Category: General

Getting Things Done


Serene Almehmi is an Intern from the University of North Carolina. (photo by Donn Young.)

Getting things done is much bigger than checking items off a to-do list, though
that is incredibly satisfying. It involves adopting new habits, tools, and processes that
can help us become our most productive selves.

Setting intentional priorities is the framework for getting things done. If everything
is important, nothing is. To-do lists are often lengthy and ever-evolving with little thought
given to how much priority each item should receive.

Five choices can transform your checklist and help you focus on extraordinary

1. Act on the Important
People have the potential to achieve remarkable things, not by getting everything done,
but by getting the right things done.

2. Go for the Extraordinary
Dream big, take every opportunity you can to learn, and take action.

3. Schedule the Big Rocks
The Big Rocks are your most important priorities, so put them in your calendar first.
That way, less important things have to fight their way onto your calendar.

4. Rule your Technology
With technology, our attention is always under unprecedented attack. To reduce the
interruption, check your email at scheduled times and put away your phone as much as
possible at work.

5. Fuel your Fire
Today’s exhausting, high pressure work environment burns people out at an alarming
rate. Take time for yourself to renew your sources of energy: be social, seek inspiration,
exercise, and rest.

Who Wants to Play?

April Benetollo, CEO Momentum

Jenny Golden is the founder of MyPRISM. Jenny is a Natural Health Practitioner and Behavior Analyst. She has designed MyPRISM to guide others toward a sense of flourishing, and has been doing so with the Momentum Team!  Recently Jenny took our team to the playground. I asked her to take our lesson and modify it into a blog post we could share. Enjoy! 

Play is often seen as something that is only for children or something that is frivolous and unnecessary. However, play is an essential part of our health and wellbeing, no matter what age we are. Researcher Johan Huizinga defined play as “Play is a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious,’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner.  In this blog, we will explore the importance of play in health, and how it fits into the PRISM model of health and radiance.

Most of us have not been engaging in the types and quantities of play as we did as children.  In order to get back to our play roots and benefit from this fundamental category of health, we will dig into what play looks and feels like as a reorientation to this concept.  

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, who founded the National Institute of Play, the following are the seven properties of play:

  • Apparently purposeless: Play is done for its own sake, not for any external goal or reward.
  • Voluntary nature: It is a freely chosen activity, not forced or required.
  • Inherent attraction: Play is enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding.
  • Freedom from time: It can happen for as long or as short a time as the player desires.
  • Diminished self-consciousness: During play, we are less concerned with how we appear.
  • Improvisational potential: Play can be creative and spontaneous, with the player making up or changing the rules as they go.
  • Continuation of desire: It is a pursuit of something we enjoy and desire, and we feel we do not want it to end.  
Andrea McCaskey, Statewide Director of Programs Momentum

There are many benefits to play that make it an important part of our health and wellbeing. Play increases PERMA, a model of well being that has been studied to increase human flourishing.  PERMA stands for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. It lowers stress, speeds up learning, increases social wellbeing, and heals emotional wounds.

In the PRISM model of health and radiance, play is one of five fundamental pillars. It falls under the “P” pillar, which stands for play. The other pillars are:

“R” stands for Relate:  connecting with others and ourselves in meaningful and fulfilling ways. 

“I” stands for Illuminate:  lowering and managing our everyday stress burden. 

“S” stands for sustain:  consuming foods, beverages, supplements and medicines that fuel us to live our best and brightest lives.  “M” stands for mend:  repairing our bodies physically and emotionally.


Play is intricately involved in all of these areas of health.

Playing to relate can increase emotional intelligence, refine skills such as boundaries, communication, body language, cooperation with others. 

Playing to illuminate can lower cortisol and increase norepinephrine, connect parts of the brain associated with learning and acquisition of new habits, enhance meditation and mindfulness, and increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor)in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex where decisions are made.  BDNF promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells

Playing to sustain can increase enjoyment of healthy foods, slow eating for better digestion, and increase excitement about consuming healthy foods. 

Playing to mend can increase BDNF in the amygdala where trauma, hurt, and fear reside, help us process difficult emotions, protect the brain and increase deep sleep.  

Knowing the elements of play is important in recognizing when we are in a state of play. Dr. Scott Eberle describes the elements of play to include:

  • Anticipation
  • Surprise
  • Pleasure
  • Understanding
  • Strength
  • Poise
  • Grace
  • Contentment

There are many different play personalities, and everyone may have a combination of them. They include artist/creators, jokers, collectors, kinesthetics, storytellers, explorers, competitors, and directors.

Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator Momentum

If you are looking to begin playing, there are a few tips to get started.

  1. Observe play experts, both children and adults, who embody a playful lifestyle. 
  2. Learn about the benefits of play.  Many research studies have been conducted on the importance and benefits of play.  The National Institute of Play offers many resources and education for anyone looking to learn more about play.  
  3. Set play goals.  Even small amounts of time getting into a playful mindset can have a big impact on health outcomes and flourishing.  Set strategic times and ways that you will engage in play on a daily basis.
  4. Engage others in your play.  Building a community of playing can help you have accountability as well as increased motivation and fun when you are beginning your play journey.  
  5. Have fun discovering your own play style.  Playing again can feel a bit awkward at first.  Try a variety of ways to play to discover the right one that works for you. 
  6. Remember that play gets better and better the more you do it.  The more we build these skills, the more we will enjoy the increases in feel good neurotransmitters that are increased in a state of play.  

It’s time to bring back the joy and freedom of play into our lives. Don’t let the responsibilities of adulthood make you forget the importance of play. Playing is not only fun and exciting, but it’s also essential for our health and well-being. It helps to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and boost our mood. So, let’s make time to get outside and play like we did when we were kids. Whether it’s with friends, family, or even on our own, let’s embrace the power of play and rediscover the joy of being carefree and playful. Let’s make it a priority to get moving, have fun, and improve our overall health and well-being. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get out there and play!

Contributed by Jenny Golden, Founder
February 28, 2023

Intentional Networking

This is the third and final post in our series of mentoring content shared by a panel of Momentum graduates at a recent Birmingham Southern College event. 

No matter what level of business you represent, sometimes the mere mention of networking can be anxiety-inducing. Instead of anticipating great opportunities to start a conversation with a new connection, learn a valuable skill, or learn someone’s story, you may feel apprehensive about meeting people you don’t know. You might be thinking…

“Who do I talk to?” 

“What do I say?”

“How do I stay true to myself?”

When you use a more intentional approach, you get to make the decisions. You can be purposeful about your strategy so that you can achieve the specific outcome that is important to you. By being intentional, you can eliminate anxiety associated with networking. 

Below, our Birmingham Southern  College panelists share their responses to the students’ questions about how-to:

  • Improve your conversational skills
  • Identify the right people to talk to
  • Navigate introverted and extroverted personalities

How do you approach people?

The most important factor in approaching a person in networking is confidence. It’s particularly important not to talk yourself out of approaching someone due to a lack of confidence. More than likely, if you’re at a networking event, people are there to do the same! In most cases, people are open to meeting others and, at a minimum, having small introductory conversations. As you consider approaching someone, have a few ideas in mind for conversation topics. And don’t forget to smile! 

It could be a very simple conversation starter such as; “isn’t this food delicious” or “wow this is a really nice venue” or “ I love those shoes you are wearing, they look so cute and comfortable.” It could be an introduction: “Hi, I’m …, how are you?” or you can even fib a little and go with the common “What’s your name, you look familiar”.  Also remember, at any time, if a conversation is not flowing well, or the person is not receptive to chatting, feel free to say “nice to meet you and goodbye,” then move on to the next person. Whatever approach you take, just remember you’re just as valuable as anyone else in the room. 

How can you introduce yourself in a non-awkward way/confident way?

My preference is to begin with a common interest or a compliment. These two methods are my go-to for introductions in social and professional settings. People often love to talk about themselves and their interests; therefore, these methods typically open the door for a genuine introduction and confident first impression.

How do you exhibit courage when you feel social anxiety?

  • Breathe!  Understand that nerves are natural.  There’s no super button to push and say, “adrenalin, stop!”
  • Take a moment to lower your head, close your eyes, and imagine the room.
  • I say a simple prayer: Lord help. Speak through me.
  • I imagine myself on top of the world! I remember the WHY! And I open my eyes, ready to confidently invite others on my journey.

I’m an introvert, what are some best practices in approaching people? What if you don’t know their name or anything about them?

Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you aren’t social. In fact, introverts make great networkers because they listen so well! The challenge for most introverts is in starting the conversation. Envision a really great conversation already happening and simply get it started with something like, “hello, my name is…and you are? What brings you here today?”

I have “big” energy! How do I dial it back to make a good first impression?

