Are You Experiencing Positive Emotions?

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“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

It’s one thing to understand that compassion, gratitude and other positive states will benefit us in our interactions and another thing to actually access these experiences when we need them.  Because of our natural negativity bias which we use to protect ourselves, we tend to pass over the positive states.

Once we decide we want to be more grateful, like any skill, we need to develop the habit of actually being more grateful. Fortunately, we know now about the neuroplasticity of the brain and that we can learn and develop in a relatively quick time (with intention).  It is not enough to meditate or think about gratitude.  We need to reflect on what we are grateful for. For example, one of my executive coaching clients began to devote five minutes at the start of his day to call to mind his team members and recount what he appreciates about each person. This was not a rote counting of their strengths; rather, he allowed himself to experience real gratefulness and noticed that he felt warmth in his chest as he did so.

Rick Hanson, a well-regarded neuropsychologist shares that it is not enough to experience activation of gratitude. We need to actually enjoy it and stay with it and extend the state for a few moments. He emphasizes that savoring the experience supports us in building or installing the neural pathways, so that we can develop the habit of accessing positive states that will serve us and our relationships.  

My executive client found his five minute ritual of experiencing gratefulness for his team members to be transformational. He became much more aware of how happy he was with the team and he became calmer and actually started giving more recognition to team members.  His intention and reflection and savoring actually shifted the entire culture of his team and it spread outwards and influenced the larger organization as well

Make it your intention to experience gratitude. Notice your sensations and bodily experience as you do. Savor the experience in order to build the neural pathway of the emotion. Make it a practice to remind yourself of your intention.  

Contact us and tell us what you are presently feeling grateful for and how you practice feeling so.

The Power of Awareness

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“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”—Nathaniel Branden

We have each adapted habitual patterns. Researchers estimate that 95% of our behaviors are, in fact, habits.  The benefit is that we take actions without expending a lot of mental energy for decision-making.  Many of our habitual patterns serve us; however, some are no longer useful.  The challenge is becoming aware of our patterns and making choices about what will support us in achieving our goals.  It is useful to appreciate that we each have blind spots.  I often coach executives who do not see that some of their behaviors are causing them to fall short of achieving their goals and even derail in their careers. Often, when under stress, leaders exert more of their habitual patterns that are hurting them such as not listening, criticizing, ignoring or becoming defensive.  

It is useful to make it a practice of noticing your thoughts.  You may find that you are constantly criticizing someone or yourself, complaining about too much to do and feeling stressed about a situation.  One of my clients realized that she felt overwhelmed by the need for a reorganization in her department and having a new boss. Under such stress, she buckled down to work and developed the reorganization plan without consulting or including others.  She also failed to inform her manager about the changes she was making. There was a lot of resistance from the staff, and her manager did not support her since he was excluded from her planning, as well. The disruption cost her on many fronts.  

Upon reflection, she realized that her habitual pattern when under stress is to hunker down and do the work herself. This pattern served her in childhood and college, as well as when she had an analyst role earlier in her career. However, the habitual pattern of doing the work herself did not work in a managerial role.  

Another executive found that he was extremely hard on himself.  He would take on very difficult and visible projects and did not appreciate his contribution and success. Despite his accomplishments, he did not feel confident.  He realized that he had a habitual pattern of immediately starting new projects and had an inner voice saying “don’t show-off” that served him in his humble family.  By becoming aware and consciously appreciating his contributions, he was able to be more relaxed and confident.  Because we had created a safe place to explore their habitual patterns, each of these leaders became aware of what triggered their behavior and explored and chose new options that supported them in their goals.

While it is not easy, it is useful to stop and reflect. You can ask for feedback and often people will be glad to share if they sense you are open to learning.  You can ask others to collect perceptions and engage in a formal coaching process to learn more.  A key for success for leaders and anyone is to become self-aware and then make choices that support your goals.

What are some of your habitual patterns that you can bring to awareness and subsequently be at freedom to choose what will best serve you in your current situation?

Contact us at any time with your thoughts.

Build rapport to meaningfully connect with others

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Have the intention of connecting with people by building rapport and finding common ground with them. Build rapport before launching into giving feedback or stating a need. People who are socially adept find this process easy and natural. Others say that they don’t find what they may call “small talk” easy.

Building rapport helps the person you are talking with to feel at ease and open to you and the conversation. By smiling and showing some interest, you help others feel safe and understand that you are not likely to hurt them. Inquire about or share information about something you have in common. Topics could be the weather, the commute, sports, children, vacations, something happening in the news, a company development, or health.

In workshops, I ask people to share something about themselves with the group. As we share about ourselves, we are a bit vulnerable. Invariably, in these brief conversations, participants begin to build rapport and feel connected. We often feel alone or feel that others don’t connect with what we do. When we build rapport, we feel less alone and more connected with others. It is human nature to feel connected when we have shared a similar experience.

