Browse Author: Kerrie

By definition a leader is…

By definition a leader is someone who has followers.  If you are unable to gather the support of others to assist you in achieving your team’s objectives you will be unable to lead the team.

This means that good leaders need to have good skills in persuasion.

If you are struggling to get others on your side, to get what you want from the people on your team – either up or down the chain of command – it may be that your persuasion skills need some work.

As a successful leader you need to be able to carry yourself with confidence and present your ideas, vision and message so that you persuade others to join you in realising your vision.

If you want to:

  • Be respected for your capacity to get others ‘on board’ with your agenda
  • Know how to turn a No into a Yes
  • Discover the simple secrets to being consistently more persuasive

have a look at our latest quick guide: Persuasion for Busy Leaders

It’s not designed to make you a leading academic authority on persuasion, just a much more persuasive leader in as little time as possible.

Click here to check it out now and see if it’s something that could help you be the best leader you can be.


We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations

by Guest Contributor Judy Ringer

Think of a conversation you’ve been putting off. Got it? Great. Then let’s go.

There are dozens of books on the topic of difficult, crucial, challenging, fierce, important (you get the idea) conversations. (In fact, I list several excellent resources at the end of this article). Those times when you know you should talk to someone, but you don’t. Maybe you’ve tried and it went badly. Or maybe you fear that talking will only make the situation worse. Still, you feel stuck, and you’d like to free up that stuck energy for more useful purposes.

What you have here is a brief synopsis of best practice strategies: a checklist of action items to think about before going into the conversation; some useful concepts to practice during the conversation; and some tips and suggestions to help you stay focused and flowing in general, including possible conversation openings.

You’ll notice one key theme throughout: you have more power than you think.

Working on Yourself: How To Prepare for the Conversation

Before going into the conversation, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What is your purpose for having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish? What would be an ideal outcome? Watch for hidden purposes. You may think you have honorable goals, like educating an employee or increasing connection with your teen, only to notice that your language is excessively critical or condescending. You think you want to support, but you end up punishing. Some purposes are more useful than others. Work on yourself so that you enter the conversation with a supportive purpose.
  2. What assumptions are you making about this person’s intentions? You may feel intimidated, belittled, ignored, disrespected, or marginalized, but be cautious about assuming that this was the speaker’s intention. Impact does not necessarily equal intent.
  3. What “buttons” of yours are being pushed? Are you more emotional than the situation warrants? Take a look at your “backstory,” as they say in the movies. What personal history is being triggered? You may still have the conversation, but you’ll go into it knowing that some of the heightened emotional state has to do with you.
  4. How is your attitude toward the conversation influencing your perception of it? If you think this is going to be horribly difficult, it probably will be. If you truly believe that whatever happens, some good will come of it, that will likely be the case. Try to adjust your attitude for maximum effectiveness.
  5. Who is the opponent? What might he be thinking about this situation? Is he aware of the problem? If so, how do you think he perceives it? What are his needs and fears? What solution do you think he would suggest? Begin to reframe the opponent as partner.
  6. What are your needs and fears? Are there any common concerns? Could there be?
  7. How have you contributed to the problem? How has the other person?

4 Steps to a Successful Outcome

The majority of the work in any conflict conversation is work you do on yourself. No matter how well the conversation begins, you’ll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose and your emotional energy. Breathe, center, and continue to notice when you become off center–and choose to return again. This is where your power lies. By choosing the calm, centered state, you’ll help your opponent/partner to be more centered, too. Centering is not a step; centering is how you are as you take the steps. (For more on Centering, see the Resource section at the end of the article.)

Step #1: Inquiry

Cultivate an attitude of discovery and curiosity. Pretend you don’t know anything (you really don’t), and try to learn as much as possible about your opponent/partner and his point of view. Pretend you’re entertaining a visitor from another planet, and find out how things look on that planet, how certain events affect the other person, and what the values and priorities are there.

