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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They’re Counting on Us

by Betty Lochner on March 18, 2017

Note: This post was originally published by the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) with the title “They’re Counting on Us to Help Build Their Pot of Gold”

Counting on You

This month many of us become a little Irish as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday is full of symbols that we hope will bring good luck to us and our families. Whether we’re covering every surface in Shamrock décor, or draping ourselves in every green article of clothing we own, we all hope we find the elusive Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow.

Having luck and a pot of money waiting for us to use for college costs would be nice, wouldn’t it?

This year I became a Grandma and now, more than ever, I’m thinking about how I can help my grandson have that pot of money waiting for him. It takes planning and discipline, but it can be done.  My husband and I did it for both of our kids and they finished college nearly debt free.  And now we are encouraging our kids to do the same for their kids (and future kids) and we’ve decided to help.

Our sweet grandson, Azriel, is about to take his first steps, but we took our first steps to saving for his college dreams several years ago. When our kids graduated from college, we took the amount we had been saving per month and opened a 529 college savings account for future grand kids. We put one account in each of our children’s names.  My daughter’s account for Azriel is now worth about $5,900 and he is only 9 months old.  We’ll continue to contribute to the account – at least $100 for each birthday and Christmas – for the next 18 years.  By the time he’s ready for college, our small contributions will add at least another $3,600 in principal alone. If his parents try to double that effort, maybe add their annual tax return, and get the word out to other relatives for gifting, Azriel could easily have the cost of two or more years of college paid for.

And, there’s more than just the satisfaction of helping build our grandson’s dreams. A 529 savings account grows tax free, and there are gift and estate planning benefits too. You can find out more and at www.collegesavings.org.

When it comes to paying for college, with a little discipline and planning, we can all help build that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

About the Author:

Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit cornerstone-ct.com. Betty is also the Director of Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. and serves as Past Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN).

 

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Writing Performance Evaluations that Matter

by Betty Lochner on March 13, 2017

Azy ReadingOver the years as a subordinate and as a supervisor as all levels, I’ve learned that most performance evaluations are a better reflection of the person writing the evaluation than it is of the person being evaluated.

I’ve recieve formal and informal performance evaluations that I have read over and over because they either 1) upset me by the language used , the way it was written, and the focus on the negative; or 2) because it made me feel good about the work I was doing and my goals for the future.

Pretty radical extremes. The difference? How well the evaluator understood the goal of the evaluation and how well that was communicated.

Often the boss, aka the evaluator, will see a performance evaluation as something that has to be done – like eating something you don’t like because you were told to – rather than something that can highlight your role as a coach and mentor to help your employees be the best employees they can be.

Instead of dreding the process, think of it this way – a well written and communicated performance evaluation is one of the best tools you have to help employees work to their strengths and do their best work. They will  help you retain good employees and coach those that are under-performing.

Here’s where to start.

When you are writing a performance evaluation, think about the goals you are trying to achieve. Break out of the tendency to follow any rating system in place or a special format. If you are required to use a form, use it sparingly and attach a more comprehensive and meaningful memo. The best evaluations are those that result in meaningful discussion and a plan to move forward.

Here are some tips to make sure that the performance evaluations you give are meaningful and truly bring the best out of your staff.

  1. Start the evaluation process way before the actual evaluation. Make sure you are having regular coaching sessions to talk about expectations and how it’s going throughout the year. An annual performance evaluation is not a time for surprises, but a time to reflect on the year in a positive and helpful way. In the end, you get to decide how to write the evaluation, but it can be very empowering to an employee to make them a part of the process that is helpful to them, not just a reflection of you.
  2. Always start with sharing the positive – I like to call these strengths. Talk about what has gone well and which expectations were met.  Have examples ready and focus on the successes, even if they are small things like their reliability (getting to work on time), or their overall professionalism (being nice).
  3. Use peer comments. Ask colleagues to share comments about their interactions together.  The good and the not so good comments may give you some insight on patterns or behaviors you may want to address. And, it’s always nice to hear the good comments. Share those freely.
  4. Address stretches – those areas that need some improvement. Again, there should be no surprises.  This is an opportunity to talk about expectations that still need work and to lay out a plan for addressing them.  If you need to have a hard conversation with them, have the courage to do that.
  5. End with positive reinforcement. Re-emphasize what went well and that you are glad they are on your team.
  6. Ask how you can help make them even more successful. Be open to hearing what you can do more of or less of and how you can be a better manager.
  7. Ask if there is anything they would like worded differently or anything you missed before you produce the final evaluation.
  8. Start the planning process for the next evaluation – talk about expectations, goals, and professional development.

