An Interview with Lorie Reichel-Howe

Brooke German

April 22, 2019

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Lorie Reichel-Howe will be hosting a webinar on May 7, 2019, from 12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m. PT (3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. ET).

Please visit our webinar page to register for the event.

Lorie Reichel-Howe enjoys helping others effectively respond to challenging workplace behaviors, and she shares her techniques with us.

Brooke Lazar (BL): How did you enter into communication and relationship management?

Lorie Reichel-Howe (LRH): My focus in college was psychology and education. My early career was in the field of education, training, and development.

Throughout my career, I developed a passion for leaders. Since effective conflict management is foundational to successful leadership, I developed training that equips people to respectfully respond during challenging and awkward times when opinions differ, personalities clash, and relationships breakdown.

In 2014, I discovered the field of mediation, became a mediator, and began mediating small claims and civil harassment cases at Santa Clara Superior Court. As a mediator, I supported two or more collaborating parties who voiced concerns, understand and resolve their differences, and reach an agreement.

A year later, I completed training through Community Boards of San Francisco to become a conflict coach. Through conflict coaching, I provided one-on-one support empowering people to address conflicts by developing the skills and tools they needed to engage in, manage, and productively resolve a conflict.

I founded my business, Safe Conversations. When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I equip managers, teams, and business professionals to have "safe conversations"—transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. Whether those issues are challenging team dynamics, mismanaged expectations, or good old-fashioned bad behavior, safe conversations foster greater innovation, inclusion, and collaboration within organizations.

BL: What do you enjoy most about your career?

LRH: My goal in life is to have something to offer someone that makes a positive impact on their life. When I see people, who have been stuck, apply the strategies I give them in coaching and then watch them come alive. Seeing them regain hope, a voice, and power inspires me. These "ah-ha" freedom moments, fuel my soul and ignite my passion for training and coaching.

BL: What obstacles have you overcome?

LRH: Both of my parents had dictatorial parents and, as a result, struggled speaking up—whether addressing disrespectful or hurtful behaviors, unfair requests and demands, or simply when they believed they were being taken advantage of. They avoided asking people not to smoke in their home even though my younger sister battled asthma.

I read notes written by my kindergarten teacher in my report card. She said I was shy about talking before the group and referenced my "speech difficulty." Given my family culture, it's not surprising I was quiet and hesitant to talk in front of others.

While we are influenced by our past, we are not prisoners of it. Somewhere in my journey, I recognized I needed to speak up. My past became an impetus to grow new abilities and change my behaviors. I began a learning journey searching for tools and strategies that would help me develop my voice and reframe discussions when they began to breakdown.

While there were times I was without words to effectively respond in awkward situations, I learned to consider these experiences as "warm-ups." These opportunities led me to plan how I would respond the next time I was in a similar situation. Since people are creatures of habit, you can count on those with "bad habits" to continue demonstrating them. It's a certainty that will you get a second chance to respond so prepare for your next opportunity and develop a response plan. This approach I take in coaching clients—use past and present relational challenges to help you develop new ways of responding.

BL: What core challenges do you see in technology today?

LRH: At the core of today's business problems are "challenging people behaviors." Often, people are recruited and promoted into leadership and management positions because of their technical (hard) skills. While they may be intellectual wonders in technology or subject area experts, without the needed soft skills (i.e., the ability to effectively work with people), they are a relational management disaster risk. Today's need for technical skills pales in light of the need to work effectively and collaboratively with people and address relational conflict issues.

Research tells us that tech challenges are dwarfed in comparison to our relational challenges. Career success rides piggyback on one's ability to respond effectively in times of relational conflict. Daniel Dana reveals relational breakdowns result in unmanaged employee conflict which is possibly the largest reducible cost in organizations today and probably the least recognized.
(Managing Differences, Daniel Dana, PhD, pg 13.)

BL: What will you discuss in your webinar?

LRH: How to respond effectively, respectfully, and professionally to the three most common behaviors that break down relationships and sabotage individual and team effectiveness and productivity. I will present my "Safe Conversations Communication Framework."
It addresses hidden workplace issues and common workplace challenges. Having a framework for speaking up empowers you to influence positive change by developing your voice and taking back your power. When we are silent, we give away our power.

BL: How do you help people/organizations overcome challenging behaviors?

LRH: Sadly, the majority of training tell people what they need to do, but they do not show them how. I show people that it's possible to talk directly to people about concerns instead of talking about them to others at the water cooler. I give people the skills to safely talk about the elephant in the room (i.e., behaviors that hold people hostage, sabotage productivity, and break down relationships).

Participants in my training work through relationally challenging work scenarios while implementing my Safe Conversations Communication Framework. The one-on-one coaching I provide following the training is critical in ensuring new patterns are developed and integrated into daily life.

Transformation occurs when learning is applied and new patterns of responding become habits. Transformation takes time and requires repeated practice. As the saying goes, "A dab will not do you!"

BL: What advice do you have for women in any career?

LRH: Women possess what's needed to address today's problems. Their brains are "hard-wired" genetically to respond to relational challenges. Females have the advantage of being born with verbal centers on both sides of their brain, giving them greater brain connectivity. Because women absorb and retain more sensorial and emotive information (info from the five senses), they have a greater and wider sense of what is going on around them. Women perceive when relational breakdowns happen and they are great thermometers for measuring workplace culture. Their verbal abilities equip them for building and maintaining healthy working relationships.

My advice to women is to build on these genetic abilities and develop your voice. Get training and coaching, so you are prepared to speak up at those challenging times when opinions differ, when individuals and teams are stuck, and when relationships are at risk.

Lorie will also be presenting a "Difficult Conversation" workshop on May 2, 2019 at the Women of Silicon Valley Technology Conference in San Francisco. Click here for more details.

Lorie Reichel Howe is the founder of Conversations in the Workplace. She leverages over 20 years of expertise in communication and relationship management.

She equips managers and teams to have "safe conversations"—transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. These conversations foster greater innovation, inclusion, and collaboration within the organization.

Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in professional and technical writing from Youngstown State University.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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