Gratitude

Leading a balanced life is not a matter of dividing time. It’s being clear on your priorities and ensuring that you meet commitments in the important aspects of your life.

It’s easy to drift. You let your email inbox become your daily to-do list and get sucked into the social media vortex. You meet everyone’s demands, but you feel like the most important aspects of your life are passing by. I’ve been there.

Here’s a way to take back your life.

1. Identify the four or five most important aspects of your life. Career, Family & Friends, Health & Fitness, Community, Faith, Mentoring, among others, are common ones.

2. Create a bullseye or spider web chart with a spoke for each aspect. Label the rings 2-4-6-8-10.

3. Assess how well you feel that you are meeting commitments on each one. 0-2 = very poorly; 8-10 = highly satisfied.

4. Connect the dots. How happy are you with the picture?

5. To boost your engagement in a particular area, put time on your calendar for it and do not compromise that commitment.

6. Each morning, write down three things you want to accomplish that day. At the end of the day, write down three things that you achieved.

7. Find a partner or trusted adviser who will help you stay on track and do the right things the right way. Accountability shortens your path to success.

“THE KEY IS NOT TO PRIORITIZE WHAT’S ON YOUR SCHEDULE, BUT TO SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES.” – Stephen Covey,


When teachers believe they can positively influence student learning through their collective actions, the students succeed at a rate almost four times faster than an average school year. This shared belief is called Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE). A renowned researcher, John Hattie, and his team conducted meta-analyses on millions of students across the globe. They quantitatively measure influences on student achievement. Collective Teacher Efficacy is one of the most effective influences on student achievement; more so than socioeconomic factors, study time, teacher feedback, and student’s prior knowledge, to name a few. According to Jenni Donoho, a leading expert, teachers with CTE show greater effort and persistence, willingness to try new teaching approaches, and attend more closely to struggling students’ needs.

I heard a story about a student who was not doing well in school. He struggled to pass his classes and did not seem to have much of a future. When he got his SAT scores back, he received 1400, which was enough to be accepted into college regardless of his high school transcript. That student went to college and successfully completed his first year. Shortly thereafter, he found out that the SAT issued him the wrong score. His actual score was much lower and reflected that of his K-12 career. When asked how he succeeded his first year in college, he responded that he finally believed in himself and his ability to succeed—something he had never possessed before.

This student’s story is a perfect example of self-efficacy, which is the belief in oneself to execute the desired outcome. Let’s take CTE and self-efficacy and coin the phrase “Collective Efficacy.”
This phenomenon can be transposed into business leadership. Collective Efficacy is your ability to build a strong team, a supportive network, and the ability to push your organization to new heights. When you have cheerleaders and people who fully believe in your ability to achieve your dreams, you’re unstoppable.

Take a look at the model below. The Success Mindset model includes capacity, confidence, action, and results. If the word “low” precedes the words on the cycle, one can expect poor results. Inversely, if the word “high” precedes the words on the cycle, you can expect big results.
The key is helping people believe in themselves and have the confidence to take action.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help! [email protected]
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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, renovation means to restore to a former better state. As my husband and I finish up the large job of residing our house and replacing all the windows, I can’t help but think of the parallels between this job and that of leadership―where one should strive to become the best version of oneself and to build an organization that allows their employees to do the same―to reach their best “state.”

With three young children, it’s hard for my husband and me to find time for ourselves. Renovating homes―this being our third―has become something we both love to do together. Just like any team, there are growing pains, communication breakdowns, and assumptions that can lead to frustration. Regardless, we are better together because of our shared interests. Here are a few things we’ve learned:

There need to be compromises – It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong or when the other person knows more than you. The sooner you put your ego aside, open your heart and mind to others’ opinions, and understand that their ideas are valuable, the process becomes more freeing and collaborative. Remember, empathy and vulnerability lead to stronger leadership.Communication, communication, communication – When my husband and I were moving the box that held our garage door, he tilted his head in a diagonal direction and said,  “Lay it this way.” I started laughing and said, “Honey, I have no idea which direction your head is implying.” The more that we communicate, the better the outcome, and the quicker the results. Are you making assumptions or jumping to conclusions? Are your employees? Think about how you can create more clarity through communication. There are hidden obstacles around every bend. As leaders, we constantly need to innovate and adapt. Removing the 50-year-old siding has left my husband and me scratching our heads at the randomness left underneath. The rotted holes needed to be fortified, the missing insulation had to be filled, and the hodgepodge siding needed to be streamlined. Similarly, in business, leadership is about building your employees up, streamlining processes, and creating a clear picture of where your organization is headed. Working interdependently leads to better results. 


When my husband called me out of the office to lift the 300 pound 10×5 foot window into its home, I almost laughed at the absurdity. There was no easy way to lift this window with its straight lines and minimum edges for grip. Through our collaborative problem-solving, we figured out how to maneuver the window up and onto chairs and then over into its final resting place. Without our collective brainpower, we almost gave up. As an organization, know that you are better when you work as a whole instead of in silos. The end result is beautiful when executed patiently and to the best of your ability. Things are not built overnight. Life’s nuances, hiccups, and demands are never-ending. Be patient and always do your best. If it is your best, then you should be proud. Perfection is a fallacy.


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david vs goliath in businesss

Small businesses can innovate faster than big businesses.

Iran is building drones that fire ship-killing missiles while nerds with laptops launch business-crippling cyberattacks. The English longbow defeated the heavily armored French knight. “Two thousand pounds of education,” Kipling lamented of British officers shot down by rifle-wielding Pashtun fighters, “Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.”

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Innovation is applied ingenuity that gives you a competitive advantage. It does not have to be expensive or hi-tech.

Problem-solving restores performance to a set standard. Leaders who fixate on it do not move their organizations forward — they create yo-yos.

Innovation, on the other hand, takes you to new heights. The medieval English had a significant disadvantage: the French knights could outspend them on armor and thus win battles. Instead of investing in better armor, the English invested in the longbow and archers and invented tactics to enhance their effect. The Battle of Agincourt showed the innovation’s devastating effects. 

Who’s helping you innovate so that your people, processes, and products give you a competitive advantage or make you distinct in the field?

Small businesses win when they think like David, not like Goliath.




I’m delighted to offer you the opportunity to join me and six other leaders at my Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event, December 7-10.

The battlefields will build your imagination for the action steps to make 2022 your best year ever.

Among the topics we typically discuss:

*Action steps to put the right leaders on the scene and empower them to make decisions.
*How to help your subordinates achieve “leader-on-horseback” inspiration so that people have clear examples to follow.
*How to create innovation and gain a competitive advantage. Ways to set up your new subordinates for success and keep them winning.
*Action steps that create clarity, buy-in, and accountability. Ways to let in fresh ideas and avoid smelling your own gunpowder.

You’ll come away from the event with action steps that will power your success in 2022 and lifelong relationships with other great leaders that will boost the quality of your life.

Find out more about the exclusive event here or paste this link into your browser: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iNdcCraLLzL1ioHT7hZAS4XvnTpcDJ8j/view?usp=sharing

Here’s what participants say about the event:
Gain buy-in like Chamberlain; encourage people to take the initiative like Buford. This inspiring and interesting experience is giving me new tools and stories to develop leaders.
Dick Gephardt, former Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives; CEO, Gephardt Group

Matrixed Organizations Don’t Work

Matrixed organizations don’t work. They suffer a disorder similar to siloed ones: poor accountability. The Afghanistan failure is exhibit A; it’s the same principle in business.

Members of Congress and America’s punditry recently awoke to the calamity in Afghanistan. The war ranks at the top of the biggest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history. In his Senate testimony on September 28th, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley admitted that we lost to a rag-tag militant group known as the Taliban. Cue the hue-and-cry. And yet, no one has been held accountable for the fiasco.

The reason is simple: there’s been no one on the ground in charge of the war.

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Wait. What?

That’s right. There’s no one in charge on the ground, so there’s no one to hold accountable for success or failure. There’s no single American the President can look to and say, “you are responsible for achieving success in Afghanistan.”

The military has a portion of the responsibility: fighting the enemy and training the (defunct) Afghan Army. The diplomats are in charge of building the (defunct) Afghan government capacity and coordinating with allies and neighboring countries. The U.S. Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) is responsible for helping the (destroyed) Afghan economy and infrastructure. In intelligence agencies coordinate clandestine operations and provide intelligence assessments, while training the (dismantled) Afghan intelligence agency.

There’s no one below the President of the United States who has the authority and responsibility for making it all work together half a world away. Everyone else works comfortably in their silos.

While the generals, diplomats, aid workers, and spooks each talked about their progress, the situation kept deteriorating. The main causes for failure include the vast corruption within the Afghan government and military, and the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. These problems occurred in the fault lines between the silos. Because no one was in charge of U.S. efforts on the ground, no one had the authority to address them or to tell the President that we needed a new strategy.

 

Forbes released an article on September 19, 2021, stating that empathy is the most important leadership skill. The greater the empathy, the greater the innovation, engagement, retention, inclusivity, and the ability to navigate the demands of work and life. Wow! That’s a jam-packed list of positive outcomes. Better yet, empathy reaps more empathy. You are in a leadership position, which comes with a huge responsibility in helping your employees to be their best selves. If you can’t empathize with them, how can you help them?

Empathy can come in many forms. Be present, acknowledge their feelings and thoughts without one-upping them, ask questions, give eye contact, don’t multi-task, be compassionate, and be both emotionally and cognitively open.

As a leader, I saw the outcome of my empathy and lack thereof. I  worked hard to create a safe place for my employees to feel heard and understood. I asked that the elephant be put on the table, that the conversation was solution-focused, and I listened to understand. The staff was appreciative that they could work in a building where they felt valued and cared for.

I didn’t always get it right, though. Once the pandemic hit, I wanted to continue the exact same pre-pandemic trajectory. I was quick to stop complaints in mid-sentence―especially when those complaints were done in large teams. I wanted the team meetings to be focused, positive, and efficient so that the already overwhelmed staff could get back to their demanding jobs. My misstep was that the staff wanted to feel heard, validated, and built up. I created more of an us vs. them mentality by cutting them off. Thank goodness, I had a strong set of team leaders who shed some light on the situation and I was able to pivot into a more understanding role.

Here’s the deal, leading with empathy is crucial. It’s not a weakness, it’s not catering to the millennials or the snowflakes, it is part of our evolving workplace. We keep talking about how the millennials have changed the ways of business. Well, guess what? Gen Z is now entering the workforce. What impact do you think they will have on the way we run our businesses and the way we lead?


Follow the R.E.T.E.N.T.I.O.N. steps to better empathize and hold on to your valuable employees:


·         RESPECT – Give people your full attention when they speak. Keep in mind that constructive criticism and feedback can be done in a respectful way.
·         EMPATHIZE – Lend an ear, help problem-solve―hopefully giving your employees the agency to create solutions on their own thereafter, and listen to understand.
·         TRUST – Use compassion, integrity, and consistency. It will boost employee buy-in.
·         ENGAGE – Boost engagement by purposefully hiring employees to work within their passions and strengths so that they’ll enjoy what they do.
·         NORMS (rules of engagement) – Set reasonable expectations, stick to them, and ask that everyone assist in holding each other accountable.
·         TIME – Have patience, don’t overwork your employees, offer professional development opportunities. The more your employees grow, the more your business will grow.
·         INNOVATE – Allow your team to be creative. This will not only boost workplace satisfaction, but it will move your organization forward and it will give your employees a sense of belonging.
·         OPENLY PRAISE – Acknowledge, validate, and give positive feedback for work well done.
·         NEEDS – Offer assistance and understanding when needed. Be sure to treat mental health the same way you treat physical health. Burn-out can have much greater implications for your business’s productivity than a broken leg.


Most importantly, make sure your cup is full. It’s a great way to lead by example and only then can you offer your best self to help others.


Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help! [email protected]

“Setting up a franchise is stupid,” Anna (not her real name) told me, “and forget about coaching. Coaches are a dime-a-dozen. You should enroll in our veterans’ program and figure out what you are able to do.”

Did you ever notice that unsolicited feedback is always about the sender and never about you?

Most feedback is about the sender. Look at your evaluations, and you’ll find that what your boss highlighted reflects their own priorities rather than an objective appraisal of you.

Unsolicited feedback is even more problematic because there is no accountability, and it’s often about control. The sender wants you to conform, be like them, and not rock the boat or challenge their beliefs.

Anna wanted to badger me into enrolling in a program that I did not need and discourage me from helping veterans build a meaningful, joyful, and profitable consulting business.

When someone gives you unsolicited advice, think SMILE: the five fingers of sanity and success.

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Your thumb, closest to your heart, represents the letter S: self-care. Exercise, diet, sleep, study, and well-being are vital to sustainable success.

Your pointer represents M: mentors, coaches, and advisors. They point out the shortest path to success and help you avoid getting high from your own fumes. I have two coaches, and their support has paid for itself many times over.

Your middle finger stands for I: Ignore the Annas.

Your ring finger: L is for loved ones. Dedicate time to those who matter most. No one’s ever had a deathbed with that they’d spent less time with their loved ones and more time at the office.

Your pinky signifies E: your employees, customers, partners, and allies. They are the people you serve.

SMILE, and you’ll keep things in perspective. Here’s the video that you can view and share.

Feedback – The Great, the Mediocre, and the Ugly
If you’re like me, you find feedback around every corner, especially when embarking on a new role. Sometimes that feedback changes one’s life for the better and other times it has the power to ruin your day. Unsolicited feedback can rattle around in the think tank and disrupt sleep, family time, and even invade the sacred workout brain space. It has the ability to disrupt workplace productivity, innovation, creativity, and can ultimately upset the culture. Have you ever worked at a place where the unsolicited feedback was more about your fellow employees’ insecurities than your own performance? It makes me shake my head just thinking about it.

