Last Updated on August 25, 2020 by karwisch

This morning I was reading through the About page of my friend Justin Blackman over at where I was reminded of a wonderful poem by Shel Silverstein.


Hippo’s Hope –a poem by Shel Silverstein

There once was a hippo who wanted to fly —
Fly-hi-dee, try-hi-dee, my-hi-dee-ho.
So he sewed him some wings that could flap through the sky —
Sky-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, why-hi-dee-go.
He climbed to the top of a mountain of snow —
Snow-hi-dee, slow-hi-dee, oh-hi-dee-hoo.
With the clouds high above and the sea down below —
Where-hi-dee, there-hi-dee, scare-hi-dee-boo.

(Happy ending)
And he flipped and he flapped and he bellowed so loud —
Now-hi-dee, loud-hi-dee, proud-hi-dee-poop.
And he sailed like an eagle, off into the clouds —
High-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, bye-hi-dee-boop.

(Unhappy ending)
And he leaped like a frog and he fell like a stone —
Stone-hi-dee, lone-hi-dee, own-hi-dee-flop.
And he crashed and he drowned and broke all his bones —
Bones-hi-dee, moans-hi-dee, groans-hi-dee-glop.

(Chicken ending)
He looked up at the sky and looked down at the sea —
Sea-hi-dee, free-hi-dee, whee-hi-dee-way.
And he turned and went home and had cookies and tea —
That’s hi-dee, all hi-dee, I have to say.

Did you read the poem all the way through? Good.

Question 1: Which choice was your knee jerk reaction as the way the hippo should go?

When you read the choices, did you think “Well if it were me, I would…”? I know people that fit into both the “try” and the “chicken” category.

  • I know those who would try because they believe that they can succeed even if their project or idea seems like a hippo who is about to break all his bones.
  • I know those who would go home and be fine that they were called a chicken because they survived. Let someone else take crazy risks, I’ll be smart and live to stay safe another day.
  • I also know those who would want to go home but would bristle at being in the category of “chicken” and that would spur them on. These are the Marty McFly’s of our world. They are not going with their own instincts but instead allowing themselves to make a choice based on the thoughts and opinions of others.

Question 2: Which was the most satisfying ending for the hippo?

When you read that there was a chance the hippo could fly, did you lean toward that being the best ending? He wants to fly, he risks everything and succeeds?

Was it more satisfying to see the hippo break all his bones? Serves you right hippo… What made you even consider you could fly?

Or perhaps you enjoyed the final ending most. Would you rather the danger be averted entirely? Perhaps just feeling the tension released for the hippo was more satisfying than the idea that he might succeed and fly.

Question 3: Do you give others the same advice you give yourself?

When you answered the first two questions, did you choose the same approach as you did ending? If it is someone else taking the risk would you rather see them take the plunge than taking the risk yourself?

If you are watching someone in your same position make a choice, do you believe that they should go for it, even if you would probably play it safe?

Take another look at the poem.

  • Do you give others the same advice you give yourself?
  • Do you advise your children to play it safe when you yourself tried to fly? Vice-versa?
  • Do you see a difference in how you would give advice now than at another season in your life?
  • When someone else is taking the risk, do you tell yourself a story that they are more likely to succeed?

Finally, do you think that you will regret the moments where you did not try to fly? 

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash




Last Updated on August 28, 2017 by karwisch

With each day that passes and with each new advancement in technology, our brains are freed up from carrying around facts like phone numbers, addresses, and birthdates. We are now able to retrieve information almost instantly from anywhere and then backup new data in the cloud where a hungry washing machine or a cup of coffee cannot destroy it. We trust these outboard brains so much that most of us cannot recall more than a few phone numbers of friends and family.

Outboard brains can take many shapes; a dry erase calendar in our kitchen, a journal, a smart phone or a post-it-note on the corner of our monitor where we prominently display our network password. There is a moment, however, that we often do not think to use an outboard brain, where it could help us shift seamlessly from informal conversation into idea generation. 

The issue we are attempting to overcome happens when we have entered into a state of flow in our conversation but we have not yet entered into a recognizable collaboration session. It often starts at lunch or on a coffee break or at the tail end of another discussion.

