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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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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Your leadership compass

compass 3The quality of life and leadership is built by the choices we make – small and large – everyday. How do you have a meaningful life and strive to be a great leader?

Begin by reflecting on the “best” of you – your thinking, Your understanding of reality and the person you strive to become. These insights inform the compass that guides how you live and lead.

Developing your compass requires a commitment of time. Reflect on your experiences, beliefs, instincts and goals. If you do it right, your compass feels authentic as your crystallized wisdom that strengthens judgment, decisions and actions.

The compass includes:

Success. What are you trying to achieve? What impact do you desire to have?

Sacred Principles. What are the non-negotiables? What is completely off the table when it comes to your actions and decisions?

Values. What principles will guide your decision-making and action?

What works. What thinking and actions will deliver success – and align with what’s sacred and valued?

Humanergy’s leadership compass? We are passionately committed to the greater good. (Yep, even in corporations!) We bring the character, wisdom and competence to achieve it.

What’s yours?


Need a compass? We can’t wait to help, so drop us a line!

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Spring clean!

Clear blue skyMy goal for this spring is to clean out my basement. (My youngest is 13. Why do I still have a toddler’s play kitchen?)

Spring is also a golden opportunity to clear the decks of your leadership. Consider these questions.

What is important to you? What are your priorities now, and are you acting on them?

What is important to your people? How can you help them wake up every day eager to contribute to the organization’s mission?

What should you start doing? Is there a way of thinking or a behavior that would add to the quality of your leadership?

What should you stop doing? It may be an old habit that needs to be tossed. Perhaps you need to free up time to do the work with a long-term payoff. Recognize that just adding more to your plate probably isn’t realistic and wouldn’t amplify your leadership impact.

What should you keep doing? Don’t throw everything away! Figure out which of your actions yields the best results and impact. Focus on keeping those in your repertoire.

If this all seems overwhelming, just do one of the above today. Translate your good intentions into some real work. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney


Cleaning is always more fun and productive with a partner. We’re here for you.

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Is your ego a problem?

Leadership at the top is a tough gig. To meet shareholders’ or other important stakeholders’ expectations,leaders are expected to take bold action and still protect the organization’s vital interests.

Though forceful, enterprising leaders are admired, they are also often criticized for being self-focused, even narcissistic. Margaret Heffernan defines narcissism in her blog on CBS Moneywatch:

“1. A sense of entitlement: I’m special and should get special attention.

2. Attention: I like, even need, to be the center of attention.

3. Superiority: I am better or smarter than others.

4. Self-absorption: I spend a lot of time contemplating my extraordinary qualities.”

Even if you aren’t a classic narcissist, your ego may be a problem. Leaders need self-confidence, to be sure. However, an over-sized ego can keep you from learning and changing – requirements for addressing the shortcomings we all possess.

John Baldoni posted Three Ways to Keep Your Ego in Check on Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network. His suggestions for reigning in your ego:

Accept praise, but never believe it totally.  Baldoni quotes an interview David Caldwell did on The Larry King Show. Quoting his surgeon father, he said: “It’s okay if other people think you’re God, but you’re in trouble if you start believing it.”

Listen to your best friend. That would be the person who tells the truth, not the one who is your blindest fan.

Reflect on your shortcomings. Be honest with yourself about your behavior, decisions and relationships, understanding that even you reap what you sow.

We’d add another: Use success as a way of showcasing others, reinforcing the fact that these achievements are due at least in part to the amazing people around you.

Healthy self-esteem means you have a strong ego, not one whose maintenance takes precedence over the organization and its people’s needs.

Need to keep your ego in line? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.


Communicating when emotions run high

Carla and Timothy were part of the team working on a crucial project. Timothy was tasked with completing all aspects of the design. Unfortunately, he missed a deadline by several days, and Carla was miffed.

Truth: People don’t always live up to our expectations. It can be all to easy to go from, “He didn’t submit his part of the project on time” to “He doesn’t care about this work.”

Snap judgments may have been a necessity in primitive times. It was all well and good for Cavewoman Carla to conclude that the large, noisy beast was the enemy and quickly react. Unfortunately, modern day humans still jump to “instant conclusions” based on limited information – even when it isn’t a life-or-death situation.

We really like to think we’ve got people figured out, and we know why they did this or that. When our emotions come into play, we interpret the other person’s behavior based on our own “story” about what happened. This happens so quickly that the story seems factual. “Of course he isn’t invested in the project. Otherwise, he would have met the deadline.”

The story is amplified when we complain to others, who confirm that our story is true. “Yea, he’s always late. What a slacker.”

The authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High studied how top performers communicate when emotions run high. One insight is that great leaders don’t make the leap from behavior to implication. They stick to the facts when giving feedback.

“Your part came in three days late. It caused several people to scramble at the last minute. We did not have time to review your portion before completion.”

Stick to the facts when you need to confront someone. Ask questions about what happened and why. Remember the goal – to understand and correct the situation, not to prove that your story is right!


Need to learn skills for communicating? Contact Humanergy.

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Name your leadership genius

Should you spend more time leveraging your strengths or fixing your weaknesses? Evidence suggests that leaders are more effective when they focus on maximizing their natural capabilities. Stories abound of people who failed when they jumped into positions that did not align with their core areas of competence.

You probably have a pretty good idea of what you do well and could list your strengths. A somewhat tougher question is, “What is your unique, distinguishing ability as a leader?”

That area of competence is the quality that you should be zeroing in on to accomplish your goals. Bob Rothman, co-chief operating officer at Gap International, says this is your genius – your best thinking that leads to outstanding performance.

Your leadership genius might be articulating the vision for the organization or helping employees grow and develop. If you’re not sure, ask a few trusted colleagues. To make the most of your capabilities, figure out “What is my leadership genius and how can I leverage this extreme competence?”


Need to make the most of what you do best? Contact Humanergy.

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Can you fix people?

We have heard it before. “You can’t change people.” Yet we persist with the idea that if we just use the right words at the right time, the other person will “get it.”

In “Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host” Margaret Wheatley (no relation to Humanergy’s co-founder, David Wheatley) talks about the myth of the heroic leader. One thing the heroic leader believes is that people will do what they are told, if they are given good enough instructions.

The problem here is the illusion that leaders control what they cannot, like what others do, think or feel. What you can control is your own actions.

Rather than jumping in to correct what’s wrong with their people, leaders can be a positive influence and provide support. They can:

Articulate a vision for the future

Be specific about expectations

Ask great questions

Give feedback on behaviors

Protect people from bureaucracy, politics and other distractions

Celebrate wins

When you feel the urge to jump in and fix a person, say, “I want to help. How can I best do that?”

Want to help your people navigate choppy waters? Contact Humanergy.

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Leadership examined

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Life seems to move at the speed of light, and most leaders don’t feel they have the luxury of stepping back to reflect. Yes, you may do a project debrief when you finish a chunk of work. But when was the last time you took the time to reflect on your organization or your leadership as a whole?

The downside of examining our work in bits and pieces is that we don’t see patterns of thinking, behavior and results. We miss the interconnections between the success of Project A with the missteps with Client B.

How do you focus on the bigger picture without the luxury of lots of time?

Journal. I used to dismiss the benefits of journaling, until I tried it. I know I struggle with doing something every day, so I don’t hold myself to that rigid standard. Regular journaling, however, has helped me see connections that I would have otherwise missed. I recognized patterns in my behavior that worked and some that didn’t. I also was able to see progress over time by re-reading entries from months earlier. Quite motivating!

Use words and pictures. While I tend to be a word person, I find that visualizing problems and solutions in pictures unleashes new thinking and insights. It isn’t easy for me, and that is why the payoff is so great.

Get away. A change of space often frees the mind. Even something as simple as relocating to the coffee shop for 20 minutes can unleash your creativity. Just stay focused on asking your “why?” questions, rather than chatting with your fellow caffeine imbibers.

You don’t have to escape to a mountain retreat to find some space for contemplation. Turn off your media for ten minutes and tune into the big picture. You may be amazed at what your “examined life” produces.

Want some help discovering connections and patterns? Contact Humanergy.

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Assume the best

You get to work and read an email from a coworker:

Christi – the side door was left unlocked between 2 and 3 pm again. Have you thought of creating a checklist that will help you remember?


You think:

  • What a jerk
  • Thanks for the helpful suggestion. I’ll try it!
  • She seems to have good ideas, so maybe she can help me figure out what to do

Your answer to this question says a lot about what you believe to be true about people. If you sometimes think the worst of people, you can change and more often give people the benefit of the doubt. Try these tips:

Slow things down. A frenetic pace can promote reactivity and impatience. Take a moment to stop, think and choose your behavior.

Train yourself to think from others’ point of view. Remember that people bring a diversity of culture, learning and experience to every life situation. Practice thinking, “I wonder why she feels that way” and respond based upon genuine curiosity. Learn why they take the actions they take. Ask about what you don’t understand.

Give yourself cues. Display a picture or quote that reminds you of people’s positive qualities. Light a scented candle or play relaxing music to set a laid-back tone.

Treat yourself with respect. People who are critical of others are often their own worst critic. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and it will be easier to lighten up with others as well.

Remember that giving others a break is really doing you a favor. When you assume the best, you experience less stress. It doesn’t mean you won’t confront truly inappropriate behavior. You just don’t assume that every possible slight is real or intentional. By choosing your battles, you have more productive energy for addressing the issues that matter most.

People are fallible and everyone makes mistakes. You might assume that some of these mistakes are directed at you. In reality, most often, the behavior is a result of ignorance or a different frame of reference. Or, said less kindly in the phrase known as Hanlon’s Razor, “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”



Need to make a commitment to assume positive intent? Contact Humanergy.

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