That Negative Voice in Your Team

Posted by on Oct, Wed, 2017 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

elephants fighting

Having been labelled in a previous life as the “difficult employee”, I’m writing from a new perspective on how to deal with those challenging, negative complainers. Years ago, while working, I would attempt to bring up things that weren’t working. I often had some ideas for solutions, but these suggestions were never explored because of my negativity. Or, in retrospect, was it because of the defensiveness of my superiors? Perhaps both!

There are several reasons that people can show up as negative and complaining. Here are some possibilities:

  1. They are aware of a key problem that, like the elephant in the room, is not being talked about. So when it’s brought up, you need to be an open and approachable leader to really listen and not become defensive.
  2. They’ve attempted to share the concern and felt shut down. This may be caused by not feeling heard, by being labelled as difficult or because they are uncomfortable with confrontation.
  3. Leaders are defensive about something and not open to new information or feedback. Sometimes when leaders are overwhelmed with stress, shutting down listening skills is an unconscious strategy to cope.
  4. They need coaching on how to share concerns. They may lack the assertiveness required to share in a constructive manner.
  5. The individual is unhappy in their role, the culture isn’t a good fit or they are simply a complainer who sees the glass as half empty.

The challenge is determining what type of “difficult” or “negative” employee they are. Here are three tips on uncovering what’s really happening for that individual:

  1. Set up a one to one meeting with the individual. Become curious and ask questions to uncover their point of view fully. Consider that they may have some valuable information for you.
  2. Breathe, really listen and repeat back the content (not the delivery) of what you have heard. Remain calm and own any defensiveness that you experience.
  3. Ask how the individual would like to see things done differently. This shifts into solution finding. What action would they like to take on it? This helps encourage personal responsibility. What supports do they need to shift to solution finding and personal responsibility? And finally, what would they like to see you do differently?

Often by really being listened to, the person will be able to be coached on their delivery and show up in a more constructive manner. If this doesn’t work, and the individual continues to complain and be difficult, you will need to shift into holding the person accountable for their behaviour. By investigating with an open mind, you can have a positive impact on your team dynamics.

When We Categorize People We Exclude or Hate: So I Choose Love

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2017 in Communication | 0 comments

September 27- I choose LOVE


I have read many responses to the recent hate events in the world on social media, many of them attempting to create acceptance by talking about external factors (e.g., skin colour) which are sadly another form of prejudice. I’ve even found myself in a blog last month using a photo of “stop workplace bullying”. One of the challenges is our human desire to categorize to make sense of it.

In Appreciative Inquiry Processes, we say “words create worlds”. This speaks to our problem – we have not found the positive words that embrace the complete energy of the opposite of Bigotry/Hate or the energetic opposite of Bullying. So we end up defaulting to the words we really don’t want, which can actually serve to reinforce the negative.

I’ve often said that our need for labeling has created prejudice. For example, as a young Social Worker, I worked for the Metro Toronto Association for the Mentally Retarded. I cringe as I type these words – because I know of the negative connotation that has been placed on this label. And, let’s be honest, we keep making “politically correct” labels that end up with the same stigma.

How do we find the appropriate words that can bring forward the energy of love, acceptance, respect, and dignity for all without creating a label that somehow excludes?

Being Fully Present in Life and at Work

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2017 in My work | 0 comments

Enjoy every moment here and now. Motivating poster.


This summer, I learned a lesson in focus – and like many lessons, it started in a place of lack of [focus].

You see, I have a lovely cottage that I wanted to spend more time at – so decided to work from the cottage on some Fridays. Sounds wonderful – but it’s had some glitches.

I started to feel like I was never really present – when I was at the cottage, I was thinking about what I had to remember when I got back to my office and when at the office, I was distracted by what I needed to remember to take to the cottage to work effectively. This got tiring – very quickly!

