CEE Blog

Perspectives on the World We Work In

Make A Mistake? Take A Failure Bow!

Think about the last mistake that you made. Now think about what happens to your body when you realize you made the mistake.

Here’s an example. You’re happily going about your daily routine, when, “Oops!” you realize that you forgot to bring something that you need for your next meeting. Or, you remember a commitment you made that you forgot to deliver on. It could be something as innocuous as leaving a phone on a colleague’s desk, to something important like forgetting your anniversary. Regardless of the level of the mistake, in the moment it occurs to us that we did not do the right thing at the right time, what happens to our body?

We cringe. And sometimes, not subtly. Sometimes, we instinctively throw one hand over our head and block our chin with the other. Our shoulders curl, we squint our eyes, and we make ourselves smaller — like a prize fighter protecting himself from a blow. But, there is no physical blow. There’s only a mental blow that we manifest physically as shame for failure.

It’s something that we have done so many times over the years of making mistakes, that we don’t event recognize that we do it. It’s automatic.

The problem is, suggests Matt Smith in his TEDx Talk on Sustainable Happiness, that embodying our mistakes over and over can lead our thoughts to change from, “I made a mistake” to “I am a mistake.” The cringe mode is the embodiment of the mistake. We become the mistake.

When we allow ourselves to go into cringe mode every time we make a mistake, we put our bodies in a protective, inward posture that does not invite growth. Over time, the muscle memory of what it feels like to make a mistake keeps us from trying new things, from suggesting new ideas, or even from thinking new thoughts. We freeze.

Research by social psychologists like Amy Cuddy suggests that we may be able to change our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions. What’s more, neuroscience studies show that our brains are filled with neurons that mirror not only the actions, but the emotions, of those around us. So, going into self-imposed cringe mode can cause those around us to replicate the shame we feel for making mistakes.

So how do you rewire your impulse to protect yourself from cringe mode when you realize you’ve made a mistake?

Take a Failure Bow. If you’ve ever watched an Olympic gymnast recover from a shaky landing after a vault jump or a high beam routine, you’ve seen the Failure Bow. The next time you catch your body going to automatic cringe posture from making a mistake, stop yourself and immediately switch to a Failure Bow. You can do it like an Olympic gymnast. You can do it like a trapeze artist. You can do it like a magician. You can even add a “Ta Da!” for emphasis.

Bring Yourself Back to the Present. The Failure Bow develops the skill of bringing your attention back to the present moment and resets your focus. It’s impossible to cringe in shame and bow like a gymnast who’s just stuck the perfect landing at the same time. Likewise, it’s impossible to feel shame and get locked in the past if your body is facing open and outward.

Acknowledge the Learning Path. The purpose of the Failure Bow is not to celebrate mistake making. Its purpose is to acknowledge the facts of a mistake, then create an alternative interpretation of those facts. “I failed because I’m lousy at this” tells a radically different story than “I’m bravely walking a risk-filled learning edge.” The former compounds the mistake by embodying it — the latter makes it a natural part of learning.

We work in a world where innovation is a requirement for survival. We need to be creative, take chances, and innovate. Mistakes are a natural part of that process. The next time you find yourself going into cringe mode, celebrate the learning path by taking a dramatic Failure Bow. You’ll reset the shame, acknowledge your vulnerability, and move forward with humor.

Question: How do you rewire your impulse to protect yourself from the shame that comes with the innovation process?

Can You Pass the Trust Test?

According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in institutions is evaporating at an alarming rate. For 17 years, Edelman has measured trust in 28 countries. This year, trust in government, business, media and NGOs is little more than 47% on average. CEO credibility declined in all 28 countries to just 37%.

Interestingly, these stats represent institutions and business leaders in developed countries. It’s enough to make us stop and think, “Just how developed are leaders of the 21st century?” Is it time for a trust reset? If so, where do we begin?

We can choose to focus on issues in 2016 that contributed to the results – the rise of populist elections, protectionist governments, and fear of job displacement by the rapid rise in technology. But when we focus on the macro level, we can quickly become overwhelmed. We may think that what we do as individuals doesn’t matter in the big picture. The truth is that trust matters, and it starts with us.

In his book The Speed of Trust, author Stephen M.R. Covey states that trust has become the key leadership competency of the global economy. He argues that rebuilding trust at the macro level starts with each individual. Like a ripple in a pond, trust begins within each of us personally, continues into our relationships, expands into our organizations, and ultimately encompasses our global society.

Turning the trust lens from outward to inward requires us to take a hard look at ourselves. If you think you’re ready, download this Trust Self-Assessment to see how you would score.


If there is room for improvement in your score, consider making changes in these three key areas:

1. Do I fulfill commitments to myself and others? In our fast-paced, information overload world, we’ve become accustomed to overpromising and under delivering. But, when we don’t follow through with our commitments, we lose credibility with others and respect for ourselves. Before you make any commitment, ask yourself these questions: 1) Is this a commitment I really want to make? 2) Will I follow through with this? Pause and reflect, then commit, deliver and repeat.


2. Do I walk my talk? When we share half-baked ideas or say things we don’t really mean, we lose personal credibility. People won’t believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger. Make sure your actions match your words and beliefs. Lead by example, modeling for others through consistency, competency and communication.


3. Do I extend trust to others? As a leader with responsibilities for business outcomes, it can be hard to extend trust to others. Yet, when we micromanage and fact check, we send the message to our team that they can’t be trusted. Over time, we can end up leading a team of paranoid cynics who don’t trust one another. Between the extremes of gullibility and paranoia is smart trust. Learn how to extend smart trust here. No second-guessing required.

Self-trust is at the core of everything we do. It ripples through every relationship, the organization, the market, and society. Give others a person they can trust.

Question: How did you score on the Trust Self-Assessment? In which of the three key areas can you improve?

Simon Sinek Explains the Trust Gap in Your Organization

In the third most popular TED Talk of all time, Simon Sinek inspired leaders to reconnect with their organizational why. In just 18 minutes and with a rough sketch of concentric circles on a flip chart, Sinek shared what he said was “probably the world’s simplest idea.” Most organizations focus on what they do and how they do it. But only the most inspired organizations have leaders who start with why they do it first. And for companies like Apple, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Wright Brothers, starting with why was the fundamental difference between success and obscurity.

In a less popular but equally profound TED Talk, Sinek turned again to the flip chart. In “First why and then trust,” Sinek illustrates why organizations must clarify and codify their why. Imagine a simple x, y graph. At the (0,0) coordinates, where x and y meet, is the genesis of an organization. At (0,0), x equals what and y equals, well, why. At that genesis, the what and the why are perfectly aligned. When a company launches, the founders are inspired by a big idea. They put some money together, and off they go.

At first, it’s easy for the founders to share their vision with their handful of employees. Customers are soon attracted and life is good. The what and the why lines grow in parallel on the chart. But, as Sinek explains, “the single biggest challenge that an organization will ever face is its own success.” Here’s why. The more successful an organization becomes, the more people it has to hire based on what they do. The company’s what keeps growing. “The problem is,” Sinek explains, “why they do it starts to go fuzzy.” And as the what and why lines separate, a trust gap occurs.

Consider this example that Sinek gives about trust in America since World War II:

The country rallied together to fight in a war in which they were united and unified behind a common cause. After the war, veterans took advantage of the GI Bill to get low-interest loans or cover tuition to attend college or trade schools. When they entered the job market, they applied the same sense of loyalty to their companies as they had to their country. “The problem is,” says Sinek, “as we started to become more affluent, and the wealth of country started to grow, that sense of purpose — that sense of trust — didn’t grow with it.”

Sinek goes on to describe how trust continued to fall through the 1960’s (the hippie movement), the 1970’s (the Me generation), the 1980’s (think greed is good), and the 1990’s (the dot.com bubble). Over the decades, the country became more and more affluent, but lost touch with its sense of purpose.

Here’s the key takeaway for your organization: the answer to why your organization exists can no longer be simply, “to make a profit.” If you don’t codify, clarify and deploy your why, you’ll have an unsustainable business model and no competitive advantage.

