The Root of All Things

In preparation for writing a new book on Courageous Conversations, I’ve been doing some research and re-reading some old classics on communicating effectively in challenging situations. I am reminded on all fronts about how easily we can get derailed when emotions take over for logic.

There is a raft of research to prove that when we are faced with a challenging conversation, we receive a heavy chemical dose of adrenaline straight into our bloodstream which causes an almost immediate fight-or-flight response. We don’t choose to do this. Our adrenal glands do it and then we must live with the fallout.

This chemical boost causes our brains to immediately divert blood from any current tasks it now deems as unnecessary and redirect that blood flow to what it suddenly views as high-priority tasks such as hitting or running. Unfortunately, as the large muscle groups gain more blood to do their “work,” the thinking part of our brain – the part that maintains reason – gets less. Hence, we often start talking and acting like a pea-brained reptile versus the high-functioning, reasonable human that we are.

In conflict, challenge, or disagreement, the primal fight-or-flight response shows up as either defensiveness, attack, or counter-attack (fight) or a retreat into pouting, sulking, storming off, or a punishing silence (flight.) Neither are productive or who we want to be in our rational state.

So, what do we do?

Numerous studies of leaders who are highly-respected and effective in high stakes conversations clearly show that the ability to pause before responding and quickly ask a couple of internal questions is the key. Questions like these below are great examples:

  • What do I really want for myself as an outcome?
  • What do I want for them?
  • What do I want for our future relationship?
  • What would I say or do if I was truly committed to these outcomes?

When we pose any intellectual question to our minds, we experience an almost immediate reversal of the fight-or-flight response. We redirect resources back to the problem-solving part of the brain because it recognizes a complex personal dilemma to be dealt with instead of a physical threat.

This is a discipline which is highly developed in the best leaders and communicators. It’s a reminder to come back into our highly-developed “smart brain” and take a re-check on our ultimate goals and purpose. It brings us back quickly into an exploration of what we can do to navigate a hostile or precarious situation rather than always expecting the other person to do a turnabout or change.

Ultimately, it brings us back to love. Love for ourselves, the others in our lives, and our community.

This week, when you find yourself faced with road rage, frenzied shopping behaviors, family agreements, or professional disagreements… practice taking a breath before you respond and redirecting the blood flow back to your “smart brain” by silently asking yourself, “What do I really want for me, for them, and for our future relationship?” And watch how differently, deliberately, and more effectively you handle the situation.

Maybe Mr. Rogers said it best: “Love is at the root of all things. All learning. All parenting. All relationships. Love… or the lack of it.”


“Emotions are one of the main things that derail communication. Once
people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out of the window.”
~~Christopher Voss

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Music Monday: The Remedy

It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s stressful. At times, it’s sheer chaos. Ahhhh, the holidays.

In the midst of all the holiday hub-bub, I’m trying to remember that my children and grandchildren, husband and parents, friends and clients will probably not remember a single gift I gave them after I’m gone. But they will have a memory of me and how I “was” during the holidays.

Will that memory be one of looking overwhelmed? Being cranky from lack of sleep? Being distracted and pre-occupied in my attempt to make it all perfect? Being frustrated that something didn’t go as planned?

Or, will they have a memory of someone who beamed when they arrived on my doorstep? A women who gave the best and most honest hugs? Someone who sat and talked with them and really listened and was truly interested? Will they remember my obvious joy in the festivities, traditions, and beauty? Will they sense my optimism for the future? Will they be calmed by my inner sense of calm? Will they smile at the memory of a sense of humor, well-maintained through all the mishaps… rolling with the unexpected? Will they vividly remember my love for them in a way that warms them deep inside when they feel the winter’s cold?

They’re watching us. Our teammates. Our children. Our neighbors. And we’re making memories with and for them. Are they the memories we want to leave?

I’ve selected The Remedy by the Zak Brown Band for our Music Monday (always the first Monday of each month.) In an interview, Zak said that this was probably the most important song they had ever written and, so far, their favorite by a long shot. Although not a traditional Christmas song, it probably should be. His lyrics are perfect: “I’ve been thinking about the mark that I’ll be leaving, been looking for a truth that I can believe in, I’ve got everything I need, let this heart be my guide… in love, in music, in life. Love is the remedy.”

This week, as we head into the December holidays, be intentional about the memories you are forming and cementing in the minds of those with whom you interact. And remember that love truly is the remedy.

