Two Examples of Weak OKRs and How to Fix Them

Two Examples of Weak OKRs and How to Fix Them

Seems like everyone is using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) these days. Ever since Google started using OKRs in 1999, organizations of all sizes and shapes started OKR’ing their goal setting and planning processes. This article gives you several objectives and key results examples and what you can do to make them even better.

Why Grow?

Why Grow?

Discover why it is important for a business to grow to stay healthy and provide opportunities for its employees.

Overcome Feeling Like an Imposter Using Three Simple Strategies

I founded a company in 2003 which ended up on the Inc 500 list in 2009. We started as two guys squatting in an law office building websites. Half a decade later we had over twenty people, a significant client roster, and a reasonable bank balance.

You would think, as I walked from my table at the awards dinner to the stage--to accept our plaque from Norm Brodsky--that I would be beaming with pride and feeling on top of the world.

I wasn't.

Surrounded by hundreds of other award winners of amazing companies I felt completely out of place. Everyone there seemed confident and sure of themselves.

I, on the other hand, was thinking about all of the problems and struggles our growing company was having, despite its financial success. From my perspective, it was obvious that nobody was having these same challenges. After all, they had won an award to prove it

Then, after the awards ceremonies, I had the chance to enjoy a few drinks and talk with some of the other award winners. With our bow ties undone, sitting on the veranda of conference center, I mentioned my thoughts from the ceremony.

One by one, they all admitted that they, too, felt uneasy about the accolades. In fact, they commented that I seemed the most poised and successful of the group.

As we spoke, I realized that my own feelings of self-doubt were minor compared to some of the others' at the table. When we shared some of our war stories, I realized that my company was actually doing fairly well, relative to some of the nightmares I heard that night.

By the end of the night, I was able to remind myself and come to terms with the fact that I am my own worst critic. And taking that sentiment further, comparing my internal assessment of my success to how I see other people's success is a losing proposition.

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Years later, I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review by Gill Corkindale titled Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. I realized what I had experienced was something psychologist have known about for years, it had a title so it must have been more common than I thought.

It set in motion a great transformation in me.

As an entrepreneur, I became much more comfortable pushing new ideas and exploring new territory. I became less worried about how I compared to other people and became more open to sharing my concerns and doubts with others to get help and insight.

As a coach, I learned that one of the best things I can do is to share my own challenges, failures, and uncertainty with my clients. Sharing this vital information breaks down the barriers to deeper sharing and insight. It allows me be to be a true partner in the process and success.

Over time, I've found three easy and effective strategies for overcoming the impostor syndrome trap. These have worked well for both for me and for my coaching clients:

1. Call it out for what it is: bad thinking

The trickiest part of self-doubt is that it can be hard to realize it's happening. Your mind is an expert in convincing you.

The sooner you can catch that you're doubting yourself, the sooner you can start addressing it.

Get good at telling the difference between doubt based on external, objective concerns and those which come from your own inner critic.

2. Remember that even the most successful people have self doubt

Once you're aware of your own self doubt, remember that this happens to everyone. In fact, you can make it a badge of courage.

Knowing that even the greatest minds and most fearless leaders have self-doubt can validate that you're in good company. Try using self-doubt as a sign that you're on to something big and important.

3. Don't strive for perfection and make it okay to fail

Self-doubt is very hard to overcome if your internal expectation is perfection. A zero-tolerance for mistakes and errors will make it impossible to take action.

The solution here is to change your expectations; frame the situation to make failure an acceptable outcome.

One of the best ways to do this it to set up your actions as "experiments". That way, any outcome is a learning opportunity.

Great leaders and successful entrepreneurs need to be critical and careful to exam all options, in every situation, in order to make good decisions.

While you may never completely get rid of your self-doubt, spotting it--and acting despite it--will lead to more success.

(This article originally appeared on

The Secret to Effective Delegation

I’ve been running a management training program for the last few weeks and recently taught a session on delegation. Naturally, everyone in the class was excited to learn how to delegate, but they were surprised by my advice.

I taught them that you can’t delegate work to someone else until you are properly organized yourself. In fact, I spent 75% of the class going over organizingyourself, and only 25% on delegation.

This advice wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear, and I get it. Who wouldn’t rather just delegate a bunch of work rather than trying to get themselves organized?

But here’s the thing: in order to figure out what to delegate, you need to know where you add the most value and what your true capacity is.

You can’t delegate just anything. You want to delegate tasks that are fairly routine for you and that you feel ready to let someone else to take on. You don’t delegate new work, you don’t delegate critical work and you don’t delegate work that you would otherwise add the most value to.

Until you organize yourself, you don’t know what you should focus on doing yourself and what you should delegate. Delegating before organizing yourself is inefficient and potentially dangerous to your career. 

This isn’t just about making a list of things to do. It’s about assessing the value you provide, carefully considering what work you should prioritize and determining your true capacity.

There are two big factors you need to consider in order to decide what work to do yourself and what to delegate.

1) Determine where you add the most value in the business

Do you develop creative ideas? Do you make sure the reports are accurate and error-free? Do you analyze data for insights and opportunities? What is essential in your role and why do you have it rather than someone else?

2) Identify which work is “new” and which work is “optimized”

Optimized work is that which you’ve done for some time and have been able to cut down on the amount of time it takes you to complete. You have a process, and your results are accurate. You know the checklist. You’ve made, and fixed, the mistakes. You’ve worked out all the kinks. What work do you do right now that is considered optimized? What work do you do that isn’t?

Once you’ve done these two tasks, you’re ready to find work to delegate.

