Imagine having a safe space where you meet with peers to have honest, dynamic, and impactful conversations about the opportunities and challenges you face as a leader.

A place where you can discuss experiences, decisions, and viewpoints with a knowledgeable and supportive group of thought partners.

A place where your peers become your coaches and these coaches push you to be your best.

If this sounds like a place you want to be, contribute to and benefit from – then CI’s Coaching Circles are for you.

What is a Coaching Circle?

Coaching Circles are focused, peer-to-peer conversations that enable you to engage in candid discussions about your views, questions, past experiences, personal and professional impact, and the future you want to create for yourself and your organization. Coaching Circles provide a forum where you and other leaders at your level can hold confidential conversations strategizing, processing, and brainstorming about issues and topics of interest and importance to you such as leading through complexity, transforming organizational culture, and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility policies and practices.

Coaching Circles provide unique leadership and executive development opportunities to learn, collaborate, and deepen your network with leaders from within your agency or across the government.

CI’s Circles are a starting place for dialogue to enhance self-awareness and expand perspectives.

Supporting materials such as video clips and articles will supplement the discussions. In partnership with an executive coach, you will further your thinking and reflecting by designing sustainable actions that align with your learning intentions for the program.

 What a Coaching Circle is NOT

Coaching Circles are NOT training workshops. Trainings are designed with pre-determined agendas, objectives, and outcomes for the participants.  Information is transferred from the trainer to those in attendance.  Members of the Coaching Circles determine the outcome, and it’s your collective engagement that drives the experience.

 5 Things You Can Expect From A Coaching Circle:

  1. A space for organic development, safe and respectful dialogue, and community-building, facilitated by a trained group coach.
  2. A Circle comprised of no more than 8 members at similar leadership levels (or an intact team).
  3. A forum to discuss and reflect on how you currently lead and what you stand for as a leader.
  4. A place to coach and be coached, to encourage and be encouraged.
  5. A coach committed to partnering with you as you navigate workplace challenges and opportunities.

Benefits of participating in a Coaching Circle

Participating in a Coaching Circle will allow you to pause and take the time to gain deeper knowledge of self, enhanced clarity about how to lead going forward, a feeling of being heard and understood, and the ability to support other leaders. Other positive outcomes include:

  • An expanded community of trusted colleagues
  • Diversity of perspectives
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Increased collaboration
  • Increased confidence
  • Stress management
  • Stronger more resilient teams

How to get involved in a Coaching Circle

A Coaching Circle is a powerful way to catalyze personal growth and organizational transformation while building strong relationships and a network of support.

Being a leader is hard work; continuing your development is too. If you are ready to elevate your leadership, contribute to rich, safe, and confidential discussions for the purpose of moving you, your teams, and organization forward, we want to hear from you.

Get in touch with us here to speak with one of our leadership development experts to find out if joining one of our Coaching Circles is the right next step for you.

About CI International

At CI International, we transform individuals, organizations, and communities through custom solutions that lead to lasting results.

Every journey begins with a first step… Greatness exists in everyone: every individual, organization, and community. But sometimes, you need a partner to help guide the way to reach that full potential. CI International offers high-impact, customized solutions to help transform individuals, organizations, and communities.

We specialize in consulting, training, and coaching that leads to lasting change. From corporations and cabinet-level government agencies to public health institutions and non-profits, we’ve guided organizations and their leaders on the road to greatness.

By John McCann, Chief Learning Officer, CI International

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” – Harvey S. Firestone

When I was young, I got a new shirt from my Aunt Edith every year on my Dad’s birthday. You might wonder why I would get a present when it was my Dad’s birthday and wonder what this has to do with feedback. Here’s the back story:

My Dad was raised in part by his older sister Edith after their father passed away.  Between Edith and their mom, these two strong women brought my Dad and his brother through adolescence and into adulthood during the Great Depression. My Dad loved his sister Edith with all his heart. She was a wonderful person – as good-hearted a person as I ever met.

One year, she sent my Dad a beautiful and expensive silk shirt for his birthday.  She never had a lot of money so this was clearly a big sacrifice for her. Dad loved the shirt.

