My Favorite Books Of 2016 (So Far)

Jun 14

My Favorite Books of 2016 (So Far)Frenetic days filled with meetings, email, conference calls, and a million other things that demand your attention can leave you feeling wiped at the end of the week. We’re all guilty of trying to cram a few more hours of work into an already jam-packed day, and if you’re an avid reader like me, it means constantly being on the lookout for those rare and precious moments when you can sit down with a great book and let the world fade away. Most of the world’s most successful people are passionate about reading and always will be.

Amazon offers more than twelve million plus books on topics ranging from Art to Zen meditation and everything in between. There are more than 28,000 books on leadership, entrepreneurship, and business. But which ones are actually worth a read?

Well, here’s to making your life a tad easier. Here are a few of my new favorites:

I’m always reading and curating books so if you want to see more of my favorites, and some interesting interviews with leading authors, you can find them on Leadership Compound’s Resources by simply clicking here.

Keep your eyes out next week for Part One of my upcoming interview with Dr. Mark Goulston, author of the #1 Non-Fiction book “Talking to Crazy”.


Happiness Boosters

Apr 19

Happiness BoostersLucille Ball is quoted as saying, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” Figuring out what makes us happy isn’t a priority for most of us. The modern world demands our time, attention, and focus on a constant basis, resulting in a happiness gap. Connecting to what is truly important and infusing our lives with more passion, hope, and commitment all starts with being able to recognize what makes us happy, and then closing that gap. Boosting your happiness level is not only fun, but can also be life changing. There is no perfect time to begin and no one-size-fits-all method. But there is one common starting point: recognizing what makes us happy starts where happiness always resides and always will—inside of us.

Here are some suggestions that can go a long way in helping you recognize what puts a smile on your face and how to put happiness back at the center of your life.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

The next time you’re waiting in a long line at Starbucks, sitting in another endless traffic jam, or in any of the myriad situations that cause all of us stress, try to divert your attention away from the negative to something positive. It could be cranking up a favorite song on the radio, guessing what the people ahead of you in line are ordering—rewarding yourself with a brownie bar even if you don’t guess any order right—or just starting a conversation with someone in line. You can also spend the time recalling some happy memories, as this will help you re-experience the feelings of joy in the present moment. The goal is to find a way to shift your focus and make lemonade out of the lemons.

See If You Can Make Other People Smile

Happiness is contagious; so see if you can bring a smile to someone else’s face. Make a concerted effort to do something nice for someone else—either in word or deed. Connecting in a real way with others helps you feel better about yourself, puts positive energy into the world, and encourages others to pay it forward. Decide to let go of old hurts or grudges and forgive someone. Showing compassion for others helps enhance social connections, builds a sense of inner peace, and frees up time to think about what is next.

Journal And / Or Meditate

There are many ways people keep journals, meditate, or even combine the two activities. Find what works best for you and practice it routinely. Journaling and meditation help you become more aware of repeated patterns and mindful about what takes place in your mind, body, and thinking. Both techniques help calm our minds and focus our attention inward and to the present moment. Quieting our mind helps us see the connection between seemingly disconnected events, clarify and reframe our perspective, and shape better outcomes.

There are many other ways to begin recognizing what makes you the happiest, and you’ll know you’re on the right path as you begin to feel more optimistic, energized, and confident. I’m always on the lookout for new boosters, so feel free to share one that you use and isn’t on the list above.


Life As A Jigsaw Puzzle

Apr 05

Life As A Jigsaw PuzzleLife arrives like a jigsaw puzzle: disassembled and in random pieces. Our job is to figure out how everything fits together and what our purpose is.

There are many times when the pieces seem to interlock easily and we clearly see where we are headed, but sometimes, no matter how experienced we are at putting the pieces together, we encounter an obstacle: that one funky piece that we just can’t find or swear is missing from the box. In these moments, we all have our own ways of overcoming that obstacle and finding the next step in the journey.

Over the years, clients have shared with me the ways in which they overcome obstacles in life, and the things they do that keep them motivated and moving in the right direction. Here are ten of the most common ones I hear in no specific order:

  1. Hearing stories about other peoples’ success in overcoming things more serious and significant than what I am facing.
  2. Inspirational quotes and books.
  3. Out of necessity and because I don’t have an option to stop moving forward.
  4. Visualizing what success looks like and taking the time to create a vision board, goals tracker, etc.
  5. Reliving past moments where I had success, and seeing how I can use that to energize and give me new insights into my current situation.
  6. Being responsible, and because I need to keep going ahead.
  7. There is something bigger than myself involved.
  8. Reaching out to others and like-minded people for support who can share their experiences and ideas.
  9. Proving something to someone else.
  10. Taking time away to think and decide if it is really the right move.

