Helping leaders emerge



How to Have a Critical Conversation

Give me six hours to chop down a cherry tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.  
—Abraham Lincoln

Many clients use the following worksheet and framework (thinking through and writing down their thoughts) before an important meeting—which results in a more intentional conversation, better relationship management, and ultimately greater influence and impact to the business. Clients have also shared that this process helps manage some of the discomfort or anxiety associated with having a difficult or critical conversation.

What is a Critical Conversation©? (meets one or more of the below criteria) ©   

  1. Difficult: something hard to talk about is being discussed. The situation may be awkward and there may be potential for fear and anxiety around the conversation.
  2. Potential for Amygdala Hijack Situation: There are strong feelings and emotions about what’s being discussed and at least one of the parties could become triggered (flight, fight or freeze mode)
  3. Vulnerable: One or more of the parties might be worried about being exposed and not feel safe
  4. Different Point of Views and Different Stories: there are different perspectives about what has happened and what might need to happen
  5. High Stakes: The conversation that needs to happen will impact an important and uncertain outcome

Preparing for a Critical Conversation©? (answer the questions that are relevant to you)

  1. How do I want to “show up”? What are the three to five things I would like to hear my colleagues say about me after the meeting? (e.g., I listened, remained calm, was thoughtful in my responses, with a spirit of generosity, and brought a sense of humor to the meeting.)
  2. What do I want? What’s the preferred outcome of the conversation? What is my goal for this meeting? (in terms of a goal, focus on what is within your control, keeping in mind you can only control your own behavior and not the other person.)
  3. What does the other person want? What does a successful meeting look like from my colleague’s point of view?
  4. What is best for the relationship? What might I say or do in order to further enhance the relationship and lead to more trust?
  5. What is best for the business? What might I be willing to agree to—or let go of—in the short term in order to achieve greater long-term influence and impact to the business?
  6. How do I show up honest and respectful? How might my need to be liked (manage people pleasing tendencies) or be right be getting in the way of saying what needs to be said? Keep the focus on “getting it right” versus “being right”.
  7. How do I minimize drama? What do I need to refrain from saying that might trigger and make the other person feel defensive? What might the other person say that could make me feel defensive?
  8. How do I maintain leadership presence, self-manage and remain calm? What could the other person say that might make me feel defensive? How will I prepare myself for the meeting (deep breaths, take a short walk, write down my goals, etc.) and what will I do so I don’t go into reactive mode? If I do get triggered, how will I get centered again? (e.g., suggest coffee or bathroom break, take three deep breaths, feel my feet on the ground, etc.).
  9. Listen and be empathetic: How will I demonstrate that I’m listening to the other person? What’s my body language and tone communicating? What are some of the signs that my colleague is becoming triggered (tone of voice, facial expressions, etc.) and needs a break to get centered and grounded?

© Quartner and Associates, LLC 2020



The Process for Leaders Becoming Anti-Racist: Getting It Right Versus Being Right

I just listened to a fascinating podcast by Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability where she talks about Why being held accountable and feeling shame IS NOT the same thing as being shamed. Brown shares her own experience of making mistakes in the area of what it means to be an anti-racist and the steps needed to work through processing the difficult emotion of shame in order to be accountable for change. Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!.

Key Themes mentioned in Brené Brown’s Shame and Accountability podcast …

What is shame?

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.
  • We all have shame. Shame is not just reserved for those who have experienced trauma and abuse, it is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience.

The Difference between Accountability and Shaming

  • Accountability is taking right action, which can include calling someone out for not doing their job.
  • Shaming involves name calling, putting down, and humiliating another person.

Shame is NOT an Effective Social Justice Tool!

  • Shame is a tool of oppression and white supremacy; it breeds violence.
  • Shame is dehumanizing. It corrodes the belief that we can be better and do better.
  • Shame is much more likely to be the cause of dangerous and destructive behaviors than the cure.
  • Shame kills empathy; empathy is the foundation of love and justice.

What Happens to Our Bodies and Minds When We Experience Shame?

  • When we experience shame, we become hijacked by the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze response).
  • If we want to be held accountable to take proper action (let’s say in the case of overcoming being accused of being a racist and demonstrate anti-racist actions and behaviors), we first need to get the prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) back online.

What Should We Do When We Feel Shame (in relation to being accused of being a racist)?

