Video Blog: Managing Change in Your Organization

Like it or not, we are living—and working—in a constantly changing environment. In the workplace, we’re dealing with new technologies, new laws and regulations, changing policies, new competitors, an international marketplace, and many other rapid advances. It seems like nothing stays the same for any length of time.

Managing change is rapidly becoming a required core competency for organizations of every shape and size—government, commercial, or non-profit, large or small.

Our video Managing Change provides an introduction to managing change within your organization. If you’d like more information, or to speak with us about change in your organization, contact us at

Enjoy the video!




Going 120 Miles Per Hour

Last week I was driving home from work and I noticed my speedometer read 120 mph! I wasn’t actually driving at this speed, rather my speedometer seemed to get stuck at this mark. When I got home I Googled “stuck speedometer” and received some suggestions of how to fix the problem. I tried a few but nothing seemed to work. Over the course of the next week a strange thing happened. Gradually, slowly, over a 6-day period my speedometer returned to zero!

After puzzling over this for days, I began to make the connection that I also seemed to be going 120 with my work and my life.  I had multiple events to facilitate, dozens of coaching clients to meet with, and personal errands to run. I realized I seemed to be stuck at this high speed! My gauge was my stress level and corresponding insomnia and agitation.

This reminded me how important it is to “check our gauges” regularly. I wondered how long I had been going at this speed without even realizing it. Prolonged stress and high speed has serious consequences on the mind and body. Not only is it not healthy for us, it does not allow for the healthy creation of connected relationships. Like when you get on an airplane and the flight attendant directs you to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others, we need to realize we can’t truly connect with others unless we have taken care of ourselves first.

So how do we know when we are at 120 mph? What “gauges” should we routinely check to make sure we are going the speed limit? Here are a few that I plan to monitor more regularly:

  • ·Health gauge  (physical, mental, and spiritual)
    • Am I sleeping well, eating right and getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day?
    • Am I able be to kind and forgiving to myself and others, while maintaining an overall optimistic outlook?
    • Am I engaging in mindfulness or spiritual practices that renew my soul?
  • Relationship gauge – Am I truly present for others and able to listen fully without judgement or interruption; am I able to provide support and help when appropriate?
  • Perspective gauge – Am I focused on what is most important, avoiding things that don’t really matter?
  • Commitment gauge – Am I setting appropriate boundaries in my work and life? Am I committing only to the things that support my values?

What are your gauges and are you monitoring them regularly?

Watching Yourself on Video – A Few Minutes of Pain for a Lifetime of Improvement

I recently had the opportunity to lead a presentation skills workshop. It was a two-day workshop where each participant gave 2 presentations:  a 3-5 minute presentation at the beginning of the workshop and then a 5-7 minute presentation at the end of the workshop.

I was amazed how much each individual improved from the first to second presentation. Our training has great content (of course!), but a major reason for the improvement was video. We video’d each person presenting and then watched the videos together as a class.

Watching yourself on video can be an awful—and very humbling—experience.  That’s why most of us don’t like it. It’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable to watch yourself.  I’m not going to get into the reasons why here, but here’s a great blog that goes into some of the science and psychology of why it’s so uncomfortable for us:

Be it uncomfortable or not, it absolutely helps us as presenters. So, put aside your pride and thin skin, and watch yourself on video. In fact, watch the video several times.  It takes at least once to get over the shock and horror. The second time you can start to focus on some areas of improvement. Then a third time you can really dig in and look for ways to make yourself a pro. Plus, once you can get past the “physical” critiques, you may even be able to devote some mindspace to evaluating and improving your content.

As you watch yourself, here are 4 things to focus on.

1.       How do I look?  Check out your overall appearance—not just your clothes and hair, but your overall “presence.”  Am I standing up straight?  Am I projecting a sense of confidence?  Do I look and seem relaxed? Professional?  Am I appropriate to the event? Do I look like someone I would want to listen to? Studies indicate that about 80 percent of a person’s perception of your presentation is based on your non-verbal communication, so make sure you look the part. You only have one chance to make a first impression.  Make it a good one.

2.       How do I sound?  This one has a couple of different elements. First and most important, notice your volume.  Can people hear you? Can they understand what you’re saying, or are you mumbling, talking to the floor, or talking to the screen?  There is nothing more irritating to your audience than not being able to hear and understand you. 

Are you talking too fast?  In a recent workshop we had a student who was very comfortable, looked great, spoke great, and had great content, but was too fast. By the time they were done, the audience was exhausted. If you seem too fast, slow down just one beat. It may seem slow to you, but to the audience it’s a nice pace, and much more relaxing.  Being nervous makes us go faster, so keep that in mind as you present. Don’t be afraid of a little silence or downtime.

Also consider your vocabulary and language.  Is it appropriate to the audience and situation?  Is it too casual or too formal?  Is it the right “level” for the audience?  We had several scientists in our workshop and their language will differ depending on the audience. It will be much more scientific for fellow scientists and more high-level for a business/management audience.

3.       How do I move?  Movement during a presentation can be very impactful or it can be a complete distraction.  Do you stand still? Sway? Move from foot to foot? Do you wildly flail your arms and hands? Or do you have subtle, intentional movements?  Do you move with purpose toward the screen or toward the audience? Do you use gestures and movements to make a point?  An audience loves intentional and purposeful movement during a presentation and it can greatly enhance your message.  Are your movements enhancing what you’re saying or distracting?

4.       All those other stupid things we do – This is probably the worst of all the things we see when we watch ourselves. It’s those little habits, expressions, quirks, or ticks that in most cases are charming and interesting.  Maybe it’s an eye roll, the way you lick your lips, a gesture, or a certain face we make.  They are the things that make us “us.”  You may see them and be embarrassed, but just accept them.  Different and unique can be good.  If you want to change them, go for it, but you are who you are.

And probably the most irritating of all:  the uhs, ums, and ahs, or other verbal baggage you may carry.  This probably is something you can control, so make the effort. As stated above, don’t be afraid to take a pause or take a breath. There’s nothing wrong with a little silence.  Uhs, ums, and ahs are a natural part of most of our speech, but just be aware and try to minimize.

So, if you haven’t had the opportunity—or horror—of watching yourself present on video, you should definitely try it. It’s amazing how much you can improve from just a few minutes of pain.  Let us know if you’re interested in formal training, we’d be happy to tell you more about our Presentation Skills Workshop.  Email us at


Mark Ernstmann Joins Ernstmann Consulting on a Full-time Basis to Lead Marketing Practice

We are happy to announce that Mark Ernstmann has joined Ernstmann Consulting as our full-time Marketing Practice Lead.  Our marketing practice will supplement the existing services we’ve been providing over the past 13 years.  Those services include executive coaching, organizational and leadership development, and facilitation.

Mark is a practical, hands-on, revenue-focused marketing professional with more than 25 years of experience across the full marketing lifecycle. His sweet spot is designing and implementing marketing strategies and go-to-market plans that drive demand, opportunities, and revenue. Mark has leveraged his entrepreneurial and program-building skills in support of several startups and early-growth companies, including CorasWorks, which he co-founded in 2003. He is a pioneer in the Cloud, SaaS, and PaaS markets.

“Ernstmann Consulting has built its reputation over these past 13 years by providing practical, sustainable, leadership solutions,” said Talisa Ernstmann, Founder and CEO of Ernstmann Consulting. “Our customers value our commitment and dedication to designing and building real-world solutions that work—even after we leave.  Mark is going to bring that same level of commitment and dedication to our marketing clients.”

Services offered through the new marketing practice include strategy and planning, product marketing, demand/lead generation, program measurement and evaluation, and content development.

You can read more about our Marketing Practice at

Jumping to Conclusions

Simply put, perspective is “the way you see something.”  If you think being a responsive co-worker means answering e-mail 24/7, when someone does not respond to your 2am email until 8am, your perspective is the person is not responsive.  What this may really mean is that you need to create and respect boundaries!  That however, is not the focus on this blog.

