Emotional Intelligence . . . in Animals and in Teams

Is your team as emotionally intelligent as a herd of goats?

Need a moment to consider this intentionally odd and humorous question? Here’s some background info that could help you make a more accurate assessment.

The quickie definition of emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand emotions found in oneself and others. (Daniel Goleman is the FATHER of emotional intelligence, and his book Working with Emotional Intelligence is terrific.)

Interestingly, many non-human animals recognize the feelings of others in their group.

Goats, elephants, chimps, and dogs are mammals that respond to the emotions they sense.

These mammals can HEAR and SMELL the contentment or anxiety of others in their group. For example:

  • when a goat twin was separated and lost, another goat slept with the grieving twin who remained behind;
  • when elephants sense distress, they are able to sooth others using vocal sounds (emitting small chirps);
  • when chimps see snares and poaching traps, they dismantle them to save other animals.

These small but meaningful actions show care and compassion.

How can we apply similar caring actions to our HUMAN TEAMS?

  • Sincerely ask how your work mates are doing when stressful life events are experienced within their immediate family. Tell him or her that you are thinking of them during this time.
  • Remember to look for the many different cues that could be signs of anxiety and/or sadness in your colleagues. Unlike many animals, humans cannot smell fear, sadness, and anxiety. However, we can look for small changes in behavior.
  • Consider how you can save your work friends from disaster. How might you set others up for success or redirect them around some of the mistakes you’ve experienced? Altruistic behaviors go a LONG way to create meaningful workplace bonds.

How frequently does your team engage in the above activities?

Always = GREAT JOB!! Keep up your team’s emotionally intelligent work!

Sometimes =  Ok, but improvement is possible. Dig deep and model more of the RIGHT behaviors. Create an emotionally intelligent trend!

Never = Shoot. Your team needs help getting the ball rolling. You should look to an outside source for perspective and insight.

Increasing your team’s EI can transform your organization – from the inside to the outside.




Get Gritty!

Are you a believer in grit or overnight success? 

I enjoy hearing stories of both, but my head 🧠 and heart 💖lean heavily towards the gritty guy or gal who has persevered and succeeded after years of hard work.

I fundamentally believe that gritty people have the edge when it comes to success. And I’m inspired to do MORE and try HARDER after hearing gritty stories. 

We are bombarded with “quick fixes” – 10-day diets and 24-hour full-home makeovers – but in reality, real success is rarely seen overnight.🌙

Leaders, colleagues and parents need to encourage grittiness by trumpeting the gritty behaviors that lead to success. 

Here are two of my favorite stories.

#1. My husband is a 4-time Ironman race finisher💪! 

The monotonous and exhausting training that led up to my husband completing these races is an example of grit embodied. During the months prior to each race, his weekends were filled with long bike rides that started at dawn, hot runs on the track, and exhausting swims. Without that dedication, he would never have been successful. 

#2. Izak has been a part of my extended family for most of his life. 👶

He is the grittiest 18-year-old that I have ever encountered. His family is originally from Niger and they are Muslim. Although he attends a Jesuit high school, he continues to practice his family’s faith, which includes fasting from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer. His dedication to academics, his kind heart, and his ability to be himself at such a young age is awe inspiring. He will attend Indiana University this fall as a 21st Century Scholar. 

Whose grit inspires you? 💭 Give a shout-out to an inspiring gritty role model. 📣

Growing and Failing

I have a huge fear of failure. When failure occurs, my first thoughts are not very productive.

A typical first thought is, “I’m a total disaster! How mortifying!”🤦

I stay in this sad place for hours or days, depending on the size and scope of my failure. 

And then – sometimes with help and sometimes independently – I am able to:

✔️Recognizing my mistakes

✔️Own the role I have played in my failure

✔️ Dig in and course correct to prevent future failures

I believe these traits serve me well and allow me to be a person who has a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset. 

However, I want to be 100% clear. I certainly DO NOT rejoice when failure strikes and gleefully sing about how I’m growing. Best case scenario, I might laugh at my mistake and sarcastically note aloud that “this is clearly an area where more growth is needed.”

