Psychological Safety: Foundation of Trust


, , , ,

psych safety trust 550 px

Psychological safety is the topic that I am dissecting in 2018, and I’m taking it in very small steps because it is a very complex concept. If it doesn’t make sense to you yet, hang in there! All will be revealed.

So far I’ve defined psychological safety here and talked about noticing it in my personal life here. When I’m playing around with a new topic, I like to look at the personal applications first. For me, those are easiest to see and grasp because I’m analyzing familiar situations and people.

However, the concept of psychological safety comes from a study of work teams done by Google called Project Aristotle. Some of Google’s teams were doing better than others, and after years of research they discovered that psychological safety was the main component of the high-performing teams.

Of course, I’ve come across many places that lack psychological safety in my years as a leadership trainer. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many organizations or teams with psychological safety, which is why this concept intrigues me. It’s obviously not easy to create, or everyone would be doing it.

The best example I’ve seen is in a fictional workplace described in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The book is in story format and worth looking at as a positive model for creating psychological safety. I highly suggest reading it. It’s been one of the books in my leadership series for a decade.

In the story, Kathryn comes in as CEO of a floundering business. We meet her team at a series of meetings that Kathryn leads. The book never uses the term “psychological safety,” but it is exactly what Kathryn is creating. She encourages disagreement with respect. She calls out one sarcastic team member on her eye rolls at other people’s comments. She creates a safe environment for people to speak their minds and teaches them how to do it in a professional way.

Here is a diagram of the five dysfunctions of a team.

five_dysfunctions pyramid

We will talk about the entire pyramid as we go along, but let’s just look at the foundation first. The success of a highly functioning team is dependent on trust. That makes sense. I don’t feel free to share my ideas with you unless I trust you to listen with an open mind. I must also trust that you won’t belittle me or plot behind my back. A team cannot function well if team members aren’t sharing information and working to achieve team and organizational goals.

There are entire books about trust. It’s also a complex concept. Let’s start simply. First, I don’t trust you if you don’t trust me. Ok, that sounds simple, but it isn’t really. Can you see the chicken and the egg problem that we face? I must trust you before you will trust me. However, I don’t want to trust you until you trust me. Ack!

Fortunately for us all, we humans generally extend a small level of trust to someone when we first meet them. We then have an opportunity to build that trust or destroy it. Creating and maintaining a high level of trust is a difficult thing to do. I trust people who are dependable, who do what they say, who respond reasonably, and who don’t make me feel small or stupid. The people I trust most are consistently reasonable and kind – which doesn’t mean that they must be pushovers. A person can give me developmental feedback that strengthens our relationship if it is done with respect and kindness.

So, if we are all consistently respectful and kind, we can create psychological safety – and maybe world peace. Sounds easy. It would be easy if we weren’t dealing with other humans who have their own fears, beliefs, and bad days. Easier still if we didn’t have our own fears, beliefs, and bad days.

Humans! Our humanity and flaws can really get in the way of creating trust and psychological safety. In my experience, our egos and the need to be right are two of our biggest stumbling blocks to consistent respect and kindness.

So, that’s enough for this week. We know that psychological safety is dependent on trust. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is an excellent model for creating trust and psychological safety. If those topics interest you, I’d recommend reading the book. It’s a quick read, and we will be discussing it further.

As you go out in the world, analyzing your level of trust is a good exercise. When you interact with people at home, work, or during your volunteer activities, ask yourself if you trust them. Then ask why or why not. What specific behaviors have they done that build or destroy trust? It’s also a good idea to assess whether you believe people trust you. Do they feel free to share ideas and failures with you? What actions have you done that would make those people trust you more or less?

We are defining the first foundational pieces of creating psychological safety. I can hear you thinking, “Some people are not trustworthy, and I could never have psychological safety around them.” I hear it all the time in workshops. One step at a time! First we raise awareness, and then we decide what to do about it. Patience, Padawan! We will get there. And patience is also a trait we are going to need to create psychological safety.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at


Psychological Safety: Start With Noticing


, ,

psych safety noticing 550 px

When I start to play with a new idea or concept, I begin by noticing when it shows up in my life and also when it is not present. Psychological safety is my focus for 2018, so I’ve begun to hunt for it in my daily experiences.

