3 Circles of Leadership

Whether you own a business or work for a larger company in a management role, there are three circles of leadership you will be juggling at all times.

In a perfect world, the circles overlap right in the center, so look more like one happy circle. However, that is a rare situation.

If you have that, you are one lucky individual. More likely though, the circles overlap a little but do not align in the middle. What can you do with the problem when they don’t align and you are spinning like crazy trying to make it work?

Here’s the Story

First, let me explain what the three circles are, then we’ll explore how to make the best of the situation.

The first circle is the Leader you want to be. As you think about your values, visions, and dreams, you get a picture of the “better you.” It would be wonderful to go to work and be nothing but this picture of the perfect Leader.

Maybe this idea came from experience, or coaching, or mentoring. More likely it is a combination of people you admire and people you’ve worked for. Perhaps a parent instilled in you some values and principles that you want to live by.

If you could be left alone and just “be” this person that you imagine, you are confident you would be a great leader. Let’s call this circle simply “Self”.

The Company View

Next is the Leader the company wants you to be. This position gets a little more complicated. The bigger the company, the management roles, and responsibilities get more complex.

Often, the company has a description of what a successful manager/leader should be. This definition evolves as the company grows and changes.

Let’s call this circle the “Company”.

Once you’re in a position, the feedback you get from above dictates choices you make. Yes, hopefully you have some autonomy to make decisions, but various approval authorities limit that.

Even for an entrepreneur, the Leader the company needs you to be can conflict with the one you think you want to be. As an example, the first time you need to fire someone you feel a twinge. You don’t want to be the person doing firing (the Self leader) but the situation (the Company) requires action. You have to fire that person. The company demands it.

The last circle is about the Leader your team needs you to be. Let’s call this one “Team.”

This last circle can get very personal. The interactions you have with your employees who make up your team can get very real, very fast.

Each person you hire comes to work with expectations, hopes, and dreams of their own. Plus, the burdens they carry come with them. As ‘the boss’ you have to figure out the best balance of just how close you get to each person and where the boundaries need to be.

3 Circle Mix

All three of these circle are working as you approach your role. As a leader, your focus should be on building flexibility and endurance for moving between the circles as the situation dictates.

On one hand, you could dig your heels in and say “No, I know what is important and things will get done my way.” That borders perilously close to the ‘my way or the highway’ leadership style.

Or you can intentionally shift from one circle to the other, still knowing that the space where things overlap is the ideal place to be.

The Magic is in Knowing

The real key to success within these boundaries is knowing the shape, size, and significance of each circle. You have to be aware of your own understanding and belief about each of these circles.

If you’ve never stopped to think in these terms, you may be very surprised to discover that a tension you have felt at work is directly related to a misalignment between one or all of these circles.

As an example, you may have a great sense of purpose and drive (Self). Your relationship with the Team may be strong. Yet there is a constant conflict with the Boss. When you evaluate that relationship, you may find the real rub is that you and the boss disagree on the role you need to be playing.

If your personal sense of purpose cannot align with what the Company needs you to be, you will never get comfortable with the position.


How do your three circles align? How much overlap exists?

What can you do tomorrow to better align these 3 circles.

Leadership on the Road: 6 Key Thoughts

Here’s something from my archives. It’s worth the read. First shared in 2014.

I have been out on a client assignment at a remote job site. Truth be told not all that remote, but in my book, anything 25+ miles ‘outside of X’ is remote to me. Being that far off a beaten path can often leave you in rural farmland or cattle country. It’s all been great mind you, but for a life-long city boy, the surroundings can be challenging. The locals I had had the chance to meet and work with have been wonderful people. Their hearts are bigger than the big sky we see daily (no, that’s not a hint for the location, just a generalization of the observations). The exact location does not matter. What matters here is a series of experiences I’d like to share. From the start of the project some 5 months ago, to its successful completion this week, there have been ups and downs, twists and turns, but no real gnashing of teeth; just lots of good honest hard work.

So here we go. The experiences in the field often serve to remind me of business leadership principles I learned a long time ago, but have to revisit frequently if I choose to keep them fresh and effective. Through this project, my ‘master list’ of guiding principles was tested on several occasions. I wanted to share my thoughts and refresh my readers about the importance of staying centered with these valuable ideas.

  1. If you claim to be a servant leader, have empathy and sympathy – I had to run headlong into a team of folks who were new to me, but who had worked together for years before I arrived. They had just been informed that their workplace was undergoing a somewhat hostile takeover; not hostile because of the people taking it over, but hostile from the circumstances that caused the life-changing events.

    Former management had been caught doing very wrong things. My team was to serve as interim managers to ‘right the ship’ so to speak.

    I needed the full cooperation and dedication from the staff left behind. I was immediately reminded of the need to empathize by placing myself mentally and emotionally in their shoes. I needed to sympathize with things I was hearing. The old phrase came to mind, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

  2. Make the tough calls – I had to quickly start assessing the situation around me, digest facts and data, then make some quick decisions. Avoiding making certain decisions because I wanted to wait on more data was not really an option. Knowing what I needed to know was important, but more critical was the willingness to take the intelligence I was being given and then make a decision.
  3. Difficult people need to be corralled and managed – The impact of a ‘difficult’ personality in the workplace can have tremendous ripple effects. On this project, a pretty senior designee with whom I was tasked to work proved to be one of those difficult personalities. Fortunately, I was able to read him early on in the project, identify the issues, and make plans for managing across the work team to minimize the influence of the more negative things that were occasionally spewed. On one particularly challenging day, this individual had strewn a lot of venom across the office. When he went home, I gathered my troops for a sit-down meeting. I told them simply that I, as their team leader, wanted to apologize to them on his behalf. The things said and done that day were not appropriate among professionals. I told them I hoped they could see that for what it was and not be deterred in their dedication to the mission by having endured this day.
  4. Rely on your team – Make team projects a true team event by admitting your own shortcomings and use the skills and abilities the team can bring. Do not ever act so big and proud that you have to know it all. People don’t like ‘that guy’. Inspire people by identifying their strong suits early, and then create applicable opportunities where the use of those individual skills can shine. Also share among the team who is doing what and how important the outcome can be. Spread the wealth evenly. Consider this as “know your people”. People respond very well when they know their self-worth is being used appropriately for key contributions to the effort.
  5. Have a little fun – Every day does not have to be all starched and polished. Let your own hair down a little and find opportunities for a little innocent fun. Let the people’s personalities shine too. By creating an environment for a little friendly banter among the crew, you can keep spirits light and fresh. But watch out for off-color jokes and comments or anything that starts to sound cutting or personal. Keep it light. Help make people want to come back to work.
  6. Maintain your own personal integrity – There are many ways to do this, but chief among them is making and keeping promises. Communicating clearly, openly, and fairly whenever possible. Of course, managers sometimes have to hold things close to the vest. But as soon as you can share with your team, do so.

I hope this helps. Please comment below on these topics and others you have used with great success.

For more information visit HeadwayExec.com

First Published June 2014

How Does Personality Impact Your Leadership?


People talk about charismatic leaders having “big” personalities. Powerful leaders are often known as “Type A” personalities. We know about introverts and extroverts.

But how does personality really impact your effectiveness as a manager or owner of a business?

If we take away celebrity status from high paid CEOs and public figures, what else does personality have to do with how you run a business?

For starters, I will argue LOTS!

Anyone choosing to start a business or get promoted into management must face the challenge of influencing the people around them. Before you open your mouth the first time, your personality projects who and what you are.

Shy or timid personalities come into the room meek and mild. More bold personalities make an entrance. Either can be effective, depending on the circumstance.

I’ve worked with engineers who are famous for, let’s say, ‘not great personalities’. Yet very seniors leaders in the organization can be incredibly personable and engaging.

Then I’ve also known ‘creative’ types, arts and theater, who can be witty, bright and engaging, but very weak leaders.

In my humble opinion, your personality is simply one more tool in your leadership toolbox that can be used wisely or create disastrous results.

Here’s one way to think about it.

Your personality is a work in progress. Formed at an early age (some even believe you are born with it), your personality begins to define your look at the world.

While it is absolutely true that the way you engage with others is driven by your personality, the bigger question is perception.

How is your personality perceived by others?

Wide range of Personalities out there

This is the reason I love using the Hogan Assessment tools to help the leaders I coach. In Bob Hogan’s work, he discovered early on (like 1974) that understanding personality can be informative to one’s own leadership development.

But understanding the perception of your personality by others is an even greater force for shaping the change you may want as a leader.

Here’s the difference. If I test and study my own personality, I can learn that I demonstrate certain traits. Scales like Myers-Briggs MBTI, Berkman, or Karl Jung tag me for certain key elements in the makeup of my personality. They become broad generalizations that help explain why I look at and feel different ways about different situations.

Hogan takes it a step further. His assessment tools do the stratification of certain personality makeup, but he attaches the perception piece to it. In Hogan, you get a read-out of how others will perceive/react to your specific personality markers.

As a leader, learning about this aspect of personality can be very valuable. If you have engaged a coach to get you to a new level of effectiveness, learning about these perceptors will get you much further along in your development.

