Kick Conventional Wisdom to the Curb

A guide for figuring out - what’s next for ourselves, our team and the organization we work for

Feb 23

Kick Conventional Wisdom to the CurbThe disruption and chaos of the past two years challenged leaders and organizations, rendering them more reactive than proactive. If you’re like the leaders I work with, you’ve asked yourself hundreds of times: When will we get back to normal?

I’ll share with you what I share with them.

Returning to normal, whatever that was, isn’t possible. Thinking about how to do that isn’t the right strategy. Acknowledging the world fundamentally changed and figuring out how to defy conventional wisdom and create better ways of doing things is.

Thinking differently in times of uncertainty means learning fast, analyzing problems you’ve never encountered before and seizing opportunities you haven’t thought about before.

Here are some suggestions to help you do just that:

Don’t Rush Back
Rushing back to what was simply because of an artificial timeline isn’t a recipe for success. Resist the pressure to run quickly toward what is safe and predictable. Give yourself and those around you time to really get ready for the new world that awaits you.

Kick Conventional Wisdom to the Curb
Encourage yourself and others to ask the hard questions about what was and wasn’t working for you as a person, a team and an organization. Learn from experts outside your industry to generate better and more innovative ideas as you design what the future will look like for you professionally and the organization as a whole.

Value Steady Progress
Don’t become frustrated when things aren’t moving as quickly as you think they should. Celebrate small wins and steadily build on success. You and those around you will meet your long-term goals more quickly if you view progress incrementally.

Encourage Patience and Perseverance
Remember, everyone is still struggling to come out on the other side of this. Not everyone will emerge at the same pace. Encourage everyone to have patience and compassion for themselves and others. Perseverance and patience are the keys to coming back together stronger and motivated to achieve new things together.

As we return to what one day we’ll all consider normal, we have a rare opportunity to find out who we are now and what works and doesn’t in this world, we now find ourselves in. We are forever changed as a result of this experience, and if we seize the moment, we’ll return more inspired and ready for whatever lies ahead.

4 Steps to Better Decisions

What Leaders at the Top Know

Mar 30

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

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

What leaders at the top know that you don’t?
They know that making decisions earlier, quicker and with greater conviction, even amid ambiguity and incomplete information, is the key to their success.

Here’s how to become a leader who decides with speed and conviction and fuels 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 critical 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 helping 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 judgment, 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 Decision 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 it 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.

Accountability Doesn’t Just Happen

It Starts With You

Mar 04

AccountabilityWhat’s the best way to hold my team accountable for 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 for an outcome, not just the set of tasks along the way.

Here are five 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 set their sights higher. Focus on achieving what others think is improbable; it will help you take 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 up front. 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 failure 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 must 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; it isn’t a once-and-done activity. Accountability feeds success and helps others own shared outcomes in ways that accelerate success for all.

Leading is Hard, Becoming a Legendary Leader 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 legendary leader 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 some leaders become legends.

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

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 their 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 following 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 reputation but can rob you 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 instead 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 or let it become overwhelming. With newfound knowledge, they end every situation on a high note.

Achieve More Think Bigger

How to stay competitive in a dynamic world

Sep 10

Achieve More, Think Bigger 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 rarely accompanies 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 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 from 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?

Surefire Way to Success as A Leader in 2018

Dec 21

Success as A Leader in 2018There isn’t one way to success. Leadership advice isn’t ironclad. There’s no single trend, quality or rulebook that guarantees your success – it doesn’t exist (and it never did!).

Don’t waste any more time in 2018 trying to fit into some other leader’s mold. Emulating exactly what led to their success won’t work for you. Why? Because you’re not like them.

Instead, turn your focus to what will define success for you, a bespoke model of leadership, one that comes from discovering the one-of-a-kind set of skills, talents and abilities that you lead with.

There is a straightforward way you can discover and embody the values, talents and skills that power your leadership success in 2018, and it starts with:

Listing the Pivot Points
Think back on your career.  You’ve had many moments that caused you to act, and make a decision for good or ill.  These are your pivot points. These taught you something about yourself, about how you think and lead. List those that stand out and change the direction of your life.

Self-Reflection Illuminates the Secrets Within
Take a few minutes and whatever you think of your choices, then acknowledge that they taught you something about yourself.  Write a few lines about why that moment mattered, how it changed your life, your mind or both.

