Communication Skills Training

How to Keep Assumptions From Drowning Your Vision

At Next Element we are deep into the process of re-inventing our business model and setting a course for a dramatically different trajectory to impact more lives.

Conflict is a daily event around here. Perhaps because we are so passionate. Perhaps because we are so different. We work through it and move on, doing our best to capture the creative potential in the conflict.

Sometimes it seems we just can’t get on the same page. There seem to be recurring glitches that we can’t figure out. We go our separate ways, working on our tasks and when we come back together, it’s like we’ve all been working off different blue prints. It’s not that we don’t share the big vision or that we aren’t working hard. Very often it’s because we’ve made disparate assumptions and worked from them without awareness. (more…)

Read More

The Surprisingly Small Gap Between Empathy and One-Upping

I hate it when I disclose something important, perhaps an emotional story or experience I had, and the other person always has a bigger, better, more emotional story. They interrupt my mojo with something like, “I know, right! The same thing happened to me!’ or “You think that’s bad. Let me tell you what I went through last year.”

Has this ever happened to you?

When it comes to empathy, there are basically three kinds of people. (more…)

Read More

What Are The Best Ways to Support a Student Athlete?

School is back in session. That means Fall sports. I’m a father of three daughters who play volleyball so this is my favorite time of year! And it can be stressful for all of us.

School sports is a terrific way for young people to develop physically, mentally, and socially. Learning new skills, playing as part of a team, and experiencing competition are important life skills. And it can be a terrifying and stressful time as well. Fear of rejection is everywhere. Body image and physical abilities are magnified. Locker room gossip creates drama.

Supporting your student athlete is a big responsibility. Here are some dos and don’ts for helping your child athlete make the most of this Fall sports season. (more…)

Read More

Three Ways Politicians Can Make Progress in the Gun Control Debate

Even after another deadly mass shooting, presidential candidates avoided any real conversation about gun control. Politicians know the topic of gun control is so emotionally charged that meaningful discourse is nearly impossible. It would be suicide for any presidential candidate to jump into this mess. What’s the problem and how do we make any progress? (more…)

Read More

One Simple Way to Improve Your Communication

It was a beautiful Fall Friday afternoon in Kansas and my work calendar was pretty open. I love to take walks with my wife, who worked across the street from me at the time and often got off work earlier in the afternoon.

“Maybe we could both get off early and take a walk before the kids get home from practice,” I thought to myself. How great to start the weekend with a long walk, connect with my wife, get some exercise, then relax on the deck with a glass of wine.

I was so excited! So I texted her this message, “When are you getting off work?” (more…)

Read More

Persistence: How to Balance Accountability and Kindness

“I don’t want to hear your excuses. Rules are rules!”

“Sometimes you just have to bring the hammer down.”

“If you don’t show them who’s boss, they’ll walk all over you.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO

Of course it’s OK to want people to take responsibility. Resorting to authoritarian and adversarial tactics like threats, intimidation, guilt, blaming, and verbal abuse might get compliance in the short term, but over time the results are disastrous to morale, productivity, and engagement. (more…)

Read More

Resourcefulness: Stop Giving Fish Away!

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” – Chinese Proverb

I used to think my dad came up with this proverb. I heard him say it all the time when I was a child growing up on a farm in rural Zaire. My parents were missionaries and their purpose was to help develop sustainable ways for local Africans to have good nutrition, a safe water supply, and basic rural healthcare. My dad brought rabbits to Africa. Rabbits are high in protein, easy to care for, breed rapidly, eat green stuff, and their waste products are great for gardens. Perfect for a tropical climate! My father helped develop systems for local Africans to raise rabbits in a way that fit into their culture and helped supplement a low-protein diet. (more…)

Read More

Three Essential Compassion Skills for Leaders

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know my enthusiasm for the concept of compassionate accountability. It all starts with the recognition that Drama at work or at home is an energy vampire and that simply avoiding it isn’t the mark of a great leader.

Compassion is the antidote and the core competency to lead out of drama, and means a whole lot more than having empathy and being nice.


Read More

Four Leadership Tips to Get More Honest Feedback

When I was in middle school, my older brother once told me, “Nate, you will never know what people really think of you.”

I was shocked. In my typical style of never taking “no” for an answer, I challenged him to explain himself.

“You act so sure of yourself and are so persuasive that it’s very hard for anyone to be honest with you,” he answered.

I’ve always cared what people thought. Sometimes too much. Why would I make it so hard for others to give me honest feedback?

This is something I’ve worked on my whole life. I’m better than I used to be, and I still sometimes hear second-hand that someone doesn’t feel comfortable being honest with me. As a leader, I want feedback. I rely on honest, sometimes brutal, feedback to get better as a leader and do the best job I can for my team. What I’ve learned is that telling people that I want feedback and actually getting it are two different things. It takes more than words to get people to take the risk of putting themselves out there. (more…)

Read More