It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Sometimes we make things way too hard.  When it comes right down to it, there are four basic questions to answer if you want a high-functioning, drama-free team:

  • What does my team need from me as a leader?
  • What does my leader and team need from me as a team member?
  • How will we handle conflict and broken agreements when they arise?
  • What is my current growth strategy?

If the people on your team and in your organization can answer these questions with clarity and precision, you already know the result.  If you or your people can’t, don’t panic.  That’s actually more often the case, so you’re in good company.  And, it might not be as hard as you think.

Understanding culture is really pretty simple.  It’s direct, dynamic, and relational.

Direct:  Every organization has a culture.  It was, and continues to be, developed as the business grows and matures.  The real question is whether you have a positive, proactive, and intentional culture versus a negative, reactive, or accidental one.  A positive and mature culture rests on a foundation of a compelling vision from the top and a set of clear expectations and agreements with everyone who works there.

Dynamic:  When you become intentional about creating the culture you want and the structures to support it, you quickly realize it’s not a one-and-done process.  Once set, an organization’s culture is always in an ongoing process of development and refinement.  The good news is that it becomes easier over time to evolve a good culture into a truly great one.

Relational:  Culture is defined by a set of shared values and by the way people behave and interact with one another.  In other words, it’s about how we relate, the strength of our relationships and our ability to manage our interactions in success and failure, ease and stress, predictability and chaos.

Most people do not have much, if any, experience working with healthy, mature teams and, assuming they didn’t learn it in school or at home, most don’t even know what it really means… let alone know how to create it or contribute to it.  If they’ve never been held to a higher standard or called to a higher level of performance, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn.  The cost of a drama-laden, emotionally immature, and low functioning team culture is high, and it isn’t just the direct loss of productivity.  It’s also the loss of innovation, creativity, reputation, turnover, and job satisfaction at all levels.  A negative culture can suck the energy levels down to zero, consume meetings, negate forward progress, and monopolize the brain power of your leaders, managers, and frontline people.  In a positive culture, you will all have more mental, emotional, and intellectual capacity to solve challenges, drive business, and enjoy work again.

This week, my challenge to you is to answer these questions as a team and watch what starts to unfold.  If you’d like a little help, schedule a call by emailing us at, and let’s explore how LionSpeak can help you create and elevate your team culture to a place where it operates on automatic at a very high level.

You can do this.  It doesn’t have to be hard.

“Life is hard.  Until it’s not.” 
~~Dr. Sue Morter

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Leadership and Learning

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” That’s because leaders are not born but rather developed. So, they are constantly trying new approaches, analyzing the results, and adjusting their strategies along with way.

In the healthcare, dental, and veterinary fields, we are experiencing a seismic shift in our industries with an increase in consolidation and growth of group practices. This has created a huge and almost instant need for managers and team leaders who not only understand the industry but also how to lead, inspire and train their people. Most often, managers and trainers are promoted or hired into these positions because they were good at their jobs and have mastered the technical skills needed. The trouble is that these skills are only part of the job. The far greater part is the ability to think, problem solve, communicate, and inspire like a true leader. If no one has ever modeled how to do this well or they’ve not learned from another highly-developed leader, new managers tend to stumble trying to gain traction with their team or at the very least their progress is slowed because they don’t know how to quickly adjust their strategies to move a team forward.

Even if you are a private or solo practitioner, you must exemplify extraordinary leadership now more than ever. The smaller the team, the more critical the need for every player to master self-leadership.

Whether you want your management team to grow their people and push them to their fullest capabilities or you simply want strong leaders in every position on your team, you have to invest in the training necessary to teach them how to think, speak, and act like great leaders. Consider starting a leadership “Book Club” and selecting a book as a team that you’ll read and discuss at your team meeting. I’ve listed a few of my favorite below. Another option is to attend together or send your managers and team leaders to a leadership workshop or program with the agreement that they will make a full report on the things they learned and plan to implement.

Growing self-leaders as well as leaders who know how to build strong teams is a requirement if you’re going to be competitive in today’s marketplace. The side benefit is that the world becomes a better place too.