Here’s what I’ve learned from keeping an open-door policy and graciously accepting all the feedback that was given to me. Some of it is pure rubbish. Ever heard of mansplaining? It’s patronizing and condescending. That’s what unsolicited feedback can be—it’s a power play and is more about the giver than the receiver. When I returned from Iraq in 2004 I was telling a 22-year-old man about some of my war stories and he had the gall to tell me I was wrong and that his veteran buddies had a much different take on the war. I was appalled that he said I was wrong about my own experience. My young adult self didn’t know how to react to his “feedback.”

I have also been in incredibly awkward situations when a past supervisor gave me feedback on how to respond to an employee issue. This feedback was in direct conflict with my core value of open communication and respect. It felt like a violation of my ideals and put me in a sticky situation of disobeying orders or disobeying myself.
Don’t get me wrong, feedback can be a gift. It can help us grow, it can enhance our strengths, and it can take us from good to great. I get feedback about these articles before I post them and I’m incredibly grateful for that feedback. The key to good feedback is accountability. Feedback from credible sources and trusted advisors helps us to avoid getting high on our own fumes. Unsolicited feedback is fire-and-forget, unaccountable, and is almost always about the sender.

Keep this in mind:

*Before internalizing feedback, make sure the feedback is coming from a reputable source and that the source has your best interest in mind. Listen to solicited feedback.

*The feedback should be efficacious and not detract from your positive trajectory.

*Be purposeful about surrounding yourself with people who will build you up to the best version of yourself and help you from breathing your own exhaust.

*Always remember, no matter how smart, powerful, interesting, far-up-the-ladder, or renowned the person giving the feedback is, it’s an opinion. You have the CHOICE to take it or let it go.

*It’s ok to let the unsolicited feedback take a one-way trip in one ear and out the other—especially if it’s hurtful or negative.

Good luck and continue your positive self-talk. After all, you know yourself best.

 
IS YOUR CULTURE ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE?
Culture is a vital facet in a successful business and a successful community.

Back in 2003, I was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq as a military police officer. We were three months into the war and my squad was working in an Iraqi Police station on the northeast side of Baghdad. Our police station was decrepit with broken panes of glass in the windowsills, cigarette butts piled in the corner on the blackened floor, and no flushing toilets. On this particular day, I was sitting in the front of the station taking complaints from Iraqi citizens. During one of the quieter moments the female interpreter, Nada, said, “The reason why the Iraqis are not behaving is that they don’t know how to respond to freedom. Under Saddam’s dictatorship, they would lose their life or limb for infractions. Now they can loot, drive down the wrong side of the street, slight their neighbor, and barely anything happens.”  I had an epic epiphany at that moment. We, as Americans, couldn’t possibly comprehend the Iraqi’s emotions, thoughts, and the fallout that occurred after liberating Iraq. The saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” not only existed in Iraq but the native culture killed our foreign policy—both in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could say that the same thing happened in Vietnam. Our inability to empathize and develop policies that directly correlate with the centuries-old culture left us unable to make the impact we hoped for. Our democratic values and ethos aren’t a match for the complexities of the middle east.

As a new leader, do you fully understand the culture in your workplace? What about a seasoned leader, is your workplace culture the same as you envision it to be?

This week, new research revealed that Instagram is toxic for teen girls and their mental health. Additionally, Facebook tried to make its platform a healthier place but it got angrier instead. Both are negatively impacting the social media culture. What are they going to do about it? There could be societal and workplace nuances pulling your operating culture away from your envisioned culture. When was the last time you checked your organization’s cultural pulse?

Misunderstanding culture can ruin progress. Inability to empathize with your employees and understand their intricacies can diminish trust.
Culture is a fragile entity within a working environment. A change in procedures, employees, leadership, or the environment around us can cause the culture to fluctuate. As a principal, I saw how the pandemic drastically affected our school’s culture. It was disheartening and tragic to witness our community complain about one another. Tensions caused discontent. Misinformation and assumptions divided the workforce. To combat the change, I utilized several tactics to retain our culture, to provide support, and to create lasting memories even though we weren’t face-to-face. The results created a community of understanding and buy-in, which enabled the staff to work together and focus on their priority―student learning.

Is your culture really as good as you think it is? Are you asking the right questions and looking at the correct indicators to make sure your envisioned culture and your operating culture are consistent? What suggests they are out of whack.

Action steps:

Keep an eye on your culture. Check in often with all of your employee levels and be fully present. Look past the “please-the-boss” façade and see what your employees see. Don’t ever settle when hiring.  You’ll gain a reputation for hiring the best and your employees will appreciate the fact that they work with the best and they are the best. Make sure you’re not blind to a slowly declining culture. Sometimes the change is so subtle we don’t notice it happening. An outside perspective (consultant) can be a vital asset for this action step. Be a part of the positive change. Lead by example―treat everyone with respect and dignity. Do not gossip and vent at work. Purposefully plan events to bring your employees together to create a sense of belonging and use that opportunity to grow as a team. A greater sense of belonging equates to greater productivity.
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