Four Ways to Leverage Appreciation at Year End

The holiday season and the close of another year tend to invoke a time of reflection and gratitude. We think back on all we have accomplished, consider what we are grateful for, and look forward to what lies ahead in the coming year.

In business, many companies have developed formalized systems of reflection and recognition, from retros, reviews and parties to holiday bonuses, gift cards and paid time off. These are all important practices, yet, we can go deeper and have even more impact with new approaches.

How can we express more potent appreciation for our employees at year end in a way that goes beyond a little extra compensation and engages forms of reflection and gratitude that may be even more meaningful? Throughout my career managing teams - and also training leaders to manage theirs - I’ve found these 4 tools to be particularly powerful:

1. Write a personal thank you note to each employee.

Go beyond job performance and let your reports know how they have impacted the team by nature of who they are and how they show up. Use these questions as a guide: How has this employee positively contributed to the culture of the team or organization? What are the unique gifts they bring? Maybe they bring humor and brighten people’s day. Perhaps they have been willing to jump in and support their colleagues, or come up with creative and innovative ideas. How has this employee made your life or job easier? What are the small things they do that make a big difference?

2. Write a letter to your team sharing what you are personally grateful for.

Impart the joy you feel for what you accomplished together and what each one of your team members brought to the table. Try these prompts: Because of you, we were able to __. Without you, we never would have been able to __. I so appreciate the __ of this team.

Don’t be shy - include your personal successes as well!

3. Use Appreciative Inquiry to guide your year-end team retrospective.

Leverage powerful and positive questions to celebrate and build on your team’s strengths and what it has done well. Guide your discussion by asking these questions: Why is what we’re doing important to us? What positive impact has our work had over the past year? When did we perform at our best this year? How do we build on this next year? What personal contributions to our team's successes are you proudest of this year? What is possible next year? What work are we excited to do together?

4. Cultivate group appreciation.

It’s wonderful for your employees to hear your gratitude, and it’s also powerful to have them hear it from one another. A simple way to do it is by convening an end-of-year meeting and passing around sheets of paper with each team member’s name on it. Everyone on the team gets to write at least one thing that they appreciate about each of their colleagues. At the end of the meeting, every employee gets to see their paper and share a few things their team has said about them.

Often, we don’t know just how much we are appreciated. Each of these approaches to gratitude are free and easy to integrate, and can have a profound effect on your employees.

When we practice deeper forms of gratitude, we leave team members feeling engaged, seen, and excited for the coming year. That, in turn, helps to build and maintain a culture based on motivation, connectedness, loyalty, and innovation, as well as a deeper connection to purpose.

I’d like to challenge you to take at least one of these practices on as a gift to your team, and to consider how you might make it more than a once-a-year affair. Appreciation can truly do wonders.

Jess Peabody is Programs Lead at The People Piece, where she brings the power of appreciation to leaders, managers and teams wanting to build stronger relationships and achieve greater results. Before that, she coordinated chapter relations for Conscious Capitalism, directed learning and development for Whole Foods Northern California, and led teams of 4 to 400 employees.

Are you working at Machine Speed, or Human Speed?

The author Jerry Mander posed the question in his potent tract, ‘In the Absence of the Sacred.’ His basic take: as technology continues to speed things up, we will all become more stressed because we will need to work at a pace we were not built for.

Sound familiar?

Now consider Mander wrote the book in 1991, back when dial up internet was the norm, cell phones were a novelty, and some people (like me) still used word processors.

Fast forward to today. Google’s AI technology can help me spit out a dozen email responses in the blink of an eye, giving me plenty of time to comment in Slack, check my cloud-based project management tool notifications, read and respond to a few texts, and coordinate with an employee in Europe, all while logging in and out of a number of apps. All by 9:30am. You know the drill.

On some level, all this technology is really cool.

We can jump on fresh opportunities, collaborate seamlessly with people around the world, and leverage innovation far more easily. And, when we work at machine speed, we can get so much done in relatively short periods of time.

Yet we all know the truth: working consistently at machine speed is not sustainable. It is relentless, depleting, and often, overwhelming.

That’s because we are not machines. We are human beings.

It can be hard to remember amidst the bustle, can’t it? I mean to truly know it.

We understand human speed when we allow ourselves a spacious weekend.

We feel it when we go into nature for long enough. We know it when we let go of agenda and productivity in any way, whether we stroll on the beach, take in a sunset, play with a child, or gaze into the eyes of our partner.

I’m not speaking as a yogi here. I’m speaking as a guy from New Jersey who loves to move fast, get things done, and achieve. Always have, probably always will.

Being productive, being creative, serving a useful purpose and getting things done can all be wonderful aspects of being alive. It’s a question of scope, and a question of pace.

The irony is that when we work at machine speed in an effort to do too much of these things too fast, we strip the humanity out of our experience.

How often have you put in that 8-hour day and thought, “Wow, I don’t even know what the heck just happened, but I do know a lot of things happened”?

That’s because we can’t be fully present and work at machine speed. There is always more to do, faster, better!

Presence doesn’t need to mean slowing down from 5000 RPMs to idle. Or hopping out of the car for a week off (most likely chock full of activities – same pattern) and then jumping right back in at 6000 RPMs to make up for lost time.

Sometimes, yes. Other times, presence could mean just be shaving off a few hundred RPMs. To get out of redline and stay at Human Speed. Consistently.

What changes when we work at Human Speed?

First off, we are more fulfilled. We enjoy our work more.

We produce better things. Think of the master artist – is he moving fast around his studio, or is she taking great care with each refinement, utterly present with her work?

We feel less stress. And so we feel better, and we treat others better.

It’s hard to go all day at 5000 or 6000 or 7000 RPMs, stay connected to our phones until 8 or 9pm, and then expect to be able to slide into 800 RPMs for a consistent, peaceful sleep. For most of us, ain’t gonna happen.

So we wake up depleted. Down some caffeine. Go straight back to 5000 RPM, seeking dopamine hits from endless task completion.

Rinse, repeat.

Life flies. We’re 40. Then 50. Then 60. Then, boom: where did it all go? I did all this great work. Did I enjoy it? Do I even remember it? How did I treat people? What did it mean?

I am an achievement junkie.

For the past 15 years of my career, I have been constantly returning to the question, What would it be like to live life from this human place? To notice when the RPMs are too high and take my foot off the gas, just enough to be present. Maybe to idle every hour or two for 2 or 3 or 5 minutes? Sometimes, more?

Moving slower is not easy. We must choose to go against the prevailing winds of an accelerating, technological society, and perhaps more so, the relentless slave driver in our own minds.

Sometimes, redlining is what it takes and it can even feel great. But not all the time. We keep ourselves in a near constant state of dis-ease and fight/flight.

What would it be like to live our lives at human speed?

How would it change our stress levels, our moods, and our levels of fulfillment? How would it benefit our work, our families, all the people around us?

Take a moment right now. Close your computer. Silence your phone. Close your eyes if you like, and take three deep breaths. Drop below machine speed into the human place inside.

How does it feel? What happens from here?

Improve Your Team's Productivity

Teams and organizations reach out to The People Piece because they want to do better together.

They want greater efficiency, less mistakes, and more fulfillment doing their work. We help them develop the mindsets, agreements and skillsets they need to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Yet there is another essential piece to the team health puzzle, and that is Process. What - if any - collaboration tools, systems and procedures have teams adopted to ensure they work more effectively together? (Together, we call these 4 elements our MAPS approach to team health)

In our work with teams - and also internally - we’ve found the process piece can be challenging. What is the best collaboration tool to support highly collaborative and often distributed teams, and critically, what are the best methods for ensuring team members actually adopt these new systems rather than reverting back to email and Word docs at worst, or a subpar cloud-based tool at best?

Here is some wisdom from our friends at ClickUp, the cloud-based collaboration tool we use in-house at The People Piece (and recommend to our clients). We think you'll find it useful for getting all team members on board with new ways of doing things, even when it's hard.

Does it feel like technology and new software tools has made team communication even more difficult?

With email, online comments and quick messages, sometimes it’s even more difficult to understand what your team needs and understands. It can be harder to manage their expectations.

Layer on tool after tool and it can be confusing about what goes where, and what steps need to happen next.

How do you break that cycle of confusion?

In fact, there are tools that can improve this communication and make the process easier. It’s a matter of creating new habits around the new software and getting everyone on the same page. Easier said than done though, right?

How do you get well-intentioned software tools to work for you rather than against you?

Though many parts of effective team communication still need to happen in person, you can effectively utilize productivity tools and project management software to erase the friction of follow-ups and review. Yes, it is possible for these tools to make your teamwork easier rather than harder.

In this post, you’ll learn how to leverage software to help your team’s collaboration and workflows, rather than bring your organization to a complete standstill.

Let’s think about the best practices for improving your collaboration with software.

1. Use the Help Resources for the Software

Don’t expect all of your team members to be fully knowledgeable about the software and its features. You may have a few power users who will naturally gravitate to all of its amazing features and a few others who progress slowly. Those that aren’t as adept or comfortable with a new collaboration or communication style should be helped and encouraged, and not shamed. You can gently nudge them to try it out and then offer a point person for help or assistance along the way. This could be the customer success team for the software company, or an in-house champion who found and looked at best practices for using it. Visiting the software company’s help resources, such as docs and videos, could also provide answers.

However, your software choices should feel intuitive for a large number of your team members even if there is a learning curve. Be aware when new team members start, and document any best practices that your team has developed so they can get up to speed quickly.

2. Agree on how you’re going to work and then hold people accountable

Once you’ve been onboarded and trained, your team has to follow through on its new collaboration. You are trying to change your team’s habits. And this could be a ruthless process.

If your team drops reminders via sticky notes on top of a keyboard, then that has to change with the new software. If they are accustomed to company-wide broadcast emails sharing their latest musings, that’s gotta stop, too. When new tasks, ideas or thoughts come up, be sure they’re recorded in a way that’s consistent and accessible across the whole business unit or department.

3. Create a central place for information

Oftentimes, software tools can consolidate lots of the conversations that are being conducted over multiple channels. Email has its limitations because everyone organizes their inboxes differently; spreadsheets often don’t have the flexibility that teams need and your company message board or chat tool also has ideas in there, too. A project management software and/or a knowledge management repository will help you keep those tasks and documents straight and accessible.

4. Make Specific Tasks

Ever left a long meeting and didn’t know what to do next?

It’s lonely to feel left out and disengaged from the process. A good step in conducting better meetings is to not only have an agenda, but to also have actionable steps after the meeting. What’s helpful is to also record these in whatever software tool / method you’ve agreed to in point two. Creating action plans with specific tasks will help your team stay organized and collaborate more effectively. Checklists and templates can also help your team follow the same process each time.

5. Focus On What Makes A Difference

One downfall with collaboration in software is that there’s too much information sometimes. It’s easy to skip between tasks and projects, doing a little bit here and a little bit there. To combat that tendency to procrastinate, set priorities in your system to indicate what each team member should be focused on. Task priorities tell the team what’s important, keep them focused on achieving that goal, and streamline the workflow, saving your company money in the process.

Many teams say they want to be on the same page and work together, but often overlook the key tactical steps it takes to make that happen. And that can be exacerbated when introducing a new productivity platform or software tool. Setting expectations for how your team communicates can be helpfulful in establishing clear boundaries, and will also help your team collaborate and eliminate the constant search for a perfect collaboration solution.

Josh Spilker is a writer and content strategist for ClickUp, a top productivity platform. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

The People Piece helps leaders, managers and teams develop the communication and collaboration skills they need to get more done together. Contact us to learn more about our customized coaching, training and comprehensive development solutions.

Name the Elephant (or Kill the Lion)

Think of your organization as a pride of lions – powerful and in command, with outstanding collaboration skills. Almost nothing can stop you…except an elephant.

Lions face few risks at the hands of other animals in the wild. Yet they can sustain life-threatening injuries – or even death – at the hands of a raging elephant.

Every team and organization has its elephants. Not the literal beast, but the figurative one.

Will this management strategy really work? Why are we sticking with this inefficient process? Is this person truly the right fit for our team?

These are the conversations individuals, teams and companies don’t want to have. These are the proverbial ‘Elephants in the Room.’

We’ve all seen the team that won’t proactively confront its manager about an ill-fated strategy. We’ve heard of the leadership group that won’t challenge its CEO. And we’ve been in a relationship where it feels too risky to get real.

What happens in the wild when lions don’t pay close attention to elephants? They risk serious injury, or even death.

The same is true in today’s increasingly complex, innovative and fast paced workplace. What is left unsaid is often what sinks the best teams, strategies and organizations. Authentic conversations that name elephants, on the other hand, help teams to build trust, avoid mistakes and achieve greater results.

How do we overcome our natural fear of elephants and learn to leverage their mighty power instead? Try these four strategies:

Insist on Psychological Safety

It’s up to every team member – and especially leaders and managers – to ensure that all voices are heard and all views respected. That doesn’t mean everyone should agree with everyone else. Quite the contrary - it means encouraging a safe space for expression of diverse and often conflicting views. Do that by agreeing to communication ground rules that encourage participation, inviting less expressive team members to share their points of view and stepping in to protect those in the minority from scorn or abuse.

Run an Anonymous Assessment

Want to know what people really think? Run an anonymous assessment to measure basic indicators of team health, including the ability to get real, challenge others and give critical feedback. We like The Table Group’s on-line team assessment, based on Patrick Lencioni’s ‘The Five Disfunctions of a Team.’

Train in Communication

In our work with organizations including Pinterest, Cirrus Logic, the ClimateWorks Foundation and others, the desire to have more open conversations nearly always comes out as a top organizational goal. Visit The People Piece website to learn more about how we teach leaders, managers, employees and teams to have difficult conversations that are productive and authentic.

Model the Way

If naming elephants helps take away their power, the most powerful thing any leader – or team member – can do is to take the risk and model the way. Help your peers, reports and managers see for themselves that difficult conversations won’t kill anyone. In fact, they will lead to stronger relationships, less mistakes and better results.

In the wild, successful lions pay close attention to elephants. The same goes for successful teams. Take the risk to have those difficult conversations, and encourage and enable other team members to do the same. We think you will see better ideas, less mistakes and stronger relationships.

Conflict Is Good

The meeting was nearly 20 years ago. I was 24 years old, a young non-profit director helping lead the formation of a large citywide coalition.

The tension in the room was thick. And it quickly boiled over.

After an increasingly acrimonious discussion, a leader in the group stood up and publically challenged me. I defended my position. He raised his voice, dug hard, and got personal.

I didn’t know what do to. And it didn’t seem like any of the 30 other people in the room did either.

Out of the silence, a local leader called out: “Conflict is good.”

I felt the truth in that statement. But I felt so angry, caught off guard and embarrassed, I stood up and walked out of the room.

For most of us, conflict is scary. It triggers a very real ‘fight, flight and/or freeze’ physiological reaction. That’s because it conjures up a host of fears: What if I harm this relationship by speaking up? What if they retaliate? What if I lose my cool and make matters worse? What if I was wrong all along? Our mind can’t tell these fears apart from the proverbial lion on the savannah, so a host of chemical reactions put us squarely at the mercy of primitive emotions – and squarely outside the realm of reason and calm.

Most of us want to avoid conflict. When it goes of the rails, the consequences can be uncomfortable at best and disastrous at worst.

Yet some level of conflict is inevitable in any relationship, both at work and in our personal lives. You want sushi for dinner, I want a burger. You think we need two weeks to complete the project, I think we need four. You think we should focus more on speed, I think we should focus more on quality. And the list goes on.

Not only is conflict inevitable, conflict can, to go back to those words uttered at that meeting nearly 20 years ago, actually be a good thing. Disagreements can lead to better ideas. They drive innovation. They generate commitment and buy-in, because we’ve all said our piece. They can even strengthen relationships – we build trust when we say what needs to be said, hash things out, and come to a resolution.

So how do we leverage the power of conflict while acknowledging the very real pitfalls it presents? The key is to turn conflict from a fight to win into a problem to solve, and then to work together for a solution that helps all parties.

Sounds great in theory, but how do you do that? We’ve drawn on the work of negotiation gurus like Bill Ury to develop a simple 4-part model you can use to work out any disagreement – with your boss, your coworker, your teenager, or your spouse.

We call this model SWOP, and we’ve taught it to hundreds of people in workplaces across the US and Europe. It stands for Same Side, Why, Options and Plan. Here’s how to use it.

Same Side

Same Side is a foundational mindset, and it is essential. Instead of viewing conflict as a fight to win or a position to defend, embracing a Same Side mindset means viewing a disagreement as a problem to solve. Same Side means taking our energy away from trying to convince someone else or defend against them, and instead, directing that energy – ours and theirs - toward working something out. Same Side starts with a sensitive set up and solution-oriented, collaborative framing. “I know you’re upset. Are you up for trying to see if there is a way we can both get what we need here?”


The biggest mistake we can make in any disagreement is to focus on the requests and demands we and the others may be making, instead of focusing on the interests and needs that underlie them. If I know you have a vacation planned for two weeks from now, I’ll be more likely to understand why you want to speed up the project timeline. And if you know I just got some heat from a customer, you may be more likely to empathize with me about why I think we need to take more time. It may sound simple, but in our experience teaching this content over the past 7 years, we have rarely if ever seen anyone in our training sessions practice asking someone why what they want matters to them, without first being prompted from us. People also very often skip explaining why what they want matters to them. Try asking and explaining why — in that order — and we think you’ll notice a game-changing shift. The key is to ask with genuine curiosity and explain with calmly and objectively, rather than acting like a lawyer trying to interrogate a witness, or make his or her case.


You are focusing on listening, explaining why and problem solving. Now how do you find a solution? The key is to brainstorm options that can help both parties meet their needs and achieve their goals. The biggest mistake people make at this stage: offering a way forward. Instead, we suggest asking, “What do you think we can do to resolve this?” That helps generate buy-in from the other party, and generates a real, two-way conversation. If you avoid asking and collaborative problem solving and push through your solution instead, you risk alienating the other party and deciding on a plan they won’t follow through on any way.


All your careful work comes to naught without a plan. That means agreeing to concrete next steps that can be verified later through a simple SPOT check: Scope (what are we agreeing to, and how much), Process (how will we get it done), Owner (who will do what), and Timeframe (by when we promise to deliver). If the plan is a broad one, check in at key milestones. That way, you can course correct, celebrate the wins and hold one another accountable as needed.

Will following these steps always ensure a perfect resolution to any disagreement? Of course not. But in our experience working with hundreds of leaders, managers, employees and teams at dozens of companies, using the SWOP tool can help transform destructive conflicts into productive exchanges that build trust and generate better solutions – one disagreement at a time.

3 Simple Questions Can Reveal Your Team’s Purpose and Drive Higher Levels of Engagement

A clearly articulated, aspirational purpose has become a key talent management strategy for many organizations in today’s mission-driven economy. Whether that drive stems from younger generations who seek jobs at value-driven companies, or from an overall ethical shift in business, more organizations are shifting their focus to the needs of multiple stakeholders—communities, employees, the natural environment—not just shareholder gains.

Purpose for everyone

An organization’s purpose must permeate through each department, division, and team, so that everyone can feel inspired by it, embody it, and work toward it. Only a true sense of shared purpose can drive the highest levels of retention, engagement and innovation.

While many companies spend countless hours, resources, and money crafting the perfect purpose statement to proudly display on their websites and social media channels, few organizations ask - and act on - an essential question: How do we bring our purpose down from the C-Suite to the managers and employees who need to actually feel it, and live it?

Why we work determines how well we work  

So, how do we help our people feel truly connected to our organization’s purpose?

Identifying purpose with your on-the-ground teams doesn't take hours with a consultant or even a bevy of resources. Instead, it requires your leaders, managers, and employees take the time to explore three key questions that can cultivate a stronger connection to a greater “why”:

1.  Aside from a paycheck, what gets you out of bed and into work everyday?

2.  How would you define your team's purpose? What do you do, how do you do it, and why do you do it?

3. How does what you do - individually and as a team - fit in with, and contribute to, the wider organization’s success?

Two scenarios

How could this activity pan out in the real world? Here are two examples, one involving a People Piece client and the other involving my previous career as a leader in the natural foods industry.

  1. Last year, The People Piece led an off-site in Taiwan that brought together 9 East Asian sales operations employees with their 4 US and UK-based sales managers. The managers wanted their employees to step up into greater ownership and proactivity. We guessed the employees might be holding back because they may not have realized just how important they were to the wider organization’s success. So we had the group answer the 3 purpose questions outlined above through a visual collaborative brainstorm using post-its. We also shared short video clips featuring colleagues from the US and UK singing the praises of their East Asian counterparts and all they appreciated about them. When the employees reflected on these activities, they were moved and motivated to see just what a critical role they play for the company, and why stepping up would help even more. Managers have reported a fundamental shift since the retreat.

  2. 5 years ago, I led a team of over 350 people and asked them these questions. After asking employees what kept them motivated to come to work each day, I posted the answers throughout the hallways of our building so everyone could see them. The responses were nothing short of revelatory. I suddenly knew so much more about the individuals on my team, and we all learned so much more about each other. By being honest and a little bit vulnerable, we found that the team’s sense of community and support inspired us to come back to work every day with even more passion and commitment. While my team members might have known what motivated them individually, revealing what was important to their colleagues was a deeply moving and motivating experience. It also helped me become a better, more attuned leader.

Reveal, connect, and share

When you ask purpose-oriented questions, you uncover your team members’ motivations, drive a greater sense of ownership, and learn a lot about how employees view the impact of their work. You also help ignite an even more rewarding connection between employees and a deeper understanding of why and how you and your team are in this together.

Yet these questions are just the beginning. I challenge you to take it a step further: try using your new insights to draft a new team purpose statement. Seek feedback from team members. Then proudly display your purpose statement in your workplace or on a shared cloud drive where everyone can see it. You might quickly read it at the start of regular team meetings. These tools might just have a profound effect on catalyzing your team and building a stronger, more successful, and more purpose-driven company.

We wish you the best of luck in uncovering your “why” at work. Be in touch if you want to find out more about how our team assessments, trainings, and facilitated session have helped develop more purpose-driven cultures at tech companies, global sales organizations, and public utilities in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Jess Peabody joined The People Piece as our Programs Lead in April of this year. Before that, she served as Community Director at Conscious Capitalism, with 11 years at Whole Foods Market as a Team Leader, Associate Store Team Leader, and Learning and Development Associate Director prior to that.

Create a Culture of Ownership at Work

At The People Piece, our clients often tell us that they want their people to take more ownership of their work, responsibilities, and roles in their organizations. They say, “Instead of passing the buck, we want people to take responsibility, develop solutions, and take action to improve things. We want them to go above and beyond, even if it’s outside their role.”  

It’s not surprising. Organizations and teams with higher levels of ownership exhibit greater productivity, efficiency, and innovation. Team members are happier, and so are customers. And because the burden of leadership is shared more evenly, managers and leaders get to spend more time on important strategic functions instead of fighting fires.

While having an Ownership Culture is clearly beneficial, creating one can be challenging. Announcing to your team, “From now on, we want everyone to step up and own things more” doesn’t tend to cut it. In fact, doing so can backfire, creating resentment and mistrust.

So, how can leaders, managers, and team members engage in smart actions to drive ownership among their employees and peers? In our experience, these 4 tools are key:

1. Connect to purpose

As children, the first question many of us ask is: Why? And we never stop asking, seeking to understand the world around us. The drive to understand doesn’t end when we’re at work.

One of the most powerful ways to drive ownership is to help your team members understand how what everyone does matters and fits into the bigger picture. Not only does a sense of purpose increase motivation, it fosters an environment where team members can take the reins because they understand goals and dependencies.

Engage your people’s rational minds through numbers, plans, and bullets points, and appeal to their emotional centers through stories, images, and aspirational language. (Why both? Chip and Dan Heath explain in their book Switch.)

2. Ask a lot more questions

You can’t expect people to own things as theirs if most of the ideas and directions come from you. Even the most well-meaning, empowering managers and leaders can benefit from a hefty dose of one simple practice: asking more questions.

Asking “What do you think we should do?” or “What could you do to solve that problem?” can naturally put team members in an ownership frame and drive commitment.

The best way to get people talking, thinking, and often, acting, is to ask questions. As leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni says, “If you don’t weigh in, you can’t buy in.”

3. Insist on solutions

Bake a solution-orientation into your organization’s values and expected behaviors, and model the way yourself.

Each time someone gets into an old pattern of throwing their hands up, ask them, “What can you do?” If they need more direction, be more specific. Try asking “Would you come up with 3 possible ways we can solve this, along with recommendations for action and suggested next steps?”

Repetition and consistency pay off, and will help shift mindsets and behaviors towards change through solutions and problem solving.

4. Let go of control

Lastly, if you want people to truly feel a sense of ownership, you need to let go of some of it yourself. Would you design that initiative better than your employee? In some cases, almost certainly. But if you do most of the ideation and planning, it becomes a lot harder for others to feel a true sense of ownership.

If you truly want to drive ownership in your organization, you need to bite the bullet and let go of control. Only then will people feel more like the work, the outcomes, and even the organization are truly theirs.

- - - - -

Building an Ownership Culture can be challenging, especially if people have been passing the buck for years. Trying to get people out of a mode of being “good enough”—or worse, being a “victim”—often challenges deep-seated behaviors and beliefs. Yet over time, we’ve found that individuals, teams, and organizations can shift into new ways of thinking and acting.

