Resilience and Grit

Leadership opportunities do not always present themselves, as we would like. I do not usually get too personal with you, but I’m going to today. In March, I was told that I have Osteoporosis in my spine. The diagnosis was somewhat of a surprise as my doctor for the last 10 years failed to

125 lbs of dead lifting–not my body weight!

tell me that it was progressing. Horrified, saddened, depressed, angry and a whole lot of other emotions, I changed doctors and started researching osteoporosis treatments.

Those of you that know me know that I work out. I run, practice yoga, go to boot camp and keep in shape. I felt as if my body had failed me. As someone who teaches leadership, I knew that it was my resilience and grit that was going to get me through this.

During my research, I learned that the medication doctors prescribe for osteoporosis is “safe” but does not help grow bone. It only helps from getting fractures. Its preventative and I wanted to fix it. Make it better; rebuild bone. I searched for an answer, and yes, you can build bone. It takes commitment and a plan. A plan.

A research study in Australia at Griffith University’s The Bone Clinic has had quantifiable success with women and men building new bone from specific weight bearing exercises.  Many of them deadlifting their own body weight! I went to my trainer, the excellent Nicole Santorno at Active Evolution Fitness and told her that my plan was to not take medication, and to lift weights instead. She devised a workout that specifically addressed bone development and we implemented.

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How to Increase Your Self-Awareness

Lucy is a senior manager in tech, and she has taken some leadership training, and is attempting to implement some of the concepts. She’s driving for change and results in her department, and doesn’t understand the need to provide regular feedback to her staff. She does not receive regular feedback from her supervisor, and she’s a top performer; why does she need to give it to them? She wonders why her people are leaving the company.

Chris is a junior manager who is responsible for a group product. Some of the individuals in the group are not fulfilling their part of the project. Chris is unable to contain his dismay, and calls out the team members publicly by making judgmental and hurtful statements and raising his voice. Chris realizes that this wrong, but cannot stop himself.

Every couple of months I work a new leadership coaching client and I hear a story similar to this. Leader has pressing deadlines. Leader squeezes team (and self) to complete work product. Leader hastily makes unproductive remarks, neglects team, micromanages, or lacks the ability to communicate effectively.

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We Need Good Leaders Now


We need great leaders now that will create even greater workplaces, organizations and communities. We need them to be thoughtful, emotionally intelligent and have the tools and resources necessary to help people succeed. I have had the amazing opportunity to work with thousands of leaders during my career, and what I have learned is that it is painful and expensive to promote people into leadership positions without giving them the skills to serve and flourish.

Most of us would agree that great leaders are made, over time, trial and error, risk and failure, and through human connection. Some are born with traits that ease the learning, but it takes exercising the leadership muscles in order to become a very good leader. One such muscle is reflection. To lead others, you must have a good understanding of the human experience, and how can you do that if you don’t understand yourself?  Not being self-aware causes any number of ills in the workplace: lack of confidence in self and staff, lack of credibility, lack of trust, unclear intentions, and ultimately costly turnover.

Reflection not only helps the leader by building resilience, self-awareness, good communication, and problem-solving skills, but it also helps leaders develop others. To me, that is the most singular point of being a leader—mentoring, growing and developing others to be their best.

Most people find it difficult to schedule the time to reflect. Anyone in the workplace today, leader or individual contributor, has a day filled with email and meetings and can barely get their work done. In order to stretch and learn, we have to block the time and honor that time, knowing that investing in yourself is investing in others.

To begin a reflection practice, it is first important to be kind to yourself. Reflection is not about beating yourself up; it’s about your development.

You will want to find a time and environment that works for you. It could be 20 minutes or an hour. Most people reflect in writing, but some people may talk to themselves. Of course, if you are at a coffee shop, talking to yourself probably is not the best method.

Some people find it helpful to ask yourself specific questions. For example:

  • How could I have helped my staff better today?
  • What could I have done to have a better outcome in the leadership meeting?
  • What perspective could I use to look at this employee issue?
  • How can I honor my value of compassion more?”

Notice that I used what and how questions.  “What” questions create discovery and force you to be present. These are preferred to “why” questions. My colleague, Deborah Ivanoff, explains in her book, “Manifest at Lightspeed: An Introduction to Self-Coaching” (set to release November 23, 2017). “Asking “why” throws you back into the past. Whatever problem you’re dealing with is in the here and now. Your point of power; your power of choice is in this moment. So a better question would be one that is grounded in the present moment and doesn’t address the why, which may keep people stuck.”

In fact, Deborah offers a process for a debrief (or reflection) that could work for anyone:

“The next time you perform a more significant task, especially if it is one you are wanting to master, or with which you are experiencing difficulty, go over these questions after each time completed.

What worked for me?

What did I like that I want to remember and do again?

What awareness can I celebrate or congratulate myself for?

