The Secret to Motivating a Slacker on Your Team

This week’s guest post is from Mike Figliuolo, the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC  – a leadership development training firm.

An honor graduate from West Point, Mike served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Mike regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog. His latest book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results, has just come out and you can get your copy by clicking here. On a more personal note, Mike has been a good friend for many years and has generously shared his blogging expertise with me.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
The Secret to Motivating a Slacker on Your Team

Dave has a great résumé with the right education and expertise from brand name schools and employers. When he accepted your job offer, you felt like you made one of the best hires of your career.

Since Dave got the job, however, his talents haven’t translated into the results you expected. He’s a smart guy with great communications skills – at least his verbal communication skills. He’s outspoken in team meetings and has many ideas, most of which seem to have potential. Interestingly enough, however, those ideas relate to other peoples’ responsibilities. Dave’s willingness to comment on how others are doing or not doing their jobs is drawing complaints from your team. He has much less to say about his own area.

You hate the thought of losing someone as talented as Dave, but his lack of results is alarming. His teammates have picked up his slack. You’ve dedicated more of your leadership capital than you’d like harping on him to get his work done. There’s no doubt that Dave is a “Slacker.”

Approaches for Leading a Slacker

Leading Slackers requires you to “Unlock Motivation” within them. Slackers have the capability to do their jobs well. If they applied themselves, Slackers could be Exemplars on your team.

Turning a Slacker around reduces the team conflict they create when they talk about everyone else’s work instead of doing their own. To be sure you’ve got a Slacker on your hands, assess their performance and see if they’re delivering the results you expect.

To turn Slackers around, first let them know their behavior isn’t acceptable. If they’ve avoided deadlines in the past, give them a real deadline to hit or face the consequences. Connect with your HR representative to start the performance improvement plan process. Document the expectations for the Slackers’ role, their performance against those objectives, and the specific goals they need to accomplish.

Set deadlines for completing their performance improvement plan and keeping their job. Make it clear that delivery of results is a condition of their employment. You’re not looking to threaten them – you’re merely explaining the cold, hard facts of their situation. Coach them that being smart isn’t enough. Reassure them you believe they have the ability to do the job – if they set their mind to it. Provide them a picture of what success could look like for them.

The painful first conversation with Slackers might be enough to turn them around. Other times they say they’ll improve but they never do. That behavior requires you to escalate the situation and put them on a formal performance improvement plan.

After putting your Slackers on a formal performance improvement plan, have a frank discussion with them about how they want to rectify the situation. Don’t limit the discussion to their role on your team – discuss their career aspirations too. Let them know if they plan to keep slacking by relying on their smarts and reputation to get them through, they’re going to have a performance crisis that will be hard to recover from. If they don’t change their behavior, it will kill their career at some point.

If the combination of being put on a performance improvement plan and getting your frank assessment can’t motivate them to behave differently, ask them what it will take to get them to change. If they’re not interested in helping themselves, you can’t do it for them. These are potentially high risk, high return leadership investments.

Slackers have a decision to make that will determine your approach to leading them. If putting them on a performance improvement plan gets through to them, find the root cause of their problem.

All that’s holding them back is their motivation. They could be bored with their work. Maybe they lack the skills required to plan their work and manage their time. Perhaps someone else on the team is stealing credit for their work.

Your discussion about root causes could provide you insights on how committed they are to change. If they’re not going to work hard in their current role, help them find their next one. Work with them, in consultation with your HR team, to see what kind of referral you can give them. For external referrals, you can point to the Slackers’ strengths. Leave it up to them to explain why they’re leaving their role.



Influencers from Around the World – Some Acts of Giving Can Span Decades and Lifetimes

