What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing

Over the next few weeks we’re going to share our experience with training our puppy, Liesl. You see, puppy training—much like the understanding of leading and managing—has really changed over the past 10 – 15 years.

The current ideology around puppy training is built on positive psychology and the understanding that recognition and reward are stronger motivators than fear and criticism. This same knowledge is emerging in the leadership and manager literature.

Increasingly, the data suggests that people and puppies learn much more quickly when they know what you’re asking from them and are recognized when they do it. And, while that all sounds quite simple, we can assure you, it’s not. Not with puppies nor with people.

It requires:

  • Rewarding the right behaviors
  • Ignoring most of the others
  • Paying close enough attention to spot the right behaviors
  • Recognizing the natural differences between breed/people
  • Determining what success looks like and building toward it
  • Doing it over and over again, particularly with those behaviors that are not natural

Over the next six weeks we’ll be talking about each of these areas as they relate to puppy training and as they relate to leadership and management.

As humans, our brains are both quite different from
puppy brains and not so very different from puppy brains.

Like a puppy being distracted by a squirrel, most of us have had the experience of being very focused on a project that’s important to us and to our work and being totally derailed by the appearance of a pizza in the workplace. Or maybe that’s just us?

We’re excited to share this experience with you and to hear your thoughts.

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Your Why: The 5 Whys

Two weeks ago, in our post Why? we shared our answer to a recent question, “Why do you do what you do as consultants and coaches?” Then we asked you to consider your why.

Many people responded to that post asking for guidance on figuring out their why. So last week we offered you a series of questions to support you in Your Why: Survey Your World. This week we want to give you an additional option that you can use to explore your why.

The 5 Whys

A great way to get clear about your why is to use this simple, yet effective, “5 Whys Exercise”:

  • Start with a question to yourself like “Why have I created this life for myself?
    • Example: You might say something like “I’ve always wanted a blend of work and family.”
  • Then ask yourself the second why in response to your answer.
    • Example: “Why? Well, I believe that without both work and family I won’t be truly happy.”
  • Then ask yourself the third why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? There have been times in my life when I’ve had one or the other and it doesn’t bring me the richness that work AND family bring me.”
  • Then ask yourself the fourth why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? It really matters to me to contribute my skills and make a difference with a team, and to spend time with people who I love deeply and am creating a life with.”
  • Then ask yourself the fifth why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? Hmmm, my why is to build deep, long-term relationships with family and friends, and to work in a setting where I can see how I contribute to the success of the department.”

As you can see, it really is a simple exercise but one with powerful results.

This week, play with the 5 Whys and let us know what you discover!

Naming and embracing your why can be helpful
in knowing what career path you’d like to take.
Let us know if you’d like our support.

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Your Why: Survey Your World

Photo: Ashley Batz

Thank you so much for the incredible appreciation you showed us for last week’s post, Why?.

At the end of that post we asked that you consider your why. We received a number of questions about how to figure out your why, so this week and next week we’re sharing some things to consider to help you articulate it.

Many people struggle with articulating their why because they believe it has to be big and grand. Remember, it’s your why—why you do what you do in your life, why you get up in the morning, why you make the choices you do.

We’d like to help you name your why and own it!

This week, we encourage you to explore your why by using a series of questions as you survey your world. We created a PDF for you to easily fill in your answers. Click here to download.

Survey Your World

As you think about your why, start with the following questions. Do a quick survey of your world and what it has to teach you. Ask yourself:

  • When I’m the happiest at work:
    • What have I done?
    • What impact have I had?
    • What does my work contribute to?
    • Then consider, why do I do this work?
  • When I’m most content with my home life:
    • What have I been doing?
    • Who have I been with?
    • What impact have I had on my surroundings and the people in my world?
    • Then consider, why do I feel best under these circumstances?
  • When I am out in the world:
    • When do I feel engaged and involved?
    • Who do I most enjoy being around?
    • What am I doing when I’m most satisfied?
    • Then consider, why do I gravitate to these experiences?

Once you’ve answered questions about work, home, and world, see if you feel more confident in describing your why.

