You think there are natural born leaders? Think again

Anyone can learn to be a leader, and not only that, you can learn to be an extraordinary leader. All that’s required is genuine desire, persistence and a commitment to modeling the behaviors of the best examples out there.

That’s the thesis of the book, Superbosses, by Sidney Finkelstein who says:

Superbosses Possess Skills that Most Bosses Don’t Even Think of Pursuing:

-Geniuses at helping other people accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
-Not “team-building” or “mentoring,” but something much deeper.
-They transform proteges from talented apprentices to stars and superstars in their own right.

The must-have’s for any effective leader of people, both in my own experience of good and bad leaders and in my combined readings of the experts on this topic, are:

  1. Be curious – having an open mind about yourself and others around you, and avoiding making judgements
  2. Be courageous – being willing to take risks and being unafraid
  3. Be a learner – believing there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback and learnings
  4. Be persistent – never giving up on your goals, and if your first strategy didn’t work, finding a new one
  5. Be a giver – when you say you’re going to do something, put your all into it, give it all that you’ve got

To learn more about how to develop extraordinary leader mindsets and behaviors, contact me at

Why taking a risk is worth it

I was 28 years old in Astrakhan, Russia, with a KGB officer following me.

Our team of four – a scientist, a videographer, an expedition leader and I – had just arrived to the Caspian Sea basin for two weeks of research on the sturgeon crisis. We were representing a coalition of nonprofits seeking protections for the endangered, ancient beluga sturgeon species, which had seen its population drop 90% in the 10 years following the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Even though we were on a scientific mission in Russia to help find solutions, we were not welcome.

Shortly after landing in Astrakhan, the world capital of caviar production along the Volga River, our meetings with local scientists, NGOs and fisheries experts were cancelled one by one. We arrived at our hotel and were told we couldn’t stay there. It took threatening to call the American embassy to get our rooms reinstated. Everywhere we walked around town there was a man in a cheap polyester suit and dark sunglasses a block behind us. Watching.

There was an organized campaign against us discovering any kind of truth from the people who would know what to do about the sturgeon’s demise.

We had two choices – give up and go home, or take a risk by staying and reaching out to new contacts we had no trusted relationship with.

Continue reading “Why taking a risk is worth it”

5 reasons why you don’t have the career of your dreams

Why is it that some people seem to have an easier time progressing in their careers or landing the job of their dreams?

If you feel like you’re in a stuck moment or have a fear of moving forward in your career, here are some reasons why that may be happening.  The good news? All of this is in YOUR control to change!


1. You’re not flexible with your style or your strategies: Ever heard the saying that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? How we approach the people, events and work that can propel our careers can be the difference that makes the difference. If your current career development strategy isn’t working, try a different strategy. If your current interaction style with others might be limiting your success in collaborations, try a style that you see others using toward better results.

2. You don’t know what you want: Have you asked yourself in the past two months what it is either big picture or specifically that you want for your career? Either is a great place to start. Ask yourself what’s most important to me in the context of career. Is it leadership, teamwork, travel, financial stability, recognition, diversity of experiences, or other? That will help you to find your big picture values for your career. You can also ask what specifically do I want for my career in the next year? Make sure it’s something that largely depends on you to initiate, visualize what you’ll be seeing and feeling once you get it, and take the first step in that direction within a week.  Continue reading “5 reasons why you don’t have the career of your dreams”

So you need a coach! Here’s how to get started

Coaching is one of the top tools workplaces are leveraging to build high performing organizations, collaborative teams and successful leaders. Coaches can also be critical to the success of any change effort.

Key benefits of bringing coaching into your workplace:

  • Every organization’s success depends on the performance of its people. There is no substitute for human performance.
  • Coaching brings the best out of people by sharpening their acquired skills as individuals and enhancing collaboration in teams.
  • Coaching assists in the growth and development of leaders and the leaders of tomorrow and enhances productivity, improves job satisfaction and job longevity.
  • Coaching that focuses on the whole person, including focusing their attention, clearing up limitations and improving communications skills, can make the difference between project stagnation or success.
  • Coaching empowers the individual to decide on the best approach to solve their problems and how to effectively interact with their colleagues and business partners.

Fastest-to-results coaching techniques:

Coaching based on the study of neurolinguistics encompasses the most advanced techniques in the human transformation movement.

NLPgraphicThe guidance and tools focus on empowering people by helping them set achievable outcomes, master communications and behavioral flexibility, and plan for the future. For leadership development, the coaching is geared at modeling excellence. Leaders learn to model the behaviors that have brought success to others so that they, too, achieve their goals and improve their results. Read on to learn about specific outcomes of 1:1 coaching and group coaching.