I won’t go into all the details of the mechanics of Hogan’s methodology (it is well documented) but the basis is centered on decades of actual testing, screening and analysis to correlate the personality markers with perception values; what others perceive.

In other words, your inward values will drive outward perceptions. To become a more effective leader, you must understand not just what makes up your personality, but how that makeup impacts those around you.


Hogan adds one more detail to a study. Based on your personality, you can also learn about potential “derailers” that might exist. In some cases these are things like ‘a strength used in excess can become a weakness.

Knowing and studying the derailers can help you become a far better leader at work, at home, and in the community. Once equipped with this knowledge, you can self-adjust more easily to the situations arising.


If you’re looking for a fun and FREE personality test, jump over to my friends at 16Personalities.com Their results will amaze you!

Start Your Own Blog Today

business man using internet on smart phone and laptop

Recently I’ve had clients mention that they may want to start blogging. I wrote this article several years ago and have shared it twice before. But for those just now thinking about blogging, but I am updating it and sharing it again.

There are plenty of reasons seasoned professionals should write their own blogs. I’ve been blogging since 2009 when I founded Jobs Ministry Southwest. Back then, it was a great way to share information with the people using our career transition services.

That modest effort got me excited about the power of blogging. From its humble start, my blog has grown into the site you see now with over 200,000 followers and growing.

Blog Writing

Now, as my coaching and consulting businesses have grown, I use the blog to share articles on key topics for managers and business leaders, sharing thoughts about leadership and entrepreneurship (my two favorite topics). Blogging helps cast a wider net, spreading your message across the globe.

I am going to share some of the quick and easy steps I use to build the blog.

Domain names – Get yourself a custom domain name. Most registrations may cost you $12 a year (or close to that). Reasonably cheap for the significance of pointing to a brand name you build.

SiteGround Hosting services – Unless you have a brother-in-law with insane computer networking skills, subscribe to a hosting service. I’ve tried several, but have landed on SiteGround. I love their responsiveness (the site loads quickly despite a lot of overhead/functionality going on). I’ve also found their support to be world-class good. To check them out click this link.
Web Hosting

WordPress – I’ve become a huge fan of the WordPress framework. The themes and templates give you so many options. Some custom themes you buy, but many are free. The free ones can give you a great looking site to get you started. WordPress was created for blogging and has grown into a whole discipline of its own.

Plugins – These are add-on tools you can add to your WordPress framework. With plugins, you can add awesome features like social media sharing, guest list management, shopping carts, etc. There are three critical plugins I have chosen to use.

  • Jetpack – a collection of tools that maximize the operation of WordPress, keep statistics, and provide hacker protection
  • Yoast SEO – helps optimize the valuable search engine optimization aspects of your site and all its content
  • Vaultpress – file backup; you never want to lose your blog

RSS Feeds – Build an RSS feed to allow your content to get distributed to other social media channels automatically as each post gets released. I use Google’s Feedburner.com tools for this task. Opening an account is free. You can customize the tool to grab your posts and push them to channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all automatically and spontaneously with each post.

LeadPages.net – I use LeadPages to help me promote and manage product offerings, events, seminars, webinars, and my other client attraction efforts. Build your own landing pages with LeadPages. As an example, my promo for Big 5 Performance Management is done with LeadPages.

MailChimp – Email management tools. Using an effective email management service is vital. I’ve tried several and have landed on MailChimp. I like the ease of use and the straightforward tools they offer. I know there are other services that are equally effective, but after several disappointments (and higher costs) I landed with MailChimp.

Update – As with all technology, there are leapfrog effects. One solution comes out with cool features that seem superior, then pretty soon, the competition jumps over them with better features. Aweber is doing that right now IMHO.  MailChimp is still unbeatable for its free version, but as soon as your list gets bigger, you may need to switch.

Fiverr – Occasionally you need some freelance skill sets to augment what you are doing. Fiverr.com is tremendous for this. Fiverr is a collection of freelancers from all around the world. They call their projects “gigs”. As the name might imply, you can get help for as little as $5 per “gig”. I’ve used Fiverr resources for things like graphic design (videos, book covers, and logos) or getting a press release written. I’ve also used them for social media promotions to reach a broader audience for book releases or other promotions I am doing. Yes, occasionally I get a less than acceptable outcome, but I only invested a few dollars versus hundreds through other sources or contractors. It’s a winner for simple outsourcing.

MeetEdgar – This is a new addition to my list of great tools. MeetEdgar.com provides social media scheduling tools. You can set it and forget it. A coaching colleague introduced me to these guys and I was hooked at hello.

About Content

There are numerous opinions about content creation; write it yourself, borrow others, merely re-post, etc. I’ve taken the basic approach that is at the core of blogging, “my message, my voice”. Yes, I study many different sources and try to compile credible resources to cobble my articles together. Anything I use gets proper attribution for its source.

