AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

In case you missed part 1 of the series, it can be found here: AIMS Communication Review – Part 1.

On with the struggles!

Biggest communication struggle: Asking for help.

If you need help as a leader, good luck.  You should know everything and be able to do everything all by yourself and on your own.

As if.

No one, despite trying to convince you otherwise, knows everything.  As an emerging leader, you don’t know everything either. Heck, seasoned leaders (the good ones) know that they still have stuff to learn and that they need help.

I think there is a BIG misconception out there among new leaders that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  It’s not.  It’s actually a very confident demonstration of strength of character and a willingness to get better.

Some of the most well respected leaders I know (with titles like CEO) ask for help.  They ask for it from the peers, outside counsel, their employees, their families… basically anywhere they can get it.  As you mature as a leader, you start to understand the vastness of the things you don’t know and can’t do.  You realize you can’t possibly have all the information, nor can you be an expert at everything.  If you don’t ask for help, you’ll be sunk.

So ask for help. It’ll show how strong you really are.

Biggest communication struggle: Not getting to the point.

Why do we not get to the point?  Do we not know what the point is, or are we afraid of the reaction of those who are receiving the point?  Two very different scenarios.

If we don’t know the point, how do we figure it out?  Are we relaying information to our team that we aren’t clear on… a new initiative, promotion or mandate from the top?  Remember when we talked about asking for help? Ask for clarification.  Make sure you CLEARLY understand before trying to explain it to others.

If we are afraid of the consequences, it can cause us to beat around the bush and sugarcoat the true message.  That’s really not fair to the person you are talking to.  They deserve the truth, and for the truth to be delivered in a clear, respectful and productive way. It can help to think through the conversation and it’s many possible outcomes BEFORE jumping in.  Consider the ultimate outcome you are going for so you have an idea of where you are going (like a GPS when driving).  State the facts, avoid interjecting too much emotion and be brief.

The other danger of beating around the bush is that it can take a long time… we may start rambling, trying to find just the right thing to say.  That’s counterproductive to the conversation.

Biggest communication struggle: Not being able to say no.

Here’s the conundrum… as a new leader, you want to do well. You want to please your boss, you want to please your employees, you want to do whatever it takes to be successful. What’s the opposite of all that?  Saying no.

But here’s the thing… you also have a responsibility to yourself.  I know, I know… you’re a selfless workaholic who can handle the pressure – in fact you work best under pressure.

Good for you, but you won’t be able to sustain this.  Trust me.

Emerging leaders often don’t know what the true time commitment is for all the stuff they take on.  They don’t realize how much time they do or don’t have.  They don’t know because they don’t have the experience yet.  That leads to the idea that they can say yes to everything.  And they would be wrong.

Instead of a blanket YES when asked to do something, think through a few things:

  • How long will this take?  Since you may not know, ask.  If your boss is asking you to do something, ask how long they think it will take (hopefully they at least have an idea).  Also ask about a deadline and any resources that are available.  Maybe you can divide and conquer.
  • Is this aligned with your current goals?  First, if you don’t know your goals, start there. Now you can determine if the ‘ask’ is in line with where you want to do and what you need to do.  Maybe it’s something you REALLY want to do but has little to do with what you SHOULD be doing… would you do it?

Still having trouble saying no?  Think of this… when you say YES to something, you are actually saying NO to something else.  Saying YES to staying late, you are saying NO to spending time with family or friends.  Saying YES to taking on a special project, you are saying NO to the time you can spend with your employees.

These are not hard and fast rules, as there are times when you absolutely should say YES.  Just as there are times to say no.  Of course the key is balance, and having the ability and guts to say no when the situation is right to do so.

That’s six communication struggles down and more still to go.  Probably enough for at least one more post.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!


Reading is fundamental!

Book with quote for blog

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

Last week at the AIMS Safety Seminar in Orlando, I had the pleasure of teaching the “Operational Leadership and Communication” course.  If there is anything, in my mind, that goes together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s leadership and communication!

After going through a communication assessment to determine their strengths, everyone wrote down their biggest communication struggle and turned it in to me.  Then as a group, we all brainstormed ways to over come that particular issue.  It was a great opportunity to learn from everyone in the room.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to them all, and some students have already emailed me asking to address their particular trouble spots.  If you were in the class, I am happy to do that for you, too.  In the meantime, I thought I would use the blog to address some of the ones that many people seem to be struggling with.

Here we go!

Biggest communication struggle: Being patient with others’ opinions.

You are not alone!  In class we talked about the fact that listening has more to do with an open mind than anything else.  When we hear someone state an opinion that is different from ours, we have a few choices.

  1. Immediately launch into a rebuttal
  2. Think about what to say, then respond
  3. Say nothing at all

Too often, option 1 is taken and that rarely ends well.  In order to make options 2 or 3 a reality, it takes patience, and what allows us to be patient more than anything else?

Thinking of things from the other person’s perspective.  Since there are (at least) two sides to every story, first consider that yours might not be right, or at least it’s not the story that the other person believes.

Take a deep breath.  Try to imagine where they care coming from.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Consider your previous impact on the situation. THEN, feel free to respond.

Biggest communication struggle: Being vocal

This came up a few times, and it doesn’t surprise me considering the class was full of leaders who are still developing their chops. Expressing your thoughts to your peers, employees or even management can be tough… there is a lot of fear that can encircle those situations.

  1. Fear of rejection – either the idea or you as a person
  2. Fear of sounding stupid – you’ll fumble your words and sound incompetent
  3. Fear of indifference – there will be no reaction, just awe-inspiring silence

These are legit, but can be overcome!  Best way to do that?  Just do it.  Work up the gumption, plan what you are going to say and state your case.  As a leader, you MUST have the confidence to state your position or vision.  If you know of a better way, SAY IT!

One way to bolster your confidence to speak up is to do a trial run with some trusted allies.  Let’s say you know the topic at the next manager meeting is going to be reducing guest complaints.  You have sort of an out-of-the-box idea that you fear will get shunned if spoken aloud.  Try it out on a few people one-on-one to gauge their reaction.

Also ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?”  If you won’t die or lose your job, you can handle just about anything else.  And we always make it worse in our minds than it really is.  PLUS, you may have the winning idea, the suggestion that saves the company from total ruin!  You don’t want to hold that back, do you?

Biggest communication struggle: Expecting people to know what I am talking about.

Hello, McFly! We don’t all get it, get it? Seriously, this is something we all suffer from at one time or another.  Why? Because we forget that other people can’t read our minds.

Think of all the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years.  What are the chances that someone else has the exact same database of knowledge and information rolling around in their skull?  Very slim.  So, we can’t take our communication for granted.

I love it when I hear managers say, “he should really know that!”.  Really?  How?  Do you know that he knows that?  Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have the knowledge and context to reach the same conclusion?  If not, get your specifics ready because that’s what it will take to avoid confusion.

If you have been with your company for a while, you know lots of stuff and jargon that a lot of new employees don’t know yet.  You have the benefit of time and experience.  They have someone getting frustrated with them because they don’t understand your abbreviations or nomenclature.  Don’t blame them.  Blame you for either not explaining it or assuming that someone else did.

I think this one goes along with being patient.

And we’re back.

There were a bunch more struggles that I will save for future posts.  In the meantime, if you have questions about communication, leadership, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my inbox is always open.  Drop me a note anytime!

Thanks for reading!


What? You want to read more?  Might I suggest:

My commitments for 2017


Photo – Cedar Point during CNC16!

How many of you have committed to something new for the new year?  If you have noticed that many resolutions that start on January 1 often lack the resolve to make it to February 1, you are not alone.  That’s why I started working on improvements and commitments for 2017 back in the middle of 2016.

Of course my overall commitment was, is, and will continue to be to “Help Leaders Lead“.  Whatever you need to better lead your teams, I am here for you!

To this end, I have updated my website to include eCommerce so it’s easier to get the things you need… like bulk copies (with discounts) of the Myth of Employee Burnout or to sign up for a coaching program.

I can also now do one of those fancy auto-magic PDF download things… so I packaged up 80+ of my favorite leadership articles and made it a free downloadable PDF.

Two of the things I am MOST excited about are my new Mastermind program (currently in pilot phase) and the Myth of Employee Burnout 8-week Supervisor Training Program.

If you haven’t heard of a Mastermind group, it’s essentially peer or group coaching. There are 4 attractions professionals and me, and we get together every 2 weeks via Skype to help each other with current issues.  We also have a private Facebook group to share documents and discuss things between calls.


Some of the topics have included: group interviews, encouraging buy-in and urgency, whether or not to hire a sales manager and communication.

Early feedback for the program has been very positive, including:

“I like learning from other professionals and hearing about what they go through.  Very similar to my experiences.”

“Flexibility to discuss current issues is great.  We can talk about what’s going on and get immediate ideas to implement.”

We’ll wrap up the pilot group in a few months, at which point I will be starting another round based on their feedback.  If you would like to participate in the next round, just let me know.

If you have been looking for a cost-effective way to keep your Supervisors engaged and learning throughout the season, the Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program may be just the ticket!  This 8-week experience will:

  • Cover the major learning points of the book, giving participants a well rounded understanding of employee motivation and engagement
  • Encourage leaders to discuss and explore their leadership strengths and areas of improvement.
  • Build necessary leadership skills like communication, problem solving and leading a diverse workforce.

The program is broken up into 8 lessons and is designed so that a department manager or trainer can meet with a small group of supervisors for about 30 minutes to build the skills needed to lead on a daily basis.

The best part is that you get everything you need… detailed lesson plans, participant workbooks and a copy of the Myth of Employee Burnout for each participant.  You only pay for the number of people going through the program – no waste, no mess!  For more pricing and samples of the included materials, click here.

I don’t know about you, but I am excited for 2017 to unfold!  Below is a list of conferences I will be at to start the year.  If you will be at any of these it would be great to connect!  Just let me know.

Happy New Year – have a safe and prosperous 2017!!


Just a few places I will be to start 2017:

AIMS Safety Seminar
Ops. Supervisor Basic & Advanced (all new content!)
Operational Leadership and Communication (all new format!)
Orlando, FL
January 12-13, 2017

Texas Public Pool Council Annual Conference
Cause and Effect of Leadership
San Antonio, TX
February 7, 2017

American Pyrotechnics Association Winter Conference
The Myth of Employee Burnout
Henderson, NV
February 16, 2017

IAAPA Webinar
The New Supervisor: Tools, Tips, and Talking Points for Today’s Workforce
Time: 1:00 pm EDT
March 1, 2017