5 Exercises That Deliver Results

There are many development tools and personality assessments out there. You’ve probably done several if you’ve ever participated in any kind of leadership summit or professional training. On the rare occasion you have never had the opportunity to do any, then you should start today.

Being a leader means always seizing the opportunity to better yourself in a continuous pursuit of serving others. This means leading by example, and humbling yourself to seek improvement and developing others be more effective. You should never sit around and wait for your boss or a company to develop you. You have to own it. Same for your team – it is incumbent upon you to quarterback development exercises with them, and others, even if you aren’t their direct leader.

Personality based assessments are critical to build effectiveness – for both teams and individuals. Assessments are important to bring overall awareness, understand how to maximize your strengths and work effectively with others. While hands-on practical tools can empower effectiveness, create motivation, improve moral, and provide a tangible connection. Both assessments and tools provide individuals and teams with different methods of tackling obstacles and providing various perspectives.

And the winners are…

Best All-Around Assessment: Gallup Clifton Strengthsfinder 2.0

Overview: This assessment is all about understanding your strength’s so you can capitalize on them effectively. There are 34 strengths across 4 themes: Strategic Thinking, Influencing, Executing, and Relationship building – each strength falls into one of these domains. The timed assessment is 177 questions, accurately capturing your initial, natural, instinctive response for accuracy. You should only take this once – it does not matter how much time has passed, do not take it again. This can be taken online for a small fee, or by a certified facilitator for a larger group.gallup themes

Perfect for: Individuals, all types of teams, and even couples

Tip: If you want to save a little, unlocking only your top 5 strengths is just as effective as the full 34 report, in my opinion. You can always revisit the learning center any time and unlock all 34 for a reduced fee.

Best Assessment For Team Communication: David Merrill & Roger Reid’s Social Styles

Overview: This is the original model that assessments like DISC, MBTI, Insights Discovery, and Meyer’s Briggs are based on, but it is significantly easier to learn and apply. I recommend it above any of these. Social Style’s teaches you how to engage effectively with others and improve your versatility immediately, depending on the style of the person(s). There are 4 styles: Analytical, Amiable, Driver, and Expressive – these are demonstrated at the surface as Assertiveness vs Responsiveness and Emoting vs. Controlling. Unlike Myers Briggs, there is only 1 quadrant to fall in, but the results precisely put you on different points within each quadrant.david-merrill-roger-reid-social-stylesPerfect for: Newly formed teams, struggling teams, opposing teams, leadership teams, working partners.

Tip: Although there are many free versions of this online, I recommend bringing a certified professional to maximize the value. These facilitators bring an important element of hands-on interaction and practical use once the assessments are complete, which is critical to the learning process and applying it.

Best Tool To Execute: SYPartners Superpower Cards

Overview: This 21 card deck is an amazing and affordable tool that brings immediate productivity and results. Especially for strategic, project teams that for the most part, already work well together from a personality perspective and are looking to tackle a major project or initiative. With cards like Systems Thinking, Gap Detector, Experimentation and Motivation (to name a few) a group can easily designate assignments to achieve milestones quickly or overcome obstacles.superpower cards

Perfect for: all types of teams

Tip: In your next project kickoff call, planning session or team building summit use this exercise as an icebreaker!

Best Tool to Overcome Barriers with Innovation: LPK’s Roadblocks to Innovation Cards

Overview: This 50 card deck is FREE. Watch this short videoroadblocksPerfect for: Project teams – before, during and after.

Tip: This exercise is effective if given the right amount of time – allocate at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour.

Best Tool for Squashing Negativity by Empowering Positivity: SYPartners Unstuck Cards – Stop Your Negative Thinking

Overview: This 30 card deck is game changing for any time you feel stuck or you simply can’t get negative thoughts out of your head. It easily helps you diagnose what really has you feeling stuck, and provides simple corrective action activities to get past it. unstuck cardsPerfect for: Individuals, ‘negative nancy’s’ and small 2-3 person groups.

Tip: Anytime you observe someone in a rut, overwhelmed with frustration or vocalizing negativity tell them to take 15 minutes, go in a private area, clear their head, and do this exercise.

These are just my top 5, but I’m curious to hear experiences from others that may have done these. Did you find them effective? Find them pointless? What are the go-to tools and assessments that you swear by?


One Tip That Will Change How You Email

Early on in my career, I would some ‘talking to’s’ about the way my emails may ‘come across’. The adjectives in the feedback would range from, too bold, demanding, condescending, strong, harsh… and my personal favorite – bossy. 9 out of 10 times, the feedback was valid – even though genuinely it was never my intention. The feedback would always be quick to come, but without practical tips or suggestions to correct it – which would drive me nuts. On the rare occasion I would get a tip, it would be something superficial like “don’t use all caps” or “ask how the person is doing” and “ask more questions even if you know the answer” or try using “Hi” or “Hello” with the opening greeting instead of just their name. Genuinely wanting to correct the issue, I would try these things… but they didn’t really work. It had nothing to do with my greeting or asking more questions – it was the interpretation of my words and how they were perceived.

We all know that email can be a tricky thing, because perception is reality. How you read your emails is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how many times you read them to yourself or in what tone. Being concise can sound short. Giving a deadline can sound bossy. Asking questions can sound condescending. The list goes on, and on.

One day, during a standard talking to from my boss on an email I had written, I was finally given a practical suggestion he called the “you moron” rule. Intriguing right? Let me just say, this gentlemen is still to this day one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for. Ever. He was a straight forward, approachable, servant leader who coached his team while building their confidence. The kind of boss people moved mountains for – point being, you didn’t hesitate to take his advice. It was simple {and comical at first}: at the end of each sentence, statement, or paragraph in the email add the phrase “you moron” and then read it back to yourself. If it reads clearly, then re-write it! If you still aren’t able to get your point across without the phrase after re-writing it then try again later, don’t send it at all, or pick up the phone. I tried it at the first opportunity, and was blown away that it actually worked. Let me show you:you moron

There are so many email etiquette rules, but let’s be honest, none of them really give you a practical way to sense check how your messagecouldbe perceived – that’s what is so great about this. Of course, not every email I’ve ever written after learning this is perfect, but that’s because we’re only human. It’s always best to pick up the phone, but that’s not always an option. This has trained my brain to read my words from a different perspective, other than my own… and 10 years later, it’s still a go-to for me and that I pass along to anyone I see struggling with the same thing. Most of the time, people don’t even realize how they may sound, because they are only able to read it from their perspective.

I promise, if you embrace this golden rule, even if you think you don’t need to, it will forever change how you email, for the better.

There are some very valid, and long, lists of email etiquette tips all over the internet. Even with that, these are the ones that often seem to be an afterthought.

email rules

Happy emailing ya’ll… and HAPPY FRIDAY!


Delegating With Empowerment First {Part II}

Deciding What To Delegate

Delegation does not mean dumping your to-do items on someone else’s plate or punting tedious tasks just because you’re the boss and you can. There are many methods for deciding what should be delegated, most are inward focused, and based on things that mainly benefit the delegator, and not the delegatee. They consider things like the passion level the delegator has for certain things, the productivity it will give them, or the perceived competence level of the delegatee. If you want to be a true servant transformational leader, or already consider yourself to be one… then I don’t need to tell you this one-sided outlook is wrong. The level of “competence” the delegatee may have really gets me worked up. In my opinion, it’s used as a self-serving smoke screen more often than it is a means to evaluate probability of success based on capability. Should competence level be considered? Sure, but not a decision factor. Some would argue that you could be setting someone up for failure if they lack the capability…well I agree, but that is true even if they have it. If I had to break it down… this is how I see it:delegate chartBig picture – 60% is on you, 40% is on them. We know, that failure provides the best learning opportunities, but it also a great aptitude check. If you focus too much on capability, you will lose the opportunity to push people out of complacency and challenge their boundaries. How they respond, correct their mistakes, and takeaway learnings are all testaments of their aptitude. Plus, don’t forget, while they are accountable directly to you for the outcome – you are still accountable from all other perspectives. Yes, this means you fall on the sword if it’s a disaster but also accredit successes and accolades to them. If the thought of eating crow for someone else’s mistakes or giving up hard-earned success makes you moan and groan, then don’t be a leader – it’s as simple as that.

Like everything, there is a balance and it’s up to you to find that balance. I’m a visual person, so I rely on decision matrices. 😀 Here is one I use as a quick sense check if the decision to delegate is less than obvious:delegation matrix

How To Delegate…

With empowerment first. If your standard approach is to toss it over the fence like a hot potato, give them a few tips before pushing them out of the nest, or perhaps you hold their hand at every step removing every obstacle as an enabler… this 5-step guide is for you.empowering delegationv1

To avoid misinterpretation, there are a full bullets here that warrant a bit of color:

You’ve got their back- this simply means they know you are still there. Like a spotter at the gym.

