Leaders Get Your Non-Fussy 360 Degree Feedback to Move Forward

By Nedra Chandler, 5-minute read

I just had a heart-to-heart talk with a friend who is the leader of an organization in the middle of some extra churn. There have been departures of permanent staff, a busy season coming up, hiring for positions and a lot of competing priorities at the exact time when there is no slack in the system or schedule, least of all her schedule.

While her many years of experience and successes make her confident about what she brings to her leadership role, she’s feeling a troubling sense of isolation from her larger team. She said some days it feels like she has a shrinking number of people she can count on to speak their minds with her. For example, she said her board is not super engaged or active at the moment, her senior staff are out of the office a lot managing their own projects and staff, and she senses a pervasive attitude of “let’s just make it through this quarter and talk later…” Now what?

While it may seem a counterintuitive move, now may be a great time to amp up her resilient self-awareness, pick of posse of 7 or so people to get and give some fresh and focused feedback. Low-tech (not online) and clear about the purpose. I’ll start by giving you the take home points up front.

5 take-home points for leaders with that feeling of a little bit of lonely isolation right now…

  1. First the good news/bad news reminder that feedback is everywhere, all the time. Whether it’s invited or not, welcome or unwelcome, direct or subtle, verbal/nonverbal, written or implied, it’s everywhere. (See my post on this topic using insights from co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback, Sheila Heen and Doug Stone if you’re interested.) What’s hard is focusing on tangible or other feedback you’re ready to use.
  2. Everyone has self-limiting behaviors. No one is spared. Because we’re humans. You are already an accomplished leader. Focus on the habits that limit you now.
  3. This low tech 360 posse I describe below is not a one-shot deal. Expect it to take months, no, a lifetime (!) of small, daily commitments and practice with one thing, one habit at a time (not 12 or 15 things) you’ve chosen to grow yourself out of and into your next lively state of being.
  4. Frequent, regular check ins with a posse of people you trust (or at least respect) will be key. Probably one person at a time, but it could be a group on the phone or in person, every quarter or so.
  5. Briefly and simply listen to them and thank them for telling you whether or not they notice you making progress on the one habit you are attempting to shift. The hardest thing: no explanations and certainly no excuses: just “thank you.” Then you privately choose how you deal, or not, with what you hear.

Reminder of why online 360 degree feedback is valuable…and there is often a ‘too muchness’ at the same time

Frequent, regular feedback is crucial, transformative in some cases, to support your development and your capacity to be of service to what you care about most. If you like an evidence base for this, it’s already in the bag.

Also, when leaders set the example of working on their self-limiting habits for the good of themselves and the good of the whole, people notice and appreciate it. It gives your staff and partners extra permission and encouragement to keep learning and developing themselves as well.

As a credentialed coach facilitator who uses a range of online 360-degree feedback tools, especially the ones my government clients lean to, I’m not giving up on the online tools. But I am not recommending them for leaders at the top of organizations. The online tools have an important function, and especially for staff. But for top leaders in particular, I believe there is a too-muchness about many of these intensely-designed online tools — too many competencies, so much anonymous feedback, sanitized and over-systematized. Overwhelm too often ensues. Shut down may follow.

How do you get diverse-yet-pointed feedback more simply?

I am excited about a fresh approach to getting 360-degree (full circle) feedback for leaders. The heart of it is a small, frequently-consulted posse of colleagues such as direct reports, board members, and partners.

I owe Marshall Goldsmith a debt of gratitude for teaching his approach to me and the other Lead60 coaches — encouraging us to use it and share it widely for adapting and using. If you are one of my coach facilitator readers or colleagues please email me at cadence@montana.com and I can send you the basis to lead the process. In the meantime, the briefest explanation I’ve seen yet is contained in this disarming note from a leader. See how he made it possible to say no? See how he made it easy to say yes?

Hi (NAME),

I’m not sure if you are aware, but  (names of leadership team here) and I have been working with Nedra on our leadership team development and personal growth, with the aim of improving our organizational and leadership skills and styles.  As part of that, we are using a sort of 360 degree approach to get feedback from our “posse.”  I would like you to be a member of my posse.

Yes, you are allowed to say “no!”  But it’s pretty simple and won’t take much time.  If you are game, Nedra will contact you relatively soon to schedule a 10-15-minute phone conversation for some time before April 6. 

From those visits, she will provide each of us with thematic yet focused feedback that will not be attributed to any of our posse members. You don’t need to respond to me.  I’ve copied Nedra, and you replying to her will get things moving (or not!).

Thank you for considering my request, (name of leader)

Shouldn’t we focus on strengths? Why focus on habits they notice in us like frowning, sighing, not listening, or always being in a hurry?

Granted, it’s wonderful to hear genuine positive feedback about your strengths. Truly. And it’s important to solicit that. Granted too, it’s not fun for most of us to hear negative feedback about ourselves and how we’re coming across to a group of various humans. It’s important to solicit that too. Especially in this particular approach to full circle feedback. This way, you get right after the tangible, actionable things.

