Category Archives: Leadership Resources

In The Turn

How to Create a Personal Board of Directors and Accelerate Your Career

The meeting was over, and I returned to my office feeling extremely satisfied with the results. Then I heard a knock on the door and looked up to see a co-worker who had come to gently set me straight.

As it turned out, what I thought had been a successful meeting regarding a major decision instead had left others confused about my thinking and concerned about what was ahead. I thought I had done a great job of communicating and inspiring, only to learn I hadn’t taken the time to provide some much-needed context. In my eagerness to drive the decision, I had left out valuable details to earn buy-in.

We’ve all had situations when our self-awareness gets lost in self-denial, Or in my case, lost in my own POV. Realistic self-assessment is incredibly difficult. We’re either too easy or too hard on ourselves, and neither is good.

  • When we’re too easy, we begin to think our way is the best and only way, and we disregard the diverse views of others. We become overly confident, take chances we shouldn’t and think we’re more effective than we really are.
  • When we’re too hard on ourselves, we question every decision. We’re more hesitant than we should be and don’t trust our instincts enough. We need too much validation, don’t feel worthy of respect and suffer from the imposter syndrome.

Either way, we are not leading at our best and those around us suffer as a result.

The biggest problem: Getting feedback

It takes hard work to strike the right balance and have a fair appraisal of ourselves so we can play to our strengths while continually striving to improve our weaknesses.

The biggest problem is we often don’t get the feedback we need to inform our self-perceptions. It’s challenging for others to tell the truth or share less than flattering observations with us, especially if we’re in a position of power. We often don’t get accurate, honest comments about how our words, actions and intentions are perceived.

One of the best ways to gain regular, meaningful feedback is to put together a personal board of directors – a team of mentors who will tell it like it is when we need to hear it most.

Wendy Davidson, the president of U.S. Specialty Channels for the Kellogg Company, introduced this idea to me several years ago, because she believes her personal board has been invaluable to her highly successful career. I couldn’t agree more.

Benefits of a personal board of directors

Consider some of the countless ways a personal board can advance your career. They can:

  • Offer practical advice about how to tackle new opportunities to increase your chances of getting key decisions right the first time
  • Serve as an informal coach who can provide wisdom about challenging situations or interactions with others
  • Share subject-matter expertise to expand your understanding on a specific topic
  • Point you toward resources and tools that will further your development and learning Introduce you to people to help expand your network
  • Hold you accountable for changing an attitude or behavior impacting your professional performance
  • Offer diverse points of view and different life experiences to challenge your thinking and broaden your view of the world
  • Provide “big picture” perspective about your career as you consider job opportunities or career moves

How to form your board

The concept of a personal board of directors isn’t new, and most leaders I know see it as a great idea. But many never give the time and energy it takes to form and take advantage of such a board. So, how do you actually pull it off? It’s not as hard as it seems, but it does require a bit of thinking and planning. I’ve mapped out a simple process with these three steps to establishing a personal board of directors:

1. Assess your biggest needs

Start by listing of your five biggest challenges/needs — things that are potentially holding you back in your career or impacting your work/life balance. Some examples:

  • Unfamiliar with practical financial principles that impact my strategic thinking abilities
  • Not managing my emotions effectively under pressure
  • Not enough knowledge of front-line operations
  • Working too late in the evenings on a regular basis
  • Feeling confused and overwhelmed by complex decisions

If it helps, turn these challenges into simple “goal statements,” such as:

  • Develop a working knowledge of the most useful financial principles for my role
  • Keep my cool more often when I am facing deadlines

2. Identify prospects

Once you have a better sense of your needs, think about who could help you most. Consider asking people who:

  • Are in a position you aspire to have someday
  • Come from another company in your industry (that you don’t compete with)
  • Come from an entirely different industry
  • Are experts in an area you need to learn more about
  • Can feed your spirit and encourage you to invest in yourself
  • Are willing to be brutally honest to help, not hurt
  • Will always have your best interests at heart

List each prospect’s name, organization, area of expertise, and which one or more of your five goals can they help you with. Make sure you have current contact information for each prospect.

Make as long a list as you like, but an ideal personal board has 3-5 members. You’ll need more prospects since everyone may not be able to help.

3. Make the ask

Once you have your list, take some time to write a short script or a few bullet points to guide your conversation so you can articulate your thinking clearly and succinctly when you call each prospect.

For example, you’ll want to explain why you are forming a personal board of directors, what is involved if someone agrees to join and how each person could help you with one or more of your five opportunities for growth.

