What we learned from listening in 2018

By Terri Harrell, M.A.

A couple months ago, while working with a top leadership team in the Federal Sector, I had an “ah ha” moment relating to how leaders view engagement. This occurred when feeding back data and helping leaders understand the concept of listening and empathizing. To illustrate the concept, I told a story about facilitating a group of emerging professionals at their first ever professional conference.

The story goes…There were multiple classes occurring at the same time and when it came time for break – meaning soft drinks and cookies were put out – we were in the middle of debriefing an activity. By the time we were finished and took our break, all the cookies were gone. When participants came back, they were angry that all the cookies were gone and that their counterparts took them all without any thought about others.  As a facilitator, I wanted to move on and get back to our agenda. That was not happening. I struggled for about 10 minutes with content but all I got back was griping about cookies. I felt exasperated, but as I was teaching listening, I realized that I was not practicing what I preached. I then put myself in their shoes and empathized with them. I didn’t take responsibility for the cookie incident, but we did discuss it and I empathized with them about missing out on something that they don’t ever get. We talked about ways to both accomplish our objectives and break on time. We then got on track and finished the day on time.

When I finished my moving story about the power of empathy, the first question the leadership team asked was, “Did you buy them more cookies?” I responded that it never entered my mind to buy them cookies. And asked them what they would have done. They said it was their job to make sure their employees are happy and therefore would have scrambled to get more cookies if that’s what they wanted. When I explored this further, it came to light that the leaders were equating happy employees to engaged employees.

Does happiness equal engagement?

Does happiness equal engagement? Not necessarily. So, how do you increase employee engagement? First you have to separate the concepts of employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Where satisfaction looks at how happy and content the employee is in their current job, engagement looks at how committed employees are to the organization, its mission, goals and objectives and overall success. Engagement is outward facing, commitment to the greater good, while satisfaction is inward facing, commitment to self. So, buying cookies could lead to employee satisfaction but not necessarily to engagement. Of course, certain conditions that lead to satisfaction also need to be present for engagement. In other words, it would be hard for a dissatisfied employee to be highly engaged.

According to recent studies done by Newmeasures, one of the biggest factors in increasing employee engagement is “having a mindful organization strategy for listening to employees.” With the current landscape of low unemployment, competition for talent, and the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace; it has never been more important to organizational success to provide a platform for employees to voice their ideas and concerns and to work, alongside leaders, to improve upon business strategies.

If you consider the top reasons employees stay with their organization – making a difference; their team, including their direct supervisor; and opportunities for growth – none of these can be achieved without the organization listening to employees. In his book, Nine Lies About Work, Marcus Buckingham discusses the need for leaders to have weekly check-ins with each employee to hear what their week entails, their ideas about the work, and how to achieve the goals of the week. Buckingham refers to it as “helpful attention to employees and their work.” These check-ins become one aspect of an organizational platform for listening.

Employees are 19 times more engaged when they feel listened to

Furthermore, in the same Newmeasures study, the most common engagement drivers of 2018 – providing employees with growth and development opportunities; leadership; and giving employees a voice – the art of listening is directly tied to increased engagement. Specific findings include:

  • Employees who had a meaningful conversation with their boss about their development were 4 times more likely to be engaged
  • Millennials are 7 times more likely to stay at a job when they feel listened to
  • Overall, employees are 19 times more engaged when they feel listened to

With the data from Newmeasures’ report entitled Trends in Employee Engagement, it’s clear that that employees want a venue to be heard and then to act in partnership with their leaders. They want leaders to listen and to understand the work from their frame of reference, not for leaders to fix everything for them or to make them happy.

While there are many aspects to creating an engaged workforce, ensuring employees have a voice is a good place to start.

To learn more about engagement strategies and how to improve your organization, contact us.

