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How Leaders Communicate


How Leaders Communicate

Toastmasters - "Where Leaders are Made" - is an organization that's been helping people improve communication skills since the 1920s. I've been a member since 2008 and always recommend it to expats arriving in the States. Weekly meetings with a group of people dedicated to developing their public speaking and presentation ability can help expats not only advance at work and be seen as a leader, it's also a good first source for budding friendships. 

The following are some notes I took during a presentation by Toastmasters' past international president, Pauline Shirley, DTM. 

"If clothes make the man or the woman, then certainly communications make the leader." 

Leaders are Inclusive

Don't treat your teams like exclusive circles where only a certain few have access - you may be cutting off dramatically valuable and creative input from "outsiders".  

Leaders Praise

Everybody likes to hear about a job well done. Some cultures are more comfortable with one-on-one praise, some delight in open recognition. Either way - mention the things that are going well and right, the things you want to see more of.  

Leaders Share Energy

Positive energy, motivation, and enthusiasm makes things happen. Sometimes leaders have to find the silver lining and share the excitement so it can spill over to the team. Be that light, and if necessary, fake it 'til you feel it.  

Leaders Critique

Supportive, constructive feedback works on improving the situation or task, never the person. Pointing out flaws is helpful for the end-goal, be that employee engagement or happy customers. Allow your team to make mistakes, learn from them, and help them rise to the next level.  

Leaders Seek Out The Best

Especially in a volunteer organization like Toastmasters, this advice has come in handy many times. Don't wait for volunteers or give orders: approach the person you've been watching and tell them why you think they are the right person for the task you have in mind.  

Leaders Use Positive Reframing

Yes, a spade is a spade. But as leaders, you receive attention, and it is important to mind your vocabulary.  

Leaders Use the Phone

as well as face-to-face meetings. They don't just rely on impersonal short email messages to get things done. Every communication channel has its uses, but face-to-face - even through video conferencing - still gets the most done.  

Leaders are Humble

Toastmasters is promoting the concept of Service Leadership. Coming from an attitude of "how can I help others?" rewards leaders with feelings of satisfaction and confidence. That means leaders facilitate the credit for the team, and don't take the accolades for themselves. 


Image by The Old Brit, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Personality Type and Graphology

From At our recent DFW APTi chapter meeting, we welcomed Karla Garrett to help shine a light into how our Jungian functions come out in our handwriting.

According to Karla, our writing reveals information about our emotional foundation, communications, mental processing, and fear or defense mechanisms.

Letters with a circle in them, like o's or a's reveal communications. If the loops are open, the person is likely to be open and easily share personal information. If the loops are closed, the person is likely to communicate more easily about business than personal matters. Twisted circles may indicate deliberate deceit, and intrusions into the circles may indicate past abuse. For people with a violent streak, the brain will cause the pen to stop and the ink to blot. Looking at the e's in your writing will indicate your listening skills - narrow e's may indicate restricted hearing, while open e's may indicate you're a good listener.

Mental processing can be glanced from m's and n's. Rounded tops show slow, methodical, cumulative thinking. Pointed tops would indicate curious, investigative thinkers. Rounded bottoms of m-connections would indicate a comprehensive, intuitive thinker. In combination, this may mean that someone who writes closed a's and round m's is slower to speak and may be processing.

Punctuation, particularly the way you cross your t's also holds information. Crossing your t at about 3/4 height shows you set practical goals. If your cross is lower to the base, you may lack confidence. Crossing the t right at the top shows you're shooting for high goals and may actually be chronically disappointed. Someone who crosses their t above without a connection to the letter is likely an inventor or idealist (not in the temperament sense).

ISTJFor example, someone with ISTJ preferences is generally described as objective, dependable, orderly, thorough, reliable, and realistic. This will likely be demonstrated in their writing by a steady baseline, regular size of writing, and measured consistency. Margins in their documents will be organized, and punctuation will be precise. Letters with an upper and lower loop, like the f will likely show even-sized loops.

The upper loop indicates mental processing, the lower zone indicates action. Since all Types have balanced functions in terms of judging-perceiving as well as introverted-extraverted, we might expect all Types to have equal loops. We haven't discussed it in the meeting, but one guess would be that dominant perceiving functions' upper loops would be more pronounced, and lower loops would be more pronounced for people with dominant judging functions.

