How to Help That Annoying “Stuck” Person: Part 2

In part one of this post series, we talked about what team members need when they get stuck moving from conscious incompetence (i.e. they know what they don’t know) to conscious competence (i.g. they know what to do, but they still need your help.) Today, in part two, here’s what you need to do help a stuck team member climb out of the Pit of Despair:

Think back throughout your leadership journey. How many individuals would you say that you have intentionally developed? Who would you point to and say that you have passed on your knowledge, skills, and expertise into their life? Apprenticeship is rare.


As leaders, we often underestimate what it takes to apprentice just one person. To bring someone along and intentionally raise their capacity is an incredibly rewarding and also challenging experience. It exposes our own insecurities by showing us how effective we are really being at developing others.

One of the foundational skills needed to effectively apprentice others is the capacity to help someone out of what we call the Pit of Despair. In my last post, I suggested that it may very well be your fault that your annoying stuck person remains stuck. If all you are doing is giving information, telling them what to do and expecting them to miraculously figure it out without an ongoing connection to someone who will walk with them, you’re sadly mistaken.

When team members fall into the Pit of Despair, leaders can — and should — function as the ladder to help them climb out.

Pit of Despair

Here are three key skills that you need to function as the ladder to help people out of what we refer to as the pit of despair.

  1. Own it: This is a pretty significant shift for most of us. You have to take primary responsibility for getting the person out of the pit. They need to know this, so communicate it to them daily!
  2. Schedule it: Schedule short and extended times with the person: The goal here is frequency. Let’s be honest, no one really does the 1-minute manager.  Have you ever managed someone well in 1 minute? Really? It’s amazing what you can get done in a 15-minute check in. Figure out the best rhythm for the person you are committing to. Is it 10 minutes daily, and one 30 minute block weekly?
  3. Invite and Involve: This person must be able to observe you (or someone) functioning with the skill set or solutions that they need. Invite them to shadow you. The second part of this is that you involve them in something you are doing. Have them do something with you to boost their confidence and capacity to do it on their own.    

These are things I have learned and not done perfectly over the past 10 years of my leadership journey. What challenges or input do you have in relation to serving that stuck person?

Are You Hoping or Choosing Your Future

Are you standing on the path of your preferred future?

When prospecting the future, people tend to make decisions based on two primary emotions: Fear and hope. Fear creeps up and causes us to scurry under pressure and desperation like the scattering of field mice. Hope, on the other hand, inspires and gives a healthy sightline in considering the way forward.


Take a breath and explore your answers to this question: “When considering your future, what are your hopes for yourself? For your family? For your team and organization? For your legacy?

While it is a fact that we can and should learn volumes of truth from our past, we should never stay trapped there. Indeed, wisdom is the superimposed learning from our past, but only to the degree that it merges into the possibilities for our tomorrow. Preferring forward is a very intentional mindset. Secure leaders are fueled by hope (as opposed to fear) with a front-facing lean pulled by aspiration for improvement. This, however, is not enough.

“Hope is not a plan.” – Anderson Cooper

The important issue is whether we take our dreams seriously, or if we regard them as blue-sky reveries without the discipline to activate a genuine plan accomplish your dream. Too often leaders prematurely drop their dreams in the interest of the critical cousins: pragmatism and reality.

A vision of a preferred future leads to hope …

            Hope leads to inspiration …

                       And, inspiration leads to commitment.

Liberating leadership is about the generation of hope exercised through empowerment, opportunity and the conditions to effectively execute upon desire.

Recently, I read a statement by author and teacher Andy Stanley that resonates with the insights above. He stated, “Path, not intent, determines destination.”

Chew on that for a minute. Regardless of your vision, dreams or narrative of good intentions, the reality falls right underneath you doesn’t it? The path that you are currently standing on, if unaltered, will determine your destination.

