Each person, group and organization develops an operating rhythm, but do you take time to notice the rhythm and decide how to maximize that rhythm?  Let’s start with a brief definition of what I mean by operating rhythm:  simply put, it is the way we get things done around here.  It is the patterns of our work:  busy vs. slow, high stress times, or even best times of day to get your own work done.

I work with an organization that supports a lot of school districts and the school’s budget cycle is July 1 - June 30.  Thus, May and June are a scramble to get all the contracts into the final budget for the school districts.  August is crazy as well as it is time to train all teachers on the software that has just been bought.  As you interact with this organization, you learn that these months are always a bit hectic, team members can lose perspective for a moment and momentum for some projects gets lost.  After observing this for a couple of years, the Senior Management team started to understand their own rhythm and how they were contributing to the feeling in the organization.  The team now has regular updates, pizza parties and celebrations during this time period.  They also encourage days off right after the busiest season and plan fun events for the team.  The stress is still there, but the perspective and framing of the work is much better now.

What about you?  What are your busy seasons?  What are the best times of the day for you to do your work?  I have learned that I am a morning person and so I do my best work in the morning while the late afternoon can be a fog for me.  I used to run first thing in the morning, but I found that, while it was great for training as my energy was high, I was missing out on my best mental clarity time.  I now do my run most days around 4:00 or 4:30 to get a second shot of energy.  This allows me to release the stress of the day.  I then wrap up a couple of follow-up items, prep for the next day and have the energy to connect with my family.  In the morning, I line up my facilitation and coaching sessions to match the peak of my mental and physical energy.

I would also challenge you to think about your week and year to maximize your rhythm.  I work with some clients who love Monday morning meetings to kick off their week and make sure their team is ready for an awesome week.  I work with other leaders who avoid Monday meetings so they can plan first thing on Monday to launch a great week.  Either can be right, but it is about being intentional. Another client knows that their most productive time of the year is January - May and September - early December.  This leader works extremely hard during both stretches and travels a lot during these months.  However, he takes off almost all of the summer because his clients do not really need a lot of his attention in the summer months.  He does some periodic check-ins, but also spends his time relaxing and enjoying his time away from the office.  Now, I know his schedule will not work for all of you, but I would encourage you to start noticing your own rhythm and see if there are ways to proactively get more out of your day.

When are you most productive?  When are you least productive?  What part of the week are you most creative?  What steps can you take to set up your schedule to maximize your productivity?  



It is easy to find fault – with ourselves and with the work of our teams.  A critical eye is what allows leaders to find the opportunities and correct the liabilities in their people and processes.  Everyone can miss a deadline, miss the point, or miscommunicate.  Everyday something goes wrong…and we focus on it so we can fix it.

The challenge is this:  what we focus on grows.

If all we focus on is what is missing and what was missed, we rob ourselves of the chance to develop in our people their biggest asset:  their enthusiasm.  We also fail to give people the chance to know, clearly and specifically, what works.

Catching people winning is not the same thing as offering praise.  “Atta-Boy”, “Congratulations!”, and “Thank You” are not enough.  When I encourage clients to catch people winning, I ask them to take intentional time, every day, to stop and:

·       notice

·        name

·       appreciate

something specific that is being done right.  When someone does something well; meet a deadline, make good progress on a project, develop a strong plan, or deliver a great performance in a key meeting, and we let them know on the spot, specifically, what went right, we Catch People Winning.

When we catch people winning we feed them two essential ingredients for success: enthusiasm and wisdom.  Offering specific feedback when people get things right increases their energy and grows their wisdom and insight.  They learn what you value and that you notice the efforts and advancements they make.

Why does this matter?  In a word: Trust.  People trust people who notice and acknowledge the work they are doing.  Catching our people winning grows their inner confidence and grows their trust in us.  They have greater assurance of their own skills and greater confidence in themselves and trust in the relationship they have with us, their leader.  Trust develops and trust is a key ingredient to achieve exceptional pace, productivity, and performance.

When people on our teams experience us noticing and celebrating their achievements, they begin to believe we are invested in their successes and, as a result, our credibility grows.

Catching people winning arms leaders with trust and credibility, offers our workforce a dose of enthusiasm and, together, these create the ideal environment to develop and coach our people for better and better performance. 

The dividend of Catching People Winning is their responsiveness.  It is much easier for our people to act on new challenges when they have strong enthusiasm for their work.  It is much easier for our people to hear difficult feedback from us when they believe we are interested and invested in their success.  Catching People Winning creates the environment for performance excellence.

All we have to do is stop and notice what is going right.  It is happening around us all the time.

Catch someone winning today.  Go find 3 great things and recognize the person today. You will feel more successful yourself when you do.



Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!

Team Time Alignment


The synergy that occurs when a whole team focuses collectively on (1) efficient use of time and (2) attention management empowers the whole group. When everyone is moving in the same direction, trying to be effective and efficient with time, real progress is made in 30 days. And in 90 days teams are transformed!

Work is being executed, and meetings are meaningful. Everyone’s time is well spent. Meetings get shorter and more focused. People come prepared to meetings, because they have more time to plan, prepare and execute work. The Team Time Transformation is underway!

When I begin working with a Team to enhance and expand productivity, we begin with shared purpose and clear, shared Desired Outcomes. Then, the whole team works on calendar alignment.

Calendar Alignment focuses on:
               • efficient use of time and
               • attention management tactics that empower the whole group.

There are 2 Principles of Team Calendar Alignment
               1. Use other’s time wisely
               2. Ensure you have adequate time to act on tasks assigned.

Simple principles, but hard to achieve. We begin with the Team Calendar Gut Check.

Gut Check: Use Other’s Time Wisely

If you convene a meeting you must ask yourself: is this a good use of these people’s time?

Longer meetings (30 – 90 minutes) are meetings that ask people to think.
Thinking Meetings engage people. These meetings leverage the brain power around the table.
Decisions get made. Processes get developed. Feedback is taken. Adjustments are offered.
The organization and leaders move forward after meetings like these. It is time well spent, as long as the right people are around the table. People feel valued and engaged when they are in these meetings.

How do you figure out if you are leading a Thinking Meeting? Ask yourself. Ask your attendees.

