CG #17 – Everything I know about leadership I learned from a horse

Word Count:  689

Reading Time:  About 2 minutes

If you think leading means doing it perfectly, you might want to come on down to the corral.

I’m standing in a round corral with a horse named Auzzie, just hanging out before we get to work.  Auzzie keeps lifting his lip at me – laughing the way horses do.  He’s been doing this since we met several months ago, and today he’s doing it more than ever

Today’s assignment is to get Auzzie to walk around the corral by connecting and conveying my intention non-verbally.  There is a giant whip in the center of the ring I can use, but I’d rather not.  A group of my peers is watching.  Everything in me wants to do this the right way: no whip, no raised voice, all Vulcan mind-meld and horse-whisperer.  In addition, I’d like to accomplish all this while looking ultra-cool.  Natch.

I stroke Auzzie’s head.  I am clear about what I want:  I want him to walk around the ring.  I stand next to him and try to compel him to step forward by my excellent example of what walking is.

Auzzie looks interested, but he doesn’t move.

I lean against him hoping to force him off balance.  It works, but he doesn’t start walking.  He’s too busy laughing.

Auzzie and I are connected; I just can’t move him.

I pat him a final time and say, “Alright, let’s get going.”  My intention shifts from “c’mon, Auzzie, could you just….” to “we’re going to do this, NOW.”  This is often how it is when I switch from trying something to committing to getting it done, from following to leading.

I pick up the huge whip in the center of the ring and before I’ve even turned to face him, Auzzie breaks into a fast trot.  I have two thoughts:  “He is GORGEOUS,” and “that’s too fast.”  I lower the whip and back away from him, hoping to slow him down.

That’s when he starts galloping.

I cycle among panic at failing to control him, appreciation for his beauty, knowing that Auzzie is trying to tell me something.   After several circuits, he stops and faces me, panting.  I go pat his head and thank him for whatever it was that just happened.  I’m stunned at how he took off once I got clear, and overwhelmed that he went all out for me.   Our connection never fails to amaze me.  Auzzie laughs.

Social researcher Brene Brown’s research tells us that connection is the key to happiness, creativity and innovation.  Connection is the key to collaboration, and to leadership that enlivens.  And vulnerability is what unlocks connection.  That makes vulnerability a key leadership skill.

Brown defines vulnerability as the courage to be imperfect and authenticity as the willingness to let go of who you think you should be and simply be who you are.  What stops us from showing our true selves is the fear that we are not acceptable.  Rather than risk the shame of that, we stay guarded and numb and full of performance anxiety.  This makes it so very difficult to connect.

If there is a leadership crisis, it boils down to this inability to connect authentically.

Horses have none of our issues with authenticity or vulnerability.  That’s why I find them to be such good teachers.

No horses near you?  That’s OK.  Here’s what you can do right now to reclaim your vulnerability and ability to connect:

1.  Refuse to be bossed around by shame.  The moment you hear that voice in your head that tells you’re no good, or says “Who do you think you are?” laugh like Auzzie, then take the action that riled up that voice in the first place.

2.  Relinquish perfection.  Is there someone you find impossible to connect with, no matter how hard you try?  Something you’re not doing because you can’t do it well enough?  Stop trying and do:  Do it badly, do it imperfectly, do a terrible job, but do it.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and want to work with the horses, here’s the info.

If you haven’t seen Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, you’re in for a treat.

What do  you think?  Is vulnerability as a leadership skill, or — ?

The Power of Minding Your Own Business

Word Count: 670

Reading Time:  Under 2 minutes

“Don’t ask why a person is the way he is, ask for what he would change.”

— Milton Erickson, MD.

A reader asks:

“I’m wondering if there is an article  in your blog on how to work with individuals who feel they have to teach others regularly, whether it is warranted or desired.  I have someone who is a kindhearted person, and  seems to feel the need to make “teachable” moments.  This creates parent/child relationship I don’t want.  Do you have any articles that talk about how to maintain the adult role when being addressed by someone using a parent/child approach?”

Great question!  Let’s start with what not to do:  Don’t spend time analyzing why they are the way they are or why you are the way you are.  It will keep you stuck.

How Analysis Becomes Paralysis

Hanging back and analyzing my motives or those of others helps me avoid experiencing the gap between who I hope to become and who I am right now. You see, in my mind, I’m a Jedi Knight, able to cut through any problem with one brilliantly turned phrase; in reality I’m drooling and babbling like a tiny infant.   Ouch!  Changing an interaction means risking contact with the gap between ideal Liz and real Liz.  The longer I stay in analysis mode, the longer I can avoid that risk.  Once I’ve decided to take the leap, I must focus on the only person I can change:  Me.  This is where things start to get fun.

Minding Your Own Business

Byron Katie talks about the 3 kinds of business:  Yours, mine and God’s.  There is no other kind. You are responsible for your business.  I am responsible for mine.  Being other – or better – than I am is not my business.  Being an expert on you isn’t my business.  My business is to be me, fully, sloppily, brilliantly, tentatively, every moment of every day.   Your business is to be you, just as you are.

When two adults get caught up in a parent-child relationship, the “parent” has crowded into the “child’s” business and the “child” has let them.  The “child” must resume adult-level function by getting back into their own business and leaving the “parent” to theirs.

Here are 4 strategies for reclaiming your adult voice:

1. Interrupt to paraphrase and redirect.  Rather than crankily saying “You already TOLD me this, thank you, “ try this: “Rather than you explaining this again, let me lay it out for you.  You can tell me what I missed.”  Then you might say: “Great – I’m clear about what we’ve promised; what eludes me is how we’re addressing scope creep with this client.”  Or, “I must be missing something:  How will this approach help us meet our goals?”

2.  Give voice to what is so for you, and invite that from others.  This includes your confusion, doubts and hesitations, as well as what you are sure of.   This goes against much of what we’ve been taught:  When we feel talked-down-to the temptation is to shore up our position by showing how heroically smart, tough and competent we are.  This is how conversations that could spark real change become a war between two entrenched positions.   Productive conversations need an adult, not a hero.

3.  Disagree and be willing to be wrong.  “I don’t see it that way,” is the cleanest, most respectful way I know to disagree with someone.  The language implies we are looking at the same thing, yet we are not coming to the same conclusion.  What could be more fascinating?  From this place of curiosity, it’s easy to explore the assumptions we’ve each made that led us to such different conclusions.  From that place, wrong-doing becomes irrelevant and anything is possible.  Even when you are frustrated beyond words, you can still be caught up in this curiosity.

4.  Say what you want and need, but aren’t getting.    If you’ve been maintaining your image rather than drooling and babbling with the rest of us, this is going to feel mighty uncomfortable.  It’s nothing more than being in your business while letting others stay in theirs.   Using “I” statements and keep your language blame and judgment-free will help you stay in your own business.

I’m especially curious about what you have to add to this.   If you’d like, you can let me know in the comments.









Take Your Skills Home to Make the Holidays Happier

Did you know appiness is 90% up to you?  You can do it!

Word Count: 700

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s that time of year in the USA:  We’re saying “Happy Holidays!” and  “Happy Christmas!” to each other.  And for many people the holiday season is a joyous time.  For others, going home for the holidays is like revisiting the scene of their childhood misery complete with the original cast.  No matter which camp you’re in, you can make use of recent research on happiness.  The upshot is this:

Happiness is an inside job.

According to the research of psychologist Shawn Achor, Long-term happiness is 10% due to the external world and 90% due to the way our brain processes that world.  90%!  In last year’s TED talk, he made this point:  It’s not your reality that shapes you, but the lens your brain sees the world through.

If you’ve ever read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, you’ve already encountered this idea.  In that book, Milo, an eternally dissatisfied young boy, receives a phantom tollbooth in the mail.  He sets it up, pays his toll and sets off with his dog Tock on an adventure.  Soon, he and Tock find themselves stuck on an island.    Milo asks a man for directions and is told:

“Why this is the island of conclusions.  You can’t drive back.  You got here by jumping.  You have to think your way back. “

You’re going to have to think your way to happiness too.

It’s all the more important when that 10% gets a little crazy.

As this is my last newsletter of 2012, I wanted to point to three skills we’ve already covered that can help you true the lens your brain is using to view the world and have a happier holiday:

CG #4 – Why You Listen

Review this to remind yourself that listening is an act of generosity and love.  You listen not to show off, but to give the speaker the best conversation they’ve had all day.  This holiday season, give the gift of your curiosity.

CG #7 – If you Want to be a Communication Superhero, s-h-h-h!

Silence is the simplest way to give someone the space to talk.  Simple silence lets others gather and organize their thoughts.  It’s the way you give the gift of your attention.  In this ADHD world, at this hyper-busy time, dare to be silent.

CG #11 – “I See it Differently” – How to Differ Without the Sticky Residue

It’s going to happen.  Someone is going to get on your last nerve over Christmas dinner.  It may be Uncle Wally who baits you about politics or your Cousin Jeffrey who keeps dropping names and flashing his Rolex in your face as he reaches for more green beans.  And don’t forget Aunt Betty, who will look at you with love, yes, and deep, deep pity as she tells you that, someday, there will be someone for you too.  You just have to keep your spirits up and stay in the game.

Stop gritting your teeth and say “I see it differently” as you let an angelic smile break over your face.  Then gaze at her with utter affection until she breaks eye contact.  Help yourself to another slice of pumpkin pie – you’ve earned it.

You may have noticed that I’ve recommended listening twice and speaking once.

Look in the mirror and answer me this:  How many mouths do you have?  How many ears?  You see?  You are your own visual aid for effective communication!  And you are our best bet for Peace on Earth.  Have a Happy Holiday.


I’m taking the next two weeks off.  I’ll be back publishing my weekly newsletter on Friday January 11th.   See you then!

How to Fix an Impossible Meeting Problem: The MVI

Does it feel too hard to change a longstanding relationship or meeting problem?  Try an MVI.


Word Count:  600

Reading Time:  Under 2 minutes


“That was the worst meeting I’ve ever been in.  I had no idea I could be that bored and remain conscious.”

“Not a total loss, then,” my boss said.

“Is that typical for this group?”

“Yes.  Although, the cookies were much better this time.”

“Have you ever used an agenda?”

“Sure – it didn’t help.”

What about some groun…”

“Liz, stop!  It won’t help.  This meeting is just our cross to bear.”

I was in a pickle – condemned to a deadly 2-hour Friday afternoon meeting in the company of my boss’s peers and not allowed to improve the meeting.  Moreover, I ran the risk of embarrassing my boss in front of her peers if I wasn’t absolutely circumspect.

What do you do when there is nothing you can do?

Look for the minimum viable intervention (MVI).  Something so tiny no one will object to it.

You might ask everyone to say a word that describes their current state of mind, or how the meeting is going for them.  That way, group members are telling themselves what they need to hear.  It may take a little time, or a second round before someone suggests a change.  That’s how an MVI works.

Sometimes the MVI is a question, like “Is anyone else confused about what were trying to accomplish?”

Or, “What exactly are we trying to accomplish here?”  Often, the first time I raise a question, it’s dismissed.  The second time it’s treated more thoughtfully.  Then, it’s a depth-charge as one by one other participant’s realize they don’t know either.

Others times the MVI is  plus-delta evaluation at the end of a meeting or project:

What went well (+) and what would we like to change for next time (delta).  We know and trust this format, and people will jump right in.  It leads naturally to an action plan,  which is permission to do things differently in your next meeting or project.

In every case, it is not you giving direct feedback to another person.  It’s you inviting the group/other person to comment on the interaction along with you.  This is  kinder, and much more gracious than jumping all over someone.

This is the beauty of the MVI:  It acknowledges that we all contribute to the way things are.  That we all have to do things differently in order to make it better.

Here’s how it came out for me:  After several months of lobbying, my boss agreed to a meeting evaluation, a classic MVI.

“No agenda, no ground rules, none of that touchy-feely stuff – just 3 minutes at the end for a plus-delta evaluation.”

Which is how I found myself in the front of the room writing 3 flipchart pages of changes:  we need an agenda and ground rules and a timekeeper, and an outcome and meeting processes and all that “touchy-feely stuff.”  There was one thing in the plus column:  The cookies.  When it came time to assign these new tasks, my boss was looking at me through eyes so sharply narrowed they could have cut steel.  Or me.  It seemed I had engineered a coup d’etat. I apologized on the spot.  Her peers laughed about it.  She didn’t crack a smile for the rest of that meeting or at the next one.  But at the one after that?  She was grinning the whole time.  The group had agreed to stop meeting.

My boss took me to all her meetings after that.  It was the beginning of a new career for me, all because of one MVI.




How People Know You’re Lying

Word Count:  703

Reading Time:  2 minutes

If you think authenticity is saying one thing and thinking another, you might be interested in what the research says.

Remember that study about communication that says only 7% of communication comes from the words you use, 38% comes from tone of voice, and 55% comes from facial expression?

It’s an urban legend.  Sure, Dr. Mehrabian conducted communication research and published those percentages, but: they don’t apply to all kinds of communication.  Those percentages only apply when a speaker’s words did not match their tone or facial expression.

 When someone is being insincere, or lying outright, we discount their words in favor of the expression on their face or the tone of their voice.

You can prove this:  Go stand in front of the mirror and say “no” while shaking your head.  Then, say “no” while nodding your head yes.

When my actions match my words, I believe my words   When my actions and words contradict each other, I believe my actions.  In the battle for credibility, tone, and facial expression win every time.  Bluegrass music illustrates this well:  The words to so many bluegrass songs are about death, tragedy or love lost, so why is everybody grinning and tapping their toes to the tinkling banjo riff?

Because when the words and the music don’t match, the music wins.

Some work examples:

  1. In an all-hands meeting, the CEO says he wants to hear from all of you, to address your concerns.  As he responds to questions, you hear his voice tighten, watch his face stay closed and tight, and his sentences get more clipped.  You’re disappointed at best, cynical at worst.   Score: Words: 0, Vocal Misbehavior: 100.  Result:  Future town all-hands meetings have more presentation time and less time for questions.
  1. You say a firm no to a project, and the doubts flood your mind, your voice and your face:  Will I be supported?  Will my boss override me?  Your client chooses to “listen” to the hesitation in your voice rather than your “no.”  Words: 0, the look on your face: 100.  Result:  You feel victimized and blame your boss or client for your workload, which keeps increasing.
  1. You encourage your direct report to come to you for help with their issues and problems, and as she’s laying out a situation, irritation flickers across your face and steals into your voice. A moment later, you interrupt her to paint a more positive picture of her situation.  Words:  0, Your kneejerk cheerleading:  100.  Result:  Your direct reports come to you less often and you become disconnected from them and their work.


Authenticity is when your words, tone and facial expression all line up. It’s more rare than mittens on a fish.

Take heart.  The first step is to break your denial:  You are a radio station broadcasting music 24/7, even when you are not saying a word.  Believing you are managing your face well enough or keeping your emotions out of your tone is a fantasy.

So you may as well speak up, and put your music into words, like this:

  1. “I meant that I want to hear from all of you, and I find myself wanting to defend myself against what feels like negativity and complaints.  I don’t want to do that.

Then get yourself back on track:

“I’d like to change the process.   For every complaint or concern, please offer a suggestion – or two or three – that would address it.”

  1. “I just said a firm ‘no’ and was flooded with doubts about whether my ‘no’ would be respected.  I guess I’m really worried that you’ll go around me on this one.  I want to reiterate that I think this project is a mistake.”
  1. “I’m so sorry _____.  I’m having hard time listening.  I want to jump in and contradict the picture you’re painting with the more upbeat way I see it.  How about we each take a minute to summarize how we see this client, then compare notes.  I think we’ll do better if we get that out on the table.”

Putting your music into words is the authentic way to strengthen your voice.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.



“I See it Differently” – How to Differ without the Sticky Residue

If you believe conflicts have to end badly, they probably will.  I see it differently.


Word Count: 566

Reading Time: Well under 2 minutes


I’m on my way to a quick breakfast between appointments when a neighbor stops to recruit me to the latest community crusade, “We’re going to put up ‘Private Property – Do not Enter’ signs to keep the kayakers out.”

“Uh-huh.” I nod noncommittally.  My stomach growls.

“There are so many more small craft coming into the marina than there used to be.  I hate it when I look up and some stranger is staring into my bedroom.  I don’t want them here.”

“I see it differently,” I say.

“You do?”  She looks surprised.

“Yes.”  She’s still looking at me, so I explain.

“I think the number of kayakers looking in my windows is the same as always.  I think posting rules we can’t enforce won’t help.  So I’m OK with the status quo.”

“Huh,” she says. “That’s interesting.”  A pause, and then she launches into her fears that the kayakers are casing the houseboats, citing conversations with other neighbors as “proof” that the situation is dangerous and action is needed.

I listen for a bit longer, then politely excuse myself.  I feel great.  I haven’t harmed our relationship by being disagreeable, I haven’t fled, I haven’t disagreed.  I just see it differently.  Plus, I’ve got just enough time to eat breakfast.

When I’m on my inner game, it’s effortless and fun to stand in my own space like this.  When I’m off my game, it can feel impossible.

We all have our moments of transcendence and grumpiness.  Skills work regardless of mood, backstory or the rank of the person in front of us.  That’s why there is no need to wait for personal enlightenment.  Instead, we can simply steal this sentence:  “I see it differently.”  I stole it from Harriet Lerner’s latest book Marriage Rules.  I’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now, looking for moments when I feel coerced or crowded by someone else’s opinion.  Before this helpful sentence, I’d argue, feign agreement, or run like hell.   These all left a sticky residue.

In the choice between fight, flight or join, I’m holding out for a better option, one that keeps me connected without erasing me.

These days my growing edge is the refusal to choose between being connected to my fellow humans and expressing myself.  I don’t want to persuade or be persuaded, coerce or be coerced.  I don’t want to argue or to agree.  Although I’m open to being touched, I don’t want to founder on the tsunami of your emotions.  I do want to be connected, my authentic self to your authentic self.  And I don’t want to visit – I want to live this way.  I want that even – especially – in highly coercive environments hostile to authentic connection and self-expression.   Of which there are many.

I’m getting real traction from “I see it differently.”  Not, “I disagree,” or “You are wrong” or even “I’m right.”  It’s more “I see it differently and that’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about reporting accurately from Planet Liz, which is the only ‘truth’ I have access to.  It may or may not be valuable to you, and I am offering it without knowing.”  I like how sparky this is, and how my boundaries become both gentle and firm.

What’s it like on your planet?





Being a Communication Superhero, the final chapter

If you want excellence, choose struggle.

It looks so easy:  Jerry Douglas steps on stage with his resonator guitar and unleashes a cascade of notes so beautiful my jaw drops.  I want to do that.  When I play a resonator guitar for the first time, my head is full of Jerry’s playing.  The room is full of my playing, which is…different than the sound in my head.  Different as in much, much worse.  Painfully worse.

 I have a choice to make.

You hear great speakers all the time.  People who seem to have others in the palm of their hands.  You go to class, you learn some great techniques. When you try the techniques, they backfire.

You have a choice to make.

I can choose my past as a pretty good guitarist, or I can choose an uncertain future playing the resonator guitar.  You can choose your past as a bon vivant, a sensitive guy, a good listener, or you can choose an unknown future, possibly as a communication superhero.

The path to your new future is paved with new skills, not just new information.  New skills are grown using 3 very specific, very doable steps*

1.  Make it smaller.  Then make it tiny.

Being a communication superhero is a composite skill, made up of many smaller or component skills.  That’s why getting inspired by someone really good doesn’t translate to an increase in your skill:  You see the glorious whole, but the specific skills that make up that whole are invisible to you.

You’ve got to chunk it down.   Find the tiniest unit of performance, the one that’s easy to improve.   Find the moment you veer off course, and build in a course correction.   This is critical:  You’ve got to find something so tiny, so easy to improve that you can do it no matter what.

I got better at asking open-ended questions by writing down sentence stems on a 3 x 5 card and taking it with me everywhere.  (“What do you think about …?”  “How do you see…?”  “What if…?”  How might…?”) I found that my mind went blank because I was anxious, and the sentence stems got me over the hump.

2.  Stick with it.

Repetition is what builds myelin, and myelin is skill.  It’s not the flash of insight, or the new factoid that creates the excellence we love.  It’s attentive, patient repetition.  That means every time, everyday.   You want to practice the new skill, not the old one.  You’re either building myelin around the new pathway, or you’re building it around the old one.  There is no myelin-neutral path.

I carried around those sentence stems until they were inside me.  When I couldn’t speak the questions, I wrote it down for the practice.  I didn’t let anything get in the way of firing that neural pathway.   When the questions became  a part of me, they generated a flow of new and better questions.  That’s how I knew I’d made a quantum leap.

3. Struggle.

When you feel the gap between what you want to be and who you are, it’s frustrating.  That’s fantastic!  Taking up residence in the gap between how you want to be and how you are is what makes the circuit fire strongly enough to attract myelin. The more you feel it, the better.  Pick a target, go for it, fail, analyze your failure; rinse and repeat.

I didn’t want to ask good open-ended questions, I wanted to be the kind of consultant that changes lives.  Mastering open-ended questions is a component skill of changing lives.  It was painful to stay in the awkward phase of asking good questions, and that’s what made it so effective.

The brain responds to struggle.  Choose that.




Being a Communication Superhero: The Sequel

Eliminating the word “but” is like throwing a party for your brain.

Word Count: 465
Reading Time: About 90 seconds

As I sit down to write this, we’ve just come through another election season in the United States.  The level of vitriol was unprecedented, our inability to remember all we have in common eroded by years of hateful, divisive language.

The time for communication superheroes was never more urgent.  If that seems like a tall order, I’ve got good news:  You don’t have to attain enlightenment or become a better, more peaceful person to make a difference.

You have to eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary.

This one, tiny step has the power to transform your thinking.  Once you accomplish that, you’ll be on your way to shifting our national dialog.

When it comes to the brain, practice makes permanent.

Here’s how it works: We’ve spent years practicing the language of division, polarization, and war.  According to Daniel Coyle in “The Talent Code,”  repeating an action, causes the brain to wrap that neural pathway in myelin, the brain’s insulator, which turns that pathway into an ultra-fast neural superhighway.

Lay down enough myelin and you’ve got a habit.   Keep laying down myelin and you’ve got a fixation.  Lay down more and it gets harder to see the links between seemingly polarized points of view.  That’s how you know your mental rut has deepened into a foxhole.

Refusing to use the word “but” can reverse this trend by forcing us to hold two seemingly irreconcilable concepts in our mind.  This invites the brain to make new connections, which it loves – this is how the brain parties!

If you’re ready to start myelinating a more innovative neural pathway in your brain, eliminate the word “but” today.  Your brain will stutter, then gasp, and finally creak its way to new thoughts.  Before long, your brain will be party-central, where all the new, innovative thoughts want to hang out.

Here’s what to do instead of saying but:

  1. Replace it with the word “and.”  This is the fastest path to the party.  In any sentence, the word “but” negates what came before it.  Compare “I want to come over tonight, but I’ve got to make cookies,” with “I want to come over tonight and I’ve got to bake cookies.”  The “but” version uses the cookies to negate the possibility of coming over.  The “and” version leaves all p0ssibilites on the table and keeps the brain engaged. Its next contribution might be “Hey, how about I mix up the batter and bring it over?”

  3. Replace “but” with a period.  Instead of “I like to eat donuts for breakfast, but they’re really bad for you,” say “I like to eat donuts for breakfast.  They’re really bad for you,” and see what happens next.

If you’re ready to start your own “but”-less trend, let me know in the comments below.






To be a communication superhero, s-h-h-h-h!

If you want to be a communication superhero, s-h-h-h-h!


Word Count: 520

Reading Time:  Under 2 minutes


“Speech is silver, Silence is golden.” (Swiss proverb)

If you’ve been to even one communication seminar, you have enough tools to last you a lifetime.

Paraphrasing, open-ended questions, and probing questions on the listening side; saying what’s so without blame or judgment, using “I” statements, and stating feelings on the speaking side.  The more of these excellent skills you take in, the more difficult it can be to work them into your repertoire.

Wouldn’t it be great If doing just one thing could dramatically improve every conversation you’re in?

One of them can:  Silence.

Silence is how you give someone the gift of your attention.

And your attention is what everyone is vying for.  At the gym this morning, I claimed the exercise bike right in front of a TV playing CNN. I was astonished at the amount of visual stimulation competing for my attention.  There were closed captions, constantly changing headlines at the bottom of the screen,  a shifting video background behind the two anchors, the excruciatingly lovely color coordination of set, clothing, headlines and background, and the director’s shifting  camera angles.  It was an extravaganza of data points, so many I didn’t know which to pay attention to.

So, I ignored them all.

All that stimulation was designed to capture my attention, but I it didn’t work.  Nothing stood out.  Nothing cut through the clutter.  Worst of all, I can’t tell you what I thought about it.  And that’s what makes silence so powerful:  It connects us with ourselves, with what we really think.  It connects your client with themselves.  You with your self.  It’s rare anymore to build this kind of reflective time in.

As a consequence, we get more and more data, with less and less meaning.  I recommend bucking that trend.

When you’re moving really fast, trying to impress with your brilliance, your commitment, your credibility, stop.  Stop and let stillness reign: For a moment, be silent.  Give someone the gift of your attention and see where that leads.

Here’s what I think silence can do for you:

  • Cut through the clutter
  • Give you and your client time to listen to what they just said
  • Give you and your client time to listen to what you just said
  • Give you both time to think
  • Open the door for the other listening skills you learned in those workshops.
  • Calm an anxious situation.

Start small:

  • Slightly increase the pause between listening to another and responding to them.  Then increase it some more.
  • Speak more slowly than the person you’re talking to.  This increases the silence between words, sentences, paragraphs, thoughts.
  • Take notes and verify you got it right with your partner
  • Look thoughtful and interested

Start even smaller:

  • Schedule the week you’ll commit to more silence, then for get about it until the appointed time.
  • Put a blank card in your portfolio or notebook to remind you of silence.
  • When you are ready, commit to 3 moments of conscious silence in a conversation you are already comfortable with. ( If you like what happens, you can expand your time.)

Let me know how it goes.  As always, comments are open on the blog.

Until next week,


Authenticity, or Too Much Information?

If you think being authentic is saying whatever comes into your head, you might be giving people too much information.


Do any of these sound like you?

  • “You say to be authentic, but then I get in trouble for saying too much. “
  • “I can’t lie to my clients.  If we can’t do something, I have to say so.”
  • “Trust me.  No one wants me to be authentic. “

How can being yourself be so tricky?

An Authenticity Rule of Thumb
I like this three-fold test when I’m deciding whether or not to speak up.

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it useful to the person hearing it?

If it’s true and kind, I’ve taken the blame and judgment out of what I’m about to say. Being kind while speaking the truth shows great compassion.  It’s also difficult, because sometimes we just want to let it rip.  But being authentic is not an excuse to dump on someone.  Keeping it useful is how we avoid that pitfall.

Is what I’m about to say likely to be of any use to the person to whom I am saying it?  Authentic speech, even when it is hard to hear, comes from a singular intention: To be of use to the person receiving it.  The examples below fall on the continuum from inauthentic speech to way too much information.

It may help to remember perfection isn’t the goal here, being real is.  That means there is room for our mistakes, for apologies, for learning and for laughter, however sheepish.  The best way to know how you’re doing is to watch the effect your words have on others and adjust accordingly.

Authenticity is a big topic.  The comments are open for your ideas, clarifications or questions.