First and foremost, never feel as though you must come across as “meek”, “soft spoken”, or “not ambitious”. “Big” energy can help sell you and the goals you are hoping to achieve. It may be deemed socially inappropriate for a woman to be exuberant, but with a little emotional awareness it can be exceedingly beneficial. What you will want to avoid is overstepping or being overbearing in a conversation. Here are some resources on how to better navigate conversations so you avoid overstepping or appearing overbearing:

Good conversation starters:

You can’t go wrong with a compliment – as long as it’s honest! Be aware that not all compliments have to be about physical appearance. Women tend to focus so much on that. It might be something like, “I follow you on LinkedIn and really enjoy your posts.” If it’s a natural time for a good conversation-starting question, I love asking people “if you could do anything, you’re guaranteed to make a million dollars and you could not fail, what would you do?” There is so much to learn about people from the answers!

How do you end a conversation?

  • Hey, thanks so much for talking with me today. I’m going to [grab food, head out, say hello to a friend, mingle, etc.] – it was great to meet you! Let’s connect again soon (optional, depending on the conversation).
  • I really enjoyed talking with you today! I have to run, but would like to continue the conversation – would you like to exchange contact information?


How do you interrupt or insert yourself in a group conversation that’s already happening?

First, remember to breathe. Approaching a group can be hard, so take a deep breath, then smile. Coming into a group that is already in conversation can be tricky, so listen for a bit. Once you get a feel for the conversation topic, if a natural opening occurs, feel free to speak up. Start by simply introducing yourself! Then you can ask open ended questions or comment on the topic being discussed. Being an active listener, asking questions to and about others, and having a positive demeanor will get you into the conversation. 

If you need to start the conversation, have a few questions in mind – people love to talk about themselves. Have an idea about a popular current event, or something going on in the city that would allow people to connect and/or build a conversation. Things like where you went to school, sports teams you cheer for, restaurants you love, books you’ve recently read, all can lead to great conversations. Making a connection with someone in the group will help you feel more comfortable and connected. Don’t interrupt other speakers or talk over anyone, but slide into the conversation and be yourself. 

How do you navigate talking to someone who doesn’t seem interested?

  1. Be transparent about your networking intentions by clearly expressing your desire to connect and learn more about their field or industry.
  2. Ask open-ended questions to build rapport and encourage conversation. An example could be “Can you tell me more about your experience in the [industry/field] and how you got started in it?” and “What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing in your work, and how are you addressing them?”
  3. Be a good listener by paying attention to what the other person says, and you respond thoughtfully.
  4. Remember that only some people are interested in networking; some may be more focused on their work or personal life and may not be looking to expand their professional network.
  5. If the person is not interested or busy, please don’t take it personally; you can move on and find other networking opportunities.

How do you discover contacts in your desired industry?

What has been most effective for me has been tapping into other people’s networks. Reach out to someone you already know in your field (a professor, a former boss, a peer, etc.) and ask the question “Who else should I know in this industry? Could you connect us?” and then reach out to that connection for a conversation about their work. Meet for coffee. Figure out what information would be helpful ahead of time so you can ask genuine questions. At the end of that conversation, ask the same question – “who else should I know? Could you connect us?”

Once you get the hang of intentional networking, it really is an enjoyable experience!

Imposter Syndrome: Tips on How to Cope

Imposter Syndrome: Wouldn’t it be great if you could just snap your fingers and get over it already?! 

Many women in our network struggle to overcome imposter syndrome. Even our seasoned executives occasionally wrestle with the sinking feeling they don’t belong in the room. We would give anything to provide that one silver bullet that would silence imposter syndrome forever, but we’ve discovered it’s a journey. Life and work is ebb and flow, sometimes we’re crushing it and sometimes we struggle. It’s okay to feel this way.

At a recent event, we asked several Momentum panelists to share their best practices for Navigating Imposter Syndrome. Here are their recommendations:

  • Your story is YOUR STORY, not anyone else’s
  • Accept that what you’re experiencing is real
  • Channel your worth and champion your value
  • At the end of the day, you were chosen to speak and to share
  • Assertively use your voice.  After all, no one can share the BEST thoughts about you, but you.

The tips in Ethan Kross’s book, Chatter have helped me get a grip on my imposter syndrome. I keep the following page of tips in my planner, so it goes to work with me every day!

Tips from Chatter by Ethan Kross

Use distanced self-talk when working through a difficult experience. Use your name and second-person “you” to refer to yourself. Doing so is linked to less rumination, improved performance under stress, wiser thinking, and less negative emotion

Imagine advising a friend. What would you say to a friend experiencing the same problem? Think about this advice and apply it to yourself.

Broaden your perspective. Think about how the experience you’re worrying about compares with other adverse events you or others have endured, how it fits into the broader scheme of your life and world, and how people you admire would respond to the situation.

Reinterpret your body’s chatter response. Your body’s response to stress is an adaptive evolutionary reaction that improves performance under high-stress conditions. Tell yourself that your sudden rapid breathing, pounding heart, and sweaty palms are there not to sabotage you but to help you respond to the challenge.

Normalize your experience. Knowing you’re not alone can be a potent way of quelling chatter. Use the word “you” to refer to people in general when you think and talk about negative experiences. This helps you reflect on their experiences from a healthy distance and clarifies that what happened is not unique to them but part of being human.

Engage in mental time-travel. Consider how you’ll feel a month, year, or even longer from now. Remind yourself that you’ll look back on whatever is upsetting you in the future and it’ll seem much less upsetting, and will highlight the impermanence of your current emotional state

Change the view. Take the perspective of a fly on the wall looking down at your situation, and try to understand why your “distant self” is feeling the way it is. This will allow you to focus less on emotional features and more on reinterpreting the event to promote insight and closure.

Write expressively. Write about your deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding your negative experience for 15-20 mins a day for 1-3 consecutive days. Really let yourself go as you jot down your stream of thoughts. Focusing on your experience from a narrator’s perspective helps provide distance from the experience and make sense of the situation.

Adopt the perspective of a neutral 3rd party. If you find yourself experiencing chatter over a negative interaction that involves others, assume the perspective of a neutral third-party observer who is motivated to find the best outcome for all parties involved. This will reduce negative emotions, quiets the agitated inner voice, and enhances the quality of relationships we share with people with whom we’ve had negative interactions

Clutch a lucky charm or embrace superstition. Simply believing that an object or superstitious behavior will help relieve chatter often works by harnessing the brain’s power of expectation.

Perform a ritual. Performing a ritual (a fixed sequence of behaviors that is infused with meaning) provides you with a sense of order and control that can be helpful when experiencing chatter.

Create order in your environment. Boost your sense of control by imposing order in your surroundings. Organize and tidy your environment, make a list, arrange different objects to help provide a sense of mental order.

Increase your exposure to green spaces. Spending time in green space helps replenish the brain’s limited attentional reserves, which are useful for combating chatter. Go for a walk in a tree-lined park or street, or watch a film clip of nature on your computer. Stare at a photograph of a green scene, or listen to nature sounds.

Seek out awe-inspiring experiences. Feeling awe allows us to transcend our current concerns in ways that put our problems in perspective. Take in a breathtaking vista, view a remarkable piece of art. Create spaces that elicit feelings of awe.

Minimize passive social media use. Doom-scrolling can trigger self-defeating, envy-inducing thought spirals. Use technologies actively to connect with others instead of passive consumption.

Look at a photo of a loved one. Thinking about others who care about us reminds us that there are people we can turn to when we need support during times of emotional distress. This can soothe our inner voice when you are consumed with chatter.

Build a board of advisors. Find the right people to talk to who are skilled in satisfying your emotional and cognitive needs so that they can help you reduce chatter. Lean on people from different areas of your life to pull in different perspectives.

Imposter Syndrome can show up in many forms trying to derail our focus, confidence, and hard work. When you encounter the struggle of imposter syndrome, bookmark these best practices to help you as you’re navigating your own journey.


Contributed by Mindy Santo,

Momentum Mentoring Coordinator

Birmingham Southern and Momentum Host Women’s Success Event

Post contributed by Mindy Santo, Momentum Mentoring Coordinator

Recently Birmingham Southern College (BSC) reached out to Momentum Leaders to participate in their Women’s Success Event. The BSC Director of Internships, Katy Smith, joined forces with the Panhellenic the largest Momentum/BSC event to date. Momentum has a history of collaborating with the college to provide mentors for panel discussions, conversations with students, and class presentations.

Members of our Upward Alumnae Council (UAC) mentoring committee, and Momentum Mentoring Program mentees shared their expertise with students speaking about the following topics: The Value of Mentoring, How to Navigate Imposter Syndrome, and best practices for Intentional Networking. The students even got an opportunity to apply the networking skills learned during the intentional networking session!

The Women’s Success Event was completely student-led, planned, and organized down to the signage that was shared throughout the campus and online. The event reached over 150 students, many of whom had great feedback about their experience. In fact, as we were wrapping up the event, all students and Momentum volunteers participated in a Mentimeter exercise to allow students to engage and ask questions anonymously. They even shared well-deserved accolades to several of our mentors! Momentum will certainly partner with BSC again to reach more women as they prepare to enter the workforce.


