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Season of Giving

January 15, 2016

As we drift into the grey and bland landscape of January winter it is easy to quickly forget the bright, shiny, and heart-filling sense of the holiday season that was upon us only a few weeks ago.  Christmastime and the holiday season is a time where we are all reminded of the the season of giving.  I don’t mean just gifts to friends and loved ones.  The holidays are time when many give extra time toward volunteering to help others in some way – maybe it is working a kitchen for the homeless, volunteering for charitable causes, or using some of your extra cash to pay off someone’s lay-a-way purchases.


Once winter really sets in and we are back to our routines, it is easy to lose that sense of giving.  However, there is some important giving  that can still be done throughout the rest of the year.  This is giving that actually can mean more to you and those around you.

What am I talking about?  The gift of giving feedback.

Giving feedback is a gift that builds connections and fuels performance.  Deloitte, among many other large and small companies, is eliminating traditional performance management process in exchange for a “system” of, as Deloitte calls is “radically frequent feedback.”  This change has been motivated by the realization that performance conversations that happen once or twice a year are not working.  They are stressful, chock full of incomplete and subjective information, and do not lead to growth and development of team members that they intend.  At this point the traditional performance management process has become a CYA event that is more about a paper-trail than about driving high-performance.

On the hand, providing feedback in a timely manner and in an informal way has much better success rate in driving the performance improvements that are being looked for, as well as host of other benefits.

Building Performance

By having brief and frequent conversations to provide feedback, it is much easier to give someone actionable feedback for making small improvements or adjustments in real time. You don’t have to wait until that 6-month performance appraisal!  Do it now.  Make your team member, coworker, or peer more effective today.

Feedback isn’t just guidance and ideas for corrective action.  It can be positive feedback or recognition of someone’s efforts and results.  Feedback that recognizes real-time results tells someone that they are the right track (and why) and to keep up the good work!

Building Connections

Not only does frequent feedback fuel performance, but it connects us to each other and helps to build relationships.  Relationships built on trust and common understanding will help fuel great performance and ease (at least somewhat) those difficult conversations that may happen down the road.

Not only does regular feedback connect us to each other, but it also can connect us more deeply with the “bigger picture” – direction and mission of the organization and how our department, role, and responsibilities impact the success of that mission.  It is often easy for us to cognitively connect the dots from our role to the success of the company, but it is much more difficult to maintain that emotional connection.

So don’t let the season of giving end on December 25th!  Give all year long to those around you.  Give the gift of feedback.






April 4, 2015

My daughter and I pulled out an old favorite movie the other night – The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl!  At the beginning of the movie there is the following quote:

Everything that is or was began with a dream.

All goals in life start as a “dream”.  A dream can be defined as a vision, a fancy, or an aspiration.  All things (events, products, progress on any scale) have started as a dream for someone.  However, dreams can only become real as they become goals.  Meaning once some actions are identified that will move the dream closer to reality.  Not only action items but deadlines and milestones so that progress can be measurable.

Without action, dreams are only vague desires.  A “wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of thing.

A simple (not necessarily easy) method to moving a dream to a goal and then to reality is the GROW model.

GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options/Obstacles, and Will.

So let’s look at how each of these work.


Making the dream a reality starts by making it a goal.  As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  In order to really flush out what the goal truly is takes a little work.

Start by answering some of these questions:

  • What do you really want?  What is the result you want?
  • What will achieving this do for you or for others?
  • What behavior do you want/need to change?
  • Is this your goal or someone else’s?
  • How will you know you’ve achieved the goal? (what will success look and feel like?)

By answering these questions, you can start to pinpoint what the goal really is from your “dream”.


To take any steps forward (even small ones), it is critical to really understand where you are today!  Investigating the current reality is a good way to shine light on what you have already done to work towards the said goal, what strategies have worked (or not), and what competing priorities exist that may get in your way as you move forward.

Ask yourself some of these questions as you examine you current reality.

  • What have you already done to move toward your goal?
  • What has been working? What has not been working?
  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals?
  • What skills do you possess that can help you reach your goal?
  • How motivated are you to achieve this goal?
  • What are your priorities right now?
  • Is this your goal…or someone else’s?

Obstacles and Options 

Attempting to meet any goal is life will bring its share of obstacles and challenges.  If you wait until they rear their ugly head, you may be taken off guard.  However, if you plan for some of them and identify potential strategies to overcome possible challenges, you will have a much better chance to side-step challenges as they arise and continue on your path forward.

Ask yourself some of these questions as you identify and plan for potential obstacles and work out various options in moving through them.

  • What successes have you had so far?
  • What are your fears, barriers, and boundaries?
  • What are the risks of going after this ?
  • What might happen if this works?  Or doesn’t work?
  • Who might resist you reaching your goal?
  • What could you do?
  • Which options excite you?
  • What resources do you have to help you?
  • What resources will you need?

 Will/Way Foward

Brainstorming options and strategies is great. It is useful to plan potential challenges and how to overcome them.  However, at some point the only way forward is to take action.  You will likely need to establish some action items, accountability measures, resources for assistance, and the like.

Working through questions, such as those listed below, can assist you in determining what you will do (which option or strategy you will ultimately choose), establish milestones, and resources for support.

  • What will you do?
  • Which option(s) will you choose?
  • When precisely are you going to start and finish each action step?
  • Who needs to know what you plans are?
  • What support do you need and from whom?
  • What will you do to obtain that support?
  • What is your commitment level (scale 1 to 10)?
  • What prevents this from being a 10?

By working through the GROW model, you can clarify your intentions, plan for the inevitable challenge that may arise, establish your way forward, and identify accountability measures for yourself.

The next step is yours!

Will you take it?

Influencing Change

February 6, 2015

Over the past several weeks I have been having discussions and doing a lot of training around influencing change.  Why? We all face change.  Whether it is personal change (eating healthier, exercising more, learning a new skill, etc.), organizational change (new team members, new processes, new projects and initiatives), or change that our customers face, we all deal with change on an almost daily basis.  We want to see these change initiatives succeed and not just in the short-term.  We want lasting sustained success from these changes.  There is nothing worse than putting effort into a change and then see the results dissipate over time and us (or others) go back to the “old way” of things.

However, the reality is that more than 70% of all change initiatives fail.  There are a multitude of reasons that this happens – lack of motivation, lack of understanding, lack of skills, lack of systems that support the success of the change, a combination of all of these, or a variety of other factors.

So we need to use a methodology to set ourselves up for success (long-term sustained success) when it comes to change.  And this can’t only be a focus at the beginning of implementing a change, but must be something that is iterative, that we revisit, throughout the change effort.


Whether it is a personal change or organizational one, the only thing that you can truly observe to know if you are getting results you desire are the behaviors of people.  So it is important that you determine what behaviors are going to drive the results that you want.  For example, if you want to work out more, are you making it a priority and actually exercising?  If you want to change your culture to be more positive and collaborative, are you observing people smiling and talking to each other (or are people constantly heads-down focused in their individual work)?

To help drive and encourage the behaviors that you believe will drive the results that you want, you need a model or process to identify how you can influence the behaviors and, thus the change.

There are many models out there.  However no matter what you use, there are common things that must be addressed, such as individual motivation and ability, opportunity to get involved, and systems that encourage the behaviors that you are seeking.

Here are important things to consider before and during change in order to influence the change process for sustained success.


If you want people to fully invest their energies into making a change successful, they need to understand why it is taking place, what the “future state” will look like, and how they can contribute.  If they don’t understand the reasons for the change, they can’t buy in and contribute to its success.  Some questions to address include:

  • Do people understand why we are undertaking this effort to change?
  • Do people understand what the change effort entails?
  • Do people know what success looks and feels like?
  • Have we communicated a what the “end” is?


Once you are sure everyone understands the reasons behind the change, you need to make sure they have the motivation to engage in the behaviors that you have identified as leading to the success of the change.  Some questions that address motivation include:

  • Do people care?
  • Do they understand and believe in the “what’s in it for me”?
  • Is their motivation self-sustaining?


While motivation is critical, having the skills to do something with that motivation is equally important.  Making sure people have the skills (or can learn them) to contribute to the change effort can make all of the difference.  Ask yourself this.

