Posts Tagged ‘communication skills’

Passive-Aggressive? Here’s Why

Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?-2Passive-aggressiveness, sometimes known as the “nice-nasty,” is communication (behavior) that is “nicety-nice” on the surface. However, the underlying message or intent is mean, rude, nasty, and/or manipulative.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressiveness can be frustrating, confounding, hurtful, and can even be the reason to end a relationship, quit a job, or even retaliate.

Passive-aggressiveness takes many forms.

  • Sarcasm
  • Ghosting
  • The Silent Treatment
  • Sabotage
  • Withholding (time, praise, intimacy, opportunity)
  • Backhanded Compliments
  • Hinting

And many, many more.  What these behaviors all have in common is that they allow people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others or having “plausible deniability” if called on their behavior.  For example, if someone uses sarcasm and they are confronted by the recipient, they can claim “that’s not what I meant” or even resort to gaslighting (intentionally trying to make the other person doubt themselves or the validity of their perceptions and feelings) with something like “geez – you are too sensitive.”  The passive-aggressive person wants their way, but they also want everyone to still like them and/or not be held accountable for their aggressive behavior.

I am often asked after delivering keynote speeches or programs on communication “Pamela, why are people passive-aggressive?”  Some of the more obvious answers are:

  • They are often insecure.
  • They may have poor communication skills.  They don’t know how to be assertive. (Important note:  assertive and aggressive are very different.)
  • They may struggle with jealously (personal or professional.)
  • They may feel out of control or a need to gain (or regain) power.
  • They may have learned it “works” for them.
  • It allows them to stay in their “comfort zone” and avoid the accountability assertiveness requires.

In addition to these reasons, here are a few less widely talked about, and yet still prevalent reasons.

Anger is often socially unacceptable (especially for women) whereas sugarcoated anger can be socially acceptable. Many people have been taught to “play nice” or that to “be liked” is a top priority. Some people are so uncomfortable with conflict, confrontation and other negative interactions that they will attempt to “keep the peace at any cost.”  While they may feel anger, they are not comfortable expressing it directly for fear of social censure. When the anger gets sugarcoated, that social censure is typically less.

Assertiveness can be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. Passive-aggressiveness can be easier and feel safer than assertiveness.  Being assertive and asking for what you want or need by being direct and clear about your expectations can feel risky. What if your request is denied? What if the recipient of your request belittles your request? Or gets upset? By choosing passive-aggressiveness (indirect communication) individuals give themselves a more palatable explanation for another’s behavior.  For example, if you are frustrated by your colleague’s constant tardiness to meetings you run and you “drop hints” (passive-aggressive)  about their arrival time and despite the hints they continue to arrive late, you can tell yourself “perhaps I wasn’t clear” or “maybe they didn’t understand.”  However, if you opt for the assertive approach and directly (and politely)  tell your colleague that their being late to regularly scheduled meetings you run is frustrating and ask them to be on time (an assertive approach) they may choose not to be on time anyway. With this assertive approach, you can no longer tell yourself “perhaps they didn’t understand.” Now the remaining explanations are less palatable such as “my frustration must not really matter to them.” Sometimes these “less palatable” explanations can be hurtful. Hence why assertiveness can sometimes be terrifying.

Passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Because it is often manipulative and can be disconcerting to others, passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Passive-aggressiveness is also disrespectful to others. The passive-aggressive person is taking away the other person’s power. It can be a way for an insecure person to gain some of the power and control they feel they are lacking.  Assertiveness, on the other hand, is mutually respectful (power is shared.) The passive-aggresive person doesn’t want to share that power.

Passive-aggressiveness can be easily rationalized. The passive-aggressive person is very adept at justifying their behavior. It is their brain’s way of arguing for their comfort zone. Any twinges of remorse or regret are quickly squashed by an inner or story that negates the necessity for change or personal growth.

While we cannot stop the passive-aggressive person from being passive-aggressive, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what passive-aggressive is and why people use it. For tools and information about how to deal with passive-aggressive people, check out this on-demand webinar. And, if you are looking to build your own assertiveness skills, click here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

 

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Stop Saying ” I’m Sorry” and Start Saying This Instead

by Pamela Jett, CSP

By now, yomedfr17018u’ve likely seen and heard the advice to “stop saying I’m sorry” in numerous blogs, seminars, books, and speeches by experts like myself.  In fact, I’ve even blogged about it myself before (if you want to read that blog click here.)  Many of us habitually say “I’m sorry.” Often for things we have no need to apologize for. It can be a habit. It can diminish our impact and credibility.  And, it can erode our path to success.

