5 Ways to Make a Difference with Mindful Meetings

Vicki Flahertty.png

Time is really the only capital that any human being has

and the thing that he can least afford to waste or lose. 

― Thomas Edison

Pre-Meeting Self Check-In

Did you know that over 50% of communication is non-verbal? How you feel is likely to be picked up by others. So before the meeting, check in with yourself. What’s on your mind? How are you feeling? Anxious, sad, or energized. Take a moment to clear your mind, perhaps by focusing on your breath. Enter the meeting without unneeded thoughts and emotions interfering.

Mindful Meeting Start

Start your meetings with a short activity that invites the group to be present, focused and create a sense of shared purpose. It could be as simple as inviting everyone to take several deep breaths and to bring their attention to the meeting, letting go of what came before and all that will come after.  Your mindful opening might even involve the group sharing their intentions for the meeting, or providing context through a personal story or highlighting the strategic context. Where possible, take time for everyone to check-in and share how they are; it’s a great way to get everyone engaged and to gauge energy levels.

Late Arrivals United

If someone enters late to a meeting you are leading, welcome them. Take a moment to greet them, check in to see how they are doing, and help them feel united with the group. Show you care that they are there and that you believe they are an important part of accomplishing the team’s objectives.

Appreciation and positive acknowledgment

Be positive! Acknowledgment and appreciation can be extremely powerful. During the meeting, clearly state the value of what’s being co-created by the group. For example, after a presentation, instead of sitting in silence or being critical, you could say something such as: “Let me share with you my key take-aways.” or something as simple as “Thank you for sharing your perspective with us.”

Wrap-up with clarity

Take time at the end of the meeting to review decisions made and actions that will follow, and ensure everyone is in agreement. It is helpful to reflect on the value of what was accomplished. Be intentional about ending with enthusiasm and offer a smile. Even in virtual meetings where people can’t see you, smiling is helpful because it affects how you feel, and how you feel is picked up by participants.

Life is about the people you meet and

the things you create with them.

So go out and start creating. 

― Unknown


NOTE: This post was co-authored by Patrick Kozakiewicz and first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on October 13, 2016.

* I took the photo during a strategic planning meeting of my leadership development team at IBM.



Three Ways to Greater Authenticity

Vila Taranto Verbania Lake Maggiore Italy.JPG

To be authentic is literally to be your own author –
to discover your own nature energies and desires,
and then to find your own way of acting on them.
~Warren G. Bennis

To be authentic is to act in alignment with who you are. To be authentic is to feel right about what you say and do. To be authentic is to be real. Being authentic involves being in tune with what’s happening inside of you. Webster defines authenticity as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”There is no fixed ‘authentic’ self. We don’t one day realize ‘this is who I am” and then become authentic. We change and evolve over time. Our day-to-day experiences tell us who we are, and when we are present in the moment, we can tune into what feels right. We discover whether we are being true or faking it by how we feel in the moment. When we notice what’s happening in our lives – how we feel and what gives us energy – we gain insights that inform and guide authentic actions, aligned with what we value and want to be creating in our lives.

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go
of who we think we’re supposed to be
and embracing who we are.
~Brene Brown

Only you know if you are being authentic. Only you truly know if your actions align with your values. Only you know if how you respond to a situation feels right. Of course, others sense when you are being authentic. There is a power in being courageous enough to show our true selves. Even when someone doesn’t agree with you or like how you behave, often they respect you for your clarity and confidence.

We have to dare to be ourselves,
however frightening or strange
that self may prove to be.
~Mary Sarton

Three ways to open to greater authenticity.
1. Explore what gives your life meaning. Clarity about your mission in life can help you live each day with purpose. Clear intentions can guide you toward authentic action.
2. Notice your thoughts, feelings, and actions. When do you say yes/no? How often does what others want guide your behavior? Do you feel pressure to fit in or seek others’ approval? Be open to the answers you find, without judging yourself as good or bad.
3. Explore what it’s like to let go of others’ expectations and judgments. When others make requests of you, pause to consider whether what they want is what you want. Sure, listen to what they have to say and consider their perspective, but tune into your feelings to guide you.

The body has its own way of knowing,
a knowing that has little to do with logic,
and much to do with truth, little to do with control,
and much to do with acceptance,
little to do with division and analysis,
and much to do with union.
~Marilyn Sewell


NOTE: This post first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on March 30, 2017.

