The Easiest Way to Not be a Jerk in Meetings

 Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

What sets you off? Frustrates you? Clouds your vision so much that what you know you should do goes out the window and subconscious reactions kick in?

We all have triggers and they bring out the worst in us at work because triggers are the things that make us feel ignored. Undervalued. Unappreciated. Sometimes they go deeper and hit at our core, and then we feel shame, worthlessness, guilt. 

Naming our triggers is critical to professional growth.

I know mine. It's taken years to figure them out + be humble enough to accept that this is who I am and these triggers have an impact on how I behave. They are:

  • Being excluded from a decision
  • Having my intelligence challenged
  • Feeling left out

By knowing our triggers, we can shut off negative responses at the source, because we're able to label exactly what is wrong. Instead of snapping at someone or ignoring them (my two most common reactions when I am triggered), when I feel the urge to behave that way, I take a few seconds to identify WHY.

And the answer is always that I've been triggered. 

Which usually means I'm feeling that someone isn't listening to me or respecting my intelligence, but sometimes I have to admit that I'm feeling left out and want to take it out on the other person. 

The danger is that most people don't know (or won't accept) their triggers.

I see it daily, and here's what it looks like: 

  • Shutting down in a meeting, refusing to say anything else because the group isn't listening
  • Pushing for ideas too hard and purposely causing friction and calling others out in order to not be seen as the one who messed up
  • Not answering emails on purpose because of the fear that the answer is wrong
  • Interrupting and challenging everyone in a meeting because that's equated with being the smartest or most important

Understanding your triggers takes a combination of maturity and humility. And it starts with this question: What are my self-doubts? When do I feel at my lowest?

Another indicator is your personality style. I love the DISC assessment, because it's easy to interpret and put into action. And knowing what quadrant you're in gives insight into the behaviors that could set you off (so if you're struggling to peel away the layers of your personality and the baggage of life because it feels too scary, start with DISC).

Self-awareness is critical to professional growth. It's also critical to keeping yourself from flying off the handle andbeing a jerk and calling your boss a crazy person in the next team meeting. Because I can guarantee that won't help you grow professionally either.



Tess Ausman is the founder of CLT Leads, LLC, a virtual leadership development company that transforms overachieving young professionals into confident, self-aware leaders. She is passionate about the soft skills that it takes to grow a career: self-awareness, empathy, and a healthy dose of humilty. Check her out at too.

Throat Punches Aren't Effective

 Photo by filip Bunkens on UnsplashPhoto by  Filip Bunkens  on  Unsplash

Photo by filip Bunkens on UnsplashPhoto by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

I have an innate confidence in my ideas and opinions. Like, I am always convinced that I'm right. That my opinion is the best. That everyone should do I what say. That when I speak up everyone should immediately consider what I'm saying. 

Let's look at how well the behavior that accompanies those thoughts has served me in my corporate career:

  • Interrupting others in meetings and being seen as impatient and rude? [check]
  • Dominating conversations and not letting others talk and being judged as unfriendly and inconsiderate? [check]
  • Sriking down ideas without even pausing to consider them and therefore coming across as arrogant and stubborn? [check, check, check]

I'm a catch you guys. 

For years I've joked that when people don't agree with me they deserve a throat punch. Which is partly true (see "thinks my ideas are the best ideas" above), but not until recently did I start to realize that I might deserve one too. After all, when I'm trying to get someone to see my point of view, there are two sides to the conversation, and how I am coming across has a huge impact on how they respond to me. 

Enter influence styles. There's a lot of research out there - I love this article in the Harvard Biz Review. And this one (Spoiler alert: Yes, my influence style sabotages me sometimes -please say I'm not the only one).

It's taken years of self-awareness practice to understand that even though I'm only 5'2" and smile a lot (harmless, right?), my instinctual word choice, tone, and approach to conversations can be pretty harmful. Harmful to how others see me. How they talk to me. How they feel about the work I do.

Without yelling, I have a way of insisting my ideas are heard and challenging the ideas of others. 

I say "but" a lot: Yes, but what I'm saying is that won't work. I say "should" a lot: You should do it this way. I point out my credentials a lot: I have a masters degree in blah blah blah or am officially certified in this whack topic. 


So I've been working on this natural tendency to be assertively influential by replacing it with the other styles: Rationalizing, Negotiating, Inspiring, and Bridging. I'm pretty good at saying "Yes! And ..." (do you know this improv trick?) and have replaced word "should" with "could" (some of the best advice I've ever gotten). 

I've been seeking to understand situations so I know what style to use, and using guiding questions (see the linked HBR article) to help me channel the right approach. 

I'm a work in progress - we all are - and if understanding influence styles has helped me, then I know it can help someone else. If anything, it'll keep you from throat punching someone. Because that mess will cause a lawsuit and then you're really screwed.

The Most Important Behavior You're Not Paying Attention To

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I have a big ego, and if I'm not intentional and identify situations when it might come out, then I find myself saying nice things but not sounding nice.

You know what I mean.

One of the biggest things I see holding young professionals back is ego. The "my idea is the best idea" mentality, the afraid to be wrong mentality, the "I'll do what it takes" mentality. 

What it takes is letting go of ego and being open to not being the smartest or most accomplished person in the room. Or the one who's always right. That last one runs rampant, because with it comes the misconception that being right is the only way to get ahead.

When in fact, it's admitting that you weren't right that gets you the most credibility. 

On my best days I keep ego in check by examining my intentions before I enter a meeting or conversation. What happens if I'm not right? Will I be ok if someone's idea is better than mine? Or someone speaks up more than me? (Shocker: the answer is always, always yes)

And on my worst days, when I fail at this, I give myself grace and commit to trying again tomorrow.

Three Behaviors Holding You Back at Work

 Photo by  Thought Catalog  on  Unsplash

Adulting is hard. 

And guess what? It's hard for everyone. 

So instead of complaining, what if you just got better? Better at handling the stress. Better at managing your calendar. Better at giving yourself a break.  I used to think I was special and that I had more stuff on my plate than anyone else (ALERT! Martyr Syndrome in action!). And then I learned that the people I looked up to had even more than me to manage ... but they did it differently.


That realization was an eye opener for me on what it takes to be successful. 

Things that hold you back:

  • Being negative and complaining
  • Telling others how busy you are
  • Letting frustration get to you


This stuff is going to happen to us (WE ARE HUMAN AND THAT IS OK) - but when we get better we learn how to reduce how much it bothers us. We learn how to overcome frustrations and setbacks more quickly instead of letting them fester and then projecting those feelings (ahem, pessimism, martyr syndrome, stress) into our relationships at work. 

It doesn't get easier. We get better. 

A Mindset Hack to Get You Back on Track in the New Year

If it was easy then everyone would do it. 

A friend told me this as I was explaining how lately I've been in the valley of despair with being an entrepreneur. I've been letting imposter syndrome and self-defeating thoughts run rampant.

I don't really know as much as I think I do

Who am I to share about how to do anything?

No one is really paying attention on social media

I'll never be able to successfully launch a product

All because I'm not succeeding as fast as I think I should be. I'm not meeting my own, unrealistic expectations and instead have been choosing to compare myself against all the successful entrepreneurs out there who seemingly have it all together and are making all the $$$. 

Or at least them SEEM to be. Right?

We do this at work too you guys. 

We compare ourselves to those with higher titles and better cars and think that we'll never be as successful as they are. We watch someone present in a meeting and wonder why we can't be just as influential. We get constructive feedback and take it to mean we will never be able to be a rock star in our current role because if our boss disagrees with one thing we do then everything-I-do-must-be-flawed-and-I-will-never-be-able-to-get-a-raise-or-that-promotion-now.

It's so hard to overcome these thoughts, especially if you're pessimistic by nature or hold yourself to an extremely high standard (guilty). 

I used to beat myself up for beating myself up (ironic, I know) and that made it worse (shocker). But over time I've learned to lean into those feelings of imposter syndrome and self-defeat and label them. 

What am I feeling in this moment? Why? Is it true?

It takes seconds to do this. Longer if I'm going to write it down. Sometimes I do it while walking to another meeting. Or getting water. Or heating up my lunch. You get the picture.

And it works. Because by acknowledging these feelings I'm exposing them and proving they're false. 

Because feelings aren't facts. 

Most of us go through our day at work thinking that feelings are actually facts though, and we let that guide how we interact with others and treat ourselves. And that's why we're quick to anger, even quicker to get frustrated, and ultimately decide that we hate our job and can't stand showing up to work.

It's a new year and we're all trying to be better versions of ourselves because a new year holds so much promise that we can tackle anything and be all the things and do all the things. I've repeated my friend's statement probably one hundred times since that day because though I'm not feeling that rejuvenated by the new year just yet, I'm getting there.

And if you're struggling to get there too, then work on asking yourself those questions.

What am I feeling in this moment? Why? Is it true?

They'll give you perspective and clear your head. And if that doesn't work, then flip someone off under the table during a meeting and I promise that will make everything feel better. Sometimes we just have to do what it takes friends.

The One Thing Nobody Talks About When it Comes to Being Busy


This morning I bribed my kids with goldfish before 8:00am so we could get out the freaking door and I could get to work. Because I'm busy.

This morning you looked at your to do list and decided what was important to do and what wasn't going to happen. Because you're busy. 

SHOCKER. We are all busy.

And yet this is what we say all the time to everyone: I'm really busy. I was too busy to do that. I'm so busy tomorrow. Things are good - I've just been so busy!


