For those of you who remember Highlights Magazine in your dentist’s office, there was that page where you circled which in a group of things was different.  Sesame Street had the song “Which of these is not like the other?”.   For years we have been talking about the power of diversity and now we are talking about the integration of diversity through the power of inclusion.  It really boils down to one thing:  The NEED TO BELONG.  The need to belong is foundational to who we are as human beings and how we perform as professionals.  We need to be seen, to be heard, to be accepted for what we bring to the world.  What are you doing as leaders to ensure a sense of belonging and value among ALL of those you lead?  This week, really look at each team member.  Do they feel like they belong? Like they are seen?  Like they are heard?  How do you know?  What will you do about it?  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. . . . playing small does not serve the world…. as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson.  Which aspect of your greatness can you courageously begin to unwrap this week?  Choose a meeting or interaction with someone in which you will intentionally stand in your own power.  What might that look like?  What is the impact?“Challenges and disruptions invite us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and connection to that part of us that is calling to be known. We can run, hide, or implode from the ensuing suffering that challenge can bring. Or we can choose to practice self-compassion and courageously go deep inside ourselves to remember who we really are; embracing the greatness and potential that lies within. What can the challenges and disruptions you have experienced teach you about your own sacred strength and character?”Curiosity has been named one of the top traits for effective C-Suite leadership. How can you be more curious this week? What can you find about the ordinary that is interesting and extraordinary….that you hadn’t considered in a long time? What questions can you ask? Notice the impact on your energy and engagement as you strengthen your curiosity. It won’t kill you. I promise.

By Gail Angelo

It is that time of year when we all begin to make promises to ourselves that often times we break. Rather than make a resolution, I have decided to be aspirational. Resolutions feel like a “have to do” whereas for me, aspirations are a “want to do.” For 2018, my aspiration is to live fearlessly.

Living Fearlessly

When I talk about living fearlessly I am not talking about bungee jumping or sky diving (although that might be fun and would definitely be out of my comfort zone). My intention is to live fearlessly into my purpose, which is to support others in recognizing and living into their greatest potential. I believe in the power of the human spirit and want to play my part in harnessing that for the greatest impact and highest good.
In reflecting on what it would mean to live fearlessly, there are some very specific conclusions I have drawn for how to live this way:

  1. Practice Mindfulness. There is so much talk about mindfulness these days that I wonder if sometimes the way in which we talk about it is actually diluting the experience. Mindfulness is not something we do. It is how and who we are. Mindfulness requires focused intention and attention.
  2. Raising the level of mindful leading and living

    There are several ways to raise the level of mindful leading and living and there are many resources to help you do so. One resource in particular is the book Finding the Space to Lead by Janice Marturano. The book is clear and, most importantly, practical.

    Additionally, I recommend having a practice of sitting quietly, if even for five minutes a few times a day. Here’s what works for me. I breathe and notice. Is my mind racing? If so, I gently bring my attention back to my breath. I stay awake to the sounds I hear, the smells in the room, the weight of my clothes on my skin and my feet on the floor. I notice what I am feeling and where in my body I am experiencing those feelings. Sometimes I notice tightness in my chest, a crick in my neck or the dull ache of stress across my shoulders. Sometimes I feel calm and peace. And I continue with conscious breathing no matter the experience.

    Mindfulness supports our ability to remain clear and deliberate in the choices we make and the actions we take. We can begin to reflect on how our thoughts, choices, and actions support our ability to live fearlessly and with compassion both for ourselves and others.

  1. What are you saying yes to that you really mean no? What is causing you to make that choice? As I become increasingly clear about my purpose – the why of my life and my work, it becomes easier for me to discern those decisions I make and actions I take so that they are in alignment with my purpose. When the pace of life continues to increase and the situations we face become increasingly complicated, it is so easy to say yes without even thinking about why. It is automatic (the opposite of mindful).

    Increasing focus and actions to align with purpose:

    Check your assumptions about your “yes.” Is it really true that if we say no, it is political suicide or may result in the loss of a friendship? Who might you talk to in order to determine if those assumptions are correct? Likewise, if it is our habit to say yes because we tend to be people pleasers, what impact is that having on the approach with which we follow-through on the yes? How much resentment gets created? What ends up falling through the cracks as a result? Are you saying yes because you hoard opportunities and may not want someone else to get it? If we are holding on so tight to our habitual pattern of “yes,” we have no room or time to reach for what might be.

    I invite you to run an experiment for yourselves. Be clear about your purpose and priorities. For the next two weeks, before saying yes, STOP and consider: How will this “YES:”

    “No” is sometimes the most courageous and helpful thing we can say. Our willingness to say no may open up opportunities for others to try something new. It may give you the opportunity to focus in on the important priorities of your life and leadership in a way that is more fulfilling and inspires more engagement. In reality, letting go and/or saying “no” frees up space for possibility.

    As you enter 2018, consider what might be possible for you if you choose to say yes and no – mindfully and with conviction?

  1. Courage as the antidote to fear. Darius Rucker has a new song where the refrain is “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Wow. As the old saying goes, we are creatures of habit. The impact of a life of habits may be a life of complacency. It takes courage to shake things up a bit; to do something new. So I began to ask myself, what might I do for the first time?
  2. Once again, it does not have to be bungee jumping or skydiving. It could be speaking up in a meeting when you typically just observe despite having something to say. It could be trying a new food. You could decide to become curious about a particular person in your life –professionally or personally. Ask them about themselves. What are you curious to know?

    Take some time to think about the small things that you might do for the first time. Notice how energizing that can be – even if you don’t like sushi.

    Since hearing that song, I have tried to do just that….something for the first time. Sometimes what I do for the first time is small in the grand scheme of things and other times it requires much more courage. I choose to speak the truth of a situation or of myself. I choose to be vulnerable in a setting that is often ruled by bravado. I try something different.

    In 2018 and beyond, I aspire to live fearlessly. I am choosing to sit and be still, to be intentional about my yes’s and no’s, and to challenge myself to try new things, speak my truth and show up authentically. Living fearlessly will support my ability to live authentically, and be fully present to my life and the lives of others. The results can be transformative and the impact greater than we could imagine.

Try it. Live and lead fearlessly to live and lead fully.

By Gail Angelo

While there are many behaviors that support the growth of courageous leadership, there’s a step that needs to happen first – you must ask yourself the important questions to amplify its development and impact on results.

Here’s a month-long guide to asking those important questions – and then putting your answers into action for stronger and more powerful courageous leadership.

Week 1: Promote Self-Awareness.

Know who you are, what you are afraid of, what you are inspired by and what your patterns of resistance look like. Self-awareness puts us in the seat of choice. Once we become aware, we have the power to choose consciously and take responsibility for our choices. As we grow increasingly aware of our strengths and gaps, we can surround ourselves with talent that complements our skills and attributes.

Knowing how we typically respond under pressure gives us the power to make a different choice if our traditional approach is not constructive. Maintaining clarity about our fears and patterns of resistance allows us the choice and opportunity to feel the fear and do it anyway — to choose an alternative behavior that moves us through our resistance, versus burying our heads in the sand. After all, it is our places of resistance that hold the greatest potential for growth.

A direct correlation exists between this vulnerability and courage. Our willingness to admit that we don’t have all of the answers makes us real and consequently builds trust. It provides an opportunity to ask big things of our teams and give them the chance to be more than they thought they could be.

Calls to action this week:

Week 2: Meet reality.

There are times where our resistance keeps us from seeing the reality of our situations. It is one thing to be optimistic and tenacious. But sometimes that optimism crosses the threshold into denial. Once there, we find ourselves in a position to react versus respond.

Think about gardens. There are times where they are at their peak. Suddenly, one day, we see only dead flowers, overgrown bushes and dry grass. We wonder how that happened without our noticing. A good gardener will go out and prune the overgrowth, pinch off the dead blooms and water the grass. Courageous leaders are willing to do both the pruning and watering to prepare for new growth.

Courageous leaders are also willing to see things for how and what they truly are and have an inner circle that supports their ability to do so in a balanced and informed way. Once they accept reality, courageous leaders are poised to inspire action in others that leads to a future distinct from the past.

Calls to action this week:

Week 3: Inspire Innovation

When we take the time to look at the horizon line, to anticipate changes in the marketplace, in our clients and in the degree to which business is getting done, we create a culture that is quick, agile, and innovative — in other words, a courageous culture.

Courageous leaders do not simply lean into change and innovation. They understand deeply that change and innovation are the life blood of sustainable success.  Courage supports the ability to consistently ask the question, “what if?” Courageous leaders encourage experimentation, take calculated risks and allow for failure by focusing on the learning that comes from the experience.

As organizations move out of the slump, it is easy to remain fearful, which often leads to our playing smaller. Courageous leaders focus on possibility versus fear. They are bold and willing to take calculated risks to continue to explore what can be done versus what can’t be done.

Calls to action:

Week 4: Stand up and make it happen.

