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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

1) Your time is limited.

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

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

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

Delegation Matrix.JPG

Here’s how to use it:

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

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

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

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

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


Confessions of a Certified Control Freak: Delegation Series #1

Confessions are really hard for me.

Important, but really hard.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

But then…

Kim said, “For what?”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Confession

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know, maybe 10 hours or so.”

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

He had me.

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

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

Now, how hard is that?

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

What if I Don’t Want to Change?

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

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

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

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

Consider the following story as an example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This did not help calm his thinking.

Personal Example

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch! What a change lesson that was for me.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a case of “Yeah, But?”

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

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

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

How Wrong Can One Man Be

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

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


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

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

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


Or Consider,


“Grandma, I want a snack.”

“Sweetie we will eat lunch pretty soon.”

Yeah, But I want a snack.”


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

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

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

Yeah, But...

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

  • Becoming more assertive in meetings

  • Having more empathy for those they lead

  • Taking deep breaths and relaxing

  • Celebrating the success of others

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


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

Yeah, But...

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

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

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

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

Does Your Team Need This Lifeline?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Loneliness a bigger health risk than smoking or being overweight?

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


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

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

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

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

  • Control your stress

  • Increase your resilience

  • Boost your self-esteem

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

  • Get help fast

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

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

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

  • Prioritize these meetings

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

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

  • Give them some assurances that you believe in them

  • Establish a culture that encourages learning from mistakes

  • Do spot check-ins in times of high stress

  • If a teammate seems down, ask about it early

  • Consider frequent mini-sabbaticals as a way to rejuvenate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Or you experience the loss of a child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meantime

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

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

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

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

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

The storm would begin to brew.

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

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

“Scott Robert!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Curiosity Help Your Leadership Journey?

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

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


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

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Are You Happy With Your Level of Well-Being?

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

When I probed for the reason, he continued.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Four things to notice about wellness:

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

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

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

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

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

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

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

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

  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.

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

Two Considerations for Evaluating Your Own Level of Well-Being

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

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

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

Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Did

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

  1. Do less telling.

  2. Learn to do more asking.

  3. Do a better job of listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Intentional About This?

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

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

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

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

  • Growth as a person

  • Finding a new skill

  • Advancing yourself

  • Creating something new and exciting

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

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


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

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

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

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

  2. You are showing humility.

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

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

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

5 Common Vision Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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

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

Problem#1: Not describing where the vision originated.

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #4: Abdication of the vision.

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

Problem #5: Devaluing encouragement.

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

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

How Does Risk Affect Your Team’s Performance?

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

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

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Does Your Culture of Origin Affect Your Leadership?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Being Instead of Doing Affect Your Organizational Culture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Self Aware

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

Be Assertive

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

Be Empathetic

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

Be in Control

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

Be Optimistic

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

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

I want to be more…

So that my team can feel …

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

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

How to Hold Each Other Accountable and Still Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I finished, they clapped.

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

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

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

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

Will These Three Ideas Help You Succeed?

What questions have you been asking yourself as you build your success story? Perhaps, it is, “As HR Vice President, what does leadership development look like?” Or, “As a sales leader, how can I balance work and family? Or even possibly, “As a Church Plant Pastor, what do I need to do to grow my congregation?”

These are tough, yet realistic problems that we face as professionals, but I think we need to reframe the questions.

Any coach (whether formal or informal, external or internal, paid or volunteer, executive or life or organizational) must have the skill of listening then reframing questions. Reframing a question provides a different perspective on the issue at hand.

As a coach, it’s my job to reframe the question to help you get to the heart of the matter. Rather than asking about leadership development, I would challenge you to ask the real question, “What do I need to do to get promoted in my next role in the company?”

Or if you’re the sales leader, what I really hear you asking is, “If I sacrifice time with my family, will it be worth it financially?”

Or to the pastor, I would reframe the question as, “What should I be doing to grow my church? I am doing everything the books say, but it isn’t working!”

Please don’t misunderstand my point. I do think that people want to know how you approach things, how you set goals, how you solve problems, how you prioritize resources, how you assess risk. But, the answers they want will direct back at themselves.

Enter the world of what psychologists call self-efficacy.

Research On Self-Efficacy

Self-Efficacy is a fancy term for belief in yourself; confidence in the capabilities and talents you have been given and developed. Studies have shown that the confidence you have in your capabilities affects your performance and is linked to happiness, satisfaction, and well-being. All of these attributes in one way or another link to success.

Research published in the December 2016 issue of the Consulting Psychology Journal outlines that you can help those you coach be more successful by following three simple ideas:

  1. Invest the Time: The confidence of the person increased as the coaching relationship evolved over time. As you coach others over the course of your conversation, notice how their confidence increases toward the coaching objective. When it does, make them aware that you are seeing this increase in confidence.

  2. Say it Out Loud: The more the client verbally articulates their confidence, the higher the achievement to the goal actually becomes. “I am going to do this” type statements show confidence in the client's ability. The more they make commitments out loud, the increased likelihood of belief in themselves.

  3. Ask the Right Question at the Right Time: In this study, questions asked by coaches fell into three categories:

    • Open-ended - “What do you want to do?"

    • Proposing Solutions - “You could search for other companies that offer better possibilities.”

    • Provide Support - “That sounds like a great idea."

The research points to proposing solutions as the only effective method in triggering self-efficacy statements in the very first coaching session. While the other two methods are also valid, they merely enhanced the confidence of the other person throughout the coaching engagement.

As you work with and coach others on your team, especially if you have more of a long-term relationship, focus on asking open-ended questions and providing support for the ideas they bring. Too many of us fall into the trap of proposing solutions because it makes us feel better about ourselves like we added real value. I would argue that the value you bring is the investment of time and belief in the person you are coaching. The research says that the value of you proposing solutions beyond early in a coaching relationship does little to improve the confidence or belief in the mind of the person you are working with.

How would your work environment change if you focused on building the confidence of others in your organization? When you are coaching others, resist the temptation to make the coaching about you by offering advice and providing them solutions. Really focus on practicing open-ended questions and providing your client the support they need.

10 C's Checklist to Decide if You Have an Effective Team (Part 2)

Last week, I opened the conversation about Effective Teams and challenged you to think critically about your own team. If you missed the first 5 C’s Checklist, click here to get caught up.

As promised, here are the remaining 5 C’s:
...And don’t forget to click the free download at the end!

6. Competent members.  Every team has to have people with enough skill and intellect to get the job done. Notice this does not say you need Perfect People, or The Smartest People, or The Best Looking People. You need people who can get the job done that align with the vision. This competence extends to a lesson I learned when I was about 4 years old. Everybody wants to play with the nice kid in the sandbox. Nobody wants to play with the arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic bully in the sandbox. All our adult lives we have been told this lie; that our organization is a zero-sum game. Which comes from an attitude of scarcity. The reason we organize as humans is that we can do more if we have each other. Stop threatening to take your sand bucket and go home if you don’t get your way. Start being nice to people, relax…go have lunch. Start behaving like you are part of an abundant world and that there is enough around for us all to eat like kings.


7. Coaching for results with a high standard of excellence. Coaching is a word that is getting a lot of play these days. It can mean anything from being directive and telling a person exactly what you want them to do (think football coach), to very supportive and delegating tasks without fear of being let down, and everything in between. In this idea of coaching, the coach bases their direction style on the needs of the person being coached. Yet keeping a high standard of excellence is key, not a matter of style. For me, coaching is all about helping the person see around a corner they are getting ready to turn and they have no idea what awaits them. There are times when the coach knows exactly what is going to happen to the individual and can help them prepare for what is coming next. There are other times when neither the coach nor the teammate knows what is around the bend. This is where the coach can get curious and at least brainstorm with the person what to expect and how to best handle whatever comes at them. The reason I like coaching so much is that it really helps to get rid of blame in organizations and focus more on opportunities that exist.

8. Confidence among members. Not one of us holds all the answers. In today’s complex organizations this is just not possible. We need to be able to ask each other questions and then listen to what the person has to say. This give and take, where one person is curious about something and then shows the ability to focus and pay attention and listen to the response, is a real key to team performance. If we are interacting like this, then I know that I can count on you to be there when it matters. Life is not perfect, things happen. If we run our teams knowing that someone has our backs when we fail, then others are more likely to reciprocate the deed when we might need it most. It is only on a team that is confident and comfortable that risks can be taken. As humans, we crave safety and security. Taking a risk isn’t safe, it is often scary and unpredictable. Knowing that you are there to support me if I fall helps me to be able to take my first step. High performing teams have confidence in each other.