“I’ve been looking for a sound
That makes my heart sing
Been looking for a melody
That makes the church bells ring
Not looking for the fame
Or the fortune it might bring
In love, in music, in life

Jesus preached the golden rule
Buddha taught it too
Gandhi said eye for an eye
Makes the whole world go blind
With a little understanding
We can break these chains that we’ve been handed
I’ve got the medication
Love is the remedy

Pray to be stronger and wiser
Know you get what you give
Love one another
Amen (amen), amen

I’ve been thinking about the mark
That I’ll be leaving
Been looking for a truth
I can believe in
I got everything I need
Let this heart be my guide
In love, in music, in life

I’m not saying I’m a wise man
Heaven knows there’s much that I’m still finding
Making my way down this winding road
Holding on to what I love
Yeah, and leaving the rest behind
For love, for music, for life

Pray to be stronger and wiser
Know you get what you give
Love one another

(Love is the remedy)
We’re all in this world together
Life’s a gift that we have to treasure
Happiness, now that is the measure

Love is the remedy
(Love is the remedy)

Everyone can be forgiven
One love and one religion
Open up your heart and listen
Love is the remedy

Pray to be stronger and wiser
And know you get what you give
God is love, one another
Amen (amen), amen, amen (amen)”

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The Great Sales Match

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch…”

For some reason, I’m on a weird kick lately to re-watch all my old favorite musicals. Those famous lyrics from, Fiddler on the Roof, haunt my head as I write this week’s Monday Morning Stretch and think about how often we complicate the communication process with a potential new client or patient.

When Tom and I were engaged to be married just a few short years ago, we shopped for wedding venues. We had four very different experiences at the places we visited, all providing more evidence to me that most of us have the entire sales cycle backwards.

Each events coordinator introduced themselves, handed us a pre-made information packet, and immediately commenced with the “tour.” Most did manage to ask the number of guests and if we had a date yet but not one asked us what kind of a wedding we wanted or if there was anything especially important to us in choosing a location. Had they asked, I would have told them we didn’t want the standard “aisle down the middle, alter at the front” set-up but rather a more circular arrangement with us in the middle of our family and friends. Tom would have shared that he has lots of grandchildren, and we’d like an area for a kid’s station with activities just for them as well as the fact that he really wants an outdoor area (preferably with a firepit) for a cigar-roller and port bar. They would have known we’ve already contracted with Lee Koch and his band to play at our wedding since we discovered and befriended them on our very first date.

With that knowledge in hand, two things would have been effortless for them to do: 1) show us just how perfect their location would be for our special day or 2) saved all of us a lot of wasted time and a long tour only to discover it would never have worked anyway (as in the case of one location where amplified music is not allowed other than I-Pod speakers…. a complete deal-breaker for us.)

Selling is nothing more than old-fashioned matchmaking. It’s simply showing your prospect how your product, service, or venue matches up to what they want to accomplish, but in order to do that, you have to thoroughly understand what that is. And you’ll only discover that by taking time up front to be curious and ask some questions first before launching into your “spiel.” It makes no difference whether you are selling great products, great dentists, or great wedding venues. It’s exactly the same whether you’re talking to a potential client on the telephone or in person. There’s only one script to follow: Be curious and find out what’s important to them and then show them how you, your team, your product or service, your doctor, or your venue can help them get it. So simple, but so few actually do it.

And one more note… We spoke to a man who was the manager of a small 10-bedroom hotel and a highly-acclaimed chef. He did something VERY right, in my opinion: At the end, he shook my hand, held it a little longer than normal, looked directly at me and smiled and then said in the most sincere way, “I hope you’ll consider me because I would love to cook an unforgettable meal for your wedding. I really, really would.” His earnest statement stuck with me all afternoon.

I often coach doctors and teams to say similar words to their patients. “I know we can achieve a remarkable and beautiful result, and I would really love to do this for you.” You think they know it but hearing it is so powerful.

This week remember that selling anything is matching what your client wants with what you can offer. Ask before you tell… and then tell them you’d LOVE to do it!


“Most salespeople don’t spend enough time listening and questioning.
The moment they think they have the answer,
they jump straight to talking
about their solution. As a result they don’t do a good enough job of
understanding issues
from the customer point of view. And if customers
don’t feel that they are listened to and understood, there’s an inevitable loss of trust.”

~Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling

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Music Monday: My Thanksgiving

I’m invoking author’s privilege and publishing Music Monday a couple of weeks early in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday… because I have the perfect song: Don Henley’s, My Thanksgiving.

