leadership coach

7 Steps To Effective Coaching

There are times when I want to start new things but hesitate because I am afraid I won’t know what to do. I felt this way for a long time with Facebook and LinkedIn. Everyone was doing it, it seemed simple and fun, but I didn’t want to look silly if I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know what to do, so I sat on the sideline and watched rather than jumping in and learning. I felt with same way with this blog. For over a year, I wrestled with the idea. Should I start blogging? What would I say? What would other people think about what I had to say? All this negativity swirled around in my mind.

Then one day I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. I remember Michael saying something like, “Stop thinking about it and start doing it." He gave 5 simple steps that I followed to start my blog. And shazam! Here we are today. Those steps gave me the confidence I needed to start something I wanted to do.

This got me thinking; There are probably people out there that have this similar problem. Maybe there are people hesitant to coach others simply because they don’t know where to start. Maybe this is you! If only you had an outline of steps to take that would give you the confidence you need to do it.

This led me to reflect on what I do when I get a coaching client for the first time and outline the major ingredients that go into every coaching engagement that I do. Please enjoy my recipe for a successful coaching engagement in 7 simple steps below and try putting them to practice.

(I think this model is transferable. So if you are a professional coach, a supervisor of employees, or a Mom or Dad coaching a youth soccer team, following these 7 steps can mean the difference for your outcome being successful!)

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

  • Begin With an Open Mind Coaching never begins in a vacuum. We all come into coaching relationships with biases. Coaches must come to clients with an open mind. The client must be seen as being a whole and healthy person. While there are times when you will have received information from others, focus on what the client is saying to you.

  • Get to Know Your Client It is hard to coach without knowing more information about your client. Find out more about who they are, what they do, their life story, and what they hope to accomplish. Consider putting together a series of questions that could apply to any client you serve. Personally, I use multiple types of assessments with my clients.

  • Confirm With the Client It is always important that you validate the collected data with the client. You want the client to be confident that you understand their perspective on what is happening, why the did what they did, or what is the genesis of how they are thinking or feeling.

  • Compare the Data to a Standard Once the client agrees with the collected data, you'll compare it to an acceptable standard. The client must agree that the standard is acceptable. If they do not, then the data may become meaningless because the objective of what the data revealed could become irrelevant. For example, I had a client who gave the appearance of being arrogant. The data we collected from others in the organization said this person’s primary objective was to get their own way all the time. This behavior is the polar opposite of what is expected in the organization: being collaborative. Before I can coach the person to a more collaborative style, they have to agree that collaboration is the right standard. Once this happens we can begin work on the arrogance. If collaboration isn’t the mutually agreed upon goal then it is tough to improve the behavior.

  • Identify Gaps Gaps are the space that exist between the client's current behavior and the agreed upon standard. They are the difference between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.It is useful to talk these gaps out and to get examples of where they have taken place. Coaches should always be looking for gaps between current and expected performance.

  • Set a Plan to Close the Gaps When planning with your clients, develop a simple plan that is laser focused on one or two items. When we give people too much we lose focus and the person runs the risk of being overwhelmed. When examining the performance standard I use the Stop/Start/Continue model. Here's how it works:

    • What behaviors do they need to stop?

    • What behaviors do they need to start?

    • What behaviors need to continue?

      • Do not short change the "continue" aspect. Often by stopping and starting a few simple things, people will see dramatic change. Most of the time they are doing a lot of things right, which you want to encourage to continue.

      • Establish a Date to Follow-Up It is my opinion that this step is where most coaching fails. There is no date set to follow-up, no check-in’s to see how the person is doing, and little to no interaction at all once a plan is put in place. Follow-up with those you coach is the most important part of the coaching relationship! I recommend scheduling all follow-up meetings with your client at the end of your sessions together. This will enforce some accountability on their end and help you maintain the relationship.

Coaching is a valuable skill for helping others become the best person they desire to become. Coaching skills are important tools that anyone in a leadership position needs to possess. Whether you have employees on your team or you are responsible for a group of 8-year-old girls on a soccer field, coaching is the transportation vehicle you use to help an idea become a behavior.


Identify a person in your life who needs your coaching, or better yet someone who is already getting your coaching. Think about whether you have followed all 7 steps to successful coaching within that relationship. Is there any step that you have missed? How can you use these 7 steps to coach yourself to improve your own coaching outcomes? We would love to hear from you regarding what you think about this process. Leave us a comment below!

Try Giving Less of This to Improve Team Performance

Maybe it is the Christmas season? Maybe it is the end of the year? Maybe folks I communicate with are just feeling burned out? Whatever the reason, I sure have noticed a lot of people this year saying things like:

“Let's take that up next year, I just don’t have any more capacity this year.”

“Our people are really feeling stressed with everything going on right now.”

“There are just a lot of priorities on people's plates at this point in time.”

“I am feeling a little under-valued with everything going on right now, there just is not a lot of recognition for the simple things, like no one says thank you anymore.”

I am not sure how the people under your leadership are feeling right now as you read this, but are you? Are they feeling:

  • Overwhelmed?
  • Under-appreciated?
  • Stressed (for whatever reason)?

New Term/Old Concept

A relatively new area to hit the leadership literature is the concept of job crafting. In addition to top-down, hierarchical job expectations, many organizations are leaning more on the individual worker to “craft” their job by changing everything from the tasks they accomplish to mapping the important relationships they need to accomplish the goals they need to meet to be successful. This idea of “job crafting” actually has been cited in leadership studies as being aspirational, motivational, and allowing the individual to self-actualize and find meaning and purpose in work.

Job crafting has been cited as increasing work productivity, employee engagement, effective problem solving, and overall employee performance.

Before I even knew it was called “job crafting” I always thought of it as “just do what you need to do to get the job done." Be responsible. Be accountable. The folks at Nike would say, “just do it.”

The Research

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

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

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

The Findings

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

As always in leadership studies, there is more than one variable that must be considered. When studying the leader it usually goes without saying that studying the follower is critical. When thinking about employee performance and work overload, the literature will support this idea.

The Employee

If your organization is going to face work overload from time to time it is a good idea to ensure you have people on your team who can both adapt to and initiate change. It turns out that proactivity in times of work overload requires both adapting to and initiating change that is needed to relieve the work overload.

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

Point taken. Followers need to be accountable.

The Leader

Turns out that follower accountability is only half of the story. The other half of the story is how much control the leader exudes.

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

The Lesson

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


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

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Cari Nicholson! Cari won a copy of Jan Tilley’s new book, “Eat Well to Be Well,” from last week's blog contest.

Hey, Cari, check out the Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken on p. 103! I made it last night on my smoker. Only 170 calories; 7 gms of fat, and 24 gms of protein. It was KILLER good!

If you want to order a copy of Jan’s book you can find it by clicking here.

If you are saying, “Hey, I didn’t know there was a contest last week!”...

First, here is the link to last week's guest blog from Jan Tilley herself! It's a really good one you don’t want to miss it.

Second, don’t fret. We are going to give away another copy of Jan’s book this week! Just leave us your favorite healthy eating tip, either when you travel or when you are home, and we will draw another winner next week!

The Leadership Paradox

Speaking of the winner.

Do you remember the famous paradox story from Greek mythology of Achilles and the tortoise?

Achilles was a warrior character of great strength and speed. If you want a modern day equivalent, think of Usain Bolt who currently holds the title as the fastest man in the world. The tortoise is, well, you know what a tortoise is: slow, steady, and sure.

Imagine a race between Achilles (or Usain) and the tortoise, a sprint like the 100-yard dash. And to make it interesting, we are going to give the tortoise a 50-yard head start.

Who do you think would cross the 100-yard finish line first? Most of you would say that Achilles would easily catch the tortoise and beat him soundly.

Not so fast, says Parmenides, a pre-Socratic scholar, who philosophized that one's senses can lead to results which are false and deceitful.

