WYSIWYG: Who is the You?

July 6th, 2018

When someone says “What You See Is What You Get”, they are saying “I’m being upfront and open.”  As they are proclaiming being transparent, they are also say it’s up to you to believe them or not.

Surprise!It’s you!

While no truer words were every spoken, I think the profoundness (and actuality) of the phrase WYSISWG is often missed. We think it’s about the speaker, when, upon closer examination, it’s about the listener. While the speaker is referring to their own openness, ironically, the “you” in the phrase is not referring to the speaker, but to the listener.  The listener is the you in WYSISWG . The listener, not the speaker, is the one who determines how the speaker is seen.

If the listener interprets what’s being said as arrogance, righteousness, untrustworthiness, then that’s what the listener (the “you”) gets. If the listener interprets kindness and vulnerability, that’s what the listener gets, that’s how the speaker shows up. What the listener interprets is what the listener gets. Who the speaker is being, at least in terms of how they are perceived by the listener, is determined by the listener.

Power of the listener

What is so important about understanding the perception and power of the listener?  It matters if you are committed to creating relationships which can achieve big goals, which can rebound quickly when things go array, which can align, collaborate and leverage opportunities.

Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, openness, reliability and trustworthiness are in the ear (perception) of the listener.  It’s not what is said, it’s about what is heard. What’s heard depends on what the listener is listening to.  Is their internal conversation telling them that they should not agree with you, no matter what you say? Is their internal conversation telling them “be careful, be wary”? Do they even know they are listening to an internal conversation that might be limiting how they listen to you?

To influence the listener

If we recognize the power of what’s heard by the listener, then, when we speak, our attention will be on  how our words land on the listener.  To shift our attention from what we say to how our words are heard, here are some essential elements:

  • Be clear about your intended outcome for the conversation. (If it is to “be right; put them in their place”, don’t even open your mouth.)
  • Share the outcome you desire and ask what they hear. Ask if they can support the outcome being realized. If not, dialogue to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.
  • During the conversation, check in with each other periodically. Ask what’s been heard and understood. Ask to learn, not to debate. Share what you are understanding, learning.
  • End by summarizing any commitments and next steps.

Even if you are sure you already conduct conversations in this manner, ask people if that’s their experiencing. Knowing their perception is worth its weight in gold in your goal to influence them.

Onward, with ears and hearts ready to listen!


Books can’t give you experience

May 10th, 2018

I adore books. My shelves are filled with titles that promise insights about leadership, coaching, human dynamics, strategy, compassion, values.  After madly highlighting these work-related books in my effort to absorb their wisdom (and thus become wiser myself), I take a break and read fiction.  As it often happens in these non-work readings, the Ah-Ha still leaps from the page.

An amazing Ah-Ha came from The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The main character, Perdu, is a “literary apothecary who, from this floating bookstore in a barge, prescribes novels for the hardships of life. When asked by a customer, ‘Which book is your salvation in this evil world’, he remarks: “Books can do many things, but not everything. We have to live the important things, not read them.”

Regarding the hardship that the bookseller’s literary pill was to address, I’d add this to the prescription: The way to get through a hardship is to literally go through it.  To go through it means to face it fully, to experience your truth about the hurt or shame or feelings of failure and to let yourself experience them all. To go though it from one side, though the core, and out the other side. Experiencing them means letting the emotions run, letting them play out. Don’t add agreement to them, don’t tamp them down. Let the thoughts and feelings wash through your system and out.

We learn from our experiences, not from our theories.  It is in the experience of the hardship, the living through it, that we discover what matters to us and where we forge our core values and principles, where we forge who we are inside.   The same is true of joys and delights, though it’s interesting that we often seem to learn less from the easier times.  I’m still looking for a book to help me understand that phenomenon.

Leader: Are you a Dropper-Offer or Developer?

