Moving from "I wish" to "I will" with SMART Goals with a Strong Heart!

It’s summertime here in Colorado, and it’s 14er season for Russell. This is one of my SMART goals: that I want to climb all fifty-four 14,000-foot mountains over a five-year period. This is personally enriching for me but also very satisfying to be able to go from the valley to be able to summit the peaks of so many of these 14ers that are throughout Colorado.

Mt Yale, Colorado 14,196’ August 17,  2019

Mt Yale, Colorado 14,196’ August 17, 2019

More than just making the summit, it’s also the enrichment and the experience of being able to do that with other people who want to join me on the journey. This is something that’s not just an event but an experience that’s really built out as a long-term goal over a lifetime. What are some of your goals that you’re working towards? 

Just last week, I was coaching with a leader in Mexico, and he had this great desire to grow his business to the next level. The more we listened, I heard just some general and vague and even confusing language around some of the goals that he has to grow his business to the next level. As we talked more, I asked him if he had ever heard of SMART goals. That was the first he had ever heard of that language.

SMART goals invites you to be able to take some of your general aspirations, to be able to see something accomplished in bringing a specific framework around some of those things. What are some of your goals? If you and I were sitting one-on-one and we were just to take a moment and write down some of those things, what would those goals be? Would they be general and vague, or would they be specific and measurable and relevant and something that’s time-bound that you hope to see accomplished? Maybe it’s in five years, or maybe it’s in the next quarter.

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Again, this is your opportunity to write down some of these things, and do they pass the test of being SMART? Well, just in the context of our 14ers, one of the realities of going to the next level, especially in Colorado, is the lack of oxygen. The idea of capacity is a very real thing. It’s one thing to be able to aspire towards the next level of achieving those goals. The second area is this idea of capacity. Often taught in the coaching context that I have with leaders is that opportunities plus challenges equal growth. As you step into the opportunity of your goal, suddenly you’re met with a challenge. And that challenge, at least for me this past weekend, was the lack of oxygen. 

What do you have to do to increase your capacity? So let’s get those goals defined in terms of what’s SMART, and then let’s really identify, really, what is the capacity and where you need to grow and develop. These are five specific areas that allow you to look at some of those capacities that, as you do, that will invite you to grow to the next level of your leadership.

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Finally, in terms of that engagement, just as you look at all the things that you’re involved with, the opportunities, the commitments, perhaps there’s some things that you need to just evaluate: “What do I need to stop so that I can start doing some of those right things?” As you make that list and it begins to narrow, when you see those lists of activities before you, it gives you some clarity in terms of what you need to start, what you need to stop, and some areas where just you need to grow as a leader.

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Ultimately, if you feel stuck today in terms of your goals, I wonder what might be holding you back. What could be distracting your focus or even robbing your energy? This is one of those areas we’re trying to get some clarity in terms of your desire to want to grow to the next level and advance as a leader. What are the things that are holding you back? 

As you get clarity and even being SMART in terms of just your focus and your goals and how you need to grow your capacity, it’s going to get you moving forward so you advance to the next level in your leadership.

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast! 3 Competencies To Strengthen Your Soft Skills

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. What a big idea, right?

As a leader in your organization, you proudly celebrate the wins. On occasion, it doesn’t work that way and during a loss, you may ask yourself whether it was you, your team, or the organization as the root cause. With each examination, you may see a pattern within your company culture itself, through discussion, surfacing time and time again.

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast!
— Peter Drucker

Two areas of tension leaders in any organization must balance daily are that of hard and soft skills. Most leaders excel greatly in hard skills. They know their product or service inside and out. They understand delivery and execution in order to promote and provide markets for their product or service. It is then not surprising that with leaders focused so strong on hard skills, many lack what amounts to be the equally, if not of greater importance, the soft skills needed to manage the people of the organization.

Through many years of coaching leaders, it has become clear to me that there are three primary areas of competencies needed within any organization. They include:

  1. Effective Communication
    Great leaders are effective communicators. What are we communicating? What are the questions we’re asking? Are we taking time to actually listen to understand what’s happening? And then being able to turn around and explicitly share those ideas with a broader audience and making sure it lands and hits its mark so that we know that we’re communicating clearly and effectively that engages the rest of our people. (We recommend leaders start by answering 3 questions).

  2. Creating Connection
    We are wired for meaningful relationships. Sometimes, when we meet with people, there’s just a disconnect. And sometimes we just don’t even know why. It’s often this place of just connection with those key people. We really want to understand what’s happening there, and what can we do to build stronger levels of trust and unity so that we can have a healthy working relationship? (We recommend the Conversationalist for building stronger connection).

  3. Change Management
    Change is necessary for continued growth. That’s a big idea in terms of a leadership sense of expectations. Are we moving too fast? Perhaps we’re moving too slow. Somewhere in there is finding that cadence of what is the rate of change where we work well and thrive within. Change is hard and if we don't change, then things won’t happen as we expect, and our results will suffer.

What is Culture?

Values + Behavior = Culture

To deep dive into your organization, your team, or even the culture that you live as a leader, look at those values. What are the things that are core to who you are? Are you moving them from implicit ideas to explicit? When you do, then, you can begin putting a plan together on how to live those ideas out.

Culture is a complex idea because we’re dealing with the soft skills. If you want to improve your culture, start there. What are those values? How do we live them out? 

Communication - Connection - Change

Communication - Connection - Change

I would encourage you to look at those three areas of communicating effectively, being able to make strong connections with your people, and then, finally, look at your expectation around change management.

Final Thoughts

When you do the above suggested actions, they will strengthen your culture. When blended with your strategy, suddenly you’re going to see your results successfully executed, positively affecting your bottom line. Hope this has been helpful.

