March 31

A Grammar Check: Are Nouns Messing With Your Leadership?

On a flight to Iowa last week, I ended up in a brief conversation with my seatmate about presidential caucuses. I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to experience one firsthand and was excited to hear she had attended many times. (Note: this is not a political post!) In listening to her stories, I noticed that she didn’t describe Republicans and Democrats. Instead, she said things like “the Republican side” and the “Democratic party.” She used descriptions like this several times in the span of a three-minute conversation as we were landing. The English major in me took notice. Rather than describing these groups categorically by (CONTINUE READING)

January 24

Your 2017 Goals Might Be Missing Something

January always reminds me how goal-oriented our culture is. Everywhere we look there are cues to create a new year, a new you, a fresh start. What will we achieve? By when? How will we know 2017 is a success? Once we have our goals, off we go. Culturally, we’re urged to keep the end in mind and to assume and expect success. While that approach may be admirable and even advisable, this outcome-orientation nudges us subtly into a mindset about control. What is the quickest, best and most efficient way to get to that goal? How can I minimize risks, surprises, and failures? The downside to that achievement (CONTINUE READING)

October 27

Keep Calm and Dig On

A “fan favorite” module in the leadership programs I teach is called “Expanding Perceptions.” The premise is that challenges arise when we get stuck in our stories: about ourselves, our colleagues, daily situations. To get unstuck, we must be willing to seek new data for the sake of seeing a different perspective. How do we do that? One way is by asking good, skillful questions. The concept is simple enough to understand. Yet when participants begin the related activity called Question Thinking™, it gets trickier. The goal of Question Thinking is to develop as many skillful questions as possible about a situation. (The definition of “skillful” is part of (CONTINUE READING)

September 8

Are You Having Any Fun?

I have two things on my mind with this September post: Fall and fun. Wait, what? You might be asking. Fall is often associated as a time of year when things turn serious again. Kids are back in school, long summer days are shortening and attention begins turning toward year-end. September also reminds us of fresh starts: new teachers, new notebooks, new subjects to study. Through that lens, the thought of fun may feel a bit sideways. I think it ties right in. This topic came to my attention during the Olympics last month. It was so notable how “fun” came up repeatedly in athlete interviews. A few examples: Simone Biles: (CONTINUE READING)

April 20

Learning from Long-Lived Leadership

Today is Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday! A few recent facts about her reign:  She is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, a record she broke in September 2015. While Charles and William are taking over many of her duties, she still carried out 393 engagements last year. A recent poll shows that 70% of the British public believe she should reign for as long as possible. Her popularity is notable to me. In honor, I’m posting a piece I wrote when she celebrated 60 years of leadership in 2012, highlighting my take on what contributes to her regard as a leader. What can we learn as modern leaders from this woman? Unless (CONTINUE READING)

March 30

Daring to Go Beyond

A few weeks ago, I witnessed the most powerful keynote speech I’ve ever heard. Speaking at our annual Georgetown Alumni Coaching Conference was Kakenya Ntaiya, the Founder and President of the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Her story was riveting; traumatic; inspired. Kakenya was raised in the Maasai culture in a small Kenyan village. She was engaged by age 5, and experienced the ritual mutilation that girls undergo to prepare them for marriage at age 13. Against all cultural norms and realities, she believed a different life was intended for her. Step by step, she created just that. Today, she holds a Doctorate in Education, and has won numerous awards for (CONTINUE READING)

February 17

I’m Giving In.

I’m just going to say it. Contrary to popular belief espoused by motivational speakers, quotes, posters – and yes, my own profession – I believe that some days, you need to give in. Not up. In. I’m a big believer in forward motion. I believe that when you fall down, you get up. I believe that you can find the positive in the negative. I believe in discipline and in the grind. These beliefs have sustained me through 8 ½ years of running Initiate Consulting (and 45+ years of life…!). Yet every now and again, I have days when I don’t feel like doing anything. Where I’m really unmotivated (CONTINUE READING)

January 12

Can You Have A Few Minutes Of Your Time?

Many times a day, we’re asked the usual form of that question: “can I have a few minutes of your time?” Leaders tend to give time readily to others while struggling mightily to give it to themselves: to think, breathe, rest, focus, eat, hit the bathroom. They cite the immense pressure they feel to move from one thing to the next and to get as much done as is humanly (or perhaps, inhumanly) possible. We all feel this way occasionally, and for many, it is a way of life. Whichever camp you fall into, can you take a few seconds to think about the phrase below? Take. Your. Time. (CONTINUE READING)

December 9

Wrangling the Elephants

What would your employees say if asked: “what are the undiscussables around here?” What would you would say? Within every workplace, there are off-limit topics. I’m not talking about politically incorrect issues or about legitimate wrongdoings. I’m talking about the ways people behave and interact every day. The inefficiencies that stem from revisiting decisions…the workarounds that get developed…the cans that get kicked down the road…because of the elephant in the room. A Problem Named is A Problem Solved Let’s face it: elephants aren’t meant for the office. They’re big and loud and make the place smell. None of us likes their presence. We live with them pretty regularly, though. There are (CONTINUE READING)

November 16

Thanks for the Tough Stuff

Much has been written about the relationship between being grateful and being happy. One such book is Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Its Amazon description: “Scientifically speaking, regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25%, while keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy.” Good stuff, right? I confess I’m a believer. I’ve had a gratitude practice for a few years now. As we prepare to go around the tables next week here in the U.S. and think about what we’re grateful for, I want to share another version of this practice I’ve (CONTINUE READING)

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