Making Virtual Work

global teamsThe world of work is changing for professionals.  Two factors are changing the nature of how we work:  geographic dispersion caused by corporations increasing the reach of their organizations around the world and growing multiculturalism as people interact across the countries regularly (Adler and Gunderson, 2008).  Many of us now participate in meetings from our home office, in cars, airports, or trains, as well as in the office. Whether you work on a global team that has members in every region of the world, telecommute from a home office, participate in a virtual classroom, or you spend your days traveling to do business, learning how to shine virtually is a new skill that is required.  Here are my 5 tips for making virtual work for you:

  1. Frequent check-ins.  Your boss or professor may know that you’re working hard where ever you are, however, it’s up to you to let them know that you’re doing an amazing job.  Checking in frequently with updates on projects, success stories, questions about their priorities and new ideas for continuous improvement will show that you’re the same go-getter that always exceeds expectations.  You can send a text message, email, or pick up the phone and call.  Don’t wait for him or her to call you to see what’s going on in your area.
  2. Keep it professional.  When you’re on a call its easy to get so relaxed that it comes through in your voice.  Remember to sit up straight so that your voice sounds professional and clear.  Put your phone on mute when you’re not talking to cut down on background noise.  Jot down the names of people on the call so you can address people by name and by all means participate.  Make sure that you add value to any discussion and ask questions if you don’t understand or didn’t hear something that was said. Chances are others didn’t either.
  3. Master virtual body language.  We all know that over 70% of communication is done with body language and not words. This means that if no one can see you, it’s extremely important to use your words more effectively to get your message across.  Build up your emotional vocabulary so that you can describe what you’re feeling to others.  For example, “I’m very excited about this proposal and wish that you could see my enthusiasm over the phone!”  You can also use mindfulness to focus on the emotion that you want to convey so that it comes across in your tone of voice.
  4. Get a professional headshot.  You want people to put a face with the name so put your best face forward.  Use a picture in an introductory slide when doing a virtual presentation so that everyone knows who is speaking.  Keep your picture up to date on internal collaboration sites as well as on LinkedIn.  Smartphone pictures are okay as long as you dress professionally and take the pic in a professional or neutral setting.  Remember, this picture may be the only image some people ever see of you.
  5. Be a virtual leader.  You can demonstrate your leadership ability over the phone as much as you can in person.  Great leaders have vision, let them hear about your plans for a better future.  A vision is simply an idea that describes something better than what we have today.  Great leaders have a strategy for how we get from here to there.  What resources are required?  What are the steps that we need to take?  Great leaders engage others to achieve the vision by understanding their needs and motivations.  Get to know other members on your team and what makes them tick.  Inspire them by being inclusive and getting their input on your plans. Finally, great leaders get things done.  Let your team know about the progress that you are making towards your collective goals. Show that you are pulling your weight.

Working virtually is here to stay.  We live in a knowledge-driven and highly competitive business environment so we must learn to shine where ever we are.

Follow my blog post for more helpful tips to develop a more masterful you!

Valeria Edmonds, Masterful You

You can reach me for virtual coaching at

Leadership Spotlight on Leonard Dixon

Masterful You reflects the type of leader that operates from a core value that leadership is action, not position and who has a passion for helping others.  Every day men and women around the world show us what leadership looks like and rarely do they get the accolades they are due.  Today, we shine the spotlight on Leonard Dixon who is a Rig Manager at Gulf Drilling International in Doha, Qatar and a friendly face to all the African-Americans who make Doha their home away from home.

Leonard DixonWhen asked, this is what Leonard had to say about leadership:

1. What defines leadership for you?  Being in a position to make decisions that will have an effect on people lives.

2. How would you describe your leadership style? I’m a listening and learning leader. I realize that just because I’ve been blessed to be in a leadership position,  doesn’t make me know it all.  I learn something new every day that makes me a better leader.

3. What makes you unique as a leader? The passion that I have for what I do and the passion I have for the people who depend on me to do the right thing.

