The Best Leaders Tip #10 – Be a Grown Up: Don’t gossip

This is my 10th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #10        Guard the reputations of others as if they were your own.  Gossip has ruined many solid professional reputations.  Get to know people one on one, and believe your own experience rather than coffee-room whispers.  Forming relationships based on trust and mutual respect allows you to more easily approach people directly if you have questions about them or their work, and to hold the necessary difficult conversations. If you don’t do it for others, do it for yourself:  gossipers create untrustworthy reputations for themselves in the long run.


The Best Leaders Tip #9 – Embrace the breadth and depth of diversity

This is my 9th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #9          Embrace diversity in all its definitions.  Although it’s tempting to hang out only with your friends at work (the ones you hire, the ones you know, those with whom you have a lot in common), resist.  Cliques make you narrow and exclusive, and not in a good way.   Instead, be welcoming and expansive.  Seek out and be involved with new hires, and those who are different from you in background, age, professional status, education, mindset, culture, and personality.  You’ll be richer, more well-rounded in your perspective, a more effective professional, and a more mature person.

The Best Leaders Tip #5 -Get Smart: Listen more than you talk!

This is my 5th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #5          To be smart, you must listen more than you talk.  However, somewhere along the line and especially in our Western culture, talking a lot, being outgoing, loud, and demanding attention became synonymous with leadership.   We talk about qualities like listening, collaboration, and inclusion, but these are not yet seen as the dominant leader traits.  (Maybe because they are less obvious.) No matter what is popular. Listening provides information and insight.  Information is power.  You can’t listen if you’re talking.  So, as they say, close your mouth and open your ears – and your eyes – so you can take in all the important nonverbal communication cues, as well.

Third Step to Networking: Behave!

Once you’re in your networking situation, here’s what to do:

  1. Read the room. Adapt your approach to casual, formal, friendly, somber, and other moods. Your tone of voice, the way you address people and introduce yourself, even the kind of words you choose – all need to match.
  2. Take a friend – or not. Sometimes it’s good to have a “wing” man or woman – someone who can introduce you around, or include you in conversations. If you do take someone, be sure you don’t only hang out with them, and that they don’t hold you back in some way (from meeting the people you want and from being yourself.)
  3. Don’t hang out only with people you know. You are there to form new relationships and expand your network.
  4. Take a pen and notepad, or some other way to capture names, notes and ideas that might be helpful to you later.
  5. Remember names. This can be a tough one. Write them down as you go, or engage in a memory technique or two. thORIUQ1UWMnemonics Five Tips . Especially remember the people high on your target list.
  6. Project enthusiasm and energy. Don’t act as if you’ve been dragged there as a punishment. What you project you will get back from others.
  7. Befriend the well connected. Know people who know a lot of people. They will introduce you to more people than you could dream of.
  8. Find someone standing alone, and start a conversation with them. This is a good way to enter an event.
  9. Food and bar lines are great places to strike up conversations, as well.
  10. If you are in a conference or a long event, take breaks to give yourself time to recharge. This will make your networking time more productive.
  11. Follow up with the people high on your priority list. Make sure your networking time leads to real relationships.


Second Step of Networking: Refine Your Approach

This is your mental and physical state during your networking opportunity, as follows:


  1. Be of service and help to others. This is a new way of thinking for a lot of people – but networking isn’t about you! You are much more approachable and attractive if you go in seeking to help and support others. To do that, develop active listening skills, which include asking leading, open-ended questions and responding to what they say. The information you gain will be valuable to you as you continue the relationship with them after the networking event.
  2. Use business cards for contact information only. Networking is about forming relationships with humans, not cards. Hand out and ask for cards for the people you actually plan to follow up with for clear reasons that support your goals.
  3. Be authentic. Many people feel networking isn’t their thing because they are shy, or introverted. I say – networking is for everyone. It’s about bringing your own style and personality into the room, and leverage your strengths as a person to build relationships for your benefit and others’. Know yourself, and work the room in your own way. Introverts can be great at one-on-one conversations, so take each networking opportunity to develop greater common ground with your connection, beyond looking for a job.
  4. With all the above in place, go in with confidence and calm.

people art

First Step to Networking: PREPARE

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity

You’re not going to get the most from your networking opportunities unless you prepare. To me, there are just three basic things to do before your networking event:

  1. Do your homework.
    • Find out who will be at the event who you have something to offer, and from whom you believe you can gain something.
  2. Set specific goals related to those people. What information do you want to gain? What impression do you want to make? How can you make yourself memorable? What information, support or advice can you offer? What is your end game – that is, at the end of the event, how will you know it’s been a productive one for you?
  3. Know your ELEVATOR speeches. These are the ever-popular synopses of who you are and what you do intended to grab interest of your audience quickly and compellingly. I recommend creating 60-second and 15-second versions (the shorter one is also known as the “handshake” speech).