When the shift occurs from conversation to collaboration we often make mistakes due to a fear of losing that great idea we just generated, or getting lost within the overall idea landscape. These mistakes usually take the shape of either minimizing our listening or maximizing how aggressively we push our ideas forward in the conversation. Many times it is both of these combined.

If we cannot perfectly hold an idea in our mind while fully listening to ideas that are already being shared, it makes sense that we would entrust these ideas to an outboard brain.

So let’s talk about what the shift in conversation looks like so we know when and how to incorporate the outboard brain.

  1. The reason we are in the same room together is not formally for the purpose of problem solving or idea generation.
  2. Our enjoyment of the conversation and lack of self-consciousness causes us to enter into a creative state of flow.
  3. Through the course of a regular discussion, a need or problem is discovered.
  4. Without those involved realizing it, all of these factors combine and form a rapid generation of ideas.
  5. One or more individuals involved in the conversation becomes overwhelmed by the sheer number of ideas that are being generated or by a lack of vision of how these ideas combine together.
  6. One or more individuals involved stops listening in order to retain their idea, interrupting others and start pushing their idea harder, or begins to take notes vigorously on a notepad and disconnects from what is being shared.

The trouble with legal pads as your only outboard brain

Capturing information in an informal environment often takes the form of opening up a legal pad, or journal, and taking notes. The trouble with legal pads is that they are only usable as a map by one person in the conversation and we often are forced to dominate the flow of the conversation to make sure that we get all of the ideas captured. We usually end up with two separate note pads or with someone depending on another for capturing and restating the ideas.

The trouble with whiteboards as your only outboard brain

Many workplaces are equipped with whiteboards and markers to capture ideas the are generated in brainstorms and meetings. Whiteboards are fantastic when they fit the need of the meeting, however, there are a few times when they are not the best fit. Here are a few problems with whiteboards.

  1. In order to use them, we often must rise from our chairs, uncap a marker, and turn our back on our fellow conversationalist in order to capture the thought in our head. When we are in a conversation that is shifting into idea generation, rising from the table can disrupt flow by being an unexpected gear shift.
  2. Holding the marker is also a single point of power in the conversation and we often feel that only one of us can hold the marker at the same time. Two people uncapping markers at the same time can cause a feeling of conflict and cause a disorganized feeling within the conversation.
  3. Once something is written on the board, the only way to move it is to erase it and rewrite it again somewhere else. What often happens instead is that we continue to write further and further away from our original space and we end up with ideas that are not sorted, prioritized or as clear as would benefit the current conversation.

Post-it-notes to the rescue!

The best method I have found for engaging an outboard brain spontaneously during conversation is to make sure that I always carry two sharpie markers and a post-it-note pad on my person. I also make sure these simple tools are available at all times in locations where conversations occur naturally in the work environment.

At the moment when someone involved in the conversation recognizes that lots of ideas are happening, they simply uncap a sharpie marker and write one of the ideas down in large letters on a post-it-note. They peel off the post-it-note and set the note over onto table, desk or whatever is available. This can be done in a way that shows the current speaker that you have an idea to capture but also that you want to return back to their thought as soon as possible.

The key to making this work is simple. If I am speaking and in mid thought and I see you reach over and write something on a post-it-note, I take that moment to write the concept words of the idea I am sharing on a post-it-note pad as well. When we are both finished I launch back into my idea and finish it up. Because I saw you write on your own note I know the topic and can ask you to share it with me.

Using Legal pads, post-it-notes, and whiteboards together well.

  1. Capture main ideas onto post it notes and place where they can be seen by the group
  2. Capture specific turns of phrase into your journal and note the main topic that it is attached to for future retrieval
  3. Use whiteboards to map out the inner workings of ideas once you have posted them, discussed them and prioritized them.

I hope this breakdown has helped you to think through those shifts from conversation to collaboration. What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

 Photograph by Brodie Vissers

Tools of the trade

Last Updated on August 21, 2017 by karwisch

About a month ago, I went out to my car to drive downtown for a talk I was giving. My car was parked on the street and as it came into view I noticed that a large portion of my front bumper was missing. The passenger door was caved in and there were long red streaks down the rest of the side toward the trunk. On the ground beside my rear wheel was a chunk of someone’s else’s front bumper. There were no other cars around. I never heard a crash and no one came to our door to let us know this had happened. The police came out and filed a report. The insurance agent did an estimate. A tow truck took the car to the shop. All of these things happened while I retained a good mood and did not experience a wash of anxiety.

