Are managers leaders? Are leaders managers?

May 6 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

The debate about management vs. leadership is a long standing one in organizational development literature. The terms “management” and “leadership” are often interchanged. Some, view management as distinct from leadership as day is from night. One key distinction often made between management and leadership is that as managers, we manage things (physical assets, processes, and systems) and as leaders, we lead people (customers, external and internal partners).

This is a false distinction.

While it is important to recognize the differences between leadership and management, it is also important to appreciate that the two have complementary strengths, as well. In fact, both are necessary for a high-performance organization. The truth is managers need to be good leaders – their people need vision, consideration, and guidance! And leaders need to be good managers of the resources entrusted to them!

So how do you do both?

  1. Be Mission Oriented: Never lose sight of the mission, purpose, and results you need to achieve. Put out the fires, yes, but try not to be distracted and forced into applying your energy in different directions. While these difficulties often need to be attended to, don’t allow them to diffuse your impact.
  2. Shoot for the Moon: Almost anyone can achieve easy goals. But what is your competition aiming for? Good leaders use their visioning skills to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals with a thorough understanding of how to reach them… not with reckless abandon. Good managers set up systems to help their people achieve the goals.
  3. Take the coach approach: good leaders and managers are also good coaches. They know that there are teaching moments and learning opportunities around every corner and they keep a pulse on their employees levels of engagement through structured coaching conversations. Not only must you coach your people, you must also change the culture to a mindset of a learning organization – a coaching culture if you will. You cannot be the only coach — the entire organization needs to know the skills, have the technologies, and create the atmosphere that allows people to help develop others through both formal and informal experiences.
  4. Be a role model: At the end of the day, people watch what you do, not what you say. Remember always that you are a role model of the organization who sets the standard by being a person of good character, knowing your job, and doing all that matters to advance the work. The standards you set are the standards that will be followed.
  5. Create inclusive environments: Diversity makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is about empowering people by understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person. Mastering diversity leads to inclusion where all people feel they are highly valued for their uniqueness. In turn, the organization benefits from the synergistic effects of a cohesive team who bring an array of experiences to the table.

A Final Word

In order for you to engage your staff in providing the best service to your customers, clients or partners, you must enroll them in your vision and align their perceptions and behaviors. You need to get them excited about where you are taking them while making sure they know what’s in it for them. With smaller organizations, the challenge lies in making sure you are both leading your team as well as managing your day to day operations. Those who are able to do both, will create a competitive advantage. Both management and leadership are needed to make teams and organizations successful. Trying to decide which is more important, is like trying to decide whether the front or back wheel is more important to balancing a bicycle.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Why It’s Time to Ditch Your Performance Reviews

April 10 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” 

-Ken Blanchard

Most employees look forward to their performance review the way they look forward to a funeral. They are equally dreaded by the managers who deliver them.

Despite the goal, you give employees constructive feedback about their work to encourage individual performance, most are a dreary exercise in further disillusionment, disconnection and demoralization.

That’s because in many organizations today, reviews aren’t really designed to help employees grow; they’re designed to manage promotions and raises or to go through the motions of performance management and accountability.

Instead, the performance management system goal should be to provide on-going coaching and feedback to employees with the aim of developing and improving employee performance and team effectiveness.

This requires that employees receive on-going constructive feedback about their job performance in relation to their goals, their approach to innovation and the opportunities before them to create value.

Compare this to top flight athletes. They don’t receive reviews a couple of times of year.  If they did, they’d fail.  Rather, they receive on-going coaching.  This type of feedback creates an immediate awareness of what they’re doing right and what they need to do to overcome barriers and do even better.

With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to ditch this archaic exercise.

Master the Coaching Conversation

There are progressive companies out there that have moved away from traditional performance reviews, in favor of creating cultures of coaching, feedback, development, and high performance.

Such organizations have managed to re-shape their cultures to ones based on coaching; where everyone in a leadership role is trained on how to coach.  In this way, leaders give their employees constant performance feedback, which in turn, engages employees and creates a desire to continuously improve.

Rather than once or twice yearly, coaching happens throughout the year; possibly every day.  And because it is on-going, it eliminates the need for formal annual appraisals and reviews.

