Potential from the Inside Out


This photo is my Sister in law.  She isn’t pretty by the worlds standards, however she has the biggest heart for those hurting in this world.

How many times as leaders have we made a snap judgement because someone looks different.  Maybe they are overweight or their teeth aren’t prefect… and we look at them and think they can’t do this job how can they lead?

What if instead of looking at what was on the outside we took a moment and reviewed the inside?  How would this look at our jobs and in our day to day lives?

As leaders we often have to make quick decisions, our teams expect us to know what’s going on and how we are to accomplish our goals, however these decisions don’t have to be made based on what we see on the outside.  We can take a moment and talk to our teams, find out what motivates them, what their goals are.

I love this quote from Brennan Manning
“To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary. Please, this is not some Pollyanna optimism that is blind to the reality of evil, but rather like a fine radar system that is tuned in to the true, the good, and the beautiful.” – Brennan Manning

As leaders our main job is to raise up those around us, sure it’s important to make the company money and reach goals, however we can’t do any of those things if we don’t have a good team and that doesn’t mean pretty! It means people who have the potential to lead and get the job done!

This week when you go into work, I challenge you to look at the people around you, the ones you don’t always see and think about what good they bring to your organization.  For example the person who cleans your office,  they may seem unimportant, but think about it your office was always dirty and you couldn’t sit down?  You couldn’t do your job!  Or the person who makes the coffee, I can’t imagine any of us think that person isn’t important!

Next get to know these folks ask they how they are, what are they doing?  Maybe she’s a student working towards a degree, or a single dad who works at night to be with his kids during the day.  Our next post will take this a step further! But for now… see the people, not what they look like but who they are!







Be a Beginner!

beginner tuskey dressage

(Photo cred to Tuskey Dressage)

Why is it we always want to jump to the end of everything!  We don’t allow ourselves OR our teams to learn.  This is something that has been causing quite a bit of conversation in our family lately.  We are meeting with alot of young people who are struggling because they don’t know what they want to be an so many companies are requiring them to be an expert before they start!

Most of us who are in our 40’s and older started at companies and were taught the skills we needed to do the jobs.  We didn’t ‘know’ everything when we started, fewer and fewer organizations are allowing people to grow into jobs.  This can be both good and bad as it often means that you are missing out on someone who might be really good at the job if you gave them a few months to learn!

As leaders we often follow this mentality as well with our teams, we expect people to be instantly good leaders and forget that we didn’t start off knowing what we know.  We had to learn and grow into our positions!

What IF (stay with me here), what if we found someone who seemed to have some skills and we invested in them?  Taught them how to be a good leader, how to lead a team, how to handle conflicts?  Taught them the skills they needed to be good leaders and then allowed them to expand their leadership skills in small but impact-full ways? Mentoring another member of the team or leading a small project?  Not only could we guide but they would have the chance to learn!

Today your exercise is to find someone on your team who you think might make a good leader.  Setup a meeting with them and then help them find small ways they can lead within your organization.  Allow them to fail, allow them to succeed and guide them along the way!  I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!

Vision Casting

Most of us middle to low level managers feel that vision casting is something that those higher on the food chain should be managing.  We don’t feel like we have a vision to cast and we couldn’t be more wrong!

Often those of us in this role actually get the vision being cast from our upper level managers AND we understand how it impacts our teams. It is our job to make sure our teams get it.  Most of the time our teams don’t understand how what they do has any effect on the bottom line of the organization. They may feel that their contributions can’t have any real impact, however they have a huge impact on the bottom line!

Yesterday at volleyball a parent came up to me to say how thankful she was that I was coaching.  My energy really impacted her daughter and she wanted to say thank you for what I was doing.  I am an assistant on a 5th/6th team.  I am not a coach, I am not directly impacting the program but my leadership is making a difference on that 1 child whose parent will share that impact with other parents.  My actions impact the bottom line.

It is our job as leaders to make sure our teams know how their actions impact everyone.  It doesn’t matter if their job is to bring the team lunch or interact with the customers directly what they do matters and as leaders it is our job to make sure they know that!

You maybe wondering how bringing the team lunch impacts the client, well anyone whose seen an angry, hungry co-worker knows that feeding them helps!  However what if you thought of it this way, the lunch that you are providing to that team allows them to spend more time working out a serious customer facing issue.  Because they had lunch together they were able to solve a problem that is costing the company money. The lunch you brought solved that problem!

Leaders, we need to be able to cast that vision for our team and continue to cast it.  There is an old saying that vision leaks. It’s like carrying our a heavy bucket of water.  Every step we take some water falls out.  If we won’t refill the bucket eventually it’s going to be empty.  When our teams run out of vision they may start to lack focus and wonder why do they have to bring people lunch!

