Focus on Coaching: Overcoming Positive Feedback Obstacles

By Matt Zobrist

The first and most powerful type of coaching is positive feedback. Positive feedback consists of praise, appreciation, and acknowledgment given when performance or behaviors meet or exceed standard. When done correctly, positive feedback will easily get team members to replicate good performance, unlock their discretionary effort and routinely exceed standards. Some leaders struggle to provide a sufficient quantity and quality of positive feedback. Here are six ways to overcome the most common obstacles (rationalizations) the keep us from providing positive feedback.

  1. Idea that pay for work is sufficient —this is an outdated mind-set. Further, it is an excuse used by a leader who does not want (or is afraid) to praise and appreciate. Pay is the compensation an organization provides for the lowest level of acceptable performance. We need to realize the most people want more from a job than simply a paycheck. A paycheck does not buy a team member’s engagement or motivation to provide effort beyond the minimum. Today’s workforce is going to be more productive when they feel appreciated, are recognized for their work, and are engaged. More importantly, we need to stop rationalizing our failure to praise because they are getting paid.
  1. Just doing their job doesn’t deserve praise – Some bosses say that no one deserves to be praised for just doing his or her job. This is false, and just like the first obstacle, without praise and appreciation, team members rarely do more than required. Additionally, team members who are performing to standard are just as deserving of praise as those who excel. Praise and appreciation are the fundamental steps to getting them to move their needle towards (eventually) performing above standard. If you don’t praise for standard performance, you will not be able to praise for higher performance because your team won’t ever get there. They will be very unlikely to even try to do anything but the minimum. You will never be able to unlock their discretionary effort.
  1. I do not hear it from my leader – First, you should never rationalize your own behavior on account of others. Second, your responsibility is to your team. One of my favorite quotes by Simon Sinek is “Be the leaders you wish you had.” It is true that it is hard to provide positive feedback when you are not getting any. However, the reality is that your team deserves to be recognized and appreciated by you (their leader), regardless if you are receiving it from yours. Don’t deprive them of the positive feedback they so desperately deserve, simply because you are not getting it. PRO TIP: If you consistently and sincerely provide positive feedback to your team, eventually, they will provide it back to you.
  1. They don’t want to hear it – Human beings all have ego needs (see Maslow) and everyone likes to be told when they have done something good. Additionally, when that praise comes from someone in authority (and hopefully respected) it has more meaning. Even those who say they are “just doing their job” or there is “no need” for compliments, are just raising false flags. This is often a result of the cultural stigma of not “tooting one’s own horn.” Every they do something worthy of praise, something you (your organization) wants replicated – Tell them! If they object, tell them again. PRO TIP: Overcome the “I don’t need recognition” objection by shifting the burden of feigned embarrassment to yourself, by saying, “I need you to know, that I appreciate/recognize/praise that.”
  1. They know, I don’t have to tell them – This excuse assumes (wrongly) two things: First, that a team member knows when their performance is appreciated and praiseworthy; and second, that a team member’s internal self-talk is sufficient that when they do something well, they automatically know and will continue the behavior. In reality, team members are starving to know where they stand with their boss and if they are doing things right. None of your team members has the ability to read your mind, so the only way they can know is by you telling them. PRO TIP: It is not just about them knowing, but the fact that their leader knows and recognizes it!
  1. I’m too busy – This is probably the lamest, yet most frequently cited excuse for failing to provide positive (or any) feedback. The reason I say that is two-fold: First, if it was important to you, you would make time for it. If we genuinely want our team members’ performance to be excellent then we must make providing positive feedback a priority! When it is important, you will make the time for it. Second, it is usually applied retroactively. That is, we tend to only recognize the lack of it AFTER we failed to provide it. We rationalize this failure by noting we just did not have time. Because the benefits of positive feedback are so valuable, we must make it a priority. It must be important do us, great leaders do this as a matter of habit. PRO TIP: If it is difficult to carve time out of your busy schedule to provide positive feedback then put sometime on your daily agenda (say 15-20 minutes at the end of the day) to just recall and write down things you team members did that were noteworthy. Also put 15-20 minutes on your morning schedule to follow up on that list the next day. Carry it around with you and mark off the tasks as you provide the feedback. Soon you will find that you won’t be waiting until the end of the day and you will be providing positive feedback in a timely manner every day.

Positive Feedback is the bread and butter of a good leader. It is the linchpin to unlocking an individual’s discretionary effort and getting high level performance from your team. Consistently providing positive feedback will also build the loyalty and trust, which high-functioning teams require to succeed.

Matt Zobrist from Aegis Learning

Matt Zobrist is an energetic and dynamic facilitator, coach, presenter and speaker with Aegis Learning, LLC.