What we like in music is such a personal choice, but, in my humble opinion, Don Henley is one of the greatest songwriters of our time. I’ve contended for years that his songs are like poetry put to music. This one is no exception.

There is much to recommend in this song, but one of my favorite parts is the bridge which says, “Have you noticed that an angry man, can only get so far, until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be, with the way things are?”

We all wish for so many things in our lives. It’s the substance of our dreams and aspirations; however, if we spend all of our time wishing for what we want in the future, what should be, or ought to be… we will likely feel very dissatisfied with our present. Thanksgiving is a day that reminds us that, no matter what we’ve achieved in our lives to date, there will always be someone who has attained more than us and always some with much less. Always. Gratitude for what is, right where we are, is the great leveler. It helps us to stop the comparisons and rejoice in what we have right now. The Thanksgiving holiday can allow us to feel full and satisfied in more ways than one.

So, this week, join me in appreciating and identifying with Don Henley’s lyric:

“I’ve got great expectations,
I’ve got family and friends,
I’ve got satisfying work,
I’ve got a back that bends,
For every breath, for every day of living…
This is my Thanksgiving.”

In addition to our Don Henley performance video, I’d also like to share this short but sweet perspective video, which so beautifully encapsulates this idea of true thanksgiving. Enjoy as you head into this holiday season with family and friends. All of us here at LionSpeak are wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving holiday celebrated around a table of delicious food and even more delicious loved ones.

 ****************************************

Don Henley – My Thanksgiving

“A lot of things have happened
Since the last time we spoke
Some of them are funny
Some of ’em ain’t no joke
And I trust you will forgive me
If I lay it on the line
I always thought you were a friend of mine

Sometimes I think about you
I wonder how you’re doing now
And what you’re going through

The last time I saw you
We were playing with fire
We were loaded with passion
And a burning desire
For every breath, for every day of living
And this is my Thanksgiving

Now the trouble with you and me, my friend
Is the trouble with this nation
Too many blessings, too little appreciation
And I know that kind of notion…well, it just ain’t cool
So send me back to Sunday school
Because I’m tired of waiting for reasons to arrive
It’s too long we’ve been living
These unexamined lives

I’ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

Have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
With the way things are

Here in this fragmented world, I still believe
In learning how to give love, and how to receive it
And I would not be among those who abuse this privilege
Sometimes you get the best life from a burning bridge

And I don’t mind saying that I still love it all
I wallowed in the springtime
Now I’m welcoming the fall
For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

For everyone who helped me start
And for everything that broke my heart
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving”


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
~ Melody Beattie

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True Stories

Brian Tracy once said, “Never say anything about yourself that you do not want to come true.” And yet, we constantly do this.

  • “I’m not good at math.”
  • “I can’t resist sweets.”
  • “I’m terrified of public speaking.”
  • “I avoid confrontation.”

We’ve all made derogatory statements about ourselves and every time we do, we breathe life into a story that becomes the truth for others and, more importantly, for ourselves. Over time, we integrate these statements into the fabric of our lives as if they were factual and the only truth. In reality, they have become our truth through the repetition of our thoughts and speech. All fine if they are behaviors and reactions we want, but if they are not… then Brian Tracy is correct. We should stop saying them as if there were no other alternative.

This is not to say that we should try to convince ourselves of a lie but rather work on creating a new and more productive story over time. For example, I’ve often said (and truly believed) that I am terrible at remembering names. If I suddenly start saying that I’m really great at remembering names, my rational mind knows better. But I can start to rephrase the statement and morph it over time into something that feels better and begins to create a new and better truth.

  • “I’ve struggled in the past with remembering names and I’m searching for ways to make that better.”
  • “In the past, remembering people’s names has been hard for me and I’m experimenting with some new ways to improve my memory skills.”
  • “It used to be hard for me to recall names, but I’ve found some cool techniques which are helping me tremendously.”

Over time, we create a new reality… a new truth. This week, notice how often you make negative or limiting statements about yourself and try changing the narrative to something that is also true but more positive and optimistic. Tell the story of how it is and how it could or will be and watch how quickly the new, improved story becomes true.


“You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without
an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable.”
— Deepak Chopra

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Music Monday: The Space Between

I facilitate an exercise with groups where I ask everyone to write down a quote from a book, movie, play, or song that had a profound impact on them personally. We use the quotes throughout the day in a variety of ways. So far, I’ve not met anyone who didn’t have one.

Mine is easy to recall because when I read it for the first time, it stopped me in my tracks. I re-read it several times, and I’ve never forgotten it or been quite the same since. It’s a passage from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl that reads, “Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. And, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor. He wrote those words after surviving one of the world’s most horrific events so in my mind… they are tested and true. He went on to say, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This quote reminds us that we are the receiver of the information, actions, stimuli, and circumstances in our lives, but we are also the observer. As an observer, we can be self-aware, and we are strong enough and free enough to choose how we will interpret and react to everything that happens to us. He beckons us to step into the space between the event and our response and make a conscious choice that will be better for us and for the greater good.

Initially, it’s challenging to postpone, even for a millisecond, our normal, knee-jerk reaction which often ends in a low-level emotion or worse, a low-level action. The space between gives us perspective and re-centers us to our core values and is worth remembering and practicing in our everyday lives.

This week, for our Music Monday Stretch (always the first Monday of the month), I chose one of my all-time favorite songs, Life Uncommon, by Jewel. “Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom, no longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from, fill your life with love and bravery and you shall lead a life uncommon.” This central lyric fits perfectly with my hope that all of us this week will recognize and utilize the space between much more. As we read social media posts that enrage us, watch news reports that upset us, and overhear comments that frustrate us… I hope we’ll remember Viktor Frankl’s ability, in the face of much worse circumstances, to step into the space between stimulus and response and carefully, thoughtfully, and powerfully choose our own.

Jewel – Life Uncommon

“Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright
And don’t worry sister, say your prayers and sleep tight
And it’ll be fine, lover of mine, it’ll be just fine
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead, a life uncommon

I’ve heard your anguish, I’ve heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren’t worn out
Set down your chains, until only faith remains
Set down your chains.
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead, a life uncommon

There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough, it would’ve come to be
Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves to hear
Our voices ring our clear with sounds of freedom, sounds of freedom

Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
There is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give, to live
And lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead, a life uncommon.”

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Happy Monday! As I write this week’s Stretch, I’m on a plane to San Diego after attending some professional meetings in Honolulu and indulging in five days of rest and relaxation on Maui. I’m returning rested and recharged with a renewed sense of wonder about the incredible beauty of our world.

On the five-hour flight home, I watched the film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which is a thoughtful documentary about the life and work of Fred Rogers. The film showcased the deep dedication he had for reaching children through television to help build their sense of self-esteem and worthiness as well as convincing them of their inherent goodness, value, and individuality. As a child in the 1960’s, I can remember feeling a connection with Mr. Rogers… like he could actually see me through the television and that he understood me. As a mother of young children in the 80’s, I remember seeing those same lessons in a new way through the eyes of my small boys who also watched his program on PBS.

One thing the documentary reminded me of was how passive Fred Rogers seemed when in fact he was quite a warrior. He fiercely championed the idea that while the world was not free from conflict, tragedy, or violence, we could find ways of embracing the truth, honoring feelings, offering non-judgment, and extending respect, forgiveness, and love. He did not believe we should hide the truth from children but rather help them to understand it, recognize their feelings, and respond with love. This is such an important lesson for who we are as a society today.

If it’s not a beautiful day in your neighborhood and your team doesn’t play very well together in the sandbox… don’t lose hope, throw up your hands, or throw in the towel. Most of us didn’t learn how to respond very well to conflict, disagreement, or even a simple misunderstanding when we were young… even if we did watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And because we didn’t, we haven’t had very many good experiences trying to resolve it. So now, we either avoid it altogether, or we seek it out before it finds us and take it on like a street-fighter, determined to come out the winner at all cost, wearing our “victories” like badges of honor even though we left a path of destruction in our wake. Both ways generally end in a less than satisfactory result, especially long term.

There is a way to engage in conflict that yields much better results consistently- so much better, in fact, that over time we can gain a new confidence and view our engagement with conflict in a completely different and positive way. These Courageous Conversations, as we’ve coined them here at LionSpeak, are our passion because we believe they help leaders to lead their people more effectively, speakers to engage with an audience more directly, and parents to model for their children a whole new way of being.

One of the first things we teach when learning these new skills is self-management. We must master a level of being and skill even though typically the other person in the exchange will not yet have developed those same skills. We must learn to speak to the issue and neutral facts instead of the human being on the other side of the conflict who is likely to be highly charged and emotional. If we meet that emotion with the same level of energy, we often find ourselves in a standoff, if not an all-out fight.