If you need help with your leadership skills the Advance team provides one free complimentary coaching session. It will help you clarify your answers and give you a plan to lead more effectively. (We provide a professional coaching experience, not a sales pitch!)

If you want to be a more effective leader select Start Now!

What Leaders Do to Communicate More Effectively

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Leadership requires perspective in order to communicate effectively.

  • Daily demands steal our clarity.

  • Decision fatigue dulls our strategy.

  • Doubt can rob us of confidence.

When you’re suffering from these moments, being a leader and doing the work of one can feel overwhelming. You may be more reactive than proactive. The very idea of taking time to get some perspective may come across as a luxury. You may even say to yourself, "I have no time" or "I’ll take some time one day." However, we know work is always there, and the demands on our time never end.

3 Important Questions To Help Leaders Gain More Prospective

Coaching entrepreneurs and executive leaders gain the perspective by looking at and answering three questions:

  • Where are we going? Vision~ Dream~ Mission~Opportunities~Making a Difference

  • Who is the team that will get us there? Your #1 Team~ Support~ Culture~ Clients~ Advisors~ Stakeholders

  • What needs to be done today? Problems to Solve~ Projects~ Priorities

Effective communication maximizes leadership success.

A mentor once taught me that leadership brings order out of chaos. Every day, you know the level of chaos that you face. It’s real! Get your thoughts in order. Clarity of thought will bring insights. Now, you can formulate a plan. You’ll know what priority to focus on first and what is second. You will gain perspective faster than you realize.

We encourage leaders to retreat, so you can advance. You can take a step back to get some perspective and move forward. The above three questions offer you some pause; allowing you to communicate with more clarity and confidence. As a leader, people are looking to you for answers!

Leaders Must Discipline Themselves To Be Effective Communicators

Communication is a discipline – something you can start now!

  • Think about your answers to the 3 questions.

  • Brainstorm ideas, writing down potential answers.

  • Highlight any words or statements that grip you.

  • Commit to sharing those answers – to who and when.

  • Watch and learn from their response to refine the message.

How will you communicate your answers to them?

Communication is a discipline, and leaders use their words!

It’s so important to use yours wisely and make them count. If your words miss the mark, then look at them from another perspective. This will be the first proactive step you take.

If you need help the Advance team provides one free complimentary coaching session. It will help you clarify your answers and give you a plan to communicate more effectively. (We provide a professional coaching experience, not a sales pitch!)

If you want to be a more effective communicator select Start Now! Then you will receive an email of including next steps to prepare for your free coaching session!

Locker Room Encouragement From A 400 Pound Competitor

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I met Robert after my workout at #lifetimefitness, and his situation just breaks my coaching heart. At 400 pounds, he certainly needs to lose the weight – not just for his physical health, but his mental health too. 

Robert and I started talking while in the locker room, and I learned he joined the club just after Thanksgiving. Before I could go into the typical holiday spiel, he talked about his time as a college athlete. Robert, who is in his late 40s. You can see that he has a fire in his eyes, but he’s lost something he yearns for.   He knows he’s let himself go long enough, and he’s taken the first step to get whatever he lost back.

I listened to him talk while getting dressed, and then I shared an inspiring story of two men I knew in their 70s who lost up to 75 pounds in the last year. It’s amazing that the metabolism could be good enough for these men to lose that weight. How did they do it? They walked the mall with relentless discipline and ate better. Amazing!

I asked him, “Robert, what’s your plan?”

He told me his joints are shot. So, it all starts in the pool. He’s got to get his heart pumping and legs moving. He shared more stories of college ball and his competitive athletic career. The more he shared, the more fuel he added to himself. Robert was a competitor but had been on a losing streak for 15 to 20 years. 

I was meeting him at the start of the training. 

I decided to encourage him even more with a story of a freshman student – John. John moved from New York to Colorado to start college. In his senior year, he was injured and gained some weight. Motivated by the prospect of an ROTC scholarship, he started training. He overcame the challenges of leaving home, new social dynamics and academic pressure. He stayed focused on the end result. What began as a desire and commitment result in losing 25 pounds and finish a half-marathon run.

Talk about inspiring. 

For Robert’s personal life, he mentioned that his sister died a few weeks ago. He lost another sister last year, and his mother the year before that. Although he had the fire for competing, his heart was broken, and he felt grief. I asked him, “Robert, if you’re committed to losing this weight, who will support you?” He looked with me with tears in his eyes and smile on his face, “My wife and kids. They’re fighting for me.”

It was just a five-minute locker room conversation, but we shared a connection. I felt it was a privilege to be invited into Robert’s journey. He may have a long road ahead of him, but he’s got the desire and dedication to succeed. I’ll cheer him on every step of the way!

Every pound, dollar of debt, ended dream, job transition or lost relationship has a weight. Robert carries a lifetime of it. Now, he’s taking the first step to shedding it. 

Today, I’m at the lowest physical weight I’ve been in 10 years. While it feels good, I still have work to do. Like Robert, John and my 70+year-old seniors, we all have work that must be done. The first step – be it walking the mall, getting in the pool or whatever – is the move you need to make. 

What weight do you want to offload today?

It’s important to know what you’re carrying before you take that first step. Make a plan, see it through, and commit to a support team to help you along the way. As you do this, you’ll begin to notice a difference in the rest of your life. 

The Gift of Gratitude!... Strategy to Minimize Stress!


Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year. It invites an opportunity to reflect, spend time with our dearest people, and give thanks. I say this with the understanding that the holidays can bring their own stress as well in complicated family relationships and the ever-increasing advertising pressure to distract us with Black Friday deals of things that we want but may not need. Let’s keep our perspective a little higher and not allow anything to rob us from the real gift of the season. As we enter this week, let us be reminded of the gift of gratitude.

Giving gratitude will strengthen your priority relationships!

Gratitude is a discipline. It requires mental space, intentionality in reflection, and some honesty with your own heart. When your emotions get the better of you, gratitude will ground you. We all face disappointments, unmet expectations, and failed commitments. Our hurt can range from heartburn to heartache. There’s a weight to the significant issues in life, work, and relationships. Left unchecked the issues may leave us unguarded and vulnerable.

Upon my own reflection, since last Thanksgiving, I have privately met with 50+ leaders for 360 feedback reviews. These private coaching sessions include a report that gives specific feedback to the leader from 5-20+ professional and personal colleagues who have given responses to their 360 assessment. The feedback comes in 3 ways. As you can imagine there are insights to help strategically define how a leader may develop. Next, there are perception gaps they need to close such as blind spots or hidden strengths. Finally, they include specific affirmations that are encouraging. The formal assessment gives written language to strengthen a leader from the inside out. It’s the gift of written gratitude!

A recurring theme in all these reviews are the effects of stress. The need for strengthening represents the possibility that something is weak, vulnerable, or unhealthy. It’s a threat to your welfare. After the push of a deadline, fiscal quarter, or semester we can be exhausted. We need recovery because our reserves are spent. We are the weakest when exhausted and stressed.

It’s impossible to be stressed and grateful at the same time.

As I work with my leaders, I continue to test this theory. It’s a discipline of focusing on what’s good instead of drifting to the worry of what’s not. For many leaders, dealing with the issues of performance, energy, and engagement reflect the long-term effects of stress. It can be chronic. Stress is specific and situational how it impacts each of us. The research from the book  Choke, which evaluates students, athletes, and high achieving leaders, gives evidence of how stress affects our brain chemistry and our abilities to perform. As a runner, I often refer to stress as mental lactic acid. We’ve got to get it out of our system or it will break us down robbing our natural strengths. Gratitude will cleanse your system of stress faster than you think. Let me suggest one timeless and timely practice.

Keeping a journal captures your words of gratitude

For 25 years, I’ve kept a journal. It’s a daily practice of reflection to ground my day. Suggesting journalling may seem commonplace, but for some, it's a first-time idea or practice. After my 360 coaching sessions, I encourage leaders to start a gratitude journal. It can begin with drafting a written response to the participants who contributed to the 360. It’s a specific way of saying thank you for speaking into my leadership. The formal feedback invites the informal sincere response. In a statement it captures, “Thank you for responding my 360, I learned in my report that I need to grow in this specific way..., I’ve committed to focus on developing as a leader in this area…, you’ve helped me get started.” Imagine for a moment if you shared this response with your manager, peers, direct report, friends, or family. What would be the impact?

Everyone values specific and sincere appreciation

Remember gratitude is a discipline and the work has a reward. I’ve heard first hand the process has been life-defining for some leaders. A gratitude journal is a place to capture specific statement, comments, even questions. It’s your private place to clarify your thinking before you share. Imagine if you took the time to write down who are the key relationships and how you are grateful for their role in your life.

How may gratitude strengthen you and the health of your relationships?

As you enter into Thanksgiving week get started capturing what you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving. Once it’s written down then you’ll be ready to give thanks at your next opportunity. That may be the real gift of this season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*Here are my leather journals written over a 3 year period. I also recommend Moleskins if you like to keep it simple. My personal favorite that I use today is from Oaks of Wisdom, my wife’s hand-drawn journals. Enjoy!

Powerful Advice! 3 Leadership Upgrades

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I'd like to pass along 3 principles that have defined my work life. These 3 I am still learning to put into practice. Let me illustrate with a client's story... 

A young leader of a nonprofit was experiencing some high levels of stress within his organization. As he shared some of the details, I learned that he was dealing with a significant degree of turnover, and not being able to retain good people for very long. Also, there seemed to be an issue of his focus. His attempts to implement all the great ideas could never be fully accomplished or realized. Finally, the growing pains of launching a new organization and being stretched in many different directions. As I listened to him describe some of his challenges, I asked about his advisory team. He immediately responded confidently that, "I have a great board of directors." I asked him to describe who his board was and their involvement. As he explained his board, like many startup nonprofits, he surrounded himself with friends who shared his enthusiasm for the mission, who were providing great ideas and strategies to help launch the organization as well as providing some level of financial support.

The more I listened to this leader share about his board of directors; it sounded more like a fan club than a board of directors. There seemed to be a gap between objectivity and clear counsel versus enthusiasm and affirmation. Ultimately, all the optimistic feedback was causing him to suffer because he had surrounded himself with people who were giving him precisely what he wanted to hear, instead of what he needed to hear. His board and executive team were "Yes" men and women. What he needed was a little more "No" in his leadership. Launching anything can seem overwhelming. Just getting an idea off the ground and birthing it to reality can be a daunting undertaking. Having healthy people who can encourage you is essential, yet these personalities should not take all the seats on your advisory team. Whether you're leading a startup nonprofit, a public company, or even operating as a solopreneur, I merely want to ask, who has the power to speak into your life? 


