Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Leave the Canoe Behind to Increase Personal Effectiveness!A young traveler approached a river while on her journey. From all appearances, it was too deep to ford and too long to get around. After doing a bit of scouting around, she discovered a canoe that was left by another traveler. In haste, she grabbed the canoe and paddled to the other side.

As soon as she landed, she thought: “I’m lucky that I found that canoe! I couldn’t have crossed the river without it. I better take it with me just in case there’s another river along the way.” So she picked up the canoe and carried it with her.

After three days of travel while carrying the canoe, she was exhausted. She happened upon an old traveler who was bewildered by the young woman carrying the canoe.
“Why are you carrying a canoe?,” the old traveler asked.
“A few days ago, I came across a river that I would have been unable to cross without this canoe. I didn’t know whether I would come to another crossing, so I carried it with me.”
“Ah. The next river like that in the direction you’re going is fifteen days away. It would take you less time to build a canoe when you get there than to carry this one with you – it’s time to leave the canoe behind.”

With that, the young traveler dropped the canoe. She immediately saw that what got her here wasn’t needed to get her there.

Are you carrying a canoe that is slowing you down? In the EDSI program, Increasing Personal Effectiveness, we help our partner companies and their teams understand the process of growth and change. One core component of your ability to make a positive impact at work and home is to take an honest look at your strengths and, yes, the areas where you need improvement.*

Focus on How Your Choices Create Your Life
Understand your core values and how they drive your behaviors and choices.
Build your sel-image through self-awareness of your strengths and by identifying areas needing improvement.

Create a strong understanding of how your choices impact your behaviors and images.
Increase self-confidence through becoming more accountable for your thoughts, actions and words, and by eliminating self-limiting thoughts.

Do You Do This?
Number 4 above is where that cumbersome canoe comes in. Do you have the unconscious belief that challenges have to be hard to be valid? If so, you are probably like most people, who then procrastinate on the changes they need to make, and they hit what is often termed, “The Wall of Hard.” This means you know what you need to do, you unconsciously build it up in your mind to be very hard (to create worthiness), and then you procrastinate, because it has become such a big challenge.

Instead, Do This!
When you realize the changes you need to make to improve your personal effectiveness, professional presence (and your life), stop yourself from building them up into an insurmountable professional or personal challenge. Whether it is learning a new skill, making conscious changes to your communication patterns, consistently practicing active listening skills, or even just making it to all your meetings prepared and on time, break this change down into smaller steps, and start to work on the first one.
It’s just like that old joke: “How do you eat an elephant?” The reply? “One bite at a time, of course!”


  1. Increase your self-awareness of those areas that, if addressed, will catapult your life and career.
  2. Stop yourself from building them up into something very hard, subsequently creating a “Wall of Hard.
  3. Break it down into simple steps, and start with the first one.
  4. Be kind to yourself. If you don’t accomplish it right away, just get started again the very next day. You only fail when you quit trying!

Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us.

*The Canoe fable is courtesy of Charlie Gilkey.


Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

At EDSI, we are constantly thinking about how to help our clients and colleagues increase personal effectiveness and improve their professional presence. We also work on helping leaders communicate to manage performance.  In all of those areas, one of the common themes that comes up is time management, and how to manage competing priorities, demands, and the countless distractions we are faced with every day.

Impact Performance Now

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article by Amy Gallo, the most impactful change you can make is to say no to meeting invites and check your email less often. That may sound impossible. After all, if you were invited to a meeting, you are obligated to attend, right? Maybe not. Read on to learn how you can reboot how you manage your personal and professional life.

Prioritize work over availability

Are you filtering your time effectively? If you are focused on being available more than getting work done, you probably fall into this category. Think less about people’s feelings and more about your goals and completing your work.

Communicate your plans

Let colleagues and team members know that you won’t be checking email as often and you plan to attend only meetings where your attendance is absolutely necessary. This will preserve your relationships and help others transition to your new time management priorities.

Exit the craziness

You will be surprised by how receptive others are to your new plan. If you tell them that you’ll only be checking email once or twice a day, you’ll probably find them envious more than anything. You are willing to step out of the craziness of constant distraction and multitasking in order to concentrate on productivity and effectiveness.

