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.

What Do You Mean They Don’t Trust Me?

I doubt that too many leaders wake up in the morning saying to themselves, “Gee, I wonder how I can erode my team’s trust today?” If they did they would either be pure evil or would be trying to get people to quit their team. To me, it is almost unconscionable that a person who was able to rise to a level of leadership in an organization would stoop to such madness.

The thing I find interesting in my executive coaching practice are the calls I receive asking for suggestions on what can be done when a leader has lost their team’s trust. So, I did some research on organizational leaders regaining trust and here is a brief summary of what I found.

Steps to Regaining Trust

  1. Discern the Error. Since most leaders do not get up in the morning hoping to erode the trust of the team, it is important to decipher what went wrong. How small or large is the impact? Did you go back on your word? Are you making changes that people do not understand? Were changes made that were thought to be temporary but now they seem permanent? If the violation of trust is two-sided then some type of conflict resolution will be needed.

  2. Assess the Impact. If the violation of trust is localized between one, or two, individuals then move as fast as you can to rectify the situation. Realize that even if it’s just a misunderstanding, word travels quickly in organizations. Try and remedy this as fast as possible. If the transgression is more systemic, then a more formal, systematic plan may need to be put in place.

  3. Admit Publicly The Error Of Your Way...Quickly. Once you’ve identified your error, be prepared to make it right. Perhaps one of the most common trust errors is the perception of the leader using inconsistent standards to evaluate contribution. When this happens a leader needs to apologize for any inconsistency and strive for clarity around the standards being set.

  4. Listen to Each Other. No matter if the erosion is localized or systemic, good listening skills by both parties are needed. Avoid trying to justify behavior or explaining your intention. There can be time for that level of clarification later. The thing that is needed most at this point is to sit down, show good empathy and try to understand where the other person is coming from.

  5. Be Prepared to Apologize. The leader must have a humble posture in order to grant someone else a higher position than they take for themselves. According to Edgar Schein, this can be difficult for a leader because of the formal power granted by the organization where the follower is just expected to implicitly comply.

  6. Follow Up with Compassion. According to trust and communication expert, Irina Schultheiss Radu, leaders need to build cognitive trust by showing they are reliable and dependable to work whatever plan has been put into place. At the same time, the leader needs to build affective trust by showing true care and compassion. (If you missed the blog last week you can click here to refresh your memory on cognitive and affective trust.)

When a leader finds themselves in trust-issues situations immediate action is needed in order for organizational effectiveness and efficiency to be restored. Are you currently rebuilding trust with your team members? What actions are you putting in place to recover the path toward trust?

If you are a leader who thinks you have lost trust, or you are forwarding this article to someone you feel has lost trust, take heart. In most cases the trust is recoverable. The path is not easy, but if approached with sincerity, restoration is possible.

Open with Caution...Do You Trust Me?

“I just don’t know where they are coming from” lamented Julie. “Of course I am trustworthy. How could they think I am not?” The tension in the room was rising as she was reading the summary of her leadership 360 feedback report.  

“I take good care of all of the people on the team, walking around asking about how they are doing. I ask about their kids and what they did fun over the weekend. I mean I work hard at showing genuine concern for them.”

Julie continued with simmering anger underneath her words. “I mean I don’t question them at all when they have to leave in the middle of the afternoon when the school calls and one of the kids are in the principal’s office sick and needs to be picked up immediately. In fact, I am actually proactive and tell them, ‘Go we will cover whatever you have to do, just go and take care of your family.’’’

As I listened to Julie struggle with the feedback, I sat back and said to myself, you know she does sound like she has care and compassion and a genuine concern.  But the 360 is saying that there are those on her team that do not trust her.

Where is the disconnect?

I reflected back on previous clients who also received feedback revealing trust as a potential issue in their leadership.

My thoughts turned to Tim whose team said that he was the most dependable manager anyone could ever have. If you ever needed anything all you had to do was ask Tim and he was there for you. Tim got great accolades for being reliable, whether you were in crisis or just needed to talk something out. Tim struggled when he was reading his 360 feedback and trying to process the disconnect between being dependable and reliable, yet being seen as not being fully trustworthy.

How is it that two leaders, one who is seen as showing concern, care, and compassion and the other who clearly demonstrates reliability and dependability both be seen as not being able to be trusted?

Well, it turns out that trust, or what those in our organizations perceive as trust, are rooted in two parts of our brain; our cognitive thinking, and our emotional feeling abilities.

