Categories for Relationships

The Most Important (Countercultural) Steps for Making 2021 a Success

Individuals who do well in life commonly utilize four key skills to help their lives move forward in a healthy direction. That is, people who achieve healthy personal goals tend to incorporate the same tools to assist them in moving toward their aspirations.  Unfortunately, some of these tools are not valued or embraced in our culture, which makes consistently utilizing them more difficult. Yes, believe it or not, we need to acknowledge that some of the beliefs and values of the majority Western culture are actually not helpful to us in living our lives well. Four Important (but often Countercultural)... Continue reading...

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January 4, 2021 9:00 am
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The 2020 Election – A Survival Guide for Talking about the Election at Work

Well, here we are, on the verge of the long anticipated (and for some, dreaded) 2020 elections. The tension is thick in the air – within the culture at large, on the airwaves and Internet, within families, and within workplaces.  A number of factors combine to create a significant sense of uneasiness for most of us:   -the unpredictability of the results   -the strong feelings many have related to the issues intertwined with the election   -fears about potential violence and destruction of property after the election   -concerns about how the results of the elections will impact our... Continue reading...

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October 29, 2020 3:10 pm
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Building and Rebuilding Trust at Work

The issue of trust – and lack of it – is a common topic in our current culture. Comments can be found in any news medium and frequently in personal conversations. “I don’t trust him.” “They aren’t trustworthy.” “Big organizations can’t be trusted.” The reasons why there seems to be an epidemic of lack of trust is a complicated discussion, in and of itself. Partly, because many people and organizations have shown themselves not to be trustworthy. First, we must understand what trust really is, then we can consider and respond correctly to relevant situations. It is Not as Simple... Continue reading...

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October 26, 2020 9:00 am
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Coping with Schooling at Home While Working From Home

  “How am I supposed to get my work done while I’m also expected to oversee my children’s schoolwork?” This critical question is one of the most common concerns raised by parents who are working from home. And with the schoolyear just beginning, this challenge, facing millions is both a very real and practical one. First, some context regarding my credibility. Prior to and during my work focused on work-based relationships and workplace culture, my professional focus included evaluating students with learning challenges, and consulting with parents and schools on the best ways to help their students learn. Additionally, we... Continue reading...

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September 14, 2020 9:00 am
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Making ‘Negative’ Communication Healthier: The Differences Between Complaints and Concerns

A lot of comments have been voiced about the increasing intensity of negative and conflictual conversations in our culture – on television, on radio talk shows, in social media, even in our personal interactions. In reflecting on the numerous challenges facing us in the workplace and our community activities (decisions about school attendance, sports events, social gatherings), it became clear that there are a lot of areas in our lives that we can complain about. Almost simultaneously, I thought: “We are in a space where almost all of us can become overwhelmed with the amount of complaining we hear and... Continue reading...

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September 8, 2020 9:00 am
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How to Help Your Employees Find Purpose at Work

“Does what I do matter?” Every person on the planet wants to know the answer to this question. This is especially true for employees that are feeling unstable and uncertain about their future. Employees that have a clear sense of their purpose are more engaged, more loyal, and more productive too. Amidst the pandemic, your team is looking for hope. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that nearly one-third of all Americans currently suffer from depression and anxiety. As quarantine orders took effect, self-help book sales shot up by 39%. Man has been searching for meaning from the beginning of time.... Continue reading...

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August 31, 2020 8:55 am
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Preparing for a Storm – Lessons from Tornado Alley

As a country, it appears likely we are headed for stormy times. Why do I think so?  First, as a psychologist and social scientist, I’m trained to observe patterns in social behaviors that assist us in predicting future likely behavior patterns. Secondly, because I’m from the Midwest in the heart of “tornado alley” and we are experts in being able to see the signs leading to severe weather. And the two sets of patterns and conditions are quite similar. Stormy Weather I’m not going to go through all of the different circumstances that lead up to severe weather in the... Continue reading...