We’ve all been there. Feedback is a gift, and you get to choose what you pay attention to. All feedback is not created equally worthy or ‘accurate,’ yet it’s information you can use to heighten your awareness and inform your own choices. That’s the gift of it. Admittedly, the whole deal is also fraught with a bunch of messy, irrational humans in it, and therefore the situation is ambiguous at times. That’s why you use a coach facilitator to guide it from the side.

The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There says so much about what is at the heart of stalling out at the top. As Goldsmith points out that the higher you rise in your organization, the more likely your problems are likely to be behavioral. Marshall’s newest book with co-author Sally Helgesen, also covers some of this ground beautifully in How Women Rise

Remember you are here in this leadership role because you’re already smart, strategic, focused and probably a strong communicator. What that means is that what’s left to work on are behavioral things. Habits. 

You, like every other mortal on the planet, sometimes default to habitual responses or reactions — some that do and some that don’t serve you or your organization. The consequences of our leadership habits run the gamut from small to huge in these cases. We all do this unconscious thing — default, automated behavior called habits.

Habits are notoriously hard to recognize in yourself and difficult to shift once you do. Can adults change their behavioral habits? Emphatically: yes. It’s because of neuroplasticity and it’s some of the best news we humans have gotten from science during this decade. The best news of all: your behavior lies within your control–unlike toddlers, the global economy and other peoples’ choices.

Have you noticed people are less likely to risk telling you how your habits affect them since you rose closer to the top?

Have you considered that your power and influence has been growing? And along with that expansion, it got a lot harder than it used to be to have others feel safe telling you, for just one possible (yet common) example:

“Your way of consistently defaulting to being the first to talk in a meeting, is keeping the people around you from contributing for fear of being out of step with you and your views. They are censoring themselves, knowing you’ll speak first anyway…”

I listened to a former US Attorney General describe how, after he got some similar feedback to the above, he began to practice waiting to speak until everyone in the room had the chance to contribute. Why? He (and the country) needed the benefit of his staff’s diversity of views. Knowing that if he spoke first it would dampen the courage of others to disagree, he coached himself with the internal reminder:

“I will practice waiting until I’ve heard from everyone present before I chime in.”

Viola. With practice, he says he entered a new realm in leadership effectiveness with that one fundamental shift.

For another example:

“Your chief of (whatever) can’t find an opening to let you know that the way you sigh out loud and your mouth goes into a big frown when you’re thinking makes staff and other leaders avoid you. Some (inaccurately) perceive your sighs as a sure sign you don’t like or respect them.”

Can you see yourself or people you know in any part of these examples?

If you’re still reading, then maybe you’re ready for this! I invite you to find your own development partners and serve as a partner to your colleagues in the same way. When you choose it, it can be rewarding beyond measure.

A bit about me: writer, Montanan, mediator and development coach for government leaders & teams. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom collaborative or other opportunities. We serve as guides on the side to help participants find common ground and take action where they choose.

See What Condition Your Condition Is In

By Nedra Chandler, 1-min read, 3 min listen to the tune see link below*

What condition is your condition in right here, right now?

Picture slumped shoulders, crossed arms, avoidant or flat facial expression, defended, closed.

Now envision what one leader I know calls her athletic stance. An athletic stance can be any size or physical strength, yet the shape gives a sense of being present, ready, aware, alert-yet-at-some ease at the same time. Open.

Now just look at you. How are you currently…arranged?

I am more and more frequently paying attention to the very shape of my own body, and my clients’ bodies.

I want to convince you this is useful, super relevant data to notice about yourself and others.

What if you run a little experiment for yourself: what happens when you tune into this information on purpose, even just a little more often? What tangible, visible effects follow?

Earlier this year, I facilitated an off-site retreat for a government agency senior management team. As they sat together, they confirmed the desired outcomes they had set for their time together.

I asked, “is there anything you need to count on from each other in order to accomplish these things together?”

(there was a longer-than-usual thoughtful pause here…)

“be open,” said one, “stay open.”

Genuine nodding of all heads and a brief conversation followed to interpret together what that might look like, sound like, feel like in action.

It turns out that to them, ‘stay open’  had to do with cultivating awareness of internal and external states on purpose, more deliberately staying receptive to possibilities a bit longer than might otherwise be typical for them. Sort of a:

“we don’t know exactly where this is going next…let’s create the best possible conditions for ourselves so that we can create the best possible outcomes, together.”

This team’s encouragement to each other was toward that. Stay open, they said.

To repeat, I’m dropping in to see what condition my condition is in, and I’m checking out the shape of my client bodies and teams at the same time. By that I mean my stance, their stance — individual and collective group shape.

Why? Because whether you are guiding from the side, or actively participating, or both/and at the same time, you get immediately-useable data. This information helps you make the most skillful choices you can about how to contribute, how best to engage, moment to moment in service to your purpose.

