Clear Is Kind

Clear Is Kind

When I present on the leadership skill of feedback, I ask the managers, “who likes to receive feedback?” Almost all the hands go up. (No surprise; high performers want feedback so they know how to improve.)

Then I ask the managers, “who likes to give feedback?” Almost all the hands go down.

Managers often find it scary to give feedback. They are afraid that the employee will get angry or upset or defensive. That can happen. Most employees receive constructive criticism with at least an “ouch,” if not a full blown melt-down (maybe internal, maybe external). But how you give the feedback can help the receiver to be more open and receptive.

Here are a few tips:

  • Give feedback because you care about the employee’s growth and development – not because you are irritated. Feeling hangry? Then go have a sandwich and ground yourself in the desire to help your employee.
  • Be transparent about why you are giving the feedback. Is this just a conversation to help the employee develop in their career, or is their performance off track? If they are under-performing, give them specific examples of what better performance looks like.
  • Don’t assume an under-performer is aware they are off track – or that they know how to fix it. If they seem shut-down by the feedback, you can give them some time to think about what you’ve said and reconvene at a later time for a conversation about how to turn things around.
  • Avoid a feedback sandwich; that is, don’t bury a piece of constructive feedback in-between two pieces of positive feedback. It may make you feel better, but the receiver is likely to be confused.

What I tell my managers is this: clear is kind. In the moment, the feedback may hit the other person hard. But they will remember later that you cared enough about them to tell them the truth. A truth they need to be aware of whether they stay in their current role and develop – or not.

Note that feedback gets easier with practice, and it is a teachable skill. If no one has taught you, check in with your boss, your HR department or an executive coach!

Great feedback is a gift!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Please stop saying you’re “helping”

Please stop saying you’re “helping”

Last month’s blog was a request to ask folks to please stop saying they are a “people pleaser.” This month, it is a request to please stop saying you’re “helping.”

I’m a recovering fixer. I liked to help by jumping in and fixing other people’s problems – or feelings. This meant I did a lot of assuming: what the problem was, what the other person thought the problem was, that I knew the solution, what the other person thought a good solution was, what the other person was feeling, that they wanted to feel differently, and that my fix was helpful. Lots of room for error in all of those assumptions!

What I’ve learned is that I don’t need to assume or guess what might be helpful to another person. I can ask them. (I’ll say it again for the people in the back: I can ask the other person what they would find helpful.) Have you ever tried to cheer someone up who just needed you to sit with them while they were sad? Then you know what I’m talking about.

I also had to learn to take care of myself and meet my own needs before I get into other people’s business. If I don’t meet my own needs first, I may not have the energy to help others. If my needs aren’t met, I might end up wanting the other person to meet them for me and then get resentful (i.e., “I helped you, even though you didn’t ask me to; you should be helping me in return. What’s wrong with you?”).

Here’s another reason why you should rethink “helping:” people get confidence when they do things for themselves. Even if they fail, they figure it out. But inaction kills confidence. When you do things for another person, their confidence is leaching away. Let them have the dignity of their experience, find their own resourcefulness, and increase their confidence.

If you are still compelled to help, rather than asking “can I do that for you,” try instead “how can I support you in doing that?” See the difference? You can assist with the stuck places, and then back off; the other person will likely be grateful for that kind of help.

Not sure if the helping you want to do is healthy or not? Check your motivations. Do you need the other person to be or achieve something so you feel good about you? Take a step back. Are you assuming the other person is incompetent or can’t do the thing? Take a step back. Are you trying to control the other person’s actions, outcomes or experience? Take a step back. Are you trying to help them the way you think they should want help? Take a step back.

Healthy help isn’t about the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated. Healthy help follows the Platinum Rule: “Treat others how they want to be treated.”

Trust in the resourcefulness of the people around you. And when your needs are taken care of and you want to help from a place of kindness, ask the other person how you might support them.

Sound helpful?

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Please stop saying you’re a “people pleaser”

Please stop saying you’re a “people pleaser”

Over the years, a lot of my clients have told me that they are “people pleasers.” They say it sort of sheepishly, but I think there is often a little pride in it as well. If you are in this group, here’s why you should quit it.

It is great if you want to be nice and helpful – and you have the energy and time to give to the people/causes you want to. However, note that no one (who is healthy) wants you to give what you don’t have to give. As Iyanla Vanzant says: “When you give someone something you need for yourself you make the other person a thief. True giving does not require self sacrifice.”

Unfortunately, what I see with most “people pleasers” is that they need other people to like them. They need this so much, they will give more than they should – to their own detriment. You’ll know if your “people pleasing” is unhealthy if you are so busy taking care of others that you can’t take care of yourself; if you feel resentful when you are helping others; or if your motivation in helping others is so that they will like you.

