Leadership Light

I love this quote by Edith Wharton, “There are two ways of spreading light…To be a candle or the mirror that reflects it.”In this season of light, I ponder what light represents in our lives and how that relates to our leadership. I love Edith Wharton’s perspective of spreading light, but what exactly does that mean?Spreading light comes in the form of lighting up a room. As leaders, we can light up a room with our presence; you know, by being fully present to others. We do this by listening without distraction and giving our full attention to those around us.We can also spread light through our attitudes and behaviors. We spread light through love, care, and compassion. Light takes away the darkness. We know that smiles are contagious and can be a great conduit to spreading light and love.As leaders, we can also be the mirror that reflects light. Through encouragement and support of those we lead, we see the light in their eyes, their behaviors, and in their attitudes. Mentoring those we lead and reflecting back their greatness is one of the most profound activities we can do as leaders.We also reflect light by “lightening” the load of others. We can help lighten the heaviness of others by supporting our teams literally and figuratively. We can support others in a variety of ways that don’t cost any money. Sometimes small acts of just listening, giving an encouraging word, or acknowledging others can be extraordinary and have lasting profound effects. Serving those we lead is an example of love-based leadership.Light in the darkness and lightening the load are profound ways we demonstrate love-based leadership. In this season of light, I wish you a blessed holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.As always, I love to hear from you. How will you be a light to others today?With love,Maria

3 Steps for Leadership to Build Mindfulness

Are our minds, hearts, and spirits truly present? So often, we are replaying in our head the argument we may have had with a spouse, the traffic on the way to work, or the e-mail we just read. How different would it be if we really showed up—mind, body, and spirit? How would our mindfulness, with these three steps, affect our communication, our connection and relationships…our leadership?We’ve learned and studied so much about good communication skills and body language that many of us have mastered the art of “listening” with our bodies. Bodies leaning in, head nodding, eyes fixed on the other person, yet all the while our minds are anywhere but in that conversation.Great leaders, who communicate and connect, fill their minds with the person in front of them. We feel this connection when others are fully engaged in what we’re saying. We see it in their eyes, we feel it energetically, we know we are connected and drawn to that person and the moment. Presence is mindfulness. Mindfulness is found in the present, and when you are present, you show up.Here are three steps to practice presence and soon enough, you’ll definitely be showing up!Not only is a mindful practice one that provides clarity, vision, connection, and beauty, but also being present in the moment creates peace of mind. Living in mindfulness is living in peace. This is especially relevant in our current culture plagued with chaos, competition, rage, and fear.When we find this connection with others through mindfulness, we gain a deeper understanding of each other and of ourselves. We understand ourselves better when we connect with others. It’s not unusual with this deep union of souls, to see ourselves in those people with whom we feel connected. In a mindful state, empathy, connection, compassion, and equality surface to our consciousness. We see and feel each other as the same, without division and without judgment—we feel love.As always, I love to hear from you. What practices do you do to show up? How would you like to show up differently and what will you do to accomplish stronger presence?With love,Maria

Leadership Basics With Maslow

Abraham Maslow’s well-known and highly respected Hierarchy of Needs theory describes five level of needs. What does Maslow’s theory have to do with leadership?If we don’t understand peoples’ needs, we don’t understand people. Let’s look at the needs beginning with the basic needs:

  • Physiological needs – basic needs of air, food, water, shelter, sex, and relief and/or avoidance of pain.
  • Safety needs – after the basic needs are met, safety and security must be met.
  • Belongingness or Social needs – after safety needs are met, we want to feel connections with people.
  • Esteem needs – after social needs are met, we desire self-respect, status, and recognition for our accomplishments.
  • Self-Actualization needs – the highest level of needs is the development of our full potential. To achieve this sense of fulfillment, we seek to understand and grow, to find meaning in our work and our lives.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is based on three assumptions:

  1. only unmet needs motivate,
  2. needs are hierarchical in nature, basic to complex, and
  3. lower level needs must be met before moving to a higher-order need.