“It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone”

“Definitely offer this at other schools”

“It was fun and should be an annual event”

“I think this went well, especially for the first time!”

Based on what the students shared, we think the Q&A would be beneficial to our diverse audience of professionals, business owners, students. We’ll post some of that dialog on our social media throughout the month of February 2023.

The event was a perfect opportunity for Momentum to create a framework that we can apply to more university partners in our network. We’re excited about what’s next with our college partnerships!

Darla Morrison, Momentum Program & Event Manager, Maya Madden, former Momentum Intern and current BSC student, and Mindy Santo, Momentum’s Mentoring Coordinator helped to organize the event.














Setting Goals

Serene Almehmi is an Intern from the University of North Carolina. (photo by Donn Young.)

Setting clear goals and objectives help us to get things done. Continuous planning ensures personal and career success. To develop a plan, first define your goals, objectives, and weekly priorities on a regular basis.


Goals should be somewhat broad in nature as well as achievable within 90 days. Before drafting your goal, consider your current role and how you contribute to your company’s higher-level plan (or if your goal is a personal one, how does it support your higher purpose.) Then, create a compelling goal that contains both a “what” and a “why.” For example, in 2021, Momentum set the goal of launching the Men with Momentum program (what) in order to engage a strategic group of men from sponsor companies as allies in equity for women leaders (why).


Objectives are specific tasks that help you achieve your goal. Objectives should  be measurable, time-bound, and relevant to the bigger picture. Creating impactful objectives requires measurable benchmarks to ensure you stay on track, so due dates and time frames are often beneficial.

Weekly Priorities

Prioritization is necessary to guarantee that all important tasks get completed. Prioritizing increases productivity and limits stress, so you don’t scramble to finish a slew of tasks at one time. Each week, set three priorities that feed into your objective and ultimately help you achieve your overarching goal.

With a little discipline around these three planning activities, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of reaching new goals.

Your 2023 Momentum

As one year ends and another begins, I am thinking about all of the women out there making (and sometimes breaking) those New Year resolutions. Midnight on December 31st is an arbitrary time and date stamp. When you have Momentum, there is no end and no beginning–there is only adding energy to what is already there:

momentum – n. – the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.

When you have Momentum, you are already a force moving onwards and upwards. You use the tools we provide to increase your emotional intelligence, uncover your strengths, smooth out the work/family blend, and lead with confidence, clarity, and purpose. When you experience challenges, your network of Momentum supporters is there to help. When you experience success, your network is there to celebrate with you.

No matter where you are in your life journey or how you view the New Year, we invite you to add more Momentum under your wings:

Indulge in self-discovery 
Because we are always evolving, self-discovery never stops. Some of the techniques we use to aid in self-discovery include journaling, auto-biographies, personality assessments, and meditation.

Visualize the possibilities
Leverage your strengths, passions and leadership style to cast a new vision.

Go for it
Armed with self-awareness and a vision for the future, the next step is an action plan. Hone in on 3-4 goals with associated action steps, resources needed, timeframes, and success measures.

Leverage your network
Be intentional about your personal and professional connections, consider a mentoring relationship, and seek ways to be involved in the community.

In addition to our leadership programs, Momentum has many free resources to help:

2023 Leadership Breakfast
Upcoming webinar
Momentum YouTube channel
Momentum Matters podcast
Mentor Matching program

We are here to keep the Momentum going all year long!




April Benetollo, CEO

That’s a Wrap

Though I still haven’t wrapped one single gift yet (yes, I am a lifelong holiday procrastinator) I am very proud to proclaim 2022 a wrap. It’s our last week in the office before the holidays, which is always a time of reflection on the year.

Honestly, so much happened in 2022 that it feels like three years rolled into one! As I look back on what we have been able to accomplish with this small but mighty team, I could not be more proud. Here are just a few of the 2022 highlights:

More than 1,225 leaders attended our 2022 Momentum Leadership Conference. With 36 sessions, and three keynote speakers, topics ranged from career pathing to navigating change, to conflict resolution and leadership philosophy, to name a few.

20 women completed our first Momentum Leaders in Medicine at UAB program. This program is specifically designed to empower women in medicine through a 9-month leadership curriculum, mentoring opportunities, and networking at our state’s largest employer. Although women represent most of the US healthcare workforce, they only represent 25% of senior leadership positions.

Our executive program launched in Huntsville! We are thrilled to deliver on this important first step to take Momentum statewide. Our inaugural class of 16 is now halfway through their program year, and they are crushing it.

Mindy Santo coordinated 83 mentor matches in the past 12 months. This cost-free service for women in our communities (and beyond) addresses the “broken rung” in the ladder for women by giving them the network and mentorship from executive women who share their strengths and/or career paths.

Our Momentum team grew by two! Katie Hannah joined Momentum in May as our first full-time Director of Development, and Jaclynn Maxwell Hudson joined us part-time in June as our Operations Manager. Both hit the ground running on day one and are doing a great job adding to our momentum.

With so many new initiatives, it’s even more impressive how Andrea McCaskey, Tina Upshaw and Darla Morrison deliver an exceptional experience for our executive class 20, Upward class 4, and Men with Momentum participants.

As we look ahead to the New Year, don’t miss the free webinar on January 11th with Vitale Hardin, and be sure to put the March 23, 2023 Leadership breakfast on your calendar!

Wishing everyone a healthy, joyful, and restful holiday.




April Benetollo

Announcing Upward Alumnae Council

Momentum is pleased to announce the formation of our inaugural Upward Alumnae Council. The Upward Alumnae Council is the managing body of the Upward Alumnae program and was created to further support the Momentum mission by engaging its membership in three main areas:

  1. Community service
  2. Mentoring
  3. Professional and leadership development

Council members will work together in building the Upward alumnae network, providing educational opportunities for members, and hosting community service and impact initiatives.

Yolanda Johnson, UAC Chair

Meetings for the Council will be held bi-monthly during its inaugural year and is chaired by Yolanda Johnson, Upward Class 1 Alumna and National Director, HR Strategy and Org Development for Encompass Health.  In her role as chair, Yolanda will be an ex-officio member of the Momentum Leaders board of directors. Yolanda says she is “excited to serve her Upward Alumnae peers in this capacity and looks forward to opportunities to continue to strengthen women leadership within Birmingham.”

Other Upward Alumnae Council members, serving a two year term, include:

  • Sam Knight
  • Lauren Leach
  • Jamie Lewis
  • Melissa Mann
  • Kate McCombs
  • Denise McFadden
  • Carson Phillips
  • Alaina Ploski
  • Amelia Ricks
  • Mo Shorts
  • Lee Thrash O’Neil
  • Nan Wagner

Managing Difficult Conversations, Remotely

In our October webinar, Dr. Kristin Powell shared her insights for creating a culture where difficult conversations are not so hard. Having the tough talk gets a little more complicated with remote employees, so let’s review a few tips to make those conversations successful.

Address Issues, Behaviors, and Misunderstandings Head-On

You know when something doesn’t “sit well” with you. It could be a misunderstanding over something a co-worker said. Or perhaps you are reading too much into an employee consistently appearing defensive. It’s best to address any such concerns as close to “real time” as possible. That way the behavior is fresh and hasn’t had time to fade from memory or build up into something bigger than it needs to be.

Be Prepared

In just the same way that you would prepare for an interview, sales pitch, or salary negotiation, you need to prepare for your difficult conversation. You’ll need facts, examples, and neutral sounding questions. You’ll also want to anticipate likely responses and how you will handle them. This is really important with remote conversations, since reading the other person’s facial expressions and body language is so much more difficult.

Reiterate Positive Intent

Let the other person know you care about them and share the common goal of making XYZ (team, organizational objectives, etc.) work for everyone. That’s why you’d like to talk about this issue, it seems to be getting in the way of that common goal. Express that it is your intent to 1) understand, and 2) help resolve. With remote employees, it’s good to have some additional resources you can share that can help them continue the behavior change you are asking for even after you disconnect.

Allow Time to Hear Their Side

Difficult conversations are not a one way street. For some reason, video tends to make these kinds of conversations more lopsided than normal. Pay special attention to the opportunities you give for the other person to share their perceptions. Ask questions like “is there something I may be missing?” or “can you tell me more about what you meant?”

Always Follow Up

If an issue is important enough to require a tough talk, it’s not likely to be a one-and-done thing. The follow up to a difficult conversation can be just as important as the conversation itself, particularly with remote employees. During your conversation, agree on what would be a reasonable amount of time to check back in. This lets your remote employee or co-worker know that you care enough to make see the resolution through.

Having these conversations isn’t easy, but not having them is worse! Make sure your remote teams get the same level of feedback as your in-office teams do to keep everyone performing at their best.