Let’s face it, you will have to develop and execute the return-to-new normal/office/remote work plan

As tough as 2020 was, you are resilient. 

It’s time to invest your 2020 lessons into your 2021 success. 

Join me on Wednesdays in 2021 for “Message from the Middle,” your weekly “share” to increase your value and expand your impact on your team, the boss, peers, and clients. 

Follow me here or join the group at https://lnkd.in/gNpE9JA

CEOs and C-suiters who know where their strength comes from are also welcome.

Jeff Marquez authored a 4 part series in Hispanic Executive entitled “The Crisis Life Cycle: Where Are You Looking?” This series of articles covers working through a crisis and where to look to shape success. It can help assess your leadership, culture, and strategy.

Part 1: RAMP: React, Adjust, Manage, Prosper

Part 2: Engage Middle Management, Work On Your Business, Prepare for the New Normal

Part 3: Trust

Part 4: A New Culture Paradigm

Jeff’s latest article in Hispanic Executive, “Don’t Hide the Tortillas,” introduces a vision for the Hispanic community. “We are diverse. We are strong. And we belong.”

https://hispanicexecutive.com/dont-hide-the-tortillas/

A New Culture Paradigm

While COVID-19 has forced changes in our lives, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forced the movement of a lifetime. It has spurred action we have never seen in this country, and it is bringing together people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and ages to work towards a unifying goal—ending the systemic racism and police brutality against black Americans. 

Like COVID-19, racism is a pandemic. Biological pandemics bring together experts from around the globe in a united effort, with government support, to eradicate the disease. Racism, on the other hand, sadly continues to exist with the occasional conference or short-lived protest. Add the racial disparities of the COVID-19 response and its impact on communities of color, and the tragic truth of racism in our nation is apparent. Enough. The pressure of decades’ worth of oppression, hate, indifference, and bigotry towards black citizens of the United States has reached its breaking point. The people of the United States and the world are telling experts and governments “enough.” The eradication of this moral pandemic may finally be upon us.    

Writing this final article of the series, I reflected on part one and the irony of how the same ideas to combat COVID-19 apply to eradicating racism. Let us mobilize our collective resources to rid ourselves of racism using lessons learned from battling the pandemic. Consider how you may have assessed your organization for COVID-19, and now do a similar assessment for racism. 

  • Priority 1 – Care for those in your charge. What is the plan for you and employees who may experience racism? (Are you ready to engage the offended and terminate the offender?) 
  • What are your touchpoints with customers/clients/students—those you serve? (What do you stand for? What is your values message to your stakeholders? Is it authentic?) 
  • Are you organized correctly for the circumstances? (Does your board, C-suite or senior leader team reflect the diversity, the strength, of our nation?)
  • What functions continue; what functions stop? (How will you bolster diversity and inclusion in your organization? Better yet, how will you remove the current culture and instead make diversity and inclusion organic?)
  • How are you making and documenting decisions? (Will you be authentic and transparent in taking action?)
  • Who else needs to know? (Is your values message transcending your workplace and reaching communities, the nation, and the world? Brands that do not stand up will suffer.)

Racism cuts across organizations and has severe impacts on teams, families, and individuals. Yet again, we need humanness—the quality of being human. Your high human skills are being put to the test. Your empathy, trustworthiness, respect…those critical elements of leadership are in full view. In previous articles, I posited the notion that when we get beyond the COVID-19 peak, you would imagine that your leadership, your humanness, is on trial. There is no need to imagine anymore. This movement has begun the trial. Will you be convicted?   

A New Corporate Culture  

The original title of this article was Strengthen Your Culture. Despite professional and personal efforts, that title revealed that I was too accepting of the current corporate culture. Enough. Leaders across the nation and throughout the world should be preparing their movement to make real change in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts have increased profits, employee recruiting and retention, and production. But it is time to change the fundamental way we do business.  

Instead of making D&I the end goal, make removing the current culture the aim. Let the goodness of D&I be foundational to the values of a new common good that achieves a new corporate culture. Make it a culture that includes and supports everyone naturally. Experience shows that such change is institutionalized when people are promoted or selected for career-enhancing positions or development under a new paradigm. Aspirational? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely. It starts with a self-assessment of both you and your business.

You

Look back on your experiences and recall those times you were left out, dismissed, ignored, or ridiculed. How did it make you feel? Why did it happen? Was it your sex, accent, skin color, social status, ethnicity, beliefs, or educational background? Did it make you want to contribute your absolute best effort, or did it make you want to pack your things and move on? Did the experience create fear? Did you feel safe? Conversely, consider your privilege—not what you have, but when and why you do not have to worry about things happening to you.      

As noted in part three of this series, trust is the counterbalance to fear. Trust partners with respect and empathy to form the foundation of humanness. Remember, you are on trial. What are your biases, and how will you contend with those feelings? How do you want your employees to feel? You want their best effort, so create an inclusive culture where they can flourish. Commit yourself to removing the behaviors that create fear. Approach problems with authentic curiosity, not accusations. If appropriate, acknowledge that there are some things you do not have to worry about, and make sure your employees do not either. 