It’s important to note that this discussion is just about noticing. I’m not judging or deciding what I should do about it. I’m just noticing. Being able to recognize psychological safety, or its absence, is the first step in mastering and creating it.

I found it easier to come up with examples of when psychological safety is missing. The first example was small and insignificant but a revelation nonetheless. I was clearing supplements out of a cabinet in the kitchen. Some were expired, and others I’d tried and not liked. I was throwing out a lot of bottles. As I was doing it, I thought, “I’m glad that my husband isn’t here to see this.” In my head, I imagined him berating me for wasting money.

There is a lot to analyze here, such as the validity of my assumption in the first place, but let’s stick to noticing. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel free to share the fact that I was tossing out supplements. I was happy to keep it a secret.

The result was an “aha!” moment. If we want to keep something secret because we fear someone’s reaction, psychological safety is not present around that issue in the relationship.

I remembered a friend who told me that she kept her shopping purchases in the trunk and then gradually placed the items out in her home so that her husband wouldn’t notice. She didn’t feel free to tell him about her shopping spree.

Children often try and hide mistakes because they fear the consequences. That made me consider my own past parenting. Had I created a space for my own children where they felt free to admit mistakes? I don’t think that I could give an honest yes on that one. Maybe about some things, but not others, which led to a second revelation: We can feel psychologically safe about some issues or topics in any given relationship but not safe being totally open about others. So we can’t automatically label an entire relationship as psychologically safe or not.

I thought about my own childhood and realized that I did not grow up in a psychologically safe environment. In my family, mistakes were remembered and glorified. When I was learning to read, I pronounced “Winthrop” as “Win-throp.” The pronunciation made sense to a four-year-old because it ended the same way as “hop.” Actually, it’s pronounced “Winthrup” with the emphasis on the first syllable. Any time I made a mistake from that point forward, the family’s response was, “Way to go Win-throp!” As I grew older, I went out of my way to present an impenetrable façade in order to avoid ridicule.

I began to wonder if I was creating a safe space for my friends to share their feelings and actions. I remembered a time when a dear friend casually mentioned something she’d done with a man of whom I did not approve. It dawned on me that she hadn’t told me about it at the time. She must have feared my reaction to her decision. I don’t think I create psychological safety for others all the time.

Wow. I was feeling kind of down. Was psychological safety that illusive for everyone, or just me? I tried to think of a positive example. Finally, I remembered one. I was having lunch with my oldest son right before his wedding. We have very different views on the world, and he brought up one that we definitely don’t agree on. I asked him, “Are you sure you want to talk about this? You know we don’t agree.”

He looked a little surprised and said, “Mom, you and I can talk about anything!” Yes! A moment of confirmed psychological safety. I have to say it made me feel warm and fuzzy when I remembered it. His statement felt like a gift of trust and confidence in our relationship. I felt honored by his response.

From my noticing exercise, I came to two conclusions. First, secrets are a big flashing sign that psychological safety might be missing. Second, feeling free to share is a sure sign of its presence.

I also realized that psychological safety results in a grand feeling of acceptance, confidence, and trust, which confirmed the value of exploring and mastering the topic. I want more of those positive feelings!

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Psychological Safety: My Focus for 2018


, , , , , ,

psych safety intro 600 px

At the beginning of each year, I pick one concept or behavior on which to focus. One year I explored and practiced the various pieces and parts of emotional intelligence. Another year I examined compassion and encouragement. This year it is psychological safety. Frankly, as I look back over my life, I have failed at this one in many ways.