What if you stopped using that word? I've been working on this for a few weeks now and it's had a huge impact. Because now, instead of saying those "busy" statements, I say this: I didn't make time for that or I'm not making time for that.

Think about how a conversation changes when you say "I didn't make time for that today" instead of saying "Hey I'm sorry I didn't get to that spreadsheet update but I've-just-been-so-busy."

It makes you think twice, doesn't it? It doesn't feel good to tell someone you didn't make time for them.

Saying you're too busy is an excuse that makes us feel better about not being accountable and puts the blame on our calendar. Our job. Our life. It's easy to blame everything on that stuff.

But we're really the ones in control of how busy we are. And if you want to be influential at work or a servant leader for your team, then eliminating the word busy from your vocabulary is critical. Because even though others don't say it out loud, we know that when we hear a busy statement that it's just an excuse.

If you try this out, I'd love to know how it works for you! Reply to this email and let me know! 

The Shocking Way I Increased My Confidence

When I was started in the corporate world, after 8 years of working in public education as a teacher and instructional coach, I had to put my ego aside. With one job change I went from being an expert to being the new kid on the block with no street cred and very little knowledge.

Cue "All by Myself" by Eric Carmen. One of my all time faves. 

It was really hard, and during my early years in HR I lost confidence. Everyone seemed to know more than me. I looked so young that I had a hard time convincing leaders to take me seriously. I barely understood the business of retail. 

Over time I grew myself into a subject matter expert but one thing never left - the lack of confidence I had in myself that I knew what I was doing. I always believed there was someone else better than me. 

When we lack confidence it shows.

Others see it in our work product (Can you review this for me? I'm not sure it's good enough. Okay, I've made changes, so will you review it again?) because we've never sure if what we've made is good enough.

Colleagues see it in meetings (I'm afraid to ask everyone to stop talking but I need to get this meeting started) because we don't take command of the room and stumble over our words. 

Leaders see it when they ask how we want to grow (I'm not sure because I don't know what else I can do) and we don't really have an answer. 

It's taken years to realize that no one is in charge of my confidence but me. So to increase how I viewed my self worth, I decided about a year ago to do something shocking. Something so very out of the norm that I wasn't sure that even I could pull it off. 

When people told me how awesome I was, I decided to believe them


I started telling myself that they were right. That what I knew or how I did something (in my case it was facilitating a class or leading a 1:1 coaching session) was pretty amazing. At first it didn't stick - I found myself going back into my old way of thinking. But the more I kept telling myself "They're right! I am awesome at this!" the more I started to believe it. 

Shockingly, it's something most of us don't do. 

We choose to believe the negative thoughts in our head. We choose to minimize the positive feedback we get from others. And you know what happens when we choose that? We don't grow. We don't live out our dreams. We settle for less because we think that's what we deserve.

To increase your greatness, start believing what others say. Shockingly, it works.

The Major Thing Successful Leaders Do Differently


Have you ever worked for someone who should have had caution tape wrapped around them so everyone would know they were a predator? The attacks were subtle. Would it be today's "casual" desk drive by or tomorrow's passive aggressive email? 

You never knew when it would happen so your guard was always up. That means you second guessed their intentions and toed the line between wanting to trust them but knowing you couldn't. You worked in fear, scared to make a wrong move because you never knew when they would pounce.

It's because that manager valued results over people.

Leaders who come from the mindset of "as long as we're getting results does it matter how it's being accomplished?" treat their people like prey.

Leaders who come from the mindset of "if I put my people first the results will follow" are much more successful. Because the same qualities that it takes to put people first - humility, empathy, integrity - are the same ones that make results happen. Really. And here's what they look like. 

Successful leaders know that unwritten rules can destroy a team's culture. All teams have unwritten rules that govern how they treat each other. Here are two I see all the time: responding to emails in the middle of the night so everyone thinks they should be doing it too and using BCC in an email chain to passively call someone out. These unwritten rules (aka: it's expected that you work all the time and it's okay to throw each other under the bus) make employees feel like prey. Which means they aren't doing their best work because they don't feel trusted and valued. 

They also give feedback in manageable chunks. Successful leaders (vs. managers who see their team as another item on the to do list) give feedback (positive and constructive!) in the moment. They don't save it all for performance review time. They don't save it all for performance review time. They consistently share the great things that are happening and hold their people accountable for changing behaviors that aren't working. In a nice way. Because when they give constructive feedback, it's not tied to a bonus or year-end review score. It's coming from the heart.

And they say thank you. All the time.  And in different ways, like sending emails, bringing something special to a weekly team meeting (Oh yeah! They do this too!), leaving everyone's favorite snack on their desk, telling everyone to go home early on a Friday, and making personal development a priority.