The content I write is intended solely for your use. If I can’t help you, a busy professional, do more right where you are, then I’ve missed the mark. If you decide to start a blog, you need to decide what your purpose and message will be about.

There are also great debates about when to publish and how often. The golden rule I learned early on is simply “be consistent”.

To that end, I choose to write at least 1x per week. By using the great scheduling features of WordPress I can accumulate a volume of articles and stage them for automatic release on whatever schedule I choose. By using this queueing method, I never have to worry about publication deadlines and getting writer’s block over the deadline pressure. Typically, I have content scheduled at least three weeks ahead, sometimes more.

I’ve juggled the release days of the week, experimenting with response rates and open rates. There are other blog writers I know who limit publication to once a week. If it works, great! Just be consistent. Allow your following to become reliant on your consistency.

One Last Thought About Scaling

If you have grand ideas for scaling your online business, there are tools to think about. Software like Infusionsoft (now called “Keap” because the market nicknamed them ‘confusion soft’), ConvertKit, Kajabi, and SamCart is great. However, be advised… these require a whole extra layer of sophistication in your effort to grow a business. There is a learning curve. The tools are great (I’m using some of them), but that is another level you can wait to explore once you have real customers coming in.

Disclosure: By clicking some of the links above, I may receive a small affiliate commission from the service provider. Rest assured I would not promote anything I don’t use myself. But even if I didn’t get any commissions, I really like these tools, and I think you will too.

If you want to let me help you with organizing your online presence, send an email to my assistant Karla 


coaching with dooug thorpe

Want Real Change? Don’t Take the Scenic Route

avoid the scenic route

If you are thinking about making a change at work, at home or for yourself, don’t take the scenic route.

We’ve all done it. You went on a trip. Somewhere along the way you see signs for the scenic route. So you take a detour.

You begin traveling down smaller, winding roads. You see fewer cars, trucks and congestion. While the views are truly magnificent, you run into road blocks.

Maybe the blockage is road repair where the lane is closed and you have to wait for oncoming traffic to drive by while you wait your turn to go.

flagman ahead, road sign

Or where I live, in Texas, side roads will always have slow moving farm equipment; tractors or trailers hauling something. They move at 20 miles an hour if I’m lucky.

What could have been a beautiful drive in the country turns into frustration and delay.

Looking for a Change

I met a new coaching prospect this past week. She owned a nice sized business that had been operating 12 years. She was well past the start-up phase.

What she told me about was her frustration with the way her people operated. She felt she couldn’t rely on anything without close supervision. She wanted a change without firing everyone and starting over.

After learning a good deal about her situation, I explained my team coaching model to her. That is what she had called for in the first place.

woman leader at peace

When she finally asked how long would this take, I shared the time frame; six months. It would be a direct and intentional process of implementing new standards, methods, accountability, and measurements.

Six months may seem long, but for her it would be the super-highway version of the change she’d need to turn her business around. After all, it would have required engaging all of her employees, changing their behaviors and expectations.

Compared to the 12 years she had been building the simmering mess she had, my recommendation was super-sonic.

Despite my best effort to explain how this process can help and has helped many other small businesses like hers, she decided she needed something else. She could not name what that was, but, in her mind, my approach would not fit.

She sent herself on the scenic route.

Common Mistake

Change of any kind can be hard. We hear that. We believe that. And it is if you take the scenic road.

Identifying the change that should be made can be easy. “I need to lose 20 pounds.”

But making it happen takes all kinds of detours, redirects, pauses, stops and starts. It is the scenic route.

Taking the scenic route creates distractions. Some may be welcomed distractions to take our mind off of how hard the change seems to be.

But if you keep allowing the detours, pauses and distractions, you arrive at some point down the road with no change at all.

Getting It Done

I’ve had the privilege to work with larger, more global companies where implementing change can be very hard. “It’s hard to turn a battleship” they say.

Yet for leaders who get laser focused on the change they want and the ‘case for change’, they make every subsequent move very intentionally.

Here is a list of the practices great leaders follow to avoid the scenic routes and get things done.

First, create a crystal clear vision of what is to come. Be able to explain the “future state” in clear detail.

Next, rally the team. Your team may have been operating well with former standards and processes, but change may require them to step out of that comfort. As their leader, you must reinforce the case for change and help them rise to the change.

Then, monitor your progress, keeping in mind all change has an “S” curve element to it. The S curve of change describes leaving the status quo, dipping into a bit of chaos, then slowly rising above and beyond to former state to achieve new things.


Parts of your staff may be falling behind further than others as the “S” unfolds. Keep an eye on that. Coach and mentor individuals to help them make the change.