Does this existing path bring a sense of satisfaction? If so, congratulations and continue to press on! If not, know that you aren’t alone. Surveys over the past few years have delivered some less-than-encouraging stats – in fact, a 2010 survey found that 80% of workers express dissatisfaction in terms of their life’s work.

Max DePree began his influential book Leadership is an Art with the statement, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” That said, I would offer that the most important assignment for every leader is to define one’s desired future. The next and more important role is to establish a plan to actualize this preferred future to make it a chosen future.

“Lord save us all from…a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.” – Mark Twain

Driving it Home

  1. What is the future you are both hoping AND working toward?
  2. Will your current path lead to where you would like to go?
  3. What could you do today to begin charting your chosen future?
  4. How can we help? (GiANT has some product offerings geared toward helping leaders map out paths toward their preferred futures. Visit for more information.)


Feature photo courtesy of Jay Mantri.

How to Help That Annoying “Stuck” Person: Part 1

Let’s call her Sam. Sam has been an average performing employee. She comes to work on time, does her job well, but for some reason has not been getting it lately. She is stuck. You’ve made some suggestions for her on ways to improve her behavior, given her clear direction, but she’s not moving.  Frankly, she is now that annoying person. When she walks in the room you wonder if it is time to let her go or if there is a way you can move her to another department.


Ready for this? You may very well be the some reason she is not getting it! Put another way, I think it’s quite possible that it is your fault she is stuck!

This scenario is why we apprentice leaders versus simply giving clear information and expecting that the person knows what to do. There is a huge difference between apprenticeship and information transfer. Apprenticeship involves the intentional transfer of knowledge, skills, and expertise. Apprenticeship is relational. Information transfer is transactional: Here’s what to do, now go do it. That may work for the very small percentage of high performers, but it certainly does not for the vast majority of people.

Back to Sam. How can you serve her best? We call that situation being in the Pit of Despair. (Princess Bride fans have a different picture of what that looks like, I know. Stay with me). In the Pit of Despair, the person simply doesn’t know what to do. They don’t want to be stuck, but they are. They need you to serve them, to function as the ladder so they can climb out.

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Note: For those of you familiar with our leadership language and tools, you will recognize our apprenticeship square pictured above. It’s easy for people to get stuck moving from conscious incompetence to conscious competence. The process of intentional apprenticeship is the ladder leaders can use to remedy this.

Here are the three key things they need from you:

  1. Time: They will not get out without you walking with them.  They need ongoing connection not momentary transaction.
  2. Vision: Yes, they need a clear vision of what they need to do.  More than that, they need the why behind it.  They need to understand the way you think and have tackled the thing that keeps them stuck.
  3. Grace: They need to know you won’t bail on them.  They need permission to fail, to do it poorly and for you to be vulnerable enough to share how you have been in the same spot.

Follow Up Exercise:

Who is your “Stuck Sam”? What is your action plan to walk with them this week?

In my next post, I will explore 3 key skills that you need to serve someone in climbing out of the pit of despair.

The Value Proposition of Followership

What’s on the other side of your leadership?

The link between leadership behaviors and organizational performance is widely understood and accepted. The simple calculus is this: Improving the capacity of leadership improves the capacity for healthy organizational culture. Improved organizational culture raises the probabilities of high performance. The simple fact that organizations will frequently look for better leaders when performance slips is a confirmation of this truth.

leadership graphic copy 3


Understanding this truth is essential. Unpacking this truth further one might ask: what is on the other side of the leader? The answer depends, doesn’t it? For leaders worth following, the answer here would be followers, right? In agreement, the flip side of leadership would then be followership. It stands to reason that if leadership is the lynchpin to performance, followership must have something to do with it, as well. So why does followership engage only a small fraction of the airtime and attention that leadership attracts?

fol·low·er·ship: the capacity or willingness to follow a leader

Followership is a pretty straightforward concept: It is one’s ability to work as part of a team, commit to an initiative, receive support and challenge, and deliver upon an expectation. Unfortunately, the impressions of followership are not quite as suggestive as the lure of leadership. How well the followers follow is probably just as important to organizational success as how well the leaders lead.

