7 Super Summertime Reads for Business Career and Life

I love books. When I was a kid, I’d go to the library and bring back a stack of ten at a time. Then I’d lay on the couch and read them one by one. My folks worried about my social skills.


That’s why losing all my books in the wildfire was such a blow. But I’m on a mission to replace them. In the process, I’ve discovered some great new reads to add to my list of old favorites.


So, for your summertime reading pleasure, here are seven super books – in my humble opinion and in no particular order. (I get no money for recommending them.)

Art Of Work by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do by Jeff Goins. I’ve been following Jeff Goins’ writing for years and he has been an inspiration. This book, on how to live a life that matters, explores six key concepts to help you think differently about what you do and how you do it. Insightful and honest. About Jeff…



Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’ve mentioned this one before. What keeps capable, driven people from breaking through to the next level? Success. Focus on a few things leads to success which brings opportunities, but that often leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more. Here’s a video about the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9x6D09AKBU


First Break All The Rules

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham. If you are a supervisor, manager or frontline leader or hope to become one in the near future, this book is a must-have. The case studies reveal what matters most and motivates employees to better performance. I love it because it includes proof from Gallup Organization research. Read more…


Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. From Harvard Business Review Press, this book explores why “red ocean” competition among rivals is a zero sum game. Rather, success is achieved by creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space, differentiation and value innovation. A must read for entrepreneurs, freelancers and marketing teams. Read more…



Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano. Dr. Marciano’s Respect Model is one of the reasons why I think this is one of the better employee engagement books. Based on the premise that relationships – both personal and professional – only work within the context of a respectful environment. Every supervisor should read this book! More about the RESPECT Model


Influence the Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. This book explores how we can have a bigger impact on one another. Based on research scientifically proven to make you more effective in human relations. Important concepts for managers, teachers, parents. Here’s a video describing the science of persuasion and the 6 Laws of Influence.


Take The Stairs

Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden. Why short cuts, quick fixes and distractions make it too easy to procrastinate, compromise and accept mediocrity. I found this book hugely motivating. Here’s a humorous video of this author describing why we shouldn’t take the easy way and why discipline is the key to success: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9kjWMyYm7Q

Hope you’re having a super summer! Please share this book list with colleagues and co-workers and on your favorite social media site.

The Number One Way to Be a Success

Barbara Corcoran is one of the feisty ladies on the Shark Tank TV Show. I like her because she’s smart, respectful and straightforward. She doesn’t pull punches, but she’s not demeaning either to those who make a poor pitch. She exudes confidence and personal power.

Success tip by Barbara Corcoran

I heard her on an interview recently and she said,

“In my experience, the one thing that distinguishes a successful salesperson from an unsuccessful one is that they all have something to prove.”

Does that mean they’re insecure or trying to get back at someone?

No, I don’t think so. I believe an “I’ll show you” attitude helps us overcome life’s most gnarly struggles.

Think about the last time you fell to your knees in shock or despair. Most likely it was due to a significant loss. It may have taken you days, months, years to get over it. Perhaps you’re still working on it.

You may have felt like giving up.

But at some point, I’ll bet you reached down deep inside your gut and drew from a storehouse of resolve. Then you said to yourself, “This is NOT going to get the best of me.”

You created an imaginary foe who taunted you, “C’mon. Prove it to me. Prove you can do this! Prove you can make it happen! Show me what you’re made of!”

And every time you got weak and stumbled, you remembered that challenge.

You BET we’ve got something to prove! We’re fast enough, strong enough, smart enough.

Revel in that feeling. Even if it makes you a little bit mad. (How dare they count me out!) It’s fuel to motivate and inspire us.

Time after time on The Biggest Loser TV show, we watch the coach urge a protege to stretch beyond their limits.

They don’t know how far they can go until they’ve been pushed.

Well, push back. Step right on up there and prove to the world you have staying power. Get a little mud on your tires. Ruffle a few feathers if you must.

Make sure they know you’ve got something to prove!

