Articles tagged with: Emotional Intelligence

Coping While in Limbo

Life is filled with change.  Most of us will experience quite a few significant life altering changes in our lives and careers.   Perhaps it’s a promotion, a new career path, a move to another city or the birth of a child.  Transition is part of life.

These CAN be very exciting and welcome changes, however I’ve noticed that they all come with that “waiting period”.  I dread this “limbo” because more often than not, I’m not fully in control of the situation but I can’t move forward till circumstances or decisions outside of my control are to be made.   I feel the most anxiety and frustration in my life during these unavoidable limbo periods.

  • Waiting for that position to open up so I can apply.
  • Waiting for our employer to determine where we will be stationed next.
  • Waiting for the opportunities of my next career to begin to come to fruition.

I have to imagine I’m not the only one that finds it difficult to be patient.  However, I’ve learned that the more I fuss, or worry, or try to push the decisions and circumstances, the worse I feel.  And strangely enough it seems like that limbo period is longer and more painful that if I had just let things unfold.

But let’s face it… I’m probably a little too ‘type A’ to just sit back and wait, so I’ll share with you some of the ACTIONS I have taken that do actually help to manage the stress of limbo and maybe make it just that much more tolerable.

Prepare – Do what you can to be ready for that change.  Study and get that next degree or certification.  Build your network and be open to the opportunities as they present themselves.  Use this time wisely, because just waiting for the apples to appear won’t help when you haven’t planted the seeds.

Contingency Plan – In circumstances where there are factors or decision out of my control – I have found that if I plan for the 2-3 circumstances that COULD happen I felt more content to just wait and see which scenario comes to fruition.   Knowing your bases are covered not only gives you ease that you can handle what ever comes your way, but it helps to keep your mind occupied while you wait!

Focus Inward – As I have moved from one career or one stage of life to the next, and found myself in the  ‘development stage’ of that next step, one critical and rewarding ACTION I could take was to be more self-aware.  Ask yourself:  What did I learn from this previous career or stage in life?  What did I love?  What did I hate?  What would I do more of? What will I change in the next stage?  Take stock and set yourself up for a more informed and mindful next step.

Self-Care – Take time during this transition to take care of yourself.  When we are stressed, we feel the effects physically in our bodies and minds. Keep up with, or start, a regular self-care routine that included a healthy diet, regular exercise and plenty of water.  It’s often the first thing that we forget but is so critical to ability to cope with that stress!

Spend Time with your Passions – Do more of the things that make you happy.  What are the things that make you light up? Deliberately spend more time doing these things when in limbo.  Your spirit will be fed and you will have less time to worry.  Explore those things you never had time to or wish you had.  You might even find a way to incorporate them more regularly into your next big stage in life.

Limbo can feel terrible because it’s a time of inaction and waiting for the next big thing… these ACTIONS, while not changing the situation, make good use of that time by lessening stress and focusing on what you CAN do!

Random Acts of Kindness and Influence

I was recently at one of my favorite coffee shops, grabbing a cup of coffee, before hitting the road for a long drive. The shop was unusually busy that morning, which was not that big of a deal, other than that it took a long time and I was in a hurry.

I was having a great time "people-watching", as several of us waited with baited breath for our morning cup of joe. There was one woman in particular that stood out to me. We didn't speak to each other nor did I observe her talking to anyone else. She stood out to me because she had a sense of peace about her.

About the time I was trying to figure out what is was about her that made me feel this way, my drink was called and I was snapped out of my trance. I reached for my drink to discover it was very hot. I looked around but there was no sleeve for my cup, went to the condiment counter… no sleeves there either. I even tried to get a worker’s attention, again, to no avail. I was scurrying around looking for a cup sleeve and noticed this woman was watching me. I smiled and said, “I am trying to find a sleeve for my coffee… it is really hot.” She smiled back and that was that. I decided to give up the search for a sleeve and run to the restroom to wash my hands before leaving.

I left my coffee on the table right outside the restroom. When I came out, the lady was gone, but next to my cup of coffee, was a sleeve for my coffee. In that moment, my heart was warmed by the kindness of a stranger…. Nothing major, it didn’t even cost her anything, but it was just thoughtful.

I walked to my car and could not stop thinking about how such a little gesture brought so much joy to my hectic morning. Kindness is “indulgent, considerate or helpful.”1 This lady was all of these things. She was also being something else she didn’t even realize. She was being influential. Influential means “the act of producing effects on the actions, behaviors or opinions of others.” In that moment, and for the rest of the day, the kindness of a stranger influenced me to want to share kindness with others. I focused on just that for the rest of the day. In fact, she influenced me so much, I am writing this blog about it.

What about you? Have you ever had someone do something simple for you that had lasting impact – a random act or gesture of kindness? As leaders, it is important for us to remember the value in simple, arbitrary acts of kindness and the long-term effects they have to influence others.

Does What I do Make me Who I Am?

Here in America we define ourselves and those around us by what we do. Think about the first question we ask after introducing ourselves…. “So where do you work?” and “what do you do there?” In part, this is good small talk. We naturally ask these questions in succession. The other part has to do with sizing people up. We determine before we even get to know someone whether we think they are successful based on how they answer these questions. Is it any wonder why we personally define ourselves using this same measurement?

This type of stereotyping begs the question many are now facing, what happens when what we “do” is done away with? What happens when companies go bankrupt, jobs are outsourced, people are downsized or laid off? How then will we define ourselves, our friends, colleagues or family members? Although what we do is obviously important, we have to learn a better self-awareness, or who we are “being.” Who we are “being” is who we are, our character, values, beliefs and passions. It is not determined by titles, salary or prestige.