  • Goal of shame resilience: move through shame while retaining authenticity, coming out of shame with more courage, more compassion, and feeling more deeply connected.
  • Key Step: take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience of shame.
  • Recognize that shame is a painful emotion and be able to identify the physiological symptoms of shame that are similar to symptoms we feel when experiencing trauma (Brown mentions that when she experiences shame, time slows down, she becomes tunneled vision, experiences dry mouth, and a tingling sensation in her arms).
  • Take a deep breath. Wait it out until the thinking brain is back online. Take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience by NOT talking, texting, or typing when we are in fight, flight, or freeze mode.

The Real and Hard Work of Being Anti-Racist

  • Recognize it takes hard work to be accountable for the pain or hurt you caused another person and don’t expect the person you hurt to make you feel better or to educate you.
  • Work on NOT getting defensive and keep in mind “Getting It Right” versus “Being Right”.
  • Once we’ve moved through shame and have emotionally regulated ourselves (and back online in the thinking brain), the next step is change and action. Ask … What am I going to do differently? How am I going to show up differently? What different choices am I going to make moving forward?

Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!


Standing Up to Racism

I hope this finds you as well as can be expected during such challenging times – the COVID pandemic, political divisiveness, economic despair, and most especially as of late, police brutality and racial injustice.

Last week I attended a community meeting on racial justice led by Rev. Dr. Michael Christie, where he asked us each to visualize our son lying face down on the floor in our own home, with one police officer leaning on his back and two others holding down his legs, all the while cruelly asking our son to get up.

So, I did what Rev. Dr. Michael Christie asked of us: I visualized my 18–year–old, 6’5″ lanky, sweet–natured son, Ari, forced to lie face down by the police on our kitchen floor. As he leads us through the meditation, Dr. Christie asked us to pay attention to how we feel. I can feel my chest becoming tight, my breath becoming shallow, and my heart breaking wide open.

Dr. Christie reminds us that living in this kind of fear is the daily reality for people like him living in black communities. I cannot imagine what it must be to live in constant fear. What if the police come into my home? What if we get stopped while driving by the police? Can we go bird watching and not be accused of threatening others? Can we go for a jog and safely return home?

I understand that as a person of white privilege, these painful feelings are not my daily reality and can easily be forgotten or pushed away. And yet, I know it is my responsibility to stand up to racism and do something. What can I do? How can I make a difference?

Over the last several days, I have been thinking about what I can do in order to make a difference. I will hold these feelings – what it would feel like to imagine police offices entering my home, holding down my son face down while at the same time asking him to get up – in my heart and in my body, even after this particular incident falls out of the limelight, so that I can continue to stand up for what matters, to stand against hate, and to stand for respect. This is the least I can do, considering it is something that my black friends have had to do for their whole lives, and will have to continue to do until real change happens.

I am making the following commitments:

  • Stand up to racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, discrimination against our LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities, religious intolerance, and bigotry of any kind, as well as to embody a willingness to embrace and tolerate the discomfort that comes with understanding the social reality that exists for all people.
  • Use my daily meditation practice to show up with a steady, empathetic, and peaceful heart and respond to truth with clarity, compassion, and wise action.
  • Continue to lead community meditation sessions that are welcoming to everyone and focus on healing, well-being and standing up to social injustice.
    1. Nancy Foster and I will be hosting a zoom Mindful Movement, Breathwork, and Meditation Workshop from 10-11:15a on June 27th.
    2. The fee is $20 and the entire payment will go to a scholarship fund for young black adults to be trained as mindfulness teachers at EMI, an organization specializing in supporting individuals in at-risk situations and communities.
  • Continually ask myself: How can I be of service? What can I do today? Tomorrow? This year? Next?
  • Participate in racial justice meetings and open conversations with colleagues and friends
  • Attend the Black Lives matters solidarity vigil on June 13thClick here to join me.
  • Continue to try and understand what underserved communities are struggling with and serve by volunteering my coaching and mindfulness services.
  • Educate myself about racial injustice by
    1. Reading books (click here to read Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams).
    2. Watching documentaries (click here for watch Ten Documentaries about Race Instead of Asking a Person of Colour to Explain Things to You).
    3. Listening to podcasts (click here to hear An Uncomfortable But Meaningful Conversation About Race with Lama Rod Owen and Dan Harris)
  • Speak up on social media and call out racist comments.

Let’s continue the conversation and find ways to take action against racial injustice. Please let me know what else I can do and what you are doing to stand up to racism.

