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I’m the Boss — That’s Why!

Man Mean Anger Pointing Finger Yelling Casual Bald 640x440Recently, a client was sharing with me a situation he was in where the stern reply, “I’m your boss, that’s why!” was shot back after he asked a challenging question. Being a proponent of Leadership and developing leadership cultures, this type of interaction reall got me thinking! What does a ‘boss’ culture look like versus a ‘leader’ culture? There are many great bosses out there that demonstrate leadership skills at a high level; however, there are also bosses that are not such great leaders.

I asked my client how that comment landed for him. Aside from wanting to punch the guy’s lights out, he said the response felt very punitive: “I just felt my contribution was being diminished.” He perceived that his contribution was challenging because he brought another perspective to what had already been put on the table. He shared with me that the organization touts a culture of win/win and he did not see how the “I’m the boss” comment supported that culture. No one wins after a comment like that. And what type of culture is created out of this type of ‘leading’? I would venture to say that people don’t feel valued and they feel the organization is more interested in outcomes than the overall process. Leaders will motivate rather than dismiss or diminish their team’s contributions….and that includes when they challenge the process.

The book “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner demonstrates five exemplary practices of leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process (hmm, guess my client’s ‘boss’ didn’t read this one)
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Of course the book goes into some wonderful depth on each of these and includes the research to back it up. One of the reasons I started studying leadership cultures was because I had been in boss structures and they never seemed to work well for me. They may work for some and that’s ok; however, over the years I have experienced both cultures and the leadership culture’s ‘team members’ always seem happier, more productive and more fulfilled…which always supports the bottom line!

Here are just a few quick identifiers based on this wonderful research contrasted by a boss lacking leadership skills: 

Modeling the Way vs. Dictating the Way

  • Modeling the way simply means getting really clear on what is important (values) to the organization as a whole (collective values) and setting an example by living out those values.
  • Dictating the way simply means that one is not interested in the whole. They are consumed by their goals and outcomes and will make sure that those ‘serving’ them will follow their way.

Inspire a Shared Vision vs. You’re on a Need-to-Know basis

  • Inspire a Shared Vision is what connects team members to the bigger picture of why they are even there in the first place. When team members have a voice, know the direction of the whole and understand the motivation behind certain decisions, strategies, etc., they are more likely to feel and take ownership of their part in it.
  • You’re on a Need-to-Know basis keeps team members in a space of instability. Fear and power struggles increase as team members will be more inclined to feel that they are in survival mode. With no sustaining voice, no clear direction; it is difficult to maintain motivation. Ownership of the organization’s direction rests solely in the boss’ lap.

Challenge the Process vs. Do As I Say, and Keep Quiet

  • Challenge the Process is all about expanding the range of the organization by embracing differing perspectives, supporting innovation and new creations, and being open to new ideas and allowing some risk.
  • Do As I Say and Keep Quiet may keep the team ‘in line’; however, it is going to do little in supporting the synergy of the team or the movement of the team. The outlook of this type of practice is simply maintenance — team members will maintain the status quo. (And the organization will probably have a low retention rate!).

Enable Others to Act vs. Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there!  

  • Enabling others to act requires that you know your team members! Leaders take a personal interest in their team members and what would support them as individuals, as team members and as a part of the organization. In knowing their team members, leaders help support collaborative efforts and interdependence in mutually respectful relationships. Team members are supported in becoming leaders.
  • Here is the box you belong in — now get back in there; well, you can imagine how de-energizing this may be! In this scenario, the boss holds the power and the team member is dis-empowered. The boss chooses; the team member does not have a choice. The relationship is one of dependence — the employee dependent on the boss.

Encourage the Heart vs. You are here to support my goals

  • Encourage the Heart is demonstrated through recognition. Whether a leader is recognizing a team member one-on-one, in a team meeting or in front of the company, recognition always speaks to the heart. Recognition is about saying publicly that your contributions matter and make a difference. You are a valued part of the organization.
  • You are here to support my goals means just that — you are a means to my end. This may not be said overtly; however, a lack of genuine recognition of contribution demonstrates the attitude.

Zig Ziglar, Management Guru Extraordinaire, stated these comparisons that I will leave you with. Which culture do you want to create?

