LME009 – The Image of Leadership – Interview with Sylvie di Giusto

Today we talk about the image of leadership. How can you develop your professional imprint and become the leader that you deserve to be? I invited the expert on this topic for an interview: Sylvie di Giusto

Image of Leadership: The first seconds count.

During the fist few seconds when others first see you, they judge you. Whether it’s at a meeting, on the job, or at an interview.

The people may have some prior knowledge of you, but this is the first time they actually lay eyes on you. This is the first impression you make – and it’s damned important because people make up their minds very quickly. Not just about you as a person but also about your leadership potential, and based on their judgement they either open the door for you or slam it shut.

Your first impression

What can you do to make a great first impression as a person and especially as a leader?

For this topic I invited Sylvie di Giusto on my podcast show to talk about the image of leaders and about the first impression you give as a leader.

Sylvie di Guisto

Sylvie di Giusto on image of leadership

Sylvie di Giusto

Sylvie has twenty years of corporate experience educating and inspiring thousands of clients around the world. She has become a recognized member of the international business community because she worked with and performed for more or less every kind of management and leaders from CEOs to young executives within all kind of industries.

She has long been fascinated by the power of image and the way people can use their personal brand to positively influence their own career.

Her Book: The Image of Leadership

Image of leadershipShe wrote the book “The image of leadership“.

It‘s the result of Sylvie‘s journey through two career paths: one in the field of human resources, the other one as a professional image consultant.

The title „The image of leadership“ reflects the reality that true leadership manifests itself in ways that are both seen and unseen.

Sylvie is an exceptional speaker, an effective trainer and an enthusiastic coach – and – as you will hear  in the podcast interview – she has a dog and she loves dogs. That’s something both of us have in common.


The inspiring quote

“If you don’t care about yourself, people don’t think that you have the ability to care of them.”

Sylvie di Guisto

Links for further information

The transcript of my interview with Sylvie di Giusto:


Sylvie, in your book The Image of Leadership, you emphasize that the first impression counts. So, to be precise when people meet someone for the first time, they judge him during the first seven seconds. That’s a very short time, seven seconds. So, what is it? What counts during these first seven seconds? What should we pay attention to in order to make a good first impression as a leader?


That’s a fantastic question Bernd. And I want you to understand that the number itself, the seven really doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter if it happens in one second, in seven seconds, in 10 seconds, I just chose one of the many studies that is out there.

Where there is proof that we make immediate decisions about each of us. And there are different studies, it happens in a blink of an eye and it has nothing to do if you’re a good human or a bad human, if you’re a good leader or a bad leader, it is simply brain performance. It is happening automatically and that is why we cannot stop it.

So, there is proof that in milliseconds or seven seconds our brain makes immediate decisions. For example, is somebody knowledgeable? Is somebody trustworthy? Is somebody reliable? Is somebody successful?

Those are all decisions we make in a blink of an eye and afterwards unfortunately something called confirming bias is working either against us or for us because our brain wants to be right. So, to answer your question, what is it exactly what we look for in those seconds, it’s something I call the A, B, C, D of your imprint. Very simple concept, A stands for your appearance. People look at you. How do you look like? What do I see in your visual appearance?


So, also what’s my wardrobe, what I – the clothes everything?


Yes, everything. So much more than just your clothes, your body image, are you tall? Are you short? Are you overweight? Are you underweight?

Are you in shape or not? Does your body look healthy? Your accessories, your makeup, everything that we see. But to be very clear, looking good is not enough. It is great to look good but it is not enough because then the second one stands for your B for your behaviour. At one point you’re going to behave.

Your body language, your gestures, your posture, your attitude, how do you behave? And then there is the C for communication and it is what you say and how you say it. Your voice is a very powerful tool and it is important for you to understand that what you say plays a major role in how you start conversations. Last but not least, there is the D for digital footprint because most of nowadays, we make a first impression not in person anymore, we make it in some kind of digital way, via email, via social media for example.


So, even before someone knows me, if he Googles me or if he looked on LinkedIn then he see if that doesn’t fit to my behaviour or appearance then there is some kind of misfit, right?


Yes. We know that every single day you have around 3,000 contact points, 3,000 times in average you get judged or you judge somebody else but most of those 3,000 contact points happen in the digital world because you send out an email days ago. You nowadays don’t even know where that email ends up because people could have forwarded it and forwarded it. And people make assumptions just based on what they read about you or what you post on social media.

You know your footprint travels and you leave a conscious footprint, the actions that you are aware of, but there is also an unconscious footprint, how often are you online? How many hours do you spend on Facebook? What do you like? Who likes your posts? So, there are things in-between the lines that people take into consideration when judging you.


And that’s not just to – if you are self-employed or if you want to be a speaker like the two of us but is especially also too if you’re an employed manager, people will judge you by that.


Yes absolutely. In my trainings I show a lot of example where individuals thinking that they are in a private environment on the internet posted something and it had an impact on the company they have been working for, because other people they do not, you know they do not split up who is the – who is the private Bernd that I experience online and who is the corporate Bernd. For them, it’s just one person and they wonder, “What? Bernd is working for this company? What?”

So, I always compare it with politics. That politicians have campaign teams. Everybody in the campaign team will be impacted by the digital footprint of the politician and vice versa. If the politicians like we have a lot of examples ruined campaigns by posting something inappropriate, something unprofessional, the entire campaign team lost their job and everybody thought you were working for that politician and vice versa.

And the same is true for your company. You have a campaign team in your company too. Those are your colleagues, that includes your boss, that includes all employees who represent that corporate brand.


You described that very nicely with A, B, C, D. So, we just spoke about the digital footprint right now. I would like to focus more on the first A, on the appearance.

I understand that if I’m tall or if I’m small, is important but I also understand that my outfit is very important especially if that’s something I can change. So, if I want to make a different impression, I can change my outfit in a certain way. I mean but this – it depends on the situation but also on the industry we are in, what kind of things do people wear in that industry in certain situations. But in general, what kind of dress code should I follow as a leader? What are the goals and no goals if it comes to dress code?


So, well, you started your question with in general and the challenge is there is no in general anymore. Years ago it was easy to say that everybody who went to work in a corporation had to wear a suit, period.




But years ago, our world was not as open-minded, as diverse, as beautiful as it is nowadays. One size fits all formulas just don’t work anymore because we don’t have one size fits all leaders anymore. Right?




They come in all different sizes and shapes, they come in all different colours and cultural backgrounds. So, there is no one size fits all formula and no typical dress code anymore. So, and when I work with leaders, I help them understand that they instead should look into three different areas. Area number one, what makes you feel comfortable?




You know?




Confidence is your best designer.

How would you like to represent yourself and it has nothing to do if you work in finance or if you work in IT. If you work in media or if you are a lawyer. What makes you the individual most comfortable? For some it’s a suit, for others it isn’t. You cannot only look into yourself because you are serving somebody else. Right?




So, what makes your host feel comfortable? How can you wear something that doesn’t have an impact on your host, how he or she sees you?

Your host can be a meeting planner, your host can be a client that you visit. Right?

Your host is the other person across you. And how would they love you to be representing yourself and them? The central are the guests, others, audience members as a speaker for example. So, I would always work in that triangle and balance it out.

And for some, this could be a suit, for some this could be a suit without a tie, for some this could be a sports checkered with a pair of denims, for some women it could be a dress, for others it could be a jumpsuit, it, there is a variety but there is a solution for everybody. I simply believe that it is not good to dress up and to wear something just because an old-fashioned rule requires you to wear it.


Okay. But on the other side, I just think about situations where I said okay, I have nice clothes on. It’s jeans and very casual. Now I came to a meeting and everyone else has a tie on, a nice suit. I believe I would then feel uncomfortable and the other guys would look at me and say, “Well, what kind of guy is that? Doesn’t he know the dress code?”


But then you didn’t do your homework.




Because then you didn’t follow those three principles. Even if you say for yourself jeans and a shirt is something that makes you feel comfortable-,

If you would have looked before what is your host going to wear, what are his or her guests are going to wear?

If you would have done your homework you would never have entered the situation this way.

So, I encourage people, do your homework and it is so easy nowadays. Go on their website, go on their social media profiles, research their hashtags and you’re going to see people, humans who are working for that company, right? You’re going to see them-,


Okay. Right.


And it is easy for you to guess what they are going to wear and how you can show yourself some respect and to them by adjusting accordingly.


Ja. I remember 10 years ago when I was working for a company we had to do with a lot of paper mills for example.

And the problem was that you had one guy who was the managing director and he wears suit. So, when I went to that company, I always had two kind of suits with me. One suit or one wardrobe where I had tie, a suit, talking to the general manager and then I had to go to the operations, down to the blue collar workers and there I had different clothes.

So that if I work with the blue collar workers and I have a tie on, I am totally overdressed, they will not really talk with me.


You are exactly following what I just explained to you. You did something that made you still feel okay. Right?




But also something that doesn’t make your host or his or her guest which would be the employees at this point make feel uncomfortable. That’s exactly how you should do it.


I found a very interesting statement about you when I read a little bit about you in the internet, digital footprint.

Austrian by birth, French in her heart, Italian in her kitchen, German in her work ethic and American by choice. So, if I read that, I suppose you know all the cultures pretty well.


I do. Which one is your favourite? Is it the Austrian by birth, the French or the Italian in the kitchen, the German or the American? Which one is your favourite?


The Italian in the kitchen is really cool. I love that. I suppose you know all of these cultures pretty well that’s why my question is, do you see a difference regarding how to dress if you’re in the United States or if you’re in Europe?


Yes and no. That’s a very great question again but the reality is, so I live in the United States since 10 years now and you have to understand that traveling the United States and distance is a very different and similar on the other hand than in Europe. So, if I’m on the East Coast, I’m located in New York City and I only go on a plane for one hour, I enter a totally different world.

It’s like I’m on a different planet. Right?




I work from New York to South Dakota, to Florida, to California, to Nevada, to Utah, different planets.

But it’s just because our country here is so big that when I travel just for one hour I enter a different culture. So, but the same is kind of true for Europe. Right?

When you are in Germany and you enter a plane and you go somewhere for one hour, you probably you end up somewhere in France or Italy or a little bit longer you go to London and you will already see that there are differences. Right?


Right. Ja, that’s true.


It’s not the same. So, there are cultural differences, the reality is just that you do the distances here in the United States and the variety of people we have living here and the different religious backgrounds and the different cultural backgrounds, it is like a flowerpot. And I wouldn’t know what I should compare with in Europe because we have the variety all here.

And of course, there is a difference between living in New York and dressing in New York where on the one hand, the rich and famous are and are willing to invest but on the other hand if you go on to the streets of New York, you will find such a variety of people with so many different styles which is the biggest challenge for corporations and leaders here.




Because there is no rule. You can do whatever you want in New York. And then you travel to Miami, where it in average it has 105 degrees so don’t talk with them about wearing a suit every single day at work because the temperatures are just different.

And then you travel to Utah, where we have Mormons living who have religious backgrounds and cultural statements to make that also impact their visual appearance. So, the – it is just the differences that the distances here, the variety of people we have living in the United States is so colourful so it’s difficult for me to compare them to Europe because you have nothing to compare [crosstalk]


Ja, I understand that. So, I think it is very similar when I compare that if I go to Italy, I have to adjust.