This week we suggest you play with naming your why. Write it down and live with it a while to see if it helps you make decisions that are more in alignment with what matters to you.

If you’d like support in exploring your why,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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At a recent presentation entitled, Why Mattering Matters, a woman asked us, “Why are you doing this work—people can be so challenging, don’t you get sick of it?”

After answering her, we realized that it might be helpful to share our answer with you so that you can get to know us a bit better.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve been supporting individuals in growing in their leadership, impact, and influence. We’ve been working with teams and organizations in creating cultures of leadership and engagement, and we’ve developed simple actionable tools and strategies for success.

Most recently, we’ve been helping people understand that mattering matters. And, as importantly, we’ve been sharing our best thinking here in the Monday Morning Business Coach for over 7 years reaching thousands of people around the globe.

So Why?
We want to change the world!

When we say we’re here to change the world, people often laugh at first; then they see that we’re not kidding. We’re committed.

Everything we do is done with the belief that we can change the world by supporting individuals, teams, and organizations in understanding that people matter.

We’ve discovered that mattering lies at the intersection of being cared about as a person and being valued for your unique gifts and talents. And, when you live at that intersection in your work and in your personal life, you’re healthier, happier, and have greater pride in yourself and your contributions.

We hope our WHY inspires you to consider your why.

Knowing your why will guide your decisions and actions and can help you create the life, the family, the community, and the organizations that truly matter to you.

If you’d like support in exploring your why,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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Memorial Day

Today we’d like to share with you a post that we first wrote in 2014. As we were thinking about the meaning of this holiday, we found it helpful to remember its roots.
In the United States, today is Memorial Day. Over the years this has come to mean many different things—the beginning of summer, the running of the Indianapolis 500, and a day of countless sales—everything from makeup to lawn furniture. It can be hard to remember why we have this holiday at all.

Memorial Day is the one day
when we reflect as a nation
on the sacrifices of the men and women
who died while serving our country.

In 1862, it was established as Decoration Day, and was an apolitical event to commemorate the thousands of both Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. Following World War II, Decoration Day was expanded to commemorate all of the men and women who died while serving the USA in the military.

In the 1970s it was renamed Memorial Day and moved to the last Monday in May, a decision that probably helped to dilute the meaning of the day by creating the coveted 3-day weekend it has become.

This year we hope you are enjoying the long weekend and we would like to encourage you to take a moment to remember the men and women who have given their lives protecting our country. The families of the fallen service men and women would deeply appreciate a moment of our time to remember their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.

Whether or not you agree with the policies of the United States military, there is no denying that military individuals and families have given much to our country. For their sacrifice, we say thank you.

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Managing Workplace Conflicts: Shifts in Behavior

Last week, in our post, Managing Workplace Conflicts: Shifts in Focus, we started with “Let’s be honest, if an organization has more than one person, it’s likely there will be conflict and tension.”

A number of you reached out to us to say that just that one sentence had been powerful as it reminded you that you, your team, and your organization are not dysfunctional because you have conflict. Conflict is a part of being human!

It’s so helpful to normalize just how messy all of us are. As we said, “As humans, we’re navigating the organizational agenda, our professional agenda, others’ professional agendas, our personal agenda, others’ personal agendas, etc.”

The shifts in focus we discussed last week can help people make the shift from conflict to problem solving.

This week, we’re sharing some shifts in behaviors that will help you individually, or you as a manager help others become more effective when tensions rise

Don’t take it personally. Yes, this is easier said than done!

  • It’s important to remember that most of the time you’re experiencing tension with someone else, it’s because they’re wrapped up in their own head about what’s going on. They’re afraid or worried about looking bad, and so you get caught up in that fear.
  • It’s important to take a moment and Pause.

Pause, and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do in alignment with my goals?” Reacting is not helpful.

  • Pausing lets you respond with thoughtfulness and professionalism.
  • Pausing to get clear is critical in today’s fast-moving business world. We need time to collect our thoughts and ensure that we’re moving forward responsibly and not with reactivity.
  • To do that you need to Listen.

