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  • How Clarifying & Confirming Saved a Relationship

    “What did you mean when you said __________?”

    This statement saved me from ruining a relationship.

    Have you ever reacted poorly to something someone said in an email? I remember one email in particular from a colleague where 95% of her email was fine, then there was one statement that really offended me. I mean, I went from zero to ten on the ‘ticked off meter’ in a heartbeat. I couldn’t believe she would say such a thing to me! I hit reply and started typing back an emotionally charged response. As I was about to hit send, I paused and said out loud, “I really can’t believe she would say such a thing.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, it caused me to pause a bit more, which gave me enough time to think a little more rationally. I decided to clarify what she meant rather than send my loaded email. I backed out my highly emotional response and instead asked, “Can you clarify what you meant when you said _______.” Then I hit send.

    A few minutes later, I received her response. It was nothing even close to how I had perceived it. I had taken what she said completely out of context. Had I sent my initial emotionally charged email, I would have caused some significant damage to our relationship. I’m so glad I took the time to pause and seek further clarification on what she meant rather than responding emotionally.

    We lose a lot of the message when we are communicating by email. Tone, emotion, and body language are mostly missing when we just have the written word, and research shows that most of the meaning in the message lies within these elements. I’m sure many of you can relate to this quick story and have a similar one you could share.

    We teach Effective Communication skills in our Core Leadership Program, specifically in our Voice & Ears modules. If you would like to increase your effectiveness as a leader and learn more about communicating better with others, consider registering for our next Core Leadership Program.

    ~Michelle Cummings, CEO & Founder, Personify Leadership

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  • The Messiness and Order of Creating New Programs

    I have spent the last several months designing a new program for Personify Leadership. It’s the Deep Dive program that leaders can take after they have completed our Core Program. When we designed Core, it took a full year of designing and tweaking, and we still make small changes here and there to keep the content current and relevant. I facilitated the pilot for Deep Dive last week, and I’m so excited for this new program to come to fruition. I have felt ALL the feels over the last several weeks: exhausted, overwhelmed, elated, frustrated, hopeful, sad, overjoyed, creative, hysterical, spent and relieved. Now that the pilot is complete, it’s still all of those things, but with a sense of calm and peace that is palpable. I know this program is going to change lives.

    A great metaphor that really sums up the last few months is this: You know when you decide to clean out a closet that is crammed with all the things you think you need? You first have to destroy it and pull everything out to get it organized. You know there’s good stuff in there, but you have to examine all the pieces to determine what stays and what goes. Then you put everything back in juuuuust the right places and you are thrilled with the result. That’s where I’m at now. I’m tired, and emotionally spent, but absolutely thrilled with the result. There’s still a LOT of work to do, but the roadmap has been set!

    A HUGE shout out to my Personify team and trusted colleagues for their investment of time, effort, energy and support. This is a true collaboration of some the best humans I know. Gerry SingletonKristin SaladaLinda WilliamsDavid McMurray, Zachary Singleton, Paul CummingsJaneen McDonaldSara PageJohn Dee and Roxanne Esquibel. And an honorable mention to my Training Wheels team for being patient with me and understanding when my time and energy has been devoted other places. I am truly blessed.

    Stay tuned for our official launch of the Deep Dive program in 2024! Please register for our next Core Program (which is required before you can go through Deep Dive) to so you can experience our new programs when they launch.

    ~Michelle Cummings, CEO of Personify Leadership

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  • Three Reasons Delegation Fails – Dissecting Delegation for Better Results

    Recently, I was asked by the Association for Talent Development to write a few articles for their blog. The first article I wrote is called Three Reasons Delegation Fails – Dissecting Delegation for Better Results. Part of being a good leader is getting work done through others. Once an individual goes from a peer level to a people manager level, one critical skill they will need is effective delegation. 

    Delegation can be tricky and is full of potential pitfalls. When we do it well, we help others develop and grow. When we don’t do it effectively, we can create sabotage. When we don’t do it at all, we limit our growth and the growth of others. What is it that makes delegation so challenging to embrace, and why do those who do it so often fail to reach their goals? Let’s start by looking at what we really mean when we talk about delegation.

    At Personify Leadership, we define delegation asSharing authority and responsibility with a delegate.

    We define a delegate as: One who is authorized to act for, or represent, others.

