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Is there Room at Your Table?

German Beer Garden

If you are traveling from the United States to Germany for the first time this summer, I suggest you get comfortable with the idea that in most German restaurants and especially in Biergartens and other outdoor eateries, you will dining with strangers if there are open seats at your table.

Unless you have reserved a table in a restaurant in advance, tables are not considered private. If seating space is limited, wait staff and patrons will try to utilize every available chair. So if you are seated at a table for 6 and you are only occupying two chairs, don’t be surprised if someone asks you politely if the chairs are taken or if they are available fully expecting to hear an equally polite “Please have a seat!” if you indeed have no need for these empty chairs. In most cases the joining party will carry on their own conversations and while one is expected to share the table, one is not expected to share the conversation – in fact that would be considered slightly strange if not rude if you were to butt in on the other party’s conversation.

What do you suppose German and American Public Dining Customs might tell you about the respective Cultural Values?

Successful Negotiation in Diverse Teams

Diverse Team

Successful negotiation in the face of disagreement requires well-developed communication skills and you enter a whole new and bigger arena when you operate from a place of different cultural meaning making.

Erin Meyer’s HBR article “Getting Si, Ja, Oui, Hai, and Da” highlights the intricacies of cross-cultural negotiation. Interestingly enough, the article assumes that everyone is aware of their own communication style. What I am finding in my research and my work with executives business leaders is that many are not aware of their own communication and negotiation style. They do what they learned and what worked for them in specific settings and they are surprised when what worked in one arena is not met with success in another. You don’t even have to cross international borders and add a layer of linguistic challenges. Just attend a virtual team meeting with persons from New Jersey, Idaho, California, and Southern Virginia and you may witness a “Great Disintegration” happening, when team members champion different approaches and are trying to work towards a solution to an issue in which they are all stakeholders.

My work as a leadership coach starts with self-awareness and works from the inside out:

  • Who am I as a leader?
  • What are my values and beliefs?
  • How do they fit with the values and beliefs of the people I interact with?
  • What results do I want to achieve and how may I have to adjust my communication style to bring others into the conversation and have them be heard?
  • How do I need to listen so I can truly hear what the other is saying?
  • How do I communicate that I understand their concern and how do I then invite them to work towards an integrated solution?
  • Am I unbiased enough to lead this discussion or should a more neutral person facilitate the conversation?
  • Am I really asking for input and feedback or has the solution already been identified and am just trying to create buy-in but the issue is not open for co-creating a different approach in dealing with the issue? (Your team will quickly see through a “fake negotiation” and this approach usually backfires with behind-your-back talk, distrust and disengagement.)

When dealing with diverse teams, creating shared meaning is crucial and the explicit confirmation of a shared understanding of conditions of satisfaction is an important component of successful negotiations with diverse teams.

Curious to learn more? Let’s talk!



T.H.I.N.K Before You Speak

Red-Think 2

With the intent to keep my content relevant and fresh, I am always on the lookout for leadership inspiration in a variety of different places. This month’s musings were inspired by the acronym T.H.I.N.K. introduced to me by Pastor Beth Neubauer from Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Vienna. To pause and think before speaking is always a good move and as my seminar participants know, I am a very avid proponent for pause practices and slowing down at times when the pulse quickens. Thus, pausing and applying the acronym consistently may produce even more effective communication results. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K.:


1. T – Is it True?

Of the 5 things to ponder, this may be the trickiest. Facts and truth seem to be distorted with smoke and mirrors in too many public debates in the recent past. Allow me to try to simplify the concept of “true”. 

The first step would be to consider whether what I am about to say is accurate and based on facts or whether is it my personal interpretation of how facts present themselves to me. This clearly touches on the SOAR notion of Assertion = something can be evidenced to be true or false vs. Assessment = my personal interpretation and judgment of a certain set of circumstances. In other words: is what I am about to say based on facts or my personal opinion? A clear distinction between both may foster alignment in a conversation: This is what actually happened and this is what I think/ how I feel about it…

2. H – Is is Helpful?

Do I speak in the spirit of improving the situation or am I saying something to prove that I am right? I have made a mental Post-It note for myself and plastered it all over my brain synopses because the honest answer to that question is often very revealing to me and I know especially in my conversation with my teenage sons, I ought to take more breaths or more often than not hold my thoughts and keep them from spilling out of my mouth. 