In the fine grain here, consider the connections you might notice between the shape you or someone else takes and how the verbal content of what they say out loud might come across to you.

For example, imagine a speaker in front of you who has her arms relaxed at her sides, maybe palms open toward you, asking,

“I want to hear what you think about this policy change.”

Now change her stance in your mind’s eye. She has her fists above her head, high in the air in the victorious ‘V” shape and feet planted apart — apparently a version of the universal, across-cultures power pose — and she’s still saying the same thing,

“I want to hear what you think about this policy change.”

Hmmmmm. Are the impacts of these two scenarios significantly different in your view? Or just a little? Or not much if any?

There is no ‘right’ answer here, yet certainly something to consider in your day-to-day leadership of you and your co-conspirators…

*If you can spare a few extra minutes for fun, listen to Kenny Rogers sing Just Dropped In to See the Condition My Condition Is In (1972), singing “Yeah, yeah, oh yeah…” right HERE exactly 46 years ago today.

A bit about me: writer, Montanan, mediator and development coach for government leaders & teams. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom collaborative or other opportunities. We serve as guides on the side to help participants find common ground and take action where they choose. 

Tune Into Power and Level Up Your Leadership

By Nedra Chandler, 3-minute read

Hi readers, I promise you insight into power here that you put into use right away. How is it that power dynamics are simple (see my slide above) and wickedly complex at the same time? Upping your awareness of how power moves around all the time can make a big, positive difference in your life, and that of your organization.


We were on Bainbridge Island in Washington, walking around the waterfront one autumn day. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and my husband Scott’s mood was glum. He was less than a day away from a work trip to China and was dreading it.

What fresh hell?

The source of Scott’s angst was that he had a new boss who treated his professional staff like kids under his thumb — wielding power over them in ways that left them wondering what fresh hell was coming next.

This new mode at work left Scott and his team hamstrung. They began to see, feel and realize how diminished their collective power was together.

Power Moves Around All the Time — How Many Kinds of Power? At Least 7…

For example, they began to walk on eggshells, ‘asking permission’ to show up as leaders in their own right and do their work to serve their international customers. Before the re-shuffle, each team member had taken initiative to be innovators and be of excellent service. Now they began to quietly complain and adopt a team culture of disempowerment. By the way, go see this short overview of 7 types of power to get you noticing power more expansively and usefully.

So there we were, strolling along past some small shops on Eagle Harbor. Something caught Scott’s attention. He stopped to look at a rack of sale T-shirts on the sidewalk. There was this t-shirt with a skull and crossbones on the back:

“The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

“This shirt is so mine”

Scott, typically not much of an impulse buyer, was immediately sold on the shirt. I chuckled, but honestly found the line disturbing. No wonder it was here on the sale rack.

Yet, there it was, a silly-yet-somehow-cathartic way to express his extreme frustration with the new mood at work – set by a leader who didn’t yet have the experience or discernment to use his positional power with, rather than over, his team.

Use your ‘power over’ like a bomb

Scott’s previous boss had confidently possessed the power to decide too, yet had used his unilateral power more like a bomb – as in almost never. That approach of fostering trust and a culture of stewardship had made Dale one of the most effective men in the company, but that’s another story.

Here’s the thing I want to offer today:

Unless you are in a field where strict chain of command and control is paramount (for example, the military or a fire crew), choosing to use power over, rather than power with, will most likely descend into team dysfunction characterized by low trust.

What using excessive power over people can do to organizational culture

When I come into an organization to help out as a third party, this is what the use of excessive ‘power over’ can look like: an unlively work culture where people don’t have the courage to take risks or work together for the good of the whole. Nor are they as inclined toward accountability to one another or to those they serve, especially when those qualities are not acknowledged or rewarded.

Slide above from Keith McCandless, adapted from Edgar Schein’s work.

Scott lasted 9 difficult months under the new boss. That kind of work stress kills people early, so now he’s with another global business where trust and courage to skillfully confront (inevitable) conflict is the norm rather than the exception. Where commitment and accountability to collective results is rewarded and celebrated. There’s an aliveness to their work.

But right then, those years ago, when he bought that “I give up” t-shirt, he was experiencing workplace dysfunction that most adults find themselves in at least once or more during a career. Sometimes this sets the default tone for an entire organization or administration. It’s a lose-lose deal all around. And it’s almost never about just one person, or just one new leader. Organizational culture is built and re-built everyday through habits of interaction.

I’m curious, two questions for you:

1) what are you learning as you notice these power dynamics — ‘power over people’ and ‘power with people’ in your own lives and organizations? Please share an insight, question or comment below.


2) As you consider your own leadership style, how does “use your unilateral power like a bomb*” resonate with you?

Ari Weinzweig mentioned this in an interview I heard. In the business he runs with thousands of employees, he said nearly always chooses to use a consensus-building kind of stewardship approach — and the effects on business are remarkable. Listen to him here with Amiel Handelsman.