Delegate the work to which you add the least amount of value which has also been optimized. Sometimes, none of the work fits the bill. In this case, find a task that you add the least amount of value to, and work on optimizing the task in preparation for delegation. Don’t try to delegate before you do this step. If you delegate before you optimize, you won’t be able to properly manage the delegation, and you run the risk that quality will suffer. You can’t delegate a task that you haven’t honed first.

What to delegate better? Try this...

Create a work delegation matrix making a list all of the work and tasks that you currently do. Next, assess whether each one has high value or low value. Then, assess whether each one is well-honed or not honed.

For those items that are low-value and well-honed, determine what you would need to do to effectively delegate these tasks, and to whom you would delegate them to.

For those items which are low-value and not well-honed, determine what you need to do to hone these tasks in order to make them ready for delegation.

Good luck! Post questions below.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is an organizational consultant and business coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at or visit his website at

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.

Focus on Results, Not Effort

One summer when I was in high school, I worked for a house painting company to make some extra spending money. I had a bit of painting experience and figured that working outside painting houses was better than flipping burgers at a fast food joint.

One of our first projects was painting a gorgeous, colonial house in the Linden Hill district of Minneapolis. I was given the task of painting the trim on the windows. If you’ve ever painted window trim, you know that it’s not that easy. In order to properly seal the glass, you need to leave a nice bead of paint between the wood frame and the window pane. Otherwise, the freeze/thaw cycle of cold weather will wreak havoc on your stiles, rails, and muntins. (Hey, I was an architect, I have a duty to use the right terms.)

I spent all day painting several windows and sweating profusely in the summer sun. At the end of the day, our foreman − a big Scandinavian guy named Erik − looked at my work and shook his head.

“Not good enough,” he said. “You see these gaps here and here?” he asked, pointing to two sections where the paint didn’t reach the glass. “And these areas, here, you have too much paint,” he continued, finding several spots where I was overly generous with my brush.

I explained that I worked all day on these windows and that I tried really hard to do the best that I could. He grinned as he said something I’ll never forget:

“Well, I guess your best just isn’t good enough.”

There it was. I was crushed! Before Erik had seen my work, I was proud of the time and effort I put into it. And yet, it just wasn’t good enough.

Erik saw my look of dejection and said, “now look here, I can see you put in a lot of work and time. I’m not saying you didn’t. I’m just saying that we can’t leave these windows like this.” He paused, then continued. “We get paid to paint the house and people expect a quality job given what we charge. We don’t get paid for how hard we work. We get paid based on how good the paint job is.”

Grabbing the paint can, the brush and a scrapper, he waved me over to the first window.

“Look, I know you can do better, and I’ll show you some tricks to getting this right.” He used the scraper to remove the paint I just laid down and then dipped the brush in the paint can.

“First, load your brush with a good amount of paint, but not too much. Then put your outside fingers on the window to stabilize your hand as you glide down the pane. Go slowly and watch how much paint is being laid down, and adjust the brush pressure as you go.” Then he handed me the brush. “Now you try!”

After a few attempts, I figured out how to leave a nice bead of paint. The next day, I scraped and repainted all of the windows. And that summer, I went from being a beginner to an (almost) expert level house painter.

But perhaps the most important thing that I learned was what Erik taught me: that in business, people don’t pay you for your effort. People pay you for results.

There are a few things that Erik did when he focused on my results that I’ve found most great managers do.

First, he turned the results into the goal, rather than the effort spent. My goal wasn’t to spend a ton of time. Or to feel good about my work. Or for Erik to feel good about it. Without beating around the bush, my work was just “not good enough.”

By focusing on the results in a neutral way, you remove the drama and vagueries around the message.

Second, Erik quickly acknowledged my effort and explained that he wasn’t making this statement about me personally, but about the results I delivered. He separated the two, which allowed him to be highly critical of the paint job, without diminishing my effort, motivation abilities, or intent. His feedback was about the product, not about me or my character.

This is where a lot of managers get it wrong. When an employee doesn’t perform up to par, they make it personal and they criticize the employee rather than the product. And when managers say things like “you didn’t try hard enough” or “you know better than to think that this is good enough,” that’s personal. Making it personal never leads to desirable outcomes.

The fact is, you don’t know how hard they tried, what they thought or even what they are truly capable of. You only know what you can see: their results.

Finally, Erik immediately helped me fix the problem. He showed confidence in my ability to get better even though he found my results unacceptable. He made specific comments on the work I had just finished. He showed me where it was wrong and how to fix it. Then, he had me do it so that he was sure that I got it right.

The rejection of my paint job was certainly an emotional blow. But that was my issue, not his. Erik’s clear, neutral and fact-based approach to teaching me how to get better minimized the time I spent emotionally reacting to the situation and instead helped me improve.

By focusing on results in the right way, you can ensure that work is done up to your standard and can help your people learn and improve.

Here are a few tips for how to focus on results in a productive and an effective manner:

  • Make sure the results that you’re after are clear and objective.
  • Point out what was done correctly as well as what wasn’t.
  • Be specific and show them examples in their work.
  • Only comment on things you can objectively see, hear, touch, taste or smell − anything else is subjective and open to interpretation.
  • Explain why it’s not correct and the impact that will have.
  • Show them how to make it right and then have them do it.
  • Agree on a plan for redoing the work and a reasonable check-in point.
  • Try not to use judgmental words like “bad,” “poor” or “terrible” when pointing out defects. Instead, use words like “incorrect,” “needs improvement” or “needs to be changed.”
  • Avoid commenting on the person’s intent, character, motivation, intelligence, etc.