Great leadership reads from Katherine’s bookshelf: 

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell 
  • You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader by Mark Sanborn
  • Upside Down Leadership by Bob Spiel

This week, we recycled one of our most popular MMS’s  from several years ago.
new subscribers will enjoy  Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from
the experience.  And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers
from the beginning…you’ll remember why we love seeing the world of
business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

“The task of the leader is to get their people from
where they are to where they have not been.”
~~ Henry Kissinger


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Issue Resolution

From time to time, issues arise between members of any team which require resolution in order for the team to continue to function at its highest level. Following are six points to remember for positive and successful issue resolutions:

  1. Turn your complaints into requests.
  2. Change “you” statements to “I” or “we/us” statements.
  3. Never go backwards! Focus on the future only.
  4. Offer a solution or new idea.
  5. Avoid making demands. Ask for someone’s help in solving the issue in a mutually beneficial way.
  6. Avoid generalizations like “you always” or “you never.”

Notice how different these two examples sound and feel. See how easy it is to utilize and incorporate all six of the techniques above in just a few sentences:

Complaint: You never clean your instruments before you leave for the day. You got off on time but I had to stay late every day last week to finish them.”

Request: “Cheryl, I’d like to ask for your help. Could we sit down together one day this week – say, Wednesday at noon – and develop a system to make sure all the instruments are cleaned and properly put away at the end of every day? I have some great ideas about it and wanted to ask for your help in developing a system that would work for both of us.


  • Avoid a sarcastic or condescending tone when making your request.
  • Most people are reasonable and want to work out differences just like you. Expect to work it out.
  • Be respectful that “right now” may not be a good time for the other person involved. Ask permission to discuss it now or to pick a good time (be specific) in the near future.
  • Listen and smile! Recognize every human’s greatest need is to just be heard and understood. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And a soft smile can powerfully communicate optimism and kind intent.

This week, we recycled one of our most popular MMS’s  from several years ago.
new subscribers will enjoy  Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience.   And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers
from the beginning… you’ll remember why we love seeing
the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

“Nothing big will ever come from being small.”
~~ Abraham Lincoln

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Music Monday: An American Child

There are certain passages in our lives which create personal bonds so deep that the flow of time has no effect on their strength or impact on you. My high school experience was one of those passages. With only 38 kids in my graduating class, we were close. So close in fact, that our teachers insisted we take a moment in the dark school cafeteria after the ceremony, and before we went out to see our families, to say our goodbyes to one another as classmates. Some of us were headed to college in the Fall. Others would stay to work on the family farm or ranch. A few would seek their fortunes in the workplace. Two were already married and pregnant. I remember an instant knowing in my gut that it would be years before I would cross paths with most of them and some I would likely never see again. Understanding that fully felt like a small earthquake shifting the ground beneath my feet leaving everything I’d known before permanently rearranged.

We had a great 10-year reunion but nothing else until June of 2017 when I traveled to Montgomery, Texas to attend my 40th. With such a small class, this reunion included 4 – 5 classes at a time in the hopes of having a handful actually show up. Montgomery, a once sleepy little country town was now all grown up and thriving but many of our old haunts were still recognizable. It was so good to see my classmates after all these years and hear where their lives have taken them. As you would expect, we shared stories of old teachers and football games, mishaps and skip days, classic pranks and memorable moments. We remembered a few who had already left us and those who have seemingly disappeared.

Some of the stories we shared were about teachers, pastors, and upper classmen who had inspired us and those who sadly had the opposite effect. One of my classmates told of a teacher who allowed him to take and retake (and retake) a test of the most common misspelled words in the English language. Having already flunked English once because he couldn’t write an essay, she told him he was making it way too hard and that by memorizing a simple formula, he could write a good essay… or at least one that would pass. He said the fact that he ultimately became the editor of the local newspaper (which he still runs it today) was largely due to her unwillingness to give up on him, her belief in his ability and the way she championed him at every turn some 40 years ago.

But, another classmate shared a different story. An African American student navigating a school system which had only recently integrated, recalled a white counselor, who was clearly struggling to make the long-overdue shift along with the rest of the world, telling him that he should not bother taking Algebra 2 or calculus because he would not need it unless he went to college which he would never be able to afford. Fortunately for him, there were other teachers and influences in his life who encouraged him differently and today, he holds a master’s degree from the University of Houston.

On this 4th of July, one of my most favorite holidays, we celebrate a nation built on the idea of dreaming big. A nation which provides opportunities to every child and every adult to chase their dreams. This day reminds me that what we say, even off-handedly, to others (especially young people) about their abilities, hopes, and dreams can leave a lasting impression and make a difference, positively or negatively, on the outcome.

On this Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), I chose American Child by Phil Vassar because it’s a favorite song on my “Patriotic” playlist but also because I love his lyric: Dreams can grow wild born inside an American child.

This week, as you celebrate our nation’s independence with your family and team, remember that one of the most precious attributes of our freedom is that anyone can be or become anything they dream. Our gift to them as great personal leaders is to be their champion, the voice of encouragement and on occasion, to show them the greatness we can see in them but which they may not be able to see in themselves.

Phil Vassar – American Child

“I was ten, I was thin, I was playing first base
With a second-hand glove and dirt on my face
In nowhere Virginia, who’d ever figure
That kid in the yard would go very far?

‘Cause 419 Lakewood had no silver spoons
Just an old beat up upright that played out of tune
Now I’m singing and living the life that I love
And when I count my blessings I thank God I was

An American child
An American child
‘Cause dreams can grow wild
Born inside an American child

7 lbs. 3 oz., she’s got my nose
And she’s into my heart as deep as it goes
With a promise that’s more than just someone’s last name
Anyone’s equal, in late August came

An American child
An American child
My Grandfather would have been 80 today
But in ’45 he fell down beside

An American child
An American child
‘Cause dreams can grow wild
Born inside an American child”

This week we we are recycling a favorite MMS. Our new subscribers will enjoy
Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience. And to all of our
MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember
why we love seeing the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Speaking the Truth

After a two-week, multi-leg trip on the road, I’ll be one happy girl to sleep in my own bed tonight. It was a good trip, all in all: A 2-day private speaker’s workshop for a large accounting firm in Dallas, a 2-day private Transformational Training workshop for a large DSO in Wisconsin and a visit with my 2nd cousin and my two grown boys for a few days in between.

The most stressful part was not the small, normal travel snafu’s along the way. It was major computer issues in the middle of my trainer’s workshop. I’m used to audio visual equipment that won’t sync with my laptop or not being able to get the sound patch to play but this was different. My computer was shutting down repeatedly on its own, often displaying an error message and automatically rebooting.

Fearing the worst about my 3-year-old Microsoft Surface as well as hoping to resolve the issue so that I could play the six video clips that tee up my content for the second day of the workshop, I made a call to a local Best Buy on my last break.

I would be finished around 5:00 pm and had dinner with my client at 6:00. The young man who answered the call at Best Buy told me that they could look at my computer at 5:40 and would need just a few minutes to determine what was going on. When I explained that I would need it for a presentation tomorrow and then would be flying home the following day… he assured me that if they thought they could fix it, I could pick it up any time before 9:00 pm that night. Perfect!

As soon as we were done, I jumped in my car and raced over. It was a little hard to find and took me about 25 minutes, but I pulled into the parking lot at 5:40 on the dot. Feeling hopeful, I grabbed my laptop and ran into the store and right over to the Geek Squad counter.

I was greeted, if you could call it that, by a bored looking, slow moving young man with bangs hanging in his eyes and his shirt untucked, typing away on a computer. “Excuse me,” I said. Without looking up from what he was doing, he said abruptly, “What can we do for you?”

“My name is Katherine Belt and I have an appointment at 5:40 to look at my laptop.” For the second time, I explained my dilemma.

He slid an overused, laminated grid of options over to me and pointed to a line that read: Virus and Malware Clean…. $179. He then pointed to one above it that read: One-year Geek Squad Protection… $199. “This is the better deal. You get the ‘clean’ and for only $30 more, you get all these other things…” He began listing off items I cared nothing about and I stopped him.

“How do you know it’s a virus or malware?”

“I don’t. It’s just most likely. The annual protection program is the best deal for you.”

I didn’t want the annual protection program, but I did want my computer fixed.

“And you can look at it tonight and I can pick it up before 9:00, right?”

For the first time since I had arrived, he actually looked up at me. “Oh, no. There’s no way.”

