Flexible Work Options. Are You Brave Enough?

Eight years ago, before I came to work at ViRTUS, I fell into an exciting job. The head office is in Waterloo, Ontario and I live in Vancouver. They needed a facilitator on the West Coast and so I had the much coveted clause in my contract, “work from home”.

Working from home has changed the way I look at work. Earlier in my career, I experienced what I call the “optics trap”. Feeling like I needed to be the first one in and the last one out for my manager to perceive me as a hard worker. Ugh!

Working from home makes me feel trusted by my leaders to get the job done wherever and whenever I like. This is incredible freedom and a huge motivator for me. I completely agree with Richard Branson’s point of view. “The key for me is that in today’s world I do not think it is effective or productive to force your employees one way or another. Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce.” Source:

April BlogIn spite of the mounting evidence to support flexible work options, we still aren’t seeing a rapid decline of bricks and mortar. Yahoo and Best Buy’s decision to revoke their flexible work options last year begged the question, does this really work”? And so the debate drones on. Sigh.

“Establishing the correct culture is not easy – that is why those organisations that get it right stand out. And as a leader, you need to really empower and trust your team. You need to build an honest environment where communication is paramount, feedback is continuous and two-way.  And where you are brave enough to offer flexibility and choice, it means you do not have to see your team to know if they are doing a great job.” Carla Stent, “Rise and Fall of the Flexible Workplace Series”

In my experience, I had a lot of support and encouragement from my leaders to maintain my productive work from home status. My leaders always found a way to foster team work and camaraderie in spite of the fact that we were a five-hour plane ride away from each other. I was always patched in through video chat for weekly team meetings and was really touched by the creative virtual baby shower my manager and colleagues planned for me before I went away on maternity leave. It became clear to me that almost everything could be done in some way virtually; it just required support and a little out-of-the-box thinking.

In some ways I worked harder than my colleagues to stay connected and be part of the team. I worked to Eastern hours, picked up the phone and used video chat as much as possible. I was diligent about blocking off time for one-on-one meetings with leaders or decision makers almost daily and for sure weekly.

Five months ago, I found myself embarking on a new career transition. Finding something that allowed me to work from home was at the top of my criteria list – even above salary. Enter ViRTUS. This company used to have an office in the heart of Vancouver’s hipster area Yaletown. After a few short years they gave up the space and went virtual.

Mike Desjardins, Driver & CEO at ViRTUS admits the hardest part of transitioning from an office to going virtual was, “Feeling like another shoe was going to drop and there was something critical we had missed. The reality was things got easier and faster. The hardest part was something completely unexpected. The team lost some of their personal wellness because we didn’t set up boundaries around work/life and ended up working a lot more.”

Mike continues by saying that, “The biggest rewards have been implementing fantastic social technology such as Yammer, our Wiki, our virtual world in AvayaLive (see Laura Mack’s post below from January for more on this!) and Basecamp. We also spend more time together “in-person” as we use Skype video or WebEx to communicate during the day. The virtual world we have set up in AvayaLive helps us “level the playing field” between Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, simulating an experience that feels like we’re all in the same place.

Mike agrees that properly executing flexible work options comes down to leadership. He advises leaders to, “Set your team free to work wherever they feel most productive. All they need is a laptop, a smartphone and a quiet place to work.”

Hopefully this has helped ease some anxieties over the thought of letting your staff go, or maybe this has confirmed beliefs you already have on the subject. Either way, I know this is where we are headed in the future. Now, the question I have for you is, “Are you brave enough to offer your employees a choice on where they work?”


 AmandaPAmanda Prelazzi is an Instructional Designer at ViRTUS

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Self-Managing – How not to Snap!

BlogMarchThink back to a time when you reacted to a situation in a way that you thought afterwards “I wish I wouldn’t have behaved like that”.

It could have been when you were at a job interview and you panicked and got confused so the potential employers didn’t get to see you at your best.  Or when you made a mistake with your sister and she got upset and yelled at you.  Or when your friend gossiped about you and when you heard about it you snapped, and yelled at him.  Or when you took your learners test for driving (for the first time), and fear and anxiousness lead you to failing it.

How do you not snap?

How do you stop yourself?  What can you do?  You can see it happening in the moment and yet it’s like a movie – you can’t seem to do anything about it and once it’s over you feel ashamed. There’s good news and bad news (well just sort of bad news).

The good news is there is a way forward – there is hope.  The bad news is that it takes time and practice and a willingness to get a bit vulnerable. Learning to self-manage is the key.


What is it?  Essentially it’s the ability to change an unhelpful habit by overriding your impulse in the moment.  It means that you are able to manage what is occurring for you internally and to have more choice about how you behave.

How do you do it?  Check out this infographic on the ABC’s of Self-Managing.  It outlines how to do it, and is one skill that everyone on the planet could benefit from practicing.


What are the benefits?  The biggest benefit is that you get to be your authentic self (who you are at your best) and behave in a way you choose, rather than a way you have learned.  You get to be intentional and choiceful about your response rather than reacting using an old, often unhelpful, automatic pattern.

Let’s take PinkShirtDay, which was on Feb 26th. The focus is on reducing bullying.  There are 2 roles in a bullying situation and there are self-managing strategies for both:  Stand up (for the person being bullied) and Stand down (for the person doing the bullying).

Stand up – Some people have personality types where their automatic or default pattern is to lash out and “fight” (one of 3 patterns that occur when your emotions get hijacked by your amygdala and your body goes into to fight, flight or freeze).  The person being bullied may have a pattern of “flight or freeze” and can learn to self-manage and practice watching their tone and body language, standing confidently and setting a boundary with the bully.

Stand down – the person doing the bullying can practice overriding the impulse to be aggressive and be empathetic to the other person.  They can then choose a more effective behaviour in the moment.  Even if they want to change their behaviour, they may not know how.

Here’s a great video about calming the amygdala to reduce anxiety and self-manage.

2 factors that must be present:

The stakes have to be high enough that the person wants to change their behaviour, and

They have to be willing to get vulnerable and try out new practices and behaviours.

Self-managing can be helpful in a wide range of situations where we want to learn to behave more effectively in the moment.

Self-managing is also helpful in the following:

  • When you want to be supportive of a child or teen and want them to make their own decisions, and in this case you may not agree with their decision,
  • Staying focused by overriding the impulse to constantly check your smartphone,
  • When you want to give a colleague constructive feedback about their unhelpful behaviours at the office,
  • When you want to stop shutting down your significant other’s ideas and to support them to feel heard, and

To stop back-seat driving when the fear is really your issue. (Find more about how to self-manage in my book Awaken Your Authentic Leadership in Chapter Six:  Action).

Imagine the inner peace that builds when you can choose your responses and override unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, that have got in your way till this point in your life.

All you have to do is start!


Tana_HeminsleyTana Heminsley is a Mentor and Executive Coach at ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, change management, leadership development, and executive coaching.

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Life as an Avatar- Why Virtual Leadership Development Works

av·a·tar ˈavəˌtär/noun- Computing – an icon or figure representing a particular person in computer games, Internet forums, etc.

Had you told me five years ago that I would be facilitating leadership development programs as a virtual ‘avatar’ in a 3-D gaming environment, I would have been amused and likely a bit confused. But, here I am, doing exactly that.

For the past 3 years, ViRTUS has been working with a major international company to “onboard” newly hired managers and deliver leadership development learning opportunities. Our experience has been that interactive virtual learning really works – the courses we run have been getting highly positive feedback from participants.

That being said, not everyone – clients and facilitators included – is totally onboard with virtual learning, with many still preferring live face-to-face meetings to virtual delivery. Each approach has its pros and cons.

But, the reality is that we are living and working in an increasingly virtual world so tapping into today’s virtual tools and technologies and leveraging them for your organization makes sense for a number of reasons:

Financial Savings. Virtual offerings wipe out costs of travel, meeting venue, packing & shipping materials and displays.

Increased Productivity. The time that meeting participants aren’t traveling can be spent on productive activities.

