The One Thing To Remember in Giving and Receiving Feedback

I think one of the most difficult things to do in organizational life is to receive tough feedback.

Most of us go into our jobs wanting to be seen at best as a top performer and at the very least a valuable contributor to the organization.


So when someone sits you down to give you some feedback, how you receive this message can make a big difference as to the perception others will have of you.

Organizations spend lots of money on teaching managers and leaders how to give good feedback. Most “giving feedback” models include some type of framework that mandates at least 3 steps: (1) Provide context for the situation, (2) Give an assessment of a behavior, and (3) Declare the results of that behavior. The goal then is to enter into a conversation about what the person could do differently in that situation to get a different outcome. While there are probably some improvements to be made, the model in my estimation is directionally correct. It gets a conversation started, and is an attempt to help someone improve.

At the same time, there are some assumptions that get made inside of any feedback model that need to be addressed.

Case Study: Toni and Mia

Let’s consider a situation where Toni is Mia’s supervisor.  

Mia has been part of Toni’s team for about 8 months so Mia has had adequate time to observe how Toni is integrating her into the team. Mia has noticed that Toni is a bit more relationally distant from her than other members of the team, but she shrugs this off since Mia is still the newest team member.

Mia really loves the company and wishes she could say the same about working for Toni. She cannot pinpoint why she feels this way, but Toni seems to treat her differently from other team members. For example, Toni will often get into detailed conversations with other team members about hobbies or things going on in their personal lives, but everything with Mia seems to be about her projects at work. Flat out, Toni just spends more time with other members of the team. Maybe it is just a quantity of time thing, but the perception to Mia is that Toni just knows them better. One thing that Mia would say about herself is that she loves her work and others have even commented to her they wished they could care as deeply about their projects as Mia does.

The Feedback Process

As part of a routine organizational feedback process, Toni is tasked with gathering some feedback for each member of her team. For Mia, Toni will ask two or three team members what it is like to work with Mia. Simple, straightforward, open-ended, and as unbiased as possible on the part of Toni; just what is it like to work with Mia. Toni will then take her assessment of Mia’s performance and put it with the other feedback.

Once all of the data is collected Toni will develop one or two things that each person on her team could improve upon. The intention of the exercise is so that everyone is providing input and is able to make any behavioral course corrections if needed.

Toni’s Feedback for Mia

Toni’s challenge in preparing for her conversation with Mia became one of only focusing on two things. While she had some idea that Mia was struggling to integrate into the team she did not realize it was so evident to everyone else. Toni was grateful that the organization had a feedback model and even invested in a half-day of training to teach supervisors how to use it. She would need all that skill in her conversation with Mia.

The day came for the two to meet to discuss the feedback. Toni had decided on two talking points:

  1. Grandstanding- People on the team thought that Mia was not sensitive to other projects the team had and that hers, by far, was the most important.

  2. Constant Comparison-Toni had noticed in almost every conversation that Mia would compare how she was working on projects versus others on the team and this always came with how her way was better

Needless to say, when the two sat down the conversation did not go well. Even though Toni executed the feedback model with flawless accuracy she could tell Mia was both stunned by the feedback and hurt that people on the team actually felt this way. One of her comments to Toni was, “Who comes to work and tries to belittle others by doing these things. What is this 4th grade? Maybe folks around here are just a little too nice to each other and need to grow some thicker skin.” She finished the conversation with Toni by saying that the process needed to have a name change from Team Feedback to Shark Attack.

The one thing to remember in giving and receiving feedback

  1. Recognize who is in the Power Seat. Most would assume, because of the power gradient that exists in organizations that the manager, in this case, Toni, is in the power seat. But studies actually show that it is the receiver of the feedback who is in control. The receiver gets to decide what is heard, what is reflected upon, and what ultimately will be acted upon. You may be saying, well yes, but if Mia doesn’t change her behavior she will get fired. And yes, this might be true, Toni is merely a messenger and Mia has the power to decide what her actions will be.

As the receiver of the feedback, realize your power position. Be as open as you can to what is being said. Ask good clarifying questions so you have all the information you need to decide if you are going to make any changes or not.

Next week I will add 4 additional considerations to giving and receiving tough feedback. In the meantime, what do you think Mia and Toni could have done differently to get a better outcome? I’d love to hear your comments.

If Workload Is Not the Culprit For Stress...What Is?

A relatively new area to hit the leadership literature is the concept of job crafting. Many organizations are leaning more on the individual worker to “craft” their job by changing everything from accomplishing tasks, to strategizing important relationships, and mapping business goals. This idea of “job crafting” actually has been cited in leadership studies as being aspirational and motivational, allowing the individual to self-actualize and find meaning and purpose in work.

Job crafting has been cited as increasing work productivity, employee engagement, effective problem solving, and overall employee performance. Before I even knew it was called “job crafting” I always thought of it as “just do what you need to do to get the job done." Be responsible. Be accountable.


An article in The Leadership Quarterly (the Bible of Leadership Studies) by Elizabeth Solberg and Sut Wong took on the question of what employees perceived as their ability to craft their job in the context of work overload.


In English: If I have work overload, do I feel I can do what I need to do to get my job done?

Job crafting is often classified as a proactive behavior and reflects traits such as self-initiation to bring about any needed change. However, it turns out that job crafting is not necessarily anticipatory. Most scholars view job crafting as a behavioral response to one's current work situation. Rather than being future-oriented and strategic about what work we have, most of us will just react to the load we currently face. It really is the “tyranny of the moment” that is a key factor in our ability to be able to craft the job into what we need it to be.


There are two important findings that come out of this study as it relates to job demand and role crafting. When employees are feeling the overload of work, their anticipation for a positive resolution and their leader’s need for structure are two very important factors.

As always in leadership studies, there is more than one variable that must be considered. When studying the leader one must also study the follower. When thinking about employee performance and work overload, the literature will support this idea.


It is a good idea to ensure you have people on your team who can be proactive in adapting and initiate change in order to relieve the work overload.

The follower needs to have some skill or trait in their overall ability to be able to manage change. There is an accountability and expectation that rests on the shoulder of the follower that when work overload is occurring they can cope, manage, and make proactive changes.

Point taken. Followers need to be accountable.


However, follower accountability is only half of the story. The other half of the story is how much control the leader exudes.

According to Dragoni and Kuenzi (2012), leaders engage in leadership behavior consistent with their own goal orientations, producing a work climate that influences their employees to adopt aligned goal perceptions. This research also shows that the more controlling the leader, the less willing the follower will be to exhibit autonomy and make changes that are needed to alleviate work overload.


If team members in your organization are overworked and feeling stressed, maybe it isn’t the workload to blame. Maybe it isn’t all of the quarterly tasks. Perhaps it is your need to control as a leader. If our need for structure across all time and circumstance is consistent, then in times of heavy workload, your workload is going to increase even more. Why? Because in order to get things right, the followers are going to need you to think for them. If, as leaders, we want to feel less stress or have more time to think and create, then perhaps letting go of control might be just the gift to give yourself and those on your team.

What can you as a leader do to loosen your control reigns? What value would giving your team more autonomy have on the overall effectiveness of your team?

How Do You Define Trust?: Delegation Series #4

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Delegation Series. To wrap up, I’ve invited my Executive Assistant, Brandi, to explain how building trust in our work has enabled me to delegate things to her. Here’s Brandi...

I have had the honor of working alongside Scott for over three years now. At the beginning of our working relationship, Scott delegated to me tasks of a traditional Virtual Assistant, such as calendar management, travel coordination, copy-editing, and social media management. Although I still have involvement in some of these areas, my role within Scott’s company has evolved quite a bit, allowing me to partner with him in new ways that develop and grow his business.