Resiliency in the face of failure is challenging. I’ve intentionally built this skill EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR around the sun☀️.

And I do not see that intentional effort stopping anytime soon.♾️

The benefits of having a growth mindset are HUGE and a few should be highlighted. 

☝🏽lower stress

☝🏽better work relationships

☝🏽higher performance levels at work

☝🏽enhanced brain development

I suspect my lifelong fear of failure will never leave me. My only hope is that it never STOPS me from striving and growing. 

Whether you’ve had a rough day or a great day, I hope this perspective brightens it! 



Tap into Your Talented Outliers!

Are you tapping into your outliers at work? If you don’t know what an outlier is . . . you need to read on. I’ll get you up to speed. 

Outliers Defined:

Remember the curve-breakers in middle-school? It was those 4 crazy-smart kids who got 99.5%, 97%, 95% and 92% on the Algebra II exam when the class average was 72.5%.

Your teacher would say,

“Sorry, no curve on this exam because a few people did really well.”

The class would moan. These curve-breakers are also known as outliers.

Had the class been allowed to turn in a team exam (not individual exams), these math-smart outliers would have carried the entire class into A+ range. But alas, that was not our lived reality. The rest of us, who scored in the 70th percentile, took our Cs and glared at the curve-breaking outliers. 

In middle-school it was hard to be an outlier. The majority of the class was mad at these brainiacs. 

How Outliers Make Impact:

But real-world adult life is (very happily) different from middle-school. When we find special abilities of our adult colleagues that are off-the-charts-better than the rest of the group, we highlight these abilities. Or at least, we try to. Right? 

Last week, in two separate group facilitations, our time spent focusing on the outliers of these teams made the biggest impact. The team I worked with in Lafayette, IN had a big “ah-ha” moment when they realized how to tap into Tanya’s unique ability to hear each person’s story and approach each audience differently. The team I worked with in Indianapolis, IN was shocked and grateful to learn that they had a want-to-be editor for all organizational communications. 

Are you tapping into the unique capabilities of your team members?

If not, you are missing an opportunity.

Let me know, and I can shed some light on your team’s unique abilities and how you can magnify their contributions. 

For more about outliers read Malcolm Galdwell’s remarkable book “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

Where is Your Heart at Work?

This Valentine’s week, I’m sharing the love list for the most frequently occurring strengths based on Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment

  • Achievers LOVE making lists
  • Learners LOVE to be on the cutting edge
  • People who lead with Responsibility LOVE gaining the respect of others
  • Relators LOVE deep and authentic relationships
  • Strategic folks LOVE to find the best way to proceed

For the record, I thoroughly love making lists (Achiever is my #3). I even add things to my list at the end of the day to feel extra accomplished. No one will ever see my daily list.

Why do I add the additional accomplishments? Probably because Achievers need a sense of success and purpose every. single. day.

Are there any Achievers out there who feel my pain? 

What’s on your love list?

#strengths #strengthsfinder #learninganddevelopment #strategy #workhappy



Loneliness v. Connection: Grow More Connections

Despite it being the month of hearts, love, red candies, and Valentine’s Day cards, there is more loneliness today than ever before.

Most everyone I know feels a bit more disconnected, distracted, and well . . . lonely.

It’s a sign of our germy and complicated times. But what’s worse is that loneliness was on the rise even before the pandemic (Harvard Magazine January-February 2021).

Being more intentional and creating more connections in 2021 is a must. Why? Because there are big psychological costs to isolation, namely increased anxiety and depression.  Like many psychological matters, there is a stigma around loneliness.  People are embarrassed and ashamed to be lonely. Admitting to being lonely is awkward . . . but ironically such an admission can be remarkably unifying in our current world.

This week I hosted 2 webinars entitled “Using Your Strengths to Grow Connections in 2021.” The response was more than heartening (pun intended). The participants clearly appreciated having a vehicle to discuss this touchy-feely and taboo topic.  Thank you to all who attended. Your candid comments and authentic insights about the challenges of making meaningful connections were invaluable. Similarly, learning how you’ve used your strengths to overcome some of these challenges was inspiring.

