Courtney’s Blog

5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change

Change is intimidating for just about every member of every organization, from the top right on down to the newest, fresh-out-of-college hire. One of the main reasons change freaks us out is that humans tend to adapt to our environment. So even if we don’t like the status quo, we’ve figured out ways to work around it and survive. Change brings with it the unknown, and the threat that we’ll have to rebuild all of our survival mechanisms in the new environment.

Knowing how threatening change can feel, what’s a good leader to do to make change go more smoothly for their team?

 

Leaders Give Advance Notice

In my work with organizations, I’ve heard a lot of companies make the assumption “we’ll tell the rest of the employees more about this change once we know more.” But there’s always *more* information to be gathered, and announcements about change can get pushed back and pushed back until the very last minute. I’ve even spoken to some companies where they delayed in making the official announcement for so long that employees accidentally found out about an upcoming change from someone outside the company!

There are obvious reasons not to announce a change when there’s no other information to share, but employees across industries report that they would prefer to be notified of impending changes – and even possible changes – sooner rather than later. Early inclusion of employees is a way to show appreciation, but it’s not just good practice from a retention standpoint. When a company seeks input from workers across all levels, they’re more likely to identify potential issues. Susan in Purchasing may not be high on the food chain, but she may know a small but significant detail that leadership doesn’t know, that might derail your big plans! With everyone involved, you can better predict potential problems.

 

Leaders Give Context

Human beings want to know “why?” From the time we’re tiny children pointing up at the clouds in the sky, it feels good to have our questions answered. As a leader, it should be your job to put upcoming changes in context for your team. As an organization, the company has probably talked about why this change is good for the company: higher sales, lower costs, faster turnaround, greater innovation…

Now your job is to tell your team not just that explanation, but take it a step further. Why is this change not just good for the company, but also good for them? What opportunities might come from this change? Will it eliminate a cumbersome reporting process? Will it mean new hires to help spread the workload around? Will it mean chances for promotions and raises? Show them how this change will benefit not just the company, but them individually, and it will make the stress of change a lot easier to swallow.

 

Leaders Give Opportunities to Communicate

A longitudinal study on change showed that employees were happier about change when they felt more engaged in the workplace. An upcoming change is a perfect time to make sure the lines of communication are fully open among your team. For maximum engagement, employees should communicate now just upward, to you, but also among one another. This is the perfect time to make sure your team meetings are interactive and participatory (and not just one boring report after another). Another strategy to consider is activities that build teamwork, like an off-site volunteer service afternoon. The more your team communicates and feels cohesive, the more smoothly the change will go.

 

Leaders Give Benchmarks

Did you ever take a long car ride as a kid, and keep asking “are we there yet?” If so, then you know the importance of benchmarks. When we moved from Texas to Illinois, my little sister was a Barney-the-Dinosaur-obsessed toddler. We survived the drive with a VCR player strapped to two armrests, and a basket full of Barney VHS tapes. Every time she would ask “are we there yet, we would say “5 more Barneys until we stop.” “2 more Barneys.”

Help your team manage the uncertainty of change by sharing benchmarks with them, even if they benchmarks don’t directly impact them. Tell them “The initial review team has completed X, and now the plan is moving to the Z Department. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be moving on to Phase C, and I expect our team to start doing Y within the next 2 weeks.” Feeling in the loop, especially about how long things are expected to take, will keep your team motivated.

 

Leaders Give (Meaningful) Accolades

As the change seems to come to a close, it’s great to acknowledge everyone’s contributions. But in order to make that acknowledgement meaningful, you need to really know how your team likes to be thanked. I’ll never forget the time I was sitting at a table after delivering a keynote speech: most of the table around me was leadership, with a few less-senior employees. The exercise was to talk about ways to thank employees, and the leaders were excitedly dreaming up lots of big thank-you’s on the company Intranet, parties, etc… the employees at the table were silent. Finally, one spoke up. “Um… most of us would feel embarrassed to be thanked so publicly. We don’t really want cake or anything. Maybe just a note from my boss?” It was a big wake-up call to leaders that what matters is how the employees want to be thanked, not how you think they want to be thanked. To make your employee appreciation meaningful, be sure it’s a thank-you they’ll appreciate.

 

Leading through change is tough. There will be confusion, frustration, and probably even a little fear. But if you can give your team these 5 things to help them navigate change, your team will be stronger and better on the other side.

The #1 Question I Get Asked

I get asked this question ALL. THE. TIME:

“How do I help X person in my life get a better perspective? How do I help them be more resilient?”

It’s a tough question, because there’s not a perfect answer. You can’t GIVE somebody else perspective.

But because everyone seems to want to know the answer, I’ve done some research and some thinking, and there are 3 things you CAN do to help.

#1 is probably the toughest, because it requires vulnerability that we may not want to show.

