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Decoding Body Language and Energy Shifts

Decoding Body Language and Energy Shifts

Have you ever observed what is not being said in a conversation?

For instance: you walk into a meeting and notice an immediate, intense silence, as though all the air has been sucked out of the room.

Or you’re in a conversation with someone, and you feel there is a disconnect between what the person is saying and how they are acting. “I’m excited to tackle this new project,” says a colleague, but they avoid eye contact, shift nervously from side-to-side, repeatedly rub their brow.

Body language and energy shifts can provide clues that something is being left unsaid. Is the energy and body language aligned with the words being spoken? If not, there’s a good chance something else is happening under the surface. If you really want to know what the other person is thinking, you need to ask about the disconnect between what you are hearing and what you are seeing or feeling.

Body Language

A disconnect between what is being said and what you are seeing in the other person’s body language can indicate a feeling that is not being expressed. Interpretations of body language may vary across cultures and individuals. A few popular interpretations include:

 Signs of negative feelings (such as frustration or disappointment) can include folded arms, tension in the face, or little eye contact.

Signs of boredom or disengagement are often shown by slumped posture, staring into space, fidgeting, or doodling.

Smiling is nearly universally considered an indication of openness and positive feelings, as is an open posture.

Energy Shifts

An energy shift can be subtle or dramatic, and it is usually a clue to a change in thinking or feeling about what is under discussion. The energy is often not verbalized right away, but you can prompt a verbalization of the thought or feeling by vocalizing an observation about the energy shift, asking with curiosity what the person is thinking or feeling differently.

For example, to highlight the disconnect in what you observe and what you are hearing, you may ask:

  • I notice that you don’t look very comfortable right now—is there something I can help clarify?
  • I just said a lot, what does this bring up for you?
  • You seem distracted, would you like to reschedule this for another time?

Getting curious about the other person’s body language and energy shifts can be a way to understand their thinking and feelings on a deeper level. Asking about a disconnect can be a way to show empathy and care or concern. When you pay attention to what is not being said, you ensure that the whole person is being heard and seen.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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What We Resist Persists

What We Resist Persists

We are in the season of Groundhog Day, a time when everyone’s favorite cute little rodent determines how much longer we must wait for Spring to arrive. In our popular culture, Groundhog Day usually refers to the 1993 comedy in which Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a television journalist who finds himself waking up each day and experiencing the same events over and over, no matter what he tries to do differently.

What we used to view as a fun, fictional comedy now feels all-too-familiar thanks to the COVID pandemic. We’re 2 years in—yet nothing is really changing and we’re still met with the same challenges day in and day out. It’s still Groundhog Day. How do we break the cycle?

Accept the current reality.

There is a common aphorism, “what we resist persists.” Meaning, that by resisting the current reality, you’re actually keeping it stuck in place. It wasn’t until Phil Connors accepted that he was living the same day over and over again, that he was able to take steps to change.

Lean into change.

Despite feeling uncomfortable, the uncertainty of change can actually lead to great things—if you lean into it. Try adopting some of these new approaches:

  1. Reverse your assumptions. As you become less attached to the way things ought to be—you’ll become more attentive to new possibilities.
  2. Be curious. Ask for advice and outside opinions. Make sure to receive information without resentment and anger—rather, with a sense of curiosity.
  3. Be deliberate. Don’t just let things happen. Make sure to evaluate any information coming in and critically assess decisions from a place of logic instead of emotion. If you find yourself feeling too strongly about something, perhaps take a walk and come back later to finalize your decision.
  4. Be responsive. There is a veritable mountain of literature being written about the “Great Resignation.” One thing that peers and leaders alike can do within this landscape is to deliberately conduct open conversations with each other about their talents, passions, and how they align with the strategic direction and to the benefit of your organization.
Shift focus.

Punxsutawney Phil just predicted another 6 weeks of winter—but you don’t have to be on his timeline. Start shifting your focus today from “How do I get through another year?” to “How do I build a culture that will adapt and thrive through whatever comes our way?” 

Because the truth is, even if things get “better,” there will ALWAYS be something. Uncertainty will always persist…if you resist.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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The Future of Work

The Future of Work

We started the Future of Work series at the peak of global, COVID-catalyzed workforce disruption. Over two years later, the disruption remains, and in many ways, the future of work is no longer in the future at all… 

The future is now, and in this new and unfamiliar context, leadership is more important than ever. In this comprehensive collection of our Future of Work series, we provide a leadership guide for the ever-changing future.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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Giving the Gift of Well-Being in the Workplace

Giving the Gift of Well-Being in the Workplace

Does your organization have a wellness program? Is it meeting your employees needs? What are you—as a leader—doing to foster well-being for yourself and those with whom you work? There are several simple practices that you could incorporate into your organizational rhythm that would make a difference for you and your team.  

Why Well-Being Matters
According to SHRM, “research shows that employee health status directly influences work behavior, attendance, and on-the-job performance,” (Chenoweth, 2011). Incorporating well-being practices into the daily life of work is a way to demonstrate care for your teammates and their whole selves, not just what they accomplish on a task or project. Well-being practices can provide opportunities for team building when participation is high, and they have the potential to be a positive influence on interpersonal dynamics
.

Ways of Well-Being at Work
Well-being in the workplace can take many forms. Here are a few examples from my own practices:

A Gratitude Practice
A simple way to start incorporating well-being into the workplace is to begin a gratitude practice. Did you know that expressing gratitude is often as beneficial to the sender as it is to the receiver? There are many ways you could begin a gratitude practice, so reflect on what might work best for you. Here are few suggestions:

  • Send gratitude texts, emails, calls, or cards. Take time to reflect on what and whom you are grateful for and create the time to send each person a note of thanks, whether it’s in the moment, at the end of the day, or the end of the week. Don’t get hung up on the method, just do it. Research shows that there isn’t a significant difference in feelings of happiness based on the method of expression of gratitude.
  • Start meetings with a round robin of gratitude. Ask teammates to share thanks for coworkers to start your meetings on a positive note.
  • Write a letter of gratitude to one of your mentors or a close colleague who supports you. Even if you don’t send it, it will still have a positive impact on you, but of course sending it will positively impact the other person too.

Walking Meetings
Walking meetings are an alternative to sit-down meetings for one-on-ones or small group meetings. Being in motion changes the energy level in positive ways and can help get those creative juices flowing. (Think about all those great ideas you’ve had when you’ve been engaged in movement!) Keep in mind that team members have different physical abilities and those who choose the walking option will move at different paces.

Mindfulness Moments
Can you spare five minutes? Then you can take a mindful break and you can invite your team to join you. In a previous position, when my team returned to the office in June 2020, it was amidst a lot of uncertainty and stress. As we prepared for a new academic year with continued unknowns and constant change, I wanted a way to foster resilience in the team. I had begun a personal daily meditation on my own and found it helpful. I decided to offer a voluntary “mindfulness moment” during the workday when we could come together and pause. Every team member participated, even the ones who had to continue working remotely, and it was a great way to bring us together when we were working in different locations. We experimented with different times of day and different kinds of meditation. I used several different apps to make it easy to run. Without fail and without any prompting at the end of every session, someone expressed gratitude for the time to pause together.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Well-being at work can be the gift that keeps on giving all year long. Better than the jelly of the month club, it shows your team that you really care, and it costs you nothing but time and attention. As a bonus, it’s a gift that gives back to you! As you navigate the busy holiday season, take some time for well-being for yourself and consider giving the gift of well-being to your team.

Works Cited
Chenoweth, D. (2011). Promoting Employee Well-Being: Wellness Strategies to Improve Health, Performance and the Bottom Line. https://www.shrm.org/foundation/ourwork/initiatives/the-aging-workforce/Documents/Promoting%20Employee%20Well-Being.pdf

Hopper, E. (2021). What is the best way to deliver a thank-you? Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_the_best_way_to_deliver_a_thank_you?utm_source=pocket&&utm_medium=email&&utm_campaign=pockethits

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Have you ever thought about the connection between well-being and belonging? The idea of well-being as a workplace matter has been gaining ground well before the pandemic even began.  

 More recently, the idea of well-being has moved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” as we have all adjusted to develop strategies for managing the challenges of working from home, hybrid work, and working onsite under new conditions. Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean?

There are numerous definitions of well-being, and a common understanding is that it embodies a sense that things are going well in life—it encompasses an attention to the connections between mind, body, heart, and spirit. Well-being practices include fostering resilience and work-life balance, as well as physical and mental health. Leading a life of purpose and meaning has been shown to increase well-being.

What does well-being look like for someone who doesn’t have a sense of belonging in an organization? If a person feels that they cannot bring their whole self to work, both their sense of belonging and their well-being are at risk. These things go hand in hand. The emotional labor of carefully crafting a work persona that is different from one’s true self is exhausting.

As your organization works to support equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging, consider the role of well-being and how it intersects with each of these practices, particularly belonging.

Inclusion is an invitation to the table, belonging involves working to remove any barriers and champion participation. Well-being is the resulting positive moods and emotions that come from feeling like you belong.

Everyone in an organization has a part to play in supporting well-being and belonging. To explore how you are experiencing and supporting well-being and belonging in the workplace, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How am I ensuring that my colleagues’ voices are heard?
  • Who isn’t at the table to voice their opinion and why are they excluded?
  • What assumptions might I be making about my colleagues? About their identity? About their feelings? About their priorities?
  • Am I able to bring my whole self to work, or is there a part of my identity that I feel I need to hide?
  • How am I showing respect for my colleagues?
  • How am I demonstrating to my co-workers that I support their bringing their full selves to work?
  • What social support does my organization offer to support the well-being of employees?

What will you do today to support your own well-being and belonging at work, as well as those around you?

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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14 + 4 =

The Future of Your Work Part 3: The Future is Now

The Future of Your Work Part 3: The Future is Now

We started the Future of Work series at the peak of global, COVID-catalyzed workforce disruption. Over a year later, the disruption remains, and in many ways, the future of work is no longer in the future at all… 

The future is now, and in this new and unfamiliar context, leadership is more important than ever. It is the responsive leader and their high-performing teams that will thrive today and propel their organization into the future. 

But what is a responsive leader?  

In part 3 of our series, we unpack the concept of nuanced, human-centered leadership, and reveal the five qualities that all responsive leaders share.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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5 + 7 =

Lessons from the Playground for the Hybrid Workplace

Lessons from the Playground for the Hybrid Workplace

Not long ago I was with my 7-year old daughter at a playground.  Also at the playground were a brother (7) and sister (6).  The kids quickly started interacting with each other, and soon they were actively playing together.  The two 7-year olds used their imagination to cook up a game that involved pretending they were in a distant kingdom fighting dragons and dodging hot lava, etc.  

The two older kids were fully engaged playing the game when after a while the younger girl said with a crestfallen look, “I don’t want to play with you guys anymore.  I’m never involved.”  When I heard these words, I felt a jolt of sadness come over me. I also had an insight related to the challenges in many Diversity & Inclusion programs.  

D&I programs work hard to ensure that diverse people are represented in the organization and included on teams.  But it’s up to the teams collectively to help each member feels truly involved; involved in the nitty-gritty challenges, involved in the moments of fun and play, and involved in the overall social fabric of the team.  

I guess that’s where the “Belonging” in DEIB comes to life. You can be on the playground, ostensibly playing the same game as the rest of the team, but if you don’t really feel “involved” then you will not have a sense of belonging.  As a result, you will feel like that 6-year old girl did: sad, disappointed, and disengaged.

Considering the story above, what can you as a team leader and team member do to make sure everyone on your team feels like they are truly involved in the team’s work?  For one thing, you can invite everyone to have a say in developing the “rules of the game” (group norms).  Next, you can check in with people and ask open questions like: “What’s it like for you to be a member of this team?” and “What aspect of being on this team keeps you from participating fully?”

In today’s hybrid workplace, it’s up to team leaders and team members alike to keep an eye on each other to make sure that no one “falls through the cracks.” Some people like to be checked on more often than others, so it’s important to inquire about the unique preferences of each individual.  Once you know another’s preferences, you can adapt your leadership/membership style to be optimally responsive to another’s needs.

The modern workplace is demanding and stressful, but it can also be inspiring and uplifting. Are you doing your part to make sure each member of your team feels involved and included in both the ups and the downs of organizational life? 

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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Contact us to get started.

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How to Develop Leadership & Culture to Optimize Value

How to Develop Leadership & Culture to Optimize Value

In acquisitions, both sellers and buyers spend great effort in financial and operational due diligence, yet far too many transactions fail. Why?

Leadership and culture are critical to a successful acquisition, but frequently they’re ignored. For sellers, recognizing that leadership and culture are linked to enterprise value helps them mitigate risk and drive value in preparation for sale. For buyers, leadership and culture play a critical role in ensuring a smooth post-transaction integration.

Key Learnings:

Leverage real-life examples to learn why the evaluation of leadership and culture matter leading up to a transaction.

Understand what a pre-transaction leadership and cultural assessment looks like.

Learn how addressing these types of risks can drive value for sellers and buyers.

About Value Scout:

Value Scout is the first value creation platform. It enables entrepreneurs to pinpoint their business value today, create and drive a plan to create the value they’ll need tomorrow, and exit on their terms. Value Scout enables entrepreneurs to take a deliberate, proactive approach to value creation. Business leaders and their advisors use it to identify, plan for, and drive all their value creation activities – from growing revenue and increasing efficiencies to improving cash flows and strengthening leadership teams. Learn more at getvaluescout.com.

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Contact us to get started.

4 + 6 =

The Future of Your Work Part 2: From Survival to Strategy

The Future of Your Work Part 2: From Survival to Strategy

There’s no going back. It is abundantly clear that the global pandemic fueled an unprecedented level of workforce disruption.

The reality is that change is constant, but last year reminded the world that change is also often unpredictable, rapid, and able to irreversibly disrupt the way we work.

Whether leaders recognize it or not, your organization has changed, your workforce has been disrupted, and your team has adopted a culture that may or may not serve the organization going forward.

This playbook outlines four steps leaders can take to move their organization forward from survival to strategy.

Enter your email address below to download the full playbook.

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Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

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Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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The Dirty Little Secret of Change

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

Large organizations by definition require a certain level of bureaucracy with the intent of generating consistency and predictability for employees and outcomes alike. As an executive coach working with leaders in federal organizations, I have noticed that federal leaders often face challenges specific to the public sector. One of these challenges being how to implement positive change in traditional “command and control” style bureaucracies.

Federal bureaucracies have very prescribed systems for managing people. They also often have unusually burdensome regulatory structures, and heavy regulatory structures often result in a “zero-defect” mentality. What is the result? Leaders have little incentive to – and are afraid to – innovate and try new things. Worse than that, the fear leaders feel permeates down to their teams and stifles creativity. Also, leaders often end up micromanaging several levels down in order to avoid having to answer tough questions from their superiors up the chain.

For example, a leader that I work with in the federal sector tried to empower his team by adopting a coach approach. He asked more questions of his team members in an attempt to get them to take additional responsibility and develop their problem-solving skills. When he attempted to implement this new leadership style, he began to detect strong feelings of discomfort as his direct reports pushed back on this non-standard approach. Even his bosses began asking him questions indicating their skepticism of his leadership style. As a result of the discomfort and the pressure from above, he abandoned the new approach before it ever had a chance to succeed.

What can leaders do to effect positive cultural change in these types of organizations? First, they can start by facing their own vulnerability with open eyes. Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, defines vulnerability as showing up and taking action even when we can’t control or predict the outcome. Vulnerability is exactly what leaders in the federal sector need to learn. By definition, there is no innovation, creativity, or positive cultural  change possible without the willingness of leaders to be vulnerable.

In the example described above, the leader needed to make himself vulnerable long enough to see positive results. Like this leader, most of us are unwilling to try new things when the outcomes are uncertain and we face resistance. Yet, the dirty little secret of change means that any leader will have to lean into vulnerability, discomfort, and personal development to generate real change.

The next step in shifting cultures in hierarchical organizations is to recognize that we are going to have to tolerate the feeling of discomfort. If we know that the discomfort is coming, we can be ready for it.

We can also communicate, to our teams and to our bosses, our intention to try something new in order to get buy-in. We can set the expectation that there will be discomfort and normalize the discomfort ahead of time. In that way, we have a chance of generating curiosity and reducing resistance.  

A final key to creating change in a system is to realize change must happen on the personal level first. Growing innovation and achieving new outcomes cannot occur if leaders are not also doing their own personal development work. Leaders have to become aware of and attend to their own subconscious coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms, while developed keep us comfortable, tend to in fact keep us stuck in old mindsets and behaviors.

We encourage leaders to explore and uncover the beliefs behind their coping mechanisms. We also work hand in hand to begin the process of replacing these self limiting beliefs with a mindset that supports success through change. We work to move leaders, and thus their organizations, from seeing change as a threat to embracing the constancy of change and opportunities it brings. Once leaders evolve their mindset through greater self-awareness, they are in a position to withstand the discomfort of trying out new actions and behaviors and achieving more impactful organizational outcomes. 

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

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read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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