Building Relationships

As I write this, Tom and I are on our way home from a quick but marvelous NYC getaway where we celebrated our second-year wedding anniversary. In three days, we took in Central Park and an outdoor lunch at Tavern on the Green, a rainy afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum trying our best to absorb the beauty and wonder on display there and, the following day, had a thoughtful visit at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Our evenings were spent eating hot dogs at Yankee Stadium one night and prime steak at Del Frisco’s the next night just prior to enjoying Sara Barielles on Broadway, starring in Waitress. All-in-all, a fantastic way to celebrate our second year of marriage and seventh year of relationship. Life is certainly richer when you build and enjoy long-term relationships with people you love.

Business is also richer when you know how to create and sustain professional relationships. At LionSpeak we are dedicated to helping professionals communicate more effectively in an authentic and unscripted way. We focus on coaching three main types of communication interactions: 1) Client / Patient Communications (such as telephone skills and financial conversations), 2) Team Communications (such as team culture and agreements, meetings, leadership, and accountability), and 3) Audience Communications (such as executive speakers coaching and adult learning / training methods).

In the client communications arena, we train frontline service professionals to handle incoming and outgoing telephone calls effectively and with a high-level of consistency without a script. In addition, we offer a mystery shopper call service as an extension of our coaching to offer real-life feedback and opportunities for growth. We do this very, very differently than our competition. We train first and test second. We never record anyone without their permission, and we involve our students in the development of their training, working hard to help them truly “shine” on their mystery shopper call reports. We want them to see these calls as a way to advance their skills and careers, not as threat of being fired.

Because we take such an intentional and thoughtful approach to these calls, they’ve become extremely popular and we’ve been doing A LOT of them lately. We’ve noticed some consistent trends and mistakes that are so common that we’ve decided to dedicate the next few Monday Morning Stretches to what we’ve learned and how you can elevate your results very, very quickly.

The LionSpeak Telephone Skills System for converting new client calls is really very simple. We’ve broken it down into four easy steps: Relationship, Discovery, Solutions, and Details. In this week’s Stretch, let’s start with Step #1: Relationship

This is one of the easiest and most crucial steps in the process, but it’s also one of the most overlooked in our mystery shopper call reports. There are two ways to quickly build relationship with a potential client or patient: One is connection and the other is empathy. What distinguishes them is the client’s level of urgency. If the patient does not appear to be in pain or have other urgent concerns, the best way to build connection immediately is to get their name and begin to use it right away. Another way is to listen for any opening to connect with them on a personal level such as details about where they live, where they work, or their relationship with who referred them. For example, if someone says they just moved to your area, ask them what brought them here or how they like it so far, etc. If they mention a co-worker referred them, ask how long they have worked at the business and how closely they work with their friend, etc. This communicates to the potential client that you listened to and heard them and that you actually care about them as a human being … not simply a dollar bill or an appointment.

Another way to connect with a caller is to officially welcome them to your practice or business. Statements like, “Let me be the first to welcome you, Mr. Douglas,” or “I’m so glad you called us, Sara… welcome to our practice!” work really well. It’s a bit of an assumptive statement but one which we’ve found works exceptionally well to paint the picture of a future, long-term relationship.

If the client’s urgency level is high, the second way to build relationship is using empathy. It only makes sense that a client who is in pain, highly agitated, or has a high degree of anxiety will not want to spend time connecting with you on a personal level. They do however appreciate someone who seems to hear and understand their problem and appears committed to relieving it as soon as possible. To communicate empathy, you simply need to acknowledge that you understand the problem and appreciate the client’s level of concern or worry. Here’s an example: “I’m so sorry to hear that your tooth has been so painful, James. That sounds like it’s really been hard for you. Let’s see what we can do to get you feeling better quickly…” Statements like this express empathy, make a human connection, and begin the process of building relationship and trust.

More often than not, in an effort to be efficient, we hear frontline professionals moving quickly into gathering contact, financial, or insurance information before taking a second to connect with the caller first as a human being. This doesn’t have to be (and really shouldn’t be) a very long part of the conversation. It takes just a few seconds to connect on a personal level.

