Tag Archive for: leadership

Who are you inspired by?

I was debriefing a session with the CEO of a European division of a global technology company. Just before we parted ways, the CEO, who through our work together had also become a friend, turned to me and asked me a seemingly simple question:

“Who are you inspired by?”

Knowing that we were going to meet again the following day he added, “Don’t answer now. Sleep on it and let’s talk about it tomorrow.”

My first inclination was to quickly rattle off a list of people and be done with it. However, being the perfectionist that I am, I couldn’t leave it at that. In addition, I liked that the CEO’s question made me dig deeper, so I thought it would be a relevant blog topic.

Over the course of our lives, we are touched and inspired by many people, in many ways and at many levels. People come into our life, sometimes they stay with us for a long time; however, sometimes we are inspired and touched by people with whom we have short encounters.

There are people that we enjoy spending time with, people who make us happy, people who help us when we are in need, and people who teach us useful professional and personal lessons. And while we are grateful for these relationships, encounters, and lessons, not all the people who contribute to us along the way also inspire and touch us profoundly.

The people who truly inspire us leave a monumental mark on our character, energy, outlook and behavior. They stimulate us to break barriers and do things we have wanted to do but have never dared to do before. And, they make us more enthusiastic, courageous and optimistic. In fact, I believe we can often associate specific qualities, values and achievements in our life with the people who inspired us to take these on.

In the book The Celestine Prophecy, there is a passage that reads: Whenever people cross our paths, there is always a message for us. Chance encounters do not exist. But how we respond to these encounters determines whether we’re able to receive the message. If we have a conversation with someone who crosses our path and we do not see a message pertaining to our current questions, it does not mean there was no message. It means we missed it for some reason…”

We all have abundant opportunities in every phase of our life to be inspired by others around us. We just have to open our hearts to living an inspired life.

Here are a few examples of whom I have been inspired by:

At the top of my list are my parents– both extremely sharp, charismatic, disciplined and intellectual artists whose unique qualities made a profound difference in who I am today.

My father, who I am blessed to still have in my life, taught me at a very early age that, “the early bird catches the worm…” That lesson shaped my personal and professional work ethic and discipline from thereon.

My mom, who passed away a few years ago, trained me to have a keen eye for quality, design, and esthetic. She made me an artist at heart. My obsession with being excellent is from her.

My wife, Na’ama, who I have had the fortune to share my life with for the last 36 years, has inspired me and made me a better person, over and over again, in more ways than I could describe. She has inspired me to be more generous, open-minded, authentic, optimistic, courageous, and confident.

Lastly, my clients inspire me all the time. Their courage to stand for their vision, fully express themselves, take risks, lead and inspire others around them, and allow others, (including yours truly), to contribute and inspire them, inspires me every day. My clients’ confidence and trust in me, as well as the genuine partnership and friendship they have allowed me to build with them, has touched me deeply, inspired me, and made me feel very blessed.

Many people have inspired me over my life and continue to inspire me all the time. I can’t possibly recognize all or most of them here.

Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself, “Who am I inspired by?”

Practical steps for taking your game to the next level

A lot of my one-on-one coaching work is focused on helping leaders and professionals take themselves, their performance, and results to the next level.

I coach people who are in various stages of their evolution and growth. Some are at the beginning of their professional careers. They are often working on getting their business started or establishing consistent results.

Others are senior executives – directors, general managers, presidents or CEOs – who are at the prime of their career. They command large organizations with hundreds or thousands of employees. They are often concerned about how to get all their team members and functions on the same page, rowing in the same direction.

While each coaching conversation is unique and different, many of the principles that I use to support people are the same.

In my previous blog “How to make meaningful progress when taking your game to the next level,” I shared some “do’s” and “don’ts” for staying focused and effective when you are in the process of raising your game to the next level. Really, this week’s blog precedes the one posted on September 25th.

In this blog, I want to continue the trend by providing four simple steps for how to take your game to the next level, especially when the next level requires you to think and do new or different things.

