Lead with Intention. Leave with Grace, Dignity, and Integrity


With intention, leaving with grace and dignity, and with your integrity intact is easier than you think. Well, maybe not easy. But, not difficult, either.

It happened on a Tuesday afternoon in June. I received an email from my boss to not leave for a road trip to Chicago, until after she and I had spoken. Odd request. We talked often and usually when one or the other—or both—were driving somewhere. She called when she could break away from the meeting she was attending at the corporate headquarters.

The news was not good. The five training managers positions for the field were being eliminated on January 1st. She tried to assure me that something would open that would work for me. Well, this truly sucks. Six months of waiting, wondering, and hoping. Also feeling anxious, desperate, and hurt. Asking questions like, How could they let us go? Our work is important to the people in the field. Who will get them the training they need? And yet… On January 1, there was no new role with the company, though many went to bat for me.

Sure, I had six months advanced notice. Of course, I brewed, stewed, and stressed like any normal mere mortal would. While having six months feels a bit luxurious, it really meant six months to brew, stew, and stress—which is not the best. Those six months were also some of the busiest months I’d experienced during my seven years working there. No time to get my resume updated or look for work elsewhere. Instead, the busy time kept me focused on the work and highly visible in the organization, at large. Never a bad thing!

During those six months of heavy work travel and high visibility is when I chose to continue to work with intention, grace, dignity, and integrity. Leadership gave me worthwhile projects to complete. My boss said that she trusted me to do what needed doing, without any hesitation in assigning the work to me. Well, okay then!


  • Defined using the words, purpose and aim. Apply them when you get up every day and choose go to work. Just as you have been. Sure, it would be easy to use up that sick time and strand leaders or coworkers. Don’t do it. Adjust your mind and get back on track and go to work emotionally, too.
  • Do the job they are still paying you for.
  • Dress for success. Meaning, this is not the time to rebel against the dress code.
  • Steer clear of situations where you could be drawn into gossip, bashing, and other types of conversations that won’t look good on you. Note: this means after work, too.

Grace and Dignity

  • Pay attention to your tone, when speaking and crafting emails.
  • Make and maintain eye contact, at all times.
  • Volunteer for additional projects.
  • Finish everything you can before you go.
  • When the last days arrive, thank people. Thank as many as possible, including the leader(s) who chose to let you go.
  • Smile, head up.


  • Integrity is largely what you do when no one is looking. This is the time to truly “put your best foot forward”.
  • For example: If you’re working late, be working not just banking hours.
  • When clearing your work area and files, take with you only what you’re entitled to take.

Let’s take a moment for a gut check:

  • What is your attitude toward the work and the organization right now?
  • What will it take to change things up if you’re not here yet?
  • How are you feeling about all of this, right now?
  • Who are your work champions that you know are in your corner and can be counted on for the big things and the small?
  • What steps are you willing to take to lead with intention, lead with intention?
  • And, leave with grace, dignity, and integrity?

Hang in there. This is not the worst thing you’ll ever go through—I promise!

Hire Dawn to help you team grow stronger together. Today.

Over 50 and Down-Sized: Word.


A few years ago, I shared the circumstances of my lay-off in a set of blog posts, as the events unfolded. An updated version (Lead with Intention. Leave with Grace, Dignity, and Integrity.) will be published on Workspace.com in December 2017.

In brief: Our group was notified, in June, that our roles were being eliminated. I was officially laid off on January 1 of 2015. Three months of severance pay, incentive bonus for staying through to the last day, and what was to be full health coverage for those three months, followed. Um…The health coverage thing never happened, but that’s another post for another day.

I’m over 50. And a woman. Who will hire me? These were—and are—the recurring thoughts swirling through my head. I try to make sense of everything and be more level-headed, however, it is important to note: While on this journey (read: roller coaster ride) the stories we tell ourselves may, OR may not, be true.

I will never know whether any of this is true, or not. In my own head, I feel like over 50, now nearer 60, is among the reasons why I haven’t been able to secure gainful employment. I’ll never know because age discrimination it a real thing. If it can be proven, it can be sued. Human Resources people in the know are very careful to never have this happen.

