Regular recovery is essential for being resilient


Bouncing back from the many daily challenges we face doesn’t just happen. Moving through change with grace is not something that lucky people are fortunate enough to experience. No, responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances is something that we have to choose.

Responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances

is something that we have to choose.

To be resilient, it’s important to incorporate habits of wellbeing into our lives. Scientific evidence continues to show how our brains have ‘neuroplasticity’ and can be shaped, for example, by learning a new skill. We can design our lives so that the intentions we set, the choices we make, and the actions we take support us in being our best with regularity.

I’ve been reading Sink, Float or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance, It Happens by Choice and learning about habits related to mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery, and the interplay among them. It’s one thing to know that a positive attitude, moving throughout the day, eating healthy foods, and sleeping ~8 hours a night, for example, are good for you, it’s another to apply that knowledge on a consistent basis.


Moving like the energizer bunny 24/7/365 leads to burnout. At some point we become just plain exhausted.  We become physically tired, emotionally drained, and less able to cope. Our bodies were not made to sprint marathons! They were meant to expend energy and then to rest – more like a series of sprints with rest and recovery between each one. The optimal performance strategy is to vary the magnitude of our energy in cycles of peak performance followed by rest.

Consider these questions to enhance your awareness, the first step in creating personal change:

  • How do I feel throughout the day?
  • When is my energy is low? high?
  • How do I respond when I am tired? rested?
  • What can I do to improve my sleep?
  • What do I (can I) do to maintain energy and focus throughout the day?

Ever notice that you are tired, but you push on, believing that if you just do this one more thing, you’ll be in a better place? If you’re like me, that doesn’t usually work out so well and often leads to one more thing and then errors and inefficiencies.  Sometimes, of course, we are in a demanding situation that we cannot just step away from. Engaging in high performance strategies can support our moving through high pressure moments as effectively as possible.


Try these strategies to move through high pressure moments:

  • Take a few intentional breaths – either a long inhale to energize or a long exhale to relax, to refocus.
  • Drink some water – our brains are 80% water and when they are not optimally hydrated, our cognitive function can be reduced leading to reduced cognitive function and ‘fuzzy’ thinking.
  • Eat something nutritious – a fun way is to see how many colors you can include.
  • Do a few stretches  which can enhance your creativity and boost your energy and mood (go here for some suggestions for moves you can do at your desk).

The number #1 thing we can do to strengthen our ability to move through a challenging day is to get enough sleep, which for most people is ~7-8 hours per night. Research shows there’s a link between sleep and effective leadership, yet 4 out of 10 (43%) leaders report not getting enough sleep at least four nights a week.

Consider how much your job requires you to perform the following activities, which are especially impacted by lack of sleep.

  • Focus and avoid distractions, while, at the same time, see the big picture
  • Recognize patterns, generate creative ideas and effectively solve problems
  • See different perspectives by encoding, consolidating, and retrieving new information
  • Weigh the significance of different inputs accurately, avoid tunnel vision, and minimize cognitive bias
  • Help, understand and trust others, interpret their emotions, and stay positive while engaging with them

Didn’t get enough sleep and struggling? Consider a short power nap. A consistent recommendation is to sleep no more than 20 minutes. Just sitting at your desk and resting with your eyes closed in the dark for 5 minutes can be a pretty powerful recharge, too.



If you like this post, you might also be interested in these blogs:


* The photographs were taking in my backyard. The closing image was created from a photo I took at Dilek National Park in Guzelcamli, Turkey.


Mindset is the engine that powers success

Leadership Quote4

Have you ever done something you once thought you couldn’t do? When I was younger, I believed I couldn’t run a marathon. I thought: “Only ‘real’ runners do marathons.”, or “My knees can’t handle it.”, or a million other limiting beliefs repeated in my head. On my 30-year anniversary of running, I realized I am a real runner, and that if I want to run a marathon, I just have this one life to do it, and I’m not getting any younger. My beliefs had limited what I thought I could do, which kept me from taking certain actions. Then actions and results I’d taken over time (i.e., a long history of running) shifted my beliefs and thoughts about what’s possible, leading to different actions and results – I successfully ran that marathon.


“It is better to believe than to disbelieve;

in so doing you are bringing everything

 to the realm of possibility.”

– Albert Einstein

Our beliefs and thoughts determine our actions and the results we achieve. In turn, the results we get affect our beliefs. There’s a powerful interplay between what happens mentally (what we believe and think) and what happens physically (the actions we take and results we achieve). What we think – the words and tone we use, the stories we tell ourselves – has a direct impact on how we behave. We can move from the impossible to the possible with a shift in our thoughts and beliefs.

