After guiding a senior leadership team to helping them identify their values, I proceeded to take them through a process of defining specifically how they would ensure that they would live these values in their leadership, first as an SLT and then throughout the company.

Like most organizations, the value of “respect” was up near the top.

And that’s when it got sticky.

“What about Bob?” the COO asked.

“What about Bob?” I responded.

“He heads up our main sales division, and it’s well known that he’s one of the most disrespectful people in the company. We can’t fire him. He singly brings in more money to the company than our entire sales team.”

“You don’t necessarily need to fire him,” I said. “But if you don’t do something about this, then I suggest you take the word respect off your values list and replace it with the word profit. Be honest about what you truly value.”

They decided to fire him, and the entire sales team started to flourish. They got the message that the senior leaders were serious about the values they were touting.

In walking organizations through the values journey over the years, I’ve learned five things:

  1. Make it real. It’s been trendy over the past couple of decades to re-brand your values every five years. It’s also been a lucrative business for consultants. While having clearly defined values is important, you make it real by involving the front-lines in developing them and creating meaningful and accountable culture conversations with everyone. If the end result isn’t real and relevant at the field level, you’re wasting your time and breeding cynicism.
  2. You don’t really know what your values are until they’re tested under pressure. If your values haven’t come into conflict lately, if you haven’t had some tough conversations about the contradictions in what you claim to be important, if you haven’t had some uncomfortable value discussions, you probably haven’t taken your values seriously enough. Don’t mistake value statements for real values.
  3. Just as you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do, you can’t build a reputation in your organization on espoused values. For example, if you’re serious about creating a safe workplace, don’t tell people “We’re going to be #1 in safety.” Tell people what you are willing to pay to get there.
  4. Values based leadership is built on the foundation of values based living. When we clarify our own values and develop a process for holding ourselves accountable to live in alignment with those values, we make better leaders in every aspect of our lives.
  5. When it comes to values, most of us really are doing the best we can. Let’s grant each other a bit of grace and support each other to use values to strengthen our organization, bolster our relationships and our fortify our resolve to be better people.

Find Your Inspired Leadership: The Power Of Your Presence

The ability to inspire separates leaders from bosses. It takes inspired leadership to create an environment where people genuinely care about their work, about each other, and about going the extra mile. Only a few leaders are able to infuse the necessary energy, passion, and connection into their team.

The ability to inspire isn’t about your proficiency. It’s about your presence.

Eight conditions that access inspiration:

  1. Curiosity. Ask people what inspires them. Bring an inquiring mind to your work, and make inspiration a priority.
  2. Attention. Inspiration is all around us, if we slow down and pay attention. One definition of leadership is the ability to amplify the beauty of the ordinary.
  3. Perseverance. Inspiration can come from the dedicated commitment to a cause greater than oneself. The courage to recover from an addiction, care for a dying loved one, or show up for a colleague are all acts of inspiration.
  4. Self-Awareness. Inspiration is about accessing energy – first of all within ourselves. To inspire others we must be inspired. What activities take your energy or give you energy? How is your own personal energy account?
  5. Connection. When we truly connect with others we make deposits in the inspiration account. Getting past the daily grind of the transactions of work and making time for connections brings a transformative quality into our work.
  6. Authenticity. When we connect with our true nature and express it consciously in our life and our work, inspiration is born. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. What the world needs is for you to come alive.
  7. A Compelling Why. What inspires you to get up early? To stay late? To go the extra mile? Defining for yourself a persuasive, meaningful reason to get out of bed in the morning will breed inspiration within and around you.
  8. Generosity. To be inspiring, be kind. Generosity generates inspiration. What we appreciate appreciates.

While connections, courage, and compassion are conditions for inspiration, it ultimately takes commitment. It’s easier to move people than to get people moving. The most powerful inspiration is our personal commitment.

If you are committed to go beyond learning about leadership to true leadership development, check out our Authentic Leadership Academy:

And if you want a taste of the Academy, sign up for our complimentary Academy Mini-Series in March.

Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Create Dishonesty In Employees

Honesty is a key value for any organization. It sets the tone for the kind of culture you are committed to create. It provides consistency in behavior. And it builds loyalty and trust. Honesty is one of the most effective ways to establish the environment that will propel your organization to long-term success. As a leader, the importance you place on honesty can create a culture where your team members feel inspired, empowered, and validated.

Moral dishonesty, such as stealing, padding expense accounts, or lying about results can unfortunately be a part of an organization. More subtle and every bit as important, however, is psychological honesty.

  • What is the experience of your team members working in this organization?
  • Do people feel free to bring you their concerns, questions, or feedback without fear of reprisal?
  • How tense do people feel working around you?
  • Can people be honest with you about your leadership?
  • And how do you know if people are giving honest answers to these questions? How much are people on your team choosing to be merely polite rather being genuine?

Here are five ways leaders accidently create dishonesty in their team. I say accidently because no one sets out to create a dishonest work environment. Often, however, amid stress, demands, and particularly in a hybrid work environment where we may not be as connected to our team, we may inadvertently overlook some unintended consequences of our behavior.

