E-couragement: Deconstructive Cricitism

June 20, 2016

CautionIt has stood the test of time.

It’s a crowd favorite both in the workplace, and in the home.

It’s never fun to hear:

“Let me give you some constructive criticism.”

Reflect on the meaning of the words: constructive (build up) and criticism (tear down). They can’t coexist. They’re antonyms.

Let’s call it what it is: deconstructive criticism.

Deconstructive criticism is common in the disengaged workplace. It’s slung around without much skill or consideration. Ultimately, deconstructive criticism leaves the provider feeling superior and the receiver feeling diminished.

Instead, let’s offer constructive coaching.

Those two words: constructive (build up) and coaching (provide instruction or teaching) align perfectly.

Coaching interactions are common in the highly engaged workplace. These types of conversations require thoughtfulness and skill. Constructive coaching leaves the provider and the receiver feeling stronger and more energized.

Small shift. Significant difference. Try it. 


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E-couragement: Practice Flexible Rigidity

June 8, 2016

Her modus operandi was well established. Monday through Friday was all business…with permeable boundaries that stretched into the evenings.

She relived example after example when this strategy was perfectly executed as she chose to remain in important meetings rather than respond to urgent family needs.

Over the years she ascended the corporate ladder.

She received accolades for her work ethic.

She secured the coveted corner office.

Her methodology was quite literally working.

Last week, standing before a group of colleagues in our presentation skills workshop, she spoke persuasively with confidence, clarity, and conviction.

Her message: Be aware when commitment morphs into rigidity.

Using her personal experience as evidence, she passionately encouraged her teammates to remain malleable. Work hard—yes. Be available to your family—yes. She recommended we adopt a form of flexible rigidity. She regrets not practicing this earlier in her own life. Her entire audience was moved when she courageously implored, “Don’t be like me.”

Later that day she left our workshop early.


To attend an end-of-school-year awards ceremony for her daughter.

Even more compelling than her poignant message…her actions.

Little did she know, her message helped me make peace with something I have been wrestling with since March.

I’ve consistently written blogs every other week for the past twelve years. They’ve been composed on weekends, in airplanes, while on vacation, and even during doctor’s visits. They have been a priority regardless of my circumstances.

You might say my commitment had morphed into rigidity.

Then, the blogs stopped.


WeddingOn May 7, I married Sarah. Leading up to our big day, I had to make adjustments. Something had to give in order for me to focus appropriate attention on my clients, my fiancé, and our upcoming wedding. I had to make a decision whether my commitment to blog writing would become rigid.

We had a memorable wedding celebration and a beautiful honeymoon. My decision to take a break from writing allowed me to be present and fully enjoy the experience.

Choose a form of flexible rigidity that allows for variance within your life, schedule, and priorities.

Flexible rigidity. Where might it make sense in your life?

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E-couragement: 4 Steps to Get Yourself Unstuck

March 15, 2016

SinkholeYears earlier, my client had courageously left the security of her corporate world to create a meaningful and successful small business. Our agenda for this coaching session was to review numbers she had put together.

Before digging in, I asked, “How are you doing? It appears you might be feeling down and distracted.”

After a slight pause, she responded, “I was wondering how noticeable it has been.”

She described her most recent feelings with words like, fear, hopeless, and discouraged. She said these were a result of being stuck in a particular aspect of her life—and remaining stuck was taking its toll.

Most of us can relate. We’ve all been stuck at some point in our lives. Although there is no single formula for getting unstuck, here are a few principles that have worked for me:

  1. Resist blame and excuses. It’s easy to make our circumstance an enemy. We blame the economy, lack of resources, even relationships for keeping us in a sinkhole. It’s critical that we stop using blame and excuses as a way to justify our predicament.
  2. See the opportunity to grow. This requires a complete reversal in thinking. Not only is our circumstance not an enemy, it’s the exact teacher we need in order to grow and change into the person who can get us unstuck. After all, in order to get unstuck, we have to change what got us stuck in the first place. Us.
  3. Take action. A change in personal thinking and belief is not enough to set us free. Next, take action. This requires us to do something different in order to begin rising from our place of captivity. Remember, getting unstuck is rarely instantaneous. Be patient. Be persistent. Be courageous.
  4.  Ask for support. Change is difficult and scary. Some people prefer we remain the same—they like us stuck. Although our ability to overcome is inside of us, we still benefit from the support and belief of those who want to see us fully evolve.

Perhaps you’re stuck on a financial plateau, in a bad relationship, in a career that doesn’t fit, or with a lack of health and wellbeing. It’s easy to overcomplicate the concept of being stuck.

Our life is full of habits. Being stuck is simply a habit we’ve formed that keeps us in a place we rather not be. Becoming unstuck requires that we first recognize, and then undo, those patterns that trap us. You’re designed to be free—today is a good day to start living that way.

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E-couragement: Your Employees Need Their Say, Not Their Way

February 29, 2016

notlisteningEarly on in life, we learned that we don’t always get our way.

We understand this concept even though we may not always like it.

Conversely, we’ll never outgrow the desire to have our say.


To be heard is an innate human need.

It is so much harder to support decisions that are made for us, than it is to support decisions that are made with us.

Creating a culture in which the voices of your employees have a safe place to be expressed promotes confidence, builds trust, fosters problem solving, and drives innovation.

When you invite your employees to contribute to the conversation, ultimately they are more willing to commit to ideas and initiatives… even the ones that are not their own.

Listening is a form of respect. It fosters buy-in. 

Buy-in is not something that magically happens on the back end. It needs to be cultivated on the front end.

You can’t ensure that your employees will always get their way; you can however, ensure that they will always have their say.

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E-couragement: Release Your Oz Complex

February 16, 2016

Wizard of OzA couple of my coaching clients had a revelation.

It started by outlining qualities they desired to obtain as a result of our work together. Then they conducted face-to-face interviews with a number of their colleagues.

They asked these coworkers to list strengths observed in them. Interestingly enough, the traits pointed out were the same ones my clients hoped to acquire.

As a result, they had release their Oz complex.

What’s an Oz complex? It’s the most common delusion on the planet. It’s a belief that you’re currently lacking the qualities required to become the person you envision. Courage…nope. Heart…nada. Brains…none.

Even armed with this new awareness, my clients have plenty of hard work before them.

They’ll have to navigate the challenging journey of personal development. It will require them to come face-to-face with the flying monkeys of self-doubt and undo the false programming of their very own Wicked Witch of the West.

Just as my clients already possess everything they need to be successful—so do you. In reality, you have all the courage, heart, and brains you’ll ever need. Right now. They’re yours to discover, yours to embrace, and yours to utilize.

Your personal yellow brick road is waiting for you. It’s time to start.

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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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