Courageous leadership is not for the faint of heart.

It may require stepping beyond your fear of rejection to raise difficult issues, provide balanced feedback, have challenging conversations and make decisions that may not always be popular. It may often require going against the tide or tradition or “the way we have always done it” for the greater good. It is holding up the mirror to help others see what they have been unwilling to see or hear. It is challenging people to try a different approach — asking, why not?

Courageous leaders make choices intentionally and take responsibility for those choices. They step up boldly, lean in, speak the truth, focus on what is possible, make decisions for the highest good and inspire others to do the same.

Leaders have the capacity and responsibility to move forward in courage, particularly as our businesses, communities, country and world continue to become more complex.

Calls to action:

You have a choice. Be bold. Be brave. Step into your courageous leadership to continue to make a difference. It is your time to move purposefully beyond fear into a brave, bold, courageous future.

Approximately 35 years ago, we measured potential success by your IQ, or Intelligence Quotient.

In the last 15 to 20 years, our focus shifted. It shift from IQ to EQ – Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence. Today, organizations are looking for what I call CQ2 ™ – your Curiosity and Courage Quotient.

To move forward with purpose and power, we need curiosity and courage.

What is the Curiosity Quotient?

Curiosity is more natural than you realize. In fact, the older we get, the more we lose touch with our natural need to inquire and explore that which we do not know. When we lose touch with that curiosity, we lose touch with our personal power to innovate – to come up with fresh ideas, processes and solutions. And, as importantly, we lose our ability to connect with others in deep and meaningful ways.

Curiosity can change the world. And it starts with you.

In 2010, Newsweek published an article entitled “Creativity Crisis” in which it cited research that preschoolers ask about 100 questions per day. By middle school, the questions have virtually stopped – and so has much of our creativity and ability to innovate. Your willingness to be curious about yourself and yourself in relation to others and varying situations, deepens your ability to show up authentically, be more fully engaged in your leadership and have more fun.

Unfortunately though, our curiosity can be one of our most fragile characteristics.

When we are in times of stress, chaos, or uncertainty, one of two things can often happen:

In those situations, we cannot jeopardize our curiosity. This is actually the time to ramp up our curiosity. If we make a choice to take a step back and choose to lean into being curious about ourselves in each of the circumstances we find ourselves, we raise our level of awareness about ourselves in that moment, about our teams, about the situation and that situation in the context of the broader organization and marketplace. We then have enough information to take constructive action that moves the situation and ourselves forward. Curiosity takes us out of the quagmire and that sense of being “stuck”.

Curiosity has the power to put us in the place of having more of the right information to take calculated risks and make more courageous choices. To lead with curiosity is to set the tone for yourself and others that it is not only okay to explore and seek alternative points of view, but also the catalyst for innovation and growth.

Because of the lightning speed at which change occurs, crucible moments are growing in frequency and in intensity. It is in these moments that your curiosity will be tested. Which is why strengthening your curiosity quotient is not only helpful but non-negotiable.

Strategies for Strengthening your Curiosity Quotient

When you strengthen your curiosity, you also strengthen how you distinguish information from knowledge and intelligence from wisdom.

It is curiosity that inspires. Partnered with courage, curiosity will contribute to your differentiation in the marketplace and your ability for sustained success.

What is the Courage Quotient?

Author Neale Donald Walsh coined one of my favorite “truths” of all time – “Life begins at the end for your comfort zone.” To step out of our comfort zone takes great courage. Where we are with our comfort zones vary. What doesn’t vary is that it takes courage to step out of it.

Aristotle called courage the first virtue because it is from courage that all other virtues follow. If that is the case, we must be our own most powerful advocates for strengthening our courage.

But what is courage? Courage is the distinction between fear and reckless abandon. Courage, as Susan Jeffers said, is “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” having leveraged your curiosity to ensure that the risks you are taking are strategic, calculated risks.

Acts of courage don’t need to start with the biggest decisions. We begin to develop and hone our courage quotient in the little things we do starting with learning to crawl and walk.

Honing that courage quotient is recognizing and reflecting on when we have been courageous:

We witness or experience courage in a lot of different forms. There is physical courage which we often see and hear about in life saving events. There is intellectual courage which pushes us to take an alternative point of view or to open our minds to alternative points of view. It requires thinking boldly without the fear of judgement from others that may come along with that bold thinking. It is saying what others won’t say. And there is ethical courage – standing up for what is right even in the face of major opposition or loss of an opportunity.

When we experience these types of courage, we create a natural blend that allows us to live into our greatest potential.

Strategies for Strengthening your Courageous Quotient

Curiosity and Courage Create Possibility

In the coaching and leadership development work that I do, I have the privilege of watching what happens when a leader with great curiosity and courage, steps out of their comfort zone and into the unknown.

James** was a client who thought of himself as invisible in a room – particularly a room of leaders more senior to him. As we began to work on what might be causing fear of speaking up and what it would look like to emerge as a leader in his own right in that same room, he became more curious about what was getting in his way and more courageous about how to change it. As he took small steps to speak up sooner in meetings, to share an alternative point of view, to be curious about the conversation, to ask questions that actually changed the nature of the conversation and the ultimate course of action, his confidence grew. As his confidence grew, so too did his courage and so did his contribution and personal power. It started with curiosity about what was getting in his way and ended with growth, possibility, and greater credibility as a leader through courage.

Alice Walker wrote a book entitled We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For. For leaders, that title holds great truth, great promise, and great responsibility. In these turbulent times filled with crucible moments we get to make a choice – every time. We can become overwrought with frenetic activity. We can procrastinate. We can become paralyzed with fear. Or we can live into our innate gifts of curiosity and courage to create lives that support meaningful work and great possibility with remarkable and sustained success.

The future lies within you. Be curious. Be courageous.

NOTE: ** acknowledges that Angelo has changed the client’s name.

There is a great deal of talk lately about mindfulness in organizations. It is coming up as a common denominator for not only success at work, but also significance in life.

But, what does mindfulness mean?

For some, it sounds a little out there. But for others, it simply means being aware of yourself and others. Mindfulness is not for the faint of heart. It requires a special willingness to get comfortable with our discomfort because we all know that it’s not easy to look in the mirror and see who we are as holistic human beings – our strengths, our foibles, our indifferences, our intolerances.

Mindfulness also requires a special sense of leadership – courageous personal leadership. Which is where it begins. It begins with ourselves.

Mindfulness is an inside-out job. It starts with some important questions you need to ask yourself: Who are you? What do you stand for? How are you showing up? How are you including and developing others as well as yourself? What is your piece of the action in any given situation – good or bad? Where is your focus? What is it and to whom do you want to give your focus? Why? What will be the impact?

It is from these answers that we can start to dig deeper into pillars that will move you further toward mindfulness, and listen to some specific calls to action that will only strengthen our understanding of the practice and ourselves.


One of the distinctions between good leaders and great leaders is the commitment to reflect.

Reflection is one of the pillars of mindfulness; it breeds greater self-awareness leading to increased growth as a person and a leader. That self-awareness is powerful because it puts us in the seat of choice. Once we are aware, we can make a different choice in our thinking and in our actions. Recently, a colleague and I had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of leaders at a Fortune 100 organization.

As part of the two-day session focused on Creating Agile Cultures from Agile Leadership, we asked these leaders to hold up a mirror (several times throughout the two days) and reflect on who and what they saw there. They shared their observations and insights with their partner and then got their partner’s perspective on what they saw. This was a powerful exercise in vulnerability, honesty, and courageous leadership. They then had the opportunity to reflect on what they saw, the feedback they received and the impact of their new, heightened awareness. It required that each person in the room STOP and reflect. How often are we stopping and reflecting?

Call to action: Buy a journal, a pen, and a mirror. Write down what you see about who you are. Get feedback. Is your vision of yourself really true?


Your Physical Well-Being

Mindfulness requires clarity. And clarity in its purest, most authentic form requires taking care of our physical bodies so that we may show up with maximum energy.

But who has time for that, right? We are too busy pursuing success for a 60-minute cardio workout every day, right?

That is a short-sighted, self-serving view of not only your time, but also your life and leadership. In order to be of service to others it is critical that we take care of our own well-being. It means that we eat well, exercise appropriately, and here is a novel concept – rest well.

Call to action: Determine the first next step that will support you in being your best physical self. Write it in your journal. Tell someone and enlist him or her as as your physical well-being accountability partner. Reflect on the difference you feel. Repeat with a new next first step.


Your Mental Well-Being

Mental well-being has three elements: self-talk, focus, continuous learning.


What would you learn if you started paying attention to the stories you tell yourself? What are the themes and patterns you hear? What are those thoughts and patterns anchored into? How are they supporting you as a leader who is in service to others (or not)? I attended a retreat recently, and I heard my coach, Hilary, say, ‘there is what happens to you and then there is what you make it mean.’

What do you make things mean? Often what we make them mean is anchored in assumptions and old patterns that are no longer true. Take some time today to listen to your stories, your thoughts. Often times the stories we tell ourselves impact our ability to be fully focused.


Think about a situation at work where you must give an important presentation or deliver on a critical project. What is the story you are telling yourself about your ability to deliver in a way that is aligned with your greatest potential? The thoughts and stories you are telling yourself carry the potential to distract you from your focus. Are these thoughts and stories helpful to you and in support of living into your greatest leadership while supporting others in living into theirs? When you change your self-talk and the stories you tell yourself, you have the power to change the outcome and ultimately the quality of your life and your service.

Continuous learning

While paying closer attention to your self-talk and your focus are important to mental well-being, another aspect of mental well-being is continuous learning in more traditional forms. What kinds of things can you choose to participate in that will open you up to alternative points of view, richer cultural and artistic experiences, new approaches, and innovative solutions? If we are reflecting and learning, we are growing.

Call to action: In your journal, reflect on and write down the stories you hear yourself telling most often. Title them. Then write down the stories you want to be telling and title those. What steps can you take to move you closer to the stories you want to be telling.


Your Emotional Well-Being

In the world of work and of life there are often moments that I like to call “swirl”.

When we are attached to the “swirl”, we are not in a state of emotional well-being. We lose perspective, and, in worst cases, we lose ourselves. When I think of someone in a state of strong, yet calm emotional well-being, I think of someone like Ghandi who is the port in the storm. His ability to remain grounded, steady, and clear despite the “swirl” around him demonstrates emotional well-being. While it may seem like an overwhelming feat to live as Ghandi lived, it is not impossible to be the port in the storm for ourselves and others.

Emotional well-being comes from a place of knowing that we are enough despite what is going on around us. Yes, we make mistakes because we are human. But our mistakes and challenges do not define us. How we respond to them is what begins to define our character. As we become increasingly self-aware, we begin to understand the situations, people, and challenges that trigger us and how that triggering is manifested in an emotional reaction which is often times a negative emotional reaction.

Self-awareness allows us to make a different choice in the midst of the “swirl”.

Instead of reacting, we choose to respond. We become aware of the emotions and the people around us that energize us or that help heal damaged relationships and situations. When we are in a state of emotional well-being we make choices to show up mindfully in confidence and possibility. And, in moving forward, we make the mindful, conscious choice to go to that place versus emotional reactions like anger, defensiveness, frustration, shame, and criticism.

Call to action: Wake up to what triggers you and how it manifests. Make a different choice.
In your journal, reflect on those people, situations, and challenges that trigger you. What is your typical reaction? How is that serving you? How might you make a different choice?


Your Spiritual Well-Being

Spiritual well-being is anchored in our sense of purpose which permeates and influences everything. Our enduring purpose is our call to serve and extend our boundaries beyond ourselves. When we are living in mindfulness as people and as leaders, we are living a life aligned with purpose and anchored in non-negotiable values.

Our spiritual well-being aligned in purpose is the inspirational force that drives what we do. It is our constant. It gets us up in the morning and opens us up to what is possible. Our enduring purpose is what keeps our decisions, gifts, values and contributions in harmony and alignment.

It’s time to ask yourself: What is my unique contribution as a leader? How am I leveraging my strengths in living out that purpose? How am I in service to others? What is the difference I am making or want to make?

Call to action: In your journal, reflect on a few of the following questions: Why do you do what you do? How do you want to be of service and to whom? Under what circumstances are you at your best? What strengths do you leverage to make this contribution? Which strengths do you possess that are not being used? What gets in the way of you being at your best consistently? What will you do about that?


Connections for Community

None of us work or live in isolation. We are better people and more engaged when we feel a strong sense of belonging. We are intended to be in community.

As leaders driven by mindfulness, we are in the business of intentionally creating community and caring for its well-being. We have the privilege of creating spaces where others feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Creating these environments is part of our enduring purpose as leaders; it is our opportunity to lead in a way that inspires and includes others in the vision of creating a future that is different from the past; a future that promotes enduring purpose anchored in core values; a future that supports the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the whole.

Call to action: In your journal, reflect on your contribution to the creation of community. What type of community do you want to create within your organization? How are you contributing to its realization? How are you fostering belonging and inclusion? What impact is it having on engagement and fulfillment?

As we move toward mindfulness, we’re moving towards something bigger: creating a sense of purpose and community that brings out the best in ourselves and others. And we are more of our best selves, we bring out the greatest potential in those we lead which leads to deeper connections, greater trust, higher levels of engagement and enduring fulfillment.

The process of writing a book is an invitation to write and to speak into our greatest selves. In my book writing process, I am exploring my Celtic roots and their influence on who I am and how I live a life in integrity with my purpose, my strengths, and my soul. In my research, I discovered a Celtic blessing that I would like to share with all of my clients – past, present, and future – particularly those who experience often the stress, fatigue, lack of confidence, and a longing to leverage their respective giftedness to do meaningful work in a meaningful way.


May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences or monotony.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your sole calm, console and renew you.

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
   by John O’Donohue

Reading this blessing keeps me anchored to what really matters – my ability to serve and connect with others in ways that support them in connecting more deeply with the best of themselves. The gift of our lives is to aspire and inspire from the richest most authentic place within ourselves. It is then that we are our most creative, most impactful, most joyful and most fulfilled. And that is life’s richest, truest, and most promising blessing.“Real isn’t how you are made”, said the Skin Horse. It is something that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real. “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked. “Or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes fall out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you become Real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

