Eyes Wide Open Trust – the power of effective boundaries

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Trust must be given, not earned, but I’m not advocating blind trust.

My wife and I have four boys: Christian, Preston, Jackson, and Lincoln. When they were little, the street in front of our house was completely off-limits. The risk was too great. But if they were still afraid to cross the street as thirteen-year-olds, or twenty-year-olds, we’d have a problem. I want my boys to wisely take risks that are worth taking, and to not live in fear. But I don’t want them to walk across the street with their eyes closed. I want them to have their eyes wide open and look both ways. And then to walk forward.

In the same way, I’m not asking you to plunge ahead foolishly, but to make a mature, calculated, thoughtful decision to trust because you’ve decided the benefits outweigh the risks.

By all means, be aware of red flags when you sense that someone isn’t trustworthy–they don’t necessarily mean that there’s no way forward, but you should ask where they are coming from, take more careful steps, and set appropriate boundaries.

Not blind trust. Eyes-wide-open trust.

Have you ever known anyone who seemed to think that trust was a sign of weakness, and that putting themselves in a vulnerable position would make them needy? The truth is entirely the opposite.

The decision to trust is a profoundly free act.

Only a confident, secure, courageous person can choose to trust.

Far from being a sign of weakness, mature vulnerability can only come from a place of strength.

For those situations when it doesn’t seem reasonable to give trust or where there are areas of concern with other parties involved in your relationship, you can approach the situation with your eyes wide open.

  1. Determine what is not safe

If you find yourself in a situation where giving trust or entering into the relationship is questionable, determine what it is that makes it questionable. Get to the root and give it a name. Is there question with integrity, are there illegal activities, does violence or harm concern you? If you can pinpoint the area(s) of question, you will be better able to create the boundaries and plan going forward.

  1. Determine what is safe

What is the good or the safe part of the relationship? Just like you determined what is not safe, do the same for what actually is good. Is the integrity of the individual good? Are they fully competent? Do they have a good heart and a strong desire to do what is right? Whatever it is, focus on it and draw attention to the good.

  1. Create clear (but few) boundaries

Boundaries don’t keep you from playing the game (link to past post), they allow you to play the game. Creating boundaries is not easy but sometimes it is critical. Determine the few boundaries that will make the relationship safe and use them for managing the relationship. If you are in a position of authority, your boundaries may look very different from when you are not. If someone is verbally abusive, the boundary might be that you won’t accept the verbal abuse and when they do, you simply walk away. If someone fails to meet deadlines time after time, you may ask them to report on progress of their projects at various milestones along the way.

  1. Take a step

You will never get closer to someone if you don’t take a step towards them. Hoping and wanting doesn’t decrease the distance between you and another person. You must decide (you want high trust) and then do (take a trust step towards them).

In case you think that I can’t identify with the difficulty of boundaries, let me share a story from my personal life. In the post The Big Lie About Trust I promised I would address the crazies in your life. Many years ago we were friends with a couple and there were some areas of concern with the past of one of them. We were close and hoped for a life-long relationship with them. The concerns we had weren’t just questions or speculation – they were well founded and also shared by some of their own family members, several of their close friends and even the court of law had ruled and delivered a permanent restraining order to this individual. Without going into specifics, these areas of concern caused us to not feel comfortable leaving our children alone with them. The information that we had learned and our concerns alone didn’t make them bad people and we actually never thought badly about the individual. We just had discernment that it wouldn’t be wise or safe to allow our kids to be alone with them.

It is possible to love, respect and care for someone AND not allow your kids to be alone. The boundary that we created was that as long as I was there, the kids could be there. If I wasn’t there, it wasn’t OK. We didn’t expect them to do bad things or cause harm, we just weren’t willing to take the risk.

In this environment, we determined the boundaries and then within those boundaries, we could have a full relationship. These boundaries weren’t created to prohibit our relationship, they were actually created so we could have a relationship.

I wish I could report that this relationship is thriving and healthy. The fact is, about 6 years into our relationship using these boundaries, they felt hurt and angered and didn’t see the boundaries as protective, but rather as damning. They have chosen to not be in relationship with us and in the end, we both lose because of this.

