Monthly Archive: February 2015

Why Managers Need to Understand “The Dress” Controversy

The internet is a funny thing, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Lately it’s been buzzing on whether a dress is white & gold or blue & black, creating two firmly opposed teams, taunting each other with the ridiculousness of their “clearly incorrect” choice.

Here’s the image of the dress:


At first I thought it was just a silly thing, and those saying blue & black were doing so just to be difficult and to feed the social media beast. I didn’t get it. It’s so obviously white and gold.

Then I did some research, and came across an interesting article from (It appears there is actually science to it!) Apparently, it is actually blue & black (!!), and the reason some people see it differently has to do with the context and the way their brain is wired to choose between the two by discounting “irrelevant” light. (You can read the full article here.)

So, in essence, it depends on your perspective, doesn’t it.

Isn’t that true of everything?

Why This Is Important to Managers

Yesterday I taught a course on The Essentials of Management for the Centre for Leadership & Learning in the Ontario Public Service. One of the things we talk about is the importance of perspective, or context, when managing people. Your job as a manager is to ensure that YOUR context is not incorrectly influencing the way that others will hear a message or interpret instructions.

Every manager has had that moment of shock when he/she realizes that they just said or did something that had the complete opposite effect from what was intended. They thought this “thing” was white & gold, and their team interpreted “blue & black.” The results were disastrous, and it took some finesse and time to recover.

There are a couple of basic areas that we all need to be highly sensitive to when trying to be most effective and impactful with our employees:

  • When communicating, remember that the words that come out of your mouth are highly influenced by your own personal context, or your experience, your cultural norms, your mood, and even your gender. The receiver, on the other hand, interprets those words based on THEIR experience, cultural norms, mood, and gender. As the communicator, it is your job to ensure that the differences in context are accounted for, and that the words clarify your intent. This is especially important in eMail when it is so easy to read tone when none was intended! Think about how your words might be mis-interpreted based on what you know about your audience, and clarify accordingly. If you don’t, you could say “white & gold,” and they might hear “blue & black.”communication
  • When introducing a change to your team, consider each individual’s perspective. You may think you’re about to announce the world’s most exciting change, and that everyone will love you for it. Perhaps most people will! There may also be a handful of people who with think the sky has fallen, because their context, or experience of change, is much different. They may have a lot of change impacting them at home that you don’t know about, or this specific change may introduce a world of complications for them. You think it’s all white & gold, and they will see it as blue & black. Your job is not to shove white & gold at them and talk about how awesome everything is, but to be aware that there will be contextual differences, and to allow people time to reflect, ask questions of you, and to get your support.

Finally, let’s not forget that the best teams are made up of all kinds of different contexts. If you see white & gold and some of your team sees blue & black, isn’t that a good thing? Surround yourself with those who are different, and embrace and discuss that diversity! Your contextual awareness will expand, your awareness will be richer, and you will be a better manager.

Until next time,


The power of saying YES!

Why so much “NO”?

Happy Freezing Friday.  This morning I am cuddled under a number of blankets and nursing ANOTHER cold.  images

This week Ruth and I were ruminating (#GoodWord) on why people find it so easy to say no. I was dealing with  a vendor and in addition to there being some huge gaps in the teams’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities, there was an awful lot of no-ing going on.   I heard these among others:

  • No, I can’t help you with that, you’ll have to call xyz….
  • No, we don’t do that, sorry.
  • No, sorry our system can’t do that.
  • No, sorry, I can’t do that.
  • No, you should have done xyz…

images (2) The list is endless.  In a business world driven on customer satisfaction, why are there so many people saying no to their customers all the time? It almost seems that we are predisposed to say no first!  No is easy. it’s fast It takes less work. It defers responsibility to someone else. It is less work. I’m not suggesting that business/individuals do things beyond their offerings or to risk their profitability.  I am talking about using language that is more helpful to your customer, and one that creates OPPORTUNITY.  Opportunity for future purchases, opportunity to build a reputation of strong customer service, and opportunity to continuously improve every day! I love the context of saying yes to the person and no to the task (read more here).  

How to say “Yes!”