My colleague, Joan Garbo, recently wrote about this same idea: Imagine you are at an ocean beach and you wade out just to the area where the waves break. If you stand full frontal to a wave, it will knock you down, but if you turn sideways, the water rushes past you. Let the emotional ‘wave’ rush past you and deal with the issue itself.

Managing conflict and having Courageous Conversations regularly is really pretty easy, but it’s not always simple to change the way we’ve been responding for years and years. To help you develop the muscle and the reputation for mastering those Courageous Conversations, we’ve developed a 4-Point Self-Check to implement before you engage in conflict. We’ve nicknamed it G.E.C.O. so it’s easier to remember in the heat of the battle. If you’d like a free copy to share with your team, email us at info@LionSpeak.net.

And remember this wisdom from Mr. Rogers: The only thing that ever really changes the world is when someone gets the idea that love can abound and can be shared.

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The Choice is Clear

It’s only occasionally that I’m truly impressed with the level of client service extended to me by an individual. Even more rare is that level of extraordinary service delivered by an entire group of people. But, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve had consistently excellent service delivered by an entire company nationwide over a five-year period without at least one person eventually spoiling their record.

CLEAR is one of those companies. As a frequent traveler, it made total sense for me to pay the $200 fee to join CLEAR’s membership program which performs fingerprint and retinal scans as well as background checks on travelers. Once you’re “CLEAR”, they speed you through TSA and zip you right up to the front of the security line, saving hours of time and toe-tapping frustration through airports like Atlanta, New York, Dallas, and LAX.

I’ve mentally noted before how truly friendly, welcoming, connected, and efficient the CLEAR team is but last week while catching a flight home out of San Jose, CA, I realized that this had always been my experience with CLEAR… every time, every city, every person… for five years. No exceptions.

How do they do it? They are pulling from the same pool of applicants and workers as you and I. Just like us, they are a growing company with hundreds, if not thousands of clients. They rely heavily on technology which has got to be just as glitchy as ours. So, what’s their secret to this high level of client experience and more importantly to the consistency of its delivery across all fronts and over such a long period of time?

I had to know. So, I called them. Their phone team was as friendly and efficient as their ground team at the airports. I was quickly handed off to the VP of Training and Development, who shared with me that while this was his official title, his unofficial (and more accurate) title was VP of Exceptionalism. Seriously. He told me that I was not the first person to notice and inquire about how CLEAR is able to deliver this exceptional experience over the long haul.

While he couldn’t reveal all their secrets, he could tell me that these three things made the difference overall:

1) Truth. The cold hard truth of this product is that, given the cost of CLEAR, if travelers don’t have a seamless, stress-less, friendly, and highly efficient experience every single time, they will not renew. It either saves them time every time or they will save the money and simply use TSA pre-check as a very good alternative. There is nothing else that they sell but a seamless, stress-less experience every time. Without delivering that, there is no CLEAR. Employees understand this truth about the company and what CLEAR employees must deliver.

2) Training. Prospective employees are rated on how they initially greet their interviewers on several, separate interviews. Their interviews are even pre-designed with embedded hiccups in the process to evaluate how the applicants react to and manage them. Once hired, they are rigorously trained using video and live scenarios which they self-evaluate with a trainer. They also shadow and are shadowed by other team members who have already gained the highest overall customer ratings.

3) Evaluation. Frontline team members’ jobs depend upon the reviews and comments of subscribers as well as the scores of the secret shoppers sent through the frontlines to check their delivery. CLEAR needs happy, delighted customers and those results are King. They are bottom-line requirements of the job. No excuses.

Has your team signed on for the truth of what your business must deliver consistently to stay strong and competitive? Do you have built-in protocols and testing mechanisms to determine the right applicants for your team? When was the last time you shadowed your team members or recorded client interactions and reviewed them together with coaching? Have you considered a method of surveying your clients to discover if your perceived image is the one you intended and that the client experience you think you’re delivering is actually the one they have… every time?

You don’t have to go it alone on this journey. The team at LionSpeak is standing by, ready and willing to help your leaders and team managers learn how to create a culture of truth, training, and evaluation. It’s as easy as developing simple on-boarding, initial training, and on-going coaching frameworks.

All you need to be a company like CLEAR is to be CLEAR about your commitment to constant improvement.


“Customer experience is the next competitive battleground.
It’s where businesses are won or lost.”