People engage, refer, and purchase at a higher level with people they know, like, and trust. If you feel you know, like, and trust someone … you are in relationship and the process of building that relationship should start from the very beginning of your phone call. Make sure you don’t skip this part and that you do it with a measured pace, upbeat tone, and beaming smile.

Next week, we’ll look at step #2 in our process, Discovery. Until then, have fun practicing connection and strengthening relationships.

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” 
~~Paul J. Meyer

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Acting Lessons

My kids were so impressed when they found out that I had been a cheerleader three out of my four years in high school. It’s apparently a big deal when there are hundreds of kids in your class and thousands in the school but when you have less than 50 students in your graduating class and only 8 try out for 6 spots on the cheerleading squad… well, you just don’t have to be all that good.

Don’t get me wrong though… it was a lot of fun and formed some of my fondest memories in high school but not my most memorable one. That one had nothing to do with the essentially individual sport of cheerleading but rather occurred when I won a spot on a small competitive drama team in my senior year.

The newly formed drama team was to compete for the first time in a sanctioned one-act play competition with other high schools in our division. There were only 10 on the entire team plus a drama coach (who, as it goes in small schools, was also our band teacher): six actors and four support students helping with everything from costumes to curtains to set construction. The play was a touching short story called Goodbye to the Clown about a young girl whose father has died and who, in an effort to cope with her grief, has created an imaginary character, the clown.

I played the girl’s mother who, dealing with her own grief, becomes increasingly fed up with her daughter’s constant attention to the “clown” and her insistence that he be given the same things as a real human being with a place setting at the dinner table, food on his plate, and inclusion in all conversations. In the end, the little girl is guided by her uncle to say “goodbye to the clown” and accept the death of her father. The tender final scene left not one dry eye in the audience when she sits with the clown (who is seen by the audience the entire performance) on the front of the stage with their legs dangling over the edge and thanks him for his friendship, lets him go, and finally makes peace with her loss.

Maybe it was the deep emotion embedded in this story. Maybe it was the nature of theater performance and losing yourself in the lives of other characters. Maybe it was being in the last few months of our senior year and subconsciously knowing that we were about to say our own goodbyes to friends, teachers, and coaches for the last time. Or maybe it was the new experience of participating in something that was impossible to accomplish individually and could only happen if everyone on the team not only did their jobs well but created a safe space for all of us to be vulnerable, take risks, and give or receive support if a mistake was made. But whatever it was, my participation in this small group effort was life changing for me. Being a cheerleader, each of us were always in the spotlight. But with this tiny drama troop, I was a small but integral part of a much greater story and we absolutely depended on each other to lose ourselves in our characters and give 100% on stage to succeed in the competition. We bonded as a team in a way that I had not experienced before (and rarely since.) I now know that’s what happens we people band together, work hard at high level, fully trust each other, and enjoy the work of art they create together… and I didn’t want it to end.

We won our division but fell just short at the regional competition with a few of us taking home honorable mentions for our performances and making the All-Star Cast. But, the loss did nothing to taint the memory or the lessons learned about teamwork and trust.

In about a month, I’ll fly to Texas and attend my 40th (gasp!) high school reunion. We’ve not had one in 30 years. It will be wonderful to reunite with old friends and hopefully a teacher or two. I’ve got my fingers crossed that some of my drama troop teammates will be there. I’d love the opportunity to tell them now what I couldn’t know way back then about how that experience formed me and how I now spend my life doing much the same work of uniting teams and helping them raise the level of trust and excellence in their work.

This week, consider your contribution to your own team experience. Do you foster trust? Do you make it safe for others to try new things, make mistakes and learn from them? Do you quickly jump in to support when they “forget their lines?” Do you acknowledge backstage, after the day is over, a job well done. When you do, you not only create a great experience for them but, trust me when I say, you create a meaningful experience for yourself as well.