“Learning the secrets and skill of great No. 2’s remains the surest path to becoming No. 1.” – David Heenan and Warren Bennis

Value Proposition of Followership

Leadership development programs loudly trumpet their superiority in building influence. Albeit weird, I wonder how many in the business of leadership development actually market “the art of following?”

Followership may lack in luster to leadership but it is quite significant. Soberly, when organizations fall short in followership impact, they also struggle in performance. Yes, one may observe the busy buzz of office activity, but in organizations with low followership, busy may not always equate to production. Problems in leadership alignment manifest as negative behaviors such as sloppy work ethic, poor workplace climate, diversion from mission/vision, disgruntled stakeholders, higher product costs with lower product quality, and ultimately lost opportunities and competitive edge in the marketplace. Realistically, insecure leadership and insecure followership are one and the same with similar costs: poor organizational clarity and performance.

8 Truths for Followers:

  1. HustleGood followers are great workers. They are committed to the organizational mission and motivated in the work needed to succeed. Leaders have the obligation to create the conditions for hard work to be acknowledged and encouraged, but in the end, it is the responsibility of the followers to model quality work behaviors. There really are no bad workers who become good followers. 
  1. Competence Having requisite skills and knowledge of the tasks of performance coupled with hustle is a remarkable one-two punch for followership. The leader, like the wizened apprentice, is responsible for equipping his/her team with the skills, knowledge, and resources to perform at the highest levels. If the follower lags, many times this is actually a leadership issue and not solely a critique of performance of the follower. Dominating and protective leaders must step aside and lead differently by providing full access to the needs of maturing followers. Leaders might need to truthfully look in the mirror in apportioning blame when the vital skills of their number twos are not in good working order.
  1. CharacterRespect is important within the leader/follower dynamic, however it is never acceptable for followers to sit quietly while a ham-fisted leader drives the organizational ship into the rocks. Followers are responsible to candidly share the dynamics of reality from the field with their leaders. In turn, great leaders should embrace constructive feedback from their followers. Insecure leaders are averse to honest critique and create tricky cultures where hiding may be modeled as a tool of protection. 
  1. CourageSimilar to the relationship between hustle and competence, there is a natural link between the principles of character and courage. A mutual trust must crosswalk between both the leader and followers. Courage is exercised when truth and love intersect. It takes genuine courage to confront the leader’s agenda, or more boldly, the leader him or herself. From time to time, it takes genuine courage to be a healthy follower.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

  1. Mature Judgment – Followers must be adept in taking direction but also mature enough to challenge obligations that may present as unethical or not in agreement with the organization’s values. The key is having a healthy calibration of both support and challenge when filtering the difference between directives that are appropriate with a well-established internal warning system to respond with discretion when directives creep into unethical or mismatched territories of value.

Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.

  1. Discretion The antithesis of discretion is indiscretion. Discretion is care. Indiscretion is careless. It is essential for followers to exercise the principles of discretion while serving the organization and the leader. While it seems to be a pretty straightforward concept, discretion is the make or break of healthy culture. Keeping a temperate tongue is the mark of a good person, a great leader, and a remarkable follower. The leader and followers have a duty of care in exercising discretion and collective-policing the unhealthy behaviors of indiscretion out of the organization.
  1. HumilityFollowers are team players with their egos in check. Quality followers have high self-awareness and elevated capacity for healthy self-management. The markers of success for good followers should relate to high performance and goal achievement, not personal recognition or self promotion.
  1. Loyalty – Disloyal followers inevitable become the derailer of healthy culture. Good followers, on the other hand, respect their obligation of constancy to their organization and team. Loyalty is a principle that tends to slip when pressure and conflict rear up. Followers who are disloyal are inevitably a negative source of energy and transmit friction and the spirit of resistance across their teams. They are agitators who love to create problems between team members. Disloyal employees compromise the achievement of others, they waste professional time, and bottom line, they are a menace to the overall organizational culture.