Listen deeply, stay curious, and ask for clarification. Your job is to try and understand what others are experiencing so that you can respond appropriately to them.

  • After you’ve listened fully and understand the perspective of the other person you can then share your experience.

Name and deal with feelings. It’s fine to describe your experience of anger and frustration, but acting that anger out by being mean, insulting or disrespectful is not.

  • Use I statements.
  • People feel what they feel, but in the workplace the expectation is that they learn from their feelings (and the data those feeling provide) and then move professionally forward together.

Be attentive and respectful in your non-verbal communication

  • People believe non-verbal cues more than verbal ones.
  • If your words are collaborative, but your arms are crossed and you’re scowling, you’re going to undo all you have done to defuse the conversation.

Focus on the future. Most people are conflict avoidant; so, like you, they want to move to a more comfortable and collaborative place.

  • Focusing on the future allows you to shift from current tension and think about what you can do together going forward.

We recently worked with a mid-level manager who was stressed out due to the amount of conflict in her team. Her stance (until now) had been to ignore it, which was only making it worse.

By tolerating the behaviors, she was inadvertently supporting them. So, we coached her to be more comfortable with intervening in the conflict.

She needed to distance herself from it so that she wasn’t taking it so personally, and then she needed to listen deeply to what was going on within her team.

By teaching her behaviors that she could utilize when she felt stuck in her own fear and anger, she was able to interrupt the cycle of unproductive conflict that was distracting her team from the real work at hand.

This week, take some time to familiarize yourself with the behaviors listed above and see if you can find opportunities to practice some of them so that they’re not foreign to you when you need them in a real conflict situation.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll talk about how you can use conflict to increase innovation.

If you’d like support in putting these principles
into action to manage conflict at work,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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Managing Workplace Conflicts: Shifts in Focus

Let’s be honest, if an organization has more than one person, there will be conflict. As humans, we’re navigating the organizational agenda, our professional agenda, others’ professional agendas, our personal agenda, others’ personal agendas, etc. 
As you can quickly see, there are a lot of competing demands in almost every interaction. In fact, there are some studies that suggest that up to 40% of a manager’s work is managing some form of interpersonal conflict
The inability to deal with conflict effectively can be costly in terms of productivity, sharing of information, and turnover. Therefore, it’s critical that managers, teams, and individuals develop skills in both managing conflict effectively and also in using conflict to increase innovation, expand ideas, and support problem-solving.
This week, we’re talking about how to support individuals and teams in shifting their focus so that they can effectively manage conflict.

When you change the focus, you move the individuals or group out of a rigid stance to a more collaborative one by influencing them to think differently. Here are three ways of changing the focus that we’ve found very effective.

Focus on the problem, not the person. Move the conversation toward fixing the problem instead of blaming one another. 

  • One of the most helpful things we’ve coached our clients to do when a conflict is brewing, is to shift their physical stance to become a bit more shoulder-to-shoulder with the person they’re having the conflict with, and then hold out their hands in front of them to describe the problem as they see it. 
  • In that moment, the people who are gearing up for a conflict become two people looking at the same problem, or perhaps trying to describe the problem that they’re both observing.
  • The goal is for them to see that the problem is outside of them and together they’re the problem solvers.

Take Joy and her business partner, Evan, who were at odds in almost every conversation. Joy believed Evan was the problem and Evan believed Joy was the problem. 

In one meeting, we asked them to (literally) stand shoulder-to-shoulder and look at the problem they were trying to solve. 

At first, they were silent, so we added that they needed to define the problem they were trying to solve as if they were both looking at it. 

It took a while, but they were able to define the problem, which allowed them to solve it instead of blaming each other.

Focus on exploring higher-level goals. Get people to explore shared interests, higher-level goals, and ask them to consider what really matters for the success of the team / company in the future.

  • When two or more people are stuck, they’re often stuck on something quite detailed. 
  • Shifting the focus to what “all of us want to achieve,” (their shared interests or the organizational goals they need to collaboratively address), can help them unhook from taking a position and digging in.