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August 10, 2020 8:55 am
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Building a Strong Team Culture: Valuing & Appreciating Differences in the Workplace

To build a successful and sustainable business, you need a team of employees who bring their unique abilities, strengths and perspectives to the challenges you will face. But to draw and keep talented individuals who have a variety of skills and personality types, you have to learn a key skill: You have to learn how to lead people who are different than you. Many books on leadership provide valuable insights into key skills and abilities needed to effectively lead others. But one concept that is not stressed enough is: to lead a successful team, you have to understand those who are... Continue reading...

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August 3, 2020 9:00 am
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Email Etiquette Refresher

A significant portion of our communication happens through email. This is especially true with current work from home set-ups resulting from COVID-19 where communicating properly and effectively through email is essential. Chances are, you’ve misinterpreted an email or had one of your emails misinterpreted at some point in your life. Email can quickly trigger unnecessary conflict. Here are a few tips and reminders to help you use email as an effective communication tool. Don’t read energy or emotion into emails. All you have in email are words, which only account for 7% of communication. The other 93% of communication happens... Continue reading...

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July 20, 2020 9:00 am
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Tips for Surviving Working from Home – From Remote Employees Themselves

Working from home (WFH) has moved from a short-term hassle to a longer, “this is life now” stage. The novelty is gone. The changes for the initial transition are in place. We now have to figure out how to make this scenario work for a while. Who best to learn from than other remote, WFH employees? We recently followed a group of WFH workers, having them fill out a questionnaire once a week for four weeks. We asked a lot of questions, and the results are just being published in Training this week. We inquired about their level of anxiety,... Continue reading...

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June 8, 2020 8:55 am
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Memorial Day in the Time of COVID-19

A typical Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. represents a variety of things to different people: A day off of work The beginning of summer Going to the lake Having a barbeque with friends and family The Indianapolis 500 Visiting family gravesites Veterans parades and celebrations Watching war movies This year has already brought substantial changes in our daily lives and this weekend will be no exception. Sporting events and parades are cancelled. BBQs and travel, if they happen at all, will look markedly different. I usually take time over the Memorial Day weekend to gather with my family and... Continue reading...

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May 22, 2020 8:27 am
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Change Goes Better When Staff Feel Appreciated

Change in the workplace is often inevitable. Previously, changes had to be made in response to external circumstances, like marketplace forces, or they were part of a larger institutional plan to create growth and improvement. Now, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, change seems to be the only constant in the workplace. Changes in the foundations of how we work and where we work are ever evolving and they can take their toll on employees — which leads to uncertainty, anxiety, resistance, low morale and more. The good news is, managing reactions to change can be made easier if... Continue reading...

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May 18, 2020 9:00 am
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Encouragement, Support, and Staying Connected During Quarantine

Last week we conducted a small survey to see how our readers were feeling supported and encouraged, how they were supporting and encouraging others and what has helped them stay positive. We were overwhelmed by the positive answers and examples you gave us. First, we asked you: How much have you felt supported and encouraged by someone with whom you work since the COVID-19 crisis has developed? The average of all responses was a “4” (1 = Not at all; 5 = Extremely)! We were glad to learn that many of you are feeling supported and encouraged during this difficult... Continue reading...

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May 4, 2020 9:00 am
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How Do You Successfully Encourage Employees During Difficult Times?

Anxiety. Discouragement. Feeling disconnected. Worried about the future. All are currently common experiences for hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S. We are told “we’re all in this together,” “we’ll get through this,” “it will get better soon” – all of which are true (to some degree). But almost all of us have moments when we are emotionally worn out, lose hope, and want to give up. Some of us cycle through these periods rather quickly, others linger in the dark space for a while, and some of us have difficulty climbing out of the cave. Enter: the need for encouragement and... Continue reading...

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April 27, 2020 9:00 am
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Spring and the Importance of Newness in Our Lives

Spring is late in coming in my part of the country. The mornings have been cold; the days are often cloudy and dreary. And Spring – the vibrancy and newness of life – has been put on hold across the country due to shelter in place and social distancing policies. Being able to get out and about, get together with friends and family, and go “do something” has been essentially written out of our lives. As a result, many people feel stagnant. Bored. Unstimulated. All of which can lead to depression and irritability. These feelings, coupled with the underlying anxiety... Continue reading...