11 Lessons Learned on a Wild River Ride

We spent our family reunion last week on the banks of Colorado’s Arkansas River. Each time rafters passed by, we’d hoot and holler from our deck. My brother Eric, the photographer, captured the action. And there was lots of it. Water is flowing faster this year than it has in decades with thrills and spills aplenty.

Eric Schickler Photography Arkansas River Rafting

(Photo Credit: Eric Schickler Photography)

Yep, I’ve braved that mighty river before. As a member of a Mature Active Women’s group (MAW’s) we set off one day on a river rafting adventure. Lining up and signing in we asked for a Class 1 experience. (They called this the Granny Tour.)

It started quite tame. There’s nothing more beautiful than rafting calm water with picturesque canyons looming above you. There were seven of us snuggled together including a young teen and her Dad. That girl complained from start to finish – loudly and often.

But it didn’t take long before we were too busy to notice. Our calm float had quickly turned into a churning rapid. Our guide yelled commands. We plunged our paddles and battled the waves. It was thrilling. It was fast. We got wet.

Then everything changed. Our craft shoved itself up on the back of a boulder and the force of the water threatened to topple us.

“Get out on the rock,” yelled our guide. “One at a time. Hurry up!”

Considering the alternative, it seemed smarter to be stranded with a whiny teenager. So out we climbed as water pummeled the raft and our guide tried to keep it from flipping. We huddled close together on that rock and wondered, what now?

A passing raft saw our plight and shouted they could pick someone up. We all looked at the girl but she wouldn’t budge.

We attracted quite an audience. Passing cars tooted and waved. People gathered along the road. Fellow rafters promised to send help. It was humorous and a little humiliating. How would this play in the papers? “Mature Active Women Stranded in Class One Water. Rescue Required.”

Finally help arrived. They told us to keep our feet up and pointed downstream. Then they threw us a rope and advised, “Let the current carry you to the side.”

Guess who went first? Nope, she still wouldn’t budge.

That water was cold! And the current more forceful than I’d expected. But we powered on through it like mountain mamas in an episode of Extreme Outdoors.

In the end, we did lay claim to a successful ride back on the bus to our cars.

And we learned a lot from our unexpected adventure. In business or life:

  1. Sometimes it’s better to bail than be tossed in the drink
  2. Rapids look rougher from down in the boat than up on the road
  3. Skill and experience won’t prevent every mishap
  4. Negativity can ruin everyone’s ride
  5. When you’re in the rapids, you’re bound to get wet
  6. Few will ever raft the same water
  7. Don’t fight the current – let it lead you gradually to shore
  8. Wear a life vest and helmet no matter how calm things appear
  9. You can’t always see what lies beneath
  10. A guide will know when to abandon ship
  11. And finally, screen out whiners before you get in the boat!

How to Stop Them From Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

Once upon a time there was an organization that held team conference calls. Each week the company owner would guide the group through key issues then ask for feedback. Without fail, one guy would pipe up with a comment that was disrespectful and targeted at the owner.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

It was embarrassing for everyone. But the boss never called him on it, either publicly or afterwards privately.

Not too far down the road was another organization. They were suffering with a woman who rampaged around the office like Godzilla. Everyone, including HR and her frontline manager was afraid of her. Nobody wanted to cross her for fear of her wrath and repercussions.

So, here’s what they both did. They called in a trainer to hold a class on courtesy and communication. (I wonder who that was.) Better to have the outside stranger lower the boom than those who worked closely with these folks.

After all, “That’s just the way he/she is.”

These stressed-out people were hoping the message would deliver a wake-up call to that one person who was driving everyone crazy. They’d sit through the class, nod knowingly and stare pointedly at the offender hoping he or she would “get it”. That way nobody would have to put up with their nonsense ever again and they wouldn’t have to personally put their life on the line.

Poof, the magic fix!

While situations like this tend to keep me in business, it’s not the most effective use of everyone’s time or energy. If you want things to change, co-workers as well as the boss need to take action. Merely modeling good behavior with one another may not be enough for this person to notice how inappropriate and destructive they are. But it’s a good start.