Asking for help- OR you’ve observed they are struggling or stuck after 3 attempts, this is when you pivot to enabling.

  • Set an expectation with yourself to keep your reactions in check: you are only enabling for progress, which may or may not be the same as enabling for success depending on where things are. This could be as simple as providing an idea or tool to enable their progress – or as involved as joining a meeting series to remove a roadblock or reestablish authority.

Coaching- only give coaching opportunities if you’re already in enabling mode, but do not disrupt the delegates progress in mid-flight.

  • This is counterintuitive. It’s like the athletic director giving the coach feedback when the bases are loaded in the bottom of the 9th and there’s a state championship game on the line. The coach just wants to turn around and say, where were you all week at practice, or for the last 5 games in this series?!?! I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, so you know what it feels like.

Resisting the temptation to swoop in- don’t under-estimate the power of this temptation, especially if you’re in enabling mode.

  • Think of swooping in as a hostile takeover, a hovering helicopter mom or a crazy micro-manager. Do not do it.
  • When you feel the urge, just stop, step outside of the frame and see the bigger picture. If the risk factors have not changed, and are still manageable, then just let it ride. If you’re delegating the right things, the true need to swoop in should be a very rare occasion – just trust your instincts!

When it all comes together!

Transforming your delegation approach will create focus, yield results and bring success in more than one way! Just try it! If you are not a manager of people, bookmark this topic and revisit it after I publish Leading Without Authority! 😉

Happy Delegating,

#chickbossdelegating empowerment

Enabling Success or Something Else?

I’ll never forget a particular time that I was served some humble pie and a reality check by two of my employees. They basically called me out on a major gap I had as a leader, that I wasn’t truly aware of: my ability to delegate {or lack thereof}.  Both of these employee’s — I’ll call them Lacy and Ray – had garnered my absolute respect {and still have it} – so their feedback was especially powerful. Lacy said to me, “You’re one of the busiest leaders I know, I have not seen anyone in your similar position that works as much or as hard as you do.” In an indirect way, and almost complimentary sounding, I don’t even think it was her intent to bring a weakness to my attention, but it did. Within days a part, Ray, not so subtly, had just come out and said it. He approached me after a hectic morning of fires and unexpected problems that had fallen on my plate to solve and said, “Everything ok? What can I do to help you?” With my usual quick response and without thinking twice I replied, “I wish there was something you could help with, but I’m good,” which he rapidly debated and said “No you’re not. You’re doing too much, and you’re busy with the wrong things!” That stopped me in my tracks. There was a voice in my head that wanted to shout, “What do you mean the wrong things?!?! A lot of what I’m doing is for the success of others, including yourself.. and isn’t that why I’m here?!?” I kept it to myself, still looking at him bright-eyed and still speechless as he elaborated, “You need to lean on us more… delegate!” My heart immediately sunk into my stomach because I knew he was right. In many ways, I did know this to be true for quiet sometime, but I really didn’t want to own it. Remember when I said I don’t always demonstrate my ‘own it’ philosophy? Well, this was one of those times. It was time for me to own it, so I could do something about it.

For the next several days I began to do some self-observation. I needed to determine why delegation had been a challenge for me, and what the root cause really was and how it began, in order to overcome it. This meant asking myself some tough questions.

  1. Was it that I didn’t trust my team ability to get things done?
  2. Was it because I was actually a control freak and my ways were the only right ways?
  3. Perhaps it was that I hadn’t invested the time in my team members to develop whatever it was I was doing for them? Ultimately continuing to do it because to coach them to do it would just take longer.
  4. Or maybe I had become what I always feared… gasp… had I become a micro-manager?

Initially, I thought my problem was mainly number 3 and I hadn’t really made an effort to invest the time; even knowing I’d get it back tenfold once I had. I gave myself a several opportunities to see if working on this corrected the issue, but it didn’t. A couple of weeks later, someone made a suggestion on a book: Permission to Screw Up by Kristen Hadeed. I didn’t know if it would give me the answers I was looking for, but I downloaded the audio version the same day and began listening. As I listened to the first two chapters, it was almost as if Kristen was inside my head! I finished listening to the book in 3 days. Although our situations were completely different, I quickly related to the challenges, and discovery through her stories. I highly recommend that anyone and everyone read this book — there are many lessons to learn from it and many different angles.

