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

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerLearning, an online training resource. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (Revised & Updated 2022), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), and It’s Okay to be the Boss (Revised & Updated, 2014). His newest book, The Art of Being Indispensable at Work, is available now from Harvard Business Review Press.

Bruce lectures at the Yale Graduate School of Management, as well as other academic institutions. He has written for the New York Times,

the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, and writes regularly for Training Magazine,, and Psychology Today.

Since 1995, Bruce has worked with tens of thousands of leaders and managers in hundreds of organizations. In recent years, Bruce was named by Management Today as one of the few contemporary figures to stand out as a “management guru” and he was named to the 2009 Thinkers50 Rising Star list. On August 13, 2009, Bruce was honored to accept Toastmasters International’s most prestigious honor, the Golden Gavel. Bruce is a lifelong practitioner of Okinawan Uechi Ryu Karate Do and holds a seventh degree black belt, making him a Kyoshi master in that style. He lives in New Haven, CT with his wife Debby Applegate, Ph.D., who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for her book The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher (Doubleday, 2006). Her new book, Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age, is available now from Doubleday.

Bruce Tulgan
Featured Videos

Current: Human Capital Management Strategy

Time 04:23

More Videos From Bruce Tulgan

Human Capital Management Strategy
Time 04:23
Challenges of Recruiting, Managing and Retaining the Best Talent
Time 04:31
Handling the New Workplace
Time 29:10
It's Okay to Be the Boss
Time 09:54

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

Bruce Tulgan
Featured Books

Not Everyone Gets a Trophyby Bruce Tulgan

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy

by Bruce Tulgan
Adapt your management methods to harness Millennial potential

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials provides employers with a workable game plan for turning Millennials into the stellar workforce they have the potential to be. The culmination of over two decades of research, this book provides employers with a practical framework for engaging, developing, and retaining the new generation of employees. This new revised and updated edition expands the discussion to include the new 'second-wave' Millennials, those Tulgan refers to as 'Generation Z, ' and explores the ways in which these methods and tactics are becoming increasingly critical in the face of the profoundly changing global workforce.

Baby Boomers are aging out and the newest generation is flowing in. Savvy employers are proactively harnessing the talent and potential these younger workers bring to the table. This book shows how to become a savvy employer and. . .

  • Understand the generational shift occurring in the workplace
  • Recruit, motivate, engage, and retain the newest new young workforce
  • Discover best practices through proven strategies, case studies, and step-by-step instructions
  • Explore new research on the second-wave Millennials ('Generation Z') as well as continuing research on the first-wave Millennials ('Generation Y')
  • Teach Millennials how to manage themselves, help their managers manage them, and how to become new leaders themselves

It's not your imagination--Millennial workers are different, but that difference is shaped by the same forces that make potentially exceptional workers. Employers who can engage Millennials' passion and loyalty have great things ahead. Not Everyone Gets a Trophy is your handbook for building the next great workforce.

Bridging the Soft Skills Gapby Bruce Tulgan

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap

by Bruce Tulgan
Solve the number one problem with today's young workforce--the soft skills gap

The number one challenge with today's young talent is a problem hiding in plain sight: the ever-widening soft skills gap. Today's new, young workforce has so much to offer--new technical skills, new ideas, new perspective, new energy. Yet too many of them are held back because of their weak soft skills.

Soft skills may be harder to define and measure than hard skills, but they are just as critical. People get hired because of their hard skills but get fired because of their soft skills.

Setting a good example or simply telling young workers they need to improve isn't enough, nor is scolding them or pointing out their failings in an annual review. However you can teach the missing basics to today's young talent.

Based on more than twenty years of research, Bruce Tulgan, renowned expert on the millennial workforce, offers concrete solutions to help managers teach the missing basics of professionalism, critical thinking, and followership--complete with ninety-two step-by-step lesson plans designed to be highly flexible and easy to use.

Tulgan's research and proven approach has show that the key to teaching young people the missing soft skills lies in breaking down critical soft skills into their component parts, concentrating on one small component at a time, with the help of a teaching-style manager. Almost all of the exercises can be done in less than an hour within a team meeting or an extended one-on-one. The exercises are easily modified and customized and can be used as take-home exercises for any individual or group, to guide one-on-one discussions with direct-reports and in the classroom as written exercises or group discussions.

Managers--and their young employees--will find themselves returning to their favorite exercises over and over again. One exercise at a time, managers will build up the most important soft skills of their new, young talent. These critical soft skills can make the difference between mediocre and good, between good and great, between great and one of a kind.

Its Okay to Manage Your Bossby Bruce Tulgan

Its Okay to Manage Your Boss

by Bruce Tulgan

Get what you need from your boss

In this follow-up to the bestselling It's Okay to Be the Boss, Bruce Tulgan argues that as managers demand more and more from their employees, they are also providing them with less guidance than ever before. Since the number one factor in employee success is the relationship between employees and their immediate managers, employees need to take greater responsibility for getting the most out of that relationship. Drawing on years of experience training managers and employees, Tulgan reveals the four essential things employees should get from their bosses to guarantee success at work.

  • Shows employees how to ask for what they need to succeed in their high-pressure jobs
  • Shatters previously held beliefs about how employees should manage up
  • Outlines what employees must get from their managers: clear expectations; the skills needed to perform their jobs; honest feedback, recognition or rewards

A novel approach to managing up, It's Okay to Manage Your Boss is an invaluable resource for employees who want to work more effectively with their managers.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problemsby Bruce Tulgan

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

by Bruce Tulgan

For more than twenty years, management expert Bruce Tulgan has been asking, “What are the most difficult challenges you face when it comes to managing people?”

Regardless of industry or job title, managers cite the same core issues—27 recurring challenges: the superstar whom the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker whom the manager cannot figure out how to motivate, the one with an attitude problem, and the two who cannot get along, to name just a few.

It turns out that when things are going wrong in a management relationship, the common denominator is almost always unstructured, low substance, hit-or-miss communication.

The real problem is that most managers are “managing on autopilot” without even realizing it—until something goes wrong. And if you are managing on autopilot, then something almost always does.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face shows exactly how to break the vicious cycle and gain control of management relationships. No matter what the issue, Tulgan shows that the fundamentals are all you need. The very best managers hold ongoing one-on-one conversations that make expectations clear, track performance, offer feedback, and hold people accountable.

For every workplace problem—even the most awkward and difficult—The 27 Challenges Managers Face shows how to tailor conversations to solve situations familiar to every manager. Tulgan offers clear approaches for turning around bad attitudes, reducing friction and conflict, improving low performers, retaining top performers, and even addressing your own personal burnout.

The 27 Challenges Managers Face is an indispensable resource for managers at all levels, one anyone managing anyone will want to keep on hand. One challenge at a time, you’ll see how the most effective managers use the fundamentals of management to proactively resolve (nearly) any problem a manager could face. 

It's Okay to Be the Boss: The Step-by-Step Plan to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Needby Bruce Tulgan

It's Okay to Be the Boss: The Step-by-Step Plan to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need

by Bruce Tulgan

Citing the most common reasons that bosses are unpopular and reluctant to perform core tasks, a survey of the consequences of undisciplined work environments outlines an eight-step program for becoming a strong manager.

Bruce Tulgan
Featured Reviews

Bruce Tulgan
Featured Articles & Resources

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Performance Improves When Managers Focus on Short-Term Results

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Seven Feedback Mistakes Managers Make

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Your Team Can't Manage Itself

One of the most insidious pieces of advice in modern management is to "stay out of your employees' way" and "let them do their best work". The intention is to display trust in...
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