4. Who was your role model as a leader? My role model was my Grandfather, he always told me don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.

5. Can you share a quote or scripture that inspires you? “Can’t Never Can” by The Late Clifton Willie Dixon

Leonards quote


6. What has been your biggest leadership challenge to date? Overcoming the stigma that some people have of Black Americans.  Especially outside the U.S. because too often the only image they have of us is from TV and movies.  As more of us take advantage of expatriate opportunities and to travel, the world gets to know that we have so much more to offer than they expect.

7. What achievement are you most proud of to date? Being a Father; it’s my most important leadership role and everything else is the result of trying to be a good Father.

8. What advice would you give aspiring leaders in the 21st Century? Know your craft, know the people you are leading, make the people you’re leading believe in your leadership ability and make yourself available to be challenged by the people you’re leading.

Follow my blog for more spotlights on everyday leaders.

Valeria Edmonds, Masterful You

If you would like to be in the spotlight, please email me at

Anatomy of a Coaching Conversation

What is coaching?  How do you know if you need a coach?  What’s the difference between a coach and a counselor or mentor?  What should I expect from a coach?  How does the process work?  These are all legitimate questions about an area that covers everything from supervisor feedback to help with your golf game to finding your life purpose.  Whatever the nature of the coaching conversation, it should always include three distinct components:  an agenda, exploration, and defining actions.

It’s up to the person who wants to improve to define the agenda.  Whether it’s your career, your performance, your leadership impact or your life, there must be an objective.  Generally, there is an overall objective that leads you to seek help but there also has to be an objective for the conversation.  Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this discussion?  What would make this a good use of my time?  If you engage a coach to help improve your overall performance, you might have a conversation to understand the common themes in your feedback or to develop a plan for addressing specific feedback.  If you engage a coach to help with planning for life after retirement, you might use a session to clarify your goals.  The coach will help with your little agenda while keeping in mind the bigger agenda that you want to achieve.

When I’m mentoring, I draw from my experience in an effort to teach someone how to do something I know.  Likewise, counseling or consulting draws on the past and a specific area of expertise.  Coaching, on the other hand, pushes the client to draw from his or her own knowledge and experience.  It focuses on exploration and thoughtful consideration of what might be done differently to get better results.  A coach will ask thought-provoking questions or simply listen while you consider what the problems might be.  Typical probing questions include:

  • If you could achieve your goal in six months, what would it look like?
  • What else could you do?
  • What else occurs to you?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • Who else is affected in this situation?

The coach walks alongside you on the journey to improve.  They might share observations or provide tools to facilitate the discovery process, but a coach believes in the wisdom of the client to move from where they are to where they want to be.

All coaching conversations should lead to developing an action plan.  It doesn’t have to be formal, but you should walk away with something to do that will move you closer to your goals.  The work of coaching involves aligning the client’s passions, skills, and values with their daily actions.  The coach should leave their clients with more confidence, direction, and a greater sense of fulfillment than he or she otherwise would have.  This requires putting in the work between sessions to act on the learning and increased self-awareness.

A coaching conversation can be informal or you can pay for professional coaching services.  The advantages of coaching will be directly proportional to the effort and commitment that you make.  I strongly recommend professional coaching for anyone who wants to fulfill God’s vision for their lives and who understands the benefit of having someone walk alongside as you learn to live accordingly.


The Woman in the Mirror

The issues that women deal with and the lessons learned when we share our stories, transcend time and culture.  It’s like looking at a three-way mirror.

The mirror on the left reflects our ideal self, the image that represents all that we aspire to be based on what we’ve learned from our mothers, our friends, our culture, our religion.  It reflects all that is good and right and beautiful; the perfect size, posture, attitude, background, and future.  She is healthy and whole.  As the epitome of virtue, she inspires us and drives us to action.

The mirror on the left reflects our ideal self, the image that represents all that we aspire to be based on what we’ve learned from our mothers, our friends, our culture, our religion.  It reflects all that is good and right and beautiful; the perfect size, posture, attitude, background, and future.  She is healthy and whole.  As the epitome of virtue, she inspires us and drives us to action.