Do I say what I am about to say to create a better future or am I trying to right the past and come out as the winner of the argument? Will my words help the situation or another person move forward?


3. I – Is it Inspired or Inspiring?

Is the message creative in that it will it lead to new aspirations or improve the situation? Is it likely to motivate others to put forth their best effort? What would make a response (more) inspired or inspiring?


4. N- Is it Necessary?

If the answer is “No” to all the lead questions above, maybe that particular thought is not worth sharing. Consider the intent behind it and what the spoken message is likely to create. Is it necessary to speak the thought out loud and will it create something positive or an opportunity for all parties involved? Does the conversation have the potential to make a difference in the world? It is my opinion that empty complaints with no intention to follow-up with action for example fall directly under the “un-necessary” category.


5. K- Kind

Is the message conveyed in an empathetic manner that meets others where they are? Does it come with the notion of love and support or does it come with the intention to hurt and cut down? Does it consider the other person’s situation and perspective?


My wish is that the T.H.I.N.K. concept would be applied throughout our public discourse, especially on social media. And if the answer is not a resounding “Yes” to at least three of the 5 lead questions, how about taking a break from speaking until there is a thought that IS true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind? What do you think?  


Be Well and Think, Be, Do Amazing Things!

Friderike 3

Next Generation of Leaders at GMU

GMU talk

It was fun presenting at the GMU Business Fraternity yesterday. We talked about Successful Transitioning from College Life to the Professional World and the challenges that the students are facing when entering the job market and first leadership positions.

The three strategies suggested are:

1. Don’t be disruptive – be an effective disrupter and be prepared to present a solution to problems that you spot.

2. Bust their Bias – break through the stereotype that may be assigned to your age group and be responsible for your action

3. Be Self-Aware – pay attention what your words, action and projected mood are creating in your professional environment and whether or not they are creating the results you want.

SOAR fundamentals customized for this audience of interested and engaged next generation of leaders. It was a great event and the hosts were gracious and made me feel welcome and appreciated. If I had any bias about working with Millennials, they would have busted it! Great group of young people, motivated, bright and hopeful.


Reframe That Thought

The news seems inundated with messages of doom and gloom, negative rhetoric and finger pointing. CNN recently claimed that a large number of Americans were suffering from post-election stress trauma on both sides of the political spectrum.


If you feel the weight of world coming down on you, bring some light back into your life by simply reframing negative thoughts into positive-intent perspectives.

1. Take Inventory of What You Think

Pay attention to when you start feeling resentment creeping into your thoughts and a negative attitude starts to fester in response to a situation or another person. Pause for a moment and consider another way of looking at the situation that would assume positive intent.

Imagine this scene: The cashier at your local grocery store is slow in ringing you up and bagging your goods and you are short on time. You feel your anxiety level rise and your internal commentary is firing on all cylinders. Take quick inventory of the intent of your thoughts. Are you quick to label the person ringing up your groceries? What is the story you are telling yourself about the person? If your story is dark and blaming, how does that impact your mood?


2. Find Positive Intent

Now take two long breaths. What if the cashier is doing the absolute best she can this very moment – just for you? What shift is you focus on being grateful that you can buy the things the cashier is ringing up. Maybe the cashier is taking her time because she wants to make sure she is not making any mistakes. This expansion of time at this place allows to notice the color of her hair, notice the shape of her eyes. What might you not know about this person that makes her special and unique?  Do you notice a shift in your attitude?

3. Take Positive Action

Now that you have found a positive story for the situation you found yourself in, take action to reflect the positive shift. You can start by simply smiling at your conscientious cashier. How about a positive verbal expression? How about wishing her a great day and saying her name?

The next time you find yourself in a situation, you cannot change – discover something – anything – positive in it and see where that leads you. I hope it will be a bright and positive place!


Listening for Understanding

16665174_1630074180342181_5408315012232472101_oDuring a recent workshop around the topic of Cultivating Organizational Well-Being: Good for Your Business, I had the pleasure of talking to an engaged group of professionals about the skills involved with Listening for Understanding.

