Running on Empty

Strategies to Beat Back Burnout

Jul 27

Running on EmptyOne glance at your calendar tells you it’s another day crammed full of an endless stream of virtual meetings, emails to answer and deadlines to meet. At the end of a long day you walk away not feeling a sense of accomplishment but weary, worn out and cynical.

Burnout isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s a raging wildfire that engulfs more of us in its burn circle every day. The relentless pace at which the world around us demands we push ourselves is unsustainable. You know that as well as I do.

What you might not know is that mitigating burnout isn’t an individual responsibility alone.

Research shows that situational factors are the biggest contributors to burnout, therefore the organizations we work for and the people we work with have a substantial role to play in helping restore the purpose, joy and harmony in our professional and personal life.

Beating back burnout demands we all think differently about how and what we do each and every day. Here are some things that people, leaders and organizations can do:

Find Harmony not Balance

 Balance isn’t what people need – people need harmony. Limit exposure to tasks, people and situations that impede one’s ability to create harmony.  Look for ways that create contentment in the key areas of their lives including work.

Know Where the Edge Is

High-levels of stress not only come from doing something we don’t like – it also comes from doing something we value. Notice where the edge is for yourself and others: that line between high energy engagement and pre-burnout. Use strategic pauses, opportunities to reset expectations and leverage flexible working styles to keep everyone from falling into the abyss.

Mindfulness = Culture

The advantages of being mindful are well-known. Make mindfulness a constant in your culture. Learn, share and consistently practice the behaviors that support detaching from stressful moments to reinvigorate and re-center for what lies ahead. Resolve to respect each others’ time, don’t book into open spaces on calendars automatically, don’t email in the evening or early morning hours and take time away and ensure others do too.

Mentor, Coach and Befriend Others

Hire and promote the best people – make building rich interpersonal relationships part of their non-negotiable skill set. When mutual support and advocacy are the norm people seek out opportunities to mentor, coach and befriend others. They share the highs and the lows which limits any one individual’s march toward burnout.

Consistent practice of the above strategies is essential to quelling the wildfire of burnout. Do them regularly – including when you don’t think you have the time, energy or patience to do it – not running away from the challenge will bring great reward in the long run.

Let me know your thoughts and best ideas for stopping or recovering from burnout in the comments below.

What is it that Leaders at the Top Know That You Don’t?

4 Steps to Being More Decisive

Mar 30

What is it that Leaders at the Top Know that You Don’tThis year, you’ll make hundreds of great decisions and, what if I told you that making great decisions all the time isn’t good enough to make you highly successful?

Yes, you heard me correctly: making great decisions all the time won’t take you to the top nor will it help you thrive once you get there.

What is it that leaders at the top know that you don’t?

They know that making decisions earlier, quicker and with greater conviction even amid ambiguity and with incomplete information is the key to their success.

Here’s how to become a leader who decides with speed and conviction and fuel your rise to the top.

Stay in Your Lane

Don’t feel compelled to make every decision that comes your way. Only make those where you can most impact the outcome. Delegate the rest to others and trust their judgment. Staying in your lane frees you up to make fewer and more important decisions.

Know When It’s Reversible and Not

Ask yourself two pivotal questions: What’s the impact if I get this wrong? and how much will it hold up if I don’t decide quickly on this? Knowing which decisions are reversible and which ones aren’t helps you push those that are reversible lower down in the organization so that important information emerges without causing irreparable harm.

Your Judgement is Definitive

Build a group of trusted advisers and go to them for unvarnished opinions and sound judgment. Tell others from the outset that you plan to weigh all perspectives and ultimately, you’ll decide what in your judgement is the best way forward. Let others know that when you decide you expect them to be on board even if it isn’t what they’d have chosen.

A Wrong Decisions is Better Than No Decision

Don’t pursue the perfect answer; it takes too long and creates a bottleneck that frustrates those around you. Understand that most decisions can be undone so making a wrong decision is often better than pursuing a perfect solution or not deciding. Just be sure to course correct quickly.