Was this because I hated that car and wanted it gone? Nope. In fact I was really hoping I could get another five years out of it.

Was it because I am an improv evangelist and I “yes, anded” my way into a blissful state? Nope. Though yes anding things definitely helps in certain situations, it was not even necessary this go round.

The answer to my mood and acceptance of the situation is that I was primed for it. Just a few weeks prior to this experience with my car, our other car also had a problem. This time however there were lots of different emotions running amuck.

We were all in the car driving my wife and my mother in law to the airport on the south side of Atlanta. About an hour and a half drive with moderate traffic. We had given ourselves plenty of time and decided to stop and get something to snack on. As we were about to drive away from the drive thru window the engine cut out. The line for the drive thru was so long that it wrapped around the entire building. I tried to start it again but to no avail. My five year old started to scream about something from the back seat. I tried the ignition again but it wouldn’t crank. I decided to put it into neutral and push it. It wouldn’t go into neutral.

People behind me were starting to get upset. Everyone’s food was getting cold. The drive thru workers were attempting to run food and debit cards back and forth past my window. We finally figured out how to get someone near enough to our car to jump it off. We thanked them and headed off down the street looking for an auto parts store. Unfortunately, a mile down the road,  it happened again. This time we were on the side of the road and fast cars were flying by. The clock was ticking. Our window of opportunity to get my family to the airport was closing. If they didn’t make the flight then they wouldn’t get to the start of their tour in Scotland. I felt a wash of anxiety and started to work on calming myself down. The next step was easy. We picked up the phone and called for both a tow truck and our relatives who live nearby.

An hour and forty five minutes later, everything was back in balance. My wife and mother in law were nearing the airport and would make it on time. I was back at home with my son getting our other car ready for our day of adventure. It was all ok. Everything worked out.

This was when I started to process my reactions to the situation. Why had I gotten so upset about dealing with our broken down vehicle? My first thought was “Well I would be fine if it were just an inconvenience, but there was so much pressure to get out of the way at the drive thru and to get everyone to their flight on time.” This didn’t hold up long under scrutiny however when my brain returned “All of those things are inconveniences. No one was in real danger. No one was in pain. Everyone was healthy. This was just one big inconvenience.”

So primed with this experience and the following mental processing I was able to look at my wrecked front end and think “well this is inconvenient. Glad no one was hurt here. I hope the driver of the other car was ok.”

I now hope that this  new way of thinking will last.  When things are going wrong I would like to be able to find perspective and think “Well this is inconvenient, but everyone is safe. It will all work out.”

Last Updated on August 18, 2017 by karwisch

I have only been a part of a daily blogging challenge since the beginning of August 2017, but already I see great value and results in my life from participating.

1.) The daily deadline has pushed me to the edges of my creative flow and formed it into a consistently achievable and sustainable state of being.

2.) It has allowed me to form real value from the fringe thoughts that have floated around my mind for some time now.

3.) It has shown me that I can make time for creating content even at the busiest time of my year.

4.) It has generated ideas for curriculum, exercises and coaching techniques that are exciting and fun.

5.) it has gained me the attention of potential clients who formally we’re on aware of my skill set and offerings.

After speaking with Jason Montoya this morning, I’ve decided to challenge a few friends, and a hoard of acquaintances and strangers to blog along with me every weekday for the month of September.

My goal for this would be to directly affect and accelerate the personal development and growth of my colleagues by prompting them with specific thought-provoking questions. By generating content in blog form and posting it on a daily basis we would not only be able to speak into the minds of others on that topic but also clarify for ourselves what we think, feel, and believe about that step in our personal journey.

The challenge will be specifically to write 400 or more words every weekday on a specified topic. Each participant would post this entry on their personal blog, business blog, or We would all link back to a Facebook page so that everyone can cross reference and read about the successes and learning moments of others on that same topic.

I will be developing the list of prompts over the next few days but if you would like to jump on board this challenge sight unseen just post a comment down below or email me at

If you would like to be a part of creating the prompt list for the blog entries let me know that as well.

I look forward to blogging with you!

