6 Questions To Ask When Creating A Vision Statement

Within a company or startup, it’s common to be inspired by a vision of what you want the world to look like. However, founders often don’t take the time to articulate the true reason that their company exists.

This makes navigating difficult choices in the future especially challenging because the purpose that drove the founding of the company isn’t readily available for review. It would be like a group of people went on a road trip across the U.S., but only the driver knew the destination and why the trip was occurring. A couple of issues would quickly become apparent.

Where are you going?

First, the riders would have to trust that they were going in the right direction. No turn could be questioned because the driver was the only one who knew the path.
Secondly, if that driver took a break from the wheel to sleep, whoever was driving would need to know the final destination. It wouldn’t be enough to simply know, “We’re driving to the West Coast.”

Without understanding the spirit behind why the company was created in the first place there will be no way for anyone within the company to understand which direction the founders may have wanted the company to go.

A vision statement articulates the ‘why’

Lacking an articulated company purpose clients, customers, or donors are not able to understand or connect with the company on any substantial level. This means that the best that a business can hope forĀ are one-off customers or a repeat customer through high-cost means of sales and manipulation. While this may be common practice for many companies and even individuals, manipulation is far from the best form of client acquisition.

Instead, we want to look at the true nature of why a company was built because at that point the motivation to build the company is the same motivation that will create loyal customers and ambassadors for your company. This is why a vision statement is so vital. A vision statement is quite different from a mission statement. Where a mission statement focuses on what a company does or what they want to accomplish a vision statement focuses on the purpose behind what the company does.

Simply put, a vision statement is that companies vision of their ideal future.

This is why the vision statement is so essential for finding loyalty and customers and ambassadors in those customers to spread the word of what your company does. How many companies may do the same work that yours does, it’s the meaning of your company that loyalty and in repeat customer satisfaction is found.

When Nonprofits are looking for a donor this is a specially important. While it is nice to have one and done donors is essential for a foundations livelihood to have a repeat loyal donor base. And this is only accomplished by connecting with who they are and what they believe.

When they believe what you believe

If you find individuals who believe what your foundation believes, then they’re more likely to give their money to your foundation rather than a different one even if they feel that another foundation may be more established or well-known.
By connecting with donors who believe what your foundation believes they will become advocates for the work that your company does and will be more willing to give money repeatedly toward the missions of your foundation pursue.

Similarly, any startup or even well-established company that is looking to develop a connection with their customer base that breeds loyalty, a well-articulated vision statement is essential. People like to be proud of where their money goes. Show your moral compass and those customers sharing in your direction will be drawn to you.

So how do you create a well-articulated vision statement?

While there’s no one, cookie-cutter method, there are some standard questions you can ask yourself to begin the process of discovering what the vision statement of your agency is. To help you begin your process of discovering your vision statement, here are some effective questions for developing a powerful, thought-provoking vision statement.

Step one: Speak with the founder or founders of the agency. They will be the best sources of inspiration. After all, it was their idea to start the company in the first place. However, If you don’t have the opportunity to speak with the founders, then identify those within your agency who best reflect the purpose of your company.
This is an important first step in your process because it will help you save time and energy trying to collect data that will be used to build the vision statement. While we could ask every single employee at every agency why they worked there, it’s a waste of time when speaking with one or two highly motivated and inspirational staff members will yield the same result.


Founder questions

1. What brought you to create this company?

2. When you created the company what experience in your life made you realize this area of need?

3. What about your agency brings you the most fulfillment?


Staff questions

1. What drew you to this company?

2. What aspects of your job the most inspirational to you?

3. When you’re faced with the challenge at work what aspect of your work helps you avoid burn out?


Once you have collected the answers to these questions, you can begin to piece together what your agency truly believes. WIth that belief system, you will be able to create lasting vision statements that bring loyal customers and donors.



Want help with your vision statement? click here for your free consult

Updates are here

Updates are here!

Over the past week, we have been making some significant changes to our website and accessibility. Because of this, we want to take a moment and highlight some of the new locations on the site and our newest addition, Kindle Publication!


Looking at the menu, you will see new pages including Free ConsultationServicesBlog, and Posters. Please look through the website to learn more about what we do, why we do it, and what resources we may have to better your professional life. 

We will continue to post regularly to the Blog, so be sure to subscribe and keep an eye out for new content. 