Your Business 

Nearly 70 percent of American employees are unengaged at work, a figure that rises to 90 percent worldwide. Why? Culture. Imagine, seven out of ten employees find their work to be a soul-sucking experience. Get culture wrong, people leave, and you are now facing an estimated turnover cost of $14K per person. If it is an executive or middle manager, expect a turnover cost equating to their annual salary. Combine a negative culture with the challenges of a crisis, and the stakes are too high to ignore.  

Culture started revealing itself right about the time you made the first phone call or sent the first email altering the work situation for COVID-19. The national movement to eradicate racism pulled the curtain back on your culture even more. For those whose culture is rooted in trust, commitment, and the common good, they are likely faring well. For those who have culture wrong, leaders and employees are frustrated, the strategy is meaningless, and the struggle continues. Unfortunately, in those instances, organizations may crumble. You need a culture that thrives and is sustainable regardless of the crisis.    

Your workplace culture is not what is written on the walls. It is the total of what happens in the halls and on Zoom calls. It is your team’s behavioral and performance norms. Culture is those things that are encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected and anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns. Assess your organization’s level of commitment and how it aligns with the strength of the common good—vision, mission, goals, values, standards, and strategy. The intersection of the common good and level of commitment reveals the type of culture being cultivated in your organization—compliant, chaotic, contingent, or empowered, as shown here:  

  • A well-defined common good and a low level of commitment is a compliant culture where leaders use coercion to gain desired behavior. It is a carrot and stick type of approach.  
  • A poorly defined common good and a low level of commitment is a chaotic culture characterized by toxic and dominant behavior.  
  • A poorly defined common good and a high level of commitment is a contingent culture where teammates typically have great chemistry and rally around an informal, undefined common good. They have an implicit understanding of what is important, but with growth and changes in people, the implicit common good begins to fade.  
  • A well-defined common good and a high level of commitment is an empowered culture where there is a high degree of trust. Leaders can think and act strategically because their middle management, the heart and soul of their organization, is strong. Behavior is the same whether the leader is present or absent. Managers have their guideposts and make decisions because they know they have the trust and support of their leadership. Leaders talk and live their values and will not tolerate indifference to the organization’s common good.   

Assess and Articulate Culture  

Where do you see your culture? Given the current national movement to eradicate both racism and COVID-19, what do you stand for? As you shape your new normal, people are looking TO you for guidance and AT you as an example, more than ever. Espouse values to strengthen your common good while increasing your level of commitment to move towards an empowered culture. Here are three steps to help you assess and determine a path for your culture.   

1. Get a detailed understanding of your current culture by asking yourself and others a series of questions. Be honest and vulnerable. Plot your answers on the Culture Archetypes Chart, and as you do, decide what employees you are going to ask to answer the same questions. Do not let it be your clones or besties. Have the courage to seek those you trust and who think differently than you. 

  • Do leaders walk their talk? 
  • What are the “unwritten rules” for success? 
  • How do leaders respond to conflict, feedback, and missed suspenses?  
  • What motivates employees?

2.  Culture should be rising to the top of your priority list, so delegate other priorities so that you can work ON your business. Along with your C-suite, engage your middle management. Studies prove that corporate culture and employee engagement go hand in hand. With employees’ help, craft your new manifesto—those elements that will be the foundation of your common good. Make your values explicit.  

3.  Like promoting a new strategy, promote culture. It is one of the three legs of the stool, the organizational trinity, if you will, along with strategy and leadership. And remember, your microphone is always on, and someone is always watching. Be authentic and human, and let that openness be your competitive advantage.   

Enough 

Unanswered questions, soulless video calls, briefings, empty predictions about return dates, and budget cuts have filled the past three months. Add in the past few weeks, and the country has been overwhelmed with heartbreak, fear, frustration, confusion, and indignation. The sadness and uncertainty are gut-wrenching. Enough. As a veteran, I recall often hearing that we do not see color; we see Army green. I understand that we fight for and with each other—but no, I see you. I see your color and all the good things that you represent and contribute to our nation. I celebrate you.  

There is good on the horizon. You have the right tools to lead your team through these crises and create the foundations to prosper in the new normal of distributed workplaces. We will eradicate COVID-19, and with our collective energy, spirit, and humanness, we can end racism. As you align your internal compass, think about your team. Think about what you and they celebrate. Be a guiding light of certainty. Whether your employees return to work or you emerge out of COVID-19 as a distributed workplace, champion a culture where the common good will reign. Champion a culture where diversity and inclusion are as organic and natural to the collective mindset as revenue streams and inventory. It will take time, and you should be ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Recall the adage, evil triumphs when good people look the other way. Enough. Not today, COVID. Not today, racism. Not today, not any day.  

Also check out part 1, part 2 and part 3.