Me Too!

This past month women have been raising their voices, telling their stories and healing relationship systems that have long tolerated sexual harassment. Women in my generation often have a “Me Too” story, or at the very least, know of someone who does. Daily, it seems, these women are coming forward and shining a bright light on a significant factor that impacts career success for women. Some people are critical of these stories, wondering “why now,” but I see the telling as a powerful affirmation that women are rejecting the role of victim. “In fact, recognizing our impotence is the first step in finding our power” according to Psychology Today. While I have my own stories, what has given me pause, is my hesitation to share them. In part, one has to consider the world we grew up in, and then passed on to our daughters. Girl’s in my generation were raised by women who lived in a world that did not honor their voice. They learned through experience and observation, that careers and lives could be ruined by voicing their concerns. These women taught us an unspoken code of silence as we learned to dance nimbly around unwanted advances, ways to avoid notice, and how to sweep the unspeakable under the rug. We learned that speaking-out can cast a long and dark shadow, not on the perpetrator, but on us.Woman holding sign "#METOO"

The provocative question: why does this persist?
At first glance, my own lack of response to the “Me Too” movement, felt complex, and I rationalized it was a bit personality, part generational, and to some degree old news. But there was also this nagging sense that my reluctance was rooted in my own “code of silence.” My stories, I suspect are all too common, and of less significance to me then the reasons for adherence to the code. As I sought to answer the question, why does this persist in the American workplace, I discovered that women react similarly to those who have been bullied, or otherwise harassed. Some of the reasons that people stay silent, they:

• stay silent while they try to figure out what to do.
• are ashamed and embarrassed
• feel powerless or weak
• fear retaliation
• would rather weather the storm than have the situation escalate
• want or need acceptance from the victimizer
• are worried no one will believe them
• don’t want to be known as a complainer or snitch
• feel they are somehow at fault, or deserve it

Cultures of Silence
Families and organizations that operate with a secret agreement to keep silent about an occurrence, situation, or subject and especially in order to promote or protect selfish interests, are operating within a Culture of Silence. Our secret agreements are inherent and deeply woven into the fabric of America’s Patriarchal way of operating. In Raine Eisler’s book, The Power of Partnerships, she describes two very different relationship models, the Domination Model and the Partnership Model.

Domination Model
The Domination Model, is hierarchical in its simplest form, or takes the form of a triangle, meaning someone is on the top and someone is on the bottom. According to Eisler, the top controls the bottom, and the bottom takes orders without question and are socialized through guilt, fear, and force. The world is divided-up by two groups, in-groups and out-groups, which inherently operate as a competitive system where the in-group fights to remain in power.

Partnership Model
A Partnership Model, “supports mutually respectful and caring relationships,” and takes the form of a circle. Without the need to maintain rank and control, there is not a “built in need for abuse and violence.” Power is exercised in ways that empowers rather than disempowers people.

The way our society operates, and organizations within it, has deep roots in a history that required authoritarian models to ensure safety. Today that old way of operating is fraying at the edges, and we are experiencing some of the chaos that comes from letting go of the Domination Model while in transition to a Partnership Model. Because systems naturally seek to maintain equilibrium, we all have an active role to play in evolving to a new way of operating. This should not be looked at as a battle of the sexes, but an awareness that an antiquated system is putting us all on notice that something new is trying to emerge.

Evolving Beyond Cultures of Silence
Those who avoid speaking up do so because they perceive it isn’t safe. To evolve beyond Cultures of Silence, we must become practiced at cultivating respect, caring & connection, valuing other’s perspectives, genuine curiosity, commitment, collaboration, and fun. Women must not allow themselves to be victims, nor do we need to be conquerors. Evolving beyond the Domination Model will require that we become observers of our own behavior and change agents within the systems we operate within. As a systems worker by trade, becoming aware of the system is a necessary step toward intentional evolution.

For thousands of years, men have been in positions of power and authority over women. This is not going to change overnight. Today, in American organizations and political systems the faces at the top are still disproportionately male. For men and women to move past the awkward dance, it will take a concerted effort to engage in real dialogue. There are endless opportunities for teams and workmates to change the conversation, and to practice new behaviors that advocate for a Partnership Model. Cultures of Silence go beyond gender bias, wage inequality, or sexual innuendo and harassment. A shift will require that we change the way we interact with each other. It is long past time for new agreements to be made in the workplace, agreements that propel us toward a higher level of transparency and accountability. My dream is that our future stories will not be born out of shame and fear, but rather rise-up from a sense of pride in our collective humanity. Someday, I hope that “Me Too,” becomes an affirmation used to describe being a valued member of a coactive group, or team. The time has come for us to work together to create that new reality.