Reduced Stress.  Talk to any busy business traveler and they will tell you that the glamour of biz travel wears thin after a while. Over-crowded planes, long line-ups for security, delayed flights, lost luggage and awful airline food.  Air travel has become a major source of stress. Driving in big cities is little better.   Avoiding these hassles reduces stress and frustration.

Corporate Social Responsibility. Cutting air travel and car journeys doesn’t just reduce cost and stress, it also helps reduce harmful carbon emissions thereby reducing the negative impact of climate change.

My personal experience, and a lot of research, tells me that virtual learning can be highly effective and have a huge impact. However, there are some things to think about before you make the leap from face-to-face to virtual to make the experience as effective as possible. It is after all – literally – a different world.

Here are my Top 3 best practices when moving into virtual learning:

Research & choose your technology wisely. Creatively designed and engaging virtual environments make a huge difference to the participant experience.  For over 3 years I’ve worked as an avatar in an Avayalive Engage environment and the experience of working with a team to transition onboarding training from a fairly static LiveMeeting environment to Avaya’s highly interactive, engaging and fun 3-D virtual environment has been incredible. Presenters and participants each access the 3-D environment from their own computers—either from home or the office.

In the environment they transform themselves into an ‘avatar’—an online persona they create to represent themselves (or a chosen alter-ego). They choose their own appearance—height and weight, hair colour and style, casual or business attire. Presenter and participants can freely ‘walk’ through the virtual environment, speak and be heard, text, and use other modes of communication.

Whichever virtual tool you choose – and there is wide choice—remember, the more interactive the environment is, the more engaged the participants will be.  Don’t be shy about mixing up different modes of communication – slide and video presentations, chat, texting between participants as well as with presenter, polling and white-boarding.

And don’t fear the fun factor. In my experience bringing fun activities into virtual learning opportunities or meetings increases participant engagement and learning. Though sometimes the fun can be a little bit too engaging. In Avayalive, for example, getting the more adventurous avatars to stop trying to climb up the building walls in the environment is sometimes a challenge!


Design for the environment. Relying on the classic face-to-face presentation format in a virtual environment is really a waste of resources. The reality is, virtual participants can far more readily multi-task than they can in a face-to-face meeting – plus it’s a great way to keep them fully engaged.

Another tip for enhancing engagement is to reduce long slabs of delivered content, by increasing opportunities for discussion and other forms of interaction. In the Avayalive Engage environment, participants can move from place to place and from one mode of communication to another.

When bringing Power Point presentations into the environment, I have found that less text and more graphics increase participant engagement.  Great graphics, large font, less text—more engagement—is the way to go.

Don’t assume knowledge but don’t underestimate the smarts of participants either. Presenters learn from participants as well as vice versa. Above all, be endlessly curious about how to generate more engagement – your participants will thank you.

Prepare participants for working in a non-traditional learning environment. Provide a thorough introduction to the new tools they will be using, preferably a day or a few days before the learning session. This will allow first-time participants to focus on the learning session, rather than dealing with basic technical and procedural glitches. Trouble-shooting can consume a lot of in-session time if participants haven’t been prepared.

Moving into this new way of meeting and learning may feel difficult at first, but once you make the move, stick with it! Don’t give up after one or two meetings where participants experience audio or other technical issues. Deal with the issues, help people be as prepared as possible and keep trying.

Many of the participants of the programs I facilitate are already working virtually; many more will be over the next few years. And for more than three years I have been part of this growing trend.

My work environment is the compact fore-cabin of the liveaboard Gulfstar trawler yacht where my husband and I live in Spruce Harbour Marina in the park-lined south side of Vancouvers’ False creek.

Going to work involves carrying a cup of coffee from the galley into the fore-cabin and cautioning the dog not to bark. When the workday is done I don’t have to catch a bus, or sit in traffic in the car, or line up to go through security at the airport. I just close my laptop, call the impatient dog and head out in for a walk along the seawall.

We often meet in "ViRTUS Live" for our team meetings, strategic planning sessions, CSP's etc. Click here to check out our environment. Just type in your name, no password required: Have fun!