Also, you will need to make adjustments. In the team change model “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing”, the ‘norming’ part is about settling into the change. But it takes adjustment to be sure the right pieces are fitting into place.

Lastly, and this is one far too many managers forget, celebrate the WIN. When the change is up and running, have a victory dance. Celebrate with the team. Acknowledge the contributions.

Use these steps wisely to effect change when you need it. You’ll be glad you stayed off the scenic route.

PS – I love taking the scenic routes when I have absolutely nowhere to be and plenty of time to get there. I’ve seen some amazing sights.

executive coaching by Doug Thorpe

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge


In the classic feel-good movie “Dodge Ball”, legend Patches O’Houlihan, played by Rip Torn, yells these 5 words at the misfits of “Average Joe’s Gym”. That gym is owned by Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn). The gym is in debt and needs $50,000 to avoid being gobbled up by “Globo Gym” owned by the villain, White Goodman (Ben Stiller).

The solution is a challenge to an epic dodge ball championship. Patches is a legend in the game. Peter gets Patches to coach his gang to help them beat the bad guys.

“Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge” sums up the ‘best’ coaching Patches can offer about how to play and win at dodge ball. But it works.

The Game

Life these days seems like a big game of dodge ball. None of us knows what may be coming at us next.

Leaders have an even bigger challenge trying to run their own life while looking out for the people around them.

We wake up each day, facing news about changes in COVID-19 numbers, possible cures, testing, social injustice, partisan politics, upcoming elections, economic impact, and oh by the way, figuring out how to provide schooling and child care.

Somewhere in all this, we have to get work done. The old norms just don’t apply. Standing still does not feel like a good option, yet where can we go?

The Leader’s Role

It’s too easy to simply say ‘no one has ever seen this before, so leadership is frozen.’ I categorically disagree.

Leadership should be thriving in this chaos. Good leaders should be rallying the teams, engaging and encouraging.

You don’t need to know the perfect answers, but you can offer perfect peace.

Many if not all of my clients are talking about the extraordinary challenges they are facing. There are pressures at work to create a new normal while wrestling economic impact in all sectors.

Plus there are pressures at home to handle childcare, at-home schooling and still get business related tasks done, it’s clearly overwhelming. (Not to mention round the clock co-inhabiting with the entire family.)

Even the best of relationships can be suffering.

What to Do

First, I encourage you to stay calm. Stop paying attention to the media outlets; all of them. Find a reliable source you can trust for news and updates, but avoid all other bombardment from the mainstream media. They hype and sensationalism will drive you mad.

Next, huddle with your teams. That includes family, friends and work associates. Obviously, not all at the same time, but separately, gather the teams and have huddles to talk about the situation.

Circumstances will change over time. A healthy discussion about each and every member of the team keeps them balanced and engaged. You may need to talk a few ‘off the ledge’ from time to time. But if you genuinely care about your people, you will invest the time to have the huddles.

As an example, I’ve been working with a group of small business owners. Before COVID-19, we met monthly. Once the pandemic escalated, they asked if we could meet weekly, which we have done. They all report that these routine huddles help them re-center their thoughts and ideas about what is happening.

Personal Purpose

Lastly, reconnect with your sense of personal purpose. If you believe in higher powers, strengthen that connection first. Call on the inner peace of knowing you are here for a purpose. Return to that core. Rekindle those values.

If you would like to know more about finding your personal purpose drop me note in the comments or schedule a short introductory call.

In the face of all that is going on, if you will consider these three simple things, you won’t feel like you’re playing dodge ball or have a retired coach throwing wrenches at you!

business consulting

Change by Choice or by Chance

choice vs chance

As I look back on my career, the major milestones are combinations of things done by choice and some by chance.

I would like to claim I had made all of my decisions by choice, not chance. That simply would not be true. Regardless of the reason for making a move, in all cases, change was the common requirement.

Whether I made a job change or location move by choice, change was there. The occasional chance happenings still required some form of change on my part.

3c concept - choice, chance and change


You can try to plan your career (and I encourage everyone to do so), but some things happen by chance that alter the course of the best laid plans. Circumstances can change in an instant when companies get acquired or spun off.

Market crashes and economics alter what would have been the plan. Layoffs happen and lives are changed. Or you get unexpectedly recognized for an accomplishment and you are whisked off to another assignment.

Big change can occur almost instantly. The question is what are you going to do with such a change?

After my book “The Uncommon Commodity” was released, I got this note from a longtime friend and college buddy:

For some reason your book has pulled a one liner out of my sub-conscience, which is “if you don’t like the result, change something”.

