Red Diamonds Newsletter: Interviews, Insights, Wisdom and Advice

(Red Diamonds Newsletter, written by Michael Toebe)

The Red Diamonds Newsletter is a weekly publication on communication, decision making, behavior, trust, conflict, professional relationships, resilience, reputation and wiser, more successful crisis management. It regularly includes interviews with bright, accomplished minds.

This Week’s Contents

A Short Conversation:
Overcoming Denial and Evasiveness in Problem Solving
(Interview with Aviv Ben-Yosef, tech executive consultant, coach and founder and practitioner at Aviv Ben-Yosef Consulting)

How to Become More Resilient
(Interview with Steven M. Sultanoff, psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University)

The Dead End of Confrontation Can Be Overcome
(Interview with Kevin Stapley, coach and educator at Legendary Coaching)

The Benefits of Implementing “Future Me” Thinking in Decision Making
(Interview with Amie Devero, Amie Devero Coaching and Consulting)

Why We Self Sabotage and How it can be Stopped
(Interview with Carlota Zimmerman, success strategist, CarlotaWorldwide)

“Best Of” Feature: 3 More Experts with Smart Insights on Self Sabotage
(Interviews with Wendy B. Dickinson, founder, business and leadership coach, Ascend Coaching Solutions; Jill M. Sammak, leadership and career coach, Jill Sammak Coaching and Consulting; Jasmine Menser-Lust, counselor and founder, Catalyst Counseling Group)

The Struggle with Moral Courage in Challenging Moments
(Interview with Steven M. Sultanoff, psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University)

Mayor Supports Police Without Considering Perception and Emotions
(A LinkedIn article)

USA Gymnastics Leadership Finally Makes Ethical, Moral, Wise U-Turn

Recommended Reading: My Personal Plea for Empathy
(An article by Michael Yam, Studio Host at the Pac-12 Networks)

Comments and Questions


(Red Diamonds Newsletter, written by Michael Toebe)

Overcoming Denial and Evasiveness in Problem Solving
by Michael Toebe

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

Is this commonly true because the psychological discomfort or pain is too strong to do what would be more beneficial, or is arrogance the challenge?

“I often find that even the people with the most influence in the organization can spend vast amounts of work focusing on what is being done wrong rather than owning up to the situation, accepting their ownership of the issue and addressing it,” Aviv Ben-Yosef, a tech executive consultant, coach and founder and practitioner at Aviv Ben-Yosef Consulting.

(Aviv Ben-Yosef, founder Aviv Ben-Yosef Consulting)

That approach cannot stem or solve problems. It exacerbates them, usually at escalating costs. Ben-Yosef says the mind and eyes have to be redirected.

“As part of the executive mindset that I teach, I start with putting aside excuses and teaching forward-motion thinking and conversing,” he says. “By seeking cause and not blame, and by demanding candor, we can create a culture of high-impact and low-politics.”

At the root of not recognizing the different and high costs of “going around problems” is preference for what feels easier and safe in the moment, according to Ben-Yosef.

“Many people default to using what they feel like is the path of least resistance; it is usually done to avoid stepping out of your comfort zone,” he says.

Psychological safety plays a role too, Ben-Yosef has found.

“If one is not used to speaking up, supplying criticism, or works in an environment that lacks the safety to do so, then they are less likely to do the ‘hard’ thing that is also the ‘right’ thing,” he says.

In the context of organizations, collaborative problem solving is not a given, regardless of the appearances of a team. Not every person’s or department’s strengths are valued and implemented and this proves problematic as resources are not being best utilized and magnified for effectiveness.

“Advising tech executives, I often see this issue stemming from leadership that does not explicitly put in place the right values and culture,” Ben-Yosef says. “It is up to leadership to cultivate safety and inculcate their teams with the importance of candor, speaking up, and putting egos aside.”

This frequent observation has helped him come to a confident conclusion.

“I honestly believe this is why the Israeli chutzpah can be a superpower for startups,” Ben-Yosef says.

He says that honesty with ourselves and courage are what are required to solve problems instead of going around them.

“Leadership should start with putting cowardice aside and using real, frank, and candid feedback,” Ben-Yosef says. “Not just providing such feedback to their employees, which is invaluable, but also by inviting such feedback all around.”

His recommendations to overcome denial and evasiveness in problem solving include “regular one-on-ones, public postmortems that focus on forward-looking changes, and rewarding ownership and candor.”

Steven M. Sultanoff and I had a conversation about resilience and in it he spoke of the importance of things that you most likely don’t or wouldn’t think of when it comes to resilience.

He talks in a professional yet conversational and interesting style. Maybe, like me, you will learn something to help you grow stronger in your resilience, day to day and especially within the more significant pain.

(Steven M. Sultanoff, psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University)

You can read the article here:

Better Understanding, Developing and Succeeding at Resilience

And how about that wonderful Dr. Sultanoff tie?

Not all confrontation is negative yet most of it is poorly handled. It’s not assertive. It’s aggressive. And we know aggressive rarely produces quality outcomes, at least not without resentment and great risk of consequences.

When confrontation happens, how do you skillfully respond instead of mirror negativity back towards someone?

Kevin Stapley’s been there in the thick of confrontation, two decades worth and will talk about what he learned and leave you with a brief, game plan for success to implement.

(Kevin Stapley, coaching partner and educator at Legendary Coaching)

You can read Kevin’s guidance in this article:

Dead End of Confrontation can be Overcome

How many of us have an answer to that question? Or ask it enough, if ever?

Amie Devero says when it comes to decision making and bad habits we should be considering our “Future Me,” projecting ourselves into the future visually and looking backwards. Some of us do this already yet I imagine when it comes to bad habits, maybe not so much. May I see a show of hands, please?

Amie also has talked in a video of hers about writing a letter to “future you.” You can Google it or ask her about it. It’s interesting.

(Amie Devero, Amie Devero Coaching and Consulting)

Here is Amie detailing more about our future selves and examining risks of our worst habits.

The Benefits of Implementing “Future Me” Thinking in Decision Making

You’ve witnessed it, maybe with people around you and definitely you’ve noticed it in the news: successful people (and organizations) self sabotaging themselves, in spectacular ways. In some cases, the reasons are simple. In others, they are more complex.

(Carlota Zimmerman, success strategist at

Carlota Zimmerman talks about in the following article:

Why We Self Sabotage and How it can be Stopped

She speaks boldly and pointedly about people’s struggles, what is necessary, what is often done and what smart people choose. Carlota doesn’t hold back.

She will also surprise you with her courage and honesty about her own life.

This is week 2 of what is becoming one of my favorite sections of the newsletter: an overflow of experience and expertise on a topic I’ve written an article about in the current issue. Today, it’s three more highly educated and experienced professions with wonderful minds talking about self sabotage.

I think you’ll like it and it will stimulate your mind.

Wendy B. Dickinson
Business and Leadership Coach and Founder
Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC

(Wendy Dickinson, business and leadership coach and founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions)

“I believe people struggle to change their thinking and patterns of behavior despite the overwhelming evidence that change is needed for several reasons. Consider these:

“Our brains like routine, get really comfortable and go back to what it knows when stressed. A downward spiral is overwhelming and again, we do what we feel most comfortable with when we are stressed, afraid or angry.

“We have a powerful internal narrative that can deliver the message over and over again that what worked before, that got us to our elevated position, will work again. You could write a book on the fallacy of this kind of thinking.

“Finally, our brains have a bias toward ‘facts’ that reinforce our beliefs that whatever disaster is about to befall us, won’t really happen to ‘me.’”

Jill M. Sammak
Leadership and Career Coach
Jill Sammak Coaching and Consulting

(Jill Sammak, leadership and career coach and founder of Jill Sammak Coaching and Consulting)

“People with power have a choice that most of us don’t. They can choose to insulate themselves from criticism because the people around them are often seeking to benefit from their privilege.

“Powerful people have the ability to build an echo chamber filled with validation which, like sugar, tastes sweet in the moment, but in too large a quantity, may be very unhealthy in the long run.

“To avoid self-destructive outcomes, it’s essential that people in power follow two practices:

“One, they should keep close (to them) those people that are willing to challenge them.

“The second protective measure is to invite feedback to signal that it’s safe and welcome for those around them to offer it.

“While they may not always like what they hear, it can help protect a long, hard fall from a very high pedestal.”

Jasmine Menser-Lust
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Founder
Catalyst Counseling Group

(Jasmine Menser-Lust, professional counselor and founder of Catalyst Counseling Group)

“I work with leaders and aspiring professionals on overcoming their anxiety and depression. The majority of the time they are uncovering cycles of self sabotage and addressing them head on for the first time in their lives.

“People are more likely to become comfortable with self sabotaging behavior because it builds in a very subtle way. These are protective behaviors and beliefs about ourselves and the world that have built up over time and can be difficult for the person to realize.