  • That isn’t my area, however, I will contact xyz for you and have them call you back.
  • We don’t offer that exact service, but we offer something similar.  If this still doesn’t work I can refer you to xyz who does!
  • Our system doesn’t have that particular functionality, unfortunately.  Let me see how I can do that in a different way.
  • Our policies and procedures (attached here) don’t permit me to do that.  I understand you are frustrated, I can’t promise anything, but let me make a few calls and see if I can help make this right.
  • Next time might I recommend doing this, let me help you out in the meantime.

I like Peter Shankman’s idea here, to challenge yourself to say yes to three things this week.  See what opportunity comes of it! Let us know @whiteboardcons #justsayyes!

Until next time,



Manager, Coach Thyself

physicianA very old proverb, “Physician heal thyself“, reminds us to attend to our own affairs rather than criticizing the affairs of others. It popped into my head recently when I was telling someone about the “self talk” going on in my head during a challenging meeting I had.

First, let me explain that “self talk” is more than just muttering to yourself now and again. It’s actually a conversation that you have with your subconscious and is considered a subset of thinking. Experts agree that the way in which we “talk to ourselves,” whether out loud or in our heads, has an enormous impact on our performance, our confidence, and our mood. (There’s a great article from The Wall Street Journal here.)

You may remember the SNL skit where Stuart Smalley talks to himself in the mirror. That’s a bit more over-the top than what I’m talking about, but it does illustrate the idea. Stuart Smalley’s Famous Self Talk

Coaching Yourself

We may coach others every day as part of our jobs. We help people understand how they could have done better in a challenging situation and/or what they did right and should do more of. But have we ever thought about the advantages of coaching ourselves, right in the moment?

Remember that coaching is all about asking the right questions, helping people come to their own self-realizations and truths that will resonate and take hold more than you just “telling” them what to do. Self talk can be the same. Research shows that we should actually talk to ourselves by using our names or saying “you” instead of I.

I would add, talk to yourself in a coaching style, asking yourself questions. It’s much more likely to stick and change your behaviour in the moment.

So back to my challenging meeting.

I had a networking session with someone in a similar line of business. I knew this person to be a tad passive aggressive, and I admit that one of the reasons I sought out the meeting was to bridge this awkwardness I felt every time we had an interaction. So, we sat down over coffee, and I started out as all good networkers do, by asking more about their work, how they fell into it, etc. (Read our blog on networking here.)

45 minutes into it, I realized not one question was directed my way. Not one. I started getting annoyed, and fortunately had enough self awareness to realize that this was likely showing up on my face. (I am cursed with a very expressive face. Many years ago a boss told me, “Ruth not only do we realize when you don’t like an idea, we can tell when you think someone is stupid.” OUCH!)

I began to coach myself using self talk, starting with Kindness & Curiosity (“Ruth, what kind of life is this person having, that they are so entirely focused on themselves?”) This person has A LOT of trials and tribulations going on. Does that make the self-centredness ok? No, but it makes it easier to react with kindness. Then I moved on to thinking about what I could actually learn, instead of being ticked off that it was a one-sided conversation. (“OK, so it’s annoying. Remember Ruth, there are things you can actually pick up and apply to your own business if you’d just listen. Stop wrinkling your forehead.)

I came away from the conversation much more relaxed than I might have. The self-talk helped me apply my own principles to my situation, and I picked up a few good pointers along the way.

What To Remember

  • You may coach others every day as part of your job. You also should coach yourself. Be aware of those situations in which you might over react or response from a place of frustration.
  • Always think of Kindness & Curiosity first. It helps you calm down and take personal responsibility out of the equation.
  • Use the questioning style of self-talk to remember your own coaching techniques.

It doesn’t really turn an annoying situation into a great one, but it does help you react with professionalism and grace. And that’s never a bad thing.

Until next time,




New Course: March 11, 2015

Are you someone who wants to be better at interacting with people at work? How are your networking skills? Do you take over conversations? Do you wish you could influence some of your peers or your boss more effectively? How do you handle feedback – both the giving and the getting?

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 5.17.54 PM

Can I Tell You Something?

We are excited to announce our newest workshop, entitled “Can I Tell You Something,” focused on influencing through questions and feedback in order to build stronger and more effective relationships at work.

