Influence & Insight | February 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Manage Energy

Have you ever wondered why some days are exhausting and some days seem magically energizing? There’s no shortage of management and efficiency books and exercises offering advice how we may manage our time better. However, like the best athletes, the most effective leaders focus on energy levels, not time.

In Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s marvelous book, The Power of Full Engagement, two paradigms are compared. In the old paradigm we:

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

Were you brought up that way? Many of us were. By studying top athletes, the authors found a new paradigm, where we now:

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

Think of lions in the wild. They spend most of their time resting, until it is time to hunt. Then it’s all out until a successful kill. As leaders we should always focus our energy in a positive way, between relaxed or tranquil states and invigorated or challenged states. We should avoid negative energy, since it is wasted. Think about it. Leaders manage energy.

Live What You Love | Book Review

"Living a purposeful life is about energy. And there's nowhere
better to start than your physical well-being." (p. 350)

Naomi Simson's personal journey & well-referenced book models passion-based or next-generation leadership. Her story offers sharp contrast with a typical, low-energy lifestyle and informs how we may discover what we want to do most leading to a more fulfilling life. This review ties Simson's 4 P's (Passion, Persistence, Positivity and Purpose) to a recommended leadership path.


Identifying personal dreams and goals (both our own and others) is a central part of the Leadership Excellence Course Goal Setting workshop. Simson tells us it might take some exploration to discover (p. 8) our inner spirit. If we're overbooked, or repeatedly chasing shiny things, this won't happen. Simson realized when everything was urgent (pp. 9-10), nothing is important and she missed connecting with her children as a result. Ouch.

We know what it looks like, afterward, when someone has aligned purpose with joy. Simson asks why are entrepreneurs so revered. It's not magic, and it's not just risk taking, it's about becoming real:

"If you're not being real, you're not going to attract the
kinds of people around you who will support your passion." (p. 34).

One of the key ways to build an organization Simson cites is identifying shared values (p. 35), similar to our focus in Core Values Alignment workshops. This approach allowed her to target five ways (p. 63) to well-being (from the New Economics Foundation):

1. Connect to the people around you -- be present.
2. Be active -- go for a walk, play a game.
3. Take notice -- be curious about what goes on around you.
4. Keep learning -- try something new.
5. Give -- do something nice for a friend or a stranger.

Simson points out Raj Sisodia, who advises "Make people your primary purpose" (p. 88), leading to happier employees, who are (via Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage):

• 31 per cent more productive.
• 40 per cent more likely to receive a promotion.
• less absent, with 23 per cent fewer fatigue symptoms.
• up to ten per cent more engaged at work.
• able to sell more -- happy sales people produce 37 per cent greater sales.

Simson hints at her own Personal Leadership Philosophy by asking "Do you know what you stand for? (p. 109). When we do articulate that, it allows for a consistency between both the team and the leaders, in turn, creating trust for the brand (p. 111).


"Resilience and persistence are the game changers.
They give you the strength to live a powerful life instead
of playing small and being plagued by insecurities"
(p. 145).

Over time, those we coach and develop will tell others more about us than any other factor. Simson agrees: Being a leader is not about yourself or your profile -- it's about the legacy that you create (p. 135). She wasn't (me neither) always like this (p. 122): "I had always been pushy -- often at the expense of not knowing the impact it was having on the people around."

Guess what? When we are focused on helping others grow, we'll likewise want to improve ourselves. Like Anders Ericsson's definition of deliberate practice, Simson describes Luciano Pavarotti's approach (p. 175) to singing: "I concentrated on doing better than I had the day before and stopped worrying."

Most of us have hang ups we must overcome before living this way. Simson lists Five Famous Fears (p. 178):

• Humiliation
• Separation
• Poverty
• Unknown
• Missing out

Both the entrepreneur and leader feel these insecurities, but move ahead anyway. Or as Simson mentions, whatever you practice is what you become good at (p. 186).


