Holiday Conversation Outline


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holiday conversation outline

Holiday Conversation Outline

It’s time to revisit the Holiday Conversation Outline! 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.

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Collaborating in “The Void”


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During my leadership series, I sometimes talk about a specific episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “The Void”. I am a fan of both Voyager’s Captain Janeway and Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. They are wonderful leadership paradigms to emulate. However, I am particularly fond of “The Void” because Captain Janeway stands her ground in perilous circumstances and in opposition to her First and Second Officers.

In this episode, the ship is pulled into a large bubble in space that has absolutely nothing in it. There is a collection of ships inside the void that have been unable to escape. When a new ship is pulled in, everyone attacks it and steals food and any other useful items such as fuel. Talk about limited resources! The only necessities of life available are aboard hapless ships that are pulled into the void and that are completely unready for the attacks and thievery that they immediately encounter.

Every ship in the void is out to save itself. It makes sense. They will starve or freeze if they don’t get essentials from others. It’s an attitude that I often see in organizations and people. They feel that the only way to get ahead is at the expense of others. “Win-win” is not in their vocabulary. “I only do better if you do worse” is the underlying belief. However, there are other, better ways to get ahead.

Voyager’s food stores, fuel, and some other necessities are immediately stolen. Once they take stock of their situation, they realize that they have only a week’s worth of food to feed the crew. Janeway’s First and Second officers feel that Voyager must begin attacking smaller, weaker ships if they are to survive in the void.

However, Captain Janeway holds fast to the principles of The Federation to which they have pledged. She refuses to attack or steal. Her First Officer asks, “Should the crew be willing to die for those principles?”

Here is Captain Janeway’s response:

“If the alternative means becoming thieves and killers ourselves, then yes. But I’m betting that our principles are going to keep up alive. The Federation is based on mutual cooperation, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Voyager can’t survive here alone, but if we form temporary alliances with other ships, maybe we can pool our resources and escape.”

It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but each of us also cannot make it on our own. We need other people’s help in times of trouble, and we need their support for a healthy emotional state. I’ve tried forging ahead on my own and also moving ahead with a community. It’s way easier with a posse.

Janeway’s officers point out that there are few reasons for anyone to join them in an alliance. She answers that they will share their food and medical supplies and will defend ships that are attacked by raiders. She is planning to give away food and medical supplies that are in very short supply. Her officers object, and I love her answer:

“Then maybe we’ll only survive two days instead of seven. On the other hand, if we share what we have instead of hoarding it, we might find other people willing to do the same. We may lose a little weight, gentlemen, but we won’t lose who we are.”

There are two interesting concepts in Janeway’s answer. The first is sticking to our principles on principle. There are often difficult circumstances that tempt us to act in a way that is not in alignment with our values. We rationalize less-than-stellar behavior to ourselves by saying that we “had” to do it because of [fill in the blank].

I often hear people say that the bad behavior of others is reason enough to lower their own behavioral standards. They ask why they should play fair and be helpful if other people aren’t doing the same.

Let me say emphatically that there is no valid reason for us to lower our standards and ignore our values. Period. To go back to a phrase we all heard in childhood, do not jump off the cliff just because all your friends are doing it.

As leaders, it’s imperative that we maintain our standards, no matter what chaos swirls around us. Hoo doggy! That can be difficult! People lie to us, try to cheat us, and advance themselves at our expense. Maintaining our standards and living our values can feel next to impossible. However, it’s imperative that we use some self-discipline and live above the fray.

We are the lighthouse of integrity for others. We hold the standards and light the way. We create trust with our predictable and reliable behavior. Exceptional leaders do not have the luxury of indulging in bad or vengeful behavior. Our goal is to be the leadership role model for others to live up to.

The second concept is generosity. Janeway says, “Maybe the best way to get help is to give it.” I couldn’t agree more. We create goodwill and a positive work environment by giving our time and ourselves to others without any hope of recompense. It can feel counterintuitive to give time or resources to someone who has negative feelings towards us, but is there any other way to change the dynamic of the relationship? Giving less isn’t going to do it.

As leaders, our job is to help others create success. We do that by helping – removing obstacles and providing resources. We must also show support and a sincere belief in the person and his or her abilities.

Voyager made it out of the void. They gave away supplies. Other ships joined them. They did turn out to be able to do more as a coordinated whole. They found help in unexpected places and had to expel those who refused to live by their rules. By combining their technology, they figured out a way to escape.