You can begin by incorporating the constructive aspects of reviews in your existing one-on-one meetings as an opportunity for feedback and coaching.  You can dedicate time during these sessions to a discussion on how the person can enhance their own performance and play to their strengths.  In so doing, you remove the unconstructive focus on ratings.

I’ve often heard that managers resist the concept of on-going coaching because they believe it is too time-consuming. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

Managing poor performance is extremely time consuming.

In the traditional system, you have to provide written reviews, spend time with employees to discuss these reviews, monitor progress made based on these reviews and provide corrective feedback as required.

In contrast, on-going coaching might take 5 minutes of a manager’s time every week. Yet it is a powerful force in demonstrating the concern the Manager has for her employee’s development. With such enhanced and regular communication and interaction, corrective measures are more easily and seamlessly applied and results are visible fairly quickly.

You can structure your conversations to first receive an update on the one to three action items agreed to at the last meeting. Second, ask for a success story or a moment of pride. Third, brainstorm either a solution to a problem or an opportunity to pursue. And fourth, agree on one to three action items that the employee will focus on in the coming week.

A Final Word

Coaching conversations are not performance reviews; they are discussions. So talk less and let your employee talk more. Sit back, listen, ask questions for clarity. When it’s your turn to speak, give positive and constructive feedback. Tell your employee what she did well and where you see opportunities for growth. Specific examples are always helpful.

If your employee is doing most of the talking – about her wins and challenges, how she’s learning and growing – then you’ve mastered the art of the coaching conversation.


Good Luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

10 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews Not Suck


April 4, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Performance reviews are dreaded beasts of burden for managers and direct reports alike. They make people feel small. They reduce people to banal check boxes and categories. But they don’t have to be like this. If you are still marking people as ‘fair’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ in your annual form, you should really rethink your system. While this article is not about re-hauling your system, it is about helping you cope with whatever system you currently have in place. This article is about the universal principles you can deploy for better delivery, greater impact and ultimately stronger performance. Adopt these and you will exponentially improve the experience of giving and receiving your performance reviews on both sides of the table. Neglect them, and well, the experience will suck.

1.    It starts with intentions. You need to check your intention going into the meeting. You need to ask yourself if you are sincerely interested in learning and understanding what drives your employee or just being right. Do a serious check in with yourself and then really try to see the person for who they are. Leave your agenda at the door.  Remember, it’s about behaviors not personalities.

2.    Fail to plan, plan to fail. This is the worst time to wing it dude. You have to be ready if you get hit with information you were not expecting and is important to consider. You have to be ready to be flexible to create a mutually beneficial strategy if problems are surfaced you were not expecting. If you think you’re heading into a one-way conversation, you’ve already lost. If you can’t meet their expectations, be ready to acknowledge the importance of what they are saying, and then explain what you need to do and why. Be prepared for salary increase requests and revelations you may have not been aware of before. Don’t act surprised. Act curious.

3.    It’s about facts, not fiction. This is not the time for your opinions. Don’t let it become a case of he said, she said. If you share your opinion, you are opening the door for a counter opinion. Instead, be prepared with facts and evidence to support your case. As a best practice, keep a log of performance pluses and deltas throughout the year. Keep copies of related work you want to use as examples. Anticipate and be prepared for counter arguments but always present the facts.

4.    Emotions will get you in trouble. If you feel emotional or emotions begin to creep in, reschedule. This is not the time or place to emote. Emotions have no place in a performance reviews so you would do well to manage them accordingly. Being able to do this means the difference between responding or reacting, which can make the difference in a calm or chaotic performance review experience.

5.    Strengths and weaknesses are so yesterday. Can we not do better than this people? Seriously? Yes we can. Most performance reviews focus on strengths and weaknesses. Instead of strengths and weaknesses, focus on values and opportunities. It’s a better framework that invites a deeper understanding of what motivates the people you work with and it will help you coach and lead them to better performance outcomes. You’re welcome.

6.    Zip that lip. I’m always surprised by how little people listen. Listening is the most underrated element of communication. You can glean so much about what’s going on in the mind of your direct reports by listening and asking a few strategic and well placed questions. Trust me. The intel you gather through listening is indispensable and far more valuable than whatever you have to say. So zip it and learn.

