Ready or Not, 2021, Here We Come!

What. Was. That?

I think that’s the general sentiment about 2020 and we still have a few weeks to go. It has been a year no one will forget. Nothing went the way it was supposed to. Big goals were pushed aside while we tried to figure out how to just get the bare minimum done. Simple tasks, like going to the grocery store, required planning and significant mental awareness. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Needless to say, I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me they’re planning something special (albeit with only their immediate family in attendance) to celebrate the end of this year. People who don’t usually celebrate the New Year are planning to celebrate this year. We can’t seem to get 2020 out of here fast enough.

But once it’s gone and we see “2021” as the calendar year, then what? What will you do differently? How can the toughest of years make you wiser, better, stronger and more focused?

Changing the calendar year is a start, for sure, a very strong mental one at that. But what will be different about 2021 for you other than it’s not 2020?

Before you say, “here I come, 2021!”, you need to create a solid foundation to be ready for the new year and all it will bring. Being comfortable dealing with change, redirecting anxiety and uncertainty to optimism and learning how to stay calm when presented with anything but a calm situation – all things 2020 challenged us with.

How can you do this? By working with a coach.

Working with a coach can help you get ready to make the most of 2021 in whatever way that looks for you. Through various tools, coaches help you better understand yourself and your situations, create achievable goals and navigate through the challenges and obstacles that stop you from achieving those goals. Whether the situation you’re facing is a personal one or professional, coaches help you discover, develop and live what is best in you, equipping you with exactly what you need to achieve the things that matter to you.

Here are 3 reasons why you should work with a coach to get ready for 2021:

1. What end is up? If you can confidently say you are more organized, more together and self-aware than ever before, congratulations! But for the majority of the public, 2020 was not so kind. Anxiety was through the roof. Uncertainty plagued even the most confident. Few are entering 2021 with their heads on [completely] straight. Working with a coach will help you get clear of your priorities, redefine goals and figure out where to start. After all, if you’re not sure where to start, how can you get going?

2. I will do / be XYZ. This year, most of us had to put aside big goals we wanted to achieve and instead focus on survival (literally and figuratively). In fact, a lot of parents have left the workforce to assist in childcare and remote learning because juggling the responsibilities of work and home (when everyone is always home) was becoming too challenging; you can’t give 100% in 5 directions all the time. At some point, something will fall. Working with a coach will help you revisit your goals and work on redefining and prioritizing them to make them actionable and achievable and, as a bonus, get and keep you motivated to do it. If you don’t have a goal, what direction are you moving in? And if you don’t have an accountability partner, how will you stay committed and on track?

3. Build (or rebuild) confidence, self-esteem and motivation. When you find yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in, especially when it’s out of your control, it can wreak havoc on your confidence and self-esteem. You question how you got there in the first place or how you let it get to the point it did. 2020 challenged everyone’s confidence. The parents who had family schedules perfectly planned and aligned were basically handed a blank calendar and told “try again.” The person working hard for the promotion they wanted found themselves challenged with just getting up in the morning to log in to work. The grandparents who want nothing more than to snuggle their grandkids having to settle for Zoom or Facetime and virtual hugs. It does a lot to the mind when everything you used to take for granted is pulled out from under you. Working with a coach will help you learn how to gracefully accept and navigate change – even the big changes that catch you off guard – and build (or rebuild) your confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and happiness so you can do and be better each day

Working with a coach creates time to focus on you. After all, there are many around you who need you to be calm, focused and present, each of which has been challenged by so many things this year. As you discover your strengths and liabilities, passions and triggers, you develop an inventory of abilities. Think of it like your toolbox; you have the right tools readily available to you to use in any situation that will make you feel confident, competent and capable.

The world is going to send what it is going to send. You can’t control that. What you can control is how you show up to what it sends. To do this in a successful way, you need to know and manage yourself, understand where you are and where you want to be, and, with guidance of a coach, bring all the pieces together to land on your feet and make the things that are important to you happen.

