Engender Psychological Safety at Work

Would you like to wield a magic wand and create a work environment in which people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks, try new things, acknowledge mistakes and learn? In other words, a climate in which people do NOT embarrass, reject, or punish one another for speaking up? This is what you could get if employees feel psychologically safe. A 2017 Gallup poll estimated if leaders could move the current ratio of employees who … Read more…

Building Infrastructure for Engaged Leading

Cyril Oberlander, Dean of the Humboldt State University Library, recently took Roger James and me on a tour of the library. It’s impossible to capture in words how inspiring he and the library were to us. In the most recent HSU Library Annual Report, Oberlander stated, “HSU Library provides information resources and curates many outstanding opportunities to investigate, inspire, and invent.” In the last five and a half years he and his staff have transformed … Read more…

Six Myths About Leadership

What are your beliefs about leadership? That leaders are born, not made? That there is only one right way to lead? Or, that you need to be in a formal leadership position to lead? Let’s explore these beliefs and others that are myths (i.e., widely held beliefs or ideas). Myth #1 Leaders are born and not made.  If this is true then the $14 billion dollars spent annually on leadership development is a rather colossal … Read more…

What Do You See?

Look around the room you are in right now. What do you see? I notice the lamp on my desk and the printer to the left of my computer. When I broaden my focus I can see the welcome rain out my window and the quickening of the green in the grass and the darkening of the asphalt in the road. What you see is shaped by the society in which you exist. In societies … Read more…

Why Your Organization’s Culture Matters

In the 1990’s Roger James and I tried to help an engineering firm tackle some difficult issues like retaining staff and completing projects.  The groundbreaking work of Edgar Schein on Organizational Culture and Leadership had just been published. Most leaders and consultants did not understand what culture was nor how it affected organizational performance. Now, with the benefit of having helped numerous organizations successfully define and create strong, desired cultures, I realize that the engineering … Read more…

Basics Still Matter

Rae Levine, a longtime colleague and friend, with whom I taught meeting management once looked at me in faux disbelief and asked, “Is there anyone left on the planet who does not know how to define desired outcomes for a meeting and build an effective agenda to achieve them?” We both cracked up. It seemed we had been teaching this to multitudes for years. I still teach both because there are many who either don’t … Read more…

Ask Really Big Questions

A participant in a recent leadership workshop asked me an evocative question: “What is your favorite chapter in your book?”. Given that the workshop focused primarily on communication skills I referred her to Chapter 9 on Six Indispensable Communication Skills in Talk Matters!. But then I paused and realized that one of my favorite chapters is Chapter 1 in which I describe the propositions underlying the practices that are the focus of the book. “They … 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…

Compassionate Resistance?

A long-time colleague and friend responded to a recent blog on compassion. He had been thinking about “the corrosive effects of incivility,” and wondered about the role of compassion. He wrote, “I don’t think compassion is enough these days. Gandhi and MLK Jr. were compassionate, to be sure. But it was their focus and smart, firm resistance that carried the day…or most of it. I believe we need now to plant two feet firmly in … Read more…

Cherish Potential and Possibility

Potential and Possibility

In a November 9th blog about her reflections after the elections, Ann Weiser Cornell wrote, “We need to cherish the sparks of potential and possibility in everyone and in every situation, while at the same time seeing what is in front of us.” What is in front of me is the challenge of:   1) Feeling compassion for the pain, fear, and anger that divide our communities, country and world into warring camps; 2) Remembering that all … Read more…