• Am I leveraging their collective thinking?
               This means they do most of the thinking and talking. You ask a couple of questions.                   You listen and sift and sort through their insights.
                          If this is what the meeting is, then you have a Thinking Meeting.
                          Plan for 30 -90 minutes, depending on the content you need to cover.

Stand Up Meetings (5-12 minutes) are for Information Transfer.
You have information. You have updates. You need to communicate new expectations.
You need information and updates shared. Then you need 10 minutes tops. It’s a Stand Up.
Stand Ups share:
               • critical information,
               • update status, and
               • get teams aligned.
These are Alignment and Update Stand Ups.

Before you schedule a meeting, and bring everyone together, ask yourself:
What do you need from your meeting? If you want to leverage their thinking, then you need more time. If you need to share your thinking and get updates, then you need less time.
Respect people’s time. It is the most valuable asset you and they have. Use it with care.
I have a colleague who walked out of a meeting with his co-worker.
The co-worker turned to him as they walked to the parking lot: “Well, we can’t get that hour back.”
“Yeah. I know. What was the worst part for you?”
“I think it was the Soul Sucking part.”
“Which Soul Sucking part?”

Yikes! This is a true story, and that must have been a terrible meeting.
The simple act of thinking about how you are spending the collective time of your team will help you learn to respect their time and talent. This, in turn, will ensure that the conversation between those two co-workers is not one that takes place after a meeting you convene.

The Ten Best On-Boarding Practices

We have all heard the saying, “People are our greatest asset”. If this is so, then why do many organizations drop the ball with regards to their on-boarding? By the time we find them, tell them, sell them on joining our organization and ramp them up to productivity, we have invested a small fortune! Done well, on-boarding positively impacts culture and reduces bad turnover. Yet some think it’s acceptable to pay lip services to this crucial function. A good hire can be turned into a bad hire if proper on-boarding practices are not followed. Worst of all, it is often self-inflicted.

This applies to the new hire as well as the Team that that they are joining. The last thing we want to do is to do is to find the right fit for our Team, get everybody excited about them joining us and then leave them alone. By following the steps below, we are well on the way to the successful launch of our new colleague. And make no mistake, they will remember that experience, (good or bad).

Ensure your new hire stays and succeeds by using these 10 onboarding best practices:

1. (When possible) Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date – Provide them with re-assurance
 of their “buying decision to join your organization. Ensure that they feel welcome. Setting up an onboarding portal that new hires can access online before their start date is a good way for them
to “buy in” and begin learning about the company on their own time. They may be able to get things like  benefit forms submitted and out of the way.

2. Make Their First Day Memorable – Whatever it is that you do, do something. It might be lunch
 with the new boss, a welcome card signed by all, or something thematically tied into Team values. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure day one is a positive experience for all everyone!

3. Keep Schedules Tight at the Beginning – Start off on the right foot and be accessible. Your new hire is talented and may be chomping at the bit to make things happen. Get them up to speed gradually. Scheduling their first 2-3 weeks ahead of time has benefits. It builds trust and says, “We have you accounted for!”

4. Use the Entire Team in Onboarding – They were likely part of the interview process, so keep the continuity and momentum by involving all of the new work family members to ramp them up. Assigning
a buddy or mentor who works in the same department as your new hire is also a good idea. The new hire gets a point person to direct any questions, comments or concerns towards, and the mentor gets an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

5. Spread Out the Paperwork – Allocate routine paperwork type activities to “down” times, ie those times when the new hire and Team are not involved in “people” work. If you drop all of the necessary forms on your new hire all at once, they could become disenchanted, or worse, overwhelmed.

6. Announce the New Hire to the Entire Company – Job movement is big deal, so make a big deal
out of it. Set a positive tone in the organization for the new hire’s internal brand to grow around. It can also foster vital interdepartmental collaboration. If departments end up working together in the future, everyone will already be familiar with each other.

7. Set New Hire Expectations Early – Communicate clearly about roles, goals and expectations. Set short-term and long-term goals and have them check in regularly to see if they are being met. After a couple of months, a formal performance review should be scheduled to give new employees honest feedback on how they’re doing. And of course, don’t forget to heap praise on those who deserve it.

8. Allow Them to Give Feedback - Create “non-judgmental” space for them to provide feedback about how things are going. The onboarding process provides an opportunity that can benefit your entire organization. Should you implement their feedback, new hires will feel heard, and you’ll have made improvements because of it. That is a big win for everybody!

9. Reinforce Cultural Values Continuously – Be inquisitive and observant, (almost parental at the start). Get to know your new hire’s work habits and personality in order to guide them in integrating with your company’s culture. Remember, it’s a fore gone conclusion that the new hire brings technical expertise to the Team. Almost always when they run into difficulty it is the people side of the equation.

10. Don’t Allow New Hires to Go Too Fast -Too Soon – Remember, they don’t know what you know. And they don’t know what they don’t know. At the beginning its about people and systems. After about 60-75 days it moves on to “low hanging fruit”, connecting with stakeholders and possible talent assessments (if applicable). Then someplace between 100 -180 days, it’s time to rock and roll. Proper onboarding and new hire integration takes time. In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.


Love the One You’re With

I am borrowing the song title from the Stephen Stills famous hit from 1970—here is the link in case you want to sing along with me.

I got the idea for the blog listening to an interview on NPR’s Marketplace recently. Host, Kai Ryssdal, asked Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, to discuss a recent mistake that he had made. Nadella paused and then said he sometimes gets distracted by shiny bright objects and forgets about the needs of his current customers. He gets excited about potential new products and forgets that these new features might impact the current customers who have been loyal to Microsoft. He went on to say that he has stopped short of making the mistake, but not before nearly forgetting about the current customers.

What about you? Do you get distracted by the potential new customer and forget about the needs of your current customers? I know I have made this mistake. A couple of years ago, I landed some new customers that took me out of town a good bit, and made it hard for others to reach me for live meetings. The work with the new customers was lucrative, but were short term projects.  My current customers missed the extra touch that I normally gave them, and it was harder to renew work the next time around. If I had spent more time with my current customers, I might have gotten new work and I know I would have had greater loyalty if I had stayed connected. Thus, love the one you’re with! What are you doing to retain your top customers? Do they know how much you value them? What can you proactively do to amaze them?