– The Velveteen Rabbit

I read Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit to my children, Matt and Dara, often when they were young. We read it so frequently that after a while I was not even reading it to them – they were reciting it to me from memory. As they grew older, it became a book we read at Easter which prompted my reflection on it at this sacred time. And yet it wasn’t until my son married his partner and it was read at their wedding that I began to really get it. Our work on this earth is to become more and more of ourselves – to transform into who we were intended to be in all of our respective splendor and with all of our foibles clothed in love and compassion. At the heart of that very personal transformation is love. What matters is love based on warmth, caring, and sincere connection with others which sustains and is sustainable over time. Although that can be romantic love, it’s not. This a different type of love. In the case of The Velveteen Rabbit, the Rabbit is loved and cared about by another so consistently and unconditionally that all of the surface is rubbed off to reveal the true nature of Rabbit. Rabbit is revealed. It is good. It is exquisite. And it is powerful. All made possible by that different type of love. In my experiences working with leaders, the true nature of who we are starts with learning to accept, love, and care for ourselves – unconditionally. As we move through our respective journeys of self-awareness and discovery, acceptance, and self-care, we release the need for power and in doing so we become more powerful. We release the need for striving and in doing so we thrive. We release our shame and in doing so we shine. And we release the need to be rewarded and in doing so we experience abundance. Once we love ourselves with fullness, we have the capacity to love and serve others with incredible generosity. We begin to connect with those we work with as people versus as commodities. Real connection anchored in meaningful purpose promotes high levels of engagement and results. And it matters. But is there room for love in leadership? Or better yet – is there room to even speak the word, let alone create the space for love in leadership? Cultivating a culture anchored in love, trust, and benevolence does not mean sacrificing results. In fact, it enhances results. Cultivating this type of culture does not mean daily group hugs or a rousing round of Kumbaya. It does however mean: Consider this – love in the workplace just might be your competitive advantage. The more we work to uncover love in yourself and others, we become more Real. Rabbit is, in fact, Real. As I said before, when my son married his partner and they brilliantly shared a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit, I started to get it for the first time. Approximately 95% of the people celebrating with him and his husband had never been to a gay wedding. None of them – none of us – knew what to expect. Some people were hardened to the idea of gay marriage. Some were scared of it and what it would mean for Matt and Andrew. And some were simply curious. But by the end of the ceremony, ALL of us got it. Love is what matters. Love is what is sustainable. And love is what gives us the courage to stand firmly in who we really are. And that is what’s Real. Can you create room for that in your leadership?I was at a restaurant recently with some friends. It was THE place to see and be seen. What was so fascinating to watch was that no one was seeing or being seen. They may have been “talking” with another, but their eyes were constantly scanning the room to see who else was there – maybe there was someone there who was more important or someone deemed more fashionable to be seen with. In actuality, it appeared that there was a lot of talking going on with no connection and a lot of looking going on, but no real seeing. In my restaurant experience, there was no seeing; therefore, there was no real connection. I began to reflect on this as it relates to how we choose to lead. How often, in the pace and chaos of our day, do we see those with whom we interact? And – on the flipside – how often are we allowing ourselves to be seen? We talk, but don’t really connect; we look without really seeing. As a leader, how are you making yourself visible? How are you allowing yourself to be seen? Are you making assumptions, barking out orders, or are you really seeing and connecting with those you are leading? How often as leaders are you paying attention to all of the forecasts in your world and willing to make bold executive decisions different from the original plan, as to make the most of your opportunities based on a new forecast? How often do you manage situations versus feeling you are being managed by situations? A recent Google study shows that people who feel seen and heard feel valued and are more engaged. Making that effort is not rocket science. Moreover, it simply requires dropping our own mask(s) so others feel comfortable dropping theirs. As simple as that might sound, it’s not easy. It requires intention, attention and commitment. It is leadership from the inside out. South Africans use the term ubuntu which loosely translated means “I see you”. According to Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarized as follows: “‘A person is a person through other people’. Ubuntu strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; our humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other.” Ubuntu starts with a courageous commitment to ourselves. A commitment to be vulnerable and authentic; a commitment to show up as human, first and foremost. It continues when we take the time to connect to the humanness, the heart of those with whom we are working. Our tendency is to act with the content or talking about what we are doing. We experience this when we visit the doctor for an appointment, when we are cashing out at the grocery store, when we are meeting with clients and teams. We are not engaging in conversation. We are not seeing each other. We are simply checking the boxes and conducting a transaction. Our sacred humanness is the one thing we all have in common. Yet, we are so busy looking at what people are doing that we miss seeing who they are. So, the most effective way to evolve from transaction to connection is to recognize and see others first as human beings versus employees – people who get stuff done. Connect to your uniqueness as well as theirs. Be present to the sacredness and brilliance of their being and be willing to show up with yours in full view. The way in which we connect, allow others to see us and the way in which we really see others will directly impact the way in which every message is received and the quality of how relationships evolve. How do we move to ubuntu – that sacred place where we can see ourselves and others for precisely and brilliantly who they are?
  1. Practice reflection and radical self-awareness This is a theme you will see throughout my work. I believe that reflection and self-awareness are the cornerstones of growth – individually and collectively.
  2. Think about the people who have really seen you Regardless of your political leanings, it is said that one of Bill Clinton’s greatest strengths is that no matter how crowded the room, if he is talking to you, it feels like you are the only person in the room and the most important to him in that moment. For some people, this moment alone has been transformative. There is nothing worse than feeling invisible. Think about the people who really see you. How do you know they do? What impact does that have on you?
  3. Set the intention See yourself and others as human beings FIRST versus a means to an end. We are all putting one foot in front of the other – each with our own unique gifts and challenges. Recognize this uniqueness. See the brilliance. Set the intention to start with your strengths and leverage those strengths to help others recognize, connect to, and realize their own.
  4. Show up in love; care for yourself and others That sounds a little squishy and soft, right? And yet, it may be the hardest thing you will do. Every leader wants a highly-engaged team. Practice self-compassion so you can begin to show up in courage and compassion to others. Then, watch the engagement soar.
  5. Remember – humanity is our common ground. It’s really that simple. As Eze says, we owe it to each other. As leaders, how can we show up more in our humanity and in kindness and recognize the humanity of others? What difference might it make to each of us individually, to our teams, clients, and organizations?
When we choose to practice ubuntu – to see ourselves and “the other” – we transform ourselves and our relationships with others. And when we experience that transformation, we have the privilege and honor of helping each other to see and connect to the meaning of our work and our lives.For Christmas last year, my daughter, Dara, and her boyfriend, Mike, gave our family tickets to the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour concert in Washington D.C. I am not a Taylor Swift fan by any stretch of the imagination; but I sensed immediately upon receiving these tickets that this concert was both a gift and an opportunity for our entire family to be together. As I said, going into the concert, I was not necessarily a fan; but I have to admit, that all of that has changed – not because I think any more of her musical talent, but because I was struck immediately by this young artist’s natural ability to lead. In the two hours we spent with Taylor, I saw boldness, fearlessness, and authenticity; I saw a young woman practicing principles of leadership and with a personal power to live that leadership for one of the largest generations our country has ever seen. Agility And Authenticity Taylor started this D.C. show 45 minutes early due to weather forecasts. Not wanting to short-change her fans, she made an executive decision to change the start time. This lesson is two-fold: This decision not only shows her and her team’s commitment to the fans, but on top of it being a lesson in real-time agility and what it means to lead authentically. It was clear immediately that she runs the show, and she’s in charge of her concert, her brand, her life. Things don’t happen to her; the looming weather wasn’t going to happen to her; she managed it. How often as leaders are you paying attention to all of the forecasts in your world and willing to make bold executive decisions different from the original plan, as to make the most of your opportunities based on a new forecast? How often do you manage situations versus feeling you are being managed by situations? “Hi everyone; I’m Taylor”: Connect Immediately; Connect Consistently Despite the fact that there were 45,000 people in the stadium, Taylor found an innovative way to connect with each person in the audience before the show even began. She did something different that allowed her to see the light in each audience member – literally and figuratively. Upon entry, each member of the audience received a wristband that looked very similar to a FitBit. When she came out on stage, she opened with a simple line: “Hi everyone; I’m Taylor” almost opening the concert like a conversation, meeting a new friend, introducing yourself for the very first time. Then, throughout the concert, those wristbands lit up in different colors at different times. Not only did it help her to see all of us, it helped us to see each other, regardless of where we were in the stadium – all a spirit she captured the moment she walked out on stage. Self-reflection And Mindfulness Leads To Courageous Leadership: Taylor Swift is no longer a country music singer. She is a powerhouse brand that provides broad musical entertainment and value. She reflects openly, daring to challenge herself and those around her. Her confidence, curiosity, and courage was palpable that I could picture her asking herself: “What next?”, “Why not?”, “How come”? She appears to make her choices consciously, and she takes responsibility for the choices she makes. She shows up consistently in alignment with her values. She trusts her voice. Her brand is clear. Her voice is clear. Her vision is clear. And all this is courageous leadership to me. What are you doing to incorporate reflection and mindfulness as daily practices? How are your decisions and actions aligned with your values? How clear and focused is your brand? When it comes to leadership, that was one impressive show with the power to transform not only the audience in the moment, but also a generation of followers.As the economy emerges from its slump, we know that a couple of things can happen. One: We can live in fear that it could happen again. Or worse, we can be complacent, and just continue to go through the motions knowing that this will, in fact, happen again. It’s just a matter of time, you think. Two: We can learn from the past and continue to make bold, confident decisions to do things differently in a way that supports long-term sustained agility and success. One of the clear lessons that came out of this recent, volatility is that those organizations that invested in talent, innovation and leadership emerged better equipped and ready to play for the future. Organizations that chose to focus and invest in talent, innovation, and leadership during the downward spiral shared another thing in common. They demonstrated the one thing that will continue to be required going forward: courageous leadership. Many thought that investment in the “non-tangibles” was not smart. And yet, it is those organizations that are now leading the charge to recovery. In other words, companies that build and support cultures anchored in courageous leadership will be the winners in the quest for long-term success. So what is courageous leadership? Is it a state of mind? Is it a virtue? Is it a set of behaviors and actions? Is it a critical part of your brand? It is all of the above. While there are many behaviors that support the growth of courageous leadership and courageous cultures, here are four tips that will help amplify its development and result in impact and results that really matter. 