What Do Others Really Know About You?

#mondaymotivation #leadership #communication #relationships

David came into the room and seemed almost depressed. He said that he’d met with a colleague and the colleague had told him that it was hard for him that David has it “so easy in life.”

David is a smart, articulate, handsome man who can wear just about anything and look like he walked out of the men’s magazine, GQ. He has a warmth about him that endears him to others, and he brings great insight to his company meetings.

On the surface, it all looks easy, but it’s not been easy. Not at all.

David was abandoned by his mother when he was two years old and raised in the foster system. He held 2 – 3 jobs all through college and went to the school he could afford, not the one that would have nurtured his unique intelligence. Shortly after college, he was diagnosed with cancer and had a challenging recovery. His life felt hard on so many levels and he couldn’t comprehend how he could be thought of as having “an easy life”.

Most people have a something that they wish others understood, recognized, or knew about them.

For some, it’s specific to an effort they’re involved with and they want others to respect and value their contributions.

For others, it’s a sense that the people they see regularly don’t understand the challenges they’ve overcome.

And still for others it’s a wish that others knew and valued how passionate they are about the environment, children, animals, etc.

We’ve found that it’s important to know what you want others to know about you, and to explore if there are ways you can teach people more about who you are within the proper context.

Move through these three steps to see if there is anything you’d like to do differently:

  1. Who are the people in my life I’d like to know more about me?
  2. What are the 2 – 3 things I’d like them to know about me? (This may be different for the different people in different areas of your life and world.)
  3. How can I share more about myself in a way that feels natural to the situation? Can I tell a story, share something I’ve written, ask for a moment to let them know what I’d like them to know?

Remember, you always have the option of doing nothing, but sometimes risking a little by sharing more about yourself can help build relationships and a shared sense of the world.

If you’d like support learning how to share more about yourself while remaining professional, contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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Examples of Great Questions


the last two weeks, we’ve been talking about the power of questions: The Right Questions Can Change Your Life and The Bones of a Great Question.

Our articles have sparked requests from some of you asking if we could give examples of questions to ask. So, today, we’re doing just that.

We’re sharing some great examples of questions that you can use to create engaging and connecting conversations.

We’ve put them under a range of headings but don’t get stuck believing that they can only work in that section. We encourage you to explore how you can use these questions in various places in your life.

  • Early in relationships:
    • What brought you to this organization/department/class/play/etc?
    • What’s your vision for this project?
    • What makes you want to stay in this job/community/etc?
    • What are the highlights of your life?
    • Where are you in your life? What crossroads do you feel you’re at in this stage of your life?
  • Ongoing teams:
    • What’s the thing you most need to address today? What’s going well? What’s off track? What do you need from us/me?
    • How do we make decisions about this so that we’re both/all efficient and effective?
    • What are the key red flags we need to watch for?
    • How do you best hear challenges to your ideas?
    • On a scale of 1 – 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high:
      • How valuable do you plan for this time to be?
      • How participative do you plan to be?
      • How much risk do you plan to take?
      • To what extent are you invested in the well-being of the group/relationship/etc?
    • Do we understand why we’re doing it this way?
  • Getting people into the room:
    • What values will guide your work today?
    • Can you share one thing about this project that really inspires you?
    • What’s something the people in this room don’t know about you?
    • What’s the skill you’re most proud to bring to the table?
    • What are the gifts you bring to the table?
    • What are the gifts others bring to the table?
  • Creating a shared understanding:
    • I’m curious about what each of you know about this effort.
    • What’s been your path to this role?
    • Would each person share a bit about their history with this project and why they’re pleased to be a part of this effort?
    • What are the current issues that need to be addressed?
    • What have you been told and what have you heard about this effort?
    • Of the things we have on our plate, what doesn’t fit?
  • Responding to urgent issues:
    • What are the most critical hits we’ll take if we don’t get on this soon?
    • What are our opportunities and risks at this point in the project?
    • Take a minute to write down the three most important things you believe we can do to respond to this. (Be sure to listen to every single idea before starting to plan.)
    • Who needs to be involved for our time to be successful?
    • If we brought in an expert from outside the organization, what would they do/say?
    • What are the possible long-term consequences?
  • Evaluating an idea, proposal, or initiative:
    • What are the benefits of this idea? What concerns do you have? What suggestions would you make before we move forward?
    • Does anyone see anything we’ve missed?
    • What are the obstacles that will get in our way?
    • What are the thoughts about this that you haven’t shared yet? What feels undiscussable in here?
    • If you had a magic wand, what would you do to address this problem?

