E-couragement: Cure the Curse of Knowledge

October 17, 2016


They’re what got you here and what can prevent you from moving forward.

As a child, did you like the know-it-all? As an adult, your response is probably the same.

The belief that you must always have an answer morphs into the dreaded curse of knowledge.

Fortunately, there is a cure.


It takes confidence to stop supplying answers and start seeking them.

Developing the skill to ask good questions takes persistence and practice. The four parts of asking a skillfully crafted question involve:

  • Words – Most questions elicit a simple “yes/no” answer. Instead, use questions that provoke dialogue to gain understanding of what others think. To accomplish this, begin your question with words or phrases such as, “What…” “Why…” “Tell me about…” or “Help me understand…”
  • Tone – The tone you choose creates the energy behind your words. Voice tone determines whether you sound judgmental or curious. Select the proper tone of voice so others feel safe bringing their thoughts/ideas to you.
  • Gestures – Facial gestures and body language are visual reinforcements of your intent. Your face communicates, “You bore me” as easily as it states, “I’m interested in what you think.” If you want people to be open and honest with you, be sure your face gives them permission.
  • Silence – This can be the toughest part. If you really want to hear what others have to say, be patient and wait… wait… wait. How long? Until they’re ready to speak. Resist the temptation to jump in and save them. The best way to honor someone after asking a question is to sit in the silence with them. It’s only awkward if you’re awkward.

Everyone has answers. Few people use well-crafted questions as a way to effectively listen and learn from others—allowing them to share their knowledge and expand yours.

Are you ready to differentiate yourself in your next conversation?




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E-couragement: Two Lies That Hijack Your Happiness

October 3, 2016

liesThey’re born as thoughts.

They mature into beliefs.

Fully grown, they have the power to influence our attitude and behavior.


Two of the most prevalent lies that trap us are the conditional proclamations structured in the form of:

“If/then” and “When/then”

  • If I was the boss, then things would improve around here.”
  • When I get a bigger house, then I’ll feel successful.”

Here’s how these lies work: ‘if’ and ‘when’ are in the future. We, however, exist in the now. Believing these lies cause us to live in a constant state of deferred happiness.

There will never be a golden day or a magical circumstance that has the power to make us happy. It is simply a choice offered to us in the current moment.

Are you choosing the truth of now our the lies of later?


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E-couragement: What’s Your Sauce Policy?

September 19, 2016

sauce policyThe notice on the drive-through window was proudly displayed:

“Sauce Policy”

It informs customers of how many complimentary sauces they’re eligible for based upon a particular order. Use more than the allotted sauce stipend? You’re on the hook for $.30 a pop.

I’m not Lovin’ it.

What sounds good in the boardroom doesn’t always resonate with customers. Business decisions that focus on policy over people are costly in the long run.

Sauce policies are more common than we might think. They’re often camouflaged with code words and cause customers to feel alienated when:

  • Rules are enforced without considering their point of view
  • Policies designed to protect the company make them feel like a thief or liar
  • Regulations add unnecessary steps and make it difficult to do business

What’s your organization’s sauce policy? Consider revising it to give your customers what they want and deserve—a memorable experience.

That’s a good business decision.




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E-couragement: Flames Don’t Fuel a Fire

September 7, 2016

FireDuring our stay in Asheville, NC, I faced a unique challenge:  Building a fire.

Not a push-button gas fire, but an authentic, kindling-and-matches, singe-your-arm hair fire.

Not an easy task for someone who flunked Cub Scouts after never earning a single badge.

Alas… when on your honeymoon, and romance is on the line…anything is possible.

After meticulously selecting logs, strategically stacking them, and diligently lighting handfuls of dry twigs and scraps of newspaper, I learned a key lesson:

A successful fire must have a base of hot coals.

All these years I believed that flames fuel the fire.


Flames are a bi-product. The awe-inspiring dance of the blue and orange flames is short lived without the ongoing support of red-hot coals.