Parmenides (and his student Zeno) make the claim that for Achilles to beat the tortoise, he first has to catch up to the animal. These ancient philosophers say this can never happen, and here is why:

Suppose when Achilles starts running, the tortoise is at spot X. When Achilles gets to spot X, then the tortoise is at X2. When Achilles gets to X2 then the tortoise is at X3….hence the ancients say that Achilles will never catch the tortoise and the tortoise wins the race.

The Leadership Lesson

What is wrong with the above paradox? Well, there might be several things wrong (there are some quantum physicists who say there might be more truth to the paradox than we give credit, but their thinking goes beyond my feeble brain).

If we only think about one dimension such as distance, then the logic used by Parmenides and Zeno might be true. But we know that a race is more than distance. We have to consider things like strength, speed, motivation, and mental preparation just to name a few. You can not just use one dimension to determine who is going to win a race.

As we think about what goes into leadership, too many of us pick one dimension and focus only on that one item. But just like the race between Achilles and the tortoise, we have to consider more than distance in order to determine a winner.

For example, many folks I work with equate certain leadership styles to leader effectiveness. Leadership is much more than personality; being an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs or a high “D” on the DiSK. Leadership is so much more than being able to articulate a vision, or being influential, or even having a servants heart.

Maybe it is time for us to get a much broader view of what it takes to be a leader!

Connection to Wellness

Over the past few weeks, we have dedicated these electrons (we used to call them pages, but that just doesn’t feel right anymore) to the idea of wellness.

How might wellness inform our ideas on leadership? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately:

  • Perhaps spurred on by what is going on in the US political arena.
  • Perhaps aroused by some experiences in my past.
  • Instigated potentially by some reading I have been doing.
  • Propelled by some enlightened conversations I have been having.

Likely a combination of these.

WELLNESS the process you go through as a leader to live a meaningful, purposeful, and intentional existence.

WELLNESS as a metric for leadership in addition to personality, vision, integrity, performance.

The next time you have to select a leader in your organization, why not frame your interview around a wellness framework? Stop asking them about past achievements, or at least expand the horizon of your discussion to topics of:

  • How positive and affirming the person is.
  • How they view their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • How does achieving their potential help others achieve what they want out of life?

One of the problems we have in our society is that we think only on one dimension. We use the winning and losing arguments of performance to gauge success. This is not a metric that is going to serve us well in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-competitive, far from it. But focusing only on performance for performances sake can leave us longing as humans.

We still have as a classic example of this phenomena, “The Stock Market Crash of 1929."  In a nut shell, people thought the performance of the market would always go up. To the average investor, stocks were a sure thing. Performance was all that mattered. As we all know, fraudulent companies were formed and money poured into them. Then on October 24, 1929, panic selling ensued as the realization came that the market was nothing more than an overly speculative and inflated bubble.

Performance is only one metric to be studied.

Even if you do not want to change your paradigm, perhaps we might at least consider things in addition to performance. Perhaps we should look beyond results and start looking at what goes into those results. Focus on quality inputs instead of solely looking at outcomes.

Leadership is a holistic discipline. Don’t get caught living in just one dimension where a tortoise could beat Usain Bolt in a 100-yard dash. This logic is doomed to leave you wanting and spending too much time diagnosing what went wrong in your leadership.

Homework: Reflect for yourself on how you are doing on your wellness journey. Use the questions above to ask yourself what you are doing to live a more successful existence. Grade yourself on your emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. How are you doing?

3 Things I Learned About Leadership from My Mom

Last week we committed to dedicating this blog in the month of May to “The Wellness of the Leader." If you are not considering wellness in your development, then you are leaving a big component of your leadership unexamined that is having an impact on your effectiveness. This week's blog really had a profound impact on me personally. Funny how sometimes when I write, I am actually the target audience.

As a staff, we try and plan these blogs out several months in advance. My daughter Gretchen and assistant Brandi have convinced me to be more culturally aware in my writing. Since Mothers Day just passed, I thought I would reflect on the impact my mom had on me as a leader.

Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons in spring day, warm feelings of the mother, moment of life, happy family on nature

Hence, here are three things I learned about leadership from my mom:

Culture Matters

My mom was all about family. We were together all the time. Not just my parents and siblings, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I mean all the time. My mom was a “stay at home mom," and I was with my grandparents every day. The culture of the family mattered. My mom created a family culture that oozed safety and security for us as kids.

My good friends and experts on organization culture Dr. Boyd Johnson and Dr. Mike Linville will undoubtedly support this notion of the importance of culture in organizations. As will my old boss and good friend Tom Considine, who famously agrees with Peter Drucker that "culture eats strategy for lunch."

Culture, Culture, Culture rings through my mind this morning with the same tone that Jan Brady had in the old Brady Bunch episode, complaining that her sister Marsha got all the attention…Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!! Culture needs to get much more attention in organizations than it currently does.

Edgar Schein, the great organizational culture theorist says that in our Western traditions of human nature, humans are social animals with primary social needs(1). When these humans come together, if they are to survive, a set of rules and regulations will need to be established to make the environment safe for everyone.

I hope you caught the nuance. The rules and regulations are about making the environment safe. This set of rules and regulations is not about making people feel valued or understood, but safe. Why? Because when people feel safe, they are able to perform at maximum capacity. When they feel threatened, then survival mode kicks in, thinking decreases, and the ability for them to hear what the leader has to say goes down.

This is why we say when leaders are trying to make a point or provide feedback, it is important to focus less on what you have to say and more on how the person is receiving it. If the person receiving the feedback feels safe, then there is a greater likelihood that your message will be heard.

My mom created an environment of safety and security (with discipline) that allowed for growth and wellbeing to be nurtured.

Question for Reflection: Are you being intentional, like my mom, about the culture you are creating as a leader?

Leaders Show Up

You can’t delegate presence.  As a leader, you can delegate a lot of things to other people. You can not delegate your physical presence when it is needed by your followers.

In my family, it didn’t matter what you had going on, you showed up for weddings and funerals.  You showed up for birthday parties and baptisms. You went to church every Sunday morning. My parents never missed a sporting event, a theatrical performance, a band concert,  or a Christmas Pageant.

If you want followers to follow you, then you have to show up to what is important to them. Are they making a big presentation, and you are triple booked on your calendar? Show up! Do they have a meeting scheduled with you where they need a decision? Show up! Is there a crisis in their life and they need you to listen? Show up!

What can I say? My mom showed up. This created a feeling of caring and support that allowed for risk taking and freedom.

Question for Reflection: Are you showing up, like my mom, for your followers when they need you most?

Leaders Sacrifice

I grew up in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois. My parents came from working class parents who worked on assembly lines at Caterpillar and Corn Products. We did not grow up with privilege, status, or great means.  Yet I always had new shoes for basketball tryouts, killer birthday parties (the envy of the neighborhood), and an extra $20 bill in my pocket for gas driving back to college. Mom never seemed to have the newest or best, but I always did.

Followers notice the sacrifices of the leader. They notice when you stay late and help them with a project when you could be off to a social event. They notice when you answer the phone or a text. They notice when you give of yourself to them when you had other options.

What do you think you might get in return for your sacrifice? I would propose commitment, loyalty, and extra effort.

Interestingly, do you know what is missing in a lot of organizations today? I would suggest commitment, loyalty, and extra effort.

I wonder if there is a reason?

The one thing I would add is that mom never expected anything in return. If you expect loyalty, then to me that is a bit coercive. But if you willingly sacrifice as a leader, expecting nothing in return, like my mom, then you may just get the loyalty and commitment you are looking for.

Question for Reflection: Are you sacrificing, like my mom, for your followers and expecting nothing in return?

Thanks Mom for all you taught be about being a leader!

I told you at the beginning that this weeks writing had a profound impact on me. So much so, I just booked a flight to be with my mom on Mother's Day! Can’t wait to be with you mom on this special day.  Happy Mother's Day!

Homework: Consider the reflection questions posed in the article. After you spend some time thinking about them, see if you notice any changes that you need to make in how you are approaching your leadership.

Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms out there!

  1. Schein, E. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (p. 144).

Are You Embarrassed by This Leadership Addiction?

