All posts in “Leadership”

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.]

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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?

8 Leadership Books to Add to Your Summer Tote

Looking for some titles to add to your reading list this summer? Pull out your tote and pick up some of our top picks.

From recent bestsellers to old-school business parables, here’s a list of books that we think are well worth the read:

1. Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder

What it’s about: An engaging case study of the turnaround of Popeyes, proving that servant leadership is challenging, tough minded, and gets results.

Why pick it up: Bachelder takes you first-hand through the transformation of Popeyes to show that leaders at any level can become a dare to serve leader.

 

 

 

 

2. The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate by Jacob Morgan

What it’s about: A new type of organization is emerging, one that focuses on employee experiences as a way to drive innovation, increase customer satisfaction, find and hire the best people, make work more engaging, and improve overall performance.

Why pick it up: Backed by extensive research, futurist Jacob Morgan breaks down the three environments that make up employee experience at every organization around the world.

 

 

3. Option B: How To Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

What it’s about: Following the sudden death of her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, Sandberg described widowhood at a young age as “a club that no one wants to belong to.” Co-authored with Wharton professor Adam Grant, the book is focused on recovering from adversity.

Why pick it up: Though not strictly a business book, it includes stories of people who recovered from a variety of hardships. It contains lessons for leaders who want to build their own resilience, too.

 

 

 

4. Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller

What it’s about: A scarcity of leaders today means a shortfall in performance tomorrow. Bestselling author and Chick-fil-A executive Mark Miller describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization — from the front lines to the executive ranks.

Why pick it up:  Learn to build an organizational culture that will ensure your leadership pipeline is full and flowing.

 

 

 

 

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

What it’s about: A dramatic takeover; disengaged, top-down management; besieged, under-appreciated workers — this Orwell parable on totalitarianism serves as a reverberating lesson in organizational behavior.

Why pick it up: If you haven’t picked this one up since ninth grade, it’s truly worth another read.

 

 

 


6.
Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

What it’s about: These Google Ventures partners give us a practical guide to answering critical business questions, whether you’re a small startup, part of the Fortune 100, a solopreneur, or a nonprofit.

Why pick it up: This book is for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.

 

 

 

 

7. Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sally Krawcheck

What it’s about: Success for professional women is no longer about trying to compete at the men’s version of the game. And it will no longer be about contorting themselves to men’s expectations of how powerful people behave.

Why pick it up: Learn how women can embrace and invest in their innate strengths — and bring them proudly and unapologetically, to work.

 

 

 

8. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

What it’s about: A manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation — into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made.

Why pick it up: To learn leadership and management philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention.

Some of the principles shared in these books you may already know but need reminding of. Others can give you the insight you need to tackle your greatest challenges of 2017.

Question: What books have helped you along your leadership journey?

Do You Use this 4-Letter Word in Your Organization?

Someone used a 4-letter word at our April 27th Re:Imagine Leadership Summit that made a few audience members squirm in their seats. The word slipped out during the panel discussion when Joe Lara, a former Naval Special Warfare Command Officer, was asked, “What is the ingredient that holds service members together during the chaos of battle?”

“Love,” was his answer. “When someone cares enough for you to give their life to protect yours, that’s love in action,” Lara said.

Our panel moderator, Dr. Tony Baron, noted that love is not a word that’s often brought up at leadership conferences. But, when he asked other members of the panel about love in action at their organizations, they quickly agreed.

Rachelle Snook, Global Talent Manager of WD-40, said that the employees at WD-40 think of themselves as members of a tribe. “Tribal love,” said Snook, “is what keeps our culture strong. One of our mantras is ‘we’ve got your back.’” Damian McKinney, Founder of McKinney Advisory Group agreed. “When you think about the commercial real estate industry,” McKinney said, “love isn’t the first word that comes to mind, but it’s what we practice to ensure that we are truly serving our clients and that we have faith that we’re in this together.”

