The Leader’s Primary Responsibility – A Clear Focus


As this new year gets well underway it is a great opportunity to pause and simply reflect on your leadership role in providing a clear focus for the work. Here are a few questions to support your thinking:

  • What is the focused mission of the year?
  • What outcomes are the most critical to celebrate success in May?
  • What behaviors and actions are you modeling to drive and maintain the focus through the year?
  • In our seminars we speak of the standards and expectations that drive the engine of focus. How clear and precise are the expectations you have articulated for the year?

Each time I have the privilege to be in a district, people are working enormously hard and, commonly, focused in many different directions. One question, “What is the most important focus for your year?” …yields answers like, – “do it all” “high student success” “work in PLC’s” “use data to drive instruction” “make sure no kids fall through the cracks” and the list goes on. The next question asked is to clarify, “And what does that mean to each member of the team?”

As a leader, what will all members of your team say is the most important focus/goal of their work? How are they reflecting on how they are doing, with what data or visible results? Let’s use the example of “working in a PLC,” and consider the questions below.

  • What specifically does that mean you will see and hear when it is occurring?
  • What is the purpose of working in a PLC?
  • What does each member believe is the benefit to themselves working this way?
  • What are the benchmark self-assessments along the way to support the focus?

There may be many things that demand focus.

  • Which 3-5 things will influence the advancement of many goals and targets?
  • What metaphor or visual provides the image of how a few targeted things influence many results?
  • What data impacts many targets- just in the nature of changes made from it?

Without a clear direction, any destination is okay. With a clear direction, people know for certain what to give their motivation and energy to, why it will make a difference, and what makes this destination important to the greater vision and results. You probably are already thinking it may be a good time to lead some team members in a conversation to see where we are in our journey to the destination this year. One thing we know for sure, it will bring greater clarity and results and an accelerated journey.

The Leadership Gift of Hope

“Hopeful individuals, families, organizations, and communities THRIVE!”

The focus of this month’s social media series are 3 Leadership gifts – solitude, resilience, and hope. Previously, we unwrapped the gifts of solitude and resilience. Now, we are ready to find out how this final gift . . . the gift of hope, when added to the previous two, amplifies the possibilities for even more powerful leadership.

A 2nd session I attended at the International Coach Federation was not a new topic. In fact, it’s one we often make light of when people are setting goals. Often, we hear the language, “I hope I will be able to use all the skills I have learned in this seminar” to which we have replied, “Hope is not a strategy.” Well, as it happens, it IS a strategy and a very powerful one, at that!

With this realization, came the third gift of leadership – the gift of hope. Hope is one of the top predictors of well-being for adults and children. It is part of our core as human beings. And, hope is the leading predictor of satisfaction and happiness in life.

Hope is universal across race, gender, culture, etc. and is not related to income, social status, intelligence, or morality. Hope can be measured. Shane Lopez, in Making Hope Happen, speaks of the beliefs of High Hope People.

High Hope People Believe

  1. The future will be better than the present.
  2. I have the power to make it so.
  3. There are many paths to my goals.
  4. None of them is free of obstacles.

What was really exciting in the session was the presenters’ connection to the neuroscience of hope and trust. Guess what! It matches what we have learned about SCARF and the importance of safety for the brain to be a “hopeful brain”.

Hope Theory contends that there is a distinction between Will Power and Way Power and that it takes both for the emergence of hope. One without the other is merely a wish. Perhaps, that is why we said hope is not a strategy. Both “will power” and “way power” are required for it to become an expectation for goal attainment.

Let’s Make it Personal

Think of a time when you lost hope. How did you know? What did you do to regain it? Who, if anyone, supported you in regaining your hope?

Leadership and Hope
Lopez says, “A leader’s personal hope is a public resource.” Because hope is a personal philosophy, the leader is in a unique position of influence holding the potential to build hope in others. Many of the convocation speeches given by Superintendents as our school year began offered a vision of hope focusing on the future, speaking about will power and way power, building capacity in others to carry the vision of hope forward.

So, these three gifts of leadership – solitude, resilience, and hope showed up unexpectedly in succession creating the opportunity for greater meaning for me. It was only in quietness that I could discover the connection and recognize that these are the attributes of a coach leader – one who reflects, bounces back, and believes in a better world for us all!