My Dad hammered into my brother and me that one of the biggest constants in your life is CHANGE. The way he said it is “you will find the only thing that won’t change for the rest of your lives is CHANGE” or “the only thing in life that is constant is CHANGE”. He would follow that with “the better you are at adapting to change and solving problems, the better off you will be”.

Great principal no doubt, but I have found that effecting change within ourselves (I should just say within me since that is all I have control over) is very difficult. Sometimes we have to be inspired and sometimes we have been trying to make changes, but, for whatever reason, have not been successful in either making any change or in making effective changes. The human tendency to stay with or return to what we are comfortable with is a very strong instinct and quite often prevents us from making effective change.

And finally, sometimes we humans want to make changes, but don’t have the knowledge to make the best or most effective changes. That seems to be where encouragement, mentoring and life coaching stands to be most effective.

Change is a Brain Thing

When faced with change, our bodies go into a fight or flight mode. Using an extreme example, when our cavemen forefathers were surprised by a wild beast in the woods, THAT was an immediate change. In just a nanosecond, they had to decide whether to fight or flee.

Our bodies have a natural mechanism to react to sudden change. It’s part of our survival instincts. Our brains drive that response mechanism.

In our current more modern setting, science has proven we can alter our thought patterns to manage our response to many things, chief of which is our reaction to change.

In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist known for his work in the field of associative learning, coined the phrase “Neurons that fire together , wire together.” Hebb’s axiom reminds us that every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons, which form a neural network. When you repeat an experience over and over, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.

44957814 - concept of human intelligence with human brain on blue background

Awareness of the need for change can allow each of us to condition our thought habits to respond more positively in the face of change rather than negatively.

Old Habits Die Hard

Practical experience tells me that old habits die hard. I’ve coached way too many professionals who simply freeze like deer in headlights when major change comes their way.

Events happening more by chance than choice have a greater probability to triggering the wrong response.

At least when you’ve made a choice to do something, the change factor is mitigated by your own thought process to get there (through the change). However, an event happening by chance is a whole different story.

Therefore, when a sudden change happens by chance, your response mechanism needs to be trained to handle the change. People who perpetually struggle to accept change will be routinely thrown out of balance by the chance happenings in their life.

How are you equipped to deal with change in your life? Share some insights.


Here’s a video I shot talking about this choice versus chance dimension.

The 5 C’s of a Trusted Leader

Trusted leader image

Successful leaders build trust. Building trust is something you must do. Trust underpins every relationship in the workplace – between boss and employee, between colleagues, and between businesses.

Trust isn’t something that is inherent; it must be forged through consistent action. While there are many ways to become a trusted leader, here are some recurring themes. I’ll call them the “Five Cs.”

Commitment, connection, compassion, consistency, and competency


A committed leader is someone who is loyal to the cause, the vision, and the team. They persevere despite setbacks.

When a leader is committed, they build the trust of those around them by staying present, engaged, and positive. Commitment is the number one thing a leader can demonstrate to build trust.


A trustworthy leader is connected to those who look up to him. They resist the temptation to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Nor will they become neglectful of those who depend upon him.

They never come off as distant or detached in their leadership role. There is a willingness to take some time away from their daily commitments to get to know their team members in a meaningful way.

Therefore, this helps the team see the Leader as a trusted person who cares about them and values their involvement.


A great leader gets to know their employees, listens to their concerns, and responds in a meaningful way – each and every time.

This doesn’t mean coddling them. A trustworthy leader expects their team members to perform their jobs professionally. But a trusted leader knows that no one is perfect. People make mistakes, suffer hardships, and sometimes just need to know that someone cares.

A great leader “has the back” of each member of her team.


Consistency for a leader is key. A trusted leader maintains a calm and collected demeanor, even under fire. Their staff are therefore more likely to approach the Leader with their great ideas, as well as with their legitimate concerns.

By maintaining consistent expectations, and reacting in a consistent manner, he/she builds trust with his team.


An impactful leader invests time in getting to know the issues, expands skills, and participates in continuous learning. He/she doesn’t pretend to be an expert in all things.

They surround themselves with skilled, knowledgeable people and relies on their expertise. Employees trust the leader for being straightforward and honest.

The Sixth “C”

There is actually one more “C”. That is communication. A great leader communicates clearly, concisely, and coherently.


If you want to know even more about diving into the Black Box of building trust within your team, I have a dedicated model that explains a proven process. This model has been used by Fortune 100 companies as well as small businesses of many types. To learn more, visit the story of Building High Trust HERE.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Why Do Bad Bosses Always Win?

confused minds say no

Doesn’t it seem like the bad guys frequently get the promotions and advancements at work? Have you ever wondered why or how that happens?