Unfortunately, however, he wore an extra-large, and Aunt Edith sent him a medium. He couldn’t bear the thought of hurting his beloved sister’s feelings by saying the shirt wasn’t perfect, so he sent her a nice thank you note and gave the shirt to me. I was about 10 years old at the time.

Based on Dad’s gracious note, Edith thought she had a hit on her hands and sent Dad another silk shirt – medium size – on his next birthday.

Now Dad had a problem. Edith had seen Dad in the interim, so she knew he wasn’t any bigger than he was the year before. She just didn’t understand men’s shirt sizes.

Dad was afraid if he told her it didn’t fit, her first question would be “well, what happened to last year’s shirt”?  He was afraid he’d damage the relationship with his sister, so he took the easy route and gave the shirt to me, sending Edith another nice thank you note.

This went on for eight years. It only ended when I asked Dad if he could request an extra-large from Aunt Edith because the mediums didn’t fit me anymore.

This story travels a familiar arc from content to relationship to pattern of behavior that we see when people don’t give one another feedback. If Dad, after getting the first shirt, had said, “Edith, thank you for the shirt, it’s beautiful.  Unfortunately, you sent me a medium and I wear an extra-large,” Aunt Edith would have said, “Oh, Jack, I’m sorry. Thanks for letting me know. Send it back and I’ll get the right size.”

Problem solved – on to the next thing.  It would have been resolved when it was entirely about the issue’s content. Aunt Edith would most likely have been grateful for the feedback to ensure her dear brother received a useful gift on his birthday.

However, since Dad didn’t speak up, he subsequently had to worry about the impact on the relationship when (or if) he did raise the issue. The relationship was so important to Dad that he couldn’t bear to do something that could have a negative impact on it, so he put it off.

This didn’t make the problem go away though. It just made it harder and harder to ever raise the issue. Eventually, this became a pattern of behavior that was well-ingrained and nearly impossible to raise without all sorts of hurt feelings.

Dad was self-aware enough to put this on himself. He knew he was the source of the problem. He didn’t say, “how could Edith not realize I wear an extra-large? I’m over 200 pounds. She should realize this. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. It’s her fault for not paying attention.”

Too often, we find ourselves looking at others as the source of our problems. It can be easy to accuse someone else of discourtesy or disrespect when, in fact, we are the source of the problem because we failed to raise an issue that was important to us.

A colleague of mine put it well after a rant about another colleague – at the end of which she was struck by a bolt of self-awareness; “I guess I need to stop feeling resentment towards people who don’t pick up on the things I don’t bother to tell them.”

Sharing feedback in a timely way is honestly a genuine act of caring and respect that will help others to operate at their best and offer the most value to the world.

Deciding when to give feedback

However, just because feedback is an act of caring and respect, this doesn’t mean we should all walk around looking for things that bother us and pointing them out to others willy-nilly. It’s important to be picky in choosing which issues need to be addressed in any given situation.

Here’s a 4-part test that you can use when deciding whether to raise an issue with someone or not:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Does it need to be said?
  3. Does it need to be said at this time?
  4. Can it be said with caring and respect?

Going back to the story of Dad and Aunt Edith, we can find that it would have passed the test and should have been brought up early on.

  1. Is it true? Yes, the shirt was the wrong size.
  2. Does it need to be said? Yes, because although Aunt Edith happily bought me presents for my birthday, this was a present she wanted Dad to have.
  3. Does it need to be said at this time? Yes, because the longer it was put off the harder it became to say it.
  4. Can it be said with care and respect? Yes, because Dad would have expressed his deep appreciation for Edith even as he told her what she needed to know.

Here’s an example of when a piece of feedback didn’t pass the 4-part test and should not have been given. Early in my career with CI International, I was teaching a class with a colleague who, just as I was about to go up in front of the group said to me, “that tie is not a good color for you.”

That statement only passed two parts of this test – it was true and needed to be said!  However, did it need to be said at that time? No, because there was nothing I could do about it, and it undermined my confidence. It certainly wasn’t said with care and respect – it made me feel quite small.

This last part of test, “can it be said with caring and respect?” may be the most important part of the 4-step process.  We often think of giving someone feedback as “fixing them” or changing their behavior so they’re easier to be around. That is the wrong mindset and is disrespectful. If we approach feedback with a mindset of, “I care enough about this person to share something they need to hear” then we are acting with respect.