To discover who we really are beyond the titles we hold is a challenge. Think for a minute about who you are…. If I asked you to describe yourself could you do so without talking about what you do? The goal is that who we are being works collaboratively with what we do but it does not define us. I recently asked a client of mine while working through the “being” vs. “doing” question, “how would you respond if you lost your job for one reason or another and the only thing you could find was working at a fast food restaurant wiping down tables?” His answer was the best I have ever gotten. He said, “well I guess I would have to work hard and rise to the top in that industry!” Now that is knowing who you are being no matter what you are doing!

I want to encourage you, whether you are in the most secure position you have ever been in or whether you are having to re-define yourself due to job loss, search yourself to know who you are being in this world.

Here are some suggestions as you go through this process:

  • Be insightfully straight with yourself.
  • What transformations do you want?
  • What are your personal values, passions, beliefs?
  • Write a paper about who you are.
  • Write a paper about who you want to be.
  • Be in your possibilities.
  • Dream!

This can be an eye opening experience if you allow it to be. We would love to hear your feedback on this exercise and if it was beneficial.

Leadership Journey To Discovery And Development

What happens when you get where you think you want to be to realize it is not the right place or you find yourself compromising your values or passions to an upward position? If you are a leader and have not experienced something similar, hold on to your boots, you probably will. Is the school of hard knocks the only option? Many of us have a graduate degree in learning from failure,which is OK. As John Maxwell says, “success stands on top of a pile of failures”.

Although I have not found a way to eliminate mistakes (and frankly do not think we would ever want to, as they are a good teacher) I do believe there is a way to help leaders navigate through moves and decisions that maybe less painful. The “new” title given to this sort of awareness is authentic leadership. Often, leaders, through years of experience develop this but it has not been defined with a  name until  recently. Last year I read the book titled, “True North” by Bill George and realized it summarized what I had been  personally striving for as a leader. Throughout the last year, I have engaged in much of what I have  learned through this process as well as coaching others to their own personal authentic leadership style. If you have read the book, you will notice some of George’s passion threaded throughout this article.  We have tried for many years to develop the perfect model for leadership but the truth is, leaders come  in all shapes and sizes. That is because we are all different and bring our own set of experiences,  personalities and passions into our leadership. We can learn from other’s experiences but we cannot  live through and lead through another’s experiences. In the book titled “The Enemy Called Average”  was the quote, “we are all born originals but most die carbon copies”. Others can mentor and influence your authentic leadership style but only you can determine what it is. There is only one you with your  personality inspired by you unique set of life experiences. Although there may be other people like you,  only you have lived your life.

A leader can develop their authentic leadership by focusing on seven areas:  self awareness, personal  values, balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, developing a trustworthy support team, staying  grounded, integrating life and empowering others to lead. Being self aware is not as easy as it may appear. Self awareness is birthed out of one’s own life story  and how their story affects their leadership. Often leaders do not tap into this goldmine of discovery. They may not go through this process for several reasons.  Some of these reasons may include:  not knowing how, lack of understanding in the value of their life story, it is too painful or they are unwilling  to invest the time. This journey is worth the investment however.  A recent study from Stanford  Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council recommended self awareness as the most important  capability for leader’s to develop. Learning your authentic leadership will require not only honesty but  also courage. The process can begin in through different areas of self discovery such as: writing out  your story and listening to feedback to more formal methods such as: 360 profiles, personality profiles,  strength finder and emotional intelligence.

Reflecting on and learning from your life story is the starting point. One’s personal life story allows a  leader to better understand themselves. It also opens their eyes to their passions, values and principles. Reviewing life experiences that go back as far as can be remembered encourages a leader to discover  what drives their passions and then learn how to channel that passion to their own leadership. The  difficult challenges faced in life often define who a leader is and give direction to what they will become.  A leader’s understanding of their values becomes even more relevant when tested under pressure. Having a strong foundation of values that are tried under fire enables a leader to develop the principles  they will apply in leading others.

A leader’s values help them to gain insight to their motivations both intrinsically and extrinsically. The  common response in measuring a leader’s success is extrinsically. When the measuring stick for success  is the “world’s view” it creates a void that is never satisfied. This view encompasses tangible things such  as:  money, home, cars, titles, etc. The challenge is that these things are not sustainable and more often  than not leave a leader unfulfilled with lack of meaning in life. Intrinsic motivations on the other hand  lead the person to pursue more meaningful success that is congruent with their values thus balancing  the fulfillment of their extrinsic motivations. Discovering both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivation takes self evaluation, honesty and a willingness to explore how to bring balance between the two.  Leaders cannot succeed on their own. It takes support and advice. Authentic leaders build a support  team to help them stay focused. This team provides feedback, balanced perspective and has earned the  right to speak into the leader’s life. They will help with focus and correction when the leader needs it. This support group also gives a leader a group of individuals to authentically be themselves with and to  rely on to coach and challenge them. This group may consist of peers, family, colleagues, mentors  and/or friends. Staying grounded as a leader can be a challenge. Leaders that are able to integrate all areas of their life  find the journey to authenticity become a reality. True authenticity comes when a leader is balanced  and consistent in work, faith, family, community and friends. The challenge is balancing effective  leadership at work and maintaining a strong personal life. Those who achieve authentic leadership are constantly working to maintain balance and stay grounded through holistic lives. This allows for  accountability, spending time with family and close friends, physical exercise, community service and a  commitment to spiritual practices, remembering where you came from, what values drive your values  and passions – all allowing authenticity to be sustainable.