The new Posters section is a collection of quotes from our articles that are particularly insightful and bring inspiration. You can also find these posted on our Instagram profile, here

If you love our content and want to learn more, please head over to our Free Consultation page to fill out a request for more information!

Finally, we are proud to announce that readers can now have our articles loaded directly to your Kindle reading device! Just click here to learn more!


We are excited about the changes and hope they help you on your journey to becoming more fulfilled in your career!


Any questions, thoughts, or suggestions? Please leave them in the comments section below!

How The Hierarchy Of Importance Can Revive A Business

How The Hierarchy Of Importance Can Revive A Business

When working with businesses as they develop their brand, a common question comes up.

What is the hierarchy of importance in our company?

Some companies have more factors to consider when answering this question than others. Public companies have shareholders, government contracted agencies have federal standards, and non-profit companies have donors. These are all on top of the two other constants of any company: customers and employees.

With a public company, an example hierarchy is as follows

  1. customers
  2. shareholders
  3. board members
  4. employees

Take a quick minute and critique this hierarchy. Would you change anything? If you would, how would the list look different, and why would you change it? Keep your answers to the side, and we will break this example down right now.

The Breakdown

Of course, the customer/client is number one when it comes to what your company does. Without customers, your company doesn’t exist! This makes a lot of sense for nearly any company. In order to do what you do you require customers to whom you provide your service. It’s logical, then, to put them at the top of your list.

But what about HOW your company runs? Are your customers still number one? Sure, what you do prioritizes customers, but how you meet those customer’s needs is accomplished by your employees. Does it still make sense to have customers at the top of your list, or did your employees just take the lead?

See, when your employees feel appreciated and fulfilled, they put more effort into their work. They, in turn, provide a better experience to your customers. If your employees never feel at home, then they have no reason to do more than the bare minimum. 

This is also why employees should be at least number two on any list of importance. Because if your employees aren’t happy, nothing will run smoothly!

Corrected Hierarchy

Taking all of this into account, Here is the revised hierarchy of importance. We have broken them up, depending upon the task you are facing.

If you are working on what you do:

  1. Customers
  2. Employees
  3. Board Members
  4. Shareholders

If you are working on how or why you do what you do:

  1. Employees
  2. Customers
  3. Board Members
  4. Shareholders

So, as you develop your company’s brand, ask yourselves these two questions for each (what, how & why) step: ‘What is the hierarchy of importance in our company?’ and ‘should it be changed?’


Have thoughts, suggestions, or questions? Leave them in the comments section below!

Be true to yourself

What ‘The Incredibles’ Teaches About Being True To Yourself

I was watching ‘The Incredibles’ with my wife the other night. It had been a while since I took it out of its box. I was happy to find that the movie was just and enjoyable after these many years! jokes you missed the times before made the movie as fun as the first time I saw it. But one thing continued to nag at me as I watched the movie: How important it is to be true to yourself.

What happens when you’re not true to yourself

It was an underlying message I never realized before. It is obvious that the moral of the story is to be “true to yourself,” but what caught my eye was how Pixar showed what happens when you’re not true to yourself. More specifically, what can happen to your sense of fulfillment and happiness if you are living out your purpose, but then that life is stolen away from you.

If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a quick synopsis.

A Quick Rundown

The world is full of superheroes. They fight crime and spread life lessons to the children. But after some time, lawsuits hit the superheroes for saving people who didn’t want to be saved. The lawsuits become a tidal wave of anti-superhero sentiment, forcing them to go into hiding. Mr. Incredible (the main character), once saving lives daily, is found stuck behind a desk at a toxic insurance job. 

Mr. Incredible shows all the signs of living a life without purpose. He is apathetic, discouraged, exhausted, has gained weight, and is suffering from a short temper. He focuses on “the good old days,” keeping him from focusing on the present. Like a person in the desert, searching for water, Mr. Incredible grasps and any opportunity to help the clients of the insurance company. When a client brings him an issue, he goes against his supervisor’s wishes by teaching the client various loopholes in the insurance company’s system. 

Like a person in the desert searching for water, Mr. Incredible grasps and any opportunity to help the clients of the insurance company. When a client brings him an issue, he goes against his supervisor’s wishes by teaching the client various loopholes in the insurance company’s system. 

Once his supervisor finds out about this, and after Mr. Incredible “accidentally” throws the supervisor through the wall, he is quickly let go.