So, if you are finding yourself not being fully focused or present in your work here’s some suggestions to help:

  1. Become aware of what’s working well and what isn’t. Once you identify the challenges, solutions can be found.
  2. Write an action plan to address what’s not working. What steps could be taken to make a smoother transition? What helps you to focus?
  3. Create systems to help. Look at the how. For example, I needed to shift my to-do list to add another column of what was needed to complete each task (so any files, etc., I needed to take).
  4. Schedule “transition times” between work and home. I actually scheduled time to focus on where I was going to be and how I would best execute these tasks. I would make notes of anything I needed to pick up when back at my home office. This enabled me to be laser focused on tasks and see them through to completion.
  5. Enjoy the focus.

This allowed me to be fully present and enjoy the cottage and to enjoy the satisfaction of completing my work effectively and easily.

Limiting Beliefs, Hate Crimes and Office Bullying

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2017 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

Stop workplace bullying road sign
Many of us have been outraged by the recent hate situations in the U.S. It is truly baffling how in this age of awareness, and access to information, people continue to condemn each other based on prejudice and ignorance. So where does this hatred come from? I believe it is from two sources – fear of the unknown and the unhealthy need for power. Both are based on very limiting belief systems.

We like to think these are isolated incidences. However, in the workplace there is often a bully that is allowed to negatively impact others without being held accountable. People regularly tell me about the one individual in their workplace whose behaviour continues to create stress and drama for the other workers. Sometimes this is their boss and sometimes a co-worker. And often they continue their behaviour for years without being held accountable.

For both situations, there is a culture of acceptance – often by default. It may be the manager who turns a blind eye to the bullying. Yes, it’s scary to stand up to a bully. Yet, if you consider the damage that happens when you do not address inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, there are dire consequences on others (and I believe on your bottom-line too). Perhaps it’s creating a mental health challenge for other team members, increased absenteeism and/or staff turnover.

If you are one of those managers who has not been addressing aggressive and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace it’s time to step forward and address it. Here are some steps to help:

  1. Make a list of the behaviours that you have witnessed and that others have shared with you. Stick with behaviour that is specific and observable – and stay away from “attitude” type comments. For example, instead of “being rude” it would be “raised your voice and yelled”.
  2. Start to document current situations with the date, parties involved and what happened. Make notes of the impacts on others in the department. This is to help you recognize the impact and hold yourself accountable to address this pattern.
  3. Speak with your Human Resources person about the situation in depth and create a plan to actively and consistently address it. You might like to ask them to join the meeting with the employee to support the process.
  4. Hire an Executive Coach to assist you in understanding and shifting your behaviour so that you can appropriately address the situation.
  5. Arrange a meeting with the person engaging in bullying behaviours. Share the information with the person in a respectful and clear manner. If possible, use the most recent examples as it is easier for the individual to reflect these situations.
  6. Be prepared to call a brief time-out if either you, or your employee get triggered. Then return to the discussion.
  7. Encourage the person to look at what causes the behaviour in them.
  8. Create a plan to address this behaviour pattern. How might they find new avenues to address situations that arise?
  9. Share a written summary of the conversation including the plan to shift the behaviour pattern.
  10. Set up a time for a follow-up meeting and hold them accountable for their behaviour. Also, help them to acknowledge any progress they make towards shifting this pattern of behaviour – even the small steps – while ensuring that they hold themselves fully accountable.
While it is challenging to address these situations, the long-term consequences of brushing it under the rug far outweigh the benefits of ignoring the situation. It is time to shift those limiting beliefs in yourself and your employees. Shift to a new dynamic of respect.

The Aftermath of Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2017 in Communication, Motivation, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

Business, Technology, Internet And Network Concept. Young Busine

Many companies are aware of the importance of measuring employee engagement or satisfaction. In fact, many organizations complete an annual survey to observe how their employees are experiencing their work. The challenge becomes what to do with those pesky survey results when they need improvement.

During a recent conversation with my sister, we discussed how her employer conducts an annual survey. However, they do not appear to address the employees’ responses. I have heard a similar concern from numerous employees over the years. As a result, the employees end up feeling unheard and that their opinions are not valued, which in turn can decrease their engagement.