Followership will most likely stay in the under crowded shadows of leadership. No worries. The reality is that without followers, there are no leaders. The maxim is absolutely true, that an organization is only as good as its leaders. I would appropriately add that it is also only as good as its followers.

Bring it Home

  • How might you personally benefit from becoming a better follower?
  • How might your capacity to follow actually increase your capital to lead?
  • Where might you start?
  • How can we help?


Feature photo courtesy of

How to Effectively Transfer Ownership to Others

I want you to eavesdrop on a conversation I had yesterday:

Me: “I don’t know if I have been serving you the best. Let’s meet tomorrow to clarify the projects we’re working on.”

Colleague: “Why would you say you haven’t been serving me the best?”

Me: “I think we have been collaborating on the same work for too long.  I don’t want us to be co-dependent as we work together. We’re on the same page, you have the DNA, it’s time for you to go for it! We need to delineate our work which will allow us to multiply our work.”

How to Effectively Transfer Ownership to Others

Apprenticeship is the intentional transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise into the life of another.

The conversation represented above becomes crucial when you embrace apprenticeship as the means to leader development. We would love to help you do that very thing through our executive core process. When you learn to build leaders worth following, one of the important priorities is to understand where people are in the apprenticeship process and then work at making the shift from one phase into the next. In the above scenario, I have been working alongside someone for six months and have increasingly been aware over the last couple of weeks that it is a time to release this person into the next wave of the apprenticeship process. There is a necessary shift going on.

This particular shift will involve the transfer of more ownership and the necessity of working more independently. Rather than me doing it or giving all of the answers, I need to find empowering ways to allow my colleague to own it and feel confident that they are heading in the right direction. I’m not very good at that; I would rather use my own knowledge base and have others rely on my expertise so I know it is done my way. (Selfish, I know!) Here is what I believe to be a powerful question to help transfer ownership:

If I weren’t here, how would you handle it?

When you move from working together in the initial phase of apprenticeship to sending the birdies out of the nest to fly for themselves, you have to put steps in place that enable the people you lead to think and, then, act on their own. This allows them to have ownership and increase confidence in their plans.

What questions or practices have you found helpful in transferring ownership to others?


Feature photo courtesy of Highways Agency.

Revisited Practices of Leadership Renewal  

res·to·ra·tion (noun): the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.

Feeling blasé? Has the shine of interest and curiosity worn off of that dream job that you used to run to and walk home from? Regrettably, those in positions of leadership are reportedly becoming more bored than they would care to admit.

Revisited Practices of Leadership Renewal

In 1990, legendary Stanford professor, John W. Gardner delivered a leadership speech titled “Personal Renewal” that I would classify as one of the most quietly influential speeches in our nation’s history. Gardner’s speech was delivered to a meeting of some of the foremost business icons in that day. While in this center of the sharpest and most affluent people in the U.S, the focus of Gardner’s talk that day was not on amassing money or power, rather it was on what he called “Personal Renewal” and the leader’s hunger for keeping an edge toward continual growth and learning. His message should be a great reminder to each of us with the advantage of organizational responsibility and authority.

“Boredom is the secret ailment to large-scale organizations.” — Howard Gardner

Rewind to Personal Renewal

How can leaders become bored when observed so busy? Great point, but for a moment today, look around you. How many people within your care are seemingly trapped in fixed attitudes and habits? These patterns form ever so slowly over time and eventually become our unconscious behaviors and visible actions. Some of these habit-forming actions are very good and should be imitated. Unfortunately others might need some work or be discarded all together.

So what is on the other side of boredom? That attitude which allows us to keep learning, growing, developing, and generating the habits of positive life and leadership actions? “Not anything as narrow as ambition,” Gardner told the driven executives in his talk. “After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die.”

