Feel Like You’re Faking It? You’re not.

In the 1999 cult classic film Galaxy Quest, aging has-been actors from a 1970’s sci-fi television show find themselves transported to another galaxy to play out their characters in real life. An alien race received their television signal and under threat of extinction replicated the technology of the TV show for their space exploration. In watching the “historical documents” they venerated the actors as space crusading heroes. To save face with the aliens to whom they have entrusted their very existence, they proceed to fumble their way forward. The actors, caught in the midst of a galactic war now seek to “fake it till they make it” to save the alien race and hopefully return to earth. With their lives in the balance, they have no other option but to lead. They are forced to face their fears and discover how to rise to the occasion in order to attain victory.

At several points in the movie, most of the characters are forced to face their fears and ask the internal questions. They question their abilities, motives, and goals for their careers and lives. What makes the writing powerful in this campy comedy are the subtlely woven philosophical truths conveyed throughout the story. The watcher finds empathy for the characters in the midst of comedic calamity.

It is tempting to look in the mirror and ask questions like; Is this all there is? Why does everyone else seem to have it all together and I don’t? Shouldn’t I have it figured out by now? Is this who I really am, or am I just faking everyone out? How can I lead others when I can’t even manage my own life? We have all likely entertained some version of these questions in our lifetime.

The perception is that leaders are expected to have answers, lead with confidence and instruct others in the way they should go all the time with 100% accuracy. The result for some is the tyrannical fear of having to know everything without appearing to be a know-it-all. “How can I be both strong, assertive and also humble and self-deprecating?”  Leaders will often don masks in order to protect themselves and appear better than they are. That decision, however, can lead to leadership suicide. The answer ironically is the opposite of how we tend to act. Confidence comes from humility and success is attainable when we admit we don’t have the answers.  Here are a few key reminders for leaders who may be questioning their abilities and qualifications.

  1. Leading is less about confidence and more about focus.
  2. Leading is less about knowing and more about gaining the understanding that creates solutions.
  3. Leading is less about ability and more about inspiration.
  4. Leading is less about being assertive and more about serving others.
  5. Leading is less about organization and perfection and more about modeling how to fail well.
  6. Leading is less about being right and more about fostering discovery.
  7. Leading is less about control and more about inclusion.

I did not say leaders do not need the elements of confidence, knowledge, ability, assertiveness, organization, or be right often. However, there is a tendency to believe wrongly about those items and miss the heart of exceptional leadership by prioritizing the first items to the neglect of the second.

Requires Focus – Focus is the ability to see the goal and not get deterred by the actions of others or emotion.  Stay focused and channel your energy and emotions toward your goals to be successful. Follow the words of the Stoic philosophers;

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” —  SENECA

Requires Solutions – Problems abound in life and leadership. We all contribute to and have to face problems in life and business. Having a sound process for problem-solving that is not reactionary is key to leadership success. Gut reactions and going off experience alone under pressure of “having to know” has odds that are likely equal to the roulette tables in Las Vegas. If you are right, the payout is big but the losses are just as grand.

“A leader is the one, who knows the way, goes the way and show the way” — JOHN C.MAXWELL

Requires Inspiration – Leaders arise because they have demonstrated the ability to move people. Physically, emotionally and inspirationally. Over time many leaders can come to depend on their position of power to retain authority. It is the duty and joy of a leader to inspire greatness from the people they lead. This is the pressure release valve for a leader. They can truly focus on the people and not have to depend on power to be successful.

“If your action inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more you are a leader” — JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

Requires Service – Servant leadership is likely the singular greatest requirement for great leadership. It is humility in action.  How a leader models service is a key example of their commitment and care for the vision and the people under their influence.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself….Serve and thou shall be served.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Requires Failure – It seems backward from conventional thinking because it is. Many of the worlds greatest events were the result of years of failure and struggle. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt (the former’s nephew), Thomas Edison, George Patton, and a slew of others can attest to the success of their failures. Failure is the involuntary education that leads the resilient to success.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”— WINSTON CHURCHILL

Requires Discovery – Remain curious and imaginative about your work, those you lead and yourself. The journey of discovery is one to be relished not feared. Who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow. The same goes for your business and those you lead. Stay fresh by staying vigilant with a clearly defined process of discovery.

“Make it your regular habit to consider your roles—parent, child, neighbor, citizen, leader—and the natural duties that arise from them. Once you know who you are and to whom you are linked, you will know what to do.” —Epictetus

Requires Inclusion – Leaders who operate alone are not leaders, they are more akin to delusional crusaders. Creating a culture of inclusion and team is more difficult than most people realize. Leadership isn’t in getting people to sign up for the first event. It is how many sign up for the fifth, six and seventh time the event takes place. How leaders include others and invite them into the vision is the sign of true leadership.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership” — DWIGHT D. EISENHOUR

So if you wonder if you are leading or how you can lead while remaining flawed, take courage. You have what it takes to fail uphill and succeed. Let your humanity shine and apply these reminders daily. Even though you find yourself in a far away galaxy with unsuspecting people watching your every move, stay focused, operate in humility to inspire, discover and serve as you include your followers in your journey toward towering aspirations that you could not accomplish alone. In all these, you’re not faking it.  You are a leader.