From my perspective, this is an expensive endeavor to conduct surveys with no action might actually reduce employee engagement. So let’s look at how to address those pesky areas of improvement.

  1. Before you administer the next survey, decide what level of engagement would be ultimate for your organization. Or in other words, what is the crucial rating that means we need to take action steps to improve in this area?
  2. Once the survey is completed, share the results with all your team members. Highlight and celebrate your successes. Next review the areas for improvement. Chose 1 or 2 that will be the highest priority for the next quarter. Identify the 3 action steps and commit to them in front of your team.
  3. Take regular and consistent action to improve those areas. Hire a good consultant to assist you to create and take action on these if necessary. A consultant can help you to keep this project at the top of your priority list.
  4. At the beginning of the next quarter, review with your team what action you have taken and ask for input on how it is working. Getting feedforward in real time can assist in making effective and lasting changes in your culture.
  5. Next, pick the next 2 highest priorities for this quarter. You might need to keep working on the priorities from last quarter if you have not yet achieved real results. Again, share the action plan with your entire team.
  6. Continue to communicate and select priorities each quarter moving forward.

Taking these action steps will create an even better workplace culture and increased engagement. It will ensure more value from the surveys and help you to improve your results. As employees feel valued, they will give increased discretionary efforts and drive stronger bottom-line results.

Releasing Patterns for Success

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2017 in Individual Purpose, My work | 0 comments

Recently I had the pleasure to work with a client who has a successful business, however, finds her coaching client work exhausting. During our coaching session, we chatted about her ‘need to be needed’ and how this played out for her and her clients. This pattern was sabotaging both her clients’ and her success. You see, she became over-invested and her clients stopped doing the work and waited for her to inspire, energize and take full responsibility for their work. Whether you are an Executive or Business owner, how you play out your own unmet needs impacts others. For some, it’s an addiction to perfection and you will find yourself correcting the reports written by your direct reports. You may tell yourself,  “it is vital to get this right and professional” is your motivator. Yet, when you make all those corrections, your direct reports never learn how to do it for themselves and thus a dependency is created. For those folks who are consistently getting re-written, it’s frustrating and demeaning. And many of them give up and submit reports that are mediocre because they know it will be edited anyway.Or maybe you are “in the weeds” all the time, wanting direct reports to inform you of their work and progress on each task. Or as a consultant or coach, you are double checking if your clients are taking action on the tasks they committed to and/or completing some tasks for them. When this plays out, you’ve lost your leadership and/or coaching edge. People will experience this as a lack of faith in their abilities and it can erode their trust in you.Being aware of your patterns and how they operate, often outside of your conscious awareness, is paramount in great leadership. Here’s a process to help you understand what’s happening under the surface for you:

  1. Think about what irritates you or tires you in your work/others – these are often our “energy leaks” where unmet needs are playing out at some level. By energy leaks I mean that you are expending your energy in a manner that will leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed and stressed. How do you typically act in these situations where you feel tired or irritated by others?
  2. Ask yourself, when I do “X” (your unmet need or habit) I find that people consistently do “Y” (their actions/words). Then pull out your journal or piece of paper and using the good old-fashioned cursive writing, make a list of what creates that pattern for you by responding to these questions:
    What thoughts arise when you think about this situation?
    What questions are you asking in your mind?
    What emotions are you experiencing?
    What needs is this pattern meeting for you? This is a tough question – you may need a good coach to help you get to the bottom of your pattern.
  3. How does this mindset serve me in my day-to-day interactions? How does this pattern create chaos in my day? What would I gain by releasing or letting go of this pattern? How might that create space for something different and better to arise?
  4. Now that you’ve identified your pattern and underlying need, how might you directly meet that need? Make a list. For example, if you discover a perfectionist pattern, you might explore other ways to address your anxiety of imperfection such as taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or reviewing what the worst possible scenario would be if the imperfection wasn’t corrected. Most often you’ll find that the consequences are not that dire.
In every area of life becoming increasingly aware of your own patterns of behaviour can unlock success for you. Allowing your patterns to continue to run unaddressed is exhausting and creates those energy leaks. I challenge you to uncover those old patterns and explore new ways to interact that support you, your direct reports and clients.