The mirror on the right reflects the naked truth that no one gets to see but us.  The image represents our insecurities, our failures, our disappointments, and our displeasure.  It reflects all that we loathe; that we think is wrong and ugly about ourselves.  She is the one who binges, masturbates, fornicates, overspends, gossips, underachieves, procrastinates, yells at her children, disrespects her husband, farts loudly, hoards and cuts corners.  She is our shame and what we try so very hard to hide.

The mirror in front of us is the one we present to the world.  The superficial person we makeup and cover up to feel comfortable facing tomorrow.  The image we create to impress others and the one who gives us the courage to face tomorrow.  She helps us to get out of bed each morning, ignore everything else and look straight ahead.  She’s holding it together and while not perfect she’s good enough.  Good enough to marry, good enough to sing in the choir, good enough to serve in the community, good enough to raise children, good enough to be your friend.  She’s good enough to function most days.

Our dysfunction is directly proportional to the difference between the mirror on the left and the mirror on the right.  How we feel about ourselves and the energy we expend to make the adjustments necessary to face the world also reflects our relationship with God.  If we don’t believe that God loves the real woman on the right, how can we love her?  If we don’t believe the woman on the left is real, how can we ever be at peace?  That’s why we’re overweight and tired.  We’re longing for Him to love us the way we are, but we don’t love ourselves.  We try to fill the void with food, clothes, men, busyness, or whatever else we can but it’s still there; that craving for unconditional love.

Everything good and perfect is from God with whom there is no variation or shadow when you see His reflection.  By his own will and desire, he created us and is making us into new creatures through his words of truth so that we would be like first-fruits consecrated by Him; set apart and dedicated to his service.

That’s why we must get rid of all the filthiness and the abundance of wickedness that gets in the way of our productivity.  We must receive with meekness the Word, which is able to save souls and have it implanted in our hearts.  We have to be women who live the word, and not just those who sit in church every Sunday deceiving ourselves.  The one who hears and takes no action is the woman who looks in the mirror on the right and sees herself for who she really is and then goes away pretending that she is the woman on the left.  However, the one who looks into the word, which is perfect and gives liberty, then, makes the adjustments necessary will be blessed in all she does.  If we think we are Christians but don’t know how to apply the word of God to our daily lives in a real and practical way, we are lying to ourselves and our religion is useless.

Real unadulterated religion is to help those in our midst who are in trouble and to face the world with your true authentic self; the woman who has been washed in the blood of the lamb; the one who Jesus’ loves today and died for over two thousand years ago.  The one whose sins he forgave before she was even born; the one who is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image; the one who is a princess and part of a royal priesthood.  She is beautiful but she’s not perfect.  She is righteous but she is not sinless.  She is holy but not pious.  She is confident but not arrogant.  She is real.


So true

Andonnia's Truth

Createherstock A Summer Day Neosha Gardner 23
I can’t force what isn’t there. I want to invite you to stick with me on this journey. There are shifts taking place in my mindset, perspective, in my faith, and in my schedule.

Isn’t life a constant state of change?

If change were easy, we would call it something else. We would call it something more specific to a pleasurable experience, however sometimes change is uncomfortable.

Sometimes the labor pains, that bring forth a beautiful birth, create a new level of anguish. New mothers can tell you the feelings leading up to birth can be a mental and physical stretch, simultaneously. However, when the birthing process has produced its purposed fruit, your attention shifts from the pain to the purpose of the pain. Are you in a birthing place? Are you in the place where something from unchartered waters is coming forth? When you have no prototype, you…

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Let them know you’re Amazing!