A bit about me: My work is about organizational health and development, preventing conflict and/or managing it, and professional development coaching for individuals and teams. In this winter blog series I am exploring practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on government because that’s where I do most of my work – yet these approaches are relevant across sectors. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.


Which Parts of Your Work Are Ready to Burn?

By Nedra Chandler, 4-minute read

There is an end to everything, to good things as well. –attributed to Chaucer, probably about 1374

In every situation where humans are working with other humans there comes a time when the work that is being done becomes stale, overwrought, or otherwise finished.

Methods or strategies lose their edge after a while. Structures need to be torn down, rebuilt or otherwise transformed.  It takes great courage to let go of some of these things to the compost heap, the burn pile.

I was recently working with a large intergovernmental partnership, one with a complex agenda of almost 6 dozen projects — each of which was vying for limited staff and funding resources.  They needed to trim their burgeoning portfolio of projects back, but how?  They wanted to take a hard look at their big spreadsheet of a list and sort them out.  It wasn’t easy.

There are lots of ways to approach a task like this.  One obvious way is to slog through them one by one, take a power vote of some kind on each one, and move on.  But does it have to go like that?  Is there another way to move through a useful process that’s less of a grim death march?

There is.  It starts by adjusting your approach to take a learner’s stance, to dare to look with curiosity at the whole picture, not separating the do-ers from the deciders.

Letting go of structures and particular activites or tasks is made harder by our human tendencies to avoid looking at the big picture. This is true especially when the project portfolio has grown to a size and complexity from which most mere mortals would run and hide.

Are there projects in the list that are demanding ongoing investment even though they may no longer be delivering what you hoped for or now require?  Maybe these are the ones that need to go to the compost heap in order to free up resources to enable some other activities that are  more effective.

Last month, in Permission to Learn, I said I’d offer you at least one practical move you could make to get yourself into a “learner’s stance.”

In that November post I mentioned a lot of agency leaders and teams are finding themselves in “pile on and pedal harder” as they are increasingly overwhelmed with demands.

Those teams report feeling chronically overextended, less resilient. Yet still, so many of us resist letting go of anything. Sound familiar?

 “Let’s stay calm,” said a branch chief encouraging her staff in a similar situation in another part of the country as they moved through their own ecocycle mapping last fall. “There is victory in having the courage to look at it. If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. Awareness leads to conscious choices.”

What is an Ecocycle Map and How Can I Use One?

Ecocycle mapping is systems theory applied to your context, your projects, your relationships. You choose.

Picture an old growth forest or any natural system moving through the infinity loop from birth (see lower left) up the front loop of growth to maturity (upper right) then moving into creative destruction (lower left), then moving up the back loop toward renewal.

On either side of the model you have the scarcity trap on the left where things may be formed but stalled out maybe because they haven’t attracted the resources necessary to launch them. There you have the crowded bunch of saplings, each being stunted by the others in their scramble for moisture, nutrients, sun.

On the right is the rigidity trap where projects or investments slide that are requiring ongoing investment even though they are no longer delivering what is needed.  There are the barely-standing trees taking up space and sunshine, while holding on to resources that could be used elsewhere.

Any project or activity that is in either of these traps needs to be looked at deliberately.

Here’s my personal ode to the always-moving ecocycle dance: the facts of all life cycles/systems can seem existentially bleak and amazingly wonderous at the exact same time. Birth, growth, death, renewal.

Even the sun will die eventually. Rather than choose grim all the time though, maybe it’s challenging and enjoyable enough to just be fully present more often. I owe this full-body knowing partly to the eclipse of August 2017: standing on a ridge in Idaho watching it go dark and feeling the chill…

As I just heard one of my new heroes, Joanna Macy, say in an interview last month, “we’re here now. Let’s not make our love of the world dependent on whether we think the earth will last forever. That’s just a thought anyway. We’re here now.”


Apply the Wisdom of Ecosystems to Your Portfolio of Projects

To recap using different labels for the quadrants:

Birth is entrepreneurial, you’re growing it and shaping it.

Maturity is managerial, a bureaucratic stance in the best sense of that word, managing effectively, producing quality results (nice ripe tomatoes!)

In creative destruction, you’re taking a heretical stance – burn it, put it into the compost, you get the picture.

Then, moving up the back loop of renewal, you’re linking people and ideas together networking into the next initiative.

Confused? Bravo!

Looking at all the things we’ve committed to is messy. If you feel irritable, afraid, confused, overwhelmed: bravo! You are bravely taking a learner’s stance.

Why? I see so many of you leading and dealing with what’s real in these weird times. In the face of disheartening evidence of so much extra bleakness in our American government and broader ecosystems, we’re still here now. You are somehow making room for the commitments that matter most.

Successfully confronting difficult times, and navigating increasingly complex and conflictual partnerships requires taking a learner’s stance.