For more information on Newmeasures and their study, visit  http://newmeasures.com/2019-trends-whitepaper-lp/



“I wish we had more meetings around here.”
-Said no one, ever

It’s a lot more likely that you and your colleagues often wish for fewer meetings. But of course, the real issue is not how many meetings we have, but how many meetings are actually worth the time spent. Here are three tips for making your meetings effective:

1. Pay attention to the basics. We all know that effective meetings have clear objectives, agendas distributed in advance, a scribe to record action steps, a neutral facilitator when possible, and the right attendees. The problem is that we get busy and think we can skip the basics, especially with routine daily or weekly meetings. But the basics are even more important with routine meetings, because they happen on a regular basis and therefore can be major time wasters if not run well.

2. When determining the objectives of your meeting, put yourself in the shoes of every attendee, and every person affected by the meeting. What are their needs, and what should the meeting outcomes be? What should people know or do as a result of the meeting? Design your meeting with these criteria in mind.

3. Once the meeting is planned, don’t assume everyone knows how to communicate effectively during the meeting. A good meeting is one in which a balance of advocacy and inquiry is maintained, by which we mean that people spend roughly equal amounts of time expressing their own perspectives and seeking to understand the perspectives of others. This takes skill not only in presenting information, but also in asking good quality questions and actively listening. Our goal is to get all the relevant information out on the table, in service of the needs and outcomes you identified in #2 above, and that takes skillful discussion. A good meeting planner will set the example by modeling skillful discussion.

You may never get people to stop wishing for fewer meetings, but your goal should be to have people leave your meetings feeling that it was time well spent.
Do you and your team need help improving the effectiveness of your meetings? Join us for a free one and a half hour webinar on August 21, 2018 at 10:00 PST/ 11:00 MST/ 12:00 CST/ 1:00 EST.

You can register here: https://ciinternational.webex.com/ciinternational/k2/j.php?MTID=tf9b8d4daa30cc476b84f64ea599842f7

For more information about making your meetings worth the time or any of CI’s offerings please contact Wally Welgraven at wwelgraven@ciinternational.com or 507-227-5111.

Although she’d been in management roles for several years, and was considered a strong and capable leader, Mary often found delegation to be both challenging and frustrating. “I know I’m coming across as a micro-manager sometimes, but it seems if I don’t spell it out step-by-step things just don’t get done”, she shared with her mentor Joan. “And, if I give people free rein to use their initiative I get results that look wonderful but are so far beyond the practical that I end up having to tell people “no”. I need everyone to be on their “A-game” these days, and it’s just not happening. Frankly, everyone in my division, from me on down, is getting frustrated and I’m starting to see people disengage. I’m worried and need some help.”

Joan nodded empathetically. “I understand the challenge. When we don’t delegate well, people either self-limit and wait to be told specifically what to do, or they go so far afield that we’re not able to accept their results. This is a shared responsibility, though. You don’t empower those who work for you. They empower themselves with your help.”

Have you found yourself in Mary’s shoes before? Leaders often struggle with finding the right balance regarding delegation. At the same time, employees struggle with how to step into empowerment and take on duties commensurate with their talents and capabilities. If you’re interested in learning a straightforward five-step model that addresses both these issues – a model you can apply immediately to increase your own and others’ effectiveness.

Please join us for a one-hour webinar on “Delegation that Empowers” on July 24, 2018 at 10:00 PST/11:00 MST/12:00 CST/ 1:00 EST hosted by John McCann.

Register here: https://ciinternational.webex.com/ciinternational/k2/j.php?MTID=tc61bfb768265ee04f28f8c09a71cf3e0 

By Terri Harrell, M.A.

One of the biggest challenges to the success of a blended learning program is that it be experienced as one program rather than multiple components.

Each component needs to build off the one before, skills need to be linked and reinforced, and participants need to be mapped into where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are going. To ensure you achieve an integrated approach, you must begin with the end in mind by considering several factors during the design phase. Those include understanding program requirements, identifying the best program structure to achieve requirements, deciding what learning methodologies will work for the content and the environment, matching the content to the methodology, and identifying how to measure the success of the program. The remainder of this article discusses ways to ensure you begin with the end in mind.

