Does Resolution Feel Impossible?

On a long flight to Alaska I had ample time to talk with my seatmate. What I learned astonished me. She worked as a restorative justice facilitator for the Justice Department. In this role she helped offenders repair the harm they had done and restore their place in the community.

Recently she facilitated a conversation between a mother and his murderer. I  asked her, “How do you do this without individuals coming to blows?”

She described the long process of preparing participants. When they meet there was a full airing of feelings, regrets, and sadness. Gradually empathy develops for the harm done. Only then is healing possible.

“Have you ever been turned down?” I asked. “Do some people say, “No thanks, I simply don’t want to participate.”

“Rarely,” she responded.

“Then you have magical powers,” I said.

“No,” she replied. “Most people are looking for a way forward. The biggest hurtle is to believe resolution is possible.”

There is much we can learn from this process. Whether we want to restore relationships in our family, community or nation, the first step is to believe it’s possible. As I write this I notice a sign on the coffee shop wall that says, “Maybe you’re wrong.”

If we want to vilify the other and believe we know the whole truth, resolution is futile. At the heart of every conflict is the desire to be heard. In order to move on we must be willing to learn something new.

Restoring trust is risky business. But what’s the alternative? We can stay stuck in resentment and with others who agree with us, or take a chance and seek resolution.

We have nothing to lose but our pride. It’s time to lean into our differences and renew our ability to work together.

link818_5Want to learn more? Here are great resources:

Restorative justice in schools, prisons, and the community see additional resources from University of MN.

Center for Restorative Justice and Reconciliation and innovative restorative justice circles.

Restorative Justice For teachers: A new way to discipline.


Stop the Fight!

It’s almost Thanksgiving. And I can’t tell you the number of people who say they’re dreading dinner conversations with relatives who hold radically different views.


It’s not easy to discuss emotionally-charged issues. Too often we say, “Let’s just not talk about it.”

Unfortunately we need to talk. Whether we’re dealing with a work conflict, personal differences or national policy, talking and finding common ground is the only way forward.

I’m struggling with this just as you are. Yet I believe it’s vitally important for our families, community, and nation to engage and have constructive dialogue.

With this in mind I recently wrote an article for the StarTribute on how to bring civility back into the conversation.

extIf you find this article helpful, please comment on it and share with others.

Focus on Talents

Individuals often asked me, “How do I stay focused on my talents and do what I do best?” Focusing on talents is the fastest, surest way to career success. Here are three questions to help you stay focused on your talents.

Step 1. What do you do best?

Identify the talents you enjoy using most. Are you an analyzer, problem solver, coach, planner, organizer, inventor, or motivator? Start by seeing your talent strengths.

Remember, your talents show up everywhere you do — at home, work, and in leisure activities. If one of your talents is organizing, you’ll organize your desk, closets, and everyone around you. If your talent is planning, you’ll organize vacations, block parties, school picnics, and work projects. Identify your best talents.

Step 2: Where do your talents add value?

Now discover where your talent add value. How do your talents help others? Do you bring order to chaos, gain buy-in for change, speed up sluggish implementation, improve project efficiency? Great. It’s important to pinpoint how and when your talents help others.

Step 3. Who needs your help?

Look around. Who needs your help? What problems are they facing? What can you can do for them? Here are a few examples of what you might say:

I ‘m a creative problem solver. Call me when you need a fresh approach.

I’m a great communicator in technology. Call me when you want buy-in for a new technology.

I’m an inspirational coach who helps others make career transitions. Call me when you’re ready for a change.

I’m a persnickety editor who helps others communicate their message. Call me when you want a message that is clear and succinct.

Above all, speak up. Don’t assume your boss or anyone else knows the value you bring. It’s not bragging. You want your talents to help others achieve their goal.


Start Building Trust

This Spring I walked the El Camino, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain. During this time I had very little access to the news. Upon my return I eagerly turned on the news to catch up. It was shocking to see how little had changed.

doubt and confusion concept - portrait of annoyed beautiful 20s girl in reflection,seeking for solutions,studio shot on gray background

I suddenly realized how much time is wasted contemplating about events and people we don’t trust and fear don’t have our best interests in mind.

A Deming study indicated up to 50% of employees time is wasted due to mistrust.