Last Updated on August 17, 2017 by karwisch

It is 8:00 AM and you open up your laptop to check your email. There is still no response from your friend who you wrote two days ago. That’s strange, you think.  This friend always replies back right away. This is when you start to think that maybe something is wrong. Is everything ok? Has there been an accident? Or maybe it was something I said when we were on the phone together last week. Or maybe it was the email itself? You go back and read the email again. Perhaps it was the second paragraph. I thought when I wrote it that it might be too aggressive. Yeah, that’s it. That’s why I haven’t received a response.

Three days go by and the story that you have begun to tell yourself about how unhappy your friend and colleague is with you has reached new heights. You decided that your friend is angry and that this situation may be unreconcilable. You decide to pick up the phone and call but it goes straight to voicemail, of course. So do your next two calls.

You’ll obsess over the weekend about what you should do next. You just can’t imagine what caused this strong reaction.

It is now Monday morning. You open up your email at 8 o’clock to start your day. There in your inbox is the message from your friend which reads, “I am home from vacation! I had a great week unplugged and off the grid! Can’t wait to talk to you soon and catch up.”

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? How often do we interpret the silence of others? So frequently we attribute meaning, and even a fully fleshed story, to a complete absence of information.

Perhaps this scenario seems a little paranoid to you. Let’s change the concept just slightly. In the email, we said something as a joke but upon rereading it we see it was something that could be read as offensive by your friend. Now the silence begins. No answers and phone calls go to voicemail. Seem any more plausible?

When we interpret silence by giving a story where there is no story we open up our imagination to something that becomes quite dangerous.

Recently, when talking to a friend, I heard about someone he dated who, if he didn’t respond to a text for five minutes, began to text again and again within seconds; each successive one rapidly filling up the text message inbox. He felt like he couldn’t be away from his phone even for a few minutes. Sure, this might stem from additional issues and insecurities but at a base level it is the silence that is being given the meaning.

What if we agreed that silence has no meaning. If the person’s body language seems fine and there is no issue that you know of, then the silence means nothing. Not when we are eating dinner. Not when we are driving in the car. Silence is just silence.

Body language is communication. Words are communication. Stern looks are communication. Silence on the other hand, is literally… nothing.

Last Updated on August 16, 2017 by karwisch

As humans, we often come equipped with a handful of paralyzing fears, many of which seem to contradict our personalities, interests or occupations. Today I have put together my FIVE biggest fears in hopes that they might make others realize they are in good company when it comes to irrational phobias.

The stories below are told as I remember them, not necessarily as they actually happened.

5.) Ocean creatures

Specifically, the kind of creatures that like to be underfoot when someone is walking in the ocean.

When I was about 12 years old I went with my family to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins in Florida. I was so anxious about going into the water that I brought with me an old pair of tennis shoes to wear into the water. Nowadays there are water shoes you can wear but I had decided to invent my own. The morning of our beach visit as we were putting on our swim trunks I grabbed my shoes from the porch and hid them in my towel. Upon arrival at the beach slipped them onto my feet with no socks and made my way down to the water. I was so anxious about the situation that I didn’t notice that something was pretty off about the shoes. They were several sizes too big for me. They weren’t even my shoes. These were my uncle’s shoes. My uncle’s brand new tennis shoes of the same brand and style as my old pair. My uncle was so angry with me that his face went that crazy shade of beet red that they show in cartoons. Thankfully my parents were there to try to sort it all out.

4.) Syringes

Specifically, the pokey pokey sharp end that pokes.

When I was about 8 years old I went with my mom to the doctor’s office for my yearly checkup. The nurse was an old school nurse who didn’t have time for kids and their hijinks or bellyaching. This nurse had no issue showing me the hypodermic needle as she filled it with an evil serum. She kept making gestures that drew my eyes to the needle as she prepared to stick it in my posterior. I talked nervously to her about how I was fine until all of a sudden I wasn’t fine anymore. I had a vasovagal reaction and passed out head first towards the floor. Nowadays when I get anything done I make sure the nurse knows what is possibly going to happen and I make sure never to look right at the needle.

3.) Royally messing something up beyond my ability to repair

Specifically, an expensive and time-consuming failure involving a car engine, plumbing, or electrical work.