Whether you are a beginner or veteran at your game, if you want to elevate your current reality, performance and results to a higher level, follow these simple, but powerful steps:

  1. Get clear on your desired end state. Project yourself into your future – at least a year or two from now – and imagine that you are extremely successful. Then, describe what your success looks like. Write it down and be as clear and vivid as possible.
  1. Visualize how you are behaving and performing in your new future state. When you visualize your future, take notice of how you are behaving and acting in that reality. Pay special attention to areas where you are doing things differently from today. Record a few practices and behaviors that you can start applying today in order to start driving and drawing yourdesired state to you.
  1. Start behaving consistently with your future state now. Start applying the practices and behaviors that you outlined in the previous step in your day-to-day routines. Every time you find yourself regressing to old habits, stop and correct yourself back to behaving consistently with your list of future reality practices.
  1. Start recording accomplishments and wins. At the end of each day reflect on your day, and list all the specific areas where you have had wins and made progress consistent with your desired practices and future from pervious steps. Don’t be concerned with the size of the wins or if others would recognize or appreciate them too. Any win that has meaning to you counts and should be included in your list. The more accomplishments and wins you record (or “collect”) the better.

The last step is often the one most underestimated, ignored and/or avoided. In order to drive and materialize your new future state most effectively, you need to have the right mindset and behavior. Listing accomplishments and wins will empower you to overcome any skepticism and/or doubts and replace them with genuine enthusiasm and confidence about what you are creating. The more you believe in the viability of your aspiration the more you are likely to stay the course to its fulfillment.

While these steps may not come naturally at first, they will over time.  Make them your new normal, for they are essential when it comes to taking your game to the next level.

Photo by: Tim Pierce

How to make meaningful progress when taking your game to the next level

If you want to be successful at taking your game to the next level, you have to be conscious of how you think and what comes out of your mouth.

I was leading a meeting recently with a telecom management team that had taken on a bold commitment to take their team’s leadership and performance to a higher level.  This was a good team that had been performing well. However, the changes in their markets, customers, and technologies were requiring them to think, innovate, and perform at a different level.

They were about three months into their transformation process and, in this meeting, we were reviewing their progress.

One by one, the leaders shared their views. One of the leaders summarized: “We are making progress, but not enough!” Everyone nodded their heads in agreement. People added: “We need to bring more energy, courage, innovation, collaboration, and change to the game.”

I asked them “Why are you not making enough progress?” “Why are you not bringing the level of energy, courage, innovation, collaboration, and change that you know you need?

Their responses were things to the tune of: “It’s because of the holidays,” “It’s because of the year end,” “It’s because of the wider changes that are taking place in our company,” “We are doing quite well, so there’s not a lot of opportunities for big improvements,” and “It just takes time to make progress.”

So many teams and people, when taking on new levels of game, fall into the same traps of blaming their circumstances for their lack of progress and talking about their transformation in ways that undermine what they are trying to achieve.

If you want to avoid these pitfalls and make significant progress in taking your game to the next level, follow these principles:

  1. Take 100% ownership for your progress or lack thereof. Give up blaming your circumstances for not making enough progress or for not bringing enough energy, courage, innovation and/or collaboration to the game. Always relate to what you have or don’t have as your own doing.
  2. Promise clear results that require you to rise to the occasion. People bring high energy, courage and innovation to the game when they have promised specific results that are important to them, that require high energy, courage, and innovation. For example: one of the leaders stated that the people are not yet seeing any change in this leadership team. So, the team took on a promise that by our next meeting, three months later, their employees would notice a new level of energy, courage, innovation, and collaboration coming from the team. By promising this new state, the leaders now had an obligation to step up their leadership and performance in order to deliver.
  3. Focus on the areas of gap and opportunity, not how great you are. One of the biggest impediments to transformation is when people feel threatened or invalidated by acknowledging deficits and gaps. When discussing progress, I often hear people say things like: “We were already good at this.” If you are already good at something you will not be compelled to improve it. Even the greatest teams and people can find “next level” gaps, deficits and opportunities for improvement. Focusing on these does not invalidate your greatness.
  4. Avoid using phrases like: “We should do X” or “We have to do more of Y.” People simply don’t do what they “should” or “have to.” Either promise that you “Will do X” or don’t expect to see progress in the area you are talking about.
  5. Go out of your way to prove the validity of your commitment. When teams are driving significant change, team members often remain skeptical throughout the process. They adopt the “let’s see if this works” point of view. This mindset is understandable, but not powerful. If you want to be most effective, be clear about the future state you want, be all-in and trust your journey, no matter what ups-and-downs you encounter along the way. Don’t check if it works. Prove that it works.
  6. Collect as much evidence for progress as you can. Transforming a team to the next level is never about perfection. The focus should be driving as much progress as possible. In the realm of progress, everything counts – big, medium and small wins. And, being public about them is key. So identify, acknowledge and celebrate all of them. The more you identify areas of progress, the more it gives you appetite to find more. So, make it your priority to collect as many areas of progress as possible.