See Things with A Grateful Eye
It isn’t that you can’t learn from others’ advice and perspective. The trick is to see those experiences through the lens of gratitude and then tailor the advice to mirror your own experiences, style and needs. Survey people whose perspective you value. Include people in that group whose perspective on things differs from your own. Hearing divergent perspectives helps highlight opportunities your biases keep you from seeing.

Unpack the Insights
This is where you’ll put it all together.  Reflect on your own observations and the feedback you received from others.  Unpack the insights by creating a list of tweaks and game changers, and plan your next steps for 2018 to become the most successful leader you can be.

There isn’t one right way to do this. And if there isn’t one right way to do this, you might be wondering if you’re on the right track.  You might even be feeling overwhelmed.

If so, I’ve created a FREE resource – a Lead With IT Kit © workbook – that you can download to help walk you through the process.

I hope you give it a try in 2018.  I promise you will learn what you lead with, and it will open doors that you never imagined possible.

Be A Leader Others Want To Follow

An Ambitious Plan

May 02


You’re an outstanding solo contributor, and your reward is a promotion that makes you the new rising star leader guiding a team of passionate former colleagues. It’s going to take more than solo talent and enthusiasm to make the shift from colleague to a leader others want to follow.  It’s going to take an ambitious plan to get you there, but you’ve got no other choice.

Being the leader others want to follow starts with throwing out the playbook that got you where you are today and swapping that for a new one – one that is going to take nothing less than your letting go of seeing everything through the prism of  “what’s in it for me.”

Navigating the new organizational obstacle course means learning how to overcome competing interests, and uncertainty, and coalescing a diverse group of individual contributors around a common purpose.  It means shifting from the “me” mindset of a solo contributor to a “we” mindset of a leader who inspires those around him or her to reach their highest potential.

Here are the strategies that will shake up your current mindset and get you moving on an altogether different level::

Believe In The Leader Within

New leaders can sometimes feel a bit like imposters — believing that everyone expects them to know everything, and yet they feel as if they know nothing at all about what it takes to lead others. Believing in your ability to transcend being a solo contributor and start becoming a transcendent leader begins when you make the commitment to connect with who you are rather than what you think others want you to be. Finding your stride starts when you remember that you earned the right to be where you are, you have the capacity to master everything you need to know to succeed, and you have the humility to know that you can’t do that without the help of those you now lead. Living up to your new role isn’t about being a superhero on day one—it’s about stepping up your game each and every day by challenging yourself to risk, be clear in your intentions, and learning as you go. You can start connecting with the leader within by emulating other leaders you think highly of and avoiding the behavior of those you don’t. As you become more comfortable in your own skin, your confidence will grow. The time of doing what they did will be replaced with a period of trial and error as you search for that unique mix and leadership formula that works for you. Over time, you’ll find out what reflects who you are through your own experiences and unique perspective, and the leader within will emerge.

Actions Matter And So Do Your Words

Being intentional about everything as a leader is critical, and so much about leadership is tied to your central values and core beliefs. We signal what they are to those we lead in both word and action by telling them what matters, where we won’t waver, and what we’re passionate about. Something as simple as using the word “we” instead of “I” can communicate that all of our interests are intrinsically linked. Clarity in word and action is what enables those you lead to understand how you’ll make decisions and determine what is important. It helps them know where they stand and what is expected of them.

Believe In People Whose Subject Matter Expertise Exceeds Yours

Your secret formula for success has shifted from being weighted toward your technical skills toward your new secret formula for success — the brilliance and creativity of the people on your team. It isn’t about you making a difference on your own anymore, so knowing everything isn’t even a possibility. Your wins come with building trust and making possible relationships among team members that get everyone working toward a common purpose with respect for each other’s diverse talents and abilities. Trading in the title of “subject matter expert” for “exceptional leader” opens the door to stepping back and seeing what drives each person to excel and deciding how best to both challenge and reward them. Retaining the brilliant folks on your team is only part of the task — truly remarkable leaders are judged by how many generations of leaders follow in their footsteps.

Clear The Roadblocks Instead Of Becoming One

As a high-performing individual contributor, resisting the urge to intervene is overwhelming — after all, what got you to where you are in your propensity to get things done? Yet the fastest way to de-motivate the creative and capable people that work for you and get bogged down and off track from your own leadership journey is to intervene when you’re not really needed. Developing the wisdom to know when to clear roadblocks and not become one is a necessary mind shift you must make early on.  Empowering the enthusiastic and high-performing individual contributors on your team comes from engaging them in ways that support their approach, tempo, and need for independence. Share lessons when invited, but always emphasize your confidence in their ability to decide how best to resolve the situation. Underscore learning, experimentation, and collaboration. Draw upon what you know about everyone to design the overall structure, and then give them license to cross boundaries and specialties when needed to achieve what none could do on their own.

Embrace The Unknown

Leadership, in essence, changes who you are and where your focus lies. It alters your relationship with those around you and with yourself. Your chief obligation and charge are to set the vision and make sense of this for everyone along the way: to be the first to challenge your own predisposed ways of thinking, what you or others should know — or what you think you know — and assumptions about what is and how it should be resolved. Creating the space for new ways of thinking and doing things can only come from modeling humility and embracing the unknown. Improvisation, questioning, and experimentation will help you and others gain insight from not knowing rather than fearing the unknown.

Turning out to be a leader as outstanding as you were a solo contributor encompasses figuring out how you fit into the bigger picture in an organization, team, and societal level and then ambitiously pursuing the goals needed to get you there.

Let me know what you’re planning on doing to become that leader others want to follow.

Habits That Help Squeeze The Most From Your Day

Apr 18

Even the most industrious among us have only 24 hours each day and only 10 or so hours available to us to do everything we want to get done. If you’re like most people, you start each day with the best intentions and a long, prioritized list of things that you want to get done. Having a list is a noble and solid first step in helping to create good habits, but as with most things in life, it isn’t in the planning stage where things go awry—it’s in the execution.

Life’s distractions can easily derail even the most skilled task achiever and leave them feeling drained, frustrated, and with an even longer list tomorrow. Squeezing the most out of every day doesn’t mean burning the midnight oil or burning the candle at both ends. It means figuring out the habits that work best for you and developing a ritual around it.

Creating habits and rituals is exceptionally powerful because it helps our brains create the neurological cravings that lead us to anticipate a reward for engaging in a certain routine or set of behaviors. The habits and rituals that eventually become the plan to make the most of the time you have each day are based on what you’ve learned that makes the most sense and works best for your lifestyle and the reward you give yourself for getting things done. This is critical to your ability to follow through on your plan without fail and deliberately—no matter what comes your way to distract you.

Ritualizing some of the routine things you do each day is what helps your brain to go on autopilot so that things that you do habitually become automatic and don’t require your focus, energy, and advanced decision-making skills. Reacting automatically to routine tasks can help you really squeeze the most out of your day.

Here’s an example of a simple habit that you can experiment with and perhaps turn into a ritual that works for you.

Multi-Task In Bursts And Only With Certain Tasks

Choose tasks that can be done with little thought and work well together. For example, perhaps experiment with your morning routine and give something like this a try: while you make coffee and your breakfast, scan your emails and prioritize them, leaving only the most important ones, those requiring immediate action when you sit down at your desk, in the inbox. Move others to folders and delete the junk. While driving to work, listen to a book that you’ve been dying to read or even record key notes for a meeting and play them back so that you’re listening to them while you commute. Don’t forget to reward yourself with something for doing this each and every day: perhaps getting in a quick exercise session before you start work at the office or spending a few minutes chatting with a friend before starting your day.

The key is to figure out what routines, tasks, and rituals work best for you and then practice them until they become automatic and you can do them with speed and dexterity. Once you have your routines in place, you’ll also want to keep the following strategies in mind so that when your actively think about what comes next, you can continue to make wise decisions:

  • Focus is key: make sure that you keep it throughout the day and have in your bag of tricks some ways that you can bring it back if you lose it.
  • Learn the power of “No” and “I’ll get back to you,” and use them often.
  • Only get involved at the level of the solution: don’t waste time focused on rehashing the problem.
  • Spend part of each day pausing and reflecting on what you’ve accomplished so far, and decide what is most significant remaining on the list to do with the time you have. Remember that what is most significant isn’t always the highest priority item in an objective sense – it is the highest priority item given the time you have remaining to accomplish something in your day.
  • Know that nothing that happens is really the end of the world.
  • Make sure that whatever you do is worthwhile and will make a positive difference.