What to put this idea to work? Pick a recent time when you reviewed someone’s work. Go back to the situation and answer the following questions. If you answer “no” to any of them, write out how you could have done this differently.

  • Did you start with comments on factual results?
  • Did you use a neutral and objective tone?
  • Did you point out things that were correct as well as incorrect?
  • Did you support the person's confidence in being able to do a better job?
  • Did you point out specific things that were incorrect and show them how to do it correctly?
  • Did you set up a plan for making changes and a check-in point?


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Bruce Eckfeldt is an organizational consultant and business coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at or visit his website at

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.

Great Managers Define Problems Well

The last few weeks I've been running strategy and planning workshops for different organizations. These workshops range from half-day to two-day affairs where senior leaders review accomplishments made over the last year, develop insights around performance and areas for improvements, and then define goals and metrics for the coming quarters.

I truly love these sessions and this type of work. As a facilitator and coach, I have the privilege of learning about really what makes these teams tick and what challenges them. For teams who I work with on a regular basis, we've built trust and transparency that we need to go deep and address core issues which hinder personal and team performance.

My key to my role as a coach is to ask questions. Sometimes my questions are designed to prompt discussion or help the team consider alternatives or possibilities. Sometimes my questions point out inconsistencies or gaps in logic or understanding. Sometimes my questions shine a light on a topic or issue that everyone in fact sees, but nobody wants to bring up.

However, the best questions I can ask are questions that clarify problems. I've found that teams can spend hours, or even days, struggling to find a solution to a problem. Only to realize late in the process that people don't have the same view of what the problem is or why it's important.

Great managers and great teams don't just come up with great solutions,they come up with a great definition of the problem before they start trying to solve it.

Great Managers Define Problems Well

Defining a problem before finding a solution is critical to success. The more complex the problem, the more critical the definition.

Albert Einstein famously once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

While his ratio might seem excessive, I would say that for complex problems, anything from 50-80% of the time should be spent in the "definition" phase of the problem-solving process. Anything less, you run the risk of missing key insights about what the problem really is or coming up with solutions that don't truly address the needs of a solution.

To define a problem well, you need to answer four key questions...

First, you need to define the problem in exact terms. Describe what the problem is in qualitative and quantitative terms. Be specific.

Don't just say "we have a problem with buggy code." Instead try, "we have performance issues with the page load times on mobile devices for six of our product pages."

The key here is to define what the problem is not as much as what it is. Is it all of them, or just some? Is it all the time, or just sometimes? Is it always that bad, or does it vary?

A great technique here is the "Five Whys" developed by Sakichi Toyoda (founder of Toyota) and popularized by Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. Dig further into the problem by asking why several times. Each time uncovering a new layer of insight and progressing to the root problem.

Teams who don't do this well waste a lot of time because individuals are trying to solve different problems. And argue over different paths to take because they aren't on the same page.

Second, clarify the impact of the problem. By defining the impact, you define why the problem is a problem. This will drive the data that will be collected and possible solutions developed.

Building on the example above, "as a result, users are clicking away and we're losing potential sales." Other impacts could be losing repeat customers or getting negative reviews. These could drive different questions and paths for solutions.

Third, define what success looks like. The point here is to agree on the criteria you'll use to measure success and decide that you're finished. Defining this up front clarifies the end point and helps articulate the path towards a potential solution.

For the example we've been using, this could be the load time of the pages under review. Even better would be to define which browsers, running which OS, and during what time of day. All of these could be factors in the problem, and thus should be parameters of the solution.

I'm always surprised how trying to define the solution criteria puts teams quickly back into the previous two steps. And that is the true value of this step. Defining solution criteria further articulates the problem and its impact.

Fourth, articulate the value of solving the problem. This is the step that most individuals and teams often skip. And often this results in a lot of wasted effort.

This step is basically the ROI test for the problem. It defines the potential return on your time invested in solving this problem. Ideally, this is expressed in dollars or time saved for the organization. It can also be expressed in terms of risk and uncertainty. The more quantitative the better.

Why do we bother with this step? It's because there are far more problems than there is time to solve them. We can spend every hour of every day solving problems and we'll always have more.

Successful individuals, teams, and organizations, pick the problems that have the highest return for the time invested. They know their time is a limited resource and they are really good about prioritizing the problems that have a high return. They also know how much time they should spend on a problem and do the minimum work required to hit the success criteria.

Many people make the mistake of spending time on problems that are annoying or get a lot of complaints but don't really have much impact or value in solving. While having a product page load slowly is certainly a problem, if it only affects a small number of users or it's low-margin product then the return would fairly low.

Don't focus on squeaky wheels. Focus on value creation.

Here is a simple mnemonic for the four steps: D-I-S-V.

  • D - definition
  • I - impact
  • S - success
  • V - value

Following these four steps before problem-solving will ensure that you're choosing the right problems to solve and zeroing in on exactly what needs to be done to solve them.

If you want a simple one-page sheet that walks you through these four steps, email me at and I'll send one to you.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at or visit his website at

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.

52 Habits for Better Management in 2016

Here we are. The beginning a new year. If you're like most people, you have spent the last few days thinking of goals and resolutions for 2016.

I haven't.

While I'm a big believer in setting goals, I'm not a big fan of new year's resolutions. Too many people set big goals in January, struggle in the first few weeks, then give up.

There is no better place to see this than at the local gym. Cardio machines are packed the beginning of January, only to be empty by February. (It's why I try to avoid the gym in January and do home workouts or run outside.)

I'd like to suggest you consider an alternative...

Instead of setting a bunch of annual resolutions, try committing to one simplehabit each week in 2016. Small, focused changes every seven days. That's 52habits for the year. My bet is that you'll be far more successful developing weeklyhabits than setting annual resolutions.

