Friday, September 6, 2019

Prescription for Pleasure

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

If there was a magic pill to make you feel happier, what would you pay for it and would you take it? Many people would consider paying a lot of green to avoid feeling blue. 

In fact, providing your basic needs are met, happiness is said to be determined more by the state of your mind than by what conditions exist or circumstances happen. 

Therefore, my prescription for pleasure, or true happiness, can actually be achieved by reshaping our mindset, attitudes and outlook. Here are 18 recommended remedies to help prevent the pessimism, treat the tears, nip the nag, and cure the crabby:

1. Choose your thoughts. Every day, choose your thoughts the same way you choose what clothes to wear.

2. Express gratitude. Many of us could be a lot happier if we practiced gratitude for what we already have rather than focusing all our attention on what we don’t have.

3. Let go of anger. Holding a grudge or holding onto any type of anger won’t do anything but cause resentment. Dwelling on the past is only going to hold you back from having a better future. Hate is a very heavy bag to carry; let it go.

4. Forget perfect. Perfection is a fallacy of irrational thinking—the more we try to be perfect, the more disappointed we will be. Rather than shooting for perfection, aim for your finest, and you will rarely let yourself down.

5. Fight the disease to please. Resist being overly concerned with impressing, winning the approval of, or incessantly pleasing others, especially when it’s at a personal cost to you. Instead, pursue and set healthy boundaries by knowing what you like, need, want, and don’t want, and then making choices which are aligned with those needs and wants.  

6. Teach your lips to say no.  Understand that you are free to say yes or no. And, when appropriate, you should do so without feelings of guilt, anger or fear.

7. Be your authentic self. Try not to compare yourself with others. Everyone is unique in his or her own way. Embrace your features along with your flaws. Be the best you that you can be.

8. Smile. Turn that frown upside down. After all, smiling is infectious; you can catch it easier than a cold.

9. Challenge negative opinions others have of you. What others think of you should never outshine what you think of yourself.

10. Lighten your load. Unless you have a large red “S” on your chest, you likely don’t have super powers, which may be what it would take for one individual to conquer the evil, mile-long to-do list. Instead, ask for and accept some help.

11. Forgive yourself and others. Move on from past mistakes and difficult situations. Holding on to these negative feels is very burdensome.

12. Own accountability. When things go wrong, be accountable for your mistakes without pointing fingers at others.

13. Expect mutual benefit in relationships. Whether at work or at home, healthy relationships should provide value and benefit for both parties. It likely won’t be the same for each of you, but it should be a shared venture.

14. Welcome feedback. Some feedback is positive, and some is constructive. Understand the intent of the other person, and try to look past how it was delivered. Choose to learn and grow from feedback you receive. 

15. Refuse to take on the problems of others. It is admirable to help others through difficult situations; however, there is a big difference between offering assistance and accepting another person’s problem as your own.

16. Celebrate successes. Celebrate personal accomplishments by treating yourself to a movie, taking a vacation day to do what you want, indulging in a small treat, etc. Additionally, get in the habit of noticing and applauding the success of others. By recognizing another person’s achievements, you are demonstrating value and appreciation for their effort and results.

17. Respect yourself. Feel an inner confidence and assurance, independent of praise from others. Remember: nobody can make you feel inferior unless you give him or her permission.

18. Be respectful of others. Look for positive and honorable qualities in others.

Being happy is a deliberate choice; a choice we make every moment of every day. Don’t target the tumultuous; instead, focus on the fantastic and be happy!

Do You Feel "The Love" at Work?

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP
Creating a culture where people feel respected, valued, appreciated, heard and included requires another level of effort that may not be getting the attention and investment it needs. If you want to work in a culture where you “feel the love”—where everyone feels a sense of belonging, connection and community—every employee needs to put forth effort to make that happen. And when you do, this feeling gets passed on to customers and results in more productivity and profit. 
But is a lack of love actually an issue? Watch this short video and decide for yourself.

Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, here are seven strategies to help you create a more inclusive workplace culture today by personally modeling it and also sharing it up, down and across your organization:

  1. Leave your assumptions at the door. It is easy and often natural to make assumptions about others in the workplace, leading to misunderstandings, biases and often wrong conclusions. The next time you find yourself assuming something of someone—even if it's as simple as "She's probably too busy"—stop yourself. Instead, ask the question first of that individual. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have an informed understanding.
  2. Create a collaborative environment. Break down silos and promote organization-wide inclusion by promoting a collaborative environment. This includes a culture of behaviors and actions that inspire, model and align with your inclusive goals. Develop cross-functional projects or meetings between teams or create a random lunch partner program. This will allow your people to meet new coworkers and learn from one another, which ultimately will strengthen your entire culture.
  3. Change your workspace. If you can do it in your workplace, leave your desk and work in a different area of the office for a few hours. You'd be surprised at how it can really change up your perspective. You may have interactions with people you otherwise wouldn't, especially if you put yourself where there is a consistent movement of people. This small change of scenery will allow for more collisions and spark new ideas.
  4. Offer a forum of expression. Having a voice by providing regular, optional “town hall” meetings to discuss anything from business decisions, business updates, department efforts or company wins will not only offer an open space where employees can voice their thoughts or concerns—but it also shows your commitment to your people and their value to the company as a whole.
  5. Demonstrate you care. Show your people you care by hosting regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and employees. Let employees know that it’s their place to openly speak their mind about what matters most to them — whether that’s about their professional development, a current project or if they’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked — start a conversation to support their journey.
  6. Rotate who leads meetings. Change up the dynamic by rotating who runs meetings. Give that individual the leeway to be creative, while ensuring you're in alignment on the goals of the meeting. This gets people engaged and sends a signal that everyone's contribution matters. When done well, this creates openings for everyone to weigh in and, hopefully, inspire lively discussions and decisive actions.
  7. Talk about something besides work. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job and not take the time to actually get to know colleagues in your office. Disrupt the status quo by having a conversation with a colleague you don't normally talk to and engage them on a non-work related topic. This connection will often improve the ease of the working relationship and enhance overall communication. 
Ultimately, individuals need to be recognized for their uniqueness but also feel connected to something bigger. An inclusive culture has many layers and millions of moments that define it, but in order to make a real impact and display an ongoing commitment to employees and colleagues, choose to take small and incremental steps to make your workplace a more inclusive—and likely more successful—environment right now.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

12 Methods to Make Meetings More Meaningful

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Why do some meeting facilitators excel at leading and managing meetings while others fail to maintain control, keep emotions in line, and can't seem to enrich the experience so attendees are engaged and want to contribute?

If you struggle with this skill or know someone who does, don't sit back and wait for the next meeting you lead or attend to be one of the 49 percent of office meetings that are found to be a "waste of time" (source: USA Today). Moreover, according to an online schedule service named Doodle, their recently published 2019 State of Meetings Report found that pointless and/or poorly organized meetings will cost U.S. companies a whopping $399 billion in 2019! Both alarming and sad.

Let's consider some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized or facilitated meetings. According to the same report, respondents most often cited:

  • Poorly organized meetings mean I don't have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%).
  • Unclear actions lead to confusion (43%).
  • Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%).
  • Irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%).
  • Inefficient processes weaken customer/supplier relationships (26%). 

So before you reserve your next meeting space, take a few moments to consider why you need to gather this group together at this particular time, who should be invited and who needs to be present, what outcomes you expect as a result of the meeting, and what impact you hope to have. Additionally, apply these 12 methods, too, and watch your meetings become more productive, easier to manage, and more meaningful for all involved. 
  1. Communicate the agenda and the meeting purpose with the meeting invitation.
  2. Leave devices at the door (or at least put them on silence).
  3. Set meeting expectations, including the length of each agenda item and overall meeting length.
  4. Avoid recapping for late-comers.
  5. Explain how ideas will be captured.
  6. Listen more, talk less, and welcome all ideas--not just those from "louder" attendees and/or extroverts.
  7. Communicate the desired meeting outcome beforehand and at the start of the meeting to ensure attendees have clarity in the goal and come prepared to articulate their points.
  8. One person speaks at a time without interruption.
  9. Welcome respectful disagreement/conflict; don't allow disrespectful comments/tones.
  10. Set up the meeting room/environment and test all technology before the meeting starts.
  11. Jokes need to be appropriate or stopped.
  12. Identify who the note-taker will be and ensure s/he understands the facilitator's expectations (capture all ideas and avoid using symbols for words). 