April 29th, 2018

We ask others to do things for us all the time – things we don’t want to do, things we don’t have the time to do, and things we couldn’t do even if we had the time.  We drop our suits at the dry cleaners, our car at the garage, and our kids at school.  These “drop-off” relationships, in a “drop-off” setting, produce appropriate, predictable results and are useful and needed. If the “drop-off” relationships creep into the work environment, they can severely limit collaboration, information sharing, trust and results.  And no one wants that.

Leaders committed to creating a culture of engagement generated by everyone do so by being effective delegators.  Being an effective delegator means having transformational relationships that create opportunities for people to grow.

TransACTional relationships     Our interactions with the barista, the mechanic, the shop owner are transactional. They might be defined as conversations of exchange: “Hello, Barista, latte, please. Thank you.”  The primary focus of a transactional relationship is the performance of a task, not a relationship with the task-doer. Both parties have little interest or need to build a deeper relationship.  Collaboration, innovation, and deep trust are not required. When a transactional task is completed so is the relationship, at least until the next time the task is initiated.  There’s nothing wrong with transactional relationships. They are useful, needed and entirely appropriate in the right setting (context).

TransFORMational relationships

Transformation is a dramatic change in form or appearance – a metamorphosis. Think caterpillar to butterfly. One moment it crawls, the next it flies. The primary focus of a transformational relationship is on the bigger picture and development of the relationship over time. The task is important, but it does not over-shadow the relationship.  Developing the relationship creates the capability to produce breakthrough, extraordinary results.

Qualities that are not required in a transactional relationship — collaboration, deep trust, alignment, adaptability, honest conflict — are essential in a transformational relationship.  Now let’s connect these dots to delegation.

Dropping-off is NOT delegating

“To commit powers to another as an agent to carry out powers and function.”  The “to commit powers to” is the portion that distinguishes dropping-off from delegating. To see the power and possibility of authentic, development-focused delegation, I make two distinctions:

  • The people to whom we’re dropping off already have the skill to perform the specific task.
  • A person can’t be delegated the accountabilities of the role they already hold.

Both parties develop.

Delegation is an intentional, conscious act of giving someone the power and support to do something that they are not already responsible for. It’s easy to see the opportunity for the person receiving the delegation. But consider this: Delegation is a developmental opportunity for the delegator, too.

To effectively delegate, a person has to be untethered by the conversations that often limit delegation and thus development:  It’s easier for me to do it.  It takes too long to explain what I want. I don’t think they’ll do it right. I’ll have to do it over anyway.  Clearly, these views promote protecting the status quo and fly in the face of an adaptive, collaborative work environment.

6 Steps for Effective Delegation

Below, I’ve expanded Susan M. Heathfield’s steps for effective delegation.

  1. Be clear on your commitment to create a developmental process.
  2. Share your commitment. Tell the person why you chose them, what development opportunities you see; ask them what opportunities they see.
  3. Give them the whole task. If you can’t give them the whole task, give them the whole picture so they can see how their part contributes to the whole.
  4. Create a structure for success:  Specify what success looks like. If there’s a “how to” do something that is relevant, tell them. Establish what you need to know and by when. Offer support. Ask what support they need; provide it. Be available.
  5. At the end of the delegation: Debrief what was learned by both parties. Acknowledge effort; identify results; identify what worked and what didn’t.

Effective delegation requires more time than dropping-off with, at the foundation, a commitment to the person’s success.  In a phrase, effective delegation is a leadership move.  Your move.

These times are our times

January 12th, 2018

I’ve been trying to write a super-duper, kick-off-the-year message that would inspire you in your quest to make your unique contribution and be your best self at work and at home. I’ve been coming up blank.  Writing something about the January-ness of it all – a new beginning, out with the old/in with the new, turn over a new leaf – seemed slightly off and out of sync with what we are dealing with personally, professionally, socially and even politically.  Maybe that feeling is just mine … read on and see what you think.