~~Tom Knighton

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Practice Makes Perfect

Fall is here and we’re stocking up on firewood, cooking soups, raking leaves, and watching football.   As I write this, Tom is addressing the citizens of the town he grew up in at the homecoming community pep rally for the local high school football team. He was in town to celebrate his 40th year high school reunion where his classmates have also asked him to give a speech. I was surprised at how nervous he felt about it. Good thing he’s married to a speech coach!

He’s nervous because he wants to do a good job. He cares about the people he’s presenting to and they’ve honored him by selecting him for this occasion. He doesn’t do this all the time and he hasn’t had a whole lot of time to prepare so it feels slightly uncomfortable. We can all relate on some level.

When we are trying to learn a new skill or get better at one we know… practice is the key. But who has time? And who loves to “role play?” Most would rather stick a pencil in their eye.

But, there’s no way out. Practice is how we build the muscle memory of anything we want to strengthen. Case in point: In our Leaders of the Pride Leadership Workshop, we spend a good amount of time learning about how to have Courageous Conversations. I outline the simple framework and teach the process. I demonstrate it with people in the room. Then, because there is so much I want to cover with the group… I would move on to new material. But I discovered in my workshop debriefs that this was the most important skill they came to learn. I had taught it and they had heard it but … they had not really learned it. What was missing was practice.

In the last workshop, I asked for a volunteer to try it on. One popped up right away (there’s always one!) and she did pretty well but when she received feedback from the group, she was surprised at how many steps she had missed. She said, “This seemed so easy but now I can see I’ll need more practice to really have it become and feel like my natural response.”

The truth is… it is easy. But, its new. So as master trainers, we now put the group to practice with only one step at a time, adding steps along the way as they got stronger and stronger. By the time the session was over, you could feel the sense of accomplishment and mastery in the room. The amount of practice makes the difference.

The same was true for Tom. He nailed his pep rally speech because we spent several nights practicing. While looking for a quote for him to use, I ran across this one by Frank Leahy: “Lads, you’re not to miss practice unless your parents died, or you did.” For winning coaches and teams, practice is everything.

What skills do you wish your team performed better? What skills do you wish came more naturally to you? The steps that make practice work are:

  • Break the skill down into small steps and layer them on as you gain traction.
  • Remember this is practice… not performance. Make it okay to fail and start over as many times as you need.
  • Don’t start (or let anyone else start) with the hardest examples first. Begin with the simplest and easiest and then add on the complexities as people’s confidence rises.
  • Make it a habit. Create 10-15 minutes at every team meeting to practice a skill so that practice becomes common place and a team sport instead of a rare and scary event.

If you want to improve the way you help people practice essential skills, learn to coach your people more effectively, or really nail your Courageous Conversations in business and life, consider joining us in San Diego next month for our Leaders of the Pride workshop. We have a few seats left… You and your team will be glad you did!


“Practice puts brains in your muscles.”

~Sam Snead

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Answer First, Story Second

Last week, I had the privilege of being interviewed by media and advertising specialist, Randy Alvarez, for his show The Wellness Hour.  As we prepped for the show in the “green room”, Randy and I talked through some of the potential questions he would be asking me.

When he asked, “Is downloadable audio the only way an administrator or practice can get your “Have Them at Hello” telephone skills training program?” Katherine and Randy Alvarez I answered, “Well, it is our most popular program and lots of practices have commented how easy and effective the audio training program is.  It’s a great way to get the foundational information but sometimes a practice wants more personalized and practiced training so we created some additional ways for them to receive that…”

Randy stopped me.  And then gave me a piece of communication advice that I found simple and profound:  Give the answer first.  Then, tell the story.

He had asked me a straightforward question, and I was deep into my story before I ever came close to answering it.  He rightly warned that I would risk losing my audience’s attention, and possibly their patience, if I did not quickly answer the question and then go on to tell my story.

I ruminated on this advice on my drive home from the studio and thought about all the times I observed a patient in a client office asking a simple question of a doctor or team member such as, “Will this hurt?” … only to have the professional launch into a “story” about it before simply answering, “no” or “not much.”  We so often wish politicians would do this more:  Answer the question.  Then, tell us your story.

We are all striving to make our communications clearer and more effective.  I think this simple tip from Randy is a mighty powerful tool to help us do that.

Do I think it will make a difference?

Yes. (Answer.)

Because I’ve been testing it with success all weekend with Tom.  (The story.)

Answer first.  Story second.


“The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”  
~~ J. B. Priestley


This week we are recycling a favorite MMS. Our new subscribers will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience. And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember why we love seeing the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

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