I’m also curious about what keeps you motivated and moving in the right direction. Which of these resonate with you, and do you have one that works and isn’t on the list? Let me know what works best for you?


The Power Of Reflective Thinking

Mar 29

The Power of Reflective ThinkingThe story of Icarus is one of my favorites in Greek Mythology. Icarus’ father, Daedalus, angered King Minos, causing both Daedalus and his son Icarus to quickly flee the island of Crete. Being an inventor, Daedalus created two sets of wax wings so that they could fly away from the island. Daedalus, knowing how to construct the wings, cautioned his son to fly only in the middle of the sky, lest he fly too close to the sea and dampen his wings, or too close to the sun and melt them. Icarus, in his youth, got so carried away that despite his father’s caution he flew too high and too near the sun, melting his wings and plummeting into the sea where he drowned. Icarus’ death is something that Daedalus never recovered from.

Daedalus is not unlike many of us. He was required to make and execute decisions that had profound consequences for others, oneself, and even generations to come. Daedalus didn’t choose to set out to put his son in a precarious position—he believed that he was making the wisest decision possible under the circumstances, yet his inability to see a potential unknown led to disaster. History shows time and again, despite our attempt to make wise decisions people fail to identify what it is they know and solve for what they don’t, leading them to decide or act unwisely. Making wise choices relies on a complex set of processes and an awareness of the totality of the situation being faced. If, as Socrates says, “True knowledge exists in knowing we know nothing,” what then can increase the likelihood that we can distinguish, decide, and act wisely in an impatient world where we have created a sense of immediacy in responding?

We need to master the art of balancing two related activities: discovering what is known, and solving for what is unknown or what may remain unknown. This requires that we tap into our intuitive mind. To find the right things to do, and the right way to do them, comes through practicing mindfulness, engaging in reflective thinking, and focusing on actively learning not from actual experience of the event, but as part of envisioning and testing out the possibilities.

Questions that trigger reflection, and increase our focus and awareness in the moment, can be used to bring about the balance needed to decide wisely. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What is the source of the information I’m using to make my decision? Are these facts or opinion?
  • What facts are known, what remains unknown, and what do I need to know to make this decision? What other sources of information may I be ignoring or remain unknown?
  • What biases might I have toward one idea versus another? Have I listened to anyone who opposes the decision I intend to make?
  • Have I given enough time to consider my decision, and is the time frame adequate to reflect the importance of the matter being decided?
  • What are the long-term considerations and impacts? Who does the decision benefit or disadvantage, and what are the risks?


Quoting Your Life

Mar 22

Quoting Your LifeThe other day, I was getting started on some early spring cleaning and came across a set of quote journals that I had long ago moved to a hope chest in the guest bedroom. Yes, I admit it I am a bit of a quote collection addict. Collecting quotes wasn’t a well-thought-out plan on my part. I can’t even seem to recall when I started, but it has been something I’ve done for many years now. The quotes in those books came from many sources, some famous and some not, and spanned the gamut from how to be successful in life to how to deal with the bumps a long the way.

In that moment, I wondered how many of the quotes I captured still resonated. And as I started to read through the journals a story began to unfold—strikingly, I could see the story of my life in the quotes of the journal. Some had become familiar friends, even ones that I call upon today, and others once old friends that no longer seem to fit. The quotes told a story of who I was, who I wanted to become, what was important to me, and how time changed some dreams but not others. The quotes were like breadcrumbs on the path connecting where I came from and where I was going.

There are many benefits to collecting quotes. In the present, they can help shape your focus, shift your mindset, motivate, inspire you to achieve a goal, and often help you gain insight into yourself and others. Curating and keeping quotes, whether in a journal or electronically, remind one of the road traveled, things accomplished, and the essence of who you have become.

The newest addition to my quote journal was given to me by a friend, and I’d like to share it with you should you want to make it the first quote you collect.

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” —Carl Sandberg

I’d love to hear your favorite quotes! Please share them with me below.


