Category Archives: relationships

On the Importance of Trust and Relationships

Trust and relationhipsHere’s an article I wrote for on discovering the importance of trust and relationships in business (and life). Enjoy!

A Quick Way to Improve Your Communication Skills


Instead of writing that email get off your keister and walk down the hall and talk to her. Or use the video camera on your computer (or get one) and have a Skype video conference. Or pick up the phone if that’s your only option

Let them see your face, hear your voice, see your body language. Look at theirs. Build the freaking relationship. Then you’ll be a fantastic communicator.

p.s. When using a video-conference tool, look at the camera when they’re talking. It’ll make it look like you’re paying attention. Oh, and pay attention. That helps too.

Who Do You Network With?

There’s something you need to do. Get a thumb drive. Take it to work. Download your contact list from your work computer, or print it out, and take it home. I’ll wait.

You can’t network with the people on the contact list on your work computer, probably your most valuable “gotta find my next job” resource, when you’ve been escorted out the front door. It happens. It can happen to anybody. *holds up own hand*

Got it? Good. Do this every three months and keep your list up-to-date. This is the bare minimum you need to network. I’m not asking your to break of your company rules or the law, but you see the point.

Networking Is

Networking is the simple act of keeping in contact with people you can help, and that might be able to help you. When you do need to ask for something it won’t be awkward if you’ve stayed in contact. For many “technical” types this is a challenge. You may not feel comfortable reaching out to others for “no reason”, and it might be holding you back.

Here are some other places that you might consider, in your plan to build relationships in your industry:

Schools, Industry, Companies

If you’re still in school, or recently graduated, have you kept in contact with your class mates? The “good” schools like Carleton or Yale don’t necessarily have smarter professors or students than any other school. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But when their students graduate they have a built-in network and credibility. Your fellow students are good candidates for keeping in touch with over the years. Same industry, same interests, and likely a similar career path.

Go to dinner at your chosen profession’s association. This is a no-brainer. You’re not there for the rubber chicken or the dinner speaker. You’re there to meet others in your industry. For bonus points and to turbo-charge your connections: volunteer. It doesn’t matter if your volunteering effort is to hand out name-tags at the dinner reception desk, or to run the local annual association conference. Your name and your credibility goes up the more you give. Which makes it easier to find your next job (or next employee if you’re in recruiting mode).

Join a local Toastmasters. Even better if the club is industry, geographic, or interest specific. Again, bonus points for volunteering. This is also a good way to find connections if you’re planning to change careers or industries.

Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re looking for companies to work for, google “chamber of commerce” “your town”, and “your industry”. Then go to the open Chamber events and find the attendees that work for those companies. It’s a good way to target your next employer.

Question for the Comments:

How did you find your last job?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:

The Joy of Networking
One Discovery, Two Decisions
Get the Job You Want By Talking to the Right People

Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse. And poor business practice.

He believes organizations are founded on their values. He believes that the workplace is a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive.

Check out his other articles at

The Joy of Networking

I was at breakfast with three friends Thursday morning. It was early at one of those funky little breakfast & lunch joints south of downtown Calgary. I knew everybody, but everybody hadn’t met each other yet, which is why I’d invited them all. Within two minutes of everybody arriving we’d got each other laughing and talking and chatting and catching up. We traded intelligence on work in our respective fields, checked on potential client reputations, and bounced business ideas and opportunities.

I came away from breakfast feeling energized, motivated, and happy. Happy that I was privileged to the part of a small circle of smart, funny, and inspiring people.

Then I said to myself – “Self: You shouldn’t be you’ve just been networking. Networking is supposed to be an onerous chore! Get your head on straight!” Then I told myself to take a flying leap and proceeded to have a great day instead.

Here’s the question that “networking” is trying to answer: If I lost my job (major contract / largest income stream) tomorrow, to whom could I reach out to find my next gig? Who else would I want to work with again? Who knows everybody in the business and could point me in the right direction?

This is networking: keeping in touch with people who can help you, or more importantly, whom you can help. Why not be the one that people reach out to when needed? Wouldn’t that make it easier if and when you need something?

You don’t want the only reason you’re talking to Fred or Flora for the first time in two years is because you just got laid off. That’s awkward. And much less likely to be successful.

Question for the Comments
Who’s the first person you would reach out to if you needed to start looking for work tomorrow? When was the last time you talked to or emailed them?

Other Article You May Be Interested In:
Getting the Job You Want By Talking To the Right People
Your Personal Board of Directors
The Elevator Speech

Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse and poor business practice. He believes the foundation of any organization is its values. He believes that that the workplace can be a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive.