I think this same concept can apply to our employees. It can be easy to look at our current team as good but not always great. We go to a conference and we meet someone and think they can be amazing for our team. This might be true, and I am not saying to not look for new talent. However, are you taking the time to truly develop your current team that is loyal to you? It is a lot easier to keep a team member that believes in your mission, understands your leadership, and is a cultural match. Instead of loving our current team members, we often covet other people. We tend to see the weaknesses of our team members and forget about their current strengths. I have one client that was loyal to his organization for years. He would receive feedback that he needed to be more direct. He would do this and then he would get feedback that he was too direct. He then would be told he was almost ready for a promotion and then they would bring someone in from the outside. He recently left and is a superstar in the new company. His old company called me and asked if I knew anyone like my coaching client because they said he was a superstar. If they had told him that while he was there and given him more positive feedback, he would never have looked for another role.

Take time this week to re-recruit one of the superstars on your team. Tell them why you love what they do for your organization. Call one of your customers and tell them why you enjoy working with them so much. Let me know how the conversation goes and in the meantime, “Love the One You’re With!”

What Do You See—Obstacles or Clear Sailing?

I have been working with many teams recently that are working on their vision and outlining their strategic goals for 2018. They know how to do a SWOT analysis, have a good sense of their customer base, and even take time to consider how they will communicate their messages. However, I see many of these organizations fail to hit the vision and goals they create in these sessions. Why? I believe the biggest reasons are:

           1.     Overly optimistic goal setting

           2.     Poor translation into action

           3.     Failure to understand how this impacts the daily lives of the team

           4.     It is an event, not a process

We use an experiential exercise we call the obstacle course with our clients. Here is the basic overview—we blindfold 3 people and then ask the rest of the team to get the 3 blindfolded people safely through the obstacle course and retrieve the 3 prizes and bring them back to the starting point safely! All three blindfolded people must enter and exit the course. The course is generally about 3 feet wide and about 6 feet long with foam letters and kids small toys in the course. The sighted people think that the course should only take 1-2 minutes to finish. We state that we will give them 10 minutes. Normally the sighted people huddle up without the blindfolded participants for about 2-3 minutes of planning time. Then they tell the blindfolded people the plan and they get started. Chaos ensues within one minute. There are often too many voices speaking at once, so it is hard to gather clear instruction.  In addition, trying to balance on 1 foot while blindfolded and stepping over kid’s toys is hard! So often, people get their left and rights confused when giving direction.

Does this sound like your workplace? This also sounds a bit like our strategic planning. We go off and brainstorm these great ideas with limited feedback from our employees. In the obstacle course debrief, I identify that the sighted people are the leaders in our organizations that can see what needs to be done and have to communicate the goals, but they are not the ones to do the actual work (these are the blindfolded participants—we call them employees.) From this activity, we see that the end goal does not look easy, but it does look like it can be executed. However, we rarely sit in the employee’s seat and look at it from their perspective. I encourage you to take time to ask your team members questions like:

1.     What inspires you about our vision?

2.     What barriers do you see blocking you from achieving our vision?

3.     What is one thing I could to do to help you achieve our goals?

4.     What is one thing that I am doing well that you want to keep doing?

5.     When we hit our goals, how do you want to celebrate?

Another common challenge is that as leaders we get distracted. We do this goal setting and then we go back to our daily lives. This causes confusion for our teams. Do we pay attention to the presentation we saw last month or do we just go with the status quo? Most people want to be led and they watch what gets rewarded. Thus, if they see you, the leader, go back to reinforcing the old strategies or goals, then they are going to deliver this to you. If you want to achieve the vision and new goals, it needs to be a process not a one-time event. One of my clients has started doing monthly virtual town halls to reinforce the new vision, key goals, and to celebrate successes. They are not over emphasizing the new vision and goals. Instead, they are saying this is the direction we are heading in and these are the type of behaviors we need to be successful. The leader also says what behaviors they are leaving behind. The energy in this environment is fantastic, and people are saying how transparent the organization is and that this is the most aligned they have felt in a long time.

So, what does your future look like—clear sailing or obstacles? It probably varies by the day. However, I encourage you to get curious, meet with your team members and listen to their feedback. Strategic planning is great but also remember to reinforce the goals and behaviors you desire on your team. Good luck and let me know how you are doing achieving your vision.


The most valuable asset you have is the imagination of your workforce. There are two key ingredients that develop and deploy the full power of a team’s collective imagination: 1. time to think and 2. trust on the team.

What kills that creativity? What stops people from openly communicating, collaborating and creating together? What will keep the best ideas locked inside the imaginations of the people on your team, or worse, deploy their imaginations to undercut, undermine and obstruct the creative process?

Broken trust.

Broken trust erases the posture of openness in which creativity arises. Betrayal is a very powerful human experience. Many describe the experience of betrayal as worse than loss, because it involves the reordering of our sense of ourselves. When someone breaks our trust they also break inside of us the confidence we have in our relationships and our instincts about how and who to trust.

The implications for trust on teams therefore, is great.

When we create climates of trust we open another level of capacity, competence and creativity. And we also open the door for disappointment, resentment, hurt feelings, and broken trust, all of which, in the right combination, can leave a person or a team feeling betrayed.

Here is what you need to know.

It does not matter if betrayal or broken trust, deceit or deception were your intent. What matters is how you engage with your team once they have interpreted something negatively, and they are trying to make sense of it. It matters a great deal how you behave when people are trying to make sense of their experiences. This meaning-making time is where their beliefs are formed.

Here are some tips that can help you navigate the waters of broken trust on teams, so that you can repair relationships quickly and restore the team to its high-performing strength.

Once trust is broken, stay open!

Trust takes time to build and only a moment to eradicate. Here are some steps to take when miscommunication breaks down:

·       Quickly address and begin to repair broken trust when misunderstandings occur. It may be that both of you need a day to cool off and gain perspective, but don’t wait too long.

·       Communicate that you care. Apologize for the misunderstanding. “I am sorry,” goes a long way.  “I missed the communication on this and I am sorry.”

·       Make time to listen. Soon. Notice I did not say make time to talk. We must listen first to understand.