How are you using these three gifts – solitude, resilience, and hope?

Reference: Howells, K & Johnston, K (2017) Leveraging The Science Of Hope And Trust In Coaching. International Coach Federation Conference. Washington, DC.

The Leadership Gift of Resilience

“A person who falls and gets back up
is much stronger than a person who never falls.”

The focus of this month’s social media series are 3 Leadership gifts – solitude, resilience, and hope. Previously we unwrapped the gift of solitude. Now, we are ready to discover what the gift of resilience holds for us as leaders.

In August, the International Coach Federation held its Conference in DC. I found myself drawn to a session about resilience in coaching. As the session evolved, what I realized was here was a second leadership gift to go with the gift of solitude. That gift is resilience.

What is Resilience?

While resilience means different things to different people, the definition offered was this:

“Resilience is one’s ability to remain flexible in our thoughts feelings, and behaviors when faced by a disruption or extended periods of pressure, so that we emerge from difficulty stronger, wiser, and more able.”
Pemberton: Resilience (McGraw Hill, 2015).

Briefly, it’s one’s ability to remain standing. Because resilience is an outcome rather than a thing, it originates from the combination of three things – genetics, childhood experiences, and learning from adversity. No more than 30% is genetics based. Childhood factors include things such as deprivation, the degree to which a child feels safe, whether the child had an adult he/she could count on, etc. Learning from adversity is the greatest influencer of one’s resilience. It’s almost like growing a muscle and the good news is that resilience tends to increase as we get older.

How You Know When Resilience is Low

Indicators that my resilience could be declining may include:

  • A sudden attitude of pessimism
  • A loss of connection with the purpose of my work or life
  • Withdrawal from relationships
  • Outbursts of emotion
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Loss of confidence
  • Changes in my eating or drinking patterns
  • Sleep habits change
  • I discontinue doing what I enjoy
  • It’s hard to make decisions

Three Things to do to Increase Resilience

  1. Recycle – What are the knowledge and skills that you usually rely on? Reconnect to your strengths such as compartmentalizing things, using humor, listening to music, meditating, reading, poetry, etc. Re-activate them!
  2. Resource – What resources do you have access to . . . including both human and material resources? Maybe it’s accessing a thinking partner such as a coach, studying your strengths, learning something new, or actively building confidence in self.
  3. Re-Author – How might we rewrite our story? Perhaps we create a new beginning or ending, or we rewrite the narrative around the event or situation that has occurred, or we assign different powers to the players in the narrative. When we can create a different relationship with the event, we can recover more quickly. A study of widowed men vs. widowed women showed that women moved faster because they talked about the experience and expressed their emotions aloud to one another.

Because leadership is far from an act of perfection, we have many opportunities to build the muscle of resilience. By combining the first two gifts – solitude and resilience – we can remain strong in the presence of everyday challenges.

How resilient are you? How do you know?


Reference: Pemberton, C (2017) Resilience Coaching: Rebuilding Resilience When It’s A Crash, Not A Wobble. International Coach Federation Conference. Washington, DC.

The Leadership Gift of Solitude

“We live, in fact, in an age starved for solitude.”
C.S. Lewis

Principal Andy Camarda of Lemon Road Elementary in Fairfax County, VA, recommended I read Kethledge and Erwin’s book, Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. He felt it complimented our teaching about the value of silence as well as the brain research that says insight comes from quiet reflection. Talk about a match! This book takes it even deeper.

Solitude is defined by the authors as “a subjective state of mind, in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” Certainly, this sounds like a key attribute of coaching. Further, they speak of the different purposes for which leaders use solitude – to find clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and moral courage. And finally, they offer the critical idea,

“Personal leadership – leading oneself – is the foundation of leading others.

And, personal leadership comes through solitude.”

By examining the solitude habits of leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower, Jane Goodall, Abraham Lincoln, Aung San Suu Kyi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Pope John Paul II, the authors illustrate how leaders use solitude to be more effective.

How Leaders Use Solitude to Be More Effective

  1. Ray, one of the authors, is a federal judge. When writing opinions in difficult cases, he retreats to his barn office overlooking Lake Huron without any internet connection.
  2. Darwin Smith, CEO of Kimberly-Clark makes his biggest strategic decisions in what he calls, “tractor time.”
  3. Winston Churchill would lay bricks.
  4. Bill Gates set aside entire weeks to just go away, to read, and to reflect. These were his “think weeks.”
  5. Warren Buffet found the quietude of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska to be his place of solitude. He also offers us this quote, “Inactivity can be very intelligent behavior.”
  6. George Washington would ride his horse around Mount Vernon for hours at a time.

What About Educators?

Jim Collins, while writing the forward for the book, was also completing a study of leaders who lead K-12 schools to high results during the most difficult and adverse of circumstances to learn how they use solitude to support the demands of the work, day after day, year after year. He was interested in how these educational leaders were finding “alone time” to reflect and recharge.

He discovered one Principal who intentionally creates a “personal bubble” every morning, just sitting in her car, before heading into the building. Another person dedicates “white space” in her calendar. She makes appointments with herself for the sole purpose of solitude.

The two practices that will amplify the gifts of solitude are systematically building pockets of solitude into our life and, secondly, recognizing the unexpected opportunities for solitude and then seizing them.

How are you building daily pockets of solitude into your life?

Reference: Kethledge, R., & Erwin, M. (2017). Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Want to Increase Your Self-Awareness? Ask for Feedback.

In our earlier articles this month, the focus has been on ways to increase self-awareness through considering how your ways of thinking and responding to situations aligns with the big picture of who you are at your best, as defined by your identified values and principles and who you are in the activities of each day, a.k.a your big and little “who”. However, as Tasha Eurich, an executive coach and organizational psychologist reminds us in her book, Insight: Why We Are Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life (2017), “To be truly self-aware, we must also build on that to understand our impact: that is, how our behavior affects others.”

How does your behavior affect others? In many places, organizations turn to the 360 Assessment to compare how you see you to how others see you. One challenge with this is when it happens in a confidential manner, without revealing who is providing the feedback. We believe that feedback is critical and is best provided in open conversations where others give honest feedback, with the desire to support the person asking, in order to advance and enrich performance.

Here are four easy steps for getting feedback on how your behaviors are affecting others.

  1. Ask for feedback. You don’t have to go out and ask every person you work with to give you feedback. Rather, solicit feedback from 3 to 5 (or more) people who have your best interest at heart, have a good understanding of your current behaviors, and will be completely honest with you because they want to see you continue to grow and develop. And, if you’re wondering why three to five people, consider what Tasha Eurich in Insight (2017) says. “Feedback from one person is a perspective; feedback from two people is a pattern; but feedback from three or more people is likely to be as close to a fact as you can get.” So, let’s gather some facts. And all you have to do with the facts is think about them, not necessarily act on them. Which takes us to point #2.
  2. Set the stage and be ready to receive, reflect and respond to the feedback given. Begin with some information about your honest desire to continue to grow as a leader. Share some of your personal successes and one or two areas that are currently offering you challenges. Tell those participating that you are asking for their feedback, because you believe that they will be honest with you and because you know that they have your best interest at heart.
  3. Ask three questions and give people time to think before they respond. Ask for specifics and remember that it’s best to focus on a few things at a time, rather than asking for feedback on everything you do at work.
    1. What am I currently doing that demonstrates my skills as a leader?
    2. What are examples of growth that you observed in me since we began working together?
    3. What is one thing, if I did it at an improved level, that would have a positive impact on my work and my performance?

    As people share, remember to listen with the intent to understand. Take notes. There is no need to defend yourself, or to interrupt as they are talking. Just presume positive intent on the part of each person giving feedback and stay neutral as you gather the feedback.

  4. Thank the participants and share how the feedback has been helpful. Share some first steps that you plan to take. If you are not ready to share specific steps, be sure to get back to the individuals at a later time to share how you are using the feedback.

Gathering feedback from others on an ongoing basis indicates your complete desire to increase your levels of self-awareness as does your ongoing reflections about your big and little “who”. And, remember what Emerson said, “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

Our Hearts Go Out To All Those Impacted By The Recent Hurricanes And We Want To Offer Our Support

When you hurt – we hurt. We are praying, we are donating personal funds and requested items and we want to do more. Results Coaching Global would like to offer The Gift of Coaching to any school leader affected by the recent hurricane disasters. We offer this gift, at no charge, as a way of providing a space for impacted leaders to meet one-on-one, by phone, with a trusted coach and confidant, who will listen and serve as a thinking partner, as the leader reflects on his or her current situation, gains greater clarity about future plans, and determines best approaches in taking actions toward desired results.

