• Read The Next Time You’re Guilted into Saying Yes, Think About This

    Leadership, Productivity, Well Being

    The Next Time You’re Guilted into Saying Yes, Think About This

    A lot of my coaching clients struggle with boundaries.  I suppose it takes one to know one.  Like any good co-dependent, it’s the area I’ve probably had to do the most work on. I’ve gotten considerably better at managing boundaries over the years, which has resulted in managing expectations with clients more effectively, as I’m much more upfront about what the role of a coach is and isn’t and have worked hard to not take responsibility for my coaching clients’ learning and growth.  It’s improved family relationships and friendships, as I’ve gotten clearer on what healthy relationships look like, and as a result, no longer spend a lot of time obsessing about things or trying to control things that can’t be controlled.  And then every once in a while, I get triggered.  It’s inevitable; it happens to us all.  And it happened to me the other day when I was asked by a colleague to help them out on something they need to learn to take responsibility for themselves.  Normally I would have let the guilt push me into saying yes. But something interesting happened instead. I got visibly mad, and I found myself stomping around my office and complaining to my husband.  I got mad because I value fairness and accountability and always strive to be the kind of person who takes her fair share of the load.  I got even madder because I’ve noticed a pattern of this individual playing the victim and manipulating others in the spirit of “collaboration” to get them to step in on a moment’s notice and bail them out.  I was mad at her, and I think I was also mad from a cumulative effect of this behavior – over the course of my career I’ve often felt obligated to step in and save the day for others who I have judged (rightly or wrongly) to be stupid, lazy, weak or selfish.  I’ve felt like I had no choice but to help, and inadvertently built up a pool of smoldering resentment, as I erred to compromise myself and my values rather than risk being branded as unhelpful. Look under the guilt and anger, what’s the underlying need? Experience has taught me there’s normally something we need to look at within ourselves when we experience such a visceral reaction.  And the interesting thing about anger is there’s normally something sitting under it that’s begging to be healed.  So I looked. And then I looked some more.  And then I realized what this was really about.  It was really about approval.  We often confuse manipulation with collaboration And then I remembered a 360 I had done a long time ago, a couple of years after I had moved into leadership development.  My colleagues had provided anonymous feedback.  Their perception of me wasn’t stellar – I was completely focused on task and results, with no room for relationship.   And I prioritized my goals and deliverables above everything else.  It was a blindspot. I was so desperate […]

    July 10, 2024


    5.2 min read

  • Read Want to feel more joyful? Think about this.

    Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Spirituality, Well Being

    Want to feel more joyful? Think about this.

    Our failure to know joy is a direct reflection of our inability to forgive.  Charlotte Jojo Beck I came across this quote the other day and it caused me to really pause and think.  As human beings, we tend to look at joy as something that’s attained once we’ve completed a series of steps.  I see this a lot in my coaching practice.  I’ll have joy when I get this promotion.  I’ll be able to tap into joy when I no longer work for this horrible boss, or when I feel more confident in my skillset.  I’ll have joy once I understand what my purpose and my true path on earth really is and have a plan for making it happen. It’s not wrong to seek change, to want to grow or to want to improve our circumstances.  The problem is in thinking that “fix” alone will solve the problem of not having enough joy in our lives.  Our mental construct often frames joy as something we must earn.  The truth is joy is accessible now – in our imperfect lives, our imperfect careers, our imperfect leadership, our imperfect team and family dynamics.  The issue is that we can’t often access it because we’re too busy blaming ourselves or others for the perceived problems in our lives. Forgiveness is often an inside job Beck’s quote speaks to the path we need to take to access what’s already available to us.  And more often than not, the person we need to forgive the most is ourselves. Forgiveness is about letting go of the protective armor Or maybe anger and resentment is projected outwards at the people around us.  We find ourselves locked into judgment and blame of others for the things they have done to us.  The things we have been subjected to – unfair expectations, abuse, trauma, bad leadership, bullying, being taken advantage of.  The list could go on and on.  Perhaps it shows up as passive aggressiveness or full blown aggressiveness with others.  Or maybe avoidance.  Forgiveness begins with the intention to let go of the armor of blame and defensiveness and a willingness to touch the vulnerability that sits underneath the anger.  Perhaps it’s the shame of having been humiliated publicly.  Or of having been abandoned and feeling isolated and unwanted.  Or the regret and shame of not standing up for ourselves with a difficult person.  When we can face that vulnerability and meet it with compassion and love for ourselves, we find ourselves on a much more joyful path.     For a long time, I carried a lot of anger and resentment about a previous work situation.  It was years ago, when I had just transitioned my career, and found myself in a situation where I had been set up to fail.  It wasn’t until I really leaned into the feeling that was sitting under the anger – humiliation, and allowed myself to feel it without trying to push it away, that I could let it go.  […]

    June 20, 2024


    4.4 min read

  • Read What’s the Secret to Building a High Performing Team?