As a kid I loved to see how things worked. I would take things apart, study how they worked and then completely fail to get them back together and working again. I had a cousin that was extremely mechanically inclined and a grandfather that could take a tank apart and put it back together again as a lawnmower with no extra pieces. I just didn’t have the mind for it. For some reason or another, I was given lots of opportunities to “try again” on fixing things that were broken. These opportunities almost always led to me showing how badly I could ruin whatever it was I was working on. These days I still have trouble getting myself up to the challenge of fixing something that is broken without breaking out into a cold sweat.

2.) Crowds

Specifically, crowds that have a lot of people in them.

This one makes little to no sense to most people. Because I am an actor, a speaker, and an improviser, and I flourish in front of an audience they think that I should have the same rush when I am in an unorganized crowd of people. In my mind, audiences are good and crowds are monstrous evil masses of evil monsters. If I have a job to do at a function featuring a large crowd I can keep things under control.  If I have no job and no prior knowledge of the group, I can get pretty shaken up after about ten minutes or so. Luckily for me, I usually have a job to do in those situations or I know a few people that I can break off with and minimize the stress.

1.) Missing the cues of a desperate friend in need

Specifically, friends who are close to ending their own life 

When I was in college I had a friend try to commit suicide in the dorm bathrooms. Luckily we found him, got him to the hospital and he lived. Afterward, we went to visit him where he was resting and healing up and we found that he was behind a series of locked doors. The explained what had happened and what signs we might notice if something like this was ever a possibility again in the future. I am normally so sensitive to these types of strong emotions in others that it really bothered me that I was not able to see what was happening to him. Nowadays it creeps back into my mind that there may be someone close to me that is putting on a smile and a brave face but is really having a terrible time inside and thinking about ending it all. I try to make sure my friends know that if they ever feel that way that I am there for them and they always have someone to talk to.

You always have someone to talk to. If you start thinking those kinds of thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are never alone.


Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

Last Updated on August 15, 2017 by karwisch

I spend my days as an evangelist of the “Yes, and” mindset. Working with leaders and collaborators, I help them to understand with respectful engagement and a non-judgemental environment can do to improve their culture and consequently boost their profits.

I spend my evenings attempting to do the same with my five-year-old son Elijah. Maintaining a “Yes, and” mindset as a parent is a precariously important job. I have my good days and I have my “minimize the damage” days.

On the good days I succeed at 1.) being present, 2.) listening, 3.) accepting my son’s reality, and 4.) responding in a way that teaches, protects, and guides.

So on the “minimize the damage” days, it always seems to go wrong in exactly that same order. I find myself tired, distracted and therefore not really present or mindful. If presence isn’t in place, my listening surely isn’t going to be there either. Without listening there is no chance I can accept his reality and it is nearly impossible to respond the way I want.

I find my knee jerk and overly exhausted responses to be focused not on protecting him but on protecting myself. It is almost as if I were coddling the last bit of raw nerve I have from being attacked by his outburst of pure emotion. The very moment that I realize I have veered away from my best self, I go to work to “minimize the damage” and then reset myself mentally while restoring my relationship with Elijah.

The focus is always on getting back to yes with my son. I don’t mean the type of yes where I give him anything he wants. I mean that I am always focused on getting back to a place of presence, listening, acceptance and proper response.

Are you struggling to get back to “yes” with your child? Are there any times when respectful engagement seems impossible? Let me know in the comments below.



Last Updated on August 14, 2017 by karwisch

The year was 1987. I stood at my dad’s bedroom door begging him to take me and my Ziploc bag filled with quarters to the arcade so that I could take another stab at playing Mrs. Pacman or Galaga. Sometimes you would wait patiently behind another person who had a stack of quarters balanced between the joystick and buttons signifying that they would be playing several games before departing. If they were terrible at the game you would watch them rapidly burn through their quarters and your wait would be short. If they were amazing at the game, you would watch them play eternally on just one quarter and your wait was never ending. Either way, it was never a big deal to wait for a game. It was also never a big deal to spend a dollar. Now, remember this is the 80’s so a dollar then is like a million dollars today.

Fast forward to present day where we stand in line to get the newest PlayStation or Xbox game. We stand behind 20 other shoppers, hoping we get to the counter before supplies run out. We are prepared to spend somewhere in the realm of $30-$50 for the thrill. If you are terrible at the game you might play it for a solid two weeks. If you are amazing at the game you might be finished with it before the end of the weekend. Sure you can take it back and trade it in at Gamestop, but you are still going to have a good $10-$15 burned for the privilege.

