Stop whining

whine cranky“Complaining is not a strategy” (Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder). This quote hits the mark and is now being featured in Startup Vitamins‘ posters and other products.

I’ve been known to do a bit of complaining from time to time. What separates legitimate griping from unproductive whining? If you’re simply airing your frustrations without the goal of solving the problem, that’s whining.

If you aren’t focused on being part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. How do you stop whining?

Set a goal for positive communication. Kathy Caprino wrote on that you should have five times as much positive communication as negative talk. Doing so gets you 10 key benefits, like getting more support from others and being more resilient through the tough days.

Calibrate to reality. When we’re stressing out, we often lose sight of the facts of the situation. Think about the issue you’re whining about. What are the objective facts? Specifically, consider CIMA: What can you Control? Are there aspects you can Influence? Are there ways to Mitigate the negative effects on you? What’s left over you simply must Accept and move on.

Hang out with positive people. If your buddies are whiners, it’s going to be difficult to stay upbeat. Branch out and develop relationships with people who see the glass half full. You might even ask them how they manage to handle life’s challenges and remain optimistic.

Be true to yourself. When life hands you lemons, sometimes you just don’t have it in you to whip up some lemonade. Be gentle with yourself, recognizing that there are some days when you struggle to be positive. Recognize that tomorrow will be better, but today is just hard.

Whining, like all behaviors, is a choice. It’s your job to figure out if that’s how you want to invest your precious time – and whether it gets you what you want.

We can help you stay on the high road.

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What are you reading?

books stackWe are often asked to recommend books that address a particular leadership challenge. While reading books certainly doesn’t guarantee behavior change, many people report that they are inspired and guided by what they learn in books.

Here are several of our favorites, grouped by topic.

Organizational success/resilience: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t (Collins)

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Collins & Hansen)

Self-awarenessLeadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box (Arbinger Institute)

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (Arbinger Institute)

Leadership vision and communication: It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy (Abrashoff)

Time management: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Allen)

Executive leadershipWhat Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Goldsmith)

The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership (Farber) 

People effectivenessEmotional Intelligence 2.0 (Bradberry, Greaves & Lencioni)

General leadership reference manuals: Successful Manager’s Handbook (Gebelein, Nelson-Neuhaus,

50 DOs for Everyday Leadership: Practical Lessons Learned the Hard Way [So You Don't Have To] (Barrett, Wheatley & Townsend)

CommunicationCrucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (Patterson, Grenny, et al)

Team development: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Lencioni)

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (Sinek)

Continuous improvement/ChangeThe Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization (Senge)

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions (Kotter, Rathgeber, et al)

CoachingEleven Rings: The Soul of Success (Jackson & Delaney)

Decision-making/ChoicesDecisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Heath & Heath)

Introverts as Leaders: Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference (Kahnweiler)

What are you reading, and why?


Let’s put those great ideas to work!

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Why change?

Change Decision Making ConceptWe’re confronted by the need to change on a daily basis. New organizational expectations require learning a new skill. External pressures mean that the team must shift their ways of working together. How do you help others quickly respond and make the necessary shifts?

Experts have made it seem that managing change is just a matter of doing the right steps in the right order. The truth is that when it comes to change (and most other things), people aren’t rational. That is, you can’t just create a one-size-fits-all transformation plan and be done with it. (Read this great McKinsey article on the “inconvenient truth” about managing change.)

Leaders have been told to craft a compelling story that will motivate others to change. In fact, there have to be many different stories, and those are best created by the people who are required to change.

As a leader, you can facilitate people’s story creation by exploring their compelling motivations. Compelling motivation is the “what’s in it for me?” that will drive commitment. You can’t tell them they have “skin in the game.” They need to identify this reason to transform.. That might be a positive reason (“a great opportunity”) or a negative one (“if we don’t change, bad things will happen”). Whatever it is, it should be significant enough to compel people to move into unknown territory.

The good news is that your job as a change leader is not to come up with the one right message. It may feel like more work to support people’s individual exploration, but it’s the right way to make sure commitment is achieved and sustained.


We love helping people change.

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Boost your willpower

dollar bill on a Shopping bag. With clipping pathI might believe that a penny saved is a penny earned, however I’m not immune to impulsive, mood-boosting shopping. I was surprised by a recent article on the power of gratitude to increase willpower.

Like me, you’re thinking, “What does gratitude have to do with willpower?”

In a nutshell, research shows that people who focus on what they’re grateful for are more likely to choose to receive $80 in 30 days, rather than $54 today. (That’s 32.5% more cash in hand by waiting a month!)

Researchers say that it isn’t enough think happy thoughts. A few minutes of gratitude – thinking about what they were thankful for – was the thing that helped people resist temptation and think long-term. The benefit of a boost in willpower means more thoughtful decisions in a number of arenas – not only spending, but other choices, too, like whether to eat that gooey dessert or skip the gym in favor of sleeping in.

How could an attitude of gratitude make you a more thoughtful, patient person?


We’d be grateful to hear from you!

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Avoid being trampled by sacred cows

sacred cowWe love our business manager, Karen Parker, and  we’d feel lost without her amazing skills, steadfast care and phenomenal customer service. We also know that there are some things she does “Karen’s Way,” and that is not changing. 

How can you detect, avoid or otherwise deal with sacred cows in your organization?

A sacred cow is a way of working or a type of work that people resist changing. Sometimes it’s just a “we’ve-always-done-it” resistance, and other times it’s just because they like it. It’s fun or meets a particular need.

How do you kindly tip the sacred cow?

First, define the results you need to achieve. If this pet project or manner of working doesn’t achieve the necessary results, it’s time to put it out to pasture.

Cultivate a sense of urgency. Like Stephen Quesnelle of Mitel, Inc, make it your mission to ask, “What is getting in the way?” and “What doesn’t really add value?” and “How can we do this better and faster?” Quesnelle went over the top and made it visible, decorating his office in cow posters, life-size cow replicas and a cow calendar.

Forget about it. Some of “Karen’s Way” is just fine, thank you very much. So what if it isn’t the maximally productive way and costs her 2.12 minutes per week? Let her have her fun, and those 2.12 minutes will generate positive energy and enthusiasm!

There’s a book on change by David Brandt called “Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers.” You might not want to devour all of yours, but sacred cows should be on your menu.


Let’s lasso your sacred cows.

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Choose your words

labyrinth_speech_bubble_eps8I cringed when I read this post by Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders. It reminded me of many times when I’ve spoken without carefully choosing my words. Most often, the results weren’t awful, like the loss of credibility Hurt examines. However, I know that I am at risk of miscommunication or offending someone by engaging my mouth before my brain.

Part of the problem is that I am more of a “talk to think” person (rather than a “think to talk” one). I have the basic outline of an idea in my head, and I use talking as a way to sort it out. Problem is, if you listen to the beginning of my communication, it’s fuzzy. And since I don’t give you a clue (“I’m thinking out loud now!”), listeners can be pretty confuzzled.*

The lesson here is twofold: 1. Take a moment to think before speaking, and 2. Give people a heads-up when I really need to talk an idea into some semblance of order.

* My daughter Maggie’s brilliant, made-up word combining “confused” and “fuzzy.”


Let’s think and talk.

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The perils of praise

1420024_21828551My kids have an amazing collection of trophies, medals, ribbons and certificates. I agree with the concerns shared by Ashley Merrman, in “Losing is Good for You” at She writes about the downside of the “everyone gets a trophy” thinking that pervades youth sports, education and many homes.

Constant praise of a child’s innate characteristics (brains, looks, etc.) backfires; they “collapse at the first experience of difficulty.” Even when everyone is rewarded, kids know who really excels and who doesn’t. “Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren’t recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.”

What does this have to do with grownups? It raises a lot of questions about how and when we dole out accolades.

Are you praising effort or a person’s innate characteristics? Kudos for hard work, like putting in extra time or approaching a problem creatively, may have better lasting effects than simply applauding traits they were born with, like intelligence.

Are you “all praise, all the time?” Pats on the back are important. So are painting a clear picture of success and letting people know when they need to course-correct. Check out Humanergy’s best practices for feedback in Three Questions for Helpful Feedback, Lead like a Band Competition Judge and Performance is Improving, but not Fast Enough.

As a parent, I know how hard it is to see my kids fail. It is all I can do not to step in and “make it all right.” However, I hope I remember (at home and in my leadership) that learning to fall is an essential part of standing with true confidence.


We’re putting away the trophies and certificates, and we are ready to help you ignite your people’s success.

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The world needs a new kind of leader

iStock_000021453480SmallThis new kind of leader is all about the greater good. Yes, greater good, even in corporations.

What does this new kind of leader believe and do?

  • This new kind of leader recognizes that companies are made of people, and that the people matter most.
  • This new kind of leader knows that the organization’s people are potential leaders, too. Some need guidance, others are ready and the potential is tremendous.
  • This new kind of leader works hard to reveal the leader within each of the company’s people.
  • That investment in the organization’s people creates stupendous results, and the glory is widely shared.

It’s time to be bold and acknowledge what really matters. This is our Humanergy manifesto – or HUMANifesto!


We can help you reveal the leader within!

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Stop saying you are sorry

RejectionLeaders have been encouraged to stop making excuses and simply apologize when they make mistakes. Good advice, but it isn’t enough to say you’re sorry.

It really isn’t that hard to apologize. What is really hard is changing your behavior, so that you don’t mess up again.

Think about the last time you had to apologize at work. Ask yourself:

Do you understand the root cause of the problem?

Have you taken steps to correct it?

Does the wronged party know about your efforts to make a real change? 

Leadership means saying you’re sorry and then doing something about it. If you can’t do the second step, you’d better practice your heart-felt apology. You’ll need to say it again soon.


Change is easier with a partner.

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Yay, me!

iStock_000015873034SmallWhat have you accomplished this week/month/year? If you can’t answer that question, your contributions may not be on your boss’ radar either. That could spell trouble when it comes to career advancement – or in some cases, keeping your job.

There is a big difference between bragging and making the status of your work known. Some people (especially many women) fail to communicate accomplishments for fear of sounding too boastful. In some cultures, drawing attention to your positive attributes is considered ill-mannered at best. For every professional, self-promotion must be handled sensitively.

Allison Jones writes at

The important thing to consider when sharing any accomplishment is to focus on celebrating your success in the context of your company, career, and professional growth, rather than making it sound like you think you’re better than others.

Jones suggests beginning by tracking your successes. Look at your job description and figure out how you’re accomplishing each item. Keep a journal that is focused on your results. Compare those to what’s required for the job you have and the position you want next.

Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune interviewed Peggy Klaus, author of “BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.” Klaus says that we too often share our capabilities and success in job interviews, then stop completely when we’re hired. She advises people to share successes intermittently, and understand that bosses need and want to hear about what’s going well.

Keep your ego in check as you share your successes, or you’ll be perceived as a boastful jerk. Remember John Mooney’s caution: Some folks brag because they like to hear the patter of their little feats.


Yep, you’re awesome. We can help you talk about it.

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