Dean Carter, VP of Shared Services at Patagonia, told the audience that employees at Patagonia think of one another as family. With a child care center located on Patagonia’s Ventura, CA, campus, the lines between employee and family are blurred. “Some of the children whose parents worked at Patagonia 30 years ago are now employees,” Carter said. “We are much more than co-workers. We are family members who look after one another. We know each other’s children by name and we’re there for each other through all stages of each other’s lives.”

In her 2015 leadership book, Dare To Serve, former Popeye’s CEO, Cheryl Bachelder, writes that turning around the flagging company in 2007 required a decision to serve its franchise owners. The problem was, Bachelder writes, “This decision [to serve] is not typical in our industry. Franchisors and franchisees are constantly in conflict – arguing about the contract, the business strategy, the restaurant design, the promotion pricing, or the cost of food.”

Bachelder continues, “Here’s a tough question. Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve? It helps. One Popeye’s leader says it this way: ‘If you’re in the franchising business, you should love the franchisees.’ To love franchisees, you have to love entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are passionate. They take risks. They invest for the future. They are ambitious. They are definitely not corporate bureaucrats. They do not have much patience with people holding MBA degrees or offering up expensive harebrained ideas. What if the most important people in your business are entrepreneurs? You must decide to love them.”

What Joe Lara, Rachelle Snook, Damian McKinney, Dean Carter, and Cheryl Bachelder have in common is that in order to truly serve the people you work with and are in the business to serve, you must set aside your differences, and look for ways to develop a love for who they are. Doing so requires you to set aside your ego, be aware of your biases, and have the courage to make love part of your organizational culture.

Question: Is there someone that you are in conflict with at work now? What would happen if you dared to love them?

Are You Ready to Hand Over Your Leadership Keys?

Picture this. A father had three children. When his oldest child, a daughter, turned 12, he took her with him to the auto dealership. He told her, “I want you to pick out the car that you think I should buy.” Puzzled, his daughter looked at her father and asked, “Why me, Dad?” “Because, this is the car that I’ll be driving for the next four years. When you turn 16 and get your driver’s license, I’m going to hand the keys over to you.”

He repeated this offer with his other two children, and over the next 16 years drove a bright red Volkswagen Beetle, a yellow Honda Civic (for his second daughter), and a red Jeep Wrangler (for his son.)

“I have to admit,” the father said, “when my son asked for a Wrangler, I hesitated.” It was outside of my comfort zone. I had always driven cars, we’d always lived in the city, and I couldn’t see myself driving a Wrangler for the next four years. But, I had made a commitment, and couldn’t break it now.”

“What’s funny,” the father said, “is that I actually started enjoying the Wrangler. By the time my son got old enough to drive it, I found myself thinking about buying another one for myself. If my son hadn’t convinced me to change what I’d gotten used to driving all of my life, I never would have gotten out of my comfort zone.”

What this father knew intuitively serves as a model for passing on the leadership keys in the 21st century. Three themes emerge.

1. Trust. Any worthwhile transition is based on mutual trust. Future leaders need to trust the wisdom and experience of current leaders. Current leaders need to trust the potential of the next generation, their innovative approach, and the ability to handle the responsibility for the future. When there is an absence of trust, the process of a healthy and fruitful transition breaks down, and the passing on of the leadership keys stalls. Breaking down the trust barriers starts with building mutual respect and appreciation for what we each bring to the table. Here’s a short, compelling video that shows how quickly we can start to break down the barriers and build trust.

2. Teamwork. Once we establish trust for one another, we can begin to work together as a team toward the future success of our organization. The father in the example above didn’t arbitrarily decide what cars would be best for each of his children. He included them in the process and let them voice their opinions. When we include future leaders in the decision-making process, they move from obliged to empowered. That empowerment – knowing that the keys to the future are in their hands – gives them a greater sense of responsibility for making good choices to show that your trust was well placed.

3. Transition. One of the most significant lessons from car-buying father is how he adapted to the Wrangler chosen by his youngest child. Most of today’s leaders grew up in a time when decisions and influence came from the top and rippled down. But, the rapid pace of technological change is having an impact on generational influence. Research by the Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK) finds that influence is rippling up, rather than down. “The greatest predictor of older generations,” says James Dorsey, CGK’s Chief Strategy Officer in this TEDx talk, “is what the younger generations are doing today.” They influence how every other generation uses technology. Need more convincing? Think Facebook.

Are you holding onto the leadership keys with a white-knuckled grip? It may be time to shift your view about future generations. When you can break down the trust barriers, give them true ownership and responsibility, and be open to their influence, you’ll be inspired by some of the most hard-working, eager-to-learn, and motivated people in the world today.

Question: What is your view about handing over the leadership keys? 

The Power Puzzle: Unlocking the Code to True Engagement

A few years ago, my family and I went to Cancun to celebrate my husband’s birthday. While we were there, we took a trip to Chichen Itza, one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán peninsula.

Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes a stepped pyramid dedicated to Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god. The pyramid is a feat of Mayan engineering and an astronomical marvel.

Each of the four sides has stairs with 91 steps. The platform at the top serves as the last step, for a total of 365 steps in all.

During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun’s shadow forms an enormous snake’s body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the pyramid. You can stand about 30 meters in front of the main face of the pyramid, clap your hands, and the sound travels up the face and bounces back out like the sound of a sacred bird worshipped by the Mayans.

When you visit Chichen Itza, you can’t help thinking about the pyramids left by other ancient civilizations around the world. The Mayan and Egyptian pyramids are best known, but pyramids can also be found in places like China, Iraq, France, and the Canary Islands.

We know that Chichen Itza’s stepped pyramid served as a temple to Kukulcan. He was the god of laws, fishing, healing, the calendar, and agriculture. We know that the Egyptian pyramids served as tombs to preserve the bodies of pharaohs and help their souls cross over to the afterworld. We also know that the pyramid archetype has been passed down for thousands of years, and is still embedded in our organizations.

Where does the power flow in your organizational pyramid? Does it flow up to the person at the top to preserve his or her legacy in perpetuity? Or, does it flow down to benefit the larger community?

In his book, On Moral Business, Max L. Stackhouse wrote that “Business leaders are increasingly the stewards of civilization.” Stackhouse argued that many of our institutions – government, families, universities and churches – are failing. What if the responsibility for future civilization depends on business leaders?

When you work as though society depends on the decisions you make as a business leader, it makes you think about which way the power is flowing in your organization. Is society better off because your organizational pyramid exists?

Question: What are you doing to test the flow of power in your organization? Do you track employee and customer satisfaction? Does your organization give time, talent or treasure to the community?

3 Ways Humble Leaders Keep their Egos in Check

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

That’s a statement that author Ken Blanchard explains in sports terms. “Can you imagine,” asks Blanchard, “training for the Olympics with no one telling you how fast you ran or how high you jumped?”

The leadership application, of course, is that without feedback we cannot accurately assess reality. If we don’t know what we’re doing wrong, or what’s going wrong, we can’t fix it. This makes sense intellectually, but in reality, feedback can go down like a bowl of cold, lumpy oatmeal.

Today’s leaders face increasingly complex problems. No one person can have all of the answers. That’s why leaders of the 21st century must have the humility to encourage feedback. To step back and create space for others to show you your blind spots and help you make improvements that count.

Harvard Business Review contributors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin called this intellectual humility. “Without humility,” the authors argue, “you’re not able to learn.” Here are three principles of humility that will help put you in a feedback frame of mind:

1. Know what you don’t know. The higher you climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, the greater the temptation it is to believe that you are the smartest person in the room. But deep down, you know that you don’t have all of the answers. You may not even have all of the questions. Know when to defer and be open to learning from others.

2. Resist falling for your own publicity. Part of the leadership role is to maintain a positive outlook. Your confidence boosts that of your team and your customers. While it’s important to have a positive outlook, it’s just as important to correctly assess reality. Keep your spirits high, but your judgment at an even keel.

3. Never underestimate the competition. No matter how smart you are, how many hours you are willing to put in, or how creative you get, do not allow a residue of hubris to set into your culture. There is always competition for your customer’s attention.

