Agreeing to Disagree Doesn’t Go Far Enough

By: Molly Russin

If you’re like me, you’ve been surprised by how differently some of your friends and family members approached the pandemic. From I-don’t-leave-my-house, to Nobody-can-tell-me-what-to-do, to everyone in between, we’ve been exposed to a completely new side of folks we thought we knew. Even now, as we celebrate an almost-return to normal, there are lots of people who believe that it’s not safe to be around others without a mask—no matter what the CDC or local governments say. Although about 42% of Americans are fully vaccinated, one in four Americans have no intention of getting vaccinated.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the people that we work with sometimes have radically different views than we do. We might be completely clueless until they “let us in” and then we have a choice: keep our mouths shut , agree to disagree  or we can listen and learn.

I once had a manager who shared that he would not hesitate to shoot an intruder. I always viewed him as a pretty low key guy and this declaration shocked me. Plus, he had young kids although proudly kept firearms in the home. This made me anxious.

Then there was the time I was sharing photos from my daughter’s wedding. One of the guys on my team looked at my beaming daughter and her wife and said “Where’s her husband?” I said, “She doesn’t have one.” He said, “I though you said she got married.” On and on it went until I practically had to shout, “She’s gay! There is no man in this picture!” He just said “Wow. That’s different.” And walked away. This made me angry.

One of my closest friends is a Black woman who tearfully admitted to me that she often felt like many of her coworkers looked down on her, no matter how well she performed her job. She felt like she was constantly being judged, from the way she wore her hair to the places she went on vacation. This made me sad.

Looking back, in all three cases, I wish that instead keeping my feelings to myself that I would have asked questions and tried to understand where the other person was coming from.

I’ve read countless articles about how the world of work will be permanently changed post-pandemic. Sure, we’ll see physical changes and scheduling changes and the like. Whether or not real change comes at work, however, will depend not on technology but on people–on each and every one of us and how well we are willing to drop our assumptions and really listen. Agree to disagree? OK. But I believe we have to go beyond that.

The truth is, we don’t get a vote in what other people believe or do. If a colleague talks about his love for guns, if someone shares that she believes in defunding the police, if a colleague of color admits to feeling unheard by team members, if someone admits that they are never going to get vaccinated…what will our response be? Since we all have 2 ears and one mouth, perhaps we have to try our best to listen and to learn.

What makes someone support the NRA? How can I help someone to understand the joy and freedom of gay marriage? How can I be a better ally to my colleagues of color? If I had started this kind of conversation—uncomfortable though it may have been, I think It would have expanded my perspective and understanding. And isn’t that what being a mature adult is all about?

What do you think? Leave your comments here!



Deep Cleaning Your Communications Plan

By: Molly Russin

Like so many of us, I’ve made Spring Cleaning one of my year-round hobbies during the pandemic. One thing I’ve learned—over and over—is that you can’t declutter by reorganizing; you must reduce. Take it from me and my Container Store obsession– no matter how many adorable baskets and clear plastic trays you cram your stuff into, you won’t reach nice-n-neat nirvana until you get rid of some of your stuff. And by “some,” I mean a lot.


Recently, I applied that philosophy to a client’s Communications Plan. Of course, it was comprehensive and well thought out;  it included multi-channel approaches and messages for every audience. But was it clear…concise…and most of all, impactful? We looked through as many metrics and KPIs as we could to judge the effectiveness of each initiative and quickly concluded that the time had come for a Communications Spring Cleaning.


“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” — Marie Kondo


This is not a task for the feint of heart. Let’s keep in mind, though, that this has been a year of non-stop stress, multi-tasking, and remote around-the-clock work. Employees simply don’t have the bandwidth for a let’s-do-it-all Communications Plan. Perhaps, as Ms. Kondo suggests, you’re attached to the past. You really LOVE the monthly newsletter and your quarterly townhall is a can’t miss! But do folks on the receiving end feel the same way? Or, maybe you fear the future. You know the time has come to set up an Insta account, but you just don’t have the time or the energy to make it happen.


The truth is, this isn’t easy work but it’s critical to making your communications as streamlined and effective as possible—something that is proven to increase Employee Engagement. If this is something you’d like to explore, the team at KDH Consulting would love to help. Make this the year that each one of your communication tactics “sparks joy” in your employees–and in you.

Cultural Change that Sticks

An insider’s look at shifting the tide in a large organization.

By Molly Russin

Can you really change Culture? The simple answer is Yes.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. That’s why there are hundreds of thousands of articles and books on this very topic. I could cite them all but then this wouldn’t be a blog, it would be a white paper. One fact everyone agrees on is this: about 37% of change initiatives succeed. No matter how much time, effort, blood, sweat or tears are poured into the remaining 63%, they fail. I worked for a large corporation that experienced multiple Cultural changes, refreshes and tweaks over two decades. Here are 3 critical questions you must be able to answer if you want to join the 37% club.


1. What exactly does “change the culture” mean? In my mind, culture means the ways that work gets done in an organization; some might refer to them as habits or ingrained ways of working. A positive example might be something like, We always put our customers first. A negative aspect of culture might be, We nod in agreement when a new initiative i s presented but afterwards we secretly tell each other what we really think (and it usually isn’t agreement). It’s important to decide if you think the entire culture needs an overhaul or just certain aspects of it. Be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes!  One more thing: if the cultural shift is actually just a new technology or process, maybe what you really need is Change Management. But that’s another topic for another day.

2. What is the desired change and why is it necessary? Who wants it? Who needs it? What will happen if the change doesn’t occur? These are questions that often get asked early in the process, not answered very well, and then tossed aside while the “real work” gets done. It’s critical that a cultural shift is explained with absolute clarity and extra crispy articulation. I believe the reason so many organizations bring in consultants to assist with Culture Change initiatives is because it’s easier for “outsiders” who aren’t wed to the old ways of doing things to explain what the changes are and why they’re needed.

If the folks on the receiving end seem confused, remember that it’s not their job to get it…it’s your job to help them understand. Keep trying until you see lots of nodding heads…not bobbing heads that say yes to everything because they aren’t listening, but nodding heads.

3. How will progress be measured and what happens if change isn’t happening? Once you’ve defined what Culture changes will be made and everyone is on board with the desired end state, it’s critical to decide how progress will be measured—even before a plan is put in place. What does good look like and how will you know when it’s happening and when it’s not? What steps will be taken if you start to feel push-back (and you will)? Where is it coming from and why?

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and rethink a plan. For instance, one “Customers First” transformation I was a part of included a mandate that all employees get to know more about our customers by meeting with at least one customer at least once a year. The intention was right and our staff was willing but it turned out that this would be a huge burden on our customers! They simply didn’t have the time to spend with folks who weren’t on the account team. We quickly figured out a variety of ways to educate non-customer facing staff about our customers businesses that didn’t involved face to face meetings and we were able to proceed with the strategy. As your team makes progress, be sure to report out, often, so that everyone understands that the plan is working and change is happening with everyone’s help.


 Is your team thinking about a Culture Change in 2021? KDH Consulting can help you to put in place a winning strategy. Contact us today for help!


Listen and Learn: Now’s the Perfect Time to Find a Podcast to Love

As we all slide into yet another week of our new COVID-19 working from home  reality, lots of us are finding—or needing—a break. One way to take a break that isn’t a total time suck is to catch up on business reading or listening. If you’re a podcast fan, you know that you can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours hours to learn something new about your industry, an industry you don’t know very much about, employee engagement and culture or just business in general—the good, the bad and the ugly. 

There are almost 30,000 APPLE business podcasts per the chart, so there’s certainly something for everyone. Here are 5 of our faves. 

  1. The Tim Ferris Show: Cited as the top business podcast on Apple Podcasts for the past three years, host Tim Ferriss interviews world-class performers across industries (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics and routines listeners can use in their daily lives. Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”
  2. How I Built This: NPR’s Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies by weaving a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists. Check out the story behind Ben & Jerry’s, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Birchbox, EventBrite, JetBlue, Panera Bread and many more.
  3. GirlBoss: Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso interviews boundary-pushing women who’ve made their mark. Listen to solid advice from the lessons these trailblazers have learned along the way, including Tulsi Gabbard, Alyssa Milano, Valerie Jarrett and Tina Brown.
  4. HBR Ideacast: Sarah Green Carmichael, an executive editor at Harvard Business Review, hosts the HBR IdeaCast podcast, featuring leading thinkers in business and management. Sample topics include Adjusting to Remote work, Real Leaders: Abraham Lincoln and the Power of Emotional Discipline, and Rules for Effective Hiring and Firing.
  5. My Wakeup Call.  Everyone has wakeup calls but not everyone wakes up. In this podcast, Dr. Mark Goulston speaks to people who woke up and were inspired to change their lives.