Some things to keep in mind:

·       Human beings make meaning out of the events in our lives. This is both a blessing and a curse. In her book, Rising Strong Berne Brown has a great phrase that can help us to begin sharing some of the hard things we are thinking about someone else. She invites us to begin the conversation with the phrase: “The story I am making up about this is…..” Somehow this phrase lets us share hard feelings more candidly, yet with a bit of kindness and humor. We allow the other person to have a better picture of what the situation really feels like. Sugar coating the truth doesn’t get us as far as candor does. I’ve tried it, and can assure you this phrase somehow allows and unlocks more candor, and releases us from a posture of judgment and defensiveness. Try it!

·       We judge ourselves by our intent and others by our experience. You may not have intended to lie, mislead, break trust, or betray your colleague, but those are words I often hear behind closed doors. They express how the other person interprets what has happened to them. Remember, it is their interpretation that is driving how they feel about and respond to you, not your intentions.

In short, once trust is broken, go carefully and swiftly to address it, otherwise the breach of trust grows swiftly. It takes much longer to break through hardened feelings that grow with time. Once a story has been written about why we did what we did, it becomes harder for us to challenge those stories by simply listening, caring and asking questions.

Yes, it can be very hard to listen to and acknowledge another person’s story about us, but when we do we are able to do something important with that other person. We can co-create a future together.

We do that by acknowledging and asking questions:

“Wow. I didn’t understand how this came across to you. [acknowledge]

That must have been very hard. I am sorry for that. [apologize]

I don’t want to come across that way again. What can I do differently in the future?” [ask]

What do you do when misunderstandings arise? When trust gets broken?

·       Stay open.

·       Listen.

·       Acknowledge that person’s real experience.

·       Apologize for the misunderstanding.

·       Ask, “What can we do differently together now?”

What comes to us on the other side of these hard experiences can actually be quite rewarding. Like the bones of the body that knit back together more strongly in the broken places, relationships that successfully navigate through misunderstandings and broken trust develop something beyond imagination and creativity, trust and collegiality.  They develop resilience, assurance, and strength.

Trust given is one thing. Trust tested and retained or even trust shattered and restored is another level of relationship entirely. And this is where the real promise and potential begins: on the other side of, “What happens when it breaks?” lies the question, “What is possible now?”  Often the answer is,“A great deal more than before.”


What does it take to get people to bring their best new ideas to the table? How can leaders foster creativity and innovation in ways that deliver results? We hear all the catch phrases and buzz words, but the question I hear from leaders most often is simply, “How can I get started?”

There is a simple two word answer to that question, and it doesn’t require big capital investments and lots of infrastructure. It does take intentional effort.

Those two words are:  Time and Trust.

Time and trust: these two ingredients create climates within organizations, teams and individuals that allow them to engage in several practices critical to the creative process.

When time and trust are present, people can:

1.       think strategically, as opposed to reacting with fear or out of habit

2.       freely ask questions, give feedback and offer insights and ideas with a sense of open curiosity

3.       work on their ideas independently, without cumbersome restrictions or lengthy evaluative processes.

These creative environments tend to work with significant speed, and productivity is high because people love what they are doing. They work hard because they want to, and can think clearly more quickly because they are not feeling threatened by their colleagues or their leadership. Everyone is focused on the real external threats, not the unnecessary internal threats.

When time and trust are not present, people act out of fear, make reactive decisions, and self-protect instead of collaborate. Scared people might get up the motivation to work on a new idea, but the idea has been motivated externally by a threat-reward system. It’s an idea drenched in fear. Ultimately the organization loses.

In the fear-based organizations I encounter, I find creative people working at a fraction of their potential. Significant energy is spent developing political strategies to navigate the organization’s culture of intimidation, distrust, and infighting. These people work more and more in silos because it is safe, robbing themselves and their colleagues of the collective creativity, learning, knowledge and resources of the whole group. I come away thinking, “The brilliance of this team is being wasted.”

The dollar value of that lost intellectual power is staggering: all that time and energy misspent.

It isn’t only fear-based organizations that create underperformance. Underperformance is created simply be the absence of trust. High-trust teams tend to produce great quality work. But a climate of trust takes intentional effort to create. It does not happen by accident. Steps must be taken to actively build trust, collaboration and a strong sense of inter-dependence. When these steps are taken, people’s capacity to bring their best ideas forward and function at their full power and potential is released. Great things begin to happen in the presence of trust that were not possible in its absence.  

How do you build trust on teams?

It takes time and intentional effort. I’ll offer some further steps in my next blog posts, but here are a couple of things you can do today to begin to cultivate trust on your team:

1.       Begin with curiosity. When someone brings an idea, pause, reflect, then ask questions. Thank them for the idea. Wait a moment before you evaluate their idea. Your questions will give your team members time to think, question and learn for themselves, and your appreciation will ensure they keep thinking creatively.

2.       Give people permission to fail. Mistakes are proof that people are doing something: they are trying. When we experience errors as opportunities to learn, grow and change, people become more resilient, smarter about their choices and plans, and performance increases more quickly.

The most valuable asset you have is the imagination of your workforce. They won’t offer it to you unless they trust you, so be curious, ask questions, and give your people permission to try new things.

With these tools in your tool belt, you can begin building your very own Creativity INC.


Remember the 90’s and early 2000’s when we were so worried about retaining our staff that most organizations tried to create cool, fun places to work? There were ping-pong tables, pac-man machines, free food, and bring your dog to work days. Oops, the financial crash of 2007-08 hit, and many of these perks went away or if they stayed, many people did not feel comfortable playing ping-pong when people had been laid off the month before.

Why am I writing about this? I have been noticing that most of the organizations I work with are doing well, working hard, having solid success but I see very little fun in the workplace. The engagement scores continue to decline in American workplaces and now almost 70% of managers feel disengaged! Yowsa, this means the staff below them are probably even more disengaged!!!

I can see some of you rolling your eyes already and saying we are so busy these days, who has time for fun in the workplace? Yep, you are probably right but if you do not take the time to create some time and space for fun, then you will continue to have a disengaged workforce. Guess what, your best talent will leave for greener pastures and the hope of a better workplace. Your medium to low performers will stay due to lack of options and a belief that it may not be great here but I also do not have to put out a maximum effort.