First let’s clear out one issue. Just because I don’t like my boss, that doesn’t mean he.she is bad. It takes a wide range of experience and observation to declare a boss bad. But some of them make the decision so easy.

OK, so yes, there are often bad bosses at work. They keep getting promoted. But why?

Authority Rules

As much as we hate to admit it, we still operate most business in a hierarchical structure. Somebody has to have ht final say in what gets done. So we build org charts to describe who has what power.

The power of the position is never a replacement for good leadership. Too often the person who gets to sit in a particular box on the org chart is not worthy of the power that comes with the position.

Authority is often given a “free ride”. We feel stuck or even powerless to confront bad management. We wait for the process to take them down, but seldom does that happen.

Bullying and Intimidation

If you have a boss that is just the adult version of the neighborhood bully, you have a big problem.

Yet just like that mean kid on the playground, boss bullies carefully pick targets for bullying, knowing full well that the targets are unlikely to retaliate, and bystanders will not intervene because they fear becoming the next target.


Poor Organizational Process

Companies with a large number of bad bosses have very poor systems in place to manage people. If the rating process for managers does not accurately and effectively get stakeholder feedback, then bad behaviors can survive.

If there is no accountability for employee satisfaction and turnover, then poor managers get to keep doing the bad things they do.

Bad Bosses Don’t Have to Violate Employee Rights

Someone can be a bad boss by just failing to create an environment for people to grow. Their actions do not have to be obvious attacks on character, gender, or ethnicity.

I’ve known a few really bad bosses who were not racist nor sexist. They were just bad. They made poor decisions, didn’t hear people, and generally failed at inspiring anyone.

I once had a boss who never rated his people any higher than he was rated. He didn’t get rated very well. Let’s call it a C+. Working for him meant you’d get a C+ if you were lucky.

I and two of my peers were in the same boat. It took us the first year of rating to figure him out. All three of us were producing record high returns, metrics and deliverables, yet we could never get past a C+. We did what most people do, we tried harder the next year and delivered yet again, but got the same poor ranking.

That impacted raises and bonuses. It was a terrible two years in my career until he got moved elsewhere. He was just bad. Actually, a nice guy, but a terrible boss.

Speaking Truth to Power

We all know how hard it can be to try to speak up, especially when it is ‘up the organization.’ There is a concept called “Speaking Truth to Power.” There are studies around the subject. See “Emperor Has No Clothes.

In September 2015 the leadership team at Volkswagen was shamed by an issue regarding emissions that was known about by some employees, but not spoken up about (or listened to) effectively.

The previous month an animated Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, announced that he did ‘not recognize’ the ‘bruising culture’ and the consequent accusations voiced against his organization by employees and reported in a New York Times article.

In the July 2016 report by the UK Financial Reporting Council, ‘Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards’, the following observations and recommendations were made that directly address the issue of speaking truth to power:

“Good governance means a focus on how [openness and accountability at every level] takes place throughout the company… A healthy ‘speak up’ culture breaks down the barriers that can often exist between the workforce and the board… A key ingredient of a healthy culture is a willingness on the part of senior management to listen to their employees… Employees usually want their organization to succeed, and have good ideas about how to make this happen… A culture of engagement and ‘permission’ is required for employees to feel able to voice their ideas and concerns.”

Leadership development programs focus on developing specific skills to address conversational situations experienced as problematic, for instance training for ‘difficult conversations’. They train leaders to be ‘impactful’ in what they say, valiantly attempting to introduce coaching skills to executives who have paradoxically been promoted based on their individual capacity to ‘know answers’.

Whistle Blowing

Meanwhile the issue of challenging authority is increasingly addressed through whistle blowing procedures, part of continuing attempts to control certain conversations through formal processes.

Yet it would be far more productive if companies didn’t have to wait on whistle blowers, but relied instead on their employees to speak openly and candidly.

The Entrepreneur’s Plight

In small business, the egocentric owner can be a stumbling block for truth at work. After all, it is their idea and their company, so how can anyone confront the owner?

Usually this is nothing more than inflated ego getting in the way of good management and leadership.

What Can You Do?

When you want to confront a bad boss or speak truth to power, several key questions come up.

  • What happens in the moment of choice of whether to speak up or stay silent?
  • How does an appreciation of the complexities of this moment inform effective leadership?
  • How might individuals make more informed choices regarding speaking up?

Here are some key principles to think about if you are the one needing to speak up.

Conviction – How strongly you believe in the value of your opinion. Pick your battles.

Risk Awareness – Do you have a realistic grasp of the consequences of speaking up. In a healthy environment, these risks are low, always.

Political Awareness – Do you understand the political games being played inside your company? Can you navigate that swamp?

