All posts in “People”

The 5 Levels of Listening

Picture this. The CEO needs to make a decision about a cost-saving measure, and has turned to your team for advice. In support of the initiative to go paperless, she wants to eliminate either pens or pencils from use by employees across the organization. The program will be considered a success if it is rolled out in 30 days from today, 100% of employees have converted from the legacy writing instrument, and employee morale does not drop.

As ridiculous as this initiative may sound, the scenario sounds all too familiar. Teams are often given limited time, little supporting data, and high expectations to make decisions that will have enterprise-wide impact.

What is also familiar is that teams are working on several other initiatives with compressed due dates. When the topic of pens versus pencils comes up on the team meeting agenda, only one member of the team has a strong position. Let’s call him the Advocate. The Advocate has studied the issue, has prior experience with a successful rollout of a similar initiative, and has drafted a plan to share with the team.

When the issue is brought up at a meeting, the team members are scattered in focus, and don’t practice the listening skills that would take advantage of the Advocate’s expertise and passion. Instead, they fall into four types of listeners: Ignore, Volley, Judge, and Apply.

Ignore. The Ignorer must attend the meeting, but obviously has other issues pressing for his attention. He’s buried in his phone, but throws out occasional comments like “Uh huh” or “Wait. What are we talking about?” from time to time. His guiding statement is, “You’re not important to me right now.”

Volley. This person doesn’t really agree or disagree with the Advocate about this issue, but wants to be a part of the conversation to get his own remarks on record. He’s preparing his comeback while the Advocate is talking, and interrupts in mid-sentence. His guiding statement is, “You think that’s right/wrong, I can top that.”

Judge. She strongly disagrees with the Advocate about this issue. She’s constantly fact-checking, and making assumptions and conclusions before she hears out the Advocate. Her guiding statement is, “Here’s your problem.”

Apply. This person considers the Advocate a subject matter expert and is here to learn, but not ask clarifying questions or offer feedback. She pays close attention as she downloads information from the Advocate and her other teammates. Her guiding statement is, “What can I take away and keep myself safe?”

Scenarios like this play out all too often. The ability for teams to share information, and make decisions gets bogged down by the inability to listen. Instead, we accept unproductive listening behavior. We let Ignoring, Volleying, Judging, and Applying pass for listening. But to truly hear one another productively, we must practice listening with empathy, as follows:

Empathize. Team members don’t initially agree or disagree with the Advocate, but are present to the Advocate’s words and, more importantly, are open to being changed by what is said. They give their full attention to the Advocate’s words and body language. They stay curious, make an emotional connection, and forget their own agenda. Their guiding statement is, “What are you experiencing?”

Listening with empathy takes practice. It requires being fully present to the thoughts and feelings of others, setting aside our ego, and being open to information that may change our paradigm about an issue. As you go through your workday, take note of how many of the five levels of listening take place among your team members, and how your team would benefit by practicing listening with empathy.

Question: Which of the five levels of listening do you hear in your team meetings?

Download our 5 Levels of Listening free resource. Ask yourself which of these 5 levels of Listening are you participating in. If you find yourself regularly falling into the Ignoring, Volleying, Judging, or Applying levels of listening, take some time to remember the prescription for that level, so that you can become a more Empathetic listener.


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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!

4 Easy Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now!

Every week, we talk to leaders who are responsible for making sweeping organizational changes. Some are going through mergers. Some are opening new international markets. Others are leading major rebranding initiatives.

Change is pervasive in our society and a fact of life in organizations. It’s easy to get caught up in the sexy complexities of organizational change. So easy, in fact, that we can forget to connect with what our employees are doing each day to keep the engines running. If that disconnect is too great, we run the risk of creating lasting damage.

Gallup reports that 7 out of every 10 employees are disengaged at work. If your calendar is loaded with meetings about your latest strategic initiative, consider making room for small changes to engage with your employees. Take some time to show them that they are valued members of your team.

Here are 4 small changes that can produce big results:

1. Greet every employee you encounter, making eye contact and smiling, no matter how rushed you feel. 
Does this sound too simple to be effective? Remember that every employee wants to be recognized. At its most basic, that means seeing and acknowledging each person. This takes very little time, but can significantly improve the spirits of the entire organization. Be genuine though. Employees can spot a smile-o-matic from miles away.


2. Spend at least 15 minutes each day simply listening to what your employees have to say. 
Leaders spend so much time telling, that it is easy to forget the value of listening. Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart. With daily practice, you’ll begin to find out what matters most to your employees. Great leaders are great listeners.