Here’s an example of what you could say and why you need to say it:

  • I’ve been evaluating my career, identifying my strengths and my opportunities for growth. I’ve set some specific goals for myself that I believe will further my career. (establishes that you have done your homework)
  • I greatly admire what you have accomplished, particularly ___________ (name something related to one or more of your five areas for growth). This expertise and your career success would be invaluable to me. (explains why you are asking them)
  • I have decided to form a personal board of directors and would love to have you as a part of this team of super mentors for me. (clarifies your plan of action)
  • What that simply means is I would like to connect with you once every few months to ask for your advice or seek your expertise when I know it could make a big impact on me. I would like to treat you to lunch or dinner, or we could arrange to meet by phone/video call, too – whatever is easier for you. (tells them how much time would be involved on their end)
  • I would like your help as I continue on my developmental journey. Would you be willing to be on my personal board of directors? (makes the ask)

Start with your top prospects and work your way through your list, ensuring that you create a board with diverse strengths and expertise. Make notes of the feedback you receive to help shape how you bring your board to life and what their preferences might be for how you engage with them. Even prospects who cannot take the time to join your board now will likely have some advice for you.

TIP: Don’t fear ‘the ask’

One piece of advice Wendy shared with me is not to be afraid to ask. Many times, we worry that asking for help is a burden to others. Wendy reminded me that looking to others for advice can be a compliment. You’re saying, “You have something that I can learn from, and I’d like you to be a part of my career moving forward.”

Next steps

A few suggestions on next steps:

  • Once you have secured the agreement of and feedback from your board members, send them a thank-you email or hand-written note.
  • Look ahead on your schedule to identify times you can connect with them in person or by phone/video. Make a note to reach out to them several weeks in advance so they can make time to meet.
  • Prepare for each meeting so you can give them an overview of what’s going on in your career. If you have a specific request, let them know the topic in advance so they can think about how to help.
  • Always send a thank-you note any time your board members help you. Let them know the result and the impact they have made.

If you want to take a deeper dive on this topic – to hear the full story about how and why Wendy created her board, and how she used this throughout her career – read Chapter 3 in my book, Leading Through the Turn.

I am proud to say Wendy is on my personal board of directors, and I am on hers. Her impact on my leadership journey has been profound, and it is an honor to help her whenever I can. Imagine how your personal board of directors will impact the trajectory of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask!




Copyright (c) 2018 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

In The Turn

The Power of the Question: Get Better Results By Saying Less and Asking More

Have you ever had a light-bulb moment? An ah-ha thought? An epiphany?

Those amazing moments often start at the same place: A question. Good leaders have good ideas. But great leaders ask the questions that produce invaluable thinking in others.

Helping others find their own insights

Discovering your own insights is an empowering experience. When you think things through to find answers, it increases your confidence, energizes you as you “see” solutions, and allows you to establish a track record of solving problems and overcoming challenges.

We know through neuroscience research that not only is having an insight incredibly invigorating, but we are much more committed to taking action when we see a solution tied to our ideas.

As leaders, too often we rely on telling rather than asking.  In our eagerness to solve a problem or get something done, we jump straight to saying what we think others need to hear. The only problem is, it’s our thinking and our ideas. And maybe none of theirs.

The best leaders understand this. They don’t give their team all the answers. Instead, they lead by questioning and teach their team how to come up with viable, actionable solutions on their own as much as possible. This is the essence of the coaching style of leadership and a far more rewarding way to lead, both for yourself and others.

Why lead-by-questioning works

Think about a time when a team member hit a roadblock. Your first instinct is to suggest a solution, which is not a bad thing, and, on the surface, seems the most efficient thing to do. But by handing them the solutions, you:

  • Cheat them out of a learning and development opportunity;
  • Miss out on fresh thinking they could bring to the table; and
  • Create added stress and pressure on yourself by trying to be the problem-solver. (NOTE: Some leaders like being the hero, but that’s often not the best use of your time and abilities.)

Instead, by asking the right questions, you can help this team member find a good solution herself. At the same time, she will have the chance to learn from it, she may offer an entirely different idea that works better, and she may also leave your office skipping down the hall.

Not only will she benefit, but you will, too.

  • You build your team into better critical and strategic thinkers and more capable problem-solvers.
  • You free up your time to focus on bigger issues rather than solving problems for others.
  • As your team performs at a higher level, you become a “multiplying leader” – someone who gets exponentially more done by working with and through others rather than relying on your own strengths.
  • People want to work for you because you are an empowering leader, not a controlling one.
  • You foster loyalty because people appreciate that you let them figure things out for themselves.

Asking the right questions

So how can you implement a lead-by-questioning style?  First, you avoid the wrong questions —questions that can be answered with one word (yes or no), that focus on the problem, or that tend to make others defensive.

Would anyone on your team respond positively to questions like this:

  • Why are you behind schedule?
  • What’s the problem with this project?
  • Who isn’t keeping up?
  • Don’t you know any better than that?
  • Wouldn’t you agree … ?
  • How could this have happened?

The best questions empower others by:

  • Getting them to think more deeply about an issue
  • Inspiring them to come up with unique ideas
  • Enabling them to create new connections in their head they couldn’t make before
  • Encouraging them to see potential in any situation
  • Promoting a growth mindset — “we can figure this out” – rather than a fixed mindset – “we’ve done all we can”
  • Helping them focus on the solution, not the problem
  • Encouraging them to trust their own instincts

Some examples of empowering questions include:

  • What options are coming to your mind?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will a solution make our client/customer feel?
  • What gaps do you see in your thinking?
  • What’s your gut instinct here?
  • What will it take to get there?
  • What is a good next step?
  • How do you feel about the resources you have in place?
  • How can I help you from here?

Establishing a lead-by-questioning culture

The more you ask great questions, the more you will foster a culture that values this approach and that others will emulate. Get things rolling by asking your team learning-focused questions during team meetings. For example, after a project has wrapped up, try asking:

  • What was particularly effective about this team?
  • What could be “even better if”?
  • What did we learn from a disappointment? How can we apply that in the future?
  • How could we improve upon our work flow?

Encourage your team to try lead-by-questioning in their circle of influence, too. Share the list of empowering questions above with them. In your one-on-ones, ask them about the types of questions they are asking and how that is changing the results they are getting.

Helping your people think for themselves ultimately helps everyone perform better. They grow and flourish in their roles, and you gain more time and space to focus on big-picture issues. You become an empowering leader whose success is exponential and whose influence is scalable.

Remember – you don’t have to have the answer when you ask the question. Neither do they! But by getting others thinking, good answers will come.

Two great resources on this topic:

What questions have you used that work well? I’d love to hear your ideas and look forward to hearing from you —




Copyright (c) 2018 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

In The Turn

Setting Smarter Priorities: 5 Steps for Creating More Margin In Your Life

It happens innocently enough. Your boss hands you an extra assignment that turns out to be a major undertaking. Or a colleague takes a leave of absence and you’re asked to absorb his workload. Or you agree to chair a youth sports league fundraiser because you feel guilty you haven’t been that involved lately.

Before you know it, you’ve got too much on your plate with too little time to get it all done. While you could do a beautiful job on any one of these obligations, the total soaks up every last bit of white space in your life, leaving you little to no margin. You feel anxious and overwhelmed. You worry you may no longer be able to keep up if something doesn’t let up. And you know if a problem arises, everything could come unraveled.

If this frenetic pace sounds all too familiar, you are not alone. Good leaders are in high demand, and chances are you’ve been handed things or asked to lead because you get things done.

It’s good to be a willing leader – and being asked to lead affirms our “achiever” status. But it’s not good when the volume impacts our ability to produce good thinking and solid execution. It’s even worse when the stress jeopardizes our health, our state of mind, and negatively impacts our outlook on life.

We need more margin in our lives, especially as the demands and the pace increase. That’s why it’s important to develop discipline – and a system – for capturing, evaluating and prioritizing the responsibilities you take on. When you are intentional about thinking through what you do and why you’re doing it, you are in a better position to manage your schedule, minimize your stress and maximize your joy.

A Different Approach I’ve been guilty of taking on way too much for a lot of my leadership journey. As I have learned to become a destination leader with a journey mindset over the past several years, this has gotten better. Recently, I decided to try a new approach to evaluating my workload and setting priorities with the goal of creating more margin in my life.

So far, it’s really working, and I am far happier with how I am handling the projects I’m leading. I have more energy and focus around my work and greater clarity about what’s a need-to-have vs a nice-to-have. Most importantly, I have created more space for family and more downtime for myself. Here’s how it works.

Step one: Evaluate your responsibilities Start by making a master list of everything you have on your plate for the next 90 days. Write each item down on the left-hand side of a page. Include both work and personal responsibilities – I group them together so it’s easier to see that I’ve considered all aspects of my life.

