Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty


Do transitions maker you anxious? Do you have trouble moving from one activity or environment to another? Do you prefer to stay home after a busy day and long commute rather than going out on the town? Even when I am in control of the circumstances, I still need to self-motivate and self-regulate in times when I need to transition from a comfortable situation to an unknown opportunity.

Imagine how anxious you might be if you weren’t in control and didn’t have a voice in where you were expected to go next. Predictability is a strategy that many employers use but that level of familiarity breeds contempt and boredom. A better approach would be to design respectful, productive, shifts from one approach, assignment, or expectation to something different.

Today I witnessed anxiety, pain and discomfort from an employee who is living with uncertainty and anxiety about where and what they need to be undertaking in the next phase of their employment. I also saw a small child fall to the ground and flail and scream when it was time to go home.

Whether working with a team or shepherding a family these 6 tactics should be part of the plan.

1. Don’t undermine, deride or deny the feelings that are being experienced, even if you don’t feel the same way or understand how someone else might be feeling. observe the body signals and listen to their words with openness and curiosity. Acknowledge the feelings and encourage everyone to safely express their concerns. It may feel that being a command and control leader or parent would be more effective and productive and it may be in the shorter term but the anxiety, emotional upheaval and health challenges this can cause will be more costly in the long run. Be the type of leader who leads with consistency, compassion and care will give you real authority and license to hold high expectations and be respected for helping them through the awkwardness rather than pushing them into a chasm.

2. Offer a clear, brief explanation as to why the change is needed. ” I understand that you are busy calling all our accounts receivable but I need a weekly sales report to give to the president” ” I can see that you would like to stay at the park but we need to leave in five minutes so that we can get home to start supper before mommy gets off work. She is working very hard and will be very hungry. Can you help me make supper?

3. Even in moments of anxiousness and distress don’t behaviour that is unacceptable or for expectations to be lessened. It may seem counterintuitive and callous but in stressful situations and transitions, consistency is more than ever.

4. Be generous with gratitude and judicious with praise. They need to know that their efforts are appreciated but lavishing too many accolades creates neediness.

5. Be patient. Be patient with the people and the process. Let reality sink in and leave time for reflection and understanding. Through our patience and trust, we give employees and others that we support a safe place to air their concerns, acknowledge that they are heard and still lead them through the rocky change.

6. The hardest thing to practice when faced with resistance, is determination. Don’t backtrack, don’t concede, don’t surrender or your leadership/parenting will become suspect.

This isn’t a silver bullet that will work in every situation (nothing is) but if you follow these steps and master the listening and negotiation skills that go along with them, you will have fewer tantrums, rebellions or productivity drops.

There’s a little bit of pain in every transition, but we can’t let that stop us from making it. If we did, we’d never make any progress at all. ~ Phil Schiller

Make Today Remarkable by leading rather than pushing,


Self Improvement

Striving for Simplicity

Simplicity isn’t a slow man’s solution to complex problems but a gateway to a deeper conversation.
Winston Churchill thought and wrote a lot about simplicity and complexity and in his tenure as a wartime Prime Minister he had to wrestle with complicated connected variable pieces that could save or cost lives and he needed to communicate the results of his battle with clarity and brevity.

“A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life.”
“Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge. Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all.”
“All the great things are simple.”
“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

If we frame a discussion, debate or generative conversation in a complex mind map overly with lines and shading connecting strength, direction and reciprocity we can overwhelm and disinvite participants. Academics and bureaucrats like complex expressions of though because it raises the status of their domain. But if we open a door with some simple thoughts and possible remedies, we create space for wider engagement and diverse input.

Readers will know that I suffer from some serious confirmation bias and pretty strong delusions of grandeur so masking uncertainty with a web of connected observations can be a tendency of mine. I realize that I can have more creative, ingenious and original interactions if I can begin without the pretense of convolution and elaboration.

Make Today remarkable, by beginning with simplicity,

Self Improvement

Are You Digging What I am Putting Down?

Do you hear what I hear? I am scheduling a hearing test because I am missing things that people say. Some might think it is because I am ignoring them or that I only hear what I want to hear but I want confirmation from an audiologist. If there is a medical problem, I will follow the recommendations of cleaning or aids.

When we are listening to the same conversation, I wonder if you are hearing the same thing that I am hearing. Are your biases similar enough to mine that you interpret the words and sentences to confirm or deny the thesis? Are the sum total of your experiences, intimate or global, prejudicing you against an individual or group of people? Do you hear wisdom from those you think to be wise and foolishness from those you judge as fools?Hearing is different than listening. I open my hears and listen but once it makes it past the canal hearing sets in and my brain translates the clicks and dits into meaning. Even when the subject is simple the process of hearing can be difficult. We only understand a small portion of what is happening when oral communication takes place, especially when we are involved.

Interpretation takes on a higher level of sophistication when intonation, subjectivity and sarcasm are tossed in the mix. When I was working in theatre we used an exercise called “The Seven Words” to help actors react to what they were hearing, both as improv and scripted. The seven words we used were “I didn’t say I kissed my wife.”
Try saying the words out loud a few times changing the emphasis on words or pairs of words. I DIDN”T say I kissed my wife. I didn’t say I KISSED my WIFE. I didn’t SAY I kissed My wife. We discovered 37 different possible and distinct meanings without changing the order of the words. Somehow we are attuned to the nuance of intonation from an early age and can easily and usually get the gist of the sentence. (Aside : imagine the same seven words in an email and now the interpretation struggles to convert linear into dynamic through the reader’s lens rather than the writer’s). Is there any wonder that miscommunication occurs when we are rushed, distracted or tense. Our rhythm and sense of pace jumbles the information either as the speaker or hearer and conflict can arise.
If my vocal quality or volume change, intentionally or accidentally, it can impact how you hear what I say and how you react to the same words and same intonation. If I whisper ” I didn’t say I kissed MY wife” or raise my voice and say ” I didn’t say I kissed MY wife” the hearer will include secrecy, resentment, anger … into the decoding of the message.
In face to face conversations, even when we are both alert, content and ready the reality that oral conversation also relies on body and facial language complicates understanding. If I say ” I understand” but my face and posture say “you’re wrong” you are more likely to decipher the contradiction using the non-verbal cues. I think I am agreeing and you feel dissed. If I assume a high status posture with arms crossed towering over you, there is nothing romantic or compassionate that I can utter that will ring true for you.

History adds another dimension. If you and I share a past with intricate backstories and intrigue we develop shorthand verbal skills that only work for us. If a third person is part of the discussion or observing it, they will miss the subtlety and ‘inside’ suggestions. We might ‘get it’ but now the confusion expands to someone else who has different biases, experiences, circumstances, and tendencies. The circle of complexity grows if the additional participants have a contrarian nature or is a people pleaser.
In some ways it is hard to imagine that we ever understand each other even when all the auditory equipment is functioning at it’s best. When any deterioration occurs and the hearer is now parsing every second or third word into a coherent sentence the probability of getting all the other signals cross is almost assured. I can do my best to say what I want heard in as clear and concise a way as possible. I can take personal responsibility for listening and hearing (and asking for clarification) and I can do what I need to do to maintain my auditory system pathway. I will make the call on Monday morning to book an appointment.