Make clear what you’re doing and why
Gallo says, “Once you’ve decided on a time-management approach, share your reasoning with your colleagues. For example, if you want to decline meeting invites, Saunders suggests you explain why — you’re working on another big initiative, other members of your team are already attending, you aren’t currently focused on that area, and so on. Or if you’re blocking out time on your calendar to concentrate on an important project, send an email to your colleagues explaining why you won’t be available. These sorts of techniques allow you to respect others’ needs and save you time.”

Shift peoples’ expectations of you

You may have to retrain your colleagues on how to interact with you. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, made a commitment to working for 6 uninterrupted hours per day on writing his book, until it was finished. What could you accomplish if you carved out that kind of time to accomplish your goals?  According to Gallo,  “When you change it up, make sure to tell everyone — key clients, your immediate team, your boss — how and when they can now expect to reach and hear from you.” You may find that an email autoresponder works well, to help people relearn how to interact with you. Simply let them know that you check email once every 24 hours (or whatever schedule you have created), and that if they have an emergency, they can call or text you.

Principles to Remember

Explain to others how and why you’re changing your behaviors
Propose several techniques to see which will work best for you and your coworkers
Become an evangelist for better time management on your team

Assume that you’re better at your job if you’re constantly available
Take a unilateral approach — involve others in your decisions
Try to implement a new technique during an especially busy time or when you’re not in peoples’ good graces

Now go out and hit the reset button on your time management. We are all given the same amount of time in each day. What will you do to make the most impact with the time you have?

Posted by & filed under Career Development.

Dear Suzanne,

Suzanne Updegraff, Employee Development Systems, Inc.As the general manager of a law firm, I am responsible for building and maintaining multiple teams, depending on the client and project. These days, law firms include many more roles than simply legal services. We often include an accountant, project manager, and outside content experts, depending on the case.

We have the age-old problem of how to build an effective team, and I’m looking for new insight and energy, so we can inject a true positive team atmosphere. Can you give me some advice?


Houston, TX

Dear Jake,

Your note is timely, because at EDSI we are excited about some new ideas about building a cohesive team, based on the New York Times best selling book by Patrick Lencioni, the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. See the diagram below to learn the basic elements of a cohesive team.

Pairing these core elements of a cohesive team with a solid, well-respected behavioral assessment is a winning combination for teams in almost any workplace setting.

As a matter of fact, EDSI is traveling to 11 cities this summer to share the latest research on teams, and how to make them work in your organization. I invite you to learn more and attend a 1/2 day, complimentary seminar in your city. EDSI is covering the costs, and it includes a continental breakfast.

Learn More Now

New Team Building Insights

I hope this information helps, and we meet you this summer!


Suzanne Updegraff

Posted by & filed under Accountability.

4 Core Competencies to Master Teams1) Approach conflict with confidence. Don’t shy away! 

As Stephen R. Covey, author of Principle Centered Leadership said, “effective communication is built on the cement of trust, and trust is based on trustworthiness, not politics.” Open and effective communication requires confidence as well as skill. This confidence allows you to confront uncomfortable issues, politics and conflict in the workplace.

Conflict in business is inevitable. Every individual has their own methodology and working style. Coworkers do what they do for their own reasons–not yours. However, there are times that other individuals’ words or actions can be harmful to you or infringe on your rights as an employee. Read more…



Learn More Now

2) Give Yourself the Ultimate Advantage

Based on the bestselling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is a model and development program that guides intact teams through a journey to improve in five areas that are key to productive team dynamics: Read more…

 3) 4 Simple Takeaways for Effective Team Building

Your team at work — the employees you depend on to make sure everything runs smoothly — is made up of people with many different personality types and work styles. A team is not static; on the contrary, it constantly changes and evolves. Read more…

 4) Embrace the 5 Habits of a Cohesive Team

In his New York Times’ best seller, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni showed us all how effective teams really work. Learn how to actually integrate Results, Accountability, Commitment, Conflict and Trust.

