How to really help

Motivation conceptWhen a coworker comes to you for help with a problem, you’re probably like me. In your quest to be helpful, you give her some advice. Or you share your brilliant process for solving problems.

While your aim is to be helpful, you really aren’t maximizing this potential, because you’re assuming she can and should follow your road map.

Instead, help your colleague find her own way. Ask some great questions, like these:

Outcomes: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? or What does success look like?

Situation: How valid are your underlying assumptions? or What do you need more clarity about?

Relevant experience: Have you been in a similar situation before? or What lessons can apply here?

Action: If you knew you’d succeed, what bold steps would you take? or What needs your immediate attention?

Perspective: What will you think about this five years from now? or How does this relate to your life purpose?

Powerful questions come from a place of curiosity, not certainty. You help the other person explore the possibilities and find solutions that work for them. (Does it need to be said that it’s not about you and how smart you are?)


We love helping people create their best road map. Want to travel down a new path?

Photo from iStockphoto.



Will you really do better tomorrow?

act differently in future sketchplanationWe are big fans of Jono Hey’s sketchplanations. These are small pictures that convey big ideas. This one was painfully familiar.

Is it human nature to believe that our future behavior will be better than today’s?

Perhaps that’s why we put off projects, procrastinate on our exercise program and figure we’ll eat more healthy food tomorrow.

Called present bias, it’s the excuse we make for NOT being our best selves. What choice can you make right now that aligns with your best self?


Let’s focus on the right stuff together.

Picture from Jono Hey’s sketchplanations.







Lead like a band competition judge

clarinets croppedLast week, my daughter, Maggie, performed in the middle school band solo/ensemble competition. Having never experienced this type of event, I figured I’d be watching three young people perform pretty well, in spite of their extreme nervousness. That definitely happened. Little did I know that I’d also experience a lesson in leadership.

I expected the judge to listen, note his assessment on the form and move on to the next group of kids with knocking knees. Sorry, Mr. Judge. I misjudged you. What did you do instead? You fertilized these budding musicians with the right combination of feed, seed and weed!

Feed. Before the three students started playing, you connected faces to names and cracked a joke. Although they were too scared to laugh, they appreciated you reaching out to them as people. After they finished playing, you talked about all the things they did well, in quite a bit of detail. For the first time since they stepped in the room, not one of them looked like they were about to throw up.

Seed. Mr. Judge, you masterfully outlined their future brilliance as clarinetists. You mentioned some specific ways in which they would master parts of the music as they continued to grow. You made their future growth real and attainable and exciting.

Weed. Finally, you mentioned some things they didn’t do well. But instead of letting them stew about those, you gave them a tip, had them try it, and voila! Those squeaks and timing problems began to fade like weeds after a dose of herbicide (organic, of course).

I should do so well in my everyday life as a leader. I am prone to weed, weed, weed and then throw in my suggestions in an effort to be helpful. Thanks, middle school band judge, for rising above and making a difference in these kids’ lives (and even in the spectators’). If you can do it, so can I!



What are you doing in meetings?

meeting5You know what you need to achieve. The right people are in the room. You have plenty of coffee and snacks to keep the group energized. Your meeting is off to a great start, but how do you make sure that you get the results you need?

Humanergy starts meetings by reviewing the agenda and focusing on our mutual responsibilities for our gathering. We all agree to do one or more of these actions to make the meeting time worthwhile:

Give. What value are you giving to the meeting (your ideas, extreme listening, artful summary statements)?

Get. What value are you getting (decision so you can act, new idea, fresh perspective)?

Create. What value is created through bringing the group together (creative solutions, partnership on an important strategy, innovation to create something new)?

If you are in a meeting and realize you are not giving, getting or creating, why are you there?


We can make your meetings sizzle with energy and results. Talk to us today.

Photo from iStockphoto.

Take time for you

beach chairsIt’s not too early to start thinking of summer vacation!

The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not require companies to give workers paid time off. Even if organizations offer paid leave, some employees don’t take all the days coming to them. Some leaders equate taking a vacation with slacking, so it is no surprise that Americans take only 10 of the average 12 paid days off. Only employees in Asian countries take fewer days of vacation than Americans, according to a study of 22 industrialized countries.