  • Do people understand what skills are needed for the success of the effort?
  • Do they believe the skills are useful?
  • Can they perform the skills?  If not, are they able to learn them?
  • Do they see opportunity to use these skills in their work?

Social Structure

While individual motivation and ability is important, having a social culture that encourages the desired behaviors and change is a key ingredient in success as well.  Address these issues.

  • Are people encouraging or discouraging the behaviors that we have identified?
  • Are people supporting one another by providing assistance, information, or other resources that are required?


Ensuring that the systems that are in place are positively influencing the change is a critical point as well.  If systems of pay, performance management, incentives, etc. are working against the behaviors that you identified as driving success, you will have major issues when it comes to long-term individual motivation.

  • Are our systems working to encourage the behaviors that we desire or are they encouraging short-cuts or ineffective actions?
  • Are there side-effects or unintended consequences that we did not anticipate?


Again, this is an iterative process.  Addressing these issues at the beginning and through the duration of a change effort will help in making sure that everyone is moving in the same direction and help to do your best at positively influencing change.


December 3, 2014

I have been working with a couple coaching clients lately that have different problems but really the same issue…they are struck with a fear of their message not being clear and thus not being understood. When they communicate (could be in either writing or orally), they are afraid that what the intend to communicate is not being fully understood. This fear has, in some cases, prevented them with initiating conversations or sharing their ideas, concerns, etc.

This is not that uncommon really. Many people I have worked with have a level of concern that their communication was misunderstood, came off in a way that was different than attended, or just plain ignored.

What I worked on with these folks is making sure that they are communicating clearly and that the “listener” or receiver of the communication is understanding what they (the speaker) are trying to get across.

One of the best ways I have found to do this is really to ask! It may seem uncomfortable, but taking time in the conversation to “check in” and make sure both (or all) parties within the conversation are “on the same page” can be the difference between clarity and significant misunderstanding!


From a coaching standpoint, I do this often (be it from the other side of the conversation). I may start a comment with “What it is I hear you saying is…. Is that correct?”. I will restate their point-of-view or comments in my own words to make sure that I understand the meaning and intent of what they are telling me. It is a practice of reflective listening.

For my clients, and for you if you struggle with this from time to time, I suggested doing the same type of thing. I encouraged them to ask to ensure clarity. Ask the listener if they could restate or summarize the points that you have made. For example it may go something like this: “I want to make sure that I am communicating clearly with you and that I what I am saying is not being misconstrued. Could you please summarize or reflect back to me what it is you think or feel that I am telling you?”

Again, this may feel wildly uncomfortable at first (for both parties) but in the long run you will leave the conversation without the fear that there was a lack of clarity or a big misunderstanding. Further, you will leave the conversation with a feeling of confidence that your perspective/arguments/ideas/concerns/etc. (while maybe not accepted and agreed upon) was understood.

How do you ensure clarity in your communication? I would love to hear your tips and tricks!

The Crucible

November 23, 2014

My wife and I watched the Crucible a few days ago.  I had never read the book or seen the movie before but I really enjoyed it.  It is a story set in the time of the Salem Witch Trials.  One of the main themes is the idea of hysteria.  Winona Ryder’s character starts a panic about witchcraft in the strongly Puritan village.

We can see this often in organizations.  When there is a lack of communication it is easy for people to create a story for what is going on in in the organization in their own mind.  As that story is shared around the proverbail watercooler, the story takes on a life of its own and as it is believed buy more and more people, it becomes their “reality” of the situation.

This can be particularly potent in the case of long-term vision.  Without clear communication of
“where we are going”, a story of that future state will be created by the masses.  Good leaders understand the critical importance of sharing the vision for the team and organization.  Galvanizing people in a common cause and common direction will help prevent the confusion that is created by a “communication vacuum.”

Be the kind of leader that can help drive buy-in and excitement over a particular vision.  Make it real for them.  Communicate!  Even of you fall short or change directions at some point, at least your team will all be  moving in the same direction for a common goal!

To paraphrase Motley Crue….Goals, Goals, Goals

March 2, 2012

Photo Courtesy of MetalTraveller

There is nothing like some old 80’s hair band rock to kick off a weekend!  As I was thinking about the significance of this week, I kept coming back to chanting “Goals, Goals, Goals!”  This week had the ever-mysterious leap day (Feb. 29).  A lot is made of this day that comes every 4 years for the sake of balancing our calendar.  This year I had two thoughts that I wanted to flesh-out and share with you in the spirit of Leap Day.

Depending on what calendar you use, “time” must be adjusted to keep it aligned with the seasons.  For example, in the Gregorian calendar, February in a leap year has 29 days instead of the usual 28, so the year lasts 366 days instead of the usual 365. Similarly, in the Hebrew calendar, a 13th lunar month is added seven times every 19 years to the twelve lunar months in its common years to keep its calendar year from drifting through the seasons too rapidly.


Let’s start here.  As the great Jim Croce sang,

There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.

It seems crazy to me, but we are always in the rush of life to really consider the passing of time.  Each of our perceptions of time change and evolve (sometimes daily, sometimes as we age).  Goals that we set for ourselves either feel like they are becoming further from our reach or it feels like the milestones are flying by in our push for progress.  Sometimes it is slow slog of a journey to get through the day.  At other times, the months and years zip by seemingly quickly.

Either way, all of need to take the time to assess our goals and evaluate how successful we are in achieving them.  Detemining what the goals are is the first step.  But equally important is taking time to think through the potential obstacles and challenges we may face and strategizing ways in which we can overcome these obstacles.


The cool thing about leap year (regardless of you calendar of choice) is that is gives us an opportunity to assess our lives and have a great target for some long-term goals.  For example, you may say by the next leap day I want to have finished my degree or take that trip to Europe.  Goal setting is a critical piece of our desire to make progress and move forward.  My coaching work is all about forward progress.  This year we have a great opportunity to set some long-term goals with a solid goal post and end-date.  Leap Day!! 

How did you spend Leap Day this year?  Was it just another day, or did you do something special to commemorate the occassion?  What will you on the next Leap Day to commemorate your success at achieving your goals?  How can I help you get there?

Word Up!

February 15, 2012

I recently read a great post by Trish McFarlane of HR Ringleader about the emotional power of the words we choose to use in our communication. It is a good read and I recommend you check it out – it certainly makes you think. I wanted to tie the idea into my last post about strengths. We all have “strengths” and “weaknesses” in how we communicate. Actually, I would say we all have “preferences” and “habits” in the way we communicate.  Our preferences can be a strength or weakness depending on the situation.

Like any strength, it is our awareness of it and our ability to “flex” or change when the situation demands that is probably most important.  This is especially true with regard to communication.


To expand upon Trish’s idea of the emotional power of the words we choose, I would also add that it is important to realize the difference in our words with regard to being directive, inquisitive, or informational.  We all have a default style in the words we use.  Often this is based on our experiences growing up and in our first work experiences.  Our understanding and reading of various situations and the people we are dealing with will help us in choosing the right words and style to use to be most success in our communication.

Directive Language

Directive language is just that…directive.  It commands or requests action to be taken.  This is a style of language that is very prevalent in American society.  Take for example the following sentence:  “Can you finish that sales report and have it on my desk by 8 AM tomorrow?”  or even more direct, “Have that report on my desk by 8AM tomorrow!!”

While it is not necessarily brash and/or uncouth (which is sometimes how this style can come off) , it is definitely directive.


This style can be much like the directive style, just with the definitive call for action.  To use our previous example, “Do you know what the deadline is for that sales report?” or “Where are you on finalizing that sales report?”.  Often with this style, action is inferred as opposed to directly addresses.  The individuals using this style often do like conflict and confrontation, but use the inquisitive style to “gently” remind others about tasks to be completed and deadlines to be met.


Using this style is somewhat like the inquisitive style in that it infers action rather than calls for it directly (and even less so).  This style just puts info out there (somewhat in the hopes of others reading between the lines) for others to act upon.  This style often takes a pretty solid relationship to read and figure out.  Again as with our previous example, an informative-style statement may be “The sales report is coming due.” 

It can take time to figure out your own style.  Even more so to understand someone else’s.  A good way to assess your own style is to look through the emails in your “sent” folder.  Is the language you use in them generally directive, inquisitive, or informational?  Once you are aware of your style, consider how you might “flex” and communicate differently in improve results and relationships.