If you’re interested in engaging in the kind of conversations at work, that empower rather than disempower, give me a call at 303-238-9733. Xponents Creating Collaborative Partnerships offers a path to developing a coactive work team.


HighResolution_Warnke_ DebSiverson20121208-9332-EditDeb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all

Living Out-Loud

The reoccurring nightmare appears every few months to remind me of a fear I can’t fully grasp. In my dream, I’m running, from someone or something, that is rapidly closing in on me. Sometimes the circumstances change, but what always remains, is that I scream for help and nothing but a whispery-croak emerges from my throat. I have no voice, and I’m terrified.

9163333 - bright picture of young woman with finger on lips

What are my dreams attempting to resolve? What I suspect is a deeply-rooted belief that my voice lacks substance, or weight. As an Executive Coach, the concept of finding one’s voice is part of the vernacular. Sometimes the concept is expressed as developing executive presence, discerning when to step-in and take a leadership stand, or even defining one’s vocation or purpose. My vocation is to support others to find their authentic voice. After all, what could be more important than living one’s life out-loud.

In Palmer Parker’s, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the voice of vocation, he writes of coming to a personal crossroad, a time when he recognized that he had found “a noble way to live a life that was not my own, imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.” The prospect of a life lived from the outside-in, not the inside-out, became unbearable to Parker.

Living from the inside-out has become deeply compelling to me. Recently, for two weeks, I was on 100% voice rest following surgery. For an extrovert who experiences the world through speech, it has been both frustrating and illuminating. While difficult, silence offered time to consider questions that a busy life pushed toward obscurity.
• Am I living my biggest and best life?
• What would it take to live bigger, bolder, louder?
• How can my voice be used with greater clarity and purpose?
• What has silence taught me about living from the inside to the outside?

This time of silence has been a gift, offering space and time to listen for answers to life’s most provocative questions. Moments to consider how well my life speaks the language of my heart.

If you feel a stirring to find your voice, maybe it’s time to create the space and time to listen to your heart beat.

Contact me for a free sample session, to discuss how a coach can help.


HighResolution_Warnke_ DebSiverson20121208-9332-EditDeb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all.

Transforming Leadership: The 3 Basics

I believe that the greatest truths of the universe don’t lie outside, in the study of the stars and the planets. They lie deep within us, in the magnificence of our heart, mind, and soul. Until we understand what is within, we can’t understand what is without. —Anita Moorjani, Dying To Be Me

Row of daisiesThere is a lot of discussion in the news this week about leadership. Society expects a great deal from leaders who are in a position of authority, as we should. We want them to provide us with moral direction. We look outside ourselves to identify leadership weaknesses; and the truth is, we don’t have to look too hard. In my work with organizations, employees find it challenging to identify positive role models and examples of effective leadership in the workplace. It is more common, when asked for a positive example, for examples of ineffective leaders to be cited. Why is this? There are several contributing factors, but I believe that one factor is a disempowered mindset. Because we don’t often spend enough time looking within to identify our own strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

What do we expect from ourselves as leaders? How do we influence without authority? When do we take a stand? How do we listen to others with respect when their opinion is morally or ethically opposed to our own? When does another’s rights to freedom of speech cross our own boundary line? How do we lead when faced with differences that seem vast and insurmountable? Can we find our power without force or violence?

Learning to lead skillfully, artfully, and mindfully is paramount; if the conflicts in our homes, at work, in our communities, in politics, and in society as a whole are to find peaceful and productive resolution.

I have been delivering Leadership Basics for over ten years. The program was initially developed to answer questions, such as; What is leadership; How do I lead and influence without position; Who am I as a leader; What is the value in different leadership styles? In 1.5 days, the program raises these questions, and seeks to set each person on a quest to find the answers for themselves. And it’s a great starting place, but transforming leadership takes more than attending one workshop.