Don’t go blindly into relationships. Don’t close your eyes and walk unaware into situations but also, don’t cripple yourself with doubt and fear. Walk into the relationship, look both ways and take steps forward with confidence.

Lead Well, Lead Often and LEAD STRONG!

richard-fagerlinRichard Fagerlin is the founder and president of Peak Solutions.

With over 20 years of leadership and organizational development experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant and facilitator. Richard travels internationally helping clients intentionally create a culture of high trust and to be on purpose with developing leaders at all levels of the organization. In 2015 & 2016 Richard was named one of the top 100 thought leaders on Trust in the world.

A Colorado native, Richard enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains with his wife and four boys. His favorite team is whichever one his four boys are currently playing on. He is active in his community while serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Mill City Church.

(Scott’s addition: Richard is also the author of a really good book, “Trustology: The art and science of leading high-trust teams”.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Learn more at www.trustologybook.com.)

Twitter:  @richardfagerlin   •   LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardfagerlin

12 Practical Steps to Leading with High Trust

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

We’ve talked about how high-trust relationships start with you, the person who wants high trust, giving trust to another person without knowing whether you’ll get anything in return. But what does it look like on a practical level to communicate trust?

People will believe that you trust them when you take time to know them personally, you respect them, and you let them have influence. Below are some practical ways you can show trust to individuals and create a larger team culture of trust.

Listen, Learn, and Like. It goes a long way with people when you sincerely listen to them with the intent to learn. If you want to give trust, show interest. Find out where they’re coming from, especially when you disagree. This communicates that you assume they’re a reasonable, well-intentioned person. Find something you like about them. You don’t have to become best friends, but it should be your goal to like them.

Relentlessly pursue their strengths. Figure out what they are good at and what comes easily for them, and draw that out. Draw attention to it. Give them opportunities to shine. The more they work in their strengths, the more value they add to the team and the more they value their work.

Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with goals and commitments from the employee and from their boss. Create a game plan for growing, learning, and adding more value.

Share your leadership responsibilities. Give your team members assignments to lead certain aspects of your team. Let them run meetings, plan events, coordinate customer site visits, or participate in the planning and budgeting process. Let go of the reigns a bit and give them some freedom.

Get over yourself. Let’s be honest. One of the key reasons why you may not like relinquishing control to someone else is that you believe you are better, smarter, or more qualified than they are. Stop that. How did you get where you are?  Likely by someone better, smarter, and more qualified getting out of your way.

Allow growth and expect failures.  Not everyone succeeds on the first try and nobody succeeds always. Be willing to push people to grow, and in doing so, expect failure. Celebrate it. Failure is education, and if we don’t fail we won’t learn. As Henry Ford said, those who never make mistakes work for those who do.

Expose them to the larger process. I intentionally introduce my boys to people and concepts that are above their current level of life. They might not understand a conversation about balancing a checkbook, but they’re seeing what it means to be an adult. The same holds true in business. Exposing your team members to decision makers, stakeholders, clients, macro-level discussions, and other aspects of your organization that are above their current job description communicates that you trust them, you expect them to advance, and you’re invested in their future.

Ask your team for ideas. Hold innovation bursts where you brainstorm ideas for improvements, find opportunities for efficiencies, create new ideas, and improve old ones. Collect these ideas and implement something. If you can’t implement something, let them know, but if you can, do!

Get good at defining projects. Give your team projects with defined time frames and goals, make sure they have the resources they need, and then set them loose. Let them know what you desire as an outcome, but let them figure out how to get there. This allows you to give more freedom and them to take initiative, while minimizing frustration for all involved.

Work when and where it makes sense. Not everyone can or should work from home (or at the lake, or in the evening, or from a coffee shop). But when it makes sense, allow flexibility in how your team gets their work done. Trust them to manage their results.

Look for opportunities to say yes. Instead of saying no to your team’s unusual requests, instead think, “what needs to happen so I can say yes?”

Support their passions. If you support volunteerism and corporate giving, come alongside your team members and allow them to direct where you give. Let them volunteer for a cause they care about, or provide some level of match to their existing giving.

Lead Well, Lead Often and LEAD STRONG!

richard-fagerlinRichard Fagerlin is the founder and president of Peak Solutions.