I wrote about authenticity here on Leading with Intention earlier this year: Be Who You Are.

I’ve also written about it on some of my other blogs – posts listed below. Did you know I blog regularly over at And Then Opens Possibility (inspired by my 2nd book of poetry) and Where Possibility Awaits (includes inspiring quotes with photos I’ve taken)? I’d love to see you over there.

* I took this photo of a Jay at Vila Taranto in Verbania, on Lago Maggiore, Italy.

Mind Your Words – They Are Powerful Seeds of Change


All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. ~Kahlil Gibran 

What did you just say? Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve said so far today, or if it’s early in the day, consider your conversations yesterday. How many words do you estimate you spoke? What was the impact of your speaking?

It is so easy for our words to just come falling out, without even thinking about what we are saying, or what we will create in the process of uttering them.

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.  ~Buddha

Think about the words others have spoken to you? Pick one person from the past week. What words did they say to you? What did you sense was underneath those words? How did what they said make you feel?

There is such power in words, especially when they are thoughtful and come from beyond the logic of our minds and are washed over by the kindness of our hearts.

Words are just words and without heart they have no meaning. ~Chinese proverb. 

We create with our words. Words are the building blocks of our thoughts. And our thoughts are the building blocks for big things – creative ideas that lead to innovative solutions, emotional connection with others that builds longstanding relationships, the way we feel about ourselves and how that impacts what we do in the world.

And, it’s not just the words we speak out loud to others. It is also the words we say to ourselves. Are you aware of how you talk to yourself? What are the dominant words that you tend to use?

Our words have incredible power: power to move us and others to action, to make amazing things happen, to create powerful change. How are you using your power?

Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. ~Ingrid Bengis

Below are a couple of suggestions designed to help mind your words and to explore how they can create powerful shifts in your life and relationships.

Word Play

Experiment with using different words and noticing how they make you – and others – feel.  Some suggestions are provided below. Come up with substitutions of your own by noticing when something you say (to yourself or out loud) or something someone else says creates fear or negative energy for you. Then, consider other ways something that was said might be phrased to create something more encouraging or positive.

Instead of this word… Use this word…
Attack (e.g., attack barriers) Discover, overcome
But And
Criticize, correct Guide
Determine, decide, figure out Explore
Drive (e.g., drive change) Create
Explain Share
Have to Get to
Motivate Inspire, energize
Permit (e.g., permit action) Accept, allow
Problem, challenge Opportunity, possibility
Should Could
Tolerate Understand
Weakness Area for growth
Why What
Work Play

Reflection Time

Take a few minutes each day to give some thought to your words. Pick a time of the day when you will sit quietly in an introspective moment. For those of you following this mindfulness series, perhaps you use the time that you are already using for a mindful pause. Take a few intentional breaths to tune into the moment – like dialing in to a station – and consider what you’ve said in the past hour, to others or just inside your head to yourself, and ask what energy your are creating and putting out in the world? Is it what you want? How is it shaping yours or others’ feelings, beliefs and attitudes, choices and actions?

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ~Mother Teresa



NOTE: This post first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on July 26, 2016.

I’ve written other posts here on Leading with Intention about the power of words and communication:

And below are some posts from some of my other blogs. Did you know I blog regularly over at And Then Opens Possibility (inspired by my 2nd book of poetry) and Where Possibility Awaits (includes inspiring quotes with photos I’ve taken) I’d love to see you over there.

* I took the photo of a sign outside of a shop in Santinilla del Mar, Cantabria, Spain.

Creating a social movement for organizational transformation


I often learn without even realizing it. My view of the world is shaped not just by in-depth classes and formal developmental programs, but also through small bits of information consumed over time. Images or photos inspire fresh ideas, quotes provide different perspectives, and a personal stories invite trying something new.

This awareness led me to experiment with social ways of engaging individuals. With many colleagues creating formal learning programs (e.g., webinar series, online classes, in-person development events), I began dabbling with micro blogs, thematic blogs, curation blogs, various types of campaigns, and more. People began to approach me for insight related to the topics I was sharing – initially, career growth, personal development, and leadership, and most recently, mindfulness and resilience.

