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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Is Your Workplace a Jerk Place?

All of us at one time or another have had the opportunity to work with or for someone that we would label as a jerk, idiot, or moron.  And we have all probably been a jerk at some point to those with whom we associate. Do you know people that display the characteristics listed below? Are you guilty of any of these behaviors yourself? If so, what do you think is the payoff for behaving in such a manner?  After all, we behave the way we do if we perceive that there is something we can get for doing so.  I...

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8 Strategies for Creating Rapport

Years ago, I was doing research on how we can more easily establish rapport with others.  While I was working on developing my ideas, I took an airplane flight one day and had an interaction with the woman who sat next to me that served as a real lesson in relationship building. On the flight, I was passing the time by drawing and writing in my journal. The woman sitting next to me asked me what I was doing.  I told her I was working on understanding how people develop rapport with others.  The hour-long flight passed quickly as we...

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What is Your "Come From?" 5 Tips for Increasing Positivity

With the beginning of a new year, I wanted to talk about the importance of positive thinking. There is so much negativity these days, from the shrill of the media, to unhappy coworkers, to angry bosses, or simply whining and complaining children. It can really be a challenge to stay positive. To make things even more challenging, neuroscientists suggest that we have approximately 80,000 thoughts a day, three-fourths of which are negative. We know negative thoughts fuel our negative feelings and show up as negative words and actions. All the negative thinking, feeling, saying, and doing, translates into negative results. The...

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Just an Orange for Christmas

This time of year much of the emphasis seems to be on the importance of giving--f being more charitable to those less fortunate than us. Or, in a commercial sense, all the shopping is about answering the question, “What gift should I give this year?” But what about receiving? No child would leave a wrapped gift under the tree unopened, and yet many of the gifts that are so freely offered often go unnoticed and unappreciated. When this happens, those gifts go “unreceived.” In essence, a gift “unreceived” is a gift not given. An experience I had long ago made me contemplate the gifts that are given that may go unreceived...

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Is Your Gratitude Inadvertent or Deliberate?

A contemporary philosopher once said that one of our greatest weaknesses as a people would be ingratitude.  In the week in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to contemplate all that we have been given.  All of us have had successes, failures, defeats, and victories, all of which afford us the opportunity to learn, grown, and improve our life’s experience. As we reflect on these gifts and experiences, I’d like to focus on different ways we experience gratitude: inadvertent gratitude and deliberate gratitude.  Inadvertent gratitude comes to us as a reaction to experiences that cause us to stop and think...

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