Let go of the expectation that you have to make great decisions all the time and trust in your ability to be decisive and agile enough to learn from your mistakes.

6 Simple Changes You Can Make Today to Crush Your Next Virtual Meeting

You know you need to turn things around but you don’t know where to start.

Jan 12

6 Simple Change You Can Make Today to Crush Your Next Virtual MeetingYou’re a powerful, confident and influential leader able to impact strategy and build strong relationships – that is until the past few months. Now you struggle to have the same level of impact you did in person in a virtual environment. You know you need to turn things around but you don’t know where to start.

You’re not alone. Many of the leaders I work with, as an executive coach, are trying to figure out exactly what they need to change to have the level of impact and influence in a virtual environment that they had in person.

The good news – it isn’t difficult to get your mojo back. Here are 6 simple changes you can make today to crush your next virtual meeting.

Read the Room Differently

Virtual platforms help us connect with others but make reading nonverbal cues difficult. Reading the room differently starts well before the meeting begins and ends after it is over. Learn as much as you possibly can about peoples’ concerns, patterns and what motivates them to take action so that you craft your presentation to take advantage of what connects with them.

Use Your Tech to Connect in the Moment

Select a video platform that allows a high degree of engagement with the audience and know how to use those tools. Tools like polls, whiteboards, emojis, thumbs up or down keep people interested and give you in the moment feedback about the resonance of the material you’re presenting.

Give Them a Heads Up About Their Role

You can’t expect people to fully engage when they can’t clearly identify their role or what you expect of them. A heads-up from you before the meeting sets a common focus, ensures people won’t sit on the sidelines and helps them recognize they have a role to play in the meeting’s success.

Keep it Strategic and Simple

The distractions are endless in virtual environments so it is important to keep your presentation strategic, simple and then be silent while you wait for answers to your questions. It takes longer for people in a virtual environment to digest and respond so active listening and asking follow-up questions is critical to the success of your meeting in a virtual setting.

Nonverbals Still Matter

Instead of attempting to read everyone’s nonverbal signals, which is impossible, choose a couple of key participants and focus your attention on them. This narrower focus exposes you to real time feedback about how things are going so you adapt as you need to.

What you do After Is Important

As important as it is to give people a heads-up before the meeting it is equally important to ask for feedback from a few trusted people after the meeting. Recording the meeting and watching it back from a participant’s perspective gives you insight into what worked and could work better the next time.

Virtual meetings aren’t going away anytime soon so if you want to crush your next virtual meeting tap into the strategies above. I look forward to hearing from you about what happens.


Not Enough Time?

A 4-Step Guide to Help You Spend it Wisely

Oct 16

Not Enough Time?Are you one of the many people on the road of endless busyness? If the answer is yes, I want you to listen carefully to what I’m going to say next – only you control your time and you don’t have to live like that anymore!

Here’s a 4-step guide to pare-down where and how you spend your time so you get the most bang for the buck.

1) Think About Time Differently

Time is a limited resource. Take an inventory of how you spend it each day. Then look at the allocation and see if it reflects the tasks that have the most impact on the achievement of your goals.

2) ReAlign Your To-Do List

Use the information you learn from step one to realign and organize your to-do list. Prioritize each item by the amount of effort required and the impact that completing that task has on your ultimate goal. Outsource to others anything that takes up a lot of time and has little impact on your goal.

3) Make Sure Your Tech Helps Not Hurts

Technology is great when it helps you to do things more efficiently. It can also be a major source of distraction and stress. Do an inventory of your tech – make some conscious decisions about whether it improves your efficiency or really saves you time. Kick to the curb anything that is a time waster.

4) Don’t Blindly Add Tasks to the List

Monitor how you’re spending your time on the items on the list. Adapt in real-time to emerging situations. Clarify what is expected of you, decide if what is being asked has impact for you and re-prioritize activities as your needs and the impact of a task dictate.

Here’s to taking back your life and enjoying how you spend your time. I’d love to hear how these steps work for you and any tips you have in the comments below.


5 Strategies to Get Comfortable Living with Discomfort in Uncertain Times

Mar 19

Discomfort in Uncertain TimesYou can’t turn on the TV or talk with someone that the topic of coronavirus doesn’t come up and that’s to be expected – it’s on all of our minds.

The intensity of the uncertainty we share about our health, livelihood, and future kicked our brain’s state of emotional arousal up a few hundred notches. Our collective brain is screaming at us to narrow our focus, engage in short-term fixes and safety-seeking behaviors like locking down cites and emptying grocery stores.

Intuitively and experientially we know the human brain is automatically drawn to the worst case scenarios, often inaccurately. The constant updates don’t calm our collective anxiety and fear they prime the pump for the cycle to intensify.

What will work then?

Learning how to be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings.

There are 5 things you can do today that will put you in a better position to refocus your mind and build your emotional resilience.

Get Comfortable with Discomfort
Getting comfortable with discomfort helps break your fear response cycle and frees your mind up to see other things that are equally or more important to your survival. Acknowledge you’re having an automatic emotional response to unfamiliar, scary and life altering situations. Lean into the discomfort you’re feeling rather than expending energy avoiding it. You can do this by first thinking about what you fear will happen. Then quickly force yourself to think about what you want to happen and then shift to what is most likely to happen. Once you’ve arrived at what most likely will happen, develop a plan for what most likely will happen.

Tune Down the Intensity
Too much information can gunk up our thinking. Seeing beyond the noise means immersing yourself in pursuits that aren’t related to solving the current challenge 24/7. Choose how long you’ll spend each day watching the news, talking about it with others or just thinking about it. Set that limit and stick to it. Stepping back from all the noise means you won’t seize and freeze in these changing times.

Don’t Blindly Trust Your Gut
Trusting your gut instincts works well when time is of the essence, when the challenge is both complex and not clearly defined or when there is too little or too much information. But your intuition isn’t infallible – intuitions aren’t truths. Test your intuitions and rule out bias, fear driven action and thinking too fast. Solve for what is likely to happen by taking some practical steps that are completely under your control.

Break the Spell of Conformity
Respectfully raise relevant objections or scenarios that uncover and improve the strategy under consideration. You’re not the enemy when you do this rather you help yourself and others avoid magnifying the problem beyond what it is, and rushing to conclusions that give undue weight to what may have worked well before.

Make it Safe to Think Counterintuitively
We all have a responsibility, especially those in leadership roles, to make it safe for people to think and experiment with counterintuitive solutions, take intelligent risks, report and adapt to failures quickly and ask smart questions. Letting go of needing to be right, to be the one who acted first and blame unleash the vast potential of our collective mind to solve the challenge together.

Our shared willingness to experiment with these strategies helps us be comfortable with the discomfort that uncertainty brings and helps us to see a wider field of potential solutions.

I’d love your best ideas for leading yourself and others in times of uncertainty.

Stay well, lean in and we’ll emerge even stronger together,

Accountability Doesn’t Just Happen by Chance – It Starts With You

Don’t Settle. Tackle the Tough Stuff. Express Optimism. Be Trend Savvy.

Mar 04

People MeetingWhat’s the best way to hold my team accountable to their commitments?
It’s a question the leaders and executives I work with often ask.

Accountability doesn’t happen just by chance – it has to be something you know how to create.

You define the culture of accountability and it isn’t a one-time thing. When you demonstrate the strategic follow-through and initiative it takes to achieve tangible success you help your team understand they’re accountable to an outcome not just the set of tasks along the way.

Here are 5 critical behaviors to help you increase accountability levels among your team members:

Don’t Settle for Good Enough
Challenge the people you work with and for to set their sights higher. Focus on achieving what others think is improbable, it will help all of you to take the risks necessary to succeed, come up with creative solutions, and move beyond roadblocks.