Check out his other articles at

The First Question to Ask Before You Delegate

There are two important questions you should consider when you’re delegating a task. Especially if it’s beyond the level of “Take action, don’t report” type. Two questions that will improve the probability of success. But asking the questions isn’t enough. How we react to the answers, and how well we follow through have the greatest impact.

The first question is:

When Can You Get This Done By?

It’s a pretty straight-forward question, and you might think I’m kidding. There are times when it’s appropriate to arbitrarily set deadlines. In reality most work isn’t life or death. And one of the biggest motivators for even rudimentary cognitive work is autonomy. The ability to govern oneself.

Many times the most productive action bosses can take is to get out of the way. Let the people working for us do what they do well. Let them figure out how to do the work instead of being treated like a cog in the machine. Maybe they don’t do it exactly the way you could, and that’s OK. It will still get done.

So when you ask this question or any question please, actually ask a question, and then have enough intestinal fortitude to respect the answer.

Actually Ask A Question

“I need you to do this.” is not a question. It doesn’t even have a question mark at the end. Yet that’s often how tasks are assigned. How much autonomy are we granting the person assigned the task when we do this? None.

If you really ask a question, use a sentence with a question mark at the end. Can you do this? and When can you do this by? are both examples of actual questions. If you need the work done by a specific date, then ask “Can you do this by Tuesday?” (or whatever the date is).

Asking puts the responsibility for completion with the delegate, increases their commitment to the task, builds a relationship, and allows them to develop their priority management skills independently. All things good managers who are committed to developing their staff will want.

And don’t worry that it will diminish your status. It won’t. Treating people like cogs in the machine will.

Respect the Answer

A wise sergeant once told me to never give an order I knew wouldn’t be obeyed. I say never ask a question that you don’t want to hear the answer to. You may have to negotiate, re-balance workload, or ask questions about priorities. And you may not like some of the answers.

Yet your job as a manager is to deal with reality, not react to the pressures put on you and pass them down. If you’re not going to manage the priorities put on you and your staff, then you’re not really needed, are you?

One of my clients called this being “a window”, just trickling down the directives and orders from on high. He’s the regional manager for a recruiting and placement firm. Last week they had no new starts in all of Western Canada, which was a huge under-performance for him and for the region. His CEO asked him “How can a region your size have no new starts in a month?”, a question for which there is no good answer.

Yet he didn’t start banging the table and  demand that people start producing. I’ve seen leaders who know better, cave under the pressure and threaten their staff with the boogey-man of “heads are going to roll” and their boss being “not happy”. And really what does anybody at the front line of an organization care if the CEO is happy or not, even if she knew what to do about it?

He has a plan for measuring, coaching, and increasing performance across the entire region, and he’s sticking to it. He’s putting the right people in place, he’s showing confidence in his staff, and they’re working their tails off for them.  He’s leading, not letting himself be buffaloed into a knee-jerk reaction.

Question for the Comments

How have you handled push-back to your delegations in the past? What do you do when somebody tells you they can’t and won’t do the work you’d like them to do?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

Four Different Ways to Delegate
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them
You Need to Get Good At This to be a Leader

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

One Discovery, Two Decisions

The best part of my job is working with, sharing, inspiring and being inspired by passionate, smart people. It turns my crank. I am lucky to have this life. I try to stop and be grateful when as often as I can.

I had one of those moments last week at breakfast with the Design4Change agency, Patricia Derbyshire of Mount Royal University, and Earnest Barbaric the social media strategist. Clarity came while we were talking marketing and career choices.

I believe we all have one discover and two choices we all have to make to gain mastery, be fulfilled, and be engaged in our work and our lives. There are things we all need to do in order to be successful in life, no matter how we define success. Here’s what I think those things are:

Discover What You’re Good At

This is one of those simple but not always easy to carry out concepts. It takes thought, focus, and self-awareness. We all enjoy something, we can all be good at something, we all need to master something. Being good and being recognized by others as being good, is the difference between thriving and merely surviving.

What are you good at? What makes time fly, leaves you energized instead of drained, or is fun for you? If you can’t think of anything, or you don’t get to do it very often, maybe it’s time for a change? Life is too short and hard already to spend it doing something that eats your soul instead of feeding it.

Figure out what that thing is, then  figure out how to make a living at it.

Choose Who You’re Going to Work With

Maslow got it wrong. The “social” need of his hierarchy is just as important as food and shelter.