Ping-pong tables, free food and video games are not the answer either. I would encourage you to have a meeting with some of your key employees and ask them what would help them become a more engaged workplace. Ideas could range from: training to mentoring to potlucks. The important thing is that you listen and try a few ideas. After you try a few things, ask for more ideas and start to see if the ideas get more innovative and creative. Let the group try a few more things.  Next thing you know there should be some more smiles, laughter and maybe even some fun in the workplace. I would encourage you to try a few things and see what happens.

Here are a few of my favorite activities that I have participated in:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Habitat for Humanity Work Days
  • Theme Days with Trivia—Ex. 1980’s theme, dress and trivia
  • Dinner for employees and their families; Senior management served in black tie or formal wear
  • Bowling
  • Jeopardy with the answers being facts about our customers
  • Ice Skating where only about 2 people knew how to skate!

Let me know about some fun ideas you have for you and your team! Remember to plan some fun at home too!!!



I was working with a client recently who said she felt her team was like a 10pm drama on television. She had the diva who tried to take credit for everything. The sniper who constantly lobbed in bombs that tore apart all the good ideas on the team. Mr. Passive Aggressive sat in the corner barely containing his hostility but a wry smile on his face the whole time. She also had the “holier than thou” character who stayed above the conflict and talked about how wonderful her group was doing and if everyone would just get alone, their results would improve. I asked her what role she played and she just laughed and said “I guess I view myself as Wonder Woman trying to rescue this team and organization.” As you can imagine, my client is pretty exhausted from being a rescuer/superhero and wanted help to regain the power of her team.

Does this sound like a team you have been on recently? There are other characters that we could add like Pass the Buck guy; The Blamer; It’s Not Me; Squirrel-Distracted by Shiny Bright Objects (this can be me if I am not engaged); Persecutor, etc. Obviously, we are not headed for the road to success if this is our team.

Let’s go back to Wonder Woman…how can we help her lead her team.  First, she will need to make sure each person knows their purpose, vision and mission and values of the organization. I believe most people come to work wanting to do a good job. Sure, there are a few truly bad characters but most people want to do a good job. Thus, have a conversation to make sure the team reconnects with the collective purpose.

Next, I would encourage the team to draft a team charter. This should include the vision, mission, ground rules and values of the team that supports the organization’s needs. I encourage team leaders to outline their goals, strengths, barriers, weaknesses, desired outcomes and hopes. This should lead to a discussion of roles and expectations for each team member. I would also spend time outlining how decisions will be made on the team and who has the ability to make what decisions. Are there group decisions? If so, who is responsible for these and does everyone understand the process for decision making.

Okay, we are making good progress.  Now, how are we going to handle conflict? This should be discussed as a team ensuring there are ground rules on how to handle any conflict. The team then needs to hold each other accountable to their commitments. One rule I would encourage is no triangulation. This means I cannot talk to Beth about Lee.  I need to go straight to Lee to share my feedback. The challenge is that people often start to see each other as the characters that we started the blog with. I encourage each person to spend time with each team member for a few minutes and find 2-3 things you respect about the other person. I then ask the team members to share that with their teammates. It is amazing the reaction that you get from this exercise. First, there is resistance and by the end there generally is hugging and sometimes tears.

Does this mean we are all set? I wish…no, we will need to keep working on recognizing each other, living our values and adhering to our ground rules and revisiting our charter. However, if we connect with each other in our team meetings and try to recognize the efforts of our peers then there is a good chance we start to see the good in each other and stop seeing each other as heroes and villains.

Good luck on your team journey and let me know how you do at bringing your characters into a high performing team.




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.


My husband is a fan of American Ninja Warrior.  We sit down one evening a week and watch people move through the incredibly difficult obstacle course that the show creates in cities around the country. It is amazing to watch as each contestant attempts to complete the course.

What wows me even more?  There is generally a contestant or two who nimbly flies through the course, balancing, swinging, climbing, and pulling with such agility, accuracy and speed that I am left speechless, pointing at the TV.  These people blow away the top score of the night by the time they reach the finish line.

Every contestant who completes the course has skills, strength, power, flexibility.

Those who win are also nimble.

Here is what I have noticed:  the most nimble often appear to be the most carefree.  There is a freedom to their movement:  less tension, more fluidity, more speed, and more accuracy.

What is the leadership lesson here?  

If there is one thing that will slow a person down, it is fear.  Scared people move more slowly.

I am not suggesting that methodical preparation and planning are not part of the process, they are.

What I am suggesting is that fear-based performance will usually not earn you a first place finish.

This is what happens on the teams I coach:  trust based teams are nimble whereas fear based teams are clenched, tightly wound, and controlled.  It is not as much fun to work on a fear based team.  It is a great deal of fun to work on and with a nimble team.  Game changing ideas come from nimble teams. Incremental change comes from fear-based teams.

Speed, accuracy and excellence take a nimble player:  someone who feels free to move, practice, learn, try and try again; someone who enjoys the work; someone who is having fun.

Another outcome of a nimble team: resilience.  They weather storms well.  Failure is part of the process, but focus and freedom rule the day.

Focus + Freedom = Nimbleness

Success in a changing world takes nimbleness in precisely the environment which makes a normal person nervous or afraid.

How do we face the challenge?

1.       Focus.  Focus on the Desired Outcome.  What do you want, what do you really want?  Why do you want it?  Focusing on the ultimate Desired Outcome provides focus to individuals and teams.  It gives people a common purpose and vision to pursue.

2.       Freedom.  This often means the leader needs to keep quiet while the team wrestles with HOW to achieve the Desired Outcome.  They need to be free to share bad ideas and good ones and wrestle with them until they find a path and a process that will get them quickly to where they want to be.

Where they ultimately want to be is on the other side of the obstacle course, with yet another great experience behind them, ready to go back to work and prepare for the next round of challenges.

In 2017, I plan to be nimble.  How about you? 


Culture can be loosely defined as the "connecting rod" that makes things happen. In other words, it's "the way we do things around here." It has a direct impact on a company's ability to deliver on its mission over the longer term. As economic conditions change, many organizations recognize that their legacy style culture may place them at a competitive disadvantage.

