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Archive for month: September, 2012

2 Essential Skills of Highly Effective Leaders

It seems today everyone is wondering what skills need developed to become highly effective leaders.

Chances are you will receive a variety of thoughts on this subject. However, two of the most powerful skills are listening and questioning.

If you are in a leadership role where you are helping to develop a team, it is essential for you to enhance your listening and question skills. By taking these skills to the next level, you will rapidly propel your team towards success.

In today's Fast Company article: "How to Ask — And Listen — Like You Mean It" written by Kevin Kashman, it is discussed how listening and questioning provide a loop for a continuously growing conversation. Kashman writes that in order to deepen the level of questioning, you need to deepen the level of listening–resulting in trust, collaboration, and co-creating.

A requirement for innovation is the ability to develop creative solutions. As a leader, your team is full of these solutions, you just need to help bring them to the surface.

What you need to do to ask the 'right' questions:


1. Ask open ended questions. What are open ended questions? Keep in mind that any question that requires more than a 'yes' or 'no' response is considered an open ended question. These types of questions invoke thinking and creativity to respond.

2. Probe deeper by layering questions. Hold yourself back from responding to their answer. Instead, ask another open ended question. Sometimes, the creativity is down deep and needs several questions to bring it into the open.

3. Be open. When your team begins talking, don't stop the creativity by being judgmental. Approach this brainstorming with openness and possibility. Nothing is wrong at this point or in need of critiquing. Be curious about who is speaking and continue the questioning process.

Asking these fabulous questions are pointless if you are not listening for the responses. This is often the most difficult skill to develop, requiring you to slow your mind and focus on who is speaking. Active listening requires discipline for the listener.

What you need to do to actively listen:


1. Take off your expert hat. When you are in the role of a listener, you are not an expert. This is perhaps the hardest part of the listening process, but the most important. If you are always in the role of an expert, your team will be afraid to share. Don't provide information or feedback until you pause for a minute or two after the person is finished talking.

2. Keep frustration at bay. Often when we are in a listening role it is easy to get frustrated or bored with the person who is talking. You may find yourself thinking of how you could do it right or even about all of the items on your to do list. Slow down and really focus on what is being said.

3. Listen to what is not being said. Sometimes there is information behind the response. When you are listening, pay attention to what is behind the words. This means observing body language and reactions. When you are able to bring those to the surface–that is when the magic happens.

To become the best leader possible, enhancing your listening and questioning skills is a must. Whether you want to practice with family members or you need to enroll in a workshop that teaches these skills, the rewards are worth it.

How about you? Do you have someone in your life that has developed these skills? Notice the level of conversation that occurs with these individuals.

Share below your experience–we'd love to hear.

Strategic Leadership For Your Life

From Be the Horse or the Jockey by Jeanne Gulbranson, BBD strategist, leadership expert and award-winning author.  You can purchase Horse or Jockey and Jeanne’s other books on

Make Strategic Choices about Your Life

You have choices. You may not have a lot of choices, but still—you have choices.

Have you heard this statement as often as I have? “You have to be happy in what you do. Do a job that fulfills you—something you care about.”  What are people thinking when they make this statement? Did they really decide that they’d be totally fulfilled being an office manager, or director of manufacturing, or the tester of electrical circuits, or whatever it is they do? Or did they need a job (and a paycheck) one day and then they found one? Isn’t it more likely that they suddenly found themselves filling a role that they somehow drifted into rather than strategically selected?

If you have consciously selected the career that you have now—I’m delighted for you! I want to know your name so I can put you on my short list of “People who knew what they wanted to do, found the job, are happy doing it, and will probably do it for the rest of their lives.” For the rest of us, we seem to work at what we found ourselves doing one day. (If I got to pick what I thought [think] would really make me happy, I’d be a world famous ballerina. Believe me—that was [is] never going to happen!)   

I have made a few conscious career choices, however. One of these was to become a Strategist. Like many of my other career paths, my decision to be a Strategist was originally serendipitous—it was made when the opportunity presented itself. I certainly didn’t grow up calling out Strategist as “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Who knew what a Strategist was when I was in high school or college? Not me! Today, who knows what a Strategist is?

Even after many years of doing it, I’m still learning my job, and I’m sure I’ll continue to discover nuances long after I quit doing it. One important aspect that I’ve determined, however, is that a Strategist helps to make dreams happen. A Strategist aligns the desire with the outcome and fills in all the blanks to get from “want or need to have” to the realization of the dreams. The “dream-starters” may be corporations or teams on a professional level, or a family or individual on a personal level. It doesn’t matter where the dreams come from, the process and the expected results are the same: do what is required to get there!

Achieving the desired outcome—making the dreams come true—requires the knowledge and skill of many people (and sometimes a little luck), along with strategy and planning.