I had the TV on while I was writing this blog. I heard Cinderella’s biological mother tell Cinderella the secret to success in life. She said, “Be courageous, and be kind.” That pretty much sums up the lesson in “The Void.”

We want to be courageous and live a life that we are proud of. We want to be kind to others and create positive relationships built on mutual respect. Cinderella’s mom said that kindness created magic. Captain Janeway and I agree.

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Don’t talk to yourself like that!


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We all have a little voice in our head, and how it talks to us can make a huge impact on our confidence and self-esteem. Negative self-talk can be a very destructive force. There are some things that we can do to improve the ways we talk to ourselves.

Begin by asking yourself if you would talk that way to a friend. Would you say, “You are stupid and incompetent!” to someone you care about? Of course not! If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.

Studies have shown that talking to yourself using “you” or your name (as if talking to a friend) increases confidence and performance, and decreases anxiety. For example, instead of “I can do this!” I say, “Kathy, you can do this!” It’s an easy shift to make. No one knows exactly why this works, but it does, so let’s run with it.

Talking to ourselves as we would to a friend and using “you” and our name helps to put us in an observer role, which is another way to battle negative self-talk. In one study, psychologists had people stand in the mirror and comment on themselves. If a person said, “I am a fat blob with a jiggly belly,” the researchers would ask them to state factual information as an observer. The participant could say, “I have a round abdomen.” Observing factually leads to action more often than negative self-talk does.

Lastly, we can name our inner voice. In coaching, we call it a Gremlin, and it seems intent on sabotaging our efforts. Many times, our Gremlins are trying to keep us safe. My Gremlin might say, “Don’t put in a proposal for that job. You won’t get it, anyway.” It’s trying to save me the pain and disappointment that I would experience if I didn’t get it. I can tell my Gremlin, “Thanks! I know you are trying to save me some emotional pain and disappointment, but I’ve got this! If I don’t get it, it will be okay.”

It’s time for us to pay attention to what we say to ourselves! First, let’s stop using “I.” We can talk to ourselves as we would to a friend, in grammar and in content. Let’s also be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Finally, let’s give our Gremlins a name and reassure them that we can handle whatever disappointments may come along.

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Practicing a Systems View


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Two or more people together create a system. In systems coaching lingo, the relationship between two or more people is called the 3rd Entity. When dealing with a challenge or creating a strategy, it’s important to consider what is best for each member of the system, and also to consider what would be most beneficial for the 3rd Entity.

A systems view can be a difficult thing to acquire and maintain. When working with clients, I sometimes use an exercise to help them see a situation from various perspectives, including that of the 3rd Entity.

To begin, my clients pick one person with whom they have a relatively minor disagreement. For the purposes of practice, it’s a good idea to steer clear of people and situations that make us feel very emotional. We want to practice with something that is only mildly irritating.

Let’s use a completely fictional scenario as an example. Let’s say that I have a male friend who insists on paying for things every time we do something together. To do the 3rd Entity exercise, I would begin by imagining or creating a triangle on the floor. The point at the bottom left of the triangle represents me. The bottom right point represents my friend, and the top corner represents our relationship, or 3rd Entity.

I would begin by standing on my own corner and stating my perspective. I might say things like, “It feels condescending and controlling when my friend insists on paying all the time. I feel like he is creating a situation where I owe him, and I don’t like it.”

It’s imperative that we stick with “I” statements when explaining our position and views. We always want to avoid blaming. It’s important to focus on our own feelings and views. Using “I” statements in this exercise is excellent practice for real-life interactions with others.

Once we have fully aired our views and feelings, we move over to the other person’s point on the triangle. I would step over and inhabit my friend’s perspective. It’s a great way to practice empathy. Of course, I don’t really know my friend’s motivations, and to fully resolve the situation, we would have to have a conversation. However, this is just an exercise right now to help us get better at seeing different perspectives.

When standing on my friend’s point of the triangle, I might say things like, “I feel unchivalrous and guilty if I don’t pay. I was brought up to believe that a gentleman always pays for a woman’s meal if she is my guest. I also enjoy paying. It is a gift, and it makes me feel good. I like sharing my abundance with others.”

Now, I might need to step back over onto my own corner to vent a bit after that speech that I gave for my friend. I have equally strong feelings about chivalry. I might say, “Well, insisting on paying because I am a woman makes me feel that you believe I am incapable of taking care of myself – that I am incompetent or an object to be cared for, and not a human being who is naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.”