What company wants to hire someone who might be eligible for retirement in a few short years? Of course, no one has asked me how young I want to retire. In truth, I have almost zero savings, so I’d be willing to work for as long as they will let me. No one has asked or presented me with an opportunity.

With age comes wisdom. Right? That quote has been around forever. Women my age are revered and placed in high esteem in other countries. But, I have yet to experience this level of enlightenment in my US job search.

My years of experience (read: age) is likely another barrier to success. Having worked in my field for a few large companies, for over 25 years, and having published, might cause some hiring managers and recruiters to believe that I’ll command a high salary. I won’t. But no one has asked or presented me with an opportunity.

The financial impacts keep me scared. But, I can get tangled up in all of that. I just can’t. Terror and paralysis by analysis don’t help. But they surely are easy rabbit holes to travel down! 

What to do? Keep on, keeping on. I don’t know what else to do.

I started my own training and instructional design business, when my friends began calling to ask if I’d help with their projects.

I have worked for staffing agencies and consulting firms, which do similar work.

I keep writing and publishing where I can. There might be a book or two coming out before too long. See? You found me here!

I speak wherever and whenever I can, so far largely at my own expense. Doing this seems to be the best way to stay on top of current trends, as well as keep my content fresh and relevant. In person connections are never the wrong way to go.

There are lots of moments of indecision, impostor syndrome, and feeling as dumb as a box of rocks. In fact, I wrestle the impostor daily. (Often, SHE wins) All of this to say, that this is a journey and I don’t always get it right. But, I’m here. And I’m trying.

Hire Dawn to help you team grow stronger together. Today.


What’s surprising is that the chances of women getting a job after age 50 are a lot lower than men’s chances of getting a job.





How Well Do You Communicate?


The key to managing projects successfully is a deep, dark, well-hidden secret.

Ready? Are you certain you can handle it?

Here goes: You must have stellar communication skills.

Sounds simple, right? We all believe our communication skills are stellar. We know how to speak well, handle emails, process through the technology—all of it. But do we really? To be most effective, your communication must focus on people and their preferences.

Here are some tips for managing projects (and people) successfully:

Be on time. For calls, web conferences, events, and meetings. This establishes the fact that you are reliable and sets you up for trust-filled relationships and better rapport. Note: Showing up a little early is even better!

Be mindful and respectful of everyone’s schedules. This means choosing to postpone or cancel events as seldom as possible and with as much advance notice as possible. Sure, everyone likes to be given time back on their calendars, but frequent canceling of meetings undermines the work your team is doing and can erode trust.

Be consistent. Your people need to know what to expect. When you exhibit erratic behaviors you make it difficult for people to trust you, which limits your ability to have a successful event (or meeting).

Host a project kick-off meeting. It is vital to a project’s success that all relevant parties gather together at the start. It helps strengthen relationships, establish communication norms, ensure that everyone understands the goals and expected outcomes—and whatever else you choose to include in the agenda. Document concerns and any updates during this meeting, and then share those written notes with everyone afterwards. Face-to-face is best for this meeting, but a high-quality web conference works, too.

Discuss communication strategy. At the outset of a project, find out how each person on the team prefers to communicate and be communicated with. Be sure to cover routine project updates, as well as emergencies, quick question and answer needs, and whatever else is relevant. Honor everyone’s preferences to the best of your ability. Include phone call, email, web meeting, and instant message preferences. Make a list of how people prefer to connect for scheduled events, as well as how they like to be contacted spontaneously when needed. Set days for when to submit project reports.

More effective meetings. Use a web conferencing tool and the engagement tools it provides, such as screen sharing, chat, document upload, webcams, and the ability to rotate leader access.

Other tips for effective meetings include the following: 

  • Plan. Establish an agenda or meeting format when determining the communication strategy.
  • Ask better questions. Intentionally using open-ended questions helps draw information and more than one-word answers from your responders. Doing anything else restricts the free flow of information.
  • Honor the silence. It is easy to become uncomfortable and “squirm” when there is dead silence on calls and web conferences. Resist the temptation to jump in immediately. Silence occurs for a variety of reasons. For example, cell phone coverage can be unreliable. People might be making notes and processing what has been discussed. And, we all hate those times when people talk over each other. So, silence might just be people being polite. Step back into the conversation once you sense that everyone is ready to continue. 

Host an after project review meeting. Evaluate successes and what could have made things go more smoothly. Take notes, and share those with all participants.

Clarify, restate, and, clarify again. Make sure you know what people mean and they know what you mean. Do this in every discussion, every time. Do it both verbally and in writing.

And finally, enjoy the experience. This time spent is your opportunity to strengthen relationships, work through challenges, and celebrate wins. All of this matters and figures into the overall success of your team and project.

Want to test your current communication skills? Follow this link to a brief assessment: mindtools.com/pages/article/newCS_99.htm

If what you've read here resonates and you'd like to discuss it further, contact me, TODAY.

Originally published in ATD Links here

Let's Kill the Annual Performance Review

Beatings Meme.png

Let’s slay this zombie! Kill the undead! 

Have you ever seen a meme with this quote? It is a thing. My most cynical self believes these things are an evil plot designed by a nefarious management intent on never heaping praise on their people. They never wanted to accede to increasing what they pay their people, either. This is likely not even remotely close to the truth, but it is often what it feels like. Am I wrong? Tell me I’m wrong.

And, this information doesn’t come from my inner cynic. Instead, this information is born from years of having these things done to me, listening to friends and colleagues lament both having to participate and to having to write them for their teams. In this genre, complaints rule the day!

Note, organizations task different departments with this responsibility. And, traditional HR has been undergoing a bit of rebranding, of late. In your organization, this work could be part of the:

  • Talent Management
  • Performance Management
  • Total Rewards
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Human Capital Management
  • Employee Management Care Unit
  • People Resource Center
  • People and Development
  • Human Relations
  • Employee Support
  • Talent Resources
  • People Operations
  • Team Member Services

No matter how human resources refers to themselves, the annual performance review is also called:

  • Demotivating
  • Demoralizing
  • Waste of time
  • Energy drain
  • Time suck
  • Always feared
  • Hated
  • Check the box
  • Do them because we are required to
  • No raise anyway
  • Why do they bother?
  • Skewed rating scale
  • Exercise in short term memory
  • Excess paperwork
  • Unworkable forms and templates
  • Exercise in futility
  • Death by “feedback” and “coaching”

My opinion as to why these things generally are an epic fail and need to be re-thought are broad and deep. Eight of them are listed here for your consideration.

No training. Let me begin with my #1 reason: Little-to-no training provided, offered, or required, as to the proper way to complete the bloody things. Just, “here’s where to find the form”, “the deadline is XX/XX/XX”, and….Go! Isn’t the health of your organizational culture and employee morale worth investing some resources in making sure the people completing them know what they’re doing? And, done in a respectful way (that keeps the organization from a lawsuit at some point)?

Ridiculous Expectations. Often, completing the annual performance reviews is a test of a leader’s endurance. Everyone on their team is to receive this written “feedback”. Leaders are to complete them well, completely, and on time. All in addition to doing their “day jobs”. All reviews are due on the same date. Or else.

Unskilled at Being A Leader. For reasons that aren’t always apparent, but often include succession planning, an employer chooses to hire someone at an elevated level. Then, to justify that role, title, and salary, they must have a team reporting to them. This is true whether, or not, they have acquired the necessary skills somewhere along the way. This is a huge mistake and "breaks" people. Being unprepared to lead and unprepared to provide feedback is a great way to see how employee morale can go backwards. I have quite a lot of thoughts on the subject, which I will write about another time.

Check the Box Plan. The entire exercise exists just to check a box. Employee contributions to the effort don’t always matter. Sure, they are great reminders to the leader or manager. But too often, the employee’s contribution is merely an activity to check a box. Then, at the “review” event the leader does the talking making certain to include everything they “have to” to say.

Ridiculous Templates. Required entry is into a prescribed (read: often ridiculous) template. Sometimes, the templates are poorly designed MS Word documents, with weird formatting things to surmount. But these days, most commonly leaders and managers type the information into a talent management “system”. Few instructions provided. Information is to fit into boxes with a prescribed number of characters allowed. Sometimes there is a series of recursive questions, meaning the response generates a new question. None of this is conducive to creative thought and writing in a caring, thoughtful way about an ACTUAL PERSON.

Great at their jobs. Not coaching. Coaching is not an innate skill. We need to learn how to do it, practiced often, and developed over time—after relationships are well established. Therefore, most people providing feedback and coaching to others are inexperienced at doing so effectively. This isn’t their fault when it doesn’t go as well as it could. Also, coaching is not a topic generally offered in schools. In my opinion, many people are forced to use the “baptism by fire” method and learn from doing what not to do.

Getting feedback is tough. Receiving feedback is also not an innate skill. Since being on the receiving end of anything is rarely comfortable, we need to ease into it. To begin, the level of trust between the feedback giver and feedback receiver must be at an all-time high. Otherwise, forget it. Don’t go there. Not even for a minute.

Carrot with a stick. And finally, let’s just STOP with the carrot/stick events. Meaning having the annual raise/no raise conversation at the same time as “giving feedback”. Doing it this way dilutes the performance conversation. The coachee sits through the whole discussion thinking, “Yeah, yeah, how long until we get to the money part of this deal? How much will I get?” Really. Just stop. What it feels like: the “carrot and the stick”, feedback must be endured just to find out whether there is a raise or not.

Moving away from why this model doesn’t work to suggestions for an alternative plan. When handled well and consistently, these ideas honor the work of your employees and set them up for success. (not dread) Following are some pieces of advice I’ve developed over the years to help leaders and managers to be successful. Why? Because your success matters to me. And, so does the success of your people.

Coaching has a bad reputation. “Coaching”. This word often has a bad reputation. I suggest NEVER even using that word to describe a discussion of people’s job and work performance. Especially if the “coach” intends the message is to be received by the coachee in a positive manner. Also, whenever the message the coach is communicating includes the addition of developing skills and/or tasks to the coachee’s work.

Instead, have regularly scheduled conversations with your coachee. Some of these conversations should be completely unscripted and all about you listening and the individual member of your staff talking about whatever they need or want to talk about. It is okay for you, the leader/manager to have an agenda, but this should be more the exception than the rule. Doing this often and well means the annual performance planning conversation and review will be less stressful for everyone. There will also be higher levels of trust and engagement on both sides, too.

Next, each side prepares a few talking points before the annual performance planning discussion and review. Devote equal time to each side’s discussion items. Setting things up this way sets the discussion up to be a dialog between two people, with no risk of it being a one-sided lecture.

It bears repeating that none of us is born adept at receiving feedback well. The higher the risk, the bigger the impact, and the more investment the coachee has made, the greater the level of stress over receiving feedback will be. To be successful, a few performance planning and review conversation tips:

  • Every leader and manager must approach these conversations planning for them to be a dialog. Meaning both people speak and the amount of time each receives is equal.
  • Without trust and a relationship between the coach and coachee, this is difficult at best. Do those things first. Performance planning and feedback can wait.
  • When trust is present, the coachee will be able to be more open to the dialog. Until there is trust, there is liable to be resentment and doing things out of fear.
  • Resolving the “carrot and the stick” situation is simple. As mentioned above, have regularly scheduled discussions with every staff member means you’re just having another conversation. Then, schedule a separate event to discuss the financial aspects of the annual performance review.

You will probably have little, or no, impact over the template, format, or online tool used. Having written this, I still have a few success tips to share:

  • Begin as soon as the review period starts.
  • Don’t try to do them all at once.
  • Your staff deserves to have time spent on the written and narrative portion of the review. Make and take the time needed.
  • NO surprises. Ever. This is completely inappropriate and not the time.
  • The narrative should reflect the entire previous review period’s conversation between you. Also, it should never be only a few recent memories you haven’t previously discussed.
  • Keep excellent notes all year, so compiling into the performance planning discussion and review should be relatively easy to pull together.

You will probably have little influence over killing this zombie any time soon. But, you can continue to engage in the discussion with HR. You can also change your approaches to how you do things. If you do, you’ll certainly reduce the zombie’s size and increase the level of effectiveness with your staff. And, isn’t that the point anyway? I think it is.  

Contact me for help with this, updating your training strategy, or building stronger teams. I can't wait to talk with you!




Someone as cynical as I am about this topic: https://www.forbes.com/sites/yishanwong/2012/02/11/the-peculiar-origins-of-the-performance-review-and-other-hr-bureaucracy/#6ee53fb55b00