The power networking expert and author, George Fraser, spoke during a Black employee network event at work about how he felt when he finally let go of his old flip phone and joined team Apple with an iPhone. He said his flip phone was good (functionally it did everything he needed like make calls, texts, and even access the internet) but to him the iPhone was AMAZING! It was a whole computer that could fit in his pocket. George reminded us that in today’s competitive global economy it isn’t enough to be good, you need to be amazing. And quite frankly, when we really start to take stock of how much we are able to accomplish at work and at home, you will realize like I did that you are already amazing.

Too often we sell ourselves short and don’t acknowledge how significant our contributions are to the organizations we work in. As a single mom with two kids at the time, I was working as a strategic HR business partner to a large corporate division with over 3000 employees globally. I consistently delivered results and still found time to coach leaders, mentor young professionals, and volunteer outside of work. I could see the surprise on my manager’s face at times when I delivered what they thought would be an impossible task. Even things I thought were simple, seemed to astound some people who had not mastered the use of Excel or PowerPoint. I surprised them with my use of pivot tables and my animation skills.

At the end of the day, your success at work is going to be defined by your individual contributions, so it is on you to help the organization you work for recognize how amazing you are. There are a lot of good people working beside you, so it’s important to differentiate yourself. However, often it’s not our skills and abilities that hold us back, it’s the game that we are not playing well. We need to define what success means to us as individuals, but I’d challenge you that if you’re going to be in the corporate game, you might as well play to win.

In her book called Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discusses the scarcity of women in high leadership positions. As she explores the obstacles that keep women out of the C-suite, she observes that discrimination and harassment are real; mentors are rare and that you still have to be twice as good and able to juggle. Sandberg pokes holes in the stereotypes such as women are less assertive, reluctant to self-promote and bad at negotiating. She teaches women that to overcome gender barriers, they must sit at the table, not in the corner and lean in. I’d add that winning in the corporate game, requires overcoming the barriers all women and minorities face within the corporate environment. Here are the specific barriers that I’d recommend focusing on to achieve your definition of success:

1. Be mindful of your Presence. Leadership presence is a state of mind. If you feel like a leader, it will show up in how you walk into a room, how you dress, how you speak, and the energy that flows from your every pore. To take calculated risks, you have to know what you have to gain, and if you can afford to take the hit if it doesn’t go your way. You also have to learn to master your emotions which is understanding what pushes you off center and what brings you back to center. What is center? Well, the center of the body is peace, your emotional center. Practicing gratitude reduces fear – you can’t be grateful and scared at the same time. Finding an appreciative space will change your emotions and bring you back to center. The center of language is silence. I learned to practice silence by using the acronym W.A.I.T. – when you find yourself talking more than listening ask “why am I talking?” and make sure you’re okay with the answer. The center of the mind is acceptance. You stand tallest when your head is focused on possibilities while your feet remain firmly planted in reality. Finally, the center of the spirit is submission or yielding to a higher authority. Having a moral compass provides direction and recognition that there is a power at work in your life that is greater than you. Consider where “North” is for you and how you find it.

2. Learn the art of Submission. My choice of words is intentionally provocative, but there are a skill and a benefit to subordination. I mean it in the sense that you put someone else’s interest above your own and that’s something we do all the time as moms. However, within the corporate environment, it can be used to gain an advantage. Becoming the go-to person within your department, volunteering to lead projects or do extra work, and demonstrating active support for your boss’ agenda all serve to make them beholding to you. It comes back to reciprocation. However, you don’t want to volunteer for things that play into a stereotype such as coordinating the office party or ordering lunch for your team building event as a woman unless you’ve gained a reputation already for more substantive contributions.

3. Deal with the Politics. Stop saying you hate politics and recognize that politics is just a network of relationships within an organization that facilitates influence. Focus on building your support base so that you can expand your influence. As with anything else, politics is about who you know and who knows you. Your support base should include key players within your department or function, technical advisors, administrators who can get things done, people with access to information, people who understand the ‘system’ or people processes, as well as potential sponsors. A sponsor is someone at a higher level in a position that can influence your advancement and create opportunities. Having someone who fits these criteria in your network is crucial to making it to senior levels within the organization because you won’t make it unless someone is pulling you up.

