Category: Leadership

Q&A with Kevin Kruse, founder of LEADx

Kevin Kruse believes that wholehearted leadership for employee engagement is the key to unlocking dramatic business results and better relationships for individuals.
And if you think that’s something that I’d agree with, you’re absolutely right. I do.
Kevin interviewed me last year on his LEADx podcast where we had a great conversation about effective meetings, and I’m delighted that he has agreed to do a Q&A. He currently serves as the Founder and CEO of LEADx, an online learning platform that provides free leadership development for millions of people around the world. He has built and sold several multimillion-dollar tech companies, authored numerous books (including the New York Times bestseller We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement) and currently serves as a Forbes leadership columnist.
Let’s dive in!
Paul: Have you always been interested in leadership? What led you to create LEADx?
Kevin: Well I wouldn’t say always. In fact, I was a horrible boss when I was in my twenties, and my first couple of companies failed miserably. Eventually, I was mentored by some ex-Gallup executives who gave me a master class in leadership and employee engagement, and I had a total transformation. My company started growing like crazy, and we even won a Best Place to Work in PA award.
When I sold my last company, almost ten years ago, I took a lot of time off. I’m a single Dad with three kids and wanted to put them first and also to spend some time working for nonprofits. And that’s also when I started writing books. But my kids are grown now, two are off to college, so I figured it was time to put my entrepreneur hat back on. When I thought about the single biggest factor in my own success, it came down to leadership. Self-leadership, leadership in my family, and of course leadership at work. So I launched a “next generation” leadership company: LEADx.
Paul: LEADx is a completely free learning platform, which is surprising. Why did you decide to make it free?
Kevin: As I was thinking about what my next company would be, it would have been so easy to start another custom e-learning company. That’s what my previous companies were, and I could have just called up my old employees, called up my old clients, and boom—I’d have a multimillion dollar company again in no time. But I did the rocking-chair test. Would I be happy just having another small lifestyle business when I’m 80 rocking away on my porch? Nice life? Sure. But would I be satisfied? No.
So I really want to do something so big that the odds are that it will fail. It’s so big that I don’t know how we’ll get there. So I thought, why don’t we create 100 million leaders in 10 years? After all, if you want free K-12 education you can use Khan Academy. If you want free college education there’s edX. But what about free leadership development? What about free management training? What about free access to professional development? It hasn’t been done yet. So I figure, let’s give it a try.
Paul: You talk about the idea of “Massive Emotional Commitment.” Can you tell us more about what that is?
Kevin: That’s just a common term for employee engagement. I don’t know why people make engagement so hard and confusing. It’s really simple to me. If we actually care about the organization we work for and care about the mission—if we’re emotionally committed to the company—we’re going to give extra effort. An engaged salesperson will sell just as hard on a Friday afternoon as she does on a Monday. A customer service rep will be just as patient at the end of the shift as he is at the beginning of the shift. When we care, we give extra effort, we have fewer accidents, and we stay in our jobs longer.
Paul: On your podcast, you often ask your guests to share a time when they failed and what they learned from that experience. Why do you ask this question?
Kevin: It’s the entrepreneur in me. So many people never do what they really want to do because they’re afraid they’ll fail. Or in life we get scolded by our boss, or we lose a big account, or a publisher rejects our book and we get all bummed out about it. Entrepreneurs are like, “Of course I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail a lot!” It’s just part of the process. So by asking that question—and asking it first—I’m really trying to help all the listeners out there to realize that everyone fails, and everyone fails a lot. It’s required to become successful.
Paul: You also ask your guests to finish up the interview by sharing one idea your audience can put into practice immediately. What are some of your favorite ideas that have been shared?
Kevin: A simple life-changing idea was offered by Dan Pink who said every morning, the first thing he does is write his most important task—MIT—on his whiteboard. This single act of identifying and writing down our most important task for the day dramatically increases our productivity and even our quality of life. Jason Fried, of Basecamp, said we should just cancel our next meeting. Amy Morin told us to immediately praise efforts, not results, whether at work or at home with our kids. After all, you don’t want people to fear failure, or they’ll never try.
Paul: What ideas have you implemented at home?
Kevin: One idea I’ve adopted is to ask myself each morning, “What am I willing to do today, to become the person I want to be?” It’s intended to be a journaling exercise, and I really should write it out, but usually I just take a few minutes to think about it in my head. I have three areas in life I always try to focus on: health, wealth, and relationships. So for each of those I’ll ask that question. Like, “What am I willing to do today to get the health I want to have?” And I remind myself of a bunch of stuff like eat vegan, keep the carbs to a minimum, it’s leg day don’t skip it! Stuff like that.
Paul: Can you share one really obvious idea or piece of advice that is often missed by leaders? Or people in general?
Kevin: Well it’s obvious and radical at the same time. If you boil down the definition of leadership into a single word, it’s influence. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Ken Blanchard told me leadership is influence. And if you accept that, then you have to realize that you are leading all the time, because you are influencing all the time. We influence people when we speak up in a meeting, but we also influence the meeting by staying silent. Silence is usually viewed as consent. When we stand up to a bully at school, that person is less likely to bully in the future; if we stay silent—if we are part of bystander syndrome—that bully is more likely to bully again in the future. Psychologists have shown that “social contagion” exists even among strangers. If we’re in a cafeteria line and I grab the fries instead of the fruit—and I would definitely do that—you are more likely to grab the fries as well. Whether I wanted to or not, I influenced you. I led you. This obvious idea is radical because it means leadership is not a choice. We are leading all of the time, whether we want to or not.

Q&A with Paul Downs, Author of Boss Life (Part I)

Paul Downs started making custom furniture in 1986, shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering. Downs has only one line on his résumé, but he has a wide variety of skills gained in twenty-five years of running his business. His clients range from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, all branches of the military, and foreign governments. A regular contributor to both Forbes and the New York Times, Downs lives with his wife and three sons outside of Philadelphia. His latest book, Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business, was a Forbes Best Book of the Year and Winner of 8CR Award.
I sincerely appreciate that Paul Downs pulled time away from his business and family to answer some questions for us. First-line supervisors have tough jobs and often little training. I expect that Paul’s comments will resonate with many and hopefully provide insight and new approaches. Paul also demonstrates a level of sharing and vulnerability that we can all strive to duplicate in our lives.
Axtell: Paul, you wrote: “You can’t understand a boss without knowing what he goes home to.” Please share more of your thinking about this.
Downs: You can evaluate a boss with objective metrics: growth, profit, whatever you can measure. And that may be enough. If you want to get a better sense of how someone operates and why they are the way they are, you need to look deeper. Who is that person? Why do they do what they do? Were they born that way or are they reacting to circumstances? And what are the circumstances? Are they only work events or is there more?
Ideally, the time spent away from work gives the boss an opportunity to rest and prepare for the next challenge. However, that’s not guaranteed. Personally, I found that having a special needs child led me to decide not to work long hours and to make sure I didn’t arrive home with my batteries completely discharged. That undoubtedly had an effect on the growth and success of my company.
Axtell: Paul, these three sentences struck me in one part of your book.

The day you have children, you enter a different world.
Every couple has a fight that just keeps coming back.
Keeping a barrier between work and home was a mistake.