This was part of the foundation that resulted in my quite unexpectedly leading a mindfulness movement (read highlights) inside the organization I work. That experience carried over when I was tapped by my executive leadership last year to support our leaders in strengthening their resilience. Both of these initiatives took on a life of their own – in effect, they became social movements.


A social movement is a group of people with a shared purpose who create change together. A movement can support cultural transformation and shift the ways people behave and engage. Read more about the definition of a social movement here and here.

Others tapped into their passion and began to bring to life the possibility they saw for their teams and organizations. They shared and reused resources, they connected with  others who shared their interest, they started to co-create and seize their collective energy.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on creating social movements, I’ve been giving some thought to how I might have contributed to some exciting things happening in support of my organization’s transformation.

Top Tips

Put some “YOU” into it. People are hungry for connection, are inspired by something personal, and gravitate to what’s real. Tap into your interests, strengths, and experiences to engage and energize others in a unique way. Being too formal can create a distance between you and those you want to touch.

Meet others where they are. Sometimes other individuals are not able to see what you see or are not ready to join you. And, that’s OK. Where you meet resistance, take it as a sign the particular person or path may not be the way, and, either move on down the road, or adjust your course. Hold tight to your desired outcomes and loosely to your plans.

Be courageous. Finding co-creators who share your passion can be hard work. If you want people to connect with your ideas, they have to be able to find them. Be willing to go stand out in the field, alone and vulnerable, until someone else also sees the possibility out there and joins you. What you see and want matters. There ARE others who will see it and want it, too. They will come. Have faith.  (Check out Derek Sivers TedTalk)

My Truths

Passion is a powerful game-changer. Seizing your own and others passion is guaranteed to be messy, but the impact can be huge. Passion is not linear; it is chaotic. Passion is not additive; it is multiplicative. Without passion, you are just another sound in a noisy world. Sing your song with your special voice.

What you can’t see is real. Measuring transformation driven by passion can be difficult. Just because you can’t see or capture something, does not mean that it is not real or valuable. When what’s happening involves relationships formed, ideas generated, energy created, movement initiated, paths eliminated – all as precursors to action taken –  you may have to get creative with your metrics (think stories and pictures that show individual accomplishments and collective impact).

Trust others’ brilliance. Be intentional about how you engage with others – at every turn. Each individual with whom you engage brings something unique, based on their personal experience, work environment, and cultural context. Be curious about how you can allow open space for co-creation. Try leaning into what others see as possible and letting go of your preconceived notions. Avoid the temptation to want to ‘get it right’ and do things the way you are most comfortable. Openness keeps things moving, however messily.

Exploratory Questions

  1. What do you see as possible?
  2. What energizes and inspires you?
  3. How do you envision things being new or different?
  4. What impact to you want to have?
  5. What do others experience when engaging with you?
  6. What does being courageous and vulnerable look like for you?
  7. How do you invite people in?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. How can you capture your progress?
  10. What is the next small step you can take right now to move in the direction of creating what you see as possible?

Are you active in a cause that is meaningful to you? Are you leading a movement? I’d love to learn more about what you are passionate about and how you engage others on the journey…


* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico.

Great Leadership: Mindful = Radical


Have you ever met someone new and immediately felt a strong connection? I had one of those experiences recently.

In my work, I have the honor of collaborating with truly amazing people. One of my networks centers around mindfulness, and a leader of the IBM Canada local practice group introduced me to Maria Gonzalez, bestselling author of Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others. From the moment I first interacted with Maria, I knew she was special. I love how she embodies what she writes and talks about. Just being with her invites calm, focus, presence, intentionality…she gives her undivided attention, brings an open heart, and follows the energy of the conversation. Before long the possibility of her joining as a guest for our 2nd annual Mindfulness@IBM Summit became a reality. (Learn more about Mindfulness@IBM)

I had the honor of interviewing Maria live last week on April 26th with over 3,00 IBMers enrolled in our 90-minute session about Mindful Leadership. I realized that many of tenets of her leadership philosophy directly aligned with mine, mine being rooted in Radical Leadership, which I learned from an amazing Master Certified Coach, Therese Kienast. I thought it would be fun to explore some of the unifying themes of these to incredible leader’s philosophies.

“A leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another person.” – Maria Gonzalez

 Everyone is a leader.

Leadership is about how we show up, not about a particular title or role. Maria defines a leader as anyone who is in a position to influence another person. Therese’s view focuses on the impact we have as individuals. I can hear her voice echoing in my ear: “We always have an impact, even when we do nothing.”