Giving feedback about something being done right

Feedback is not only for when something is not being done correctly. Some of the most valuable feedback can be about something that is being done correctly. When someone has been doing something right for a long time, we can often take it for granted and not think that there is anything worth mentioning.

This would be a mistake because positive feedback can be a huge confidence boost for an employee and reinforces correct action and behavior, which is very valuable. The right time to deliver positive feedback is always! There is no need to go through a 4-part test in this case.

Delivering feedback effectively

Just as important as knowing when to give feedback is knowing how to deliver feedback effectively. For tips on how to deliver feedback effectively, check out our blog on Giving Feedback.  If you are interested in learning about how to create a feedback-oriented culture where your employees know when and how to deliver feedback to drive improved organizational performance, get in touch with one of our leadership experts.

About CI International

At CI International, we transform individuals, organizations, and communities through custom solutions that lead to lasting results.

Every journey begins with a first step… Greatness exists in everyone: every individual, organization, and community. But sometimes, you need a partner to help guide the way to reach that full potential. CI International offers high-impact, customized solutions to help transform individuals, organizations, and communities.

We specialize in consulting, training, and coaching that leads to lasting change. From corporations and cabinet-level government agencies to public health institutions and non-profits, we’ve guided organizations and their leaders on the road to greatness.

Employees across the country are leaving their jobs at historic levels. In fact, more than 4.5 million employees exited the workforce in November 2021. Unemployment rates are also dropping, though, declining to 3.9% in December 2021. How can resignations increase, while at the same time, unemployment decrease? Many experts believe that workers are seeking more satisfying employment opportunities that fit their lifestyles and goals and are turning to alternative employment models.

This historic exodus and changing workforce is often been described as “The Great Resignation” in today’s media, and often alluded to in a negative context. However, we believe this is really a positive phenomenon and should be described as “The Great Realignment”.  Instead of purely resigning, employees are looking to realign their life, obtain better work/life balance, and contribute to the workforce in ways they find most meaningful.

What if, instead of resigning, employees could find the realignment they’re seeking right within your organization? How can you, as a leader, influence and create a connected culture of transparency, acceptance, and one that provides fulfilling opportunities for employees?

Read on to learn how leaders, at any level of an organization, can help employees, teams, and organizations transition from The Great Resignation to The Great Realignment.

It all starts with culture. The past two years has all but eliminated any separation between our work lives and our personal lives. Now, many employees’ lives convene in the same location each day – the home office. And office cultures around the country are evolving as a result. How can leaders impact and help build a culture that supports its employees?

  1. Create a connected culture. Creating a culture that is connected, even in virtual environments, provides opportunities for employees to build relationships on a personal level. Look for ways to recreate in-office, non-work related interactions through virtual coffee chats, weekly lunches, or happy hours.
  2. Engage the whole person. Now more than ever, employees want to work for organizations that value both their professional and personal interests and needs. As leaders, it’s important to get to know your team members on a personal level. What do they do in their spare time? What are they passionate about? How is their family? Getting to know your employees as a whole person makes them feel valued and comfortable expressing their needs, goals, desires, and challenges. It takes more than feeling engaged, though. A recent Gallup study indicates that even engaged employees may struggle with their overall wellness. As a leader, it’s important to include wellbeing as part of performance management and integrate wellbeing conversations into workplace conversations.
  3. Leverage employees’ strengths and passions. Employees who are provided opportunities to do what they love are bound to be happier in their current positions. Using a strengths-based philosophy, look for ways to provide opportunities to team members that spark their passions, gives them energy, and are aligned with their values. While not every task during a workday will leave employees feeling fulfilled, aiming for 20-percent a day is a great start.
  4. Be transparent. Just as employees have become and continue to lead with transparency in the workplace, it’s important that leaders do the same. While getting to know the entire person of your employees, be sure to offer the same opportunity for your employees to get to know you as a whole person.
  5. Conduct stay interviews: Every team has members it can’t afford to lose. They are your forward thinker, high performers, and future leaders. A stay interview is a conversation between supervisors and employees to uncover what employees want in their professional future, inquire on what the company or team could do better or improve, and how to make their work more engaging and satisfying. Three of the best questions to ask during stay interviews are: “What can we do going forward to keep you here?”, “What do you look forward to each day?” and “How can I make your job better?”. For additional resources on stay interviews, check out SHRM’s article, or Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss by Dr. Beverly Kaye Sharon Jordan Evans.
  6. Consider a culture audit. Whether formal or informal, audits can help to identify where an organization’s culture supports and enables its employees to achieve the vision, mission, values, and goals, and where there might be areas to improve. These audits can be focused on the organization as a whole or just your team. It doesn’t need to be a formal, elaborate survey either; it can be individual or team conversations, as long as the person asking is open to the feedback.

Positive change starts with CI International. To learn how we can help your organization realign itself for greatness in 2022 and beyond, complete our brief contact form or call 800-559-9785 to start a conversation today.

Remote work is now proven to be efficient, effective, and realistic for many organizations. Before the world changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations expected most of their employees to work in a traditional office, with remote work being the exception. Now, hybrid workplaces are becoming commonplace. In fact, in Gallup’s September update of its monthly employee trends reported that 45% of full-time U.S. employees are continuing to work remotely at least part of the time.

This new hybrid workplace requires supervisors and employees to be more intentional, proactive, flexible, and inclusive. It also requires a shift in thinking – away from going back to how things used to be, and instead focusing on how we can create success in this new world.

Read on for five best practices to foster success in a hybrid workplace.

  • Encourage a hybrid mindset across all levels of your organization: Being part of a hybrid team requires not falling back into old patterns of thinking. It’s no longer enough to only consider employees’ in-office experiences. We must now think about, consider, and plan for those that are working remotely. Similarly, when working remotely, it is important to consider the experience of those in the office.
  • Establish inclusive business practices and expectations: Avoid creating an environment where one group, whether in the office or working remotely is “less than” the other making sure no one starts to feel left out. Establish inclusive practices to create strong teams and relationships leveraging the contributions of both in-person and remote participants effectively. Do not fall into the trap of “proximity rule”, in delegation of work, distribution of resources and communication. In meetings, those joining remotely may not have the benefit of side conversations, body language, or access to post-meeting conversations. Unless everyone can meet in person, encourage meetings to be held virtually for all participants. If virtual meetings are not possible, establish meeting ground rules and consider using a facilitator or moderator. To allow participants to contribute equally from all locations, utilize tools such as virtual whiteboards and online collaboration platforms.
  • Be proactive with team communications: Now more than ever it is important to make sure that teams are regularly communicating. Conducting team huddles, routine check-ins, group calls, regular email or text updates, short video calls, and regularly scheduled team meetings helps to keep all employees engaged and connected – regardless of their location.
  • Intentionally foster relationships no matter where the work is done: Relationships among co-workers are integral to creating a fulfilling workplace. In hybrid workplaces, communications can often become purely transactional. Each team member is responsible for fostering relationships with co-workers.  Encourage team members to block off time on their calendars for connecting with co-workers and building relationships.
  • Make time for informal conversations: Beyond regularly scheduled calls and meetings, it’s important for employees to connect for informal “off-the-cuff” moments with those both in and out of the office. Proactively create virtual opportunities for water-cooler moments, coffee chats, lunchtime laughs, and post-meeting inspirations.

We want to travel the road to greatness with you, as a guide for you and those you lead. To learn how CI International can help your organization move to the next level of effectiveness, fill out a brief contact form, or call 800-559-9785 to start a conversation today.

Creating a Workplace Focused on Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

The phrase “return-to-work” is woefully inaccurate. Whatever the workplace looks like in 2022 and beyond, employees are not “returning-to-work”. People have been working as much, if not more, than they were pre-pandemic. Whether public or private sector, employees have had to work harder and more creatively than ever before. The focus, instead, should be on how to work productively and collegially in ever-increasing hybrid workplaces with employees working both together in the office and remotely.

When the pandemic hit and many workers abruptly began to work from home, many employers were concerned that productivity and job satisfaction would plummet. Numerous studies from organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management and Bloomberg have shown little, if any, detrimental impact in either productivity or job satisfaction. The contrary is actually true – the new working arrangement showed how much flexibility one can have in how – and where – they work. As a result, the workplace will never be the same.