I was struck by something I found fascinating as I attended the Society of Consulting Psychology winter meeting in Orlando. Prior to the introduction of the speaker, the master of ceremony told the crowd, “Feel free during any of the talks and presentations today to stand up and walk around. It is not rude. Our desire is for you to be healthy.”

Wow! That was different. I have never seen or heard that before!

Then my mind started playing mental gymnastics with itself:

  • "I don’t like that because I have never heard it before."
  • You should be more flexible when you hear new things."
  • “I don’t like it because it is rude for the speaker."
  • “What a great idea to give people permission to be themselves."

As I was trying to decide if I liked this new approach to audience empowerment or if I found it rude, I realized something about myself...

I am addicted to certainty.

Thinking business woman with glasses looking up on many questions mark isolated on gray wall background

Confidence is the positive feeling of being self-assured. I get this overwhelming feeling of calm when things in my life are unwavering.

Certainty is like a drug. It has the power to give us a feeling of peace even in the midst of chaos. Along with this power comes a numbing effect, telling us that we don’t need to be aware of anything else going on around us. The lie that certainty brings with it is that you can stop learning. You know enough that you no longer need to be open to other ideas. You can shut off any discussion opposed to your position because you are certain.

Leaders need some level of confidence in the vision and direction they are taking followers. So, I am not saying you should be paralyzed by uncertainty. What I am saying is keep asking questions. Use critical thinking skills. Stay curious as an antidote against your certainty addiction.

According to Diane Halpern, a critical thinking expert at Claremont McKenna College, the critical in critical thinking signifies an evaluative component. This evaluation is a constructive component.

Yes, I am now a recovering certainty addict. Like any addict who wants to recover, I started digging into the topic to learn more.

When our brains are engaged with change, their default is to say "no way." The brain wants certainty.

As a result, we end up justifying our stance and fall in love with the assumptions that help us move through life. Certainty, then, is an addiction, because our brains become so accustomed to the way things are for us that we become more rigid in our stances. The instinct is to protect ourselves from that which we do not know.

I don’t want to be uncomfortable with people walking around during a presentation, so I have to protect myself from this idea by rejecting it out of hand. The thing that makes me comfortable is the certainty that I am right.

How do we adapt who we are today to the change that is happening around us?

To be relevant in times of change, we must understand the value we bring. Being open and flexible as a leader becomes paramount to your success. Remaining open and curious as to what is going on around you is the key. Flexibility is an important component in emotional intelligence. According to Steve Stein and Howard Book in their work on emotional intelligence, flexibility is the ability to adjust your emotions, thoughts, and behavior to changing situations and conditions.

Become comfortable with the uncomfortable notion that people walking around during a presentation is okay.

The Challenge

What are you doing as a leader to help commit your organization to an attitude of change? A 2003 study by Accenture Consulting found that 77% of organizational cultures embrace entrepreneurial ideas once they had been tried and proven.

As the leader of your organization, how are you doing with becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable things in your world? How are you fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your organization? What are you doing to help others in the organization show that their ideas have merit instead of saying, “That will never work here."

Here is a great example my HR friends talk about all the time. The question from organizations goes something like this: "How do we attract millennials and keep them?"

I speak with leaders all the time who want to attract these young and creative professionals. However, after they attract them to the organization they treat them like they are something to be domesticated. Rather than learning from them and paying attention to what they are doing, we struggle to control them.

The world is changing and we cannot continue to apply our old assumptions to the new trends that are taking place. Stop fighting it. Stop resisting it. Start being flexible and resist your urge toward the comfort of certainty.

For example, instead of trying to domesticate millennials, which is the certainty principle, why not become playful with your approach to engaging the talent in your organization?

Breaking The Mold of Certainty

Here are 2 questions I picked up from the Futurist at the presentation on ways to break out of the mold of not changing:

  • What is at stake if you do it? What is at stake if you don’t?
  • Micro change: Change is hard, so what can we do? Pilot something different, find what you like, and improve upon it.


Find a place you are really certain about in your leadership. Now, begin to wrestle with the idea of what happens if you do not change. What is at stake if you don’t start looking at it in a different way?

5 Ways to Positively Impact Your Organization’s Culture

There is a lot of conversation in the “blogosphere” these days about the types of cultures leaders can create in organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Culture
  • Performance Culture
  • Service Culture
  • Command & Control Culture
  • Customer Centric Culture
  • Employee’s First Culture
  • Shareholder’s First Culture

Frankly, there are probably thousands of cultures and subcultures that organizations can identify with. Leaders can be left in a state of ambiguity about what is really acceptable in a culture unless organization-wide consensus can be found.

Confusion can lead to inconsistency in strategy implementation or even complete chaos, which can result in paralysis. This fragmentation in organizational culture can leave the strongest subcultures defined by those with the loudest voices, which may not actually be representative of the culture at all.

Perhaps a story can clarify:

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in a lot of very positive ways throughout the organization, such as caring and compassion with a death in an employee's family, paternity and maternity leaves, even pay based on performance was weaved into this respectful culture.

In one department, there swooped in a leader who had an agenda. A change in performance standards would take place but only a select few favorites would be told of these new rules in the culture. Low performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The organization became chaotic and fragmented as no one knew what the cultural norms were in order to perform at high levels. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Fast forward 6 months and 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 5 things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization to give you great results:

Be Self Aware Know and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions, and how they impress your company. Everyone is watching you 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 for 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), “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 believe strongly that we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value for your teammates.

Be in Control Not wavering, or changing things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that invokes an emotional response, remind yourself of the companies mission, and your principles, to be sure that the decisions being made 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 People who are positive are magnetic. We want to be around them and we can be inspired by them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is being able to see the best in yourself, see setbacks as learning opportunities, and see obstacles as unique, temporary events that you'll get through. Learn more about this by downloading my eBook, Optimistic Thinking.


Think about the 5 "Be's" above. Choose one you would want to work on.

To help organize your thoughts, grab a piece of paper, then write and complete the following sentence:

I want to be more ______________, so that my team can feel ______________ and we'll create a culture that is ___________________.

Here are three ways I will be more ____________ this week: 1. 2. 3.

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!

What Great Leaders Do When Bad Things Happen

It seemed like a complete disaster. It was a project that our team created, organized, and executed, yet the outcome we received was far from what we desired. Sound familiar? It should, as we’ve all experienced the feeling of failure at one point in our lives. Whether in the workplace, in a sporting event, or other moments in our daily life, this failure can cause many different emotions such as frustration, disappointment, and most of all, fear.

In his new book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant (Wharton’s four-time teacher of the year) gives some practical advice when we face fear. Instead of letting fear drift into anxiety or dread, reframe it into excitement. For example, in a study of people who fear public speaking (listed as one of the biggest fears people experience), the participants were divided into two groups. One group was given these three words: “I am calm." The other group was given three different words: “I am excited."

Which group performed their speeches better?

This one-word difference caused listeners of the talks to rate the “I am excited” group as 17% more persuasive and 15% more confident than the “I am calm” group.

Turning your fear into excitement can energize you to act. If you remain to calm for too long, there is a potential for negative self-talk and anxiety to set in. My hypothesis here is that the old advice of “remain calm” when you are in fear is really, "lower your anxiety and get moving." To remain calm for too long can cause paralysis in times of tension and complexity.

When you face times of tension, stress, and fear, how do you react?

We developed the CHECK list that we wrote about last week to give you a tool that will help you move forward when you are experiencing situations that bring fear.

Consider the Situation

It can be difficult to look at your situation objectively, considering the result of the project didn’t meet your expectations. Ask yourself the following questions to help you reflect and move forward:

  • What went well?
  • What could be improved?
  • What needs to change or be omitted?

Hear from Others

Take it to your team and colleagues. Ask them the questions that you asked yourself above. Create a space that allows them to speak into the situation and feel positive through a process of brainstorming the solutions. Including them will motivate them in moving forward. If your team is stuck, consider bringing a coach into the situation to offer a fresh perspective and facilitate conversations or the planning process.