What is a coaching culture? A coaching culture allows people to:   

·       Take responsibility for their own actions

·       Take risks and contribute their own creative ideas

·       Treat mistakes and set-backs as valuable learning experiences

·       Speak up, challenge and express conflicting views

·       Offer constructive and motivating feedback

·       Feel appreciated and that their contribution matters

·       Raise motivation and performance to achieve better results

·       Form cohesive and high achieving teams


A coaching culture is the majority of people in the organization using coaching techniques and principles, including strong listening and questioning skills, to bring out the best in individuals and teams. It becomes the common way of engaging in conversations, rather than telling people what to do and how to do it.
If we accept that coaching cultures are desirable, what should we do implement one?  

First determine what type of coaching would be beneficial to your organization and who should be trained? It might be coaching for skill development, coaching for performance, coaching to remove drama form the workforce, or coaching to translate strategic intent to the frontline. It often revolves around the art of asking great questions, keeping things safe to remain in dialog and just plain old when to leave people alone to figure it out. At Voltage, we have identified three of the fastest and most impactful ways to install a coaching culture. They are:

1) Leaders as Coaches: Voltage trains leaders to have coaching conversations with            direct reports and peers. Coaching leads to greater engagement, personal                    responsibility and accountability resulting in improved team performance.

2) Train the Trainer: The most efficient way to really learn something is to teach it.

3) Mentoring: Voltage provides on-going mentoring to help leaders address the unique challenges they face in creating a coaching culture. We provide feedback on their coaching, facilitation, and training skills.

For a deeper dive into establishing a Coaching Culture at your organization, listen to this episode (How do we create a coaching culture inside our organization?) of our VoltCast radio show, Illuminating Leadership.


Wild- adjective, something or someone that is untamed, uncontrolled or unrestrained

Innocent- adjective, not responsible for or directly involved yet suffering its consequences

Shuffle- adjective, a dance done every day and every night with no clear steps, just to get by

On my way in to work last week, I noticed that the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive. It made me wonder, why were they on this power drive? The power drive can loosely be interpreted as turf protecting, aka the accumulation of political “power” with an end goal of spending it on the perceived need for self-preservation.

The power drive is often symptomatic of the “C-Suite Shuffle” (ie, senior leadership or systems that are more concerned with “looking good” vs ensuring that roles, responsibilities and expectations are 100% crystal clear for all downstream stakeholders). The result may be a disconnect from middle management and the front-line job doers (the very people needed to deliver the desired results).

Lack of clarity about roles, responsibilities and expectations results in Confusion, Drama and Frustration or “CDF.” Once a culture is afflicted with CDF, it is very hard to de-toxify. It can lead to circumstances that cause some people to do something Wild. This may be the long-term contributor who has been a great employee but has become so frustrated, one day they do their best “George Bailey” and exit in flames of glory.

Lack of clarity may also impact the Innocent super star and rising star employees who may feel they have not been “heard.” Weary from the drama of living with the power drive and being very marketable, they defect, further exacerbating Confusion, Drama and Frustration.

Fortunately, we have an excellent tool to keep us from walking into a Tenth Avenue Freezeout. And it works with every level applied to. It’s called Ownership: 5 Steps to breakdown Confusion, Drama and Frustration.

Step 1: Each Team has its own Mission - Vision and Values that drives its behaviors & code of conduct.  This is not the same as the organization’s MVV and applies to every Team from the C-Suite on down.

Step 2: Each Team’s leader, regardless of their title, is responsible for ensuring that roles, responsibilities and expectations are 100% crystal clear for all stakeholders.

Step 3:  Each Team’s leader is responsible for ensuring that any issues resulting from Group Dynamics are handled by confirming that Step 2 took place. Absent that, it’s a performance issue for the Group.

Step 4:  Each Team’s leader is responsible for ensuring that issues resulting from Interpersonal Dynamics are handled by confirming that Step 2 took place. Absent that, it’s a performance issue for them.

Step 5:  Each Team’s leader is responsible for ensuring that issues resulting from Individual Dynamics are handled by confirming that Step 2 took place. Absent that, it’s a performance issue for the person.

Good luck and let us know how it goes. You can send us a comment or even your favorite Bruce Springsteen song if you want to!


I bet you are thinking I’m referring to “Cover You’re a$$!” with CYA. Well, that one can definitely have negative ramifications on your team so I am writing about a different CYA.

Choose Your Attitude! Your team is often taking your lead on their mood based on your behaviors, mood and attitude.

I am working with a C-Level executive who had been starting all his meetings with the problems happening in his area.  The meeting started by listing where the team had missed the mark and then progressed to a general inquisition that occasionally resulted in a beheading. The form of punishment would last until you were either dead or decided to leave the department/organization.  While it was not quite that drastic, it felt that way to the participants of the meeting.  The leader’s mood would shift from inquisitive to frustrated to pissed off to victim to persecutor and generally wrapped up in resignation by the end of the meeting.  Have you ever attended a meeting like this?

How could this go differently? Let’s go all the way back to getting out of bed.  One exercise that I both utilize and recommend to my coaching clients is choosing a word or two for the day.  When I know I have a challenging meeting coming up, I might choose “curious.” This helps me stay interested in why people are feeling and acting the way they are acting.  When I have a busy day filled with coaching sessions, meetings, and kids’ soccer games, I might choose “energy” to help keep my energy up all day.  Another common word for me is “awesome”. I like to use this one after a so-so night of sleep.  It is easy to respond with “Fine (or okay) because I did not get a great night’s sleep” when you are asked how you are doing. However, when I say awesome, I feel a lift in my step and the other person looks at my quizzically. I generally then say something like I got to take my son to school today and I have 3-4 coaching sessions today that I am looking forward to.  Does this work every day, of course not! However, it does help me and my clients create their own story each day instead of showing up like a zombie just getting through the day and reacting to everything.

Okay, so now let’s get back to the team meeting. One recommendation I had for the leader was to get there 2-5 minutes early, and have a personal conversation with his teammates so he could connect better. Next, I asked him to consider starting the meeting with 2 questions for each person—“What has been going well in your area? What are your desired outcomes for this meeting?” These questions shift the mood from defending your areas to celebrating accomplishments and naming what you need help with.  This is the land of possibility vs. justification.  There are still problems that need to addressed, but the team will get to those after they understand the desired outcomes. The leader I was discussing started doing these two habits and his team is doing significantly better.  They feel like they really know him better and they want to come to work for him.  Before this started, several team members had confided in me that were looking outside the organization for a new job and they dreaded coming to work. They still know the meetings will be intense at times but that is okay because this team gets results. They feel much more supported now and they know their leader listens to them.