I heard from one of the leaders who is part of that aforementioned intergovernmental partnership as she was looking at the results of the ecocycle map the group created together:

“It’s going to be hard to keep adjusting our view of the big picture as things keep changing…yet by looking at it all together and having some conversations we had been avoiding, we saw our choices better, and left just a little less overwhelmed…”

Here’s a standing ovation for all of you willing to keep wading into the mess day to day, week to week. Thank you for daring to look and make even one more doable move, and then another, in the direction you know is right for now.

Here is encouragement to stick with the mess, all the ways you keep focusing on what is working, and have the patience to generate clarity. Together.

A bit about me: I work with government clients as partners in professional and team development, navigating conflict and learning opportunities of all kinds. For the past several years I’ve been writing on this theme of how our collective trust in government is linked to trust in ourselves. In the coming few months in I am continuing to write about practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on the government space because that’s where we do most of our work. Find me and my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com and/or sign up to receive my monthly posts into your inbox on the right side of the page at Cadence.

Extra fun for process mavens:

Ecocycle is one of many micro, ‘learner stance’ moves. Go see 30+ more of them on the free app on your smartphone called Liberating Structures. These are immediately useable by novices and process experts alike.

If you have 15 minutes to do a personal ecosystem map for your personal life see instructions below. If you have 60-90 minutes you can effectively do this with your group and your whole shared portfolio.

Map Your Stuff: 5 personal ecocycle steps. Ready to make your own ecocycle map now?

  1. Choose activities OR relationships for the first one. Don’t try to map both at the same time.
  2. Make a list of all the activities you are spending your time on now. I suggest you set your timer for no more than 10-15 minutes as a way to avoid overthinking.
  3. Done? Set your numbered list aside briefly while you draw your version of the ecocycle as above, on a sheet of paper.
  4. Place each of your numbered activities where you decide it is now. Is it right in the middle of one of the 4 quadrants? Is it moving up the front or back loop? Is it right inside the scarcity or rigidity trap on either side of the infinity loop?
  5. Step back and look at the big picture of all your activities as you placed them in this first round. Ask: are the items distributed across the different phases of ecocycle or clumped up in one or two of the quadrants? What’s happening? What do you see? So, what does it mean to you? Now what do you choose to do next with these insights? Things shift, move and change fast sometimes. Don’t hesitate to do this repeatedly and often. Quarterly?

final quote on endings:

I’m not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, next to cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.
― William GoldmanThe Princess Bride




Permission to Learn

By Nedra Chandler, 1 minute read

Giving yourself permission to keep learning isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for everyone providing leadership and being of service in American government right now. I just returned from several weeks of work across the country mostly with U.S. EPA and Department of Interior leaders and their teams who told me taking a learner’s stance is a big unmet need in government now.

Instead, many agency leaders are finding themselves in “clamp down and over-control” mode and “pile on and pedal harder” mode.

Overcontrolling can take lots of forms but micro-managing people is a big clue, as is the presence of complaints and workplace conflict gone wild. People get isolated. They get any combination of “cold, wet, tired and hungry.” They get chronically overextended. Burnt out.

Pile on and pedal harder often looks like a growing portfolio of priorities with no focus on letting go of what has become irrelevant or unsustainable or both.

In response to so many challenges, many of the government leaders and teams we work with are actively giving themselves permission to learn. They don’t expect to have all the answers every hour, every day. They remain open, inquiring, listening, learning, taking action based on clear purpose.

This is no small thing.

In my December 12 post I’ll lay out some things I’ve noticed about what ‘taking a learner’s stance’ looks like, sounds like, as reported by leaders and teams we work with now.

A bit about me: I work with government clients as partners in professional and team development, navigating conflict and learning opportunities of all kinds. For the past several years I’ve been writing on this theme of how our collective trust in government is linked to trust in ourselves. In the coming few months in I am exploring practical moves we can make to give ourselves and each other permission to keep learning. I focus on the government space because that’s where we do most of our work. Find me and my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com and/or sign up to receive my monthly posts into your inbox by giving me your email at Cadence.


Road Rant: Creating Conditions for Learning at Work

By Nedra Chandler, 4 minute audio

I recorded this emphatic, defensive-about-being-defensive voice memo while driving, which I titled “Bring your flawed self to work and let’s practice being humans.”  

Scott estimates not one reader will give it a listen. It’s fun to take a risk and post it, so there.

I got dramatic, sort of like when I was 4.

My mom was a Dionne Warwick fan and I grew up listening to the 1966 hit What the World Needs Now  I hear I listened to it nonstop for some months. The story goes that when I was 3 I learned to turn on the stereo, put the vinyl on the turntable and sing it top-of-lungs style out our open window. I hoped our neighbors, the Whites, would hear my warbly voice and clap for me. My siblings will verify this was my routine for quite a while.

Love IS what we need right now. People learn best and rise to meet challenges most effectively when they feel safe and can hear each other and learn with one another. We’re a bunch of humans. I get it we’re not going to heal every rift or achieve perfection. There is only practice.