What? I thought maybe he hadn’t understood so I began to recount my plight. He interrupted and repeated himself. Ma’am, I’m sorry but there’s no way you’ll have this tonight. It will take up to 72 hours.”

I argued… “But the gentleman on the telephone assured me that you could at least look at it and try to fix it tonight…” Right then, my laptop decided it would help me out and flipped to a blue screen with the same error message I had been getting, saying it was going to reboot. He glanced at the message on the screen and said, “Ah, yes. Well, like I said… 72 hours.”

I was exhausted from being on the road. My feet hurt from standing and presenting all day. My anxiety was high just thinking about how I would need to adjust my presentation for the following day. I felt my frustration rising. I asked if I could speak to the manager or at least to the person who had answered the phone… The one who had told me to drive 30 minutes and got my hopes up about finding a solution about this pinch I was in.

Then the young Geek said something that tipped the scales for me. “We always tell people that we can look at their computer, but no one will be here to do that until 8:00 in the morning and we already have several on the schedule tomorrow.”

So, he had lied then. The associate on the phone had been trained to tell me to bring it in, even if he knew that there would be no one there after 5:00. I was angry and frustrated. Not because Best Buy couldn’t fix my computer immediately but because they had not truthfully answered my question. A classic bait and switch.

I went back out to my car and, though I wanted to cry, I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and drove to the restaurant. I assured my client that the very best presentations I had ever delivered were when my slide show went down.

After dinner when I returned to my room, I decided to Google the error message. Sure enough, there was a video on what it was (a faulty driver) and how to remedy it. I followed the instructions and voila! It appeared to fix the problem.

I still had a few glitches the next day but, after talking to my regular IT pro back at home, I’m confident my laptop will be good as new on Monday morning when he logs into it. But the whole experience reminded me of a dilemma many dental and healthcare professionals face regularly… Patients calling with a question for which the simplest and most direct answer is a “no.” For example, “Are you on my insurance plan?” or “Do you take my insurance?” Easy if you do but what if you don’t?

Many consultants recommend scripting that advises administrators to evade the truth, if not tell an out-and-out lie. While I agree that answering a question like this with a definitive “no” will guarantee that the patient will not schedule, I also believe that playing the “bait and switch” card is no way to build a loyal patient base and a strong community reputation. It might win the short game but not the long one.

Instead, the coaches at LionSpeak recommend that you tell the truth with a positive spin. For example, instead of answering, “No, I’m sorry, we’re not a provider on your plan.” Try this: “Mrs. Belt, we are considered what is called a non-preferred provider (or unrestricted or out-of-network). We help lots of patients with the exact same insurance and know it very well. Here’s how it works in our practice…” Now, your patient knows the truth and exactly how it will work in your practice and can decide if this approach will work for them.

If the young man had told me the truth, I would not have gone to Best Buy that night. But I also would not have this nagging lack of trust for their national brand. I might have been much more willing to use their services locally. I might have referred other folks to them in the future. But they have eroded my trust and once that’s gone … it’s gone.

This week, discuss with your team how you can be truthful with challenging questions like these and craft answers that build trust and convert patients for the right reasons.

“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.
Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Don Miguel Ruiz

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Top Ten Telephone Tips for New Patient Calls

  1. Have Them At Hello! Being professional doesn’t mean you have to sound cold. Actually, quite the opposite! Make sure your initial telephone greeting sounds upbeat, friendly, and professional… and always identify the practice and yourself.
  2. Make a connection right away. Get the patient’s name at the beginning of the call and look for a way to make a personal connection, build rapport, and let them know you “see” them as a person, not just a set of teeth or a dollar bill.
  3. Know where you’re going. Determine, in advance, the solutions you have to offer a prospective new patient. For example: a comprehensive exam, emergency exam, and a complimentary “meet and greet” consultation. Be sure you know (from your dentist) which solution is best to offer in different situations.
  4. Grab control quick. Asking questions puts you in the driver’s seat of the call. No matter what they ask for at the beginning of the call, say something like: “I’d love to help you with that, Mrs. Campbell. I want to be sure I give you the right information (appointment) so would you mind if I asked you a few questions first?” Now you can begin to determine the real needs and the appropriate solutions to offer.
  5. Don’t let the computer be your guide. What you want to know and what the computer screen wants to know are two different things! Who cares what the social security number is if they don’t have insurance and they don’t make an appointment! Save these detail questions for the end of the call.
  6. Ask intelligent questions. Your initial questions should focus on determining what’s driving their call. Ask about any discomfort, cosmetic concerns, time constraints, and anything else that helps you create a sense of urgency and determine the appropriate solution to offer the patient.
  7. It’s not the patients’ job to sell themselves on you. You have to sell them on you. Make sure you know what is exceptional about your dentist, practice, team, facility, technology, expertise, or specialty. Then, select the attributes which directly relate to the needs you have discovered from the patient and SELL those to them. Show them, based on what they want and what you have to offer, why you are a perfect match!
  8. Be ready with two appointment offerings. Know, at all times, the next two new patient appointment opportunities. Never ask, “So, would you like to go ahead and schedule that?” Always roll right into, “…and actually, Dr. Martin could see you for that appointment either Wednesday at 11:00 or Thursday at 2:00. Which of those might work best for your schedule?”
  9. Give great directions. Help your patient get to the appointment on time! Type up great directions including exact mileage from freeways and easy-to-spot landmarks and tape them by your phone. Include a great map in your welcome package and on your website.
  10. Let me hear you smile. The patient can’t see you but you are creating a “snapshot photo” in their mind that becomes more and more vivid with every word you speak. Make sure, with your enthusiasm, energy, helpfulness, confidence, and attitude of service, that you help them paint the most brilliant picture of all.

* * * * * * * * * *
While Katherine is traveling and visiting her boys in Austin this weekend, we are recycling a favorite MMS.  Our new subscribers will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience.   And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember why
we love seeing the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

“Every call is a chance to help someone resolve a problem and see a great dentist.
So beef up those skills and crank up your enthusiasm for the next call you take!”
~ Katherine Eitel Belt

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Hang on a Sec!

Ever called a busy business and been instantly thrown into the depths of the dark, cold pit I call “Hold Hell” before you could utter a single word to properly defend yourself? How did we ever come to think that was a legitimate way to answer the telephone, let alone communicate that we’re a company that truly wants your business?

At LionSpeak, one of the things we specialize in is helping businesses and practices improve their telephone and administrative communication skills. One of the tools we offer is a Mystery Shopper Service and in the course of the last year, we have listened to and analyzed hundreds of calls. Most of the time, our clients are pleasantly surprised at how well their teams perform and score. But more times than you might imagine, they are sometimes shocked by the way their potential clients are handled. Fairly frequently, we hear the administrator spit out the company name like a rapid-fire machine gun and then click the hold button before our caller can say one word. So far, the record for the longest hold time we’ve heard is 7 minutes at the beginning of a call and a hold time of 3-4 minutes is not uncommon. It’s made doubly worse when there is no message-on-hold program or triple worse… it’s a staticky mess with an outdated message.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to use as a training tool and checklist for your team to improve your first impression for potential new customers and as a lasting impression for your current clients.

Never Do This:

  • Sound frazzled or harried… no matter how busy you are.
  • Tell a caller that you are “swamped” or “super busy right now.”
  • Put someone on hold without explaining the reason.
  • Interrupt a caller in mid-sentence to place them on hold.
  • Use slang terms like “Hang on a sec…”
  • Leave the caller on hold for more than two minutes without checking back in with them.
  • Ask them to call you back.
  • Put the person on hold multiple times during one call.
  • Be rude or lose your cool… no matter how the caller sounds.

Always Do This:

  • Ask permission to place a caller on hold. “May I place you on hold?”
  • Wait for their answer and then thank them before hitting the hold button.
  • Explain the reason for the need to place them on hold.
  • Give options like 1) holding for a few minutes while you finish with another client or 2) if the hold time will likely be more than two minutes, you will be glad to call them back within a timeframe you can honor. Over-estimate this rather than over-promise.
  • Let them know you are eager to help, and they are important to you.
  • Promise to return promptly, if they will be waiting on hold.
  • When you return to the call, thank the caller for their patience.
  • Frequently check your on-hold message to make sure it is current and always reflects the quality you want to project.

Most reasonable people anticipate that they can sometimes catch you at a busy time and will be understanding if they are treated properly. When you communicate, directly or inadvertently, that you are overly busy, you send the message that things are out of control in this business and you probably don’t need any more customers to make it even worse.

After a great initial greeting and listening to who is calling and why, a great way to place someone on hold could sound something like this: “Welcome to our practice, Sara! I’m just finishing up with one of our patients and will be delighted to help you next. May I place you on hold for a few moments or would you prefer for me to call you back within (five) minutes?”

Some of our clients handle a high number of emergency callers. For them, we recommend, “Welcome to our practice, Sara! I’m just finishing up with one of our patients and will be helping you next. Are you having a dental (medical) emergency, or would you be able to hold for just a moment?”

By respecting the hold button, your clients will respect and appreciate you. By using solid communication skills and committing to excellent client service, you will always land a solid first impression and open the door to a long-term client relationship.

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Music Monday: Shadow Days

I watched a documentary once on how the epic movie, Star Wars, was created. They broke it down from the perspectives of each engineer: Lighting, sound effects, animation and robotics, camera angles, editing, script-writing, directing, acting, costuming, and music. The most memorable to me was the music. To show how important this element was to the overall impact of the movie, they played scenes which were totally completed, except for the music. You heard the dialogue of the actors and all other sound effects but, without the music, it looked and felt like a B-grade movie to me. With the overlay of the music, the intended emotions swept over you like a powerful wind and enveloped you in the heart of the story like a blanket.

Music has the power to change the way we feel and how we perceive our world. I use music as a mechanism to create feelings of relaxation and appreciation, romance, energy, and expansive thought. I can literally lighten or darken my mood depending on the music I’m listening to. I have a playlist of songs ideal for cycling, running, or just walking in and appreciating nature. I have a playlist that always makes my toes tap the dashboard with the windows rolled down on the annual drive to the Tahoe cabin and a different one we play when we head down to cross the Mexican border. We play Celtic music on St. Patrick’s Day and Cowboy music at our outdoor BBQ’s on the Ranch. Soaking in a hot bath at night? Yep… Got one for that, too!

With almost 8,000 items in my I-Tunes, 14 genres, and dozens of playlists organized for every possible mood or event… I’m sort of known as the “music man,” or “music woman” as it were, among my friends and colleagues.

Songwriters can be some of the greatest poets of our time, in my opinion, and often I’ve found inspiration for my Monday Morning Stretches in the eloquently written words of a song on my I-Pod. The choice for me this Monday is Shadow Days by John Mayer from his album, Born and Raised.

After a self-inflicted and admittedly embarrassing fall from grace in 2010, this is an album of reassessment, reawakening and rediscovery. Written by him after selling both homes in New York and LA and moving to a small town in Montana, eliminating drugs and alcohol from his lifestyle, and some clear soul-searching and “growing up” (his words) … I so appreciate the clarity and beauty of his writing and music on this album.

We’ve all had those moments when we know we’ve messed up, made every excuse in the book for where we find ourselves and our circumstances, pointing the finger at everyone but us. There are times when we must own up to the choices we’ve made, then let them go and move forward to stand in the light of lessons learned and the recognition of our own power to make a new life and new choices… to get back in the flow of our own grace.

The lyrics in this song are a testament to that recognition, simplification, and transformation:

“I’m a good man with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go.
Now I’m right here and I’m right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
That my shadow days are over,
My shadow days are over now.”

Also notable on the album is Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 with Chris Botti on the trumpet. A story about a man who risks everything to follow an idea and a dream. My favorite line: “When you’re done with this world, you know the next is up to you.”

Amen, brother.


* * * * * * * * * *
This week we are recycling a favorite MMS. Our new subscribers will enjoy
Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience. And to all of our
MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember
why we love seeing the world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it,
and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.”
~~ Henry Ward Beecher

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Reasons and Excuses

There is a big difference between a legitimate reason not to start something you want to do and making an excuse not to start. A reason is usually something over which you have no control. An excuse is often a result of fear, insecurity, or a delay of that journey outside of your comfort zone which comes bubbling up from inside you the closer you get to the starting line.

Almost every client I work with to improve their leadership communications or speaking skills has “reasons” to delay the work. It certainly can be scary to be vulnerable and “open up the kimono” to examine your own self-leadership in order to influence others or to do the hard work of crafting a compelling message and conquering the self-doubt of speaking your message from the stage. I would be doing my clients a grave disservice to let those reason or excuses keep them from doing the important work they are here to do.

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembering the sacrifice of our armed forces. Men and women who overcame their excuses and showed up outside their comfort zones to do what needed to be done. This week, could we not use these powerful examples to recognize and conquer our own excuses and show up outside our own comfort zones to do whatever is necessary to guide and influence those who are looking to us for clear leadership or are needing to hear our important message from the stage?

At LionSpeak, if you’re ready… we’re ready. No excuses. No delays. Only powerful messages to communicate sooner than later. Let’s do this!

“Every excuse I ever heard made perfect sense to the person who made it. “
~ Dr. Daniel T. Drubin

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Giving Back the Work

What we most want for our children is for them to understand what powerful creators they are and (like Marie Forleo says) that everything is “figure-out-able.” We want them to become resourceful, independent thinkers and problem-solvers. We want to hire the same kind of people with whom to work.

So why then do we continue to encourage the exact opposite by taking their challenges on as our own? Just like with our children, when we solve all of our co-workers’ problems, we teach them to become and remain dependent, not independent. We teach them to look outside for the answers and resources, rather than within. We inadvertently support them in being a victim versus being in control of their circumstances.

All leadership roads lead back to us so if you’re weary of being bulleted for answers to every single issue in your business, or conversely if you’re tired of having to be the one to bring issues to co-workers’ attention that are holding them back from their full potential… maybe we should reconsider the strategies we’re using to lead them in the first place?
Case in point: This week, in a monthly Leadership Mastery call with an office manager, we tackled some Courageous Conversations she was having with some of her employees. While she was doing very well with her conversations in conflict, she admitted to being somewhat stuck in some performance conversations where people made a lot of seemingly legitimate excuses.

When I asked for a specific example, she told me of a conversation she had with one of her hygienists who consistently ran late with her appointments. Though she had spoken to her several times in the past, nothing had changed and this time the hygienists stated, “I don’t feel there is anything I can do about it. The doctors always come in late to do hygiene checks in my room and the patients are always late so then I run behind. What do you want me to do… give them a sub-standard cleaning so I can run on time?”

The office manager was stumped and unsure where to take the conversation because she didn’t have an answer. And herein lies the shift: A supervisor gives answers. A coach gives the work of finding the answers back to the employee. This manager thinks her job is to solve the issue. But, even if she did solve this one… the next challenge will land the employee back in her office looking for yet another answer.

Instead, we have the opportunity to help strengthen the muscle of critical thinking skills by gentling turning the work back to the person… not because we can’t or don’t want to solve it but because in doing so, we rob them of the opportunity to discover their own ability to solve it.

How different might it be if we adopted a true “coaching” mentality by asking leading questions, discovering what the employee really wants, and gently leading them to their own answers and resourcefulness?

“I can really understand how frustrating those issues would be for you, Sara. What have you tried so far to solve them?”
“Well, nothing really. I don’t see what I can do to make patients show up on time or get the doctors in there sooner for exams.”

“Have you considered who might know how to do that?”

“Tina seems to run on time pretty consistently, but I really don’t know how she does it.”

“Well, the non-negotiable here is that we have to find a solution and I’m excited about supporting you to find one that you really love. Have you thought about speaking with Tina about the strategies she’s using? I’d be very willing to pay for lunch for the two of you if you wanted to come back with some ideas. Or we could clear your schedule one morning, if you wanted to assist and shadow her to come up with some fresh ideas about how to fix the issue. How do feel about one of those options?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Great, when could you let me know what you’ve decided to do and when it’s scheduled?”

“Probably by Friday.”

“Great, I’ll be excited to see what you decide by Friday, what ideas you discover, and what your plan looks like for moving forward.”

Give the work back to them. Enroll them in thinking through the people, organizations, publications, courses, etc. that might become resources for their solutions. Help them to learn how to get creative about solving challenges and strengthening their muscles for independence and self-reliance. Stop doing all the work for them and see your role as that of a coach who leads people not to dependence and powerlessness but rather to independence and pride.

“You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you.
As I’ve learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership;
if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead.”
~Tom Ridge

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