Influence & Insight | December 2017

Leadership Story | Leadership Produces Results

While journaling and reading over Thanksgiving in the Galapagos Islands my thoughts turned to recent Leadership Excellence Course attendees who described performance issues within their organizations. Specifically, some of them asked "How do I get people on my team, who don't work directly for me, to get more done?"

As leaders, rather than just managers, we should strive to create alignment & common purpose. About the same time, I was reading a blog by Victor Davis Hanson, referencing his new book The Second World Wars. The productivity surge in the U.S. from 1941 was mind-boggling. In Dr. Hanson's words:

The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.

Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.

America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.


So, are our jobs today really so difficult? Perhaps we have relaxed about what is possible on a national, organizational, and especially, individual leadership level. Pause and think about the environment we are genuinely capable of creating and aligning our teams with our boldest visions and goals. Great leadership produces great results.

Daring Greatly | Book Review

"Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting." (p. 216)

What does an authentic leader look like? Dr. Brené Brown not only answers that question in her autobiographical portrait, she candidly models her personal, inspirational path. Brown admits all of my [her life] stages were different suits of armor that kept me [her] from becoming too engaged and too vulnerable. Each strategy was built on the same premise: Keep everyone at a safe distance and always have an exit strategy (p. 7).

We can recall from our Feedback (communication) workshop that leaders ultimately make connections; likewise, Brown realizes connection is why we're here (p. 8), and that we often fear not being worthy of connection.

Brown has a terrific term for authenticity, wholeheartedness, or a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. In The Gifts of Imperfection,  Brown (pp. 9-10) defined ten "guideposts:"

• Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
• Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfection
• Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
• Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
• Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
• Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
• Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
• Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
• Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and "Supposed To"
• Cultivating Laughter, Song & Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and "Always in Control"

We can think of these guideposts as preparation for creating a Personal Leadership Philosophy. Over the years, Brown has found that ... everyone from C-Level executives to the front-line folks talk to me about disengagement, the lack of feedback, the fear of staying relevant amid rapid change, and the need for clarity of purpose (p. 15).

This review summarizes how eliminating common myths and embracing real communication & feedback allows us to dare greatly, or become a unique, authentic leader.

Myths | Scarcity & Vulnerability

In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist refers to scarcity as "the great lie." Brown likewise describes how scarcity also creates a passive mindset (think of Marshall Goldsmith's revelations in Triggers) disabling progress in ourselves and others. This passivity leads to disengagement and is reinforcedby (p. 26) often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection.

Brown also challenges four vulnerability myths:

Myth 1 | Vulnerability is Weakness

Is stepping up to the plate after striking out a sign of weakness? NO. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage (p. 37). Think of an After Action Review, where groups bravely seek the truth, driven by passionate, continuous team improvement, and then make commitments (at the individual level) expecting to be held accountable. That's courage.

Myth 2 | I Don't Do Vulnerability

"I'm an engineer -- we hate vulnerability." "I'm a lawyer -- we eat vulnerability for breakfast." "Guys don't do vulnerability." (p. 43). This reminds us of the Conflict Leadership workshop where a win/lose mindset leaves our compromise (win-win) and collaboration (gain-gain) outcomes off the table.

Myth 3 | Vulnerability Is Letting It All Hang Out

Brown envisions trust is built one marble at a time (p. 49). This reminds me of the wonderful term "relational capacity" as taught by Flip Flippen, or the Karma Wheel mindset of pioneering company Switch. It doesn't happen overnight or as simply the result of a poster or sign. Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement (p. 53). Think of our Energize2Lead (E2L) profiles, especially the lower (instinctive) colors. By connecting at an instinctive level, trust is possible, allowing unprecedented levels of performance when our mutual needs are both understood and nourished.

Myth 4 | We Can Go It Alone

When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help (p. 54). This may be why evaluation is frequently confused with coaching. Think about it this way: When we become so hung up on possibly being judged (evaluated), the fear can overcome our desire for actual improvement. That's debilitating. Brown realizes ...the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled (p. 56).

Authentic Communication & Feedback

Recall sharing our personal dreams and goals from the Goal Setting workshop- and how we really learned deeply about each other. This goes against the grain of the image of the perfect leader. Peter Sheahan, CEO of ChangeLabs doesn't buy it: "This notion that the leader needs to be "in charge" and to "know all the answers" is both dated and destructive (p. 65).

Shame frequently holds us back. Dr. Brown's definition:

"Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed
and therefore unworthy of love or belonging
." (p. 69)

Brown found that men and women with high levels of shame resilience (moving from shame to empathy) have four things in common pp. 74-75),

1. Recognizing Shame and Uncertainty in Others
2. Practicing Critical Awareness
3. Reaching Out
4. Speaking Shame

Brown notices it appears that believing that we're "enough" is the way out -- giving us permission to take off the mask (p. 116):

• I am enough
• I've had enough
• Showing up, taking risks, and letting myself be seen is enough

Ask yourself whether your leadership philosophy invites or welcomes this level of communication and openness.

Culture & Values

Dr. Brown shares that she can tell a lot about the culture and values of a group, family, or organization by asking these ten questions:

• What behaviors are acceptable?
• Where and how are people actually spending their resources?
• What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
• Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
• What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?
• What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
• What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake
• How is vulnerability perceived?
• How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
• What's the collective tolerance for discomfort?

It's a great list. Chances are leaders or organizations we admire practice use of questions like that during meetings, or more specifically, in coaching sessions.

Application | Dare Greatly

Brown defines a leader as anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes (p. 185). Sure sounds a bit like the choinque leadership definition. Going further, she states no corporation or school can thrive in the absence of creativity, innovation, and learning, and the greatest threat to all three of these is disengagement (p. 187). In a way this is what Pfeffer and Sutton found out in The Knowing-Doing Gap, that  knowledge sharing is key.

Brown cites Sir Ken Robinson in Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (p. 188)

"An organization is not the physical facilities within which it operates;
it is the networks of people in it."

This is exactly what Stanley McChrystal learned and incorporated into the  construction of his new operational headquarters in Team of Teams. Or put another way: A daring greatly culture is a culture of honest, constructive, and engaged feedback (p. 197), where vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process (p. 201)

The unwillingness to engage with the vulnerability of not knowing often leads to making excuses, dodging the question, or -- worst-case scenario--bullshitting (p. 207). We've all been in meetings like this where an insecure leader "filibusters" rather than risk being asked a tough question or entering a crucial conversation.

Takeaway | Lifetime Leadership

Dr. Brown brings her findings home: How we help our children understand, leverage, and appreciate their hardwiring, and how we teach them resilience in the face of relentless "never enough" cultural messages (p. 217), is a great reminder that leadership doesn't stop at the office. It's a lifetime responsibility.

Engagement means investing time and energy. It means sitting down with our children and understanding their worlds, their interests, and their stories (p. 237).

Coaching Story | Never Stop Leading

How many of you are looking forward to retirement? Or just wondering what’s next?

In a recent coaching session with a highly educated scientist near the end of his career, he mentioned that he wants the freedom to explore stuff on his own time & further if he had to live life over again he would go into the State Department and help our country overseas.

Keep in mind my scientist colleague is a deep thinker. He thought deeply when composing his leadership philosophy during our Academy Leadership workshops. Shortly after the course his new company president spoke about her values, and he told me how it reminded him of our recent sessions.

So I had to ask him: Why not apply your leadership philosophy to your retirement? Or, go further and approach the State Department and let them know part of living your leadership philosophy is helping others. Not as a full-time job, but as a way of both exploring new things and helping others.

Think about it. It’s always a good time to lead.

Influence & Insight | November 2017

Leadership Story | ChoinqueCast Launch | Engagement

Increasingly, it seems much of what we're looking for in leaders, and in ourselves, is connection. In late September, a new podcast, called choinquecast, launched and is available on ITunes and Stitcher.

In the second choinquecast, Mark Crowley, author of Lead From The Heart,  shares a vision of managerial quality. Crowley cites the single most significant change an organization can do for increased engagement is only promote individuals into management roles, at any level, who have a track record of elevating other people of their own initiative. It's a powerful answer. Mark goes further and gives examples of three typical responses to interview questions when asking managerial applicants how they have advocated for others: Stumped and silent; attempts to fake an answer; and someone with an authentic plan to elevate others in the new role. What happens in your organization?

Consider subscribing to the choinquecast, reviewing and sharing. And please let me know if there is a person, organization, or topic you wish to hear on a future episode. Remember, the whole idea is creating connections between all of us.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do  | Book Review

Values Make Us Strong

Amy Morin’s personal and professional reflections addressing common leadership confidence issues is a worthy companion to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Counseling stories and What’s Helpful/What’s Not Helpful sections serve as chapter bookends providing reinforcement and easily accessible future reference.

Morin’s opening Mental Strength truths (pp. 12-13), grounded in personal values ideal for overcoming fear as a central theme, are reminiscent of conflict avoidance contributing to 83% of leaders (Emerge Leadership Group) not held accountable for their actions. Morin’s thirteen characteristics and their leadership technique correlation inform this review.


Feeling sorry for ourselves wastes energy (p. 21), requiring an attitude adjustment. Morin recommends trading values (self-pity for gratitude p. 27) and making conscious efforts to do something contrary to how you feel (p. 23) thus helping break the habit. She advises using a journal (p. 29)  for teaching others gratitude, exemplified in a story (pp. 30-31) reminiscent of Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Indirectly recommending After Action Reviews, Morin calls out a common reflection (p. 148) “You [We] don’t invest much time in analyzing why your [our] attempts to reach your [our] goals are unsuccessful.” She cites the 2012: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition – “it is difficult to completely unlearn what we were taught when we were younger (p. 149)” - perhaps corresponding to our Energize2Lead dominant colors (p. 150: stubborn, impulsivity) and behaviors. On page 155 Morin asks -- What could I have done better? and What can I do differently next time? -- just like the end of an Academy Leadership workshop or during an After Action Review.

