Bruce Tulgan | Founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc. and Top Expert on Leadership Development and Generational Issues in the Workplace

Bruce Tulgan

Founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc. and Top Expert on Leadership Development and Generational Issues in the Workplace

Bruce Tulgan
Featured Keynote Programs

Fight Overcommitment Syndrome
Learn the Proven Best Practices for Saying “yes” and “no” at Work

Everyone at work is collaborating with lots more people than ever before. New tasks, projects, responsibilities, and opportunities come at us every single day. The truth is, everyone wants to be able to depend on each other and deliver for each other. But nobody can do everything for everybody. Too often, people overpromise, underdeliver—and burnout. That’s when siege mentality sets in: as individuals begin to resist collaboration, teamwork stalls and productivity suffers. One person’s burnout can have HUGE effects!

Navigating collaborative relationships—and the many demands on our time—is not going away. Overcommitting ourselves is not a sustainable solution for us, our teams, or our organizations. What does work? Adopting a true service mindset. That means delivering on what you promise by only saying “yes” to the best asks and the right opportunities.

Now more than ever, it takes extra savvy and skill to manage yourself, your many working relationships, and all the competing demands on your time and talent. But it’s not just about when to say “no”, it’s about how to say “yes”—a service mindset.

In this program, Bruce draws on decades of research, sharing true stories from real people, in real workplaces, in the real world, blending humor, insight, and concrete best-practices to show participants how to fight overcommitment syndrome. Participants will walk away as better collaborators, better prepared to avoid burnout and deliver great results.


  • What overcommitment syndrome and siege mentality look like—the things most people identify as burnout
  • Why adopting a true service mindset is not about saying “yes” to everyone and everything at work
  • How carefully choosing “yes” and “no” can build you a better reputation in your organization
  • The importance of aligning—up, down, and sideways—to ensure you’re not the one who ends up overcommitted


  • Adopting a service mindset that boosts your reputation at work, rather than damage it
  • When to say “no” and how to say “yes”
  • Executing one thing at a time, not juggling
  • Utilizing to-do lists and schedules to break work into doable chunks and find gaps for focused execution time
  • Maintaining alignment up, down, sideways and diagonal
  • Finding and building up Go-to People, when and where you need them

Back-To-Fundamentals Collaboration
Skills for Establishing Extreme Alignment on Your Team

Everyone at work is collaborating with lots more people than ever before. Not just those working alongside them, but all over the organization chart—up, down, sideways, and diagonal. The truth is, everyone wants to be able to depend on each other and deliver for each other. But when no one has the authority to require others to get things done, how are we supposed to deliver consistent results and maintain high performance?

Rather than escalating conflicts to a manager, resisting those conflicts and remaining frozen, or “proceeding until apprehended”, collaborate the right way: by aligning up, down, sideways, and diagonal.

The ad hoc, unstructured, as-needed communication typical of the collaboration revolution often breeds unnecessary problems that get out of control—leading to delays, errors, and plenty of relationship damage. Extreme alignment is the solution.

In this program, Bruce distills the proven best practices of real people, collaborating in the real world, into guidelines for communication that will revolutionize how you and your team work together. Drawing on decades of research into the habits and systems of successful people in highly-collaborative roles, Bruce equips teams with simple but powerful strategies for staying aligned, no matter where each person falls on the organization chart.


  • What The Authority Conundrum is, why it happens, and how it stalls productivity, damaging working relationships over time
  • The importance of alignment in today’s workplace—whether working as part of a team or as an “independent” contributor
  • Why establishing alignment helps build true accountability by turning it into a process, not a slogan
  • How to “work things out at their own level” and “take charge” without bribing, coercing, bullying, or overstepping their role


  • Aligning vertically, before going sideways or diagonal
  • “Going over your own head” at every step, through regular structured dialogue
  • Putting more structure and substance into ad hoc, unstructured communication
  • Dealing with interrupters and distractors
  • Having better meetings and being a great meeting citizen
  • Managing relationships in every direction on the organization chart: up, down, sideways, and diagonal

Managing Remotely
When the Workplace is No Longer a Place

Suddenly, everything’s turned upside-down. Where we work, when we work, how we relate to our bosses, to our people—it’s all in flux.