For example, an Ops team that we work with was stuck in their planning of how to support greater efficiency in their workers. Each of them had their ‘pet’ efficiency process and long lists of reasons why they were correct. The more they talked, the more they dug into their opinions. 

After observing the discussion to see if they could unhook from their positioning, we asked them to individually write down the organizational goals for the work and why success was good for all of them. 

Once completed, each individual read aloud what they’d written. While they used different words, they actually had the same organizational goals and similar reasons why success what good for all of them. 

The shift from their opinions to one of the higher-level goals and success benefits, broke the tension and they started to consider how their different approaches could be woven together to create something truly innovative for their company.

Focus on defining the principles. Ask team members to define the principles they’re using to make decisions and don’t just press forward for the sake of efficiency.

  • In many conflicts, individuals or teams are getting hooked on the need to make a decision quickly because of the frustration of rising tensions and the pressure to please the boss. 
  • If instead, they can name the 3 – 5 principles that will guide their decisions, they’ll individually and together be more successful. 

Consider Jacob, who was managing a group of people who regularly came to him to complain about one another. He had tried a number of things to help them work together to make wise decisions and was getting nowhere. 

We asked what principles the team was using to guide their decisions. His eyes widened.

The next day, he went into his team and said, “I need you to consider using the following principles when making your decision:

  1. Schedule is more important than cost.
  2. This will be a show piece for us, so design matters, and all of you need to be aligned—even if it’s not your first choice. You must be able to genuinely say to others outside the group that ‘this is a good decision’.
  3. It must be approved by legal.”

The decision was made at the next meeting—not magically; but as they came back, time and time again, to the principles, the answer emerged.

As you might imagine, we’ve simplified these examples for the post. These things don’t happen in an instant all of the time, but they certainly do some of the time when there is a change in focus.

Consider how you can change focus in the conflicts you’re in and how you can help your teams do the same.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll talk about helping individuals and teams make shifts in their behavior to be less reactive to conflict. 

If you’d like support in putting these principles
into action to manage conflict at work
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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Thriving After A Layoff

We heard from many of you after our Surviving A Layoff post last week. Some of you mentioned that you were feeling stuck and unable to come up with a list of your top skills and strengths because you’re so drained from the experience of the layoff.

We get it. We’ve been there and we know it’s hard to think about the positive stuff when you’re in the midst of questioning whether you ever added value. And forget about possibility thinking, right?

So, we’d like to offer you a couple of small steps you can take this week to help you think about the skills you want to offer and the environment in which you’ll thrive.

We’ve seen that it can be easier to voice what you want by thinking about what you don’t want.

  • First, start with what you didn’t like about your job. Think about things like:

    • Skills used
    • Level of responsibility
    • Level of visibility
    • Level of stress
    • Pace of the work
    • Team dynamics
    • Projects
    • Processes
    • Commute
  • Now, if you’re able, think about what you did  like, using the above list as a prompt.
  • Finally, it can be powerfully helpful to reach out to colleagues, family (even young kids), and friends, and ask them, “What do I do well?”
    • This can feel awkward to do, so blame your coaches here at CSC . . . that can make it easier to ask.
    • You’ll likely start to see themes in the answers that people are giving you.

If you’ve sped through those steps and are wanting more, don’t forget about our recent Dream Job posts where we walk you through some additional ways to get clear about setting yourself up for success.

Remember, it’s important to be gentle with yourself if you’re struggling to move on. If you were talking to a dear friend, you wouldn’t say, “Just get over it!” You’d likely say, “I believe in you.” or “You can do this!”

Perhaps this experience will help to point you in the direction of where you’re supposed to go next. You lost this job and that sucks. Now you have the opportunity to get more of what you want out of your next job.

We believe in you!

Just a few sessions of Career Strategy Coaching
can help you get traction on identifying what’s next
and moving forward to make it happen.
Let us know if we can be helpful.

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More Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership

Last week in Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership, we offered you a series of questions that can help you invite higher levels of input and expand critical thinking.

We reminded you that, at Carpenter Smith Consulting, we define leadership as the willingness to influence your world and the willingness to be influenced by your world, which often means that you’ll need to invite influence.

One powerful way to create the dynamic where you’re influencing people and they’re influencing you, is to ask powerful questions. The tricky part is that questioning people without attention to the nuance of the situation can feel more like an interrogation than an invitation.

Asking questions to invite higher level thinking requires that you consider what’s right for the person(s), situation, and goals in that moment, and that you communicate verbally and non-verbally that you’re genuinely curious and want their thinking to influence your thinking.

The following questions can invite your teams and colleagues to explore what they can do to get the best out of their people and their teams.


  • Do your people / teams know that they matter to you–that you care about them personally and that you value their contributions to the organization?
  • How will you know your team is aligned behind this vision? What would team success look like?
  • How can this team work together more effectively? How will we handle difference, conflict, and crises together?
  • What can I do to support you? What can I do that will support you without diminishing your credibility to our stakeholders?
  • What are you doing to increase your ability to have the impact that matters to you?
  • What needs to be said that you find yourself not saying?
  • Do we have the right people, with the right skills, and the right commitment at the right tables?
  • Why would great talent join or remain on your team?
  • Who are your high potential employees and what are you doing to grow them?
  • Who needs to take the lead on this and why?
  • Is the infrastructure in place to support the team? What needs our attention and resources?

We’ve witnessed the power that great questions have to create opportunities for innovation, problem solving, and higher levels of thinking.

We created a printable pdf so that you can access all of the powerful questions. Click here to download.

This week consider ways you can move from talking at people to engaging them in deeper conversations. Talking at people can seem efficient, and at times it may be, but asking questions brings people to greater ownership of success and engagement in the solutions.

If you’d like support in having
deeper engagement with your team,
contact us today about Executive Coaching.

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Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership

At Carpenter Smith Consulting, we define leadership as the willingness to influence your world and the willingness to be influenced by your world.

In practice, that often means that you’ll need to invite influence, and there’s no better way to do so than with a great question.

By great question, we’re talking about a question that’s right for the person(s), situation, and goals in that moment.

When possible, consider beforehand the questions you want to bring to a conversation, meeting, or presentation.

Today, we’re sharing some of the questions that we’ve found invite higher levels of input and expand critical thinking. Next week, we’ll share questions that invite an exploration of how to get the best out of individuals and teams.

Remember to pause after you ask a question and give people time to consider what you’ve asked. If you jump into the silence, you will teach them that they don’t have to answer if they can wait you out.


Benefits/Concerns/Suggestions (one we use often!):
In response to a proposal, plan, or initiative, ask individuals or teams to consider these questions in this order:
  • What are the benefits of this idea? (It’s the norm to see the reasons not do something new and innovative. Getting them to think first about the idea’s benefits opens them to a more effective assessment.)
  • What concerns do you have?
  • What suggestions would you make?
Vision/Obstacles/Areas of Focus:
  • What are your hopes for the project, department, organization? What does success look like, feel like, live like?
  • What obstacles get in the way of success?
  • What can you do to get around the obstacles, and where do you need to focus your efforts to mitigate the obstacles?
Getting People to Move Beyond Initial (Often Flat) Response:
  • Tell me what went into your thinking? What’s your rationale for moving forward in this way?
  • Say more about that? or just Say more?
Predicting Impact:
  • Imagine describing your plan to the team/department/organization – what do you expect their response will be?
  • What do you anticipate will be the ripples of this decision across the organization?
  • How does this support our vision? Strategy? Success?
To Determine Risk:
  • What are the benefits of action? What are the costs of action?
  • Is this problem an event or a pattern?
  • If there were no risks, what would you do?
  • If you had limitless resources, what would you do?
  • What rules do we need to follow? What rules should we be breaking?

This week, spend some time exploring whether you can attain higher levels of thinking, engagement, and ownership by asking questions that invite the wisdom and expertise of your colleagues and team.

If the sh!t has hit the fan at your company
and you’d like support in engaging with your team
and creating a plan to move forward,
contact us today about Executive Coaching.

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