Below is a comical illustration of the above points NOT being demonstrated well. Enjoy it and let yourself laugh a little. After all, according to, laughter is good for the bottom line---with 81 percent of the 100 Best Companies to Work For saying, "We work in a fun environment."

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Secret to Motivating Other People

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

I’m often asked this question: Can you motivate someone else? The short answer is...absolutely not! No matter how hard you want it, no one can motivate someone else to do what they don't want to do. You may get someone to do a task by enticing him/her with a sweeter carrot or threatening that person with a sharper stick. But that is not representative of personal motivation.

With the above said, you can influence other people to do a particular task and amazingly, this strategy works both professionally and personally. If you can tap into the underlying desires people have, you will get amazing performance from them. And if you’re a leader, the trick is to find alignment between what your people want and what will help grow the organization. Here is a three-step process to positively influence motivation:

STEP ONE: Ask the individual what s/he wants.
The first step in finding what motivates others is to make time to listen to them and find out what they actually want out of their job. The key is to not make assumptions about what you think they want; rather, you need to actually ask them what they want. Maybe they desire:
  • A new big title.
  • More time off to spend with their family.
  • To make more money to buy a new truck or send a son/daughter to college. 

STEP TWO: Show people how they can get what they want.
If someone wants to become a supervisor one day, offer ideas of things s/he can do to help make that happen.

STEP THREE: Allow others to get what they want while also benefitting the organization.
When my oldest son was 11, I remember him wanting to buy a motorized dirt bike for $400. I even told him I would pay for half of it. While he thought that was generous, he didn't have any other money for the purchase. So I gave Taylor a list of extra chores he could do around the house—like cleaning out the garage and raking leaves so he could earn some money.

He became a dynamo of energy as he tackled chores he otherwise loathed doing. The difference was he was doing them to get what he wanted. Meanwhile, I also got work done in a way that freed me up to do other things, namely landscaping which I love to do. That's what made the whole thing a true win-win. I found alignment between his personal goal and my desired outcomes.

So you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? How does motivation directly affect the workplace?” Well, motivated employees tend to produce happier customers, positively affecting the bottom line. In fact, workplace cultures with the highest total motivation scores also have received the highest customer satisfaction ratings. To learn more, watch this short video clip published by Harvard Business Review.

So even though the secret to motivating other people is that you can’t do it, you can dramatically influence others when it matters most.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Candor is Like a Screwdriver With a Twist

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

According to Gallup, Inc., do you know the number one leadership behavior that affects morale and productivity the most? It’s not attitude. It’s not collaboration. It’s a lack of feedback. Providing candid feedback is an art, not a science. It takes some degree of finesse…but also common sense.

Candor is like a screwdriver—an incredibly useful tool that often involves a twist. When used in the right manner, it can help you construct and deconstruct any number of objects. But to get the benefits, you have to use it correctly. If you try to use a Phillips head screwdriver on one of those screws that looks like a star, it won’t fit.

Similarly, if you demonstrate 100 percent honesty without a common sense filter, the conversation or feedback you are offering is not going to be received very well. Instead of blatant or brazen honesty, slightly rotate your approach and apply candor as a form of sincere expression. In other words, do your best to say the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, and in the right way.

In any given work week, there is at least one conversation you’d rather not have; one conversation that you know won’t go well due to your or the other person’s emotions coming unglued; or one conversation that can overshadow the whole day, week or workplace because of the impact it could have with ongoing relationships. Why not dodge these uncomfortable conversations altogether?  What would be the benefit of learning to deal with these situations candidly?

First and foremost, those who engage in open and sincere dialogue, free from reservation or holding back what needs to be said—report higher levels of job satisfaction, confidence and performance results. By communicating clearly and openly about what’s on your mind, you can be more effective and productive versus spending countless hours and energy on worrying about what may happen next.

In an upcoming breakout session at the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) NationalConvention & Exposition on Monday, 6/24/19 in Las Vegas, I will be sharing the six step process to achieving breakthrough relationships by maximizing candor and minimizing defensiveness by engaging in “CandidConversations that Drive Results.” Here are six results-focused steps, which if followed, will help you to transform your relationships, too. Each step is simple, but not necessarily easy.

1. Clearly identify purpose before engaging. Ask yourself these three questions:
  • Why am I going to discuss this issue?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • What would the ideal outcome be?