People matter, and who you surround yourself with matters. Choose your friends and co-workers carefully. The biggest influence on a child’s life? Not their parents, but their friends. Want to raise good kids? Choose their friends  carefully.

Business success depends on the people you choose to hire (or not). Don’t waste your time with somebody who you wouldn’t enthusiastically rehire. It’s not worth it.

Choose to Keep Learning

You can learn and adapt by trial and error, or you can learn from others. Darwin didn’t say that survival would go to the fittest. He said it would go to the most adaptable. Those that learn also adapt and survive.

Get into the habit of reading, learning, and always always always trying to find ways to simplify and do things better. You could do it by trial and error, on your own, but that doesn’t seem very efficient does it?

I believe that these are the simple things that outstanding managers (and successful human beings) do well.

Question for the Comments:
What are the lifetime habits that help you succeed?

Other articles you may find interesting:
Eight Career Rules For My Teenage Daughter
Following Your Passion
Getting the Job You Want by Talking to the Right People

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

You Need To Get Good At This To Be A Good Leader

Please don’t run away when I say this word. It’s something you need to learn to do if you hope to be a good leader:


I know, I know, it’s not very sexy. It’s one of those over-used words like “accountability” and ” engagement” that’s lost a lot of its meaning. But it’s shorter and sounds better than saying: “getting other people to do your work”.

So why do “they” say you can’t be a good leader and advance in your company or grow your business without learning how to delegate? Well, because they’re right, and here’s why.

  1. It saves you time (in the long run).
  2. It saves the company time
  3. It saves the company money
  4. It’s good for your staff (development wise)
  5. It’s good for the company (leadership succession wise)
  6. It gets you promoted

Today I’d like to tackle the first three:

Delegation Saves You Time

Teaching, training, coaching, and correcting somebody else’s work takes more time than just doing it. In the short-term. But if you invest the time in the long run you’ll be saving time, like this:

It’s hard to do, especially at first when you have the least time to spare. Your can choose to stay in the same job forever because you’re the only one that can do it, or take the long slow journey to the bottom of the ocean drowning in work. Short term pain, long-term gain.

What should you do with your new found breathing room? Up to you, but I do know that “not enough time” is the biggest complaint among many of my clients, so use it wisely, and keep delegating.

Delegation Saves the Company Time

Yes, sometimes it’s faster doing it (whatever “it” is) yourself. Problem is that we end up doing all the “its” ourselves. So then we become the bottle-neck. Which means people are literally lined up out our door. Yes, I’ve had consulting clients complain about exactly this. Not only don’t we get our own work done, neither does anybody else. Which means that part of operations, sales, or finance grinds to a halt.

So while you’re getting stuff done faster and being the hero, the company as a whole is suffering and opportunities are missed. Turns out doing it yourself is actually kinda selfish.

Delegation Saves the Company Money

It stands to reason that work done by somebody reporting to you costs less than if you do it. Assuming they do it to a reasonable standard in a reasonable amount of time. This save the company money. Which is kind of your job as a boss: to get the work done as effectively and efficiently as possible.

If you’re keeping work that can reasonably be done by somebody who gets paid less, then why isn’t it being done that way? Otherwise you’re deliberately wasting the company’s money (and your time). Stop that please.

Next Time: How delegation is good for you, the company, and gets you promoted.

Question for the Comments: What can you delegate today that will save you time or the company money in the long run?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good for Them
Learning By Doing

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with

How to Listen to Drive Commitment

How can we use generous listening and techniques for generous listening in a team setting, and what results should we expect?




My wife and I have been together so long that both of us believes we know what the other is thinking. But we don’t. When forget we get into trouble.

We cannot know what is written on somebody’s heart. We cannot make assumptions based on our observations of their behaviour filtered through our perception of the world. “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are” (Goethe).

It’s important to clarify instead of assume. To ask questions instead of judging. To try to get, if possible, others to tell us what their intentions, motivations, or reasoning is. To listen.

Ask questions. Ask open-ended questions. Squash as many of your own assumptions as you can.

Discuss Facts

We often try to avoid conflict. What we end up doing is preserving artificial harmony, which erodes trust and committment. Passionate debate and creative conflict is often what’s needed. Laying it all on the table. Being vulnerable. This doesn’t mean we have to make (or tolerate) personal attacks.

Stick to the facts, and if you need to then describe the consequences of those facts as you see them. For example, you may draw the conclusion that an employee is lazy when they come to work a half an hour late every morning.

If you start the conversation “Hey, you’re lazy.” you’re not going to get very far. You might need start the conversation something like “When you come into work half an hour late every morning [the fact] it makes you look lazy [the result as you see them].”

