Archive for Blog

Management and Intuition

How will you manage in 2020? Is it time to shift your usual protocols? Here are some thoughts you may find useful. Thank you to my friend and colleague John Lamy for this post.


Why Intuition in the Age of Management Science?

Starry Night by Vincent van GoghTwo reasons: First, intuition is a prerequisite for real insight, meaning a fresh understanding of the situation, seeing a reality that you hadn’t noticed before. “Wow, our company is overlooking a major market!” Insights like that are pure gold.

Second, intuition is the primary ingredient of creativity. If you want your organization to truly thrive, you need a continuous stream of innovation in your products, marketing, operations, hiring, and on and on. Otherwise, you’ll be lumped with the lackluster has-beens on the closeout rack.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition usually starts as a subtle feeling in your body, followed by a preverbal stirring, and then you notice a very quiet voice in your head. The whole process is ethereal, way below the radar.

Example: You finish your cup of coffee, and your mind feels quietly present. You stroll out onto the factory floor. You see the latest run of product—50 instruments lined up and ready for packaging and shipping. Then, you feel a little quiver in your gut … you notice that quiver … hmmm. Suddenly: “We could promote our product in the industrial refrigerant industry! It’s huge, we’ve never played there, and we would help reduce climate change!” For you and your company, that’s an intuitive breakthrough! Now go check it out.

How Can You Develop Intuition?

Employee Working with Gantt ChartRational thought is not the enemy of intuition. They are actually vital allies. In fact, intuition’s mortal enemy is our prevailing compulsion to fill every moment with physical or mental activity. We often do that under the banner of efficiency and productivity.

To cultivate your intuition, begin by setting aside a few moments, several times a day, to do nothing at all! Truly feel your body, drop your preoccupations, and let your thoughts go. Open a welcoming space for that quiet little voice to speak up; and when it speaks, listen gratefully. And … just know that intuitive insights aren’t always sweetness and light!

Three caveats here: first and foremost, learn to distinguish your biases and old hurts and angers from something authentically new. Just let the old stuff go, without judgment or feeling bad about it. Second, after your intuitive leap, go back to your old friend rational thought. Is this insight really right? Doable? Risky? Think about it.… Third, studies consistently show that real intuition works best when you have solid knowledge of the underlying field. Even though it can feel good, don’t just opinionate in a vacuum and attribute it to intuition.

All this takes a while. Don’t expect instant results. Enjoy the ride!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
Rational thought is not the enemy of intuition. They are actually vital allies. Click To Tweet

11 Ways to Bring Your Web Presence to the Next Level

First impressions can create a lifelong ambassador or a disappointed grumbler—and those impressions can spread exponentially for the positive or negative, depending on the customer’s experience. Whether it’s your label design or website, this is your chance to woo prospective patrons. Before that can even happen, though, they must be able to find you online.

Here are 11 ways to bring your web presence to the next level so you’re not only reaching a wider audience but ensuring those who find you have an enjoyable, memorable experience.

