Hard lessons: How to talk about racism in a stress management training

Uncategorized Oct 09, 2020

This month I ran a new training for a repeat client. Break the Stress Cycle: Name and Manage Your Emotions looks at stress management from the standpoint of emotional intelligence. Being able to recognize stress, name the underlying emotion, and shift our emotion to a more positive or productive one is a learnable skill that will help you manage stress for yourself and your team.

During the training, something came up that I did not handle so well, and frankly, it has stressed me out:

When I asked people to name a stressor, someone wrote about how it's stressful to become aware of all the inequalities that have existed for a long time in the U.S. She felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of issues, and also felt stuck, not sure what she could possibly do about them. 

Let me first say: The idea of being aware of inequalities as a stressor is, itself, a privilege - clearly, she is not dealing with the life-or-death realities of inequalities. Neither am I. 

And, yes,...

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Listen Better to Be a Better Leader

2020 has been quite the year - and it ain’t over yet!

But one wonderful thing I’ve experienced is my love of partnering with others to deliver great content to people.

First, I partnered with Dr. Melissa Bird, the Natural Born Rebel, to bring you the Graceful Revolution for Managers.

Now, I’m partnering with Lisa Wilson, of LMW Consulting, to bring you Listen, Talk, Lead.

Both of these rock star women entrepreneurs let me do what I do best: talk about empathy, active listening, and communication, while they do what they do best - share stories, encourage you to trust your intuition, and learn to be the best version of you no matter where you are in your leadership journey.

2020 is teaching us a lot about good leadership, if we’re interested in paying attention. Countries where political leaders trust the scientific experts, and admit when things are going to difficult, got to flatten the COVID-19 curve more quickly. Countries where leaders feel they have...

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Strengthsfinder? Empathy vs. Not-Empathy

I recently revisited my Clifton Strengthsfinder results. If you’re not familiar with this assessment, here’s a quick overview:

  • A psychologist named Don Clifton decided it made more sense to focus on developing people’s strengths than their faults. Clifton is considered the father of strengths-based psychology.

  • The Strengthsfinder is a set of 34 strengths present to different degrees in every human being.

  • The assessment gives you a deeper understanding of which of these strengths are strongest for you.

One of the interesting, yet difficult, things about Strengthsfinder is that they use their own language. For example, one of my top five strengths is Intellection. This is not a common word. The dictionary will tell you that Intellection simply means, “an act of intellect, thought, reason.” According to Strengthsfinder, someone with the Intellection strength is introspective and appreciates intellectual discussions. Spot on for me, but,...

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Why I Teach About Active Listening

If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know I write and think and teach a lot about active listening.

Yet it can STILL be really hard to do!

There are so many reasons I love the concept and theory of active listening, and reasons I love to teach about active listening:

  • When you actively listen to someone, you connect more deeply with them.

  • It’s the ONLY way to concentrate to truly understanding another person’s perspective.

  • It demonstrates humility because it involves asking them if you understand them correctly, and if you do get it wrong, you just roll with it and try to actively listen again and ask them again - like a listening/asking cycle!

  • It’s applicable to SO many situations:

    • Client/customer work

    • Managing a direct report

    • Managing up

    • Working or volunteering with a team

    • Getting closer to a loved one

    • Learning what the heck your teenager is thinking

    • Trying to understand the point of view of someone whose beliefs are a polar opposite to you...

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You manage people? Don't be the reason they leave!

Managing with Empathy

Think for a moment about your favorite manager or leader. Someone who was in charge in the organization you worked for, or work for today. What is it about them that makes them your favorite?

Odds are, what you love about them has far more to do with interpersonal skills than anything else. They listen to you. They care about you. They invest in you. They help you.

Managers who understand how to be human at work - how to empathize with fellow employees and direct reports - are far superior to managers who ignore or tamp down emotional connections.

There is little reason to trust a manager who refuses to become vulnerable and share something about themselves, and there is little reason to trust a manager who, when you’re feeling vulnerable, keeps their response business-like - or, let’s face it, robotic.

Managing with empathy can mean a lot of simple things; it comes down to being human.

How to Manage with Empathy

  • Ask someone how they’re...

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Black Lives Matter

I believe kindness, happiness, and empathy can change the world.

For too long, white Americans have lived in a bubble of privilege. The privilege is always mitigated by other factors - gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, income, health, and more. Yet our race always gives us privileges.

It seems like we may be in a time where more white Americans are waking up to this privilege than ever before. This gives me hope for the future. No one is free and equal until all are free and empowered.

As a white person, I’ve long had a desire to not behave in racist ways, and it seems like every year of my life I learn a little bit more about what that means. I’ve made mistakes and been insensitive. And I learn, and try never to make the same mistake twice.

I do the work I do because I believe that what we experience at work has ripple effects throughout our lives; if work is stress, we are stressed. And stressed people make bad decisions - sometimes, hurtful decisions;...

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How to Manage Workplace Conflict

4 Keys to Manage Workplace Conflict: Curiosity, Kindness, Engagement, and Shared Purpose.

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Listen with Curiosity

Since going through my mediation training in 2018, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the hidden benefits of curiosity. When we are genuinely curious about other people, we can communicate more gently through any brewing conflicts or disagreements.

Work cultures where curiosity reigns tend to be places where conflict rarely feels like conflict. Disagreements happen, and they are seen as steps in a process - just a part of working together to create or improve upon a product, process, or service.

From my perspective, it’s easiest to be curious about others when we have some empathy for them, or a desire to understand them. Empathy is the social glue that holds any group of people together - we care about each other and share a desire to learn about each other.

When disagreements do happen, they may or may not become full-blown conflicts (even in the happiest of workplaces). One key to keeping disagreements from becoming conflicts is to listen with curiosity - to...

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What to Do with All Your Emotions

A short video about emotional reappraisal for managers.

This morning I spoke with a client about dealing with anxiety and setting boundaries while managing her team, which had just grown in size and was working longer hours.

Yes, business growth IS still happening in the midst of COVID-19! Yet, we’re also all dealing with more stress than ever, partly because of fears due to the virus and partly because - though we are very social animals - we have to be physically distant from anyone we don’t live with. That definitely creates its own stress.

The key to dealing with the stress and anxiety is:

Emotional reappraisal.

Science tells us suppressing emotions doesn't work. Ignoring them and behaving as though you are not feeling anything will backfire - either by becoming actually cut off from your emotions, or by having those emotions explode out of you at inappropriate times.

Yet giving emotions full control over our thinking and conversations can also be...

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Good Meetings: Going Virtual

In January, we’d heard of coronavirus.

In February, we’d heard it was spreading - still, it seemed, on the other side of the world.

In March, everything started to shut down. On March 30, the governor of my state (Virginia) announced a shelter-in-place order - no one should be leaving their house except for essentials.

In January, I wrote a series about how to run great meetings. We covered purpose, timing, acting like a good host, and conflict.

Now it’s time to revisit that with best practices for virtual meetings.

Online Meeting, Same Priorities

Most of what I’ve previously written about still applies:

  • When you first decide to hold a meeting, get crystal clear on the point of the meeting - what is the purpose? The goal? Are they the same or different? Tell people! Do not keep this to yourself.

  • Does this really have to be a meeting, or should it be an email? Internet memes aside, most of us would prefer to avoid a videoconference for work unless...

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