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  • Creative Corner: Lunch & Learns

    Creative Corner:  Lunch and Learns

    by Michelle Cummings

    A Lunch and Learn is a program is a 30-45 minute training or presentation session facilitated by an organization to employees during a lunch hour.  They can be a great way to build community, as well as foster learning and growth in your team members.  Lunch and learn programs can be an easy way to develop and motivate employees while creating a workplace of communication, collaboration and learning. The session may also cover important issues and promote an open platform of information for employees.  They can be a more casual alternative to formal training and can inspire individuals for more personal development.

    Here’s a few reasons why we love Lunch and Learns:

    It Fosters Learning and Growth

    Personal and professional development are not reserved for the ‘higher ups’ in the organization, and some companies do not have the budget to send everyone a training or conference.  Reading a book and discussing key points can go a long way for growth and development of individuals, teams and the  organization.  Lunch and learns can also create critical awareness for current or relevant issues that may arise.

    It Builds Community

    We spend a big chunk of our lives at work each week, and depending on the size of your organization, you may not know very many people from other departments.  Lunch and Learns are a great way to get to know other people that are working towards the same mission you are.  Bouncing ideas off of people you don’t usually work with can also offer new perspectives on current initiatives you may be working on.


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  • Why Pain Matters in Leadership

    As leaders, we face tough situations every day.

    We’re asked to make tough decisions, have tough conversations, take on tough workloads, inspire tough people and achieve tough goals. There are emotionally-charged conversations to hold. Deadlines are tight and the pressure is on.

    In each and every one of these situations, taking action involves discomfort — and pain. Giving a coworker feedback that she’d rather not hear? This will be painful. So will receiving feedback that brings to light areas where you, too, need to make improvements. Or taking a stand on an unpopular position because you believe, fundamentally, that it’s the right thing to do.

    But not all leaders are capable of doing the tough stuff. What separates a good manager from an exceptional leader is the willingness to move to action by facing any challenge rather than avoid it, delegate it or run from it.

    This is why pain — and the courage required to accept pain as part of the process of fully engaging — is crucial to leadership.

    The best leaders can:

    ●     Recognize when they are feeling pain, or anticipate times when they might.

    ●     Navigate and overcome the fear of pain.

    ●     Resist the temptation to avoid pain by either avoiding the situations that provoke it, or reacting in a way that’s defensive or insecure.

    ●     Move thoughtfully to action rather than reacting when faced with tough situations or people.

    The good news — as we lay out in our book THE COURAGEOUS LEADER — is that we all have the power to tap into the courage this requires.

    What about you? What particular situations, conversations or challenges do you tend to avoid as a leader in order to shield yourself from pain?

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  • Tips for Giving Feedback That Drives Results

    As leaders in the workplace, how often to we buffer our employees from feedback? How often do we find ourselves holding back valid and useful information and giving messages that are diluted at best?

    For most leaders, the response is: too often to count.

    That’s because honest feedback is difficult — even painful — to give and to receive. It’s so much easier to shirk these uncomfortable situations by just avoiding them. Yet this takes a toll on productivity.

    This dynamic shows up in organizations of all shapes and sizes, and we’ve boiled it down to a three-prong paradigm — one we like to call the“Feedback Trifecta”.

    We discuss the Feedback Trifecta in our book, The Courageous Leader. Here’s the gist:

    In the Feedback Trifecta, the skills needed to give feedback are underdeveloped, leaders responsible for delivering the feedback lack the courage to do it, and the typical workplace environment unknowingly and sometimes knowingly promotes avoiding honest and open communication. And organizations pay for it, since avoidance merely causes problems to fester and resentment to grow. Teams and entire companies can become feedback-resistant, and will inevitably suffer.

    But it doesn’t have to be like this. As leaders, we can take control of our feedback situation and make it work for us. Listed below are a few tips for workplace leaders for giving consistent, on-point feedback:


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  • Feeling Stuck? What to do when life kicks you out.

    Sandra was content at her job. She wasn’t looking to take on a leadership role or be the CEO; she liked her comfortable and steady role in quality control. Rather than climbing the corporate ladder, she preferred to stay under the radar and was unwilling to take on more responsibility.

    Known for being exceptionally gifted in many areas of leadership, Sandra was also commended for her technical skills and attention to detail. Even though she was humble and avoided praise, she was flooded with it by her peers, her leadership and her customers.

    Because of her great performance, Sandra’s boss had asked her many times to consider taking on a more formal leadership role, but she resisted. Deep down, Sandra knew she was not content and that she was not growing, but she feared that if she took on more responsibility she would fail, and she didn’t want to let others down. It was easier if she just stayed in place.

    Eventually her boss and others stopped asking her to step up and she was left to do what she felt comfortable doing. No more, no less. Over the next couple of years, the company grew, but Sandra did not. Many around her were promoted to roles of increasing responsibility. Sandra found herself now working for others who were less competent and capable than she, and slowly she felt herself becoming resentful and restless.  

    At some point, it happens to all of us: we’re going around in circles getting nowhere. Initiatives fall flat. We fail to rise to challenges. A new position from restructuring or even promotion just doesn’t feel right. Passion is lacking, we feel purposeless and we’re waiting…waiting…for something to change.

    It’s called being stuck. (more…)

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  • The Six Interruptions of Listening

    Recently I was talking with a leader who I’ve worked with for nearly a decade. I would classify him as a friend, not just a colleague. During our conversation he provided me some feedback about how I could improve my performance. I immediately started to explain myself and some of my behaviors. (more…)

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  • I Believe In You and Want You to Succeed

    I’ll never forget facilitating a class with a group of leaders on the topic of difficult feedback. About half way through the class I noticed the group starting to squirm a little, looking uncomfortable and a bit unsure what to do with themselves. I looked around the room to see what might be happening to create this discomfort but nothing seemed apparent. Although I continued to facilitate it started to feel almost pointless. I was losing the groups interest and I was completely unsure as to what I was doing wrong. I was sensing frustration from them and I was definitely frustrated. Finally, one woman had the courage to stand up, lead me out into the middle of the hallway and point out that the third button down on my white, tailored shirt was undone and my shirt was gaping wide open. I was mortified! I quickly put myself back together and reunited with my class whom were all completely relieved that finally the cat was out of the bag. I was no longer working against my own interest trying desperately to connect with a group that was trying desperately to overlook me as much as possible.

    Think about how much energy we waste by skirting around the real issue. Often, when we choose to withhold feedback we think we are being nice or diplomatic, but in reality were just being flat out scaredy pants. The true irony of this story is withholding feedback from people who would otherwise benefit from it is not a nice thing to do. Far from it! Feedback is what allows us to see what is otherwise invisible to us. It is a powerful flashlight that allows us to work in the light rather than the dark. Giving feedback is a respectful and caring way to say I believe in you and I want you to succeed. Without it we give others a false sense of security in their less than desirable performance.

    Being courageous enough to provide useful feedback means saying what needs to be said, rather than what is easier to say, and saying what needs to be said, rather than what is easier for the other person to hear. In our personal lives and at work, we need to give and receive feedback before, during and after tough times. Tough times are situations or people that cause us some level of discomfort or pain. We give feedback before tough times so that we can prevent the tough time from happening or mitigate the extent to which we experience it. During tough times, giving and receiving feedback helps us to be more clear and move through our challenges more quickly. After tough times, we need feedback to help us learn from the experience. When we give and receive feedback either before, during or after tough times, we are adding meaning to the situation around us, helping ourselves and others to transform our pain into a growth experience.

    What are some of the situations where you are withholding necessary feedback because you don’t want to say what needs to be said or where you are concerned the other person may not want to hear it? What are the consequences if you do not provide the feedback? Chances are we are better off speaking up in the long-term even if there is a short-term pain involved in the process.

    ~Personify Leadership

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  • Intention and Integrity

    Have you ever found yourself in a dilemma where you are caught between doing what’s right and doing what you want to do? You know those ethical dilemmas that make being a leader with integrity a very unappealing path? (more…)

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  • The Courageous Leader Program Brochure

    Are you interested in learning more about The Courageous Leader Program?

    The Courageous Leader program is a one-day, highly engaging, development program focused on helping leaders build their courage muscles. It is based on the book, The Courageous Leader. Participants who attend The Courageous Leader™ program will be challenged to think differently about the role courage plays in leadership while being provided new tools and skills to address tough situations head on.

    Download The Courageous Leader Program Brochure to learn more!

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  • Q&A with the author of The Courageous Leader

    Angela was a senior leader in various industries and then took the courageous leap to become an entrepreneur. The result: she co-founded Personify Leadership with Michelle Cummings.

    Her book, The Courageous Leader: How to Face Any Challenge and Lead Your Team to Success, builds on those many years of experience. Angela shares great client stories to show us how anyone at any level can choose to honor the courageous leader within themselves, as well as some of her own missteps and successes on the road to becoming who she is today. This is a must-read for anyone who aspires to become the type of leader others can look up to.

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