How do you see these statements being related, and what did you learn from this?
Downs: There’s nothing unusual about these statements other than that they appeared in a business book. The first two are simply self-evident truth. If you are in a relationship and have had kids, you don’t need any further explanation. And if you aren’t and don’t, now you know what to look out for.
The last statement, that keeping the things that happened to me at work hidden from my wife and children, was a mistake for me. I’m not sure that this is the best approach for all people. If I had been capable of forgetting the stresses of work when I crossed my threshold each day, things might have worked out differently. As it happened, my family lived for years with a man who, on occasion, was upset, distant, and prone to sudden explosion for no apparent reason. Later they got a man who still exhibited those faults and was willing to share the reasons why, and assured his loved ones that they were not at fault. I found that providing a summary of my day, good or bad, allowed me to be a better father.
Axtell: Where does your best thinking occur…on your bike…elsewhere?
Downs: It can happen anywhere, really. My bike ride to work is especially nice because it’s a very low-traffic, flat, easy route. That’s a good time to let my mind wander. But I’m thinking of business problems all the time, and good ideas pop up in a variety of situations.
Axtell: What does a good boss do when an employee underperforms?
Downs: A good boss sets clear expectations from the beginning. When those aren’t met, I first ask myself what I did to contribute the problem. Have I provided the proper tools to do the job? The proper materials to work with? And does the employee have all of the information they need to succeed? Those things are my responsibility, and if an honest analysis reveals that I failed, I correct the situation.
When I’ve done what I should have, then I start with a discussion with the employee. They usually know that they have been underperforming, but sometimes they have no idea. I review the expectations with them and give them a chance to provide an explanation. I make it clear that excuses are interesting, but don’t absolve them of the need to do their job.
If a verbal warning doesn’t work, I have developed a procedure that serves as a formal warning to the employee. I write down what the problem is, examples of when and how it occurred, how this violates our company policies, what would constitute a correction of the behavior, and what the consequences are for failure to correct the problem. I get a witness and bring the employee into my office for a formal review of this document. This tends to be a very scary experience for the employee, which is what I want. Good workers straighten up. Bad workers either quit or have been given notice of the consequences of their actions. If they continue to underperform, I fire them. I make sure that the firing is done the same way: with a written description of the problem, with a chance to respond, but with the final consequence already determined.
Our employee manual has a list of behaviors that will lead to instant firing. When I’ve had to do that, I still go through the procedure: written description and meeting with witness. Sometimes I film the meeting.
None of this is fun, and describing it is a lot easier than doing it. Disciplinary meetings are the worst things I have to do as a boss. However, I believe that the procedure is fair to everyone: to the employee involved, to the company, and especially to the other workers. Bad colleagues make good employees feel bad. The boss owes it to those who are doing a good job to have the guts to discipline underperformers and get rid of people who aren’t working out.

