Making The Choice Against All Odds

comfort zoneDuring an extraordinary career as a senior banking executive, I was often given opportunities way beyond my comfort zone. Yet, having established a track record of success under circumstances of massive change, ambiguity and uncertainty, I was often asked to take on more such roles. In retrospect, I realize this may have stemmed from some early life experiences. Whenever people told me I was not good enough or smart enough to pursue a particular course of action, I became hell-bent to accomplish said action. And yes, that was a pattern of experience in my youth.

As a result, whenever senior leaders came to me with a request that seemed impossible, I readily agreed to attempt it. Some of my colleagues thought I was crazy, for example, when I suddenly moved from Upstate New York to Rhode Island to work for a man who was commonly considered brilliant but terrifying. (Who could turn down a job like that?)

I knew, even then, that if I failed, I would learn so much in the process that it would be worth it. And since learning stuff is at the core of what drives me, I just had to do it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, because of the doors that continued to open after that one.

It can be very difficult to see beyond the immediate decision to the longer-term consequences or outcomes, so how do you do it? You learn to trust your gut instinct, even when everyone else is on a different page. I realize this takes courage. And it takes a belief that whatever happens will be okay.

You need to have faith that you will be able to deal with it, to figure it out, to get the help you need when you need it. And that can be a big leap.

It is also important in the process to fully understand what is most important to you at the time. Is it being safe? Is it being comfortable? Do you need to have control? Or, is it, as it was in my case, the desire to have a new experience, to learn things I did not know, and to change my environment, including the people around me?

Ask yourself today: What choices are you making? Are they keeping you comfortable or helping you grow? And how do you feel about that?

3 Tips for More Effective Crucial Conversations

penguins talkingI love you but…..

Have you ever had one of those conversations in which someone is saying nice things, and you just know there’s going to be a “but” in there? You can’t focus on the nice things because you are waiting for the axe to fall.

You can usually tell by the tone of someone’s voice—or their body language—that there is a “but” coming. And that means people can tell when you’re about to add the but too!

What would happen if you removed the word but from your vocabulary? I’ve attempted doing this for years and it isn’t easy. Mostly, when I’m about to say that word, I try substituting “and,” which works most of the time. I also substitute “though” or “yet” in certain situations. Try it for a day or a week and let me know how it works for you.

At work, the use of “but” is most sensitive during crucial conversations and performance discussions. These tend to be tense situations anyway and many managers make things worse by employing the “sandwich” approach. Say something nice, then the criticism / complaint, then something nice again—which is supposed to make people feel better. Yeah, how’s that working?

I had one boss who always used the sandwich approach. As soon as she started complimenting me, I knew something unpleasant was coming. And I truly resented the little “pick me up” at the end. Knowing how that always made me feel prompted me to find a better way. So I experimented a lot and developed a couple of effective ways to have crucial conversations.

Here are three tips for improving the quality and impact of your crucial conversations:

  1. Position the conversation up front. Let the person know “we need to have a difficult conversation about X, when is a good time for us to schedule that?” This provides a bit of a warning system, as well as an opportunity for the person to prepared mentally and emotionally for the conversation. Some people are good to go right now; others need time to collect themselves. Honor that.
  2. Be deliberate and intentional.   Prepare yourself by thinking ahead about what you want to convey, including the words, your tone and your body language. Take the time you need to explain fully and accurately and make sure the other person is getting your message and its intent. I recommend writing out what you plan to say and spending some time editing to get it right, then reviewing it so you are completely familiar with your key points.
  3. Get right to the point. Why prolong the discomfort on both sides? When someone really beats around the bush in a critical conversation, it’s just worse. If you’ve done a good job of positioning and preparing, this will be a lot easier, and allow you to get to a solution or resolution much more quickly.

Like many things in working with other people, this may sound simple and it’s not always easy to pull off. It does take practice. And practice takes commitment. In the end, if you want to be a high impact leader who commands respect and maybe even admiration, its’ worth developing your skills around crucial conversations.

Try it next time and let me know how it works for you.

Who’s Got Your Back? The Power of a Mastermind

Leadership ThinkingWhen I made the move from corporate executive to small business owner, I totally under-estimated just how big a transition that would be. Have you ever taken something on, only to find out that you are WAY out of your element? It’s both exciting and scary as hell!


Among the best things that I have done to help face some of the challenges of building a business is to learn from others. After all, success leaves clues, doesn’t it? And one of the things I learned from other successful people is all about the power of masterminds. I actively participate in two and they have been major contributors to my growth and to my confidence as a business leader.


I recently returned from three full days with my Marvelous Master Mind team. These are people I have met through our affiliation as part of Brendon Burchard’s Center Ring. These amazing individuals have all been very successful in their lives and past careers and have now turned their attention to making the world a better place by using their knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences to help others get up the learning curve a bit faster than their own rise.


We come from different industries, different backgrounds, and different parts of the world –and yet, what we have in common is our insatiable need to learn and grow and to help others learn and grow. Each of us has struggled, but none of us will give up. We provide support and encouragement to each other. We openly share our successes and our failures, our best practices, and our hard-won lessons—with a view toward helping each other create more success for ourselves and for the others that we touch.


It is a special experience. It is a special bond. And I am so grateful to have these beautiful people in my life. What an inspiration to see someone experience a breakthrough moment of clarity that motivates him or her to take the next steps in the process with renewed confidence. And what a comfort to know that –whatever you may be up against – these smart people have your back.


How much more you are able to accomplish when people you respect challenge your thinking and your limiting beliefs by providing alternative solutions and a new perspective to the problem you are facing.


So, what about you? Where do your new ideas and fresh perspectives come from? Who has your back? To whom are you contributing your experience to help them improve?


I’d love to hear from you. Please comment, let me know if you like this post and share it with others.


#leadership #mastermind #personalgrowth #professionaldevelopment