leadership development

How Would You Answer This Great Question?

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

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


A First For Me

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

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

My Response

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

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

Here's how I responded...

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

She agreed, so I continued...

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

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

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

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

What About You?

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

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

What Is Your One Thing to Change?

My family loves to play games, and we have found a new one that everyone can play called Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride is a fast pasted game where you try to connect cities by building railroad routes. What I love about the game is its underlying premise. When it is your turn, you can do one thing and one thing only. You can:

  • Draw train cards
  • Draw route cards
  • Lay down trains
  • Discard route cards

The winner is the one who has a firm strategy to connect their cities with train routes, then implements this strategy by doing the best “next one thing." The ultimate goal is to gain the most number of points by completing route cards and trying to get a bonus for being the player with the longest train.

It is Nine Arch Bridge near Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

Sometimes it is in your best interest to draw train cards and sometimes you find yourself wondering if you should “waste” a turn by discarding a route card, which will count against your point total if you do not complete the route.

I receive no commercial endorsement from the publishers of the game, but if you are looking to build some family time this is an excellent game to do it, as long as the kids can tell colors and read cities they can probably play. (I will leave it up to your family culture as to what level of competition the game should take with young kids).

Application to Leadership

I love the idea of thinking about leadership as a game. Games change all the time. Different players have different strategies that constantly have an impact on your strategy and implementation.

With games in mind, I really like the Ticket to Ride approach of focusing on the "one thing" you will do that will make the most impact and be the most strategic that moment. What would be that one thing, one move, or one change? Let me give you an example of what I mean by telling you Bobbie's story.

Bobbie was a participant in a recent Emotional Intelligence 360 training program I facilitated.

In this program, Bobbie received feedback from

  • Her manager
  • 4 of her peers
  • 3 of her direct reports
  • 4 vendor partners she works with on a regular basis
  • 4 family members

Bobbie's feedback was centered around the Bar-On EQi 2.0, which is a trait assessment of emotional intelligence with 5 structured domains, each with three sub-competencies. (Domain: Sub-Competency)

  1. Self-Perception: Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, Emotional Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Expression: Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Independence
  3. Interpersonal: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility
  4. Decision Making: Impulse Control, Reality Testing, Problem-Solving
  5. Stress Management: Optimism, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility

Here are the major takeaways from Bobbie's assessment:

  • Her strength was her interpersonal relationships and the level of empathy she shows.
  • She rated her level of self-regard much lower than her manager or her peers did.
  • The rating she gave herself showed that her self-regard was much higher than her assertiveness.
  • Everyone, including herself and her family, rated optimism as her lowest competency.
  • Her level of stress tolerance was significantly below where most leaders are, which is putting her at risk for derailing as a leader.

What To Do

Like most people who get any kind of 360 feedback, a feeling of being overwhelmed quickly came over Bobbie. In our one on one debrief of her assessment, she lamented what most do when trying to digest 360 feedback, “I don’t even know where to begin!"

This is a very common feeling when a leader is faced with feedback. Many times this feedback can be paralyzing, and not knowing what to change the leader will just “freeze” on the development and default to doing what they always do.

I said to Bobbie, who was pouring over the pages in her report trying to make sense of it all, “Let's put the report aside for a moment. Take a deep breath….and another one…and another one...let's just breathe for a minute and relax our minds."

As we did this, a sense of calm came over the room. Bobbie relaxed. (I even relaxed!)

I then asked her, “From all the feedback you received, what is the one thing your heart is telling you that needs to change?"

Why the Question

This becomes the fundamental question for leaders who get feedback and want to develop. What is your next step? What skill do you need to enhance or develop or initiate? How do you need to balance Emotional Intelligence competencies like self-regard and assertiveness?

Finding the one thing out of the myriad of options can bring a settling calm and a real peace about being able to achieve the objective.

In their book on change, It Starts With One, Black and Gregersen make the case that the individual must SEE the change before the change can ever happen.

Way too many people who get feedback never process what the feedback is saying or take the time to SEE it. They move right into action and never really embrace the change.

Do you know what your “one thing” is to move on in your leader development plan?

Note to my family: Look out! I have my Ticked to Ride strategy in place and plan on winning this weekend.


What is the “one thing” you are working on in your development? Have you taken the time to process and SEE the change you need to make? Are you actively working on intentionally developing yourself as a leader? Change is intentional and it takes one step at a time to win the game.

*If you want to know more about doing an EQi 360 feedback in your organization, or you want to do one for yourself, click here for more information and contact us today! 

Who Else Wants to Develop as a Leader?

As I sit and write this article, the day is August 11, 2016. My beautiful wife Kim and I celebrate 32 years of marriage today. I cannot tell you all the joy that this relationship has brought me over the years. Which is why, when we were having coffee this morning, gazing into each other's eyes (well, maybe it was more like a stare waiting for the coffee to kick in…no, no I am sure it was gazing) Kim asked me a most curious question:

“When we got married, do you think we were best friends?”

2016-08-11 13-01-page-001

Those of you with any skill in the art of marital conversation will quickly realize the trap I was in. To say yes would potentially mean we were better friends then than now. To answer no would potentially mean we had not quite reached that “best friend” level but married anyway.

So, like any skilled married person, I said, “Tell me more about what you are thinking." She said, “Well..." and I breathed a sigh of relief that we were going to unpack this discussion together. Kim continued, “I mean, we are such good friends now. I know we were friends, and probably best friends, but there is no way we were as good of friends then as we are now.” Then she provided the wisdom,

“We have grown so much!"