So, whether a parent, employee, manager, boss, spouse, partner or friend, engaging and working with a coach can help you show up more successfully by activating and using what is already great in you.

We can’t wait to work with you. Let’s make 2021 your year.

Take Action
When you take accountability for your life, you subconsciously take control. You decide what your life should look like, and you make it happen. You decide how you want to feel and you make it happen. You decide what you want and don’t want and make it real.

Be your best self in 2021. We’re ready to help.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Reassess What’s Really Important

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Fill In the Skills Gaps

For most employees, the days of doing the same tasks over and over each day are gone. Today’s service workplace demands every employee to be tuned in, present and thinking to assess their situation and respond in a way that delivers value and care to customers. In addition to having the right talents for the job, they also need to have the best skills.

Yet in a world of constant change, your employees can quickly lose ground with their skills. The skills that helped them perform yesterday may not be the same skills needed to succeed today. So how are employees supposed to stay current while still getting their work done? On-the-job training.

Think about your employees’ proficiency with the technology that drives, measures and evaluates your business.

Think about your employees’ proficiency with understanding emotional intelligence, professionalism and communication so they better connect with each other and your customers.

Think about your employees’ proficiency in problem-solving and critical thinking so they can wisely review, assess and choose how to successfully respond to challenges and opportunities.

It is up to the organization to fill in employees’ skills gap. Consider these two ways to provide the necessary on-the-job training to keep your organization competitive:

  1. Train your managers to act more like coaches. Use the increased contact of a coaching relationship to devote more time to developing employees’ skills by assessing what works and doesn’t work in their performance. Then, work with them to do more of what works and to improve what doesn’t work. They learn on the job, using real-time events, challenges and obstacles, from someone who can guide their learning and performance. It goes without saying that learning in real-time, with real-world examples tends to “stick” much better than theoretical training.
  2. Create versatile learning. Create an employee reading list. Identify your internal subject matter experts and help them create short trainings in a variety of formats, such as live or video. Mandate a certain number of required and elective skill trainings for each employee. Ensure that all skills training include a proficiency review at the end to ensure the training is amplifying skills and therefore performance.

Learning should be an organizational value, supported by every employee and evidenced by pervasive education, training and skill development for all levels.

Take Action
Your employees showed up ready to perform on their first day with a unique set of skills that would help them succeed on the job. Then the world changed. Help them stay productive and skilled by making skill development an essential part of your workplace culture and commitment to your employees. Consider how you can identify any skill gaps and how you must provide effective ways to help them close these gaps. This is a driver of productivity, performance and retention.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Managers: How to Identify and Correct Your Blind Spots

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3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

There is a direct correlation between the level of employee engagement and the level of productivity, performance and retention. That means that understanding and affecting employee engagement is the responsibility of every manager.

First, I will share that engagement, defined for the purpose of this post as the discretionary effort an employee puts into their job, is not the sole responsibility of the manager or the organization. Employees have a role in expanding their self-awareness to help align themselves to roles that need what they do and like best, and to have a voice in participating in their work in a way that matters. But that is the subject of another blog.

For now, let’s focus in on three things that every manager can do to increase employee engagement.

  1. Know your employees. It seems odd to say this, but the truth is that most managers don’t know their employees’ strengths, liabilities, interests, values and what activates and diminishes their performance. Without this information, you frequently and accidentally respond in unsuccessful or unproductive ways or misalign employees to roles that need more of what they are not good at than what they are good at. Spend time with employees to help develop their inventory of abilities. Use an assessment tool to help create the practical language of their strengths and their liabilities (the behaviors that are the opposite of their strengths that need management). Get guidance from a coach for tools to help all employees learn to look inside themselves to discover their unique abilities and preferences, then to share them with you so you can better guide them to the areas that need what they do and like best. This encourages competence which activates engagement. You don’t feel engaged if you are in a role that doesn’t fit you.
  2. Make time for each employee each week. Relationships are key to trust, and trust drives engagement. Employees want to work for managers who make time for them and treat them as valuable and important in the workplace. Knowing employees’ inventory of abilities and making time for them, will help you connect more authentically and interact more successfully.
  3. Focus on employee development. Today’s employees know they need to be constantly learning and growing. Managers, when they make the time to connect with employees and use that time to help employees assess what works and what doesn’t work in their performance, make learning and growing important in the workplace. This is key in the shift from managing to workplace coaching – to guide employees to better see and assess their performance and to own any required improvements. This encourages greater performance ownership and engagement.

