"What we’ve got here is…"


    Looking for a new Ice Breaker? Try this!

It is intended for break out groups, team meeting or shift huddles. This usually means groups
of 15 or less, but larger groups can be sub divided as needed. Pass out the list below and give
them these instructions.

“For the next 5 minutes, everybody here can only communicate in lines from tv commercials,
 tv shows or movies. Please use choices from the list below or use your own. It’s a family show,
so nothing too risqué. Each selection can only be used once per group”.

The leader starts if off by saying, “On my way into work today somebody told me ______”


From past experiences with this exercise we can say that most people had fun.
Some erupted in laughter as the connections were made, ie “Got Milk – You Talkin’ to Me?” or "You can pay me now, or pay me later - Show me the money” or "Raise your hand if you're sure - There’s no crying in baseball!” or Mama says, 'Stupid is as stupid does.”

Typically, some go off the script and use their own favorite quotes which gets them even more engaged. To the few who were annoyed - “Go ahead, Make my Day”

Have fun with this ice breaker and notice the energy in the room shift. Let us know what you learn by doing this with your group!


Well, well, well – now that’s a deep subject. How to stay ‘well’ during intensely busy times is even deeper.

In our leadership practices with busy professionals from all disciplines, we often notice that one of the first things that seems to go away is meaningful self-care. As Stephen Covey points out in his excellent book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 7th Habit is “Sharpening the Saw.”

The analogy is simple. You expend energy to get results. The tools you utilize are finite. They are not inexhaustible.

You cut wood. Your primary tool, the saw, starts to break down at the point of contact. Even 100,000-mile spark plugs need to be changed after 100,000 miles to retain their “spark.” Nevertheless, the primary tool we utilize to achieve results, people, seems to be thought of in this way…inexhaustible.

It can be very harmful for organizations to miss this point. It seems obvious, yet engagement and turnover statistics often show it isn’t. It’s like driving a car in one gear all the time. Eventually the gear, at the point of contact, grinds down causing the transmission to slip. Many in management say “keep your foot on the gas and gun that engine” attempting to ignore the obvious. That is that their “cultural gears” are slipping and their people are expending energy but aren’t getting enough traction to achieve results. How about you?

Take this simple wellness self-assessment. Honestly rate yourself on a scale of 1-5, on these dimensions of life:

Key: 1=Not Concerned, 2=Somewhat Concerned, 3=Concerned, 4=Constantly Concerned, 5=Freaking Out

a)      Physical –  Regarding my physical well-being I am (record number)

b)      Mental – My mental capabilities may not always be available at their best level (record number)

c)       Emotional – I feel emotionally drained or unavailable to others most of the time (record number)

d)      Spiritual – My inner being feels disconnected from the rest of my world (record number)

If you scored 12-15, its time to get real about meaningful self-care. Stop and change your spark plugs. If you scored 16-20, its time to reverse course or prepare for a transmission overhaul in the emergency room.

Those who believe this is hogwash are like people driving a car without a spare tire, or those unfortunate soles who keep driving on that weird little spare tire. They are announcing to the world, “See I am 100% certain I will not get stuck.” That is until life happens and the tow truck loaded with EMTs needs to come and rescue them.

If there is any one thing that can have the greatest, most immediate positive impact, it is creating time to get physical (whatever that means to you.) It almost doesn’t matter what the physical activity is so long as you reverse the course and do it now. You can do the ‘physical therapy’ now or later and if you do it later, it could be ugly.

The Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual benefits are too numerous to mention here. But needless to say, people who are healthy in these areas are happier, more resilient, more engaged and more productive employees.

Well now…. isn’t that something?


Slam! The palm of a hand comes down hard on the table top. “Enough!” frustration erupts from one side of the conference room. The room falls silent, stunned.

In another room across town, the wave of a hand, dismisses a new idea and “moves us on.” In the mind of that direct report, whose thinking and insight were so casually dismissed, creativity shuts down. Embarrassment and frustration take root.  Around the table people take note: “It is risky to bring an idea to this table.”

Around the corner, a CEO paces the floor, and with wringing hands wonders how to bridge the growing revenue gap. What new idea or opportunity might infuse the organization with needed energy and capital? How will they face the mounting liabilities? These questions remain locked in a worried mind.

Meanwhile, back in the first conference room a chorus of whispers arise as the meeting concludes.

“Wow. What was that?”

“That is the last time I stick my neck out here.”

“Guess he finally got his, didn’t he?”

“About time.”

Inside the minds of each of these leaders, decisions are being made. Some stop contributing. Some spend their creativity elsewhere. Some will stir the pot of dissention and conflict. Some will check out and find another outlet for their passion, somewhere else to fulfill their purpose.

Have you ever witnessed one of these scenarios?

Each one describes a situation in which a different conversation could have taken place.

There are consequences for all our conversations. Each one we have, all day long.

As leaders, the consequences are significant.  How a leader steps into a conversation makes all the difference.

·       Will we open people up, or shut them down?

·       Will we build trust and resilience on our team, or will we be destructive with our words?

Learning to curate conversations well is a primary skill for successful leaders, which is why I spent the last year becoming certified as a Conversational Intelligence™ coach. Conversational Intelligence™ is a neuroscience based approach to leading and facilitating conversations which equips leaders with a base of scientifically grounded knowledge about conversations with a set of conversation practices that are designed to shift the neurochemistry of the participants from fear to trust, from corrosive conflict, to constructive candor.

It was a terrific and demanding experience. We studied the bio-chemistry and neuroscience of conversation, we curated conversations, and we were evaluated by our peers. All of us grew skills that will serve us and the leaders we coach for a lifetime, and I was reminded once again that it takes practice, patience, and persistence to have a meaningful conversation. These types of conversations are rewarding on many levels. In a business setting these rewards hit both our bottom line and drive our internal and external reputation as pace-setters.

Of the many tools and tactics we learned, there was a common practice at the root of every desired outcome, whether the situation was:

·       To mine a roomful of people for their best idea;

·       To create energy and enthusiasm on teams that have suffered a loss or setback; or

·        To rebuild trust after harsh words.

What was the common practice? The starting point?


Learning to foster Conversational Intelligence™ takes time and a commitment, and it all begins with listening. Quieting the mind and opening the ears. Listening is an art that takes practice. To listen we offer our silence and ask our minds to think not about our response, but to instead imagine the world through the eyes of the speaker.

·       What is happening for them?

·       How is this experience they now share shaping their beliefs?

·       How might past experiences have shaped the beliefs that are interpreting the experience being recounted?

Right or wrong in their ideas and interpretation, people need to be heard before they are willing to change their thinking. Listening is the gift that opens up conversations, and gives rise to understanding.

Listen and Then…

Follow your listening not with a statement, argument, or view, but rather with a curious question.

Judith E. Glaser, the creator of Conversational Intelligence likes to say it this way:

“Ask question for which you have no answer.”

Ask a purely generous question. By that I mean a question that is not trying to convince someone else of your worldview, but rather a question that guides you and the speaker to discover something together neither of you knew before. A purely generous question changes the emotional climate of a room.  

On the other side of that experience is greater trust, respect and, best of all, some common ground upon which both of you can stand.

I wish you well as you curate conversations in your life and work today.

Listen. Be curious. Ask questions. Savor the answers. If you succeed, the person will become curious about you too, and trust will begin emerge from out nowhere.


Up.  Down.  Up.  Down, down, down, down.  Up!  Wow, watching the stock market, the various economic indicators, has been dizzying lately.  What has this done for your outlook and perspective?

I have found it interesting to listen and study the various reactions of the talking heads.  I want the market to go up; our portfolio to increase and, most importantly, the value of our 529s to increase; but my ability to control this is extremely limited.  However, I am in control of my attitude.  I get up each morning and choose an attitude for the day.  I try to reflect on this word throughout the day.  I let this word be my influence and try to tune out the news of the day.

I have also found that a few minutes of planning each day helps to center my energy and make me less reactive.  I will meditate some mornings to get calmed down and then I decide where I want my focus to be for the upcoming day.  I have found that this gives me control of my desired outcomes for the day.

My question to you is:  what is it like to work with you?  Is it like the stock market – up, down, up, down…?  Your attitude and behaviors influence your team and co-workers.

·       What attitude and behaviors would they say you have?

·       Are you a role model of the behaviors you hope to see from others?

·       Do you create drama for your team by being reactive and in firefighting mode all day?

A great way to avoid drama is to pause and then ask yourself, “What would I like my response to be?”  You cannot control others’ actions, but you can control your responses.

In between action and response, there is space for a pause.  I think the more mature you become as a leader, the more cognizant you become of the pause space.  I also believe you have more tools at your service as you mature as a leader.  What possibilities do you see in the pause?  I try to get curious and wonder what caused the action that I am seeing.  I also access if I am really attached to the outcome and if I need to react.  I often find that, if I ask questions instead of reacting, there is a new set of possibilities.

My word for today was “curious”.  I have found myself asking more questions and really listening today.  What can you do to set the mood for your team?  What pause tools do you have that can serve you and your team more effectively?