I talk about behavior that creates psychological safety in my leadership workshops and writing but have never named it as the reason for the behavior. However, the concept is one that it took Google three years to pin down, so I don’t feel too bad about not seeing it clearly. I am proud that if you take my online class called Boot Camp for New (and Lightly-Trained) Supervisors and do what it says, you create psychological safety for you and your employees without knowing its name.

So, what is psychological safety? Psychological safety exists in a relationship when the people in the relationship feel free to say what’s on their minds or make a mistake. No one fears angry yelling, being made fun of, or people saying mean things behind their backs. There may be consequences for a mistake or an action, but there is no punishment for speaking your mind or taking a risk. The essence of psychological safety for me is the phrase “feels free.”

I first got the name, the handle for this thing, from a friend of mine named George. George is an old PR guy who does an amazing job of keeping up with the current world. He read an article about  Project Aristotle, which is a massive research project done by Google, and insisted that I read it.

Google had studied management and managers and had a list of successful characteristics of leaders, but still there were some teams that outperformed others. Now, everyone at Google is smart and motivated, so you would think that all the teams would do equally well. However, some teams definitely did much better than others, so they decided to figure out why.

It took three years for the research team to figure it out. Their first discovery was that the best teams’ success had something to do with group norms. Then, they worked to determine the exact group norms. In the end, they found that the groups with the highest performance were the ones that had psychological safety.

The leaders of the exceptional groups created an atmosphere of openness and acceptance. The members of the team felt that they could disagree and not be punished for it. An honest disagreement and discussion were acceptable – even encouraged. Taking intelligent risks was also encouraged. The team could try innovative ideas without fear of being belittled or punished.

I see a lack of psychological safety in lots of relationships outside work. I hear people talking all the time about not telling a spouse about a purchase or mistake because they don’t want the hassle of their partner questioning them and making them feel bad. When anyone feels they must hide things or keep secrets for fear of reprisal, there is no psychological safety. I believe most of us feel that way in at least one or two relationships in our lives. The more important the relationship, the more psychological safety is needed.

I, for one, am tired of hiding who I am, what I think, and what I do. This year, I plan to master the communication and leadership skills needed to ensure that I and everyone who I am in a relationship with don’t feel those needs. I think exploring and mastering the creation of psychological safety could be a turning point for me in my life.

I am so grateful to my friend George for insisting that I read the Project Aristotle research. It’s a new lens through which I am choosing to view life. You are welcome to join me – or not. No repercussions here, only psychological safety.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Final Words of Wisdom: Get Support


, ,

Get support 550 px

I can see my future teenage granddaughter sitting on the edge of her bed. Her head is bowed, and she is feeling completely overwhelmed. The image breaks my heart and feels achingly familiar. We’ve all been there. I hope that whatever form I am in, I’m able to whisper in her ear, “Get support.”

My own tendency is to become a hermit when I’m feeling devastated and alone. I want to curl up in a ball and not talk with anyone – and that is not healthy. It’s something I’m working to change.

Support can be in the form of a therapist or coach. Professionals are a good choice. It can also be a wise friend or relative. However, to be truly helpful, the person must have several qualities.

First the person must have a positive outlook on life. A person who is hunting for and commenting on the negative is not useful. Neither is someone who blindly takes our side and jumps on the sniping bandwagon.

Second, the supporter must be able to listen without offering solutions. He or she can offer a new perspective, but the words “You need to…” should never come out of his or her mouth. We know the best solutions to our own problems. We just need someone to allow us to talk out loud and offer new ways of looking at something. Coaches are trained to listen, ask questions, and raise awareness. Great coaches never tell clients what they should do, and that’s the kind of support that we need when we are down and struggling.

Third, the person must be kind. We need a person with compassion for us, the situation, and anyone else involved. As we decide on actions and perspectives, we want a kind person to measure their merits.

Finally, the supporter must have our best interests at heart, which means it’s a person who cares for us. Family members sometimes have their own agendas and have difficulty separating our needs from theirs. Once again, a coach is an excellent choice because coaches champion for their clients’ needs and interests objectively.

