Plug the Leaks ... and Fast!



  • Uncover what’s true for you – and quickly, too (1:10)

  • What no business can afford to waste, but most do (2:50)

  • How time gets wasted and how it costs (7:30)

  • How to plug those leaks (15:55)


I happen to be a person others look to for direct feedback on how they can improve their success, both in their vocation and their personal happiness.

I used to wonder how the work and reputation of my company came to be, until someone that I respect gave me some powerful feedback. It was like they shined a spotlight on my unique value…


“Beth, when I work with you, I know that I best not call you unless I want the truth, and I want to take action to make the changes I need to make. Sometimes I know I have to call you because, deep down inside, I know I’m ignoring the reality of what’s happening. And I know you just aren’t going to tolerate finding ways to avoid facing it and dealing with it.”

I was a bit blown away because I often try to soften my message or slow down the pace of my coaching, but there is more wiggle room to evade the truth when my message is softened – especially when we’re talking about long-term behaviors that hold back companies and workgroups.

Another leader said to me, “Beth, you dive right in, and you empower us to get where we need to be quickly. And in business today, everything moves so fast and time is so valuable, we can’t afford to go slowly.”

This brings me to what I most want to address today: Time.


The biggest resource leak that I see in the business world is the most precious and non-renewable resource we have – TIME.

We put so much effort and attention into counting the dollars, tracking the expenses, investing in the newest technology, and charting our strategic pathway to the future – and those are all valuable activities, but it is the rare leader who connects a dollar value to every minute spent in putting off direct feedback and clearing up petty conflicts, ongoing office drama, and confused communication.

Rarely does a leader call me and say, “Beth, I want you to know we’ve done an assessment of how much time we spend unwinding miscommunication, listening to the impacts of unhealthy dialogue, losing staff because they can’t collaborate or get along with someone on their team, or creating workarounds for those who aren’t accountable for doing their job; and what we’ve found is that if we dedicated all those paid hours to learning how to have clear communication and speaking our truth with empathy, compassion, and a focus on the good of the whole – darn it! – we’d be unstoppable!”

Generally, what I hear is something like this: “I need your help. My vice president isn’t pulling his weight on the leadership team. He’s missing deadlines, and the rest of the team is getting resentful. We’ve held meetings without him to discuss ways to get him to achieve his goals and hold him accountable, and they’re not going anywhere. We’ve decided we need to shift his responsibilities and get him off the leadership team. He’s worked here for years, and I feel like he’s a friend. I’m pretty sure this is going to hurt his feelings and his ego, and I’m afraid it will impact our friendship. So, instead of telling him the truth, I’m thinking of telling him blah-blah-blah…”

—and that’s when I hear a big, long creative story that I suspect this leader has lain awake for hours trying to come up with, all as a way to avoid having the truthful conversation with empathy, compassion, and a focus on the good of the whole.

As a matter of fact, I probably get more calls that start with a scenario and a big, long story similar to that one than calls where people want to deal with what’s going on head-on. I refer to this as a workaround call, and I see it’s not about creating a single solution for a single person but a symptom that this company or organization is leaking so much money because they have a culture where people have not learned to speak the truth with empathy and compassion while keeping an eye on what’s in their best interest for the good of the whole.


So, what other symptoms do I see that tell me people don’t have the skills to speak the truth with clarity, and consequently cause resource leaks?

Unskillful delegation

What that looks like: People taking actions in the wrong direction, and then there’s frustration, resentment, and anger when tasks aren’t done in the way leaders anticipated they would be done.

Unclear goals and strategy

What that looks like: When I do confidential assessment interviews at the beginning of a working relationship with an organization, I ask, “Tell me what you know about the strategic plan of your organization,” and most of the time, 65% to 75% of the people say they have no idea. Now, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t one, and it sure as heck doesn’t mean that it was never communicated, but it does mean that it wasn’t heard.

Leaders operating as experts

What that looks like: Staff takes action based on assumptions instead of facts because they don’t feel comfortable or safe asking clarifying questions. This is a critical place of self-exploration for a leader: Do you welcome clarifying questions, or do you find them kind of annoying?            

Unhealthy and unproductive conflict

What that looks like: People are in the habit of identifying who is to blame when something goes wrong instead of taking time to debrief, reflect, and identify ways to improve processes for next time. Taking a few minutes to simply ask what went well, what was challenging, and what you might do differently next time can prevent or lessen conflict.

Repeating patterns of negative behavior

What that looks like: We all know the situation where someone flies off the handle, yells and screams, slams their laptop shut, leaves the meeting, or doesn’t hit deadlines – or whatever the case may be – and it’s an ongoing behavior that takes away from how rapidly and with how much strength we can achieve our goals. You hear people saying things like, “Oh, that’s just Sue, don’t mind her. We’re used to her behavior. Give her some time; she’ll calm down.”

We should all be aware of how our reactions to our emotions impact both our own success and that of others. A change from negative patterns of behavior is possible, it’s a choice, but it needs support, and there’s a process to it.

A culture heavy with gossip

What that looks like: In these cultures, there is no clear channel for communication and no norms for healthy dialogue or clarifying information. Frequently, a culture of gossip develops because people don’t feel safe asking for clarification. People also get titillated by the drama of gossip, and they feel like they’re not part of the group, not an insider, if they’re not part of the gossip. Changing that culture is critical.

Long-term grudges and resentment

What that looks like: A large number of people report that they leave organizations over a long-term grudge that results in resentment. These are miscommunications that have damaged egos or hurt feelings, where people feel they haven’t been seen and heard, and where there’s no one in the organization who knows how to help resolve it, how to help people get clear and clean, in a timely fashion.

And how do these cost your organization?

Each one of those scenarios listed above has an associated expense that directly impacts payroll, which is usually one of the biggest expenses for a company or organization.

Every minute that employees are involved in an activity that’s the direct result of unclear or emotional communication, labor costs are leaking out of the organization, never to be recovered. 

Every minute that your personnel is focused on any kind of drama and confusion, they are missing opportunities to make progress toward goals.

So, what was my recommendation to the CEO who is avoiding a necessary dialogue with his vice president? Pretty simple:

  1. Focus on the facts instead of your story, or other people’s stories, about this situation.

  2. Identify what you value and want to retain in this situation.

  3. Be clear on the options or choices that this vice president will have as a result of this conversation.

With those three simple things – the facts, what’s valuable to retain, and their options and choices – they can now frame the dialogue, and then have it. And it could sound something like this—

“Hey, Bob, I need to talk to you about something. I value our friendship and our working relationship. Recently, you have not been hitting your goals and completing your deliverables. This is really impacting our company’s ability to be as successful as we need to be. I have a couple of ideas about options we can use to remedy this, but first, I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on this.”

It’s pretty simple, huh? And it’s pretty hard for Bob to be offended when you want to have a conversation about what you value, what the issue is (based in facts), how it’s impacting the good of the whole, what thoughts he may be having about this, and options that empower him to make a choice for moving forward.


The best and most sustainable way to put a stop to the leaking resources and missed opportunities in your organization is to shift the culture.

And the absolute best way to shift the culture is to invest in the Navigating Challenging Dialogue® Skills Training for your staff and its Leadership Certification for your managers and leaders.

Shifting your culture and stopping the leaks isn’t hard. As a matter of fact, it feels like a relief; it feels like things just got easier, solutions are clear, and people are empowered to do their best work for the good of the whole. The ease you and your staff will experience will be both sustainable and intrinsically rewarding.

So, let’s get started!

The next Navigating Challenging Dialogue Leadership Certification workshop is happening in San Jose, California on October 2 – 5. This is your chance to invest in a culture shift that isn’t going to feel abrupt or difficult, and it’s going to bring ease and joyfulness to your workplace.

Click here to join the culture shift movement and stop the leak of resources within your organization

- Beth