7.    Values eat everything else for lunch. Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. Values drive engagement, decisions, behavior, and well, you name it. A person’s emotional reaction is the easiest way to pinpoint a value. Negative emotions signal violated values. If the person becomes more emotional and animated in speaking about a topic, that’s because it’s important to them. There is a value hiding in there. Listen for repeated themes. Mine them for gold.

8.    Change the frame. People are locked into their own frame of reference. Change their frame, that is to say, change their perspective, and you’ll change their mind. Try asking powerful coaching questions: What if we could see this situation differently? What would a more positive perspective on this situation look like? Some people’s perspective is so intractable you may find yourself beating your head against the wall. Some people just aren’t willing to explore perspectives that are outside the realm of their own experience. It happens.  But at least you have made the effort if you try to get them to a new perspective. Recognize when the conversation should be terminated in order to maintain a respectful relationship and move on rather than trying to force your own viewpoint on the situation.

9.    At the end of the day, we work for the same place. Getting to agreement is not that hard. It’s just a process that’s well managed. Put everything on the table on both side and then look for the common ground. You don’t have to agree on everything but you both have mutual goals that intersect at some level. That intersection is what’s best for the enterprise and it’s where you should start looking for common ground. Sometimes you will need to reach to a higher level to do this so don’t try to get there too early. Make sure that the person feels sufficiently heard first. That’s your threshold for readiness. Once you cross that threshold, most people are congenial.

10.            Lock in the accountability.  To make sure everyone is walking away with a common understanding, solidify some action steps with clear timelines for who, when, how and how much of the behavior change you expect (did I say it’s about behavior?) Create opportunities to check in regularly during the year on the accountability action plan and support your direct report in maintaining their momentum to success. Provide more coaching support as needed.

A final word…

Performance reviews are generally not done well. People wait all year to provide critical feedback. This is a mistake. Nothing should be said at this stage that is a surprise to the employee because they should be working in a feedback rich environment that is constantly nurturing their growth. But we all know that’s not reality. So many workplaces suffer from so many dysfunctions. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the culture supports a more progressive approach to performance reviews, then much of the above is already baked in to your day-to-day operations. If you are not, arm yourself with these tips and at least create a better experience for you and your direct report.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Essential Things All Great Managers Do

March 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers get a bad rap the world over. Meddling managers are seen as a distraction to real work rather than as facilitators of strategy, collaboration and career growth. The truth is that bad managers are actually a liability and good ones a commodity.

If you are a manager and if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work in a positive work environment. It is not rocket science. People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization. While I usually make a distinction between the two, for the purposes of this post I’ll be using manager and leader interchangeably. Let’s take a look.

1.      Great Managers are Great Coaches who engage in regular coaching conversations with their team members helping them articulate their goals and challenges through powerful open ended questions that help individuals tap into their own inner creativity and resources. They co-create and sustain a developmental alliance that supports them in taking ownership over their own learning, and helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

2.      Great Managers are Great Connectors who understand the importance of relationships, motivation, and meaning. They know what drives each person and gives their inner work life purpose. They help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and they provide timely feedback when there is misalignment between the individual and the organization in order to help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. They are also focused on growing their internal and external networks because they recognize that these connections are a source of opportunities they can leverage on behalf of their teams and organizations.

3.      Great Managers are Great Talent Agents who select top performers and focus on their strengths. The craziest thing I see organizations do is hire people and then put them in roles that expose their weaknesses rather than exploit their strengths.  Once exposed, they create performance goals around these weaknesses with elaborate schemes to ‘improve’ them that just turn a potentially star performer into Sisyphus. Great managers help people find systems, both personal and organizational, that help them deploy and maximize their strengths.

4.      Great Managers are Great Communicators which is not to say they talk all the time. Yes they are clear when they communicate and can motivate and inspire others through their speech. But just as importantly, they have well honed listening behaviors. They know that listening to and respecting others helps shape organizational culture, builds working relationships and creates the opportunity for impact. They get that work is all about relationships and that listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

5.      Great Managers are Great Delegators who ensure even allocation of work and understand that employees are more effective performers when they feel challenged and stretched by assignments that help them grow. Great managers do not micromanage but make sure that the staff person understands exactly what is expected of them and what success looks like. Once they have communicated clearly about progress milestones and deadlines, they step back and give employees the freedom to do their job how they think it is best done, so long as the desired result is reached.

6.      Great Managers are Great Role Models who earn the respect of others because they lead by example and act as servant leaders. If they demand that their employees work more, it is because they work more. If they demand punctuality, it is because they are punctual. If they require stronger commitment, it is because they are fully committed. They cultivate a culture of trust based on their integrity infused behavior and they strive to develop other leaders rather than hog the glory. In short, they walk the talk of great leadership.

A Final word…

Leadership and management are not simple. If they were, great leaders and managers would not be so highly valued and such a rare commodity. The 6 traits highlighted above are by no means exhaustive. Great managers must excel at seeing the big picture, create loyalty, exercise emotional intelligence, create engagement and do much, much more. There are many personal qualities a great leader must develop over the course of their life and career. But these 6 traits are essential. I have never seen a manager succeed at being a great leader without them.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Let’s Get Over the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

November 29, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Let’s get real about this.

The workplace is a beehive of feedback whether we ask for it or not. Things like facial expressions, gestures, silence, reactions, etc. give us a sense of how people are reacting to us and/ or our work. Moreover, when we receive direct feedback, much is offered very cautiously because most colleagues want to be supportive and friendly, after all everyone realizes that you will continue to work together after the feedback is delivered. All the more important that the feedback relationship be a productive one.

But feedback is marred by stigma. Employees are afraid all they’ll hear is negative feedback and criticism. Supervisors anticipate a defensive response to whatever they say and however they say it. As a result, feedback is not practiced or incorporated into the fabric of the organization and consequently one of the potentially most effective tools for performance improvement remains underutilized. Most people appreciate and need feedback to improve performance and advance their careers.

So, here are some quick tips to help you give and receive feedback. At the end of this article, I’ll point you to another resource to get an even more in depth understanding of feedback and its role in the modern workplace.

How to Give Feedback

Interpersonal conflict in work teams is inevitable.  Indeed, some level of tension works to feed creativity and motivation.  But when the behavior or attitude of a teammate is interfering with the team’s efficacy, you may find it necessary to provide some challenging feedback.

Below are some things that may be helpful in delivering feedback, especially when presenting difficult feedback:

1.      Choose the right place and time. Offer your feedback in a private, quiet place where your teammate won’t feel embarrassed or defensive. Feedback should be immediate or close to the time of when the task was completed.

2.      Focus on behavior. Discuss how current behavior is causing unintended results. Do not ever make the feedback about personality. That only generates a defensive response. Outline how current behavior is impacting the team as a whole.  Try to be specific and support your ideas with examples.

3.      Create an alliance. Ask permission to offer suggestions or ask if you can suggest possible changes in behavior or attitude.

4.      Mutual reinforcement. Try to explain how both of you might benefit from a change. Try to tie it to the larger goal or vision for the project or the organization. In other words, contextualize the feedback whenever possible to make it a greater learning opportunity.

5.      Make it two-way. Make sure that the exchange is a conversation, not an attack, a lecture, or a reprimand. Do this by asking questions and allowing the recipient to come to their own conclusions or to offer their own ideas.

6.      Be attentive. Give the other party plenty of time to respond and listen attentively. Remember, this is a dialogue not a monologue. Listen for areas of concern or areas where further development, training, and coaching may be needed.

7.      Check your language. Use the pronouns “I” and “We” rather that “you.”

8.      Check your tone. Don’t be the least bit condescending. Don’t get defensive or overly aggressive. Avoid aggressive language.

How To Receive Feedback

Let’s face it, if feedback is critical, it may hurt. We all say we want feedback, but some of us just want validation and not necessarily to know have some work to do. It hurts our ego to learn we are imperfect. Still, feedback must be embraced if we are to get better. Since we grow and learn from honest and constructive feedback, it is important keep in mind the guidelines below for receiving feedback effectively:

1.      Don’t be defensive. Even if the feedback is hard to hear, stay cool, ask honest questions, and process the intent of the feedback before you react.

2.      Listen for the unspoken message.  Sometime you have to read between the lines to find the true feedback.

3.      Don’t listen selectively.  Try to take in the whole of the feedback.  Don’t focus on one statement or one detail that rubs you the wrong way.

4.      Ask follow up questions.  To discover the underlying truth of the feedback you receive, you may have to ask questions that call for elaboration, examples, clarification, and details.

