How Can You Put More “Thanks” in Your Thanksgiving?

Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an experiential training that was designed for individuals to get outside of themselves and to experience the power of a focused intention. Ten of us were given the assignment to create a Thanksgiving meal for a needy person or family out of nothing. “Out of nothing” meant that we could not spend our own money to provide the feast. We divided ourselves into groups and descended upon the public to accomplish this task. We had two hours to complete the assignment. Some members of our group went to supermarkets in the area and...

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Four Leadership Tips That Will Make People Adore You

In our leadership development training, we like to start out by asking people to list as many characteristics about their former leaders that they both abhorred and adored.  This tends to start out as a fun exercise, but takes a more serious turn as people then start to look at themselves and their own leadership skills and behaviors. Ten Leadership Traits That People Adore 1.      Has a clear vision of how people’s work meets the leader’s expectations 2.      Provides timely, clear, constructive feedback 3.      Expresses appreciation and gives credit where credit is due 4.      Actively listens and answers questions 5.      Treats others with respect and kindness 6.     ...

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Why Don’t Others Listen to You?

Nine Tips for Improving Others Willingness to Listen to You I had been on the road all week and I was eager to hang out with my family on Saturday morning. I came downstairs to find them watching cartoons. In a somewhat animated and enthusiastic voice I exclaimed, “Hey, let’s go outside and hit the ball around! What do you say?” My young son looked up at me and said, “Please Dad, don’t yell at us.” Realizing in that moment that my children had been socialized by their mother who is much more reserved than myself, I quietly whispered almost inaudibly, “Would...

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Eight Suggestions for Improving Your Listening Skills

Late one evening after all the children had gone to bed, I was sitting in the kitchen eating a wonderful piece of chocolate cake and thumbing through the latest L.L. Bean catalogue. My wife approached and asked if I had a moment to listen to her. “Sure, go ahead!” I responded. I continued to eat, look at the catalogue, and listen to her concerns. Suddenly she launched, “You’re not even listening to me!” “Sure I am!” I responded. “Prove it!” she retorted. I repeated back to her everything she had said for at least five minutes. Not a good idea! In frustration and exasperation,...

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How Do You Strengthen Your Presence?

I was recently asked to write a piece for a magazine on developing presence. Because of the short deadline, I was disappointed that I had to decline the opportunity. However I believe this to be an important topic for not only leaders but also anyone who works with people to carefully consider because it impacts the influence and positive effect you can have on others. With more time to reflect on the topic, I couldn’t help myself. I would define “presence” to be the vibe, energy, frequency, or power that emanates from us. When I think of presence, I think of...

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10 Tips on Improving the Vitality and Quality of Your Relationships

A number of years ago at the conclusion of a two-day REAL Conversation class, two elderly gentlemen waited for me after class. After everyone left, they approached me and thanked me for the session. I asked them what had been most memorable and helpful for them. One of them perked up and said, “Before this class, neither one of us had spoken to one another for the last 21 years!” When I asked how that had happened, the other man said, “Funny thing is, we can’t remember now what we did that made each other so angry!” Can you imagine working...

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Can You Talk About What Matters Most?

Jim has been a member of a product development team for the last year. He got along well with everyone except for the team’s leader, Mary. For some reason, Mary has the tendency to cut Jim off during their team discussions, finish his sentences, and play devil’s advocate. In fact, Mary has frequently said, “No offense Jim, but I just have to play devil’s advocate here!” Then off Mary goes berating Jim’s idea with little, if any, evidence to support her opposing view. Unfortunately, no one has come to Jim’s aid probably because no one wants to end up on...

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Do You Really Want to Take the Plunge (Tell the Truth)?

We all have “undiscussables”--things we think and feel but usually don’t say. Whether or not we decide to share those issues, however, is a different matter. Chris Argyris, American business theorist, believed that if organizations would talk safely and openly about their issues and concerns, then immense learning would take place that would allow individuals, teams, and organizations to solve problems, improve decision making, and increase their overall effectiveness. No one will argue with that, but the operative word is “safely.” Years ago, when I was training at an electric generating station in the Midwest, someone in class said, “We’ve got major undiscussables here!” Naturally, I pressed for an example. The participants in the class told me...

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Do They Really Want the Truth?

Many organizations and leaders highly espouse transparency and openness in an attempt to improve their organization’s effectiveness.  Even though this may be part of what an organization portends to support, the question still persists, “Do they really want to know the truth or do they just want to hear what they want to hear?”  Unfortunately, a consultant friend of mine had a poor experience with a leader who said he wanted the truth, but really didn’t. Jill had been hired as an outside consultant to help improve an organization’s systems and processes.  One day during a training class, a senior leader...

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7 Tips for Improving the Quality of Your Feedback

People often ask me for advice on how to give "negative feedback"--which is apparently something that no one enjoys either giving or receiving. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, which is feedback that helps people grow and improve, is on everyone’s most wanted list. So what’s the difference between negative feedback and constructive feedback? The challenge you face when you give someone this helpful feedback is to speak in a way that allows people to hear and understand your message without causing them to become defensive, resistant, or emotional. Some people advocate a "rip off the Band-Aid" approach to providing feedback. This approach can be traumatic--it hurts the receiver and causes more...

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7 Tips on How to Avoid Being Misinterpreted

A friend of mine is launching a book this fall. Because she writes a weekly blog, she asked her PR Director if he could provide her with any email addresses from the team who might like to receive her weekly article.  A week or so later, the PR Director responded that it was against their company’s policy to provide any email addresses of their bloggers because of privacy concerns.  She was a little puzzled by his response given that she just wanted to make sure that the members of the PR firm were getting her post. My author friend decided to...

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5 Tips for Navigating “Whitewater” Conversations

In college I had the opportunity to work as a river guide running the rapids in the Grand Canyon. Later on I discovered that navigating challenging rapids was akin to the terror often experienced in holding challenging conversations. Unfortunately, when it comes to talking about potentially difficult topics, we usually engage in what we call “fake talk” whether intentionally or unintentionally. Fake talk is any conversation where we think we have handled a potentially difficult topic only to find out later, when we didn’t get results, that our conversation was ineffective. Whether running a serious rapid or holding a difficult conversation,...

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7 Ways to Improve Your Capacity for Compassion

I attended a leadership conference a few weeks ago at which I had been asked to speak.  In one of the sessions, I was surprised when a senior executive stood before a group of newly promoted leaders and said, “I want to remind you of the importance of really loving the people who work for you!”  I have long believed that leaders who truly care for their people become the leaders who are able to help others to create extraordinary results.  I just had never heard anyone express this sentiment so directly or openly. Caring for others really does have an...

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Why Don't People Take Initiative?

This is a question I have contemplated for a long time. Recently my exploration became more focused because of a challenge that occurred in our office. As I was getting on a plane to fly east, a client I was traveling to visit, informed me that the training materials we had shipped two weeks earlier had never arrived. I immediately emailed my assistant to alert her and asked her to reach out to the client to remedy the situation. When I arrived in New York, I was picked up by a car service. En route to Connecticut, I texted my assistant to...

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