042  Be More Curious, Effective, and Empathetic • PODCAST

042 Be More Curious, Effective, and Empathetic • PODCAST

Today’s podcast, “Be More Curious, Effective, & Empathetic” is the audio from a webinar presented by Tony Mayo, The Business Owner’s Executive Coach. Listen to this recording and then join us for Tuesdays with Tony at Twelve, a weekly, free webinar where you can explore powerful executive coaching tools and ask Tony about applying them in your life and career.

Tony teaches a crucial skill for better conversations, smoother work relationships, and greater productivity. The key is asking more questions, even responding to direct questions not with a simple answer, but with genuine curiosity, asking “clarifying questions” to discover exactly what your employee, sales prospect, or best friend really want from you.

Video, handouts, and other resources from this and other webinars are available for free at:


Status, Stress, and Disease



Lab rats can teach us a lot about the rat race at the office.


Dr. Lydia TemoshokI had the great privilege of talking with eminent psychoneuroimmunologist Dr. Lydia Temoshok last night in Reston, at a Chez Nous event. Dr. Temoshok has been a pioneer in the scientific study of stress on our immune systems and its impact on the progress of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

She reviewed for us the classic result published in Science in 1983. Three groups of rats were studied. One group was subjected to shocks administered from the floor of their cage but they also had a lever that, when pressed by a rat, would stop the shock. A separate group felt exactly the same shocks as the first group but had no relief lever to press. The third group of rats had no shocks. The rats subjected to uncontrollable shocks suffered suppressed immune systems. The rats subjected to shocks with some control over their environmental stress, group one, not only did better than the rats without control but–by at least one measure–had a better immune response than the control group of rats with no shocks at all. The conclusions of the study have been repeated and extended by many other experiments, including some that showed this change in immune system response affected the speed at which cancer tumors grew.

I asked Dr. Temoshok if it was sensible to compare these conclusions with the famous Whitehall Studies of British civil servants. These long-term studies (more…)

Similarities of Soldiering and Selling


On Killing:
The Psychological Cost of
Learning to Kill in War and Society

by Dave Grossman


Capsule Review

I read this book and I review it here not because of any particular interest in sanctioned killing, rather because of my interest in institutional means of getting people to do difficult yet important tasks. I train salespeople and other business leaders.

I first heard the author, Dave Grossman, on a radio interview promoting this book. I heard him say that that in the history of combat from Alexander the Great through World War II only about 15% of soldiers in battle were trying to kill the enemy. He’s not talking about the long administrative and logistical tail of the army. Only 15-20% of the people with guns or swords in their hands, who were facing a threatening enemy, were willing to kill that enemy. I know this is hard to believe. I first heard this statistic from a pacifist and I called him a liar. Then I heard it from this author, a former US Army Colonel and military historian, who references the research of the US Army’s official W.W.II historian as well as many other scholars.


The Conversation Contract™

Here is a complete toolkit for implementing one of my most powerful and versatile techniques, The Conversation Contract™. Leading psychologist Thomas Harris, author of the bestselling I’m OK–You’re OK, developed the basic process to help people conduct the most important and stressful conversations in their lives. I have refined it over the past fifteen years in my work with salespeople, managers, government officials, and CEOs to its present form. You can use it for better meetings, telephone calls, and family interactions.

Start with this video and reinforce your skills with the printouts linked below. You may also want to use my 12 Step Program for productive confrontation by clicking here, Conversations that Make a Difference.


Group Agreement




For a group of people to work smoothly together, each member must understand what constitutes agreement. This understanding is often left in the background, unexamined, as everyone assumes their standards match those of other people. Fundamental to the success of the executive off sites I conduct is helping the group make these assumptions explicit so that everyone is playing by the same rules. If, in fact, everyone has the same standards, we finish this step quickly. If not, time invested early to clarify the ground rules saves a lot of time (and upset) later.

There are two essential parts: clarity and verity. First, everyone must be clear on what is being agreed. Second, the group needs a way to know if agreement has been reached.



#1) What’s the deal?

  • Clarity: Details of the agreement
    • What, how, when ,who, where.
    • Explicit standards of (more…)

Truth or Consequences? Beyond the Punishment Model.



Truth or Consequences Screen Beans Art © A Bit Better Corporation

Integrity is usually a major conversation when I coach groups of executives. It almost always comes up in the context of arriving to the meeting on time or returning promptly from breaks.1 This leads to a discussion of consequences, by which people mean punishments for not being on time: fines, humiliation, etc. This opens a powerful examination of monitoring, enforcement, and integrity throughout the organization.



Consequences come in two flavors. Imposed consequences are punishments contrived by an authority exerting its power to compel behavior. Natural consequences are what reality delivers in response to actions. If I (more…)

How addicted are you to the illusion of control?



Ken Wilber

While coaching top executives, I often paraphrase contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber to the effect: I have found that most of my trouble comes from trying to control things that, if left alone, would take care of themselves.

We have all heard the advice to empower self-directed teams, push responsibility down close to the action, give authority over service decisions to the person in contact with the customer. Implicit in all these dicta, however, is the assumption that it is properly the executive who has the power, responsibility, and authority being meted out. What is it about showing up for work that strips people of agency? Maybe management should stop ignoring the fact that people are doing a fairly good job of managing their lives and consider that these skills can be used at work?

Before you agree or (more…)