This past weekend I broke a fiver and gave quarters to my nieces and son to play the ridiculous games at the bowling alley game room. They had the absolute best time playing games that lasted about 30 seconds and maybe winning a starburst or, more likely, nothing at all. We left with big smiles on our faces having had a great time.

For the love of Peter, we will even put a dollar in a slot machine and laugh when we get no return on our investment.

So why is it that for a game on our smartphone we are willing to do anything and everything humanly possible to play a game without spending any money? I have seen people commiserate for twenty minutes over spending 99 cents on a game that everyone has told them is an amazing time and will take them a month to beat. Worse, if a person thinks a game is not as good as they expected, they will write a one-star review complaining that there is no way for them to get their dollar back. I have also watched as people play a game that gives them hours of entertainment and escape, but when a new bundle or level pack comes out, they will put the phone down in disgust saying “Well I’m not going to PAY for it.” They seem betrayed that someone would go and pitch, design and promote a game and then expect to get paid for their work. Unbelievable. The audacity!

So where is the disconnect? What psychology is at play here? Please educate me in the comments below.

Photo by Ben Neale on Unsplash

Last Updated on August 11, 2017 by karwisch

At the beginning of my career I was asked to join a group tasked with brainstorming, strategizing and implementing a new campaign for a major brand. I was young at the time but I was known for high intuition and clarity in my ideas. As we began the first session, the facilitator started by simply saying “there are no bad ideas” and then launched into the first idea generating activity. One of the participants put out an idea to the group and as the facilitator began to write it on the board, one of the more senior level participants said “That won’t work. We’ve tried it before and it just doesn’t work. Next idea.” The facilitator said, “Now now, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.” The senior level participant replied, “Well, of course, there are. We can’t use every idea, and that was one that I know for a fact won’t work.” What followed was pretty easy to guess. Nobody wanted to put out ideas, the facilitator became frustrated and the woman whose idea had been swatted down sat on her hands in silence for the remainder of the session. This was not an example where someone was brought to tears or needed to go to HR. It was, however, a completely ineffective collaborative space. Collaborative spaces need to be crafted in order to work productively and in this case, no space was crafted at all.

In addition, this is not the worst way that a collaborative space can be unsafe. We can also add forcing of idea acceptance, sexual harassment,  name calling, shaming and many more toxic behaviors. Below we will dive into five ways to craft a safe collaborative space.

5.) Create and monitor safe practices in your Norms

Norms (often called team norms or meeting norms) are an agreed upon way of behaving in a collaborative setting. They define how the group should interact with one another. For the best norm creation and adoption, allow the members of the team to have a hand in creating them.

Here are a handful of norms from

State your “headline” first, then the supporting information as necessary

Be brief and meaningful when voicing your opinion

Speak your truth, without blame or judgment

Be intrigued by the difference you hear

Expect to be surprised

Now let’s look at a bit of advice from

Once developed, team norms are used to guide team member behavior. Team norms are used to assess how well team members are interacting. Team norms enable team members to call each other out on any behavior that is dysfunctional or that is negatively impacting the success of the team. – Susan M. Heathfield at


4.) Define and practice the fundamentals of positive ideation

Working with a collaborative culture that focuses on the improv concept of “Yes, and” reveals a steady stream of ideas that can be built upon over time. During ideation, our goal is to attain flow as a group and to find solutions that would be difficult for a single team member to realize on their own. Respectful engagement is the name of the game here. Acceptance of ideas should be there even when an agreement with the ideas is not. There is never a need to point at a person or an idea and call it “bad.” In positive ideation, we attempt to give ideas legs rather than knocking them down. Seeing first hand that something can’t stand under its own weight is almost always more effective than being told the idea won’t work. Conversely, you will be surprised how often a working solution can be found as a result of a seedling you wanted to discredit or disprove.

3.) Hold check-ins at each session and provide safety for those experiencing difficult emotions

Some people think that checking in with the members of the team at the top of the meeting might soak up too much time and the meeting may be less productive. The truth is that check-ins allow for the meeting to BECOME productive. Think back on all of the meetings that you have been in that seemed to get nothing done when one or more conversations went off the rails. This can very frequently be avoided by simply checking in at the top of the meeting.