Tips for Working Remotely

By Matt Zobrist

Working from home (WFH) is now becoming a necessity. But, working from home, contrary to popular belief is not easy. It actually requires a lot of emotional and mental focus to stay productive. Here are some tips to help you be productive when you WFH:

Keep “work” space separate – The need to have a specific are where you are “at work” is very important. Our brains respond to our environment. We have programmed ourselves to know that home is a relax area, or our bedroom is where we sleep. WFH requires us to reprogram ourselves to work in those same areas; it is very hard to do. If possible, set your “work area” or home office up in another room entirely from where you normally relax. If not, take steps to separate the area where you will work.

Have a plan – Organization is key to building new routines. Working from home is new, we don’t have any routines or procedures. Perhaps your organization has given your guidelines (when to logon remotely, meeting times, production schedules, etc.) but without proper planning, it is very easy to mismanage your time at home. Having a plan keeps us focused on tasks and accomplishing goals, so we are less likely to become distracted.

Dress for work – while working in your pajamas is kind of fun, the reality is that when you prepare yourself to go to work, even when you are home, it helps you mentally shift gears to work mode. Additionally, when you are working, if you are dressed for work, it is easier to stay focused on you job.

Don’t work from the couch/bed – The temptation is great to just lug your laptop around and sit on the couch. You should be sitting at a desk/table in a good chair. Positional laziness translates into actual laziness. Have your designated work area as similar to your real work area to facilitate continuity of your work.

Don’t do housework/chores/honey-dos during “work” time – We all have a myriad of things we can do at home dishes, laundry, projects, etc. It can be very easy to work on these responsibilities rather than focus on your employment tasks. That isn’t to say that with careful planning you cannot accomplish both, but it is very easy to become overcommitted to home chores and neglect the job you are being paid to do.

Know your distractions and minimize them! – The temptation to be on social media at work is very high, in fact a majority of workers engage in some social media time while at work. When you are at home, this time can easily multiply leading to lost productivity. Dealing with family issues is another big distraction. Kids (and spouses) know you are home and may want to spend time with you. This is a double-edge sword of WFH: you appear to have more time with your family, but you really don’t because you have a fiduciary responsibility to your employer to be productive. Make sure you have clear rules for family interactions, like only on breaks with specific, pre-set time limits.

Social Contact – we are social creatures. We enjoy, some people actually crave, that water-cooler talk. We need to keep our social interactions alive, so use technology to communicate with your co-workers, when you can’t do it in person. Be aware this can become a distraction if not done with limits on time and context. Such as, socialize for a bit after speaking about work; don’t just make a social call.

Get up and move around – One advantage of working from home is when you take a break, you have lots of thing you can do. Often at work we get up, walk around, talk to people, get things off a printer, go to the mail room, go to someone else’ office, etc. without realizing it. Without those things we end up becoming too sedentary. Walk around your house, take a break and go outside. Take some time to get the blood flowing and you will refresh yourself and be able to renew your focus.

For Leaders whose team(s) work from home, a few things to consider as well:

Establish clear WFH Policies – Have clearly established guidelines covering things like: how time will be tracked (if at all), proper use of company equipment (laptop, phones, etc), any reimbursement for personal items used, reporting procedures / times, etc.

Expectations – While you should always have clear expectations for performance, when you add WFH, it becomes very important that your team knows what is expected. As the line between “my time” and “work time” is easily blurred, having clear and written expectations allows team members to work more autonomously, and yet still have sufficient guidance to plan and be successful.

Guidelines for on-the-job injuries – It is a generally a good idea for WFH teams to understand what would or would not be a workers’ compensation claim if they are injured working remotely. Providing good guidelines for team members to know when they are not covered also helps them to remain focused on work.

Be Flexible – A big part of the reason you are allowing your team to work remotely is for them to have more control over their schedules. Be understanding and flexible in allowing them to figure out their schedules, capabilities, etc. This may take some time for them to establish a routine to become productive. Allow them to work this out, while consistently providing feedback to bolster their confidence and keep them on track.

Don’t doubt your commitment – Transitioning to a successful WFH environment is not going to happen overnight. (Even if you have to implement it overnight) It is going to take time for team members to develop productive habits and routines. They are going to struggle at first, you are going to struggle too. Do not doubt your commitment. They will reflect your attitude towards the whole endeavor. If you doubt it will work, it probably won’t. Remain positive, be encouraging and trust them; don’t give up, you and your team can make it work!

Matt Zobrist from Aegis Learning

Matt Zobrist is an energetic and dynamic facilitator, coach, presenter and speaker with Aegis Learning, LLC.