“What’s beautiful about the actual acting class environment is that you can use it to push through everything: push your voice, push your inhibitions, push your fears, push your confidence, push your vulnerability, push your silences. ” 
~~ Dawn Olivieri
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Leadership and Learning

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” That’s because leaders are not born but rather developed. So, they are constantly trying new approaches, analyzing the results, and adjusting their strategies along with way.

In the healthcare, dental, and veterinary fields, we are experiencing a seismic shift in our industries with an increase in consolidation and growth of group practices. This has created a huge and almost instant need for managers and team leaders who not only understand the industry but also how to lead, inspire and train their people. Most often, managers and trainers are promoted or hired into these positions because they were good at their jobs and have mastered the technical skills needed. The trouble is that these skills are only part of the job. The far greater part is the ability to think, problem solve, communicate, and inspire like a true leader. If no one has ever modeled how to do this well or they’ve not learned from another highly-developed leader, new managers tend to stumble trying to gain traction with their team or at the very least their progress is slowed because they don’t know how to quickly adjust their strategies to move a team forward.

Even if you are a private or solo practitioner, you must exemplify extraordinary leadership now more than ever. The smaller the team, the more critical the need for every player to master self-leadership.

Whether you want your management team to grow their people and push them to their fullest capabilities or you simply want strong leaders in every position on your team, you have to invest in the training necessary to teach them how to think, speak, and act like great leaders. Consider starting a leadership “Book Club” and selecting a book as a team that you’ll read and discuss at your team meeting. I’ve listed a few of my favorite below. Another option is to attend together or send your managers and team leaders to a leadership workshop or program with the agreement that they will make a full report on the things they learned and plan to implement. (We have a great offer to attend our Leaders of the Pride Workshops below!)

Growing self-leaders as well as leaders who know how to build strong teams is a requirement if you’re going to be competitive in today’s marketplace. The side benefit is that the world becomes a better place too.


Great leadership reads from Katherine’s bookshelf: 

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell 
  • You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader by Mark Sanborn
  • Upside Down Leadership by Bob Spiel





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All Things Being Equal

I’ll probably only buy one white rat for a 10-year-old boy in my entire life. Primarily because I don’t intend to have another 10-year-old boy nor another caged white rat if I don’t absolutely have to. Because of that, it doesn’t really matter that I feel one way or the other about the person who made that sale to me. I’ll likely never ever see them again. All things being equal, I just wanted the cheapest little white booger that I could find because I was sure it would either not live that long or escape its cage and run loose in my house … which was essentially the same thing.

Most of us, however, sell something that we are hoping is not a one-time event. We are actually not as interested in the sale as an end result as we are in developing a long-term relationship with what Mark LeBlanc calls our “perfect-fit” clients. Most of us quickly see the efficacy of having a smaller number of long-term ‘perfect-fit’ clients rather than a ton of ‘bad’ or even ‘decent’ fit clients. Common sense, really… and a whole lot more satisfying.

Case in point: The word EAT for most of us means to consume food to sustain our bodies. But the acronym E.A.T., to almost every citizen of Temecula, California, means Extraordinary Artisan Table… which, translated further, means consistently exceptional, locally-sourced food served in a friendly, communal-style atmosphere. The owner and chef, Leah DiBernardo, is a community advocate for “slow food” and the riches of relationship that can develop from the cooking of good, clean, healthy food and the enjoyment of those meals around a table with family and friends. Leah showcased this idea in her local Temecula TEDx talk, A Small Kitchen, a Large Table, and Big Conversations.

Tom and I had brunch yesterday at E.A.T.’s as we have many times in the past. The restaurant is situated in Temecula’s Old Towne right next door to our local Saturday farmer’s market so you count on having to wait a bit for a seat even at a community table at E.A.T.’s on Saturday mornings. We took the last two chairs at the bar which overlooks the bustling kitchen activities. I think it’s the best seat in the house. From our birds-eye view we could enjoy all the conversations, hand signals, and other various forms of communication which flowed between the wait staff, food preppers, and chefs who all moved like ants in an anthill… always looking like they will crash into one another but somehow managing to navigate in and around each other in perfect harmony. And of this under the watchful eye of the Italian visionary proprietor, Leah.

Not only are customers expected to sit with others and enjoy community while they dine but also Leah and her team mingle and chat and are extremely knowledgeable about the ingredients and local sources of every item on the menu (each employee is required to work at least 8 hours a month at one of EAT’s supplying farms and ranches.) You get the distinct impression that they are like one big, fabulous family complete with occasional fussing’s, high expectations of themselves and each other combined with a sincere desire to support the team and keep a sense of humor.

At one point, an interaction between Leah and a young female server caught my eye. Catching an imperfectly prepared bowl of soup heading out to the floor, Leah took the dish from the tray, corrected whatever was wrong and instructed the server (with a quick comment to the chef nearby) that this was not how it was to be served. Ever. When the server mumbled something under her breath, I was surprised to see Leah swat her on the head as she turned in my direction. “Don’t ever hire your own children… they’re the only employees that will talk back at you,” she said to me with a wry smile and a quick wink.

She made a quick, sweeping glance around the place, making sure all was well, and then meandered over to us at the metallic bar where she chatted with the couple next to us, asking after their careers and families. She cheerfully answered my questions about the ingredients of a delicious Paleo Bowl sauce and local source of the microgreens and eggs. And then she moved on to all the others…. making us each feel that we knew her and she knew us and that we could have just as easily been sitting around her ‘small kitchen, large table, enjoying a big conversation with the DiBernardo family.” We repeatedly go to E.A.T.’s, as much for that feeling of connection as for the fresh and delicious food.

Leah said in her TEDx talk, “It takes time, hard work, and careful choices to produce good, clean, healthy food in an environment where people can really come together… which some say makes it expensive. But what about the cost of not being connected, of us being divided, and being pushed further apart and becoming isolated as a community?” E.A.T.’s success is about quality, but even more it’s more about community and relationships. It’s about slowing down even in a busy place of business and making people feel at home and cared for – making eye contact, joking, and including them in the passionate experience. This is what creates long-term relationships with perfect fit clients.

This week, focus on relationships, not sales. Don’t get so busy that you forget to smile, connect, chat, and engage with your clients and patients on a real and authentic level. This is what creates life-long clients who refer everyone they know.

“Internalize the Golden Rule of sales that says: All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
~ Bob Burg

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Music Monday: Be Here Now

There is absolutely NO END to it… the incessant distractions of the modern world – cell phones, social media, text messages, emails, voicemails, calendar reminders, streaming TV, Pandora music, to-do lists, Amazon deliveries, deadlines. As a result, we’ve become master multi-taskers, but we’ve also become flops at being 100% present in almost any situation. I swear some days I can talk on the phone, listen to music, load the dishwasher, jot notes, compose a blog post in my mind, brew a cup of tea, and flirt with my husband all at the exact same time.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the opposite of multi-tasking… being singularly focused on this moment and the people in it. As a skilled and practiced multi-tasker, I’m far from perfect but I’m getting better. 

I read recently about a firm whose company mantra is “Be here now.” They have it posted in their team meeting room and start each day and all their meetings with this request, allowing a moment for everyone in attendance to halt their racing thoughts, unpack the layers of multiple attentions, and focus on “being here now.” I LOVE this idea and the company value it declares. I’ve decided it is not only a worthy request but also a mantra from which I could gain a great deal. 

And it really requires nothing more than a firm decision and the discipline of practice. Whether it’s dinner with my husband, a phone conversation with my son, a client call, a training session, an educational seminar I’m attending, or a meeting with my own team… being here now is the greatest gift I can give them and myself. When I do it, I notice that singular focus reduces misunderstandings and demonstrates respect and true empathy by engaging all my senses with the end result of higher quality work, better decisions, and a greater sense of service and connection. 

When I adopt this approach of being present in the moment, I’m less inclined to even think about multi-tasking, but it takes some getting used to. I have to continuously remind myself to be here now when I start to wander in my mind or become distracted by emails or cell phone pings. It’s definitely a re-training of my brain. 

For this week’s Music Monday (always the first Monday of the month), I chose Little Wonders by Rob Thomas. His lyric, “Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate,” beautifully reminds us that life is made in the now. This week, don’t be somewhere out there and miss the right here and the right now.

Rob Thomas – Little Wonders

“Let it go
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don’t you know
The hardest part is over?
Let it in
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These small hours still remain

 Let it slide
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
Until you feel it all around you
And I don’t mind
If it’s me you need to turn to
We’ll get by
It’s the heart that really matters in the end

 Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These small hours still remain

 All of my regret
Will wash away some how
But I can not forget
The way I feel right now

 In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away, but these small hours
These small hours, still remain
They still remain
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These little wonders still remain”


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Big Visions

Last month, the newly reformed and rebranded LionSpeak had its first official Vision Calibration Retreat at my Ranch in Southern California. We were mostly new to each other and so the first order of business was to get the group acquainted before we jumped into my presentation of the new company vision and began our strategy session for what it would take to see it all come to fruition. 

I asked everyone to tell about their background and what brought them to be sitting at this roundtable today, what they felt their talents were and contributions could / would be, an interesting fact about themselves, what drew them to LionSpeak and what they loved most about the work we do. Their responses were intelligent and warm, witty and moving. I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet with this team sitting around my table. 

I then presented the new LionSpeak brand along with my 5-year vision, updated company values, and specific goals for the next year. I then asked each member of the team, after considering what they had just heard, if they felt they were ready to fully align with this vision or whether they might need some time to consider its implication to their own life vision. Lucky for me, it was a unanimous and resounding “Yes!” I then asked for each to share, given this alignment, what their big dreams are within the LionSpeak vision and, since several have other ventures they are committed to, what their big dreams are outside of LionSpeak. 

The very first person to answer was Stacy Svellis, our new dental communications coach. Stacy is a beautiful woman, always immaculately dressed with a beaming smile and infectious energy and bright blue eyes that twinkle with intelligence and maybe a hint of mischief. She practically leapt to speak first, but instead of her usual effervescent style, she leveled her gaze on me, lowered her voice a little and said, “My big dream? That would be to become so good that it makes total sense for me to be the next owner of LionSpeak… I mean, when you’re all done, of course, Katherine.” 

There was a moment of silence as that big dream landed on the table and in my brain … and as it made its way down toward my heart, a great big smile broke out across my face, and I realized that this is why we do this. This is why we gather our team every year and recalibrate our visions, both professionally and personally. The realignment of those two visions is what makes smart professionals step up and step into building amazing companies with self-motivated, super-charged people who are on fire and on purpose. With this big personal dream and life vision clearly and strongly connected to the big vision of LionSpeak as the vehicle in which to make it happen, Stacy will most certainly be self-motivated, creative, and passionate about our work together… exactly what every business person hopes for in their team members. 

When you help your people connect your business vision as a direct connection to how they can achieve their life vision, you’ve got yourself a purposeful employee. Don’t hold them back. In fact, set them free (and maybe even offer a little push) to dream as big as they can and to use their employment with you and service to your clients as a way to achieve their personal goals. A team made up of intentional people like this can creatively solve almost any problem and face any challenge. 

If you have not yet experienced a well-organized, well-facilitated Vision Calibration Retreat for your team… there is no time like the present to get one on your schedule and watch the magic start to roll.





Give Your Team the Gift of Shared Alignment and Strategies!

Whether you manage 2 people or 200, join Katherine Eitel Belt, the Unscripted Communication Expert, as she takes teams through the process of realigning the entire team around the owner(s) vision and produce strategies for accomplishing that vision with clear action items, team commitments, and accountability processes.

These retreats are held at creative off-site locations (such as climbing gyms, adventure courses, wineries, racetracks, etc.) and breathe new life and an elevated spirit back into teams and create new clarity around vision, values, goals, and strategies.  They can also address roadblocks for teams and create real breakthroughs in terms of inter-team communication skills, culture, and teamwork issues such as gossip, negative attitudes, lack of accountability, and disengagement.


