Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Genuine Empathy and the Power to Lead

Brian Browne Walker’s commentary on the I Ching offers some excellent advice about leadership: “Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.” When you can genuinely understand where your employees are coming from, you are able to know exactly what to do or say to get the best results from them. This requires developing your own capacity for empathy. Here are some suggestions for developing your empathy:

  • Listen. You may not always understand where an employee is coming from. Even the most creative and open-minded people can fail to grasp another individual’s unique circumstances. Consequently, the only way you can understand where others are coming from is by listening to them. Listening in this sense is not merely listening to the words a person says but listening for the underlying needs that the person may be expressing even while failing to articulate.
  •  Validate. Particularly in times where people seem far apart in their beliefs, it’s really easy to look at a person with whom you disagree and see an enemy. However, we all have the capacity to feel the same types of emotions, whether these are fear, anger, or joy. We also all have the same basic needs. When you try to recognize that beneath any disagreement are two people who need love and respect, it’s not so easy to see someone you disagree with as the enemy.
  • Consider your own attitude. When you find yourself in a disagreement with someone else, ask yourself what you want from the interaction. Do you want to see the other person punished? Is this about winning or being right? Wanting to see another person punished presumes that you know best -- a dangerously arrogant attitude, especially from a leader who should be looking to serve employees.
  • Suspend your own viewpoint. When you are trying to understand another person’s feelings, your own point of view isn’t a necessary perspective. In fact, it gets in the way of seeing another’s point of view. Remember that suspending your views is not the same as dropping them or changing them. Your viewpoint will still be there if you still need it.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Leadership: A Lateral Perspective

An alternative to the traditional vertical organizational structure is known as a lateral or horizontal structure. In this structure, the different departments are administered by project managers who report to an upper management and serve as a conduit between the team and the administrators.  This approach has its own pros and cons. 


  • This approach tends to reinforce creativity and innovation because employees are more willing to take risks when they know that they won’t lose status in doing so.
  • The organization can better adapt to changes in circumstances because communication does not have to go through as many filters.
  • Employees have a greater feeling of stake in the organization.
  • Employees have a greater sense of autonomy which can lead to greater development of a wide array of skills.


  • When something goes wrong, the lack of a clear structure can lead to blaming of different teams and departments.
  • Decision-making can be a slow process.
  • The lack of authoritarian supervisors can lead to an undisciplined and chaotic work environment.
  • Transitions from vertical to horizontal organization structures can be difficult because those used to authoritarian management styles find it difficult to adjust to seeing co-workers as peers.

Know Your Employees

Regardless of which organizational structure you employ, in order to lead effectively, it helps to know your employees on a personal and professional level. Obviously, with larger corporations, the former is more difficult than the latter, but taking the time to get to know your employees as people can help inform your decision-making in ways that not only affect employee morale but also help in crafting more effective approaches. If you understand what it is like to work on the front lines, you can better address problems in a way that does not create additional problems. Keeping abreast of what goes on in your employees’ lives can also help you in addressing each person as an individual.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Monday, November 6, 2023

Leadership Service

Whether you prefer an authoritative leadership style, a lenient one, or something in between, one factor that can truly enhance your effectiveness in leadership is to see yourself as serving the needs of your employees even as you serve the needs of your company or organization. Often these two sets of needs will coincide. The needs of your employees are the needs of a well-run organization as well. When they do contradict, seeing yourself as a kind of servant to your employees can help you to better weigh your priorities in both the long and short terms. 

Top-down Hierarchies

The traditional form of hierarchy in business organizations is known as a top-down or vertical structure. This means that you have a clear ranking from CEO to mail-room clerk, and everyone understands their place. This structure has both advantages and disadvantages. If you are a leader in this type of organization, it is helpful to understand what those advantages and disadvantages are in order to better serve the needs of your employees.


  • You always know who is in charge and who reports to whom.
  • Decision-making is efficient.
  • Advancement up the career ladder is clearly defined.


  • The potential for power-based politics and maneuvering can result in flattering and yes-man type behavior rather than providing accurate information.
  • Employees at the bottom may feel less of a stake in the goals of a company.
  • If you have a weak leader, you will have a weak organization.
  • Information from management and higher-ups is prone to distortion as it trickles down through multiple filters.
  • Both management and employees may have a distorted understanding of what the other group does and has to deal with.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Friday, October 27, 2023

Leadership: Is it Better to be Loved or Feared?

This famous question comes down to us from Niccolò Machiavelli, a political theorist who lived in Italy during the Renaissance. He contended that a leader who is feared is preferable to a leader who is loved. However, he also lived during a time of great political instability when city governments changed in a flash, usually violently, and usually involving executions of the previous leadership. Since we no longer live in this age, do we really need to adopt the route that proved so disastrous for such ruthless dictators as Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet?

The Case for Fear

An authoritarian approach to leadership is not all bad. Some people in leadership positions might still maintain that leaders who approach their employees with a sense of antagonism have fewer instances where employees take advantage of them. They can use “tough love” to “whip employees into shape.” Where supervisors who aim for popularity fail in setting boundaries for their employees, authoritarian leaders make those boundaries clear through well-defined consequences for crossing them. This approach to leadership seldom suffers from employees taking liberties or taking advantage of a perceived weakness from the supervisor. 

The Case for Love

Well, that’s a case closed then, right? If it were only so easy. While an authoritarian approach to leadership might give you the appearance of being respected, it’s not so likely that this respect would be genuine. Real respect must be earned and involves respecting others. If you genuinely care about your employees, you may not have to work so hard to get them to do what needs to be done, uncovering instances where they are too afraid to approach you, or squashing conflicts with your employees that might tend to flare up when you approach your leadership role from an authoritarian standpoint. Perhaps being loved is not such a useless approach to effective leadership. 

The Case against Either

The problem in leadership isn’t being more loved nor is it being feared more. Both have their upsides, but each also has its downside. Beloved leaders might be popular, but they might also be easily manipulated and put into unnecessary situations where it feels as if the inmates are running the asylum. Conversely, those who use fear as a leadership tactic frequently have to deal with such issues as insubordination or dishonesty. In addition, a work environment that is marked by fear turns into a poisonous place to work. Authoritarian leaders often experience higher rates of turnover from their employees. This means time that might otherwise be productively spent is now redirected to training new employees. Any efficiency such a leader hoped to gain by cracking the whip has been lost when employees won’t stay for any length of time. There must be an intermediary way. 

The Middle Ground

Since both leadership styles have both upsides and downsides, perhaps the best approach is to be a little bit of both. Like an authoritative leader, you want to have clear boundaries with clear consequences, but you do not want to create a fearful and poisonous work environment where everyone is trying to stab each other in the back and no one will tell you the truth but only what you want to hear.

In addition, a middle ground approach would mean that you do value your employees as people. You are genuinely interested in their lives. You understand that respect is a two-way street and must be earned. Yet, you impose clear boundaries. While you and your employees may be equal in both a personal and possibly even a professional sense, you have a different job than your employees. You face a different set of pressures. The key to understanding whether it is better to be loved or feared is considering the big picture and the long term and for each situation which approach would be more effective for that situation.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Four Styles of Communication

There are four styles of communication: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.

The Passive Person

Passive behavior is the avoidance of the expression of opinions or feelings, protecting one’s rights, and identifying and meeting one’s needs. Passive individuals exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture, and tend to speak softly or apologetically. Passive people express statements, implying that:

· “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”

· “I don’t know what my rights are.”

· “I get stepped on by everyone."

· “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”

· “People never consider my feelings.”

The Aggressive Person

An aggressive individual communicates in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally or physically abusive, or both. Aggressive communication is born of low self-esteem, often caused by past physical or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive individuals display a low tolerance for frustration, use humiliation, interrupt frequently, and use criticism or blame to attack others. They use piercing eye contact and are not good listeners. Aggressive people express statements implying that:

· The other person is inferior, wrong, and not worth anything

· The problem is the other person’s fault

· They are superior and right

· They will get their way regardless of the consequences

· They are entitled, and that the other person “owes” them.

The Passive-Aggressive Person

The passive-aggressive person uses a communication style in which the individual appears passive on the surface but is really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.

Passive-aggressive people usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful. Alienated from others, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Rather, they express their anger by subtly undermining the real or imagined object of their resentments. Frequently they mutter to themselves instead of confronting another person. They often smile at you, even though they are angry, use subtle sabotage, or speak with sarcasm.

Passive-aggressive individuals use communication that implies: 

· “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”

· “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”

· “I will appear cooperative, but I’m not.”

The Assertive Person

An assertive individual communicates in a way that clearly states his or her opinions and feelings and firmly advocates for his or her rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem. Assertive people value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. They are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive people feel connected to other people. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Feeling in control of themselves, they speak in calm and clear tones, are good listeners, and maintain good eye contact. They create a respectful environment for others, and do not allow others to abuse or manipulate them.

The assertive person uses statements that imply:

· “I am confident about who I am.”

· “I cannot control others, but I control myself.”

· “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”

· “I know I have choices in my life, and I consider my options. I am fully responsible for my own happiness.”

· “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Assertiveness and Self-Confidence


An assertive person is confident and direct in dealing with others. Assertive communication promotes fairness and equality in human interactions based on a positive sense of respect for self and others. It is the direct communication of a person’s needs, wants, and opinions without punishing, threatening, or putting down another person.

Assertive behavior includes the ability to stand up for a person’s legitimate rights without violating the rights of others or being overly fearful in the process. Assertive behavior is skill that can be learned and is situational specific, meaning different types of assertive behavior can be used in different situations. Assertive behavior involves three categories of skills; self-affirmation, expressing positive feelings, and expressing negative feelings.


Self-confidence plays an important role in our everyday lives. Being confident allows us to set and reach our goals. It provides stability when we are faced with a challenge; it gives us that push that helps us overcome difficulties. Self-confidence is necessary in our personal and professional lives as without it, we would not be successful in either. It gives us the ability to stand up to face our challenges and to pick ourselves up when we fall.

Self-confidence is a belief in oneself, one's abilities, or one's judgment. It is freedom from doubt. When you believe you can change things -- or make a difference in a situation, you are much more likely to succeed.

As a self-confident person, you walk with a bounce in your step. You can control your thoughts and emotions and influence others. You are more prepared to tackle everyday challenges and recover from setbacks. This all leads to a greater degree of optimism and life satisfaction. 

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Monday, September 11, 2023

Obstacles to Our Goals

Obstacles are encountered every day of our lives, but what we do and how we react during these events will determine the outcomes of such events. Our reactions to these obstacles will determine if the situation becomes a minor annoyance to a major event. Over-reacting to a small annoyance can magnify the issue and make larger than it actually is. These are the types of reactions that should be kept in check. What is an appropriate response to each obstacle that we encounter? Like many things, the obstacle will determine the response. 

Types of Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is the process of thinking negative rather than positive thoughts. Seemingly, positive thinking requires effort while negative thinking is uninvited and happens easily. 

A person who has been brought up in a happy and positive atmosphere where people value success and self-improvement will have a much easier time thinking positively. One who was brought up in a poor or difficult situation will probably continue to expect difficulties and failure.

Negative thoughts center on the individual, others, and the future. Negative thinking causes problems such as depression, pessimism, and anxiety.

Typical types of negative thinking are described below. 

Overgeneralization: Make a general universal rule from one isolated event

Global labeling: Automatically use disparaging labels to describe yourself

Filtering: Pay attention selectively to the negative, disregarding the positive

Polarized thinking: Group things into absolute, black-and-white categories, assuming that you must be perfect or you are worthless

Self-blame: Persistently blame yourself for things that may not be your fault

Personalization: Assume that everything has something to do with you, negatively comparing yourself to everyone else

Mind-reading: Feel that people don't like you or are angry with you, without any real evidence

Control fallacies: Feel that you have total responsibility for everybody and everything or that you have no control as a helpless victim

Emotional reasoning: Believe that things are the way you feel about them

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP