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Performance Is Always First
Performance Is Always First 1080 720 Jason Lauritsen

As I was scrolling through LinkedIn this week, I stumbled across this post from the prolific Adam Grant.

The post was promoting an interview he had done with Prince Harry about mental health at work.   

Given the amount of writing and speaking I do about well-being and compassion in management, you might assume I’d read this and burst out with an “Amen!” 

But you’d be wrong. 

While I am sure Adam’s intentions are probably right on, the message of this post is wrong. Not all of it, but the punchline is bad advice. 

Valuing people at work. Yes!

Good managers care about your well-being. Yes!

Great managers care more about your well-being than your results. WRONG. 

Hear me out. 

The purpose of any organization is performance. That organization needs to produce goods or services of value to others and do it in such a way that they are able to stay in business. 

Everything an organization does in the service of staying in business can be thought of as performance. And to achieve this performance, they hire people to do jobs. The purpose of these jobs is to contribute in specific ways to organizational performance. 

Here’s the point. No performance = no organization = no jobs. 

Performance is why we have jobs, and it’s why managers exist: to help others perform their jobs successfully.  

Adam’s post reads as though you don’t need to concern yourself with results and performance. That is bad advice, and I’d be surprised if that’s what he meant.  

Well-Being vs. Results

This is a false trade-off. 

When we say things like “managers need to put well-being before results,” we’re assuming that the problem with bad management is simply their priorities. It’s not.

Managers aren’t choosing between focusing on results and caring for people’s well-being, at least not consciously. 

What’s happening in most cases is that managers don’t know it matters or have any idea how to care for the well-being of their people. 

Instructing these managers to put the well-being of their people ahead of results isn’t going to solve anything. It sounds just like another in a long line of HR directives they have learned to ignore. 

Caring for well-being and focusing on results are not in opposition. In fact, caring for your employees’ well-being is perhaps one of the most powerful ways you can support them in achieving great results.

Well-being is vital to performance but alone isn’t enough.

Performance is always the Goal

This is the point I want to make here: Performance has to always be first. As a manager, if you aren’t helping an employee perform successfully, it won’t be long before both of you are without jobs. 

Well-being is part of how a “Great” manager accomplishes this. They facilitate the employees’ success and performance by supporting their well-being. 

At the same time, great managers work equally hard to create clarity of expectations, provide coaching, and show appreciation. It’s all a part of the equation that produces performance. 

And performance is what keeps our paychecks coming. 

Being a great manager isn’t about putting well-being ahead of results, it’s about understanding and embracing well-being helps fuel high performance leading to success all-around.



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Management Shouldn’t Be So *Bleep*ing Complicated
Management Shouldn’t Be So *Bleep*ing Complicated 1080 721 Jason Lauritsen

Why do we make management so hard? 

I’ve got an entire bookshelf that is full of management and leadership books, many filled with contradictory advice about what really matters or the most effective approaches.  

Why have we made it so complicated?

Spending years as a corporate executive was a study in unnecessary complication. One specific meeting stands out. I can’t even recall the issue on the table, but it had to do with some employee concerns. 

This room full of senior executives spent what was felt like hours debating over what to do. As the newly hired HR exec, I observed and listened as this went on and on. 

The most maddening part of it all was that the people in this room really didn’t understand the issue at hand. They were making all kinds of assumptions, but no one had any grounded insight into the problem we wanted to solve.   

Finally, I decided it was time to intervene and I said, “If we want to know what the employees want, why don’t we just go ask them?” 

That’s ultimately what we did. 

We love to over-complicate things and we’ve done it with flair to the practice of managing people at work.

But managing people doesn’t have to complicated.

In fact, the role and purpose of the manager can be summed up in just five words.

Help people succeed at work.  

It’s really that simple. If you do this every day, you will be successful as a manager. 

But somewhere along the line, over the past 100 years or so since management was invented, we’ve done everything we can to make it more complicated.  

I’m done with complicated. You should be too.  

I have yet to find a complicated management practice that benefits either the manager or employee involved. In nearly every case, that process is designed for the needs of someone else (HR, executives, compliance, etc.) often at the expense of the manager, employee, or their relationship.

Case in point: performance appraisals. 

Complicated management practices are not only ineffective, they are profoundly wasteful. 

The core tenets and practices of management should be simple. Work is a relationship and thus, the most important practices of management are those that foster and build relationships.

These don’t need to be complicated.  

What does simple look like? 

Here are some examples of simple management tenets. 

  1. Treat people like adults. 
  2. Be kind to everyone. 
  3. Don’t be a jackass (I know, same as #2, but I think it’s worth saying again). 
  4. Be the example. 
  5. If you aren’t sure, ask.  
  6. Check-in as often as they need it. 
  7. Ensure people know what is expected of them. 
  8. Say you are sorry. 
  9. Say thank you more often. 
  10. Tell people you care about them. 
  11. Spend time with your people. 
  12. Trust people until proven otherwise. 

I know what you are probably thinking, these sound like motivational poster platitudes. 


There’s a reason those Successories posters were so popular. They reveal the simple truths to us that we crave in a land of unnecessary complexity. 

Sure, you will need to spend time with managers calibrating what these tenets mean in day-to-day practice. But I would caution you to reference item 1 on the list. 

Managers are savvy adults who want to succeed at their job. The meaning of simple statements is, well, simple to understand. Resist the urge to immediately complicate. 

When you establish simple expectations for a manager, they can figure it out more easily on their own through experience. 

I know I have personally learned the specifics of “don’t be a jackass” through conversations with several people I managed who were kind enough to share with me exactly HOW I was being a jackass. 

And I became better as a manager as a result. 

It’s time to simplify management. 

There has been a lot of hand wringing over the Great Resignation in the past year. Everyone scrambling to sort out what’s happening and what needs to be done to stop the exodus.

I think the answer is simple: Better managers. 

And to get better managers, we need to get back to the basics of the job and simplify. 

When you get your managers focused on their one true job, to help people succeed at work, and permit them to build better relationships with their people, most people will stop leaving. 

This won’t fix every problem, but it will have a huge impact. 

Keep it simple. Make it human. Retain your people. 

Rather watch than read? 

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Managing = Caring
Managing = Caring 1080 565 Jason Lauritsen

The longer I study and teach management, the simpler things become.

For example, this week, I was again asked how managing a hybrid team is different than managing a team that is in the office full-time. 

When someone asks this question, they are expecting me to share how managing a hybrid team is more challenging. They expect me to validate their belief that it’s far more complicated to manage a hybrid team.

It’s not. 

Is managing a hybrid team different in some ways? Sure. 

Just like being in a long-distance relationship is different than one where you see your partner every day. 

What’s true in both cases is that if you don’t have the right foundation in place for the relationship, nothing else really matters.  

The most important ingredient in both cases is care.  

Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about you is miserable regardless of how much you see them, we’ve all been there.

At some point in our career, most of us have worked for managers who we saw every day, who clearly didn’t care about us or our success and it sucks. 

When you don’t care about your people as a manager, they will never step up for you. They will never give their best effort. They will never trust you. They will never be loyal. 

If you don’t care about your people, they will move on to another job where they at least have some hope that their manager might care. 

Caring is where it starts

Years ago, I remember chatting over coffee with a friend. We both had young children and were commiserating over our parental worries and insecurities.

We were both obsessing over how our actions and the decisions we make for our children. They feel so important–as if we were somehow creating and removing opportunities for our children in every instance. 

After an hour or more of participating in this game of “No, I think I’m messing my kids up more than you,” my friend paused for a moment and smiled. 

She looked over at me and said, “I think the fact we care so much about all of this is a good sign we are doing okay as parents.” 

This was well over a decade ago and I still remember those words vividly. 

Caring is the first step toward doing it right.  

Do you care enough? 

This may seem like a simple question, but it’s really a gut check as a manager.

  • Do you care enough to prioritize your people’s needs, sometimes above your own?
  • Do you care enough to do the hard work of creating clarity about expectations?
  • Do you care enough to hold your people accountable and be accountable to them in return?
  • Do you care enough to help people with things you “shouldn’t have to” help with? 
  • Do you care enough to be patient and kind when people fail? 
  • Do you care enough to give people the benefit of the doubt? 
  • Do you care enough to have your people’s back, even when it means putting yourself at risk?

Caring is the job of management. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. It’s real work. 

Here’s the truth. If you don’t care about your people and really want to see them succeed in their personal and professional lives, then you shouldn’t be in management. Hard stop.  

Your people deserve better. 

If you aren’t sure if you care enough, you probably don’t, but as long as you are willing to do the work, you can fix it.  

How do you become more caring as a manager? 

Caring is a choice. Granted, it’s not an optional choice. If you want to be a manager, then you must choose to care for your people. 

If you can’t be bothered with doing the work of caring, then you should find another job to do. There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require this work. 

Managing = caring. Below are some steps you can take to ensure that you are demonstrating to your people that you care so they will stick with you and give you their best.

1. Get your mind right. 

Your job is to enable the success of each member of your team. Enable is the keyword here. People want to succeed. They will choose success over failure whenever given the opportunity. 

People don’t need to be motivated to perform. Read that again. Instead, what people require is a manager who ensures they have what they need to perform well. That might mean support for their mental health one day and clarity about work goals the next. They need what they need. People are complicated. Our job isn’t to judge, it’s to help. 

People also need a manager who will help them with challenges whenever those challenges arise. Work can feel like an obstacle course with one challenge to face after another. Your job is to help them navigate the course, helping them reach the goal. Remove obstacles when you can. Help them face or get around them when you can’t. You are in it together. 

So many managers get this wrong. They think their job is to force people to perform. They micromanage like some overlord assuming that it’s their actions that drive performance when in fact, it’s the opposite. Micromanagement kills the desire to perform. 

Caring managers approach their jobs more like a farmer who cultivates the growth of their crops. Farmers know that if they provide what their plants need and deal with any threats or obstacles that might hinder growth, the plants will do the rest.

People have an incredible capacity to perform when we cultivate it in this way. 

2. Get to know your people. 

This feels like one of those things that Captain Obvious would say. When people talk about employers they hate, they say things like, “you feel like you are just a number to them.” 

If you want someone to feel like you don’t care, make no effort to learn anything about them. Feeling unseen and unvalued is a red carpet invitation to go find a different job. It’s like saying “Nobody here cares if I stay or go.”

Getting to know your people is perhaps one of the fastest and most effective ways to develop your caring skills as a manager. Invest in getting to know your people as people. It’s simple. Three steps.

  1. Ask questions. For example, what do you have planned for the weekend? Or, where did you grow up? Any question that invites them to share some insights about who they are is a good one. 
  2. Listen. If you ask a good question and then signal that you really want to hear their response by shutting up, making eye contact and waiting, they will reveal some wonderful things. 
  3. Make some notes. Unless you have an incredible memory or are somehow gifted with another superpower that helps you never forget anything important, jot down what you learn in these conversations. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I would ask great questions, listen intently and be delighted with what I heard. Then, I’d forget to write down what I heard and I would forget. What a waste. Don’t make my mistake. 

When you get to know people better, your natural caring and compassion instincts will kick in. The more you know, the more you will care. 

3. Check-in

Once you embrace that your job as a manager is to care for the needs and success of your people, the importance of a check-in becomes clear. 

If you aren’t in touch with what is going on with each of your people to know what they need and where they have challenges, how can you support them? 

That’s what makes the check-in the most powerful tool in management. An effective check-in involves having the most important conversations with your people so you can be the manager they need.  

Here’s how an effective check-in works. It starts with asking the right question. 

Here’s a simple, powerful question you can use to start a great check-in. 

How are you today, on a scale from 1 to 10?

The scale is the magic here. When we ask someone how they are without it, what do they say? 

Fine. Busy. Or, as my son likes to say, “decent.” These words tell us nothing. 

With the scale, a simple number tells you a whole lot. There’s a major difference between someone who says they are a 9 versus a 2. Either way, it’s an invitation to have a meaningful conversation. 

If someone says they are at the top end of the scale, ask them to share what’s been going well lately. You’ll learn about them and what matters to them. This is your chance to be excited for them and even to celebrate their accomplishments. 

If they are on the bottom end of the scale, that’s a cry for help. Ask them if they’d be comfortable sharing what’s going on that’s pulling that number down. It could be a work challenge but more likely, it’s something else going on in their life.  

Regardless of what it is, that is the thing you need to be focused on. Hear them out, express your care and support, and find a way to help.

If their response to the question is something in the middle, say a 5, it sets up a great conversation. Ask them first what’s going well. Listen and be encouraging. 

Then, ask them what’s going on that is keeping them from being at a 9 or 10. This is where they will share with you the insights you need to be supportive and caring.  

Done right, the check-in will transform your impact and results as a manager. It is caring in action. 

Managing = Caring

These are but a few ways to start investing more in caring for your team. 

There are a lot of ways to care. The key is to feel it and do it. Without caring, you cannot and will not be a successful manager in today’s environment. 

Care intensely. Care often.



Rather watch than read? 

If you prefer video over reading, here you go. (Bonus points if you can spot my son)



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What will the future of work look like?
What will the future of work look like? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Over the past week, I’ve been asked twice what I think the future of work will look like. And while it’s always fun to speculate, here’s the truth. 

There is no way to know with any precision what’s coming in the future. If there’s anything the past few years has taught us, it should be this. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. 

When people ask this question, what they are really asking is something different. 

What can I do so that I can prepare myself (and my organization) for whatever we might face down the road? 

THIS is a good question. And you don’t need clarity about the future to answer it.  

Instead, you need to look for signals that indicate what is most likely to happen in the future. Then, you can use these signals to inform your efforts to become more resilient and adaptable in facing whatever future you might face. 

In today’s video, I highlight four signals that should have your full attention and what two things you should do right now to prepare yourself and your organization to thrive on the journey ahead. 

What other signals are you seeing that might give us some insights into what may lie ahead? Please share in the comments. I’d love to know what you are seeing.


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How to Stay Grounded when Facing a Storm of Change
How to Stay Grounded when Facing a Storm of Change 1080 608 Jason Lauritsen

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with something internally, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but knew I’ve not quite felt like myself. 

There’s an unsettled feeling that I can’t shake. It’s not unlike that moment when you lose your balance and you hover in that space between regaining balance or falling.  

This has been making it hard to find my creative spark when I need it. My work has been a bit more labored than usual.  

The point is, it’s not been an ideal place to find myself. I’ve not felt at my best. And the hardest part was that I couldn’t figure out why. 

Until yesterday. 

As our tiny white cheagle (it’s a thing, Google it) took me for a walk yesterday afternoon, it finally hit me why I was feeling the way I am.  

There’s a lot of change coming for me. 

The kids wrap up another year of school today and my middle child moves on to high school next year. High school represents a major transition for her and for us. 

My wife is running for state legislature (yes, she’s exactly as awesome as this sounds). We had positive results in the primary, so now the stretch run begins. If she wins in November, that represents a dynamic shift for our family. 

My business is also at the beginning of a transformation. While the details may not seem that dramatic to someone on the outside looking in right now, it feels pretty substantial to me. 

And, as I wrote about in my last post, we lost my grandmother recently. She was the last of her generation in my family, so a transition is now underway. Holidays and visits home will never be the same again. 

If all that wasn’t enough, I scheduled a minor surgery next week that promises to have some significant positive health implications for me moving forward. 

It’s a lot. At least it feels that way to me. 

As I look to the future, the view is less clear than it has been in quite a while. Uncertainty is thick in the air like fog. This leaves me feeling a whole mix of conflicting emotions: hope, excitement, anxiety, concern, anticipation, and so many more. 

This is what I’ve been feeling. A soup of emotions created by the headline of my life right now. 

Change is coming 

Once this realization hit me, I recognized it. I’ve been here before. 

It’s a strange place to be, existing in a space where things feel “normal,” but knowing that very soon, things will begin to shift in significant ways.  

It reminds me of the hours before a big thunderstorm arrives. The sun is shining in the east and a soft breeze blows as dark clouds build in the western sky. It’s coming, you just don’t know how soon or how much disruption it will bring with it.  

Most of the time, the storm simply makes some noise and brings much-needed rain. But, the anticipation and uncertainty in the time before it arrives feel the same regardless of the impact it leaves behind. 

This has been a reminder to me of the complex relationship we have with change and the toll it can take on us. And perhaps more importantly, it’s not just change itself but rather the anticipation of change that impacts us.  

Regardless of how much you tend to embrace or resist change, you are not immune from its effects. 

Preparing for Change

Every one of us is either dealing with change or anticipating some just over the horizon. Particularly during the past few years, our lives have been defined by relentless and steady change.  

As both individuals and leaders of others, we must recognize that change is playing in the background of our lives like elevator music that we’ve tuned out. It’s always there and always playing a role. And if we don’t acknowledge the impact it can have, we can find ourselves struggling or burning out. 

While I don’t claim to be an expert on change, here are a few things I’ve learned about what helps in times like this, whether it’s happening to you or someone you care about. 

1. Acknowledge that change is coming. 

Once I realized yesterday that it’s all the coming change that’s making me feel unsettled, I started feeling more grounded. 

Just calling out the fact that things are going to change makes it easier to both talk about and prepare for it. It’s when we overlook or ignore what’s coming that it’s most likely to harm us. 

This is a great thing to remember as a manager or leader. When we avoid conversations about impending changes, it actually makes it worse for everyone involved. As humans, when we don’t know what’s happening, we assume the worst. 

Even when you don’t know what’s going to happen or how you are going to respond yet, it’s okay to talk about the fact that change is coming. Bring it out in the open and reassure people that you will navigate whatever comes together. 

2. Lean into relationships. 

It’s never as scary to face uncertainty if you are doing it with someone else. Just the knowledge that you are not alone in your journey can make a huge difference. 

Even before yesterday, I’d been struggling with the transitions I’m making in my business. It’s all exciting and exactly what I need, but it’s changing and it’s uncomfortable in all the ways it needs to be. 

I’ve been sharing my struggles with friends and in return, they offer encouragement. They help me reframe (i.e., “you are experiencing growing pains”). They listen. 

Relationships are the bedrock of a healthy, happy life and career. This is why it’s so critical that you invest time and energy into building and sustaining great relationships in all areas of your life. 

When your people know you care about them and that you’ll be there for them, the clouds forming on the western horizon don’t feel threatening. That support allows us to look for the promise and opportunity in the coming change. 

Never underestimate the power of “together.” 

3. Control what you can. Let go of everything else. 

When there’s a lot of change on the horizon, things can start to feel very out of control. It is in these times that I have to anchor myself in the things I can control. 

First on the list is my well-being. While I don’t know exactly what the next 6-12 months are going to hold for my family and me, I know for sure that I’ll be best able to navigate the path if I am healthy and strong. This is 100% within my control. 

Once I’ve refocused on my well-being, I ask the question, “what can I control?” 

When things feel out of control, I’ve found that the key is to let go of what I have no influence over and focus instead on what I can control.

This typically brings into focus some immediate steps I can take to move forward or to shape how things might look in the future. For example, my daughter is moving on to high school, whether I like it or not. My main fear as this transition happens is how our relationship might change. I’m worried about losing connection with her. 

While I can’t control what’s going to unfold next year for her in high school or how she’s going to change as a result, what I can control is what kind of time I spend with her now to reinforce our relationship. The stronger foundation, the less likely it will be to crumble. 

As a leader, when things get crazy at work, one of the most powerful things we can do to help our people is to coach them on letting go of what they can’t control and focusing on the things they can. 

This is a game-changer.  

Change is Inevitable

There will never be a time in our lives when change isn’t a part of our experience. There will be times of less and times of more. But it will always be there.

The key is to embrace its presence and learn how to ride the wave in a way that frees us from the anxiety and reveals the opportunity hidden within.  

While that felt lovely to type, we both know it’s far easier said than done. This isn’t easy, but the more you practice, the less challenging it will feel. 

Acknowledge that change is coming (or happening), lean into your relationships, and control what you can. 

The rest will take care of itself. 


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Heartbroken 1080 810 Jason Lauritsen

We said our final goodbyes earlier this week to my grandma. After 93 years of life, her health had been failing recently, and she left us last week.  

I was very close with my grandma and the loss hit me pretty hard. I actually wrote about my grandparents on my blog several years ago.  

As I began to grapple with my grief last week, I sat for a guided meditation on the topic. The teacher of this meditation instructed that grief itself isn’t a singular emotion but several of them all happening at once. 

She invited us to try to name the different emotions we were feeling. For me, I could identify three:

  1. Loss. There will be no more long conversations, no more hugs, no more card games. The loss feels profound. 
  2. Heartbreak. Sadness doesn’t really do it justice. 
  3. Gratitude. Intermingled within these two heavy emotions was an acute sense of how lucky I was to have so much time with such an extraordinary woman. 

My grandma Lois was an exceptional human being. The legacy of her life was love. To know her was to know what it meant to feel loved and seen. 

Grandma showered us with her love in the most important way possible–through her time and attention. She loved spending time with us. It didn’t matter what we did. She just loved being together. 

She loved us without judgment or conditions. No matter what was going on in my life or if I felt fully worthy of it, I would always get her full love. 

This past week, as I reflected on her life and our relationship, I wondered if my experience of her in this light was simply because I was a grandchild. It’s easy to love your grandkids.

But, it wasn’t. As we celebrated her life with family and the friends she’d known for longer than I’ve been alive, they all described her in the same way. 

Her legacy reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from great Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

To know my grandma was to know what it meant to feel loved. I cannot imagine a better legacy or a more powerful lesson to leave behind. 

As I continue to process my grief, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I’m carrying forward from my Grandma. Even though you probably never had the opportunity to meet her, perhaps you can carry a piece of her legacy forward as well.

1. Invest your time in the people you care about.

One feeling that’s not in the soup of my grief is regret. Maybe it was because of my grandma’s example, but we made time to be together.

Sometimes that meant making road trips to visit her with my family. Often it meant sitting down to chat over Skype. It wasn’t as frequent as we’d like (always my fault), but we did it. 

That time spent together is among the best investments I’ve ever made.

2. Talk about the stuff that matters. 

We mourned the loss of my grandma almost one year to the day after losing my grandpa, her husband, just shy of his 100th birthday. As you would expect, the past year was incredibly hard for her. 

When we talked, I always tried to check in with her about how she was doing and she would tell me. On the good days, we shared memories of grandpa. On the not-so-good days, she talked about how depressed she was feeling. 

Those conversations were hard because it hurt to see her hurting. But, they were conversations she needed and they brought us closer together. 

Too often, we avoid the conversations we need to have because they make us feel uncomfortable. Don’t allow that to happen. Ask the questions that matter and allow yourself to feel vulnerable. It is within these conversations where true human connection lives. 

3. Let go of judgment and resentment. Just be kind. 

In case you missed it, my grandparents lived to be 93 and 99 years old. Certainly, some good genetics are going on there, but I attribute their longevity to something else. 

My grandparents were the most positive and forgiving people I’ve ever met. They didn’t judge other people, they didn’t hold any resentments toward anyone, and they never gossiped. 

As a result, they had so many friends. People loved them and they loved everyone back. 

Grandma always seemed able to see the positive. She led with kindness in everything she did. It was remarkable. 

What a great example for us all to follow. I’m certainly going to try. 

Thank you, Grandma. I miss you already. 


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Embracing Discomfort
Embracing Discomfort 1080 810 Jason Lauritsen

A few weeks ago, I took my youngest son on a ski weekend to Colorado. 

Skiing is one of my favorite things to do and being able to share it with my son is purely joyful. But that’s not the point of sharing this story.  

My son is new to skiing. This was only his second time out, so he’s very much in learning mode. 

On our first day, we started on a very simple, short hill where he felt safe and comfortable enough to practice. After making several successful trips down without a fall, his confidence grew. So, naturally, I convinced him we should try a longer run.   

We jumped on a lift and made our way to the top of a much longer but still easy path down the mountain. 

As we made our way, some parts of this run were more narrow and, thus, looked intimidating to him. He became uncomfortable and his confidence started to wane.

I reminded him that he was in control of how fast he wanted to go. But also that we had to keep going. It was our only way down.  

He pushed through his discomfort and successfully made it to the bottom – confidence restored. 

That night over dinner, I planted a seed with him that perhaps we should go all the way to the top of the mountain the next day. On the map, it certainly looked like there were plenty of easy runs from there to make our way down. 

He was unsure but said he’d think about it. 

The next morning, we headed back out for more skiing.  

Again, he wanted to ease into things on the easy hill we started on the day before. After a couple of times down, he was ready for the same longer run we’d done the day before. 

This time, he had no hesitations and was all confidence.  

Once we reached the bottom, he okayed a trip to the top. While he was still a little nervous about what we’d find when we got up there, he did it. 

I was proud of him. 

Once we got to the top, we discovered some amazing runs he absolutely loved. We stayed at the top for the rest of the day.  

Discomfort is the Path

What I realized during our time skiing was that my job (besides being a “fun dad”) was to help nudge him outside of his comfort zone.  

Nothing was unsafe or beyond his capabilities. It was all just a stretch and an opportunity to try something that looked a little daunting. 

Once he made the choice to get a little uncomfortable, awesomeness awaited. 

Granted, the payoff to risk ratio in this example is really high with the benefits being immediate compared to most decisions we make in life. 

But it’s a great example of how our willingness to get uncomfortable is the key to the things we really want (and maybe more). 

This came to mind for me this week as I was preparing to teach a management class. 

Most of what I was teaching that day were skills that require managers to try something new with their people. 

In this particular case, we were talking about how to build trust. Trust building requires a level of vulnerability that many people aren’t comfortable with–particularly at work. 


I was asking them to ask their direct reports for feedback on how they can better demonstrate trust behaviors. 


They learned that the best way to earn trust is to give it first, often before you know if the person is trustworthy. 


Unfortunately, the bad news for these managers was that there was no way to avoid the discomfort. No shortcut is available. 

This leaves them with two options:

  1. Move into the discomfort to build trust. 
  2. Make no progress. 

The payoff to having trusting relationships with your team is enormous. Maybe it’s not skiing off the peak of a mountain, but it’s pretty good.  

There is no path to trust that doesn’t require a departure from our “comfort zone.” 

The Upside of Discomfort

What I have discovered and what I’m hoping to instill in others (my son and the managers I train as well) is learning how to embrace the feeling of discomfort.  

When you are uncomfortable, you are likely on the verge of learning, growing, or breaking through to something good. 

If you can find the courage to step into that discomfort, then I have more good news for you. Your tolerance for discomfort increases over time.  

It used to be hard for me to admit mistakes and show vulnerability. My fragile ego at the time just couldn’t handle the discomfort of what people might think. 

But, as I was able to push through this roadblock, in small ways at first, I discovered something amazing. 

Each time I got outside of my comfort zone and survived, the size of that zone increased. Soon, things that used to feel risky and uncomfortable didn’t anymore.  

Our comfort zone is expandable. 

My son won’t hesitate to jump on a ski lift to the top of a mountain in the future if I tell him it’s safe to do so. 

The same will be true for you. 

The key to growth and the path to breakthrough learning is our willingness to get uncomfortable.

What decision or action have you been delaying because you know it’s going to be uncomfortable?


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3 Overlooked Skills Managers Need Right Now
3 Overlooked Skills Managers Need Right Now 1080 720 Jason Lauritsen

For years, the Gallup Organization has told us that managers are the lynchpin in employee engagement. 

Based on their data, managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement

That is an astonishing number. And it’s a double-edged sword. 

On the one hand, it suggests that if you are a manager, you can profoundly impact your team’s performance and retention by investing in your own skill development. 

As a manager, that’s good news, provided you have access to good training and can dedicate the time to improve your skills.

But then there’s the other side of the sword. Because Gallup has done such an effective job of marketing this fact about managers, organizations are quick to blame managers for employee disengagement and turnover. 

This blame can be pretty alienating and disheartening for the manager, particularly those who really care about their people and are trying to do a good job. 

We need to stop blaming “Bad Managers” 

The problem with dumping blame on the manager is that it leads to a “bad manager” narrative. I used to fall into this trap, blaming everything on these “bad managers.” 

But, what I’ve come to realize is that most of the “bad managers” aren’t bad people. They are, in fact, good people. They are very often people who want to do a good job, but they were never given the tools, training, or support to learn how to be effective in their management roles. 

Blaming “bad managers” masks the real problem just mentioned above: that the managers aren’t being given the tools and training they need to be effective.  

This has always been an issue since the beginning of management. For some reason, we have historically assumed that if you have been managed at some point in the past, then you have the knowledge and know-how to manage effectively. 

Imagine if we treated driving a car the same way. “Son, you’ve been watching me drive for 15 years. Surely, you know how to do it by now. Here are the keys. Have fun out there.” 

Using this logic, I should also be a lot better at basketball than I am given the amount of basketball I’ve watched. But I digress. 

Treating driving this way would have disastrous consequences. And yet, that’s how managers are often handed the “keys” to their teams. 

Instead of blaming bad managers, we need to invest in creating good ones.

Now, more than perhaps ever before, managers need support and training to help them respond and adapt to the rapidly shifting demands of work.  

What do managers need right now

It’s likely that managers need a lot of help right now as the “workplace” seems to be continually shifting. Even in a stable environment, managing is challenging, let alone when so many things are changing. 

So, where do you start? 

Based on my recent experience training managers and hearing about their current challenges, there are some skills and support you could offer them right now that could have a profound impact. 

And they are likely some you may be overlooking. 


Managers have perhaps the toughest job in the organization and they often carry some of the heaviest workloads as well.  

They feel stretched thin, they are tired, and if they aren’t burnt out yet, they are likely on the path there. That’s bad news for everyone because burned-out managers are not great at engaging and supporting employees. 

Giving managers the permission and tools to care for themselves is incredibly important. If they don’t care for their own well-being, they don’t have the energy to lead others effectively. 

When managers prioritize self-care, it’s contagious for their team and leads to improved well-being for everyone. And well-being is fuel for increased performance. 

To learn more about self-care, you can read my post “Self-Care is a Management Skill.” 

Reducing Uncertainty

A big part of what’s made the past two years so challenging for everyone is the overwhelming amount of uncertainty we’ve all had to deal with. 

Uncertainty at work can be dangerous when left unchecked, in part because of how our brains have evolved to deal with it. 

For example, let’s say you have a family member who was driving in to visit you for a few days and they are due to arrive at 5 p.m. 

5 p.m. comes and goes with their arrival. At 5:30 p.m., you call their cell phone to check on them and there’s no answer. 

Where does your mind go? What kind of scenario do you imagine?

If you are like most people, you are assuming an accident (or worse). Your gut tells you something bad happened. 

This is what our brains do. Our innate survival instincts trigger us to assume the worst when we are uncertain. It’s all about self-protection.

Unfortunately for managers, the same trigger goes off for any kind of uncertainty at work. When you get an email from your managers suggesting a meeting at the end of the day without any explanation, you might think, “Am I getting fired?” even if you have no reason to believe that’s the case. 

So, given the fact that we are living in an era of prolonged and ongoing uncertainty, we need to help equip managers with how to combat it. 

To fight uncertainty requires the skills to create greater clarity. Clarity about expectations. Clarity about the path forward. Clarity about their progress or performance. 

And while there are a lot of tools to help create clarity, one of the most powerful techniques I teach is what I call The Golden Rule of Management

If it matters, write it down. 

The act of putting things into writing forces a move toward clarity. A common source of uncertainty is a misinterpretation of what is said. Putting those same words in writing helps reduce the opportunity for a misunderstanding. 

To learn more, you can read my post about the Golden Rule.  

Show some love

The past few years have not just been hard on managers, it’s been hard on everyone. Work looks and feels different now than it did before. 

Our collective mental health is on the decline. People are quitting their jobs at record rates. It’s a chaotic time.

And while it seems that so much of the discussion around work these days has to do with where you work (hybrid, remote, onsite, etc.), there’s something more fundamental we should focus on first. 

Regardless of where an employee works, we know from decades of research that the factors that most influence their engagement are feeling valued, trusted, and cared for. Employees experience their work as a relationship.  

Effective managers recognize this and treat work like a relationship. They invest in building a relationship with their people. They show they care. 

While I know we don’t use the word “love” at work all that often, it’s pretty obvious that it’s exactly what we need more of right now. People want to feel loved at work. 

Teaching managers how to show the love and build better relationships with their people will pay huge dividends, regardless of what the future holds for your workforce. 

You can learn more about how to do this in my post, “Managing Through Love.” 

Invest in Your Managers

If you knew that one factor was responsible for 70% of your business profit, how much time and investment would you make in that factor? Probably a lot. 

And yet, we know managers factor into employee engagement, performance, and retention. Are we investing appropriately?  

It’s time to kill the “bad manager” narrative. Bad managers are not the issue, it’s a lack of investment and focus given towards developing and equipping good managers with the skills and tools they require. 

You can fix that starting today.


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My Parenting Fail (and why sometimes, trying to help makes things worse)
My Parenting Fail (and why sometimes, trying to help makes things worse) 1080 608 Jason Lauritsen

The most important job I have is being a parent. 

I love and adore my kids. And I want them to find success in whatever they do.  

Like most parents, I find it excruciating to watch my kids struggle. 

This brings me to the story I’m going to share with you today. 

This story is about some of my behavior as a parent that I regret. In fact, it took me some time to forgive myself for this one. 

I want to share the story with you because it brought into sharp focus for me something we all likely struggle with in our personal and professional lives.  

Here it goes. 

My youngest son is nearing the end of what has proven to be a long and difficult basketball season. For various reasons that I won’t go into here, he’s struggled for much of the season. 

Basketball is a game and games should be fun when you are a kid. So, it’s felt particularly hard to navigate this situation with him. 

There have been times that he’s wanted to quit. A few weeks ago, it seemed to hit rock bottom for him. 

He was frustrated. He wanted to play better to have a bigger impact on the team. He was having issues with teammates. Things just weren’t going well for him. 

I tried to talk him through it. I tried to offer encouragement. I tried to do everything I could think of to help him. 

I “Helped” Too Much

Then it happened. It was during one of his games. 

As his former coach from his younger years playing, I’ve not fully broken the habit of trying to shout “helpful” instructions to him on the floor. I know that I shouldn’t, but knowing and doing aren’t always aligned unfortunately. 

On this night, at the peak of his struggles, I was being particularly “helpful” from my position in the bleachers. At one point, he turned to me in the middle of the action and shouted to me, “I got it!” 

I knew in that instant that I had failed him. Not only was I not helping, I was actively making things worse. 

Immediately after the game, I apologized to him. He was totally defeated by the entire experience. It was as if I had seen the flames of a bad situation and thrown a bucket of gasoline on them. 

I didn’t sleep that night. I felt awful and couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d failed him.   

The next day we sat down and talked about it. I said I was sorry again for how I behaved and I explained that I wanted to help him. 

As we talked through it, he even used the word “sabotage” to describe my attempt at helping. (That one still stings as I write it.)

I reassured him that I only wanted to help. And then, I asked him what would I could do to be helpful.  

What I learned from his response is that he just needed me to be there and be encouraging (albeit perhaps more quietly). 

Deep down, I knew this all along. But it just didn’t feel like enough. For him, it is. 

That’s when the real insight from all of this hit me. All this unhelpful “helping” was more about my feelings of inadequacy to fix this for him than it was about any particular need my son had. 

My son was working through something hard. What he needed was a champion, some support, and a listening ear. Everything else I was loading on was about me, not him.  

The Lessons Hidden in My Failure

As a manager or leader, it’s easy to get caught up like this If we care about our people. We worry that we aren’t “good enough” as a manager or that we are failing our people somehow. So in our desire to help and feel competent in our job, we do too much (or the wrong thing) to help.  

One of my favorite proverbs is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

This is often interpreted to mean that having good intentions while doing bad things is of no merit. It is only when those good intentions result in good actions that they matter. 

But, I have learned to add a second meaning to this. Our good intentions can lead us to take what feels like good actions, but that yields a bad result. This is equally problematic. 

This is what happened with my son. I wanted to help, I was trying to help, but my well-intentioned actions actually made things worse. #Fail

This same pattern is something I’ve observed with good managers on countless occasions. These are people who take their jobs as managers very seriously and really care about their people. 

They’ve got an employee who’s struggling to meet expectations in some way. So, out of a desire to help, they decide to take some action to help. Often, this help looks and feels like micromanagement or a lack of trust to the employee, thus undermining the relationship and the employee’s confidence. 

As a result, the employee’s performance not only fails to improve, but often gets worse. Or, it temporarily gets better while the employee looks for a new job elsewhere because they no longer want to work for a manager who behaves like this.  

The tragedy in all of this is that it is unnecessary and very easy to avoid.  

How to Help without Hurting

If you’ve been following my work, you know I’ve been writing a lot about compassion. Compassion is a skill we can cultivate to help us respond to suffering in others. 

In short, compassion involves four steps:

  1. Notice – Be aware that another is suffering or struggling.
  2. Feel – Be emotionally moved by the other’s suffering.
  3. Care – Want to see the easing of the suffering.
  4. Act – Readiness to take action to help.

Good managers practice compassion for their people. They pay attention and connect with people to notice when they are struggling. Then, they move to action to help because they care.  

This experience with my son taught me that my understanding of compassion was incomplete. 

You can have a compassionate response to the suffering of others (as I did with my son) and then take the wrong action to help that actually makes things worse for the individual. 

All of us have had this experience in our personal lives, where at some point, we tried to help only to have it backfire. It happens at work all the time too. And because many cultures lack psychological safety, you don’t often hear the feedback that you’ve failed until it’s too late.

Here’s the insight that we need to add to our compassionate response. 

Don’t assume you know what someone else needs. 

When you notice someone is struggling and needs help, don’t assume you know what they need. Take a beat, and rather than jumping to action, get curious. 

Instead of assuming, just ask. It worked with my twelve-year-old son and it will work with the adults you manage and work with. 

One of the best ways to ask this question is something I’ve heard Brené Brown talk about on several occasions. She simply asks this question:

“What does support from me look like for you right now?”

Another way to ask the same question might be, “What could I do that would feel supportive or helpful to you right now?”  

Be prepared that the answer you hear might feel counterintuitive to you. They might need you to do less, to give them some space.  

Just the fact that you noticed they are struggling, expressed your concern, and offered support might be enough to help. 

I’ll never forget what my son said when I asked him what I could do to help. He said, “Just you being there makes me feel more confident.” 

Just show up. And keep showing up. It’s sometimes just that simple.


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Compassion: A New Management Imperative – Part 3
Compassion: A New Management Imperative – Part 3 1080 720 Jason Lauritsen

This content was originally posted on the Workhuman blog. You can find the orginal post here.

This is part three of a three part series. In part one we explored why employee well-being is vital to performance at work. We discovered that the skill managers need to effectively support well-being is something we don’t traditionally teach at work, compassion.

In part two we explored compassion and how it works. Today we are going to dig into how you can help your managers develop the ability and capacity to practice greater compassion for their people.

Helping managers practice compassion

Most google searches about how to develop compassion will lead you to Buddhist teachings or other mindfulness practices. And while these practices have proven to be highly effective for individuals, it’s probably not the ideal place to start in the workplace.

To see some immediate impact, these are some simple and actionable steps I’d recommend you start with.

Give your managers permission to care.

Last fall, as I was wrapping up a cohort of my online management training program, I asked each participant to share what they found to be the most valuable part of the experience. Most people shared some specific technique or mindset they had learned.

But one manager in the class said something that stuck with me. “What this program did for me more than anything was it gave me permission to really care about my people the way I had always wanted to but didn’t feel like I could.”

This was a reminder that most traditional management practices have taught managers not to get too close to their people. I remember the first time I heard the guidance, “you should never be friends with the people you manage,” and how absurd that sounded. I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be boundaries, but we’ve scared most managers out of really caring and connecting with their people in the way we desperately need them to today.

To unlock greater compassion, you need to give managers permission to enter into a different kind of relationship with their people, one where they deeply care about their people. Managers need permission to embrace their role in actively supporting each individual’s success and well-being. This likely needs to start with your top leadership sending that message and setting that tone through their actions.

Encourage managers to really know their people.

It’s not difficult for us to show compassion to our close friends or family members. Because we know them so well and have a real connection with who they are, it’s more likely that we’ll notice when they are suffering and be moved to do something about it.

When managers choose to hold their people at arm’s length rather than getting to know them as unique human beings, it makes compassion much more difficult and elusive. Instead, if they invest in really getting to know their people – what they care about, what they do for fun, who the most important people in their lives are, where they are from, etc. – it creates familiarity and attachment.

Building deeper, more meaningful relationships with people informed by knowledge of who they really are beyond what they do at work brings our innate compassionate instinct into play. It makes noticing, caring, and taking action more natural. No longer are these just people to supervise; they are unique and interesting people who deserve to be truly cared about and helped when they are in need.

Teach managers how to effectively check in.

As a manager, I ignored the guidance not to be friends with my people and I invested time building authentic relationships with them. But despite how much I knew about and cared for them, my compassion failure tended to be noticed. My wife would probably accuse me of the same thing today. I’m sadly not super observant, as a general rule.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and busy with our own lives. This makes it likely that we might miss when someone we care about is showing signs that they are struggling or suffering. The best way to compensate for this is pretty simple: check in frequently.

A “check-in” is the act of reaching out to someone to see how they are doing. To do it effectively requires that you do three things.

1. Ask the right questions. Here are the two best questions I’ve found to create a meaningful check-in conversation.

  • On a scale from 1-10, how are you today? The number scale is the key to this one. There’s a vast difference between a 2, 5, and 9. Regardless of the number you hear when you ask this question, ask a follow-up question. That’s when the good stuff will start to come out.
  • How’s your head and how’s your heart? This might strike you as a little awkward at first, but when you start asking it, you’ll be amazed at what you will hear.

A word of caution here. Check-ins are about the human, not the work. If you want an update on a project or some other work output, do that separately from the check-in; otherwise, it will lose its value.

2. Really, deeply listen to what they say (and how they say it). The reason we say “fine” when someone asks how we are is that we don’t believe they really care. The way you demonstrate you care is to ask and really listen to what is said. Take notes. Ask follow-up questions. When someone offers the gift of opening up and sharing how they are, it should be honored with full presence and attention.

3. Offer support. Every check-in is an opportunity to exercise compassion. During any check-in, you will hear and notice where the individual might be struggling. The compassionate step is to then find a way to help. This might be saying something as simple as “how I can help you with that?” Or, to take inspiration from the great Brené Brown, you can say, “I want to help. What does support from me look like for you right now?”

Creating a culture of compassion

These are but a few ways to begin helping your managers to behave in more compassionate ways. Anything that helps cultivate an individual’s capacity or ability in the four components is a positive step towards fostering greater compassion.

Compassion will help your managers more quickly identify where employees might be struggling and take focused action to help. This will help improve employee well-being, which will have a positive ripple effect not just at work, but also in employees’ lives outside of work.

But the impact of this compassionate response by managers can have additional benefits. Recent research shows that observing prosocial behavior (those intended to help other people) by another at work boosts the well-being of the observer. So, when we see others performing an act of kindness, it improves our own well-being. But that’s not all.

The researchers also found that prosocial behavior seems to be contagious at work. When we observe someone on either the giving or receiving end of a prosocial behavior (i.e., someone doing something helpful or kind), it increases our own prosocial behavior.

When we begin to unlock compassion, even in small ways, we start creating culture change within our organization. And a culture of compassion is exactly what we need right now. Let’s get started today.


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