Our habits and rituals guide how we live our lives and shape our priorities. If we create powerful habits that act as the underpinnings for what we set out to do each day, over time, they will become the starting point for how we shape our lives. What habits and rituals will you put in place to squeeze the most from your day?

Let me know in the comments field below.


The Art of Leadership

May 17

Leading is an art, and when you get it right, your influence ripples out just like the waves created when you skip a stone on a lake just perfectly. Artful leaders, just like expert stone skippers, have the right combination of spin, speed, and angle.

Here are some ways you know that you’ve got the right spin, speed, and angle that give others the confidence to be amazing at the art of leadership.

You Know What to Say to Draw Out the Brilliance In Others

You’re able to inspire, motivate, and tease out the drive in others. You quickly identify their strengths and weave them together to create a cohesive team. You’re able to move swiftly and know how to shape varied opinions into a single strategy that inspires and motivates those around you to take action.

You Understand the Velocity at Which Things Need to Happen

You’re able to quickly assess the magnitude of the situation at hand. Your decision-making skills enable you to quickly make adjustments and demonstrate the agility needed to excel in any undertaking. You build and foster trust among your team members so that they can respond to emerging needs and high-stress situations with confidence and trust in each other’s ability to execute flawlessly.

You Leverage All Viewpoints to Accomplish the Objective

You’re able to adeptly explore things from all angles and are open to differing perspectives. You’re able to pinpoint the best position with which to approach an objective and create a plan of attack. You often bring together divergent perspectives and unify your colleagues around a common vision and mission. Accomplishing the objective means applying just the right set of skills at the right time, all the while adjusting for changes in circumstances.

Your ability to continue to develop and enhance these skills ensures that the ripples create an impact beyond just those in your inner circle.


How to Inspire Passion and Creativity Among Your Team

Nov 12

Whether you lead a huge organization or manage a small team, a large part of what you do revolves around building that dream team of super bright, highly successful people who have what it takes to put your team over the top. However, as the Chief Encouragement Officer, you often find yourself with an interesting dilemma: how do you instill in them the courage and motivation to realize their potential without limiting their passion and creativity, brilliance and innovative nature?

This isn’t an easy task, nor is it a one size fits all formula for everyone on your team. Therefore, your only option is to tap into their genius, and the best way to encourage them to succeed is to stop doing the thinking for them.

As Chief Encouragement Officer, when we encourage others’ thought processes, we tap into their creativity, help them make their own connections, improve the quality and clarity of their thinking, and create the passion and motivation to act.

Here are some ways to inspire and encourage those you lead to perform at the optimal level—who knows, maybe during the process, you’ll even give yourself the encouragement you need to achieve what you desire.

Step Back In the Moment from Giving Answers

Stepping back in the moment takes great self-management as a leader. It means going against the urge for expediency and opting for the longer-term gains that come with encouraging those we lead to think for oneself. Stepping back in the moment allows you to become the catalyst for the other person to uncover what isn’t working. At its core, encouraging the person to think through the issue with you as a sounding board, resource, and interested party creates the safe space needed to move beyond what may be comfortable for them without fear of disappointing you.

Challenge Them to Make Specific Changes

Encouraging them to think independently of you is critical to their ability to change long-held patterns and behaviors that aren’t working. Independent thought and experimentation foster and develop the individual’s ability to create the new map that will be their guide as they move forward. Pushing them to select goals that are challenging and specific helps them build the structure that supports the new behaviors as they emerge. Holding them accountable for their choices means praising what is working and encouraging a quick transition from what isn’t working to addressing what can work.

Acknowledge and Encourage Forward Movement In the Moment

Helping people reshape their self-perception means letting them know that you notice the changes when and where they happen. Don’t wait for the next official performance review or conversation to acknowledge their progress and encourage continued movement forward. When you notice the change, say something about it to the person in that moment. Impromptu acknowledgment encourages continued action and is a powerful motivator. Encouragement helps them push through when the process is scary and challenging.

Encouraging others to do the thinking for themselves delivers a huge dividend for all involved. Creativity abounds, and people learn to encourage and support each other instead of lamenting what isn’t working.

Are you ready to instill in those you lead the courage and motivation they need to excel?