They are looking much more on a suit or some things like that like I would do here in Germany. People in general I would say Italian people for example are, were much better focused more on a good clothe than we are in Germany in general.

So, I think it’s very – so, it comes back to what you said, we need to be – we need to prepare before we meet someone and check out what’s the case, what should I wear regarding this? If I think about that, I would like to have your opinion on should a company have then some kind of official policies, some kind of written paper describing in detail then an expected dress code, doesn’t that make sense?


Absolutely, for several reasons. And the first reason is people want to have guidelines. Employees do better if you give them a guideline, if they’re feeling there is a guideline that they can follow then you just let them out in the blue and don’t give them guidelines.

Second, we have many examples in America and probably also European organisations where they’re always on defined line of a discrimination case. To avoid those, it’s better to have written guidelines that make everybody aware that there are specific things that we cannot do because we would discriminate somebody based on his or her gender, based on his or her religion, based on his or her sexual orientation or whatever it is. So, that’s why they are so important.

The challenge though is that most companies choose in their guidelines to describe what is not allowed, what is not allowed. Right?

That’s what happens, very simple. Psychological brain performance going on. If I tell people what is not allowed, they immediately look for excuses. Right? They immediately look for an exception. What can I do? How far can I expect it?




I compared with the parking sign, if you tell people that you are not allowed to park here from Sunday 9:00 to 12:00 and from Saturday 4:00 to 8:00, they forgot about those hours, they just focus on all the other hours and what they could do to park there. Make sense?


Yeah. It makes sense to me. It’s similar like don’t think about a yellow elephant.


Yes exactly. Yeah? So, and if I consult with companies, I recommend to them to the opposite because describe what is allowed.

Tell them what isn’t and everything that you don’t describe is just not allowed because you didn’t offer it to them. Right? So, tell them what they can do and everything else they just cannot do. So, if I’m with company that changed a little bit their mindset of using language and those policies that tells people what is okay to do and not what is not okay to do. An example, so, we had a case where it says it is not okay to have visible tattoos on the neck.

On the neck, but somebody in the hospitality industry and then one of the employees came back from a vacation and had a tattoo on his back of the neck. So, not at the front, on the back. Right? And it was a long discussion is this according to the policies or not? Can we do something? This is a discrimination case if you fire him. But it is very unclear because you just told them what they’re not allowed to do. So, I would rather give them the exact spots where we accept them and everything else is not allowed.


Okay. Ja, I understand. You have the A, B, C, D for the first impression. Let’s go over to B, the behaviour. How should someone behave for the first seven seconds to be accepted especially as a leader if you want to have this impression? What kind of behaviour would be also counterproductive. What should you avoid?


So, I think one of the major things you can do to improve your behaviour is to have consistent behaviour. Consistent is key and consistently in your behaviour itself that people learn based on your behaviour who you are and what they can expect and don’t experience surprises but not consistent to the other elements, to the A and to the C and to the D.

Those are not tumbles that live independent of each other. You cannot appear as the best dressed person in the room and then behave like the least appropriate person in the room. Right?

You cannot look great online and look like a jerk offline. So, they are connected to each other so consistency in your A, B, C, D including your behaviour is a winning factor.

And when I describe behaviour for leaders, I always put the word respect to the forefront and respect in terms of respecting yourself. The most important person in your life, the most important person in your career, the most important person in your leadership is you, yourself and I, nobody else. Right?

So, show yourself a little bit of respect and show them also in the behaviour in the way you represent yourself. And then there are the others. Respect, show them respect in your behaviour by respecting that there are different genders, there is gender neutrality that there are different ages, different generations in front of you, different cultures, people with different dreams and beliefs and try to always be respectful.


Mm-hmm. That fits quite well in what I think about that. It makes sense for me.


And counterproductive if you’re inauthentic. If you try to be somebody who you are not one of those people who very often criticised trainings and methods where we try to make something out of people that they are not, body language trainers are a very good example for me. Only a few body language trainer understands the art of really changing their body language so that it comes out naturally.

At most, if you cookie-cutter approach it and say, “You should stand on this feet and not on that feet, you should hold this in your hand and not this in your hand, you should move your arms this way and not this way. Even if that’s taught behaviour after a while, if it doesn’t come over authentic and something you would really naturally do with your body, everybody is going to experience that.


Ja. You feel uncomfortable and then the people see that.

It’s not, it doesn’t fit. I understand that. Regarding communication, what kind of mistakes can ruin there the first impression? I mean there are some people who have let’s say a very high voice and what can they do to still have a good first impression? What is your take on that?


Well, it’s about how you said and what you said. Let’s start with how you say. Your voice as you said is a very powerful tool and most people do not know if they have a good voice or a voice that we enjoy listening or not. Most people don’t even know what they say or whether they – so if there’s one practical tip I can give you. At the next meeting you go in, I encourage you to use your mobile device and to just record yourself.


That’s cool.


For one minute and then listen to the things that you said and how you said it and how your voice sounds compared to the other voices in the room. Is it too loud? Is it too silent? Is your voice somehow different? So, analyse your voice, around your voice coaches out there where you can record a short message you read something off their website and you send them this message and they give you feedback on your voice. So, don’t underestimate the power of your voice.

We know that the first eleven words in every single conversation are the most important ones.

People are going to remember you for the first eleven words that you say. So, in the United States, usually we start conversations with how are you doing? But in Germany people [GERMAN].




What? So, there is nothing wrong about asking somebody how they are doing but it’s also not the most impressive conversation starter that you can have.


Now I’m interested. How do you start it?




How do you do it?


So, I always start with something that is not average because how are you doing? Or [GERMAN] is average. That’s just average wording. Right?


Right, right.


Start, do your homework, research the person, find out something about the person in front of you, the company they work for, read the press releases. Did they have a major success to celebrate the person in front of you will be so impressed if you immediately show with your words you did your homework, you are prepared.


Mm-hmm. It’s again like we had in the beginning, it’s always the preparation. You need to know-,




How to be behave.


Preparation is key.


What kind of wardrobe, it’s so important. Ja?

I can understand that. That makes absolutely sense. Very good, I also like very much your tip that you just record yourself. There’s very often maybe one thing we need to add here, you always sound different like you think you hear yourself. That’s not a different point.


No, it’s not.


It’s important what do you say? Are you too loud? Are you too – or are you too – not too loud? These kinds of things are important right?


Mm-hmm. And keep in mind there are average meetings maybe you are at a meeting where you shouldn’t record because otherwise you could get in trouble when you record it but then it would also be as a leader at an organisation where we oftenly do presentations, here you can take it even to the next level, something I do with every single speech I give, even after being eight years in that business every single time I have a little Canon camera.

It doesn’t matter that it’s Canon, it just matters that it’s small. I put it in the back of the room, the sound quality is not the best, the video quality is not the best but I put it in the back of the room and I record myself presenting the entire session.

On the way home, I go through a very painful process most of the time. The first time I watched a video without sound, I just focused on the visual.

And you’re going to find things that your body does you had no idea, it’s hilarious.

It’s painful very often when you see specific gestures or postures or how you stand or how you walk or that you walk all the time or you know you had your hands. So, if you just can focus on the visuals, it’s amazing what you’re going to find.

Then on the second step I turn off the video and do the audio. Then I just listen, I have the missing element of visuals and I just listen. How would somebody experience that in the room who couldn’t see me?

When did I pause? When did I use a loud voice? When did I get more quiet? Right? And then the third step if you’re a really brave human being and I’m not always this brave, you take that audio and send it to a friend.




Somebody who was not in the room and say, “Can you give me feedback on that?” So, somebody who didn’t experience the atmosphere in the room.

And if you have that 360 degree view, you’re going to learn so many things about yourself and the way you present yourself. And from there you can just get better and start improving.


Ja. I think that’s a very great tip to do that. Also as you said, it is tough especially if you do it the first time. I remember that I’ve done things like that as well and you feel sometimes so embarrassed from yourself by yourself that you don’t – you have a totally different view on yourself and if you see the reality sometimes it’s very hard. But I think it’s the only way how you really can improve if you do it like that.




Coming to the end of our interview, I would like to ask you one last question.

Some people they don’t care so much about their first impression, they wear a sloppy outfit or they communicate purely but they will tell you then they don’t care really and they say they want to be authentic and it’s authentic that they have a sloppy outfit and they think that the inner values count and you know long-term, not the first impression, what’s your answer to that?



Well, so, there are two types of people out there who say things like that. The first one, the first group they really don’t care.

Say, “I don’t care.” Well, if that’s your authentic you, then go for it and let’s see how far it’s going to go.


How far do you come.


Go, go for it, give it a try.

If a sloppy person is your authentic you then go for it. I can’t help you. But the other thing that I can tell you is there is a very simple leadership principle and that is that if you do not care about yourself, people do not think that you have the ability to care of them.

So, when I work with leaders or especially with politicians, we always start with them. If you’re a politician if you do not care for yourself first, voters do not think you have the ability to take care of them. Very simple.


That makes sense. Ja.


So, if that is your authentic you, go for it. Run for it as far as you can. But then there is the second group, and very often people mix them in not realising that the second group does it on purpose. But the second group, they don’t care anymore, they don’t have to care anymore because they earned that look. I give you a few examples. When you read my book, The Image of Leadership, you might have noticed that Jeffrey Hayzlett wrote the forward.




Jeffrey Hayzlett, we call him the cowboy of the boardrooms. He walks into the most powerful boardrooms in the entire world wearing a cowboy hat, jeans, cowboy boots. He has this rough and tough voice, he curses and he acts like he doesn’t care.

The reality is he earned that look over the years. He didn’t always look like this. He earned it. He made it his look, his brand, everything is authentic because he combined his appearance with his behaviour, with his communication, you will see him online everywhere this way. He’s one of the nicest guys that I know if you know him. Right?

But it is part of his story and he earns it because he deserves it. Another example, Mark Zuckerberg.

As long as you didn’t invent a multibillion dollar company in your garage, you do not have the right to wear flip-flops at work. You do not have the right to wear a hoodie at work.

And by the way, we see Mark Zuckerberg more often in a suit than you see him in a hoodie because whenever Mark Zuckerberg needs money, he thinks a suit is a very good idea. Or Steve Jobs is another example that you know he created that uniform being a pair of jeans and a black turtle neck because he was such a creative mind and didn’t have the time to care about his appearance.

I can tell you, I can tell you that those black turtle necks are handmade custom-made $800 a piece.

That doesn’t sound to me like somebody who doesn’t care.


That’s true.


So, be very careful between those who really don’t care, group number one, right? Go for it, let them run, you can’t help. We’re going to see how far they come and the second group that doesn’t have to care anymore or that make it part of their brand that they care about themselves in a different way that looks very casual to us because same is true for Jeffrey. Those are a handmade cowboy boots, his sports jackets are custom-made, he’s wearing the most expensive accessories and the general viewer only sees the cowboy but we see what he invests to create that look and brand.


Sylvie, that was very interesting for me to hear that. And it was a pleasure to talk with you about the image of leaders and especially how important it is to have this consistency also already in the first seven seconds and the preparation before you meet someone the first time. So, thank you very much for that great talk. Thank you.