Leadership development is a life-long pursuit, that demands leaders to continually re-focus on Self-awareness, Interpersonal Relationships, while developing a Global Mindset. I challenge you to consider these questions:
• Where do I need to take a stand and positively influence an outcome?
• What skills will I need to lead, while communicating productively rather than destructively?
• What’s at stake if I don’t choose to lead?

Start your leadership journey today


Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.


From Conflict to Collaborative Partnerships

Conflict seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days. This weekend I read a quote, “Trying to find the balance between staying informed, and total insanity.” Daily doses of conflict are becoming exhausting. The disagreement over issues and differences of opinions is not what makes conflict hard. Conflict is hard because of the pain that comes from making, and taking it personallyCollaborative Partnerships Spokeswoman Cartoon.

The root of conflict is differences; in styles, personality, opinions, priorities, goals…you get it. There is no way that conflict can be avoided, it is as common as a cold. Something that is such a common part of life should be easier to master. So why can’t we get better at it? Why do we push hard to get our way, or avoid the messiness of conflict all together?

The complexity of making a rational decision, especially as the stakes increase, require evaluating all the facts, more facts than we can easily gather efficiently before we want to move on to something else. In a word, it is overwhelming. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science when he and his team’s research challenged the assumptions of traditional economic theory–that people make rational choices based on their self-interest–by showing that people frequently fail to fully analyze situations where they must make complex judgments. Most people prefer the simplicity of looking at the world based on their own preconceived views that were built by their limited experiences. When individuals have enough information to validate their own view of the world, that is generally enough to move forward. Most people don’t like operating in shades of gray, but prefer black and white, right and wrong. And they don’t like to leave things hanging, so they decide where they stand, and they move on. Collaboration and cooperation is only possible when we are willing to admit, to ourselves, to each other, that we may each only have a piece of the truth.

Creating Collaborative Partnerships with others is available to each of us if we can withhold our judgement and preconceived ideas long enough to listen to another view of the truth. Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? One had the tail, one a leg, the other an ear, each touching a different part of the whole body. It took all of them to be able to see the bigger picture; developing collaborative partnerships to work through their conflict. This week reminds me of how difficult it can be to listen to each other, to imagine what another person sees, and why, and to get curious about a point of view that is different from my own. To seek first to understand and without demanding to be understood. To embrace rather than defend. How their view influences the bigger view. How our view is closer to the truth.

How serendipitous it is that this week Xponents is releasing our first online program: Creating Collaborative Partnerships. If you want some tips on how to improve your ability to collaborate, cooperate, and work with others more effectively toward a bigger possibility, we invite you to participate in the self-directed program, or the group mastermind.



Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.



The Four Success Factors of Millennial Leaders

Relay races are won or lost, based on how well the baton was passed. In 2016, some 3.6 million Baby Boomers will retire, and metaphorically pass the baton to 25% of working millennials who are slated to become managers this year. How well the baton is passed will determine if a company falls behind, stays the course, or wins the race. What are the top four strategies that will bolster the odds of a smooth transition? Below are the four things that millennial leaders want and need to run a successful race.  

shutterstock_82356412Corporate learning

Engagement surveys by Blessing White and recent research by PwC confirms that training and development is a priority for the millennial worker. Talent development is a game changer that attracts talent and accelerates readiness to move up the career ladder. 

Career progression

And speaking of career ladders, millennials want to move up and they want to do it two rungs at a time. This is great news to organizations who desperately need to accelerate the growth of high-potentials. Coach to a development and career plan that aligns an individual’s values, passion, and purpose…and then get out to the way!  

Coaching and feedback

Coaching and frequent feedback goes way beyond developing a career plan. Bersin & Associates points out that millennials want frequent and consistent feedback and coaching, and not just when something goes wrong. On-target feedback positively reinforces desired behaviors, and increases the likelihood that those behaviors will be repeated. 

Flexible schedules

Life balance and flexibility also get high marks in terms of importance from the millennial generation. Look for ways to reevaluate old ways of doing things and creatively seek out opportunities to flex. Engage the millennial leaders in finding a solution that emphasizes the end and not the means.


If you are interested in taking full advantage of your millennial leaders, check out: Leadership Lab.  Xponents’ newest program is a 90-day leadership intensive. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how the Leadership Lab can help you.




Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.