We can see how the first two tiers, our basic and safety needs are met, just by having a job and a paycheck. The pay affords us the ability to meet our basic and safety-level needs.The third tier, belongingness and/or social needs, are the connections with others we crave. Often, after a certain period of time on the new job, we seek relationships with those with whom we work. Going to lunch, taking coffee breaks with each other, or perhaps a cocktail after work are all ways in which we fill these belongingness needs. It is not unusual for someone to say they "hate the job, but love the people they work with". This is an important sign for leaders to notice. As soon as those employees get their social needs met outside of work...they are gone!Our esteem needs are when we seek outside approval from others. We want to know we are valued and appreciated. Employees always remember leaders who are good at this. We often remember how we felt when someone said something to or about us, rather than the specific words uttered by the person. How we felt about those statements or actions, has a much longer duration and more deeply affects us than the actual words. I remember while growing up I often heard my mother repeating one of her favorite mantras, “Actions speak louder than words.” How true mom, how very true! This is often the place that we lose “good people” at work, because they don’t feel valued and honored.The highest level of needs Maslow presented was the need for self-actualization. This is where we seek, with a ferocious hunger to find meaning and purpose in what we do. OK, we may start a new job and begin the quest of the hierarchical pyramid all over again, but we will eventually be right back to this higher order of need. Meeting this need is the fulfillment of meaning. People leave organizations when they reach this need level because their work is not a conduit to their meaning-seeking behavior and need.As always, I love to hear from you. What level are you at currently? What is one immediate action you can take today, based on this knowledge?With love,Maria

5 Types of Power in Leadership

Power is a hot topic. Not all power is equal. In this video, I review the five types of power in leadership, how shared power can make followers uncomfortable, and some considerations you will be able to apply going forward.We have been taught for too long, to let others define our thoughts, feelings, jobs, lives, and meaning for us. What to think, what to wear, how to feel—is it any wonder we get nervous when we receive permission or power to make decisions or design aspects of our lives for ourselves?Like anything else in this world, all forms of power can be for the greater good or for selfish and egoic purposes. As we review these five types of power, consider your former bosses and your own leadership style as you prepare to better define what kind of leader you choose to become.I would love to hear from you. What is your go-to type of power and why?With love,Maria

10 Routines Leaders Need for Thick Skin

Someone asked me, “How can you develop a thick-skin at work?” My initial response, “Develop a strong heart.”Growing up, I was often teased because of my over-bite. Called many names at school, I came home frequently collapsing into a pile of tears. My mother would tell me to ignore the bully’s hurtful comments and eventually they would stop. I did experience some truth in this, but what was even more impactful, were her words, “Maria, you are beautiful, they just don’t see it.” Of course, she was referring to my inner beauty. I knew my outer beauty would catch up once I got braces!Why is it that as adults we still feel the need to toughen up and not let other people’s words hurt us? Could it be that we forgot our inner beauty?If so, don’t worry. Reclaiming our inner beauty and strengthening our hearts is easy to do. Developing a strong heart begins with self-love.Practice these ten steps and in no time, you will not need a thick skin because you’ll have a strong heart:

  1. List your strengths. Next to each one, identify how you may leverage your strong points.
  2. Create an action plan for personal and professional growth.
  3. Reconnect with your intuition.
  4. Do something creative every day.
  5. Spend time in stillness each day.
  6. Get enough sleep. Six to eight hours are recommended for optimum health.
  7. Move your body every day. Some days it may only be walking to the mailbox.
  8. Eat foods that nourish your body in healthy ways.
  9. List at least five things each day for which you are grateful.
  10. Find ways to help others see their greatness.

I would love to hear from you. How do you strengthen your heart?With love,Maria

Why Your Leadership Needs To Understand Personality Types

As we continue our understanding of leadership, today I want to expand our Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, by discussing the importance of understanding personality types in the workplace.Now, we’ve been hanging out together for a while and I just have to ask, Are you a square? No, not that kind of square!Maybe you’re a circle or a triangle?We can identify our personality tendencies with some simple geometry. Yikes - no formulas I promise!We are multi-dimensional people and have many sides to us. However, we have natural tendencies that we can relate to one or two specific shapes.It’s important to have representation of all of these shapes on your team and in your organization to bring different perspectives and ideas for problem-solving, and creating.As always, I love to hear from you. What shape do you identify with the most and what shape value do you bring to the table? What is the most challenging shape to work with and how have you learned to leverage those unique qualities of each personality type?With love,Maria