One participant felt connected with someone who went to his high school, even though they had never met and went at different times. They felt they shared similar experiences. We want to be understood. Even on small issues, having some shared experiences helps us feel understood and see another as more of a friend than a foe.

We look for these connections naturally. When we first meet someone, we look for common ground. For instance, when we learn we both have young children, we relax a bit since we feel more understood by this stranger. Strangers can easily talk about the weather since both are experiencing it. Even a brief comment about how nice it is finally to see the arrival of spring creates a sense of connection in an elevator conversation.

Find something you have in common with others. The following conversation openers will help:

  • Do you come from a large family?
  • Do you like action movies?
  • Did you see the television show last night; can you believe the news?
  • How about that player and sports team?
  • I understand from Joe that you love photography, too.
  • It sounds like your children have the same musical interest as mine.
  • I see from the bag you’re carrying that you also go shopping at….
  • Do you like my shoes?

You don’t always have to build rapport immediately before an OASIS Conversation. If you make the effort to talk with a person and connect with her regularly, then when it is time for your conversation, the other person will already know you are friendly. If a power differential exists between you—you are the person’s manager, for example—remember to show interest in the other person. You will appear more human and show respect for the other person. People notice managers who show no interest in them and only see staff members as tools for getting work done; then they have less energy for supporting the manager.

How do you determine how much small talk is useful? Pay attention to the other person’s behavior. Some people only like a little small talk before they will start to squirm or switch the subject to work matters. Follow their cue. Others will not seem relaxed and need more conversation to build rapport. Notice when a shift in energy occurs; then it is okay to shift subjects. This skill can be learned by carefully observing others.

This excerpt was taken from my book OASIS Conversations.

Questions on the OASIS process and on building rapport? Contact us at

Stop for a Moment

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“It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.” –Kristin Armstrong

If you are like me and my executive clients, it seems like we are moving at a fast pace. There are always many things on our plate and minds. We have more to do than is possible and we often feel like we are falling short of our goals.  We feel we need to run faster, yet we need to stop—at least for a moment.  

By noticing our spinning and rushing, we can stop and shift to become grounded and centered, and then harness more energy to achieve our goals and make a difference for others. Our emotions are contagious and others pick up on our anxiety and stress. When we can pause, feel our feet on the ground, take a breath and recall all that is working, we will be better able to support others and be more effective.

Develop a stopping strategy that works for you. One executive reconnects with her love of music and sings a song which brings her back to the present and puts her in an appreciative mood.  Another takes a walk and feels his feet on the ground and experiences being present.  Another puts on her head-phones and does a guided meditation to leave behind the stress of the office. One leader recalls her children and their connection with gratitude and that puts things into perspective for her. Find a quick path from the stress of the day to being at ease. You will be a stronger person and leader.

Identify a quick way to move from stress to ease. What works for you? Contact us anytime.

Are You Empathetic as a Leader During Challenging Times?

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“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” –Stephen Covey

A leader in a large organization told me that she and her team were experiencing malaise and frustration. The organization had a new person at the top with a new vision. This new strategy translated into a different emphasis on their part of the business and they were expected to practically double their outcome without additional resources. To make matters worse, a few key people on the team had recently left the organization.

I worked to give the leader empathy first. It was a difficult situation and each person on the team was handling the stress differently.  After calming down, the leader realized that she needed to support her team. She decided to gather them together and share with them her own frustration with the system yet her excitement about what they could create. However, she needed to find a way to first regain her own energy and vision to support the team.  Once she managed her own fears and frustration through our conversation, she was able to focus on the team. She realized that she needed to give her team members empathy and provide them the space they needed to express their emotions.

My client went on to do this. And she helped her team to reconnect to their compelling vision. They aligned on their mission again and this provided them with a renewed vigor. A lot of energy is gained when we recall our vision and purpose.

Renewed vigor led to looking for solutions. How could they meet their new goals? How could they ask for more resources or feel comfortable with doing their best and not meeting the unrealistic goals?  In this case, they were able to speak and collaborate with another leader and team and receive help toward their goal. My client emerged with new energy herself and the satisfaction of seeing her team mobilize to achieve a compelling vision.

A leader must recognize her emotions and calm down in order to support her team in expressing their emotions, which opens the doors of possibilities and solutions. Then it is useful to share and develop together a compelling vision that is motivating and leads to the removal of obstacles and gaining support. It is not easy to be a leader, but it is rewarding.

Are you managing yourself, supporting your team by giving them empathy, sharing a compelling vision and solving challenges together?  How is it going?

Feel free to contact us to learn more about using the OASIS moves in leadership positions to provide empathy and reinvigorate your team.