“Therefore, they have learned how to challenge negative consequences around them by using a self-serving perspective of the situation that may blame the behavior on others’ performance instead of their own.

“This belief will help them to discount the opinions of others around them.

“Every time they are successful at discounting a negative consequence, it actually provides proof and evidence that the belief they have about themselves and the world is right.

“Overall, the majority of individuals are not even aware they are self sabotaging.

“My approach is to help individuals identify how patterns of negative consequences are playing out in both their personal and professional worlds and make the connection that they are the common denominator.

“It can be a scary thing to challenge the beliefs you have about the world that have been serving you for years.”

Dr. Sultanoff spoke to me twice, on different topics: most fortunate me. In the world, whether it is business, any workplace or with social issues anywhere or even at home, situations call for moral courage. Often.

Yet why is our moral courage, generally speaking, not flexed more? What’s going on psychologically?

Dr. Sultanoff has a conversation with me to add some enlightenment to the topic. If you don’t see all the answers to questions in your head, that is on the interviewer (me) and not the interviewee.

The Struggle with Moral Courage in Challenging Moments

In crisis, we are not always thinking our sharpest. What we say then often can create big problems for us.

A Mississippi mayor spoke from bias, likely thinking he was being supportive, protective and more educated than most of society about a video regarding Minneapolis, Minn. police officer’s Derek Chauvin’s contribution, if not all-out blame in the dying, pleading-for-air citizen George Floyd’s death, which has become a third-degree murder charge elevated to second-degree murder for Chauvin.

You can see the “oh my, does he really believe that, did he really say that” tweet below. (please repeat the Amie Devero mantra recommendation from earlier in this newsletter)

To no surprise, it did not go well for Hal Marx.

(Petal Mississippi Mayor Hal Marx, officer George Chauvin and the now deceased George Floyd)

In our confirmation bias, we see what we want to see and choose not to see what doesn’t fit the narrative we’re comfortable having in our minds.

Mayor Marx walked into a hornet’s nest because he let his confirmation bias about Mr. Floyd having likely been the reason for Chauvin’s death “hold” on him. Don’t think such an error can happen to you? You might be surprised.


Mayor Doesn’t Recognize the Risk of his Beliefs over Floyd Death until after he Communicates and Ends up in Reputation Crisis

USA Gymnastics has a not so clean reputation. A long list of sexual abuse against female gymnasts and some reckless, unethical, verbally abusive coaching and disregard for treating injuries. It’s not pretty.

Yet USA Gymnastics president and CEO Li Li Leung, hired to reform the organization, is not speaking foolishly like many leaders do. Her voice is the beginning of the commitment to critical, legal and moral change.

“Historically we have allowed that kind of behavior. We have allowed that kind of coaching. We actually have even rewarded it in the name of winning in the past,” Leung said. “But this is a new era. We will not reward it, we will not tolerate it. It’s really important that we make that stand.”

This is the type of crisis communications that has often been absent in the organization’s leadership. It provides hope and helps mitigate distrust and further loss of credibility and trust and further soiling of reputation.

(Li Li Leung, USA Gymnastics president and CEO)

As the short article details (see link above), one prominent gymnast, Laurie Hernandez was pleasantly surprised, pleased and encouraged that confession was taking place and a leadership statement for responsibility and coaching ethics change were being communicated.

Hernandez’s response shows that honesty, ownership of the failure, compassion to express it and detailing it will change can begin the healing (and crisis management) process.

I am a new LinkedIn connection with Michael Yam, a studio host with the Pac-12 Networks.

Since I am, an article he wrote, My Personal Plea for Empathy, ended up in my LinkedIn feed. I hope you’ll consider reading it. It’s a brief, free flowing, powerful, wonderful, beautiful piece. I’m better for having read it.

If you read it and like it, reach out and communicate what you think to him.

(Michael Yam, studio host Pac-12 Networks)

Do you have comments about the newsletter, something you’ve read in it, or do you have questions? Reach out to

Michael Toebe is the writer of the Red Diamonds Newsletter and also hosts the Red Diamonds Podcast: Michael Toebe (found on numerous podcast platforms). He is a specialist for reputation, professional relationships communication and wiser, more successful crisis management.

Until next week

”In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

Albert Einstein


“There’s a way of doing it better — find it.”

Thomas Edison

Newsletter on communication, decision making, behavior, conflict, psychology, professional relationships, resilience, courage, reputation and crisis.