As a matter of fact, EDSI is traveling to 11 cities this summer, giving a complimentary program to help our colleagues and clients take their team, leadership and organization to the next level. It’s a 1/2 day, we are covering the cost, we’ll serve continental breakfast and lunch, and best of all, when you are leave, you’ll have all the information you need to get this started in your organization!

Reserve Your Spot




Posted by & filed under Accountability.

Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage because it is so powerful and so rare. High-functioning teams result in outstanding results, both for your department and organization. Patrick Lencioni, New York Times best-selling author of The 5 Dysfunctions of a Teamhas taken the wisdom from his book and turned it into a course that partners with a world-class assessment, to turn out employees who are really ready to work as a team. This course is jargon-free, down-to-earth, and provides practical takeaways that can be put to work right away.

What Are The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team?

Based on the bestselling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is a model and development program that guides intact teams through a journey to improve in five areas that are key to productive team dynamics: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results.

Cohesive Teams: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage1. Trust One Another

Brene Brown, in her famous TED speech, showed the world the power of vulnerability. Now the workplace is putting vulnerability into action. In the words of Patrick Lencioni, “Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to build that is by overoming our need for invulnerability.”

2. Engage in Conflict Around Ideas

Members of teams who trust one another engage in honest conflict. Healthy conflict based ona trusting relationship leads to new ideas and more productivity. When team members trust each other enough to disagree, they find the best anders, discover the truth, and improve their personal effectiveness.

3. Commit to Decisions

Commitment comes from personal “buy-in” of an idea. If team members are able to offer ideas, opinions, and have healthy debates, they will be more likely to commit to decisions.

4. Become Accountable to One Another

Personal accountability and peer accountability strengthen the power of the team, because everyone is ready to give 110%, and be held accountable. Teams that gain commitment to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards. They also don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability.

5. Focus on Achieving Collective Results

Team members who trust one another, engage in conflict around ideas, gain commitment to decisions, and hold one another accountable are more likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus on achieving collective results. They do not give in to the temptations to place their departments, career aspirations, or ego-driven status ahead of the collective results that define team success. We are so excited about this new program that we are traveling to 11 cities this summer to provide a 1/2 day of learning to our colleagues and clients. It includes continental breakfast and lunch, the latest industry research, and information about how Patrick Lencioni’s teachings are being put to work in the real world.

We are so excited about this new program that we are traveling to 11 cities this summer to provide a 1/2 day of learning to our colleagues and clients. 

Best of all, EDSI is covering the fees, so it is a completely risk-free, enjoyable way to make sure you are staying on the cutting edge of employee development trends. 

Reserve Your Spot

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at: or 800-282-3374. We look forward to seeing you there!

Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us. 

Posted by & filed under Accountability.

Patrick Lencioni’s watershed, New York Times best-selling title, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, has impacted millions of leaders, worldwide. EDSI is one of them. As a mission-driven company, we believe strongly in the practical takeaways that he has brought to the business world. Now everyone can bring Patrick Lencioni’s model to life in their organization, with the new program, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.

Here is a great (2-minute) video by the captivating leader, Patrick Lencioni.

5 Dysfunctions of a Team: Taking It to the Next Level

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team: The Basics

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” ~Patrick Lencioni

To really get the impact of Lencioni’s insights in your organization, combine the Everything DiSC assessment and the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Learn The Five Behaviors Model and integrate it into your organization. This is an assessment-based program, and help you tap into the single most untapped competitive advantage -TEAMWORK!

What Are the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team?

  • Trust One Another When the team members are genuinely transparetn and honest wiht one another, they are able to build vulnerability-based trust.
  • Engage in Conflict Around Ideas When there is trust, team members are able to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas.
  • Commit to Decisions When team members are able to offer opinions and debate ideas, the will be more likely to commit to decisions.
  • Hold One Another Accountable When everyone is committed to a clear plan of action, they will be more willing to hold one another accountable.
  • Focus on collective Results The ultimate goal of building greater trust, healthy conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: achievement of results.