    With those definitions in mind, let’s look at the three main reasons delegation fails.

    1. We Don’t Want to Be Vulnerable
    2. We Don’t Know How to Properly Delegate
    3. We Don’t Provide Our Delegates With Voice and Choice

    I cover all three of these thoroughly in the article, as well as the solutions to overcome the Delegation Pitfalls.

    Click here to read the full article.

    We thoroughly cover Delegation in our Core Program in the Hands Module: Be a Leader who provides direction and support.  Join us for our next Open Enrollment class to experience this firsthand.

    ~Michelle Cummings, CEO of Personify Leadership

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  • The Power of Clarifying Questions

    Recently I received an email from a colleague that felt a little ‘loaded’.  Most of the email made sense, but there was one sentence that really struck a wrong cord with me.  I was tempted to fire back my initial emotional response, but as I was typing it struck me that maybe I misunderstood what the sender was trying to say.  I deleted my original response and asked for clarification instead.  The sender sent back a quick response further clarifying what they meant, and just as I thought, I had misunderstood what the sender was trying to say.

    How often does that happen in communication?  In today’s digital society, it is easy to misinterpret what someone is trying to say through an email or text.  In digital communication we are missing some key ingredients of the full message:  tone, body language, and emotions to name a few. In my example above, when I took the time to ask one simple question, “Can you please clarify what you meant when you said this  __________?”, it saved a lot of time and energy by not focusing on the wrong things.  By taking a few extra moments to truly ‘listen’ to the sender, I was able to better understand what they were trying to say.

    Truly listening means taking in the full message to ensure maximum understanding. How do we do
    that well?  What does that require of the Receiver?  It requires us to pay attention to the Sender’s:
    * Words
    * Body Language
    * Tone of Voice
    * Emotion
    * Intention

    What does all this tell me? If I’m truly listening, it tells me what their intended message is (their true meaning), or as close to it as possible. It’s our responsibility as the Receiver to really get at that intention.  As Receivers, if our intention is to look out for the best interest of others, we can demonstrate this by truly listening to understand the Heart (or intention) of the sender. What do they really mean? What is behind the words they are saying – or not saying?

    Clarifying questions helps us as leaders to truly listen to others.  The goal of asking a clarifying question is to get additional information so that we fully understand the sender’s intended message – what they meant to say, which is not always just what they actually said.  Also, these types of clarifying questions should be “heart-based” questions. Meaning, that the intention of the question is not to judge, or to add further content into the conversation. Heart-based questions should only be asked to further understand the information provided by the sender.
    So what is the intent of Clarifying?
    * Helps you to obtain more information
    * Allows you to fill in the gaps when the person gives an incomplete message
    * Solicits more detail from the sender so the receiver can get a more clear picture

    Let’s look at an example of a question that someone might ask to clarify their understanding.
    * Could you please elaborate on that?
    * Tell me more about…
    * What did you mean when you said…?
    * Are there specific…?

    The next time you receive an email that strikes a wrong cord with you, ask your sender to clarify what they meant using one of the examples above.  You may be surprised to learn you had misinterpreted the intention behind their message.

    Michelle Cummings, Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Officer

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  • Feedback is Personal

    This month we are focusing on the Voice and Ears of a leader, or in other words, how we talk and listen to each other. There is a mounting body of evidence from researchers and practitioners that tell us positive words and interactions with others are at the heart of engagement and strong performance. And yet, sometimes we have to give feedback that is not always a positive experience. It’s simply part of being a leader. So a question we’ll explore in this article is “how do we say the hard stuff while also engaging others?”

    First, we have to understand the power of our words. Whether we are aware of it or not, our words either encourage or discourage others. The word encourage means to inspire courage in others. The word discourage means to cause someone to lose courage. Take a moment and imagine someone who you respect and look up to, someone who is important to you. Imagine sitting in front of this person and they say these words:


    “You are incompetent.”

    “I don’t trust you.”

    “I’ve lost respect for you.”

    What emotions do you feel now? How do you feel about yourself? What are you motivated to do as a result of these emotions? For most of us, when we hear this kind of feedback from someone important to us, we feel angry, sad, misunderstood, and betrayed. Our natural response is to fight back, flee from the situation or freeze in place. But the last thing we want is to believe it’s true or do something about it. I remember the last time I got feedback from a friend that wasn’t pleasant to hear. I felt deeply betrayed and angry. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. I wanted to justify my behaviors, I wanted a new friend, I wanted to rewind and pretend I never heard the feedback. The last thing I was ready to do at the time was actually accept the feedback and do something about it.  Now, imagine someone important to you says these words:

    “I believe in you.”

    “You’ve got this.”

    “You are amazing.”

    What emotions do you feel now? How do you feel about yourself? What are you motivated to do as a result of these emotions? Contrary to my friend who gave me harsh feedback, I had a boss who was very good at giving positive feedback. He told me how important I was, he shared how confident he was in my abilities and he communicated his trust for my decision-making ability. This is a boss that I would have followed off a cliff.

    Here is the thing about feedback. It is personal. Even when we don’t intend for our words to be personal, they are. Feedback is our way of describing how the other person shows up in our world. Even when we use factual data in our feedback we strike the emotional chords of the other person. Our words have emotional weight.

    When we give feedback, no matter what our message is, our goal should be to encourage – inspire courage – in others. Therefore, the skill necessary to inspire courage is: Say what needs to be said in a way that others will hear it, with respect and concern for the other person while staying true to the virtue of the message.

    Some specific things we can do to increase our skill in giving feedback include minimize the threat we represent, show empathy, use exploratory languages rather than absolutes and demonstrate compassionate persistence. What are some other ways of sharing tough feedback that have worked well for you? Send us your ideas and they might end up in our next newsletter!

    ~Personify Leadership

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  • The Courage to Delegate

    “If you are a leader who hasn’t assembled a team you can trust then you’re not a leader.”

    Colin Powell on the Importance of Delegation

    Mateo is a leader ready to move to the next level in his career. He had been very successful where he was for quite a long time. He knew how he was viewed in his division but his organization is global. He wanted to know how he was viewed by others who he had interacted with throughout the years outside of his immediate division. He asked me to assist him in learning more. Mateo gave me a list of key leaders that he would want to potentially work for in other parts of the company and he wanted to know how they viewed his leadership potential. (more…)

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  • The Courage to Address Participant Behaviors

    Today we’re going to talk about Facilitator Courage.  Specifically we’re going to talk about the courage it sometimes takes to address disruptive participant behaviors.

     If you’ve been a trainer for any period of time, chances are you’ve encountered some disruptive participant behaviors a time or two.  These behaviors can sometimes throw you off your game and even derail your entire training.  It can take courage to address these behaviors, and having some strategies in your back pocket can really help you – and the other participants – stay on task, without sweeping the issue under the rug.  Watch this short video below where co-founder Michelle Cummings gives a few tips on how to address the ‘Negative Nancies’ that may be in your trainings.

    Watch this video as Michelle Cummings addresses strategies for addressing Participant Behaviors in class.

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  • Stress & Emotional Resiliency

    This month we are focusing on The Mind of a Leader and what it takes to be a leader who is Emotionally Resilient.  A common myth about stress is that zero stress makes us happy and healthy, but the American Psychology Association (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-…) says otherwise. “Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life,” comparing it to tension on a violin string: too little tension on the string produces sounds that are dull or raspy, but too much tension can potentially snap it.

    Michelle Cummings, Co-Founder and CEO of Personify Leadership (http://www.personifyleadership.com), talks about how to manage the right amount of stress. Too little can create boredom among your employees, while too much can overwhelm them. Finding the sweet spot will keep tasks interesting and challenging enough to be motivating.

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  • The Emotional Resiliency of Olympic Athletes

    I’m sure many of you tune in for the Summer Olympics when they air, and the Paralympics generally start a week later.  For many Olympic athletes, the Olympic Games represent the culmination of their hard work and athletic achievement.  I can’t imagine how much time, hard work and sacrifice has gone into preparing for this one small moment of time.  With this level of international exposure and pressure, I’m sure emotions run high as athletes prepare to be in the best condition physically, technically, mentally and emotionally. Every athlete from every country has put in relentless hours trying to become the best that they can be at something they love and bring home a medal that honors the individual, the team and their country. The years of preparation come down to a few minutes or even seconds of competition. How can an athlete not be overwhelmed by emotions?  How can they stay emotionally resilient in the moment? (more…)

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