  1. Be unique. If your website doesn’t currently align with your branding (or your branding itself needs honing), it may be harming rather than helping your online presence. You don’t want your website to look like another cookie-cutter template users forget as soon as they bounce but rather a reflection of your unique culture and graphic identity. Ideally, it will wed aesthetically striking design with seamless functionality to create a gratifying user experience that inspires visitors to explore—and come back.
  2. Make it mobile-friendly. The number of people accessing websites via mobile devices increased 222% from 2013 to 2018, and that upward trend is only growing. If your website is not responsive (adapts according to screen dimensions), users on mobile devices will have trouble navigating it—and, worse, Google will penalize your site in its search engine rankings.
  3. Lock it down. Google recently announced that Chrome will start blocking insecure elements on sites with mixed content, beginning with a disconcerting warning to visitors about insecure content in an upcoming Chrome release with full blocking of insecure elements (e.g., images, scripts, stylesheets, or pages) by January or February. That means sites with http elements instead of https (secure/SSL) may appear broken or be altogether inaccessible to people using Google Chrome as their browser. Try viewing your website in Chrome and take a look at the url bar—if there is a lock next to the url on all your pages and posts, you’re good to go. An information icon (circle with an ‘i’ inside) indicates mixed content, whereas that same symbol followed by “Not Secure” warns all of the content on that page is insecure.
  4. Streamline images. Google has been placing growing emphasis on the speed of page loads in its search engine algorithm, and that has become heavily weighted in recent years, especially in the context of mobile devices. One of the ways to accomplish a significant speed boost without compromising image quality is to convert images to the new WebP image format recently introduced by Google.
  5. Track conversions. Ever wonder how traffic flows through your site, where it comes from, and whether these referrals result in valuable actions? You may be paying for a directory service or advertisements but have no idea whether those investments are worthwhile. Setting up conversion funnels and tracking will help you make decisions that garner the best bang for your buck.
  6. Scope out the competition. An SEO expert can conduct a competitor analysis to identify challenges, tease out unique opportunities, and recommend how to make your website rise above the rest. A one-time investment in in-depth SEO research and analysis can pay huge dividends when it comes to crafting and implementing an effective online marketing strategy.
  7. Make it accessible. Getting an ADA compliance audit can help you determine whether your website is accessible to those with disabilities—a concern that has escalated with the rise of ADA lawsuits, including winery websites. This is one of those situations where an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure as it potentially saves thousands in lawsuit costs.
  8. Build buzz. There’s no denying the power of social media, and harnessing that power is crucial to the success of every business these days. If you’re not regularly posting to Facebook and Instagram (and to a lesser extent, Twitter), you’re missing an opportunity to broaden your fan base, encourage engagement, and create faithful followers who happily spread the word about your business.
  9. Reach out. Whether it’s a Facebook post, Instagram story, or Google ad, geotargeted ad campaigns can zero in on the precise demographics best-suited to your products or services, making your brand visible to thousands who may otherwise be unaware of your company.
  10. Keep in touch. Your mailing list is one of your most precious assets. These are folks who have already expressed interest in your business and want to keep up with the latest news. By providing valuable dynamic content through regular blog posts and sharing that content via e-newsletter campaigns, you reward existing customers with pertinent information and draw new users to your website through compelling blog topics. Philip vanDusen’s Brand•Muse and Keto Savage’s 7-Set Sunday are two exceptional examples of engaging, authentic, valuable e-newsletters that follow consistent patterns so you can always jump to your favorite sections—or read top to bottom to savor every morsel.
  11. Control your Google presence. Do you have a Google My Business page, and if so, is it up-to-date? When you do a Google search, the relevant Google My Business page is displayed in the righthand sidebar. It provides a synopsis of the business/service provider, contact info, relevant images, and a link to your website. Setting up a Yelp page is also essential for those with brick-and-mortar establishments. Both Google business and Yelp pages inspire greater confidence and contribute to a professional, unified online presence.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Don’t panic—Capiche can help you with all of the above services and more through our affiliate Michaels & Michaels Creative, LLC. We can create a custom plan tailored to your particular needs and budget. Don’t hesitate to email Michaels & Michaels Creative and ask for the Capiche discount of $200 on combo packages featuring four or more services. We look forward to helping you bring your web presence to the next level!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
First impressions can create a lifelong ambassador or a disappointed grumbler, and those impressions can spread exponentially. Click To Tweet

The 3 Dimensions of “The Big Goal”

Below is the next in a series of guest articles by Capiche friend and colleague John Lamy.

The research is conclusive: teams perform better when they’re shooting for a Big Goal. Jim Collins (of Built to Last fame) called it the BHAG for Big Hairy Audacious Goal!