Trust has, as a component of its formation, something called psychological safety. In order for your team to trust you, they need to both KNOW and FEEL that they are safe. Psychological safety is the portion of our being that says all is well. You can be free to be yourself. No harm is going to come to you, this is an open and judgment-free zone.

Experts have found this psychological safety is built on a couple of important foundations. The first is that the leader is able to develop cognition-based trust. This is the type of trust that Tim was giving himself such high marks for demonstrating. Tim indeed received excellent marks for being dependable and reliable. But something was missing.

And the second type, like Julie, who was perceived as not fully trustworthy by her team even though she was demonstrating strong affect-based trust abilities. These strengths are based on emotional bonds of care, compassion, and concern between people. Even though she demonstrated affect-based trust, Julie was missing something.

Well by now you have guessed it.

Julie was missing that cognitive-based trust from her team. While she was great at caring and demonstrating compassion, she was unreliable. She was often triple booked on her calendar and members of her team would need her support in meetings or presentations and Julie was nowhere to be found. Julie could not be trusted to show up.

And while Tim was a dependable manager who had an open door policy, walking into his office was another matter entirely. Tim, being an intellectual and (literally) the smartest guy in the room, would give people on his team the feeling they were insignificant by intimidating them, never asking questions, or showing empathy, just quick with an opinion on what should be done. Tim could not be trusted to care.

So what about you as a leader? Are you able to display both aspects of trust, cognitive and affective? Do you find yourself relying more on one and apologizing for the other?

Trust is a really big deal in leadership (blinding glimpse of the obvious here). Most leaders I meet would never say they are not trustworthy and they often will cite one aspect or the other of the psychological safety equation.

Which side do you lean toward? Cognitive or affective? Is it time you gave full consideration to what goes into driving trust with your team?

What to do when your business vision is stuck

Years ago, I worked with a business leader who had an incredible vision for his organization. He was a passionate leader with excellent communication skills and energy for his mission. He was intellectually and morally solid and cared deeply for the people in his organization.

But he was stuck.

His organization just couldn’t grow the business past a certain industry-standard metric. However, the stagnation issue became evident as we looked over some feedback provided by his peers. One of the interview questions I ask the peers of my clients (as a routine part of my data gathering) was, "What is the vision this leader has for the organization?" After several interviews, the collective response was, “The vision is very clear, but we have no idea what steps we need to take to get started. It is like he has been dreaming of this his entire life and we are catching it for the first time."

As I presented this feedback to the leader and we processed the data together, his knee-jerk reaction was “We don’t have time to wait for them to process this. The time is now! They need to get on board or get out of the way. We are going to miss our opportunity. The timing is just right!"

So I asked,“Is it their lack of urgency, or could it be something else?”

After processing with him for a while, we discovered there was not a lack of urgency on the part of the organization. There was, however, a lack of emotional connection between the leader and his team. The urgency that the leader was feeling for vision implementation and change was being offset by his lack of emotional connection competency of patience. People in the organization need the time to absorb, process, and own the vision themselves.

Patience is devoting the appropriate time and attention to others in ways that enhance meaningful interaction.

Patience is suspending your personal need for satisfaction and action.

Patience seeks to slow down those fast-paced exchanges with others in order to facilitate better decision-making.

Patience is not racing ahead in thought process while missing information that others are endeavoring to share.

Patience is not wasting the opportunities to encourage, inspire, and motivate others.

In leader development, it is always important to keep perspective on a leader who is not connecting emotionally with his team. Without this emotional connection, it is virtually impossible to have the social intelligence needed to achieve organizational effectiveness.

There are a number of reasons a follower may choose to align with a leader. Fully committing to the vision of the leader is a quintessential desire that followers have. What they receive in return for committing to the vision of the leader is an emotional connection with that leader.

In our case study above, the leader has a choice. He can either move forward with his urgency and risk losing his entire vision. Or he can proactively slow down and take the time to encourage, inspire, and motivate his people. By embracing patience and connecting emotionally with his team, he can catapult the vision to the next level with everyone on board.

How are you connecting emotionally with your team? I’d love to hear your comments.

Reasons Why Your Goal Setting Isn't Working

Does training impact the ability for us as leaders to attain our goals?

Consider an inexperienced leader named Charlie. He shows up to work early, and stays late. He’s motivated to move from an individual contributor into his first front-line leader role, but he’s not sure how to make that happen. He’s getting grief from his wife for working weekends, and his heavy workload doesn’t ever seem to ease up. How can he move into a leadership role if he’s buried in his current role?