These days I spend the majority of my time overseeing the full administrative scope of Scott’s coaching and consulting practice: contracting, designing and distributing program materials, administering assessments, managing coaching engagements, invoicing, and much more. Additionally, I regularly have the opportunity to partner with Scott to help guide and manage special projects, external contractors, and various growth opportunities.

As Scott and I have developed our working relationship, one very key attribute has determined our success: trust.

Merriam-Webster defines trust as, “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

Scott and I define trust as:

  • Full access to work directly with his clients, knowing that I will treat them with the utmost respect, kindness, and care, to ensure the success of the program, coaching engagement, or consultation.

  • Confidence in my decision making, allowing me the freedom to select travel arrangements, schedule meetings, edit content, and make recommendations without questioning or hesitation.

  • Reliance on each other’s areas of expertise. Recently, while talking through a project we were about to pull the trigger on, Scott said, “I am hesitating, even though I know this is the right direction, but I just can’t visualize it.” Within seconds I was able to virtually share my computer screen, walk him through a demonstration of a similar project, and give him the visuals he needed to ensure confidence in moving forward.

With trust as the foundation, Scott and I have found a rhythm that allows each of us to work within our strengths. As a result, not only are we both happy in our roles, but Scott’s business is thriving, his clients are happy, and he is free to spend his days doing what only he can do (even if it means leaving the office an hour early to play some golf or spend time with his sweet granddaughter, Natalie).

So, how do you develop this kind of trust with your team?

Here are a few things that have helped us:

  • Prioritize regular communication. Scott and I meet first thing each Monday morning via video conference to catch up and talk about the week’s priorities.  

  • Be reliable. Scott and I have proven to each other that we will do what we say we will do. If we encounter delays or roadblocks, we communicate our concerns quickly.

  • Create an environment where it is safe to fail. In our very first meeting a few years ago Scott told me that on our team there is no blaming. When we fail, we are not interested in pointing fingers, we focus on making it right and learning so that the mistake is not repeated. I have heard Scott reiterate that to our team throughout the years and I believe this has significantly contributed to an environment of trust.

Trust is not something that develops overnight, but with the right person in the right place on your team, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish together as trust grows. If you are interested in exploring the idea of finding a new team member who can partner with you in similar ways, I encourage you to reach out to BELAY.

Moving toward Delegation Expertise: Delegation Series #3

Last week you heard from BELAY’s CEO, Bryan Miles, and how he helped me with my business. This week, I’ve invited one of my virtual assistants, Tannis Oliveri, to share how she empowers multiple clients toward delegation expertise. Here’s Tannis...

When a client begins an engagement with a Virtual Assistant (VA), they are typically overworked, stressed, and looking for a reprieve from the mundane tasks that weigh them down. Through the first few weeks of onboarding with a new client, I seek to learn their pain-points, what part of their day is the most productive, their personality type, and their communication style. This helps me get a broad view of their work and life. Once I determine their greatest needs I strategize how to take things off their plate which typically begins with delegation.

Depending on their professional journey, they may or may not have utilized Bryan Miles’ delegation matrix in order to identify tasks they want to get off their plate. In my experience, some clients, like Scott, have been the one-man-show in their business and need encouragement to continue handing things over. Regardless of where the client is on the road of delegation, here are some simple tips for moving toward delegation expertise.

  • Templates, Templates, Templates: This has been the biggest area of success for my clients across the board. If I can remove the brainwork from a repeating task by creating templates, then it’s a win for everyone involved. Here are a few of my favorites:

    • Meeting + Travel Templates: This works best is in a task-management software where I list the overall details needed for meetings or travel arrangements (location, required attendees, etc). Rather than my client and I playing email-ping-pong with gathering the necessary details, my client is able to copy the template, type in the meeting or travel request information, and I take it from there. It is efficient and creates clear lines of communication.

    • Email Templates: Whether my client wants to touch base after submitting a proposal or reach out to a volunteer, a canned response gives them a track to run on. In creating the template I will include language such as, “I’ve CC'd my assistant, Tannis, on this email. Please respond to her with your availability.” In doing so my client (1) doesn’t have to remember to delegate the scheduling to me and (2) is training his team to come to me with calendar requests.

  • Gently pull things away: Expense reporting was a tremendous drain for one of my clients. When we first began our engagement he would manage all his receipts, even though I offered to do them. His response was, “It doesn’t take me much time. It’s no big deal.” But his calendar screamed how valuable his time really was. So, rather than waiting for him to upload the receipts each week, whenever an expense comes through his email, I take care of it right away. The small fragmented pieces of time are back in his control when he allows me to take the initiative.

  • Remind them of your skill-set: One of the things I’m known for (and actually enjoy doing) is taking messes and cleaning them up. Whether it’s an online storage that needs a complete overhaul, or a tangible folder that needs reorganizing, I encourage my clients to delegate that to me. When I first began with Scott his Dropbox was in desperate need of organization. Rather than Scott trying to clean it up, he handed it over to me and I whipped it into shape.

  • Ask lots of questions: Some clients have been doing a task for so long they don’t realize someone else can do it for them. During my weekly meetings with each client, I ask various open-ended questions that help them process through their tasks. This creates time and space for them to think through things and offload work that doesn’t belong on their plate.

As a Virtual Assistant, I feel I am an extension of my client. We are both working toward the same goals. When they become empowered to delegate, my clients find freedom and more time to spend on the work they love.

One Easy Way To Avoid Burnout as Leader: Delegation Series #2

Last week I kicked-off a series about Delegation. I shared my confession of being a control freak and how hiring a Virtual Assistant from BELAY changed they way I run my business. I’ve invited BELAY’s CEO, Bryan Miles, to share from his perspective, how he helped me with my business. Here's Bryan...

Throughout my years as a leader and more recently as CEO and Co-Founder of BELAY, I’ve learned many valuable leadership skills and principles. One leader who has helped our leaders and managers hone their leadership skills is Scott Livingston, one of our partners here at BELAY.

Scott is a business coach to highly successive leaders, helping them meet their goals and reach their potential in the workplace. Scott uses highly customized leadership development plans for his leadership training and executive coaching, with a focus on emotional intelligence in his training programs because it has proven to improve leader's execution and performance in their organizations.

As business leaders, we’ve each encountered times when seemingly endless tasks kept bogging us down, preventing us from growing our business. For instance, Scott spent long hours analyzing tests he conducted for leaders, processing assessments, proofing reports, scheduling meetings, and recording results. That is until he discovered the art of delegation.


Scott and I have learned over the years why delegation is integral as a leader. Effective delegation allows leaders to focus on the things that only they can do -- casting vision, strategizing and serving as the stewards of their company’s mission. When entrepreneurs are bogged down in the day-to-day details of bookkeeping, data collection, and calendar management, they’re robbing their businesses of a truly invaluable asset: their leadership.

I am often asked this question when I mentor people: “I have so much that I need to do, I don’t have time to do anything else.” And then the question comes, “So, Bryan what should I do about this?” It’s pointless to discount things like better planning and prioritizing important over urgent work, but most of the leaders I work with are “hacked out” of productivity. Everything they are working on is important. So now what?


At BELAY, we’ve learned how powerful delegation can be for leaders. So much so, that we’ve designed a delegation matrix for leaders to prioritize tasks and see what you can start delegating today so you can finally get back to doing what you really love.

For Scott, one of the first things he began delegating was data analysis for all of the tests leaders took during his training courses. He gained hours back into his schedule each week. Hours he now spends doing what he does best: coaching highly successful leaders.

One of the first things I delegated were the routine, administrative tasks that were eating up my day (aka low pay off activities). I know, taking the first step toward delegation is a doozy. In fact, giving up those first few scraps of agency to someone else can be terrifying. That’s why I suggest starting small. Begin by delegating to a Virtual Assistant (VA) your scheduling, routine correspondences, calendar management, or travel arrangements, all time-consuming details that can be easily delegated to a VA with minimal amounts of panic and distress.

Delegation is essential for your business’s success for two reasons:

1) Your time is limited.

2) You aren’t always the best person for the job.

Effective leaders thrive on humility and are never afraid to say, “I can’t handle this,” or, “I don’t know.” Delegation allows leaders to leverage the expertise of others, and use their own time more effectively. A good leader worth following should never feel guilt when delegating … they should feel relief and see results.

If you want to start alleviating stress in your workday, we’ve designed the Delegation Matrix just for you. We use the Delegation Matrix to not only help leaders prioritize a task list and determine what can be delegated today, but also to help our employees become better stewards of their responsibilities.

Delegation Matrix.JPG

Here’s how to use it:

Quadrant 1 -  Write out the things you love and that only you can do (and keep doing those)

Quadrant 2 -  Write out the things you love but that you know others can do. This is the quadrant that you should lead, teach, coach, and develop others.

Quadrant 3 -  List the tasks that you know you shouldn’t be doing or find yourself procrastinate doing. Guess what - there are other people who actually love doing these things. If you hate doing stuff that you know you should do, it will show up later. This is typically outsourced areas like bookkeeping, legal work, admin details, project management, proofreading & etc.

Quadrant 4 -  This is everyone’s favorite part - list the things you REALLY shouldn’t be doing. DELEGATE the stuff you hate & others can do. You're wasting valuable time if you do stuff in this quadrant. Get rid of these items immediately.

Don’t you think it’s time for you to start doing what you do best? Start focusing on growing your business and leave the rest to your delegates. Download and start using the Delegation Matrix today. Or let me know how you delegate: @bryanmiles.


Confessions of a Certified Control Freak: Delegation Series #1

Confessions are really hard for me.

Important, but really hard.

Confessions for me come in two different ways. Both of them entail me acting in a way that is disruptive to others.

The first way is when something is brought to my attention and I have no idea that I did it. The second way my need to confess, well, I’ll describe it in the story below.



The other day my wife and I were driving in downtown Columbus Ohio to meet our youngest son Greg, and his wife Sylvia, for lunch. Most of you already know where this story is headed by the mere fact that a man is driving in a location he is not necessarily familiar with, but here’s how the conversation went.

“Let me put the address in the GPS,” Kim said to me rather nonchalantly.  

“No, I don’t need it,” was my reply. Finished by, “I know where I am going.”(Which, I guess was said with a little, OK, a LOT a of tonal impression.)

“Really?” Kim said. ”You don’t have to use that tone with me.”

In a knee-jerk reaction, I said, “I am sorry,” thinking that what I had done would be immediately forgiven and forgotten.

But then…

Kim said, “For what?”  

Startled, I said, “What do you mean for what?”

“What are you sorry for?” she said, followed by a rather long period of silence.

Now you can see I am at an inflection point in the conversation. “My tone?” I must have said with a bit of guessing in my voice.

“Nice guess,” she said. “You don’t have to use that tone with me, I am just trying to help us get there on time.”

Time for my confession, “You’re right. It was not my intention to belittle you.”

“I know,” she stated. "But it was the impact it had on me.”

For sure, it was not my intention to belittle. But it was important for me to see this and then to verbalize and confess the error of my way. It is a bit cliché to say that confession is good for the soul, but in a meta-analysis of over 150 studies, the idea of self-disclosure has been found to be beneficial for the confessor. Scientists are just now starting to understand why this is so important.

The second type of confession is the type where I know I did something wrong without anyone bringing it to my attention. Usually this type of confession, I call Type 2, is something I have been thinking about for quite a long time. I have made a mistake and I know it. I have pondered over how much of the error I actually own and am responsible for. Then, after some contemplation, I make the decision that the responsibility is mine.

According to Meg Jay in her best selling book Supernormal, it is critical for humans to take our feelings and experiences and “put them into words.” Turns out, words for us become labels or categories, according to Jay. When we talk about our experiences, we are sorting them out. Organizing our thoughts into words and speaking them can take what has happened and make it understandable and even less upsetting for us.

My Confession

I have a Type 2 confession to share with you today.

Many of you know I work in my own Executive Coaching and Consulting practice. I have decided that at this point in my life, this type of work fits me. I really enjoy helping those I work with become happier and healthier in the organizations they serve. That is the bright side of me.

The dark side of me is I am a control freak.

There, I said it. It feels a little cathartic and freeing to write it down for all to see.

The problem of being a control freak means I want to control everything in my business. I mean everything. So, I used to do sales, product design, product development, implementation, scheduling, finance, marketing, customer follow-up, customer communication, customer delight.  Think about all the different departments in your business. I do the same thing, just on a much smaller scale.

I was doing it all. And pretty effectively for a while. But, the problem was that with my controlling every single detail, my business was only growing so far.

My Freedom

I wanted to grow my business, but I still wanted to do the work I loved. The question for me was how could I do both?

A few years ago, I was listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. He was talking about his friend who had figured out a Delegation Matrix that offered freedom to entrepreneurs. His name was Bryan Miles and his company is BELAY.

Bryan started BELAY with his wife, Shannon. They wanted to take the stress and worry out of the lives of the entrepreneur, minister, and executive, so that they could focus on doing what they love. The brilliance of all of this is Bryan and Shannon figured out a way to do this virtually.

So, after listening to Michael Hyatt, I did some digging on virtual assistants and set up a meeting with Bryan.

Now, what happened next was not rocket science, but it did revolutionize the way I approach my life and my business.

Bryan and I had a half-hour call scheduled and I thought we would spend time in small talk and getting to know each other. WRONG!

Bryan said, “Scott it is nice to meet you. Tell me 3 things that you love to do in your business.”

I was a bit stunned. "Well I love to coach, I love to speak to groups, and I love to write my thoughts out.”

“Great!” he said. “Now what are 10 things you have to do to coach someone that you hate to do?”

It took me a couple of minutes to come up with the 10 things, but I did it.

“Great,” he said again. "Now, how long does it take you to do those things?”

“I don’t know, maybe 10 hours or so.”

“Great,” he said for the third time. “Now, what do you bill your clients out at an hourly rate”?

He had me.

I was spending way too much time doing what I didn’t like doing when I could have been what I loved to be doing.

All I had to do was give up control of what I hated.

Now, how hard is that?

This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of delegation. Next week, you'll have the opportunity to hear directly from Bryan Miles. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Belay's services, click here.

What if I Don’t Want to Change?

What is it about change that makes it so difficult for people to process?

Is it the overall complexity that change brings? Or is it the level of comfort that existed prior to the precipitating change event?

One aspect that I have been thinking about recently is that our aversion may not be to the change itself but the awareness that the current reality exists in concert with the new reality.

If the answer is yes to both of the above this makes for a confusing environment.

Consider the following story as an example:

As a member of an organization, “Bob” has a job to do that he has been doing for approximately 24 months. He is competent at the craft and has built some good relationships with people on his team and with this customers. As a matter of fact, Bob’s supervisor rated him as exceeding expectations last year which is really quite rare for only being on the job for 2 years.

Then all of a sudden, the organization says it needs to change how it operates. They have to become a more Holistic Organization. This new structure isn’t really going to be structure at all! It is more of a self-managed, self-organizing network of people who are going to get everyone closer to the customer and to each other. Out with bureaucracy, and hierarchy, and consensus.

The consultant who gives the presentation to the company called it a “Teal” Organization. Bob had to research it and learned it was something called Spiral Dynamics which is a new consciousness for business. Teal Organizations are agile, lean, flexible and responsive to the environment. It all sounded great until Bob started to get a little anxious. Like how flexible? So flexible that he won’t be needed? Feelings of real anxiety started to sweep over him.