But then what? Here’s a handy way of thinking about goals for your group. Consider three interlocking scales:

  1. Push the Envelope or Hold the Fort. You’ll want one big goal that will carry your organization to a new place: “Introduce the new gigulator to the market by October 1.” Excellent. But in the meantime, you’ll also need a few goals just to keep the lights on. “Meet Production Commitment of 750 current model units shipped by the end of the year.” You’ll want to track that Hold the Fort goal as well. The idea is to balance the two kinds.
  2. Stretch Goals. I personally don’t like them. The definition is that we’re only 70% likely to achieve them. I think stretch goals can burn people out and be demoralizing when the team falls short. But the research finds that organizations perform at a higher level with stretch goals than with easier goals that everyone is 100% committed to. Go figure. I still vote for Committed rather than Stretch.
  3. Distributed throughout the Organization or Focused on just one or two departments. In my Silicon Valley experience, I found goals shared by the whole company were much more fun and effective. In the mid-80s, Hewlett-Packard focused the entire international company on improving the reliability of our electronic instruments by a factor of 10. Yes! A big, big goal. But we did it, and it truly brought out the best in the whole corporation.

I think setting out a Big Goal is one of the best, most energizing things you can do to move your company forward. If you decide to do it, keep these three dimensions in mind. That will be one more factor that will help you succeed.

The Transformative Power of “The Big Goal”

Below is a guest article by John Lamy, a friend and colleague who will be writing a series of guest blogs for Capiche in the coming months.

The Big Goal

Here’s a common situation:

  • The management team puts in 10-hour days, running around like crazy, fixing mistakes, putting out fires;
  • most of the non-management folks are less than fully engaged, seem a little lackadaisical, and don’t really understand the operation’s strategy or goals; and
  • you have the gut feeling that the organization is underperforming. Everyone could be doing much better!

You can fix that! It’s not insurmountable, but it takes real focus and effort to get it right.

One proven approach is to establish a robust process for setting and achieving a Big Goal. I call that process the Execution Framework. This involves three steps.

The Big Goal Diagram

The Goal

Start with your:

  • Core Values
  • Strategy
  • Current Issues

Then concoct a single Big Goal that aligns with these three key drivers and spans throughout the organization. Creating and articulating that Big Goal is not easy. It’s as much art as science. In fact, I think it actually requires a little bit of magic!

The Tactics

Step Two can be a little tedious. Figure out the specific set of Tactics (or tasks) that must be executed to realize the Big Goal—department by department, person by person. Write them down; assign them to people; and put measures, targets, and due dates on each Tactic.

The Tracking

Step Three: Meet with your entire team on a cadence (maybe once a month) to make sure you’re on track. What are the problems? Who can help whom? Do you need to pivot? Let team members speak, especially the more junior ones—this is a great opportunity for their personal development.

If you set up your Execution Framework correctly, three amazing things will happen:

  • You’ll hit your Big Goal, and your financial performance will show it.
  • You’ll build a culture that hits your Big Goals, year after year.
  • Your folks will love it, word will spread, and it’ll be easier to hire outstanding people.

The process works. You really can achieve awesome results. Give it a try!

If you are interested in learning more about John, please contact him—and let him know I sent you! If it’s marketing consulting you are interested in, please reach out to me, Chris Cook. I would love to talk with you about your ideas!

What Would You Do If You Couldn’t Fail?

In October 2011, I posted one of my first blogs on my then-new website. Countless posts later, I am often reminded of these questions posed by Dr. Robert H. Schuller.

So I ask you these three simple questions:

  1. If you knew you could not fail and those around you would wholeheartedly support you, what would you do?
  2. Are you doing it?
  3. If not, then why?

Oh, and one final question …

If your reason for not doing something is that you’re afraid of failing or being judged … how much worse would that be than never having tried?

And remember: it’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.
It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly. Click To Tweet (If this kind of questioning feels helpful, perhaps it’s time for you to start working with a coach. I have two openings for coaching clients at this time, so give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email me and let’s start a conversation.)

