Tag Archives: Relationships

You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask… (Flashback)

The devil is in the details and there’s no more fertile ground for relational bad-doing than what’s been left unsaid. Learning to ask more disciplined and purposeful questions will help you increase communication’s effectiveness, decrease unvoiced assumptions and keep devilish surprises out of your interactions. So, this week we’re looking back to 2015 for some timely advice about questions…

You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask…

Discovering possibilities, opportunities and potential takes the same skills as uncovering ignorance, incompetence and evasion. It’s all in how you ask the question.

Executives, lawyers, salespeople and anyone that’s ever been in a relationship can benefit from a deeper understanding of questions. The topic is so important that in 2014, John C. Maxwell dedicated an entire book to the connection between leadership and asking good questions.

Here are 6 commonsense ways to ask better questions.

  1. Be specific: Clear questions generate clear answers. Specificity doesn’t mean that you need to structure your questions narrowly, but state them clearly. Remember, the information you request also defines the information you won’t receive. This is especially true in evaluating strategic progress with rich activity levels. If you don’t know the information you need, it’s unlikely you’ll receive it.
  2. Listen: A question is only as good as your ability to understand the answer. Life is full of nuances, so an answer may contain information or shadings you may not appreciate while you are hearing the response. Be thoughtful and give yourself time to consider the answer and its implications.
  3. Don’t play ahead: Avoid thinking about your next question while someone is answering your last one. Show respect and care by being in the moment.
  4. Avoid judgmental responses: Great questions facilitate great conversations. The point of the conversation is to learn, build trust and develop a platform for future interactions. Providing judgmental feedback is a sure way to shut down the entire process.
  5. Follow up: Having taken the time to consider the answer purposefully follow-up with clarifying questions.
  6. Open up: It’s a two-way street, others are likely to mimic the degree to which you let your guard down, share openly and be yourself.

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Until next time. Stay connected.

Original Post: September 4, 2015 (http://jeffkaplan.com/2015/09/youll-only-get-answers-to-the-questions-you-ask/)

Arguments, Discussions & What Bad Bosses Do…

“Any argument has two sides, and they’re usually married to each other.”

There are three basic ways to resolve differences among people; argue, discuss or declare. It’s likely that you’ve had experiences with each and every favor (sometimes unknowingly) one approach over another. What method you choose and when and where you choose to apply it speaks volumes about who you are and the nature of your personal relationships.

While most people outwardly view showing and telling as a high-risk, low-reward approach; few of us consciously choose to argue out our differences. Typically, an emotional response with little forethought, our ability to avoid arguments in favor of discussion, is a strong indicator of emotional maturity.

Being right doesn’t mean much, if you are the only one that thinks so ”.

Many of us prefer to view ourselves in the well-balanced light of the listener-learner that harnesses the power of the discussion to drive performance and enhance social bonds. However, just as emotions can move use into an argumentative danger zone, lack of consideration may cause us to overlook opportunities for productive discussion.

The big no-no for leaders comes with the short-fused use of declarations. At home, out of frustration, exhaustion and the sheer desire to make-it-stop, parents resort to declarations as means to summarily dismiss younger children. The approach loses much of its effectiveness on pre-teens, is entirely ineffective with teens and is a cautionary tale when applied to a spouse (DON’T DO IT).

So, why do some leaders feel they have the right to summarily dismiss the opinions of employees by declaring how it’s going to be? Sure, there are some cases where snap judgments need to be made and made now. But for those leaders that believe their hierarchical role, paygrade or other anointed power gives them the right to treat employees’ opinions with less respect than we would grade school-aged children, is simple unacceptable.

The bigger question is… why do we let leaders behave badly?

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Until next time. Stay connected.


What Have Those Fockers at Work Gotten You Into?

Exploring Work Family Roles…

You’ve probably thought about who your work wife or husband is, now it’s time to consider the rest of your work family.

Here’s a fun look at some of the work family roles I’ve encountered… which one are you?

Work Parent (can be a man or a woman): This self-appointed adult supervisor is process oriented, control driven and strives for predictability. The Work Parent maintains impossibly high self-standards and isn’t shy about evaluating the performance of other family members.