Boss vs Leader

Click to Enlarge

Your Life Manifesto

Open A Blank White Notebook, Pen And Coffee On The DeskI recently had an interesting experience where someone reflected to me their perspective of how they ‘want’ me to show up. Their downright mean comment really hit me below the belt. What was interesting was my response. Because I do not immediately react, another person jumped in and said “that was below the belt”, to which I responded with “yes it was.” And while I did not feed the comment with comebacks that would have put this person ‘in their place,’ I did respond with a statement of centeredness in my value system that clearly stated my standard in verbal play. And it was then that I realized just how powerful a personal manifesto has become in my life. One of the statements in my manifesto is “I will always honor the human spirit” and in this situation, I did. I honored the spirit of the person who made the mean comment by not beating them into the ground for being mean and I honored my spirit by standing in myself.

My point is not that I am something special, because believe me: I had some great comebacks in my head! My point is the power of a personal manifesto. A dear friend of mine, a fellow coach, encouraged me to write a manifesto when I was first starting my coaching business. I had no idea the impact that this document was going to have on me. However, that being said, it has taken me a number of years to come to the realization that written word + intention + attention = manifestation. First, let me say that my personal manifesto more addresses how I want to ‘be’ in life versus what I am going to ‘do’ in life. In an age when we tend to focus on the ‘do’, my manifesto did not address this at all. I have to be honest; in the moment that I wrote it, I was frustrated with myself. I was seeking guidance on what to do with my coaching business and yet all that came out of me was how I was going to be! How was this going to help me? Ha! Boy, did I receive life guidance.

How it helps me is acting as a guiding light when I make choices. Our life is determined by our moment-by-moment choices. Does the choice allow for me to be the person I want to manifest? Is my choice supporting me or adding stress because it is not in alignment with who I propose to be? Life is dynamic and doing is dynamic, ever changing. Focusing on who I want to ‘be’ regardless of the change around me allowed for the stability of centeredness, the constant of my truth. That doesn’t mean my ‘being’ does not change; quite the contrary. I am changing, growing, and learning every day. However, each change brings me closer to my authentic self. When I wrote this document in 2006, I do believe that my higher self was guiding me. I asked for it and I got it! In the moment, it was not what I expected; however, in retrospect it was exactly what I needed.

If you want a life of intention that you are willing to pay attention to, reach out and I will help you write your Life Manifesto. You will embark on an adventure you won’t forget! See my Life Manifesto here.

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

A bicycle, a beautiful day, and a mobile office

^^ Getting unstuck.

How many times have I heard this line in my life?   Truer words were never spoken! I am a pretty open person and yet, I too fall into perspectives that keep me closed to possible opportunities.

Now that I have become more aware of the power of choice in perspective, I am living my life differently. Today I am experiencing a workday in a completely different perspective. Instead of spending 8 hours in my office checking off my ‘to-do’ list (routine), I decided to take my office mobile (a change). I did this because I am feeling ‘stuck’ and movement always opens space for me. I packed a backpack with my Mac air and lunch, then hopped onto my bike for the day!

I am currently sitting at Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton. This is part of my old ‘stomping grounds’. I am appreciating the warm breeze, listening to the weeping willows blow in the breeze, the bullfrogs calling out and numerous birds in chorus. I use my iPhone for a hot spot if I need internet access and away I go……working, playing, and getting inspired.

Making the switch from the point of view of staying committed to the ‘routine’ to a new perspective of ‘create an adventure’ also helped me to challenge myself to entertain other perspectives around my ‘stuck-ness.’ Such as, “I’m not stuck — I’m simmering.”

I have often asked myself what creates stuck-ness in perspective? Of course, I come up with a number of brilliant answers. For me, it is all about certainty. I love my certainty! If I’m certain about something, I feel safe and I know what I can count on. However, my experience has shown me that little in life is 100% ‘certain.’ Trying to make things ‘certain’ is futile and more importantly, if everything is certain in our lives, where is the joy of discovery? (It’s not just meant for children.)

So as I am on this journey, I am discovering that when I expand my way of thinking, look at my life with curiosity, and explore new perspectives — discoveries abound!   The prairie path I took today I have probably traveled a million times over my lifetime. However, because I was not just out for the ride but was also looking for places to stop and work, I discovered some beautiful areas ‘off-road’ to stop and work. New discoveries!