At the end of the meeting, the leaders took on a new perspective. They stopped accepting the reality: “We are making progress BUT not enough” and took on a commitment to cause a new genuine state: “We are excited about the progress we are making.”

This seems a simple shift, but it is very powerful. It is also a future worthy of proving right!

Photo by: Richard Potts

Life is Too Short to Compromise

My wife and I try to live life according to the mantra: “life is too short to compromise.”

There are multiple phrases you could put at the end of the phrase: “Life is too short to….”Wait for what you want, …Hold back, …Spend time with people who drain your energy rather than give you energy, or …Not express your love to the people you care about.

However, how often do we actually stop to reflect if we are living our life accordingly?

Living without compromising on the important things is a powerful and courageous way to live.

How many times have you compromised on personal and/or professional relationships that mattered to you, or sold out on doing things to the standards of quality and excellence that you believe in?

I have taken a commitment to not compromise on the things that are important to me. And, the older (and wiser!) I get, the easier it becomes to live this way.

However, being human, I have slipped on occasion when it comes to living consistently with my principles and values. However, because I am so passionate about living authentically, I have developed antennas that detect my missteps and help me to quickly catch myself and adjust my course.

All of us, including you, have the same antennas. We just have to “activate” them.

What are our antennas? Frustration, irritation and suffering. Whenever I compromise or sell out on my principles and values, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated and irritable, even about mundane things. When I recognize these emotions, I ask myself “what is going on?” and I’m always able to get to the bottom of it. These feelings, especially if they persist, lead to insights about areas where I have compromised.

How do you activate your antennas? By taking a stand. I know it sounds too simple, but it really works. When you take a stand, you commit to living consistently with your principles without compromising. This sets the bar. As a result, you become hypersensitive to any area around you– including your own behavior– that contradicts your stand.

If you don’t take a stand, you are less likely to detect these guiding feelings. As a result, you can miss the opportunity to shift gears and take corrective action.

I have learned that if I remain true to my values, even in the face of challenges, I always feel good. However, if I compromise my values, even if the circumstances around me are great, I don’t feel satisfied.

The good news is that we always have control over how we live. In what area of your life do you need to stop compromising?

Photo by: Shashank Mhasawade

Create and achieve more possibilities for yourself

When people believe a goal, ambition or dream is unattainable or unlikely to be achieved, they usually do not invest their time, heart and effort to pursue it. In plain words, they don’t go after it.

For most people this is how the story begins and where it typically ends.

However, so many people have desires, ambitions and dreams that they sincerely want to achieve and have not done so. They may have believed in these dreams in the past or even made attempts to pursue them. But, if they felt challenged or simply didn’t succeed, they gave up their efforts.

I meet so many people who have become resigned about “having it all” in certain areas of their life. People usually have convincing stories and explanations about what is “realistic” and what is not. Overall, they believe they can’t fully have what they want in some or all parts of their life. Even if they don’t convince me, I can tell they have convinced themselves.

“I don’t have enough time,” “I am too busy with work and/or family,” “I don’t have enough money,” “the time is not right,” “it’s tough out there,” “I am not good/experienced in this,” or “I probably don’t want it badly enough.” I think I have heard them all.

Our excuses and explanations are valid and legitimate. But, they disempower us because they promote the notion that we are smaller than our circumstances.

I don’t claim that we can achieve anything and everything that we want in our lifetime… and perhaps that is because of the boundaries of my beliefs. However, I truly believe that most people can achieve and have much more than they believe they can.