Put people first and the results follow. Successful leaders know this works and stand out from the crowd because it's not the norm to see managers prioritizing their people and team culture above results and metrics and money. But it's the right thing to do. 

Four Ways to Make Your Monday Amazing


When I was a high school teacher I dreaded Mondays. I would spend most of my Sunday afternoons worrying, stressing and complaining. That mindset left me exhausted and I rarely felt refreshed and optimistic about the week. 

I was my own worst enemy. 

Ten years later a lot has changed. I've had two careers. I've now got two young children (which leaves me little time to even think about Monday in between keeping everyone fed / wiping noses / dealing with tantrums). I've grown up. 

But most importantly, what I've learned since that time in my life is that I am in charge of my mindset if I want my Monday to be amazing. 

Not my boss. Not my husband. Not my workload.

Realizing that was a huge step because I felt empowered to change my mindset instead of relying on others to do it for me. So I started doing things differently, and it quickly made a difference.

I started practicing self-care. I know what helps me feel relaxed: cooking, exercising, laying on the couch and watching TV (no shame in that game). So instead of denying these things to myself, I've leaned into them because they make happier. Which means Monday can't get me down. 

I cleared our calendar. Packing Sundays with events left our family feeling frantic and rushed at the end of the day and then I would go to bed feeling stressed and empty. Now I'm intentional about what we let into our Sundays. And because of that the day is slow, moves at a relaxed pace, and I feel recharged and ready to take on the week.

I created a gratitude list. I'm a pessimist at heart. It's something I work to overcome and if I'm not careful the negative thoughts go crazy on Sunday afternoons. I'm never going to get anything done. I can't believe I have that meeting on Monday. I feel so tired already. Intentionally having gratitude puts me in a better state of mind. And that carries over when I wake up the next day. 

I organized my Monday ... on Friday. Every Friday afternoon I look at my calendar for the next week and make a to-do list so that when I sit at my desk Monday morning, it's all there. I'm not playing catch-up at 8:00am because I already know what's on my plate. I'm not anxious on Sunday because I've forgotten what the upcoming week holds.

Running blindly into Monday means the day will run us, but successful people don't let that happen. Instead of running blindly through the weekend, letting others dictate your schedule, identify what's most important and what you need to feel your best. Then do that and watch your Monday be amazing.

The Best Personal Development Lesson I Ever Learned


I started my career in public education. There was barely enough money for supplies for my high school classroom, and even though it was the dawn of the age of computers in education, I had an overhead projector instead of being able to project my computer. One year I had 35 students in a rectangular, single-wide trailer (aka my classroom). Picture sardines using pencils. Heaven help anyone who needed to get to the door for a bathroom break.

When I changed course and started working in HR, I found myself in the world of discount retail. We were a small team that wore multiple hats. We developed our own leadership training and talent development programs (when you work in discount retail you cultivate a "do it yourself" mindset pretty quickly). We would walk to the ice cream shop next door for "team building" and started a book club to learn more about leadership development because there wasn't money to go to conferences or join professional organizations.

And though I'm sure it would have been nice to spend my career working at places where we had all the money to do all the things ...

.... maybe it actually wouldn't have been that great.

Because one of the best things my career has taught me is how to be resourceful.

It's an inner resourcefulness - attitude, determination, innovation, courage - that has transformed how I show up at work each day.

Resourcefulness taught me self-reliance. Not enough money to pay a consultant to come in and create a high potential development program? I'll teach myself. I'll read all the free articles that the Harvard Business Review will allow, reach out to connections on LinkedIn who are running successful programs, and read the whole internet until I find published agendas from other HiPo programs around the world. And guess what? It worked.

It also taught me to be proactive. It never occurred to put my dreams and goals for my students on hold just because there wasn't money. When I wanted a new resource for my classroom, I researched until I figured out how to make it myself or found a similar free version that I could modify to meet my needs. If I couldn't make it, I built a case and didn't stop trying to convince others, even when I heard "It's not in the budget this year." I learned to believe that I was resourceful enough, I could make anything work, and to never let an obstacle defeat me.

And over time I became more creative. When you're resourceful, you have to think outside the box. I'm highly organized, a critical thinker, and an excellent list writer (if list writing competitions were a thing I'd medal for sure), and because of that, in the beginning of my career I struggled with anything requiring creativity and innovation. But after years of working on this muscle - after forcing myself to imagine crazy possibilities in addition to the practical ones because it was the only way I was going to get what I wanted - I became better at it.

The more I used these muscles, the stronger they became. I found myself with the courage to start my own business even though I had zero capital and no marketing knowledge. I took on talent planning for a new organization without ever actually having done it on my own. I taught myself how to use instructional design programs (can I get an amen for YouTube tutorials and free trials?) that would improve my skill set and make me more marketable.

Simply put, I started believing I could do anything.