We often meet in “ViRTUS Live” for our team meetings, strategic planning sessions, CSP’s etc. Click on the picture to check out our environment. Just type in your name, no password required. Have fun!


lauramackLaura Mack is a Conductor with ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, leadership development and volunteers with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society as a facilitator of restorative justice.


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Reflecting on this year to set myself up for success next year

BlogPhotoAs I wrap-up another year and begin to consider 2014, I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts around how to make your goal planning and the realization of those goals, more successful in the coming year.


Review this year

What we’ve learned from successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives, is that when they review their previous years goals, they tend to set more aggressive goals for the year coming up. The other thing I do is write an annual top ten list (it usually ends up being a top 20-25 list) of what made this year so successful in my Four Arenas. Even in some of my most difficult years in business and in my personal life, I’ve realized that when I reflect back on the successes that year is reframed in my mind in a positive light that gets me excited to plan for the year ahead:

  • Managing Self (gym, reading, sleep, health, etc.)
  • Developing Relationships (with my wife, daughter, family, friends, colleagues, customers, etc.)
  • Focusing on Career/Business (financial goals, metrics/KPI’s, milestones, etc.)
  • Sharing Resources (charity work, donations, sharing my talents and experience without compensation, etc.)

Match goals to values

When I set my goals for the upcoming year I use my personal core values as the framework. That way I know that when I achieve my goals they are in direct alignment with my top five core values:

  • Health
  • Relationship
  • Freedom
  • Wealth
  • Growth

If you’re not sure what your personal core values are you can download a free tool here that we created to help you figure them out and rank them in order of priority.

Figure out what didn’t work and why

The other thing I do is consider what happened in the cases where I didn’t achieve one or more of the goals I set. This helps me avoid setting myself up for failure by either setting goals that are in conflict with each other, not leveraging opportunities to combine goals (spend more time with friends, cardio fitness, & skiing goals work well together), or being overly aggressive with my goals to the point where other goals that are more important to me suffer (hitting a work goal but burning myself out in the process or taking that extra time away from family time). My good friend and colleague, Sarah McNeill, Co-Founder of McNeill Nakamoto Recruiting Firm, shares her thoughts and a great link to another blog post about why most New Years’ Resolutions fail and what you can do about it in her blog post.


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What Cultivating a Compassionate Corporate Culture Can Do For Your Business

Tough leaders get more from their employees. Is this true?  Sure, successful leaders need to hold people accountable, set high standards, push for stringent monitoring of failures as well as successes and often, make wrenchingly painful decisions. But is tough, enough?

Recent research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman emphatically says no.

The two recently published the findings of a major survey of 161,000 employees (working for 31,000 leaders) to determine what management style generated the highest levels of employee satisfaction.

Looking particularly at employees who expressed the greatest levels of satisfaction, they found:

  • 8.9% of those who had tough leaders were in the top 10% of satisfied employees,
  • 6.7% of those who had nice leaders were in the top 10%
  • But 68% of those who had both tough and nice leaders were in the top 10%

So, what exactly is nice and why does it matter in the workplace? In her book The Meaning of Nice: How Compassion and Civility Can Change Your Life (And the World), Joan Duncan Oliver thoroughly dissects the word nice and how it applies in your world.   Her working definition included polite, generous, social, kind and compassionate.

It’s not difficult to understand why being nice – politeness, generosity kindness should be important qualities of leadership. But what about compassion, what does this even look like in the workplace?

Compassion is often confused with empathy. Empathy is an emotional experience of another’s feelings. Compassion is the recognition of another’s suffering and an authentic desire to help.

Compassion feeds the bottom line

Emma Seppala, the Associate Director at the Centre for Compassion & Altruism Research & Education (CCARE) at Stanford, argues “when organizations promote an ethic of compassion rather than a culture of stress, they may not only see a happier workplace but also an improved bottom line”.