Notice What is Working Well

pablo (31)It is our nature to notice what is not working and what we don’t have. We are wired with a negativity bias and we naturally find the black spot, flaw or error. Unfortunately, we can easily fall in the pattern of pointing out mistakes and problems.  Life can often seem like a big problem. Of course, there are always going to be challenges and suffering. It is our human condition.

On the other hand, there are always many things that are going well too. We can train ourselves to see and appreciate more of these things. It makes life more interesting and enjoyable.

I noticed that I was correcting my teenager. I wanted to be a good mother and make sure she had skills for success. While my intention was positive, she took it as criticism. I tried instead to start noticing what she was doing well and the list way surpassed my concerns about being late or playing games on her iPhone or watching too many shows.  I started sharing the positives I noticed and she seemed to do more of those behaviors.  In addition, our relationship improved and our interactions were far more pleasant.

I also realized that I was pointing out to myself what I was not doing adequately and how it made me feel. I tried noticing what I was doing well, like I did for my daughter, and found it much more satisfying.

My executive clients also benefited from the simple act of noticing what was going well and what they were doing well. It takes some practice to change our habitual pattern.

Try an experiment of noticing what is going well and what you are doing well. Let me know what you are experiencing.

What is the Cost of Not Having a Vision Conversation?

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“Vision animates, inspires, transforms purpose into action.” — Warren Bennis

One of the most important investments you can make in yourself and your team is to clarify your personal vision and that of your team or organization. I have supported many teams with this process. It takes some effort to become aligned but the shared vision supports decision-making and also saves energy by averting conflicts that arise from misalignment.

I recall one of my first roles working in an organization. All the members of the division had a different vision for the organization. There were many conflicts as a result–so much wasted energy and a lack of productivity. People were literally initiating projects that were serving different goals.

Sometime people are focused solely on profit as their only goal. However, research reported by Harvard Business Analytics declares, “Those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.”  In fact, the most profitable companies are not those most focused on profit. This is not a new finding. Collins and Porras reported in the book, “Built to Last” in 1994 that companies with a guiding purpose returned six times more to shareholders than comparative organizations that were primarily driven by profits.  In addition, the World Economic Forum found that businesses that have a clear purpose-driven focus outperform those who do not 14 to 1. So there is much compelling research to support the power of a vision in driving outcomes.  There are many other benefits too. There is more engagement, alignment and fun as people work collectively toward a meaningful future.

A key component of a leader is to encourage people to work toward a shared vision and to communicate frequently to support mission or goal alignment and achievement.  Ideally, individual visions are aligned with organizational visions in order to realize potential.

To create alignment and a shared vision, leaders need to promote mind opening conversations. Team members need to feel heard and need to share empathy in order to create a compelling vision that can drive choices and behavior.  Leaders with the skills to foster such conversations quickly experience the benefits.

I worked with an organization where each of the leaders was creating programs and materials for the field members. Without a shared vision, there was overlap and confusion that led to polarization between the field and the headquarters. After open conversation with the team, they developed a shared vision and were able to save millions of dollars and serve the field offices in a cohesive way and ultimately gain market share with their clients.

What is your personal vision and your team or organization’s vision?  What is your vision for your community and our society?  What can you do to support dialogue to create a shared vision?  

I would love to hear your vision and views on having conversations to create shared visions.

Work to Repair Relationships When Possible

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“In any given situation, both personal and in professional life, I think that the process of restoring trust can be an enormously positive adventure because you can redeem yourself and create newness. For example, when you have a broken relationship with someone, you have to learn to acknowledge your role in it, apologize, and  have humility. Then you need to find a way to involve the person in a process of coming up with a new relationship.”—Stephen Covey

A client of mine who is in a leadership role is trying to implement a new focus in her company and a different way of working–changes which she believes will support her company and their clients. Now it’s just a matter of receiving the support and endorsement of her colleagues for her plan to be successful. What could be the roadblock here?

As we talked about how to gain support, she believed that she would not be successful. She was certain that a key person who would need to adapt the plan would simply never agree. It would not be about her idea; she knew that he would thwart the initiative because he did not like her. Fifteen years earlier, my client had worked with this person, and she had never felt included by him. Sour feelings built, and she eventually changed departments to avoid working with him. Meanwhile, he consistently gave her negative reviews on 360 surveys about her leadership abilities and style. My client conceded that she would not be able to win him over. In fact, she had not even actually spoken to him in many years despite their attending many of the same meetings and both being part of the management group.

My client is not alone. Often, people dislike others in their organizations and it causes great pain for the people involved and thwarts many positive outcomes. Often, the ill sentiments and behaviors are the result of misunderstandings, miscommunications, insecurities or a feeling of competition.

Ideally, it is useful to work on repairing relationships, especially when you are likely to work with the other person in the future. In organizations, people remember conflicts from the past or harbor ill feelings, and this limits them from moving up or forward in their company. In my experience, many people are not promoted simply because someone in senior management recalled an incident that happened years before involving the other person.  It can be hard to shake these negative perceptions.

The good news is that if you reach out to repair a relationship it is often possible to do so. My client was able to approach her nemesis and over time began to build trust. She started by receiving some empathy about the pain he caused her from her executive coach and reflecting on her role in their dynamic.  She began shifting from seeing him as evil and trying to understand his perspective. She worked on being more open to him. She started to acknowledge some of his statements in group meetings and even appreciating some of his actions. By being more positive and open to him, he started being more open to her.  Emotions are contagious and when we change how we see a situation we create space for new possibilities. The result? Her project was endorsed.

Who will it be worthwhile for you to bridge a relationship? Start with acknowledging your negative emotions and looking for your contribution to the situation. Work to look for what you can appreciate about the person and shift to being open.  Look for opportunities to acknowledge and give empathy to the other person.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about using the OASIS moves to help bridge relationships.

Are you Experiencing a Positive, Open Environment in Your Healthcare System?


“Wanting a more positive environment isn’t enough. You need to do something, and it doesn’t require a great deal of effort or some huge change in the way you approach things.”—Tom Rath

We recently traveled to a summit at the Cleveland Clinic where 2,000 people from hospitals around the world gathered to discuss empathy and openness in the health sphere. How inspiring it was to witness a group of healthcare leaders and workers concerned about creating environments of openness, understanding, and respect in their workplaces!

Imagine a concentric circle of increasing positive impact.


When the staff and medical teams at hospitals and clinics feel enthused by an engaging environment, their own feelings are projected outward and affect patients, patient families, visitors, and people who have never even been to the hospital but hear of the positive experience others have had there.

This impact is very tangible. I recently spoke with a client who told me she went to visit a patient in a hospital and she was so very impressed and touched by the security person and receptionist who welcomed her with friendly smiles and words. The respectful welcome was experienced at the nurse station also.  This seems small, right? And yet, she compared this experience to a previous one in which the hospital staff were not as welcoming. “If I ever get sick,” she said, “I’ll go to the hospital where I felt welcomed.”

The most effective advertisements are word-of mouth ones. When someone has a negative experience, they inform ten people, and those ten people inform ten more people, and pretty soon hundreds of people are aware of this negative experience. By contrast, the news of positive experiences may travel less, but such experiences are now so unique that even they travel.

How do we create a positive environment of respect in healthcare?

We have had successful experiences of creating positive cultures at health care systems and organizations across the globe.

We support people in widening their views of respect. Each person has a different definition of respect. We need to have conversations to understand what is most important to others.  Most of us don’t engage in such dialogue and believe our assumptions are accurate.  We have introduced OASIS Conversations which is a simple process of the five key moves that support connection.

The OASIS process is built on the value of giving empathy and cultivating an open mindset, which ultimately leads to refreshing conversations and meaningful connections with others. Hospitals are carefully evaluated and ranked, and the whole patient experience including interactions with hospital staff, nurses, and doctors factors into this ranking. Now more than ever it’s important to cultivate an engaging, oasis environment in these spaces.

Contact us to learn more about how to bring an oasis environment to your healthcare sphere.

Are You Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Team or Organization?

pablo (18)“What’s really driving the boom in coaching is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180…as we go driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles… the whole game changes and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how not to fail.”—John Kotter, Harvard Business School

A recent study by the Conference Board revealed that top organizations are now exploring how to create coaching cultures. A survey by the International Coach Federation of over 500 of the largest companies in the United States found that companies with strong coaching cultures tended to have higher engagement and greater revenue growth in relation to industry peers. Such a culture does not diminish the need for performance and results but works on creating an environment where there is more dialogue and openness and encourages team members to explore new solutions to achieve greater results.

How would things be different if your team members worked on being open to one another and had strong connecting skills of listening and asking questions and establishing clear agreements? We all live in times of rapid change and uncertainty. We need to be resilient and innovative to stay in the game. Yet, people continue to be drained by the challenges of communicating with and inspiring their colleagues.

As an executive and team coach, I hear about the stress leaders experience when there is miscommunication, misalignment and mistrust. What’s required are open-minded conversations where people assume positive intent, seek understanding and can find common ground and shared purpose. Leaders and other professionals need the mindset and skills of coaches to create positive environments that enhance motivation and productivity.

I have supported cultural change in organizations for several decades. You need to equip team members with the mindset and skills to be effective. In addition, you need to address the systems and organizational norms to create an environment that fosters innovation. We have all experienced the difference in being in an environment that is open versus one that is closed. Working in a coaching, or what I call an open mindset culture, is the difference between feeling excited and supported for realizing results versus feeling constrained and drained.

People are quick to adapt an open mindset and coaching skills because they see their effectiveness and experience developing personally and professionally.

Feel free to contact to discuss further.