Gathering Requirements

Before diving into content or technology, it is important to gain a full understanding of program requirements. To do this, there are many questions that need to be answered. Below are typical questions organized by categories.

The organization –
What does the organization hope to gain from the learning experiences?
What is the culture or organizational norms around what the organization hopes to gain?
What are the norms around training and development?
The target audience –
What will the population expect in terms of training?
What will they tolerate?
The content 
What content will best achieve the organization’s goals?
What content will lead to behavioral change in the participants?
The instructors –
Who will facilitate the learning?
The logistics –
What is the budget?
Are there travel/infrastructure constraints?

From the Answers to Key Questions Comes:
1. Program Goals – outlines the overarching targets and focus of the program.
2. Objectives – defines the desired measurable learning objectives participants will achieve upon program completion.
3. Learning Outcomes – defines the means through which participants will demonstrate proficiency in learning and realizing the objectives established for the course.

Program Structure

Types of Blends:
1. Anchor blend: Initial classroom experience followed by independent experiences
2. Bookend blend: Initial and closing experiences with classroom
3. Field blend: Employee-centric independent and facilitated experiences

Example of high-level pros and cons of each:


Blended learning programs typically feature the following blend of methodologies, among others:

Matching Content to Methodology
One way to match content with method is to use the Tell–>Show–>Do–>Transfer framework. Depending on the content, the learning stages can be addressed through different methodologies.
For instance, the Tell and Show may be achieved through online training. This provides the participant the foundation before trying the skill. The Do may be an exercise or role-play in the classroom, and the Transfer may be in a learning team or rotational assignment.

Establishing Metrics
There are as many ways to evaluate a blended learning program as there are program possibilities. Examples of metrics include:
End of Course Evaluations – Conduct level 1and level 2 evaluations at the end of all classroom sessions and distance learning sessions. These evaluations should collect information such as overall course reactions, quality of materials and instructors, and data on level of learning for each content area taught during the session. Use this data to refine approach throughout the program.
Pre- and Post Multi-Rater Skills Assessment – Conduct a multi-rater assessment on the competencies targeted in the program prior to commencement of the program and again 6 months after program completion. Compare participants’ level of proficiency for each competency from the pre-assessment to that of the post-assessment. Data can be analyzed for each competency for the group as a whole and for relevant sub-groups. This is considered a Level 3 Evaluation – Behavior on the Job or Level of Learning
Questions at the end of the Post Multi-Rater Skills Assessment – Add both forced choice and open ended questions to the end of the participant version and the supervisor version of the post multi-rater skills assessment. The purpose of the questions on the participant version is to evaluate how well participants are able to utilize new skills on the job as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching aspect of the program. The questions at the end of the supervisor version are to evaluate the impact the participants’ involvement in the program had on the organization (e.g., participants’ change in skill level, impact of having the participant out of the job, etc.). This is considered a Level 3 Evaluation – Behavior on the Job or Level of Learning.
Organizational Impact Study – Collect initial and post-program evaluation data such as how participants faired in relation to employees of the same level in the areas of retention, promotion, and awards. This is considered a Level 4 – Organizational Impact.

Join us for our free webinar on “An Integrated Approach to Blended Learning” on June 5, 2018 at 10:00 PST/11:00 MST/12:00 CST/1:00 EST hosted by Terri Harrell: Register here

For more information about Blended Learning or any of CI’s offerings please contact Wally Welgraven at wwelgraven@ciinternational.com or 507-227-5111.