Thank you very much Bernd for having me. I truly appreciate you.


LME008 – Performance Based Bonus – What you ought to know about it.

Performance based bonus

Performance based bonus:
image: zastavkin/ resource: www.bigstock.com

Does a performance based bonus really work?

Of course, as a manager and entrepreneur you are constantly looking for new ways to improve your operation. Your employee’s job is to support this and to pull on the same string with you.

For this reason, nearly all large companies pay their managers performance based bonuses.

Their annual income is split into a fixed and a variable portion. The company intends to motivates with the variable compensation. Therefore, they link it to the attainment of individual objectives.

Listen to the podcast episode


Does performance based bonus work for small companies?

You may now be asking yourself:

“Should we not also pay our sales team performance based bonuses? There must be something to it since all the other successful large companies are doing this as well.”

Wait a minute. First, let’s take a look and see whether variable compensation truly delivers on its promise:

Objectives of performance based salaries

Variable compensation is often referred to as performance based salary or performance related pay. What is the underlying idea behind it?

The company or the supervisor and the employee agree to objectives. The intent is to get the employee focused on the objectives.

To ensure this, the company only pays a portion of the employees income if he attains his objectives. The company hopes to motivate the employee into acting in the company’s interests.

If he is particularly diligent, he can even outperform his objective. The employee then receives even more than 100% of the agreed to variable income portion.

The proponents of performance related pay primarily list the following benefits:

  • The variable portion motivates the employees.
  • The company pays the employees for performance.
  • Compensation management effort costs little, but gets good returns.

Do you also believe that variable compensation allows you to get more out of your employees? Well, let’s take a look at this in detail:

Employee motivation

I find it astonishing that companies feel that they need to motivate their employees to act in the interests of the company. I thought, the employee has an employment contract. In this contract he signed the obligation to perform this service. The company pays him his salary for it.

Now the company assumes that the employee is likely to only perform a portion of his productive output. The company’s position is that the employee will not honor his contract. Why would the company even employ someone who is very likely to not honor his contract?

Compensation structures in large companies

But it gets even more confusing:
Let’s take a look at the compensation structure in a large cooperation. This is how it works:

The higher the employee within the hierarchy, the higher their income, and the higher is also their performance based pay.

For instance, the variable income portion of a department head is typically between 10% to 20%.

However, the variable income portion of an Executive Board member can be 50% or more.

Watch my YouTube video on performance based salary of managers:

Motivation of CEOs

Performance based bonus for a CEO?

Performance based compensation for CEOs? Photo: goodynewshoes/ Resource www.bigstock.com

It gets even more extreme for the variable portion of a Chief Executive Officer working for a company listed on the stock market. The stock options and other bonus payments are in the millions.

Come on: Does somebody like that really have to be motivated to do his job properly in order to honor his contract? Is this truly necessary?

Amazing: The CEO already earns a base income of EUR 500,000 and still has to be “motivated” with a variable income portion, stock options and other bonus payments to the tune of several million dollars.

Please do not take this the wrong way: The company should generously compensate the CEO  if he is doing a good job. This should even be several million EUROS.

But a person like that does not have to be motivated! Either, he is intrinsically motivated, or he should be sent to hell!

Motivating lower-level employees

They are doing an outstanding job – although their organisations only pay a small fraction compared to the base pay of a CEO. Never mind a bonus and variable income portion.

Performance based bonus for elderly care takers?

Elderly caretakers are not paid performance based!
Photo: alexraths/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

What’s about the motivation of nurses, elderly caretakers, police men or soldiers? To the best of my knowledge variable income portions don’t motivate these people. Much more likely, these people are frequently highly motivated on their own.

As an aside: Even Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries are not motivated by variable income portions. That would really be beyond the pale!

Agree to objectives

During my 9 years as an employed Managing Director in a large international industrial cooperation, my compensation also included a variable component. My employees as well were paid based on performance.

Originally, I too was convinced that this performance based salary is fair and correct. But over time I became increasingly suspicious that something wasn’t working properly:

At the beginning of each year, I had a long meetings and objective discussions with each of my department heads. The meetings were always very important to me. Ultimately, we wanted to use these discussions to jointly paint a picture of the future, and to explore the options for the company’s and department’s direction. The idea was to find out what is feasible. The objectives from this were intended to be challenging but attainable.

The discussions actually went quite well with several employees. But in many cases the meetings were difficult because the employees sandbagged the objectives. They were not genuinely interested in finding out what was possible, and to set motivating objectives. Instead, they wanted to lower the bar for their personal objectives, in order to be assured of a maximum income with the least amount of effort.

Objective discussions turn into income negotiations

The more of these employee discussions I conducted, the clearer it became to me:

If an employee has a variable income portion,
every objective discussion is also an income negotiation.

This is counterproductive. As soon as the own income depends on objectives, most people are not motivated to even consider challenging objectives. I don’t even blame them. This is ultimately not in their interest. It even violates their underlying personal goals.

Employees become income optimizers!

Today, I am convinced that tying variable income to personal objectives is a waste. It frequently demotivates employees. In many cases, this linkage even has a more negative impact.

Let me tell you a terrific example for the damaging effect of a well intended objective that is coupled to income:

The Executive Board for a large telephone company issued a new customer bonus. Sales employees were to receive an additional bonus if they generated sales revenues with new customers.

What did the salespeople do? They prompted their long-standing customers to cancel the contracts, in order to sign them up as new customers. Instead of focusing on actual new business, they preferred to benefit from easily realized pseudo-new business.

When you create financial incentives you should not be surprised if your employees do not focus on the company’s success, but rather on how to maximize the incentive.

When bonus systems can be useful

The expectation of a bonus is only motivating and purposeful when routine assignments are processed according to 3 points:

  • Simple rules apply.
  • A clear-cut objective is set.
  • The path is clearly described and easily understood.

But this is rarely the case especially in todays world. Here, you need employees who are creative, who think on their own feet and contribute, accept ownership, and are reliable.

You therefore need employees who are self-motivated, i.e. intrinsically motivated. They need to understand the purpose of their work. You should therefore not attempt to increase employee motivation with a compensation scheme! The individual sense of purpose will fall by the wayside. Do not attempt to compensate for deficient leadership by means of a compensation scheme!

How should you structure an alternative compensation scheme?

Treat your employees fairly and pay fairly and avoid common leadership mistakes.

Especially in a small company, you don’t need a complicated compensation scheme for this. All you need is common sense and empathy.

Take the following rules to heart regarding your employee’s incomes:

  • Lead with objectives, but don’t tie the income to the objectives!
  • Agree to a fixed income that correlates with the employee’s performance!
  • If the employee demonstrates consistently good performance, you can increase his income!
  • If the employee consistently underperforms in spite of support, you should reduce his income or separate from the employee.
  • At the end of the year, pay a bonus to all employees if the company made good profits. If the company is doing well, then the employees should participate in this. That is fair. If the company is doing poorly, then it is also clear that a bonus cannot be paid.

LME007 – Employee motivation: How does it work and how can you improve it?

I recently spoke to a young high-tech entrepreneurabout employee motivation. He was complaining about his employees. They didn’t contribute, lacked motivation, but were always looking for better pay. He rolled his eyes and asked me in a depressed mood:

“All I want is to have motivated employees showing commitment. Is that asking too much? “

No, it’s not. You will only achieve long-term success with motivated employees.

As a manager you impact the employee motivation and employee commitment in your company – but in ways other than what you may think.

Listen to the podcast version

Could you possibly improve employee motivation?

This will work in the short-term, but it’s a dangerous game. Money may be attractive, but it has no sustained impact on employee motivation nor on employee commitment!

Please don’t take this the wrong way. If you don’t pay your employees an adequate income, then you’ll demotivate your employees! They will not be commited to work for you.

But the inverse conclusion will only work on an exception basis: If you pay an above average income, this will by no means result in your employees being more motivated or more commited over the long haul.

The crux with bonus payments

Some believe that they can master and control their employee’s motivation with bonus systems so called performance based bonus. A bonus is paid if the employee attains a certain performance. – How odd. Why does companies do this? Doesn’t the employee have an employment contract obligating him to perform this service, while the company is paying his income to do so?

If you wish to motivate with money, then you’re accusing the employee of not giving their best effort. You believe that he’s sandbagging a portion of his work performance. For example, then you are therefore only paying him 80%. By enticing him with a 20% bonus payment at the end of the year, you want to close this gap in his work performance, provided he performs.

The German motivation expert Reinhard K. Sprenger accurately called this type of bonus payment a mistrust discount. By making this type of bonus payment, you are suspecting your employees of an unwillingness to perform. This doesn’t exactly instill a trusting relationship. Does it motivate? Does this lead to real commitment? – Not really.

Then what exactly is employee motivation?

Employee motivation is one of those hard to grasp concepts. When is an employee motivated?

Generally put, my understanding of motivation is:

“The force of our psyche that drives and controls our behavior.”

Motivation then is the reason behind a person’s particular behavior. Motivational science differentiates between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic employee motivation

If you hold a carrot to a donkey’s nose, this is extrinsic motivation. This is how you would motivate the donkey to continue walking and carrying loads.

Employee Motivation?

Employee Motivation?
Image partly: deDMazay & phodopus/ source: www.bigstock.com

Applied to the business world: You simply replace the carrot with a financial enticement, a bonus or a promotion. Now you’re on your way to motivating extrinsically. By the way: if you threaten your employee with punishment, you are also motivating extrinsically, for instance:

“John, if you don’t start showing up at work on time at 7:00 a.m., you’ll get fired!”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a reward or a punishment: Extrinsic motivations involve actions that are initiated from the outside. Put bluntly: an extrinsically motivated employee will think:

“I’ll do it because I have to, otherwise …“

Intrinsic employee motivation

If someone takes an action for the action’s sake, he’s intrinsically motivated. He’s commited to his work. He either simply enjoys the activity, he believes it’s worth doing, or it represents an interesting challenge for him.

An intrinsically motivated employee thinks:

“I’m doing this because I want to! “

Extrinsic motivation is a source of focus

The expectation of a reward, but also the avoidance of a punishment is always dependent on the situation. Extrinsic motivation allows you to establish a focus.

But the extrinsic motivation will only last while the reward is anticipated, or the force is applied. When you motivate extrinsically, your employees aren’t working for the sake of the issue! They aren’t really commited.

But if an employee’s intrinsically motivated, no external controlling influences are needed. If you value creativity, self-reliance and reliability, then you need intrinsically motivated employees.

The anticipation of a reward or threat of punishment will only – and only then – motivate and be sensible if

  • Routine tasks need to be performed by following simple rules.
  • A clear-cut objective is set, and the path to achieving it is easily achieved.

A classic example for this is piece-work on an assembly line. It is quite possible to motivate employees to do such work extrinsically.

But extrinsic motivation squelches creativity!

However, extrinsic motivation will not work

  • with any task that is not routine
  • requires thoughts because the way to the solution is not clear
  • for tasks that call for creativity

Extrinsic employee motivation may even be counter-productive. The anticipation of a reward or threat of punishment will cause the employee to focus strictly on this reward or punishment. But the focus should be on creativity, right?