If I can’t be there in the future when my granddaughter is feeling down, I desperately want her to reach out for help from someone who has all of those qualities. I hope we all do. I also hope that we can all develop the qualities needed to be great supporters.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Final Words of Wisdom: Finish Strong


, , ,

snail finish line 550 px

If I was going to tell my granddaughter one essential quality that helps create success in life, I would say it’s the ability to see a job through to the end. It’s difficult, and it takes some self-discipline. For example, when we finish a project in the house, we want to be done and move on. We don’t want to clean up the area and put all the tools away. However, it’s important that we develop the self-discipline to see every task or goal to its completion.

Successful leaders are finishers. In fact, great leaders finish strong. One of the key pieces to finishing strong is starting tasks that are worthwhile and in alignment with your short- and long-term goals. One of my goals is to maintain an organized home and work environment, which means I focus on putting away files and keeping things in their places. For work, I have a marketing schedule, a weekly blog, coaching clients, and classes. Each area requires a set of tasks, and the tasks must be completed for the actions to have an impact.

A lot of worthwhile activities are not that much fun. Scheduling social media posts is not my favorite thing to do, but it leads to more clients and more coaching, which I love. I keep the end goal in mind while I’m working.

Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. It’s hard in the beginning to see a project through to the very end. However, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Employers and employees value the ability to finish strong. Family members are also fans of project follow-through. The ability to finish strong can have an enormously positive effect on work and home life.

If we don’t finish, we’ve wasted the time that we invested. We’ve also damaged our confidence and invited negative self-talk.

A good practice for finishing strong is doing the laundry from beginning to end. That may sound like a silly challenge, but I’ve learned through leadership workshops that almost everyone struggles with getting clothes clean and put away. Most of us end up with loads of laundry hanging out in the dryer or piled on a flat surface. Make the commitment to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer quickly, and then get the clothes out when they are dry. The hard part is folding them and putting them away – right away!

We are building self-discipline and confidence when we finish what we begin. Those are definitely qualities that I want for my granddaughter –  and you.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Final Words of Wisdom: Take a Step


, ,

take a step 550 px

So, when the world feels overwhelming and I have way too much to do, all I want to do is play Plants v. Zombies. Seriously. At those points in life, I could work all day, and my list would be just as long tomorrow as it is today. Although Plants v. Zombies is a great escape that takes my mind off of my current challenges, it isn’t really helpful – not in the long run.

We often use coping mechanisms that aren’t really helpful when we are troubled. We might drink too much alcohol or head to a mall for some therapy shopping. I am not the only one who uses video games as a distraction. Facebook and blog browsing are other ways that we get a break from the pressures of reality.

There is nothing wrong with any of these in short doses, but they aren’t useful as long-term strategies. If we never face reality or our challenges, we get stuck – and often depressed. Once we’ve been using a non-productive coping mechanism for a while, it’s even harder to get going.

First, if you are seriously stuck and depressed, talk to a professional. Get a therapist, or hire a coach. You can do both; many of my clients work with me and a therapist. In general, the therapist helps you examine and deal with the past. A coach focuses on what to do now in order to get to the future that you desire.

For run-of-the-mill funk and feeling overwhelmed, I use a simple process that gets me moving forward and makes me feel like I am accomplishing something – I take a step.

Let’s say that tax preparation is weighing heavily on my shoulders. I have to file for my business, which requires collecting, compiling, and presenting a ton of information. When faced with working on the taxes or playing Plants v. Zombies, there is no contest! However, when I finish a level of Plants v. Zombies, I’m still facing the same situation.

I tell myself that I can kill a few zombies after I’ve done one thing that will move me forward on the taxes. It doesn’t have to be a big thing like “find all your deductions.” It can be a small thing like “pull out the stack of bills from the year, and sort out the ones that you need.” I get a mental break from worry because I am focusing on the task. Also, I take a step forward, which relieves some of the tension around doing the taxes. Often, I do a few more things. It’s easier to take a few more steps once you get started.