By: K.J. McCorry, Productivity Consultant and Author of Organize Your Work Day in No Time

It is very stressful and overwhelming trying to remember all the actions and tasks one needs to take on a daily or weekly basis. Having a sound system to manage and organize tasks is essential to effective time management practices.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, explains why the human brain struggles to process information that is presented “with the intensity and the quantity and the speed we find ourselves surrounded by today.” Carr explains that our working memory – everything comprising the consciousness at a given moment – can only hold between two and four items at a time. Hence we need a clear, reliable way to keep track of all the things we need to do!

The key to managing priorities effectively is to have a method and system to track activities where you can easily identify priorities. Electronic task systems, like Outlook or Gmail, provide a way to track date, context and who the task was delegated from and therefore help you manage, track, sort and plan around priorities.

With so many things to do everyday, knowing what to do first and/or is most important can seem daunting and overwhelming. Being able to manage priorities increases productivity and is the sign of successful organization skills.

The following steps provide a framework of how to manage and tackle priorities.

Step 1: Use One Task System: It is important to have one master location to track tasks. Having multiple lists and/or scattered bits of paper and Post-it notes, makes it difficult to plan your day and keep on track. Productivity applications, such as Outlook or Gmail have separate Task/ To Do functions which track your action items by date and on your calendar.

Step 2: Identify the Priorities: Set aside 30 minutes a week to identify your priorities from your master task list. Also, review your email, calendar, task list, meeting notes and paper items for those activities that have a due date in the next week. Once you have identified all the activities, now determine which items are crucial to get done first based on type of activity and who delegated it to you. Being clear about what you need to take action on and your current workload provides you the information on how to prioritize those crucial activities.

Step 3: Plan Time in Your Calendar: Then, determine how much time each of these activities will take to complete. Review your calendar and determine which day and time you can get these crucial and high priority items completed. Most individuals find the morning time a good time to complete priorities when you are fresh and have high energy.

Step 4: Get Focused: Once you have the time allocated and know the priorities you need to complete, then it is important to create a focused and non-distractive environment. Set the stage to reduce interruptions and distractions such as; close your office door, let your colleagues know you are busy, or close your email program. Set yourself up for success by creating an effective environment to get the priority actions done as efficiently as possible.

In today’s world, it is impossible to get all the actions you want to do done in a single day. There will always be something that needs to be left behind. The key is to focus on ‘what is next’ and use your task list to help you prioritize and focus.

For more information about Getting Tasks Done, join us for a free webinar on May 1, 2018 at  10:00 PST/11:00 MST/12:00 CST/ 1:00 EST hosted by our national recognized author and expert, K.J. McCorry, or contact Wally Welgraven at wwelgraven@ciinternational.com or 507-227-5111 regarding this webinar or any of CI’s offerings.

Most workplaces are made up of good people, wanting to work in an atmosphere of mutual respect, in support of organizational success. So why does sexual harassment nonetheless occur? What factors contribute to the likelihood of bad behavior? How can organizations equip their leaders and employees with the knowledge and tools needed to create a positive workplace culture?

These are the questions on a lot of people’s minds. Further, how can good hearted leaders recognize individual and organizational blind spots that can contribute to an unhealthy workplace environment? What do leaders need to know when it comes to sexual harassment?

The Extent of Sexual Harassment: 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) received 27,000 complaints of sexual harassment in 2016, accounting for roughly 30% of all discrimination complaints. These complaints came from all types of industries including government, medical, technical, law, financial, transportation, fitness, entertainment, media, politics, etc.; they came from all sizes of organizations and from every state; they included male, female and transgender victims.

Furthermore, according to the EEOC’s acting Chair Victoria Lipnic, only about 30% of victims who experience harassment ever complain internally and even fewer are likely to file a charge with the EEOC.

The Cost of Sexual Harassment:

The costs for the victims of sexual harassment can be physical and psychological as well as financial. Studies show many victims experience increased anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and a host of other physical issues. The organization is directly impacted as well. Many victims report leaving their positions for lower paying jobs just to get out of the situation. In fact, research by sociologist Heather McLaughlin and others, shows that 80% of people who’ve been harassed leave their jobs within two years.