Then, at one of the ‘off-road’ spots, another biker appeared and we started up a conversation. It turns out he is a consultant doing work I am aligned with! A new alliance perhaps, or simply discovering the connection in humanity — either way, discoveries and opportunities abound!

Entertaining new perspectives is sometimes a challenge when somebody else is not there bringing in their difference of opinion (new perspective). Sometimes, I think of people in my life, or even animals, and entertain what perspective they would bring to the table on this topic. I know if I had asked my dog Toby what to do when I got stuck-he would say, “Let’s go for a walk, please, please, please!!!” and you know, that would certainly open the space for me and help me to perhaps embrace a new perspective!

At one time or another we all experience a feeling of ‘stuck-ness’ whether it is mental, emotional or physical. Entertaining different perspectives affords you more possibility and opportunity.   Empowering yourself to choose which perspective you want to create from will give you complete ownership of your direction!

Leadership for Collaborative Teams

team building, group discussion or therapyThis past weekend, my partner and I hosted a ‘fiesta dinner party’ for family that included chips and guacamole, re-fried beans and fajitas, margaritas, and sangria topped off with an ice cream toppings bar!  Besides being a time of connection, I was in observance of the ‘team’ we all have become, playing to each other’s strengths, collaborating to create a fun and enjoyable evening together.  My partner and my sister love to cook and collaborated in preparing the fiesta.  My strength is in the arranging and organizing, so I had my time to shine prior to the event and during clean-up.  (I can clean and organize a kitchen before the group even realizes I have removed their plates from the table.)  My son did the heavy work — getting umbrellas in the tables outside and moving tables and chairs around.  His wife, her parents and my mom kept the conversation moving with great stories.  I have come to see story telling as a true strength and skill that really adds to a group’s dynamic.

I paint this picture because collaboration in a group or team dynamic is not just found in the workplace.  In all areas of my life, I experience collaboration — whether it is through a dinner party, a child/parent relationship, a community group, or in my life’s work.   Below are some key lessons I have learned for demonstrating leadership in collaborating that are easily transferrable to any group:

Be Authentic

  • Courageous Vulnerability.  It takes courage to stand fully in who you are, what you believe and value AND at the same time be open to the differences in the whole.
  • Trust through Action.  Our behaviors often speak louder than who we say we are.  If you show up late at events, meetings etc., it may be difficult to ‘trust’ that you respect others’ time.  Leadership in collaboration challenges us to check how we are showing up and if that is in alignment with our words.

Appreciate Differences

  • Expect Conflict!  That doesn’t mean fighting, it means that people will have differences of opinions which sometimes may create push-back.  If people are to be authentic, they will have their voice and that is important.
  • Continually Communicate This is ‘the secret’ to high levels of collaboration: continuous communication based on authenticity, appreciating differences and allowing for the conflict will bring the group to consensus.
  • Reach Consensus.  Fighting is demanding ‘a way’.  Conflict combined with continual communication brings about consensus.  We all benefit from consensus as it moves us forward with the strength of the whole.

Play to Strengths

  • When we are in our ‘strengths’ — what comes naturally and easy to us, what we find joy and pleasure in doing — our energy is tenfold! When people are in their strengths (as I described in our dinner party scenario), the outcome is enjoyment, achievement and a sense of ‘job well done’.

Recognize and Reward

  • Say “Thank You” At the end of our dinner party, thank you’s, kisses and hugs were all exchanged.  Everyone demonstrated a recognition and appreciation for our time together.  I realized that time was created by the synergy of eight people, authentically showing up, being completely different in who we are as individuals, playing to the strengths that we each bring to the whole and rewarding each other by recognizing the enjoyment created with a hug and a kiss!  In the workplace you may not be hugging and kissing; however, recognizing someone publicly with a thank you is just as good!
  • Final word on recognition:  sometimes we have to help others ‘recognize’ themselves.  It has been through others recognizing me, helping me to see my strengths and character that I have been lead on my journey to authenticity.   Allow your recognition and reward to support others in seeing the best side of them.

Collaboration: The Essence of Team

Business People Excited 600x385The whole reason a team is brought into existence is for collaboration. When you progress through the relational growth phases of: forming (coming together), storming (figuring out authority) and norming (who made it through the storms and is full in!), you can step into performing. This is where the relationships become synergistic and team members are fine tuning collaborative efforts. Using the skills you have learned in the stages of communication, connection and commitment, you are now ready to work on collaborative skills that will lead you to being a high performing team. Remember that the advantage of a team is that the whole is more powerful than each part alone. However, it takes skill to bring the whole together to perform functionally and powerfully. I have outlined 4 ‘Gives’ for this process, because true collaboration comes from a space of giving!

Give Voice

In my experience, if team members do not give voice to their ideas, opinions, suggestions, and knowledge, they are truly not serving the team. Sometimes, team members will adopt an attitude of dismissing their voice — especially if what they have to say is in disagreement with the majority of the team.

Disagreement is valuable in that it offers a depth of perspective. When you give voice in disagreement, share objectively and make it about the situation and/or topic, not about the person.

It is also important to keep collaborative efforts at a high level to give voice to all ideas that are being put out on the table. How you do is this is by letting the ideas come to life by building on them. Keeping the space open, acknowledging all ideas, and expanding on them are serving your collaborative nature.

Another way to give voice in collaboration is to keep communication lines open and systems of communication flowing. Making requests for help when you find yourself off course and keeping everyone in the loop on the progress you are making toward the team goals will support this.

Give Feedback

It is imperative to team growth and collaboration that team members learn how to give feedback. Giving and receiving feedback from team members can be a rich or a damaging experience.

In giving feedback, it is a good practice to remain curious about ‘what it means’ and to define problems objectively, in a non-threatening way. First stick to the facts and then add your meaning and ask for the other team members to share what it means to them.

A great tool for teams to use when learning about giving feedback is the Johari Window. This tool serves as a great framework in effective communication.

Give Compromise

Collaboration does not happen at a high level without the ability to negotiate toward win-win solutions.  Giving compromise as part of a collaborative skill set will allow everyone the opportunity to get clear on what is of value to them in any given task or situation that the group has to come to a decision on. As each team member gains clarity on what is important for them, they also have the ability to choose what they are willing to compromise on and what may be a ‘sticking issue’. This is where negotiation skills can really help the team come to a win-win solution. It is important to honor the process of identifying, clarifying, defining different perspectives and negotiating toward compromise. There are no shortcuts in giving compromise!

Give Acknowledgment

Giving Acknowledgment is a skill and a practice. It is important in a team situation where people are in the ‘performing’ stage to remember to share credit for good ideas with others. In ‘giving voice’ we talked about allowing ideas to come to life by building on them; therefore, it is a collaborative effort and all team members that were involved in the process need to be acknowledged. This keeps motivation and ownership of the team’s success high.

In giving acknowledgment, also acknowledge the feelings, concerns, opinions and ‘ways of being’ of your team members. For instance, if a team member goes out on a limb and stands up for something they believe in, even if it is contrary to the team, a team member may acknowledge their boldness and courage for taking a stand.

Another area to give acknowledgment is when a team member is in a conflict situation. In these situations it is important to allow space to ‘give voice’ and then acknowledge the conflict situation.

And finally it is important to give acknowledgment to team decisions in support, even when not in total agreement.

Giving Voice, Giving Feedback, Giving Compromise, Giving Acknowledgment — remember these four gifts of giving and you will develop a performing team!


The Softer Side of Commitment

Cute little red kitten sleeps on fur white blanketLast month I wrote on Commitment to the Team.  We explored what commitment on a team looks like.  The perspective I was writing from was ‘are your actions matched to your pledge of commitment’.  This month, I am exploring the softer side of commitment, which is primarily wrapped up in the relationship.

I have heard it said that relationships move at the speed of trust.  What does this mean?  Simply put, the higher the level of trust in a relationship, the more growth and vitality! What creates trust?  I suppose that is a million dollar question that has as many answers as there are people in the world.  Trust can look very different to each of us.  For me, trust shows up in consistency of agreed-upon behaviors.  For others, I know trust shows up in physical presence while for another it may be the ‘proof’ of something for them to feel trust.

The more relationships in a ‘system’ (meaning the team), the more complexities to establishing ‘trust’. I have outlined a few practices that I have found to be foundational to moving a team of relationships forward in trust.

Transparency: know what you stand for!
When people know what you stand for — whether they agree or not — they are more inclined to trust.  Transparency in the ‘why and what’ of decisions that impact the team will contribute to a high level of trust among team members.  Most team members understand that they will not always be in agreement with the parties making decisions.  However, if they have an understanding of what went into the decision-making process and why that decision was made, it takes away the feeling of a hidden agenda and ulterior motives.

Being reliable is often demonstrated by the consistency between what you say you will do and what you actually do.  The higher the level of consistency, the more people can count on you, the higher the level of reliability.  When something is reliable or dependable, we tend to trust it.  Researchers trust the reliability of research where there is a pattern of consistency in the statistics of the research.  As people in relationship, we tend to trust the reliability of another person if there is a pattern of consistency in what they say they are going to do or in how they are going to be and if their actions match up to that pattern.

Direct Communication
There is a difference between a directive and direct communication.  Direct communication is clear, articulate and constructive in nature.  It helps to give direction and feedback in a positive way by using language that is neutralized and not charged.  Charged language is heavy with judgment and biases.  Direct communication takes concerns to the source of the concern and keep the communication between the parties involved.  When team members experience a healthy atmosphere of direct communication, it helps to build trust and intimacy among team members because the communication is where it belongs.

Respect differences
A team may have core values and beliefs that everyone is in agreement on; however, that does not mean that individuals have the same values and/or beliefs.  Our values and beliefs drive our thoughts and feelings that in turn drive our behavior.  When someone shows up differently, instead of choosing to be in judgment of their difference, get curious about what is important to them or what they believe on the subject at hand.  This will foster an environment of respect.

In an environment of transparency, reliability, communication and respect, trust has the opportunity to take root and grow.  If relationships move at the speed of trust and you want your team to be growing and vital, then I encourage you to give these practices a place in your business.

Commitment to the Team!

Close-up high angle view of a happy family holding hands

You have come together as a team and fully identified and clarified your purpose for being together and who is going to do what.  You have Formed.  You have weathered the storms of power struggles, misunderstandings, and differences.  You have Stormed.  Now you are entering a stage where the team acknowledges the differences, recognizes how those differences contribute to the team’s goals, and where leadership is shared.  You are in the Norming Stage of team development.  This is a stage that is marked with a higher level of cohesion and community.  Members voice their ideas and opinions more openly and freely and they also are more willing to give up their ideas and opinions in service of the whole team.

When you were in the Forming stage, a high level of communication is what was most needed.  As you headed into the Storming stage of team development, it was important to connect with your team members on the team mission, vision and values to help you get through the disagreements.  Now, in the norming stage, establishing a sense of commitment to the team will help the individuals, as well as the whole team, to fully dedicate them to the cause.


The success of a team is relative to the commitment the members demonstrate.  A commitment is a promise or pledge that you will take the team seriously.  You show that you are invested in the work of the team by showing up!  This means that your word is backed by action.   What does this look like in practical terms?  It means you put in the time: attending team meetings, completing your work on time, being a part of team functions.  It means that members are demonstrating respect for each others’ time and energy.  It may mean that you have to give up some individual goals in the short term to focus on the greater goal of the team.  Regardless of the circumstances, commitment is demonstrated by having this unwavering obligation to the team.

What I have noticed in successful teams is that they display levels of commitment:

First to each other

  • They synergize and play together.
  • They support and build each other up.
  • They demonstrate respect for each other in and out of the team dynamic

Second to the team

  • They have a pride in their team.
  • They have a team strength and unity, especially to others outside of the team.
  • They have a willingness to ‘stick together’ even if they are not in full agreement.

Third to the organization

  • They honor the company vision and mission and support that within their team dynamic.
  • They demonstrate an allegiance to the company’s goals and see their team as an integral part of achieving those goals.
  • Just as with the team, they have company pride.

What makes Commitment so valuable is the actions you, the individual, take to demonstrate it. Vince Lombardi summed it up best with this quote: “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

The Toxin Tornado in Storming


As mentioned in previous posts, Bruce Tuckman identified five stages in team
development; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, [Transforming]. In the Forming stage we focused on establishing strong communication to create a foundation of trust. We focused on 8 key behaviors that support developing trust in a team dynamic. Keeping in mind that a ‘team’ is a group of relationships, I would also like to introduce 4 relationship toxins that I have coined the Toxin Tornado! John Gottman, PhD, and an internationally renowned relationship expert identified these toxins. In his research, mainly with couples, he recognizes certain types of negativity that are so lethal to interpersonal relationships that he refers to them as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse! When you read these, observe how they show up and if they do in your interpersonal relationships.

Blaming or Criticism

There is healthy critique and then there is criticism. Criticism from a negative perspective is when a team member is blaming or attacking another person instead of focusing on the behavior. In relationships, we will always have some complaints about other people, however, there is a big difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint is usually addressing a specific failed action whereas a criticism adds negativity about that person’s character or personality.

There are ways to give constructive feedback in situations that are impactful to the whole team or to members of the team. If members can agree to handle the ‘storm’ without blame, then that is the first step. Sometimes it is helpful to use a neutral third party to blow off steam and cool down prior to giving feedback. If you can then address the behavior that is creating the storm rather than making it a personal attack on the person, they will be more inclined to hear you! And probably the most effective antidote to getting caught in the blame game is to speak from a place of ‘I’, I feel….…I want……..I am hoping for.



Blame creates defensiveness, which in turn creates blame! It is circular and why it is so lethal because it goes round and round-where we stop nobody knows! Defensiveness is saying, “It’s not me-It’s you”, which in turn escalates the conflict. Often time the defender believes they are not creating the conflict but defending in the conflict. The reality is they are contributing just as much as the attacker/blamer.

The quickest way to defuse the blame game is to resist the urge to react and tap into active listening skills. Ask reflective questions or give reflective feedback-“Amber what did you hear Bethany saying? Or “What I heard you say was…” and follow up with a powerful question.  For example; “What I heard you say was I messed up the communication in the project-what would you expect me to do differently?” If you can resist the urge to react to a personal attack or someone blaming and instead practice objective curiosity, you will take the ‘bite’ out of the attack and leave it where it belongs-with the attacker.



Contempt shows up in a number of behaviors such as sarcasm, belittling, cynicism, name-calling, hostile humor and belligerence. Contempt is the fuel of the toxin tornado because it sends a strong message of disgust and disdain and keeps the negative force going. It is important to recognize these behaviors for what they are and not just brush it away as “oh, that’s just Joe”

If differences are not resolved and negativity continues to build in working relationships, you are feeding the contempt toxin. The best way to avoid this toxin is to be diligent in resolving conflict in the moment or in a timely manner so contempt does not have a chance to root. If it has taken root, it is important to realize that a conflict resolution with an objective third party needs to happen or the impact may be detrimental to the whole-not just the two parties involved.



If I were to engage with a relationship toxin (which I did quite often before I woke up to them!), this would be my toxin of choice! Being a quiet person by nature, cutting off communication, silent treatments, refusal to engage, withdrawal and reluctance to express myself was right up my alley. When the other horsemen are running rampant, the stonewaller will check out. This in turn feeds blaming which feeds defensiveness and ends up in contempt, and then it’s really time to party! Yes, it is an overwhelming relationship mess, just as the damage a tornado leaves is an overwhelming mess.

The best way to help a stonewaller is to create a space that is safe. This may mean, for a while, that the space for expression is one on one until the conflict is minimized. It may mean addressing the fear of ‘speaking’ head on. What is important here is to recognize when a team member may be using their quiet nature to stonewall rather than confront honestly what may be happening on the team.


If you want to help your team avoid the toxin tornado here are 4 Solutions to consider:

  1. Educate your team on the toxins and their destructiveness.
  2. When you see blame/criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling show up, call it out in a non-threatening way (maybe even playfully) and get agreement to proceed void of that behavior.
  3. Create a concrete plan within your team for how you will handle toxins when they unconsciously show up.
  4. Hire a coach (like me!) that specializes in relationship systems to coach your team in navigating the complexities of team development.

Navigating the Storms in Teams

I co-teach a Life Coaching Certification Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of the skills we teach to our coaches is how to ask a powerful question. Recently, my co-instructor and I played Bad Coach/Good Coach in a coaching demo. After our demonstration the student who played the client commented that she would have found value from both scenarios-bad coach/good coach-because she has a trusting relationship with both of us! This was a great example of connection. Even though I (bad coach) was doing coaching all wrong, she was okay with that because of the trust in our relationship.

Trust supports connection and connection will seek to understand. In seeking to 8155251122_d9f65eece5_munderstand, the ‘relationship storms’ blow over much more effectively and quickly! It is no mistake that the second stage of team development is Storming-this is where the relationship is put to the test! I have found this to be true in one on one relationships as well as team relationships. To get through the ‘storm’ you need connection.

So, if trust supports connection then the real question behind connection is what creates trust? And given that this blog is geared toward team dynamics, what creates trust in a group of relationships? In Patrick Lencioni’s book on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the first and foundational dysfunction is Absence of Trust. So if a lack of trust and invulnerability creates dysfunction on a foundational level, than how can a team build a foundation that supports trust?

In my first two blogs, I laid out some foundational practices that help to support the building of trust within a team dynamic. The focus was on communication. Getting clear on who you are as a team (not your function alone) is important in establishing a ‘safety zone’. Getting agreement on who does what, what the expectations are, where you are going as a team, what working environment you want to create and what is collectively important to you is your ‘safety zone.’ This is the beginning of trust.

And even within the ‘safety zone’ of communicating the team structure, all those words are meaningless if your actions don’t support them on a daily basis. Moving from the Forming stage, where the focus is on communication, and into the Storming stage, is where we have to put action to our words! This is where trust is really substantiated. It is through our words AND our actions that we establish trusting, connected relationships.

In working with leaders and teams, here are 8 behaviors I have found effective in supporting building trust into a ‘team’ dynamic.


  1. Be consistent

    There is a basic human need for stability.   When laying the foundation of a relationship, it is important to be consistent in your ‘ways of being’ to allow for stability within an ever-changing environment. People need to know what they can hold onto as a stabilizer, especially when the storms come!


  1. Be reliable

    Reliability creates security-another basic human need. Within the team dynamic, if team members feel secure because of the leaders or the teams’ reliability, they will be able to weather the storms of challenges, differing opinions, and power struggles because they feel ‘secure’ within the environment.


  1. Be open and transparent

    People sense when there are ‘hidden agendas.’ Creating an environment of transparency, allowing for authenticity, truthfulness and openness-‘a what you see is what you get’ is imperative to developing the kind of trust that supports connection.


  1. Be a listener

    Everyone wants to be heard. Practice WAIT-Why Am I Talking! We are so quick to tell people what we think they should do, be or know! Listen openly – suspending judgments. Practicing active listening skills, especially in conflict situations followed up by practice #5, will minimize the conflict and get people moving through the storm rather than being stuck in it.


  1. Be a question-asker

    When you WAIT, LISTEN, and follow-up with a POWERFUL QUESTION, you are creating a space for people to not only be heard, they also have a voice. One of the downfalls of the storming stage in relationships is people feeling powerless, like they are not heard and do not have a voice. Listening and powerful questions meet both of those needs and help teams navigate more effectively through storming. A few key points on powerful questions:

A. 5-7 words (Otherwise it turns into your opinion mixed into a question)
B. Begin with What, How and Where. Stay away from WHY questions as they tend to create defensiveness.
  1. Be responsive

    The behavior of responsiveness acknowledges your team members.   Responding says, “I hear your concerns, I care about what matters to you, I respect your time and energy.”When a culture of responsiveness is cultivated among team members, they will be more inclined to work through issues one on one in order to maximize ‘team time’ to focus on team goals.


  1. Be a confronter

    Sometimes team dynamics adopt the Ostrich Syndrome (burying your head in the sand) to get through the storms. However, this always backfires, as the storm never goes away-ALL RELATIONSHIPS move through the storming phase. Avoiding it prolongs it! Confronting the issues, addressing what is difficult and courageously facing the real issues will actually navigate you more effectively and efficiently through the storming phase.