4 Easy Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now_ICONS-02

3. Connect employees’ daily contributions to the organization’s strategic objectives. 
Granted, there may be some strategic initiatives in the pipeline that you are not ready to share with your employees. But employees can and should connect what they do each day to the published organizational goals. As a leader, it is vital that help employees connect the dots between what they do and what the organization is trying to achieve. Read more about proven ways to connect your employees with your strategic plan here.

4. Offer more praise than corrective feedback. Being negative comes naturally. But, according to this Galllup Business Journal article, “Recognition is a short-term need that has to be satisfied on an ongoing basis – weekly, maybe daily.” Every time we praise, it creates a burst of dopamine or internal reward system that makes employees want to repeat the behavior that was positively recognized.


Each of these four simple steps takes very little time out of your day. Find the time and take the time to make these small changes to keep your employees engaged.

Question: Which of these actions could you take today?


Download our infographic: From Buzz Phrase to Business Case: Why Employee Engagement Really Matters or email us at to learn more about our workshops and corporate training opportunities for employee engagement. We’d love to hear from you!

3 Steps to Leveraging Team Conflict

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Like many of the quotes attributed to Henry Ford nearly 100 years ago, this one continues to ring true today. Ford was known for his innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness that revolutionized transportation in America.

Today, the world is poised for another revolution that will not only transportation, but every other conceivable industry. In order to meet the overwhelming demand and associated stresses that these changes will bring, teams will need to effectively deal with conflict. When some of your team members have strong, conflicting opinions about what strategy to take, here are three steps you can take to put everyone back on track:

1.    Separate the business issues from the personal issues. If personal styles vary greatly among your team members, administer an assessment like the Gallup© StrengthsFinder. Collect the top five strengths of every team member and put them on a matrix. Review the matrix with the team to help them see what personal styles they have in common, and where there are differences. Doing so will enable the team to build a common frame of references for dealing with individual differences.

2.    Identify where the team is in violent agreement. If you haven’t taken the time to create a team charter, now may be a good time to stop and do so. The process of creating a charter will allow the team to establish a common set of values, purpose, goals, and expectations. Have the team sign the charter, give each member a copy, and post a copy in a common area. When conflicts arise, use the charter as a North Star to guide the team back to the what they mutually agreed to. Here’s a template published by Redbooth to get you started.

3.    Pop the power bubbles. Sometimes, conflict involves power issues or strong personal agendas that require your direct attention. If you allow these to go unchecked for too long, it will erode confidence in your ability to lead the team. Sit down with any members of your team who may be testing your authority. Help them identify the sources of their conflict. Let them know that you will provide every resource you have available to help them, but that team cohesion is your first priority. Read this article from the Harvard Business Review to learn more about toxic team members.

Conflict can be healthy for a team when it’s channeled properly. Knowing how and when to intervene is a leadership skill that will pay off for you and your team.

Question: What approaches have you found helpful to create a culture of healthy conflict with your team?

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!

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?

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 directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation. We have a few spots available this summer for in-person or online coaching.

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 directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.


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?  

Strengths: 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

What does it mean to operate from a place of your strengths? I’m not talking about how strong you are or if you are able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… I am talking about helping your employees recognize the talents that naturally exist within them. Each of your employees serves a special purpose within your organization based on their strengths. When we tap into them as a strengths-based team, we can build a vibrant, healthy work environment.

I recently heard a fascinating radio program about Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist. In a study on collaboration among trees, Simard discovered that trees work together through a network of forest floor communication. Simard states that trees need a complex and diverse community to thrive in.

In her June 2016 TED Talk, Simard explained the symbiotic needs of trees in a forest. Trees are connected to their forest community in a kind of “underground super-highway”, Simard explains. They need other plants that can cycle nutrients more quickly or that can access nutrients in different niches. They need neighbors that are resistant to insects and diseases. So, instead of competition for resources, trees are actually communicating and cooperating with their neighbors. They make sure their neighbors — their diverse community — is vibrant because that feeds back to them and impacts their health.

Simard equates the forest community to the way our communities work. We live in communities of doctors and teachers and people who run coffee shops and bakeries. A thriving community requires a whole range of skills and resources. We need each other. If you take away the baker, we’ve got no bread. If you remove the banker, financial stability is shaken.

Just as the trees in the forest share resources to remain vibrant and healthy, so must managers identify individual strengths of team members for maximum collaboration and engagement. Don’t hire people for their strengths then ask them to work on their weaknesses. Instead, unlock their natural talents, give them the tools and support that best suits their individual style and you’ll build a team that thrives!


Click here to learn more about 5 Generations. Side by Side. and reserve your seat for our June 6 workshop!

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!

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

“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.