Across the top of the page, write the following criteria, creating a column for each. Then working your way down your list, rank each criteria for each responsibility on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Impact – How big an impact will this assignment make? Is it going to prevent or solve a major problem? Will it help to further a key organizational goal?
  • Growth – Is there an opportunity for me to grow my knowledge, skills or expertise?
  • Relationships – Who cares about this project? Who was the requester? Who else is engaged? Who will be impacted by my efforts?
  • Time – How much of my time is really required? Will one quick hit do it, or is continuous engagement needed? (NOTE: Be realistic; we tend to underestimate how much time something will take to get it done well.)
  • Role – How important is it that I take the lead? Am I uniquely qualified, or could someone else just as easily take this on? Can I play a supporting role? Can I delegate this as a development opportunity to someone else?

Here’s an example:

Step two: Set your priorities Tally up your scores for each responsibility, putting a mark beside your highest scores. Look for a natural break point in the scoring to divide into two lists:

  • Top priorities – projects that scored the highest because they are more important to you across multiple criteria;
  • Secondary priorities – lower-scoring projects, which could be considered “nice to have” but not “need to have.”

If it helps, consider your work and personal items separately so you can ensure responsibilities from both parts of your life make the top-priority list.

Step three: Protect your time Once you know your top priorities, review your weekly and monthly schedule. Identify ways to protect your time so you can focus on these more important projects. For example:

  • Block out time each week so you are assured of having uninterrupted thinking and work time.
  • Mark “do not disturb” on your calendar periodically to prevent meetings and calls from creeping on to your schedule.
  • Set a time when you will reply to email and calls in a batch so you are not constantly interrupted.
  • Recapture time for your priorities by cutting down on things like social media or binge-watching Netflix.

Be sure to block time for important family obligations, connecting with friends and investing in your personal well-being, such as health and mindfulness activities. This is part of the margin you want to reclaim for your life. If you don’t intentionally create time for these things, they’ll fall off your schedule very quickly.

Step four: Prune your list Now that you have a better feel for how much time you need to devote to your top priorities, consider your secondary priorities. Do a stop/delegate/wait analysis:

  • What can you stop or say “no” to doing altogether?
  • What can you delegate to someone who can move it forward for you?
  • What can you push back on your schedule to tackle another time?

As you ask yourself these questions, think about what you’d rather be doing when you create more margin in your life. Use that vision as motivation to prune more things.

Step five: Take action Finally, implement your decisions as soon as possible. Here’s a tip: If you’re finding it hard to say “no,” try saying “not now.” I have a friend who often says, “I have a high interest in that project, but low availability.” Your primary goal is to protect your time for the immediate future, so you can:

  1. Accomplish your top priorities; and
  2. Create more margin in your life for connecting with family/friends and investing in your personal well-being.

Additional Resources for Getting Your Life More Organized Do you fear your tendency to be disorganized is contributing to the problem? Ask yourself if either of these statements describes your life:

  • You have half-done to-do lists scattered throughout your life, yet you can’t seem to get anything meaningful done.
  • You try to file things away mentally instead of capturing them in a master list. Neuroscience research tells us you can only hold four or five thoughts in your head at any one time, which explains why we tend to forget so many things we intended to do.

If these statements are true for you, you need to put “getting more organized” at the very top of your priority list. Here are some additional resources:

  • Getting Things Done, a best-selling book by David Allen, sets out a tried-and-true approach for capturing, organizing and taking action on your to-do list.
  • Keep your master list in one place so you can access it wherever you go. Consider tools like:
    • Evernote
    • Wunderlist
    • – Using the Notes function on your phone
    • – Keeping a written journal – there are many popular products on the market such as productivity planners, Maruman or Moleskin journals

Here’s to a more organized and rewarding 2018 that allows you to focus on your top priorities while creating greater margin in your life.

Any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you – email me at



Copyright (c) 2018 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

In The Turn

7 Inspiring TED Talks You’ve Probably Never Heard


Looking for a little inspiration?

If you’re like most busy leaders, you’d love something to kick-start your thinking or give you a fresh perspective. But you just don’t have the time to search out the best stuff. Which is why I wanted to share a few things I’ve found.

Some of the hidden gems in the TED talk library pack just as powerful a punch as the better known presentations. I’ve pulled together 7 of my favorite TED talks on leadership that you’ve probably never heard. These are all really good, and have something interesting to offer.