These seven leadership principles are just the beginning. They can be the catalyst toward present and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

What Tiger Woods Really Won At The Masters

News feeds are glowing this week with the admiration and celebration toward Tiger Woods on the well-earned win in the 2019 Masters Tournament. Pundits are peeking into the future and prognosticating the likelihood of him winning the 3 remaining major competitions to match or possibly succeed Jack Nicklaus for the all-time PGA major win record. There are discussions ranging from his amazing return despite several injuries to the personal obstacles he overcame in the process. But what did Tiger really win other than an unfashionable green coat, a miniature clubhouse trophy, 2 million dollar purse and bragging rights as the second oldest winner of the prestigious event? Here are four intangible life proceeds this remarkable athlete carries every day of his life.

Outlived His Critics

In 2009, Tiger Woods had achieved greatness in the game of golf but had lost at the game of life. A sex scandal destroyed his reputation, dissolved his marriage, cost him millions alimony, several endorsements, stymied his career and brought this champion’s world to a halt. No one was worried about his financial stability, though plenty of people had comments on that. What preoccupied the public dialogue was this larger than life young man who seemingly had it all together and a model of character had failed epically before a global audience. Some ridiculed, but many were simply concerned for him and asked: “How could this happen?”. It is conceivable that at the moment of exposure, Tiger would have surrendered all of his nearly 1 billion dollars in assets for 1 ounce of public dignity.

The path proved difficult and was not without its setbacks. The recovery of his character took time. While the stigma of the 2009 scandal has long since waned, the victory at Augusta solidified a long-awaited reward for the effort and consistency he has proven in his recovery. Many panned and criticized the situation as unrecoverable in many respects. However, Tiger was undaunted in His determination to restore not only his golfing prowess but his character as well.

Embraced Life Lessons

Amidst the recovery from professional and personal failure, Tiger took significant steps toward restoration and revealed the true nature of his character. He owned his mistakes, sought to make restitution, submitted himself to recovery, and got the help he needed. He did this for himself and the future, not for the sake of the game he loved. After 9 months of recovery, he emerged from the shadows to do what he loved once more. He returned to the game of golf with a new perspective.

The win this past weekend serves as a supreme example of patience and endurance. It was also an intangible triumph of character in the demonstration of humility. No one would have blamed him for hiding in the shadows, taking his money and retiring to a beach in Florida to escape public criticism.  He didn’t hide. He didn’t shirk his objectives and stayed the course for 11 years to taste the thrill of victory with a side of humble pie.

Demonstrated & Received Love

If you witnessed his 1997 Masters victory, you may remember the iconic image of Tiger embracing his late father immediately afterward. It was a moment to be cherished. Twenty-two years later, the latest iconic win will likely be remembered with Tiger embracing his own son immediately after the win at Augusta National. The ability to keep perspective on what is most important and knowing for whom he does what he does is another win for the champion. Golf is obviously important to Tiger, but in the 1 stroke win, he demonstrated that being a champion is not about winning the game, it is about how you win and for whom.

There are many losses in Tiger’s history. In each adverse situation, there were people in his life who believed he was a champion long before he ever achieved it. There were also those who walked away and gave up on him professionally and personally. His failures were significant and painful.  Yet, there were those who chose to believe in him even after his multiple failures. How he endured the loss, the shame and failure personally and morally mattered. How he persevered through losing every major golfing event in the last 11 years was just as much a key to his winning strategy as his performance this past week. Because winning or losing on the golf course has no bearing when you are being loved and loving those who stick by you through times of failure.

Overcame Pain

In addition to a sex scandal that cost his public image and the personal pain of divorce, Mr. Woods endured four back surgeries that had him bedridden for significant periods of time and left him unable to train and play in major tournaments for more than 2 years. Many speculated that he may never play the game competitively again.

The combined emotional and physical pain he endured to come back to this type of win demonstrates a type of grit and greatness that embodies a true champion. What Tiger Woods won in this was not merely the admiration of golf fans across the world, but he won a personal victory in resilience and serves as the inspiration to the rest of us to get out of bed, own the struggle, do our work, and endure to the end to experience the victory that comes through pressing on through adversity in order to learn and grow from it.

So, here is to a champion of life. May you experience many more victories on and off the course. Thank you, Tiger, for modeling what you really win when you are a champion. Finish the course well. May we all do likewise.


We can all learn lessons from a champion. They can be the catalyst toward our present and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

7 Keys For Respectful Communication

Not Simple, But There Are Principles

When it comes to having difficult conversations, the methods are as much an art as they are a science. Individuals who come together to work through a conflict bring with them many dimensions of relational depth, personality, character, and background that contribute to whether that conversation is perceived as a success or not.

There are no simple methods or answers for conflict. There are however, proven principles that give each person a fighting chance (pun intended) to walk away with a resolution. There are many avenues to discuss, but this article will focus on one key aspect of a difficult conversation; Respect. If there is conflict, then there is likelihood that trust is at risk or broken as well. Trust issues, when played out, can reveal themselves in attitudes and behaviors that are not respectful. The more emotionally heated the issue, the more respect is at risk.

Any relationship where two or more people are willing to meet and resolve conflict has the inherent DNA to resolve it, regain trust, establish respect and work toward a mutual understanding in peace. If warring nations can do it, you can as well.

At The Root

At the root of most conflict is an unmet expectation.  Regardless of whether the expectation is realistic, it is either met or unmet. For example, “I expected you to finish those reports by Wednesday and they are not done.”  or “I hoped we could spend time together today and talk about our future and you didn’t make time.”  These examples can go on and on and range in severity. “You told me you would always love me, and now you say you don’t.” Or “You said my job was secure and now you are letting me go.” The resulting emotions, acted upon or not,  are the reigning fruit where the roots of trust and ultimately respect will be lost.