If there’s someone in your life (your child, your employee, your sibling…) who could stand to be a bit tougher, check out this 4 minute video on what you can do to help them find resilience.

Is Your Company Resilient? 4 Qualities Resilient Companies Have in Common

Resilience is an attribute that many companies appreciate, yet can’t describe. Like a lot of corporate culture issues, it can be a matter of “I don’t know how to ask for it, but I’ll know it when I see it.” So how does a company become a resilient company, and create a corporate culture that values resilience?

 

There are 4 main qualities you’ll find in resilient companies. And by the way, not all successful companies are resilient companies! Some companies are successful but haven’t yet weathered a big storm. But most resilient companies can turn out to be successful companies, because they have these 4 characteristics in place, to allow them to adapt and grow.

 

A Leader Who Has Struggled

John Paul DeJoria is the founder of Paul Mitchell haircare and Patron tequila. But before he shampooed some of the most famous people in Hollywood, he lived in his car and sold hair products door to door. He credits his early life difficulties to helping him develop the work ethic that built his global businesses. But he’s also notorious for retaining the same employees for decades! Some leaders act like they can only get the best out of their team members by pushing them to the breaking point. But leaders who have truly struggled in life tend to understand that true leadership has more in common with compassion than fear. With that perspective, they can help their teams learn the lessons of resilience.

 

Managers Who Aren’t Afraid of Conflict

Workplace conflict can be distracting. But it doesn’t have to be destructive. In fact, there are two types of conflict, and one of those types of conflict is GOOD for your organization! Task-related conflict is when two people disagree on *how* something should get done, but they agree on the desired end result. This kind of conflict, if handled correctly, can help companies be more solution-oriented and innovative. Of course, if handled incorrectly or ignored, even the good kind of conflict can turn into people-related conflict, which is the bad kind. To build a resilient company culture, managers need to not be afraid to step in and keep conflict task-related. (If you need more information about telling the difference between task-related conflict and people-related conflict, check out my video here.)

 

Vertical Communication

Many companies know that vertical communication and letting employees’ voices be heard is an important part of employee engagement and building an inclusive corporate culture. But it’s also part of building a resilient company, as well. Vertical communication builds resilience within your culture by helping your organization identify and respond to all possible problems and issues quickly. If only the highest levels of leadership are talking back and forth, and then communicating *down* to the staff but not listening back, they may be missing major problems on the horizon. This kind of communication is important all the time, but it’s *especially* critical during change. When a company is going through transition, employees need to feel like communication is happening in all directions, so they can get on board with the change.

 

Great HR and Hiring Practices

A company can’t be resilient if it doesn’t have resilient employees. And it can’t have resilient employees if it doesn’t hire for resilience, train for resilience, and let go of people who can’t be part of a resilient culture. In fact, failure to let go of underperformers and employees with poor attitudes is a major resilience-drainer for organizations. A company with a resilience built in to the corporate culture will make it a priority to hire and retain employees who show individual resilience, and those priorities should be reflected in writing in their HR practices.

 

Nothing ruins a great job like bad company culture. If you’re looking for a company that has a strong culture, it’s hard to know what to look for when you’re just interviewing. These 4 qualities are key indicators that the company may have what it takes to both be successful and be a great place to work, at the same time.

 

How to Tell Your Partner You’re Mad Without Causing a Fight

When it comes to love and conflict, we believe a lot of weird things:

“Love is supposed to be easy.”

“If it’s true love, you’ll fit together like puzzle pieces.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

WRONG!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my helpful guide to saying “I’m upset,” without it spiraling into a big fight.

Because the truth is, life is hard. And that can make our relationships stressful. But just because you’re frustrated, it doesn’t HAVE to mean you’re going to get into some big fight with your spouse or partner!

So I have a extra-special secret phrase you can use, to communicate something that bothers you, WITHOUT starting a fight.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Feeling Burnout

With all the hours you spend at your job, it’s normal if you feel stressed at work (and yeah, I say “if” knowing full well that you ARE stressed at work a lot of the time, if the numbers are right.) And if you’re TOO stressed, you’re at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a leading cause of unnecessary job turnover, and yet it keeps happening because no one seems to know exactly how to handle it. Companies have few official resources for employees at risk of burning out, bosses don’t know how to address it, and employees worry that if they bring up their stress levels, they’ll be labeled “incapable” or “whiny.” Until we can address the ways our society has glorified stress as being a symbol of importance (I’m working on it, I promise!), it will be up to individuals to speak up for ourselves in a way that doesn’t risk our career success.

So how do you say “I’m about to burnout!” to your boss without committing career suicide?

Be Clear About What You Mean

It might be best to not even say the word burnout to your boss. If you think your boss might judge you for being stressed, or be the kind of manager who doesn’t care about your mindset as long as work gets done, then you can have this conversation without ever saying “burnout.” Instead, bring up specific challenges you’re facing that are getting in the way of your success, like being interrupted too much, not having the information you need, etc.

