• News post

    The Courage to Persevere

    5 November 2019

    Have you ever felt that you’ve given all you have to give? A few weeks ago, I was there… I was totally spent.

    My husband and I were on a cycling trip in Canada. Promoted as “easy to moderate terrain”, we expected a leisurely ride to take in the beautiful fall foliage.

    Little did we know that the subtle definition of “rolling hills” would translate for us into long and steep mini mountains.

    On day three of our tour, the guide cautioned us to be prepared for Sugar Hill in Knowlton, Quebec. She said we should give the hill a try, but to expect we might hit a wall at some point in the climb.

    We decided to go for it, and we gave it all we had to give to get to the top of that hill. After struggling and peddling like crazy, we finally made it! Goal achieved! Check!

    Before we could catch our breath, the bike’s GPS instructed us to turn right, and when we looked both right and up, we couldn’t believe it! What we thought was the top of Sugar Hill was just the beginning with the remainder of the incline being profoundly more challenging.

    We were flabbergasted and disillusioned! After pausing for a moment, we decided we had three choices. We could quit (which was not an acceptable option). We could continue to pedal as hard as we could in the lowest gear and go nowhere fast. Or, we could change “how” we were pursuing the climb.

    And so, we decided to persevere by changing our approach. We grabbed our handlebars, got off of our bikes, and we pushed our bikes all the way up the rest of that hill!

    Were we comfortable in this new experience? No, and our huffing and puffing proved it!! Was our approach pretty? No! Did we quit? No! Did we get there? Yes! Could we have gotten there faster and easier if only we had embraced the advantage offered by the new technology of e-bikes? Of course! But we missed that golden opportunity by insisting that we continue our ride “the old-fashioned way” (You know the proverbial claim… “But we’ve always done it that way!”).

    We live and work in challenging times, and as leaders, the pathways before us will certainly be long and steep as we continuously seek to guide our teams to new heights.

    On the journey to excellence, we are called to have the courage to persevere. We should remember to celebrate the greatness our teams achieve every day while also understanding that there will be abundant opportunities to improve our performance today, tomorrow and beyond.

    For this fact, in the quest for excellence, we will never really arrive; yet we always must strive continuously to give only our best which is what our customers, employees and other key stakeholders need, want and deserve.

    Even when you’re spent, and you think you’ve given all that you have to give, how will you persevere in leading your team to peak performance?

    • What will you do differently in “how” you are leading? Perhaps the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership might come in handy.
    • As your job will invariably change, what skills do you need that you don’t currently have? Consider advocating for yourself by asking for stretch assignments. Seek to learn new skills and become all you’ve been created to be.
    • Are there steps you must take to ensure the achievement of your ever-increasing stretch goals? What must you do differently to persevere as a peak performance leader?
    • How can you make better utility of your resources? Please don’t be stubborn (like we were) by refusing to adopt new technology and missing out on the benefits that can be derived from such contemporary resources.
    • And how can you better leverage your most precious asset… your people? Unleash the passion that resides within them. Empower them, match the passion of the person with the purpose of the work. And, be sure to encourage a culture of openness and transparency as those closest to the front line should have the best view of workplace reality.

    Yes, perseverance will definitely be required as you continue your journey to peak performance. When the going gets tough, I encourage you to catch your breath, change your approach and garner the courage to persevere as you lead your team to the top of your own Sugar Hill!

  • News post

    You can’t fix what’s broken if you don’t know about it

    14 October 2019

    Have you ever worked in an organization where the executives believed “silence is golden”? Leaders bearing this attitude want to hear that all is well. Their message to employees is that they don’t want to know about problems.

    A sign that said “Only Good News” was reportedly posted on a conference room doorway in the office of a Facebook senior executive. Do you really think that employees felt safe and welcomed in reporting problems to this executive? Probably not.

    Such written, oral or implied communiques send the message that leaders don’t want their days to be burdened with employees who talk about what is wrong in the workplace. They may even have a predisposition to tag individuals who report problems as nay-sayers or troublemakers.

    While on the surface one might think that complaint-free days are to be coveted, from the perspective of proactive risk mitigation, such convictions border on being reckless because they discourage transparency in the workplace.

    Celebrate feedback

    Corporate America is overflowing with companies that have unhealthy cultures in which limited, if any, feedback is provided to leadership regarding opportunities for improvement.

    A trend is now emerging where executives and boards are realizing that culture can no longer be perceived as “soft stuff”. Research has proven that healthy cultures with free-flowing feedback to and from leaders actually correlate with stronger bottom lines and highly engaged employees. This winning combination can be instrumental in strengthening the muscle required for organizational risk mitigation.