This month we have another new guest writer. Like
myself and several other guest bloggers for Influence PEOPLE, Debbie Hixson is
a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer®.
Debbie is a manager in the Leader Strategy and Programs division at Kaiser
Permanente where she’s been for nearly 20 years. She earned her B.A.,
Psychology, has an M.Ed. in Counseling and Educational Psychology, a Masters of
Arts in Human Resources Development and is currently working on her
Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership! I know you’ll enjoy Debbie’s insightful
perspective on influence and persuasion.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Some Acts of Giving Can Span
Decades and Lifetimes
I read in my Sunday paper about a cemetery in Holland where
American soldiers who fought the Nazis in World War II are buried.  It seems that each of the 8,300 graves in
Margraten, a small village in the Netherlands, are tended by Dutch, Belgian or
German families, along with schools, companies, and military organizations. On
Memorial Day this year they came as they do several times a year to place
flowers in front of headstones of people they didn’t know and to honor their
At the
cemetery’s annual commemoration 6,000 people flooded the 65-acre burial grounds
including many descendants of the American soldiers who traveled from all over
the U.S. They came to pay tribute to their parents and grandparents who fought
to defeat the Nazis. And they came to thank the people who had been tending the
graves of their loved ones for over 70 years. Some of the caretakers have passed
the responsibility on from generation to generation. The responsibility is felt
so deeply that there is a list of over 100 people waiting to become caretakers
of the graves.
What would
cause a nation recovering from the trauma of being invaded during World War II and
their own personal losses to adopt the fallen of another nation? And what would
keep this commitment alive all these years later, when the pain and significance
of the war had faded. It is unique in this world, wouldn’t you say?
September 1944, the village of Margraten and its 1,500 inhabitants had been
freed from Nazi occupation. The war was not over and many American soldiers
died in nearby battles with the goal of breaking through the German lines and
trying to capture bridges that connected the Netherlands to Germany. The losses
sustained were heavy and the American nation needed a place to bury its dead.
They choose a fruit orchard just outside Margraten.
The villagers
of Margraten embraced the Americans and grieved for their fallen. They provided
food and shelter for the U.S. commanders and their troops. After four years of
being occupied by the Nazis, they were free. Life could return to normal and
once again they could enjoy the freedoms they had before the invasion. They
realized that they had the Americans to thank for that freedom.
For the
gift of their freedom, the people of Margraten reciprocated by tending year
after year to the graves of the solders who gave their lives to restore it. The
rule of reciprocity, according to Dr. Robert Cialdini,
says that when we receive something, a favor, a kindness, etc., we feel obligated
to repay it. He says that “so typical is it for indebtedness to accompany the
receipt of such things that a phrase like ‘much obliged’ has become a synonym
for ‘thank you,” not only in the English language but in others as well.” Although
obligations extend into the future they can be short lived unless they are notable
and memorable such as the American sacrifice to free the people of Margraten.
In some cases such as this, the obligation is felt so keenly that the thank you
never ends.
We can
see this illustrated in a recent ceremony in Margraten to honor the fallen
Americans. One American conveyed the essence of the bond between the Dutch and
the U.S. His name is Arthur Chotin and the Naaijken family tends his father’s
grave. He said to the audience of Americans and current caretakers, “By making
these dead part of your family, you have become part of our family. You have
created a bond between us that will never be broken. So, from this day forward,
from now until the end of time, a heartfelt thank you.”
In our
own lives we have experienced reciprocity. We all learned as children that when
someone does something nice for us, we do something nice for that someone in
return. It works well for us and in our society to reciprocate. We have not-so-nice
words for people who do not reciprocate. Reciprocating with others establishes
relationships whether they are professional or personal in nature. 
In my
work, I use reciprocity to develop long-lasting relationships with my clients
that are mutually beneficial. Before I make a request of them, I consider
giving them something first. It might be giving time to listen to their concerns,
or sharing ideas to address their problems. In return I ask for their trust to
be completely honest in our coaching relationship. Then I ask them to listen to
my feedback as well as try out my suggestions for addressing their leadership
challenges. Because we keep reciprocating the relationship continues
indefinitely for as long as we work together.
is a powerful tool to influence others. It is based on the idea that we help
those who help us. It begins by giving someone a gift – your time, your advice,
etc. In turn they will usually support your request because the rule says we’re
to give back to those who first give to us. It is a powerful motivator for us
to comply with other’s requests when they have given to us and it’s powerful
because others will do what you ask when you give to them first.
So start
with this thought, “Whom can I help?” rather than, “Who can help me?” Do so and
you will initiate and develop long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Try

Hixson, CMCT®

The Three Commitments of Leadership are Essential to be Influential

This week we have a guest post from Jon Wortmann. I met Jon a couple of years ago after hearing him on a radio show. He mentioned he was on Twitter so I contacted him and we’ve communicated on a regular basis ever since.

Jon is a non-profit leader, a leadership coach at Muse Arts, LLC, and an author. His first book was Mastering Communications at Work and now he’s followed that up with The Three Commitments of Leadership. He was trained at Harvard University and has consulted with and offered workshops for educational, non-profit, start-up, and Fortune 100 organizations.  I encourage you to reach out to
Jon on Twitter because he’ll reach back. You can get in touch with him at @jonwortmann.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn
to Hear “Yes”.
The Three Commitments of Leadership are Essential to be Influential
The punch line of The Three Commitments of Leadership is simple:  teammates love to work with leaders who pay attention to clarity,
stability, and rhythm.
The same is true of leaders who know how to connect deeply with others.  The principles of influence are really about what makes us want to work and live with the people around us.  Influence can be used to get people to say “Yes,” and when people like us, when we are consistent, and
when we reciprocate the kind of authentic interactions that help us want to spend more time with someone, it creates teammates who follow us from company to company and always want to be on our team.
Here’s how the principles of influence can make you the kind of leader whose team people beg to work on.
The first of the three commitments is clarity.  We all know the case study:  the leader doesn’t tell us exactly what he/she wants, and then gets angry when we don’t do what is expected.  For instance, you’re volunteering with a team on a Habitat for Humanity build.  The site supervisor wants the roof on the house by the end of the day.  But the supervisor doesn’t tell you.  He shows you how to put on a roof, and you have a great time with your fellow volunteers getting half the roof up.  At the end of the day, as you high-five and celebrate, the supervisor is a grumpy bear.  You ask him, “Why?”  He says he wanted the roof on the house.  You all leave not liking him because you could have worked faster if you
knew that mattered, and next year you choose to volunteer with a different charity.  The problem is clarity.  Leaders who are clear, who understand what their people need to completely own what they’re doing, are also the leaders we like and want to keep working with.
The second commitment is stability.  Stability comes from providing the resources we need
and building a culture of trust.  There is no more powerful tool than consistency to produce stability.  As the old McKinsey & Co. axiom goes: leaders do what they say they’re going to do.  When they do, by repeatedly giving people what they need to be successful, teammates know that they can count on the culture of an organization to meet their own obligations and goals.  For instance, when Ernest Shackleton tried to be the first to the South Pole, he brought every possible supply his team would need:  from wine and supplies to make cakes in the Antarctic winter to over a ton and half of bacon.  Because he consistently gave them what they needed over the year of preparation before the attempt at the pole, they set a new record even though everything went wrong and they almost lost their lives.  He was able to push them so hard because from his consistent provision of resources, they knew they could trust him.
The third commitment is rhythm.  The old model of hierarchical leadership will not
produce the best results in most cultures today.  Our globally connected and competing world, unified by social networks and powerful communication technology, means leaders have to be as generous to our teammates as they are to us. We can’t tell people what to do and expect it to get done.  When our teammates take risks, offer ideas, and invest, we have to
reciprocate.  The CEOs who people want to work for behave the same way with their boards and executive teams as they do with every other employee.  When a janitor sends an email with an idea for improving a product, the CEO reaches out and validates that janitor with the same enthusiasm he would one of his VPs.  When leaders get into a rhythm of reciprocating
communication, ideas, and validation with every member of their team, the team will model the behaviors and the culture will show its health by the results it produces.
People love to work with leaders who commit to relationships and an organizational structure that has clarity, stability, and rhythm.  Leaders can fulfill their commitments by being the kind of people others like, by being consistent, and by reciprocating the behaviors of their best teammates with every team member.  The leaders who make the three commitments and fulfill them with the principles of influence are the kind of leaders teammates want to connect with for life.

Group Dynamics and Influencing People

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson. Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions below on the comments link or direct to her email address:

A close friend and I had a discussion recently about how much of an effect our formative years have on the way we think and act as adults. We debated about the lasting influence the choice of school and college can have on a child. And although we found ourselves agreeing that the kind of education we had did in some way contribute to the kind of people we are today, we also realized that there were others who had the same education that we did, but who have totally different interests and attitudes in life today.

This made me wonder about the composition of a group and the influence that it has on each of us, and vice versa. Every group has a mix of people who are subject to common factors and in a similar environment at a point of time. But each of its members turn out differently and use (or choose not to use) their education and experience in different ways. Some are influencers and the rest become the influenced. The power factor may swing like a pendulum at times, but at any given time, there is always a set of a few people who influence the rest of the crowd.

Now if you have been an influencer from your early days because of your popularity, you don’t really want to give up your authoritative status. But you must realize that your influence is based only the group that you are with at present. If you change groups, either of your own will or because you’re forced to, the dynamics change and you must reorient yourself to suit the new group’s needs and priorities. And even though you’re used to being the influencer in your previous group, you may not have as much influence as you would like in your new group because there may be people who are more powerful than you. So to become an influencer, you need to get among the top few in the group.

Very few people have what it takes to be influencers, no matter how many groups we change. But for most of us, we have to try really hard to change our status with every group change we make. We may be popular or high achievers in school, but when we move to college, it takes time and effort to achieve the same kind of influence that we enjoyed in our younger days. It may even be the other way round – people who are nobodies in high school go on to do really well in college or later life.

The point is, no matter how much of an influence you currently have on people and situations, the dynamics keep changing within the context of the group. New people come in and old ones go out, and with each change, it is important that you realign yourself to fit in with the interests of the current group. This constant evolution is what makes you a truly influential person, one who can get people to follow your leadership without saying no.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Remember Their Name – The “How To”

This week is a guest post from Bob Fenner. I met Bob several years ago when he was a student at Ohio University. He hosted the table where I was sitting with coworkers while attending the annual Sales Symposium put on by students from the Sales Centre.

Upon graduating Bob relocated to Silicon Valley to pursue a career in IT Sales with two suitcases and a positive attitude. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he moved to California without any friends or family in the area and has been able to meet some incredible people along the way. He started his career in Inside Sales at Data Domain, now an EMC company, in the computer hardware industry.

He currently works for Merced Systems in Redwood City, California. Merced is the leading provider of Sales & Service Performance Management solutions. Bob started with Merced Systems this past August and is currently focused on building the Inside Sales team while maintaining responsibility for supporting regional sales teams in the Western US. Both are daunting tasks considering Merced Systems was recently named to the “Top 100 Fastest Growing Software Companies” by Inc. Magazine and to the ”500 Fastest Growing Technology Companies” in the US by Deloitte.

One of Bob’s favorite parts of living in California is exploring the surrounding areas including San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Wine Country, and the coast. He also told me he likes the fact that the weather is a little better than Ohio. Bob recently started as an Assistant Wrestling Coach at a local high school in California.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”

Remember Their Name – The “How To”

In Brian’s previous post, A Rose by Any Other Name, he writes that “names in fact do matter” and I am convinced that remembering names is a critical piece to building a successful network. I believe it is even more important to remember a person’s name the second time you run into them.

After reading Brian’s post, I began to think of how often I hear people say, “I am terrible at remembering names!” Here are a few tips I use to remember names during a first encounter in a professional setting:

  • Always repeat a person’s name when you first meet them to make sure you have it correct
  • Use their name throughout the conversation
  • Exchange business cards after a meaningful conversation

Take notes on the back of their business card on a few key points from your conversation (i.e., Steelers fan, wife and 1 daughter, handles sales training at State Auto)

Here are a few tips I use to remember names after I meet potential business connections:

  • Send them a follow up email – let me guess, you don’t know their email and are kicking yourself for not getting their business card. In my experience, 90% of people I connect with have emails with one of following aliases –,, or
  • Keep the email short and to the point. I like to mention it was great to meet them; I enjoyed hearing about a certain aspect in our conversation, and ask them to commit to a next step
  • Send it as soon as you have email access – do not wait to send your follow up email days or weeks later

My mother used to force me to write “Thank You” notes to every family member I ever received a gift from and I used to hate it. Now I want to say “Thank You” to her for forcing such a good habit that has paid off for me so far in my business career.

Follow up emails are a key to remembering a contact’s name and showing them you sincerely enjoyed meeting them. As Keith Ferrazzi, in his book Never Eat Alone, in the chapter “Follow Up or Fail,” writes, “The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95% of your peers. The follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking tool kit.”

