Archive for leadership

Self-Awareness Made Simpler!


Self-awareness is vital for today’s Leader. In fact, self-awareness is a component of emotional intelligence and it has been shown as an important dimension of successful business leaders. In a recent study, Green Peak Partners and Cornell University examined 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion, and found that “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success”.

There are many benefits to receiving feedback about how others perceive us. It may:
[  ]  Teach us more about how others see us across various relationships
[  ]  Illuminate several blind spots we’ve yet to see, or confirm what we already know about ourselves
[  ]  Highlight a talent we tend to display, but have yet to “own”
[  ]  Restore our confidence in the value we bring to others

Leadership is about influence, so knowing thyself & how we are perceived by others can mean the difference between influencing others or not! In my opinion, one of the best ways to become more knowledgeable of how you’re seen by others is by seeking feedback. The best way to seek feedback is to simply ask!

I decided to learn more about how others currently perceive me, here’s how I did it. I texted people I trust and have known for many years because there were more opportunities to experience me over time. At the same time, there are fewer instances of those in this group only noticing ’thin slices’ of my behavior. I kept my request simple because these are people I know and trust.

Here’s the request I sent to each of them:
“Hello ______! Quick question for you: What 5 words spring to mind when you think about working or interacting with me and the type of person I am?”

As I received feedback, I went to a free online Wordcloud generator and added the words, because I wanted a visual reminder of this feedback. I also followed up with each respondent and provided them with a copy of my Wordcloud as a ‘Thank You’ for taking the time to help me.

Note: Some of the nouns and/or adjectives others choose to describe me were not be what I would have chosen, but I went with the exact words I was provided. Remember – it’s important to honor those who’ve taken time to provide you with feedback, so be aware that changing the actual words received as feedback to suit a word you might instead use, will change the respondent’s original intent!

The results I received appear as a Wordcloud below. The larger the word, the more times it was repeated. As you can see – the word “Passionate” was repeated most often followed by Intelligent, Energetic, etc.

So, which specific words are others using to describe working or interacting with YOU?

Which specific words are others using to describe the type of person they perceive YOU to be?

Keep this in mind: others are already asking & have already asked about your mode of interaction! Do you know the answers being provided on your behalf?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it – is to become more self-aware and learn how others perceive you!

I trust this process will serve you!

Please leave your questions and comments below.

Overcoming Underwhelm


shutterstock_297916058During my recent teleseminar focused on how to get out of our own way and reduce the amount of overwhelm in our lives, one of the participants brought up the subject of being underwhelmed. She described her particular situation as one where she expected much more from the role she accepted. She realized that she:

  • wasn’t given an opportunity to display her array of capabilities,
  • had limited or no opportunity to make the positive impact she anticipated,
  • felt unfulfilled and eventually characterized this as a dead-end role, although she was a long-term employee with this company.

She went on to describe how frustrating underwhelm is for her.

Have you been there? Are you there now?

I admitted not having heard the term before, and determined to learn more about it. I’ve since learned that being underwhelmed at work is a form of worker discontent, which is related to a lack of employee satisfaction. In human resources circles, employee satisfaction appears to be of ongoing concern to employers, as (among other things) it can affect the productivity of those employees who decide to remain with their employer, and the lack of satisfaction can be a catalyst for employees to make a job or career change. I learned that one of many possible resolutions is for companies to help by training employees to recognize and reconcile their own career contentment. This solution is focused on empowering the employee and giving them control over their careers, rather than relying on employers to satisfy workers.

We all recognize the sense of control a person feels when they are empowered to own their career and job fulfillment. If you find yourself in this position, here is a plan of action you can immediately employ to help decrease the underwhelm in your career and, at the same time, perhaps increase your career contentment.

  1. Get clear on what you want in your job and overall career!
  • Begin with your vision and consider your ideal work environment in addition to your specific role within that environment. This planning step helps to ensure you are proactive, and have considered how you might fit with your next assignment or job.
  • Condense these thoughts into a plan that explains the action steps you believe are necessary to leverage your gift(s), talents, transferrable skills and tangible experience when the opportunity arises.
  • Remove the emotionality from this pursuit. Begin with the mindset that this is an experiment to be learned from, and your chances of success will increase greatly.
  1. Communicate your plan with intention and humility!
  • Refresh your resume and use updated keywords & description of your skills.
  • Connect with your network inside and mentors outside the company, and use humility to explain your plan and proposed action steps. This may help to broaden your perspective.
  • Enhance your initial plan due to the conversations with your network.
  • Schedule time and talk with your current leadership. Be transparent about your feelings of underwhelm.
  • Describe how your proposed plan will help make leadership’s job easier by allowing you to take more responsibility. Also explain how your proposal makes greater use of your transferrable skills, education, and overall tangible capabilities. Although no boss is under any obligation to amend your current role to better leverage your skills, I’ve seen this happen so expect the best outcome.
  1. Follow through & evaluation.
  • The feedback from your leadership can have several outcomes. Either they’re:
    • open to giving you more responsibilities,
    • not convinced of your capabilities and want to learn more,
    • sure of what you’re capable of, and aren’t open to giving you more,
    • going to propose an alternative you haven’t considered or are interested in further conversation about your future.

Remember that feedback is a gift, and either of these responses should lead you to evaluate your progress to this point. This evaluation should move you toward the corresponding next action step in your overall plan, to a request to dialogue further, or to something else you didn’t anticipate. In either case, you aren’t waiting for anyone to approach you about your future. You are fully empowered and your career is your responsibility!

Use this action plan to avoid underwhelm & gain an UNfair AdvantageTM in your career.

Please leave your comments and questions below!

Mentoring: 6 Actions That Add Value!

32e023aThere are no shortage of requests for my time from my former students. Some of them want to “bounce ideas,” others want to work toward solutions in their entrepreneurial pursuits, still others are looking for career advice or personal development tips. While I’m happy to oblige in each of these areas, a small subset of them want to broaden the relationship, continue to receive advice to the point of scheduling a year’s worth of meetings, and enter into a mentoring relationship.

My opinion is that a mentee should provide value to the relationship as the process of mentoring should not be a one-way street. As a case in point of how NOT to do this, consider this story. In the spring of last year, I met with a former student who began a “side” business offering entertainment events. He asked me to look over his business plan and marketing e-mails because his initial launch didn’t go as planned, and he lost money in the process. During an hour-long conversation over lunch in early summer, I asked several coaching questions meant to check his understanding & recognition of his customer’s point of view, his competition, etc, and we had a great discussion leading him to draw several new distinctions and deeper understandings. As a result of our meeting, he revised his offering, adjusted his website and enjoyed a successful second attempt this past fall. A few weeks after his successful second attempt, he reached out and asked to schedule a series of meetings to continue our conversations, and brought up the “M” word.

Internally, I appreciated that he would reach back out to me to continue a relationship. At the same time, it occurred to me that I was not invited to his entertainment event, nor was there a note to say what worked and how our conversation helped as a summary. When I considered his request more deeply, I realized it wasn’t about a lack of monetary remuneration (we meet over lunch), but at the core, there may be ways he could add value to our relationship. Given that, here are six relational and technical actions I’ve used over the years when interacting with my Mentors and Mentees.

1) Send an agenda 24 – 48 hrs in advance of the meeting. This action helps you to organize and articulate your thoughts. This tip also gives your Mentor an idea of your oral and written communication skills, and whether or not they should bring anything additional to help make the conversation more robust and valuable. Further, it helps to set time parameters to the conversation by indicating a definite beginning and ending. (NOTE: If you’ll contribute to the conversation by commenting to this post and request an agenda template via email at, I’ll forward my favorite template.)

2) Invite your Mentor to share in your successes and “near successes.” In the aforementioned scenario, my potential Mentee could have invited me to his entertainment event, and our future conversations could be richer because of my firsthand experience with his endeavor. Conversely, I’ve had many conversations with one of my academic Mentors during my recently completed doctoral journey. I recall many days when I asked for (and received) the gift of his time and wisdom which helped me earn my terminal degree. I wanted to do something special for him and three other similar Mentors, and I thought a card, a photo from the event or even lunch would not be worthy of their contribution to my success. My solution was to invite him to a private pre and post graduation event to honor him and my family as being an important part of my journey, and he had a seat of honor at the graduation ceremony. He is also mentioned in the acknowledgments section of my dissertation as a permanent memorial of sharing in my success.

3) Ask your Mentor how you can add value to him or her. Besides being impressed that you’ve asked, this question signals a deeper level of maturity and understanding, and a true relationship. Whether it’s a short article you’ve summarized and attached in an email, the link to a short video from an expert in an area of interest, or the “heads up” on a Groupon at their favorite merchant, these actions serve to differentiate you. They also let your (potential) Mentor know that although you may need to stretch to provide value to him or her, you are willing to do just that. You may need to “think outside the box” for more value-adding ideas, but isn’t that something you currently do?

4) Provide a summary of what you’ve learned in each conversation. Verbalizing your learnings are good. Documenting them in writing, then sharing this with your Mentor is better in my opinion. This drives your learning deeper and removes all doubt about whether or not your sessions have been time well spent.

5) Send a hand-written thank you note. To say “Thank you for sharing your time with me, I am continuing to get better under your tutelage. Please let me know if you think there’s anything I should be aware of before we meet again, and I’ll do the same for you.”

6) Recognize your Mentor’s birthday or new job role. Call, email or visit to say “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations”. Take him or her to lunch and celebrate their special day. This shows you genuinely care about them as a person & not just as a silo of “free” advice.

While you aren’t limited to the number of Mentors you can potentially have, I believe the depth of your learning is in direct proportion to the amount of value you add to these relationships! Finally, remember the positive effects of these actions accrue as you practice them. Go forth and add value!