Most experts, myself included, will advise you to replace the “I’m sorry” with “I apologize.”  I apologize is more impactful, you are taken more seriously, and it keeps you from offering apologies where none are warranted.  This is a small change that can make a big difference.

There is another equally powerful replacement.  This replacement allows you build the other person up.  To compliment them on their admirable behavior instead of tearing yourself down or making yourself small.  The replacement for “I’m sorry” is to compliment or praise the other person.  For example:thank-you2

  • Instead of “I’m sorry I took so long to clear the meeting room” try “thanks for waiting so patiently as I cleared the room.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry I was late” try “I appreciate your kindness in waiting for me.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry to ask for you help” try “your willingness to help means a lot to me.”

Build the other person up.  Praise or thank them for their actions or response instead of tearing yourself down. While there are still plenty of times when an apology is warranted, often the best course of action is to praise the other party.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Leaders Unleash the Power of “Yes”

11107790 - voting concept: set of green yes signs isolated on white backgroundAs a leader, have you unleashed the power of yes with your team?  In particular, are you offering unequivocal “yeses” as often as possible? Every leader or manager knows that saying “yes” to an idea, proposal, or request can positively impact morale, engagement, and performance. The power of a “yes” is that it encourages more problem-solving, initiative, and proactivity in a team and among team members.  Unfortunately, many leaders are sabotaging or minimizing the impact of a “yes” by using phrases such as:

  • “Yes, this is good and we should also…” 
  • Yes, I like it.  But, could you also…”
  • “Yes and I would suggest that we…”
  • Yes, but first…”

While these forms of “yes” are still positive (and have their place in the language of leadership), they are also a form of yes with diluted or diminished impact.  When a leader adds a term or condition to their “yes” they are saying to the team or team member that the proposal or idea isn’t good enough to be implemented as it is. Or, at least not good enough yet.  Or, that it could be much better. This “qualified yes” can be disheartening and can decrease motivation and commitment.

Of course, there are times when the “qualified yes” is the smart choice.  As long as it is a choice and not a habit. If you constantly, habitually, or unintentionally qualify all of your positive responses, you may be missing out on the power of the “unequivocal yes.”

When I conduct programs for organizations and associations on leadership and communication, I often ask attendees what behaviors do their leaders engage in (or fail to engage in) that enhance employee engagement or decrease employee engagement. One of the consistent “engaging behaviors” is the “unequivocal yes.”  A “yes” with no conditions, no added value, no tweaks or adjustments.  A “yes” that says to the employee or team “I trust you.” These “yeses” sound like:

  • “Yes, go for it!”
  • “I like it.  Make it happen.”
  • “Great idea. Let’s do it.”

Think about it. Wouldn’t you feel great if your leader simply said “yes” to your next idea, proposal, or initiative? As a leader, ask yourself if you are using this simple engagement technique as often as you could.  Or, out of habit, do you qualify most, if not all, of your “yeses?” I encourage you to look for an immediate opportunity to give a “yes” without condition or constraint.  Unleash the power of the “unequivocal yes!”

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Leadership Communication Skill: How To Manage a Whiner

Slide1Whiners, chronic complainers, pessimists, and other negative people can be draining to have as peers or colleagues. And, they can be particularly draining if you are their supervisor.  When I conduct training sessions or breakouts for meetings, some of the most common questions I receive from leaders are:

  •  How can I manage a whiner?
  •  Why are they like that?
  • How can I get them to stop being so negative?

While there are various strategies to use with these chronically negative people, including having performance management conversations regarding their behavior*, here is my favorite strategy:

BE RELENTLESSLY POSITIVE!

Respond to their negativity with unfailing and unrelenting positivity.  For example, when a complainer complains try positive comebacks such as:

  • I know this project will be challenging and I am looking forward to how much more efficient the system will be when we are done.
  • While this will take a lot of time, it will be worth it!
  • Yes, this does push us out of our comfort zone. I’m excited to learn new skills.
  • Yes, this is a change. I’m eager to see what the future holds for our team.
  • I agree, this is hard. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

You get the general idea.  Empathize (don’t commiserate) and then be relentlessly positive!

When you respond with relentless positivity, you are modeling the behavior you expect. You are also training your employees or peers that their negativity doesn’t result in commiseration from you. Rather, you have a forward-thinking and positive perspective that you willingly share.  This relentless positivity can make a negative person less likely to whine or moan and groan in your presence.  You also don’t waste your precious time trying to change them or make them positive. Extraordinarily successful people know that you can’t change other people.  However, you can change how you respond to them. Being relentlessly positive takes all the fun out of it (for them) and you no longer will be their preferred recipient of negativity.

A quick reminder to those of you with formal leadership positions. There is a difference between a chronic complainer and an employee who has a legitimate concern or challenge.  With those team members, asking them how they would solve a problem or what they think ought to be done is often enough to shift them into problem-solving mode and out of their negative mood.  However, if they are being negative to simply gain attention or because they like whining, being relentlessly positive is an effective tool.

With whom will you be relentlessly positive today?

*If you struggle with performance management conversations or you want to brush up on your skills, download Pamela’s on-demand webinar “A Leader’s Toolkit for Difficult and Disciplinary Conversations” here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Business Communications Tip: This Question Isn’t as Polite as You Think

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Communication tip Pamela JettYou may not realize you are decreasing your own credibility, employee engagement, and influence by asking one simple question – will you do me a favor?  

Even though us business professionals aim to be polite and gracious, we often are sending a message that is less than powerful and confident.  When we ask someone to “do us a favor” we are making the professional… personal.  When we ask a colleague to “do us a favor” we run the very real risk that they will not take our request as seriously as we would like them to.  Even worse, if we are in a leadership position and we ask those we lead to “do us a favor,” they may not feel very respected, appreciated and engaged.  You run the risk that your team members or employees might believe you only ask them to work on things that are small, trivial, and not very important.  They won’t feel as if you trust them with serious business issues.

Here are a few options for you to choose from instead:

  • I’d like to partner with you on this project.  Are you open to that?  This is a very direct request and can reinforce your ability to be a team player.
  • I could use your expertise (insight, perspective).  Would you be willing to work with me on this?   (Note:  “work with,” not “help me”)  With this option you are asking someone to partner with you which can help them feel valued, respected, and will enhance engagement.
  • If you ____ (insert former “favor” here), I will ______ (insert what you will do for them here).  With this option you are negotiating, a powerful tool, and it is a great option to use with peers.

What are some phrases you could add to this list or “tweak” or adjust the language to fit your particular situation and your personal communication style? When leaders eliminate “will you do me a favor?” from their professional communication and replace it with a more powerful, confident, and respectful option they increase the likelihood that others will assist them and that they will be engaged in the process.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Stop Undermining Your Credibility with This One Word

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“I Hate Brussel Sprouts” and Other Poor Choices Even Good Leaders Make

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“I Hate Brussel Sprouts” and Other Poor Choices Even Good Leaders Make

thumbs downIf you are a regular reader of this blog, my social media posts, or have heard me as a keynote speaker, you know I believe the following to be fundamental truths regarding communication and leadership:

  • Words matter. The words you choose to use and the words you choose to lose as a leader and professional can make all the difference in terms of your success as well as the success of your team.
  • High caliber leaders use communication that is positive as opposed to negative. They strive not only to communicate in the positive, but they strive to be positive and to set a positive example.
  • High-hanging fruit matters.  Successful leaders are willing to do the things that others may not be willing to do. They are willing to pay attention to things others might deem either too difficult or too much of stretch. They are willing to reach for the high-hanging fruit.

With these concepts in mind, I’ve been noticing how often even good leaders and stellar professionals may inadvertently be coming across as negative or setting a negative tone.

  • I hate brussel sprouts.
  • I hate it when meetings start late.
  • I hate filing expense reports.
  • I hate conducting performance appraisals.
  • I hate conference calls on speaker phone (I’m guilty of saying this one).
  • I hate it when people act like deadlines don’t matter.