You can also try to:

Be a leader. Everyone is waiting around for the manager, owner, boss to take control of the situation. Don’t be a chicken. Don’t leave it up to someone else. People look up to you ‘cause you’re supposed to be in charge.

Create a workplace of respect. Here’s an acronym I made up to help get people focused on their behaviors.

R – regular reminders of standards and norms

E – effort to create constructive outcomes

S – speak to the person directly

P – personally responsible for our words and actions

E – empathy to understand how we impact one another

C – commitment to right any wrongs

T – timely action, privately when possible

Put them on a performance plan. Yes, you can do this for personal traits that seem hard to quantify. Hold them accountable to behaviors that fall under communication, leadership, internal/external customer service, teamwork. Give them a reasonable period of time to improve. Get them a book. Hire a coach. Be a mentor.

Congratulate them. They won’t go from 0 to 100 overnight, but make an effort to notice the small ways they get better. Do they listen to you? Will they acknowledge they might be impacting others? Are they willing to try and improve? Do they catch themselves “in the act” and adjust more quickly than before? Will they apologize? Can they be responsible for themselves in a self-deprecating way? If so, notice and acknowledge.

Banish the phrase, “That’s just how they are.” If you allow people to run amok and let them off the hook, things won’t improve and they could get worse. Then you might just blow a gasket when the behavior becomes too much to bear.

And finally, peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Culture is the way we do things around here. Create a culture of caring and sometimes these folks self-select themselves right out the door!

Additional Reading:

How to Have That Difficult Discussion

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

Nonverbal Communication and How Our Truck Almost Fell in the River

After a trip to Flaming Gorge UT, a friend and I explored an area near Dinosaur in northwestern Colorado. We drove along the Green River to Brown’s Park, also known as Brown’s Hole, a favorite hideout for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang. We came to a narrow, single-lane bridge, which of course we just had to cross.

interpersonal communication skills

As we approached the bridge, we saw a sign at the entrance that said, “Weight Limit 3 Tons”. So I casually asked my friend, “Just out of curiosity, how much does your truck weight?” And he said, “With you and me in it? About 6800 lbs.”

I laughed as he started to cross the bridge and asked, “Do you really think we should be doing this?”

He gripped the steering wheel a little bit tighter and said, “Yeah, we’ll be okay. I’m an optimist.”

So I held my breath as we drove forward. S L O W L Y.

nonverbal communication

Cables on the suspension bridge began to hum and the wooden planks curled up around the tires. I peered out my window at the swirling water below, wondering how cold it was. Then I heard a noise from the other side of the truck. So I looked over at my friend…

…he had lifted up the steering wheel, unbuckled his seat belt and rolled down his window!

Holy cow! We’re goin’ down!


Hmmm, what to believe, words or actions?

Ever get mixed messages from friends, family, customers or co-workers?

When it comes to interpersonal communication, we want people to be congruent in speech and action. The principle, “Walk your talk” is recommended so we can become better leaders or parents. In fact it’s such a common saying that people poke fun at themselves by urging, “Do what I say, NOT what I do”.

Researchers have found we filter out or morph the meaning of 70% of messages we hear. We tend to focus on parts of the message that supports our position, desires and goals. And we may also disregard critical elements of the message that seem minor but contain the essence of the person’s true intent.

Because of that bias, it’s easy to miscommunicate. We can’t peer into someone’s head to see what they really mean. So if we care, we often try to compile clues from what they say and do.

It helps if we have some history working with the other person – some kind of relationship. The more trust we’ve built, the easier it is to decipher someone’s motivation. We cut them more slack. But even among those who have a long track record with one another, misunderstandings can still occur.


