“I had every intention of getting that document to you by the deadline but I always have too much on my plate.”  We all want extra points for good intentions when we don’t follow through on a commitment but we aren’t so generous when a colleague makes excuses for repeatedly missing the mark.

Habits Hold Us Back

Making excuses is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s 20 habits that hold us back.  Goldsmith doesn’t let us off the hook when we blame others or say, “That’s just the way I am.”  Who is responsible for how much is on our plates?  We are.

How Can We Change?

If we want our colleagues’ respect, we have to align our intention and execution.  To do that, we need to look at what’s getting in the way.  Some possible obstacles could be:

  • Selfishness – thinking that our priorities supersede everyone else’s
  • Habit – it can be hard to change if we’ve gotten away with something for many years
  • Accountability – we need help doing what we know we should

I invite you to consider excuses you might be making and why, then make a plan to change that behavior and find an accountability partner.  Practice, repeat, practice, repeat…

team recognition

Most of us have struggled at some point with understanding and connecting with people who are very different from us.  Team orientation versus individual advantage is one area in which that can be particularly difficult.   Those who are very focused on team success might be uncomfortable around someone who asks, “What do I have to do to get promoted?” or “When should I expect my next raise?”  Such questions could trigger a judgmental thought like, “Don’t they care about the team?”

Both And

It can be helpful to recognize that these individuals may be asking for more feedback.  They can care about the team and be motivated by knowing how they contributed to the team’s success.  For these people, the team leader needs to provide individual as well as team recognition – both “me” and “we”.

Me First

A personality assessment like Birkman is a great tool for helping us be aware of our own needs and triggers, so we can stay out of judgment and focus on helping team members get what they need.

You’ve tried to explain your point of view and the other person just won’t listen.  You know you’re right so why should you waste time asking what they think?  If this isn’t you, you have probably experienced a communication breakdown with someone who takes this approach.

Do Your Homework

The first step in resolving a communication breakdown is taking time to reflect.  While this might make some people uncomfortable, feelings are involved.  The Gottman Institute recommends considering the following:

  • Feelings: Examine how you felt
  • Realities: Explore your perceptions, what you saw and heard and what you needed
  • Triggers: Identify previous experiences that might have escalated your reaction and why
  • Responsibility: Acknowledge your own role in the communication breakdown

Move Forward

When you’ve completed your homework, try utilizing The Imago Dialogue format to move the conversation in a new direction with these tools:

  1. Mirroring what you heard
  2. Validating the other person’s perspective even though you may not agree with it
  3. Empathizing with their feelings


Be an MVP

You can be a Most Valuable Partner if you practice MVE (Mirroring, Validating and Empathizing) using this script:

  • Agree on a good time to talk
  • Mirror: “What I heard you say is…Do I have that right?”
  • Other person says “Yes” or corrects your statement
  • Validate: “That makes sense”
  • Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…” This List of Emotions can help.
  • Other person says “Yes” and/or shares other feelings – none are right or wrong
  • Ask the other person whether they are ready to practice MVE or agree on another time in the next 24 hours

As with anything new, this approach takes practice.  You’ll know you’re getting better when your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective – not to defend your position – and when both parties feel heard.

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is about managing a difficult team member.  They say things like, “He is taking up too much of my time” or “She isn’t responding to my suggestions for changing her behavior.”  My response is, “What does that person need that they aren’t getting?”  The leader rarely knows the answer – if they did, they wouldn’t need my help.

Where to Look for Clues

In these situations, I recommend a personality assessment for the team member and the team leader.  This increases their understanding of themselves and each other, especially their similarities and differences.  The assessment also provides suggestions for what each person needs to be most effective.  If someone needs clear cut instructions and their boss is too vague, they will likely want more detail.  That can be frustrating to a boss who is a big picture thinker and wants someone else to fill in the blanks.

Be Intentional

With increased awareness of what they need from each other, these two individuals can make adjustments.  Although it can get easier with practice, it will likely always require intention and feedback.  Asking, “Did you get what you needed?” at the end of a conversation may not be common but it is essential for effective communication and connection.

I invite you to think about a team member who has been a challenge for you.  How might you change your approach to improve the situation?

Summer means vacation for a lot of people and I’m hearing from many clients that they are really trying to unplug.  They know it can be tempting to check email and get sucked right back into the work vortex.

Play is Essential to Mental Health

Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that 84 percent of workers surveyed experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year, including stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.  The need for play to improve mental health is more important than ever.

How to Make It Happen

Think about how you felt after a really great vacation – relaxed, recharged, reconnected to yourself and others.  How can you recreate that feeling more often?

  • Connection – Even introverts can benefit from gathering regularly with friends and family. All humans need connection to survive, as well as time alone to think and reflect.
  • Exercise – Exercise, especially outdoors, can improve both mental and physical well-being. Organized sports are a great way to combine exercise and connection.
  • Hobbies – Spending time doing something you enjoy puts deposits in the self-love bank. Consider trying something new to stimulate creativity and improve brain health.

Whether you’re planning a vacation or a weekend, what is one playful thing you need to recharge and how will you make it happen?

How many times a day do you say, “I know” even when you don’t?  If you grew up in a family or worked in an organization that valued knowledge over curiosity, you learned the importance of being right.  Needing to know everything can be a heavy burden.

Armored Leadership

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown explains that being a knower and being right is a form of armored leadership that may be driven by shame.  This shows up in organizations when only certain people are valued as knowers so others don’t speak up because they’re not “senior enough” or it’s “not their place.”

Daring Leadership

The antidote to armored leadership is daring leadership.  The Courage to Not Know suggests three strategies to transform always knowing into always learning:

  1. Name the issue with a conversation like this: “I’d like you to work on your curiosity and critical thinking skills. You’re often quick with answers, which can be helpful, but not as helpful as having the right questions, which is how you’ll grow as a leader.”
  2. Make learning curiosity skills a priority. Brown points out that some people may need to be taught how to be more curious.
  3. Acknowledge and reward great questions and instances of “I don’t know, but I’d like to find out” as daring leadership behaviors. Encourage and model a shift from wanting to “be right” to wanting to “get it right.”

If you’re a knower or you work with one, I invite you to consider the impact of becoming a learner.  What would be the first step?