A Marlow Workshop

Managing a Team of Individuals while Developing a Cohesive Team Culture


Your Management Commitment

You are the sum of the parts of your team. To develop a cohesive team culture you need to see your team members as individuals while bringing them together through a shared vision and common goals.

The Agreement

To manage and to be managed is to enter into an agreement where both parties need to play their part.

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Identifying and Bridging the Gap

To understand how to develop your team and where to enhance your team culture, consider what you need your team to accomplish. What are the team’s goals?

You hired a team of unique individuals, and your team members need to be seen as such. Each has their own strengths and opportunities, as does the team as a whole. Your job is to identify the gap between where you are today compared to what you need to accomplish as a team and what you need to accomplish on an individual level.

There’s often a gap between where we are and where we want to be. When you’re managing a team of individuals, this gap can be cause by a lack of skills, resources, knowledge or motivated attitude.

The gap is your team’s opportunities for growth. It is your job as a manager to identify the reasons for the gap and the communicate and coach through the gap.

Progress Gap

Skill Gaps

There may be a gap when your individuals lack the skills necessary to be able to accomplish the goal. The skill gap may be around:

  • Technical Skills - for example, knowledge of new engineering language or forecasting algorithms in excel

  • Interpersonal Skills - for example, ability to communicate effectively or influence skills

  • Managerial Skills - for example, project management or organizational skills

Resource Gaps

There may be a gap when your team lacks the necessary resources to accomplish the goals. The resources gap may be around:

  • Team members (i.e., you have too few to handle the workload or perhaps you don't have team members with the right expertise

  • Time (i.e., the longest possible deadlines are still too tight for the amount of work you need to get done)

  • Money (i.e., acquiring the resources you need isn’t possible because the budget is too tight)

  • Hardware (i.e., existing hardware isn’t up for the challenge and there aren’t great alternatives)

  • Software (i.e., existing software isn’t serving your needs and switching has too great a cost)

Knowledge Gaps

There may be a gap when your team lacks the necessary knowledge to accomplish the goals. The knowledge gap may be around the lack of the necessary data or information

  • Budget details

  • Customer research

  • Co-dependencies

  • Expectations

Attitude Gaps

There may be a gap when your team lacks the attitude to accomplish the goals when individuals are unwilling or unmotivated to do the work

  • Apathetic or not excited

  • Not bought in

  • Unengaged

  • Blocked or incapable

Communicate and Coach through the Gap

Your first step is to identify and agree to:

  • A common goal

  • The reality of where you are now

  • The gap between where you are now and where you need to be

  • Obstacles and options

  • A path forward, a plan to get there

Consider using the GROW coaching model as a framework for discussing the gap.

Meet People Where They Are

The second step is to meet your team and individual team members where they are. Meeting your team and team members where they are means gauging their willingness to bridge the gap through introspection, and growth, while striving to understand and empathize with their perspective without judgment.

We can talk about being “above or below the line”. The line signifies the readiness to be open to growth and change.

Source:  CLG

Source: CLG

Team members who are eager and willing to grow are often proactive, open-minded and able to be creative. They are ready for growth and learning, see people as allies, are able to laugh and maintain a playful attitude even when times get tough, they are able to question their own perspective and listen to feedback and alternative perspectives.

Team members who may not ready are often reactive to their emotions, guarded and defensive. They may use phrases like “there’s is not enough” seeing only limitations and restrictions, they may be fearful of their security, look to place blame and judgment and may be striving for win-lose solutions.

Source:  CLG

Source: CLG

Get to Know Your Team

True connections means feeling a sense of safety, belonging and ability to be your authentic self.

The fastest way to drive connection and trust is through conversations that create vulnerability loops. Creating vulnerability loops means having conversations around:

  • Individuals’ authentic selves

  • Goals, reality gaps

  • Mistakes and room for improvement

Vulnerability loops are a two-way street, as a manager, you need to include yourself in the loop by sharing and by asking hard questions.

Taking inventory

What do you know about your team members? How much do you know about their

  • Background and experiences

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Strengths and capabilities

  • Workstyles and routines

  • Accountability and motivators

  • Goals and purpose

Building a Cohesive Team Culture

Your team whether two people or 200 has a culture because it is made up of unique individuals whose interactions, behaviors, values, and personalities make up a unique team culture.

Your team's culture is built up from the collective purpose, values, behaviors, recognition, and rituals of your team. The Culture Code Framework outlines that to understand the culture you need to understand where your team is in each of the categories. To change your team culture you also need to have an idea of where you would ideally want your team to be in each category.

  • Purpose ("Connects the work to the vision")

  • Values ("Beliefs about what's important, and what's not")

  • Behaviors ("Actions guided by values")

  • Recognition ("What you water is what you will grow")

  • Rituals ("Repeated behaviors that establish a sense of community")

Team Culture vs. Company Culture

The best, most scalable culture is one that is managed and maintained by the majority not by a policing body or culture Czar.” (Source: Forbes)

While teams often have a distinct and unique culture because of the nature of the work and the individuals on the team, the teams’ cultures need to align with the greater company culture. The overarching company values, purpose, behaviors, recognition and rituals need to be the foundation that the individual team cultures are built on but at the same time the culture of the company also has to be adaptable to the individuals and teams of the company. The culture cannot be rigid, it has to be adaptable and adjustable, ready to evolve as needed. There needs to be both a trickle up and trickle down effect.

Culture should not be created in a vacuum. Aspects of culture can be unique to your team but not when they cause friction with other teams or the company culture as a whole. The culture of your team still needs to be in service of the common goals and purpose.

Willingness to Coach

What is Your Team's Culture?

Whether you are hiring and building a new team or considering the culture of your current team it is important to strategically consider your team culture. There are three main steps to do this:

  1. Define your team’s:

    1. Purpose ("Connects the work to the vision")

    2. Values ("Beliefs about what's important, and what's not")

    3. Behaviors ("Actions guided by values")

    4. Recognition ("What you water is what you will grow")

    5. Rituals ("Repeated behaviors that establish a sense of community")

  2. Identify the culture that already exists.

  3. Consider what culture is necessary to reach your team’s goals.

  4. Make a plan to strategically shape your culture to reach your goals.

Exploring Your Team’s Culture

  • What adjectives would you use to describe your team now?

  • How would you describe those adjectives including examples of behaviors that represent each? EX: the adjective is collaborative, and it means working together and a behavior example would be calling a team brainstorm about a project that affects multiple stakeholders.

  • What are your team’s goals? What impact do you have on the organization?

  • What do you need to accomplish?

  • How do you want your team members to interact, communicate or relate with/to one another? To interact with the company as a whole?

  • How would you define the norms of behaviors or routines on your team?

    • How do you spend time together outside of structured meetings?

    • How do you communicate?

    • How do you plan projects or work?

    • How do you think about team goals, challenges, disagreements?

  • What are your team members strengths, capabilities and motivators? How could they contribute to your team?

  • What does it look like if your team is successful?

  • How would you describe your culture now?

  • What type of culture would help you achieve your goals for your team to be successful?

  • How can you begin to shift your culture?

  • What would it look like if you personally were living your culture?

Enhancing Your Team’s Brand

Your team's brand is the perception of your team's culture, actions and behaviors, as well as their perception of your team’s success. As you look to build and shift the culture in order to fulfill your team's purpose, you also need to consider the current perception others have of your team. Perception will shift the influence, impact, and success of your team.

What is a team brand? Your team's brand is displayed by the actions and behaviors they take in the workplace collectively and as individuals. This includes any physical or digital representations of your brand as well as the word of mouth descriptions of your team (i.e., what do they say to people in other teams? What do people who work with your team say about your team’s culture? And so on).

To shift your team's brand, start by defining the purpose and culture. Then begin communicating the behaviors you need to fulfill that culture and work with your team members to consider gaps between their current and desired behaviors. This will over time shift perception of the overall norms and behaviors.

Next, you can consider the physical or digital representations. How is your team described on your intranet (or wiki) and jobs website? What is the physical office space like? Who do they work near? How is your culture defined in the work and materials they deliver? Where can you shift this culture in order to get it to where you need it to be?

Finally, what are the word of mouth discussions around your team? What does success look like for your team? How well is that success measured and communicated? Where can you communicate as a leader to stakeholders and coach your team members to be advocates to the team's success in conversations?


A Marlow Workshop

Leadership Strategy, Impact & Influence


What does it mean to lead?

Defining leadership as a process means that it is not a trait or characteristic that resides in the leader, but rather a transactional event that occurs between the leader and the follower. Process implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers. It emphasizes that leadership is not a linear one-way event, but rather an interactive event. When leadership is defined in this way, it becomes available to everyone.” (Northouse, 2015)

  • Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.

  • Leaders are not “born with it”.

  • Each of us is a leader.

  • We can identify between emergent and appointed leadership.

  • There are different types of leaders and different perspective on what makes a good leader.

  • Your leadership style is based on your:

    • Values

    • Personality

    • Background and experience

    • Strengths and skills

    • The environment and context you work within

Leading vs. Managing

There is an ongoing debate about the difference between leading and managing. A leader is unique from a manager in that a leader can influence direction without using their hierarchy based authority.

As a leader, you are motivating intrinsically, using creative thinking, and strategic planning, you have a tolerance for ambiguity, and the ability to read people. “Management differs in that it is distinguished by rule orientation, short-term planning, motivating intrinsically. Orderliness, safety concerns, and timeliness.” (Northouse, 2015)

People Management Skills

Leadership Skills

  • Establishing a Leadership Brand and anchoring your actions and behaviors to your brand

  • Ability to build relationships, trust and influence

  • Ability to communicate and make connections between purpose, vision, and goals

  • Confidence and Executive Presence

Leadership Approaches

Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership (George, 2003) was intended as an antidote and a way for a new generation to learn from negative examples like Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco. To be authentic means to

  • Understand the purpose

  • Practice solid values

  • Lead with heart

  • Establish connected relationships

  • Demonstrate self-discipline

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership, first proposed by Greenleaf in 1970, is a theoretical framework that advocates a leader’s primary motivation and role as service to others.” To be a servant leader means to

  • Be motivated by the desire to help others, not power or self-interest

  • Take a holistic approach to work: be who you are for the work

  • Promote a sense of community: a group responsible for each other individually and as a group

  • Share of power in decision making

Transformational Leadership

The intent of a transformational leadership approach (first introduced by MacGregor Burns in 1978) is to cause a change in individuals and social systems. It is not a “give and take” approach. To be a transformational leader means to

  • Base one's leadership approach on “personality, traits, and ability to make a change through example, articulation of an energizing vision and challenging goals”

  • Take an individualized consideration that attends to followers needs.

  • Strive for intellectual stimulation challenging assumptions, taking risks and soliciting ideas

  • Provide inspirational motivation through a strong vision, communicating the purpose, and meaning

  • Role model high ethical behavior

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a practical leadership framework that helps individuals and organizations to adapt to changing environments and effectively respond to recurring problems.” It was established by Heifetz and Linsky in 2009. To be an adaptive leader means to

  • Control context through experiments

  • “Create conditions that enable dynamic networks of actors to achieve common goals in an environment of uncertainty”

  • Navigate business environments embracing uncertainty and encouraging new approaches

  • Lead with empathy, understanding alternative perspectives

  • Learn through self-correction and reflection encouraging experimentation

  • Create win-win solutions and build platforms for cooperation

Leadership Skills: Communicating Purpose, Direction, and Goals

It's a leader’s job to motivate their team, be able to rally the team behind common goals and inspire action.

You need to be able to communicate what value and impact your team brings to your company

  • The reason your team exists

  • The reason you do what you do

  • What inspires your team to do and to act

The Golden Circle

To inspire others, start with the why” (Sinek, 2009). A leader’s ability to communicate the WHY impacts the ability to influence action and behavior.

We often know what we are doing and how we are doing it - but why we are doing it is not always evident. It is specifically the “why” that will inspire action and allow for intrinsic motivation. The why is the purpose, the belief or cause.

Understanding the purpose of something helps us tap into the emotional brain. When we feel strongly about something, we will go to all distances to make it happen. Having a shared purpose and working toward shared goals increases the emotional connection to work.

That is why Sinek advocates for starting with why. When the why is clear, he argues the how and what are easier to define.

Leaders need to define:

  • The team's purpose within the company - what is the main objective and impact?

    • What does the team do?

    • How do they do it?

    • Why do they do it?

  • What is the purpose of the leader - what is the main objective and impact?

    • What does the leader do?

    • How do they do it?

    • Why do they do it?

Connecting Purpose and Goals (Impact and Meaning of Work)

The team needs to know the connection between the team’s goals and the team’s purpose, and the company goals Team members want and need to know the meaning of their work to feel emotionally connected and intrinsically motivated.

Goals help to connect the WHY to the WHAT and HOW. Consider whether your OKRs and KPIs measure your team’s success in fulfilling its purpose and not just in doing its work.

Use SMART Goals

  • Specific: how can you make your goals clear, concise, and actionable? What are the exact steps to accomplishing the goals?

  • Measurable: how can success be tracked and measured?

  • Achievable: goals should be challenging and ambitious, but realistically achievable. How do you know yours are achievable?

  • Relevant: how are your goals relevant to your team's long-term goals and targets?

  • Time-Bound: what is the target end-time by when the goals will be achieved?

Lead & Lag Measures

Do your goals show lead & lag measures?

  • Lag measures measure the success of output and are hard to directly influence

  • Lead measures measure the work you have direct control over and directionally suggest success towards the end goal

Turn this into Reality

  • Define the purpose of your team

  • Communicate the why

  • Review your team goals, OKR’s and KPIs - do they measure the why? How could they be improved? Adjust them.

  • Are your goals SMART? Do they include lead and lag measures? Adjust them.

Leadership Skills: Learning About the Organization

To understand and communicate the purpose, vision, and goals in an impactful way a leader first needs to learn about and understand your organization. Systems Thinking is one approach to learning to understand the functions of an organization

The systems approach means to:

  • Identify a system.

  • Explain the behavior or properties of the whole system.

  • Explain the behavior or properties of the thing to be explained in terms of the role(s) or function(s) of the whole.

  • Understand that all systems have a purpose

Systems Thinking approach to learning about the organization:

  • What are the company's goals? Vision?

  • Who impacts strategic direction? Why?

  • Who makes what decisions? Why?

  • Who is influential?

  • How do teams work together?

  • What is the team's function and what are the team's goals? Vision?

  • What do team members do - what are their responsibilities?

  • How do those responsibilities connect to the team's goals and the function of the team?

  • How do the team's goals connect back to the company goals and vision?

Leadership Skills: Building Partnerships

Partnerships allow leaders to accomplish goals beyond their individual capacity. Organizations are becoming increasingly flat and increasingly decisions around the direction are made in partnership, by cooperation rather direction.

Partnerships allow leaders to gain buy-in. Leaders need buy-in to influence direction.

What does it mean to build partnerships as a leader?

  • Create, define and communicate a shared view of the big picture.

  • Establish adequate resources.

  • Gain and share relevant information.

  • Provide clarity in decision-making.

Leadership Skills: Ability to Influence

Authority does not make a leader. A leader does not need to have authority to have followers and influence.

Social power is at the core of influence. Social power (Raven&French, 1959) can be based on authority  (position power) because of position in a hierarchy, ability to provide rewards, coercion or information (Northhouse, 2015), or on personal power based on expertise (credibility) or referent power (loyalty, respect, friendship, admiration, affection, or a desire to gain approval).

A leader can gain social power and, by extension, influence within an organization by gaining a title and position of power in the hierarchy. A leader can also gain social power and influence in an organization by building their referent power and expertise. Referent power is based on emotional connections and trust.

Strengthening relationships can increase and improve emotional connection and trust.

To strengthen relationships

  • Mirror behavior to show empathy and shared understanding

  • Practice active listening to make other feel heard

  • Set clear expectations, define priorities, and ownership with your team members

  • Give and ask for feedback

  • Be trustworthy, show up and do what you will say you will do

Influence and Increase Collaboration with the help of the SCARF Model

Influence is the ability to align others’ views and values with your own — it is about developing the ability to affect or shape someone else's opinion or behavior.

The SCARF model by Rock can help understand human behavior in particular situations and improve collaboration by increasing our understanding of how to reduce the perception of threat, while optimizing for rewards.

Based on our approach-avoid response, humans behave in a way that optimizes for rewards and avoids threats in the following areas:

  • Our Status relative to others – the relative importance to others.

  • Our feeling of Certainty – the ability to predict the future.

  • Our sense of Autonomy – the sense of control over events.

  • Our sense of Relatedness and belonging – the sense of safety with others.

  • Our sense of Fairness – the perception of fair exchanges.

Whenever we feel a threat in any of these areas, we may react in a negative or defensive way. If we feel there is an opportunity for reward, we will optimize for the reward. For example, when a leader communicates purpose in a way that allows team members to feel certainty about the direction in which the team is heading, while also communicating the impact of the work in a way that allows the team to feel autonomous — giving them a sense of control over events — such a leader will have a greater ability to influence the team.


A Marlow Workshop



Delivering, Asking for, and Receiving Feedback More Effectively

Effective feedback is key to unlocking potential in your team members and helping them develop as professionals. Yet according to Gallup, most individuals aren’t receiving the feedback they want or need.

Often, team members aren’t trained to ask for feedback in an effective manner. On the other hand, managers often fall short of delivering timely and constructive feedback.

What is Feedback

It's information that helps one person learn the perspective of another person in any given situation. It can be verbal or nonverbal, communicated directly or indirectly and can be intentional or unintentional.

Good Feedback vs. Bad Feedback

“Good” feedback is productive while “bad” feedback is unproductive.

Productive feedback

  • Clarifies good performance - where am I going, what is the goal?

  • Develops the ability for reflection and self-assessment

  • Encourages dialogue around learning

  • Delivers high-quality information about where to go next

  • Encourages positive reinforcement increasing self‐esteem and motivation

  • Provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance

Unproductive feedback

  • Attacks personality or character

  • Is emotionally driven
    Based on our bias

  • Unintentional or is misdirected (i.e., body language can sometimes lead to unintentional feedback)

  • Vague
    Unsaid - “Protective Hesitation” is the failure to give feedback due to worry that the recipient might be upset.

Good Feedback (1) describes the situation, (2) describes the impact and (3) elicits a conversation to find the behavior to reinforce.

How Are You Delivering Feedback?

Feedback can be delivered in a variety of ways. Effective feedback is thoughtfully considered, intentional, and strategically and situationally delivered. It should be informed by the skill and the will of your counterpart, their preferences for receiving feedback and often with the premise that the intention is to help.

Examples of good feedback

Source: Learning to Deliver Feedback Effectively

Job Performance Feedback

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Reputational Feedback

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Career Feedback

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Feedback from Others

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Feedback Frameworks

Besides situational leadership, there are specific feedback deliver frameworks you may want to try:

Situation Behavior Impact (SBI)

This model while seemingly clear can be very challenging to execute. You identify and state the when, the what and the why.

  1. Identify the situation. When

  2. Describe the behavior. What

  3. Explain its impact. Why


Original:Last week you were disorganized. You need to do better.

SBI approach:  During yesterday morning’s team meeting, when you gave your presentation, you were uncertain about two of the slides, and your sales calculations were incorrect. I felt embarrassed because the entire board was there. I’m worried that this has affected the reputation of our team.

Tools for Wording

The models below present updated terms to talk about feedback. Terms that are less reactive and present for more open communication on the topic. They both allow the person delivering to share more openly and allow the person receiving to feel more comfortable in the reception.

GE Model

GE designed a feedback model to encourage continuous discussion around enhancing performance. They found that by changing the language they used while discussing performance they were able to frame feedback in a more positive way and focus on forward-looking behavior changes. The focus is on

  • Behaviors to continue

  • Changes to behavior to consider making

Stanford Model

Coined by the Stanford design school this simple method gives statements to allow for open feedback specifically on a process. Each person in the discussion simply finishes the statements:

  • What do they like from what occurred

  • What do they wish would occur

  • What if something else occurred

The SKS Form

This framework is three simple questions to consider what is working, where you have opportunities to grow, and what needs to change. Consider asking yourself or others these questions to deliver or receive feedback.

  • (S) Stop -What should I stop doing?

  • (K) Keep -What should I keep doing?

  • (S) Start - What should I start doing?

The Feedback Grid

The feedback grid is intended to be a systematic and intentional way of capturing feedback in real time and breaking it down into useful components in a grid. The idea is to identify:

  • What worked?

  • What should be changed?

  • Questions? Ideas?

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Non Violent Communication

We express our feelings in terms of what another person has ‘done to us.’.:[NVC is] a way of being very honest, without any criticism, insults, or put-downs.”— Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

The idea is to express what we observed, define how it made us feel, the need we are trying to fulfill and the resulting request.

When [observation], I feel [emotion] because I’m needing some [universal needs]. Would you be able to [request]?


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Radical Candor

This approach is the mix between directly challenging what has occurred while truly caring about the person you are communicating too. The premise of this approach is to care and be direct. When either of these is lacking the communication may not be as effective.

How to Select a Framework


  • Timing

  • Person

  • Situation

  • Desired Outcome

  • Design thinking

Best Practices to Deliver Feedback Effectively

Below are a few ideas to deliver feedback more effectively:

Plan Ahead: Discuss your team members preferences for feedback ahead of time. Schedule time to discuss feedback and time to debrief on the success of projects. These types of meetings work well for big projects but can also add value to smaller projects (i.e., one-off presentations). Many managers find it useful to build time for feedback into 1:1s with direct reports. In this way, everyone has the same expectations for when and how feedback will be delivered and there are no surprises.

Be Specific: Feedback is less effective when it only includes an adjective and an adverb. For example, "You did really well on the data project!" Instead, consider specific actions or behaviors that you want to reinforce or change. When possible, list the impact of those behaviors. "Your attention to detail and accuracy in the data reporting for this project allowed us to be more effective in our decision making and complete the project on time. Great job!"

Coach Your Team to Manage Up: Sometimes as managers we move too quickly and forget to provide constructive feedback. Encourage your team members to dig a little deeper - even when the feedback is positive. They can do this by soliciting feedback more thoughtfully. For example, instead of asking “How was my presentation?” they should ask for more specific feedback, such as: "Was my presentation effective in providing a thorough update?"

Create a Safe Space: Be mindful of your reactions and remember that feedback can cause reactions in your team member. Even when it’s directly asked for, receiving critical feedback can be tough. Try to observe your team member’s physical reactions and build a safe place to discuss areas for growth. For example, if they respond with a strong emotional reaction, give them the time and space to collect their thoughts.

Be Mindful of Your Delivery: Consider if your delivery style will serve your intended outcome. Which leadership or management style will be most effective for the case at hand? Are you using a coaching method (i.e., asking questions allowing them to determine the problem and coach them through an answer), as an authoritarian (i.e., telling them what went wrong and how to fix it), in a democratic way (i.e., giving them options on solutions, taking in a variety of opinions), or in a laissez-faire way (i.e., casually mentioning it offhand)?

Resetting when things are moving forward: If you have been giving feedback for a while and have noticed that it's not working, it may be time to reset. Resetting can mean strengthening your relationship, building trust and establishing a mutual goal and intent - aligning on the understanding that the reason for giving and receiving feedback is for shared benefit.

Receiving and Asking for Feedback

How we receive feedback is actually more important than how feedback is given”  –Stone&Heen

Steps to Receive Feedback Well

  • Engage in conversation

  • Make a thoughtful choice to use the information

  • Manage your emotional triggers

  • Be open to see yourself in new ways

  • Setting boundaries

Triggers to Receiving Feedback

Stone & Heen identify specific triggers that prevent us from fully receiving feedback because they impact how we judge and understand the feedback.

  • Truth triggers - this feedback is just wrong or perfect

  • Relationship triggers - what we believe about the giver, how we feel we are treated by them

  • Identity triggers - our sense of who we are

Best Practices for Asking for Feedback

Have a Clear Purpose: Consider why you are asking for feedback, what your goal is and what you hope to accomplish as a result of getting feedback.

Set the Stage: Define when and how you would like to receive the feedback. “I would love your thoughts on my presentation during our 1:1

Ask Detailed Questions: The more specific questions you ask, the easier it is for your counterpart to give you feedback the aligns with your goal for feedback. For example:

  • What were your key takeaways from my presentation?

  • How do you feel my team is making progress?

  • What are your concerns in our ability to hit our goals?

  • What do you want to see more of in future presentations

Be Thoughtful About Your Response: Consider your triggers. Use active listening techniques to engage and make sure you hear what is being communicated.

Confirm Takeaways: Repeat back the learning and takeaways you are hearing to ensure alignment.

Follow-up: Even if you don't end up using the feedback, show gratitude.



A Marlow Workshop

Time Management & Productivity


Time is scarce. Which means you need to be intentional about how you manage your time in order to use it more effectively. A good starting point is to understand how much time each of your regular tasks take and a clear idea of where you are spending time reactively vs. proactively.

It’s essential to identify inefficiencies in your habits and work style, as well as gain the skill to prioritize and master productivity. Adjusting your habits here will help you become more focused on how and where you spend your time.

Optimizing Your Time:

How do you prioritize your time?

In order to know how to prioritize your time effectively, you must first understand any expectations around your role and responsibilities. It’s also helpful to understand what part of your work provides the most value to your team’s mission and goals.

Big Rocks, Pebbles, Sand

A frequently used metaphor for prioritization is the example of trying to fit big rocks, pebbles, and sand into an empty jar. If you start filling the jar by first adding sand, then pebbles, you will not have room for rocks.

The big rocks symbolize the things that are the most important, the pebbles signify the items that are of medium importance, and the sand signifies smaller things of less importance.

The lesson:  If you don’t put in the big rocks first, you won’t be able to fit them in later. The logic is that when we fill our time with the little things that are not as important or urgent, we leave little time to take care of the things that actually matter.

Put differently, you need to schedule the big, important things first, then fill in the remaining time gaps with less important and less urgent to-dos.