We are scheduling up to three 30-minute phone coaching sessions per leader from September 20 through December 20, 2017 at a mutually agreed upon day and time. Typically the sessions will be held in the evenings between 6 PM to 9 PM Central Time.

If you are a leader who has been impacted by one of the recent hurricanes, all you have to do is respond by clicking on the link below and providing your information. One of our coaches will reply back to verify the time of your call. Appointments will be set on a first come first serve basis, with our desire to serve all who reach out to us.

Request your session at this link.

The Big and Little of You and Why Both are Important for Self-Awareness

In the ezine article for September, we mentioned the concept of the “big and little who” as coined by Carly Anderson, MCC. Thinking about both fosters possibilities for advanced insights about ourselves and about others.

Your “who” represents the way you think through situations, your values, your beliefs, your assumptions, your needs, your wants, etc. Sometimes the “who” part of you is given minuscule attention as you are dealing with the “what” you want to achieve or do.

Your “big who” connects to your values and principles. It’s who you are and what you hold on to as guiding principles as you move through your days. We spend a significant amount of time in our Powerful Coaching seminar on this concept. Many leaders share that they have not taken the time to give priority thinking to what principles are at the center of who they are as a person and as a leader. They say they know, and yet have not taken the time to clearly articulate those principles. They appreciate having time to think about themselves at their best.

That big “who” moves with you as you journey through life, somewhat like your coat of armor, your insignia, or your family crest. Ideally, we never have to be reminded of our big “who” and yet realistically, if not careful, we might lose sight of our big “who” while dealing with the immediate demands of the day.

Your little “who” has to do with who you are in the moment and it connects to your big “who”. For example, let’s say that you’re feeling anxious about a short timeline you’ve been given by your supervisor and you mention it to your coach, saying something like, “I can’t believe that we were only given a couple of weeks to complete this big task! When am I going to find the time to get this work done? It’s this sort of thing that keeps my stomach tied up in knots!”

If we just talk about the task and ignore your feelings then we have missed an important opportunity to strengthen your own self-awareness and personal growth about how you best deal with situations when you have a heightened level of anxiousness. Coaches don’t step over such comments. As coach leaders, let’s not either.

A coach might respond by saying that she can feel the anxiousness in your voice as you describe the current situation. She might then ask if you would like to spend a few minutes talking about the feelings that are coming forward before you begin to put together a plan to complete the task on time. This opens the door to considering your “who” when dealing with stressful situations, which happens for every leader. A coach might then ask how you want to best think about these emotions, rather than deciding for you how to move the conversation forward. You say, “Let’s just deal with it head on. What makes me get so uptight at times like this?”

Taking the time to consider your “who” in this situation is critical for ongoing development and self-awareness. Here are a few sample questions that get to the “who” of the matter.

  • You said you were tied up in knots. That must be painful. How do you best release the knots?
  • What are ways you keep yourself from getting tied up in knots?
  • Which of your guiding principles will be of help to you in releasing the knots?
  • Let’s say that you have moved to a place where you no longer let events determine your level of anxiety. What strategies have you put into place to prevent over-anxiousness?

While a coach would certainly not ask all of the above questions, she knows that it is important to ask questions about how the client wants to untie knots and prevent them from happening, as much as possible. When we better understand who we are, both from the big picture and in the moment, we are more apt to stay congruent with our ideal state.

The Importance of “Who” in Coaching

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you, Ralph Waldo Emerson, for reminding us that wisdom comes in the moments, the steps, and the hours! Maybe this is why coaching has become the way of those seeking thoughtfulness and wisdom. It makes a difference for all involved.

Coaching is a dynamic process that calls for individuals to look inwardly, as well as outwardly as they move toward their desired actions and results. It is a creative process where you, with an experienced and skilled thinking partner, a.k.a. coach, step into a space of openness and at times uncertainty in order to know more clearly about thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions. It is truly an enriching opportunity for growth and development. As leaders, we may be very strong on the outward component of this process (the “what” we want and are doing) while not yet where we desire to be on the inward component (the “who” we are).

I jokingly describe my earlier leadership style at times as somewhat like “a dog after a bone.” While it’s not a bad thing for a dog to be in search of a bone and to protect that bone once it’s found, it is also beneficial when the dog considers how the hunt will take place and with whom he might share the find. I was all about getting the results desired and yet along the way – I didn’t always take enough time, with a thinking partner, to deeply consider what I was learning about myself in the process. I needed a coach and didn’t yet realize that need.

Thank goodness, times have changed! Today, more and more leaders understand that thinking, including their own, is a critical component of any productive organization. There is no way to achieve the daunting goals expected of schools and school leaders today without taking the time to purposefully and thoughtfully think about best approaches aligned with clearly articulated values of who we are as individuals, as teams and as organizations.

As a flight attendant offers clean hot towels to refresh hands before a meal, the start of a new school year hands to each of us a fresh opportunity to consider “who” we are as we go about the “what” of our work. In so doing, we are deepening our own self-awareness, a necessity for any leader. And for a baseline on self-awareness, let’s use Tasha Eurich‘s definition from her highly engaging book, Insight: Why We Are Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life (2017). “Self-awareness is the will and the skill to understand yourself and how others see you,” says Eurich. This must be why coaches ask clients what they are learning about themselves as they consider best approaches to deal with challenges and opportunities coming their way on a daily basis.

This month, in all three of our social media articles, we will delve into practical ways for each of us to become more self-aware, which in turn will strengthen our “who”, both big and little, as described by an admired master level coach, Carly Anderson. Let’s begin.

Most likely you have identified a set of principles that guide the way you live your life, personally and professionally. Think about your top three to five principles. Here are some examples: honesty, patience, respect, positive influence, empathy, challenging status quo, excellence for all, growth and innovation, etc.

Now, think about the last conversation you had at work or at home that became heated. You know – where you and the other person had differing opinions and points of views about the subject at hand, and where emotions became elevated, as did your own heart rate. Next, consider some or all of the following questions that might come from your coach.

  • How do you best handle conversations that become heated?
  • As you look back at that particular conversation, what did you learn about yourself and the way you dealt with the conflict?
  • How did your behaviors align with your core principles?
  • What metaphor best expresses who you were in that conversation?
  • What metaphor best describes who you would have liked to have been in the conversation, if you’d like to have a do-over?
  • How will this conversation impact the way you deal with other high emotion conversations?
  • What question do you hope someone does not ask you related to that conversation?
  • If you were the other person in the conversation, how would you describe the whole situation?

It would be wishful thinking to say that you will never be in a heated conversation. Of course you will, unless you plan to live in isolation. The real question is, how do you want to “be” when you are dealing with this type of challenge? When we know how we want to be in those tough times, then we have a strong handle, somewhat like a straphanger on a fast moving tram, to hold on to during the conversation and a baseline to reflect on as we think back about the way we actually were. And, as we follow Emerson’s thoughts about wisdom, it’s helpful to consider what we learned from a particular conversation that will most benefit us as we carry on. After all, even when we didn’t handle a conversation as we had intended, there is always an opportunity to learn and prepare ourselves for the next one.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Recently a TED talk by Angela Duckworth has appeared in my social media feed. Angela left a successful corporate career to become a teacher. She took a look at student success through a motivational and psychological perspective to try to understand, “Who is successful here and why?”

As she studied this question, she found that one characteristic was a significant predictor of success. That one characteristic is GRIT. What is grit? It is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina, sticking with your future—day in and day out—not just for the week or month, but for years. Grit is “Living life as a marathon, not a sprint.”

Ms. Duckworth conducted a study in the Chicago Public Schools with high school juniors. She then waited a year until they completed their senior year. Again, she found that those who graduated exhibited grit much more so than those who did not.

How do we encourage grit in others? One way is to teach and model the growth mindset, described in Carol Dweck’s work, Mindset. We know as coach leaders, that coaching exemplifies the growth mindset. Our ability to grow and change is not fixed. It is flexible. And coaching is not a fix-it mindset; coaching personifies a growth mindset.

There is no silver bullet for success. When you are promised results without the work, be wary. Successful schools do not become successful overnight nor do they remain successful without effort. Leading successful schools and successful education initiatives is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.