Do you Have the Courage to be Vulnerable?

Posted on 29. May, 2012 by in Blog, Coaching, Leadership and Development, Teamwork

AuthenticVulnerable. Exposed.

Hate these words? Most people say they do.

They don’t want to look bad in front of people they work with or lead.

They say, “I don’t want to look silly, stupid – be called a fool.”

Most team members already know who you are. They know what you can do and can’t do – what you’re good at and where you struggle. So why pretend?

At what point do we finally “give in” and just be who we are? Own our strengths and weaknesses, then mesh with others strengths and weaknesses to create something truly special?

In teams, being authentic and real with team members requires self awareness, vulnerability and – the big one –  authenticity. The hardest? I gotta think Vulnerability. And without it, how can anyone truly be authentic? It’s all tied.

Vulnerability has presented some of the biggest biggest roadblocks for some of the best leaders I know. I think their ability to take it head on and embrace it has made the difference. One of the best explanations I’ve heard about the Power of Vulnerability comes from Dr Brené Brown. Funny, practical, authentic, and an expert in her field, she provides insight and clarity about vulnerability and the power of it in all aspects of our lives (not just business).

 Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW (more…)

Leadership: The Muffin-Top Deluision

Posted on 22. May, 2012 by in Blog, Coaching, Leadership and Development

Graphic by Antony Bennison

Yesterday I did it again. Went too far. Asked the question that didn’t need to be asked.

My son just finished a book report. (Always a fun family project) and we were discussing symbols.

I asked him, “if you were to choose a symbol that represents who you are now, what would it be and why?”

He thought for a minute and answered, “a flame.”

He then explained why he chose it with insight and depth I didn’t expected from a fifth grader.

In my surprise – I fell prey to my own curiosity and took it to the next level, not heeding the little voice warning me not to go there… I went there.

“If you were to guess what symbol I would chose, not just as your mom but who I am deep down, what would you guess I’d pick?”

He barely paused. “A muffin top.” He choked through his laugh.

Yes. Of course I was mature. Gave him a playful punch in the arm and wrestled him to prove I am “skinny-tough enough” to still take him. But then had to look in the mirror. How bad is that “muffin-top?” Am I kidding myself? Not seeing what the kid sees? (more…)

Leaders – Don’t Swim Alone!

Posted on 14. Feb, 2012 by in Blog, Leadership and Development, Teamwork

BridgeLite Consulting

Human Beings are made to be in relationships. Sure, there are times when being a “Grizzly Adams” seems appealing.

When a project isn’t going as planned and there seems to be an extra supply of critics on hand to comment.

When a “significant other” acts like they are more significant than you think warrants significance at the present moment.

When a day is just not going the way you anticipated or planned.

Hanging out in a mountain cabin all alone can sound pretty appealing. But it doesn’t last.

Why? People are designed to be with people. And that’s the difficult part sometimes. Working side by side, team by team, to make something happen requires people. People united in purpose to make a difference.

Let’s face it, some days, being with those people, those challenging, grating, different-than-we-are people is just plain hard. For all of us. And for those in leadership? No hall passes granted to not be with people.

Leaders without people with them – well, aren’t leading. Aren’t participating. Being with people-that is the job.

Leaders can get stuck when they forget this fact for longer than one bad day. When leaders get stuck, and find themselves alone, three key factors as to why it happened emerge: (more…)

Leaders Leading WITH Leaders

Posted on 01. Feb, 2011 by in Blog, Leadership and Development, Servant Leadership, Teamwork

Team Tug-a-wars!
Team Tug- Wars

Team Tug- Wars!

We talk  about how to lead followers – but what about leading leaders?

Or, more specifically, how do we effectively team with other leaders  to drive changes, hammer out a new initiative, raise funds, promote an idea to the Board – or – participate effectively as a Board member?

We see it all the time.  And, we cope by joking and complaining about the  “power struggles,” bullying, and begin to label our teammates with not so nice labels.

When working with a team of strong willed, independent thinkers, convinced that their way is the only way, here are some survival tips:

1. Listen 80%, Talk 20%

It’s amazing what we learn when we genuinely listen. Not  speaking or focusing on our next brilliant utterance, but listen to what is really being said by others.  Valuable team time can be squandered when we are not really listening to each other. And, it’s easy to move into conflict when we begin to make assumptions about what we think we are hearing when only half listening. Try applying the 80/20 rule to listening in team meetings and see what the true landscape is.

2. Ask Clarifying Questions – Don’t Assume.

There is a reason that the word ASSmption begins with those first 3 letters…. Take time to clarify what you think you hear, especially if the comment seems out of line with the discussion or what you expect. It also helps if the question is asked with respect, without hidden agendas and in true question format. For example:

Do ask:, “Fred, are you saying  you believe the delivery should be next week as opposed to this week?

Don’t ask: ” Fred, you can’t possibly mean that the delivery should be this week as opposed to next week!”  [Besides being a statement as opposed to a question – the real statement is the underlying tone – “Fred, you idiot! You can’t possibly mean that the delivery….” You get the idea.

I see this in teams – alot. The not so subtle “clarification” that is really intended to coerce the other party back to the speaker’s way of thinking. The attitude in which a clarifying question is asked is just as important as the question.

3. Focus on the problem that needs to be solved – not the personalities.

Tug-of-wars in meetings can pop up without much warning when the focus is on each other  rather than the problem to be solved.  If a team is debating more than required to uncover data that helps the decision making process, shift the focus. If in a room together, shift focus to the problem on a whiteboard or flip chart. If in online meeting, highlight in meeting tool and/or verbally restate what you think the problem to be solved is- sometimes, just restating the problem statement, will refocus attention. Arguing is guaranteed to diminish as you partner with each other to solve the issue at hand.

4. Remember, as a servant leader – it’s not about you.

Skilled leaders, remember that it’s not about “winning” or “losing.”  It’s about driving the new initiative forward. Enabling the change to occur, etc. The best outcome is the one where something gets done, all feel engaged, energized and respected.

Where can you shift focus this week and team with your leadership colleagues to make a difference?

The Romper Room Effect

Posted on 28. Jan, 2011 by in Blog, Leadership and Development

In 1952, a new “kiddie learning show” show was launchedRomper Room.  Syndicated across the country and shown in England, Ireland, Japan and Australia, the show provided a much needed ‘time out’ for weary parents as their children sat, eyes glued to the TV.  The preschoolers interacted with their televisions, audibly answering  questions when asked such as, “Did you know the horse was brown?”

Tiny squirming children would wait  patiently (or not so patiently) for the highlight of the show, the closing scene where Miss Nancy (the original host out of Baltimore)

or Miss Debbie, Miss Susan, Miss Sally, etc. would position her magic mirror in front of her face, look directly into the camera, and recite  the names of  the good boys and girls she could see that day.

Some children would jump up and down in front of the TV, attempting to get Miss Whoever’s  attention as the roll call began,

“I see Sarah, I see Bobby, I see Suzie…”  And 40 years later , “I see Michelle, I see Tiffany, I see Tyler, I see Brandy” – you get the idea.

(Nope – I never heard Denise. -Ahh the agony!)

Which, years later leads us to the Romper Room Effect in leadership.

As a leader, how many times have you had the opportunity to hold up the magic mirror?  A way to see people that are doing good things, just waiting to be noticed?

That employee wanting you to notice  he is doing a good job.  That volunteer wanting you to recognize  the hours she is putting in makes a difference.

Did you see him/her? Did you offer a thank you? A “good job” comment?

The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report  indicates that the number of people leaving their jobs, not affected by a layoff is up by 6%.

Up in an otherwise down economy.  Why? Many cite their boss as a primary reason for exit, along with lack of opportunity for contribution, or loss of confidence in senior management.

Most reasons for leaving are concerns about how they are viewed, treated – noticed.  [note: compensation is hardly ever noted as the reason to leave.]

What about you? As a leader, do you see and value the people vying for your attention??

If not, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror.

Would You Dance?

Posted on 12. Jan, 2011 by in Blog, Leadership and Development, Servant Leadership

Perhaps Kenny’s leadership approach of  “give them candy”  works for 10 year olds;

O.K.,  us older ones as well.  But let’s take another look at how leadership – happens,

as demonstrated in the following clip by Derek Silvers.

This clip illustrates a key principle of Servant Leadership.

As a leader, from the very beginning –

It’s not about you.

Also, a great reminder that leadership takes courage, simplicity, and a willingness to be authentic.

If you were captured dancing in this video, where would you be?

The first follower?                 The leader?               Later in the pack?

Kenny for President

Posted on 10. Nov, 2010 by in Blog, Leadership and Development

Kenny, age 10, provides insights into some early definitions of leadership.

His poster makes me chuckle.  As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Take a look.

He pretty accurately captures what so many do when setting  out on a leadership path.

Promise enticements.  Follow me and you get…..

Notice he is the one with the key to the treasure.  Interesting.  Kenny has figured out how to entice with the  lure of “stuff.”  ( in this case, free candy).

Are we lured by those promising “stuff?”  As leaders, do we promise to deliver “stuff?”

You’ve seen the adds.  People promising: financial freedom, inner peace, less work, less fat,  no taxes, more time, a better life, more money etc. etc.

Is this leadership?

Student Council – vote for Kenny!

Leadership! What, When, and Why

Posted on 07. Nov, 2010 by in Blog, Leadership and Development

Elections are over, What did we learn?

Did we find new leaders? Affirm those we already had ?

Last week, elections on the state, local, and school student council stages rekindled questions for me  about leadership.  How about you? Do you wonder about this topic?

Who are the people that we choose to follow?

What is so special about them?

Leadership.  What is it?  What constitutes a leader?  Which models make sense?  When are they best used  and why?

If you are like  me and have more questions than answers, I invite you to join me  explore leadership in sometimes deep and sometimes humorous ways over the next few weeks.

After all , we all lead something or someone. Even if we – or they, don’t know it. 🙂


Posted on 07. May, 2010 by in Blog, Change Management, Leadership and Development

Four walls (room) – to protect what’s in and keep out – well, what’s out.

Break Through!

Break Through!

Wailing Wall – a place to seek, mourn, and pray.

Great wall of China – way to define large borders.

THE WALL – of Fenway Park – a place to target when batting it up with the

Boston Red Soxs

We are good at walls. We are even better using terms involving walls for organizational analogies: Building walls, scaling walls, climbing walls.

“Tear down that wall Mr. Gorbachev.” -Ronald Reagan

For change-leaders creating momentum, reinventing, moving people to new places – challenging and frustrating moments encountered can be when you……..


When something  smacks you to a dead stop. An obstacle seems insurmountable. Difficult.  Walking away seems better than moving forward.

What is a Change leader to do?

1. Acknowledge.

The wall is a temporary derailment. Hitting a wall doesn’t change anything.  The original challenge is still in play, has to be dealt with, and you are still the one to make it happen.

In order to tame it, you have to name it. It’s just a wall.

2. Personal Choice Moment

You have to decide it you’d prefer to:

A. Jump over it

B. Climb it

C. Walk around it

All methods work. After all, while potentially large, it’s just a wall.

3. Setbacks ≠ Stop

Setbacks or new obstacles don’t indicate that the original change is no longer needed. Newly discovered impediments are just incremental obstacles that were not originally uncovered in the analysis. Once removed, better for all in the long term. Include the setback into the plan and keep moving forward. If a personal setback, what did you learn, how can you use it as growth experience?

Don’t give up – keep going!!

Good Luck!

Booger Flick’n Time

Posted on 02. Mar, 2010 by in Blog, Leadership and Development

The following is rated PG, for ‘Potentially Gross’.

Reader discretion advised.

Dominick, age 3, lined up with the other children for pre-school, morning recess. A teacher supervising the process noticed that Dominick seemed to be putting some kind of foreign object into his nose. Not good. The teacher quickly went to Dominick to thwart the activity. As she reached him, she disgustingly realized what the object was. A booger.

Yep, that’s right. Booger.

Dominick was attempting to put the gooey, glob back into his nose. He told the teacher that he didn’t know what to do with it, so was putting it back where it came from.


How many times as leaders are we like Dominick? Trying to stuff things that really should come out – back in because we don’t know what to do with them? As we move into spring cleaning season, perhaps it’s time to get rid of some ‘boogie’ behavior that can negatively impact leaders and teams. Three sticky globs instantly come to mind. (more…)