Watch your language

When the Whistle-Blower’s complaint erupted last month, Jane Rosenzweig, director of the Writing Center at Harvard, found something notable about the complaint itself: The Whistle-Blower Knows How to Write. Three days before, Pope Francis came out against adjectives saying, “I am allergic to these words,” and “We have fallen into the culture of adjectives and adverbs, and we have forgotten the strength of nouns.” In particular, the addition of “authentic” to “Christian” pushed him over the edge.

This was a moment. Written or spoken, communication is tricky. One word can make the difference between meaning-making and meaning-muddling.

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Of the people, by the people, for the people

Most of us don’t hate change. What we don’t like is when it comes out of the blue, makes no sense, and is done to us, not with us. Drop-kicking change into an organization from the top down can lead to ill-informed, misguided fixes, as well as resentment and victimhood.

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How am I doing?

“I don’t really know how I’m doing” is a familiar refrain. Even when an organization has a 360-feedback process and regular performance check-ins, people are still not sure how they’re doing or why they may not be progressing as quickly as they’d like. As a bookend to this, managers struggle with how to put words to the feedback they’re trying to give. They want it to be clear and actionable, yet they find their conversations often don’t deliver.

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What really matters, part one

Culture is the “it” of our current work moment. And for good reason, as Peter Drucker coined, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The way things get done in an organization — the systems, behaviors, and practices — guided by a set of values, define its culture. (And sometimes the values that are actually lived are not the ones on the website.) How we work together drives our personal engagement and performance, which in turn determines how well the organization does.

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The Spyce Boys

Four MIT robotics-obsessed engineering students had a complaint. Then they got to work. The water polo teammates were united by a love and appreciation of delicious and healthy food, and a frustration that it cost $10 to $14, out of reach of their student budgets. They called on their combined smarts, curiosity, swagger tempered by humility, and, not knowing any better, built proof-of-concept robotic woks in their fraternity basement.

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The Coach’s Playbook

At its core, coaching is a fusion of questions that open doors, deep listening, and keen observation used to help people find their own answers. It’s based on the belief that the best way forward lies within us, and that learning is more powerful and sticky when we figure things out for ourselves. And, we really don’t like to be told what to do… even when we ask to be told what to do. Just hang out with any two-year-old.

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That! Yes, that!

Looking up from the table in my office, there’s an entire shelf of books focused on how to communicate with each other including: Radical Candor, Fierce Conversations, Difficult Conversations, Crucial Conversations, and Thanks for the Feedback, I googled “most popular books on feedback.” One of the top hits was “48 Best Feedback Books of All Time.” Forty-eight?

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What’s the problem?

A big problem in solving problems is knowing what the real problem is. This is a constant in my work with individuals, organizations, and in my own life! Rule of thumb is that the problem we think we have usually isn’t the real problem. It takes some detective work to get to the root. And good root-finding can lead to good solution-finding.

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It just wouldn't leave her alone

Regina had just left Heath Ceramics (where we worked together) and quickly got consumed in consulting work, as she’s a known brand and strategy force, event master, and magazine publisher who is also fully equipped with a sturdy moral compass and set of values. All of these dots connect to her passions: bringing people together in meaningful ways, and how design and space shapes pretty much everything we do.

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Ya gotta wanna. Tim and Joey did.

I was eager to dig into my research paper for the coaching program at Columbia University. I wanted to discover ways to make tools for my clients really stick. You know what I’m talking about: you read a great book or take a workshop and have inspirational aha’s. You mark pages with Post-its and can’t wait to put it all to use. Only you don’t.

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