Real Communication. Real Results.

Author, speaker, and coach, Betty Lochner is a passionate leader, with over 25 years of experience specializing in improving interpersonal skills, building and leading teams, training supervisors, and working with different communication styles and generations. 

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How to Facilitate an Appreciation Circle

by Betty Lochner on August 2, 2017

Appreciation You shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you really mean it. Then you should say it a lot. People forget that. ~ Jessica, Age 8

Studies have found that practicing appreciation can improve relationshps and motivate employees.  It can also increase wellness and lessen stress. In short, regular appreciation will not only boost performance and engagement, but also improve an employee’s health and well-being.

There are certainly many ways to show appreciation.One of my favorites to use with a work group is to facilitate an appreciation circle.

Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Participating in an appreciation circle can be uncomfortable for some at first, but I have found that once the ice is broken and the circle gets going everyone relaxes and bcomes engaged and enthusiastic. They learn quickly that is feels pretty good both to give and to receive positive feedback.

Set the Tone

As the facilitator, you set the tone and give examples of how to start (“what I appreciate about you is…) and use examples that aren’t elaborate at first (“I appreciate your style – I love your shoes”). As the group gets more comfortable with the exercise, they will get deeper (or not – and that’s okay too).  Use good eye contact. The point is to demonstrate genuine and thoughtful appreciation.  Help participants receive feedback by simply saying “thank you” and resisting the urge to give appreciation right back (they need to wait for their turn) or discounting the feedback (“Oh, these old things?).

Circle Options

There are several ways to facilitate an appreciation circle.  Always start by getting your group in a circle and choosing a way to pick somone to start.  Then try one of these exercises:

  1. Team Appreciation – The first person expresses in three words what they appreciate about the team.  Go around the circle – it’s okay if people use the same word to describe the team. Have someone write the words down and then discuss as a group why they choose those words. I’ve also taken the words and made a Wordle. It can be the start of a vision or value statement, or just a cool way to capture the results.
  2. Popcorn Appreciation – Use a small ball or bean bag and toss to a participant. That person shares one thing they appreciate about someone. They then toss the ball to someone else that hasn’t yet received the ball and they say something they appreciate about someone until everyone has had the ball come to them at least once.
  3. Team Appreciation – You can start this one:  look the person next to you in the eye, smile, address them by name, and share one thing you appreciate about that person (“Betty, I appreciate….).  The next person in the circle, shares something different or elaborates on something they appreciate about that same person. Continue around the circle until everyone has commented on that person. Then go to the next person in the circle and do this exercise until everyone has received an appreciation comment from each person.

You’ll find this appreciation exercise will give a huge moral boost to a team.  It fosters trust, teaches positive feedack, and motivates participants to practice the appreciation habit outside of the group more often.

For assistance in talking through your first appreciation circle, contact me.


Betty Lochner, Communication Skills ExpertBetty Lochner is the Owner and President of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication TipsTo find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our web site:

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Lisa’s Nest: A Story of Limitless Love

by Betty Lochner on July 21, 2017


This month marks the 6th year I have walked in Seattle’s SummeRun.

My sister-in-law, Lisa, lost her battle with Ovarian cancer 5 years ago.  Our team, Limitless Love for Lisa, walks in her honor with family members and friends, to raise funds to benefit the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research. Our goal is to end this horrible disease.

This year our team was a small, but mighty group.  Since some of us only connect annually at this event,  I always look forward to talking and walking with them. This year I walked most of the 3 miles with one of Lisa’s best friends. We had a delightful visit catching up and sharing stories and memories of Lisa. One of the stories we remembered together was about Lisa’s nest.

Lisa's Bird Nest

Lisa loved nature and wildlife. She and my brother, Bob, worked to make their property a natural habitat for birds and other critters. When her long, beautiful hair started falling out after cancer treatments, she would stand on their deck and comb it out.

After she died, several friends were helping Bob clean out the yard to get ready for a gathering. They found the bird nest pictured here, with Lisa’s hair woven throughout.

Lisa’s nest now has a place on the fireplace mantel and is a reminder for all of us – of the circle of life, and of the inspiration she left us by living her life to the fullest.

Lisa fiercely loved her family, the kids she taught and her circle of friends. She loved well and was well loved.

Her love was limitless and inspiring.

We miss you, Lisa.



Bob and BettyBetty Lochner is the President and Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She is an award winning public servant, human resources professional, an author, and national speaker.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit her website.