There is a specific story early on in this book {that I won’t spoil} and it hit me like a ton of bricks. As I read it and thought about my own challenges, and a light bulb went off… “I’VE GOT IT!” It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my team’s ability, or that I was trying to control things – and thank goodness, I hadn’t actually become an unaware micro-manager! The story forced me to see a different perspective of what I had become: an enabler, a do-er, a save-the-day leader. My behavior was driven by the desire to want to protect my people from screwing up and fearful of putting them in a vulnerable position. It wasn’t because subconsciously I thought they would actually screw up, or because I was afraid of how they would make me look – I mean, they are all rock stars, let’s be honest, that’s why I hired them! So then, where in the heck did this come from? I started to look back to figure out when this habit had creeped up on me; and to my surprise came to realize it was well before I managed people directly, but had significantly gotten worse. I believe it was initially established as a defense mechanism during a time when I had worked for a couple of people who sometimes demonstrated what I would call, extreme and counterproductive criticism. In certain situations, they would chastise and blast folks, both privately and publicly.   They were still great leaders, but like all of us do – they had developed a bad habit. Combine this defense mechanism with a passion for problem solving passion and there I was! The root cause of a behavior is not only important to understand so you can fix it, but so you can be cognizant of environments that may have influence over you, even subconsciously.

Have you ever heard the expression, “holding the crap umbrella”? That was my intent, to hold the umbrella and shield people from ‘crap’ such as criticism. I relished in what I believed to be “enabling the success of others” – but the impact was just the opposite! There is a fine line between an enabling and empowering – a valuable lesson I learned along the way, by screwing it up myself. Here’s a breakdown on the difference at a highlevel:

 empower vs enable2

The balance between enabling and empowering can be difficult, I’ll elaborate on that later. My behavior was reflecting the right-hand side of this illustration almost all the time – I had not only become extremely busy with the wrong things, but I was robbing them of their opportunity! Opportunity to learn lessons and grow from their mistakes, to develop new capabilities, and to shine and be recognized for their successes! Worst of all, I could see my actions were creating poor habits in their behaviors – enabling them to come to me as their fixer, relying on me to swoop in and also having an impact on their own self-confidence! Wowza.

There was no better time like the then present, and this wasn’t going to fix itself. Now that I was aware, I could be accountable, and I was ready to take action. I started by disclosing my discovery individually with my team and thanking those that had called me out on it. It is extremely important that as a leader, when you are working to improve in an area that you are transparent and honest about it!! Does this mean you have to humble yourself and show vulnerability by highlighting a shortcoming? ABSOLUTELY. If you have to change a behavior or habit, the last thing you want people to do is draw their own conclusion that it’s something they’ve done by misinterpreting the change. Especially if it’s a transformation that requires you to let go of the reigns more, which could be confused as something else, like disengagement.  They cannot read your mind, so never ever assume they know the reason – just tell them! They will appreciate your honesty and ownership and can even help hold you accountable towards your goals.

The last point in this story is so extremely important, and a good sneak-peek on what I will expand on next:

  • 5 steps to help you delegate through empowerment
  • Swooping in – when to enable and when to empower
  • What success looks like

In the meantime, do some reflecting and be honest with yourself. What would your coworkers or employees say about your ability to delegate? Are you delegating the right things? Are you intending to enable success but the impact is something else? Perhaps you think none of this applies to you because you don’t directly manage people?


The Power of Culture

What does it really mean to ‘walk on eggshells’? The syndrome is the culture, but the symptoms are things such as walking on eggshells. I had this topic on my brain dump list of things to write about, but the Forbes quote of the day I saw before going to sleep last night had me all fired up about the topic when I woke up.

“If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.” – Jonathan Mildenhall – CMO, Airbnb

I once participated in a leadership conference that was made up of a select few leaders in the company. The topic we were discussing was culture. The facilitator asked the room “Do you feel that the organization embraces failure?” – there was a quick, faint and reluctant snicker that simultaneously echoed throughout the room. Everyone looked around at one another, some shaking their heads quietly, waiting for one person to just say it: No. It was apparent this was true when the group as a whole, myself included, was walking on eggshells to even answer this question. The facilitator gracefully, turned things back around on us… and said “Why not?” “As leaders in the company, embracing failure can start in this room.” Easy to say when you’re on the outside looking in, but to be fair, he had a point.

