leadership coaching

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

Self-expression is an element of emotional intelligence that is often misunderstood.

How Do You Answer Questions About Your Leadership Brand?

I recently watched a fascinating interview that the Wall Street Journal recorded with Logan Green, CEO of Lyft. The topic of the interview was “How I Work." While I am admittedly an Uber guy, I have to tell you that I may give Lyft a try the next time I am in need of a car service. I was really impressed (I was going to write "uber impressed," but that just didn’t seem right!) by Logan’s answers to the interview questions.


Then I got to thinking, why would one interview with a CEO cause me to shift my loyalty?

Was it his personal style? Some of the attributes I noticed were

  • He was casual yet attentive.
  • He was informal yet focused.
  • He smiled and was also serious.
  • He was both humble and confident.

Not a bad list for a leader! However, as I reflected I realized that it really wasn’t his personal style that resonated with me. I have seen others with great style and, to put it frankly, in the long run I think style is way over rated.

Was it the questions that were asked? They were questions such as

  • Are you a morning person or night owl?
  • Tea or Coffee Guy?
  • What do you do first thing in the morning?
  • What kind of car do you drive?
  • In one word, what is one thing that separates Lyft from Uber?
  • What is the most important thing you are working on as a leader?
  • What is the most distracting thing that happens in your day?
  • If you had to take an Uber or a Yellow Taxi which would you choose?

No, it wasn’t the questions that were asked. I have heard them all before.

Was it his answers to the questions? He said things like

  • Night Owl
  • Anything with caffeine
  • I like to get up in the morning and go for a short run. It really helps wake me up and start the day right.
  • Nissan Leaf
  • We care.
  • Communicating better and more frequently.
  • I would take the Yellow Taxi any day.

Yes, that was it! It wasn’t necessarily what he said that struck me, but how he said it. His answers were thoughtful and penetrating. They were concise and relevant.

Play A Game

How might you as a leader have the same kind of impact with your followers?  I am going to ask you 6 leadership questions. What you have to do is come up with a concise (one to two words if possible, but no more than a sentence), thoughtful, penetrating, and relevant answer.

Ready? Here we go:

  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • How do you practice self-care?
  • What is the most impactful change you need to make in your leadership?
  • If you had to choose making an ethical decision or maximizing performance, what would you choose?
  • What is the most important thing you do in your day?
  • What is one “do over” you wish you had in your leadership life?

So, how did you do? Having concise and thoughtful answers to questions like this might take some time for you to develop. Perhaps you want to sit with these and reflect for a while. Perhaps you want to ask your team (or your family) how they might answer these questions for you, then compare their answers to yours.

The point

Leaders must have a balance of self-regard and empathy. If these elements are out of balance you will likely end up with a range of behavior from arrogance to paralysis. People will not want to follow you unless they have to. Being overly empathetic will get in the way of productivity. Reflection is a great way to improve both your self-regard and your empathy. That is really what I took away from the interview with Logan Green. He was both confident and caring. How about you? How do you measure up on this emotional intelligence spectrum?


Last week I facilitated our Leadership Principles course for a client of ours. This is a course where participants explore their core values, then link them to their leadership principles across 11 different leadership dimensions such as coaching and hiring. At the end of that workshop, we have the participants write their Leadership Epitaph. An Epitaph is a short (no more than 15 word) description that you would want someone to say about you at the end of your life. Why not work on your Leadership Epitaph? What 15 words would you want people who follow your leadership to say about your leadership after you are gone?

How Understanding Risk Can Help Your Team Perform

I received an email last week from a client who is thinking about the impact that risk can have on team performance and dynamics. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Performance and Risk

I know you usually think of risk and reward going together, but as I was reading the email from my client a bell went off in my head. Reward is an outcome of risk, not a partner in the dynamic interplay of teams.

Risk and performance, however, go hand in hand.

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 more safe we feel the less risky something is to us. Nothing new here, but hear me out on this relationship between risk and performance.

Let's say that someone on the team is driven by risk. We would call them carefree. Someone else on the team is risk averse, and we call them 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.

There are 8 different types of risk profiles that people present with. Understanding these risk types will help leaders to better navigate team dynamics and maximize the risk profiles of each member of  your team.