Change Can be Difficult to Navigate Through

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2017 in Individual Purpose, Motivation | 0 comments

July 19 maneuver through change

About a week ago I was driving into Toronto for a meeting on the 400 series highways. I was driving along my merry way making really good time when another driver merged into my lane. Usually, this is no big deal however; this driver was going about half everyone else’s speed. I needed to brake to let him in and put my 4-way blinkers on so I wouldn’t get rear-ended. I patiently waited for him to get into the slower lanes which didn’t happen.

This situation got me thinking about corporate change and how some executives and managers see change coming and can easily maneuver through it and yet others insulate themselves from the change. The driver of the car in front of me clearly wasn’t flexible in dealing with change and seemed unable to shift into the driving culture of our lane. I have seen this many times with managers when I’m doing my consulting and coaching work.

Have you ever had difficulty managing change? Have you been that slooooow driver? Frustrating everyone around them, perhaps even creating potential peril because you were frightened or uncomfortable with change? Were you one of those people who has shared with me “we’ve always done it this way” during my consulting work?

One thing that is consistent in today’s world is change. Just as we get to understand one technology or way of doing something, it is time again to innovate. Yes, we can all experience “change fatigue”, but sometimes we just hate innovation and having to learn new ways to do business.

Here are 3 tips to help you shift with the changes:

  1. Identify when you are challenged by upcoming changes. Awareness is always the first step to shifting behaviour.

You will know this when you start tensing up during conversations, you might hear yourself saying a lot of “but, …” or simply be complaining to others in your life that there are more innovations on their way. Another symptom of difficulty with change is when you hold onto something like it’s the best solution ever – and dig your heels in to protect that solution. Or, you get feedback from your boss or direct reports that you are not open – this may seem less obvious so simply reflect on comments that people have made to you recently.

  1. Make a list of the potential benefits of this change. By looking at the situation from a variety of perspectives, you can often shift into action mode.

What other perspectives might I view this upcoming innovation through? For example, how might this benefit the bottom-line? What would it make easier in the long run? If this new way of doing things came into being, how could this solve other challenges that you are aware of? Ask you and your team “what am I not seeing here?” as a way of opening your thought process. This will also encourage your team to shift with the change.

  1. Review past experiences with change to uncover what you have found helpful to embracing that shift? In this way, you can create a road map for future initiatives to help you maneuver more smoothly and effectively through shifts in your work.

Identify what made it easier for you to make the shift into the new methods. Make a list. Then make a list of the ways you have struggled with change in the past. Ask yourself, how could I make these behaviours more adaptive to a new situation? This can be tough to do on your own, so hiring a coach to assist you through your stuck points can be a brilliant way to lessen the stress of consistent innovation and change that we all are experiencing. I’m only a phone call away.

Learning to adapt and speed up into the new lane of traffic becomes paramount to success in today’s fast-paced business environment. Driving 60 when others around you are driving 120 will cause you to not only put yourself in danger but will create peril around you.

Let’s Keep the Ball Rolling this Summer

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2017 in Communication | 0 comments

Beach Ball

It is official, summer is really here! While we talk about spring fever, we don’t have a name for the challenges that can arise when the warm weather, beaches and outdoors call us during these summer months yet they often impact how we work.