    Let’s face it. As leaders, we can only fix what’s broken if we know about it. As opposed to thinking that silence is golden, the savviest leaders embrace the philosophy that transparent feedback is not only to be liberally encouraged, but it is also to be celebrated.

    Action from the top

    For years, I have purposefully asked employees and physicians to share one thing we should change to improve the workplace experience as well as the customers’ experiences. We told them we could only fix what was broken if we knew about it. Because they had the best view of reality in the workplace, we shared openly that we needed and valued their expert, transparent opinions about what was broken.

    Talk without action can be counterproductive. As such, we made it our practice to follow through by communicating what we had done to address the prevailing issues. We were careful to thank them for their feedback and to reinforce we would warmly welcome their sharing additional concerns.

    While all employees should theoretically own organizational risk mitigation, the tone clearly must be set at the top. It is the leader’s responsibility to create a culture in which employees feel safe to speak up. As good as your organization may be, there will always be opportunities for improvement.

    You can make a significant difference in teaching your employees to join in efforts to mitigate organizational risk. Start today by empowering your staff and praising them when they share feedback regarding vulnerabilities and other concerns within the workplace.

    Originally posted on Smart Business on September 23, 2019.

  • News post

    The Adverse Impact of Bully Coaches

    18 September 2019

    Today my heart ached deeply when a colleague shared a horrific story about an area high school student whose life may have been permanently impacted by harsh and inappropriate comments from the student’s football coach. The team had lost an important game, and during the first team practice following that game, the coach screamed at one particular young athlete, berating him in front of the other players and essentially telling him he was worthless. That’s right… worthless!

    We entrust our children and grandchildren to coaches. They are supposed to be role models, teaching our highly impressionable young people values that will help them succeed, not only on the sports field, but also and more importantly, in the game of life.

    Words matter, and it’s simply not acceptable to allow such toxicity to poison the hearts and souls of our students. Yes, harsh words cut deeply. Such messages regrettably have the potential to lead to the unimaginable when students who are teetering on the ledge of despair decide that life is not worth living because they have been convinced they are worthless.

    As a student athlete, I was blessed to have had a basketball coach who set the bar extraordinarily high. He expected excellence, and he received excellence by teaching us to give our very best. When we delivered, he was our most enthusiastic cheerleader. When we didn’t deliver, we knew that practices would be long, hard and intense. Yet those most difficult practices filled with abundant tough love never included harsh comments that might have impaired the self-worth of any athlete.

    As I am entering the fall season for Gracious Leadership keynote presentations, I have found myself again particularly burdened about the incivility that permeates our country in organizations of all types.

    Just last week I was researching the incidence of bullying in our schools and found the statistics to be astonishing. According to The American Society for the Positive Care of Children, one of three students reported having been bullied by other students, and one of three students confessed to having been a bullier. I shudder in wondering how much higher the bullying statistic would rise if we included the impact of bully coaches and/or other toxic leaders in positions of authority over our children.

    When you and I sit on the sidelines, we promote bully behaviors by permitting them through our silence. As parents, what will we do now to provide boundaries to the bullies of our children who try to explain away their untenable words and actions by masking them as character-building moments? As leaders in the workplace, what will we do now to confront the bullies who reign with terror in our midst?

    Indeed, the time is NOW to find our voices and garner the courage to stop the bullying epidemic in our nation. This call to action happens one person at a time. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared profound wisdom when he proclaimed,

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    The stakes are too high to be silent in the face of the damage that is being done every day by bullies and other types of toxic leaders. Whether it’s on a sports field, the playground, in Corporate America or within other types of organizations, just remember that we are teaching by example. Today’s followers will become the leaders of tomorrow, and they are highly likely to live what they learn and then to lead accordingly.

    For a variety of articles regarding the impact of bully coaches and tips on how to deal with them, I invite you to Google “bully coaches.”

  • News post

    An “It’s a Ten” Culture

    26 August 2019

    I vividly remember my first cruise. I was a rising junior at Ole Miss, and approximately twenty students were traveling as a group. I shared an inside stateroom with three other coeds at the back of a very old ship. With four bunkbeds and luggage that seemed to multiply every day, we coexisted happily for seven days.

    My colleagues and I absorbed way too much Caribbean sunshine. Our group seemed to be the last to leave the dance floor every night. This week at sea was one big party with a nice group of grounded young people enjoying immense fun, delicious food and awesome service.

    Over the years, I have found wide variation in the quality of my cruising experiences. Some ships have had more amenities than others. Some vessels catered to a smaller number of passengers while others competed to see which ship could accommodate the most guests. Regardless of these nuances, the main difference I have found in cruising has been grounded in the culture of the ship’s staff. 

    My husband and I recently experienced the Celebrity Silhouette, a ship that appears to have an “It’s a Ten” culture.

    From the minute we arrived at the cruise port, every interaction was perfect. When we approached the ship, we were slightly frantic, having arrived just minutes before the official deadline for check-in. As we boarded the ship, we were happily welcomed like old friends. Our panic immediately melted into a sense of calm. Clearly it was time for our bon voyage martini!

    During our first dinner at sea, we met Christine Joy, a specialty restaurant assistant waiter from the Philippines. Her smile was like a warm ray of sunshine. When we asked how long Christine had been with the ship, she responded “Nine months, and I’ve already been promoted”. Smiling widely, she proudly shared, “Celebrity is a great company. They encourage their employees to experience different roles so they can pursue a career path they enjoy.  Each time we saw Christine Joy throughout the week, that beautiful smile was always shining brightly. Perhaps it’s no accident this young lady had joy both in her name and in her heart!

    Our waiter, Adrian, had been with Celebrity for eighteen years. Clearly, he was the very best server my husband and I have ever encountered at sea. He was always jovial and quickly established a bond with us, fondly referring to my husband as “Papa”. He anticipated every need and bent over backwards to ensure we were happy with all aspects of our dining experience.

    Assistant waiter Jola had only been aboard for one month. As a brand-new employee, she raved about the crossing training opportunities that she was already being encouraged to pursue.

    Suffice it to say that everywhere…. and I do mean absolutely everywhere we went on the ship, we were greeted by highly engaged employees who seemed to love their work. We encountered no grumpy expressions nor faces buried in smart phones. We experienced a great performance by all. And this mesmerizing culture was accomplished with many of the employees being new!

    In Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before, I included a chapter entitled “Caramel Cake and Culture”. Within this chapter I shared my convictions that like making a cake, the recipe for a great corporate culture requires that the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership be consistently applied.

    While I don’t know the specific leadership principles being taught by the Celebrity Silhouette Leadership, I did see some similarities with my convictions about Gracious Leadership. These leaders were clear about expectations and required accountability for performance. They were purposeful about developing their people. They understood the importance of positive relationships with customers and employees They reinforced the significance of seemingly small acts of kindness. They sought and provided feedback. 

    We saw in action aboard the Silhouette some of the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership. Just like making a Caramel Cake, when it’s right, you know it! Even though several thousand passengers were onboard during the two-week journey, the staff made us feel like the only guests in their world. Hats off to this fine team of leaders and frontline staff of the Silhouette for getting their hospitality culture “just right”.

    It’s no wonder that in the gangway of Celebrity Silhouette, the staff proudly displayed banners touting that their ship had been recognized as among the best within their company for excellence in the customers’ experiences at sea.

    Corporate culture clearly matters in the hospitality industry, and corporate culture matters in every industry. For this reason, leaders and board members are placing increasing emphasis upon the strategic imperative to create and to sustain positive corporate culture because of the correlation with organizational returns.

    Could you say without reservation that your company’s corporate culture is a “Ten”? If you don’t have time for a cruise, but you are interested in learning more about fully respectful, peak performance leadership, be sure to visit www.graciousleadershipbook.com.

    Watch for Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before becoming available very soon as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

  • News post

    Prepare Like an Emergency Responder

    26 July 2019

    Emergency medical professionals are trained not only to respond to unforeseen circumstances, but also to prepare for the unimaginable. As such, they become experts in anticipating, preparing for and mitigating risks.

    Disaster planning

    As a health care executive, I had the pleasure of observing leaders, employees, physicians and emergency responders from within hospitals and throughout the community as they simulated unannounced disasters.

    Imagine that a tractor trailer carrying hazardous waste overturns on the interstate, or an airplane crashes with mass casualties. Regardless of the simulated situation, the word “competitor” vanished and was immediately replaced by a collaborative call to function as a team.

    Participants from diverse organizations concurrently activated their respective emergency response plans. They followed the protocols they had practiced in responding to the mock disasters. Team members were given specific assignments with clear instructions on the roles to be fulfilled.

    Following each event, the leaders of the teams held comprehensive debriefings to determine what had gone well and what process improvements could be implemented.

    Such experiences prepared health care providers and community responders to have definitive plans for how they would organize, activate, collaborate and manage their emergency responses. This preparation yielded a keen sense of confidence that they were ready for the unimaginable. The goal, of course, was to minimize the adverse impact of unknown risks.

    How does your company stack up?

    Enterprise risk management across all industries has now taken center stage in the C-suite and in the boardroom. Does your company have a clearly articulated ERM strategy? If so, is this plan mere words on paper, or does it require your organization to prepare actively and systematically for unforeseen risks?

    What would your organization do if your customers’ data were breached? How would your team manage the message in responding to a reputational crisis if an executive were accused of wrongdoing? How would your organization respond if, God forbid, an active shooter entered your facility and killed innocent people?

    How are your C-suite executives and board of directors involved in discerning the most significant risks that could impair your company’s ability to perform at peak? What grade would you give your team’s current performance for proactively mitigating risks? How can you improve your leadership in guiding your team to anticipate and to prepare proper responses for organizational risks?

    There is no better time than now to be purposeful in activating an ERM strategy for your company. Consider simulating your most significant vulnerabilities. Be sure to involve your leaders, employees, board members, vendors and community partners, as applicable, in crafting your optimal response plan.

    Just as emergency responders practice how they would react to unforeseen circumstances, so also should your organization prepare and practice for unforeseen events that may occur only in your worst nightmares. While practice may not make perfect, it certainly can provide a solid game plan and team confidence as you seek to mitigate organizational risk.

    Originally published on July 26, 2019 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Every Person Has a Different Story

    18 July 2019

    My husband and I recently spent a few weeks abroad. While we were touring Berlin, Germany, we saw the popular tourist attractions including the remainder of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Cathedral and more. While each of these sites helped us learn about the city’s history, it was the Holocaust Memorial that most stirred our emotions and led to a time of reflection.

    The Holocaust Memorial was designed by American Architect Peter Eisenman. The Memorial is comprised of 2711 gray concrete slabs. Each block is different: a different width, a different height, a different length or a different angle. By design, no two blocks are alike. The architect was purposeful in building this memorial with one-of-a kind structures. To the architect, the blocks were symbolic of the 3 million Jewish victims who were killed during the Holocaust. While these human beings were barbarically killed en masse, we should never forget that each of these individuals had a different story.

    How easy it is for us to categorize others into large, impersonal groups. Let’s think about the example of immigrants seeking to enter our nation. What if literal or figurative walls had precluded our own predecessors from coming into America at a time when they longed for a better life for their families? Every family has a different story.

    From a business perspective, what about your customers? Depending upon your particular line of business, have you categorized your customers into a handful of prototypes? What opportunities do you have to better meet the needs of your customers if you could understand how their circumstances vary? Yes, customers have different stories to share.

    I remember on multiple occasions challenging our employees to understand that patients were never to be viewed as numbers (such as the 225th patient on a given day in a particular department). Every patient was one-of-a-kind. Every patient had come from different environments. Every patient’s health status was unique. Every patient had differing degrees of support from families or friends. Some patients had positive attitudes while others did not. Because of the different experiences and circumstances of our patients, our staff found that some individuals were “easier to love” than others. Yet, even the most challenging patients were treated with ultimate caring and kindness as though they were the only individuals in our world. Yes, every patient had a different story.

    With the drive for efficiency and the increasingly important role of technology in delivering value to key stakeholders, how easy it is to view our employees as one collective body. Yet each of our employees also has a different story. When we as leaders can appreciate their differences, we can know how best to relate to them and in so doing, to derive maximum utility from them because they are highly engaged .

    As I think about our time in Berlin, I remain dismayed regarding the tragic loss of lives during the Holocaust. And I am grateful for the challenge put forth by the example of this touching Memorial.

    May we never forget the significance of every person’s circumstances. May we also be inspired to appreciate that whether we are contemplating a persecuted race, an aspirational immigrant, an everyday customer, a struggling patient, a neighbor, a friend, a family member or even a complete stranger, every person has a different story that needs to be heard.

  • News post

    Don’t Underestimate the Power of Apology

    28 May 2019

    Risk mitigation is a hot topic within C-suites and boardrooms. Corporate risk presents in diverse ways, from compliance issues, regulatory violations and sexual harassment to poor customer service, data breaches and more. Organizations are increasingly susceptible to financial and reputational risk when stories go viral regarding ethics and performance failures.

    Risk mitigation has become a significant responsibility for leaders within many industries. As such, it has found a seat at the table within routine meeting agendas for the C-suite and board. Why? Because unmanaged risk can harm organizational results when it derails strategic and financial performance.

    Most leaders should have a process to identify and rectify known organizational risks. By using proven process improvement techniques, the root causes of the problems may be identified. Action plans can then be created and monitored to rectify the issues in a systematic and accountable manner that facilitates sustained results.

    A case in point

    I am aware of an organization that did a good job of identifying its material, known risks related to suboptimal customer service. The organization’s leaders discovered a recurring pattern as they analyzed customer complaints.