Focus on Coaching: Keys to Positive Feedback

By Matt Zobrist

The first and most powerful type of coaching is positive feedback. Positive feedback consists of praise, appreciation and acknowledgment, given when performance or behaviors meet or exceed standard. This should be the most common type of coaching a leader engages in.

When Positive Feedback is implemented correctly, it creates positive feelings in people about themselves and what they do. We all have the internal desire to be praised, recognized and appreciated. Tapping into that desire through consistently and correctly providing positive feedback is an amazing way to get top performance from your team members. Here are 5 Keys to correctly providing positive feedback

There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Positive Feedback. First off, you cannot tell people too much or too often that they are doing good and are appreciated. Seriously, people will never tire of hearing that kind of stuff and, as long as you are honest and sincere, they will respond and behave in a way to receive more. Also, never underestimate the power of showing appreciation and praise for just “doing their job.” Yes – you should be thanking and praising team members for their work when it meets standard, not only when it goes above it. Simply put, the more you appreciate and praise your team, the better they will become. For more on that, please seem my article entitled “Praise for Standard Performance? Yes!

Do Not Delay. Feedback should be provided as close to the performance/behavior as possible. The closer in time to the actual event praise or appreciation is given, the more important the receiver feels, specifically they feel they are valued by the leader/organization and have made an impact. Delaying may allow intervening behaviors/actions to overshadow the good performance. For example, a leader was going to wait a week to recognizing a team member’s superior performance; however, before she could praise that person, he had a pretty public screw up. When she met with the team member, her positive feedback was immediately eclipsed by the corrective action she had to take. Lastly, there is always the risk you will become too busy and forget to provide it at all.

Do It In Person. Too be most effective, positive feedback must be delivered in the richest method possible, where your tone and non-verbal signals will show that you, as the leader, are really, genuinely pleased with the performance. There is no adequate substitute for this interaction! Never, repeat: NEVER use email as the primary delivery method for positive feedback. Regardless of the content of your email, the fact you chose email conveys to the receiver that you don’t really care. Email can be a good follow-up tool AFTER you have provided positive feedback – even allowing documentation for future reference (i.e., for an evaluation, etc.).

Be Clear, Direct and Specific. Don’t let your message get lost in platitudes or “fluffy” language. Simply tell the team member what they did, why it was worthy of recognition, praise, and/or gratitude. The more specific your feedback, the more impactful it will be. For example: “Jackie, I really appreciated the way you made that client feel special when he came in today. Good work.” Or “Jennifer, you did a really good job presenting that information to the team today.” PRO TIP: If your organization has specified core values, try to tie positive feedback to one or more of your core values. Overall, linking individual performance to organizational values has a compounding effect as the team member sees the his or her actions are in alignment with organizational goals and aspirations.

Provide Positive Feedback Fairly. All team members are craving praise and appreciation (most importantly from their leader) and they all deserve it. Do they all perform at the same level? Of course not. But they all do things worthy of praise and appreciation. Remember: fair does not mean equal. It means everyone will get some positive feedback, no exceptions. It does not mean they will each get the same type though. If someone does a truly outstanding job, they should get outstanding praise and recognition; someone who does just a good job should get an appropriate level of praise. This means you need to ensure positive feedback is consistently provided to all team members. No one gets left out. Focusing all your positive feedback on one person, such as top performers only, can create the appearance of favoritism.

PRO TIP: Praise in public, correct in private is still a true precept, however, not everyone enjoys publicity. As much as you may want to share the praise, to encourage others, respect your team member’s desires and get their permission before any public presentations. You still need to provide direct, specific praise to that person, just not in a public forum.

The next article in this series will focus on some obstacles to providing Positive Feedback, and how to overcome them. Corrective Feedback will be discussed in the subsequent articles, and the last article will cover Training.

I am always looking for additional topics to write about. Please feel free to contact me with comments, questions, request a topic, or provide your stories (I love hearing about your situations). I can be reached at

Matt Zobrist from Aegis Learning

Matt Zobrist is an energetic and dynamic facilitator, coach, presenter and speaker with Aegis Learning, LLC.

Focus on Coaching: The What and Why

By Matt Zobrist

Coaching is an ongoing dialogue between a leader and team members.  As a leader, the bulk of your leadership interactions with your team should be some form of coaching. It is an ongoing process with the goal to get team members to replicate desirable behaviors and performance, as well as eliminate or reduce negative performance or behaviors. The three main types of coaching covered in this series will be: Positive Feedback, Corrective Feedback and Training.

Coaching has benefits for the individual team member, the leader and ultimately the organization. First, team members want to know how they are doing, and they want to know as soon as possible. Further, they want to know of how they are doing on a regular and consistent basis. They certainly do not want to simply be told once a year – in the dreaded annual evaluation – they are acceptable, average, or “meet standard.” If you are in an organization where “no news is good news” you can be sure the leadership has a coaching (failure) problem.

