E-couragement: Simple and Difficult

February 2, 2016

E=MC2Simple and difficult. Interesting insight from my client.

We were focused on key workplace engagement tools—building rapport and craving feedback. When they remarked that these important principles seemed timeless and fundamental. In fact…simple.

Then, she paused before saying, “They’re also difficult to apply.” Simple and difficult…now that’s insightful.

What’s the answer to this dilemma? How can you be more effective with the difficult task of applying simple engagement principles that yield positive result in your customer service scores, productivity, and profitability?

These suggestions will help you make headway in the difficult arena of application:

  • Focus on one principle at a time. Attempting too many improvements at once will lower your chances of sustaining long-term change.
  • Write down the one area you wish to improve. What is it that you want to do better of different? Place this written action statement in a highly visible place.
  • Tell someone your intention. Let a trusted colleague know about your goal to apply a particular engagement principle and check in periodically to discuss your progress or challenges.
  • Hire a coach. Invest in your own growth and development. Get the support you deserve when it comes to creating new habits that allow you to be more effective.

Highly successful people don’t know more than you. They’ve figured out how to effectively apply the simple principles they already know.

Knowledge is no longer power—application is the new power. Here’s to you becoming more successful by applying simple engagement principles in your life and work.

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E-couragement: Make Friends With the 4-Letter Word

January 18, 2016

FearThe 4-letter F word has too much power. It gets too much credit—too much attention.

The word? F-E-A-R.

We let it prevent us from living fully. We blame it for remaining stuck in a job, relationship, or place that we’ve outgrown. It’s the perfect excuse for not achieving our dreams.

I often hear people refer to their personal battle with fear.

If you have taken fear on as an opponent, be warned:

It’s the reigning heavyweight champion of the world with nothing to prove…

Fear doesn’t fight back in order to defeat you.

It doesn’t need to…

What it wants more than anything is to paralyze … stall… and immobilize you.

Fear has one move: project an imaginary force field around your comfort zone… in hopes to trap you there. Forever.

Stop making fear your enemy…

Instead, make it your friend.

Invite it to sit down. Look it in the eye and have a real conversation. If you are willing to ask it questions, fear can tell you more about yourself than you ever imagined.

Diffuse the illusion of fear and you’re free to take action.

Courageous action takes you outside the safety of your comfort zone so the adventure you’ve been sent here for can continue to unfold.

Fear is a misunderstood bully. There’s no need to fight it. It’s merely doing what it feels is best for you. Show compassion towards it. Then, tip your hat, thank it, and keep moving towards your divine destination that’s been patiently waiting for you.

When will you sit down and have a chat with your fear?

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E-couragement: Cash: The Lazy Way to Engagement

January 5, 2016

A cash bonus can’t buy employee engagement.

It’s like a sugar high: great in the moment; unfulfilling in the long run.

Engagement requires ongoing, meaningful interactions.

Highly engaged employees are productive, innovative, and loyal because of how they’re treated on a daily basis…not on special occasions.

The trend remains that 70% of employees around the globe are moderately to fully disengaged; proof that this idea is easier for leaders to understand than it is to execute.

Cash is not the solution. It’s too easy…it’s lazy.

What do your employees really want?

You’ll have to engage to find out:

What will you do throughout 2016 to foster engagement in your workplace?

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E-couragement: Your To-Be List

December 7, 2015

DaytimerIt’s my morning ritual.

Up by 4:30. Shower. Eat. Sit quietly with my Day-Timer (old school) and contemplate the day before me.

This particular morning a voice kicked off a private conversation in my head.

“Rich, see the emails, the tasks, and deadlines you’ve noted?”


“That’s your to-do list.”

Got it.

“Now, look at your appointments that involve people.”


“Let’s call that your to-be list.”


“Your to-do list is driven by things. Your to-be list is about connecting with others by listening, understanding, encouraging, and remaining completely present where you are. At the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of your life, to-be trumps to-do. It’s what makes life worth living. Get it?”

Uh huh.

“Rich, today focus on being.”


What’s on your to-be list today?

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E-couragement: Your Personal Winter

November 23, 2015

_MG_2427-Edit-Edit-MDriving to church Sunday morning the sky was charcoal grey, trees were barren, and blustery winds bullied fallen leaves.

Winter is here.

For the next few months nature will appear bleak. Desolate. Dead.

Yet no one worries…

We understand that winter is an integral season of nature.

It’s a time of rest and recovery. Important things are happening beyond our sight.

However, when it comes to our personal nature, we resist seasons of rest and recovery that intrude on our progress and busyness. We work hard to artificially prop up the impression of an eternal spring and summer.

Personal Winters are invaluable.

They require patience and provide wisdom that enables us to:

  • Understand why a relationship had to end, or needs to end
  • Regenerate vital energy required for personal and professional growth
  • Take the space necessary to reflect on who we’ve been and who we’d like to be

It’s no coincidence that Thanksgiving appears just as winter settles upon us.

Let’s give thanks to the gifts of change, forgiveness, courage, and healing.

Before we know it, spring will burst on the scene again, bringing new life, colors, and adventures…

We can learn from the wisdom of nature and embrace Personal Winters as part of our human experience.

Without this time of rest, recovery, and reflection, our Personal Springs won’t be nearly as vibrant or meaningful as they yearn to be.

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E-couragement: The Other Type of Listening

November 9, 2015

Big Ears“As ironic as it may sound, we’re far more inspiring to others when we’re willing to listen than when we’re giving them advice.”  Wayne Dyer

It was mid-morning during a client development workshop when the comment was made. I’d heard the statement before. In this particular moment it resonated with me in a different way. The participant stated, “The most effective type of listening is active.” 

The feeling in me was palpable. I wondered, what other type of listening is there?

You’re either actively listening or you’re not.

Listening is tough. It requires your physical, emotional, and intellectual presence. It can wear you out.

Listening is rare. Perhaps you’ve fallen into one of the two traps of counterfeit listening:

  • Distracted—excessive relationships with phones, tablets, and computers.


  • Pretending—inability to quiet the voices in your own head and resist the temptation to fixate on what you might say next.

Active listening requires you to “pay attention.” “Pay” implies value. There’s a huge cost to listening.

Look in your checking account. See the balance? Hopefully you see a surplus after all your expenditures. Now, look at your calendar. The balance is zero. No time. No space. No margin. When you give someone money, you give out of that surplus. Since listening requires time and attention, you’re going into overdraft mode.

With the holiday season approaching, will you give the gift of listening? Simply hear someone. Resist judgment. Seek to understand. Pay attention. They will be deeply indebted for your willingness to give from your deficit (time) rather than your excess (money). 

Active is the only type of listening. Everything else is counterfeit.

Who will you listen to today?

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E-couragement: The 3 Flaws of Anonymous Feedback

October 28, 2015

Group of unidentifiable business people“Anonymity is not real-life.” Anonymous

Okay, I couldn’t resist. That quote is not anonymous. It is what I have found to be true in my real-life. Too often I’ve heard companies tout, “We conduct a yearly online survey so our employees can tell us what they really think. Since their feedback remains anonymous, they’re more prone to speak their truth.”

At first glance, this concept seems to make perfect sense. Look again. There are 3 inherent defects with this rationale:

  • It’s Unnatural: Anonymity is not real-life. Where else do we ask for honest feedback while providers remain veiled behind technology? Do we utilize this method with our families, friends, or neighbors? No. Those important relationships involve people-to-people interaction, a simple and timeless concept. 
  • It Leads to Guessing: When reviewing data from online feedback the receiver often resorts to guessing. Lacking dialogue and clarifying questions, the best a recipient can do is imagine what the provider really meant which devalues feedback usefulness.
  • It Limits Relationship Building: Providing or receiving important information without the benefit of meaningful conversation can deteriorate trust. People attain mutual understanding from words, tone, facial expression, and body language. Communication restricted to written words or phrases limits the opportunity to strengthen relationships and deepen trust. 

Employee engagement doesn’t occur through anonymity—it requires getting personal. Providing and receiving performance feedback makes its greatest impact when accompanied by a strong and trusting relationship. Strong and trusting relationships emphasize ongoing face-to-face conversations. Resist the counterfeit safety of anonymity and have the courage to truly be known and accountable.

