Handling Hidden Emotions

A colleague was in a meeting recently with her counterparts from around the state trying to figure out how they might collaborate to improve each of their organizations’ individual performance. As they considered possibilities, one member of the group kept objecting to everything in a harsh tone. Basically the message was, this will never work, don’t even try it. So, on breaks and when the naysayer was not in the room, the group came up … Read more…

Effective Conversations Are a Critical Leadership Tool

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ve been conversing your whole life. There’s no mystery involved, right? Maybe. As a leader how do you use conversations to lead, to get stuff done? (I am distinguishing between a task-oriented meeting with four or more participants and conversations among two to three.) People often start conversations with present-day events or concerns. For example, imagine that as you walk back to your office after a meeting, you exclaim … Read more…

Why Can’t We Converse with One Another?

It’s a tough time for conversations. The toxic national political environment is infecting interactions among friends, colleagues and neighbors. We are having a harder time listening to one another and an easier time vilifying those who think differently than we do. Social media feeds the flames. Curiosity and compassion have gone AWOL. Conversations are fraught with fears about the future, anger about the past, and disbelief at how we got here. The challenge for each … Read more…

What’s at Stake

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used Senate rule # 19 to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Marco Rubio* made an important speech that seems to have gone unnoticed. In it he said, “What’s at stake here tonight…is…the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before us.” He also stated, “We are reaching a point…where we are not going to be able to solve … Read more…

“Compassion” Our Way Forward

Compassion is a verb

After the November 8 election, I sent a dear friend an email asking about what he might be feeling or thinking. He began his response with, “I really believe we can only ‘compassion’ our way forward.” After astutely turning this noun into a verb, he continued, “We have to be the ones to try and make democracy compassionate and caring.” In previous postings, building on the work of Daniel Goleman, I have described various types of … Read more…

We Are The World. Lets Start Talking.

I had been considering what to write in this first blog of 2017 when Roger James (my husband and business partner) showed me this 32-years-ago video.  It sings everything I want to say with one slight yet significant addition. In addition to giving money to the causes we care about, let’s start giving by listening deeply to each other with empathy and compassion, especially to those who differ from us in race, gender, ideology, class, … Read more…

A Prisoner of Bad Meetings?

The doodle above is my colleague Michael Kraft’s “notes from a recent meeting.” It reads like a note from a prisoner on death row. You don’t have to be a prisoner of bad meetings! Honestly, you don’t. Or, not most of the time anyway. You have options. At least two people are responsible for you being a prisoner in a bad meeting: you and the person who convened it. You are probably already familiar with … Read more…

Do No Harm

To honor the 49 people who were killed and the 50 who were injured in Orlando on June 12, I offer reflections on doing no harm. The grievous harm that occurred in Orlando has me wondering about two things. First, how significantly will the unthinking or deliberate political vitriol unleashed in the media in reaction to this tragedy feed an already antagonistic environment in this country? Second, how much will we let this environment affect … Read more…

Gestures Influence Invisible Infrastructures*

“Invisible infrastructures” include our states of mind, emotions and physiology. They are parts of our infrastructure in that they are components of interrelated systems that are essential to our living and interacting. Like the infrastructure of the United States, it usually receives little attention, especially in meetings. When we lose track of our infrastructures—proliferating thoughts, fluctuating emotions, and varying physical sensations—we can unconsciously influence a meeting for good or ill. In addition to the practices … Read more…

Invisible Infrastructures in our Interactions

“Infrastructure” usually refers to the physical components—structures, systems, and facilities—needed to operate an enterprise or sustain a society, for example, buildings, bridges, roads, water supply, sewers and electrical grids. Interactions—or meetings—need their own infrastructure to operate successfully. Some of the components for interactions are as tangible as buildings and bridges, for example the people and the place you meet or the telecommunication system through which people will interact. Developing the less tangible elements is just … Read more…