    What’s the Secret to Building a High Performing Team?

    This is a question that often gets batted around during leadership training sessions.  And to answer it, I often share the results of a Google study called Project Aristotle, which was completed a few years back.  It’s often surprising learning for a lot of leaders, because the key finding was that what matters the most for team effectiveness is less about who is on the team, and more about how the team works together.  Or in other words, when it comes to high performing teams, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This isn’t to say that technical competency isn’t important.  Obviously, people have to have the right level of skill and competency to be able to do the job they’re in.  But having the brightest and best technical experts doesn’t necessarily equate to success.  We see this often in sports – the teams that are typically the most successful in making it to the championship are the ones the work the most effectively together, not just the ones that have the biggest and brightest stars. So the bottom line is that cherry picking a group of A players won’t necessarily translate into success. So all this begs the question – If it’s not so much about who is on the team, how do you build a high performing team?  Here’s what the Project Aristotle analysis found, and it boils down to 4 key components: Psychological safety The belief in a team that it is safe to speak up, share opinions and make mistakes.  Is your team environment one where only a few voices dominate, where ideas get dismissed, ridiculed, or shot down?  Are mistakes penalized with blaming or shaming language?  Or maybe there’s an unspoken power dynamic, where folks are jockeying for position.  All of these are signs that your team lacks psychological safety, and as the leader, you set the tone for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Accountability To what extent are roles and responsibilities clear in your department?   Are they documented and current?  When you delegate a task, how clear are you on the outcome to be achieved and on what your expectations for success are?  As a coach, I hear all the time about situations where a coaching client delegated a task, only to end up with a pile of crap on their desk a week later.  It’s not enough just to tell someone to do something – a good accountability conversation is one where the manager is clear about expectations and confirms that understanding in the conversation.  Are you having regular performance conversations where you give feedback on what’s working and what could be better, or are you avoiding tackling poor performance? Meaning and purpose This isn’t a nice to have or an airy-fairy thing.  The bottom line is that human beings are ultimately motivated by something greater than just a paycheck.  And this is critical in the context of high performing teams, because in these types of teams folks routinely […]

    May 16, 2024


    4.5 min read

  • Read If you’re struggling to figure out how to inspire your team (or yourself), think about this

    Leadership, Productivity

    If you’re struggling to figure out how to inspire your team (or yourself), think about this

    It’s inevitable that from time to time we may find ourselves disillusioned, maybe even feeling burnt out.  And there is a load of content out there that speaks to self-care, how to maintain balance through practices like yoga and meditation amid all the stress, and it’s all very wonderful.  I’m a big believer in all kinds of mindfulness practices.  But I’ve often said that a good self-care routine won’t do the job of an unhealthy mindset. I was reminded of this principle this week as I was working with a client.  She’s sleepwalking through each day of life – tired, lethargic, devoid of a sense of purpose, and it was the latter of these complaints we honed in on for our work.  A good self care routine won’t do the job of an unhealthy mindset “This project is painstaking work.  And the only thing that matters is whether I make a mistake.  It’s exhausting.” That would feel exhausting, right?  Her story reminded me of another client, an organization I spent quite a bit of time with a year back.  One of the high potential new recruits had been promoted to the supervisor of the loan processing department for a bank.  Her work as an individual contributor was excellent without a doubt – painstakingly perfect.  And when you think about it, that’s probably a good thing considering we’re talking about the practice of processing loans.  Money is riding on whether the documentation has been completed correctly.  One error can derail an entire process and create unnecessary delays.  This individual had performed well in the past, and then had been thrown into a leadership role without any training or development. When I met up with this client a year or so into her new role, it wasn’t the rosy story of success she’d wanted it to be.  The turnover in her department was sky high, and no one (and I mean no one) in the bank wanted to work in the loan processing group.  The group had a reputation for being difficult to work with interdepartmentally as well.  But it wasn’t for lack of trying on the supervisor’s part.  She was working her butt off and giving her best.  And yet, she couldn’t keep a good employee if her life depended on it. What we focus on drives the outcomes we get The solution to this conundrum lies not in how hard we work or try, but what we’re focused on.  This supervisor tended to be critical, and it showed up in what she focused on with her team.  Instead of focusing on the vibe she wanted to create for the department and what a high performing team could look like, she focused with laser precision on mistakes and the tiniest of errors.  And she found them, again and again and again.  Well intended folks would come to work day after day to be told again and again that they had made yet another mistake.  They were told to correct it.  And […]

    March 8, 2024


    6.2 min read

  • Read Consider this if you struggle to be assertive

    Authenticity, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership

    Consider this if you struggle to be assertive

    We are often told we need to be assertive.  Assertive, but not aggressive.  And that can be a tall order for many of us, especially those of us that learned to make our way through life as the pleaser/appeaser.  For those of us that fall or have fallen at some point into this category (myself included) when we try to make a conscious shift, we may find ourselves over correcting and drawing a much harder line than we intended.  Imagine a pendulum swinging all the way from the left to the right.  We feel guilty about it, and may find ourselves going back and forth in our heads thinking – “Did that come across as rude?  “Did I overdo it?”  “Do I need to apologize?”  Maybe we do end up apologizing, maybe we’re not sure, but things are awkward.  This assertiveness thing is too hard, too sticky.  And maybe we’re better off just doing what we do best – going along to get along. Or maybe the shift is an unconscious one and perhaps the resentment we have shoved down for so long finally boils to the surface and we blow our top like a fiery volcano.  This explosion becomes another mess we need to clean up and we find ourselves full of shame, guilt, we over apologize, maybe we beat ourselves up about it and punish ourselves and we double down on trying to be the pleaser, because good people don’t do things like this, right?  If I was a better person, I would have been able to keep my cool and wouldn’t have reacted that way, right? In my opinion, assertiveness is one of the hardest things to get right, mainly because we have so much baggage around it.  When I really started looking at the roots of this for myself, I had to go deep.  Find the root cause If you’ve never met me in person, outside of the virtual world of zoom, there is something about me you will notice instantly.  No, not my dazzling smile or my bright blue eyes, as lovely as they may be.  I’m 6 foot 1.  If I were male, you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid.  But even though humans are getting taller and taller these days due to better nutrition and living standards, 6 foot 1 for a woman is still really tall.  And I didn’t shoot up like a weed later in life.  I’ve always been tall.  All my baby records were off the charts.  I was always in the top 1% of height for my age, since about birth. So you can imagine that when I started elementary school I definitely stood out in the room, pun completely intended.  And I bet you can guess what happened.  I got teased.  Bullied is the word we would probably use now.  And it was relentless.  It was every day, so much so that in the mornings I’d be nauseous and never want to go to school, because I knew what […]

    February 15, 2024


    6.7 min read

  • Read How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Change

    Change, Leadership

    How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Change

    I’ve got to restructure my group, it’s a mandate from the top.  Three are going to have to leave.  I know how I’m going to make the decision as to who stays and who goes, but I don’t know what to do about the emotional impact on the group as a whole.  How do I manage the emotional impact of change? It’s a question that came up in a group coaching session this week.  An organization I’m working with currently is undergoing a profound amount of change.  The tone on that call was somber.  She wasn’t the only one facing this challenge. And the answer to the question?  The answer is there is no easy answer.  And that’s tough, because most of us who are in leadership positions got there because we’re good at solving problems.  We’re type A people who know how to get sh#t done.  Our tendency to be able to jump in and fix things is what has gotten us to the point we’re at, it’s our success formula so to speak.  Utilize Compassionate Empathy for Managing the Emotional Impact of Change Managing the emotional impact of a reorganization or a significant change isn’t something that can just be easily ticked off a to do list.  And this causes significant stress for a lot of leaders because in essence we feel helpless.  In our ignorance of how to deal with the situation, we often end up ignoring the problem.  Which makes things even worse.  The bottom line is you don’t “fix” emotions.  You hold the space for them gently.  You acknowledge them, don’t try to rush people through them and don’t try to change them or make them go away.  You let them be.  Leading with compassionate empathy can be tricky.  It’s not the same as pity or sympathy, where we feel sorry FOR the other person.  It’s about allowing yourself to feel WITH them without taking the responsibility for solving their problem on your shoulders.  In practice it looks quite simple but it can be quite difficult to do.   3 Steps for Navigating Change with Compassionate Empathy 1) Create a safe space.  Maybe this is a 1:1 rather than a team meeting.  You might ask, “How are you feeling about the change?  How is the impending reorganization personally affecting you?”  Ask a few open-ended questions and then wait. 2) Embrace any awkward silence that may arise.  This can be excruciating if we’re not used to it and you might be tempted to fill the silence.  Don’t.  Trust me, they’ll eventually speak.  And then deeply listen.  Listen for the tone in their voice, listen for the specific words they’re using.  Are they sad?  Anxious?  Angry?  Resentful?  Listen for the emotions present in what they are saying, even if they don’t name a feeling. 3) Acknowledge and validate what you’re hearing.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their interpretation or how they’re processing the information.  “It makes perfect sense that you’re frustrated.  This is the […]

    December 8, 2023


    4.8 min read