Morin’s sharpest analysis targets Why We Give Up (p. 183) starting with “almost everyone has given up on something after a failed first attempt.” She references the 1998 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology experiment where those praised for effort were more eager to learn from mistakes than those for self-esteem, leading to

Grit is a better predictor of success than IQ (p. 187)

demonstrated by Walt Disney’s inspiring Oswald story (pp. 191-192) how after his initial failure in the cartoon industry led to unprecedented success within a few years during the great depression.

Morin recommends we all record our thoughts more. She references (p. 201) a 1997 Study The Emergence of Solitude as a Constructive Domain of Experience in Early Adolescence  - similar to  Susan Cain in Quiet) - concluding:

“Although it can be a challenge to slow down and take time out for yourself, there can be serious consequences if you don’t.” (p. 202)

On pages 205-206 Morin outlines an effective journaling process.

Personal Leadership Philosophy

Morin asserts pleasers lose sight of their values (p. 98) and points out that among the Top Five Regrets of the Dying (Bronnie Ware) people often said they wished having more authentic lives.

“No matter what your values are, you’ll stop behaving according to them if you’re focused primarily on pleasing other people.” (p. 99)

On pages 101-103 Morin presents a values clarification exercise (similar to a Life’s Compass Rose) and advises living one’s values (p. 109), even if not well received.


Morin submits six types of change (p. 56) and five stages (pp. 57-58) of transformation as thoughtful steps before asking What I Will Do Differently? (WIWDD from Academy Leadership self-evaluations). Asking what we can do today (similar to Goldsmith) by means of active questions is a terrific additional idea.

On page 118 Morin challenges “fear meters” reliability, reminding us of continuously streamed contemporary media hype (p. 122). Instead, she lists eight risk level questions (pp. 123 – 125) allowing informed decision-making, thereby reducing fear of taking calculated risks.

Energy & Triggers | Know Yourself

Thinking before we react (p. 43), similar to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Why Forgive?: Officer McDonald’s (p. 41) amazing redemption story highlight ways for us to retain our power. For those easily holding grudges (dominant green E2L), pages 48-49 highlight benefits of absolution.

Morin describes delegation challenges (pp. 74–75) and wasted energy control via a bi-locus of control, or separating what we truly can control & what we cannot. On page 83 she wisely advises influence rather than control by listening first, speaking second. Finding the best ways to use energy and Create Your [Our] Own Definition of Success (p. 174) leads to celebrating other’s successes in turn leading to competing only with oneself.

Self-Coaching | Turn Knowing into Doing

Morin cautions us of The Problem With Expecting Immediate Results – if we don’t apply any new information or learning, then we will not cross the Knowing-Doing Gap (p. 235). She finishes with good self-coaching questions (p. 241):

How will I know if what I’m doing is working?
What is a realistic time frame to see initial results?
What kind of results can I realistically expect to see within one week, one month, six months, and one year?
How will I know that I’m staying on track toward my goal?

Note: Amy Morin generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | The Parent as Coach

It's easy to think of the traditional parental role as breadwinner, administrator of the household, etc. At least as important is a leader role, the coach of our kids. A college friend of our daughter, Aislinn Slaugenhaupt, posted an open letter to her father: My Real-Life Superman. Here's an excerpt:


I decided to publicly post this letter. We are a very private family, but I cannot walk around carrying the weight of my love for you and my memories and fears if I can’t share them with you right now. I want people to know who you are. I want them to know how much I love you because even if I can’t tell you, I can tell them. I can show people all over the world who you are so that they can understand you, and love you, and laugh at my memories of you, and cry for you like I do. My love for you is too great to keep to myself.

I have been making a list of all the things you have taught me and wanted me to know in my life. I hope to share that list with you soon, and these are just a few of them.

I know how to be strong, determined, independent, and brave because of you. I also know how to be gentle, empathetic, selfless, and patient because of you. You taught me how to love and understand people and animals. You taught me to stand up for myself and for others, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and to hold my ground in the face of bullies of all kinds.

Aislinn, she actually goes by "Ace," wrote this letter to her father because he has been in intensive care since 20 September. Ace's father, Tracy, is a veteran lineman who volunteered to help restore power in Florida after Hurricane Irma. He was accidentally electrocuted, has undergone at least a dozen surgeries (and loss of one arm), and is fighting for his life. What's clearest about this story is the powerful bonds within the Slaugenhaupt family due to Tracy's role as a leader and a coach. You can learn more about this story here.

Influence & Insight | October 2017

Leadership Story | The Awakened Leader

Sharing stories of personal growth often adds great energy to a team. During our Advanced Leadership Course in Tampa this past month, we were treated to an inspiring testimonial. One attendee, a Business Intelligence Manager, until about a month ago, had focused solely on his technical acumen throughout his career.

His company is growing rapidly, generating enormous amounts of data daily, which require near real-time analysis and dissemination to remain productive. Like many managers, he simply worked harder trying to keep up with the data, and to implement expensive enterprise-wide data & knowledge systems. When the going got tough, he was Superman, determined to carry the load by himself.

About a month ago, Steve (not his real name) reached the same conclusion General Stanley McChrystal reached in Iraq in 2004 (told in the book Team of Teams). He had to throw out his old playbook if the organization was to succeed. Knowledge had to be shared throughout the organization. The enterprise systems needed to do the same. And most importantly, he could not do all of this himself. Steve shared this epiphany with his boss, who was delighted with his realization.

As Steve shared his stories, he energy level shot up. He was louder. He was passionate. It was wonderful hearing and feeling his stories. His awakening is a reminder to all of us, regardless where we are in our career arc, that we can both improve and inspire.

Navigating Chaos | Book Review

Jeff Boss’ aptly subtitled How to Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations, is a reflection on over 200 combat missions during eight deployments spanning thirteen years as a Navy SEAL. An overarching theme of humility permeates Boss as he translates his combat experience into everyday leadership lessons.

A World of Chaos

“the ability to comport yourself in uncertain situations – is the most important skill
you need to develop if you are going to become a top-tier performer”
(p. ix)

Boss believes to share knowledge is to serve others, and that results come from trust, attitude, and a shared purpose (p. xi).

The typical organizational response to chaos is to become more efficient – to improve productivity – and the byproduct is increased stress for each and every employee (p. 4). The secret is to keep the performance capacities (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) – think of energy sources fueling a Personal Leadership Philosophy, or PLP – fulfilled, as doing so sustains energy levels to perform, to adapt, and to lead (pp. 5-6).

4 Pillars of Performance             Area to Improve

Physical                                          Habits, health, rest, nutrition
Mental                                            Focus, mental fortitude, learning
Emotional                                       Passion, emotional intelligence, resilience
Spiritual                                          Purpose, fulfillment, visualization

When people, teams, or companies share the same purpose it is presumed that communication is clear, the team is working in alignment, “Winning” has been defined, operating environment is understood before moving, and skill and performance standards exist (pp. 18-19). Imagine sharing your PLP, establishing effective communication, then focusing primarily on aligning action with values as Jim Collins suggests.

SEAL to Civilian | PAL Model

To shoot, move, and communicate in the SEAL teams is to perform, adapt, and lead in the private sector (p. 23), or the PAL Model, respectively. Notice Boss directly correlates communication with leadership, akin to sharing our leadership philosophy including operational descriptions and expectations. Like the dual aspects of our Leader’s Compass 360 evaluations, he describes leaders as people who possesses both the character and competence that inspires others (p. 32).

Purpose brings meaningfulness that fuels the fire for even greater intellectual curiosity and Sustained Superior Performance (SSP), defined as steadfast execution amidst frequent uncertainty (p. 41). Think about consistent focus on HPAs (high-payoff activities) and prioritization under stress as a leader.

Conflict avoidance is a common reason for lack of accountability, or doing the right thing. Boss suggests passion as a remedy, noting purpose without the passion to support it is the very feeling of creative tension we experience when we know what we want but take no action to “get there.” (p. 57)

5 C's

Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, showed that between stimulus and response there is a gap where choice resides (p. 64). Boss equates this with the gap between certainty and uncertainty, where strengths and weakness coexist (p. 65), leading to the 5 C’s: Competence, Character & Confidence, Curiosity, Complacency and Chaos. Boss learned, sometimes the hard way, that complacency may result after developing competence and [over]confidence. Curiosity is the antidote, which refreshes learning and further develops competence (pp. 68-69). This is his most powerful and relevant leadership conclusion. Boss considers purpose the key to curiosity, or continually asking "Why?" based on humility allowing an embrace of the unknown necessary for ideas, creativity and innovation (p. 112).

Boss defines [team] competence (p. 78) occurring when an ordinary group of individuals work together in an extraordinary manner toward a shared objective or purpose, and success is a factor of who they are (character), what they can do (competence), and how they communicate. Similar to Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop, boss advises DACA (Detect, Adapt, Choose, Adopt) as an adaptive leadership style (pp. 85-86) sustaining the highest levels of proficiency.

Choice Within Uncertainty

To stay competitive, companies must change and adapt over time. But they can only adapt at the speed of learning (p. 119). Boss convincingly describes the need for After Action Reviews (AARs) on pages 121-126, focusing on shortening the gap between failure and success, such that complacency and chaos are minimized and curiosity is maintained (p. 124). We all know (or have been) the leader who is always right, or is simply above the need for feedback. In Boss' experience, people with that attitude die and get others killed.