This is astonishing. Up to half our time can be spent wondering, maneuvering, validating, documenting and protecting ourselves from people and situations.

Mistrust is offer the root cause of stalled projects, failed partnerships, frustrate customers and mediocre results. Lack of trust among coworkers is insidious and erosive. The attitude is, “I’m not going to help you with this project because, frankly, I don’t trust you!”

There’s a big payoff for building trust. High trust relationships mean less stress, more autonomy, better teamwork, and faster results. Everyone wins.

If you want to focus on trust, start with this question, What is one area in my organization (or life), that if I build greater trust, will radically improve performance and results?

Then take action. Reach out, connect and start talking. Stop stoking the fire. Find a shared vision. Believe more is possible. Take a risk. Assume positive intent. And most of all, stick with it. It’s worth the risk.

Let’s stop spinning our wheels and start building trust.

Avoid Bad Decisions

Last week I bought $525. dollars worth of quality knives that I didn’t need. I own a drawer full of knives. I even have duplicates. These are high-quality professional knives anyone would be pleased to own.

Set of knives on magnetic holder on white tiles

It started innocently enough. A friend asked me if I’d be willing to meet with a young man and listen to his pitch. Of course I wanted to honor her request, so I said “Yes”.

Immediately I receive a call from the eager young man and we set a date. He arrives at my house, and is obviously nervous. I find this endearing.

He share his desire to finish college and thanks me for helping him out. Throughout the demonstration he places the sparkling new knives in my hand so I get the feel of working with them.

Before I know it, I’m buying the entire set!

The next morning I realize, “I don’t need these knives! I already have a great set of knives.” Even so, I hate the thought of disappointing this young man and canceling my order.

As I reflect on this incident, I realize how much hidden motives have influenced my decision. I wanted to honor the request of my friend. I also wanted to help the young man reach his goal. And I didn’t want to offend a guest in my home. My desire to fit in, be respected and please others cost me dearly.

Without awareness, hidden motives can hinder good decisions. Quick as a wink we’re down the rabbit hole without thinking. My dad once bought a time-share to a camp site. Despite the fact he didn’t like the outdoors and never went camping! What he really bought was the idea of our family spending quality time together.

Here are a few researched-based facts about how we actually make decisions:
  1. We make gut-level decisions instantly. Then we use our rational minds to justify the decision we just made. I spent a lot of time trying to justify why I needed those knives.
  2. Once we lean in one direction, it’s easier to keep going in that direction. Once I leaned towards “Yes” it was harder to say “No thanks”.
  3. Our desire to be liked and respected greatly influences the decisions we make. I wanted to be seen as a good friend and helpful person.

Good decisions takes effort.

Leaders make decisions all the time — you decide who to hire, where to spend your time and how to address an issue.  The next time you consider an important decision, take a moment and ask yourself:

  • What is motivating me to make this decision? Am I saying yes to make someone happy, gain respect, fit in or go along?
  • Who might be unhappy with this decision? Can I live with this?
  • Does this decision support other priorities? How does it fit with larger goals?
  • Am I willing to revisit the initial decision and change my mind?

It takes insight and courage to make good decisions. Hidden motives are sneaky. Our desire to please other, be helpful, and gain respect are powerful. When in doubt follow this motto: Suspect your reasons — and inspect your motives. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

By the way, I did return those knives!

Discover Your Talents

Do you have untapped potential at work? If so, you’re not alone! Research tell us 80% of employees feel they have untapped potential. And it’s no wonder. Too often we focus on weaknesses — instead of our strengths.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, knowing your talents isn’t a luxury. It’s the key to career success. It’s up to you to discover your talents and bring value.

You Have Talents!

Each of us is born with a unique set of talents. Our talents are what we do easily and effortless. When we’re doing what we do best, we’re unstoppable!.

Here are a three questions to help you pinpoint your talents:

  1. What are your favorite projects or activities at work and at home? Hint: Your talents show up everywhere you do.
  2. When do others ask for your help? Hint: Others see your talents before you do.
  3. How do you annoy the people closest to you? Hint: Whatever you do well, you’ll do to a fault.

Now identify your top 3 -5 talents and ask yourself, “Where can my talents contribute the greatest value to my organization?” Then tell others where you can bring value! Focus on talents and watch your career soar.