Truth & Transparency

We must learn to honor ourselves with truth.By being honest with ourselves and not allowing others’ non-truths into our psyche, we acknowledge that we love and respect ourselves.By respecting ourselves, we don’t accept other’s false realities. Iyanla Vanzant recognized that, for most of us, it isn’t difficult to tell when someone isn’t being truthful with us; the challenge is how to call them on their non-truth. She suggested we reply, “While that may sound truthful to you, it doesn’t feel truthful to me.”What a great line! When we are truthful and transparent with ourselves, we remember our divine nature and we do not let anyone treat us with a lack of respect or dignity.I’d love to hear your experiences, tell me about a time where you had an expectation not met and you had to work in truth and transparency to solve the situation?With love,Maria

Nit-Picking The Details: Micromanagement in Leadership

Micromanagement is really just FEAR-Management.In the workplace, fear-based leadership is manifested in a number of ways. We see fear in leadership when employers do not trust the employees to do the jobs for which they were hired. Many managers are fearful of losing control, resulting in micromanagement. Micromanagement is a classic display of fear.I once had a student challenge me when we were discussing micromanagement in class. He thought the concept was exaggerated. I then shared with him an experience I had while working with a homebuilder:We were opening up a new community in a different state than our corporate headquarters. After we selected a mailbox and a holiday green color (the same color as the community logo), management asked that we paint the mailbox we selected using the exact same green paint and then ship it back to corporate headquarters for the company president to approve the mailbox and paint color!What are some micromanagement situations you have experienced?With love,Maria

You are Branded!

Branding and image consulting are terms we’ve no doubt heard, typically in the context of marketing. Have you thought about your brand? No, I am not talking about the company for which you work—I am talking about YOU!What is your brand, your leadership image? Are you respected because you’ve earned it or are you feared because of your title? What is the first thing your people think about when your name comes up?Some of us may say that we don’t care about what others think about me. Really, is that really true?As leaders, our primary task is to motivate and influence others toward a vision and/or goal. If others are not buying our brand, then we don’t really have followers.How can we consciously create our leadership brand? Follow these 5 simple steps:

  • Intentionally determine what you want your brand to represent.
  • Reverse engineer the steps necessary to develop and create that brand image.
  • Be accountable to doing the work – find an accountability partner or coach who will be honest about your progress and a resource when you are stuck.
  • Be vulnerable and do spot checks with others to see if you are on the right track (in other words—ask!).
  • Celebrate your successes along the way.

Please share your progress and aha’s! I love hearing from you.With love,Maria

Go Forth and Delegate

For many of the leaders I work with, delegation is a real struggle. Leaders resist delegating because we are so accustomed to doing the work ourselves. Many times, fear will rear its ugly head, thinking that if we want the work done correctly, we must do it ourselves. And then there is the time issue of communicating and training others to complete the task for us.Ahhh, but the benefits of delegation far outweigh the negativity that surrounds this illusive skill. When we delegate, we have more time for our high-priority tasks and we actually get to experience the joy of completing our tasks! Delegation increases our productivity and is a much better use of our resources.  Delegation gives us freedom.True, there are some tasks best kept to ourselves such as personal matters, confidential activities, crises, and activities that are specifically delegated to us. However, we can delegate paperwork, routine tasks, technical matters, tasks with developmental potential, and employee problems.Since we are not born with the delegation gene, we must learn this skill. It’s not as hard as you think! Just follow these four simple steps and you will be delegating before you know it:

  1. Explain the need for delegating, including the reasons why you selected that person to complete the task.
  2. Clearly set the objectives defining responsibility, level of authority, and deadlines.
  3. Develop a plan to achieve objectives, resources, and give the authority necessary to obtain those resources.
  4. Establish an accountability plan with checkpoints.

Which step is trickiest for you?Now go forth, delegate, and prosper!With love,Maria

Change What?!

Sometimes when I start working with new clients they are afraid that I am going to change them or that they have to change who they are to be better leaders. The reality is—to be the best leader you can be, you must be authentic.Authenticity is what attracts followers and speaks to people’s heads as well as their hearts.In coaching, we set goals for directions in which we want to move. We identify roadblocks or barriers that keep us from the movement we desire and create strategy to overcome those barriers.Oftentimes those strategies may include a course correction in the path we already started. We may uncover some limiting beliefs we have about others or ourselves that may be holding us back. When that happens, a beautiful event occurs – we get to choose if we want to keep those barriers or change our course.This is an important point to remember: we are not changing ourselves; we are changing our course of action.What limiting belief or roadblock do you recall that changed your course of action? I’d love to hear from you.With love,Maria

A Leg Up On Legacy

We all leave a legacy, whether by choice or unconsciously. So why not intentionally create the legacy? Do you really want someone else to define your legacy? Meaningfulness, is feeling a part of something bigger, as big as a legacy.The yearning for something more is evident in our society. Work-related illnesses are on the rise, and stress reduction workshops are everywhere. Proof of peoples’ desire for a more spiritual and holistic life is on grocery store shelves, in advertising, and in kitchens and baths across America.Spiritual practices such as yoga, prayer, meditation, and aromatherapy are creeping into offices and boardrooms, which are far from the practices that have guided American businesses since the 18th century. The evidence is out there—we want more!I invite you to discover a model of leadership that can help you realize meaning, abundance, and can inspire and motivate those around you in meaningful experiences. Let’s be a part of something bigger and let’s start now! Let’s be love-based leaders.With love,Maria

Let’s Talk About Love

So many people tell me about their fear-based organizations and how unproductive those workplaces can be. The key to shifting from fear to love is learning how to love with greater capacity than living in fear. Think of a scale with fear on one side and love on the other. Only when your love for something or someone becomes greater to you than fear, will the scale tip in favor of love. However, if your fear of something or someone is greater than your love for something else, then fear wins again.

  • Do I love and respect my desire to go for that position more than my fear of being rejected?
  • Do I love and value my goal to launch my own business more than my fear of stepping out and possibly failing?
  • Do I value the call to write my own book more than my fear of negative response?

Do you see how easy it is to put more value onto the side of fear? The great news is that we can learn a better way to lead by employing love-based strategies and techniques with tremendous, sustainable results that are more powerful than fear-based methods. We can learn to be irresistible leaders with the power of love. Let’s all get on the same page with the definitions of love and leadership about which I am speaking.

  • Love -- the universal definition of love: Honoring, caring, trusting, and respecting one human being to another.
  • Leadership -- inspiring one or many toward a vision.

Love is our natural state of being, while fear is learned. Because love is our natural state, it is also the core, the very essence of who we are. When we fully embrace this concept and integrate it with our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, we come into the perfect balance of warmth and courage. Warmth and love juxtaposed with courage and strength are not opposed values; in fact, they are completely related. The root origin of the word courage is the French word cuer, which means heart. We know that to be courageous requires fearlessness; and to be fear-less is to be love-filled.Let’s be those courageous, fearless leaders and shift to the other 4-letter word, love.With Love,Maria

With or Without Meaning?

Did you know the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings?One study showed that the most common factor in these heart attacks was that the victims were people whose work had become joyless striving. In other words, they could not find meaning in their work, and their lives had become so out of balance that, one Monday morning, their bodies said, “You are not going to work today. Zap.”1I remember a discussion I had with the general manager of a regional division, discussing with him the importance of finding meaning in work for our employees and leaders. His response was, “I think meaning at work is over-rated.” Overrated? We spend the vast majority of our adult lives at work.One of the primary purposes of a leader is to inspire vision and motivation in those he or she leads, and few things are more inspiring and motivating than meaningful work.If we don’t have meaning…what do we have? We must know the “why” behind the things we do, we are at unrest and certainly unmotivated.As always, I welcome your input. What is the most meaningful aspect of your job and why?With love,Maria1. J. A .Autrey, & S. Mitchell, Real power: Business lessons from the Tao Te Ching (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998), p. 23.

Is the F-word Killing Your Organization

I spoke at a professional organization state conference, SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) about the destructive nature of the f-word… FEAR in our organizations.In my presentation, I incorporated some very important statistics from a survey conducted by SHRM at the national level. I revealed some serious challenges that our local and global organizations will likely face over the next ten years. Here are some of the highlights from that study:

  • Top 3 challenges are retaining and rewarding the best employees, developing the next generation of leaders, and creating a corporate culture that attracts the best employees
  • 43% of HR professionals indicated that obtaining human capital (us) and optimizing human capital investments would be their biggest challenge
  • Most critical competencies include business acumen, organizational leadership, relationship management, and communication
  • Most effective tactics to rewarding employees include flexible work arrangements; creating an organizational culture where leadership demonstrates and emphasizes trust, open communication, and fairness; opportunities for career advancement; demonstrating commitment to employee development; and providing meaningful work with clear purpose in meeting organization objectives.

This is an eye-opening list as the focus is all about the people: developing the people, creating a culture that lifts up the people, and providing the environment for people to connect their head and heart. All of this points to the need to tap into their passion with meaning.However, one seemingly small act of injecting fear into the culture can have the effect of killing innovation, loyalty, and growth in a split-second. Fear is tricky because it has been the corporate “go-to” strategy for years, and we learned and we were taught how to “lead” with fear. True, fear will motivate people in a direction. But, be aware that using fear as a motivational tool comes with a price. The price of using that nasty “f-word” fear is:

  • Robs people of potential
  • Barrier of individual and organizational performance
  • Affects individual and organizational quality of life
  • Shifts focus away from productivity and innovation to CYA (cover your assets)
  • Destroys trust and loyalty
  • Causes silence and uncertainty. Just because people are not saying anything does not mean they have nothing to say.
  • Kills long-term motivation and commitment
  • Increases stress
  • Grows resistance
  • Shuts down ability to think creatively, collaborate, and bring passion/meaning to the job
  • People check out (both literally and figuratively)

Is fear killing your organization?With love,Maria

Who Are You?

Do you remember the classic rock song by The Who, Who Are You? It is truly one of my favorites! Little did I know when I first heard this song in 1978 that I would ponder the importance of this question almost 40 years later.I recently returned from facilitating a leadership boot camp with Dr. Dorothy Bonvillain for the Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce. We talked about the importance of leadership authenticity and vulnerability, which of course, begins with self-awareness and a ton of bravery.We tell the truth to ourselves when we acknowledge our own imperfections. As we move through our journey, “to deny imperfections is to deny our humanity and to become disconnected from our soul.”1Accepting our imperfections and taking the introspective, reflective journey, we travel to our core and find our authentic leader within.What do you suppose keeps us from our vulnerability and authenticity as leaders? As always, I love hearing what you have to say.With love,Maria

  1. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, Leading with Soul, p. 67.

Leadership in Local Communities

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a local community Leadership cohort. I am sure that most communities have a local leadership program, usually through the Chamber of Commerce where aspiring community leaders learn all aspects of community leadership from local government to education. What a dynamic group of people I met from this particular cohort!This session focused on leadership in education. When I asked the group how they defined leadership, we heard several different perspectives. A common thread among those individuals included the ability to inspire others toward a goal.Leadership can be that simple and yet, that challenging. The complexity of leadership arises in the “inspiration” component because not all of us are inspired in the same way.Through my years of teaching, consulting, and leading, I do find the following seven factors key in inspiring others:

  • Authenticity – Transparency is here whether we like it or not. We have developed pretty good BS meters, so be who you are and stop trying to be someone else.
  • Approachability – If the people around us do not feel like they can approach us with a problem, or a solution, we open ourselves up to liability and close off innovation – think Enron.
  • Relatability – We are more alike than different, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can be open and authentic with one another.
  • Listening – When we stop to really listen to each other, what we hear can enlighten us with insight, answers, and solutions.
  • Decisiveness – Leaders, good leaders, are not afraid to make decisions. If they are not the right decisions, we can course correct. Remember, we cannot course correct if we do not get out on the course.
  • Openness – It is important for us to stay open to new ideas and ways of doing our work. Innovation does not come in doing the same thing repeatedly – think Einstein’s definition of insanity.
  • Trustworthy – Once we lose trust in others or ourselves, it is extremely difficult to get it back. Innovation, loyalty, and full-on engagement only comes when trust is present.