Chris Argyris of the Harvard Business School explains perspective with the “ladder of inference.”  Here is how we move up the ladder:

  • First rung:  We make observations about the world around us
  • Second rung:  We “select data” from what we observe
  • Third rung:  We assign or add meaning (cultural and personal) to this data
  • Fourth rung:  We make assumptions based on the meanings we add
  • Fifth rung:  We draw conclusions
  • Sixth rung:  We adopt beliefs based on these conclusions
  • Top rung:  We take action based on these conclusions

It seems most of us are climbing this ladder all day long!  We live in a time where we make snap judgments about a person based on one action we might observe. Rather than get curious about why a person took a particular action, we immediately jump to conclusions and make quick judgments.

Whether this is showing up for us in many of our relationships, or maybe just one “difficult relationship,” we may benefit more by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Why did this individual behave this way, or take this approach?
  • What assumptions may I be making about this?
  • What actual data am I relying on to reach my conclusion?
  • What else might I need to learn to understand this situation or person better?

Maybe instead of “jumping” to conclusions we might first stand still and ponder this.  We all know the old saying about making assumptions!  Only when we get curious do we open ourselves up to new perspectives.



Procrastination - I'll Worry About It Tomorrow

For whatever reason, I find that procrastination is the coaching issue of the day for many of my clients. They come to the coaching session beating themselves up because they are putting off certain things. Heck!   This is an age-old problem almost all of us suffer from.  Let’s face it: We procrastinate around things we don’t want to do or are not good at.  Many of us remember hearing from our parents, teachers, or elders, “Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.”  Sometimes I prefer Mark Twain’s motto, “Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do day after tomorrow just as well.”

Procrastination also shows up for us when we have an overwhelming task that needs to be accomplished.  We look at the task and think about how daunting it is and how hard it will be to complete.  If the issue requires high emotional energy (laying off a staff member, transitioning to a much larger role, settling an estate after the death of a parent), the event is magnified and we are even more likely to procrastinate.

Breaking things down into manageable chunks is often a successful strategy, but even before that, we should get clear on why this is hard for us and what we can do to get moving.  Here are some questions we can ask ourselves when we find ourselves procrastinating:

  • Why is this task important for me to complete?  What will it be like for me once I have completed it?
  • What will it cost me (or what will I have to give up) if I don’t do this?
  • What is holding me back from getting started?  Am I using justifications or rationalizations that are keeping me from moving forward?  What might I have to “let go of” to get started?
  • What is one thing I can do today to move toward my goal?  What can I do tomorrow?

Sometimes we don’t do the things we need to because they don’t seem “fun.”  So ask yourself, how can I make this more fun, or at least not painful?  Breaking things down, giving yourself rewards for completing small steps, using humor along the way.  These are just a few ideas.  If all else fails, lean on the Nike approach and “JUST DO IT!”



Dare to Dream

One of my favorite quotes comes from a song by the talented musician George Harrison.  The song is ‘Any Road” and the line goes:  “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  How true! 

Some of my favorite work with coaching clients is personal visioning.  I find that many clients are keenly aware of the importance of organizational visioning, but interestingly enough, they have never given much thought to a personal vision.  Many know that to create a company vision you challenge stakeholders to think about the organization of the future.  Where does the organization want to be in 5 years?  What is its best possible future?  Many a company retreat or leadership off site meeting have been dedicated to engineering such a vision.  Yet when I ask clients if they have gone through a personal exercise around their own vision I get the proverbial “blank stare.” 

My own recipe for a personal vision includes the following three components:

1)      Definition of purpose

2)      Personal values

3)      Personal strengths.

Like any recipe, each of these ingredients alone is important, but not until blended do theymake adelicious dish!

Definition of purpose is really why you think you are here.  Sometimes we can think of this metaphorically.  The formula might look like this: I am the (what) that impacts the (what).  An example would be “I am the lighthouse that leads others to their purpose.”  Or “I am the rock that others can count on.”  Whether you think of it metaphorically or not, your purpose is why you exist or why you are here.

Personal values are the things you believe in deeply.   Most of us just know this intuitively.  Are we a person who values getting results above all else, or are we someone who most values deeply connecting with others?  Values are things like honestly, results, family, spirituality, creativity, resourcefulness, etc.  They are all good, but we all have some things that are more important to us than others.  The best way to determine values is to assess how you spend your time and what you pay most attention to.

Strengths are the things you are naturally good at.  Not what you want to be good at, but what you are good at.  How do you best determine this?  Usually we gravitate to the kind of work, hobbies, or activities that play to our strengths.  Or, you can simply ask your spouse, significant other, co-worker, or friend what you are good at?