An abbreviated list of steps in strategizing includes the following:

  1. Know what the objective is and why. What is the dream?
  2. Recognize all the integrated or ancillary elements (people, time, money, and other initiatives) that a strategic decision and plan will impact. Who will my dream touch?
  3. Identify all the actions that need to be included in the tactical plan to successfully deliver on a strategy. What do I have to do to realize the dream?
  4. Determine what or who can interfere with attaining the objective. Who are the dream-spoilers and how can I eliminate, avoid, and/or mitigate the risk/s they present?
  5. Craft the plan and ensure that all the people who need to execute are well-positioned in knowledge, skills, and tools to do so successfully. What skills, knowledge, and abilities do I and others included in my plan need to accomplish our goals?

Make sure the strategy is modified if required, but still intact, achievable, valuable, and desirable all the way to the Finish Line!

You are the driver of your own life–make strategic leadership a part of it.

How are your current strategies working for you? Comment below–we'd love to hear.

What is Leadership to You?

Great things happen when leaders are transparent!

Whether you are looking to enhancee your leadership skills or looking to step into a leadership role, one of the most important questions to answer is, "What is leadership to you?" For each of us the answer is something different, but one of the most important and often overlooked characteristics of a highly effective leader is transparency.

As the workplace continues to shift, employees and colleagues are looking for leadership that they can trust. One of the largest contributing factors to feelings of trust is transparency.

Today's employees are tired of getting hit with surprises. They understand that job security is being threatened, but they want to be part of a culture that takes away the unknowns. They are seeking the truth and will stay extremely loyal to those leaders that deliver that truth.

If you are a leader looking to take your skills to a new level, this article written on, titled "5 Powerful Things Happen When a Leader is Transparent," by Glenn Llopis, talks about the shifts that occur when employees trust their leaders. Recruiting and maintaining top talent in your business is a must in today's workplace. Read Llopis' article and find out how transparency can help you make that happen.

How Transparency Enhances Your Leadership Style


1. Problems are solved. When you are able to cut to the chase and let employees know exactly what you need and why you need it, you will be amazed at their willingness to make it happen. When employees understand the needs and timelines, they can work together at a faster pace to solving the problems at hand. Don't hide from the problems to protect them. They will go the distance if they know what is happening and your concerns.

2. Teambuilding occurs naturally. When teams feel they can trust you and are given transparency, a powerful thing occurs–they join together and unify for the common good of your business. Talk with your team about weaknesses and strengths that you notice and discuss how to move forward. Listen to their suggestions and hold them as resourceful in making the needed changes.

3. Relationships bloom. When you are transparent and foster the same qualities in your team, relationships form between team members. Employees that feel as if they are heard, respected, and treated as a human being, are able to be true to each other. When openness occurs, there is no need for misunderstandings or unneeded tension between members.

4. Trust becomes contagious. When your team begins to trust you, it shows and others will follow. Let's face it that word of mouth in the office and on the street is a powerful thing. When you foster trust and transparency in your business, word travels fast and others begin to trust you too.

5. Performance is enhanced. When your employees trust you and feel your honesty, they naturally want to work as hard as possible for you. They don't want to disappoint you, so productivity increases and creativity thrives, creating a workplace that is fun, exciting, and motivating.

Creating a workplace that brings out the best in your employees requires you to be real.

Be human, be vulnerable, be authentic and watch what unfolds.

What are your thoughts on transparency in the workplace? Comment below and let us know what you think.


How to Reignite Passion in Business

Have you lost your passion in business?

Are you feeling burnt out and exhausted?

At one point or another, even the most passionate business owners feel some sort of disconnect from their excitement about business. Sometimes this may be attributed to working too much, not having the right support, or feeling stuck in a rut. Regardless of the reason, losing your passion for a business results in lost focus and motivation.

If this is where you are right now, here is a helpful article from, titled, "5 Ways to Rekindle the Passion in Your Business," written by Jane Porter. In her article she talks about how to bring back the excitement in your business and become re-energized.

Whether you are a business owner or not, her tips may provide you just what you need to bring back the joy in your career.

5 Tips to Bringing Back the Passion in Business


1. Discover the power of personal time. Regardless of how much you love and enjoy your business, you need to take time for you. Often business owners are working long hours and forget the importance of 'me' time. Spend time doing your favorite activities, even something as simple as reading a book or kayaking in your favorite location. If you can't find the time, add it into your schedule, so you don't have an excuse.

2. Build your support system. A great support system can help you through the ups and downs. Whether your hire a business coach or find a mentor, there is always someone out there that can help you in good and difficult times.

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. It is easy to become overwhelmed or frustrated when you are trying to do everything on your own. Regardless of whether it is at work or at home, there are moments when delegating or outsourcing is your best friend. You don't need to do it all. In fact, when you outsource your weaknesses, you can focus on what you enjoy.

4. Don't hide from the people you love. Often times when you are feeling out of character in business, you are also feeling it in your personal life. This is one of the most important times to focus on all relationships, personal and professional. Friends, family, and partners are great motivation and support. Seek out the positive energy from those relationships to keep you motivated and passionate.