He describes successful adaptation based upon three criteria: 1) Preserving the skills that dictate survival, 2) Removing or modifying the skills that no longer contribute to survival and 3) Reprogramming or rearranging new skills to flourish and win (p. 154). It's not a big leap to translate his military perseverance strategy to the corporate environment.

Boss again highlights the need for purpose (p. 194): "I believe there are three types of people in this world when it comes to finding purpose: ticket-punchers, dollar-hoarders, and purpose-minded." The purpose-minded choose to serve a cause greater than themselves and leave the world a little bit better than when they found it because they are perpetual learners.

The Leader's Door

Boss illustrates "the door" as the last thing standing between us and the rest of our life (p. 215), and now is the time to make a decision: adapt, lead, and win, or not. This requires humility, for Boss it is the one thing that he believes separates leaders in positions of authority from those leaders in positions of influence (p. 229).

Thirteen years as a SEAL has taught Boss knowledge is powerful, but sharing knowledge is the real source of power (p. 249). Without communication, humility and curiosity, we're unlikely to reach that that stage of influence. He closes:

… the discipline to reflect and learn through increased performance capacities, the skill and will to adapt, and the courage to lead that enable you to become better as an individual and as a team (p. 273).

Thank you Jeff for the signed first hardcover edition

Coaching Story | Living Your Leadership Philosophy

Early in September a first coaching session occurred with a company president responsible for a national group of franchisees. One of the interesting takeaways was use of an on-line Johari Window by five or six direct reports allowing his team to better understand communication between themselves and their teams.

Even better is use of his Personal Leadership Philosophy. When he shared his Leader's Compass with colleagues who had worked with him for up to eight years, there was little surprise. They know their boss and hearing it read in person was confirming. However, when he shared the document with newer team members, in each case an insight was revealed. In effect, the relationship was accelerated and was deepened immediately.

Recall the origins of the Personal Leadership Philosophy come from the U.S. Navy and their Command Excellence program. The most effective commanders shared their leadership philosophy the first day of their command.

The company president didn't stop there. He shared his philosophy with his superior (the company Chairman), receiving candid and useful feedback. By the time of this newsletter, he will have shared it at a franchise convention (200-300 people) where he usually offers a data-driven, information sharing presentation. Not this time. He plans to share his leadership vision - what his journey has been and how he looks at it. Our next coaching session will include a debrief of the convention. Can't wait!

Influence & Insight | September 2017

Leadership Story | Aligned SMART Goals

During a recent August Leadership Excellence Course (LEC), the majority of participants listed improved goal setting as a course expectation. This group, from a single company, is currently establishing a Program Management Office (PMO), and is already encountering executive sponsorship challenges. The Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshop offered uninterrupted time for the five-person team to unify their new department goals and discuss acceptance challenges within their greater organization. The timing was fortunate, as the PMO team was recently formed, a significant advantage.

Listening to the PMO team reminded me of the years after ITT acquired our small company, innovative systems & technologies corporation (insyte). Our parent "value center" was very independent and the most profitable business unit within the company. At successive annual corporate-wide executive retreats, we were repeatedly encouraged to focus on "breakthrough," allocating up to 80% of our time on new opportunities, including joint business initiatives with other parts of our diverse international company. Enthusiastically, I drank this "Kool-Aid," and identified a billion-dollar joint proposal encompassing multiple, diverse value centers.

Concurrently, I learned of Harold Geneen's legacy, as he had grown ITT into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate decades ago, through sustained and aggressive acquisitions, with numerous business units that likely knew little or nothing of other parts of the enterprise. Imagine the culture this fostered. Very likely, the unwritten social contract was: "If you hit your numbers, we'll leave you alone and you can do as you like."

My joint proposal never lifted off the ground, as partner value centers were risk-averse, and uncomfortable trying something new. Likely, they (as well as our business unit) had been conditioned to be independent, not take risks, and focused on hitting their quarterly numbers. Not so much breakthrough.

Sharing this story with the new PMO team may help them establish not just SMART goals, but aligned SMART goals, or goals with organizational sponsorship. Addressing unification early, rather than after decades of institutional business unit independence, affords them a better chance than my optimistic Kool-Aid experience years ago.

Provoking Greatness | Book Review

"Passion, at its core, is directed energy." (p. 148)

Misti Burmeister opens (p. 1) with "What wakes people up to the greatness that exists inside of them?" Very similar questions launch our Academy Leadership motivation workshops. Burmeister, like Dan Pink, researched the science behind motivation, finding five commonalities she calls VOICE (p. 3):

V       Vision          Painting a clear picture of an ideal future that inspires people into action
O       Ownership  Accepting full responsibility for results
I        Intentions   Being purposeful about intended outcomes
C       Community Fostering environments where people feel connected to one another
E       Energy         Having passion and unstoppable drive at the highest level within a company

Not unlike Mark Crowley (see Lead from the Heart), Burmeister informs us her leadership strategies require heart (p. 4). In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown makes the connection between successful leadership and vulnerability (p. 5). This review focuses on alignment between Burmeister's VOICE and related Academy Leadership workshops, particularly common teachable points of view. Section highlights are found on pages 34, 77, 118, 146 and 174, respectively.

Vision | Personal Leadership Philosophy

Why don't more leaders tap into the inexhaustible inspiration (p. 7) created by such visions? Because, according to Burmeister, getting clarity around one's vision takes time. Think about the process of sharing one's Personal Leadership Philosophy. More often than not, when asked during a first coaching session: "Who have you shared your leadership philosophy with?" the response is silence.

Sharing a detailed outlook or vision doesn't happen overnight, it is a leadership process, and it's not about us. As Capital One CEO Rich Fairbank put it, your vision needs to tap into something bigger than you, rather than chase your own greatness (p. 12). Burmeister shares stories about Zappos, The Container Store & Honest Tea, which were all started by a desire to make something better (p. 17).

The best way to start is deeply knowing ourselves and what our purpose really is (think Energize2Lead profile and My Leader's Compass workshops). Fewer than 20 percent of leaders have a strong sense of what drives their own individual purpose (p. 20). Burmeister asks us to define (pp. 25-26) our summit - or where we are taking others? To do so:

• Do your homework
• Go big
• Acknowledge
• Electrify
• Reinforce

Each of these steps correspond to outlining a leadership philosophy, and should address what a multiple generational workforce thirsts for. Just consider the havoc that demographic differences alone can wreak on a workplace (p. 32). Contrary to popular belief, conflict does not stem from our differences. It's a result of our insecurities, or perceptions as Jennifer Deal revealed in Retiring the Generation Gap. Our vision and philosophy offer motivational clarity.

Ownership | Accountability

Delegation, and subsequently, ownership, lead to improved accountability. Additionally, Burmeister finds that accountability (pp. 35-36), or provoking greatness requires:

• Owning your beliefs
• Owning your own greatness
• Owning your part in bringing forth their greatness
• Owning your results -- and theirs
• Empowering your team to take ownership of their greatness and their results

In our Leader's Compass workshops, among the best leader characteristics shared are fun and having a sense of humor. It matters. You can't keep people fearful and then expect them to react with kindness (p. 49). And that's expensive. Work-related stress costs U.S. companies more than $300 billion annually as a result of accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, and health care costs (p. 49).

Taking a continuous stance as coach is a great way to start. According to Zig Ziglar's research, most people's self-talk is about 77 percent negative (p. 56). This suggests a coaching cadence in proportion to the required positive reinforcement necessary for improvement is in order. Burmeister suggests we perform an empowering action three times a day, offering the following examples (pp. 58-59):

• Delegate
• Stop attending important meetings alone
• Help them reach their career ambitions
• Tell them how their contributions matter
• Speak up when your team has room to grow
• Reward successes
• Help them keep learning
• Volunteer together
• Make connections
• Relate to them

Many of us, in particular baby boomers, were not brought up that way, or have witnessed very different examples. Most leaders are too busy watching their own backs to realize that they should be showing their cards -- openly discussing their fears and explaining the situation (p. 63).                             

Intentions | Coaching & Asking Questions

Burmeister again emphasizes the importance of continuous coaching. Those who provoke greatness (p. 73) ask "Who am I being that is (or is not) causing those around me to be great?" They are particularly deliberate when it comes to:

• Vision
• Values
• Culture
• Growth
• Employee Development

How many times have we seen slick posters proclaiming values while those in positions of trust flagrantly display otherwise? As Rich Fairbank (p. 77) puts it: "As a leader, the most important thing is not what you articulate about the culture, it's the behaviors and the values that you show." Those in our trust usually want and expect for us to "walk the talk" before we have credibility.

The best coaching is two-way; or put another way, good leaders seek feedback. Yet most leaders would rather have a root canal than a one-on-one with an employee to discuss what's going well and what needs improvement (p. 83).

As many of us have practiced in coaching workshops, great coaching means great questions. Burmeister offers (p. 106) a terrific set:

• What do you enjoy most about your career so far? What's not working so well, and why?
• In what ways/areas are you doing very well?
• How can you step up your game?
• What experiences and/or skills would you like to gain, and how can you create opportunities for yourself?
• If you could do any job, what would it be?
• What do you like most about our company?
• What would you like to be doing more of, and how can I help you?
• What's most important to you in your career?
• Where would you like to be in five years? Why?

Rich Fairbank (pp. 110-11) sums it up:

"I find almost a perfect correlation between the trajectory of people at Capital One and their seeking of feedback, because it's this restless desire to get better. Yet so many people don't take advantage of that because it means being vulnerable, and people feel uncomfortable being vulnerable."

Community | Communication & Feedback

Despite the ubiquity of the internet and social media, a genuine thirst for association exists in most workplaces. Not surprisingly, companies wanting to attract and retain highly engaged, passionate, dedicated people must fulfill one of our core human drivers, and that's a need for connection (p. 119). How does your leadership philosophy stimulate this? Not just a relating to you as a leader, but in the broadest context?

A Gallup Q12 survey asked to rate the degree to which each of the following statements are true (pp. 123-124):

1. I know what is expected of me at work.
2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
7. As work, opinions seem to count.
8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
10. I have a best friend at work.
11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities to work and learn and grow.

Companies scoring in the top half on Gallup's Q12 employee-engagement survey are nearly twice as successful as those in the bottom half. Connection doesn't just make work more worthwhile, it translates to the bottom line. For a real-world example look at Zappos, offering $100 to any prospective employee who does not accept a job offer, and up to $1,000 to any employee who quits (p. 128). Where would you and your organization come out in such a survey?

No wonder Zappos is one of the fastest-growing Internet retailers of all time. That's what happens when you put people before rules. That's what happens when leaders put community and connection at the center of their business plan (p. 145).

Energy | E2L

Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work: Maximizing your Psychological Capital for Success, reports those happiest at work (p. 150):

• Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
• Spend double their time at work focused on what they are paid to do
• Take ten times less sick leave
• Believe they are achieving their potential twice as much

How do we foster this? Burmeister advises we imagine the essence of energy is having the amount you need to do the things that are important to you (p. 147), and that none of us has enough energy to do everything we want to do by ourselves (p. 161).

If we accept that, then (think of Setting Leadership Priorities or Energy Management workshops) we may accept genuine leadership activities as our top priorities rendering a large number of daily events lower priority activities.

Burmeister helps us establish our leadership priorities (p. 163-164):

Step 1 -- Think Big Picture | What's the most important outcome you want in your career? What are you working hard to achieve, and why?

Step 2 -- Break It Down | What's the most important outcome you're committed to achieving this year in your career or business? What will be different as a result of achieving this goal?

Step 3 -- Now Break It Down Some More | What are the three most important tasks that need to be completed this month in order to achieve your long- and short term goals?

Step 4 -- Call in Reinforcements | Who can help you complete the tasks listed in Step 3, or at the very least, help you make progress on them? If you're needed for any or all of it, ask yourself, "Why?" Then find a way to hand off responsibility, and give your team permission to make mistakes and learn.

Step 5 -- Dream Bigger, and Go Back to Step 1 | Once you start down this path, you will free up your time to envision bigger opportunities for yourself and your team, and to start more projects that tap into your ever-increasing passion. Free yourself to dream bigger, and then find the right people to help make those dreams a reality.

This requires daily vigilance, as we'll need to avoid the energy suckers: Meetings, Events, Activities & People (p. 165-166).

Final Thoughts

Burmeister's enthusiasm leaps from each page of this book. Stay connected with her at

Note: Misti Burmeister generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Julie & Jack

The best coaches can light a lasting spark in others, sometimes without even knowing it. Years ago, our son Jack, who has Autism, met Julie Clark, founder of the Baby Einstein Company. It turns out Jack would repeatedly watch the Baby Einstein videos, which led him to also enjoy classical music, to search for the toys in each video (which we would invariably purchase), and further motivated him to practice drawing the characters, especially Bard.

Fast forward seven years and Jack's passion turned to film.

A few weeks ago Jack was able to share his videos he's made with Julie. He was so proud, and she was again so nice, complimenting his timing and editing skills. Her voice is ingrained in our brains from so many viewings of Baby Einstein, so it's fun to know her as a proud mom likewise showing us her daughter's YouTube videos and is also a fan of Game of Thrones. She remembered her first meeting with Jack at the Denver Zoo, and once again, proved to us what an inspirational coach she is!

Influence & Insight | August 2017

Leadership Story | Hiking in Colorado

Since my unscheduled Intensive Care Unit (ICU) stay last November, I have looked forward to again climbing several Colorado mountains. Over the past several weeks, weather and timing allowed for six hikes, targeting the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. A couple leadership thoughts are worth sharing. One, it's always important to look far enough ahead to keep the overall goal, or summit, in view. On the first hike of the summer my focus occasionally narrowed causing me to wander from the actual trail to a streambed or secondary path. Only after pausing and looking around did it become clear what I had done. Oops.

On another hike, which started before sunrise, I was so eager to start I mistakenly walked into multiple campgrounds rather than begin at the actual trailhead start. This realization was embarrassing, of course, but more importantly, it was an enormous waste of energy. Once my thoughts returned to energy usage and how best to reorient myself, relaxation and curiosity took over. Rather than worry about a small mistake, getting back on track by thinking first, then acting came to mind. It reminded me a bit of Jeff Boss' Navigating Chaos, whereby embracing curiosity can lead to confidence. Soon I was laughing at my minor navigation errors, restarting at the actual trailhead and using far less energy.

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Mount Antero Summit

                           Mount Antero Summit

On my last hike, just a few days ago, Mount Antero's summit (the last 500 vertical feet) was shrouded in clouds. Rather than lose energy to anxiety, I was eager to reach the top by reasoning and double checking vertical distance to the summit. This process was both an energy saver, and a huge confidence boost. Reaching the top, it was cloudy but there was enough visibility to see this was the highest point in the area and altitude confirmed the summit via my GPS unit. Ultimately, patience was rewarded on the descent when the clouds cleared allowing a wonderful view of nearby Mount Princeton, my next planned climb.

The New Alpha | Book Review

"Leadership is about becoming the best version of yourself in order to maximize your positive impact on the world." (p. xiv)

Dr. Danielle Harlan's impassioned work is a leadership course in a book. It's also a very good journal, particularly for establishing and tracking fundamental behavioral change goals. One could easily envision a well-worn New Alpha book carried by an emerging leader to a meeting with a senior corporate mentor.

Alignment | Academy Leadership

Five self-assessments in Part I align with the seven self-assessments completed in an Academy Leadership Excellence Course (LEC). Harlan's Wrap-Up and Tracking Progress are much like our What Will I Do Differently workshop end points and program follow-up Action Plans used for Executive Coaching. Likewise, each chapter closely aligns with a corresponding leadership workshop:

Chapter                                                                                                    Leadership Workshop

1       Demonstrate Character & Ethics              
2       Build Positive and Productive
         Relationships with others                         
3       Prioritize Your Health & Wellness               
4       Develop a Mindset for Success         
5       Psychological and Organizational
         Strategies to Help You Achieve
         Your Goals
6       Define Your Personal Leadership
7       Identify Your Vision
8       Develop Your Plan
9       Execute Your Plan
10     Identify the Vision
11     Develop the Plan
12     Execute the Plan
13     Sustaining Progress, Growth
         and Motivation


Managing a Leader's Style &
Energy Management
Energy Management
Aligning and Accomplishing

Your Personal Leader's
Core Values Alignment
Your Personal Leadership
Development Plan
Core Values Alignment
Your Personal Leadership
Development Plan
Effective Decision Making

This review highlights several specific areas of emphasis for the emerging New Alpha leader.                               

Identity | Your Leadership Philosophy

Influence, rather than authority, is the source of leadership. Regardless of their official title or position, people who strive for excellence in all areas of their lives and who can bring big ideas to life -- especially those rooted in a purpose greater than themselves -- are often the best and most inspiring leaders (p. xv). This reminds us of Aaron Hurst's The Purpose Economy.

Dr. Harlan's defines a Personal Leadership Identity as follows:

• Your Personal Values
• Your Character Strengths
• Your Professional Skills
• Your Interests and Passions
• Your Ideal Success Conditions

Note the Leadership Identity contains some of the elements of a Personal Leadership Philosophy. At the core, both are fueled by deeply held personal values and corresponding passion. We can consider virtue as our values in action. Harlan likewise defines five essential leadership habits (p. 6):

• Show kindness and generosity
• Be courageous and act with integrity
• Cultivate humility
• Be industrious
• Practice good citizenship and stewardship

Feedback | Your Leadership Network

Over the years, the Personal Leadership Philosophy category requiring most emphasis has been commitment to feedback. That's asking for, rather than offering feedback. Harlan calls for us to have the courage to ask for feedback plus the additional value of coaches and mentors. She describes building a Circle of Support of (p. 40):

Inspirers are people who inspire and motivate you to be your best self
Mentors are people whom you can go to for advice and guidance (personal or professional). They're often your "sounding boards."
Sponsors are like mentors, but they're more invested in you, so they regularly champion you and your work and recommend you for opportunities. They may also see you as their protégé.
Reliables are people who are reliable and always there for you.
True peers are people who share similar experiences, ways of thinking, and even challenges.
Challengers are people who aren't afraid to push back and give you constructive feedback when necessary.

Vision | Goals & Action Plans

Harlan's excellent vision board development process (pp. 152-153) reminds us of the Google Ventures Sprint process. Like a Focus and Alignment workshop, we should always start with vision and values. For increased effectiveness, she advises we think of two things [we] enjoy, and imagine what they would be like if [we] put them together (p. 98), especially if one or both are High Payoff Activities (HPAs). Also, chunk out (p. 110) your work - that is, pick the highest-leverage (the most important, timely, or relevant) item from this [your] list, and do it now.

On pages 162-163, Harlan lists a variant of SMART goals:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Attainable
• Relevant
• Time bound

which may be tracked in a Daily Achievement Plan (p. 176), very much like the Daily Energy Audit and Daily Energy Plan from an Energy Management Workshop.

Turning knowledge into action was the key finding in The Knowing-Doing Gap.