4. Redefine your Potential. Organizations regularly assess the potential of employees based on how high up they believe the person can be promoted successfully. That assessment provides a target for succession planning. The assessment might consider how well you have performed in the past, your ambition and willingness to do what’s necessary to reach higher levels as well as the likelihood of opportunities being available when you are ready. While the organization will have a perspective, it’s important for you to weigh in on the factors that you can influence. Be clear about your aspirations and your limitations. Visualize what success looks like for you and talk about it with your management. Ambition is not a dirty word and we are just as ambitious as anyone else.

5. Let them see your Passion. With men is called assertiveness or even aggressiveness, but I like to say I’m passionate. I can go toe-to-toe with the best of them when I’m confident, and I’m coming from a value- or principle-based position. When you’re passionate about your work or your position, you’re willing to take personal risks. You put your reputation on the line, and you demonstrate your ability to stand up for your beliefs. It shows integrity, and if you’re able to take hits and recover quickly, it will result in success over the long run. You have to know when to draw the line so that your passion doesn’t come across as being abrasive (they have names for abrasive females in leadership positions, but you can always position yourself as trying to help. It’s what we do best).

6. Get comfortable with Power. Too many women and minorities worry about their title. We are waiting to be given position authority and fail to grasp the concept of personal power. As a parent, you exercise authority outside of work all the time. Within the corporate environment, you can use that same confidence which comes from knowing that you have the same right and privilege as everyone else in the room. You can respect the authority inherent in a position and at the same time exercise your ability to influence a decision and even impose your ideas. The one thing that always increases my confidence and my credibility is to know why I’m involved in a meeting or a project. Knowing the hat that I’m wearing clarifies for me and everyone else that I deserve my seat at the table. Then you can assert yourself from a position of knowledge and or experience.

We can be our own worst critics, and I had statistics working against me as a single mom in Corporate America. I had this unrealistic desire to be the perfect mom with a successful career, but I realized that it was up to me to identify what success meant and not let others define it for me. I carefully created a reputation for myself within the company based on my strengths and clearly articulated my career goals. Where I had once been scared the bottom would fall out of my career after I got divorced –and maybe it did from some people’s perspective – I’ve since had lots of opportunities to continue growing professionally and to expand my impact within the company. It takes courage to stand up to the many barriers that are faced by women and minorities in the workplace. The statistics may paint a picture, but it’s not a picture of me. I’m amazing!

Seven tips for surviving a merger

Seventeen years ago, I found out the company I worked for would be going through the biggest merger in history. Now after learning many lessons from that experience and going through even more subsequent organizational changes, I have a few tips for those impacted by two companies coming together to form a new entity. Mergers are milestone career events. Some people will be paralyzed with fear while others will begin jockeying for position, however, everyone will go through their own personal transition. The culture of the new organization will take years to form but initially you have to find your way through the confusion that settles over both organizations immediately after a merger announcement. Here are a few tips for navigating through the fog:

1. Try to understand the case for change.

 Most people look at a merger from the perspective of how it will impact them but, if you can, try to identify the benefits of the change from a neutral perspective. This will position you well when talking to leaders involved in the transition because they will see you as objective; someone who can be a positive and rational influence during the transition. There will be enough people panicking so you will stand out and you will be calmer if you can understand the business case for the change.

2. Don’t be the source of gossip and rumors. 

There will inevitably be speculation and discussion regarding the implications of the merger on people and work activities. However, it does no good to worry about things you can’t control. There is usually a transition team put in place to manage decisions that have to be made regarding staffing, restructuring, systems, legal entities, etc. If you want to be a part of the change team or the new organization, it doesn’t bode well if you are identified as the source of spreading rumours. If you have questions, ask your manager not your neighbour. If you’re asked questions, state that you don’t know unless you’ve been given clear instructions on what to share.