Ah, yes. We have grown so much.

The Growth

The growth that Kim and I have experienced in our marriage is two-fold from my perspective.

First, we have grown as individuals. Each of us have different interests and callings. These differences in skills and abilities need to be honed, nurtured, and grown. Second, our relationship as a married couple has grown. Over the years we have made emotional and social deposits in our relationship accounts, building up equity and assets we can rely on that help to strengthen the trust we have in each other. This networking back and forth in the relationship relies heavily on the use of interpersonal skills and competencies such as mutual respect and empathy.

In a healthy and vibrant marriage you have to grow as an individual and the relationship has to grow as well. Both are important.  You certainly cannot focus on individual growth only. If you are only growing as individuals, the relationship will suffer. You will focus on yourself and your needs and the relationship will suffer. By the same token, you can not solely focus on the relationship, stifling individual growth and personal achievement.

Bridge to Leadership

Ok, so I know most of you read this for some perspective on leadership and not marriage relationships. Here is the point, in development, leadership is a lot like marriage. You have to focus on yourself as a leader as well as on your leadership.

Leader Development Is Distinguishable from Leadership Development

Leader development focuses on the skills, talents, knowledge, and abilities of the individual person. This can be in the form of formal courses where the leader does analysis and self-reflection. Courses on personality, such as the Pearman Personality Integrator, Myers-Briggs, or DiSC are examples. Training in emotional intelligence using an assessment like the EQi-2.0 is another example of leader development. There is knowledge of self that is then put to use inside the organization. Learning in the area of core values, or important skills like marketing or sales, are also part of the leader development domain.

Leadership development has more of an emphasis on building social capital, networking, and the interpersonal skills such as reciprocity and trustworthiness. Leadership from a social capital sense builds upon the work of Robert Putnam who gave three reasons why social capital is important:

  • Social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems. People are better off when they cooperate.
  • When people trust each other they are more likely to interact more often and better with each other. As a result, everyday business and social transactions become less costly.
  • Understanding in the end that our fates are linked.

Leader development is key. It is clear. It is usually what most of us think about when we think of leadership development.

My premise is that we need to work on both, and what gets left out of the mix is our work in actual leadership development.

Think about your organization. Maybe you are in an HR, Training, or Functional leadership position. Whatever your organizational role, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What kind of environment am I fostering that allows leaders to solve collective problems? How are we rewarding and recognizing cooperation over individual achievement?
  2. How are we setting up our work environments and meetings so that they happen more frequently and better? It isn’t the frequency of your meetings that is the problem, it is the quality. Social Capital Theory would say that the more people are together and the better they are together this is what drives costs down.
  3. Do your leaders understand that their fates are linked? Are their reward and recognition systems linked? Do sales and marketing share goals? Have you done disaster scenarios around the possibility that your vision is not realized?

Too many times in the leadership development space, we focus solely on the leader and not really on leadership.

Success in marriage requires both focusing on developing the individual and the relationship. I would argue that success in the organization requires developing the leader and leadership.

Hey Kim, sign me up for another 32 years. Happy Anniversary!


Do the 3 question assessment of your organization above. Have the discussion with leaders on your team. What do you need to do in your organization to both improve your leader and your leadership abilities?

Here is to wishing you many happy anniversaries leading your organization!

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.

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

Stop Making More Work for Yourself

We are all busy. Have you ever met someone who is not busy? Ask the next person you meet “Hey, how are things going?” My guess is you will get some derivation of “I am so busy” as a reply.

One of the reasons we are so busy is we have to go back and correct mistakes.

As I reflected on the Monday morning blog I realized that if we just thought a little more about what the other person needs in a coaching relationship, perhaps we would not have to work so hard. (If you haven’t seen the blog you can check it out here.). Since coaching is really about learning and self-discovery, why not incorporate adult learning principles into the coaching you do in your organization?

Test Your Coaching

Here is a quick test for you to see if your coaching is aligned with how adults learn.

Write down the name of a person you coach and answer the following questions:

1. Adults Are Self-Directed How did you encourage the person being coached to describe the path to get to the goal or outcome?

2. Adults Are Goal-Oriented How did you allow the person being coached to set the goal for themselves?

3. Adults Use Life Experiences in Learning How did you use past experiences to take the person you were coaching to higher levels of performance?

4. Adults Need Learning to Be Relevant to Real-Life Issues How did you avoid personal preference and link the coaching to a relevant issue for the person being coached?

5. Adult Learning Must Be Practical to Their Life How were you able to move from the theoretical (what needs to be done) to the prudent (how they are going to do it)?

6. Adult Learning Is Intrinsically Motivated How were you able to motivate the person being coached by improving their self-esteem or quality of life?

7. Adults Must Feel Safe If They Are to Learn and Grow How were you able to create a safe learning environment for the coaching to take place?

Now that you have evaluated yourself on linking your coaching to solid adult learning principles, why not invest in others and share your learning? Please leave a comment below on how you were able to do this, or maybe something you learned as you evaluated your own coaching. One of my goals is to create a leadership community where we all can learn and share together.

See you Monday, Scott

PS. You will want to be sure and see next week's Monday blog. One of the things in my personal development that I am working on is being more transparent as a leader. So, I am going to share with you why I am scared to death right now. You won’t want to miss it. In fact, you may want to make sure others in your organization are signed up to get the email notices of the blog because I think the reason I am scared really scares a lot of us.