Remember Silent Spring? Here’s Today’s Clarion Call—and It’s for Civility.

How is it that we as a society seem to be slipping into a scary model of disrespect, incivility, and creation of a culture of separateness and fear? I rue the day we lost our humanity, but when did that happen? Do we still have a chance to regain it?

Talking with residents on a recent visit to Spain and Portugal confirmed my feelings and further cemented my personal goal of encouraging civility—specifically in the workplace, as that is my professional focus. However, my wish is to see civility return throughout our culture.

Below is a reprint of a post I wrote in 2013 with some compelling statistics on the financial benefits of encouraging a civil workplace. So much of it applies today, and we know the benefits are far more than simply financial.

Please do comment—I love to hear and learn from you! What have you found? What is working at your organization?

Civility Costs Nothing—and Buys Everything

It Really Does Pay to Be the “Nice Guy”

With the science of happiness at work as a cornerstone of my business model, I am always interested in new research that illustrates how happy employees are more productive and creative, provide better customer service, are better team players, are sick less, and stay longer. These days, there is a LOT of that research, and the findings continue to be consistent with these positive outcomes.

It amazes me that I still find people who resist the idea of happiness at work—or those who believe the statistics but think they don’t have the time or resources to invest in creating a workplace where happiness is part of the culture.

“Happiness at work? I’m not happy—why should anyone else be?” or “They should be happy to have a job” or “We’re not here to be happy; we’re here to make a profit.” Then I remind them happiness at work boosts the bottom line, and their interest is piqued.

This month a new piece of research was published in the Harvard Business Review about civility and rudeness: “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale—and the Bottom Line.” Guess what? Civility at work creates results similar to happiness at work, and rudeness at work creates results that correlate to unhappiness at work.

Did you know rudeness at work is raging and is on the rise? According to researchers, 98 percent of workers polled said they experienced rudeness at work—with half of them experiencing it at least once a week, up from 25 percent in 1998.

Like unhappiness at work, rudeness at work undermines the bottom line. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, the researchers found the following statistics:

Among employees who have experienced incivility at work:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time they spent at work
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
  • 66% said their performance declined
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% said they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
  • 24% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Other studies have found that creativity suffers; performance and team spirit decline; and customers who witness the rude behaviors turn away. Sounds a lot like what happens with unhappiness at work.

It also sounds like a recipe for disaster—not a way to increase an organization’s profits or become known as an employer of choice. And it’s expensive! According to a study conducted by Accountemps and reported in Fortune, managers and executives at Fortune 1,000 firms spend 13 percent of their time—the equivalent of seven weeks per year—mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of incivility. And just think of the costs should consultants and attorneys be brought in to help settle a situation.

So What’s a Leader to Do?

In managing yourself, model good behavior. After all, the leader sets the tone of the organization. You are on stage, and your supporting cast is taking cues from you. Ask for feedback—what do your employees like and dislike about your leadership style? How does that relate to civility (or happiness) at work? What can you do to shift behaviors that are perceived poorly?

And keep a pulse on the organization. What’s really going on, and how are people treated and treating others? You need to be connected to your workforce and constantly striving to create a culture where people feel as though they have what’s needed to succeed.

In managing the organization, hire for and reward civility. If civility is a key attribute your culture values, put it above all else. For example, at Zappos, people are hired based on fit within the culture, and the most skilled person will be passed over if their values don’t match the values Zappos has deemed essential to its core. Share those values (and make sure civility is one of them) and demonstrate what it looks like to live those values. Be specific. Tie those to individual performance assessments and rewards, and celebrate circumstances in which the values of civility and respect shine brightly.

Rude or civil? Unhappy or happy? The choice is clear. Civil, respectful cultures enjoy the same benefits as cultures where people are encouraged and given a climate where they can succeed at work—that’s when they can reach their potential.