3. Read or reread “Who Moved My Cheese”

This is a quick and easy read that illustrates how people react differently to change. The book only takes about 30-45 minutes to read but it can be a game changer for those who have never considered the emotional side of change. Whenever organizations go through major change, they tend to underestimate the impact of the personal transitions that also have to take place. You don’t want be the one left behind because you insist on holding on to the way things are. If you have already read it, the refresher will help you help others understand the very natural emotions they are dealing with. You can share it with other colleagues and become a leader in the transition. 

4. Let your needs and aspirations be known.

There are good and not so good managers, but none are mind readers. When decisions need to be made quickly they might not be able to seek your input so they will make assumptions based on the latest information available. The only way to ensure that they know what you want is to let your preferences be known. You can bring it up casually in conversation that you are planning to retire soon and may not be around when the merger is finalized or that you’re open to relocate to new locations that are available as a result of the merger in a formal one-on-one with your manager. Don’t limit your communications to your immediate manager though because you don’t know who will be involved in the transition team. You can mention over lunch that it’s important to stay in your current position until your child graduates, or volunteer to work on the transition team so that people know you want to work in the new organization.

5. Align yourself with the new vision.

There will be key phrases in the change communications that become a mantra for where the organization is going. Listen to the vision statements and use key phrases from organizational communications to show that you support the vision. Don’t wait for someone to tell you how you fit into the new organization, identify how your work or your skills will help fulfil the new vision. Picture yourself in the new company and what type of role would best suit you. Describe that position to your managers and other leaders within the context of the new organization.

6. Evaluate your supporters and see who is aligning and who is resistant to changes happening.

New alliances will be formed with the new organization. To the extent you can, observe who is excited about the change and embracing the new language and priorities of the combined organization. Identify if you have good relationships with emerging leaders and if you don’t look for opportunities to build them. Align yourself with those who are aligning with the new organization’s vision and purpose. Engage them in conversation about the positive aspects of the merger and make sure they are aware of your skills and capabilities. 

7. Manage your personal brand.

You want your reputation internally and externally to be consistent when it comes to what you bring to the table. To manage your personal brand, its important to understand what your reputation is within your current organization and whether it needs to be adjusted. Start with an honest assessment of your skills and competencies then summarize your strengths. You can use recent performance feedback or ask a mentor for help describing yourself and your role in a brief statement. Practice describing what you do and your key areas of expertise with family and friends. Make a conscious effort to drive the narrative about you by putting the words in the mouths of company leaders. Tell them what you want them to know about you whenever you have a chance.

At the end of the day, my advice is to hope for the best but plan for the worst. When a merger happens there will certainly be redundant positions. The tips above will help but they cannot guarantee that you will get the job you want. You should refresh your resume and update your LinkedIn profile. Its important to know your marketability at all times so you should always have a resume ready. Keeping your eyes open for opportunities will put you in the best position to make a call on what job is right for you in the end. So read the job postings and listen to the head-hunters even if you want to stay. Its always better to have options to choose from than to be caught unprepared to get back into the market. If you survive the merger, it will still take years for the dust to settle. The new organization will not be either of the heritage organizations but you can be a part of bringing about a positive new culture that embraces change.

Valeria Edmonds

Masterful is…

M is for Mastery.  It’s not enough to be smart or talented.  You have to actually be good at something.  The extent of your ability is based on the amount of effort you put into honing your skills and knowledge in an area.  Being good will often get you in the door, but staying on top requires continuous learning and improvement.  So don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Don’t stop striving to be the best at what you do well.

A is for Authenticity.  I love the Barney song “You are special.  You’re the only one like you.”  It reminds me how important it is to be real and transparent.  There will always be people who don’t understand or appreciate you but that doesn’t mean you should shrink so that they shine.  There is enough darkness in the world for us all to shine brightly.  So be your amazing self and show up when invited.  Show up in meetings.  Show up at events.  Show up at home.  The world needs to see the real you not an imitation.  Self-love begins with knowing and appreciating who you are at the core; then others can too.

S is for Service.  There is no higher return than what you get from living in service to others.  Doing for others gives your life purpose and meaning.  When setting a goal or making a plan, always ask “for the sake of what?” and the answer will define the value of your actions.  Service gives you a reason to get up every morning.  Service is what defines that dash between the date your were born and the date you die. Ultimately our goal should be to improve the world around us socially, culturally, morally and/or intellectually.

T is for Thankfulness.  There are lots of blogs and books written about the benefits of gratitude including feelings of abundance, less stress, more happiness, and better sleep.  I’m a big believer in this principle and even the habit of keeping a gratitude journal like Oprah.  However, being thankful is also about taking the time to speak or write to an actual person for doing something that benefits you.  It’s a common courtesy that can go a long way to improving relationships and making you feel good too.  Manners are important.

E is for Empowerment.  Power in its very nature is imposing.  So being comfortable with and understanding your own personal power is key to building confidence.  It affects your presence and gives you an edge over anyone who is uncomfortable with their own ability to influence others.  When you are comfortable with power it’s also easy to empower others because you don’t feel threatened or insecure.  Power has much less to do with position than it does with an ability to make things happen.

R is for Relationships.  In business school we were taught the importance of networking and if you can learn to do it strategically, that’s a great skill to have.  Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, the importance of building and maintaining relationships cannot be downplayed.  Who you know matters but not as much as who knows you.  What people know about you affects everything from your performance rating at work to your ability to get clients or even a date.    It’s always been said that there are only six degrees of separation and with the world getting smaller as a result of technology and globalization, it may be down to three.  So nurture your network and remember that to have good relationships you have to be relatable.

F is for Faith.  Yes, spirituality is important.  A belief in something greater than yourself keeps you grounded and provides hope when the world all around you seems to be crumbling.  It’s what we turn to when we don’t have answers to life’s big questions in our search for meaning.  And if you haven’t had a reason to call on your own God, then you haven’t lived long enough yet.    Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen according to my beliefs and it has given me the strength I needed to carry on.

U is for Unity.  There are so many walls and forces that would like to keep people from getting along, however, I’ve found that people are basically the same in their needs and motivations.  Instead of jumping on the band wagon of judgement and divisiveness, being the person who looks for commonality and builds bridges will make you a true champion.  Looking for ways to collaborate on a good idea will make it great.  Helping people connect the dots in largest complex organizations and systems will win you favor.  Referring people to businesses and services that you have found with satisfaction will provide multiple dividends.  Celebrate diversity but strive for unity to make the world a better place to live and work.

L is for Leadership.     The world needs more leaders.  Not more managers or people who think they know everything but people who can see something better than what we have right now.  People who know how to think strategically about how we get from here to there and what resources we will need along the way.  People who can inspire others and motivate them to act on a vision.  People who can make things happen.  Leaders believe in themselves, believe in a better future, and believe in others.  The world needs you to be a champion of good leadership in our homes, our communities, and our businesses.

So strive for mastery, authenticity, uplifting service, thankfulness, true empowerment, rewarding relationships,  unwavering faith, unity and excellent leadership.  Being MASTERFUL is all of these things and more.  I believe in a more Masterful You!

Leadership Speak

On the road to being a more masterful you, effective communication is critical. They teach parts of speech in school but I think they should teach acts of speech as well. Speech acts are powerful ways to have more positive relationships.

