Interview with Julie Winkle Giulioni: On being an effective leader

Vera: Who would you say is a good manager?

Julie: Using manager as a generic term for anyone who leads the performance of others here, I would say a good manager is one who is able to balance and attend equally to two key priorities: the people side and the ‘business’ side of business. The people side is about being attentive, giving direction, support, affirmation, and development; and the business side addresses the bigger picture, strategic and more administrative duties that are also essential. People tend to have a natural disposition towards one side and whilst it’s important to have people bring their strengths to the work they do, being able to keep an eye on both elements concurrently makes a good leader.


Vera: Many managers become managers by accident or because that was the only pathway to promotion. Poor managers can be costly to an organization. What can an organization to do help such managers?

Julie: First, it’s best not to get into that position in the first place. Putting individual contributors into manager positions without proper grounding is not a good idea. Research shows that when these people are unsuccessful, they are more likely to return to the individual contributor role elsewhere rather than face taking a step backward within their current organizations. An organization limits itself too if it allows accidental, ill-prepared managers to carry on. They can address this by preparing more leaders especially those who may have expressed an interest in that direction as well as those in individual contributor roles. Feedback, collaboration, enhancing performance are all ways of developing leadership and employee careers.

Other ways are through mentoring, helping individuals to come up the leadership curve a bit more rapidly. So much of what we learn comes from what we see from others; so robust, generous mentoring to guide and coach people is helpful. Offer flexible development and on-demand support to those who need it. There are a lot of free and inexpensive resources out there for this. Also identify and provide support to high priority individuals whose failures can have significant implications if they don’t get leadership right.


Vera: What would you say employees need from managers that managers ignore or simply underperform on?

Julie: I did a study two years ago on level of satisfaction regarding career development. The difference in responses between generations was negligible.  All employees want managers whom they can trust. Trust is based on shared experiences and time. How as a manager, you spend your time is a signal of what’s important to you. Focused coaching, chatting in the cafeteria and the like all send a positive message.

Fundamentally, employees want to see that you’re interested in them beyond the workplace; they want to feel cared for and that they matter. To make a difference doesn’t require big, sweeping initiatives. Being consistent, following through, telling the truth, showing in your behaviour that your motivations are pure so that people feel that you are on their side all matter. When you let your heart shine through, people feel it… and will tend to cut you some slack in the process.


Vera: How do foresight and hindsight conversations help keep employees engaged?

Julie: Hindsight and foresight conversations are part of a 3-part model (including insight). Hindsight conversations relate to the people side and foresight the business side. Hindsight conversations are a form of collaborative reflection which helps you understand and appreciate who your people are, what they are interested in, not interested in, their talents etc. The insight from this gives you foundation for career development, for connecting with others and for energizing employees.

Foresight conversations are about what’s going on in the business – the needs, how things are changing, the economy, global practices etc – that help to inform the biggest possible picture. Bringing the two conversations together helps you arrive at meaningful insights that allow you to construct a plan that advances business needs and employee career objectives. It establishes dynamic engagement and energy in service of the business but also brings developing the business on the one hand and careers on the other in a meaningful way.


Julie’s profile

Julie Winkle Giulioni has spent the last 25 years improving performance through learning. She’s partnered with hundreds of organizations to develop and deploy innovative training products that are in use worldwide. Julie is well known and well regarded for her creative, one-of-a-kind solutions that consistently deliver bottom-line results. As co-founder and principal of DesignArounds, Julie leads multi-disciplinary teams that create award winning electronic and instructor-led training. She is an author and respected speaker on a variety of topics, including performance improvement, leadership, sales and customer service. She’s author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow Or Watch Them Go:  Career Conversations Employees want”. More about Julie’s work at

For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building go to

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