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April 20, 2020 9:00 am
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Why Relational Connection Is So Important During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the need for social distancing, quarantine and isolation so that vulnerable individuals are not exposed to the virus and healthcare systems are not overwhelmed. Collectively, we understand the goodness of “flattening the curve” by each of us doing our part to slow the spread of the virus. COVID-19 is not the only epidemic we are facing. Separating ourselves because of COVID-19 comes at a time when America and many other nations are in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness whose antidote is greater positive social connection. Our current situation—the simultaneous need... Continue reading...

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April 13, 2020 9:00 am
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Recognizing and Coping with Discouragement

You work hard, try your best, and still, things don’t work out as you hoped. You plan, prepare, think ahead — and yet, something unforeseen comes out of nowhere and creates another obstacle you have to overcome. Life, both at work and outside of work, is difficult. This is especially true now with shelter in place rules, kids at home, and new work arrangements. What is discouragement, really?  Discouragement literally means, “without courage.” We lose that fighting edge to “go get ’em” and attack the challenges of the day. We lose heart. We are worn out. We wonder if “it”... Continue reading...

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April 6, 2020 7:54 am
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The Intersection Between Emotional Intelligence and Employee Appreciation

Emotional Intelligence is a big deal, and a lot of people across all fields have recognized its importance. Daniel Goleman labeled it the sine quo non of leadership. Travis Bradberry found high levels of emotional intelligence in 90% of top performers across a variety of industries. Actor David Caruso called emotional intelligence the “intersection” of head and heart. Jack Welch said that emotional intelligence was more important than book smarts in the making of a leader. Emotional intelligence describes a person’s ability to recognize, manage, and influence emotions in themselves and other people. It is the skill you use to... Continue reading...

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March 16, 2020 9:00 am
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Why “Thinking Outside of the Box” (by itself) Doesn’t Work

Most of us would agree that we all have a certain way of thinking. We’ve been taught our whole lives that our own way of thinking is thinking “inside the box.” We’ve been told many times that we need to learn to think “outside the box.” I contend that this doesn’t work. When we’re in a box (our way of thinking), we may hear or see something that encourages us to make a change. We are encouraged, and we decide to attempt to get outside of our normal way of thinking. But when we get outside of our box, we... Continue reading...

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February 3, 2020 9:00 am
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Sync or Swim: A Fable about Workplace Communication and Coming Together in a Crisis

Since earliest times, fables have been passed on from generation to generation. Humans are ‘hard-wired for a story’ and fables cut through complexity to reveal simple wisdom. In them we see our own predicaments and reactions, both wise and foolish. Our book, Sync or Swim, helps us solve the frustrating contradiction of morale-building programs that end up hurting morale and of recognition programs resulting in cynicism. The story is written to be a fun, quick read, illustrating ways to communicate appreciation that generate productivity and effective teamwork. Each character responds in different ways to the same situation – as each... Continue reading...

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December 9, 2019 9:00 am
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The Power of Using Stories to Lead

How Effective Leaders Grab the Hearts of their Team Members Most leaders tend to focus on data and factual information. And accurate data is important for making good management decisions. But throughout history, communicating through facts has not been the most utilized method for sharing and developing leadership qualities. Rather, stories have been used more than any other form of verbal expression. For evidence, look to Greek philosophers, wisdom literature from Asia, and the wide range of stories from multiple cultures across the centuries designed to teach guiding principles for life. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Confucius and Jesus all used stories grounded in daily... Continue reading...

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December 2, 2019 9:00 am
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Authenticity: A Closer Look

The past few years there has been an increased focus in our culture on genuineness, authenticity, and vulnerability – for people in general, but specifically for leaders in the workplace. Like most movements, the call for a return to being truly ourselves in our interactions with others is a needed one. For far too long, we have focused more on image and looking good rather than building substance, true character and competence in our lives. While the pursuit of looking like we have it together is not new, the intensity has been magnified through social media (“likes” on Facebook, becoming... Continue reading...

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October 28, 2019 9:00 am
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Characteristics of Successful Teams

Although working with a team of very talented, capable and successful professionals can be fun and exciting, these teams can be challenging as well. But there are factors, when built into the team effort, that can make these “All-Star” teams incredibly impactful. Examples can be taken from many areas of life: music groups, sports teams, legal and political teams, strategic business partnerships. Unfortunately, many examples of “Super Teams” that failed also exist – which leads to the question: What are the necessary ingredients for success? Ingredients for Highly Successful Teams *Team members voluntarily submit to a selected leader (or leaders).... Continue reading...