Blueprint Barbados Business Dashboard Infographic- Brain Drain*Article published by Blueprint Creative reporting survey results conducted with Antilles Economics

When people say “there is no culture”-  what they are really saying is “there is a toxic or poor culture”; there is no such thing as “no culture.” Sign number 1 of a cultural issue. Culture begins at the highest level of the organization, and it ends with every individual in the company and a commitment from all leaders to protect it. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard “we have our own culture!” or “let’s make a new culture!” —  I have even said these things myself. The intent behind these positive cheers is admirable – this is simply people’s attempt to generate positivity and spread the empowerment within their realm of impact – and there is NOTHING wrong with that, but it is not sustainable.

When these chants are put into action, sub-cultures are created, again in an honest attempt to positively influence. This is sign number 2. Before long, you will see these sub-cultures across teams, departments, clicks/groups, offices, regions and continents. Naturally, because you’re putting satellites of positive cultures into a toxic ocean you only end up with extreme ends of the spectrum – nothing in between. This is the beginning of what has the potential to be a cultural transformation. Only ONE of two things can happen after this, and the path is entirely dependent on how the highest level of the organization responds. They can either embrace it, cultivating a powerful cultural shift across the company; or they can shame it. Shaming looks like ignoring it completely, hoping it will go away or publicly discouraging it all together as the ‘problem-child’. Cultural turnarounds are extremely difficult, but they can be done. I’ve seen it. The ironic thing is, it is just as hard to destroy a good culture, as it is to turn one around. One person, one executive, one manager, situation, or problem cannot be thrown at a healthy, solid culture and blow it into smithereens in the blink of an eye… but the same applies to turning one around.

The reason start-up companies have the best culture is because the founders are usually the executive team, and passionate about not only the success of the business but the people who make it successful. They know their very survival depends on attracting new talent, and retaining high performers. The only way large, mature companies can keep a solid culture is by evolving as the generations do, allowing those generations to influence positive change and embracing it. It’s really not rocket science, CULTURE IS A VERY REAL POWERFUL THING. Unless you’ve been living under a rock.. you know that by 2020 {which is only 559 days away!!!} over 50% of the US workforce will be made of millennials and Gen Z. According to survey results from Glassdoor, in an article published by INC just last month – CULTURE is 1 of 3 things that matters the most to this workforce, next to growth opportunity and 401K!! You’re not really surprised are you? This is why I hate to see good companies, with great people in toxic cultures… like it really bothers me. I do not see it as malicious, it’s simply lack of awareness, that the highest level of the organization just isn’t aware.. not intentionally..they just don’t know the culture is toxic or poor. This can feel like an overwhelming monster, one that can also be denied. I don’t believe there is a single executive team that exists and just sits around and says, “we’ve finally succeeded, we have a toxic culture! Now let’s figure out how to keep it that way!” But they have to own it, before anything can be done about it. They have to be aware so they can be accountable, and they have to be accountable so they can take action.

Listen ya’ll… I have never had an acronym title, or sat in an executives chair, so I am not saying that this is easy by any means. I am not trying to be presumptuous, of a position I’ve never carried. However, without those titles I have absolutely led a cultural shift within my own organizational bubble, and more than once, so I know it can be done and sustained if embraced.

The 5 Most Dangerous Culture Types

  1. Culture of Perfection
    1. Symptoms: Fear based silence, risk averse, missed opportunity, stagnant growth, criticism
    2. Sounds like: “That’s not my job.” “I’m staying out of that mess.” “I didn’t ask the question because I didn’t know how it would sound.” “You didn’t follow the process.” “You can’t do that, you’re a leader in the company”
  2. Culture of Politics
    1. Symptoms: Misuse of power, manipulation, internal selling, closed-door environment, autocratic leadership, scheming, vacuum based decisions
    2. Sounds like: “Just go straight to Joe’s bosses, boss.” “oh, you’re new..what is it that you do, and who do you work for again?” “I’m not sure why Suzy called me first without going to you.” “You’ve got to learn to play the game.” “It’s my decision.”
  3. Culture of Victims
    1. Symptoms: No accountability, gap filling, unbalanced workloads, creates silos, overworked employees, finger-pointing
    2. Sounds like: “If Suzy would have done her job, this would have never have happened.” “If marketing would do something to we would have more sales.” “I did my part, I don’t know what happened after that.” “No one has shown me how to do that, so I haven’t done it.”
  4. Culture of Vision. {These are not the same thing.}
    1. Symptoms: lack of focus on culture, confusion of the two, substituting values for culture
    2. Sounds like: “I don’t know what we do!” “I can’t see my contribution.” “We do have a culture, haven’t you read our core values!” “If we can get everyone on board with our vision it will create a great culture.”
  5. Culture of Bureaucracy
    1. Symptoms: Delayed time to revenue, slow to change, inefficiency, analysis paralysis, poor execution, impersonal
    2. Sounds like: “NO.” “Did you follow the process??” “This took so long because it was submitted incorrectly.” “You’re circumventing the process by doing that.” “I’m sorry this hasn’t been a good experience for the customer, but it’s the process.” “Don’t shoot the messenger”

Any of those sound familiar? Maybe more than one? A cultural transformation can be extremely overwhelming, I get it, but you don’t have to solve for everything right away, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You need to start with one thing, a foundation first, then you build on that. There are many types of successful company culture theories, a lot of which are aligned to how particular business models need to run – which is great! BUT… I believe there are 3 types of cultures that are universal and natural foundations to build on.

3 Foundations To Start A Culture Transformation

  1. Culture of Empowerment
    1. Impact: Everyone feels and is valued, no matter their title. There is transparency and inclusion and they connect their contribution. It promotes healthy conflict and feedback is valued in an open-door environment. Innovation comes naturally, collaboration is expected, and mistakes are opportunities.
    2. Sounds like: “We can fix this if we get the right people involved!” ” Lets get a team of SME’s together and solve this once and for all.” “Looks like CEO Bob is in his office, lets see if he has a couple of minutes to spare.” “I wanted to give you some feedback, and I’m hoping you will share some with me as well.”
  2. Culture of Customer First
    1. Impact: Everything is done with the customer in mind, first. Not only, but first. The center of excellence is the customer’s experience, followed by the business, then the people, then the individual.
    2. Sounds like: “How will this impact the customer?” “Let’s find a solution that’s best for the customer, and great for the business.”
  3. Culture of Sales
    1. Impact: Fundamental product knowledge exists across all team members in all functions. Everyone from the loading dock, to HR, to AP, and up to the big corner office views themselves as a member of the sales team. There is a true shared accountability to hit the revenue goals by either identifying the sale, enabling the sale or in some cases both!
    2. Sounds like: “YES.” “I’m happy to get on the phone right now and close a deal!” “I was at the airport and grabbed a couple of leads I need to give to sales, quick!”

Pick one, as a building block… and go from there. Of course, you can’t just pick one, check a box and move on.. that would be too easy!!

How To Get Started!

  • Executive level commitment to embrace it and protect it.
  • Advertise it! Promote it internally… do not shy away from what you are trying to do. It’s a GOOD thing, and you will rally people by owning the issue and doing something about it.
  • Select some influencers to champion the change… at all levels of the organization, and in all places. Challenge and select some that may have a ‘jaded’ or negative attitude too, along with people that have a positive high level of influence.
  • Reward and recognize when you see the change demonstrated in practice and behavior. Celebrate! Empower your champions to reward and recognize too!
  • Embrace evolution of the change even if it seems like it’s creating a ‘new arm’ of the foundation. In other words, if you start with customer first, which naturally creates a sales centric culture – that’s great!!! Roll with it.

I know this is entirely too long of a post.. {I need to work on that – tips welcome haha!} but last quick things for you to think about:

  • Vision or values do not replace culture. Values are to outline what’s important and what is right. Vision is what the company will look like, holistically, in the future. Culture is the interactions and practices that make up the work environment.
  • A culture change can start anywhere, so just because you aren’t an executive doesn’t mean you can’t influence a change. Even IF it’s not embraced or sustained, you will have a positive impact and influence on people around you, and that is worth it in itself.



Yep, that’s it – the principle element of what I strive for in my life every day. Hopefully this will help set the stage, but I also realize that I must have left you at the edge of your seat with my cliffhanger conclusion last time, so I wanted to address this right away! By now you must be thinking I’m an absolute genius, right?!? There I go again with those revolutionary ideas – ha! 🙂

Truth: Anyone who has known me longer than 48 hours has heard me this term ‘Own It’. While I would like to say that I demonstrate this at every opportunity given, I’m only human – so, major emphasis on the word strive. I understand that you may read this ‘OWN IT’ principle of mine and think one of two things: 1) ‘That makes sense!’ OR  2) ‘But it’s so… ambiguous…’

Those that are thinking the latter… it’s ok, you’re exactly right, it is vague and that is the absolutely point. That is because you have to own it for it to mean anything. Touché, right?

It’s really very simple to me, and really that’s what matters. Do what you say, say what you mean, and know what you do. Own it: your strengths, weaknesses, drive, integrity, mistakes, character, circumstance, opportunity, attitude, outlook… all of it.

For the visual learners, here is what ‘OWN IT’ is to me:

Own it demo

For the practical learners, here are some examples: Below is a scenario of a job interview, from my perspective as the interviewer.

Obeservation examples:

  • Do they ask for clarity on a question if they don’t understand before they attempt to answer? Or do they fill the answer with buzzwords? Unable to answer something they never fully understood to begin with.
  • Do they speak to their strengths by virtue of owning lessons they’ve learned from past mistakes? Or do they speak to their strengths as if they are just ‘gifts’ that are natural abilities to them?
  • Do they own their weaknesses? Or have a hard time articulating them if asked?

Question examples: I ask every candidate if they have taken the Clifton Strengths Finder Assessment. {take it online if you haven’t – it’s a well spent $20 bucks!}

  • If they have not taken it, I’ll get 2 types of responses:
  1. A little fearful, they have no idea what I’m talking about and don’t know what say – and are usually quick to offer their own interpretation of what they believe their ‘strengths’ to be and it sounds something like: “I’m not sure what that is – but my strengths are definitley…”
  2. Owning it, they are so hungry with curiosity to learn more and see it as an opportunity, they don’t even spend time on figuring out how to explain themselves on why they haven’t which sounds something like: “I’ve never heard of that, but tell me more! What is it? What is the assesment like? That sounds awesome, I love to do those self-development type of activities, I’m going to look it up right after this call!”
  • If they have taken it, I will follow-up by asking them what their Top 5 Strengths are and will also get 2 types of responses:
  1. “I’ve taken it but it was so long ago… I can’t remember what they are. Hmm… I think one is influence, and maybe communication, maybe problem-solving – gosh I can’t really remember!” {epic fail here, ya’ll}
  2. “Yes, I have — mine are belief, relator, achiever, learner, and WOO! I really loved doing it, especially the…” {owning it}
  • My favorite one is asking people what their spirit animal is… I will have to write a blog at some point about the ones that I have heard! Some responses..
  1. “Excuse me? My what?” or my favorite “Are you serious?”
  2. “Wow, that’s an interesting/great question that I’ve never been asked!! Let me think for a second…… ok, I’ve got it!” {owning it}
  3. “My spirit animal is a _________ because of __________________.” {owning it}

Let’s, stop for a second… and do an exercise. Read the above again, several times if you have to. Step out of the frame of this scenario, read it again and try to see the entire picture. All I have done in this example is demonstrate how to observe someone’s ability to own it, without directly asking them – “How is your personal accountability?”, “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated humility”. There, you see it? Now, play the candidate in your head for a second. Then, change the scenario completely and create a conversation or questions for something that may be relevant to you. It could be a sales pitch, a contract negotiation, a coaching session, a learning session, or a personal situation. Do you see what we did there? What are your takeaways from doing this? If you don’t have any, then go back to my first blog entry and read the last paragraph. 🙂

And finally —  what leaders look like when they own it and when they don’t — this can be directly through their words or even their actions.                                                               What leaders ‘say’ who do NOT ‘Own It’:

  • “Everyone better be available on chat, email, and in the office..every day for 8 hours.. I need to be able to get a hold of everyone since I work from home 4 days a week!”
  • “If you screw up.. That’s on you. Don’t take any risks because you might cost the company money, or even worse make me look bad.”
  • “This is something I’ve been saying for a while.. It’s great to finally be hearing everyone else saying the same thing”

What leaders ‘say’ who DO ‘Own It’:

  • “You are capable. I trust you. As long as the building isn’t on fire or someone’s safety isn’t in jeopardy – it’s OK to take a risk. Fail fast. Mistakes are learning opportunities, but remember I’ve got your back.”
  • “I’m just going to own it. I screwed up, and I know there was an impact to you…but here’s what I learned and here’s what I’m going to do about it, now.”
  • “I don’t have all the answers! 50% of the time I’m learning as I go or screwing up, and the rest of the time my team is showing and teaching me how it’s done!”

Let me circle back around to my main point and clarify: I’m not suggesting that ‘Own It’ has to be your principle, but it is extremely important as a leader that you have one or several. If you do not understand what your fundamental principle(s) is, how will you be able to gut-check your actions, decisions, behavior or impact as a leader? If this is something you haven’t truly given a lot of thought to, or maybe you don’t know where to start – I highly recommend the book Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. It is available on Amazon in both an audio file and hardcover!

Last things to leave you with {promise}:

  1. When {not if, but when} you see me demonstrate something contradictory to this, please call me out on it! Seriously.
  2. What does OWN IT mean to you? Where could you apply this right now, and how would others around you benefit from it?
  3. What do you consider your principle(s) to be?

#chickboss                                                                                                              comments/questions welcome!

And So The Story Goes…

I very unexpectedly found myself with a lot of extra time in my life {a story I may tell later if the time is right} and probably like a lot of people, I decided to create a blog. As I sit here and write this, I’m already feeling the pressure I’ve just put on myself to see this through, no matter how my ‘free’ time may fluctuate from here on out. However, I’m making the very public commitment to this new venture, because I know it will help me grow as an individual, and also allow me to do something I’ve always secretly enjoyed: writing. I decided to start this new journey 10 days ago, from the suggestion of a dear friend, and that’s how long it took me to decide what to write about. Of course, I was also obsessing about what to call it – which was difficult when I hadn’t really decided on a topic.

I knew from the beginning I wanted it to encompass people {obviously} and business –  anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am when it comes to my work. However, I wasn’t looking for a platform to market myself or promote the current products/services I was selling, or a place to measure my success by the number of followers I could collect. When I say business, I guess what I really mean is enabling the success of others. In my mind, this is really the ‘business’ that has chosen me, and that I live for as a leader. The development and investment you put into people and relationships is, in my opinion, the foundation of success; no matter the type of engagement. Not only do I want to share lessons, stories, trials and tribulations I’ve experienced that may help others; I also wanted to seize the learning opportunities this journey could teach me and learn from those that engage through my stories. I wanted a place to demonstrate vulnerability, compassion, empathy, and perspective – all things I value and also need to get better at.

By now, you’ve obviously drawn the conclusion that I’ve named my blog #chickboss.  That’s right, because I’m a chick and I’m a b-o-s-s… is anyone really surprised? 😉 Kidding! But in all seriousness – lesson # 1 I’ve learned on my blogging journey: the intent behind your blog name is far less important than the impact of the content itself.

Once I figured this part out I thought about the audience I wanted to reach. I thought about young and ambitious professionals; specific generations {since I’m in that often mis-categorized gen some call ‘X-illennials’}. Then I thought about tailoring it to Women; of all ages, no matter where they may be in their personal or professional journey. None of which are revolutionary ideas, I know. As I continued to think through this ‘women audience’ idea it provoked other thoughts. {Ones that I have actually already started writing about and will also share – eventually.} These thoughts reminded me of something important: I truly believe that your circumstance is what you make it, and the grass is only green where you water it – no matter who you are or where you come from. I appreciate that some may challenge this idea, but those that continue to read and take this journey with me will soon know, that I welcome different viewpoints in all arenas {fun fact, I was once on a competitive debate team}! For now, I can only assure folks that I genuinely believe I have earned the right to say this… yes, another story for another time.

I finally realized these stories don’t have to be tailored to a specific audience, because really, it’s simple: I want these words to empower people. Men and Women. Of all races, all ages, all backgrounds, all professions, and all circumstance that {and here’s the most important part} want to embrace opportunity around them. My blog is for those that have the ability to step outside of the frame and see the whole picture; those who are open-minded and curious learners no matter the topic. Those that not only understand what transformational leadership is, but they want to manifest it in their life. Those that can determine their own takeaways from my stories, thoughts and experiences and seize the opportunity in them.

I was going to end this first entry by giving you the philosophy that is the foundation for how I try to live my life every day, but that definitely deserves its own post, too.

Stay tuned.