The first task of any leader is to assess reality correctly. You can’t do that without having the feedback you need to make necessary adjustments. Open yourself to feedback by having the humility to know your own limits, keep your ego in check, and resist the false comfort of complacency.

Question: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?

The 4 Steps to Extraordinary Productivity in 2017

Remember the days when someone asked you, “How’s it going?” “Fine,” was your auto-response.

“Fine” was code for, “I have a lot on my plate both personally and professionally right now, but unless you have an hour to listen, I don’t think you want me to get into it.” Everything wasn’t fine. You knew it. The other person knew it. But, “fine” was the socially acceptable response.

Today, when someone asks you, “How’s it going?” the new socially acceptable answer is, “Busy.” Busy-ness has become a badge of honor. You have messages to answer, meetings to prepare for, data to review, and decisions to make. You’re connected to work 24/7. You’ve tried the latest software to unclutter. You’ve bought the newest devices to keep up, but you just can’t break the cycle of busy-ness.

In 1992, global internet traffic measured 100 GB per day. Last year, that rate exploded to 20,235 GB per second. There’s been an explosion of information to consume, but we still have a finite number of hours per day to find the valuable bits. As this rate, we’ll quickly move from busy-ness to burnout if we don’t find a way to better manage our time. Here are four ways successful leaders don’t let busy-ness get in the way of business:

1. Prioritize. Start by deciding the most important priorities in your life – both personal and professional. Stephen Covey called this the “Big Rocks” principle. If you think of your day as a bucket, and you start your day without a plan, you’ll soon get busy filling your bucket with little rocks (tasks, cat videos, whatever). Before you know it, your bucket is full, and you spent another day working on things that have little value to you either personally or professionally. Instead, watch Covey demonstrate how to prioritize your Big Rocks.

2. Centralize. Next, decide on a system where you can keep a daily list of things you need to work on. The choices people make here fall into one of two groups: the techies and the Gutenbergers. If you’re a techie, you’ll probably want to use one of the many multi-platform productivity tools like Evernote and sync it with an app like Remember the Milk to help you manage your tasks. Gutenbergers prefer to track tasks on paper. Franklin Covey is a recognized leader in this area, with lots of options to choose from. Regardless of your preference, you’ll want to centralize all of your tasks in one system. Stop writing reminders on sticky notes and in random devices. Put all of your tasks in one place – and remember to put the Big Rocks in first.

3. Categorize.  You’re clear about your Big Rocks and you’ve chosen one place to keep track of your personal and professional tasks. Now what? In no particular order, make a list of your daily tasks. Next, put them in A, B, and C categories. A tasks are important, B tasks have medium importance, and C tasks have low importance. Now, number all of the A tasks in order of importance, and do the same for the B’s and C’s. If you’ve done this correctly, something that made your Big Rock list has an A beside it. Not necessarily A-1, but it’s at the top.

4. Recognize. Brace yourself for this – your task list will never be done. But, think of it this way. If you start each day with a plan in place, and if you only manage to get one thing on your list done, it will be the most important thing you had to do that day. Over time, you’ll see that some of your B’s and C’s could be delegated so that you’re focusing on the most important priorities in your personal and professional life.

You can continue wearing the busy-ness badge, or get real about your priorities and work on the most important things first. The choice is yours.

Question: Do you know someone who uses a time management system? What impact do you think it has on them personally and professionally?

5 Leadership Books to Have on Your Radar for 2017

If you’re still trying to shake off the political hangover from last year, you may want to turn to leadership books that offer fresh inspiration in 2017.

Here are 5 books being published this year to keep on your radar. Among them, you’ll find uplifting lessons from history, and titles that will help you re-ground yourself through the year.

1. Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, by Christine Porath, PhD

MasteringCivilityWhat it’s about: From the leading authority on workplace incivility, Christine Porath, shows why it pays to be civil, and reveals just how to enhance effectiveness in the workplace and beyond by mastering civility.

Why pick it up: Incivility is silently chipping away at people, organizations, and our economy. Slights, insensitivities, and rude behaviors can cut deeply and hijack focus. Even if people want to perform well, they can’t. Ultimately incivility cuts the bottom line.