Continue reading “So you need a coach! Here’s how to get started”

Get out of your comfort zone

For my daughter’s 13th birthday, she gave herself a new relationship with fear.

We were on spring break along the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, in one of those quaint coastal towns where you can still find cow tails and Big League Chew in the tourist shops and speed boats fly huge banners advertising All You Can Eat Crab! specials.

While playing in the water, we couldn’t help but notice the giant, yellow smiley-face parasails off in the distance. I’d watched them with zero interest for decades, but this time, I thought, see if you can get Isabelle (my most serious and risk averse kid) to go. Her big 13th birthday was a few days away, so I impulsively asked her if she’d like to go parasailing together as a birthday present.

Her reply: “No thanks, mom, I’m scared of heights!” My reply: “Great news! I am too, so let’s get over that fear together.” I then read her the great reviews of the company and its attention to safety. To my surprise, she agreed. (She wasn’t thrilled but she wasn’t opposed!)

The next day, as we sat on the back of the boat a mile offshore, strapped in our harnesses about to liftoff several stories high above bluewater, I told her how proud I was of her decision. I said, no matter what, whether you like this or not, you will have a new relationship with heights and all of your fears after this.

Because you will have learned that you are in charge, not your emotions or the limitations you put on yourself.

Continue reading “Get out of your comfort zone”

Don’t cheat the world of your gifts

You defied the odds before you were born. It’s time, once again, to make what seems impossible possible.

I just attended a storytelling training with the talented Bo Eason, a former NFL player and Broadway stage actor. He explained to us that everyone can be the best at something and to not strive to be THE best goes against Mother Nature. Here’s what he means by that.

When you were conceived , 300 million sperm were competing to connect with the egg. That was not an easy journey. It was a fight for survival, and you had a one-in-300 million chance of being brought into this world.

After this miracle, why is it that we give up on our dreams so easily? Why is it that we sometimes think our voice is not worth sharing on the things that matter to us?
The famous American dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, said it perfectly.

“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”

It’s time to start fighting for your dreams again. It’s time to figure out the most positive impact you can have on this world, and DO it.

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he writes: “Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you got.”

Why being vulnerable is a sign of strength

Last week, my husband Ricardo told me about a bird who was building a nest under our second floor balcony directly over the door to the backyard patio. He was excited about seeing nature in action, especially since we’d just moved from a very urban part of town into Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek National Park neighborhood.

I didn’t think much about it the first time he mentioned it, but a couple days later when he texted me a photo of it, I immediately texted back starting a chain that went something like this:

Me: We should move it. It looks like it could easily fall off the ledge, and I can only imagine all the bird poop we’ll have to clean up.

Ricardo: I’ll clean up the bird poop. It’ll be fun to show the kids their first bird nest. Nature decided to put the nest here, so we should just let nature be.

Me: Nature naturally builds nests in nature, not on brick and metal. I think the baby birds would be safer in a nearby tree. What if they fall out onto the brick patio? That’s not great for the kids.

Ricardo: Ok, so why are you feeling the need to make a decision about something that I never asked to be a decision or conversation? I just wanted to share something beautiful from nature. And maybe the mother bird felt the love coming from our home and wanted to be close to us. It could be wonderful to watch and share with our family.

Here’s where I had a choice in how to respond. The knee-jerk reaction that came to me first was to continue the same line of thought that you see above, probably using different words. I’ve worked in environmental conservation for 16 years and I was being strongly pulled by the logic of the “conversation.” A narrow brick ledge with one wrought iron balcony “branch” over a hard brick patio wasn’t an ideal location for the safety of the little birds. I wrestled a bit with my values…why doesn’t he understand why I care about the safety of the birds? We can still have the family experience with nature if the nest is in a tree in the yard.

I thought about it for another minute and then choose to respond like this:

Me: You’re right. I’m sorry for not appreciating your joy for nature and love of family by immediately focusing on fixing something. I’ll call you so we can make sure we’re all good.

I called him, and not only was everything “all good” between us but he also thanked me for the act of love. He said, “You made yourself vulnerable, so it’s a little example that reminds me that you trust me. And that reminds me that I trust you. Your words also show me that I am the most important thing to you. Way more important than a bird nest.”

I made the right decision that morning but getting there wasn’t as easy as it may seem. Sometimes there’s something inside of us that wants to be right. Fighting that inner urge to keep fighting so you can be right because you believe in your position so much is SO hard.

You’ve heard the saying, “When in a hole, put the shovel down.” So why do we so often keep digging that hole deeper and deeper in our communications with others?

We keep digging when we need to be right. We put the shovel down when we want to win.

Let’s talk about what I mean by winning.

In the story of the bird nest, our relationship came first. That’s winning. It feels so much better than being right.