Team members who are coached regularly are more likely to be engaged and productive at work. They have higher levels of trust in their fellow team members, their leader and the organization. Praise, compliments and gratitude (positive feedback) help build people’s self-esteem and willingness to work hard(er), while increasing their trust in their leader and organization. Likewise, providing immediate correction, without anger or belittlement, helps team members improve their performance and learn to trust you as the leader. Team members need to have enough knowledge, tools and expertise to do their jobs. As leaders provide training to team members, they become more skilled and efficient; this also strengthens trust in the leader as they see he/she wants them to be successful.

A leader benefits from coaching his/her team by their increased engagement and willingness to work. Great coaches can get their team members to supply more effort, above and beyond what they merely get paid for, on a regular basis. More productive, skilled, engaged and efficient employees will provide unparalleled levels of service and quality for the organization.

People will replicate behavior for which they are consistently and quickly rewarded and avoid behaviors for which they are not rewarded, or for which they are punished. This is based on solid behavioral science including B.F. Skinner’s Law of Operant Conditioning, and it works. When a leader consistently coaches, team members respond. I had a team member once who, when he came to my team, had been pretty thoroughly mentally beaten down by a former boss. He had practically resigned himself to mediocrity and just wanted to get through a day without attracting any attention to himself. He did the bare minimums. However, after a few months of consistently complimenting his skills and performance, as well as listening to him and building trust, he began to improve. He dramatically improved over the next few months and I observed a direct correlation with my coaching and his willingness and ability to work hard, including going above and beyond what was required.

Positive Feedback. Corrective Feedback will be discussed in the two articles to follow, and the last article will cover Training.

I am always looking for additional topics to write about. Please feel free to contact me with comments, questions, request a topic, or provide your stories (I love hearing about your situations). I can be reached at

Matt Zobrist from Aegis Learning

Matt Zobrist is an energetic and dynamic facilitator, coach, presenter and speaker with Aegis Learning, LLC.

Plan B

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning

By Kelley Reynolds

Growing up in Las Vegas, I appreciate the beauty and opportunity of the buffet. One day recently, for lunch, I wanted turkey, so I headed to my favorite buffet.  I walked in with the sole intent of dining on roasted turkey.  As I headed to the carving station, I survey the other tasty selections offered. The pizza was just pulled, hot from the oven. The Chow Mein appeared tired.  When I arrived at the carving station, they are out of turkey.  Now what?

Easy…. as I made my way through the line, I had crafted an alternate plan. Now, I moved to Plan B, the piping hot pizza.

Thankfully, the buffet offers options and an easy solution to my dining dilemma.

I recently read an article in which the author postulated that it is important to have a goal, Plan A.  Some people will create contingency plans, Plan B, if you will.  However, the author of the article wrote that the simple fact of having a Plan B means you are not committed to Plan A.

While I appreciated the author’s position, and enjoyed learning something new, I disagreed.

You can be fully committed to Plan A, 100 %, and still prepare a Plan B.  Having a Plan B does not take away from or in any way diminish A. 

Most of us believe we will live long lives.  Does owning a life insurance policy mean we are not committed to Plan A, long life?  No. Life insurance means that we realize that life does not always go along as we expect.

When we marry, we plan to remain together for the remainder of our lives and perhaps beyond.  Does a prenuptial agreement mean we are not committed to the love of our life, Plan A?  No. It means that in world in which we habitat, there are a myriad of legal and financial reasons for a prenuptial which in no way reflects our love or commitment.

To be clear, Plan B is not a euphemism for a boyfriend or girlfriend outside of your committed relationship!  Plan B does not sabotage or undermine Plan A.  It is in place if some external force interferes with your ability to succeed with Plan A. 

Having Plan B means that you are prepared.  Well prepared.  You have assessed the landscape and are aware that there are market forces beyond your control.

You realize that there are variables of which you may be unaware or have no influence.  The tornado that rips out sections of the highway in your delivery chain.  The embargo that stalls your supply chain. Or, the new technology launched that makes a service you offer irrelevant. 

While these are events you cannot control, you are able to control your response to them.  You either implement or scramble to develop Plan B or lose business.  Having Plan B in place allows you to be nimble and continue business when, for whatever reason Plan A is no longer viable.

Be fully committed to Plan A, to reaching the sales goal, to reducing client wait time or whatever your goal.  However, also be a leader prepared with contingency plans to help your team navigate when life takes twists and turns.

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning

Kelley’s optimistic outlook on life guides her belief that change is possible!