What do each of these statements have in common?  It’s obvious. It’s the “I hate.”  Hate is a VERY strong word and many leaders use it far too cavalierly, far too frequently, and, often inaccurately or unnecessarily. Do you really HATE a food item?  Or, would it be more accurate to say “I don’t like the taste?” Do you really HATE when meetings start late or is it more accurate to say, “I feel disrespected” or, “I feel annoyed when meetings start late?” I believe the word hate ought to be used sparingly and only for those things worthy of one of our strongest negative emotions.

Ask yourself, do I ever casually use the phrase “I hate?” If so, you might be sending a far more negative message than you intend. You may be sending a signal to others that it is ok to be negative. You might be sabotaging your success as a leader.

Take a moment and reach for some high-hanging fruit as a leader. Make a conscious effort to minimize your use of the phrase “I hate.”  Our world is full of far too much of it already.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Stop Undermining Your Credibility with This One Word

Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Leadership?

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Crucial Conversations: Don’t Start Them This Way

by Pamela Jett, CSP

phone-1209230_1920Communicating effectively and professionally in a crucial conversation is challenging.  I recently had a discussion with someone very close to me about a very difficult and emotionally charged situation for both of us.  Over the course of a few days we had numerous conversations about the situation, most of which went very smoothly.  However, one of the conversations was especially challenging for me.  I had to struggle to be the master of my emotions and not let my emotions be the master of me. I had to struggle not to get defensive.  I had to work very hard for a positive conversational outcome.  And, I am confident my conversational partner had to do the same.

While analyzing this tough conversation, I wondered “what triggered me?”  “Why was this conversation more difficult emotionally than all the others on the same topic over the past few days?”  I recognized that the first words out of my conversational partner’s mouth triggered defensiveness that I had to work hard to overcome.  These words, on some level, were insulting to me and I struggled from that moment forward.  Even though it was unintentional, my conversational partner provided an example of how NOT to start a crucial conversation.

The trigger words for me were“I know you don’t understand.”    Here is what they produced in me and what they might produce in others if you use them during a crucial conversation:

  • I felt the urge to say “yes I do” in a defensive fashion.
  • I felt the urge to “correct,” to put on my “communication expert” hat and explain that there is a difference between not understanding and not agreeing.
  • I felt insulted – as if all the effort to be a good listener, to be open minded, and empathetic during previous conversations on the subject was not only wasted, but unappreciated.

These responses would have been counter-productive, would have taken the conversation in the wrong direction, and likely would have made my conversational partner feel defensive.

What could have been used instead of “I know you don’t understand?”   Here are some options:

  • You might not agree.
  • I’ m aware we have different thoughts, feelings on this.
  • You may see it differently.
These phrases communicate an understanding that agreeing and understanding are two separate things.  By avoiding using “You don’t understand” you decrease your chances of triggering defensiveness in others.  Making changes such as these can make a big difference during a crucial conversation.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Stop “I’m Sorry”…Start Thanking

medfr17018
For decades I have been advocating professionals to stop saying “I’m sorry” and replace it with “I apologize.”  This small change can make a big difference because:

  • We often say “I’m sorry” out of habit and wind up apologizing for things for which we have no business apologizing.
  • When we say “I’m sorry” all the time it loses it’s impact and we aren’t taken as seriously.
  • Overuse of “I’m sorry” can make us look weak or less than confident.

I’ve been speaking about this in my communication workshops, keynote speeches, and writing about it since the beginning of my career. So, imagine my surprise when I recently found myself repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” despite knowing better.

I was working out with my new personal trainer.  She is learning how to modify a workout to accommodate my shoulder injuries and I am trying to discover where my physical limitations are due to the injuries.  We often try exercises that I am physically unable to do due to (extreme) pain in my shoulders.  A few days ago I found myself saying “I’m sorry” multiple times after attem
pting and failing one exercise modification after another.  I was frustrated.  I was embarrassed.  I was i pain.  And, I was grateful to her for her patience and willingness to keep looking for modifications.

However, instead of expressing my gratitude, I was saying, “I’m sorry.  I can’t do that one either.”  Atone point, she corrected me and said, “Stop saying you’re sorry – we will figure it out.”  Wow.  Talk about a learning moment for me. I knew better and I was saying “I’m sorry” anyway! I’ve been thinking about that interaction for the past few days and I’ve come to realize that I ought to have been saying something like:

  • I can’t do that one.  It hurts.  Thanks for being patient with me.
  • That one hurts, too.  I appreciate your flexibility in trying other options.
  • I’m grateful you are willing to keep finding new options.

Any of those responses would have not only been more accurate expressions of my true inner state – I genuinely am grateful – they would also have been a significant deposit in her emotional bank account.  Expressions of gratitude would have been a positive expression as opposed to the negative “I’m sorry.”

When can you offer gratitude instead of apologies?  Perhaps the next time someone helps you with a project you can thank them instead of apologizing for taking their time? Or, maybe the next time someone stays late at your request, you can thank them instead of apologizing for keeping them late?

What opportunities do you see to express gratitude instead of an apology?Replace sorry

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Are You Driving Your Leader Crazy?

 

stressed leaderIn my work with C-Suite level executives and other leaders I often have candid conversations about what they appreciate in their employees and what drives them a bit crazy about their employees. Here is a quick look at a few of the “crazy makers.”

  • Not getting to the point fast enough. While most leaders genuinely want to listen to their employees and sincerely care about their employee’s opinions and ideas, they are also typically pressed for time and need employees to make it quick. You might be driving your boss crazy if you are not focused, if you beat around the bush, or give too much irrelevant (from the boss’s perspective) detail. Get to the point. Be direct and focused on sharing key points. That will get you heard.
  • Not having “enterprise” perspective. Perspective matters. Do you view things simply through the lens of your own experience? Do you tend to view things solely through the lens of your current position or job description? If so, you might be driving your boss crazy due to lack of “enterprise” perspective. While good leaders understand that you might not have access to all the information and details they have and that you might not have the same “enterprise” level perspective they do, leaders are looking for people who can see beyond their own job titles or experiences. They value employees who think and communicate about things that make a difference to the big picture – enterprise level thinking. If you can tie your contributions to big picture goals or enterprise level thinking, you will gain more attention, authority, and respect.
  • Not having confidence. Hesitation when you speak (including “ums” and “ahs”), hedges such as “kind of” and “sort of,” and/or constantly asking for permission or approval instead of taking initiative can give the impression that you are not confident. You might be driving your boss crazy if you use a weak or approval seeking communication style. Great leaders are always looking for those they can groom or those who are ready to take the next step. Don’t sabotage your success simply by not communicating in a confident manner. Purge your communication of weak or wishy-washy language and be seen as someone with tremendous potential.

Avoiding these “crazy makers” can lead to greater success at work and a leader who views you as a confident, business savvy, and effective communicator.

For more powerful communication resources, visit Pamela’s success store.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Want to be a Better Communicator? Remember This.

listening earAs leaders and professionals it is all too easy to forget that communication is a dynamic process that is more than simply the transmission of data or information from sender to receiver. We get caught up in task completion. Our bias for action kicks into over-drive and we issue a series of commands. We let our “talking points” or our agenda drive the conversation instead of having a true exchange of ideas.

If you genuinely want to be a better leader and communicator, remember that listening is just as important as speaking.  In fact, it is often more important. The more formal leadership responsibility you have, the more important listening is to your success. And yet, so many people will say they wish their leader was a better listener. I often share in leadership communication workshops I conduct that most of us don’t really have a listening problem. We have an ego problem.

We let our egos get in the way of using the good listening skills we already possess. We think we already know the answer or that we don’t have time for a long, drawn out discussion of the obvious. We assume that we “got it the first time” and that there is no way WE misunderstood.  These are all ego driven challenges to good listening. You might suffer from ego driven poor listening if:

  • You often find yourself interrupting others because you already know what you want to say.
  • You complete other’s sentences because you think you know what they are trying to say (and they aren’t spitting it out fast enough for you.)
  • You “zone out” or start thinking about other things when someone is talking to you.
  •  You fail to ask questions (particularly open-ended questions) to gather more information because you (think) you know everything you need to know already.
  • You “rush” people along with too many head nods or even a hand gesture or two, thinking to yourself “get to the point.”
  • You fail to use reflective listening or perception checking to confirm your understanding of what someone has said.

If you see yourself in any of the above indicators, it’s time to check your ego. It’s time to remember that we may not know it all (difficult, I know.) And, it’s time to remember that people have a need to feel heard, even if what they are conveying isn’t ground breaking news to us.

We all know how to be good listeners.  Let’s put that knowledge into practice.

For more powerful communication resources, visit Pamela’s success store.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

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