Inspiring leadership is a huge responsibility…and tremendously rewarding. Are you up for the challenge?

Comfortably Uncomfortable

As a leadership coach, I am always excited when a powerful question or statement crosses my path or better yet, slams me in the face! Yesterday, I had such an encounter. Seth Godin got my attention when he stated, “If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader”. He was talking about the discomfort we sometimes feel as a leader and furthermore, when we identify the discomfort, we’ve found a place where leadership is needed. His list includes:

  • Standing up in front of strangers
  • Proposing an idea that may fail
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Resisting the urge to settle

I DO love those moments that move me out of my comfort zone and into what I call a “seat squirming” state. I know when I start squirming, I am onto to something, and that something is usually growth!Of course, I also like to state things in a positive frame, so my list may look something like:

  • Motivating people in the direction of a shared goal
  • Creating and innovating with others, living in a synergy zone
  • Thinking outside the box and trying something that “hasn’t been done before”
  • Pushing myself and others to live in creativity and authenticity, even when it may be more work

My list not only feels good when I put it on, but it moves me beyond comfort to electric energy.What are your thoughts? Comfortable? Discomfort? What would you add to the list?As always, I truly appreciate your insight.With love,Maria

The Other F-Word

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at a Women in Action conference. I discussed the impact that the F-word is having on our relationships, families, teams, organizations, and communities.The F-word we discussed was FEAR. We can re-frame fear, looking at it from different lenses. One of my favorite ways to think of fear is as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. At the conference, I also shared how leading with love guides us out of the fear in which we are deeply immersed, especially during these times of fear-based thinking and living. Love is still stronger than fear every day of the week.During a panel discussion with three extraordinary women leaders in the community from local government, financial services, and higher education, we discussed the other F-word – failure. When asked about their biggest failure, I was pleasantly surprised at their responses. Each one, in their own way expressed a belief that they do not experience failure. In fact, they do not even use that F-word!One stated that she does not believe in failure, only opportunities for growth. Another stated that she too, does not look at “mistakes” as failure. Instead, she simply acknowledges a mistake. Wow, how empowering this way of thinking is for learning, humility, and perseverance – all of which are outstanding leadership qualities! When we fully embrace “failure” as a growth opportunity and a decision that did not work out, it immediately frees us to think of another decision that could give us a better result.This is not rocket science.This frame is actually quite simple, and simple is profound. I am so grateful to be introduced to this liberating way of thinking. Oh, how I love to learn! Thank you ladies, for sharing your insight.How much different would our lives be if we would not get stuck in failure and only empowered by making a better decision?With love,Maria

Get a Grip on Organization

I’ve always considered myself as an organized person, but I must admit that sometimes I get overwhelmed and lose control of my time and organization. In those times of overwhelm, I need to get a grip!Very recently, I found myself in this space of needing to regain control of my time and organization. I realized that nearly every time I got to this place I experienced the same symptoms in my thoughts and behaviors. I feel:

  • Overwhelmed and find it difficult to concentrate.
  • Unorganized and cannot find key files, papers, or other information.
  • Paralyzed by uncertainty and just where to begin.
  • Forgetful and miss deadlines or appointments.

Unable to plan due to many, many dark clouds hanging over my head, these are telling signs that I need to get a grip on my organization. When I recognize these symptoms, I do the following simple steps to re-gain control over my life (especially as part of my New Year’s Resolution!):

  • Write everything down that is in my head and hanging out in those dark clouds. When I do this, I create white space literally and figuratively.
  • Determine and/or revamp my file system to capture notes, to-do action items, projects, and other information.
  • Create a plan with timelines and stick to it.
  • Celebrate the mini-successes!

The simple steps outlined above give me structure, which in turn gives me freedom! When I am free of clutter and dark clouds, I am able to concentrate, create, and plan. On Thursday, I will share with you my most recent file system, my Freedom Filing System.With love and no overwhelm,Maria