What Organizations Can Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment:

There are many actions organizations can take to create a work environment that is respectful and inclusive; where harassment is not likely to occur. These actions include:

1. Develop, implement and practice a good anti-harassment policy. Make sure you have a complete sexual harassment policy and complaint procedure. Add examples of unacceptable behaviors and potential consequences. Ensure it is publicized and all employees have access to it.

2. Create a culture of mutual respect. Focus on creating an environment where people understand what’s acceptable because they see it modeled by all levels of leadership through language, behavior and daily interactions. Furthermore, create a sense of responsibility in all employees for a workplace free of harassment.

3. Never discount claims. Dismissing or discounting employee complaints will have a domino effect inside an organization because it inadvertently validates unacceptable behavior which permeates the organization’s culture. It also rewards and legitimizes bad behavior and can have a disastrous effect once exposed on the future sustainability of the company, or the reputation of the Agency.

4. Provide training to managers and employees. Review your current training on sexual harassment and the organization’s strategy for delivering this training. Be sure the training is up to date, contains the right information and activities to make it engaging and effective, and is delivered to every employee, including executive leadership. Also ensure the training and communication around harassment prevention is championed by leadership.

John closed his laptop and sighed. Sitting in his in-box was yet another memo from headquarters asking managers, basically, to “do more with less.” It wasn’t worded exactly that way, of course; senior leadership knew everyone was tired of hearing those words. No, the memo said something about the need to get creative and invent new organizational structures and processes. And as usual, there was very little in the way of suggestions for how to do that. John shook his head in frustration and opened his laptop. “Might as well get back to my 300 other emails,” he thought.

Leadership is about learning and expanding our organization’s horizons. The world moves too fast for leaders to consider maintaining status quo. We must focus on leading positive change, and that requires innovation. This is particularly true in a time when resources are dwindling but requirements are not. To make things more challenging, large hierarchical organizations sometimes seem designed to thwart our efforts to innovate by imposition of bureaucracy, outdated policies, and entrenched ways of thinking. It’s easy to see why someone would just want to put their head down and say, “good enough.”

Being a leader, however, means not being satisfied with the status quo. We must acknowledge that despite the limitations placed upon us, we still have an obligation to serve our organization, its mission, and the people we work with. We must further acknowledge that many of the limits we face are self-imposed. How often have we found ourselves saying, “I’m just not a creative person” or, “I’m too busy getting the basics done to try to think outside the box.” While an understandable human response to difficult challenges, this self-limiting mindset serves to diminish our power to influence and serve.

In truth, creativity is not some special talent only bestowed on famous inventors and tech company founders. We can all learn to think a little differently by understanding some basic facts about innovation:

• Innovating is, quite simply, finding better ways to do things
• We find better ways to do things by asking the right questions and being open to
• There are many simple techniques that can help us get out of our usual ruts and
see things from a different perspective

Framing questions more effectively is a simple tool we can all learn to use. Instead of, “How do we do more with less?” John might ask, “How do we do less?” or, “How can we expand our impact?” or, “What’s the larger purpose this particular goal serves; can we achieve that larger purpose a different way?” To say that we don’t have time to ask questions and frame things differently is like saying we don’t have time to stop at a gas station for directions so we’re just going to keep going in circles, lost. Effective leaders know that making time to pull their heads up from the email in-box and ask good quality questions is a priority, despite how challenging it may be.

Effective leaders also approach issues with the confidence that an answer can be found. Colin Powell said, “Optimism is a force multiplier,” meaning that an optimistic leader brings an energy to the work that imbues employees with the desire to serve well and leverages their influence and ability to bring about change.

Despite the obstacles our organizations may seem to put in our way, most want and need their leaders and employees to be innovative. We need to move beyond the mindset that there are too many barriers to overcome. In fact, the limits we struggle under don’t bind us but often lead directly to innovation. There’s a reason the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” has been around for generations.