Elevator Speech


90% of executives say interpersonal communication is a critical business skills, but 85% of employees say their bosses don’t communicate well with them. I provide communication coaching and training for business leaders.  One CEO remarked that after working with me, her approval rating among direct reports improved by 55%!

Other examples?  Would love to hear!

Taking the Fear Out of Networking

Slide1Networking – building ongoing relationships to exchange information and advice – is scary. Although it is not our #1 fear*, most people say that these things about networking scare them:

  • Meeting strangers
  • Not saying the right things
  • Having to talk about yourself
  • Making a fool of yourself
  • Getting stuck with the wrong people
  • Not being interesting

Fear in this case is a problem, since interpersonal relationships (formed through networking) are still the primary drivers of business, even now, in this era of e-socializing.

Understanding networking is a good first step to alleviating your fears.  Networking is not:

  • Asking for a job
  • Collecting business cards
  • Randomly passing out resumes
  • Self promotion
  • Pitching a product or company
  • Selling

There will be a time and place place for asking for what you want and receiving from the relationship. The networking occasion is simply the first step and in that step, you are simply forming a connection.  Following up, you will have additional meetings to move forward your agenda.

Networking can occur anywhere, not just at events. Get into a networking mindset, and you will attract opportunities to meet people important to you on the airplane, in coffee shop lines, elevators…

My three-stage plan to networking can help alleviate your fears.

networking approach graphic

Next post: Step 1 to Networking: Prepare

*The Chapman University Survey of American Fears, Wave 2 (2015) provides an unprecedented look into the fears of average Americans. In April of 2015, a random sample of 1,541 adults from across the United States were asked their level of fear about eighty-eight different fears across a huge variety of topics ranging from crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology and many others.


Giving Effective Feedback


This is part 3 of my Feedback series — 

While soliciting regular feedback (series part 1) and making our hidden selves known (series part 2) are foundational to awareness, we can also contribute to a more open, trusting environment if we learn how to deliver feedback. This final post in the series offers tips and techniques.

Concepts of Giving Good Feedback

  1. Give feedback ONLY to be constructive and helpful – otherwise it becomes a weapon and can tear people down. Check your motives carefully.
  2. Describe only observable behaviors – don’t judge it as good or bad, or infer the person’s motive.
  3. Evaluate the behavior not the person.
  4. Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback, otherwise people might become demoralized, or not get the message.
  5. Beware of feedback dumping. Select two or three important points you want to make and offer feedback about those points.

Steps to Giving Constructive Feedback


Whether you are initiating feedback, or the other person has requested it …

  1. Briefly tell the person what you’d like to cover and why you think it’s important. Then ask if this is a good time to discuss, and if not, when they would like to do so.
  • “I have a concern about.” “I feel I need to let you know.” “I want to discuss.” “I have some thoughts about.” Then…
  • “May I offer that to you?” “When is a good time?”

 2. Describe specifically what you have observed, and the reactions of yourself and others.

  • Have a certain event or action in mind and be able to say when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the results were.
  • Begin with something positive – or something that shows empathy.
    • “I know you are passionate about this topic and that’s great – exactly why we hired you.”
  •  Stick to what you personally observed and don’t try to speak for others. Avoid talking vaguely about what the person “always” or “usually” does.
    • “Yesterday afternoon, when you were speaking with the client, I noticed that you kept raising your voice.”
  •  Give examples of how you and others are affected. When you describe your reactions or the consequences of the observed behaviors, the other person can better appreciate the impact their actions are having on others and on the organization or team as a whole.
    • “The client kept backing away from you, and I saw others in the room shrinking away from the conversation.” That conversational style doesn’t really fit this client’s personality or corporate culture. I’m worried about a potentially negative impact.”

  3. Give the other person an opportunity to respond.

  • Pause, then ask an open ended question that allows the person to give their perspective and their reaction.
    • “I’d like to hear your perspective. What do you think?”

 4.  Ask permission, then offer specific suggestions that can help the person do better next time.  If they would like, give practical, feasible tips.