  • Add the person on LinkedIn after meeting them with a personal message. If I can’t instantly match a category we have in common for connecting, I select “Friend” or “Other” and enter the work email address

Here are tips for when you see the person again:

  • I always introduce my full name when I see someone for the second time to cover for people who haven’t done their homework
  • If all of my tips have still not led me to remember the name, I will inconspicuously ask other people in the room what their name is before we greet again
  • I greet them with a big smile, firm handshake, and say “Hi Brian, Bob Fenner, it is great to see you again! How is your family doing?”

I hope these tips serve you well and help you become better at remembering names. Don’t forget, “The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name.”

Bob Fenner

An Influence Shortcut – What do you have to believe?

This week’s guest post is from Mike Figliuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development and training firm based in Columbus, Ohio. He regularly writes on the thoughtLEADERS blog ( I know you’ll enjoy what Mike has to share.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”
Many times in business, we try to influence people with facts. Massive piles of data, reams of analysis, and countless presentations try to get people to buy, sell, or do something. We spend countless hours trying to influence others to take action because we have no direct authority over their decisions.

The thing is, many times all this effort is a total waste of time and energy. We try so hard to get someone to act by bludgeoning them with data. Another dynamic that surfaces is the “influencee” asks tons of questions about minute details because they know such data is available and the analysis is possible. Allow me to try to stop this insanity.

Repeat after me: “What do you have to believe?” It’s the greatest shortcut ever (and one of the most powerful ones to boot). I’ve covered aspects of this dynamic before in another post ( but this one bears some further elaboration.

When we sell our services to our clients, some of them want to quantify the return (and they should absolutely consider this point in their purchase decisions). Unfortunately, the nature of what we train people on is hard to quantify by virtue of the fact it covers soft skills (leadership, communications, strategy, etc.). That being said, we’re still able to demonstrate to clients that they get a phenomenal return on their training dollars. How? We use the “what do you have to believe?” technique.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Let’s assume a specific training event costs $500 for one person to attend. The course is focused on productivity (doing less irrelevant analysis, holding shorter and more effective meetings, etc.).
  • The client says “So if I spend that much money, am I making a good investment?”
  • I then ask “Do you believe if you send someone to this course they will be able to save 60 minutes of non-productive time per month?” to which the client resoundingly answers “Of course!”
  • I then say “Then the conversation is over.” The client says “Huh? I don’t understand.”
  • “Look, let’s assume the fully loaded compensation of the person you send to training is $100,000 per year. That equates to $50/hour ($100,000 / 250 days / 8 hours). The payback period of the training fee is 10 months. Your 1-year ROI is 20% ($600 saved / $500 invested).”
  • “Oh. Okay. I get it. It is a good investment.”
  • “No. It’s a GREAT investment because in year 2 you also save $600. And year 3 and so on. And you get those future savings with no additional investment. Doing a discounted cash flow of that time savings makes your return tremendous. On top of that, you have to realize the person will now do PRODUCTIVE work in that saved 60 minutes and that work has value we’re not even calculating here.”
  • “Okay. Let’s do the training.”

We got there with a simple “What do you have to believe?” The client very much believes they’ll save 60 minutes a month (which is a very low hurdle to get over). If they believe that, then the rest of the argument holds up.It’s basic break even analysis. I could go out and conduct massive research studies on all participants who have ever attended our training. I could develop statistical models to prove exactly what the ROI is. Doing all that work is a total waste of time. All the client REALLY wants to know is if they’re making a good investment. If we can show them they’re making not a good investment but a GREAT investment, any additional analysis done with the purpose of influencing them is wasted energy.Take a look at some of the decisions you’re trying to influence. Can you get to a compelling recommendation by simply asking “What do you have to believe?” I’ll bet you can. I hope I just freed up some time for you to spend on more value-added activities.Mike
Managing Director, thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Are You “An” Authority or “In” Authority

Okay, it’s not 5:30 PM on Monday so why the new post? Well, I received an invitation from Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLeaders, LLC, to write a guest article and I didn’t want to pass up a great opportunity.

I met Mike several months ago and we’ve become friends and colleagues. We regularly share ideas over lunch and he’s been a tremendous help to me as I’ve developed my blog. Look for some guest articles from him on Influence PEOPLE in the future. For now, click here to read Are You “An” Authority or “In” Authority.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”