1. Why We Shouldn’t Be Giving Advice

    June 20, 2016 by Elaine Suess

    The ability to communicate well impacts everything we do at work. Expertise in what I call Conversational Leadership extends even beyond work.

    “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes

    A critical element of Conversational Leadership is whether you’re most often asking questions or giving advice.

    Advice As Pain

    While I don’t have the research reference to share with you, a friend who studies the brain recently shared with me that giving advice lights up the same area of the brain that pain does. Ouch!

    advice (more…)

  2. False Harmony and Teams

    April 28, 2016 by Elaine Suess

    Harmony at the Keyboard

    My Grammy played piano for a living when there were supper clubs and people dressed to the nines to go out on the town. She was a wizard on both the piano and organ and enjoyed sharing her immeasurable talent.

    Harmony for Grammy came in the combination of the black and white keys, chords and notes, use of the stops and pulls on the organ, and the impressive management of the pedals…especially those organ pedals.

    I remember Grammy playing with great purpose, energy and joy. Hers was a job with a lot of flurry and motion.  And harmony. Her music was first rate.

    Harmony and Teams

    We know what harmony sounds like on the keyboard and at the symphony, but what does it sound like for teams in the workplace?

    How about a quiz to test it out:

    Which of following teams is likely high performingin committed, accountable and delivers results?

    Team A:  This team gets along perfectly with no disagreements, they move smoothly through meeting agendas, and any difficult discussions are generally had outside of the meetings. They seem harmonious.

    Team B:  This team has diverse views that are encouraged and often expressed in the meetings. The courage (from encourage) to raise concerns and differing views has been honed over time. The invitation to engage has been underpinned with the trust that has been intentionally developed.


     Which team do you want to be on?

     You already know the answer because:

    •  You’re on one of these teams
    •  You lead one of these teams
    •  You played on a sports team
    •  You learned about this at home
    •  You’re just plain smart

    Let’s look at the teams.

    False Harmony

    Team A – There’s not much information about the team in my example, but this team likely has what Patrick Lencioni calls False Harmony. At a glance, it seems like this team gets along because there are no disagreements. The problem, however, is that there are no disagreements because there is a lack of trust and people are not willing to share openly. Because they don’t share openly with one another in their meetings, commitment, accountability and results don’t follow as they should.

    The best teams invite diverse and opposing views. Done well, the team communicates skillfully, and is positive, innovative, and more productive.

    Teams Playing In Sync

    Team B – Teams that can professionally and respectfully disagree do so because they have taken time to build vulnerability-based trust, so that even when they disagree they are able to express themselves—and respect diverse opinions. They don’t have to be right.

    • When one team member has a different view than another (and diverse experiences and views are sought out on high performing teams), she expresses her viewpoint with the company goals in mind, not advocating for her own goals.
    • When a team member thinks a decision should go one way and the leader ultimately decides to go a different route, having expressed his viewpoint, the team member agrees to support the decision in both words and action.
    • When team members understand one another’s communication preferences and see the strengths in each other despite disagreement, teams effectively move toward organizational goals.

    Researcher and author Judith Glaser shares five steps to elevating conversations on teams, which can lead to harmony.

    1. Creating safety and transparency
    2. Building relationships
    3. Listening to understand
    4. Focusing on shared success
    5. Testing assumptions and telling the truth with candor and caring

    Without knowing all the details, you might wish to focus on these, then measure the improvements in your teamwork.

    Harmony In Organizations

    Healthy and harmonious cultures are made up of healthy teams, with real harmony, not false harmony.

    When leaders and teams are intentional about moving the bar on teams, the same purpose, energy (and even joy!) that came out of the hands of my Grammy, show up.

    First-rate outcomes are the result.


  3. Keeping Your Employee On The Bus

    February 27, 2016 by Elaine Suess

    One of your employees or direct reports does not seem to be on the right bus. We’ll call him Employee. He has said he’s aligned with the company’s values, and he is a hard worker, but his behaviors do not seem to match up with the company values, and oftentimes he doesn’t do the right work.

    Plus, his communication style often offends other employees and he unprofessionally and in strong language tells his supervisor he’s wrong in front of customers.

    There are other things going on, but that’s the heart of it. A supervisor, who we’ll call Supervisor, thinks it’s time to get Employee off the bus.

    What If You Could?

    But, what if you could keep an employee like this on the bus? What if the employee could change? What if he could contribute fully and work productively with his colleagues and supervisor instead of continuing with this current ineffective approach? (more…)

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