Guided Insights

How Asking for Help Beats Magical Thinking Every Time

It was just three nights before we were headed to NJ for our week-long Christmas vacation. As my daughter crept across the floor to her bed in darkness, she cried out: “Oh, no! I stepped in that wet spot again!” (“What wet spot? What does she mean, again?”) Maybe she’d spilled something? A roof leak from all …

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Waffles vs. Spaghetti – Connecting Through Stories

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have as leaders to shape understanding and connect with others in a profound way. The ability to craft and tell a good story can be learned, practiced and honed over time. It is also a skill that’s vastly underused, in part because it requires intention and …

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The Virtues of Failing Fast, in a Forward Direction

A friend’s daughter just announced her family’s sudden decision to pack up and move several states away, with no jobs, no residence, three school-age kids, one dog and two cats. My friend is agonizing over whether to try to talk her daughter out of it (“How will you live?  Where will you live? What about health insurance? …

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When Things Fall Apart, Principles Can Bring Them Back Together

My daughter Kira recently lost a client due to a lack of principles. It’s not that she didn’t have principles, and nor was her client lacking principles. It’s that they had never agreed to principles up front on a vital issue. And therein lies the rub. Here’s her story: Kira recently caught a cold from a toddler …

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Ghosting Can Come Back to Haunt You – Here’s Why, and How to Avoid It

A client who’s raved about my work for years has unceremoniously stopped answering my emails. A prospective client who has promised to move forward with my proposal has suddenly cut off all communication. A colleague I’ve known for years seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. Yup, I’ve been ghosted, and I’ll …

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How to Deliver Tough Feedback in Ways Your Boss Can Hear It

Sharon dreaded her weekly 1:1 meetings with Jan, her manager, who worked two time zones away. Since these half-hour meetings were the only time they had a chance to touch base about pressing issues, Sharon had hoped that she would get much-needed guidance and answers to tough questions to move her work ahead. But the …

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Want to Accelerate Your Remote Team’s Project? Create a Communications Ecosystem!

With a crazy deadline looming, the team could simply not afford another costly misstep. Scattered across seven timezones, team members knew that to nail the big deliverables, nothing could slip through the cracks, handoffs had to be seamless, and everyone had to be in perfect synch, 24×7. Given the time zone differences, team members couldn’t …

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Now That’s Radical! Build a More Collaborative, Productive Team With More (Yes, More!) Meetings

You’re sitting around the table, listening to one person after another drone on and on about topics that you find irrelevant and frankly boring, while the work you really should be doing has to wait until this interminable meeting is over. Adding to your frustration is the fact that earlier in the day, your boss blew …

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Unconscious Bias: Just Because You Can’t See It, Others (Almost Certainly) Can

There we were. A roomful of mostly white adults from my upper middle-class, fairly liberal Massachusetts town, gathered together in our earnest desire to discover how to be better allies to people of color. Tensions grew as the facilitators led us into uncomfortable conversations designed to help us uncover our hidden biases, layer by layer. …

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Easing the Pain of an Abrupt Transition, from Afar

“Congratulations! You have a unique set of skills that makes you a perfect fit for another project. So we’re ‘rewarding’ you by moving you over to another manager. This is a fabulous career move, with plenty of opportunities for growth. Of course I’m sad to see you go, but I know you’ll do great.” Such …

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How Feedback Can Stunt Growth, Stifle Learning and Encourage Mediocrity

Feedback of any kind rarely helps people perform better, no matter how much you dress it up and call it something pretty. In fact, telling people what they need to do differently, however well-intended, actually can block learning and prevent growth. As a result of reading the article The Feedback Fallacy in the March-April 2019 Harvard Business Review, I …

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Daring Leaders Build Trust by Peeling Away the Armor, Choosing Courage Over Comfort

How can I build trust, quickly, across my team? That’s the #1 question I get from my clients and students. Before I read Brené Brown’s  brilliant new book, Dare to Lead, I would have hedged, insisting that there are too many variables to give just one answer. But now I realize there is one answer that seems to …

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Create a 12-Month Plan in Just Two Hours, With a Little Bit of Magic

There’s something about the start of a new year that makes it a perfect time to get your team together to lay down plans and set priorities for the next 12 months. But try getting them to hunker down in a meeting room for a couple of days when their “day jobs” are so demanding. …

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How to Help Remote Colleagues Feel Less Lonely and More Connected

Some people just light right up when the holidays come around. They love hunting for that perfect gift, the wrapping, decorating, baking, holiday parties, music, and all of the other traditions that come with the holidays. But for those who feel socially isolated, the holidays can be an especially difficult and lonely time.   That’s …

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Damage done: Leadership lessons from a fairytale team

