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Accepting the Gift of Feedback

May 21st, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Most of us have a tough time receiving feedback, especially when it’s uninvited. We either immediately reject it (“What does she know anyway?”) or we take it so personally that it tampers with our basic self-esteem (“I can never do anything right.”)

Yet here’s the thing. Feedback is a growth opportunity. The key is in having the right mindset to take advantage of that opportunity.

Here’s how.

Shift your thinking. In her book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, talks about two mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is a fixed trait and that it’s talent not effort that creates success. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that “brains and talent are just the starting point.” They recognize that continuous learning is essential for great accomplishment. Practice a growth mindset by being receptive to feedback.

Ask for it. Not from everyone, but from people you respect and who know you. They may have some ideas that can help you grow.  They’ve been waiting for your permission to share them with you. Be specific in the ask. “I want to be sure I’m conveying confidence when I’m presenting. What observations do you have, and how can I improve?” Research shows that people who seek feedback have higher performance ratings and are happier overall.

Conversely, a 3-year study by Leadership IQ found that the biggest reason new hires fail (46% of them fail within the first 18 months) is because they cannot accept feedback. Seriously? You’d think that, being new, they’d be more open to it. Nope. Of those who fail, for 26% it’s because they’re uncoachable and for 23% it’s due to lack of emotional intelligence (which also relates to being able to accept feedback.) Only 11% fail due to lack of technical skills.

Listen. Even when feedback is uninvited (or unwelcome) allow yourself to just listen. Ask for clarification – and/or a specific example – to be sure you understand what the other person meant. If you feel an emotional response coming on, take a breath (not a sigh and eye roll) and say something like, “Thank you for that feedback. Let me think about it.” Then really do think about it and pull from it what is useful.

Take notes. When someone gives you feedback jot down in your own words what they said. That will take the sting out of it and also give you the opportunity to tie it to specific examples in your work or behaviors. Look for patterns. Maybe there’s a non-word you use all the time that is impacting your credibility when presenting or speaking to customers. Writing that down will make it real and help you think about how to fix it.

Say thank you and follow up. Feedback is a gift. Say thank you. And one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to actually implement what you learned from the feedback. It doesn’t mean that you have to make every change. What it means is that you have to at least think it through and capture the nuggets of wisdom that will contribute to your growth.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

Feedback, Leadership, learning and development, Personal development, Uncategorized


Leadership Development – A Shared Responsibility

March 26th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

In my last blog I wrote about the importance of leadership development at all levels. And, as I said, it is especially important for people to receive training as they make the transition from being an individual contributor to leading a team. With that being said, it is EQUALLY important that new leaders – and leaders at all levels – proactively share the responsibility for their own development.  After all, “The road to success is not a path you find, but a trail you blaze.” (Robert Brault)  Ya gotta put some skin in the game.

So, what is your responsibility, as a leader, in initiating and continuing your personal development?

First, become self-aware. Spend some time reflecting on the behaviors and skills that have helped you thus far in your career and be honest with yourself about those that have worked against you. If given the opportunity to take a personality assessment, 360-review, or candid conversation with your leader about your strengths and development areas – take it. Gaining self-awareness is the first step on your journey (blaze that trail!) to becoming an effective leader.

Create your personal vision, or as I like to call it, your leadership mantra. What kind of leader do you want to be? Who was the best leader you ever had? What was remarkable about them? In the leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – we look 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.

Identify and acknowledge gaps. We don’t often associate humility with leadership and yet, the most effective leaders are willing to admit they don’t know it all. They are continuously learning. What are the areas you need to develop to become the leader you want (and need) to be? Make a list, make a plan, set some goals – create a trail map for your leadership journey.

Take action / be an advocate. Back to the other half of this leadership development shared responsibility.  Once you have your trail map in hand, leverage any leadership development offered by your organization. If none is offered, advocate for it. Leadership development comes in many forms, and the most effective programs are a combination of them.  Learning is a process, not just an event.

In my leadership development work with organizations, I’ve seen the greatest benefits come from programs where we used a variety of components from the following: workshops, mentoring or coaching, assessments, stretch assignments to apply the learning, teach-back sessions conducted by participants, leadership forums, required reading, etc.

When the responsibility for leadership development is shared, with leaders driving their personal development and organizations providing the opportunities and resources for them to do so, everyone succeeds.

Till next time,


Behavioral assessments, leadership development, learning and development, self-awareness, Uncategorized


Creating a Culture of Accountability

April 21st, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

As I work with leaders in different organizations, I’m hearing a common frustration: “there’s no sense of accountability.”  When things don’t get done – phone calls returned, reports submitted on time, projects completed on time and within budget – instead of people owning the problem, they make excuses or shift the blame.

“I don’t know how it happened.”

“I think Sally is the bottleneck.”

“It’s not my job.”

“I didn’t have time to do it.”

“It’s not my fault.”

“No one else got theirs in on time.”

Sound familiar? I agree with Ben Franklin, who said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

It’s time to ditch the excuses and create a culture of accountability. And it takes leaders, teams and individuals working together to create and maintain that culture.


Set the example by owning up to your mistakes, oversights, missteps. If you never accept personal responsibility for something, how can you expect your team to?

Find (and share) the lesson in the failure. What could you have done better, what will you change? Acknowledge the impact that your actions (or lack of action) had.

Create a trusting environment with open communication where all team members are encouraged to share successes and failures for the purpose of learning and continuous improvement.

Be clear about expectations. Employees are responsible for tasks and activities and accountable for outcomes. Be sure those are clearly defined and understood.

Hold people accountable. Be clear about both expectations and consequences.

Teams/Individual employees:

Understand what accountability means. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions." A lot of people use responsibility and accountability interchangeably. A responsibility is something you are required or expected to do, such as an activity or task. Accountability is you owning up to the consequences if you don’t do it or the outcomes are less than expected. Accountability is after the fact.

Avoid the blame game. Children often deflect blame because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Some adults do it for the same reason. Others because they are embarrassed and want to save face. Still others (one particular example in the news a lot lately) because their POV is that nothing that goes wrong is ever, ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s. Pulease! Be a grown up. Accept the blame. Apply what you learned. And do better next time.

Ditch the excuses. Instead simply say: "Yes, it was my fault. I dropped the ball. Here’s what I learned. Here’s how I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again."

As a team, hold each other accountable. Get clear about interdependencies and the impact of mistakes and missed deadlines. Work on creating an environment of open, honest communication that will support this.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” – John Wooden

Till next time,




Accountability, Leadership, Performance, Teams, Uncategorized

Happy Holidays from PeopleThink

December 14th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Best wishes for a warm and wonderful Holiday Season!
May all your hopes and dreams come true in the New Year!

Keep your thoughts positive,
Thoughts become your words;
Keep your words positive,
Words become your behaviors;
Keep your behaviors positive,
Behaviors become your habits;
Keep your habits positive,
Habits become your values;
Keep your values positive,
Values become your destiny.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Happy Holidays!



Karen Colligan
December, 2015


Each Work Style Brings Value to the Team

October 12th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

TeamWheelWe all tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This is true in our friendships, our relationships and, yes, our work teams. We hope that by focusing on those similarities there will be more harmony and, by extension, a better, more productive work environment. But think about what “harmony” is, in the true sense of the word. It’s NOT everyone singing the same note. It’s people singing different notes that creates harmony.

As a team leader, it’s easy to fall into like = harmony thinking. Avoid conflict. Get to the performing stage quicker. Shorten the decision cycle. And yet, without giving air to those different notes – different ideas, strengths, approaches, views – you miss the opportunity to create something innovative and new. Same ol’, same ol’ produces the same ol’, same ol’. Every time.

Consider this scenario.

Mike is about to meet for the first time with a temporary project team he’ll be heading up for the next several months. The members were assigned to him, so he had no input into their selection. He’s disappointed that he wasn’t asked to pull together a team from “his” people, who think just like him. Life would be so much easier. He hasn’t met any of the team yet, but he’s spoken with four of their managers and has made some notes.

Robert. Quick-thinking. Direct. Not afraid of conflict or challenging the status quo. Confident and decisive. Track record of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Competitive. Task-focused.

Yolanda. Lots of ideas. Good at creating a vision and inspiring others to follow. Outgoing and friendly. Likes variety and flexibility. Tends to change topics quickly during discussions. Relationship-focused.

Gary. Quiet and reserved. Great listener. Works to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Good at coordinating efforts and maintaining strong relationships. Strong focus on values.

Barb. Analytical and detail-oriented. Excellent at ensuring all bases are covered. Processes information by asking questions. Lots of questions. Takes a systematic approach to decision-making.

Mike wonders how he will ever be able to meld these diverse styles together to complete the project. He worries that Robert will compete with his leadership, and that Barbara will get too caught up in the details to get anything done. And how will Yolanda and Gary work with the other two?

Mike decides that the only way forward is to embrace the differences instead of fearing them. And a magical thing happens. Yes, there are some conflicts at the start – as there are on all teams – but those conflicts, and the different approaches, perspectives, talents, ideas, and strengths harmonize into a final product that is far superior to anything Mike in his monotone world had ever seen. Because…

Yolanda created a vision.

Robert kept them on track.

Gary ensured they were heard.

Barb let nothing fall through the cracks.

Want to learn more about individual styles and the value each can add to your team? Contact PeopleThink: 415.440.7944 or kcolligan@peoplethink.biz.

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Teams, Uncategorized

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How About a Little Kindness?

May 18th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Kindness-2I’m always amazed – and encouraged – by the countless examples of human kindness and generosity that emerge in the aftermath of disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal, and the devastating tornadoes in the Mid-West. I sometimes wonder, however, why those acts of kindness don’t play out on a smaller scale in the workplace and elsewhere as we each struggle to navigate the often challenging aspects of day to day working and living.

Where’s that kindness in the manager who won’t adjust your schedule so you can attend your child’s play? Or the coworker who won’t pitch in when you and the rest of the team are overloaded? Where’s that kindness in the driver who narrowly cuts in front of you just to gain one car length at the stoplight? Why does it take a disaster to bring out the spirit of “I care”?

Let’s face it. We live in a stressful time. Most of us are being asked to do more with fewer resources and less time, and yet expected to deliver higher quality results. It’s no wonder people are cranky. And yet – cranky is as cranky does. And it just keeps replicating. It’s time to stop the madness. Here’s my 3-step formula for creating a culture of kindness. Let’s start it as a ripple, let it grow to a wave, and perhaps it will become a tsunami of “I care.”

Step 1. Look in the mirror. Are you being kind – to others? To yourself? Do you allow yourself to get overextended when stressed, or frustrated, or pressed for time? By overextended, I mean when those good qualities you have go overboard. When attention to detail becomes analysis-paralysis. When your creativity spawns multiple, random ideas, but no action. When a focus on action becomes a grasp for control – or aggression. Do you recognize when this happens, and how do you rein in those qualities?

Step 2. Nurture your support system. One way to rein in those qualities is, of course, to be aware. Another way is to create and nurture a support system, of people, places and activities that bring you back to center. Who are the people – friends, family, colleagues – in your support system? And how are you supporting them? In addition to helping you through those overextended days, a good support system, according to the Mayo Clinic, is beneficial to your overall health.

Step 3. Lead by example. Start the ripple of kindness by setting examples of kindness every day. Hold the door open for someone. Offer help to a coworker who’s struggling with a project or a complex issue. Hold back that nasty retort when someone says something rude to you. Set the example and others may follow.

And most of all, as Ellen says every day at the end of her show: “Be kind to one another.”

Till next time,

Health, Life, People, Personalities, Uncategorized