Transforming Talk at Work | August 2016


Dear Reader,

Not long ago my 17-year-old son and I went on a hike on Usery Mountain just north of Mesa, Arizona. We trecked up the Pass Mountain Trail, a seven-mile loop around the mountain which summits about two thirds of the way along the trail.

It wasn’t a particularly arduous climb but the intensity was elevated for us because we were pressed for time: he was catching a flight back home to Minneapolis in just a few hours. We had less time to do the hike than we would have liked. As I raced across the mountain, numerous leadership lessons surfaced.

All told, there are 20 of them and in the coming weeks I will document all of them. With titles like “You will probably not crash to your death” and “Sometimes it is best not to look down” and “Don’t go it alone,” I share the leadership lessons that showed up for me on the mountain.

These leadership lessons will help you communicate and lead more effectively whether you lead from the board room or the lunch room.

Several are excerpted below. Find the list of all the Leadership Lessons here on the Working Conversations blog.

And, if you find it valuable to distill the lessons from commonplace activities like I do, use the following steps to reverse engineer and find gold in everyday activities.


Reverse Engineer: Extracting lessons from a commonplace activity

1. Pay attention. Have a keen eye for detail in all that you do. Take note (literally) when something piques your interest. (I used the voice recorder on my mobile phone to record the leadership lessons as they occurred to me on the mountain.) There is probably a larger lesson if you look closely.

2. Step away. Let the activity and the idea marinate in your subconscious. Do something different for a while and let the lesson emerge organically.

3. Ask: What is this like? If a lesson or a moral to the story isn’t readily apparent, ask yourself “What is this situation like?” Your answer, structured as a metaphor or a simile will serve up the lesson. For example, “I felt like I was lost at sea” or “The energy in the room was as dry as the desert” or “I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.”

4. Distill the lesson. The metaphorical language from the previous step will lead you to the lesson. Once you have distilled the essence of the experience clearly in your mind, you can share the lesson with your staff, your teenager or whomever would benefit from hearing it.


Digest This: Leadership Lessons from the Hiking Trail

This month I extract the 20 leadership lessons that surfaced as I hiked the Mountain Pass Trail on Usery Mountain in Arizona. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Lesson #1: Starting together means nothing
I was mortified when my 17-year-old son took off up the mountain without me. His spirit animal is a mountain goat, he later told me, and that sure-footing and agility showed as he left me, quite literally, in the dust. Agony and anger gave way to some surprises. Read on for a full account of the first lesson.

Lesson #4: You will probably not fall to your death
The steepest parts of the trail present risks. As does leadership. On the mountain and at the office, you will probably not crash to your death. To make sure that’s the case, read these tips on self-management in times of risk and peril.

Lesson #5: Rest for a moment in a scenic spot
You’re always in the midst of harried deadlines and busyness and it is easy to cruise right past an obvious place for a rest. When the most powerful currency is time, the rational mind becomes frugal with moments of pleasure. This post explores the need to rest for few moments, sometimes in unexpected places, and soak in the fruits of your labor.

Check them all out at: Leadership Lessons from the Side of a Mountain


My Treat:

A Guide to Awkward Situations at Work

Entrepreneur Magazine recently tapped into my expertise for advice on navigating sticky work situations. My advice is featured in items 1, 3, 7, 9, 16 and 19.

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Get advice on YOUR awkward situation!

Does a strange situation at work have you stumped?

Submit your awkward or strange workplace situation or question here and I will create a short YouTube video explaining how to effectively handle it.


Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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