Show Notes: Episode 31 – Managing Up
June 18, 2018
Show Notes: Episode 32 – SHRM Credit: Communication in the Workspace
July 2, 2018

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

JoDee  0:09 

Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered®.” I’m here today with Susan White, a national HR consultant. Today’s topic is healthy office communications. I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review called “Three Small Things Every Person Can Do to Reduce Stress in Their Office.” I really enjoyed the article by Dorie Clark, but it also made me think at kind of a higher level of not just reducing stress, but leading to just more overall healthy communication, which certainly leads to less stress. So we’ll talk about a few other things, but I thought I would just start with Dorie’s three items. Her first one, she said stop being vague. It creates worry and stress. Personally, I always think about expectations. I like her comment about stop being vague. I think so many times we make assumptions about what other people are thinking or expecting. And we don’t set correct expectations. Any thoughts on that, Susan?

Susan  1:27 

You know, I think we all read a lot about, you know, transparency, and we want to be transparent in the workplace, and you kind of scratch your head and say what do you mean by that. I think being transparent is saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and I think that’s something that we all need to work on in the workplace. Employees do want to know, what are you thinking? What are the objectives for the team? What is not working? One of my favorite expressions is when a leader will say to employees, listen, we’ve got a lot of things happening. There’s some things I cannot tell you, because I’m not either allowed to, because it could impact, you know, share price, or because it hasn’t settled yet, or because of whatever reason, and I’m good with that. If I know, you know, you can certainly see that there’s a lot of activity going on, they can’t tell me the details, but they as soon as they can, they will tell us. So my favorite expression is, you know, I’ll tell you what I can when I can.

Right. Even though it’s a very simple thing, I think when people say – whether you say it live or say it in an email – I need this back as soon as possible. Or work on this when you have time. Very common, simple expressions that many of us use every day. Yet, we know that “as soon as possible” and “when you have time” has a very different connotations for people on what that means, right? Is as soon as possible mean this afternoon? Does it mean this week? Does it mean this month? I mean, what’s what’s your expectation? When do you really need me to work on this?

At your convenience… in the next hour? Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. Even, too, things like good job, right? Well, good job on what? What was it, specifically, that you liked? What went well? What didn’t go so well? Dorie’s second small thing was to triage your responses. So she’s reported that the average professional sends or receives 122 messages a day, and she suggests that you be sure to respond to those with specific time sensitive requests. So kind of not just going through all of them, but looking for the ones that really need a quicker response. And she suggests that you spend at least 15 minutes a day tagging or responding to the time sensitive ones. I tell you, I had to laugh on that one, Susan. Personally, my thought was that we should all spend more time tagging or including time sensitive emails when we send them ourselves, Right?

That’s right. I’ll answer those fast, right?

But that doesn’t help if our whole organization learns that trick, and then all of a sudden all of your emails are time sensitive and need to be responded to right away.

I think we can get a lot better at emails, just as workers in the world. I think about how many emails I get that are FYI is and I have to wonder, did I really need to know that? You know, there’s a lot of just nice to knows that…that go, and it kind of makes you a little numb. I think when you’re getting several hundred emails a day, you start to lose the people who send you these FYI or these progress reports that you don’t need to know. You don’t always give them the attention, maybe, that they deserve.

Right. I know, for me, too, I’m guilty of wanting to get through my emails quickly. And so my responses, many times, are very short and very quick, because I’m trying to get back with them as soon as I can. But I don’t always elaborate, which leads back to item number one, which was stop being vague.

Have you ever heard the expression TLDR?

JoDee  5:13 


Susan  5:14 

There’s a technology company in California that… this may happen other places, this is the only place that I’ve actually seen it. It’s where… it’s a common practice, if you send a long email, if that’s your practice to send it out, that you can’t be surprised if someone responds in the subject line to you, “TLDR,” which stands for “too long; didn’t read.”

I love that. You know, interesting comment, though, about the subject line. I used to work with someone who… she received… because of her role in the company, she received an inordinate amount of emails, and she was consistently training people on providing good specific information in the subject line, and I thought that was really helpful. I have to admit, I don’t always do it, but I do think about it sometimes when I’m sending out emails that I’m looking to send to catch people’s attention, or so they’ll know immediately what it is I’m talking about. Am I responding to a question they had? Am I sharing an answer? Am I… am I asking my own question? Do I have an action item for them? Makes it very much easier for the reader when there’s a very clear subject line.

I appreciate that too.

JoDee  6:34 


Susan  6:34 

I also appreciate when people don’t reply all, unless I really need to know their response to a request.

Right. That one is really tough, I seem to be on lots of email chains where lots of people hit reply all. Her item number three was stop watching the kettle boil, and her examples of that related to really micromanaging to overmonitoring people to being a perfectionist, and she suggests, as I very much believe, too, that people thrive when given autonomy. Now, typically that only works if we’re good at number one, which is stop being vague, right? If we can give people clear direction or clear expectations on what needs to happen, then let them take it and let them figure out how to accomplish it best.