Would you like to learn how to REALLY use these concepts, just the way Lencioni wrote about, augmented by the benefit of assessment and training? Join us for a 1/2 day COMPLIMENTARY program in your city, this summer!

Learn More Now


Posted by & filed under Career Development.

Whether you are a recent graduate or are already mid-career, the two main predictors of success are the same. Hard skills give us the baseline for any project or job. But what two traits give the most successful business leaders the edge that gets them ahead? Professional presence and grit are the traits that set you apart.

“Brains only take you so far. Smarts get you through the gate, but everyone in your cohort of incoming hires has the hard skills required to qualify for the position. The fact is, the link between merit and success is forged through soft skills — ones you may not be able to attain on your own.”  Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Author

Impact Performance Now

Professional Presence

A polished professional presence is one skill that branches off into so many other key behaviors, such as communication, listening, relationship management, presentation, attitude, social etiquette, dress, and appearance.

Essential components of professional presence include gravitas, communication, and appearance. These components are interrelated. “If your communication skills ensure you can command a room, your gravitas grows exponentially; conversely, if your presentation is rambling and your manner timid, your gravitas plummets. And while you may be the smartest person in the room, no one will pay much attention to what you say if they’re distracted by the coffee stains on your shirt or a neckline gaping down to your navel.”


Recent social psychology research has shown that people with grit consistently succeed more often and at a higher level than those with the sam IQ or skill set, but lack grit. According to professor and author Angela Duckworth,

“The concept of grit can often be misunderstood for an ability to withstand great amounts of pain, or play through injuries in sports. However, Duckworth uses the term “grit” to mean perseverance towards a very long term goal. She likens the concept of grit to treating life as a marathon, not as a sprint.

Grit is one of the most powerful tools we have in reaching our potential. Grit is having the discipline to sacrifice the things that feel good, for the things that are good for you.”

Want to learn more? Here are some of our most popular posts on professional presence:

Think Beyond Productivity 

Productivity. We hear and read about it every day. We all ask ourselves how to improve it, but how to get more out of every day, what productive people do before breakfast, and more. Instead of asking the same questions, let’s take a step back and look at more achievable, answerable questions that, by default, will lead to higher productivity. Read more!

3 Ways to Build Your Professional Presence & Competency

If you’ve been an employee in your organization for five years, do you have five years of experience or do you have one year of experience five times over?  

Professional competencies can get tired and before you know it, those five years have passed, but you may have been in a professional rut, not enhancing your professional skills. Read more!

5 Steps to Negotiating Successfully and Increasing Personal Effectiveness

We all face negotiations every day, all day. Even short workplace exchanges sift down to a negotiation for someone’s time, budgetary resources, or human resources. Regardless of whether you are engaging in one of these daily negotiations, or a more high-risk, high-impact situation, here are 5 steps to make your next negotiation impactful, and increase your personal effectiveness at the same time. Read more!

Get Your Copy Now!

Get our latest free download. A succinct, one-page infographic that gives you the essence of increasing your accountability and your brand identity.

Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us. 


Posted by & filed under Accountability, Actively Engaged Workers, Communicating To Manage Performance.

The Only "Real" Accountability Regardless of how important we say accountability is, organizations tend to only bring up the term when there is a complete break down, and an obvious lack of accountability in a team, department or organization. That’s when we tend to unpack the overused business speak, and the Human Resources Department starts a new round of metrics, analytics and evaluations to increase accountability.

As questioned in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Who should get what data about physician success rates, hospital effectiveness, student achievement, or school performance? What should be measured or tested, and what should be done with the data? Should physician reimbursement be outcome-based, and what factors should be part of outcome measurement? Should teachers be held accountable for the academic success or failure of their students?”

Those efforts are ultimately in vain if they are not working hand-in-hand with self-accountability.  Once change is initiated in your employees, you will see it spread throughout the workplace.