What do I wish I’d done differently?

What quality would I like to embody next time (ex: patience, leadership, proactivity)?

What action must I take moving forward?”

Taking a slightly different approach, Emma Weber, CEO of Lever, Transfer of Learning, recommends, “Ensure if you are offering feedback to yourself, that you do it in the same manner that you would offer it to a person you were mentoring. What would you say? How would you say it? – bearing in mind that you are mentoring and want to motivate, encourage and get the best from the individual. The best way to experiment with this is by moving away from the desk and to a quiet area and reflect, as a mentor, just for five to ten minutes.” (6 Reflection Tools to Boost Your Learning)

Reflection is a super skill to develop. If that were the only thing a leader worked on, they would become a very good leader. If your calling is to lead, learn to master reflections. Our employees need you, our customers need you and the world needs you.

Check back often to see what leadership skill we are discussing. Much success to you!


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What You Do Affects What They Do

I just read an article on Trickle-Down Leadership (Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman). It made me reflect on my time as a leader in several organizations. The thesis is great leaders work for great leaders, or good behaviors are mimicked.  Conversely, if you work for a neglectful, blaming leader, you may become one as well, disengaging your team. This paragraph clearly summarized the point:pronghorn-934553_640

“To help this sink in, take a minute to think about the occasional things you do poorly and the bad habits you can’t seem to change. No doubt you’re not proud of them. You might be a bit embarrassed. Considering this research might increase your motivation to change, since the things you do poorly have a reasonable probability of being mimicked by others. Your peers, your direct reports, your partner or spouse, and your children also have a high probability of practicing the example you set.” (Zenger and Folkman)

My own experiences mirror that summary. In my first example, when I graduated from university, I worked for a wonderful leader who inspired me to work collaboratively. I came to that job with little “professional” experience, and needed a bit more polish. I wasn’t highly skilled at dealing with conflict. In one instance, I was having an email spat with a co-worker. My boss encouraged me to take the high road, tackle the conflict with a face-to-face conversation, and really listen to the other person. This is something I had witnessed her do a number of times. She was great at it. I was skeptical I could do it, and yet I trusted that my director would give me good advice. It worked. The co-worker and I managed to hear each other, and make teaks in our agendas to work together. We eventually became quite friendly. I was mimicking my boss’s behavior. Two lessons: Always talk in person when there is conflicting ideas, and get to know people so you can better understand them. [Read more…]

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Being Trustworthy: Does Your Team Trust You?

Are you trustworthy?

When I am working with a group of leaders, quite often the topic of trust comes up. It usually stems around an employee or colleague that the leader no longer trusts. It is fascinating because most people will say that they have lost their trust in someone.  They do not discuss whether the person trusted them, as if that was a given. I ask leaders to turn this around and look at whether they have been trustworthy.

What I find useful in these cases is demonstrating the Trust Equation. In their book, The Trusted Advisor, (Maister, Green and Galford), discuss the elements of trust, in an equation to determine your trustworthiness. That is, the level of trust between you, the trustee, and the truster, your employee (client, customer, vendor, etc.) is defined by the sum of credibility, reliability and intimacy divided by your self-orientation. [Read more…]

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Leadership Lesson: Take the Ick with You


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Leadership Lesson: What’s Underground?

This week’s  video blog was inspired by Dr. Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist. Yes, this means she spends her days scrutinizing satellite imagery of Earth for clues that could lead to long-buried historical artifacts!


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Connecting with Difficult Employees

It is hard to connect with difficult employees. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you.


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Top 10 Reasons to Have a Professional Network

When I work with senior leaders, we often discuss networking. They want to increase their network, and sometimes they do. Many times, however, they just cannot get past the daily grind in order to build the network. It’s so important to have a robust network, and here’s my Top 10 Reasons why.

1. You gain Social Capital. Harvard Kennedy School says, “The term social capital emphasizes not just warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and, at least sometimes, for bystanders as well.”

Social Capital provides us with the human need to bond and collaborate. They grow our social bank of debits and credits, and it broadens our thinking. There’s also research to suggest that social capital positively affects our health. Growing your social capital grows your executive presence.

2. You learn about industry trends. When you meet people who work in the same industry, or other industries, you learn about those companies’ strengths and challenges.

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31-Day Blog Challenge Day 31

Why I Blog

Woohoo, we made it to the end. I’m not really a professional blogger, so I don’t have any altruistic reasons why I blog. In fact, I wanted to complete this challenge for a couple of reasons.img_49101

First, I wanted to write a small bit every day—check. Second, I wanted my audience to get to know me better, and I hope I’ve accomplished that. It has been fun exploring and sharing moments from my life. It has also been a commitment that has kept me on my toes.

If you have enjoyed reading these brief blogs, why don’t you take the challenge so I can learn more about you.

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