Her easy going instruction style mixed with a dry wit make her an entertaining educator. She has instructed professionals throughout the nation as well as internationally. Kelley has earned a Master of Business Administration and possesses a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, both from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Grieving Change

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

My old house was really not special or unique on any level.  1100 square feet, office, master bedroom and some under-stair storage.  Nice neighbors, too many sirens and fully audible play-by-play of football on Friday nights from the next-door high school. 

But for three years it was home.  Our little landing place, safe spot and quiet zone for me and Miss Sydney.  Knew where everything was and could find things in the dark.  Comfortable and completely crafted and designed by me.  Contained and protected all my treasures. 

The contrasting change is a new home, three times the size, new roommates, bigger yard, space, space and more space.  Exciting stuff with a lifetime of new memories coming.  There is no doubt about a better future in this home.

But the one lesson I learned when my dad passed was to mourn the loss of the old situation.  Even though my old bachelor pad was not much to write home about, I need to mourn that change.  With my dad, I didn’t do that for many years.  Moved right into performance mode and even denied emotional connection.  Took care of everything and everyone and never took the time to mourn the loss.  That exploded some years later in a necessary breakdown related to the missing of my weekly conversations and annual visits. 

Even though a house change is not close to the emotional connection with a loved one, there is still emotional connection.  Emotional connection that cannot be denied.  To fully move on and be joyful and present in my new home, I needed to mourn the loss of the old place.

And so, it is with all changes and even, those changes that happen in the working environment.  We lose a team member; we need to grieve it and mourn.  There is a procedure that we have high expertise in; we need to mourn its passing and change.  The organizational structure changes; we need to take some time, reflect and mourn. 

To some of you reading this, you will find this a bit much and even be dismissive of the entire concept of mourning a procedure or cubicle location but hang with me for a moment.  The cycle of change, regardless of the depth and scope of change, requires a grieving, stressing or mourning prior to coping and moving into performance.  Change becomes a unique human adaptation because it requires both a cognitive (mental) and emotional reaction.  The cycle of change is described as:

Change Event

What becomes different. 

Stressing, Grieving, Mourning

Degree of emotional reaction associated with comfort, expertise and love connected to the prior situation or person.


Point-in-time acknowledgement that you must survive, adapt and move forward in the new situation.


The recovery of prior levels of functioning after the coping point.

(Repeat to Next Change Event)

Now let’s look at some telltale signals and signs of the need to grieve:

  1. Constant Referencing the Way it Was
  1. Memorials and Tributes to People Gone and Lost
  1. Tributes to the “Old Days”
  1. Not Recovering into Performance
  1. Staying “Stuck in the Past”
  1. Not Learning or Adapting to the New Ways or Situations

The complete object lesson of this is learning how and when to grieve a loss related to a change, no matter how big or small.  The principles of grieving are the same for a lost loved one as they are for a new technology at work.

  1. Acknowledge the Feelings and Emotions of Loss

Openly accept the hurt and emotions related to your loss.  Don’t deny them.  Don’t say your alright. 

  1. Provide Time to Grieve

Give yourself some time to reflect on the loss and reflect on what you valued about the old situation.  Resurrect some fond memories and allow yourself the feeling of fondness.  Do this as soon as possible.  Delay in this step can exasperate the feelings of hurt and reduce your ability to move forward.

  1. Accept and Acknowledge

Intellectually accept that things will not be the same and will never return to the previous situation.

  1. Focus on the Benefits of the New

Create or focus on the positive outcomes from the change event.  If you are unable to summon this, you may need to go back and spend more time grieving what you lost.

  1. Learn

Develop and learn new skills associated with the changes that you are experiencing.  Build a set of competencies that restore normalcy and return your expertise.

  1. Adapt and Overcome

The final stage is to restore your performance and functioning.  Return to your routines with the new reality and begin to really adjust to your situation.  Many people (me included) have tried to jump to this step which really stunts the recovery from change period.

A final note about grieving a loss is about time.  There is no magic formula for how long this will take you.  Some losses will take months, and even years, to recover from while some, like my old house, this cycle can be moved through in minutes.

Tim Schneider New House

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Drama Queen and Emotion King

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

I know you know them.  You may work with them.  They may live in your neighborhood or even your own home.  Drama Queen and Emotion King.

To Drama Queen (DQ) and Emotion King (EK), every event is worthy of sharing and over sharing.  Every small thing that the rest of us brush off and rack up to another day, they turn into a major crisis.  As we work to calm others, they work to stir up others.  When we try to fix a problem, they tend to make it worse.  When they exist in the workplace, they offer some significant challenges to leaders.