5.      Don’t blame the feedback provider. Unless they are just destroying you, assume an honest intention and recognize that giving feedback is also an art. Not many people are good at it.

6.      Don’t react emotionally. Receiving feedback can be nerve racking so try to stay relaxed.   If you hear something surprising, take time to think it through before you react.

7.      Be receptive.  Establish yourself as a person who will listen thoughtfully to feedback.  This doesn’t mean that you have to accept all criticism, it just shows that you are eager to improve and grow.

8.      Absorb and Act.  Not all feedback is useful but through honest introspection you can decipher those parts of the feedback that will help you find success.  Once you have done this, then set a course of action to incorporate it into your performance.

For feedback to be really effective, it should be woven into the culture of the organization. The ‘constant feedback workplace’ is one in which employees and supervisors learn to interact around feedback to improve performance and productivity. For a deeper dive in creating a feedback culture and making the most of employee feedback, see my recent article titled 6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard. In the meantime, use the incorporate the tips above immediately into your daily work because feedback is the most promising tool for behavioral change that managers have at their disposal.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard

November 9, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Learning to provide productive feedback is one of the most important skills you can acquire as a supervisor and a leader (just as important is the ability to receive it, but let’s save that for another post).

To be effective, feedback should concentrate on the behavior, not the person. It should be specific and not generalized and it should be actionable and solution oriented. Feedback should also be part of the ongoing culture, not a one-time event. Creating a feedback culture – where everyone gives and receives feedback – can help both providers and recipients of feedback become better at using it to increase productivity.

Feedback can be provided explicitly (through oral or written language) or implicitly (through gestures or tone of voice). So when providing feedback, remember that the employee is also reading your body language. Make sure you are explicitly and implicitly congruent.

But have you ever wondered why your feedback doesn’t stick or have the intended effect?

Feedback is not a one-time event…

Feedback, done well, provides an opportunity to grow and motivates people to perform. Feedback, done poorly, will deflate the recipient and is ultimately counter-productive. Feedback is a process, not a one-time event.

But novice supervisors view feedback as a negative conversation because they fall back on it when performance is not up to snuff. That’s the first mistake.

To mitigate the potential impact of their negative impact, many supervisors have learned to provide feedback using the so called ‘feedback sandwich’ method. The feedback sandwich begins with a slice of positive feedback (top slice of bread), places a piece of negative feedback in the middle (the meat), and ends with another piece of positive feedback (bottom slice of bread). The feedback sandwich is supposed to minimize any detrimental effect the negative feedback may have on the individual. However, this method is so overused, that people see right through it. As soon as they hear the positive opening, they think: ‘here it comes’ and prepare themselves for the negative, never really hearing the positive.  There is a better way.

Instead of the Feedback Sandwich…

This is the wrong approach. Instead of this outdated and one-dimensional method, you have to think about feedback as an ongoing process of performance improvement. The right approach is to create a ‘feedback program’ that actually will help people grow and bring more productivity to your work environment. This will help both providers and recipients of feedback become better at incorporating feedback into performance improvement.


To create a ‘constant feedback workplace,’ there are six criteria you must follow, that if used together, will create an environment where learning is valued and supported and where productivity and people have only one direction in which to grow:

  1. Crediblethe feedback provider must be credible in the eyes of the recipient. Unless you have the respect of those you supervise, your feedback will not be well received or acted upon. Your credibility is everything. If you don’t follow through on what you say you’re going to do, you will erode your credibility with your team. Your credibility is build up over time and as a result of the history of your words and actions. Be credible before you’re visible.


  1. Trustworthy the feedback provider must be trusted by the recipient. Arguable, the most essential quality of leadership is trustworthiness. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. The feedback conversation is an opportunity to develop a relationship with the employee in which you are  viewed as a helpful resource who is committed to the employee’s success. This is fundamental to building trust.


  1. Well-intentioned the intentions of the feedback provider must be genuine. The  job of feedback is to meet the employee where they are and give them what they need to take their next steps. If you can link the employee’s performance to real impact on the business, both positive and constructive feedback will be seen as sincere. If you are trying to catch the employee out, this will also be known to the employee and the feedback will be seen as a tool for discipline rather than improving on performance. This will erode your credibility and set you on an inevitable collision course. For feedback to be effective, the right emotional environment must be created. Before you provide your feedback, make sure you have checked in with yourself about your intentions. The main message should be that you care and want to help the person grow and develop.


  1. Timedthe timing of the feedback should be immediate and/or appropriate. It must come at a time when the employee can immediately act on the feedback, not at the end of the year during the performance review when there is no opportunity to incorporate the feedback into daily performance or projects. You must build in time during the trajectory of the work to give feedback that employees can immediately use to move them forward in their goals and objectives.


  1. Interactivethe feedback must be provided in a conversational context. If you don’t know what motivates your employee or where they’re going, then feedback is just another set of instructions to follow, which may or may be related to anything other than the delegated task. Ongoing conversations with the employee provide a basis to provide feedback about the goals and objectives, both short term and long, that employee is trying to attain. Employees want to learn and want feedback to help them improve, but they also want to know why it matters. Research suggests, this is especially important for the millennial generation.  When you are able to connect the feedback to an important future skill employees  have a reason to incorporate it and can incorporate the feedback more effectively. You can’t effective develop employees with one round of feedback that captures all the correction he or she needs to make to be a star performer. Feedback has to be iterative.


  1. Specificthe feedback must be clear in order to be useful to the recipient. That means the employee is able to walk away knowing exactly what they need to improve on. It is helpful to prepare your comments ahead of time and stick to the facts. To keep your feedback specific, limit it to a couple of key focus areas. When you bombard employees, you risk them feeling overwhelmed and attacked. Do not come in carrying the kitchen sink. Instead, come with descriptive feedback and specific action steps that focus on building strengths rather than picking apart weaknesses.

A final word…

Giving feedback is a skill and like all skills, it takes practice to improve it. The more practice you get, the less daunting it becomes. In both giving and receiving feedback, there are rules and tips you can follow to make it more effective. But in order for feedback to be truly effective, it must be incorporated into the daily work culture and should happen on a regular basis. This way, it becomes a powerful means of developing employees instead of an agonizing process that leaves both managers and employees demoralized.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Secret Weapons To Supervise Like A Superhero

May 22, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Voltaire and Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man comic books.

First off, I am by no means suggesting that you should wear tights and a cape to work. Unless you want to of course, in which case I would suggest checking the employee manual beforehand for appropriate dress code at your workplace.

That aside, this post is about developing your core supervision muscles. By making the following list of practices second-nature and part of a daily habit, the people you work with will come to know that when they’re in trouble, they can rely on you to save the day.

Let’s dive in.

Secret Weapon #1: Stand On Top of Skyscrapers

Not literally of course. The English verb “supervision” is derived from the two Latin words “super” (above) and “videre” (see, observe). To supervise, in other words, means having a birds-eye-view. It means not being shackled down by a narrow perspective. Superman literally had super-vision. When superheroes are faced with a conflict or difficult decision, you often find them on top of a skyscraper contemplating their next move. In the same way, try gaining a balcony view of the issue at hand so you can make a better decision. Learn to step outside of the pool where everyone else is drowning and look at things from a different vantage point. The new perspective will help you make a better decision.

Secret Weapon #2: Build a Shied of Self-Knowledge and Self-Management

If you can’t manage yourself, you have no business managing others. Being able to reflect on who you are and to contemplate your own behavior is the source of great achievement. It can also be the source of many pitfalls. Taking things too personally, being overly self critical, or mistrusting your own instincts are all possible side effects of too much inward turning. These self defeating tendencies can have a huge impact on how well you function at work.

Neophyte supervisors tend to feel insecure and even attacked when people disagree with them or criticize their approach. If you feel that your co-workers are constantly “shooting you down” and think that the subtext of many of your conversations with them shows that they are right and you are wrong – you may be struggling with defensiveness. Don’t be defensive! Be proactive instead. Use consistent and assertive communication skills and be clear about tasks, goals, and objectives you set for your team. Check in regularly to make sure expectations are managed accordingly. Manage yourself better and your team will manage themselves better.

Secret Weapon #3: Don’t Mask Your Identity

Thick masks and helmets limit the superhero’s peripheral vision and the ability to connect authentically with people. That is why superheroes have an alter ego (think Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne). Most supervisors are inadequately trained for their role and are only in it because of consecutive promotions (in some superhero comics, the reluctant hero is conscripted into saving the world by some kind of sinister secret agency).

Moreover, many supervisors are subject to pressures from above and below (middle management trap) and come into the battlefield with their own vulnerabilities. To compensate, they may pretend to be something they are not. Regardless, the nature of the supervisory encounter is rife with power and authority. Each party brings to it their personal (Diana) and professional (Wonder Woman) identities, knowledge, skills, beliefs, worldviews and the impact of life experiences.

Start with understanding your supervision style. Know and understand how your style fits with that of your team members. In my experience, when these relationships are collaborative, transparent and open to constructive input, both parties benefit. The supervisory relationship should be a collaborative one centered around mutual respect and a shared agenda: We all want to save Gotham City. Doing so means working together.

Weapon #4: Embrace What Makes You Different

Embracing what makes you different, is exactly what Steve Jobs did to spectacular success. Every superhero has a special set of skills that makes them different than the next. That’s what makes the Justice League a superior force against global villainy. Jobs had a notorious ability to be focused. He complimented it with an embrace of Zen Philosophy and simplicity.

He also dared to be different and had a dogged self-belief that pushed him through difficult times. As a superhero or supervisor, you must be able to bounce back quickly from defeat. Wolverine is the most famous superhero with a healing power that allows him to recover from injuries, but lots of other heroes have this, including Deadpool and the Hulk. Cultivating this ‘power’ is paramount to success as a leader. It is the very definition of resiliency.

Secret Weapon #5: Know Your Strengths and Know Your Weaknesses

Superheroes understand their strengths and weaknesses.  Even though their weaknesses can sometimes be complicated (like radioactive fragments of their home planets), more often than not, they are super obvious: easily overwhelmed senses, an unprotected face or an unwieldy cape . You may think your weaknesses are hidden from view by your protective armor but don’t be surprised to find that people can see right through you.

Superheroes plan around their weaknesses. They augment their strengths through learning and adaption.

There are actually two types of strengths – the known (realized) and the unknown(unrealized). Your known powers will almost always come without any difficulties or inconveniences. The unknown powers however only come when you are truly tested.

To be super, means being able to harness both. Theodore Roosevelt had a famous quote admiring those in the ‘arena’ of life who are “willing to be marred by dust and sweat and blood.” You have to be in the arena and be tested to know all of your strengths. So, don’t be afraid of making mistakes as a first time supervisor. Face fears. Practice perseverance. Reinforce resilience.

Secret Weapon #6: Inspire and Motivate Your People

Superheroes are inspiring because they are role models of integrity, trust, perseverance, resilience, and justice. They are incorruptible but they are not infallible. Their vulnerability coupled with the ability to overcome it, also serves to inspire us. Motivation is the combination of desire, values, and beliefs that drives you to take action. These three motivating factors are at the root of why people behave the way they do. Because you ultimately control your values, beliefs, and desires, you can influence your motivations. This means, if you consider something important and assign value to it, you are more likely to do the work it takes to attain the goal. When motivation originates from an internal source and is combined with a realistic goal and circumstance, the odds of a good outcome are greatly increased.

Superheroes have a universal appeal because they inspire us to greater heights. We need heroes – super and otherwise – because they are merely a reflection of our deeply human desire for a better self.

Up, up and away!

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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Crouching Leader, Hidden Agenda: 10 Signs Your Boss Is A Toxic Egomaniac

January 15, 2015 • 8 minute read • by Saeed

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

– Lao Tzu – 


65% of Americans feel the same way.

A venomous boss will likely jeopardize your career growth and impact your personal life. A study conducted by Baylor University, calls this the “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

To be sure, good leadership is hard to find (and harder than it looks). A good manager will help you thrive and bring out the best in you. Conversely, bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. In a 2007 study, Bennet Tepper, professor of management and human resources at Ohio State, found that nearly 14% of US workers are subject to abusive superiors. Because of the damage mean bosses inflict on workers’ self esteem and productivity levels, Tepper estimates that abusive supervision costs  companies $23.8 billion a year.

It’s important to identify the signs of an emerging messianic leader early on, before you get too involved (especially if you spot them during the job interview) because your boss will eventually crush all happiness you may be clinging to and short-circuit your career prospects.