First, when we talk about the past we tend to make assessments and then assertions. We all judge and develop opinions about a person or a situation whether informed or not, whether spoken or not and these assessments become our truth. Perceptions are reality right. We are human and this ability to make assessments often protects us from hurt, harm, and danger. They inform our decisions and guide our actions. The challenge is when you actually make an assertion or a statement of judgment or opinion (informed or not) you engage others and open yourself up to be challenged. We should all expect this given that opinions and judgements are like noses and everyone has them. As leaders, when making an assessment, anticipate questions and apposing points of view, be ready to explain your logic and/or even the emotion that led to your position. Don’t get frustrated when others don’t see or share your perspective, just respectfully agree to disagree. It would be nice to say no harm/ no foul because we all have opinions, but as leaders recognize that your assessments often do impact people and sometimes it impacts their livelihood. So try to stay informed. See to understand different perspectives. Try to remain open to alternative points of view so that you limit any potential harm.
Next let me share a few tips on negotiations. I know that’s an unusual term to use but a lot of conversations are really negotiations. When you make requests, offer to do something, or agree with someone you are demonstrating negotiation skills.  When thinking about your conversation in those terms its important to be clear, so let’s talk about them. A good request includes details of what, when, how much, and why. The same is true of an offer you make to someone. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get requests from people where I have to go back and clarify any one of those details. The worst is when a leader is not sure what they want. Take the time to think through exactly what you are asking of others and remember that resentment comes when someone fails to answer a request that was never made. Unspoken requests are not legitimate because people cannot read your mind. When making a request or an offer, realize that the response can be yes, no, or a negotiation of what and/or when. An agreement or a commitment should be very clear as well and start with something like “I heard you” or “I understand” or “I will” or simply “I agree.” If you don’t get a response to a request or an offer, then you can ask for an agreement. These simple rules or acts of speech if practiced can reduce friction and conflict on every level and with any relationship. 

Lastly, its important how we as leaders talk about the future. A declaration is a statement you make that describes and creates a future possibility. A leader can share someone else’s vision but at some point you have to be able to describe the future state to others.  Write the vision, make it plain, then declare it! We need leaders in our homes, at work, in our communities, and within our government to speak life to a future that is inclusive, innovative, and inspirational. 

There was a point in my life where I had accomplished all that I’d wanted when I was younger and I stopped dreaming. It was a watershed moment when I realized this and started allowing myself to dream again. I learned how to dream in color! I learned to describe what I wanted for my family, for myself, for my community. I realized that as a leader I had the power to make my dreams a reality only when I spoke them out loud for others to support me, encourage me, help me, and hold me accountable.

Your acts of speech are powerful leadership skills, so hone them now. Practice effective communication in all areas of your life.


What’s Missing?

Is your project derailing?  Having trouble accomplishing your objectives?  Do the people working with you understand their roles and responsibilities or even what you’re trying to accomplish?  Who are you waiting on to fix it?  Whether you are the most senior leader in an organization or you’re a worker bee several layers from the top, there is an opportunity for you to diagnose the problem and be a part of the success solution in your team, your business and/or your start-up.

Steven Covey taught us the seven habits of highly effective people and they are still useful habits twenty seven years after he published the book.  As individuals, we need to be proactive, to begin with the end in mind, and to prioritize by putting first things first. When dealing with others we also must learn to think win-win versus being competive, seek to understand different perspectives and views, look for synergies and ways to sharpen the saw because people take a lot of your energy.  These are tools of effectiveness that are helpful in building a solid foundation but even with them you might find it hard to achieve success without effective leadership.  

I want to talk about success from a different angle.  Leading from the middle is what I call it because leadership is action not position.  Being able to step back and figure out what’s missing when things are not going as planned can be done by anyone.  Just ask your self do you know the what, why, how, and who of what you’re trying to accomplish.  

  • Is your project or goal missing a leader?  A leader is someone who can articulate what you’re doing in a very detailed descriptive way that makes the expected outcome clear for everyone involved.  
  • Does everyone know how you will accomplish the objective and get the resources needed?  A manager’s job is planning the details, the budget, the resourcing requirements, etc.  A vision with no plan is just a pretty picture.
  • Movitating others to work with you requires understanding and good intentions.  People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  A good supervisor can engage their team by focusing on what’s in it for each individual and aligning their goals with the overall objective of the project or goal.
  • Finally, nothing replaces the effort required to get things done.  Leadership is also about execution which is why people respect leaders with experience and those who know what it takes to accomplish the goal.  

When you think of yourself as having all of these roles, you can be successful in any endeavor.  So are you missing a leader, a manager, a supervisor or an employee?