Thursday, February 22, 2018

Successful Leaders Are Great Communicators: How to Connect with Your Employees

Guest post from Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss:

To be an effective leader and run a high-performing company, you need to be great at communicating with your employees. After all, when employees are well informed and feel included in company strategies and activities, they are more productive and engaged – and all of your stakeholders (especially your customers) benefit.

Effectively communicating with your employees doesn’t necessarily require you to command an audience like a rock star or give a TED-worthy presentation. Great communicators genuinely connect with company workers in ways that not only inform employees, but increase trust between the c-suite and the front lines.

Here are three ways to strengthen your connection with employees, too, and become a better communicator in the process.

1.   Be transparent.
At its core, transparency is a pretty simple concept:  You commit to employees that you will share what you can, when you can. And then you do it, consistently, especially in regard to the most buzzed-about company topics like organizational changes or product innovations. The key is to give employees a steady drumbeat of communication and easy-to-use channels where they can offer their input and feedback.

To be clear, being transparent doesn’t mean opening the information floodgates. Employees don’t want every detail about the most tactical activities and processes, communicated at equal volume and priority. Even in a transparent environment, you still need to set and follow a communications strategy, filtering your messages by audience, relevance and timing.

And keep in mind, there will always be information you can’t and won’t communicate, because of confidentiality or financial-disclosure regulations. When you can’t be transparent with employees, be sure you tell them the reason.

2.  Be authentic.
Transparency is about WHAT you communicate, and authenticity is HOW you communicate. Some leaders communicate the way they believe leaders “should” share information – buried in loads of industry jargon delivered behind a formal podium.

Masking your authenticity places artificial barriers between you and your audience, and removes your ability to play to your strengths. If you’re more comfortable in small-group settings, skip the all-company town hall and hold a series of employee coffee chats instead. At your best in casual, online discussions with employees? Supplement your strategy with regular messages to employees via internal social media.

Always play to your strengths as a communicator. You will deliver more effective messages while authentically connecting with your audience.

3.    Be vulnerable.
It’s a difficult moment for a leader: an employee stands up in a meeting or Q&A session and asks THE tough question. “Why did this strategy fail?” or “How are you going to fix this?” These moments test a leader, and the best communicators answer in the most straightforward and truthful way possible:  “I made a mistake” or “We simply don’t know yet.”

Many leaders try to avoid appearing weak or unknowledgeable, so they dodge the question or avoid the uncomfortable moment altogether. But it’s always better to hit a topic head-on. In fact, start the meeting or memo with it: “I know you’re all probably wondering …”

This level of honesty goes hand-in-hand with transparency and authenticity, and will go a long way to establish trust between you and your employees.

Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss are co-owners of ROCKdotVOSS Communications.
Their debut novel B.S., Incorporated – a funny, heartfelt, fictional take on corporate America – has been called “a veritable how-to and how-NOT-to for all company leaders.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The 5 Rights All Humans Have—Are You Honoring Them At Work?

Guest post from Christine Comaford:

Tania is a brilliant CEO of a super successful accounting firm. Carlos, her VP of operations, is a bright and solid asset to the firm. But sometimes Tania and Carlos clash big time, especially when Tania wants faster results and shorter timelines on client projects. Then Carlos slows down—fast results to him mean poor quality and possible problems in client care, which he also owns. So as Carlos gets more cautious, Tania gets more impatient and massively triggered. She feels unsafe and starts to micromanage Carlos, who then rebels, feels unappreciated, and grinds to a halt. He will not make a client-facing mistake. Period.

Tania and Carlos want the same thing: high-quality work delivered to clients in a timely manner. But they both have needs that they need to tune into: Carlos’s is safety, and Tania’s is safety and mattering. When Carlos’s needs aren’t honored, he cannot take action. When Tania’s needs aren’t honored, she feels devalued. As a result, projects are delayed, and unhappy clients call Tania, who then gets more upset. She and Carlos lose even more trust in one another, and Tania feels unsafe selling more client engagements because, what if they are delivered late?

The team gets confused and thinks, “Wait a sec! We have these huge leaderboards showing our sales, quality, and client deliverable deadlines. So why are we selling less? Delivering late? Questioning quality?” Half of the team goes into panic and fight or flight, while the other half freezes. They’re all in what I call Critter State—the reptilian/mammalian brain hijack where a person reacts from fear versus choice.

This scenario is a perfect example of the big negative repercussions a business can experience when leaders’ needs aren’t honored. Although Carlos and Tania wanted the same thing, their individual needs were slightly different, and they made different negative meaning when these conflicts arose. As a result, client relationships were at risk, the team lost confidence and panicked, and the drive for sales decreased.

What Kills Your Performance Can Ultimately Catapult It

What happens inside you when someone you’re counting on drops the ball? Do you crave safety as Carlos does? Or safety and mattering as Tania does? Or something else?

For Tania to become more emotionally agile, she needed to first identify the core “right” she felt she didn’t have that was throwing fuel on the behavioral fire. Then she needed to raise her overall behavioral baseline so that she could gradually respond from choice rather than compulsively reacting when a trigger event occurred. That way, Tania could create an environment where she experienced more control, confidence, and support—in comparison to her current world of chaos fueled by excessive controlling and constantly mistrusting Carlos.

To achieve this, I coached her to determine which Organismic Rights[i]  she felt weren’t being met. Organismic Rights are our basic human rights that are established during our early life experiences. They determine where a person will have behavioral struggles as they move through life. Put simply, like all of us, Tania had her own set of “growth areas” to work on. They were governing her behavior and hindering her performance—and she was totally unaware of them.

Until Tania and Carlos were appreciated as human beings doing the best they could, they would continually be triggered by one another, and the business would suffer.

Imagine a newborn baby entering the world. He or she is forced to adapt quickly. The psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich observed a series of stages through which all human beings must pass on their way to full body maturation, referred to as Organismic Rights. The more fully developed they are, the more that individuals can express themselves with greater aliveness and creativity (what I call the Smart State, where all 3 key parts of our brain are working together and we have behavioral choice). The less developed, the more likely they will operate in the Critter State.
            The Five Organismic Rights are these:
1.    The right to exist
2.    The right to have needs
3.    The right to take action
4.    The right to have consequences for one’s actions
5.    The right to love and be loved

Organismic Rights Behavior Decoder

Organismic Right
Behavior in Critter State
What You Might Crave
How You Can Shift into Smart State
How You Can Help Another Shift into Smart State
To exist
If a person plays small, keeps their head down, tries to be invisible, or becomes silent in times of conflict, chances are they don’t experience having the right to exist.
Safety, Mattering
Acknowledging yourself and letting yourself be seen by proactively communicating and participating, intentionally taking a role.
Acknowledging them, including them, giving them a role.
To have needs
If a person frequently puts others’ needs before their own, self-sacrifices, “takes one for the team” repeatedly, or doesn’t actually know what they want, chances are they don’t experience having the right to have needs.

Mattering, Belonging
Being present and asking for what you need specifically, letting people know what you can’t do, setting healthy boundaries, saying no when tempted to overextend yourself.
Helping out, showing you’re in this together, sharing the workload.
To take action
If a person often procrastinates or avoids commitment, chances are good they don’t experience having the right to take action.

Safety, Mattering
Getting an accountability partner to support you in making and keeping commitments, making sure you understand what “success” is so you can take action and move forward.
Help them form a plan, pair them up with an action-oriented person.
To have consequences for actions
If a person often uses victim language, blames others for their own choices and actions, or avoids accountability, chances are good they don’t experience having the right to have consequences.

Belonging, Mattering
Think of how others are impacted by your choices, consider what potential outcomes could be, look carefully at your role in what you create in your life.
Explain that course-correction is how we learn and make things better, map out the best case/worst case/likely case scenarios, and commit to helping them work through each.
To love and be loved
If a person is uncomfortable with giving or receiving affection, or being around theirs or others’ deep hurt or emotion, chances are good they don’t experience having the right to love or be loved.

Belonging, Safety
Ask for affection, ensure you reach out to friends/family, practice staying present when people around you emote, consider the benefits of compassion versus empathy.
Use the Emotion Wheel to help them understand what they are feeling, help them use Maneuvers of Consciousness to shift to Desired State.

Note that you can use this on yourself or with others too. For example, if people are struggling with accountability, they may need help increasing their right to take action. If they often blame others for their shortcomings, they may need help with the right of having consequences.