Work is defined by what we do, not where we do it. Deciding on a new workplace model and establishing policies that go with it is not a simple undertaking. Organizations need to accept that they may not get it right the first time and should treat this as a continuous experiment in which they regularly measure productivity, collaboration, innovation, and community.

Below are six key elements to consider as organizations shift to a hybrid workplace:

  • Reflect on your current state. Now is the time to reflect on your current work environment and learn from past successes and challenges to make your organization more efficient, effective, and one where your employees feel fulfilled and satisfied. Start by evaluating which roles transitioned smoothly to remote work, and which tended to struggle. This can help determine which are more naturally conducive to remote work and which are better suited for a traditional office environment. You can also use this time to consider a new approach to determining remote workers, one built on the premise of remote-first, unless there is a business reason against it.

Now is the time to reflect on your current work environment and learn from past successes and challenges to make your organization more efficient, effective, and one where your employees feel fulfilled and satisfied.

  • Involve employees in planning for the future. Ask about their current challenges, their concerns about returning to the office, and their concerns about staying remote. This information will be incredibly useful in building your plan for the future and will go a long way towards making your employees feel heard and considered.
  • Create a transition team to develop policies for the new workplace. Ideally, this team is comprised of organization leaders, influential employees, and staff across various areas of your business. Bringing together individuals with differing opinions, viewpoints, and experiences will help in creating well-rounded policies and expectations that meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
  • Consider technology upgrades or improvements. When companies around the world were thrown into remote work, many made do with their existing technology platforms. In building for the future of hybrid work, you now have an opportunity to evaluate current systems, address challenges and pain points, and implement new hardware, software, or platforms to best support the future of hybrid work environments.
  • Clearly develop and publish new policies and expectations for all employees. In our new work environments, communication and organizational alignment is incredibly important. After all, remote work and hybrid work environments should not operate like the wild wild west! After developing your organization’s policies and procedures, share those broadly with all employees, contractors, and new hires. And make them easily accessible to all levels of your organization to help promote an environment of shared understanding and expectations.
  • Train and provide learning opportunities for your employees. Your employees and leaders are undergoing massive changes to the way they work, lead, and operate. It’s important to support them by providing tools and training in the areas of workplace safety, change management, working in a hybrid environment, and more. At CI International, we offer the following trainings that are directly applicable to this time:
    • Leading in a Hybrid Environment
    • Working in a Hybrid Environment
    • Leading Change
    • Adapting to Change
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Motivation and Engagement
    • Interpersonal Communications
    • Mindfulness and Resilience
    • Coaching Skills for Leaders

The hybrid workplace is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how work gets done. It acknowledges that the “one size fits all” traditional pre-COVID workplace, or for that matter the “one size fits all” remote workplace, leaves some employees out. We need a workplace culture that enables everyone to give at their best. That requires adaptability, flexibility, and embracing the hybrid workplace as the new standard.

We want to travel the road to greatness with you, as a guide for you and those you lead. Learn more about our Post-COVID Workplace Leadership Workshops. Looking for more? To learn how CI International can help your organization move to the next level of effectiveness, fill out a brief contact form, or call 800-559-9785 to start a conversation today.


“I can’t speak highly enough of this contractor. CI International has done a terrific job in providing high- quality training and development.

Not only do they provide relevant, timely, and insightful content, but they also show a true caring and concern for our staff. In the many aspects of how they work with the organization and with the participants, as well as their focus on providing exceptional customer service, they feel like a part of my team.”

-HHS Executive

Have you found yourself wondering lately:

  • Can I effectively lead my team when we’re exclusively teleworking?
  • Can I be fully productive in a telework environment?
  • How do I stay connected to remote colleagues and work collaboratively?
  • How do I run an effective on-line meeting?

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our personal and professional lives. There is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds, and with that uncertainty comes angst and worry.

A good way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on what we’re able to control. One of the things within our control is how we manage our workplace, both as leaders and employees. The decision to shift to full telework may be beyond our control, but the manner in which we react to it is within our control.

Telework has already proven itself to be a viable alternative to conventional work. Over the years CI International has been delivering telework training, we’ve found four fundamental principles that enable telework teams to be effective:

A focus on results, and not on activities
Clear identification of communications protocols and expectations
Intentionality about being visible
Enhanced Responsiveness

Here’s the thing about these four elements: we should be doing this in all work environments. 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.