4 Ways To Move Past A Roadblock

Mar 08

4 Ways To Move Past A RoadblockA recent game of Scrabble reminded me just how easy it is to get stuck and hit a mental wall. As I stared at the seven tiles on my rack and the myriad of words already intertwined on the board, the tenser I became. Furiously, I began to shuffle the tiles in my rack, hoping that something would emerge. This strategy had worked for me in the past, but after several shuffles I was again at the impasse and growing more frustrated by the minute. How often have you found yourself hitting that mental wall and continuing to pursue solutions to a new problem based on previous experience and strategies used to solve similar problems—only to deepen the impasse?

As counterintuitive as it may seem, the best way to break through being stuck and spur creativity is to let the brain idle so that you can stop the forward momentum in the wrong direction. Think about it like this: you can only go in one direction at a time, so in order to shift course, you’ve first got to stop where you are and assess where you could go. It is only when we let the brain idle that we can engage in contemplating a new direction, stimulate creativity, and uncover new insights and solutions.

Here are some ways to shift the direction and change the trajectory of your thinking so that you can break through those impasses in your life.

1. Stop the Momentum and Get Off the Treadmill

Letting your brain go into idle, or to briefly be distracted from the matter at hand, means that you first must acknowledge what you’re doing just isn’t creating anything other than tension, stress, and reduced creativity. Reduce the pressure by taking a mental break—move on to a task that requires less thought and helps you replace the former thoughts you were myopically focused on. Another strategy is to take a physical pause—get up and stretch, go for a walk, have a snack, or do something else that will help you take your focus off the impasse. All of these options let the brain calm down and clear the stage for new thoughts and insights to emerge.

2. Reduce the Complexity and Seek the Clarity that Distance Brings

Now that your mind has had an opportunity to become quiet and you are more relaxed, you should simplify and enumerate the significant points of the situation at hand. Once you have the high-level issues outlined, you can begin to step back and look at them from a 10,000-foot perspective. This perspective will give you the opportunity to become aware of the subtle signals, patterns, and links between things that were missed earlier when we were anxious and overly focused on the details. The key here is to resist the urge to embed yourself in the minutia and drill down into the detail. Focus more on the patterns, or pay attention to different areas that were not visible to you in your state of heightened anxiety. This will trigger new thoughts and help you uncover previously overlooked connections.

3. Leverage Expertise That is Not Your Own

We already know that what’s keeping us stuck is that we are approaching a new situation using our old patterns of thinking, expertise, and knowledge. It is time to reach out and leverage someone else’s expertise. Choose someone whose knowledge base is different than yours, whose life experience is different, or who can bring a fresh eye to the situation at hand. Listening to how they view the situation, and what they see as significant, can open up new directions for you to begin exploring. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at the situation so long that the small details are overlooked, and to an untrained eye they don’t look so small in nature. No two people see things alike, so listening for their approach allows for novel ways of approaching the situation to come to light

4. Notice the Insights and Use That Energy to Move Forward

Insights can take place at any time or any place. Be prepared for them to come at any time—even in your morning shower. Keep track on paper of things you want to explore or pursue. When you have an insight you’ll also get a boost of energy and excitement that will propel you toward the solution. The a-ha moment generates the energy you need to commit to taking that next step, but it also shines a spotlight on all the successive steps you didn’t notice before.

As for me, the answer to my impasse at Scrabble came as the result of taking a pause and listening to someone else’s idea. I took a break from the game and over of cup of tea talked with one of my friends who’d been observing the game. She drew my attention to the fact that among my seven tiles was a blank tile—something right in front of me that I had overlooked as I tried to make a word from the letters in my rack.


How To Deal With Irrational People

Feb 09

How to deal with irrational peoplePreparing yourself for that challenging conversation with a person who pushes all your buttons, and is irrational, can be one of the most daunting things you’ll ever do. Yet moments like this are inevitable and you need more than courage—you need the right strategy to emerge unscathed and in a stronger position the next time.

Finding that right strategy—the one that will help you cut your losses and make the best of the situation—involves recognizing that you are being triggered to respond in a defensive and irrational manner both by your biology and the other party. Giving in to the pressure, and responding in a defensive way, will only serve to allow the other person to drag you kicking and screaming onto their playing field where they have the advantage—leaving you feeling drained, demoralized, and fearful of that next encounter with them. Then they leave the conversation empowered and victorious. How can you keep from moving from rationality to irrationality in these situations and also keep the conversation on your home turf?