Question: Do you know your organization’s “why”? 


Do you know how to codify, clarify, and deploy your organizational purpose? Get our Summer special of 15% off a 2-hour workshop on What’s Your ROP? (Return on Purpose) between now and September 31, 2017. Get a list of available dates and learn more about the program by emailing me directly at info@executiveexcellence.com. [Read more about our Purpose Alignment services.]

4 Ways Introverts Excel As Leaders

What do Charles DarwinCandice Bergen and Michael Jordan have in common? They’re all introverts.

So are Bill GatesWarren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg. When we think about the personality traits that effective leaders need, we typically think of people who are charismatic, dominant, and outgoing. We think of extroverts. Especially in the U.S.

study by researchers at Stanford suggests that Western cultures value excitement, and that these values carry over into the behavior of leaders in those countries. Author and TED Talk contributor Susan Cain agrees. In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she writes,

“The U.S. has become a nation of extroverts. The extrovert ideal really came to play at the turn of the 20th century when we had the rise of big business. We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking. Abraham Lincoln is the embodiment of the culture of character, and people celebrated him back then for being a man who did not offend by superiority. But at the turn of the century, when we moved into this culture of personality, suddenly what was admired was to be magnetic and charismatic.”

At a time when our headlines are full of messages from brash, assertive, outspoken leaders who love their own press, it may be time to consider the virtues of their quiet counterparts. Here are four ways introverts can turn their love of solitude and keen observational skills into effective leadership skills:

1. Listen first, talk second. Extroverts talk first and think later, because they express themselves more easily verbally. Yet according to Susan Cain, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Rather than rely on witty repartee, introverts listen intently to what others say and internalize it before they speak. They’re not thinking about what to say while the other person is still talking, but rather listening so they can construct the best reply.

2. Leverage your quiet nature. Remember the meetings where everyone was clamoring to be heard, until Bill — who never said a peep — chimed in? Then what happened? Everyone turned around to look in awe at how Bill owned the moment by speaking calmly and deliberately. He was tapping into the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

3. Soak up the ‘me’ time. Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And they need this time. It’s how they turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into insight. So set aside ‘me’ time every day. Find a quiet spot to sit down and reflect. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Let the thoughts flow through your head and jot down any new ideas that percolate.

4. Let your fingers do the talking. Introverts tend not to think out loud. Speaking extemporaneously is not their strong suit. Take advantage of opportunities to prepare your thoughts in writing. You’ll have time to choose compelling and persuasive language that you can refer to when you’re speaking and can leave with others to make sure your key points stick.

In a world where being social and outgoing are highly prized, it can be difficult to be an introvert. But introverts bring extraordinary gifts to the leadership table that should be celebrated and encouraged.

Question: What is your primary orientation? How can you leverage the talents of those who are your opposite? 


Interested in receiving some one-on-one coaching to help hone effective leadership skills? Check out our Leadership Development services or email me at snasim@executiveexcellence.com directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation. We have a few spots available this summer for in-person or online coaching.

Triggered? Rewire Your Brain in 3 Easy Steps

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at an event hosted by the San Diego Employers Association. I talked about the research I’ve been doing on a book I’m co-writing with Dr. Tony Baron about power and leadership.

CEE Founder Sheri Nasim and Danielle Aguas with SDEA Team!

Dr. Baron and I flew to U.C. Berkeley last year to visit Professor and social psychologist Dacher Keltner. Professor Keltner had just published a book called The Power Paradox. Using MRIs to study the brain, Keltner and his students found that when a person experiences power, the brain gets a little surge of dopamine – the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, love, addiction, and psychotic behavior.

The paradox, Keltner found, is that dopamine can also suppress our ability to empathize. That’s not good news for the people we’re supposed to be leading. (Read more about Professor Keltner’s findings here.)

Dr. Baron and I also reviewed what Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, refers to as the “amygdala hijack”. If you’ve ever experience road rage, you’re familiar with this phenomenon. Here’s a breakdown of why it happens.