Flames don’t fuel the fire – coals do.

Contrary to popular opinion, engaging leaders are not the flames, they are the coals.

Like coals they operate at the base level, out of the spotlight. They enable their employees, the flames, to thrive and get the attention they deserve.

In what ways do you deliver the energizing foundation required for your employees to thrive?


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E-couragement: Baggage Can’t Claim You

August 2, 2016

image003We just completed our 10th Annual Dad-Daughters Adventure Trip. This year we visited the Grand Canyon for a few days of hiking, laughing, debating (they’re like that), and eating (the real reason we travel together).

When we reached our destination, the first order of business was to hurry and claim our baggage.

Anxiously, we waited, worked our way through the crowd then walked off under the renewed weight of our stuff.

As we lugged around our burden, all I could think about was how light and refreshed we felt after having initially checked that same baggage.

Then, my thoughts turned. What about our life baggage? Admit it. We all have it.

If we only had the clarity to identify it. The courage to hand it over. The discipline to let it drift away, down the conveyer belt.

Feel lighter?

Instead we reclaim it over and over again at each new destination we reach.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Life baggage can’t claim you if you don’t go looking for it.

What baggage have you been lugging around for too long?

It may be time to check it in and walk away. Forever.


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E-couragement: 5 Ways to Lose Your Audience in Under a Minute

July 19, 2016

image003“But I want to begin with, ‘Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be here with all these great speakers’…”

She was resisting my coaching.

“What will you accomplish with that?” I asked.

“I’ll build rapport with the audience and let them know I appreciate them.”

I paused…and paused some more.

“You have 18-minutes to deliver your TED Talk. You’ll waste precious seconds with that opening. You risk losing your listeners because you’ve said nothing interesting to them. If you really appreciate them, provide value with your first words.”

She wanted to indulge in the most common presentation mistake there is:

Delivering a boring opening.

Break the pattern. Stop using typical speaker openings. They’re stale, uninspiring, and cliché.

5 Ways to Lose Your Audience in Under a Minute

  1. “Good morning…” (boring and a significant lack of creativity)
  2. “Let me tell you a little about me/my company…” (they don’t care and it’s rarely a “little”)
  3. “It’s an honor to be here…” (If that’s true then say something more interesting)
  4. “Today I’m going to talk to you about…” (Instead of telling them what you’re going to talk about, go ahead and talk about it— and only if it’s important to them)
  5. “Have you heard the one about…?” (Jokes are risky and often backfire. Use humor by telling a funny story that “pokes” fun at you)

Ensure that your audience will join you on your presentation journey. Have the courage and the skill to be memorable from the moment you open your mouth:

  • Jump into the action of a story that piques their curiosity
  • Ask an intriguing question (then shut up and actually listen)
  • Offer a sincere compliment (based on facts not flattery)

Walk away from the crowded corner of sameness. How can you set yourself apart? Start by being engaging.

Watch TEDx Greensboro’s 2016 Speaker line-up to see how it’s done.



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E-couragement: The Best Negotiators Never Win

July 6, 2016

PokerWe utilize it at home, in the office, and with customers. It’s a constant piece of our human experience:


At its root, negotiation is a discussion between people attempting to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

Even though we’ve done it our entire lives we’ve created a mystical aura around it.

Over time, we’ve wandered off course when it comes to the goal of negotiating.

We’ve all seen the books and workshops touting titles like, “How to Win at Negotiating.”

This popular strategy is short sighted and costly. It damages relationships and impairs business.

When a winner is crowned the loser is clearly identified and progress ends.

A successful negotiator’s goal is not to win, but to collaborate.

It requires effort and skill to build trusting relationships where all participants willingly “show their cards” in order to create the best “hand” for everyone.

During your next negotiation seek mutual progress over personal victory.

It’s not easy. It is effective.


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E-couragement: Deconstructive Criticism

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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