Teal organizations, since they distribute decision making to the lowest levels of the organization, require a level of trust, emotional intelligence, creativity, and intuition not previously required. There is a great sense of the work that is being done is for the good of, indeed the survival of the organization and that the individual interests of the contributors are taking a back seat.

As Bob contemplates his old paradigm he feels paralyzed between the drive to consensus that used to exist and making decisions for the good of the organization (which by the way, Bob remembers is what consensus was supposed to do).

He wants very much to succeed in this new world order, but not sure exactly how to do that.

Yes that was it. How was he supposed to come to work today and be inclusive with all his business partners and at the same time make decisions on his own?

He feels tremendous uncertainty in what his role is and a lot of ambiguity in how he’s supposed to do his job.

And then, his wife says that maybe they should not have bought their new house.

This did not help calm his thinking.

Personal Example

I know how our protagonist in the above scenario feels. I remember when I first got married, in fact, my wife Kim and I were on our honeymoon. Now, for any person marriage brings on a very significant change. On the morning of my wedding I woke up single, but by 1 pm that afternoon I was married. This was a new reality that I did not fully understand.

I was excited about the change. I anticipated with a positive anxiety the reality that was ahead. And unlike many who experience change in an organization, I was a willing participant who was choosing this destiny.

For our honeymoon, my bride and I set off on a Caribbean cruise. Seven fun-filled days just the two of us. On our first night at sea, we were walking to dinner. I was so excited to eat because the number one thing people told me about cruising was that the food is outstanding. Or, maybe it was the fact we had skipped lunch and I was famished. No matter, when I got to the dining room I turned around and Kim was nowhere to be found. Where could she be? So, I started retracing my steps and when I rounded the corner there she was…just standing…and waiting.

“Whats wrong?” I enquired. “Are you OK?”

“I am fine,” she said. Then she went on and delivered the truth that helped me realize my new reality. “You are married now, and I would really like to walk to dinner with you and not behind you.”

Ouch! What a change lesson that was for me.

My old paradigm of singleness was confronted with my new reality of being married. If I was going to be any good at this being married thing, then I had to understand what this new life was all about.

I am so thankful that I married a very patient woman. She has been at my side now for 34 years teaching me all about what it means to start something new.

The real key if you are experiencing dramatic change in your organization, or you are getting married, is to pay close attention to the relationships between people. For this new reality to be successful we have to replace our negative and anxious feelings with those of more positive outlook.

Being in the middle of change requires us to slow our thinking down and manage the anxieties we are experiencing.

Sure we will stumble at times, but let’s not forget that a step backward is not failure. It is just learning. No one, not even those leading the change in organizations know everything. We all need space to think and to understand what our new way forward looks like.

Do you have a case of “Yeah, But?”

The experience of being a grandparent is everything I thought it would be and more! My wife and I just finished a three-day “grandparents camp” with our little granddaughter and we had such a good time together. Our little bundle of joy has really made an impact on my life. She has changed me a lot.

However, there has been one change I did not expect.

My brother, who beat me to the grandparenting experience by about 18 months, kept telling me it was going to be the best experience of my life. He would send me videos of himself and his grandson playing on the floor together or reading stories. While there was a sense of joy, I have to admit it didn’t look like that much fun to me. I have not rolled on the ground with kids for a long time. Where was the intellectual stimulation going to come from?

How Wrong Can One Man Be

I was 100% wrong! I had no idea what I was talking about. My little granddaughter has totally changed my approach to life.

The most profound effect she’s had on me is the revelation that I need to continue to work on my listening skills. Here is an example:


“Grandpa let's take Carlos (my dog) for a walk.”

“Ok, let me finish the article I am working on and we will go.”

Yeah, But Carlos needs to go for a walk.”


Or Consider,


“Grandma, I want a snack.”

“Sweetie we will eat lunch pretty soon.”

Yeah, But I want a snack.”


Many times when change is not going our way, we as humans do not want to go deeper into the reason why. Since change brings on so much emotion, it is important for us to step back and realize the problem we are having with change could be that we are trying to use logic with an emotional issue.

For my wife and I, being grandparents means that we have had about 6 years since our youngest son left our home and our little grandbaby entered our world. When Greg left home he departed as an adult. We could have very adult-like, seemingly logical discussions with him.

What seems so obvious to me now never occurred to me in the moment. Why wouldn’t telling my granddaughter that we would have lunch pretty soon be good enough for her? Surely she has experienced lunch before and knows her hunger will be satiated when she finishes her meal. I mean by now she has probably had over 700 lunches in her life, surely that is enough repetition for her to know what lunch means…

Yeah, But...

I have experienced the case of “Yeah, But” in my coaching practice as well. I will be working with a client who knows they need to change a behavior, such as:

  • Becoming more assertive in meetings

  • Having more empathy for those they lead

  • Taking deep breaths and relaxing

  • Celebrating the success of others

  • Having more empathy for those they lead (It was worth listing it twice!)


As I work with them on these, and many other skills, I can often sense a,

Yeah, But...

It is there. It is not always obvious. Maybe not even articulated. But, as I sense the resistance from my client I can feel like I am up against a “Yeah, But.”

This is an indicator for me to slow down and try and understand the emotions my client is feeling. Yeah But means there is an emotional hurdle that needs to be jumped, and before I rush on with more logical thought, I need to slow down and help my client climb over the emotional barrier.

When we are working with people experiencing change, speaking logic during these times can be futile. Instead, we, as the leader, need to focus on helping our followers navigate change in a safe and trusting environment. It is during times of confidence and protection that Yeah But can be satisfied and the learning can resume.

Even if that learning means having a snack right before lunch.

Does Your Team Need This Lifeline?

A while back, after a much-needed vacation, I scheduled some time for writing and research. During this time, my interaction with my coaching and training clients was limited to text and phone conversations.

About 10 days into this period, I noticed something unusual.

I was starting to get a little down. Not an all-out depression, but I was noticing something declining in my overall mood. I felt like I was sinking. Nothing bad happened, really. In fact, I had just come off a very restful vacation and had plenty of work to accomplish.

Nonetheless, there it was; the feeling of not having enough connections that sustain love for my work.

A lifeline is defined as "a rope or line used for life-saving, typically one thrown to rescue someone in difficulties in water or one used by sailors to secure themselves to a boat." Things can happen to us in our lives that give us a similar feeling of sinking or being stuck. If we don’t have some help to secure us, we can begin to feel alone and hopeless.

From time to time, we all need a lifeline of care and compassion from others.


It is fairly common knowledge amongst psychologists that the feeling of isolation can be a key determinant for a wide range of human ailments, from depression all the way through to premature death.

The Wall Street Journal reported there are very few public health initiatives to combat loneliness, even though this state of being is riskier to “health and survival than cigarette smoking or obesity.” 

Loneliness a bigger health risk than smoking or being overweight?

If loneliness is a bigger health risk than cigarette smoking and obesity, then perhaps it is something we as leaders should pay closer attention to. Are there people in our sphere of influence that need a lifeline?


A very insightful study was published last October in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers wanted to know the impacts and categories of social contact or lack thereof, that might predict clinical depression. In studying over 11 thousand people over the age of 50, the scientists found that only face-to-face interaction forestalled depression in older adults. Phone calls made a difference to people with a history of mood disorders but not to anyone else. Email and texts had no impact at all.

The lifeline that people need, according to this study, is face-to-face interaction

In the study, the frequency of gathering with friends and family—or not—was the key. What’s more, the researchers discovered the more in-person contact the less likely that depression would occur in the future. Participants who had minimal social contacts had the highest depressive symptom rate, while those who connected with people in person at least three times a week had the lowest. It would seem that the more people gather in person, the better off they are.

