I need to talk to you.......I was chit chatting with......this is what I think.......here’s how to do it.......this is what we want........rah, rah, rah, I love the sound of my own voice.  We all fall into this trap and we sometimes need to tape over the talking part of us, and listen.  Just listen.

I want to take a step away from active listening supervisor 101 and talk about some quality listening as a leader. We are in such a hurry to communicate, text, email, phone call, live meeting, and on and on and on.  And we learn to communicate effectively in all the mediums we have access to, often to the determent of plain old listening.  Nothing can top being a good listener.

Effective coaching is about listening. Effective team meetings are about listening. Effective 1:1s are about listening. Listening means it’s not all about you.  Listening is the focus on others.

·         Listening is seeing the world from someone else’s perspective

·         Listening is hearing the space between the words

·         Listening is hearing what you want me to know that I haven’t heard yet

·         The quality of listening is what weaves non-verbal cues into statements

·         Listening shows you  opportunities and builds trust

When we spend time listening we are able to also build credibility in confrontation.  How often do we shut down immediately and form our defense before we hear what is actually being said?

A quick refresher to remind us to be quiet and listen.  It will serve us well.

It happens.  Life isn’t all unicorns pooping rainbows.  While we strive to deliver results through vision, alignment and engagement, there are times when we find ourselves struggling with disengagement within our ranks. The common mistake is to accuse and alienate the disengaged, further perpetuating the problem. 

The fix is to recognize that you as the leader are accountable for engagement and need to identify the cause of the struggle, assess what can be done to rectify it and manage by facilitating steps to rebuild engagement. 

 And why do we care so much about this? Engagement is right up there with the motivation that keeps us wanting to contribute to our organizations. Engagement is what builds strong cohesive teams that will produce results and be able to face challenge head-on.  An engaged team is a resilient team because the individuals feel secure in the foundation of the team synergy and goals.

There is a ton of information on motivation and what engages people to want to deliver results and be happy doing so.  In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink gives us three motives that engage us as employees and leaders alike.

1.       Purpose – the desire to contribute to a cause  - driven by intentional connection to the core           ideology of the organization

2.       Autonomy – the desire for freedom over task, time, team and methodology

3.       Value Proposition – the personal sense of adding worth to the organization

Now comes the coaching for engagement part.  Leader behaviours and coaching are an intricate part of providing the sphere of these three motives to engage our team members.  Coaching is not punitive and accusatory, coaching is building. In order to coach for an engagement, you need to empower your team with the motivation to feel valued and pride in achieving results for the team and the organization. 

So stop being angry and mad at disengagement. Stop looking at the disengaged as failures and be accountable for the challenge of building engagement. It will get you results.


A few weeks ago I had one of those “ah ha!” moments as I listened to Gifford Pinchot share an inspiring message with those of us at TedX Rainier. He told us about his HappoDammo Ratio in shaping our world and how we choose to sustain it.  

HappoDammo Ratio= happiness created by an activity
                              damage created by that activity

(to do him justice and learn more about the HappoDammo Ratio, please check out www.pinchot.com, the Pinchot Perspective)

Another ratio we all know about (although maybe not the intricacies of how it works) is the Golden Ratio that we associate with the nautilus shell, so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  The proportions, patterns, things that make us feel stable, the status quo.  Things we don’t want to mess up, kind of like keeping it all in the mean, workable and comfortable and familiar.  Like our leadership team. Workable, comfortable and familiar.

So, what happens when you make decisions to change the status quo? A ratio is a quantitative relation between things, a way of gauging reaction and effect.  The HappoDammo Ratio if applied to the leadership decision paradigm, the changes you make within your team, will provide you with valuable information before you make a decision that will throw your team off the level, too far one way or the other.  Too much happiness or too much damage.

This is where the leadership decision making process gets heavy and your shoulders broad.  Still, it’s your decision in how you manage the ratio with your resources; your accountability and credibility in maintaining a sustainable working leadership team.  Transformation is part of growth and to keep it all in check, we need to remember that our actions cause reactions, some planned, some maybe not. Check the ratio of happiness / damage before you use your power to engineer either.

It’s not a project or anything out of the ordinary. It’s stepping outside of the virtual connection, outside of the conference call, outside of the email and spending some face to face time with the people who look to me for leadership.  And for me , this means spending some windshield time.

This is a part of my work that I love.  The journey, more than getting from A to B provides time to reflect and appreciate and find delight in what I see and where I am.  And I make a point of appreciating everything from the wondrous blue sky to the welcome from not only my teams but the coffee that shows up on my desk  to say hello from the client in my locations.

It’s a time to have holiday lunches and talk about the past year; what went well, where the challenges are, and how I want to move forward into our next year.

·         Building and empowering my team for success

·          Sharing ongoing vision and goals as a team

·         Being  a trustful and mindful leader

·         Being able to say “that ended well”.......priceless

Things happen in our teams and it’s our job as the leader to be somewhat clairvoyant and be prepared. We need to anticipate and plan in order to drive for success and part of this is meeting with my team and talking and thinking together, and planning together, and then committing to our plans. The process is exciting and my role is to keep it real and workable.  And to anticipate the challenges.

With only 200 kilometers to go before home, the driving conditions became extremely dangerous with compact ice and freezing rain in the mountain pass. Losing control of my vehicle on the ice, I experienced the fear of where I would end up – the slide on the ice dance that skips and jerks, slides and stops like a faulty CD song. Spinning 180 degrees, ending up in the ditch on the opposite side of the road, I stop and breathe.  As I climbed out of my vehicle, the trucker who stopped to help me looked at me and said “well, that ended well”.  Priceless.

We encounter ditches, challenging situations (AKA freezing rain) and yet we manage to say “that ended well” and look to the next adventure.  It’s called being the leader.  

As I sat in a restaurant last week munching away on lettuce wraps, I was thinking about why we like these simple little things so much.  Well, probably because they are not actually as simple as the look.  Might look like some kind of meat and shredded veggies but the magic comes about because of the subtle flavors that are infused with each ingredient.  In fact, the simple little lettuce wrap is ingredient driven for specific flavors, and technique driven with precise amounts and process.  Sounds complicated?  It is.  In order to do it right.

As I meet with the members of the team I lead, I am struck with how the different personalities and backgrounds give flavor and difference combined with the common goal and vision to put it together making it work.  Chef or leader, it is my responsibility to very carefully ensure the flavors of my team fuse to form a cohesive group, with no one flavor overpowering to the determent of others.  To continue to shift and build on the basic recipe of headcount to get that “wow!  this really works, I want more,  factor”.

Of course,  there is the option of the lettuce sandwich if you are not so adventurous a leader to put the work into fusing flavors  - to dice, mince, cook and spice to build lettuce wraps. To carefully select and nuture team members.  Lettuce and bread, the lettuce sandwich. The bare minimum, no extras, disappointing in its mundane performance of meeting but not exceeding.

Like building your team, as the leader you have the opportunity to infuse your team with the right people, skills, abilities and knowledge to show up to your organization as a  secret sauce recipe for success, or a lettuce sandwich.  Decide..... put your checkered chef pants on and get to work.