Now that you see how certain behaviors may reveal some minimal Organismic Rights, please take a moment now and rate your organismic rights from 0-5 where 5 is the highest experience of this right.
1.    Your right to exist: ____
2.    Your right to have needs: ____
3.    Your right to take action: ____
4.    Your right to have consequences for your actions: ____
5.    Your right to love and be loved: ____

Consider your ratings. Where would you like to increase your rights?
Tania and Carlos now have a powerful, healthy, high communication collaboration based on honoring both of their needs for safety, belonging, mattering and their Organismic Rights.

Regarding Organismic Rights, where do your key stakeholders at work stand? Your family members? Now revisit the table above. How would you like to help yourself and others to modify their behavior and increase their Organismic Rights? 

[i] Wilhelm Reich, Character-Analysis: Principles and Technique for Psychoanalysts in Practice and in Training, translated by Theodore P. Wolfe (Orgone Institute Press, 1945)

Christine Comaford, author of Power Your Tribe, has been a leadership and culture coach for the past 30 years.  She has also built and sold five companies with an average ROI of 700 percent.  A sought-after speaker and lecturer, she is a corporate consultant to mid-sized firms and the Fortune 1000, a leadership columnist for, and The New York Times bestselling author of Rules for Renegades and SmartTribes. For more information, please visit

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Leadership: Leveraging Your Soft Skills

Guest post by Lisa Sasso:

Soft skills can make or break you as a leader; they are clearly more important to a leader than any hard skill.  This is a basic truth I learned early on in my business career, and it has sustained me throughout a succession of leadership roles — right up to my present work as an executive coach.
I first became aware of the need for soft skills when I was a Tupperware Executive Manager, teaching members of my team about the products, how to best present the line and explaining how effective use could make customers’ lives more efficient.  My team members easily grasped these concepts, and I always made sure they were well versed to answer almost any customer question.

Nevertheless, I found that I was spending most of my time working with them on the softer skills.  Before I knew it, my role became that of a coach, inspiring them to give their best, teaching them how to be customer-focused, understand their customers’ needs, wants and desires, and demonstrating how to present, motivate and engage the customer.  Also, how to potentially transform an excited customer into a recruit for the team.

Tupperware was where I learned how recognition can be an important motivator.  With hindsight, I now see that I hadn’t realized just how important recognition for my own accomplishments was to me.  I knew it felt good, and now I saw first-hand how Tupperware effectively used recognition to motivate and retain quality consultants and managers.

Leaders of today have a bigger challenge, given the diversity of modern-day teams.  While teamwork had been important with my Tupperware team, my leadership skills were really put to the test when I took on the responsibility for all Sales and Clinical teams at Radi Medical Systems (Radi).  I could screen candidates for product knowledge and aptitude (candidates had to demonstrate they could sell the product and take an online test to prove that they could interpret the technology and explain how it was used), but figuring out if they had the right values, were a good fit with the other members of the team, and knowing what I would need to do to motivate them appropriately was complex.

In my dual role as President/CEO and first sales representative, my goal was to generate revenue one customer at a time.  Within five years, the company had nearly 50 employees, 30 of whom were in the field, with revenue approaching $28M.  Dealing with the explosive triple-digit growth forced me to relinquish my “lead by example” sales role and instead lead differently.  By setting the company’s mission, vision and values, I used those corporate philosophies as litmus tests in hiring — taking on applicants who aligned with these philosophies. That made us a cohesive and successful team.
The takeaway here is that it’s a lot easier to lead a team when everyone is on the same page.  Leaders understand that people make the difference between a good and a great product, and that means hiring the right people must be a #1 priority.  Never settle for just any candidate; make sure they are the right candidate.

It bears repeating:  soft skills can make or break you as a leader; it’s not necessary to master every such skill, but each leader should find those that work for them.  One skill that always stands out in my mind and that I have used successfully is Caring.  There’s a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I’ve always believed to be true: “Nobody will ever care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Anyone who has ever worked for or with me knows that I put this quote into practice.

In my recently released book, Motivation Now!, I’ve shared the soft skills that are reflections of my approach.  Examples include:
  •          Achieve Now!  Achieving now is about accomplishing things that you want to do.
  •          Celebrate Now!  Reflects the personal touch and how I ran Radi — like a family.
  •          Setting Goals Now!  This is as much a soft as a hard skill, and clearly relevant to leadership.

Leaders are not expected to be everything to everyone, but it is critical that leaders know their strengths and how to leverage (and supplement) them appropriately.  Just being aware of your “Top 5 Strengths” helps you to truly define yourself.  [I recommend completing StrengthsFinder Assessment (SFA).]  Once you know your strengths, you can channel your energies into the things that you do naturally.  This will get you further in life — it’s called building on your strengths.

I’ve found that leadership isn’t a constant — it’s put to the test every day.  As president of the non-profit Medical Development Group of Boston (MDG), I found myself in an environment that required me to make good decisions and speak with authority and passion.  Membership in this group was about as diverse as you can get (age, experience, skills, specialties, etc.).  I found that my passion broke through many of the potential barriers.  Passion is one of my true gifts, and I share it with everyone that I come in contact with.  How you act and how you present yourself are two very important measures of leadership.

If you consider all of the leadership roles I’ve presented above, you will find that all of these positions required use of attentive listening, clear speech, and persuasion.  In the end, I realized that my true calling was to be a coach, and to this day coaching is how I lead.  Leadership can be a lonely road, since a leader’s journey is often fraught with adversity, change and long hours.  But it doesn’t have to be lonely, nor should you feel alone.  Have you ever considered having a coach in your life?

Lisa Sasso, MBA, is a certified executive coach who empowers aspiring leaders and executives to achieve their personal and professional goals, maintain work/life balance, and ultimately reach their greatest potential.  She specializes in coaching medical device professionals and recently published “Motivation Now!”

Thursday, February 1, 2018

What Messages are You Sending?

Guest post from Kimberly Davis:

I couldn’t believe it was the same woman. As she shared her presentation, she was warm, charming, gregarious, with a whip smart sense of humor. In less than two minutes, she had the audience in the palm of her hand, laughing so hard we were wiping tears from our eyes. How could this be the same woman who sat in front of me all day with the blank eyes and furrowed brow—who kept her back to me so much of the time? The woman who seemed so angry and aloof. Detached. Who was this mystery woman?
It’s easy to see how this can happen. With so much on our plates, we disappear into our minds, thinking about all there is to do, tackling the challenges of the day, weighing the pros and cons, processing, scrutinizing, calculating—busy working the business of business. But we forget. We forget that how we show up in the world, intentionally or not, has an impact.

If we’re focused on an upcoming deadline and neglect to say hello to a teammate in the hallway, they’ll think we’re mad.
If we’re quiet in a meeting, people will think we don’t care.

If we’re overwhelmed and need to be alone, people will think we don’t like them.

At work, especially in a leadership position, we live in a heightened reality. We’re “on”. People are paying attention. Everything we say and do communicates something and if we’re not mindful, the messages we’re sending can cost us.

I remember having this conversation with the mystery woman, half-way through the day, following her presentation. “You totally took me by surprise,” I shared with her, “you blew me away! You were articulate, warm, hilarious! You clearly have a natural talent for presenting.” Then, looking her in the eye, I said gently, “So why don’t you let us see that side of you off stage? It was as if two different women showed up in this room today. You are an amazing, kind, and caring woman, why don’t you let people see who you truly are?”

She looked at me for a long moment, took a deep breath, and said, “I know. I don’t know why I do that. I…I don’t mean to come across the way I do. It shows up on my 360. I know it’s a problem.”

“You’re robbing us of you. And, as a leader, if you need to connect to the hearts and minds of others to be able to lead and influence, you can’t afford to send mixed-messages. People won’t give you their best because they have to, they’ll give you their best because they want to. You can’t put their want at risk.”

Later that day, as this incredible group of leaders talked about what they hoped to do differently, I watched a transformation take place. Looking up at me, with a wry smile and a glimmer in her eye, the mystery woman unveiled her true self. “I’m going to work on letting people see who I really am. I think maybe it’s time to lose the tough act and get real.”

Your words, your energy, your expression, your body language, your tone, whether you’re present or distracted—whatever your reasons—how you show up with others matters. The stakes are higher than you realize.
What messages are you sending? 

An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership.” She is the author of Brave Leadership:  Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need.
For more information, please