The quick takeaways are:

  1. Listening to learn more
    Ask non-leading, open-ended questions. Use “how” and “what” questions that allow the speaker to further explain their perspective. Avoid “why” questions.
    Example: I am curious to hear more about what lead you to this statement? What are your personal experiences with this topic? What was your personal take-away from that situation?
  2. Listening for shared meaning
    Restate key points and ask for clarification if you are not sure if you heard something correctly.
    Example: What I heard you say is … When you said abc, it makes me think zyz, is that what you meant?
  3. Listening for agreement
    Confirm where you share the perspective and agree with a point.
  4. Listening for new information
    Let the speaker know if you learned something new and if you feel inspired to gather more information about a topic.

After you have met the speaker on his or her side of the situation, offer your perspective and any potential concerns. Make room for different opinions and perspectives. And simply acknowledge the disagreement.

I did the unthinkable and brought politics into the conversation and the lack of Listening for Understanding that most public discourses exhibit. The audience’s response was amazing and encouraging. It made me wonder what may happen if more people practiced their Active Listening skills – at all levels of interactions involving differences of perspective and opinion, which given that we are all uniquely human would be pretty much all the time.

So here is my offer to the community: You find a group of 20 people in the Washington Metropolitan area interested in learning and practicing Listening for Understanding and I will come and we will break down communication barriers together. What do you think?


5 Steps to Rebuild Compromised Relationships at Work and at Home

How to Engage in CareFrontation or Radical Candor Conversations

communication-wheel-w-refDoes this sound or feel familiar?

  • Ducking for cover when you see THAT person walk down the hallway
  • Found yourself in endless  complaint loops about THAT person to others, which don’t change anything and just reinforce the unpleasantness of the situation
  • Sweaty palms and flushed cheeks when THAT person speaks during meetings
  • Screening phone calls because you just can’t bear talking to THAT person

These typical symptoms for a missing or incomplete Crucial Conversation, a challenging conversation that seems ominous because the stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions are strong. Even though many people avoid challenging conversations at all cost, when done well, they can be a true gift because they allow you to turn an uncomfortable situation into a relationship building opportunity that can improve collaboration and creative thinking.

Here are the 5 steps to address a challenging situation with candor and honesty:

  1. Data: I saw/ I heard/ I noticed … (communicate observable and measurable facts)
    Describe what the situation looks like from your perspective without associating any value judgment. Stick with measurable facts. Avoid generalizations such as “always” and “never”. What is the specific situation that warrants clarification, exploration and a change of action?
    Example: In your email from (date) you agreed to do (x) by (y). Today marks 2 days past the delivery date. I have not received any written notification from you that your team will not be able to deliver as agreed.
  2. Feelings: I feel … (own and communication your current emotional state appropriately and honestly)
    If you are not comfortable naming your feelings, speak directly into your concerns and what seems worrisome in this situation. This step requires the willingness to be vulnerable. If that seems too far outside your comfort zone, you can move directly into step 3.
    Example: I feel angry because I felt I looked incompetent when the client called this morning and I was not able to answer relevant questions without having seen your report.
  3. Judgments/ Meaning Making: I believe … (state a clear interpretation of the consequences from your perspective)
    This step is important because here you offer an insight into your position without creating a defensive response. You explain your interpretation of the consequences of the issue at hand.
    : I believe that this makes the company look incompetent and that our contract may not be renewed.
  4. Wants/ Desired Future: I want … (create a positive future scenario)
    In this step you create a shared objective and establish why it is important to work together.
    Example: I want to be able to rely on a strong team to support the mission of the organization, a healthy work environment, for us to collaborate more, …
  5. Willingness/ Contribution: I am willing to … (action that is likely to improve the situation)
    This step allows you to take ownership of the situation and to communicate your willingness to take action toward positive results.

During any phase of the conversation, the other person may comment and offer a new
perspective. Good questions to ask after presenting the issue are: What can I do to help? What can you and I do to prevent this from happening again? What was your understanding of the situation based on these facts? What information am I missing?

The key is to enter the conversation from a place of genuine concern for the person and the relationship and with real curiosity about what leads the other person to behave  the way he or she does. Preclude the conversation with reassurance of your commitment to set the stage for a positive experience and with the intent to lay the groundwork for positive future interactions. The Communication Wheel will NOT work if your intention is to prove that you are right or that the other person is wrong. Stick with “I” statements and avoid “Why” questions. Be honest and be open to learn something new and you may be pleasantly surprised!


Successful Millennial Integration at Work – What does that look like in your organization?

millennial_topimageMillennials seem to have a pretty bad reputation with many employers if one is to believe leading articles in mainstream media. Disloyal attention-hounds, short attention span, narcissistic, want a lot and offer little, etc. This does not reflect my experience working with young managers at all and a Millennial Study by IBM suggests otherwise as well.

My millennial clients are hungry for opportunities to learn, stretch and become actively contributing, valued members of optimization initiatives. They have grown up with technology, communicate differently with their peers than older generations, and they have learned by observation that hardly anything lasts forever anymore. The younger generations’ demands on management may be disruptive for traditionally managed organizations but let’s face it, our way of working is being disrupted continuously by advancing technology, changing policies or new market place urgencies.

I have been asked by a student organization at GMU to talk to them about what it takes for Millennials to be successful in today’s business climate, and specifically what college graduates can do to prepare for their transition from student life to the professional world. In preparation to the presentation, I am collecting short responses of what qualities, skills and behaviors leaders and managers in successful companies are looking for in the next generation that is entering the work force and for any new hire for that matter.

Here is your chance to contribute to the discussion:

  • What would be your advice for soon-to-graduate students?

  • What would they need to bring to the table to be successful in your organization?

  • Are you seeing a pattern in the younger generation of potential employees that is noteworthy?

  • What behavior to you wish to see more of? Less of?

I am looking forward to hopefully seeing a lively discussion in response to this request and I will share my keynote talk with all contributors upon delivery.

See other comments  HERE



SOAR to New Heights



Here are some Core Business Questions for you to think about:

  • How many conversations occur at your organization that are only needed because a previous conversation did not produce the intended results?
  • What would change for your organization if you could eliminate or even just cut in half all those corrective and unproductive conversations and get the desired results after the initial, intentional and thoughtful conversation?
  • How much time and money do you think could be saved by creating an active, collaborative and consistent Culture of Accountability?

This spring a colleague and I put together our first open-enrollment leadership development cohort program that addresses these essential questions. In June we celebrated the first group’s graduation and received rave reviews! The participants grew exponentially, shifted their perspectives, took courageous steps and transformed their leadership skills from project management and delegation to powerfully leading complex initiatives. I feel deeply grateful for the privilege of having been part of their journey and for seeing them take flight! We now offer Cohort #2 with some tweaks and improvements. Program details can be found here: SOAR FAll 2016 Flyer.

Non-profit, public service and small business rates available upon request.

  • Module 1:  September 23, 2016 – IQ vs. EQ – Why Self-Awareness Matters
  • Module 2:  October 21, 2016 – Engaging & Managing Coaching People to Optimal Performance
  • Module 3:  November 18, 2016 – How to Create a Culture of Trust, Collaboration, and Accountability
  • Module 4:  December 16, 2016 – Declaring the Future We Want

This program provides a significant boost to professional development and offers valuable tools to create a healthy work-life integration resulting in clear communication, collaborative relationships, optimized effectiveness and a happier work/home life. I would be excited to have you be part of a very unique and high-caliber group of emerging and seasoned leaders!

Event details: HERE

Leadership in Action – Attracting and Keeping Talented Staff

culture_icon_352Please join us for an interesting exploration of what attracts high-performing employees and keeps them engaged:
July 20, 8am-10am, Tysons Corner (right outside of the beltway, 10 min walk from Spring Hill metro station)
Breakfast, great networking, wonderful opportunity to invite your clients to a powerful micro-learning event that gives you a great opportunity for powerful conversations.
Mira Panek, a gifted speaker and treasured colleague of mine, and I will host a breakfast seminar together and invite you to come and bring a client to see a SOAR component in action and to take home an immediate-impact tool. Under the advertised topic below we will highlight the power of language in exploring new possibilities. We will explore SOAR’s Extraordinary Leader’s Blueprint and declaration development and add the lens of appreciative inquiry, a great coaching tool that is easily accessible even for people, who are not trained coaches.
Details and ticket information: HERE