Are you surviving or thriving at work? It’s time to take a look in the mirror!

Publication 14, Issue 1

Most of us have spent our careers on a hamster wheel – chasing that next title or more importantly, chasing the bucks!   It has taken me a lot of years and amazing work experiences to finally figure out that it’s much more than title and money.  Yes, they are both important – but it’s important to be happy and productive at work – not just productive!

We want to be doing work that interests and challenges us, but whatever the job, there’s a trajectory to a career.  Where are you in your career arc?  The beginning? – where every move counts; in the middle? – where you are constantly feeling the need to prove yourself over and over; or at a place (notice I didn’t say the “end”) where your leadership, communication skills and work speak to your competence – where you’ve arrived and have earned the right to be “joyful” and happy at work?  You can survive your work life with “one foot in and one foot out,” but at what cost?  This strategy will not lead to you thriving at work, that’s for sure!

I know if I had read this blog 20 years ago I would have thought the author was a nut – but hear me out.  There’s a message here for all of us!  Most of us who have been in the game for a while know the signs when things at work aren’t matching our personal or professional values:  Do you have to defend your position and the competence of your staff every day?  Do you think working harder and longer days will make you less vulnerable to being fired?  Are you waiting for a “shoe” to drop?   Is everything an intellectual battle?  My advice is to not miss the signs. Reflect and spring into action!

So, in 2015, do two things:

  1. Take a simple, quick professional inventory:
  • Do you like the people you work with?
  • Do you like the work?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Are you inspired?

While you don’t have to have answered all of these questions with a “yes” – it’s good to know what motivates you.  Notice I didn’t say anything about job title or money. I’ve always been a firm believer that title and money will come if you are the best person you can be, work hard, enjoy what you do, and feel like you are making a contribution to the greater good.

  1. Know what makes you thrive:

For the Peacemaker – it’s a need to feel respected, appreciated and to know that the people who work for you also are appreciated and acknowledged.

For the Organizer – it’s a need to know that your work is respected, tasks are clearly identified and people meet deadlines.

For the Revolutionary – it’s a need to know that the people who work with you know that you are the “go to” person in times of “mission impossible” activities.

For the Steamroller – it’s a need to know that you are seen as the “expert” in your field and that you believe you are making contributions to the company’s goals.

Be direct and fearless in 2015!  If you know you should make a change – have the courage and commitment to do it!  One way or another things work themselves out, so why don’t you take the reins and create your own destiny rather than waiting for the organization to do it!

Season’s Greetings!

If the thought of the holidays coming upon you sends you over the edge, read on – and if it doesn’t, read on anyway!  Holidays bring out the best and worst in us!  Here’s the secret – it’s up to “us” to make the holidays joyful!  Of course, there are a lot of parallel traits to us as managers, too!  I’ll leave it to you to spot the similarities in your home and work selves!

So, be honest!  Do you make the favorite cookies for a holiday celebration out of love (Peacemaker), obligation (Organizer), fun (Revolutionary) or because you make them the best, (Steamroller)!?

We’re each motivated by different things and the holidays really tap into how we self-manage, especially under stress!

Here’s how to get some peace of mind during the holidays!

Peacemaker – You know you are going to say “yes” to all of your invitations, so make time for yourself, however that looks for you…and know that you can say “no” to some and not hurt people’s feelings. Try it, and I promise, the sky won’t fall in!  It’s perfectly okay to be selective and not be everything to everyone!

Organizer – You know during the Season you’ll have lists for lists; just don’t make them look like Santa’s – he has powers that you don’t have!  Make the lists reasonable and be selective about what has to get done v. thinking you have to do it all!  Okay to keep track of your “to do’s,” but don’t forget to enjoy!

Revolutionary – You know you like to “eat, drink and be merry,” just keep in mind that if you party like a rock-star, you might pay for it the next day; we’re not getting any younger!  Hah!

Steamroller – You know you can fill ballrooms with ideas, so try to wrap up your work for 2014, keeping your ideas and dreams alive and refreshed.  You’ll have the motivation to start 2015 off strong! Take time to ponder 2015 and chill!

And if all else fails . . . my beverage of choice is Prosecco!  Stock up!

Wishing you the best of health, success, enjoyment and prosperity in 2015!

Stand up to preambles…They only get us in trouble

Publication 13, Issue 9

Of course, communication is my thing, so when I’m bugged about something I want to share it in the hope that we can all become more aware of our own communication style, prevent miscommunication and be more joyful and productive at work!  We waste time, money and effort every day when we devote hours to unraveling episodes of miscommunication between co-workers.  Actually, we can doom productive conversation pretty quickly when we indulge in that greatest of culprits, the preamble.

I was facilitating a meeting the other day and it was a little tense at times – so I checked out of the conversation and spent a few minutes observing people’s verbal cues and body language to see if I could figure out what the underlying tension was so I could redirect the atmosphere of the meeting.  It’s a great facilitator’s technique, and you can use it in your everyday meetings!  And sure enough, it didn’t take me long . . . the folks in the room were using “preambles.”

We all are guilty of using “preambles” and you know which words I’m talking about – those few snarky words in the beginning of our dialogues that get us in trouble!  Think about the “preambles” you use all the time.  Here are some that I’ve collected as I’ve helped my clients untangle communication missteps:  “You know I’m saying this because I care…”  “Don’t take this the wrong way…”  “Not for nothing …” and my all-time favorites – “Don’t take offense…” and “Let’s be honest…”  Wow, how else should one be??!!

I went to Merriam-Webster and looked up the definition of preamble and here’s what it says – “a statement that is made at the beginning of something (such as a legal document) and usually gives the reasons for the parts that follow.”

So why use them in our everyday language?  In our day-to-day management lives we usually aren’t reciting legal documents and our conversational preambles certainly don’t give a reason for the parts that follow – so why do we begin our dialogues with preambles?  Funny you should ask.  There is a reason:

Peacemakers use preambles to soften the delivery of what could be a “slippery-slope” so people’s feelings don’t get hurt.
Organizers use them to defend their work or work habits so additional feedback ceases.
Revolutionaries use them to fill the space with words while they assess the situation.
Steamrollers use preambles to sound knowledgeable so people know who the “experts” are.

Preambles put people on the defensive.  The receiver of the communication braces himself/herself for that second half of the sentence, anticipating the negative comment that has been telegraphed – and quite frankly, who wouldn’t?  I’ve never seen these interactions end well!

Imagine the clarity that could result if we eliminated these pesky phrases from our repertoire.  If we have to repair a communication exchange, interaction is already damaged, feelings are hurt and sometimes people never forget!  Think about the words that you use and eliminate the “set-up.”  Start from the point where you say what you want to say without the preface!

So, let’s stand up to “preambles” and follow the words from Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave”:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say

When your boss pushes the panic button . . . How do you respond?

Publication 13,

When your boss pushes the panic button . . . How do you respond?

All too often we have conflicting work priorities. We’re all working managers with daily tasks that have to get done and new assignments that come and go. We don’t have a whole lot of room for organizational emergencies or pop-up projects!

But the emergencies and pop-ups are going to come, and the boss is likely to push the panic button. Let’s face it, the world changes on a dime these days, so many times our bosses are reacting to their bosses’ requests—and you know what happens in a chain reaction! We’ve all been guilty of pushing the panic button during some phase of our lives—but why!?

  • Peacemaker bosses push the panic button because they fear not all the stakeholders got a chance to give input or feedback to a project.
  • Organizer bosses push the panic button when they don’t see deliverables and think the staff isn’t getting the work done.
  • Revolutionary bosses push the panic button because they don’t think the staff is working fast enough.
  • Steamroller bosses push the panic button when they don’t see cars in the parking lot on a weekend; they translate that as not demonstrating a passion for the work or the organization.

So when the dust settles and the latest crisis has receded, we should reflect on how we manage ourselves after the boss pushes the panic button; and of course, we manage those cues differently:

  • Peacemakers – try not to panic, . . . but sometimes you’re like a swan above the water while your feet are moving super-fast below the water!
  • Organizers – immediately try to figure out how to “fit in” the new work to your already impossible workload!
  • Revolutionaries – shift gears and get people to follow in your wake; other things might get skipped over, but oh well!
  • Steamrollers – question the panic, i.e., “What’s the urgency?”

As managers we have to learn how not to perpetuate the mania in the organization. Managers have to translate what their bosses ask them to do into manageable sound bites for their staff so no one runs out the front door screaming! Here are some ideas about what you can do to engage a staffer before you hit the panic button (and you will)!

Working with Peacemakers – the manager should make a personal phone call or visit to explain the situation and ask for their help and support.
Working with Organizers – the manager should know that they already have a lot on their plate, and help the Organizer figure out where the new work should go in the queue.
Working with Revolutionaries – the manager should tell them to stop doing one thing, and immediately start to do another.
Working with Steamrollers – the manager should make them know that their contribution will be invaluable to the new project that just came up and that you need their expertise.

So the next time you or your boss decide to push the panic button, identify your communication strategy before you panic. Stop, think and select the words that will motivate your staff into action. If you craft your message before you speak, you’re more likely to create good will and the work is far more likely to get done! How simple is that!

Happy Fall!

A DIY Leadership Challenge

Publication 13, Issue 7

What a girls’ softball tournament can teach us about leadership

I applaud those who seek out executive coaching and leadership development programs, but you don’t have to look far or spend a ton of money to pick up some leadership pointers. They’re all around us if we’re open to them! Probably not good for business . . . but hear me out!

A couple of weeks ago it was a pleasure to take my niece to her travel softball team’s tournament in Pennsylvania. It was exciting! Parents came out to support their daughters during the two-day event, though there was a lot of downtime when my niece was practicing or hanging out with her teammates. That gave me a chance to do what I always do: observe leadership. And the payoff you ask? I discovered I was in a living laboratory of leadership dos and don’ts. One really caught my attention!

My niece is 16 and she rocks! She’s caring, dedicated, smart and a great ball player! She’s won “sportsmanship awards” since elementary school. She’s respectful, well liked, and not afraid to speak up – all great qualities of a leader and I love her! Her team has been together for a year or so; her coach is dedicated to the team, but stressed-out. The players are pretty solid, but their season has been rocky.

The ball team suffers from problems common to all teams: players who don’t show up, pull their weight, practice, have the technical ability or the leadership skills to be productive. So over the past few months the coach, an over-the-top Organizer, (he never lets go of his clipboard!) has addressed these issues by “chunking” the team development activities. The team needed help with batting, so they did batting drills for weeks. He trained them to improve their competitive edge. They improved dramatically, but they weren’t able to win after putting runs on the board. So next he’s going to work with them on winning. You see where this is going. The season isn’t that long! Bottom line: They’ve got to win games!

How does this relate to organizational life? Organizers get promoted at work because they have a plan and show results. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is when they’re under stress they “zero-in” on the work bit-by-bit, lose the big picture, and frustrate the team with the minutiae. Leaders get paid to manage the whole process. By focusing on one aspect at a time a team could take forever to become well oiled. They may lose interest and worse yet, the organization becomes impatient with the ragged results.

If we find ourselves under stress (our monsters appear) it’s up to us to figure a way out so our staff feels motivated, happy, and wants to get to the “win.”

Here’s how the “monster” shows up in each of the Playground Personalities:

Peacemakers – Avoid anything–people, work, conflict–to protect themselves and others from any additional stress.
Organizers – Micromanage to protect the processes.
Revolutionaries – Yell or get loud to protect the team.
Steamrollers – Dismiss people and ideas to protect their own reputation.

So I’m offering you a summer challenge! When the team is floundering, some responses—our “monsters”—will thwart progress. Ponder three things:

1. What brings out the monster response?
2. How do you deal with your feelings/thoughts?
3. What can you do differently?

Shift your thinking…make the change! Tell me how it goes and know we can always do some coaching around it!

Enjoy your summer!

TIP: Don’t take your stress out on your staff!

Check Out the Judgments!

Publication 13, Issue 6

If judgments are affecting your communications, harboring hurt feelings, getting in the way of delegating work, or just plan getting you in trouble – change the way you communicate!

Let’s own this.  We all make judgments. Many times we do it in the moment and usually there’s no body of evidence that confirms or denies the judgment, as in:

“Oh, Tony’s from New York, that’s why he’s a fast-talker.”

“Oh, Lindsay drives a sports car, so she thinks she can take two parking spots.

“Oh, Trisha didn’t go to college, so she isn’t smart.”

I can hear my Mother saying, “Think before you speak!” (which I still live by because you can never take the words back), but for me, it’s beyond that.  Even if you do “think before you speak,” you can still make judgments and carry them through with tone or word choice or body language, creating really damaging miscommunication with a colleague!

So why do we do it?  Maybe we resort to shorthand negative characterizations of our co-workers from anxiety over pressure for quick turnarounds and high productivity thresholds, wanting to make things happen.  Whatever the cause, these biases really get in the way of communicating clearly, openly, and honestly.  We get in our own way most of the time: we make judgments about people or a situation, then we communicate with people based on our judgments.  This rarely ends well and we spend countless hours trying to unravel the misunderstandings that result.

To help you take the judgments out of your communication, here are some things to consider:

  • Be mindful – “Am I making a communication choice based on what I think I know or what I do know?”
  • Think holistically – “Am I looking at all sides of a situation, not just at what’s in front of me?”
  • Consider the relationship – “Can I live with the judgments that I make and am I concerned about someone coming back and confronting me?”
  • Develop people – “Did I miss an opportunity to see that the staff can do great things, if I just let them?”

Any lost opportunity to better communicate erodes your ability to build relationships, foster teamwork, celebrate or collaborate.  Two heads are usually better than one…if you could do all of the work yourself, why would you need staff!

Try to manage the “self-fulfilling prophecies”: If you think something you’re about to say will hurt someone’s feelings, rob them of motivation, or reduce their productivity, it probably will, so change it up.  Release the judgments and see just how positive your communication can be!



Fifth Anniversary Playground Personality Refresher and a New Website!

Publication 13, Issue 5

I love the work I do using the Playground Personalities©. Over the years training participants and clients have told me how impactful those characters have been in helping them appreciate the individuals who meet in the workplace or gather on their patio on the weekend! When I hear that the Playground Personalities have made a huge difference in people’s communication interactions, it makes all the difference to me!In recognition of five wonderful years, I’m launching a refreshed, illustrative, and interactive website where you can continue to explore the Playground Personalities and learn more about your communication style and the style of others. You can visit the website from either or, what kind of kid were you on the playground? Did you:
  • Make sure everyone got a turn at bat?
  • Have everyone line up and count off by twos?
  • Steal the ball so the game would be delayed?
  • Want to play it your way?

Most of us are the same today-just in adult bodies. We sit in offices or around boardroom tables and are expected to communicate with others flawlessly so the work gets done. Why is this sometimes hard? Because we forget that the words that motivate us might not motivate others. Each of us responds to interactions or language in different ways. Lots of things affect that response, but our personality is probably most important in determining our reactions. You might like to fly by the seat of your pants, but your staffer needs structure and a timeline. Words matter!

nanny-with-star - peacemaker Peacemakers focus on people and smooth the rough edges. They acknowledge and validate and may go out of their way to help at the risk of sacrificing their own needs. The Peacemaker demonstrates integrity and loyalty, doesn’t like conflict so may need to develop a thicker skin!

Nanny-Organizer Organizers are motivated by getting things done efficiently and early! Schedules, timelines, processes, and traditions are their bread and butter! The Organizer is reliable and dependable, expects others to be the same, and becomes impatient when they aren’t.
nanny-run - revolutionary Revolutionaries see policies and procedures as impediments to getting things done and would rather be flexible and in the moment. Action-oriented and gregarious, the Revolutionary is fun to be with, but it can be hard to corral that energy into a timely and measurable outcome!
Nanny-Steamroller Steamrollers can bowl you over with a thousand ideas and overwhelming creativity. Reining in the Steamroller may be a management challenge, but the Steamroller will be the go-to person when you need a fresh perspective on any problem.

A few rules (wouldn’t be me without rules) to live by:

  1. We all have one “go to” Playground Personality. The acid test is the one that we most identify with when we are under stress!
  2. Many of us draw from more than one Playground Personality. By doing so, people have a more robust communication experience.
  3. One Playground Personality is not better than another; each has upsides and downsides.
  4. It’s as important to know (and own) your Playground Personality as it is to know others’.

Don’t forget to check out the new website! Can you imagine how each Playground Personality might react to something new?!

  • Peacemakers – accepting, but with reservations
  • Organizers – skeptical, like things the way they are
  • Revolutionaries – doubtful, probably not going to like it at first
  • Steamrollers – curious, as long as it’s their “new”

Have fun! Pass this message along to your colleagues and friends. Observe behaviors and listen for language clues to the different Playground Personalities. Practice makes perfect!

Spring! Time to Refresh Your Communications (and your lawn mower)!

Publication 13, Issue 4

It’s the time of year when you take your Toro lawn mower out of winter hibernation to begin the landscaping season and, oh my, it’s “kaput”!   As an Organizer, I would have checked out the mower in March, even if there was snow on the ground, so just in case it didn’t work, I had 30 days or so to get it “up and running”!   Larry, my Revolutionary mate, always tells me I take the “fun out of things,” go figure!  So the mower comes out on Saturday and it doesn’t work!

My Larry, also a Steamroller, isn’t going to let a lawn mower get the best of him, so bring on the diagnostics – 15 minutes or so – and bam – he learns the mower needs a new battery!   So, on the Internet he goes and after 30 minutes or so of research, the battery is ordered!  I, on the other hand, would have been looking on the Internet for a new mower, but Larry solved the mystery with a $23 battery!  And therein lies one of the many differences between Organizers and Steamrollers!   Plus, as an Organizer, I don’t have all of his patience – something I work on every day!

But that’s not the whole story!

Part of my work is coaching managers to modify the Golden Rule when they communicate – “communicate with others the way they would like to be communicated with, not the way you like to be communicated with.”  I talk about listening to the words that people use or watching their body language in order to determine “who’s who” on the playground. And while that’s easier for some than others, I challenge managers to practice by looking around in their everyday lives – whether at the grocery store, the dry cleaners, or at their children’s school, to try to figure out “who’s who” – so when they are at work it becomes second nature to them.

Well, there’s another way to figure out “who’s who” at your workplace!!  In the written word!!  Larry happened to leave the replacement part invoice on the kitchen table, and I started reading it to figure out what it was and voilà – I saw the Playground Personalities© in the customer reviews. Amazing!

Here goes!

Peacemaker – (writes from the heart and acknowledges) – “This item is for our lawn mower. We could not find it close to our residence, great price and good product.”

Organizer – (writes logical comments with specific data points) – “The battery was compatible with Toro specifications, arrived on time, performed as expected and I would recommend this battery to others.”

Revolutionary – (writes super short, vivid comments) – “Great Price!”  “Love It!”

Steamroller – (writes in a storytelling style, offers opinions) – “The battery was listed as a replacement part for a Toro. It didn’t fit my mower, the company was very good about returning it. I suggest (opinion) in the future they state which model their battery fits.

What can I say?  This stuff really works!  Do some spring cleaning in all of your communications – writing, speaking and reading.  You’ll begin to have flawless dialogues and your life will be more peaceful and productive!

Happy Spring!

Getting the Right “Loose/Tight” Balance in a Playground Personality© Partnership

Publication 13, Issue 3

I love it when my clients call me because they’re self-aware enough to know they need to talk things through before they take action!  It makes my day and my client’s day too!

I got a call from a coaching client, Lou, late one afternoon.  He was tasked at his company’s annual conference to put together two workshops, 50 people each, on Day 2 – kind of on the fly, of course!  The topic:  Teamwork.  He was assigned this task with a co-facilitator, Tina. Here’s how the dialogue went:

Lou:  “Great, I’m excited, we can do this!  We know this stuff cold.”
Tina:  “Well, I think we should use a PowerPoint and put some structure to it.”
Lou:  “Let’s not use PowerPoint – let’s just wing it!”
Tina:  (Gasp!)
Lou:  “Oh.”  [Note to self, call Kathyg!]

Do you see how the miscommunication could end up—and over a PowerPoint?  Who’s who in this short scenario, from what you can gather?  Lou is a Revolutionary. He’s got lots of action in his comments.  The “just wing it” phrase is a “term of art” of a Revolutionary!  And who is Tina?  Yes, an Organizer, who has a nearly sleepless night because of her co-facilitator’s “Rambo” comments!  For Organizers, structure and order ground them; they can be spontaneous, as long as it’s scheduled!

So, what happened behind the scenes?  Lou is a very self-aware guy, Peacemaker/tie between Revolutionary and Steamroller, so he wasn’t going to challenge Tina, dismiss her comments or get into an argument with her over a PowerPoint; but he knew if they had too much structure in the workshops, they would lose the interest of the participants.  He knew, too, that he had to make this work with Tina.  So, Lou called me, not to complain about Tina, but to figure out how to lay-out the game plan by providing some structure so she didn’t feel like this was going to be a “free fall” event! Rock on, Lou, The Peacemaker!

Let’s recap what each Playground Personality needs in order to be able to function in any environment:

Peacemakers – need for communication, which usually smoothes over the rough spots, builds relationships and provides rewards and recognition; helps keep their universe in balance!

Organizers – need for defining things clearly, keeping on a schedule and having a solid plan; helps them to know that if something goes “sideways,” they’ll be able to regroup pretty quickly!

Revolutionaries – need for being able to think freely, react immediately and be impulsive; helps keep them engaged and in the moment!

Steamrollers – need to stay “above the fray”, explore ideas that haven’t been explored before and use their creativity and brilliance; helps keep them energized and ready to solve the next problem!

There was a happy ending to the story!  Lou sent a detailed email to Tina with steps 1-5 outlined, including time limits, numbers of groups and asking what other approaches she would like to add.

Tina sent back a resoundingly positive response admitting that she was in agreement about not using a PowerPoint, liked the flow of the workshop, and she confirmed the meeting logistics for the workshop—the furthest detail from Lou’s mind!  And, funny, even after Lou’s detailed (or what he thought was detailed) email to Tina, she asked “How many in each group?”  Lesson . . . for Organizers, there are never enough details!

P.S.  The workshops were a huge hit and they got rave reviews!

Squeezing More Time Out of Your Day… Seriously??!!

Publication 13, Issue 2

“We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”
– Vince Lombardi

February is Time Management Month, and that got me thinking. Time is an interesting phenomenon. In some ways it’s our most precious commodity, yet for every person whose life is run by the clock, there’s another who considers time completely irrelevant.

I’m reminded of a story. Not too long ago I put together a list of tasks, uber-Organizer that I am, and at the end of a 12-hour workday, I was frustrated because I didn’t complete everything on my list! When I called Larry to vent (poor guy) I told him, “I had a list of things to do, didn’t accomplish everything because I ran out of time.” He replied, “Did you die?” Wow, talk about cold water to the face!

I may not be the queen of time management, but I’m a princess, for sure. I can fit more things into a day than most people, but there can be a cost. How you frame your relationship with time can make your life miserable or manageable. Think about how we talk about time. Do you have a ton of time or no time? Have you wasted time, lost time, run out of time, or don’t care at all about time?

With all of these contrary meanings of time – how do things get done? Let’s be honest. As managers, our time often is not our own. Managing your time usually means you can think clearly and manage distractions, increase your productivity, and hopefully be less stressed. When time is managing you, you probably feel a little out of control.

Somewhere between structure and chaos is a middle ground where most people can get the work done…and I know it’s hard to remember this when you’re stressed and deadlines are piling up! You’ll get the most out of your team if you develop an understanding that time doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone (where have you heard that before?!). As managers, I’m asking you to examine your relationship with time and how that affects the Playground Personalities©.

Peacemakers – feel that time is very precious, that people who require time throughout the day should get it no matter what’s going on in the workday; that somehow things just work out.

Organizers – sense they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. So, in order to survive the day, they think that there’s no real “choice” in the matter and they’ll work until the job is done.

Revolutionaries – manage time “on demand”; if they have too much time on their hands, they’ll figure out how to get something else done. Managing time to them seems like more work, so they just stay “on alert.”

Steamrollers – believe that time is complicated; they never feel quite finished with mulling things over. The juice for them is “taking their time” to think through issues. They don’t like to be rushed and they’ll tell you so.

Remember, we have to be self-aware about our relationship with time, own it, and somehow not project our definition of time on others. You now see how each of the Playground Personalities perceives time. These insights should help you evaluate your time management strategy to make it work for you and for the people who work with you.

Good luck!

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