THF is a world-class, 120-hour program started by CEO Joe Musselman out of a combination of desperation and drive to serve others. In 2012, Joe was faced with the most difficult transition of his life. He had enlisted in the Navy with a dream to become a Navy SEAL. While in training one day, Joe sustained a serious injury. By nightfall, he was medically discharged. The next 12 months led Joe through rehabilitation and the discovery of dozens of other members of the SEAL community who were in serious need of help to transition out of military service and into the civilian world.

As he dug further into the issue, Joe found that just 13% of SEALs had job offers when they got out of the service. He compared this to the 98% of Wharton MBA graduates who received 2-3 job offers upon graduation. Even those SEALs who did find employment often moved from job to job in the first five years after transitioning. That was the injustice that Joe set out to correct in 2013.

Last week, THF graduated its 9th group of Special Operations Forces in a ceremony at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. 32 men and 1 woman who have served our country with honor now 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 ten members of the Group 9 graduating class, and to invite you to learn more about how you can employ, mentor, coach or donate to this amazing organization.


1. Phil Gilreath, “Seeking new challenges in the San Diego area.”

philgilreathAreas of Interest: Operations Management, Project Management, Leadership, Strategic Planning

Experience: From leading small units to leading an operations department and the strategic long term planning for an organization of over 750 people, I have had the opportunity to work with amazingly talented performers at multiple organizational levels.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, History

Availability: Phil transitions from the Marine Corps in December of 2016


2. Bob Howell, “I want to create a better environment for my kids through environmental overhaul.”

bobAreas of interest: To provide ethical leadership to organizations that have a responsibility to improve the environment.

Experience: Responsible for task management and primary assignments of a 3500-person work force with direct oversight of 8 global subordinate units. Chairman of the “Issue Resolution Board” to establish priority and tracking of operations initiatives. Negotiated or approved contracts with suppliers, distributors, federal and state agencies. Approved all out of budget and discretionary funding.

Education: The Honor Foundation

Availability: Bob transitions from the Navy in January of 2017


3. Anthony Alessi, “Thrives in competitive environments with high stakes.”

anthonyAreas of Interest: Technology as a solution to environmental change. Renewable energy, emerging technologies, automation in vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, wireless charging, and a people-centric corporate culture.

Experience: Collaborated effectively to integrate tactics within a team in order to maximize unit cohesion, standardize operating procedures and expand capabilities.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Economics

Availability: Anthony transitions from the Navy in March 2017


4. Blake Campbell, “I love to win, but love winning with my teammates even more.”

blakecambellAreas of interest: A small business with good values, fun, and down to earth culture.

Experience: Unsurpassed focus and motivation. Ability to lead, mentor, and continuously learn. Proven management of million dollar + assets with zero discrepancies.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Business Strategies (2017)

Availability: Blake transitions from the Navy in March of 2017



5. Louis Godeaux, “Cross-Functional Team Leader, Senior Program Manager”

louisAreas of Interest: Seeking a leadership position in a visionary organization that values cutting-edge designs and solutions.

Experience: Senior technical program leader responsible for integration management across multiple cross-functional teams. Analytical activator with demonstrated ability to solve complex problems in high-stakes environments.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Information Technology-Security

Availability: Louis transitions from the Navy in March of 2017


6. Nate Lampert, “Proven operational leader, who motivates, empowers, and develops teams to achieve in difficult environments.”

natelampertAreas of Interest: To work for a dynamic company where people first, innovation, and environmental stewardship are essential ethos of the organizational culture, preferably in the Pacific Northwest.

Experience: Senior operational advisor to executive leadership in formulation of plans, personnel requirements, and procedural guidance covering a personnel network over 12 Pacific nations from Sri Lanka to Indonesia. Managed security and human resource operations for a 100-man unit; established training plans and directed the operational activities for information gathering and employment of new technologies.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Intelligence Studies

Availability: Nate transitions from the Marines in the summer of 2017


7. Kelsy Holle, “Determined to create positive changes in the educational opportunities of students with autism.”

kelsyAreas of Interest: Non-profit, education and training

Experience: As a strategist I have synthesized data to create tangible, actionable information and increase operational capabilities. As a personnel manager I identified each person’s strengths to allow each member of the team to perform at their highest level.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Psychology

Availability: Kelsy transitions from the Navy in October of 2017


8. Floyd McClendon, Jr., “Experienced, inspirational public speaker with a purpose to positively affect peoples’ lives. Passionate about initiatives that will develop those who are struggling socially, mentally, and/or physically.”

floydjrAreas of Interest: Currently seeking a position in the public service sector with the long-term aspiration of holding a seat in the legislative and/or executive branch.