Why Meaningful Work Matters

A month ago I posted, Millennials, Feedback, and the Dreaded Performance Appraisal. My intent was to prove that it’s time for a change in how performance is managed. I planned for the second post in the series to move the reader from “why” it’s important and on to the “how” it can be accomplished. But in the last few weeks I realized there was an important element that had been left untold. To be an advocate for leading and coaching through the lens of what creates meaning in the workplace, and to convince the reader that we must each find work that speaks to our hearts, then I have to tell you what is at the heart of why this matters so much to me.

Will it matter that I was?
Will it matter I was here?
And can I make a difference…
before I disappear?
Excerpt from the poem, Will it Matter that I Was? By my brother Michael

My perspective on the meaning of life was forever changed by the death of Michael who committed suicide at the age of 27. I was his big sister, and the one who felt responsibility for five children who were left mostly to raise themselves. When Michael left us slowly at first, and then abruptly, it was the custom of the remaining siblings to create order from chaos and so we did, laying him finally to rest. As I went through the remnants of his life, I found his poem titled, Will it Matter that I Was? His words gave me a window to see him and the importance of meaning through the question he struggled with as darkness engulfed him. The last contact I had with Michael was an email, read and responded to with haste during a business trip, and one week before he died. He was concerned about who he was as a father and a husband. He had decided to take the summer off from school to spend time with his family and to figure out a direction for his life. Two sentences away from goodbye, Mike wrote, “I took a class in leadership last semester, and have had the topic on my mind regularly. I would love to listen to any advice that you have. I worry that I am not a leader.” I never had the chance to offer my advice, but have often imagined what I would say, if I had the opportunity to point him in a direction. Finding life’s meaning requires that we ask provocative questions. Finding our answers, requires knowing the questions to ask.

I feel as if my entire life has been spent exploring the question, why am I here? Through questioning I’ve come to believe that each of us has a unique pattern of integrity, and in my work this concept model represents the Power of Y, or why it matters. I define this pattern as our spiritual blueprint, our innate gifts, the essence of who we are. Our divine essence is dipped in a genetic cocktail, co-mingled with time and geography, and wrapped in privilege or marginalization as we are pushed into the world and the arms of saints and sinners. Once here, we navigate life’s winding roads, choosing what parts of ourselves will dance with the circumstances and consequences of our reality. The purpose, the meaning of life, is to discover and live from our divine essence in service to self, others, community, or that which is bigger than we are; call it the Universe, God, or the Great Mystery of all Things. When we can’t find that connection to our own essence it’s as if we are adrift in the sea of life. I imagine that the tumultuous sea that was both the circumstances and consequences of Mike’s life, finally pulled him under, and he drowned having never found an anchor or safe harbor to rest and wait out his many storms.

As you can see, I choose to believe that each of us was created for a reason, and that this reason extends into our vocation. Not like fate, but more like a special design that has many potential uses. Faith tells me there is always something bigger at play and this drives me to serve that collective good. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, “some suggest that conceptual candidates for grounding meaning are purposes that not only have a positive value, but also render a life coherent (Markus 2003), make it intelligible (Thomson 2003, 8–13), or transcend animal nature (Levy 2005),” and this interpretation mostly aligns with how I have constructed the meaning, of my meaning. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy further states that there is not a precise definition of meaning, or consensus within the field on how to define the meaning of life. How could it be any other way? Perhaps it matters less that we agree on a common definition, and more that we define the meaning of life for ourselves. Who is better equipped than I, to discover the threads of continuity in a life that seems otherwise incoherent? Each of us must discover and connect our essence and uniqueness to a larger concern that is bigger than we are, allowing us to dance with enthusiasm in life including our work. How can a social construct write the lines that will define what is pleasing to our soul, or to God? It cannot, just as there will never be consensus on the meaning, and for some, even the very existence of God.

Michael finished his lines, but never resolved the question, did he matter? I feel sad that I can’t resolve it for him and afraid he will disappear if I forget him. I close my eyes to make sure I can still recall his face. I hang on to the many truths I know of him, not a monster or a glorified image created out of grief or guilt, but a multi-faceted, flesh and blood man. I remind myself of the many complexities that define my brother. I see in my minds-eye, the toddler who laughed uncontrollably as I pulled him up and down the hallway in a cardboard box. I recall retrieving the stone-faced boy of twelve from the police, caught trying to cross the border into Mexico with a stolen vehicle. I smile when I think of him at eighteen, face alight with wonder as we approach a waterfall, clothed in sparkling mist and rays of sunlight, discovered on a rare and spontaneous hike. That hike, was the first and last time I ever saw him so relaxed and filled with joy. Michael loved literature, music, and poetry and was plagued by addictions, depression, and shame. My brother was the victim of abuse and as is often the case he became the abuser, especially to himself. When I compare the man I feared he was the day my sister and I attempted an intervention, with the man years later who sat contentedly holding his 3-month old daughter, I feel the loss for the estranged years that can never be retrieved. In that moment while cradling her close, and just months before he died, I distinctly remember daring to hope that at the age of twenty-seven he had finally found himself. Today I still hope, but my focus is to facilitate this discovery for many.