On pages 211-218, Harlan describes how in via The Six-Steps to Turn Your Vision Into a Workable Plan of Action:

• Set Your Anchors
• Identify the Main Priorities
• Identify SMART Goals
• Make a List of Tasks for Each Goal
• Note Any Other Tasks or To-Dos for the Year Ahead
• Review Your Fabulous Work

A New Alpha Tip about information sharing (p. 230) reminds us of Stanley McChrystal's Team of Teams best practice that one person on each team should know at least one individual on every other team.

Final Thoughts

Harlan offers The New Alpha Resource Guide on-line, which accompanies the book, and may be downloaded for free at:

Note: Dr. Harlan generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Idea | Couples E2L Workshop

During an in-house Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) this spring several attendees asked:

"Can we set up a 'couples E2L' workshop with us and our spouses?"

What a fund idea, why not? Well, we held the first E2L Couples Workshop two Saturdays ago at a Tampa client site. It was immediately obvious that two of the couples had very divergent profiles: Triple green no red wife - Triple red no green husband & Triple green husband - no green wife. Although my spouse was not with me, I had her profile allowing me to represent one more couple (we're also strong opposites in red and green). Each couple shared stories how they have adjusted their behaviors recognizing temperamental differences throughout their marriages. And more than once, candid feedback revealed that more could still be done. We laughed together frequently, recognizing parts of each story in our own relationships.

We paused twice during the workshop to ask how we could better help our spouses satisfy their instinctive needs, as well as how to approach each other better (expectations dimension). By sharing personal stories, we learned new "best practices" to try after the course. Perhaps the most interesting insight was we are not as good at meeting our spouse's needs as we think we are. We also learned that like the best coaching sessions, genuine two-way communication is required, with candid yet helpful feedback.

Influence & Insight | July 2017

Leadership Story | A Developmental Mindset

Ever have a lunch meeting with a colleague that just makes your day? Well that happened this month. Our Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) at the USAF Academy (there were ten of us - we called ourselves the "Velvet Hammers") kept returning to the idea that authentic leaders cultivate and prioritize a developmental mindset, whereby helping others grow, over time, becomes a way of thinking. All ten of us left that Thursday highly energized and ready to share our leadership philosophies.

At lunch in Denver the next day I reconnected with a colleague who has been through several courses in Florida and Colorado. We've stayed connected, via formal and informal coaching for several years, through multiple career progressions. Turns out my colleague, who has a very introverted and shy temperament, is launching a life coaching business (in addition to her full-time program manager role). Further, she has been reaching out to other professional women in the greater Denver area, both networking and exploring speaking opportunities. Wow!

Needless to say, this was both unexpected and a delight to hear. The more she shared, the more I noticed how energizing each of these new events were for her. The Velvet Hammer group came to mind, and how we agreed to help each other nurture and sustain a developmental mindset. This story is my way of reaching out to our most recent course graduates, as well as many others, as a reminder of the power and service that comes from putting others first. Keep an eye on the partner section of the choinque web site and you'll probably see an endorsed life coaching business partner soon...

The Happiness Track | Book Review

"The biggest influence you can have is to listen to your heart and your highest intention rather than letting the mind run rings around you. If you can do that, the ego takes a backseat and you can have a positive influence on others around you (p. 87)."

Dr. Emma Seppälä, Science Director of Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, offers in-depth research and many practical methods for creating a more motivational environment - at work, at home - for a better overall life.

Her reflective work is reminiscent of Hugh Hewitt's The Happiest Life and Clayton Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life? -- challenging the modern, exquisitely busy lifestyle. Seppälä observes: Your weekdays are an endless race to complete the never-ending to-do list before you collapse into bed, exhausted, getting to sleep at a much later hour than your body would like. We have simply accepted overextension as a way of life (p. 3). Not only are we killing ourselves doing this, it's not effective.

Seppälä cites six major false theories that drive our current notions of success (p. 5):

• Never stop accomplishing
• You can't have success without stress
• Persevere at all costs
• Focus on your niche
• Play to your strengths
• Look out for number one

Have you ever worked somewhere with a prevailing culture like this? Or worse, have you fostered it? 58 percent of Americans claim that their stress is rising, and anxiety is the leading cause for mental health treatment in the United States, costing the nation over $42 billion per year (p. 7).

Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina found that happiness brings out our best potential in four concrete ways: Intellectually, psychologically, socially and physically (pp. 8-10). Recall our Personal Leadership Philosophy workshops, specifically that all of our personality dimensions require fuel for energetic leadership. Happiness isn't just about feeling good, it works. In particular, happy, friendly, and supportive co-workers tend to (pp. 9-10):

• build higher-quality relationships with others at work
• boost co-workers' productivity levels
• increase co-workers' feeling of social connection
• improve commitment to the workplace
• increase levels of engagement with their job
• provide superior customer service even if they don't stand to benefit

Stop Chasing the Future | Create Motivational Environments

Seppälä  describes "Stanford Duck Syndrome," where students look like peaceful ducks, but there is a dark underside: the ducks' legs are furiously pedaling as they struggle to stay afloat and to keep moving (pp. 17-18). Sounds like a typical prep school, especially during the college admissions semesters.

"Workaholic" is repeatedly described as one of the worst leader behaviors in Academy Leadership workshops. Research by Michael Treadway indicates the workhorse mentality -- unlike addictions involving alcohol or other substances -- is rewarded by our culture (with promotions, bonuses, praise, awards, and so on) and therefore considered a good thing despite its long-term negative impact on well-being (p. 21), specifically detrimental to health, work & relationships (p. 23).

We're terribly distracted. Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard find adults only spend about 50 percent of their time in the present moment (p. 28), and to be fully present, their study pointed to six elements of a charismatic person (p. 32):

• Empathy
• Good listening skills
• Eye contact
• Enthusiasm
• Self-confidence
• Skillful speaking

Notice each of these elements are also qualities of the best coaches. Or, we cannot coach well without being present and fully focused.

Step Out of Overdrive | Be Positive

According to the American Institute of Stress, a representative sample of Americans in 2014 shows these statistics (p. 40):

• Annual stress-related health-care costs for employers: $300 billion
• Percent of people who regularly experience physical costs caused by stress: 77
• Percent of people who regularly experience psychological costs of stress: 73
• Percent of people who report lying awake at night due to stress: 48

Nature provides us clues about how to balance short-term vs. chronic stress. Firdaus Dhabar of Stanford describes the key to a lion's resilience is her ability (p. 45):

• to quickly return to the restorative rest-and-digest state
• to remain in that state until an extreme life-threatening situation taxes her again
• to overcome the next challenge at full strength

Sounds like a SCRUM sprint, doesn't it? The fact that children and animals recover so quickly from stress shows just how naturally resilient our nervous system is (p. 46). Staying positive is also vital for energy conservation and good health. With just one or two negative thoughts, you can agitate your physiology to extremes (p. 48). And it's exhausting.

Daniel Wegner has shown in several studies that the intention to control a particular thought often breaks down under stress or mental overload and actually ends up triggering the unwanted thought, undermining our best intentions (p. 52). So, sheer willpower is not enough, we need to actually calm ourselves.

The finding that we can change how we feel by using our breath is revolutionary (p. 56). According to professor Stephen Porges, one reason slow breathing has an immediate effect is that it activates the vagus nerve -- the tenth cranial nerve, which is linked to our heart, lungs and digestive system -- and thus slows down the sympathetic (fight-or flight) and adrenal system (p. 58). Does this mean we should always be sedate, or relaxed? No, being calm and energized is not only possible through the breath but it is also the ideal state (p. 60).

Manage Your Energy | Think Energize2Lead (E2L)

Perhaps you have experienced some of the burnout symptoms outlined by the Mayo Clinic (p. 69):
• becoming cynical or critical at work
• dragging yourself to work and having a hard time motivating yourself once there
• becoming irritable or impatient with colleagues or clients
• lacking the energy needed to be productive
• lacking satisfaction when you achieve something
• feeling disillusioned about your work

Seppälä's Energy & Intensity graph is very similar to Tony Schwartz's Dynamics of Engagement diagram. Research shows that Westerners thrive on high-intensity positive emotions, and East Asian cultures value low-intensity positive emotions like serenity and peacefulness (p. 71).

Self-control is deeply exhausting, depleting our energies in four ways:

intensity quad.png

• Control your impulses. Staying on task as opposed to giving up or giving way to distractions (checking Facebook) or temptations (leaving work early to meet friends).
• Controlling your performance. Persisting and giving your best despite having worked an eighty-hour week on little sleep.
• Controlling your behavior (especially your emotional expressions). Maintaining a professional tone and demeanor even when the work atmosphere is hostile and your colleagues or manager make decisions you do not agree with.
• Controlling your thoughts. Focusing on your work despite the many thoughts that pop into your mind. For example, "I'm tired, I want to go home." Or "Maybe I should just quit my job." Or "I wonder if my significant other is upset about what I said." Or fantasizing about your next vacation (p. 74).

If we look at the left side of the graph, we don't associate either the high intensity or low intensity emotions as happy. Negativity is the ultimate enemy of both high energy and happiness.

Get More Done by Doing More of Nothing | Foster Creativity

We believe that the opposite of focus -- daydreaming, goofing off, spacing out -- is to be avoided (p. 97). It's not an accident that many successful and productive places to work have arcades and fun places to exercise. According to a 2010 IBM Survey of more than 1,500 CEOs spanning 60 countries and thirty-three industries, CEOs believe that the most important skill needed to navigate today's complex business world is creativity (p. 98). As leaders, not only do we need to foster the imagination, we need to prioritize it.

Seppälä mentions George Land, author of Grow or Die (p. 103), who found that between three and five years of age, 98 percent of the children ranked as "divergent thinking geniuses." By age twenty-five, he found that only 2 percent could think divergently. This requires a paradigm shift, and there are three ways to access our potential for creativity (p. 107):

• Learning to unfocus through diversification
• Making time for stillness and silence
• Inviting fun back into our lives

Management experts Kimberly Elsbach and Andrew Hargadon suggest that -- for maximum creativity -- you should organize your workday schedule so that it alternates highly focused and demanding tasks with more mindless ones (p. 108). This is just what we've done in our new Energy Management Workshops.

Enjoy a Successful Relationship... With Yourself | Self-Compassion

According to Seppälä our brains have competing systems: one that seeks rewards and another that fears failure. Fear of failure, when excessive, stands directly in the way of success (p. 126):

• It hurts your performance
• It makes you give up
• It leads to poor decision making
• It makes you lose touch with what you really want

Fear of failure sounds a lot like conflict avoidance, and often associated with dominant blue E2L traits. On the other hand, self-compassion involves treating yourself as you would treat a colleague or friend who has failed (p. 132). Dr. Kristin Neff pioneered research on self-compassion and has outlined its three components:

• Being kind to yourself
• Understanding that you are part of humanity, that everyone makes mistakes
• Mindfulness

Some of the strongest and most authentic Personal Leadership Philosophies include statements of compassion and gratitude. Gratitude is a source of great strength, and not only boosts your well-being but also significantly strengthens professional skills (p. 136). Seppälä recommends these methods to become more self-compassionate:

• Notice your self-talk
• Write yourself a letter
• Develop a self-compassion phrase
• Make a daily gratitude list

Understand the Kindness Edge | Be Compassionate

... a self-interested approach may get you results in the short term, but over the long term it ends up failing you. Research suggests that self-focus harms you in four ways: It creates blind spots, ruins your relationships, makes you weak in the face of failure, and damages your health (pp. 143-144).

In our feedback and communications workshops, the importance of making connections is stressed. We often overlook the importance of social connection -- a feeling of positive connection with others (p. 148).

Kim Cameron, goes deeper, defining compassionate practices as (p. 154):

• Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends
• Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling
• Inspiring one another at work
• Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work
• Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
• Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity

Does this matter in the workplace? Yes. Research shows that people prefer companionship and recognition over a large salary (p. 160). It matters at work and in life. Unlike self-focus, compassionate and positive relationships with others are associated with (p. 160):

• 50 percent increased likelihood of longevity
• buffering against the health effects of stress
• a strengthened immune system
• reduced inflammation
• lower rates of anxiety and depression

Final Thoughts

In the end, this all ties back to leadership. In addition to becoming more successful, you significantly boost your heath and psychological well-being. Your impact spreads, as you create a culture of positivity that benefits those around you and reaps great results for you (p. 164).

Coaching Story | Manager as Leader

During a recent coaching call, a Senior Program Manager (also a Project Management Professional, or PMP) described the challenge of writing a leadership philosophy expressing a future leader role rather than a current manager role. In fact, during the call she asked from what point of view should her leadership philosophy be written: manager or leader. What do you think?

We answered the question together by looking at her LEC Action Plan, which included providing vision, mission and goals for employees. She also included coaching to develop people, and receiving feedback. So her answer really was both; she's an IT manager who wishes to grow further as a leader by developing others. Plus, she wants to be held accountable by receiving feedback. Sounds like a leader to me.

Often pursuing this path is a bit "out of the box," and certainly seems to be in this case. For our next coaching session, we agreed to set up a GoToMeeting which will allow us to look at her revised leadership philosophy together. Then we can both ask if the right balance of critical IT expectations is communicated within a broader, supportive leadership narrative. Bravo!

Influence & Insight | June 2017

Leadership Story | Networking | Level Up

Networking, connecting with people, or "leveling up" formed a recurring leadership theme over the past few weeks. This started at a high school "AlumTalk" in Land O' Lakes, Florida and eventually reached Sydney, Australia with a number of terrific speakers concluding with Naomi Simson sharing her path toward Live What You Love. What was common with each of these talks? Several things:

• Leveling up usually means getting out of one's comfort zone
• We need to understand who we really are
• Real feedback from those we trust is required
• Relationships are not transactional
• Competence is a given, and just gets us started
• Character and passion provide the energy allowing us to step up
• Curiosity leads to lifetime resiliency as we navigate a chaotic world

Underlying each talk was a strong sense of service, or that the ultimate path, the path of a leader, is not self-driven. Bravo!

Step Up | Book Review

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness." (Viktor Frankl, p. 34)

Michelle Gibbings, perhaps an auditor at heart, offers a highly organized, step-by-step guide for change, both personal and organizational. Her checkpoints are found on pages 3-4, 14, 30, 71, 94-95, 104-105, 116-117, 119-120, 128-129, 154-155, 165, 173, 179-180, 191 and 206-207. In that detailed way she reminds us of Kotter's classic work Leading Change. Mirroring her own career arc, Gibbings goes deeper, sharing that at the core, change is influence and that it is only hard because we make it hard (p. xv.)

A conservative guess is that at least fifty percent of Academy Leadership Excellence Course participants are strong technically and not quite so adept at leadership. If that describes you, Gibbings book is for you, the more technically focused but at that stage in [your] career where [you] know [you] need more skills - of a certain nature -- if [you] want to advance (p. xvi).


Gibbings provides a corollary to knowing yourself first, then others second as part of crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap, the basis of an Academy Leadership experience. Her framework is centered on Mindset, the intersection of individual and organisation (x-axis) & thinking and doing (y-axis), and illustrated (Figure 3) on page 13.

Upon reflection, Gibbings realized she had traversed her own knowing-doing gap, noticing (p. 15)

"I wasn't being hired for my technical skill. I was being hired because of my ability to get stuff done, and my ability to influence stakeholders and manage and motivate behavioural change."

This review offers supporting commentary strengthening Gibbings' structure based on corresponding leadership authors and related workshops.

Know Yourself | E2L | Goal Setting | Personal Leadership Philosophy

Gibbings observes we shape our perceptions based on how things should be, or are formed by the expectations dimension of our Energize2Lead (E2L) profile colors. Assumptions about how things should be -- not necessarily how they are -- creating a gap between perception and reality giving rise to blind spots (p. 19). Extending to the preferred E2L dimension, Gibbings also subscribes we should align the right people in the right jobs doing the right things (p. 148).

Recall the Knowing-Doing Gap recommendation we view the power of knowledge as a process. In the same manner Gibbings cites Carol Dweck's (Stanford) finding that people who have a fixed mindset see intelligence as static -- a fixed trait (p. 20), frequently limiting growth especially by not seeking additional knowledge via feedback.

Gibbings describes three P's: Paradigms (choices), Possibilities (options) and Practices (actions), which intersect creating an empowered mindset (p. 35). It looks a bit like Jeff Boss' Navigating Chaos process model -- taking advantage of possibilities (p. 39) by being curious and open to what is in front of you. In order to expand possibilities, build resilience and thrive through change, Gibbings asserts it will help if you are willing to (pp. 46-47):

1.   Be curious and have an open mind
2.   Surround yourself with people who will challenge you
3.   Manage stress
4.   Take time to reflect each day
5.   Use your energy wisely
6.   Learn from your mistakes
7.   Quieten your inner voice
8.   Feed your mind with healthy thoughts
9.   Don't expect life to be easy
10. Continue to push the boundaries

Lyubmirsky, King and Diener (p. 48) examined whether happiness leads to success, and the causal factors. Their results showed that happiness is associated with and "precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviours paralleling success." More simply put by Gibbings, the happier you are the more likely you are to experience success (p. 49).

Integrity is frequently mentioned as a core value in our Leader's Compass workshops. Gibbings shows that integrity encompasses two core attributes: Having the courage to think and act, and also being conscious of the environment or situation you are in (p. 57). She goes further, describing how to navigate away from our comfort zone:

To break away from your expectations, you need to know yourself and what you want out of life. It's impossible to stay centred when you don't know your core purpose (p. 68).

Imagine you've discovered your core purpose, and written and shared your deepest values. That's a great start. Now it's time to open up, even to the point of vulnerability. Gibbings offers advice on being open (pp. 76-78):

• Welcome all types of news
• Talk to people at all levels of the organisation
• Beware of gatekeepers
• Take the time to walk the floor
• Invite differences of opinion
• Be open to learning
• Constantly be alert to the weak signals
• Don't silence the dissenters
• Be conscious that undiscovered issues are worse than discovered issues

This doesn't mean becoming less decisive or losing resolve. Gibbings offers her own variation of agility -- agile productivity -- as being decisive, disciplined and determined (p. 80). It's sounds somewhat like like Vroom's time-based decision making model, and should mesh with a well-articulated leadership philosophy.

Know The System | Communication | Motivation | Conflict

In our Creating a Motivational Climate workshop we determine leaders endeavor creating a motivational environment, rather than actually motivating people or preordaining outcomes. Gibbings in like manner informs (via Anand and Barsoux, pp. 115-116):

"Transformation journeys cannot be mapped out entirely in advance. As leaders, we must steer a course between order and disorder at the same time, leaving room for experimentation and divergent views, while simultaneously providing boundaries and key ideas so that the energy can be channeled."

Her conscious change leader approach model offers a context for describing prevailing attitudes within an organization: Accepting, contradictory, apathetic or conscious (p. 121). We can think of these descriptors as potential for leadership influence whereby a conscious environment is likely to innovate while an accepting organization may resist genuine growth.

Another indicator of openness is our tendency to solicit and receive feedback (think of the Johari Window exercise), allowing the emergence of knowledge previously unknown to emerge as insight. Gibbings distills effective, insight-based relationships from the intersection of nature, narrative and nurture (p. 139), which in turn allows us to:

• Motivate your team
• Persuade people
• Get things done
• Position yourself effectively
• Work more effectively with people

If we want to be a conscious change leader, it's our responsibility to create and nurture the right type of team environment (p. 163). Think about McChrystal's Team of Teams, whereby each high-performing team member knew at least one member of every other unit.

For long-lasting and constructive relationships, Gibbings recommends these fundamentals (p. 171):

• Take the long-term view
• Be proactive in your intentions and patient
• Pay it forward and extend support to people
• Build relationships intentionally
• Find ways to involve people and get their advice
• Hold your ground, when necessary
• Be yourself
• Show gratitude and be generous
• Genuinely wish everyone well
• Know when to give up and move on

We all hear about the importance of networking. Gibbings illustrates networking as a thoughtful and sustained process (p. 178) with the specific goals of securing both current and future support. As with effective communication, there are numerous steps which all require attention lest the influence chain be broken.

Of the five strategies for dealing with conflict, Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops instruct us collaboration (gain-gain) is the best strategy, when time permits. Similarly, Gibbings defines a collaborative mindset (p. 205) which thinks:

• I don't have all the answers
• I'm willing to shift my position
• I'm happy to test assumptions, share ideas and find common ground

This in turn, allows for impact, or how we communicate and negotiate (p. 183), leading to lasting value.

Final Thoughts | Do The Right Thing

Gibbings has certainly traversed and captured the journey of her own leadership arc. We should remember it all starts with (p. 209):

"Feel the fear, and do it anyway."

Note: Michelle Gibbings generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | The Lousy Boss or Peer

In both formal and informal coaching sessions this month (one over an introductory dinner), stories of disrespectful and/or passive-aggressive bosses and peers surfaced. Common behaviors included abrupt and incomplete communication, throwing team members "under the bus," and lastly, an emphatic expression of disappointment or unsatisfactory performance.

Chances are we've all experienced this before, especially since most people in supervisory roles have never received leadership training. Think about that. Imagine you have been placed in a supervisory role, are untrained, and just happen to be competitive with a healthy ego. It's no surprise then that frustration and poor communication may result.

We don't have to accept lousy behavior just because a supervisor or peer lacks leadership skills. However, waiting for someone who has not received training, or at least feedback while expecting improvement in conduct is unrealistic.

An easy way to start this process is specifying requests and securing commitments (or promises). Staying calm, relaxing our breathing, and maintaining a positive attitude of wishing to help can both set up and guide clarifying conversations with our untrained colleague. It's easy to make premature assumptions, especially believing a promise has been made, and that nothing more needs to be done. Bad idea. A quick brief-back discussion, followed up with an email summarizing (and documenting by the way) each request and promise works wonders. When we are doing this, we are serving in a leader role, and over time influencing the behaviors of those around us. Give it a go next time this happens!

Influence & Insight | May 2017

Leadership Story | Living Core Values

Over several newsletters, I've chronicled the formation of normative behavioral statements with a client. While visiting their headquarters two weeks ago, several newly framed pictures were immediately visible in the hallway outside multiple conference rooms. Turns out each picture told a story of their corporate values -- safety, respect, responsiveness, creativity, integrity, initiative, teamwork -- in action.

One of the pictures depicted a specialized helicopter lowering a high-voltage electrical transmission tower onto a foundation in rugged North Dakota terrain. On the ground below, the crew dressed in safety gear and hard hats are visible, tiny compared to the soaring structure. It's message:


The ability to provide innovative solutions for the
ever changing needs of our clients and employees.

One look at that picture says it all: We'll do what it takes, we'll create a team of teams, we'll figure out how to place a tower anywhere, and we'll can do it while following the highest standards of safety. Like Tony Hsieh's story in Delivering Happiness, internal stories of what individuals and teams accomplish every day demonstrate and align their values. Bravo!

Flat World Navigation | Book Review

Kim Chandler McDonald introduces the DACE (Digital, Attention, and Collaboration Economies) with refreshing, interview-propelled stories. She smartly places Abbreviations & Common Phrases before her introduction, for example defining Flat World Navigators as (p. xxix):

Connectors and bridge builders who make and maintain
dynamic networks and business relationships.

Energetically blurring professional and personal worlds, McDonald describes these super networkers as individuals with a willingness -- often an eagerness -- to connect, communicate and explore potential adventures and ventures to share (p. xxvi).

The Future is Here | Uncertainty

The U.S. Army War College describes the VUCA - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous age we have reached (p. 2), or according to Dan Keldsen, The Gen Z Effect:"

...companies who had been able to just run their businesses as they'd continue to do so for decades, have realized they can no longer afford to NOT take advantage of both modern technology infrastructures (networks, collaboration/knowledge systems, processes) and modern management techniques around incentivization and employee engagement, if they are going to survive.

Think about conflict leadership (the Academy Leadership workshop). McDonald insists we must have the wherewithal to aim for win-win opportunities, rather than the more traditional win-lose model coupled with inflexible business practices and engagements (p. 9). This does not mean profit is bad, rather McDonald differentiates between knowledge assets (KA) and social media where the former has high value and selective sharing vs. the latter which is freely shared (p. 11).

Reminiscent of Aaron Hurst's descriptions in The Purpose Economy, McDonald advances Tier None organizations, or a determination to be part of the growing Profit with Purpose (PoP) business paradigm (p. 13), which is very attractive to an emerging professional class. According to Richard Fry, 2015 is the first year that the Millennial Generation will outnumber Baby Boomers in the United States (p. 21).


The gap between effectiveness and efficiency is growing. In the DACE, knowledge alone is not enough; applied knowledge, the prerogative of Flat World Navigators, is where effective, directed influence lies (p. 27). Flat World Navigators and the relatively new role of the Chief Marketing Technology Officer have similarities and synergies and both go some way to refining and redefining the currently struggling position of Chief Information Officer (p. 26).

TheBoston Consulting Group has predicted that, by 2016, social media will be worth US 4.2 trillion to G20 economies, and to take (p. 32) part:

• clarify the social mission/goals of your company and/or organization;
• align your mission as a Flat World Navigator with that of your company brand and culture;
• be consistent in monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of your ROI with your stakeholders and Endusers; and
• coordinate a plan for communication, which serves the needs of Endusers, including during times of crisis.

We should all consider aligning our social media strategy with our Personal Leadership Philosophy. IBM's Sandy Carter examines relationship effectiveness via convergence, as many professionals are highly engaged yet don't monetize the shrinking chasm between our professional and personal relationships (pp. 51-52).


Two excellent DACE examples are Airbnb disrupting the Parisian hotel market (p. 57) and Uber (p. 62) transforming transportation. Table 2.1 offers a broad list of online tools, tech and sites for repertoire consideration (pp. 65-66), searching for the positions wherein human behavior is the differentiator, not an algorithm.

Mary Adams depicts a very different approach to business, co-creation of value with stakeholders with a very different path to profitability (p. 83). Regarding KPIs - Key Performance Indicators - the frontier is to measure externally. If you think about it, stakeholder feedback is the ultimate leading indicator (p. 85).

McDonald's organizational design recommendations on pp. 87-88, increasing connection and communication, reminds us of Stanley McChrystal's headquarters in Team of Teams.

Jeanine Esposito differentiates between networking and collaborating (p. 89), declaring collaboration as one of the top, if not THE top skill required for the 21st century, with key characteristics (p. 93) of collaborative entrepreneurial and individuals including:

• A determination to do better. Acquiescence to the status quo has no place here.
• A willingness to listen to, and learn from, others who have diverse areas of expertise and experience.
• An openness to communicating both with others in the same department and organization, but also to forming connections outside company walls.
• Cross-department/function transparency, which encourages an open sharing of strategically useful information that can be discussed at all levels of the organization.
• An understanding that flexibility is imperative - this is particularly true in instances when Endusers are involved in driving/directing product or process development, transformation and/or innovation.

Connection | Communication Leadership | Feedback

Paul Keen states his typical customer knows as much about a product as [his] employees do and know the comparative pricing better than [their] employees do (p. 104), and the key differentiator is level of engagement with Endusers. This is the same lesson from our Energize2Lead profiles, approach people the way they want to be approached.

The need for a leadership connection is urgent. Put plainly, CIOs are being told in no uncertain terms by their CEOs that they have no choice but to adapt to the 'digital now, digital first' era -- frankly, they need to evolve and replace command and control 'with vision and inspiration' or they'll soon be extinct (p. 134).

McDonald cites Deloitte's 'Crossing the "CASM" report' (p. 161), analyzing 84 large tech companies. Of those they found it was the organizations serving SMBs (small-to medium- sized businesses, aka SMEs), that 'consistently out-performed their counterparts in revenue growth and operating income margin' and 'experienced less volatility in revenue growth and operating margins.'

Communicating leadership is key. According to Karima Mariama-Arthur honesty and authenticity are the foundation for developing solid professional relationships (p. 163). McDonald suggests determining a list of three key goals you want to accomplish, three key competencies you are eager to promote, three positive messages you want to bring attention to and three points of recommendation you are willing to share (p. 169).

Megan Kachur, of Disney Theme Park Merchandise, describes the need for feedback (p. 18): "When you go through a traditional MBA programme, there is nothing in the curriculum regarding creative thinking. (think After Action Review) What have we learned from it? What are we going to do differently next time? These are the absolutely critical components of strong, creative -- and collaborative leadership: a willingness to take the risk, to learn from the results, and to try again." (p. 23)

Women In The DACE

McDonald's findings mirror Harvard Business Review's September 2013 Issue, The biases that still hold female leaders back, especially the belief shared by far too many women, that they must be 'perfect'  often being their own worst enemy (p. 210).

However, these women are part of what is now considered one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs and wage earners - they are the Third Billion validated in the Fourth World Conference on Women: Women have increasingly become self-employed and owners and managers of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (p. 216).

The DACE appears most welcoming to women. For example, Natalie Goldman when looking at the leadership competencies required to be successful, when tested across the general population of both men and women, women tend to have more of the core competencies necessary to be excellent leaders (p. 225).


Despite all this disruption, our leadership philosophy will keep us afloat, summarized by Francesco A Calabrese:

Clarity is greatly aided by the equivalent of a
'Commander's Intent Document' from the Enterprise CEO
(p. 231).

Note: Kim McDonald generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Accountability Ladder

Over several coaching sessions, a senior leader described multiple challenges on-boarding colleagues he had worked together with in the past. One of the difficulties seemed to be related to the uncertainty of launching a new division in another country. In both cases, the former co-workers never gained full confidence in transitioning to the new division and ending up leaving. This took well over a year.

The Accountability Ladder came to mind. Listening to each of the two stories evolve, a "Wait and Hope," -- or waiting for behavioral and performance changes -- strategy prevailed for a long time, until reality could no longer be ignored. More specifically, the leader found out that the teammates had privately pursued other employment opportunities and/or never actually disengaged from their prior organization. It's as though the truth was exposed, but loyalty and friendship interfered with facing the real world.

Once the leader climbed from Wait and Hope to Acknowledge Reality on the ladder, the remaining rungs to "Make it Happen" were quickly ascended. There are multiple lessons here, especially keeping true to your organizational and personal values, as well requesting and securing commitments early in the hiring process.

Influence & Insight | April 2017

Leadership Story | Sawa Bona

At a recent in-house Leadership Excellence Course, fourteen attendees shared many individual values and stories during our three days together. Although most of the participants knew each other, one personal leadership philosophy reading stood out particularly.

With a mellifluous voice, we were introduced to the northern Natal tribe (in South Africa) greeting: Sawa Bona, which means "I see you," which centered the attendee's leadership philosophy, as a means of describing the role of a leader. We also learned the customary response to Sawa Bona is Sikhona, which means "I am here," acknowledging mutual recognition.

As we listened to the power of this exchange, and how the theme flowed throughout the leadership philosophy, we were spellbound at the humanity of this wonderful means of creating deep communication. It was a powerful reminder that our role as leaders is to connect with others in a profound, authentic way.

Sawa Bona.

The Power of Full Engagement | Book Review

Several of our leadership workshops (Energize2Lead or E2L, Personal Leadership Philosophy & Setting Leadership Priorities) describe the importance of energy as our basic leadership fuel. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz tell us why via the concept of full engagement,  in this lifetime work which should occupy any leader's bookshelf alongside Crucial Conversations

New Paradigm | Full Engagement

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest (p. 5).

The authors summarize the new energy (leadership) paradigm (p. 6):


Old Paradigm

Manage time
Avoid stress
Life is a marathon
Downtime is wasted time
Rewards fuel performance
Self-discipline rules
The power of positive thinking                


New Paradigm

Manage energy
Seek stress
Life is a series of sprints                 Downtime is productive time                Purpose fuels performance
Rituals rules
The power of full engagement


A good portion of the authors' research comes from working with top-performing athletes, who spend a great deal of time preparing for relatively short duration competitions. In contrast, the performance demands that most people face in their everyday work environments dwarf those of any professional athletes (p. 8). As good leaders, we should consider daily our expectations of others and the corresponding energy required for positive outcomes.

Four principles develop the engagement (pp. 9-14) model, forming the book's outline:

• Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual
• Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal
• To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same way that elite athletes do
• Positive energy rituals -- highly specific routines for managing energy -- are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance

After developing the full engagement model (about two thirds of the book), the need for underlying purpose is explored, followed by self-examination (audit) and how to develop rituals.

Engagement Rhythm

Eugene Aserinsky and Nathan Klietman discovered that sleep occurs in smaller cycles of 90-120 minute segments (p. 31), called the "basic rest-activity cycle," or (BRAC), which also extends to our waking lives via ultradian rhythms. We should therefore consider daily cadence structuring our energy management challenge. This could be challenging, since we live in a world that celebrates work and activity, and ignores renewal and recovery (p. 37).

A Dynamics of Engagement (p. 38) diagram helps, recommending both high and low energy (red and pink, respectively) descriptions of fully engaged and fully disengaged- type conditions. Put another way, our daily patterns should toggle between the red and pink squares, while avoiding the negative (gray) quadrants. If we wish to improve, or build capacity, we must expose ourselves to more stress -- followed by adequate recovery (p. 43).

An interesting nugget backs this up: The authors noticed what the very best professional tennis players did between points - they instinctively used the time between points to maximize their recovery (p. 32).


Our Four Energy Sources | E2L

Our physical energy, the size of our energy reservoir, depends on the patterns of our breathing, the foods we eat and when we eat them, the quantity and quality of our sleep, the degree to which we get intermittent recovery during the day, and the level of our fitness (pp. 48-49). This is our foundation and it's critically important. According to the National Academy of Sciences, medical errors, many of them at least partly caused by fatigue among doctors, account for nearly 100,000 deaths a year, more than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined (p. 57).

Knowing our (and others') E2L profiles can be a great help, since emotional intelligence is simply the capacity to manage emotions skillfully in the service of high positive energy and full engagement (p. 72). How can we do this? Like Covey's important but not urgent quadrant, the authors found making enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming activities priorities (p. 76). A series of useful case studies (pp. 84-89) discuss expansion of emotional capacity, similar to Flip Flippen's concept of relational capacity. Keep in mind negative emotions (think E2L instinctive dimension) serve survival but they are very costly and energy inefficient (p. 92).

The key supportive muscles that fuel optimal mental energy include mental preparation, visualization, positive self-talk, effective time management, and creativity (p. 94). Thinking burns an enormous amount of energy. The brain represents just 2 percent of the body's weight, but requires almost 25 percent of its oxygen (p. 96)! How can we wisely use our mental energy? Reflection and journaling can help. According to Betty Edwards, the highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest (p. 98). Does this mean time management doesn't matter? The authors tell clients clients it is not an end in itself. Rather it serves the higher goal of effective energy management (p. 106).

Recall that declaration of our values is the cornerstone our our Personal Leadership Philosophy. The connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest -- is the most powerful source of our motivation (p. 110). We should periodically ask ourselves (and others) how much of our leadership energies are focused beyond ourselves. More than at any other level, spiritual energy expenditure and renewal are deeply intertwined and tend to occur simultaneously (p. 113).

Purpose | Audit | Rituals

If growth and development take place from the bottom up -- from physical to emotional to mental to spiritual -- change is powered from the top down (p. 131). Acknowledging our metaphysical side takes courage. The simple, embarrassing reality is that we [often] feel too busy to search for meaning (p. 132).

Loehr and Schwartz describe positive purpose becoming a more powerful and enduring source of energy in our lives in three ways: when its source moves from negative to positive, external to internal and self to others (p. 135). As leaders, we can ask ourselves if the daily application of our and our organization's core values satisfy all three criteria.

Pages 154-155 offer an excellent cost/benefit (audit) chart with the most common (to the authors) observed expedient behaviors along with corresponding short-term benefits and long-term consequences. For example, multitasking may feel productive yet eventually leads to shallowness of connection to others.

We may audit our energy expenditure with the following questions (p. 157):

• How do your habits of sleeping, eating and exercising affect your available energy?
• How much negative energy do you invest in defense spending -- frustration, anger, fear, resentment, envy -- as opposed to positive energy utilized in the service of growth and productivity?
• How much energy do you invest in yourself, and how much in others, and how comfortable are you with that balance?
• How much energy do you spend worrying about, feeling frustrated by and trying to influence events beyond your control?
• Finally, how wisely and productively are you investing your energy?

Positive energy rituals are powerful on three levels. They help us to insure that we effectively manage energy in the service or whatever mission we are on. They reduce the need to rely on our limited conscious will and discipline to take action. Finally, rituals are a powerful means by which to translate our values and priorities into action... (p. 166). Think of all the daily activities we don't spend energy thinking about: driving a car, walking, eating, etc. Rituals conserve energy.

There are several key elements in building effective energy-management rituals but none so important as specificity of timing and the precision of behavior during the thirty-to sixty-day acquisition period (p. 173).

Conclusion | Leadership

It's all about personal energy alignment.

Coaching Story | Active Questions

Since reviewing Marshall Goldsmith's wonderful book Triggers in August 2015, active and passive questions frequently come to mind. Reflecting on this influenced a modification of my leadership philosophy, which now includes:

At the end of each day, key questions include
"Did I do my best? -- At work, at home, and at life."

Interestingly, another terrific use of active questions has emerged when communicating with our son Jack, who, as many of you know, is on the autistic spectrum. Jack prefers routines, and frequently focuses rather narrowly on his current project or task. Transitioning from a comfortable routine to small talk, or an extended conversation, is not easy for him.

Then it hit me. Jack prefers passive questions so much he has actually trained me to primarily ask him questions which easily allow a yes or no answer, allowing him uninterrupted focus on whatever he is happily doing! Time for an improved coaching approach. With greater frequency, active questions now begin more of our conversations, although Jack sure seems to know precisely what has changed, and more importantly, why. His countermeasures include responses such as "I'm very busy or I don't have time for this right now." My latest technique introduces an active question about the area of particular interest he is immersed in. It works a good percentage of the time now, which is terrific.

We can all connect better with others, by using active questions of interest.

Influence & Insight | March 2017