These types of meetings involve risk. There are cases where some individuals are entrenched in their views, won’t move, or perceive themselves as above reproach. People in that mindset often won’t be enthusiastic about meeting. Sometimes they will meet in order to be heard or say they complied and tried. That situation requires a different approach with mediation, and a different topic all together. However, in every case, remember the person in front of you is human like you,  flawed like you and most often wants resolution…like you.

Seven Ways To Have That Conversation Respectfully

  1. Be willing to hear hard things
  2. Be clear with your intent and desired outcome
  3. Be solution and common ground minded
  4. Be careful yet honest with your words
  5. Be sure to ask questions
  6. Be ready to forgive and ask for forgiveness
  7. Be willing to improve and change

Be willing to hear hard things.

Be open to the possibility of being wrong. We all have blind spots and have hurt or offended others, often unintentionally. One way to show respect for another person is to validate their hurt. Give the other person the same chance you would want to say the things that have hurt them. Be sure to listen well, be humble, and  hear how your actions have effected them. The person may share these items because they want to improve the relationship, not hurt it.  It may sting, but it can make you and the situation better, if you are willing to listen.

Be clear with your intent and desired outcome.

From the beginning, establish goals. A question to consider asking is, “What do we hope to accomplish in this meeting?”  Agree on goals that allow you to determine how the meeting will be successful. This creates a very important aspect of relational safety.  Difficult conversations involve a level of vulnerability for everyone involved. When the stakes are high the need for safety is even higher. Speak your intentions clearly and concisely so each person understands them.

Be solution and common ground focused.

It is important to stay focused on solutions that work for each person. There is something important to each person that has caused the hurt feelings, missed expectations, or offense. Finding areas to agree upon will help each person focus on solutions and not handle the issue the same way in the future.  Things like, “I believe we both agree that it is important to maintain high educational standards in our school. I am wondering how we can find a way to resolve this issue in a way that benefits everyone without compromising that standard.”  Apply similar types of phrases to help discover and celebrate agreement.

Be careful, yet honest with your words.

To varying degrees, people will tend to come out swinging or head for the hills. (Fight or Flight) The goal is to speak honestly in order to articulate root issues and understand future relationship in peace. For the fighter, slow your words and find ways to say things that help foster safety. Use phrases like,”seems like”, “I sense that”, “I have wondered if”, “I am trying to understand.” etc. For the flight person, do not give up on conversation. It can be tempting to simply say, “you’re right” to simply move on. Do not give up. Speak your mind.  It is a fallacy to think you can avoid, mask or dismiss the issue and gain peace and trust.

Be sure to ask clarifying questions.

Because you are likely going to hear things which you do not agree with, it is important to ask clarifying questions to the statements you encounter. For every statement there is a reason. For every reason, there is something that is emotionally and/or philosophically important to the person to whom you are speaking. By asking questions you are ascribing safety and value to the person. You are also getting to the heart of the issue rather than focusing on the problem only. See the post on powerful questions for more details.

Be ready to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

In business and in personal relationships, offenses can be forgiven. Forgiving is not forgetting, nor does it remove a consequence entirely. Forgiveness is choosing to not hold the agreed upon offense against that person in thought, word and deed. It is a process that can begin in this type of discussion. In the process there are things that each person will discover they have contributed to the issue. Be willing to understand the hurt (intended or not) and ask them to forgive you. Likewise, be willing to hear their apology and offer the promise to work through it peacefully. This is not a quick fix, this is a genuine commitment to offer true peace and reconciliation.

Be willing to improve and change.

Too frequently, people will hear how their words or actions have caused pain then rush to apologize without any resulting change. It takes a sincere and emotionally intelligent person to acknowledge the hurt, improve and change. Admitting failure is only the first step. Demonstrated effort, intentionality and progress allows people to rebuild trust and regain respect. Allow trust to be built by committing to learning, growing and ultimately changing for the better.


These 7 steps to having difficult discussions are just the beginning. They can be the catalyst toward healthy relationships and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

The Lessons You Don’t Plan On Learning

An Involuntary Vow of Education.

One tenth of a second. One blink of an eye. One split second decision. One thought of “Nah, we don’t have time to go to the store, let’s head home.”  One glance in the mirrors. One look over the shoulder. One turn signal engaged. Ease the steering wheel of the car and gently press the accelerator. Then Bam! It happens. The crunch of metal and glass pierces your ears. You are tossed, at what seems like the speed of light, from where you were to another dimension. A cloud of smoke fills the cabin. The aroma of burnt rubber and metal fills your nostrils. Disoriented, but seemingly alive, you are brought to your senses with the cries of fear around you. You reach for the door handle, stumble to the ground and clamor for fresh air. Within seconds you realize your spouse is trapped, and go back in the wreckage to help them escape. In the most dramatic way possible, and without warning, you just learned a lesson. The proverbial bell rang, the classroom doors opened, and the awaiting law professor named Physics has announced a pop quiz for your life.

By an act of divine intervention you are alive to learn it. Well, I am alive to learn it. See, this is the recent lesson I didn’t plan to learn. When I woke up that Saturday morning, the furthest thing from my mind was a 3 car wreck on Highway 280 in Birmingham. My plans looked very different for the day. My goal was a quiet day of rest. I didn’t realize it was going to be a chaotic school day.

As coaches and leadership trainers, part of what we do is look for opportunities to help others self-discover what life is teaching. Self-discovery is always best if learned before things get difficult. However, sometimes we learn best in the struggle, the pressure pot, or in this case the unexpected turn of events. There are at least 4 principles to glean from these kind of situations from my recent recovery and time of reflection.

  1. You can prepare for the unexpected
  2. You can learn from failure in ways success cannot teach
  3. You can accept the consequences of your decisions
  4. You can believe that good will come from what happened

Prepare for the Unexpected – You may not be able to predict it but ,you can begin to prepare by knowing who you are and having deep roots in your understanding of the world around you. Your worldview and values matter. Also, take time to consider others, different scenarios and situations. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Walk a mile in them and consider how you could/should respond. Take that CPR class. Brush up on your knowledge of crisis response. Be aware of your tendencies and weaknesses so that when the unexpected moment comes you are prepared to respond well. You may not control the crisis, but you don’t have to let the crisis control you. Prepare your mind, heart and life so that the unexpected allows you to shine with resilience rather than crush you in spirit.

Learn from Failure – This is the self-examination part. After the dust settles allow yourself the time to reflect on your responsibility. Dig deep and examine how you could have acted, responded, or possibly prevented the situation. Consider the contingencies and “could haves”. This is not the warm and fuzzy part, but it is crucial to taking in the lesson. After reflection, look at how you can improve your outlook and change for the better in the future. Having a plan for change restores hope and gives you something to look forward to rather than simply mull on the failure itself.

Accept the Consequences – In most (not all) cases we bear a measure responsibility for the events of our lives. Learning to accept the consequences, with grace, is a key component to future success. Anger, bitterness, blame, and retaliation toward yourself and others are natural responses that must be addressed as a part of healing. However, the goal is not to ignore the contribution of others or sweep it under a rug, but to gain perspective and work toward self-improvement of character and lasting resilience. By owning your portion and acting responsibly, you demonstrate emotional intelligence and willingness to become better not bitter.

Believe In The Good To Come – “This too shall pass” and other cliche’s. Finally, once you have worked through the steps above, you will begin to see the good that can come from the unexpected, unintentional and unsolicited. Beginning to see the good that can come from hardship is a sign of returning mental/emotional health. Time for healing is important, but as soon as possible, begin to believe that good will come as change is seen from the unintended lesson. Write a list of the good things that will or have come. Keep them as a a reminder.

Bonus Thought

One word of practical encouragement, learn the lesson and create a remembrance to it so you do not forget. Embrace a token, a letter, a calendar reminder, something of importance. Whatever it takes to keep the lesson fresh in your mind allow it to never be lost.

In The End

The screams subsided, the vehicles totaled, shrapnel cleaned up and traffic restored to its daily chaos. No lasting injuries to speak of thankfully. Miraculously, mere inches made the difference between temporary soreness and serious injury or death for one or more involved. Flashbacks, whiplash, scrapes, aches and bruising were the only short-term results. However, the emotional weight and memories leave an indelible mark like the red ink that permeates the teacher’s corrective red pen.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How will you prepare, learn, accept and believe when the unexpected comes your way?
  2. What life improvements will you make from the difficulties you have faced or are facing?
  3. Who do you have in your life to help you in that process?
  4. What tools do you need today to recover from an unexpected event or make progress in moving forward?

All these and more are what coaches do to help people in life and business.


These 4 lessons are just the beginning. They can be the difference in present and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

What Jalen Hurts Teaches Leaders

For The Love of The Team

When it comes to classic winning moments in sports, one of the more profound leadership moments in college football history happened at the 2018 BCS National Championship this past January. Though the Alabama Crimson Tide broke a tie and won in a thrilling fashion on the final play of the game, the classic leadership moment happened on the sidelines. So much so, people have not stopped talking about it since.

When Jalen Hurts, the starting QB for Alabama was struggling in the game, his backup Tua Tagovailoa came in to relieve him. Jalen had led the entire season and this was “his” winning moment. It was “his” championship. So when Coach Nick Saban made the change in the second half of the game, one would expect that Jalen Hurts would be well.. hurt. However, that was not the case. Swallowing any pride and putting his team first, he encouraged, celebrated and pushed his backup to the forefront in a beautiful display of humility and emotional intelligence.

This display holds within it many lessons for leaders to adopt in life and business practice. The ability of a leader to celebrate a win for others even when it was their investment, idea, or if they could have done it better, shows that the focus is on the overall win for the team. A win in this case is the displayed character of the person, not the accolade. Leaders who can celebrate the win even when it hurts their pride, show they have what it takes to move from good to great in leadership.  This is punctuated by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great.

“The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results. …It is very important to grasp that Level 5 leadership is not just about humility and modesty. It is equally about ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great.”

If humility and celebrating the accomplishments of others are so crucial to successful leadership, why are posturing, micromanagement, excessive control, aggressive/angry behavior, and grandstanding allowed to pervade? More insidious and less observable are  leaders who succeed will sometimes get ignored, snubbed, torn down or dismissed in their accomplishments with prejudice? The answer is, because it is easier.

It is easier to give directives and react harshly than to lead and guide. It is easier to micromanage than to give leadership away. It is easier to control mediocrity than to risk failure. It is easier to feel threatened by the success of others in fear that it may cast shade on the leader’s prowess. It is easier to tear someone down than to build them up. Leaders who struggle significantly in this area tend to ostracize their teams and create a wedge where fierce allegiance could exist.

Most leaders don’t set out to be the corporate equivalent of a “Mean Girl. However, many of the behaviors and attitudes reflected in business, non-profit, and municipal environments not only allow, but revere and celebrate these behaviors at times. They are often referred to as “strong management” or “directive leadership”.  There are certainly moments where strength and direction as a leader is necessary. Wise leaders know when to exercise direct communication. They have learned to wield the sword humbly, and in a timely fashion.

To lead your team to win, here are seven recommended behaviors to remind us how to lead well.

7 Steps To Sustain A Winning Team

  1. Look – Watch for ways you can celebrate the good. Watch for ways where you can serve or help. Look for teachable moments and constructive improvements along the way in light of successes.
  2. Listen – Ask how they are planning for success. Ask key questions that empower them to focus on that win. Ask how you can equip them toward that goal. Listen for feedback that helps you know how to lead them better.
  3. Love – Be passionate about their goals. Love their projects. Love their enthusiasm. Love what they bring to the table. Love helping them succeed.
  4. Like – Be kind. Speak truth with compassion. Treat them with respect and work toward understanding them as valuable members of a team.
  5. Labor – Work hard for their success. Invest your time and energy to what they need. Get them the resources they need to make their goal reachable.  Have the long-game in mind.
  6. Live – Bring passion and enthusiasm by living out what you are asking them to do. Be willing to “practice what you preach”.
  7. License – Give them freedom to lead. Let them have a stake in the race. Push them to create and generate new ideas. This means risking failure but learning and growing comes through that as well.  Be patient as leaders learn.

The legacy of Jalen Hurts is yet to be determined. However, one additional thing is worthy of notation. His moment of humility so far has endured. You see, after that championship moment he has been forced to recognize that this backup has superior strengths to his own. He is now the actual number ‘2’ and he has graciously stepped back to let the team succeed. On any level, this is impressive to see. Even if it is a struggle at times for young Jalen Hurts, he is a champion. He wears the ring of a champion. He has the heart of a leader. He seems to have the long game in mind. Every great leader should. I hope he endures and I hope his model of leadership will endure for us as well.  How will you lead your team to win?


These 7 steps to winning are just the beginning. They can be the catalyst toward present and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

Building Morale: WYSIWYG

What You See Is What You Get

Building morale requires having the ability to see people and relationships accurately in the moment. It is a high-level skill for leaders who operate in a what you see is what you get world. (WYSIWYG or ‘wiz – ee – wig’ ). Writing this post I am using a WYSIWYG editor. The beauty of this technology is, it gives you immediate publishing and viewing of what you write. It immediately reflects back to you what you hope to see in the finished product, offering clarity and the ability to evaluate the work as you go.

People reflecting their leaders is not a new concept, nor is it a revelation to most leaders. Many proverbs, books, movies and social media posts have articulated this principle ad nauseam.  Yet, the issue remains. Many struggle to grow and maintain morale over long periods of time. Often, it is not the absence of direction, but a lack of self-examination. Blame tends to go both ways, and morale begins to sink. Building or recovering high morale is possible if cycles of behavior can be exchanged for new habits.

Leaders in any capacity or level of influence are fixed objects standing firm to cast and reflect character bringing the best out of those they lead. What they do, say and how they act toward their people is a model of how to succeed or fail. By reflecting their best and worst qualities, they influence others with their actions.  A leader is not perfect, nor should they try to be, but are an inspiration and guide for growth. They are like a mirror for those that follow. What followers see in them will be modeled and reflected. 

With the struggle to ensure safety, inquire thoughtfully and inspire consistently the results can be pettiness, anger, defensiveness, lack of productivity, passive/aggressive behaviors, withdrawal, high turnover and more. Morale declines the longer the leader struggles. To bring improvement here are a few behaviors to consider.

7 Morale Building Behaviors

  • Demonstrate humility – Serve their people. Protect the team. Do not assume motives.
  • Take responsibility – Own their mistakes and pursue reconciliation in conflict.
  • Measure their words – Speak directly, kindly, clearly, and concisely.
  • Ask powerful questions – Learn before they speak. Use open questions. [Read Powerful Questions]
  • Evaluate with equity  – Live by the measure they hold to others. Do not expect from others what they are not willing to do themselves.
  • Encourage appropriately – Find the best in their team. Empower them to lead. Invest time in developing other leaders.
  • Communicate well – Consistent. Listen. Engaged. Winsome. Helpful. Inspiring.


  • What questions have you asked of your team that sponsored feedback and insight into the overall team morale?
  • When was the last time you opened yourself up to get help?
  • What evidence have you seen of misguided behavior in those under you?
  • What areas of growth in morale and team unity are you looking for in the next 3 months?
  • What methods could you employ to discover and adjust to make those improvements?


These 7 reminders are not comprehensive, but they can be the catalyst toward rebuilding morale in a team or organization. If you see patterns that you wish you change and desire more assistance in moving forward, our ShiftAgent coaching program may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

power questions, coaching, leadership

Give Them Something To Talk About

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

Here is a common set of questions in everyday conversation:

Person 1: Hey! How are you?
Person 2: Good…you?
Person 1: Fine…awkward silence..
and end of conversation.

How often do we get asked questions that shorten a conversation rather than generate genuine engagement? Imagine if that question was being asked differently. “Hey! Good to see you. What have you been doing at work that is challenging you?” It may sound a bit stilted in this example, but do you see the difference in how that conversation could go?

