We’re more connected today than ever before. Teams are either working from

home or in a flex environment. Keeping engagement and communication open can be rather daunting. And if there are performance problems? Well, that can be the most difficult issue of all. How do you communicate to your team or leadership there are changes which need to be made to move the business forward?

Do you make them part of the conversation or do you talk at them? Do you talk about problems with performance or do you talk around it? If how you talk about an issue offers no clear definition of the problem and no course of action, this is a lose-lose situation rather than a win-win. So, how do we turn it around? Here are some steps you may find helpful.

What Kind of Conversation Do You Need to Have?

If we imagine bringing up tough issues will provoke a defensive, counter-productive exchange, we’re not giving much credence to our people. Let’s ask ourselves, first, how our own reasoning and actions have contributed to the problem we face. Could our own perceptions and views be making things worse?

The other thing to ask ourselves is what kind of conversation do we need to have. How dire is the problem and how open is our relationship with our team? Consider this. When we’re faced with discussing performance issues there are two types of conversations we can have for open dialogue.

  • Stagnate and conditioned. We tell our people what we think is wrong and tell them how we think things should be corrected. Or we ask for opinions without really listening. We are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think and can stifle dialogue which can help us improve as listeners and leaders.

  • Radical candor. Without conflict or embarrassment, we communicate clearly. We offer our opinion and expect others to offer theirs leaving no room for interpretation or misrepresentation.

Many of us know radical candor is the better conversation style, but what can we do to

prepare? What do we need to know first?

Stephen R. Covey explains it best when he says, "Listen with the intent to understand." It sounds good, but what does it mean? And how can we best facilitate his advice?

The first step is to identify how you listen. There are three listening styles and they are reflective listening, active listening, and power listening. What these have in common is that they are all done with intent. Poor listening skills lead to misunderstandings, hurt, anger, resentment, and frustration. Here are 9 helpful listening skills that you can begin to implement right away.

9 Ways to Focus Your Listening Skills

1. Turn off and tune out distractions – phone, email, chatter

2. Quiet your mind

3. Be intentional and fully present - don’t rehearse what you’re going to say in rebuttal

4. Listen to the words, tone of voice, and what is not being said

5. Watch the speaker’s body language and facial expression

6. If advice is asked for, give it. But don’t offer it without request

7. Avoid judgement

8. Listen for intent, don’t interrupt, and provide feedback

9. Clarify your understanding of what’s being said

We may not be able to do all of the above all of the time, but it’s the effort which means the

most. From time to time, there may be emotions which have run high from past slights,

misunderstandings, and resentments. These can lead to defensiveness and cynicism. But with empathy, curiosity, intent, and mindfulness these challenges can be met and migrated with success.

- Dr. Jill Jay

  • Dr. Jill Jay

Habits and narratives replay in different relationships across different areas of our lives. These recurring patterns can be destructive; like consuming too much sugar, or drinking too much. Other habits may have served us well when we were younger, such as self-sufficiency in the absence of good parental support. But the purpose of those habits have now expired. Being intentional about evaluating our habits is a good exercise.

Habits by nature aren't something we think about – rather we do them automatically from muscle memory. As we enter our seventh month of Covid-19, what new habits have you been building or old habits have you been intentional in breaking? Adapting new habits can be a challenging task. However, it is worth asking ourselves a set of questions to get us thinking. 

  • Can you handle multiple competing demands? The demand on your mind from the old habits and the demands of new habits may be in competition. For example, old habit of too much Netflix might be in competition of a new habit of an hour walk… what might you do to balance these competing demands?

  • Adaptability can be a major differentiator of successful individuals. How do you feel about building habits that will support your success? 


  • What actions are you taking in response to the desire to change a habit? Small steps are key here.

  • Have you gotten to the “why” behind old habits and developed a “why” for the new habit. 

We are in challenging times, and times of opportunity to take a new look at how we are showing up in our lives. How can we bring empathy, curiosity and compassion to ourselves, to help build new habits? Lets all choose to challenge ourselves in this uncertain season.

- Dr. Jill Jay

  • Dr. Jill Jay

We are facing new mountains of challenges that we have not faced before. Unpredictability is now our new normal. Work, how we shop, bank, eat out etc. is changing like the weather. Resources are stretched to the limit for most small businesses, individuals and families. Distractions are more intense in this time of uncertainty. Job insecurity, retirement worries, and continued cut backs make it difficult to focus. It is a process for each of us to grieve the losses, face fears of uncertainty, become comfortable with the unknown and acknowledge that we each feel helpless to some extent as we coexist with a virus that continue to infect people every day.

We have to ask ourselves some tough questions...

- Are we holding on to an activity, product, strategy, or relationship whose season has passed?

- What do we need to change as we enter this new season?

We can make the intentional choice to move forward in measured steps. Different steps than we may have originally planned on pre-COVID19, but actionable-steps nonetheless. Forward movement will keep us motivated. Focus on key activities that will help you build a strategy to get through the tough changes and new realities we are facing. Focus on top goals (yes, even if they've been revised since quarantine) – our goals were important then, and they are still just as important now, and need our attention now more than ever.

Some goals could be distracting. Make it a regular practice to define your goals. Undefined goals provide no direction. Focus on one specific goal and do it with excellence. It can be very simple – such as self care. This could include good sleep, exercise (adapted for our current realities of course), healthy eating, connecting with friends via Zoom or FaceTime, phone calls, emails, Facebook etc. Consider these specific questions.

"What relationships can I nurture and grow? What activities can I keep up with at any significant level? What am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? Getting these questions answered will helps to set goals in line with this new reality. Keep score. Yes, literally. Track and measure on a daily/weekly basis how you are doing, this helps monitor your progress, correct where you are off course and celebrate where you see even the smallest of wins. We all need some sustainable motivation for new growth and


Next week I'll be sharing "8 Tips" to best monitor your progress. This weekend, consciously and intentionally begin asking yourself the two tough questions I mentioned above.

Until then,

Dr. Jill Jay