What is your attitude towards change? Do you embrace it or do you whine to your team about another area “making you and your team change.” I can promise you how you describe the change will impact how your followers will respond.  I am not saying that all change is easy to accept or that you like it, however, if you state the reasons for the change and why things will be changing, others will follow your attitude and lead. Yes, there will still be some whining but a lot less then when you get in the trenches and whine with your team.

One final thought—how often do you provide recognition vs. giving developmental feedback.  I encourage you to try to provide 5 pieces of positive recognition for every piece of developmental feedback you give. People will love this. Watch how your change in attitude will impact the team. So, what attitude will you bring to work tomorrow?  Have some fun with this and send me some feedback on what you see in your team. Good luck!


Do you have conflict on your team?  When a conflict arises, do you view it as a problem with an individual or between two individuals? Does it feel like your workplace is always stuck in drama?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on to learn about a model I like to use with teams.

The Waterline model below is from Harrison, Scherer and Short.  There are other models out there, but I will use this one to explain some of the challenges in your organization.  

An executive team I was working with recently was having significant challenges.  We used the Waterline Model to start the conversation.  You can use this model to start a meeting when you are off target on your goals.

If everything is working, meaning your tasks are leading you to accomplish your goals, then you stay above the waterline.  You keep doing what you are doing, celebrate, capture lessons learned and try to keep up the momentum.

Watch out, iceberg ahead!  We all wish it were that easy.  Unfortunately, an obstacle or iceberg gets in the way and we need to dip below the waterline to diagnose the challenge and get back to accomplishing our tasks.  In this highly caffeinated world, we need to do this ASAP.

There are four key areas below the waterline:

1.      Structure (Clarity of goals, results, mission, vision, decision-making, sponsorship)

2.      Group (Inclusion, roles in the group, decision making in the group, who’s in and who’s out)

3.      Inter-personal (drama between 2 people, conflict, feedback and communication breakdowns, misunderstandings and who did what to whom!)

4.      Intra-personal (values and beliefs, stress, emotional intelligence, assumptions)

When a problem arises, where do most people go?  Yep, you’ve got this…right to the blame game!  We throw the individual off the bus with their intra-personal challenges!  I would say 80% of my clients start in the bottom two areas.  Sometimes this is effective, but really 80% of the time should be spent in the top two areas.

I would challenge you to start at the top and work your way down.  Ask yourself questions like:

1.      Do we have clear goals?

2.      Do we know who the decision makers are for this project or work?

3.      Does the work we are doing align with our mission and vision?

4.      Do we have the right people on the team/project?

5.      Do they have the authority to make the decisions required to get us back on task?

Generally, I find that when a team or individual is not hitting their goals, it is because of unclear expectations, poor decision making criteria, unclear roles, or lack of clarity of purpose of the team.  I ask leaders to make the assumption that people come to work to do a good job and want to accomplish their goals (yes, I know there are a few slackers, but those are the exception not the rule.)  If we reset expectations, clarify decision making and ensure the right people are in the room, then we normally get back to accomplishing our goals and do not have to get down to inter-personal or intra-personal conflict.

Okay, I see you rolling your eyes.  Yes, there are times when it is inter-personal or the individual’s work.  Here is my challenge to you:  be open to starting higher in the model and then work your way down.  If it is an inter-personal challenge, I suggest a 3-way conversation where you facilitate clarity on goals and set-up ground rules for how these two individuals will get along.  If it is an intra-personal challenge, then I think you give clear, specific feedback on where they are missing the mark and follow-up consistently until either the performance is up above the waterline or you ask them to exit the organization.

Wrapping up…the team that I originally discussed realized that they had done a poor job assembling teams.  They put people together, but did not give them the ability to make decisions.  Also, they tended to see their peers as obstacles and not assets that could accomplish the goals that they all wanted to hit.  Once they realized this, they set clearer expectations, changed the membership of the teams and they were PERFECT!  Well, not perfect, but they did get much better and they are much closer to their results now thanks to using the model and sharing feedback with one another.

Your challenge:  if your team is off target, have you diagnosed where the breakdowns are?  I encourage you to start just below the waterline and work your way down.  Good luck and let me know your results.


I am working with an executive team that is having a challenging time with one another.  The team members have started to land in camps and defend their areas.  They think of themselves as marketing, operations, finance, HR, sales, etc. and they have lost sight of their greater purpose.  Additionally, most of the team members see the other team members as obstacles in the way of achieving their results. Consequently, the team also thinks that the CEO is an obstacle who is not changing the strategy and culture fast enough.  Wow, sounds like a lot of fun!  The funny part is that individually they are really great people, but they have just become objects to each other.  Does this sound like your team?  Have you ever been on team like this?  I know I have and it was no fun!

I led the team in an offsite recently and the first thing I had them do was to write down two things they admired or respected about each team member.  I then had them go around the room to each person, share their feedback and then receive the feedback from their peers.  I can see some of you rolling your eyes already!  No, we did not sing Kumbaya or do a trust fall next.  However, there were some tears, flushed cheeks and some mumbling.  Why did I start with this exercise?  I wanted each person on the team to re-see the people in the room as human beings and not as objects or VP of Sales.  They had lost sight of the fact that each person was trying to do their best work.  Most of the people thanked me for the exercise and said they could not remember the last time they had received positive feedback or given positive feedback to their peers.

Next, I worked with them to learn about Outward Mindset.  This concept comes from The Arbinger Institute and I highly recommend their new book, The Outward Mindset.  

An Outward Mindset exists when you are able to see the other person as a person and you work to understand their needs, objectives and challenges.  You then demonstrate behaviors and agree upon objectives that meet the collective result of your organization.  The stakeholders can be your direct reports, your manager, customers, peers, the Board, External Partners, etc.  

In contrast, an Inward Mindset exists when you demonstrate behaviors that focus on your or your department’s needs at the expense of others.  The inward mindset results in seeing others as obstacles, irrelevant or vehicles to accomplishing your goals.  The inward mindset leads to distrust and an inability to see possibilities.