Even the smallest child can be a leader, any individual in any size organization can be a leader. And, the reverse is true, even the most senior executive in an organization might not be a strong leader.

Leadership is grounded in awareness.

Awareness comes from noticing what is happening in the moment – being present in the here and now. Maria defines mindfulness as ‘simply noticing the way things are’, and Therese defines a leader, in part, as someone who is ‘aware and awake to what it is’.

“A radical leader is aware and awake to what is, while completely responsible and at choice for creating what she wants.” – Therese Kienast

Leaders pay attention at multiple levels.

Therese taught me SOS – paying attention to Self, Others, Surroundings. I can place my attention and awareness on any one of these, and, on rare occasion, lightly hold all three in my field. Maria, too, speaks about the power of mindfulness at several levels – how it starts with understanding ourselves and expands out to others and all that’s happening. Our ability to pay attention to others, and to what’s happening in the larger context, starts with our ability to pay attention to what’s happening within us.

Leaders choose their narrative.

I left Therese’s Radical Leadership workshops with this question squarely in front of me: “What story am I making up?” It’s a great test of reality – so much of what happens in our lives is just the habitual pattern of stories moving through our minds all day. Maria, as a 30-some year meditator, speaks to how meditation helps us see more clearly the constant activity of our minds. As we become familiar with this constant chatter, we recognize when it shows up in our thoughts at work or with our relationships.

The power is in noticing. From this place of awareness, we become at choice. At choice for reframing our story, setting intentions for what we want, and taking aligned action that creates what we want (instead of more of what we don’t want).

“Mindfulness is not a technique, it’s a skill — one that you can learn. Mindfulness meditation helps to train your mind to become more aware and to stay in the present moment.” – Maria Gonzalez

Leadership develops by practicing, consistently and over time.

Maria presents a wide variety of mindfulness practices in her book. She believes that meditation practice is of no value unless it shows up in the way we engage with the world around us. So, her book is filled with practical activities that you can integrate into your life and work, such as doing one thing at a time and really noticing your experience of it, like walking and feeling your legs move and feet touch the ground, or visualizing your best performance.

One of the most powerful things I learned in Radical Leadership from Therese is to notice when I’m on the Trickster’s Triangle. That is, to notice when I am feeling like a victim, villain or hero, and with that as a trigger, pausing and taking a cleansing breath – and in that space, making a choice to either stay on course or take responsibility for my experience. Doing this repeatedly, day after day, I strengthen the muscle for reframing my experience, for being intentional and being at choice.

What I’ve learned from both amazing women is that, it IS as simple as taking a deep breath, or pausing to notice my breath, to bring myself squarely in the present moment…and from there comes an opportunity to clarify my intention, ground myself in what I want, and center on what makes me feel alive.

How do you define leadership? Whose leadership philosophy do you live by? What is it about their ideas that resonates for you?

Learn more about:

Other posts I’ve written that you might be interested in:


* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico

Optimal Performance and Amazing Outcomes


Over the past 5 years I’ve increasingly been focused on the role of wellbeing and resilience for great leadership.

You sleep well and are well rested, so then you make smart choices about what you eat and drink, and then you have the energy to move and exercise, and then your body and brain are at their best, working together to support optimal performance so you can achieve outcomes that matter.

When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally.

It’s a virtuous cycle. When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally. We are better able to pay attention to the wealth of data available to us – to our experiences and the physical and emotional feelings we have, to what is going on for others in our family or teams, to what’s happening in our environment. And we are better able to turn these signals into insights that lead to ideas and vision, intentions and plans, questions and choices, and decisions and actions. Bottom line: we awaken to the opportunities before us and are best equipped to seize them.

My team creates leadership experiences for managers and executives. We’ve created online self-paced learning modules and delivered in-person learning events that deepen leader’s appreciation for the importance of taking care of themselves so they show up at their best and deliver amazing results.

There’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it.

While it’s important to learn the facts about how something works and to understand its scientific underpinnings, there’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it. Someone can tell you the importance of movement for fueling your creativity and show you all the physiological connections, however, it’s not until you actually move and notice its effect on your thinking that you’ll be inspired to move as a strategy for getting your ideas flowing.

