Have You Heard the One About the Turtle on the Fence Post....?

I was on the phone the other day with an old friend who is retiring from his job of 30 years, but who is too young to just fish and play golf. We were talking about what it is like to be in business for yourself. As the conversation went along, he said to me “Do you know the story of the turtle on the fence post?"

So, this story has been around for a long time, and yet, as I was thinking about the relationship to coaching and leadership it really struck me as impactful. As both coaches and leaders, we get mental pictures of how we are seeing the world. One very important task we all have is to be able to ask the right questions in order to get our clients and teams to broaden their perspectives when obstacles arise. Being open to perspective is the key to understanding and a sure sign you are at a minimum being empathic.

The story goes that a father and his daughter were driving along the road in West Texas. The road was long and straight and there was nothing but concrete, blue sky, and fence posts to look at. It seems like they had driven for hours to the point where all they saw was fence post….fence post…..fence post. If you have driven in West Texas you know what this can be like.  



Fencepost…fencepost…fencepost with a turtle on it….fencepost…

Then the young girl turned to her dad and said, “Did you see that turtle on the fencepost? I wonder how it got there!”

The father, seeing the teachable moment, pulls the truck off the side of the road, turns to his daughter and says, “The question isn’t how the turtle got there. The question really is WHO put the turtle there.”

Leadership Application

As leaders, so many times we see it as our job to have all the answers. We can have this insatiable desire for information or for knowledge. We fall into the trap of thinking that the person with the information is the one who has the power in a relationship.  

While it is foolish to discount the importance of having information, I have come to believe that it is the person who has the right question that really sets the tone and the agenda in the organization.

In the little story about the turtle on the fence post, the daughter had the information. She was able to observe what was going on in her world. She even asked a question which is really cool. She did not assume she could explain the quite unnatural phenomena.

In front of her was a turtle on a fence post...

  • unnatural
  • interesting
  • alluring
  • intriguing

All of these natural responses to seeing a turtle on a fence post.  

The little girl should even get credit for doing more than just saying, “Look there is a turtle on a fence post,” and then turning back to her phone to continue to mindlessly scroll through her Facebook page.

She asks a question of her dad, in fact, a good question, a reasonable question.  “How did the turtle get there?”

But the father knew that in this case, the answer to the question lay deeper in “who put the turtle on the fence post.”

4 Strategies for Leaders to think more critically

As I was thinking about the story of the turtle on the fence post and how it might apply to leadership, four main things came to mind.

  1. Be careful not to rush to judgement

This is a real trap for the experienced leader. A young person brings a problem into the office and rather than ask for understanding or context the wise sage says, "I have seen this 100 times in all my years…."

While having experience is important, as leaders we must be cautious in playing the experience card. Experience can give the impression of certainty. Certainty brings with it an idea of mitigation of risk. "I have seen this before and this is what will work."

The problem with certainty is that there is no room for creativity or curiosity. There is no room for learning for that young leader. There is no place for them to develop their own set of experiences so they have things to judge against in the future.

  1. Be open and curious in your questioning.

The main point here is for the leader to work hard to be unbiased and to be really genuine. We have to have our curiosity meter set on maximum as well as our genuine interest be on helping the other person.  

  1. Co-create Reality

Leaders who are skilled at critical thinking have an ability to co-create reality with those they are working with. Develop the ability to come up with questions for which you have no answer.  These types of questions will help to create the reality that you and your followers are experiencing.

As you think about the turtle on the fence post, remember that the father knew that there is no way the turtle could get there on its own. There was some assistance that was needed.  “How” the turtle got there was not going to get the conversation much further.  “I don’t know” is about the only answer you could expect to get. In this case, the person who might come into your office might be left with well, let me see if I can go find some reasons for turtles to be on a fence post and I will get back to you.

But the father circumvented this by changing the question.  By changing the question, the little girl now can co-create the reality with her father and a teachable moment comes about.  As the question changes from “how” to “who," the leader is able to set the agenda and the follower is able to enter into this reality as a co-creator of what can be versus just describing what is.

  1. think WHO as much as you think HOW

Almost once a week I find myself in a conversation with someone looking for a new job.  

Their questions often go something like:

“I am thinking about looking for this new job and was wondering if you could take a look at my resume.”

My standard reply has become, “Who do you know there? Who do you know in the industry?” 

Call me old school, but it is the person hiring who gets me the job, not my resume. How you got to the interview and all of your great experience IS NOT getting you the job that you desire. I guarantee it is the hiring manager who is going to bring you on the team.

What about you guys? Any tips you might have that improves your critical thinking?

Focus Here to Reduce Your Stress Today

The past two days were really busy for me, but they were not necessarily stressful. 

Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone how they are doing, a common response is “really busy..." and these words are usually followed by a heavy sigh, an eye-roll, and a shrug of the shoulders.


Being busy carries some sort of identity for us. We can’t just “be” who we are, we have to “be” something in order to have identity.

We've decided that to be busy is to be stressed. And if busyness is stressful then this fills our identity, bringing some sort of value to who we are. I am amazed at the thinking on this. Just because we are busy and stressed we are somehow more valuable and have more self-worth.

A lie straight from the pit of Hell!!!

I completely disagree with these lies we tell ourselves:

Lie #1: I am busy so I have to be stressed.

Lie #2: I am busy and stressed so I must be bringing more value to my work.

Lie #3: I am busy and stressed and bringing more value so even though I am exhausted I have a higher feeling of self-worth.

When are we going to stop equating busyness and stress with self-worth?

My Point

I think you can be really busy and not be stressed out.

My good friend Dr. Tim Gardner is famous for saying, “What people know about stress is killing them.” Think about that for a minute. In the world of stress and stress management, there is not much new information that has come around over the last 20 years or so. You know everything you need to know about stress and how to manage it and yet you choose it anyway.

I am not talking about temporary stress here like the tension felt in Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the World Champion Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals. A four and a half hour, nine-inning baseball game that had more ups and downs and tense moments for both teams.  While it that was a really tense 4 and a half hours, that is not the kind of temporary tension I am writing about.

What Dr. Tim means is that most of us know we are going to be busy, and this busyness has the potential to be stressful, and if you let it be stressful it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health and well being.

The question I have for you today is: If you are busy can you choose not to be stressed?

Main Idea

Many of you know that for the past 20 years or so I have been involved in the emotional intelligence movement. Now when you teach something like emotional intelligence, I think folks watch to see if you are a theorist or a practitioner. A theorist knows what the main ideas are and can pass any exam they might take on a subject. A practitioner is someone who understands the theory and works hard to put it into practice.

One of the things we are really excited about in our organization is the certification work we are doing with the EQi 2.0.  The actual certification class is a 2-day virtual training that is filled with a lot of practical strategies for implementing the EQi 2.0 assessment.  It is exciting for us to work with professionals dedicated to the growth and development of others. We love the work and hearing the great things the participants have to say in training.

One of the competencies we work on is stress management. This idea of managing stress really has two components:

  1. What to do in a particularly stressful moment?
  2. How do you manage stress so you lessen its overall effect?

It is this second strategy I want you to think about today.

Management is by definition a planning and organizing function. So if you know you are going to be busy, then how can you plan and organize your life so that the busyness is not stressful?

We often talk about how to deal with stress after the fact, but what if we were more observant of stress before it began? Here are 3 keywords to a proactive stress plan. These words may sound familiar, but pay attention to their definitions. Putting a word to feelings you might not associate with stress can make all the difference when it comes to preparing to overcome our obstacles by helping us create clearer goals. While you're reading, see if any of these definitions relate to your relationship with stress in ways you may not have been able to put words to before. 

   3 Strategies To Change Your L      

FLEXIBILITY: The ability to adapt to change effectively. Any change in life is going to bring emotion. How flexible are you with these feelings? This is a different question than "are you able to take the needed action in a crisis?" Instead, flexibility asks if you are able to flex and choose a different emotional response when you are faced with obstacles. If not, ask yourself: can you put strategies in place to do so? Do you have the flexibility to overpower your emotion and choose a different one, or are you subject to the emotion?

Tolerance: How much can I hold until I break? Tolerance equates with strength. Think of metal: There is a certain amount of weight it holds until it will break. You are the same. There is a level of stress you can hold until you will break. Tolerance measures where that level is for you. This sounds abstract, but it is not. Make a list of all the stressors you are juggling. Can you cross one off or delegate some of that stress? 

Optimism: To be optimistic is not to be a shiny happy person who refuses to see harsh realities, but to be resilient. Optimistic people know that it is not a matter of if something will go wrong, but when and are prepared to respond with resilience. It is a constructive response to setbacks. This is where self-talk comes into play: How you talk to yourself when things don't go your way? Are you able to say "This setback happened, but I am still myself apart from this situation and will move on," or do you equate the even with your personality, saying things like, "This is who I am, this sort of thing always happens to me." To be optimistic is to perceive reality properly by not using words like "always" and "never," and to instead to see the situation as what it was, and be ready to separate it from your future self. 

Are you going through the motions without examining your stress management? Use these 3 words this week to help you evaluate yourself in these areas, and open up a dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself difficult questions about how much you can really take on, what you are allowing to define your worth, and whether or not you are a slave to your emotions. 

5 Performance Killers We All Face and How to Deal with Them

My wife and I were faced with a tough decision a few months ago. 

Now, you have to understand that I have the cutest granddaughter in the world. I know some of you out there have grandkids too, but let me tell you something right now…not one of them is cuter than mine.


The problem is that we live in Florida and she lives in Ohio. I think you see the issue now. Grandma and I just don’t get enough quality time with that cute little bundle of joy. When she says, “Come on, Grandpa, let's go play with toys…” my heart melts like butter in a skillet.

So, we were talking with some friends about our problem and they said, “Why don’t you just move to Columbus?”

Fair question. Here is my response:

  1. Don’t want to move
  2. Hate winter

Then our friend said, "Why don’t you live in Ohio in the summer and winter in Florida."

My knee-jerk reaction was, “I am not old enough to be a snowbird." However, the more I thought about it and the more we talked the more it sounded kind of cool.

So, we decided to buy a small, inexpensive little condo in Ohio. We talked to my financial team who convinced me that because interest rates are low I should borrow some of the money for the condo. This sent me into a bit of an emotional “fight or flight” moment. I really don’t like borrowing money. It is the invasiveness of the process that just turns my stomach: I actually got an email from one of the lenders asking to validate my accounts to prove I was not a money launderer or terrorist. 

Intellectually, I get it. This is the world we live in, but now I have to prove I am  not one of these things for someone to do business with me. When I questioned the banker he blamed it on the Feds.

And some of you still think having the government in healthcare is a good idea. Really?

That is when I realized I have some performance anxieties.  Nothing I need to see a psychiatrist about (at least I don’t think it is that bad,) but there are times when my performance is not as good as it could be. 