The best we can hope for is we’ll stay with it. We can create conditions for self awareness, building rapport with one another, and creating systems that allow us to keep making small-yet-meaningful moves toward greater purposes, and skills and resourcefulness that exceed what we’re showing each other now.

While we continue to evolve as a species, let’s learn some better conversational skills on purpose. Let’s accept and allow one other to bring our whole selves to work.

I’d appreciate hearing how this plea lands with you. Do you buy it that there are so many settings right now where we need to make it safer to show up as us? Safer to both receive and give feedback, to clarify things together, to disagree, to be learners together, to carry out purpose-driven work, especially in government right now? How does this affect you?

Today, in the wake of so much suffering the world, I want you to consider that the need for love and patience with each other has obviously become as indispensable as regular haircuts. More important than guns. Very needed. Pro or amateur (for the love of it): get in there and show some more love.

End of road memo — give a listen and I’ll appreciate it if you’d leave a comment.

A bit about me: My favorite work right now is about human and organizational health. Today that’s about serving public sector clients and their partners as third party facilitator and professional coach. I am a committed process maven and applied social geographer. People call us most when they have conflict to navigate and public decisions to carry out. 

Resource Note on Diversity and Inclusion


prairie smoke 2016

Resource Note By Nedra Chandler, Cadence & Triangle

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world — we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.” — Joanna Macy

Thanks to a connection through a dear coach client and development partner of mine just now, I went to see more about Angela Park while looking for equity and diversity training and whoa!

First of all, I trust through Susan’s experience that Angela is amazing, and then, in addition, I see she is a Donella Meadows fellow. Yay.

Donella Meadows Fellows Network

Angela Park

Donella Meadows is a hero writer in my world (see her paper Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System). Great to know of this fellows group in her honor.

Also so sweet to see this videoclip of Meadows fellows out making art in nature. Relaxing and encouraging to view even for a few minutes. Enjoy.

What’s Your Professional Development Plan?

by Nedra Chandler, estimated 4 minute reading time.

Working with a coach can help you recognize your strengths, leverage your talents and self manage more and more consistently. Learn more in this written interview with me by Louise Harris for Savvy.

A bit about me: I work primarily with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me at https://www.cadenceinc.us and me with more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.


6 Actions in New Gallup Report to Improve U.S. Workplace Culture

by Nedra Chandler (8-10 minute reading time)

Last night I read all 200+ pages of the newly-released “State of the American Workplace” report from Gallup and there are some great nuggets to notice in there.

The findings are based on more than 195,600 U.S. employees via the Gallup Panel and daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and about 31 million respondents through their Q12 Client Database. The results reveal findings that won’t surprise those immersed in organizational development. Yet the actions suggested here are not yet front and center in this country. It’s time to bust some moves. Even small shifts will move us toward significant improvements.

The report says leaders of U.S. organizations must:

  1. design and deliver a compelling and authentic employer brand
  2. take employee engagement from a survey to a cultural pillar that improves performance
  3. approach performance management in ways that motivate employees
  4. offer benefits and perks that influence attraction and retention
  5. enable people to work successfully from locations besides the office
  6. construct office environments that honor privacy while encouraging collaboration
  7. improve clarity and communication for employees who work on multiple teams

The themes workers told Gallup were: “we want our work to have meaning and purpose; to use our talents and strengths and to have at least part of each day spent on doing what we each do best. We want to learn and develop and we want our jobs to fit our lives.”

It made me laugh to see the point made on p. 9 that one thing organizations should not do is sit and wait for millennials to “get older and start behaving like baby boomers.”

What does “engagement” mean?

“Gallup measures employee engagement using a 12-element survey (Gallup’s Q12) rooted in employees’ performance development needs. When those needs are met, says Gallup, employees become emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace. As a result, their individual performance soars, and they propel their team and organization to improved crucial outcomes such as higher levels of productivity, safety and quality.” (p. 62)

The four levels of performance development needs are:

1. basic needs

2. individual needs

3. teamwork needs

4. personal growth needs

The report points out that attending to the first 3 levels help create a working environment of trust and respect that in turn supports each individual and team toward awareness and development in the fourth level — personal growth.

The authors emphasize that managers must become coaches and attend to all four levels through “frequent, focused, future-oriented” coaching conversations. I agree with this. Just imagine how this shift from the (awful) annual, backward-looking official performance review to this new approach will animate organizations in the best possible ways.

These findings resonated with me. While reading it, I re-lived some uncomfortable flashback memories of losing my composure at work way too often – especially near the end of my own hellacious management job inside a government agency.

If it weren’t for my own professional coach — Rebecca Johns – whom I was able to hire with federal grant dollars to support me and all staff on our team, I might still be stuck in a mismatch/bad fit job, not feeling or seeing opportunities that were present in my work and life – mostly as a result of being too stressed to show up as my best self.

The most interesting aha to me of all in this detailed report is that fully 4 of Gallup’s 6 overall themes presented at the front are about the value of coaching – internally delivered (again, frequent, focused and future-oriented) and developmental coaching.

The takeaway for me is that it is clearly time to invest more resources into serving each other internally as development partners in our workplaces while we serve customers, end users and stakeholders in the same committed ways, externally.

From my vantage point as an external coach to government leaders, I see this as massive mindset shift that has yet to be realized.

Summary of 6 Calls To Action

My summary and word choice on of Gallup’s 6 big- picture calls to action follow, with Jim Clifton’s quotes in italics below each.

Clifton, who is the CEO and board chair of Gallup, makes a bold claim in his introduction that ‘taking these steps ….will lead to historic bursts in productivity and will change your organization, America and the world.’ I hope he’s right.

1. Development coaching matters. A lot.

Clifton says, “call an executive meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from old command-and-control to one of high development and ongoing coaching conversations.”

What this means is a significant shift from treating the workplace like it’s a strip mine to recognizing it’s an ecosystem that thrives on generative, sustainable practices for the long haul.

2. Don’t wait for clarity. Clarity will come with action.

 “Dive in — don’t put your toe in. You can afford a lot of mistakes and even failures because the system you currently use doesn’t work anyway.” Ouch. Yet I like this one for its blunt clarity.

3. Create a coaching culture from the inside out and outside in.

“Switch from a culture of “employee satisfaction” — which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits — to a “coaching culture.”

4. Purpose matters. We want our work to have meaning.

“Change from a culture of “paycheck” to a culture of “purpose.”

5. Actively invest in and support leaders and managers to know their strengths and those of others, and have courage and support to use them.

“If you have 25,000 employees, then you likely have about 2,500 managers and leaders at various levels. Transform them all.”

Again, my own worldview and bias here: the main shift we need to make is to be true development partners to one another. Not only must we be of service to customers and others with a direct stake in our organizations, we need to be of service to each other at work.

6. Make sure people know their strengths and how to leverage them with their peers and work partners.

“Require all 25,000 employees to take the CliftonStrengths assessment so your organization recognizes each individual by their strengths. Institute a leadership philosophy of developing strengths versus fixing weaknesses.”

My view is that there are many tools that help humans know and keep developing their strengths. Lumina Learning and Play to Your Strengths are the two I’ve come to rely on most often. The point is that it is both crucial and way-too-often overlooked to know your strengths and the strengths of others, and then cultivate the courage and presence to use those in your integrated work and life.

Takeaway Message from All 6 Actions

My takeaway is that we will all be much better off when we invest in serving each other as development coaches and relate with each other at work as human beings, not limited to our sanitized, yet disengaged roles as cogs in a machine.

That means we show up and serve as genuine, humble-yet-confident partners to one another at work for the good of ourselves and the good of the whole.

Important caveat: like the famous coach Tony Robbins says, “You can’t influence somebody when you’re busy judging them.”

My work at Cadence is about delivering coaching that evokes a shift in view such that we each see and experience our current situation in new and useful ways. While you’re cultivating your own growth identity you are also gaining valuable experience to help you be of the best possible service as a development partner to others. How cool is that?

We develop ourselves at the exact same time we are contributing to the development of others. That’s a generous, new model – it’s a vision of coaching culture in American workplaces that will help us evolve and transform our workplaces for the better.

I took time to digest this monster Gallup report and I appreciate you taking the time to read me. I may dig into some more of it in future posts. If you find something of value here, please sign up to receive these monthly at https://www.cadenceinc.us/news/

Please share/forward to your friends and associates who might benefit from the insights here and let me know what you are noticing in your own experience at your workplace. I need to hear.

A bit about me: I work primarily with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.

Look At What Connects Us

by Nedra Chandler (approx 5 min read)

Photo shows a current example of trusting work relationships between tribal, federal and city government leaders at Fort Peck. This core group decided to collaborate — without over-reaching or burning out — on some redevelopment of Poplar properties. The practical choices they are making as they trust, show respect and engage with one another is making a difference.

I feel like I’m part of an anxious herd of humans right now. How are you all doing?

One thing I’m feeling in myself and sensing in others must be related to how topsy turvy our public life has been in this country since the November election.

No matter how you voted I’ll bet you share the sense that we’re collectively experiencing quite a bit of mutual mistrust in our government. Except for the few who seem to not want government to work at all, if you’re reading here you know government is us. Still, this current scene has an emergency feel, urgent, with extra drama. I’m aware that it’s a choice to view it that way, or some other way.

I write and work within this theme: trust in self and trust in government share the same root. Trust in self; trust in others; and trust in the flexible-yet- principled institutions of democratic governance are all the same element at root.

This past election brought us a significant change in the leadership in the White House and in Congress and in many states, yet it is the continuation of a long trend.

It reminds me of wise observations I heard Kettering Foundation president David Mathews deliver in a speech a few years ago:

It is no secret that the American people have been unhappy with our political system for some time, and they doubt that the system can reform itself. The public’s loss of confidence in government as well as other major institutions is well documented and widely reported. Worse still, the distrust is mutual. Under these conditions, polarization flourishes.

