F is for Focus: Don’t Blink

Don’t blink!   A circular 3.5 inch hard round object is coming at your face at 80 mph, along with five really big guys, and there is a loud drunk trying to get your attention. Can you stay focused on the black object and stop it from going into the net behind you? Or should you duck and pay attention instead to the fire alarm that is going off and the smoke you smell?

Mastering the art and science of being able to hold your focus in the moment is a skill that is both an art and a science.  It can be the differentiator between success and failure.

It took Kevin almost two years to learn how to not blink when the puck would come at him. Kevin was a hockey goalie in high school and he was motivated. The motivation to be an NHL goalie is gone now, but his laser-like focus remains.  Whether it’s training to be an NHL hockey goalie or delivering projects, getting a promotion, or achieving any goal, it requires the skill of focus, lots of practice, and motivation.   And sometimes learning a new skill can be uncomfortable, painful, and messy.

I love this video and use it in workshops, to start a discussion about focus, being too focused and not being focused enough.   I missed it, the first time I saw this video, did you?



Coming Up Next Week…

Top Ten Tips for  Creating a Focus Framework

E is for Exiting and Five More Strategies

Leaders exit proactively.   They know when and how to leave a situation, role, relationship, or job.    Exiting can be painful, unexpected, frustrating and dramatic.  Here’s five more strategies for exiting (and a bonus).


6.  Trust you Intuition – Intuition is your unconscious pattern recognition device. It finds connections between a new situation and past experiences. Even then it may be hard to express what your intuition is saying in an analytical and logical way. Learn to listen to your intuition and be curious about it, even if there is no seemingly apparent logic there.  Is your gut screaming at you to leave?

7.  Make an Exit Game – How many days and ways? What can you count and measure about numbers relevant to exiting? How many ways can you make it a healthy exit (acknowledgements, thank you, clean ups, transitions)   How many lessons can you learn before exiting?  What’s the name of your exit game and how do you play it?

8.  Separate Feelings from Actions – Exiting can be emotional, difficult, uncomfortable, and not like anything else you have done. There may be strong feelings of loss, longing, relief, or joy. Plan for these feelings, know that they will arise.   Notice them and know how you want to respond to them.   Simply notice the feeling and say, there goes my brain releasing chemicals and producing a sensation of _ _ _ _ (whatever your feelings are). I know what I want to do and will continue to exit.  What action or behaviors might stop you from exiting?  How can you plan alternative behaviors or actions when those feeling arise?

9.  Be compassionate with yourself and know your exit style – Exiting is natural. We all have at least one grand exit in life, death. Know that changing and exiting is part of life, whether it’s the small things like a job or house or friendship or your final exit.   Accept that there will be many exits in your life and that it is natural.  As each human being and culture is different so is our preferred exit style.  Do you want to go out in a grand exit like Tom Cruise in “Show me the Money”?  Or quietly like Carl Sandburg’s fog that comes “on little cat feet”?  What’s your personal exit style – grand, quiet, harmonious, learning-focused, fun?

10.  Focus on Entering – What’s next? Where are you going after you exit? By exiting this job, situation, place, or relationship what is now possible?   What new doors might open up that are more fulfilling, interesting or better-aligned to you?     By focusing on the possibility of what’s next and making it as tangible and real as possible, it can provide that extra push or energy to exit.    Where are you entering next?

Bonus Strategy:   Run.  If all else fails, just go!

Did I miss any exiting strategies?  Have you used any of them?


Coming Up Next Week…

F is Focus: Don’t Blink

E is for Exit

Leaders exit proactively.   They know when and how to leave a situation, role, relationship, or job.    Exiting can be painful, unexpected, frustrating and dramatic.   Exiting can also be exciting and challenging.  Exiting can be both good and bad.  There are ex-jobs,ex-companies, ex-spouses, expats, ex-presidents, ex-players and more.   Leaders actively look for the next door to walk Conceptual image with opened doors as new way entrance to new worldthrough.  When possible, they exit in a professional and graceful way.  Proactively exiting may involve an exit plan or be driven by a clear outcome that you are moving towards.  Healthy exits may be in lessons learned or in being able to continue a working relationship.  Leaders are active and decisive in exiting one door and entering another.

