Category: Communication

Is Your Mindset Holding You Back?

I recently had animated conversations with two intelligent, highly competent HR practitioners, who both left corporate HR jobs to start coaching practices. Two people, both with brains and talent. Why is one getting traction and the other is not?

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, suggests that having a growth mindset may be the difference. What is a growth mindset vs. what Dweck calls a fixed mindset? Our mindset consists of our most basic beliefs about ourselves and how they affect what we want and whether we’re successful in getting it. In effect, they guide our behaviour.

Individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their skills and abilities over time, through attitude, experience, feedback, mentoring and other development opportunities. They thrive on challenge. They’re not preoccupied with how smart they look to others. They see failure as a valuable step in their learning and growth.

Back to the two aspiring coaches. “Sam” has a growth mindset. When a prospect doesn’t respond to her calls or emails, she persistently follows up. After receiving constructive feedback about her demo coaching session, her response is to listen carefully and determine how she will apply these learnings in the future. When learning of other coaches’ successes, she is genuine in her congratulations and inspired by their wins.

Compare this to “Robin” who has a fixed mindset, believing that her intelligence, attributes and abilities are pretty much carved in stone and that she needs to keep proving her worth. Her learning is compromised by questions such as: Will I look smart? Will it look like I have all the answers? Will I be accepted? In trying to constantly prove herself right, she misses the opportunity to learn. When prospects don’t respond after one email, she’s annoyed and gives up. Feedback after sales calls with a colleague is met emotionally and defensively. She is dismissive of other coaches’ successes, often attributing it to luck.

In a growth mindset, people view brains and aptitude as the starting point. These individuals have a love of learning that accelerates them to a higher level of achievement.

How can you get into a growth mindset?

5 Strategies…

  1. Be passionate about stretching yourself. Get comfortable with getting outside your comfort zone.
  2. View challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop.
  3. When an obstacle or problem occurs, ask yourself, how can I solve it? What can I learn from this? How can I apply this in the future?
  4. Persevere! Accept that setbacks are an indication that you have not yet achieved your goal, not that you have failed and will never achieve it.
  5. Consider the process, rather than focus solely on the outcome. Assess the strategies you used, your dedication and your resilience.

According to Dweck, this mindset and your passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, especially in times of adversity, are what will propel you and help you achieve your full potential.

In my next blog, I will describe how you, as a leader, can encourage a growth mindset in others you mentor.

Here is Dweck’s model…

We would love to have a conversation with you about cultivating a grow mindset in your organization and your specific learning needs.

Please connect with me at:

(905) 990-2515




Having Difficult Conversations: 5 Tips

Do you dread difficult business conversations? Does anxiety prevent you from giving constructive feedback, challenging a colleague, communicating bad news or telling someone “no”? You’re not alone. It’s easy to avoid important discussions when you’re worried about navigating emotions and making matters worse.

There’s no need to delay those necessary talks – handling difficult conversations is a skill you can build.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Be clear about the issue and your feelings. I’d like to discuss the deadline for this project. I’m very concerned that we’re going to miss the next key milestone.
  2. Explore their position. What’s your perspective? How do you see this?
  3. Listen, on a second level, to the feelings behind their words. It sounds like you’re frustrated that you’re not getting the support you need.
  4. Communicate respectfully and directly. We need to meet all the milestones in the project plan.
  5. Collaboratively problem-solve and ensure you have their commitment to take action. How can we ensure the next milestone is met? What ideas do you have? What will you do now?

Mastering these challenging exchanges will help you feel more confident under pressure, build better relationships and achieve your business goals.


How to Escalate Emotions

My last blog “Difficult Conversations – 5 Tips” struck a chord, loud and clear; many of you asked for more guidance. It seems that we all struggle when we’re in the eye of the storm, and most of us aren’t sure how to defuse challenging emotions during those tough moments.

This time, let’s look at the flip side and explore guaranteed ways to escalate conflicts and create even more angst for everyone involved.

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Escalate Emotions:

  1. Withdraw from the conversation. Maybe the conflict will resolve itself.
  2. Resort to email. Unless you use emoticons or upper case, it’s all neutral, right?
  3. Don’t listen. Interrupt and at all costs, avoid eye contact.
  4. Disrespect their position. Be sure to use the old standby: “I’m sorry that you feel this way, but….”
  5. Patronize: “Calm down.” “Take a deep breath.”
  6. Try a direct attack: “You’re always defensive.” “You need to be a team player.”
  7. Drag in other issues or people. “No one else other than you seems to be upset about this issue.”

Emotions – especially frustration, negativity and anger – are contagious. Your efforts to stay grounded and objective will help everyone stay calm. Above all, listen, listen, listen!

Delivering Difficult Feedback?

Many of you commented that my blog “Prepping for Performance Reviews – 7 Derailers” will help make your performance reviews more constructive.

You asked: How do you give difficult feedback so it’s actionable?  What if your employees don’t accept your input? How can you help them not be defensive or emotional?

We recommend being coach-like. Don’t tell your employees what to think, e.g. “You need to improve your interpersonal skills.”  Ask questions.

5 powerful questions to encourage your employees to absorb difficult feedback:

  1. What about this feedback resonates with you?
  2. What surprises you or puzzles you?
  3. Why do you think you are getting this input?
  4. How do you want to address it?
  5. What can I do to support you?

In our experience when employees absorb difficult feedback, they understand it better and are more motivated to act on it.

How to Manage Your Presentation Anxiety: Strategy #1

Any situation in which we think we are being personally evaluated can trigger anxiety and impair our ability to be successful. Examples are giving a presentation, receiving feedback and facilitating a training session.

Extensive research has been done to show the connection between the fear of being evaluated negatively and social anxiety. (More recent research shows that even the fear of positive evaluation can contribute to social anxiety.)

How can you overcome this anxiety? In this first of three blogs, we will explore some key strategies to help you achieve the outcome you want.

Strategy #1: Put the situation into perspective

Realize that what is being “evaluated” is your idea, company, products or services – not you as a person.  To take a more realistic perspective, ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that can happen?”  Chances are if you fumble your PowerPoint or the audience doesn’t agree to your request, your career will not be derailed. Your faux pas are always more apparent to you than to the participants in your presentation. And many in the audience will be naturally empathetic because they “have been there” or “will be there”.

Stay tuned for Strategy #2.

How to Manage Your Presentation Anxiety: Strategy #2

Feeling anxious about your upcoming presentation? In our last blog we explored Strategy #1: Put the situation into perspective. Here is a second strategy for calming those butterflies.

Strategy #2: Reframe those negative self-statements.

Negative self-statements are thoughts and feelings such as:

“I’ll never get them to agree.”
“My boss knows more about this than I do.”
“I’m not going to be able to handle their objections.”

Negative self-statements fuel anxiety and undermine your ability to convey your expertise and confidence. In reality, most audience members come to presentations with a neutral attitude, not planning to throw you under the bus. If you’re lucky you may even have some participants that are in your corner.

Research shows that people who make positive self-statements increase their likelihood of success.

Turn your negative self-statements into positive ones, such as:

“I’ve done my homework on this topic, I’m well-prepared… they have to say yes.”
“I’m excited, not nervous.”
”I’m looking forward to handling their tough questions.”

What negative thoughts are you having? What emotions are associated with them? What positive self-statements can you make to replace your negative self-talk?

Stay tuned for Strategy #3.

How to Manage Your Presentation Anxiety: Strategy #3

Have you had an opportunity to test out our previous two strategies? In this, our third blog on managing presentation anxiety, we explore another issue that often derails presenters.

In past presentations have you ever felt like the proverbial turtle, withdrawing into yourself? You’ve become acutely aware of your breathing, tone of voice and thoughts. Some self-monitoring is positive; it helps you evaluate your audience’s reactions so you can tweak your approach. When self-monitoring becomes excessive it can disengage your audience and fuel your anxiety even more.

Strategy #3: Stop Excessive Self-Monitoring

To ensure you don’t disconnect from your audience:

  • Be present, focus on what is happening in the moment.
  • Vary your eye contact among your audience members.
  • Observe their facial expressions and body language to gauge their responses.
  • Ask questions to engage them: “What is your reaction to this idea?”, “How do feel this will help you?” “What questions do you have?”
  • Use pauses to build excitement and enhance your humour; watch their reactions
  • Remind yourself that this is their meeting and you are privileged to be the centre of attention.

CORE offers presentation skills coaching in both English and French for individual and team presenters and conference moderators. If this is of interest, please call or email us for details.

5 Reasons Why Meetings Fail

How much time will you spend in meetings this year? Research shows that leaders spend an average of 80% of their work hours in meetings. And most complain that they are time sucks. Why?

5 Reasons Why Meetings Fail and 5 Tips to Make Them More Productive

  1. No clear meeting purpose. Is your goal to share information, solve a problem or make a decision? In your invite, make the why clear and recap it at the meeting kickoff.
  2. Wrong participants. Once you’ve determined the purpose of the meeting, decide who really needs to be there. How many can be eliminated by sharing the summary afterwards?
  3. No agenda. If you are responsible for leading the meeting, determine in advance the structure you need to achieve the meeting objective. Failure to do this is guaranteed to result in socializing, discussions off topic and missed input from key individuals.
  4. Lack of action planning. Summarize decisions, actions, etc. before transitioning to the next agenda item. Recap and capture next steps at the end of the meeting. Email this summary to all participants and others as appropriate.
  5. Dysfunctional participant behaviour. George dominates the discussion, Mary gets off on a tangent and Ahmed keeps repeating the same points.  Take charge of these derailers. (More in my next blog….)

As well as these tips, do a quick evaluation of your meeting effectiveness at the end of each meeting. Ask participants: “What did you like about this meeting?” “What can we do to make these meetings better?” If you would like the tool that our clients have used successfully, let me know.

If you are keen to learn more about CORE’s services, we would love to have a conversation.

Take Charge of Dysfunctional Meeting Behaviour: “The Talkers”

How many times have you left a meeting and overheard the participants say: “That was a great meeting! We got a lot done.” Rarely would be the honest answer.

My experience as both a facilitator and a coach indicates that many meetings get ambushed because most leaders have difficulty taking charge of dysfunctional meeting behaviour, especially The Talkers.

We’ve all met “George”.  He dominates discussions, raises off-topic issues, interrupts and doesn’t listen to others. His behaviour frustrates the group and shuts down participation.

Here are 5 techniques to help you effectively manage The Talkers.

5 Techniques for Managing “The Talkers”

  1. Ask George: “How does this relate to the topic we are discussing?”
  2. Use a parking lot to record unrelated issues. Then come back to them at the end of the meeting.
  3. Avoid making eye contact with George. If he persists in talking, slightly raise your right hand in his direction.
  4. Acknowledge his opinion; then ask others to contribute. “Thanks, George for sharing your perspective. Deborah, what thoughts do you have about this issue?”
  5. Speak to him privately during a break. Ask him to actively listen to others’ opinions. Offer to have an offline discussion following the meeting.

As a leader your ability to facilitate your team’s progress in solving problems and making decisions will contribute to your leadership effectiveness.

For more presentation and training strategies, please reach out to us at CORE.

Take Charge of Dysfunctional Meeting Behaviour: “The Critics”

Who else besides The Talkers has the potential to derail your meetings? The Critics.

Daniela is a critic. She constantly challenges others and makes derogatory comments. Her body language conveys hostility.

How can you handle Daniela both respectfully and effectively? Tempting as it is to argue with her, she likely will become even more contentious.

Here are 5 techniques to handle the Critics’ behaviour:

  1. Acknowledge her position. “Daniela, it seems that you have a different perspective.”
  2. Ask her to elaborate. “Can you tell us why you feel so strongly?” This will help clarify her opinion and reveal her agenda.
  3. Summarize and confirm your understanding of her view. “What I hear you saying is that you feel we should …. is that correct?” Ask the other meeting participants: “Does this resonate with anyone else?”
  4. Transition to the next agenda item if the other meeting participants disagree with her input.  “Thanks, Daniela. I think we now understand why you are opposed. I’m happy to take this offline if you would like to discuss it further. Let’s now move to the next topic…”
  5. Ask questions and reinforce comments that are on target with your agenda.

If you are faced with challenging meeting behaviours and would like some on-one-one coaching, please contact us at CORE.