Experience: Director of Operations responsible to plan, coordinate, command, control, and conduct operations in support of operations, strategic initiatives, and contingencies.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Liberal Arts

Availability: Floyd transitions from the Navy in the fall of 2017


9. Mark Mason, “A proven leader who loves to network and inspire teams toward shared goals. Excited about the opportunity of solving enterprise-wide problems. High-performance organizational experience building a mastery of a diverse range of technical, tactical, and strategic skills, which transfer seamlessly to private sector needs.”

markmasonAreas of Interest: To pursue a career that allows him to continue to build, train, and lead high performance teams, preferably in the San Diego area.

Experience: 26 years of Team Building, Organizational Leadership, Servant Leadership, Public Speaking, Curriculum Design, Conflict Resolution, Leadership Development, Risk Management, Operational Management, and Data Analysis

Education: Master’s Degree, Organizational Leadership

Availability: Mark plans to transition from the Navy in December of 2017


10. Ray Jobi, “I am a passionate learner who adds the extra to ordinary.”

rayjobiAreas of Interest: Project Management, Commercial Real Estate

Experience: Repeated success guiding sizeable, cross-functional teams in the design and development of critical projects in a dynamic environment. The ability to forge solid relationships with strategic partners and build consensus across multiple organizational levels.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Organizational Leadership (2017)

Availability: Ray transitions from the Navy in October of 2018


If you feel inspired to employ, mentor, or coach a member of this elite group, or be a THF sponsor, please fill out this online form directly on their website. Someone will be in touch with you soon. Thank you for your support!


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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!

6 Women Who Put the Leadership Question to Bed

I’m taking some time off writing new blogs this month to enjoy Women’s Leadership Month. In honor of the theme, I’m reposting some of my favorite blogs to celebrate women in leadership. Today’s post is to recognize women who have served as strong leadership role models. Their insights can motivate both women and men to set aside their fears and become better versions of themselves. I hope that they will inspire you too.

“It’s sometimes surprising to discover the cumulative progress women have made in recent times. Just think. What field has not been enriched by females – in art, theatre, finance, politics, law, entrepreneurship, science? The list is as impressive as it is enlightening. To realize that we are no longer pioneers. The startling exception. The first to fly, or swim, or sail prodigious distances in bad weather. No longer the first to be elected, the first to discover cures in medicine, or the first to untangle problems in science, math or physics. No. We are multitudes, and society is clearly the better for our peaceful invasion. There is no modernity and no justice without the talent, passion, and the steely intelligence of women.” – Toni Morrison

No matter what your political views are, the question of women in power was brought to the international stage during last year’s election season in the U.S. Below are insights from six women driven by their inner strength, passion, and drive to make a difference. Their examples can serve to motivate both women and men to set aside their fears and become better versions of themselves.


alicia_keys1. Alicia Keyes, 15-time Grammy award winner

Her experience: Strong women like my mother showed me that you can claim what you want out of your life. I loved the concept of rebel – of challenging the mainstay.

Her advice: When you erase fear from your vocabulary, you can’t fail.





aimeemullins2. Aimee Mullins, Record-breaker at the Paralympic Games in 1996 and fashion model

Her experience: I am a double amputee, but whether or not I am disabled is a subjective opinion. I determine what I am capable of doing.

Her advice: Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It’s part of our life.




LOS ANGELES - JULY 3: Attorney Gloria Allred during a portrait session for attorney Gloria Allred and daughter television anchor Lisa Bloom on July 3, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

3. Gloria Allred, Discrimination attorney and feminist lawyer

Her experience: In civil rights, we are not politicians, but attorneys. What we seek is often not popular at the moment, but later it is. I have a duty to help victims win change.

Her advice:  If people call you names, see that as a victory, because you know they don’t have a good argument on the merits.




"I've always been an introverted person," Shonda Rhimes says, and she found the fame that came with her television successes to be "daunting."

4. Shonda Rhimes, Producer of 3 Emmy-nominated shows and author of The Year of Yes

Her experience: I was dictating stories into a tape recorder when I was 3 years old. After college, I moved into my sister’s basement and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. There was no plan. It was both breathtaking and terrifying.

Her advice: Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.




sarablakely5. Sarah Blakely, American businesswoman and founder of Spanx.

Her experience: I had $5,000 in savings, an idea, and some cellulite. The moment you have an idea, that is when it’s very vulnerable. It’s also the moment that we want to turn to a friend, a co-worker, a husband or wife, and share it. And out of love and concern, million dollar ideas get squashed.