In 2016, I interviewed Peter Greer with HOPE International on our Leadership Conversations podcast. He was in a situation where he knew he was running hard, but his organization was running him, and it was coming at the expense of his marriage and his family. At one point in his story, he shares how he wrote a letter of resignation and gave it to his wife to give to his board of directors if, in her opinion, he ever moved beyond the point of a healthy balance in his life. As you reflect on that for a moment, ask yourself who your most important relationships are, and is the mission or the cause of your organization coming at the expense of your most significant priorities in life, and particularly, the most important people in your life? If you were to write a resignation letter, to whom would you give that? Another way of considering this is to ask, who are your advisors? Those who care most about you and your mission, and what permissions have you given them? In my years of working with CEOs and leaders, the number one issue that I have found is the issue of blind spots. I have an opportunity to work with some exceptional leaders, but the fact is, regardless of whether your circle of influence is just within a local community or all over the world, the truth is, leaders have blind spots.

Leaders must have a circle of people who can speak into those blind spots, which provide the protection that both the leader and the organization need. It's the input of a trusted team of advisors that can create sustainability, health, and vitality not only for the leader but the organization as well. Many leaders, especially entrepreneurs, that I know love their autonomy, yet autonomy, for all its freedom, often comes at a price. What is the cost of your independence? If you have led for any period, you probably don't have to look back too far, either months or years or over projects, to see the mistakes under your leadership. It is in those situations where having good counsel around you would've helped prevent some of those costly mistakes. Having an advisory team doesn't eliminate or protect you completely, but it does help mitigate some of those risks. Wherever you are today in your level of leadership and circle of influence, I want to encourage you with three principles in establishing your advisory team.

Principle #1 is Know Your Authority. 

My mentor often reminds me that a man under authority is a man of authority. Who has veto power in your life? To whom have you permitted to provide wisdom and much-needed counsel when you're putting out fires? It does not matter how good the leader is, at times our ambition blinds us, and need somebody who comes in with a strong arm to protect us. That protection might even be from ourselves and our blind spot(s). By delegating a level of authority to a small group of people is essentially saying, "I trust you." Even in a formal board setting where you may be casting your vote right along with other board members, the collective weight of votes may not be unanimous, but there is counsel that you may have the right idea, but the timing is wrong. You need people, to whom you’ve given authority, to speak into the process and then trust their judgment and experience.

Principle #2 is Seek Advice. 

When we put ourselves under authority, we also invite their advice, as well. Business is dynamic. Things are happening all the time. Literally on a daily basis, decisions need to be made, revised or new strategies to be considered, new investments and people to be hired and in sometimes, fired. Resources need to be optimized. There are partnerships to be nurtured, and customers to serve. Within all of this, there are so many opportunities for us to learn from others. We need to avail ourselves of the wisdom and counsel of a variety of inputs. You would love to be in a position to tap into a group of leaders who have fifteen, twenty, thirty years of experience in a particular discipline. Their insight would help guide your decisions and move you forward. Most leaders would agree and be open to gleaning wisdom from others. The challenge is always how to draw best out and capture the insight of those who are trusted advisors in your life and your work?

I would suggest that success in obtaining good counsel has a great deal to do with the process. It includes scheduling the time, preparing a few questions, and defining the situation. Then your advisor(s) will be able to offer their very best counsel. For you as the leader, accurately describe the most significant issues then giving the advisor a proper amount for preparation to consider is vital in their advice. There is undoubtedly a place for spontaneity such as ideation sessions. The more significant the issue, the more time you should allow for guidance. Then as you get advice, what will you do and commit?

Principle #3 is Commit to Accountability. 

Accountability will protect you. You, the leader must define, in the midst of your autonomy, the level of responsibility in which you're willing to submit. Like authority and advice, this is the point where you're committing to action. You're inviting a group of people to keep you accountable for your time, discipline, and commitment to see it done. It is this accountability that will ultimately protect you from distraction and help strengthen the focus you need to see it done. Ideally, what you and your advisors define as success and the accountability is what is essential. While immature leaders may view responsibility as a limiting factor, it provides great freedom to move toward agreed objectives and is critical to focus your attention on accomplishing your goals.

I want to encourage you, whether you lead a nonprofit, a public company, or are just launching into a new venture, to formalize, redefine, or even recalibrate the counsel in your life. To whom have you given veto power? Yes, you as a leader have a vote, yet the full weight of a collective council will help support you see you succeed. 

Permission to Dream... Directionalist Conversations


Earlier this week I had the privilege of giving a keynote talk to a group of leaders in Denver. Afterward, a man approached me, quietly came alongside my shoulder and nearly whispered, "you must have one of the most amazing jobs; you help give people permission to live their dreams." His gentle demeanor made me pause to consider his comment. Shared as if his dreams just woke after being long dormant.  

My talk in included a vulnerable story of transition closing my struggling 15-year-old business in 2012, launching the Advance to coach leaders. I was introducing the Directionalist. It begins with your dream that inspires even in the face of your fears. 

It may begin with a question a friend asked me years ago... 

If money were no object, you had a clean slate and knowing all that you’ve learned and experienced...What would you do? 

Whew... that's a campfire conversation. You've gotta have some room to think, imagine, and stretch some tired mental muscles for your answers. 

For 10+ years to leaders, fathers, and families I taught this principle. The most intimate form of communication is when you share your dreams and your fears. For these thoughts with experienced in relationships of high trust, support, and encouragement. The moment you share your dream you are only a whisper away from your fears. It's where most of us get stuck. 

Creating space to talk about the most intimate and highest priority areas of our lives reignites fires of our dreams. If there's no communication, then our dreams go cold. 

In my book the Conversationalist, I pose the 7 life-changing questions. The first is passion, what difference you hope to make? I've learned that conversationally going straight for the "dream talk" is daunting even discouraging. For many of us, our dreams have been dashed...

So we hang a DO NOT DISTURB sign over the doorway of our heart. 

Let's together pull that sign down off the doorknob. 

My new friend in Denver reminded me that when we create space to think ideas begin to form. A future picture of where we hope to take shape. Then a story, vision, or dream begins to stir our heart with a desire. We can feel it; still its' so daunting we don't even know where to start. Then we may retreat, hanging the sign up once more. Then, we miss out on the most basic opportunities to step into them. 

As a coach for leaders, I've learned all we need the push of permission.

  • What's holding you back from moving forward towards your dreams?
  • What's the story that you hope to tell one day?
  • Who can you share the vision for your life or leadership with today? 

It's a good first step...

If that's you and you need a place to explore your next steps then let me invite you to consider a Directionalist Coaching Conversation. Its a 6 weeks engagement that I'm confident will give you push towards your dreams.  

Oh My Back!!! Lumbar Support In Your Leadership


A few weeks ago I jumped in my truck excited about something. The moment I jumped in I heard a pop in my seat. After a closer inspection, I realize the lower portion of the back had concaved. So sitting in my truck left me slouched driving down the road. These are the things you don't think about until snap, break, then slump

The irony is right after that happen we had a family trip scheduled to drive across Kansas from Colorado. After a few hours in my truck seat, I ended up jamming a jacket to provide some support. Also, I also noticed the steel bar had an interesting way of digging right into my vertebrae at the same spot. So after hundreds of miles in Kansas and hours over the next few weeks, I was developing a chronic ache that went straight to my attitude every time I got out of the truck.

The fact is I didn't have the support that I needed. 

A quick look at YouTube video I found instruction for the lumbar repair and ordered the replacement part. A few days I had plastic lumbar support for 30 bucks delivered to my house. Pulling the seat apart, a few minutes with the right tools, and some dirty knuckles my support was back 100%. The difference was instantaneous driving down the road and so was my attitude. 

Sometimes we get excited about working with our people. In our enthusiasm sometimes something goes snap. We don't know exactly know what happened, but we know something is broke. We might even go weeks and hundreds of miles in conversation before we respond. You know instinctively that your posture is off, you've got a pain in your back, and your attitude reflects your demeanor.

What support do you need in your leadership today? 

Maybe that support comes personally from a friend or family member. It may be advice from a mentor or coach. It may be feedback from a team member. There's somebody in your life and leadership circles who can help.

Take a few minutes watching a leadership video, 30 bucks in a lunch with a trusted confidant, getting your hands dirty for a few minutes by taking some action may be what's needed. 

When you do so, you may sense instant relief that's critical for your leadership. 

Plus you'll enjoy the ride a whole lot more...

If you're Stuck in your leadership, team, or organization... let the Advance help get you the Support you need to Succeed! Take the first step here... 

Optimizing Your Highest and Best! - Exercising Healthy Self Awareness

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Healthy Self Awareness will protect you from wrong commitments and empower you to the right ones!

Every week in private coaching consultations I ask entrepreneurs, executives, and CEOs the same self-awareness question... using the Birkman Color Map... 50% answer wrong.

What's your primary personality style?

It may difficult to limit yourself to 4 areas, but I'd invite you to give your best guess!

You may recognize the familiar categories of the extrovert (red/green), introvert (yellow/blue), task (red/yellow), and people (green/ blue) orientations that gives the framework. These are similar quadrants to assessments like DISC, PDP, and Myers Briggs. Go ahead, pick one word that describes yourself?

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Depending on how fast you respond may give you a hint of your answer. For good measure, select your secondary personality quadrant. Picking your favorite color maybe not be a good qualifier for the exercise.

Let me invite you to switch mental gears toward your goals, commitments, calendar, and task lists. Somewhere you have a mental list, KPIs, performance reviews, or project list that requires your energy. These are the activities that will determine your effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction at work.

Depending on your roles at work your list will vary. For our self-awareness exercise, you may need to review your list. Let me break it down like I would for my clients. List your key activities that are critical for each area. (I invite you to use the free form to review these questions)

  • Goals - (Motivating/Difference Making) - Annual - What’s your focus this year?
  • Commitments - (Initiatives) - Quarterly - How will you meet your goals?
  • Calendar - (Meetings/Events/Projects) - Monthly - When will you accomplish it?
  • Task List - (Disciplines/Activities) - Weekly - Who will get what done?

What's your first response to your list... Act on it Right Now? Share it with Stakeholders? Critique for Accuracy? Plan a Strategy?

Last month I attended a  training session in the Colorado mountains with a veteran consultant. She reviewed the philosophies of personalities instrument. She invited us to sign our name on a piece of paper. So we did. No problem! Then she instructed us to sign our name using our opposite hand. So we did that, which included a few laughs. It's comical to compare the results. Can we do it? Sure! How did it go? Not so good! We all have a natural bent, style, and approach that works.

Far too many executives are writing with the wrong hand in their leadership, responsibilities, and commitments. It may be time to switch things up.

As another consideration, look at your list of work activities, who would you hire to do that work? Doer, Communicator, Analyzer, or Thinker?

The question may be a little too polarizing as most projects need all 4. Think about which quadrant strengths you need for the opportunity and challenges that are before you.

If you're launching a new product or service, then you need significant focus in "green/ communicator" working as an evangelist to get the word out.  If you're primarily as "blue / thinker" your strength is the strategy. You'll be designing a better way to connect with your customer. That may help your launch but may fall short of getting people committed without a personal touch.

If you're constructing a bridge with a team of "red / doer" people, you'll get it done. However, without a team of engineers “yellow / analyzers,” having all the specifications and inspectors on-site you may still have a bridge collapse on the interstate.

The reason 50% of self-aware leaders give a wrong answer is that they have been doing the right thing in wrong ways for a long time. Writing left-handed when you're a right. Continually adapting to get to do what's required. It's admirable! But, what's the highest and best of your time?

Here's a real-time coaching assignment for one of my clients who's stuck... Take the next few days to keep a running journal on a napkin or on your phone of all the things that you were doing from a task standpoint. Once you have a solid list, take note of which of these would you like to delegate?

I have one question that is going to take some work to answer. What two or three things would you like to spend 60 to 80% of your time doing every workday?

These are activities they give you the most joy, fulfillment, and profitable return for your efforts. Completing then reviewing your Birkman personality assessment will give your further insight...Going through the exercises above will help get you started.

You have a unique style! Start today, use the free self awareness survey exercise, begin by  aligning your priorities to your personality. Surround yourself with others who can compliment you. Then you'll see your goals met, commitments fulfilled, and have some fun while you're at it.

Conversational Blind Spots - Closing the Gap from Personal Perceptions to a Relational Reality

Some people need a reality check on how they impact other people! 

Imagine for a moment you’re at school, church, or your workplace and a survey was conducted about you. The questionnaire asked people to consider conversations and group discussions over the last year and describe some words or phrases on how they experienced you? Situations and circumstance can drive a variety of responses so I would ask these words to reflect your attitude or the way you acted.

As the surveys are being considered by friends and coworkers think about your own response. What would you say about yourself? It’s goes beyond just today. It may reflect this season of life you are in. As you reflect some words may start coming in from a variety of people who know you in both a personal and professional environment. Then you see the words: loving, kind, gracious, content, apathetic, unengaged, reflective, encouraging, discouraged, passionate, depressed, chatty, reserved.  

It's really hard to narrow down just a few words how you experience somebody but we have an amazing ability that when pressed we have an intuitive or “gut" response. When we hear or say the words, it’s often a clear yes, no, or not quite. As the survey concludes you likely see some words rising to the top that are thematic of how people experience you. It may serve as a confirmation but also a reality check that it’s time to make some changes.

I guided a man through a similar process in a leadership 360 survey and he truly believed everyone thought his number one word was “love.”  He learned through the inner feedback within the organization that this was not the reality. He had a gap in his perception.

The fact is most people experience us differently than we perceive ourselves. There are thoughts and feelings going on in our own head creating an inward idea that may not align with our reality in relationships. When we realize there is a gap between what we think about ourselves and how people experience us, we can respond in defensiveness or humility.

The language of blind spots has to do with shifting your perspective. Where do you get a fresh perspective? Certainly some private reflection could lead us to take responsibility for our responses. Another way starts with conversations inviting feedback. At first it may be misunderstood as self-seeking but it can be communicated in a way for clarity and understanding.

A little bit of truth may be hard but incredibly healthy to help mature a person’s perspective. Far more than a little truth is often the ocean of encouragement from people who truly care about you.  What you gain:

  1. a fresh perspective

  2. clarity on your blind spots

  3. encouragement to help you make adjustments

Humility is so endearing and it opens up relationships.  The opposite would be agendas that we drive into our relationships that may not be mutually beneficial thus shutting down our connection. As in the story of the three people losing their jobs if we go too long without the invitation for feedback we run the risk of a response that's not becoming of who we hope to be.

I encourage you to consider some words or phrases that describe where you are today. If it's anything close to negative or derogatory then you may need a break through. A great first step is to start the conversation with those you work and walk alongside. No need to defend just listen and learn, then take a step to close the gap on who you aspire to become. Let me encourage you there’s hope with some awareness and affirmation. The very words you aspire to reflect you may find become the words that are spoken over you from the people in your life. I promise it will get things moving for you towards insight, perspective, and strength from the inside out.

If you're interested in a 360 Leadership Assessment the Advance can help facilitate the process from the leader to the team. Contact 

Together we can help close the gap from a toxic environment towards building stronger trust. 

The Advance is launching in 2017. To learn more about our exciting news, resources, and a free gift visit Launch 2017! 

1st Coaching Meeting with a 1st Year CEO…Where do we begin?

I met with Jack for the first time today. Jack is a first year CEO of an international nonprofit who's been in position for six months. After a few minutes of catching up, I asked the first question to begin of our time, “What's keeping you from fully being engaged in your leadership?" We launched into a conversation about the issues he was facing as a 1st year CEO and discussed his priorities, uncovering his benchmarks for the next 36 months. We included the financial measurements as well as the potential staff growth of his team. We identified the critical areas that, if addressed, would significantly impact organization's growth. 

Our conversation included identification of the top 3 issues that he should be prioritize in leading the organization. Then we began discussing the areas that are consuming 60-70% of his time and attention. You can probably guess that the two lists were not an exact match. In fact, they didn't match at all. As Jack's coach, I knew that was the first focus of closing that leadership gap. 

Succession planning was also put on the table, and we began to think through the possibilities of hiring and training his replacement long before it's due. This caused our attention to focus on developing a bench and what that might look like in representing and leading the organization. At or near the forefront of every CEO's mind is the Board, its structure and governance, and who he would be bringing on in the next 6 months to a year. How new board members will be sourced and vetted are key factors. Finally, we talked about his predecessors, their style of leadership and the legacies they left behind. We covered a lot of ground with a one-hour discussion.  

After laying the framework of all that Jack was managing, we narrowed our focus.  We laid out three questions to identify areas that needed further clarity.