With over 20 years of leadership and organizational development experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant and facilitator. Richard travels internationally helping clients intentionally create a culture of high trust and to be on purpose with developing leaders at all levels of the organization. In 2015 & 2016 Richard was named one of the top 100 thought leaders on Trust in the world.

A Colorado native, Richard enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains with his wife and four boys. His favorite team is whichever one his four boys are currently playing on. He is active in his community while serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Mill City Church.

(Scott’s addition: Richard is also the author of a really good book, “Trustology: The art and science of leading high-trust teams”.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Learn more at www.trustologybook.com.)

Twitter:  @richardfagerlin   •   LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardfagerlin


Motivation and Discipline: a case in point

(Guest Author Thomas Petersen for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work closely with a United States Air Force (USAF) jet demonstration team for a number of air show events. This team was widely recognized as one of the most polished and coordinated single plane demonstration teams in the USAF. They had a particular “Esprit De Corps”; team members could seemingly read each other’s minds. It was not unusual to see extraordinary individual effort on the team’s behalf. This was done over and over every week between April and September across the country. Each event was just as spectacular as the previous one and the crowds were always amazed.

Jet demonstration teams hold a status somewhat akin to a rockstar. The flight suit, team uniforms and precision set them apart as special individuals. Attitudes and actions of team members inspired confidence and understanding. They were the type of men and women you could easily be proud of. Combined with a modern fighter jet, it was hard to not quickly become enamored with the experience of meeting and watching this team.


At a particular event the team and I attended, the senior enlisted team member had coordinated with a local Air Force Base to provide ground support equipment and an airman for additional support. The selected individual was very motivated by being asked to be special support for the team. Imagine being asked to help your favorite music star for the weekend and being a part of the backstage events! The motivation served well – the equipment arrived early, cleaned and polished beyond its usual condition and the airman was quick to help and do whatever was needed. Simple motivation worked through the arrival day, pre-show flights, and the event day. As the show ended, all seemed well and the team retired to their hotel.


Sunday morning with the crowd gone and the thrill dissipating into the early morning twilight, it was time to pack up and move out. Per the preset plan the team was at the airfield (5 minutes early) dressed smartly in their uniforms with the same precision as the day before. However, the ground support airman was nowhere to be found. The team checked, loaded, and readied their gear with the same vigor and enthusiasm they exhibited during the show the day before. Then the demonstration jet was checked, preflight inspected and readied for launch. Still no ground support airman in sight. The pilot, who was the officer in command of the team, firmly taught a lesson. He pulled the senior member of the team who had coordinated the additional airman for the show aside. “Discipline and commitment are the hallmarks of our team” he said. “When you pull in someone who you do not know has those same high ideals you risk having what has happened here this morning occur”. Then they saluted, shook hands and launched the jets, again with the same precision routine that thousands of spectators had watched the day before.

Though I was only on the sidelines I will never forget this lesson. Exciting, high profile projects and assignments bring their own special motivation. But simple motivation is not enough to see things through every time. What happens when the work becomes laborious and repetitive? What happens when the accolades and attention are gone and it is up to you to carry on? Discipline, the will to achieve the goal with or without attention or excitement, will get you to the finish line. I have found this to be true regardless of where you are working. Discipline to achieve a goal often comes down to not the recognition we receive, but to the desire to “do it right” this time and every time.

tom-petersenThomas Petersen grew up in Sandy, Utah and studied Art and American History at the University of Utah.  After graduation he worked in the fast paced world of medical laser sales.  His experience with technology and client satisfaction in this competitive environment made a move into project management a natural fit.  He currently applies his talents with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.  His long interest in aviation led to volunteering on the Board of Directors for a Utah aviation museum and organizing annual air show events.  Grateful for the support of his wife and family, Thomas balances his career, passion for aviation and family time, always looking for an opportunity to help improve his community.

Play the Odds – 5 strategies for overcoming your fear of trust

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Let’s address this difficult situation of people that will likely take advantage of you if you are willing to give trust. So let’s play the odds.

Even though trust is not safe it can still be a wise investment. The question is, do the rewards outweigh the risks?