Telling someone you’re teleworking no longer leads to raised eyebrows or questions about how you’re able to make that work. It’s now considered just another way to get work done.

We’ve all heard the advantages of a telework environment:

• Increased productivity (up to 27% increase in productivity in a recent meta-study)

• Better recruiting (flexible work environment is now the #1 recruiting tool for new employees)

• Ability to respond to emergencies (Continuity of Operations in event disaster makes office spaces untenable)

• Reduced absenteeism (63% reduction for teleworkers in GSA study)

• Job satisfaction (Partnership for Public Service study found those Federal employees not given telework option were least likely to be satisfied)

Here’s what most people don’t realize: a telework environment creates better leaders. Here’s why:

Telework requires a focus on results, and not on activities. When employees telework, leaders can’t tell how long they worked on a project, or the means by which they accomplished their tasks. All they can see are the results of the work – a completed report; a presentation; data analysis, etc. That drives leaders to focus on clearly identifying the desired results at the start of a project. It also requires a more thorough analysis of the task before it’s given to the teleworker since daily updates/subtle corrections aren’t as easy when leaders and employees don’t share office space.

Telework requires clear identification of communications protocols and expectations; e.g. when is a phone call appropriate; when is an e-mail better; when should a meeting be held. It also reduces the number of meetings and/or requires better planning for meetings. The dreaded “let’s just get together and chat about this” time sink is greatly reduced.

Telework requires employees to make themselves more visible. To ensure teleworkers are accomplishing their work, many supervisors ask for weekly accomplishment reports. In the interest of fairness, they often ask the same of in-the-office employees. This provides an opportunity for individuals to clearly identify their accomplishments, which makes them more visible and identifies more clearly their impact on the organization. It also makes performance appraisal time much simpler for all concerned because a running tally of accomplishments have been made.

Telework requires enhanced responsiveness. When individuals are given the chance to telework, they typically increase their responsiveness to show that telework is effective and that they’re at their desks accomplishing their assigned tasks.
Here’s the thing about these four elements: we should be doing this all the time. Everyone wants to know what results are expected and appreciate not being micro-managed; all offices should have clearly established communications protocols and expectations; the accomplishment of employees should be open and visible; and employees should hold themselves to a level of responsiveness that meets the needs of the team.

The hidden benefit of telework is that it gets us back to leadership fundamentals, which all leaders need to focus on in pursuit of the organization’s mission and goals.

In a memorable scene from A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks is pleading with Geena Davis’ character not to leave the team, and when she protests, “It just got too hard” he responds, tersely, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

We might say the same thing about leading well through periods of organizational change. All leaders are faced with this challenge at some point in the careers—often at many points—but only a few do it with the kind of competence, resilience and optimism that inspires others to follow.

We asked leaders in one federal agency to tell us what works for them when it comes to navigating the hard transitions. Here is what they said:

• Take deep breaths and maintain your cool.
• Keep your focus on what you do for the agency, and set the example for others. What brought you here in the first place? A passion for the environment, for protecting public health, for defending our nation? It is likely that a similar passion brought your people to the organization. This is a strength to tap into.
• Acknowledge the uncertainty that comes with organizational change, both to yourself and to your people. It must be endured, and that starts with recognizing and naming it.
• Send your questions up the chain of command. Never stop asking questions. In the words of Kevin McCarthy, author of The On-purpose Person, “The quality of your leadership is determined by the quality of your questions.”
• Look to the past for success stories in dealing with transition, and share those stories.
• Constantly seek more information and share that information with others.

Lastly, remember that transition is different than change. Change is what happens externally; transition is what happens internally, the mental process people go through in adapting to the change. As with anything involving human beings, different people manage transitions differently, and at different speeds. Remember that just because some will embrace the change and get on board quickly does not mean that someone else who is fearful and resistant is being difficult. Many factors play a role, including personality type, past experiences with change, and one’s level of knowledge about and involvement in the change. Your role is to identify what kind of support each member of the team needs in order to move through his or her own transition. That’s not easy, and that’s why so many organizational change initiatives fail. Navigating the hard is what makes you great as a leader.