  1. Where does Jack need greater confidence? His answer was confidence in himself and his abilities. He is beginning to feel the effects of leading. He understood there was coming a time when the honeymoon would be over, and he would have to make decisions and tough calls that could ultimately alienate or isolate him. The new leadership luster will wear off which may affect his approachability as well as his ability to engage his team in open dialog, once it's viewed that some of the discussions may have consequences. How will he respond? What does he need to do to stay steady and strong? What support does he need around him so that he doesn't waver when it gets tough? How will he ensure that his eyes and ears are open to truth in sorting through tough decisions?
  2. Where will the organization go under Jack’s leadership? What will the team need from their leader? What are his strengths, and what are the areas that will stretch him, the areas where he will need to rely on the expertise of other staff or that he will need to personally develop in order to become the leader the organization needs. He shared that he has a tendency to fall into analysis paralysis thus turning his greatest strength of critical thinking into potentially a significant weakness. He instinctively knew that some of the key team members in the areas of business development and technology if the organization was going to grow. It is vitally important to know the key team ingredients for fostering growth. He also recognized that in order for him to be successful in his new role as the leader of this organization he needs to get out of the office and interact with staff members and key partners around the world.
  3. Who's your customer? As the discussion progressed, I learned that this was not the model of his predecessor. Past leadership focused more on fiscal responsibility, which was certainly essential, and less focus was placed on connecting with global team members. This part of the conversation led me to ask if he knew who the customer is? After a long pause, it was evident there was some question in his own mind.  But the answer soon came that it's the associates who are in the field. I then asked him if his staff and board would agree with that answer? There was even a longer pause. The answer has significant implications.  Understanding who your customer is and who you are trying to reach will help you identify where your priorities and your focus needs to be and how to best utilize your energies and resources.

Leading Change 

Fiscal responsibility and organizational efficiencies are foundational to the job of leadership and necessary for a healthy organization to run well. Without them many organizations have ceased to exist. Yet if the organization is to see the kind of significant growth Jack envisioned over the next 36 months, some of the leadership models were going to have to change. This could very well be disruptive to the expectations and culture of the organization that he was now appointed to lead. Jack does not need to face these changes alone. 

His pathway to successfully navigate these changes will require him to lean into his closest mentors and proteges. Given all of the opportunities, challenges, and issues that he is facing as a leader, he knows that the key to success is having people speak into his life and his leadership so that he will be able to lead effectively and, in some cases, he will need to speak into his team, customers, and key partners in the same way.

All new organizational leaders find that the pursuit of clarity is hard work. Given the many complexities organizational leaders face, how do you find clarity in your priorities, your planning, and the overall purpose of your organization?  How do you develop the team so that you are all working toward obtaining a vision, accomplishing a mission, and seeing the goals attained?

Find a Way to Navigate the Changes and Challenges You’re Facing Today

Like Jack, you need experienced mentors and other peers to speak into your life.  This is a critical factor to the success of a new leader, especially when you have to start making decisions that can make the journey feel very lonely. In the end, everyone celebrates success. But the road getting there may require changes that are often difficult in the moment. How do you stay steady in the midst of such difficulty in such a way you don't lose confidence in yourself and your team members?. Will you move further into isolation, or will you identify your blind spots and insecurities and courageously face the hard choices that will help you grow as a leader. The first step is determining who is going to help you along the way. 

If you’re a first year CEO facing new challenges that are stretching you beyond your capacity to lead, hope and help is only one conversation away

Fortune 500 Company Engaging With New Conversations

From HR to Coaching, a major insurance company launches a brand new team for connection and engagement. 

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to present my new book The Conversationalist to group of 28 Birkman consultants in training for their certification. The book is about engaging in meaningful conversations and will be published in September. Sharon Birkman Fink, the CEO, was very kind in her endorsements.  Her comments opened the doors for further discussion after my talk at their reception.  Birkman has an amazing team of 5000+ consultants. I’m amazed at the diversity and depth with this community of associates. I had the opportunity to get to know a few of the consultants attending the training from around the country. 

One team of four colleagues was from a Fortune 500 insurance company. They collectively averaged almost 20 years of serving in Human Resources. They have obviously seen significant changes within the organization and among their people of that period of time. Their leader, a veteran of 29 years with the company, has a renewed sense of excitement as they are launching a new effort for HR. She has taken the lead in launching a new coaching initiative within organization that is gaining momentum. 

The team represented the best of HR. All had been personally selected for this new initiative. Yet, all were uniquely gifted to serve from their strengths and experience. They moved to a quiet corner during the reception and invited me to join them as they shared their excitement and talked about the challenges of the coaching launch. There were many questions that came to them as they thought through implementation. Some of the key questions were:

  • Do we match Birkman styles with those we are coaching or do we need to view people from a different perspective?
  • How do we solve the constant internal conflict of managers who are in roles for which they are not prepared or simply don’t have the personality for it?
  • How would you integrate the Birkman within our coaching team? 

After listening to questions, the discussion, and challenges they were to hoping to address I heard 3 themes. 

  1. Gaining Trust - Skepticism is a challenge to overcome in a high stress organization. People in HR often are viewed as more restrictive than empowering.  Introducing another new program and tool may not gain support or be carried out. What keeps this initiative from being the latest programme du jour?
  2. Realigning Team Members - Call Center Challenges. The nature of the work has its ongoing stress, let alone putting people in management positions for which they're not ready, creating additional tension. Determining when team members are not ready or not a fit needs to be high priority. The resulting attrition, low morale, and a disengaged culture only brings low performance.
  3. Going Deeper for Real Change - Solving a problem with a program and policy is one approach. The coaching team wants to get personally connected to key managers to be in a position to impact their attitudes and actions. Whether they are reassigned or resourced they want to develop their people and help improve the overall culture, performance, and engagement within the company. 