So, to reduce the risk of getting crossways with people too often:

  • Tell them your intent and motivation: My intent is to maintain our friendship
  • Identify the outcome you seek: I want to get this project done on time
  • Clarify the position you hold: I’m not crazy about this idea
  • Point out roadblocks that could derail understanding: I tend to be easily distracted
  • Ask them to repeat your statement back: What did you just hear me say?
  • Define what reality/certainty means to you: I’m certain we can reach 80% of our revenue goal
  • Define what hope/possibility means to you: I think it’s possible to exceed our goal by 20%
  • Consider your personal listening style: Appreciative, Empathic, Discerning, Comprehensive or Evaluative

Next, to improve communication within your team, board, family or with customers, ask:

  1. What behaviors and messages do I tend to misunderstand from others?
  2. What do I say or do that others misinterpret?

Exploring those triggers will help you build bridges rather than undermine relationships. 

Are you wondering if we made it across the river? Thankfully, WE did.

But this guy sure didn’t!

Interpersonal communication problems

Brown’s Park Tractor Disaster

How to Maintain Integrity and Deliver Negative News

Ever received a piece of negative news? Were you blissfully tripping through life thinking everything was rosy when out of the blue you learned something that impacted you in a big, big way? You never saw it coming. Now your world is upside down and suddenly, there is a new reality to cope with.

How to have a difficult discussion

It takes a while to get your bearings again, doesn’t it? Would things have been easier to manage if you’d had a heads-up?

Of course. 

Negative news is never easy to hear. While discomfort and disappointment are part of life, the true test of character is how we handle ourselves as both the giver and receiver. 

It doesn’t matter whether your situation occurs at work or in relationships, people don’t like surprises. They deserve honesty and transparency, so they can…

  • adapt their mindset
  • maintain a sense of self-respect
  • change their tone or language
  • make a behavioral course correction
  • become more self-aware
  • pursue other opportunities
  • manage their emotions
  • focus energy
  • take control of their circumstances

So give people credit for being grownup enough to handle it. No one is served by being elusive, vague or dishonest by omission. Many justify delaying the inevitable because they’re uncomfortable, but the longer you wait, the more this issue will weigh on you. It’s  like not knowing what you have in your checking account. You’re afraid to look, but know you can’t put it off forever. And you will feel so much better once the deed is done.

The recipient may not like what you have to say, but they’ll be more likely to see you as a person with principle and integrity for having the cojones to speak up. You’ll prove you walk your talk.


There is a popular feedback approach called the Sandwich Communication Method where you start the conversation with something positive, then lead into the constructive feedback and close with another positive comment.

Let’s not fool ourselves. People know that when you start a conversation by saying, “Bob, I really like the effort you put into the XYZ project, BUT…” there will be something negative coming next. Everyone I’ve ever asked tells me the same thing – they know the BUT is coming so they aren’t even listening to what you said just before that. And the positive comments you make at the end seem gratuitous. People question your sincerity.

Some say that giving two pieces of positive feedback will balance out the negative feedback. Yet according to social psychologists, negative feedback “weighs” nine times more than positive. It’s heavier. It has a bigger impact. It makes a bigger withdrawal from Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account. Even though you may have put a lot of emotional credits into their account, one big event could wipe out all the savings you’ve worked so hard to build.

The best way to build trust is to be straight with people. There are a number of ways you can do this.


Yes, I know it’s hard to have the conversation. The hardest part is just knowing how to start. So here are some phrases you can use:

  • I have some concerns…
  • You deserve to know that…
  • I respect you enough to tell you the truth…
  • You’ll respect me more if I’m straight with you…
  • I want to be honest and transparent…
  • I don’t want to undermine our relationship…
  • You’ll trust me more if I…
  • I want to maintain integrity…
  • I’d like to openly discuss…
  • You’ll be able to make better choices if I…
  • We will both be better off if I…
  • I’d like us to create a new approach…
  • I’d like you to have every chance to…


When people are nervous, they tend to blank out and have a hard time remembering what to say. It makes it easier if you put structure into the conversation by framing it with these five components:

Facts – be specific; stay above the “waterline” by not assuming you know what people are thinking or what has motivated them

Feelings – Are you concerned, confused, misunderstood, unclear, frustrated?

Fallout – the most likely outcome if things continue as they are

Feedback – give them the opportunity to share their thoughts/feelings

Focus – on the end goal or objective you’d like to achieve to move forward

Even if you don’t remember to address each one of these components or even get them in order, including two or three steps will help guide the discussion.


It’s not necessary you do all the talking. Asking questions is a great way to get input from the other person so you can have a conversation. And by the way, asking one or more of the questions below doesn’t mean you are waffling or backtracking on your difficult news. These questions are designed, however, to help you coach the person and hopefully help them move from where they are to a much better place. Make sure to start with “how” or “what” so you don’t put them on the defensive. “Why” and “when” questions sound accusatory.

  • how would you like this to end?
  • how could you/we do this differently?
  • what do you think worked?
  • what could you/we have gone better?
  • what can I do now to make things better for you?

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


Most people just want to know that things make sense. They will accept negative news much better if you apply the Principle of Legitimacy. Originally created in 1814 at the Congress of Vienna, it provided guidelines for rulers. But it applies to modern day relationships and interpersonal communication too. The three components include:

  1. The rules don’t change
  2. People will be treated fairly
  3. They have a voice in the matter and can be heard

If you keep these principles in mind, you’ll be much more successful when you decide to have the big chat.


Life is tough. Communication is a challenge for most people. Relationships are complex and don’t follow predictable paths governed by checklists or flowcharts. We are complicated creatures. And we possess a boundless capacity for using our emotions and intelligence to achieve much better outcomes. There is everything to be gained and little to lose by doing the right thing for the right reasons.

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”


Why the Open Door Communication Policy is a Bunch of Baloney

How to Kill a Relationship By the Way You Respond

3 Ways to Change to a Positive Attitude

Every day is a new adventure, isn’t it? Did you know we can make a conscious decision each morning as we jump out of bed how we’re going to approach the day? I mistakenly thought that one’s attitude had to be heavily influenced by what happens to us.


I know, I know, we’ve all heard the saying by Charles R. Swindoll that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

But until a few life-changing events happened, it never occurred to me that I could take charge. We don’t have to succumb to circumstances unless we want to. We don’t have to react in ways others might find understandable just because something bad happened. The willingness of others to cut us slack doesn’t mean we should adopt a position of learned helplessness.

To some degree, it’s true events can have a bearing on our thinking and behaviors. But it’s also true we can train ourselves to have more of an optimistic mindset. This is called “learned optimism”, a term coined by Dr. Martin Seligman in his 1990 book by the same name. He says that a talent for joy can be cultivated. This approach is called positive psychology

So, we’re not stuck with a pessimistic perspective if we really want to act differently. We can choose to think about our reactions to adversity in a different way and see the event as an unlucky situation – just a temporary setback that doesn’t define our lives, our work or relationships. The event is not personal, it’s not permanent (in most cases) and it doesn’t have to ripple throughout the rest of our life – unless we choose to let it.


1. Optimists point to temporary causes for negative events while pessimists point to permanent causes. We can think about the event as something that won’t last. My Uncle used to say, “This too shall pass.” While the event itself may be something permanent, the affect it has on us doesn’t have to be.

2. Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, but pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. We don’t have to allow a negative event to filter into family, relationships, self-image but can build figurative walls around it to keep it contained. In Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, he urges us to create barriers to limit the spread of something toxic.

3. Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves. I’m fond of saying, “It’s never JUST business, it’s ALWAYS personal.” But in this case, we can’t take things personally if we want to remain optimistic. People who say, ‘I’m such a dummy” or “Why did I do that? I was just being stupid” are furthering a pessimistic, negative self-image. (This is different than being personally accountable for an error we made.)


A few other reasons why being optimistic is a good use of your energy: optimists are higher achievers and have better overall health. In fact, MetLife Insurance hired Dr. Seligman to study the performance of their sales consultants and found that optimists outsold pessimists by 21% in the first year and 57% in the second year. 

You can still be realistic and be an optimist. It doesn’t mean you are naive or wearing rose colored glasses to your detriment or that of others. But, you can see yourself and the negative events that happen to you as temporary. You can allow good events to brighten every area of your life rather than just the area in which the event occurred. And you can blame bad events on causes outside of yourself, which has the added benefit of increasing self-confidence.

So as you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, choose the position you’ll take and attitude you’ll embrace in the day ahead. Make a conscious decision to live as an optimist and watch your life improve in ways you couldn’t expect. This is one attitude adjustment you’ll never regret!

Q: Do you see yourself as an optimist? If so, has it served you well? Send me an email if you’d like to share your opinion.

Stop the Multi Tasking Madness

Multi-tasking: it’s a crazy-making endeavor. I’ve done my best to develop this time management skill. I can juggle email and phone calls with the best of ‘em. But one day it just went too far.


(Image credit: A. Schaff at Inkjot.Wordpress.com)

With the printer running and coffee brewing, I ran to the bathroom to brush my teeth before my client arrived. I had a mouth full of toothpaste, brushing away in the usual manner. Then I got that “you’re-about-to-sneeze” feeling. Uh-oh! Horrified at what could happen next, I reached for a tissue. And for a second there, I thought I would have to blow my nose as I brushed my teeth.

I shared this story with an audience once and asked the rhetorical question, “Can anyone here brush their teeth and blow their nose at the same time?” One elderly woman at the back of the room shouted out, “I can! But I have to take my dentures out first.”

(A creative solution to one of the world’s most important endeavors.)

It’s gotten to the point that in an effort to try and do it all, we become more distracted, scattered and stressed. Some studies say it can actually damage our brains, careers and lower IQ!


So I was delighted to discover Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden. That’s the ticket! I’m in favor of anything that will give me more time.

Time Management Tips

The core message of the book is this: You multiply your time by giving yourself permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.

He says, “Work double time, part time, so that later you can have full time free time.”

What? How? Here nine nuggets from Rory’s book:

  1. Any level of skill is amplified by appropriate timing. Am I fishing the right amount of time isn’t the question. Rather, it is am I fishing at the right time?
  2. There’s a big difference between inaction that results from indulgence and inaction that results from intention: one is procrastination and the other is patience.
  3. Defining characteristics of Time Multipliers is their strong focus on results. Success isn’t so much about efficiency or effectiveness, it’s about efficacy, which means “the quality of being successful in producing an intended result.”
  4. Multipliers focus on significance, in addition to urgency and importance.
  5. Urgency: how soon does this matter?
  6. Importance: how much does this matter?
  7. Significance: how long is this going to matter?
  8. Your highest obligation to other people is to be your highest self. If you don’t do that thing, you are going to inhibit those around you from doing theirs. Do the things that are right, not only for now, but for the future.
  9. Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of work and faith and fight and discipline and action.


 I mentioned the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown in an earlier article. In it, Greg writes about the disciplined pursuit of less. Here are three of his nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Create space to think. Schedule yourself a quarterly “off-site” where you can set your goals for the next 90 days, focus on how you’re spending your resources and create strategies to achieve the three most important goals for your life.
  2. Success can become a catalyst for failure. Success can lead to the undisciplined pursuit of more. Instead, we should become more and more discerning and decide criteria for when to say “yes”.
  3. “Busyness” is a bogus badge of honor. It’s a disease that promises: if you can fit it all in, then you can have it all.

Here is an excellent interview by Michael Hyatt with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Now, doesn’t that help? You don’t have to be a multi-tasking maven. There’s a limit to what you can fit into your day. Trying to do it all will fry your brain and sap your soul. Read one or both of these books to put some sanity back into your life. Once you do, I’m betting you’ll never look as silly as I did with toothpaste all over my face!

Q: Has trying to multi-task ever caused you to do something out of the ordinary? Send me a private email and share your story. I’ll keep it confidential. Promise.