  1. A lack of transparency with your team about why you made a decision. If you aren’t modeling honesty, it’s difficult to expect it.
  2. Unacknowledged stress, tension, and anxiety. It’s tough enough to be honest with your boss. But when you add emotional volatility to the mix, you are inserting a variable of instability which encourages being polite rather than genuine. It is for this reason that leaders must pay close attention to how they act and communicate. To create an honest workplace, you must attend to your inner state. Whether you see it or not, if you have unrecognised strain, tension, and anxiety, your team is likely going to hold back telling you the truth. Volatility breeds unpredictability. And unpredictability breeds dishonesty.
  3. Talking over people. When we interrupt others rather than sincerely listen, we give the message that we think we are smarter than they are, that they aren’t as valued, and aren’t needed. I, for one, am guilty of this when I’m feeling stressed, pushing for results, and forgetting about the importance of the people on my team.
  4. Ignoring people’s emotions. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your team members’ feelings. This error often occurs when a leader is either unable to deal with their own emotions or are overly focused on tasks and results. The key here is empathy: you will succeed only when you care enough to attend to those around you. You are less likely to increase anxiety in others if you consider how your actions impact them. It’s your responsibility to be attentive to how people around you are doing.
  5. Defensiveness. This is the big one. If you ask for feedback in these areas, you need to let go of needing to be right to protect your ego. As Steve Covey used to say, “seek first to understand…” That is our work. When people have the courage to bring anything to our attention that creates discomfort in us, our responsibility is to resist the tendency to get defensive and to listen to understand.

In summary, positional leaders impact their employees’ stress and anxiety levels. What they say, feel, and do hugely influences their team’s physical and emotional well-being and how they respond. But sadly, far too few leaders are aware that they have this power. And many are overconfident in their leadership skills, creating a gap between their perceived and actual levels of competence. This explains why even well-meaning bosses may inadvertently contribute to high anxiety levels in their team members and how they inadvertently shut people down.


For several months I’d been helping a client prepare for a speech she was to present to one of her important clients. Knowing that this one presentation could be a key to leveraging her career, she put all her energy, including many coaching sessions and a great financial investment, into the crafting of the speech.

It resulted in an incredible delivery that far exceeded her client’s expectations. However, she received one small piece of corrective feedback and went into a dark funk for days. She became so despondent she considered walking away from her entire career.

After a long debrief about the experience, we explored the trap of putting our identity and worth into one facet of our lives. Like our financial net worth, we’re vulnerable and even fragile if it’s all in one basket. What happens when our entire life is defined by our work, and we retire? What happens if our identity is in raising our kids, when our kids leave home? What happens when our worth is attached to a healthy, strong body, and you become injured or get old? What happens when your worth is attached to your position on a board of directors and your tenure comes due? What happens if our identity is tied entirely to our possessions, and a fire destroys our home and everything in it?

Diversifying your identity, a concept I first learned from Brad Stulberg, is parallel to diversifying your financial investment portfolio. If you place your investments with a mix of stocks, bonds, international companies, and domestic companies, when one goes down, another one might be going up or staying stable.

The story of world record holder speed skater Nils van der Poel illustrates what it means to diversify your identity. Prior to his phenomenal performance at the 2022 games, Nils was struggling. He wasn’t performing at his best. When he stopped and reflected on what was going on, he realized that every time he stepped onto the oval to compete, fear began to consume him because his entire identity was derived from speed skating. This singular identity resulted in excessive, destructive pressure. Nils van der Poel as a person was synonymous with the results he generated on the ice.

Nils decided to create a strategy to diversify his identity. During the week, he trained with the same level of commitment and intensity. On the weekdays he remained a world class athlete. However, on the weekends he stepped back and allowed himself to be a person away from speed skating. He started hanging out with friends who weren’t athletes. He started going out for beer and pizza. He went bowling. He went on hikes. It wasn’t just giving his body a rest. He was giving his mind a rest. As he diversified his identity, he developed a sense of worth beyond speed skating. No longer was he just Van der Poel “the speed skater.” He was Nils Van der Poel, the friend, the community member, the man who loved hiking in the mountains.

Not only was Nils preparing for life after his sport, diversifying his identity also allowed him to come to the ice with less fear. He started to race with greater ease and joy. He was more relaxed. He was less attached to having to win to prove his worth because he had an identity away from the ice. And, at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, van der Poel, paradoxically, went on to win two gold medals and set a world record.

Identity diversification isn’t just good for sport. Many great difference makers were diversified. Da Vinci wasn’t just an artist. He was also a mathematician, inventor, and writer. Eleanor Roosevelt was a writer and great humanitarian. A well-worn fiddle case accompanied Einstein wherever he went. Diversifying your identity builds resilience by becoming a more well-rounded person. It also strengthens your primary path of focus.

Reflect on what you might be overly identified with at the present time. Where is there vulnerability, fragility, and unnecessary pressure from being overly attached to one identity? Where is there a need for “identity diversification?” What relationships might you be neglecting? Where might you need to let go of some over-attachment to roles you currently have? What is something in a totally unrelated field you could learn about that would enrich your life? What hobbies could be developed? Where is there an opportunity to do some service in your community – beyond your current role?