To compete effectively in a fast paced, ever changing world, leaders need employees to be at their best. And losing talented team members to more engaging, humane-centered work cultures is something few businesses can afford. In attracting, engaging and keeping top talent the promotion of mutual trust, connection and compassion can be critically important. CCARE’s research indicates that employees are likely to forgive, have less fear of failure and more resilience when they are treated with compassion and in turn act compassionately towards others.

Compassion can reduce stress and improve productivity

Interesting still, are the findings that a recent study by Cassie Mogilner of the Wharton Business School found that when participants helped others this increased their perception that they were less pressed for time. The subjective impression of having more time to achieve things can reduce stress and enable individuals to work more effectively and creatively. In a course I teach on Leading Innovation, one of the main reasons leaders say their teams aren’t more innovative is they don’t feel they have enough time!

Compassion can be learned, encouraged and practiced

Is it possible to cultivate a culture of compassion in the workplace? Karen Armstrong certainly believes so. As the result of a TED prize, she created the Charter of Compassion that is being adopted by increasing numbers of individuals, communities and businesses around the world. Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life include the following suggestions:

  • Spend a day ‘tuning in’ to how people around you are feeling.
  • Find a mindfulness practice that you can incorporate into your daily life.
  • Become aware of when your thoughts are hurtful or unkind. Watch where this awareness shifts your actions into a more compassionate direction.
  • Take a look around your organization. Are there any practices or policies contributing to a lack of compassion? What can you change?
  • Notice where you may be showing a lack of compassion to yourself. Extending compassion begins with self-compassion.
  • Compassion for others can also come from understanding where our own suffering has occurred. What have you experienced?  What have you learned?  How can you use that to help others in your workplace?

This week in Belgium at the World Forum for Ethics in Business 2013, business leaders will continue to explore how to bring more compassion into the business of business. They are guided by a simple precept; compassion is worth pursuing in it’s own right, but it’s also good for business.


lauramack Laura Mack is a Conductor with ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, leadership development and volunteers with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society as a facilitator of restorative justice.


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The Raw Deal with Gut Feel

Imagine this. You’re on the operating table about to have your appendix removed.  You’re drifting gently into la-la land unable to speak when your surgeon walks in and says, “Ok folks, gut feel says it’s the right leg we need to take off.”  Oh dear.

You’re sitting on a plane that been delayed for engine repairs and you hear the mechanic say, “anyone know whether this washer goes inside or out? Gut feel says it shouldn’t really matter.”  Uh, can I get off this plane?

Now, from recent personal experience I can tell you surgery relies on very thorough and precise process drawn from years of execution, reflection and revision (with some bad news in the middle). And flying is one of the safest ways of moving yet devised.

Yet, if surgeons and airline mechanics followed proven processes as effectively as many companies do, our mortality rate would be exponentially greater and we’d be traveling most places by donkey.

In the last quarter, I have watched process execution flounder in areas as diverse as hiring, new product development, and team communication because of poorly considered “gut feel” surgery on critical steps in the process.  Let’s use these 3 situations as examples of where letting gut feel override commitment to a proven process can lead you astray:

Ditching proven hiring process for gut feel

In his book WHO, Brad Smart offers a simplified version of his Topgrading hiring and evaluation process. In it, Smart is very clear – ditch gut feel when it comes to role definition and hiring. I have seen two easy-to-take shortcuts taken when transitioning an existing team member into a new role and in hiring to replace that person: not being really clear on both role descriptions, and not using a proven process like Smart’s WHO process with both people.

Why are these shortcuts so easy to take? Well, gut feel says the person we’re transitioning is already awesome so they must be as right and ready for their new role as they were for the old one and gut feel says the new person is fantastic so they will figure their role out as they go. Talk about setting two people up for declining motivation and engagement, confusion with customers and other staff, and larger distractions for leaders down the road. The lesson:  Whether hiring new team members or transitioning existing ones to new roles complete the process. Even for people you “know.”