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Appreciation Notebook

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have access to all the kind words of appreciation and encouragement that anyone has ever said to us? You know, on those days where you wonder why you do what you do, or when life sends a curve ball your way. Or when you just need to be reminded that people do appreciate the work you’ve done.

Many years ago, when I was having a bad day at work, a mentor of mine told me about an “Atta-Boy” file he had started.  He collected all the nice emails, cards, awards, sticky notes, and other notes of thanks or words of encouragement that he got at work and put them in a file in his desk. When we was having a rough day, he pulled out his file and read through the notes.

That day, I started my own “Atta-Girl” file. Over time it outgrew the file and was moved into notebooks. Today I am starting my fourth notebook.

Included in my first notebook is one of my favorite notes (an email) from a former boss sent to me on my first week of work at the new job. It simply says “I’m glad you’re here.”  It still makes me smile. Another note I kept was from a staff person that read, “I really enjoy working for/with you because you are an engaged manger.  You pay attention to what is going on, provide guidance when needed and give kudos. Your job is not easy and yet you handle it all with grace and humor.” That one was from 1999.

Starting an appreciation file or notebook can be a huge confidence builder when you take risks and things don’t turn out well, or when your boss throws you under the bus (yes, it happens). Start one for yourself. Encourage others to start one. When things get tough, you’ll be so glad you did.

Because words are powerful.  Let them help you remember who you are.

Betty Lochner, Communication Skills ExpertBetty Lochner is the President and Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She is an award winning public servant, and a leadership and communication skills author, and national speaker.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit her website.

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“If we aren’t careful, we’ll be home ahead of schedule.” ~ Captain Randy

While sitting on a deck at a local restaurant, watching the sailboats pass by, I had to laugh.  It looks so simple, so carefree, so unstressful. Just sailing in wind and enjoying the view.  But, I know better.  I remember my first big sailing trip with my cousin “Captain Randy”, and it was anything but carefree.  In my experience, sailing really comes down to this: a lot of (preferrably skilled) work and really good communication.

Captain Randy with Alcobri in Victoria, B.C.The adventure started when Randy announced at a family reunion that he needed a crew to get his 34′ sailboat from Pt. Roberts to Gig Harbor, Washington.  Sounded fun to me, so I signed up.  I invited one of my best friends, Rachel, who had been sailing before (and could cook on a boat), to come along. We figured it would be a relaxing, fun trip for the three of us.
We were chauffeured by my land-loving husband to Canada to pick up the boat, then started the 3-day trip stopping in Friday Harbor, Washington, Victoria B.C., Kingston, Washington, and finally to Alcobri’s new home in Gig Harbor.
AlcobriHere are some of the important lessions I learned that applies to communicating on and off a boat:
  • Use the right jargon for the situation. A tiller may look like a stick, but it’s not a stick.  Saying, “do you need me to hold the stick?” is bad form.  Also, a rope is not a rope. It’s a  line.  Left is Port and Right is Starboard.  Don’t ask why.
  • Enunciation is important.  I was relieved that we had a depth finder, not a death finder.
  • Be patient. Sailing is a slow process.  We could have run or even walked faster than we moved when the sail was up. It’s okay to take your time and enjoy the scenery and conversation.
  • Your patience will pay off. In our adventure we saw several schools of seals and dolphins, a lazy sea lion on a buoy, a sleeping otter, and an entire pod of Killer whales.
  • Sailing is windy.  To have a good sail, you have to have power in the wind.  Don’t be afraid to face the wind and go for it.
  • Storms are scary.  When you are in the open sea and a storm comes up, there is a desparate need to get to a safe harbor.  And while sailboats are for sailing, sometimes they are best left safely tied to a dock.  Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition about safety.
  • Sailing is immense.  At one point, we sailed on 35 miles of open sea. It made me think about what a small part we play in a big world.  In other words, keep things in perspective when you get a little too full of yourself.
  • Things may look exactly the same but really they aren’t.  We went in and out of Canada and it all looked basically the same, but the rules were very different.  Oh, and you will get charged international phone roaming fees.

It was a great trip, but most important, we didn’t hit anything (though we came awfully close a few times), and we survived a pretty wild storm.  We had great conversation, beautiful weather, unfilled time, fun ports, and met interesting people. And, yes, we learned some valuable communication lessons along the way.


Betty_boatBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips.  Both are  also available on Kindle at

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:


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