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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Controlling the Conversation: Using a Communication Bridge

by Betty Lochner on September 10, 2017

controlling conversation

Whenever I travel away from home I’m reminded that no matter where you, or what the topic of the day is, getting around is all about controlling the communication to get what you need.

For example, in many southern states, they have the important skill of  “greeting people well” down. If they know your first name, they put a Miss or Mr. in front of it.  It feels familiar and welcome to be called “Miss Betty”. This is an effective way to make a connection and build trust.

And, once you get past the formalities, you can bridge the conversation to make it work for you. This can be especially true when working with the media, and is a great skill for all communicators. Learning how to bridge conversations is  learning how to move someone from where they want the conversation to be to where you want it to go. In other words, bridging is all about how to take control of an interview, or conversation.

A communication bridge can be used to get from a question asked of you to the message that you want to get out. It can help you avoid getting trapped into saying something you didn’t mean to say.

For example, when you are asked a question that you don’t want to answer directly, or if you simply want to change the focus or topic of the conversation, you can use one of these communication bridging techniques:

1. Briefly answer the question, but quickly move to a message you’d like to give:

Yes, but…


You know, I’m not sure about that. However, what I can tell you is…

2. Pose a new question and answer it yourself:

The real question here is “what are we doing about the problem?”


The heart of the matter really is “what we are doing about the problem?”

3. Redirect the conversation to what you want to talk about:

Let’s talk about something I am more familiar with…

4. Stop talking

Another effective way to change the focus is to just stop talking.

If you don’t have something that you want to say, be careful not to start talking just to fill space. Be thoughtful. And, don’t say something until you are ready to,  even if it creates a bit of an uncomfortable gap.

These bridging tips really work.  Practice one the next time you feel yourself in a conversation you need to change the direction of, or even one you didn’t really want to be in!



Betty Lochner, Communication Skills ExpertBetty 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.

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

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How to Facilitate Good Meetings: My Top 7 Tips

by Betty Lochner on August 28, 2017

Meeting Facilitation - AgreementsI’ve talked alot about the importance of running a good, efficient meeting, including how to  improve meeting engagement and how to end them well.  But, a good meeting only runs well if it is facilitated well from start to finish.

Ever Been in Meeting Hell?

When I’m in a poorly run meeting, I get distracted and find myself doing unproductive things like calculating the cost of the meeting (number of participants x approx cost per staff hour x number of hours/minutes). And if I’m distracted, there’s a good chance others are as well which means a whole lot of time is wasted (and productivity lost).

On the other hand, a well run meeting will keep participants engaged, productive, and feeling like the time is well spent.

What makes a good facilitator?

While some people are naturally good at getting a group to focus and get results, most of us simply need to learn or improve our skills in meeting facilitation.

To get you thinking about the areas you need to improve, I offer some of my favorite facilitation tips.

1. Develop a list of agreements.

First – and very important – make sure the expectations of the meeting are agreed upon right from the start. Make a list on a flip chart that includes going over the agenda and agreeing to time limits on each issue and when the meeting will end. The list should include when breaks are expected and how long they will be. This first step will help you solve many of your meeting challenges. If things start to get off track, refer back to the agreements and timeline.

2. Offer thinking tools.

Many people think more creatively with their hands are busy. Try putting legos or pipe cleaners on the tables.

3. Keep a list of “parking lot” items.

Use a flip chart or white board and write the words PARKING LOT across the top. Anytime a participant goes off topic, stop them, capture the topic and write it on the parking lot list for future discussion.This helps you stay on topic and avoid spending time on items not on the agenda, that are better suited for further discussion at a later time.

4. Write it down.

Use a flip chart, white board, or scribe on a computer to capture any key points and decisions throughout the meeting.

5. Keep on time and on track.

Check in every 15 -30 min or so (depending on length of the meeting), and note where you are compared to the agenda and timeline. Note how much time you have before you need to move on. Give time limits for topics – say something like: we’re going to listen to the presentation, then will have 15 minutes to discuss. At the 15 minute mark, we will move on to the next item.

Consider using a stop watch, and announce when there are 3 minutes to go.

6. Encourage participation from your introverts.

It’s not unusual for 2 or 3 participants to dominate most meetings. Ask some of the less vocal participants for their thoughts.  And, give those who need some time a minute or two to think first.  Those members of the the team are good at observing and processing the information and often come up with the best questions or ideas if given the time and opportunity.

7. Take time to talk about next steps.

At the end of the meeting, make sure you leave time to recap any decisions, actions to be taken, assignments given and what happens next.

Using good facilitation tools will make a difference between faciliating the meeting from hell and one with a productive outcome.  Practice these the next time you run a meeting. The more you do it, the more confidence you’ll have and the better your meetings will go!


Betty Lochner bio


Betty 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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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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Atta-Girl: Why You Should Have an 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?

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Lessons in Communication from the Great Sailing Adventure

In my experience sailing really comes down to this: a lot of (preferrably skilled) work and really good communication. Here are some useful (and important) tips.

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