Sometimes others bump the bucket and cause water to fall out.  People say things in the heat of the moment that causes the water to spill out. It is our job to refill that bucket!  Reminding our team that what they are doing not only matters but has a positive impact on the organizations bottom line ensures that they see the importance in their jobs!

Today, think about the impact your team as on the organization! You may have to be creative in thinking about it.  Write down 3 or 4 ways what your team does makes the organization better and then share those ways with your team!

Remain Calm and Chive On

I have no idea what this saying means!  I mean Chive ON?  What is that? According to Amy DIY (http://www.fmgwebsites.com/aleblanc/blog/what-is-the-chive-what-is-kcco) this saying originated in WWII and essentially means hang loose or be cool.  It has recently gained popularity again.

For me being calm is not something I am good at!  I spent a few years as an EMT/Paramedic and calm was not something I exceled at.  I am a type A person.  I go at a 100 miles an hour ALL THE TIME! When I am not moving that fast I am freaking out!  Literally, this is not a good place to be ever!

I have recently started working with horses, well 1 in particular.  He has a great personality, unlike the one I own.. Well today I experienced the whole keep calm thing.  Duke (the horse I own) got totally freaked out because we dropped something.  (Yea we know he has some issues) however what I learned today is keeping calm is the most important when working when horses.

Being a leader also means keeping calm.  Not losing your head when things are spiraling out of control is not an easy task for anyone.  For some people it’s so much easier than others. As a leader we MUST remain calm at the face of everything because our team is looking to us to set the tone.

Just like with the horses today if we’d lost our cool they would of freaked out even more than they did.  Now think about this a 1200lb animal running scared. This is NOT good!  Well neither is have 10 people on your team running scared!

As a leader it’s OK to not know it all, its even OK to get upset from time to time. It’s going to be how you recover.  Today when Duke decided that the whip that fell was TOTALLY going to kill him ( I am not joking that was his response) my response was to take a few deep breaths and try to back up the horse I had.  However, I didn’t yell, I didn’t start to cry I simply talked calmly in that moment.

How we deal with a crisis is a true test of our leadership!  However the bigger test is how we deal with the after. Did we lose our cool?  Do we need to apologize? We are human it’s OK to learn from our mistakes and missteps.

When your team goes into crisis mode work through it and then go over it after.  Talk about what went well where can you improve and think internally about how YOU as the leader reacted.

Today think about how you react in a crisis, what’s good, what’s bad?  Ask those close to you for feedback.  Think about what is said and what you can learn from it.  This is what will make you a better leader

Be Present

Learning to train a horse has been challenging at best.  I am learning that my communications must be clear and when they aren’t bad things happen.  These bad things can be something as simple as the horse continues to walk or as bad as him bucking.

As a leader we often feel that we are saying the right words and asking for the right actions, however are team members don’t seem to react the way we want.  We get angry, we lash out, we punish and we still don’t get the results we want.  Why is this?

Well let’s take a step back,  you are meeting with your team either in a group or 1×1.  You ask questions, maybe about what’s going on in their day to day life, maybe about specific work topics.  However, do you really hear the answers, do you see or feel the way the person answers.  Are you present?

Being present means being aware of what you are thinking and feeling in that moment.  Are you able to really listen in that moment or are you distracted by a deadline or other conflict.  Simply being aware of what you are feeling actually puts you in the moment.  This isn’t an easy shift it requires us to actually stop for a moment and focus on what we are doing, hearing and saying.

Your goal for this week is to spend time gaining awareness of being present.  Change is something that happens in stages, you can’t simply jump to being aware.  At first you will have to physically think about being aware.  After each conversation think about if you were aware in that moment.  Think about little things like how did the person look, what were they doing with their hands and face.

Next think about how you felt in that moment.  Were you calm, anxious, thinking about dinner or the dogs?

Now the next time you have a scheduled meeting think about the people in the meeting, what might they be dealing with, how can you hear them.  When you go  into the meeting mentally prepare yourself to be present in that moment. Think about the room, or the call, turn off your email (shocking I know) and focus on the meeting and try to not think about dinner. BUT when dinner comes into your mind mentally say, I am here for this meeting dinner will be dealt with after. If needed make a note on a piece of paper – Dinner – and then mentally go back to your meeting.

Being present means that we don’t allow other ideas to come in, this isn’t easy!  This means we have to acknowledge those other thoughts and then move back to the present.

Eventually you will get to a point where this action is more automatic.  You will be able to be present in your meetings and conversations.

Good luck and let me know how you were present this week.