There is no shortage of information and statistics supporting the premise that engaged employees consistently outperform disengaged employees. It is therefore the responsibility of every manager to intentionally choose how to be and what to do to encourage their employees’ engagement.

Take Action
Three simple things can help employees show up more engaged: know them, make time for them and develop them. What are you doing today to improve your employees’ engagement?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

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Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

By Jay Forte

It starts with the word potential.

Few of us are aware of our potential – of what is possible in and by us. We haven’t discovered our greatness or our core abilities. Instead, we have allowed the world to fill in these details for us and, as a result, we show up as others want us to be instead of who we really are. We miss out on what we are capable of doing, being or contributing, shortchanging ourselves and our world.

And for this reason, people get stuck. They find themselves disappointed, aggravated and irritated with life. They don’t see its greatness because they find themselves in jobs, lives, relationships and circumstances that just don’t fit them.

As poet Mary Oliver says in her famous poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Will you let others direct it or will you learn to discover who you really are, what remarkable abilities you were born with and how you want to develop and live them to make your impact in your world? Or, will you see that a great and amazing life is one you define, but for that, you must be aware of who you are and aware of what is going on in today’s world, so you can connect the two in an intentional way?

If all of us were able to discover, develop and live our greatness or our potential, think of the impact we could make in every aspect of life. We would put ourselves into the places that need what we do and like best. We would support others to discover and develop their abilities and potential so they could own their part of making a better world. We would begin to realize that we each have something important to discover, develop and share with our world – each of us doing what it is we do best to make things better.

Enter coaching.

Coaching guides you into developing clarity of who you are and how to define and work to achieve your potential in your world through an intentional and thought-provoking conversation.

The coaching conversation examines what you know of you, expands this and identifies what interrupts you from accessing your potential or achieving your goals. Coaching is not designed to relive your past or look to correct or improve you; you are fine as you are, no fixing needed. Coaching does, however, focus on helping you become more aware of who you are, your abilities and liabilities, your beliefs that direct your choices and decisions, and how this information is helping or holding you back from living your potential. Only by becoming aware are you able to navigate through these blocks and challenges to live a great, happy and successful life (in the way you define great, happy and successful).

Coaching creates the time and focus to examine the things in our lives that need a deeper review. Through guidance comes clarity. Through clarity comes direction. Through direction comes achievement. This process helps each of us tap into our own abilities and our own understandings to move ourselves in the direction(s) we want but may sometimes feel are out of reach. And in the process, we access what is best in us to deliver the thing(s) we are called to do.

How well do you know you and what you are capable of? How aware are you of the needs, challenges and opportunities in your world? How willing are you to find a way to bring your best and be your best in all you to to make your and our world better?

Want to change the world? Live your potential and help others live theirs. How can you start this process? Engage a coach.


Consider reading Are You Rigid or Flexible?

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The Power of Stories

By Jay Forte

You have a story. I have a story. Our unique stories tell others who we are, what we’ve done and where we hope to go. They introduce us to others. They inspire us. They make us learn.

However, most of us don’t truly tune in to our own story, never mind the stories of others. We make quick judgements about others, deciding who we like and hate, who is right and who is wrong. But if we were to really listen to each other, we would likely have a profound realization that someone we’re speaking with is actually quite remarkable. You can learn from what they’ve learned. You may even see a bit of yourself in them. You could be changed.