 “We become what we think about all day long.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do we shift our beliefs and thoughts? We pay attention what’s happening in our minds. What we say in our heads all day provides a kind of feedback that we can use to make adjustments in our behavior. And, we employ practices to help us move in the direction we want to go. For example, we can reframe our thoughts and focus our attention. And do it in a way that builds a habit by consistently applying the practices.

When we notice unproductive or negative self-talk, we can REFRAME our thinking, adjusting the words and tone to be of greater service to ourselves. Reframing involves changing the ‘frame’ through which we view an experience, while leaving the facts of the situation alone.  Reframing can help us be more confident or inspired, for example.

“Your own words are the bricks and mortar

of the dreams you want to realize.

Behind every one word flows energy.”

– Sonia Choquette

I’m on a mission to remove the word “overwhelm” from my vocabulary. I’ve noticed myself saying “I am overwhelmed” when I have a lot to do. When I feel like I have more tasks to complete than I possibly can in the available time, I am taking a deep breath, with an especially long relaxing outbreath and inviting a new perspective in my self-talk: “Yes, right now there’s a of opportunity to do stuff that makes a difference. What’s the most important thing for me to complete right now? Let’s start there and then revisit to determine what’s next…” I am using the word ‘overwhelm’ as a trigger to take a deep breath, and then the deep breath as a reminder to invite a new perspective. By doing this each time I notice, I’m creating a habit that shapes a mindset in service of positive action and results.

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

When we notice that our thoughts are scattered, we can FOCUS and direct our thoughts, which can lead to outcomes such as greater productivity and better decision making. When I notice I am multi-tasking to get as many items off my to-do list as possible by the end of the day, I invite myself to be intentional about what I’m doing by shifting my body into what I call an ‘awake posture’ (learn more here). Shifting the experience in my body invites me to set my mind by clearing my head and consciously refocusing my attention.

“Powerful people decide where, how and what

they are going to use their precious energy for.

Whatever you’re giving your attention becomes your intention.”

– Therese Kienast

Question to contemplate:

  • What beliefs do I hold that may limit what’s possible?
  • What thoughts consistently run through my mind? What stories do I repeatedly tell myself?
  • What words and tone do I use in my self-talk?
  • What one small action might I try to tune in more to my thoughts and beliefs?
  • How might I grow awareness of my breath? Of my body? Of the interplay of my physical and mental being?
  • How might reframing or focusing practices support my success?
  • Where do I place my attention? What does that say about my intentions?

* I took the photo in Baltimore Bay in County Cork Ireland.

small steps toward success breed confidence


Great leadership depends on confidence. Great leaders are conscious of their power, believe that they will respond in the most effective way, and carry a quality of certainty that is sensed by others. Confident leaders inspire confidence in their teams. Confident leaders point in the direction of possibility and start by taking steps toward the seemingly impossible. They learn from their failures and build on prior successes.

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”             – Theodore Roosevelt

Confidence is not something that you have or don’t have. Confidence waxes and wanes. Confidence can depend on the circumstances and may be more challenging when facing something novel. Confidence can depend on how we are feeling physically and emotionally, with lows more likely when we are not taking care of ourselves. Confidence can depend on our mindset and our ability to shape our thinking positively toward action.

“Self-confidence is the memory of success.” – David Storey

Confidence builds as we experiment, discover and learn. Success – even the smallest instance – breeds confidence. Taking small steps toward what we value and consider important builds confidence. It is quite possible to move from hardly knowing anything to being quite proficient, even an expert. Take driving, for example. You don’t just get in a car one day and become a great driver. Learning to drive requires a desire to drive and lots of learning. It’s amazing, really, what consistent practice does: you can move to the point that you know something so well you can do it in autopilot.

“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” – Unknown

Where in your life would you like to be more successful? Get started by building a clear vision for your success, taking small steps in the direction of your success to build your confidence, and creating a support structure to enable your success. One small step at a time, fully supported, and fueled with openness, curiosity, and courage, you’ll be building the pathway to success, and with it the confidence you need to stay the course. Once you’re in motion, the hardest part is over!

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Clear vision: If you don’t know what you want or what will make you happy or successful, how do you move toward it? Life and other people have a way of moving you along. The risk is that you end up somewhere that makes them happy and not you. To have greater clarity about what you want – your aspirations, dreams, goals in work and life – you have to take your foot off the gas petal along the always-on freeway. Clarity comes by slowing down long enough to tune in to ourselves and listen to our hearts and minds, and to sense what is happening, where we are and where we want to go. Seeing where you are going helps you feel stronger and more courageous about taking steps in that direction.

“Success is not a big step in the future; success is a small step taken right now.” – Unknown

Small Steps: With your goal in mind, identify what one step you can take right now to move toward it. It doesn’t have to be big – in fact, it should be a small step. The idea is to build on small successes. Defining that first step – or other subsequent steps – too broadly could have the opposite effect you’re going for. Instead of feeling confident about your progress, you might eel inadequate and defeated.

“If you can conquer your physical and mental wellbeing, you can conquer anything in the world.” – Unknown

Body care: Feeling sure and confident increases when our minds are in optimal condition. And how we are in our minds is greatly affected by how we are in our bodies. (I learned this from Rolf Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat and Meditations on Intention and Being.) I’ve found a very powerful way of shifting to a place of greater confidence is by pausing periodically throughout the day to notice my posture. Often, I’m hunkered over my keyboard, shoulders tense, my chest and stomach scrunched. Noticing this, I move to a more relaxed and open position (learn more about what I’ve come to call my ‘awake posture’).  Eating and hydrating properly, incorporating movement into our day, and allowing recovery time are also critical ways for enhancing our performance – and thus, boosting our confidence. (Read more of Dr. Jacqueline Lee’s tips on sustaining peak performance.)

What one small step toward success will you take today to boost your confidence? A first simple step might be to schedule time on your calendar – time when you push the pause button, sense what’s happening, gain insight, and set intentions. Start small – it could be 5 minutes at the start or end of a day or during a mid-day break. Some questions you might consider are provided below. Take a question a week and see where you end up at the end of a month.

  • How do I define success?
  • What does success look like?
  • Why is success important?
  • How will I know I’ve achieved success?


This blog is inspired by reading Fearless at Work: Timeless Teaching for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, who sees confidence as “no matter what work offers up – success or failure, happiness or disappointment, recognition or indifference – we can unshakably rely on ourselves to be self-assured, resourceful, and at our ease.” What I love about Michael Carroll’s books is that I can read through one by focusing on a chapter at a time, usually using one a week to inspire new ideas and habits (Another of his books is Awake at Work, and Mindful Leader is on my what’s next wish list.)

Dive Deeper

You might be interested in:

  • Inc magazine’s feature by Peter Economy: 5 Powerful ways to Boost Your Confidence, including being prepared by learning as much as you can in your areas of expertise and creating “great lists” of things you are thankful for and things you have accomplished.
  • Leo Babauta’s list of confidence boosters on his Zen Habits: Breathe site: 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence, which includes starting something you’ve been procrastinating about, setting goals, and focusing on solutions.

Related posts

  1. Sustaining Confidence
  2. Shifting Our Victim Mindset

* I took this photo of a dianthus in my backyard this spring, and I shared it here because to me it has a confidence about it.

The Invisible Touch


“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”

~William James

This past week I received an email from someone who attended a session I led on being social in a digital world. She was thanking me for something I said which inspired her to write a blog that she was sharing with me. While I certainly had hoped back in March to influence the group by sharing with them, I didn’t fully realize how something I would say might truly inspire someone to action.

As I reflected on what happened, I sensed this ‘invisible touch’. I saw how the way that I showed up, the words I chose, the intentions I set came together to reach someone in a way that I didn’t predict.

Six email for Jun17

Read Six’s thought-provoking and inspiring blog: Human evolution – For our next chapter let’s reinvent our humanity.

Six writes about the power of creativity, adaptability, and empathy as sources of change and evolution, and she invites us to embrace those aspects of our humanity that make us unique. Part of what makes us special as humans is our ability to engage with each other, to form relationships, to co-create together. How we show up and seize the opportunity of our interactions is truly a special power that we all possess.

I’m reminded that every interaction is an opportunity and that being present as we engage with others provides the nutrients for building strong relationships. It’s not just the words we use or the visible actions we take, there is an unseen energy in the intentions, attitudes and beliefs we hold and in how we carry ourselves. Sometimes a kind of ‘magic’ happens when two people come together, open up to possibility, and trust each other and the space they share. This magic can take us to places and outcomes grander than we could ever have imagined.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

 ~Jackie Robinson

Can you recall a ‘magic’ moment where something invisible happened when you were with someone? Have you ever been made aware of how something you said or did shaped the actions of someone else? How you see your power to influence and shape the world – for yourself, and for others?

Here’s to truly being present for the magic of the moment and fully experiencing what’s possible when two people come together. May you grace others with the invisible touch. May you receive the invisible touch.

* Image: I took this photo at Newhall Refinery on my recent visit to California. I saw something magical about the 3 vases sitting together on the table. Together they created something that inspired me – they touched me.

The Truth About Feedback


When people talk about feedback, sometimes there’s a subtle, underlying assumption that it’s about telling you ‘the truth’ you need to hear – the hard, constructive stuff that will make you better. Under that assumption is often another assumption that there is some specific way that we should be, that there is some absolute about how one should behave.

Feedback invites us to be kind and caring

towards ourselves, others and the environment within which we exist.

Have you ever heard someone say that ‘feedback is a gift’? To give it as it if were a present requires holding an underlying, corresponding positive intention for the receiver. Without feelings of openness and generosity, feedback feels anything but constructive, and can, in fact, be truly destructive. Feedback invites us to be kind and caring towards ourselves, others and the environment within which we exist.

Feedback is primarily about listening to what’s happening within and around us…

about seeking input to inform our thoughts, intentions, and actions.

It’s easy to get fooled into thinking that feedback is a process to follow, especially when organizations create processes and tools to support building a ‘feedback culture’. Feedback is primarily about listening to what’s happening within and around us. Feedback is about seeking input to inform our thoughts, intentions, and actions. It’s about sensing and responding.

Feedback is always available to us.

Feedback is always available to us. Sometimes we are just moving so fast, stuck in auto-pilot, multi-tasking and lost in action.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity

to look inside of ourselves for feedback.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity to look inside of ourselves for feedback. If we pause – even for a breath – we might discover how we are feeling, what we are experiencing, and what that information means to us. It’s so easy to forget that our emotions and bodily experience – not just our thoughts and the actions they trigger – are available to guide us in being our best.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity

to look outside of ourselves for insight.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity to look outside of ourselves for insight. We can intentionally move our attention to someone we’re engaged with and be curious: what are they experiencing, what are they really saying, and how can that inform me and what I need to do right now? We can sense what’s happening in our surroundings to help us know what’s needed. We can explore the energy in the room, or the culture within our team or the organizations within which we exist. How might what’s happening in the broader context provide me with an enlightened perspective or guide me in knowing what’s needed to move things forward in a positive, strategic and helpful direction?

Incoming information simply provides a point of view

that enriches our perspective.

It’s easy to take incoming information as ‘the truth’, whether it’s from within ourselves, from others, or from the environment around us. Incoming information simply provides a point of view to enrich our perspective. What someone else shares with us, for example, our leader or colleagues giving advice about how our performance might have been even better, represents their truth – their gift is sharing what they feel or think. We gain insight into what they see from their vantage point, based on their experience and frame of reference. Receiving their truth can tell us as much about them as it does about ourselves. Likewise, when we give our feedback to someone, we are sharing our reality of a situation; it is merely information available to help fill out a picture. Just as someone else’s truth is not ‘the truth’, our truth is not ‘the truth’.

We can take someone else’s truth, particularly those in a position of authority, as ‘the truth’, and in the process, get out of integrity with ourselves, replacing our truth with their truth. The opportunity is in taking both perspectives and opening to an informed, broader view.

Want to go deeper? I invite you to reflect on the questions below. You might journal or start a conversation about them.

  • What does feedback mean to you?
  • What assumptions are underneath your definition of feedback?
  • How do you seek feedback?
  • When and how do you give feedback?
  • What does your feedback tell you about yourself?

Other related posts you might be interested in:

*  I took the photo that opens this post on a rainy day at Playa Fuentes, Cantabria, Spain. I selected this image of a flower because plants provide an example of responding to feedback in the form of sunshine or water.

Diggin’ me diggin’ you


On my morning run today, one of my favorite artists, Martin Sexton, was singing to me through my headphones: “Diggin’ me diggin’ you”. His catchy tune added a little pep to my step. And, it got me thinking about how good it feels when I focus my energy on others. Directing my attention toward someone else and fully appreciating them gives me a feeling of connectedness that reminds me I’m alive.

If others feel like I do when someone gives me their full attention, then diggin’ someone else is a delicious win-win. When someone pays full attention to what I am saying, tuning into what I am feeling, I sense that they care about me as a person. It feels like they “see” me and appreciate who I am, not just what I can do.

“Leaders who succeed are those who are humble enough to be able to see beyond themselves and perceive the true capacities and capabilities of their people.”

~Paul Hubbard

I recently read a book recommended by an awesome colleague called The Outward Mindset – Seeing Beyond Ourselves: How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations by The Arbinger Institute. It’s an invitation to enhance our connectedness and be more inclusive, not just because it feels good, but because it unlocks collaboration, innovation and responsiveness that leads to enhanced performance. The book explores how our assumptions about the way the world works impacts our daily actions.

 “Mindset drives and shapes all that we do – how we engage with others and how we behave in every moment and situation.”

–The Outward Mindset

The ‘diggin’ me’ part might suggest an element of an inward focus. What’s important is that the diggin’ me is about my focus on you. The essence is introspective and self-observation, rather than what The Arbinger Institute calls an inward mindset, where we are primarily concerned with others’ impact on us rather than our impact on them.

The awesome colleague who shared the book with me is Jennifer Paylor. She is one of those people who gives herself to you. She truly listens to you, she completely connects with what you are saying, she ‘sees’ you. And her outward mindset enables her to see possibilities that others don’t.

Influenced by The Arbinger Institute’s first book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, together we created an simple engagement approach we call “PALs” that is used in parts of our delivery and services organization. The foundational principle is “seeing people as people” starting from an outward mindset, consciously placing attention on the person you are interacting with. Two supporting components include awareness (not just of the other person but also what’s going on with you and in your surroundings) and listening (which inevitably leads to powerful questions). Just the simplest of small steps focused outwardly has incredible transformational power. When someone has become a PAL, not only colleagues but also clients notice. We’ve seen the PALs approach shift relationships from transactional to co-creative, strengthen how teams engage, and enhance performance and results.

Today’s workplace hinges more than ever on our relationships. Not only how we interact in more fluid and agile ways within and across our teams, but also how we engage with our clients and partners to make what seemed impossible possible. Now might be just the right time to open to the feel-good possibilities of diggin’ ourselves diggin’ those around us. What do you think?


Another great read from The Arbinger Institute: The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict


Check out Martin:


I’m also blogging over at the IBM Jobs recruitment blog:

Leadership Series 

Mindfulness Series 

And I’ve started a new blog featuring weekly quotes:

Where Possibility Awaits

The Path to Social Eminence in a Digital World is Value Creation


GBS Bee SchoolTaken with Lorraine Rapuano, GBS Bee School Program Manager, and Ramin Mobasseri, ‘the social guy’, a faculty member for the program.


Last week I had the honor of delivering an informal lunchtime keynote talk on ‘social eminence’ at IBM’s Bee School, a 4-day class to equip the IBM Global Business Services workforce with core skills, knowledge, and tools to best serve our clients.

I started at IBM as a business transformation consultant nearly 20 years ago, and have always worked from home, so for me engaging socially has been, quite simply, the way to get work done. Internally, I was an early adopter of our IBM Connections social business platform to engage with colleagues, using it to connect and follow colleagues from across the business, sharing and reacting to content shared by others, collaborating on projects and building professional communities for everything from specific work projects to special interests like career development, leadership and mindfulness.

When it comes to using external digital social platforms such as facebook and twitter and LinkeIn for professional purposes, I am much more of a novice. I use facebook for personal purposes, although about half of my friends are now fellow IBMers and these days the content I share that gets the most ‘likes’ tends to be work-related. I have a twitter account that is primarily fed by my WordPress blogs (Leading with Intention, This Abundantly Delicious Life, Mostly My Heart Sings, and Where Possibility Awaits). Only recently have I realized the power of LinkedIn and am making more time to engage there.

To prepare for my session, I reached out to peers in my internal network who I consider to be socially eminent in the area of leveraging social tools. I got some great input that I curated into a toolkit for my colleagues. However, the lists of steps to take and ways to engage to build one’s eminence weren’t sitting right with me for some reason.

It wasn’t until I was flying home that I found the answer to that feeling I had. It came like a tornado siren in my ear as I read The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves – How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations by The Arbinger Institute. The message that was important was not “how to be eminent” – an inward mindset, but rather “how to create value” – an outward mindset.

Being social in the digisphere is about collaboration to create value.

Engaging in the digisphere is about collaboration to create value, versus sharing to shine the spotlight on yourself. When we engage on digital social platforms, internally within our own organizations or externally on the increasingly popular tools for personal or professional collaboration, value can be created for ourselves (for example, a need for self-expression), for others (for example, support discovery and learning), for our organizations (for example, innovative ideas), and for something bigger (for example, ending cancer). One little tweet can serve all those purposes.

What I love about using digital social platforms is how I can learn from and get help from others, share ideas and get reaction and feedback, create and design with others, and see what’s happening outside my little world. I think it’s really cool how great ideas come from unexpected places, like through the weak links in our network – that is, from people that are connectd to people we know. (Read more about the social serendipity effect by Jim Claussen.)

I’ve always believed that first we must take care of ourselves if we are to take care of others. And that applies here as well.  To add value for others and something bigger than ourselves starts with ourselves. There IS an internal focus that’s needed to support a powerful outward mindset. Asking questions such as these can help us gain clarity about who we are and the value we create:

  • What do I know?
  • What am I working on?
  • What do I have expertise in?
  • What are my signature capabilities?
  • What am I learning?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What energizes and inspires me?

There’s value in being thoughtful and intentional about what you share and how you contribute, and asking questions about your sharing and engagement such as:

  • What do I want to create and why?
  • What value will my sharing create?
  • How might I best contribute?
  • What personal needs and objectives am I meeting?
  • What needs and objectives do others have?

What I’ve discovered is that social eminence is a by-product of good social engagement, not the center piece. When we stay focused on bringing our best to the needs, objectives and challenges of others, organizations, and the world, being known for our value happens naturally.

Social eminence is a by-product of good social engagement, not the center piece.

Ultimately, what you discover as people begin to associate you with value around something specific, they want to connect with you, they start sending you things that you’re interested in, and they might even invite you to engage in cool things with them.


NOTE: The opinions, views, and perspectives shared in this blog are mine and are not intended to necessarily reflect those of IBM.

Setting the tone


Our power as leaders comes from how we show up. How we behave, what we say, the energy we bring to each interaction and situation are often underappreciated tools for moving us toward desired outcomes. As leaders, every day we have opportunities to set the tone for our teams and our organization. According to the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, to ‘set the tone’ is to establish a particular mood or character for something. When something someone does or says sets the tone for an event or activity, it establishes the way the event or activity will continue, especially the mood of the people involved.tone1

Setting the tone shapes what’s possible. Some positive ways that leaders set the tone and influence others include acknowledging individuals, respecting differences, showing personal interest, being inclusive, celebrating progress, inviting experimentation, encouraging learning, listening and being curious, inviting others’ ideas, having an open-mind, asking questions, being calm, sharing information, being transparent, and openly communicating.tone2

Tone is set by the physical actions we take (or fail to take). As leaders, our every action or inaction is measured against the standards we communicate. If we say it’s important to prioritize, yet we continue to add new work into the funnel, our team experiences a disconnect (and likely burnout). If we say our team is empowered, yet we continue to tell them what we want them to do rather than guide their direction, trust their brilliance and be curious about what they will create, our team quits rising toward excellence. If we tell our teams that work-life balance is important, yet we don’t take our vacation and we are sending emails over the weekend expecting an immediate response, the expectation gets set that we need to be ‘on’ for work all the time. We lack integrity when what we do is not in alignment with what we say. Of course, we are human and that means we are imperfect, and values and behavior won’t always be in sinc. The goal is a level of consistency that shows we are serious about what we want to be creating.tone3

Tone is also set with the words we use. Words are a way of expressing ourselves and describing our experiences, and they are filled with emotion. Emotions get tied to words through our experiences, and with time and repetition, some words can have very profound effect. We can actually shape how we feel – and how those around us feel – by intentionally choosing particular words. Instead of saying “I’m fine.” when asked how we are doing, if we say “I feel great!”, we begin to create something very different.

Our mindset and attitudes are revealed through our words. Where we have our attention, what we value, and what we are afraid of or excited about are revealed through our choice of words. Our teams can see through us to our hopes and fears just by listening to us. The question is, are we aware of what we are projecting out into the world? Are we focused on what’s working or what’s not working? Do we see problems to be fixed or opportunities to create anew? Do we hold back expecting perfection or lean in and open to experimentation?tone4

How we speak our words is another key ingredient in tone setting. We set the tone not only through our choice of words, but also by how we speak them. It’s as much what we say as how we say it. The energy we bring stems from our own emotions and feelings, and in turn creates emotions and feelings in those who are in our presence. Have you ever been in a meeting and felt the mood shift when someone shared something deeply personal? Sometimes our body language and energy are inconsistent with our choice of words, and this can lead to a breakdown in trust due to perceived lack of honesty. Have you ever heard someone say one thing yet their body language or tone of voice did not match the words (e.g., someone standing with their hands across their chest and speaking in a commanding voice who says that openness is valued)?tone5

How often are we even conscious of how we are shaping our own and others’ experience through our actions, words, and energy? How often do we pause, even momentarily, to be clear in our own mind about the outcome we want – for ourselves, for others, for the overall situation? The path to setting the tone is being intentional – pausing to gather feedback, to gain self-insight, to get clarity about what we want to be creating, and then to choosing and acting in alignment with the vision we have.

Perhaps you want to explore these possibilities* for being intentional about tone setting along with me?

  1. Get to know each individual on your team so that you can hone your tone in ways that most resonate.
  2. Develop a distinct and consistent tone of voice that illustrates your personality.
  3. Explore word choices, favorite expressions and personal stories that communicate values you want to impart.
  4. Identify images that help you connect with the emotional element of your tone.
  5. Consider the outcomes you are committed to achieving and the difference the organization’s work makes.
  6. Explore level of formality, leaning toward a conversational tone if you want to bring humanity to your workplace and build personal connection.
  7. Be consistent in using your tone across all channels (meetings, blogs, chats).
  8. Practice so that words come out naturally and your energy supports your message. When writing, read your message out loud to refine the tone.
  9. Slow down enough that you can consider what you say, rather than just blurting out what comes to your mind.
  10. Put yourself in your team member’s shoes and see how what you want to say feels, and then adjust accordingly.
  11. Consider what will add value in the moment, and rather than jumping in to fix a problem or focus on what’s important to you, be present and identify what the situation calls for.
  12. Use gratitude to invite kind, feel-good emotions that support a positive frame of mind.
  13. Open to feedback – from team members, peers, clients…really with anyone whom you interact.
  14. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Don’t forget to listen to the words you use with yourself. Notice your strengths and appreciate what is working well as you make enhancements.

* This list was developed based in part on advice provided in these articles:


What did I learn?


Tropical flowers growing at our friend’s house

I have been taking a week-long vacation some place warm during the last week of the year for 17 years now with my husband Jim. Initially we went someplace new every year (e.g., Hawaii, Bahamas, Jamaica), and then we found a place we love on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca – specifically in a little town called San Agustinillo which sits right between the towns of Mazunte and Zipolite. A little slice of heaven.

Since we’d been 10 times before, we had established some routines and patterns. For example, we always stay at Posada la Barca (“PLB” for short), a simple 8-room building tucked into a big hill overlooking a gorgeous beach. And, we liked to hang out under the palapas in the lime green Adirondack chairs at Mexico Lindo – we could lounge there with a good book all day every day on our holiday, watching the waves one after the other roll into the beach and listening to the mesmerizing sound of them crashing into the sand.


View from our PLB hangout at sunset

You’ve probably heard the phrase “All good things come to an end”? Well, Mexico Lindo decided to close its restaurant! Oh, no! We like our routines…

Sometimes things just point you in the right direction. For us, it took another unfortunate occurrence to help us make a new discovery. On our second night, when walking the beach after dinner, Jim somehow tore his calf muscle. Oh, no!

Overnight we iced Jim’s calf every 3 hours, limited his movement, and kept his leg elevated. Having no experience with this kind of thing and uncertain we were taking the proper actions for healing, in the morning I went next door to get help from our neighbors. They pulled up some information on the internet (we were electronics-free) that validated we were doing all the right things. Plus, their guest was recovering from a serious hamstring pull and advised us as well. And, the man who works for our friends made a walking stick from a small tree behind their house, which supported Jim getting around. Even so, his mobility was limited.


Late afternoon whimsical clouds and golden light

You’ve probably also heard the phrase, “Every ending is a new beginning”? Well, all the years of staying at PLB, and we were just now, on our 11th trip, discovering how wonderful it is to hang out under the palapa outside of our room! We had easy access to our stuff, and, even more wonderful, we had the company of the four-legged furry kind. Every day Celeste, the PLB owner’s dog, joined us under the palapa. (If you are a dog lover, you know what a delicious gift this is.)


Our PLB hangout, complete with Celeste’s company

While hanging out one day, Jim and I had a conversation about exploiting your experiences to maximize your learning. We agreed that reflective questions encourage being conscious of what’s happening. Being inquisitive, you can help yourself take-away the most from what happens. So, it’s with this curiosity that I now find myself asking “What did I learn?” from our 2016 holiday trip:

  1. Shaking up routines can lead to delicious new discoveries.
  2. Even when ‘bad’ stuff happens, with the right attitude, you can enjoy the experience.
  3. Staying close to ‘home’ can be the perfect way to rest and relax.
  4. Asking for help makes things easier and can be reassuring.


Playa Rincon – have walking stick, will enjoy the beach!

Other questions Jim proposed for consideration include:

  • What was difficult? (Letting go of expectations and truly going with the flow of what is actually happening)
  • What was easy? (Finding joy in the beauty and kindness surrounding us)

Do you ask yourself questions to explore your experience more deeply? Are there other techniques you use to learn from what happens? I’d love to hear your questions and techniques!