Simson courageously admits her prior self-centered focus (p. 203): "In my earlier years as a business leader what I lacked was the ability to include others." Now she looks to Jeff Haden's list of what makes a great boss (p. 207):

1. They believe in the unbelievable
2. They see opportunity in instability and uncertainty
3. They wear their emotions on their sleeves
4. They protect others from the bus
5. They've been there, done that ... and still do that
6. They lead by permission, not authority
7. They embrace a larger purpose
8. They take real, not fake risks

At its core, Simson finds that leadership is about positivity, authenticity and connection (p. 232). What kind of environment do we create when leading this way? Let's look at ten traits positive people have in common (pp. 254-257):

• They feel great
• They live longer
• They are healthier
• They keep going
• They are in relationships
• They have deeper conversations
• They look for good
• They spread positivity
• They are productive
• They are lucky

Compare a work (and life) environment with these attributes vs. the typical disengaged organization. This is the result when we align work with passion.


Simson references Oprah Winfrey, perhaps channeling Maslow (p. 298): "The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but on significance." The following Venn diagram shows the intersection we should seek:


As with Simson, it may take some time to intersect all four areas. But when we do:

"Living your purpose will mean you experience
life at a whole new level. You will thrive,
flourish or excel. Your context will change
and so will your view of the world."
(p. 297)

Keep in mind, it is never the business which creates the purpose (p. 313). In her book (p. 330) The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown describes belonging as, 'the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.' First, establish the purpose; Second, start the business; and third (p. 331): "It is important to hire people who are aligned with the company's purpose."


Simson's journey to leadership started with a sense of purpose (p. 364). So can yours. She invites us to contact her via her blog

Note: Naomi Simson generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Coaching Means Connecting

How well do you connect with others? Do your subordinates and team perform as well as you would like? Have you thought about how you might improve your communication skills and raise your game?

Christine Comaford, author of Smart Tribes, mentions five types of communication in her Clarity of Intentions and Energy section — Information sharing, requests, promises, sharing of oneself and debating, decision-making or point proving.

Pop quiz time. Only two of these five types of communication actually drive results. Which two do you think they are? Just two. Hint: It’s not point proving.

According to Comaford, only requests and promises actually drive results. It sounds very simple, but it’s powerfully clarifying.

Ever been in a meeting where only information sharing occurred, a one-way broadcast that never led to anything? We all have. Without specific requests and subsequent promises or commitments, what is there to be accountable for?

Keep in mind requests and promises the next time you compose an email, talk on the phone, attend a meeting, or especially, delegate to a team member. Make it a new habit. Coaching means connecting.

Influence & Insight | January 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Set Expectations

During the second of three coaching sessions following an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, a client in a highly technical profession critical to national defense shared an uncomfortable decision made since our first coaching call. Turns out the client fired a team member, who was described in our initial discussion as a “challenge employee.” Chances are you may have a similar term for someone at your workplace.

While sharing the history leading to this event, the client revealed that performance issues were allowed to fester. Because substandard performance was tolerated, others team members were eventually asked to backfill work not being completed. Toward the end, the client attempted to highlight the mission critical nature of the work, but in the end it was too little too late.

This is one of many typical situations a Personal Leadership Philosophy is meant to preemptively address. Recall, an effective Personal Leadership Philosophy includes:

What leadership means to each of us
Our personal values
Operating principles
Personal idiosyncrasies
Commitment to receive feedback for our own growth as a leader

This was a powerful coaching session. The client realized expectations were not properly set and agreed-upon at the time of hiring, and ultimately the entire team was affected. While priorities were eventually communicated, recovery was no longer practical. Rather than point fingers or make excuses, the client realized a leadership responsibility had been missed. He is now actively sharing his leadership philosophy, and has already received positive feedback afterward.

Does this story sound familiar? It probably does. Remember, our leadership philosophy allows for continuously improving individual, team and organizational performance. Leaders set expectations.

drop the ball | Book Review

"Martin, I've been bringing my clothes to you for nearly two years now.
How come you never told me you guys deliver?"

