NOTE: The May blog posts will not be updated this month, but check back soon for new updates.

  • Leaders that Listen Well Part 2

    To heighten your listening awareness skills, remind yourself:

    • When you are listening to a conversation directed to you, are you really there or pretending to pay attention? Does this haunt you later trying to identify what was really asked for and now you have not really heard the request?
    • In your professional career, can you be affecting your direct job performance by listening in auto-pilot mode? When you leave meetings, are you certain what your commitments are and those of other functional departments?
    • Are you listening from a place of resignation, nothing will ever change? Or, are you listening from a cultural perspective? No matter what is said, tradition dictates the same methods for solution; consequently, you stop hearing any new offers of creativity?
    • Can you listen without judgment or discrimination, filtering out other perspectives that could enable you to hear inventive solutions to problems?
    • Are you picking up on the non-verbal facial or body communications that accompany the speaker’s actual expressions? Do you think the speaker’s intent matches the actual words?
    • Can you identify specific examples of recent disappointments and look for the places where you may have been misunderstood? What thoughts were you trying to communicate and assumed all tasks would be done by others with full understanding?
    • Do your personal expectations limit or restrict someone’s ability to produce the result or outcome? How can you be more open to their tactics or processes?


    “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  – Larry King

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  • Effective Leaders Listen Well Part 1

    Observant listening skills are not just for senior management or famous leaders. Certainly, when we think of great leaders that listened well that list includes, Ronald Reagan, Richard Branson, and the late Stephen Covey.

    As stated by Mike Myatt, Chairman of N2Gworth, “If you’re ready for advanced listening skills, don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. True wisdom doesn’t see opposition, only opportunity.”

    The art of listening is an active skill, not just a passive attitude. Effective leaders that listen well are observant and truly present when they are in situations where full attention is critical for a productive outcome. What are the capabilities of an effective listener? Begin by practicing these skills to be proficient:

    • Recognize that listening is not about preparing a response to the speaker. It has been the convention of many of us to think of how we must respond rather than focusing on the content or meaning from the speaker. Don’t interrupt the speaker or wait for them to stop talking so you can start disclosing your own beliefs.
    • Respect the mood of the situation and the speaker’s presence. Our conversations can be influenced by outside factors such as, intense emotions over a specific workplace event, a transgression to internal value structures; or even, the fear of being laid off. As the leader, you will want to relax your posture. You may help the speaker remain composed by restating what you heard. It is not uncommon to respond with “May I repeat to you what I understand from your discussion?”
    • Along with recognizing mood, notice the speaker’s gestures, body language, and facial expressions. Don’t be reassured into thinking that because someone is not saying something they’re not communicating. In many cultures, people don’t explicitly verbalize opposition or disagreement, but almost continuously deliver a very distinct message with their non-verbal response.
    • Sometimes critical decisions need to be postponed due to heartbreaking distress; consider whether a decision is premature. Agree with the speaker this is acceptable and set a date for when you can revisit the issue to achieve closure.
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  • Make a Culture of Positivity

    As we work with many different industries, one initiative that continues to arise at the head of both corporate organizations and community efforts is, culture creation. For corporate teams, they may define culture as the core values they all hold in common to produce meaningful work and significance for their clients. For humanitarian and social outreach groups, we hear them declare culture as the foundational glue that binds them together for national or universal success.

    However, you define culture, it can shape your behavior, language use and engagement in societies, in countrywide identities, even in the ethnic groups we spring from. Culture can be a prevailing force for long term good or prevent much needed change when obstinacy has become the collective mindset.

    How do you create a positive working culture? Here are some guidelines that you can use to create or refine the culture you part of now:

    • Declare What You Think is Critically Important. Organizations exist from business requirements to fulfill needs or follow a vision that is larger than one person. It will be critical to define the values that management and the direct reports care about; the relevance of the company story, the value of the story to ‘caring’ about success or failure; and, how to have conversations that produce a shared future. At all levels, everyone should determine what they care about and nurture the principles around that pursuit. Passion is a prerequisite for producing remarkable results.
    • Language Use. How you engage each other defines the culture of the group. Positive psychology has demonstrated that declarative statements towards a shared future will keep the passion and focus for the all the members of a workgroup or entire divisions. Statements such as, ‘when we get there, not if’ underwrites the determination and perseverance required towards the collective vision. Language does more than describe the world; it creates your reality and shapes your identity.
    • Monitor Negativity without Over-Policing. While working positive language into your thinking, speaking, and writing is healthy, avoiding or ignoring the negative can be a form of policing. From the news media, the phrase of “Don’t Text while Driving” doesn’t have the same personal impact as managers who tell their staff “I want you to be safe on this business trip. Please don’t text while driving”. The last statement implies trust and care for the employees that may have to drive some length to a client’s location.
    • Use Collective Influence. Developing a culture of positive actions aids in relationship building and broadens the domain for problem solving among colleagues. Scrutinize the current teamwork through the concept of reciprocity. This concept will help employees mutually inspire each other through performance and behavior. Additionally, team-based groups organize themselves cross-functionally, often producing the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.
    • Honor the Past. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge people from the past who gave themselves to that first vision. It is not uncommon to ‘forget’ those that began a company or movement. Declare a day or week to remember those men and women, who gave their energy, sweat, and visionary talent to bring you to today. How can you, and all associated, transport their commitment forward? Think of the efforts carried on today by the American Red Cross, founded by Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton in 1873. Clara was a pioneer who worked as a hospital nurse in the American Civil War, and as a teacher. During the administration of President Chester Arthur, Clara succeeded in establishing the new American Red Cross, stating that the group could respond to crises other than war such as, earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes.

    When you are first creating or refining your positive culture, think about:

    • How can you identify ways you, and other leaders, can focus on the people in your group? Remember success is always about people.
    • How can you and your colleagues spend more time connecting with each other? Would it be prudent to arrange a coffee session where all can explain what matters to each of them with retribution?
    • When you sense that colleagues have shifted their priorities since any difficult situation, can you define the positive changes since it occurred? Would it be helpful to have an open discussion about the changes, possibly after work hours?
    • How can you nurture curiosity for new projects that the company or group has initiated? The difference between feeling dread over a new workload and curiosity, may be as simple as letting go of not having all the right answers at that moment. How can you craft your speech to invite inquisitiveness from everyone?
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  • Leaders Recognize Too Much Aversion

    Now that we are coming out of the pandemic, many people are experiencing, anger, hostility, even aversion to colleagues and the general public. Review this current situation: a former UCLA lecturer is in custody for allegedly making threats toward the university after emails with a link to an 800-page manifesto containing “very alarming” accounts of violence led investigators to Boulder, Colorado.

    Upon reviewing parts of the manifesto, we identified thousands of references to violence, stating things such as ‘killing, death, murder, shootings, bombs, schoolyard massacre in Boulder,’ and phrases like ‘burn and attack Boulder’ outside of the university.

    It does take time to put excess aversion away since it has been a lifelong habit for some.

    • One of the techniques to resolve hatred and aversion is to ask questions. Leaders usually ask, “What are we, or you, going to do about the situation?” Instead of allowing continual complaints and whining, this question shifts the responsibility back on the employee or even a team.
    • Raise the consciousness of the situation. Help employees see a bigger picture. For those folks that might exclaim: “I am so tired of dealing with so and so.” A leader’s response might be: “I agree it can be difficult, but have you taken a moment to put yourself in their shoes to see why they are in a constant grumble mode.”
    • Create acceptable behavior for a team. Every team ought to have a list of rules that they agree to abide by. No whining can be at the top of the list. You could create a “No Whining Jar,” and any time an employee is caught whining they have to contribute a quarter to it. Use the money later for a collective lunch
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  • Can you fit into the Latest Business Organization?

    Many corporations are increasingly aware that their corporate values affect not only their employees’ attitudes but also the bottom line. Suddenly, the pandemic disproportionately impacted women’s participation in the workforce. We will see a structural impact for organizational leaders to adopt policies and procedures that answer to help re-integrate women into the workforce.

    Additionally, many women are unwilling to return to jobs that expose them to risky public branches or do not align with their personal and career goals. Many women face disruption to their educational goals while they are concerned with their long-term employability and retention.

    Consequently, specific industries such as food service, healthcare, and geriatric care giving are having to change the characteristics of the workplace. To attract women back into the corporate world, organizations are re-shaping their capacity to adapt to possible unsafe techniques, how they process technology updates, and how they renew leadership roles. As a result, women are usually the first to refine business mindsets and how they fit into the emerging workplace.

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