Building and Rebuilding Trust


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Think back to the leader that you consider to be a role model. Do you trust that person? Participants in workshops always answer yes. We trust the people who we are willing to follow. Great leaders need to be trustworthy in order to have the personal influence needed to get people to follow them. We build trust by being consistent. Great supervisors are consistent and reliable.

Honestly, none of us are going to be reliable and consistent all the time, but we need to manage it most of the time. Our employees need to know that we aren’t going to yell at them when they come to us with a problem. They need to feel confident that we are going to be calm and reliable. We’re going to ask questions and figure out how to fix the situation. We want our employees to feel that we are a stable, reliable force that is going to help them. Until employees feel confident that their leaders are reliable and consistent, they are going to be tentative and watchful—maybe even subversive or dishonest in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation.

Fortunately for us, people tend to extend trust to people at the beginning of a relationship. Trust is a gift that we need to appreciate and work to keep. We want to avoid breaching trust because once it’s gone, trust is difficult to gain back. However, all is not lost if we lose someone’s trust. There are things that we can do to regain it as quickly as possible.

The first thing to do is to admit that we’ve done something disappointing. If we made a bad decision, forgot something, or lost our temper, we should admit it. The second thing to do is apologize. Some old-school thought states that leaders should never apologize. It’s based on the belief that leaders have to be perfect to be great leaders. The problem with that thinking is that none of us are perfect. We are human, and we make mistakes. We only make matters worse if we don’t admit them and apologize.

We also need to do whatever we can to fix the problem if that’s possible. An apology goes a long way, but we also want to do what we can to make things right. If we forgot to do something, how can we get it done and deal with the results of forgetting? If a plan doesn’t work, it’s time to regroup and try again. We help to rebuild trust when we do what we can to repair any damage that we’ve done.

After we have broken trust, we will have to continue to behave in a consistent, reliable manner until everyone feels comfortable again. It may take some time, so we need to be patient.

In summary, when we break trust, it’s important to acknowledge it, apologize, and do what we can to fix it. Then we continue to be trustworthy until whoever was affected decides that they can trust us again.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

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Podcast: Dealing With Gremlins


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We all have a voice or two in our heads that tries to keep us from taking risks and living large. If we follow our Gremlins’ advice, we don’t take chances on life, career, or love. The less we expect or try for, the less disappointment we experience – and it’s a terrible way to live. However, there ways to manage those Gremlins.


I did my best to …


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I am reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith, and one of his recommendations has made a big impact in my life. He recommends a system to keep us on track to achieving our goals that involves asking questions of ourselves each evening. (Actually, Goldsmith pays someone to call and ask him his questions, so I that’s an option.)

In his earlier books, he put the questions in a yes- or- no format. For example, one question might be “Did I exercise today?” You could also ask yourself, “Was I a good spouse today?” I have to admit that the questions in this format did not resonate with me.

In Triggers, he modifies the system. Instead of yes/no questions, each question begins with “Did I do my best today to…” He got the idea from his daughter, Kelly. They did some research around the new format’s effectiveness, and those types of questions work better.

The new format also works for me. “Did I do my best to…” gives me a lot more information than just asking if I did it or not. It also makes me feel like less of a failure if I don’t get something done.

I came up with a list of questions. One of them is “Did you do your best to maintain an orderly and peaceful environment?” I have had a relatively crazy week and a half. I made an unplanned trip to help with a minor family emergency. I returned home and then spent the next day on last-minute details for two workshops. The next morning, I packed up, facilitated a workshop, stayed in a hotel one night, facilitated another day, and returned home. Needless to say, my home was a bit of a mess, with piles of clothes and papers scattered about. I would have to answer “no” if you asked me if I had maintained an orderly and peaceful environment.

However, on the morning that I left for the workshop, I was ready about 20 minutes before I had to leave. I took the time to put a few things away and load the dishwasher. My condo wasn’t perfect, but I did do my best on that day to maintain an orderly environment – and felt good about it. I didn’t do perfectly, but I did do my best under that day’s circumstances.

I told my friend about the question system, and she came up with a good one that I am now also using: “Did I do my best to stay healthy and vibrant today?” I’ve been slacking off on my exercise and eating habits. This question gets me to reflect on how I’ve supported my health daily.

So far, I don’t record my answers as Goldsmith suggests. I can see the value of monitoring trends and progress. I might set up a system that works with my calendar. I do not see myself setting up an Excel spreadsheet, as some of Goldsmith’s clients did.

He has a list of 22 questions. That feels overwhelming to me. I cannot focus on that many things at one time. I have three questions right now. There are the two mentioned above and this one: “Did I do my best to earn one million dollars today?” I feel an urge to apologize for such a grandiose goal, but I like it. In my mind it encompasses stewarding money, getting on top of my investments, and creating new business.

Earning money is a top priority in my life right now. Doing my best to make ends meet or make more money aren’t inspiring to me. Making my personal worth equal to at least one million dollars is.

I find it amazing that these questions are as motivating as they are. I look for opportunities to do my best. When I was organizing the workshops across the living room floor, I took a minute to do a plank. Instead of reaching for my iPad and playing Plants vs. Zombies as a break from writing, I get up and pick up a few things or start laundry. The questions are also motivating me to stick with getting my podcast going, despite some frustrating technical issues. (My podcast is going to help me earn a million dollars – in case you were wondering.)

It seems that the key is to pick areas where you want to change behavior and focus on those areas. I don’t have a question about being a good friend because I have a nice pattern and relationships with my friends. I’ve picked three areas for now and want to change my behavior around those.

Behavior change is not easy! Think about past attempts at diet, exercise, and saving money. Goldsmith focuses on behavior change and talks about how environment conspires to keep us stagnant and tempt us. That’s a whole ‘nother topic, but the questions are helping me overcome my environment. I have a great big TV and an iPad sitting next to me that offer mindless breaks.

The questions are helping me be more intentional in my actions and moving me towards my goals. That feels better than watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – and I really like watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Clearing Old Dreams


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At the beginning of the year, we often create a list of resolutions. The list can include things we want to do, goals we want to achieve, and intentions for how we want to be. However, one of the most useful things that we can do to create a foundation for success is to clear out and organize our physical things.

When I coach clients, we often start by getting rid of stuff. It’s amazing what a clean, spacious, and organized closet can do for you if you are feeling stuck or frustrated in life.

There are lots of people out there who have ideas and structures for getting your home organized. When my own children were small, I found FlyLady. She got me to run through the house for 15 minutes with a trash bag, collecting things to set free for other people’s enjoyment and use. The two questions that she had me ask were “Is it useful?” and “Do you love it?” A yes to either question meant I got to keep it.

Now, of course, Marie Kondo’s system is all the rage. It varies some from FlyLady, but she has us asking the same basic questions. I think that both of them are missing one of the biggest challenges to getting rid of clutter: many objects represent our dreams for the future.

We all have a clear idea of what we want our futures to hold. We don’t always say them out loud, but we have a vision and a mental to-do list. For example, for a few years, I was determined to go to Italy. I had listened to the book Under the Tuscan Sun (which is absolutely nothing like the movie.) The book is a sort of mundane account of a woman and her husband who decide to buy a home in Italy.

My then middle school-aged children mocked me for listening to the author tell her story in her Southern accent. But the story and life intrigued me. I wanted lemon trees and arugula growing along the driveway.

In support of that dream, I bought books about Italy. I got flashcards to learn to speak Italian. They set on the “someday” shelf on the bookcase in my bedroom.

One day I was clearing books and deciding what to get rid of. By that time, the Italy collection had been collecting dust for several years. I hadn’t talked much about my dream, but my then-spouse didn’t have much enthusiasm for the idea. I also realized that I didn’t really want to live that far from my family.

I decided to give up that dream. It hurt, but it was also freeing. There were a lot of “shoulds” wrapped up in the dream, like learning Italian and saving money. It made me sad to give up the dream, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen, and I gave away the books that represented the dream.

We also have a clear idea about who we are and who we want to be. Maybe we see ourselves as crafty moms who gracefully manage to make papier-mâché snakes with our children. Maybe we fancy ourselves as craftsmen of wool or wood. It could be that we see ourselves as learned or athletic. All of these self-identities have physical items that go along with them.

One of the most difficult things for me to get rid of was a pair of rollerblades. At the time, I had always considered myself an athlete. I played sports in high school and continued to be active. In my 20s I could ski backward down a German mountain slope. In my 30s, I carried children and all of their accouterment to various activities. In my early 40s, I carried camping gear and hiked with Boy Scouts as an Assistant Scout Leader.