Wishing you, your families, friends, and colleagues health, strength, and moments of joy during this challenging time.

Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference by Ari of Zingerman’s

Our family was lucky enough to meet the very humble yet famous Ari Weinzweig during a visit to Michigan while dining at Zingerman’s Roadhouse (Ari was the water boy, refilling our glasses summer of 2018). Usually, my husband Brad refuses to dine at a restaurant two nights in a row, but we enjoyed our visit so much we found ourselves dining at Zingerman’s for two consecutive nights!

Since then, we have gotten to know Ari and become inspired by his community values, compassionate leadership style, and business success. And as we continue to live in uncertain times, I find it refreshing to have resilient leaders like Ari to turn to during this pandemic for inspiration – leaders who show up in deep service and commitment to others, their staff, communities, and customers. Thank you Ari!

And so with Ari’s permission, thrilled to share ….

Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference (April 29, 2020)

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the last four or five weeks comes after the conversation has already covered an update on the state of our business. The first things most people inquire about are sales, how our staff are coping, how we’re dealing with safety, the state of our cash flow. But when we’re done with that, what comes is something along the lines of: “What are you doing to take care of yourself through all this?”

It’s a good question. And I’m glad they ask. This is, no doubt about it, an exceptionally stressful time to be in business. Or for that matter, just to be human. Everyone, everywhere, is stressed. I’m no exception—trying to figure out how to do the right things in the business; working to do the best we can for the greatest number of staff; owning that we furloughed over 250 people in two days. Trying to do right by customers, serve the community, take extreme care for the safety of staff, be present, while still conscious of personal safety, and help keep our 38-year old business in business so we can still be here when the world moves to the “next phase,” whatever that might be. It sounds like a lot when I say it, but really, almost every business owner I know is in a similarly difficult position.

So . . . what am I doing to take care of myself? Although these are clearly completely unprecedented times, and none of us have any experience living through a pandemic, the answer for me is pretty much the same one I’d have given you a year ago. And the same response I’d have shared a year before that. And the year before that. (OK, granted, I’m washing my hands more than I ever have, wearing a mask out in public, and keeping my distance. That part is new.) I’m not being flip—really my routines for “self-care” aren’t any different than they’ve been for a long time now.

There are four activities that I engage in daily, all of which work to help me hold onto some semblance of internal stability in, even this, the most uncertain of times.

  • Tammie and I end every evening by cooking a good meal together (which you sometimes read about here).
  • I run every single day.
  • I try to talk to a fair few friends to connect, commiserate, listen, and learn.
  • And, my subject here: I start almost every single day by journaling.

Whether journaling will help you as much as it helps me, I don’t know. What I can say with certainty is that journaling has been hugely helpful to me! I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I started doing it 30 years ago, journaling changed my life. Nor am I exaggerating when I say that the 15 or 20 (even five minutes for me is meaningful and better than not doing it all) that I spend doing it every day, combined with the cost of the legal pads I use (yellow, detachable, fine-lined) and the pens (right now, it’s Pilot Precise, fine point) are one of THE best investments I’ve ever made in my whole life. The $10 or $15 a month it costs me for raw materials and the short bit of time I spend doing it pays for itself a thousand times over.

What do I journal about? Whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it feels important, sometimes silly. Sometimes I write in whole coherent paragraphs, sometimes it’s one disconnected word. At. A. Time. Sometimes I swear up a storm. Some mornings I make a list of people and things I appreciate. Sometimes I journal about work. Other days it’s about the news, the weather, or what I’m worried about. Sometimes it’s about Tammie, or our dogs, or what we made for dinner the night before. I write about books and music, bread and coffee; memories and what I’m doing next Monday. Sometimes I just write “Breathe” to remind myself how much one meaningful breath can matter. Then I do it. It helps.

Essentially, journaling for me is a way to begin my day by doing what Julia Cameron (she calls journaling “morning pages”) suggests in her amazing book,The Artist’s Way: “Ask yourself how you are feeling. Listen to your answer. Respond kindly.”

