Leadership skills

Leadership and Manipulation: Donald Trump Case Study, Part 2

What’s the difference between leadership and manipulation? This two-part series explores this very question using Donald Trump as the case study. In Part One I introduced the topic and shared three of the six tactics that skilled manipulators use to get what they want. Here are the other three, along with positive leadership lessons. (more…)

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Beyond Expertise: What Leaders Really Do

It’s been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. A time when leadership really matters.

In May 2019 we launched The Compassion Mindset at the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Expo in D.C. We’re going all in with TCM. We are bringing every ounce of knowledge, experience, faith, grit, and optimism we have to this thing. We have high hopes of breaking into the biggest markets in the world and are passionate about the impact we believe TCM can make in the world. It has been like starting a whole new company from scratch. Exhilarating. And scary as hell.

ATD was awesome! After four years exhibiting at this conference, this year was the best. Clearer message, more interest, stronger leads, better networking.

Cloud nine, baby!

Returning from D.C. we diligently and enthusiastically began our follow-up and sales work. We faithfully executed our go to market strategy for TCM.

May evaporated. June came and went. What even happened to July? Only a small trickle of newly booked business. Nowhere near our projections.

What have we done? When will it take off? How long can we hold out? Why isn’t our plan working? This summer was supposed to be the best ever!

These questions started to dominate the conversations. Anxiety began to creep in, along with forecasts of gloom and doom.

Thank goodness for leadership. This time it didn’t come from inside our company. It didn’t come from me, the CEO who is suppose to have it all under control. It came from Stephan Mardyks of SMCOV, the consultant we hired to help us build and launch TCM. Here’s how Stephan is helping us carry our vision and ourselves through the ups and downs. It has nothing to do with his immense knowledge and expertise, and everything to do with great leadership.


Stephan believes in us and encourages us, even when we doubt our dream and our own abilities.


Stephan genuinely respects each of us, including our unique backgrounds, personalities and skills.


Stephan is not just positive by nature, he has cultivated a discipline of optimism that embodies a growth mindset.


It’s easy to lose focus when things aren’t going great. It’s tempting to grab at straws for anything that might get a quick result. Stephan helps us distinguish what matters from what is noise.


Stephan sees the big picture. He shows us how each activity, each day, contributes to the long-game.


Stephan reminds us that great things take time and there are no magic bullets.


No matter what we say or do, Stephan is fully with us. No judgment, no criticism, just validation of our experience.


Stephan doesn’t mince words and he doesn’t sugar coat things. He gives us helpful and honest feedback without attack.


Stephan is generous with his time, energy, and wisdom. Every time we finish a phone call with Stephan or pay a bill, we feel grateful and blessed. How is that even possible?!

Turns out Stephan is much more than a consultant. He is a leader and a partner in our success.

My guess is that any leader could be ten times more effective if they added these qualities to their resume. It’s certainly something I want to emulate.

This past weekend our team gathered in Colorado for a company retreat with the goal of stepping back, regrouping, filling our tanks, and re-aligning ourselves with our purpose.

We are going to be OK. We are going to change the world. Thank you Stephan.

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How To Conduct Performance Conversations That Get Results

Picking Scabs

Several years ago I was working with company in the long-term care industry. I was doing focus groups with employees on their experience of the work culture and relationship with managers. I asked them about the performance review process. One woman shared her negative experience and compared it to “picking scabs.” I kid you not! The whole room nodded in agreement.

Why do employees hate performance reviews?


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How Do You Know It’s Time To Let Someone Go?

Leaders get a bad rap for firing people, as if they enjoy it. Most leaders we work with dread it. They agonize over the decision. They hate the impact that their actions can have on a person’s life, their team, and the company. They want to make friends, not enemies.

Yeah, there are those few ruthless leaders who get rid of people way too soon. They’re the exception. Usually a leader keeps people too long.

Why don’t leaders make the call?

