was successfully added to your cart.

There is a blog that is as vast as the social sciences and as timeless as giving and taking criticism
It blogs not only of fact and sound advice
But of creative mind and wondrous imagination
That’s the signpost below—You're traveling through

How To Criticize Your Boss

By | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Ever since I wrote my first NY Times bestseller, Nobody’s Perfect: How to Give Criticism and Get Results, I have given hundreds of presentations on the subject of giving and taking criticism (when everyone else was using the bogus word “feedback”) to the most elite corporations, government organizations, and professional organizations such as YPO. Literally, I have asked thousands of working folks, “What is your most difficult criticism encounter?”

Hands down, “How do you criticize your boss?” is the most frequently asked and most difficult criticism encounter identified by the working world. The solution, of course, varies across bosses and situations, but you will give yourself a head start if you rid yourself of the belief that if you criticize your boss, you will suffer negative repercussions, a perception, that most individuals say is the major barrier to criticizing their boss.

While it is true that this scenario plays out occasionally, it is the exception. Most bosses—especially those who claim to be emotionally intelligent, authentic, and mindful—welcome criticism from their subordinates. In fact, there are dozens of studies showing a key attribute of effective leaders is that they seek out criticism of themselves because they see it as valuable information that can help them succeed.  What they do not like is being embarrassed, threatened or undermined. For criticism that is packed with these qualities, negative repercussions are the norm. More than any other work criticism encounter, successfully critiquing your boss not only includes what you say but how you say it. In other words, psychology comes into play.

What is most important for you to recognize is that unlike criticizing your subordinate, you do not have the authority to tell your boss what to do; your best play is to position the information to him or her in a way that increases his or her receptivity to your thoughts and perhaps prompts action.

Thus, techniques for criticizing upward do not rely on direct, overt communication. The chain of command prohibits you from telling your superior that he’s an idiot or that he made another foolish mistake, even if the superior says such things to you daily. Instead, to criticize upward and create change, you must rely on informal relationships, timing, ambiguity, self-restraint, and implicit communication and perhaps overcome your boss’s perception of whether you are a worthy source of criticism. You need to master guerilla warfare.

For openers, adhere to these major ground rules:

Make sure your boss is receptive to criticism. There are no absolute ways to do this so use some soft signs: does your boss openly solicit criticism (your evaluations) and act upon those criticisms that are valid? Is your boss available to you, or do you have to spend a week just to set up a meeting? If you think your boss has low receptivity to criticism, than you may be politically wise to learn how to adapt to the situation than to criticize your boss, unless, of course, you can be extremely “artistic”

Make sure it is appropriate to criticize your boss. Only criticize your boss for something he or she is doing that affects your work; For situations in which you are not part of the project but the success of the project impacts your job, you will be able to still give your criticism, but only if you can demonstrate that the action your boss takes affects your job. Otherwise you will be told politely or not, “It’s none of your business.”
Know what you are talking about. Usually, your boss does not expect criticism from you, a tough expectation to combat. Therefore, it is essential for you to remember to validate your criticism; otherwise your boss may not only dismiss it but may begin to see you in a negative light, which no doubt will affect your job. Some ways for you to validate your criticism include collecting and analyzing data, accurately documenting how your boss’s actions affect your work; and, if possible, consulting with other people.

Avoid a power struggle. Any strategy for criticizing your boss must protect his or her self esteem and acknowledge implicitly or explicitly that he or she is the superior; otherwise your boss is apt to become defensive and you can always count on the fact that once you and your boss lock horns, your boss will come out on top. The results for you are that your criticism is rejected and the status quo is maintained.

One proven-effective technique for criticizing your boss is based on findings in attribution psychology as well as your own experiences; you can often get people to be receptive to your thoughts when they are attributed to a different source rather than yourself. This helps you avoid power struggles and be protective of your boss’s self esteem.

To implement, present your criticism in a way that emphasizes the validity of the criticism per se. The point here is not to present yourself as a valid source of criticism but to present your criticism as important and valid information. You are maximizing the significance of the information rather than taking the position that you, the subordinate, know best.

Instead of coming on as a know-it-all, you present yourself s sharing valuable data that relate to both your jobs. Your boss, instead of having to accept or reject a criticism, is now in the face-saving position of merely having to evaluate the information you are supplying. If the information is valid, there is an excellent chance your superior will take action to implement his decision. Some ways you can build up the validity of your criticism are: citing authoritative sources, submitting supportive material, and showing reference material to your superior.

A data analyst for a financial institution used this technique in criticizing his department head for the IT system he was considering. Instead of telling his boss that he we choosing the wrong system or that he knew which he should buy, the date analyst gave his boss several current reports that indicted anther system would be more responsive to their needs. His boss, after reading the articles, changed his choice n thanked her subordinate for supplying her with “invaluable information.”

What about the impossible bosses? For such bosses, subordinates must create and develop different criticism strategies until one is successful. Some possible solutions:

When a stoic boss doesn’t tell you where you stand, bring up the organization’s goals as a basis for determining specific criteria for next year’s performance rating, so “together” you can monitor your performance accordingly.

If the boss is crisis maker, develop a strong network of relationships with coworkers that will help you get information you need to assess the reality of the crisis.

When the boss is over controlling, work out of the office a lot if possible, and frequently reassure the boss that you’re on target.

If your boss is abrasive at a meeting, right after, perhaps a one liner to pique his receptivity will start dialogue and change: “I’m not quite sure the way you are coming across is in your best interest.”

If the boss is truly impossible, if he has a short temper, or if he never listens, then attempt to offer criticism only if you can be clever and creative.

Gear your strategy to answering the question: “How can I communicate this information so that my boss perceives it as useful?

If you have a specific criticism to give your boss and you lack the know-how, let me know and I will be happy to script it out for you.

Your Comeback Tool Box

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

You seem to be going along just fine, when — wham! — a setback sends you veering off course. Your forward movement comes to a grinding halt and your motivation plummets. At such times, your self-esteem may crash as well, leaving you waylaid by feelings of fear, doubt, and hopelessness.

It’s not easy to deal with setbacks — they are emotionally arousing, draining, and taxing. The good news, though, is there are specific skills that can help you turn a setback into a comeback. The key is to remember to use them. Here is your comeback toolkit:

1. Tune in to your thoughts. Many will be exaggerated and irrational statements: “My life is over, I’m a failure.” Counterpunch using rational thoughts that give you perspective: “It’s not the end of the world, I will have many other chances.”

2. Use your sense of humor. Doing so will help reduce your negativity, restore your perspective, and the endorphins will energize you making productive actions easier to do.

3. Practice relaxation. Doing a relaxation exercise a few times a day will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressed out and keep your thinking rational.

4. Engage in physical activity. Keeping active energizes you for positive action and prevents you from sitting home and feeling sorry for yourself.

5. Use your support team. Don’t complain to them but go to them to help you problem solve.

6. Reassess goals and priorities. A setback becomes a great time to look for new life path.

7. Make yourself hopeful. Hope is the best of all possible things Instill hope in your self by identifying and creating multiple pathways —different resources and strategies that you can use to achieve your goals. The more pathways you develop, the more optimistic you will become making you confident that you will achieve the goals you desire. When this happens, “You’re back baby!”

Setbacks happen to all of us. I suggest you make a list of the tools mentioned and keep them in sight — you’ll be more likely to use them and it will be easier to turn a setback into a comeback.

I’m sure you have your comeback tools too — I’d like to hear them.

Revolutionary: The Pressure-less Diet—helps you lose the pressure that is weighing you down!

By | Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Are you ready to lose the weight that slows you and often keeps you down? Do you want to lose the weight that makes you anxious, fearful, short-tempered at work and home, and robs you of enthusiasm? If “Yes” is your answer, you’re ready to go on the pressure-less diet.

The pressure-less diet: based on research I collected over twenty five years, I found that most people experience daily feelings of pressure akin to a weight upon their shoulders, a burden to be carried 24/7. Your life is apt to feel sour. The pressure-less diet reduces your daily feelings of pressure, and unlike most diets, sweetens up your life.

Because we all want to succeed in the tasks we deem important, we all experience pressure moments. For these pressure moments—a job interview, an audition, an important test, a presentation—we can learn specific “pressure solutions” that help us manage our anxieties, fears, and self-consciousness that often cause us to perform below our capabilities. We encounter pressure moments—like a holiday dinner—intermittently throughout the year.