Our brains are made up of three parts. The first and oldest is the brain stem. It’s responsible for the body’s basic operating functions like breathing and heartbeat. Next, comes the limbic system where the amygdalae are located. The amygdalae activate during times of stress. They are responsible for “fight or flight” responses that have kept us alive as since the days that cave men crossed paths with sabre-toothed tigers. Over the limbic system is the neocortex, which is responsible for logic and reason.

When the amygdalae are triggered by stress, they race into action. First, they signal the brain stem to release adrenaline and cortisol through the body. The heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and breathing accelerates. Next, the amygdalae shut down the flow of blood to the neocortex, because using logic and reasoning could cause you to delay jumping into immediate action.

That’s the amygdala hijack. And though we’ve evolved from living in caves to condos, our brains don’t know the difference between a sabre tooth and a distracted driver. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we can lose the ability to reason. Our focus narrows, and all we can think is “I’m right and he’s wrong!”

We get triggered the same way when we are in a stressful meeting, or even when we replay memories of stressful events. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. What’s worse is that these stress hormones can stay in the body for up to 4 hours, which is why we may stay amped up long after the stressful situation has passed. There’s a term for that effect too – the amygdala hangover.

So, is there anything that we can do to avoid an amygdala hijack? Fortunately, yes.

1. Recognize when you are triggered.  If you get easily triggered at work, especially when you’re in meetings with the same people each week, this is an excellent opportunity to practice. You might start by going to the meeting, getting upset, staying upset for a day or two before you realize that you were triggered. The next week, you go to the meeting, get upset, and stay that way until you get home that evening before you recognize that you’ve been triggered. The next week, you’re in the meeting and you start to feel your chest tighten and your blood pressure rise just before you get upset. You still get upset, but you notice what’s happening in your body in the moment. Progress!

2. Fire up your neocortex. Once you can recognize that you are being triggered in the moment, you can move to Step 2. Thomas Jefferson once said that if you get mad, count to 10. If you get really mad, count to 100. This sounds simplistic, but it actually has the effect that you need to counter an amygdala hijack. When you count, you re-engage the neocortex that was shut off just seconds ago. Counting will give you the ability to re-access logic and will build the distance you need to see things more clearly.

3. Switch your attention. Take long, intentional breaths. Again, this sounds simplistic, but when you bring your attention repeatedly to each breath as you have it, you activate the parasympathetic system. That’s the part of your nervous system responsible for “rest and digest.” Taking deep, mindful breaths will have the net result of bringing you back into a calm state.

Recognize when you are triggered, reconnect with your neocortex, and take slow, deep breaths to find the path back to a calm state. Doing so over time, will form new neural pathways to re-take control of your brain.

Question: When was the last time you got upset? Did you blame others for your response, or did you recognize that you were triggered?


Interested in learning more about how to rewire your brain to excel at leadership? Summer special: Get 15% off our executive coaching services when you book between now and August 1, 2017. Learn more about our process by emailing me directly at snasim@executiveexcellence.com. [Read more about our Executive Coaching services.]

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How to Dig Out of the Valley of Despair During Culture Change

One of the most challenging yet satisfying roles we play at Center for Executive Excellence is helping teams through culture transformations. These are heavy lift, long-term projects that require us to embed ourselves with our clients to execute the transformation roadmap.

The mechanics of the process are tailored from client to client, depending on things like size, business case, and readiness for change. The emotional cycle, however, is a consistent 5-stage process.

Stage 1 is uninformed optimism.

Stage 2 is informed pessimism.

Stage 3 is the “Oh S*&t! What have we gotten ourselves into?” phase, also known as the “Valley of Despair.”

Stage 4 is informed optimism.

Stage 5 is success and fulfillment.

Change of every type – both good and bad – can be stressful. Change takes us out of autopilot and forces us to lay down new neural pathways. Change makes us slow down and re-think what we’re thinking about.

I overheard another metaphor for change last week attributed to a leader at Chuao Chocolatier that helped explain cultural resistance to change. If you think of yourself as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, you can imagine that your shape impacts the shape of those in your immediate surroundings. In turn, their shapes impact the shapes of those surrounding them, and so on throughout the entire organization.