Stick to the facts. Don’t attack people.

Speak Up

You must speak your own truth. This goes together with the previous “discuss facts” directive. The passionate debate and creative conflict can’t happen if you don’t give to the conversation. If you’re the leader (manager, executive) then a big part of your job is to make sure everybody is heard before deciding. Even if you think you already know what decision you’re going to make.

With people very often you have to go slow to speed up.

Without being heard, there is no committment. Even if your employees (volunteers, children) don’t agree with the final decision (and they don’t have to, because commitment isn’t about consensus), you’ll have a better chance of getting their agreement if you’ve listened to and heard them. Speak your truth, hear their truth.

Speak up, and let others speak

Summary for Leaders

  • Clarify assumptions, ask questions
  • Debate facts, not personalities
  • Speak up, leave room for others to speak

Interesting in driving execution in your business? Talk to the Business Execution Experts:

Techniques for Generous Listening

“Communication is what the listener does” – Mark Horstman

Last week I encouraged you to be more than an active listener. I encouraged you to be a generous, respectful, and calm listener instead. While the “active” listening techniques of eye contact and body language are useful, they don’t go deep enough.

What does generous listening look like in practice? Here are three actionable, specific techniques for being a generous listener:

Listen With Your Mind

Personally I have a hard time even hearing what’s being said, or staying focused. My mind will drift off, especially if somebody’s rabbitting on about a topic that doesn’t interest me. Or I’ve already decided in irrelevant to where I want the conversation to go. Or I’m thinking furiously about what my response is going to be to an earlier statement, and I miss their real point.

Repeat the words they are saying to yourself in your head.

This will get you back on track. It will bring your mind back to what they’re saying. Don’t worry about having an immediate response ready the moment they take a breath. Having an immediate response ready the moment they stop talking is just another form of interrupting. Take a breath before you reply.

Stop Interrupting

If you’re interrupting you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, they’ll know it and are less likely to be listening to you. Then how are you going to influence them? Just don’t.

This includes waiting for them to pause so you can elbow your way into the conversation with your witty retort. Bite your tongue. Take notes. Clench your teeth and grunt “Uh-Huh” or “Mmm-hmm” until your throat hurts if you have to.

The “Uh-Huh” sound is a great way to move the conversation along, signal that you’re listening, and still not agreeing or making a committment you don’t want to make.

Just don’t tell my wife.

Accept Feedback

I admit that most feedback is poorly delivered, feels like a personal attack, and isn’t actionable. Doesn’t matter.

Say “thank-you” and take it. Questions for clarification only.

No retorts, no rationalizations, no justification. At the very least you’ll be helping them practise, and they might even give better feedback the next time. Or send them to my website, which has many articles on giving feedback. But wait a couple of days before you do that.

How To Be A Generous Listener

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill

The biggest influencing skill is the skill of listening. You cannot hope to be heard until you’ve listened. Your influence will only reach to the extent you’ve payed and attention – and have been seen to pay attention.

As a listener, most of what we think of as listening happens inside our head. Let’s set the table and invite our speaker to sit with us:

Be a Generous Listener

Generous listening is the assumption of favourable intent. It means if somebody says something that can be taken in more than one way, they meant the good way. Or they are, in their own way, trying to help you. Or maybe you misunderstood?

I told a close friend of mine once that she “had to own her own shit.” I meant that she had to take responsibility for her own emotions and actions. She thought I had said “had to eat her own shit.” A subtle but important difference. Hilarity ensued.

Be a Respectful Listener

Is it safe to tell you bad news or give unfavourable feedback? Can you handle the truth? Listening means being vulnerable sometimes. Putting yourself out there. Exposing yourself to things that are hard to hear and maybe even hurtful.

Can you be compassionate and understand that the person telling you the bad news might be feeling vulnerable too? That if they’re telling you something unfavourable that it might actually be happening?

Be a Calm Listener

Your silence is not mean you agree with what is being said. Not interrupting, however, shows respect. Not interrupting is listening.

Sometimes people take a while to get to their point. They need to feel safe before they can get to what they really want. Personally this drives me nuts, but my therapist was really good at it.

President Lyndon Johnson was especially good at this. He could actively listen for hours, and spent much time on the telephone, waiting patiently to pounce when the speaker got to what they really wanted. [On listening to Johnson's private phone calls]

Your Actions

Can you think of a conversation you’ve had in the past that might have gone differently with using any one of these techniques? What upcoming conversation can you apply these techniques too?