Don’t have the time or energy to decide what to listen to today? Say “Alexa, play me a top podcast.” When I did this, I got to hear one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Easy.

What are YOUR favorite podcasts? Share in the Comments!

Facing The Unknown: A Little Luck & a Lot of Planning

As the new reality of COVID-19 unfolds, bringing more changes every day (sometimes every hour), it’s challenging to stay positive, motivated and engaged. In fact, the company water cooler—one of the places where employees share news, fears and concerns—is most likely closed. Almost every entertainment venue, at least in my area, has been shut down. Even the local library is in darkness. Geesh! No school, no gym, no St. Paddy’s Day Parades, no dinners out, no movies, even a friend’s upcoming wedding…all on hold or cancelled. 

If you’re managing a team at work, you know that you’re going to have to think and act differently in the weeks ahead. And by weeks, I mean maybe months. Looks like we’re all going to need a lot more than the Luck of the Irish to see us through.

Working From Home: Yay! For the first week.

For those of us who work from home, we’re well aware of the pros and cons of this setup. Yes, employees will be grateful to have the option to stay away from the office during times of a health crisis. And from a practical standpoint, it’s good riddance to the commute and work-appropriate dress. But there are other considerations this time around. For instance, lots of folks also have kids at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Finding times to connect remotely without interruptions or distractions may be difficult. As you connect online, make sure to send out invites and get a feel for the times that work best for most people. While it’s good to shoulder on, we need to be a bit more flexible than usual. 

Hello? Hi? Did someone join the call?

Of course, this isn’t the first time your team has worked remotely or spent the entire day in teleconferences. But day after day (after day after day) of it may be something new. Even with the very best technology and perfect webcam connections, it’s not the same as at least sometimes meeting face to face. Do your best to NOT schedule 8 hours of TCs a day. If you do, you’ll burn people out quickly and they’ll be multi-tasking (more than usual) and not listening. Try to keep calls short.  If it’s a touch-base, it’s a quick and relevant update. If it’s something more, send an agenda so everyone can be prepared to engage. And be realistic: you are probably not going to accomplish the same amount of work that you do when things are functioning normally. So really prioritize the work that needs to get done. (Unless your team normally doesn’t get very much done. But that’s another conversation.)

Gray, gray, the world is gray.

It’s very possible that you and your team are starting to feel a little blue. This isn’t a snow day shutdown. Not even close. It’s a pandemic and it’s incredibly anxiety producing and stressful for even the most unflappable of us. We worry about our kids and our parents and our neighbors and our friends. We worry about our businesses and our 401k’s and our healthcare coverage and all of it. It’s incredibly difficult to keep the old nose to the grindstone when panic is circling every conversation and every newscast. 

While there’s much you can’t control, try to remember the things that you can. Be kind. Listen. Smile (even if you’re not on video, you can hear a smile). It’s OK to tell a joke or attempt to lighten the mood. Really. Tap into any employee assistance resources your company may have. And give people space to process these serious times.  Build “How are you coping” time into your calls. Let folks share how they’re doing and how they’re finding new ways to get by in this new world. For instance, I’m teaching one of my neighbors all about Zoom and she’s teaching me to play Chess. (What? I never learned.) Challenge your team to come up with “If anything like this ever happens again” lists. What would you have done differently? Do you need to upgrade your remote technology? 

Take a trip to Tomorrowland.

If your business if going to take a hit, and many will, this may be the ideal time to think about how you can reinvent or reimagine your product or service. My favorite yarn store owner quickly realized that her little business would quickly wither once our county shuttered retailers for 2 weeks. What if people couldn’t wander into her shop and browse through the materials? She sent out an email offering to videoconference with customers, virtually walk them through her store, help them choose a pattern, needles, etc., and then she’d pack up their purchases and deliver them to their homes. Extra work for her? Heck yes. But if she wants to survive this trying time, this will help her to do it.

How your company reacts matters.

Some businesses may have little choice other than to temporarily close.  But there can be alternatives, that positively boost your business when things eventually return to normal.  My local YMCA, for example, notified all members that for the next two weeks they are offering live stream of their classes for free—everything from yoga to circuit training to Pilates—so people can stay healthy while at home.

Other businesses will find themselves in high demand. Streaming services and videoconferencing come to mind. How can they grow quickly? Attract new customers? Ensure that they have the infrastructure and technology to take on many more customers? These are great problems to have but if they are not tackled, these businesses also will not survive for long because their competitors will beat them to the punch. If you and your employees temporarily find that you have empty hours to fill, what could be better than to imagine an exciting, prosperous and steady future? Spend your unbusy hours wisely, for as the saying goes, This too shall pass. When it does, make sure you’re better off, not worse.

How’s your company coping with the ramifications of COVID-19? Leave your comments here!


Every morning when I was growing up, I would hear my Dad getting ready for work as I got ready for school.  He would have the news playing on the radio as he showered, got dressed and came down to the kitchen for breakfast. As he would wield his electric razor, he would mutter the same phrase over and over under his breath: “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” I never understood what he meant.  Everyone had 24 hours. Wasn’t that enough?

Now that I’m older, and have a small business and a family, I get it.  There are many days when I feel like the 16 waking hours I have aren’t nearly enough to accomplish my work goals and spend the infamous “quality time” with my husband and teenage daughters. (I’ve tried sleeping less and believe me, that isn’t the answer!) 

But none of us get more than 24 hours. And unless we are protective of those precious hours, we run the risk of feeling that all parts of our lives are suffering. What are we to do? The answer is to ruthlessly prioritize. There’s no other way to get the most out of our days.  Do we have to be ruthless? Absolutely. There are so many demands that come at us every day. Unless we are vigilant in aligning our time to our most important priorities, we’ll be subject to distractions, busywork and other time sucks that do not help us achieve our goals and desires.  Here are my top 5 ways to make it happen.

  1. Remind yourself you cannot do everything.  One of my favorite managers used to say: We can do anything, but we can’t do everything. He used this phrase during the budget planning cycle to remind people of resource and financial constraints. The same is true with our time. No matter how well you manage your time (see below), you will not be able to do everything. Embracing this immutable law will make it easier to top line the things you want to focus on.
  2. Consider the idea of “harmony” versus “balance”.  I’ve been working for nearly 30 years, and I can’t point to a time—or even a day– when I experienced perfect “balance”. Sometimes work got my primary attention; other times, family came first.  It’s simply not possible to give equal attention across the board. The key to ruthlessly prioritizing is knowing what’s most important to you in each of your priority areas and sticking to it. I drive my girls to school most mornings. My husband makes dinner for us at least 3 nights a week. You decide what works for you and then don’t cave! 
  3. Become hyperaware of how you manage time.  When I started using a tool that helped me record my activities over 168 hours every week, I was surprised to learn that my coffee and social media browsing on weekend mornings totaled over 3 hours each week. And that didn’t include my “checking in” on FB or LinkedIn or IG several times during each work day.  On a monthly basis, that’s roughly 12-15 hours. And I wondered why I was struggling to find more time with my family or friends. BINGO! If you liken that to financial spending, you may find that you’re making some big investments that don’t deliver big returns. This reflection may also confirm that you want to spend those hours on social media or whatever activities you’re doing. But at a minimum, you’ll have a better handle of how your day goes and that makes it easier to earmark time for your most important tasks. 
  4. Be honest with yourself. If you’ve written them down, pull out your priorities list monthly or quarterly to assess how you’re progressing.  Rather than allow a big chunk of time to go by, a regular check in with your priorities will allow you to course correct. Let’s say you are doing all the steps listed above to ruthlessly prioritize, but somehow you realize that you’re not finding or making time for one of your priorities. Time to take stock and ask yourself why. Let’s say you decided to make self-care a priority: You planned to exercise more, devote more time to meditation or journaling, eat a more plant-based diet. But the time study shows you’re not doing any of these things.  Step back and ask yourself why. It might be you feel guilty taking time for yourself. It might be that you need to change your habits to book the time to focus on this priority. Often, when we hit challenges, we have consciously or unconsciously put up our own barriers. If you reflect honestly, you will be able to pinpoint what’s holding you back from focusing on those priorities. 
  5. Find a “Priorities Buddy”.  Few things can match being accountable to another person you trust—especially around priorities. Think about the friends, colleagues, or family members you know and value. Find one you are willing to share your priorities with on a regular basis.  Agree to encourage each other and keep you honest and focused. My best friend and I talk several times a week. Our conversations range from everyday life stuff to the important goals we have in our businesses and with our family. When one of us gets stuck, the other gently asks about priorities. Having this trusted partner helps anchor us on our priorities.