Below I’ve captured some approaches we’ve been using to create a more holistic experience for our leaders.

The Overall Experience

  • Starting and stopping meetings at times that allow for eating, exercise and recovery time
  • Honoring mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon breaks where nutritional food and healthy liquids are available and there’s time to move around the building or environs
  • Offering a quiet room and hosting morning yoga and mindfulness sessions
  • Offering group walks and morning bootcamp exercise sessions
  • Providing optional 1:1 and group coaching for fitness, nutrition, and leadership
  • Hosting healthy receptions and interactive dinners that allow people to decompress together as they appreciate good food
  • Posting inspirational quotes around the venue to open thinking, offer fresh perspective, shift mindset

During the Sessions

  • Beginning sessions with a clear sense of purpose and storytelling to create personal connection
  • Applying design thinking and other interactive strategies that engage everyone, get them up and moving and interacting
  • Checking in on energy level throughout, incorporating stretching and movement to keep minds active
  • Building in pauses to reflect on our personal experience, consider learning, identify decisions, commit to actions, celebrate accomplishments, for example

Think about your day as an experience. Are there any of these approaches you could apply to your work and life? Are you planning your day so you have time for what’s important? Are you taking breaks, eating nutritious food, moving and exercising, feeling energized, socializing, interacting and engaging, reflecting on your experiences, finding purpose, staying inspired, feeling energized, celebrating your accomplishments? What one thing could you start today to create more of what you want?

Try a little “experiential experimentation” and give something new a try.

If you identify anything you do in your work and life that we might translate to our leadership experiences, I’d love for you to share!



Being Resilient: The Role of Regular Recovery

Sense of Purpose: The Pathway to Success

What Yoga Taught Me About Being a Leader


* I took the photo during a morning run along country roads when staying at the Double JJ Ranch near Rothbury, Michigan.

BE who you are


Ever feel like you don’t fit in, like people around you expect you to be someone different than you are?

I remember when I first felt like that at work. I was about a year into a job with a global consulting organization. As a consultant, I needed to get certified to advance my career. For someone starting their career or coming in from another consulting organization, the structure provided a clear and logical path. For someone joining with a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and deep specialized expertise and experience, the on-ramp was not at all clear. I recall telling a friend that I felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I didn’t fit in, and it was uncomfortable.

I’ve noticed that feeling arise at various points in my career, especially when embarking on something new. I’ve noticed it showing up again recently – not surprising really given the magnitude and speed of change in the workplace. Now, with the wisdom of experience and the gift of awareness, I’m more prepared. I’ve let go of the notion of being weird and embraced being unique. I’ve learned that what makes me different can be the richest source of my value.

These ideas are reinforced with the focus in many organizations on inclusion and the value of diversity (read more). In the business environment, data about the benefits for innovation and productivity are key. In my heart, it’s simply the feeling I get when I truly see someone for who they are and when I feel seen for who I really am.

I’m learning to find the line between healthy conformity and being in integrity with who I am. Leadership training, coaching, mindfulness, and life experience have increased my awareness and compassion. It’s still a work in progress, although I am better able to listen to that quiet voice inside that asks ‘are you sure?’ and to pay attention to that part of me that that knows when something isn’t right. Being in integrity with who I am and what I value has become essential to my well being. Each time I am challenged to fit in, the need to be in integrity strengthens, and I let go of a little more of the fear that in the past would push me to be like everyone else.

I’ve found that when I wake up to something – like the importance of acknowledging who we are and what makes us each unique – so many signs and supporting mechanisms rise above the noise to point me in the direction of my truth. This is Me is one of those things – may it inspire and touch you.

I offer a few questions that I’ve been reflecting on to help me explore my personal truth. May you find value in reflecting on what matters to you and how you respond to the circumstances of your life.

  • When do I feel like I have to be someone other than myself?
  • How does that make me feel?
  • Are the expectations to be something else real?
  • Is there some ‘add-on’ story that I’m making up?
  • How might I be confirming my own fears?
  • What’s the tradeoff of behaving to fit in?

Let me hear from you – What helps you be strong and confident and alive to who you are?


Other related posts:


* I took this photo on Highway 151 in Iowa coming home for a ski trip in Galena, IL.

2017’s Wisdom

Pines in Iowa.jpgI always find this season valuable for reflecting on the year behind and envisioning the year ahead. To support my focus, I’ve been reviewing my experiences and what I learned in 2017, that it might support me in fully living 2018.

The ideas I shared in in last year’s blogs aren’t necessarily new in my thinking; however, the way they are expressed and the context in which they come alive for me continues to evolve. Below are the golden nuggets that I’m taking away to carry with me into the new year. I thought you might enjoy the opportunity to revisit the themes and see them compiled together.

  • A growth mindset involves being curious and open and using questions to deepen our discovery and explore our experiences more deeply. (What did I learn?)
  • Power comes from how we show up, and what’s possible is shaped by the tone we set through our actions, words, and energy. (Setting the tone)
  • Value and contribution arise naturally when we focus on bringing our best to the needs, objectives and challenges of others, organizations, and the world. (The Path to Social Eminence in a Digital World is Value Creation)
  • A key to unlocking collaboration, innovation and the best in others is being present and giving people our full attention. (Diggin’ me diggin’ you)
  • In every moment, there’s opportunity to look inside and outside of ourselves for insight, with incoming information enriching our perspective. (The Truth About Feedback)
  • Every interaction is an opportunity to build strong relationships through not only our words and actions but also the unseen energy of our intentions, attitudes and the beliefs we hold. (The Invisible Touch)
  • Confidence comes from taking small steps toward what we value and from experimenting, learning from our actions, and building on our success. (small steps toward success breed confidence)
  • We can listen to what’s happening in our minds, adjust the words and tone, and focus our thoughts to align with what we want to achieve. (Mindset is the engine that powers success)
  • Focusing on our wellbeing enables us to respond versus react to stressful circumstances at work and home. (Regular recovery is essential for being resilient)
  • Visualizing success is a valuable tool for gaining a clear sense of purpose that pulls us toward important outcomes and brings our energy to things that make a difference in the world. (Sense of Purpose – The Pathway to Success)
  • We always have an impact, even when we do nothing–sometimes especially when we do nothing. (You always have an impact)
  • Mental calmness and composure are available when we are present and aware of what’s happening and focused and intentional about how we respond. (Equanimity)

I’m curious if any of these are particularly resonant for you? The 2nd to last one about our impact has been very ‘sticky’ for me. It was first uttered to me in 2005 by Therese Kienast at the Radical Leadership retreat I attended, and it has been a beautiful echoing reminder ever since to be aware and awake and at choice.

And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.

~ Reinar Maria Rilka


* I took this photo in front of our house on one winter.



Perhaps you are familiar with the word ‘equanimity’. Or, perhaps it’s a new word in your vocabulary. Before I knew the meaning, it suggested to me a sense of balance, something solid to stand on. I really like this word.


What does it look like when there’s equanimity?

Presence. Focus. Understanding. Openness. Possibility. To me it looks like leaders who listen with curiosity, who open to not knowing, who see and respect everyone, who bring humanity into the workplace. Leaders who dream with purpose and passion and believe that great things are possible through intentional thought and productive action.

How do we find equanimity?

Myriad ways. We’re all different. Our paths are different. A big part of finding equaniminty, seems to me, is awareness: awareness of the stories that play in our minds. Followed by intention: intentional shifting of words and thoughts that are not serving us or others. Reframing our negative stories. Paying attention to what’s working. Visualizing success.

At the heart of our thoughts are words. Powerful words. Words shape what’s possible. I’ve read that we have somewhere between 16,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s A LOT of thoughts…a lot of words. Words that carry meaning. Words associated with feelings. Words tied to experiences. Words allowing us express how we feel. Words helping us envision our dreams. Words that impact us, physically, emotionally, mentally. Words that impact others, how they feel, how they are inspired to act.

What words repeat in the stories running through your mind? How are these words serving you?

Sometimes my stories are mean and ugly and hurtful, like little wars – that hurt me, that hurt others. Sometimes they are beautiful songs – that touch me, that touch others. I like the songs better than the war. And, while I’m still accepting that I’m not perfect and that life is simply a mix of what I might call good and bad, where I can, I am noticing and being intentional about my impact – on myself and on others. I am shifting and making adjustments when I notice words and thoughts that limit me so that I can respond versus react.

Take time to pause and connect with what’s important. 