Eighteenth century French philosopher and poet, Voltaire is noted to have said, “Do not judge a man on the answers he gives, but on the questions he asks”.  Leaders often feel it is their job to have all the answers and help people by being the “go to” person. Often, it is easy to mistake management  for leadership in this regard.

Leaders, especially those who lead other leaders, strive to gain understanding and knowledge that informs before offering advice, direction, or  offering “what if” solutions. Good leaders use questions that explore and ignite conversation, creating safety from intimidation and generate healthy dialogue. Great leaders master the art of when to ask powerful questions and when to use direct communication. Thus, leaving their people with clear expectations, challenging objectives, empowered leadership, and inspired motivation to move forward.

If the best way to connect with your team and be most effective as a communicator is through asking questions, then they must be the right questions. Whether you are a high level executive or just trying to be a good friend or parent, ensure that your questions have P.O.W.E.R.

Five Ways To Improve Question Asking

P – Purposeful – Ask the question with intent to understand the situation with 360 degrees of clarity. Then ask good follow up or clarifying questions to gain different perspectives on the situation. Leading question: “What was the ultimate outcome of the event?”  Follow up: In what ways did you see your goals reached? Follow up two: How did the team respond to the outcome of the event? Follow Up three: “What environmental factors did you face that affected the outcome?” Follow up four: “What would you like to improve upon next time?” Each question should dive in closer to action steps that are constructive and helpful.

O – Open – Open questions are the type that bring insight into reasons not just facts. The opposite of open questions are closed. For example: “Did you do that task that I assigned you?”  An open version of that question could be, “What progress did you make on that task we discussed last week?” One question yields a yes or no answer, while the other promotes dialogue. Closed questions are not invalid, but they do not promote discussion the same as open questions.

Also, be open to receiving an answer; if you enter a conversation expecting a certain result, you’re likely to shut down the most clear and insightful communication. Remain open-minded; to ask productive questions, not based on opinion but facts. Even if your position will not change on the issue, be open to hearing all sides of the discussion.

W – Winning  – Winning questions are those that promote inspiration and motivation. This is not fluff, but is a method to encourage the person and empower the goal that the topic is designed to reach. “What were you thinking when you did this?” Is both open and powerful but it is a discouraging, and draining. It likely will not gain influence even though it is powerful.  Alternately, “What circumstances were present that impacted this decision?” This could achieve the same goal while still valuing the person, promoting healthy relationship, and giving the leader great understanding without jeopardizing the concern.

E – Empathetic – Healthy communication is founded on empathy, and a strong question is formulated through the lens of it. If you’re able to relate to, and understand someone, you can dive deeper and be productive while maintaining relationship. Start off asking things that gain understanding of circumstances and personal viewpoint on issues. These can assist the leader in guiding self evaluation and discovery which is more likely to produce change. Which is more effective; “That’s three days in a row! Why were you late?” or “What circumstances have caused your lateness the last 3 days?”  A simple semantic can bring empathy without compromise of position.

R – Reflective – Great questions are not known for the complexity by which they are asked but by the amount of reflection they create. In the interest of expediency it is tempting to simply recite or answer these questions for them based on limited information. Reflective questioning takes time to get to the heart of an issue rather than dealing with the surface problem only. For example: “What long-term effect did you desire from this decision?”  “What people were positively affected in the process of making this decision?”  The end result is self education and correction without humiliation and defensiveness. Listen to gain understanding. Ask powerful questions to gain reflection, discovery and change in direction.

Take your leadership to the next level. Ask powerful questions that empower your team and give you the insight you need to reach your goals.


These 5 improvements are not comprehensive, but they can be the catalyst toward reigniting relationships and having powerful leadership tools at your disposal. For this type of learning contact our ShiftAgent coaching program for individual or group training. If you need further or deeper assistance, let us help you find the right professional to help you in your current situation. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.

5 Perspectives That Can Set You Free

Feeling Trapped


John and Brooke met and fell in love quickly. Their compatibility was high, and the relationship was strong. After a few years both expressed a verbal interest in future in marriage and family. In that time they discovered, as with many couples, areas where they differ in their views. Most of these differences were simple things like favorite sports teams, movies they watched, songs they liked, or food they would eat. Nothing substantial, but differences that stood out nonetheless.

There was one difference however, that challenged the relationship. Brooke desired a strong and consistent emotional commitment to the future, while John struggled with limited emotional availability and consistency. At times his words and actions would match and sometimes they didn’t. Brooke began to compensate to win his commitment. An emotional tug of war was at play. Both were struggling differently with the pressure to move forward in the relationship. The erratic nature of the concerns grew in frequency and ultimately each of them developed issues with trust. Tensions grew high, and the once unified relationship became threatened.

Brooke cared deeply and didn’t want to give up the emotional investment. She believed if she could just do the right things in the right way she could “fix” the problem. John also cared but, liked things the way they were and resisted change and progress he was simply was unable to move forward and commit the way Brooke hoped.  Brooke held on to hope but eventually grew weary, angry and distrusting of John in the process of waiting over the years.

John became detached and hurt from the anger and pressure to move forward. Brooke also began to pull back from the relationship and struggled with rejection. At the brink of throwing in the towel, the client in this case came desiring to gain a new perspective that either sponsored a move toward emotional health inside the relationship or move on from it to regain independence and emotional health.

Does this sound familiar?  You may have experienced this or know someone who has. Anyone in this position is often faced with extraordinary pressure and high impact decisions related to their future. It is very possible to feel trapped and powerless. When faced with a dilemma of emotional equality in a relationship, here are a few perspectives and questions that may help you move forward and find freedom.

5 Perspectives To Consider


1. The Other Person Does Not Feel The Same As You – It sounds obvious, but hard to admit. What a person says or how many times the conversation takes place does not mater nearly as much as their actions. Actions reflect true intentions. People will make mistakes, miscommunicate and go through difficult times. However, a relationship that is characterized by issues of transparency, vulnerability and consistency reveal that the emotions and commitment are simply not equitable. No amount of conversation will ever convince another person to feel or commit. Attempts to conjure up feelings in another person lead to controlling, manipulative and destructive behaviors on both sides. It is important to seek to recognize that a person’s commitment levels are different and come to acknowledge that difference. In time, the person will either recognize and work through their emotional limitations or  become defensive, despondent and likely retreat further emotionally. The sustainability of the relationship will then reveal itself.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What core desire in your life are you looking for this person to fill?
  • What are your relationship goals and what are you not willing to compromise? (Write them down)
  • What is important to you about emotional equity in a relationship?
  • What ways are you allowing this approach to derail your purpose and meaning in life?

2. You Cannot Change Another Person – Healthy relationships challenge and bring about change that is good for both people involved. Growth is an important part of a vibrant relationship. This goes for friendships, siblings, as well as romance. Growth, organically grown in a relationship is ideal. It takes effort and intentionality. It is an equal commitment by both people to grow. An inequitable relationship will typically have one person pursuing the change and growth and the other passively or even aggressively resisting that change.  Sometimes just having a meaningful conversation can make a significant difference and bring improvement. Seek to recognize the signs that your relationship is inequitable and work hard to get on the same page. If you cannot, focus on the change you can make for yourself and lower your expectations of change by them. This is not settling for less in the relationship, it is allowing space and freedom for the relationship to reveal itself in a more healthy constructive manner.  Doing so will give you the objectivity to move forward and the best options to pursue.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What tactics are you tempted to use that are manipulative, shaming or coercive to change the other person?
  • What expectations are you holding on the other person that you would not want held on yourself if roles were reversed?
  • What attitudes, actions and tools could you use that would bring the most self-growth?

3. Their Limitations Are Not Your Fault – Blame is one of the easiest and yet deadly tools a person can use in a relationship. It is often the case with someone who is a “fixer” to accuse or blame the other person. Equally, they will often take on the emotional burden for the shortcomings of their partner, friend or family member. It is important to remember to not engage at their level. Their emotional limitations and issues are most frequently not your fault. We all have our influence in a relationship, but each person is ultimately responsible for themselves and their actions. Set yourself free from the burden of accepting another person’s limitations as your own. Do not allow them to affect your value and worth.  You are capable of giving love and worthy of receiving it. If the other person is not willing to offer you emotional consistency you are not to blame. You may have other contributions in the relationship but, I repeat, their emotional limitations are not your fault.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • In what ways are you taking on blame in ways that is causing self doubt, depression and discouragement?
  • In what ways are you compensating in your emotional communication with this person or demonstrating poor behavior as a result of their limitations?
  • What can you do to help yourself match their emotional commitment and give each of you space to consider the best future version of the relationship?

4. Letting Go is Not the Absence of Love – They say “if you love something set it free…” It is tempting to think that letting go means you have to let go of love. True love is inherently sacrificial. Letting someone be free to feel the way they feel and be who they are is a way of loving them. A misconception is that a person has to stay fully engaged in a situation to for love to endure. Depending on the type of commitment in place, this will look different in how it is managed. The principle remains; letting go of expectations, anger, control and dependency will begin the process of returning to emotional health. There may need to be physical separation in some cases, but even that is not the absence of love, nor is hope lost. The pain of that type of sacrifice is very real. It is self-effacing and difficult. However, if you are to know or see the reality of health in a relationship, setting yourself and the person free is a key.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What do you fear most about letting go? (emotionally, physically, other)
  • What do you stand to gain from offering freedom to yourself and this person?
  • What resources or accountability do you need in your life to learn to let go?

5. The Only Way To Fix It Is To Fix You – It sounds cliche because it is. This is not rocket science. Gaining emotional health for yourself will give you the perspective, time and ability to reconcile the emotions and the weight of being a “fixer”.  Whether the relationship in focus survives will reveal itself. One thing is sure however,  anger, depression, manipulation and control will not bring about anything healthy in any present or future relationship. You will not be ready to embrace a healthy relationship until a healthy perspective can be achieved. Give yourself the gift and freedom to hurt, feel and process the emotions you have dealt with or are presently dealing. Find a good friend, a counsellor, and a coach to help you navigate the past and pursuing your empowered future.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • What commitment are you ready to make to letting go of control and letting go of being controlled by the emotions of another person?
  • What will your life look like when you experience the freedom that comes from letting go?
  • What are your goals for yourself in the next 12 months and how will you pursue them?


These 5 perspectives are not comprehensive, but they can be the catalyst toward freedom in or from an unhealthy codependency on a relationship. If you see patterns that you wish you change and desire more assistance in moving forward, our ShiftAgent coaching program may be right for you. If you need further or deeper assistance, let us help you find the right professional to help you in your current situation. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.


**The story presented here is based on several case studies. The names and circumstances have been altered to protect the identity of the individuals. Any connection of this story and any other is purely coincidental.  

Word Press: Benefits and Challenges

In 2005 my company Kenosis Designs opened in Wake Forest, N.C.  At that time I had been building websites as a hobby since 1998.  I had gained some notoriety as a designer but programming was not my thing.  If you ask our senior programer Kristi she will tell you I am still not.

In those days, unless you were a enterprise level company, sites were all written in HTML and some scripting by hand and designs were cryptic and browsers were limited in what they could do.  It was a new frontier to see who could create the next thing. This new thing called a blog was coming available. Word Press among many other tools emerged. It was for bloggers only. Other tools called content management systems were popping up here and there.  They were amazing and yet in their infancy.  They were full of bugs and many of them were open source which means they were developed by a lot of people.

We chose to white label our own CMS product and worked on a product that we felt had a future. We didn’t see WordPress becoming anything more than a blog tool.  Little did we know, in a few years it would become the largest CMS and now the most widely adopted website platform in the world.  There are over 80 million installs of it today. It powers 26.4% of the the websites in the world and 56% of the market share in content management systems. (According to ManageWP.com)

While it is celebrated my many, it is panned by some as well.  What we want to do is outline some very basic but important reasons to use this product and some cases where it may not be the right fit.


  • FREE – It is amazing that this kind of software is no cost to you to own and use.
  • Widely Accepted – It is the most popular CMS tool on the internet by far.
  • Serviceable – Anyone who knows PHP and MySql can program for it.
  • Community – Help is always available somewhere.
  • Extendable – Almost 500k plugins that do almost anything you can imagine. Many are free and many others are reasonable in cost.
  • Regularly Updated – WordPress seeks to keep their software up to date and secure.
  • Customizable – Free / Paid themes abound or you can have something built from the ground up.
  • Powerful – The tools available for WordPress today are powerful enough for just about any small to medium business enterprise. It is only getting better.
  • Affordable – You can spend what you want on a WordPress website. Budgets can range from 1,500.00 to 25,000.00+  easily. Start small and grow big.  You may outgrow WordPress at some point but what a great problem to have.


  • Limitations – For enterprise level and some corporations the database structure of WordPress is not able to handle queries and calculations that push MySql to its limits.
  • Security – Though WordPress works hard to keep it secure, because it is the most widely adopted platform it is a target for hackers.  Make sure you have professionals reviewing your security needs.
  • Plugin Conflicts – Because there are so many different contributors there are times when conflicts occur interfere with functionality. Testing and work arounds can cost time and money.
  • Credibility – This is not a WordPress issues but an issue with WordPress plugin developers.  Vetting and knowing the quality of the plugins you purchase is very important. It is also important to keep them up to date.
  • Professional Set Up – While WordPress can be set up by an end-user is it not always easy or as time efficient as some SAAS systems (Squarespace, Wix etc) The trade off here is customization and monthly fees. WordPress works best when a professional sets it up and guides people in how to use it. It has a front-end cost but then low cost to maintain. SAAS systems are limited in functionality and have on-going costs. However WordPress will cost money to set up and do right.

5 Questions For Hiring A Web Designer

So you are wanting to hire a “web guy”(or girl).  Like hiring a plumber, electrician or any other trade person credibility matters. More on that in a moment. Here are a few basic but essential questions to hiring a web designer.

Here they are:

  1. Do I need a web designer, a programmer, a marketer or all three?
  2. Does the person need to have an extensive portfolio that proves they can build what you are looking for?
  3. Do they answer/respond to their phone and email?
  4. Do they need have an actual business or should I use a freelancer (foreign /domestic)?
  5. How do I learn about their reputation?

#1 Answer: All Three

These days you will want to consider finding either a team or company that has knowledge and experience in all three of these areas. Websites for even small business are tools for growing business not just a brochure online.

#2 Answer: Helpful, but not always necessary.

A quality designer, programmer, marketer doesn’t necessarily have to work in your industry to know how to help you build a great website.  The thing to look at is how is the person at solving problems. Examine their portfolio and talk with them and make sure they understand your needs and desires.  Look at their proposal and estimates.  How detailed are they?  Did they ask the questions that give you assurance they know what you need?

#3 Answer: If they don’t. Run. Run fast.

Communication is a must with a web project. If your potential designer, programmer, marketer does not communicate well you should strongly consider how a business arrangement would work out. It doesn’t matter if he/she is the best friend of your cousin who will give you a deal, your business deserves professional attention and focus. And that deal they speak of… will often cost your more time and money than if you hired a team of professionals.

#4 Answer: It depends, Do you gamble in Vegas?

If you are a high risk taker then by all means you can consider using a domestic freelancer who you pay personally or hire someone from a freelancing website overseas. Early in our company we actually tried to use overseas programmers and found that without fail we never got the results or the value from a single one we hired. That is from personal experience not just trying to keep work in the U.S.A.  There is a great risk in that approach and you may beat the house the first few times but remember the house always wins.

#5 Answer: Research and Referrals.

An online reputation can be a mixed bag.  Usually the only people to review web designers and others are those who have had a bad experience. However, you can examine the sites in their portfolio, ask them for references and call those references. Check them out on social media and see how they work and how they interact. See if the person or company is a good fit for your needs.


In the end you will spend money and time building a website and marketing presence. Make sure you ask a few questions like these to help you make a wise decision. Remember, you get what you pay for. You also get what you ask for.