After the loss of his job, Mr. Incredible is given the opportunity to once again fight crime. With only one experience to remind him of his purpose, his mood changes drastically. Suddenly, he is exercising, enjoying his marriage, and giving his children the attention they desperately need. With only one experience doing what he was made to do, life comes back into his eyes. 

Being separated from your purpose

What I realized while watching this portion of the movie was how relatable Mr. Incredible’s feelings about a dead career are to the rest of us. When we are working at a dead-end job with toxic supervisors looking only at the bottom line, it’s nearly impossible to stay positive. Especially when you know what you were meant for. 

The Incredibles painted a very real picture of what can happen when we are living a life that is not true to who we are. While fighting crime like a superhero may not be possible, understanding our purpose can feel just as liberating.

If you are struggling at your job, knowing that you are meant for something else, don’t waste your days being drained mentally and physically. Search for your calling and be true to yourself. Does this mean going back to school? maybe. Some drastic shifts are necessary to have drastic results.

And when it comes to your fulfillment, making a big change is worth it. You will be more fulfilled in the work you do and more engaged at home. That’s right, not only will you enjoy your job, but your home life will benefit. There is no reason not to start down the path of being true to yourself.



What are your experiences on finding your purpose?

Leave your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comment section below!


How The Simple Miracle Question Can Give Us Vision

Some of the most successful companies in the world became that successful because their founders had a vision of the future that inspired their customers and staff. 

Google sees technology helping in areas of our lives never before imagined. Apple envisions a future with our technology being an experience rather than just a tool. Tesla envisions a world that is completely released from the shackles of fossil fuels. These visions of the future are what propel their success and navigate them through business and moral decisions as companies. 

But how do we get a vision like these if we don’t already have it? 

Are we born with a vision?

It seems like the common belief is that these innovators and founders of such inspirational companies were born with their vision of the future. While many of these individuals may act as if they were always motivated by a tangible, articulate vision, but that isn’t often the case. In actuality, it is more like a belief in how things should be, and the vision of a world that meets those “shoulds” slowly develops over time. 

Okay, that’s all fine and good, but you still didn’t answer the question. How do we get a vision like the successful innovators of our time if we don’t already have it?

How we develop our vision

There are a few different ways people develop their vision of the future. Some read as many books on as many subjects as possible in order to better understand the way things are so that they can imagine how things should be. Others live their lives always with their ‘innovator antennas’ up. When they bump into something that is taken for granted, or could obviously be improved upon, they take their curiosity and dissect why we have accepted the status quo and how things could change for the better.

There are many other ways, but I’d rather take the time to give you one tool which can help you develop your ability to create a vision of the future you want. This vision is going to help you articulate the purpose of your efforts, and most importantly, help you identify tangible goals to navigate your decision-making. 

I do want to make a quick note that, while this article may use terms more associated with inventors and entrepreneurs, this tool is essential for helping you find fulfillment in your career. 

So, enough with the intro. What is the tool?

Okay, the tool is called “The Miracle Question.” It’s used by therapists, social workers, life/executive coaches, and even some mentors. It goes like this.

The Miracle Question

If you went to sleep tonight, and as you slept a miracle happened. When you woke up everything in your life was as you have always wanted it to be. What would be different about the world that would indicate to you that the miracle occurred? What would you see? Would anything be happening differently? Would you be doing anything differently?

That’s it. That’s the tool. 

you can work through the question as quickly or as slowly as you would like to articulate your answers as much as you want. Here’s how this tool helps.

Picturing the future

When we take the time to picture a future we want to live in, and we practice actually living in that hypothetical world, we are able to point out what is better or different. When we point those things out, have just taken the first step to articulating a tangible change that you want to see happen. For example:

I wake up and spend the morning with my kids. I make breakfast for the family and see the kids off to school and my wife off to work. After that, I take the time to have a few moments to myself in silence and head to work. 

At work, I feel important. Not like I’m management, but that I matter. When I work I feel like the work I am doing is actually impacting something. And when 4:oo o’clock rolls around, I have no problem closing down and heading home to my family.

Okay, does anyone see an unreasonable future in this description? Anything like flying cars by next week? No, it’s completely reasonable and even attainable. This, by itself, is a vision for someone’s personal life. Simple and beautiful. I would love that life.

Best yet, we can take a lot from this quick vision of the future. We just need to take the nuggets out of the picture to make goals for our vision. 

Break it down

First, we know that kids are wanted. Goal number one. Next, a work schedule that allows mornings and evenings to be spent with family. Goal number two.