Part 2

Q&A with Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, Part II

Last week, Kim Scott joined us for a Q&A. She’s not only the author of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity, but also co-founder and CEO of Candor, Inc. To read the first part of this interview, click here. 
Paul: With more and more employees preferring to get home as quickly as possible, after-hours connecting is less available. How can we master the art of socializing at work?
Kim: After-hours connecting is not a good way to build the boss-employee relationship—it’s just a way to destroy work-life balance.
The best way to build a good relationship with your employees is to remember to care personally and challenge directly in the way you give, get, and encourage feedback; in the way you build the team and assign roles and projects; in the way you work with the team to set goals and achieve results. A great way to get to know your employees is to have “career conversations” during your regularly scheduled 1:1 time once a year. Remember, your employees really don’t want to go out drinking with you; they’d rather be with their friends or family.
Sometimes people like to socialize at work, and an occasional office party is not a bad thing. Just remember that it can feel mandatory and like a waste of time to people if you organize it, so let others take the lead there. The best thing you can do to keep these events fun is to provide budget and make sure people can opt out—that everyone understands these are voluntary, not required, events. Also, limit the alcohol consumption at work social events. I’ve seen so many disasters there.
Paul: Kim, I like your work on getting things done without telling people what to do. It seems to fit perfectly with the notion of “less domination—more connecting.” Can you expand on your thinking here, including the importance of listening?
Kim: I think this excerpt from the book provides that answer:
The art of getting stuff done without telling people what to do
Both Google and Apple achieved spectacular results without a purely autocratic style. This leads to important questions: How did everyone in the company decide what to do? How did strategy and goals get set? How did the cultures at these two companies, so strong and so different, develop? How did tens of thousands of people come to understand the mission? It played out very differently at both companies—more orderly at Apple, more chaotic at Google—but at a high level, the process was the same.
The process, which I call the Get Stuff Done “GSD” wheel, is relatively straightforward. But the key, often ignored by people who think of themselves as “Get Stuff Done” people, is to avoid the impulse to dive right in…. Instead, you have to first lay the groundwork for collaboration.
When run effectively, the GSD wheel will enable your team to achieve more collectively than anyone could ever dream of achieving individually—to burst the bounds of your brain. First, you have to listen to the ideas that people on your team have and create a culture in which they listen to each other. Next, you have to create space in which ideas can be sharpened and clarified, to make sure these ideas don’t get crushed before everyone fully understands their potential usefulness. But just because an idea is easy to understand doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Next, you have to debate ideas, to test them more rigorously. Then you need to decide—quickly, but not too quickly. Since not everyone will have been involved in the listen-clarify-debate-decide part of the cycle for every idea, the next step is to bring the broader team along. You have to persuade those who weren’t involved in a decision that it was a good one, so that everyone can execute it effectively. Then, having executed, you have to learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.
That’s a lot of steps. Remember, they are designed to be cycled through quickly. Not skipping a step and not getting stuck on one are equally important. If you skip a step, you’ll waste time in the end. If you allow any part of the process to drag out, working on your team will feel like paying a collaboration tax, not making a collaboration investment.
You may very well be in a situation where your boss is skipping steps and just telling you what to do. Does that mean you have to do the same with your team? No, of course not! You can put these ideas into practice with the people who report to you even if your boss doesn’t subscribe to this method of getting things done. When your boss sees the results, things may change. But, if they don’t, you may have to change jobs. When more people insist on a positive working environment, not only will results for your company improve, your happiness will.
Paul: What would you tell project leaders about building teams?
Kim: Your job in building a team is to understand not only who is good at what, but also who is motivated by what. Your job is to know each person well enough to know what gives work meaning for them. Your job is not to “provide purpose.” A great technique for doing this is Career Conversations, described in the Radical Candor podcast (, and on our website,
Paul: I’m thinking that sincerity trumps polish when it comes to speaking or conversation. What is your take on sincerity?
Kim: Polish really doesn’t matter that much, and too much focus on it is a sure-fire path to manipulative insincerity. Focus on saying what you think, but also on being attentive to how the person reacts. Your goal is to say it clearly—not clearly from your perspective, but in a way that is easy for the other person to understand. If you say it too harshly, you may make it impossible for the other person to hear you because they are so sad/mad/defensive. If you say it so gently that they don’t hear you at all (the more common problem), you’ve just wasted your breath and confused them.
Paul: What can you tell us about empathy?
Kim: Empathy, like intelligence or beauty or any other human attribute, can be enormously helpful, but it can also be abused. Sometimes we can even be the victim of our own empathy. If you see a person drowning and feel the panic just as acutely as the drowning person, you may not be able to help that person. I have seen people be so paralyzed by their empathy for how others feel that they fail to say things that need to be said. I have seen really empathetic people use their skills at understanding how others feel to be unnecessarily cruel. Sometimes people use their empathy to manipulate others. Empathy is a wonderful attribute if used wisely.
Paul: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned while living a life full of candor?
Kim: Our instincts around candor are wrong. More often than not people really appreciate it, and it’s the path to building better relationships. However, we are so afraid of a possible negative emotional reaction (which does sometimes happen) that we fail to be candid. This is a big mistake.
Paul: And finally, what are your thoughts about valuing technology but not allowing it to undermine our ability to be attentive or focus?
Kim: The worst thing about technology is that we spend so much time in email, on Facebook, on our phones that we fail to care personally about the person sitting right next to us. In my family, we have a strict no phones at the table, no phones/computers in the bedrooms.
At work, I try hard not to look at my email/phone when I’m meeting with people. I often fail and I’m deeply ashamed of it. Rather than caring personally, I’m indicating that I care more about whatever is on my screen than the person I’m sitting in the room with. That is a terrible thing.
Furthermore, we often use technology to say what we think in a way that is obnoxiously aggressive, not radically candid. The reason is that it’s so easy to hide from emotions or just to be unaware of them when you’re sending an email, a text, a tweet. It’s hard to remember there are other living, breathing human beings on the other side of those messages.
Another danger of technology is that we often present a happy, rosy picture on it that is not real—it can move us toward manipulative insincerity. You often see this on Facebook. People rarely share their most vulnerable screw ups there.
I recommend taking 24 hours a week and not turning on your computer or your phone. If you find it impossible to do, you know you have a problem! There’s nothing you can do that will improve your relationships at work—and in all aspects of your life—more than learning to master your devices, rather than letting them master you.