The following is a potential 12 Step Weekly Engagement Strategy for a 90 Day Organizational Coaching Pilot using the Birkman 

  1. Review the "How to Talk with Them" worksheet to learn their style. Determine their preferred style of Direct, Indirect, Task, or People (Unless you “read” people very well, we must be students of our colleagues by learning how to approach them. Our style may be very different than theirs.) 
  2. Start with Strengths and Interests
  3. Clarify Career Alignment for Roles and Responsibilities 
  4. Discover High Need and Stress Responses 
  5. Identify Conflict with Team Members and Constructive Pathway Toward Respect 
  6. Create of Growth Plan for Leveraging Strength on the Team, Greater Self Care, and Mitigating Stress Points 
  7. Create a Communication Strategy for weekly Actionable Reminders Personalize to the Managers 
  8. Train the Managers Towards a Coaching Mindset within their Team 
  9. Transition the Disengaged to Positions Better Designed for Profile 
  10. Begin with the Birkman for all new Team Members and Communicate the Culture and Coaching Mindsets within the Onboarding
  11. Measure and Celebrate the Growth and Engagement within your Organization and Culture 
  12. Reevaluate and Adjust for the Next 90 Days Using Real Stories of Change from the Pilot 

These 12 steps represent an approach and a investment that will yield a return of engagement. The new coaching team will have to contextualize these 12 steps for their organization.

What If?

  • What would happen if every leader made a commitment to be this intentional about developing their people and teams?
  • What would be the impact?
  • What’s the impact if you don’t?

If you'd like to discuss creating an engagement strategy for your team let's start a conversation today. Contact

Discover Your Life Purpose! 8 Circles, 7?s, and 1 Change for the Year!

Douglas Slideshare

During 2011 I was in a significant career transition. There was a gap in my daily working reality and my passion to influence leaders. I felt the ache from the inside out. I knew something had to change, but that gap seemed impossible to bridge.

I was trying to do the right thing by working my job to pay the bills yet feeling like I was meant for something more... Maybe you can relate? How could I transition from a career, an industry, and a business that I operated for 15 years? The simple answer...Discovering Clarity, Calling, and Coaching into my purpose.

Sounds simplistic but the process required more courage and personal growth than any other time in my life. I'm grateful that I had some amazing people speaking into me and encouraging me to move forward. During that time a statement emerged that today reflects my purpose for coaching with leaders.

Moving Leaders from Inspiration to Impact in their areas of Influence

Discerning, defining, and acting on your life purpose can be overwhelming without help. Here's a great tool to simplify the complexity of capturing and communicating your life purpose. Many leaders I coach are clear on defining their circles yet after some discussion they discover quickly they don't often align. Maybe it's time to recalibrate. Maybe you don't need a massive career move like I experienced but you may need to make some adjustments.

7 Questions!

  1. Do you love what you do? What do you love to do?

  2. Can you define the gap?

  3. Where does your Passion, Mission, Occupation, and Vocation intersect?

  4. How do your Character, Abilities, and Compassion intersect?

  5. What makes you feel alive doing what you love that meets a need in another person's life?

  6. Who are the people in your circles to help you align your purpose?

  7. What changes need to happen?

Take some reflective time to answer these 7 questions and define these 8 circles. Start with using words or phrases to keep it simple. You may find some categories easier to define. I encourage you to press into the areas that may be a challenge. You may need feedback from friends and family. After you have defined these areas now identify the gaps. Brainstorm on some ways to bring your circles together.

Make One Change!

If these circles don't connect for prolonged seasons it leads to stress, fatigue, and often burnout. You risk losing your joy and zest for life. If you've felt some of these symptoms in the last year I encourage you to act on your discovery. Creating a plan to move towards alignment. Start today with a commitment for one Change on your calendar that you can act on your purpose.

If you need help, find a trusted friend, coach, or mentor to get you moving! As you move forward in clarity and change I'd love to hear your progress in the comments below! Enjoy the discovery!

Your change may inspire others to do the same!

Coaching in the Crossroads

Maybe you are at a crossroads today! As I coach with leaders I've noticed intersections that are continual challenges. Here’s what I've observed, there are 5 coaching categories that identify the needs for most leaders. See if any or all represent where you find yourself today.

  1. Stuck In Your Own Head - Leaders Have Blind Spots and Need a Fresh Perspective
  2. Stretched Thin and Stressed Out - Preventing Burnout, Evaluating Commitments, and Righting Wrongs
  3. Strategic Soundboarding - Processing Big Ideas in an Safe and Objective Environment
  4. Sustainable, Scalable or Saleable - Plan and Position Your Business for Growth
  5. Succession - Knowing When it's Time for a Change of Leadership

Bonus - Sanity of Support - You've Hit a Leadership Ceiling. You’re Experiencing the Insanity of Doing Same Thing with the Same Team Expecting a Different Result. Stop Spinning!

Look at the list again. Now, take a quick inventory on a scale of 1-5. 1 if you’re good or 5 if you need help now! Each of these areas may represent a significant pain, potential, or priority to you. How you are navigating through the issues may be influencing other areas of your life. Here’s another list that I have found as 5 primary talking points for coaching my clients:

  1. Habits (Practices and Disciplines)
  2. Health (Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual)
  3. Time (Organization, Productivity, Recreation, Free)
  4. Money (Income, Spending, Debt, Investments, Retirement)
  5. Relationships (Family, Friendships, Church, Community, Work)

A mature leader will know when they are at a crossroads. These are defining moments that require an honest assessment of reality, objective counsel, and trusted friends. Every leader faces one of these intersections on their journey.What kind of help do you need today to navigate your next decision?