If you agree that people only take action when they believe it is feasible the question is “How do we make an idea feasible in our mind?”

I want to share a little technique that could be useful in this regard. Try this by following the few outlined steps. You can do this in conversation with someone or by writing your responses and thoughts in your notebook:

Step 1: Identify and call out an area where you want to achieve, do or have more.

Step 2: Clearly articulate what you want and what you are committed to in this area.

  • In other words, describe the desirable end state of this area. What does it look like when you are truly satisfied and happy?

Step 3: Ask yourself the question: “What COULD I do, or what COULD be done in order to achieve my desired result or to make progress toward it?

  • As you can see that the instrumental word here is COULD.
  • The word “could” implies possibility. It keeps your thinking open and unrestricted from the constraints and obligations of commitment or action.
  • When you think, speculate and explore from the space of “What could be done?” you are much more inclined to think outside your box.

Step 4: Ask yourself the question: “What WILL I do to achieve my desired result or make progress toward it?”

  • Only go to the fourth step after you feel you have done a good job coming up with answers to the third step.
  • You don’t have to commit to anything if you don’t want to. However, if you don’t commit to what could achieve your desired result or make progress toward it at least you can be confident that the issue is not the circumstances.
  • You can always commit later if you are not ready now.
  • Lastly, if you choose to delay action, I strongly recommend you give up complaining or feeling helpless about your circumstances.
  • Ultimately, you must give up being a victim.

Try these steps and see how much possibility you can create.


Why is Leadership so important NOW?

In today’s market environment, thriving and struggling businesses alike seem to be experiencing increasing challenges in competitive, economic and market conditions.

In these times when the business opportunities and challenges are bountiful and the tangible material and physical resources such as budgets, expenses, resources and travel are scarce, most leaders I speak to seem to feel a growing need to unleash and promote the intangible assets. They seek to boost the mental and leadership energy, creativity, ownership and resourcefulness of individuals and the team as a whole.

Leaders often talk about the fact that in today’s environment “the only constant is change.” In this environment, any team weaknesses or dysfunctionalities that could have been avoided or overlooked in stable times can’t be ignored. Obstacles to success must be addressed and fixed in challenging times in order for the team to work at its full potential.

Unfortunately, most individuals and teams in organizations are quite reactive to circumstances, so when things are going well, they feel strong, empowered and focused. But when there is a lot of change and/or circumstances make a turn for the worst – they often lose their cool confidence and inner balance and get into an individual and collective funk.

The longer circumstances stay challenging, the worse morale and confidence usually get. This eventually affects performance and results in a negative way. I am seeing this happen in many companies.

It gets worse when people listen to the media and hear stations like CNN constantly bombarding the screen with gloom and doom. And, the more people hear about companies who are laying off people, the worse this morale and confidence downward spiral gets.

This vicious circle is avoidable when people and teams have the right leadership mindset and competency to self-generate their own attitudes and mindsets, no matter what the circumstances are.

In my last blog I quoted Alan Kay who said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Can you imagine the possibilities any team could generate when its entire workforce genuinely believes that “no matter what the circumstances are – we can invent our future and control our own destiny?”

Thinking and behaving in this way allows people to own their thoughts, behaviors and actions. It equips and empowers everyone to catch and stop the negative, disempowering and fear-based or stress-based feelings and conversations before they take over. People then can turn a negative dynamic and atmosphere into a more positive, productive and energizing one.

The notion of inventing the future allows people to stay centered and focused when things are turbulent around them.

When people understand the power associated with inventing the future rather than merely reacting to it, they start creating exciting objectives, projects, milestones and events to work on in the present. This creates even greater possibilities to look forward to in the future.

Unfortunately, I still see many team environments in which circumstances are challenging and victim-mentality becomes accepted and rampant. In these situations, people excuse and justify poor performance and low morale.

However, when the entire team is in that same positive, proactive and self-generative mindset, people go out of their way to support, empower and encourage each other to go beyond and behave in an un-circumstantial, un-stoppable way. I have actually seen teams that have used these phrases as mantra’s to become a high performance team.

Even senior executives need to build their team

True Story: I was coaching a senior executive – fictional name: George – who is the head of a big division in a global technology company and he was expressing his frustration about the fact that his direct reports, who are also senior executives, were not gelling together as a team the way he needed them to and the way he expected and hoped they would.

George’s organization went through significant changes in the last year because he was asked to take on an expanded mandate of running one of the key growth areas of the company. As a result, he ended up with a brand new team that was larger than what he had before. He also inherited a senior leadership team that was comprised of more senior executives than he had before.

Being senior executives, each of George’s direct leaders had a sizable organization, budget and mandate in their own right. His leaders were also a collection of highly opinionated people who had type-A personalities and didn’t like to collaborate, share or allow others to interfere with their businesses or organizations.

But, they were all seasoned executives who knew how to play the corporate political game. In leadership team meetings, they all said the right things. However, after the meetings ended, they often paid lip service to what the team agreed to and each went on his or her merry way to do things the way they wanted.

When the leaders had issues with each other, they would come to George and complain to him about their peers, rather than engaging in courageous conversations with their teammates to address and resolve conflicts and issues.

George was not alone in his frustrations and predicament. I have supported many other senior executives with the same challenges and dilemmas.

What I have noticed is that senior executives tend to have a paradigm about their leadership team to the effect of: because their leaders are senior, they should work together more effectively to resolve issues between them. In fact, they are capable of becoming a team by themselves, without needing the help of their senior leader.

Because of this view, many senior executives tend to adopt a management style in which they do not spend enough time with their leaders. Their logic assumes, “their leaders are highly paid senior executives, hence, they don’t need hand holding.” This assumption leads them to leave their direct reports to deal with conflicts, challenges and issues–many of which stem from bigger organizational design issues–by themselves, while they deal with the higher level things.

This paradigm is fundamentally flawed and a big mistake. I have seen it weaken teams many times.


People are always people and teams are always teams, no matter how senior they are. A team always needs to have a leader whose role is to unify and inspire the members around a common platform and purpose.

In fact, one could make the case that the more senior the executives are, the more crucial it is to build the leadership team as a real team. Senior leaders tend to like their silod independence, even if it comes at the expense of the collective effectiveness of the larger organization. So, without a deliberate and focused effort by their senior leader to gel them as a team, they would happily continue to work on their area and avoid dealing with the conflicts, challenges and issues with their peers.

Yes, creating a dynamic in a team where the leaders are running the day-to-day operations of the business, as well as dealing with conflict and issues among themselves without needing their senior leader to baby sit them and mediate between them is a desirable state. However, if a leaders wants to create that reality they must first spend enough time in collective leadership team meetings and one-on-one coaching and development sessions with their leaders in order to ensure that their team has the right level of collective trust, cohesion, communication and team spirit to work more independently as a strong unit and take the game to the next level.

The role of a leader is always to build their team. At all levels! This is something they must never outsource to others or neglect.

If you want to have power, take ownership

I truly believe that there are no coincidences in life. Things always happen for a reason. Many times, it is easy for us to see that cause-and-effect reason. For example: we raised our voice at someone, they were offended and it caused a rift in our partnership and trust. Now they don’t want to work with us.

Other times we can’t immediately see the bigger reason or lesson taking place. We scratch our head and wonder “why did this happen to me?” or “why did I not get the result I wanted when I wanted it so badly and/or I worked so hard to get it?” But, after some time lapse—which often gives new perspective—we have an “aha moment” and we get it.

Sometimes, we feel very attached to an outcome. We feel we just have to achieve it. Our brand and self-worth depends on it. Then, after we didn’t receive it, we realize that “not getting that outcome turned out to be the best outcome for us.”

I believe that most of the time the circumstances and results that we have around us are a function of something about us – our attitude and mindset or actions and behaviors.

Even if what I wrote above is not physically, scientifically or factually true… and it couldn’t be proven, I still believe it is a valid and powerful philosophy from which to view our life and the world around us.

In fact, I coach leaders and people on this topic all the time. People often tend to blame others or the circumstances for their shortfalls and inability to achieve what they want. In most cases, people are simply blind to their own shortcomings and how these impact their surroundings.

For example, I was coaching an executive who is very ambitious and successful. He had achieved great results in his division and he desperately wanted to be promoted to the next level. But, without realizing it, because of his ambition he has frequently treated people around him, including his peers, in what they experienced as an arrogant and condescending manner. In fact, many viewed him as always looking out for, and promoting himself, even at the expense of others. When the time came for his colleagues to give him their vote of confidence for his promotion, they were reluctant. He didn’t end up getting the promotion and, as you can imagine, he felt offended very upset. He blamed others for not getting the promotion, rather than looking inward and owning that he had something to do with people’s experience of him. I deal with this type of dynamic in organizations all the time.

Taking genuine ownership is a transformational step. Sometimes it requires courage to face reality. But, looking in the mirror and owning the situation, especially if it is uncomfortable or challenging, is a game changer. It moves people from being smaller than their problems to being bigger than their problems. I have found that when this shift happens, people always tend to feel more empowered, eager and excited to take action and turn things around.

Taking ownership has a similar impact on the good things as it does on the bad. When we take ownership of our great accomplishments and successes, it also compels and empowers us to step up to the next level of self-expression with greater confidence and faith. People who don’t take ownership of their greatness seem to be more held back and apologetic in and about their life.

Taking ownership gives us power to learn from history so that we can drive things in the future to new heights. It the mandatory step for taking the game to the next level in any area. And, as the saying goes, “The truth shall set us free.” Even if first it “pisses us off.”

It’s Easier Than Ever to Make a Difference

Apathy, resignation and cynicism are the enemy of everything that is good and the friend of everything that is bad. When employees and managers come to believe that they can’t make a difference, the organization is doomed to mediocrity at best, and to failure at worst. Unfortunately, I see this take place on a regular basis. However, in my years of experience with client organizations – going back long before the rise of social media – I have also seen many examples of how a single person who is courageous and determined to effect change can start a movement.

Here’s one example: Many years ago, I worked with a woman who was a secretary in the finance division of a large, multi-national corporation. This woman’s rank in the organization was lowly, and she could easily have gone unnoticed. The company had been through a difficult series of downsizing measures. Morale was at an all-time low, customer satisfaction was suffering badly, and there were many issues inhibiting productivity. That year, the division was ordered to reduce its work force by 40 percent as part of an across-the-board cost-cutting measure. This was a devastating blow to the team.

The secretary volunteered to chair a team focused on taking care of the people being let go. She was determined to help everyone (who wanted assistance) find alternative jobs either inside the division or externally, thereby minimizing the morale issues. She enrolled a team of like-minded people and they all worked diligently, with great passion and courage, to pursue her mission. She and her team succeeded in securing jobs for a large percentage of the employees. That year, employee satisfaction rose significantly, and so did customer satisfaction. Most people attributed the remarkable outcome to this one woman’s leadership.

Although she had previously been perceived as a “nobody,” the woman became a widely recognized, admired, and respected leader. Her courage and commitment brought her influence, credibility, and status. She was later promoted, and when certain projects had to get done she was frequently invited to senior leadership team meetings because senior executives recognized her immense value and contribution to the organization’s advancement.

Twenty years ago, this kind of transformation required slow and painstaking efforts. Now, technology is transforming our ability to propagate change, and recent global events are the best illustration of this. We are all witnessing how social media and technologies that allow people to communicate easily over long distances are making profound changes in our society.

It may take less time, but it does not take any less courage to organize a movement through Facebook than it took to stand up and be counted in an organization where transformation required reaching one person at a time and convincing people one by one. That said, it is simpler today to make a difference in organizations because it is so much faster and easier to generate and facilitate a broad-based dialogue. But courageous leadership was taking transformation viral long before we had the technology to speed it up. If you ever feel that you cannot make a difference, remember this constant truth: The human spirit, courage, commitment, and determination are still the factors that drive all change.

Are you asking for what you want?

You would think that asking for what you want would be the easiest thing in the world to do. But it isn’t! I see so many people struggling with this.

In my coaching work I often ask people, “So, what do you want?” or “what do you want the outcome to be?” or “what do you want to accomplish?” Many people, when confronted with this direct question, find it hard to spit out a clear answer. Some say, “I know what I want” but when they attempt to describe it they get caught up in a long-winded conceptual description that is very confusing and vague even to them. A few simple follow-up questions such as, “what do you mean by that?” or “how would you know that you achieved that?” are often enough to make people realise they really don’t know what they want.

When people work on articulating their personal collective objectives they often say things like, “We should do this” or “We have to do that.” But, saying “We/I should” is not the same as “We/I want.”  In fact, it is much easier and less powerful to say “We/I should” than “We/I want.” “We/I want” is a declaration. “We/I should” is a description. When we say “We/I want,” we are staking ourselves to the outcome. We are putting our desire at stake. We are making it personal.

Some people suffer from guilt when it comes to declaring what they want. They feel it is arrogant or greedy to want too much or to want certain things. They refrain from explicitly and directly expressing their dreams and desires. Some are so afraid to get a “no!” to their request that they avoid asking altogether. They just convince themselves that “it’s not worth it” to ask. Some people were brought up that it is impolite to directly ask for what you want. If their meal in a restaurant is not served the way they like it or their hotel room is not what they wanted, they will suffer quietly and won’t say anything about it. Some may even have deeper demons. They feel they are not good enough or worthy of having what they really want. So, they stop dreaming altogether.

Some people feel that what they really aspire for and desire is too big, unrealistic and out of their reach. Their mindset is “what’s the point of going after things that are not realistic,” “why set myself up for failure, disappointment and heart break?” So, they make sure to set their desires and expectations low enough in order to not risk failure.

There is also a spiritual aspect to this. The law of attraction, which became popular through Oprah’s show says that people who explicitly express and ask for what they want would become more effective at achieving their desires.

In one of my previous blogs “3 Empowering Quotes About Courage” I wrote about the power of taking a stand. That is a very powerful way to ask for what you want.

It takes courage to dream and believe it. It takes courage to declare what we want, ask for it and pursue it. Yes, we may fail or fall short and that could be disappointing and perhaps upsetting.

Unfortunately, I have seen too many people fail to achieve their goals even in basic areas such as getting a dream job, a promotion or relationship simply because they held back and avoided directly expressing what they want. In my experience, people who repeatedly declared what they want eventually achieved their desired results, or at least a similar, satisfactory result.

Which way would you rather live?



Empower yourself to have more courageous conversations

In last week’s blog I stated that most people in most organizations avoid having the courageous conversations. They want things to change, they want more empowerment, responsibility, involvement and authority, but when push-comes-to-shove they often have diplomatic, watered-down or politically correct conversations.

In private conversations with leaders, managers, and employees in many organizations, most acknowledge that they are not as courageous as they need or want to be.

So, in this post I want to suggest some steps that could empower people and teams to go to the next level in this area:

First step – Fess up – In order to change their behavior, people need to first own up to their current behaviors and dynamics – in this case to their avoidance of courageous conversations. In so many cases, change doesn’t happen because people are either blind to their shortcomings or they are in denial and don’t admit them.

Second step – Embrace your alternate options – Have you heard the saying: “The truth will set you free?” When most people fess up to their shortcomings, gaps or lack of ownership, authenticity and/or courage, they feel relieved. And from that space, they can start thinking about, “So now what?”How else COULD I act and/or behave?” and “What else COULD I do?” For many people, this new space of possibilities is energizing. However, some people prefer to avoid responsibility; they can’t seem to get beyond blaming others and being victims of their circumstances. One very effective way to take ownership is to consider the “benefits” and “cost” of avoiding responsibility for having the courageous conversations. I have elaborated on this several times in previous blogs.

Third step – Make a choice and take a stand – When people own up to their alternate options, they can make real choices – choices about how they will think and behave differently, and what they will, in fact, do differently. Steps one and two are about completing the past. Step three is about creating the future. Making a choice is, in essence, taking a stand; promising a new course of action, launching a new beginning, and propelling oneself to a new trajectory.