Eliminate Negativity

It requires a full 360 shift perspective to begin to see failing as a learning opportunity instead of as failure. Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz talk about this feeling of failure in their book, Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win. In their research, the authors found that people who are happy and successful spend less time planning and more time acting. Now, there is planning involved prior to action, but what these people do is act on their plan without emotional fear based baggage. These folks get out into their universe to try different things and learn from their mistakes. From their perspective, failing is learning, not failure.

Conduct a Plan

Once you've looked at the situation objectively and heard from others, you can go back to the drawing board and work out a plan for moving forward. As mentioned earlier, try not to dwell in the planning stage. Instead, implement action. Consider adding some check-ups throughout your plan to track the progress along the way. Include someone in these check-ups for accountability.

Keep Your Head Up

Believe in yourself and in your team. Let others see your positive attitude and resilient behavior focused on moving forward. They will follow your lead and look to you for support or motivation. Approach your project from a different angle than before to give it a fresh feel for you and your team.


Reflect on a project or situation that didn't go the way you planned. Write down what went well and what could have been done differently. Share these thoughts with a colleague or mentor and brainstorm a plan for improvement next time.

A Vaccination for Leadership Failure

Who wants to fail as a leader? No one. None of us wakes up in the morning and says, “Let me see how I can totally screw up the thing I am working on today."

And yet…Here is my story.

4 Things to Look for in Wise Counsel (2)

A number of years ago, I had been a fairly successful sales professional and tapped for a management development program. The company I worked for was growing like crazy. Most people spent less than 2 years in this program before they were tapped for their first management level job. I thought I had arrived! Look at me! Watch me climb! Nothing will stop my career! These were all thoughts I had at the time. I was on top of the world and it felt great.

My wife and I moved from my sales territory in Decatur, Illinois to the corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Our family consisted of my wife and I along with our 2-year-old son Zach, and a precious baby girl due in about 6 weeks. The plan was to be in Indianapolis for less than 2 years before our next move into my first management level job. So, I did what every person with a dream, a wife, and 2 young kids does….

I went out and bought a 2 seat sports car.

I rationalized it by telling myself, "Hey, we already own a minivan. No problem."

Fast forward 5 years later. That's right, my 2-year window for promotion had gone to 5! The company hit a tight spot. No one got promoted for 3 years beyond my 2-year window. And on top of the career slow down, my wife and I had another baby boy! We were now a family of 5, with a minivan and a second car that is a Mazda Rx 7.

Great car, yet totally not practical when my wife took the minivan to go shopping one Saturday and left me with the 3 kids and a couple of friends kids. Scott and 5 kids on a Saturday morning, normally not a problem, until Zach comes out holding his hand over his eye and blood dripping down having just been whacked on the head with a toy by one of the other kids.

Question: How do I get 5 kids and me in the Rx7 and to the hospital to get Zach stitched up?

The Lesson

There is an ancient Proverb that says “Before his downfall a man's heart is proud."

I will admit it. I was full of pride. Proud of my career. Proud of my family. Proud of how I had achieved.

What is the problem with pride? It blocks your vision of reality. As leaders, we puff ourselves up for everyone to see.

What are some things that feed our pride as leaders?

1. People come to you for decision making. 2. People look to you for safety (job security). 3. People look to you as an expert in your field. 4. People feel comfortable knowing you are there. 5. You make people feel they are important. 6. You give people a feeling of optimism. 7. You give people a sense of hope. 8. You are near the top of the food chain. 9. People seek your advice and counsel. 10. Your opinions are sought and considered.

The great writer CS Lewis says that the problem with your pride is that it is in competition with everyone else's pride. Pride at its very root is competitive. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man,” according to Lewis.

More money. Bigger house. Better looking. Smarter. Prettier wife. More loving husband. Successful kids. Faithful servant. Harder worker. Coolest job.

The problem with pride is not the metric, but what we do with it. It is in our nature to compare. It is how we know where we are. The problem with pride is an inability to be content and a desire for control. It is a scarcity mentality that says for me to be up in life you must be down.

This is a lie.

Great leaders find ways for everyone to be up.

What I have learned over the years is that when I begin feeling like this, full of pride, I better watch my next step.

The Vaccination

When things go wrong, we begin to think about treatment. Treatment is about fixing the problem. Vaccination, however, is about prevention.

Treatment in the medical world is meant to help you recover from something that has happened to you. A vaccination is meant to prevent the disease in the first place.

The second part of the Proverb I mentioned above states, “but humility comes before honor."

Being humble. Putting others ahead of your pride. Being modest in your opinion of yourself. Thinking of others as better than yourself is one way to overcome pride.

The question I have been asking myself is, are there any strategies for preventing pride in the first place?

How can you vaccinate yourself against pride that often accompanies Leadership?

Here is a shot in the arm that can help you prevent Leadership Pride. This might sting a little, but here comes the needle...

Seek Wise Counsel.

That didn’t hurt too bad, did it?

Looking back on my story, I really should have sought wise counsel about buying that car. Not only was it impractical, but the assumptions I used to frame my reality regarding my career and my family were askew. They just were not based in reality. Just because the business was in an up cycle didn’t mean it was going to stay that way forever. Some wise counsel at that time could have been just the vaccination the doctor would have prescribed to prevent me from making such a poor decision.

There is another Proverb that says “Without counsel plans are frustrated, but with many counselors plans succeed."

As you are thinking about getting wise counsel in your life, what should you look for? Here are a few things I have found as I have researched the topic:

4 Things to Look for in Wise Counsel:

1. Experience. Why not ask someone who has been down the road what the path looks like? 2. Impulse Control. Look for someone who is not going to be swayed by your emotional rationale. You do not want someone who will agree with you all the time. You want another perspective on what reality looks like. A person who is patient enough to hear you out. 3. Courage. Having an ability to disagree with you is paramount to you being able to learn and grow. 4. Empathy. Someone who can see your perspective even if they do not agree. Empathy differs from sympathy in that the empathic person will ask the hard question when it is in your best interest. The sympathetic person will just agree with you in whatever state you are in.

So often in leader development we screw up and look for a treatment remedy for what has happened. Why not look to prevent these potential failures in leadership by vaccinating yourself against tragedy? Seeking wise counsel may be one good shot in the arm for you as a leader.

Your Homework

Look for a leadership decision you have coming up. Seek out some wise counsel. Lay the topic out for those you are seeking input from, without bias or telling them your preferences. Consider what they say to you before you act.

7 Things You Know About Leadership That Are Wrong

I was having a conversation this morning with an executive coaching colleague, Joanne Bond. She is a masterful coach who has proven over the years to be able to ask just the right penetrating question at just the right time. If you are looking for an experienced executive coach Joanne is amazing and you can find out more about her at JoanneBondCoaching.com. In our discussion, we were talking about developing a workshop on “how not to lead." The idea would be to have people come into a workshop and train them on absurd skills just to make a point.

Businessman pressing leadership button at his office. Leadership concept, toned photo.

For example, the training could include a role-play where a leader who says they have an open door policy has an employee knock on their office door and ask if they have a minute. The leader says "Sure, come on in." The employee enters the room and starts talking... We would train the leader to:

  • Stay seated behind their desk.
  • Not make eye contact with the person.
  • Keep their eyes focused on the computer screen while they continue to type.
  • Mumble words like Umm and Hmmm (shows active listening).
  • Interrupt the person at least 3 times in the first few minutes they are in the office on a completely unrelated topic.
  • Agree to do something that you never intend to follow-up with.

If you remember Fireside Theater from the 1970’s “Everything You Know Is Wrong” album, you get the idea. In this recording the comedians make satirical comments on contemporary culture such as:

  • The Aztecs invented the vacation
  • Men and women are the same sex
  • Your brain is not the boss

Ok, so I think you get the idea.

