Leadership Communication

I’m Adopting A More Positive Attitude

Last week a friend asked me for some advice about publishing a blog. He wants to start his own and had some questions about my journey. Among other things, I shared with him the importance of good titles that capture people’s attention and gets to the heart of the issue. To illustrate, I invited him to review the last ten posts I had published on my blog. As I scrolled through my blog with him, I was shocked at what I saw. (more…)

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How To Avoid These Five Costly Firing Mistakes

A few years ago I was asked to coach a manager through firing four employees in one afternoon. Going into it the manager was anxious and afraid. Four hours later, she left work completely exhausted, but with her dignity intact, and the dignity of her four ex-employees intact. A month later she met one of them in the grocery store. The ex-employee approached her, gave her a hug, and thanked her for how she conducted the firing.

Employers inevitably need to let employees go. Many employers approach this situation in a way that shows empathy and respect to the employee. But when terminations aren’t approached the right way, former employees end up bitter and hurt the company’s employer brand.

Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make when firing an employee

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Four Signs Your Boss is Toxic, And How to Handle It

A toxic boss can ruin a great work environment and leave a wake of drama. You can let it take you down, or take initiative to stay out of the drama and be a positive influence.

Four signs your boss is toxic:

  1. Questions motives instead of asking curious questions. Toxic bosses regularly jump to conclusions and assume nefarious intentions. If they would ask curious questions instead, they’d find out that most people are doing their best and trying to do the right thing.
  2. Motivates with intimidation. Toxic bosses are willing to undermine dignity to get what they want. They believe they are OK and others are not-OK, which enables them to sleep at night even when they abuse their people during the day.
  3. Lacks awareness. Toxic bosses lack insight into their own behavior, motivations, or impact on others. They are clueless about how ineffective they are.
  4. Low emotional intelligence. Toxic bosses have a toxic relationship with their own emotions. They don’t know how to express them in healthy ways, and they don’t know how to deal effectively with other people’s emotions.

Four tips for handling a toxic boss: (more…)

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Three Hidden Fears That Will Compromise Your Leadership Credibility

When I can’t sleep at night it’s usually because I am trying to solve a problem. On the surface the problem appears pretty basic, like responding to a dissatisfied client, finding a more efficient way to reach our target market, or discerning which vendor to use for our CRM. These aren’t my real problems, though. These are just daily tactical challenges relating to something deeper. Down deep, I have two basic fears; being incompetent or unworthy.

At the end of the day, what I worry about the most is that if I disappoint the customer, can’t find more business, or pick the wrong vendor, I will be seen as incompetent or unworthy.

Please don’t think that I am racked with anxiety or depression. I sleep pretty darn good most of the time. When I do worry, though, this is what it’s about. And, I have little or no data to back it up. My team supports me, believes in me, and recognizes my contribution on a daily basis. I generally get positive feedback from customers. Even when I don’t deliver in spades, they accept me for who I am and forgive my failings.

There are three basic fears that all humans have. Some of us are pre-disposed to one or two of them more than the others.

  • Fear of being unworthy
  • Fear of being incompetent
  • Fear of being weak

The problem is that when I start to worry about how others see me, I stop focusing on what I can control; bringing my best self every day. And, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Giving energy to these fears undermines my credibility in several ways:

  • I second-guess myself, which leads to herky-jerky decisions and waffling
  • I become more needy of affirmation and try to steer focus to me and my ideas instead of the best ideas
  • I compromise my own needs and boundaries to keep the peace or keep people happy rather than taking good care of myself
  • I overcompensate and get involved where I shouldn’t
  • I get defensive quicker, and it’s confusing to my team because I don’t disclose my hidden fear
  • I don’t ask for help because that would appear weak
  • Humility is replaced with arrogance or self-deprecation depending on the situation
  • I’m more distracted and less productive

At a recent staff meeting, Sandy on our team disclosed feeling anxious and afraid about the status of a project she was managing. The project had dragged out too long and she felt it was time to bring closure. Her fear was that by doing so, she may have missed something that would come back to bite us later and then she would be perceived as incompetent and unworthy. Instead of giving in to that fear, she shared it, asked for support and asked for a commitment to move forward and accept the uncertainty without fear of recrimination.

It was an empowering moment for the team and for Sandy. Instead of seeing her as incompetent, we saw her courage and self-awareness. And as a team we had the opportunity to face our fears, support each other, and make a new commitment to move forward in unison. I can’t even imagine the time and energy that Sandy saved herself and the rest of us in the long run. She could have continued to second-guess, strive for perfection, check and re-check with little or no return.

As for Sandy’s credibility; it just went up a notch in my book.


Leadership is a personal, messy, vulnerable, and uncertain journey. If you’d like to explore your capabilities as a leader in a safe, curious, and accountable space, give us a call.

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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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Is your 360 preventing you from doing a 180?

Getting accurate feedback about performance and behavior is difficult. Self-report is notoriously biased. Reports from supervisors often miss important perspectives from peers, co-workers, or clients. Thus the 360; a “full circle” assessment that includes feedback from multiple angles. Usually conducted in the context of an annual performance review, the 360 supposedly offers a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of a person’s performance. Most 360 evaluations are conducted anonymously, and the employee receives only aggregate feedback. Rarely do such evaluations involve direct conversations between the person being rated and those doing the ratings. Often the supervisor or HR will “interpret” the results.

