Using the Wind


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I talk a LOT about the power of choice in the leadership series that I create and facilitate. You can read about the Magic Wand of Destiny here if you aren’t already familiar with the concept.

When discussing how to effectively wield the Magic Wand of Destiny, I draw pictures of a leaf, a boulder, and a sailboat. You can see above that my drawing talents are limited!

We can choose to be like a leaf that is blown about in the wind. We are in a constant state of reaction to the events around us. I visualize leaf people as running about saying, “Oh no! The wind is blowing me this way. Oh no! The wind is blowing me that way.” You could characterize this as a victim mentality.

We can choose to be like a boulder on a mountain that is not moved by any of the circumstances around it. I visualize boulder people as refusing to adapt or change to any circumstance or situation. They are going to sit in the same place, thinking the same thoughts, and doing the same things no matter how much change swirls around them.

Lastly, we can choose to be a sailboat that uses the wind and water to get where it wants to go. Sailboat people adapt and change along with changing circumstances. They are aware of what’s going on and use it to their advantage.

I grew up on sailboats, but let me give some context for those with less nautical knowledge. A few years ago, I went to Mexico with a friend. We hired a guide to take us on a sailboat out to a reef to do some snorkeling.

On the way out, the wind was behind us, and we sailed quickly to the reef in a pretty straight line. In case you are wondering, it was amazing! We saw so many interesting and beautiful sea creatures.

The trip back was not as quick or easy. The wind was blowing straight at us if we faced our destination. The only way back was to zig-zag. In sailing lingo that’s called tacking.

First, you go to the right of where you want to go. Then you tack and head to the left of where you want to go. Actually, it was exhilarating. We clambered from one side of the boat to the other at each turn, ducking to miss the boom, and the sail moved from one side of the boat to the other.

We used this maneuver to get a little past our destination and then headed in to the dock with the magnificent tail wind.

2020 has given us a lot of changing wind to deal with. Mostly, I’ve been a sailboat person, with brief periods of leaf flailing. My biggest change was moving my workshops from in-person to virtual. The beginning was fast and bumpy, but I have to say that I’m very pleased with how things are going now.

I’ve adapted many of the engaging exercises that I did in person. I send out welcome boxes with all the things we need to interact, have fun, and learn. I didn’t think I’d like it all that much, but I really do!

Now 2020 is coming to a close. I feel myself letting out a sigh of relief. Despite its challenges, 2020 has been a good year for me personally.

I had two grandchildren born in 2020, both now healthy and strong. My business stalled, pivoted, and thrived. The family and friends who have had COVID-19 have all gotten through it.

I realize that not everyone is so lucky, and my relief is tinged with sadness for those who have suffered terrible loss and insurmountable challenges in 2020.

And now we face 2021. I saw a funny meme on Facebook that warned against getting too hopeful about the new year because 2021 could just turn out to be 2020 old enough to drink. Ha! That one made me snort-laugh – and it could be true. This wild ride could just get wilder.

And that’s okay if we are sailboat people! As long as we pay attention to which way the wind is blowing and use it to get where we want to go, we will be fine.

I will be focusing more on my online presence in 2021. Putting more time and energy on one thing means letting go of others. One of the things that I am letting go of is writing this weekly blog.

I have enjoyed writing about the leadership topics I discuss and teach in workshops. It’s helped me to clarify my thinking and given me quite an encyclopedia of leadership topics.

The blog has not significantly widened my reach or helped me increase my influence and income. Since my goal for 2021 is to help more people and make more money, the weekly blog is going away.

I will still write here when I am struck with an idea. If you are interested in hearing about it, please subscribe to the blog on my website. The blog will live on for a while.

I will be writing a monthly blog of a completely different style at some point in 2021. It will still have great info, but it will be tied more directly to my online products.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through the last three years. Your comments and encouragement have helped me keep going – and will help me fill my sails in 2021.

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Facing Change


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I tell a story in leadership workshops about how three fictional people face a change in leadership and direction at their organization.

Jane embraces change. When a new opportunity comes along, she is ready to make the most of it. She quickly learns about the new goals and works to create ways to implement them.