Once a leader has worked through self awareness (which is an on going challenge), they now have  earned the right of passage (so to speak) to empower others to lead. Authentic leaders create a culture  of trust and loyalty. This culture enables the leader’s organization to retain and attract top talent that  aligns team members with shared values and goals. Team members are inspired at all levels to step up  and lead and/or take on greater challenges. Thus, authentic leaders are able to produce sustainable  results for themselves and their organization for a long term period.  At MSBCoach, we are dedicated to coaching leaders to become authentic leaders. For more information please contact us at: .

I Don’t Deserve This

I was recently traveling and stuck in Chicago International Airport for over 8 hours due to inclement weather. About every 90 to 120 minutes they would update the monitors to let us know there was still not a plane or crew for us. Typically, I would just work during this time (after finding a lucky plug in on the dirty floor of the airport); however, I had unfortunately dropped my laptop when I first arrived at the airport and completely killed my hard drive. What a string of bad luck… or was it? In my time at the airport I had nothing else to do but to walk around and enjoy a cup of coffee while I people watched. It was in my people watching I encountered an experience the inspired this blog.

I was re-filling my water bottle at the “purified” water dispenser when a lady approached me in a panic and said, “Do you have a cell phone”? I don’t know about you, but this is a question I was not sure how to answer. Come on… who does not have a cell phone these days? You can go to any elementary school and the six year olds have more advanced cell phones than I do! I reluctantly answered, “Yes, I have a cell phone”. She proceeded to ask me if I could call her… she said she just had her phone and now she could not find it. I put my things down and called her cell phone. We went through this process several times as she would plunder through all of her bags… including one with a little lap dog in it. Much to her dismay, she did not find her phone. One thing stood out to me while she was frantically searching for her phone. She continued to say over and over… “I don’t deserve this”. After unsuccessfully being able to help this lady I found a seat and grabbed a piece of paper to write out my thoughts for a blog from watching her.

There are many times in life where bad things happen to good people and even times when good things happen to bad people. It is a part of life. Some things we can control and some things we cannot control (I think there is a whole new blog coming to my brain on that topic, but I will save that for another time). When bad things happen to us it is up to us to decide how we will respond. Will we put ourselves in the place of feeling like thus responding as a victim or will be put our mindset on how to make the most of our situation. David Emerald wrote a book a few years ago titled, “The Power of TED*. In this book, he addresses the different places or origin we can approach our life/work situations from. Emerald take the reader through a story and shows how a person can come from one of the 3 points on the Dreaded Drama Triangle (Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer) or we can CHOOSE a more empowering path of the Empowerment Triangle which also has 3 points (creator, challenger or coach). There is no way out no matter which point you choose of the dreaded drama tringle; however, there are several ways out when you choose the Empowerment Triangle. Drama-Triangle-The-Empowerment-Dynamic Where do you find yourself as you are reading this blog post? Are you in a place of feeling frustrated and like things are happening to you that are beyond your control? If so, I encourage you to take a close look at your mindset. Are you anxiety and problem focused or are you passionate and outcome focused? How you choose to think and respond will determine your attitude, origin and outcomes.

Below are 5 questions to help move you from a problem focus to an outcome focus:

  1. If I were to step outside of myself and view this situation, what advice would I give to a loved one, friend or colleague
  2. What is within my control and what can I not control in this situation?
  3. How can I view this situation differently?
  4. Is there something new or a re-occurring lesson I can learn from this situation?
  5. How will I choose to respond differently in order to create something different for myself?

A meaningful way to process through these questions is to focus on this truth… if you change your questions, you can change your life. Gandhi once said, “Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.” What is your story? Have you experienced feeling like a victim and if so, how did you change your mind-set thus changing your situation? Have you ever witnessed someone feeling completely discouraged in a victim’s orientation? If so, what did you observe and were you able to be a coach or a challenger to them rather than to be a rescuer or persecutor? I would welcome your stories – they may inspire another reader.

If you are interested in working with a coach to learn how to move from the Drama Triangle to the Empowerment Triangle for yourself and/or a colleague or team member, please contact me today at . If you are interested in reading Emerald’s book, you can find it here

Making a space for thinking…

A manager who once told me that his goal for me was to find time for 20% open thinking time in my work day. At the time, I thought this was a silly concept considering I had so much to do and not enough time to do it. I was so busy with tasks that needed to get done. Coming from a strong work ethic background, it was actually hard for me to leave an open space in my schedule. I believed that being super busy was being the super employee. Clearly, this gift from my manager would take time and practice to understand and recognize the value.

A recent psychological study by UVA and Harvard found that people would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts. When faced with 6 to 15 minutes of time to think, many participants chose a mild electric shock rather than open time to think. “What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock…” – Wow! I guess this time to think is a common challenge!

Today’s technology devices allow us to fill every minute to be sure to get the most “productivity” out of our day. Instant, endless messages are sent at every moment of every day. The impact of this constant barrage of activity leaves us unable to quiet down often leading to exhaustion and insomnia. It becomes so uncomfortable to just be still.

I decided that taking time to think was a critical part of my wellness. I started with small steps. On the suggestion of a friend, I tried to pause to take a deep breath before opening the car door…easy right? Definitely No. I was miles down the road before I remembered my resolve… even after many attempts. Clearly this would be a long journey to change for me.

After much time and effort, I am pleased to say that I really enjoy open time to think. I had to try lots of different approaches to find a few that work for me…and I had to turn off the cell phone. Considering the research referenced, it’s no surprise that the focus on wellness continues to grow.

Personally, I am amazed at how the time to think can energize creativity. Creativity doesn’t just take the form of some amazing idea. For me, creativity fills the space with options to do things differently. Many creative ideas have been tossed aside but some have made a real difference in finding a better way to accomplish a task, partner with a co-worker, or solve a problem.

So what have I learned about the value of taking time to think? I’m happier and more creative. I have more patience for great conversations and future possibilities. I don’t really know when I lost my skills for enjoying thinking time, but I’m even more appreciative now that I have it back. My wish for you is some wonderful and enjoyable time to think…with no electric shocks. 

Is There Room for Mercy in Leadership?

“I am big on mercy”. This was the statement that caught my attention and sparked this blog. I was listening to the radio while getting ready for work a few mornings ago. The DJ made a statement about the poor performance and the mistakes being made by a certain athletic coach. The sports announcer responded with the surprising remark, “I don’t have a lot to say here… as you know…. I am big on mercy.”

I don’t remember who was talking or what was being talked about; however, this statement grabbed me, so I wrote it down. I asked myself throughout the day, “Michelle, how big are you on mercy?” I must say, mercy is not one of my strong suits. But I certainly appreciate it when I am given mercy. Mercy by definition (according to means: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm: "the boy was begging for mercy". An event to be grateful for, esp. because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering. Mercy is also identified as a noun and an adjective. However, I would argue that mercy is a verb… it is only meaningful when it is put into action. As leaders, we have the opportunity everyday to show mercy and give compassion to someone who may not “deserve” it. I do believe that the same measuring stick which we use to measure other people’s deeds will be the same measuring stick which other people will “judge” ours. I also believe in the law of “sewing and reaping” or “good karma”, whatever you choose to call it. I hope there have been times when you have received mercy when you did not deserve it, because when any of us receive mercy, we are given the opportunity to right ourselves when we have gone down the wrong path. We could all use a break sometimes.

Below are five questions to ask yourself:

  1. As a leader, how can you choose to lead and still show mercy?
  2. When and to whom do you choose to give mercy?
  3. When would it not be wise as a leader to give mercy?
  4. Are you afraid you will appear “weak” or get taken advantage of if you give mercy?
  5. Where would you value some mercy in your own life?

This blog stirred inside me before I wrote it and continues to stir inside me as I finish it. I am striving to be more merciful…. What about you? Do you have a story of how you gifted someone with mercy when they did not deserve it, or a story where someone gifted you with mercy? If so, I hope you will share it with us! If you are a leader and interested in developing new behaviors, be it in mercy or another area, I invite you to contact us today. We specialize in working with leaders like you (and me)!

Are you feeling energized or exhausted at the end of the day?

A few days ago I was sitting at my desk after dinner going through a few emails.  I was really tired, but it was not a draining tired, it was an energizing tired.  I started thinking on this a little more.  Recently I have been very tired and also exhausted, but this was different.  What had changed? I started thinking about where I am in my personal and professional life to connect the dots and identify what makes me tired and pulls the life out of me versus what makes me tired but still motivates me.  

If you think about it, you may be able to reflect on times when you have felt the same way. For example, when I completed my first half marathon, I was wiped out but also exhilarated from completing something:

  • I wanted to do,
  • I had trained for,
  • I had years of practice doing, and
  • I had set a goal to accomplish.

Life is much like this.  I appreciate the human behavior tool Emergenetics  because it helps us to identify what give us energy and what drains our energy, and not just what we are good at (it is important to know the difference).  Have you ever noticed you can be good at something and it still drains your energy?  That is because we develop competencies (skills) and become better at those skills through practice, but that does not necessarily mean that those skills are energizing. For example, I may not be good at innovation so I take some classes, read books, and surround myself with innovators.  The truth is, if this is not a natural talent for me, it will not move to strength .  That does not mean we do not develop skills in areas that are not energizing talent areas.  Sometimes we have to in order to be successful or move to the next level in our leadership roles.  However, we need to be aware that skills that are not 'raw talents' will likely not move to 'strengths'.  Further, even though we may develop competencies around them, they will most likely still drain our energy.

I realize every role we fill will have a combination of things we love to do that give us energy and things we do not like to do (even if we are good at them) that drain our energy.  This is not necessarily about getting the things off your plate that you do not like to do.  The point I hope you walk away with is one of balance.  Recognizing what gives you energy and what drains your energy and then learning how to manage yourself as well as your schedule to have a balance in your life rather than high highs of energy days and low lows of draining days.

Below are 8 steps to help you identify what gives you strengths and what zaps your energy:

  1. What time of day do you feel most energized?
  2. What are you doing when you feel motivated (example:  working at the computer on budgets, spread sheets, helping a colleague understand a work project, speaking in front of a group, etc.)?
  3. What time of day do you feel most drained?
  4. What part of your job sucks the life out of you (I usually do not have to give examples here)?
  5. How can you take responsibility over your schedule to balance having invigorating work to do during your most draining part of the day (in order to recharge your energy)?
  6. How can you take responsibility of your schedule to complete draining work during your most productive times of the day?
  7. How can you make sure you are balancing work that brings life to you each day with the things that drag you down?
  8. Is there someone on your team that would love to do the things you hate to do?  If so be purposeful and have a conversation with them about “trading” some work responsibilities.  You will be surprised how fun this conversation can be to the possibilities of bringing more stimulating work to both of you.

The bottom line is self-leadership which begins with self-awareness and moves to self-management.  Ned Herman said, “Information without application leads to fascination but information with application leads to transformation.”  We are striving for transformation.  We have too many “aha” moments and then do not do anything with them.  I would love to hear from you.  Have you ever found that you are exhausted but energized and/or exhausted and totally fatigued?  If so, what did you do with that discovery?  How do you balance your schedule for the things that give you energy versus the things that drain your energy?