9. Commitment to unity. I used to frame my thoughts around team strength using a skill model. My thinking went something like, “The team is only as strong as its weakest link.” I have to admit I was heavily influenced in my early management life by Jack Welch who had a model of ranking teammates from A (best) to (D) worst. Jack said to reward the A’s and get rid of the D’s. I have really changed my thinking on this over the last 20 years. Getting rid of people does not create unity. It only causes fear that “I might be next.” How I see team unity now is more around the philosophy of "a team is only as good as the least committed member.” I also believe it is up to the leader to create this level of commitment and to foster a spirit of “We are going to win or we are going to lose, that much I know. I also know whether we win or whether we lose we are going to do it together.”

10. Collaborative environment. No working environment is perfect. Everyone gets their feelings hurt from time to time. The worst thing that can happen on a team is that silos form and an “us versus them” mentality is created. Organizations are so complex that it is imperative that the culture remains collaborative even in the face of conflict. A spirit of collaboration says I care as much about your goals and the organization as you care about mine. I want you to win. I want you to succeed. I want you to be able to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. If I can help you with your goals and your goals are linked to the organization obtaining its vision and I truly believe in the vision, then why wouldn’t I help you? The enemy here is selfish ambition. We have to put away our own selfishness and arrogance and realize that these are going to leave us and everyone short of what they are trying to achieve. An effective team collaborates.

So, those are my top 10 C's to decide if you have an effective team.  Why not sit down and reflect on this list and really think through how your team is doing? Where are the places that you exceed expectations and are cause for celebration? Where are the gaps that need to be shored up?

If I came in and observed your team for a day, what would I find? If we used this checklist as a 1 (low) to 5 (high) scale how would your group fare? The other question that comes to mind is what if you rated your team and then I rated your team, would there be any differences? Sometimes leaders need outside perspective to see if what they are really seeing and experiencing is valid.

Care to take the challenge? If so, click HERE for a free printable download of this checklist. Use this with your team and let me know what you discover.

10 C's Checklist to Decide If You Have an Effective Team (Part 1)

Many years ago when I led my own sales team, I rarely thought deeply about what it took for a team to be effective. Honestly, I thought that if you worked hard and held people accountable to do what they said they were going to do, then that was enough. However, most of the teams I am working with today have people who work really hard, and yet they struggle.

Working with teams has caused me to stop and reflect on the subject of their effectiveness in an organization. Some have leaders who are willing to hold the team accountable, and yet they just don’t seem to be performing. They seem to be leaving things on the table that could really help them achieve at a high level.

I took some time to dig into the literature to see what I could find on topics like high performing teams, trust, goal setting, and the like. I have linked this with some of my recent experiences. Next week, I’ll include a free download with the remainder of my checklist, but for now, here are the first 5 C’s of my thoughts on high performing teams.

  1. Clarity of purpose. Teams need to see the link between the overall vision, the mission of the organization, and the tactical implementation plans. Put your vision all over the place. If you are a leader, talk about it every day with everyone you meet. If you think you are being repetitive and people will get bored…fear not. Frankly, I would prefer boredom, yet headed in the right direction, than excited and clueless about where they are going. Shout your vision from the roof-top and put it where everyone can see it. Remind your folks of it in the morning when they come to work, and in the evening when they go home. Talk about it in your 5-minute huddles as you start the day, in your hour-long staff meetings, and at your leadership retreats. Never lose frequency on communicating the vision of where you are taking people in your organization.

  2. Co-created goals. After you plaster your vision everywhere, put up tactical goal boards. Goals are what people should be held accountable for in organizations. Meet them and celebrate like crazy. See yourself falling short and do an early correction. If you wait too long, you may be leaving no possible way you will hit them. Every office and cubicle should have a goal board so that whoever comes into the workspace can clearly see what is being worked on and what the person is accountable to produce. My high school basketball coach used to do this with free-throw shooting. We had a board in the locker room and after practice, we had to shoot free throws, write our percentage goal, and then our actual number made. If you consistently hit your goal then the percentage went up. The only way to know this was to keep score. I have a goal score sheet in my coaching and consulting practice that I look at every Monday with my assistant, Brandi. She is responsible for holding me accountable for my percentage of progress to my goals. Hopefully, you have someone on your team that you are talking with on a regular basis about your goals and how you are doing toward them.

  3. Comfort with vulnerability. By vulnerable I mean a willingness to admit weakness and mistakes. Become confident in sharing what you struggle with. If you are a conflict avoider, then admit it and ask folks to help you with it. If you have an ego or a temper…just know we all have something. Admit your shortcomings and ask folks who are really skilled at empathy, or have a calm presence, to help you along. What I DO NOT mean by vulnerable is using your weakness as an excuse to behave poorly. Let’s face it since all of us have shortcomings, none of us care that much what yours are. Weaknesses are not excuses for character flaws to be accepted, but opportunities for connecting with others from which to learn and grow.

  4. Common enemy. I think this one relates back to the visioning component. What I have found is that even people who would describe themselves as noncompetitive love to win. My lovely wife would describe herself as a noncompetitive personality. However, I can assure you that if you get her in a game of “Quirkle” she will try and destroy you as fast as she can (in a loving and kind sort of way, of course). Look, if people naturally want to compete, why not give them a target to compete against. Stop fighting with each other over who has the best idea or is getting the biggest bonus or the most funding. Remember the game you are playing.  To all my friends in healthcare out there, stop worrying about who has the most department resources and go cure cancer…please!

  5. Cultural integrity. Last week I did an Organization Culture assessment for a group who is integrating two very different cultures. I was reminded during my presentation of the famous quote by management guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” For me, any leader who is forming a culture based on honesty and trust is really focused on the right thing. Recall that trust is made up of both a cognitive and affective component. Cognitive trust is basically procedural fairness; can folks count on you to do what you say you are going to do? Affective trust is the emotional connection we feel that stems from care and compassion. A culture, no matter the stereotype; be it family oriented or more entrepreneurial, will live successfully if it is built on a foundation of integrity. It will not always be easy, but it will always be consistent and people will feel valued.

How is your team doing with these first 5 C’s? Don’t forget, next week I’ll give my final 5 C’s to decide if you have an effective team, plus a free download.

5 Questions to Assess Your Social Responsibility

The competency of social responsibility asks if there is anything emotionally holding you back from serving others. Social responsibility is a desire, an ability, and a volition. When I bring this topic up with clients the response I usually get is that I am giving them a “guilt trip."

Is it healthy to be the focus of your own life and the center of your universe? My guess is that none of us want to feel this way. However, the busier we become, the more self-absorbed we seem to get and the flow of our leadership lives suffers.

My point here is not to make you feel bad about your level of social responsibility, but rather to get you thinking about how are you balancing your selfish ambition. Most of us as leaders are trying to find a flow between work, family, recreation, and faith. Where does service fit in for you? If you dedicate too much to any one of these areas, the flow becomes restricted in other places.

Will you take action as a leader even though you might not benefit personally? Do you have a sense of accepting others and using your talents as a leader for the good of society and not only yourself? I don’t know how that hits you, but it actually stings a little for me. Of course, we have the skill. Yes, most of us in our hearts want to. The question is, what is holding us back from acting?

Because we are not the center of the universe, competencies such as social responsibility are vital in any model for leadership. If you read this blog on any regular basis you know that one of the best leadership models, uses emotional intelligence.

One such model for emotional intelligence that incorporates this idea of social responsibility is the EQ-i 2.0 by Reuven Bar-On. According to the EQ-i 2.0, emotional intelligence is defined in the user’s manual as, “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”

Most of the time when I speak to folks about emotional intelligence, their thoughts immediately turn inward to our personal emotion. Or perhaps they turn to a difficult relationship, a place where we are struggling relationally in our lives. Very few of us relate our emotional intelligence to our social consciousness.

Steve Stein and Howard Book, in their book on emotional intelligence called The EQ Edge, describe social responsibility as "A desire and ability to willingly contribute to society, your social group, and generally to the welfare of others."

Are you willing to test your desire and ability to willingly contribute to society?

If so, here are five questions you can ask yourself to assess your own level of social responsibility:

1. What community organizations am I currently involved in outside of my paid vocation? (Involved means regularly serving, not that your name is merely on a list).

2. What active role am I currently playing to make the organization better?

3. What did I do this week to lend a hand to someone who could use it?

4. How many examples can I cite in the last month where I was sensitive to the needs of friends, co-workers, or my boss?

5. Do I participate in charitable events?

We are never successful on our own. Real success comes from our work as a contributing member of a team or society. Having a caring and compassionate heart is a great balance for high levels of self-regard, that if left unchecked, could fall into arrogance.

After you take the assessment, talk to your spouse, significant other, coach, or a complete stranger about how you are doing. Do you have any changes you need to make to become more socially conscious? Your leadership depends on it.