Sean doesn’t mind change at work if he believes it’s worthwhile and going to be successful. He watches the change first and then jumps in after he’s had a chance to see how it is going. He’s a skeptic who wants to watch how the scenario plays out before he takes part. Once he does, he will have useful and practical suggestions to make the new way of doing things work.

The last person is Al. He hates change. He goes kicking and screaming all the way when forced into a change. Once, when a change of process happened at work, he said, “Things were better when Elaine was in charge.” A co-worker answered, “Elaine retired 10 years ago.” Al’s mantra is “If it’s working even a bit, don’t change it.”

Then I ask the participants to tell me what those three people are doing 10 years from now. They consistently tell me the same stories. Jane is running the company. Sean is one level up in management, maybe. Al has been fired and is living under a bridge.

I find these responses fascinating. Although many of us resist change, we recognize that the people who embrace change have the best chances at success.

In my systems coaching training, CRR Global defined these three roles as Leaper, Bridge Builder, and Traditionalist. Jane is a Leaper, Sean is a Bridge Builder, and Al is a Traditionalist.

In reality, all three roles have value. If everyone leaped, we’d all be in a constant state of flux. Bridge Builders make sure the change makes sense and help find practical ways to make it happen. Traditionalists ensure that foundational values and people are not forgotten.

Here’s the really interesting bit – we can adopt different roles depending on the situation. We might be a leaper when facing a major change at work, but be a tradition holder when it comes to trying new types of food. We might even be a tradition holder who prefers peanut butter and jelly all the time.

Changes in technology might put us squarely in the Tradition Holder role as we resist learning new software, or we might be the ones waiting in line for the latest gadget. The roles we fill can change with the situation that we are facing.

As leaders, we face a lot of change. In each situation, it’s important to first identify our preferred change role. Is our first impulse to be a Leaper, a Bridge Builder, or a Traditionalist? Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence and great leadership. Then we manage our response and figure out how to help everyone else.

We can harness the energy of the Leapers, logically engage the Bridge Builders, and ensure the Tradition Holders feel listened to and valued. When trying to orchestrate an organizational change, the Tradition Holders can seem like an immense pain in the rear.

However, Tradition Holders can quickly help us find possible problem areas and also help to ensure what is useful and valuable is not lost in the shuffle.

In general, when change happens at work we want to get through it with as much ease as possible. Time spent resisting change is time not spent on achieving organizational goals. By identifying the roles our employees are filling, we can craft a response that helps everyone move ahead with positivity and intention.

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Feedback Is a Gift


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It is common to feel defensive when we get feedback about our performance or decisions. Once when I was listening to a presentation, I pointed out that it was sexist to include a picture of a company founder with a Victoria’s Secret model when talking about a company’s achievements.

The person giving the presentation got flustered and defensive. He responded with a comment about wanting to include interesting factoids. Hmmm. Maybe.

But rather than getting huffy, the presenter could have responded to my observation this way: “Thank you for pointing that out. I can see how it could be viewed as sexist.”

He didn’t have to agree with me; he could’ve just acknowledged that my view was valid and thanked me for speaking up. In that way, he would have encouraged others to share their views.

Feedback is a gift. Someone is broadening your perspective and giving you something to think about. It is important to say “thank you” even if you don’t agree with what the person is saying.

We want to encourage dialogue! We do that by creating a safe place to give and accept feedback. When we do that, we are creating psychological safety.

As leaders, we want to say “thank you!” in response to every bit of feedback that we receive. Remember that feedback is a gift!

People make themselves vulnerable when they give feedback. It’s important to validate their views and show gratitude for the time they took to share a different perspective.

Yes, some people are mean when they give feedback – sometimes aggressive. It doesn’t matter. It’s still a gift. Thanking them for sharing their perspective is a great way to diffuse a tense situation and start a dialogue. It also helps to create and maintain the positivity of the relationship.

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Holiday Conversation Outline


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holiday conversation outline

It’s time to revisit the Holiday Conversation Outline! It feels especially important this year to poiint out that we can talk to family and friends without trying to convince anyone (or be convinced) that one particular perspective or idea is “right.”

I’ve talked about an effective outline for conversations in the past. Discussions at work usually require some sort of agreement. Many personal conversations do, as well.