Realizing that I am having a conversation with myself while inhabiting two roles, I could allow my friend a rebuttal. I could step back over onto his point of the triangle and say, “My wanting to pay has to do with my own values and feelings, not my assessment of your competence or worth.”

We don’t have to come to an agreement in our made-up conversation. It’s just a way to practice using “I” statements for our own views and feelings and using empathy to embody another person’s views and feelings. The next part is the main point of the exercise.

Once I feel that I have fully expressed both of our points of view, I step up to the top point of the triangle and look at the situation from the perspective of the relationship. It’s the broad systems view of the 3rd Entity. The questions to answer from here are “What would be the best thing for the relationship?” and “What does the relationship need to thrive?”

Obviously, the friction and resentment created every time my friend and I go out together by his insistence to pay and my negative reaction is not good for the relationship. The relationship wants peace and needs some compromise in order to thrive. The 3rd Entity needs for each of us to put our egos aside and find a compromise that we would both find acceptable.

The first question to ask myself is whether or not I care enough about the relationship to make any compromises. At work, we must maintain relationships with others. One of the hallmarks of great leadership is the ability to create and maintain positive relationships. However, in our personal lives, we can keep or toss people at will.

Let’s say that I do want to continue this relationship. It has value to me, and I want to help it thrive. The next thing to ask myself is “What am I willing to give up in order to support the 3rd Entity?” Could I just allow my friend to pay all the time and not feel any resentment? Probably not. However, I realize the importance of paying to him and could live with him paying some of the time. Perhaps I could offer a compromise in which I pay for one big event that I really want to do every now and then. I get to plan and pay for the entire thing. It comes down to a question of how much the relationship means to me and what I might be willing to do for it.

Now, it is absolutely not healthy if only one person is concerned with the health of the 3rd Entity. If my friend refuses to budge one bit and won’t consider my comfort, value, or feelings, it might be time to end the relationship. Each and every member of a system must be willing to do things to promote its health. We, of course, have our own values to defend, but we must be willing to compromise for the good of the system.

In the workplace, if I am the director of marketing, part of my job is to advocate for the marketing department. However, I must also consider what would be best for the entire organization. It is not responsible for me to insist on creating the ideal situation for the marketing department if those circumstances don’t support the goals and values of the organization as a whole.

In the end, we must have a conversation with the other members of our system. The triangle exercise can be done with a partner. Each person stands on his or her own point and says what they think and feel using “I” statements. Then both people move up to the top point and talk about what would be best for their 3rd Entity. It’s a nice structure that can help a  conversation be more collaborative and less adversarial.

“What does our 3rd Entity need to thrive in this situation?” is always an excellent question to begin a productive conversation.

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

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The Motivation of Relatedness


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During my leadership series, I talk about motivation theory. Exceptional leaders must know how to motivate themselves and others. There are quite a few research theories out there and some practical advice. Motivational suggestions range from celebrating small wins to changing an organization’s culture.

For years, one of my favorite motivation theories came from Drive by Daniel Pink. He says that we are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I still like his list, but a sense of purpose is a difficult thing for most organizations to create. For example, it’s difficult to link manning a machine that creates a part for another machine to ultimate life purpose.

I recently reread Drive and was reminded that Pink derived his three items from research done by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. The two researchers determined that autonomy, competence, and relatedness are our basic needs that, when met, increase our feelings of motivation. Relatedness is something that organizations can influence in order to help their people feel motivated.

When we feel relatedness, we feel connected to others. We have a sense of belonging, and we feel that we matter to others. Organizations can foster feelings of being cared for and connected to others in several ways.

When onboarding new employees, assigning a buddy or mentor can help people feel connected to their new organization. In a sense, it gives them someone to sit with at lunch and to chat with.

Chatting is an underrated motivational tool. Many organizations discourage personal discussions, and they are missing the point. Our feeling of connectedness with others is fostered when we share personal information. Of course, it’s not good to chit-chat all day, but getting to know coworkers on a personal level is healthy.

I feel a need to point out that there is such a thing as oversharing at work. As leaders, it’s important that we set boundaries for conversations. Super personal information should not be shared or listened to. We have the right and obligation to say when we feel uncomfortable with a conversation.

