Peter, an executive on the CEO’s team, hired me to work with him. Something wasn’t working in his relationships with his peers on the team, and he wanted to figure it out.

He felt ignored, dismissed and disrespected by his peers. They seemed to avoid Peter and often went around him to others in his organization for decisions that he should be making. So I interviewed the CEO and Peter’s peers to ask them about what they observed in the situation.

As it turns out the CEO felt Peter was smart and capable but could push too hard for his viewpoint, and he had given Peter this feedback on several occasions. Peter’s peers described a leader who would dismiss their ideas. He interrupted and talked too much, insistent that his solutions and ideas were the best.

Peter was not interacting well with his peers and they were responding in kind to his poor behavior. (read more…)

SmartBrief is talking directly with small and medium-sized businesses to discover their journeys, challenges and lessons. Today’s post is a Q-and-A with Steve McKee, president and co-founder of McKee Wallwork & Co., an integrated marketing firm in Albuquerque, N.M. McKee is also an author and a columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Are you a small-business owner and would like to share your story? E-mail me jdasilva [at]

McKee answered my questions below, and also used his company’s video studio to deliver an on-camera version of those answers. Both are below.

What is McKee Wallwork, and how did it come to be?

McKee Wallwork & Co. is an ad agency that specializes in revitalizing stalled, stuck and stale brands. We’ve conducted significant research to understand how companies can grow consistently, why they stumble and what pitfalls we all must avoid.

We’ve lived on both ends of the growth spectrum ourselves, having once made the Inc. (read more…)

As we approach the final quarter of 2014, most business leaders are shifting their focus to year-end responsibilities, such as delivering reviews, announcing promotions, and repositioning team or organizational roles. While it’s fun and rewarding to convey positive news, many leaders struggle with communicating about and managing the fallout from disappointing news or potentially unsettling changes that are inevitably announced this time of year as well.

There are generally three choices for dealing with such “elephants in the room”: (1) choose to ignore them, (2) dance around them insufficiently, or (3) address them in an open, direct and constructive way. I will always recommend the last approach, accompanied by a manager-as-coach mindset.

A best practice to help leaders coach their people through such stressful situations involves a common sense series of four Ps: Process, Probing, Perspectives, and Planning.

Process. Encourage your people to process setbacks rather than bottling them up. Disappointments obviously conjure lots of emotion, which is energy in motion, so it’s not healthy to simply brush them aside. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Alan Fox, author of People Tools for Business.

A growing number of business leaders are stepping out of their corner offices, shedding their stoic demeanor and adopting a more personal leadership style that favors authentic relationships.

Author and entrepreneur Alan Fox talks about the link between heart and personal connections as they relate to business in his new book “People Tools for Business.” SmartBrief spoke with Fox about how these two entities work together to create effective leadership and business success.

In your story “The Tin Woodman,” you say you hope you have become like him and finally “earned your heart” and learned how to exercise “effective compassion.” Why are these qualities necessary for leaders?

In the “Wizard of Oz”, the Tin Woodman wanted a heart. He had to go through adventures and vanquish the evil witch of the west to earn his heart, to learn how to care for people. (read more…)

SmartBrief is talking directly with small and medium-sized businesses to discover their journeys, challenges and lessons. Today’s post is about Fresh Off The Roast and Qualia Coffee, a coffee roastery and coffee shop, respectively, in Washington, D.C.

Are you a small-business owner and would like to share your story? E-mail me jdasilva [at]

Qualia Coffee (map) has been in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for more than five years, near the Green Line of the Metro, the Park View neighborhood and a dizzying array of new construction and new residents. It was born out of Fresh Off The Roast, a roastery that eventually expanded with Qualia’s retail offering.

I live in this neighborhood, as well, and have long enjoyed the coffee there. I wanted to find out how someone decided to open a shop in what has been, relatively, a retail desert, the challenges of being both a roastery and a coffee shop, and what’s next amid a changing neighborhood, including the arrival of a Starbucks inside the Safeway supermarket just down the street. (read more…)