1.  Pick a Date and Graduate  Not all exits are bad. Completing school or projects are reasons to celebrate and do something that is meaningful and acknowledges the exit, like a party or ceremony. If exiting something is hard, pick a date and create a public celebration to honor the exit.   It could be as simple as shouting it out on social media, celebrating a meal with a friend, or sending yourself a gift in the mail.   Celebrate the ending.  Divorce parties are becoming popular.  What ceremony can you create to honor your exit?

2.  Find a Partner in Crime – Finding yourself hesitant to exit or wanting to exit too fast? Who else do you know who is in a similar situation who needs to exit? Having a buddy can validate your decision and provide you with someone to compare notes, someone to offer and receive emotional support from, and generally who will make exiting smoother and easier. Who’s your exiting buddy?

3.  Hold Yourself Accountable – Like anyone who commits to something out loud in front of other people, when you publically commit to exiting you are more likely to do it. What do you need to say, and to whom, about your commitment to exit?

4.  Use the Three-Strikes-Out Rule – Know yourself and be specific about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. If I don’t (deliver, get money, get promotion, get included) …. If they don’t (listen, follow rules, say thank you, stop cheating) …. If I can’t do this by this date, I’m out, I’m leaving, I’m done.  Here’s an example, if they don’t finish after three tries, they are fired!   What are your boundaries and limits?

5.  Use Analysis and Logic – Are you a distributor of cassette tapes and have been since 1971? There are facts and figures that show that cassette tapes are a dying business, so why are you trying to grow it? Your own pro and con list or a SWOT table (Your Strengths, Your Weaknesses, External Opportunities, External Threats) are just two tools you can use to apply logic.   Are the facts telling you to exit?

What are you grateful for exiting and did you use any of these strategies?

Coming Up Next Week…

5 more exiting strategies!

E is for Exiting and Entering

doorI was happily evicted. My only eviction notice arrived a few days before Thanksgiving.  I was shocked and trembled.   I’ve always paid my bills on time and worked at getting a good credit rating.  Was it a midlife crisis or the wild child in me breaking out?

I attribute my eviction to what I teach.   I believe in walking my talk.  After stressing about the eviction notice for a few days I realized it was exactly what I wanted and became ecstatic.   I could give up my downtown office and move into my new home office!   I had gotten clear on the outcome I wanted, an useable office – and I now had it.

I had repeatedly reached out to the landlord to discuss, without success, the unusable office situation. So when I was expected to pay an unexpected office-related bill, I didn’t pay it.  That is exactly the kind of thing I teach – to be proactive, get clear on the desired outcomes, and take action.   The biggest stumbling block of many high-achieving managers I work with is inaction due to the lack of details and data – not knowing the exact outcomes and how to get there.  Happily evicted is not how I envisioned it playing out nor was I sure of all the facts as I trudged forward.   I ended up with results better than I imagined.  I walked my talk.

The office rental management company wanted an extra $300 for summer A/C usage.  I guessed this wasn’t legal or fair for many reasons (including wording in a lease).  In addition to the office being too hot, there were other reasons the office was unusable, such as guys carrying guns in the hallway and never enough available bathrooms.

After months of communicating by email and phone I was served an eviction notice – pay now or be gone in 7 days.   After days of all-consuming stress, I happily chose to leave.  Bottom line, I didn’t hire a lawyer, didn’t get obsessed with the details.   I got clear on my desired outcome – a usable office – and repeatedly took action toward that outcome.   I saved thousands of dollars in an uncompleted lease and exited a bad situation.  I now can work in my jammies and am more productive.  In celebration I donated some of the unpaid rent to charity. I got the results I wanted, not in the way I envisioned, and took action without knowing all the details.

Knowing how to exit a situation, a relationship, a project, or job is a skill of successful leaders.

Leaders choose to enter or create situations, relationships, jobs, and projects that will advance a vision.

As one door closes (or is left ajar) another more productive door opens. When did you exit a situation that turned out to be good and you didn’t think it would be?


D is for Doing: Definitions and Starters/Stoppers

“Doing” is what moves you, a team, or a community forward (or backwards).

Doing is taking action, performing, or executing.