When my financial advisor said that I should get a small mortgage on the condo, my flight or flight kicked in, so I did what any good coach would tell their client to do, and sat down to journal my feelings. I also did some research on this idea of emotional distraction and performance.

My Journaling Results

So the first thing I did was to sit down and document what I was feeling. This was not difficult and I came up with this list in under five minutes. It was amazing to me when I sat down and just wrote it out what happened.

  1. Not smart enough. I had this overwhelming feeling like the bankers and loan people would ask me questions that I wouldn’t know the answer to.
  2. Weakness. What if this was a bad decision and someone criticized it along the way?
  3. Rejection. What if they said I didn’t qualify?
  4. Asking for help. The more people who know I am taking out this loan, the more people who could see me as incompetent. After all, Kim and I have really avoided debt for most of our marriage.
  5. Power gradient. I felt like I had to do everything I could to please the lender so they would approve me. 

The Research

In 2002 Kaiser and Kaplan did some research on distortions in performance caused by what they called “sensitivities." These sensitivities are things that have happened to us in our past that now affect how we perform in the present. What they describe in their research that I didn’t realize in my journaling is that there is an underperforming and an overperforming reaction. 

So for example, if a leader gets into a situation where they feel “Intellectually Inadequate” or what I termed “not smart enough," if they respond by “doing too little” they might not contribute in meetings, but if they “overdo it” they might work extreme hours to over compensate for the inadequate feeling.

How About You?

Think about a decision you are going to make soon or a place where your performance is not where you want it. Pay attention to how you are feeling. Do you feel:

  1. Not smart enough
  2. Weak
  3. Rejected
  4. Dependent 
  5. Powerless 

If you have these feelings, are you overcompensating or under compensating? Some of these feelings might run very deep and the cause can stem back to your childhood. 

Sitting down with a journal and analyzing your feeling and understanding them might help you be able to overcome any compensation you are experiencing and put a plan in place to overcome the anxiety.

By the way, I was able to answer all the lenders' questions. It was not that difficult of a process and we should close on our condo this week. I can tell you one thing, being close to my grand baby is going to make any performance anxiety I was dealing with totally worth it.

3 Reasons I love What I Do

I had a very interesting conversation about work with a friend of mine this week. He received some feedback at work saying that he was very intense and could at times slip into being very transactional with people, especially when he is under a lot of pressure. There are times when people saw him as controlling to the point that he would step in and do others work for them just so workflow processes were not interrupted. The folks in his department said that, while a great guy socially, he was not fun to work with.

To his credit, he completely owned his behavior. He was not proud of it and held himself completely accountable for it.

As I began to ask him questions about his role and the organization he is apart of I started to notice something in his language that I found really interesting.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “So tell me about your area of responsibility."

Him: “Well, we basically make sure that there are enough supplies coming in so that when a need arises the work is not interrupted, and ultimately customer needs are met.”

Me: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility. Do you enjoy being in the middle of all the action?”

Him: “The work takes a lot of focus and there are a lot of people who depend on us to get it right.”

Me:”I get that it is important, but do you enjoy it?”

He took a long pause before answering.

Him:”Well it is work. By definition, it is not supposed to be fun”. 

Another long pause.

Me: "So what you are saying is that you spend 60-65% of your life, most of your waking hours, doing something that is not giving you meaning and satisfaction?”

Him: “Well, I have goals, and the work I do helps me to fulfill those goals.”

Me: “I get it that you have goals and the work you do is important. Why can’t your work be fun?”

He paused again.

Him: "Because it is work...Scott, do you have fun doing what you do?”

There it was. Plain as the vanilla yogurt my wife puts on her cereal in the morning.

Do I have FUN doing what I am doing?

I told him that without a doubt, I do. I really feel like I am answering a calling for my life. For over 20 years I worked in organizations. I had the chance to work with some really top-notch leaders and some leaders who, well let's just say, were not so top notch. 

When I started doing EQ training and executive coaching almost 15 years ago I really felt called to help leaders seek opportunities to find meaning and purpose in their chosen vocation and lend them the support to make any change they deemed necessary. I think when you find what it is that you were created to do, then the rest just takes care of itself.


I told my friend that I truly believe that the organization is totally reflective of the soul of the leader. That the issue he was having in his organization had nothing to do with his skills or abilities. I really didn’t even think it was the tension and pressure of the role he was in. 

The issue is that he is treating his role like his job and not his calling.

3 Reasons I Love What I Do

  1. I interact with really cool people. Since I am a solo practitioner I have to limit the number of clients I can take on at any one time. So my main criteria for whom I work with is: are they cool? Do they have interesting organizational issues? Do they have really hard challenges that I can help them think through? Do their values line up with mine? I have to tell you, this is so important to me. I want to interact with folks who see me as a partner and not a vendor.
  2. I am passionate about my topic. The leadership model I use most often is emotional intelligence. I see so much application for this work from improving sales technique and making good hiring decisions to improving interpersonal relationships and lowering stress. Emotional intelligence is about helping leaders find a sense of well-being and pursuing meaning in life. 
  3. There is always a challenge. People-work is interesting work. I work with very high functioning, high performing, and successful individuals and teams. The work is never easy and never boring. There is always a new challenge waiting just around the corner.
  4. BONUS: I have a really great team. Shout out to Brandi, Angela, Gretchen, and Michelle. I could not do what I do without you guys.

How about YOU? Why do you love what you do? What gives you a sense of calling and purpose in the work you do?

How to Navigate Change Without Frustration

       People are suffering in Puerto Rico this week and may be without power for months, reports are saying. Recovery will be hard, but it is a challenge that Puerto Rican Governor Rossello is determined to take on. "God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane. Together we will rise again." So as we keep these many people in our thoughts and prayers this week, I thought it would be good for us to reflect on ourselves and the people we both lead and interact with.

Gov. Rossello's empowering words give me so much hope for Puerto Rico, and got me thinking: that statement reflects a pragmatist's approach to change.  Now, I don't know Gov. Rossello personally, but for the sake of argument let's say, based on this statement, that pragmatism is his change style.

"Scott, what on earth is a 'change style?'"


I'm so glad you asked. Your change style is the type of approach you naturally bend toward when leading others in the midst of great change. These are the three change styles based upon the  Change Style Assessment  that I often use with my clients. 

Pragmatists: These people approach change by exploring existing structures within a situation, and operate as mediators and catalystsfor change within that structure. Thy prefer change that best serves the function. Thy can often appear reasonable, practical and flexible but also noncommittal. Gov. Rossello is ready for Puerto Rico to "rise again," to become what she was before this storm, he knows his system has worked before, and is ready to use it. 

Conservers: These people accept existing structures around them, but unlike pragmatists, prefer to keep existing systems and structures in place. They would rather see gradual changes happen. While they might seem cautious and inflexible at times, they are not afraid to ask the hard questions. This might be someone such as President Calvin Coolidge. He is an often overlooked president because he was seen as too cautious and inflexible to enact any real change. However, his slow-moving approach allowed him to see the big picture when it came to things like the economy, and he became the only president to leave office with no national deficit. 

Originators: These people are original thinkers who will challenge existing structures from the very beginning. They actually enjoy risk and uncertainty, quick and radical change. Sometimes they can come off as unorganized and undisciplined. An example of an originator would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who challenged the broken social structure and took risky steps that led to radical, beautiful change. 

What is the value of Knowing your Change Style?

Who among us is not in the middle of some kind of change? Change is all around us. Here are some that I have noticed this last week just in my little corner of the world:

  • My grocery store changed where my favorite frozen yogurt treat is found in the freezer case. Seems like every time I go into the grocery, something has moved.
  • My favorite brand of frozen protein waffles changed their packaging and I almost couldn’t find them on the shelf.
  • My workout routine is changing more and more as my wife and I prepare for our very first back to back half-marathons. One on October 14 the other on Oct 21!
  • I have started to do more online teaching, beginning with some of the assessments we certify leaders and coaches to use in their organizations and practices.

Since things in both our personal and professional lives are constantly changing, I think it is good for us to understand how we approach change. I tend to be more of an originator and get a lot of satisfaction out of rearranging things to see if I can make them better. However, I also know that if I am not aware of a change, I can easily get frustrated, like I was when I couldn’t find my frozen waffles because the package is different.

Knowing about yourself or your clients and how they approach change can be very valuable. Think about a conserver style leader who is asked to lead a new systems initiative in their organization. If the leader is aware of their change style, then they can better manage the processes. Left unaware, frustration and doubt can hold the best leaders frozen in their tracks.

What is your change style?

Take this fun quiz below to get an idea of which style might be yours. If you are coaching someone through change, we have an assessment tool available for you to use to find our their change style that will allow you to help them grow in their approach to change. 




6 Influence Strategies You Need to Lead

I had this really cool thought while on the treadmill the other day. Now, I have to tell you, being on a treadmill is not my favorite thing in the world. However, it has become an important part of my workout routine as my wife and I train for our next half-marathon in October. 

So I am jogging along at about a 4.7 miles per hour on the treadmill. My trainer calls this my base pace. That means that it is a pace I could theoretically keep up for 30 minutes or more if I had to do it. So I am jogging along at my comfortable 4.7 paceand my trainer Cynthia says, "Okay, everybody I want you to establish a new base. I want everyone to go 0.1mph faster." 

What! Get me out of my comfort zone? Are you kidding me?  

But you know what I did. I took my speed up 0.1mph

iStock-500303211 (1).jpg

That's when I had the thought: Cynthia has influence over me. Here is this petite female trainer giving me instruction over a microphone with 36 other people in a class at 6:15 in the morning, and what do I do? Exactly what she said to do. Why did I do that?

It is because Cynthia has influence over me.

Because I work for myself, I am able to make my own schedule when I am not traveling for training, and therefore could theoretically go to the gym whenever I please, but I don't. Why? Because even though I have a flexible schedule, I choose to go to the gym when I know there will be a trainer working who I like. This may sound like just a personal preference of mine, but it's more than that, and this kind of behavior probably shows up more in your life than you realize. My trainers’ likability and the friendship they show me along with their expertise in physical fitness that can make me a better runner makes me want to learn more from them. Likability and authority are actually keys for influencing others. 

As I was thinking about Cynthia’s influence over me in that moment it reminded me of what  Robert Cialdini talks about in his book "Influence.” Cialdini has identified 6 influencing strategies that people use with each other.

Here is a summary of those strategies.

Influencing Strategies

Reciprocation: This is the idea that we do things in return for each other. Always share your strengths to help others, and return the favor when they do the same, even if your reciprocation is just a "thank you very much for your time." Let the kindness always end with you. 

Scarcity: "The rule of the rare," you can have influence when things like time and budget are scarce to be found. Help those around you see the urgency and the resources that are available. This type of influence must be used with integrity. When used wrongly it can hurt people and cost you your influence. The scarcity in the situation must be real. Don't create a deadline that you don't intend to stick to or fail to mention some possible solutions in order to create the appearance of scarcity.

Authority: This type of influence doesn't have to do with positional power like the word may suggest, but reverential power. Showing that you have the right data, an expert perspective will influence others. When you're the expert though, don't stop listening to others or you will lose your influence. If you walk in the room thinking you are the one with all the answers your expertise will not be heard. 

Commitment: This is the starting point of influence. If you are an influential leader, then those you lead will generally be committed rather than merely compliant. If you ask them to do something that's going to cost them some sacrifice you may see if they are committed or compliant. If they're committed they will do it with enthusiasm,  if not they may not do the task at all or they may do it begrudgingly. If you find they are compliant with your influence, reflect on how open you have been with them about your larger vision for the future of your work together. To gain commitment you must show them where they're going. 

Likability: As I mentioned earlier, building a friendship to build influence is important. Likability matters. A phrase I hear sometimes from clients is "I don't care about being liked, I just want to be respected." If that is you, I challenge you to take caution with that thought. When you are liked, you can gain as much influence as when you are respected. 

Consensus: "People-proof over people-power."  As you gain rapport with others and show that you have valuable knowledge, it will increase the success and value in others. It will be because of what you delivered, and this makes you more influential. 

Personalize One of These Strategies

Think about something you are trying to get done, maybe a change you are trying to get made, or a goal you are trying to help a team to reach.  Think through the influencing strategies above and identify the one you would like to try to implement to help you achieve your goal.

We all have different personalities that leave us with our own strengths and weaknesses, but for others to benefit from our influence, we must grow and adapt to better lead with influence in many types of relationships and situations. What kind of influence do you see on this list that comes the most naturally to you? The least? Leave a comment and let's chat about it!

5 Things Irma is Teaching Me About Self-Awareness

By the time you read these words, Hurricane Irma will have put her stamp on my home state of Florida. We are currently preparing for the worst while hoping and praying for the best.  I thought it might be fun to put myself to a test. I talk with my coaching clients all the time about the leadership skill of self-awareness. So here are some things I noticed about myself as we prepare for this monster storm. 

Our first experience with one of these spinning giants was last year. Matthew went whirling past and the winds were about 80mph, but the storm stayed far enough off the east coast of Florida that in Orlando, where we live, property damage was minimal. Since so much devastation was predicted, and we only lost power for an hour or two, my thoughts were completely biased with bad information. Even as I saw the destruction of Harvey on the news, my thought was we won’t ever see a storm like that. 

My thoughts have changed. As I write this post, I am realizing how faulty my thinking actually has been. Only God knows what Irma will bring with her or even where she will go, as I write to you on this Thursday morning, about 3 days prior to the storm's impact.

I will be honest with you, I really didn’t think much about this storm until yesterday (Wednesday) when I got a text from my brother asking if we were prepared and what our plans are for the storm. We were in the middle of enjoying a relaxing Labor Day weekend with our boys in Columbus Ohio and spending quality time with our granddaughter.

In that moment, I turned to my wife, Kim and said, “Did you know there was a storm coming?” Up until this point, I was completely unaware that Irma was even in existence. How could I have possibly missed news of this magnitude? I knew that my granddaughter was cute, but I had no idea that enjoying my time with her so much had disconnected me from the rest of the world.

Point One About Self-Awareness: Pay Attention

By definition, it is incredibly difficult to know something that you are not aware of. Most of us just cruise through our day focused on our own agenda and the tasks that we have to complete that day. We just don’t take the time to see how we are showing up when we go about doing what we do. 

In order to be more self-aware of what is going on around you, it is imperative that you stop what you are doing and observe how you are doing it. When you are in a meeting with someone and they are not doing what you want them to do. Take notice of how you are talking to them. What is the tone of your voice like? Can you feel the emotion and then describe the feeling? The more aware of how you are showing up, the more control you will have over the choices you can make in how you show up.

Back to the story….

So my wife Kim pulls up the weather app on her iPad and sure enough, there is a Category 5 Hurricane in the Atlantic and all of the spaghetti maps show that Florida is in the bulls-eye of the storm. 


"What do you think we should do?” Kim asked. 

Point Two About Self-Awareness: Stay Humble

When Kim asked the question, I had no idea what we should do…but I felt like she was looking to me for an answer. She needed some reassurance from me that I had an idea of what would be best for us as this crisis came upon us. 

While I actually didn’t know what to do, my knee jerk reaction was to do something. My wife was looking for me to answer her safety and security needs. At that particular time, she had me in a position of large-and-in-charge. The feeling can be overwhelming and dangerous. 

 In the moment it didn’t really matter to me what I said, I just felt like I needed to say something in response to her, like she needed some definitive expert knowledge from me on how to predict what a category 5 hurricane was going to do and how I should respond to it five days in advance of the event.  I had this overwhelming feeling of power come over me and that a decision was needed from me at the moment.  Very strange! 

Back to the story...

What I did was resist the temptation to be “all knowing expert” and said, “I don’t know, let's talk not about what we should do, but what we could do.”

Point Three About Self-Awareness:  Create Options

So we made a list of options. Action steps that could be taken some 5 days ahead of the crisis. I think the most important thing about creating options is to make sure you are using what is called divergent thinking. Most of us like to think in a convergent style: our preference is to focus in on a solution of what needs to be done at the moment. Leaders who are self-aware can resist being seen as the “all knowing” and practice thinking in a divergent manner. These leaders can start with the problem instead of focusing on what they see as the solution. If you start by focusing on the problem, then you can create options on how to solve the problem. If you focus on the solution, you might miss the core of the problem that you are solving.

Back to the story...

Here are the options we came up with:

  1. Keep our current plan of flying home on Thursday. Once we got home:
    1. Stay home and ride the storm out.
    2. Drive to Atlanta and stay where I have a program to do next Wednesday
  2. Stay in Ohio with our son and daughter-in-law and get to spend more time with that granddaughter
  3. Rent a car and drive 6 hours to see my mom in Central Illinois
  4. Stay in Ohio for the weekend and then rent a car and drive to Atlanta next week

Point Four About Self-Awareness: Calm is better than anxious

As we discussed the pros and cons of each of our options I tried to maintain focus on staying calm. In the emotional intelligence courses I teach, we make a big point about how stimulated emotion can affect the decisions we make. While all of the options we had were viable, the decision became clear as we calmly talked through what we needed to do. It was very easy to let anxiety creep into the moment and over the course of our discussion I could palpably feel the tension. Then I would take a deep breath, stand up and walk around and try to get curious about our discussion. What I have noticed over the years is that anxiety wants to rush me into the decision, but I know I make the best decisions when I am calm and have a level head to think.

Point Five About Self-Awareness: Learning is as important as judgment

We decided to keep our current plans, and are at the moment 25,000 feet in the air somewhere over the state of Florida. We are going to ride this storm out. Our desire was to be there for our friends and neighbors and if we can lend a hand to those who need we want to do that. 

I will try and give you an update this week on what we learned about category 5 hurricanes.

Some of you are reading this and might have made a different decision. In fact, the police officer at the Columbus airport we were talking with before going through security encouraged us to evacuate. He gave us some solid reasons, but we have our reasons to stay and they are solid reasons. 

In leadership, I think it is important to be open to learning. Many of you get paid to make judgments and decisions and I really value this as part of your role. As a leader, people are looking to you for insight and wisdom to run your business. 

Leadership is also about learning. Rarely are two situations or contexts are ever the same. So many variables go into good decision-making. My hope is that you will pay attention, stay humble, create options, stay calm, and learn as you go.

See you on the other side of Irma.

Are You Interviewing for This Critical Attribute?

If you are a leader who has hiring responsibility or are interviewing for a new role yourself, here is something to keep at the top of your mind.

I saw an interesting article in the New York Times the other day claiming that for every career there is an opposite career, requiring completely opposite skills. For instance, if you are a kindergarten teacher, your opposite career is a physicist. Teaching kindergarten is all about developing young minds. Physics is about using logic, math, and reasoning to solve problems. Different skills are needed for these different kinds of work outcomes. Here you can see the top set of skills needed for these two careers side by side. 

The opposite job of a kindergarten teacher is a physicist.

Skills Kindergarten Teachers Use Most            Skills Physicist Use Most

  1. Coaching & developing others                      Physics
  2. Learning strategies                                         Mathematics
  3. Developing & building teams                        Number facility
  4. Training & teaching others                            Information ordering
  5. Philosophy & theology                                    Logical Reasoning

I thought this was really interesting on a couple of fronts. First, it fascinates me that, thanks to the tax money you provide the US government, the Department of Labor actually keeps data on this kind of information. While I never want to be critical about things I don’t know much about, I do have to scratch my head and ask if my tax dollars could have gone into the free market rather than pay for what seems on the surface to be a useless analysis of data collected.

Once I got past my inner critic it was kind of fun to think about the differences between being a writer and a mobile home installer: creative communication skill versus spatial thinking and manual dexterity. 

While it is a bit of a “blinding glimpse of the obvious” that the work of a physicist (thanks, Big Bang Theory for cluing me into this one) is very different from that of a kindergarten teacher. What becomes interesting are the assumptions we make about what it takes to be successful in different organizational roles.

3 Components of workplace success

Raw Intellect. There is a well-established link, with little to no debate, between the importance of overall intelligence and success in the workplace. It goes without saying that for any job that exists in an organization a certain amount of intellect is required to be able to accomplish the tasks that the organization is paying for. If you teach kindergarten you may not need to be able to do advanced calculus or understand how statistics applies to quantum theory but you need to be able to master education philosophies and advanced learning strategies. 

For most of the roles in our organizations, we don’t measure the minimum level of intellect is needed for job success on any kind of scale. We have some idea through education processes that if someone graduated from a school that has a  qualified welding program, most likely the person has the intellect to do the job. This is one reason that education matters so much, even if young people have no idea what they want to do after graduation, stay in school and get your degree you will just have more opportunities to choose from.

Skills and Talents. The second component for workplace success that gets the most scrutiny in interview processes are the behavior abilities the person displays. Back in my sales management days in the pharmaceutical industry, I spent many a day interviewing potential candidates trying to decipher if they had the skills needed to be successful on my team. We looked for people who could verbally articulate in a concise manner and who could solve problems on the spot. Paramount to sales success was the person's desire to learn complex ideas and then explain them simply. 

Behavior-based interviewing has become so popular over the years, focusing on a candidate's job experience gives some clue as to their ability to be able to perform similar task types in different roles. If a specialist in supply chain management knows how to use a pivot table then the use of this skill could be applied to any other role where pivot tables are important for job success.

And yet I can remember going through interviews with candidates from very good schools (had enough intellect) who had what seemed to have good transferable skills (in my case: sales experience) and think, “this person is not a good fit for my team." 

How is is that the person can be smart enough, and have the skills, but not be a good fit?

Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that people engage to know themselves better, have better relationships, and make better decisions.  Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that over one-third of the job skills that exist today will NOT be needed in the next ten years. And a new set of competencies that don't make the list today will end up on the list instead. 

In their book The EQ Edge, Steve Stein and Howard Book provide some examples of the emotional and social skills needed for different types of roles, including jobs like account executives and teachers and customer service professionals. For example, if you need to fill a customer facing role that includes sales and customer support components, you might know the type of education, skills, and talents you are looking for in a candidate, but do you know what emotional and social skills the person needs in order to increase their level of success?

Case study

Here is how I have been helping my clients think through these types of situations. Let’s use the above scenario as a case study. 

You have been hired as a consultant to help a client understand the types of candidates they need to hire for a new customer support role they are creating, which includes sales and customer service components.

Here are some steps you can use to think through the kind of people you might need to fill these roles:

Step 1. Define the Role-most of my clients have a good job description so this one is easy.

Step 2. Define what success looks like. How will your new hire know they are doing the job well?

Step 3. What kind of education level does the person need to have to be successful? Do they need an MBA from a top 10 school or a bachelors degree from any accredited institution?

Step 4. What are the skills and talents that the person has to have to meet the minimum level of success we are expecting?

For this role you might be looking for skills and talents like:

  1. Ability to collaborate and partner
  2. Self-motivation
  3. Creative problem-solving
  4. Result oriented
  5. Inspiring and influencing

Step 5. What are the emotional and social functioning abilities a person is going to need to align with the skills and talents they possess? We think about this as being the “how” they go about doing the skill.

                          Skill                                          Emotional Intelligence Ability

    1. Ability to collaborate and partner        Interpersonal relationships
    2. Self-motivation                                       Self-actualization
    3. Creative problem-solving                      Reality testing
    4. Result oriented                                       Optimism
    5. Inspiring and influencing                      Empathy

    Final Thought

    If you are a hiring manager or a candidate looking for your next role, you have probably spent a lot of time on considering education, skills, and talents, but have you spent enough time thinking through the impact that emotional intelligence plays in success?

    You Better Get Working on This Now

    Just because something has the same name, is there equivalence? 

    Recently, while running an emotional intelligence training, I had a participant come up to me, obviously disturbed. 

    We had just distributed the results of the EQi 2.0 Leadership Self-Assessment that we use in the leadership development program for high potential talent, and the young lady was not happy with how she had scored herself.

    “Something is wrong with this assessment,” she said. 

    “Tell me what you think is wrong," I asked her.

    “Well, I just took a different emotional intelligence assessment from a book that I bought in the airport, and that test said I had really strong empathy.” 

    “What makes you think the assessment we took in class is wrong?” I asked her.

    A bit stunned by that question, she hesitated, and said, “Well, this assessment says my empathy is below average, and the other test said I am way above average, so I guess I just want the high score to be the right score.” 

    “Let me ask you this, and be really honest: which of these two assessments of your empathy seems most like you?" I replied.

    After a long pause, she said, a bit sheepishly, “I guess the lower one. I know I have work to do in this area," she said, “I was just hoping that the hill wasn’t so steep.  I know my lack of empathy gets in my way as a leader.”

    “How was your Reality Testing score in the Decision-Making domain?" I asked.

    “One development thing at a time,” she stated.

    Buyer Beware

    Just like any consumer product you might purchase at your local Walmart or Walgreens, there are many types of leadership assessments you can choose from. When you go to buy a car you have many choices:

    What is the Make of car:  Mercedes or Smart Car

    What is the Model of car: C-Class or Fortwo

    Then you have to think about what features you want to add to each vehicle.

    Sure, you want to buy a car, but the quality and price difference will be staggering: Thousands of dollars of difference between Mercedes and Smart Car. 

    Yeah, tell me something I don’t already know, Scott, what is your point?

    My Point

    As you think about the leadership tools you put in your toolbox, make sure they are the ones that are going to take you where you need to go. Just like there are big differences in cars, so too are the big differences in leadership tools. In many cases, what looks like a low-cost option might not be getting you the results you are looking for. 


    In the area of emotional intelligence, consider these recent studies as you think about the tools you want to provide to the leaders you work with:

    1.  A 2014 report showed that investments in Artificial Intelligence startups have increased by 300% over a four-year period (Stamps, 2017). Routine tasks are being handled more by machines, and ever increasingly, it will be emotional and social skills, such as empathy and collaboration, that will be required by people. (Kolbjørnsrud, et al., 2016). 
    2.  Alex Gray of the World Economic Forum (2016) states, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed." Emotional intelligence, for example, is not on the list today of top ten job skills needed. By 2020, emotional intelligence is listed as number six in the top ten of job skills needed by everyone (Gray, 2016).
    3. According to Miao, C. Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2016), based on a meta-analysis, leaders' emotional intelligence (EI) positively relates to subordinates' job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can have a direct impact on an employee's intent to stay and hence a direct correlation to the organizations bottom line. High-quality relationships have a positive impact on employee work perception, well-being and emotional experience (Karanika-Murray, et al., 2015).
    4. Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017) report that An analysis of self-report EI found that the effects of EI on Organization Citizenship Behavior (OCB)  and Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) are stronger in health care and service industries than in industries where emotional labor demands are lower. The results imply that organizations can increase OCB and reduce CWB by recruiting employees high in EI and by training employees in emotional competencies.

    According to the research that I read, the need to hire and train leaders in emotional intelligence is gaining in relevance and importance. 

    3 Factors In Selecting Leadership Tools

    As your organization evaluates tools to train your leaders, here are 3 significant things to keep in mind:

    1. Validity and Reliability: If you are going to use any tool in your leadership toolbox, these might be the two most important to consider. For a tool to be valid, it must be proven to measure what you want it to measure. To be reliable, it must measure the same thing repeatedly. You will want to ensure that your tool was built with these in mind as it was developed. It really doesn’t matter how many people have taken an assessment if it was not developed with the right scientific rigor. People can get scores that are meaningless if the validity and reliability are not right.
    2. Normed Population Distribution: Does the population that the assessment was built for fit the population you are working with? If you are working with professional people, does your assessment allow you to select an appropriate population to measure against? If you are measuring how good a professional athlete is, for example, do you want to assess their statistics against other professionals or just a general population some of whom might not even play sports at all? 
    3. Normed Population Size: Is the population of your leadership tool big enough to give you the statistical power you need to be able to show measurable differences in behavior. If it is then you can create meaningful development plans. If not then you run the risk of telling people that they are good at things they know they are not.

    Final Thought

    When I was a young boy I used to love to go to work with my dad, a sheet-metal worker. I used to watch them put huge pieces of siding on buildings and set air conditioning units on the tops of hospitals with helicopters. It was pretty cool stuff to watch as a kid.  

    Dad was always a stickler for using the right tool for the right job. I can remember more than once I had to go back to the tool box and get the crescent wrench because I had grabbed the pipe wrench the first time he asked for it. "What difference does it make?" I asked, “It makes all the difference in the world.” He would say. "If we don’t use the right tool we might break something and then we will have a big mess on our hands."

    As you consider the leadership tools you put into your toolbox, please make sure they are the right ones that are going to allow you to build the type of leaders the organizations you support are going to need to take them into the future.

    Sometimes It's What's Not There That's Most Interesting

    “When you forget to put the bay leaf in, the pot roast doesn’t taste as good.”-Norma Smith

    There are times when what is missing is just as important as what goes in.

    If you are ever in Lake Wales Florida and have an evening to spare, you need to stop in and pay a visit to my mother-in-law. There are two things I can guarantee will happen if you ever decide to do this. First, you will hear stories, lots of them, about how the sharing of one's faith is much more than talking. It is about actually doing something to help someone, like dig a well, buying a goat, or even teaching a child. Faith talk is cheap, Faith action is much more impactful. The second thing you will get is a wonderful meal. The woman can cook, and my favorite thing by far is the pot roast. In fact, if you call her in advance and tell her you are coming, drop a hint about the pot roast. You will be so glad you did.  

    Now, if you promise not to tell anyone, I will share a secret with you…the secret of a good pot roast. 

    It's the bay leaf or bay laurel as it is known in cooking circles. As they simmer the leaf, it gives off a complex-tea like aroma that adds a subtle flavor somewhere between oregano and thyme.  

    I can recall one time the family got together and pot roast was on the menu. Norma asked me to put take the beef from the roaster and put it in the serving dish. As I was doing this she said, “Make sure you take the Bay Leaf out and throw it away." Being a curious type I asked, "have you ever forgotten the bay leaf?” 

    If you leave the Bay Leaf out the the roast just isn’t as good….

    That story came to my mind as I read  an article in the Wall Street Journal on graduate school admissions. 

    This summer, NYU’s Stern School of Business started asking for endorsements from a pal or co-worker who can comment on the applicant’s social skills or emotional intelligence.

    I found this so interesting because for years now the leadership literature has bee calling out the fact that while intellect is important, it is emotional intelligence that mediates performance. You have to be smart enough to be in the role, but after that it is your emotional and social skills that matter to the organization you work with.

    In addition to the two recommendations Stern requires students to submit, the school now has applicants ask a friend or colleague to write a 250-word statement highlighting their traits like empathy and self-awareness. Interestingly, for their next incoming class, Wharton will ask recommenders to do something similar in describing a candidate, asking them to pick six traits—such as conscientiousness or humility—from a list of 20 that best describe the person.

    What Goes In and What's Left Out

    One of the workshops we've been asked to facilitate more often is “Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence." Organizations, in addition to academic institutions, are realizing the importance of emotional intelligence to overall success.

    Often times it isn’t what the person is saying in an interview that matters, but what is left out.

    Consider the individual contributor who is interviewing for their first manager (leadership) position…

    Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you were successful in leading a team.”

    Hopeful Candidate goes on to tell the interviewer about a time when they convened a meeting for a major problem and then assigned everyone a role, kept the group on task, and the got this impactful result that saved the company millions of dollars.

    What becomes evident as our Hopeful Candidate is sharing is the imbalance he/she has between self-confidence and empathy. The entire answer to the question was about what Hopeful Candidate was able to accomplish and nothing about how Hopeful Candidate went about building mutual trust in relationships or tried to understand how the team was feeling. There was nothing said about how well Hopeful Candidate was able to articulate others perspectives and behave in a way that was respectful to others feelings. 

    You see, Hopeful Candidate had the “beef” of the interview question answered and was in the pot ready to cook. What was left out was the bay leaf, the flavor, how Hopeful Candidate was able to get things done with other people. 

    So, if you find yourself cooking a pot roast or interviewing for a new role, don’t forget to add the flavor that shows you have the emotional, social, and intellectual ability to be wildly successful in the role.

    Now, who's ready for lunch?

    The Paradox Parable of the Called Leader

    Once upon a time right around now, in an organization not far from here, sits Hero, the leader of the whole thing. She is not having a very good day, although both the quantitative and qualitative metrics upon which her performance are measured look good. No, let's not fool ourselves, the numbers are actually great. Hero is in her element. She loves her role and she is really good at it. She has found her niche in life. Some of the articles she read recently in Scholarly Organization Journal would say Hero has found her calling. 

    By all accounts, Hero should be having a very good day. Indeed this should be a very, very good day. 

    She has a late meeting with an influential member of the board of directors, Distance. Distance oversees the selection, compensation, and retention of the executive team. The relationship Hero has with Distance is a good one, even though Hero has never felt like the relationship was that close. In fact, Hero has only ever met with Distance in board meetings and on executive retreats. She was really looking forward to finally meeting one-on-one with Distance and aligning goals for the upcoming year.

    Yes, it really, really should have been a good day. 

    Hero, even started her morning with 15 minutes of quiet reflection using her favorite bible verse as the focus of her morning contemplation. She turned in her bible to Proverbs 3:5-6 which reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”  Because of the complexity of her organization, Hero often finds herself turning to her spiritual connections for wisdom in decision-making.  Since she often feels the magnitude of hundreds of people whose lives are impacted by her decisions, connecting with her spiritual nature helps her to realize that she is not the center of the universe. Hero remembers attending a conference where she heard a speaker* say, "Humility is like a sock with a hole in it, it's realizing what is not there that really matters."

    As Hero sat in quiet contemplation what really jumped out at her in this morning's reading was the instruction not to lean on her own understanding. This was quite a puzzling paradox. The instruction seems to say that Hero should not put her trust in or be supported by the structures of all that she had learned over the course of her 50 some odd years on earth. 

    As Hero focused her attention on these words “lean not on your own understanding” her mind started to drift….

              I have always felt my business and my life are solid. My marriage of 30 years to Loveofmylife is rock solid. As for the workplace, I  have been complemented by Boardchair that I show excellent critical thinking and a strong ability to discern between very viable, but distinctly different options when a decision is needed.  My experiences have been formed from a very good academic pedigree that lead to an excellent job right out of school. Each opportunity I have been given in life seemed to build perfectly as a jumping off point for my next career opportunity.  I really can’t believe it, here I sit three years into this leadership role really trying to fully appreciate what I have accomplished…no that's not right, why do I always do that? It is what the team has accomplished. If it wasn’t for their hard work and dedication to the mission we would be nowhere

    As she sat and stared at her journal where she keeps these reflective thoughts she got an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and appreciation for who she is and what she has been able to accomplish.

    Then Hero remembered the words of her Coach who told her that when journaling, if her mind wanders, she should come back to the thought she was reflecting on, Lean not on your own understanding.  She even remembered proper meditation technique. A good day, are you kidding? 

    Yes, this really should have been one of those.

    Now time doesn’t allow us to tell you in any detail about the excellent workout that Hero had that morning, nor the healthy breakfast she enjoyed (perfectly balanced between carbs and proteins). We just really don’t have the space to discuss her commute to work where it seemed like she was the only person on the road, and not one car pulled in front of her to cut her off. Not one. When does that ever happen?

    We wish there was time to tell you about all the productive meetings Hero had that day, the 20-minute nap she enjoyed in the afternoon, and the very productive afternoon session she had with her Coach. Time and space just don’t allow. Sorry. But all that aside...

    Really and truly this should have been a perfect game of a day.

    Oh yeah, Hero got in a 45 minute Hot Yoga class before her meeting with Distance. 

    Good Day? Ha. 

    And yet, to quote from one of Hero's favorite childhood books,

     “This is an awful, no good, very bad day.” 

    You see, Hero had her late meeting with Distance, who told Hero her services were no longer needed by the organization. The board wanted to go a different direction. Sure there was certainly acknowledgment of all her positive results. Distance thanked her for all her effort. But in the end, the board decided they needed a new focus and direction (it is highly recommended, that if this was a real organization, who had a real board who made decisions like this, and who issued real stock; that you sell as fast as you can.)

    Distance said the announcement would be made in 2 weeks and that they would like to throw a party for Hero. Yes, you read that right, the board fired Hero and wanted to celebrate it.  "Who does that? “Hero asked her Coach when she called to provide the update on her meeting with Distance, 

    Indeed, this was not a good day. 

    "But one day does not a life make. Nor does what happens on any single day ever define us. It can have an impact for sure, but is in no way a full picture of who we are". —Coach

    Now if Coaches are good at one thing, they are good at asking the right question at the right time. They are not very good at providing quotes to be used in a blog post.

    Hero’s Coach sat with her in silence as Hero contemplated this day that should have been so good and yet felt not that way at all.

    “It's not if something bad might happen in your life but when." Those are the words Hero spoke that broke the silence that enveloped the coaching session (they are also words that will end up some day in a blog post, quoted by Coach.) “The real question to be answered is, How am I going to respond?”  Coach knew what Hero was saying, that leaders are often defined by their resilience in the face of setbacks. Having a positive optimistic long term outlook is what trust is all about.

    And now you know why she is my Hero.

    *This quote is from Dr. Jay Wood, author of Virtue Epistemology, taken from a lecture at Indiana Wesleyan University. Hero hopes she heard this as the speaker intended.

    Are You Intentional with Your Emotional Intelligence Gifts?

    My staff gets together every two weeks. We are a virtual team and the very first agenda item is to “check-in.” The goal is for us to build interpersonal relationships that are mutually satisfying and gives us some idea of what to anchor our empathic caring on. Business is tough. Time is both precious and expensive. People are more precious and valuable.

    If we are not doing something to connect with one another and intentionally build the relationships in our organization then it is too easy to make the urgent task or agenda item priority over the people in the room. 

    Daniel Goldman, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership says, “When it comes to technical skills and core competencies, the ability to perform depends on the relationships of the people involved.”

    My team meets virtually every two weeks at 10 am on Fridays for an hour. When I see that meeting on my calendar my knee jerk reaction is to write down what I need from each of them. Because of our schedules, primarily my travel, we just do not get to spend enough time together, so I crave the information from the projects they are working on.

    Even though I am a natural connector and love to interact personally, I have to intentionally take my to-do list for each person and set it aside, and instead start the meeting by saying, “so who would like to check-in first?"

    Sometimes this takes 25 to 30% of our meeting time

    Frankly, it's the best part of the meeting! I believe we are more effective in the remaining 70% of the meeting because we take the time to connect in the first 20 minutes.

    I enjoy our weekly check-ins because not only do they bring us closer together as a team, but it also shows me a little more of the big pictures of each of their lives, and how our realities fit together. This is key because so much of our planning and strategy begin as abstract, so hearing about the actualization of our plans is a good indicator of how the plan is playing out.

    Hearing about how implementing our plans affect my team members’ larger stories shows me not only how well our plans are working out, but how our plans are contributing to the health of our team.

    If someone on your team is struggling why not do a gut-check on how well you are connecting with them and see if this has any link to their performance? This connection is not a nosey way to gauge their work progress, but a way to hear about their lives and worlds.


    I invest in my team by sharing my own big-picture reality with them as often as possible. I tell them not only my business-related dreams and goals but about how those fit into my personal life. The reality I shared with the team this week is that I am busy, and not the brain-work, creative kind of busy. I'm so busy that there are days my staff sees my calendar and can't find half an hour that isn't full of activity. I'm not complaining, I love my work, but it is key for me to balance working with clients and investing in my team. It's worthwhile to prioritize both because they work together, not against each other. The more I invest in my team, the more we are able to fill in each other's gaps to smooth out the process, minimizing everyone's stress. By sharing my reality with them they are able not only to see their role in my business more clearly, but engage with my vision, and add their own.


    Our check-ins are not left at the meeting table (virtual table in our case) after our meetings. We write them in the minutes, and we follow-up. Sometimes following up just means asking for an update from someone about whatever we know is going on in their life, but sometimes we get to really engage. In the past six months, we’ve been able to follow along as two of our team members took service trips abroad, and not just compartmentalize our roles in their lives to work-life. Instead, we were able to cheerlead for their adventures because we knew how amazing their service has been to us, and how much joy their service would bring to those they went to serve abroad.

    Additionally, sometimes our follow-ups require change, and that’s key to maintaining and growing our synergy. Giving my check-ins the past few months, it became clear that although my team is a very organized group, we needed to change how we handle my busy schedule. Check-ins were key here because if I were not in the habit of them, I would not think to ask for help in this area because I am used to it. Instead, I shared my reality often, and my team responded. Now, we have an amazing new calendar system that synergizes us better and streamlines my schedule.


    As leaders, sharing pieces of ourselves and asking our followers to do the same may feel vulnerable, and it is. Yet, this is something so valuable to not only create a positive environment, but also help our team develop together a larger picture of reality: the state of ourselves, each other, and our work. This week, try to think of one thing about your life that your followers may not know about you and share how it impacts your life and work. When we make time to share and do it repeatedly we can use it for growth that can better the synergy, output, and wellbeing of our teams.

    This Rocked My Leadership World

    Are you watching for critical inflection points in your leadership life?

    I can certainly tell you that in my own life this last week I had two distinct events cause independent revelations that have come together to wake me up and help me to realize that I need to make a change in how I lead.

    And I need to make the change NOW!

    Story #1

    The first event happened as I listened to a presentation by best selling author Stephen Arterburn. Stephen was a guest lecturer at Concordia University Irvine, one of the schools I adjunct faculty with. The presentation was about the creation of a marriage love plan and how to keep your marriage relationship vibrant, exciting, and alive. 

    Here are the notes from the outline I made from mine and my student Jared Moorad's notes, as well as my reaction to each of them as it relates to my own marriage: 

    1.  Play and Have Fun together-Kim and I have a ball together. The other night our power went out and we lost our internet, TV, air conditioning, and lights. Kim said, “Hey, let's play a game." So we sat on the couch and used her iPad to play Quirkel. For those of you who care about performance, she kicked my tail, and it was still fun. CHECK! Stephen, we do this one.
    2.  Enjoy laughter and humor in the relationship. This to me means that I can laugh at her and she can laugh at me and we can laugh at ourselves. Those of you who know me know I am a pretty easy target to laugh at. CHECK! Got this one too.
    3. Savor food together. I am headed home tonight and we will go to one of our local favorite eating places. I think many couples do this, but the point here isn’t to eat out, but to really savor the food. Allow the meal to become part of the conversation. Notice the flavors and talk about the feelings and notice the joy you get when this happens. CHECK! OK, Stephen, I am feeling a little cocky here….
    4. Enjoy beauty together (art galleries, nature, and creation). While we are not big art gallery people, we do enjoy going to the more famous ones when in places like NYC, Chicago, Paris, or Madrid. We love God’s creation and spending time just walking through the woods or sitting on our back porch drinking coffee and looking at the nature preserve behind our house. So Yeah, Stephen, CHECK, perhaps one that could use a little more intentionality, but CHECK none the less!
    5. Intentionally create a lifestyle that leads to longevity. Look, tomorrow is never promised. But if I get a tomorrow I want to share it with Kim. My brother and I have had conversations about this over the years. The woman I have is the one I want to grow old with. This means that we eat healthily and exercise together. CHECK!
    6. Create beauty and adventure together. Do it on purpose. Okay, so this one challenged me a bit with the "beauty" piece, but Kim and I certainly adventure together. In October we are running our first back to back half-marathons. On the second Saturday in October we will run the Grand Canyon half and then the following Saturday we will run the Lake Powell half-marathon. I think this counts as an adventure, so CHECK!
    7. Experience the sexual and the sacred. Okay, so this one is none of your business. But Stephen put it in, so I thought I would at least add it to the list and let your mind wander in your own relationship.

    As I went through this list I thought, Dude, you are 7 for 7. Nice work at creating a marriage love plan. You are amazing! You are doing something the world renowned author Stephen Arterburn says you should be doing…..

    Then it hit me. This was my evaluation of my “performance” at executing my marriage love plan.  I wonder what Kim would say….

    Then it hit me again a little harder and with a little more sting: What if she doesn’t feel the same way? Do I have the wrong plan? Am I really doing as good as I think I am doing? 

    All of this fear and negativity just started to creep in. The good feeling I had about the marriage love plan execution went right out the window and the negative self talk started: Maybe your not doing as good as you think you are. Maybe Kim feels different.  Should I ask her or just pretend she feels the same and keep living whatever fantasy world I want to live in?

    Story #2

    I was sitting with a coaching client recently who received feedback through a tool we use called Emotional Intelligence 360 Feedback. Using this tool, my client's supervisor, peers, direct reports and family provide input as to how they see this person behave across 15 distinct competencies. This data can then be compared to what the client thinks of his own behavior looks like and if he wants to make a change then he can put a plan together to make that desired change.  In the coaching world, pretty basic stuff.

    Overall, the client was really pleased with the results, but one area stood out to him as having a big difference between how he saw himself and how others saw him. 

    The EI trait called Optimism needs development in his life. Optimism is equivalent to resilience. It is how we respond to setbacks in life. It is our ability to remain hopeful in the face of adversity.  

    He thought he was really, really good at this. The people giving him feedback thought differently. There was a huge gap between his self-perception and others' perception of the way he handles adversity. 

    Talking about it, he said to me, “You know, I thought I was pretty good at this. I thought I had this thing together, but maybe I don’t."

    Then the negative self-talk started, “Maybe I am not as good as I think I am." “These people who really know me think a lot differently than I do.” “I can’t ignore this but I really don’t know what to do….”

    The Inflection Point

    Well, I think you can probably see the inflection point.  All of a sudden I am sitting and coaching my client and I really feel like I am coaching myself. The thing I am being paid to help him see is exactly the same thing I am experiencing in my own life.

    Does this ever happen to you? It is just a reminder to me that we are all on this journey of life together. The more we share and seek to understand each other the more human we feel. And the more human we feel, the more we realize none of us are perfect and we all need to take some time and laugh a little at each other.

    I can tell you this, the meal Kim and I savor tonight will have at least 7 questions for us to ponder together...

    Bon Appetite!

    3-Step Recipe for a Productivity Reset

    Question: When is the last time you experienced a productivity reset?

    I read recently that in a knowledge-working society the work we do is really about creativity.  Now, when I hear the word creativity my mind immediately goes to the painters and sculptors of the world. And for sure the work they do is creative. 

    But before those of us who are scientists, technologists, and managers or leaders abdicate the world of creativity to the artists, we probably should step back for a moment and make sure we are not leaving the best part of us behind.

    The Story

    I recently had a conversation with one of my graduate students who said she was completely burned out and didn’t know how she was going to get her research project finished on time.  She was definitely in need of a productivity reset.

    Here is a part of our conversation: “…by the time I finish my commute to and from work I am logging 60 hours or more a week. In addition, I have a family and my church that are both really important to me. I just don’t have any energy left for creativity to get this research project finished.”

    I could just sense the frustration and disappointment in her voice as she was trying to figure out how to be more productive. Then almost without taking a breath, she said, “…You know, perhaps I could be more efficient in the morning. If I got up an hour earlier I could get more done because I am at my most creative in the morning.”  

    The Point

    As knowledge-workers, we are all going to have to come to the realization that more time, more effort, more energy doesn’t equal creativity or effectiveness.  It just equals more time and more effort. That's it.  If you are playing a game of who-works-hardest then keep going, I guess, but if you want to be creative and innovative then maybe work as hard as you can while you're working and then stop and do something else.

    I think there is a reason that athlete’s work really hard in times of peak performance and then rest their bodies.

    There is a reason writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, William Stafford, and Victor Hugo would work for a while in the morning and then go for long walks in the afternoon.  


    Both high performing athletes and creative writers alike see the value of both hard work and the regenerative process of the productivity reset.

    There is only so much a knowledge-worker can do to be productive before they need to recharge their brain.

    According to Margaret Moussa, Maria-Estella Varua, and Matthew Wright’s work on knowledge-workers, what has been left out of the discussion up until now are issues of self-efficacy and well-being.  

    The question we need to ask ourselves as leader is:

    Can we leaders continue to treat our knowledge-workers the same way we treated productivity-workers of ages gone by?


    Can we as knowledge-workers continue to try and cram more stuff into our day and expect quality outputs?

    3 Step Rest Process

    Here are three things that I try to do when I am in need of a productivity reset.

    1. Read. There is nothing like reading to stimulate productivity. If I ever have writer's block, reading is one of the best ways I know to get the juices flowing again.  I have found that there is nothing like poetry and fiction to really get my juices flowing again.  In fact, I just finished a chapter of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman.
    2. Walk. I love to exercise but when I work out I am really focused on pushing my body, so I don’t get many creative thoughts going when my heart rate is above 140. But when I am just out for a walk, and the sun is shining and I can sense the beauty all around me, my creative energy just seems to flow.
    3. Phone a Friend. For me, there is nothing like community and conversation to spur creativity. I always feel better when I get off the phone with my coach, my coaching group, or a conversation with Kevin or Joanne. There is just something about talking to others that will spur on my creative process.

    As leaders, when we think about ourselves or those who are in our care, perhaps we need to be thinking less about how productive we can be and more about how we are practicing self-care. It is elements like reading, taking a walk, and engaging in a community that are the real ways we gain wisdom. 

    Could it be that as knowledge-workers we are really seeking things like wisdom, and as we do we actually become more productive as a by-product?

    I had many more things to say about this topic, but I am feeling a bit confused and convoluted right now….

    I think I will go for a walk.


    The Emotional Intelligence Paradox and the Top Books I Use When Coaching on Emotional Intelligence

    What are the behaviors you see in leaders that cause you to say, “…now there is a lack of emotional intelligence”?

    I have to be honest, over 80% of the time when my phone rings and someone wants to talk about my availability for executive coaching there is some element of emotional intelligence (EI) in the equation.  

    Sounds of Diminished EI

    Most of the experts in the emotional intelligence field say that the discipline starts with self-awareness. 

    Self-Awareness is the conscious ability to know, think critically, and discern your character, motivations, desires, and emotions at all times. Now that is a tall order, but a discipline that is vital for us as leaders to master!  

    My initial question to lead off the blog is premised around a “lack” of EI. In my experience, however, it isn’t that leaders are “train wrecks” when it comes to EI overall.  Far from it. For the most part, the leaders are bright, articulate, show good (if not great) executive presence, and can even be charming.  What I experience most often when going into an executive coaching opportunity is really just a strength overplayed.  In some cases, a strength overplayed on steroids.

    I have really started to pay close attention to this “imbalance” of emotional intelligence and what it sounds like in organizations. Here are a few examples:

    • The hyper-competitive VP whose desire to win overtakes their care and compassion for others. They don’t know when to stop competing. The passion for winning becomes a mean streak and they just want to punish others even after they have clearly won the day.
    • The young leader who is so bent on high performance that they have no ability to attune to others concerns and hear where the “pitfalls” are. They have been rewarded for individual contribution their entire career and now find themselves in a leadership position, still feeling the huge need to do everything themselves.
    • The pastor of a church whose congregation is dwindling and they blame it on the economy, the lack of programming, or the worship leader. They look at everyone else and everything else as the problem but fail to ask themselves how they are the issue.
    • The perfectionist who throws a tantrum when things are not done exactly as they asked for it. They like power and success, but mostly they like control. There is a huge fear of failure that frames things not being exactly right as a collapse of the entire process rather than a learning of what doesn’t work.
    • The leader who cares so much about valuing people and how others feel that they can not make a hard decision.  Empathy is often misrepresented as sympathy, so difficult decisions become impossible to make because others feelings might get hurt in the process.
    • The IT leader who is so focused on process and guidelines that they can’t partner with others in the organization to even hear what their needs are. The default is always to a rule or a process or a guideline that takes precedence over understanding the user's needs.

    Okay, so I think you get the idea. I could go on and on with these as I am sure by now you are either catching yourself in one of the above descriptions or just glad I didn’t type your particular “EI Imbalance” for all to read.

    I think we all have these EI breaks from time to time, and becoming self-aware is the first step. Do you know this about yourself? Can you honestly accept your own feedback and recognize your need to change? It is a quite difficult aspect of leader development and frankly the reason most seek a coach to help them see what they can not.

    My 7 Top Reads for Developing Emotional Intelligence.

    I think one of the questions I get ask most often is framed around what people can read to get better at a certain aspect of emotional intelligence. So, here are my top picks using the Bar-On Model published by Multi-Health Systems as the framework. 

    If you are wanting an overall increase in knowledge about emotional intelligence, my go to books are:

    The EQ Edge & Primal Leadership. EQ Edge gives you an overview of a model for emotional intelligence and some practical development action steps. Primal Leadership is a classic in my opinion and emphasizes the importance of the mood and tone of the leader. Four styles are presented that are valuable in understanding how EI is expressed.


    This realm really is about how you see yourself from a confidence and life goals perspective. My two favorites here are Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner.


    This domain is about how one goes about communicating. I like Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser, which is about how to build trust and get results.  Another favorite here is a book of fiction by one of my favorite writers Fredrick Bachman. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She Is Sorry is a great story of how a young girl learns to express herself. Even though the protagonist is only 8 years old, I think there are lessons of articulation for us all.


    This category is so broad so it really is really hard to pick. I think the two I recommend most often are Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Thompson and Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein. Boundaries because often people are searching for “the lines” in interpersonal relationships and Humble Inquiry because the problem is often one person’s pride that drags relationships into the tank.

    Decision Making

    Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud is a favorite for this domain. This book really emphasizes the appropriate assertiveness side of communication and when leaders need to make tough choices with processes or people.  Because so much of our decision-making is about controlling impulses, one of the more practical self-help resources I have found is Zoe McKey’s Unlimited Mind: Master Critical Thinking, Make Smarter Decisions, Control Your Impulses

    Stress Management

    My go-to resource here is The Stress Effect by Henry Thompson. This book gives a basic understanding of where stress comes from, how our bodies react to it and some really good practical suggestion on both management and elimination of stress.  The other classic in this arena is Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. Since the Bar-On model puts optimism in the stress management domain I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one.

    What Are Your Recommendations?

    Please let me know if you pick one of these up and if you find it helpful or encouraging. I guess you can let me know if you hate it too, but I will probably still keep it on my list.  Also, if you have favorites that would be helpful, let me know. I am always looking for a good read and to update my list.

    If you are interested in emotional intelligence and want to become certified in a valid and reliable instrument click here and you will be directed to my website for more information.

    Are You Being Intentional with This Aspect of Leadership?

    How many things can you think of that are better than knowing you have other caring, credible, and wise people who believe in you?

    There is a real sense of value and self-worth gained when other people acknowledge who you are and not what you do. 

    I don’t want to minimize performance in organizations, but in many ways, it is just that: performing. And if I have learned one thing about performing, it is that you are only as good as your last show, and the audience expects more and more from you on stage. Let your performance slip too much and you can find yourself sitting on the outside looking in. 

    Which is why I would like to zero in on the topic of self-perception.  However, not mine and not yours. I would like you to think about a person in your organization who needs to know that you value them and that you see potential in them. Sure, they might have some things to work on, but who among us doesn’t.

    Let's think about someone in your organization in whom you see some leadership potential that needs your care and your nurturing.  This is a person who if they just got the sense that you believed in them could, on their own, take your organization, department, or team to another level of performance.  

    Here is my premise: If you are not investing in developing and nurturing the leadership in your organization you will someday wind up with a rudderless ship.

    For years we have been sold the message that to fill a position we must look for certain skill-related criteria in workers.  While I am sure skills are important to do a job, they say little about a person's ability to lead in your organization.  I have several clients right now who are faced with the reality of wanting to promote a talented person to the next level of leadership only to look one level below and realize that there is no one to promote into the vacancy that will be created.  The people at that lower level down all have the skill to do their jobs, they just don’t have the ability to be promoted and lead a team or a department. The entire promotion process comes to a halt because no one has either invested in the talent to groom them for the next level, or the person was hired for their skill to work in the role with no thought at all about if they could some day work two or three levels higher in the organization.

    Look no one has a crystal ball. We don’t know how people are going to perform. We don’t know how they are going to adapt to more responsibility or interact with others as tension and pressure increase.  I don’t think anyone in the organization is asking us to be Las Vegas odds makers on these people.

    But just because you can predict the next CEO from your sales organization, or the next Lead Pastor from your youth group doesn’t mean that you can completely abdicate your responsibility.  

    Think About the Investment

    The question for all of us is who are we taking the time to invest in?

    The investment you make in others, just like the investment you make in your 401K or IRA is a strategy.  It takes a deposit every month and then month after month and year after year. If you don’t invest enough in your retirement then you will end up short when you are ready to retire. According to the Employee Research Institute, the average American at age 65-69 has only $212,812. According to Bankrate’s investment calculator if the average person started at age 20 and invested $5,500/yr at 7% they would have $1.57 million at age 65.  

    This is a difference of $1.35 million. Now you can say that some of that might be due to income and so forth but I don’t believe it. I think it has to do with not being intentional when it comes to saving and investing for a time we all know is inevitable. What is says to me is that we as Americans don’t have a retirement strategy. We live for the moment.

    Link to Leadership

    I think many of us approach developing leaders in our organizations the same way we approach investing for retirement.  We know it is a good idea. We know we need to do it. We just don’t have the discipline to make it happen.

    Before you read any more, I would like for you to STOP: Take out a pen and a pad and write the name of a  person who you need to be thinking about and intentionally developing.

    After identifying the person you want to invest in you need to ask yourself, what do I do to invest with them? Why not assess what their personal level of self-perception is? Self-Perception in the emotional intelligence world determines how in touch the leader is with their feelings, and how good they feel about themselves. Success in the area of self-perception means you are confident in pursuing your life’s goals.

    Here is a little quiz to get you thinking about the level of self-perception your intentional investment candidate possesses. 


    Am I Unintentionally and Purposefully Rejecting You?

    Does it ever feel like you are a second or third option when you are talking with other people?

    I had an experience last week in which I felt both rejected and reflective at the same time. What I encountered from the other person was both unintentional and purposeful at the same time. These mixed feelings put me in a state of self-reflection that really made me stop dead in my tracks and think, I hope I never leave people feeling the way I am feeling right now.

    Spoiler Alert: There is a short relationship quiz at the end of this post if you like that sort of thing!

    Here is the story

    I walked into a meeting room a bit early for the meeting and made eye contact with Mr. X (obvious name change insertion) who walked over to me with his hand extended. I gave his hand a firm shake, maintaining eye contact and leaning in a little, just like my dad taught me. So far so good. We settled into our chairs and he asked me a socially acceptable personal question, again, so far so good.

    Then it happened. That devastating and traumatizing event occurred at the hand of Mr X, the hand I just had shaken about 3 seconds ago, reached into the breast pocket of his shirt and grabbed his cell phone.

    And while I was trying to explain to him “how I was doing that day," with his non-shaking hand he started opening apps on his phone. Now check this out: He was nodding his head like he was listening to me while at the same time making eye contact only with his phone.

    What's a Leader To Do?

    Now I know that relationships can be tricky. Please hear me, I am not asking to be the center of anyone's universe other than my own, but am I off base here? I felt completely isolated and alone in a conversation with a guy I really enjoy being with.

    If I were to stop and ask him if his intention in that moment was to cause me harm, or ill-will, or even to feel like a puppy at a shelter who just can’t get picked to go home with a family, I know he would have told me I was crazy and that I was completely misreading what happened.

    I even went and asked a really good friend and an executive coach his opinion of what happened to me because I was thinking, how could such a cool guy unintentionally reject me like that on purpose? 

    So I think what is going on here is not only indicative of the times we live in but the balance we as leaders need to be aware of.

    Look, I don’t for one minute think that Mr. X intentionally meant to make me feel like a second or third option in his life at that moment. I know he didn’t mean it. I know if I made him aware of it in the moment he would say to me, “sorry man, I had this one thing I needed to….” and he would have put his phone back in his pocket. But it isn’t his intention that caused my feeling of rejection. It might have been unintentional but he did what he did on purpose.

    It was the impact that his purposeful behavior had on me that was so uncomfortable. He prioritized that “one thing,” whatever it was, over me in the moment. And BAM the feeling of rejection came over me like when I didn’t get picked to play on the all-star team in little league.

    Your Team

    Communities and teams are built on the backs of interpersonal relationships. The stronger these relationships are between people, the better the team develops trusts and the better the performance.

    While I am sure you have all had experiences like I did with Mr X, certainly one interaction does not define a relationship. I think the bigger point here is good working relationships need to have components like empathy and mutual satisfaction along with a good balance between the tasks that need doing. 

    As I thought about these components and a few others, I thought of three different types of relationships that I have observed in organizations. There is the Rapport Builder, the Alliance Crafter, and the Social Dissenter.

    Fun Activity

    Using the descriptions below, think about a member of your team and the types of relationships they seem to have. Then click the button at the bottom of this post and take our little 5 question quiz with that person in mind and see which of the three relational types your team member falls into. It is fun, I know we had some fun putting it together. I hope you enjoy it and that it might give you some language to have development discussions with different people on your team. Here is a thought, why not take the quiz yourself, and have the person you are thinking about take it and see if you come up with the same conclusion?

    3 Relational Types

    Rapport Builder - People are great and a priority. Relationships tend to have three stellar attributes. First is that rapport builders have a way to connect emotionally so that there is a full mutual attention. They can read the emotion of the other person and can mirror that emotion causing the other person to feel calm and safe. Second, after you leave the rapport builder you have a genuinely good feeling about what just happened. Finally, when you are with a rapport builder you feel like the relationship is headed somewhere. There is a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment even with small talk. These folks add life and energy to a room.

    Alliance Crafter - There are times when relationships take priority and there are times when the job just needs doing. For these folks, the balance can be a bit hard to find. They know and understand the importance of relationships but it seems to be for the purpose of the task getting done rather than for the sake of the relationship. These people do not have a hard time building networks and see the value in having relationships in a community, but the purpose usually is not for meeting and enjoying others as much as it is accomplishing a goal. Once the goal is complete they often struggle with what to do with the relationship

    Social Dissenter - A quote I heard recently said, "Don't make people a priority who only make you an option". These social dissenters are folks who just can’t seem to find the value that other people or relationships bring. It is not that they are shy, or even introverted. Social dissenters go beyond this and just don’t seem to care for, or about, anyone other than themselves. There is little to no satisfaction from being in a relationship with social dissenters. They are task masters and policy hounds. Not task or policy for the sake of others or relationships but tasks and policy for the sake of the rule. These folks suck energy from a room and others usually can’t wait until an interaction is over.

    Powered by

    Quiz Yourself: Are You Using this Important Coaching Skill?

    I am blessed in my coaching practice to be able to work with a lot of coaches. Everything from students who are learning the craft to executive leaders who use coaching as a leadership tool. 

    I Have an Observation

    The skill of observation is underdeveloped.  Here is what I mean.

    This morning I am sitting having some quiet time of meditation and prayer.  As I was sitting in contemplation I noticed the breeze that was whisking through the trees in the conservation area behind my house at varying rates of force.  At times the leaves in the trees were hardly moving, and then, with no warning, the speed would increase to a gust force. After a minute or so the air would return to a more moderate flow.

    This is the skill of observation. Blocking out all other inputs and paying attention to this one thing, and then not making any judgment about it. Don’t turn it into a metaphor, or think about how to explain it. Just observe it and practice describing it.  

    This skill is harder to do than it is to read about, I can assure you. As leaders, we are constantly making cause and effect assumptions.  We become skilled at what is rewarded, making decisions or explaining things so that others can understand them.  All very important skills. I am not trying to say that your decision-making is not important, it for sure is. In fact, I often tell young leaders what they get paid to do is make judgments.  However, if we believe that quality inputs are critical to good judgment then perhaps observation trumps outcome.

    Give It A Try

    The next meeting you go to, or one-on-one interaction you have with a colleague, write down 10 things you observe from the interaction. Just make the observation and pay attention. Dial out all the distractions that might come your way and observe behavior. Notice things like tone of voice and inflection. Notice body language. Become aware of the “presence” the person exudes. 

    The better we become at the skill of observation, the better coaches we will be.  We will notice things such as hurt or pain in people. We will notice when they are not on their “A” game. We might notice the exuberant joy that is written all over their face. The better we are at observing, the more skilled we will be at connecting with others emotionally.

    Take a Quiz

    One of the reasons I like to use assessments in my practice is that they help me, as a coach, make observations.  Sure, the person gets great feedback around important competencies. For example, in the EQi 2.0 assessment that I use, leaders get feedback on stress management. According to Dr. Henry Thompson, author of The Stress Effect, emotional intelligence is critical in determining the likelihood of the success of a leader. 

    While the EQi 2.0 can give leaders feedback on competencies like stress management, often times it is the observation of the leader in the moment that can give the information that will allow the leader to make necessary judgments. If leaders don’t observe what their followers are feeling in the moment then they are more liable to react poorly. For example, an associate comes into your office and explains they have just made a mistake that could be costly in terms of dollars and customer satisfaction.  Are you able to manage your own emotion in the moment and observe what is going on with the person?  Are they anxious? Is there body language closed and distant?  Are they sweating? 

    So let's play this out. What happens if:

    A. You don't observe any of the associates “presence” in the moment

    B. You do observe the stress the associate is under

    Answer A: It is possible you will go right into fact-finding mode. Try to find out what happened, and then your natural next step is to go into problem-solving mode and to start giving orders you want the associate to execute with precision, clarity, and focus.

    What is the problem with Answer A?  It isn’t physically possible when stress has hi-jacked the associate for them to focus on anything. In fact, there is a really good chance that they will walk out of your office and not remember a thing you said.

    Answer B: You see the associate is stressed out, so you have them sit down. You go get them a bottle of water. You have them take a few deep breaths and perhaps you tell them a story that has a bit of self-deprecating humor. The goal here is to get the associate to relax so that you can trouble shoot and problem solve together.

    What is the real skill in Answer B? You took the time to observe the situation. You notice the wind in the trees. You know the end result you need to get to but you also know you need your associate to have a clear mind when you need information.

    Take Another Quiz

    For this quiz, you are going to need to think about a recent interaction that you have had with an associate where there was some stress or tension in the situation. Keep this interaction in mind as you take this quiz. Use the quiz and your memory to reconstruct the events. 

    This quiz is not meant at all to be diagnostic.  We are not trying to make you clinical psychologists. The purpose of this quiz is to help you dial in your skills of observation so that you notice more how your associates are showing up in your interactions.

    I hope you enjoy the quiz. If you know others who might like to work on the skill of observation, why not forward this to them.

    Have You Ever Made this Emotionally UNINTELLIGENT Response?

    Last week I wrote an open letter to a “friend” in Clarksville Tennessee. If you missed that post you can see it by clicking here.  In that post, I wrote about a guy I came across recently who totally lacked self-awareness.

    I have a confession to make. 

    In less than a week, I became like that same guy. Not at all proud of it.  But it did happen. Here is the story:

    My wife and I were flying home from a wonderful Memorial Day weekend in Columbus Ohio. We were able to spend the weekend with our granddaughter, who, just for the record, is perfect in every way. My son dropped us off at the airport, we checked our bags and headed to the TSA screening area. I often say in the classes that I teach that the best place to observe what poor emotional intelligence looks like is in an airport.

    I put my backpack on the conveyor belt to be screened like I do several times a week, almost every week. In my pack, I have a couple of books, my laptop, business cards--nothing unusual. 

    The agent at the computer looks into my bag, shouting, "Whose black bag is this?” I look over and my backpack has been rerouted for physical inspection. I hear the agent tell one of his partners, “There is liquid in that bag." I thought to myself, “There is no liquid in that bag. I don’t carry liquids.”

    A bit puzzled, I walk over with the agent to his station. He takes a black stick and rubs it over the outside of my bag and then on the inside. I am thinking, oh, this is just a routine screen for gunpowder or drugs or whatever it is that TSA uses that little black stick for. The agent asks me, “Do you have anything sharp in this bag?”  Again, pretty routine. I say, “no."

    So he opens the bag, reaches in and pulls out a jar of peanut butter. I remembered that as we were on our way out the door this morning my wife asked me to put the jar in our suitcase. I stuck it in my backpack, thinking, no big deal people take peanut butter on planes all the time.  Since 50% of my flights are to Orlando, I see kids at the airport quite often; they eat PB&J all the time.

    The agent then said to me, “This is a liquid and you will have to take it out and either check it or throw it away.”  

    This is the point when I became like my friend in Clarksville.

    I instantly reacted to the TSA agent by saying, “Peanut butter is not a liquid, it's a solid!" I feel pretty confident I am right about this. My reasoning is:

    1. Mr. Volosio, my 8th-grade chemistry teacher, was excellent and taught us the difference between solids, liquids, and gasses. I paid really close attention in that class and am reasonably sure I grasped the concept.
    2. My Inorganic Chemistry class took Mr. Volosio’s lesson even further and I passed that class too.

    And if those aren’t enough then I ask you this: when is the last time you sat down to have an ice cold, refreshing glass of peanut butter?

    The next thing I hear is, “Peanut butter is considered a liquid and you can check it or throw it away." So my statement and all of my logic are being challenged and I can feel myself triggering, which is where this story differs from the one about my friend in Clarksville.

    I recognized my trigger. I stop, take a deep breath, and ask the agent just to go ahead and dispose of the peanut butter. I guess some of my training in emotional intelligence kicked in, and my mind told me to not let my emotion get the best of me. There is no way I am going to win an argument with a TSA agent who is convinced that peanut butter is a liquid. Not because he is right, but because he has the power. 

    In that moment I had to decide if it was more important for me to be right than to end up on a no-fly list.  I decided it was much more important to fly again and so the peanut butter went into the trash and my wife and I went and had a bite to eat at the Chili’s restaurant in the airport....where I sat down and ordered a tall glass of peanut butter on the rocks with extra ice.

    The waitress just looked at me with a puzzled look. I said,“Didn’t you know that peanut butter is a liquid, and so could you pour me a glass?"

    My wife said to the poor girl, who was just there trying to make a living, “Just ignore him, he just got his feelings hurt. We will both have water with lemon.” The waitress left with our drink order, and my wife said, “I thought you taught emotional intelligence, you're  not showing any right now.” The truth hurts!

    Embarrassed, I looked at her and said, “You're right. That waitress probably didn’t have Mr. Volosio for Chemistry so she might not know the difference between a liquid and a solid.” 

    I can’t tell you my wife response to that. Sometimes what happens in a marriage, stays in a marriage.

    So, a trigger for me is when I know I am right and what I perceive to be an injustice occurs.  

    How about you? Do you know your triggers? Are you aware of what sets you off? Can you control your emotion, or does your emotion get the best of you and you end up making poor decisions because of some strong need you have to be right, or be heard, or be seen?

    Having good emotional intelligence requires both self-awareness and self-management. 

    Having good character is knowing when you are wrong and being able to apologize. I did. To my wife, the waitress, and the TSA agent.

    PS. The next time you are in Orlando, send me an email because my wife and I would love to have you over to our house for an ice cold glass of…. your favorite liquid beverage.

    An Open Letter to my Friend at the Fairfield Inn, Clarksville Tennessee

    So, I am sitting eating breakfast this morning at a Fairfield Inn in Clarksville Tennessee with my lovely wife Kim. I am having my usual powdered eggs and overcooked bacon and Kim has chosen her much healthier granola and Chobani Greek Yogurt. The place is packed with people who have that look of road exhaustion even though they just woke up.

    The tables are so close together in this dining space that sardines would have been envious. Kim and I can’t carry on a conversation because of all the chatter around us. So as we sit and try to enjoy the meal that comes with the price of our room, we also become observant of the conversations around us.  Not evesdropping you understand, just unable to avoid the sound waves bouncing around the room.

    The first conversation is coming from a couple who seems to be traveling with the man's mother. The guy is a know-it-all. I mean, you know the type: has an uninformed opinion about everything. Mind you, we only sat at our table for about ten minutes, but this guy has commented on everything, including how bad a president Donald Trump has been versus the eight great years under "Barack." He actually just used the former President's first name. My first thought was how disrespectful we have become as Americans. How have our freedoms have been taken so for granted that respect is something only recognized when Aretha Franklin is singing?

    Mr. Know-it-all then goes on to solve the healthcare crisis by telling his mom, “I know exactly what we should do. We need to tax the rich and take away…. Hold on, Hold on," he says, "I have a call coming in." He presses a button on his smart watch and tells the person on the other end of the line they are at breakfast, then turns to his mom and starts telling her why his Google watch is better than her Apple watch when it comes to the phone app.

    I was actually beaming a bit nauseous just listening to this guy when I heard a little chirp from the table behind us.  A young family sat down and the mom was busy pouring milk over Cheerios when her little girl says, “Thank you, Mommy." I mean, my heart just melted like butter in a microwave. 

    Then it hit me. Each of these two scenarios had main characters. Each of the main characters had a choice as to how they are going to show up for breakfast. The little girl sure could have told her mom that the kind of milk she had wasn’t right or that she didn’t need anyone to pour her milk for her. There were probably dozens of responses the little girl could have made, but she chose to be thankful.

    To my know-it-all friend I just have to say: I don’t think that many people at the Fairfield Inn in Clarksville Tennessee care about your opinion. Even if you are 100% right about whatever it is you are pontificating on, your opinion just doesn’t matter that much.  

    Perhaps being a little bit more like the Cheerios girl would make this world more like the place we all really want it to be.

    Leader Challenge

    Leaders, I know you have opinions and I know you have problems to solve and decisions to make. 

    People are not doing things exactly as you think they need to be done. I know you would never say that you are the center of the universe, but sometimes, as leaders, we don’t we act like it.  It is all about our vision, our agenda, our goals, our, our, our.

    Maybe this week as leaders we spend less time on our own personal agenda and we become more appreciative of those who are on our teams and really make things happen for us in our organizations.

    How about this Memorial Day Weekend, instead of complaining that the Affordable Care Act isn’t that affordable for people anymore, or that your Facebook news feed just isn’t loading fast enough, just be thankful.

    Be thankful that:

    • You don’t have to work on Monday
    • You have a job and get to work on Monday
    • You have a family
    • You have friends
    • At some point in history a soldier cared enough to die for you so you could have a profile on Facebook.

    Just watch yourself today. Practice some self-awareness, and if you find yourself starting to complain, or pontificate about a subject, show some impulse control and turn your self-aggrandizement into gratitude.

    Perhaps we can all use the Memorial Day for its true purpose: to remember those who have died so that we can complain if we choose to. 

    Now, I don’t want to come off too heavy or seem like I am preaching. That really isn’t my intention. So, after you have really thought about your choice, and being thankful for all you have, then by all means do something frivolous.  Have a BBQ with your family, go play 18 holes, take your kids or grand kids to the park, or join me in watching the Greatest Spectacle in Racing…."Gentlemen start your engines."