Q&A with Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, Part I

You would be surprised at how many questions and emails I get each week on the topic of difficult conversations – giving and getting feedback and the general discomfort that goes along with being candid with employees, teams, and family members. 
That’s why I am so happy to have Kim Scott here this week for a Q&A. She’s not only the author of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity, but also co-founder and CEO of Candor, Inc.
Let’s dive in!
Paul: Why did you choose the title Radical Candor for your book and what are intending to communicate with it?
Kim: Radical Candor is the ability to care personally at the same time that you challenge directly. That doesn’t sound so radical, does it?
And yet it is. I chose the word “radical” because so many of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think. This is partially adaptive social behavior; it helps us avoid conflict or embarrassment. But when you’re trying to have a difficult conversation or give a boss, a peer, or an employee feedback, that kind of avoidance is disastrous.
Why “candor?” The key to getting everyone used to being direct when challenging each other (and you!) is emphasizing that it’s necessary to communicate clearly enough so that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly. I chose “candor” instead of “honesty” because there’s not much humility in believing that you know the truth. Implicit with candor is that you’re simply offering your view of what’s going on but that you expect people to offer theirs. If it turns out that in fact you’re the one who got it wrong, you want to know.
Paul: One phrase that struck me seems to be a foundation for everything else—Care Personally.   Will you expand on this idea for us?
Kim: It seems obvious that good bosses must care personally about the people who report directly to them. Very few people start out their careers thinking, I don’t give a damn about people, so I think I’ll be a great boss. And yet, it happens all too often that employees feel they’re being treated as pawns on a chessboard, or as inferiors—not just in a corporate hierarchy but on a fundamental human level.
Part of the reason people fail to “care personally” is the injunction to “keep it professional.” That phrase denies something essential. We are all human beings, with human feelings, and, even at work, we need to be seen as such. When it doesn’t happen, when we feel we must repress who we really are to earn a living, we become alienated. That makes us hate going to work. To most bosses, being professional means: show up at work on time, do your job, don’t show feelings (unless engaged in “motivation” or some such end-driven effort). The result is that nobody feels comfortable being who they really are at work.
Fred Kofman, my coach at Google, had a mantra that contradicted the “just professional” approach so destructive to so many managers: “Bring your whole self to work.” This saying has become a meme; Google it and you’ll get more than eight million results. Sheryl Sandberg referred to it in her 2012 commencement address at Harvard; author Mike Robbins devoted a TEDx talk to it in 2016; and Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, has made it a priority for his company. Bringing your whole self to work is one of those concepts that’s hard to define precisely, but you develop a feel for it when you start to open up to it. This often means modeling the behavior yourself by showing some vulnerability to the people who report to you—or just admitting when you’re having a bad day—and creating a safe space for others to do the same.
In addition to the obsessive devotion to “professionalism,” there’s another, less virtuous reason people fail to “care personally.” When they become a boss, some people consciously or unconsciously begin to feel they’re better or smarter than the people who work for them. That attitude makes it impossible to be a kick-ass boss; it just makes people want to kick your ass. There are few things more damaging to human relationships than a sense of superiority. That’s why I detest the word “superior” as a synonym for “boss.” I also avoid the word “employee.” Of course, if you are a boss, there is some hierarchy involved. There’s no use pretending otherwise. Just remember that being a boss is a job, not a value judgment.
Caring personally is the antidote to both robotic professionalism and managerial arrogance. Why do I say “caring personally” instead of just “caring”? Because it’s not enough to care about the person’s work or the person’s career. Only when you actually care about the whole person with your whole self can you build a relationship.
Caring personally is not about memorizing birthdays and names of family members. Nor is it about sharing the sordid details of one’s personal life, or forced chitchat at social events you’d rather not attend. Caring personally is about doing things you already know how to do. It’s about acknowledging that we are all people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to our shared work. It’s about finding time for real conversations; about getting to know each other at a human level; about learning what’s important to people; about sharing with one another what makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work—and what has the opposite effect.
It isn’t simply a matter of allowing your approach to your responsibilities show that you care, however; you must also care deeply about people while being prepared to be hated in return.
The movie Miracle, which is centered around the head coach of the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team, depicts this really well. Head coach Herb Brooks unifies his team by pushing them so hard that he becomes the common enemy. In the movie it’s clear how much he cares about each player, and it’s painful to watch how long it takes the players to see it. Being the boss can feel like a lonely one-way street at times—especially at first. That is OK. If you can absorb the blows, the members of your team are more likely to be good bosses to their employees, when they have them. Once people know what it feels like to have a good boss, it’s more natural for them to want to be a good boss. They may never repay you, but they are likely to pay it forward. The rewards of watching people you care about flourish and then help others flourish are enormous.
Paul: What are the two principles that a great boss follows when approaching relationships with employees? 
Kim: Care Personally and Challenge Directly. The best bosses apply these principles as they build a relationship with each employee, and also in the way they conduct their three responsibilities as managers: create a culture of feedback, build a cohesive team, and achieve results collaboratively.
Paul: I love the notion of asking for public feedback from your team. It seems like a wonderful way to demonstrate that you care about feedback and that it’s safe to have these conversations. Would you share your thinking about this?
Kim: When you ask for public criticism (you’re not fishing for compliments here), it does three things for you.
Most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to model how to respond to feedback. No matter how hostile the question may feel, remember this is NOT the time to criticize the criticism you get. It’s the time to show how to master one’s natural defensive reactions and to treat feedback like a gift.
Also, inviting public criticism makes it more likely you’ll hear it. As a manager it’s easy to get so busy that it’s hard for people to get on your calendar. That’s why the “criticize in private” mantra doesn’t always apply to you.
Finally, it saves you time. When you are a leader, you usually have more than one direct report, and sometimes hundreds or even thousands or tens of thousands. Usually a lot of people have the same feedback for you, and it’s faster/more efficient to hear it and respond once than it is to respond lots of times.
Tune in next week for Part II.

Q&A with Anese Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture

As a fantastic follow-up to Mindy Hall’s Q&A early this month, Anese Cavanaugh is here to continue the conversation of living with intention – both in work and life – and even takes it a step further with “how you show up matters.”
Anese is the award-winning creator of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®) as well as an advisor and thinking partner to leaders and organizations committed to creating significant positive impact, authentic leadership, and healthy cultures. Cavanaugh built the IEP Method to help people unlock even greater leadership potential, collaborate more inspiringly, create more openly, intuit more bravely, and lead more joyfully and effectively.
As a leading voice on intention, energy, and presence in leadership, collaboration, and cultural optimization, she’s devoted to helping people show up and bring their best selves to the table in order to create impact in the world while feeling amazing doing so.
PAUL: Let’s start with the first word in the title of your book: Contagious Culture. How can leaders be contagious?
ANESE: First, it’s important to remember that we are having impact in every moment – either positive and contributory, negative and depleting, or beige (nothing, just blah). And that impact is contagious. It ripples. It affects others. People take our lead and will “match” our energetic state. (Even unconsciously.)
The leader sets the tone by the mood and energy he or she brings into the room or into any conversation. Simplest way to look at this is that we’ve (likely) all had the experience of being in a conversation with someone else where we’re in a good “space,” the person we’re talking with isn’t, and all the sudden (or slowly) we start to feel our mood, our space, and energy shift/drop/deplete. We’ve just matched that person’s energy. Their energy is contagious. People do it with us, we do it with them. We’re all contagious. This super power can be used for good or evil.
You’ll also see contagious leadership in terms of the way someone talks about another person or a situation – the strongest energy will often “win,” so often times something that starts out as a somewhat neutral conversation will turn either highly positive or negative based upon the leader’s opinion and energy on the topic/person.
Assumptions, gossip, beliefs, talking smack, talking beautifully, focusing on the negative, focusing on the positive, complaining or leading, taking an “author” stance or a “victim” stance – these are all contagious and can catch on like wildfire.
PAUL: Can you describe what intention means to you and how to best practice it?
ANESE: To me an intention is putting my mind to what I want to have happen. It is claiming emotionally/mentally/energetically what I want to happen in this next moment, this next meeting, this next conversation, this project, this relationship, etc. It doesn’t mean it will always, but when I set the intention and show up in a way that supports it, I’m much more likely to create that outcome.
You can set intentions at the beginning of the day or before any meeting or conversation for what you want to have happen, how you want to feel, the impact you want to have –anything. It can be as simple as the thought and internal proclamation, or you can go through the process of writing it down. You can set intentions with your partner (personal or professional), with your team, or with your clients. I even set them with my kids. One of the three components of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®) is the “ability to create intentional impact.” There is a “5-Steps to Creating Intentional Impact” framework that I teach in our courses and also in the book Contagious Culture.
PAUL: Please share three of your most powerful teaching ideas.
ANESE: 1. How you Show Up matters. Your presence is your impact. No matter how brilliant you are or high level your position, if your presence is such that it leaves people feeling anything less than safe, connected, and inspired – your brilliance will only take you so far. And it works the other way; you can always optimize impact and results by being even more aware and intentional of how you Show Up and how you impact others. Small shifts go far. Who you want to be and how you Show Up communicates far more than skills. To quote the lovely Maya Angelou, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” This speaks to the intention, energy, and presence of the leader.

The Leadership Trifecta: Impact + Self-Care + People. In my work I’ve found there are generally three types of leaders:

the one who is great at their craft and creating impact and results; however, they’re burnt out, exhausted, and compromising their own well-being and self-care and personal relationships. (Has “impact” but not “self-care.” Not sustainable.)
the leader who is great with self-care and “balance” but is not great at creating impact and results and not that effective. People like them, but they just don’t get it done. (Has “self-care” but not “impact.” Not sustainable.)
the leader who has the impact AND self-care piece down; however, they leave “dead bodies” wherever they go (worst case scenario), or they’re just not great at influencing others and getting people to follow them. This is the kind of leader who does great things but at the cost of people, morale, and cultural health. This is also the kind of leader that people follow because they HAVE to (job, paycheck, etc.) vs. they WANT to (inspired, on purpose, safe, etc.) (Not sustainable.)

You need all three elements. They don’t have to be perfect. But being in awareness and in process helps a lot.

The IEP Method® itself is another powerful component of what I teach. Too much to go into here (see book or another program), but the idea is that we have huge influence over how we Show Up and our Intentional Energetic Presence, and there are ways to set us up to do this well. Those ways are in the IEP Methodology.

PAUL: If you had an audience full of new professionals, just joining an organization, what advice would you give them?
ANESE: How you Show Up matters. Period. For yourself AND for others.
This includes for other people in leadership and collaboration, but even more so for yourself so you can Show Up well and sustainably and cleanly for others.
For you (and ultimately for them): Take care of yourself. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that your body, your mind, your heart, and your spirit are in good shape so that you can lead well, feel good, and be the best instrument of change possible.
For them (and ultimately for you): Be intentional about your impact. Be in service of the other person or the team or the work you’re doing. Get out of your own way in terms of fear or ego and “am I doing it right” and focus on what will serve this human most.
When you have the foundational IEP and are Showing Up well for yourself, it makes it easier to be in service of and clean and clear for others.
PAUL: And on the same coin, if your audience were a room full of CEOs, what advice would you give them about interacting with the younger generation joining up?
ANESE: Don’t get caught up in the “Millennial Story.” See them as humans. Show Up with and for them. Ask them to Show Up with you, with each other, for themselves, and for the mission at hand. Connect them to purpose and WHY they matter and WHY their work matters in your organization; co-design roles and how you’ll work together; be flexible about designing what schedules look like so they can bring their whole selves to work – healthy and well and inspired; and do not get sucked into any story that says they are somehow harder to work with or don’t care. The younger generation needs to be seen, heard, called forth to create impact, and know that what they’re doing matters. Very much like any aged human being in your organization. 😉