Leaders are particularly prone to overworking and underplaying. Even though we know that taking time away is good for us, it’s hard to take a break. What’s a harried leader to do?

Take little breaks. Take a few 5-minutes break throughout the day, and you’ll reap many benefits, including better concentration, fewer accidents and less stress. 

Cultivate a hobby. In addition to providing a needed respite from your daily routine, hobbies like gardening and walking can keep you fit. Hobbies can also expand your capabilities, like creativity or confidence.

Take a holiday. There’s no substitute for getting away from it all, so schedule that time off! Rested bodies heal faster, and vacations help people maintain perspective and motivation.

One underestimated advantage of planning a vacation now? You’ll enjoy anticipating the break as you focus on today’s challenges!

Questions to activate learning and growth

The decision of questionsHumanergy spends a lot of time helping people ask powerful questions. We know that, in contrast with telling people what to do, questions can help people learn and grow.

It’s not just asking more questions each day. Your motive for asking is extremely important, because it drives what and how you ask.

Scenario 1:Direct report (DR) returns from a training session, and you ask, “So, what did you learn?”

If your motive is to test if the DR was paying attention or just loafing, the impact of the question is pretty negative. The DR will likely give a short answer and retreat. However, if you are invested in the DR’s development, you will ask the question with a different intonation and positive energy. The DR will be excited to share what she learned and how she plans to apply it on the job.

One short question with two very different outcomes. Another example:

People make mistakes, and asking insightful questions can clarify what went wrong and how to prevent problems in the future. In the tense hours/days after a mistake, a not-so-enlightened supervisor could use questions as a way of keeping others in line and themselves in control.

Scenario 2: Your DR tried a new method to solve a problem and it didn’t work. You ask, “Now do you see why I wanted you to do it the other way?”

That question is not really a question. It’s a slap on the wrist, at best. If your motivation is to help your DR expand thinking, ask some of these questions, “You thought your plan would work. What happened, and what did you learn? Are there other strategies you want to try?”

As Danielle Lombard-Sims posted at, asking questions is a great way to help your employees learn to solve problems on their own. It’s also an investment in your organization’s future. So check your motivation, and ask away!


We are motivated to help, so contact Humanergy!

Photo from iStockphoto.


Infotainment as best practice?

funnyStan returned from a training, saying, “Wow, that trainer rocked. He told the best jokes!” Stan’s co-worker Jackie asked, “Did you learn a lot?” “Sure!” Stan replied. Two weeks later, the training materials were housed safely on the shelf, likely never to be looked at again. Business-as-usual continued.

Humanergy does a fair amount of training, and we pride ourselves on being not only entertaining but able to impact the way people do their jobs. What about you? While you may not be a professional trainer, it’s likely that you have to teach people to do something from time to time. Do you need to be a suave, joke-telling entertainer to do that well?

Humor certainly has a place in training – relieving stress and creating a general sense of goodwill. Entertaining stories can help people remember key concepts. However, much of the focus on what the trainer says and does is misplaced.

Teaching people to think and behave in new ways is not about the trainer. It is about the people who need and want to change. We owe it to them to act more like drill sergeants and less like stand-up comics.

Humanergy co-founder David Wheatley’s son Josh does just that. Josh trains Air Force recruits who are incredibly grateful for his high expectations and uncompromising discipline – once they have completed basic training. During the process, the reviews are more mixed.

To make learning stick, people must work hard, wrestle with the content and then drill on the skill by applying it to the real issues they face. Application is the key, and this makes teaching harder, because every participant comes with a different situation. At its best, training is like coaching, with high expectations being a requirement for superior results.

Yes, you can have fun when you’re teaching people something new. Just make sure that you devote every minute of your time together to the goal that matters – helping participants change on-the-job behaviors and more effectively deal with the issues that keep them up at night.


You can be a better trainer or coach, and we’d love to help! Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.




3 tips to solidify learning

Leadership with educationYou’re learning all the time, and if you’re like most of us, you’re teaching as well. From training an employee on a new procedure to mentoring a rising leader, your objective is to equip others to be successful.

You probably don’t sit down with the latest brain research to figure out the best way to pass on knowledge and build competence. But since learning is moving information from short-term to long-term memory, understanding how the brain works best will help you be a better teacher.

From One Brain to Another: What We’ve Learned About Learning in Training Industry Quarterly is one of the most practical reads on this topic you’ll find. Here are just a few tips:

Use novelty. When presented with the same type of stimulation, our brains get bored and shut down. Use humor, music, movement and other unexpected means to convey information. The more senses you engage, the more areas of the brain work to create learning. Plus, because people vary in how they learn best, your approach will work for more learners.

Keep the atmosphere positive. You’ve explained the process in three different ways, but the other person isn’t getting it. Frustrating, yes, but breathe deeply and smile. Negative experiences trigger a whole series of hormonal reactions that shut down the learning centers of the brain.Yes, it’s sometimes it’s hard to develop competency, and being irked may make it impossible.

Have people teach others. Once they’ve gotten it, ask the learner to teach someone else the new skill right away. This will help them solidify their own understanding. It will force them to spend some time to refresh their learning and put it into context with the real work at hand.

You don’t need to be a neurobiologist to train and teach, but you will help people solidify learning by understanding how their brains work best. And you might also get to sing while you do it.


Get your learning on! Humanergy will help you develop new skills and teach others!

Photo from iStockphoto.



Why wellness matters

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and near the end of your rope? You’re not alone.

A 2006 study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership found that “88% of leaders report that work is a primary source of stress in their lives and that having a leadership role increases the level of stress.”

It shouldn’t take a dramatic breakdown for us to get the message. Wellness matters to leaders, because you need to bring your best game to the table every day. To do that, you need to pay attention to your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Think baby steps toward wellness – simple things you can do to increase the quality (and perhaps even the quantity) of life. Here are some ideas to take care of yourself:

Immerse yourself in positive messages. Skeptical and negative thinking erodes your physical health by increasing cortisol (a stress hormone) production. Read a book with a positive message, watch a funny movie or listen to relaxing music to reduce stress hormones.

Make activity fun. Your body and your mind love the stimulation that comes from breathing harder, increasing your heart rate and a little sweat. Enjoyable movement stimulates serotonin (“happy” hormone) production and distracts you from negative thoughts. Find something you like to do (snowshoe, swim, dance, jump rope, yoga…) and mix in some variety. You can even work out while you’re being productive. Put on some loud music and clean the house. (Better yet, come clean MY house.)

Keep food intake in balance. You don’t have to deprive yourself to eat a balanced diet. Strengthen your immune system and allow your cells to repair by eating right. Don’t forget that over-eating puts stress on your body by forcing it to process a large quantity of food in a short time. Enjoy winter comfort foods, but do so in moderation!

Laugh a little. Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it” (Lily Tomlin). Don’t you feel better already?

Don’t take our word for it. Do your research online at reputable sites like the Mayo Clinic and AMA. Your body, mind and co-workers will thank you for it!


Humanergy can help you put yourself first!

Photo from stock.xchng.


The wisdom of sleeping on a decision

asleep at deskBeing decisive is an important leadership skill. It’s also good leadership to make that big decision tomorrow, rather than right now. Not only will you avoid impulsive decisions, you’ll also get input from your unconscious mind.

Martha Lagace interviewed Harvard Business School postdoctoral fellow Maarten Bos about unconscious thought and decision-making. He defines “unconscious thought as a goal-dependent, deliberative process in the absence of conscious attention. Most people attribute a lot of their actions to a conscious process, but there are scores of processes that operate unconsciously.”

The unconscious mind is powerful. Mine allows me to remember a name or fact only when I stop thinking about it. (I see your head nodding in agreement!)

Writing blogs often involves taking long breaks where I step away from the “great” thought I’ve captured and work on something else. It may seem that I make no progress on the blog during that time. Actually my unconscious mind is refining my ideas while I focus on something else. Sometimes I even find resolution to thorny problems in my dreams. (Rare, but it does happen!)

When you don’t think you’re thinking about the decision, your brain is still working on it without your awareness. So don’t buy that house today or hire that person you just interviewed. When a decision really matters, sleep on it, and engage more of your brain power.


Your unconscious and conscious minds agree. You should contact Humanergy to achieve insight about better decision-making.

Photo from iStockphoto.