Posts by programsavvy

Yes….You Are Working Hard

Posted by on Nov 27, 2017 in Productivity | 0 comments

Yes….You Are Working Hard

More than any other topic I have trained on, I think that I get the most resistance to Time Management training.

I think I understand some of the reasons why. People are working really hard and yet, find themselves exhausted and too-often, frustrated.

It’s hard to experience those things and simultaneously invite the idea that perhaps your own practices are contributing to it. That’s a lot to swallow.

Even if you are meeting all your commitments (but I know many are not), is it your best work, are you delivering on time, or do you have time for activities important to you?

Consider a blame-free investment in yourself. You’d sharpen your saw if you had a big job in front of you, knowing that to skip that step will ultimately cost you much more time. You’d use an electric screwdriver to place screws if you wanted a job to go more quickly and smoothly. Once you learn the nuances of using the tool, you proceed with ease.

The same is true for time management – tools learned and applied can make a big difference.

You ARE working hard. No one can take that away from you. Now, consider sharpening your tools and experience less of the frustration and more of the wins.


Invest in yourself:

Read More

From Good Intentions to Results: The Value of Good Meetings

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

From Good Intentions to Results: The Value of Good Meetings

When I joined a new organization, I was immediately asked to take over regular meetings attended by the top leaders of two organizations running a collaborative program.

The team had been meeting for more than a year and I had a hard time finding evidence of anything other than good intentions.

I didn’t do anything special when I took over. I simply implemented meeting management tools for planning and accountability. And I was consistent, so the attendees knew I was serious about driving results.

A year later, the team and I were flying to New York City to receive a national award for our program.

The only thing that had changed was the quality of our meetings.

Don’t underestimate what your meetings can do for your organization, and for your reputation.


If you see opportunity for yourself, please check out the two trainings on meeting management being offered in early December in Buffalo:

For tools to help with your meetings, check out resources available for you:

Read More

How to Win (or Lose) Your Dream Job

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

How to Win (or Lose) Your Dream Job

Many years ago I was hiring for an open position in my department. Two internal people applied. I knew the candidates as I had worked with both of them for years. Candidate One had many years of direct experience. She had the stronger resume and interviewed very well. Candidate Two was qualified but did not have the richness of experience. She had a decent interview, but was more nervous.

Who do you guess that I hired?

I hired Candidate Two.

The key to my decision was in the words “I had worked with both of them for years” and Candidate One lost the position during that time. Her negative attitude toward the organization and anything new had been evident to me for years. She was talented but drained all my energy whenever I was in a meeting with her. In essence, she had been interviewing for the open position for years, and she lost it during that time.

All too often people focus on the resume and interview during their job search, but lose the focus on the quality of their career while they are actually in it. People ask around when they are considering people to hire, and if you do not “show up” positively, you could lose a job even while winning the interview.

Some ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Keep yourself out of the negative cycles that often permeate the workplace. Do not engage in the rumor mill or negative conversation.
  • Go to your boss with problems – but only once you’ve considered and are ready to present one or more potential solutions.
  • Consider your online presence – especially if you are likely to change organizations someday. It is likely someone will Google you!
  • Get a reputation – for excellence – in one or more public ways. Run the best meetings. Be the best trainer on your training team. Be the problem solver. Be an early adopter of change. Be diligent in your recognition of others.

You truly are interviewing for your next position each and every day. And that is powerful because you have an opportunity each and every day to make a positive difference in the work that you do.

If you would like to explore this opportunity more for yourself or for staff you manage, I welcome you to learn about my next session of Taking Charge of your Professional Reputation on November 9, 2017 in Buffalo, NY.  You can learn more and register at   Welcome to Get Savvy!


Read More

Making Decisions Work For You

Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Career, Productivity, The Human Side | 0 comments

Making Decisions Work For You

I hugged good bye a very close friend who is moving several states away. She is uprooting her teenage children and taking on a challenging new position in a new city. What that also means is that she will be temporarily separated from her husband, leaving a job she loves, and a community she has spent decades in. And while that decision to some sounds excruciating, she is very happy!

I know so many people who would be asking themselves repeatedly if they had made the right decision. Was there a truly “right” decision to make?

Many decisions in life are not about choosing the right option, but instead, making sure that the option chosen works out for the best due to focus and diligence.

If she had turned down the job, something any reasonable person could have done, then continuing in her current job with no regrets would have been a positive way to move forward. But she chose to move. She has found a place to live, toured the schools with her girls so that they could make choices on education, has prioritized what to finish up in her current job – and she is doing so with a smile on her face and a view to the opportunity in front of her.

Decision-making is important. But many outcomes are negative not because the decision was wrong, but because we didn’t do our best to ensure that it worked out in our favor. Making the decision is the first step. Everything you do afterwards is what matters.

If your organization decides to upgrade to new software, that’s great. But you might as well have stuck with the outdated version if the organization doesn’t provide resources to learn and opportunity to practice.

You might decide that investing $25 a month in a gym membership is a good decision, but not if you don’t show up.

You might anguish over a decision of which house to buy. But once you decide, start making it your home. There is so much opportunity now that the decision is made!

Making the decision is not the end point. Being deliberate in making it a good choice is.

What decisions have you made that were amazing because of your own efforts following the decision?


Update: I just spoke to the friend mentioned at the start of this post. She and her family are doing great! Most would say it is because she made a good decision. I say it’s because she made a decision good.


Photo Credit: Emily Eckert. For more information, contact me.

Read More

“Meeting” Your Leadership Expectations

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Productivity | 1 comment

“Meeting” Your Leadership Expectations

If I could offer you one easy way to improve your credibility and reputation within your company – would you be interested in that advice? What if I told you that not only would you be viewed as a more effective leader, but that you would be saving your organization money and increasing employee job satisfaction while you were at it? Interested? If you want to do all of that – start investing in your meeting management skills.

I can hear the groan now; you wanted something more sexy, more glamorous to invest in. But, be honest with yourself. Are your meetings something you are known for – at least in a positive way?

Do people come prepared to your meetings?

Do you know what you want to accomplish and how to do it?

Do people leave the meeting satisfied that they invested their time wisely?

Do people know what is expected of them in between meetings? Do they do it?

If you cannot answer a resounding “Yes!” to these questions, then I encourage you to take responsibility for the meetings you hold.

While there are many best practices, here are some of my favorite quick tips:

  • Don’t just ask yourself what content to cover. Ask how you want people to feel about the content. Do you want people to leave inspired, motivated, awed, angry, or satisfied? Knowing what you want makes it much easier to plan for it.
  • Your agenda should include not only the topics being covered, but how you intend to cover them. Include your process, such as reporting, brainstorming, or consensus building.
  • Keep track of actions, decisions, and items deferred. Distribute your meeting notes right away and review every meeting. (A tool to help with this is referenced below.)
  • Do a process check – hold everyone accountable for the outcome of the meeting. Over time, quality improvement will be second nature.

I am happy to share three meeting-specific resources on my website. Check them out at and call me for meeting management training for your organization. I can cover the basics or a more advanced class such as “Making a Difference Through your Staff Meetings.” See: 

Let me know your questions about meeting management in the comments and I will be happy to provide some guidance.


Mary Beth

Read More

Delegation: Get Clear First

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 in Productivity | 0 comments

Delegation: Get Clear First

“It’s not in my job description” is a common complaint that may gain credibility due to poor delegation practices. There are good reasons to delegate that often benefit the employee and the organization. When delegation is done well, you should see growth in employees, a focus on priority work, and high quality results. If that’s not your experience today, check out my new resource The Why and How of Delegation.

I’d love to hear your stories of things gone wrong and great results. And if you try out the suggestions, let me know how it goes!


Read More

Dazzling Graduates will Shine in their Training!

Posted by on Jul 3, 2016 in Training and Presentations | 0 comments

Dazzling Graduates will Shine in their Training!

On Wednesday, June 29th, I had the privilege of working with 15 individuals who provide training for their agencies. They attended my Dazzle Them! Presentation Skills.  And they dazzled in so many ways! Here are key things learned…either by them, by me, or both.

  • They spoke with such passion about the work that they do and the people they serve. In listening to them speak (especially as they learned what Dazzling can sound like!) I had no doubt that I would trust them to work with someone I care about. A special recognition to Catholic Charities Community Services who invested heavily in their staff to match their commitment to staff training.
  • Several people commented that they were struck by the notion that the training is not about them, but about the learners – and how that shift in perspective frees them up to do so much more. (Does that sound obvious? But, do you get caught up in yourself when you have some form of public speaking to do? Most do!)
  • Everyone showed up on time ready to go. They attributed some of that to the welcome letter that I sent to them that they felt prepared them for the day. That was the start of learning the role of tone, environment, and context for an effective training.

While this training was focused on Presentation Skills, they were quick to recognize that the design of the training is also critical to their success.  That’s why those who hadn’t already registered for Dazzle Them! Curriculum Development are returning to work to speak to their managers about registering! Dazzle Them ! Curriculum Development is being held in Rochester on July 20th. Click here for more information. There’s room for you and right now, most attending did not attend Presentation Skills. So you will fit right in!

My signature series of Dazzle Them! continues to be well received.  The words most often used to describe their reactions to the training were: glad I came, kept my attention, lively, energizing, fun, useful, have new ideas, informative, interesting, very beneficial, and I contributed. The overall rating for the training/trainer was 4.88 out of 5.

I love working with trainers on their skills! When done well, training can make a world of difference!

Read More

Gratitude and Appreciation for Valentine’s Day

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in The Human Side | 7 comments

Gratitude and Appreciation for Valentine’s Day

Gratitude left unexpressed leaves people feeling unappreciated.

There are some holidays that can be harder than others because of expectations about what they mean. Valentine’s Day can be one of those days because for many (myself included) there is no romantic partner to present flowers, go to dinner with, or give the beautiful piece of jewelry. Within those gifts however, is really more than just romantic love. There is a grounding in what that person has brought to your life. And, there are many people that we have that same grounding with, even if it does not manifest itself in romantic love.

If you struggle with Valentine’s Day, perhaps the best thing to do is to acknowledge that gratitude and express your appreciation for those people who have demonstrated love and care to you, who have made your life more perfect by their part in it. There is also an opportunity to appreciate those people who share their own version of love everyday with those who often are undervalued.

I met with a group of leaders from one of my clients this week, and in speaking to them about their work, I found myself getting emotional. I had tears in my eyes as I left the office. They are not the only clients I am grateful for. Yes, part of my gratitude is based in their faith in me to help them to build their own capacity. But it is mostly because of the work that they choose to do. Their commitment to the missions of their agencies, their willingness to work with people who many others have no appreciation for, their willingness to embrace those with substance abuse issues, mental illness, disabilities, or those in poverty inspires me and gives me faith in human kind.

So – to all my clients and those in the non-profit community, thank you for adding hope to the hopeless, joy to those who experience mostly sadness, skills where there are gaps, options where none are seen, systems change where there is resistance, wellness where there is illness, efforts where there is a vacuum, beauty where there is blight, and kindness where there is disgust.

I offer this space for you to express your own appreciation to those amazing individuals and organizations who give their own version of love everyday to people who often feel unloved.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Thank you for being you.


Mary Beth

Read More

Be Less Perfect!

Posted by on Feb 3, 2016 in Productivity | 0 comments

Be Less Perfect!

How long did it take you to do more than what was really needed?
How many times did you do that this week?
What didn’t get done or did you not get to do this week because there wasn’t enough time?

I believe in quality always and going the extra step when the people deserve it or the context prompts it.

But, I see so many people stressed related to the work in front of them. And not all work is created equal. Not all work requires, demands, nor should be given the gold standard. It simply means you can’t do as much work – or attend to non-work, like family, health, growth, and recreation.

Consider this when faced with a work task, or any task you take on:
1) Is THIS task really a priority?
2) Who is the “customer” of this task and what is his or her expectation?
3) Will “extras” beyond the expectation be noticed and valued?
4) What is the cost of spending more time on this to exceed expectations?

Do well, and meet expectations. Save the “Red Curtains” for when it makes a true difference.

Back to work for me!

Mary Beth


Read More

How Fragile Are You? (The Art of Feedback)

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Productivity | 1 comment

How Fragile Are You? (The Art of Feedback)

Do people give you feedback on how you are doing? Do you know whether your boss, co-workers, clients, and customers are thrilled or just tolerant of your contributions? If you don’t know, it may be because you appear just a tad too fragile when feedback has been offered in the past. Or more likely, because you don’t ask for it.

Receiving feedback is hard (and so is giving it, a topic for another day), but it is really critical to our ability to contribute, to make a difference, and to grow. And it doesn’t matter what we do.