“Congratulations on your promotion, Mary”.

Mary was genuinely glad to see Susan, a long-time colleague and mentor. She was secretly pleased that, starting out as an intern for Susan years ago, she was now her peer in the organization. To Mary, being at Susan’s level meant that she’d finally made it.

“Thanks, Susan. Your counsel over the years is a large part of the reason I’m here. I really appreciate all you’ve done for me”.

Susan smiled. “Thank you. You made it on your own, though, Mary. It’s been a pleasure watching you succeed. Of course, you’re now in a pretty dangerous place.”

Mary was startled by Susan’s statement. “What do you mean, a dangerous place? I’ve worked a long time to get here. I think I’m finally in a position to put in place new ideas and help the organization really move forward. What could be dangerous about that?”

“One of the consequences of your new position is that people are going to look at you differently. You may feel like you’re the same person, and on the surface most of your work relationships will seem unchanged. However, in the minds of many in the organization, your new position means that your perceived ability to punish exceeds your perceived need for information. Unless you create an atmosphere in which you welcome and encourage feedback, people will stop giving it to you. One of the reasons you’ve been successful is that you listen to others and incorporate their ideas into your thinking. Along those lines, you’re very good at taking feedback. It’s not you that’ll change. It’s those who work for you. So, while they’re the ones who’ll change, you’re the one who must respond. If you don’t change your behavior, you’ll become isolated just at the time when you most need feedback.”

“I don’t understand”, Mary replied. “People seem very pleased for me, and keep offering to do whatever they can to help me be successful. I don’t think there’s an issue.”

“You’re now in a very visible leadership role. People are watching how you behave in this role. They’ve seen others in the past changed by promotions. Some are changed for the better; they use their promotion as an opportunity to better serve the organization and the people within it. Other change for the worse; they use their promotion to selfishly serve their own needs. I have no doubt you’re in the former group. Others aren’t so sure. You have to reassure them.”

“Do I just tell them that I expect them to keep talking to me and giving me feedback?”

“Setting expectations at the beginning of your tenure really does help. What makes the difference, though, is behaving in a manner consistent with your words. They’ll hear the words. They’ll see the behavior. As the old saying goes, seeing is believing. The good news is, it isn’t that hard. You simply need to demonstrate an openness to feedback. You don’t need to agree with it!”

Mary nodded her head. “Now that I think about it, you’ve always been good at that. I’m very comfortable giving you feedback or sharing bad news. I always thought it was because I was good at it! In hindsight, maybe it was because you were so open to it. How, specifically, can I do this well?”

“Here are some particular things I’ve found helpful:

Remember that feedback is just information. It can help you see your blind spots.

Breathe. Receiving feedback can trigger your “fight/ flight/freeze” reflex. You can help    overcome this by breathing deeply.

Maintain eye contact with the speaker and show an open body language. We say a lot without saying a word!

Listen carefully. Hear the speaker out.

Ask questions for clarity only; not to defend or put the speaker on the spot. Try to discern the data and assumptions behind the conclusions they have shared. It’s hard to change when all you know is that someone thinks you’re aloof. It’s a lot easier to change if you know the basis of that conclusion is that you’ve skipped three recent staff meetings. Don’t explain why you missed the meetings. That will come across as defensive. Rather, acknowledge that you can understand why they would see you as aloof when you missed the meetings.

Acknowledge the feedback. And, even if the feedback is painful…say “thank you.”

Take time to sort out what you’ve heard.”

“Thank you, Susan,” Mary replied. “That is so helpful to me. Even though we’re now officially peers, I see that you’re going to continue to be my mentor. I hope someday I can repay all you’ve done for me.”

Susan smiled. “In a way, you just did.”