Her advice: Be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is that you become memorable.




madeleine-albright6. Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State

Her experience: When I became Secretary of State, the challenge was not so much how foreign leaders would regard me. They knew that I represented the United States (and I arrived in a big plane). In some ways, I had more problems with the men in our own government.

Her advice: It’s a wonderful time of opportunity, but don’t forget how hard it’s been for women. We need to respect each other, and we need to help each other.


Question: What women have inspired you to become a better version of yourself?



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!

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 Journal, Businessweek, 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?

Got What It Takes To Become a Great Place To Work®?

(Join me live on April 27 in San Diego where I will be co-hosting The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit with Dr. Tony Baron.)    

For 25 years, Great Place to Work®  has studied the link between organizational culture and business performance.  Last week, throngs of people from around the world poured into San Diego to attend the 2016 Great Place To Work® annual conference. Keynotes and breakouts were given by leaders who shared the secret to how they achieved a spot on coveted lists like Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for

Companies that make the list have nearly half the voluntary turnover of their peers, and perform nearly 2x better than the market average.  So what’s their secret?  In a word, trust.

Here are three distinct examples shared about how to create a high-trust organizational culture:



1. Define Your Company’s Purpose and Connect People To It.  Keynote speaker Robb Webb, EVP of CHRO at Hyatt Hotels, confided that employees used to have to memorize scripts when dealing with guests.  Instead of getting a human conversation, guests were put through a rigid set of questions and answers at check-in.  That Q&A was designed to collect data and generate a higher profit:guest ratio, rather than improve the guest experience.


In a Hyatt World“Today,” Webb said, “we tell employees to throw away the maps (or the scripts) and use a compass to find true north (our purpose).” Hyatt’s purpose is simple – We care for people so they can be their best.  To achieve that purpose, Webb asks colleagues to follow 3 simple rules:

1) Be in the moment
2) Be yourself
3) Meet the guest where the guest is in the moment.

Simple. Human. Effective.  That’s the secret to how Hyatt has achieved several GPTW list rankings, including #47 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.


2. Get Your Values Off the Walls.  In 2002, Atlassian co-founders launched an enterprise software company with no sales force.  From Australia.  Their strategy was to make great software, price it right, and make it available to download from the internet.  Their hope was that people would build great things with their software and tell their friends, and so on.  Along with Atlassian’s unconventional business model, is an unconventional set of core values that shape its culture and its products.

Atlassian Temporary TattoosBreakout leader Jeff Diana, Atlassian’s Chief People Officer, shared the company’s core values (including ones like “Open Company, No Bullshit,” “Build with heart and balance,” and “Play, as a Team”).  Diana described how the values serve as the foundation that directly impacts employee performance from Day 1.  “48 hours before each new employee begins the job,” Diana said, “they get a welcome box delivered to their home.”  Among the items in the box are temporary tattoos for each of the company’s core values.  “We encourage new employees to show up to work wearing their favorite value tattoo,” said Diana, “It’s a great conversation starter about what our values mean and how we use them every day to make business decisions.”

Among its many GPTW listings, Atlassian most recently ranked #6 in Best Workplaces in Technology 2016.


3. Give Employees a Voice.  In 1999, San Diego-based Scripps Health was losing $15 million a year, and employee and physician confidence had hit bottom. That was the scene when Scripps tapped new President & CEO Chris Van Gorder to restore Scripps’ fiscal and cultural health. Van Gorder responded with a transparent, co-management style, configured an award-winning executive team, streamlined business operations and focused on workplace culture to lead a landmark turnaround.

Scripps Health Site Visit“An integral part of the turnaround strategy,” Van Gorder told guests at a Scripps Health site visit, “was to enlist the staff directly in the planning of the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute – the largest provider of cardiovascular medicine, research and training on the West Coast.”  “We had a voice in designing every detail from the size of the elevators to the configuration of the patient rooms,” said Chief Nurse and Operations Executive Cindy Steckel.  The staff tested their designs in rooms marked “Day In the Life” to assess patient safety, staff circulation, and infection control.

Listening to the voice of the employees is just one of many ways that Van Gorder helped Scripps achieve multi-year GPTW spots, including #42 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.

If you look over these three examples carefully, you’ll notice that these organizations have found ways to treat employees like adults.  They give them inspiration, motivation, and the tools necessary to get the job done – then get out of their way and trust them to deliver results.


Question: Would your employees say that they are treated like trusted adults?  

Leadership Summit in San Diego

Join me and Dr. Tony Baron on April 27th in San Diego for The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit
Discover how to create a culture that can respond swiftly, communicate freely, encourage experimentation, and organize as a network of people motivated by a shared purpose to meet the demands of the 21st century business environment. To learn more or register, go to: