The Art of Straight Talk

Effective leaders know how to elicit the best in others through communication. They have great listening skills and people feel great after conversing with them. Unfortunately, too many rely upon manipulative techniques or hide behind technology. The results are disastrous!

Many people fear talking with others. They attempt to hide their discomfort by using company lingo or business jargon. Others don’t readily understand what they are saying. Sometimes they are not clear themselves, and may use terms inappropriately in the hopes they sound important. They offer flippant opinions about how something should be resolved without taking into account details or perceiving nuances that might be present. They are very poor listeners. They allow their minds to wander and think about other issues, falsely believing they are saving time. They over use qualifiers (e.g., try, might, etc.) in a vain attempt to have others “feel good” about talking to them. Leaders must achieve results, not merely try!  Your team looks to you for motivation and direction. Do not disengage their efforts!

Use multiple mediums to convey your message!  Many workers have only a 6th grade reading level. To complicate it further, many don’t read for comprehension. They read just enough to get it done and be able to say they read it. When questioned about content, they clam up. They might share a few words they remember reading, or simply claim, “I don’t remember.” Time has been wasted and everyone is disengaged. To communicate well, write simplistically. Speak in a clear manner that readily helps the other person get on the same page with you. This is particularly necessary when sharing new ideas. Talk someone through a new policy or procedure. Take the time to provide opportunities for Q&A. Use visual examples. The keys to successful communication are consistency and repetition.

Listen. It saves time and money. We believe we can look into the whites of someone’s eyes and know whether or not they are telling the truth!  Then, we operate accordingly.  (Truth: statistically we are only 14% accurate about deception.) We need to learn how to ask the right questions. We need to learn how to listen not for the answers we want to hear, but to the answers actually provided.  If you truly listen, you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.

Move the conversation forward.  We believe if we can repeat back what someone has said, we listened!  Or worse, we are mind readers. In that case we don’t need to actively listen and just wait until it’s our turn to talk. Simply repeating back someone’s words does not mean you listened! Unless you build upon someone else’s information, to them it is like having a conversation with a wall!  Listening is the ability to hear the spoken and unspoken words.  Take what is said and move the conversation forward. Now that’s value added.

The bottom line is that a well-run company works to communicate in a manner that others readily understand: verbal, written and visual delivery of the message. Communication is consistent, simple, and when necessary, repetitive.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Negative Leaders Kill Results

Leaders with bad attitudes fail to deliver consistent results.  They are unable to inspire others or engage others in the company.  It’s one reason for their higher rates of unemployment or unsuccessful business start-ups. When someone views everything as wrong, it’s hard on the psyche of others. The key is authentic and inspirational positivity.  On the flip side, leaders who have positive attitudes set the tone for the entire organization. They create a culture ripe to resolve issues and achieve unprecedented results. Do not confuse this with a Pollyanna approach, where everything is great and there is rampant denial about the importance of unresolved issues.

You are ultimately responsible. Unfortunately, arrogant leaders who believe they are better human beings than their employees, fail to review the details necessary to achieve the results they desire. These leaders do not take responsibility to inspect cause and affect themselves, then have the nerve to blame other team members for their own blunders. This negative behavior can be very costly. Remember – manage each process in a positive, can-do, manner. Don’t micromanage your people or their individual personality traits.

See the possibility. One of the most telling traits of a good leader is people seeking out your counsel. Learn to see the possibility in other’s ideas, even when they are clearly flawed. Help others view their challenges as simply an opportunity to grow – even if they are not coachable. Learn to evaluate these ideas using the 2-2-2 approach: 2 good aspects of the idea, 2 specific areas for improvement, followed by 2 good aspects of the person and/or idea.

Choose to have great days! While everyone occasionally has a bad day, if you have them often, you may be in the wrong position within your company. If prior to this position you were typically a positive person, seek medical help for this negative change. Pursue assistance from a coach or therapist, who can point out negative leadership behaviors and work with you to practice positive approaches. Every result has a front-of-hand / back-of-hand component. One side of your hand shows a negative perspective and the other side shows a positive opportunity – but it’s still the same hand! The point? Your perception!  Your attitude makes all the difference in achieving results. Yes, it is contagious!

360-degree feedback.  It’s important you know how your team rates you as a leader.  Conduct a 360-degree assessment and learn about which critical leadership traits you may possess and which you need to improve. A good assessment will be validated and provide a “how-to-improve” section. Contact author of this article for additional information:


©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

There’s an elephant in the room!

Most of us have heard the expression “there’s an elephant in the room.” Elephants are those unspoken issues that need to be vocalized and cleared. Yet for a variety of reasons, people fail to address them for fear of personal or professional reprisals. Ironically, expressing those concerns in a professional manner can make a significant difference in getting the results you and your company need. While you may use the excuse, “it doesn’t matter,” some unresolved issues will negatively impact the outcome of your goal – regardless of your feelings about them.

Sensitive Elephants. If there is a topic that needs to be addressed that might be hurtful to others, have a private conversation with the few people who can impact the outcome. Be responsible you don’t recycle the “ain’t it awful.” Come up with a workable resolution everyone can live with – even if everyone does not wholeheartedly agree. Resolve not to get frustrated if others don’t immediately agree with your outcome. They’ve not had as much time to think about your solution as you have!

Overwhelming Elephants. While the issue may seem impossibly immense and awkward, start the conversation simply and slowly. Allow others the opportunity to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. You may find the elephant wasn’t so big after all. Once everyone is on the same page, brainstorm solutions and create focused action plans to ensure everyone moves forward. Now.

Dancing Elephants. Although you may believe the elephant has been addressed, issues will still linger if critical components have not been addressed. These issues will impede progress and show up in other areas of the company. Review the conversations to determine what was missed. This time, get an outside objective opinion to help you get it resolved conclusively.


©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Get Unstuck Now

Are you stuck getting started on a project? Do you find yourself unable or unwilling to proceed with an idea? Or maybe you are ignoring your project since it doesn’t appear to be progressing in the manner you anticipated. The key is to get unstuck sooner rather than later. It may be critical to your career and well-being. The longer you stay in the “stuck” mode, the more issues and limitations have the opportunity to impede your progress (e.g., others may lose interest, costs may increase, opportunities may disappear, etc.) In a work setting, this can hinder your opportunities for promotion, pay increases, etc.

Talk it out. Discuss it with a coach, close friend or boss. Keep the conversation to only a few trusted people. Too many opinions can actually hinder progress. Stick with the numeric metrics of what has been accomplished and what the challenges appear to be when you share your challenges. Listen for a detail you might have missed. Be quick to recognize new methods to work around your other challenges. Select one option and get back in action, now! Thinking about something will only keep you stuck and mire you down, energetically. Remember, excuses are what we make up to justify our limited results.

Walk it out. Keep physically and mentally fit. Doing so will also keep your emotional perspective at a more objective level. During this time, stay focused on the end result. Stay committed to the outcome.  Finger-pointing only keeps you stuck. So don’t justify or blame others, even if they are doing the same.

Write it out. Take time for an objective review. What worked? What did not work? To get the most out of this exercise, use numeric metrics (e.g., increased sales by 10%) and facts (e.g., bank has approved loan for $100,000.) to stay focused on forward movement. Do the same with “What has not worked?” (e.g., client was unable to commit to purchase due to their profits being reduced by 20% this quarter). Take time to journal any personal concerns or issues. Studies have shown that journaling can help resolve pent-up feelings and provide a more positive perspective.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Break Through Performance

  • Do you make changes due to boredom? 
  • Out-talk others to get your own way? 
  • Focus solely on the facts or your feelings to make decisions? 

Many will say, “Of course, everybody does.” These are the normal methods to handle people, systems and issues.  But the same old habits limit your job satisfaction and your ability to achieve outstanding business results.

The world of work is changing.  It requires a new level of performance to recognize new opportunities that meet the needs and business goals of your customers. 

Recognize old habits. They have become your blind spots and are getting in your way.  When you move out of your comfort zone and take the appropriate action(s), new habits will be formed.  Work with a coach to customize solutions that work for you!

Take focused action now.  Busy work is simply your excuse to avoid doing what you know you need to do to achieve the results you say you want.  Work your plan.  Include others and their ideas. Handle the details and make those hard decisions.  Want results? Take focused action.  Now.

Hire a coach.  Many business professionals want to be top performers and enjoy peak performance.  Yet, they hit a wall and slug it out alone. A coach helps you recognize blind spots and stop recycling the same old information in a mental monologue. These insights, when put into action, make you easier to work with, keep you in focused action and have you elicit the best in others.

Break through performance requires out-of-the-box thinking via the synergy of you and your coach.  Recommit to your own success.  Hire a coach and enjoy your new results.


©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Enhance Your Credibility!

It’s easy to get lazy during these last two weeks of the year when everyone seems to be busy. Yet, it’s the perfect time to enhance your credibility as a business professional.  Here are some helpful hints:

Dress well.  Wear appropriate business clothes to meetings and events during this time.  It’s easy to want to wear your jeans or your less professional gear.

Network.  It’s a great time to connect since most people don’t.  Use these last two weeks to meet and thank valuable contacts.  At a minimum, call or email to set up meetings for the beginning of January.

Show up and be seen in the office. Many people will spend the next two weeks cleaning up projects and handling other items found in their in-basket. Spend time doing the same thing yourself.  Answer your phone. Return all calls. You’ll be amazed by your productivity and will feel good about wrapping up fourth quarter 2010.


©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are You a Good Entrepreneur?

If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, you might be like many other entrepreneurs and business owners, who would rather have a root canal than take a cold hard objective look at their businesses and how they manage them. Each “yes” is a signal that it’s time to talk with a business mentor and hire yourself a coach before it’s too late:

  • Are your financials in the red – or bright pink? Sadly many self-employed business owners are afraid of numbers. Do you find it so scary to take a close look at the numeric metrics of how you are doing, you wait until you are forced to do so? Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) do apply to you. Hire a bookkeeper or your CPA to help you set up your books. If you are not reliable to keep them updated on a weekly basis, hire someone who can.
  • Are your customers leaving and new ones are not filing in? Many times we get caught up in the “bright shiny object” of our ideas. We miss the fact that others don’t “get” what we are selling. Hire a marketing coach and/or a social media professional (even if you are already using social media) to help you objectively look at your offerings and clarify your message.
  • Have you become arrogant and egotistical – a jerk? Most “jerks” are unable to identify themselves as such. If you wonder, just ask your closest friends. Being a bad boss, having no one want to work for you takes its toll on you and others.  So does having clients leave in frustration, unwilling to work with you. Everyone can learn effective management and customer service skills that will work for them, if they are committed to the process.
  • Are you unable to decipher between good and bad advice?  Poor decision-making is a visible sign of someone who may not have the business maturity to be a good business owner. Are you able to take coaching and implement it effectively? Your improved results are the markers that best signify to others you’re doing well and your business is moving in the right direction.
  • Do you have high turnover? This is a reflection of poor hiring skills and systems, even if you get lucky once in a while. Hire the right person(s) and you look like a superstar.  Hire the wrong person(s) and you’ll may need or want to close the doors and start all over again.  Work with your coach to implement a legal and valid process. It will make all the difference in your success. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Build Loyalty, Not Followers

Recently, I talked with a business owner who simply wanted people to show up and do their work.  “I know what needs to be done; they simply need to do what I tell them to do.”  While this type of mindset worked decades ago, it will never create the loyalty (or level of performance) you wish to build.


1) They may have the answers. Put aside your automatic judgment that it can’t work and create five reasons why it could work.

2) Listen to both sides. When you authentically brainstorm new ideas, processes and procedures, you will come up with out-of-the-box solutions to age-old problems.

3) Open your mind to new possibilities. The way it has always been done will not work today.  What can you add gradually, or fade out? Or, what needs a major overhaul.  Start doing it now.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010