If your partner really was from another planet, you’d be watching his body language and listening for unspoken energy as well. Do that here. What does he really want? What is he not saying?

Let your partner talk until he is finished. Don’t interrupt except to acknowledge. Whatever you hear, don’t take it personally. It’s not really about you. Try to learn as much as you can in this phase of the conversation. You’ll get your turn, but don’t rush things.

Step #2: Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment means showing that you’ve heard and understood. Try to understand the other person so well you can make his argument for him. Then do it. Explain back to him what you think he’s really going for. Guess at his hopes and honor his position. He will not change unless he sees that you see where he stands. Then he might. No guarantees.

Acknowledge whatever you can, including your own defensiveness if it comes up. It’s fine; it just is. You can decide later how to address it. For example, in an argument with a friend, I said: “I notice I’m becoming defensive, and I think it’s because your voice just got louder and sounded angry. I just want to talk about this topic. I’m not trying to persuade you in either direction.” The acknowledgment helped him (and me) to re-center.

Acknowledgment can be difficult if we associate it with agreement. Keep them separate. My saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean I’m going to go along with your decision.

Step #3: Advocacy

When you sense your opponent/partner has expressed all his energy on the topic, it’s your turn. What can you see from your perspective that he’s missed? Help clarify your position without minimizing his. For example: “From what you’ve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not a team player. And I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.”

Step #4: Problem-Solving

Now you’re ready to begin building solutions. Brainstorming and continued inquiry are useful here. Ask your opponent/partner what he thinks might work. Whatever he says, find something you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to inquiry. Asking for the other’s point of view usually creates safety and encourages him to engage. If you’ve been successful in centering, adjusting your attitude, and engaging with inquiry and useful purpose, building sustainable solutions will be easy.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The art of conversation is like any art–with continued practice you will acquire skill and ease.

Here are some additional tips and suggestions:

  • A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say. How you are (centered, supportive, curious, problem-solving) will greatly influence what you say.
  • Acknowledge emotional energy–yours and your partner’s–and direct it toward a useful purpose.
  • Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.
  • Don’t take verbal attacks personally. Help your opponent/partner come back to center.
  • Don’t assume your opponent/partner can see things from your point of view.
  • Practice the conversation with a friend before holding the real one.
  • Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome you are hoping for.

How Do I Begin?

In my workshops, a common question is How do I begin the conversation? Here are a few conversation openers I’ve picked up over the years–and used many times!

  • I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.
  • I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.
  • I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)? If the person says, “Sure, let me get back to you,” follow up with him.
  • I think we have different perceptions about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.
  • I’d like to talk about ___________________. I think we may have different ideas about how to _____________________.
  • I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.

Write a possible opening for your conversation here:



Good luck! Has this article has been useful? Please let me know.

Download the pdf version of We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations


Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict, by Judy Ringer
The Magic of Conflict, by Thomas F. Crum
Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
FAQs about Conflict, by Judy Ringer

About the Author

Judy Ringer is a conflict and communication skills trainer, black belt in Aikido, and founder of Power & Presence Training and Portsmouth Aikido. Would you like free tips and articles every month? Subscribe to Ki Moments!

Leadership Success Quote

Here’s a quote worth considering if you are in or aspire to a leadership role:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

George Sheehan

There are such strong links between leadership and success.  Try re-reading that and replacing the word ‘Success’ with ‘Leadership’ and see what I mean…

“Leadership means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

This year I wish you all the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you were meant to be.

If You are Bullied at Work

In the past couple of articles we’ve looked at how to deal with bullying in a team you lead or the workplace where you are in charge.

What about if you are the one being bullied? If your boss, or even a colleague is bullying you, how should you handle that situation?

Just as you need to have no tolerance for bullying within a team you lead, if you are the one being bullied, at some point you will need to stand up for yourself in the face of bullying.

Remember, any bullying or harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Everyone, including you, has a right to feel safe at work and to be treated with respect.