What could we as leaders do to become part of the solution? has some very simple steps for preventing depression. The 5 most relevant to our discussion are:

  • Control your stress

  • Increase your resilience

  • Boost your self-esteem

  • Reach out to family and friends (i.e.. grab a lifeline)

  • Get help fast

As leaders, we can be intentional with those under our influence. Here is how I would adapt the above list for leader-follower interactions.

  • Become attuned to what stress looks like for those on your team

  • Meet regularly with your team members at least every 1-2 weeks

  • Prioritize these meetings

  • Spend most of your time listening and asking questions, rather than being in "solve mode"

  • Meet in person, if at all possible. If not, use video chat like FaceTime or Zoom

  • Give them some assurances that you believe in them

  • Establish a culture that encourages learning from mistakes

  • Do spot check-ins in times of high stress

  • If a teammate seems down, ask about it early

  • Consider frequent mini-sabbaticals as a way to rejuvenate

How often are you connecting with those you lead? How intentional are you in making connections? Who on your team seems a little down and needs to know you believe in them? Your lifeline of care and compassion might be what is needed to help your team reach peak performance.

Stormy Transition? Here’s What to do in the Meantime

Last week we talked about stormy transitions and what the space between looks like before and after. Here’s the LINK if you missed it. This week I’m going to dive deeper in how to work through stormy transitions such as grief and loss.

A storm we can all identify with is living with loss. Let’s face it, loss is really hard. Most of us in the United States do not take enough time to grieve the loss of a loved one, let alone the loss of a job or significant relationship. Many of us are so performance-based that we get caught up in doing something rather than just being with our grief and loss. I am guilty of this myself. My battle cry is often, “Just do something and you will not notice all the pain!” But I am here to plead with you to not do this. If you are experiencing loss, take the time you need to replenish, revitalize, and heal yourself.

I have experienced both the loss of my father and the loss of a job that I really loved. I was fortunate to be able to walk through these times with some wise people who gave me what turned out to be excellent advice. They taught me how to just be, and to not focus on doing…anything.

Here are three things I did during my time of loss. In other words, here’s what to do in your meantime.

  1. Allow friends to minister to your soul. Loss often cuts us very deep, to the core of who we are as people. Loss can feel very lonely and isolating. Do not let it be a time when you set yourself apart from others.  Find friends who care about you and will listen to you. Friends who will let you take your time and heal as you need to experience it. Someone who will not try and solve, but just be there with you and listen.

  2. Journal your thoughts and feelings. Buy a nice leather journal and a pen that feels good to write with and take the time to put on paper what you are thinking and feeling at the time. There is no right or wrong and this is a judgment free zone. I also want to encourage you to find a friend and read your journal out loud. Explore the meanings and the feelings you are having. This will create a sense of purpose, belonging and compassion.

  3. Find a soft place to land. As you are in transition do some exploring. Play with some things that you have always wanted to try. For me I had always wanted to write a book, so I did. I self-published a book on coaching with emotional intelligence. It felt really good to be able to achieve a life goal during this transition. Soft places to land can make transitions both easier and less shocking on your system.

If you are in either a mini-transition or a full-on-life-altering-transition, please, take your time. Allow others to help. Do not go through the experience alone. You will be OK, in fact you may end up being much better off. You may get to accomplish something you only dreamed of.

Go ahead and climb in your cocoon. Sit in it and grow. Then come out and change the world.

I hope you enjoy the support. If you know of someone going through transition, why not send them the blog and encourage them to sign up. I would greatly appreciate it.

Are you in a Mini, Major, or Stormy Transition?

Many of the organizations I work with are going through major transitions right now. Some are growing and expanding while others are experiencing unprecedented contraction. The change seems to be showing up in a couple of very different ways.

Some folks are in mini-transition where they are gaining clarity around their life’s work; like an update of what has been happening in their lives over the past several years. These folks find themselves doing a new job, or on a new team, or maybe even relocating for an opportunity. It is a change they may or may not have been asking for, but alas they find themselves with some new opportunities ahead. While significant, and full of emotion, these mini-transitions keep the person on a similar life trajectory.

Then there are the life-impacting transitions where full-on change is happening in your life. Your circumstances are shifting entirely and rocking your entire world!

  • You have lost your job, through no fault of your own.

  • You have decided to retire and to give your talents to a local non-profit who really needs your leadership.

  • Your spouse has served you divorce papers after 25 years of marriage.

  • Or you experience the loss of a child.

Real loss. Devastating loss. The kind of loss that makes life seem like there is no way out.

Frederick Hudson writes, “…many people think of transitions [like this] as a penalty box, a place for losers, for quitters and weaklings-people who can’t take the heat, victims who thrive on self-pity and helplessness.” Many will seek to blame others; a bad boss, a spouse, or more likely God.

When you lose something you love, a job or a person it can seem like life itself is not worth living. Hudson writes, “the acceptance of an ending sounds like termination, humiliation, resignation, and defeat.”

However deep or devastating your transition, please take heart. However disorientating the change you are encountering, this experience is almost always a road to some kind of regenerative growth of you as a person and a discovery of some new and exciting you that is being created.

You really are a butterfly emerging from a cocoon…eventually.

But for now, it might feel like you are a caterpillar who just wants go into the basement, drink beer, and cry!

What to be aware of is how you are experiencing your transformation. Think of it as “The Meantime.”

The Meantime

When I was a kid, my mom used to talk a lot about the meantime. It was always mentioned as a time preparation as a transition was coming. It would go something like this:   

  • “Scott your father will be home in about an hour and in the MEANTIME you better get your room picked up.”  

  • “Scott you have basketball practice tomorrow morning and in the MEANTIME you better get your gym bag packed.”

  • “Eric (my brother) you have your piano lesson tonight, in the MEANTIME you better get practicing.”

As I reflect back when I was a kid the MEANTIME was always a time of storming. You see, I knew dad would be home in an hour, but a kid could play a lot of basketball in 60 minutes. Who in their right mind wants to stop playing ball and clean up there room?

The storm would begin to brew.

My mom would remind me. “You better get on it now. You can play ball when your room is done, but in the MEANTIME you better get moving."

After the second request to clean my room, she would invoke my middle name.

“Scott Robert!”

The pressure would rise with dad’s presence looming on the horizon. The stormy transition was fast approaching.  

We all experience stormy space in our meantime; the space that exists between “how nice it was before the transition” and “what it will be like when the transition is over.”

The question I have been asking myself a lot lately is, “When the meantime comes, how do I show up?”

Leaders, we need to be very aware of how we are showing up during times of transition. We need to ask ourselves what our behavior was like during the stormy transition. Are my actions those of a self-centered protectionist?

Am I becoming so focused on my own unfortunate circumstances that I am missing out on key relationships that could be a vehicle to restore my healing? Can I remain calm and have some clear thinking, vision, and self-introspection as events unfold around me?

Many of you are experiencing change and chaos going like never before. So, over the next several weeks I am going to write about going through these changes with skill and grace. Next week, I’m going to dive deeper in how to work through stormy transitions such as grief and loss.

I hope you enjoy the support. If you know of someone going through transition, why not send them the blog and encourage them to sign up. I would greatly appreciate it.

How Can Curiosity Help Your Leadership Journey?

When a child builds a Lego creation, they rarely step back and say, "This is my masterpiece, my life's work is finished!" Instead, they allow their curiosity to grow and they often improve their handiwork or build something entirely different. Kids are open to the possibilities of their creations.

Leadership is also this way. Cast a vision, identify your followers, build your team up, but do not stop there. Become curious about your team, how you work together, and the goal you are working toward. Learn about your followers and look at your projects from different angles. This will allow you to gain perspective of how others see your leadership versus how you see it and allow you to revel in this curiosity.


Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, says one of the grand misconceptions about quitting your boring job so you can have a creative life is that 90% of what you will find in your new life will be boring too. It is mundane. It is slugging it out. In my own life, I left my job to pursue my passion and do what I felt would be more exciting. Today, I get entrepreneurs and business people who come up to me and say, "I want to do what you do, it seems so cool." Now, helping my clients become more effective in their leadership is awesome.

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

I have contracting and invoicing, and managing expectations, and TSA, and delayed flights. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I enjoy the 10% that allows me to interact with interesting people. The one thing that motivates me through the mundane are those people, as well as one simple word: curiosity.


I treat the boring by igniting curiosity. I take myself and my needs out of it, and instead, make it an exploration. Always learning, always curious.

I encourage you to add this to your leadership experience: a journey of curiosity with the discipline of organizational leadership. Leadership is an arrangement between you and your followers. After some time, this relationship can become very boring, if you don’t remain curious.

Through curiosity and learning, you'll strengthen your leadership and build strong relationships with your followers. Your newfound understanding will allow you to work in sync and you'll see your vision arise. When this happens, there will be moments where the passion is reignited. Until those moments arrive, remain curious and be eager to learn. This is a safe and wonderful place for you to explore.

What would it take for you to ignite curiosity about your team? What can you learn from them? What insights could they offer on your current project that you hadn't thought about?

Let me know what you learn by emailing me or leaving a comment below.

Are You Happy With Your Level of Well-Being?

One time, a client said to me, "Scott, I realize I need to take care of myself. When I do that,  I am at my best. I have decided to do yoga when I get up in the morning and exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued.

"Recently, there has been a lot of negativity in my life and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am choosing to be the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

His decision prompts me to ask this question to you; how are you, as a leader, focusing on your Emotional Well-being?


There’s a great story of 2 of 180 nuns who are the subjects of a noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book  Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, but here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns were alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.

  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar lives. They eat basic food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and have similar routines. Of course, there differences such as intellect, depths of spirituality and outlook on the future that could account for the varied results in the nuns.

However, none of these aspects made any difference in the research. In his book, Seligman points out that the largest contributor to their longevity was the amount of positive feelings.

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.

  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?

  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment or say “screw it” and become a victim of your circumstance.

  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

One of the attributes we measure in the Emotional Intelligence training is Happiness or Well-being. In our model there are four factors that comprise Well-being:

  1. Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.

  2. Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your beliefs.

  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.

  4. Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

Two Considerations for Evaluating Your Own Level of Well-Being

The first is attempting to display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends that reciprocate. Realize things in life are not always going to go your way. What counts is how you respond when setbacks happen.

The second is to have a balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around. It’s all about balance.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health? What changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Did

During a recent 360 feedback event, where leaders receive feedback from their supervisor, peers, and direct reports, one of the leaders came up to me afterward. She said, “Scott, my feedback is telling me I need to have better interpersonal relationships, especially with my peers. Can you give me some advice on how I can improve in this area?"

My knee-jerk reaction was to provide advice from my training and experience so I began rattling off my instructions. I gave a step-by-step plan to this young leader what she needed to do to have mutually satisfying relationships. After all, in my training and coaching practice, I have developed a near effortless perspective in this area. As an executive coach with a doctoral dissertation in executive coaching, I assumed I knew what the problem was.

Thankfully, I noticed the blank stare on this young leader’s face. She was completely overwhelmed.


I stopped mid-sentence, shifted my thinking, and asked, ”When it comes to interpersonal relationships, what doesn’t seem right to you?” The young leader went on for about 3-minutes describing her thoughts and analysis. She explained how she felt spending time on “chit-chat” was not productive in the midst of her busy day. For example, when she had a meeting she skipped pleasantries and got right down to business. She wondered aloud if this was a possible disconnect with her peers.

Asking this woman a simple question allowed her emotional space to verbalize ways she needed to improve her interpersonal relationships. I had forgotten that most young leaders are just beginning their journey. They are still getting used to the language of leadership. They are receiving feedback, many of them for the first time. Where I am in my practice and where they are as young leaders are two entirely different places.


Scientists claim that it takes at least 10,000 hours of study, experimentation, and practice paired with coaching and advice from individuals in that field before you become an expert in an area.

10,000 hours equals 6 years spent on the subject full-time, 8 hours a day, 200 days per year. Few of us have dedicated this kind of time to a field, so for most of us, it takes 10 to 12 years to develop our expertise.

Have you fallen into the same trap I did? Are you holding young leaders to a high standard of evaluation?

Edgar Schein, in his book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, gives leaders sage advice when leadership conversations go wrong.

  1. Do less telling.

  2. Learn to do more asking.

  3. Do a better job of listening.

Here are three suggestions to practically implement Schein’s advice:

  1. Do less telling by learning to let go of your need to be heard as an expert. What is driving your need to be right or heard? Replace your directive style with an inquiry.

  2. Learn to do more asking by making your questions open-ended. “What doesn’t seem right to you” or “Tell me more about what you are saying."

  3. Do a better job of listening by practicing empathy. Give them your full, undivided attention while keeping in mind where they are in their development.

Think of a relationship you have struggled with at work. The next time you are in conversation with this person, give up your expert position and ask some open-ended questions instead. Focus on improving the strained relationship. Let go of the outcome of the subject you are working on and focus on the quality of your questions and your listening ability. By making this kind of investment in others, your work may actually become easier.

If you have some success with this I would love to hear about it. Send me an email or better yet make a comment below so everyone can benefit from the conversation.

Are You Intentional About This?

An old friend recently called me and told me about her work. Her company really values leadership and sees it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace, but they view personal development as the individual's responsibility. Much like how they expect my friend to dress business casual when she comes to work, but they are not going to take her shopping.

You may work in an organization that takes a more proactive approach and provides classes to attend or gives you a budget to spend on yourself for your own development. You may even work in an organization that doesn't care about your development at all, they just want the job done.

No matter what type of organization you work with, planning your own development as a leader is paramount to your improvement. We can not simply hope that we will improve or leave our development to chance.

So, what exactly does development look like? Development is about:

  • Growth as a person

  • Finding a new skill

  • Advancing yourself

  • Creating something new and exciting

  • Breaking out of the routine so that you become the person YOU desire to be

Perhaps you want to improve your position or your skills, yet you just are hoping that it will happen. Hope is a poor outcome predictor. Instead of hoping something will happen we need to intentionally engage others in our development.


You are conversing with a peer while waiting for a meeting to start. You say, "Hey, I am trying to speak less in meetings, but when I do speak, I am going to try to have more influence. My goal is to draw others to my ideas, rather than beat them into submission with my words. Could you observe me over the next few months and give me some feedback on how I am doing?" Admitting we need to develop something brings us face to face with the reality that if we do not make a change we will be stuck where we are for a long time. This takes courage and vulnerability.

Being intentional with your development allows you to go to other leaders, and even followers of yours, asking them to partner with you in the creation of the more advanced you. This may be scary, but so is skydiving, or running your first half-marathon, or going on your first date. Scary in an exhilarating sort of way. It demonstrates a healthy and respectful fear.

Sharing an aspect of your leadership development plan allows three important things to occur:

  1. You are declaring that leading is important to you.

  2. You are showing humility.

  3. You are saying to others that stagnation is NOT OK with you.

If you are collecting feedback by involving others in your development I want to encourage you to pay attention to the accompanying emotion. Are you feeling sad or encouraged? Are you motivated or discouraged? No matter the emotion you are feeling, focus on what is being said and how you can use it to improve your leadership.

So, how are you involving others in your personal development? I’d love to hear your comments around the topic of intentionally developing yourself as a leader.

5 Common Vision Mistakes and How to Fix Them

When most leaders think of vision they imagine the two-fold process of creating the vision and casting it to their team.These are important elements but the responsibility of vision implementation does not solely rest in the creation process. Rather than the actual vision getting the blame when it's not gaining traction, maybe we need to dig a little deeper into the question of why our vision is not working.

Listed below are some reflections on common vision-setting mistakes. I’ve either made these mistakes myself or been associated with leaders who could have received better results if they had paid closer attention to these elements.

Problem#1: Not describing where the vision originated.

Whether your vision comes to you from a mountaintop, or at your desk, or from team collaboration, you need to communicate it to those in your organization. Your team needs sufficient details in order to understand and have trust in where you are taking them. Some will follow blindly, but most will not. As you provide details on how you arrived at your vision, you will earn their trust. The Fix: Spend time providing details around the vision to your team so they can catch your enthusiasm for where the organization is headed.

Problem #2: Lack of role clarity for inner circle followers.

Those in your inner circle must have clarity about what role they play in order to make the vision a reality. Your direct reports must be able to articulate and own the entire vision from the creation process to the communication and implementation. Accountability is vital within this inner circle. The leader should not bear sole responsibility for creation, ownership, and implementation. These elements must be an organizational process. The Fix: Everyone in the inner circle must have specific accountability for their aspect of vision implementation.

Problem #3: Lack of personal belief in the vision.

Many of you do not have direct impact or influence on the vision for your organization, however, others in your organization need to know that you embrace the vision. You do not have to agree with every small detail around implementation, nonetheless, it is vital that you believe in the vision and overall direction of the organization. If not, you probably need to do some reflection on whether you are in the right place. If you do not like the vision, influence it. If you can not influence it and you don’t like it, then maybe your calling is elsewhere. The Fix: Reflect on how you personally believe in the vision of your organization. Write out your thoughts. If you don’t believe in the vision, get out. You will only be a barrier to performance in the long run. If you need to leave the organization, this reflection will help you articulate your beliefs for the next group you associate with.

Problem #4: Abdication of the vision.

Here is one I heard recently: “This is Pastor Eric’s vision for our church!" May these words never be uttered in your organization where the masses have not bought in and owned the vision for themselves. If ownership of the vision does not get passed down, the likelihood of the vision becoming reality is slim. The Fix: Everyone in the organization needs to be accountable for how they are implementing the vision in their department. As you interact with your team have conversations about what they are doing to own and make the vision a reality?

Problem #5: Devaluing encouragement.

People in the organization need to know that you believe they understand the vision. Far too many leaders cast a vision then move on to something else. The best way to build positive momentum around the vision is to articulate it and catch people carrying it out. When you look for those opportunities of catching the vision, celebrate and let everyone in the organization commend their achievement. Again, there is no better way to get the behavior you are looking for than to communicate success. Period. The Fix: Catch people implementing the vision and celebrate it with the world!

Where do you see yourself in these 5 vision mistakes? Perhaps it would be helpful to write a 3 bullet point action plan for you to turn your mistake into learning, and eventually a success. If you try this, we would love to hear how it is working for you. Why not leave a comment below and share your thoughts?

How Does Risk Affect Your Team’s Performance?

Do you think risk and reward go together? Or is the reward is an outcome of risk, not a partner in the dynamic interplay of teams? Let's say someone on your team is driven by risk and we suppose they are carefree. Someone else on the team is risk-averse and we categorize them as wary. Now the team has to make a decision on a product or how to put a presentation together. The carefree person wants to go for it. The wary person wants to hold back. Depending on team dynamics, the team may find themselves out of balance or even stuck. As a result, emotions rise, people stop understanding each other and often begin looking for blame.

The stuck feeling the team is experiencing has nothing to do with talent or skill. The team is not performing in the moment because they all have a different tolerance for risk. Risk brings with it, as change does, a certain emotional tone and tenor. We each have a tolerance for risk. As that tolerance becomes challenged, our emotion, anxiety, and fear can all increase. The we feel the less risky something is to us.

There are 8 different types of risk profiles. As a leader, understanding these risk types will help you navigate team dynamics and maximize the risk profiles of each member on your team.



At the root of this is impulsivity and an attraction to risk, combined with distress and regret if things go wrong. This type tends to be passionate and fluctuates between excited-enthusiasm and pessimistic-negativity. Such people are both frightened and excited by their impulsiveness. They are likely to respond emotionally to events and react strongly to disappointment or unexpected moments.


Those who fall into this dimension tend to be anxious and worrisome. People in this risk type expect the worst, they are high-strung and alert to any risk or threat to their wellbeing. They are emotionally invested in their decisions and commitments and take it personally when things don’t work out. They tend to be very passionate about things, but their mood can swing drastically from day to day.


Characterized by a combination of self-discipline and concern about risk, these are cautious, organized people who highly prioritize security. They are likely to be alert to the risk aspect of any investment opportunity before pressing into any potential benefits. These people have a strong desire to know exactly what to expect, and, as a result, may find it difficult to make decisions.


Those in the prudent risk type have a high-level of self-control. This type is organized, systematic, and conforming. Conservative and conventional in their approach, such people prefer continuity to variety and are most comfortable operating within established and familiar procedures. They are generally very cautious and suspicious of any new ventures and may find reassurance in sticking with what they know.


These individuals have high-levels of calm self-confidence combined with caution. This type tends to be unusually low-key, even in situations where most people would panic. At times, they seem almost too accepting of risk and uncertainty. However, they are often well balanced by a desire to do things in a planned and systematic way. Because they are highly organized, compliant, and like to be fully informed about what is going on, they are unlikely to walk into anything unprepared.


This type is cool-headed, calm, and unemotional, but at the extreme may seem almost oblivious to risk. Their outlook will always be optimistic. These people take everything in stride and appear to manage stress very well. They are not particularly impulsive but are also not overly organized or systematic.


At the root of this risk type is a combination of impulsiveness and fearlessness. Extreme examples of this type are people who have a disregard for custom, tradition, or convention. They are seemingly oblivious to risk. Their decision-making is likely to be influenced by both their lack of anxiety and their impulsiveness.


Those in this category dislike repetitive routine and do not like being told what to do. Such people may seem excitement-seeking and, in extreme cases, reckless. Lack of attention to detail and preparation may cause their intentions and objectives to seem vague. Their impatience, impulsivity, and distractibility sometimes leave them exposed to hasty decisions.

These risk types all come from an assessment that is published by Multi-Health Systems called Compass Risk Type. The tool is designed to assess the individual risk type of each person on a team and then give the team a picture as a whole. As we design workshops around this Compass Risk Type Indicator it is always interesting for a team to look at a current issue they face, and each other’s Risk Type, and work through possible solutions.

There is potential for risk in almost everything we do, and there are many different factors that influence a person’s readiness to take a risk at any particular moment. As leaders, we must be aware of the way those on our team interpret and respond to risk, beginning with ourselves.

The next time your team is stuck in making a decision, look at the list of risk-types and ask if the source of the stall could be attributed to a different approach to risk.

Does Your Culture of Origin Affect Your Leadership?

A while ago, I was at a conference speaking about leadership and how our Emotional Intelligence impacts performance. In the group discussion, questions surfaced regarding the clash of cultures. One participant observed the culture of her company did not align with her cultural background. Her company valued expression of emotion as a way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but this created tension as it was the opposite of her family culture which valued performance without emotion. “Just the facts," the young lady said. No empathy was expressed with difficult classes as she was growing up. “Just deliver the ‘A’ grade.”

This young woman felt trapped between the performance model she was taught as a youth and the new professional culture of empathy and connectedness. I have to tell you, the tension in the room was palpable and the struggle for learning to navigate this dynamic seemed unyielding.

The culture we grew up in is a foundational part of who we are and provides much of our leadership frame. The culture we are exposed to as infants, children, and young adults forms the values, beliefs, and social norms we carry around as adults today. This cultural development is so integral to who we are that it can cause us to behave in ways that we see as entirely normal, but others may look at and say, “What planet did you come from?“ How can one deal with the stress of valuing their culture of origin, yet pressing into a different culture that requires an increase in Emotional Intelligence?