If you need commited, creative employees, you should not put them under pressure. Pressure kills creativity, regardless of whether it is in negative form as a punishment, or in positive form as a reward.

What kind of employee motivation do I need in my company?

Under normal business conditions, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation works in parallel. But the higher the intrinsic motivation, the better.

Why? For the most part, routine activity has fallen by the wayside in most companies. In today’s environment, companies automated most routine activities. They’re being performed by machines, not employees. This is why you need people who contribute, who work independently:

Employees who operate your expensive equipment.

Or are you able to specify each manual intervention and to show your employees in detail how they should operate the equipment?

Employees who call on your customers on your behalf.

You don’t want them to sell as many of your products at all costs. You need them to serve your customer in such a way that he will buy from you again.

Employees in the R&D department.

If they are not creative and develop new products, what will your company sell in the near future?

How can I motivate my employees intrinsically?

You can’t. I my opinion, Daniel H. Pink put his finger on it quite pointedly. He states that intrinsically motivated people have the following characteristics.

1. Desire for self-determination

They want to work independently on a task with the greatest possible elbow room.

2. Strive for excellence

Intrinsic motivated people want to grow with the task. They want to continue improving themselves on an issue that they feel is important to them.

3. Purpose

The things they do must have a purpose. In performing their task, they want to be part of something larger than themselves.

Watch that great video of Daniel H. Pink about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Awesome!

What can you do for your employee motivation?

Don’t spend so much time thinking about how to motivate your employees. But instead, spend time making sure that you don’t demotivate your employees.

  • Don’t skimp on their pay! Pay your employees adequately and fairly.
  • Be consistent and predictable.
  • Do not micromanage!
  • Give your employees decision making authority and manage with objectives and trust.
  • Support your employees in their personal development and their desire to improve themselves.
  • Answer the question why your company is a great place to work. Have a great business vision, emplyoees can connect with.

If you behave in this way, I assure you you have motivated and commited employees in the long term.

LME006 – How to create a vision statement for your company.

5 points how to create a vision statement

5 points how to create a vision statement

What’s needed to create a vision statement and what’s needed for the vision to work? I’ll give you 5 crucial points which make a great business vision.

In the previous episode we spoke about why you should have a true business vision. Today we’ll focus on what makes a great business vision and what’s needed for the vision to work successfully.

Let’s think about why some corporate visions are perceived as strong and useful and others aren’t.

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What makes a vision successful?

What does really matters? Most managers agree: In today’s world, we need employees who are motivated, self-reliant and independent. We need employees who we don’t have to force to work and who think along with us.

We are talking here about intrinsically motivated employees. That means employees who’re motivated by themselves, cooperate and think creatively. Here a true business vision is a huge asset in helping to get intrinsically motivated employees.

Let me explain why: There are three points that are important to an intrinsically motivated employee:

1st autonomy

An intrinsically motivated person has a desire for autonomy. He says

“Give me a destination, tell me where we want to go, but please let me set the path.”

That’s what’s fun for him, he wants to decide for himself how to get there.

2nd striving for championship

An intrinsically motivated person has the inner need to become better and better at what he does.

3rd Purpose

“What I do must make sense to me and has to have a meaning for me.”

The intrinsically motivated person sees meaning in what he or she does.

Support autonomy, striving for championship and purpose

As a manager, you should therefore make sure that you support these three points in order to have intrinsically motivated employees: Autonomy, striving for mastery and meaning or purpose.

Of course, you cannot instill purpose into your employees. But you can proffer meaning and purpose in a true vision. If the vision is attractive to them you have a good chance that they connect and see the purpose behind the vision as useful and important. It’s their decision if they connect to the vision or if they don’t. You can’t force them to. But you can enthusiastically talk about it and help them to understand.

Viktor Frankl, a well-known psychiatrist said,

“The question of meaning never depends on what we expect from the world, but on what the world expects of us.”

In other words, meaning should always be linked to benefits for others. It isn’t just a benefit to us. It’s usually considered useful when it brings benefits to others.

The purpose isn’t money.

Therefore, It’s important to state: Contrary to popular belief, the real purpose of a company is never simply to earn money. Rather, it is about benefiting others – namely the customer. A company receives its money for this, but its purpose is not money.

Please don’t get me wrong: The companies need money in order to be able to operate, to function, to pay suppliers and employees and to provide interest and returns for the investors – shareholders as well as banks – otherwise it won’t survive.

But money is not the purpose of a company. Just as it is not the purpose of a person to simply earn money. The purpose of every company is to help customers, whether with a product or with a service. Only then does the company have a right to exist. Otherwise, this company would simply be a parasite in our society.

The answer to the question “why?” and clearly knowing the purpose of the company is cruicial. The business strategy with the company vision or corporate mission is closely linked to this.

The vision statement usually describes the future. That’s where we’re going. The big guiding star, so to speak. And the mission defines what  our task is. Many say:

“The mission is important to the outside world. It tells why we exist and what our job is.”

Personally, I don’t think this distinction is particularly useful, because people keep confusing mission and vision. In my opinion, it’s also not helpful to say that the mission is rather for the outside, while the vision is for us inside the company.

In my opinion, the smartest way to combine mission and vision is to say there is a vision and it has to answer both. That way I don’t need to make this distinction,either.

5 points to create a vision statement

Whether vision or mission: one thing is imperative. When I speak of a vision, I mean a guiding star, something that is vague but emotional. It describes a great picture for the future. It’s something people can connect to that you can inspire people with.

How to create a vision statement? What characterizes a good vision? In my view, there are five characteristic points.

1) The vision must be emotionally charged.

It must inspire, at least it must address a certain type of people and exactly the one I want to pick up with it. And that’s how it gives energy.

2. The vision sets a direction.

…but no details.

3. The vision paints a picture of the future.

“I have a dream.”


“I have a plan.”

Although it does not provide any details, it is nevertheless unmistakable. It positions and distinguishes from others.

Statements like:

“We will become the No. 1 in our market and offer the best quality at the lowest prices.”

are not only nonsense, because nobody can deliver the lowest prices at the best quality in the long
run. No, it’s also interchangeable. Such a statement does not position. It does not explain the “why”.

4. The vision is not fixed in time.

It has no deadline.

5. The vision is a desirable improvement of the current situation.

It includes and expresses a clear customer benefit. In the best case, it provides significant added value not just for a customer segment but for societyas a whole. This makes it desirable for a large number of people and they can connect with this vision.

These five points are the hallmarks of a good corporate vision. As a positive example for this I gladly take again and again the vision of Wikipedia.

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

This is a vision. It’s emotionally charged. It may not inspire all people, but some who then say:

“I think that’s great when everyone has access to all human knowledge. I want to support this or even be a part of this project.”

This vision sets a direction, but no details. It is not fixed in time. There’s no deadline. It clearly expresses the benefits and it’s a really high added value for society.

Why is it, that some business visions don’t work?

… even if they meet the 5 points I’ve set up?

If you as the company owner want your business vision to really function as a guiding star, then as a person who sets up the vision, you have to live this vision 100 %. You have to live the values that this vision implies.

For example: You want your company to be innovative. Your business vision implies innovation. Then you have to set an example. Your actions must reflect that you really want innovation – with all the consequences.

Let’s assume, that you are someone who attaches great importance to precise processes, goals and systems in your company. For you it’s very important that everyone behaves in accordance with the rules and everything is regulated and specified in detail.

For example, you want your employees to strictly abide by an 80 page guideline, which describes in detail how travel expenses are to be settled. – Well, then that doesn’t go with innovation.

This contradicts the value of creativity. If you want innovation, you cannot tell your employees exactly every step what they have to do. You need to have trust in your employees.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, you can have rules. And these rules need to be followed. But an 80 page guideline just for the travel expenses? Come on!

“If the values lived don’t correspond to those in the vision, the vision is doomed to fail.”

You have to stand identify with and be behind your vision 100% – and that has some serious implications. If you have a big vision, then this has implications for your behavior. You need to be consistent.

The vision must have consequences…

Like Steve Jobs, for example, when he returned to Apple in 1996. Sales had fallen sharply, Apple was no longer profitable. Something simply had to happen. Steve Jobs had a vision with the development of iMac, iTunes and iPod.

However, implementing this vision meant that the company had to position itself and focus clearly. For this reason, he quickly closed 22 out of 24 product areas. This was a tough decision, but consistently aligned with his vision. He focused only on the two areas that were important for implementing the vision.

What we can learn here is this:

When you have a clear vision, then this must have consequences. All existing processes and rules in your company must be questioned. What aligns with the vision, and what doesn’t?

But keep in mind: If you want to consistently align your company with your vision, you need a lot of energy – and as business owner or CEO you probably only have this energy if your vision really is 100 % in line with your own values and your motivation.

The bigger the company, the more difficult this is. It’s usually easier if the entrepreneur is still in the company and is still in charge – at least if he really is a visionary. Because the company will at least initially be very strongly influenced by the entrepreneur.

Who is driving the vision?

However, as soon as a company grows, goes into the 2nd or 3rd generation, or goes public, it becomes difficult. Usually the formative visionary is then no longer there – or at least he no longer has a say in decisive matters and generally lacks influence.

The company’s focus and perspective, and with it the company’s culture, are gradually changing. Instead of an entrepreneur, employed managers rule now. It is less and less about customer benefit and the long-term goals and growth of the company.

Rather, managers – and even the CEO – are measured by achieving short-term goals. Sales, profit, quarterly results and the share price determine what the managers have to do.

Beware of Pseudo visions!

If high bonuses are paid for reaching short-term financial goals then it’s understandable that managers focus on just that. The words customer relations, long-term vision as well as longterm strategy degenerate to empty phrases in such enterprises. Usually such companies no longer have any real vision but only pseudo visions like:

“We want to be market leader!”


“We’ll be number one in our market segment and aim for a 15% profit!”

Benefits for the customer or for society? Not really our focus. Our shareholders want to make a good profit.

This is not to say that there can’t be any true visions in such large corporate companies or that real customer orientation isn’t possible. But my impression is that if only employed managers are in charge, a true business vision is hard to Sustain for the long-term.



The inspiring quote

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

Carl Jung


LME005 – What is a vision statement and do you really need one?

Do you really need a vision statement? What can a business vision do for you? We’ll have some good and some bad examples of vision statements.

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Do you need a vision statement for your company?

vision statement and business vision

Vision Statements are important!
Image: nruboc/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

I think so. With a good vision you can unleash the power of your team.

With a vision you paint a vivid picture of the future. You describe where you’re heading – both as a team and as a company. A true vision inspires people and creates a common understanding.

Do you have a vision statement for your company? Do you know about a vision in your company?

I mean this kind of statement or phrase or description, which tells where your business is heading, what you want to achieve and why your company exists?

Pseudo Visions

Don’t get confused with those pseudo vision statements of big companies in the corporate world. Visions like:

“As a reliable partner for our customers, we count on innovation, creativity and consistent customer focus as well as on top performance in all areas.“

Blablabla. Sorry, but that is just a bunch of buzz words. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t say anything. How does this statement helps to distinguish your company from others? It doesn’t. Everyone wants to be a reliable partner. Every company wants to be customer focused.

Want another example of bad vision statements in the corporate world?