First some of the symptoms.  When the office temperature goes down just a little, DQ thinks she will freeze.  The slightest shift of policy and practices causes EK to rant endlessly about the adverse impact.  EK has more dysfunctional relatives than a year’s worth of The Jerry Springer Show.  DQ is getting sick every other day and is either shivering or burning up from fever. 

The bottom line is with both DQ and EK is that this type of behavior is very disruptive in the working environment and can be highly counter-motivational to the rest of the team.  Drama hurts the workplace and the well intending team members caught in the storm that surrounds it. 

Researchers have tried in the past to put some quantifiable face on workplace drama.  There have been studies related to age (millennials versus generation X), gender (men versus women), job type (blue versus white collar) and even lunar cycle.  In each attempt to study the phenomenon, no trends were found other than workplace drama can be a aggravating and compounding factor in workplace toxicity and lead to a great deal of lost productivity, turnover and a large drop in morale.

The one certain element in our drama causers, DQ and EK, is that they both lack the emotional intelligence to deal with situations and issues that the rest of us can process easily and with no interruption.  High degrees of emotional intelligence allow us to have greater resilience (bounce back), confidence and self-satisfaction.  Poor emotional intelligence means that an individual lack in these critical competencies and skills.  When they don’t have the skills to cope, people project and emote their frustrations and feel compelled to seek outside validation and have others involved.

Effective leaders will deal with workplace drama and our pals DQ and EK in the following ways:

  1. Model Behavior

The most powerful and easily controlled method of dealing with workplace drama is to not share yours.  No matter how benign it sounds on the surface, your challenges may be interpreted as drama to others.  Don’t complain, whine or bring your personal issues to work.  If it is cold, put on a jacket.

  1. Not Biting

Workplace drama enthusiasts (DQ and EK) really want someone to pay attention to them and to validate their concerns.  Don’t acknowledge the rants, complaints, tantrums and pouting.  If their behaviors lack validation, they will soon lack any credibility.

  1. Not Accommodating

One of the more prevalent tactics of drama purveyors is the need to have different terms and working conditions as a result of their drama.  When we do not accommodate their requests for differential treatment, we are disabling their ability to get what they want through the drama route.

  1. Refocusing to Mission and Objectives

The gentle, subtle and sometimes right between the eyes reminder that team members are charged with certain responsibilities to support the organization is a powerful reminder to cut the drama.  Team members are paid to perform a job function and not to provide a support group for the wayward and heartbroken.

  1. Clear Expectations of Behavior

The final method of dealing with workplace drama is the only proactive method.  This is to clearly articulate and reiterate that drama type behavior is not acceptable at your organization.  It is not that you are not uncompassionate but rather that you and your team are focused on the needs of the organization.

Tim Schneider from Aegis Learning

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Skin in the Game: Are You Interested or Invested?

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

Most often attributed to the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, the phrase “skin in the game” probably originated in a California newspaper in the summer of 1912.

Regardless of origin, the phase has been quoted millions of times in baseball dugouts, football huddles, board rooms and corporate meeting rooms.  One of the more famous recent uses of the phrase came from Barrack Obama prior to his being sworn in as president of the United States.  The president-elect was describing the shared sacrifice needed by all Americans to resurrect the economy.

“Skin in the game” is used to describe commitment and participation in any activity.  It is especially descriptive of the difference between someone who is fully invested in an activity compared to those who are passive spectators.  It might be money invested, time spent or actual skin shred on an athletic field, “skin in the game” is a very descriptive phrase that is more powerful than “buy in” or “commitment.”

I have had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with an executive in the convention services industry.  Her favorite take on “skin in the game” is “are you interested or are you invested?”  Highlighting the difference between true commitment to a task, project or issue, “interested or invested” challenges people to check their level of commitment.  Beyond buy-in and even more business relevant than “skin in the game”, “interested or invested” is a great self-check in anything in which you claim to be committed.

When examining interested, you see people that probably talk a good game.  They express their commitment to others and they will argue tooth and nail about their level of commitment.  Unfortunately, when you scratch the surface a little, you realize their commitment level is nothing but talk and their involvement beyond the minimum requirement is nonexistent.  There is no initiative and there certainly is no subordination of self-interest for the good of the organization.

An interim step between interest and invested could best be described as involved.  Involvement is different from investment because of the emotional commitment required.  Involvement looks a great deal like fully engaged team members because those team members are in motion and action is occurring.  Work gets done, extra labor is applied, time is spent but it is still not at full investment.  Involvement is action without commitment.  It is better than being interested but can still be fleeting because there is no real emotional commitment.  It is the living together of work commitment level.