There is a great saying, that seems to be a derivative of something Bill Gates once said:

"We overestimate what we can do in a day,
but underestimate what we can do in a year"

What I take away from this saying is that you'll accomplish more by doing a little bit every day, than trying to do a lot in a single day. In other words, small, simple changes lead to big results over time.

So, my suggestion is rather than setting lofty annual resolutions, commit to small, weekly habits.

To that end, I want to offer some help!

As you know, I focus on organizational effectiveness. And the key to organizational success is effective management at all levels. Without it, you can have the best strategy, the best customers, the best product and still fail.

I'm launching a new program that's absolutely free. It's a special group devoted to effective management. This program is for anyone, at any level, who wants to be more effective in the workplace as a manager. (Honestly, you can use most of the ideas in your personal life as well.)

The program is named...52 Habits

As a member, each week you will receive an email with a new habit that will make you a better, more effective manager. Over the course of 52weeks, I'll help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects and make 2016 your most effective year yet.

And the best part is that all you need to do is simply sign up for the email. I'll take care of the rest. No more tracking, no reminders, no post-it notes on your bathroom mirror.

Simple. Easy. Done.

To register, click on the link below and enter your name and email address.

Here is a sample of what you'll get...

Habit #1: Set Clear Expectations.

Whether you're onboarding a new employee or working with a long-time business partner, setting clear expectations is important. It sets the basis for performance measurement and agreements.

Done well, they can help make things run smoothly by identifying issues up front and heading off train wrecks before they happen. Done poorly, they can lead to problems. Sometimes big problems.

People are not mindreaders, yet we sometimes act that way. We get frustrated and disappoint when things are not going the way we want yet we haven't clearly communicated exactly what is we want.... 

Sign up here to read more:

Writing a Job Description That Has Teeth

Small forests have been wasted on poorly-written job descriptions. Some are too long and rambling, while some are too short and vague. Neither are effective tools for finding talent and managing performance. A well-written description serves as a tool for evaluating candidates, hiring the best talent, managing performance, and getting the results you want, and need, from your people. Done well, it’s valuable enough to be printed on gold-leaf paper and hung on the wall.

Unfortunately, poorly-written job descriptions are rampant in today's business world. Yet the difference between a poor job description and a great one can be summed up in just two words: clear expectations.

A great job description defines an employee's role within the context of a broader management system. It does this by establishing what that system expects and needs from that role to make the whole system work well. It defines what tasks need to be completed, by when, to what standard, and how frequently. The more clear and concise, the better. Job descriptions are not aspirational or abstract. They are clearly defined and measurable expectations of results and behavior.

Poor descriptions typically are either unclear or are not connected to the measurements that truly impact organizational results. Including a bullet point like “must be an entrepreneurial team player” does nothing to describe the work someone is expected to do or how someone is expected to behave. Instead, try “must work collaboratively with the marketing and engineering teams to generate new business models and concepts in order to expand our business services and profit opportunities.” This gives a clearer outline of what will be done and with whom.

Most importantly, a well-written job description becomes the fundamental tool for measuring and monitoring performance. It’s the contract between the employee and the manager (and by extension the company) about what will be expected. A manager and employee should be able to look back at the description and determine if the performance is indeed being met. Without this description, time, energy and talent is wasted arguing over what was expected rather than discussing how to diagnose and solve performance issues collaboratively.

When writing a new job description, or rewriting an existing one, consider these points.

Separate the job description from the job advertisement

Don’t confuse the job description and the job ad. The description is what you’ll use internally to define expectations for the role. Many job descriptions are ineffective because they are trying to “sell” the role rather than serving as a yardstick for performance. Conversely, many ads fail to convert because they are detailing the work, rather than selling the opportunity. Make these separate documents, each with their own purpose, structure and format.

Define the reporting structure

A good job description starts with a clear positioning of the role within the broader management matrix. Who does this role report into? Who reports into this role? What department is it in and where is it located? A good example would be, “Head of Product Development reports into the VP of Product Strategy and leads the user experience design team and copywriting staff.” If the role has dotted line reports or overall organizational responsibilities, those need to be detailed here as well.

List key activities and tasks

Next, the description should list the key tasks and activities that are expected of the role. Generally, this should include about 10-12 items. Don’t bother with general expectations or reasonable norms of professionalism; everyone should be expected to be on time to meetings, work in a professional manner, and communicate effectively. Only list these if there are special expectations such as “speaking publicly to media and the press” or “ensuring the store doors are open during posted store hours.” Establish a reasonableness test by asking yourself, “would it be reasonable to expect a professional walking off the street to know this standard?” If so, don’t bother including it. If you’re not sure, figure out what part would not be reasonable to assume and include that in the description.

Define measurement criteria

Define how success is going to be measured. Generally, this should be 3-5 key measurement criteria for the role. For senior executives, these are usually the KPI (key performance indicators) they are responsible for managing. A Vice President of Sales might be responsible for total dollars sold in a quarter, or perhaps the total revenue. They might also have specific measurement criteria around the size and categories of clients. Define these in specific terms, for example, “$1.3 million in revenue per quarter from Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Northeast US.” Specific numbers might be determined and adjusted on a quarterly basis, but the metric should be stated in the role description.

For mid-level managers and individual contributors, these can be key departmental objectives or work output measures. A manager of customer service might have total calls handled a day, average resolution time, or customer satisfaction ratings measured. A programmer might have features completed in a week, quality of code coverage, or on-time deliveries measured. The point here is to find a few key, objective ways of measuring the work and expectations and to express them in the description clearly and upfront, before their job begins.