Tackle the Tough Stuff
Make difficult decisions and tackle the tough stuff upfront. Be the one who clears the obstacles and focuses your team’s attention on accomplishing the tasks at hand rather than putting out fires. Walk the talk if you want others to follow you down the accountability road.

Share How Vital They Are
Communicate how their contributions are vital to the success of the outcome and the organization. Make the task meaningful to them and reward success and failing fast. When you acknowledge these behaviors you increase the level of buy-in needed for others to hold themselves accountable for the shared outcomes.

Express Optimism
Optimism is contagious. Share your optimism about the future, and your team’s ability to fail fast and adapt. If you can’t be optimistic and show it – they’ll never be.

Be Trend Savvy
If you want others to take ownership you need to do it first. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Be trend savvy about the business climate and how organizational culture impacts success. Proactively identify the threats and risks, alert others and take quick action.

Creating a culture of accountability starts with you and it isn’t a once and done activity. Accountability feeds success and help others own shared the shared outcomes in ways that accelerate success for all.

Leading is Hard, Becoming Legendary is Even Harder

Here’s what it takes to exert the level of influence that will give legendary status as a leader

Jan 13

Iron Man Sometimes, an unknown leader comes out of nowhere and captures the world’s interest for a few years, only to disappear and never be heard from again. And then there are leaders who become legends.

“A one-hit wonder is a legend who stopped early,” according to marketing whiz Seth Godin. Legendary leaders are relentless in the pursuit of success, even in their not-so-stellar moments. However, they do much more than that: they redefine the leadership role for themselves.

Here’s what it takes to exert the level of influence that will give legendary status as a leader:

Face Problems Head-On

Legendary leaders strip fear of its power by confronting all problems directly. In the absence of fear, people see roadblocks as opportunities and as challenges to be solved. This leads to collaboration, creativity, thought-provoking work – and, often, accomplishing the inconceivable.

There’s Always a Way Forward

In challenging times, legendary leaders know that there’s always a way forward. Pushing boundaries and untethering themselves from conventional wisdom is what alters their trajectory and creates the next compelling vision that guides them forward.

The Fastest Route Isn’t Best

Opt not to chart every point from start to finish on the roadmap to becoming a legendary leader. A quick arrival can be a short-term boost to your ego and your reputation, but can also rob you of the of the texture, learning, and insights that a less direct route offers. Legends don’t settle for the immediate signs that others would notice as success—like a fancy title and a big office at a prestigious company — but rather opt for experiences that serve them better in the long run.

Exude Optimism

Legends know that when tough situations arise, they’re merely blips on the radar. A hopeful but realistic approach gets them over the momentary setback – they exude optimism. Grounded in the real world, they don’t overlook the cost of failure, nor do they let it become overwhelming. With newfound knowledge, they end every situation on a high note.

A Holiday Wish For You!

Dec 20

Christmas Ornaments Happy Holidays! My wish for every one of you is that the upcoming holidays are filled with joy and fun times with family and friends.

As this year draws to a close I hope all of you, as you take the time to reflect on your journey this year, have as many reasons to be grateful as I do.

I’m grateful that you read my blog and share your insights with me. I’m thankful for all the new people I’ve met this year and the journey we’ve taken together. I’m looking forward to seeing all that you accomplish in 2020!

Wishing you all the best for the upcoming year!


Achieve More, Think Bigger

How to stay competitive in a dynamic world

Sep 10

Achieve More, Think Bigger “You’ve got to do more to keep us competitive!” It’s frustrating for a leader to hear this feedback, because it so rarely is accompanied by any concrete direction about how to accomplish it.

For many leaders, staying competitive means creating a vision that will withstand the headwinds of a business climate that is fraught with daily disruptions.

The smartest leaders know it isn’t doing more that keeps them competitive– it’s thinking more.

 When you think more you can achieve more, because you can spot the needs of your customers before they’re even aware of those needs themselves.  As the trendsetter you ride the tailwinds, creating and achieving more than you ever imagined possible.