Combining process steps to rush Product Market Validation

The quickest ways I have seen a client destroy the effectiveness of the Market Validation process is by combining two clearly distinct steps into one, and ignoring the process requirement to interview the customer in pairs. In his book Running Lean, Ash Maurya’s outlines the Lean Startup Canvas and Market Validation Process, a Lean version of Alex Osterwalders’ Business Model Canvas. It’s a terrific tool for getting out of the building in exactly the right way to proof new product ideas and markets BEFORE spending big bucks. Maurya emphasizes keeping the steps explicitly separate and having two people in customer interviews to increase knowledge gain and reduce the potential for bias in the research. The lesson: Avoid failing big instead of small – keep the MVP steps discrete and always use two people when interviewing.

Eliminating a small but vital meeting communication step

Recently I encountered a client who had intentionally deleted a step from the ViRTUS Weekly Tactical Meeting agenda format – the very important cascading communication section where the group decides what will be communicated, to who, by whom and when – because they “didn’t really need it”. What is the cost of this edit?  Their recent staff survey showed low grades and reduced confidence around internal communication of important business shifts that were explicitly discussed at the Weekly Tactical – hiring, firing, and technology changes. The lesson:  Stick to the meeting process – take the time to agree on a message and communication strategy even for simple decisions.

What’s the solution? 

If I were in your shoes, I would get clear on what matters inside each of the process parts BEFORE modifying, skipping or combining them. Try executing the new process as it was intended and then reflect, revise and repeat.  Notice how the potential for editing is built in to this idea – based on a thoughtful exploration of your experience and results rather than misguided gut feel.


JeffreyK Jeffrey Kearney is a Mentor at ViRTUS, specializing in strategic planning, leadership development, and CEO Mentoring and Coaching.

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3 ways to use Emotional Intelligence (EI) to break down Silos

Empathy Woman small

When I go into an organization to work with leaders and teams, I often hear how the organization’s silos are getting in the way of business success.

I hear people blaming other departments for everything from taking credit where credit is definitely not due, to stalling projects and never taking ownership for accountabilities.

Funny how our minds work – in order for there to be an “us” – a team or department or organization – there always needs to be a “them”, the other guys. It’s amazing to me how unhelpful the human mind can be if it’s untrained and managed.

Emotional Intelligence is all about managing our mind and emotions – our internal experiences – so that we have more choice in our day-to-day lives.  Daniel Goleman’s work is a great place to start to learn about the 5 Hallmarks of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Balanced Motivation (Intrinsic and Extrinsic), Empathy and (Exceptional) Social Skills.

So, what does EI have to offer when it comes to breaking down silos? Here are 3 ways it can help:

1. Change the dynamic of your interactions by practicing self-regulation. Work on managing your emotions when working with other teams to override the habit of blaming. Give others the benefit of the doubt.  Assume they have good intentions (we all tend to do the opposite at times!) and notice how it changes both how you feel, and the outcomes you get when working with others.

2. Get and keep stalled projects moving by working to understand the other guys’ motivations. Ask questions to understand their position and interests. Why isn’t that deadline going to work for their team? Why does your request for shared resources impact their other work so negatively? Understanding the real story instead of making up your own is a key factor in reducing silos and influencing productive outcomes.

3. Build strong relationships by practicing empathy. Slow down for a few minutes to listen to, and care about, what others are saying. Put yourself in their shoes by taking the time to understand what’s going on for them and factor that into things like decision-making, scheduling, and division of responsibility among teams. Practicing empathy creates alliance and shared outcomes – the anti-silo! Check out how Google is finding compassion (empathy) has a positive impact on the bottom line. If Google is doing it, and making the connection to improving business results – you can do it too.

Authentic leadership is a keystone of Emotional and Social Intelligence and it’s important to note that showing interest in others’ motivations and working to understand where they are coming from requires a true and genuine curiosity about the other person. If your interest isn’t real, your outcomes are likely to be short-term.

And here’s a nice bonus: you’re very likely to find these 3 practices bring a little more ease and positivity into your own workday.


Tana_HeminsleyTana Heminsley is a Mentor and Executive Coach at ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, change management, leadership development, and executive coaching.



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Must Read Book List for Senior Level Executives/Managers

We have a very talented team of Mentors and Conductors. They are full of powerful knowledge derived from education and experience.