The foundation of relatedness is caring. You can read about ways to develop a caring attitude [here.] Researchers Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger have discovered that 90% of our impression of a leader consists of our evaluation of their warmth and strength. They suggest that leaders begin with warmth because it helps to build influence.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled “Connect, Then Lead”, they wrote, “Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.” In other words, demonstrating that you care about them – their ideas, feelings, and concerns.

(I can’t resist pointing out that focusing on warmth also fosters psychological safety, which we know is the secret sauce for exceptional teams.)

When using Deci and Ryan’s motivation theory, we might not be able to give a lot of autonomy. We can always ensure that employees gain mastery over their tasks. We also can let employees know how their work matters. However, ensuring that employees feel connected, seen, and cared for is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help them feel motivated to do good work.

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Not My Circus, Not My Elephants


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During a recent conference, I gave a short workshop on using a coaching style of leadership. We started by talking about the importance of a helping mindset. We talked about using powerful questions. The challenge for most people in my workshops is to refrain from offering solutions.

As leaders, we are trained to be fixers. We are constantly on the lookout for problems, and we then come up with ways to solve those problems. When we are using a coaching style of leadership, we help people figure out how to solve the problem themselves.

Before the group started coaching each other, I said, “It is not your job to solve the coachees’ problems. Your job is to ask them questions that will help them figure it out for themselves.” The purpose of coaching is to raise a person’s awareness around a challenge. The coach helps the coachee to get unstuck by helping them to see the big picture and possible paths to take.

For example, if I’m having trouble getting to work on time regularly, you could coach me on that. You might have several hypotheses about why I am late and several solutions in your head. It’s crucial that you keep them in your head and not let them spill out all over me.

There are a few reasons for this. First, if I use your solution and it doesn’t work, it’s your failure, not mine. Second, I have very little ownership and motivation if I’m just doing what you tell me to do. Third, you are giving me a solution that would work for you, but it probably won’t work for me. I am the expert in my own life and, hence, the only person who can come up with a great answer to my challenge.

Not telling others what to do has always been a challenge for me. My mother said that, as a little girl, I was bossy. During my coach training, I spent a great deal of time and energy learning to ask powerful questions instead of listing things that a person should try.

During coaching, and in life, people don’t really want to be told what to do. They want to be listened to, truly heard, and understood. When I am tempted to throw my two cents’ worth at someone, I have a phrase that I repeat to myself: “Not my circus, not my elephants.” It means that whatever situation a person is in, it’s not my responsibility to fix it. We are each the ringmaster in our own circus.

I did not share my personal reminder phrase about the circus at the workshop, but I did make a point of telling the group that they were not responsible for solving the problems of the people that they coach. One young woman told me after the workshop that learning that one thing had made the entire conference worthwhile.

She shared that she often took on other people’s problems, relieving them of the burden of solving them at all. The new perspective was freeing for her and placed the responsibility for facing and overcoming challenges where it belonged – with the owner of the situation. We are not doing anyone a favor by taking on and solving their challenges.

When we take on other people’s problems, we are telling them that we don’t think that they can do it on their own. We minimize their creativity and determinedness. We also steal the opportunity to build resilience. Every challenge we overcome makes us more confident to face the next. Although it can feel callous, we are helping more by supporting people in overcoming their challenges rather than jumping in and doing it for them.

If you are tempted to send someone your remarkable solution to his or her challenge, remember that you are only responsible for your own circus and your own elephants.

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

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No Trace of Injury


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I was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Worf (the big, scary Klingon) fell off a catwalk and broke his spine. Luckily, a friendly alien with healing powers was on the scene. He put his hands on Worf’s head and fixed the broken spine. Dr. Crusher scanned the now breathing Worf and declared that there was no trace of injury.

The phrase really hit me: No trace of injury. My first thought was “I want that.” As I move forward in life, I want no trace of past injuries. Of course, that can be impossible for physical injuries. My ankles will always have some stiffness and tons of broken blood vessels from multiple sprains while playing basketball in high school.

However, what about emotional injuries? Do we need to carry those scars forward with us throughout our lives? I began to ask myself what was keeping me from living a life with no trace of injury.

I have felt for some time that I am resistant to being happy and successful. It infuriates me when people say, “You look good. Everything must be going well for you.” The immediate response in my head is, “You try restarting your life from scratch at 58 and see how well it goes, Donkey Head!”

In truth, life is going well! I have work that I love. I’ve bought a condo that is beginning to feel like home. I have friends and family who love and support me. My life is not the life that I planned and worked on for 35 years, but it’s pretty darn nice!

So why do I resist joy and peace? It took some soul searching and navel-gazing to come up with the answer. I feel that I am minimizing or even forgetting the trauma of my divorce if I look like I’m doing great. Several years of my life were awful, bordering on unbearable. If I look good, I believe that others think it couldn’t have been that bad if I’ve managed to recover so well.

If I look depressed and miserable, I am showing the world just how yucky the experience has been. I wear my misery as proof of my suffering. Yes, I know, that sounds very melodramatic. I have never denied my gift for hyperbole. What’s surprising is that I actually felt that way. It was a bit of a self-revelation.

I know that I am not alone in dealing with the curveballs that life throws. Many people have suffered much greater traumas than the ones that I have experienced. We all have experienced situations and events that just weren’t fair! Absolutely not our fault and totally unfair! The injustice of life can really get my blood boiling.

However, blood boiling is not all that productive. In reality, the only person suffering from my suffering is me. Can’t I just let the injustices of the past disappear? After more soul searching and navel-gazing, the answer for me right now is no. I cannot let it go completely. I want all the injustices I’ve endured to live on.

I want them to live on, but I’m tired of carrying them. So, I decided to write them all down. When I think of a time that I’ve been harmed, I write it down. If I start to think of that particular event again, I stop and tell myself that I don’t need to hold on to it in my brain anymore because it’s written on paper. The process is a blend of release and cognitive restructuring.

I told my therapist about my coping mechanism, and he asked me to make a list of all the “shaping events” of my life. Those include both positive and negative events that have made me who I am. We got into a lively discussion about whether or not we get to choose how we are shaped by an event. I feel that we get to choose to some degree. I can choose to become bitter and resentful, or I can choose to process the @(*#%/! emotions, learn the lesson, and move on.

For the record, I do not like processing emotions. I spent a good deal of life stuffing them and ignoring them. Also for the record, that is not the healthiest way to deal with them. It’s best if we name the emotion, claim the emotion, and then tame the emotion, which means we integrate the feeling and emotion into who we are now.

I like the idea of creating a list of shaping events for several reasons. First, it’s a balanced list of good and bad life events that helped create the me I am right now. That’s some good information to bring to light and discuss. Second, our beliefs are based on our experiences, and I am ready to look at those beliefs and see if they are still serving me. Third, I like that an objective person is going to read my list. It makes me feel seen and heard. Someone else will see my traumas and triumphs. As a result, I don’t feel like I have to hold on to them so hard.

I will definitely be asking my coaching clients to do the shaping event exercise. Coaching is about raising awareness and providing support. I look forward to being their witness to life’s triumphs and injustices. I will be keeper of their experiences so that they don’t have to carry them around anymore.

If we hold onto the past, we cannot move forward with joy into the future – with no trace of injury.

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

Leading Change



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Great leaders must have a solid foundation of mindsets, perspectives, and tools in order to effectively lead a change. During a leadership series, I talk about Intentional Change Theory (ICT), Leadership and Self-Deception, the power of choice, communication, the discussion outline, handling conflict in a positive way, using a coaching style of management, and motivation theory before we begin to talk about leading change. We start with the change theory from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by,  Chip and Dan Heath which uses the model of the Rider, Elephant, and Path. You can read about all of these topics by following the link to the appropriate blog.

Here are some other considerations when leading others through a change:

  1. When facing a change, we want to clearly understand what is going to happen and why so that we can pass that information along to our subordinates. People are uneasy during a change, and knowledge makes them feel more comfortable. We want to create a clear picture of where we are going and why. People really like to know what the rationale is behind a change.
  2. We create buy-in by asking for people’s opinions and perspectives. It’s okay if they express negative feelings; it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and keep everyone focused on what they can do. We want to ask for input about the change as much as we can. However, it’s best not to ask for input if the change is set in stone or if we already have our minds made up; it breaks trust.
  3. Maintaining a positive attitude about the change, whether we like it or not, is crucial. Leaders set the tone for organizational change with their own attitudes. We create unnecessary hardship on people when we impose negative feelings about something that is going to happen anyway. We help the people around us when we stay positive.

If you have some people who aren’t really on board for the change. You can read about how to help them here.

Leading others through a change is the pinnacle of exceptional leadership that requires a solid base of foundational skills and knowledge.

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 Importance of Being Reliable


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Trustworthiness is the cornerstone of exceptional leadership. If people don’t feel that they can trust us, we do not have psychological safety or the positive relationships required for organizational success. However, trust is a difficult thing to cultivate and maintain because it relies on us being consistent. Great supervisors are consistent, dependable, 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.

Keeping our emotions and, more importantly, our actions in check takes a great deal of emotional intelligence. Specifically, we must exercise self-discipline. We don’t get to fly off the handle and yell whenever we get angry. When we talk about this in workshops, participants ask me if I ever lose my temper, yell, and say hurtful things. My answer is “rarely.” Actually, I can’t think of a time in the last ten years when I’ve hurled mean-spirited insults at anyone. I do get angry, and I sometimes raise my voice a bit and sound stern, but my words are still intentional and measured.

The first reaction that I get is incredulity, and then there is a definite belief that to control one’s temper is not healthy. One does need to express anger, but we don’t need to damage people, walls, furniture, or relationships to do it. Exercise is a great way to release pent-up anger. When my boys were young, I would hold sofa cushions while they hit on them and yelled. I’ve used both of those techniques.

I’ve also walked through my home ranting and yelling. I have a friend or two that will allow me to vent to them. One time I called a good friend and fellow coach and said, “I need you to say, ‘What an ass!’ every time I pause for breath for about three minutes.” She did, and I felt better. Recently I bought an ax-throwing kit for children. Think Nerf when you visualize it in your head. Throwing foam axes can be very cathartic.

The bottom line is that we can manage our anger so that we don’t intentionally harm others. Words can be powerful weapons. We want to express our anger in appropriate ways to others, and then go home and take it out on the sofa cushions.

Fortunately for us, people have a tendency to extend trust to others in the beginning of a relationship. The 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 to 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. However, the best course of action is to do our best each moment of every day to be reliable, consistent, and dependable.

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

Delegation and Exceptional Teams


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In workshops, I talk a lot about psychological safety, which Project Aristotle identifies as one of the required traits for exceptional teams. However, psychological safety wasn’t the only thing on the list of findings. The entire list is below.

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Structure and clarity can be a particular challenge for leaders transitioning from a “doing” role to a “delegating” role. However, delegation in alignment with clear roles and goals is a crucial skill to develop.

First-time supervisors are usually promoted because they are very good at what they do. Generally, they were successful employees with a lot of knowledge and ability. Once they become leaders, it can be hard to let go of the “doing” part. It’s difficult to let other people try and maybe not do it quite as well as they could have done it. However, as a leader, it’s important to help employees be successful by not jumping in and doing the tasks for them. It’s a leader’s responsibility to develop employees’ skills and experience.

When we are employees who are responsible for only ourselves, we are judged on our own actions and abilities. We can create our own success by how hard and how well we work. As a leader, we aren’t just judged on what we do alone anymore. Our success is dependent on the success of everyone who works for us. That’s a big difference.

The first step in delegation is to let each employee know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and what outcome needs to happen for the employee to be considered successful. Essentially, we are saying, “These are your tasks. When you do these tasks like this, you will be successful.” It creates a wonderful environment where everyone knows what they’re responsible for and what they’re supposed to be doing. Clarity on tasks helps employees grasp their roles and stay in their own lanes.

Once everyone has a clear idea of the tasks that they need to perform, it’s important to make sure that they have all the resources that they need to do those tasks. Sometimes employees don’t have the authority or ability to get the resources that they need. It’s our job as leaders to make sure that they have everything that they need to be successful. Resources could mean information for a report or parts to keep a manufacturing line running. Leaders are responsible for securing resources that employees cannot get on their own.

Another responsibility of leaders is to remove obstacles that keep employees from performing their assigned tasks. An obstacle could be a process requirement that slows things down or a person who is being uncooperative. If something is making it difficult for a person to do his or her job, it’s the leader’s responsibility to change the situation.

In summary, the first steps to consider in the delegation of tasks are:

  1. Make sure that everyone knows exactly what tasks they need to perform and why those tasks are important.
  2. Clearly define what success at each task will include.
  3. Ensure employees have the resources that they need to do their assigned tasks successfully.
  4. Remove any obstacles that are hindering employees in the performance of their tasks.

Clear and specific expectations for successful behaviors, along with the proper support, are foundational elements when building an exceptional team or organization.

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