Consider this quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

It is hard to have pride in your work if you do not know how you are doing, and that includes learning when you haven’t quite met expectations.

I have been sending clients an end of contract feedback form, and I was surprised recently at the response of one of the client responders for one of the deliverables. He rated the work as less than what was expected. I was surprised because I had asked for feedback throughout the process and was told that it was good to go. Fortunately, all the other deliverables were rated at or above meeting expectations. Without asking, however, I would have assumed that he was just fine with it – because that is how I had interpreted feedback along the way.

What he doesn’t know yet is that that isn’t acceptable to me. I will be contacting him next week to see what I can do to take the work that was completed (and already paid for) and bring it up to at least meeting expectations, if not more.

Believe me, I was upset at first. Not at the feedback per se (after all – I asked for it!) but that I had failed a client (at least on one part of the contract) and therefore myself, since I have great pride in my work. Had I not asked the question and been clear that I really wanted feedback, I would have no opportunity to leave a better impression, and no opportunity to learn what was missing so that does not occur with future clients. And I learned another lesson – feedback during the process does not necessarily mean someone is happy at the end.

Consider these tips for asking for feedback from others:

  • Ask consistently so that people know that you are sincere. Because people are so reluctant to give feedback, especially negative feedback, it may take a while for them to feel safe giving it.
  • Consider asking for feedback in writing (or in a form, like I did). Someone may be willing to write comments where she may be reluctant to look you in the eye to tell you something herself.
  • Make sure you are prepared to hear it. If you are particularly attached to an outcome, and are proud of your outcome, don’t expect someone else to share your “wow!” Other people might have had different expectations of the work to be done and will evaluate from that different place. If you are just looking for accolades or reinforcements, that’s not really asking for feedback.
  • Prepare your thoughts in advance of what you are going to “do” with that feedback. I once went through a 360 degree feedback assessment and because it was sponsored by someone, there was a required responder that I knew, based on past experience, would either rate very high or very low depending on her mood that day. Before I saw the outcome, I knew that I was going to pay more attention to the feedback of the many other people, and not be too inflated or deflated by how she rated me.

Some tips for receiving the feedback:

  • If you need time to process, take it. Someone giving you feedback (even if requested) does not require you to have an immediate response. Say thank you. Tell him that you will be thinking about his feedback, and if appropriate, let him know when you will get back to him. (And then do just that!)
  • Ask questions for clarification – but be careful that it is really for clarification. Sometimes we start asking questions that are really about deflecting blame, making excuses, or telling her why she’s wrong! Some questions to ask:
    • Can you provide me with a specific example?
    • What impact did that have on the team?
    • Is this something you regularly notice? Are there times when it is more evident than others to you?
    • What behavior would you want to replace it?
    • Were there any aspects of this that did work for you so that I don’t lose those moving forward?
  • Don’t explain away the feedback. The feedback is valid to her. If she asks you questions about details or motivations, certainly answer as directly as you can.
  • Take notes. (This also will serve to give you an outlet when hearing tougher news.) This will allow you to focus in on all the details when considering the feedback so that you don’t focus too negatively or too positively.

What to do following the feedback:

  • Give as much credibility to the good feedback as the negative. (This is also hard! Notice that I am not writing about an area that he rated better than expected that I was also surprised by!) Writing a list of the good and bad news received could help with this. If it was mostly bad news, however, then there is really work to do.
  • Only you can decide whether the feedback is valid or not. If someone told me that I am too tall, I could choose not to wear heels anymore, but short of that (pun intended!) there isn’t much I can do about it. If someone tells me she doesn’t like my jewelry choices, I can decide I just don’t care. If someone tells me that my work is not as expected – I can (and will) choose to accept that, and certainly consider it valid to him.
  • If you are going to accept the feedback – figure out what you are going to do about it! Is this something you can fix for the current person? Is it something you can do differently in the future? Is there something you need to learn or a process change you should make? How are you going to change? Because why ask for the feedback and validate it for yourself if it makes no difference in how you show up in the world?

What might be something that you could do today to open up the channels to receiving feedback so that you can be the best street sweeper, lawyer, teaching assistant, student, executive, consultant  or ______ that you can be?

I’d love to hear your stories on the negative and positive experiences you have had giving or receiving feedback.


Mary Beth

Read More