Category Archives: Communication

Are you wrong?

Elon Musk of Tesla  gave an interview in 2014 where he said “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”*

As a business leader, people who report to you must always consider how far they are willing to go to be honest versus how much does keeping their job mean to them. Haha, you say, not my team. Perhaps that is true. Assume it is not for this discussion.

Your good friends may also know where you could improve, yet they want to stay friends so they encourage you. They mask direct suggestions in words like “have you ever considered?” or “what would happen if this scenario occurred….”. When you swat that away, they change the conversation to sports or the movie they just saw.

If you see yourself even the slightest bit here, I suggest that you change the way you bring ideas to the team. In his book, Conversational Capacity,  Craig Weber suggests that when you float a new idea, you ask your team to give you 3 reasons why it won’t work. Get the objections out on the floor immediately. You will retrain your team over time to have a more robust discussion of ideas. Better results will likely follow.

As for your friends, ask for one thing you could do better, then work on it and report back. Just a slight change to your golf swing, or your position on the ski slope can make a huge difference. Why aren’t we doing it at work?

This week ask for one suggestion from someone whose opinion you value and then work on it. Assume you are wrong. Wouldn’t that be different?


*Inc interview with Elon Musk

Interested in Vistage?

Who challenges your thinking?

Who do you look forward to seeing who consistently challenges your thinking?

While celebrating my nieces wedding on the Oregon Coast, I was able to be with my extended family, the grooms family from Texas and my niece’s friends.  So many different ways we live our lives, yet the conversations were warm, open and exploratory.

As the groom’s brother and I made fruit salad, he told me about life on his ranch outside of Austin. Every weekend his family members compete in horse shows. This includes one of his older daughters who has graduated out of 4H competitions continues to participate as a coach. As anyone knows who has horses, two kids had to stay back to run the ranch while the rest of the family flew to Oregon for the wedding.

The bride and groom shared their experiences of attending Burning Man. The bride described the gifting culture and how people give coffee or art classes or play the piano and get food and drink from others. In a desert where the super fine dust coats them and everything around them, everyone builds their housing creating villages and art installations that are torn down or burned at the end of the week. They are fascinated by the creativity, art and alternative way of living and the temporality of it all.  This year, there were 75,000 people in the desert for a week. It is one of the largest cities in Nevada for that week.

Family can be the best place to learn and to challenge your thinking yet for some it too often turns into angry disagreement and disrespect. You know who to talk to and who to avoid.  Yet when you hold the intention to appreciate and learn, it can be a wonderful place to work on being curious.  Try it at your next family gathering or even at home today.

After all these years, how do I change my name?

Like many of you, I’ve called myself one thing for all of my existence. Now, after being a Member of a Vistage group for 4 years and a Vistage Chair for over 17 years, Vistage is changing the name from a Vistage Group to a Vistage Peer Advisory Board. We shall call it a “Board” for short.

Just like young woman practicing saying “Nora Franco”, or “Nora Washington”, or “Nora Thomas”, instead of Nora Paller, I am now trying to say “Vistage Board”.

I pace around the house repeating phrases like:

Take that to your “Board.”

Our “Board” decided to have the retreat in October.

Who is on your “Board?” Some of your fellow “Board Members” did not agree with you on that issue.

Mind you, I think the new languaging more accurately represents the value the Members are getting out of the Group, oops, I mean “the Board”. It better communicates why high performing executives spend all of one day each month with their peers.

It connotes accountability and attention to results. We do all that.

I just keep going around the house mumbling phrases like “in my board meeting the other day”, my “Board Member” told me that, “Ed is a Member of my Vistage Board.”

Sigh. It will take some practice. If you are a Vistage Member, join me. Let go of your Group and embrace your Peer Advisory Board. What do you think? Doesn’t it make you just stand up a little straighter?


image courtesy of

What is not said with words?

Do you ever walk into a room and see someone slouching in a chair looking defeated? As a coach, that is the first thing I notice. I am there to talk with your true heart and your real soul. I look for what is not said with words.

If you think that is hard to do, turn off the sound on a movie and just watch.I bet you will get most of the plot without the words.

My guess is that we try not to tune into other people’s body language because it is often so negative. It is enough to cope with our own negativity, we don’t want any more dumped on us.

Yet, we know people we look forward to being with because they are pleasant or positive or their energy is up. They seem to have taken care of their “stuff” before we met up with them.


Here are some of the things we see them do:

Stand up straight

Look us in the eyes.

Smile encouragingly.


Here are some of the things they don’t do:

Roll their eyes and sigh,

Jump in with a smart remark before you’ve finished your sentence.

Look bored and start texting.


I think we are all tired of the quick judgments.

Watch a few people around you and observe how they are communicating. Then take a look at your own posture. You can put on your phone camera and see how you show up in a meeting. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Just straighten up and be a little more encouraging. See if your conversations change.


Do we talk too much?

This week about 100 Vistage Chairs gathered in Boulder, Colorado for Keepers of the Flame. This is a conference for Chairs who have 10 years or more of tenure. We get together to do the deeper work we need to continuously grow ourselves and to connect with our dear comrades – the chairs who have done it with us all these years.
On the first morning, we were all given the topic Conversations with our bodies and given the task to pick a partner and walk or sit together quietly for 15-30 minutes. During that time period, each of us did a scan of the conversations we have with our bodies and the conversation they are trying to have with us.
Walking silently with someone you don’t know well is a little uncomfortable. We are socialized to make chit-chat, to reach out and try to make a connection, to get to know one another. Being told to not talk and to focus on our own internal communications was an adjustment.
Once we got into it, both my partner and I really liked it. When we finally sat down and started to talk, we had already absorbed non-verbally a lot about the other person. For example, I could see he was limping a little. I wanted to know what was up with that. We skipped all the typical small talk and went to the heart of our intended conversation about what our bodies were trying to tell us.
Feedback about not talking for 15 minutes was universally positive: it was a delight.  We had time to gather our thoughts and assess the constant non-verbal internal communication that we suppress or perhaps don’t pay attention to.
If this intrigues you, share this with a work associate. Pick a topic that you both are working on. Explain how you want to walk for 15 minutes while you both think about the topic. Then, share your reflections. In our case, we were trying to develop better listening skills. You can try that. Or, perhaps you have an opportunity you are mulling over.
Next week, more sharing about what’s said, but not with words.

How do you stay in the conversation when it gets tense?

So, the issue is critical, the relationship is important and you totally disagree. Now what?

Having the conversational capacity and the tools to structure the discussion can create the opportunity to resolve difficult issues in new ways.

In his book, Conversational Capacity, Craig Weber describes it as staying in the sweet spot where you are both candid and curious. It takes deliberate practice to do this. Otherwise you can go into flight (shut down and minimize) or go into fight (win at all cost).

What should you practice?


  • Clearly and succinctly state your position.
  • Provide the data behind it.
  • Explain your interpretation


  • Hold your position as a hypothesis not the truth.
  • Test your position – what are you missing?
  • Ask for others to share their positions.


Will you make better decisions? Yes.

Will you maintain the relationship? Yes.

Will you have a smart team that differentiates you from the competition? Yes.

Will it take regular deliberate practice? Yes.


Get to it.


image courtesy of

Are you triggered?


How often are you in a meeting and someone says something that either makes you shut-down, or respond in anger or with a clear intent to prove why they are wrong? At that moment, you are definitely out of the sweet spot. Your conversational capacity has hit its outer limit. >