Planners’ Picks — February 13, 2024

Planners’ Picks  A collection of resources from CSN planning committee members worth mentioning

We continue the theme of love and care in this week’s Valentine’s edition of PP—from better coaching to leading with more gratitude, we’ve got you covered.


:: Image of the Week

A cartoon of a human heart handing a flower to a human brain, saying “Talk a little nicer to yourself today!”


:: Mental Health and Self-Care

Sacred Vessels: The Lifeblood of Heart Health

When people think about heart health, what generally comes to mind is the fist-sized muscle that pumps and oxygenates the body’s lifeblood. However, the heart of the matter is not the pump itself, but the vascular system—the network of veins, arteries, and capillaries that distributes blood to every cell in the body, delivering nutrients and eliminating waste.

Each human adult harbors an astonishing 60,000 miles of blood vessels—enough to wrap around the planet twice. Keeping these hard-working vessels supple and open is the key not only to avoiding disease but also to ensuring a long and healthy life.

“Chase your dreams but always know the road that’ll lead you home again.” – Tim McGraw

2024 Mental Health Trends in the Workforce

In the past several years, awareness and support for mental health benefits in the workplace have been growing. In our 2024 mental health trends survey, 94% of respondents say that offering mental health benefits is “very important” to prospective employees. This number is nearly triple the rate of benefits leaders who said this in our 2023 mental health trends survey.

Meanwhile, 84% say creating a work culture that prioritizes mental health has risen in importance for their company over the past year. By providing the right mental health benefits for their employees’ needs, companies aim to improve overall well-being, while helping employees be more engaged and productive.

How will employers deliver the right mental health services to support their employees? We surveyed 250 benefits leaders across the United States to gain insights into their organizations’ approach. Based on our findings, these are our top predictions on workforce mental health trends in 2024.


:: Work Culture & Team Development

Webinar: Coaching in Your Workplace

In this free webinar, Chariti Gent (Director of Professional Coach Education, UW-Madison, Division of Continuing Studies) facilitates a roundtable discussion with senior-level leaders from Target, Caterpillar, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and UW Credit Union. They discuss how using coaching skills and competencies positively impacts employee engagement, team member retention, and overall results within an organization. Many thanks to my roundtable participants for sharing their knowledge and wisdom with so many.

Watch the recording to learn:
• The top five go-to coaching skills that senior-level leaders use to create trusting, agile, and forward-thinking organizational cultures
• How to build capacity for leadership and management to employ coaching and coaching approaches to improve psychological safety and a sense of genuine belonging among team members
• Lessons and best practices from leaders who’ve adopted a coach approach to managing and leading — and the specific and real impacts they are seeing as a result

Interrupt Bias in Performance Evaluations

In many organizations, supervisors and senior leaders meet to discuss and adjust employee performance ratings to evaluate employees consistently. I attended many such calibration sessions during my career in tech. Perhaps you have, too.

I don’t think they were always effective. I frequently saw the most charismatic person in the room advocating for their employees better than everyone else. As a result, they were able to secure more of the top ratings for their team.

There may have been other bias at play, too.

In How Calibration Meetings Introduce Bias into Performance Reviews for the Harvard Business Review, Raafiya Ali Khan, Rachel M. Korn, and Joan C. Williams explored how these sessions exacerbate bias.

For example, their research found that the calibration process introduced bias against women of color that was not there in the supervisor evaluations. Specifically, there was only a 2% difference in the number of white men and women of color in a senior job role whom supervisors ranked as “valuable” before the calibration meeting. Afterward, this minor difference jumped to 34%.

As the authors pointed out, “It’s telling that attorneys who had actually worked with the women of color being evaluated saw their performance as about equal with white men’s: Evidence often overrides stereotypes.” They added, “Stereotypes tend to dominate when there’s a lack of first-hand knowledge.”

They discovered other examples of bias, too, impacting white women, men of color, and mothers.

To address bias, they found that teaching participants what bias looks like in calibration meetings can make a huge difference. “Our experiment … led to a dramatic reduction in the number of negative personality comments about people of color: from 14% pre-intervention to 0% after.”

They kindly created a free Identifying Bias in Performance Evaluations Guide for all of us to use before our next calibration meetings.

“If you’re not curious, deeply, find where curiosity moves you or where it leads you.”  – Michael Krasny


:: Self-Leadership Development

3 Tips on How to Improve Your Leadership

There are plenty of articles that highlight the qualities and traits of a good leader, but few executives break down the tactics and methods they use to get better at leading. At the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City, Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg did just that.

Vestberg, who was born in Hudiksvall, Sweden, says he knew early on that he was a good leader. A semi-professional team handball athlete as a young man, he says he knew instinctively how to read and motivate his teammates. But Vestberg doesn’t just rely on his natural gifts; he works on building his leadership skills every day. “If you want to lead other people, you need to start with yourself,” he says.

Here are three takeaways from a conversation with Vestberg:


:: Communication

How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put On The Spot

Chris from HR Leaders recently sat down with communication expert Matt Abrahams to discuss strategies from his latest book “Think Faster, Talk Smarter”. Matt has decades of experience coaching executives on impromptu speaking.

Here are some of his research-backed techniques were discussed:

  • Managing anxiety and nerves is critical to being an effective communicator. He shares science-backed methods for controlling symptoms and sources of speaking-related anxiety.
  • Matt outlines a 6-step methodology for honing communication skills. This includes mindset shifts like reframing mistakes and seeing spontaneous situations as opportunities, as well as structuring your messages effectively.
  • Small talk is extremely valuable for making connections, though many dread it. Matt suggests being interested rather than interesting, using questions and comments to keep conversation flowing.
  • Generative AI can bolster communication by providing information quickly, improving clarity/concision and enabling practice through conversational interactions. But it currently lacks human empathy and connection.

The great news is we can all get better at thinking on our feet if we apply repetition, reflection and feedback. Tune in to this eye-opening episode with actionable tactics you can start applying immediately.


:: Productivity

6 Ways to Slay Your Afternoon Slump

We’ve all been there… it’s full steam ahead all morning, you grab a quick lunch and have the best of intentions of powering through the day. Instead… BAM! You hit the wall. Suddenly, your energy plummets, your mind wanders and all you want to do is curl up under your desk for a nap. Instead, you find yourself feeding the vending machine or making a Starbucks run.

Instead of reaching for the nearest Snickers Bar, you should know research has given us some really simple ways to slay the dreaded afternoon slump. Dr. Melissa Hughes shares a short video and tips on getting through this slump in your day.


 :: Gratitude in Leadership

Lead with Gratitude

We so often think of gratitude within the narrow framework of merely giving and/or saying thanks. Gratitude extends far beyond our utterances of thanks and written expressions of appreciation. To truly lead with gratitude and reap all the abundance it can bring, you have to change your way of thinking. To unlock a life of learning, joy, and influencing others effectively, it’s helpful to understand that leading with gratitude is not a single action or set of practices, it’s a mindset – it’s a spirit that helps you to recover from setbacks, to reframe challenges as opportunities, to seek more creative resolutions to problems, and to value people more fully.

Douglas Conant tells some stories in this classic leadership article.

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” – Kristin Armstrong


:: CSN’s Book of the Week Recommendation

Really Care for Them

Really Care For Them by Mareo McCracken is for those who want to learn to do sales the right way with the most success as fast as possible. However, it’s also for anyone who wants to learn how to communicate better with a team, with their friends and family, and more. We’re all selling something, after all – our ideas, our influence, our emotions. The true secret to success in sales is caring. Caring for others, caring for results, caring for growth. Those who care the most, sell the most.

It helps readers escape adversarial, competitive, self-destructive sales behavior by developing a collaborative, trust-based approach to selling in a way that builds value and trust. Many sales books teach what to do, Really Care For Them teaches how to do it. Everyone can learn skills and scripts; the real differentiator is the salesperson and how they sell. Packed with only the most important information, behaviors, and characteristics that enable personal and professional growth, Really Care For Them is the first book every salesperson needs to read. It demonstrates what the top performers do in an accessible, easy-to-understand format and makes it easier to learn to sell without reading tons of extra words, boring theories, and outdated ideas. Really Care For Them inspires growth, creativity, compassion, accountability, and courage.

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” – Japanese Proverb
(Note: this quote was featured last week with a typo—
kind words cannot
WORM at all — so it’s back in its correct form this week. )


:: Upcoming Events 

Journey to Group Power Featuring Liberating Structures

2-Day Face-to-Face Facilitator Skills Training Workshop
April 25-26, 2024
(Fees associated with this course)

Do you want to lead meetings that harness a group’s full POWER and have FUN doing it?

We are excited to announce another Face-to-Face version of the increasingly popular Journey to Group Power Workshop at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, WI. This highly interactive, 2-day workshop has been delivered over a dozen times virtually and face-to-face at several client locations throughout the country. Read testimonials for our highly successful workshop designed for an evenly paced, immersive experience…

This facilitator training course is for you! Whether you are a sponsor, group leader, or participant, you will fill your basket with group engagement tools and know-how and when to use them. You will be introduced to the dynamic facilitation framework of Integral Facilitation and a dozen or more Liberating Structures to fuel new levels of group engagement, productivity, and transparency

“Darin and Steve are a cut above the rest when it comes to facilitation and experience and modeling the golden standard for online learning, group collaboration and facilitation. It’s a breath of fresh air to experience their class act. While I was familiar with many of the techniques used in this training, the larger picture model of when and why to use these techniques was enormously beneficial. No matter what your current level of facilitation skills are, I truly believe you will walk away from this training a better facilitator.”  –Theresa Kim, Program Manager, LTD, UW-Madison

Led by former UW facilitator Darin Harris, this two-day experience is sure to please. Find more information and registration details at