Here are some other definitions of doing:
• The opposite of being
• Making something happen
• Moving towards a goal or vision
• Manifestation of thought
• Turning ideas into reality

What’s your definition of doing?

Answering these questions may help you uncover your definition of and beliefs about doing:

Where is all this “doing” taking me and when will I get there?
ME: I’m not sure and I have a direction I’m heading in, based on a vision with some goals. YOU?

What is the right balance of doing and being?
ME: I struggle with too much doing and not enough being, I’m practicing just being. Wish me luck on meditation. YOU?

Nike encourages us to “Just do it.” Do you believe that?
ME: I’d rather do some planning first, rather than being lost in the middle of the woods (something that has actually happened to me!). YOU?

Leaders do it in an inspiring and motivating way.

ME: Yes, I believe that and it’s something I study, teach, and practice, because being inspiring and motivating doesn’t come naturally to me. I do also practice “being” – being present, being centered. This edition of Elements offers you 10 tips for effective doing.

Effective Doing

To create successful “doing” – movement towards desired results – there must be relevant and effective skills, knowledge, and desire. Successful doing can be described as being in the flow. “Flow” is the perfect moment of integrated doing and being that moves things forward. Effective doing is being on target, on task, engaged and learning.

What Prevents Us from Doing?

What stops one person from doing may be someones inspiration to action.  Which conditions in the grid below STOP you from doing and which ones INSPIRE you to do?


Leaders are calm, comfortable, and confident with doing things that are new, unknown, exciting, or challenging, and in uncertain situations.

Next post:  Top 10 Best Practices for Effective Doing

Action Word and Brick Wall in Background

Top 10 Communication Challenges and 2 Solutions

Top Ten Communication Challenges

The standard for what a good communicator is has been based on the culture of American business.

1. Not Understandable – Sometimes a speaker’s voice is too soft or too loud, or it conveys an underlying emotion that’s not desirable for the communication being given. Speaking too fast, using slang, acronyms, or speaking with an accent can make the message less clear. Speaking like a Disney Channel character or a CNN anchor is considered understandable to most people in the United States.

2. Too Serious or Too Nervous – Being too serious or too nervous interferes with another person’s ability to hear and understand you. Research proves that when you are calm and relaxed people are more open to hearing and understanding what you say (and you get bonus points for genuine humor and laughter). Learning how to calm yourself and relaxing can be useful!

3. Technology Monsters – Technology and props can support the message or they can make it harder for people to understand what you are trying to get across. Slides, props, and visuals make a more powerful communication if used properly, as long as they don’t become the focal point of your talk. Complex numbers and ideas benefit from supportive visuals. If you are discussing something not commonly known, a visual can help to “organize” the information for those who are finding out about it for the first time. (e.g. minions, snow apocalypse)

4. Winging it – Don’t do it. Important communication requires planning. Get clear about what needs to be communicated before the communication occurs. What’s the intended outcome? How much research is needed? Are complexities made clear? What are the key facts, beliefs, feelings? Are there time limits around the communication ? Constraints? Who is the intended audience? What is known about the audience? Is there a larger agenda or event structure to be worked with? To fly you must have a flight plan.

5. Shoulda/Coulda/Musta – Story Needed. Stop telling others what to do. You can make the same point in an indirect and memorable way by using stories. Stories can be powerful, keep an audience’s attention, and can help them relate both to you and to the matter at hand. Telling stories well isn’t easy for everyone, but anyone can get better with practice! Cinderella did lots of hard work before she got to the ball.

6. Broken Connection – Are your listeners falling asleep or checking their phones? When you look out and see them making eye contact, holding themselves in an alert body posture, or nodding in agreement they are either faking it or acknowledging your communication. If the proper emotional response occurs at the right time, chances are they also understanding. If not, adjust your communication – stop, ask a question, use an individual’s name, listen to them.

7. To Push or Pull ? – “Get out!! Fire!” is an example of “pushing” information and is appropriate for that kind of situation. “Pulling” information is used to draw out information. Pulling is a technique used to keep a listener connected to you. Collaboration in a conversation requires pushing and pulling back and forth, so that a solution emerges. Keep in mind: whose turn is it to talk now?