2. Consider timing and location.
  • Address the matter as soon as possible, but timing is critical.
  • Determine the location for the discussion; remember that privacy is important.
  • Discuss the issue face-to-face and one-on-one; avoid addressing it via email.

3. Start with a statement that invites dialogue.
  • Be sure to open with an opening statement that is cognizant of body language, sound of voice and the actual words you use.

4. Share facts, story, then emotions.
  • See the facts.
  • Alter your story (interpretation of the facts)
  • Experience a different emotion.                                  
  • Change your behavior.                               
  • Achieve a more positive outcome.

5. Encourage other person to share perspective.
  • Ask for the other person’s input.
  • Listen versus waiting for a pause to talk.
  • Try to understand other person’s perspective, rather than focusing on driving your point.

6. Keep your emotions in control.

Prior to the conversation:
  • PREPARE! Think through how it may go and how you’ve reacted in the past.
  • Proactively access why someone would react this way and how you can best handle it.
  • Consider your conflict triggers and guard against them.

During the conversation:
  • Let other person speak; do not interrupt.
  • Consciously lower your voice.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings; demonstrate empathy.
  • Ask how s/he would like to see issue handled and/or offer options.
  • If your emotions are elevating, state you need some time to continue the conversation.
  • Express regret or apologize, if appropriate.

At the end of the day, candor is a tool. And just like any tool, it can be used to create or destroy. You need to be aware of its potential dangers to mitigate them. Candor carries some risk, but if you apply common sense when using it, you will likely build your relationships stronger than ever before.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Are You Smooth or Strong?

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Would your organization ever promote smoking or other bad practices that are scientifically linked to health problems? It’s not too likely. Because if it did, they’d be undermining all of the arduous efforts to enhance employee health and well-being.

It’s time to equate toxic attitudes to smoking. They not only damage the health of your employees, but horrible attitudes also directly affect your workplace culture and your organization’s bottom line.  

When employee health suffers, your organization suffers. Unhealthy, unhappy employees negatively affect:
  • Performance
  • Attendance
  • Customer ratings
  • Quality
  • Profit

You say it’s a beautiful day, she tells you why it’s not. You tell him about your new idea, he tells you why it won’t work. You proudly share a recent work success, and she replies with, “Yeah, but what about…?” I refer to these toxins as “Debbie Downers,” “Cynical Sams,” “Pessimistic Pauls,” “Negative Nancys,” or “Gloomy Glens.” They spew venom to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Cutting ties with “Nathan Naysayer” is much easier said than done. Even when bosses need to sever ties, employees often hope they take the necessary action, so the morale of the team doesn’t take a bigger hit. Yet, according to a survey featured on, fewer than half of managers said they would fire someone for damaging team morale. Interestingly, 88 percent of employees would. Team members understand the direct impact of these destructive types. They personally experience their high-performing, fun and collaborative team morph into something unrecognizable—a team they don’t want to be a part of any longer. Sadly, it’s often too late when management finally realizes the extent of the damage.

Regardless of your role, putting distance between you and harmful naysayers is essential for healthy, meaningful and respectful relationships to prosper. By making small, purposeful changes in your behavior with negative influencers, you can better control your own thoughts and actions, and more positively influence those of your team. If you know you ought to put distance between you and “the Nathans,” consider trying one or more of these strong ideas:

Change your routine. Instead of sitting through lunch with someone who whines and complains about her troubles, critiques mutual friends, and sits and pouts, choose to do something different with that time. Go for a walk, eat with someone else, or spend time reading. If she questions your behavior change, engage in candid dialogue with her. The exchange may influence a behavior change from her, too, or at the very least, you will more easily be able to enjoy lunchtime without facing unwanted whining and negativity.

Keep interactions short. If you have to engage with a pessimistic individual, keep the interactions short and focused on the desired outcome. Instead of empathizing as she rambles on about her mountainous workload or frustrating spouse, listen for a few minutes, and then explain that you really need to cut this conversation short due to another commitment—the commitment you made to yourself to limit interactions with this person.