After you assemble these ingredients, you are ready to build your secret sauce:  Your vision!  Try creating a vision board.  A vision board is a visual representation of your purpose, values, and strengths.  It gives you something to aspire to.  HOW will you live your values and purpose, and also build on your strengths in the future?  Steps:

1)      Use a Power Point or graphics program to select and display photos that represent your purpose, values, and strengths

2)      Include a few captions about why the photo is meaningful

3)      Post your vision board somewhere you will see it everyday

4)      Share your vision board with others and tell them who you are aspiring to be.

Happy Visioning!


Stay Where Your Feet Are

A while back when I was going through a period of personal challenge, a good friend, who happens to be a psychotherapist, gave me some great advice.  She said, “Just  stay where your feet are.”  It was a great reminder of the core coaching practice of “be in the moment.”  When we are fully present in the current moment, we tend to be calmer, more centered, and more appreciative of what life has to offer.

Often, when I am working with clients who are stressed out, unhappy, frustrated, and confused about what is going on in their lives, they tend to exhibit two states of awareness: 1) constantly re-hashing things that have occurred in the past, or 2) nervously playing out what bad things are going to happen in the future.  When they are reminded to breathe deeply and remain focused in the present moment, a sense of calm returns and perspectives shift.  Here is an exercise I call the 5-5 that often helps clients shift perspective:

  1. Sit in a relaxed posture with both feet on the floor, right hand on your diaphragm, and eyes closed.
  2. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly to the count of 5.   Do this 5 times

When they have finished I ask them what they are noticing.  They usually describe a sense of calm.  What I notice in them is a more relaxed demeanor, a slower rate of speech, and greater eye contact.  Then I ask them to think about the tumultuous situation they had previously described and answer the following questions:

  1. What is really most important in this situation or challenge?
  2. What are you grateful for in this situation (I often have to probe a little bit here)?
  3. How do you most want to show up in this situation? 

Once fully present with the challenge, clients often see a deeper meaning in the situation or a more meaningful way forward.  This does not necessarily help them work through the solution, but it does help them focus on what is most important.

Another benefit of being fully present: Being open to new ideas.  If we can focus on breathing and being keenly aware of the present through our five senses (what are we hearing, tactically feeling, smelling, seeing, tasting), new insights emerge.  Through the process of breathing and being present we engage our right brains and we are more open to new insights and new ways of thinking about an old problem.

Pause for Clarity

When my kids were little they talked a lot about opening a pet store “when they grew up.”  My daughter said she wanted the job of playing with all the animals and feeding them.  My son, two years older, piped up and said, “I want to be the manager.”  When I asked who would clean up the animals messes, my daughter quickly said “That’s the job of the manager!”

Those of us who have been leaders in organizations can relate.  Sometimes it’s about motivating, influencing, and creating a great team environment.  Other times it’s about cleaning up messes, managing conflict, and fire-fighting.

No matter what challenge you find yourself faced with every day, being a leader is about being strategic, innovative, and transformative.  Kevin Cashman talks about this in his book, The Pause Principle. He talks about managers being transactional and needing to do a lot of fast thinking.  By contrast he talks about leaders needing time to pause and reflect.  The “pause principle” is the intentional process of stepping back, within ourselves and outside of ourselves, to lead forward with greater authenticity.

In my coaching practice I have found that getting leaders to do this often results in personal “breakthroughs” for them.  When I get them to reflect on their true values, on what really matters to them in life, and what they most want to be remembered for, things seem to shift for them.  What is worrying them in the moment seems to become less important.  The work crisis they have just described seems to fade into the background.  By reflecting and thinking through these deeper questions, it helps us all to re-focus and re-calibrate.  I invite you to take 10 minutes right now and answer these questions for yourself:

  • What values are near and dear to you?  Pick your top three.
  • What matters most to you in your work and in your life?  Is the majority of your time spent nurturing these things?
  • When you retire, what do you most want to be remembered for at work?  When you die, what do you hope people remember about you as a person?

Big questions requiring deep reflection.  Now, how will you show up differently tomorrow based on these responses?