“We work hard to be a Company that Our Shareholders, Customers and Society Want!”

Oh, come on: That’s boring: That’s so generic: That can be true for almost every company.

Here is another great vision:

“We will be the No1 in our industry and strive for double digit sales and profit growth over the next 5 years.”

What? Maybe the investors like this statement. But what’s about the customers, the employees and partners of this company? Does this statement inspires, energizes or motivates anyone? No, it certainly doesn’t!

The business vision isn’t about money.

Hardly anyone is inspired by helping someone else make money. Why would employees put their heart and soul into such a thing?

Sorry to all the CEOs in the corporate world who developed this kind of pseudo visions: These vision statements are totally useless.

Difference between mission and vision statement

So what’s a good business vision then? Often people get confused with what the difference is between vision and mission.

Let’s answer that briefly: As part of a business strategy the vision tells where you are going and a mission tells why your business exists. But don’t think too much about these definitions and which one’s which.

Two important questions

If you are an entrepreneur and running a small business or if you are a manager in charge of parts of a business you should focus on these two questions:
1.           Why does your business exist?
2.           Where do you want your business to go?

Just to make it crystal clear. The first question is by far the most important one!

Why does your business exist?

What’s the purpose of your company?

There is a great Ted Talk by Simon Sinek about the why and about the purpose of a company. It’s called: “How great leaders inspire action.” It’s my favorite TedTalk. Simon describes in a wonderful understandable way how great leaders think, act and communicate and how important the “Why” is.

What makes a well-conceived vision statement?

Successful entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson or Steve Jobs live for real visions. They are or were not primarily driven by making money.

These entrepreneurs are in pursuit of other objectives and visions that are bigger than themselves. These are frequently visions that carry a social or ecological value for the rest of humanity.

Some inspiring vision statements

Take Microsoft’s first vision statement as a case in point. Microsoft’s revolutionary founding vision in 1975 was:

“Our vision is a computer on every desk and in every home.”

Probably, it addressed only a limited number of people back then. But they enthusiastically supported it. They were intrinsically motivated to contribute to this vision, which was viewed by these people as socially relevant.

Here are some other examples of great vision statements:

The company Scooter:

“Our vision is to provide freedom and independence to people with limited mobility.”

Or Wikipedia

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

Just by listening to these visions, can you hear the difference to those pseudo visions?

What is a true vision statement?

If an entrepreneur or a company have a true vision then they ultimately pursue an objective that is larger than themselves. The business owner isn’t just working to satisfy his ego and the company doesn’t purely exist to earn money.

A true vision shows that the entrepreneur or the company strive to solve a meaningful problem. It is not about money, it is about solving a problem which makes the world a better place, which helps people.

And that’ll inspire other people. They’ll feel that the vision is important and useful.

And that’s why they want to support this vision and be part of it – as an employee, as a customer or as a supplier.

What’s about making good money?

As an aside, this doesn’t mean that the company or an entrepreneur cannot make good money. On the contrary. In order to attain the purpose, to achieve something of value for the world, the entrepreneur as well as the company should and must make money.

If it’s important to the entrepreneur to live in a beautiful home and drive a luxury Porsche, then that’s ok. It may be necessary for him to be satisfied and content. The luxury then becomes a means to an end if he’s focused on his true vision.

His true vision is striving to solve a meaningful problem. It is not about money, but money is a means to an end. It’s about solving a problem which makes the world a better place.

What‘s your vision statement?

What problem is your company solving to make the world a better place? If you don’t have a true vision yet or if you only have a pseudo vision in your company so far, don’t worry. You can work on it. Just click here to learn what exactly is needed to create an inspiring business vision.

LME004 – Upward Delegation: How to avoid this kind of monkey business

We are talking about how to avoid upword delegation, often also refered to as back delegation or reverse delegation. It’s a problem a lot of managers suffer from.

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upward delegation - monkey business

Upward delegation

When a task that you have delegated to an employee comes back to you – and you complete it. This is called reverse delegation or monkey business.

If you – as the boss – accept that an employee hands back the work given to him, then you do the work that your employee should actually be doing. That’s fatal, since you won’t have time for your own tasks.

In the following I’ll describe why so many executives have their problems with reverse delegation and how you can deal with it.

What exactly is upward delegation?

I can best explain it with an example:

Let’s assume that you delegated an important task to Jack last week. He was supposed to write the final report for Project XYZ by the end of next month. Jack knows this kind of project well and has all the information about it. You have complete confidence in him and in his abilities. That’s why you agreed with him that he only briefly reports back when he’s finished and sent the report.

Today you are very busy. You are on your way to an important meeting. Jack is talking to you in passing.

“Boss, I’m glad to see you. I’ve got a problem. I’m supposed to write that project report. I’ve put something together, but somehow I’m not getting anywhere. You know XYZ very well. Could you take a quick look at what I’ve written and perhaps add a few key words?”

So? How do you react?  In your mind you are actually somewhere else – namely already at your meeting. Yeah, sure. You’re the expert on Project XYZ, but you just can’t be bothered to do it right now. You just think:

“How do I get rid of Jack as quickly as possible?”

So you’re answering:

“OK. Jack, give it to me. I’ll deal with it later.”

Opps. – You have another task on your desk – a task that you had actually delegated to your employee, right?

Delegating back: Monkey Business

Many executives fall into this trap, called reverse delegation. As early as 1974 there was an article in the Harvard Business Review about it. The title:

“Management time: Who’s got the monkey?”

The authors compared tasks to be delegated with monkeys. Whoever is working on the task and who is responsible for it, is carrying the monkey on his shoulder. As long as he has the monkey he has to take care for him and feed him. This is expensive and takes time. If this becomes too much, you need to get rid of the monkey. Now the boss comes into play.

If the boss delegates a task, he puts the monkey on the shoulder of the employee. After a successful reverse delegation, the monkey sits again on the boss’ shoulder.

And if the boss has a lot of employees and does not resist, then very soon a lot of monkeys sit on his shoulder. Then he feels like a zookeeper. He’s in charge of feeding a lot of crazy monkeys.

The boss will then no longer be able to work properly on his tasks because he deals with tasks that he’s not supposed to do. He does the work of his employees.

The boss becomes the bottleneck.

It even goes as far as employees having to wait for their boss. The boss becomes the bottleneck. Then the employees complain:

“My boss can’t get anything done. He’s overdoing it. Our team can’t go on because we need his input but his work is piling up on his desk. He can’t manage at all. Who actually made this guy an executive?”

Why does reverse delegation take place? You have delegated a task and your employee tries to return the delegated task to you. The question is, why?

It can have many causes. For example, an employee is under a lot of time pressure, whether he’s just feeling it or not. The work just gets too much for him. He has taken on or promised too much, does not want to admit it and therefore tries to get rid of part of the work.

Perhaps the employee also has too little self-confidence in his abilities or feels overwhelmed. Here, too, he has accepted the task, but in the course of time he realizes it’s growing over his head.

In these cases your employee needs your help and support. But that doesn’t mean that you do his job.

What can you as a boss do?

Let’s assume you delegated the task correctly. You also made sure that the employee has the competence to solve the task. If there are problems, you told him, he can approach you – but not just in passing. You will help him, but always leave the responsibility with your employee and make an appointment to discuss the problem. Then ask:

“What would you do if I wasn’t there?”


“To solve the problem: what have you done so far?”


“What ideas do you have to solve the problem?”


“To make to solve the problem: What decisions do you need?”


“What exactly do you need from me now?”

With this kind of questions you coach your employee. In this way you ensure that he doesn’t remain on the problem side, but rather comes up with his own solutions.

Beware of your impulses.

Many managers are used to making quick decisions and thinking solution-oriented. However, in such a discussion with your employee you should suppress the impulse to work out the solution yourself.

If you solve the problem, it doesn’t train your employee’s solution behavior. You don’t really help him but you make him addicted. Because the next time he has a problem, he’d rather go straight to you than work on the solution himself. That’s not what you want, is it?

That’s why you support him with questions. Talk a little, explain a little, but ask. Help your employee by coaching him to find the solution. Suppress your problem-solving reflex.

Why are many managers being tricked into upward delegation?

Many managers fully understand the concept of reverse delegation, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. They keep finding out that they have somehow been tricked. Suddenly the monkey sits on the boss’s shoulder again. How could this have happened?

Some managers fear that if you do not solve the problem, their employees may consider you weak or incompetent. Others cannot say no, because you have a reflex of wanting to help or you are simply tempted to take on a complex task again.

Upward delegation because of incorrect behaviour

Sometimes, however, managers simply react incorrectly.

Let me give you an example to illustrate this:

You’ve been the expert in your field – and then you were promoted. Now you have the leading role and know that you should hand over the technical task to your employees. It is not your job to do the work of your employees. You realize that! But deep down inside you are proud to be perceived as an expert and not just a leader. You want to keep the status of an expert.

Normally, this need is not a problem for you. If you are concentrated or have enough time to think, you are safe. You decide rationally in favor of the leadership role and consistently hand over the technical work to your employees and you don’t allow reverse delegation.

However, it is different when you are under stress and have to make short-term decisions – without much thought – for instance when your thoughts are already in the next meeting and you are approached unprepared by your employee Jack on the corridor on the way there.

“Boss, can you take a look at this? I mean you are the expert. You know best about it…”

That’s something you love to hear from Jack. You enjoy the short-term good feeling of being perceived as an expert by your employees. It’s flattering. It’s good for your EGO, good to hear that you are needed and recognised as an expert. However, in the long run you have another monkey on your shoulder.

How can you avoid this upward delegation?

You could just block the conversation with the phrase:

“Do you want me to do your job?”

But this isn’t constructive. It’s frustrating and only leads to your employees feeling that they aren’t getting any support from you.

The solution is: You make an appointment with your employee to discuss the problem indepth:

“Jack, this is not a good time. I am already late for my meeting. But we can talk about it later in my office. Let’s say in half an hour. Is that ok with you?”

You kill two birds with one stone: On the one hand: You don’t let yourself be determined by Jack and you hold back your impulse slipping back into your expert role. On the other hand, you give your employee enough time to think again about his problem. Maybe he’ll find a solution without your help.

3 Tips on upward delegation

Let me give you some help when dealing with “monkey business”.

  1. Every monkey takes time!

Think very carefully about what you commit to. For example: If your employee asks you to participate in some unimportant project meeting because you are the expert. Don’t do it just because you want to please him or please your EGO. Think twice before you do it or before you make such promises. A meeting can quickly cost you several hours. Time you could probably make better use of.

  1. With every monkey comes a supervisor!

If you have accepted the task, very often you have someone who depends on your completion of this task. Therefore, if you take on the task, you become accountable to others. After all, you make a commitment – and it doesn’t matter on which hierarchical level your supervisor stands.

Think about it: If you take back a task then your employee becomes your supervisor. Now he has all the right to ask you:

“Have you finished the task yet?”

  1. A monkey rarely comes alone!

If you take on a task, your employee is rewarded for his or her behavior. He reverse delegated an unpleasant task to his boss. Now, he has more time for himself and is even allowed to supervise his boss according to the motto:

“Boss, have you finished the report yet?”

Oh, great! What’s happening? In the future, the employee will try to give you even more monkeys. That makes sense to him. That’s why I say: Don’t feed your employees’ monkeys!


Try to consistently avoid upward delegation. Not only in your interest but also in the interest of your employees.


The inspiring quote

“Delegating means letting others become the experts and hence the best.”

by Timothy Firnstahl

LME003 – Micromanagement? How to avoid it and get things done.

You may think you are not a micromanager. But believe me, chances are high, that you are – at least sometimes.

But why should you avoid micromanagement? How do you become aware of when you are micromanaging and what can you do to avoid it? We will have answers on all of these – and I’ll give you 5 proven tips on how you can avoid micromanaging.

Listen to the podcast episode

What is micromanagement?

A typical definition is:

“Someone who micromanages is characterised by an exaggerated attention to detail and a detailed specification and control of what needs to be done.”

But what does “exaggerated” mean in this context?  What is meant by “detailed specification and control of what needs to be done”?

When are exact specifications and controls bad and when are they not? Isn’t that all very subjective? Don’t you have to take into account the situation and the skills of the employees?

We’re going to discuss these questions in more detail today, because you can see from the above definition that the evaluation of micromanagement is not so easy.

In my coaching sessions, I’ve worked with executives who told me that they don’t micromanage. However, their employees thought about it quite differently.

Are you a micromanager?

Let’s do a test.

Answer the following 7 questions and count the “Yes” answers. But be honest with yourself!

  • Do you spend more than 80% of your working time on day-to-day operations?
  • Do you believe in the sentence: “Control is better than trust”?
  • Do you have too little time to regularly deal with long-term strategy?
  • Do you feel you are the expert in your field?
  • Do you often ask your employees about the status of projects?
  • Do you always want perfect solutions?
  • If things seem to go wrong, do you sometimes skip hierarchy levels and give instructions over other managers’ heads?

The more questions you answered with “yes”, the greater the probability that you have tendencies towards micromanagement – even if you believe that you are not micromanaging.

Why is micromanagement bad?

Micromanagers have a negative impact on employees, especially on employee motivation. But it’s also harmful for the micromanager himself.

Let’s take a closer look at these negative effects – and first of all at the effects on employees:

If you tell employees exactly what they have to do and if you check their work down to the very last detail, then they lose the fun at work.

Control results, but not the steps towards the result.

It’s ok to control results, but it’s not ok to specify and control every tiny little step towards the results.

If you don’t give your employees at least some freedom to find their own way to get the result and to meet deadlines, then this is highly demotivating and frustrating. Because – whether you like it or not – with such behavior you make it clear to your employees that you don’t trust them and certainly don’t trust their abilities.

The bad thing about this is that over time you train your employees to become dependent. After a while you wonder why your employees don’t seem to have any ideas of their own. Typically the micromanager gets the feeling

“Nothing at all comes from my employees. Creativity? Nothing. They don’t come up with their own ideas. I need to tell them everything. They’re just stupid, need to get told what to do and need to be controlled all the time.”

I’m sorry, but this is your fault with all your micromanagement. I keep saying it:

“After 2 years latest, every manager has exactly the employees he or she deserves.”

Micromanagers also often find it difficult to set priorities.

Everything always seems important and everything always seems urgent.

The employees are confronted with a flood of tasks that they cannot deal with in time. Everything is important and urgent to the manager. He’s not talking about strategy, goals or the big picture but only about small and tiny tasks in detail. The employees cannot classify the significance, importance or urgency of tasks because he’s neither giving this direction nor is he talking about why a task is important.

Why does the manager do this?

Either he doesn’t think he has the time or he doesn’t know his goals and priorities. I don’t care how: It is fatal and leads to frustration, demotivation and excessive demands on employees.

Overload of the micromanager

However, the exaggerated attention to detail and the lack of confidence in others also has negative effects on the micromanager. He believes that he must set the course and control every task and every employee.

This costs time and energy – and that is exactly why the micromanager becomes the bottleneck of his department. Everything needs to be approved by him. Tasks remain lying around because he has not yet checked and released them. He Doesn’t know how to delegate and very often he falls into the trap of upward delegation.

He takes care of every little thing and therefore does not find the time to take care of the really important things. The operational matters are really eating him up. That’s fatal.

Bypass of hierarchy

A particularly critical type of micromanagement is bypassing the hierarchy and undermining your subordinate’s authority. Let me describe it in an example:

Assume you’re the CEO of a small business. Because your business is prospering and you’ve had to hire more and more people, you recently introduced your first managers.

That makes sense, because you can’t manage 30 employees and more on your own. So you have appointed some of your best and most trusted employees as group leaders. One of these employees is now responsible for production as group leader, the other for the development group and one leads the sales group.

The only trouble is: So far, all employees have reported to you. If there were problems or if a decision was needed, whom have the employees asked so far? – Exactly: They asked you.

Just because you’ve now officially appointed group leaders doesn’t mean that your employees will automatically turn to these group leaders for questions and decisions in the future. On the contrary. After all, your employees have become accustomed to addressing you for years. So they’re gonna do the same thing for now.

Who makes decisions?

And now it’s up to you. You are no longer allowed to make all the operational decisions that you made earlier. You delegated some of them and they are now in the hands of your group leaders.

For example – if an employee from production approaches you and asks you how he should proceed with product xyz, you shouldn’t longer decide.

Instead, you should refer him to the production manager, because he is now the decision-maker. It’s his job now. It’s up to him, not to you.

If you don’t do this, you are undermining the authority of your production manager. In the future his employees will no longer take him seriously, because real decisions will still be made by the big boss, who is you.

Then why should the employee ask his group leader if he still can ask you? There is a saying which is on point:

“Talk to the organ grinder, not his monkey.”

You don’t want your employees to think your group leaders are monkeys, do you?

What if a decision is already made?

It gets even worse if your production manager has already made a decision and communicated it to his employees and you now reverse this decision with a small remark to an employee.

“John just asked and I helped him quickly and decided the matter.”

Wrong.  Without probably wanting to, you have undermined the authority of your production manager. If this happens several times, he will no longer be accepted by his employees – and it will be your fault. When in doubt, the employees ask you – the boss and not their group leader.

Perhaps your employees will play you and your production manager off against each other.

“Let’s see who gives me the better choice.”

I’m sure you know that from your parents’ house. If Dad tells me I have to be home by 10:00, I’ll just check with Mom. Maybe she’ll let me stay away until 11:00.

So, if you undermine the authority of your production manager, then he can’t take the burden off you. Because the employees do not accept it and go back to you in case of doubt. This costs you time, nerves and in the long run the production manager will quit his job.

Whoever undermines his subordinate’s hierarchies is micro-managing. Therefore, think about it:

“Micromanagement can even destroy otherwise useful hierarchies.”

Why does someone micromanage?

Mostly it’s not done because of bad intention.

Some micromanagers simply lack self-confidence. They have a strong need for security and predictability. Nothing should go wrong.

But anyone who delegates always takes a certain risk. You never know for sure whether the agreed result will actually be achieved and what will really result when you assign a task to an employee.

It’s the fear of mistakes and the risk that leads to micromanagement. In case of doubt, the micromanager prefers to control too much rather than too little or not delegate the task at all.

Are you the expert?

Then there are the micromanagers who think of themselves as the best at everything anyway. This category primarily includes managers who’ve successfully completed specialist tasks for many years. They are and were experts. But something changed. They were promoted into a managerial position. Now they have to deal with leadership and need to delegate these specialist tasks.

The problem here is:

If I was the best programm coder for years, then it’s naturally difficult for me to hand over the coding when I am now group leader.

Because I am convinced that my employees will not do the job as well as I do. So I specify every detail and I control every step of the implementation. As an expert, the risk of becoming a micro-manager is high! I used to be in the expert’s shoes and know what I’m talking about. I was a micromanager. Listen to episode 001, where I tell you my story about what helped me to get rid of my micromanagement behavior.

5 Tips how to avoid micromanagment

Starting with learning how to delegate and avoiding micromanagement is both an investment in employee training and an investment in yourself becoming a better leader. Yes, it takes time and energy – and mistakes sometimes happen. But it’s worth it. Because you as a manager get time and you get committed employees who work independently and probably exceeding your expectations in the long term

What can you do if you realize that you have tendencies towards micromanagement? How do you manage to resist your impulse to control and specify everything and specify down to the smallest detail? Here are some tips.

Tip 1: Focus on the result not the way to the result.

If you delegate, you control the result, but not the path to it. Talk about goals and priorities, but leave your employees the freedom to find their own ways. If you haven’t done yet, then listen to podcast episode002 on delegating. There, I talk about the 5 levels of delegation. They will help you to find the balance between trust and control depending on the skills of your employee.

If you have delegated a task on a certain delegation level, stick with it and trust the employee. If you don’t and you control more than you agreed, your employee will get the feeling that you think he won’t make it. You’re undermining his confidence. You don’t want that.

Tip 2: Learning from mistakes!

Let your employees learn from their mistakes. If you are an expert in your field, remember that you initially learned a lot through trial and error. Give them at least some kind of freedom to make their own mistakes.

Tip 3: The 80:20 rule!

Always ask yourself: What kind of result do I need? It’s important here: Mostly the best, the optimum result is not needed. It’s about the result that makes sense for the customer or the situation.

In most cases the result is good if you follow the 80:20 rule. With 20% of the time you get an 80% solution. If you want 100%, you have to spend 80% of the time on the remaining 20%. It seldom pays for itself.

I’LL give you an example: Let’s assume that you told your employee to write the minutes of a meeting. How important and decisive is it that the content is correct? Well, I believe we agree that this is very important. Also the correct wording can be decisive. However, whether the formatting is perfect, all rules of correct grammar and spelling are applied and wheather the minutes of meetings adhere to all rules and standards of the companies  corporate identity – all these points aren’t important. However, it can cost you and your employees a lot of time to deal with it. So don’t do it. Don’t waste time on it. Follow the 80:20 rule.

Tip 4: Write your own job description.

Think of the top 3 important things someone in your position should be spending most of his or her time on. And no: It’s surely not controlling your team. Listen to my podcast episode 001. There we talk about on what you should focus as a leader.

Now, write these 3 important things down on a piece of paper. Put it on your desk or stick it on your bathroom mirror. Put it somewhere, where you look at it at least once a day. Then review it daily or even more often. If you do so, this will help you to focus on doing your job correctly and you will recognize more easily, when you micromanage.

Tip 5: Pretend it’s the day before you go on a vacation.

Isn’t it funny? Every time when we have a deadline – like if we are going on vacation tomorrow morning – we are able to finish our tasks shortly before the deadline is due.

Yes, it’s hectic but to get out of the office, you force yourself to focus on the most critical things and on the tasks most likely only you can accomplish.

If you suspect you may be micromanaging then use this strategy. Focus on the tasks closest to you that really require your expertise. The ones only you can do. Don’t be distracted by controlling your employees. Remember: Your plane leaves tomorrow at 8:30 am. There’s no other way for you than to trust that your team has it under control. – And they will.


The inspiring quote

“Authority—when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”

John Stoker


LME002 – How to delegate successfully and get time for the important things.


Most managers don’t know how to delegate successfully. Why is that?

“The fundamental secret of the art of management is delegation.”