Too many people, though, experience pressure feelings everyday—not just in a particular pressure moment. The extra pressure becomes a burden—extra weight that they have to carry around. They might feel pressed and squeezed: the world upon their shoulders.

People gain this extra weight by becoming pressure pigs—they stuff themselves with pressure often without even realizing it. You will too, if you don’t break this hardwired pressure-eating habit: confusing your wants with your needs.

Start to understand the diet’s science by asking yourself, “What’s the difference between a want and need?” One woman put it this way: “a need is clothes. A want is a Chanel label.”

For early man, wants and needs were the same—his wants were literally equivalent to needs. He wanted food because he needed it to survive.

Today you gain extra pressure if you equate wants with needs because in your mind, you then feel as though you have to attain your wants to survive—this was true for early man but not for you. You might want a Mercedes but you won’t perish if you don’t attain one, and while you want a bigger house for your family, you can still be happy in a smaller one.

Treating your wants as needs increases the importance of your wants and thus adds more pressure on you to achieve them. Simultaneously, thoughts of not getting them stimulate anxiety and fear. Treating wants as needs gives you a big appetite and you become a pressure pig—you eat a lot of pressure.

Eat less pressure by short-circuiting the primal association that equates wants and needs by expressing your wants as wants, not as needs. Feeling less pressure and be more appreciative of what you have are results.

Make a list of your needs and transform each into a want and you’ll see that most of your needs are exaggerated wants. Does your son or daughter “really need” the new iPhone—or is that what he or she wants to keep up with the other kids? “I need a nice car” is a different message to yourself than “I want a nice car.”

Most people do want a nice car, but those who treat the want as a need will feel compelled to buy a status brand, even though they cannot afford it. When you recognize that you want a nice car but in fact, any reliable car will do, you experience less pressure and in fact, more at ease.

Your hard wiring makes the pressure-less diet hard to stick to but you can stay on course by remembering Keith Richards’ message: “You can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need!”

When Giving & Taking Criticism—stay cool, calm and collected

By | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Your heart beats faster, you breathe more quickly, your blood pressure is zooming, and you are apt to perspire. If you are exercising, you probably would welcome these physical responses as a sign of a good workout. Your system is on track, and you are on your way to getting in shape. But if you’re giving or taking criticism, they are a sure sign that you’re probably about to get bent out of shape and derail yourself from the track of success.

For many of us, criticism evokes strong emotions, particularly anger, when we receive it and anxiety when we give it. These emotions — fueled by negative self-statements — intensify and speed up our physical arousal system to the point that it becomes disruptive to our thinking.

If your arousal is not checked, you lose your mental agility. If you are the recipient, you automatically lock out the criticism. If you are the giver, you become rigid, and forceful in your delivery.

In either case, not being able to stay relaxed when you are giving or taking criticism will prevent you form staying focused when the heat is on. This is when criticism turns ugly.

On the other hand, if you can stay cool and calm during the criticism encounter, you will be able to deal with the situation more effectively because you will prevent your emotions, in the form of defensiveness, from getting the best of you. Instead you will be able to appraise the situation accurately and respond appropriately.

There are several actions for you to take that will help you stay cool and calm when you are either giving or taking a criticism. The first is to become sensitive to the physiological responses that tell you you are becoming unsettled. You will be able to use these responses as a cue, a warning that your emotions are beginning to get out of hand. You can then make a conscious intervention to calm yourself, thus allowing yourself to evaluate the criticism for what it’s worth. If you are the giver, your emotional arousal will tell you if you are too angry or anxious to give the criticism.

You can begin to learn how to use your emotions as a cue that things might be getting out of hand by monitoring your physical arousal level in a variety of situations. For example, monitor yourself when you are resting, reading a book, exercising, rushing to get to work, or being criticized. Focus on your breathing rate and heart rate, and feel for how they differ in different situations. You will soon note that your physical arousal system is much slower at rest than when you are in a rush or becoming angry. After a few days of monitoring, you will become very adept at noticing when your body is speeding up.