As a group, we discussed how the impact of our formative culture has on our professional behavior. This is not something easily changed without full awareness and willing intention. In fact, it may not be a full-on change that is needed, but skill in navigating between the two cultural dynamics. This is a real value for the discipline of Emotional Intelligence.

According to Michael Polanyi (my favorite science philosopher), “…as human beings, we must inevitably see the universe from a center lying within ourselves and speak about it in terms of a human language shaped by the exigencies of human intercourse.” Everything we do as leaders is culturally situated by our entire human experience: race, sex, economic class, family of origin, family dynamics, teachers, coaches, and friends. It all has an impact on how you see the world and how you lead. Culture is influential and inevitable in shaping every single person in this world.

Emotional Intelligence encompasses your ability to create space in a situation and make a behavioral choice rather than acting impulsively. Being Emotionally Intelligent equips you to assess the cultural tension, adapt to an unfamiliar way of life, and even affect an environment with good leadership and team cooperation.

Much can be learned from Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural adaptation theory of "stress-adapt-grow." For example, the higher a leader's Emotional Intelligence, the more equipped they are to recognize the impact that the cultural stress is having on them. Self-awareness to understand the difference allows the leader to be able to feel the stress and deal with it rather than ignore it and let it mount.

If stress mounts to a point that cannot be tolerated, all sorts of negative consequences are possible. If stress is managed, then adaptation to the new culture is possible. Learning the Emotional Intelligence skill of healthy emotional expression will empower this young leader to value both her culture of origin and her culture of destiny. When she adapts, she can grow to a place where she can feel less stress about the cultural differences. She will grow as a leader without having to give up core elements of who she is as a person.

What would help you see the tension between your culture of origin and culture of destiny in a different light? Look for places of friction in your work and see if it might have something to do with the clash of cultures. If there is potential for improvement in Emotional Intelligence take some healthy strides toward understanding the differences between the cultures and grow as a leader.

How Can Being Instead of Doing Affect Your Organizational Culture?

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in many positive ways such as compassion with the loss of an employee's family member, care with paternity and maternity leaves, and even performance-reflected pay-base in this respectful culture.

In one department, a leader swooped in with an agenda. He would make changes in performance standards but only select favorites would be told of these new rules. Low-performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The culture shifted dramatically and the organization became chaotic and fragmented. The previous cultural norms were no longer reliable. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Six months later the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high-performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your Emotional Intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are five things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization:

Be Self Aware

Know yourself and be confident in your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions and how they impact your company. Your team is watching to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive

Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic

When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition of empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended),I would add that empathy is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I strongly believe we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value in your teammates.

Be in Control

Don’t waver or change things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that causes an emotional response, remind yourself of the company’s mission and your principles to ensure your decisions align with your mission. This way, your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic

Positive people are magnetic. Their energy makes others want to be around them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. Begin to see the best in yourself, recognize setbacks as learning opportunities, and realize obstacles are unique, temporary events that you'll get through.

How are you doing with these five things? Look back over the list and fill in the rest of these phrases:

I want to be more…

So that my team can feel …

And we'll create a culture that is ...

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

How to Hold Each Other Accountable and Still Care

When I was young I did not do much reading. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, there was just no time for it between watching basketball on TV and playing basketball every other minute that I was awake. When I entered the fifth grade that all changed because our teacher, Mrs. Katobi was pretty clear that if you wanted to go to sixth grade that some of my time would be spent reading.

I can recall the conversation vividly. “What do you enjoy?” she asked.

“Sports, basketball mostly” I replied, bearing my entire soul to her.

“Good, find a book about a basketball player and give me a report of what you read on Monday.”

“I don’t have any books on basketball players,” I said to her thinking this would be the end of the conversation.

“Fine,” she said, “I will call your mother and tell her you need to go to the library”

And she did.

So instead of shooting hoops after school, my mother drove me to our local library.

Not only that, Mrs. Katobi had phoned ahead and told the librarian I would be looking for a book about a basketball player. The librarian escorted me over to the biography section where it seemed to me like the sheer number of books on the shelf could keep a kid from ever playing basketball or another sport ever again. Just picking one from this vast sea of paper was overwhelming.

On that fateful day in 1973, the librarian at Peoria Heights Library asked me, “Who is your favorite player?”

“Wilt the Stilt Chamberlin,” I replied, thinking no way would there be a book on Chamberlin and I would be back on the court in no time.  

She said, “Let me see. I think there is a book on him that just came in not too long ago.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” I thought to myself.

Walking over to the shelf, she pulls the autobiography, Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-foot Black Millionaire who Lives Next Door, off the shelf.

I have always been thankful for the two main characters in this story; the librarian (I do wish I could recall her name) and Mrs. Katobi.

They knew what was best for me. They cared enough to set a high expectation (at least for a poor kid from the other side of the tracks) and held me accountable. They knew the work I needed to get done and helped me find an interesting way to do it. They did not micromanage the entire work process. Mrs. Katobi cared enough to take some roadblocks out of my way by calling both my mom and the librarian. As I reflect, this really gave me the feeling that she cared enough to make the calls on my behalf.

The bar was set for me, care and compassion were shown, and then it was up to me.

Paul Zak makes an interesting argument about this when he writes in Harvard Business Review and in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research about the powerful neurochemical oxytocin. According to Zak, colleagues who want to help each other perform better. No matter what you think about people in your organization, the decision to show up is completely voluntary. In our society, people can pretty much do whatever they want to do. Employees are not that different than people who go to church or a grocery store. They, in essence, volunteer to do whatever it is they are going to do.

Sure, in a work organization they are paid. Zak gives insight into this stating that his research shows, “they choose an organization at which to work.” It is in this realization the brain chemical oxytocin comes into play. The culture of your organization can stimulate oxytocin in your employees through all types of engagement where people feel cared for and respected. Alternately, your work environment may feel more like testosterone rules the day, causing people feel driven elsewhere to a place where they are valued and appreciated.

According to Zak, his work with oxytocin shows it is the biochemical basis for the Golden Rule. “If you treat me well, my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to reciprocate.”

When I shared this research, through the lens of Emotional Intelligence, with a client I am working with. He listened intently, nodded his head and said, “Yeah, but...”  In my training as a coach, I know that when I hear the word ‘but” any agreement like the head nodding and the “yeah” has just been discounted to “I DO NOT AGREE”.

Following the “yeah, but,” came “what we need to do is set clear goals and hold our associates feet to the fire to do what they say they are going to do.”

“EXACTLY” I agreed. Holding them accountable with care and compassion will have them want to engage.  

Turns out that is really not the end of the oxytocin story or my story. You see I read the book, did the report turned it in and thought that was it. Assignment finished. Let’s get back out to shooting hoops. However, Mrs. Katobi, probably being the smartest person to ever teach any subject to any student pulled a brilliant move.

“Class,” she said that next week, “I have just read the most fascinating report about a very tall basketball player and I thought you all might enjoy learning about him so, Scott, why don’t you come up and share what you learned about Wilt the Stilt.”

When I finished, they clapped.

According to Zak another big surge in Oxytocin occurs when we celebrate success. In addition, another neurochemical gets released called dopamine which among other things is the brain’s reinforcement chemical.

I wonder if Mrs. Katobi knew at that moment she was creating a lifelong, voracious reader?

How about you? Who at work do you need to show you are in empathetic agreement with? What achievement of some other person do you plan to celebrate in the near future?

Perhaps you know someone who needs to think more deeply about this idea of caring accountability? Why not forward them the link to this article and then invite them to lunch to talk about it?