And did you know there are different kinds of burnout? Psychologists say there are 3 burnout subtypes: “frenetic,” “underchallenged,” and “worn out.” So even if you say “burnout” or “stress,” your boss’s idea of what that means might be different from yours. So clearly articulate whether you need more help from colleagues, more time on deadlines, or whatever it is that will actually help you manage the situation.

Be Solution-Oriented

In this video about telling your boss you’re stressed without seeming whiny, I go over the two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused. In the workplace, most bosses prefer problem-focused coping. So before you talk to your boss, prepare at least three possible ideas for making the situation better. 

By coming to the meeting with ideas already ready, your boss will see that you aren’t just looking for an excuse or a reason to complain, but that you’re actually looking for help at doing the best possible job. Your boss may have more suggestions for you, or be able to help you help you find the resources you need to implement your ideas. But by showing up with a plan, you’re showing positivity and a willingness to fix the situation.

Be Laser-Focused

The odds are good that there are many issues causing you stress that are leading to your feelings of burned out. And it can be tempting to want to address ALL of them in this meeting. But when you’re on the verge of burnout, be aware that your brain isn’t operating at its best. If you try to address every single outstanding issue at your organization all at once, you might get distracted and fall down the rabbit hole, amping up your own irritation in the meantime. Stick to one or two main issues that are leading to your feelings of burnout. Issues that – if resolved – will clear up the majority of your frustration. Refer back to the list you made above, and your boss will hopefully get on board.


Don’t let the risk of burnout drive you away from a job you enjoy. It’s possible to work hard without being burned out, so if you think you’re on the verge, talk to your boss sooner rather than later and make a plan that will keep you productive and successful.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker
First name signature for resilience speaker Courtney Clark

How to Do That Thing You’re Dreading


There’s something hanging over your head right now.

Something you’ve put off because it just seems annoying, boring, frustrating, or impossible.

My six-month checkup at the cancer hospital is one of those things that I don’t look forward to, for sure. 

But this is my method for taking those things I dread and making them MUCH easier to get done. If I can’t just Mel Robbins 5,4,3,2,1 my way into doing something, I fall back on this technique. 

Give it a shot yourself and see if it works!

How to Protect Yourself from an Emotional Bully

Bullies don’t always stop at the playground.

Most adult conflict happens when two people hold different (but at least somewhat valid) opinions, and they butt heads. But SOME people weren’t taught healthy conflict skills, and some of THOSE people end up just plain mean.

If you have an emotionally bully in your life who won’t leave you alone, there’s a 3-step process for handling yourself and dealing with them in a healthy, productive way.

Physical Distance

Most people dealing with an emotional bully will have the instinct to put space between themselves and the bully. Follow that instinct! The more physical distance you can have, the better it is for your mental health. When I was in my mid-20s, I had a good friend who used to get upset every time something good happened for me. If I got a new job, she complained I didn’t have enough time for her. If I got some recognition for work or my volunteering, she would make some undercutting remark. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it! But every good thing that happened in my life made her uncomfortable, and she’d start to beat me up for it.

There are two problems with this first step, though. The first problem? Most people stop there. They think physical distance will solve the problem, but usually an emotional bully isn’t deterred by a little space. Which brings up the second problem: that you can’t always put enough physical space between you and someone trying to get under your skin. Especially if the bully is a colleague, for example, you can’t just quit your job and run far away. So that’s when you deploy the second step…

Emotional Detachment

Getting emotionally detached is a tough one for me. I have what my family calls a “justice bone,” this innate piece of me that wants people to REALIZE when they’re being unkind, admit it, and knock it off. But with true emotional bullies, that’s a pipe dream. They may NEVER clue in, and you’ll be waiting a long time. (Spoiler alert: I’ll probably be waiting right there next to you on the bench!)

What I learned when I worked with a very scary bully (see this blog post here for a little more background) is that the best thing I could do when I HAD to interact with him was to be as unfazed as possible. No matter what ridiculous thing he suggested to make my job harder, I would nod and say “Mmmm… interesting thought.” If he’d say something vaguely threatening, I’d reply “Fascinating.” If he said something insulting: “What a strange thing to say.” The less I replied, the more he turned his focus to someone who would give him a more emotionally charged response. It’s just like my mom taught me when I was fighting with my brother as kids: “if you give him a reaction, he’s just going to keep going.”

Practicing emotional detachment works in two ways – it hopefully makes the bully back off because he’s not getting the payoff he wants, plus it keeps you from being quite as frustrated, because you allow yourself to be less invested in “fixing” the bully. 