Older Sibling (may be young or old): Older siblings see tasks and the emotional tensions that accompany them as separate and distinct. These go-with-the-flow work family members find great humor in how others internalize work issues and respond to perceived slights.

Younger Sibling (may be young or old): While the younger sibling often worries about being taken seriously, they are most comfortable when the family is together, happy and having fun. In some ways competing for attention, the siblings share a special bond and often share a private laugh at how the rest of the family acts.

Family Pet (can be anyone or any role): The family pet, while loved, is a productive outcast whose view of the world simply doesn’t align with the rest of the team. CAUTION: If you don’t know who the family pet is in your work family…. IT’S YOU!

Crazy Aunts & Uncles (mid to senior level): Crazy aunts and uncles will conjure up occasional moments of focus and lucidity. They’ll lay down the law and enforce the rules one minute and in the next, they’ll switch to an unrelated topic and break the very rules they’d set.

Disconnected Grand-People (can be any age): Unquestionably successful, the results of their efforts are all around them. Their big-thinking habits and unrelenting drive have made it difficult for them to relate to the rest of the family, causing them to seem disinterested and bored.

So which one are you? Or are there other roles I’ve missed?

Regardless of the role you play, you and your work family are in what Robert Di Nero (Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers) called, the Circle of Trust and you don’t want to leave that circle, because once you are out…

Stay in our inner circle by sharing your thoughts and insights directly with me at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.


Happy Dependence Day! (Flashback Friday 2015)

In the U.S.A. it’s time for hot dogs, fireworks and a long weekend of summer celebration.

While we collectively give thanks for our independence, it’s also a good time to reflect on how much we depend on others for our own success.

Why is it you speak your native language?
It’s very likely because that’s the language spoken by the people around you as a child.

Why do listen to certain kinds of music?
It’s likely that some people influenced what music you like and others (read as your kids) probably influenced what music you don’t like.

We are inexorably linked to those around us…

So what better time than Independence Day to celebrate our interconnected dependence?

Whether you are here in the states, or somewhere else in the world, take a moment this weekend to connect and reconnect.

  1. Connect: Send a short note or make a call to someone that’s helped you along the way and offer your appreciation. Your message will brighten the day of the person you are connecting with and help make a strong relationship even stronger.
  2. Reconnect: Can you think of someone you really care about that you haven’t connected with in a while? Just writing this question spurs a series of names for me (Rachael, Gary, Derek, JP, Martin…). Reach out! Let that person know, that even though it’s been a while, he or she is on your mind. There’s no better time like the present to erase the time and distance between you and an old friend. Remember not to celebrate too much, reach out too late in the evening, or make a questionable decision on whom to call or what to say…keep it light, positive and drama free…

Here’s to a productive, profitable and healthy second half of 2015 (and now 2016)!



His Royal Purple-ness… Lessons from a Musical Master: Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 6)

On April 21, 2016 the world lost one of its most gifted musicians and performers. While Prince and his music helped define my generation, I will remember him as much for his keen intellect as for his hypnotic and sometimes naughty lyrics.

Prince’s life reflected the human connections that were the subjects of his work. Not only did he value relationships, he was purposeful about creating a strong RELATIONAL CORE (the 5 relationships critical to personal and professional success).

Without a strong relational core you won’t have the constant and candid feedback and self-awareness to develop a healthy and confident relationship with work.


Mentor– Do you have a mentor?…someone to help you develop the skills necessary to succeed in what you do and take you to the next level?

Princely Advice: A mentor is NEVER someone on your payroll.

Sponsor– Key to the development of your success story, a sponsor is someone publicly committed to advancing your career. Sponsors may or may not be in your organization, but they are in a position to help promote you as a brand and they’ve committed to doing just that.

Purple Promoter: Owen Husney signed an unknown 17 year old musical prodigy, set up his first demo and created his first press kit…

Peer– No one knows what you are going through like someone else that’s going through it too! Developing relationships with your peers is an invaluable developmental resource. One you shouldn’t pass up.

Pur-ennial Collaborator: Prince co-created and performed with peers like Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Morris Day, Sheena Easton, Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz…

Mentee– One of the most valuable and overlooked relational categories, reaching out to mentees is a must! No matter your age or stage, you have something to offer — some experience, some knowledge and some relationships that is high-value to someone else.

Prince’s Purple Thumb: In 1984, Prince produced Sheila E’s first album, The Glamorous Life, which was one of many examples of his emphasis on helping other artists. It’s like he had a purple thumb for growing musical talent. As Rolling Stone put it, “Prince had this ability to see creative potential in a person before they saw it in themselves.”

You– Becoming more purposeful about who you are and what you value; clarifying your unique capabilities and gaining an understanding of what success really means to you, will help focus on getting just that!

Purple Pumps: For better or worse, no matter how you felt about Prince, his music or his predilections, one thing is for sure…The Purple One understood who he was. And he will be missed.

Stay connected to the core!!!!


A Marriage of Convenience? Why Our Relationship With Work is Broken (Part 5)

The results are in.

The data is clear.

And the message is unconvincing…

Results of last week’s survey suggest that you have a pretty healthy relationship with work:

  • A vast majority (86%) of you understand the mission of your organization beyond financial success
  • Two-thirds of you (66%) feel your work is an extension of who you are and not some other thing you have to do, just to make ends meet
  • About a third (34%) of respondents still believe a single job should span most, if not all of a career and also about a third (38%) of respondents have done just that, having worked in the same organization for 16+ years…

Let’s sum up… our readers understand what their organizations are trying to achieve, feel their work enriches who they are and most either aspire to, or have, attained long tenures with the same organization.

BUT (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming) the data also suggests our relationship with work might not be as harmonious as we’d like to think it is.


  •  Individuals and organizations did not agree with a single core value
  • Ordering of values varied drastically, except ‘integrity’ which ranked high on both lists.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed top executives or heads of HR and listened to them tell me that people were their #1 asset and that they hire only the ‘best people’, people that shared their values! Similarly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve conducted ‘comparative values’ surveys, only to find that what organizations and employees value to be entirely different.

Let’s put it another way. If you were selecting a life partner, wouldn’t you require some alignment of your core values? Certainly.

Yet, most of us are willing to accept a long-term relationship with little alignment of our core values – our relationship with work.

So…do values matter or have careers become a marriage of convenience?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions, directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com. Until next week, this is Jeff Kaplan, reminding you to Stay Connected!


I Feel Like I Don’t Even Know You: Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 4)

What does your company stand for?

Not what does your company sell…

Not what does your company do….

At the end of the day, when we’ve folded up all the spreadsheets, what is your organization all about?

While a few of us would have no problem answering this question, far too many of us can’t.

Sure, we make products or provide services valued by some set of consumers… but is that really what we are spending our lives doing?

For a growing number of workers, the answer is NO… and that’s a pretty good indication that your relationship with work is broken.

Do you feel like you don’t even know your organization anymore, or maybe you never did?

Does what you do for a living align with who you are and what you hope to be… take this simple survey and we’ll share the results with you next week…

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


For an audio version of this blog, click HERE!

The Codependent Executive: Why Our Relationship with Work is Broken (Part 3)

Is your boss broken?
You may be working for a codependent executive…take the test!

Strongly Agree = 3
Agree = 2
Somewhat agree = 1
Don’t agree = 0

  1. Micromanagement is a nice way to describe the details my boss wants to manage.
  2. My boss’ desire to manage everything does NOT extend to using his/her time wisely.
  3. Our team is often scrambling at the last minute because our boss failed to focus on what needed to be done – when we brought it up weeks before.
  4. My boss is my boss, even when we aren’t at work.
  5. My boss is the most intense person on our team.
  6. My boss has up and down relationships with nearly everyone on the team, with one person being bosses-pet for a while and then falling out of favor to be replaced by a new favorite employee.
  7. It seems like my boss is most happy when leading the team during crisis and never lets us forget the sacrifices he/she made to get us through the crisis.
  8. My boss is always around.  Even when he/she takes time off for family vacations or to deal with health issues, he/she calls and texts, while supposedly out.
  9. My boss loves it when anyone on the team tells him/her a secret.
  10. My boss loves-loves-loves interpersonal interaction, preferring meetings, planning sessions, lunches and social events to time alone in his/her office.
  11. Everyone knows what’s happening in our boss’ life, from the biggest drama to the smallest detail.
  12. My boss loves to be loved—what other people think of him/her really matters to them.

So add up your scores from all the questions and if your boss scored 24 or higher on your quiz…I am SOOO sorry for you…

Here are some things to watch out for from your codependent executive:

  • Draws self-worth and self-identity from the job
  • Intense and unstable interpersonal relationships
  • Hates being alone
  • Often bored, even when you’ve shared things that need doing
  • Puts the job first and let’s everyone know of the sacrifice
  • Craves acceptance
  • Has a low self-worth…

Our relationship with work is broken, in part because work related stress has become a leading heath issue. Sometimes our relationship with work is broken, because our boss is broken – a tough issue because it’s not our place to fix anyone, so our relationship with work suffers as a consequence.

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


Do You FEEL It? Why Our Relationship With Work is Broken (Part 1)

 The Dog Proverb
(nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén)
“Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be human in a chaotic time”

Do you feel it?

It is everywhere and nowhere – all at once.

There is an undercurrent spreading across the globe.

It is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW in boardrooms, at the ballot box, in classrooms and on playgrounds all over the world and it is BIG. It’s so big, that its effects are being felt in real time, in every aspect of our lives and it’s about to change everything.

Angst, anger and the nagging feeling that our systems, processes and values no longer meet our needs, dominates our social discourse. The lines that separate countries and companies, political parties and notions of self are reforming, literally before our eyes.

We are experiencing the first global social systems upheaval in all human history that is being played out as-it-happens on the screens of our life: TVs, computers, tablets and in the palms of our hands.

When it happens, no matter where it happens, we see it, we hear it in the words and faces of those affected and we can feel it as it unfolds.

Nowhere is this undercurrent more vividly evident than in our professional lives.

The evidence is undeniable and growing with each passing moment.


We try harder and accomplish less.
We are loyal but change jobs more often.
We feel under appreciated and overworked.
Our careers have become one of our greatest health risks.
And our organizations too often behave compulsively, like addicts, looking for the next profit fix.

Something has to change…

Over the next 6 weeks, we’ll examine why Our Relationship with Work is Broken, what it means to you and how it may impact your career. You’ll learn what to watch out for, how to protect yourself and how to steer your organization clear of the wreckage and thrive, while others wonder what’s happening.

Somewhere in history, the west altered the dog proverb and turned it into a curse translating it into English as “May you live in interesting times.” My friends, these ARE interesting times and I look forward to sharing the practical and tactical insights we’ve learned from some of the world’s top business thinkers, historians, sociologists and plain old folks like you and I that have wisdom of their own to contribute.

As always, I look forward to hearing what you think at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,


Premeditated Disappointment: Why Your Ex-Lover May Still be Controlling You…

Today, your ex may only be somebody that you used to know…

But are they really gone?

Humans are pattern-seekers. When faced with incomplete information our mind protects us by filling in the missing data with information patterns we’ve collected in the past. The bump in the night that fills you with fright, the potato chip that looks remarkably like your favorite saint and the words you heard when you play a Beatles song backward, are all indications that your patterning mind is hard at work.

We hear a bump in the night and our mind remembers that scary movie from long ago. Protecting us, our mind suggests a pattern…scary bumps in the night may be followed by the appearance of unwanted hockey-mask-wearing chainsaw-holding visitors. Be scared!

Desiring meaning, our mind rejects the possibility of random chance and interprets the shape of a potato chip as the face of St. Frito.

One study played the soundtrack of a rock anthem, long rumored to contain hidden messages when played backward. Unaided the participants heard nothing but inaudible sounds, but when researchers added a karaoke scroll of the rumored lyrics to accompany the reverse soundtrack, listeners universally reported hearing the suggested words.

So, what has this all got to do with your ex-lover?

The relationships we develop today are not created on their own merits. When your new beau asks you a question, your mind searches for patterns of hidden meaning. When your ex asked that question, it may have been a hidden putdown or some other slight and your mind credits yesterday’s meaning to what you are hearing today. When in fact, the question, could be just a question.

Knowing how your mind works to protect you and knowing that process could just as easily deceive you, may help you better see today’s relationships for what they are… today’s relationships. Getting rid of the patterns of premeditated disappointment your mind is sure to play for you, can make you and those around you much happier!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions directly, at Jeff@Jeffkaplan.com

Stay connected,