So if you are feeling upset, worried, or overwhelmed, take a moment and figure out what is really bothering you. Then do one thing that will move you forward on that challenge. Take a step! Focus all your attention on that task. You will have gotten a break from uncomfortable feelings, AND you will gain a feeling of accomplishment, WHICH will motivate you to do more.

After all, success in life isn’t achieved all at once. It’s built one step at a time.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Words of Wisdom: Find More Facts and Listen to Your Heart


, , , ,

gma and gdaughter 550 px

When figuring out what to write for the final month of 2017, I asked myself what else I want my granddaughter to know. What hard-won wisdom could I share that would help her when she is facing a challenge? If I am not around to comfort her and offer support, what would help?

2017 has been a tough year for me. I have faced several life-altering challenges, and I’ve been stuck and felt hopeless. It felt like I was standing in one place with my shoes glued to the floor. I couldn’t move forward. Everything was confusing and overwhelming. I’ve had some practice this year in getting through a tough time or two.

When my head is swimming and there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer, there are a couple of things I do. First, I gather more facts. When we feel like we are guessing, we often are. For example, I was buying a new car a few years ago, and the entire process was intimidating to me. I’d driven a minivan for more than 20 years, and I loved all my minivans — I mean truly loved them.

However, since my children were grown and I was 50-something years old, I thought it might be time for an image upgrade. I looked at every car on the road and imagined myself driving it. I quickly eliminated all small cars. I’m about six feet tall, and small cars make me claustrophobic. Also, I drive with chart pads, books, and a host of other goodies when I travel to do leadership training.

“Not small” isn’t much to go on. Would I like a truck? Perhaps an SUV would work? I couldn’t make up my mind. It was time to gather some more facts.

I found an enormous pickup truck on sale and went to see it. I sat in it and drove it around. It made me feel tough and powerful. I liked it. However, my oldest son lived in the DC area at the time. It occurred to me that I was often driving down small streets and parking in small parking garages. The truck felt too big for that. Yay! A new criterion to add to my search. The vehicle must be easy to maneuver on small streets and in parking garages. I hadn’t thought of that until I drove the big truck.

Next, I drove an Acura MDX. Swanky SUV. Easy to drive, but a little too small to fit all my training paraphernalia and clothes. AND it didn’t feel right, which leads to my second test when facing a challenge: What does your heart say?

My heart let me know pretty quickly that I felt like a poser in that car. It felt sleek and rich. It was like putting a mink coat over sweats. It just didn’t feel right.

Now I was armed with a host of practical things that I wanted, like a bunch of cup holders, a heated seat, and an engine powerful enough to tow a small trailer. I also knew that it didn’t need to be elegant or swanky. Knowing all of that made it easy to choose Amber – the car that I now drive and adore. Amber is a Honda Pilot. She is small enough to fit in parking garages, big enough to hold my stuff, and she is beautiful but not ostentatious. I love her!

So if my granddaughter, who is now one year old, called me with a challenge in the future (when she is able to talk in complete sentences), I would first ask her, “What do you know for a fact?” Then I would ask her, “What assumptions are you making?” Finally I would ask, “What concrete information could you gather that would help you know what to do?”

Sometimes getting the information that you need can require one phone call. Sometimes it requires the experience of a year. It depends on the challenge and the decisions to be made. We can get stuck in analysis paralysis, but the bigger danger is staying stuck because we don’t feel we have enough information to make a good decision.

What’s important is to keep moving and researching. Maybe a job doesn’t seem perfect or you don’t really know what you want to do. Move forward! Take a job, and pay attention to what you like and don’t like. Next time, get more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. Getting useful information can be a part of finding your path and engaging in life’s journey.


Once my granddaughter had all the information that she needed to make a good decision, I would ask, “What is your heart telling you?”

I would ask you the same things.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Motivating Self and Others: Tips and Tricks



motivation tips and tricks 550px

We’ve discussed the research around motivation. It’s always good to know what has been tested and is reproducible. However, when it comes to motivation, I will do whatever works! Here are some tips and tricks to keep yourself going.

