Stop Complaining About Your Colleagues Behind Their Backs

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In my coaching work with leaders and teams, I often ask my clients whether they engage in workplace gossip. More often than not, they respond, “of course not!” with a look on their faces that indicates that they are insulted to have been asked such a question.

But when I ask them whether they have ever participated in a “confirmation expedition” — whereby they 1) ask a colleague to confirm their own negative or challenging experience with a third colleague who is not present, or 2) welcome a similar line of confirmation inquiry from another colleague about a third colleague who is not present, most admit that this is, in fact, a regular part of their daily work life.

While leaders and teams might consider this behavior to be innocent “blowing off steam” or the more strategic “confirming performance data,” I consider it a form of workplace

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3 Tips for Presenting in English When You’re Not a Native Speaker

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As a coach and international business school instructor, I have worked with hundreds of current and future leaders who are accomplished, bright, and capable — and who quickly lose their confidence and competence when making business presentations. For a subset of these leaders — those who need to present in English when it isn’t their native language — the stakes and the stress can feel even higher. Meanwhile, the need for leaders to be able to present in English is growing at a rapid pace. According to Harvard Business School Associate Professor Tsedal Neely, author of The Language of Global Success, “English is required for global collaboration and global work.”

Nevertheless, being compelled to speak in your nonnative language can lead to feelings of frustration, pressure, and insecurity. As Neely reports, “When nonnative speakers are forced to communicate in English, they can feel that

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How to Solicit Negative Feedback When Your Manager Doesn’t Want to Give It

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In my role as a leadership coach, I consistently hear my clients say that they crave negative feedback from their managers in order to improve in their jobs, grow their careers, and achieve better business results. However, when it comes to soliciting negative feedback, they find that their managers would rather dismiss, deny, or delay it rather than speak directly, truthfully, and immediately about what isn’t working and what needs to change.

That makes sense when you consider what may be at risk when giving (and receiving) negative feedback. In her article, “How to Give Negative Feedback When Your Organization is Nice”, my colleague Jennifer Porter cites barriers to giving negative feedback that include hurt feelings; a desire to maintain professionalism (rather than having things get “messy”); a lack of role models for giving negative feedback; the prospect of an emotional outburst; and not wanting

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How to Memorably Introduce Another Speaker

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As a professional speaker and facilitator for over 20 years, I’ve been introduced more than a thousand times, by countless meeting planners, conference organizers, and team leaders. Nevertheless, most of the introductions have fallen into one of four categories: 1) Flattery: “Deborah needs no introduction.”
2) Do-It-Yourself: “You can read Deborah’s bio in the program book.”
3) Regurgitation: “Let me read to you what’s in Deborah’s bio.”
4) Optimism: “I’ve never met Deborah, but I’m sure she’ll be great!” While I pride myself on being able to establish credibility and rapport early in a presentation or workshop, I also rely on the person introducing me to help set a positive tone, generate enthusiasm and interest, and make a clear case for why listening to me might be more beneficial than answering emails or taking a coffee break. In other words, a memorable introduction is like a
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When to Skip a Difficult Conversation

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Leaders know that they’ll occasionally need to give tough feedback to their employees, colleagues, and clients. And yet, no matter how skilled or experienced they are at it, most would also do anything to find a way out. As Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen explain in their book, Difficult Conversations, this internal struggle is natural: “If we try to avoid the problem, we’ll feel taken advantage of, our feelings will fester . . . and we’ll rob the other person of the opportunity to improve things. But if we confront the problem, we may be rejected or attacked, we might hurt the other person in ways we didn’t intend, and the relationship might suffer.” In a 2013 Globis survey of more than 200 professionals on the topic of difficult conversations, 97% of respondents said they were concerned about the associated levels of stress for the other person, 94% were worried about damaging the
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When Your Employee Doesn’t Take Feedback

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In my decade as a leadership coach, I have heard countless versions of the same concern from my clients — committed leaders who understand the importance of giving actionable feedback to their team members – who find themselves thwarted when the person receiving it acts out, shuts down, or fails to follow through on promises. These managers can give feedback but can’t make their people take it. Or can they? “I need to give Tom feedback on his communication skills, but every time I try, he gets defensive.” “Whenever I schedule a performance review with Ellen, she calls in sick.” “Jamie nods her head when I tell her how to think more strategically. She ‘yeses’ me to death and promises she’ll do better. But then nothing changes.” My advice to leaders in these situations is to take a break from giving other performance-related feedback. Instead, start giving feedback on how the employee receives
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