In 18 minutes or less, I guarantee you’ll get at least one thing you can use – a new idea, a little practical advice, and undoubtedly some timely inspiration.

So grab a cup of coffee, and take a quick look.


Photo Credit:

How to Use Others’ Feedback to Learn and Grow — Sheila Heen: Most of us have a love-hate relationship with feedback. This is an exceptional talk that hits home on why it’s so hard to hear honest feedback from others. But how learning to accept and leverage feedback can significantly improve your performance and fundamentally change the trajectory of your career. Sheila Heen is a Harvard lecturer, business consultant, a New York Times best-selling author, and a mom of three. She has a charming delivery with a hard-hitting, practical message.

Photo credit:

5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change — Jim Hemerling: As a leader, you must constantly work to become more nimble and adaptable to change. This is often daunting. Does change always need to be so hard?

Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling thinks adapting your business in today’s constantly-evolving world can be invigorating instead of exhausting. He outlines five imperatives, centered around putting people first, for turning company reorganization into an empowering, energizing task for all.

Photo Credit:

Two Reasons Companies Fail — and How to Avoid Them — Knut Haanaes: Is it possible to run a company and reinvent it at the same time? A tough challenge, for sure. If you’re involved in an innovation project right now, this would be a good one to watch.

Business strategist Knut Haanaes believes the ability to innovate after becoming successful is the mark of a great organization. He shares insights on how to strike a balance between perfecting what we already know and exploring totally new ideas — and lays out how to avoid two major strategy traps.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life — Bill Eckstrom: After documenting and researching over 50,000 coaching interactions in the workplace, Bill Eckstrom shares life-altering, personal and professional development ideas through the introduction of the “Growth Rings.”

The rings illustrate how dangerous it can be to remain in a state of comfort and how being in discomfort is the only way to sustain growth.

You know you have to push yourself to grow. Don’t be afraid of discomfort — it can change your leadership journey in a good way. 

Photo Credit:

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? Dan Ariely: This is a really fascinating talk and super useful for leaders to hear. It explores what motivates people to work. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either.

It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.

Photo Credit:

Lessons for Women in the Workplace — Leila Hoteit: Professional women in the Arab world juggle more responsibilities than their male counterparts, and they face more cultural rigidity than Western women. What can their success teach us about tenacity, competition, priorities and progress?

Tracing her career as an engineer, advocate and mother in Abu Dhabi, Leila Hoteit shares three lessons for thriving in the modern world.

Photo Credit: Business Growth Blog

The Puzzle of Motivation — Dan Pink: Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with the fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.



Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone
Get Updates

    Are you stuck on a difficult decision?

    When we face the most complex and critical decisions as a leader, we need the right tools to help us get the job done. The most successful leaders have put a few fundamentals in place.

    This guide includes a step-by step process for effective decision-making as well as two hands-on resources to help you make the toughest calls.

    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

    What does it take to win as an entrepreneur?

    As a entrepreneur, you will face many different challenges throughout the course of your leadership journey. Long hours, pressure, failure, loneliness are just a few. But once you’ve tasted the freedom and rewards of entrepreneurship, it becomes an irresistible siren’s song.

    This guide details six essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs and how embracing those qualities can help you drive your business forward.

    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

    Are you living with purpose?

    Or do you wonder if what you do matters? When we are purpose-driven, we find greater joy in our work, even when it’s hard. Our purpose fuels us for the journey, no matter what obstacles, crossroads or detours we face. Ultimately, purpose can help us find a higher calling for our leadership.

    This guide will help you gain clarity about your purpose and the kind of life you want to lead. Two practical exercises take you through a very personal thought process, enabling you to write your own Purpose Statement.

    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

    Discover how you can live a richer, fuller life.

    After too many years of focusing only on the destination, I’ve discovered a new way to live and lead. It starts with a journey mindset, and that has made all the difference. In this guide, I share seven proven practices that will inspire you to:

    • Accelerate toward your goals while being fully present on the journey
    • Reach the higher calling of leadership – and of course
    • Enjoy the ride
    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

    We live in a rapidly changing world.

    The pace of change has never been greater, and its impact on organizations never more significant. As a leader, it’s your job to manage through change and leverage the opportunities change can present.

    This guide is a roadmap with five questions to help you and your team navigate the challenges you’re facing and develop a game plan for moving forward. It also includes a worksheet to chart your answers.

    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone
  • holiday-book-popup


    Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone