The Know Your Team Blog

Thoughts on how to become a better leader, and avoid being a bad boss.

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Progress starts with ingredients

A lesson in creation, leadership, and life. A good friend of mine told me how he went to a poetry workshop recently. My friend is not a poet. He’d actually never written a poem in his life. He was a nervous about attending the workshop. Here’s what the instructor asked him to do. She asked my… Read the full article ...

How to start giving difficult feedback (when you haven’t been doing it regularly)

Delivering negative feedback is hard — especially when you’re seen as a “the positive person” on your team. Here’s how to start doing it more regularly. “I need to right the ship.” A member of The Watercooler, our online leadership community in Know Your Team, admitted this a few months ago. He shared how he’d long delayed… Read the full article ...

Is it your first time firing someone? Here are 4 things to know.

Ugh. Firing someone never gets easier — but keeping these tips in mind can make it go as smoothly as possible the first time around. I’ll never forget the first time I fired someone. She was the first employee I’d ever hired at Know Your Team. And she was someone I’d looked up to since I was 19.… Read the full article ...

How do you measure company culture? You can’t. But you can do this instead.

Culture isn’t meant to be measured. Here’s why, and what you should measure instead. “How do you measure company culture?” Someone asked me this recently. My answer: You can’t. And you don’t want to. Why? Because culture, technically defined, is the artifacts, espoused values and beliefs, and basic underlying assumptions that people have. And that can’t… Read the full article ...

Announcing: A Guide to One-on-One Meetings for Managers and Employees

Based on data from 2,000+ people, I wrote a guide to one-on-one meetings for managers and employees — and it’s finally live! 🙂 Dear manager or employee who cares about their team’s success, You hold one-on-one meetings. But are they working? Over the past four years, I noticed how almost every person I talked to did not know the… Read the full article ...

The 3 phrases you’re saying that trigger employee disengagement

Stop saying these words — you’re wearing your employees thin. You’re doing it again. You don’t mean to, but it’s happening: Your words are damaging your team. Small, off-hand remarks color how an employee thinks you value their work. Comments seemingly innocuous to you are in fact infuriating to your team. You may have started to notice… Read the full article ...

Announcing: Skillshare Class on How to Give and Get Honest Feedback at Work

In 30 minutes, wherever you are in the world, you can now get the basics of getting and giving honest feedback. I’ve always dreamt of creating an online class. Yes, our writing has been helpful for folks who want to quickly digest a useful tip or two. And our half-day, in-person workshops have been excellent… Read the full article ...

How to handle a needy employee

You have a needy employee. What do you do now? “I think I’m going to have to let someone go.” I was at lunch the other day with an executive who admitted this to me. I asked her why. “She’s in my office every five minutes, asking me for help. I don’t have time to answer… Read the full article ...

What’s the best way to run an effective all-hands meeting?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution — but there are best practices. Here are 5 recommendations from leaders all over the world on how to hold a well-run company-wide meeting. “Does my team think this is a waste of time?” The thought slips into your mind as your prepare for your all-hands meeting. Whether it’s the first all-hands you’ve… Read the full article ...

Stickers vs. Words: 8 ways to give employee recognition sincerely

I’m tired of gimmicky ways to praise your team. Here’s how to commend your team for a job well done, meaningfully. My third grade teacher Ms. Mullens had a bulletin board of star stickers in her classroom. On the board, she’d place a star sticker next to your name if you’d cleaned out your cubby,… Read the full article ...

How can you tell if you have a disengaged employee? Ask these 11 questions.

Employee motivation isn’t as mystifying as it should be. Ask these questions to get to the bottom of it. “What really motivates employees?” A CEO asked me this recently, quite skeptical of the deluge of books and articles on what influences employee engagement and performance. It’s managers! It’s career opportunities! It’s learning and development! It’s employee… Read the full article ...

How do you discuss sensitive, confidential leadership issues… with people you’ve never met?

What we learned creating an anonymous online forum, “The Chatham House,” for leaders in The Watercooler Where do you go to talk about the really hard stuff? Sensitive, confidential leadership issues that you don’t really want to be getting out to the rest of your company, let alone the rest of the public? A few… Read the full article ...

From the Heart(beat): Leadership tips for new managers

I share a few of my favorite latest leadership tips from CEOs, founders, and executives featured in our Heartbeat interviews. “What do you wish you’d learned earlier as a leader?” Every two weeks, I ask this question to a CEO, founder, or executive I admire in our interview series, The Heartbeat. The answers are sometimes… Read the full article ...

How to have a good relationship with your boss when you’re working remotely

Four best practices to help you work well with your boss when you don’t see them face-to-face all the time. “What does her Slack message *really* mean?” It’s easy to second-guess yourself when your boss pings you. You want to have a good relationship with your boss — but it’s not always the most natural of things. And… Read the full article ...

Quiz: Do you have these leadership blindspots?

A short 3-question quiz to give your team so you can avoid common leadership mistakes. Feel that? It’s your faint intuition that, as a leader, you’re not hearing the full truth. No one seems to tell you the complete story when someone decides to leaves. No one breathes a word about any leadership mistakes you… Read the full article ...

Avoid this leadership mistake: Your team listens to your word too closely

When the boss speaks, people listen too much. Here are two phrases to counteract this common leadership pitfall. Watch the ears perk up. The boss says something, and folks become extra attentive. It’s not a leadership mistake they’re making on purpose – it’s the unintentional by product of being the boss. All of sudden, someone… Read the full article ...

What to do (and not do) during your first 2 weeks as a new manager

You’ve just been promoted Now what? Here’s what 1,000+ leaders across the world had to say about what a new manager should do during her first 2 weeks on the job. A friend of mine was recently promoted to being a manager for the first time. It’s a slightly terrifying thing, for those of you who… Read the full article ...

Small, but effective: 6 commonly overlooked actions to increase employee engagement

From icebreakers to arguments, here are some of most frequently missed things we forget to do as leaders to encourage our team to be more engaged. Meaningful work, open communication, a sense of direction In our heads, we seem to know a lot of what helps maintain employee engagement. However, in practice, keeping our team engaged… Read the full article ...

7 tips to help build a culture of feedback

Beer taps and foosball tables aren’t signs of a strong company culture — honest communication and rigorous + respectful debate are. Here’s how to build a culture of the latter. Culture, at its core, is not what we outwardly say or show. Culture is rooted in our basic underlying assumptions — what we truly believe, even when we choose not… Read the full article ...

How do you train new managers?

Being a first-time manager is daunting — so I asked our Watercooler members how they support their own newly promoted managers. When you hire or promote a new manager, you hope they’ll be great. After all, they were a wonderful, all-round employee. But being a wonderful, all-round employee unfortunately doesn’t guarantee that someone will be a great… Read the full article ...

6 ways to get the employee feedback you need to hear

Are you struggling with how to unlock honest feedback from employees? Here are six ways to get the employee feedback you need to hear. Feedback is critical to getting great work done. When you get honest feedback, it helps you make better decisions, it helps employees do their best work, and it helps you be a… Read the full article ...

Three months of being an ambassador for The Watercooler — what I learned?

Tribes of all kinds can speed up your evolution. If you belong to the right group of people who share similar values and interests, you have great chances to be shaped in a positive way. I’m a community builder myself, so there’s no wonder why I firmly rely on in such structures. On top of… Read the full article ...

Delegate outcomes, not activities.

When it comes to delegating, invite your team into both the thinking and the doing. Do you consider yourself “a doer”? That person who enjoys doing the work, fine-tuning the details, meddling in the weeds of how it’ll all work? Then you probably have trouble delegating as a leader. I know I do. For so many… Read the full article ...

One-on-ones 101: With whom and how often?

As a busy leader, you may be wondering how to fit 1-on-1s into an already packed schedule. Here are some best practices selected from The Watercooler, our online community for leaders. A frequent question I receive when it comes to having one-on-ones with employees is: With whom and how often? Everyone? Direct reports? A cross-section of… Read the full article ...

New in KYC: Follow-ups ↩️

When it comes to getting honest feedback, I’ve always believed that asking questions are only half the battle. You can’t just ask for feedback — you’ve got to follow-up and act on that feedback. That’s why people are giving you the feedback in the first place: They want you to do something with it. Now, that doesn’t… Read the full article ...

Announcing: “The Feedback Loop” Workshop

Our half-day, hands-on workshop on how to create a culture of feedback — given to managers and executives from Arkansas to New Zealand — comes back to Chicago on May 17. Join us on May 17th at Basecamp HQ in Chicago — you’ll learn practical techniques for how to give, receive, ask for, and act on feedback well, alongside managers, executives, and… Read the full article ...

From The Heart(beat): Some of my favorite advice from 4 leaders

I share a few of my favorite latest leadership tips from CEOs, founders, and executives featured in our Heartbeat interviews. Every few weeks, I have the opportunity to sit down with CEOs, founders, and leaders who inspire me. I’m continually surprised by the lessons they share — as well as the humility and introspection required to share… Read the full article ...

Breaking the (remote) ice: 5 tips for icebreakers in distributed teams

Our most popular recommendations for team-bonding, regardless of the distance separating your remote employees. Believe me when I tell you that I adore running a remote company. It’s enabled me to hire and work with folks I could’ve never have hired locally. It’s helped me work with fewer distractions and greater focus. It’s given me… Read the full article ...

Hate delivering negative feedback at work? 19 phrases to help make giving difficult feedback easier

If you’ve always struggled to give negative feedback to your team, this is for you. “I love giving negative feedback at work,” said no one ever. Unless you enjoy causing people to be angry, upset or hurt — chances are you don’t like giving difficult feedback. We squirm, postpone, or avoid having to relay hard truths,… Read the full article ...

How do you share knowledge in the workplace? 1,000+ managers weigh in with their leadership advice

From our online leadership community in Know Your Team, The Watercooler, we gathered the best tips for sharing knowledge effectively across your team. A few months back, one of our members of The Watercooler in Know Your Team  — our online community for more than 1,000 CEOs, executives, and managers— posed a question to the group. He… Read the full article ...