Here’s a little story about this week. I live in Helena where many thousands of people are coming over this Saturday, January 21, inauguration day, getting together at the Capitol. I understand the event will begin with holding hands in a circle around the entire building and grounds.

“We hope to bring people together after such a divisive election,” says one of the event organizers, “the hope is that all will agree that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect despite their gender, gender expression, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, economic status, immigration status, age, or disability.”

What a great reason to meet: to bring people together, to focus on what connects us. That’s the part I look forward to most: the circle, seeing and showing respect for one another.

I’ll be with a larger than usual crew of family and friends because January 21 is also my birthday and my home is just a 5-block walk from the Capitol building.

I’ll need to confront and manage my excitement to get together right alongside my fear around showing up at the Capitol on Saturday at all.

In the interest of talking myself out of my own tree, here are some things that help me steady myself day-to-day in my life and work, and for Saturday:

  1. One key that underlies conflict prevention is for us each to know ourselves and manage ourselves. We can rest on that and carefully choose actions that in line with our own integrity. Practice pausing and take at least one long breath before responding to drama.
  2. Remember we are resourceful and we get to choose our responses. Things go better for everyone when we each know our values, beliefs and behavior strengths and are not afraid to use them.
  3. We are all better off too when we pay attention to the strengths and capacities of others, together. In this way we develop ourselves at the exact same time we are contributing to the development of others. That’s a swell deal.
  4. This managing of ourselves, trusting and respecting ourselves and others in our still-precious yet messy democratic system is all a dynamic process, It requires commitment to keep practicing all that as we change, and conditions change.

How much am I projecting my unique fears on others? Here’s a unique fear I have: as one side effect of the unusual way I make my living for the past 25+ years, I don’t have experience as an attender of marches. Almost zero. I wonder how best to manage myself, how best to remain present and not be a killjoy.

For another source of personal angst, I also fear judgement will rain down on me whether I go or don’t go. I’m worried I will judge and be judged at the march somehow. Maybe for not being correct enough or for not knowing exactly how to be there. And I can be the worst judger who judges judgers for being judgmental you’ve ever met!

When I hear me, my friends, family or acquaintances be overly-focused on judging everything that’s wrong,wrong, wrong with everything and how our species and this beautiful planet is doomed it pushes all my survival buttons. Especially if I am not well-rested when I hear it. Those darned judgers! I judge em harshly! Because I believe, like the Poplar crowd said, we’re all one anyway.

Fortunately for everyone who lives or works with me, I get professional coaching to help me manage me when I get in the grip of (righteously) judging this or that righteous judger here or there or everywhere. Still makes me crazy. But I recover faster now. And p.s. to my clients who read me, please don’t hold this confession against me. When I am under contract to be calm and fair I do that well, remember?

On Saturday, no one is paying me to be there. So if I perceive one-too-many ugly signs or expressions of outraged righteousness on the left or right, it’s possible my geeky “I love government of, for and by the people” heart will get all jumpy and resistant and judgmental and I’ll need to excuse myself and walk home early.

Back to democracy and these themes of how trust in self and trust in government are essentially the same. That trust in self and others and trust in the flexible-yet-principled institutions of democratic governance share the same root.

The fact that our system has fallible humans and special interests in it is a big part of why Thomas Jefferson and government system designers since his time know and acknowledge: democracy is an ongoing experiment. As we are alive, it’s alive, shifting and changing with the influence and participation of each individual and the whole.

One reason I’m a process geek is this: good process results in good outcomes. Unfair, unethical process results in predictably crappy outcomes. I saw that at my first real job after college working on campaign finance and model ethics legislation, I saw it even more in conflict management work, and I see it today.

When I hear President-Elect Trump is “not my president” and similar expressions, I want to ask, is there some other government waiting in the wings to step in for us this month? Seems to me only the super duper scary kind could be ready that fast — the type where people might need to be on the watch or the run from paramilitary forces acting as government, police and military all-in-one.

On more promising trains of thought, here’s the link to the remarkable 46-minute Martin Luther King speech from 1968 called Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution my friend sent us on Monday. My favorite part is where King said:

“We are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution.”

“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Everything King said at the front end of that speech in 1968 perfectly underscored this modern, right-now imperative: reverse the decline of trust by fostering it in ourselves, our communities and government.

Even in the middle of what seems to be more of a polarizing trend we can look at it and find what connects us.

Thanks for reading. This got long. And I’m calmer for having expressed my current perspective. And my perspective may change, but the belief and value underneath, about how trust in self and others is the same darned thing, this is a big thing to me.

Please consider subscribing to my monthly posts and I’ll be glad to see you send me a note, a challenge or question, any comment or share.

A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach or third party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me at https://www.cadenceinc.us and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.

Some of my past posts on trust and trust in government: trust is possible to operationalize and practice. Commitment trust, for one example, is especially practical in personal and workplace settings. See my friend Faith Ralston’s work on that topic here. also more on trust in government.