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Our new book Humanity Works Better is now available for pre-order!

By Musings

We have some exciting news!

Our bookHumanity Works Better: 5 Practices to Lead with Awareness, Choice and the Courage to Change is now available for pre-order!! Visit our book page to learn more and pre-order your book! While you are there, be sure to claim your special bonus offer. It’s our way of saying “thank you” from the bottom of our hearts for your support and for joining us in bringing more humanity to the world.

We couldn’t be more excited to invite you to pre-order the book and join our movement. Why? Because we wrote this book for you – for everyone out there who wants to make a difference in the way people work and connect with each other. To make those connections better – more caring and more human. This is the heart of the HumanityWorks movement and of this book – it’s YOU making a difference.

Our work with teams has showed us that the modern workforce is suffering. Organizations and leaders seek success through a focus on efficiency and productivity, and it’s costing us humans dearly. Workplaces have become toxic and getting work done is a lot harder than it needs to be. Bullying and abuse has reached epidemic levels—along with high rates of burnout, turnover, and fatigue. People are treated as resources, not valued as humans. Clearly, something needs to change. That’s why we wrote this book.

Our book is different because we start with you. Because if something is not right in your workplace, no matter what level in the organization you are at, there are things you can do to make a difference. Our Five Practices can be learned and demonstrated by anyone. They can be used in your personal as well as professional lives – we have heard many, many stories of people using these skills effectively with their family members!

This is a leadership book – for those of you in positional authority and for the leader in each and every one of you. The work we do is with top leadership teams across the country, focused on high leverage areas for change.  And that is not enough to change the world of work. We wrote this book for you, so you don’t need to wait for your c-suite or leadership team to bring more humanity to the workplace. It all starts with you. Because, when you change, the people around you change.

Our Five Practices help you navigate the complex relationships that make us human beings, complexities that become roadblocks and make it hard to get important work done. This book helps you build the awareness and master the skills to become a better person, and a better leader. You can read this book and make changes now. And when you change, your team and organization will react and start to change because of you. When humanity works better, the workplace thrives.

Thank you for pre-ordering our book and joining our mission to bring more humanity to the workplace so we can change the world of work together.

Humanity works because of YOU!
Kate & Debbie


NO is Not a 4-Letter Word

By Musings

“No” can be one of those words that people are afraid to use.

As leaders, it’s up to you to be thinking about what is the highest and best use of your time. Your day can so easily fill with the onslaught of requests, demands, and issues. Not to mention time needed to reflect, think and build. If you don’t create boundaries that protect your time, you can end up getting many small things done, but do nothing great – to the dismay of not only yourself but everyone around you. So, make saying “no” part of your success.

“No” can be one of those words that people are afraid to use. But here’s a secret, it can create a helpful and healthy boundary for you and for others. Think about how you can use the power of “no” to help create what you need rather than react to what you do not like. A clear “no” creates safety by helping you and others know what to expect – no wishy washy response! A solid “no” helps you relate to others by being authentic about what is important to you and lets you stay in connection with them. A forceful “no” defines what you are willing to do and not do, and signals to others how they can participate. “No” creates clarity for you and others about what is important. It’s not a 4-letter word. It’s not mean. It’s not selfish.

Boundaries are a way to let people in, not keep people out and are essential to healthy relationships. We explore this mindset in our upcoming book, Humanity Works Better, and apply it in our 5 Fundamental practices.

Be good to yourself. Practice setting boundaries. Notice when and how you use “no” – what works? What doesn’t? Refining this skill helps you bring your best self to the world.

What Makes Feedback Hard?

By Musings

First, let’s be real – we live in a constant state of feedback without realizing it. In its most fundamental form – feedback is input and output. Think about it, you look outside each morning to gauge the weather (input) and decide what to wear (output). Inputs help us determine outputs. Pretty straightforward.

Somewhere along the way the idea of “feedback” became personal. It often begins with someone holding the perspective that your output did not go as expected. Something you did was not how they thought it should be. And they offer input to that effect, typically with the idea that their input will help you do it differently next time.

No matter how eloquently the feedback is offered, it can be confronting and leave you feeling diminished, misunderstood, confused, mad, sad, angry or…(fill in your typical reaction).  You get triggered. No one wants that – not you and not the person offering the feedback. So then what?

In their 2014 HBR article, ”Find the Coaching in Criticism” authors Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone note, “the (feedback) process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are.  It is that tension that makes both giving and receiving feedback tough. For decades the emphasis has been on how to deliver good feedback. The secret Heen and Stone share is, while some delivery approaches are more helpful than others, feedback has the potential to hit any combination of three triggers: truth triggers, relationship triggers and identity triggers.

Truth triggers are set off by the content of the feedback. When assessments or advice seems off base, unhelpful, or simply untrue, you might feel indignant, wronged, and exasperated.

Relationship triggers are tripped by the person providing the feedback.  You are influenced by what you believe about the messenger and how you feel about your previous interactions.  So, you might reject input that you would accept on its merits if it came from someone else.

Identity triggers are all about your relationship with yourself. Whether the feedback is right or wrong, wise or baseless, it can be devastating if it causes your sense of who you are to come undone. In such moments you might struggle with feeling overwhelmed, defensive, shame, or off balance.

Awareness of these three triggers can be helpful for both givers and receivers. For both parties, when triggers get hit, your work is to stay in relationship with one another – to stay in the messiness of the moment and be present in the uncomfortableness of it all. Why? Because those messy moments are a catalyst to addressing the tension. It offers the potential to grow as individuals and to strengthen your relationship. And we get it…it’s hard to do. So, how do you stay in the messiness?

  • Take a breath. Pause and become aware of what is happening for you and for them. What triggers have been hit? What might that be about?
  • Get curious. Check-in with the other person. What’s needed?
  • Listen, deeply. What does your intuition say? What are they saying? What’s not being said?
  • Acknowledge the other person – see them.

There is opportunity in this feedback moment. It is a signal of potential growth. When you seek to understand what is happening and make meaning from it, you will each grow and so will your relationship.

How to Make it Safe? You Go First.

By Musings

Your vulnerability will make others stronger.

We take a stand that productivity is all about people and at the heart of productivity are the relationships you have with those you work with. Being in relationship means creating meaningful connections with another person, being truly and authentically interested in them – in seeing them for who they are and what they aspire to be. But when you are the leader, positional power can get in the way of even the simplest inquiry, like “how are you doing?” So, when you are the boss, or more senior to the other person, we have a prime tenant: You Go First.

Imagine this: Your organization just finished a heavy push against an ominous deadline. When it was finally complete everyone was exhausted: mentally, physically and emotionally. It had been a lot and folks were spent. You and your leadership team are concerned about folks being burned out and the potential for turnover. To be proactive, you decide to hold well-being checks. The idea was for the most senior members of the organization to reach into their reporting lines and spend about 30-minutes with each of the more junior members to gauge how they are doing, listen to any concerns, and offer support and assistance where possible. It’s a terrific idea!

But …what happens when senior leadership, that folks have little-to-no relationship with, puts a meeting on your calendar to ask, “how are you doing?” You guessed it; first folks will be worried about why you reached out to them. They may be suspicious or question your motivations. They may become guarded, saying only what they think you want to hear, something like “I’m fine.”  None of this will help you achieve the outcome you are looking for – to deepen the relationship and engagement of your people.

So, You. Go. First. Create safety by setting context for the meeting in your initial outreach. Let them know what the meeting is about, what you would like to understand and why you are doing it (for real!). And when the time comes for the meeting, explain that you know how hard these times can be – share how it was for you at a similar career stage, “I remember what it was like when I tackled my first XYZ project!” Tell them how you felt, how you coped, and what you did to help yourself recover. By going first, by being vulnerable with your own experiences, they will come to know that you understand what they are going through, that you are not judging them and that you care. When you go first it creates the safety and trust needed for others to let down their guard and open up to you. Your vulnerability and humanity opens the door for others. Go first, and lead the way.
Here’s how:

  1. Share your own story. Be specific!
  2. Then ask, “what’s it like for you over there?” Get curious.
  3. Then ask, “what would serve you best right now?”
  4. Then ask, “how can I help you?”

This opens the door wide to being in relationship and building trust. Who will you invite to walk through it?

Listening is a Superpower

By Musings

Helping someone with a big decision? Don’t talk, listen.

The beauty of listening is it’s free and readily accessible. The secret to its superpower is not all listening happens through our ears – it also happens through our awareness of not just what is said, but how something is being said. The energy around it. People will give away their truest desires as they talk, but it’s not in their words. It’s in the excitement in their voice, the brightness in their eyes, or even the reverence with which they describe what they see as a faraway impossible goal. They are telling you their inner answer not just by what they say, but by how they say it.

We are making decisions all the time. Sometimes they are little, like what should I have for lunch and require little energy or thought. And sometimes they can be life changing like should I take that new job opportunity and move across the country?  We are all facing decisions about venturing out and gathering with others, inside or outside or getting on a plane for a much-needed vacation. Big decisions are being discussed about returning to an office work environment or continuing to work from home – and if you are working remotely, what should you be paid or what might it mean to your career progression?

We had a client that was deciding whether to take a job. It involved moving to a new city, which she was open to, and she wanted the position. But something was holding her back. As she spoke about the opportunity her energy was flat and dominated buy “should” and the weighty feeling of obligation. By listening deeply to her, we realized the narrative she was telling herself was about what she thought was expected of her – not what she wanted to do. By listening not only to her words but also the energy behind them, she came to realize that her hesitation wasn’t about the job, rather she really didn’t want to live in that particular city. She realized where she lived was more important than what job she had.

Listening is one of the core skills we teach teams and leaders because it creates more safety, more candor, more connection. By listening, you seek to understand not just what everyone is saying, but the deeper underlying issues and from that place, discern what is needed. This skill is key to unlocking misunderstandings and tensions, enhancing collaboration and deepening connection with the humans you work with. It is so basic, and that’s the beauty of it. No special equipment needed. Think about how you can listen better to others. Whether it’s helping someone make a big life decision or helping a team get unstuck. How can you help by hearing not just the words they are saying, but their energy?