Today’s data show creating a culture of civility and happiness is not simply the morally right thing to do, it’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Contact me for more specifics or for a culture check of your organization. Let’s see how your company can become an employer of choice—a place where people feel as though their contributions matter, a place that resonates with their values, vision, passion, and sense of purpose. It is possible!

Cheers! I look forward to hearing from you!

Eureka! Why Relaxation May Be the Key to Optimal Performance, Creativity, and Flow

There’s a reason Eureka moments tend to strike in the shower—or in the case of Archimedes, the bath. Performing mindless activities gives our brain an opportunity to relax, kicking the prefrontal cortex (a.k.a. the brain’s command center) into autopilot mode. That daydreamy state is when creativity emerges.

In this Business Insider article on why 72% of people get their best ideas in the shower, Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explains, “The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”

Whether we’re scrubbing dishes or practicing meditation, letting our brain idle increases alpha brain wave activity, known to boost creativity and reduce depression.

How does this translate to the workplace? No, we’re not saying you should install showers or offer transcendental meditation classes (although that may not be such a bad idea). Rather, you may wish to cultivate an organizational culture that encourages play, humor, quiet, and relaxation—all ingredients to heightened productivity and creative flow, most famously studied by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

No number of hacky sacks and hammocks will counteract the toxic miasma of a stressful, high-anxiety workplace, however, and that cortisol-spiking atmosphere often starts at the top.

If an organization’s leaders exhibit stress, fear, rigidity, and panic under pressure, those emotions quickly spread to the employees.

How many times have you entered a meeting in a good mood only to leave feeling anxious and tense? This article by Psychologist Daniel Goleman discusses a study that revealed the contagious nature of moods in work groups and calls on leaders to practice the emotional intelligence necessary to prevent their own stress from infecting the group.

It’s no surprise that people want calm, assertive leaders as this Psychology Today piece explains. If you are wheeled into the hospital for emergency surgery, do you want the head surgeon to fly into hysterics, or do you want her to calmly assess the situation, lay out a clear plan of action, and set to work?

How people respond to crises reveals a lot about them, and demonstrating resilience, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in the face of obstacles instills employees with confidence and trust in their leadership.

That’s one reason this Harvard Business Review article encourages first-time leaders to relax. Employees sense insecurity and anxiety in their leaders, and that lack of confidence derails productivity.

As the Tao Te Ching states:

“When your body is not aligned,
The inner power will not come.
When you are not tranquil within,
Your mind will not be well ordered.
Align your body, assist the inner power,
Then it will gradually come on its own.”

If you want your employees to achieve the optimal performance, relaxed alertness, and creativity possible in a serene, inspiring environment, you need to cultivate your own inner balance, emotional intelligence, and mental well-being.

To get expert guidance from an empathetic yet challenging co-active coach, contact Chris Cook about her leadership coaching services. If your organizational culture could use an injection of positivity and transformative authenticity, Capiche can help with that, too.

It’s Time to Disrupt Our Leadership Culture

Which of these statements can you relate to? Check the boxes.

  • I don’t love my current job.
  • I often feel alone.
  • I often feel like an impostor.
  • There’s something new I want to try, but fear is holding me back.
  • I’m in a new season filled with uncertainty.
  • I know I have what it takes, but I’m tired and sometimes I want to quit.

Guess what? You’re not alone.

Last week, I was fortunate to participate in the 2019 Women’s Leadership Conference and attended a session called “The Value of Disrupting Leadership Culture.” I didn’t expect the session to begin with all of us women checking boxes on a half-sheet of paper with these six statements. It made me feel a little (or maybe a lot) vulnerable.

We each folded our sheets and passed them over two to the right. Then one back. Then three more to the right. We were now all holding someone else’s sheet, but we weren’t sure whose.

That’s when the magic happened. One by one, the presenter read each statement. All whose sheet had that box checked stood. Six times. We heard each statement, and each time, a large group of our peers—all successful women in their own right—were standing up for us.

We weren’t alone.