Everyone will eventually disappoint you in small ways. (And guess what? You’ll disappoint them, too.) A few people may betray you outright. But consider for a moment how many people we’re really talking about. How many people, of all those in your life, are really going to take advantage of you if you offer trust before it is earned? Twenty percent? Ten? Two? I guess that, on average, the number is closer to two percent than it is to twenty. Yes, a few people may abuse your trust. But do you want to live and act for the two percent, or the ninety-eight percent?scale

Imagine a weights and measures scale. Put the risk of the two percent on one side, and the
benefit of a trusting, generous relationship with the ninety-eight percent on the other.

Which is heavier?

A Disclaimer

I know many of you are sitting there thinking of all the situations where giving unearned trust doesn’t make sense. Keep two things in mind:

First, I’m assuming the relationships in question are ones where you actually want to win, where you have a vested interest in the relationship being the best it can be, and where collaboration is critical. If that’s the case, let’s apply these ideas. If not, you don’t need to invest time or energy into building trust.

Second, I am not speaking to the extremes. If you have experienced a betrayal of trust amounting to psychological or physical abuse, address it appropriately. Ask a friend for help, get a counselor, talk to a mentor, or read one of the many great books out there that address healing and boundaries on a personal level.

But most of life should not be a crisis. I want to speak to the rest of the time, to normal person-to-person interactions.

If you are struggling with the idea of giving trust – consider the following 5 strategies: Continue reading

Quit Your Job… You Are Not the Trust Ref

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin written for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

If trust isn’t something that is earned (see past post here), then how do we approach relationships so we don’t get hurt, abused, or simply taken advantage of? This is the question that most often comes with the exposure of the big lie. Also, you may be thinking of 3 or 30 people that you think — no you know — would take advantage of you if you simply gave them your trust.

Let me address that but not yet… (this is for the next post)

Since we can’t keep score, it’s time to submit your resignation letter as Trust Referee of your relationships. Time to stop keeping tabs of who is ahead and who is behind. If you are like me, this won’t be easy. I trust ref my friends, I trust ref my colleagues, and I even trust ref my wife. I love my wife very much. We have been married for more than 17 years, we have four wonderful children together, and are truly best friends. But I still struggle with the mind-shift of not keeping score on a daily basis.

I want nothing more than to see my wife thrive. To see her vibrant and doing what she loves. I want her to be encouraged and loved in a deep way — and then I become a bonehead. I find myself counting up my good deeds and her not-so-good deeds. I hope that you can’t identify with this. But, chances are you can. Giving trust without keeping a record of rights and wrongs isn’t easy, but it is essential to win the war for relationships at home and at work.

Love is supposed to keep no record of wrongs. Love is supposed to endure, it is supposed to last beyond the moment or temporary satisfaction. I think trust is like love. Trust should keep no record of wrongs. Once you’ve made a decision to trust someone, once you’ve decided that winning at that relationship is non-negotiable, you have to stop keeping score—whether the relationship is with your spouse or your colleague. Stop keeping track of how much more work you get done, how many times you hold your tongue or how many good ideas you present at meetings.

It will still bother you when your colleague is late or your boss discounts your opinion. It will hurt when a colleague steals your idea for their own or when you get passed over for a promotion or opportunity by someone that doesn’t seem to play fair.

Not keeping score doesn’t mean ignoring a bad situation. Healthy conflict can be necessary. Address the situation with wisdom…

but don’t make trust conditional upon a person’s good score.

Trust them. If conflict does need to happen, it will go much better when it happens from a place of trust.

The number one reason why trust cannot be earned is that even if we could find a perfect way to keep score of the performance of every one of our colleagues, no one could do enough good things to guarantee that they wouldn’t disappoint us in the future.

Trust has never existed in a risk-free environment. No matter how well you know someone, given enough opportunities, everyone will fall short in some way or another. If that’s not a reality you’re willing to accept, then you’re never going to have high-trust relationships. At some point, one of the parties involved has to take the risk of giving trust.

richard-fagerlinRichard Fagerlin is the founder and president of Peak Solutions.

With over 20 years of leadership and organizational development experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant and facilitator. Richard travels internationally helping clients intentionally create a culture of high trust and to be on purpose with developing leaders at all levels of the organization. In 2015 & 2016 Richard was named one of the top 100 thought leaders on Trust in the world.

A Colorado native, Richard enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains with his wife and four boys. His favorite team is whichever one his four boys are currently playing on. He is active in his community while serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Mill City Church.

(Scott’s addition: Richard is also the author of a really good book, “Trustology: The art and science of leading high-trust teams”.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Learn more at www.trustologybook.com.)

Twitter:  @richardfagerlin   •   LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardfagerlin

The BIG lie about TRUST – 5 reasons why trust is not earned

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Nobody comes to the discussion on trust empty handed. We all have strong feelings about it. We know how it feels when trust is misused, betrayed, or withheld. Our perspectives are real and have been informed by a lifetime of experiences, pain and broken relationships. Sometimes these conclusions are helpful and sometimes they hold us hostage.

Over the years I’ve come to a surprising conclusion: our most popular theories about trust are often untrue and almost always unhelpful.

What I’m going to share will likely go against everything you’ve ever heard or thought about trust. Of all the flawed theories flying around about trust, there is one that is more prevalent and also more damaging than any other:

Trust’s Big Lie: Trust is something that is earned.

The Truth on Trust: Trust can’t be earned. It can only be given.

I know, I know. This is a lie that even I have believed for most of my life. The problem with it is that it just doesn’t make sense.

When we’re deciding how much to trust someone, we usually ask ourselves whether they have earned our trust. That seems like the smart thing to do. Until they earn it, we withhold trust to protect ourselves. We put protective policies in place. We micromanage to maintain control and create limits and boundaries to our relationships.

But the truth is, trust can never be earned. Trust can only be given.

Trust is the responsibility of the person who wants high trust. If you want others to trust you – it’s your responsibility. If you want to be able to trust others – it’s your responsibility. If you are committed to giving and building trust, and determined to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way, you will win high trust. If you work patiently and with perseverance to lead your team towards a high-trust, high-performance culture, you can see it happen. Ten of the most powerful two-letter words in the English language are: If it is to be, it is up to me. If you are to have high trust in your relationships, it starts and ends with you.

I fully realize that this line of thinking might make you squirm. When I’m working with my clients or speaking on this topic, this is where everyone starts to jump out of their seats.

Over the next few posts, I will outline why this lie is damaging, how you can better approach trust and give you a vocabulary for making this thinking stick.

For now, ponder these 5 reasons why trust cannot be earned: Continue reading

The Role of Grub in Performance Management

(Guest Author Jared Olsen, for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

Grub, food, chow, it all plays a vital part in effective leadership.  Having worked in leadership for over 10 years I’ve had many difficult conversations.  Those conversations have been most effective when I’ve been honest, bold, and surrounded by grub.  Take for example the employee’s perspective when grub is not involved.

“John, do you have a minute we could talk in my office?”  As John sits down he has no idea what is going on, is sitting on a hard wooden chair, the office door is shut, and the manager I am taking a position of power sitting behind their desk as John is totally exposed.  “John, I’ll get straight to it, we’ve received complaints about your customer service.”  John is now on the defense, scared, and alone.  The result, is whatever you say could go in one ear and out the other for John and he fears going into your office ever again.

Now let’s look at involving grub to this conversation.

“John, I was wondering if you might be free at lunch today to go grab a bite of food with me?”  John says, “Sounds great, what’s up?”  “I’ve been getting some customer feedback that I’d like to talk to you about.”

John now has time to prepare and reflect on his recent customer service, this way he shouldn’t be blindsided.  When you go out to eat, you’re both in a neutral location where no one has home field advantage.  Food invites casual conversation, small talk, and puts you both at ease.  This is a great time to show the human side of who you both are.

“John, I wanted to share some feedback with you about your customer service.  I know that there are some areas we can improve on and I just want to know your thoughts and how I can help.”

John is not defensive but now views his manager as a resource and someone willing to help.  Instead of feeling alone, he feels empowered, and working with you, John has a leader instead of a manager.  What changed?  Grub.  Food puts you at ease and helps more important conversations result.

jared-olsenDuring his career, Jared Olsen has promoted innovative and unique ideas to the business community in Utah.  Jared started his career in Human Resources and has worked for large and small businesses, and has seen the importance of leadership and company culture which has led to the success and demise of several businesses.

Jared received his undergraduate from the University of Utah, and his MBA from University of Phoenix.  Jared is a certified SPHR and SHRM-SCP.  Jared has been the President of the Salt Lake Society for Human Resource Management, sits on a compensation committee with South Jordan city to consult with the Mayor on city staffing and compensation needs, and is the creator of the largest LinkedIn group in Utah focusing on HR called, Salt Lake City Human Resource Professionals.

Jared currently is the Owner of REYFYA (ray-fee-a) which is an outsourced culture company.  Jared truly believes the root cause of any business issue is a cultural opportunity.  Whether it is leadership, training, hiring, or coaching, culture is at the heart of any business.  REYFYA’s approach to culture shows the human side of businesses and has a fresh millennial approach.  Additionally, Jared is the Director of Business Operations at Xima Software which is the 4th fastest growing company in Utah, and two-time winner of the best place to work in Utah with under 40 employees.  In 2015 Jared was selected as a CXO Winner by Utah Business Magazine as one of the up and coming C-Suite executives in the state of Utah.

The Power of Interest-Based Leadership

(Guest Author Mariann McDonagh, for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

As a senior executive who has built high-performance teams in challenging growth environments, I have often been asked about the secret to my success. The real answer is, there is no secret. Cultivating leaders and building great teams is a full-time job and one that requires commitment and intention.

Great leadership is interest-based leadership; your teams need to know at all times that following you is their best bet because their interests lie with you. And we often forget this critical fact in leadership: following is a voluntary act. To create a passionate, high performing team, they must want to follow you, especially when the going gets tough.

In my experience, interest-based leaders share these characteristics:


Real leaders need to be…real. Especially in a growth environment when the pressure is on, your people can immediately tell if you are not being genuine. Tell it like it is and they’ll accept it at face value. Recognize how hard things are right now and pitch in to help. No one needs to have “smoke blown up their skirt” in an effort to mask what’s really happening. Be straight with your people and they’ll respect you for it.


One of the fundamental keys to interest-based leadership is one-on-one communication. You have to be accessible to your people and make yourself available for questions, brainstorming and helping to remove obstacles from important projects. But don’t confuse accessibility with the need to physically be together in one location. I’ve effectively run teams across 7 time zones, and they always knew I was available to them when they needed me. Remember: the single greatest gift you can give someone is your time, because it’s finite and you can never earn more.


I cannot say enough about the importance of building trust with your teams. Trust that you have their back, trust that you will recognize them when they excel, trust that you’ll course correct them when they need it. A great deal of this trust is developed in the one-on-one communications we just talked about. But it’s also in the consistency of your leadership and the predictability of your behavior. Trust is key for day to day interactions, but where it really matters is when things get hard. When the challenges mount and the outcome and future may seem unclear, it important your teams trust you enough to follow where you lead.


The final ingredient to interest-based leadership is investment. You have to invest in people in order to effectively lead them. You give them your time, your ear, your advice. You help them be better managers, learn how to effectively deal with conflict, help them chart a course to increase their own strategic value. While this may make you uncomfortable, it’s an important epiphany: the more marketable you help your people become, the more loyal they are to you and the faster they will run.

And remember the cardinal rule:

People don’t want to be managed. They want to be led.



Mariann McDonagh.  President, McDonagh Growth Associates


Mariann McDonagh is President and CEO of McDonagh Growth Associates, a rapidly expanding growth consulting business.

At McD Growth, Mariann leverages more than 30 years of experience and C-suite perspective to assist growing companies across a myriad of strategic initiatives.

Prior to launching McD Growth, Mariann McDonagh was responsible for product management, brand strategy, demand generation and channel development at cloud software player, inContact (NASDAQ: SAAS). In five years as the Chief Marketing Officer at inContact, Mariann significantly changed the competitive contact center marketplace, firmly establishing inContact as the leading brand in the market and helping to drive their stock price up by a factor of 4.

Prior to inContact, Mariann served for more than six years as Senior Vice President of corporate marketing for Verint Systems. Mariann’s 30 year career in high-tech and software marketing also includes tenures with CMP Media, Computer Associates and Cheyenne Software.

Mariann is a frequent industry speaker and contributor on cloud, marketing and customer experience and was named one of the most influential women in marketing in 2013 by DM News.

Connect with Mariann on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/mariannmcdonagh


How to lead “Passionate” people

(Guest Author Tim Harris  for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

In my role as a Product Leader, I have the privilege to work with extremely talented product and engineering team members on a daily basis. In my experience, those that have a passion for the product they are working on are many times more effective than equally talented but less passionate team members. It’s important to note that when I say “passionate” I am aware that passion is displayed in many different ways.


Passion is a mystery to many leaders and one that many tend to avoid by saying “people either have it or they don’t.” I personally believe passion is controllable (in many circumstances) even though it is not something you can simply instill as a leader.

To me “controlling” passion is about creating an environment that fosters it and selecting the correct people to work in it.  There is a lot of talk about office environments, management structures, incentives, team dynamics, and the list goes on. All of these items are important but to me it’s all about passion. Another way to look at it is that passion is an outward representation of a truly proactive employee.

Leading and managing proactive employees is rewarding on many levels. You look great because your team performs so well but also these employees are actively looking for your guidance and support.

I am blessed to be a leader in a product organization where the roles require a proactive employee. You simply will not succeed in product management if you are not a self-starter and energized by what you are doing.

4 Steps in Leading Passionate Team Members:

  1. Understand what and why they are passionate.  It may be about the art of product management or it could be all about user experience or the product itself or a million other things. Take the time to figure it out.
  2. Set a vision and get out of the way.  Passionate employees need room. Don’t over manage. Stay in the loop so they have the air cover and backing they need but let them guide the ship.
  3. Help them succeed holistically. Never take your eye off what they want both short and long term. Help them by identifying projects or accomplishments they can work toward inside and outside their specific job function.
  4. Pay them fairly. Do not ever haggle over a few thousand dollars. Pay them fairly and never make promises you cannot deliver on. If possible financially reward them for their proactive actions.

Tim HarrisTim Harris is Vice President of Product at RizePoint.

Tim leverages nearly 20 years of cloud-solution product leadership to drive RizePoint’s industry-defining products. Harris joins RizePoint from inContact, where he was Vice President, Product Management and Principal Product Owner. There, he was responsible for ensuring the coordination and continued creation of a unified cloud platform. Prior to this, he was instrumental in the product development workflow for inContact in his roles as Sr. Director of Product Management, Sr. Director of Cloud Ecosystem, and Director of Cloud Solutions. Harris holds two patents related to Business Communication and Call Routing

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitharris

Twitter: @mitharris


Ally or Adversary? 5 Actions that Destroy Professional Relationships

(Guest Author Morag Barrett, for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

For Part 1 (5 Actions the Build Professional Relationships), click here

Remember, if relationships matter, they matter even more at work.

Your success depends on the quality of your professional relationships.

Those people without whom your success would be compromised; the professional connections that you reach out to when you have a question or are unsure of what action to take; winning relationships that empower you to achieve outstanding results together; the “I-couldn’t-get-my-job-done-without-you” relationships. It is also about those difficult and challenging relationships that drain your energy, that create roadblocks and impact your ability to deliver the goals and results expected of you, the “I-get-my-job-done-in-spite-of-you” relationships.

Improving the quality of our professional relationships at work is not rocket science, but it may as well be. We’re all so busy keeping our heads down and eyes on the prize that we can forget to look up and connect with those around us.

Here are five Don’t’s that will help ensure you create career allies and not career adversaries:

DON’T: Focus only on what you can get.

If you only contact your critical stakeholder when you need something, you’ll very quickly find that your ‘work-spouse’ might be washing their hair and unavailable! An Ally relationship is about ‘give and take’. Be proactive in offering your expertise, and ensure that reciprocity is part of your relationship.

DON’T: Stick with the usual suspects.

Many leaders put a lot of energy in cultivating relationships with those with the right title and seniority (the vertical relationships) but spend less care and attention on horizontal relationships across their business. If you’re focused only on the ‘right’ connections, your style will come across as inauthentic. I’ve worked with many leaders whose relationships have been skewed in one direction (usually up) and do not include representation from across the organization. Continue reading