When we sent out the invitations to this event, some people criticized the premise of graphology as unscientific and not trustworthy. Personally, I like to keep an open mind. Sure, evidence may be anecdotal and it may not fit for everybody. It certainly depends on where you learned to write, e.g. in Germany, our capital I's, all r's, and small f's are simply different. And let's not forget children now don't even really learn how to write cursive anymore. Does that mean their personalities will develop differently? I don't know. Limiting our understanding of ourselves to any one model is never going to give us a complete picture though. I like my input from various sources before I decide whether I believe it or how I'll continue to use it.

If you'd like to learn more, here's a more detailed article on Type and Graphology. I'll also post our chapter's findings for those who were at the meeting over the next few days.



Keeping your Expat Marriage Safe

Pic Credit: images_of_money

Following yesterday's post about the tough choices expat spouses make, here's a practical follow-up. Remember what I said about open and honest communication? Always necessary, and in expat relationships even more so.

Sam Marguiles PhD, Esq., wrote in Psychology Today. He has been active in mediation for thirty years. He has written three books, numerous articles and has taught and consulted throughout the USA. Read through the list and add up the amount for you.


Divorce Piggy Bank

Having mediated thousands of divorces I have acquired some knowledge over the years of what acts and omissions reliably contribute to divorce.

I have also learned that marriages generally don't break over a specific event but rather erode over time as spouses fail to feed the marriage what it needs to thrive. I also know that most divorces are expensive and that is common for each lawyer to ask for a retainer of $3,000 to $5,000. So this post is designed to help you finance your divorce gradually as you engage in those behaviors that slowly damage and eventually destroy your marriage.

Here is what you should do. First, buy a good size piggy bank. Every time you commit one of the acts listed below, or anytime your spouse commits one, you deposit the required amount in your piggy bank.

This way, by the time you need a retainer you will have saved it. You will want to count the money in your piggy bank once a year because it may serve as a guide to how close you are to divorce.

Be sure to share this data with your spouse.

  • Go to bed angry with your spouse. $3.
  • Spend an entire day without expressing affection or praising your spouse. $3.
  • Make a sarcastic comment to your spouse. $5.
  • Raise your voice in anger to your spouse. $3.
  • Do the above and fail to apologize. $5.
  • Dismiss as unimportant an issue raised by your spouse. $7.
  • Install a TV in the kitchen. $20.
  • Watch TV while eating together. $10.
  • Spend a night in bed with your spouse and make no gesture of affection such as a kiss or caress. $5.
  • Refuse a request from your spouse for sex for the second time in a row unless you have a note from your doctor. $7.
  • Refuse a request from your spouse for sex for the fifth time in a row unless you have a note from your mother. $30.
  • Roll your eyes at something said by your spouse. $5.
  • Refuse a request to go to counseling with your spouse. $100. ( almost 100% predictive of divorce.)
  • Spend a year and not take a vacation with your spouse while leaving the children home. $25.
  • Schedule so many activities for your children that you leave no time for your marriage. Each week pay: $5.
  • Be upset with your spouse and not raise it because you believe it pointless to discuss it. $10.
  • When your spouse raises an issue stonewall and refuse to discuss it. $50.
  • You fail to learn what actions by you bring pleasure to your spouse. $50.

Although this list is by no means exhaustive it represents a good sample. Readers are invited and requested to add to the list.


skinny piggy bank

Knowing what you can do to save your relationship: priceless.

Let's hope your divorce piggy bank is starving.



Talking about your Reintegration

Minnesota soldier returning home, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons When my brother came back after four months in Afghanistan, my parents and I didn't really know how to best support him. We didn't know what he saw over there, how he felt, if he had regrets, or how the experience made him stronger.

Being the reserved and private person he is, "fine" and "nothing" were habitual answers to most of our enquiries.

For someone like me with extraverted Feeling preferences, it took a lot of restraint not to fly home, hug him violently, and make him tell me everything. Because that's what I would do - share, in order to connect, establish harmonious partnerships, including physical and emotional support. I don't know what type preferences my brother has, but it's most certainly not ENFJ.

It took many weeks and months of intermittent contact, little chats, quick calls via Skype, and each time a little morsel of information would come out. I did my best to listen and emulate his style of narrative. He set the tone with detached analysis, logical and rational explanations. In other words, none of my Feeling vocabulary would have been received as any help at all. Instead, we kept the experience at a certain distance, and I worded my concerns in terms of potential pitfalls to watch out for.

The vet you might be talking to perhaps prefers talking about their experiences in detail. If your communication preferences are for general themes and broad strokes, try and hold back the potential connections you see until they have finished. Interruptions may send the message that you're not interested in what they have to say.

By the same token, if you prefer to receive information in detail, but the vet you're talking to only gives the bottom line, try not to push too hard. Perhaps more details will come out over time, just not in the one single conversation.

Luckily, my brother is a pretty balanced and self-reflective guy, who had already come to most of my conclusions and suggestions by himself. He had seen how other soldiers handled themselves in the field, and saw first-hand the damage denial, e.g. in the form of excessive alcohol abuse, can do.

Sadly, denial is one of those tricky things that you don't know you're in until you decide to step outside yourself and look in from a different perspective. This can be hard, especially if you're trying to find your way around your home town again, maybe even raising your family, or having to find a new job.

If you notice a change in your sleeping patterns, mood-swings, loss of appetite, more feelings of sadness or frustration than usual, please take these signs seriously and talk to someone. If you're uncomfortable sharing what you saw with your family members, because you want to protect them, you don't want them to worry about you, or you fear they wouldn't understand, please take advantage of the support available to you. Ideally, that support staff will be on a similar wave-length, perhaps they've gone through a similar experience, and they're trained to counsel.

Grace After Fire 's mission is to provide the means for women  Veterans to gain knowledge, insight and self-renewal. We serve to  protect the Veteran, connect the resources and renew the woman.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24/7/365.


Maria Shriver on taking pause


Maria Shriver on taking pause

As part of the Kennedy Clan, Ms Shriver has iconic quasi-royalty status in the USA - would that be fair to say? I don't remember reading much about her back over in Europe, but she has had her share of press in the past. Throughout, I thought she stayed classy and polished. Now she's encouraging us to take another look at communication and ... pausing.

Here are some of her words from last year's address at the Annenberg School in Southern California.

We’re communicating like never before -- across borders and time zones -- on platforms, devices, computers, tablets, phones, apps, games, you name it.

Communicating 24/7-- wired and wirelessly -- talking, texting, and tweeting -- trending and friending -- to the other side of the room and the other side of the planet -- spitting out the old, in order to consume the new.

Every minute you’re awake, you’re reaching out beyond yourself -- waaay out beyond. It feels like the entire universe is an extension of your own nervous system.

You communicate instantly, automatically, and effortlessly. For you...communicating is like breathing.


Even today at my age, people come up to me all the time asking, ‘Maria, What are you doing? What’s your job? Are you going back into television? Are you writing another book? Are you gonna run another women's conference? What are you doing?’

It’s like what we’re doing at this precise moment doesn’t even exist. Everyone is focused on the next thing. Everyone is racing to the Next Thing.

Well, I got caught up in that for a really long time -- so much so, that I could never really enjoy what I WAS doing, because I was always worried about what I was going to be doing.

I tell you all this, because I know right now everybody’s asking you those same questions: “What are you gonna do after graduation? Do you have a job? Where will you be working? How much are they paying? Where are you going? Where will you be living? Who are you seeing?” Oh, my God -- so many questions!

And here you are: sitting there ready to hit the Fast Forward button and find out the answers. I get that. I was just LIKE you: I lived on Fast Forward.

But today, I have one wish for you. Before you go out and press that fast forward button, I'm hoping - I'm praying - that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button.

I'm asking you to learn how to pause, because I believe the state of our communication is out of control. And you? I believe you have the incredible opportunity to fix it.

You have the power, each and every one of you, to change the way we as a nation speak to one another. I truly believe you can change our national discourse for the better. 

You have the chance to change the way we talk to one another, what we read on the Web and newspapers and magazines, what we see on TV, what we hear on radio. You can help us change the channel.

I’m hoping you young men and women dare to bring change to our community by changing our communication.


PAUSE -- and take the time to find out, what’s important to you. Find out what you love, what’s real and true to you -- so it can infuse and inform your work and make it your own.

PAUSE -- before you report something you don’t know is absolutely true, something you haven’t corroborated with not just one, but two sources, as I was taught. And make sure that they’re two reliable sources.

PAUSE -- before you put a rumor out there as fact. Just because you read it or saw it on TV or the Web -- no matter how many times -- doesn't mean its true. Don’t just pass on garbage because you want to be first. There’s no glory in being first with garbage.

PAUSE -- before you hit the “send” button and forward a picture that could ruin someone’s life -- or write something nasty on someone’s Wall because you think it’s funny or clever. Believe me, it isn’t.