The three tools below will help you keep your upper brain engaged (where logic and reason prevail) and keep you from being drawn into responding from your lower brain (where fight or flight and emotion are king):

1) Put the Brakes On to Avoid Being Emotionally Hijacked

Delaying your response and taking a pause allows the center of your brain called the amygdala to calm down and you to regain the high ground where you can choose to respond from a place of calm and logic. We have all heard of counting to ten and choosing to walk away for a brief time as time-tested methods, but they are not the only option you can use to avoid emotionally being hijacked. You could also choose to pause and become more conscious of how you’re feeling physically by asking yourself: What am I feeling in this moment? Or you could play out what you would really like to do or say in your mind. For example: In this moment I want to scream how difficult they are being and see yourself screaming at the person. Choose what works best for you, but make sure that it allows you the needed time for the body to reset itself.

2) Become Present, Clear and Focused In The Moment

Reframing the situation and seeing opportunities to de-escalate and disarm the other person are essential to shifting the game back to your turf. Repeatedly engaging in de-escalating and remaining focused will clearly communicate to the other person that their usual bag of tricks isn’t working on you. However, don’t expect that in the short-term they won’t try to escalate even more with an outrageous outburst to test your seriousness. Keep focused, clear, and present in the situation and continue to ask them questions that show them you won’t engage and act out in the same way. Here are a few to consider the next time you’re in a situation like this:

  • What is this really all about?
  • In what way can I do something so we don’t end up here again?
  • What do you need from me so we don’t have this conversation again?

Once you notice that you’ve broken their rhythm, you can attempt to steer the conversation in a more productive way. If you cannot shift the focus to the positive, and if the person is still extreme, then you know you’ve done your best, and looking for the most graceful way to disengage is the only option.

3) Seek Inspiration from Your Gurus, Heroes and Others You Admire

As you’re trying to navigate your way through this type of conversation, you might feel as if you alone are against the world. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you start feeling unnerved, uncertain, and like you’re losing control, stop and take a deep breath and ask yourself: What would my Guru, Hero, or person I admire do in this situation? How would they react to what I am experiencing? Tapping into the collective wisdom and strategies of those who mentor and we admire, even if only in our minds, can help us focus, regroup, and choose to respond in a more effective way. So the next time you feel like the person’s barbs are hitting their mark and your resolve is diminishing, call upon the collective wisdom and experience of those you admire to guide your approach. Thinking about the wise advice you’ve been given, and how it could help you, will lead to you shifting your perspective from fear and defensiveness to gratitude and sanity.

Overriding our natural biological influences (the fight or flight response) and long-standing approaches to irrational behavior can be challenging to overcome. Yet with practice and mindfulness in these type situations, you can develop the strategies that will allow you to emerge unscathed from encounters with less than rational people. Remember each time you try these strategies that the other person is less likely to try their usual bag of tricks on you the next time.

3 Ways To Celebrate Your Wins

Dec 01

celebrate-your-winsWhy is it that we spend so little time celebrating the accomplishing of our goals? Is it because there is always too much more to be done and we feel the pressure to just keep focused on what we need to accomplish next? When we have a successful mindset, we always feel the urge so greatly to get that next win that we can easily forget to stop and celebrate the victories before moving on and shifting our focus to the next challenge.

But if we never stop to celebrate how far we’ve come, along with enjoying the victories in between, we can easily burn out. Celebrating the wins is more than just congratulating oneself for a job well done—it is about building the emotional capital and momentum to take on that next big thing. Celebrating your successes with others helps you build the bridges and connections needed for future success, and gives you an opportunity to show gratitude for those who helped out along the way.

Here is a three-step strategy for celebrating your wins with others:

1. Share The Story Of Your Success With Those Around You.  Create a short, compelling story about how you succeeded—telling it in the form of a story makes it more tangible to those around you. Once it becomes tangible, social capital is created, and bridges and connections are built between you and the other people. Stories are an effective means of communicating how you got there, and also give you the chance to highlight others’ contributions and express gratitude. In telling the story, it prolongs and amplifies your happiness, and therefore can encourage others to do similar things with respect to their goals.