 

 

2. Radical Candor, by Kim Scott

RadicalCandowWhat it’s about: A former Google executive and faculty member at Apple University, Kim Scott believes that “workplaces are too nice — really ‘fake nice’ — and that we’d all be better off with unvarnished honesty, especially when it comes to evaluating performance.

Why pick it up: “Radical candor,” according to the book’s synopsis, sits at the “sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other.”

 

 

3. Captain Class: The Driving Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams, by Sam Walker

CaptainClassWhat it’s about: The former global sports editor of The Wall Street Journal profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women who drove them to succeed.

Why pick it up: If you’re a sports fan and a leader who reads, you’ll enjoy Walker’s list of the 16 most dominant teams in sports, and the traits that led their captains to lead them to sustained, historic periods of greatness.

 

 

 

4. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

OptionBWhat it’s about: Following the sudden death of her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, Sandberg described widowhood at a young age as “a club that no one wants to belong to.” Co-authored with Wharton professor Adam Grant, the book is focused on recovering from adversity.

Why pick it up: Though not strictly a business book, it includes stories of people who recovered from a variety of hardships, it includes lessons for leaders who want to build their own resilience, too.

 

 

5. The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits, by Tommy Caldwell

ThePushWhat it’s about: In 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the first free ascent on El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park. Caldwell documented the hardships he faced and what he learned in the process.

Why pick it up: It’s a memoir that will inspire you to conquer your own Dawn Wall, climb to new heights, and push past your own limits.

Part of a leader’s job is to steer a team through uncertainty. But, doing so can leave you feeling drained. Refuel yourself in the pages of some of our favorites picks coming out this year.

 

Question: Which of these five titles do you find most compelling? 

 

EventbriteHeaderCreate a culture that transforms at the speed of change. Come to a one-day immersion in transformative leadership crafted to inspire and engage you. Learn more or register here. Have questions? Email me directly at snasim@executiveexcellence.com.

 

twitter_newsletterInterested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Power of Transformative Leadership

In honor of this week’s observance of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am re-posting this blog originally published on January 19, 2015. I think it bears repeating.

Consider this. When Martin Luther King, Jr. announced the March on Washington in August 28, 1963, organizers hoped for a gathering of 100,000 protesters to generate enough political force to mobilize the government into action. No one could be sure how many would answer the call. Yet, they came in droves.

They came by train from New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. They loaded onto buses from Boston, Milwaukee, and Little Rock.They drove by car from Maryland and Virginia. They flew in from San Diego and Seattle.

At 7:00 a.m. that summer morning, ten people set up their own folding chairs near the Reflecting Pool. By 10:30 a.m., nearly 20,000 milled around the Mall. By the time the formal rally started at 1:15 p.m., the crowd packed across the mile long grassy area from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and stretched a mile northward to Connecticut Avenue. Some took positions in the trees in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In the end, nearly 250,000 people packed around the Reflecting Pool in sweltering 83° heat.

Half a million people came of their own volition. They came because they heard the call in their guts. Martin Luther King, Jr. had no authority over them. He had nothing tangible to offer them when they arrived. He could not even guarantee them safe travel. Yet, he had tapped into their human desire to dream, to grow, and to belong. He used his formidable influence not to serve himself, but to share a vision and help others achieve their potential. That’s the power of transformative leadership.

Question: Do you know transformative leaders who inspire others to achieve their full potential?

 

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CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

SUE Talks: Give the Most Transformative Speech of Your Life

You’re standing on stage. Alone. You can just make out the silhouettes of the people sitting in the audience. Mostly women. In the back of the room, cameras are trained on you. Everyone is waiting. You take a deep breath. You have 12 minutes to give what may be the most transformative speech of your life. No notes. No PowerPoint. No clock. Just you.