Baseball may not be your thing. And if you’re from certain regions of the U.S., you may not want to hear one more thing about a winning Boston team. (I admit, it can get tiresome.) But please hear me out: The 2018 Boston Red Sox team was the best evah to take the field in Fenway Park, and …

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Moving from Ideas to Action in a Virtual World

You’re excited about the stunningly creative ideas your team has spawned ever since you’ve begun to include a brainstorming segment into every (virtual) team meeting. In fact, your team has generated about six months’ worth of great ideas just waiting to be implemented. And they’ll keep on waiting, and waiting and waiting — until you …

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How to Win Friends and Influence People When You’re Invisible

Most people I know who work remotely wouldn’t have it any other way. The commute is great, work hours are flexible, they have fewer interruptions and more privacy, they can listen to their own playlist music anytime they want, and the dress code is pretty lax, just to name a few reasons. But working remotely, …

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When Collaboration Becomes Way Too Much of a Good Thing

We’re sold on the benefits of team collaboration, at least in theory: Many heads are better than one. Diverse perspectives lead to better ideas. Cross-pollinating knowledge and lessons learned make us all smarter. Many hands make light work. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And so on. But sometimes (some would argue too much of …

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Making the Most of Bittersweet Endings, Tough Break-ups and Brand New Starts

My twin daughters graduated from high school three days ago, which should really be a time of great celebration. To retain my sanity, I’ve been keeping busy with necessary distractions like planning their party, gearing up for our summer vacation (possibly, one of our last together!), and (thankfully) a barrage of client work. But every …

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For Insightful Conversations, Learn How to Ask Great Questions

Judging from the nodding heads, you see that a deep state of ennui has settled in around the table. (And this is just 15 minutes after break!) You have three hours left of this interminable day, with lots of  ground still to cover.  You know that the usual tedious process of asking everyone to take …

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Wait! Was that Supposed to be Funny?! Depends!

It took many emails, phone calls and personal visits to establish my credibility with this group of senior managers who had gathered in our Hong Kong office for a carefully-orchestrated strategic planning meeting. But all of that changed in an instant with one inappropriate, poorly-timed joke by my manager who had insisted on kicking off …

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How Mindful Leaders Keep Calm Under Pressure, Inspire Better Team Performance

Judging from your team’s expression of outrage when you made your latest impossible request, you realize you’ve just crossed a red line. While you feel badly, especially since you’ve given team members a barrage of pretty ridiculous demands lately, you really had no choice. Your manager has made it clear (again!) that failure is not …

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Adapting to a New Culture Takes Curiosity, Humility and Patience

You’re eagerly awaiting the start of your overseas assignment. You’ve learned enough of the language to be passably proficient. You’ve studied films, books and articles to understand cultural norms and nuances, and you’ve even interviewed a few native-born colleagues to find out where the cultural landmines might be hidden. Things go smoothly, at first. Your …

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Can’t We All Just Disagree? Reviving the Lost Art of Civilized Disagreement

Imagine you’re part of a group coming together to agree on a make-or-break decision. Which of these scenarios would you prefer: 1) After an amicable (and blessedly) brief conversation, everyone easily agrees to go along with the majority or 2) A heated debate ensues, with people from opposing viewpoints passionately arguing their respective positions? If …

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How to Create Opportunities for More Aha! Moments, for Yourself and Your Team

When young Isaac Newton settled into a Lincolnshire garden to rest almost 400 years ago, he could not have predicted that the mere dropping of an apple from a nearby tree would give him the bolt of brilliant insight he needed to devise the formula for gravity. And nor could young Einstein have imagined that …

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To Design Really Engaging Virtual Learning Programs, Throw Away the Old Rules

With fresh allegations making headlines each day, Fred, the HR VP of a growing high-tech company, knew that all employees needed a refresher about the kind of behaviors and actions that constitute sexual assault – ASAP. (The videos they had purchased a few years before were badly dated. Plus, based on some of the behavior …

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12 Tips for Building Trusting Relationships Across Your Virtual Team

“My team members just don’t seem to trust each other. You can hear the animosity and frustration in their voices when they decide to talk. I detect passive-aggressiveness in almost every comment. All day long, I’m getting emails and private IMs about how this one is constantly missing deadlines, or how that one never seems …

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How Mindfulness Keeps You Present, and Why It Matters

Imagine this: It’s after 5 PM, and your train is leaving in less than a half-hour. You’re in the middle of saving your final edits to the presentation for the executive team meeting first thing tomorrow, when you hear the unwelcome ping of an incoming IM from your boss: “Sorry for the last-minute change, but …

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Want Virtual Learners to Stay Engaged? Insist They Multitask, and Other Big Tips

Just about all of the participants who took one of my recent Virtual Leadership workshops gave it high marks. Most reported that the combination of video, verbal conversation and electronic flipcharts kept them engaged the whole time and helped them to learn a lot within a short time. All except for Mark, who reported having …

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