“It was the best of days, it was the worst of days, it was the day of wisdom, it was the day of foolishness.” (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

We recently had the opportunity to present Voltage content at an offsite for a Financial Services group in a large city in the Southeast USA. It really could have been anywhere and our program centered around two main points;

A. Tell us about their best day at work in the last 100 days and why?

B. Tell us about their most challenging day at work in the last 100 days and why?

Here’s What the Best Days and the Worst Days Had in Common

  1. Time
  2. Energy
  3. People
  4. Communication                                                                                            

Many said the Best days were days in which the team hit their marks, delivered time sensitive work product, or where everybody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. These days were full of meaningful interaction between people and energy. The team pulled together to hit the finish line strong. There was satisfaction for a job well done and recognition for those doing it. They had earned a certain swagger.

Likewise, on the Worst days, many said these days were full of chaos and confusion about who was doing what and why. Nobody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. After a certain point this led to tacit apathy. It was an exhausting, draining experience where the buck was passed for accountability and energy was expended deflecting attention. Not only was there was no swagger, there was anxiety about what the next day would bring.

1.      Time – In both cases Time is static / fixed, therefore priorities and rationales about them mattered.

2.      Energy – In both cases Energy is variable, the Best days were when Energy levels and Time were managed.

3.      People - In both cases, Work was being done through and with People. The Best days acknowledged that fact.

4.      Communication - In both cases, it was often the Cause of or Solution to a Best day or a Challenging day.

Our goal should be to make every day at work the best it can possible be, aka “the day of wisdom”. This means leaders must live in a less transactional space, where they are paying attention to how these 4 variables are being managed and applied. If they are out of balance, do not be surprised to hear about the “day of foolishness”.

For a deeper dive into how to help establish and foster contagious positive attitudes at your organization, check out this episode of the Voltcast radio show.



People who learn, un-learn, and re-learn bring a competitive advantage to their work: they tend to be current in their field, able to predict trends, and move quickly past conventional wisdom to discover and implement winning ideas. Learning is a key success differentiator that increasingly plays a role in professional advancement. Good thing I have always loved learning!

There are 3 habits I cultivate on my path to lifelong learning:

1.       Curiosity

2.       Commitment

3.       Enthusiasm

Curiosity: When we stay curious we naturally want to grow, learn and explore our world. We seek to question, not confirm, our assumptions.

Habit: asking curious questions, learning new skills, researching new ideas and concepts.

One of the best ways I have been curious this year is with this question: What is the most generous assumption I can make about the action this person has taken? This simple question has allowed me to be a better coach, leader, partner and friend.

Commitment: When our curiosity is wed to a commitment to act, we take steps to learn and grow. We discover more, experience new things, and build relationships with a diverse group of thinkers. Relationships are cultivated with people who have skills and ideas different from our own.

Habit: time. Learning takes time and perseverance.  Devote time to study, read journals, books  and articles, take classes or attend workshops.

This year I have stretched out of my comfort zone to meet and build relationships with people who think, live and act differently than I do, and I am better for it.

Enthusiasm: Contrary to popular opinion, people’s perseverance most highly correlates to their ability to maintain their enthusiasm for the project, not their discipline. It is our enthusiasm that motivates us to learn, grow and perform, not a sense of duty or obligation.

Habit: Cast your own vision. Build a strong picture about what will be true if you continue to act, achieve and succeed.

This year I have focused on the direction of my attention. When I pay attention to what is possible, what I can do, what I can accomplish, what I am able to simply do next, I find myself diving into my days and savoring the moments. When I pay attention to the problem, I run out of gas.

My recipe for success in 2017 is simple:

  • Stay curious.
  • Ask questions.
  • Learn to do something new.
  • Do the next thing: Act!
  • Focus in the possibilities.

What will you learn in 2017 that you do not know today?

What experience will you take on that is new and different for you?

Who will you add to your circle of friends who think and live differently than you do?

Whatever you choose, I wish you great success and happiness in 2017!


Smile at somebody and watch what happens!

Chances are they smile back.  People tend to mirror behavior and smiling is the quickest way to establish instant rapport.  (And it’s free!)  Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.  When people look cross or sad and carry that message on their face, it tends to put people off.  This is obvious, right?  Sometimes I am not so sure by the sour puss look people choose to put on their faces.

So smile at somebody and watch what happens!

In 1971, UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian published a book, Silent Messages, in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication.  This became known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule.  He theorized that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal.  The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent.).

 While some disagree with Mehrabian’s findings and claim that they are often misused, it remains a basic framework for examining just how much human communication is non-verbal. For discussions’ sake, if 55% is body language and 38% tone of voice, it stands to reason that a pleasant smile and a sincere, “Hello”, have a greater than 9 in 10 chance of hitting their mark.


If You’re Happy and You Know It, Tell Your Face

According to recent NIH studies, smiling helps reduce stress of mind and body, almost similar to getting good sleep.  Smiling also helps to generate more positive emotions within you.  That’s why we often feel happier around children – they smile more.  On average, children smile 400 times a day.  Happy adults smile an average of 40-50 times a day.  The average adult smiles only 20 times a day (and who wants to be average?).

 Here are some quotations from famous people who agree, if you’re happy and you know it- tell your face.

 “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”  (Mother Teresa)

 “Smile in the mirror every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life.” (Yoko Ono)

 “When I look out at the people and they look at me and they're smiling, then I know that I'm loved. That is the time when I have no worries, no problems.” (Etta James)

 “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.” (Maya Angelou)

 “You'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.” (Charlie Chaplin)

 “Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.” (Greta Garbo)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)


As the New Year begins, it is natural to have an eye on the future:  what will it take to get to the next level?  Did I accomplish what I intended in the year that has passed?  Were the last 365 days well spent?  What do I intend to do with the next 366 days (yes, 2016 is a leap year)?

As you launch into 2016, start with some routine maintenance:  take some time to Check Your Alignment.

The turning of a new year is a natural time to stop and reflect on the direction of your life.  What are your Desired Outcomes:  those things that are most significant to you, those aims that you truly long to accomplish?

The Check Your Alignment premise is simple:  we need to check and see if where we are headed is where we want to go!  If our current actions are out of alignment with our Desired Outcomes, we are missing a key ingredient for our success: enthusiasm.

When we can see that our current activity is in alignment with our ultimate Desired Outcomes, it is easier to retain and renew our enthusiasm for our work.  Our enthusiasm is essential for our success because it is our enthusiasm that primes our perseverance and fuels our discipline.

People often seek the support of an executive coach as a way to maintain accountability.  I always begin by asking people what they really want because, more often than not, the person sitting across from me is focused on the next project or the “biggest problem”.  This is natural, but it is not helpful.  Focusing on the problems we see on the horizon or the next goal we want to achieve robs us of the wellspring of our success:  our enthusiasm.  When we focus on what we ultimately want, on what we most deeply desire, and move forward from that perspective toward the next task, we are in full possession of our greatest assets: our energy and our enthusiasm.

Here are 4 key questions to consider to Check Your Alignment and to keep your enthusiasm on track in 2016:

·       What accomplishment from last year are you most proud of?

·       What work do you find most rewarding?

·       What aspects of your work bring you the most excitement?

·       What are the one or two things in your week you relish doing?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you have a roadmap to replenish and renew your enthusiasm for the work you do.  May your 2016 be the brightest year yet!