That’s the challenge that I and 31 other women have faced since San Diego-based Connected Women of Influence (CWI) launched the SUE Talks in the Fall of 2015. CWI has been helping to advance and elevate professional women since 2008. This powerhouse association has grown from 12 to over 200 members, and offers a diversity of programs and events like Executive Roundtables, the Women Lead Institute, Women Lead Radio, the Women of Influence Awards, and Women Lead Magazine.

The idea for SUE Talks began as a flash of inspiration. CWI Co-Founder Michelle Bergquist and SUE Talks Co-Founder Deanna Potter were chatting about more ways that CWI could help professional women share their stories. “Why don’t we host a series of short talks by women who want to share their professional journeys and the lessons they have learned?” they thought.

From that conversation the SUE Talks were born. SUE stands for Successful, Unstoppable, Empowering women. Some of the presenters are professional speakers like me. (You can watch my SUE Talk here.) Others had never been on stage before. But all SUE Talkers are women sharing deeply personal stories and demonstrating the power of authenticity. Here’s a sampler:

1. Dear World, by Erika De La Cruz

dearworldIn “Dear World,” Erika De La Cruz shares the story of losing everything in life that was dear to her at a young age. With the help of college friends and a poignant gift that she received from a shocking flea market purchase, De La Cruz learned a pivotal lesson. Every day, we get the chance to determine what is valuable to us and the value that we will bring to the world. Every day, we get a chance to write a letter that begins with “Dear World.”

2. Adversity is a Slingshot, by Lyena Strelkoff

adversity“1.2 seconds. That’s how long it takes a woman to fall 25 feet. It’s also how long it takes to turn a life into gold.” That’s how Lyena Strelkoff, a former dancer, begins the story of how a fall from a tree while on a date in 2002 turned her into a paraplegic. In “Adversity is a Slingshot,” Strelkoff shares the surprises she faced when dealing with paralysis, including the biggest surprise of all – how much better it made her life.

3. I am That Woman, by Bethany Kelly

thatwomanIn this funny and warm SUE Talk, Bethany Kelly shares that although she is the textbook definition of survivor, the word survivor doesn’t work for her. Instead, she chooses to practice “aliveness.” She explains, “survivor is a fact over which I have no control. Aliveness is a state of being which I can choose.” Kelly’s journey to aliveness took her from simply existing to becoming her own champion and starting a thriving publishing company.

4. Your Biggest Breakthrough is Born at Rock Bottom, by Jessica Joy Reveles

biggestbreakthrough“The room goes dark, but not quiet. Many of the children are my son’s age. Some whimper and whine and others cry out loudly. I shut my eyes tight, a futile attempt to fall asleep that first night . . . “ With quiet grace, Jessica Joy Reveles walks us through her journey from homelessness (twice) to success. She reminds us that it’s “when we’re at our lowest that the most primal instinct in us sparks the will to survive.”

5. Your Ego, by Sylvia Becker-Hill

youregoIn “Your Ego,” Sylvia Becker-Hill takes us on a 2,000-year journey dating back to ancient Egypt and the birth of “Cleopatra’s curse,” which still haunts women in business today. Because of Cleopatra’s curse, the pain of unrealized potential is shared by millions of women worldwide. In this haunting SUE Talk, Becker-Hill shares her powerful ritual of how to rewire our brains, break Cleopatra’s curse, and enjoy being SUE – successful, unstoppable, and empowered.

This year, CWI is hosting four more incredible evenings of SUE Talks. Click these links if you are inspired be a SUE Talk presenter, sponsor or register for SUE Talks, or want to watch more SUE Talk videos. We all have challenges and setbacks. SUE Talks remind us not to let our setbacks define us, but to use them as a springboard to reach our full potential.

Question: If you were challenged to give a 12-minute speech about your professional journey, what lessons would you share?

 

twitter_newsletterInterested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Our Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of 2016

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is almost over. But before we dive into 2017, we took a look back at which of this year’s posts got the most social media traffic. The most popular posts covered how to leverage unconventional leadership traits like “4 Ways Introverts Excel As Leaders” and “The Servant Leader’s Dilemma”. Then there are the lists. Four out of the top ten are lists of things like leadership books, purpose-driven companies, and service-oriented employees.

Regardless of the nature of each post, we tried to find a lesson or two that you could take away in 750 words or less. Something you could apply at the office that day, or that might slightly sharpen your skills as a leader.

Here are the ten posts that we hope served that purpose:

 

10. 3 Biggest Myths about Strengths

3-myths-about-strengths-01One 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. Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is used by 1.6 million employees and 467 Fortune 500 companies every year. 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. [Read more]

 

9. Simon Sinek Explains the Trust Gap in Your Organization

simonsinektrustgap-webIn 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. [Read more]

 

8. How to Give Thanks Like a Boss

givethankslikeaboss3-01We’ve all come across them. Those leaders who people naturally gravitate toward. Though it seems counterintuitive, the magnetic effect these leaders have on people is not because of how people feel about the leader. It’s because of how the leader makes people feel about themselves. These leaders have mastered two basic facts about people. Fact 1: Every person matters. Fact 2: Every person wants to feel valued. As Thanksgiving approaches, this is an excellent time to review the skills necessary to express meaningful gratitude to your team. [Read more]

 

7. 10 Leadership Books for Your Christmas Wish List

christmasbook-01Don’t get stumped when someone asks you what you want for Christmas this year. If you need some titles to add to your wish list, we’ve gathered our top picks. From memoirs to case studies to historical dramas, you’ll find inspiring accounts to satisfy your need to read. Some of the principles shared in these books you may already know but need reminding of. Here’s a list of books that we think are well worth the turn of the page. [Read more]

 

6. Doing Well By Doing Good: 12 Companies that Got it Right in 2016

doing-well-01The strongest organizations in the world achieve sustainable success largely because they understand the value of culture as a competitive advantage. Whether you nurture it or not, you have a culture. It may be empowering or toxic. Either way, the results are showing up on your bottom line. Here are the 12 companies we featured in our monthly CEE News this year that show how doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. [Read more]

 

5. Leaders: Are You Called or Driven?

leaders_areyoucalledordriven-final-01-copyBy Dr. Tony Baron: Most of our seminal leadership theories have been developed around three significant streams: psychology, philosophy, and economics. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalytical theories on personality, focused on explaining human behavior around the concept of pleasure. Although he sexualized many of his theories, the business community recognized that the consuming public could be enticed to buy simply because of the pleasure that comes with instant gratification. [Read more]

 

4. 8 Must Read Books on Women in Leadership

8mustreadwomeninleadership_web“Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.” That was the opening salvo in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 best-selling book Lean In. The book sparked debate about gender equality and urged women to expect and demand more for their careers. [Read more]

 

 

3. 4 Ways Introverts Excel as Leaders

4waysintrovertsexcelasleaders-web
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. [Read more]

 

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2. Meet 10 Ex-Special Forces Operators Ready for Hire at Your Company

meet10exspecialforces
“Please let me know if you would have an interest in dropping into a room of Navy SEALs and coaching them.” That was the message I received on July 21, 2016, from someone named Philip Dana through a LinkedIn request to connect. “Hi Phil,” I replied, “You certainly know how to get my attention. Let’s meet for coffee.” That was the beginning of my journey this year into the world of The Honor Foundation. THF is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Diego that helps former Navy SEALs and other elite U.S. Special Operations Forces transition out of military service and into the corporate world. [Read more]

 

1. The Servant Leaders’ Dilemma

theservantleadersdilemma-01“How can I effectively use my leadership position to serve others without burning myself out?” The concept of servant leadership was originated by Robert Greenleaf nearly 50 years ago. Greenleaf was an iconoclast who argued that leaders should use their positions of power to help their teams succeed rather than for self-interest and personal glory. It’s a powerful concept that has been put to the test by many organizations, large and small, such as Southwest Airlines and Federal Express. [Read more]

 

It’s been an honor to share our thoughts with you this year. We truly appreciate your comments, your likes, and your shares. We look forward to continuing the conversation in 2017.

Question: What thought leaders did you follow most in 2016? Did you learn anything that helped you become a better leader?

 

twitter_newsletterInterested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!