Want to learn how to think bigger and achieve more?  Here’s what you need to know:

Check Your Arrogance at the Door

Don’t allow your expertise to turn into arrogance.  Expertise can blind you to factors that are beyond the scope of your considerable knowledge and experience. To think bigger, translate your expertise across industries and sit in the mindset of your clients.  A discovery mindset lets you perceive the subtle needs of your clients that they don’t yet even know they have.

Embrace the Outrageous

Don’t readily dismiss implausible or outrageous ideas that your team comes up with. Often the most insane ideas hold the most promise for disrupting an industry. Uncovering a need that your customers don’t know they have starts with thinking about what is impossible, and then making it possible.

Everyone Needs to Risk Something

Everyone on the team needs to have something at risk so they are fully invested in the outcome.  Having something to lose changes how you approach and make decisions.  Having skin in the game makes you the architect. You’re not simply executing someone else’s plan – you’re all in.

Make the Most of Adversity

Adversity is inevitable. Make the most of it when it happens, or deliberately turn a situation on its head when things are going too smoothly. Don’t fear making an unpopular decision or taking a position that goes against everyone else in the room.  Being a consensus builder isn’t a strategy for innovation.  When there is adversity, your ability to deliver a well-thought-out counterargument can spur creativity.

Be Still

When the time is right, clear the decks and your calendar and just spend some time being quiet.  Amid all the noise, data, and discussion it can be hard to hear yourself think. Find a quiet place where you can reflect in silence.  Creating time to think stems the urge to make a snap decision that feeds your need for instant gratification. Being still can be challenging, yet it is essential for developing the clarity that’s necessary to see the next new trend.

When you’re bold enough to think more, you’ll achieve more and be able to weather the storms when they come.  What can you do today to think more?

Getting Lost in Translation

How to get everyone on board with your vision

May 07

Getting Lost in Translation Do you remember playing the game of telephone as a kid? You and your friends whispered a saying one to another, hoping that when it reached the last person it would be the same phrase that was shared by the first kid. But the sentence would always become hopelessly mangled, leaving everyone laughing.

It was hilarious then. Today, it’s sobering to realize how quickly your message as a leader can get lost in translation when it’s shared across your team or through your organization.

Your vision’s meaning can go astray in subtle ways.  Meaning derives from the perceptions of the listener and is therefore subjective.  When each listener shares your message with others, it may become more and more distorted as it gets mixed up with the misunderstandings of each person along the way.

Unlike the kids’ game of telephone, the more your vision gets muddied the graver the consequences for your organization and for you as its leader.

Getting your vision out with clarity is something every leader grapples with.  As you develop a message that all will comprehend, always remember that understanding lies in the ear of the listener.

Add these tools to your skill set to save your vision from getting lost in translation:

Filter It First

Remove all extraneous details from your message.  Remember that what you remove is as important as what remains.  Evaluate and refine what is left so that it is an unambiguous statement of your intended goal, the work needed to get there, and how you’ll track progress and measure success.

Tear Down the Walls

When you want to inspire others, it’s counter-intuitive to think about the misunderstandings that could block you from the goal.  It is hard to admit that success might not be achieved. Yet if you don’t tear down the wall of fear and talk about the challenges and difficult moments ahead, others won’t either. Break the ice to make it easier for everyone to admit when something isn’t working in the future.

Elevate the Intangibles

Focus more on the worthwhile, positive aspects of the process you are about to undertake, rather than on concrete rewards like bonuses or pay. When people have clarity about your expectations and a clear goal like elevating their skills in mind, they are better equipped to be resilient and to keep the essence of your vision as their focus. Persuade them to buy in to the big-picture benefits for the organization, your customers, and society.

Frame It for All

Ultimately, it is your obligation to discover the subjectivity of your audience. Pinpoint everything they need to know about your vision so that they can to act on it.

It isn’t easy to make your vision less subjective. In the end, though, doing so means that those who hear and understand your concept will know when something isn’t aligning with it and will quickly move to fix it.