To help you recognize and buffer yourself from these Leviathans, here are 10 signs that your boss is a toxic egomaniac:

  1. They have XL signatures: A study by a business school at the University of North Carolina analyzed the signatures of more than 600 American CEOs and found that the bigger the CEO’s signature, the more likely they’ll have an extremely high opinion of themselves. According to the study, oversized signatures are a sign of over-bloated egos and narcissism, and guess what… narcissists tend to be appalling decision-makers and managers. So, your boss could quite literally be signing your career away. For the record, the CEO with the largest signature in the study was Timothy Koogle, who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001.
  2. They don’t know when to quit: Managers that are there every day before their staff arrives and are the last ones to leave have a problem and need to get a life. There is a way to be productive and it’s not through burning yourself and your staff out. They either don’t know how to manage their own time or how to delegate effectively.
  3. They take credit for your work: A good manager is concerned with developing the people who work for them. They encourage people to develop their strengths. They offer training and professional development and constructive feedback (vs. criticism). They provide big picture input so that their employees understand the company as a whole, not just their piece of it. They bring them along and set them up for success. They stand alongside their employees rather than upon their shoulders.
  4. They are all about their own power: Bad bosses are on a power trip. They flaunt their title, act like they’re above it all, remain distant from the rank and file and cannot side step their own egos. Their power-centered authoritarian leadership style is the antithesis of what Robert K. Greenleaf coined as “servant leadership’ – those leaders that focus primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and communities to which they belong and serve rather than their own Selves.
  5. They don’t know how to empower: Rather than encourage and support their employees towards higher levels of performance, toxic bosses attempt to shame, blame and humiliate their employees into submission. In his provocatively titled book The No Asshole Rule, Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, advocates for companies to establish a rule to screen out toxic bosses and bullying behavior which impact morale and productivity. Two tests are specified for recognition of the asshole:
  • After encountering the person, do people feel oppressed, humiliated or otherwise worse about themselves?
  • Does the person target people who are less powerful than him/her?
  1. They have a hidden agenda: In a nutshell, the toxic boss has an objective to meet at your expense. If you find yourself not invited to important meetings you are qualified to attend, given performance reviews that seem out of whack, given feedback that is incongruent with your actual performance, or constantly having to read between the lines, there is likely a hidden agenda at play.
  2. They rule through manipulation: The archetypal manipulative personality is the narcissist (see: #1). Sitting nicely alongside the narcissist is the martyr, the passive-aggressive, the paranoid, the insecure and the control freak. Through their shrewd machinations, these personality types convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests. They need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others.
  3. They are all or nothing: Egomaniac bosses view challenges to their reign as akin to treason. You are either with them or against them. Unless you stroke their ego 24/7, you are the enemy. They demand blind loyalty and allegiance to their vision and they meet defectors from that vision with swift punishment.
  4. They are often charming: It is common for toxic traits to be hidden behind a mask of charisma. Toxic leaders are actors playing a role to overshadow their personal shortcomings. In fact, since toxic leaders often lack substance, their charisma and fear mongering is likely what has propelled them forward in their career . This points to a more disturbing trend within organizations:  as long as they are achieving results, we ignore the methods by which those results were achieved.
  5. They divide in order to conquer: Operating on the premise that competition fuels productivity, toxic bosses pit individuals and teams against each other creating seething swamps of resentment and back-stabbing. Nice! On the other hand, experienced managers discourage internal competition in favor of external competition. They encourage employees to channel their rivalry towards the competition rather than at each other. Poisonous leaders create divisions amongst their employees and sap their strength and creativity.

Detox or Depart?

If you have a toxic boss, you have to first decide: should I stay or should I go? Sometimes, leaving is the best option. If leaving is not an option, you have to learn to communicate assertively and set clear boundaries. Remember  that you have the right to be treated with respect. You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and wants. You have the right to set your own priorities and to say “no” without feeling guilty. You have the right to have opinions different than others and most importantly, you have the right to protect yourself from physical, mental or emotional harm.

There is good news in all of this. Companies are catching on to the high price of their bad hires and they are getting better at screening out these poisonous personality types. Remember Timothy Koogle with the oversized signature who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001? It appears he has not held a meaningful job since then.

Good Luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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