Nothing Soft About Cold, Hard Cash

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.
— Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup

For companies looking for ways to boost their financial health, studies suggest that focusing on employee happiness, often referred to as employee engagement, is essential. Although the idea of employee “happiness” may be seen in the corporate world as fluffy or soft, you cannot argue the connection studies have found between employee engagement and a company’s profit margin.  Here are 8 tips to get you started:

  1. Paint a vision of the future that excites employees and connects to what’s important to them.

  2. Tell employees how they are making a difference and adding value for your customers, community, culture, company and team.

  3. Each person is motivated differently. Take the time to understand what inspires them and how they are driven.   

  4. Help employees create goals towards their career development plans. Then meet with them regularly to discuss their progress and help eliminate any hurdles they are experiencing.

  5. Appreciate and recognize employees in big and small ways throughout the year that aligns to what’s important to them.

  6. Practice flexibility in your approach and communication style to best meet the needs of their employee.

  7. Provide opportunities for employees to learn and challenge themselves in a way that is exciting to them (ex. participate in a cross functional team, pioneer a new project, lead a meeting, attend specialized training, be a mentor/coach)

  8. Engage in activities that focus on building team trust and unity such as communicating candidly about problems. Be flexible in your communication style to meet the needs of the employee.

Employee engagement is not something that companies can afford to ignore, since so many studies back up the idea that engaged employees result in profits. Companies today need to learn the drivers of employee engagement and happiness in order to enjoy increased profit margins. There is nothing soft about cold, hard cash. 

Employees which believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability
— Anne M Mulcahy, American Business Woman

Spooky Leadership

If human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween.
— Doug Coupland

Halloween is a day when you can bring your alter ego out and no one blinks an eye.  It’s a day when you can authentically become anything you desire.    When I was in the corporate world, I worked for a company that celebrated Halloween in a way that was second to none. 
Here’s how it worked and some of the lessons I learned along the way:

Teamwork soared
The employees would plan their ideas for MONTHS.  Teams would select themes and decorate their departments.  The project was held as the biggest secret until the day of the big reveal.  It brought teams together in a way that no ‘team building’ activity ever could. 

Creativity abounded
The buzzing energy could be felt.  There was an electric charge in the air for weeks before and after.  Engagement climbed, and employees felt empowered.

Leaders not exempted from the fun
This was not something ‘just for staff.’  Senior leaders dressed up too and went to all departments and locations creating a sense of community.  Employees felt a connection in a way that didn’t happen during the normal workweek. 

Imagine if every day were Halloween?
Halloween shouldn’t be the only day of the year to have fun at work.  As a leader, don't have a reputation of spooky leadership.  Create an environment where folks are laughing, smiling and feel a sense of comradery.  Ask your team what needs to happen to make it more fun on a regular basis. 
Know that when fun is happening, creative juices are also flowing, and this translates back into the form of innovation into your business.  High employee engagement means higher member loyalty and profits.

Every day is Halloween isn’t it? For some of us.
— Tim Burton

The Power of Persistence

Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.
— Aisha Tyler

As I sat down to write the blog this week I realized something new about myself. 

I have several programs in progress and/or nearing completion:  the online version of my Managers Edge program, my new podcast: The Inspiring Leader and the finishing touches on a presentation for a new 3-hour course called Creating a Culture of Learning, not to mention a handful of other projects partially finished. 

I have been wanting to write a book and last weekend the ‘bug’ finally hit me, and I got excited about starting this new project.   That seemed so much more exciting than finishing one of the 10 open items that I have. 

I realized I really enjoy starting more than finishing!  Is it just me or do you feel this way too?  This was a big awareness that I just discovered about myself.  Despite my preference, I knew I needed to forge on with all of the open items and to slate the book at a later date in to my calendar. 
Persistence is an attribute that’s needed for most people in business today.  It’s an emotional intelligence competency.  One of the benefits of persevering is that you can feel the triumph from finishing and can let go of the ‘noise’ in your head with unfinished ventures.

Important to note, persistence is a choice.  It’s about believing in yourself and finding a way to reach your goal when your first attempts were thwarted.

Here are 4 tips that keep me going when I feel like throwing in the towel:

  1. Know the “why” behind the work.  Reminding myself of the importance of this “piece” of the work within the greater “whole” helps me find motivation.

  2. Never give up-nope not today.  Taking 1 day at a time (and sometimes each hour) helps me maintain perspective.

  3. Inch by inch- make some progress every day.  The collective daily routine makes big advancement overall.

  4. Sprinkle in some fun- Find a way to enjoy yourself while you work.  Set an alarm for an hour and reward yourself with a mini break afterwards.  Play some music while you work. Take the laptop outside and feel the sun on your face and listen the birds sing.

Success is the results of perfection, hard work, learning form failure, loyalty, and persistence.
— Colin Powell

7 Tips for the Newly Promoted

If you change your thinking you will change your life.
— Annette Matthies

In my work as a consultant, I have found numerous companies who have promoted their best and brightest. The problem is that those high potentials, while once capable individual contributors, do not possess basic managerial skillsets to lead and mentor teams into the future.  They become disengaging to their teams and struggle to achieve team goals. Here are 7 tips for newly promoted managers to become more effective at leading:

  1. Figure out your management style-Become self-aware of your strengths and opportunities for growth and put a development plan in place for yourself.

  2. Learn to delegate-Giving up control of a project may feel scary.  When you learn to delegate effectively you will foster a sense of ownership and trust which will results in higher employee engagement.

  3. Relationships and results matter. Becoming a manager means that you now need to accomplish your goals through others.  Don’t trade relationships for results.  Focusing on your team and maintaining strong relationships will help forge a path for better results.

  4. Understand your expectations- Many leaders have a set idea of what they are looking for with their team results.  If you have expectations be sure to clearly communicate this up front to help avoid frustration and disengagement.  

  5. Focus on what not how-When you assign goals, be sure to look at what the outcome needs to look and feel like and avoid telling how the work needs to be done. 

  6. Find a mentor- Someone who has walked the walk before you and can help you avoid the potholes and guide you to the easy path.

  7. Get some training-Over and over I have found that newly promoted managers do not come into the role with any managerial training.  They have been good individual contributors that have been promoted.  Get some training on basic skills like:  how to have a difficult conversation, giving feedback, holding others accountable, developing your direct reports, managing through change, effective coaching skills, etc

School Rules

It doesn’t matter what you say you believe - it only matters what you do.
— Robert Fughum

Last week in Colorado and across the nation, many kids started back to school.  My own daughter started high school and so begins a new adventure.  She’s attending a new school with new rules.

I started thinking that in business there is never a new beginning the way there is with school.  There is no official beginning to refresh and renew on an annual basis.  No one telling you it’s time to learn something new.  No one giving you new rules to follow.

This reflection reminded me of a book I read many years ago calledAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Perhaps you've read it? I love the simplicity of how he writes and yet is also profoundly reflective.

For those who haven't read it, or if you want a refresher, here is what he learned in Kindergarten:

  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don't hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
  7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat.
  9. Flush.
  10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  12. Take a nap every afternoon.
  13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
  14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryro foam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

This list does really cover all the biggies from the Golden Rule to basic healthy living.  Think about how this could apply to your workplace to encourage a healthier environment if you were to adopt 1 or 2 of them.  How can you give your workplace some new school rules to refresh and engage your culture?

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives...There are those who depend in us, watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you.know.
— Robert Fulghum

15 Ways You Know You are Emotionally Intelligent

75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.
— Center for Creative Leadership

If you watch the news at all (and believe me I try not to!) you can see how hard it’s becoming for individuals to get along with each other.  This is no different in business.  I continually get more and more requests for coaching to help leaders learn how to work more effectively with others and on teams.

This week’s blog is dedicated to understanding what emotional intelligence is.  Depending on who’s definition you use (I am certified in 2 tools), there are 27 or more competencies that make up emotional intelligence.  Here are 15 way you know that you have emotional intelligence:

  1. You show empathy by accurately understanding the feelings and emotions of others.
  2. You ask open ended questions.
  3. You take a moment to think before responding.
  4. You think about feelings, yours and others.  You think about what’s going on for the other person and can identify the root cause of your emotions.
  5. When you receive negative feedback, you ask how can this help me improve instead of becoming defensive?
  6. You are ethical and have a moral compass that leads your life.
  7. You are humble, and you show this by apologizing.  Apologies are free except to the ego!
  8. You don’t hold grudges.  You forgive and move on.
  9. You know your strengths and weaknesses and are trying to shore up areas where improvement is needed.
  10. You are resilient and are willing to deal with setbacks.
  11. You are optimistic and have a positive outlook.  You don’t let 1 bad moment ruin your day.
  12. You set boundaries so that you do not get burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed due to too many commitments.  
  13. You are self-motivated and have high personal and professional standards, striving to higher standards of excellence. 
  14. You are flexible and adaptable and are not set in your ways.
  15. You effectively negotiate and resolve disagreements orchestrating win/win solutions.

How many were you able to check off the list?  Are you curious about why I included some of these on the list?  Drop me a line and let’s chat.

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.
— Dale Carnegie

4 Strategies to Deal with Toxicity in the Workplace

Accountability causes response-ability.
— Stephen Covey

Jim had been working at XYZ Software for 7 years.  He was a highly-valued software engineer and was also viewed by his peers and employees as contentious, controlling, and lacking collaborative skills. In addition, Jim's behavior was a key reason several of his peers had left the company.  Whenever Jim was on a project team, other peers asked to be assigned to alternate projects.  Jim’s direct reports were equally unhappy. They reported not feeling valued and several were seeking to transfer to different departments.

Jim’s behavior had always been overlooked because his development skills had led to successful product developments. He was also good at building relationships with those above him so senior leaders didn’t view the problem in the same way as his peers and direct reports. 

Does this sound like someone in your organization?  Most companies have a “Jim.”  The question becomes what to do with him.

Toxic employees spread their poison to others and can cause an entire team to feel angry, depressed, discontent, and anxious.  Team work will suffer and so will productivity.  This costs you money.  Even if this person is your top performer and brings in significant revenue, the outcome can be a costly in terms of lost work hours, colleagues and direct reports avoiding this person, talking about them, being worried about their impact and so on.  Here are 4 tips on how to handle the toxicity before it becomes widespread and poisonous to your culture.

  1. Make them aware of their behavior.  In my career, I have seen leaders who effected employees in a negative way and they were completely unaware of their behavior.  They seemed to have no idea of their negative impact on others.  Making them aware of their behavior is the first step in getting them to change.  This can be done by providing candid feedback, but I have seen managers who shy away from these conversations.  An alternative is the use of a 360° assessment.  These assessments gather data from boss, colleagues and direct reports and compare them to how the employee perceives them self.  Another idea is to have them take a DiSC assessment.  The profile with show their strengths, blind spots and the specific areas that needed to be improved to end many areas of conflict.
  2. Help them change their behavior.  Once employees are made aware of their difficult behaviors some will change on their own, but the vast majority will need some help.  This can be done via a manager who can hold them accountable to the change or a coach who can work with them to help them understand various aspects of their behavior and give them tools on how to change. 
  3. Isolate them.  This is not my favorite strategy, but in certain cases, when you have a mission critical employee who provides unprecedented value, it’s a tactic you can take at least for a brief period of time.  A recent Harvard Business Review article lists a handful of ways you could make this happen.
  4. Fire them.  If you have made employees aware of their undesirable behavior, and provided resources for them to change their behavior, and it has not changed, firing them is a strategy that will help preserve the engagement of the rest of the organization.  Over the years I have seen companies really struggle with this decision, especially at the senior level.  Excuses are made about why they can’t be fired.  They speak of the damage that will be done to the brand or to profits.  I would ask you, what damage is being done to your brand from within?  What perception do employees have of you when you choose to turn a blind eye to the problem?  Your own credibility and trust comes into play. 

Your readiness or reluctance to deal with the toxic employee, will shape the culture of your organization.  This is a way your organizations demonstrates its core values.  Not handling the situation or letting it linger on, can cause employee engagement to spread like a cancer in your company. Do you have a situation with a challenging employee?  I’d love to chat with you to see how I can help.

It’s very important for people to know themselves and understand what their value system is, because if you don’t know what your value system is, then you don’t know what risks are worth taking and which ones are worth avoiding.
— Benjamin Carson

The Four I's of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead they describe a future they’d like to create instead
— Seth Godin

A very popular theory of leadership today is transformational leadership.  There are many different versions of what it is exactly.  There are four main components to of transformational leadership, which are commonly referred to as the 4 I’s.

Idealized Influence

  • Being clear on values, role modeling and authenticity. Walking the walk and being admired for this. 

Inspirational Motivation

  • Having an inspiring vision and sharing it, being optimistic and having a sense of purpose and drive. 

Intellectual Stimulation

  • Encouraging of learning, action.  Rewarding success, learning from errors, innovating.  Creating the environment for those “light bulb moments” and increased problem solving. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are “soft”, but in reality, they continually challenge followers to higher levels of performance.

Individualized Consideration

  • Demonstrating genuine interest in people, coaching and mentoring, recognition and respect of differences.  This personal attention to each follower is a key element in brining out their very best efforts.

Impact of Transformational Leadership

Why is transformational leadership important?  These 4 I’s are strongly related to 4 leadership competencies that can impact productivity, decreased employee turnover and increase efficiency.  Embodying these skills will more likely increase work satisfaction, create trust and foster organizational commitment and loyalty

The 4 leadership competencies required of most leaders are:  authenticity, coaching insight and innovation.  These can be connected back to the 4 I’s:

Idealized Influence maps to Authenticity

Inspirational Motivation maps to Insight

Intellectual Stimulation maps to Innovation

Individualized Consideration maps to Coaching

An authentic leader serves as a role model to inspire moral and fair behavior, as well as to command esteem and confidence from colleagues.  It is at the core of effective leadership.  Without authenticity every other action of leadership is at risk of being ineffective.  To become more authentic, really get to know yourself and become self-aware.

A leader portrays insight by communicating a purpose, meaning and a vision for colleagues to follow.  A hopeful view of the future is communicated, and employees are compelled to reach and exceed their goals.  Schedule thinking time to think about the past, present and future of your team.  Invite others to share their goals for the future.  Ask yourself how you talk about your vision for the future?  Do you show others where they fit in this vision of the future?  Are you thinking about the future often enough?

Leaders who embodies innovation places importance on taking risks, spurring colleagues’ ingenuity, imagination and autonomous through.  Knowledge is valued, and challenges and new circumstances are views as learning opportunities.  Do you treat mistakes as failures or as opportunities for growth and development? 

Coaching effectively, a leader works as a mentor to colleagues’ concerns and queries and supports employee needs.  Employees are nurtured to achieve their highest levels of performance.  Powerful questions are asked to encourage critical thinking and development.  Individual differences are celebrated and valued. 

Transformational Leader Report Card

How are you doing as a transformational leader?  Take 2 minutes to take this quiz, adapted from Psychology Today, to find out where you might want to place additional focus.  Give yourself a grade (A,B,C,D or F) depending on how true the statement is for you.

Idealized Influence

1. I do not ask my team to do things that I would not do myself.

2. I clearly communicate solid goals for my team.

Inspirational Motivation

3. People often tell me that I inspire others.

4. I receive many comments about my positive outlook and high


Individualized Consideration

5. I know what is important to my team and get to know them


6. I encourage my team to stretch even if it is uncomfortable.

Intellectual Stimulation

7. I believe that teamwork can accomplish the greatest things.

8. I challenge my team to explore their thinking and see other possibilities

How did you do?  Most leaders who take this survey find that there is at least 1 area that needs improvement.  We talk about ways to improve in my Emotionally Effective Leader workshop.  If you find that this is a need for leadership in your organization, I’d love to chat with you to see how I can help.

Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important think that I can do because then they will act
— Jack Welch

An Hour is not Enough

I recently received a call to come and do a 1-hour training event for a local business.  When I started asking questions about the goal of the session, I learned that they were experiencing some difficulty with conflict in their organization.  After some dialogue I conveyed that an hour wasn’t long enough to solve their problems.  They were disappointed with my answer, but I didn’t want them to waste their money. 

Just a Quick Fix

With 1 hour you get entertainment value; it can spark your thinking and start to heighten your awareness, but it really isn’t going to solve the issue internally or change behavior.  To solve business issues, we need to spend time diagnosing and formulating a plan to address over the long haul.

I often find businesses wanting a “quick fix” to some of their human resources problems.  After 25 years of doing this work, I know that the best way to do it and that is through consistent and strategic investments.

How do your numbers compare? 

ATD’s 2017 State of the Industry report  highlights that organizations spent an average of $1,273 per employee in 2016 on direct learning expenditure and average of 34.1 hours of formal learning hours used per employee.  These numbers increased from 2015, confirming organizations’ commitment to learning.  In fact, this is the fourth year in a row that has seen an increase in both the direct learning expenditure and the number of learning hours per employee.  In the words of Pete Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, “In the long run, the only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.”   

Power of Yet

How often do you say, “I can’t do this!”  What if you added the word ‘yet’ to the end of the sentence?  I can’t do this…yet.  You have just changed your sentence from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. 

About 30 years ago Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” Here are a few beliefs each mindset might have:

Growth Mindset

  • “failure is an opportunity to grow”
  • “I can learn to do anything I want”
  • “Challenges help me to grow”
  • “My effort and attitude determine my abilities”
  • “Feedback is constructive”
  • “I am inspired by the success of others”
  • “I like to try new things”

 Fixed Mindset

  • “Failure is the limit of my abilities”
  • “I’m either good at it or I’m not”
  • “My abilities are unchanging”
  • “I can either do it or I can’t”
  • “Feedback and criticism are personal”
  •  “When I’m frustrated, I give up”
  •  “I stick to what I know”

The type of mindset a person has can influence their success as a leader.  A fixed mindset can often prevent important skill development and growth.  This might sabotage your career, health and happiness in the future.

The benefits of a growth mindset might seem obvious, but most of us are guilty of having a fixed mindset in certain situations.  Leaders with a growth mindset are more likely to maximize their potential.  They see failure as a learning opportunity as opposed to a reflection of their abilities. They don’t need to prove themselves because they use time to get better and they look for relationships with people who will challenge and encourage growth rather than ones to enhance their self-esteem.  They view mistakes as opportunities to learn vs. trying to hide their deficiencies.  Although we see the benefits of a growth mindset, sometimes we do not pursue that path actively.  Here are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction. 

Welcome feedback

Find a colleague whose opinion you value and who is a great role model.  Invite them to give you regular feedback.  Ask your direct reports what you can do more of or less of to increase your effectiveness.  Take a 360⁰ assessment.  Any of these approaches are proactive in nature to help you grow.  When you receive critical feedback avoid becoming defensive and explaining your rationale.  Just thank the person for sharing and reflect on it as an opportunity to perfect an aspect of your work.

Become a lifelong learner

Successful leaders are continually learning.  They are reading, asking questions and are inherently curious.  They know they don’t have all the answers.  Learning is growing!   

Fail forward

Don’t be afraid to set challenging goals for yourself.  Always strive to set the bar a tad higher the next time.  If you fail, see it as an opportunity to learn something new and try it differently next time.  Resilience is key for a growth mindset.   

Foster a better work environment

Consider ways to help your employees develop on the job: Apprenticeships, workshops, and coaching sessions. Think about how you can start seeing and treating your employees as your collaborators, as a team. Make a list of strategies and try them out. Do this even if you already think of yourself as a growth-mindset boss. Well-placed support and growth-promoting feedback never hurt.

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential  

by OnePercentBetter

It’s summer and everyone is busy!  No time to read?  Check out this 9-minute video.  It’s a book summary of Carol Dweck’s: Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential.  I love how it shows mindset through different lenses like being a parent, in sports and business and in relationships.    

Fly out of the nest

By leaving your comfort zone behind and taking a leap of faith into something new, you find out who you are truly capable of becoming.
— Anonymous

I’m not a bird lover.   I have to say that at the get go.  I know that many of you in my dear Aspen Edge Community love them.  I do love nature and animals, but birds have never really been my thing.  Two weeks ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on The Edge, I was distracted by what was happening outside of my office window.  For 3 years now, 2 birds have made themselves a cozy home on my front porch.  For weeks, mama and papa flew back and forth tirelessly bringing twigs and leaves building their nest. This year, I was privy to the baby birds as they were learning how to fly out of the nest for the first time.  I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  I loved viewing them and became emotionally attached to those young ones.  Slowly I began to notice the many parallels there are to leadership. 

Mama and papa bird flew determinedly back and forth from the nest encouraging those who hadn’t yet flown the coup, much like great leaders mentor those just starting out, giving them tips and showing them the way.  One of the new birdies was very brave.  She kept standing on the edge of the nest flapping her wings.  I kept thinking she was going to fall, but she kept practicing and practicing…literally hour after hour before she flew from the nest down to the pillar and then back to safety again.  Quickly after flying out of the nest, she built so much confidence, she came bounding back and forth encouraging the others.  Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestselling book Outliers, tells us that it takes over 10,000 hours of doing the same thing over and over to become expert at a new skill or ability. 

In business, we also need to take smart, calculated risks.  We need to stop playing inside of our comfort zone all the time.  We need to stretch ourselves to greater heights.   And that change won’t happen overnight.  A quick google search will tell you the research varies on how long it takes to change a habit.  It seems to range from a minimum of 21 days to an average of 66 days as researched by a team at the University College London.  The reason for this is our brain likes to take a sequence of actions and convert them into an automatic routine, where it goes into the unconscious portion of the brain. Think about driving your car.  To get from point a to point b takes hundreds of small actions that you don’t consciously think about anymore.  Have you ever ended up at work and thought, I don’t remember driving here?  That’s because you did it repeatedly and it became automatic.

When was the last time you tried to fly the coop with a new leadership skill that was outside of your comfort zone?  How often did you practice it before it became natural?  How did you encourage others around you with this new skill?  I’d love to hear your stories!  Please drop me a line.


These kits provide everything you need to confidently lead a training session on your own.

When was the last time you did something for the first time.
— Anonymous

Balance: Not just for yoga

We need to take control and responsibility for the kind of lives we want to lead. If you don’t design your life someone else will design it for you and you may not like their idea of balance.
— Nigel Marsh

How is your May going?  As I think about that question personally, I realize that year after year, the month of May has always been busy for me.  Whether its kids wrapping up the school year and starting summer programs, graduation festivities, planning weekend getaways, backyard BBQs or getting out into the yard that I’ve abandoned over the winter, it seems that the weekend is never long enough to get everything done that’s on the list.  This May is no different.  In my work as a coach, I often encounter leaders who are struggling with stress in their life.  This month I realized that I needed to look myself in the mirror and remind myself of some strategies that I often share with leaders.  I needed to find some balance.    

When stress manages us.

  • People lacking this competency tend to view stress as external events; they don’t realize that stress is our reaction to external events.  They are unable to concentrate, become forgetful, can’t think clearly.  They tend to worry about the future.  They have a low frustration tolerance and engage in unpredictable, sometimes explosive, abusive or self-defeating behavior

Gain your balance back.

  • Recognize that stress is a part of daily life and think of it as a chance to grow
  • Become aware – in the moment - of your own reactions to stress and choose a healthier response
  • Expect change; learn to anticipate and tolerate uncertaintyFind a relaxation technique that works for you and practice it regularly (i.e., deep breathing, meditation, relaxation tapes, listen to music, take a walk, take up yoga, take up a hobby, read a book or see a movie to get your mind off things, get a massage, exercise, do Reiki or Tai Chi, visualize a happy, stress-free time and make a genuine attempt to re-activate those feelings of relaxation and no stress)
  • Develop assertive behaviors, speak up on your own behalf, there’s no need to accept abusive or bullying behavior
  • Be healthy. Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet daily-eating a healthy diet makes you better prepared to cope with stress; Get enough sleep; Sweat the stress out through exercise (take a run or walk, stretch, do yoga, lift weights)
  • Talk with a good friend about your worries/problems and find other ways to connect with others (share your feelings
  • Budget your time wisely. Leave enough time to get to your destination (the airport, your next meeting) so you aren’t feeling stressed while getting there
  • Plan ahead, avoid procrastination, set boundaries on your time and insist that others honor them
  • Set realistic goals, prioritize, do your best and let it go at that
  • Try not to control the uncontrollable; assume control only over what’s within your control
  • Stop blaming yourself
  • Focus on the positive and the good
  • Pare down your “to-do” list
  • Practice assertiveness and boundary setting (learn to say “no”)
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • HeartMath Techniques (

A big factor is really making time for fun and relaxation. Take a hot bath, get a massage, play with a pet, work in your garden, curl up with a good book, write in your journal, watch a comedy, and spend time in nature.

 Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury – only you can take care of yourself – no one else can do this for you.

Other ideas? What’s your go to stress buster technique?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear your suggestions!

How to make work-life balance work

In this 10-minute Ted Talk, famed photographer and author Nigel Marsh provides a humorous look at an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity -- and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.  I found the video empowering and incredibly inspiring, not only for me personally, but for the possibility of changing our value about success as a society.


Coaching helps individuals remove road blocks and become better, more effective leaders. In doing so, they wield more influence in their business, maximize their contribution and add more value. Ultimately this translates into increased profits, growing the business and broader career opportunities.

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When you have balance in your life, work becomes an entirely different experience. There is a passion that moves you to a whole new level of fulfillment and gratitude, and that’s when you can do your best...for yourself and for others.
— Cara Delevinge

Freedom to be yourself

Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.
— Susan Cain

As a professional who lives in the world of self-awareness and assessments, I love talking about personality and behavioral styles.  Often, we hear people talking about introversion and extroversion.  This comes from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or commonly known as MBTI.  Recently I became aware of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.  As a slight introvert myself, I found the title not only intriguing, but also something I could relate to. Introverts are what’s called “highly sensitive”, meaning they take in the information given to them, via stimuli from their environment, a lot more thoroughly than their extrovert peers. 

Introversion is not shyness.

It’s about where our energy comes from.  Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. Introverts are typically perceived as more reserved or reflective.  They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing. How do you respond to stimulation? 

We see talkers as leaders.

When it comes to leadership, many introverts are subjected to bias without even realizing it.  We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.  The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him, which means that he becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on.  We dramatically undervalue introverts and Cain shows how much we lose in doing so. They are routinely passed over for promotion.  Often, we favor the “man” of action vs. the “man” of contemplation.   


Introverts are good leaders. 

Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers.  Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. 

When collaboration kills creativity.

Personally, I believe we need balance; a blend of both types. However, remarkably workplaces are designed for extraversion’s need for lots of stimulation.  Consider that many work in open spaces without walls.  We seem to think that Groupthink elevates teamwork above all else.  It insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place.  Organizations should consider options for introverts to make their best contribution.

Allowing introverts to spend time alone, vs. participating in large group activities and meetings can produce better results.  Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases:  groups of 9 generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of 6, which do worse than groups of 4.  If you have a great introverted thinker on your team, don’t force them into an extroverted world.  Ask them what works best for them and then honor that decision.  Give them the freedom to be themselves.   

Want to bring Myers Briggs Type Indicator into your organization?
Click here to schedule a free consultation.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.
— Anaïs Nin

A Coaching Approach to Leadership

In the end, it’s about the teaching… Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni stuff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me.
— John Wooden (Legendary College Basketball Coach)

A Coaching Approach to Leadership

Colorado’s unemployment is hovering around 3% and it is lower in many of the cities around town.  This is a tough economic environment for employers hoping to find talent in the market place and it makes it vitally essential to keep the talent you have.

I am still hearing from many employers that turnover is an issue for them. They are losing out to the competition or to another company paying a tad more. With 2 out of 3 employees rating their leader as below average and 75% saying they would entertain a call from a recruiter or are looking for something better, its time to take notice!

How are your leaders doing? What are the results of your most recent engagement survey? Do you have teams that would be more engaged and productive if their leader had stronger coaching skills?

Out with the Old

The old command and control style is no longer working.  Telling people what to do cheats them out of:

  • Learning 
  • Feeling ownership
  • Feeling valued
  • Building confidence
  • Using their ideas
  • Being motivated

Coaching Confusion

When I talk to individuals about coaching I sometimes hear an unfounded belief that coaching takes too much time and doesn’t get any results.  Coaching IS about:

  • Action and Results
  • Focus on people AND task
  • Collaborative behavior
  • Supporting others to success
  • Relationships based on trust
  • Development
  • Possibility and potential
  • Empowering others
  • Generating Ideas and solutions
  • Motivating and fulfilling
  • Creating sustainable performance

Here are some basic coaching skills to try:

  • Listen beyond the words to the needs, wants and motivations of your team
  • Use powerful questions to engage thinking and generate ideas
  • Choose appropriate style according to the needs of different situations

Behavior Matters

Staff today are independent and want challenge. They want to feel heard and know that their opinions count. They want their leaders to relate with empathy, understanding and encouragement. They not only want to better themselves but also get along better with others.  A coaching approach does both. Leadership behavior is a critical component in the ROI your company receives on your talent. What precedes results is behavior. Behavior matters.

I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.
— John Wooden

Trust is Essential

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

Most organizations believe that their product, technology, service, or strategy is what sets them apart from the competition. NY Times bestselling author, Patrick Lencioni, believes that while those things are important, when an organization focuses on getting people working together on productive, cohesive teams, they will accomplish great things, and that teamwork may be an organization’s ultimate competitive advantage. Getting people to work together as a cohesive team is simple, but takes hard work, and it will pay off.

Think about the last time you were part of a dysfunctional team.  What did it feel like? I bet it had finger pointing, unhealthy competition, poor results, few opportunities to learn, or the blame game.  We’ve all been there, and it doesn’t feel good. 

When you give your teams the tools to work through issues that every organization faces, you set them up for success; you reduce turnover and you can directly impact your organization, your team, and yourself in a good way.

The first and foundational behavior of cohesive teams is vulnerability-based trust.  That means being vulnerable with one other.   It’s about being genuinely transparent and honest with one another, so you can admit your mistakes and weaknesses.  It’s being able to say things like “hey, I need help” or “I struggle in this area”, or “I’m sorry.”  Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental and emotional level. They are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. They can ask for help when they need it.  84% of people say that coworkers who admit their mistakes makes you trust them more. 

One of the ways you can build trust on your teams is to get to know one another better.  You spend 8-9 hours a day with your colleagues, but often struggle to find a genuine connection or understanding of them.

In the Five Behaviors program we suggest an activity called the personal histories exercise. This is an excellent way to get to know one another a little better and provide your team with a low-risk opportunity to practice vulnerability. You ask team members to share answers to 3 questions:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • How many siblings did you have and where do you fall in the sibling order?
  • What was an important or unique challenge of your childhood? How did that impact your professional life?

The leader should go first in answering the questions as she will set the tone for others by being vulnerable herself.  I’ve experienced the power of this simple exercise.  It’s so interesting to me how having more information about someone generates a deeper understanding of why they are who they are and how you might work better with them.

Trust is a feeling.  It’s a feeling of safety.  It’s the feeling of I know you have my back and that you will watch out for me.  As a leader it’s our responsibility to set the tone for safety and trust in our teams and our organizations.

On your next coffee break, take 10 minutes to listen to Simon Sinek talk about why good leaders make us feel safe.  It will give you something to think about the rest of the day.

Leadership is a choice. It is not a position.
— Stephen Covey

Start with self-awareness

Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.
— Debbie Ford

Great Leaders Start with Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the most important aptitudes required to make the transition from good leadership into great. 

Interestingly, self-awareness can also impact a company’s bottom line, according to this research by the Korn Ferry Institute, “Companies with higher rates of return on stock also have employees with fewer personal blind spots.”

Despite the need for self-awareness, it seems to be in short supply among many leaders.   According to the Hay Group Research, 19 percent of women executives interviewed exhibited self-awareness as compared to 4 percent of their male counterparts.   

Do you need a new approach to increasing self-awareness?

Gaining a new perspective on your old behaviors can reap great dividends for your organization and your career trajectory.  It can also help you reduce turnover costs as your new employees will be more engaged with increased leadership strength.  Here are 5 ways you can increase your self-awareness:

  • Gather feedback from trusted sources or take a 360▫ Assessment.  I’ve used these for years within organizations and I have really seen it make a difference!  I’m happy to share my favorites with you.
  • Take a personality or behavioral assessment like Everything DiSC, Myers Briggs or Strengths Finder.  If you’ve never done this it will really open your eyes to your style and what you naturally bring to the table. 
  • Build Emotional Self-Awareness- As you come to comprehend your own emotions and behavior, you increase your understanding for what drives the actions of those around you. With this knowledge, you can improve your relationships, and above all, your happiness.  A good emotional “vocabulary” and steady self-reflection helps us become more conscious of our emotions.  Let me know if you need ideas on how to do this.  I can share some additional tips.
  • Know Yourself- Do an assessment of your values.  Become clear on what you stand for.  Use this tool to get started.
  • Get executive coaching.  A good coach will give you her observations and insights from working with you.  They are not afraid to tell you that you have “spinach in your teeth”, all in the name of helping you. 

DiSC Certification Online
March 09 – March 30, 2018
Live session each Friday from 1:00 – 2:30pm MST

DiSC Certification In-person
March 27 – March 28, 2018

Shift your organization

In The Edge last time I discussed the value of creating a culture of learning and its importance to your business. This time I’d like to share how to go about doing that in your organization.

How Do You Get Started?

Shifting the organization to create a culture of learning is easy to talk about but can be hard to implement.  Below are 8 tips you can use to begin to shift your culture towards learning.

  1. Make learning part of the organization’s strategic success. Integrate learning with talent management in support of capability development.  Perform a talent SWOT with your senior leaders and tie it to your strategic plan then cascade learning down into the business.  Repeat this process annually and monitor results for continuous improvement.
  2. Make a belief in learning a part of the organization’s culture of leadership. Use leadership development programs to encourage leaders and management to take ownership of the learning culture.
  3. Ensure your learning development programs encourage leaders to take ownership of learning culture:
    • Get their buy-in on what’s being offered
    • Have leadership emphasize learning as an important activity
    • Influence them to invest time, money and resources
    • Have leadership participate in their own learning
  4. For a learning culture to be ingrained, it should be mandatory for all individuals in the organization.  Training and development plans that are not formalized run the risk of not being taken seriously and as a result not implemented.  Reinforce with employees that the company provides learning opportunities but the learning is up to them.  It’s ok to make certain aspects mandatory to shape the culture AND empower employees to take charge of their own learning.
  5. Make knowledge sharing an organizational habit. Institutionalize knowledge sharing by incorporating incentives and opportunities into every learning and performance management process.
  6. Develop knowledge and information sharing into a formal process.  People will be more encouraged to share knowledge and information if they are required to do it.  Formalizing the process makes sure that everyone who needs the information gets it. 
  7. Create formal mentoring, shadowing, and buddy programs.
  8. Offer vibrant and accessible learning events for every level of employee.