Telework isn’t something to be endured, but something which can enhance the organization’s ability to be successful. However, building a successful telework environment doesn’t happen by accident. An intentionality is required, particularly in giving employees the tools to be successful in a new and changing environment.

CI International has four telework webinars available that address the key elements noted above. These 2-hour sessions build the necessary level of competence and expertise for employee to thrive in a remote environment and ensure the organization continues to successfully achieve both short-term goals and the long-term mission. These instructor-led sessions are delivered in an engaging, interactive format that allows for discussion, questions, and activities. Those workshops are described below.

Leading in a Telework Environment
Many front-line leaders are anxious and uncertain about telework programs, fearing loss of control over employees’ daily work and lacking trust in their subordinates’ ability to work without direct supervision. This workshop will focus on building the leadership skills, trust and confidence to manage a successful telework program.


  • Gain tools to more effectively lead in a telework environment
  • Raise “hot button” concerns managers have regarding telework and identify strategies to resolve telework problems
  • Learn the four best practices of successful telework and how to apply them as a manager
  • Establish effective communication protocols and strategies

Making Telework Work
This online workshop gives both managers and employees the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to make your telework program a success. The workshop is particularly effective for intact teams so they can build a common understanding and mutual support for the shift to telework. Participants will leave with action plans under each objective and with practical tools they can put to use immediately after the workshop.


  • Identify the benefits and challenges of telework
  • Understand the importance of performance management in making telework successful
  • Learn to stay visible, responsive and connected in a telework environment
  • Establish effective communication strategies for telework

Conducting Effective Virtual Meetings
This workshop provides practical tools and skills for planning, leading, and participating
in a virtual meeting. Workshop participants will gain insight into how to maximize meeting platform software and tap the collective wisdom of the group to gather data, make decisions, and develop effective action plans to make the decisions reached in the meeting a reality.

  • Collect ideas for successfully planning a virtual meeting
  • Learn how to run an effective meeting using meeting technology
  • Develop techniques to increase group participation

Staying Connected in a Telework Environment
This workshop focuses primarily on the use and function of applications to enable team members to collaborate most effectively. The class will focus on three primary areas of technology tools; 1) document and data collaboration 2) communication collaboration and 3) meeting collaboration. Users will be provided options in how and when to utilize these tools.


  • Learn to effectively use collaboration tools to stay connected
  • Understand the different collaboration tools that are available and their appropriate uses for team members
  • Understand how to improve document and data collaboration
  • Discuss appropriate use and protocol for utilizing communication tools such as email, phone, text, IM, hangouts, discussion forums and social media

1. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
2. the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

It’s a typical work day. You begin working on email at 8:00. Suddenly it’s 9:30 and you’re rushing to get to that 10:00 meeting. Because the client is late and there is too much to discuss, you don’t get out of the meeting until noon. You grab a sandwich and get back to the office, check email and voice mail, return phone calls. The time is now 2:00. Your colleague, Sally, comes in to report a disaster with a client. You leave everything behind for an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis. At 3:00 you finally settle in to begin work on your to-do list, but your colleague John comes by—he is so funny, and has a great story to share with you about his weekend. You glance at your watch and now it’s 3:30; you’d better check email again. At 4:00 you look at your list and the papers on your desk and begin doing those small tasks that can be done quickly. At 5:30 you race out of the office to pick up your kids. At 9:00 pm you check email again to see if anything urgent has happened. At 11:00 you lie in bed, feeling exhausted and a bit unsure of what you accomplished that day–but you sure were busy!

Each of us has a different idea of what makes for a perfect day, but for most of us it includes being able to accomplish our top priorities, and having both the time to build relationships with colleagues and clients and the time to deal with unexpected urgencies. Most of us want to go home at a reasonable hour, leaving all work behind and feeling satisfied, organized and motivated for the next day. The key is to strike the right balance between planning your day, and quickly adapting to the external influences that threaten our plan. That’s resilience—the ability to have your day stretched out of the shape you originally planned for it, and yet be able to bounce back and still accomplish your goals.

The first step in creating a perfect day is having a clear vision of what you want it to look like. You can’t take control of your daily work life unless you know exactly how you want to change it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help create that vision:

1. What would you accomplish in a ‘perfect’ day?

2. How many hours would you work daily?

3. What individuals (both internally and externally) would you further develop business       relationships with?

4. How much uninterrupted time would you have during the day?

5. How much time would you spend corresponding by email and phone?

6. What other aspects would make it a ‘perfect’ day?

7. How would you feel at the end of day?

Now use your calendar as your guide. Block time out for email and phone, relationship building and uninterrupted task time. With each and every request for your work time commitments, there should be clear negotiation on the appropriateness of the task and time it will take place. Thus you are not really saying no; you are merely negotiating how you say yes. Perhaps the two-hour meeting someone has sent you an invite for should really only require your presence for an hour; perhaps the committee you’ve been asked to chair would more appropriately be led by someone else and merely advised by you. Be assertive in your negotiations and more proactive and intentional in planning your day, and you will build resilience to better manage the inevitable time management challenges that come your way.

“But that’s ridiculous!” Ralph sputtered, interrupting Mariah in mid-sentence. “I’ve been following the same reporting procedure for ten years! How can it suddenly be wrong?”

“It’s not so much that it’s ‘wrong,’” Mariah explained patiently. “It’s just that we need to be more thorough. Our public has changed over the past decade and they demand more information, faster, and with a wider scope. Most of what goes into your reports could be found on the internet.”

“You seem to have a bias against me,” Ralph responded, barely controlling his anger. “I’ve noticed it since the day I was moved into your branch. You treat me differently than the other public information specialists and I’m not the only one who has noticed it.”

As managers and supervisors, we’ve all been there before. An employee has been performing below standard on a particular task for as long as anyone in the agency can remember. Rather than seeking to improve the performance, previous supervisors have passed the employee along to other work units, sometimes even giving glowing references. What do you do when you need to give constructive feedback to someone who has been led to believe she is performing at or above standard?

Mariah knew she needed to start the process by giving objective, behavior-based observations to Ralph, and she used the six steps for giving effective feedback, but the employee blew up and challenged her. Given that Ralph had never received any feedback before, perhaps Mariah should have anticipated such a reaction.

Here are some steps to handle a tense situation in which your feedback is not accepted:

1. First, consider options for an appropriate time and place to meet with the employee. For example, if your office is visible to the rest of the team, forcing someone to make a public march to the “principal’s office” may start you off on the wrong foot. Perhaps meeting in a coffee shop would be better.

2. Then acknowledge the reality of the situation at the very beginning of the conversation, before the employee has a chance to become emotional. “I’d like to give you some feedback on your current reporting procedure. It may be the first time you’ve been given this feedback, so I understand it might be surprising or frustrating for you to hear.”

3. Observe the employee’s non-verbal signals carefully and watch for signs of an emotional response, so you may be better prepared.

4. Once the employee expresses anger, denial or defensiveness, shift from making observations to asking questions. “I see you don’t agree with my observation. Can you tell me more about how you see it?” “Can you walk me through your perspective?” “Can you tell me how you view this differently?”

5. Manage your stories. You may have been telling yourself that the employee was aware of the issue and deliberately chose to skate along at sub-par performance levels, but now is the time to question your assumptions. If the employee has never received feedback before, it’s very possible she has no idea she’s considered underperforming. Give her the benefit of the doubt, and listen actively as she begins to describe how she sees it.

6. Remember to remain respectful. Once a person perceives a lack of respect on your part, it will be difficult if not impossible to ask him to pay attention to your message.

7. Seek common ground to build on, and let the employee retain a feeling of control. Each of you may assess the employee’s behavior differently, but there are likely to be points of agreement, especially when it comes to the goals of the position. Use that to steer the employee toward a commitment. “It sounds as if we both agree that the public’s needs have changed. How do you think can we better address those needs?”

8. Make sure to explicitly link plans for improvement with clear objectives, and discuss any relevant metrics that might be used to measure success. “Let’s revisit our customer survey results at the end of this year to see if we’ve moved the needle on meeting our objectives in public education.”

9. End the conversation on a positive note. “It sounds like we have a plan. I appreciate your willingness to consider my feedback, and I know you want the best for our team. Let me know what else I can do to support you in making the changes we’ve agreed on.”