Katherine Eitel Belt brings years of experience in dental and healthcare coaching as well as excellent group facilitation skills to help practices raise the bar for team alignment, business growth, client attraction, and patient service.
Schedule your team’s Calibration Retreat today!
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Tip of the Spear

You’re waiting. You just wish it was different. You wish your teammate helped out more. You wish the meetings accomplished more and were more fun. You wish you’d get a raise. You wish your office manager would let go of the one mistake that you made months ago. You wish your spouse was more romantic and spontaneous. You wish your team was more committed to the vision. You’re waiting.

And while you’re waiting, leaders are charging ahead… doing it anyway. Leaders don’t wait. Leaders go first, carving the way and showing it to others. They are what we call the “tip of the spear” … always doing the hard work of breaking the barriers and demonstrating what courage and leadership really looks like with their words and actions.

You wish it was different but leaders make it different. You wish your teammate helped out more but leaders have already started helping that person out more as an example of what good teamwork looks like. You wish meetings accomplished more and were more fun, but leaders are making suggestions and raising their hands to volunteer, and they are the ones who surprise others occasionally by showing up with fresh juice and bagels. You wish you’d get a raise, but leaders have already facilitated the meeting and are bringing evidence of their contribution in addition to enthusiastic ideas about how they can help the business continue to thrive. You wish your office manager would let go of a mistake, but leaders have already forgiven themselves as well as their manager for holding the grudge. You wish your spouse was more romantic, but leaders already lit the candles, wrote the love notes, planned the surprises, and bought the nighty. You wish your team was more committed to the vision, but leaders are showing up so on fire and amped up every morning, ready to fulfill on their vision that no one can miss or mistake what the vision is about.

You’re waiting and leaders go first. You’re the tail feathers on the arrow, and leaders are the tip of the spear. The tip of a spear opens the space for the rest, breaks through the barrier, and is never, ever a victim.

This week, go first. Be the tip of the spear that slices through the mediocrity, gossip, blaming and complaining of most people and charges forward, showing the way by your very own example.


You don’t have to hire a trainer to make every team meeting
deliver a huge dose of skills improvement and productive changes.


These simple but dynamic exercises will breathe life
back into your tired, dysfunctional meetings and help you:

– Review material without lecturing
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Learn more


“You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.”
~Katherine Center,
The Gifts of Imperfection

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Evolutionary Adventure

I recently heard the term, evolutionary adventure, describing a documentary program about the evolution of carnivorous plants. While I didn’t jump to add that title to my Netflix favorites, the term rattled around in my brain for a few days and I grew to love the idea of applying it to our own adventures in life and business… because they certainly are an evolutionary process.

Webster defines evolution as a process of formation, growth, or gradual development in which something changes from a simple to a more complex or better form; an unfolding. Seems a perfect definition of what has transpired over time for me as a businesswoman, speaker, wife, mother, friend, and citizen.

Leading and living well is like residing in the same home for years. The rooms become more and more familiar the longer you live there but when nighttime and darkness descends, you still have to put your hands out and feel your way through… and even then, sometimes you stumble. Eventually the light always returns and you see more clearly and understand more deeply where the obstacles are and how to master the path between them. It’s an evolution of knowledge and experience; a true unfolding.

There is an Egyptian proverb which says that the archery marksman hits his target partly by pulling and creating tension and partly by releasing and letting go. That’s what personal and professional growth is… a continual process of pulling at goals and ideas, creating the tension of plans and action, steadying your aim and then releasing and letting go. Sometimes we hit the bullseye and sometimes we overshoot the target and miss completely. Either way we are learning and evolving.

The piece I’m working on remembering is that this is an eternal process with no end point. We’ve been evolving since we entered the world and will be long after we’re gone. So, if there’s no perfect place for which we’re striving but only the constant state of evolution then perhaps we could relax into the process more. How much more enjoyable might life and work be if we could remember going in to an effort or new situation that “we never lose… we only win or learn.” We only hit the bullseye or evolve. How much more fun would that game be to play

This week, play the rich game of learning and evolving versus simply winning or losing. Lean into the process with me of unfolding into a more complex and better form in this great big beautiful evolutionary adventure we’re all on together.


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Every glimpsed it in someone else?
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Music Monday: Courageous Conversations

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We don’t like doing it but we sometimes just don’t know or trust a better way. Am I speaking of our inability to resist that Krispy Kreme donut at the office? No, (though this paragraph would most likely apply nicely to that event) I’m speaking of the conversations in life that we avoid. 

We avoid conversations that we should have… conversations that we need to have… because we’re afraid. Afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Afraid of negative, often unintended, outcomes. Afraid we might actually make things worse. And so, we avoid them. Stuffing down the words we want to say. Making light of something that’s actually important to us or continuing to trudge through something hard when even a small change could make it easier and better. Or even worse, feeling and acting like a victim when in reality we just aren’t willing to have those crucial conversations. 

We often base our future on the results we’ve achieved in the past. Even when we sat down with someone with the best of intentions, a lot of these conversations did not go well. And so, we learned to avoid them. And the problem with avoiding, of course, is that the situation rarely resolves itself and typically gets worse over time which strengthens our irritation, confusion, or negative feelings, erodes openness and creativity, and weakens relationships.  

I’d like to offer some hope that you actually can engage in these conversations and have a predictably better outcome than you’re imagining. I’d like to suggest that by recognizing and shifting a few limiting beliefs as well as adding a couple of tools to your toolbelt, you can encourage and engage in more of these crucial and courageous conversations. Here are a couple of beliefs that have helped me:      

  1.  I never lose. I either win or I learn. I love this quote and in this context, it’s a particularly helpful belief. When you believe you have no way of losing… no matter how the conversation goes… and the only reality will be that you either have a good outcome for both parties or you learn something powerful about what works or what doesn’t, where you need more coaching and practice, or you’ll gain some new insights about the situation, then you’ll have more confidence to engage in and be courageous about these opportunities. 
  1.  Crucial information may be missing. And so, I try to listen first and talk second. For example, “Sara, I want to talk to you about how we are handling our end-of-day closing process. I have some concerns and some ideas about it but first, I’m wondering how you think we’re doing?” It’s amazing the helpful and enlightening information you learn which, at the least, shifts your perspective and heightens your empathy and, at most, causes you to change your mind completely. 
  1.  Where we agree is a good place to start. Finding where you agree is a much stronger platform from which to launch the conversation to that place where you don’t. For example, “Would it be fair to say, Sara, that we both want to get out of here as close to 5:00 as possible to get home to our families?” Most reasonable people will agree. The rest of the conversation will be a bit easier because it now seems in service to the foundational place of agreement.  
  1.  Judgement is a relationship killer. Very few things are actually good or bad, right or wrong. Most either work or don’t work for the situation at hand. Instead of speaking about people doing things wrong or bad, switch your word choice to “This doesn’t work for maintaining our value of excellent service.” Or “This just works better for supporting the team in accomplishing our goals.” 
  1.  Nobody HAS to do anything. We really can’t make people do anything. It’s much better to speak about choice and show respect for and complete confidence in the fact that most people will make the choice that is best for them. We can speak in a much less threatening way when we highlight the person’s choice to align with our values, company vision, team objectives, or even what I call my “non-negotiables.” For example, “Sara, one of my non-negotiables is that we are all here at 7:45 ready to go for the day. I completely understand that it may not be possible for you to be the kind of mother you want to be for your children every morning and get here by that time for work. I respect that very much. Only you will know the options available to you and only you can decide if you can do both. And I’ll fully respect whatever decision you make. If you decide to continue to work here, you would need to be committed to our team agreement of a daily start time of 7:45 a.m.” In other words, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to and certainly not anything that goes against a core value for you and to work here you would need to be here at 7:45 am. I’ll always be your champion in being “at choice” and in making the decision that is best for you. (Because, I’ve already made mine.)
  1.  No two people will see the past the same. So it’s just better not to go there… but boy will the other person want to! Every time they go back, I go forward… meaning, when they say, “That’s not what I do!” (even if I don’t agree) I say, “Okay… and looking forward how can we create a way to ensure that it’s always done according to our agreement?” 
  1.  “And” is almost always a better word choice than “But.” Even in the example above, “and” is a better choice than “but.” “And” builds on the previous statement and “but” cancels it out. 
  1.  Creative solutions can surprise you. If you’re open and not married to being right, it’s amazing what two reasonable and thoughtful people can create. Go in with ideas and be open to the delightful surprise of an even better solution that you had originally. 