However it is important to resist the urge to try to ‘get back’ at the bully or lower yourself to their tactics in your response.

Exactly how you respond in a situation will depend on the specific context. If you find yourself being publicly bullied or harassed your response may need to be different to a situation where you face secret threats or manipulation.

Either way it is a good idea to prepare yourself before you respond so you can be strong enough to be calm and assertive in your response, no matter how loud and abusive the bully might be. If you become angry and aggressive or ‘fight’ back it will not help in the long term and the bully may even be able to convince others that the problem is all your fault.

So hold your ground. Stay calm. Interrupt a verbal tirade by saying that you both want what’s best. Simply showing that you can be brave in the face of a stream of abuse can help deflect a bully. Often, the bully singles out targets who avoid any conflict since they know that they’ll be more likely to get their way.

A powerful way to interrupt a bully is to say their name. Look into their eyes, speak in a strong clear and firm voice, and repeat their name until they stop talking.

Then take control by asking short questions. Ask short direct clarifying questions and keep asking them until the bully begins to calm down. Don’t get into a discussion, just ask further clarifying questions to show you are trying to really understand what has upset them.

Asking questions can be effective in a variety of different situations, including attacks in front of coworkers, private confrontations or in meetings so it is worthwhile learning this technique.

Concentrate on maintaining a calm appearance – no matter how you are really feeling inside. The louder and more out-of-control the bully is, the calmer you need to appear to be in contrast to them.

Paraphrasing the bully’s responses, deferring the discussion until later when things are more measured or others will be present, even gentle humor – particularly if you can laugh at yourself – can all help to defuse a situation.

However you respond, bullying is serious and needs to be addressed. If you can’t handle it on your own, you need to bring in someone to support you in dealing with it. This can obviously be difficult if the bully is the person you report to. When that is the case you may need to look to other parts of your organization (possibly someone in Human resources or your boss’s boss?) or an external Coach or Mentor to help you to tackle the situation.

At some point you may even decide the bullying is not worth your energy in trying to deal with it and you would rather move on. Should that situation arise, take care to never burn your bridges. If you can’t take any more and can’t get help, you can make your exit but be sure to keep your dignity intact.

If you do decide you must leave your position because of bullying, try to make the decision to leave outside of the emotional realm. When you hand in your notice, do so later, with a cool head, not brimming with rants or fuming about the unfair treatment you got from someone. Remember, you may need those people to vouch for you at some time in the future.

When you do it this way, you get to enjoy a better sense of control. You will reach greater heights of success if you manage to hold your head up high and always maintain your dignity.

Finally if you do find yourself needing to deal with bullying or harassment, make sure you care for yourself, manage your stress levels, maintain a balanced perspective and keep your sense of humor. Take the time to feel good about yourself and stay grateful for what you’ve been blessed with. Remind yourself that as long as you’re doing what’s right, you’ll be fine.

Dealing with a bully can be stressful. For powerful stress management techniques check out the Stress Free Course now at: – completely free: My gift for you.

How to Respond to Workplace Bullying

In my previous article we looked at what does and does not constitute bullying or harassment in the workplace. Today I want to look at how you should respond as team leader if it occurs in your workplace.

So how should you tackle bullying if you detect it or suspect it is happening in a team that you are responsible for?

Any bullying or harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately. Everyone has a right to feel safe at work and to be treated with respect.

You should never ignore bullying or hope it will just go away. If anyone reports, or if you witness or suspect, an incident that could be bullying, you must respond rapidly. Otherwise, your silence is perceived by the perpetrator and others as collusion in what is happening.

If you are in a leadership role, and you observe any indications that bullying or harassment might be occurring, you have a responsibility to stand up and show that you will not tolerate such actions from anyone in your team or elsewhere.

Listen to all team members and encourage them to work together cooperatively on solutions to the real problems they are experiencing. Use individual coaching to help individuals modify their behavior and motivate them to be productive team members. See details about how to do this here:

Just as some people bring out your best, and other people bring out your worst, you can bring out the best in other people even at their worst. It’s a matter of understanding where they are coming from and what is likely to work with them.

As with most team-related issues, the best way to address a bullying problem will depend on the specific situation, but a sound first step is usually to begin a conversation around the behaviors you have observed, compared to what you expect.

Facilitate an open conversation with your team members about team values like trust, respect and how they relate to working together in a team. This can be a powerful and helpful start to addressing the situation.

By securing team agreement about how your team members will treat each other going forward, you will both minimize the likelihood of the situation being repeated and ensure that in future no one can say they didn’t know bullying or harassing actions might be unacceptable.

Take particular care not to allow the bullying victim to be targeted personally during your discussions. Focus on acceptable and unacceptable actions and behaviors, not on individuals, personalities, or character traits. Stay calm but make it quite clear, as firmly and often as seems to be required, that bullying or harassment are not acceptable in any circumstances and will not be tolerated.

If your organization has a formal code of practice or ethics, a corporate values statement or a relevant workplace policy you might discuss how it applies. If such codes or policies do not yet exist, now might be a good time to begin to develop one, at least within your team.

If you don’t feel able to do this, bring in an external facilitator to help you.

Handling such a situation well can even build a stronger team – the sort of team with a positive commitment to positive shared values, that works together to achieve your vision and goals, and that is the hallmark of a good leader.

For details about how to coach individuals to better behavior see here:

And watch out for my next article where we’ll look at what you can do if you are the one being bullied.

Dealing with Bullying at Work

One of the most toxic additions to any workplace is the bully. If you work with (or for) a bully, or one of the people on the team you lead may be a bully it is important to handle the situation carefully yet assertively.

In this series of articles I want to share some tips for how to deal with workplace bullying successfully.

First let’s look at what is bullying or harassment?

A bully abuses any power they have over less powerful people. You will often feel oppressed, humiliated, weak, and belittled after talking to a bully. In addition, you will typically feel worse about yourself. At the same time you may feel obliged to laugh at the comments that are being made about you or to you, even thought they are hurtful or not true.

A bully may be someone who consistently dishes out venomous personal remarks, who takes delight in ruining your day with seemingly harmless yet cutting statements, who takes credit for your work, constantly threatens you with dismissal or demotion, or who is simply rude, aggressive, and pushy. The bully often leaves people feeling threatened and demeaned.

Bullying and harassment might be:

  • physical (being hit, bumped, tripped, pinched),
  • verbal (humiliation, name-calling, teasing, putdowns),
  • psychological (intimidation, sabotage, coercion, manipulation, threats, gestures, being watched or stalked),
  • social (embarrassment, smear campaigns, being ignored or having rumors spread about you)
  • or sexual (physical, verbal or nonverbal sexual conduct).

Bullying and harassment often happens out of sight of other authorities, leaders or managers and is typically repeated over an extended time.

However not everyone who displays these sorts of behaviors is a workplace bully. An isolated incident doesn’t equate to bullying.

Just because someone tells you they don’t like something you did or didn’t do, or you don’t like the way they communicate with you doesn’t make them a bully.

Even if someone yells at you in frustration it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bully. It may just mean they lack the emotional maturity to express themselves more professionally or they tend to overreact to a stressful situation. Goodhearted people can make mistakes. While issues like these still need to be addressed, they aren’t as corrosive to your workplace culture as bullying or harassment can be.

A bully, on the other hand, intends to intimidate, dominate and disempower and they do it consistently and repeatedly.

The negative effects of bullying and harassment are well known and definitely serious.

Bullying frequently leads to significant effects on work performance, illness, absenteeism and low team morale. In extreme cases post traumatic stress disorder and even suicide have occured.

Bullying can’t be ignored or overlooked. If you are a manager, team leader or business owner, you have at least a moral (and in many places a legal) obligation to ensure your workplace is free from bullying or harassment.

In a few days time we’ll look at how you should tackle bullying when it is happening in your team or workplace…

Meanwhile have a look at some of these Stress and Productivity Resources:

More on team leadership in business and sport

Yesterday we looked at some of the lessons from successful sporting teams that we can apply to business and work teams, including:

  • Different Types of Competition
  • The Power of Discipline, and
  • The Importance of Teamwork and Trust.
  • Today I will share three more valuable insights you can apply from high performance sporting teams to fostering high performance business and work teams.

    A Common Goal:

    Share your vision with your team members and encourage them to commit to realising it. Look for any challenges that your team members are facing when they try to achieve their best. Ask your team members what you can do to help and empower them to do whatever it is they do best to help you achieve your vision and milestones.

    It is also important to ensure that everyone on your team really wants to be there. It’s very difficult to create a cohesive team if you have a reluctant member undermining the vision everyone else is trying to achieve. When someone has the skills and the commitment, both to the vision you are trying to realise and to the team that is trying to achieve it, you will create a powerful force that guarantees success.

    Individual Needs:

    No quality sporting coach puts every member of a team through exactly the same training regime. So be conscious of the individual needs of all members of your team.

    Find out why individual team members are actually working for you. This will help you identify specific ways to help them develop their skills or make best use of their existing skills and work preferences. You may even find that they would fit better into a different role all part of your organisation.

    Get to know everyone on your team well enough to understand exactly what their personal picture of success looks like to them and what qualities, skills and experiences they bring to the team. This will help you to help them to be more motivated in their contributions to the team and to achieving your company’s vision.


    Finally, make it a habit to ask all your team members for their ideas and opinions. No one, including you, has a monopoly on good ideas. And in fact your team members who are working at the coalface can often understand the situation from a unique perspective, generating useful insights and opportunities for improvement.

    When you ask team members for their ideas you are acknowledging their personal value to the team and offering a special type of recognition that workers appreciate immensely.

    By being open to team members’ suggestions you will not only achieve an improved outcome, you will be building a more motivated and successful team.

    Kerrie Mullins-Gunst specializes in helping leaders and managers develop all the skills they need to mentor manage and lead. Check out this simple yet powerful tool to improve employee performance and boost workplace motivation:

    Team leadership in business and sport

    All the excitement of the World Cup means there’s a lot of talk at the moment about sports teams, both winners and losers. Even if you don’t follow the World Cup, you probably follow some sort of sport, and sporting teams offer some useful insights for workplace teams. So let’s have a look at a couple of useful team and leadership lessons that can be drawn from the world of peak performance and successful sports.

    Types of Competition:

    One of the key aspects of all sports is competition. Yet there are a range of types of competition that apply in different sports, and different individuals prefer different sports that reflect these various types of competition.

    In sports competition may either be against yourself, another individual or another team. In business we are often competing against other businesses for a client or customer or at other times we are competing against ourselves to improve our own (individual, work group or corporate) performance. So it is important to remember that some individuals on your workplace team may be more motivated by a different style of competition.


    In both business and on the sports field discipline plays a key part in success. A long-term commitment to developing all the skills that are required to succeed is the foundation of both sporting and business success. Individuals and teams who have the commitment to see through a task will enjoy more success than others.

    Sticking to your plan might sometimes seem dull and boring, but it will set you apart from all your competitors in both business and sport.


    As in many sports, in the workplace successful teams only develop when team members know how to work with others and are willing to trust one another.

    As a team leader in the workplace it is important that you accept the sorts of responsibilities that the head coach would have in a winning team. You need to check to be sure that all members of your team fit into the team, respect one another, work together well and support each other.

    Any signs of poor teamwork must be addressed immediately.

    Tomorrow I’ll share with you three more team leadership lessons we can apply in the workplace from the world of sport…

    Kerrie Mullins-Gunst specializes in helping leaders and managers develop all the skills they need to mentor manage and lead. Check out this simple yet powerful tool to improve employee performance and boost workplace motivation: