Who has inspired you? Who have you inspired?

The other day I was walking through a grocery store and a local business owner named “Jay” came walking up, shook my hand, and proceeded to tell me how I “got him up on his feet and moving again.” This sounded great except for one small detail. I cannot ever recall having a dialog with Jay about getting him up and moving again.

As we were both going through the checkout line, I asked him how and when did I get him up and moving again?  He said, “I watched you jog by our house.” That was it. That got me thinking back to when I found some motivation to start moving my feet, i.e. “get up and moving again.”

Like a lot of busy people, I had to re-commit to finding time to get physical and focusing on meaningful self care. Back then a routine trip to the doctor was somewhat of a wakeup call. I’d gained some weight and was stressing too much at times leading to a spiked blood pressure. What? For years, I had never really had any of these types of concerns to worry about. Nevertheless, there they were.

Just before this doctor visit, we had a company function at a sports arena. We invited clients and guests from all over. It was fun. We had some great networking and mixing. I noticed one of our clients in attendance. He was tall, athletic and had obviously lost some weight. I told him, “Wow, you look great! How did you do that?” He replied that he also had faced some less than favorable news at the doctor’s office and it motivated him to get after it with diet and exercise. This was a combination of working with a personal trainer and monitoring his nutritional intake.

All I knew was that he looked great. That night I said to myself, “I’ll have what he’s having”. Although I am certain he didn’t wake up that morning thinking, “I am going to go motivate Lee”, he clearly made an impression on me.  In other words, his motivation had an impact on me.

At Voltage, we talk about taking baby steps to make change happen. The time had arrived for me to practice our own medicine. The wheels were turning, goals for weight loss and moving the feet were set. Cut out 100% of junk food and drink. Because of the weight gain, it wasn’t wise to just start jogging again. I started walking modest distances of 1-2 miles. After a couple weeks, I added a weighted vest. After a couple of more weeks, I increased the weight in the vest, increased my distance and threw in some hills. After about 8-10 weeks, 25+ pounds fell off. I could now start moving my feet toward the next goal.

I called a close friend of mine and asked him to run with me in a 5 miler along the shore of Lake Michigan. He agreed and the challenge for us was set. We had to train up for this. Over the summer months the baby steps increased. First jogging 3, then 4, then 5 miles within a targeted time. “D-day” came in the Fall. We joined 18,000 other runners, hit the finish line and achieved the goal. I watched as my friend’s swagger returned. It was awesome to see.

I am not a marathon runner and never want to be. My range in the “old days” was a 10k or 6.2 miles. Since the running event, it’s been a minimum of 5 miles, sometimes 10k every weekend. Guess what, I’m not giving it back. It’s in the striving, not the arriving and the people around us take notice without us saying a word.

What is the impact from your motivation? Who has inspired you? Who can you inspire this week? Get motivated and pass it on.



Listening:  again and again leaders tell me they or their team member needs to develop this skill.  Across industries and around the globe I hear leaders say, “I wish they would just listen!” or, in a better moment, “I need to learn to be a better listener.  I would be a better leader if I were a better listener.

Listening is a skill most of us in modern culture have not practiced:  when I train clients and I give people time to practice listening, I always ask:

"When did you learn to read?”

 “How old were you when you first wrote your name across a page?  Was it with a crayon or a pencil?"

The answers come... Reading:  3, 4, 5; Writing my name:  preschool or kindergarten.

Then I ask: "When did you learn to listen?"

Only the sound of crickets breaks the silence.

A dawning realization comes:  we are not taught to listen as children. This has profound consequences on us as grown-ups. We might have learned to keep quiet, but listening is not silence, it is more.

 Listen to connect.

I have spent the last month engaged in an intentional practice of listening:  listening in order to connect with the other person.

Giving myself a month to intentionally practice my capacity to listen, and not to simply listen, but listening to connect has been profoundly impactful.

·       It has given space in my marriage for more compassion.

·       It has provided space to my clients for more self-discovery.

·       It has given space in training for more creativity.

·       It has given me a chance to have my confidence grow:  I have learned it will be OK if I am simply quiet and able to notice others more deeply.

Both my other-awareness and my self-awareness are greater.  I can see how much space I take up and the quality with which I take the space.

When I listen to connect, I inhabit the space in a more profound way:  I don't take the space, instead I share it.  There is more communion and community, less debate and dissention.  There is more conversation and questions, less combat and more creativity.

I find that I breathe more deeply and that, oddly, when I am more open and aware of others, I am more in touch with myself.

I come to the end of this month of intentional practice with more compassion for myself and others:  more patience; more wisdom.

My capacity to be perceptive and insightful lies in my ability to stop, look and listen.  I notice others more.  The atmosphere of my days has shifted and grown more meaningful.  All of this, I enjoy.

While my coaching and facilitation experiences with listening to connect have been rewarding, the most enjoyable moments of listening to connect have been with my son.  Asking him to help his Mama understand what it is like to be a 9 year old boy opened him up to all kinds of sharing.  All I had to do was ask him a question for which I had no answer.  He knew I didn’t know, and so he felt safe sharing openly.

While I am grateful for the insights with clients, I treasure the insights with my family.

I encourage you to take up this practice for 30 days.  Listen, really listen.  Listen to connect.

Here are some quick tips:

·       Strive to ask questions for which you have no answer.

·       Make eye contact:  catch and maintain that person’s gaze.

·       Savor their words.

·       Stay curious:  try to imagine the life and experiences that person has had that led them to string those words together in that particular way.

·       Suspend your agenda.  Simply listen.

As you listen, search for ways to connect with what you are hearing, and to help that person feel that you have truly heard them and value their words.

Conversational Intelligence®, or C-IQ™, is an emerging concept among Leadership Development professionals.  The ability to cultivate conversations that allow us to speak openly and honestly, and then to make wise decisions together is essential for innovation environments in business, in government and at home.  C-IQ™ empowers organizational resilience and creativity, and creates a path forward in the face of conflict.

In recent weeks, the work of Conversational Intelligence® in our culture, corporations and community has become more urgent than ever.  It is essential that we grow in our capacity to listen, to share and to discover from one another in deeper conversations that are grounded in an effort to listen and understand, and then to find ways to collaborate, compromise and create for the common good. 


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.