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October 14, 2019 9:00 am
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Picking Up Cues that Your Colleagues Need Some Encouragement

You may be surrounded by co-workers that need to be encouraged and feel appreciated, and you may not know it. Not everyone wears a sign that says, “I need to feel valued” or “Approaching burnout: encouragement needed,” (although some of us do wear ‘signs’ on our faces where others can easily tell when we are discouraged or weary). But many people are harder to read—they don’t say much and have rather non-expressive facial expressions. Additionally, some of us are not especially talented at picking up clues sent out by others. Our colleagues may be clearly communicating their distress, but we... Continue reading...

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September 30, 2019 9:00 am
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Making Your Vacation Work for You: The 4 R’s

Labor Day is often seen as the unofficial end of summer, a last chance to spend time with family and friends before school shifts into full gear and autumn sweeps in. While the three-day weekend doesn’t afford as much time as a full summer vacation, it can still provide valuable time for a mental reset that can be beneficial to you both personally and professionally. Getting away from your home and your daily routine and responsibilities provides a needed mental break necessary to rejuvenate and re-energize. The Four R’s Rest. Try to schedule your vacation activities in a way that allows... Continue reading...

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August 26, 2019 8:55 am
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How Are the 5 Love Languages and the 5 Languages of Appreciation Related?

                              Many of you are familiar with The 5 Love Languages as described in Gary Chapman’s bestselling book have found them helpful in their personal relationships. Some may wonder if there is really any difference between the 5 Love Languages and the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. While the languages discussed in both books are the same in name, the application and expression of the languages in the work environment are quite different than in personal relationships. First, you shouldn’t assume that your primary... Continue reading...

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August 5, 2019 9:00 am
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Practical Tools Available to Apply the 5 Languages of Appreciation to Your Workplace

I like to say that, “Information without application is wasted grey matter.” As a result, a key focus of our work is to provide easy-to-use tools to help leaders and colleagues practically apply the 5 languages of appreciation to their daily work relationships. I want to share about the resources we have created (many of which are FREE) to let you know about the wide variety of tools available. I’ve divided them into categories to make them easier to find and use. Online Resources for Individuals and Groups (free) MBAI Group Report (new) Allows you obtain a summary report of... Continue reading...

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July 29, 2019 9:00 am
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Overcoming Busyness – Our Cultural Addiction*

Busyness seems to have risen to the level of addiction within our culture, and is even considered a badge of honor. When, for example, have you heard anyone report: “I’m doing great. I’ve got lots of extra time and energy to do what I want?” What is Busyness, Really? To reduce busyness in our lives, we have to first understand what “busyness” is. Is it a set of behaviors? Is it an attitude? Or a perspective on life? Most people respond: “All three.” At a foundational level, busyness is the experience of feeling like we have more to do than... Continue reading...

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July 15, 2019 9:00 am
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Memorial Day: What Are We Remembering and Why?

Memorial Day in the U.S. represents a variety of things to different people: A day off of work The beginning of summer Going to the lake Having a barbeque with friends and family The Indianapolis 500 Visiting family gravesites Veterans parades and celebrations Watching war movies For me, especially when getting together with children, teenagers & young adults, I start to wonder — what does Memorial Day mean to them? In some ways, maybe it doesn’t matter — “it is what it is” and it is their life. But, in other ways, I believe gathering together is important — for if we are not... Continue reading...

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May 23, 2019 10:23 am
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Improve Your Culture, Buy a Chicken!

I was having lunch with a friend who told me about an interaction that he had with one of his team members. Apparently, he caught wind that a young lady who reported directly to him was at her desk, crying inconsolably. After inviting her into his office, he began to inquire about what had upset her so. Being a newlywed, she was experiencing difficulty adjusting to married life and a number of challenges had come their way, compounding the stress. But, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that her favorite chicken had died suddenly from an unknown... Continue reading...

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May 20, 2019 8:51 am
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