Who Is In The Room


Spaces filled with identical people and ideas frustrate me.

What I find more rewarding: colorful, diverse rooms. Rooms with lots of different points of view and different kinds of people. Here is why I prefer these kind of rooms: I love success.

The most successful, competitive organizations are diverse. Again and again the data reflects this positive outcome.  Diversity predicts profitability.

Diversity in the board room matters. A society where all voices are at the table, empowered to bring insight and exert decision making on future outcomes, is a more just and equitable society. And the other outcome of diverse leadership: profit.

The Diversity Data:

According to McKinsey’s most recent 2017 data, there is a direct correlation between business success and the presence of women and minorities on executive teams.  A quick example from the data:

·        The worst performing quartile of companies had 1 woman line executive for every 58 men.

·        The second worst performing companies had 4 women for every 48 men line executives.

·        The number of women jump in the second best performing companies: 6 women for                   every 48 men. (Yes, this is still a dismally inequitable number.)

·        Top performing companies had the most women line executives: 10 women for every 41             men.

·        Imagine the performance of companies where gender parity is achieved...

The data tells us:

As diversity metrics rise so do profitability outcomes. So why are so many c-suites monolithic in gender, color, age, orientation, or background? What would I find if I came to visit your next meeting?

I find diversity is an outcome of awareness and experience, and that is very hard to change without intentional effort. To become aware of a blind spot we actually have to have someone point it out, or we don’t notice.

Here are a couple step you can take to begin to shift your awareness:

Notice who is at the table the next time you walk into a room.

·        What diversity is present? Absent? 

·        Does the makeup of the room reflect the reality of the whole organization?

·        What can you change with an invitation to the next meeting?

Diversity arises with intentionality. It is not an accident when a group of leaders in an organization are gender, age, ability, background and orientation diverse. It happens with effort: strategic, tactical effort.

Diverse rooms are fun to be in: especially as the trust rises. The stories I hear and the insight I gain when I spend a lot of time with people who are not like me teaches me so much.

Spend some time cultivating a friendship with someone who is different from you.

You will learn things about yourself and others and the world we share that you never knew. And we are all the better for it when we learn something today we didn’t know yesterday.


What causes us to notice and reflect upon both how we behave and how we are responded to by others?

It might be that sinking feeling we have when we walk into a meeting that we’ve prepared for, only to realize that what we are ready for is not what is about to happen.

It could be the frustration we feel when, after many years of successful collaboration on another team, we join a new group only to discover that we can’t seem to fit in, find our role, or figure out how to be successful.

It may be that we have achieved a new level of success, but find that, with that change, we have lost our competitive edge, our confidence, and our camaraderie with colleagues.

Paying attention to how we land on other people; how we make them feel when they are in our presence, is essential if we want to succeed in the long term.

Being a bull in a china shop might get us promoted a few times by people impressed by our bravado, but eventually we will get handed a bill for all the damage we have done.  We ignore the impact of our actions at our own peril.

In my cohorts of leaders who are working to define and refine their executive presence, I encourage them to begin with two simple steps:

1.      Become Aware of your behavior and how your words, actions, silence, and inactions affect the people around you.  Everything we do and don’t do has some kind of impact and the higher we ascend in leadership, the bigger our impact zone becomes.

2.      Be Intentional about your choices:  your words, your tone, your timing, and your approach have various impacts.  Thinking through the effect we want to have on others and then designing our presence to match that desired outcome is worth the time it takes.

So the next time you have a sinking feeling when you walk into a meeting, or find yourself feeling frustrated about your interactions with your team, follow these four steps:

1.      Stop.  Pausing is powerful.  It gives you a moment to respond instead of react.  Next,

2.      Reflect.  What is actually, factually happening?  Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions are a good place to start.  Then ask yourself, what part of this is fact and what part of this is my interpretation of the facts?  Seek to know the difference. Remember the meaning changes depending on the point of view of the narrator. Try to narrate your stories from the point of view of the people around you.

3.      Imagine.  Get a clear picture in your mind of the effect you want to have.  This allows us to then think: what approach do I want to take to achieve this outcome?  And then: what next step can I take with this person/people?

4.      Act.  Always act with intention.

When I practice these four steps; Stop, Reflect, Imagine, and Act, the interaction usually goes well.  When I feel rushed, or like a victim of circumstance and I don’t take time to act with intention, I miss the mark.  My coaching colleague Scott Eblin says it this way, “Awareness + Intention = Mindfulness.”[i]

What kind of impact do you want to have on the people around you?

How can you design your actions to be in alignment with your desired outcome?

 Asking these questions is the first step towards getting where you want to go.

[i] Scott Eblin, Overworked and Overwhelmed (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley and Sons) 2014.


You may be thinking, “Oh no! This sounds complex.”  However, this is not going to be a deep philosophical debate.  I learned this exercise while I was attending my coaching program at Georgetown University.  Take out a piece of paper.  In the left column, write By Saying Yes To…  In the right column, write I am Saying No to…

 Here are some samples from me and from one of my clients:


By Saying Yes to….                                     I am Saying No to…

Coaching Philip’s Basketball Team                 Free time on Tue, Thur, and Sat

                                                                    Dinners with the rest of family

                                                                    Missing an opportunity to connect with Philip


Leaving X Company                                       Stability


                                                                     Short commute

                                                                     Dead end job at X company

                                                                      My frustrating boss


I love to do this activity with people I coach as it helps them go beyond just the pros and cons list.  We rarely consider the opportunity costs of our Yeses.  Instead, we just tend to say, “Yes” and then one of several things occurs: we break commitments, we miss deadlines, we become overwhelmed, we resent that we said yes to the person, etc.  I think this exercise helps leaders start to clarify what they really want to be working on and what are their top priorities.

I was coaching a CEO recently who was overwhelmed and who could not remember when she last had fun.  When I asked her to do this exercise, I began to see that she kept stacking more and more on her plate.  This helped her understand that she needed to be more intentional in what she said yes to and what the consequences of her Yeses were.

This exercise helps people become more mindful.  Mindfulness is a buzz work right now and so let me provide a definition for you:

Mindfulness = Awareness + Intention

Scott Eblin shared this formula in his outstanding book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  Thus, we first have to become aware of our challenges and then take intentional actions.

 I am curious about:

·       What intentions do you have?

·       How do you honor them?

Scott gives lots of ideas and I highly recommend the book. If you want to learn about how to use this content in your workplace or life, please reach out to me.  

Thanks and create a great day!