  1. Be Integrity

    If you give your word to something stand by it! Your word is your integrity. When a team forms, developing a ‘moral’ compass for the team will support team integrity.  What is ‘right’ for the team and will help it to function, what is ‘wrong’ for the team and may create dysfunction. When the storms come, tapping into your team’s moral compass, reminding each other what you gave your word to as a team establishes that ‘team integrity.’


Back to my story about my coaching student finding value in bad coaching as well as good coaching because of the trusting relationship. I have found in my work with Leaders and Teams that a foundation of trust (created by the above behaviors) covers a multitude of group dynamic sins! Meaning, that even if sometimes the team is not performing up to par, or the leader is not leading up to par, the team will sustain its viability based on the trust established which creates a strong connection.

The KSA’s of High Performing Teams through Communication-Getting Clear on Your Values, Culture and Purpose

Team building and team development are two different entities. Team building is focused on establishing a model and systems that support the function of the team. Team Development addresses ‘relationship development’ with the focus on ‘who’ the team is and not ‘what’ the team is about (function). As more and more businesses are seeing the value of collaborative work, they are supporting forming teams. I find there is a need for learning how to ‘be’ in collaborative relationships in a healthy, functional way that supports success and growth.


Think of a newly forming ‘group of relationships’ (team) as the DRIVER of the CAR. You would not put a driver in a car without making sure that they are trained, know the rules of the road, are aware and tuned in to potential roadblocks and have a clear sense of destination.

The newly forming team (as DRIVER):

  • The rules of road include values and purpose. Being clear on what each team member sees as the ‘importance’ of being together (value), and the motivating force behind forming a team (purpose) is imperative to safe navigating!
  • Being aware and tuned in to potential roadblocks would include an understanding of each other as individuals and what you bring to the team in terms of strengths and values. The ‘in-common’ values form the ‘culture’ of the team.
  • Having a clear sense of destination is the internal vision of the team-where do they want to end up when they are ready to complete the ‘relationship’ trip?

So read on to help you establish the rules of the road and learn how to become aware and tuned into potential roadblocks that would keep you from navigating safe travels to your teams’ destination.


In establishing new relationships, the health of the relationship is directly proportional to each individual having their voice and articulating what is important to them. It is often said that there is no ‘I’ in team, however I believe and research shows that if the ‘I’ in the individual voice is not recognized when in the forming stage of team development, healthy, functional relationships will get lost to ‘group think’-where the loudest voice gets heard and others follow blindly.

Getting clear on the individual voices and then working toward the ‘in-common’ team values gives the newly forming relationships a unity to work from when challenges arise. As a group, they can go back to ‘What’s important to us as a group? What value do we need to honor here?’

There are many ways to glean values. Paying attention to when the discord shows up is the time to ask what is important to the individual in this that discord is being created. If you can focus on the ‘value’ rather than the discord, you can move through conflict with a more positive outcome-identified values.


The most important skill for a leader to have at the forming stage of team development is to support the team in living out their stated values. Culture is created by stated and lived values. A leader needs to be the ‘holder’ of the culture until the team has opportunity to get rooted in their values.


What does this mean exactly? What is the difference between a stated and lived value? If an organization states that they value diversity, yet whenever someone speaks against the tide or comes up with a different way to do things, they balk-is that living the value of diversity? If an organization says it values empowerment, yet the C-Suite micromanages everything, is the organization living the value of empowerment? On the other hand, if an organization says they value connection and they provide numerous opportunities for community (special dinners, festivals, employee day, etc.) they are living their stated value.

In all these examples, a culture is born! It may be highly functional or dysfunctional- either way it is derived from stated/lived values. Of course, the highest and best organizations state and live their values by creating a culture that has resonance with them.



Coaching is all about supporting others in purposefulness toward what they want for themselves. Part of the process of the coaching relationship is helping clients find clarity on their purpose. Coaches do this through the question asking process.

  • What do you see as the purpose of this team?
  • How do you see yourself contributing through your strengths?

Being purposeful is all about setting intention. The clearer the intention the clearer you will be when you are ‘off purpose.’ When that happens, and it will, being coach like means approaching the ‘off course’ with the question asking process rather than getting lost in the blame game. As a team practicing this approach, you will save time and energy while getting back on purpose and as a result, will be setting course to becoming a high performing team and reaching your designation more effectively and efficiently.