"You never asked?" (p. 102)

Tiffany Dufu, rather personally, shares with us the ultimate manager/leader struggle in the form of a personal memoir. If you've ever had trouble delegating anything, especially at home, you'll relate to her story.

Dufu recalls: "I had grown up being told I could do anything I put my mind to, and as I got dressed that first morning back, I couldn't imagine I'd have to compromise on anything: career, marriage, raising a family, keeping our home life running smoothly while advancing the cause of women and girls (p. 2)." How many of us have entered the workplace, accepted a promotion or volunteered to do more with that mindset? There's a good chance, as Dufu found out, our idealism may be shattered on day one.

One of the Dufu's observations is that the professional world assumes that every full-time employee has someone else managing his or her home (pp. 4-5). In her case, where this was not happening, she (and in particular many women)

... end up more exhausted, stressed out, depleted,
and sick than any previous generation of women
(p. 6).

This review highlights key inflection points along Dufu's journey from manager to leader, including several takeaways which comprise her developing leadership philosophy.

Part I | Omnimanager | Omniwoman

Dufu's begins by setting up the environmental circumstances forging her fierce self-reliance: My parents broke a vicious cycle of poverty, substance abuse, and violence in one generation, and in the process, they taught me a fundamental truth: if you want something you've never had before, you'll have to do something you've never done before in order to get it (p. 17). She also relates how fragile this can be, as her parents divorced, and shares her mother's struggles afterward.

Dufu struggled to maintain control of her household -- fueled in part by a reluctance to abdicate responsibility to the one place female authority is unquestioned (p. 59) -- while succeeding as a professional. Recall in our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop self-evaluation, many of our scores plummeted because we likewise overburden ourselves rather than delegate or develop others.

Judith Shulevitz (p. 15) reinforces this in her 2015 New York Times op-ed, "Mom: The Designated Worrier:"

"I don't mean to say that she'll be the one to do everything --
just that she'll make sure that most everything gets done."

Serious self-reflection was in order: "Professionally and publicly, I was an advocate for women's empowerment, but privately I was on Stepford wife (p. 36) autopilot." In our Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, we define effective as doing the right thing and in order of priority. Dufu essentially admits she had not learned to delegate or prioritize. Her problem was that she had fallen into a trap of imaginary delegation (p. 45). It's a great term. Think about what we signal to others when we are perfectionists -- that there is only one correct way to do anything -- who in their right mind will volunteer to help us out?

Dufu candidly defines her perfectionism as Home Control Disease (HCD), and it appears her case was not mild. She shares...

... many women still focus obsessively on everything about it [the home] -- how it's organized, how it's managed, and how the cooking, cleaning and caretaking get done, right down to the smallest detail (p. 53).

Part II | High Payoff Activities (HPAs) | Priorities

For Dufu, candid feedback from her Sage Mentor Margaret Crenshaw was invaluable: "You've got to slow down and prioritize (p. 82). You can't do everything. What do you really want?" This reinforces how essential feedback is and why requesting feedback informs a well-written Leadership Philosophy.

Similar to Dan Pink's correlation between motivation and purpose, Dufu cites Joanna Barsh's (In How Remarkable Women Lead) writing about the critical role that meaning plays in the success of women (p. 83). She and her husband Kojo adopted a different mindset:

... instead of waiting for life to happen to us or for someone to tell us what to do,
our marriage would be its own blueprint
(p. 90).

In short, Dufu adopted an active rather than passive mindset. Instead of focusing on being perfectly busy, she now understood what you do is less important than the difference you make (p. 94). She then examined eight items on my [her] original to-do list, and found that only one of them was critical for me [her] to complete myself [herself] in order to accomplish what mattered most to me [her] (p. 96). Bravo!