2. Include The Specifics About How You Got There.  By recounting the specifics about the challenges we faced, the strategies we implemented, and the adjustments we made a long the way, we help others potentially see new ways of approaching their challenges and goals. Sharing the specifics also has an added benefit for us—it helps us solidify and reinforce the new patterns of behavior we have put in place. The positive reinforcement we receive from those we share the story with gives us the boost we need to take on new challenges and work through them in the future.

3. Talk About The Win As Part Of A Bigger Picture.  The impact of accomplishing a hard-won goal transcends the goal itself. Individual wins are not isolated events—instead they become part of the larger picture of your life and the lives of those impacted by your success. Replaying the win in the context of the bigger picture helps you tap into the positive feeling and energy needed to take on that next big step, but it also helps those around you see and connect with what you’ve done and what you hope to accomplish moving forward. This will make it easier for them to support you and encourage you as embark on the next journey.

Celebrating the wins in life through stories that are compelling, succinct, and can be shared with others will ensure that your successes have impact and influence far beyond just accomplishing that one specific goal.

I’d love to hear and learn from your most recent success. Please feel free to share your story with me.

Do This, Don't Do That – The Art of Giving Advice

Sep 10

couple-sunsetWill Rogers once said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Rogers’ sage words should be taken to heart the next time someone approaches you for your advice, perspective, and wisdom. Despite our instinct to jump right in and offer others practical skills, solutions, and the lessons learned from our experiences, the first thing any good adviser does is realize that giving good advice is less about your expertise and more about enabling the other person to clarify and think critically about the matter at hand.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice” by David Garvin and Joshua Margolis, good advice has several key components: listening for understanding, developing a shared understanding, clarifying another’s thinking, and creating alternatives. These components are key to making sure that the advice seeker walks away with more than just do this and don’t do that.

It is only by listening for understanding that you can determine if you are the appropriate person to be weighing in on this topic. Listening to better understand the needs of the advice seeker is critical to influencing and shaping another’s thinking without disempowering them to act. Not jumping in too quickly with solutions and suggestions of what to do helps the advice seeker to clarify their thinking, identify biases, focus on collaboratively creating alternatives, and building their confidence and motivation to act upon their choices. Good advice leaves the responsibility for the choices in the hands of the advice seeker while empowering them to achieve their goal, increase their momentum, and motivate them to move forward to action.

The value of advice well given comes not from providing solutions, or showcasing how much you know, but in the learning you achieve from facilitating the learning process for another person. Often in helping others we help to shine the light on our own biases, flaws in logic, and inside-of-the-box thinking. So the next time someone approaches you for advice, take Will Rogers’ advice and just “shut up” and listen.

A Transformative Conversation with Dr. Ada Gonzalez (Part Two)

Aug 05

This week we continue with Part Two of our interview with Dr. Ada Gonzalez. In her new book, Transformative Conversations, Dr. Gonzalez weaves wisdom from many sources. She makes the case for the value of engaging in effective dialogue, and gives the reader clear guidance about how they can harness the power of dialogue to ignite the level of engagement and commitment needed to accomplish their own business priorities and goals.

Dr. Ada Gonzalez is an executive coach, facilitator, and a consultant in organizational development. She translates theory and research findings into practice in day-to-day activities, supporting business strategy and results. In addition to undergraduate and graduate work at Andrews University in Michigan, she earned her Ph.D. at the Union Institute and University on Organizational Behavior, with an emphasis on leadership, dialogue, and change. She is currently working as an adjunct professor for the University of Delaware.


How does being comfortable with not knowing as a leader contribute to fostering dialogue?

Some leaders are tempted to think they must know everything about everything, so to speak. As leaders gain professional maturity, they realize that’s impossible and impractical. It’s a leader’s role to be the catalyst for others to become experts in their disciplines. This is why the best leaders are not necessarily specialists in their fields—they focus less on giving advice and more on asking probing questions. This technique allows employees to discover the best path on their own. That is the power of not knowing. To facilitate transformative conversations, a leader must “not know.”

Similarly, in dialogue you leave the comfort of the known to explore the unknown. Not knowing requires a humble, patient, open perspective: you are the student, not the expert. Not knowing can:

  • Fill dialogue with fresh wonder
  • Encourage deeper dialogue
  • Create meaningful connections
  • Take you in unforeseen directions
  • Surprise you with an unexpected destination
  • Awaken new perspectives
  • Open the space for wisdom to emerge.