Do Your People Give You What You Want Every Time?

Several years ago I was coaching an executive sales team. During the meeting, someone brought up that the salespeople in the field were struggling. The VP of Sales said something like, “I have been meaning to address that for some time. We really do need to do a better job of training our people.” I was present a couple of months later when one of the directors walked into the room before the meeting began and threw a huge three-ringed binder on the conference table as he exclaimed, “Here it is.”

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Can You Manage Up? Eight Questions for Increasing Your Influence

As I travel around the country speaking and training people to hold potentially difficult conversations, I am frequently asked if the skills and processes which I teach can be used with one’s boss. I forcefully affirm that one can be more effective as a communicator no matter to whom they may be speaking. Many times people respond with something like, “Well, sure it works if they have had the training.”

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Criticism is Not Feedback: Seven Questions for Understanding the Source of Your Frustrations

The summer between the second and third year of law school is the most important for finding a job after graduation. I was fortunate to secure a fantastic internship with a law firm that specialized in disaster litigation in the Western United States. I learned a lot during that summer and really enjoyed my experience. However, my supervising attorney severely lacked the communication skills fitting someone of his position. One of the most demeaning things he did was to refer to me as “Dumb - - - -.” He used this disparaging term any time he addressed me. After enduring...

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How Can You Increase Innovation through Collaboration? 9 Tips for Successful Change

During the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of leaders at a very large company in the Midwestern United States about how to increase innovation through collaboration. This singular organization is trying to change its culture by involving its individual associates in making a difference to the success of their business by improving any process that directly impacts their customers. Such an endeavor is not only admirable, but absolutely essential to their future viability in the marketplace. Any change of this magnitude is always fraught with challenges because people often meet change with resistance....

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What People Wished Their Leaders Knew

During my years as a consultant, I have often had people say to me, “I wish my leader knew …” to which I would encourage the individual to speak up and raise an issue of real concern so things might improve. When I did this, I often got the following responses: “It won’t make a difference.” “I don’t want to get in trouble.” “It will just make them mad.” Whatever the excuse for not speaking up, I noticed that most people were afraid of the consequences. Perhaps they thought negative things would occur because of the team atmosphere. However, I found that it didn’t...

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Six Questions to Help You See More Clearly and Increase the Power of Your Presence

Years ago during my first job in corporate America, I experienced firsthand the power of presence. There was a woman in my department that everyone referred to as "Crazy Mary." I thought the reference was uncalled for--until I had an experience with her. Once day she called me into her office to review the progress I was making with a project she had assigned to me. She was more than cordial as we discussed my work and review the milestones of the project. I remember thinking as I left her office how kind and considerate she had been. The very next day, she came into my cubicle and demanded I follow her immediately into her office. When I entered her office, she began to yell and belittle me for the very accomplishments that she had complimented me for on the previous day.

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How to Cut Through Fake Talk to Increase Employee Engagement

Will had worked hard for the company for about two years.  Not once in that time had his manager spoken with him about his development. Somewhat concerned, Will approached his manager and asked if they could discuss his career development. The manager said, “I’ll have my assistant reach out to you next week to schedule some time together.” Nothing happened, so Will brought up the issue with his manager again.  This time the manager scheduled the appointment himself about two weeks out.  When the time finally arrived, the manager canceled the appointment about an hour before the meeting.  Frustrated, Will...

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How Can We Help Others to Engage?

Many times when I speak at conferences, individuals will find me after a session and request coaching with a difficult situation. These encounters always provide wonderful opportunities for learning and expanding my knowledge of the human condition. A couple of years ago, a young woman came to me and asked for some assistance in mending her relationship with her sister. She told me how her sister refused to engage with her or talk in any way. I asked if I could ask her some personal questions to help both of us understand the situation. She agreed. I told her to place...

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Do Words Really Matter? Six Questions to Improve the Power of Your Message

Recently my son decided that he wanted to change a class in his junior high schedule. My wife and son went to pay a visit to the school counselor. During the meeting, the counselor asked him why he wanted to change to a different science teacher. He said, “Well, most of the time I have a difficult time focusing, which makes the teacher really hard to understand.” To this the counselor replied, “What you really mean is that your teacher is boring and you can’t stay awake. Is that right?” He responded, “Well I didn’t say exactly that.” Unfortunately for...

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Do You Let Your Feelings Get the Best of You? Eight Tips for Managing Your Emotions

For some time now I have been coaching a manager who has had several challenges with her director. One Friday night recently, my wife and I had gone out of town for the weekend for a little rest and to do some planning for the upcoming year. At about 12:30 a.m. the phone rang. This client was calling to tell me that she had texted her boss and quit her job. I was shocked and somewhat disappointed by her decision. I tried to help her see the upside of all she had been able to accomplish, but her mind was...

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Could Your Leadership Communication Use a “Make-Over”?

The challenge for leaders is that they are frequently unaware of how their behavior negatively impacts their people's performance. Because of the continuing emphasis on results, many leaders really don’t focus on how they achieve results as long as they obtain the desired results. During our leadership training, we often ask participants to identify past leadership behaviors they have experienced that have frustrated their efforts and negatively impacted their results. What starts out as an amusing exercise usually turns to quiet introspection as individuals consider how they treat their supporting cast.  We realize that sometimes work simply becomes so hectic that leaders...

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Tips for Handling Challenging Conversations during the Holidays

The holiday season usually offers many opportunities to practice your best conversation skills. Family members who usually don’t see each other, come together, which may present challenges because of the way that they act during these family gatherings. Some individuals seem to go blatantly out of their way to make others uncomfortable. Still others lack any sense of social decorum or awareness of how their behavior negatively impacts others. Unfortunately, we usually choose not to say anything to the offending party because they are family. Instead of saying something and causing potential conflicts, people often sit quietly and say nothing....

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A Gift Given is a Gift to Give

How do you create more joy this holiday season? Obviously the holidays are a time of celebrating, feasting, relaxing with family and friends, and reflecting on the bounties of the season. I have found what adds to our joy is to recognize and receive the gifts that are given and in return to give them to others. You may be aware of a situation that occurred in late October here in Utah which received national attention on the Today show. Ethan Van Leuven was diagnosed with  leukemia when he was 22 months old. From that time on he underwent the use...

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Ask--Don't Ask to Tell

Soon after I turned 16, I took a young lady on a date around the lake late at night to watch the moon come up. When it was time to go home, I started the car, drove maybe a quarter mile, and the car stopped. In shock I noticed that the gas gauge registered “E.” So my date and I started walking. When we arrived at my home, her parents and my parents were waiting up for us. As soon as she left with her parents, my dad started in. Here are some of the questions that he asked:  “What do you think...

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Can You Connect with Different Communication Styles of an Audience?

Of course no one sets out to intentionally offend or cause friction when they speak or communicate with large groups of people; and yet, everyone has a unique style of communication--which can differ dramatically from group to group. Because of our inherent style differences, there is a chance that we might unintentionally offend someone or create unnecessary conflict. When speaking to large groups of people, it is important to recognize the interaction or communication style of others and then mirror or “match” that style when communicating with them. Your interaction will be more effective, you will increase engagement and create rapport, and you will be more likely to achieve desired results. The challenge for any professional is...

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