PAUSE -- before you make judgments about people’s personal or professional decisions.

PAUSE -- before you join in and disparage someone’s sexuality or intellectual ability.

PAUSE -- before forwarding the untrue and inflammatory tidbits that have made it so difficult for would-be public servants and their families to step up and lead.


Feel your strength and your vulnerability. Acknowledge your goodness, and don’t be afraid of it. Look at your darkness -- and work to understand it, so you’ll have the power to choose who you’ll be in the world.

Women: look at your toughness and your softness. You can and should make room for both in your life. The world needs both.

Men: find your gentleness, and wrap it into your manliness. You, too, can make room for both. The greatest men do.


Oh, how this world needs you -- young men and women with the guts to pause and acknowledge where you’re at and how you got here -- and then to change course if you need to -- and trust me, sometimes you’ll need to change course! But know you’ve got the strength to do it.

So today, as you head out into the Open Field of life, keep your mind open, keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Courageous people often are afraid. In fact, that's why they need courage in the first place!

Pic found on

Read the full text or watch the video here.


The Johari Window

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The Johari Window

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Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.35 PM

How we see ourselves and how others see us can be in complete opposition. Many philosophers have debated who can know our self better - we from the inside, or others from the outside. As with everything, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

The Johari Window, developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, has been around since the 1950's as "a graphic model for interpersonal relations".

How can it be useful to you?

It provides an overview of what you see, know, or believe to be true about yourself, and what others see, know, or believe to be true about you - including blind spots. In other words, it's an excellent gap analysis between what is and what you want to be.

The first quadrant is Public Knowledge - both you and others have access to that information. It'll still take some communication skills to ensure both have the same understanding or interpretation of what is known.

You can obtain input for the second quadrant by asking friends, colleagues, family, and strangers for feedback. Why strangers? Because they gain nothing by sugarcoating their perception. Remember, feedback is often autobiographical, so we have to consider the source and their personal experiences when we receive it, and try to filter out our own biases and projections when we offer it.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.39 PM

Things you know but don't share with others populate the third quadrant. Some items may stay in there forever, some may be shared via services like and still remain somewhat anonymous. If you decide to share what was once private, of course that knowledge wanders into the first quadrant of public knowledge. Yes, there is movement between the items.

The fourth quadrant holds the space for all those things that may be pre-conscious, i.e. in the portions of your unconscious mind that can be probed, examined, and reflected. In coaching and counseling clients often describe "a-ha!" moments where something that was never quite clear, but lurking under the surface, suddenly pops into awareness. That piece of information then moves into the third quadrant, and possibly even the first if it's shared.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.10.05 PM

The quadrants are dynamic, and they have different sizes for different personality types and people from different cultures. For example, people with preferences for extraverted Feeling tend to be comfortable sharing their own personal experiences - to establish rapport with another person, or simply to share. Someone with preferences for introversion or introverted Thinking, for example, may play their cards much closer to their chest. Some people simply are inherently more private and will know a lot more about themselves than what they'll freely share with the outside world.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.48 PM

By the same token, there may also be cultural differences in how open we are. People from the USA tend to be more versed in small talk than people from Germany. Personal information is more easily shared State-side than it is in Germany, so the "public arena" may appear to be larger by comparison.

Asking for Feedback

To get you started, pick out five to ten adjectives to describe you, e.g. from list below (positive/desirable or negative/undesirable ones, or an even mixture, see Wikipedia example below). Then share that list with your network to see which adjectives they pick for you.

Discrepancies will indicate where to shine your light, seek more feedback, discuss, or simply feel if it rings true. Then it is up to you to decide whether the feedback is something you'll consider as an opportunity for growth and learning, or whether you'd rather dismiss it.

To boost motivation and self-esteem in your team, consider asking colleagues to use any of the positive descriptors to describe other team members - anonymously. E.g. write the person's name on an index card, add the descriptors, and then collect all cards that describe Lisa or Tom and read them out. For a more low-key debrief, simply hand the cards to the corresponding person, and they can read them whenever they're having a bad day.

  • able
  • accepting
  • adaptable
  • bold
  • brave
  • calm
  • caring
  • cheerful
  • clever
  • complex
  • confident
  • dependable
  • dignified
  • energetic
  • extroverted
  • friendly
  • giving
  • happy
  • helpful
  • idealistic
  • independent
  • ingenious
  • intelligent
  • introverted
  • kind
  • knowledgeable
  • logical
  • loving
  • mature
  • modest
  • nervous
  • observant
  • organized
  • patient
  • powerful
  • proud
  • quiet
  • reflective
  • relaxed
  • religious
  • responsive
  • searching
  • self-assertive
  • self-conscious
  • sensible
  • sentimental
  • shy
  • silly
  • spontaneous
  • sympathetic
  • tense
  • trustworthy
  • warm
  • wise
  • witty
  • incompetent
  • violent
  • insecure
  • hostile
  • needy
  • ignorant
  • blasé
  • embarrassed
  • insensitive
  • dispassionate
  • inattentive
  • intolerant
  • aloof
  • irresponsible
  • selfish
  • unimaginative
  • irrational
  • imperceptive
  • loud
  • self-satisfied
  • overdramatic
  • unreliable
  • inflexible
  • glum
  • vulgar
  • unhappy
  • inane
  • distant
  • chaotic
  • vacuous
  • passive
  • dull
  • cold
  • timid
  • stupid
  • lethargic
  • unhelpful
  • brash
  • childish
  • impatient
  • panicky
  • smug
  • predictable
  • foolish
  • cowardly
  • simple
  • withdrawn
  • cynical
  • cruel
  • boastful
  • weak
  • unethical
  • rash
  • callous
  • humourless

Image by Paolo S., Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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As our Economy changes, so should our Leadership skills


As our Economy changes, so should our Leadership skills


Inspired by a chat on facebook about why we seem to focus on empowering women instead of empowering everyone, I did a little digging and found this TED talk. Hanna Rosin is the author of the book "The End of Men - and the Rise of Women". She argues that the new economy requires different skills. The marketplace has shifted from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, and traditional male characteristics of size and strength simply don't matter as much anymore. Instead, skills like focus, communication, and ability to navigate a fluid workplace are in higher demand. Future leaders will have to know how to foster creativity, create teams, and listen - and according to Rosin, these are all skills that come more naturally to women. Looking through the type lens, I can't help but wonder if future leadership skills will be more closely associated with Feeling function-based behaviors. Generally speaking about 75 % of women have an F-preference, compared to about 75 % of men reporting Thinking, if I'm not mistaken.

"Men are the new ball and chain"

You can't change thousands of years of gender roles over night. Even now that we're beginning to talk about them, the process is still scary and painful. Women have been outperforming men for a few years, e.g. in terms of achieving college degrees. Yes, there is still a wage gap and women's representation in C-suite jobs isn't where it should be to properly show equal representation.

But men's self-image may be impeding them from adapting to the new requirements. Men are more likely to see themselves as providers and less likely to get their butts to college to re-train or enhance their skill-sets. Rosin even argues that it begins as early as childhood; she cites a "boy crisis" where boys do worse in school than girls. In a short video her own 9-year-old daughter explains why that is: boys simply don't listen or follow instruction! The result: Rosin sees women going forward to higher positions, being the primary breadwinner, while men stay at home. More than that, she cites statistics of multiple countries where the desire for a first-born son is on a steady decline.

What are your experiences with boys' and men's performance? Are you seeing your middle-management / manufacturing jobs disappearing? Are your executives urging you to get trained in the art of creativity, innovation, and communication to enhance your chances for success?

Image by FaceMePLS, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Diffusing Verbal Criticism

Young couple arguing in kitchenWhen was the last time you were nasty to someone's face? On purpose?

I had the opportunity this week during a Toastmasters meeting, and let me tell you, my extraverted Feeling (Fe) was not that happy about it. Fe is a function usually concerned with harmony, inclusion, and connection, so playing ticked off is actually quite an effort. I got over it knowing that it was my job to help my conversation partner practice his skills in dealing with someone yelling at his face. So there we were.

To help me play the part of an angry woman verbally criticizing and putting someone in his place, I used a simple but effective physical effect:

I made him sit down while I stood in "wonder woman" pose above. Legs wide, solid stance, fists at hips. Didn't even have to raise my voice that much, it was the mere act of looking down that conveyed much of the supposed negative sentiment.


a) if you have to provide criticism, constructive or otherwise, and are uncomfortable about it, find a physical position that is comfortable and that takes up a lot of space to make you appear and feel tall and powerful. Also, find a mindset of support to help make your points to the other party.

b) if you know you're going to be chastised, see you're on equal footing and can look the other person in the eyes. It's going to go a long way in reminding you of your self-worth and perhaps even find chances for empathic listening.