What I ask some of my clients to consider is, that by being a “people pleaser,” they are actually trying to make other people like them. They are going way too far in their efforts to manipulate others into accepting a likeable version of themselves. Sometimes what is really going on is low self-esteem.

I learned a long time ago that 2% of people will love you no matter what. And 2% of people won’t like you no matter what. And the rest of the folks will like you just fine most of the time. The truth is, you can’t make anyone else do/think/feel anything. You can’t please some people enough to make them like you. So you can quit trying.

Where can you use that energy that you’ve been devoting to “people-pleasing?”
– Taking care of yourself and your needs. That’s your job as an adult.
– Doing things you actually want to do. If you don’t know what you want to do, experiment until you find things you enjoy.
– Working on your goals. Instead of only helping others achieve their goals, what do you want for your life and future?

You may need sit with the discomfort of getting used to saying “no” to others. (More on saying “no” here and here). And when you are finally pleasing yourself, then you can think about where it might please you to help others.

So long, “people pleasing!”

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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Shut Up and Live Your Life

Shut Up and Live Your Life

I recently had a client tell me a story about the wisest advice she ever received.

This client had a colleague who had proven themselves untrustworthy in the past. She found it difficult to work with this person and be around them, let alone rely on them to do her job.

She took this issue to her mentor and said, “I notice you work with all kinds of people; some have questionable reputations. How can you work with people you don’t trust?”

Her mentor looked at her and said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

She explained herself again, telling her experienced, smart mentor that working with untrustworthy people was extremely difficult; in fact, it couldn’t be done. She went into anguished detail about how her colleague was bad and had done her wrong. She described every small transgression she had catalogued. Again, she asked her mentor how they could engage with untrustworthy people.

Her mentor fixed her with a look, saying slowly and clearly, “I. Don’t. Know. What. You. Are. Talking. About.”

Of course, her mentor understood the question. They were telling her how they handled it. They chose to overlook the untrustworthy behavior and move forward, rather than choosing to be stuck. They would not allow themselves to be drawn into the drama.

In fact, one day, when my client was particularly caught up in some negative ruminations, this wise mentor got fierce and shared some advice that turned out to be the best advice my client ever received: “Shut up and live your life.”

Consider how much energy we give to people at work that we don’t see eye to eye with. As the saying goes, “would you rather be right or happy?” Sometimes we just have to let things go and move on.

One caveat: if someone is truly undermining you at work, be respectful, but consider my favorite advice: “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.” That is, allow yourself to move forward believing that things could work out in a positive way, but build in some double-checks (e.g., documentation, public agreement on commitments, etc).

And when you are ready to level up even more? Imagine someone asks you about that untrustworthy colleague. Instead of saying something negative, try to find something positive to say that’s true. Or at least encourage that person to have their own experience with the colleague. Then just shut up and live your life.

Pretty good advice…

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

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How Will You Inspire Someone Today? – and a career coaching group starts Jan 23

How Will You Inspire Someone Today? – and a career coaching group starts Jan 23

A friend told me recently that he didn’t feel “inspiring.”

I’ve heard from some of my clients this past week that they don’t feel inspired, motivated or driven right now. So if you are limping into the new year, you are in good company!

But not feeling “inspiring” is a little different. When I thought about it, I realized that I often hear from clients and friends that they don’t feel like they are accomplishing much of note. And I am almost always surprised, as I think they are doing amazingly well – even when their circumstances are difficult.

We tend to downplay our accomplishments and hold ourselves to ridiculously high standards. You weren’t feeling great, but you still got up, got dressed and showed up for work today? You are a champion! Keep it up!

And take a look at the list below, and know that if you do any of these things, you are inspiring someone – including me!

You are inspiring if you:

– show up with a smile
– offer to help
– listen when others speak
– compliment someone’s skill or strengths
– are patient and kind
– give someone an opportunity to do better
– keep your commitments
– renegotiate commitments you can’t keep
– ask for help
– exercise
– eat healthy
– take care of your mental and emotional health
– meditate or pray
– spend time in nature
– relax
– go on retreat
– spend time with friends and family
– play sports
– play music
– go to an event or concert
– read or learn something new
– teach someone else something new
– have small adventures
– have big adventures
– travel to exotic locations
– take a staycation
– post on social media
– take a break from social media
– get the high score on a video game
– take a break from video games
– have a good attitude
– try

What else needs to be on this list? What will you do next to inspire yourself and others?

Thanks for the inspiration!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

p.p.s. An online career coaching group starts January 23 and there is room for one more! More details here:

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