Charlie’s organization is offering a course on Leading with Emotional Intelligence and his boss is encouraging him to attend the class. Charlie feels conflicted. According to research, if Charlie puts this training in the form of a goal that has a useful future orientation, he is more likely to get the results he is looking for, rather than to put the goal in some prevention connotation.


New research that has just been published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies (Sadler, T., Gibson, S., Reysen, S. (2017), reports the effect of a leadership training program on consideration of future consequences. (Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 10(4), 35-42.)

To operationalize this a bit, let’s say that you have a team of leaders who are all functional experts; Human Resources, Engineering, Information Technology, Sales, Manufacturing, Marketing, Finance and so on. This team, in the past, while getting along personally has conformed to operating in silos. Each person does a great job of representing their own function to the face of the organization, but as a team they struggled to get the synergy that would propel them to the next level.

The sales leader in this case was always trying to maximize sales, and didn’t understand why Marketing couldn’t supply the customer segmentation data fast enough. And why did it take Engineering so long to get the prototype built and delivered to the client?  Engineering, on the other hand, was frustrated with Supply Chain who just couldn’t get realistic estimates on how much materials were actually going to cost.

The president of the organization, realizing the leaders were all doing a great job of representing their individual role, needed to function better as a team. She was encouraged by a colleague to explore the idea of a training program that would focus on team building.  

But would it be successful? Would the organization get synergy from the team development so that the return on the investment would be positive for shareholders?   A good question. A fair question.

Turns out the data is a little mixed on what should be expected.

A Little Background

It is no secret that organizations spend billions of dollars every year on training people in their organizations.  Everything from skill-based training, like how to weld two pieces of metal together, or how to write computer code. From more leadership oriented topics like Leading with Emotional Intelligence or Writing Your Own Leadership Story, to team building events.

Whether the training is skill based, or cultivating leadership in our organizations, the question always surfaces as to what is the return on investment.  Especially when you consider over $34 billion was spent in the United States in 2011 alone!

While it is impossible to calculate what the return is on the $34 billion, there is research that can help us determine if leadership type training is effective in helping leaders meet their goals. But it depends…

Goal Type

It turns out that when it comes to goals, leaders pursue attainment using one of two strategies:

  1. Promotion: concentrating the efforts of achievement on positive proactive and productive results.

  2. Prevention: targeting efforts on avoiding negative outcomes.

Let’s revisit our friend, Charlie. If his orientation is more to prevent something bad from happening or toward thwarting a negative future response, then his success in the training and as a future leader is in question.

How can Charlie (or his boss) orientate the training to as to get a more successful outcome for him as a leader? If Charlie says to himself, “I want to take this leadership training because it will help me be a better coach and mentor to others in the organization someday,” then the aspect to his goal attainment has shifted. He’s moving from individual contributor to organizational leader and that is what is going to help him get what he wants.

How are you orienting the goals of folks in your organization?  Are you creating a positive, futuristic orientation of hope for the future, or are you trying to prevent a failure?

Orientation of our thinking matters!

How Would You Answer This Great Question?

“How can I help my boss get better as a leader?”

This straightforward question was asked by a direct report of one of my clients as we were wrapping up our Leadership 360 interview (a series of open-ended leadership questions that help my clients get a clear picture of how their leadership looks to those around them). 


A First For Me

Now, I have been doing these structured Leadership 360 interviews for about 15 years,  over 700 of them in total.  No one, not one person, has ever asked me that question.  

It’s nothing against the other 700 folks, I just found it really interesting that this one dear person cared enough about her supervisor that she would want to know how she could be involved in her boss's development.

My Response

All of my coaching sessions are confidential, including the 360 report and development planning.  I wanted to answer her question, but I needed to be tactful as to not disclose what my client was going to work on.

So, I thought to myself, how do I respond in a way that is really helpful for her, without breaking any confidentiality I must maintain with my client?

Here's how I responded...

“I think the best way you can help your boss is by helping him be more self-aware. Now, this is going to require a level of trust on your part, and there could be some risk, so you need to ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk. If you are, then your boss has probably already in some way declared strengths, and things he would like to do better.”

She agreed, so I continued...

“Then help him see when he is doing it. Let's imagine he has told you he is a micromanager and wants to change. Perhaps in the midst of a project, at the appropriate time, you then say to him, 'You know, Jim, it feels to me right now like you are micromanaging me. Is that something you are intending to do?'”

She sat in silence on the phone for a seemingly endless pause.

“I can do that." She finally broke the silence. “Good,” I affirmed her. “Don’t feel like you have to change him, don’t feel like you have to coach him. Just help him see the times where he is doing something he wants to change.”