In a criticism situation, this physical sensitivity will pay off because it will enable you to quickly recognize that you are becoming aroused; this recognition will serve as a cue to calm yourself, perhaps by consciously breathing more slowly. You may also use your increased physical arousal as a signal that it’s time to modify your self-statements, since your getting aroused probably means you are thinking counterproductively.

A second way to stay calm during the act of criticism is to develop a relaxation response, the ability to quickly calm yourself when you desire, even in emotionally distressing situations. Your relaxation response helps you maintain a receptive attitude toward criticism because it keeps emotional arousal at a level that allows you to think rationally.

In a criticism situation, using a relaxation response will probably prevent you from getting angry of defensive. You remain mentally flexible and are able to evaluate as well as give the criticism more effectively.

To develop your relaxation response, first select a relaxation exercise to practice for ten days. One popular relaxation exercise to consider is the tense-relax procedure, which calls for you to tighten and relax the different muscle groups in your body. Start with your calf muscles, and proceed to your thighs, stomach, shoulders, neck and forehead. Tighten each muscle group for approximately thirty seconds and then release it. At the end of the exercise, your body will be in a state of physical relaxation. If this does not appeal to you, select another exercise. The key, however, is to practice the relaxation exercise within these four parameters:

  1. Be in a quiet environment.
  2. Be in a comfortable physical position.
  3. Have the same mental image, key word, or key phrase in mind as you practice.
  4. Have a passive attitude. Don’t try to relax — let it happen.

After a few days of practicing relaxation, you may conclude that it doesn’t work. You would be right. It takes ten to fourteen days to develop a relaxation response, just as it takes two weeks before you start to see the benefit of any exercise program.

Staying cool, calm and collected during a criticism encounter isn’t the easiest thing to do, but if can do it, you will find the power of positive criticism to be quite relaxing.

Cool Your Day

By | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker. I feel the heat 24/7”   If you were to come to my office, I’d prescribe 5 actions for you to take to cool your day, to “depressurize.”

Focus on how good you are at something, not your ranking. You’ll experience less pressure if you focus on your own skill and excellence rather than how you stack up against others. We all know that we live in a competitive world. But we can’t control the efforts of the other guy. Competition encourages us to try to be better than others. The tradeoff is a constant feeling that “you have to be the best,” which can create unrealistic expectations and a sense that you don’t measure up. Focusing on your own excellence, rather than beating out the other person, puts you in control of your destiny. It promotes feelings of confidence, rather than pressure anxiety.

Adhere to your values and personal expectations. You’ve probably seen plenty of films and television shows in which one of the characters feels extreme pressure to live up to the expectations of others. These shows are a good example of art imitating life, and we relate to them because it’s such a common pressure.

Whether because of a fear of rejection or the need to be accepted, attempting to perform to meet the expectations of others helps to exacerbate pressure. It can force you to navigate a different course than you would otherwise. Staying true to your values and honoring the goals and expectations you set for yourself are more likely to reduce the feelings of pressure you experience.

Focus on your interests, not the incentives. Almost everyone thinks about incentives
in the workplace, from salaries to bonuses to promotions. Paradoxically, those who focus excessively on attaining them or losing them are more likely to feel stress, anxiety, and fear— emotions that intensify feelings of pressure that, ironically, inhibit their capabilities to attain the very incentives they desire.

Those who pursue and develop their interests in their careers are much more likely to experience positive emotions at work than those who don’t, as well as greater productivity.

The same is true for people who focus on achieving a sense of purpose and meaning through their work. If you are starting out in the work world, follow your genuine interests— any pressure you experience will be buffered by the feelings of curiosity and fulfillment
that come from following your passions. If you’ve been in the work world for a while, try to rekindle your purpose.

Appreciate what you “have,” not what you “have not.” Experiencing joy is a great minimizer of pressure. Appreciate the people, events, opportunities, and achievements that enrich your life, but which so many of us often take for granted. Focusing on what you
don’t have will likely increase your feelings of pressure. To de-pressurize, take a few minutes each day to appreciate what you have. You will feel calmer, happier, and more relaxed.

Use any feelings of pressure you experience to modify your thoughts. If you are experiencing pressure anxiety before a key event or action, remember that how you speak
to yourself can help you or hurt you. If you have butterflies in your stomach before a presentation you are probably not telling yourself, “I can handle this,” or that “Life is great.” But
you should. Telling yourself you’re not ready, or imaging yourself failing is not productive. Give yourself practical advice, such as “stay focused,” or “just do your best.” Instead of allowing your thoughts to keep you stuck, repeating and intensifying your fear, train yourself to create feelings of confidence. Those feelings will stay with you as you walk out onto the mean streets of pressure.

We all feel pressure but you don’t have to feel it 24/7—just depressurize.

Don’t Curb Your Enthusiasm!

By | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

In today’s demanding work world, the pressure for doing more with less has become part of many organizational cultures. People are in fact working longer hours and often asked to take responsibility for tasks that go beyond their job description. We all know that more stress at work takes its toll mentally; but it also taxes us physically and we go home feeling exhausted. Rest and relaxation can be a cure, but they are normally reserved for the end of the day, weekends and vacations.

Researching my recent book, Performing Under Pressure, helped me realize a cure that we can be use throughout the day, one that not only reduces feelings of exhaustion and pressure, but also makes you — and those around you more productive and it works instantly. It’s called “enthusiasm”.

We become enthused “automatically when we achieve a goal or when we encounter something we like, be it food or a person. Goal completion and liking something are natural stimulants for enthusiasm but we don’t achieve goals every day or perform enjoyable work activities every day. Why wait?

Your can learn how to create enthusiasm for the moment and throughout the day but you need to know the nature of enthusiasm:

Enthusiasm is an affective state. How do you feel when you are enthusiastic? Energized or excited is the common response.

Enthusiasm is a state of heightened arousal.  Breathing rate, heart rate, for example, are accelerated.Enthusiasm is accompanied by positive thought. “I can do this,” or “I love this,” are common enthusiastic thoughts

Enthusiasm is a behavior. Enthusiasm stimulates movement be it in the arms or legs, face or eyes.

Enthusiastic responses are universal across cultures. A smile, clapping — these are hardwired into us so a crowd in Brazil cheers when their soccer team wins just like American college students do when their basketball team wins.

Enthusiasm communicates excitement, engagement and positivity to the people around you and like all emotions is contagious so your enthusiasm is infects others.Enthusiasm is expressed via our hardwired emotional communicators — facial expressions, voice, gestures, and arousal. A smile or a frown, slumped shoulders or standing upright, a whimper voice or a yelling voice — are all examples of our hardwiring apparatuses expressing emotional information.  Next time you say you feel enthusiastic stand in front of a mirror — I bet you are smiling.

Given the fact that your having a draining day and need more energy, or feeling  lull five minutes before an important presentation, what can you do to instantly Jazz yourself up?I’d recommend using an ET–an enthusiastic technology.

Enthusiasm Technologies

Enthusiastic technologies leverage your inherent emotional communication mechanisms –voice, facial expressions, gestures, arousal — so they help you experience enthusiasm —energized, excited, and positive and ready to be productive.

The following enthusiastic technologies are some examples of using emotional ocmmunicaiton mechanisms to jazz your self up and/or to elevate the mood of others. Your underlying task is note the enthusiastic properties in play and to create innovative ways of how to bring these properties to life:

Activate Yourself — Moving our bodies increases our arousal that stimulates endorphins that promote creativity and positive feelings. If you have an important meeting to brainstorm ideas, go for a ten -minute walk beforehand. One step further, lead your team through a brisk five-minute walk, even if its through the hallways of your office building. If you need to pep yourself up in a minute, do a Bagger Vance dance step and away you go!

Sound of Music — Sound carries emotions so music can be a natural mood enhancer. During lunch, short breaks, or even at your desk, put on headphones and give yourself a dose of enthusiasm by listening to music that inspires and excites you. With your team, make it a fun ritual by singing each other’s favorite song together or sharing a favorite lyric. Your team might sound terrible, but they will feel enthused. When you want to rally your troops, don’t speak in a monotone. Mimic Al Pacino’s rhythmic flow in his Any Give Sunday and Scent of A Woman Speeches.

