When I solicit feedback from my clients’ colleagues, I often hear, “she needs to be more effective at building relationships across the organization.” What does that mean? It may mean that my client hasn’t established credibility in her role. It might mean that she hasn’t delivered on her commitments. It could also mean that she is a completely different person with the CEO than with her peers. In any case, skill in building effective relationships is a core competency for leaders.

Building effective work relationships requires the following:

• Respect – we earn respect by inviting different perspectives and by sharing our expertise in a constructive way

• Trust – we earn trust by following through on deliverables and giving credit to others where it is due

• Consistency – we demonstrate consistency when we value people at all levels

• Communication – we communicate effectively by actively listening before we speak

Think about the people with whom you most enjoy working. What makes those relationships productive? Do you respect and trust one another? Can you disagree in a healthy way? Do you treat people consistently and give credit appropriately? Do you strive to listen and understand before stating your opinion? I encourage you to consider how you can transfer those behaviors to relationships you would like to improve.

To assess or enhance your ability in building effective relationships, contact me at: cheryl@csbryan.com

I suppose there are some people who enjoy conflict, but most of us prefer to avoid it. In several client meetings recently, we discussed reasons for avoiding difficult situations such as telling a subordinate that their performance is unacceptable or standing up to a bullying boss. People typically put off those conversations because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or because they are afraid of possible repercussions.

Consider Cost vs. Benefit

I asked my clients to evaluate the cost of avoiding the conversation versus the benefit of having it. Being honest with a subordinate who isn’t performing up to expectations means we are supporting the rest of the team in meeting deliverable commitments. What is the cost to our credibility and our health when we allow our boss to treat us unfairly?

We then explored what might happen if we chose to reframe conflict as an opportunity for collaboration:
• Disagreements could be addressed in a timely manner
• Colleagues could know their strengths and areas for development
• We could establish healthy boundaries for how we expect to be treated

How to Reframe Conflict

Reframing conflict isn’t easy. It requires:
• Understanding what makes us uncomfortable
• Considering the cost and benefit of each possible reaction
• Choosing how we will respond

I invite you to think about a recent conflict you experienced and how the outcome might have changed if you had approached it with a different mindset.

My client was frustrated because her direct reports didn’t have their business plans ready. She extended the deadline and sent them reminders, but they still didn’t get them done. My client extended the deadline several more times and sent additional reminders. She couldn’t understand why this was such a problem.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When I asked, “What are the consequences of not getting the business plan done on time?” my client realized that she had not established or implemented any consequences. Her message to her subordinates was that the deadline was flexible. My client’s actions also communicated that she would be responsible for helping them remember their commitments. Neither of those were messages she intended to convey.

As we focused on creating a different outcome, my client committed to explaining her new approach to each member of the leadership team. She would expect them to keep their commitments and she would not be sending reminders. If her subordinates met or exceeded my client’s expectations, they would be recognized and compensated accordingly. If they did not meet her expectations, they should expect corrective action.

How are you holding your team accountable? Consider the following accountability suggestions:

  • Communicate expectations clearly – have each person confirm their understanding.
  • Be specific about positive and negative consequences – be aware of what motivates your subordinates and use that to create incentives, but know what you can and will enforce if they don’t perform.
  • Follow through – unless you do what you say you will do, you aren’t holding people accountable.

I invite you to evaluate your approach to holding people accountable. If you feel that you could improve in this area, contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com



I recently sat in on a client’s staff meeting and then provided feedback immediately afterward.  Feedback has much more impact when things are fresh in our minds.  In the nine months that we have worked together, this client has made amazing progress.  His willingness to ask for and accept feedback, and then to change his behavior accordingly, has impressed his colleagues and me.

Less Can Be More

As I told my client when I gave him his first round of 360 feedback, most people overcorrect initially.  We want to assess our progress so we ask everyone for feedback on everything.  Once my client became more familiar with the process, he chose opportunities for feedback more carefully.

Getting What You Need

Not everyone is comfortable giving honest feedback, especially to their boss.  Colleagues may be concerned about retaliation for negative comments.  Here is how can you be sure you’re getting honest feedback:

· Choose wisely – consider who will be objective as well as constructive

· Ask politely – assure your colleague that you value their input and you won’t be defensive or “kill the messenger”

· Be specific – explain what you are trying to achieve, how and when you want feedback

· Follow up – check in regularly but not so often that you become a burden

· Reciprocate – offer to give your colleague both positive and constructive feedback

· Be grateful – say thank you for all feedback, and mean it

To assess your openness to feedback contact me cheryl@csbryan.com



Most of us recognize executive presence when we see it. We also recognize when we don’t see it. When successful executives hit a career obstacle, a lack of presence may be the issue.

I am coaching a laid back Ph. D whose boss wasn’t sure he was ready for a promotion. Feedback from my interviews with his colleagues indicated that he needed to speak up more in meetings to ensure that he was making a strong impression. Although my client didn’t want to state the obvious, he agreed to try speaking up sooner with constructive observations and found that he was able to project self-confidence rather than self-promotion.

Executive presence is conveyed by:

What you say
Knowing your subject is critical. Communicating expertise through intelligent questions is very effective. Concise remarks that reflect insight have a much greater impact than a lecture.

How you say it
Use a warm tone of voice to project confidence rather than arrogance. Persuasion doesn’t necessarily require volume, but you must speak loudly enough for everyone to hear.

What you don’t say
Posture is power. Whether standing or sitting, you want to command attention and confidence. Sit slightly forward in your chair and lean in without compromising personal space. Avoid distracting habits like drumming your fingers or clicking your pen.

You can change behaviors to enhance your executive presence and help you achieve your career goals. To explore how coaching can support you contact me cheryl@csbryan.com



Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Everyone has regrets about missed opportunities – a promotion we didn’t get, a job offer that didn’t come through, a talented team member who was recruited away. If we focus too much on the door that has closed behind us, we miss opportunities that are ahead.

How to focus on the open door

1. Play to your strengths

Using the decision making approach that works best for you will ensure that you are less likely to regret a decision. If you need time to analyze the options, do so. If you process information quickly, be confident in moving forward.

2. Accept the outcome of past decisions

Consider whether you could have done anything differently but recognize that you can’t change the past. Don’t waste too much energy on what could have been.

3. Focus on the future

Decide how you will apply what you have learned and translate that into action. How will you approach a similar situation the next time it arises?

Life is too short to dwell on closed doors. If you are having difficulty focusing on new opportunities, contact me cheryl@csbryan.com