Sticks, stones, and name-calling

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s a familiar refrain we learn from our parents as children, meant to soothe the pain of being called nasty names by playmates. However, if you’re like most of us, you’ll remember that it wasn’t particularly effective either in helping us feel better or in stopping the name-calling. The …

Leadership, power, and conflict

I know someone who equates leadership with power-over, and vehemently rebels at any sign that his business partner wants to encroach on his territory or take an active leadership role in their business. (I’ll call him James.) I once worked with someone who didn’t have and didn’t want an official leadership title, but who by the simple force of her personality, intelligence, and insight was a powerful thought leader …

Don’t clothe the skeleton!

“So, I’m going to tell them that I know this has been hard for them. I understand how the disagreements we’ve been having have triggered a lot of unpleasant memories of things that went badly wrong under past leadership. For instance, I know Sam really feels – ” “Wait! Stop!” I said. My client and I were planning an upcoming meeting …

Hearing – or understanding?

“I hear what you’re saying.” Whenever someone says that to me, I always want to reply, “Sure. I hear the birds chirping, a car driving past, and someone on the phone 20 feet away. So what?” People are hesitant to say, “I understand you.” Maybe they don’t understand. Maybe they fear they’ll be misunderstood as saying, “I agree with you,” when, in fact, …

Why “thank you” isn’t enough

“Thank you.” It’s the nice thing to say. It’s what our parents taught us. Even when it’s no more than a polite reflex, it’s still a real expression of gratitude or appreciation. And when you’re in a casual situation with someone you don’t know or with whom you don’t have an ongoing, meaningful relationship – such as the clerk at the grocery …

I must be getting somewhere…

At a planning and strategy meeting the other day, a client gloomily confessed that she’s going to have to do something about one of her employees. “She’s always very busy, but she’s not getting anywhere,” she said. “She’s great at writing reports …” “That say nothing,” I finished for her when she trailed off. We’ve all been there: the challenge …

“Work is Love made visible”

I encountered this Kahlil Gibran quote  years ago on my first visit to the Esalen retreat center. I’d ventured into the kitchen to ask a question, and when I turned to leave, I saw the quote posted above the door out to the dining room. Work is Love made visible The impact was remarkable. I could easily imagine – and even feel – …

The peril of fabricated meaning

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of shared meaning for an organization’s success. This post is about shared meaning’s opposite, the flip side of the coin: fabricated meaning. Fabricated meaning is when someone takes a particular event or situation and, quite simply, creates a story around it. This is perilous is because it’s almost always a negative, destructive story that …

Watch your language!

The language you use every day, including your word choice, the sequence you put them in, and the tone you create, plays a more critical role in how you’re perceived than you may imagine. Your response to a question, a compliment, even a comment on the weather, affects what people think about you, your abilities, and your work in very subtle yet very …

Desire isn’t enough: the three essentials for organizational change

There’s an old joke that goes, How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: One, but the lightbulb has to want to change. And it’s true that change of any sort – personal or organizational – starts with desire. But that’s not enough, as anyone who’s watched New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside, or corporate change initiatives …