I recently asked our team to suggest books that senior level executives/managers could read to help them take their career or business to the next level.

You’ll want to pay attention to this list. It’s a good one!

  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
  • Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
  • Execution by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan
  • The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
  • Awaken Your Authentic Leadership- Lead with Inner Clarity & Purpose by Tana Heminsley
  • Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
  • Speed of Trust by S. Covey
  • Leadership and the new science by Margaret Wheatley
  • StandOut by Marcus Buckingham
  • Fierce Conversations: Achieving Sucess at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott
  • Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
  • Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin
  • The Service Profit Chain by James L. Heskett, Earl Sasser Jr., Leonard A. Schlesinger
  • The Power of a Positive No. by William Ury
  • Drive by Daniel H. Pink
  • Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt
  • Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
  • Nice Teams Finish Last: The Secret to Unleashing Your Team’s Maximum Potential by Brian Cole Miller
  • Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future by Margaret J. Wheatley
  • Predictably Irrational Revised And Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely


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Awaken Your Authentic Leadership – Book Review


AwakenMy friend and colleague, Tana Heminsley, asked me to write the Foreword for her book a few months ago.  So I said yes and then began to read it.  I knew it would be good, I just didn’t know that I would have quite such an emotional reaction to it.

Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword of Tana’s first book “Awaken Your Authentic Leadership – Lead with Inner Clarity and Purpose” as my thoughts about Tana’s very practical book continue to be the same:

“When Tana first starting talking about Authentic Leadership I have to admit that I didn’t truly know what she was talking about: authenticity, I get that, leadership, yes, I’m in that business so I get that too. What I’ve come to learn from her and watched her model in her life, is in the pages of this book. What I can tell you is that the authentic leader in you has always existed, is in you right now, is who you truly are, and who you were always meant to be. If that is “what” an authentic leader is, then this book is the “how.”

Awaken Your Authentic Leadership takes the concepts Dan Goleman pioneered in the 1990s, one step further.  Not only do authentic leaders have the five hallmark competencies – self-awareness, self-regulation, balanced intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, empathy and exceptional social skills – they also have a life-affirming and ethical intent that trumps what their ego may want to do in any moment.  So the result is good for the individual, the company, the community and beyond.

I’ve been on my personal journey for the past 15 years to align my goals with my values and to stay true to them on a day-to-day basis. Life changed for me when I started doing this – I began to find my perfect blend of you and profit.

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Coaching your direct reports: where should you start?

As a leader, your time is valuable. So when you consider who on your team you want to spend time coaching, the concept of leverage becomes extremely important: what investment in time gives me the biggest bang for my buck? The challenge is that most leaders are putting the limited time they have into coaching the wrong people on their team. This table shows that for leaders who are putting huge amounts of time into coaching C-Players, the best outcome they can hope for is to turn them into a B-Player (an average result). Basically you’re shooting for mediocrity. Wow. The next level up is to spend a medium amount of time and have a B-Player become an A-Player. That’s a solid result but it still has a significant time investment. Let’s shift to the top row: coaching an A-Player requires a small amount of time but can lead to a significant outcome, an A+ Player (superstar).

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Whenever we ask leaders how much spare time they have, the answer is almost always the same, “I’m swamped” or “I’m busy.” So if you only have limited time to coach your team, why not focus on the people who require the least amount of time and provide the greatest outcome from a change in their behaviour? Once they are on the right track, then move your way down to your B-Players. C-Players are performance management issues that you have known about for a while (come on, be honest with yourself) and aren’t dealing with: move them to another role or help them find meaningful employment outside your organization that better suits their strengths (if you’re not sure what their strengths are, try using StrengthFinder 2.0). In the long run you’ll both be happier.

This leads to the inevitable question, “But my A-Players are already solid at their role so what can I coach them on?” My guess is that you have something in your role that you’d love to hand-off to someone else (something good and meaty, not your expense report). Hand that over to an A-Player and coach them on being successful in that new area of responsibility to free up time for you to have more whitespace, to think more strategically, or to ask your boss if they have anything they’d like off their plate (which is always a good career move).

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