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 2020, 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...

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Compassion in a Time of Pandemic

Hi friends,

I created this business in June 2018, after being trained as a mediator here in Virginia. I knew a few things about myself:

  • Helping and serving people who are struggling is important to me.

  • I felt passionately enough about bringing mediation services to workplaces that I wanted to, metaphorically, hang out my shingle (start a real business, not just freelance).

  • I seemed to have a higher level of empathy and listening skills than the average person.

Today, less than two years into running this business, I have learned so much - still have so much to do to get to the thriving business in my vision.

And I am at home with two kids, my husband, and our dog, indefinitely, because of the first global pandemic in my lifetime.

Here’s what I know:

  • Emotions are running high for all of us right now, and they’re the emotions that are more difficult to deal with - fear, worry, anxiety, sadness, confusion, disappointment, boredom, anger… the list goes on....

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Job Crafting

Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.

~ Aristotle, about 2,500 years ago.

But let’s be honest here: a lot of work does not feel like a vocation.

Is there a way to find more meaning in your work?

To feel that you use your talents every day and that doing so makes a difference in the world?

Yes! It’s called job-crafting. This comprehensive article from the Harvard Business Review archive goes over what it is, and two examples of how it has worked in two different industries; plus it was written by the researchers who pioneered the concept.

The concept of job-crafting is so simple, it’s brilliant. Job-crafting was created by researchers Jane Dutton, Amy Wrzesniewski, and Justin Berg. In this video you can hear Dr. Wrzesniewski describe a janitor in a hospital who had “crafted her job,” in terms of how she thought of her work, into something much more important, ambitious, and kind-hearted than what we typically...

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