When's the Last Time You Checked Your Alignment?

walkthewalk“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”, Mahatma Gandhi.  This is a meaningful quote and one I find to be true.  I have worked in leadership and with leaders for over 20 years and I am still surprised (although I should not be) when I work with a smart, experienced, and a well read (in leadership) leader who knows all the right things to say, yet does not practice what they preach.  For a leader’s credibility and influence, it is invaluable that their words and behaviors align.  Nothing will destroy trust in the leader and the organization faster than this lack of alignment. Several years ago I had a colleague who worked with an organization that was having many challenges.  This colleague worked for several years trying to get to the root of the problem.  She slowly peeled the onion, building trust and uncovering the source of the “cancer”.  Eventually the true root was revealed.  The CEO constantly spoke of honesty, integrity, and family values, and how important all of these things were to him and the organization, and all the while he was having an affair with a subordinate within the organization.  His lack of alignment was not hidden, even though he thought it was… and even when people do not know exactly “why”, they can usually discern when sincerity is not “real”. This is one extreme example of words and actions not aligning.  However, misalignment shows up in many forms, such as respecting people, valuing time, being dependable, not gossiping, taking care of your mental and physical health… just to name a few.  The truth is that none of us are 100% perfect at leadership alignment, but we should always be striving to be as close to perfection as possible. Are there any places in your personal or professional leadership that are out of alignment?  Are there things (even the smallest things) that you do not want others to know about?  If so, I challenge and encourage you to ask yourself “why? “ Remember the quote we opened with:  “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”.  You will not only be a better leader when you are in alignment, but you will also sleep better at night, be healthier, and enjoy more meaningful work and personal relationships.  To thine own self be true first. Below are 5 questions for the “thought leaders” to ask themselves:

  1. What are your values?
  2. How do your leadership behaviors reflect these values?
  3. When have you been out of alignment?
  4. Are you usually in alignment?
  5. If I asked your team members, colleagues, bosses, friends and family members this question, would they give the same answer that you did?

If you would like an accountability partner to work with you on your leadership alignment, you can read more here or contact us.  Having a leadership coach is a meaningful way to begin or enhance this journey, and “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, Lao-tzu.

Could Relationship Be the Motivational "Carrot" You’re Looking For?

My husband and I recently traveled to Italy with several of our family members.  We were fortunate enough to be hosted by dear friends of my in-laws who are natives of Pesaro. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful; the architecture was inspirational. I enjoyed the savory food and delectable wine, but what most impressed me most was the allure and authenticity of the people and their relationships.

From the moment we met our new “friends”, we were embraced as family.  We did not have to “do” anything to earn or deserve their affection… we didn’t even have to “wait” for a certain period of time to prove ourselves.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  We were welcomed with warm smiles, holding of hands, sincere hugs, kisses on the cheek and instantly meaningful conversation.  I immediately became skeptical (even though I loved it).  I thought… “This is just because they are long term friends of my in-laws”.   Over the course of 10 days in Italy, I found this sort of charm and openness to be legitimate in relationships and consistent with most of the people I met.  We were also fortunate enough to be in a location that was not populated with tourists. So, our experience was authentically Italian.  Whether I was meeting someone in a shop or observing total strangers interact, relationships were the center focus.

This experience caused me to reflect on my own view of relationships and how I interact with strangers, new acquaintances, and even a friend I run into, on the street.  I have a tendency to be very focused (especially during work hours).  If a specific time was not scheduled, I rush any “interruptions” or “spontaneous encounters” in order to get back to my scheduled agenda.  I realize in doing this, I may be missing out on much of the richness of life that my Italian friends have mastered.

As I reflected on my own behaviors in relationships, I began to think about the importance of relationships in leadership.  If you have spent any time developing yourself as a leader, you know relationships are a vital part of being successful.  I wonder how many of us know this in our head as true (theory) but struggle to genuinely practice it.  I realize I do.  Even though I have spent years talking about how important relationships are, my short time in another country proved I do not practice it as much as I should. 

I am writing this to challenge myself and other leaders like me to make room for spontaneity in relationships and to embrace a less guarded approach… an approach that focuses on the individual and what they are saying and not on the next meeting.  I also encourage you (and myself) to not be afraid to appropriately give a hug or a pat on the shoulder.  I think we may both discover this to be rewarding both personally and professionally.  I am also confident there is a positive unintended by-product of truly connecting with people. Many times, we're looking for all kinds of ways to motivate people. Cultivating relationship frees up that mental energy we're using, because sincere and meaningful relationships are the motivational carrot that brings loyalty, commitment and drive.  I realize my behavior may never be as my new friends in Italy; however, I can work to be a little more like them.

What are your thoughts on this subject? If this is an area you would like to further develop in, I'd encourage you to contact us to discuss leadership coaching.

Where Happiness Lies

I doubt that anyone would so bluntly make the statement, “I want you to make me happy”. However, many people live a life that reflects this very statement. Remarks such as, “My boss is running my life”, “my ‘significant other’ makes life so boring”, or “life would be great if it were not for …. (you fill in the blank)”. Despite knowing that happiness begins internally, many people still rely upon others, things or circumstances to make them happy. Francois De La Rochefoucauld said, "When we cannot find contentment in ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere. "Denis Waitley made a powerful observation when he said, "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."

What is it that makes a person happy? Better yet, what personally makes you happy? Happiness by definition is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy (Wikipedia). I am no longer surprised when I ask the question, “What makes you happy?” and the responses are centered around things, titles, jobs, ages (I once was or will be), place they are in life, or other people’s behavior. While we need to strive to fulfill goals and ambitions in order to keep ourselves growing, happiness is learning to be peaceful where we are. It is being self-aware of the things that bring you joy and contentment despite other events that may be occurring. I am convinced that many people in our Western culture do not know what makes them happy, and they are looking in all the wrong places. When or if they find what they thought they were looking for, they are disappointed to discover that the things they sought did not bring them the happiness that they had longed for.

So how does a person find happiness? This is a good question, and a question that no one else can answer for you. It is an answer you have to discover for yourself. Below are 11 questions to help you identify the things that make you happy:

  • How would you define peaceful and content?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • When are you the happiest (long term, not temporarily)?
  • How do you respond when you are unhappy, and how do you move past this unhappiness to re-center?
  • What do you do to give back to others?
  • What gives you energy?
  • What people in your life fuel you up and in return, are fueled up by you?
  • What do you value and how are you living each day according to those values?
  • Do the people in your life align with your values?
  • Are there areas in your life where you are compromising? (Compromising will certainly weigh on your happiness)
  • Is it too difficult for you or others to please you? Conversely, are you too easy to please? smiley_symbol

I remember a story my Dad used to tell. It goes like this:

An older gentleman and his granddaughter were sitting on a bench outside the city market,enjoying a soda and the sunshine when a stranger pulled up. The stranger asked the older gentleman, “Can you tell me a little about this town… I am thinking about moving my family here.” The older gentleman, replied, “Well welcome… we are glad to have you, tell me a little about where you came from”. The stranger then replied, “Oh, we loved our community… there were lots of friendly people, my work was meaningful, it is sad to leave. However, I have been offered a new position in this town and I am here to check it out.” To this, the older gentleman replied, “that sounds exactly like our town… I believe you and your family will love it here.”

A little time later another stranger pulled up and said, “Hey old timer, tell me a little about this town”… again to this the older gentleman replied, “Welcome… we are glad to have you, tell me a little about where you came from.” The stranger began his story, “To tell you the truth, I hate where I live right now, the people are not friendly and my work drives me crazy; however, I am interviewing for a job here today and I thought things might be a little different here.” To this the old gentleman replied, “It sounds like the town you live in is exactly like our town.” The stranger got in his car and as he drove away he said, “Thanks old man, I figured it wouldn’t be any better”.

The older gentleman’s granddaughter looked at him in bewilderment and asked, “Grandpap, why did you tell each stranger a different sorry about our town?” The grandpap replied, “Because honey, everything is exactly what we make it!”

Your level of happiness is a choice, but you need to first identify the sources of your happiness in non-tangible ways. The questions above will help you to do just that. I encourage you to practice happiness for the next 30 days. I challenge you to start or end each day identifying at least three things you are grateful for. You will be amazed at the end of the 30 days when you find that you have created a remarkable new habit, and discover that you are much happier because of your gratitude. We typically realize that we have a lot more to be happy about when we just slow down long enough to identify the good things in our lives. If you do not feel happier after careful introspection, then it is time to take charge and make some changes in your life. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be,“ said Abraham Lincoln.

What about you? What do you do to be happy? How would you identify happiness? What do you do when you find yourself unhappy? We would love to hear your stories. I also invite you to contact us if you are interested in working with a coach to help you move past the extrinsic motivators of happiness to discover the intrinsic motivators of happiness as you learn how to balance the two.

Help! Our meetings are sucking the life out of our team!

I remember early in my leadership career, I hated meetings. I had to attend so many of them that I could hardly get my job done. I remember thinking, “what a wasteful use of everyone’s time and the company’s money”.

One of the many reasons the meetings were so dreadful was because they (more often than not) lasted way to long and whoever was leading them only spoke one language… “theirs”. When you are a leader, it is valuable to know your own language (this is self-awareness), but you also need to know how to speak the language of others. Each brain (person) is unique in the way they think,  and behave, even how people gain or lose energy is different. At MSBCoach we primarily use a tool called Emergenetics  Human Behavior Assessment to help leaders learn this important information. Emergenetics is a brain/science based tool to help individuals better understand how their brain works, what gives them energy and what drains their energy. It also helps them understand the brains (thinking, behaviors and energy patterns) of others. This is important if you want to be an effective leader and lead meaningful (not wasteful or boring) meetings that engage every brain.

Emergenetics divides the brain into four thinking preferences and three behavioral preferences:

Thinking Preferences:

  • Green – Structural – prefer consistency, procedures, tradition, practical, predictable, learns by doing
  • Blue – Analytical – prefer credible data, logical, clear thinker, rational, learns by analysis
  • Yellow – Conceptual – prefer ideas, brainstorming, imaginative, visionary, learns by doing
  • Red – Social – prefer people, connecting, working together, socially aware, empathetic, learns from people

Behavioral Preferences:

  • Expressive – may prefer to get energy from being quiet, alone or in small groups or the other end of the spectrum prefer getting energy from being a gregarious and a performer
  • Assertive – may prefer to get their energy from being quiet, maintaining peaceful energy or the other end of the spectrum and prefer to get their energy from driving hard and fast to get things done
  • Flexible – may prefer to get their energy through sticking to decisions once they are made or may prefer to get their energy to being open to what others want

The thing to remember as a leader is that there is not a right or wrong, it is just different. Each one of the behavioral and thinking preferences brings strength to the team.

We do not all think or behave alike. This is not rocket science to you I am sure, yet it is amazing how many leaders lead their people and run their meetings all the same way. Running effective meetings is brain science and Emergenetics can help leaders to be successful. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t understand  the science behind effective meetings and and they do what they know as the “best way”… which is the way “they” prefer to think and behave. This may be effective with people who are just like them, but, the opposite happens with people who have different preferences from them. Take for example, Erica is the boss, and is structural/left brained. Her meetings always start and end on time, they are by the book, expected and predictable. People always know what to expect. But what happens when Steven who is social/right brained wants some time to connect with people and he never gets it? or Tom who is analytical/left brained and wants to discuss the research and data but tends to get shut down because his topic is not on the agenda? Anthony who is conceptual/right brained and wants to share his ideas and possibilities for the future, and he is told to, “focus”. What happens is brain science, these team members disengage and Erica with the best of intentions has lost them, and is not leading effective meetings with her team.

Here are four tips to help leaders bring brain science into their meetings and make them more effective:

  1. Be self-aware of your own thinking and behavioral preferences when leading meetings - you will have a bias to lead out of them because they are familiar and comfortable to you
  2. Recognize there are several other combinations of thinking and behavioral preferences and their preferences need to be met in order to keep good energy, ideas, information, structure and connection in the meeting room and to the team
  3. Leveraging and valuing all seven of the preferences will greatly benefit you and the team
  4. Be sure your meetings tap into all seven aspects of the brain:
  • Have an agenda and send it out in advance
  • Be sure to include time for the following:
    • People to connect
    • Sharing of ideas
    • Giving credible research and being practical
    • Pace the meetings so they are not too fast, nor to slow
    • Be sure to have energy with expression but not over the top
    • Be open to new possibilities and ideas even if a decision has been made
  • End on time
  • Set meeting ground rules
  • Only schedule meetings when necessary and not just because it is time for a meeting
  • If you want someone to present then know their preferences, they may need advance opportunity to prepare. Be careful ever putting people on the spot, even if it is information they know.

If you put these tips into practice, I guarantee you more effective meetings. Do you have any effective meeting tips you have discovered that work? If so, please share them with us, we would like to learn from you.

If you would like to learn more about Emergenetics for yourself personally or for your team, please contact us at or give us a call at 804-502-4319.

Purposeful Leadership


Are leaders made or are leaders born? This is an ongoing question that often triggers interesting conversations and debate. One thing is for sure, leadership is a journey and something that is continuous process.

I personally believe leaders are “made” through learning, experiences, successes, failures and choices. You are not just “born” a leader, although personalities, temperaments, upbringing, and cultural norms all play a part in what makes you who you are.

Leaders come in all styles and approaches, and thank goodness we do not have a “cookie-cutter” leadership format that is exactly what “works” in leadership. We can and should find patterns and leadership styles to learn from and look up to yet, in the end, we have to own and develop our own leadership style.

Your leadership style is formulated through your leadership journey and everyone’s is different. Your style emerges out of a combination of your past and current experiences (both personal and professional), how your values and judgments emerge from these events and your personality.

We also know from Gallup’s research on strengths that your brain is “wired” for certain potential strengths/talents that are there from birth. The difference between becoming a poor, good or great leader is based more on how you respond and learn from your experiences, as opposed to the experiences making or breaking you as a leader.

Even though nature and your experiences have both shaped and influenced your personal leadership style, one thing I feel sure of is that you will not be successful in your leadership unless you create a purposeful plan. For anything to be consistently successful requires intent.

For example, in order to take care of your body, your home, your car, and your relationships, you must give intentional attention to the success. If you don’t, things can fall apart. Your leadership is not any different.

Great artists, athletes, parents and friendships do not just happen by chance. Great leaders do not just “fall into” their greatness. It is a planned process that they are committed to and accountable for. A person or leader may have occasional success from “being lucky”, but for sustainability, calculated goals with action and accountability have to be in place.

A powerful example of a leader who was purposeful and intentional about his leadership was our third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It is said by historians that Jefferson was mindful in developing his leadership which ultimately led to his influential legacy. He did this through a careful review of his life and his career, and then selecting which contributions he deemed most important to his public service. He even went so far as to write his own epitaph: Jefferson wished to be remembered on his tombstone for three things:

  • Author of the Declaration of Independence
  • Author of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom
  • Founder of the University of Virginia

Though known today, and then, for many impressive accomplishments (such as the Louisiana Purchase), Jefferson feared that any mention of his purely political career and presidency (even on popular issues) could cloud people’s views of his leadership purpose.

By listing his main achievements in the form of broad ideas and educational purposes, Jefferson hoped to shape future interpretation of his leadership in those terms, rather than in the language of political gain. Now this is a purposeful plan; although, your plan may not be this elaborate, you still need a plan.

I encourage you to become aware of whom you want to be as a leader. Identify for yourself, what is necessary to get you where you want to go. Take time to:

  • Value, appreciate and understand where you have come from.
  • Identify the values you lead out of and how they have come into play in your life.
  • Be aware of your past and current experiences, your personality and how, combined, they influence your leadership.
  • Identify what are you doing that is creating success in your leadership.

To get started for now, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where are you not getting the results you want?
  2. What do you need to do to bring about change?
  3. Who will hold you accountable for these goals?

If you get yourself out of your comfort zone, your comfort zone will start to grow.

This exercise alone is deliberate and it will help you identify how to create greater success and give purpose to your leadership. Live, behave and dress as though you are who and where you want to be.

What can you do now to live into your purposeful leadership? You will get where you want to go much faster if you set goals and live into it now. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”, Hebrew proverb. I have worked with leaders who have said, “When I get this promotion, I will change….” My suggestion is to make those changes now and do it with intent.

I would love to hear your feedback. What have you done to live into your leadership? What have you done to be sure your leadership is on purpose? Any other ideas or suggestions you can give are welcome!

Meeting Meltdowns: Why did I say that?!!!

Did I really say that??!!!  Have you ever left an important meeting with a knot in the pit of your stomach not knowing exactly what you said but knowing that it was completely the wrong thing?  Wondering if there is damage to your relationships with key colleagues because emotions took control of your voice?

Fear not!  There are ways to better understand this emotional reaction and tools to help you use this energy for powerful and more effective messages.

First, let’s understand what is happening in your reaction.  If you have worked with personality typing such as Emergenetics or Myers Briggs (and I heartily recommend considering these tools if you haven’t), you understand our differences in how we process situations, information, and reactions to other people.  Certain ways of viewing the world are naturally more comfortable for you. So what happens to your style when stress or pressure pushes you to operate in a way that is completely outside of your usual style and comfort…and may lead you to post-meeting questions of “what was I thinking when I said THAT?”

I reference a great piece of research called In the Grip; Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function, by Naomi L. Quenk.   The premise is that when our usual dominant styles are confronted with fatigue and stress, we have an inferior reaction type, the opposite of our standard Myers Briggs type, which takes over our reactions in the frustration of the moment.

So what does this mean in real life situations?  Consider a situation when you are tired and at the end of your patience.  The reasonable “you” is now agitated, angry, and acting out of character. Backed into a corner, the opposite of your standard personality erupts in a way that is confusing to you and to others in the discussion. You can come away from a meeting wondering “who was that person?”

So how can you manage the energy of stress and ensure that you project your best self in discussions that matter? The trick is to reconnect to your comfort and style strengths by recognizing the situations that cause this level of stress and fatigue.  I recommend four basic ways to reconnect to your true type.

  1. Take a time out – Even a short trip out of the meeting room for a common excuse can give you the time to take a few deep breaths.  Although adrenalin is needed if we are in peril, it can be your enemy in a meeting full of emotional turmoil.
  2. Find the patience to listen– In a stressful meeting, messages are flying in all directions and no one is really listening.  The respect of truly listening to an alternate viewpoint can change the tempo of the whole meeting.  Try repeating the message of the “other side” and you may find that you are not as far apart as you thought.  Once you listen to their input, they may react much better to your perspective rather than your emotion.
  3. Forgive yourself and follow up - If you really “lost it” and your comments create a conflict, take accountability for a bad meeting.  Most people have experienced something similar and will react well to a sincere apology about getting caught up in the emotion of the moment.  Use this as a lesson to understand what triggers you in these situations and to manage your future reactions.  This is an opportunity for a valuable leadership lesson.
  4. Refresh your personality testing knowledge - Revisit and explore personality typing.  Myers Briggs and Emergenetics help to explain how others may view situations differently and can help immeasurably in shaping your leadership messages.

The better you understand yourself and others, the more productive your meeting discussions can be even in stressful situations.  Exploring your personal style can be an exciting journey.

MSB Coach has the resources and tools to develop with your leadership skillset by understanding personality types.  Please contact us at for further information.

A Leadership Call to Action

There is a shortage of great leaders. I recently read an article that reported the shortage of leaders as the most pressing human resource challenge that businesses are facing. This is a crisis. The gap between the challenges we face is increasing faster than the ability, or the will, to produce the leadership necessary to shorten the deficit.

It’s graduation time! I’ve been thinking about the challenges these young people will face as they enter the workforce, and thought they could use a bit of advice. As you read the letter, ask yourself if you have become the kind of leader that our world is demanding our graduates to strive to be.  If the answer is no, use it as a call to action.  Take an inventory of your training, skills, capabilities, and effectiveness and do the right thing. Now is the time and as mentioned in the letter, we are all counting on you too! And be sure to share this with the new grads in your life!

A Letter to Graduates

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You are now officially graduates! Find the time to celebrate. You definitely deserve it. Be very proud of yourselves as this is one of the greatest accomplishments that you will experience.  You have learned many things about both your limitations and your capabilities and now it is time to go out and make a difference in a world hungry for your many talents. As you navigate through life in search of new knowledge and experiences to build on your foundation, I offer this advice to take with you on your leadership journey:

  • Ask questions. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~Steven R. Covey         Everyone has a journey, knowledge and their own worldview. As you embark on your path of understanding, be receptive to and question all other people no matter how different they are from you, in either appearance or thought. In fact, the more different they are, the more your own worldview will expand.
  • Think before you act. Take the time to give yourself a chance to process your words and actions before you proceed. Create in your mind’s eye a story, complete with a beginning and end, of the path you are about to take. Evaluate the imagined results to increase your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Never stop learning. You can put away your books, but you must always be a student. The world is dynamic. We will never know all that there is to know. The best we can do is to keep our minds and hearts open to this wonderfully vibrant creation.
  • Listen. A colleague once told me, that the greatest gift you can give someone is to listen. Spend less time talking and more time listening. Hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing just happens; listening is intentional. Effective listening is an art that must be learned and constantly practiced.
  • Constantly evaluate your surroundings. Be present and aware. Put down your cell phone and interact with the people around you. Don’t be a bystander. You must anticipate and prepare for anything and everything you may encounter.
  • Be empathetic. In my opinion, empathy is the greatest trait a leader can have. Walk a mile in your own shoes and you will get to the next town. Walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes and you will get around the world. I can’t say it better than the author, Daniel H. Pink: “Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”
  • Find something to believe in.  Find a cause, religion, a community organization, politics, or all of the above. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Leaders always find a way to give of themselves to aid in the betterment of the world. Perform small acts of kindness: lend a hand, cause a smile, wipe a tear, warm a heart – give of yourself in these ways, and I promise, you will be rewarded.*

As graduates and future leaders, we are all counting on you. Find your place in the world and use all that you have and will learn, to, as Michael Jackson said, “Make it a better place for you and me.” *This life insurance commercial from Thailand captures it best.