Invested is when a team member gives of themselves, commits their own time and resources and is really committed to the direction, mission and vision of the organization.  That is the team member that asks what needs to be done and not “what’s in it for me”.  It is the team member that works to get something done without inquiry about overtime.  It is the team member that is becoming a business partner and moving away from being an employee.  Not that compensation should ever be ignored but it is not the most important part of the equation.  Doing what’s right and what is needed is the most important part.

Invested is also about subordinating self-interest and comfort.  It is truly amazing how committed some people claim to be but when their comfort is challenged, they revert back very quickly to being moderately interested.  How invested would you be if that investment meant taking a pay cut?  How about downsizing your office?  How about requiring more work at the same level of compensation?  Those are some of the litmus tests for true investment compared to interested or even involved.

To improve the investment level of your team and even yourself, consider the following steps:

  1. Increase Participation

Seek out, solicit and allow more team member participation in key decisions, organizational direction and daily operations.  Nothing builds team member investment like participation.

  1. Increase Honest Communication

Share successes and challenges with team members.  When they are seeing both the good and the challenging, they are more likely to respond with higher commitment.

  1. Utilize Personal Loyalty

If you did your job as leader and built solid relationships with team members, you can now capitalize on those relationships to increase investment and move them out of interest.

  1. Don’t Judge Others Based on Your Investment

People arrive at the investment stage at different times and at different paces.  You might have achieved near instant investment and it may even be a part of your DNA.  Don’t be too anxious to judge others if they are more hesitant or reluctant to move that quickly.  They may have been burned by a bad boss.  They may have been swallowed in a corporate takeover after providing a high level of commitment.  Encourage them but let them arrive at investment at their own pace.

Tim Schneider from Aegis Learning

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Voices in My Head

Leading Edge from Aegis Learning

By Kelley Reynolds

So, you know how we are supposed to practice Listening Skills?  Focus on the other person.  Provide validation.  Correctly seek clarification.  Well, sometimes, I become distracted.  My mind wanders.  For example, a few months ago, a friend and I were discussing the 7 Wonders of the World.  We talked about the Great Wall of China.  We spoke about Colosseum in Rome.  As she proceeded to the Taj Mahal in India, I remained in Italy.  I thought about delicious, tender pillow pastas; cool, creamy Nutella gelato and thin crusted, double cheese pizza. Yum! My culinary revere was interrupted by my friend.  I noticed her smiling face as she asked, “What do you think?  Good idea?” 

This was my opportunity to ask for details or clarification because I had no idea what she had just proposed.  But did I ask?  Nope.  My response was…. “Yeah, good idea”, hoping to learn details of her thoughts during the remainder of the conversation.  She then received a phone call and left abruptly.  Oh, well, I could return to my Italian gourmet daydreams!

While it is important to practice Listening Skills, distractions do occur.  We can normally pick up the topic as the conversation continues.  If action is required of us, we will usually learn the expectation soon enough.

And a couple of weeks later, I learned.

My same friend contacted me to share the details of the reservation she made for OUR three-day trek through Peruvian villages to Machu Pichu. 

Oh, boy! 

See, I am not a hiker.  Not an outdoorsy kinda gal by any stretch.  Nor would anyone ever mistake me for an athlete either.  But, strolling through Peruvian villages…, how bad could that be?

Fast forward several weeks.

Now, I am walking through a rainforest with the same friend and a Peruvian guide named Carlos, a.k.a. El Diablo, who appeared to be a direct descendant from the Incans.  He was short, muscular and moved like a mountain goat.  I peered in the direction we were heading.  There were no villages in sight.  Not a soul nearby.  However, there was the largest mountain I had ever laid eyes on in our way.  We were going to have to go around it.

The guide smiled as we trekked.  I asked which way we were heading.  He pointed in the direction of the Giant Mountain.  I chuckled.  El Diablo was funny.  I responded, “I am NOT climbing THAT mountain!”  He laughed at me, then effortlessly leapt over an 8-foot boulder.

The trek became challenging quickly. The mountain peaked at 14,100 feet; was steep and covered in tall slick grass. The thin air was depleted of oxygen. I labored to breathe.  My heart beat rapidly to push oxygen into my lungs and straining muscles. The trek worsened with each step.  There was an inverse relationship between the altitude and my attitude.  The higher I ascended, the lower my thoughts sank.

“This is hard.”  “I am not a hiker.”  “What am I doing here?”  “I should stop and go back.” 

Soon these were the only thoughts traversing my brain.  “This sucks.”

At some point, I realized the sabotage occurring in my head.  I attempted to slow my breathing and calm my brain.  The negative thoughts were NOT helping me.  I had to change the refrain.

If I was going to succeed, ascend any higher, go any farther, I knew had to alter my thinking. However, I was sucking wind, literally and figuratively.  I felt puny and needed help. 