5. Change it up. Sometimes the reason for the disconnect is that it is time for a change. Maybe you need to innovate or change directions within your company? Maybe you are seeking a new career path altogether? Regardless of the decision, listen and pay attention to where you need to go from here. Often the most exciting things to do are creating something new. Maybe now is the time?

It happens to the best of us–the loss of motivation and passion in business. However, what you do with it when it strikes is up to you.

How about you? When is the last time you felt disconnected from your business? Tell us how you pushed through below. We'd love to hear.

3 Simple Rules of Leader Development

Looking for the Holy Grail of Leadership?

Periodically, I search for the Leadership Holy Grail. What characteristics really define a true leader? How can a leader sustain vision, and inspire and invigorate others to achieve greatness? How can leaders identify, and develop their successors—other great leaders? And, the most personal of all the questions: How can I achieve and sustain the highest level of leader development; how can I fulfill my own potential? 

Even as I’m searching, I realize that I will finish my quest frustrated, confused and empty-handed, but still, I look. I know I’m really asking for the easy way out. Just tell me the rules and I PROMISE that I’ll follow them to the letter!

During my last search, I stumbled across this insightful quote from W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for creating good leaders. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  Who knew this famous writer would understand the inherent frustration of leadership so well? Okay, I’m going to craft my own Holy Grail.  I’ve been training, consulting with and coaching leaders for 20+ years. Here are MY three rules:

1. Embrace the opportunities in failure. Look at them, determine and memorize the “what I will do differently”, and then walk away. Leave the past where it belongs. Behind you.

Do not let self-doubt drive you into risk aversion. Leaders take risks every day—with their visions, their relationship with colleagues, employees and clients. A visible differentiator between great, sustaining leaders and one-shot wonders is the willingness and ability to take that next well-planned risk.

2. Balance—daily—the seduction of “how you want things to be” and the pragmatism of “how they could turn out.” Crafting a vision and imagining a successful future is a required aspect of aiming high and thinking big. Sustaining leaders are willing and able to back up the vision with a realistic view of the challenges, obstacles, and limiters.

Success in business is not achieved with a Field of Dreams approach. Just because you build it, they will not come. But they (your clients, employees and supervisors) will come when they see that your vision has honest, well-thought-out actions to offset the challenges, obstacles and limiters. See far—and be real.

3. Be prepared and enthusiastic about being a great follower as well as a successful leader. There are other quality people around you whose counsel you should listen to and whose leadership you should follow. No one person can or should be the leader all the time, for all situations. Learn to listen well, question often, challenge appropriately and follow with dedication and perseverance when it’s your time to follow.

The person you are following for a time will be more successful, and you will acquire robust knowledge and experience on how to lead more effectively by actively participating as a professional follower.

Do you have a special Holy Grail of Leadership? Do you know the three rules?

How about sharing? Comment below, we'd love to hear.

Leader Development: Simple Steps for a Successful Tomorrow

Leader development includes setting each and every day up for success.

Ever wonder what you need to do to set up your day for success?

Have you ever thought that this may actually need to happen the night before?

Taking the time to plan out your tomorrow may be the difference between a great day or an unproductive one. How you end your workday, sets up the scene for the success of tomorrow.

Are you ready to make your tomorrows the best that they can be?

5 Simple Steps that Set Your Tomorrow Up for Success


1. Pull out your today's to-do list. Before you close up business for the day, be sure you take one last look at your priorities. Even though every task may not be complete, be sure there is nothing left undone that was a 'must' for your day. It can be difficult to unplug after work when you have unfinished priorities roaming around in your mind.

2. Clean up your space. Sitting down in the morning to a messy work area can get the day started on the wrong foot. Be sure your desk is clean and in order for the next day. This also includes your desktop. If you have emails that need to be read or responded to, finish those prior to closing business for the day. Your morning will be much more efficient if you are working on the tasks of today, not the tasks of yesterday.

3. Make your list for tomorrow. A great way to end your workday is to have your list of priorities written down in your calendar for tomorrow. Even if you have unfinished business from today, transfer them over to the next day. Too many lines and check marks can start your day feeling cluttered. Start with a fresh slate.

4. Review your schedule. After your list is complete, take a look at your schedule for the day, so you know the appointments you have scheduled and if you need to start your day earlier than usual. You don't want to wake up to any surprises or missed appointments.

5. End your day on a positive note. Even if you've had the worst day ever, if you dig deep, you can find something that went well. Keep track of what went well, so you leave the day feeling empowered. Some individuals like to start a gratitude journal to reflect on the day and what went right. You may even want to leave yourself a positive note, so tomorrow you start the day with that thought.

Regardless of your long term goals, do remember to close up shop and have some fun doing what you enjoy. One of my motto's for success is to Work Hard, so I can Play Hard.

How do you prepare for your tomorrow? Do you need to make some changes? Comment below, we'd love to hear from you.