So what stops us from connecting to others and sharing our own stories?

We are in a rush. Our days are filled with responsibilities, obligations and so many things to do. We can blame the world, our work and our responsibilities, but in reality, we choose the activities that fill our days. If connecting with others deeply and in a way that discovers and hears their stories really matters, we would do it. I recently shut the computer down, turned off the office light and spent an evening with an old college roommate, something I would rarely do during the week because of how “busy” I am. By making the time, we reconnected through sharing story after story about life, work and relationships that have shocked, supported, engaged and changed us. I would have missed all this for another hour at my desk.

We are judgmental. How often have you made up your mind about someone only to find you were completely wrong about them? We all judge, it is part of our survival instinct, but most of us do it without realizing we are doing it. We are quick to rule out, cast down, disregard or critique without any true information about the person. I was at the gym recently and watched two women walk by a heavy man on one of the cardio machines. Their contorted faces passed judgment on him based on his size. No words, just facial expressions. It was obvious. I bet if they knew his story they would have had a different response to him (I know he is recovering from surgery and some significant family tragedies). Stories matter.

Suggestion from a coach. I always seem to be in line someplace, mostly waiting get on or off airplanes. Though it’s easier to put my ear buds in and ignore the humanity around me (I am an introvert), there is an incredible opportunity to connect with the millions of stories from the people around me. One of my favorite ways to engage someone in conversation to bring out their stories is to ask, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” The positive tone welcomes the other person in and invites their story. As they share theirs, you will likely be invited to share yours.

Everyone has a story of tragedy, challenge, learning and triumph. And don’t you, too? In a world where we are quick to disconnect, our stories can help us connect. Our stories illustrate that we are all part of something larger, learning as we go and experiencing this great thing called life.

Share your story. Listen to others. You will be changed.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What could you do today to be more tuned in to the stories of others?
  2. What do you do on a daily basis to be more aware of your own stories?
  3. How could making time to hear the stories of others enrich and improve your life?


Consider reading What is Life Teaching You?

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Asking Empowering Questions: Engaging Employees

By Jay Forte

Questions can be a powerful managerial tool. They can activate thinking, encourage ideas, inspire creativity and activate ownership. The challenge, however, is that most managers tell more than they ask. To gain the value and successes associated with the power of questions, it is important for managers to act more like workplace coaches.

Today’s employees respond to a manager who takes the time to build a relationship with them – to know them, care about them as a person, and guide and support them in their performance, purposeful work, clear career alignment and growth. They want increased performance feedback to advance their skills and development. A key way to develop this, and to shift from managing to coaching, is to develop proficiency in asking a very specific type of question: empowering questions.

Empowering questions are thought-provoking, open-ended and action-focused questions that activate your employees’ thinking, ideas, engagement and self-awareness. I’ve heard it described as helping your employees “take their brain out for a spin.” By delivering wisely crafted questions, you help your employees see things differently and consider new possibilities.

Asking empowering questions takes practice because it is at odds with the outdated management style of telling. Though the best empowering questions are created in the moment, here are examples of empowering questions to start your training.

  • Why do you think that is happening?
  • What are two ways to look at this?
  • What have you seen that works in a situation like this?
  • What is your plan B?
  • What lesson did you learn from that?
  • What could you do to see it differently?
  • How does that event force you to rethink your approach?
  • What other ways (2 other ways, 3 other ways) could you respond in that situation?
  • If you could do things again, what would you do differently?
  • What is the first thing you could do to move past this challenge/problem/block?
  • What is the worst/best thing that could happen?
  • What would it take for you to own your commitments?

Imagine the circumstances you could use these questions with your employees. What other questions could you ask? How could having employees answer questions like these change your relationship and the performance dynamic?

Asking instead of telling is key to helping an employee activate their thinking, own their thoughts and become more engaged in their performance.


Consider reading How to Deliver Employee Feedback that Gets Heard

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Catch and Release

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

You smile and nod as your manager critiques a report you completed. You shrug as your teen calls you unfair for limiting internet time on a weekend. You tell yourself it’s no big deal when your friends are invited to a party but there was no invitation for you. You take it all in stride, but you know the frustration is building. Then, suddenly, you blow up over something crazy, like your favorite show has been pre-empted by a special news show. You lose it, crying, swearing and complaining that life isn’t fair.

How – and why – does something so small create such a large reaction?

You, like most of us, catch and keep disappointments and frustrations rather than catching and releasing them. When you keep them, they build up until you reach a breaking point.

Rather than accepting the “straw that broke the camel’s back” mentality and acknowledging that a break down will happen at some point, what if you deal with whatever life throws at you, learn from it, and let it go, rather than catching and keeping it? By doing this, there is little or no build up. There is no reason to go into meltdown.

It does, however, require awareness and it takes practice.

Learn from life

One of the wisest things I learned in all my years is to use everything life sends me as a lesson. What did I do well that I should do again? What didn’t work that I should learn from to make my next moment better?

Using this approach, I can better manage my reaction to life’s events, particularly the frustrations and disappointments. I can deal with it, learn from it and move on.

Life isn’t personal

I remember one time when I was a kid I got a particularly bad haircut (or that is how I remember it). Threatening to lock myself in my room until my hair grew back, my mother calmly asked, “What makes you think anyone is looking at you anyway?” Her point was to not take things so personally. When it rains on the day of your planned barbecue, it isn’t personal – it’s just the weather. When you get sick on the day of your big presentation, it’s not personal – it’s just life.

When we let go of the negative emotions that we add to life’s frustrations, we can see them as the little events they are. This gives us more emotional room to decide what to do next, to catch the wisdom of the moment and release the negative energy so the rest of the day isn’t affected.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What are you holding on to that you should release?
  2. How can you focus on learning from your frustrations and disappointments as they happen?
  3. What will it be like to be around you as you better manage your disappointments and frustrations?

Catch, learn and release. Gather information, learn from it and let it go. This makes room for the next round of successes, challenges and frustrations that will happen because that is just how life is.

Catch and release instead of catch and keep. Life will be so much better.


Need help getting to catch and release? Consider working with a professional coach.

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Welcome to The Forte Factor

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Your Forte Factor is your unique combination of talents and strengths that help you achieve your goals and live your potential.

And that’s why we’re here – to provide you with great resources and information to help you develop into the greatest version of yourself. So, whether you’re interested in developing your strengths, working around challenges, working with a coach or learning how to become a coach, The Forte Factor has something for you.

For those who knew us as The Greatness Zone, Fire Up! and/or Ready4Life, we haven’t lost touch with our roots. We’ve just combined the best assets from those sites with new and greater resources to create one robust site designed to help you discover, develop and live your strengths.

We’re back. We’re energized. We’re here to help you be the best version of you.

What’s your Forte?


Consider reading Create A Personal Report Card.

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Stop Managing and Start Coaching to Engage Employees and Activate Performance

By Jay Forte

If I asked your employees to describe you as a manager, what would they say?

I recently asked a team of front line employees at a large IT company to describe their manager, and most of their responses were less than supportive. Words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging” were the most frequent responses.

I also asked the same group to describe a coach. The most frequent responses included “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive” and “committed.

What a difference.

Compare the two lists. If the words with negative connotations are how most people think of their managers, it raises significant questions about the effectiveness of these managers to activate employee engagement and inspire exceptional performance.

So, what can managers do to be more successful in connecting, engaging, empowering and activating employee performance?

Shift from managing to coaching.

Here are four areas where managers can start to shift to a coaching mindset to inspire and engage greater employee performance.

1. Connect with employees

Two of the most powerful coaching connection skills are acknowledgement and validation. Acknowledgement refers to taking the time to focus on an employee when they communicate, ensuring you hear and understand what they say, think and feel. Validation allows them to have their feelings and thoughts, and shows you understand and respect their perspective. The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share. Acknowledging and validating creates rapport with employees so you can then do what coaches do best – ask empowering questions.

2. Engaging employees

It has been noted that managers tell significantly more than they ask. In fact, the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report published by the Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. Basically, these employees do just enough to not get fired. Much of the reason for this average performance is that employees are not routinely asked to contribute or share their perspectives.

As a result, more of the communication you have with employees should be in the form of questions. By asking questions, you actively involve your employees, activate their thinking, get them to use their talents and greatest abilities, and encourage them to make commitments and own their work.

3. Helping employees find solutions

Once you get your employees thinking by engaging them through questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of proposing only one idea or waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and become part of the solution.

4. Guiding employees to achieve

The goal of shifting to coaching from managing is to activate greater employee achievement and performance. Connecting, engaging and solving produce a more committed and present employee, which drives greater ideas and a better working relationship. Coach your employees to achieve.

So, what really is the difference between managing and coaching? It is the approach. Managers tell – they push and pull for results. Coaches engage – they use tools to help employees discover and develop their strengths to see their value, think larger, contribute more and own their performance.

Shift from managing to coaching and see the change in you, and you will see the change in them.

Contact Jay for his summary of the Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workplace Report.


Consider reading Are You Ruled by Worry, Fear and Uncertainty?

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, February 2017.

Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant & Strategic Communications Specialist

Having a difficult conversation is, well, difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable, two feelings that most humans hate experiencing and, therefore, try to avoid. But there are situations when the difficult conversation is necessary – whether that’s firing an underperforming employee, challenging a decision made or, for some people, just saying no.

I recently was faced with my own difficult conversation and, I have to be honest, it was a challenge for me. Though some people seem to be born with the gift of appropriately distancing themselves from a situation to come into the discussion with a calm, clear head, that’s not me. As a very passionate person, I know I need to work at staying calm, cool and collected, especially when emotions are running high.

Here’s the good news: anyone can learn to be calm, cool and collected. It’s about becoming more aware of your emotions, being tuned in to how you’re responding (not reacting) to those emotions and gathering as much information as you can to make a better decision.

This is how coaching has helped a passionate person like me.

Leveraging many of the techniques I learned through my own life and workplace coaching sessions, I was able to have an extremely productive difficult conversation.

Here’s why:

  • I asked questions. – Great managers and coaches ask questions. This gives them information to more effectively guide their employees/coachees to make better decisions. It also keeps everyone engaged and invested in the conversation. In my situation, I needed more information. Asking questions – and listening to the answers – was how I got that information.
  • I was firm. – I approached the conversation in a firm but professional manner. This was tricky, especially when the emotions tried to sneak their way into my voice, but pausing to take a breath helped keep my emotions in check and helped me stay focused on the purpose of the discussion.
  • I stayed calm. – Though angry, I refocused my energy into listening and having an intentional and productive conversation. It took self-awareness and self-management. If I were out of control, how could I expect a successful, thoughtful and solution-driven conversation?
  • I was empathetic. – I acknowledged the situation and empathized with how the other party was feeling. I did not, however, sympathize with them; I didn’t express my own feelings about their situation. This is an important distinction since sympathizing can quickly turn a productive conversation into a venting session.
  • I focused on a plan. – The conversation ended with clear next steps and a timeframe for when those items would happen. Both parties were also aware a follow up meeting will happen at the end of the agreed upon timeframe to ensure those items are implemented appropriately.

The next time you’re faced with a challenging situation, give yourself a moment to take a breath. Think about the outcome you want and what you need to do to get there. This moment of tuning in and reflecting will help you ground yourself to move forward in a much more productive manner.

Need coaching to help you learn how to succeed in difficult conversations? Contact Jay Forte for a complimentary 15-minute coaching conversation.

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