Suddenly, there was a chorus of voices in my head. No, I was not hallucinating from altitude sickness, for these were words of support.  The voices were from friends, family and colleagues.  People, who during previous challenging times had cheered and inspired me.  They offered encouragement and love. 

“Keep going.”  “You’ve got this.”  “One step at a time; one in front of the other.”  “You are doing this!”

The voices continued until I finally said, out loud, “Forget this! Before today, I might not have been a hiker.  But after the last 90 minutes, you bet your boots, I AM NOW!”  From somewhere above me, I heard El Diablo chuckle.

I trudged onward and upward; scrambling over boulders, occasionally on my hands and knees. 

The view from the top was spectacular.  Reaching the goal energized me.  I would complete the day’s 12-mile trek!

During my ascent, finding encouragement within myself was elusive, I knew positive thoughts were my only choice.  The negative thoughts did not serve me; they depleted me.  However, once I replaced the negative ones, I physically felt stronger, powerful and hopeful. 

I did not run up the mountain, but I didn’t need to run.  I just needed to keep taking small steps, one at a time, in the direction of my goal until I reached the top.

I drew upon previous encouragements I had received; other successful experiences to help me attain this goal.  This adventure will be added to my treasure chest of accomplishments; to be used as a reminder when needed!

So, keeping taking those steps towards your goal.  You’ve got this!

Now, I really must work on my Listening Skills!!

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning

Kelley’s optimistic outlook on life guides her belief that change is possible!

Her easy going instruction style mixed with a dry wit make her an entertaining educator. She has instructed professionals throughout the nation as well as internationally. Kelley has earned a Master of Business Administration and possesses a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, both from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Transparency is the Golden Egg to Engagement

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

We hire smart people.  We trust people with lots of stuff, in some cases, millions of dollars of transactions.  We love to throw out words like empowerment and transparency and genuineness.

But when it comes to information, some organizations fail to trust that people can disseminate or handle the truth.  Veils of secrecy cover the comings and goings of team members, plans for growth, new systems and critical organizational changes.  Politely worded press releases take the place of honest and genuine communication with team members and the public.  Legal advice that is designed to eliminate any risk trumps real transparency.  The human resource function tells us we can’t say why someone is mysteriously gone.  A bevy of people in many companies like to play Hungry Hungry Hippo with the real story.

Transparency is the golden egg of organizational trust and team member engagement.  Conversely, lack of transparency is an extreme morale killer and gossip starter.  Some symptoms to look for in an unhealthy environment include:

  1. Lots of closed-door meetings.
  1. Way too much whispered conversations and huddling of leaders with no explanation.
  1. Silly explanations for people leaving (i.e. “Bob is pursuing new interests”)
  1. Unexpected and unannounced hiring and new jobs just popping up.
  1. Press coverage of events that surprise team members.
  1. Branding and marketing shifts that are unannounced.
  1. Total lack of any organizational or senior leader communication or visibility.
  1. Communication that is only weighted to highlight the good and never a discussion of issues or challenges.
  1. Over-reliance on legal advice to avoid any risk.
  1. Creation of insiders that tend to know things that the rest of a team does not know or is not privy to.
  1. Rampant gossip and rumors about people and the organization.
  1. Answering direct questions with avoidance and obfuscation. 

The correlation between organizational (and leadership) transparency and team member engagement and overall performance is undeniable, heavily documented and irrefutable.  Quite simply, the best organizations are transparent.  The best leaders are transparent within set boundaries and they often challenge those boundaries.  Transparent organizations perform better, have less gossip and rumors, have more engaged team members and trust their senior leaders on matters of strategic direction.

To build greater degrees of organizational and leadership transparency, work on the following:

  1. Challenge why a piece of information supposedly can’t be shared. Trust your team members with information and hold them accountable for improper disclosure.
  1. Communicate openly and with high frequency. Regular updates and newsletters are a good start.
  1. Seek input from team members during challenges and when issues arise.
  1. Share plans and planning processes with team members. Include them on strategic discussions and solicit their input on directional changes.
  1. Share all press releases with team members concurrently or before it hits the news.
  1. Share all current marketing and branding efforts before it becomes public.
  1. Avoid closed door meetings and discussions (unless laughter and fun are too loud).
  1. Eliminate creating insider information and sharing with a select few. If you can share with one, you can share with all.
  1. Kill gossip in its tracks.  Create a bright line about rumors about the company or people and rebuff attempts to share it with you.  Participation equates to endorsement, especially in a leadership position.
  1. Don’t tell part of a story or create a tease point.  If you can’t relay all of the information, don’t share any of it.
Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.