Here are my top 7 examples of the wrong way to lead:

  1. Create a confusing vision. Why not spout out your 2 paragraph vision one time at a mid-year staff meeting and never bring the topic up again? Then, at the end of the year, take people's bonus away because they just aren’t connecting with where the organization is going.
  2. Intentionally misalign expectations. Why not give someone on your team a specific instruction, maybe even write it down, then when they do it tell them that they misread what you wrote.
  3. Deliberately micromanage. Give one of your followers a task and check-in every 15 minutes to see how they are doing. You could even mix up your check-ins with different modalities so they would never catch on. The first one could be a text, the second a phone call, and the third an email. They will never even suspect it is micromanaging if you mix it up like this.
  4. Abdicate responsibility. Develop a mantra of “The Buck Stops With You." Get really good at blaming others for what is wrong. While you are at it, if something should go right, why not just take the credit for it?
  5. Celebrate mediocrity. Bring in donuts and have a party because you are the 4th best in your community at what you do. You could hold a book burning for all the references everyone owns on how to create change, get unstuck, or strive for excellence in execution.
  6. Create a culture of compliance vs commitment. Invite everyone to a training where we teach people the rules. All they have to do is follow the rules no matter what and they keep their job. Develop an exercise in the training where people are punished for solving problems on their own. Create a group discussion around the benefits of doing the job the way we did it 5 years ago.
  7. Encourage platitudes vs constructive Conflict. Who doesn’t want to work with nice people? Who cares if customers don’t get what they asked for? At the end of the day, we just want everyone to get along.

It seems rather silly when the opposite behaviors of what we espouse as good leadership are exposed. Yet many of the examples in the list above I have observed with my own eyes. I bet if you step back and think, you could find examples that might fit as well. Or even come up with your own contrast.

The question becomes, what change do you need to make so that a bad leadership behavior is turned around?

Homework: Pick one of the 7 examples of the wrong way to lead and be over the top with the right way to do it this week. Perhaps you put in your calendar to send an encouraging note regarding vision to everyone on your team every week. Maybe you have had some wins on your team that have not been celebrated that need recognition. If you decide to take on this homework I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments below or send me an email.

Best Hopes, Scott

4 Critical Traits of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

I had an outstanding day on Friday! I spoke at a women’s professional conference on Emotional Intelligence and how the science relates to a leader's overall well-being. You can see a picture of me with some of the leaders of this fantastic event below. 489FD9BF-E176-4CF0-8D1E-6FBB8C3C3EBC

Well-being is a fascinating topic. When I was researching the topic as it relates to leadership, I discovered that the term is really a measure for happiness.

How happy are you with certain aspects of your life?  Things like:

  • Your health - spiritual, psychological, and physical
  • Your economic situation
  • Your social relationships

Every year the Gallup organization does a domestic and global survey for well-being. They ask a series of questions relating to people's social, financial, community, and physical well-being. From a global perspective, the citizens of Panama lead the world in overall well-being. Domestically, folks who live in Alaska and Hawaii are living the most intentional and purposeful lives. If you want to see how your state ranks, click here to access the report.

Well-being is a feeling of overall contentment and satisfaction in the life of the leader.  In the emotional intelligence model* we utilize in our training, the idea of well-being is a surrogate for happiness.

The Four Traits

The leadership attributes we use to measure well-being are self-regard, self-actualization, optimism, and interpersonal relationships.

Our research has shown that a leader who excels at these four traits is well on their way to living a purposeful and intentional life. People who score high in these dimensions almost always maintain a happy disposition in all aspects of life. They usually enjoy the company of others, feel like the life they are leading is intentional, and are in control of their emotions most of the time.

Those who score lower in these traits may find it difficult to be enthusiastic about life no matter their personality style or circumstance. Their overall happiness may actually begin to diminish natural strengths and tendencies toward success that they have shown in the past. This dampened energy can make it difficult for others to see past their dissatisfaction with life.

So How Are You Doing?

Have you stepped back lately and thought about your own personal well-being as a leader? This is important because your followers have the ability, sometimes even unconsciously, to know how you are doing, even if you are trying your best to put on a front. Your well-being may be having an unintentional performance impact on your entire team!

Below I have included a definition for each of the four attributes, and a question you can ask yourself to get you started thinking about your own personal leadership and how your well-being might be enhancing or inhibiting your leadership performance.

  • Self-Regard is the confidence you have in yourself. Question: What is your ability to acknowledge your strengths and forgive yourself for your weaknesses?
  • Self-Actualization is your willingness to improve and pursue meaningful personal goals that give you enjoyment. Question: Do you have an active plan for attaining short-term and long-term goals?
  • Optimism is an indicator of your outlook on life. The level of hopefulness and resiliency you have in the face of setbacks. Question: When things do not go your way, how do you talk to yourself? Are you able to pivot from the initial negative thoughts or does the negativity overwhelm you?
  • Interpersonal Relationships are a measure of the mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion. Question: Do you rely more on yourself to get things done or are you willing to ask others to help so they get to experience the joy of serving alongside you?

Well-being is a crucial aspect of a leader's life because of the impact it has on both the leader and the followers. Your overall physical, spiritual, and emotional health depend upon this critical dimension.

What are you doing as a leader to ensure your success in this area?


Find a person in your life who knows you well. Each of you write one paragraph on the above well-Being traits. They will write how they see you and you write how you see you. Then read out loud what you have written. Talk about what is positive that you need to continue and talk about any barriers that could be holding you back.

If you try this journaling exercise, why not drop me a note in the comments section below? I would love to hear about the experience you have had.

PS. If you have a group that would be interested in knowing more about Emotional Intelligence or how well-being relates to leadership, let me know. I would love to come and be a part of the discussion.

*Bar-On EQ-i published by Multi-Health Systems

4 Proven Ways to Get Out of a Rut

In the past three weeks I have had at least six conversations that have gone something like this: “Scott, I am in such a rut right now. Any ideas on how to get out?"

The idea of being in a rut is an interesting one.


What is a rut?

The phrase "stuck in a rut" is said to have originated in the early 1800’s as settlers in America were moving west. The wooden wheels of the wagons they were pulling would get caught in holes or very deep grooves that were carved in the common path being traveled. If your wagon got stuck in a rut, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to pull out and continue the journey.

Today the phrase “stuck in a rut” has a different meaning but similar feeling to it. The feeling of being buried, bored, not motivated, stagnant, or even monotony.  I would estimate that 25% of the coaching I do is with clients who feel like they are in this deep pit and cannot seem to find a way out.

How Do Leaders get Out of a Rut?

Here are four strategies you can use to get out of a rut. I would recommend picking one and see if it works for you. As with all the recommendations we make, there are no guarantees. If something is not working for you try a different approach or a new strategy.


It is possible for us to feel like we are in a rut when really what we are is tired. In our 24/7 world, where things are constantly coming at us, it is very easy to feel paralyzed and not know which direction to turn. It is like you have eight ropes tied around you and each one is pulling you a different direction. They all have the same amount of tension on them, so you cannot move. You are stuck and what really needs to happen is to release the tension.

Here are three things you can do to rest and relieve the tension so you can move again:

  • Serious Play. Often times we think of play as being for children. However, research has shown that play for adults stimulates higher-order thinking. Play, in this sense, is a voluntary activity involving physical engagement of some type that is pleasurable for its own sake. Take a day and just go play. Do something you get a lot of pleasure out of. Resist feeling guilty or childish and just enjoy it. Reflect at the end of the day on how good you really feel. I find the feeling freeing, and a great way to release the tension.
  • Sleep. You may flat out not be getting enough. Turn off the TV, iPad, Phone, or DVD player, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.  If you are in a rut, track the amount of sleep you are getting. If you find you are not getting enough, take a nap. Close your door, schedule a meeting with yourself, and close your eyes for 20 or 30 minutes. It can be refreshing.
  • Nature Walk. The walking part is relaxing in itself, and doing it in the woods, on a mountain, or on a beach can be an excellent way to relax. This practice will also help to use pent up energy and help you to sleep better at night.


  • Get Clear. Make a list of your priorities. Put them in order and start crossing them off. The physical aspect of seeing things crossed off will give you the sense that you are making progress out of the rut.
  • Find a Friend. Support them. Focus on them. Don’t focus on yourself and your problem. I find that focusing on others and their problems, then trying to help them solve their issues, often helps me. Being an entrepreneur can at times be scary. Then I go serve a community meal at our local Care Center for people who literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and I realize that I really have nothing to fear.
  • Start journaling. Then buy Shery Russ’s book The Journaling Life. Seriously, journaling is one of the single best things that leaders can do to keep themselves headed in the right direction. I would encourage you to not only journal what you think, and facts that have happened to you, but also to journal your feelings. Getting emotion out on the table is critical for releasing the stuck feeling.


The idea of a retreat comes from an old French word meaning "a step backward."  The word took on a military connotation in the 14th century as an act of withdrawing from action. The reason for withdrawal was to regroup so you can re-engage the enemy again more powerfully than before. Many people I run into see retreat as weakness. Retreat is actually a way for the leader to regain their thoughts and engage their work again more powerfully.

  • Personal Leadership Retreat. This idea is for you to get away by yourself for 2 to 4 hours to just think about where you have been, where you are now, and where you are heading in the future. I just took a Personal Leadership Retreat a week or so ago and have done a video chronicle of my experience and what I learned. You can view it here.  If you don't know how to do a retreat this video will give you some ideas on how you could do your own Leadership Retreat.
  • Read Your Bible. One way to retreat when you don't have time to get away for four hours is to take a 20- minute retreat with an inspiring book. The book I turn to most often for inspiration is the Bible. The Bible is, year in and year out, the best-selling book in the world. However, most people just do not spend enough time gleaning inspiration from this masterpiece. One of the verses I turn to most often is Colossians 3:23.
  • Try Fiction. Reading or watching a TV series can be a great way to step back, relax, and prepare to re-engage. My wife and I are currently on a retreat of sorts. In the evenings, we are watching the series Alias on Netflix. The show stars Jennifer Garner and has a spy theme with interesting twists and turns. We call it "mindless", but it helps sometimes to just relax and be mindless so that the next day I am more prepared to engage my world.


You got into this rut by a certain path. If you are going to get out, you may need to do something different that will reposition your perspective. This reframing can be difficult for a couple of reasons: First, leaders may believe that the path they were traveling is right, ergo the rut is on the right path. Second, even when leaders acknowledge they are on the wrong path, being in the rut feels safer than any change they may need to make to get on the right path.

Here are three things you can do to reprogram yourself out of the rut:

  • Get on a new path. Start innovating. Don’t worry about success or failure. Develop an attitude to let go of the outcome and just focus on the quality of the input.
  • Stick your hand up. Let others help pull you out. Start collaborating. Collaboration is an intentional sharing of ideas, which requires give and take, and at times some real humility.  Just talking about what path you want to be on can be of great value and begin to extract you from the hole. Walter Isaacson, in his excellent chronicle of how the digital age came to be, made this observation, “Brilliant individuals who could not collaborate tend to fail." Don’t fail. You are smart enough! Reach out, collaborate, and do it with some intentional frequency.
  • Take a risk. Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith is famous for saying “fail forward fast."  I am really enjoying a book right now titled Fail Fast, Fail Often.  In it the authors provide some very practical advice on how to break free from habitual behaviors that may have you in a rut, and to trust your enthusiasm for a new venture. I know I have said it before, but I do think it is worth repeating: as leaders, we need to let go of outcomes and focus on quality inputs.

Homework: Get out of your rut by trying one of the suggested methods of Rest, Reflection, Retreat, or Reprogram.  Let us know which one you try this week in the comments below.

How Emotional Intelligence Can Work for You

Emotions are an interesting aspect of being human. Our feelings provide color and vitality to our lives. They help us express our most basic human thoughts and provide the means for us to attempt to understand each other.

I have been teaching and training leaders to become aware of and improve their emotional intelligence for about 10 years now. Many of the clients I work with echo the research that says a person must be smart enough to be in a leadership role, but that it is emotional intelligence that modulates success.


Emotional intelligence is a leader’s capacity to effectively recognize and manage their emotions and the emotions of others in order to enhance judgment and decision-making.

Have you ever found yourself having made a decision you wish you could take back because your emotions got the best of you? Perhaps you took a job just because you felt the pressure for income rather than waiting for a role that was a better fit for your talents. Many of you have taken promotions into roles because promotions feel good, rather than being content doing the work you love.

A story to Consider

I have a client who just got a new boss. The search for my client's new leader took a year, and in the meantime my client filled the gap so well that he was actually recognized by the president of the organization for his contribution, including a pay raise and a new title.  Most on the outside would say my client is extremely talented, very gifted in this role, and very successful in many past roles. Yet when I talked to him here is what he said.

I am:

    • frustrated
    • overwhelmed
    • overworked
    • stressed
    • feeling immense pressure
    • unsuccessful
    • emotionally drained

On the outside, everyone in the organization would say, “This dude is awesome!”, “Does he ever have it together!”, or “I wish I could be him!"

However, on the inside a different story is being told. One where my client is saying, “Am I really valued here? This work is not what I signed up for. I am stuck and I feel desperate. What am I going to do?"

The emotions he feels are something my client and his new boss both have to recognize, express, and use so that the talent in this young leader shines through.

How can my client (and his new boss) use emotional intelligence to turn these negative feelings into productive, positive, and powerful outcomes for the organization?

Important Questions to Answer

Let's assume this young leader has enough intellect to do the job. Since I personally know this person very well, I can assure you he does! Based upon the above definition of emotional intelligence, some interesting questions need to be asked:

  • Can this young leader and his boss work together to experience a positive performance outcome?
  • What risk does this young leader have for making a poor decision?
  • Can this young leader develop emotional intelligence to enhance judgment and decision-making?

Important Answers to These Important Questions

Let's start with the last question first: Can this young leader develop emotional intelligence?  

In the infancy of the study of emotional intelligence, theorists did not separate emotional intelligence from personality. Therefore, it was believed that growth in this area was not possible. This was based upon the assumption that since personality does not change, neither can the way a person uses emotion.

We now know after separating emotional intelligence from personality theory (which does not change much over time), that you can develop your emotional intelligence and make better decisions and judgments as a result.

Below is a chart from data I collected with a client at a large pharmaceutical company. In 2009 we gave a one-day baseline training (blue bar) to 125 people on Leading with Emotional Intelligence. Following the training, each participant received 2 coaching sessions, after which we retested the participants. Each of the EI competencies improved, which is what we expected. All except one: Interpersonal Relationships.


We were puzzled by this at first. Why would we see increases in all competencies except one? After reviewing the data, we discovered that Interpersonal Relationship was the highest competency to start with and not many people had chosen it as a place to develop. This further strengthened our argument that if you focus on an EI competency it can be developed. Perhaps an even stronger argument is that if you choose not to work on this element of your leadership, then you can expect nothing to change for you.

I am curious how this sits with you. Are you feeling stressed but not doing anything to improve your stress management? Or are you a very technical, data-driven person, struggling with interpersonal relationships, who is just avoiding the topic and hoping it will go away? If this sounds like you, avoiding the development of your emotional intelligence will leave you right where you are today.

Is This Young Leader at Risk?

Without the use of emotional intelligence, this young leader will become a slave to his emotion.  This potentially leads to a decision to relieve the emotion rather than dealing with the source of what is really going on. The young leader may leave a job he loves too early, or stay in the job too long. The right outcome is in the heart of the young leader. In order to discover it, he must be able to think clearly in order to listen to what his heart is saying about what he wants for his life. Without this ability to clearly listen, leaders are prone to make emotional decisions that may relieve temporary pain but are not as valuable in the long run.

So, if you pay attention to an area you can develop, and you assess your risk correctly in the end, does this link to improved decision-making result in increases in your performance?

So what if my client can become aware of his heart's desires? So what if my client improved the emotional intelligence competency of adaptability?  He may be better at not being a slave to his impulses, but what effect does this have on his performance? Isn’t it all about performance in the end? Maybe, but maybe not!