The most successful organizations and managers will design their futures and lead the way. They will be highly intentional and strategic about this sea change occurring in the work of managing work. They will acknowledge and understand the impact of what’s being lost— that intangible but oh-so-critical human factor—in order to address it. They will see that what matters today is, first, how we do what kinds of work and, second, when we do it.

Where we do it comes last.

Something valuable is lost when you and your colleagues work apart. Proximity does matter. Working remotely, you are missing a lot of unintentional soft data exchange; spontaneous interaction; and serendipitous value creation.

In this program, Bruce draws on decades of research and observation, to answer the most common and pressing questions about the new realities of working remotely:

  • What will organizations look like?
  • How will company culture be communicated and lived?
  • How will we handle the basic work of management—staffing, performance management, and development?


  • How remote work exacerbates the complications of interdependent, high-collaboration work
  • How remote work offers an opportunity for managers and organizations to take systems, practices, and competencies to a higher level
  • Why place and time matter less and less as the currency of work becomes what value you can add
  • Why even the most critical communication can be accomplished asynchronously


  • Communicating with intention and cadence
  • Coordinating the logistics of work and communication, while keeping the focus on results
  • Hybrid-style management, where working and communicating together onsite is the exception, not the rule
  • Mastering the three key aspects of managing in the new remote reality of work: staffing strategies; performance management; and employee development
  • Translating the fundamentals of strong, highly-engaged management to remote work
  • Conducting strong virtual meetings with teams and one-on-one
  • How to impart intangibles such as culture and attitude through strong, highly-engaged management

Fight the Undermanagement Epidemic
How to Build a Culture of Strong Leadership

If your managers are like most, they are stuck in a vicious cycle of undermanagement… and it’s likely they don’t even realize it.

Undermanagement is hiding in plain sight in nearly every workplace. Despite all the meetings and metrics surrounding everybody at work these days, nine out of ten managers struggle to practice the fundamentals of leadership. They don’t provide employees with regular high-structure, high-substance guidance, direction, support, and coaching. As a result, unnecessary problems occur and problems get out of control. That’s why most managers spend so much time in firefighting mode. Then they are even more convinced that they don’t have enough time to practice the fundamentals.

What is undermanagement and how can you recognize it in your organization or team?

What are the costs of undermanagement?

Why is it getting so much harder to manage people today?

What are the most common myths that keep managers from taking a more highly-engaged approach?

How can you break the vicious cycle of undermanagement?

In this program, Bruce Tulgan answers these questions and more, drawing on decades of workplace research and sharing true stories from real managers. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete best practices, Bruce teaches leaders how to fight the undermanagement epidemic and start building a culture of strong, highly-engaged leadership.


  • The eight costs of undermanagement that lead right to the bottom line
  • The seven myths that prevent most managers from being highly-engaged with direct reports
  • Exactly what employees need from managers in order to succeed
  • Exactly what managers need from senior executives in order to deliver what their employees need
  • Strategies, options and next steps


  • Understanding and identifying the signs, symptoms, and effects of undermanagement in your organization
  • Identifying the specific challenges managers are facing in the real world today
  • Regular high-structure, high-substance, coaching-style management
  • The most effective ways to help managers learn, embrace, and adopt the best practices of highly-engaged management
  • Making a systematic commitment to proven best practices at every level

It’s Okay to Be the Boss
Back to Fundamentals Leadership

Most managers spend a lot of time communicating with their direct-reports, but their communication is too often lacking in structure and substance. As a result, problems hide below the surface, until they blow up, and then everyone has to jump into firefighting mode. That’s why so many managers are stuck in a vicious cycle of undermanagement.

The solution: Highly-engaged management.

What is managing on autopilot and how can you avoid it?

What are the three most common questions managers ask their direct reports?

What are the questions YOU should be asking?

What is management by interruption and how can you stop the interruptions?

How can you put more structure and substance into your management communication?

In this program, Bruce Tulgan answers these questions and more, drawing on decades of workplace research and sharing true stories from real managers. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete best practices, Bruce helps managers confront their own bad habits and teaches leaders a step-by-step approach back to the fundamentals of highly-engaged management that anyone can put into action.


  • Build relationships of trust and confidence with direct reports
  • Effectively delegate tasks, responsibilities, and projects
  • Keep employees focused on what’s important and moving in the right direction
  • Increase productivity and quality for high-, mid-, and low- performing employees
  • Increase retention of superstar talent
  • Reduce waste, inefficiency, errors, downtime, and conflict


  • Conducting regular one-on-ones with direct reports
  • Communicating clearly and effectively, with an emphasis on coaching-style dialogue
  • Tuning in to the particular strengths and weaknesses of every individual on the team
  • Working through or around obstacles in order to hold employees accountable
  • Making expectations clear
  • Monitoring, measuring, and documenting employee performance
  • Helping employees solve problems related to productivity, quality, and behavior
  • Dealing with persistent performance problems
  • Tying rewards to performance

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy
How to Bring Out the Best in Today’s Young Talent

What are managers saying about new young employees today?

“Their expectations are unrealistic.” “They lack good work habits.”

“They don’t want to pay their dues and climb the ladder.”

“It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their morale.”

The reality? Millennials and Gen Z employees are not disloyal, lazy slackers. They do not want leaders who humor them or do the work for them. Today’s young talent want managers who take them seriously, set them up for success, and recognize their best efforts. They want leaders who set clear expectations and provide support and guidance when needed.

In this program, Bruce Tulgan draws on decades of longitudinal research tracking young people in the workplace, busting the myths and getting to the reality of what Millennials and Gen Z truly want and need in the workplace. With true stories from both managers and young workers, Bruce blends humor, insight, and concrete best-practices to help audiences build the next generation of high-performers in their organization.


  • Understand the attitudes and behaviors of young employees, beyond the popular myths
  • Attract and select the best young employees when recruiting
  • Get new young employees on board and up to speed
  • Help young employees learn and grow in their jobs
  • Help young employees work smarter, faster, and better
  • Teach young employees to understand where they fit in the organization
  • Reduce turnover among high-performing young employees and increase voluntary turnover among low-performing young employees
  • Prepare the best young employees to assume management responsibilities


  • Communicating the right messages during the onboarding process
  • Turning every young employee into a knowledge worker
  • Utilizing an ‘in loco parentis’ approach to management
  • Teaching young employees how to genuinely care about great customer service
  • Teaching young employees the basics of self-management
  • Teaching young employees the basics of the manager-employee relationship, and how to effectively communicate and work together for everyone’s success

The Great Generational Shift
the Workforce is Changing, Are You Ready?

Older Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce in droves, taking with them their collective skill, knowledge, wisdom, institutional memory, and old-fashioned work ethic. Second-wave Millennials and post-Millennial Gen Z are flooding in, bringing a whole new attitude to work.

Meanwhile, older Millennials and Gen X are stuck in the middle, with the lion’s share of day-to-day supervisory responsibility.

Not only is this a great generational shift in the demographics of the workplace. It’s also an epic turning point in the norms and values around work. With a workforce more generationally diverse than at any other time in history, employers and managers are facing new challenges at every point on the age spectrum.

Do you know where each generation in your workplace is coming from and where they are going?

What kind of succession planning is your organization doing? Are you developing talent at every level?

What kind of knowledge/wisdom transfer are you prepared to do?

How are you attracting, selecting, and onboarding the best young talent?

What are you doing to make sure that new hires are not thrust into a sink-or-swim workplace that will drive them away?

Bruce Tulgan addresses these questions and more, drawing on decades of workplace research, sharing true stories from real managers. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete best-practices, Bruce helps audiences understand the generations in the workplace today – each at different life stages, with conflicting perspectives, expectations, and needs—so that you can turn age diversity into a strategic advantage.


  • How the generational numbers are expected to shift in the coming years
  • How the norms and values of the workforce will continue to change
  • What these changes mean for employers, managers, and employees
  • How to build cooperative and mutually supportive work relationships with those of other generations
  • How to assess and address the human capital management issues presented by generational diversity


  • Appreciating the attitudes and behaviors of other generations
  • Making adjustments in your own attitude and behavior in order to communicate and work more effectively with other generations
  • Focusing on the common ground—the work you have in common
  • Evaluating the generational mix of your team and planning for the human capital management issues you may face:
  • What can you do to improve recruiting, selection, training, performance management, retention, and development for those of all generations?
  • Is there a mid-level leadership gap?
  • Is there a gap in bench strength for senior management?
  • How can you establish a formal knowledge & wisdom transfer process in your organization?
  • Could a flexible retention model solve your biggest staffing issues?
  • Is there a talent drain among your aging workforce?

It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss
Learn the Proven Best Practices of the Most Successful High Performing Employees

The working relationship employees have with their immediate managers is the number one factor determining their success.

So many managers are so busy – or otherwise unwilling or unable to provide strong leadership – that most employees simply do not get what they need from their managers. But employees can do a lot to help themselves.

Be the employee who says to every boss, “Great news, I’m going to take responsibility for my part of this management relationship! I know you are busy. I’m going to work with you to make sure I understand exactly what you expect of me. I’m going to learn standard operating procedures and use checklists. I’m going to keep track of everything I’m doing and exactly how I’m doing it. I’m going to help you monitor, measure, and document my performance, every step of the way. I’m going to solve problems as soon as they happen, and if I come to you for your help you’ll know I really need you. I’m going to learn and grow and be able to take on more responsibility. Then you’ll be one of the most valuable employees that boss has.

Blending humor, insight, and concrete best-practices based on decades of research, Bruce Tulgan guides employees through the critical skills of managing their relationship with their bosses by highlighting what factors they can and can’t influence and how to work successfully within that framework.


  • Build relationships of trust and confidence with their managers
  • Seek appropriate guidance, direction and support from their managers
  • Take on new tasks, responsibilities and projects
  • Stay focused at work and moving in the right direction
  • Increase their individual work productivity and quality
  • Keep track of their own performance and report regularly to their managers
  • Reduce waste, inefficiency, errors, down-time, and conflict with other employees
  • Learn, grow, and go the extra mile in their jobs


  • Effective self-management
  • Establishing regular, structured, one-on-one communication with your manager
  • Customizing your approach to every person who manages you
  • Getting the information you need to understand exactly what is expected of you, every step of the way
  • Assessing and planning for the resources you need
  • Earning more rewards by working smarter, faster, and better

Building New Leaders
Critical Skills for First Time Managers

Every day, people move into positions of supervisory responsibility and leadership because they are very good at their jobs, they’ve shown a commitment to the organization, or they’ve shown maturity and the ability to take on more responsibility. These new roles often involve responsibility for other people. New leaders usually get some quick lessons in doing some new paperwork. But too often, nobody ever teaches them how to do the people work.

Every new leader must go through the challenging process of assuming authority, establishing communication with direct reports, and managing workflow. This is especially daunting for those who are younger and less experienced.

How do you introduce yourself as a strong new leader without being “the new sheriff in town?”

How do you project the right amount of humility without soft-pedaling your authority?

How do you ask the team what should change and what should stay the same without raising expectations unrealistically or inviting an endless group debate?

How do you quickly assess the individual members of the team?

In this program, Bruce Tulgan draws on decades of research, sharing real stories of helping new leaders stand up in their roles and thrive. Blending humor, insight, and concrete best practices, Bruce introduces new leaders to the “take charge by learning” approach to standing up as a leader and gaining the tools to be a successful manager.


  • How to take on and carry out supervisory, management, and leadership responsibilities
  • The fundamentals of highly-engaged management
  • How to build relationships of trust so they are not just managing their direct reports but truly leading them
  • How to continually cultivate and improve their management skills


  • Conducting regular, ongoing, one-on-one meetings with direct reports and senior leadership
  • Talking like a performance coach, communicating expectations clearly, and establishing authority as a new leader
  • Adjusting management practices to fit the strengths, weaknesses, and personality of each direct report
  • Effectively monitoring, measuring, and documenting performance
  • Creating “real accountability” based on performance
  • Addressing and solving employee problems such as issues with productivity, performance, and personal behavior

The 27 Challenges Managers Face
Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems

In hundreds of advanced management seminars, Bruce Tulgan has taken experienced leaders through one problem-solving session after another, focusing on one real life case study after another: “Who are the employees you are really struggling with? What are the really tough cases?”

Like clockwork, the same basic cases come up over and over again—the same 27— maybe it’s the superstar the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker the manager cannot figure out how to motivate, the one with an attitude problem, or the two who cannot get along. From decades of research, Bruce has identified the most frequent and toughest challenges managers face and the best step-by-step solutions.

Of course, different challenges require different approaches. What’s astounding, however, is how many of these challenges— even the most difficult—fall away when managers really commit to high-structure, high-substance communication.

In this program, Bruce draws on decades of research, sharing true stories from real managers, blending humor, insight, and concrete best-practices to show participants how to apply the management fundamentals to the challenges managers most often face.


  • How to identify and avoid the vicious cycle of undermanagement
  • The most common ways that managers spend their management time and techniques for gaining control of that time
  • The back-to-fundamentals approach to high-structure, high- substance communication
  • How to apply the fundamentals to their own daily management challenges


  • Overcoming the challenges unique to new, first-time leaders
  • Teaching self-management
  • Managing performance, such as productivity and quality
  • Managing employee attitudes and interpersonal conflicts
  • Motivating and retaining superstars
  • Developing new leaders
  • Working around resource constraints, logistical hurdles, and rapid change
  • Renewing commitment to strong, highly-engaged management

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap
How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today's Young Talent

There is an ever-widening soft skills gap in the workforce, especially among the newest young members of the workforce. Soft skills like self-awareness, people skills, problem-solving, and teamwork may be less tangible and harder to define and measure than many of the hard skills, but they are absolutely critical.

The cliché is that people get hired because of their hard skills but people get fired because of their soft skills.

When employees have significant gaps in their soft skills: Potentially good hires are overlooked. Good hires go bad. Bad hires go worse. Misunderstandings abound.

People get distracted. Productivity goes down. Mistakes are made. Customer service suffers. Workplace conflicts occur more frequently. Good people leave when they might have otherwise stayed longer.

The good news is that soft skills can be taught, coached, and developed – just like technical skills. All it requires is the right understanding and commitment from managers and leaders in your organization.

In this program, Bruce Tulgan shares true stories from real managers to illustrate how you can tackle the soft skills gap in your organization. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete best-practices, Bruce teaches managers how to successfully improve the soft skills of their direct reports using his research-based soft skills competency model paired with the fundamentals of highly-engaged management.


  • What the soft skills gap is, where it comes from, and its costs for organizations
  • RainmakerThinking’s soft skills competency model, and how to apply it to your organization
  • How soft skills are no less important than technical skills
  • Which soft skills are most often lacking in today’s young employees, and how to address them
  • How to not only improve soft skills, but effectively engage young employees in the process


  • Integrating soft skills into every aspect of the human capital management process, from hiring to talent development and retention
  • Identifying and communicating which soft skills are most important to your organization
  • How to approach soft skills gaps in three categories:
  • Followership
  • Critical Thinking
  • Professionalism
  • Applying a teaching-style leadership approach to coaching and developing the soft skills of your team

Winning the Talent Wars
Recruiting and Retention for the New Hybrid Workplace

Employers are facing more severe talent shortages than any time since we began our workplace research in 1993. The most acute factors will ebb with time. But there will be lasting echoes.

While many people left their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, many others stayed in place waiting for the right time to leave. As hiring soars to record levels in the post-pandemic era, quit rates are also soaring as pent-up departure demand is released.

There are six steps to gaining strategic advantage as an employer in the new hybrid workplace.

  • Define a clear value proposition.
  • Build and maintain a steady supply chain of applicants.
  • Be very, very selective.
  • Stay in close dialogue between hiring and day one.
  • Structure on-boarding and up-to-speed training.
  • Turn every manager into a Chief Retention Officer

Bruce Tulgan breaks down each of these steps, drawing on decades of workplace research and the best practices which have allowed employers to gain control of turnover. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete strategies, Bruce helps participants understand today’s talent wars and shares techniques for attraction, selection, on-boarding, up to speed training, performance management, development, and retention.


  • The short- and long-term factors affecting today’s talent wars
  • The five costs of voluntary turnover
  • The top four causes of early voluntary departures
  • The top five causes of mid- and late-stage career departures
  • Why strong, highly-engaged management is more important than ever
  • The six steps to gaining a strategic hiring advantage in the new hybrid workplace


  • Improving on-boarding processes to reduce turnover among new hires
  • Defining a clear and compelling employer value proposition
  • Building and maintaining a steady supply chain of applicants
  • Aligning communication up, down, sideways, and diagonal on the organization chart to improve outcomes—even in a hybrid work environment
  • Creating an upward spiral of improvement for every employee in the organization through high-structure, high-substance communication
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