We all know that more vacation time is taken in the summer months and that projects and deliverables still need to happen; so here are a few tips on managing those projects and keeping that ball rolling forward:

  1. Ensure that time is taken to communicate all aspects of the current deliverables with all team members as they will need to be able to pitch hit for one another throughout this season. Having open dialogue can reduce stress and prevent frustration for both your team members and your clients.
  2. Create accountability partners or “vacation partners” within the team. Have these individuals update specific aspects of ongoing projects with potential calls/issues that may arise during their vacation time. Be sure to include a list of names of all clients, phone numbers and email addresses including the best way to reach each client.
  3. Encourage staff to add a short sentence of their upcoming vacation and who will cover for them in their email signature leading up to their time off. This will make it easier for your clients to anticipate and plan for your team member’s vacation knowing that someone else can be contacted as needed.
  4. Include their vacation partner’s name and extension in their outgoing email message. Include the ability to press # with the extension number now if your phone system allows.
  5. Have each team member forward client emails that may be of assistance should their partner be contacted during their vacation. Consider forwarding emails to the vacation partner from specific clients during the time off.

These tips can help reduce your team member’s stress level as they keep those balls in the air. And when your vacation comes up, you can unplug and focus on keeping your beach ball up in the air feeling more relaxed knowing you’ve got things covered at work!

Use the 5-Second Rule and Move Mountains

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2017 in Motivation | 1 comment


I’ve just recently read “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins and frankly, I feel like I’ve found a gold mine. Since finishing it, I’ve shifted from being a serial snooze bar junkie to a hop out of bed the second the alarm sounds to start my day.

Here’s the methodology…in order to push through the brain’s resistance to change or lack of motivation, you simply countdown backwards from 5 to 1. It’s as simple as 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – GO! And take action!

Her argument is that we will never be motivated to do things that are difficult, but necessary, in our lives. When we think about that less than appealing task we go into uncomfortable emotions like fear, worry, uncertainty, etc. Then the monkey brain will take over creating wonderful excuses why it is acceptable to us not to do that nasty task. So when you countdown, your monkey brain gets to count (it’s happy) and when you get to “0” you have nowhere else to go but take action!

Funny enough, this technique also works when we have exciting goals we want to achieve and may be intimidated or nervous to begin. When the inspiration to start the task, before any hesitation happens, and dial the phone, begin to write the email, start writing, or whatever task will take you closer to your big goal.

Our brains are wired to continue to take action once we have begun a task – it’s called the commitment and consistency principle. Basically, once we make a decision or choice to take action towards something, we continue to take action that is consistent with that choice. And this is how this countdown process enables us to overcome emotional hesitation and create the results that are really important.

While it’s incredibly simple, I think it’s going to take some finessing to perfect how I use it through the day to attack those things that are not as fun to do. But, given that I have an additional 50 to 60 minutes each day (the time I used to snooze), I think I’ll be able to naturally accomplish more.

Creating Great Teamwork Creates Sold Bottom-line Results at PEER Group

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2017 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

What happens when two engineers get together to create a work environment where they love to come to work every day? 25 years later you have a team of highly motivated and committed employees that drive an amazing bottom-line.

That is what founders Mike Kropp and Bob Harris have created at PEER Group Inc. Their vision in 1992 was to “love coming to work, love the people, and love our work”. From there, PEER Group® has grown from 2 full-time employees and a handful of contractors in a ‘boot-strap’ start-up to a team of over 100 employees worldwide generating almost $24,000,000 in global revenue in 2016. It’s not just the PEER Group team that recognizes an amazing company culture: PEER Group has been named as one of the Best Workplaces in Canada for the last 5 consecutive years by the Great Place to Work® Institute!Being committed to creating healthy workplace culture, I had to interview a couple of key individuals at PEER Group and share with you some of the great ways they accomplish this success in team and business. Through interviews with Mike Kropp (PEER Group President & CEO) and Janice Retterath (Director of HR & Administration), I learned that PEER Group has intuitively applied On Purpose Consulting’s 5C’s throughout its organization. I believe their success relates directly to their focus on:

Clarity, Communication, Congruency, Collaboration,
and Commitment




Clarity is having well-defined company values, and the processes to operationalize these on a daily basis in order to achieve your results.