The example has been used countless times and in slightly different contexts.

Within time management in the workplace, we can look at the sand as email, Slack messages, other “pings”, calls etc. Pebbles are tasks that have a slight, but manageable consequences if we don't do them. Big rocks are the things that can have serious negative consequences if we don't do them.

Where does your time add the most value: Defining Your Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Considering your role and expertise, what should you prioritize when you are in reactive mode? What does your team need most from you?

Given your strengths, skills, expertise, capabilities, and role, where does your time and energy add the most value to your team and company?

What is your manager prioritizing? What is the company prioritizing? How do these align with your priorities?

The Eisenhower Principle

Eisenhower's Urgent / Important Principle can help you prioritize how you spend your time.


Each item on your to do list can be categorized into one of the 4 groups below (Source Mindtools).

  • Important and urgent.

  • Important but not urgent.

  • Not important but urgent.

  • Not important and not urgent.

Consider these questions to help you prioritize:

  • What are the company and team objectives?

  • How does your work align with the company and team objectives?

  • What are the most important tasks and responsibilities of your role?

  • Who are stakeholders in your work? Who is impacted by your work?

  • What work is considered (1) important and urgent, (2) important but not urgent, (3) not important and not urgent, (4) urgent but not important?

  • Do you know which responsibilities should be prioritized above all others?

  • Do you plan your week and your day to reflect the priority of your tasks?

Making Time for Priorities

Inbox and Calendar Management

Are you in control of your inboxes? This goes beyond your email inbox and into the other communication hubs your team uses.

What about your calendar? Are you in control of your calendar or is it controlling you?

One approach is Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero was created by Merlin Mann, a productivity expert. “As a hard approach to managing your emails, Inbox Zero is designed to help keep your inbox clear or almost empty so that you don’t have to stress over your emails.” (Source)  

  • To start Mann advises ‘bankrupting’ your email by moving all emails into a separate folder labeled “Email Bankruptcy”.

  • For all incoming messages, your action is to (1) Delete, (2) Delegate, (3) Respond, (4) Defer, or(5) Do

  • Mann’s 5 commandments to take into account are:

    • 1) Emails Are All Different - some take more time

    • 2) Time Is Precious - you may not have time to read everything

    • 3) Sometimes Less Is More - shorter concise emails can make you more efficient

    • 4) Forget Emotion - accept that it’s overwhelming, focus on what you need to get done

    • 5) Be Honest - be realistic about what you can get done

Calendar Management

Are you letting your calendar control you or are you controlling your calendar? If you look at your calendar generally feeling like you are not the one in control of what gets scheduled on your calendar, it’s time to manage take control and set boundaries.

A proactively managed calendar can help you prepare in advance for a busy day, help alleviate challenges related to context switching and running from meeting to meeting, as well as help you manage your proactive time.

  • If others can access your calendar to book calls or meetings, use your calendars management tools to define when time can be booked and how long time slots can be booked for. If you are using a tool like Calendly, you can buffer meetings and calls with a specific number of minutes. For example, you can block your calendar so that calls cannot be scheduled less than 24 hours in advance.

  • Proactively block time on your calendar for proactive work and batch specific types of work into certain time blocks or days of the week.

  • Block time for travel or moving between meetings.

  • Block time for lunch!

  • Use Google calendars feature “speedy meetings” to end 30-min meetings 5-mins early and 60-min meetings 10-mins early.

  • Sync your calendars. For example, if you are using a CRM software and Google calendar, make sure they’re correctly connected.

  • Combine your work and free time calendar. Your private appointments can be set to show as “private”

  • Use desktop notifications as reminders. You can define when you receive notifications so they appear at the desired moment (rather than when they are most likely to annoy you).

Questions to help you manage your inboxes and calendar

  • If you were to make a full list of every ‘inbox’ you need to check, what would be on that list? What are each of these different inboxes used for?

  • How are you currently managing incoming (and existing) messages in each inbox? Are you checking every time you see or hear a notification? Is there a better way for you to clump your time?

  • How do you sort and prioritize your messages? What do you reply to first and last? (Consider how this connects back to big rocks, pebbles, and sand)

  • How are you currently managing your calendar? What are your opportunities to manage your calendar more effectively?

Audit Your Time

Assessing where you are spending your time might seem like a cumbersome chore, but it can help you assess where you could make changes to improve your efficiency and productivity.

Time Logging

Time logging is one way to manage your time effectively. Start by reviewing how you are spending your time throughout your workday. It may helpful to do this in a spreadsheet or in a notebook so you can take notes throughout the day.

  • When are you in scheduled meetings? When are you in ad hoc meetings or conversations? When do you have free time to work on your responsibilities? When are you responding to what others need from you?

  • Pay attention to when you felt most productive and when you felt least productive. What took a lot of time? What caused you to procrastinate? When were you working proactively vs. reactively? When were you in a meeting or on the phone (take note of whether they were proactive or reactive)?

Proactive vs. Reactive time

“If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own" – Stephen Covey

Working in a proactive manner generally means having a plan, while working reactively often means taking on work ad hoc, as it pops up during the day. Your definition will depend on the job you do.

Assess what being proactive and reactive in your work means to you.

  • Consider how you would define being proactive in your work vs. reactive. What tasks and work are generally more reactive and what tasks and work are proactive?

Test your definitions.

  • Consider listing things you have done in the last two weeks. Were they proactive or reactive? Do your definitions hold? What is all of the proactive vs. reactive work you did throughout these last couple of weeks?

Identify changes you can make.

  • What organization can you add to make the best use of your time for each? For example, where can you block time and only commit to responding to specific tasks or doing specific work during that time? Where can you hold time to commit to your proactive work?

Resource: Proactive vs. Reactive Time Explained (Note: this article is very direct but biased. The only thing that matters is what proactive and reactive means to you and how thinking strategically on the use of your time will make you more productive. This post should get the wheels turning on that subject)

Work Style and Time Management

We all have preferences when it comes to how we work. Our work styles are affected by our personalities, our habits, our values, and what we have learned, experienced, and been taught throughout the years by our work environments.  

Familiar routines and habits can help us find focus, but can also mean we fall into patterns of behavior that do not necessarily add value to the way we work, and may even disrupt our productivity.

Acknowledging your work style can help you identify opportunities for better managing your time.

As Gretchen Rubin sayswhat I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”

Work Style Audit:

  • Describe your personality in the workplace. How does your personality affect your ability to manage your time?

  • Consider your routine and habits at work. How does your workday typically flow? For example, do you like to read through your email first thing in the morning or do you prefer to jump right into your most challenging task to get it done as quickly as possible? When do you like to have breaks?

  • How do your habits and preferred routines fit in with your role and responsibilities and the culture at your new company?

  • What are your habits around goal setting and sticking to goals? Do you need outer accountability to stick to goals or is inner accountability enough?

  • How do your habits and routines affect your ability to manage your time effectively? What habits and routines would you like to change?


“Procrastination comes from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of, ” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow””.

To procrastinate is “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”. At one time or another, most of us will procrastinate, about 20% of us do it regularly.

Temporal Motivation Theory suggests “we are more likely to pursue goals or tasks that are pleasurable and that we are likely to attain. Consequently, we are more likely to put off, to procrastinate, difficult tasks with unenjoyable qualities.”

In other words, when we need to do something we expect to be difficult, challenging or generally unpleasant, we put it off because in the moment, that feels more satisfying and pleasurable.

So, what kind of procrastinator are you?

Consider the types of procrastination described below. Solutions to help you stop procrastinating and increase productivity will depend on the kind of procrastinator you are. What type of solutions could work for the category you identify with most?

Typologies of Procrastination

  • The Thrill Seekers: Enjoy the rush of just barely finishing a task on time

  • The Avoiders: End up waiting because of fear of disapproval or failure

  • The Undecided: Have trouble making decisions and sticking with them

  • The Impulsive: Have low self-discipline and are easily distracted

What is the Purpose of Setting Goals?

Goals provide us with direction and focus. Goal setting theory suggests that those individuals who set goals for themselves are more likely to achieve success. According to the theory, goals should be specific and challenging to help you reach optimal performance. (Locke & Latham)

Defining Your Goal

  • What do you want to accomplish?

  • When do you want to accomplish it by?

  • How do you get from where you are now to where you want to be?

Make It a SMART Goal

The SMART goals framework can help you conceptualize a realistic goal and define the actions steps that will get you there. SMART goals are defined as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Consider the characteristics that define a SMART goal below and use them to conceptualize yours.

  • Specific: how can you make it clear, concise, and actionable? What are the steps and goal?

  • Measurable: how can progress be tracked and measured?

  • Achievable: goals should be challenging and ambitious, but realistically achievable. How do you know yours is achievable?

  • Relevant: how is it relevant to your long-term goals, values, and life plan?

  • Time-Bound: what is the target end time by when it will be achieved?

What is flow

The 8 Characteristics of Flow: Csikszentmihalyi describes 8 characteristics of flow

  1. Complete concentration on the task

  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback

  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time)

  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding

  5. Effortlessness and ease

  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills

  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination

  8. There is a feeling of control over the task

Creating Moments for Flow

Steven Kotler identifies 17 flow triggers, such as uninterrupted concentration, clear goals, and a good “challenge-to-skill” ratio (i.e. the task you are working on should not be too easy or too challenging) that can help you enter a state of flow.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Find a time block on your calendar when you have nothing specific planned. To enter a state of flow, you need to be able to stay totally focused on the task you are working on for a significant period of time.

  • Plan for how you can keep distractions away. This may include turning your phone on "airplane mode", blocking any notifications on your browser and turning off your email. You could also wear noise canceling headphones or listen to a white noise playlist. Note: Let your coworkers know that you will be available both before and after your timeblock, but should not be interrupted during.

  • Pick one task to work on. The task should be something challenging, but not so difficult that you feel anxious. The task shouldn’t be too easy either - a task that is too easy, can let your brain wander and you to lose concentration and focus.

Meeting Overload

Meetings often take up a significant portion of time and cause disruptions in workflow. Examine how you can make necessary meetings more productive and timely, and avoid unnecessary meetings altogether.

Audit Your Meetings

Consider these questions:

  • What is the meeting culture like at your company? Do they start on time? Are people prepared? Do they accomplish their goals? Too many, too few?

  • What would be an ideal meeting culture for you? How would it be different from what exists today?

  • Which types of meetings are important? Why?

  • What does your team think about your dissemination of information from meetings? What are some examples that support your assumption?

Best Practices to improve meeting culture

Ray Dalio: Principles

If it is your meeting to run, manage the conversation:

  • Make it clear who is directing the meeting and whom it is meant to serve.

  • Be precise in what you’re talking about to avoid confusion.

  • Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities.

  • Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded.

  • Navigate between the different levels of the conversation.

  • Watch out for “topic slip.”

  • Enforce the logic of conversations.

  • Be careful not to lose personal responsibility via group decision making.

  • Utilize the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions.

  • Watch out for assertive “fast talkers.”

  • Achieve completion in conversations.

  • Leverage your communication


As managers, delegation is an important skill that we’re taught in trainings. In reality, actually delegating your work is easier said than done!

Delegation Matrix

Source: Deconstructing Delegation (SmartBrief)

delegation matrix

1. Do it yourself: if the task is simple and done fairly infrequently.

2. Delegate it: when a task is not complex but needs to be done frequently requiring a significant amount of your time.

3. Delegate partially/partner to develop team member: when a task is complex and but needs to be done only infrequently. Teaching someone else to do the task on their own can be a challenge as the infrequency of the task means they won't get to practice and achieve mastery easily. In this case, the task may not be suitable for delegation, but you may be able to partner to work on the task together or delegate part of the task with the intent of developing your team member.

4. Delegate for development: when a task is complex but needs to be completed frequently. Delegating this task to a team member can help that team member grow professionally while taking something off your plate. Here teaching the task may require a greater time commitment.


A Marlow Workshop

Communication Fundamentals


Why Good Communication Matters

  • Enables effective and productive teams

  • Enhances collaboration

  • Increases understanding and empathy for each other

  • Increases trust and commitment

  • Increases transparency, security, and morale

  • Increases clarity around direction, focus, and priorities

Transactional Model of Communication

Communication is the output, transfer, and reception of information such as thoughts, emotions or ideas. This is the Transactional Model of Communication.

The sender communicates to the receiver by:

  • Talking face-to-face

  • Phone calls

  • Emails

  • Chat messages

  • Video calls

  • Facial expressions

  • Body language and non-verbal cues

  • The absence of any of these things

The receiver also communicates to the sender with feedback including non-verbal responses such as body language, noises, facial expression, etc. These are all feedback indicating how they are receiving the communication.

How Miscommunication Occurs

Communication is often interrupted by noise. Noise is anything that disrupts or hinders effective communication, for example:

  • Delays, disruptions or distractions.

  • Lack of understanding or empathy.

  • Emotional or personal context (ex: the receiver is having a bad day).

  • Different beliefs, viewpoints or experiences that cause a lack of contextual understanding.

  • Mixed signals, such as non-verbal cues that don’t match verbal communication.

  • And more.

Developing Strong Relationships to Avoid Miscommunication

Noise causes gaps and disruptions in communication.

You can clarify communication with your team members by building a strong relationship based on trust and empathy. By developing a shared belief system, common ground, and understanding, you can create greater alignment and understanding in communication.

To avoid miscommunication with your team:

  • Consider your audience

  • Get to know your team

  • Ask questions and listen

By closing the communication gap, managers can engage their team members in creating more productive and effective teams.  

Enhancing 1:1s and Meetings through Communication

To enhance your communication, it’s important to understand the process, consider noise, and pay attention to special communication opportunities such as 1:1s or meetings.

Communication Audit

Consider how communication occurs in your work:

  • Is communication generally remote, in person, in meetings, in 1:1s, or through newsletters?

  • Do people prefer to communicate via email, phone, chat or in person?

  • How do informal communications usually occur?

  • What is your preferred communication style - direct, formal, informal, or in writing?

Where are your opportunities to improve your communication:

  • What are you communicating? How are you communicating? How is it being received?

  • Where could you avoid noise or develop shared understanding?

The 1:1 Guide

1:1’s are an opportunity to:

  • Check in on your relationship: how you behave, interact, and work with one another.

  • Check in on thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

  • Discuss priorities and expectations.

  • Check in on the engagement of your team members.

  • Discuss career goals and development.

  • Develop strong relationships.

To improve or gain greater value from your 1:1s

  • Review your 1:1s and consider whether the purpose of your 1:1s is being fulfilled. What do you and your direct report hope to get out of the conversation? Where are you aligned and where do you have space to improve the 1:1 conversations?

  • Consider the setup. Do you have an agenda? Have you defined who leads the meeting, owns the agenda, or takes notes? Who is responsible for collecting action items, takeaways, and next steps?

  • Consider the format of your 1:1s. How often do you meet? Is it on the phone or video, in a conference room or walking? Are you talking uninterrupted or working off laptops and cell phones?

Preparing for Your 1:1

To have effective 1:1’s here are a few best practices:

  • Developing your personal consistent agenda across 1:1s

  • Sharing a Google doc for notes/ agendas

  • Maintaining a list of running questions

  • Prepping when you have free time

  • Sticking to the timeframe

The best place to kickoff more effective 1:1s is with your questions. Try asking questions such as:

  • What are your top priorities this week?

  • What are your thoughts on our team or company goals?

  • How do you feel your daily work connects to our goals?

  • What motivates you most about the work you are doing?

  • What are your greatest opportunities for growth?

See more here.

Communicating More Effectively in Meetings

To ensure effective communication in team meetings here are some key things to consider.

Meeting Audit

  • Do you have clear objectives and an agenda? For more productive meetings, ensure the meeting has a clear purpose and covers necessary talking points. Establish a mutually agreed upon agenda with all relevant stakeholders and send it to participants beforehand. Sending an agenda beforehand gives participants an opportunity to prepare and determine the need for their attendance.

  • Do your meetings start and end on time? Ensure meetings start and end on time to communicating respect for the participants time. If a meeting looks like it will run over, agree to resume with those who need to be present at another time or continue the discussion in another forum.

  • Consider how to reduce the meeting “noise.” People tapping away on computers or phones during meetings is common, but how are these distractions adding value? Disruptions such as team members interrupting the speaker can also be a frequently occurring distraction. You can discuss norms of behavior in meetings. You could agree to rules such as no cell phones and laptops or active listening and not interrupting others.  

Noise can also be caused by a lack of shared context, understanding, clear agenda or meeting purpose. Clarifying these ahead of time can make meetings more productive and efficient.

Communication Best Practices

To enhance communication and avoid miscommunication it is important to understand your audience and their feedback, be intentional and present. Mirroring and active listening help to develop more present and aware communication.

Techniques for Being Present

Being present means living, acting, and behaving in the immediate moment. When you are truly present, you are able to understand the subcontext behind situations. The context of body language, tone of voice, actions or behaviors can help you better understand what is really going on and the underlying intentions or feelings behind occurrences. Being present can also help you better analyze the work at hand, make clearer decisions and share more educated opinions.

To be more present you must:

  • Intentionally recognize when you are not present

  • Learn what is preventing you from staying present

  • Discover strategies that work best for you

Tips to get started:

  • Recognize Your Emotions. Joy, excitement, anxiety, hunger, sleepiness, grumpiness, fear, anger, jealousy, and love are feelings. They are not bad or good, they are just how you feel. If you can recognize your emotions, you can bring awareness to how you are feeling. When you are present, you are aware of, not controlled by your feelings.

  • Check-in with Yourself. Learn to identify where you are in a given moment. Take a moment to be present where you are and move on. Ex: I am really excited about tonight, but it's all planned and right now I need to focus on this meeting in order to have fun later. This seems easy, but try having this conversation with yourself and see how it changes things.

  • Remove Distractions. What are your biggest hurdles to presence? What always draws you out? If it’s Facebook, text messages, your office chat, email, or your neighbor - how can you remove those distractions when you want to be focused?

  • Timebox. If you are trying to be present it’s good to define times when you are working on certain things. Give yourself an amount of time to accomplish that task and only that task. You know in that dedicated time you can focus on being present on that one thing and not worry about anything else.

  • Meditation or Deep Breaths. Meditation may not be for everyone but breathing is. Breathing or meditation can give you an anchor. Something to focus on to be present. If you can focus on something as simple as your breath you can get back into a moment. Take 4 deep breaths and focus on the breath.

  • Take Notes. If your mind seems to be racing in meetings or presentations, write down what the person is saying. Even if you do not read them later this can help you stay present on the topic at hand rather than drifting off and counting the ceiling tiles.

  • Eye Contact. One of the easiest ways to be present in a 1:1 conversation is to look the other person in the eyes. Pay attention to them and what they are saying. Stay present on their communication.


Mirroring is more than simply mimicking some else's body language, tone of voice, emotions and communication style. By mirroring you are showing empathy, a desire to understand someone else, to create a mutual experience, and to develop trust.

With a foundation of building trust and camaraderie you can use mirroring to give an outward display of your internal intentions.

Note: avoid mirroring negative emotions, drama, anger or other negative situations. It may be best to try active listening here instead.


To get started:

Match tone and emotions. Consider their tone of voice. Is it energetic, lethargic or monotone? Do they seem happy, excited or complacent? Try to match their tone or emotion.  

Mimic their body language. During a conversation, if someone is leaning in and talking with their hands, do the same. If someone is talking to you and smiling don't look around and yawn. Nod, and smile back.  

Use their language. Some offices or teams already have a pretty cohesive shared language, but maybe there are people who describe things a certain way or use different words.If someone is more casual in their language don’t push them away by being more formal, instead, mirror their language. If they say “Hey, what’s up” respond with “doing good, you?” rather than “I am quite well, thank you. How are you doing?”


Active Listening

Active listening is a valuable skill that will help you become a better communicator. Use the best practices below to practice listening actively and become more intentional about how you receive others’ communication.

Acknowledge you heard them. Use your body language. If you are really listening, show the other person. Sit up straight, uncross your arms, turn towards them, lean in and look them in the eyes. This sounds simple but consider the alternative. If you are sitting with your arms crossed (even if it’s just because the room is cold) and looking at the clock (even if it’s because you are worried about your next meeting) you may appear distant, uninterested or unhappy. The other person is constantly taking cues from your body language, make sure it’s saying what you want it to.

When someone speaks to you - nod, mirror, and respond. When possible restate emotions they tell you. If they said I am angry, excited, happy or mad. Reword the exact emotion, “I hear that you are [angry, excited, happy or mad]". You are hearing that they are having a valid emotion and you recognize that as important.

Explore further. If you are actively listening you are trying to understand what they are saying, but unless they said something explicitly avoid drawing conclusions without testing your assumptions. To test your assumptions consider questions like:

  • “How are you feeling?”  

  • “What were you expecting?”  

  • “What was your original goal?

  • If you are unsure, clarify any misunderstood points or limited information: “Can you tell me more?”

Parrot or restate their point and words. Check if you are hearing them correctly, state back their points with statements such as:

  • “If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that...,”

  • “to repeat this back...”   “am I hearing that…” “it sounds like…”

  • “I’m observing [...], does that sound correct?

Let them respond. Your goal from active listening is to understand the person, to learn from them and to make them feel heard. Continue maintaining your safe space, pause, and really let them respond:

  • Avoid changing the subject

  • Clarify specific action items

  • Check-in and confirm that it’s time to move on


A Marlow Workshop

Management Styles & Situational Leadership


We all have patterns in our work, leadership, and management styles. When it comes to management styles, various approaches can be useful depending on the strengths and preferences of the manager, dynamic of the team, and the intended outcome of the scenario.

People management styles, like workstyles, cover a variety of interactions, communication types, and behaviors between managers and direct reports, peers or other stakeholders. They are based on our experience, strengths and behavioral patterns.

Your management style is unique because of your:

  • Background, Experience, and Environment: Your past work experience, industries and company cultures as well as your current work culture and environment, team and company goals and collective work styles of your team members. Consider how your experience and current work environment impacts your management style?

  • Social Style, People, and Interactions: Your personality impacts how you prefer to work and interact with your team members. Would you describe yourself as an extrovert or introvert, thinking or feeling, analytical or intuitive, sociable or shy? How does your personality or preferred social style impact your actions as a manager?

  • Routines and Habits: What does a normal workday look like for you? What is your preferred flow - how do you generally like to catch up on email or respond to other requests? When do you usually take breaks and have lunch? How do your routine and habits impact your management?

  • Progress and Productivity: How do you prefer to set goals and measure progress? How do you achieve flow? How do you procrastinate or stay motivated to do work? Your thoughts on progress, productivity, and motivation impact how you interact with your team.

Your management style is based on how you interact with others, develop relationships and manage your team. In some areas, you may be very flexible and willing to manage in a way best for both parties but in other areas, you may be more rigid and have predetermined expectations for certain interactions.

It is important to identify your management style to draw awareness of your patterns and behaviors. If you always take a particular approach to delivering hard conversations it can be useful to identify that approach to begin to add more strategy to your actions as a manager. Is your method yielding the results you want, if not where can you improve?

Different styles impact different people and scenarios differently. Learn to act as a manager and leader more intentionally. Take control of the results of your actions.  

Consider your patterns of behavior in these 5 categories:

  1. How do you usually deliver difficult conversations?

  2. How do you discuss updates or progress?

  3. How do you discuss positive conversations, recognition or wins?

  4. What are your preferred communication methods

  5. What are your values and how do they impact your work and decisions?

Situational Leadership

Once you have identified your unique management style you can begin to consider opportunities to enhance that style. Predominant research suggests a mix of styles is important. The best style is dependent on the strengths of the manager, dynamic of the team, and the intended outcome of the scenario.

Daniel Goleman states that “leaders need a multitude of styles to fit the context at any given time, with an ability to adapt when necessary.”  Following a variation of Goleman’s situational leadership styles, there are four primary categories to consider:

  • Commanding/Authoritative (directive in process and decision making)

  • Coaching (guided autonomy, development focused)

  • Democratic (team engagement and participation)

  • Laissez-faire (laid back, allowing them to be autonomous)

Each of the styles above differs based on how much you are:

  • Telling (authoritative style)- directing your team members with what needs to occur

  • Selling (democratic/ engaging style)- getting buying from them

  • Participating (coaching/ developmental/ guiding style)- being involved in the process, work and decisions

  • Delegating (laissez faire style)- acting more hands-off or relinquishing ownership

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This comes from the original principles of situational leadership. Whether you are delegating or participating depends on how capable your team members are to do a certain task, your relationship with them and how much they require your emotional support.

You can also determine how ready your team member is for each style based on whether or not they have the:

  • Will to do the task at hand

  • Skill to do the task at hand

If they have the will but not the skill you can participate, coach and develop them. If they have the skill but not the will you will spend more time telling and selling them on the idea.

To consider which style to use moving forward consider how ready your team member is to be autonomous or perform the task at hand and their willingness to do so without your coaching or involvement. See more here.

Considering the categories above:

  • Which you would use to describe your style?

  • Which seem least appealing to you and why?

  • Which seem like you have the most room to grow into and why?

  • When would each style be effective and why?

Use this summary as a refresher to become more aware of your unique management style and then discuss your findings and the situational leadership framework with your coach.


Assessment: What’s Your Personal Productivity Style? (HBR) (5 min): This short quiz asks questions to help you consider how you prefer to work and plan for your day. Use these questions to consider your unique habits and routines.

Leadership That Gets Results by Daniel Goleman (HBR) (25 min): Daniel Goleman discusses various leadership styles based on emotional intelligence competencies. Consider different leadership styles and EQ.

Leadership Styles & Adaptive Cultures - Dr Jennifer Chatman or a short version(Berkeley) Video (30 min): Listen to the pros and cons of various leadership styles. Dr. Chatman discusses useful longterm styles. Consider when various leadership styles would be most impactful towards your goals.

The Puzzle of Motivation (TedTalk) Video (18:33 min): Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, discusses the core components of motivation. Consider which leadership styles are most motivating for your team members.