On the professional side, we have a desire to be connected to the work. So, finding a job where each person is respected and appreciated. Goal number three. Also, this person wants their work, as a whole, to be fulfilling. Menial and tedious work would not be a good fit! Goal number four.

So, out of that quick vision of the ideal future, we have four articulated goals that can navigate us make that ideal future a reality. 


When to use the Miracle Question

The Miracle Question is a fantastic tool for any time you want to improve something in your life, but don’t know where to start. Many times, we try to make changes as they come. Instead, try using the Miracle Question to begin at the end point and work your way back to the present. Knowing the path to your ideal world is half the battle to finding fulfillment. 



If you have any suggestions, questions, or thoughts, please write them in the comments section below!

Anxiety, Stress, and the Analogy of the Shoes

I read somewhere that people who regularly run marathons take very seriously the weight of their shoes. Whatever way that they could reduce every ounce of material without losing the integrity and support of the shoe, they would do it. 

But why? What does an ounce matter to the powerful muscles in a runner’s legs? If I can’t tell the difference between an 11oz shoe and a 10oz shoe when I hold them side-by-side, then how will it matter to my legs?

It’s pretty simple, really. You lift the shoe once, it’s nothing. But what about a thousand times?  In an average marathon, a runner takes about 46,000 steps.

The reason behind it actually makes perfect sense and is a great example of how the smallest things can make the biggest differences. 

It makes sense if you think about it, too. 

At the beginning, you may not notice a difference in your stamina. Every step is the same to you, as you run yet another marathon. However, by the end of the race, you find yourself lagging behind. Every step is a little bit harder until you are so depleted that, with all of your might, that once simple step is impossible.

The Shoes of Anxiety

Anxiety is like a runner’s shoe. In order to run a marathon, our feet need proper support. Similarly, to dig in and meet a tight deadline, or perfect a project, we need some anxiety to support and motivate us. Anxiety, in healthy moderation, is one of the reasons we are able to accomplish as much as do. Without anxiety, without a sense of urgency, nothing would get done!

However, there is a difference between anxiety and stress. In our analogy of the runner’s shoe, the weight of the shoe represents stress. Every individual stressor in our lives acts as an additional ounce built into the shoes of anxiety. 

For certain exercises, extra weight is necessary to ground us. But in a marathon – in a career – the least amount of unnecessary stressors we have, the farther and longer we can run. 

Dropping The Weight

How do we remove unnecessary stressors from our daily lives? Where do we even start?

There are many books worth of information in those questions, so I will just touch on the basics. Just know that it is possible to live a life of reduced stress and a healthy level of anxiety.

1. Break It Down

First and foremost, you want to take a look at your daily tasks. You will have a mixture of one-offs (tasks that need attention once and then are complete) and routine (tasks that need to be repeated or maintained on a regular basis) tasks. Separate your tasks into these two categories.

Next, take those separated tasks and separate them into two more categories Urgent and Non-urgent. Usually, urgent tasks are needing to be accomplished that day or within the week. It depends on the responsibilities of your job. Non-urgent tasks are due in a week or beyond. 

By breaking your tasks down and separating them, you will be able to prioritize your time much more effectively. , practice identifying future tasks as they come up so that 

Keep a cheat-sheet for the first months as you put this practice into effect. Practice identifying future tasks as they come up so that you are able to quickly identify the priority of the task and file it accordingly. Less clutter in your to-do list means less clutter in your mind!

2. Stay On Task

I can’t count how many time’s I’m in the office working on a project due that week when I get an e-mail with a question from another client. I know that the question can wait a day, but still, I stop what I’m doing and spend 15 minutes answering the question. By the time I’m done with the client, I’ve lost both my place in my project and the momentum I built up. 

By the time I’m done with the client, I’ve lost both my place in my project and the momentum I built up. Not good.

Instead, keep yourself moving however you can. If you need to turn off your E-mails for an hour to hammer out a presentation for tomorrow, then do it. They can wait an hour to get your answer.

*Side note, I have also found it helpful to put in my voicemail, when possible, the expected “up to” wait for a return call from me. If your job allows up to 48-hours before clients should expect a callback, then put that in your voicemail! It will act as support for you to give yourself time and give your clients a timeframe for when they can expect to hear from you. 

3. Delegate

I can’t count how many times I hear stories of people overwhelmed by their jobs, only to find that they are doing things that are other people’s responsibility. 