When I was 49, I had brain surgery to correct an abnormality. I now live with five tiny platinum coils in my brain. In the couple of years before and since, I was not athletic. In fact, I feel nauseous and dizzy if I break a sweat or lift something heavy. I am not who I was by any stretch of the imagination.

I was clearing out the garage and came upon my dusty rollerblades. I had tried them and wasn’t great, but I had hopes of mastering rollerblading. At that moment, I realized that I was never going to rollerblade. Bigger than that, I was no longer athletic. Wow, what a blow that was. It sounds obvious, but moving from who I wanted to be to who I actually was was incredibly difficult.

I put the rollerblades into the give-away pile while sobbing. It was letting go of the self-image and the thing that represented that self-image.

Most of the things that clutter our lives are “one-day” things that represent what we want to do or who we want to be. Those things are beyond “Do I love it?” and “Is it useful?” The questions are “Am I ready to accept who I really am?” and “Am I ready to change my vision of the future?”

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Podcast: Creating Goals That Work For You


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Sometimes setting goals can be a waste of time. How many items have showed up on your New Year’s resolution list year after year? We can create meaningful goals that we want to achieve with a little reflection and creativity.

2019 Intention: Small Acts = Big Impact


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During the height of holiday franticness, I was driving around town with a friend. We both commented on the demonstrated lack of Christmas spirit by our fellow drivers. People cut in front of us, sped past us, and were generally rude. It saddened me to see that the holidays had brought out worse, rather than better, behavior. Few of us were helping with peace on earth or showing good will toward others.

I don’t think we realize the impact that our actions have on others. Small acts can make a huge difference in someone’s life for good or ill. I was reminded of a time more than a decade ago when two people took the time to do a good deed. I feel immense gratitude for their actions to this day. Seriously, it makes me tear up with thankfulness whenever I think about it.

We were on a family vacation. Honestly, the details of where we were and where we were going are fuzzy. I think we were traveling by public transit to a ballpark outside of NYC. There were a lot of people on the train with us. My two sons were elementary school-age. When we moved to get off, my oldest son got trapped and didn’t get through the door in time. He was on the train, and the rest of us were off.

His father made a valiant effort to force the door open and was almost drug away by the train. I had read a lot of parenting and safety books and knew what to do. I went to the window, looked at my son and yelled through the glass, “Get off at the next stop and wait for us. We will be there as soon as we can.”

He was standing there, a small child in a group of adults. What happened next still brings a lump to my throat. A man and woman traveling separately both stepped towards him. One yelled through the glass, “I have him.” The other yelled, “I will wait with him.” The relief on both my son’s face and mine was obvious.

We all jumped on the next train, and when we got to the next stop, we saw my son standing on the platform with a man who was chatting amiably with him. The woman stood apart but was watchful. I get her and love her. She was making sure that the man was honorable. I was so relieved and grateful that I could have hugged them both and made them my best friends for the rest of our lives.

I have no idea what was on their agenda for that day. I don’t know if they missed meetings or were late for appointments. However, the 20 minutes they gave to us were some of the most significant moments in my life. I hope they know what an enormous impact they had in my life and my son’s. I hope they can feel my gratitude flowing toward them now.

Smaller, less time-consuming acts also can have a positive impact. Any time other drivers let me over into their lane, I wave to say thank you and send a small blessing for a good day and life their way. They have lowered my stress and improved my day.

Commitments to consistently and purposefully help can also change lives. I am fortunate to have a sister and son who made the commitment to call me every day when I was having a rough time. 2017 was a terrible year for me – lots of change and uncertainty. Much of the time, I was desolate and depressed. To be perfectly honest, I felt suicidal much of the time. I doubt that anyone, even my sister and son, knew the depth of my despair.

Yet they called over and over. They chatted with me and gave me hope. They knew I was sad and struggling and wanted to help. At the time, they had no idea how much they helped. They were literally my lifelines.

My son called as he drove home from work. There were construction and a weird traffic pattern that required him to cross lanes of traffic, which was usually at a crawl. He groused and yelled most days because no one was letting him get over. The other drivers would nudge the car ahead to be sure that he had no way to get in.

My call to everyone is “Let Andrew over.” You will improve Andrew’s day. You will ease a mother’s heart. You will actually feel better for the act of kindness. You will be supporting someone who is helping another. You will make the world a better place.

New year, new way of thinking. We all have the power to improve the lives around us and our own lives through small acts of kindness. When someone needs to get into your lane – in any real or metaphorical sense – pretend it’s Andrew, and please let him over. Your action will earn my undying gratitude and a blessing on your day and life.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Positional Power v. Personal Influence


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There is a simple motivational model called the Carrot and the Stick. It’s a metaphor. Imagine you are sitting on a wagon that is being pulled by a horse. If you want a stubborn horse to go forward, you can hit it with a stick. This is negative motivation, and it is fear of being beaten that motivates the horse. You could take a longer stick, tie a carrot to it, and put it out in front of the horse. The horse will move forward to try and get the reward. This is positive motivation. For the long term, you get better results from people by using positive motivation techniques – carrots.

Supervisors’ authority that comes from a job title is positional power. As supervisors, we can do things like putting people in for certain awards (i.e., give them carrots), and we have official ways to discipline people (i.e., use a stick to motivate). Positional power is important, but it isn’t what we want to use all the time because it’s only effective when we are with or near the employee. However, when we leave the area, the employee is no longer motivated. In fact, they will probably not work hard and will see what they can get away with. Using positional authority is a last resort.

On a daily basis, we want to use personal influence because it is more motivating and effective. We create personal influence by building positive relationships. Our employees will continue to work when we aren’t present if we have a relationship built on respect and trust. The main focus of the first section of the course is how to cultivate that personal influence.

One of the first steps is to define the qualities and abilities of an exceptional leader. In the workshops, the list created by participants usually includes knowledgeable, compassionate, confident, creative, approachable, humble, honest, trustworthy, trusting, big-picture thinker, motivating, inspiring, constant learner, consistent, and integrity.

In addition, there are two more qualities to highlight. Frontline employees always list two things right up front: listens and is fair. When we pay attention to people when they talk, it’s called active listening. When we practice active listening, we are letting people know that they are worth our time, that they are valuable. Listening with the intent to understand the other person’s point of view helps to build positive, trusting relationships. When discussing “fair,”  most employees mean not showing any favoritism.

It’s important to know that people usually don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. As supervisors, we don’t want to run people off with a negative attitude. Turnover is expensive for an organization. The statistics vary between 50-90% of an employee’s annual salary. If at all possible, we want to keep people working for us and make them successful.

As supervisors, we have an enormous influence over the people who work for us. We can create a pleasant and supportive environment that makes people want to come to work or a negative, fear-filled environment that employees resent and want to escape. We affect the quality of our employees’ lives at work and at home because people carry their dissatisfaction with work to their homes.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

The Power of Really Listening


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Being a good listener is one of the top two qualities that frontline employees usually list for a good supervisor and leader. So how does an employee know that we are listening? One of the first ways we can let people know that we are listening is with our body language. The most influential piece of any message that we send to someone is the nonverbal part. Nonverbal communication is our facial expression, tone of voice, and body language.

The appearance of listening is as important as actually listening. There are a few things that we can do to make sure we look like we are listening. The first is to squarely face the person talking – shoulders and hips should face the person. We can also lean forward a bit if we are sitting and sit up straight. It’s very important to maintain eye contact. We want to look at the person while he or she is talking. Eye contact can feel a little intense if you aren’t used to it, but we want to maintain eye contact as often and for as long as we can.

There are several body positions that do not give the impression that one is listening for understanding. One is leaning back in a chair with legs crossed and hands behind the head. It’s a control posture; it tells the other person that you are more important and that you might take what they say into consideration. Another position is crossing your arms across your chest. This posture is defensive and tells people that you are guarding against anything that they have to say. Facial expression also has a huge impact. Frowning or looking bored will make a person nervous. It’s best to look friendly and then show reactions to what’s being said. If it’s funny, smile! If it’s serious, look serious.

If our nonverbal message does not match our verbal message, the people we are talking with will go with the nonverbal message every time. If I say the words, “You are doing a good job,” but I roll my eyes, cross my arms, and use a sarcastic tone, the message that you take away is, “I am not doing a good job.” Even though I said you were doing a good job with my words, my body language and tone of voice let you know that I didn’t mean it. Nonverbal communication is powerful and always overrides verbal communication.

Looking like we are listening is important. However, more important is that we actually are paying attention to what is being said. We can be leaning forward and looking at a person and be thinking, “I think we’re out of peanut butter. Is that person still talking? I wonder what they’re saying.” Actual listening is the goal!

Supervisors often claim that they can listen while doing another task like checking email. First, we cannot fully listen for understanding if we are also concentrating on something else. Second, by not stopping all other activities and focusing on the person speaking, we are telling them that they aren’t as important as whatever it is we are doing. Employees complain that when they go into supervisors’ offices to tell them something, the supervisors never look up from their computers. They nod their heads and say, “Uh huh,” but do not fully listen for understanding.

If for some reason we can’t talk to someone when they initiate a conversation, we should tell them and ask if we can set up a time to talk later. We could say something like, “I really want to hear what you have to say, and I want to make sure that I can pay attention. Can we meet in 10 minutes, or can we set up a time?” Then they’ll indicate whether the conversation is urgent or not. If it’s not urgent, we can set up a time when we can give them our undivided attention.

In coaching, we talk about three listening levels. Think of the light of a flashlight as an indicator of where our attention is. In Listening Level 1, I have the flashlight pointing at myself. I am not listening to you at all. While you are talking, I’m thinking, “The right-front tire looks low, and we might be out of milk.” I’m only listening to the voice in my own head. At Listening Level 2, I have the flashlight trained on you, but it is a narrow and weak beam. I’m listening to the words but not paying attention to the situation or context of the words. Your body language may clearly show that you are upset, but I am not noticing that. At Listening Level 3, I have a big spotlight on you! I’m listening to your words, and I’m paying attention to your body language. I notice what emotions you are feeling by noticing your nonverbal communication. It’s not just the words, but the entire situation and your nonverbal communication that I’m focusing on at Listening Level 3.

In leadership workshops, participants take turns sharing something that’s important to them. While the speaker is talking, the listener practices good body language and listens for understanding. When the speaker has finished, the listener tells the speaker what he or she heard. Here’s the important part: if the speaker doesn’t feel that the listener has fully understood the point of the conversation, they start the process over and continue until the speaker is satisfied that the listener fully understands his or her point. It’s a valuable process to practice in everyday life to ensure that we really do understand what someone wants us to know.

When we listen for understanding, it is important to fully understand the other person’s perspective. However, listening for understanding does not mean that we have to agree with the person’s perspective or take his or her suggestions. We want to maintain a mindset that says, “There is a possibility that I might agree with you or that I might incorporate your perspective.” However, there is no obligation to agree at the end of the conversation. We can just say, “Hey, thank you. I appreciate you sharing your point of view, and I’m going to think about it.”

It’s also not necessary to ask for input all the time. Sometimes it can actually harm the relationship. For example, if we’re deciding on a policy and we know we’re going to do it a certain way, we don’t want to invite input on it. We shouldn’t lead people to believe that their input is valuable and can make a difference. If the decision has been made, we offer the rationale for the decision if that’s possible, but we don’t ask for any employee opinions.

Giving someone our full attention and listening attentively is a fabulous gift. It makes people feel like what they say is important and that they have value as a person. When someone feels truly listened to, they feel more positivity toward the person listening. As a result, the positivity of the relationship and the listener’s personal influence increase.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Intentional Change Theory


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Intentional Change Theory bridge the gap

A professor named Richard Boyatzis studies leadership and personal growth. He came up with a model for the best way for us to improve ourselves. It’s called the Intentional Change Model, and here are the steps:

  1. What does your ideal self look like? What skills does your ideal self have? In what areas is your ideal self an expert?
  2. Take a hard look at your real self right now. How are your ideal self and real self similar? Those are your strengths. Gaps are where your real and ideal selves are different.
  3. Create a learning agenda that builds on your strengths and reduces the gaps.
  4. Try new behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in alignment with your learning agenda. If one thing doesn’t work, then try another!

The final point that Boyatzis stresses is the importance of having a person to journey with you through your intentional change. He says that trusting relationships enable us to experience and process each new personal discovery better.

Personal growth is a challenge. It takes analysis and hard work. As Boyatzis says, “People change in desired ways, but not without intentional efforts.”

Take some time to think about who you want to become. What can your ideal self do? How does your ideal self behave? What thought patterns or perspective does your ideal self have? My ideal self is a little more fit and financially more secure than my real self. Those are my gaps. My ideal self and real self are both confident and motivated. Those are my strengths.

Once we’ve identified our strengths and gaps, we want to create a plan! My plan would include more exercise and actions that will create more financial security. As part of my plan, I get to try different things to accomplish those goals. You get to experiment, too! It’s fun to try new behaviors and thought patterns.

We all want to be sure that we have a trusted friend or coach to help us process the journey and increase our awareness.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at