That’s a quote from Cyril Northcote Parkinson. – Is delegating really a secret? Actually, it isn’t. The principles of delegation are simple.

However, many entrepreneurs and managers still find it difficult.

How to delegate successfully is a challenge.

How to delegateSo the secret seems to lie more in how to successfully implement the principles of delegation in practice. Just knowing the principles isn’t enough.

If you delegate a task consider to whom you delegate, how much you must support and control and how much room for flexibility you have to leave – and avoid micromanagement as well as upward delegation by any means. – But what does delegating mean?

Before we go in greater detail, let’s start with the question:

Why doesn’t delegating work very often?

As a manager, you have to make new decisions every day: What’s important and what’s urgent? Which of your tasks can and which of your tasks should you delegate?

A manager has to concentrate on the essentials. But: If you want to concentrate on the essentials, you have to be able to let go. And that’s where many people fail. Many managers know very well what tasks they should delegate. But they don’t do it. If you ask them why, you will often get the following answers:

“I have to do it by myself, because nobody else does it right anyway!”


“Nobody really knows how to do this but me! “


“By the time I explain it to someone, I’ll have done it myself.”


“I don’t have anyone I can trust and who I can hand this over to.”


Let me cut to the chase:

These excuses won’t help you.

Please don’t get me wrong: I believe you, if you tell me that you don’t have the right employee for the job at the moment. I believe that you’re the best at this. But: If you don’t change this now, it will remain so in the future.

How I learned to delegate.

Let me tell you, how I learned to delegate. In my first start-up company we dealt with vibrations on heavy machinery. Just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to assess a person’s heartbeat, we used sensors to analyse the vibrations of gears, pumps and motors. We developed and sold condition monitoring systems, but also performed diagnostics as a service for our customers on site.

Since I had already worked intensively on diagnosing machines for many years before the company was founded, I was usually the one who carried out such diagnoses for our customers. I was the expert at the time.

As our company grew, I had to decide to delegate this task. After all, it was no longer my job as managing director to be knee-deep in oil and to diagnose machines on site. It was difficult for me to accept this change at the beginning – to be honest: I loved to do this work and I loved to be the expert – although I understood that this shouldn’t be my role any longer.

Furthermore, none of my staff seemed good enough to do the analyses as I did. So I micromanaged my employees in the beginning.

But, because I was traveling worldwide to get new clients and to grow our company,  I couldn’t find the time to control and micromanage as I did before.

I just had such a lot of other work on my plate – and I was traveling a lot. So I had to let go and delegate these tasks to my employees – whether I wanted to do it or not.

Let your employees learn.

Of course, in the beginning some things didn’t run so smoothly: My employees analysed differently than I did. They didn’t meet dealines. They weren’t very efficient. They made mistakes that I thought would not have happened to me – but then – after some time, they learned from their mistakes. They improved. After one year, the results of some of my employees were not only as good as mine but even significantly better.

That was fascinating. After this experience it was much easier for me to delegate tasks. I know – if I delegate – that it will probably get worse and take longer – but then there’s a good chance that it will not only be done just as well, but even better.

Delegating is an investment

See it this way: Delegating is an investment in employee training – it costs time and energy in the beginning. But it’s worth it.

Give your employees the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Let them make mistakes. If you delegate a task that you have successfully done in the past, you will probably get a worse result the first time. But that’s only understandable. After all, you’ve been able to learn how to do it for months or years.

Of course, you cannot hand over a difficult task straight to everyone. You can’t just trust that your employee will learn that over time. It doesn’t work that way.

If you want to delegate a task to an employee, you must first assess what experience, what level of knowledge and what skills he or she has for this task. Based on this, you have to specify, control and support to a greater or lesser extent.

But how far do you have to control? How much do you have to specify?

The 5 level of delegation

In order to answer these questions, it is advisable to deal with the 5 levels of delegation. Years ago, I first read about this concept on Michael Hyatt’s blog. I think it’s very useful.

How to delegate successfully

5 levels of delegation

1. Level

I like to call the first level of delegation: “Execute”. Here you specify everything exactly and in detail. You tell your employee to stick exactly to your specifications:

“Do exactly what I asked you to do.”

In this level you have already researched, analysed and decided everything in detail about the task you delegate!

The problem with this level 1 is. You have to control a lot, you need to know the task in detail. You only have very low trust in the abilities of your employee. That might be ok, if a new hire just started working for you knowing nothing about the task you delegate. But you need to make sure that this changes quickly and that your employee will climb to higher delegation levels.

2. Level

In the 2nd level of delegation, your employee already has more degrees of freedom. Delegating on this level means: You tell him to familiarize himself with the topic in general, work out options and then consult with you. This 2nd level is called:

“Research the topic and report back.”

3. Level

In the 3rd level, your employee will work on a topic in detail, develop alternatives and prepare a detailed proposal. He should explain in detail how he intends to carry on in the project. You then decide whether or not to proceed in this way. This 3rd level of delegation is called

“Make a recommendation.”

4. Level

In level 4, the employee makes the decision, but later tells you what and why he’s made the decision. I call this level:

“Decision with reporting back.”

5. Level

The top level – level 5 of delegation, is when your employee makes his or her own decision and you have so much confidence in him that a report isn’t even needed.  This is Stage 5:

“Decide without reporting back.”

How to delegate with the 5 levels

This example is about delegating a development project.

Mike’s in charge of the development department in a medium-sized Engineering company. They develop and manufacture control and regulation systems. Mike’s department got the order to develop the hardware for a new interface module.

Let’s assume that all of his experienced engineers in his department are working on full capacity. The only employee who could support him in this project is Jack. He’s new in the department. Jack has just finished his studies and has no practical experience. He’s a newbie. Therefore, Mike cannot simply assign the project to him, as he would do with an experienced employee.

Level 1 delegation because Jack is a newbie.

That’s why Mike will delegate the project to Jack on delegation level 1.

Mike takes his time to prepare the project in detail. Based on his many years of experience, he selects which processor, which A/D converter and which memory modules must be used. The process is also clear to him.

He knows which development steps have to be completed. Therefore, he writes down the procedure with exact steps and specifications. Now he hands over this documentation to Jack. Jack will stick exactly to the procedure and gradually work through the steps in order to develop the hardware.

In this 1st level, Jack has little scope for decision on this project. After each small step, he reports the progress of the project to Mike and shows him the results.

This is the first stage of the delegation:

“Do exactly what I have asked you to do.”

It’s a matter of sticking exactly to the guidelines, since the supervisor has already researched, analysed and decided everything important in detail. Of course, this takes a lot of time for the manager. The employee is also quickly under-challenged in this procedure. There’s nearly no freedom to make any decisions.

How to delegate on higher levels?

What would it look like if Mike delegates on level 2? Instead of working with exact specifications, Mike asks Jack to take a close look at the customer requirements and familiarize himself with the topic. After that he’s asked to propose the further actions and steps for the development. The decision to take the next steps, however, falls to Mike.

If delegated on the 3rd level Mike gives even more freedom. He asks Jack to familiarize himself with the topic in detail, to develop different alternative procedures, to select the processor, the A/D converters and the memory modules and then to present the results to Mike. Mike will question the results and then gives his OK for the proposed further procedure.

Be careful with corrections.

What’s important here is that if Mike doesn’t agree with Jack’s proposed decisions, he shouldn’t simply tell Jack that he is wrong and correct him:

“Jack, that A/D converter you chose only has 16 bits. This may be in line with customer requirements, but in the long term it will cause us problems. We must also think about future upgrades. Therefore, use the 24 bit converter instead.”

Lead with questions.

Mike shouldn’t propose the alternative. He should ask questions so that Jack can work out the solution himself. For example, if Mike doesn’t agree with the selection of the A/D converter, he might ask:

“Jack, the A/D converter you’re proposing only works at 16 bits. This meets customer requirements, but there are already the new 24 bit A/D converters on the market. I wonder if they might not be a sensible alternative for this project? What speaks for and what speaks against using the 24 bit A/D converter?”

This procedure costs Mike more time. However, it helps Jack to learn, to think and to develop his skills. In the end, Mike wants Jack to be able to assess this kind of situations and decide on his own in the future.

Give even more freedom in level 4

If Jack were already an experienced hardware engineer, Mike could possibly hand over the project to him with much greater decision-making leeway. For instance delegating on level 4: “Decisions with reporting back”.

Then Mike would only arrange 2 or 3 appointments with Jack during the project. On these dates, Jack will briefly present the current status of the project and the decisions he’s taken so far. So, Mike’s informed in detail, but Jack has already made the decisions, for instance which A/D converter’s to be used. It’s Jacks project. Mike will only be informed.

The – let’s say – premium level is the 5th level: “Decide without reporting back”.

Here, Mike has complete confidence in Jack’s abilities and actions. Mike no longer even needs feedback on the achieved project steps. His confidence in Jack is so high that he assumes that Jack will do the work in the best possible way and no control is needed.

The higher the level of delegation, the higher the trust in the employee. The higher the level, the less time the manager has to spend making decisions, controlling, monitoring and supporting the delegated task.

Tell your employees what you expect from them.

It’s important that you as a manager tell your employee upfront, when you delegate a project, what you expect from him. It has to be crystal clear what kind of freedom and authority your employee has to accomplish the delegated project.

Now you know how to delegate, we will talk in the next episode about micro-management. What exactly is it, why should you avoid it and how can you avoid it?


The inspiring quote

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”

Theodore Roosevelt


LME001 – What is leadership and how can you find time for it?


If somebody asked you to explain what is leadership? How would you respond?

It’s hard, right? The concept of leadership is vague – and the funny thing is as long as we don’t have a good definition how can we talk about leadership?

What is leadership?

What is leadership?Let me give you my definition of leadership. For me, leadership means defining where to go. Who leads deals with the future of the company and with the people in the company.

If you are  in leadership mode, you work on the vision of your company, you formulate goals and strategies. You reflect on innovation, positioning and customer benefits. You improve the processes in your company. And most important: You talk to and with your employees, you discuss, inform and inspire. All this is leadership.

If you are only managing

In recent years I’ve seen many managers who work hard – but they are unable to execute because they are trapped in their day to day work. These managers often feel frustrated and demotivated.

If you are in such a situation you start feeling like in a rat race. You work and work, but nothing important gets done. Your company is not growing, sales are stagnating and the mood of your workforce is low.

The reason for this is often, that most executives focus on management but not on leadership. They manage a lot but they don’t lead.

What is managing?

If you manage you focus on processes, you don’t work on the future and you don’t focus on people: You have no time for it. Managing is more about day-to-day business, administration, resource allocation, budgeting, costs and risk management, control, keeping deadlines. There is no time for other things. Numbers, data, facts! Pam!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course you have to do both: you can’t just lead. You have to lead and manage. But as a leader – above all – it is your job to keep track of the big picture. You have to deal with the future direction of your business and with taking care of your people.

If you don’t lead, who does?

I know many CEOs and managing directors who work around the clock and still feel they don’t really do their job. Many are trapped in the rat race of day-to-day operations.

They work a lot, but don’t take enough time for the real leadership tasks. Are you one of them?