From their first days in business, PEER Group has hired for culture fit by conducting team interviews to ensure that all hires align with the company’s core values. Their ongoing focus on fostering a caring workplace has inspired each decision along the way. For example, PEER Group has a “baby wall” where every child born to an employee has a framed photo displayed to celebrate this life achievement.

Work-life balance is promoted through vacation time – each employee begins with 3 weeks per year and there is flexibility to hold over portions of the holiday to the following year to allow for special holidays and/or to enable international employees to travel home for longer periods.

These are only 2 examples of the many ways that PEER Group’s clarity enables them to operationalize their values.



Communication will make or break an organization. Ensuring that communication is based on mutual respect by ensuring listening as well as talking is important in creating an effective workplace culture.

In Mike’s words, PEER Group “paints a vision” through sharing the complete finances to all permanent team members including costs, expenses, and revenues. Feedback is invited during this presentation in a session called “Open Mike – Ask Me Anything” where employees do just that – ask their president anything.

Feedback is also encouraged through a suggestion box and an open door policy for direct conversations. In an effort to encourage even more collaboration, later this year PEER Group will roll out a new intranet for better internal communications and replace their existing bulletin board-style tool.

When changes are happening in the organization, such as major renovations, the team is consulted for their input. Given the request from team members, the design of PEER Group’s new office space will include cubicles as the extra privacy enables focus on highly detailed tasks such as complex programming.



Congruency is when the leaders’ behaviour is consistent with the declared values of the organization. When this occurs, trust is enhanced, and team dynamics can soar.

The PEER Group leadership team places a high value on caring and teamwork. These values are shown through a solid pay structure, profit sharing, stability and work-life balance. They have created a “family environment” where during lunch times team members feel comfortable sharing personal goals, challenges, and dreams in life. Although he’s company president, even Mike joins the team and partakes in these lunchtime chats whenever he’s not travelling. He’s clear that there is no hierarchy or politics at these meals, just an opportunity to connect with each other.

In addition to the caring and teamwork that happens within the PEER Group walls, the entire company is dedicated to community involvement. Various teams work together to fundraise for local charities.

To help celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary this year, PEER Group’s co-founders also set up a $25,000 Endowment Fund at KidsAbility to help support the thousands of local children who rely on its services.



Once trust is established and maintained, the team will engage in collaborative practices.

During the onboarding process at PEER Group, time is spent ensuring positive collaboration by:

  • Clarifying their policy manual as a guide to create consistency throughout all teams vs. a tool of enforcement.
  • Establishing mentoring relationships as another way to deepen cooperative team work and learning.
  • Assertiveness training which they call “You know what conversations”. It’s their way to have those difficult conversations and facilitate healthy relationships at work.

Beyond onboarding, all employees are encouraged to participate in the company’s mentoring and training programs.


When you actively work on the first 4 C’s, and you commit to your team members, team commitment is the result.

The leaders at PEER group are committed to their employees from the moment of hire. Performance appraisals are a pathway for career planning and development. When promotions happen, it is often from within and team members are given opportunities for training (paid time off for studying and exams) as well as skill development to prepare them for the new role.

Maintaining a core value of integrity and a strong belief that all good things flow from a place of integrity, PEER Group has created a highly committed team. Last year, staff turnover was only 4% due to retirements and career changes. When one individual wanted a career change, the management’s focus became how can we help with your transition? In fact, when one hire did not work out, they found a better fit between skills and job at another organization through the management’s professional network.

PEER Group commits to their team from the moment of hire to often the end of their career (of their employees, 6 % have been employed for over 20 years and 35% have been with the company more than 10 years). Clearly, the 5C’s are alive and flourishing at PEER Group!

As it says on their website: “The word “PEER” in our company name stemmed from the idea of interconnected software objects that communicate with each other as “peers”. Our employees are also the heart of our organization and a “peer group” is a group of like-minded individuals”. This is definitely what I witnessed during my recent visit to the organization’s head office in Kitchener, Ontario.