Impact Performance Now

In every evaluation, performance discussions should involve coaching or constructive actions for improvement. Most managers loathe giving feedback to begin with, so tacking actionable steps onto the feedback seems even more difficult. However, if it’s used to help people do a better job and get the training the need for their own career path, the impact of the performance review starts to take hold. According to the Harvard Business Review, “High-performing organizations use information to help people improve, by giving people abundant, timely, and helpful data about their performance on a regular basis, individually and as a group.” Here are some of the suggestions given for creating a positive atmosphere of accountability:

Ask questions; stress inquiry. We know that it helps to begin with agreement about goals and then to conduct an inquiry-oriented dialogue: Did you do this, did you try that, and what happened? Questions help people deconstruct the details of performance and consider alternatives without becoming defensive.

Create humiliation-free zones. Performance metrics and reviews should not be intended to “name and shame.” Leaders can provide safe havens in which dialogue can take place without making anyone feel put on the spot, and where difficult issues can be discussed without assigning blame. The goal is to solve problems, not to hurl accusations or tear people down. Creating such a positive climate calls for a matter-of-fact, objective manner: assume that people want to do the right thing and that data help them know what the right thing is.

Break big goals into specific elements. Analyzing the details that accumulate to produce either failure or success can make it easier to identify steps for improvement — and also make it likely that people can feel proud of the things they already do well. The best performers pay attention to discrete actions rather than sweeping generalizations. This also makes it easier to find strengths as well as weaknesses.

Model accountability. It builds confidence in leaders when they name problems that everyone knows are there, put performance data on the table for everyone to see, and refuse to shift responsibility to some nameless “them.” When leaders accept responsibility (for example, by sharing their own performance ratings), it helps other people get over their fear of exposure and humiliation.

The only true accountability is the accountability we expect of ourselves, and it is directly tied to our increased personal effectiveness and an improved professional presence in every situation.

Get Your Copy Now!

Get our latest free download. A succinct, one-page infographic with the essence of increasing your accountability and your brand identity.


Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us. 


*Source: Harvard Business Review

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

 3 Core Requirements for Your Personal Brand

In the current workplace, who can’t harness and develop the core traits of professional presence will stagnate or lose ground, while others are embracing the new workplace and watching their careers (and lives) speed ahead.

Professional Presence is a dynamic blend of behavior and presentation. Competency in professional presence includes communication patterns, image, professional and social etiquette, dress, appearance, self-confidence, control, and personal and professional interactions. These qualities are quickly perceived the first time someone meets you.

It’s time to establish your personal brand to harness that elusive Professional Presence!

Your professional presence is your personal brand. It is how you convey your value to everyone you work with and every organization you work for. People
who have developed a robust, positive professional presence are the people who will advance in their career in the new workplace. Your brand influences the perception of your worth. That includes your sense of self-worth, your worth to peers and managers, and your worth to the organization.

Learn the core traits that will make you profesionally (and personally!) successful. 

Here is our latest download to get you on the right track with professional presence and personal effectiveness. Don’t wait until your coworkers learn to master them before you! 

Personal Brand, Professional Presence

Get Your Copy Now!

LEARN MORE!  Here are some of our most popular articles about professional presence. 

Google, Zappos, and Why Cultural Fit Determines Succes (or Failure)

These days we have some famous (and infamous) examples of unique corporate culture. Take Google, for instance. We all can imagine a working “campus” where there is free or low-cost daycare for our kids, high quality, chef-made meals, and all the lattes you can drink. Top that off with colorful, open workspaces that have cutting edge design. Sounds like an amazing, culture, right? Wrong. Yes, those are bells and whistles reflective of core cultural values, but we don’t want to lose sight of where they started. Read more…

Where Does Your Personal Style Fit into Professionalism at the Office?

According to a recent CNN article, “When it comes to personal style in the workplace, there are no hard and fast rules. What is suitable changes with where you work and what you do.” Indeed, there might be some lawyer’s offices where anything goes, and some medical facilities where employees are required to iron their color-coded scrubs and polish their white sneakers. Read more…

Is Your Professional Presence Really that Important? 

In August of 2012, Bobak Ferdowsi, a young engineer sporting a red and black Mohawk haircut, came to the notice of the public, and President Obama, as he was seen helping to guide the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. The Mohawk Guy, as the President dubbed him, is symbolic of just how drastically workplace norms of dress and personal style have changed.  Read more…

Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us.