The D Word | Live Your HPAs

Dufu tried a delegation experiment - she ignored the mail, allowing it to pile up until husband Kojo took notice. Eventually, and for the first time, he really saw the mail, and felt the desire for it to disappear (p. 116). The takeaway: "Kojo had a threshold for disarray at home -- (p. 117) his tolerance was just way higher than mine."

This led to a series of task requests and commitments (think Christine Comaford's Smart Tribes) leading to a (p. 126) Management Excel List (MEL). The MEL didn't just divide tasks between the couple since they both prioritized making a difference in life. "The most interesting part of our MEL exercise (p. 127) was deciding which X's should go in the No one column." It's a fantastic example of genuinely deciding how to live according to one's HPA's.

Who then to delegate to? Dufu tapped into a blend of personal and professional networks, in a way describing a family contract (pp. 142-149), or in her case a village including five groups of people:

• Family members
• Neighbors
• Nonpaid Working Moms
• Babysitters
• Specialists

On The Other Side | Leadership

Now managing her HCD, Dufu accepts that in every home, there are leaky faucets: "It's time to take a page from Princess Elsa of Frozen (p. 154) and simply let it go." This new understanding allowed formation of a leadership mindset, and likewise revealed examples of self-limiting behaviors:

• Women become less eager to speak their minds, and their companies are denied their potentially valuable contributions (p. 171).
• Women are concerned that being highly talkative will result in negative consequences (p. 171).
• "Done is better than perfect" (p. 166).
• Gratitude is a particularly powerful form of affirmation because it enables value -- and everyone wants to be valued (p. 175).

Dufu's leadership mindset also applied to home life: The more capable I assumed he [Kojo] was at home, the more energy I was able to direct outside the home, and the less time I wasted worrying about how well the kids were being taken care of when I wasn't there (p. 181). This refreshing perspective contrasts many messages we receive daily as described in Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be. The authors (p. 184) Ross Parke and Armin Brott discuss framing or male stereotypes in the media, and the three messages we need to retire (pp. 189-192):

• "He can't manage the details"
• "He isn't here."
• "He doesn't know what best for our children"

Now in an authentic leader role, Dufu becomes more aware of her energy, rather than managing to-do list. She describes three happiness hurdles (pp. 192-202):

• Break free of guilt
• Respect our boundaries
• Develop Happiness Habits

and four Go-Tos most effective when integrated into our daily routines (p. 225):

• Going to exercise (building your stamina)
• Going to lunch (building your network)
• Going to events (building your visibility)
• Going to sleep (building your renewal)

Notice how Dufu has now integrated leadership, happiness and energy. That's authentic. Instead of striving to meet unrealistic (see Daring Greatly) expectations and hustle for "likes," we can refocus energy on what matters most to us -- as any insecurities we might experience are being spurred by an incomplete picture to begin with (p. 242)."

The final summary:

Loving ourselves as imperfect is
the prerequisite to Dropping the Ball (p. 245).

Note: Tiffany Dufu generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leadership Means Connecting

In a recent coaching session following an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, a client in the construction industry shared his action plan progress. One of his documented leadership lessons was: “I have no idea if the people on my team are motivated and need to get to know them better through some motivation assessments that will allow me to understand them better.”

The client then described a particular “sit down session” with a staff member who had been working in the office as a Project Engineer. The Project Engineer had not been very effective in this role working in an administrative setting. So the engineer was moved into a superintendent role working in the field.

The client immediately noticed several things: One, that his new superintendent is a really good speaker. And very intelligent. The client could readily foresee a senior superintendent development path including greatly improving project interviews among other responsibilities. The superintendent told the client “This was the first time anyone ever sat down with me and asked what I wanted to do.”

Ponder that. The now highly effective and motivated superintendent has been in the general contractor business for about 15 years, and perhaps 20-25 years when including prior carpenter work. Imagine what can be done with periodic 90 minute “sit down,” or performance coaching sessions with everyone on your team. Leadership means connecting.