How much difference can 20 minutes of free-form writing like that really make? It helps me stay sane. And I’m not exaggerating. It helps quiet the (often kind of crazy) voices that are almost always active in my head. It helps me reground and get centered. It helps me remember the plethora of positives by which I’m surrounded every day even in difficult times. It helps get me at the root causes of my consternation. It reminds me to be thankful for the people, dogs, food, ideas, books, and music I get to be with. It helps me to stay super appreciative of the moment. And to remember that ultimately, while I’m very high on long-term visioning, still, all we really have is the moment. As one guest shared with me about talking to his young son, the truth is tomorrow never really comes—when what we think of as tomorrow arrives, it will actually have become “today.” Journaling has helped me—no matter how I’m feeling when I sit down to do it first thing in the morning—to live each day to the best of my ability. To appreciate what we have, even when it happens in the middle of a global pandemic.

At any time over the last 30 years that I’ve been doing this, if I miss a morning of journaling, I feel seriously off-center and stressed all day. And in the tension and uncertainty of our current situation, that makes my morning journaling all the more important. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big, big difference. As Julia Cameron writes, “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power . . . Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within. And right now, I think we can use all the help we can get.”
Ari Weinzweig

  • Click here to learn more about Ari!
  • Click here to learn more about Zingerman’s!
  • Click here to read how Zingerman’s Roadhouse was just named finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award!
  • Click here to sign up for Ari’s amazing newsletter!
  • Click here to email Ari (at his request, he loves connecting!)

I’m sure you enjoyed Ari’s article as much as I did and hope you give journaling a try…..

Wishing you, your families, friends, and colleagues health, strength, and moments of joy during this challenging time.

And if you’d like to join our free community Zoom mindfulness meditation 5p EST weekdays, please email me for link and more details!

Cultivating Resilience During COVID-19

Rick Hanson, PhD, psychologist, and author of the book Resilient describes three things we can do to make a difference in the flow of our everyday lives. These three things are particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and can support us in keeping our immune systems healthy and remaining steady in our minds, bodies, and hearts.

One: Be on Top of Not Getting Over Alarmed. As part of our human experience, we are evolutionary designed to be scared monkeys 🙈. We lean toward having a negativity bias and tend to live in more fear than is warranted. I don’t want to deny these are fearful times, it is normal to feel anxiety (everyone is anxious right now). We need to “feel what we feel” and be careful to give ourselves time for self-care and rest. Meditate, go for a walk, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise, unplug, bake, cook, and connect with positive friends via Zoom, phone, etc.

Two: Cultivate Positive Emotion. Stop and smell the roses 💐. Do not underestimate the power of expressing gratitude for everyday moments that could be easily overlooked. One exercise is to think of three new things each day you are grateful for and why. For example, bring attention to something good as it happens, reflect on something new and good that happened during the day, practice gratitude when you brush your teeth, before you go to bed or journal about a positive experience being as specific as possible to reinforce good feelings. As you reflect on gratitude, you are rewiring your brain toward being more positive.

Three: Focus on What You Do Have Influence Over. In our human experience, there are many things out of our control, like this current COVID-19 pandemic. Do your best to focus on where you do have some control and efficacy – including your own actions and behaviors like washing your hands 👌, practicing physical distancing (but social connection!), calling a neighbor in need, keeping with your routine, exercising, being respectful, doing something kind for yourself or someone else, etc.

How to Manage Stress and Sleep Better!

Last month I shared the benefits of getting good sleep – including the ability to maintain positive mood and energy levels, be productive, make logical decisions, keep the immune system strong to fight infections and diseases like Alzheimers and cancer, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. (Click here for February newsletter Why Sleep Matters).

With the state of the world right now, especially the Coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic, you may be having trouble getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night, having trouble falling back asleep. So before you reach for the Ambien to treat your insomnia, consider trying the body scan – a useful tool tool to settle an active mind and get a good night’s sleep.

What is the body scan? A deep investigation into the moment-to-moment felt experience of the body. By bringing awareness and acceptance to whatever you feel in the body, the body scan can be helpful in working with stress, anxiety, physical pain, and a racing mind because it increases the capacity of your pre-frontal cortex to self-regulate your nervous system, helping you feel more at ease.

  • For a deeper dive to learn more about the body scan click here.
  • For one page PDF instructions to guide yourself through a simple body scan click here.

Free Body Scan Meditation Recommendations 

  • My favorite body scan is by Elisha Goldstein (30 minutes) see Insight Timer meditation app (free meditation app) or click here
  • Longer vision (45 minutes) by Jon Kabat-Zinn on youtube click here
  • Shorter version (20 minutes) by Elisha Goldstein – see on Insight Timer meditation app or click here
  • Even shorter version (10 minutes) by Elisha Goldstein on youtube click here

Additional Resources

Stay safe, healthy and strong!