Helping leaders SEE the change they want to make is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to them.

What About You?

So many of us get caught up in our own development, but I’d like to encourage you to begin looking for ways you could support someone else with their development. Perhaps it’s shifting your focus from helping them solve the problem, to inspiring their awareness of the opportunity right in front of them.

If you feel encouraged and motivated by this post, try asking your leader how you support them in their development. Their response may surprise you and revitalize you in your own self-development journey.

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.

3 Minute Read to Improve Your Leadership Resolution for 2018

Happy New Year! I know many of you are still on vacation so I promise to keep this one short and to the point. 

Many of us begin thinking today what we will resolve to do (or not do) in 2018.  

A resolution, in fact, is just this, "a firm decision to do or not do something."

Like you, In the past I have made many types of New Years Resolutions:

  • Personal: Eat right, exercise more and lose 10 pounds.
  • Professional: Increase sales by 20% by becoming more customer-centric.
  • Family: Become a better listener when talking with my wife.
  • Spiritual: Read through the Bible in a year.

All good stuff. I am sure many of you are making resolutions and talking with your friends and family about them even today.

I thought I might challenge you to add a category this year. In addition to your personal, professional, family, and spiritual resolutions to think about a resolution to improve your leadership.



Here are 10 Ideas to help you start to think about what you could resolve to change in 2018 when it comes to your leadership. I pulled this list from some of our more popular blog posts this year and have included a link to some of them just in case you want to read more on a few of these subjects.

  1. Reflect on Being a Great Leader and what is keeping you from being great. Who among us doesn’t want to be seen as a great leader? And yet so many of us have some barrier that we just don’t want to see or do anything about.  (Do You Make These Leadership Mistakes)
  2. Work on your values before your vision. Define what is important to you as you begin to sculpt your vision for yourself and your followers.
  3. Spend less time working and more time thinking. This idea runs counter-culture to our “doing” mentality. Perhaps you need to work less and think more to enhance your ability to lead. (Solve This Riddle and Challenge Your Leadership Perspective.)
  4. If you were a brand (like Kleenex or Toyota,) what would your value proposition be?
  5. Who in your organization do you need to network with?  (Who Else Wants to Develop as a Leader?)
  6.  What piece of FeedForward advice do you need to seek out? In our organizations, we are so good at feedback. We just love telling people what we observed them doing.  Why not start a culture of FeedForward? Perhaps we could all get a little better at offering some solutions in addition to what we see in others that we don’t like. (What advice would you give this first time leader)
  7. What cycle of negative thinking will you break this year?
  8. How are you resting in the middle of your workday? Studies are showing how important rest is for leaders to maintain their effectiveness. How are you cycling your work to maximize your performance?
  9. Take your emotional intelligence temperature. Are you able to choose how you react or are you “slave” to your knee-jerk reactions?
  10. Whatever change you make, put a plan in place to sustain it.

I am looking forward to being with you on your leadership journey. If there are subjects you would like tackled on these pages just drop me a line. I am happy to do the research and then write about what interests you.

My prayer for you is that you have a productive and effective year as a leader.

Blessings to you and your families.

PS: If you know someone who might be interested in growing as a leader in 2018, why not forward them this blog and have them sign up? It's free and easy, and we guarantee they will get tons of value.

5 of My Top 100 Reasons to be Thankful this Christmas Day

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

I thought I would take today to share with you 5 of my top 100 reasons to be thankful this Christmas. 

First, I am thankful for my beautiful wife who I get to enjoy life with. 


I am thankful I get to work with so many of you in such amazing places. 


I am thankful for really cool and mysterious things in this world, such as this square with 16 numbers that allows more than 300 possible combinations of 4 numbers that always add up to 33, the age of Christ when He was crucified.


I am thankful for beaches and sunsets. 

2017-03-09 05.50.50.jpg

I am so thankful for the joy I get to experience in life. 


Last, I am so thankful for you, my readers! Please CLICK HERE to download A Minimalist's Guide to a Personal Leadership Retreat as my free Christmas gift to you when you enter the promo code MERRYCHRISTMAS at checkout! 

Have a blessed Christmas, 

Dr. Scott Livingston

Solve this Riddle and Challenge Your Leadership Perspective

Alert! There is a free gift offer at the end of this post, but you have to read the entire post to get the free gift. Not really. You could go to the end and get the offer code, CLICK HERE and just get your free gift. But then you would miss a really cool riddle and some salient leadership stuff that might help you be more productive. 