Clap it UP. Do you recall the film Hoosiers? Its a story based on small Indiana high school’s basketball team that goes on to win the state championship in 1952. Academy Award winner Gene Hackman plays the team’s coach.. Before each game, he gets his team in a huddle and has them clap at a feverish pace—and then lets them take the court—with great enthusiasm. Look at the halftime basketball breaks that are televised on ESPN: Every one ends with a “Hack” Imitation. Clapping is a percussive sound that is made by an object struck or rubbed by hand. Give yourself a few claps — fast and loud — and you’ll feel up! Do your own hack imitation with your team and they will get up and go!

Laugh and Smile — Enthusiasm is contagious. We transfer and catch emotions through facial expressions, sounds and body gestures. Stand in front of a mirror and look and act enthusiastic —bet your smiling so make it a point to increase your smile. Share jokes and laugh out loud. Ask family or friends to let you know when you sound enthusiastic and I bet it’s a time when you are feeling good!

None of us need more stress —your own experiences tell you the downside of stress outweighs its upside. And pressure is the enemy of success. Fortunately, we all have access to enthusiastic technologies that allow us to lessen our feelings of bing overwhelmed and do our best when it matters most That’s a fact to be enthusiastic about!!

5 Reasons You Don’t Give

By | Uncategorized | One Comment

I’d bet you’ve heard countless times that “it’s better to give than to receive.” I’d also lay heavy odds that you’ve read numerous articles on the importance of giving, and an equal amount of articles and blogs that promote numerous ways in which we can all be a more giving person. Even Presidents have written on this point.

It is not surprising that we all advocate care giving. The fact is, Mother Nature has hardwired us all with care giving instincts, their evolutionary function being that by providing care to others, especially the young, boosts the odds that the organizational unit will continue to flourish.

Care giving, then, is nature’s inherent tool for developing others, or more broadly, for advancing the future. For this reason, Mother Nature has made sure that that you have care giving genes.

In lieu of this point, we know why so many people are givers; what I find interesting is why so many people are not. It is as if many people are “instinctualy disconnected,” a term that means one has lost touch with their inherent tools for making life better.   In this case, it means that many people are disconnected from their care giving instincts or at the very least, suppress them. Why might this be? Why do people refrain from care giving, even when their hardwiring instructs them too?

From my clinical and counseling experiences and daily observations, I’ll give you some reasons why people often don’t express their care giving instincts and how to <em>instinctualy reconnect to this life enhancing tool.

The Anger Excuse.   In therapy sessions, I hear the anger excuse time and time again: “I was angry, so I didn’t want to show care.” When mismanaged anger permeates a relationship, it extinguishes the nurturing instinct. Because most people are not adept at anger management, you can begin to see why so many people in so many relationships accuse their partner of not caring. You won’t find wolves not nurturing their mates because they are angry, perhaps a reason wolves mate for life. Solution: learn anger management skills.

No time to Give. If you don’t spend time with someone, it is pretty hard to demonstrate and communicate affection, whether it is with your partner, kids, employees, or your parents. Indeed, many people lose contact with their care giving instincts because they do not spend time with the people who would benefit from their love and attention.  Solution: spend time with your loved ones so you have ample opportunity to express your care giving instincts.

It’s Too Much Effort. From your earliest moments of being a caregiver, you quickly learn it is hard, draining and sometimes even painful. Many people just do not want to demonstrate their nurturing instinct because it is too much of an effort. Care giving takes energy and sometimes, you don’t have it to give. Solution: take occasional respite — you will be reenergized to express your care giving instincts.

I’ll Help You Lose. Our competitive instinct, too, can trump our nurturing instinct. This is particularly true to the working environment where, for many people, competition with their colleagues dominates their working attitude. Because competition typically is a win/lose scenario, many people are reluctant to help others because it makes themselves lose in comparison. In effect, by not helping your coworker, you help him lose. Solution: recognize that those who cooperate and develop others are always the most successful.

It Is Expensive. Nurturing in all its forms can be a pricey endeavor. It costs a lot of money to give your parents the best care, your children the best developmental opportunities — such as tutors, dance, music and karate lessons — or your pet the high end food and frequent veterinarian care. Lack of resources, especially finances and time, is a frequent and realistic reason that prevents people from exhibiting certain care giving behaviors and communication.   Solution reexamine your priorities and figure out “cheap” ways to give.

I’d like to hear why you think so many people are instinctualy disconnected from their care giving instincts, including times you’ve fallen into that group.