As supervisor, it’s your job to make your employees’ performance reviews as objective and unbiased as possible.  Take the time you need to be good supervisor and coach by writing performance evaluations that matter.

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Betty 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 transform your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift – all are available on Amazon.com.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit cornerstone-ct.com.

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Breaking Your Bad Communication Habits

by Betty Lochner on February 28, 2017

Closet purgeHave you ever gone through your closet and sorted out your old clothes? You know, ones that either don’t fit, or that aren’t your “color?”  I learned recently that I shouldn’t wear black. I think half of my wardrobe is black.  So, I decided it was time for some clothing reassessment.

I grabbed a friend and a glass of wine and went through my closet. We used the color charts and tips and after a very productive session of closet downsizing, I took three garbage bags full of clothing to my car to be transported to charity. The bags sat for a week, and whenever I opened my car up I peeked over to take a look and congratulate myself on my accomplishment and discipline. Then I started poking through the bags. I found myself pulling out a few things that I decided I just wasn’t ready to let go of – I need at least some black in my wardrobe, right? And, maybe that 25 year old sweatshirt my kids made me should stay too.

My husband even tried to help by communicating that I have too many shoes by lining them up and blaming the dog.

shoe roundupThis isn’t unlike how we respond to getting rid of bad habits. We know we should get rid of them, we’ve learned what we should keep and what needs to go, but when the going gets tough we revert back to the familiar. But we need to let them go and make way for new, improved habits!

Think about it – do you have a communication habit you need to let go of?  Do you talk more than you speak? Or maybe, you are really good at interrupting and want to change that?  It’s hard to break our communication behaviors that we have hung on to for so long. Our human nature makes us want to hold on to the familiar and resist change – even if we know it’s for the better.

 

If you are working on changing a habit, give yourself some grace.  But, when you find yourself putting bad habits back in your closet to stay, go back in there, put them in a bag and get rid of them. You’ll be so glad you did.

You can check out training opportunities to help you get rid of some old comunication habits and work on new ones to improve your relationships at work and home here.
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Betty LochnerBetty Lochner is a communication specialist, author, and professional speaker who teaches individuals and organizations how to make small changes that make huge differences in their relationships at work and home – improving morale, confidence and productivity. She 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 Amazon.com.
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Connecting Through Kindness

by Betty Lochner on February 13, 2017

Communicate KindnessIn 1982,  a woman in California scribbled the words, “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in a restaurant. That simple note gained momentum and quickly spread as a message calling all of us to practice caring and compassion. Now, every year during the week of Valentine’s Day, there is an official Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week. This year marked the 20th year that a week has been specifically set aside to celebrate the power of kindness.

Kindness is an act that inspires others to connect, respect, and make a contribution to making your workplace, your home, your community, the nation, and the world a better place to live.

I recently wrote about how to your show love this Valentine’s Day to ones you love.  Showing kindness to those outside of our loved ones, is what RAK is all about.  It doesn’t have to stop with a designated week of the year. Here are a few simple ways to step up your daily acts of kindness.

  1.  Compliment the first 5 people you encounter each day.
  2. Volunteer at your favorite non-profit (food bank, animal shelter….)
  3. Give a card or flowers to someone who is shut in or living in a nursing home.
  4. Take treats to your local fire station, your day care worker, your beautician, or others that impact your life.
  5. Say please and thank you with a smile to everyone you see.

For more inspiration, there’s a Random Acts of Kindness website entirely devoted to more ideas of how to celebrate.Kindness Quote

Studies show that kindness is contagious. Spreading kindness can start with you. And now, more than ever the world needs a huge dose of kindness, don’t you think?

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Betty 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 transform your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift.

 

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Communicate Your Love|Give Your Valentine a Heart Attack

Communicating your love is sometimes uncomfortable, but always important. Here are some really easy, inexpensive and tangible ways to do that.

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10 Ways to be a More Positive Communicator

One of the most powerful ways to improve relationships is to simply be a more positive communicator. Positive communication is contagious and brings out the best in those around you. When you set the example of positive communication, people are more likely to listen to you, the conversation goes better, and the results can be transforming.

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