I’m struck with the realization that this story about Michael, is an integral part of my own story and what often fuels my own search for meaning and engagement at work. I’m grateful that through questioning my reality, I continue to discover new textures and color as the artist creates the next version of future-self. Michael no longer looks for new versions of himself. His story has been written. Those of us left behind, and often referred to as survivors of suicide will say that we fantasize about going back in time, to change what happened or to try to make sense of it. I wish I could implore my brother to believe that he most assuredly matters. I ache to turn back the clock’s hands, and convince him to consider asking a different question. I make a mental note to reconsider the questions I ask myself, before time runs out for me.

The human condition has always been wrapped in mystery and confusion regarding the meaning of life. I now suspect that the meaning of life is to find meaning, and I fear that when we stop creating our own meaning that the lights go out. I believe that the keys to unlocking this mystery, lie within each of us. We can choose to look to our darkness or our light, for the answers to guide which roads we will travel on life’s journey. If I could go back in time, I imagine standing in the misty sunlight and saying, “Michael, you are deeply loved. You were chosen to be part of the inconceivable miracle of life, brought here through space and time, and statistically against great odds. Worthiness is your birthright and though you have been victimized, you must not become a victim, who is preyed upon and seduced by confusion and self-doubt. The question you ask can never be: Do I matter? The question must always be: What gift, talent, experience, or interest can I offer to a world that hungers for my touch? This is what lies between life and death, the discovery again and again, of the best parts of us and what we are called to do with this one miraculous life. The research I often share is intended to convince my audience of the relevance of this message, and I suppose the facts and statistics also help validate and prove to my head that my work matters.  But Michael has returned to me these past weeks to remind me that it is the heart that points us in our direction. My heart says, it’s past time to align each individual’s values, vision, and purpose at work. Don’t let it be too late to find your life’s best use.

If you believe it’s time for a change, but aren’t quite sure how to get started, stay tuned later this month for Part 3 of this blog: How Transformational Coaching leads to Meaningful Work.

If you are interested in becoming a performance driven organization that’s able to balance a drive for results with caring and connected leadership; redefining coaching and feedback may be an opportunity worth considering. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how to use Cycles of Transformation to grow your team.



Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.

Millennials, Feedback, and the Dreaded Performance Appraisal


Have you wondered why several major companies like Adobe, Juniper, and Gap are deciding to forgo the traditional performance appraisal process? Lately, the question that is on everyone’s mind; Are traditional performance appraisals still a viable approach to performance management? Many in today’s organizations don’t think so, and the majority are reporting that they are not getting what they need from annual performance appraisals. In a recent Forbes article, Donna Morris of Adobe shared statistics from Mercer’s 2013 Global Performance Management Survey. “Only 3% of organizations say their performance management system delivers exceptional value, while almost half 48% say their overall approach to performance management needs work (Morris, 2014).” There are several reasons that the time has come to rethink performance management, and specifically the annual performance review process. In part, the need for change mirrors the changing environment. The workplace looks very different from when the traditional performance appraisal process arrived on the scene 60 years ago.

Why Looking Back No Longer Works

In the early 1950s, change was not at the accelerated pace that it is today. Supervisors oversaw the work of a different workforce, one that was heavily engaged in manufacturing. Today a full 70% of employees are knowledge workers and service providers, according to Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte. “These are people who become more productive and valuable over time…so the more we coach and develop them, the more productive and happy they become (Bersin, 2013).” He further asserts that the changing workforce, in part, creates the need to move from competitive evaluation to coaching and development. Not only is the nature of work impacting performance management, so too are employee’s expectations. A key consideration is the impact of Millennials, and what they want and need to be successful at work. The sheer number of Millennials in the workplace demands attention, as they tip the scales in 2015 and become the majority in the workplace (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). And this trend will continue, with Millennials projected to represent 75% of the workplace by 2025.

There is a considerable impact on performance management as the Millennial generation, or those born between the years 1981-1996, represent a larger percentage of the workforce. In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore who is a professor at the Desautels Faculty, McGill University & an Associate Fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford University, says that “Millennials want feedback. They want it now and they want it consistently, or they’ll simply leave. Giving Millennials feedback is a very different game from what we knew in the past. The reality is that feedback has moved from an annual performance review to an everyday occurrence, or at least it should be. Worse yet, too many managers have not come to grips with the concept of Millennial feedback (Moore, 2014).”

The Challenges We Face

There are several factors that challenge cultures, and those who manage, to come to grips with feedback. Below are a few of the more common reasons organizations are struggling to fully embrace coaching and feedback:

  • Failed attempts at change because of unrealistic expectations regarding the change effort required to shift to a culture of coaching and feedback.
  • Unable to sell the cost of the change initiative due to the difficulty of quantifying that over time, the value outweighs the cost.
  • Time challenges that are both real and perceived as managers struggle to deliver consistent and frequent feedback and coaching to the entire team. Often, the allotted time for feedback and coaching is spent on problem performers.
  • Coaching initiatives lose steam because of lukewarm results because managers have not developed the skills and confidence needed to effectively coach and deliver feedback that has a meaningful impact.

While the obstacles are real, so too is the potential reward. Those who are able to shift the culture to support frequent and effective feedback will be the winners on many fronts. One of those fronts is employee engagement.

Defining the Opportunity

In Gallup’s report, the State of the American Workplace, the well-known employee engagement researcher states that roughly “30% of American employees are engaged at work, while the rest are not engaged (50%), or actively disengaged (20%).” As a subset of this statistical data, Gallup further evaluates engagement statistics related to feedback, and has uncovered some interesting and meaningful correlations. Globally the “managers who give little or no feedback only engage about 2% of their team and 40% of their employees report they are actively disengaged.” Gallup estimates that the cost of disengagement is $450-$550 billion a year (Gallup, 2013). The cost associated with managers who are not providing consistent feedback is becoming increasingly too high a price to pay.

Developing managers who are both consistent and effective at providing coaching and feedback is an opportunity for most organizations. To take full advantage of what’s possible, the entire culture must intentionally shift, as all managers reimagine, reinvent, and retool what they believe and what they do regarding performance management. Some will roll their eyes, not believing that they need to pay careful attention, because the terms coaching and feedback are familiar. Guard yourself against this way of thinking, and carefully consider if you fully own the vernacular and if you are a practicing student of this unique dialect that facilitates deeper meaning and engagement at work. In the future, nothing less than full participation will be enough.

There is a future calling managers to change the way they lead, and it will change the way organizations practice performance management. Those who answer the call will hold themselves and others accountable for collaboration and partnering, emotional intelligence, leveraging conflict and chaos, and mindfulness and presence. These leadership competencies will create an environment where trust can flourish; and this skill-set will be integrated into the landscape of coaching and feedback. In the future, coaching and feedback will stop being a task that leaders do, and instead become who they are, in any given moment.

If you believe it’s time for a change and want to learn more, read Part 2 of this blog: Why Meaningful Work Matters.

If you are interested in becoming a performance driven organization that’s able to balance a drive for results with caring and connected leadership; redefining coaching and feedback may be an opportunity worth considering. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how to use Cycles of Transformation to grow your team.



Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.

Mindfulness and Reflection

“It is necessary…for a man to go away by himself … to sit on a rock … and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”
Carl Sandburg

shutterstock_225924757I recently spent a half-day with a colleague who graciously offered me her support as I considered my business plan and asked myself the questions (again): Who am I? Who are our users and buyers? What do they need? How can I meet that need differently than my competition? During this process she challenged me to evaluate how I came to be where I was now, and in so doing, I discovered something new and different about my work around The Cycle of Transformation.

Mindfulness is coming of age as we learn more about the value created when employees are present and attuned with their work. Mindfulness practices in the workplace are linked to lower stress, employee satisfaction, healthier relationships, and improved business results. Mindfulness can simply be defined as attention and awareness to the present moment. There are many opportunities to practice mindfulness techniques in the workplace, depending on the situation, but I want to focus on those opportunities that are linked to evaluation, assessment, or a debriefing of action that has been taken.

Recently I read about the distinguishing characteristics of mindfulness to-action, and mindfulness in-action. This idea really resonates with me, because for years I’ve practiced reflection to-action as part of the transformative cycle for individuals and organizational systems. I can clearly see how mindfulness in-action strengthens the Cycles of Transformation, during the action phase, through full presence and awareness of each moment that one is engaged in “the doing.” The next phase of the transformative cycle happens when one reflects on “the doing.” The greater the ability to stay present and re-experience the completed activity, mindfulness to-action, the greater the opportunity for new insight as the individual or the organization remains agile and iterative about what happens next.

Cycles of Transformation become expansive, in part, through the practice of learning through reflection. We evolve and grow systems by examining past and current realities and pondering questions about priorities, impacts and desired outcomes. Mindfulness to-action, or Reflection, when embedded in the coaching or learning process ensures necessary time is spent to consider if we will repeat, adjust, or abandon a past course of action. Attention creates intention.

I have included three tips to support your success at the Reflection phase of the Cycle of Transformation process. These will help you use mindfulness to-action.

Contemplative Inquiry: To look at, or view, for an extended time. Deeply considering our own actions is an important element of a personal growth strategy. This level of reflection and inquiry can lead to self-awareness and deep insight about what is most important and what action we want to curtail or commit more time and energy toward. Some individuals like to find a quiet place to think, others prefer to walk, hike, or run while considering an important question, and still others journal or draw while in a reflective state. Figure out what works best for you. The same holds true for organizational systems. Appreciative Inquiry, Strategic Planning and Executive Alignment sessions are examples of structures that organizations use to take a step back and engage in contemplative inquiry by asking questions such as: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where do we need to go next? What actions will we choose to take?

Comparative Outcomes: The identification of effectiveness for specific activities. Looking back to compare and contrast what happened in different situations can often help excavate the pieces and parts that did or didn’t work. When in doubt regarding the best future course of action, look to the past and you might find a hybrid, or a combined approach based on several past experiences. Start by brainstorming all the times you have solved a similar problem or encountered the situation at hand. List everything you can remember about what took place and the outcomes. Discard what you didn’t like but be careful that you are discarding it for the right reasons.

Coaching Reflection: Leaders can support others in their reflective process by asking coaching questions about past actions. The coaching skills, listening and intuition, to name just a few, are also extremely valuable and can help uncover opportunities to deepen clarity and create new insight. Reflective coaching has a purpose; to create learning for another person that supports his or her desired, future-growth. Beware of creating a focus that erodes self-regard and confidence. Below are questions that may help you coach reflection, or mindfulness to-action.

  • Describe what happened.
  • How did that support your goal; objective; desired outcome?
  • What would the ideal outcome have been?
  • What did, or would lead to that end?
  • What would you change?
  • What could be done differently to improve the odds?
  • What are you especially proud of?
  • What will you repeat?
  • What will you discard?
  • What happens now?

If you are interested in becoming a performance driven organization that’s able to balance a drive for results with caring connected leadership; a mindfulness to-action and reflection practice may be part of the solution you’re looking for. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how to use Cycles of Transformation to grow your team.


Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all.

A Manager’s Guide to Coaching an Action Plan

shutterstock_184803659Vision with action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.  Japanese Proverb

Managers often seem to struggle with holding others accountable for what was promised. Have you ever thought everyone was on the same page, and then the deadline was missed, the outcome was vastly different from what you expected, or your team member simply did not do what they said they would? This phenomenon isn’t the head scratcher you might have thought it was. It’s generally the result of an action plan miss step. Common mistakes made while developing an action plan are: unclear commitments, no accountability structure, lack of a collaborative process, or minimal support for a behavioral change.

Vague or ambiguous commitments: It’s easy to make assumptions when it comes to how much communication is necessary. Without absolute clarity regarding what, when, who, and how, the action plan outcomes will be based on the interpretation of each person involved. This creates different perspectives about what is expected and what success looks like. Managers who operate this way may be lucky for a time, but like all good things this too shall pass. The best defense is a strong offense, so a wise approach is to increase the quality and quantity of communication on the front-end of the action plan before damage is done to an individual or the team.

Accountability Structure: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We all know this story all too well. We start off with the best intentions, but there isn’t a framework to support us in staying the course. Savvy managers create open dialogue about what is needed to ensure support and accountability to commitments. When we plan to hold each other accountable on the front-end, before challenges arise, we avoid awkwardness on the back-end.

Tell vs. Ask: Over the years, I’ve observed many managers using a directive style, or telling their team member what actions need to be taken. This approach is appropriate when the situation calls for teaching a new skill or task, but it seldom has the impact or yields the results that using a more coactive approach to coaching an action plan. Managers who ask compelling questions facilitate team members in determining the best way to proceed that is based on their personal talents and skill-set. Another benefit of collaborative action planning is a higher level of commitment and engagement for the plans outcome.

Behavioral Change Management: Changing our primary way of doing things is hard. Whether we desperately want to become healthier or improve our skill at uncovering customer needs; changing behavior takes intense focus and attention. Forming new habits can be exhausting and uncomfortable. Managers who recognize that a behavioral action plan will best take root with consistent evaluation, reflection, and reinforcement. Consistent attention can help accelerate and sustain behavioral change.

A manager’s guide to coaching an action plan incorporates a few simple dos and don’ts.


  • Make assumptions without confirmation that others understand what needs to be done!
  • Blame others for not being able to read your mind!
  • Confuse micro-management with preparing to succeed!
  • Be an old school manager who doesn’t ask team members for input!
  • Forget to follow up!
  • Ignore all the hard work that goes in to changing behavior!
  • Forget to ask yourself when a plan goes off track, how could I have been a stronger leader?


  • Ask questions to create clarity of action, such as:
    • What are the first steps; timeline, resources needed; potential obstacles; my role; your confidence?
  • Listen carefully for a thoughtful and realistic plan. If you don’t hear it, delve deeper.
  • Collaborate during planning process. Ask vs. Tell, as appropriate.
  • Brainstorm accountability structures, such as:
    • Check-ins, updates, observation and feedback, a plan to ask for help if challenges arise, agreement to inform or negotiate plan changes before they happen.
  • Create transformation by debriefing behavioral action plans that:
    • Focus on specific behaviors and outcomes.
    • Identify what worked and what didn’t.
    • Positively reinforce behaviors you want to see continue.

What does it take to be a manager who is masterful at coaching an action plan? Be aware of the dos and don’ts, ask good questions, avoid telling people what to do, collaborate on developing the action plan, and create accountability structures so people won’t fail. Once you have this down, 90% of your time spent on accountability will be the enjoyable act of acknowledging and reinforcing all the great things your team is doing. Schedule a free consultation today to learn how to create effective action plans.

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Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all.


Choosing to Live Intentionally

Everything about our lives is a choice, the question is, are we conscious or unconscious about the choices we make. We each can choose to flow through the day and let it happen or dig in deep and create a life that serves a greater purpose.  Maybe there is even a middle ground, a place that exists that is both flow and intention.

Blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard this before.  Eyes rolling back…zoning out.  Why does it have to be so complicated?  Just live life.  Be present, and live in the moment. Okay…noted…I get it! And just maybe one can live in the moment and be intentional. I am ever on the path to learning how.

There are days that I am just too tired, or distracted, and I don’t want to do the hard work it takes to live with full intention.  I settle…a bit (a lot) and I hope it’s okay to be intentional say 75% of the time.  And with huge helpings of unconsciousness, I think, isn’t ignorance just the purest form of bliss?  “Yes, thank you, I will have French fries with that, and another glass of wine would be so perfect…and I know how important that is to you, but I just have to handle one more thing first…can it wait?”

Today I don’t have the energy to aspire to 80% intentionality, but what if I could choose to live the life that was intended for me?  What if I had all the well being, happiness, and joy that was available?  What are the choices that I need to make to be in that flow?  I find that choosing to live intentionally requires me to stop, now and again, and take stock.

It all starts with self-awareness.  Assessments can kick start the process and remind us of who we are and where to pay attention. Coaching is also a great option to explore and discover what to focus on now. From the place of deeply knowing yourself, an informed decision, a true choice can be made about what to do.  It’s decision time.  Choosing action without self-awareness is foolishness.  An emotional connection to what matters most fuels action.

If it’s time to dig in deep and get focused on your career, work, or personal goals call us at 303-238-9733 or email me at [email protected].


If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.