May 2017 be filled with moments of presence where we open to the awareness now and invite insight to guide us.

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Happy New Year!

Here’s to an abundantly delicious year ahead. . .


  • I took the photos in this post in San Agustinillo, Mexico.
  • For more photos of our holiday, check out our photo album HERE.
  • For dog lovers, you might enjoy our adventures with Celeste – click HERE.
  • You might be interested in these other posts as you start a fresh new year:


Our former hangout at Mexico Lindo

Being Intentional

Intentionality blog Mexico vacation photo

Can you answer the question: “What do I want to be creating in my life?”

For many of us, the answer is no, or ‘sort of’. Having clarity about what we want is not easy. We don’t typically slow down enough to know what we really want. We are pulled along by what others want from or for us – our partners, our children, our co-workers , our leaders – and by our human needs  –  to eat, sleep, move – and by the demands of the 24X7 world we live in, where something is always inviting us to give it our attention.

“A more intentional life purposely slows down enough to enjoy the very process of living more intentionally.”

— Tsh Oxenreider

I remember being asked the question “What do you want?” in a workshop and being surprised that I did not have an answer. At the time, with encouragement, I discovered that I wanted to ‘find my joy’. Until that moment, I didn’t know it was lost, and I didn’t really know what that meant. It’s taken 11 years of consistent curiosity and exploration to begin to have an answer. I want to create alignment; that is, I want to be in integrity, living my life and doing my work in a way that honors who I am. My answer has evolved with time, and I’m sure will continue to take shape.

So how do you create greater clarity and live more intentionally?

Intentionality blog Mexico
First, carve out time to do it. Having a clear direction doesn’t just happen. It has to be important enough to you that you are willing to make time to focus on it. Once you’ve decided you want to understand what is most important to you in your life, determine how much you are willing to give to get it. Is it an hour every weekend? Is it 15 minutes every Friday? Is it 5 minutes every day? It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. It does have to be time when you are undisturbed, time when you can simply be still. Also, you need to give your dreams consistent attention; the more regular your ‘me’ time, the greater your awareness.

“Happily ever after needn’t just exist in fairy tales – all you need to do is take control.”

— Stefan Wissenbach

Being in integrity requires that I have clarity about who I actually am. And, finding the answer to that requires my attention. I take 10-60 minutes each morning to read something inspiring, journal about my fears/feelings/fantasies, practice gentle yoga, and/or meditate. How I start on a given day is influenced by my schedule and the energy of the moment. I find this time is like food or exercise; without it, I don’t feel healthy, and with it, I feel vibrant and alive. It wakes me up and sets a tone for the day.

Intentionality article Mexico
Second, listen to your inner voice. The voice tends to speak when you ask it questions, such as “What is important to me?” and “Why is it important?” Key to living intentionally is building reflection time into your life. If you don’t have a clue about the answer, start by exploring other areas such as “What do I value?”, “What am I good at?”, “What inspires me?”, “What brings me joy?”, “When do I completely lose track of time?”, “What is missing in my life?”

“Listen to your own voice, your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the work, instead of themselves.”

— Leon Brown

I find that personal challenges are powerful engines of self-discovery. “Why does she make me angry?” “Why am I resisting?” “Why am I bored?” “Why am I distracted?” In fact, a breast cancer diagnosis pulled me very deeply into a journey with my emotions. It was by exploring the darkness that I ultimately found greater light. Of course, positive experiences are also great tools for self reflection and insight. I can just as easily consider: “Why was that conversation so uplifting?” “Why do things feel easy and fun right now?”

Intentionality article

Third, visualize what you want to create. Make your desired reality concrete. Envision how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you are doing, where you are, who you are with. Immerse yourself in the experience…what do you see, hear, smell, taste? Recording your vision in some way can help solidify it.

“The simple practice of intentionality. When I do it, my life is different. More purposeful, more consciously lived, more content in any action.”

— Leo Babauta

What you want to create may be big or small, in the present or the future: a feeling, an experience, an impact; a goal for the day, a career aspiration, your legacy. I’ve captured what I want – my vision for something – in varied ways. I love to write so I’ve captured it via informal notes in my journal and as poems. I’ve made collages with magazine cuttings and created word clouds to crystallize my vision. I’ve talked with family and friends about my dreams and shared the future I want to move toward with my teams at work. You may find other ways – perhaps artistic expression such as painting or drawing, or sculpture, or short video. The ways are endless.

Peace sign, Oaxaca, Mexico


*  Photos are from one of my favorite places for quiet reflection – San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico

Previously posted on the Office Worker Health blog: 3 Tips for Building More Intentionality Into Your Life.