Checking-in allows participants to share whatever is on their minds—whether related to the meeting or not. It might sound counter-intuitive to ask people to share information that is irrelevant or off topic. The truth is, if you don’t acknowledge these thoughts or feelings, they will distract you throughout the meeting.

Instead, acknowledge that we all have other things going on by creating the space for everyone to unload what’s on their mind at the moment and then put those thoughts or feelings aside. – @taitsao via

2.) Train all participants in techniques that create, maintain and restore safety

If you are meeting frequently with a team that can build techniques over time, training everyone in a framework like crucial conversations can be an amazing investment. We want to be able to create safety so that positive ideation is possible. We also want to have the skill of restoring safety when we recognize that it has been compromised. One small example of how this can work is the concept of Vitalsmarts “Learn to look.”

Learn to look at content and conditions.

Look for when things become crucial.

Learn to watch for safety problems.

Look to see if others are moving toward silence or violence.

1.) Create a feedback mechanism to report unsafe circumstances

It is important for us to have a mechanism in place for encounters where safety is no longer repairable. This is for times when two or more team members cannot find a way, on their own, to get back to positive ideation and safety. It should also be clarified that we do not want to create an environment where teammates go behind each other’s backs to report minor disagreements to their superiors. The created mechanism should be known and accepted by everyone involved and should be handled in a way that allows for both restorations between individuals and also a return of productivity and safety for the team.

These are my top FIVE ways to craft a safe collaborative space. What have I missed? Where are the gaps? What other articles and resources do you have that might help others to craft this type of space? Let us know in the comments below.


Last Updated on August 10, 2017 by karwisch

If you are like me, you have a stack of books that you have been either meaning to read or working your way through over time. It always seems like there are more books coming out and the stack grows with every purchase. Below I list five books that you should pull from their place in the stack and move to the top. If you haven’t been reading much lately, perhaps pick one of these and get back into the habit. All five of these had a significant impact on my way of thinking and my level of compassion. Get ready to absorb some pretty great thoughtfulness.

#5 – Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why. Daniel Goleman’s brilliant report from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience offers startling new insight into our “two minds”—the rational and the emotional—and how they together shape our destiny.

Through vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence, and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being. What emerges is an entirely new way to talk about being smart.

The best news is that “emotional literacy” is not fixed early in life. Every parent, every teacher, every business leader, and everyone interested in a more civil society, has a stake in this compelling vision of human possibility.

#4 – Drive by Daniel H. Pink

Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people—at work, at school, at home. It’s wrong. As Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others) explains in his paradigm-shattering book Drive, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today’s world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of our lives. He demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In Drive, he reveals the three elements of true motivation:

*Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
*Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
*Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.

Drive is bursting with big ideas—the rare book that will change how you think and transform how you live.

#3 – Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

● The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.

● The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.

● The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service.

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change.

Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

#2 – Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler

The New York Times and Washington Post bestseller that changed the way millions communicate

“[Crucial Conversations] draws our attention to those defining moments that literally shape our lives, our relationships, and our world. . . . This book deserves to take its place as one of the key thought leadership contributions of our time.”
―from the Foreword by Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“The quality of your life comes out of the quality of your dialogues and conversations. Here’s how to instantly uplift your crucial conversations.”
―Mark Victor Hansen, cocreator of the #1 New York Times bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul®

The first edition of Crucial Conversations exploded onto the scene and revolutionized the way millions of people communicate when stakes are high. This new edition gives you the tools to:

  • Prepare for high-stakes situations
  • Transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue
  • Make it safe to talk about almost anything
  • Be persuasive, not abrasive

#1 – Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

An enlightening look at how peaceful communication can create compassionate connections with family, friends, and other acquaintances, this international bestseller uses stories, examples, and sample dialogues to provide solutions to communication problems both at home and in the workplace. Guidance is provided on identifying and articulating feelings and needs, expressing anger fully, and exploring the power of empathy in order to speak honestly without creating hostility, break patterns of thinking that lead to anger and depression and communicate compassionately. Included in the new edition is a chapter on conflict resolution and mediation.


What are your favorite books? What would you have others move to the top of their stack? Tell us in the comments below!