Shifting the culture of an organization is not for the faint of heart. It can take months and even years to get it to where you want it to be. The long term pay off however, can make the difference in the profitability and competitiveness of the business.


Create a culture of learning

Do you have a culture that fosters learning and ultimately transforms the organization? Is your culture neglected and left on its own, which can breed conformity and stagnation?

Organizations not focused on learning experience high turnover, struggle to keep customers, and ultimately fall behind competitors. They may be profitable in the short term but ultimately fail.

Organizations with sustained learning practices thrive. They understand the connection between cultivating talent and growing a business.

What is culture? 

It’s like the air we breathe—it’s all around us yet very hard to see. You notice it when you go from one company to the next. 

It’s made up of all of the policies, practices, and values demonstrated. It’s how we behave and even more so, what people get away with.

Culture is hard, not soft. It’s not a ‘touchy feely’ thing—but rather an important set of behaviors and processes which impact your organization’s success.

What do your leaders do when something fails for example? How do they treat people who deliver bad news? How well are decisions delegated to owners of a problem?

The answer to these questions and others will vary from company to company and shows a difference in organizational culture. These critical questions which deal with culture, and their answers, often mean success or failure for many business initiatives.

What is a culture of learning?

A set of organizational values, conventions, processes, and practices that encourage individuals to increase knowledge, competence, and performance.

Why does this matter?

According to a study by Bersin & Associates, titled “High-Impact Learning Culture: The Best 40 Best Practices for Creating an Empowered Enterprise” Organizations that have a strong learning foundation in place tend to significantly outperform their peers in several areas:

  • They are 32 percent more likely to be first to market.
  • They have 37 percent greater employee productivity.
  • They have a 34 percent better response to customer needs.
  • They have a 26 percent greater ability to deliver quality products.
  • They are 58 percent more likely to have skills to meet future demand.
  • They are 17 percent more likely to be market share leader. 

In addition to this study there are others that also point to statistically significant relationships between learning organization behaviors and performance measures.

A learning culture is very business-relevant and not at all academic. “Learning Culture” is what enables BP, Toyota, Microsoft, IBM to identify the problems in their products and fix them quickly.

It’s what enable Cisco and Goodland and Apple to ‘out innovate’ their competitors. It’s what enables Walmart, UPS and Dell to drive down costs and maintain service quality. 

It’s what enables ING Direct, Zappos, and Starbucks to grow at rates 10-100X their competitors. And it’s what prevented Digital Equipment Company, Tandem, Apjollog Computre and Silocon graphics, Kodak and hundreds of other defunct companies from embracing change in their markets and evolving their products. 

This topic is important! It means life or death for many organizations.

How do I know if my company is a learning organization?

There are several ways you can begin to assess whether your organization stands in becoming a learning organization.

First, you can begin by asking some key questions. I’ve given you a head start in this document. Use this tool to self-assess your culture.

Once you have evaluated your answers, pass this survey on to other leaders in your business and use it as an aid to begin dialoguing with each other to see how aligned you are. Discuss how your results vary from theirs and where they are similar. Conduct focus groups with employees or customers.  See how leadership’s view vary. Strategize at a retreat, business planning session or at staff meetings.

Once you know where your opportunities are as an organization, you can begin making necessary changes to transform your organization. This is not an overnight process, but takes steady, focused, long term effort.

A New Day Dawns

Earlier this month the Golden Globes honored Oprah with the Cecil B Demille award and she gave an acceptance speech to a standing ovation.  Social media sites started lighting up the internet showing the video.  If you haven’t watched I would encourage you to take 10 minutes to listen to it here. Even if you did listen to it, spending 10 minutes again can be uplifting and heartening.

I found her to be an inspiring and poignant example of leadership. She talks about conflict that is decades old that still continues on today. Yet despite the challenges that lay ahead, she provides incredible hope that change is on the horizon.

She has a strong vision for us. We are thirsting for this kind of leadership in our organizations and in the world we live in today. She elevates, is aspirational, has a can do attitude and is so incredibly optimistic.  She provides confidence that we can change! The end of her speech is here:

 …a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “me too” again. 

As 2018 takes off and we begin implementing our goals for the year, I encourage you to take your leadership to the next level.  Invest in yourself and your team this year. Read a book, take some training, spend time reflecting on the kind of leader you would like to become and most of all, be intentional in how you lead. 

Upcoming Workshop

Everything DiSC Productive Conflict
February 21st
8:30am – 10:30am
Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel
Denver, CO

If you are looking for a fun way to bring more communication and cohesiveness to your organization, I welcome you to join me at the upcoming Wiley showcase to learn about Everything DiSC Productive Conflict, the newest addition to the Everything DiSC solutions suite.

The Everything DiSC Productive Conflict showcase provides an interactive and engaging presentation, giving participants insights on how to effectively respond to the uncomfortable and inevitable challenges of workplace conflict.

Registration includes:

  • Breakfast
  • A complimentary Everything DiSC Productive Conflict assessment
  • Self-parking

As a valued member of the Aspen Edge community, I am happy to cover the registration fee for you. Spaces fill up fast, so contact me today to register. I look forward to having you as my guest the showcase!