One of the ways that I support myself in finding the words that serve best is taking time to pause, time to connect with what’s important. That might be time with my husband, Jim, walking together side-by-side in nature. That might be time with my girlfriends, sharing our experiences and connecting with each other. That might be reading something inspiring and reflecting on its meaning.

And, that might be practicing mindfulness meditation with my lovely friend Katiuscia Berretta. Over the past several years, I’ve had the honor of learning about mindfulness and the neuroscience of meditation from her. We just completed leading together our fifth mindfulness practice series at work. One of the beautiful gifts of this series was a guided practice Kat led that was focused on resilience and equanimity – it invited us to be like a bamboo tree (which was inspired by Osho’s Be A Hollow Bamboo). I’ll close with a poem that came to me after our practice together. May it invite the possibility of equanimity for you…

BE like the bamboo tree
by Vicki L. Flaherty

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your roots deep in the earth,
enduring cold winter storms.
Accepting the snow on your branches
until you can no longer.
When the white heaviness falls away,
let it go – and gently bend back.
Resilient, now stronger.

BE like the bamboo tree.
You stretch toward the sky,
standing strong in the summer sun.
Swaying in the warm breeze,
to mother nature’s song.
As the light shines on you,
receive it – and grow.
Resilient, now taller.

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your branches hollow.
No judgements or beliefs inside.
Just this openness inside you.
A place of deep knowing,
where nothing is needed.
Present with this spaciousness.
Resilient, now fully awake.

Related posts:


* I took this photo of a clover flower over the summer when on a trip to Michigan.

You always have an impact


This week is the 10-year anniversary of my ‘blogging’ about leading with intention. I put blogging in quotes because when I started, I was emailing a monthly communique, rather than posting to a blog.

To celebrate the occasion I thought I would share my original communique, mailed on 10/30/2007, following a session I co-led with Therese Kienast and Diana Bing at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchanges in Paris, France and Orlando, Florida, called Unleashing Your Possibilities. The foundation of the experience was radical leadership.

So, here it is…

Set aside a few minutes for YOU!  Read this note and try the exercises at the end.  Go ahead, take a small step today that will move you forward in creating what you want and unleashing your possibilities!

You Always Have an Impact

Do you know that you always have an impact, even when you do nothing–sometimes especially when you do nothing.  You affect and influence meetings and decisions.  YOU!   What’s created during a meeting when no one responds to questions or comments?  What happens to the energy when no one is really present and engaged?

It just takes one person to speak up in order to create a shift.  Have you experienced that?  A meeting is dull and blah, blah, blah and then all of a sudden someone says something and people start tuning in and sharing their ideas?  It can be anyone that speaks up, the lowest paid person on the team to the highest level manager or executive.  Sometimes people wait for the appointed, formal leader to show the way.  But, you know what? Sometimes that leader actually needs YOU to show the way.  As employees and human beings, we have full permission to speak up and share our ideas–in fact, it is our responsibility.  It’s part of what’s expected.

And, speaking up can create a shift in different directions—what you say can pull a meeting down when the point is off task, or when what’s shared is critical rather than constructive.  OR what you say can lift a meeting when the point is spot on and moves the agenda forward.  Be conscious of the tone that you set and the shifts that you create, and choose from your heart.

Something to Think About

Consider the impact you have and how you want to show up…

  • What impact are you having?
  • How are you showing up and what is it creating?
  • Are you creating what you want with the way you show up?
  • Is there something different you want to create?
  • What can you do to create something different?

Try This!

  1. Right now, think about the last meeting you were in and consider these questions:
  • How did you show up?
  • What was your experience of the meeting?
  • How do you think your presence influenced the meeting?
  • How could you have created something different?
  1. Pick a meeting you are attending tomorrow.

Before the meeting, get clear on:

  • What do I want the meeting to be like?
  • How do I want to show up?
  • What do I want to create for the meeting?

During the meeting, tune in to these considerations:

  • What is happening for me right now? How do I feel?  What do I want?  Am I engaged and interested?  When am I tuning out, and why?
  • What is happening for others in the meeting? Do others appear interested?  Are they engaged?
  • How is the meeting going? What’s it like?  What kind of experience is it?

After the meeting, ask yourself the questions you considered in Step 1.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Gail Blanke

 * I took this photo in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. My husband, Jim, and I had an impact on the sheep grazing in the pasture as we passed on the stony path. Right after this, all three ran in the opposite direction. ;]