1. Promote self-awareness. Know who you are, what you are afraid of, what you are inspired by and what your typical patterns of resistance look like. Self-awareness puts us in the seat of choice. Once we become aware, we have the power to choose consciously and take responsibility for the choices we make. When we are increasingly aware of our strengths and gaps, we can surround ourselves with talent that complements our skills and attributes. Knowing how we typically respond under pressure gives us the power to make a different choice if our traditional approach is not constructive. Maintaining clarity about our fears and patterns of resistance allows us the choice and opportunity to feel the fear and do it anyway – to choose an alternative behavior that moves us through our resistance versus burying our heads in the sand. After all, it is our places of resistance that hold the greatest potential for growth. There is a direct correlation between this vulnerability and courage. Our willingness to admit that we don’t have all of the answers makes us real and consequently builds trust. It provides an opportunity to ask big things of our teams and give them the chance to be more than they thought they could be. 2. Meet reality. There are times where our resistance takes the form of refusing to see the reality of our situations. It is one thing to be optimistic and tenacious. But sometimes that optimism crosses the threshold into denial. Once there, we find ourselves in a position where we have to react versus respond. Think about gardens. There are times where they are at their peak. Suddenly, we look out one day and there are dead flowers, overgrown bushes and dry grass. We wonder how that happened without our noticing. A good gardener will go out and prune the overgrowth, pinch off the dead blooms and water the grass. Courageous leaders are willing to do both the pruning and watering in order to prepare for new growth. Courageous leaders are willing to see things for how and what they truly are and have an inner circle that supports their ability to do so in a balanced and informed way. Upon acceptance of reality, courageous leaders are poised to inspire action in others that leads to a future distinct from the past. 3. Inspire innovation. When we take the time to look at the horizon line, to anticipate changes in the marketplace, in our clients, and in how business is getting done, we create a culture that is quick, agile, and innovative – in other words, a courageous culture. Courageous leaders do not simply lean into change and innovation. They understand deeply that change and innovation are the life blood of sustainable success. Courage supports the ability to consistently ask the question, “what if?” Courageous leaders encourage experimentation, take calculated risks and allow for failure by focusing on the learning that comes from the experience. They trust their talent and encourage ways to leverage that talent to its fullest. As organizations move out of the slump, it is easy to remain fearful which often leads to playing smaller than we are capable of playing. Courageous leaders focus on possibility versus fear. They are bold and willing to take calculated risks to continue to explore what can be done versus what can’t be done. 4. Stand up. Courageous leadership is not for the faint of heart. It may require stepping beyond your fear of rejection to raise difficult issues, provide balanced feedback, have challenging conversations, and make decisions that may not always be popular. It may often require going against the tide or tradition or “the way we have always done it” for the greater good. It is holding up the mirror to help others see what they have been unwilling to see or hear. It is challenging people to try a different approach – asking why not? Courageous leaders make choices intentionally and take responsibility for those choices. They step up boldly, lean in, speak the truth, focus on what is possible, make decisions for the highest good and inspire others to do the same. Leaders have the capacity and responsibility to move forward in courage, particularly as our businesses, communities, country and world continue to become more complex. You have a choice. Be bold. Be brave. Step into your courageous leadership to continue to make a difference. It is your time to move purposefully beyond fear into a brave, bold, courageous future.Do you pass work to someone only when you feel overwhelmed? This method will save you frustration and help grow new talent on your team. It can be hard to calm your inner control freak, but the higher you climb the ladder, the more imperative it is to delegate work. It’s not always easy. Letting go can be difficult, says leadership coach Gail Angelo. “We’re fearful the other person won’t get it done,” she says. “We think they won’t get it done right. Or we think we can do it better. And when we do give someone something to do, we often take it back.” Anthony Stephan experienced “boomerang delegating” firsthand. As principal with Deloitte Consulting’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications, he manages up to 100 people at a time. In his third year as partner, he realized he wasn’t his best self because he was working nonstop. “I wasn’t creating space for myself, and I value reflection,” Stephan says. “I was holding onto projects and clients, putting a false sense of value in my doing the work. And I wasn’t creating space for others to grow.” Delegating should increase your capacity as a leader and the capacity of your team, says Angelo. “Millennials especially want challenging work,” she says. “They need to stretch, and they need variety. When we play to their strengths and interests and give them an opportunity to develop skills, we increase their engagement.” Angelo worked with Stephan to teach him “artful delegating.” “A study done in 2012 found that the average worker has 37 hours of unfinished work on their desk,” says Angelo. “This creates a constant low-level stress of urgency around work. When most people delegate, they use ‘active delegating’—out of frustration, they pass the work to the person who is closest or has the least amount on their plate.” Artful delegation, on the other hand, shifts the perspective from time to talent. The Right Person For The Work The first step is selecting the person on your team who is the right fit. This kind of thinking requires that leaders know each team member’s temperament, strengths, and interests so they can best determine who might excel at the work and benefit from doing it. Leaders can assign tasks based on strengths, or they can give team members a list of tasks and ask who would be interested in the assignment. Stephan says he has regular conversations with his staff about the kind of opportunities they’d like to receive: “It’s the most critical step in delegating effectively,” he says. “It’s helped me understand that this person would be good for this and not the best for that.” Uploading Instead Of Unloading The second step is how you delegate. It’s not unloading; it’s uploading, says Angelo. First, provide well-defined descriptions of what you want done: “Show what success looks like from your point of view,” says Angelo. “When we’re in crisis or in a time crunch, we unload stuff without thinking about it, but it’s important to spell things out.” Angelo says it’s a good idea to provide this information in the way the person likes to receive it—whether a conversation or written memo, for example. “Often we communicate the way we like to receive information versus the way the other person would like to receive it,” says Angelo. “In an ideal world, delegating is done by a conversation in person or on the phone, then it’s followed up with email outlining expectations.” Provide a description of the form in which you want the work. Share context of how the work will be used and by whom. And be specific about timing, so the person understands when the work needs to be completed. Stephan spends time up front identifying what the person needs most to accomplish the work. “If you don’t do that, the work might come back to you,” he says. Once you delegate, let go: “Provide space for others to complete the task,” says Angelo, who adds that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. Set up periodic check-ins to survey the progress, see if support is needed, or determine if you need to hit the reset button. “This minimizes the chances that work will boomerang back to you,” says Angelo. “If people can begin to master the art of delegation and be proactive versus reactive, their effectiveness grows enormously.” Stephan says artful delegating has made him a better leader: “The biggest thing I learned is that I could be effective without being in every meeting and without leading every client relationship,” he says. “My job was to be a good coach.”The requirements for getting to the C-suite have changed along with the times. The rate and complexity of change in today’s marketplace dictate a broader understanding of business issues and an ability to be nimble in a rapidly changing economic environment. Technical or functional expertise alone will not get you to the C-suite these days. So what does it take? In my coaching experiences with executives, whether Fortune 100 or Fortune 1000, I have seen the following trends evolve for success in the C-suite: clarity of purpose, an understanding of the broader business, inspirational leadership, and an ability to anticipate and adapt quickly to change. CLARITY OF PURPOSE In business today, there is an increasing emphasis on defining and communicating your personal brand. When we think about brand, the process often starts with a question about what we want to be known for. What do you want people saying about you when you are not in the room? A successful personal brand communicates a clear, consistent message about who you are and what you have to offer. In working with hundreds of executives over many years, I have found that brand is an extension of purpose. Therefore, the ability to clarify our purpose and live into it courageously influences our individual, team, and organizational effectiveness and impact. Clarifying purpose begins with the fundamental question of “why.” Why do you do what you do? Those who are the most effective in getting to and experiencing success in the C-suite are clear about their purpose. Most important, it is a purpose anchored in service beyond themselves. How do you want to be of service as a leader? What contributions do you want to make? Individuals connected to purpose experience high levels of engagement, contribution, and fulfillment, yet questions about purpose are some of the most challenging for people to answer. The temptation is to answer such questions with a statement about what you do versus why you do it. Purpose emanates from your core and describes who you are versus the role you play. It is your call to action. For example, my role is that of an executive coach and leadership development strategist. I do what I do because supporting people in awakening to and achieving their greatest potential is the work that is most meaningful for me and that allows me to make the greatest contribution. Discover your purpose by reflecting on the following: As a result of this reflection, it becomes increasingly clear how your participation at the C-suite level can best support the organization’s purpose as well as your purpose and significance as a leader. FROM SILOED TO STRATEGIC THINKING: STRENGTHENING BUSINESS SAVVY Strategic thinking is defined as the capacity for thinking conceptually, imaginatively, systematically, and opportunistically about the attainment of success in the future. To make the transition into the C-suite, leaders must have a broader, more holistic view of the business. Leaders in the C-suite have developed an ability to understand the dynamics, challenges, and implications of decisions across functions. They have developed a proficiency in business fundamentals and strategy. They break down silos and seek opportunities to collaborate strategically and creatively to address challenges that affect the organization as a whole. In short, they have moved from tactical execution to strategic thinking and decision making. Because of the increasing complexity of business environments, the CEO of today must rely on his or her C-suite team for thoughtful counsel. There is an expectation that those in the C-suite are capable of releasing narrow agendas in support of the broader good to achieve market differentiation and competitive advantage. To be a viable candidate for the C-suite, you must strengthen your understanding and application of expertise to the entire business. Begin now to: INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP: LEADING OTHER LEADERS To obtain a seat at the C-suite table, you must be able to lead other leaders. This ability is paramount. Leadership is a relationship business, and relationships are built on trust. Trust is built on communication and action with integrity. Leaders of leaders inspire the best performance from individual people and teams as well as organizational outcomes. Being a leader of leaders requires flexibility, trust, influence, communication, and confidence. Leading other leaders is as much an art as a skill. As individuals grow in an organization and in leadership ability, they often lead people as smart as or smarter than themselves. For these leaders, keen observation and listening skills provide the perspective needed to learn how to bring out the best in co-leaders. They gain insight about the strengths of those they are leading and influencing. They understand the approaches and environments that promote the highest levels of engagement. Leaders of leaders adapt their own styles accordingly. They have developed an exquisite ability to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and meet others where they are. They communicate in a way that allows others to receive the message best, thereby promoting understanding and connection to the broader vision. With confidence, they encourage their co-leaders to take the reins, play big, talk straight, and act boldly. Leaders in the C-suite know that their success depends on the success of others and therefore are committed to their coleaders’ success. To lead other leaders, take these actions: ANTICIPATING AND RESPONDING QUICKLY TO CHANGE Effective leaders in the C-suite demonstrate situational, mental, and emotional agility. Agility is required because change will continue to occur at lightning speed, with increasingly intricate considerations. Adapting to change often is a reactive experience. Agility is the willingness and ability to anticipate and explore the best approach to growing changes in a variety of environments. Agile leaders proactively reflect, take action to reduce risk, and make the most of opportunities in what will inevitably become the new normal—for now. Agile leaders are exceptional at adapting to new situations, new information, and differing interpersonal styles. They are flexible in their thinking and in tapping diverse groups of talent for more impactful results. They have learned to apply insights from past learnings to current and future scenarios. Marshall Goldsmith, renowned leadership expert, has said, “One of the most important qualities for the leader of the future is agility. Given our rapidly changing economy and world, leaders have to be quick, agile learners. They need to learn from all of their key stakeholders and be able to change course based upon what they are learning. In short, how we lead yesterday may not be sufficient today.” These steps will strengthen your agility: In conclusion, different times call for different measures. Getting to the C-suite is a different path for today’s leaders. Expertise is not enough. Successful C-suite leaders are purposeful, broad-based thinkers with clear points of view, yet they are open to alternative ones. They are skillful in bringing the power of the entire organization to challenges and opportunities. They are nimble and unafraid in their approach to change. Most important, those in the C-suite inspire action and invite the best from their fellow leaders. MW Gail Angelo is a leader of leaders. Using an intuitive yet practical approach that enables those she works with to move from wishing and hoping to doing and attaining, Angelo empowers her clients to act as the owners of their leadership goals. She helps executives identify their true strengths, eliminate negativity, and create strategies with clear action steps that lead to success and fulfillment for her clients. Are you noticing that little things are starting to fall through the cracks? Do you find yourself trying to recall the key points of the last conference call you had? Are you trying to get that last email done as the client is coming around the corner to greet you for the meeting? You are a victim of multi-tasking mayhem and may not even be aware of the cost to your effectiveness. When the concept of multi-tasking comes up, it is often described as doing more than one thing at once. In fact, it is not only doing more than one thing at once, it also includes switching tasks in rapid order. With increasing competitive pressure in the marketplace, the temptation to try to get more done in less time drives our tendencies to multi-task. Studies show that when multi-tasking, productivity drops an average of 40% and we become more susceptible to distraction which leaves us unable to be fully present to the work we are doing and the people with whom we are interacting. As importantly, for this age of innovation, those who multi-task are actually less creative in their thinking and their solutions. When we operate in multi-tasking mayhem, we not only become less effective, we run the risk of diluting the meaning and purpose of our work. Yet some people continue to wear their ability to multi-task as a badge of honor. Moving from mayhem to meaningful productivity How do we move out of mayhem into meaningful productivity? Make Time For Reflection One of the most overlooked distinctions between good leaders and great leaders, between good teams and great teams, is their commitment to reflect. It is counterintuitive to consider that slowing down to reflect actually increases effectiveness. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. A working paper by Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School, Giada Di Stefano of HEC Paris, and Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina, shows that reflection actually boosts performance. In one of their studies, the group that reflected on the assigned tasks experienced a 22.8% increase in performance over the control group. When we make reflection a priority we begin to experience its value. Many of my clients have experienced great results when they have opted to integrate a reflection practice into their daily routine and with their teams. They ask themselves and their teams those provocative questions that move the conversation and the work forward; questions that go beyond what worked, what didn’t and why? Questions including, what were the critical factors that influenced the outcome? Where have we been successful with this before? What learnings can we translate from other situations into this one or from this one to others? What was your piece of the action in contributing to the outcome? What might you do differently going forward? Make a commitment to build in reflection time without distractions. Ask the questions that matter, especially if the answers to some of those questions cause discomfort. It is in the discomfort where the greatest learnings lie. Make team reflection a non-negotiable process step as projects are launched, in update meetings, and at the close of an initiative. Reflection provides the platform for better understanding what matters, is working….or not. It affords the opportunity to take a step back and take in the full strategic view versus remaining mired in the details and distractions. Reflection supports the ability to respond to an increasingly changing landscape with greater ease and agility. It supports the evolution of our leadership and becomes the launch pad for dialogue that drives trusted relationships and impactful results. Exercise Self-discipline For Increased Focus Where you focus is what you get. What is the story you hear yourself telling most often about your work and your life? The answers to this question often include “we are so busy, stressed, in endless meetings, no time for fun or family.” Now ask yourself, what is the story you want to be telling? What changes are you willing to make to move into the realization of that story? When our self-talk is focused on how much we have to do in so little time, we actually promote greater stress. It is similar to when we are thinking about buying a car and we begin focusing on the fact that we may want a red car. Suddenly, we are seeing red cars everywhere. Where you focus is what you get. Begin to change the conversation you have with yourself. Listen to your self-talk and change it to one of success versus sabotage. Shifting focus away from restless productivity allows us to move from mayhem to meaningful work. It is not easy. Sometimes avoiding distraction is the hardest work we have to do in a day. Increased focus requires self-discipline to remove distractions so that we are clear and focused in the work we are doing and conversations we are having. Tips for increasing your focus: 1. Just do it. Determine when you are most productive during the day. Remove distractions such as sound from incoming emails and phones. Let others know that this is the time you use for focused and creative thinking. 2. Re-evaluate your “to-do” list. Follow the 80/20 rule. Look at your list and ask yourself, “What really matters here?” What is the 20% on your list that will give you 80% of your results? Then focus on those things. 3. Pay attention to brain drain. The brain requires rest to function at its best. Studies show that energy and effectiveness wane if you work more than two hours without a 10-15 minute break. It is easier for us to become more distracted when the brain is fatigued. 4. Manage your energy by ensuring that you get enough sleep, exercise and pay attention to your intake of sugar and caffeine. 5. Focus on one thing at a time. Delegate Artfully We fall into the trap of multi-tasking, in part, because we have too much to do. More organizations are striving to do more with less and the impetus for multi-tasking increases. An additional strategy for moving from mayhem to meaningful work is to consider how work is being allocated. Inspirational leaders are better leveraging the strengths and tapping the interests of those they are leading. They are asking themselves: · Do I need to do this work? Are there others that can partner with me? · Who has the strengths and interest for this work? · Who might benefit from this work as a development opportunity? · How can I broaden the lens? to include people from other parts of my team or even other teams? In addition to identifying who can do the work, effective leaders are conscious of how they delegate the work to minimize the boomerang effect of the work coming back to them. They provide descriptions of: · A definition of success · The form in which they want the work · The context for who and how it will be used · The scope of decision-making authority of those to whom they are delegating · When the work needs to be completed · Process for progress checks When we delegate artfully, the result is that there is more time for focused efforts and strategic thinking. Team members are challenged and more fully engaged. Moving away from multi-tasking mayhem requires a commitment to reflect, self-discipline for increased focus, and artful delegation for maximum capacity. Making a commitment to break the multi-tasking habit will support the realization of your new story and the quest for increased effectiveness and greater results. Most importantly, doing so will allow you to be fully present, both in your chosen work, and in your life as a whole.Formulating a leadership strategy centered on agility, strategic thinking, and the development of talent should be at the top of manufacturing executives’ agenda as the sector continues to pull itself out of the depths of the economic downturn of recent years, a leadership guru suggests. “To me, those are three leadership elements that are really going to make a big difference,” Gail Angelo, an ICF certified coach, skillful strategy consultant, and catalyst for personal, professional, and purposeful transformations, says. “These are important leadership themes, particularly in manufacturing, where they are coming out of a very, very difficult time, having to figure out how they want to create a future that is now very distinct from their past,” she adds. Here’s why manufacturing executives should pay close attention to what Angelo says: Before starting her consulting and coaching practice, she held human resources positions in the consumer products divisions at a pair of food manufacturers that are household names, Nestle and Frito Lay. “Believe me, I have been on the floor, on third shift, many times,” she tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today.“I really like the pace of manufacturing as well as the integration of different functions and roles to bring quality products at a reasonable price straight to the consumer.” Today, Angelo operates a coaching and consulting firm with clients of varying company sizes, including numerous Fortune 100 companies. Deloitte, for instance, is one of them. “I love working with leaders who are navigating change – that keeps me pretty busy given the increased rate and complexity of change in the U.S. economy,” she says. “Organizations today are experiencing increased globalization, changes in technology, regulatory changes and the threat of gaps in skilled labor. Just about everybody is looking for more efficient and effective ways to anticipate and deal with change.” Manufacturing leaders included, she adds. “What is required, first and foremost, as manufacturers are coming out of the downturn, is developing a culture centered on agility, one that is able to not only navigate change but to anticipate change,” Angelo says. “I was reading a magazine the other day about the top 10 skills that make for great leaders, and the first skill listed was the ability to adapt to change.” “In my experience working with people, adapting to change is a reactive response,” Angelo says. “Being agile in my experience, is being able to anticipate change and proactively take action to reduce risk, and to make the most of opportunities in what will inevitably become the “new normal.” With regards to manufacturing in particular, Angelo says: “The one change was the economic downturn, and the new change is how we want to be coming out of it. What got you here won’t always get you there. Leaders will determine what the new age in manufacturing will look like. They will chart the course. They will influence the way in which the organization responds (versus reacts) operationally, inspirationally, and innovatively. She adds: “Leaders and their teams can benefit from asking themselves, ‘What is the story that we’ve been telling about this organization? What is the story we want to tell going forward?’” It’s from that question that leaders begin to really create and define that bigger purpose and the direction that they want to go, Angelo says. “The clearer leaders are in communicating that purpose, the stronger the foundation for navigating change,” she says. A Tip For Engaging Employees Management welcoming change is one thing. Implementing it, especially among employees, is another. But Angelo has a proven recipe for success in that. “I often use the inner action model,” she says. “It is called “inner” action because it requires not just action, but reflection on three specific areas: how do you as leaders connect, engage, and impact? From a connection standpoint, how do you connect and get your teams inspired?” First is to be clear about what the desired vision and outcomes are and where you are headed as an organization, Angelo says. “Often times people resist change, not because they are afraid of the change but because they are not really sure about the direction they are going,” she says. “There hasn’t been a clear enough definition for them. What looks like resistance is often times simply not knowing enough.” Another way to keep teams inspired and to engage them is to “play to their strengths, the strengths of individuals, of teams, and of the whole organization,” Angelo says. “Look to those pockets in the organization that were successful even in challenging times. Determine how you can begin to take some of what worked for them and replicate it more broadly across the entire organization,” she adds. “Create those quick wins and then be sure to market and celebrate them internally.” Playing to people’s strengths and collaborating more broadly is what will inspire followership and help sustain a sense of commitment and ownership within the organization, she adds. “Consider how you are leveraging your talent,” she says. “Connect with their minds, by clearly communicating vision, direction and expectations. Engage them by leveraging their strengths and passions. Seek and create opportunities for people to collaborate across functions. The results are higher levels of of engagement for maximum impact.” The Value In Strategic Thinking Equally important to agility is strategic thinking, Angelo says. That includes being able to think long-term in terms of how you can create and deliver a competitive advantage in the marketplace, she adds. “Be clear about your market differentiators,” she explains. “How are you different than your competition? How are you using those differentiators to increase market share? “That strategic and long-term thinking for competitive advantage is critical,” she adds. Another form of strategic thinking includes attracting and developing talent, according to Angelo. In essence, how can organizations “begin to identify ways to provide broader and richer experiences for their leadership potential in the work that they are currently doing?” she says. The learning that has the greatest staying power is not necessarily formal classroom learning, she adds. It is experiential. “How can you identify those individuals with leadership potential and give them opportunities to test it, and grow?” she asks. “How can you partner those with leadership potential in a mentoring experience so that they benefit from the wisdom of the more tenured talent?” Here are a few solutions: consider a strategically important initiative, a task force, or a special project as a development opportunity, she suggests. “These provide platforms where these high potential people can really engage with a different set of people in the organization for different perspectives on strategic and innovative solutions,” she says. Furthermore, one of the best ways to attract talent is to give them things to be attracted to, like a professional and leadership development culture, she says. “Manufacturing organizations must provide employees with opportunities to learn and grow professionally if they are to have the pipeline they need for sustainable success.” The talent development strategy has to be something that goes above and beyond your usual performance review. “An effective talent development strategy is holistic – building technical, operational, relationship, and leadership skills,” she says. “It provides opportunities for employees to increase their understanding of the business and its issues as well as broaden their networks and capabilities.” Angelo adds, “Leaders with a focus on increased agility, strategic thinking and talent development will be the ones to steer their organizations and the industry successfully through its renaissance in these times of increasing change and complexity.Though counterintuitive for many entrepreneurs, there are three ingredients for their success. 1. Lead versus micromanage In recent times we have read a great deal about “helicopter parents” who hover above their child, not allowing him or her to experience growing pains that lead to greater wisdom and success in the long run. Many entrepreneurs are like the helicopter parent. The idea is their brainchild and the business from the idea is the child itself. They either do everything themselves or they delegate to others without empowering them to really do the work. One of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs is letting go in order to build and lead high performing teams. The sooner entrepreneurs realize that they can’t, nor have to, do everything themselves, the better off they and their businesses will be. Successful entrepreneurs play to their own strengths. They hire for what they can’t do or don’t want to do. They give team members room to do what they do best. When people leverage their strengths and live to their passions, they are more engaged, innovative, productive and fulfilled. Entrepreneurs grow value when they build teams that are balanced in strengths, built on trust and inspire constructive action. 2. Stay the Course The stereotypical entrepreneur is forward-thinking risk taker who lives in the world of possibility and is bored easily. To the outside world, they can seem a bit like “change-junkies.” More than merely comfortable with change, they seek it and thrive on it. These strengths, overplayed, can create additional challenges to overcome. Successful entrepreneurs have a clear, long-term understanding of, and commitment to, adding value to their customers and their teams. They are focused and willing to give ideas enough time to gel and get traction in the marketplace. Some ideas need to be modified to meet rapidly changing market demands. There is a distinction between agility and lack of focus or distraction. Get support from someone who is willing to hold you accountable to your focus. Concentrate on the twenty percent of activities that generate the greatest value and impact. As Albert Einstein said, “Genius is the ability to focus on one particular thing for a long time without losing concentration.” 3. Go slow to go fast Often, entrepreneurs are coming out of jobs that provided relatively steady paychecks, health insurance, a certain amount of structure and predictability. Once entrepreneurs take the plunge, when the steady paycheck is gone and the need to make money is high, there is a penchant for getting “there” quickly. Instead of diving in quickly, successful entrepreneurs go into the transition recognizing the value of going slow to go fast. They take time to understand their purpose and unique value before declaring their mission. Actions and decisions are anchored in that defined purpose and value. They are committed to potential changes in lifestyle. They do their research. They talk to people to better understand what works and what doesn’t. They understand market demands, trends and challenges. They network. They create business plans (including a Plan B) with conservative financial projections and appropriate infrastructure that supports the business versus consumes the business. Just as importantly, successful entrepreneurs take time to reflect. Reflection is the opportunity to understand how our experiences can shape our future and impact others. It supports our quest for discovering purpose and meaning. The commitment to reflect distinguishes good leaders from great leaders and good teams from great teams. To be a successful entrepreneur, avoid the temptations that plague the change junkie. Be deliberate. Remain focused and true to your purpose and values. Lead with passion that inspires engagement and impact.Do short deadlines and fast-paced environments give you an adrenaline rush? Chances are you’re an urgency addict. Long-term states of heightened adrenaline, however, take their toll on overall health. People who overwork themselves have an increased sense of anxiety, rarely feel rested, are often impatient and are generally less effective workers. Responsibilities start to fall through the cracks. Most importantly, urgency addiction takes its toll on relationships because it is distracting. The ability to be present and engage with teams, customers, colleagues, and even family and friends diminishes. To shift yourself out of an urgency mindset, you need to focus less on being the best at something and learn to focus on being the best to someone. Recently, I had the opportunity to coach John, a senior level executive of a multi-million dollar organization. John was suffering from urgency addiction. One clear indicator was his recent physical. The results were not glowing. He was worn out, less than fully engaged and had this nagging feeling that something was missing. Leading just wasn’t fun anymore. After conducting an initial session and 360 degree feedback process, it was clear that John’s zest for life and leadership had waned. He felt like he was dealing with one crisis after another and his days were an endless stream of meetings. It was difficult to find white space in his calendar. In his mind, everything was urgent. John began the coaching process reflecting on two questions: 1. What is the story you hear yourself telling most often about your life? 2. What is the story you want to be telling? John heard himself saying that he was stuck in doing and not leading. He was not aligned with his values around leadership and relationships. He missed feeling more deeply connected to his teams and his family as well as to the underlying purpose of his work. John used the following strategies to move himself out of urgency addiction and into purposeful leading: 1. Pay Attention To Intention John took time to explore what gave his leadership and his life purpose and meaning. He clarified his purpose, core values and strengths. He asked himself and others how these elements were manifested in his leadership. He then made changes accordingly. 2. Create Space For: Reflection John started setting aside 15 minutes a day for reflection, increasing it over time to 30 minutes. Reflection provides the opportunity to understand how the events of our lives shape our future and impact others. It supports our quest for discovering purpose and meaning. Reflection moves us from the mental model of being right and smart to leading with purpose and wisdom. Self-care Addiction to urgency can leave us in a state of stress. When we’re stressed, it’s important to take care of ourselves so that we can make clear-headed decisions. John became more aware of what he ate. He hired a personal trainer. He ensured he was getting 7-8 hours of sleep most nights. As importantly, he began to think about things he used to love to do. He started incorporating more of those things into his daily life. Sometimes it was just a simple, leisurely cup of coffee with his wife or a trip to the beach to relax and recharge. Strengthen relationships Focusing on others without distraction helps strengthen trusted relationships. John came to realize just how often he was in conversations waiting to respond versus listening to understand. When he was more present in his interactions with people, the quality of those interactions and relationships grew. 3. Delegate For Better Team Engagement The engine of team engagement is a clear purpose, a feedback mechanism and the opportunity to build on strengths. John was a micro-manager. His leadership team felt both deflated and defeated. He re-assessed how he was delegating, then shifted his focus to delegate artfully based on individual and team strengths. He thought about opportunities for individual and team growth and exposure. These steps resulted in a stronger, more engaged team and greater capacity for him to lead more effectively. 4. Breathe When everything feels urgent, we are engaging an aspect of the brain that triggers our fight-or-flight response. Studies show that focusing on our breath results in a physiological relaxation response to the body and clearing of the mind, leaving us free to make clear decisions. John began to practice breathing at various times throughout the day with a marked difference on how much more energized and relaxed he felt. 5. Enlist An Accountability Partner In this case John enlisted one of his trusted advisors. He was transparent in what he was doing, where he was struggling, and the type of support that was helpful. The transformation for John and his leadership team was remarkable. The team gained a legitimate voice in the long-term direction and strategy of the organization. There’s been a surge of creativity and innovation on the team. John is more fulfilled as he learned how to cope with his urgency addiction and a better leader to his team. He is living into the story he wants to tell.There’s a famous quote from “Alice Adventures in Wonderland” author Louis Carroll that says: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Since Carroll died in 1898, it’s clear that the current-day dilemma we seem to have with rushing around and trying to get more done isn’t a new problem. But as Carroll points out, all that hurrying doesn’t seem to pay off in getting ahead. Leadership coach Gail Angelo would agree with Carroll, and says that the “hurry up” lives we lead are actually making us less productive. In a recent interview with Anita Bruzzese, she addresses how it’s important that we learn to slow down, even if the practice may be painful at first. AB:What is the impact from the Great Recession when we all seem to now be doing twice or even three times the work we once did? GA: According to a Basex study in Good Technology magazine, 2012, the average worker has 37 hours of unfinished work on their desk at any given time. The study also reports that approximately 40% of employees say their workload has increased in the past 12 months. The combination of having more to do and the ease of continuous access through technology leave many feeling like it is almost impossible to “turn it off.” There is often an underlying worry or anxiety that if an individual is not working or responsive 24/7, they will miss something, will be left behind, or will be perceived as less committed than others. Effectiveness and productivity begin to suffer as do relationships both in and outside of work. AB: It sounds like we literally cannot turn it off. Are we addicted to the pace? GA: In my practice, I have noticed that people can become addicted to the pace and more so to the adrenaline rush that can accompany the pace. Work itself or thinking about work begins to consume more and more waking hours of the day. AB: Are some bosses part of the problem as they just expect people to work this hard? GA:In some environments, that kind of “commitment” is often well rewarded. People are so used to working or thinking about work that they are not quite sure what to do with themselves otherwise. The work and the pace have come to define who they are and how they live. The good news is that it is possible to break the cycle. AB: How do I know that my work pace is right for me or not? GA:We all have different thresholds and ways in which we are working at our best and “in the flow.” The key is to take the time to reflect on what works best for you. What is it that gives your life meaning? How are you making time for that? To know if your work pace is right for you requires a willingness to ask yourself the question. AB: Can you expand on that thought? GA:We have to be willing to stop long enough and often enough to check in with ourselves. Listen to your self-talk. What is the story you hear yourself telling most often? For example, “I’m so tired.” “I never really feel rested or caught up.” “My family is getting really frustrated with me.” “What social life? I’m always working!” If those are the kinds of things you hear yourself saying or that is how you are feeling, then the pace is not working for you. If you notice that it is difficult to relax, that things are falling through the cracks, and that you are getting impatient and feeling disconnected from others, then the pace is not working for you. AB: If that’s true for me, what do I do? GA: Reflect. Reflection provides the opportunity to understand how the events of our lives shape our future and impact others. It supports our quest for discovering purpose and meaning. Reflection moves us from living in busyness to living with purpose. AB: If I determine that I need to pull back and slow down, how do I do that and not feel like I’ll be fired or I’ll lose control of my team? GA: When we give ourselves space to re-energize, we actually become more effective. “Pulling back” may not be required. One solution may be to simply revise how we get work done. AB: Can you provide some tips? GA: Sure…. · Be intentional about setting priorities. When we are in the habit of busyness and urgency, everything seems to carry equal weight. It is all urgent. Ask yourself, if you were only to accomplish four things on your list for the day, what would they be and go about doing them. · Take a couple of 10 minute breaks throughout the day and remember to breathe. Just as athletes require periods of rest for their muscles to recover, so too does our brain require periods of rest to continue to support our clearest thinking and most productive work. And, studies show that focusing on our breath results in a physiological relaxation response to the body and clearing of the mind, supporting our efficiency and leaving us free to make clear decisions with strategic impact. Take a break and pay attention to your breath. · Do one thing at a time. According to recent studies, multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40%. Additionally, switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow down your progress. As an example, set aside specific times of the day for email. Turn off the sound notifying you of an email coming through. Set aside time to work on the most challenging priorities during the times of the day when you are at your best. For some that is first thing in the morning. For others, it may be late afternoon. Pay attention to when you feel most energized. · Delegate artfully. Does this work need to be done now? Does it need to be done by me? Often times we take on work that belongs to others because we think we can get it done faster, better, “right.” Along with your team, clarify their specific strengths, passions, and aspirations. Delegate in a way that leverages those strengths and passions and supports development toward aspirations. Be certain that when you are off loading work, that you are uploading the necessary information to those who will be doing the work. When do you want it finished? What will the deliverable be used for? In what form would you like it? · Pay attention to self-care. Times of stress require times for self-care. Leave some white space on your calendar for exercise. Pay attention to how you fuel your body. Get enough sleep. · Take time for the things and the people you love. Remember what it is that brings you joy and make time for that. It could be as simple as taking a walk with a friend or loved one. These are things that not only re-energize our minds and bodies, but feed our souls. AB: I know you’ve been traveling. Any tips on how to cope with the rushed pace of business travel? GA: Give yourself buffers of time so you are not rushing through traffic, trying to park or waiting to get through security. Instead of getting “just one more thing” done before you close things down and head to the airport, commit to a hard stop that leaves plenty of breathing room. This can be incredibly helpful in reducing stress. Accept that there will be traffic, security lines and delays. Consider making the investment to be part of an airline’s travelers club. It provides a space to work quietly or just sit quietly while waiting for a flight. Not to mention that the staff in these clubs can help much more quickly than the customer service lines in the concourses if there are any changes or delays. Taking the time to reflect on what is important and meaningful and to consider revising the way in which your work gets done can have significant impact on your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health which in turn provides the platform for your best and most productive work.Urgency addicts are everywhere in 2014, from the corporate manager who just can’t seem to let go of anything – and is sacrificing strategic vision to get it all done – to the team member who seems to be in a constant state of frenzy, no matter how small the task. The stress that many of us have in our daily lives has to stop – and Gail Angelo, advisor to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, has the solution. “Those who are addicted to performance and urgency – and they are showing up in increasing numbers – often experience a heightened sense of anxiety,” says Gail. “Their ‘urgency addiction’ is often accompanied by impatience and intolerance, results in a decrease in both productivity and effectiveness and ultimately impacts relationships by diluting the ability to be present and connected to others in meaningful ways.” Gail Angelo, MSIR, PCC, is known as a leader of leaders: providing her extraordinary intuition with a practical approach that enables those she works with to move from wishing and hoping to attaining and impact. Gail’s work enables her clients to go from boring to bold by empowering them to better manage their leadership and life goals. She supports executives in leveraging their true strengths, shifting focus to what is of true and purposeful importance and creating strategies with clear action steps that lead to success and fulfillment. In short, Gail’s expertise is a must-have for anyone seeking to strengthen their personal and organizational leadership. “Many of my clients were finding that no matter how many hours they worked, no matter how much time they spent in what is referred to as ‘restless productivity,’ at the end of each day, they’d find themselves wondering what exactly they’d accomplished, not just completed,” notes Gail Angelo, leadership and organizational strategist, principal at Gail Angelo Coaching and Consulting. “Part of my work is to help my clients shift from being tactical to strategic. Clients learn to shift their focus, to move from a place of running on the treadmill to a place of fully leading and living with increased results and impact for them personally and for their organizations.” Gail encourages her clients to reject the notion that busier is better, and to instead acknowledge the benefits of reflection (as an addition to thinking), saying: “Reflection provides the opportunity to understand more deeply how the events of your life shape your life and impact others. Reflection provides a platform for making different choices. It supports your quest for discovering purpose and meaning.” In this way, Gail has a “cure” for the urgency addition that plagues so many of us. Companies with leadership pipelines becoming bottlenecked by urgency addicts turn to Gail to reignite their teams’ strategic potential. By moving them from chaos to calm, Gail helps these leaders regain the ability to own their lives, inspire their teams and their clients, and support their personal, team and organizational goals.