If you missed the opportunity to be a part of the webinar and would like to hear a taped version, please let me know. I’d be happy to share it with you.

Of course, if you’d rather inspire your team members to use their strengths more intentionally to combat loneliness and grow connections, I can help you with that as well.

Thanks to attendees and their fantastic organizations: #IUHealth #ElementsFinancial #CapitalGroup #Cabi #bayleon #elevateyourstatus #foundationfe #fairwaylawns #cardon






5 Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

Happy New Year! 2021 has so much promise, it is bursting at the seams. To ensure that the full potential of 2021 is met, everyone needs to chip in and do his or her part. Here are five tips to keep your interpersonal skills (at work and at home) inspiring to your colleagues, family members, and friends. Following these tips will lead to better teamwork, engagement, and positive interactions in any environment.

  1. Don’t Avoid the Truth . . . Do Promote Transparency
  2. Don’t Create a Homogenous Environment . . . Do Value Differences
  3. Don’t Make Vague Generalizations . . . Do Give Specifics
  4. Don’t Be Socially Exclusive . . .  Do Be Socially Inclusive
  5. Don’t Be Self-Serving . . . Do Serve Others

What Do You Gain by Avoiding These Mistakes? 

  1. Honesty and transparency promote trust. Avoiding the truth leads to uncertainty and fear.
  2. Valuing differences and leveraging those differences results in better decision making. Squashing outsider opinions decreases innovation and increases the likelihood of less-than optimal decision making.
  3. When complimenting, generalizations like, “Good work” do not encourage specific behaviors. Similarly, criticizing in a general way does not discourage problematic behaviors. Compliment or criticize the actions that you hope to see repeated or discontinued to help others to improve performance.
  4. Inclusiveness at work and at home means listening to the opinions of others and creating a sense of belonging. Inclusivity breeds comradery and increased morale.
  5. Service to others – whether that is actualized by a sharing generous spirit or sending funds to your favorite non-profit – makes the world a better place.

Be a positive drop in the communal bucket of actions that will make 2021 overflow with growth and goodwill!

Looking for a virtual or in-person workshop that promotes trust, optimizes group decision-making, and improves your team’s performance and morale? Contact me or get a copy of FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team to learn more.

Three Secrets to Giving Meaningful Gifts


It’s that time of year again: December. Are you considering everyone you want to buy for and wondering how you can possibly find the perfect gift for each person on your list? I am always thrilled when I find the perfect gift for a friend or loved-one. There is a certain rush that occurs when I think I’ve nailed the right gift, purchased it, and wrapped it up. While I realize that the standard of finding the perfect gift is unrealistic, the challenge to stay in the “perfect gift” game is remarkably compelling.

After some soul-searching and self-coaching, I’ve decided to change my gift-giving tune. This year I’m striving to give meaningful gifts, but not necessarily “perfect” gifts.

Below are some top-secret, coaching tips for giving meaningful gifts. You’ll see, there is a not-so-subtle theme and (no-surprise) it has to do with focusing on the strengths of each person on your “Buying For” list.

When Choosing a Gift:

  1. Consider what they do BEST. Are they amazingly gifted at starting conversations with strangers or shockingly great at solving problems? How might these natural talents translate into spot-on (and meaningful) gifts? Giving a well-chosen biography or a “how-to” book are great ways to compliment your recipient while giving a gift. For example, “You are so amazing at thinking about the future, I thought you’d love this book about vision boards.”
  2. What talents does this person have that are under-utilized? Could a thoughtful gift prompt the recipient to grow this talent? For example, a journal might encourage a great communicator to start jotting down some her terrific stories. Similarly, an art class for a creative loved-one could be the nudge that helps him to harness his artistic gifts.
  3. Think about how you picture this person? When they are doing what they love, what are they wearing (for example: cozy slippers, athletic shoes, or high heels) and what might be by their side (for example: music playing, coffee brewing, or a kitten napping)? Everyone needs the right gear to set the mood. Tap into the ambiance that helps them to use their strengths.