You may be aware that we have a very popular “Process of Coaching” course, and this workshop builds off of that material. The difference is that this workshop is less “corporate,” and focuses less on Management skills and behaviours associated with coaching employees. Instead, it’s about you, the individual, at any level in any job, and how you can employ coaching techniques to improve your interactions with co-workers, bosses, heck – even your family and friends! (Shh! They won’t even know you’re doing it.)

We will spend the morning on theory, with a few quizzes and group exercises to get your brains firing. After lunch, an actor specialized in this type of simulation, will join us and play the role of a number of different types of people in different situations. You will get to interact with the actor and practice what you learned in the morning session.

Simulated learning is extremely effective. We wrote a blog about it here. It is also a lot of fun, and we promise you will take away a number of very helpful tools. Whether you learn by reading, listening, watching, or doing – our workshop has it all, and we believe you will find it of great value.


Who Should Come?

If you, someone you work with, or someone you know wants to learn any of the following, then we would love to see you:

    • How to influence people through language that is inquisitive and open.
    • How to be a great (informal) mentor.
    • How to provide feedback to people in such a way that they actually figure out what you want to say before you say it.
    • How to accept feedback and act on it.
    • How to handle a confrontational situation more effectively.
    • How to be noticed and heard – in a good way!
    • How to be a better networker.

Where Is It?

This workshop will be held in the beautiful Toronto Room at the Verity Club. The address is 111d Queen Street East in Toronto, and is just east of Jarvis Street on the south side. (It’s an old chocolate factory!) Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 4.35.41 PM

When Is It?

March 11, 2015, from 8:30am to 5pm.

How Much Is It?

$450 plus HST, including a light lunch and refreshments.

If you have any questions, please email us at

Click here to reserve your place.

Hope to see you there,

Nicole & Ruth

How much is this task worth? Efficient Time Management Using Data.

*Update: Remember that blog where I said Ruth and I were going to stay accountable for doing the blog.  This is me doing the blog.  Late.  To note, Ruth didn’t say “That’s OK!”.  She said something to the effect of, “So when will you be posting the blog”. Super effective from an accountability perspective. Thus, why I am posting this blog on Tuesday. *

What’s happening over at Whiteboard?  Lot’s of things.  We’re meeting up with clients old  and new, and are super excited about all of the great process work, leadership work, and culture development we get to do with our clients this year.

So this new year has everyone setting goals, emptying their email inboxes, finding new and better ways of doing things. We are all bombarded with so many tasks to do , how do we actually know which ones are the RIGHT ones to be spending time on?

The steps below outline a process that you can use to identify your tasks, identify what they are worth, analyze the data, and then start booking your calendar in such a way that you can maximize the work you do to benefit you and your organization.

Step 1: Brainstorm all of your activities.IMG_0463

What are the primary activities you do in your business; emails, phone calls, actual “work”, social media, presentations, workshops?  Write them all down (or use excel if you are of that ilk.)

Step 2: Assign value to each of them.

This can get tricky, the key is to make your best guess.  Some items might not have a dollar attachment to them, and others you might need to do a little work for. I’ll take you through some of my examples:

Networking events: Last year I went to 27 networking events, and through those events (so far), We have approximately $10,000 worth of business.

1:1 Meetings: Last year I did approximately 100 1:1 meetings, and they yielded about $5,000 in revenue.

Get the point? It’s not a science, but you should start to see some patterns.

Step 3: Analyze the data

So you might start to see some patterns, like the 27 hours you spend on Social Media each week haven’t yet yielded you a client.  That doesn’t mean you should stop doing social media, it is an important part of your business – rather, you could probably spend 10 hours and get the same benefit, and donate some additional time to Networking events, which seem to contribute to your sales pipeline.

Step 4: Book your Calendar!

Now, book your calendar with the activities that generate VALUE, and slot in the time to take care of all of those day-to-day tasks and emails that may not add direct value, but are a necessary evil!

Have a great, productive, efficient, and VALUABLE week!

Until Next Time,


P.S. Like my doodle? Check out Carolyn Ellis at Brilliance Mastery! She taught Ruth and I how to doodle and we’re hooked.  Be prepared for many doodles to come!