Maintain perspective. There are reasons people behave the way they do. Sometimes the reasons are clear, while other times it’s murky. Perhaps the bothersome naysayer you wish to avoid is facing self-esteem issues, ongoing job performance errors, money problems, health concerns, or something completely different. We each behave in our own way when we have concerns that are weighing heavily on us. Understanding that there may be a deeper cause for the pessimistic persona wouldn’t cause me to excuse it, but I could more easily maintain a greater sense of perspective with it.

Optimistically oppose. If you’re stuck in a situation where everything that is flowing out of “Gloomy Glen” is anti-positive, tentatively articulate kind, opposing statements. For example, if he says his food sucks, combat that with, “My food is pretty good. Perhaps, you could try a different entrĂ©e?” Or if he says the (mutual) boss is a pain to work for, optimistically oppose by saying, “I used to think of her the same way. Then I decided to focus on the positive difference she has made to our team, and that helps me view her in a different light.” If this tactic doesn’t influence a more positive tone right away, hopefully you have given this individual a little more to think about. At the very least, “Gloomy Glens” tend to move on to others when what they are getting from you isn’t satisfying their mantra.

Almost all of us have dealt—or are still dealing—with an annoyingly negative co-worker or an unbearable pessimistic boss. Avoid shouting, “Take a shower! Your attitude stinks!” Instead, consider Albert Einstein’s words of wisdom: “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”

Rather than being a smooth character, choose to demonstrate strong character and color any situation with a positive attitude.  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Can You Change Other People?

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Whether at work or at home, most people experience times when they desperately want to change how another person thinks or behaves. Maybe you need a colleague to follow through on project expectations because his procrastination is causing you delays. Perhaps you can’t stand the late hours your spouse puts in at work, which is taking a toll on your relationship. Or maybe your best friend incessantly whines and complains with a never-ending negative view of life and you just want her to stop. You likely realize that no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t change other people. Period. However, you can, though, positively influence someone to change. 

If you find yourself faced with needing or wanting to influence behavior change, here are four strategies I have used with great success:

1. Identify the specific behavior. Pinpoint the exact behavior that you want this person to change. If you want the person to just “be less annoying” or “call more often,” you will not get the results you want. Pinpoint the exact behavior you want to see change and note exactly how you want it to change. For example, rather than saying that you want her to “be less annoying,” plan to say that you want her to “stop interrupting conversations she’s not part of.” Or, instead of wanting him to “call you more often,” you could prepare to ask him to “call you every Sunday.”

2. Obtain and acknowledge perspective. Determine what their concerns, fears and assumptions are regarding the change. Doing this will definitely help you counter some of their concerns, and you’ll also better understand their perspective by valuing their opinion and incorporating them into the conversation. Even though you may not agree with their point of view, acknowledging that you understand and appreciate their perspective is a great way for you to confirm that you heard them and their point is valid.  

3. Explore motivations without pushing. The other person often already knows that s/he should change a specific behavior. And if you try to present one side of an argument, s/he will feel compelled to push back. When trying to influence people who need motivation, but not more information, ask questions that allow them to explore their own motivations without feeling pushed. Some examples include:
  • “What makes this behavior worth changing?”
  • “If this change was easy, would you want to make it?”
  • “What makes this behavior change hard?”
  • “What are the pluses and minuses of changing or not changing?”
  • “If you’re able to successfully change this behavior, what would be different?”

4. Highlight benefits for him/her. Based on the individual motivations uncovered, subtly highlighting why changing could benefit this person can offer illuminated advantages that answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” For example, my young adult sons are glued to their phones—texting, snap-chatting, watching videos, viewing or posting on Facebook, etc. Because I live in Colorado and they reside in Wisconsin, when we visit one another, spending quality time together is our shared focus. Sometimes, though, daily routines prevail and it becomes a bit more challenging to disconnect to reconnect. Since recommending a digital detox wouldn’t work for them or me, I usually offer one or two reminders of how limited our time together is, and that’s usually enough to re-engage them.

With the above point in mind, laying out the advantages in a specific order also helps heighten the level of persuasion: start out emphasizing a strong advantage, share another pivotal benefit, and then bring commanding closure by underlining the most important reason for him/her. 

Everyone faces instances when positively influencing another person’s thoughts or behavior is advantageous. Rather than impeding success, choose to offer assistance by understanding another’s perspective, exploring their motivations and encouraging commitment to change. When your intent to help is positive and genuine, your level of influence is endless and can truly make a difference. Influence—the true measure of leadership.