8 Risk Types

  • Excitable At the root of this risk type is impulsivity and an attraction to risk, combined with distress and regret if things go wrong. This type tends to be passionate and to vary in their moods between excited enthusiasm and pessimistic negativity. Such people are both frightened and excited by their impulsiveness and are likely to respond emotionally to events and to react strongly to disappointment or the unexpected. Depending on the mood of the moment, they may enjoy the spontaneity of making unplanned decisions.
  • Intense Those who fall into this dimension tend to be anxious and worrisome. People in this risk type tend to expect the worst, and tend to be highly-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 vary dramatically from day to day.
  • Wary Characterised by a combination of self-discipline and concern about risk, these are cautious, organised people who highly prioritize security. They are likely to be alert to the risk aspect of any investment opportunity before evaluating 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.
  • Prudent Those in the prudent risk type have a high level of self-control. This type is organised, 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.  Generally very cautious and suspicious of any new ventures, they may find reassurance in sticking with what they know.
  • Deliberate Those in this category have high levels of calm self-confidence combined with caution. This type tends to be unusually calm, even in situations where most people would be prone to worry or panic. At times, they may 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 organised, compliant, and like to be fully informed about what is going on, they are unlikely to walk into anything unprepared.
  • Composed 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.
  • Adventurous 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.
  • Carefree 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 might leave them exposed to hasty decisions.

These risk types all come from an exciting new 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 others Risk Type, to work through possible solutions.

There is potential for risk in almost everything that 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.


Examine your risk type from the above list. Then think about an important relationship in your life; maybe a spouse, child, or business associate. Are you stuck anywhere in the relationship? Is the source of the stall because you each have a different approach to risk?

That One Leadership Thing...

This one thing is something we don’t think very often about, but stirs deep inside all of us. Our thoughts about this one thing are usually precipitated by a reflective question when we are deep in contemplative thought:

  • What am I doing here?
  • What value am I bringing?
  • What is next for me?
  • What impact have I had on those around me?

If we have a pulse, we can not help but consider this one leadership thing from time to time: Leadership Legacy.


One very common definition for a legacy is "something we are handing down to others." This "something" can be property, like when a great aunt leaves you a sum of money from her will. The "something" can be a tradition, like a student that attends the same school as a parent. In our context, this "something" is a value that makes life better for the benefactor.

Leadership Legacy

I want to think for a moment about what you are leaving to those who follow you.

My thought here is not around all of the great ideas and intentions you have. It is not about your quarterly, three-year, or five-year plan. It is not about the sleepless nights, or stress you are feeling in the moment.

Rather, it is about your impact. Not only your day to day impact but your overall impact as a leader.

The Question

What do you want you want to pass on to those who are in your sphere of influence?  What do you want to give them? What value do you want to impart to them?

Here is what I am sure about:

You will pass on something to your followers. You will. Intentional or not, they will remember you for something. You must choose whether you will intentionally pass on something of value, or leave your legacy to chance.

The Story

Nearly every morning I try to spend at least 30-minutes in reflection, Bible Study, and prayer. It is how I like to start my day. I feel more centered when I do this.

Sometimes I just study a chapter in the Bible by reading and meditating. Other times I use a study book. Currently, I am reading The Art of Living Well by Ken Boa and Gail Burnett. In the introduction of this book, Gail talks about when she was young and the worst thing the average teenager could do was to cheat on an exam. As she had children of her own, her self-proclaimed discipline focus was “the war on drugs." She did everything in her power to keep her kids from becoming involved in drugs. When her kids became adults she was really glad to know they did not get involved in drugs and equally shocked to discover they had been guilty of cheating at school from time to time.

The assumption Gail had made was that her kids would naturally pick up her ethical value against cheating. Similarly, as leaders we often assume that others in our organization must share the same fundamental truths and values.

What about YOU?

Is there anything in your leadership life that you are assuming the people in your organization just know? How intentional are you being about what kind of legacy you are leaving behind?


Sit for 30-minutes every day next week. Grab your Bible, or an inspirational book, and search your leadership life. Ask yourself what it is that you really want to pass on to your followers. What would it look like for you to be intentional about building your legacy around your values?

Leadership Tip of the Week

Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week’s blog, "How Emotional Intelligence Can Work for You."  


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!

When the Chips Are Down

Sometimes it feels like nothing is going your way.  Does that sound like you, at least some of the time? Let's examine your “self-talk” and see if there is some application to how you lead. Talk about a guy who always seemed to have things going against him. George Washington would be that guy in my eye.


I just finished reading a really good historical account of George Washington’s life during the Revolutionary War. It is called “Washington’s Revolution: The Making Of America’s First Leader” by Robert Middlekauff. If you like historical accounts of leaders, this is a good one. Middlekauff does a nice job of moving through Washington’s early life and his Revolutionary War experience with enough detail to give a picture of what was happening without the overwhelming feeling that some historians can give with granular minutia of every fact.

Uphill Battle and the Chips were down

I had forgotten what an uphill battle Washington fought to overcome the Brittish ground and naval forces. In addition to fighting the British, Washington was constantly battling the politicians in the states and in Congress, his own soldiers and officers, as well as the natural elements in the northeast.

Many times, it would have been so easy for him to just quit. Give up. Forget it. Say it was not worth it. But he never did. There was a burning inside of this leader to see the war through to the very end.

Of course, the Brittish represented the main occupying enemy in the leadership story of George Washington. He constantly battled a superior army and an even more imposing force with the British Navy. While we don’t have a good indication of Washington’s self-talk, he could have sounded like many of us:

  • The Brittish have a bigger Navy.
  • The Brittish have better-trained soldiers.
  • My first military campaign was a failure.
  • Congress won’t allocate a pension for my officers.
  • We just lost 3 battles in a row.
  • My guys can’t hold a line to save themselves.
  • Where are the French, anyway?
  • We are fighting without bullets, food, horses, coats, or shoes.

A Word of Caution for Leaders

As leaders, we have to be very careful how we talk to ourselves. The intimate little conversations that you have with yourself are called your explanatory style. In his psychological classic, Martin Seligman says there are two basic ways of looking at the world: with an Optimistic or Pessimistic Explanatory Style. According to Seligman, pessimists believe:

  • Bad events will last a long time
  • Bad events undermine everything they do
  • They are at fault for anything that goes wrong

A person with an Optimistic Explanatory Style, on the other hand:

  • Sees defeat as a temporary setback
  • Believes the reason for defeat is isolated in a single event
  • Understands that the setback is not their fault

Seligman says that these optimistic people “are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder."

This is exactly what I was experiencing as I read Middlekauff’s account of George Washington. No matter what circumstance, bad luck, untimely event, or even the French, Washington seemed unfazed.

5 R’s to Ridding Yourself of Negative Thinking

It isn’t doing you any good to dwell on the negative as a leader. Here is a process I work through when I feel the chips are down:

Step 1. Report the facts. Just write down the facts as you know them. No emotion. Just the facts. Example: We had a meeting at 10am and Jack did not show up.

Step 2. Recount the emotion. Now put the emotions you felt. All of them. Example: We had a meeting at 10am and Jack did not show up. This caused me to feel disrespected.

Step 3. Result of the emotion. What impact did the emotion have on you? Here is a template you can use, just fill in the blank for yourself: “Because (of this event) I felt (describe emotion). This cause me to (negative outcome). Example: Because (Jack was late for the meeting) I felt (disrespected). This caused me to think that no one ever has respected my time.

Step 4. Ruckus. The idea is to argue with yourself that the negative self talk is not in your best interest. The solution is to create a little chaos for yourself.  Template: “Because (of this event) I felt (describe emotion). This caused me to (negative outcome). Now argue with yourself. Example: Because (Jack was late for the meeting) I felt (disrespected). This caused me to think that none of my supervisors ever have respected my time. Why should Jack being late have anything to do with other people? Jack might be late because he has a lot of priorities. Jack’s being late does not mean that other people are always late for meetings with me.

Step 5. Refocus. Now you must get yourself out of this dread zone of negative thinking. It is time to have more optimistic self talk.  Template: “Because (of this event) I felt (describe emotion). This caused me to (negative outcome). Argue with yourself. Now create a new and positive reality. Example: Because (Jack was late for the meeting) I felt (disrespected). This caused me to think that none of my supervisors have ever respected my time. Why should Jack being late have anything to do with other people? Jack might be late because he has a lot of priorities. Jack’s being late does not mean that other people are always late for meetings with me. Jack is late because he has many priorities. I should talk with Jack about the priorities he has and where I fit into them.

I get the sense that it would have been really easy for George Washington to let negative self-talk get in his way. Yet it seems as though it is this characterisc of a positive explanatory style, optimism, and the belief that the end goal was worth the fight, that shaped his judgment and decision-making.

How about you? When the chips are down, how do you talk to yourself?


Here is your assignment:  Think about a time now or in the recent past where things are not going your way. Use the 5-Step process outlined above and see if you can turn your negative thinking into a positive explanatory style. If you have some success with this, I would love to hear about it. Please comment below and let us know how this worked out for you.


Why not click on this link and download my ebook, Optimistic Thinking? It is totally free and there are some other ideas that might resonate with you in addition to the 5 R’s. We promise not to spam you or sell your email….ever.



See you on Wednesday with our Leadership Tip of the Week,


7 Familiar Leadership Pitfalls That Coaching Can Help You Overcome

Many of the clients I am privileged to work with are in one of three places when it comes to leader development.

  • Some are just now entering the yearly planning stage of what development will look like for  the rest of 2015 and the first half of 2016.
  • Others have been in the cycle for two quarters and are in the midst of assessing progress.
  • Still others have no formal development plan, nor any accountability for development.

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, assessing the trajectory of the needed development is a valid metric.

Your process for assessing development is vital.


Accountability is important for any type of development plan.  If you do not have an anchor to hold you steady you are likely to be in a constant state of sway with your development. Here are seven reasons why organizations (or individuals) invest in coaching for the development of leaders. Which ones resonate most with you?

Why Organizations Invest In Coaching for Leader Development

  1. Top Talent: Coaching is often thought of as a “fix" for something the leader needs to change in order to be more successful in the organization. However, in medicine we know that a vaccine is a valuable investment to prevent diseases from occurring. The same is true in leader development. Why not identify top talent in your organization and prepare them for the next role instead of waiting for a mistake to occur?
  2. Core Leadership Values: According to Pamela McLean, PhD CEO at the Hudson Institute, “Too often we lock ourselves into the passions and values of our young adult years and burn them out during the middle.” I have seen this across the spectrum of my work in organizations. Examples range from pastors in churches who start their ministry with a zeal for the Lord and become conflicted when achievement or proving oneself becomes more prominent. This is true for engineers as well who are enamored by the science they love and the creativity it brings, only to have a clamoring for personal power and self-regard as they mature. A coach can be a valuable asset in assisting organizational leaders in sorting out and assimilating core leadership values.
  3. Individual Contributor to Leader: This is not an easy transition for anyone. Organizations who promote from within usually give people small assignments and then measure success. As the person proves they can do small tasks well, more responsibility is added. With continued success, leading a team becomes inevitable. This is a monumental shift in paradigm. Until this transition moment, the person's success has been measured by their own personal achievement. Now their accomplishments will be tracked based upon how they lead and inspire others. Some intentional coaching on what needs to transpire in the first 90 days of leadership (not management) is key to attaining this transformation.
  4. Leadership Presence: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center For Talent Innovation, says in her book Executive Presence that “no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant role, without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who is the real deal.” Many of the leaders I work with are experts in the fields of finance, engineering, information technology, ministry, and sales. Their industry success has given them tremendous credibility, but something is missing. Consider the sales leader who is so focused on driving sales that he misses other organizational priorities such as customer satisfaction in times of product outages. The poise to understand broader organizational issues is often an issue of a leader stepping outside of themselves and letting go of winning the battle to fight a better war. A coach can be extremely valuable in getting a leader to look around to see bigger issues and to provide context.
  5. Skills: Just because a leader has technical expertise in an area does not mean they have developed a full range of skills to be successful. Consider the person who has been rewarded consistently for having the best idea, who is now told by the organization that they need to show more empathy. Skills such as empathy are not easy to learn in the heat of the organizational battle. Leaders will default to what has made them successful in the past, and take their chances that the lack of skill is not a deficiency that will be career limiting. Coaches can help leaders develop valuable skills in the moment, resulting in changing needed behavior.
  6. Follower Relationship: At times it seems like some leaders are not connecting with followers. Many times they have connected well in the past, but something is amiss in the current role. Edgar Schein in his book Humble Inquiry says that “what is missing….is a climate in which lower-level employees feel safe to bring up issues that need to be addressed, information that would reduce the likelihood of accidents, and in healthcare, mistakes that harm patients.” Whether the leader is a micro-manager, leads by positional power, or even by raw intimidation, a coach is one who can expose this in an a zone of safety so that changes can be made to build a more trusting environment.
  7. Rapid Change: My good friend and colleague Joe Laipple, Ph.D., wrote a book I highly recommend called Rapid Change: Immediate Action for the Impatient Leader. His research and experience shows that when a need for change is recognized, we want it NOW! Joe says if you want rapid change you need to have brief but very frequent touch points with the agents of change. You can not identify rapid changes that are needed and then cover the topic at a monthly staff meeting. It just won’t work. Many of the clients I work with see the need for rapid change but are overwhelmed with the tyranny of the moment. A coach can provide focus, a constant reminder of the change that is needed, and the personal support and encouragement to make change happen at the necessary pace.
[reminder]Do these seven places fit your model for using a coach? Are there any other places where you see coaching would be valuable in your organization? Why not leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts on using coaching in your organization? [/reminder]

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Leadership Tip of the Week

Have you ever felt like you just needed to get away and think? If so, why not take a Personal Leadership Retreat? You can do it in about 4 hours, and I guarantee if you do it right you will come away from it with at least one of five things (maybe all five):

  • A feeling of being relaxed
  • A clear sense of purpose
  • A better idea of who you are as a leader
  • A new idea on how to solve a problem
  • A renewed motivation to achieve a goal

When you feel overwhelmed, tired, unfocused, or in a rut, there really is no substitute for getting away by yourself. Why not open your calendar right now, and before the end of this month block off 4 hours when you can get away?

In fact, here is an agenda you can follow that comes straight out of my “Minimalist Guide to a 4 hour Personal Leadership Retreat:"

Pre-work: Set ONE goal that you would like to accomplish at the end of the time.

8am - Arrive 8-9am - Bible Reading and Reflection 9-10am - Reflections on Leadership 10-11am - Nature Walk 11-11:45am - Leadership Issues that need to be resolved 11:45-noon - Final Reflection

For those of you who may need more structure, click here to download the step-by-step guide.

If you want some additional reasons to take a Personal Leadership Retreat, I have put together a short 2-minute video for you to watch.  You may view the video below.

If you do take a personal leadership retreat let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email.


PS. You might know someone who is in need of a personal leadership retreat. Why not forward the link to them? You may be the person they thank for helping them get unstuck.

Four 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.

Get out of your rut by trying one of the suggested methods of Rest, Reflection, Retreat, or Reprogram.

If I can be of any assistance to you along your leadership journey please let me know. I always give a free, no strings attached, 30-minute consultation if you are stuck and need help getting out of a rut.

Is Your Career at Risk for Derailing?

Is your career at risk for derailing? Not a question we like to think much about, however, it might be better to take a moment and examine the risk factors rather than stick your head in the sand and hope that it is not happening to you!


I was recently reading through my journals from my tenure at Eli Lilly and Company. To this day, I treasure and value my time there.

While reading and reflecting on what I had written, the question that is the title for this article popped into my mind. Was there ever a time that my career was at risk for derailing?

The question caused me pause because:

  • I worked hard
  • I was ethical
  • I was competent
  • I had received good and in some years outstanding performance reviews

Why would I ever need to think about my career coming off track when things seem so good?

No one likes to dwell on the negative. However, if there are early warning signs it is a good idea to pay attention to them.

Planning is much easier when things are going well rather than waiting to feel the stress when you are in trouble.

5 Reasons Careers Derail

In 2013, the Center for Executive Education published a list of five career derailers for leaders:

  1. Failure to Meet Business Objectives
  2. Inability to Change or Adapt During Transition
  3. Problems with Interpersonal Relationships
  4. Failure to Build and Lead a Team
  5. Failure to Make the Supervisors' or Organization's Priority a Priority of Theirs

This list is a post-mortem of the most popular reasons that careers have derailed. You do not want to be looking at this list and saying to yourself, "Yes, that is what happened to me. If I had only seen it coming so I could have done something about it."

This list describes why careers derail, but leaders need insight into how this happens.

Emotional Intelligence

From my own personal experience, and the experiences I have had over the last 10 years in working in the leader development space, a key common denominator is: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

A lack of Emotional Intelligence can be a derailer, and if used skillfully a possible antidote.

I have created a tool for reflection that will help you understand how a lack of emotional intelligence can be responsible for these common career derailers, and, as a result, prevent your career from derailing.

CLICK HERE for a free download.

I would love to know what you think of this chart. Do you feel like it is accurate in your organization? Would you add any derailers to this list? Have you noticed any antidotes or development ideas that you would be willing to share with others? If so please let us know by commenting on the blog below.

If you feel like your career is derailing and you want some help thinking it through, I would be happy to help you. As a part of my leadership coaching, I offer a free 30-minute consultation.

For more information email me at Scott@DrScottLivingston.com.

The Single Most Important Factor in Leadership

Ok, so I know the title of this article may be a bit provocative and could set off a firestorm with some of my executive coaching colleagues and those who hold leader development close to their heart. Others of you may just not be wired to think in a way that this article is going to take you.

However, when I started this blog I told myself (and now am declaring it to you) that I would be true to two principles:

First, the leadership literature. I want to have my thoughts on leadership firmly grounded in what the research shows effective leadership to be based upon.

Second was to be true to what I believe. When I was launching the blog one of my coaching clients actually gave me this advice: “Scott just tell me what you think, this is what will compel me to read."

So before I tell you what I believe is the single most important factor in leadership...

How would you answer that question for yourself?

Go ahead and think for a moment. Write your response down.

Now let's compare ideas...

Click here to watch my video blog, or here to read the transcript.


This morning I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Microsoft is growing into middle age. Since I am there too, and the article was titled “New Tricks for an Aging Microsoft”, I thought it was worth my time to give it a glance. As I was glancing over the column the thing that stuck out to me is that Satya Nadella’s point of emphasis for the 40 year old company is productivity. tEREUy1vSfuSu8LzTop3_IMG_2538

I began thinking about my own productivity. How am I doing? I shifted immediately to my calendar and looked at all the phone coaching appointments I had today and thought, “Whew! I am busy!” But then it hit me that I have coached other leaders before on falling into the trap of being busy and not being strategic. Had I fallen into the same trap by looking at my calendar or my routine tasks and not being productive? The answer was a firm and resounding yes. So while what I have on my calendar is tactically important today, most of the tasks are not helping me become a better leader by investing in those who read this blog to become better leaders.

I am not demeaning the important work you have to do today. Some of the routine tasks and meetings you have with those in your sphere of influence are really important and need to be implemented. That said, are you leaving any time in your busy schedule to develop yourself or those on your team or in your organization to become more productive leaders? Are you encouraging them in the art of “Leadertivity”?

[Tweet "Are you leaving time in your schedule to develop yourself to become a more productive leader?"]

I went to Dictionary.com and looked up the word Leadertivity. You guessed it, the word is not there. But I had to chuckle because the suggestion that the website provided said, “Did you mean Leadfoot?” I clicked on it and the definition is “a person who drives a motor vehicle too fast, especially habitually”.

When I was thinking about Leadertivity, driving a car was not what I was thinking. However, it seemed there is a parallel. The question I had for myself is “am I habitually investing in the productivity of leaders? Am I creating or enhancing value in myself or in others on a regular basis so that my organization and the organizations I serve are in a better place to face their future and make their vision happen?” That is Leadertivity.

[Tweet "Leadertivity: creating or enhancing value in myself or in others on a regular basis."]

What are you going to do today to invest in yourself as a leader? Perhaps you could offer some encouragement to a young person showing promise. Maybe there is a difficult choice you have to make and sitting down and writing what you think and how you feel could offer you some clarity. Or maybe there is a relationship that seems out of whack and you need to search your personality to see if there is a change you need to make in your approach. Whatever it is for you, invest in Leadertivity today.

[reminder]How are you creating or enhancing value in yourself or in others on a regular basis so that your organization is better equipped to meet its future?[/reminder]