We then listened as the presenters debunked the concept that we should follow others on the paths they once blazed to success—which were now safe and proven. What if our truest path to groundbreaking success lies in who we already are—foibles and all? What if our perceived “weaknesses” are what will set us apart and propel our respective industries forward?

Every day, we’re seeing examples of how purposeful disruption of our traditional leadership culture is the key to our individual success. You can own who you are and know you are not alone.

Thanks to session presenters Lindsay McPhail and Kristy Laschober for their insights.

Ready?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above or you’re ready to launch your own disruption of leadership culture, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris to get going on the next chapter of your life! Whether you’re interested in leadership coaching or reshaping your organization’s culture, Capiche has you covered.

To Be Aware, Start from the Inside

Once again, I’m working with a group of motivated professionals who all have good jobs—careers even—but no college degree. They’re enrolled in a degree-completion program at Southern Oregon University called Innovation and Leadership. They’re taking my class Working with Emotional Intelligence and are all making strides toward increasing their own EI. It’s amazing how simple it is if you focus on it!

This blog post shares their first assigned Exploration toward developing EI.* It all begins with self-awareness. As you read through the Exploration, consider how you relate to the content and what you can do to increase your own EI.

Exploration #1

Are you aware of how you feel—and how you respond to those feelings? We can go through our day on automatic pilot, which works for tasks that don’t require much thought like brushing our teeth or taking a shower. There are times, however, when being mindless about situations causes us to react instead of respond in a proactive manner. If we get an email or call from someone that angers us, do we stop to think about the emotion, where it came from, and how to respond in a way that results in beneficial outcomes? Or do we unconsciously react in a manner that undermines or sabotages relationships with self or others?

When we are aware of how we are feeling inside, we are more likely to consciously choose a response instead of reacting without considering  the results of our actions. Try to take some time to become aware of how you feel in different situations and why. Recognize your emotions and the effects of those emotions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What has caused me to feel this way?
  • What are the thoughts that follow that emotion?
  • How does that thought align or not align with my values?
  • Have I experienced this before?
  • What could I change to bring these thoughts into closer alignment with my values?

You may want to target a problem situation and increase your awareness about the emotions, thoughts, and reactions regarding the problem. You do not have to do anything different during this time—simply be aware of how you are feeling, what is causing those feelings, and how they correspond with your core values. Remember, this exploration focuses on self-awareness; you do not have to fix anything. Simply be aware, starting from the inside.

Consider your experiences, what you learned, and what did or did not work for you. You may even want to journal about this topic.

Want to Boost Your EI?

If you’re interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, let’s talk. I help both individuals and teams increase their individual and collective EI.

*Adapted from Dr. Jennifer Joss’ “Living With” EI exercises.
WHY BOTHER WITH EI?

What will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58% more effective at your job, and rank you with 90% of top performers? Greater emotional intelligence.

Unless you want to be among the 80% of low-EQ employees classed as “bottom performers,” it’s time to discover how you can accelerate your career and become a better leader by developing your emotional intelligence.

Studies show those with average IQs outshine their highest-IQ counterparts 70% of the time because of their EQ.

Whereas IQ and personality are static elements of your makeup, you can always increase your emotional intelligence (thanks to the wonders of neuroplasticity)—and doing so will make a surprising difference in both your life and work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In a recent Forbes article, bestselling coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and cofounder of Talent Smart Travis Bradberry describes the two primary competencies and four core skills that make up emotional intelligence.

Personal Competence

This first competency comprises self-awareness (observation) and self-management (actions). Your observation skills, sensitivity, and ability to control your emotions come into play here. How conscious are you of your emotions, and how accurate are your self-perceptions? Do you practice mindfulness to remain aware of your emotions, and are you able to take a step back and regulate them when needed? How malleable are you, and can you transform a negative emotion into a positive action?

Social Competence

This competency focuses on social awareness (observation) and relationship management (actions), mapping the reflection and regulation required for personal competence to social situations and relationships. How well do you understand the motives, actions, and moods of those around you? Do you intuitively sense people’s emotions and accurately perceive their intentions? Can you use these perceptions to navigate relationships and communicate successfully?

This section is excerpted from our previous blog post Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula = EI + Coaching. See original article for more details.

Got Toxins? Get Good at Conflict.

Isn’t it invigorating when things are clicking along at your company—when your team is all on the same page and working together to get important work done?

Or are you reading this saying, “I wish it was like that!”

If it’s not like that, what’s going on? Is performance tanking? Is communication falling apart? Is turnover high? Is absenteeism skyrocketing?

If you’re nodding your head, then here’s a question: What “team toxins” are causing conflict—and how are you handling them?

You know every organization (every relationship for that matter) experiences conflict. But did you know there’s such a thing as good conflict? Yep. When there’s constructive conflict, your team develops greater trust and becomes stronger.

However, when team toxins creep into day-to-day operations and conflict is not handled well, your team begins a downward spiral that may be impossible to arrest.

According to positive psychologist John Gottman (The Relationship Cure), these team toxins are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Gottman refers to these toxins as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s vital that your team understands these toxins and strives to keep them at bay. Letting them creep into your organization is the quickest way to undermine performance.

Take a close look at these toxins, learn how to recognize them, and review the “antidotes” so you can handle conflict successfully through positive communication.

1) Personal Criticism

Aggressive attack, bullying, chronic blaming, domination

Learn to understand the difference between complaining and criticizing—and turn the complaint into a request when possible.

Criticism: “You’re always late! You never think about anyone but yourself!”

Complaint: “When you are late, it throws the entire team off schedule.”

Request: “When you are late, I have to reschedule the entire team. Please let us know if something unexpected comes up that will detain you.”

Also, remember that criticizing the person is hurtful. Your intention is most likely to criticize the idea or action, not the person. The antidote? Talk about your feelings using “I” statements and express a positive need.

2) Defensiveness

Deflection, unopen to influence

When we feel unjustly accused, our natural response is to look for excuses to justify our actions.

Question: “Did you let production know that our prototype is not going to be ready as we promised?”

Defensive response: “You know how busy I am. Why didn’t you just do it?”

Better response: “Wow, I was so busy today, I forgot. I apologize. Let me call them now and let them know.”

The best antidote is to accept your teammate’s perspective, take responsibility, and offer an apology for any wrongdoing.

3) Stonewalling

Disengagement, passivity, yes men, avoidance, unopen to influence

This usually happens as a response to chronic contempt. The listener shuts down and simply stops responding—or they resort to other behavior such as turning away or tuning out.

It takes time for most people to reach the stage of stonewalling/shutting down; the best antidote is to take a break and spend time doing something soothing before regrouping and openly discussing the situation.

4) Contempt

Demeaning, disrespect, undermining, hostile

This may be the most destructive horseman. Contempt goes far beyond criticism, attacks the person’s moral character, and insinuates superiority over them. It’s destructive both mentally and physically. Research shows that people in contemptuous relationships are more likely to suffer from an infectious illness like the flu or a cold! In a marriage, it is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated in all relationships—personal and professional. As an antidote, remind yourself of the person’s positive qualities and build a culture of appreciation.

Now that you know what the Four Horsemen are and how to counteract them with proven antidotes, you’ve got the essential tools to create constructive conflict, develop more organizational trust, and create a more positive work environment. As soon as you see criticism or contempt galloping in, remember their antidotes. Be vigilant. The more you can keep the Four Horsemen at bay, the more likely you are to have a positive and productive workplace.

If you’re looking to create a more positive culture in your work environment, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris for an initial conversation. Let’s tap into your organization’s positivity and unleash its potential.

An enthusiastic shout-out to Faith Fuller and Marita Frijhon, CRR Global, for introducing me to this concept as part of Organizational & Relationship Systems Coach Training.