Welcome to Wednesday!  Not sure where all of you live, however here in the Chicagoland area it’s going to be in the 80’s today.  It’s OCTOBER! OK I do remember that I live in a place where the weather can never remember where it lives!!

So let’s talk about letters, A, D, G, Z (ok not those specific letters) How about I C N U.  Go ahead read those again and think about how they sound!

When I was younger I took a job as a secretary and a great HR professional took me under her wing.  She saw in me something that I could not see in myself.  ICNU is an acronym I learned many years ago.  It essentially says that you see in someone else something that they don’t see in themselves.

When you look around you there are people who you have influence over. It could be a teen, young adult, co-worker, friend, etc.  What do you see in that person that they don’t see in themselves?  How can you help them see that for themselves.

Sometimes we just don’t see the value in ourselves that others may see! Yesterday I met a lady to pick up some Beyer horses for my daughter.  She was meeting an animal transport to drop animals off at local shelters.  These animals are from downstate shelters that are overflowing and need to be delivered to other shelters.  What is interesting is that these are the animals that someone else saw potential in.  That is why they are being brought up here.  They are simply being given a chance!

Who in your world needs a chance, who needs to have someone tell them they see something in them!  Now imagine this, your CEO, CFO, COO CTO (you get the idea) needs this as well.  People need to know that they have the potential for great things! But you can’t just say, you are great, you have to be specific.  Saying to someone I see potential in you to be really good with computers, animals, kids, whatever it is!!

Today find someone to invest in and tell them that you think they are great in a specific area and then go a step further and encourage them to look into serving in that area.

Final thing! Find someone to invest in yourself!  Figure out what you want to do and then be relentless in finding someone who can invest in you! And I don’t want to hear how old you are!!!

Be Quirky

We have a horse, his name is Duke (he’s the icon for the site). He’s a 4yo Paint or Pinto.  He’s quirky!  Horses are bred for a few things, those include mental soundness, physical soundness and well color.  Paints are bred for color which makes things like mental and physical soundness to be a little off.

Being quirky as a leader is a good thing but it can be hard to take for people who are used to either leading with or being led by someone who is very straight and narrow.

This means that if you are one those of quirky leaders you may find it tough to get ahead and get noticed for being a good leader.  However, don’t let that stop you!  It is alot like a round peg in a square hole and someone may tell you it won’t work but it will!  You just have to find the right balance.

For Duke he struggles with what he can’t see and generally that is something behind him.  Oh and weird sounds, things he thinks are scary and walls, but hey he’s quirky!  However, he’s an amazing horse, it just takes someone to see past those quirks and see potential.

As leaders we have our quirks, however so do those around us!  Those quirks are what make them successful!  I worked with someone who never had a filter, if you did something wrong he’d tell you.  Then it was over!  He expected you were going to fix the error and there was never a grudge to carry! This was really hard for me at first because I don’t like negative feedback and I tend to believe that you are giving me this I must be a bad person.  However for him this was just his style.  He had his quirks!

We have 2 hurdles to overcome as quirky leaders (and EVERYONE is quirky).  The first is understanding if our quirks provide us a strength or a weakness. In my example above being afraid of conflict left me to always wonder if he was mad at me or I had done some great error.  I am having to learn that negative feedback isn’t a reflection on me as a person but an error that needs to be corrected.  Understanding what the quirk is and how it can work is great.

The next thing for me is to understand that this quirk is actually a GOOD thing because it can allow me to empathize with people who I am providing negative feedback to. I know that for me to hear this would really hurt, so I make sure they know that they bring some amazing gifts to the team however this one area needs some work.  I also make it about the error and not the person.  Often times you can say “wow I see that you are really working on a lot of projects right now and I can see how this error occurred, how can I help you with this?”

Understanding our team members quirks is the next thing to look at. I had a team member once who didn’t work more than 8 hours a day.  In my world NOONE works 8 hours, we work 12 14, 16, 18 we don’t do shift word!  And for the most part everyone understood that.  He didn’t get it, and at first I was so frustrated with him.  Why didn’t he want to work like everyone else ! Then I learned that he was quirky, he just didn’t see that as important. I learned that I had to ask him to work extra.  I had to set boundaries with him and indicate, this needs to be done today – however you can finish it at home.  I also provided incentives, if he worked late a few days and we weren’t busy I’d send him home early on a Friday.

Understanding his quirks allowed me to ensure my teams success without losing my mind!

Being quirky can be a great thing!  You just have to know how to manage that quirkiness!  For me it will be about teaching a 4 year old horse that his tail is NOT something to be afraid of and that the ground isn’t going to jump up and eat him!!