Social Awareness – Understanding of how to work within the social climate around you so that people will listen.

Judgement – Some call is discernment. Knowing what to say, who to say it to, and when.

We Live in a BLURT World

The rise of social media has created a BLURT World. What is that? You just blurt something out whenever you feel like it without regard to any of the key principles above.

When you blurt, there is no consideration for your real conviction on the topic. Likely no assessment of the risks included with the comment.

Definitely, there is no social awareness (Ironic isn’t it that lack of social awareness happens on ‘social’ media.)

The habits we create for our behaviors on social media will spill over into the workplace. It’s unavoidable.


Sure, we all have bad bosses. To help solve the problem, employees at all levels need to be able to be heard.

However, there is a catch. To enable a positive and productive conversation or to be heard at all, there are principles that need to be followed.

The next time you hear someone shouting about injustice or fair treatment, see if any of these principles are being followed.

By the way, in my coaching, every time my client has trouble in the workplace with the bad boss, I never forget to remind them, they can leave. It’s true in domestic violence, it’s true at work.

If you firmly believe the system is severely flawed, you just may need to leave.

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Ron Riggio for reminding me of this need to address bad bosses. Also, thanks to the good folks at Hult Research, specifically Megan Reitz and John Higgins for their amazing study on the ability to speak truth to power. Lastly, my good friend George Head at LHH for keeping me inspired to help others with this important topic.

Please! Keep Your Pants On

america, keep your pants on

It was inevitable. People would start writing posts about the mask requirements to protect against Corona-virus.

I’ve been amused at several I’ve seen pop up that start something like this.

I don’t like wearing pants.

I keep my pants off at home.

When I go outside, I put my pants on to avoid making others uncomfortable.

I don’t like wearing masks.

I never wear a mask at home.

When I go outside….

You get the idea. Clearly for many, mask wearing is no big deal. Just do it so you can be a good citizen, help yourself while helping others. (Your Mamma raised you right.)

However, for others mask wearing is violating some kind of rights. We have the video posts of people absolutely loosing their minds at a store when the greeter reminds them to wear a mask. I’ve seen a young Mom dumping a full shopping cart. I’ve seen a 60-something grandpa almost crush a greeter.

It seems we’ve all lost our collective minds.

Oh No!

Yes, I get it that the unknown of all this COVID-19 has caused grief and suffering for so many. Those emotions are real.

We’ve had an unprecedented outcry over social injustice, which, granted, could use a lot of work. This alone has caused a backlash of anger and hostility in people who are otherwise pretty calm neighbors.

People seem just angry and upset; about EVERYTHING.

What’s the deal people? Keep your pants ON!

What happened to being able to have a civilized discussion about the problems? What does taking a nice neighborhood and burning it to the ground do for the cause? What about the shop owners and small business people who worked their whole life to build something only to have it torched in the wake of a ruthless crowd who has lost all respect for their fellow humans?

Aw crap. Nobody wants to hear me talk about this. Sorry. My soapbox was close by and I couldn’t help myself.

Sadly, there is no talking with some. For whatever reason, we have a generation of new thinkers getting airtime, raising hostilities, and demanding change in a system they haven’t even studied.

I do not believe they represent the wishes of the larger population. Yet for the sake of sensationalism they get the visibility. They get to speak for the masses when there are millions of hard working ethnic groups just going to work. Perhaps even a second job. But these choose to work hard to make the difference they desire. They won’t burn anything or tear anything down. They’re too busy going to work.

The Commitment

My commitment to you, my readers, is to find objective nuggets in the common sense life we share. Nuggets that can help you be better managers and leaders at work. In today’s crazy world, my simple common sense idea is this….

Keep your pants on.

Keep your head on straight. Do what you can right where you are. Be a person who can stand up for solid principles without encroaching on the rights of others. Find a balance for diversity and inclusion.

Take comfort in knowing that not every one of your neighbors agree with what you hear on the news. I’ve turned off my news. It’s unreliable and inflammatory.

Stay away from those who only want to get you worked up. I saw a great post this week that said “Why would I pay attention to anyone who I wouldn’t otherwise ask for advice?”

I’ll close with this. One of the best words of advice I ever heard was to “Harness your mind’s attention with your heart’s affection.”

minds attention hearts affection

Take the passions you have in your heart and align them with the power of your brain. Or conversely, be sure the capabilities you have for thinking critically and problem solving can be used for the good that may be in your heart.

We will always have outliers in our lives. There will always be those who cannot or will not accept authority. But for the larger majority who do, be a leader who gives them something to respect and aspire to. Keep your mind and heart aligned for a greater good. Never lose sight of the prize.

Keep our pants on.