Close, but …

To crack my writer’s block, I rifled through multiple stacks of clippings around my desk for something that would spark my “this is worth talking about” criteria.  When I came across an HBR article about VUCA, a managerial acronym meaning volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, I felt close to what I was seeking, but not quite “it.”  I pawed through another stack and then I found it.

The ‘it’ is a message from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet and author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.   Her message, entitled “Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times”, invites us, in a most compelling way, to recognize we are ready for these times and not to lose hope.

Choose:  S  or  s

As you read the letter (link below), please listen from your best Self (capital “S”), not your little self (small “s”).  The Self is the one who is self-aware, adaptive, always learning and willing to be the author of your experience.  The little self is one who is righteous, knows it all already and generally feels victimized.  If your little self shouts “Don’t read the letter! You’re not an activist!”— hear the warning as a signal you’re about to empower your best Self.  Of course, you get to choose.  Click here to read the letter. (My thanks to Nona Gandelman, Maven Productions, for curating Estes’ works.)

It is up to each of us to push our great, unique ship out from the harbor and create a fleet of possibility for all of us.

Onward, out to sea …


When our self-talk comes out of another’s mouth

September 9th, 2017

Channel surfing on Sunday, I stumbled upon the show “Off Camera with Sam Jones”.  Off Camera is hosted by director/photographer Sam Jones who created the show out of his passion for the long form conversational interview, and as a way to share his conversations with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, skateboarders, photographers, and writers that pique his interest.

In the dark

I’d never heard of Sam Jones, his show or knew of the interviewee Mike White’s career (film writer, director, actor: School of Rock, The Good Girl, Orange County, Nacho Libre, Enlightened).

Mike White’s communication style drove me batty.  Within 1 minute, I desperately wanted to keep surfing. Mike didn’t complete sentences and trampolined from thought to thought.  I was batty for the entire hour of the show.  The vulnerability and unpretentiousness with which he revealed his concerns, uncertainty, and dreams grabbed me and was worth fighting to listen.

In the light

While I didn’t know him, and had to fight off my communication preferences to listen to him, what he was talking about was something I not only knew about but make it my business to understand. He shared the conversations that come from the universal human being paradigm — the conversations that lurk inside each of us and shout fears, dilemmas, doubts, and desires 24/7.

In his stories, I heard my self-talk. His insights about “comparison anxiety” rang especially true for me.  When you watch or listen, and I really hope you do, I think you’ll hear yourself, too, and reaffirm that you’re not “the only one” with this nagging conversation. (BTW, Sam Jones, the interviewer is so skillful.)

When we hear our internal conversation — the ones we think are ours alone — come from the mouths of others, the opportunity is to use what we hear to connect deeply, person-to-person. That connection can help us  generate compassion for ourselves and others. That connection builds trust and relationships, the fundamental elements that we  need to resolve dilemmas and put doubts on the shelf.

Thanks for listening.


Lions and Tigers and Liars, Oh My!

July 30th, 2017

We’ve been lying as long as we’ve had language. 

Research shows that a child’s ability to bend the truth is a developmental milestone, much like walking and talking.  While our noses don’t grow like Pinocchio’s when we lie, research shows a person’s nose can “heat up” when they lie.

Liars populate our literature (Gatsby; Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones), movies (Liar Liar, Fargo, Marisa Coulter in The Golden Compass; Catch Me If You Can) and TV shows (Claire Underwood in House of Cards; Pretty Little Liars, Lie to Me).  We may say we don’t like them, even that their behavior turns our stomachs, but our reading and viewing habits say we can’t get enough of them.


While we could ask a series of esoteric, rabbit-hole-diving questions about the phenomenon of lying – Is not telling the whole truth the same as telling a lie?  Is a statement we’d classify as a little white lie ok, while a statement that perpetuates a financial scam despicable?.  I’d rather take a look at our own behavior. Why? Because we can do something about our behavior.

“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”  George Bernard Shaw

What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between these 2 statements:  “You lied about X.”  “You are a liar.”  “You lied about X”  focuses on a particular, discrete event or action.  “You are a liar” assigns a characteristic to your entire being, to the core of you.

What we say

Let’s say I was late to your meeting and, when I arrived, I said, “I’m late because of heavy traffic and construction. I apologize.”  When I know a more truthful statement would be, “I left the house later than I knew I should have to be on time. I apologize.”   Assigning the reason for my lateness to the traffic may be the social norm, but the “I left late” statement says I hold myself responsible and not the external circumstance. Locating the responsibility for the outcome in my actions rather than in the circumstances does two things:  (1) It gives me the power to produce a different outcome next time and (2) it speaks to my commitment to be responsible.

“She put the lie in my mouth.” – Irish proverb  (When someone offers you a reason for something you did/didn’t do and asks if that’s the reason and you say “yes”, even though what the person offered you isn’t the real reason, it’s a lie. Ex., A person’s face is bruised from a nose job and another person says: Were you in an accident? And the bruised person says, “Yes.”)

What others hear

Consider each of the two statements in the scenario above. How would your experience of me be different? Which one might might build trust between us? How might “I left late” create an opening for you to support me in the future?  What might be different in how you listen to what I say in the meeting?

Be scared and speak

Telling your truth – not “the” truth – is a moment-by-moment choice.  The choice is to have what you say and how you listen represent who you want to be in the moment – and the moment is all we have. Telling your truth, even when you’re scared of the repercussions from others, or the potential disruption of your own identity, is a way to reduce the hold the imaginary fears (the lions and tigers) have on us. That is a worthy outcome.

All lies aren’t the same. We lie for the greater good. We lie because the truth wouldn’t serve the greater good. It is for us to make the judgment call and live with the consequences of our judgment. I have lied in the past, and I will likely lie in the future.  I’m not boasting about my future lies. I’m being honest and aware of my humanity.   That awareness coupled with our commitment to be trustworthy serves our development to be truthful and trust worthy more than anything else.

Bring the Redwoods Indoors

June 20th, 2017

One of the many benefits of living in the SF Bay Area is that I’m nearby the ocean, the mountains and all that’s in-between. One of the amazing in-betweens is the magnificent redwood.  Learning about them might inspire you to bring their magnificence into your team.

  Foundation:  Root Systems   You would think that a 350 foot-tall tree would need deep roots – not so for redwoods. Their roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep, extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. Redwoods thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together, giving them tremendous strength against the forces of nature.  They can withstand high winds and raging floods.  Their intermingling root systems help them remain upright for millennia.
  Diversity:  Differences needed    Because these trees are so tall, the treetop needles are exposed to more dry heat than the needles of branches in the dense canopy below. To compensate for this, redwoods grow treetop needles with tight spikes that conserve moisture, due to little evaporative surface. The lower branches, on the other hand, produce flat needles in order to catch additional light through the thick canopy of branches. (If you research these needle differences, you’ll see that the lower needles are called “senile”. No kidding.)
  Sustainability: Surviving challenges

Fire is the quick destroyer of forests. Because redwoods have an asbestos-like bark that contains tannin and grows to at least one foot in thickness, fire seldom is able to kill these trees.  There is a lot of water contained in the wood itself, and pitch, which is very flammable, is not contained in the tree.

  Renewal: Regeneration   One of the keys to the survival of the redwood is its regenerative abilities. One of the regenerative capabilities of the redwood involves the burl, a lumpy outgrowth from the tree’s trunk.  A burl, composed of dormant redwood stems, grows when a redwood is cut, damaged, or injured, or diseased. Saplings may sprout from these burls.

Foundation: Relationships   

Leaders and teams alike often have their attention focused on the grand results desired and forget to ensure a healthy foundation for results:  authentic relationships.   Leaders committed to people first, then product, strengthen the team’s “root system” with skills to challenge the status quo, raise issues before they become serious problems, acknowledge mistakes, create trust and rebuild trust when it is broken.  The breadth and depth of their relationships create a foundation that can withstand the swirling winds of change that are the new normal of business.

Diversity:  Differences needed   

Any system involves linkages and interactions between its components.  The more the interactions are in alignment, the less friction and wasted energy. Understanding the diversity of talents, skills and motivations needed for the organization to perform well leads to creating the best person-to-role fit.  Test this out in your own experience:  Are the career goals and life aspirations you had as a 20-year-old the same as you have today?

Sustainability: Surviving challenges

A burning platform is a term that seeped into organizational leadership conversations that describes crises that are either natural or engineered to force change. (The story about the 1988 burning oil-drilling platform in coast of Scotland) . An engineered (invented) burning platform implicitly refers to the active use of panic and fear to bring about change in an organization.  (“The plant is going to close in 4 months unless we hit targets of   …”)

When relationships, the foundation for results, are aligned and committed to achieving shared commitments, engineered burning platforms are not needed to bring about change. In root-strong organizations, leaders at all levels can share challenges openly and honestly and tackle them together.

Renewal: Regeneration

When an organization generates a strong, resilient foundation of relationships, the challenges it experiences – key leaders retiring, continual competition, reputational disasters from IT hacks stealing customer information – are greeted from a context of partnership and used to move toward the desired future, not abandon it.  When the foundation of relationships is broad and deep, new possibilities can sprout from the burls of setbacks.

Isn’t it time to bring the redwoods indoors to your organization?


Ask for Tension … (really?)

February 2nd, 2017

Advancement takes effort. When the effort is fueled by a self-generated commitment (part 1 in this series: your “why”) and not an other-imposed “should”, everything and everyone moves forward.  When people continually seek to expand relationships and build trust (part 2:accountability knots), that behavior benefits everyone.  With these two commitments activated, when support is needed, it is supplied, freely, with respect, compassion and in partnership.

A climber asking for tension is normal. It means: “Hey, belayer, I need your support.  I need to stop climbing now. I don’t want to come down. Please put tension on the rope, because I am going to put all my weight on it and let go of what I’m holding onto.”  Yup … all that is said with a call for “Tension”.   Only after hearing the belayer’s response, “Tension On,”  does the climber let go and relax.

Asking for tension

Asking for tension – for support – is a frequent request I make of my belayer. Sometimes it is because my muscles are cramping, sometimes it’s because my brain is cramping (I can’t figure out where to reach next or “if” the reach is doable).

The support/tension is giving without questioning whether it’s needed or not.  If it is asked for, it is needed. Support is provided without blaming or shaming, and eye-rolling. Quite the contrary.  Both parties view asking for support as a responsible action to take.  Providing support/tension is never viewed as being asked for “too much.”   Ah, if only those roles were played out at work more often. The good news is: they can be.

What does it take to ask for tension? 

The climber – the one who challenged gravity and their skills by stepping off the ground and looking skyward – is the one who asks for tension. To do that, the climber has to trust that …

  • The structure (equipment and knots) are sufficient for the task.
  • Her relationship with the belayer is sufficient (belayer’s listening, ready, in an instance, to hold my weight).
  • Her ego won’t get in the way of her safety.

At work, to ask for support, a person has to trust that …

  • The relational structure of the team is developed enough that there is alignment on how they’ll treat each other as they get work done, a commitment to stay in communication.
  • Asking for support will be heard as being responsible, not shirking work.
  • Her ego won’t get in the way of trying to do it all herself, look good, or any number of automatic, unexamined, self-defeating (and team-defeating) points of view.

How is trust developed?

That’s kinda like asking “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  Practice, Practice, Practice.

Seriously, it takes awareness to say trust is missing and a commitment to build it. It takes having conversations with the team to define what your team (not a generic team) means by trust, what the behaviors are that break it, maintain it and increase it.  It takes practicing those behaviors … over and over and over … and self-correcting.

Best place to start: with yourself.  Who do you trust? What do you trust them about?  How do they behave, that builds your trust in them? Who don’t you trust? How do they behave that has you not trust them?  So … how is trust developed? Take it on and practice, practice, practice.  Yes, this is a big topic. Exploring it offers big rewards.

Let’s get it ON!  Tension On! Support On! Trust On! Results On!

Accountability Knots

January 20th, 2017

In Part 1 of this 3-part series, I offered a climbing analogy for leading yourself with your commitments, your “why’s”, and I promised to share the calls-and-responses between climber and belayer that exemplify support through accountability and how to translate them into team success. Read on!  (That’s me in blue jacket, belaying niece Caity.)

In the top-rope climbing class at Pacific Edge, I learned different climbing techniques and how to belay.  Top-rope climbing is a style in which the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. The belayer is the person on the ground who secures the climber for a safe ascent.

A significant amount of instruction was dedicated to safety. In addition to tying proper knots, we learned and used essential communication call-and-responses between the climber and the belayer. Safety was the senior context of the conversation between climber and belayer; a secondary context was “make it to the top”.

Call & Response

In basic top-climbing, a few of the conversations between climber  and belayer sound like this:

Climber’s Call (Request to Belayer) Belayer’s Response (to Climber’s Request)
On Belay?
Belay ON
Climb ON
Tension ON

The power of these exchanges: A climber doesn’t move until she hears the belayer’s response that says what action can be taken safely.

In the climbing class, this exchange can often be heard:

Student:        Well, I can see if the belay is hooked up, I just did the safety check. You mean that even when   I’m on the ground, standing next to the belayer, and before I start climbing, I say “belay on? 

Instructor:    Yes.  

Student:        Aren’t we over-doing this communication thing?

Instructor:    No.  The way you begin the climb sets the human connection for the climb. 

So what do the belayer’s responses mean?

The belayer’s response of “Belay On” means: We are safely connected. I am here to keep you safe. To the climber’s “Climbing”, the belayer’s “Climb On” means: I’m ready for you to head toward  your goal. To “Tension”, the Belayer’s response says: I’m holding your weight. You can rest, shake arms out, put your full weight in your harness, and release your grip. I’ve got you. (More about Tension in Part 3 of this series.)

It’s the same in a business (any) relationship – how you begin the relationship establishes a context and connection for what’s next.  Let’s move from climbing to cubicle-ing.

Off the wall, into the cubicle

In a relationship where there is a commitment to a specific results or outcomes, a particular kind of call & response – called “conversations for action” – coordinates the action so both can fulfill their role successfully.

Response to a Request What your Response Means
Accept I promise to do as you request, fulfilling the conditions you specified, by the Y time.  (A promise is not a guarantee.)
Decline I do not accept the request. (It isn’t a request if a person can’t decline. If a person can’t decline, then you are making a demand.)
Counter-offer I accept the request with these proposed changes … Do you accept my counter offer?
Promise-to-promise I promise to respond to your request by Y time. (Without a time specified, it is an intention, not a promise.)

Sometimes people (in and outside of business) tell me, “Oh, I only make requests when it really matters, when it’s really important.”  My response:  So …. You do lots of work during the day that isn’t important enough to require coordination or certainty? Doesn’t matter when it gets done? Work in an environment that encourages micromanaging? Oh…

Practices creates trustworthiness

It’s the practice (practice: a behavior done regularly and with an intention to produce a particular result) of “being in communication” that coordinates the action, that builds the relationship, that supports the journey. It’s the practice of having conversations for action – and the follow through with appropriate behavior – that  creates trust and trustworthiness and that makes new levels of results possible.

No matter what your virtual mountain is — on-boarding new hires, laying people off, launching a new product, leading a team or an entire organization — using a shared, meaningful “call & response” builds accountability and deepens trust – and both of those are essential to producing the kind of relationships that produce outstanding, extraordinary results.

In the final part in this series, I’ll reveal how the knots of accountability are essential for building trust and producing results especially when the “yogurt hits the fan.” (<– my favorite Tom Peters quote).

Climb on!

Walk your Talk … Vertically!!

November 27th, 2016

pacific-edge-statueWhen I tell people I’m taking an indoor climbing class at Pacific Edge, their “Good for you!” is usually followed quickly by “Why?”

My Whys

I have several whys.  Every day, I ask leaders to commit to something without knowing how to do it and without a guarantee of success. I ask them to step outside their comfort zone, be vulnerable, listen more deeply, take care of their well-being (they are a precious resource) and shift their mindset. I don’t ask once, but again and again.  Taking this class gives me the experience (somewhat) of what I am asking them to do – experiment, fail, try again, make progress. In essence, to develop.

Then, there’s the why of being physically fit.  I ask my body to play tennis full out for 2-3 hours a couple times a week, lift field stones to build garden walls, and walk briskly for 2 miles while having enough breath for a conversation with my partner.  Taking this class helps me build my lung capacity and my capacity to quiet my inner critic shouting “you’ve done enough, you may not succeed, be careful.”

As for my mindset, this class helps me calibrate the challenges that are appropriate (small wins when I’m learning something new) and those that are Evil Knievel-ish and too risky (because I’m trying to prove myself).   I did a climb blindfolded. That was fun. I declined to attempt the chimney climb. It looked to have a high probability of incurring an injury and jeopardizing tennis and walking, aka, not worth the risk. (Watch someone climb the chimney.)

If you’re in business, you’re on a climb.  You’re challenging yourself to reach the “top” you’ve declared.  Without knowing where the toe holds are or if your legs will lift you high enough for you to grasp the hand hold you spy, you begin. You begin because you commit to a possibility.

On the route, you often encounter volatility, uncertainty and the unforeseen.  In these moments, the possibility you committed to may fade or seem like the wrong commitment to have made.  In these moments, while you don’t need a rope or a safety harness, you do need gear.

Gear up!


9-yr-old Caity, fearless, going for it.

When you’re on your daily work climb, it may seem easier to be on a real physical climb on an actual mountain.  Sometimes, it’s that way for me.  Physical challenges are in a different domain than the non-physical ones. For most of us knowledge workers, our routes are rife with self-doubt, concern, what ifs and what abouts and, hopefully, populated with successes and satisfaction.

(Full disclosure: If you ask any climber, and I did, about their routes, they too say they are inhabited by the same self-doubt conversations. Aka, the grass is not greener. Both of us don’t have to be stopped by the doubts; we can use them to energize our respective climbs.)


Whether it’s a real or virtual mountain, each climber/leader needs gear from the storehouse called  “Generating Commitment”.   (Big Note: This storehouse is not called “One & Done Commitment” – it’s called generating to distinguish ongoing and continually.)

1st:     Declare (state) your whys. If your first response is “for the money”, don’t stop there.  Say why the money matters to you. (Does it provide you with the ability to care of your family? Does it bolster your self-confidence or esteem?) I suspect the more you answer “why”, you’ll find more compelling, inspirational, more meaningful whys.

2nd:     Assess each why and identify what you are currently doing to live it and generate it daily.

3rd    Whatever your assessment, own it – don’t deny or sugar-coat it.  Then choose your next move.  Is there an action to take? Is there something to acknowledge and put in the past? Is it supportive to revoke your commitment, or to reformulate and recommit to it newly?

This reflection and self-assessment gives you the opportunity to choose. Choosing is fundamental gear for leaders who lead themselves first, then ask others to join the journey.

call-response-imageIn Part 2 of this series, I’ll share the calls-and-responses between climber and belayer.  It’s a conversation of support, trust, accountability, possibility and results.

You’re gonna love it.  Enjoy your climb!

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