In Sum:

December isn’t yet a wrap (pun intended). You still have time to consider the most meaningful gifts to give, to thrill the people you love most, and to offer gifts that play to their strengths.

Wishing you a gift-giving season that inspires a fantastic 2021.

(Of course, if you’d rather just focus on helping everyone on your “Buying For” list to understand their strengths and use them daily, here’s a link that will check that box.)


Working from Home (WFH): Love it, Leave It . . . Engage It!


Whether you love it or you’re ready to leave it, WFH is the new normal for many organizations. Business Insider (October 1, 2020) claims that more than half of all Americans want to continue to work from home and two-thirds of companies plan to embrace their current WFH policies permanently.

Staying Engaged While WFH

Given this enormous shift in workplace protocol, it seems obvious that attention should be directed toward increasing employees’ engagement while WFH. Being engaged while working benefits both the employer and the employee. The employer-related benefits of increased employee engagement seem obvious: greater productivity, greater profitability, higher employee retention, increased employee loyalty, and less absenteeism. The less-intuitive (but just as important) benefits for employees who are engaged include better employee health, better home life, and better life satisfaction.

While some organizations have responded to the challenges of tracking engagement during COVID-19 – addressing the emerging obstacles of staying engaged while working from home – these approaches remain the  exceptions and not the norm.

What Can Your Organization Do?

  • The long answer is this: Continue (or BEGIN) to measure employee engagement. Yes! Full steam ahead!! Measuring engagement is CRITICAL at this time. Have you stopped measuring profits or any other key business metrics because of the pandemic?  Of course not. Employee engagement information gained at this time can help you better gauge your organization’s WFH effectiveness. Do your employees have the right tools, feel managerial support, feel a sense of belonging, and have the opportunity to grow while WFH? Gallup’s Q12 assessment (and the extensive research to back it up) indicate that these are the four basic needs connected to engagement. Of course, there will be nay-sayers who might argue, “Things are so different right now, why bother?” or “Our results will certainly be low, who wants to muddy the waters?” These objections are at best short-sighted and at worst flat out wrong. It’s important to remember that this is the new NORMAL and you must begin thinking and acting as if it’s here to stay. Bottom line: measurement of engagement during times of change is a business imperative, and this is a textbook example of great change.
  • The hack answer is this: Focus on the purpose of your organization. Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup Research, is quoted in a Harvard Business Review article (Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity) as explaining why this hack works so well. Harter states that when employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose” greater levels of engagement are inevitable.

What Can Managers Do?

  • The long answer is this: Assess the contributions and the needs of your employees. The daily routines as well as the vibe of work have shifted. Has your manager asked you what you like best and least about WHF? Are you able to contribute the same end results post-COVID as pre-COVID? Are your needs (or things that energize you about work) being met? When you have a great day, what makes it great and why? Employees are most likely to be engaged and happy at work when their strengths are being flexed.

The following personal example may shed some light on how this works. Since March 2020, my business (coaching of individuals and teams) shifted from 100% in-person to 100% video-conferencing platforms. The first two weeks of opting into this new method of WFH were exhausting for me. I thought I would NEVER adjust. Of course, I did and now prefer this new normal. I feel dramatically more productive because I have zero travel time and considerably less prep time to look “presentation ready.” My strength of “Achiever” is more easily flexed while WFH. My energizers – being busy and having new goals – quickly slipped into place when clients recognized how well my COVID-friendly coaching options fit their needs.

  • The hack answer is this: Focus on what gratifies each person most about work. If you are a manager or supervisor, ask your direct reports to answer this question: “When you have a GREAT day WFH, did you:
  1. get a large amount of work accomplished;
  2. get a chance to speak up and take charge;
  3. connect personally with people; or
  4. think, plan or learn about the next steps for the organization.

Their answers will allow you to manage each individual’s work flow more effectively and help them get more “work highs” instead of “work lows.”

Don’t let your team drift into disengagement. Need some help getting started? That’s why I’m here. Whether you’re interested in measuring engagement, supporting your team members and giving them more “work highs,” or hoping to build greater workplace camaraderie in a virtual setting, I have some fresh ideas to help.





The Challenge of Giving (and Receiving) Meaningful Feedback: It’s Like Walking a Tightrope

Feedback helps us right our path as well as stay on course. Helpful feedback should make us think . . . about ourselves and about others.

Good communication revolves around the ability to give and receive feedback in a productive manner. As a coach, I give feedback regularly to individuals and teams. If my message is too harsh, it will be disregarded because it is wounding. If my message is too soft, it will not provoke growth and change. I struggle to split the difference and find middle ground. It is a tightrope I walk every day.https://youtu.be/TSfGS7rv3co

I ask for anonymous feedback from all participants after every presentation I give. The feedback I receive keeps me growing, occasionally lifts my spirits, and sometimes keeps me humble. No one is perfect but without honest and meaningful feedback, how can we get better?

Below are tips for giving and receiving feedback. While these tips may not contain new information, they are helpful reminders for me, and possibly you.


When Giving Feedback:

  1. Make it relevant. The purpose of meaningful feedback is to help someone improve. Make sure your feedback is aligned with the receiver’s purpose, goals, and desired impact. Bottom line: it’s not about you, it’s about them.
  2. Be specific. Vague feedback, for example, “Your proposal lacked clarity” has less impact than specific feedback. Specific feedback, “You need to create a proposal template that lists specific steps for the client as well as a call to action that’s connected to a timeline” is dramatically more helpful and sets a specific benchmark for future performance. Is the feedback related to a trend or is it a one-time issue that needs to be addressed?
  3. Listen. What is the other side of the story? When delivering feedback, it is important to listen to the receiver and hear the pieces of the story that you may not know. If there are obstacles that lead to less than ideal performance, how can you help to eliminate these obstacles?
  4. Be kind. Remember that it takes at least 5 positive comments to outweigh a negative one. Being sensitive to the feelings and human circumstances of others is critical. Did a personal issue contribute to a lack of performance?


When Getting Feedback:

  1. Look for a pattern.When receiving constructive criticism ask yourself, “Have I heard this before?” Instead of chalking it up to “it’s just the way I am” (whether that be talking too fast, interrupting others, or seeming preoccupied when others need your help), ask yourself, “How can I minimize this behavior?” Change is hard . . . but not impossible. Take note when you hear multiple comments related to the same issue. Who could help you change this pattern of behavior?
  2. Be open-minded.It is easy to think, “This is their problem.” Resist this temptation. Ask yourself, “What would it be like to be in my critique-er’s shoes? What is their motivation for giving me this feedback? How is this negatively impacting their work, life, or emotional state?
  3. Listen. Of course, right? You must listen to the feedback, even when the feedback is not 100% accurate, warranted, or welcome. Remember how difficult it is to give appropriate feedback and cut your feedback-giver some slack. (This is especially true if your feedback-giver is less seasoned.) Check yourself for defensiveness. It is not becoming (to anyone). Sadly, defensiveness, and its partner in crime – hostility – can surface during moments when feedback initially appears off the mark.
  4. Be kind.Always (always, always) thank your feedback-giver. This is both critically important and difficult to do. Be sure to have a canned response for feedback that is difficult to digest immediately. For example, “I am so glad you’ve shared this with me. Thank you. Obviously, my intent was not to FILL IN THE BLANK (confuse you, be hostile, seem unfriendly). I will certainly give your comments some thought.”


Giving and receiving feedback is challenging! Be sure to walk this tightrope carefully. Falling in the direction of anger, indifference, or disregard – whether you are giving or receiving feedback – can have negative repercussions. Do you know someone who is an expert feedback giver or receiver? Send this on to them with your thanks! Positive feedback is always a day brightener.

Interested in learning more about how leaders can use feedback to catapult their teams to greater success? Check out my newest book FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team.