Here is the riddle:

Three travelers were on a journey when they checked into a cut-rate hotel. The clerk at the desk told them there was only one room left and the price was $30 for the night.  Exhausted, the travelers took the room and each gave the clerk a $10 bill.  The next morning the hotel manager was reviewing the guest list and noticed that the night clerk had actually overcharged the travelers for the room. The published room rate was $25, and having just been to a leadership workshop on Building Character In Leaders, he asked the Bellhop to get five $1 bills out of the drawer and to refund the travelers the $5 difference. On the way to the travelers' room, the Bellhop realized that five is not easily divisible by three and not having been to the Building Character in Leaders workshop decided to give each of the travelers $1 and stick the remaining $2 in his pocket.

Now, you realize that $9 times three travelers is $27 plus the two dollars that the Bellhop put in his pocket equals $29.

Question: Where did the other dollar go?

Reflection is such an important part of leadership.

As organizational leaders, we find ourselves in the midst of some pretty busy times these days.  "Crazy busy” is actually what Dan called it in a workshop I led yesterday. The end of the year finds us trying to cram a lot of activity into not-so-much space. On the personal side, there are holiday parties, kids' school programs, last minute travel preparations, and gift purchase fill our minds. On the business side, there are year-end performance reviews to complete, development planning discussions to have, and planning meetings to hit the ground running in January.

 It just feels like there is not enough time to get everything in, let alone find space for personal reflection.

In fact, many of you might say, “Come on, man, there is no way I have time to rest and reflect!  I’ll do that down the road...”

And then you realize you won’t. 

Because January will be just as crazy as December and February just like the two months that preceded it.

So What Is A Leader to Do?

This is a question I get asked a lot in my executive coaching practice.  “I have so much that I need to do, I don’t have time to do anything else.” and then the question comes…”So, Scott what should I do about this?”  And you can see the trap we fall into.  We think that doing something is going to get us out of the crazy.  

Now I am not going to discount things like better planning, and prioritizing important over urgent work.  There are some productivity hacks that might help some folks.  But most of the leaders I work with are “hacked out” of productivity. Everything they are working on is important. So now what.

Here is my advice:  Work less and think more.


I recently ran across a two-year study out of Sweden that experimented with a 6 hour work day instead of a traditional 8 hour day for nurses at a care facility in Gothenburg. Here are some of the researchers' conclusions regarding the nurses who worked fewer hours:

  • They were less tired
  • less sick
  • had more energy coming home 
  • increased time to do activities 
  • got an average of 7 hours of sleep a day versus less than 6 hours a day for nurses working traditional hours. 
  • even their blood pressure was lower than the average for all professional women in Sweeden.

So maybe you can’t get your supervisor to agree to a 6 hour work week. I get it. 

The question becomes, what can you do?

Try This Simple Step

The assumptions you are using to create your reality can’t all be valid if you can’t get everything done in the allotted time. You are telling yourself that all this craziness is normal and this is the cycle of thinking you need to break. 

But you don’t even have time to think about how to change. You are right! You don’t have the time!

You have to make the time! And I am going to give you a free gift that you can use when you make the time.

More on that in just a minute, but first the answer to the riddle: 

Answer to The Refunding The Travelers Riddle

Have you figured it out? 

If you follow the math as I originally laid it out there is a $1 that seems to be missing.

But that is because I gave you a faulty assumption.  

Each of the travelers indeed would get a $1 refund and the Bellhop put the $2 in his pocket. 

You do not add the $2 from the bellman, you subtract it from the total.  So 9 times $3 refunded reduces the price of the room to $27 dollars and when you subtract the $2 the bellman kept you get the $25 price of the room.

Faulty assumptions are at the root of many leadership issues.

What Faulty Assumptions Are You Making?

I wish I had some pixy dust or a magic wand to help you answer the above question. I don’t

But what I do have is a free gift that might be of value.

I have written The Minimalist Guide to a 4-Hour Personal Leadership Retreat and it is yours absolutely free if you CLICK HERE and enter this promo code below when you checkout:


It is my gift to you. While I don’t have the answer to what leadership assumptions you are making that are not serving you well right now, you do. You just have not MADE the time to think about what they are.

The Minimalist Guide was developed so that when you MAKE time for yourself to reflect on your personal leadership, you will have some structure to help you along the way.

If you decide to take the challenge and make some time for yourself and use the guide, drop me a note and let me know what you learned. I love hearing from you. I promise if you send me a note, I will read it and reply to it personally.