Leadership Development

The Discipline Of Optimism

Optimism is not just seeing the glass as half full. It’s about doing what it takes to fill it up.

Optimism is not wishful thinking. Not even a hopeful attitude. Optimism is the discipline of envisioning and pursuing possibility, against the odds. Optimistic people are this way because they work at it. They don’t just see the glass as half full, they push through to keep filling it so that potential turns into reality. Optimism takes perseverance, grit, and belief in the power of a vision and of the people pursuing that vision. Optimism doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. Optimism never quits looking for opportunity, potential, the possibility everyone else missed, the faint light at the end of the tunnel.

Jon Gordon, an ambassador of positivity, wrote this about optimism. (more…)

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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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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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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.


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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Compassionate Accountability Personal Development Kit – Our best resources for embracing positive conflict.

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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

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How To Promote For Resourcefulness And Avoid The Peter Principle


  • make a living off of fixing everybody else’s problems.
  • have an attitude of superiority, as if they know what’s best for others.
  • thrive on being the one with all the answers.
  • adopt the belief that “I’m worthwhile, you’re worthwhile only if you take my advice and appreciate it.”

In French, the word “rescuer” is often translated as “savior.”

Rescuers are exceptionally attractive targets for promotion because they:


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Beware of Hiring Responsible and Dedicated People

What qualities do you look for in and applicant? Which of these are attractive to you?

  • Self starter
  • Takes initiative
  • Responsible
  • Organized
  • Dependable
  • Dedicated
  • Conscientious
  • Persistent
  • Attention to quality and detail

These are the upsides of two Personality Types most likely to be promoted to leadership positions (Thinkers and Persisters). They are promoted because of these very qualities. They are hard workers, care about quality and are task oriented. They want things done right. And they are proud of it.

The downsides: When these same people are in distress, it’s a whole different story. (more…)

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How To Lead When Dealing With A Personal Crisis

You can’t plan for major crises, like a family member’s cancer diagnosis, a personal lawsuit, or your fiancé calling off the wedding, but there are steps you can take to help ease the coping process when crisis hits.

How a person handles crisis largely depends on his or her personality. Three of the six Kahler Personality Types tend to be more common among top leadership: (more…)

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