Emotional Intelligence and Performance

As you probably have guessed there is strong link in the leadership literature between Emotional Intelligence and performance.

For example, Chew, Zain, and Hassan's report on positive social interaction with peers facilitated cognitive and intellectual development that led to good academic performance among medical students. (The relationship between the social management of emotional intelligence and academic performance among medical studentsBoon-How Chew, Azhar Md. Zain, Faezah Hassan, Psychology, Health & Medicine Vol. 20, Iss. 2, 2015).

  • My client could ensure his social interactions at work remain positive, and focus on the value he gets out of the relationships at work as a surrogate for performance.

Bar-On, Handley, and Fund empirically demonstrate that EI does indeed impact performance in their studies of the United States Air Force and the Israeli Defense Forces. In one study of officer selection those with leadership potential had significantly higher scores than those who didn’t have potential. The EI competencies that predicted officer selection are: Interpersonal Relationships, Stress Tolerance, Empathy, Independence, Reality Testing, Problem Solving, Self-Regard, Emotional Self-Awareness, and Happiness.

  • My client could take an EI assessment, benchmark where his emotional intelligence is currently, then work on his level of Self-Regard (confidence) to improve his performance as an example.

Is It All About Performance?

Absolutely yes, and absolutely no! Some of you may struggle with this absolute dichotomy. The way I see it, leadership is performance, and how you get there is equally important as getting there. We all know too many leaders who reached stated objectives then left the organization a disaster. What you do and how you do it matter a lot.

What matters besides performance? How about character?

Enter KRW International, a group of leadership consultants who found that CEOs whose employees gave them high marks for character had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period. That’s nearly five times as much as what those with low character ratings had; their ROA averaged only 1.93%. (https://hbr.org/2015/04/measuring-the-return-on-character

  • In all of the emotion surrounding my client, he must keep in mind that his character matters! Keeping the big picture of living true to himself and his morals in mind is significant as he develops as a leader.

The End of the Story

Let’s try and put a bow around what is going on with my client and the link to emotional intelligence.

  • He is smart enough to be in the role. 
  • The emotions he is feeling are real. 
  • The situation he is experiencing is happening. 
  • He can be more intelligent in learning how to use his emotions.
  • This improvement can lead to better performance.
  • The "what" of performance and the "how" of character matter.

So, how are you doing? What is your story? Are there places where your emotions may be impacting your judgment and decision-making? Are there any steps you need to take as a leader to assess how becoming more intelligent with your emotions could improve your performance and your character?  

Let me know if I can help.

Free Offer

For those of you who would like to learn more about emotional intelligence, I would like to offer you a free gift. You can download Chapter 3 of my book “Seven Secrets of an Emotionally Intelligent Coach” absolutely free.  Click Here to get your copy today!

Leadership Tip of the Week

Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week’s blog, "Why I Am Scared to Death Right Now."

I would love to know what you think about this idea! Please leave a comment below.

If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please send them the link to the blog and encourage them to subscribe!

Leadership Tip of the Week

Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week’s blog, "Is This Missing From Your Leadership Toolbox?"

I would love to know what you think about this idea! Please leave a comment below.

If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please send them the link to the blog and encourage them to subscribe!

3 "Iron Clad" Qualities You Want In Someone to Assist In Your Leader Development

One discipline I have worked hard at maintaining since finishing my studies a few years ago has been to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every morning. I was actually challenged to do this by Dr Ken Boa when, as a graduate student, I was blessed with the opportunity to be his airport chauffeur after he gave a day-long seminar at Indiana Wesleyan University. He was kind enough to personally share his wisdom with me as we drove, even after speaking all day. The reading of Proverbs works well for me as the chapters are relatively short. I can usually work through one in less than 10 minutes. It is easy to know what chapter I am on if I miss a day because there are 31 chapters which line up nicely with the days of each month. In addition to ease, I find these sayings and instruction quite informative and motivating in striving to live a meaningful life.

I often reflect on how few mistakes I would actually make in life if I just implemented the instruction and sayings in the book of Proverbs.

This week on the Monday blog I talked about engaging others as you develop yourself as a leader. One of the Proverbs that has real application for those wanting to continue to develop themselves as leaders is Proverbs 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

The point of this ancient saying is that you cannot go on this journey in life alone. If you want to improve, it is imperative that you are working with someone on your development who is feeding certain things into your life.

Here are three things you might be looking for in a “piece of iron” who can sharpen you:

  1. Wisdom - Are they someone who leads a prudent life? Prudence is shown as someone who has a good track record of decision-making.
  2. Discernment - Is this a person who has shown they have an acuteness of judgment? Can they hear through your emotion and help you decide?
  3. Impulse Control - Can the person who is developing you delay the gratification of giving you what you want to hear and focus on what you need to hear?

What do you say we build a list together?  Leave a comment below and let us know what quality is most important to you as you pick a coach, mentor, or advisor in your development as a leader.

Have a great weekend,


Leadership Tip of the Week

Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week’s blog, "Have you seen this framework for leader development?"

I would love to know what you think about this idea! Please leave a comment below.

If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please send them the link to the blog and encourage them to subscribe!

Are You Using the Power of Metaphor to Stimulate Metacognition?

I really learn a lot from metaphors and enjoy searching for meaning from other things observable in my life. One of my favorite metaphors for thinking about the context of leadership is the roller coaster.

roller coaster

In the Monday blog post this week my good friend, Dr. Randy Spence, wrote these words:

All of us fail.

We fail in life. We fail in our relationships. We fail in the leadership of our organizations and ourselves.

The question is, do we learn from our failures?

Do we attempt to use failure as a mechanism for growth? Or do we allow failure to defeat us, squashing our ambition and our efforts?

If you have not read the post, Randy did a great job teasing out these questions. You can click here to check it out.

Powerful Questions

Randy asks some powerful questions for those of us who are experiencing the bottom of the coaster ride.

Here is where Randy’s question took me in my own leadership:

Is it safer if I stay in the trench of the coaster or do I climb back to the top?  

How quickly can I get over the self-pity of the trench and find the learning?

Do we enjoy the entire leadership ride or only when we are at the top?

What is the first step I need to take to be able to grow when I experience failure?

As you examine these questions, what 3 or 4 thoughts do they cause you to ponder?

What Does "Metacognition" Even Mean?

Simply, metacognition is thinking about thinking. In the example above, Randy’s powerful questions caused me to think about questions of my own. Hopefully, my questions spurred questions for you.

The great thing about questions is that they stimulate our thinking and creativity. Questions can really help you see the abundance that is all around you.

The power in the metacognitive question is in the journey of growth. There is no power in wallowing in self-pity and doubt. When we get to the questions about what we are to learn from our failing we can start the journey to abundance, back to the top of the coaster ride.

Have a great 4th of July holiday and be curious my friends.


Failing or Succeeding With Titanic Leadership

A few weeks ago I wrote an article and a leadership tip of the week on the topic of "Failing is Not Failure." Many of you sent me comments and emails on how this thought stimulated your thinking. I thought it would be good to get more perspective on this idea, so I asked my good friend Dr. Randall Spence to provide some of his thoughts on the topic.

If you enjoy reading about leadership with a spiritual emphasis you will enjoy reading his blog at www.RandallSpence.com, or connecting with him on Twitter.

Randy, take it away.....

All of us fail.

We fail in life. We fail in our relationships. We fail in the leadership of our organizations and ourselves.

The question is, do we learn from our failures? Do we attempt to use failure as a mechanism for growth? Or do we allow failure to defeat us, squashing our ambition and our efforts?


The Impact of Failure

The impact of failure on us often prevents us from seeing that right there within the failure, often hidden in plain sight, is the next opportunity.

Let me illustrate with a story about the Titanic.

In an article in the Harvard Review, Tony McCaffrey talks about the Titanic and that fateful night when she collided with the iceberg in the North Atlantic. What the ship's crew did not calculate in that nightmarish moment was that the very thing that sank the ship could also have saved the passengers, virtually everyone.

Let me explain.

According to McCaffrey, the newspapers of that time estimated the size of the iceberg to be between 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long. The Titanic was navigable for a while after the collision, so the crew could have pulled alongside the iceberg where many, if not all, could have climbed on to find flat places to stay out of the water for the four hours it took before help arrived.

Instead, the crew was fixated on the fact that icebergs sink ships and thus failed to see the sheer size and shape of the iceberg, or to reckon with the fact that it would not sink. In other words, the crew failed to see how the very thing that represented failure could also provide for their safety.

The iceberg could have served as their lifeboat. The iceberg that was to kill so many could also have saved virtually everyone.

Functional Fixedness

There is a term for our inability to see opportunity in the midst of failure. The term is functional fixedness and was first articulated in the 1930s by Karl Duncker. It means that we tend to fixate on the common use of an object and thus fail to see other possible uses.

If you grew up like me watching MacGyver, you know that he did not suffer from functional fixedness. If you recall, he was forever getting into bad situations but always managed to escape by using things most of us would never dream of to get himself free or to solve the dilemma. He might take some baling wire, his pocketknife, a few rags, and rubbing alcohol to make an explosive or something else rather outlandish. MacGyver could do this not only because he was a science wiz, but also because he could see beyond the obvious uses of baling wire, a pocketknife, rags, and rubbing alcohol.

Path to Success

I would broaden this definition of functional fixedness a bit to say that in times of personal or business failure we often fixate on the cause of the failure and fail to see that within that failure, sometimes hidden in plain sight, is the next opportunity. It may take some creativity and mental exploration to find it, but it may be right in front of us staring us in the face.

Where does it feel like you are failing in life or in your business today? Look over your answer from every angle.

Do you see a way to use the problem you are facing as a potential way to rescue yourself?

Think about it a bit. You might need a friend, mentor, or coach to help you navigate these waters.

We would love to hear any examples you might provide for this. You can leave a comment below or email us at Scott@DrScottLivingston.com.

3 things you can do TODAY to create die-hard followers!

In Monday's blog, I talked about some ways for leaders to assess their followers. Followers and leaders are joined across a spectrum of relational commitments. The pinnacle of this relational commitment is called “Die-hards" by Barbara Kellerman in her book Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders.

Die-hard followers are seen as passionate when it comes to ideas and people. They are dedicated to things they assign high value.

It is important to understand that it is the follower who decides what they attribute high value to, not the leader. You as the leader can think that a follower should assign high value to something, however, this does not mean that they will assign high value. It is nearly impossible to create die-hard followers without an understanding of what they value.

Here are 3 things you can do TODAY to start creating die-hard followers:

1. Be clear about your own values. It is important that you are clear with yourself about what is important to you. Not everything can be important. Our human minds are finite and can only latch onto a few concepts at a time. This first step is meant to focus you on what is really important.

2. Meet one-on-one with followers and assess their values. This is not a meeting to try to convince them that they should value what you value. Rather, this is a meeting that is full of curiosity on your part. Ask them open ended questions like, “What is the most important thing to you in your role?"

3. Align their values with the vision you have for the organization. It is when you can align their values with the mission of the organization that real commitment begins to form.

Here is a free bonus for you as you think about creating die-hard followers:

Let go of the stupid, trivial stuff that is impeding your followers and preventing them from becoming die-hard followers. What are you hanging onto as a leader that is causing your followers to give you less than a 100% commitment? What silly bias could you let go of to bring you logarithmic improvement in the commitment level of your followers?

If I can be of any help to you as you sort this out, please do not hesitate to contact me. There is never any cost for our first phone conversation.

Have a great weekend!

What Is a Simple Way to Assess Your Leadership?

At one time in our history leadership meant "the rank that was held" or "a hierarchical position that was attained." Leadership was seen as a person in authority holding command and control over those in their sphere of influence. In some nefarious organizations this authoritarian style of leading probably still exists. Today, leadership is something that gets implemented, worked on, and is earned every day. Leadership has taken on a much different relational aspect than in the past. Just because you hold a position that is near the top of the food chain in your organization does not mean that those who follow you are committed followers. As the leader, you may hold their salary card and influence their performance appraisal, even decide whether they stay as a part of your organization, but that does not mean they are excited or enthusiastic followers.


Of Course That Is Not Me

I will be honest with you. When I read articles like this my knee-jerk reaction is, "He must be talking about somebody else, surely this isn't me. My question for you is, can you stay engaged with this topic long enough to really challenge yourself? Maybe this is you!

One thing I have learned over the years, and has really become evident since I have started writing on the topic of leadership, is that most who are in positions of leadership think they are really good at it. When I was just getting started with this project I had one marketing consultant actually advise me not to pursue the topic of leadership for a blog because he said, “Leadership is one of those things that everyone has their own idea about, and they think they do it better than anyone else even if they are actually horrible at it.”

“Leadership," he went on to say, “is not like weight loss. People who need to lose weight know it. They might not do anything about it, but at least they know they need to shed a few pounds. People who are poor leaders often times don't even know it or care to entertain the thought.”

Leadership has a sort of a swagger to it. It can often feel like since we obtained a position of leadership we must know what we are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tides of Leadership are Changing

The tides of leadership have been changing over the past couple of decades, and research is showing that the followers of leaders are much more influential than they have been in the past. With the advent of technology the bonds that followers feel with each other just make them more powerful.

For leaders, any enhancement in skills, personality, or behavior are futile if the relationship between the leader and the follower is not sound. When it is all said and done, leaders really do not choose followers, it is the followers who choose who leads them.

Attention Leaders: It is about Followers

Barbara Kellerman, in her book Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, defined followers as “subordinates who have less power, authority, and influence than do their superiors and who therefore usually, not invariably, fall into line.” Kellerman goes on to divide followers into five distinct commitment groups:

  • Die-hards-passionate regarding ideas or people; become dedicated when they assign high value.
  • Activists-Supportive, eager, energetic, and engaged in the ideas and tasks.
  • Participants-show care and compassion. Will support if they agree. Will oppose if they disagree.
  • Bystanders-Observe from the sideline. Generally disengaged. Passive support.
  • Isolates-Do their jobs and keep their heads down. Do not care much for the leader nor respond to them.

The thing I find interesting in how leadership is evolving in organizations is to examine not who is at the top of any pyramid, but to observe those who are attracting followers who are passionate and extremely dedicated. If you stepped back and examined different leaders in your organization, how would they measure up using the Followership criteria? Who are the leaders who are attracting diehard followers? Do you have leaders who have more participants or bystanders?

Assess Your Leadership

What if you scored your own leadership by how your followers are responding to your leadership? Try this simple exercise:

1. Write down the names of those whom you lead. If you have more than 15 you may want to just pick a sample that represents the population.

2. Score their followership:

Die-hards-5points Activists-4points Participants-3points Bystanders-2points Isolates-1 point

3. Add up the points and divide by the number of followers to find your average followership score.

Does the score you obtain score higher than 4 on average? If not, then you may be leading but are you obtaining the results you desire? It is hard to make changes or create vision when you have a congregation of participants and bystanders.

What do you need to do to as a leader to take a bystander to an activist? Or perhaps a participant to a diehard?

Do This To Enhance Followership

One significant factor in the leader/ follower relationship is credibility. In their book Credibility, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner offer some practical insight for leaders who want their followers to want to follow them. Credibility, according to these authors, is the foundation of leadership. People want to believe and trust those whom they follow.

It is easy for us as leaders to say to ourselves “of course I am trustworthy." You might think you are, but yours is not really the opinion that matters. Do your followers think you are trustworthy? The answer to this question is what will ultimately allow them to decide what kind of follower they will be.

According to the research of Kouzes and Posner, the majority of people look for and admire leaders who are honest, forward-thinking, inspiring, and competent. These four factors play a significant role in the level to which the leader is able to lead because they determine the type of follower that the follower will choose to become.

So how are you doing in creating diehard followers?

I would love to hear your story if you have one to share, or if you decide to do the exercise above let me know the results and what, if any, changes you might need to make.