However, holiday discussions over a family meal rarely require agreement and an action plan to move forward. Keeping this in mind can help us create a peaceful and enjoyable holiday.

Let’s go through a holiday version of the Conversation Outline.

Opening. The opening happens when one person brings up a topic. When acting in a leadership position, we want to make sure the topic is focused and clear. Holiday openings made by anyone at the table can be a messier affair.

We can help to start the conversation in a positive way by avoiding assumptions and getting curious. If Aunt Joan says, “People with tattoos shouldn’t be allowed to get food stamps,” she is opening a conversation. Instead of disagreeing immediately and assuming what she means by that comment, we could better serve the group by getting curious.

We could ask, “Aunt Joan, what connection is there between tattoos and receiving food stamps?” Now, our nonverbals our key here. If we ask with the slightest hint of sarcasm or disapproval, all is lost! Curiosity is our guiding light. Why does she think there is a link between tattoos and food stamps? Don’t make assumptions. Ask!

Once we have a clearer picture of her objection, we have our topic of conversation.

Discover and Share. This is the most important step in a conversation. We often skip this step and move straight to positional arguing about the best thing to do.

In Discover and Share, we take time to listen fully by being completely present and listening for understanding. We pay attention to the words being said, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. We are curious about everything and ask a lot of questions.

It’s very important to be curious about both the fact and feeling parts of another person’s stance. We usually focus solely on the facts. We can get a lot further along in knowing another person if we ask about their feelings, as well. We could say to Aunt Joan, “This topic seems to make you angry. What about this makes you mad?” Many of our most closely held beliefs aren’t logical and can’t be swayed by logical arguments. Understanding a person’s feelings is the key to understanding the person.

During holiday gatherings, we can keep the sharing part to a minimum. It’s imperative that we keep in mind that we are not trying to change anyone’s mind about anything. We are listening to understand and creating positive relationships. If we manage to offer a perspective the other person hasn’t thought about, it’s a bonus – but not the goal.

The chances of changing Aunt Joan’s mind are minimal at this point. We are giving her the gift of our attention. The greatest gift that we can give is our time and attention. We like to be seen and heard but don’t often feel like we are in the spotlight of someone’s attention.

Develop Solutions. In business, we begin brainstorming once we have all the facts and feelings on the table. First, we do some divergent thinking and come up with as many solutions as possible. Then we begin to narrow our choices by deciding which ones are practical, useful, and truly help the group as a whole.

With family and friends, we can participate in this step if everyone else thinks it will be fun. Coming up with outlandish possibilities to challenges discussed can be enjoyable. It can also be a nightmare. If we start handing possible solutions to Aunt Joan, who is an argumentative person, she is likely to get defensive.

During this phase when acting as a leader, it’s important to continually ask what is best for the people involved in the decision – whether that is a couple, a team, a family, or an organization. Developing Solutions at a holiday gathering is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL.

Agree. Ignore this step entirely! Most holiday discussions at the dinner table do not require agreement. Accept that families can offer us some of the best opportunities for personal growth. We get to practice letting others be themselves without any effort on our part to change them. Remember, the chair is a chair.  One conversation with us isn’t going to transform Aunt Joan into an open-minded, empathetic person. We get to practice listening to her fully and allowing her to be who she chooses to be.

Close. If we did need to agree on how to move forward, we would now check to make sure that everyone was on board, and we would explicitly state the agreement. Since we didn’t require agreement, we don’t have anything to clarify.

However, we can close by summarizing what we learned about the other person’s feelings and perspective.

The Discover and Share step of the conversation is the most important step. Holiday gatherings give us the chance to practice being curious without the pressure of coming to an agreement.

Bonus: We create a more positive relationship with friends and family. Our holiday gift to the world can be to make each person we talk with feel listened to, understood, and respected.

If we continue to practice curiousity and active listening in 2021, we participate in the gift that keeps on giving.

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What CAN I Do?


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Back in 2009, I had a brain abnormality corrected. The doctor threaded a tube up through an artery in my groin area, past my heart, through my carotid artery, past the jugular vein, and into my brain. There he deposited five tiny platinum coils to create a wall between arterial and venous blood that was mixing in a fistula.

For reasons I’ve never fully understood, that abnormality that I’d had all my life began to cause problems when I was about 48 years old. At first, I heard a whooshing noise in my right ear. Then I began a gradual decline. I didn’t have energy to do the things I’d once been able to do. Then it got worse.

I would put five dishes in the dishwasher and then have to sit down. I got the clothes out of the dryer a few at a time because I couldn’t carry a laundry basket that was full.

In the end, my right eye started moving in and out with each heartbeat. I got double vision and was unable to stand up. I went in for a brain angiogram on May 5, 2009, and they decided to do the procedure immediately.

After the surgery, there was a blessed quiet in my head. The noise that had plagued me for five months was gone. I was ecstatic! Elated! However, it was the only symptom that went away immediately.

The double vision faded in a couple of weeks. I could sit up, stand and walk short distances soon after. But then I didn’t get a lot better anymore.

I kept hoping that I would get back to “normal” for more than a year. Eventually I accepted the fact that I’d improved as much as I was going to and that I would never regain the stamina that I once had.

Then I had a grand, ol’ pity party! I kept repeating over and over the things that I could no longer do. I couldn’t exercise. I was having trouble making it through a day of training. I couldn’t stay on my feet for long periods of time. There was a super long list of things that I couldn’t do.

Eventually, I got tired of the pity party. I got tired of focusing on all the things that I was unable to do. It was time for a change.

I decided to focus on the things that I could do. I could still think and read. I could still create courses. I could learn new things. All the leadership knowledge I had collected was still in my head.

In the end, I decided to create an online course. Boot Camp for New (and Lightly-Trained) Supervisors was born. I learned a lot during that process – and I eventually saw some more physical improvement.

It seems that COVID-19 has put us in a place of focusing on all the things that we can’t do. We can’t get together for the holidays. We can’t go out without a mask. Some of us can’t pay bills because we’ve lost our jobs or livelihood. There are a million things, both big and small, that the pandemic has taken from us.

Just as I couldn’t do anything about my physical condition, we can’t avoid the societal and personal consequences of COVID-19. We can, however, take stock of the things that we can do.

We can work to maintain a positive attitude. It is work – and worthwhile work. Our immune systems function better when we are positive. We are more creative, broad-minded, and better at problem-solving.

There are several ways to improve our moods and outlooks. It’s important to find the one that helps us. Meditation is helping me quite a bit right now.

Counting my blessings when I get into bed at night is another technique that I use. Reaching out to talk to others with a positive attitude can also help during isolating times. Finding something that brings us joy and indulging in it can also make life feel more bearable.

We can still celebrate the holidays, although the celebrations may look different this year. Different isn’t always worse. We can accept this time as an invitation to slow down and embrace the spirit of the holidays more than the actions that we associate with them.

We can stop fighting what is and comparing it to what we feel life should be like. We waste a lot of time and energy railing against circumstances that we cannot change. Acceptance brings peace and more energy for other things.

Finally, we can still offer help and ask for help. Each of us has been impacted in a different way. Some of us monetarily. Some of us emotionally. Some of us physically. Catching COVID-19 can leave a person weak and tired for weeks, if not more. It’s important that we ask for the help that we need and give the help that we can offer.

Ultimately, no matter the times that we live in, creating our best life includes helping others create their best lives. If we all do that, we improve the world for ourselves and our children – even in a pandemic.

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

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


Thanksgiving 2020


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So. Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving celebrations this year are going to be different for many of us. The bigger the celebration in the past, the more different it is going to be.

The pandemic has forced us to do many things differently. For example, I no longer facilitate leadership workshops in person. I am now fluent in Zoom.

I am grateful that many of my clients have decided to move to a virtual format because I like working, eating, and paying my electric bill. However, I resisted the idea at first. How could I possibly recreate the in-person experience?

News flash! I can’t. I cannot make it the same. However, I did make it good. Different isn’t always bad.

We still start with an ice breaker exercise to get everyone communicating and in a positive mood. Now we answer questions using markers and blank paper. We hold up our answers for everyone to see. It’s fun! I love reading everyone’s responses and learning more about each person.

The group doesn’t get to visit at breaks the way that they did when we met in person, but they still get lots of opportunities to talk with one another. I talk less and let them talk in breakout rooms a lot more.

One of my most brilliant ideas was to send each participant a welcome box that contains the handouts and other items they need for the exercises that we do. They get Play-Doh and kazoos because there is no reason why we can’t continue to learn and have fun.

Some things I do the same. Others, I adjust. Some are newly created. The change in format motivated me to evaluate things I’ve done for more than a decade. It was a gift that got me to be more creative than I’ve been in years.

We can look at Thanksgiving in the same way. It’s not going to be the same, but it can still be good! With a little creativity and the wonders of modern technology, we can still celebrate and be grateful.

College kids and grandparents can read stories via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime to children whose parents are busy fixing a meal.

Taking turns sharing stories on various topics would be fun. I’d like to hear stories from my sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren about the time that they had the most fun in water, what skills they are proud of, and the most memorable trip they ever took.

If memorable doesn’t have to mean fun, I’m pretty sure my sons would tell about the time they went to sleep on a sofa bed that was covered with hundreds of ticks. That was memorable – and funny now that enough time has passed.

A family show-and-tell or art show would also be fun!

I’d also like the chance to tell people what I appreciate about them. I’d like to hear what they appreciate about me. Deeper conversations can happen with a little prompting. It’s an easier thing to manage when it’s done in a virtual format.

We just have to let go of insisting that Thanksgiving must be the same in order to be good. In fact, it can be different – and wonderful.

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Kindness Matters



November 13 was World Kindness Day. The various posts about kindness reminded me that kindness is an essential leadership quality.

Leaders often push back at the idea that kindness matters. They say, “I don’t have to be kind. I’m not their best friend!” True, we definitely should not be an employee’s best friend.

However, we don’t have to be someone’s friend to be kind to them. Holding high standards for someone while being respectful is expecting excellence while showing kindness.

Parenting is a good example. As children grow up, parents maintain high expectations and standards for them. There are consequences if the children don’t live up to those standards. The parents aren’t helping the children by letting them get away with less than their best. Parents deeply want their children to be successful.

That’s the same perspective we want to have with employees. We care about them and their success, so we set clear expectations and standards. Then we hold them to those standards. Being kind doesn’t make us a pushover.

Sometimes it helps to imagine how we would want someone to talk to us about one of our mistakes or less-than-perfect performance. Would we respond best to someone intent on making us feel bad about our poor performance?

We would not. Shaming can be an effective short-term motivator, but it doesn’t inspire ongoing excellence. We want our employees to be successful. Our success as leaders depends on the success of the people who work with us.

One of our primary goals as leaders is to create positive relationships and create personal influence. Both of those things are really impossible to create unless we are kind to people.

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State a Positive Need



It’s not uncommon for us to complain about things. Humans are hardwired to notice and remember things that they see as wrong.

Sometimes we see something that isn’t efficient enough or an action that challenges our value system. Maybe someone’s thoughtlessness sets us off.

Complaining is natural – and not terribly useful.

If we are having a disagreement and I only tell you what’s annoying me, you have to guess at what would make me happy. It’s not the most efficient way to resolve a disagreement.

Most of life works better if we state a positive need, rather than just our complaint. For example, we can complain about the way someone writes a report or loads the dishwasher – or we can show an example of a well-written report or demonstrate the way we’d like the dishwasher loaded.

In workshops, I give the group a simple map and then tell them which turns not to take as they plot a course. They rarely get from the start to the finish when I only tell them what not to do.

Once I give explicit directions, tell them exactly when to turn and in which direction, they get to the finish easily. We can’t just tell people what not to do; we must tell them what “right” looks like.

In fact, many leaders insist that employees state a positive need. When someone comes into their office complaining about something, the leader asks for a solution. Everyone learns to create a possible solution before lodging a complaint.

It’s also important for leaders to model the behavior. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t take the time to figure out and share what the ideal situation looks like.

They just tell their employees when they aren’t doing it right, which leads to frustration on both sides. We must clearly define what success looks like and then help people achieve it.

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Remember the Feeling



It seems that motivation is pretty thin on the ground for a lot of people right now – myself included! It’s time to pull out a trick from the leadership bag.

One of my goals is to clean the kitchen each evening before I go to bed. Lately, I haven’t been doing such a great job.

I just can’t find the motivation to get myself up off the sofa and do the dinner dishes. It really doesn’t take very long, but it’s the starting that seems beyond me.

When I do get the kitchen sink shiny in the evening, it’s great to walk into the kitchen in the morning. It’s all clean, and everything is ready to go. I don’t have to clear the sink or move things around. I can hit the ground running.

Walking into a clean and orderly kitchen is wonderful. I feel like I’m already winning the day. I am proud of myself for doing the hard task the night before, and I save a lot of time. The first task of the day isn’t an uphill climb to the coffee maker.

It’s important to fully embody the fabulous feeling of being greeted by a sparkling kitchen – really pay attention to where I feel it in my body. The goal is to be able to recreate it on command.

The trick is to call up the feeling when I’m sitting on the sofa in the evening and inertia has me in its grip. I close my eyes and remember the feeling I get when I walk into a clean and shiny kitchen in the morning.

That feeling of accomplishment is very strong. I want to recreate it. It’s such a great way to start the day. Remembering the feeling is a great motivator.

Running can create a runner’s high that the runner wants to experience again and again. In the same way, the positive feeling that Future Kathy gets when Past Kathy does the dishes can be a little addictive – and something we can use to our advantage.

Waking to a clean kitchen is just one example. It could be the great feeling of getting a report in on time or being fully prepared for a negotiation. It could be the awesome freedom during the weekend if you get your blog written early.

The trick is to remember the feeling of success and focus on it fully. If the feeling is strong enough, motivation to do the task will follow.

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Absolute Candor


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I’ve been rewatching the new Picard series – which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I am a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, and I love Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

In this new series, I am particularly taken by a group of Romulan warrior nuns called the Qowat Milat. Don’t worry! You don’t have to understand anything in the last sentence to get value from the rest of the blog. (But how awesome is a group of Romulan warrior nuns who only bind their sword to lost causes?!)

What I really like about the Qowat Milat is that they live “The Way of Absolute Candor.” They believe in “total communication of emotion without filter between thought and word.” Wow! Can you imagine what life would be like if we all practiced absolute candor?

We wouldn’t have to guess any more about whether or not someone was angry with us. If they were upset, they’d just say, “I’m upset about this.” We’d know immediately if it was something that we said or the fact that we are out of orange juice.

If we were hurt by someone’s comment, we’d just tell them. I recently had someone that I pay money to for consulting say to me, “I don’t know why you’d ask that question.” I did not tell this person that they had pissed me off, were not fostering psychological safety, and needed a refresher course in delivering customer service that delights.

I swallowed my anger and went on with the discussion. In truth, I didn’t do either of us any favors in the long run. We continue to work together, and I do not like this person. I did not give them a chance to see how their behavior was perceived. I never opened the door to the opportunity of repairing the relationship because the other person had no idea that there was a problem.

How one practices absolute candor would be key. In Picard, two members of a small crew hook up one night. There is some awkward tension between them the next morning. The character who practices absolute candor said, “The obvious tension between you makes me uneasy.” It was said in a calm and nonjudgmental way. Brilliant!

In systems coaching, we call that “naming the emotional field.” As a coach, we name the emotions that we sense are present during a discussion or workshop.

I had a difficult time with this technique in the beginning because I had never paid attention to the emotional field before – or my own feelings. I just kind of kept going a step at a time, relying on logic alone.

Naming the emotional field is a powerful tool. During a discussion, it gets everyone to pause and check in with how they are feeling about what is going on.

The feeling part of a discussion is just as critical as the fact part. When we all start to ask why we feel a certain way, we generally open the vault on a bunch of new and relevant facts.

When first hearing about the Qowat Milat, one of the characters says, “Anyone else think the Way of Absolute Candor sounds potentially annoying?” I agree.

If we all ran around commenting on every feeling, the world could become an annoying place. I’m not sure I want to hear everyone’s emotions about the food they eat, the clothes someone is wearing, or my love of Star Trek: The Next Generation characters.

However, the world would be a less tentative and tension-filled place if we calmy shared how we feel in situations that are important and with people who matter.

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