The maxim here is be interested. While many of us are on this quixotic venture to become interesting through the hidden tendencies of self-promotion and running dizzily to link into the right circles of prestige and power. Mature and secure leaders will agree with Gardner on this one. Stay interested. As the proverb says, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Whether you are a gazelle or a lion, it matters not. What matters is that come morning… both ought to be running.

Making it Real

Ask any educator and you will find, we learn the most when we are disrupted through the encounter of cultures, people, and environments that are distinctly different from our norm. Honestly ask yourself: Do I spend most of my time with people who are most like me? Colleagues from the same department, working for the same organization, friends and neighbors with the same economic profile, faith and culture?

For most of us who have arrived in positions of influence and authority, it takes genuine moxy to push ourselves to grow and be challenged beyond the norms of conventional leadership wisdom. The wildly important questions we face as leaders are these:

  1. Are you learning as an individual, team and organization?
  2. Assuming so, is your learning in cadence to the speed of the change around you?
  3. Are you as determined to stay interested as to be interesting?

Remember, it is what you learn after you know it all that counts.

How To Become a More Secure Leader

Insecurity stinks. Literally.

When we are insecure, we repel rather than attract others. Insecure leaders find themselves indecisive, unclear, hesitant and afraid. When addressing this issue, some people get defensive and suggest that we are all insecure and seem hopeless that we can do anything about it. Others remain blind and reject any possibility that they are insecure, thus demonstrating their insecurity.

Right Stuff of Leadership - GiANT Worldwide

While on some level, we all have tendencies to be insecure, the most important thing you need to hear right now is that the solutions to becoming more secure are simple! You can banish insecurity and become a more secure leader. Here are three ways to make that happen: Read more

The Right Stuff of Leadership

The Right Stuff was one of my favorite films of the 80’s. As the son of a Navy man, I have been forever fascinated by lives of military pilots, especially those chosen to endure the trainings for manned spaceflight. The rigors of qualifying to be an astronaut are literally “out of this world.” Those who survive NASA’s critique and the nature of space travel itself are a very exclusive class of men and women. First-class organizational leaders worth following fly within the same orbit of excellence, too.

Nasa Image

The Right Stuff of Leadership

Everyone who aspires to influence well – to mobilize others toward compelling vision, values, and strategic goals — needs the competence, connectivity and quality awareness to fly high in both circles of life and leadership. The qualities of The Right Stuff kind of leader are very much in line with the qualities recruited by NASA today: Read more

Creating a Positive Culture: The 4-for-1 Principle

It is fair to say that many workplace environments are designed with a focus toward what’s not going well.

  • Find out the problem and fix it!
  • Conduct a root cause analysis to find out why we’re not performing to our maximum capacity.
  • We can always do better; let’s work on enhancing this.

GiANT Worldwide - Group

While this type of analysis is an important part of leading and managing well, we’re missing something if we don’t look at what is going well for both celebration and learning. Looking at problems, pointing out the challenges, and critiquing existing systems has a dark side. Stop for a moment and think about the potential damage being done to your employee morale if there is an overemphasis on the negative. Read more

The Powerful Practice of Taking a Leadership “Selfie”

When was the last time you took a “selfie”?

Full disclosure: I have taken a number of my own self-shots to capture unique and inspiring moments. I will also admit that I have deleted most of them because I wasn’t pleased with how they looked. I don’t think I’m unique here; generally speaking, unless we’re going the route of self-deprecating humor, we choose the best selfies to upload to our social media networks because we want to share our best selves. No problem. We’re just wired that way.

GiANT Worldwide Selfie

Leadership Selfie: What is on the Other Side of Me?

What if we turn the selfie lens on our leadership, though? What will we see looking back at us? If we are honest about the image reflected back to us, we will not say we’re perfect. Rather, we’ll see our strengths and also be willing to see our areas for growth. We’ll eschew self-preservation in favor of self-awareness.

Read more