The problem for most managers

The question is, why is that? Why do a lot of managers deal with so much operational stuff and administrative work instead of focusing on the most important tasks: leadership? I admit, that I also struggled myself with this problem for a long time.

This isn’t just a problem of CEO’s and managing directors. It doesn’t matter if you are a group leader, a team leader or if you were just promoted into your first managing role. Every manager seems to have more work to do than he has time for.

In my view, there are several reasons why managers think they don’t have time for leadership. The biggest challenge can be summarized in one sentence:

Leadership is important, but rarely urgent!

Developing a business strategy, talking to an employee, discussing the vision statement, thinking about customer benefits or improving processes – these leadership tasks are important, but they are not urgent.

If you develop the strategy today or only tomorrow, will not be a big difference. If you have this one-on-one meeting with your direct report today or only later next week, this doesn’t change the bottom profit line, does it?

In contrast, management tasks are usually urgent and have a deadline. But are they always that important? Not really.

Why is that so?

Management tasks are determined by others and they have normally a due date – a deadline. For example, the tax office needs documents at a given deadline, the participation in a trade fair must be decided until the end of the month. A customer urgently needs an offer by this evening. All these tasks have deadlines which were defined by someone else.

On the other hand, leadership tasks are generally self-determined and have no fixed date – at least, if you don’t define one.

Most people – and managers are no exception – have a tendency to focus on urgent tasks with a deadline and postpone tasks, which are really important, but not urgent.

Important or urgent? What is leadership?

As a result, many executives realize at the end of the day that they worked only on urgent tasks. This means that they didn’t find time to work on any leadership tasks. Too bad!

“But there are such a lot of urgent management tasks. They need to be done! They are all urgent and important.”

Really? Yes, a management task normally has a deadline. But keep in mind: Mostly this just means that someone else made it urgent. You may argue, that this management task is urgent and important, but very often it’s important for someone else – not necessarily for you.

If you’re a manager you should –  on a daily basis – question, if and what kind of management tasks you have to do. Ask yourself everytime: Is it really necessary to do it? If yes: Is it necessary that I do it? If you can delegate then do so. I know this can be difficult sometimes and we will talk about how to delegate successfully in one of the following episodes: “LME002 – How to delegate successfully”.

But for now: Keep in mind, that management tasks don’t need to be done by yourself. You need time for the important leadership tasks.

Is leadership really so important?

This question often comes up when managers are convinced that facts and figures are most important in business. I agree that facts and figures are important but you miss out if you only focus on them.

What about the vision and the purpose of your company or your department? Not important? Be careful. Some managers think that the purpose of any company is easy to define. It is clearly to make profit. What else?

In my opinion, these managers are wrong. They have never experienced how motivating a big vision can be, how important values are and that the ultimate purpose of a company is not to make a profit. No, the purpose of a company is to create customer benefit and then the profit will come.

We will talk about this in one of the next podcast episodes. If you want to be successful, it’s important that you have a clear answer to the question

“Why? – Why does your company exist?”

and your answer should not be just to earn money.

Only when managers have a clear vision and a bigger goal, they can communicate with their employees in a way that they carry their employees along. If they do, their employees work on the right things. Why? Because then your employees  know what is important. They understand what ‘s expected from them and only then will your employees be able to work independently. A true leader has a clear vision.

The problem is that managers often don’t believe this.

“Independently working employees? Forget it. Employees need to be told what to do in detail. Otherwise nothing gets done.”

The problem with micromanagement

That’s why this kind of managers are often at the mercy of “micromanagement“. Frustrated, they complain about the demotivation and inability of their employees. But they don’t understand: it’s their own fault.

If you don’t take the time to think and talk about vision, strategy and goals, how can your employees work towards these goals? How can they make decisions in your interest, if they don’t know your expectations?

That’s why you need to find the time for leadership.

3 tips how to find more time for leadership

You know by now, what is leadership. Here are three helpful tips to find more time for leadership.

Tip 1:    Track your time.

If you want more time for leadership in your daily work, you first need to be aware of how much time you are currently spending on it.

Most managers only have a very vague idea of ​​how much time they really spend on leadership. We all often underestimate the hours we spend with unproductive management instead of leading.

That’s why you should determine daily how many hours you have spent on leadership and how many on day-to-day management or on normal work.

You only have to log two numbers at the end of the day. Not more! Do this for 2 weeks and you have a good idea how much time you really spend on leadership.

Even if you managed all day long, if you write it down at the end of the day, you will at least realize that you did not spent any time on leadership that day. Realizing is the first step toward improving.

Just log your time. It costs you nothing but 2 min max at the end of the day. And it’s worth it. Just write it down on a piece of paper: How much time did you spend on leadership and how much time did you spend on management?

Tip 2:    Set yourself a goal.

Set yourself a measurable goal. What percentage of your working time do you want to spend on management tasks over the next 3 months? This motivates yourself. But don’t overdo it. If you have only spent 10% of your time for leadership, it will probably be difficult to reach 50% in the short term. However, an increase from 10 % to 20 % is quite realistic.

Experience shows that there is no point in planning significantly more time for leadership tasks as early as next week. Your schedule is so full, it’s hard for you to make it. Therefore, set yourself the target for a 3-month period. By the way: When you have reached your goal, reward yourself. You deserve it.

Tip 3:    Make important tasks urgent.

Since leadership is usually important but not urgent, we postpone it. Therefore, let’s outwit ourselves. Set fixed deadlines for leadership tasks in your planning and put them into your calender and your ToDo List. This automatically makes your leadership tasks urgent.

But sometimes you may find that this is not enough. After all, the appointment is self-determined and not determined by others.

In such cases it helps if you commit yourself to others. For example if you’ve always wanted to work on the important strategy for your company, you promise to present the results to your employees at the end of next month. Here’s the deal: a deadline for your important leadership task, which you just made urgent. It goes without saying that you must keep this promise. Stand up to your word. Through scheduling and commitment to others, you make an important leadership task urgent and the likelihood increases that you will actually complete this task on time.


This should help you to get started with leading more and managing less.


The inspiring quote

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Peter F. Drucker


LME000 – What you can expect from this podcast


This is the intro for my new podcast: Leadership Made Easy. Episode Number 0.

This is the podcast where you learn how to lead a highly effective team, how to make sure, things get done and how to deal with tough issues like confronting an employee performance problem, getting along with a bad boss or balancing the demands of work with your personal life.

Why should you listen?

If you’ve read any book on leadership, you already know there is a big gap beteeen how most authors think things work – and how things actually work in the real world.

If you’re done with silly theories and want practical stuff that really works this podcast is for you. There are no pie-in-the-sky theories here. No insights from professors who never actually lead a single team member.

You will also not hear any corporate B.S., or silly business jargon.
Instead I’ll show you exactly, down to earth – what works in leadership and what doesn’t.

What is it all about?

For instance:
– When do you need to trust your employees and when do you need to control them?
– How and when should you confront low performers and when doesn’t it make sense at all?
– What can you do to maintain employees motivation and what do you need to avoid?

Every episode will bring you an actionable solution to a problem you might be facing. I’ll give you proven management and leadership tips which you can apply immediately and successfully for your day to day work: Practial tips, proven strategies and exclusive interviews with experienced managers and inspiring leaders.

Do you want to become a real leader?

If you have an aspiration to become a top leader in your company this podcast will help you getting there. If leadership doesn’t interest you and you are just frustrated with managing your employees and you‘re looking for the best shortcuts to get them to perform, you’ll find some useful tips in this podcast as well – and maybe by using these tips you will change your mind regarding the importance of true leadership.

Pretty big claims, right?

I know that I made some pretty big claims. I don’t blame you, if you are a little bit skeptical about this. After all, so much of what is out there is often exaggerated.

So why do I think you should listen to me and why do I think that I have solutions for most of the problems managers have to deal with?

Let me tell you a little bit about me.

As you probably can hear from my pronunciation: I am German. I live in a small German city called Aachen. Aachen is in the Western part of Germany right next to the Belgium and the Netherland borders. I am happily married for more than over 20 years and my wife and me have two grown-up sons.

My background is engineering – that’s at least what I studied: Electrical Engineering to be precise. After university I co-founded a high-tech company. We built it up to 20 employees and sold it after 5 years to a big corporation.

In these five years I made a lot of mistakes being in my first leadership position. It took me quite long to understand that as a manager my role was not to be the best expert any longer. It was difficult for me to accept this, because I was proud to work and be the expert in my engineering field.

But my job now was to manage employees and to lead the company. I needed to help my employees to become the experts. I had to learn how to delegate, to know when to trust employees and when and what to control.

In one of the following podcast episodes I will talk about how I learned to delegate and what mistakes I made on my way. After we sold our company I was in charge of integrating our start-up into this big corporate company and to build up their worldwide service business.
This was a very exciting time. I had to travel a lot all around the world. After a couple of years I was responsible for 350 employees worldwide.

My first leadership challenges

Now in this role I had other leadership challenges, for example:

  • How to build teams remotely in different countries with people from different cultures.
  • How to work inside such a huge corporation dealing with all kind of company politics

and as an employed manager I had to get used to have a boss.

Especially to understand and to deal with the corporate politics was difficult for me. One of my leadership challenges was to learn how to succeed as a manager in the corporate world:

  • What are you allowed to do?
  • What is expected from you? and
  • What shouldn’t you do?

Of course, there were official rules but in corporate world there are hidden agendas, no one tells you about – and if you don’t obey to these hidden rules you are in trouble. I had to find this out by myself – by making sometimes embarrassing mistakes and by putting my foot in it.

You don’t need to make the same leadership mistakes. I’ll share with you how to successfully deal with these situations and what rules and processes you can safely ignore.

During my time as a start-up entrepreneur as well as an employed manager, I learned a great deal about people, about business strategy, about running teams, about corporate politics as well as about leadership in general.

In 2009 I realized my passion was no longer in the company I was working for. What I really wanted to do is to teach others about what I learned about leadership over the years.I wanted to help others not to make the same mistakes I made.

My passion today

My passion it to show you how to become a successful leader and how to enjoy your role as a leader. I am convinced that we need more true leaders. A true leader does not only focus on results but also develops his or her employees and by doing this positively impacts the life of them and their families.

I started as a business coach and leadership trainer in Germany mainly focusing on small and medium sized companies. I found that there is a big demand for leadership trainings down to earth – without unnecessary theory: Just actionable tips which work in the real world.

My German Podcast

Führung auf den Punkt gebracht

My German Podcast

In 2013 I started my German podcast called “Führung auf den Punkt gebracht”. In English it means “leadership to the point”. The podcast was a big success from the beginning. After only 3 months I had 100.000 downloads and lots of 5 star reviews.

Today my German podcast is downloaded more than 100.000 times per months. I have produced more than 200 episodes. In iTunes it is routinely ranked under the top 10 in iTunes business category in Germany. I was featured by iTunes and my podcast was nominated for the best German business podcast award two years in a row.

So 2018 is the year for me to go international.

That is why I started this podcast you are listening to right now: Leadership made easy.
So if you are ready to discover a much better way how to manage and if you want to know what really works in management and leadership head over to my first real episode – that is episode No 1 – where I will reveal what I consider the most important point of leadership. You can listen to it right now. Go ahead. I see you there.


The inspiring quote

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

John C. Maxwell