Why Sleep Matters

Matthew Walker, PhD, sleep expert and author of Why We Sleep, makes a compelling case for how sleep benefits our brains and bodies, how sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity, and that the shorter we sleep, the shorter we live – and has the research to back it up.

And unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough sleep. According to medical research, adults need between 7 hours 30 minutes to 8 hours 30 minutes of sleep each night. However, the average American adult sleeps only about 6 hours 40 minutes per night, so most of us are under slept by around 1 hour, according to Dr. Peter Attia.

Why Sleep Matters: Links to Effective Leadership, Health, and Well-Being
Our ability to be effective leaders in our organizations, communities and families, as well as healthy individuals, depends on getting a good night’s rest.

Leadership behaviors and skills that directly relate to sleep include our ability to

  • Learn, memorize, and make logical decisions
  • Navigate challenges
  • Be productive
  • Be creative
  • Recalibrate our emotions and remain calm (mental health)
  • Maintain good mood and energy levels
Good health and well–being that directly relate to sleep include our ability to
  • Manage mental health (think of sleep as emotional first aid for mental health)
  • Regulate appetite (weight management)
  • Restock immune system to help fight malignancy, prevent infection, and ward off sickness
  • Regulate hormones and promote reproductive health
  • Help prevent diseases like cancer (bowel, prostrate, breast), Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
  • Drive safely, preventing car crashes and traffic accidents
  • Slow the effects of aging and increases longevity
Sleep Tips!
  • Avoid alcohol before bed (because it robs you of REM sleep)
  • Avoid caffeine about 7 to 8 hours before bed
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Keep your bedroom cool (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit), dark, and gadget free
Favorite Sleep Resources
  • Newsletter: Click here for more information, including Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep, page 20 (other good sleep articles in this NIH newsletter)
  • Video: Click here to watch Sleep is Your Superpower TED talk with Matt Walker. 19 minutes.
  • Book: Click here to purchase Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
  • Oura Sleep Tracking Ring: Click here to learn more about Oura. After hearing about the ring on Dan Harris’s Podcast, I purchased it. I love! the ring because it provides a daily sleep score that measures sleep contributors including total sleep, efficiency (% of time actually asleep after going to bed), REM, light, and deep sleep stages, latency (time it takes to fall asleep), timing (how aligned your sleep is with circadian rhythms), and resting heart rate (average and lowest throughout the night). I also like the daily readiness score which helps me gauge my physical activity for the upcoming day.
  • Podcast: Dan Harris #221: Click here to listen to All Your Sleep Questions, Answered | Dr. Matthew Walker. In this episode, Dr. Walker shares significant findings on what happens to us when we do not get enough sleep. He also offers practical tips on how we can get more, quality sleep and how meditation can help. 2 hours 36 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #47 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part I of III: Dangers of poor sleep, Alzheimer’s risk, mental health, memory consolidation, and more. 1 hour 43 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #48 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part II of III: Heart disease, cancer, sexual function, and the causes of sleep disruption (and tips to correct it). 2 hours 4 minutes.
  • Podcast Series: Click here to listen to Pete Attia’s Podcast the drive #49 – Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part III of III: The penetrating effects of poor sleep from metabolism to performance to genetics, and the impact of caffeine, alcohol, THC, and CBD on sleep, 2 hours 1 minute.

A Blessing for 2020

You may have set New Year’s resolutions or be in the process of setting them. As part of your resolutions, I’d like to challenge you to include an intention about how you want to feel this year.

If you are like the executives I coach, you are probably quite driven and mastered the “doing part”, so I’d like to encourage you to set an intention based on how you want to feel in 2020 and let that be the motivator for what you do in the world and how you show up.

Here is a simple yet powerful intention you can say to yourself at the start of your day, throughout the day, or before you fall asleep. I like to say these phrases to myself when I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and want to feel more personally resourced.

Feel free to use the following blessing or adapt the language to make it your own:

May I feel safe
May I feel happy
May I feel healthy and strong
May I feel at ease

These phrases are not meant to be a mantra, but rather a blessing, so try noticing and welcoming (without judgment) whatever feelings arise for you. Sometimes you will feel something and other times you will feel nothing. Whatever arises for you is okay because you are planting seeds that will blossom when they are ready.

Happy 2020!

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