  • They are afraid of the conflict.
  • They blame themselves.
  • They don’t want to admit a poor hiring decision or inability to correct the problem.

A leader’s job is to;

  • Foster a safe, supportive environment so employees don’t hold back.
  • Facilitate collaborative problem-solving so employees take ownership for performance.
  • Clarify purpose and goals so employees see how they fit into the big picture and what you want from them.

So, ask yourself:

  • Have you provided a safe, supportive environment where they can tell you what’s really going on?
  • Have they been give clear feedback about their behavior or performance and how it’s affecting others?
  • Have they been offered resources and support to change?

If the answer is yes to all three and the behavior still hasn’t changed, it’s time to let them go. If you answer NO to any of these, it’s time to look in the mirror.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2018
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Do’s and Don’ts for Making An Example Out of Someone

Compassionate leadership builds relationships that empower. It brings people together in ways that inspire each person to feel connected and engaged. In my previous post, The Dangers of Comparing Employees, I shared how even the best intentions can backfire when leaders compare their employees.

There is a right and wrong way to make an example out of someone. One of the most powerful ways we learn and build our own confidence is by watching others. The fancy name for it is “vicarious role modeling.” Here are some do’s and don’ts when making an example out of others.

Focus on the strategy, not the person

Everyone is different, so saying things like, “You should be more like Jesse,” invites negative, pervasive comparisons that destroy self-esteem. Instead, focus on the strategy Jesse used to be effective. e.g. “Jesse tried three times on his own before asking for help and he learned so much along the way.” Strategies are things that anyone can try, regardless of who they are.

Focus on learning from mistakes, not being a perfect expert

Perfect role models make great idols, and terrible teachers. Experts are impossible to emulate because we are not like them. Instead, focus on how others have learned from mistakes. The most inspiring examples in my life have been the people who failed, picked themselves up, tried something else, and had a breakthrough.

Appeal to internal standards, not what others think is important

Avoid comparisons like, “Look at Jesse. He broke the record for sales last month?” People learn and grow best when they set and work towards their own goals. My favorite slogan I first saw on the back of a t-shirt is “Beat yesterday.” It’s is all about defining success based on how I am measuring up to my own standards, not whether others approve.

Copyright, Next Element Consulting, LLC – 2018

Would you like to build more compassion into your leadership? Get the book that shows you how.

Get certified to bring Compassionate Leadership into your organization.

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The Dangers of Comparing Employees

As a parent, I am often tempted to compare my children to each other. Sometimes they even try so suck me in with the question, “Who’s your favorite?”

It’s natural to compare people to one another. It’s human nature to look around and see what others are doing. If you’ve ever made an example of someone, you have used comparison to try and achieve something. While the motives might be positive (encourage, motivate, set an example, leverage a role-model), the consequences are often negative. Here are some reasons why comparing your employees can backfire. (more…)

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Imposing Your Solution vs. Living Into The Answer

Recently I was conducting a Leading Out of Drama Provider Certification and we were reviewing one of the Choices To Move, “Let Go and Move On,” a skill for practicing Compassionate Accountability and moving from Resourcefulness to Persistence on the Compassion Cycle. A participant was explaining the concept in his own words and shared this;

Those who can’t let go and move on often choose to teach others instead.

He didn’t mean it as an indictment of educators, but his comment underscored a powerful dynamic of drama, the urge to give unsolicited advice to make others better instead of focusing on our own decisions and consequences. (more…)

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Anyone Can Coach With This Simple Formula

If you’ve been an athlete, I bet you remember your favorite coach. Great coaches help inspire us to strive for our best, feel proud of the goals we’ve accomplished, and work together as a team. Coaching isn’t just reserved for the sports field. These days it’s getting more and more popular for professionals to engage executive or life coaches to help them make forward progress in their lives. Most people I’ve talked to have found coaching to be quite beneficial.

What makes a good coach?


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