Back to the original team:  it was clear to them after the discussion that most members were demonstrating an inward mindset.  We went through an exercise of describing the type of behaviors that would demonstrate an outward mindset (listening, collaboration, shared goals and successes, sharing of talent, etc.)  We also talked about how they felt when they were doing their best work together (invigorated, challenged, healthy conflict, aligned and fun.)  The team is not perfect, but they are working hard to see their teammates as people trying to do their best work.  They grant each other some grace now if there is a mistake or a miscommunication.  I hear a lot more “we can do this” vs. “they did this to me, my area, etc.”   I believe they are on the path to success.

Here are a few questions to ponder:

       Today, what would happen if I simply focused on helping others succeed?

       Who am I working with that I could be more helpful toward?

       Who is one person who needs more from me than I am currently delivering?

Good luck and go tell someone two things you appreciate about them and see what happens to the relationship.  



Civility in the workplace is essential.  Not a cold civility as in, “I will be polite to you while on the inside hatred is coursing through my veins.” I mean civility as a culture of respect and forbearance, even curiosity and kindness:  a culture where habits of both manners and mores exist that helps everyone navigate how to act and interact with one another.

Uncivil behavior in the workplace drives down productivity, kills employee engagement, and impacts your bottom line.  People are effective when they are bringing their best selves to work, and when their colleagues do likewise.

Researcher and author Lars Andersson defines workplace civility as “behaviors that help to preserve the norms for mutual respect in the workplace; civility reflects concern for others.” Thomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, co-founders of the Institute for Civility in Government, assert: “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

But how do we put these ideals into practice?

Here is a quick list of norms that can cultivate great civility in your workplace today:

1.      Say “please” and “thank you”.  We learned it in kindergarten and the lesson still applies.  It applies to everyone, from CEO to front line new hire:  thank people for their work, their attention, their time, their effort.  I recall a Professor in college who would recapture everyone’s attention by saying in a very quiet voice, “May I please have your attention now.”  That quiet authority spoke volumes.  When she spoke we paid attention.

“Thank you” is the most valuable habit a leader can have.  How else will people know what behavior to repeat?  “Thank you” is a great way to instill the values, expectations and aspirations you desire.  And a public thank you that is specific and swings between the personal and the communal helps everyone know which direction to move to create success:

“Bill, your presentation on Friday was excellent.  The slides were few, easy to read and captured both your point and the attention of our audience with great images.  You were prepared with your data, but knew it cold enough that you simply peppered the facts in with a larger story.  Most helpful were the few, on-point specific examples you gave to illustrate your key points.  Everyone in the audience stayed with you, and I had several positive comments from the client. Great work.”

Now Bill and everyone else know several things to do or keep doing to be successful in their work.  It adds so much more value than simply saying, “Great job with the presentation Friday, Bill.”

When thank you is leveraged as an opportunity to coach the right habits, everyone wins!

2.      Be respectful of other people’s time.

Being on time communicates respect.  So does ending on time.  Time is our most valuable asset:  use it wisely.

3.      Say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake or damage, intentionally or unintentionally, a relationship.  Here is the hard part:  work on meaning it when you say it.  This is not as easy as it seems: we need to allow ourselves to feel regret, to experience empathy for the other party, and then honestly and wholeheartedly say, “I am sorry.”  Look the other person in the eyes when saying, “I am sorry.”  Your regret will show, and that will make a difference to the person or people involved.

4.      Respect and pay close attention to the ideas and perspectives of others.

I could spend a great deal of time with this one, but I will move on to:

5.      Listen.  Really listen.  Listening is an essential skill, yet it is one we do not practice.  What levels of excellence could we achieve if we became expert listeners?  Begin by remaining quiet and deeply attentive when others are speaking.  Pay close attention to the words, gestures, ideas and meaning.  Attempt to see the world through their eyes.  It is a powerful experience to be listened to thoroughly.

Robert Fulghum, in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, captured the essence of civility when he quipped:  “Play fair.  Don’t hit people.  Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.”

For more on this topic I recommend Pier Massimo Forni’s book, Choosing Civility, the Twenty Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. 


Trust has a bottom-line benefit because

1.      Trust turns groups into teams and

2.      Trust shortens the time it takes to get things done.

We are simply faster and more efficient when we trust people. (Stephen M.R. Covey makes a beautiful case for building trust in his book, The Speed of Trust:  the One Thing that Changes Everything.)

Let me describe two work environments.  You choose the one you would rather work in:

Workplace A

In this workplace, fear rules.  There is an absence of laughter, and stiffness in the way people move and speak.  Great care is taken before someone utters a word in a meeting.  You can almost see how tightly wound people are.  They are tethered to the demands and expectations of their job.  Duty and obligation define the day.

Workplace B

In this workplace, there is both swift movement and laughter.  People speak and move easily around one another.  Many ideas are put forward in meetings, and those ideas are challenged and refined by others present.  There is focus and engagement.  People are committed to a common cause, not in love with their own ideas.  A shared sense of purpose creates momentum in the organization.

The rest of this article will not help you if you would prefer Workplace A.

But if Workplace B appeals to you, here are 5 Tips to Cultivate Trust on Your Team.

1.      Ask questions for which you do not have an answer.

These kinds of questions show real curiosity and allow for creativity and collaboration.

2.      Share your desired outcome openly at the outset of the meeting or conversation.

This allows people to relax because they know what your expectations are from the beginning.

3.      Honestly share and discuss the threats and obstacles that are present.

Open discussion shrinks our fear, making the real challenges easier to overcome.

4.      Listen.  Actively.

Your act of listening calms everyone in the room, you included.  Listen to learn and understand.

5.      Celebrate success.

Notice and celebrate the successes on your team as shared successes of the team.  This simple pivot ties individual achievements to the entire group, and allows people to enjoy the successes of others more deeply.  It is easier to build team spirit when we share the wins!

When trust begins to emerge in a workplace, the pace of that workplace increases for one simple reason:  distrust takes time.  Do you want your people spending their time thinking of ways to protect themselves from colleagues and criticism or would you rather have your people spend that time and energy working on your business? Building trust has a bottom line:  trust increases the pace by decreasing the friction between people and teams.  The dividends of trust are both speed and creativity.  It pays to cultivate trust on your team.