These are just a few tips but all of them take practice. The world needs more non-judgmental, thoughtful, and courageous conversations. Our own professional and personal worlds need them too… and leaders go first. So, step up. Be courageous. Open your mind and open your heart. Step out of anger and take responsibility for not speaking about these things sooner. Go into the experience ready to learn and grow yourself. Be sincerely curious and creative about what’s possible. Be a champion for the other person, no matter the outcome. 

On this Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), I chose Say by John Mayer off the soundtrack from the motion picture, The Bucket List. I love his lyric: 

“Even if your hands are shaking, and your faith is broken,
Even as the eyes are closing, do it with a heart wide open…
Say what you need to say.”

Be courageous. Say what you need to say.

John Mayer – Say

“Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ’em in quotations

Say what you need to say [Repeat]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only

Say what you need to say [Repeat]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say, say what you need to say


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The Land of “Yes!”

Jealousy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I so wish I would have thought of “The Land of Yes!” as the name for a company, blog, or even my personal homestead but alas our friend’s brilliant daughter laid claim to it first for her farm-to-fork catering company.  I simply adore how it sounds rolling off my tongue and all the possibilities that the name conjures in my mind. Darn it. 

Anyway, today’s message is about the idea of living in and speaking from “The Land of Yes!” which is the parent idea for the concept of “both/and” vs. “either/or” in our leadership thinking. It showed up big time in my life lately. Let me explain… 

Some people do their best thinking and get their brightest ideas in the shower, weeding their gardens, or floating in the pool. Mine come doing cardio… Just something about getting the blood flowing and the cobwebs cleaned out for me, I guess. Last week, I was on the treadmill with my “Flow” playlist cranked way up enjoying the usual flood of creative ideas and pleasing thoughts. I could almost smell the paella on the trip to Spain that Tom and I were planning. I could feel the sand under my feet on our business trip to Hawaii next month. But a nagging little image kept creeping into my pleasant travel planning. It was the haunting picture I’d seen on the news recently of an entire village in Africa who were literally starving to death due to famine and war.

Finally, acknowledging the attention the insistent image was demanding in my consciousness, I began to feel much less enthusiastic about my trips and the amount of money I would likely be spending on them. I felt guilty for not taking that money and doing some real good with it. I had a choice. I could take the trips and spend the money selfishly on myself or I could choose to donate the money or take some of it to the source and lend a helping hand myself. One or the other. Either / Or. 

And then I remembered. I live in “The Land of Yes!” where decisions are made from the “Both / And” paradigm. What if I could do both… take the vacations and donate or volunteer? All it would take would be one or two more clients. It would mean I’d just have to work a little harder to get both accomplished. 

But wait… I live in “The Land of Yes!” What if I didn’t have to work any harder? What if I found a way to work smarter so that the extra income didn’t come from me traveling and speaking more. What if I could have both more income and less hours on the road. If I stayed on the treadmill, I’d probably get that one good idea or inspiration to make that happen (not to mention lose a couple more pounds.) 

Hang on… I live in “The Land of Yes!” and what if I didn’t have to come up with any new ideas but instead make a quick phone call to pick the brain of my business coach who has already paved that road ahead of me? I could have both passive income and an immediate way to get it done. 

Living in “The Land of Yes!” became so fun I almost burned up the treadmill that morning. Almost. At any rate, it made for great MMS material and a great reminder to me that this is what it truly feels like to live in possibility where our work and our dreams do not have to be hard. Where the lines blur between the fun you have at work and the fun you have period. It’s all just a creation of our intentions and a game we are making up as we go along. 

This week, have some fun playing full out in “The Land of Yes!” seeing just how far you can take the “Both / And” paradigm as you intentionally create the business, career, and life that others just dream about.



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