Healthy Outlet

No matter how good you are at emotional detachment in the moment, you’re still going to have some feelings come up. And you’re for SURE going to need to deal with those feelings. It’s important to find someone who is NOT a part of the environment where the bully is, to be your sounding board. Depending on how severe the situation is, I highly recommend going for at least a few sessions with a professional. The strategies I’ve learned for how to manage MYSELF (and the other person) in these situations have been incredibly valuable.

Whether a friend, family member, or a professional, find someone whose advice-giving style aligns with what you’re looking for. If you just want some sympathy, don’t turn to a well-known problem-solver. You’ll both be frustrated. Before you start the conversation, lay out clearly what you’re looking for (just to vent, advice, someone to be in your corner, etc.). Dealing with an emotional bully can feel lonely, so getting someone on your team is a critical part of the coping process.

Even as adults, we may still run into bullies sometimes. I like this Inc. article’s list of the 5 types of adult bullies. Dealing with an emotional bully is draining, so take these three steps to protect yourself mentally, so you’ll have the energy you need to keep focusing on what YOU need to get done.

4 Things To Do To Stop Feeling Burned Out

🔥You don’t have to just suffer, if you feel burnout at work (or in life!)

There are 4 important changes you can make that go right to the heart of burnout, and we’ll keep you from throwing in the towel. Learn which 4 small adjustments you can make in your situation to side step burnout before you get burned!

Confession: I’ve Already Broken My Resolution

I ate macaroni and cheese last night.

 

Now, I didn’t specifically make a New Year’s Resolution to only eat green things that grow in the ground (after 39 years on this planet, I know myself better than that!) But I’ve been wanting to make up for scarfing all of my Mother-in-Law’s Christmas cookies, so I’ve been trying to “be good” for the past two weeks.

 

Whoops.

 

Like me, you probably know what it feels like to let a resolution slip by the wayside. Or fail at a goal. A huge majority of resolutions fail.

 

But this isn’t going to be one of those articles about how to be in the 8-or-whatever-% of people who keep their resolutions and stay strong. Just google that stuff if that’s what you’re into – there’s plenty out there about that. This is about how to keep moving forward if you’re one of the mere humans, like most of us, who have already gotten off track and wonder what to do next.

 

Like It Never Happened

You’ve probably heard, like I have, that when you slip up on a goal or make a mistake, you should forgive yourself and just get back at it the next day. That’s kiiiiiiiinda right. You shouldn’t beat yourself up, but you also shouldn’t make some big deal out of needing to forgive yourself. By putting too much focus on forgiving yourself, you could actually slip into “ruminating” and negative self talk, which is a self-defeating behavior. Instead, Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, suggests that you just let it go and pretend it never happened. Just erase that day or that slipup, and proceed forward!

 

Just Stop

Sometimes when a resolution is hard to keep, or a goal seems impossible to hit, that means it isn’t the right resolution. Maybe you set an unrealistic goal, or maybe you just don’t have the structure in place to do what you said you wanted to do. I really like this article about “key dependencies” and how they can sometimes get in the way of our goals. And I don’t think dependencies have to be other people, either! For example, do you have a resolution to work out every day, but you are ALSO a person who wants to spend time with his kids? And volunteer in the community? And cook a home cooked meal every night? AND read a book a week? You might have resolutions that naturally conflict with other goals and resolutions. We assume that if we slip on a resolution, it’s a failure in our willpower. But that’s not always true! Sometimes our goals just bump up against the wall of reality. So just stop, and reevaluate if there’s an external obstacle to your goal that you didn’t realize.

 

Resolution 2.0

Repeat after me: you are NOT a loser if you give up on a goal that isn’t working, revise it, and try again later. That’s literally called LIFE! Whether it happens in January or July, we’re all always setting out to accomplish something, gathering information, and adjusting course accordingly. So if you’ve already discovered that you and your resolution can’t be long-term BFFs, then let it go. In fact, the sooner you let it go, the sooner you can brush it off and move on to evaluating and selecting a better goal. Cut your losses now, because the more you beat yourself up, the longer you keep up the “I’m lazy, I have no willpower, I can’t do it…” self-talk, the more you’re doing damage to the part of your thinking called “self-efficacy.” Stop wasting time, and start getting prepared for the 2nd(or 3rd, or 4th… no judgement here!) version of your resolution.

 

I wish I could give up on the idea of resolutions all together, but even when I don’t CALL them that, there’s something about a fresh year that makes me want to set fresh goals. I’ll always have a plan for my new year, but if I don’t cross everything off the list, oh well. It’s still gonna be a great year.

Caught on Video: My Favorite Moment of 2018

Here’s a personal look at my favorite moment of this past year!

The reason I loved this moment SO MUCH is because I had planned this surprised for months, which triggers a psychological mechanism called “savoring.” When we anticipate an exciting time, it helps us feel enjoyment even before the event happens, giving us double the good feelings!

As you head into the new year, look for ways you can savor and enjoy the things you have planned for 2019. The more you savor, the happier you’ll be.