Are you brave enough to ask your employees what they think face to face?

Chapter nine of my book, Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left showcases the importance of creating a company culture where candid feedback presides.

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E-couragement: Which Voice Will You Listen To?

October 12, 2015

Inner VoiceI was closing in on him just past the twelve-mile mark of the Cannonball Run Half Marathon. It sounded as if he was murmuring something. Passing by his left shoulder I heard it.

“You’ve got this. You’ve got this…”

His mantra stuck with me. I found myself thinking, Yes, I’ve got this… I’ve got this as I climbed the last hill and headed towards the finish line.

Everyone has it. It’s been around since the beginning of time—that little voice.

This man had other options. Certainly he had a voice focused on pain, “your legs are heavy and your lungs are burning.” He most likely had a voice reminding him that he could be at home on his warm couch instead of running in the rain. Chances are he had another voice mocking him about all of the runners who were faster and in better shape than he was.

He made a choice. He selected the voice that served him best. He turned up the volume on the voice that encouraged him to carry on. He was so committed to that voice, he spoke it out loud. Powerful.

Today the voices in your head will compete for your attention. They’ll fight for their very existence. Which one will you choose to listen to? Validate? Even speak out loud?

Will you pick the voice that reminds you of your unlimited potential—your abundant talent—how far you’ve come?

Or the one that doesn’t think you’re enough?

Be selective.

Choose as if your life depends on it…because it does.

Something to consider: Which voice will you turn the volume up on today?

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E-couragment: A 3-Step Formula for Becoming an Engaging Leader

September 29, 2015

DandelionGrowing up, it was a horrifying sound: “Robert! Richard! Come to the front yard now!” My dad (a.k.a. “The Warden”) calling out for my brother and me.

On this particular Saturday morning he barked, “See those dandelions?” Looking across the sea of yellow covering our yard we timidly affirmed the reality. He continued, “You’re going to get each one up, by the root.”

My dad proceeded to model proper dandelion picking technique using a tool with a wooden handle and a long medal prong. When the lesson was complete, he handed off the tools and disappeared into the house.

After a few hours of work in the blazing sun, my adolescent brain tried to make sense of the experience. I proclaimed to my brother, “I know why Dad’s doing this. He had a bad childhood and he wants to make sure we have one too!”

This cruel and unusual punishment became a regular experience. Each year I noticed that the work got easier and was completed faster.

At eighteen, I leaned against our loaded station wagon prepped for the five hundred mile journey to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I froze, noticing the solid green lawn stretching out before me.

Years later, when my brain had matured some, I finally saw the dandelion lesson in the form of a formula:

The right tools + hard work + time = sustained results.

On your journey to become an engaging leader, how much you invest in this formula is up to you.

  • The right tools: An engaging leader is first and foremost a student. A life-long learner. Her tools are books, workshops, mentors, coaches, mistakes, self-reflection, and regular feedback.
  • Hard work: This is not for the faint at heart. Becoming an engaging leader is hard. Work. If you don’t feel the calling burning in your soul, do something else.
  • Time: This is a journey. A life-long journey. To become successful at anything necessitates that you do it over time. You need years of reps, not a weekend seminar.

There you have it, the formula for becoming a successful engaging leader. It works, it’s timeless, and gives you sustained results. What are you waiting for?

Something for you to consider: Which part of this fromula requires more of your attention?

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E-couragement: The Ledger of a Leader

September 14, 2015

Words and Actions“I value my people.” Boss

“I value my people and invest in their development.” Engaging Leader

Language of action is more powerful than language of words. Bosses talk the talk and mouth the hollow words, “I value my people,” because that’s what they are supposed to say.

Leaders walk the walk and back up their beliefs with their budget.

If you want to know what’s important to you, look at your ledger. What does it reveal? Are you investing in the growth and development of your team?

Want loyalty, innovation, productivity, and profitability from your employees? Exemplify your words with your expenditures.

Do you have the courage to have the ledger of a leader?

Something for you to consider: Where would adding actions to your words make you a more engaging leader?

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