Necessity and Fear. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s also a parent to motivation. If it’s mixed with a touch of fear, it’s even more motivating. The car breaking down, a poor lab result on cholesterol, and a visiting relative can all be very motivating in the short-term. We don’t want to live life under threats; it isn’t sustainable. However, necessity and fear can get us unstuck and moving.

Mindset. Too much necessity and fear can be overwhelming. That’s when we need a shift in mindset. Let’s say that we are facing a divorce or a layoff. Fear can be paralyzing. Keep in mind that the only time that we can do something about the situation is now. We only have the current moment to take action. We can ask ourselves, “What one thing could I do right now that would help this situation?” Then do that one thing. Action feels good and can help us get started when taking on huge challenges. It definitely beats sitting and worrying, which don’t help one bit.

Music. When faced with cleaning toilets or dusting, I put on some peppy, upbeat music. I have a playlist called “Putter” for when I’m puttering around the house doing mundane tasks. I dance as I go and get in a little aerobic exercise.

Audiobooks. When my children were young, I cooked a lot of dinners. I truly detest cooking. Seriously, I had to force myself into the kitchen at dinner time. Audiobooks saved my sanity. Maybe listening to books was more of a distraction than a motivation, but it got me in the kitchen and cooking without using every one of the day’s Emotional Pennies.

Podcasts. I am late in joining the podcast party. I am not sure why, but it makes me feel old! There are a bunch of motivational podcasts. I wanted to write that I was going to try one, but none of them resonated with me. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to start a podcast. I will let you know if I find or create one. Let me know if you find one!

Apps. There are quite a few motivational apps for your phone. One, called Motivation Quotes – Daily Quote, will send you one a day. I use an app called Due. It’s free. I use it to schedule reminders to pop up on my phone throughout the day. Here is my list:

9:03am Engage! This one is to encourage me to stay present and work toward my current goals.

10:10am Accept healing. This is a reminder to slow down, take a breath, and remember that all types of healing are hindered by stress.

2:00pm Have faith. You can do this! So 2:00pm is often when my energy flags. During all-day training sessions, 2:00pm is the lowest point. This is just the encouragement I need because it reminds me of all the times I’ve succeeded before.

5:15pm Looking forward to tomorrow? I read an article about an old woman who was talking about the keys to her longevity. She said she made sure that she had a good reason to get up the next morning every day. This reminds me to question the structure of my life. Have I included things that make me look forward to the next day?

8:08pm Time to count your blessings and accomplishments for today. My intent is to write down three things that I am grateful for each day. This reminder gets me to at least pause and think about them.

It’s easy to schedule the daily reminders. Feel free to use some or all of mine, or create your own.

Ego. We can pull in our egos when it will help us achieve our goals. Let’s say there is a person who does what I do who is not as talented or smart, but who is wildly successful. Her success is due to luck and connections. When I start to slow down on my career goals, I pull her image into my mind and think, “I am better than her, and I am ready to prove it.” Now, this is not a shining example of my love for mankind, but I don’t wish her ill. I just want to do better than she does. Her success is an affront to my sense of fairness. I let my ego out to play when I need a serious kick in the tail. Keep in mind that playing to our ego is different that going out for revenge. Revenge is a poisonous motivator.

Rewards. We know that rewards work. They aren’t ideal long-term strategies, but they can be useful. I tell myself that I can play Plants v. Zombies for 15 minutes if I will work for 45 minutes. It’s a reward that works for me. I have also rewarded myself with flowers and boots when I achieved a goal. I’m even motivated by the reward of stickers on a calendar. Fortunately for me, my reaction to even minor rewards is positive.

I want to mention one ineffective motivator that I see clients using all the time – negative self-talk. Telling ourselves that we are fat slobs who need to go for a walk isn’t effective. We might get up and moving every now and then, but we are breaking our own spirits! Give yourself a pep talk instead and remind yourself of your Big Whys.

If something gets you moving toward a goal and doesn’t make you feel like a loser or a monster, it’s a good motivator. I am all about finding what works and using it to help me achieve my goals. For you, it might be posting a picture by your computer of what you want to achieve or listening to gospel music. Or you can talk to yourself in the mirror like this little girl whom I adore:

All that matters is that it works for you!

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Motivating Self and Others: It’s a Matter of Heart


, , , ,

heart v. brain 550 px

We talked about the Elephant as the representation of our heart in the Rider/Elephant/Path model from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. The Elephant and our hearts are the biggest influencers on our motivation. When I work with coaching clients, it’s pretty easy to find the logical reasons for doing something. It’s also not difficult to set up some accountability structures. However, tapping into the emotional purpose sometimes takes some digging.

First, it can be difficult on our own to find the emotional purpose for an action or task when we are stuck in our own Frame of Reference. Earlier, we talked about asking ourselves why we want to do or accomplish something again and again until we get an answer that resonates with our hearts. Sometimes it’s clear and easy. Other times, it takes some work. A friend who is a good listener can help, but a life coach is trained to ask the questions that will get to your most basic and motivating reason to do something.

If an item has shown up on your New Year’s resolution list more than once, you probably haven’t found a reason to do it that resonates with your heart. I see in my clients that it is a “should.” They feel that they should do it, but they don’t really want to. Usually we work together and find the core need that would be met by accomplishing the goal. Sometimes, they realize that it isn’t their goal in the first place; it’s someone else’s goal for them that they’ve taken on. It’s a “should” that they can forget about.

There are other ways to activate your heart and get it engaged in the process. One way is to identify your values and priorities. A goal isn’t motivating if it isn’t aligned with our values and priorities. It’s worth taking a few minutes to figure those out.

Values are traits and characteristics, like honesty and integrity. Priorities are areas of our lives that are important to us, like family and career. Values usually stay the same throughout our lives. Priorities change as we move through the different phases of our lives.

So when I am looking for reasons to accomplish a goal, I need to make sure that the goal in alignment with my values and current priorities. If it’s not, then I need to rethink the goal. If it is, then I need to know which values and priorities – and why.

I have had “write daily” on my New Year’s resolution list for decades! I wanted to write but didn’t make the time. I was in full-on family mode, and writing felt like something that took some of my time that was so precious back then. I also dealt with my inner critic, who said that I wasn’t a good writer and that there wasn’t a reason to write. I’d never be a successful author, so there wasn’t a point. I also a had an external critic in the house who didn’t like my writing style. I wanted to write but wasn’t motivated enough to do it.

Now it’s different. I have a structure or Path clearly set up. I publish a blog every Tuesday, and a lot of people notice if I don’t. I have to explain to a few coach friends why I missed the deadline.

I also know that writing once a week helps my business by getting my message out in front of people. No one knows what I know unless I tell them. The blog is a basic piece of accelerating my business. Very logical reasons my Rider likes.

However, neither of those things happened for years because I didn’t have the heart for it. Now I do. First, my health isn’t fantastic. I have platinum coils in my brain that give me some weird symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat. The symptoms come and go, but the important thing about the whole situation is that I’ve been reminded of just how mortal I am.

I had a huge shift in how I view the world. My time is finite. It’s true of all of us, but there is nothing like a near-death experience to bring that fact home. Facing my mortality made me question my effect on the world. Was I leaving it better than I found it? I had a renewed sense of purpose in helping others create the life that made them feel happy and satisfied. I’d seen the positive effects of the skills that I teach on people’s lives.

Then, along came a granddaughter. Someone who owns my heart. I realized that I would be long gone before she became interested in communication, conflict resolution and motivation. I desperately want her to have these skills available. I know that there is hope that she will be interested at some time. Her father and his brother have recently begun to ask me questions about what I teach and coach. They were in their late 20s when they started asking me about the leadership concepts that I teach.

Now, I have my heart reason for writing. It isn’t an academic exercise that catalogues what I know. It’s a legacy for a group of people who I adore. In writing, I leave the wisdom that I have gained for children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren! I know that I will be much more interesting to future generations when I’m dead. I want to leave them something interesting.

Could I have found a motivating reason earlier in my life? Probably. I could have dug in with a coach and figured it out, but I didn’t. The writing goal wasn’t in line with my current priorities of family and working with Army families.

The bottom line is, can you find a reason that motivates you to make achieving your goal a priority? Does it mean enough to you to put it ahead of other tasks that lay claim to your time? If the answer is yes, then you’ve found your heart’s motivation.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at

Motivating Self and Others: Influence the Rider, Elephant, and Path


, , , , ,

rider elephant path cropped

The Rider/Elephant/Path model comes from a book by Dan and Chip Heath called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. It is one of the simplest and most useful models for successful change. It is also a useful motivation model.

The logical Rider and the emotional Elephant represent your head and heart. Both must believe the action or task is worth the effort. We must ensure that the action is logical and that it speaks to your heart. Lastly, we want to create a structure to keep yourself on track; the structure is our Path. We create the Path by finding ways to hold ourselves accountable for the action. Let’s go over each part.

Rider. First, we want to convince the logical Rider that this action or task makes sense. We want to do research, listen to experts, and ask others how they handled a similar situation. Our logical Rider must believe that the way we are heading makes sense.

Let’s look at an example. With coaching clients, exercise is often the action that they want to do but can’t seem to stay motivated to do. We start by reminding our logical Rider about the benefits of consistent exercise. We will be stronger, fitter, and healthier. We will have more stamina, more energy, and a more positive outlook on life. There are a lot of logical reasons to exercise regularly!

Elephant. Second, we must motivate our emotional Elephant. The Elephant is not moved by logic; it follows its heart. Your deepest heartfelt motivation will be the reason that your Elephant agrees to move along the path.

Finding the vision that motivates our hearts can take some digging. We talked about one technique here: We ask ourselves why we want to do this task over and over until we find a reason that really makes our hearts sing.

In the exercise example, I might say that I want to exercise to stay fit. “Why?” I ask myself. “Because I will have more energy and stamina,” I answer. Then I ask myself, “Why do you want more energy and stamina?” My bottom line answer that sings to my heart is that I want enough strength and energy to keep up with my family and swing my granddaughter around. The ability to spend quality time with my family walking and doing useful tasks is my emotional motivation.

As a matter of fact, I recently helped my oldest son and his family move from VA to NJ. In preparation, I worked up to walking two miles a day. (Remember, I have platinum coils in my brain, and two miles is a good goal for me.) I got up every morning and walked. I also did some abdominal exercises so that my back would be less likely to go out. (Remember, I am old!) Every time I wanted to slack off, I reminded myself that my family was depending on me, and I wanted to be a part of the activity. When done together, hard jobs can strengthen relationships and create memories that are funny in retrospect. All things that my heart wanted.

Keep in mind that the small Rider cannot force the Elephant to go a certain direction. We cannot be motivated by logic alone. We must feel in our hearts that the change is worth the effort.

Path. Lastly, we want to create a structure for our Path. We want to clearly mark the Path and maybe put some walls on each side to help our Rider and Elephant stay on it. Accountability partners and coaches are excellent examples of how to create a clear path for the Rider and Elephant to follow.

In my exercise example, a walking buddy would help me stay on the Path. A calendar with stickers offers a little structure. Publicly stating goals and progress is an excellent way to create walls to keep us on the Path.

If we can’t find reasons for our actions that resonate with our brains and hearts, maybe we need to rethink the goal. We can only use our self-discipline to force ourselves forward for so long. It’s an exhausting way to live.

However, we can stay motivated if we can find ways to get our brains and hearts engaged and supportive of our actions. We help all parts of ourselves to stay motivated when we create a clear path that uses accountability and consequences to keep us on track. The Rider/Elephant/Path model is an easy way to create success.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at