Fourth step – Act and behave in accordance with your stand – Authentic choices lead to new actions and behaviors. People can reinvent themselves by following steps one through three and then beginning to act and behave consistent with their stand. In many cases, when the new actions are radically different from the past ones, people feel somewhat awkward, inadequate, and out of their comfort zone. I often refer to this as being “beginners.” They may even need to “fake it till they make it,” at first. However, if they are willing to stay the course and correct themselves when they stumble, fall or screw up, sooner than later the new actions and behaviors will start to become part of their new DNA.

The technology leaders from last week’s blog managed to generate meaningful breakthroughs in elevating the quality and effectiveness of their teamwork and communication by using these steps and increasing their authentic and courageous conversations. They did it together as a team so this made it easier for each of them to step up.

Today, they look forward to their meetings because at least 90% of their time is focused on the essential topics. People feel they can truly affect change. They had that mandate before, but now they feel they have “each other’s permission” and the environment to effectively do so. As a result, the team members feel much more comfortable to engage in whatever conversations that are necessary to reach alignment and make decisions fast. They also started to hold each other to account for commitments and deliverables much more courageously.


Brutal honesty is not enough.

In my last blog I emphasized the importance and benefits of creating an open, honest, authentic and courageous communication environment in teams and in life. In this blog I want to dig a little deeper.

Living with a courageous and relentless commitment to openness and honesty is a powerful and, in my view, noble virtue. I am not merely saying this because I have personally adopted this commitment in my own life. I am saying it because I have seen the power of openness and honesty triumph over resignation, despair and challenge, as well as nurture opportunity many times. BUT, I have also seen openness, honesty and bluntness deeply hurt and deflate people.

People often think that “having no filter”, “calling it as they see it” and “putting it all out there” are virtues and an asset to their group or relationship. In fact, some cultures – the Dutch for example – pride themselves on their bluntness. When brutal honesty is delivered in a productive manner, it can definitely be a huge asset. But brutal honesty can also be a disaster and an impediment. It can hurt people deeply and leave casualties.

A sales manager at a global telecom company shared with me a story that I have heard in other places before: his boss asked him to represent his country in the weekly regional sales forecast call with the upper level managers. The economic times were challenging and deals were hard to come by, so everyone on the call was somewhat tense and apprehensive, especially his boss’s boss, who was under tremendous pressure from his superiors to perform. When it was time for the sales manager to present he didn’t have good news to share, so not before long he found himself being questioned, grilled and criticized by those who attended the meeting. Needless to say, he left the call feeling devastated and publically attacked, humiliated and demeaned. His boss’s boss had a different depiction of the incident. His take was: “The sales manager came to the call unprepared so I gave him some feedback and tried to help him steer his presentation the right way”.

If openness, honesty and bluntness don’t make a difference and empower people, they are not worth the dignity they stand for and represent.

I have also heard many people equate open, honest and authentic communication to “getting it all off their chest”. In fact, in a recent coaching conversation an executive expressed pride in the fact that he finally mustered the courage to tell his team-mate how he really felt about him, after a long period in which he accumulated pent up frustrations and resentments about his colleague. I empathized with his initial feeling of personal triumph. But when I asked him if the conversation made a difference to address, resolve or change things he wasn’t sure at all. In fact, upon reflection he admitted that the trust and partnership with his colleague didn’t get stronger, and they didn’t come out of that conversation with any tangible productive actions or directions. He left the conversation feeling relief, but his colleague seemed quite upset and disheartened.

Putting it all out there, or getting if all off your chest is the wrong focus. Making a difference should always be the purpose and focus of any communication. It should guide the approach, angle, style and intensity of all our conversations. If making a difference requires being completely open, honest and blunt, then so be it. But, if being completely open, honest and blunt would hurt, insult, demean or deflate the other person, it may be better not to say anything at all.

A friend of mine, who is teaching at a post graduate university, shared with me recently that her new boss adopted the “blunt, no filter” approach, which was less than successful in their environment. Her boss, who came from the finance world, did not take into account the less brutal and more “diplomatic” academic world she was now immersed in. My friend confessed to feeling wary and cautious about bringing issues to the front because of her boss’s unorthodox style.

There are always appropriate, effective and productive ways to communicate, give feedback and express criticism and dissatisfaction – no matter how severe – which elevate and empower people.

What good is it for anyone if people around them are torn down and/or afraid to speak their minds?