  • “Might I offer some tips?” “Would you like some ideas of how to do this differently next time?”  “Next time, you might speak more slowly, pause, read the room to be sure you still have your audience with you.”

 5. Summarize and express your support

  • Emphasize your main points (the things you want the person to improve or know), and reinforce your faith in them.
    • “The tone you used with the client in this meeting wasn’t effective, so next time, use a different approach. I will try to coach you through that if you like, and I know your intent is good. That means a lot, too.”
    • “ I’m confident this will get better quickly. Thank you for being open to this feedback. ”


The Blind Side


This is a Part 2 of my Feedback series —

There is no such thing as perfect objectivity when it comes to knowing ourselves. We have to rely on feedback from others, whether solicited, unsolicited, or even unwanted. And actually, this is a pretty natural learning technique. Think about very young children – how do they know that the things they do or say are funny, wonderful, new, interesting… Because the grownups around them laugh, applaud, or scold.

As we get older, the cues we get are much less obvious and unless we are very self-aware, we’ll miss them.   Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham explain this through a model called the The Johari Window. It represents information — feelings, experience, views, attitudes, skills, intentions, and motivations — within or about a person. It looks at the information from four perspectives: open, hidden, blind, and unknown. The degree to which we share ourselves with others (disclosure) is the degree to which we can be known.


The Johari Window, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (1955)


  • In the Open/Shared area, people recognize us for the things we also know about ourselves consciously. We move within this area with freedom and ease, comfortable that our actions and words are in alignment with what people expect from us.
  • The Hidden area contains those things we usually don’t share, and when we do, it is a deliberate choice, which we make only occasionally or with a select few people.
  • When we operate in the Blind area, we imagine things are true of ourselves, but these are not seen by others at all. If someone brings these up to us, we might dismiss them outright. (However, if we are open to growth, we would solicit and accept feedback.)
  • The Unknown area contains those rich and complex elements that make us mysterious and interesting human beings. Neither we nor others are aware of these on a conscious level. Sometimes something from this unconscious area is revealed – we might dream or read or feel something that proves insightful to us or others.

 Why is it important to limit our blind sides, what is unknown to us? Without the protection of awareness, we’re walking around vulnerable, acting in ways that might not serve our goals or best interests. We cannot move with confidence and are forced to react rather than make the plays we really want. We might even get hurt. To know yourself and minimize your blind spot, solicit feedback regularly from people you trust to be honest with you.

Next Post: Giving Feedback

The Feedback Loop -Part I

This is a relationship business. How many times during a business day do we hear that, whether we are in a manufacturing plant or a consulting firm.   With the people aspects of work on every executive’s high priority list, it seems we are well-advised to get better at certain key relationship skills. Giving and receiving feedback is one of these critical skills to master in my view because you learn about yourself while you are bringing awareness to others and if done well, strengthening bonds. Done poorly, however, and relationships can be damaged. I think because so few of us know how to do this well, we avoid it completely. It’s time to get great at this skill. This is a three-part series you can use as a guide with some helpful tips.boss in middle

Soliciting and Receiving Feedback

  1. Ask often – You can arrange for feedback sessions at regular intervals. More informally, ask for feedback during or soon after specific situations.  You could include feedback as part of regular meetings with your boss and subordinates.
  2. Ask for comments on your behavior – “What can I do more of?” and “What can I do less of?” and “What should I keep doing?” Ask these three simple questions of your peers, bosses, and team members.
  3. Ask a varied audience – If you only ask one person for feedback, it might be worth hearing, but wait until you have more opinions before dramatically changing anything. Ask your fans and your enemies, your superiors, and your direct reports. Listen for repeated themes. That’s where your best growth opportunities will be.
  4. Be specific – The more you direct the feedback, the richer it will be. Maybe you have a goal in mind. You might say, “What do you think I need to do to be ready for a promotion in six months?” Ask for the feedback that will help you most.
  5. Try this as a script to gather broad, developmental feedback:
  • “I’m trying to be more effective in my role. What do you think I should start doing that I’m not doing now?
  • What do you think I should stop doing that I am doing?
  • What should I be sure to continue doing that you think is going well?


  1. Respond with “Thank you” or “Help me understand that” — the only responses if you want to keep the channels open. It’s not a two-way discussion – you’re just taking in information. If you get defensive, or start explaining yourself, stop. There will be time for that as you process the information later, on your own. In the feedback session, it’s time for taking it all in.

Next Post:  Your Blind Side

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