This week consider compiling a file of questions that help you invite others to partner with you by offering their wisdom, expertise, and perspective.

Send us the questions that you’ve found most helpful in your life.

If you’d like support in creating an environment of engagement and collaboration,contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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The Bones of a Great Question

Last week we talked about how The Right Questions Can Change Your Life.  As you might imagine, given our belief in questions, we’re always trying to figure out the right ones to create engagement, ownership, and passion.

Inviting these into your conversations brings about collaboration and partnership which is transformative in work, family, and community relationships.

So, what goes into figuring out the right questions?

  • Get clear about your goals for the conversation
    • Most of us are moving so fast we rarely pause before beginning a conversation (or meeting) to define our goals. Yet, the questions will change dramatically depending on these goals.
    • If you want to create a sense of shared understanding you might ask, “I’m curious about what each of you know about this effort?”
    • If you want to create urgency you might ask, “What are the most critical hits we’ll take if we don’t get on this soon?” 
  • Think about your audience
    • Reflect on who will be a part of the conversation and how they relate to others in the discussion.
    • If you have a group that’s known one another for a long time, you could jump right in and ask, “What are our opportunities and risks at this point in the project?”
    • If it’s a new group of people who have never worked together, you will be more effective if you ask something like, “I’m excited to have this group together. Would each of you share a bit about your history with this project and why you’re pleased to be a part of this effort?”
  • Consider the context for the conversation
    • As you consider what questions to ask, reflect on the context of the discussion.
    • If you’re in a meeting that’s a one-time event and you’re not likely to meet with this same group again, you may want to share that you value their time and investment. And then add that you’d love to get a feel for their understanding of the current issues based on what they’ve been told.
    • If you’re meeting for several meetings, as often happens in a planning effort, you may always want to start with questions that re-engage the group and helps them feel more like a team. You might ask, “What needs to happen in this meeting to continue our momentum from our last meeting?”

Figuring out great questions can transform a flat discussion
into a powerful communication.

Stay tuned for next week when we’ll share some great examples of questions to support you as you step into your leadership.

If you’d like support in creating an environment of engagement and collaboration,
 contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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The Right Questions Can Change Your Life

In our roles as consultants and coaches, we’ve come to understand that finding the right question in a conversation with a leader, a team, or even an entire organization can be a game changer.

The right question grabs people’s attention, it helps them see and think in new ways, and it demonstrates genuine interest in their wisdom and perspective.

Let’s go through that list in more detail. 

The right question:

  • Grabs people’s attention.
    • So often when we’re in discussion, we focus our concern on saying the things we want to say and saying them in a way that we feel good about.
    • We’re all for growing in your ability to do that, AND we find that if you can also get others (individuals, teams, whole organizations) to explore their thinking with you, you’ll often be more powerful.
  • Helps people see and think in new ways.
    • Think of it this way: if you go into a meeting and start building a case for your perspective, it’s likely that you’ll get either agreement or disagreement.
    • If you go in saying, “I’d like to ask that we all share our current perspective on this initiative,” you’ll learn so much more about others’ perspectives.
    • You’ll also have a better chance at having a shared sense of what needs to happen to gain alignment and commitment to move forward.
  • Demonstrates genuine interest in people’s wisdom and perspective.
    • As a leader in your life and your work, you’ll always be more effective and influential if you have a genuine interest in others’ wisdom and perspective.
    • Think of your own experience: If someone tells you what to do, you feel very differently than if you had a voice in the decision and determined together what you should tackle next.

Questions are powerful – not to grill people, but to invite them to influence you as you influence them – to invite them into shared leadership on moving forward together.

Next week we’ll share some guidelines for figuring out great questions, and then the following week we’ll share some great questions you can grab for yourself!

If you’d like support in creating an environment of shared leadership, contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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Life Saving Relationships

At Carpenter Smith Consulting, we’re passionate about supporting you in creating success and satisfaction in your leadership, your work, and your world. And, to do that, we know that you need to take care of yourself. No self = no success or satisfaction.

So, this week we want to encourage you to read this thought-provoking article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology, Life-Saving Relationships by Kirsten Weir, March 2018, p 46 – 53.

The author does a great job describing what we’re learning about the importance of relationships to our health. We often encourage you to sleep, take time for yourself, move and connect with others, and the newest research is showing definitively that connecting with others is as important as the other aspects of self-care.

Early in the article, Weir describes the research on early family life and how more supportive families can buffer kids from future health issues.

While that’s helpful to know, if you haven’t had a supportive childhood, all is not lost. As we grow up and age, relationships remain important for physical and mental health.

There’s more research to be done to fully understand the physiology; but why wait for more research when you can take some time this week to ask yourself:

  • Do I have people in my life that I do fun and nurturing activities with?
  • Do I have someone who can help me think through my goals and the paths to reach them?
  • Do I have one or two relationships where I feel safe, respected, and cared for?
  • Is there someone I can reach out to when I’m challenged or distressed?
  • Do I have enough people in my life who support my need for connection and respect my need for time alone?

There is no right number or type of relationships you should have in your life. What you need depends on who you are, how you refuel, and how you get comforted, but most of us need to know we are seen, respected, and valued.

Think about how you can build those relationships into your life!

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

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I Hate Everyone!


#mondaymotivation #leadership #responsibility

This is Linda writing to you today about something that recently happened with me.

Last week, I shared with the executive assistant at a client’s office that, “This morning, I hate everyone!” The EA’s response? “I do too, this morning!”

As I was sharing this experience with the team at CSC, I laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I don’t hate you guys . . . yet.”

Again, we all laughed but recognized that there are days when the world is frustrating. We don’t have the same resilience we do most days, and we experience everyone else as “the problem.”

As we talked about what had me hating everyone, we decided that this would make a great post.

What can you do on those mornings when you hate everyone?

Now to be clear, I’m not really the hating type, but I’d woken up very tired. I was worn down by some recent dental work and the accompanying ongoing pain, and then traffic was nuts, someone cut me off and threw me the finger, and then I heard some national news that was wholly disheartening . . . all leaving me feeling like I just hated everyone.

Even as I thought it and said it, it made me laugh and gave me perspective because what I understand (most of the time) is that I’m responsible for my life and my satisfaction, so even when others are doing things that are irritating, they aren’t to blame for my emotional life.

I, and I alone, am responsible for my emotional life
and when I began to believe that (sometime in my 30’s or 40’s)
life got much better.

By being responsible for my emotional life, I can take action on my own behalf to create greater satisfaction and self-care. If others are responsible for my emotional life, then I have to wait for them to change. I have to wait for them to treat me differently, or care about my internal world in order to get back to my center and to the work of creating a life I love.

I become much more powerful when I own that I’m responsible for my emotional life.

So, what can you do on those days when you start to feel like you hate everyone? How can you claim responsibility for your own emotional life?

  • PAUSE. Always pause. Ask yourself what you need, what would nurture your soul, what would be caring for you.
  • Take yourself seriously, while not taking yourself so seriously that you actually hate everyone. Recognize that life is feeling hard right now and it’s OK to know that.
  • Remind yourself that you matter. Knowing that this is hard and reminding yourself that you matter will help you take care of yourself during this time.
  • Take care of yourself.

Life can really challenge us – all of us, and it’s not that there’s something wrong with you. But you may find that you need the support of a therapist or coach to get back to your center and grow in your ability to take responsibility for your own emotional life. This, like everything else you must learn, takes practice and patience.

We are sending you hugs!

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in learning how to take responsibility for your emotional life at work and at home, contact us today. We’re here for you!

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What Does Teamwork Even Mean?


In the USA it’s Labor Day, a time each year when we, as a country, recognize the contributions that workers have made to the success, strength, and well-being of our country.

Our last few posts have been focused on the challenges people face when working.

Last week, we offered some coaching in “It’s All About Teamwork”. Since that post we’ve heard from a number of you asking what the word teamwork even means in our current work world. So today, we want to weigh in on what we mean by teamwork.

Truth be told, there are teams everywhere, whether we call them teams or not.

There are teams in companies that provide everything from healthcare to smart phones to waste management to consulting. There are teams in big companies and tiny ones – even solopreneurs create teams through collaboration and partnering. There are soccer teams and lacrosse teams and gymnastic teams. There are neighborhood watch teams and neighborhood gardening teams. And, actually, many families function as teams as well.

From our perspective, the thing that makes a team is the commitment to fostering an environment of shared ownership for the success of the business (and sports team, neighborhood, family, etc.) as a whole, not just the individual in their area of responsibility.

Great teams understand that, together, they own the success of the whole and as a result, they’re all more successful.

Yet, when you ask people to describe the teams that they’re a part of, few describe a team that works together to create organizational or departmental success while also creating success for their individual areas of responsibility. Few understand the kinds of information they must communicate to others so that they’re making decisions with an awareness of how those decisions ripple through the rest of their organization.

Developing a great team happens over time as individuals build trust and a shared history, succeed in the face of significant challenges, fail together (even miserably at times), and learn to disagree in ways that support them working together to create success.

And while building a great team does take time, we have found a simple action that can accelerate this movement toward greatness: a simple, almost silly-seeming, action that has a profound impact on team success.

Place a volleyball-sized ball at the center of the table when your team meets.

Sounds crazy, right? But in truth, your organization is like this volleyball on the table.

There are areas of your organization that are hard to see, just like the part of the ball that is sitting on the table and the part of the ball at the top in the center. And, as you sit in your seats around the table, the areas opposite from you are impossible to see. Actually, from your vantage point, you, individually, can only see about one-third of the ball. As is true in your day-to-day role, alone you actually see a very small slice of the overall organization.

With the volleyball (your organization)–at the center of the table–you can see that:

  • You need enough people, and the right people, at the table to ensure that someone has eyes on all aspects of the organization.
  • If you aren’t communicating with your team members regularly and thoughtfully, you’ll be missing two-thirds of the data about what’s going on.
  • If you make significant decisions without collaborating with the members of your team, the ripples of those decisions could impede the success of other team members and the organization.
  • If you’re the leader of the team, you need your team to be engaged, to understand that they hold the whole, and to communicate effectively with others. Then, at those times when you meet individually and need to decide quickly, there’s wisdom about what’s happening to arrive at the best outcome.
  • The “we” of the team matters more than you could imagine.

We’re passionate about supporting the workers of this world in creating success and work satisfaction so we’ve brought volleyballs to more organizations than we can count.

Meeting after meeting the ball sits in the middle of the table and the team begins to have different conversations about the whole. They start sharing information that could have rippled problematically through the organization. And they understand that having one another’s backs means supporting as well as challenging each other to create success in both the individual areas of responsibility as well as in the whole.

Give it a try–put a volleyball on the table while your team meets. Try having the ball on the table for 6 months or a year. We’ve seen, over and over again, that great teams are built by collaborating to ensure success of the whole, and the volleyball is a way to remind people of the importance of that collaboration. If your team is struggling let us know–we would love to help!

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

 If you or your team is struggling with collaboration, contact us today about our coaching services.

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It’s All About Teamwork

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about leadership, and how to handle a situation if you become labeled the problem, and then how to stay engaged and not take others’ actions and reactions personally.
Today, we’d like to continue the conversation with some thoughts about the importance of teamwork.
While personal talents and individual contributions are vital elements of organizational success, your ability to engage collaboratively on a team, and contribute to a successful team outcome is arguably more important.
More than ever, sharing information in a team setting is vital to generating new ideas and solving complex problems. Ultimately, companies want to make the best us of their resources, and one of their fundamental resources is their personnel.
If you want to succeed and get recognized for your contributions to your organization, or if you’re considering a move to a new position in another organization, you’ll undoubtedly need to demonstrate times when you contributed to the success of a team effort.
As you go through your day, look for opportunities to actively team up with others. Watch how you interact in the team and, when possible, push yourself to develop and broaden your team skills.
Some skills you may want to develop or refine:
  • Think about the people on the team as your “we” rather than as a group of people you need to work with. They are very different perspectives.
  • If you typically wait for others to get things started, challenge yourself to speak first. If you always speak first, hold back and allow others to contribute their thoughts before adding your own.
  • Share information about what you’re working on and its status and ask for updates on what others are working on.
  • Consider ways that working synergistically will be of benefit to your department or organization and share that with potential teammates.
  • Observe yourself in group and team meetings – are you a team player in the eyes of those around you?  If not, consider getting some coaching on how to become more effective in fostering the success of the team and elevating every member of that team.

Taking the time now to understand and hone your ability to work on a team will serve you tremendously now and in the future.

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

 If you’d like some support in identifying your strengths and skills,contact us today about our Career Coaching. We’d love to help!

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It’s Not Personal

Woman and man having a discussion.
Last week, we talked about how to handle a situation if you become labeled the problem. We heard from many of you that similar scenarios had played out in your lives and that you were hurt by the experience.
So today, we’re expanding last week’s post to talk more about this issue.
We know it doesn’t feel this way, but it’s important to remember that most of the time other people’s actions and reactions are not personal to you. Other people are busy being themselves and you’re but a minor player on their stage.
Consider last week’s post, Janet was frustrated with Harvey because he kept “getting into the weeds” when she was trying to plan for the future. She experienced him as derailing her, and so she started to work around him. She experienced him as personally impeding her ability to get her job done.
Yet, Harvey was just being Harvey. His brain is wired to look at details. He gets lost when asked to look into the future, so he brings the conversation back to the place where he is most comfortable.
As a leader in this situation (even if that wasn’t her title) Janet needed to pause and remind herself of her goals and explore Harvey’s behavior.
Pausing could have helped her to not take personally Harvey’s preferred way of thinking. Pausing could have helped her shift the conversation from antagonistic to productive by naming what was happening and creating a process to support Harvey in thinking with her about the future.
Often, when you can name what’s going on, in a non-blaming fashion, you influence how the conversation unfolds.
In this instance, we coached Janet to say, “Harvey, I appreciate your desire to get to the process of how this will happen. From my perspective, we’re still working together to decide where we will go in the future. Once we have that nailed down, I would love your thoughts on the how.”
Janet was trying to talk about WHERE they were going (vision, goal, etc.), and Harvey got caught in talking about HOW they were going to get there (steps, processes, etc.). Both are important parts of the conversation and they needed to be accomplished in the right order. They couldn’t talk productively about HOW until they understood WHERE they were heading.
It takes personal leadership to keep yourself on track and to help others stay on track with the conversation. 
If you’re a person who likes to visualize the big picture, you need someone in your court who sees the detail required to enact that vision. But, you need them on your side of the court – not playing against you.
This week, see if you can identify your preferred way of thinking – are you a big picture thinker or are you a detail thinker? And then think about your colleagues and how they think.
Understanding how others engage the world with their brain will go a long way in helping you not take things personally and be more effective in all your relationships.
~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

 If you’d like support in becoming a more effective leader in your world, contact us today to learn about our Executive Coaching.

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What to Do If You’re Labeled: THE PROBLEM

As coaches for over 20 years, in businesses of all varieties, we’ve seen many examples of people who have concerns about someone else’s behavior; and yet, they themselves are seen and experienced as “the problem” in the office. How can that be?

Let’s take a look at Janet. Janet is a confident and competent businesswoman who came to us on the brink of being let go. She was distressed and angry, and she was looking for an ally to figure out how to deal with what she described as “the craziness in my work!”

Janet was a mid-level manager in an organization. She got along well with her subordinates and most of her peers, but she struggled with Harvey. Harvey reported to someone else within the company.Janet believed that Harvey was incompetent and not suited for his assigned role. He took up far too much of her time on inane problems. Out of frustration, Janet decided to work around him.

She seldom returned his emails in a timely fashion, she avoided inviting him to meetings, she was curt in her conversations, and she often “forgot” about meetings that they had scheduled.

Harvey complained. He went to his boss with records of dates of emails not being returned, proof that he was not invited to meetings, and dates and times of when Janet had blown off meetings he had scheduled with her.

Janet was called into her boss’s office and told she needed to turn her behavior around or face greater consequences. SHE was seen as the problem.

Janet came to us for help in sorting out this mess.

Janet’s mistake was thinking that ignoring Harvey was going to change his behavior. Won’t happen. Not in a million years.

We coached Janet on how to work with her boss to share her concerns without sounding defensive. She had indeed done the things that Harvey was complaining about, so she needed to own this.

She also needed to learn how to give feedback to and about Harvey in a way that provided information to her boss and that wasn’t retaliatory.

We worked with Janet on building a professional relationship with Harvey based on accomplishing goals for the organization. When he failed to perform, she gave him feedback on her concerns and shared that data with her boss so that her boss could use it in conversations with Harvey’s boss.

Janet stopped “forgetting” meetings and started to respond to issues in a timely manner, and she raised issues that Harvey wasn’t addressing. The only way to be effective with Harvey was to manage herself and her reactivity – by taking action in a professional and effective way.

This week notice if you’re avoiding anyone or behaving in a way that results in you being seen as “the problem” in the organization. Then consider doing some of the following – depending on your situation:

  • Pause and reflect on how you can take professional action.
  • Own the ways that you have behaved unprofessionally – if it has reached that point.
  • Communicate your concerns unemotionally, with the department’s or organization’s success as your goal.
  • Determine how you and your boss can work together to move your efforts forward.
  • Help the challenging person to succeed in the same way you would offer support to anyone else.

Taking action to solve problems (even problems you don’t like)
is the mark of a good leader.

Janet saved her job by taking steps to correct the misconceptions about her and to build a better relationship with her coworker. It didn’t happen overnight. It takes time to rebuild trust and credibility, and, usually, it’s well worth it.

Let us know how it goes. We’re here for you!

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

 If you’d like some support in taking action to solve problems, contact us today to learn about our Executive Coaching.

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