AT KDH Consulting, our priority is to help our clients find the right message and the right platform to communicate to their employees.  It’s an ongoing goal to deliver communications that keep employees engaged and informed.  Staying laser-focused on what we do best isn’t easy, but prioritizing our activities every hour of every day helps us to do our best work. Happy prioritizing—and don’t be afraid to be ruthless.

Worst. Interview. Ever.

It’s early in the year. My brain is too muddled with sugar cookies to dive into a serious blog. So I thought I’d kick off January with a few TRUE nightmare interviews. My hope is that this will trigger a few memories of your own and you’ll share them in a reply!

Mind if I Eat While We Talk?

Our team was hiring a Project Manager and the interviews had lasted for 3 days. I had just one more candidate to talk to and then I could make my recommendations to my manager. “Sam” showed up in my office looking a bit flustered and explained that I was the 4th person in a row that he had spoken to that day. I knew that. After we got settled, he reached into this briefcase and took out a copy of his resume which he handed to me. Then he reached in again and took out a foot-long Italian hoagie that he proceeded to unwrap on my desk and saw in half with a plastic knife that immediately broke. He swore. “Sorry. I mean I hope you don’t mind if I eat. But they scheduled me over lunch and I am absolutely starving to death. I have to eat this or seriously, I think I’ll faint.” And he did. (Eat it, not faint.) I was flabbergasted. What or who led him to believe that it was OK to chomp through 2 pounds of meat and cheese and onions—lots of onions—while he answered my questions (to the best of his ability with a full mouth)? It was noon and as I recall I was also starving. Should I have asked—ney, demanded–that he give me half? Maybe. Instead I carried on, knowing that he had done me the favor of not making my final decision harder. My office smelled like a deli for an entire week. Who knows. Maybe Sam ended up with a marvelous career in in food service.

We Could Make Beautiful Music Together

Early in my career, I interviewed at a mid-sized ad agency for a junior copywriting position. I knew that I was qualified for the job and had a friend on the inside who had helped me to prepare for the interview. The Creative Director was known to be a bit of a character, a requirement of the role in those days. We met in his office and things were going very well. He liked my background and the samples that I had provided. Then things went sideways.

Him: Just one final question: What instrument do you play? 

Me: (Smiling apologetically) Oh gosh. I don’t. 

Him: You don’t play ANY musical instrument? 

Me: No. I never learned. Why do you ask?

Him: Well, everyone on my team plays an instrument. And every Friday after work, the band—well, my staff– gathers at my house in the city and we jam and drink beers and order pizza. It’s a blast! It’s just something we’ve been doing for the past nine years and it’s really brought us together! 

Me: Wait. The Creative Department has been meeting at your house every Friday after work for 9 years? Wow. Yeah, that sounds so fun. I don’t play an official instrument but you know I could always grab a tambourine! 

Him: (No longer smiling) No, no, I mean a real instrument. I was so hoping you’d  play drums. Our drummer just moved to LA. 

Despite my sunny enthusiasm and assurances that I could make a great WORK contribution to this team, the rejection letter came 3 days later. I guess my Mother was right when she told me I’d regret quitting piano after 6 months. Geesh.

How about you? What’s the worst interview you’ve ever been a part of? Share it in the comments!

6 Words Guaranteed to Get Your Audience’s Attention

Image result for kids at story hour

How many times have you attended a presentation and realized days later that you don’t remember very much of what was said? I bet the answer is pretty often. 

There’s a Native American proverb that says “Those who tell the stories, rule the world” and in the corporate world, that’s truer than ever. With technology competing for everyone’s attention, the speaker’s job has become more and more difficult. Engaging stories can make an audience put down their phones and understand business objectives or cultural aspirations in a way that facts and figures don’t.

After all, from a very young age, we learn that stories are a good thing—we look forward to hearing them and then as we get older, telling them. Stories can inspire, engage and inform, in a memorable way. But where do you find great stories?

Stories stories everywhere.

Start with what you know. For instance, in my 9th grade English class we studied Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and were challenged with linking mythology to modern day, a subject I greatly enjoyed. Years later, when I worked on a presentation for a senior leader that was focused on the strength of our organization, you can bet that I included a story around the Greek god Jupiter.

Image result for greek god Jupiter

Another deep well of stories lies in your personal experiences and it’s a good bet that your audience hasn’t heard them before. I began a presentation on Leadership with a story about my Grandmother, who led her family from Ireland to Philadelphia in a quest to escape poverty. I could tell by the reaction of the audience that they were listening and engaged.

Image result for Irish immigrants

Powerful messages. Even without princesses.

In the business world, a story can be fascinating even without make-believe and far-away lands. A well-crafted narrative can become a business case for seeking funding or securing resources. It can shape an organization’s culture or serve to orient new employees. You can even tell a compelling story that will persuade reluctant team mates to get on board with a new process. 

Start with the challenge at hand: Is the organization in a growth phase? Facing internal or market-driven activity? Is there a challenge to overcome or an opportunity to seize?  Knowing the situation will help you to find and select the right story for the situation. 

On your mark, get set, story hunt!

Encourage your team members to become “story hunters”—people who listen for stories that bear repeating in the workplace. Here’s an example. One of our VPs was casually chatting with his seatmate on a cross-country flight. As he explained a little bit about our company, she asked him the firm’s top 10 customers were. He wasn’t sure what “top” meant—the top revenue drivers, the longest relationship, the biggest companies? –and it bothered him. Back at work, he gathered a small team and announced that they were going to answer that very important question. Within a year, everyone in the organization was able to name our Top 10 Customers and importantly a focus on top customers became a strategic initiative for the entire division. You can bet that for years to come that VP told and retold the story of his enlightened plane conversation.

If you’re ready to incorporate storytelling into your communications strategy, KDH Consulting can help you get started. You’ll have a treasure trove of stories in no time. And you’ll be able to grab your audience’s attention with 6 irresistible words: “Let me tell you a story.”

You Be You. More or Less.

Great leaders are authentic leaders. They let their true selves shine through and that’s what makes them so relatable. You’ve heard the saying: Be yourself—everyone else is taken. That’s all true, up to a point.

As a communications professional, I’ve worked with all types of leaders—the good, the not so good and everything in between. Developing a productive relationship with your team lead is all about getting to know each other and for me, that means getting to know their communications style and preferences. The following examples will explain what I mean and yes, I have changed names and other telling details!

Does the truth have to hurt?

Image result for audience looking shocked

Joanne was fairly new to the company but she was proud of her ability to “tell it like it is” and her reputation for bringing “truth to power.” She didn’t like sounding rehearsed or robotic and preferred a more casual approach to her presentations. Unfortunately, that often left me in the dark.

Me: So, Joanne, let’s talk about your upcoming quarterly All-Hands Meeting. What are three topics that we should focus on?

Joanne: I think people on the team are talking about our competitor’s recent merger and what it means to us.

Me: Yes, I hear lots of buzz about that.

Joanne: Folks need to know that we’re in for the fight of our lives. To compete, we’ll have to start major cost cutting initiatives and even layoffs as soon as this year.

Me: Oh, wow. Let’s jot down some talking points—add some upside if we can. And maybe bounce the messages off a couple team members in advance to make sure we’re not causing panic.

Joanne: No need. I know what I want to say. We’re good.

As I watched her talk about the merger the following week, I couldn’t ignore the looks of distress and worry on almost every face in the audience.  Joanne had certainly expressed her perspective as the unvarnished truth but she failed to balance her doomsday scenario with one or two positive messages. I knew I had a long week of Communications Clean-Up ahead of me.

Be yourself but do your homework.

Image result for audience looking calm

So how CAN you coach a leader toward authenticity, while ensuring that their messages aren’t misinterpreted? It takes planning and lots of conversation. But you CAN get there. Here’s how a former colleague, Kathleen, known for her honest and calm leadership style, handled that same scenario.

Me: So, Kathleen, let’s talk about your upcoming quarterly All-Hands Meeting. What are three topics that we should focus on?

Kathleen: I think people on the team are talking about our competitor’s recent merger and what it means to us.

Me: Yes, I hear lots of buzz about that.

Kathleen: Folks need to know that we could be in for some changes but honestly, it’s early days. Let’s talk about what we do know so far and then ask for questions from the audience.

Me: Yes—in fact, how about if we reach out before the meeting to see what kinds of things people want to talk about so we can be as prepared as possible.

Kathleen: I like it. Let’s work on a 2-minute survey and send it out by end of day. That should give us time to get a handle on what people are truly concerned about—we won’t have to guess.

Kathleen got some tough questions during her meeting. She answered them to the best of her ability and didn’t try to guess what the future might bring. She was fully prepared and came across as confident and assured—which is exactly how she made her audience feel.

When you communicate, you certainly should be your authentic self and express your point of view. You must also do your homework to ensure that what you’re saying is as accurate as possible. Then work with your communications lead to craft key messages that will resonate with your audiences. Above all, keep open the door to productive dialogue to ensure that folks on the receiving end aren’t left less informed or more confused than before you opened your mouth.

Summer Daze: Three Ways to Clear Things Up

Ah, Summertime. Those lazy, hazy days spent poolside or on the beach, filled with picnics and bike rides, bar-b-ques and fireworks. Wait, sorry…that was a few decades ago when I was a kid. In other words, Before Work. We marked the first day of Summer 2019 recently and it got me thinking that I always expect  Summer to signal a vacation vibe at work, too, but then…it doesn’t. In fact, June can be extremely busy. For one, it signals the end of 2Q and all that “half the year is over” implies. Second, lots of folks are trying to get projects completed before they go on vacation. In the case of many of our Global colleagues that can mean the entire month of August out of office. (What a divine concept!) Lastly, if you’re in a service industry, the summer months can spell the difference between a great year and a terrible one.

I used to spend far too many work hours lamenting the fact that I could not be outside enjoying the blue skies and sunshine. Not only would my emotional and mental health suffer but so would my work productivity. But when the weather is lovely and there were so many external distractions, how can you keep Summer Days from turning into Summer Daze? Here are three things that work for me.

 As with every other aspect of work, having a plan is always a good place to start. Beginning in mid-May, my work schedule allows me to take half-Day Fridays so I work a bit longer during the week but have a longer weekend. I rely on my paper planner and calendar to get a bird’s eye view of what I will do with that revised schedule. I’m crazy for colorful gel pens, highlighters and even stickers when mapping out my time. I fill in big project deliverables, time out of office and other special event reminders. #2 

 I come up with  one or two goals that will help me, in the words of Stephen R. Covey, “Sharpen the Saw.” That means adding to my skill set, either physically, mentally, socially or spiritually. For instance, this year I’m taking an online film writing course because I have an interest in all manner of storytelling. I’m also mentoring a teenager in foster care because I want to step up my volunteer work. 

 Finally, I try to add a couple “Summertime fun goals” like spending at least 2 hours outside every weekday, reading as many non-work-related books as I can, and adding a couple new grilling menus to my repertoire. 

Do I still long for the days of my youth when summertime meant 3 months of do-whatever-you-please? Of course. But since that isn’t an option, I make the most of every day and when  September comes—all too quickly—I’ll have a list of accomplishments that makes me jump into Fall instead of dragging my feet and wishing Summer would never end.

How about you? How do you keep the Daze out of your Summer?