Advantages of a 360

  • Feedback from multiple angles gives a more thorough picture
  • Peers, employees or customers may report unrecognized performance gaps
  • Can improve accuracy of self-perception

Disadvantages of a 360

  • Replaces daily conversations around performance and behavior
  • Avoids necessary conflict between people who rely on each other every day
  • Delays important conversations about behavior
  • Turns conflict into a number instead of a conversation
  • Gives people a mechanism to feel justified instead of taking personal responsibility
  • Prevents us from doing a 180 and reflecting on our own behavior

Getting feedback from all angles is absolutely necessary. Doing it once a year in an indirect way that avoids conflict is drama.

What would you gain if you taught people to practice healthy conflict instead of filling out surveys about each other?

  • Just in time conversations about today’s behavior
  • Healthy conflict that promotes higher levels of accountability
  • More trust and commitment to the team
  • More clarity and responsibility around how my behavior contributes to, or detracts from, the team goals
  • Knowing we are worthwhile, curious, and consistent

Conflict is the gap between what I want and what I am experiencing at any given point in time. That gap is neither good nor bad, but it does generate energy. Using that energy to have regular, healthy conflict with each other is the best way to keep yourself, your team, and your company on the right track.

How to have daily conversations about performance and behavior

  • Share how you are feeling about the gap, without accusing anyone
  • Explain the gap between what you want and what you are experiencing
  • Identify what’s most important to you. What are the boundaries or principles at stake?
  • Check in with the other person to gain their perspective
  • Repeat if necessary to gain their buy-in for struggling together towards a solution

Learn how to use conflict as a daily source of energy for positive change

Get the book that started the Compassionate Accountability revolutionConflict without Casualties

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Is Full Disclosure Required For Authenticity?

Authenticity is pretty basic on the surface; be true to yourself, with others.

Beneath the surface is where it gets complicated. That’s because humans play a lot of games with themselves and each other about what (and who) they want to share with others.

If you are being true to one of your own goals or principles, but you haven’t shared your honest motives and feelings with others, you are being deceitful and inauthentic. Defending a motive or end goal that has not been stated is justification, not authenticity. Withholding your feelings about what’s going on is also deceitful.

The first step towards authenticity is to disclose your motives and feelings. Ironically, these statements aren’t about your values or principles, they are about how you are feeling right now and why you care.

You can wax piously about your values and principles all day long, but if you don’t get vulnerable about your feelings, you are keeping a distance between yourself and others. It may be safe, but it’s not authentic because it’s only part of you. You can live consistently with your beliefs all year long, but if you don’t share with people what’s going on inside of you, you haven’t let them beneath the veneer to see all of you.

Authenticity starts with transparent, vulnerable disclosure. How will you tell the whole truth today?


Become a more authentic leader and communicator. Attend one of our communication and conflict training seminars.

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How To Tell Your Boss About Your Goals Without Making Things Worse

You’ve got big goals. That’s awesome!

How do you tell your boss about them without making things worse?

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams and bold plans. How you approach it with your boss, however, can make the difference in whether you are seen as a threat, dismissed as having your head in the clouds, or taken seriously. Here are some tips for making that conversation a success.

Embrace and respect the gap

There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. That’s OK. Recognize that this gap creates energy and conflict. Conflict means a potential for damage if not handled well. Not everyone will see the gap like you see it.

Disclose your motives

Nothing invites a boss to feel defensive quicker than hidden motives. Be honest about your end-game. How do you want to feel differently than you feel now? What will things be like when you reach your goals? What are you trying to accomplish.

Engage with humility and curiosity

You can’t reach your goals without a lot of help from others, including your boss. Go into the conversation with attitude that you have a lot to learn, and are willing to be curious and open. Ask your boss to share information, advice and wisdom that could help. Get their perspective and feedback about your goals. If they are skeptical, get curious about it and learn what it would take to gain their confidence and support.

Accept the consequences

Pursuing goals requires dedication, sacrifice, and choices. The more you learn about and accept the consequences of your goals, the more people will want to help you.

Find the WHY

Why are you doing this? Deep down, what is this really about? What principles or values are at stake? You’ve got to connect the dots for yourself, and for your boss. Without purpose, it’s very difficult to keep focused on your vision.

Empathize

Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. What are they experiencing and how do your goals impact them? Tune in and listen for their perspective and show compassion for where they are coming from.

Try these strategies to engage your boss as a partner in your success rather than an adversary who’s getting in your way.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2018

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Maya Angelou’s Myth

Maya Angelou’s most famous quote might be this one:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
And, it’s based on a Myth. Nobody can make you feel anything. People can do all sorts of hateful and hurtful things. These behaviors can be strong invitations to feel a certain way, but they are only invitations. Only you can give consent for your feelings. If you believe others can make you feel good, or bad, you’ve given up control over your dignity and self-determination.
I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of Angelou’s statement. I know that because she also said this:

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