I… you know, it’s how I want to be managed, so I would hope that’s how most people want to be managed.

Right. Just some other thoughts. So those were Dorie’s recommendations on reducing stress generally, in overall healthy office communications. A couple things I thought of, we’ve talked before on this podcast about Strength Finders, about understanding how you work best, but also how others work best, too, so that we can meet their needs easier. Are they someone who likes a lot of detail? Are they someone who likes lots of communication? Are we someone who likes lots of communication? Do we need time to think things through? What’s our style and what’s the style of other team members so we can help to better meet expectations. I think that’s a great use of Strength Finders.

I often think about team meetings or team huddles. JoDee, how often do you recommend people get together as a team?

It’s a tough question, right? I think most people sort of cringe at the thought of having more meetings, because I believe that most meetings are not effective. We spend a lot of time at meetings rehashing things we’ve already talked about, or repeating things that we already know, or spending too much time on topics that we don’t care about and not enough time talking about critical concepts that we need to have. One of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni, has a book called “Death by Meeting,” and he actually surprised me. I didn’t know the first time I read the book that this is where it was going, but he recommends daily meetings.

Oh my lord.

JoDee  9:13 

Even to say that out loud kind of makes me cringe, too. But his concept is, it can really create healthy office communications if you have quick, short, stand up meetings every day on a regular basis. Now, I’m not sure that always makes sense. In an atmosphere at Purple Ink where many of us work remotely, that doesn’t certainly make sense.

Susan  9:37 

I love the stand up, though. I’ve been part of groups where we did have a daily huddle, and it was first thing in the morning, who’s on first, who’s on second, what’s our big goal for today. So I have seen it work.

JoDee  9:46 

I think the key to that, too, is to think about who’s in the meeting, right? Team meeting doesn’t have to mean 50 people on our office, right? Maybe it’s the four people in the accounting department or the 10 people in the HR department, you know, it… it doesn’t have to be everyone who’s hearing things about things that they don’t need to hear about every day. But who is the group that it might be helpful for, to have a quick stand up meeting every day?

Susan  10:18 

I think that’s great. Early in my career… this organization no longer exists, but we were big believers in the Saratoga Institute. They do a lot of HR metrics and measurement. So we were following different types of practices they had. One of them was when you set a meeting, you figure out what is the salary and the OPC cost of every single person who’s going to be at that meeting. If it’s a one hour meeting, we would know that’s going to cost us $1,947, and we would be so crisp, because we would have on the agenda how much time everything was going to be and what the total cost of that meeting was based on the manpower in the room. And I gotta be honest, it was early in my career, I’d look around the room thinking, these people must be earning a lot of money, because if this has costed $1,900, I think I’m gonna make about $7 here. But it really did instill a discipline about in that meeting, let’s make sure that we are conscious of the time. And are we going to get an ROI on it?

I love it. Love it. Great idea. And just to recap there, too. I’m not suggesting that everyone does have a daily stand up meeting. I think the key is to have effective meetings, whenever that might be. So I love your approach to thinking about how much is it costing us to have this meeting, whether it’s every day, whether it’s once a week, whether it’s once a month, but I do think going back to some of those earlier topics about setting clear expectations, about being open and honest with people about what’s happening and about their performance certainly creates overall healthier communications in your office.

I agree. And I would just mention that I love an agenda for a meeting, even if no one had time to prepare it before the meeting. Start off the meeting with what are the things we have to accomplish before we leave here today, it just keeps everybody focused. Otherwise, it’s so easy to go down a tangent that you don’t want to be on.

Love it. There’s also a book out there called “The Platinum Rule.” You know, many times we hear about the concept of the golden rule, and doing unto others as they would have done to you. But in the book, “The Platinum Rule,” they talk about taking the golden rule to a higher level. So if Platinum is better than gold, how could we turn that rule around and say, do unto others as…

They want to be done unto.

JoDee  12:42 

Thank you.

Susan  12:43 


As they want to be done unto. By following the golden rule, which I always consider to be playing nice in the sandbox, right? You be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. But when we’re really working with someone on a regular basis and we think about how we want to be treated, we can’t assume that other people want to be treated like we want to be treated. Again, going back to the examples of communication styles, or recognition is a good one. I may want public recognition. One of my peers might not want to be publicly recognized. So we need to understand how they want to be treated differently than how we want to be treated.

Sure, just give me cash and I’ll be happy. Yeah.

And that’s important, too, right? Funny, but it’s true. Some people are motivated by… by different things. So, and then the last one I had, I don’t know if you have some more, Susan, but I always tell people it took me 50 years to figure this one out, and that’s taking a break. Not that I never took a break in 50 years, but when I turned 50 I got my first dog, and I was working from home at the time, and I realized that I needed to take the dog out for a walk a few times a day, and it was a total change in my working style. I was not someone who… sure, I chit chatted and took breaks that way, but I had never in my working career taken a break, literally, to go outside and take a walk, whether it was raining or snowing or hot or cold, and I really found it to be an eye opening experience for me, and it’s valuable to me at any time. But certainly when you’re under stress, or you have a lot on your plate, or there’s, you know, 122 emails coming at you, and the last thing you think you need is to take a break, right, and to go outside, but when you have a little puppy with his big eyes and drooling up at you to say I need to go outside, it’s a good motivator to get out and clear your head and… and get some fresh air and think about some things differently.

I think that’s great. You know, I have a few things that I normally go to when I’m feeling work stress. One of them is, when I feel my, really, worst, I’m sitting in the chair and I’m thinking what I’m going to do next, how am I going to handle this, I get up and I stand away from the chair, and I think about that poor person who’s got that job sitting in that chair. That’s a really tough job. I try to, like, distance myself from it, and try to look at it objectively, not thinking about me in that role, but thinking about as a third person, that person – me – is in a really difficult spot. What are some things that she could do to work through it? I don’t know, just kind of helps you try to look at it more objectively.

I love the physicalness of that, right, of literally standing up and walking away and looking at the chair. I think that’s very powerful.

I love it a lot. Another thing… thing that I like to do is I think about, when something seems overwhelming, like this is just a huge project or a huge initiative, and I think about the whole, and then I start putting it into chunks. I have to chunk it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces and think about, okay, I can attack this piece today. I can’t do you know, eight, nine, and ten, but I can really start working on one, two, and three. And I find it very soothing, because if I get one thing done, I feel better. Now there’s only 99 more things to do. So I’m a big chunker.

You know, Susan, I do a lot of training on time management, and that is one of the number one tips I provide to people, only because it took me a long time to figure that out. I don’t know if you learned that early in your career, but I can remember for years thinking, for example, if I had a project that I estimated would take me eight hours, I would wait until I thought I had eight free hours. It didn’t dawn on me for a long time, which seems so silly now, but to think of that eight hour project as eight one hour projects, or four two hour projects, or whatever that might look like for you, but it was very revolutionary to me to break up a project into segments and get it done that way.

I think I was overwhelmed at an early age, so I figured that out early. What I didn’t figure out and I still have to kind of press myself to do that, if I have seven or eight different really important things to get done, is I try to run to the roar. What is the thing that worries me the most? What is the thing that seems most looming? What’s most difficult? And every single time that I run to the roar and I do the one that’s going to be the hardest, it is so liberating. It feels so great when I get it through, but the other six or seven things, I just have to like doing them.

JoDee  17:55 

Right. But, you know, I think that time management, specifically, is probably a good topic for us to do a whole podcast on, but thinking about your time management, but also the time management skills and practices of your people, can really help to create better, healthier communications within the office of thinking… How do I work? What’s my work style, and how do I get things done? And how can I help other people get theirs done, too?

Susan  18:29 

I think that’s a great prescription for destressing, is really getting control. When you feel like you’ve got control over what you’re doing through time management, you’re not going to be as anxious or stressed.

JoDee  18:38 

Right, right.

Gut + Science is a weekly podcast hosted by Nikki Lewallen, an employee engagement enthusiast and advocate. She interviews CEOs every week to help companies build successful people first cultures. I don’t miss an episode. Gut + Science, the podcast that explores employee engagement insights you can act on from CEOs you can trust. Thursday mornings on

Our topic today is HR naysayer to HR thought leader, and how to use communication to connect. Our guest today is Alex Perry, the founder of Practically Speaking LLC. Alex, why don’t you start by telling us more about you, your background, and your company, Practically Speaking.

Alex  19:36 

Well, hello. So, Practically Speaking was born out of a desire that I had to coach and work with professionals on their communication skills. So I work in three different buckets. I work on executive presence, public speaking, and storytelling. I do that with one-on-one coaching workshops and then large-scale speaking opportunities.

Susan  19:59 

I have to tell you, Alex, it makes me a little nervous talking in front of you.

Alex  20:02 

Makes me nervous talking in front of me, too.

Susan  20:04 

Oh, that’s funny. I’ll tell you what, be kind to us today. So, I would love to hear about your passion for helping professionals with communication, because I think it’s an area that many of us feel a little insecure about.

Alex  20:17 

By way of background, I’m a speech language pathologist, so I’ve spent my career working with people who have struggled to communicate in one form or another, so from birth all the way up to 105. From that, I’ve developed a real passion around how do we communicate and how do we do it well. My why for me, myself, is that I live by this quote by Daniel Webster, which is, and I’m going to paraphrase here… If you were to take away all of my possessions save one, the one I would keep would be communication, because by it I would regain all the rest.

JoDee  20:50 


Susan  20:51 

Wow, that’s heavy.

Alex  20:52 

It is heavy. And you think about that… I think about that all the time, because it drives me to be a better communicator. And I just, again, I think when you have watched or sat with someone who’s lost their ability to communicate or didn’t necessarily have all of the things in line to communicate well from the start, you just gain… I have gained a new respect for what it takes to be an effective communicator. So that’s what drives me to learn more about it and to teach others and help others be better.

JoDee  21:22 


Susan  21:24 

So, I’d love to hear how you describe a naysayer versus a thought leader.

Alex  21:30 

So, naysayer versus thought leader really boils down to the optimist versus pessimist, so it’s the people who say, how can we do this versus we can’t do this. When you think about how people, like, really effective leaders communicate… there’s a research study by the Quantified Research Communications Group, and they looked at Fortune 500’s top 50 leaders in 2015 and they analyzed their speech, and they looked at multiple different options, but they specifically looked at how optimistic their speech was and compared it to a pretty large normative sample, and what they found was that world leaders – so, thought leaders – use 36.6% more optimistic language than their average peers. So that, to me, describes what a what a thought leader is versus a naysayer.

Susan  22:24 

It’s looking at the possibility as opposed to why we can’t do something.

JoDee  22:27 

Right. And do you think, Alex, that that’s a trained skill or that that happens naturally with thought leaders?

Alex  22:35 

I think it’s a trained skill. I think that people who are really effective communicators, number one, develop self awareness around their communication. Number two, seek out ways to improve it. But yeah, that they… they work on skills specific to being an effective communicator, everything from tone of voice, word choice, even non-verbals and body language, all of those, I think, play into how we are perceived as a… as an effective communicator.

Susan  23:03 

Wow. JoDee, I have to say you, being one of the most positive people I know, I’m gonna start thinking of you as a thought leader.

JoDee  23:08 

Oh, I like it.

Alex  23:08 

I agree.

JoDee  23:08 

Although I have to tell you, Susan, I’ve always thought of you as a thought leader.

Susan  23:15 

Aww. Yay! Feeling the love in here, feeling the love.

JoDee  23:19 

Why do you think that HR in particular kind of gets a rap as being naysayers?

Alex  23:27 

So, there’s really three things that came to mind as I was looking at this particular topic. First of all, you guys have had a huge cultural shift in your role. So when I looked back at what the history of human resources is, you guys really started – you can correct me if I’m wrong here – but you started off as personal admins, like, it was the administration piece. It was very, you know, like…

Susan  23:49 

Clerical, even.

Alex  23:50 


Susan  23:50 


Alex  23:50 

Yes, tactical. So that’s brought a lot of shifting and changing. It’s changed over time, so it’s been difficult for human resources as a whole to clearly define who they are, let alone the organizations that you work in defining who you are. So when you have that, there’s a lot of, I think, just confusion and lack of clarity, you’re perceived as the rule keepers. So because of that admin piece, because of that, we did the clerical part for so long that you’re placed in situations where no is the answer and not necessarily always given the skills of how do you say no and still open up opportunities for here’s what we can do.

Susan  24:32 

You know, I find that to be true, there…. because we’re pushed into a compliance role so often…

JoDee  24:37 


Susan  24:37 

…to make sure that that company doesn’t get in harm’s way in how they treat their people, how they hire, so on and so forth, that we do sometimes have to be that heavy or to be that kind of police inside of a company.

Alex  24:46 


Susan  24:47 

But it sounds like it’s how we do it that really makes a difference.

Alex  24:50 

Well, I think about… many people report having had a negative experience with HR, as well. So in some form or another, because of either… either HR’s role in and of itself of that person and/or that… that HR has been put in the role as the henchman between an executive and an employee. It really is kind of a recipe for naysayer-esque stereotyping.

Susan  25:14 

So, do you have any suggestions on how we as HR leaders could communicate in a way that might influence folks looking at us more as thought leaders as opposed to naysayers?

Alex  25:25 

Yeah, so…and I would say this, because I know it can seem like… a little like we’re picking on HR. So know that I would say this to any executive, any communicator in general. There’s lots of things that we can do to change our language and how… how we’re perceived. So, first of all, the first step is always awareness. So start paying attention to what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. If your first reaction is to… number one, and if you’re always thinking of the response you’re going to give versus listening to the other person, change that, and then also think about what’s a different…what’s another way I can say it. You have to be willing to plan for your communication, thinking ahead, not just about what you’re going to say, but what questions are you going to ask. Thought leaders ask more questions versus deliver more statements. So going into I would…

JoDee  26:12 

Good advice.

Alex  26:12 

Yeah, I hear… I hear HR say, I want a seat at the table. And so you have your seat at the table, I think now, in many organizations, HR really has that seat at the table. How you use that seat really matters. So going in and showing that you’re willing to ask questions, and ask questions, not just about your specific area, but as to how the business works as a whole really changes things.

Susan  26:37 

I have to tell you that I learned from a colleague of mine in HR, just within the last couple weeks, about the power of listening when you’re trying to be really a member of the management team. And what she does is she keeps a little note that she carries with her that says, “WAIT,” W-A-I-T, and it stands for Why Am I Talking now, or Why… Why Am I Talking, and so it really helps her feel out, do I… should I be listening right now or should I be talking? And she’s a real extrovert, so I think it’s been a nice reminder for her to sometimes dial it back a little and listen.

JoDee  27:09 


Alex  27:10 

So why are you there for you? But the other two important questions that I think people forget to answer before they walk into a scenario is… Why am I there for the other people? And then, why am I there for the organization? What is what is my… How does my role play out in this particular scenario? How can I best help the organization as a whole? The other things that you can do is make sure that your language is clear and concise and direct and shows a depth of understanding. So knowing your topic well before you go in, and that means not just your angle of it, but everyone else’s. And then checking for understanding is something that we don’t do frequently enough as communicators as a whole. So did you really understand my message and taking that extra moment to say, can you paraphrase that for me? Tell me what you understood. You know, not just are we on the same page, because are we on the same page means yes.

JoDee  28:03 


Alex  28:04 

Right? Yes, it’s changing the language around that to say, tell me your understanding of the issue or tell me how you would explain that.

Susan  28:12 

I love thinking about it in those terms, because I know, for me, I think the way I would have answered that question about why are… why is HR viewed as naysayers is, because of the compliance and that I think so many times HR people just think, no, we can’t do that.

You’re gonna go to jail if you do that.

Right, right, or we’ll have to pay a fine or something. The Department of Labor will be all over us. And I… it takes me back to, literally, my very first day as the owner of Purple Ink. I met with my very first client, and he said to me, I like for people to tell me why I can do something, not why I can’t. And many times I’ve had to tell him what he wants to do might not be a good choice. But I have really been thoughtful about how I answer his questions and thinking of those terms. And I… and I have to say, I’m very cognizant when I’m with him. This whole conversation is a good reminder for me to think about that with everyone, really, and how I articulate my language. But because he said that to me on the first day, eight years ago, I am very aware of it with him.

I have found that when sometimes I do have to say no, especially to a client or to an executive who wants to do something in their company, I’ll come out and I’ll say, you know, we can’t do that, and here’s the reason why. But let’s talk about, what is it you really want to achieve? And let’s figure out if there isn’t a way for us to get there, but do it in a way that’s legally compliant, that makes sense with the culture that we talk about here, and so on and so forth.

Right. I love it. I love it. I actually… I spoke at a conference last week about personal branding, and that was the first time I’ve specifically spoken on that topic. And I’ll add that Alex is my speaking coach and help me prepared for this topic. But it really made me think a lot about my own personal brand and how I presented myself to others. I mean, I’ve done a lot of speaking and training, so I think about it from that perspective. But really asking myself what is my brand and how do others perceive me, and then, of course, I was there to to share with others how they could build theirs. But what do you think? What are some ideas that both you have on leaders building their brand, maybe, specifically, around this concept of not being a naysayer? Or how can we project a sense of more positivity in provoking or even how we want us to be viewed as individuals, but also as HR?

You know, what I think is LinkedIn is probably one of the most valuable resources we have and tools to be that platform for the things that are important to us. I know I’m particularly interested in helping people with disabilities get jobs, so that’s really my passion is, where I do my volunteer work. So I try very hard when I’m involved in something to put something out there on LinkedIn about the event or about that it’s coming up, really encouraging other people to do it. I do think that’s part of my my personal brand. It’s passion of mine, so I will use LinkedIn frequently for that.

JoDee  31:33 

I love it.

Alex  31:34 

I say consistency of habit drives your brand. So when I think about someone like you, JoDee, I think about you are consistently demonstrating in your words and in your actions what your brand says, which is joy. So when someone interacts with you, you speak it, you talk it, you live it. So how do you develop habits around however you want to be perceived, and the other thing that I think when it comes to developing your personal brand is having the willingness to ask other people how they’re perceiving you. You went through this exercise and having people… How do you perceive me? How would you describe my brand? And then taking a look at that, finding the pieces that align really well with what you’re going for, and then taking a good look at the ones that don’t and deciding what do I need to change either about my language, my actions, my color choices, I mean, anything. What do I need to change to make sure that I’m in line with where I want my brand to be?

Susan  32:30 

Yeah, so the exercise that I did that Alex was referring to, what… I asked the participants at the conference to text four or five people and ask them for three words that they would use to describe them, and so a few days before the conference, I did it myself, and it was a very fascinating exercise for me. Of course, as an extrovert, I asked about 12 people. It was interesting for me to see what words came back that were in common with each other and what words were different from each other. And I was really fascinated by that exercise. So…

I was privileged enough that JoDee asked me for my three words. My problem was stopping at three, but I did! I am a rule follower, I stopped at three. So I do think there’s other things that we can do about our brand, to answer your question. I do think that we need to, whatever it is that we feel our brand is, we have to continually grow in it and stay educated in it. So if it’s positivity, you know, what are you doing personally to make sure that you are continuing to recharge your battery on that front? If your brand is organizational skills and you’re a really an organized individual, I think it’s important that you’re always looking to see are there new methods out there to get yourself more organized, so on and so forth. So I think a brand always takes, I think, continued work, refreshment, and energy.

Right. I think being a subject matter expert on a topic can be another way to that, that we become a go to person for a particular topic. Maybe it’s organizational skills, but maybe it’s disability hiring and recruitment, right, or… or HR in general, right? What do people view you as? What would people call you about when they had a question about it?

I don’t know, in your conference did you talk at all about when you have a brand and it’s one that you really are living and breathing, about maybe how to mentor or coach other people who aspire to do some of the things that you’re good at?

JoDee  34:44 

I didn’t, but I wish I would have, because I like that. Yeah, but I think that’s a way to then being able to share that knowledge in talking to others. It’s a way of talking to others about what you you’re passionate about, or what you are that subject matter expert in, or what… what your brand represents. Yeah.

Susan  35:09 

Great. Well, I know you gave us some good ideas about the difference between a thought leader and a naysayer, and maybe some ways that we can try to improve our opportunity to be more of a thought leader. Specifically, as it relates to communications, do you have any specific skill building exercises or anything that we could do to get better at being a thought leader?

Alex  35:31 

Well, first and foremost, and I said this earlier, but I can never stress enough that planning for your communication in advance is key. So I teach a really simple strategy for people. I call it WTH, but it’s the Why, the To, and the How. And so thinking through those steps before you launch into communications with people is really important. So your whys are… Why am I here for me? Why am I here for other people? Why am I here for the organization? Your tos are really… Who am I talking to? What do I know about them? What can I expect from them? What sorts of questions are they going to ask me? And always, what sorts of questions do I hope they’re not going to ask me? Because if you can prepare for those, then you… then you’re ready.

JoDee  36:20 

And of course, those will be the questions that will be asked.

Alex  36:23 

And then…How do you show up? And how do you show up is… and it’s not even just how do you show up, but it’s all the other hows. It’s the, how do you show up, position yourself? How do you follow up? What sorts of steps do I need to take from there? And when you think about those, those all play into your brand, too. Those are the things that you become known for. So that’s… that would be the first thing I would say that people need to do when they’re planning their communication. Timing communication is important. So knowing how to read the room and when is it… when is the right time to say something and when is it not?

Susan  36:56 

And that takes, really, experience doesn’t it?

Alex  36:59 

It takes…listening, right? And then some simple things to do is start noting when are you saying no, and asking, taking that moment and asking yourself…Do I really need to say no to this or am I just saying no because it’s the first thing that comes to my mind? Am I phrasing this in a positive way, or am I phrasing it in a negative light? To your point earlier, you said something along the lines of, you know, I can’t do this, but here’s what we can do. And there’s all sorts of variations on that particular phrase that you can use that phrase things in a positive light. And I’m also a big proponent of leading people through questions to the no.

Susan  37:40 

Help them self-discover?

Alex  37:41 

We don’t always have to tell people no, we can have… all right, if we’re going to do this, if this is where, you know, for…to your point with that gentleman, JoDee, I would… I would have maybe led him through some questions of… Well, if we do that, what does that look like from a budget perspective? What does that look like from a people perspective? Do we have the resources to provide for that? What is that gonna mean in terms of training? And that’s really thought leader type behavior versus naysayer.

JoDee  38:07 


Susan  38:07 

Thank you. Very helpful.

You’ve mentioned a couple times about the power of consistency, and how can we deliver messages consistently throughout organizations maybe as… as an HR leader or as a business owner, really about anything, maybe specifically if we want to think about strategic objectives, but what are some ideas around being more consistent on those?

Alex  38:38 

So, the first step is developing a practice of how… what is the most clear, concise, and direct way I can say this to people, because that’s going to play well either up or down in an organization, when you can explain things clearly and concisely in a simple matter. Everyone can understand it, then you’re not trying to tailor a message one way for this group and one way for that group. Use consistent messaging all the way through consistent wording. The other thing is know your audience. There’s two types of speakers, right? So there… if you’re talking to direct speakers, know that that you’re going to lead with the ultimate message first. Those are going to be your executives, those are gonna be… your CEOs are almost always direct type of speakers. On the flip side of that, if you’re talking to indirect speakers, know that you might have to deliver that message first, but then give them all the details that they’re going to want and need to know so they feel comfortable. So, indirect speakers love detail. And then, again, I will point back to timing. So when is the right time within… and I don’t know that this is really answering your question about consistency, but maybe being consistent about how you time the messaging throughout the organization. Are we delivering this message to everyone at the same time? And if we’re not, why are we doing that? And take yourself through a process of decision making around that.

Susan  40:03 

Yeah, I was working with a group yesterday, actually, this is just… I wasn’t thinking about these questions at the time, but now it’s coming back to me that they were talking about sort of branding an idea, a strategic objective in the organization, a lot of which was really not that new to what they were trying to accomplish. But that hadn’t really been working all that well, either. And they were suggesting that by branding it, it created maybe a more powerful message to people that… that they were able to communicate easier by having a brand name around it and calling it their vision. Is that… can that be a better way? At first, it hit me or I think someone in the group sort of felt like that was a little deceiving, almost, but others in the group felt like there was real power around branding a message and having a name for it…

Kind of like putting a name on an initiative.

JoDee  40:31 


Susan  40:31 

As they drive it through the organization.

JoDee  41:10 

Yes. Thank you.

Alex  41:11 

Give me an example.

Susan  41:13 

Well, I mean, they called it “Vision 2030.” It was their strategic plan to drive forward, but yet, a lot of their initiatives… some were brand new, but some were really staying the course on what they were already doing. But they wanted to put more emphasis around it and drive home… they felt like they hadn’t done a good job in the past of maybe articulating what that meant and how it would lead them forward into 2030. So I thought that was a neat idea, to just kind of rebrand the initiative itself.

Alex  41:54 

I think it’s an interesting question, because when you brand a message like that, and you make it something like “Vision ‘whatever,'” the immediate question that pops into my mind is…Does everyone understand what that means? So that that would be my question there. I don’t know that… I think branding works for many things. A good story behind that branding…


…really helps carry a message through. We know that people remember and relate to stories better. So those would be my questions surrounding it. Was it good or bad? Hard to say, but…

Susan  42:29 

Yeah. And I think they get that sense that in the past, people didn’t understand it, and that by having a brand, that then would hopefully help them to tell a better story and to set better expectations and to share the message better.

I hope it works for them. I certainly wouldn’t do a plan that was a vision for 12 years, though, half those people will be gone, you know, before 2030! I think I would have made it a little more short term, but I wish them well.

JoDee  43:02 

Alex, what’s one thing that you can share with us that we won’t find in your marketing material?

Alex  43:08 

Oh, I think… I was thinking about this question, because it’s fun one, and I had you answer this question at one point. So if you were to look at all of my marketing material and all of my stuff… I definitively have a brand. What you won’t see in that is probably my extraordinarily eclectic taste in music and all things people. So, fun things, you know, like, if you were to pull up my playlist, it’s got everything from opera to rap to heavy metal. So I don’t think people would necessarily gauge me as that person that’s got, you know, heavy rap on in the minivan as I’m driving down the street.

JoDee  43:44 

Or opera either.

Alex  43:45 

Or opera either.

Susan  43:46 

Well, we are in a recording studio., so when we get done with this podcast, we’re gonna let you cut loose.

Alex  43:50 

You’re gonna let me do that?

Susan  43:51 


Alex  43:52 


JoDee  43:53 

And actually, speaking of your marketing material, Alex, how can people find you?

Alex  43:58 

So, you can go to my website at, and you can check me out on there. I’m also on LinkedIn. I’m on Facebook.

JoDee  44:09 

And I know one other place where people can find you. You’ll be speaking this summer at HR Indiana.

Susan  44:15 


JoDee  44:16 

Which is one of the largest state HR conferences in the country and one of my personal favorite events of the whole year. Susan and I have both been speakers at this conference, and this year it will be held in Indianapolis from August 20 to the 22nd. And you’ll actually be sharing more about this particular topic on HR naysayers. Why should our listeners come to hear you at the HR Indiana Conference, Alex?

Alex  44:43 

That’s a great question. I don’t know who my competition is for these time slots, but in reality, I think number one, we can all improve our communication skills, so I offer a fresh perspective as how to do that. I’m also very tactical in my…myself, so I will give you takeaways of ways… things that you can do immediately to start improving your self awareness, your word choices, your question choices, that you can you can actually go back and do instead of just wondering, okay, well, I know I need to improve it, but the how to, the deeper… the deeper ways to look at it.

Susan  45:19 

So Alex, I know you do individual coaching, but do you also go into businesses and help do, maybe, executive coaching programs or training programs? Would that be a service that you offer?

Alex  45:28 

Absolutely. So I do one on one coaching, I do group coaching, and I do workshops and speaking myself like what I’ll do at SHRM.

Susan  45:37 

Oh, that’s great. Well, I feel like I’ve learned from you already today, so thank you for coming in.

Alex  45:41 

Yes, absolutely.

JoDee  45:42 

Yeah. Thanks for coming in.

Susan  45:53 

All right, we did have some listener voicemail, one in particular that I thought related to this healthy office communications topic. Let’s go to that for a listen.

Listener  46:06 

Hi, I’m calling with an HR question. I believe it’s one, anyways. I have a…I work in retail, and I’m management, and I have a peer who is also management and he has a very bad body odor issue, and I’m unsure how to address that. I know that my site leader is aware of this, and I think it’s a very awkward topic to broach, and I was wondering if you had any advice on how to handle body odor in the workplace.

Susan  46:38 

Thanks for calling. And I think this is a somewhat common issue, or even… maybe not always specific to bad body odor, but sometimes it’s, too, bad breath or just other personal hygiene issues that we might notice about other people and I think it goes back exactly to some of the thoughts we just gave earlier about setting expectations, about stop being vague. I think sometimes I’ve heard people say, oh, you know, put a bar of soap on their desk or a bottle of Scope, and I just cringe. We just need to be honest with people. We need to be honest with them in a way that… showing that we care about them and we want to help them be better. If they have bad body odor, it’s very likely, even though we think it’s obvious and we might even be talking to other people about how obvious it is… and understanding that they may not realize it, they may not realize that other people can tell it. Whether they can tell or not, they may not think other people can tell. And I know I’ve had several conversations with people on this issue over the years, but my very first time I addressed this with someone, he had a medical condition that was creating this and he had been treated for it in the past and didn’t realize it had come back. He truly was unaware and was so thankful and appreciative that I had had that conversation with him. And so I always think of that, that I… I love this question, because it always takes me back of thinking about how I was able to help this man, where my concern was that I would feel awkward. Right? And…


JoDee  48:47 

Yeah, I was allowing him to be awkward with other people if I didn’t address it.

Susan  48:55 

You know, I’ve had a number of situations where I had to help either talk to to employees who had some type of a hygiene issue, or guide managers on how to have that conversation. Obviously, who enjoys doing this? Nobody, certainly not me. I do think it’s better for the manager to do it, because if you bring it to HR, that employee’s embarrassment becomes even more magnified, because they know that their manager has spoken to HR, there’s more people talking about them. So all of you who are listening who manage people and you’re facing this, I encourage you to take the person aside and be kind, be thoughtful, but put it on the table. And it may be a medical issue, and if so, you know, we can give all the support in the world to go to their doctor and talk it through. But if it isn’t, you just need to set that expectation, that very specific expectation, that, you know, we need you to come into work and you do need to be clean and fresh and this has to get fixed, and offer any support you can.

Right. I’ll never forget, and it’s probably been over 25 years ago, when I had my very first training on the concept of providing feedback, or feed forward information, to others. And our instructor said, “How dare you have information about a person that could help them be better, and you not share it with them?” And that has always stuck with me because, again, in this example of body odor, if they don’t realize it… and of course, you may think I’m naive about this, maybe they do know it. Maybe they’re going to the gym and coming into work and they don’t care. Right? But you’re still helping them understand that it’s a concern, right? It can help them be better by sharing information with them. And we’re the selfish ones, right, if we don’t share it with them.

I love that perspective. And for this listener, I do think it’s a manager who needs to talk to her colleague. I don’t think it’s her right now. If the manager won’t, then I think it’s your personal call. It would… the kind thing to do would be to do it.

JoDee  51:07 

Totally agree.

Susan  51:16 

We also had a voicemail from a listener this week, Susan. Rita in upstate New York said, “My employer expects departing staff to give a two week notice, but I just got a great opportunity and the training class starts next Monday. Do I have to give up the opportunity, or can I quit effective this Friday?”

Rita, congratulations on the new job. The fact is that unless you’re under a contract with that employer, they probably have reminded you annually and since day one that you’re an employee at will, which means should business circumstances change at any point they can ask you to leave without any notice. And by virtue of that, you are able to vote with your feet any day of the week. Now, I would tell you, and I’m sure all of us who grew up in the world of professional employment recognize that the right thing to do is to try to give notice to an employer. And usually etiquette demands two weeks notice. Some jobs longer, but usually two weeks. And the purpose of that is to enable your employer to do some replacement planning, get a job posted, they may not have it filled before you leave, but at least they get the ball rolling and you can do some knowledge transfer. But the fact is, you are not required, unless there’s a contract that says otherwise, for you to give notice. JoDee, any input from you?

JoDee  52:38 

No, I totally agree. If it makes sense in your position, you know, sometimes I’ve seen people say, hey, I have this new opportunity, I’d like to go to training next week for it, I could come back for a week after. I mean, if if both parties agree, that can be a way to sort of help out both employers by getting you to the training, but then coming back and sharing with your current employer, too.

Susan  53:03 

As I tell my career coaching clients, that you owe your employer 100% every single day that you’re there. By virtue of you accepting a paycheck, you owe them 100%. But you don’t owe them tomorrow, you don’t owe them next week, and honestly, should they have the business need, they would let you go on a dime.

JoDee  53:20 

Yeah. Very good. Good advice, Susan.

Susan  53:24 

Please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, or Podbean by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via the JoyPowered® Facebook account, or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listeners’ questions and comments. Thanks so much.

JoDee  53:53 

Thanks, and make it a JoyPowered® day.

Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily works behind the scenes at JoyPowered, helping to edit and publish the books, producing the podcast, and running the website and social media.

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