    They found inconsistencies in how their managers responded to these concerns. Even when complaints were voiced directly by consumers, these complaints were not consistently “heard” by leaders. In fact, some unaddressed complaints ultimately resulted in lost sales and legal action.

    As the company analyzed the problems their customers encountered, its leaders realized they needed to teach their team the importance of rapid response to complaints. As part of this process, they coached their leaders and managers to receive complaints by respectfully expressing regret and empathy in a safe and constructive manner. They accomplished this task through teaching leaders to master “the power of apology.”

    Making things right

    In situations where suboptimal products or customer experiences were involved, the leaders were taught to apologize and to “make things right” for the customers. In situations where a misunderstanding existed, but without performance failures, leaders were taught to say, “I’m sorry you experienced disappointment. Please share more about your concerns and help us learn from your experience. We really want to do better for you and for our next customer.”

    The results were phenomenal as once-disgruntled customers believed they had been heard and, as such, felt valued. Over a reasonably short span of time, few complaints escalated to the C-suite because leaders had mastered the power of apology in the moment. Their actions closest to the customers had a material, positive impact in mitigating risk for this company. And, most important, they retained customers and avoided costly expenses.

    As you contemplate the different ways to mitigate known risks for your company, I encourage you to review the processes you currently utilize to address these vulnerabilities. Perhaps the power of apology might have application for you and your team as you build your risk mitigation strategies relative to customer service.

    Originally published on May 28, 2019 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Leadership Without a Title

    13 May 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in a second episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on May 13, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.


    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part two of my two part interview with her.

    Here’s a link to her website, and her LinkedIn page.

    This is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.

    For more information, go to the Resources page at Brady Ware and Company.

    Remember to follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.  And forward our podcast along to other Inspiring Women in your life.

  • News post

    Mixed Messages

    19 April 2019

    Some time ago I attended a banquet with hundreds of energetic participants. In the midst of the keynote address, the fire alarm was activated. An emphatic, automated message directed everyone to “Evacuate the building immediately!” Participants looked at each other with confusion as a property representative quickly proclaimed, “There is no need to leave the facility.”

    The automated alarm brazenly repeated its earlier message to evacuate the building. Seconds later the property representative again said, “Do not leave; this is a false alarm”.

    By this time, some attendees left the event while others opted to stay. The mixed messages led to mixed results as attendees did not know which directive to follow. Thankfully it was soon proven that the automated message had indeed been a false alarm.

    I was one of the many attendees who opted to stay, and I’m so glad I did. The memorable keynote was inspirational; the event was very well executed by its sponsor; and attendees enjoyed wonderful conversation with colleagues… all of which were desired results that could have been derailed due to the mixed messages of evacuate versus stay.

    In the midst of the confusion, it occurred to me that similar situations frequently take place in Corporate America when leaders send mixed messages to their employees. These mixed messages contribute to teams’ falling short of achieving the right results.

    One of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership is that “Gracious Leaders Require Accountability”. Within this chapter, I share my conviction that:

    Accountability starts and stops with leaders as it is the leaders’ responsibility to be crystal clear with employees regarding expectations.

    When leaders send mixed messages to followers regarding the work to be completed, it’s like blindfolding employees, spinning them around, giving them darts and telling them to hit the targets. The desired results are not likely to occur.

    I have found that when employees receive clear messages regarding what is expected of them, they are actually relieved because they know exactly what they are to accomplish. There is no confusion about the work to be done… no evacuate versus stay… no peddle-brake, peddle-brake which can cause employee whiplash in the workplace.

    When expectations are not clearly expressed, leaders should not be surprised when employees are frustrated and teams fail to deliver. In these situations, it is actually the leader who has failed the team because he or she was not purposeful in defining expectations in advance.

    Let me be crystal clear. Mixed messages prevent us from optimizing our most precious and expensive organizational assets … our employees!

    As you communicate with your team every day, I invite you to embrace the reality that accountability really does start and stop with the leader. Avoid mixed messages at all costs and be completely clear with your team members regarding the work you need them to accomplish.

    For more information about accountability tips that are applicable within organizations of all types, please see Chapter 12 in Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before available on Amazon or on my website.

  • News post

    Leadership With a Title

    8 April 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in an episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on April 8, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.


    Everywhere today you see people are looking for great leadership. When you’re a leader, you can influence. You can change your world around you.

    You can impact people in your life and organizations. You can be part of success because of your leadership and influence. And you can use that title responsibly for yourself as well as for others.

    Leadership, influence, AND the title are all one package deal.

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part one of my two part interview with her.