8. Talks too much – Stopping to let your words “sink in” can be a powerful communication strategy. Using silence to get a reading on how the audience is reacting before proceeding can be very useful in adapting your message for effectiveness. In great storytelling, using silence at a critical juncture can heighten an effect that you would like to create. Silence is golden.

9. Unaligned voice or body language
When words, gestures, body language, and voice are aligned to convey a message, understanding is easier. Telling a sad story in a happy tone is confusing. So is saying “yes” or agreeing to something while shaking your head “no.” These examples of unaligned communication send mixed messages and make understanding more difficult.

10. Meandering – While in your own mind your communication may be perfectly clear, to your listeners it may seem like disconnected phrases, statements, and questions that don’t add up or go anywhere. There is nothing memorable for them to take away and people leave confused. Keep a communication goal in mind so you (and your audience) can get where you want to go!

Two Ways to Improve on Your Challenges

1. Feedback – Get feedback any way you can and review it consistently. It’s very easy to do with technology. Video tape or audio record yourself. Ask someone else to video tape or record you. Ask others for specific feedback, and allow them to give it to you directly or anonymously. Most people are fairly aware of their communication challenges. It’s the blind-spots and the impact of their communication challenges that are more difficult to see.

2. Be a Professional – Professional athletes practice and are constantly trying something new to improve. Practice, practice, practice.
How would you communicate what this picture is saying?



C is for Communication: It’s just a 3 Step Dance

C is for communication, it’s a big and all-encompassing word. It’s a foundation for successful leaders, people, projects, companies, and relationships. Finding communication a “challenge” at an early age made me appreciate it more! I didn’t say a single optional word in first grade. When I was sixteen I snuck out and paid with my own money to attend an assertiveness training workshop. Not being a natural communicator, I’ve spent my life learning to speak up and communicate better, and somewhere along the line I figured out how important communication is. Leaders can inspire and motivate others with a look or a single phrase. When the university I work for started a graduate level Project Management Course, the course I believed was the most important, and that I helped to create and then teach, was Leadership and Communication for Project Managers. In this class, each student became the class leader for 10 minutes to review one homework assignment. From that class and other personal sources below I have listed the top ten communication challenges.


Communication is a three-step dance.

Step one – You put a message out – Honey I’m cold, can you pass me the blanket?

Step two – The message is acknowledged. Honey says, “yes” or shakes his head.

Step three – The message is understood – Honey hands you the blanket.

If I’m not acknowledged (step 2), I might get frustrated and keep asking for what I want in different ways: Please pass me the blanket.   Is there a blanket next to you? Are you using the blanket? If I’m acknowledged (step 2) and not understood (step 3), I might rephrase the message, I might get mad, I might get up and get the blanket that is next to Honey.   Honey may understand (step 3) my request differently, and instead of getting me a blanket he might hug me or get up and turn up the heat or tell me to get a sweater.   All three steps keep repeating until clarity and understanding occur. If the communication dance stops before understanding happens, communication breakdowns and misunderstandings occur that can lead to:


  • Stress
  • Overwhelm
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Conflicts
  • Difficult relationships
  • Trouble getting results
  • Divorce

Excellent communicators are flexible and adaptable in the three-step dance.   The ability to communicate effectively reduces stress, improves influencing ability, and increases trust.


Next Post is:  Top 10 Communication Challenges and 2 Solutions

B is for Balance and 10 Balance Challenges

Canada Geese Flying at Sunrise BALANCE

Falling down; falling off; and falling asleep when you shouldn’t be are all signs of being out of balance. Being out of balance can occur if you are surrounded by chaos and change or even with leisurely pastimes. Being balanced is a personal equation and requires constant readjustment and navigation.

Great leaders are Aware and proactively make difficult tradeoffs and choices to stay balanced.

When balanced, you:
• Are standing upright, not falling
• Have clear choices on where to spend your time and energy
• Know when to say no and yes
• Have a sense of heading in the right direction
• Move forward with more ease

Being out of balance:
• Can be life threatening
• Can be the cause of poor health
• Is stressful in large or small ways
• Can have an impact on family and relationships
• Is overwhelming
• Is confusing
• Can contribute to a lack of focus and results

Someone who is out of balance may appear to be: frazzled, withdrawn, overwhelmed, over committed, constantly starting and stopping, multitasking, and have difficulty making decisions.

The need to rebalance can come from internal or external sources – things like traffic, company growth or reorganization, or a personal commitment to change. Being balanced requires good time management, knowing what’s important to you, what tasks to take on, and where those tasks are taking you.

Ten Balance Challenges

1. Know your elements – Know thyself and the type of elements you want to keep in balance. Time at work? Sleep? Learning? Playing? Leading? Organizing? Too much or too little can each be a problem. Think like Goldilocks, make your portions just right, not too big or too little. Sample balance wheels are here: Self, Job, Project, Manager (I’ll add links later for job, project, manager)

2. Should It be or not to be! – This creeps up on us when we think we are in perfect balance and still feeling unfulfilled, not happy, or possibly even unsettled. These feelings may come from too many “should’s.” We should attend that meeting; we should take on that project or should go for that promotion. You must (not should!) be the leading actor in your own life. Try a “want” instead of “should.”

3. How To – If being balanced is not a natural skill for you, there are a few key skills and tools to learn. ACCEPT (live link insert here to below) is a simple balance formula, which requires skill building and discipline for each step. Learning to say no and having the courage to say yes is another balance skill. Staying in balance takes courage, work, and skills.

4. Secret Lives – Sometimes we have separate and disconnected roles and it requires lots of work to keep these elements separate. For example, having an extramarital affair, or being a secret liberal in a conservative environment and never expressing your point of view. Keeping secrets gets in the way of building trust and keeps you off balance.

5. Too Much of a Good Thing – Working, living, and playing with the same people in the same places. This “closeness” can be typical behavior for a start-up company. What may be endured for a few hours can become intolerable. Is this familiar to anyone? “Joe’s a great guy to have at parties and at work we never get anything done with him around.”

6. Keeping up with the Joneses – Balance that works for one person may not work for another. Working 60 hours a week may be the perfect balance for some but not others. Don’t live in a glass house if you value your privacy. If you can’t balance your checkbook don’t become an accountant.

7. Recalculating – What works now and has for years may no longer be effective. A promotion or a new job, each requires you to focus on different areas. A newly promoted director may need to spend more time managing up than was required before. A parent needs to adjust how they interact with their children as they grow up. No more insisting on naps for your 18 year old!

8. Too Comfortable or Too Chaotic – Courage to push myself out of my comfortable warm home to an event that I don’t want to go to and once I’m there I’m so glad I went or things are crazy and chaotic that I am risking my healthy by not paying attention to some nagging pains. Being too comfortable or too chaotic all the time is a bad habit.

9. Let Go, Now – Being too responsible – for others, for the company, for your community, for the world. It’s like they tell us about the oxygen mask on airplanes, take care of yourself first (get stabilized and in balance), and then you can help others.

10. Reactions Only – Only reacting to things means that we are not making conscious choices. Instead, we react and wait to see what will happen. Balance is a personal choice. Be proactive and choose balance.

Formula for Balance = ACCEPT

Awareness – Be Aware now (this second, minute, day, week, year, life), what’s in and out of balance for you? What do you want more of? What do you want less of? See awareness skill building (link).

Clarity – Get Clarity on alternative choices and actions that are possible. What specific actions, habits, beliefs do you want more or less of?

Choice – Make a Choice about what to try now and what habits to build to put you back in balance.

Execute – Do it, take action, and reflect on what happened.

Ponder – Ponder the results and impacts of your state of balance. Do you need more, less, to adjust it, or take a different action to be in balance?

Try – Keep trying and start “ACCEPT” again when you need to!

Ten Things to Do to Build Awareness


Appropriately, “awareness” is the first step in the Leadership ABC’s and in making any changes. Awareness includes self-awareness, situational awareness, and awareness of other people. Being aware helps create better choices that lead to better actions and results.

Awareness comes from many places including all our senses and experiences. Awareness of things like values, skills, cultures, habits, beliefs, behaviors helps us understand and apply meaning to situations and our decisions and actions surrounding them.  Knowing strengths, challenges, visions, likes and dislikes can all be used to choose actions.  Self-Awareness is the first step in building emotional intelligence, a key trait of successful leaders.

People with low awareness  are sometimes labeled as arrogant, unapproachable, oblivious, out of touch, checked out, self-important, not empathetic, uncaring.  Low awareness can result in poor planning, bad choices, low trust, ineffective actions, and slow results.  Not being aware that the word “yes” can have at least eight meanings can lead to disaster, personally and professionally.

Awareness is the first step toward getting different results.  Awareness is a muscle to exercise and build up.  Awareness is a type of lens with which to view a situation.

Ten Things To Do To Build Awareness

  1. Stop: Reflect and Analyze on a regular basis, at least 20 minutes a day.
  2. Practice Alternate Realities: Try applying multiple and maybe even crazy meanings to a situation or person, and see how the different meanings change the next choice or action you might make.  For example, you hear other people offering the same good idea you have already brought up in a meeting.  Your Alternate Reality Possibilities:    They stole my idea because they don’t have any of their own; they took it because they are scared to lose their jobs; they had it first; they didn’t hear me say it first: it’s a universally accepted idea; they don’t want me to get credit; they heard me and are speaking up for me because it’s a great idea.   Always leave room for a positive alternate reality – it might actually be the real one!
  3. Listen Only: Listen for 10 minutes.  Do not give an opinion or try to solve a problem in that time.
  4. Observe Only: Sit for one hour in an odd place and record what you see and include as many of your senses as you can.  Recommended Locations:  Park bench, office hallway, cafeteria, coffee shop.
  5. Sound Off: Watch a TV show without the sound on and guess at the situation, emotions, and intentions.
  6. Ask for Feedback: Ask someone else for feedback about you or the situation you are dealing with.   The intention is to see it through their eyes.  Do they see something you don’t?
  7. Get your own Feedback: Videotape yourself and watch it with a critical eye.
  8. Assess Yourself: Take a personal assessment test or quiz (Myers Briggs, DiSC, etc.) or have a 360-degree feedback performed.
  9. Shake it up: Physically move around, leave and come back at a different day or time, or try a different seat or location.
  10. Be a Detective: Be an empathy detective. Spend a day walking in someone else’s shoes, and guess what their feelings, motives, and beliefs might be.   Validate with them if appropriate.

Top Three – Awareness Gone Wild (Too Much or Too Little)!

  1. I love being Aware!  It’s a pastime.  All the time, any place, and any way, and I never take action.  (Too much awareness)
  2. Prove it!   Analysis Paralysis.   An inability to make a decision.  Holding out for that additional nugget of information that may be there.  (Too much awareness)
  3. Nothing’s new, but something’s there. Something is not adding up or making sense and I’m charging ahead anyhow.  (Too little awareness)

If you find you are wallowing in awareness, move to action.   Even if it’s not perfect, use a good-enough belief or scenario to move and then review the results.

When there is not enough awareness, it’s time to build the awareness muscle.  Try using one of the ten suggestions above.

Additional Important “A’s” for Leaders

  • Abundance Thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Acknowledgement
  • Alignment
  • Alternatives
  • Authenticity

This material is based on the “A is for Awareness” webinar that was delivered last month, and is available as a live presentation to your business.

Leaders: W is for 6 Powerful Words and Phrases said by Others

1. “1000 songs in your pocket” – This is how Steve Jobs first publicly described the iPod in 1998.

2. “No.” – Rosa Parks said this in conjunction with her action of refusing to move to the back of the bus.

3. “I have a dream that all men shall live as equals.” Martin Luther King Jr.’s opening line draws us into his passion and connects us to his values of inclusivity and equality. 

4. “I’d like my life back.”  This sentence was spoken by Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  It came across as incredibly uncaring, and eventually lead to him becoming the ex-CEO of that company.

5.  “I am not a crook.” This famous line was spoken by Richard Nixon responding to the media regarding wrongdoing in Watergate.  He brought up the word “crook” first, and therefore put it in people’s minds!  It made him sound defensive, which is how many perceived him from that moment onward. 

6.  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” – It’s a technical dodge and raises the question of what exactly is the definition of “sexual relations”?   Later Bill Clinton admitted to having “an improper physical relationship.”  Bill picked his words carefully and with intention each time.


What powerful and memorable words can you use for  your situation?