That is So Stupid!

I’m Right, You’re Wrong

How many times a day do we think or say, “That is so stupid!”? The statement infers that we are smarter than someone else, that we are right and they are wrong.  That attitude makes it impossible to find common ground in conflict resolution.


Where is that Getting Us?

This issue came up with two of my clients recently so I challenged them to come up with a non-judgmental word to substitute for “stupid.”  It wasn’t easy letting go of that powerful feeling of being right, but they were each frustrated enough with the lack of progress in resolving their differences with colleagues that they agreed to work on it.


This is Smart!

The exercise enabled my clients to see things from the other person’s perspective, and that helped them move forward.  How about you?  Are you ready to try a new approach to achieving your objectives?  If so, I invite you to consider an issue from the perspective of someone with whom you disagree.  That’s not stupid; it’s smart!

How do You Slice an Apple?

Have you ever stopped to consider how many things do you do without thinking?  I have always sliced an apple with the small end down, even though it tends to wobble.  Recently, my apple rolled over and I realized how much easier it is to slice it with the large end down.

Who Taught You?

I suppose my mother taught me to slice it that way and I never considered doing it differently.  When you think about the people who taught you about being a leader, who comes to mind?  What made the good ones effective and the bad ones hard to forget?  How did they shape your leadership style?

Is There a Better Way?

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith reminds us to ask, “How am I doing?” on a regular basis.  The answers tell us what we need to continue doing and what we need to reconsider.  Are there some things you have been doing so long that you no longer pay attention to whether they are effective?

Adding Too Much Value

Of the 20 habits Goldsmith lists in his book, one of the most common I see in my executive coaching clients is adding their two cents to every discussion.  Your team isn’t very likely to be motivated by a leader who says, “That’s a good idea but…”  If you wonder whether this is an issue for you, ask someone you trust.

Like the apple, I invite you to turn your leadership style upside down and see if you need to slice it differently.

Are You Talking to ME?

What do you consider the most effective way of communicating?  Like most of my executive coaching clients, you are probably buried by email since it is often our primary method of conveying information.

Building Relationships

Many of my clients have been telling me recently that their colleagues want them to reach out for face-to-face communication more often.  Building relationships is much easier when we go to someone’s office or connect via Skype or videoconference.  Reading body language and facial expressions helps us understand what isn’t being said better than emoticons ever will.

Value of Small Talk

While texting, instant messaging and other forms of communicating via technology are useful, even a phone call can go a long way toward creating a personal connection.  I know it sounds old school, but Facebook can’t take the place of hearing someone’s voice.  The tone of the typical “I’m fine” answer to “How are you?” can tell a lot about whether we need to accept that at face value or ask, “How are you really?”

Impact on Leadership

One thing I often hear when conducting 360 feedback interviews is that people appreciate a leader who cares about them.  They want someone to ask them questions and then really listen to the answers.  They want the kind of relationship that doesn’t exist only in cyberspace.

I encourage you to ask your colleagues how you could be a more effective communicator.  If they want to see more of you, that’s a good thing!


Who is in Control?

While recovering from foot surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think about how hard it is to give up control – of my schedule, my mobility, my environment.  As I have begun meeting with clients again, this issue of control is coming up in different ways.  I’m hearing things like:

  • How do I keep people from interrupting and distracting me?
  • Why won’t my boss be honest with me about my promotion potential?
  • How do I deal with the uncertainty of constant organizational change?

Sound familiar?  If so, consider that you have also given up control, although not because of a physical limitation.  You are limiting yourself by believing that you aren’t in control – of how you respond.

Here are some suggestions for taking control of your responses to:

  • Dealing with interruptions – I can’t talk right now but let’s get together at 3:00 this afternoon
  • Getting feedback – I’m going to schedule a meeting to ask my boss what I need to do in order to be considered promotable
  • Dealing with change – I accept that change is inevitable and will focus on what I can influence

I invite you to challenge yourself to take control and change how you respond to one thing this week.  If it works for you, keep doing it.  If not, try something else until you feel like you are in control.

Watch your Head!

If you’ve ever been on a ranch, you’ve probably seen a cattle panel (check out the picture above). Not something you want to run into, especially head first.  That’s what I did recently when there were several panels in the bed of my husband’s truck, at just my height.  I jumped out of my side of the truck and was headed around the back when, bam!  A sharp corner of the panel banged my forehead and jammed into my sunglasses.  I was lucky that I only ended up with a few scrapes and bruises.

Although you may assume that I’m generally clumsy (no comment), I would tell you that this happened because:

  • I was looking at the ground
  • I forgot the panel was there
  • I was in a hurry

After I had some time to reflect on my good fortune, I asked myself if there were any lessons to be learned that might apply to my work with leaders and teams, such as:

  • Are we missing a signal that we aren’t communicating effectively with someone because we aren’t looking for it?
  • Are we failing to change a non-productive behavior because we forget about the negative impact it has?
  • Have we overlooked an opportunity to create an effective team environment because we are in a hurry to get results?

Amid this busy holiday season and year-end planning, I invite you to raise your head and look around at the things you may be missing that could derail your professional relationships.  If you need someone to help you figure out how to avoid the bumps and bruises, give me a call.  In the meantime, enjoy the holidays.

Building on What is Working

As companies are reorganizing and stretching the capabilities of their people, team building is in high demand.  I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of people in the midst of drastic change.  Their team leader and many of his direct reports had been let go abruptly, the new leader had been in her role for less than a week, and the company was undergoing massive restructuring.  They were trying to change the tires on the car while speeding down the highway at 90 miles an hour.

In my preliminary interviews with each of the team members, they shared their objectives for the team building session, potential challenges, and what they were willing to do to make it successful.  Not surprisingly, the list of challenges was long, but one of their key objectives was to get past the obstacles and focus on moving forward.

After acknowledging all the challenges, the team made a list of what they are already doing well and created statements describing the ideal future state such as, “people want to work on our team.”  They prioritized each statement according to the degree of difficulty and value.  The highest value, least difficult things to achieve were assigned top priority.

From there, the team moved into action steps, accountability and metrics for each aspect of their ideal future state.  They left the meeting feeling energized by what is already working and creating a plan to build on that.

This approach to change management, called Appreciative Inquiry, is a powerful alternative to the traditional method of focusing on problems and trying to find solutions.  For a high level overview, see The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, by Sue Annis Hammond.

If your team is ready to try something new, contact me at