It’s easy to slip into this practice. In fact, most of us do it without even knowing. We are working on a job when a client calls with a question. You know the task is better done by someone else who works with the client, but you know how to get the job done, too. So, instead of directing the client to the right person, you just take care of it. 

Was that nice of you? Sure! But how long did that task take? 15 minutes? That time could have been spent getting your actual responsibilities done. That’s 15 minutes of stress you needlessly added to your day. 

“But, I showed initiative by doing the job! I helped that other guy, whose actual responsibility it was, out!”

Sure, I get that. But take a second and ask yourself this question:

If you were looking for an electrician, would you want carpenter who knows a little bit about wiring to rewire your house? Of course not.  

In the same way, if you go outside of your wheelhouse on a task that can and should be done by someone who holds that responsibility, you are actually doing a disservice to the client by not giving them the best product they could get. 

So, if just “I don’t want added stress” isn’t enough of a reason not to do unnecessary work, check to see if someone else is better equipped to get the job done. Then, tell the client to call them. 

4. Review Your Happiness

Finally, and a more introspective note, you need to take a hard look at your happiness at your job. 

A massive stressor in our careers is a fundamental lack of fulfillment in the nature of what we do. If you are fighting upriver to do a job you hate, then you’ll be drowning in stress in no time. This is why it’s important to evaluate how much pleasure you get from your career. A lack of fulfillment in your work is an indication that a shift might need to happen.

It can be scary asking yourself if you’re truly happy with your career. It’s hard to broach that subject. However, if you take anything from this article, this is the most important. Make sure you love what you do.

Make sure you find purpose in your efforts. Otherwise, what is the point in working at all? 

Money? You can make that doing anything. 

You need purpose. You need fulfillment. 

Take care of yourself during this marathon. Take the unnecessary weight out of your shoes and push on. Always be mindful of your happiness, and don’t do anything unnecessarily that should be done by someone else.

Only you can set your own boundaries. And you only need your own permission to make others respect them. 


If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, then please leave them in the comments section below!


How Gottman’s ‘4 Horseman Of The Apocalypse’ Can Destroy An Office


As I’ve said in the past, there’s a lot to be learned from relationship therapy theories when compared to office culture. This is why today I have brought an interesting read for any supervisor or leader in a business. John Gottman’sThe Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

Gottman is one of the leading minds in the field of marriage and relationship research. He has run the Gottman Institute for past 40 years, completing in-depth research into what makes a healthy relationship so healthy, and what causes unhealthy relationships to ultimately fail. Really, for anyone in a committed relationship, I would recommend you give it a read. But here at Inciting Purpose, we focus on careers, so let’s get back to our wheelhouse.

But here at Inciting Purpose, we focus on careers, so let’s get back to our wheelhouse.

One of Gottman’s claims to fame is that he holds an astounding 91% accuracy rate for predicting if a marriage will end in divorce simply by listening to 3 minutes of an argument. This is because his research has shown that it is not whether or not the couple argues, it is the way in which they argue.

Basically, his whole process is separated into 4 signs of a destructive relationship, but we will only touch on the first two signs as they are the most pertinent to a healthy office culture. These two signs are the “Harsh Startup” and the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

So, let’s jump right in!


Harsh startup

Gottman says that the first indicator that a relationship is unhealthy is what he calls a “harsh startup” to a discussion. A harsh startup is either a person approaching someone with an accusatory slant or someone responding to a sincere request for conversation with negativity.

So what does this look like?

Staci, the supervisor, approaches Jeremy, one of her staff.

Staci:”Hey Jeremy, can you complete a report from that last client? I don’t seem to have the sent invoice anywhere.”

Jeremy, rolling his eyes: “Sure, I’m so excited to get you this vital information.”

If someone begins to speak on a subject and is immediately met with sarcasm or negativity, it’s very difficult to redirect the path of the conversation toward anything productive. 

This is the basic precursor to Gottman’s Horseman of the Apocalypse. 


4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Harsh Startup leads almost immediately into these 4 toxic interpersonal behaviors, which Gottman has effectively labeled as the 4 Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. He states that they often arrive in a particular order, starting with Criticism and going toward Stonewalling, but not unusual to bounce around during a discussion. 


Gottman takes note to separate criticizing behavior from complaints. It’s normal to have complaints about someone’s behavior, and it’s healthy to voice those complaints.

Staci: “Jeremy, I see that the invoices are regularly late coming from your desk. This makes it really difficult for me to follow through on my tasks because I’m often waiting on those invoices.”

Complaints keep the focus on the behavior. 

Criticism, on the other hand, attacks the character of the person.

Staci: “Jeremy, you can’t keep your tasks straight. You’re so absent minded and you make such dumb mistakes. Honestly, it’s like you don’t care about your job. Did you grow up in a family where responsibilities didn’t matter?”

Sadly, it’s quite common to have leaders in an organization use criticism to get their staff “in line.” But all that really happens is the actual problem becomes overshadowed by the personal attacks. Relationships are bruised and no one is feeling motivated to work harder. After enough criticism, this leads pretty naturally into the next horseman: Contempt.

After enough criticism, this leads pretty naturally into the next horseman: Contempt.


Criticism often leads right to contempt. The behavior shifts from attacking the character of the person to sarcasm and cynicism. Remember, these 4 horsemen most often show up in a particular order. But they can show up in different orders depending upon the relationship and the stage of the arguments. The example given above for a Harsh Startup would be an example of a relationship that skips over Criticism and jumps right into Contempt through the use of sarcasm.

Anyway, Contempt takes the main stage when the individual being attacked attempts to reconcile the relationship, but is continually shot down by the criticiser. 

Jeremy: “Maybe I can try a new way of organizing my desk and time. That might help me keep up on the invoices.”

Staci, scoffing: “Oh, yeah. That must be the secret to getting your life in order. Clean your desk and all will be fixed.”

Gottman does note, and for good reason, that contempt talk doesn’t start out that way. Often the origins of these issues are simple requests that went unanswered, or disagreement continued. Thus, the requests became disrespectful and contemptuous. 


As easily as criticism slipped into contempt, the third horseman trots into the frame: Defensiveness.

As expected, when we are presented with contempt, we try to defend ourselves. The only problem is when someone is acting out of contempt, they are not likely to hear reason from a defensive position. Gottman stated that this is not only because contempt is not looking for a way to be reasoned with, it’s also because defensive behavior often comes off as redirecting the blame.

Staci, scoffing: “Oh, yeah. That must be the secret to getting your life in order. Clean your desk and all will be fixed.”

Jeremy: “Well, sometimes I don’t have time to organize my desk just how you would like it. I have a lot on my plate.”

Do you see how, while Jeremy was trying to defend against Staci’s contemptuous comment, he is actually stating that Staci was being unreasonable by expecting him to be organized to her standards when he has so many responsibilities? In reality, she most likely gave him the responsibilities as his supervisor. He is essentially blaming her for his failures.

Defensiveness is a slippery slope! No wonder it rarely works. 

In the end, the defensive behavior will only escalate the situation, making Staci either up the ante or become defensive herself. Either way, it’s not a good outcome.


After the arguments increase in severity, becoming immersed in toxic conversation patterns, the last horseman to the act of stonewalling. 

Either someone begins to ignore the other, or they simply half-heartedly agree with every statement. Whichever way they behave, it is clear that they have begun the process of stonewalling. When stonewalling occurs no meaningful conversation will be able to take place. This is because, while they can hear the other person, they have lost the motivation to connect. 

Staci: “Jeremy, I really need that invoice.”

Jeremy: “…”

Staci: “Jeremy?”

Jeremy: “…”

Staci: “Jeremy, I really need to know that you heard me.”

Jeremy: “…Yup.”

By this point, it is incredibly difficult to recover a working relationship. Yes, it is possible, but intervention from HR, Employee Assistance Programs, and management is often necessary to get the parties even close to being cooperative. 


Why Does This Matter?

Having these behaviors as routine in a relationship can cause more than toxic conversations. Gottman cites research showing that continuous contemptuous behavior can have the consequence of being more likely to suffer from colds and the flu. Why? Simply put,  our stress increases when in toxic relationships. With increased stress comes increased levels of the hormone Cortisol. 

Cortisol is the hormone released during the “Fight or Flight” times. Cortisol increases our focus, improves our reflexes, and even starts redirecting blood flow to the extremities, in case the fight response becomes flight. That being said, while Cortisol is literally a life-saving hormone at the right times, extended periods of increased cortisol can damage the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness. This is why stress and toxic relationships can not only make working with those people difficult, it can make you miss work due to illness and exhaustion.

Gottman’s Four Horseman of the Apocalypse can cost money in time, employee intervention, and possible employee turn-over. It’s especially costly for a business if the office culture shows a pattern of these toxic relationships. By that point, you’re not looking at one uncooperative working relationship, you’re looking at an entire team of contemptuous, defensive, critical employees.

Whether or not your office culture struggles with these toxic patterns of behavior, it can be helpful to be aware of how easily these horsemen can show up at the front door. I strongly recommend that anyone in a leadership position should read Gottman’s books. His insights have helped me personally understand how to empower coworkers and keep toxic patterns out of both personal and professional relationships.

Have you seen these kinds of communication patterns in your workplace? What was done to change the circumstances?

Leave your stories, questions, and suggestions in the comments below!


courtesy of JESHOOTS

One Supervisor’s Philosophy To Empower A Loyal Office Culture

A while back I was having a conversation with a manager about how they maintain a healthy office culture. These conversations are always interesting because it is evident when a manager has or has not been considering the specific techniques and philosophies they use to make their office a healthy place for their employees.

Some managers get the ‘deer in the headlights’ look as if to say, “you mean I’m responsible for more than making sure my staff get their jobs done?” Some roll their eyes and talk about how difficult it is for them, blaming office drama. They may also light up; excited to talk about the changes they have made and the notable improvements that have stemmed from those changes. 

In any case, there is a conversation to be had about improving office culture. 

I knew they were in the best hands.

Anyway, this manager said something that I had not heard from other managers. It was subtle, yet profound. I became excited for her staff after hearing her philosophy. I knew they were in the best hands.

This is what she said,

“I love having such amazing employees working for us. But if they feel that they will be more fulfilled at another job, then I don’t just want them to take that job – I encourage them to.”

Finding A Job With Purpose

It may seem at face value that this manager is asking her staff to actively find other jobs. The fear of putting ideas into your staff’s heads about possibly leaving your agency is enough to reject this manager’s philosophy right out of the gate. But she has some amazing wisdom motivating this perspective. 

If an employee is not fulfilled and feels pulled away from your agency, do you want that half-hearted employee on your payroll? Their presence could, in fact, keep a better fitting candidate from working for you. Yes, you would have to spend time and money looking for that candidate.

But is saving that time and money worth having an unfulfilled, dispassionate workforce? I don’t think so.

By reminding your staff of their freedom to pursue a fulfilling career, you build the loyalty within your employees saught after by every company. 

This manager’s philosophy is not only helpful for filtering out dispassionate staff. This philosophy also empowers employees and shows them that management truly cares about their fulfillment. By reminding your staff of their freedom to pursue a fulfilling career, you build the loyalty within your employees sought after by every company. 

This can be a subtle shift in interpersonal functioning within your office but will have a dynamic effect on the office culture and morale. We require a purpose to survive and fulfillment to thrive. It is the management’s responsibility to provide purpose and opportunity for fulfillment to their staff. If the staff can’t find a purpose to their work, then encourage them to search for it elsewhere.

Disillusioned staff will never be effective representatives of a business. Help them find fulfillment elsewhere so that you can replace them with loyal and fulfilled staff.



What I Have Learned About Social Media And Self Care

Recently, I have gotten into the habit of spending time on social media every morning. I wake up, feed the cats, start making a cup of coffee, and start the social media binge.

This is a change for me, as I never really got into the groove of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.. But ever since I began writing, I have tried to increase my presence on these platforms. It’s been a great experience reconnecting with people and expanding my network, but I’ve started to notice another effect going on.

The Risk of Social Media

Whenever you open Facebook or Twitter, and you look at trending topics, it seems that the topics people are talking about have become increasingly negative. World politics, civil rights battles, school shootings, bombings, the list of negative talking points seems endless.

God forbid you dig into these topics and see what people are saying. Discussion points become attack positions. Rather than learning from each other’s experiences and wisdom, we hurl insults. All positivity goes out the window and people become more polarized than when they began. 

My problem is that I get sucked up into this social media drama.

I read an article, come to my own conclusion about the contents, and then read through the comments; hoping that there are people discussing the article with maturity. Then, someone makes a snide remark and lights the powder keg.

The next thing you know, the comments section is a battlefield, and even the onlookers (myself included) are silently empowering the behavior. In these situations, we naturally begin to side with those making arguments congruent to our and roll our eyes at the opposing position. 

After 20 or so minutes of reading these comments, I’ve burned through my quiet morning and have to rush off to work; the raging comments still swirling in my head. I think about how wrong those people are to be as angry as they are. I even imagine what I would say in response to them. Needless to say, I get myself fired up.

What Is This Helping?

Without knowing it, we are immersing ourselves in this negativity. We argue that we are trying to improve the world by joining the conversation, but is it really helping if the rest of your day is spent fuming about someone calling you school-yard names?

How we start our days sets the tone for everything we do that day. If we start by polarizing ourselves against half of the world population and get hung up on arguments that aren’t our own, then how are we going to be able to effectively and positively improve the circumstances of our immediate environment? 

For me, it comes down to this:

The days I spend time in this swamp of negativity, I experience tension headaches, I’m more impatient, less empathetic, and more depressed. Because, really, if you place yourself around toxic people, you’ll start to think everyone is toxic. And how does that help anything?

From now on, this is my rule for social media. You are welcome to join me if you find you experience the same issues.

If I do not find joy in what I am doing – if I am not growing from the experience – then that experience is of no benefit to me. 

Not everything we read, watch, or listen to needs to be substantive. Sometimes the best way to spend 5 minutes is watching funny cat videos instead of keeping up with current events.

Why Avoiding Blame And Playing The Victim Kills Growth

Life can be a challenge sometimes. You feel like you are doing everything in your power to improve your life, but still, something falls through; pulling the rug from under you. Having this happen only once or twice, you can easily slough it off as a random event. But when those challenges outnumber your successes, it can be tough to keep a smile on your face.

Most of the time, when catastrophe strikes, I encourage people to focus on what can be done now. It can be a waste of time and destructive for morale if we start by pointing fingers and placing blame. Instead, we benefit most by recognizing nothing can be done about the past. What we can do is focus on the present; trying to work with what we have. Most of the time this is the best process to take.

Except when the string of bad luck starts to look like a pattern.

Errors are often caused by a slip of the mind or trying to cut corners for a deadline. But when the same kind of error keeps happening it is important to stop and figure out what is really going on. 

This simple act of review for many of us feels like a direct attack on our character. Rather than looking for our imperfections in order to improve, we deny any part we may have had in the problem. In actuality, this behavior is self-sabotaging of our attempts to be our best selves.

We say to ourselves, “if only they did….” or “I need to work in a place that understands me,” trying to explain any mistake without placing any of the blame on ourselves. This becomes a problem because by making these statements we have now separated ourselves from those on our team. While our assessment of our teammates may be accurate, as a statistician would say: there is only one constant variable in these equations. 

That’s us.

How we work against ourselves

I’m not saying that every failure is our fault individually. That’s rarely, if ever, the case. It simply has become evident to me that we, as a whole, really lack the insight to recognize when our own behaviors sabotage our attempts at happiness and success.

We only exacerbate the problem by denying that we had any part in our own failure. If we ignore any lessons to be learned from our mistakes, then we are simply perpetuating the cycle of failure that keeps us from any sense of fulfillment. The best outcome from this pattern of behavior is that we become stagnant; unable to experience any feeling of progression. The worst outcome is that we burn bridges with coworkers, friends, or even family as we fight to maintain our worldview that any negative outcome that we may experience is everyone else’s fault. 

How can we shift our behavior from playing the victim in our own story? What can we do to end the cyclical pattern of suffering and shift our perspective to achieving a positive outcome? Can this even be accomplished?

Changing our attitude

Getting ourselves out of the rut of self-victimization can be a simple process. That being said, even though the process may be simple, implementation of that process can be incredibly difficult without the proper support.

All we really need to do in order to get ourselves shifted toward a more fulfilling and successful pattern of behavior is to realize and accept all of the effects of our actions. When something doesn’t go as planned, rather than finding who is to blame, take some time to see how your action/inaction affected the outcome and what you can learn from the entire experience. 

One of the biggest reasons this simple practice can be so challenging is because many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, have connected our self-worth to the results of our actions. If we try to accomplish a task but make a mess of it, and our sense of self-worth is attached to our success, then we will automatically start to find a way to pass the blame. If we can find reasons that the failure was not our fault, then our image is still intact.

This is why it’s so difficult to break the habit of self-victimization and avoiding blame. We have connected who we are to the outcomes of our actions. This process takes a long time but is absolutely essential to getting out of our own way and getting everything we can out of every experience. 

When we take an objective approach to our experiences, we are able to avoid feeling threatened by failure. Instead, we can take each success and failure and learn from both equally. As Richard Branson once said, “Do not be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.”

Own your mistakes, learn from them, and allow yourself to grow.