Don’t list qualifications, unless they are truly required

I’ve read too many job descriptions that list qualifications that are not enforced. I’ve also consulted many clients whose employees are doing a stellar job despite not having the requirements listed in the description. Leave your “ideal candidate” wish list for the job advertisement. The job description should only have true qualification requirements.

If you’re writing a description for an architect, a lawyer, or a doctor, yes, there are specific educational, accreditation, and licensing requirements. However, unless you truly wouldn’t hire or promote into this role without these requirements, don’t list them. Listing requirements you then don’t enforce undermines the validity and integrity of the description, making it less effective.

This also goes for years or types of experience. Unless you are truly willing to not hire someone without this experience requirement, don’t list it. The fact is, demonstrating ability to perform the work effectively is more important than so-called experience. In fact, research shows that after five years of experience in most fields, there is no additional benefit for additional years. Again, leave your wish list for ideal candidates for the job advertisement.

Disclose any unique characteristics of the job and working environment

If your company does anything that might be out of the ordinary or if there are any unique requirements, make sure to list them. If you require everyone in the company to take improv classes, wear suits in the office, or answer a cell phone 24/7, include this in the job description. Same goes for anything that, if not demonstrated, would be considered a failure to perform as expected. If you don’t list it, you can’t enforce it. Some of these areas can get dicey, so you may want to consult your HR specialist or employment lawyer for guidance on how to address these within the framework of your local employment laws.

Review and revise descriptions on a regular basis

Markets and businesses change, and as a result, what a business needs from it’s people changes. The key is to review these needs and adjust expectations openly and collaboratively with employees on a regular basis. The more transparent and inclusive the process is, the better. I generally recommend to my clients that this happens at least twice a year, or quarterly for high-growth companies. It’s easier to make several smaller changes over the year than to make bigger changes annually.

By engaging employees in this process, it not only builds buy-in to the changes, but it often brings to light new requirements and ideas for how to drive better results. Good employees generally want clarity and goals, and will embrace the process as a way to further engage in their jobs. Those that resist this process are most likely underperformers trying to hold onto outdated expectations.

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For more information on how to write a great job description and to receive a FREE downloadable template that will walk you through the process, send an email to

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him or visit his website at

The Challenge for Female Entrepreneurs Goes Beyond Sobering Stats

While women have made great strides over recent decades in gaining access to and success in the business world, the numbers are still sobering. Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women ─ that’s less than 5%. And while 30% of small businesses are owned by women, businesses owned by men are 3.5 times more likely to break the $1 million mark. Clearly, we have a long way to go before the business world represents the general population.

However, the problem is much deeper than that. Today’s business world is a product of a centuries-old culture based on competition for scarce resources and a zero-sum game view of outcomes. During the Stone Age, being the biggest, fastest, and most competitive person increased your chances of your survival and that of your offspring. It was, indeed, a man’s world. Physical strength, size, and a winner-takes-all attitude won the day. This mentality has been perpetuated over time and is what drives the business world today. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘to the victor go the spoils’ are major themes in modern corporate culture. Sure, companies create partnerships and joint ventures, but only on the basis of short-term, financial gain. It’s time to realize that the world has changed and we no longer live in conditions that require this type of thinking.

This old approach limits sophistication, creativity, and long-term focus of our organizations and initiatives. Consider how science and technology have radically changed the world and our standards of living. Basic life needs are met for a significant portion of western society, and most of us don’t fight each other over access to food, shelter and clothing. Our highly digital world is an environment wherein physical resources no longer limit our social and cultural development. Developing more media, applications, ideas, and knowledge is only limited by our creativity and collaboration, not by whether or not we can dig raw materials from the earth’s crust before our competition. The sooner we can shift our business culture from that of competition over limited resources to one of collaboration towards unlimited potential, the sooner we can accelerate the improvement of our society.

The first step in making this shift is to promote and support more female entrepreneurs and business leaders. Until minorities have a better representation at all levels of business leadership in all industries, we will continue to be hamstrung by our current ways of thinking and working. Having women in positions of influence and leadership is the beginning of this change.

That said, having more women among the upper echelon who have the same business mentality as men will not be enough to solve the problem. Ultimately, our goal needs to be to embrace new and different ways of thinking. Until businesses start thinking more about collaboration, networks of systems, and multi-generational strategies, we will continue to be stuck in our current problems. Women have the power to disrupt the current business world and allow these changes to begin. Once we have a more balanced and representative population of leaders, all of us, men and women, can begin to change the thinking and culture of our business world.

While the numbers show that we have a long way to go, change is underway and many people are working to accelerate this transition. As a man, I am encouraging and working actively to support these efforts, and I encourage other men to do the same.  It’s not about men stepping down or stepping aside, it’s about making room. We need to abandon the fixed mindset and the zero-sum approach on these issues and realize that a rising tide elevates all boats.

One of the most ambitious initiatives driving this change is the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) organization. Founded by social entrepreneur and animal rights activist Wendy Diamond, it is designed to recognize and support female entrepreneurs on a global scale. It is celebrated in over 144 countries and featured by the United Nations in this year’s full-day conference on November 19th.

WED has also developed the infrastructure to celebrate and empower women at all stages of business growth at a local level throughout the year. WED World Ambassadors include Sophana Dahlan of Saudi Arabia, Sharifa Al Barami of Oman, Ingrid Stange of Norway and Mirlinda Kusari Purrini of Kosovo, just to name a few. These women represent not just leaders in entrepreneurship, but agents of change for the future of our business culture.

Founder Wendy Diamond sums it well, “I have dedicated my entire life to helping the “underdog” get a chance and thrive. Historically, women worldwide have been underpaid, undervalued, underrepresented, underfunded – and underestimated. We are dedicated, determined, and driven to change this status – the women entrepreneurs involved in WED are inspirational role models to women everywhere!”

For more information on Women’s Entrepreneurial Day and how you can get involved, please visit:

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Bruce Eckfeldt is a former Inc 500 CEO and long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce, visit or contact him at

Why Finding Talent is Your Top Priority

As a leader, you are responsible for the performance and results of your organization. And having the right team is critical to being an effective leader. In fact, everything you do ─ setting strategy, developing partnerships, finding clients, raising money ─ is dependent on having the right people with the right skills and in the right roles. Without the right talent structure in place, a leader can be left with no talent to implement and poor organizational performance.

Defining what talent you need, knowing where to look for candidates, and recruiting them are the most influential actions a leader can perform. You are uniquely positioned to do this job over any other person in the organization. While you certainly can’t spend all of your time and focus on talent, it should your top priority.

If your organization is experiencing high-growth, then focusing on talent is even more important. Having an annual growth of 25% or higher puts strain on company culture because of the constant influx of new employees. Companies growing at such high rates face a great risk of culturally coming apart at the seams as norms and values become diluted. The pressure is on to hire great people who are well-aligned with a company’s values from the start.

There are three key elements that you can focus on to improve the quality and quantity of talented candidates and new employees:

Define the talent you will need in 1 to 2 years, not what you need now

As a leader, you have the best view into the company’s future. You know the strategies, the objectives, and the targets. Use that vantage point to set the talent strategy. What types of roles will you need to fill? What types of experience would be most helpful? How many people will you require? Will you need leaders or followers? What new skills and capabilities should they have? Define what type of culture you want to create.

The most critical work you can do in the area of talent strategy is to figure out what kind of managers you will need as the company grows. This includes identifying desired qualities of both senior managers and middle managers. As companies grow they need to move quickly between management structures or they risk losing momentum and revenue. Knowing what the next structure will look like, defining the key roles, and having the people in place to fulfill those roles will make these transitions seamless.

Be the ultimate salesperson of your company to potential candidates

Don’t underestimate the power you have to influence people to join the company. People want to work for an organization with a strong and clear purpose. You are in the best position to communicate the company’s purpose in a passionate and compelling way.

Make yourself available on a regular basis to support recruiting and to interact with candidates that have made it through most of the hiring process. Encourage them to ask you questions, and focus on showing them the opportunity they may have and the impact they could be able to make.

For potential senior-level staff, take the lead on the final interviewing process. Be sure to spend both structured time in the work environment as well as unstructured time outside of the office with them. Be available to them 24/7 to answer their questions and discuss possible issues.

Invest your time in employee onboarding and integration during their first 30 days

Once you hire someone, spend time with them specifically for the first 30 days of their onboarding. This time is crucial as it’s when the employee is most malleable and is forming habits and values. Answer their questions at length, give them examples of how things work, and talk to them about the vision you are creating for the company’s future.

Not sure where to start? Remember that one of the best tools for this process is storytelling. People learn and experience the world through stories. Talk about how and why the company was formed. Talk about who the key people were. Talk about the challenges they overcame. Talk about clients and partners. Talk about the visions for the future. You can even hold a group meeting for this, or discuss it one-on-one.

Talent is a limited resource. And it’s a fickle one as well. It’s difficult to predict and manage, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get. However, by focusing on defining exactly that what you need, using your influence to win over the best candidates, and investing in the early stages of their employment, you’ll increase your success. And with success in talent comes high organizational performance.

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If you’d like to learn more about how to create a strategic talent plan, send an email to You’ll receive a workbook that walks you through the talent planning process that map your needs and priorities. For more information, please visit

Making Virtual Teams Work

As the war for talent rages on, the use of virtual teams continues to grow as companies look well beyond the 30-minute commute to find the right people with the right stuff. Companies who limit their sights to local workers are missing the vast majority of the labor pool. Winning organizations are reaching well beyond their city, state, and even country borders to find the best of the best so they can deliver high-performance results.

That said, virtual teams are not business as usual in most companies. One needs to consider different types of configurations, what projects can be tackled, and the mechanics of how a virtual team works to be successful with this approach. A virtual team needs to be carefully designed and managed to avoid disappointment, failure and missed opportunities.

Over the last several weeks, I have interviewed over a dozen experts in communications, project management, organizational development, and talent about the ins and outs of virtual teams. Below are some of the key takeaways from those conversations. For my entire interviews with these experts, follow the link at the end of this article.

Zero in on your goals and measurements

Like any team, virtual teams need a clear purpose and set of objectives. They need to know what their mission is, who they are serving, what they are expected to deliver, and what value they are generating for their client. Outline this clearly and reference it often in the early stages. Allow time for discussion and provide clarifications where necessary.

More so than physically co-located teams, virtual teams need well-defined measurement criteria and reporting. Since there are less opportunities to collectively “see” the results, there needs to be more frequent and more visual reporting of the status and progress toward goals. Develop a handful of leading KPI that will show the team how they are doing as a unit, not just as individuals. Have it distributed daily, and discuss it at least weekly.

Virtual team-building takes more time and more intention

A large part of team-building is developing one-on-one relationships with your team members. This happens naturally with in-person teams. With virtual teams, this is extremely difficult to do without a clear game plan. If possible, get your team together in-person in the beginning stages, and spend time together outside of work too. If your team can’t make the trek, make sure to do plenty of all-hands video chats. Start sessions with ice-breakers, like asking everyone to share personal details about their interests and non-work lives. It’s equally effective to pair people up on early tasks, working together over the phone or video.

Be deliberate with your communications

Even when communicating over video, a lot of non-verbal interaction is lost  ̶­  it’s far worse over the phone and email. The subtle cues of facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture are missed. Encourage everyone to use a deliberate “round-trip” protocol  ̶­  meaning once you say something, the other person repeats what they heard, then you confirm that it was indeed what you meant, and vice-versa. On conference and video calls, check in with everyone regularly to make sure they are engaged and being heard. And don’t forget the emotional factor; virtual teams need to be better at expressing their emotional states and reactions clearly. Be explicit and intentional when you speak and write to avoid being misunderstood.

Set clear ground rules early on

As a team and organizational coach, one of the first things I ask my clients about is their ground rules around how the team has agreed to operate. Ground rules can be as simple as turning off cell phones during meetings, and as sophisticated as formal agenda templates and protocols for running meetings. The important thing is that the team agrees to a set of rules that allow them to work efficiently and effectively. A good team collectively enforces the rules, without shaming the rule-breakers. They regularly review their ground rules, changing existing ones and experiment with new ones.

Virtual teams need to create ground rules that help facilitate communications in their unique circumstances. For example, some virtual teams set rules around meeting times (i.e. “only meet in the morning” or “never meet on Fridays”). The point is to codify the agreements the team has made and to lock in good practices as new ground rules. Take the time to start this list of rules when the team forms, and then review them with each retrospective.

Retrospect, retrospect again, then retrospect some more

Finally, one of the best practices any virtual team can do is to hold retrospectives routinely. This can be anything from a two minute chat about how to make your meetings more effective, to scheduled retrospectives at the end of each working sprint or iteration, to day-long retrospectives each quarter to address deeper issues as a collective group. As with any retrospective, make sure you take the time to first gather data, then develop insight, then determine possible actions. Finish with a clear review of what the team has committed to and record who will be doing what and by when.

With more and more work becoming project-based, and more of us tapping into the global talent pool, the use of virtual teams will soon become the norm rather than the exception. Getting ahead of the curve will separate the leaders from the pack in the coming years.

If you would like to listen to my interviews with experts on virtual teams, sign up for the summit using the link below! There you can also find downloadable audio files and transcripts available at a discounted early-bird price.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him or visit his website at

Why Our Brains Are Wired To Create Team Conflict

Conflict is natural. In fact, for high-performance teams, conflict is required. That’s because a team with conflict is debating issues, exploring multiple points of view, and developing the best solutions through critical analysis. That being said, the conflict needs to be constructive and focused on problems and tasks, not on assigning blame to individuals. High-performance teams are “hard on issues and soft on people,”as the saying goes. Differentiating between constructive and destructive conflict, and favoring the former, is a critical skill that a team needs to develop in order to deliver high-quality results.

Teams that avoid destructive conflict avoid what psychologists call the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” Coined by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris in the late 1960’s, we have all been guilty of it because we’re wired to be.  It’s defined as the tendency of all humans to attribute our own shortcomings to extrinsic forces while at the same time attributing shortcomings of others to theirintrinsic characteristics. As an example, we think that we were late for the meeting because the subway was delayed (an external force), but think that Sarah wasn’t on time because she didn’t leave early enough (an internal characteristic).

The more that team members are aware of the Fundamental Attribution Error and correct it, the more likely it is that they will stay in a constructive dialogue and find effective solutions to problems as teams. This is hard work and takes skill and practice. Great teams continually work on getting better about not falling victim to the Fundamental Attribution Error. As a result, they focus more on delivering results and less on figuring out who is to blame for their failures.

Here is how I coach teams to stay mindful of your thinking, and some practices that you can develop to keep yourself and your team in the positive space of constructive conflict.

Be aware of your tendency to excuse your own behavior

Listen to your internal and external dialogue for signs that you’re assigning external factors for your performance and results. It’s called “but for” thinking: I would have been on time, but for the traffic on the highway. I would have made the budget, but for the increase in prices. Blaming results on others’ behaviors and actions should also be avoided: I would have made the sale but for Harry delivering the prototype too late. Be especially careful of assigning fault to other people’s motivations and intents: I would have passed the quality assurance testbut for Jorge being careless with his testing. This kind of thinking will breed frustration and resentment. Instead, focus on factors that you can control and that you can change, and adapt your behavior and approach accordingly.

Consider that others tend to assign fault to external factors

Just as you may tend to find external causes for your outcomes, understand that other people will do the same. Don’t be surprised or assign fault when other people blame the situation or others for their own outcomes. Avoiding these triggers and refocusing discussions on constructive dialogue will help the team stay positive. When someone deflects accountability, acknowledge the impact, then brainstorm ways within their control that the issue can be addressed.

Don’t  take the bait when someone questions your intent

It’s natural to get defensive and to blame other people when we’re feeling stressed. Be understanding when other people fall into this trap and appreciate that they are struggling with the situation. Take a breath, let it pass, and refocus on addressing issues collaboratively. If it continues, call out the situation and the dialogue that is not productive and choose to disengage if you must. Counter-attacking is never productive. Enlisting the help of other team members or bringing in third parties to mediate can help get the conversation back on track and avoid creating deeper scars.

Always assume positive intent

It’s a helpful practice to assume that regardless of people’s behaviors and actions, they are doing the best they can and are acting from a position of positive intent. While it’s not always easy, it keeps you in a productive state and helps you avoid engaging in destructive conflict. Assuming that someone has good intentions can help you get through even the toughest discussions.

A good corollary to this maxim is to keep yourself in a state of curiosity. If you assume positive intent and stay curious, you naturally focus on asking questions and exploring the other person’s situation and perspective. You will not only discover issues that can be addressed, but you will foster appreciation and reduce defensiveness in the other person. An added bonus is that they will likely become more empathic to your position and point of view.

High-performance teams know that people aren’t perfect and we can all fall into the trap of excusing ourselves and blaming others from time to time. They work hard at catching themselves and others in this destructive pattern, and they work to shift conversations back to issues and collaboration. Great teams don’t avoid conflict and they are just as prone to fall into destructive conflict as other teams. It’s human nature. However, they have the skill and training to catch themselves quickly and refocus faster than lower performing teams.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach.  Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him or visit his website at

Applying the Scientific Method to Performance Coaching

As an executive coach and management trainer, I help clients find better, more effective ways of achieving their goals. It is usually fairly clear what the solutions to their problems are, and my first instinct is to just tell them what to do, but I stop myself. Why? Because while it’s easy to give advice, and my clients are often seeking advice, however, I find that telling someone what to do is usually not the most effective approach.

There are three main reasons that giving advice doesn’t work. Firstly, people naturally resist other people's ideas. It’s human nature. Giving advice throws up a barrier, which is better to avoid. Secondly, advice robs them of the chance to learn for themselves. They become dependent on others to tell them what to do rather than developing the tools and skills to think for themselves and come up with their own solutions. Finally, outside advice sets up an out for the receiver. If something doesn’t work, they can just blame it on bad advice rather than taking responsibility for the outcome. As a result, giving advice is not an effective way to coach.

Instead, I’ve developed on a coaching model that enables them to learn through experimentation, discovery, and critical analysis. The power of this model is that they learn through action rather than through thought, and it instills a deeper level of understanding and intuition in them. While the process definitely takes longer than just telling clients what to do, their ability to apply their newfound knowledge elsewhere and the likelihood of creating a long-term solution is significantly higher.

I call my method PEAK coaching. This performance improvement model has four key steps: Plan, Experiment, Assess, and Keep. It’s based on the process improvement methodology made popular by American engineer W. Edwards Deming back in the 1950’s. The main difference between the PEAK model and most coaching frameworks is its emphasis on taking experimental actions immediately, then evaluating its outcomes before committing to long term change. At it’s core, it applies the scientific method by asking us to develop a hypothesis and then testing it. What makes the process effective is that it creates real-time, real-world feedback to reinforce results rather than just taking a coach’s word for it.

As a coach, I work with my clients to co-create several different possible directions. The client is ultimately in control. While I may make suggestions, it’s best when the client chooses the final plan of action. Here's how I work:

Step 1: Start with a Plan of action

Form a hypothesis, otherwise known as a plan. It should state that if a specific action is taken (or not taken), then “blank” result is expected. It should also include a proposal for a method of causation. For example, I had a client, we’ll call him Henry, who was struggling with time management. We discovered that he didn’t prioritize his work well. So we developed the following plan: at the end of every day, Henry would write down the three most important tasks that he needed to complete the following day on a yellow sticky note, and place it on his computer monitor. Then, the next day, before he could answer any emails, or take any new meetings, or even have a conversation, he would accomplish those three tasks. Note how easy this plan was to implement. It required no new software to install, no boards to create, no systems to develop and learn ─ just sticky notes and a simple set of rules.

Step 2: Conduct the Experiment

The next phase is to implement the experiment and collect data for a limited period of time. For Henry, that meant two weeks of doing the sticky note experiment. I had him keep an online journal (something I do with most of my coaching clients) to record his results and thoughts between sessions. Henry journaled about his to-do lists, which tasks he actually completed before working on anything else, how productive he felt, how hard  it was to deter from other activities, and the feedback he received from coworkers.

Step 3: Assess the outcomes

After two weeks worth of Post-Its, we reviewed the results. We had collected hard data: the number of days he prepared his sticky notes at night, the number of days he made them in the morning, and how many tasks he completed. We discussed his feelings toward the experiment and the feedback from his coworkers. One coworker had thanked him for completing a task way ahead of schedule. Another had commented that they were happily surprised when Henry turned down an unimportant task because he had a full list that day.

Step 4: Decide what to Keep

The final goal is to decide what actions make a measurable difference and what is feasible to keep doing in the long term. Our assessment brought to light a number of solutions that Henry should implement to prioritize his work:

  • Making a list of the three most important things he needed to accomplish the following day proved to be helpful and productive. However, it was hard for him to remember to make the list at night. Instead, Henry found that it was easier to do it in the morning. In fact, he was able to think of a better list in the morning while his mind was fresh, rather than the night before when he was tired from the day.
  • He struggled to ignore his emails until after all three tasks were done. We came up with a revised strategy to make the list, then check emails for 15 minutes. If need be, he could reply to emails to say that he would reply to them in detail later, or if something urgent came up in an email, he could include it in his to-do list (and take something else off).
  • Henry opted to write his top three daily tasks in a notebook instead of on sticky notes. This allowed him to add new tasks throughout his day, and record what he completed. He could then review his productivity at the end of each week.

In summary, once the new process was tested and proved and the final process clearly defined, we worked on honing the implementation and focusing on long-term adoption. We could do this confidently because we had tested the process and saw the results. And that’s the key to the PEAK model; checking ideas through experimentation before trying to make big changes and build long-term habits.

Before trying to implement your next change, try experimenting with the PEAK model to see how you can improve and optimize it before investing your time and energy in long-term adoption.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based organizational development consultant and performance coach.  Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc. 500 CEO he now advises executives and teams in startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at or visit his website at