If you try to change, you will meet resistance from those around you, because it will force them to change their shape. But, if enough of your team succeeds in changing together, it can be the catalyst for organizational change.

If you’re stuck in Stages 1 – 3 of your change project, try identifying a team that shows the highest proclivity to make the change you want to see in the rest of the organization. They will be most likely to find ways around resistance and influence those in their immediate surroundings to climb out of the Valley of Despair.

Question: Are you in the middle of a culture transformation? What stage do you find yourself in?

Take a Culture Field Trip

When was the last time you took a field trip? A time when you stepped out of your office, drove yourself to another company, and just observed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily drama of leading our organizations. It’s tempting to tell ourselves that our methods are the best. Yet, a 90-minute field trip inside the office of another organization can be a major accelerator for your leadership journey.

That’s just what happened when we arranged for Stone Brewing Company President, Steve Wagner, to take a team of five employees to visit WD40 President and CEO, Garry Ridge, at the company’s San Diego headquarters. The mission: to learn what role culture plays in creating the WD40 brand and performance. The outcome: the ability for Stone Brewing to springboard its own initiative to align its culture and brand integrity.

With an international employee base of nearly 450, Ridge shared insights he’s gained to help WD40 achieve annual sales just under $400 million in 2016 – that’s nearly $1 million per employee. Here are some of the Stone team’s top takeaways:

1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization. “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said. He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments. Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not. At today’s WD40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.

2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. In Helping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system. Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets. They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager. The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As. Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”

3. Get your values off the wall. WD40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens. Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall. Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance. He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.” Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.

In 1 ½ hours, the Stone team saw a company that was candid about sharing knowledge, committed to achieving results, and clear about what it stands for. They gained actionable insights to help them crystallize their values, and cultivate the very best of Stone.

Question: If you were asked to share how your culture is aligned with your performance, what would you share in 90 minutes?

The 3 A’s of Strengths-Based Leadership

Early in my career, I would put a lot of effort into creating the best strategy to solve a problem or implement a solution at work. My husband had several years more of management experience than me, so I would go to him for advice. The problem is, the advice he wanted to give was often not the advice I was looking for.

Typically, I would have the problem 95% solved, or the solution 95% developed (or so I thought). I just wanted him to listen to what I had worked on so far, then give me his perspective on how to reach 100%. Instead of meeting me at 95%, he would question my assumptions, test my logic, and most often recommend a solution that was far broader in scope and scale than what I had envisioned.

At the time, these conversations were about as much fun as have your spouse to teach you how to drive. I would end up feeling frustrated and inept, and no closer to a solution. Fortunately, not only has our marriage survived these conversations, but as I built my confidence as a leader, I have a newfound appreciation for seeking out the perspectives of others – including my husband’s – to stress test my ideas and broaden my perspective.

This process is what Gallup researchers suggest are the three A’s to Strengths-based leadership. Here is a closer look at the process:

1.    Annoying. Perhaps the most important quality needed to succeed as a leader is self-awareness. Without self-awareness, you are in danger of thinking that your perception and reality are one in the same. You are annoyed when others stress test your ideas. It is self-awareness that allows the Strengths-based leader to walk the tightrope: to project conviction while remaining humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions.

2.    Appreciating. It’s human nature to want to be around people who think like we do. But it can be deadly for leaders to be cut off from challengers. Strengths-based leaders step out of the circle of people who make them most comfortable and seek out the opinions of those who have contradictory views. By opening themselves up to challengers, they gain an appreciation for looking at problems through different lenses, and broaden their perspective.

3.    Applying. It is impossible for any one individual to be above average in all areas of business, or “well-rounded”. Strengths-based leaders build well-rounded teams made up of well-lopsided individuals. A Strengths-based team is a group of imperfect but talented contributors who are valued for their strengths and who know how and when to apply each other’s strengths to achieve individual and team excellence.

Today, I still ask my husband for his perspective from time to time. But, instead of being frustrated when he doesn’t agree with me, I look forward to seeing what holes he can find in my logic, and what questions he can bring up that I hadn’t thought of. This exercise helps me stress test my working thesis, and create stronger solutions.

Question: Have you gone from annoyed, to appreciative, to applying the perspectives of others? How has that process made you a stronger leader?


Are you ready to start leveraging your team’s strengths and allow them to fire on all cylinders? Check out our StrengthsFinder services or email me at snasim@executiveexcellence.com directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.

3 Biggest Myths About Strengths

One of the most dramatic changes in employee and leadership development programs in the last decade has been the shift from correcting weaknesses to enhancing strengths.

A Google search for “strengths coaching” yields over 27 million hits. Amazon sells over 35,000 books on the subject, including StrengthsFinder 2.0 which instantly became a Wall Street JournalBusinessweek, and USA Today bestseller, and was named Amazon’s bestselling book of 2013. Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is used by 1.6 million employees and 467 Fortune 500 companies every year.

Strengths has developed a cult-like following among HR and talent management professionals. Like all cults, this one too has developed myths that deserve to be debunked.

Myth #1 – Focusing on strengths means you can ignore your weaknesses. Sorry. Not true. Ignoring a problem is never sane management theory. Instead, get clear about what your weaknesses are, and develop ways to minimize them.

Strengths coaches are fond of saying that there is no such thing as a well-rounded person. Instead, focus on being a well-lopsided person and develop a well-rounded team. Spend your time where you can excel, then delegate to, or partner with, others who are naturally more adept in areas where you are weak.

Myth #2 – Strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. Wrong again. Strengths are not the flip side of weaknesses. You can make strengths stronger. You can make weaknesses not so weak. But you cannot transform weaknesses into strengths.

What is true, is that a person can operate either in the balcony or basement of a strength, and the basement can be unpleasant for everyone. Consider Achiever. When things are going well, an Achiever can be a tireless go-getter with a strong work ethic. Conversely, she can be overcommitted and in danger of burning out. Being in the basement isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength overapplied.

Myth #3 – You can become too specialized if you focus on your strengths. Good reasoning, but not the case if your manager takes the time to understand how to put strengths to work. First, strengths are not labels. If your manager locks all “Strategics” in a room and expects they will come out with the perfect strategic plan, it’s not likely to happen. That’s simplistic and a little reductive.

Managers who understand the power of strengths know that the best way for people to grow and develop is to identify how they most naturally think, feel and behave, then build on those talents to create strengths. People with Strategic as a strength are naturally good at anticipating alternatives and finding different paths. They may be good a mediating debates or contract negotiation. The best managers will not only have a good working knowledge of strengths, but will also take the time to get to know what situations enable their employees to succeed.

We all have weaknesses. But putting your time, energy and focus on fixing your weaknesses will only yield mediocre results. If you want to unlock your greatest potential and bring out the best in your team, let go of the myths and put strengths to work.

Question: Have you taken the StrengthsFinder assessment? What are you Top Five?

Are you ready to start leveraging your team’s strengths and allow them to fire on all cylinders?
Check out our StrengthsFinder services or email me at snasim@executiveexcellence.com directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.

Are You Addicted To Stress?

“On the morning of April 7, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep.” Those are the opening words of Thrive, the 2014 New York Times Bestseller written by Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.

That fall was her wakeup call. It caused her to re-think her definition of success and to seriously consider the impact of stress on her life.

Stress. It’s become such a prevalent part of our workdays that we’ve come to accept it as an occupational necessity. Yet, the long-term effects of stress can be lethal. Stress is a factor in 75% to 90% of all medical visits, and a factor in the six leading causes of death.

If you consider yourself a leader who thrives under pressure – if you work best under a deadline – you may be addicted to stress. According to Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic, “stress is a drug.” When we’re under the gun, stress releases dopamine and feeds endorphins to our brains which temporarily boosts performance.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to create a culture of performance. Over time, your time-crunched lifestyle can not only have serious health implications for you, but can have a debilitating impact on your organization. Here are two practices that will help you navigate the path between stress and success:

Be Mindful. Our response to stress is something we inherited from our ancestors. It was a fight or flight response that triggered an ‘all systems go’ reaction in the body. When faced with a sabre-toothed tiger, that reaction was designed to improve our chances for survival by releasing a burst of cortisol to mobilize the body for action.

Although the sabre-tooth is extinct, our flight or flight mechanism is alive and well. Any time we face a threat – a deadline, a conflict with a colleague, a financial struggle – our body goes into stress mode. It releases cortisol causing our blood pressure to rise and our heart to beat faster. But, without a physical release of fighting or fleeing, the cortisol builds up in our system. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we can train our brains to recognize these sensations in the moment, and learn to react calmly instead of letting out our inner caveman. It’s a practice known as mindfulness.

As defined by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” The next time you’re in a stressful meeting, try the ABC method of mindfulness. Become Aware of the stress rising in your body. Breathe deeply and consider your options. Then Choose thoughtfully.

Build Margins. Today’s leaders are incredibly busy. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. Perhaps you don’t even realize this yourself. You can’t be an effective leader if your calendar is crammed with back-to-back meetings and your inbox is full of unread messages.

“To be truly effective,” says leadership expert Dr. Tony Baron, “you need to make time for margins your life.” You need to create white space, or times of reflection so that information can be turned into knowledge, and that knowledge into insight. Sometimes, you just have to stop and let the information catch up with you.

Building margins in our lives helps us get over our feeling of scarcity that leads to stress. We start by stressing that we never have enough time, that we cannot make time to truly connect with our employees, that there is only so much to go around.

Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it. You can start by creating a time budget like this one from Michael Hyatt to help you focus on what matters most.

Stress is not going away, but you don’t have to be addicted to it. Make the choice today to be mindful and build margins in your life to build the resilience you need to manage it effectively.

Question: How does stress impact your ability to lead effectively?

Are you interested in acquiring simple tools for mastering stress and overcoming self-limiting barriers?

Check out our Corporate Wellness Training services or email me at snasim@executiveexcellence.com directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.


Learning & Growth: Connecting all 5 Generations. Side By Side.

As our Employee Engagement Specialist, Jenny Jacobs brings an infectious humor and midwestern sensibility to everything she does. Jenny is a lifelong learner and a natural teacher who guides our clients through a structured employee engagement method that improves bottom lines and results in changes that last. Jenny holds a B.A. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and is a 2017 Masters candidate for Organizational/Industrial Psychology from Azusa Pacific University. And don’t forget to check out the short video below where Jenny introduces herself and our new program.

By: Jenny Jacobs

I once heard someone say “Do not mistake movement for progress”. In other words, a person could be running in circles or jumping up and down but they are not going anywhere.

Companies often pride themselves on having a lot of “movement” (i.e. snack hour, casual Fridays, group bonding events, etc.). These are great work perks and help boost morale. To make truly effective forward movement, however, it is necessary to dig a little deeper. Just as the world outside of your organization is in constant change, your employees need constant opportunities for learning and growth to help them adapt and thrive.

Learning & Growth are fundamental elements for competitive advantage. They provide:

  • Improvement in long-term performance
  • Boosts in creativity and innovation
  • Increased employee engagement

Learning & Growth opportunities can also lead to improving individual and group efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. A Learning & Growth culture is a true investment in your employees and demonstrates a culture of continuous improvement.

Question: How are you tapping into the organizational intelligence within your company today?

Click here to learn more about our 5 Generations. Side by Side. workshop or training program.

Meet 8 Special Ops Team Members Ready for Service in Your Organization

Last week, I attended a very special graduation ceremony. It wasn’t for a family member and it wasn’t held in a football stadium. It was for 36 men and 1 woman who had completed a 120-hour, MBA-style, transitions program through The Honor Foundation.

These were already alumni of some of the most elite programs in the world – they were Navy SEALs and Marine Special Operations Forces team members – who had served our country with honor and ready to transition back to civilian service.

Thanks to The Honor Foundation, these men and women have the tools they need to confidently enter the workforce with pride and a sure-footing. They are prepared to take the leap of faith that the civilian world will honor their service, embrace their elite training, and place them in positions worthy of their talents.

It is my honor to introduce you to eight members of the Group 11 graduating class.


1. Diego Ugalde, “My passion is to hear the sound of your resounding success.”

What he brings to the team: With a relentless positive outlook, Diego is known for walking into a situation, assessing it, and working tirelessly to improve it for the betterment of the team.

Areas of interest: Motivational Speaking, Leadership & Development, and Coaching

Availability: Diego transitions from the Navy SEALs in September of 2018.


2. Larry Lacefield, “Leader of leaders, adapting to any environment.”

What he brings to the team: Selfless problem solver exuding compassion, creativity, competence and sound decision-making facilitating solutions where others see obstacles. 

Areas of interest: Business Development, Chief of Staff, Project Management Officer, or HR Leadership in Healthcare and Biotech

Education: M.S., Emphasis in Global Business Leadership, University of San Diego

Availability: Larry is transitioning from the Navy Special Warfare Command in May 2017.


3. Russell Hromadka, “Multi-dimensional guru and cross-generational connector.”

What he brings to the team: Perpetually sought after for crisis management, joint ventures, new initiatives, and to ‘do it right the first time’ where there is little guidance and organizational success is at stake.

Areas of interest: Chief of Staff, Business Development, Human Resources, Ops, Project Management.

Education: B.S., Applied Mathematics (Honors), US Naval Academy

Availability: Russ will transition from Marine Special Operations Command in the Spring of 2018.


4. Alexander “Pete” Tunley, “A human with supernova positivity that inspires all.”

What he brings to the team:  A passionate, powerful and committed leader with incredible positivity that attracts communication and input from all.

Areas of interest: Business Development, Human Resources, Coaching, Leadership & Development, Motivational Speaking.

Education: B.A., Intelligence Studies, American Military University

Availability: Pete transitioned as a Chief Petty Officer in March of 2017.


5. Christopher “Noah” Phillips, “Diplomatic disruptor fascinated by finance.”

What he brings to the team: Exceptionally motivated and proven leader with budgetary controller and multinational business experience.

Areas of interest: Finance, Wealth Management, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Analyst and Associate.

Education: B.S., Business Finance, Pennsylvania State University (2019)

Availability: Noah is transitioning from the Marine Corps in July 2017.


6. Matthew Lampert, “Lifelong servant of the community and our nation.”

What he brings to the team: Proven, decisive, and determined leader, who motivates, empowers, and develops his team to achieve their highest potential.

Areas of interest: Chief of Staff, Operations, HR Business Partner, Project Management Officer.

Education: M.A., Leadership, Development and Education, The George Washington University

Availability: Matt transitions as an Officer with the U.S. Naval Academy in June of 2018.


7. Eric Kasmire, “Innovative leader who excels at organizing resilient teams to achieve exceptional results.”

What he brings to the team: Skilled communicator at all levels, and passionate about leading multi-functional teams from diverse backgrounds and cultures to increase performance.

Areas of interest: Business Development, Chief of Staff, Project Management, or HR Leadership roles.

Education: B.A., Homeland Security, with Honors, American Military University

Availability: Eric transitioned in the summer of 2017 from the Marine Special Operations Command.


8. Justin Plank, “Ethical leader with the exceptional ability to remain calm and decisive in both high pressure and uncertain environments.”

What he brings to the team: A tireless work ethic, accustomed to working in fast-paced environments where excellence in performance is the standard.

Areas of interest: Operations leadership and Project Management.

Education: Master of Business for Veterans, University of Southern California

Availability: Justin transitioned in the summer of 2017 from the Navy SEALs.

If your organization could benefit from service-minded, adaptable, problems solvers like these, there is no more elite group of talent than the graduates of The Honor Foundation. Contact The Honor Foundation here to learn more about employing, mentoring, coaching and sponsorship opportunities for this world-class program.

Question: What can you do to serve people who have dedicated their lives in service to others?