My client turned her experience into a learning opportunity. While she did take her career to a new level with an amazing presentation, after an extended holiday following the experience, she came back more well-rounded and committed to continue to work on diversifying her identity – with much more joy and greater resilience.

Simple Art of Living

Nellie McClung is regarded as one of Canada’s most prominent suffragists, helping to grant women the vote in Alberta and Manitoba in 1916.

In my library I have a book written by Ms. McClung, published in 1930, titled Be Good To Yourself, personally signed to my grandparents.

Here’s a quote from page four:
“We are clever people, efficient and high-powered, but in our zeal to get things done we are forgetting the simple art of living. Let us make a resolve – that we will begin today to relax, and loiter, and potter around, and be lazy if we feel like it once in a while, and take time to meditate, and watch the sun go down behind the hill.
Let us be good to ourselves.”

It appears that we have been struggling for some time with the challenge to s-l-o-w our lives down and remember the “simple art of living.” Being present in our busy lives to the experience of living is where life is actually lived.

I, for one, have spend much of my life setting goals and striving, while missing out on what life is actually all about.

While goals set the course for our life, it’s important to be mindful of what goals guide our lives. I think we all could all benefit from Ms. McClung’s advice and find fulfillment and meaning by being present to the experience of life.

Let’s make a resolve to bring more goodness to the world by remembering the simple art of living. Let us be good to ourselves.

RAISING ACCOUNTABLE KIDS: It’s About Principles, Not Perfection

You can observe a lot by watching. – Yogi Berra
When grandparenting you aren’t in the thick of the responsibilities that come with raising kids, so you have a bit of time to observe. So, as a grandparent, here’s three observations I have about the state of child raising these days:
  • There’s no more important leadership responsibility than within the walls of our home. The greatest success lies in building strong character in our young people that will enable them to be contributing citizens of the world.
  • We’ve never been more aware of the needs of our children because we have access to extensive information on child development, the impacts of trauma on brain functioning, mental health, the importance of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem and well-being.
  • We are now extremely anxious about how we’re doing as a parent and how our kids are going to turn out. And all the anxiety is spilling over onto our children. Paradoxically, the more we worry about our kids, the more anxious they become. Anxious parents raise anxious kids. They have enough of their own anxiety without us contributing to it.
For those who have assumed the vital and arduous work of leading young people, here are four strategies to consider:
  1. Don’t make life too easy for your kids. On the wall of my daughter’s high school English class was a quote by Van Jones, the political commentator: I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. In other words, making the space within the walls of our homes and our schools safe doesn’t mean rescuing our children from the challenges of life. Just as the struggle to break through the cocoon builds the strength of the butterfly’s wings, if we want our children to fly one day, they must struggle and develop strong wings. Don’t raise your children to be happy. Raise your children to be strong. Strength comes when our kids know they are not alone. We are right beside them, in their corner. Loving without rescuing. Being there without doing for them what they can do for themselves. With strength, happiness will follow.
  2. Don’t be afraid to parent. Saying no is not abuse. Our children do not need us to be their friend. Their friends are their peer group. What our children need is a parent. There’s a big difference between pleasing your kids and loving your kids. Pleasing is about giving them what they want so they will be happy and like you. Pleasing comes from insecurity. Loving them is giving them what they need – and what they need may very well be different than what they think they need or what their friends have. Children are not born with accountability – the ability to be counted on; they have to learn it. And they learn it, in part, when they can count on the caregivers in their life. If you are a parent, your kids are counting on you to be one. Let’s work at being secure enough with ourselves that we don’t depend on our kids for our self-worth. It’s not their job.
  3. Set clear boundaries around digital media. Digital media was originally developed for two reasons: information and communication. When it exceeds its function and is used, like any product or substance, to meet our emotional needs or to escape from our life it becomes addictive. Monitoring our own use and consciously and carefully supervising the use of devices with our kids is now an integral part of parenting. You can’t leave it to chance.
  4. Relax. You don’t have to get it perfectly. I remember a time when our youngest daughter wanted to change her curfew to go to a friend’s party. The easy road would have been a quick “yes” or a quick “no.” Instead, we spent the better part of a week negotiating with her and struggling to do the right thing. I don’t know, to this day, if we did the right thing. What I do know is that my daughter knows she was loved. She knows she was loved because she knows that we invested in the relationship. As parents and caregivers of children, we never really know what “right” is. There’s no formula. The goal is not necessarily to be a better parent. The goal is to find joy on the journey. And finding the joy will make us a better parent.
In Blackfoot culture, turtles are considered to be a symbol of creation and motherhood and embody the concept that is similar to “Mother Earth” in English. To the Blackfoot, the turtle is patient, wise, knowledgeable, and long-lived. The Blackfoot saying Iikakimat mookakiit means be wise and preserve and can be used to describe the turtle’s characteristics. And these characteristics fit well into my own approach and philosophy of raising accountable kids: be patient, wise, a good role model and the kids will be alright.