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Igniting a Campaign for Civility

October 27th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Is it just me, or have you also noticed that people seem to be increasingly cranky, rude and self-absorbed these days? Certainly the polarizing rhetoric of this election campaign doesn’t help. And it’s reflected in our everyday communications and behaviors.

“Please” and “thank you” have all but disappeared. And the immediacy and fervor of social media seem to have unleashed a flood of negative and nasty comments that years ago would have kept Proctor & Gamble soap distributors in business.

Enough already.

It’s time for us to pause and consider, “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and in Conversation.”

Apparently this is not the first time our society has suffered from a lack of kindness, civility and manners. Originally from a list made by French Jesuits in 1595, Washington wrote out the rules as a handwriting exercise when he was a teenager. There are 110 of them. I won’t share them all, but here are 5 that seem especially relevant today.

25th - Superfluous Compliments and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

65th - Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest. Scoff at none although they give Occasion. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Be kind!

82nd - Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise. Do what you say you are going to do.

89th - Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust. Don’t gossip or speak behind someone’s back.

110th - Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience. THINK before you speak, before you write, before you act.

In the spirit of George Washington, I’d like to add some modern-day rules to the list. So here are Karen’s Rules of Civility.

1. Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
2. Say “Please.” Always.
3. Say “Thank you” and acknowledge the gift or deed or service received.
4. Remember, we are all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone else’s bad day.
5. Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
6. Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
7. Say: “Yes, and…” not “Yes, but…” Be positive! See the possibilities…
8. Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
9. Be curious. Never stop learning.
10. Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

Thank you for listening.

Till next time,

Communication, Gratitude, Kindness, Life, Relationships

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Don’t Avoid that Difficult Conversation

October 17th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve got a difficult conversation brewing and you keep putting it off, you are not alone.  According to a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, who studies this sort of thing, 70% of employees are currently facing (and avoiding) a difficult conversation with their boss, coworker or direct report.  Topics of these conversations range from performance issues to bad behavior to conflicting ideas to communication issues to “I’m leaving” notices. What I find really stunning is that 25% of survey respondents said they have put off having a difficult conversation for more than a year.  Really? Well, my friends, unlike wine, bad news and difficult conversations do NOT improve with age. So stop stalling and just Plan, Prepare and Proceed.

Plan. The longer you wait the harder the conversation will be. You may think that the issue will eventually go away – and it may – but a similar issue is likely to arise at some point and you will regret not dealing effectively with the first one.  Decide whom you need to talk to and get some time on the calendar with them. Schedule a meeting place that is private and without distractions, and schedule it at a “lower-stress” time of day.

Prepare. Think about the following:  What is your goal with the conversation? What are the facts of the situation you want to discuss? What has been the impact? What questions can you ask to gain their perspective? Spend some time thinking about how the other person communicates and what they might need from you to be receptive. Do they need a lot of facts and details, or are they more of a “bottom line” communicator? Consider this in your approach. Focus on structuring your conversation so you start by creating a safe environment and then work toward a mutual solution.

Proceed. As Stephen Covey would say, “begin with the end in mind.” Clarify why you are having the conversation and establish a mutual purpose. You may find that they’ve anticipated this conversation and are relieved it’s finally happening. Maintain respect throughout. Ask for their perspective and find points where you can agree. If things get heated, take a break and then go back to your intent and desire for a mutually acceptable outcome.  There may not be one, and you need to be prepared for that. You may just need to agree to disagree. But by initiating the conversation, being clear about your intent, the facts, and your desire for a positive outcome, you will at least be opening the door for a more positive outcome in the future.

Certainly beats letting all that stuff fester. And the next difficult conversation may not be quite so difficult.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Till next time,


Communication, conflict resolution, Life, Relationships


Achieving Clarity and Focus as a Leader

October 3rd, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

One of my goals in the Leadership Workshops I facilitate is to help participants achieve clarity around who they are as a leader, and how that impacts their people and the world around them.

The leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – looks at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them.  Here’s a brief description of each. Where do you see yourself?

Leading with Vision - focuses on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team.

Leading with Drive - provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence.

Leading to Deliver - strength lies in planning, follow-through and accountability.

Leading through People - focuses on coaching and developing the team, and creating win-win partnerships.

Once we’ve done some discovery around these domains, we do an activity I call “Developing Your Leadership Mantra.” Originally, a “mantra” was a word or phrase used to help concentrate during meditation.  More recently, though, it’s used in reference to a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently; a truism, or saying.  Although the definition has strayed somewhat from its original meaning, a mantra can still be very effective in helping you achieve clarity and maintain focus.  And clarity and focus are essential to your success as a leader.

Your Leadership Mantra is what you are willing to “own” as a leader. It is created by you and for you. It is an oath that you will live by as a leader. Your Leadership Mantra will help you gauge your actions with your colleagues, your direct reports and your superiors. It also gives you clarity around how you operate in the world. You will make decisions based on your Leadership Mantra. It will serve as a guide throughout the day as you ask yourself, “Does this action align with who I am and who I want to become as a leader?”

Here’s an assignment. Take some time to think about where your strengths are as a leader and what kind of leader you want to be. Then develop your Leadership Mantra. Your mantra should be simple, memorable, and applicable. It should be no more than three short phrases. Once you’ve developed your mantra, write it down, memorize it, and live by it.

And on those days when everything seems to be falling apart or going haywire – use your Leadership Mantra to bring you back to clarity and focus. And if you do that while meditating, so much the better!

Till next time,


Behavioral assessments, Leadership, Learning, Professional development