Two Mistakes That Will Kill Your Employee Recognition Program

This SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey found that less than 30% of employees surveyed were satisfied with their organization’s recognition efforts. Among organizations who had a formal recognition program, less than 50% were satisfied.

How can it be that even among organizations who are making the effort and have good intentions, less than half of their employees are satisfied?

Two mistakes can kill even the best-intentioned recognition efforts; Focus on recognition instead of motivation, and selective hearing which leads to prejudice. (more…)

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What Is The Secret Chemistry Of High-Performing Teams?

I am reposting this article because it’s as true today as it was three and a half years ago when it originally posted. Last week our team had a mini retreat to step back and reflect on how we were functioning as a team. As we evolve and grow it’s important that we tend to the team dynamics so critical to our success. What we realized again is that what really keeps us happy and productive isn’t the content of what we are doing, but how we are with each other while doing it.


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Tools Don’t Work. You Do.

“Now I don’t know but I been told
It’s hard to run with the weight of gold
Other hand I have heard it said
It’s just as hard with the weight of lead.”

-Grateful Dead, New Speedway Boogie

How many tools are in your tool belt?

Why did you get them in the first place?

What problem were you trying to solve at the time?

How well do you use them today?

How many are gathering dust? Why?

Most people and organizations who become overburdened by tools have followed this path; (more…)

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In My Humble Opinion

Is anyone else curious or perplexed by the use of IMHO – In My Humble Opinion?

If brevity or efficiency is your motivation for using an acronym, why not get rid of it altogether and just say what you have to say?

If making sure people know you are simply sharing an opinion, my guess is your readers, friends, and colleagues already know your typical perceptual filter. They don’t need to be reminded.

If you feel compelled to advertise that your opinion is humble, consider the irony.

Nevertheless, opinions are an valuable filter or lens through which some people experience the world.


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Sharing Responsibility For Learning Outcomes

I’m writing this post on the heels the 2018 Association for Challenge Course Technology International Conference in Ft Worth Texas, where I delivered the opening keynote and a workshop on how positive and negative conflict manifest in facilitation.

In general, people don’t like conflict. The challenge course industry is no different. The majority of participants who came to my workshop and our exhibit booth agreed that they struggle with conflict too, even though most of them are in the business of helping people get along better. In the last year we surveyed nearly 2000 people in the general public about their response to conflict. 72% of all participants say they choose compromise to avoid conflict. Nearly one third habitually slip into drama. 

Drama is what happens when we fall into one of three behavioral roles and seek justification for our behavior while losing sight of effectiveness. It’s called the Drama Triangle.

The Persecutor assumes the position that they are OK, others are not, so they feel justified in using intimidation, guilt, blame, and attacks to get what they want. Victims assume the opposite position, putting themselves down and inviting criticism. Rescuers overthink and over-do for others with unsolicited advice, violating another person’s autonomy and free choice while creating dependence.

Training and Development professionals aren’t immune from drama. We surveyed over 500 L&D professionals at the 2016 and 2017 ATD international conferences using our Drama Resilience Assessment (DRA), an online assessment of a person’s risk for each of the three drama roles, as well as their capacity to choose a more constructive course of action. Participants in our survey exhibited the highest risk on Rescuer role. Rescuers often have an air of superiority with an attitude of “I know what’s best for you.” The next most common role was Victim. Many professionals we spoke with described how they switch from Rescuer to Victim if their help isn’t appreciated or their efforts backfire. Many described their bosses as the Persecutor!

There’s a better way. It’s called Compassionate Accountability; blending kindness, care, and concern with attention to results and boundaries. Compassionate Accountability replaces the roles of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor with the skills of Openness, Resourcefulness, and Persistence to create a learning environment where responsibility for learning outcomes is shared, in a spirit of dignity.

Compassion means “to struggle with others” in a spirit of dignity and respect.

Openness is about confident transparency and support. Open people share their feelings and disclose their motives. They validate and accept others’ feelings and motives. Openness supports an environment of safety where the real issues get talked about, reinforcing the message, “We are worthwhile.”

Resourcefulness is about creative problem-solving, engaging people collaboratively to find the best solution. Resourceful people put their ego aside so that they can learn from failure and avoid getting invested in their own solution. Resourcefulness supports an environment of curiosity, reinforcing the message, “We are capable.”

Persistence is about boundaries, principles, and commitment. Persistent people keep promises, uphold their principles, and encourage others to follow through on commitments without attacking or blaming. Persistence supports an environment of consistency, reinforcing the message, “We are accountable.”

Putting it all together, L&D professionals can change how they relate to co-learners by using all three skills to engage conflict without casualties. Can you see the Open, Resourceful, and Persistent components of this statement below?

I feel anxious about where we are in the curriculum today. I’d really like to make it through section two before 4 PM and we are a little behind. What ideas do you have for catching up? I’m committed to covering the material in the most helpful way possible. 

I’m feeling defensive because I care deeply about this topic and want to be helpful. When you questioned my credentials in front of the group, I took it personal. I’d like to explore other ways of getting feedback. It’s important to me to preserve my dignity while being open to constructive feedback.

A mentor once told me, “If you are doing more work than your client, you’re doing something wrong.” Practice compassionate accountability to share the load.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, 2018

Get the book, Conflict Without Casualties!

Develop your Compassionate Accountability Skills

Get Certified to deliver Compassionate Accountability

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With Gratitude For The Struggle

Lately, I’ve been using “With gratitude” more in my salutations. And I sincerely mean it.

Here are some things I am grateful for;

  • You, because you are here with me right now reading this post, and I appreciate that.
  • My community at Next Element for being open, resourceful, and persistent in order to practice what we preach and tenaciously pursue our mission.
  • My wife, Julie. Loving, conscientious, smart, playful, dependable, wise, and elegant.
  • Failures that invite humility and lead to better ways of doing things.
  • College-age children who come home feeling grateful for family, actually wanting to be around and talk about things that matter to them.
  • Yard work that helps me feel sore, alive, and satisfied.
  • Wisdom from people who have learned valuable lessons and are willing to share it with others.
  • My mom, my father in-law, and my other father figure and mentor, Taibi, for being the kind of parents a 50 year-old needs.
  • Fresh ground coffee and home-made whipped cream.
  • Stories of changed lives from our global network of trainers, coaches, facilitators, and consultants.
  • Opportunities to make a difference in my community.
  • A BBQ smoker I found across the street that a neighbor was throwing away.
  • Friends of 30 years who love each other and would do anything for each other no matter how long it’s been.
  • Anyone who has taken a stand against sexual assault, bigotry, and economic oppression.
  • All the bloggers and podcasters who have welcomed me on their shows and lent me their platform to share our message of compassionate accountability.
  • Trevor Noah’s fabulous new book, Born A Crime, for triggering a flood of memories from my high school years in Southern Africa. And for teaching me so much more about apartheid. I recommend the audiobook since it’s narrated by Trevor himself.

None of these things has made my life easier or more luxurious (except the coffee). They have added meaning, purpose, and connection. Life is about struggling together. There’s no greater gift than a struggle that creates something amazing. Especially when it happens with others.

Where have you found gratitude in the struggle? Will you share?

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2017

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Compassionate Accountability Hits World Stage At ATD

thumb_IMG_5237_1024Returning as last year’s Newcomer of the Year, we didn’t know what to expect at this year’s Association for Talent Development International Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA. We were committed to better focus, clearer branding, better materials, and even more emphasis on building high-quality relationships with our clients.

We were overwhelmed by the response!

Here’s what we experienced;

Companies all over the world want to build cultures of Compassionate Accountability.

They are yearning for a way to harness the positive potential in conflict.

They want more than theory and superficial prescriptions.

They want real strategies, real tools, and real behavior change.

Visitors to our booth got to try out our assessments, get live debriefing, and look through our training curriculum and support materials.

IMG_20170524_094336Using our experiential floor model, we demonstrated concepts “in action” and walked people through how to use compassionate accountability strategies to address their most pressing conflict communication challenges.

There was no down-time at our booth – we were busy continuously, keeping our team of eight on their feet! Part of it was that people wanted to go deep, spend some time, and really get to know our models and systems. Part of it, we guessed, was the intuitive appeal and attraction of conflict without casualties.


Nate’s workshop, Conflict Without Casualties, was full and the response was tremendous.

If you were at ATD and visited our booth or are part of our Next Element extended family, THANK YOU for your support and passion. If you didn’t make it and want to join the movement to transform negative drama into compassionate accountability, we’d love to hear from you.

See you next year in SanDiego!

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Cross-Cultural Communication With Different Personalities

Recently, I was interviewed by Melissa Lamson for an article in Inc. Magazine about how to deal with difficult personalities, particularly when there’s overlap between cross-cultural contexts and personality. I grew up in Africa as the son of missionary parents, spending a great deal of time experiencing and exploring cross-cultural communication. More recently I’ve specialized in the Process Communication Model (PCM) a global communication model that’s being taught in more than 30 countries around the world. When I teach master classes in my role as a PCM Certifying Master Trainer, and at international PCM trainer conferences, I get to compare notes on how personality and communication interface with culture. (more…)

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Can Your Behavior Model Do This? Tips For Evaluation And Selection

In the two decades I’ve been working with people around behavior change, I’ve been exposed to a lot of models, from personality models, to change models, to conflict models, even models I’ve made up myself because nothing else seemed to work. What they all have in common is they claim to unlock the key to behavior change.

A model is any system or framework that attempts to organize knowledge in a more understandable and useful way. I assume the purpose of a model is to help common folk like you an I make sense of complicated stuff so we can be more effective in our lives. For me the real question becomes, “Does it make sense and am I more effective using it?” (more…)

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