Remember that success doesn’t just mean increased productivity, efficiency, and innovation—it also means happier people, healthier cultures, and an organization where everybody leads.

And that’s something we hope that you’ll keep working toward every day.

Roni and The People Piece team

PS - Want to drive ownership in your team, group, or organization? Get in touch to learn more about how our comprehensive, customized development programs have helped develop ownership cultures at tech companies, global sales organizations, and public utilities in the US, Europe, and Asia.


Are You Bringing Your Whole Self to Work?

I have spent the past 17 years as a speaker and consultant, partnering with employees, leaders, and teams across a wide variety of companies. I’ve seen lots of examples of what works and what doesn’t work for the success and engagement of individuals, managers, and organizations. 

Whether as a professional baseball player in my young adulthood or my current life and career as a developer of high performing teams, I’ve struggled with fears, doubts, insecurities, and an erroneous obsession with wanting to be liked by everyone. My commitment to authenticity and to bringing my whole self to work is an on-going practice. While sometimes challenging, it is always important.

For any of us to truly succeed, especially in today’s business world, we must be willing to bring our whole selves to the work that we do. For the teams and organizations that we’re a part of to thrive, it’s also essential to foster an environment where people feel safe enough to bring all of who they are to work. 

Here are five specific things you can do to both bring all of who you are to work and empower your team to be as effective, successful, and engaged as possible:

1. Be Authentic

The foundation of bringing your whole self to work is authenticity, which is about showing up honestly, without self-righteousness, and with vulnerability. It takes courage to be authentic, and it’s essential for trust, growth, and connection.

2. Utilize the Power of Appreciation

Appreciation is fundamental to building strong relationships, empowering teams, and maintaining a healthy outlook. Bringing your whole self to work is about being willing to be seen, and also about seeing and supporting the people around you.

3. Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is often more important than IQ, skills and experience—in terms of your ability both to manage your relationships and to bring your whole self to work. EQ is both about you (self-awareness and self-management) and about how you relate to others (social awareness and relationship management).

4. Embrace a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is a way of approaching your work and your life with an understanding that you can improve at anything if you’re willing to work hard, dedicate yourself, and practice. It’s also about looking at every experience (even, indeed especially, your challenges) as an opportunity for growth and learning.

5. Create a Championship Team

The environment around you and the people you work with have a significant impact on your ability (or inability) to fully show up, engage, and thrive. At the same time, the more willing you are to bring our whole self to work, the more impact you can have on others. Creating a championship team is about building a culture that is safe and conducive to people being themselves, caring about one another, and being willing and able to do great work together.

Regardless of where you work, what kind of work you do, or with whom you do it, bringing your whole self to work allows you to be more satisfied, effective, and free. For a leader who wants to influence others, having the courage to lead with authenticity also allows you to build or enhance your team’s culture in such a way that encourages others to bring all of who they are to work. That, in turn, unlocks greater creativity, connection, and performance for your people, your team and your organization.

Are you willing to lean in and bring all of who you are to work?

Mike Robbins is the author of four books including his latest, Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Vulnerability Unlocks Creativity, Connection, and Performance

He is a thought leader and sought-after speaker whose clients include Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, eBay, Genentech, Schwab, the San Francisco Giants, and many others. For more information on Mike and his work, visit

Portions of this article are excerpted from Bring Your Whole Self to Work, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2018) and available online or in bookstores.

Rethink Your Team's Development

“Employee development” is often framed as learning certain skills or building knowledge to keep employees engaged and productive. We all hear about company-funded training, attending upcoming conferences in our field, or how everyone should read the latest best-selling business book.

But the way we see it, employee development is less about what you and your people can do and more about how your team can achieve specific, time-bound goals together. Instead of focusing on individual knowledge, skills, and abilities, we encourage you to look at the potential of your people and ask, “What do we want and need to achieve together over by a set period of time? What capacity do we need to build to get there successfully?”

What Do You Want to Achieve in 1 Year?

Agree on realistic, measurable, and concrete benchmarks, such as, “Bring in $1 million by December 31, 2018,” or “Have 20 ongoing and committed clients by October 1, 2018.” By being detailed in both number and deadline, your team will feel more empowered and driven to rise to the challenge.

Once you’ve agreed on specific overarching goals for the coming year, post those goals somewhere where everyone will see them regularly. Put them on a shared calendar, or an online business dashboard. If you don’t have one, create one that everyone can see. Think of this goal as a mission statement to keep your people inspired and focused. Eyes on the prize every day.

Then, after you’ve determined what you want to achieve, planning how you’ll get there will be a lot easier.

What Can Your Team Bring to the Table Already?

Once you’ve figured out what you want to achieve over a specific time frame, you can map out what capabilities you’ll need to get there. Chances are that if you’ve hired driven, high-performing people, you have the talent, you’ll just need to ask them a few questions.

Ask your team members: “What do you like to do?” Then ask, “What do you think you’re good at doing?” And your third question can be, “What kind of work would benefit both you and your team that you’d like to stretch into?”

Maybe your team members have passions that you didn’t even know about, and those talents align with your team’s goals. Combine this potentially new information with the strengths that you know your people already have.

If your people are doing what they love to do, they’re more likely to take ownership of their work, follow through with excellence, and stay with your organization. And instead of spending time and money on trainings to develop skills and knowledge your team members might be lacking, you’re leveraging their existing talents right away.

What Does Your Team Need to Be Successful?

You’ve figured out what you want to accomplish. You have driven, passionate, and hard-working people. Now… what new, improved capabilities does your team need to build to get there?

Get down into the nitty-gritty of what skills and capabilities your people have, which ones they both need, and want to build. Align those with your team’s goals. Now that you know a little more about what each member of your team is good at and wants to learn, you can work together to create development plans that benefit the group and keep the individuals engaged. Way better than just sending someone from your team to the next conference in your field because you feel like you should.

Say Angelica is your leading sales rep, and you want your her to help your sales team increase sales by 50% over the next 12 months. Angelica has the skills and the drive, but you need a better strategy and planning to reach that benchmark.

So how can you work together to both help Angelica develop and be successful in reaching your collective goal? Maybe it's a specialized sales-planning training. Maybe it’s connecting her with a more senior sales veteran with experience in sales strategy. Work together to develop the plan that keeps your target at the forefront.

We wish you the best of luck in developing your people. Be in touch if you want to find out more about how our team assessments, feedback training, and consulting services can help you shape the team of your dreams.

What are your upcoming achievement goals?

4 Tools for Giving Tough Feedback

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Oreo” method of feedback. You (inauthentically) butter someone up by telling them how great they are, then you tell them how they suck, then you (inauthentically) tell them how great they are.

Despite this technique’s popularity, it actually isn’t all that effective. Maybe the “Oreo” has stuck around for so long because it feels easier.

Giving critical feedback can be tough. As compassionate managers, team leaders, and co-workers, we might fear hurting the other person’s feelings, being misunderstood, or even triggering retaliation. If you are on the receiving end, you might leave the conversation feeling incompetent, ashamed, or attacked.

But giving and receiving feedback—whether from coworkers, managers, customers, or outside partners—is essential. Given well, it helps individuals to grow, products to develop, teams to innovate, and organizations to become more effective.

If that weren’t enough, according to a recent Gallup poll, Millennial workers want feedback. So, how can we give feedback so it has the best chance of getting through another person’s defenses and be heard the way we intended? Focus on the following 4 tools:

1. Offer your observations, not “the facts.”

Our perception of someone sometimes doesn’t line up with their perceptions of themselves. So, if you tell someone that they’re not meeting your expectations, and they think they’re doing a fabulous job… that might create confusion, unnecessary tension, or even animosity.

When addressing a concern about an employee or peer’s behavior or performance, frame your statements as observations, not absolutes. Try beginning with phrases like, “I’ve observed,” or “A team member has said,” (without naming names, of course). This lets the receiver understand from the very beginning that these are perceptions, not objective truths.

2. Describe the impact of the behavior you want changed.

The past is past, so why not look forward to how everyone can do better in the future?

As employees, managers, and human beings, we appreciate when someone explains the “why.” Say your team member Danika missed an important deadline to submit a proposal to convert a new client. And say that potential client hired another team. The issue isn’t so much the missed deadline. It’s the lost opportunity. It’s the other team members feeling let down. It’s the disappointment felt by all of missing a chance for a team-wide triumph.

So, instead of berating Danika about the deadline, try describing how submitting reports in a timely fashion helps not only convert clients, but also contributes to the overall success of the team in the long run. And when she succeeds, everyone on the team shares in that success.

3. Focus on solving problems, not judging people.

The best way to trigger someone else’s defensiveness and derail a conversation from the start is to project blame or judgment. Skip it. Instead, get in the habit of offering future-oriented feedback.

Remember Danika? Maybe she needs some help managing her time. Maybe she’s feeling overwhelmed, either at work, or at home. Does she need more check-ins? Perhaps an accountability buddy on the team? Maybe she’d appreciate your help in outlining a specific plan of action with smaller steps that will make her projects seem less daunting. Figure out what the problem is so that you and she can work together to solve it for the future.

4. Appreciate the other’s strengths and their willingness to hear you.

At the end of the conversation, let the other person know that you appreciate their strengths, and that they were willing to listen to your concerns. Maybe you found out that Danika is juggling several difficult projects at once, which is why she missed that deadline. You can let her know that you appreciate her efforts trying to keep on top of it all, even if you didn’t know just how much work she’s tackling.

Remember that any time you give or receive feedback, you have an opportunity to work on building long-term relationships that help everyone learn, grow, and be better humans. If you focus on the future, you’re already off to a great start.

Let us know how your conversations go, and be in touch if you want to find out more about our work helping organizations develop cultures of healthy feedback.

3 Words That Will Help You Actually Keep Your 2018 Resolutions

Resolutions. Practices. Intentions. We all make them. But how many of us actually stick to them all year long? And what about the people we coach, develop, manage and collaborate with?

Many of us craft a variety of ambitious New Year’s resolutions. Yet we all know what happens to most of them. By February or March, our best intentions lie by the wayside as we revert back to our old habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Keep It Simple

Over dinner shortly after the new year began, a colleague reminded me that less is more. Yes, sometimes it’s important to have detailed action plans to drive behavior change for you and your teams, but we’re more likely to follow through with our intentions if we keep them simple.

This year, in addition to comprehensive plans for improvement, try boiling it all down to three words. Ask yourself:

Which three words best sum up my intentions, goals, and commitments for the new year?

For example, my 3 Words for 2018 are Presence, Authenticity, and Organic Growth. I’ll count that third one as one word ;)

Keep Yourself Accountable

Creating your list might be easier than you think. If you coach, manage, or support others, encourage them to find their own 3 Words. Then help them stay committed to acting on those words throughout the year.

Personally, I like to write my 3 Words on a sticky note (or 3) and keep them somewhere visible. I also often write my 3 Words out at the top of meeting agendas and to-do lists.

If you use a planner, you might want to write your 3 Words in the front pages. Wherever you put them, make sure your 3 Words stay visible. For even greater accountability, share them with your friends and colleagues. When you take time to reflect, meditate, or even go for a walk, imagine what it feels like to truly embody these words, at home and at work.

Keep Focused on Your Goals

We hope that your 3 Words help you focus on your goals for the new year, bringing you success and positive change.

Roni and The People Piece team

PS - Want to drive change in your team, group or organization? Get in touch to learn more about our comprehensive, customized development programs.

What are your 3 Words?
Help keep yourself accountable and share in the comments.

4 Tools for Holding Others Accountable — Without Being a Jerk

Ted is your co-worker. He is on another team, and you depend on him to get you things so you can complete your tasks.

Each time you ask Ted to get you something by a certain date, he says, “For sure!” The only problem is that half the time, he doesn’t deliver.

To make matters worse, he doesn’t let you know he will be late. Sometimes, he doesn’t even respond to your emails asking about his part of the project and when it will arrive. 

You’re pretty sure Ted means well, but his lack of follow-through is a problem: it costs you time, raises stress levels and slows down projects. Sometimes, his actions have an impact on other team members. They might also make you look bad to your manager because deadlines slip or work is rushed.

You don’t want to be pushy, but you can’t keep letting Ted’s lack of follow-through slide. What is a well-meaning, diligent collaborator to do?

Lack of accountability can have a significant negative impact on our work. Yet whether we have authority over someone or we don’t, most of us tend to want to avoid calling people like Ted out.

Here’s what we hear from the leaders, managers, and individual contributors we work with: “I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.” “I don’t want to harm the relationship.” “What if it just makes things worse?” “What if they become demotivated, or even quit?” Sometimes, we hear things like, “What if I don’t have my facts straight and it turns out I was wrong?” “What if they attack me or retaliate in some way?” And finally, “I don’t want to be a jerk.”

These are all valid concerns. They cause most of us to either skip holding Ted accountable at all, or engage in a conversation with him that we know is too soft at best, or passive aggressive at worst.

Yet in today’s collaborative work environment, we depend on others to complete our work, and we must hold others accountable for theirs. If we are a leader or manager, doing so is part of our job. At any level, accountability is one of the hallmarks of a great organization.

So, what is a nice person to do when someone else isn’t following through? Avoid the main mistakes people make when having accountability conversations, and focus on these four key tools instead:

Instead of Blame, Embrace a “Same Side” Mindset

The best way to sink an accountability conversation from the start is to blame the other party. Blame is also the approach most likely to elicit a defensive response and close the door to improvement. Instead of blaming, embrace a “Same Side” mindset. That doesn’t mean agreeing with Ted or “being nice.” It means viewing the fact that you aren’t getting what you need as a problem to solve, rather than a fault to place blame. Focus on solving the problem together, for the good of the project, your teams, your relationship, and the organization.

Instead of Judgments, Focus on the Data

Maybe Ted is just lazy, or maybe he’s really out to make your life hell. Probably not. Either way, your judgments of Ted will put him on the defensive and won’t help you stay Same Side. Instead, focus on the data, that is, what actually happened. Calmly explain to Ted the pattern you have noticed. Be specific and concise, and ask him if he’s noticed the same. 

Instead of Convincing, Describe the Impact

Most accountability conversations fail because each party tries to convince the other they’re right. “It’s your job to get me these things, isn’t it?!” “Well, I have other things to do, you know, and you’re not my manager!” Instead of making a case for why Ted should change, describe how his lack of follow-through affects the work, your team, the customer—and yes, you.

Instead of a One-Way Conversation, Generate Solutions Together

Instead of first proposing your ideas, start by asking Ted. Tap into your Same Side mindset, and ask Ted what he thinks he needs to do to deliver on his commitments more regularly. You’re far more likely to engage him and get his buy-in. And who knows? He might even think of a better set of solutions than you.

Will these conversations go perfectly every time? Nope, we’re all still human. But after working with hundreds of managers, individual contributors, and teams, we have seen the difference they can make.

A few things happen when we try these tools: We get more of our work done. We’re less stressed. Our relationships improve. And we may just be giving Ted a gift too: compassionately helping him to see his shortcomings and improve his follow-through.

We hope this helps! Feel free to let us know how your accountability conversations go, and get in touch if you think some coaching or training might be useful for your organization.

Roni Krouzman and The People Piece team