Tag: empowerment

2/10/13 “Remarkable Bosses”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge comes from a previous client of mine and his long-time mentor, Roy Gardner. Roy has been a consultant, coach and mentor to many people over the years, and I appreciate his observations of what remarkable bosses do and how they act. Your challenge is embedded within the following writing excerpt from Roy. Whether it’s about forgiving and forgetting or inspiring and motivating, choose one of Roy’s suggestions to try out this week in your interactions with team members. A special thanks to Christian Buschow for sharing Roy’s wisdom.

“Good bosses look good on paper. Great bosses look great in person; their actions show their value. Yet some bosses go even farther. They’re remarkable — not because of what you see them do but what you don’t see them do. Where remarkable bosses are concerned, what you see is far from all you get: They forgive, and they forget. When an employee makes a mistake — especially a major mistake—it’s easy to forever view that employee through the perspective of that mistake. I know. I’ve done it. But one mistake or one weakness is just one part of the whole person. Great bosses are able to step back, set aside a mistake and think about the whole employee. Remarkable bosses are also able to forget that mistake because they know that viewing any employee through the lens of one incident may forever impact how they treat that employee. And they know the employee will be able to tell. To forgive may be divine but to forget can be even more divine.

“[Remarkable bosses] transform company goals into the employees’ personal goals. Great bosses inspire their employees to achieve company goals. Remarkable bosses make their employees feel that what they do will benefit them as much as it does the company. After all, whom will you work harder for: a company or yourself? “Whether they get professional development, an opportunity to grow, a chance to shine or a chance to flex their favorite business muscles, employees who feel a sense of personal purpose almost always outperform employees who feel a sense of company purpose. And they have a lot more fun doing it.

“Remarkable bosses know their employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional. They look past the action to the emotion and motivation. Sometimes employees make mistakes or simply do the wrong thing. Sometimes they take over projects or roles without approval or justification. Sometimes they jockey for position, play political games or ignore company objectives in pursuit of personal goals. When that happens it’s easy to assume they don’t listen or don’t care. But almost always there’s a deeper reason: They feel stifled, they feel they have no control, they feel marginalized or frustrated — or maybe they are just trying to find a sense of meaning in their work that pay rates and titles can never provide.

“Effective bosses deal with actions. Remarkable bosses search for the underlying issues that, when overcome, lead to much bigger change for the better. They support without seeking credit. A customer is upset. A vendor feels shortchanged. A co-worker is frustrated. Whatever the issue, good bosses support their employees. They know that to do otherwise undermines the employee’s credibility and possible authority. Afterword, most bosses will say to the employee, “Listen, I took up for you, but…” Remarkable bosses don’t say anything. They feel supporting their employees — even if that shines a negative spotlight on themselves — is the right thing to do and is therefore unremarkable. Even though we all know it isn’t.

“They make fewer public decisions. When a decision needs to be made, most of the time the best person to make that decision isn’t the boss. Most of the time the best person is the employee closest to the issue. Decisiveness is a quality of a good boss. Remarkable bosses can be decisive but often in a different way: They decide they aren’t the right person and then decide who is the right person. They do it not because they don’t want to avoid making those decisions but because they know they shouldn’t make those decisions. They don’t see control as a reward.

“Many people desperately want to be the boss, so they can finally call the shots. Remarkable bosses don’t care about control. As a result, they aren’t seen to exercise control. They’re seen as a person who helps. They allow employees to learn their own lessons. It’s easy for a boss to debrief an employee and turn a teachable moment into a lesson learned. It’s a lot harder to let employees learn their own lessons, even though the lessons we learn on our own are the lessons we remember forever.

“Remarkable bosses don’t scold or dictate; they work together with an employee to figure out what happened and what to do to correct the mistake. They help find a better way, not a disciplinary way. Great employees don’t need to be scolded or reprimanded. They know what they did wrong. Sometimes staying silent is the best way to ensure that they remember.

“[Remarkable bosses] let employees have the ideas. Years ago I worked in manufacturing and my boss sent me to help move the production control offices. It was basically manual labor, but for two days, it put me in a position to watch and hear and learn a lot about how the plant’s production flow was controlled. I found it fascinating, and later I asked my boss if I could be trained to fill in as a production clerk. Those two days sparked a lifelong interest in productivity and process improvement. Years later he admitted he sent me to help move their furniture. ‘I knew you’d go in there with your eyes wide open,’ he said, ‘and once you got a little taste I knew you’d love it.’ Remarkable bosses see the potential in their employees and find ways to let them have the ideas, even though the outcome was what they intended all along.

“Leadership is like a smorgasbord of insecurity. Remarkable bosses worry about employees and customers and results. You name it, they worry about it. That’s why remarkable bosses go home every day feeling they could have done things a little better or smarter. They wish they had treated employees with a little more sensitivity or empathy. Most important, they always go home feeling they could have done more to fulfill the trust their employees place in them. And that’s why, although you can’t see it, when they walk in the door every day remarkable bosses make a silent commitment to do their jobs even better than they did yesterday.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

4/22/12 “Self-doubt”

Good day team,

This weeks challenge comes from a quote I read by the great French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac.

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

I think we all know what Balzac was referring to. When we set out to accomplish something that doesn’t go exactly as we expected, or when our ideas or actions are rejected by others, we immediately experience self-doubt. Our inner voices are suddenly fueled by negative thoughts that say things like, “My idea was stupid in the first place”, or “No one ever appreciates what I do”, or “What made you think you could accomplish this in the first place? What a fool!” and so on.

This experience of self-deprecation is one of the greatest ways we sabotage ourselves. We give our power away to that self-doubt and shy away from what we were trying to do in the first place.

How many of us sat at the dinner table growing up and were asked this question by a parent. “What did you do today at school?” Our parents were expecting us to describe what we had achieved, not how we had failed. “Well Dad, I got a B+ on my history test.” “Great son, what else?” Again, tell me what you accomplished.

Imagine how the conversation might have gone if Dad had congratulated us for our failures as well as our successes. Here’s a great example of what can happen when failure is encouraged.

Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx, a highly successful company that makes women’s undergarments. Just a few months ago, Sara was on the cover of Forbes magazine and recognized as one of this country’s newest billionaires. She built her fortune by conceiving, designing, and manufacturing a product that millions of women around the world wear. It’s a bit like a modern day version of a girdle. Call it panty hose without the hose.

Sara didn’t come up with this over night. She was involved in a number of start-up ventures before she launched Spanx. They all failed miserably. But unlike many of us, she never got discouraged. She never allowed self-doubt to disempower her. She just kept coming up with new ideas and trying to turn them into successful businesses.

When Sara and her brother were growing up, their father asked them a completely different question at dinner time – “How did you fail today?” When they answered the question, their Dad would respond, “Gee, that’s great. You learned another set of lessons about what works and doesn’t work. Good job!”

When I read about Sara’s father asking this question, I realized that he was helping to teach some valuable lessons:


failure is to be expected whenever we try to achieve something new

what we learn from failing can be most important.

Instead of criticizing his children for failure, he did just the opposite. Consequently, Sara grew up more than willing to take risks, try out new ideas and products, fall on her face more than a few times, and still get up everyday with the attitude that she was doing the right thing – because she was failing! Think of how different your life would be if you had been raised to embrace and celebrate your failures? The whole notion of success and failure would be turned on it’s head.

This came as a revelation to me a few years back when I realized that I made many decisions from fear rather than from desire. I wanted to write a book of poetry when I was in my 20’s but I was too afraid of criticism. I wanted to go back to school and get an advanced degree. But I was too afraid that the work load would prevent me from attending to my business and that I wouldn’t make enough money. I wanted to learn how to play piano again. But I was afraid I wasn’t committed enough to practice and that it would be a waste of my time. I wanted to travel to Africa but I was too afraid that I might get sick and not be able to find good healthcare. The list goes on and on. In each case, the more I heeded my fear and inner negative voices, the more empowered they became. Eventually, they became powerful enough to talk me out of doing what I wanted to do and feel justified in not doing them.

One day, I got angry enough to change. I wasn’t going to continue to listen to my self-doubt. I was going to start making decisions based on what I wanted to do. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, when, after many years of war and destitution, she reached into the earth, grabbed a clump of dirt and raised it to the sky exclaiming, “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!” Well, as my God was my witness, I wasn’t going to let fear lead my life!

I had to come up with ways to neutralize my self-doubt so that it wouldn’t become so convincing. I needed to find ways to convert doubt and defeat into empowerment and courage.

I discovered some things that helped me and offer them here as suggestions that might help you have more trust in yourself :

1. Get grounded through presence

I often find that when I’m experiencing a lot of self-doubt, the simple act of trying to be present brings me out of it. This requires focusing on my attention on something very specific (like feeling my feet or my breath) to bring me into the moment and change the subject. Sometimes I focus on a sound, or a picture, or a sensation. Sometimes, going for a short walk will immediately pull me out of my negative thoughts and refresh me. Talking with a colleague or friend can work as well.

2. Balance the minuses with pluses

If you naturally see the glass half empty, try seeing it half full. If you still can’t focus on the positive aspects of something, ask someone who you know sees the world naturally as half full. There are always losses and gains to everything, but focusing only on the losses keeps us in that negative place. I often ask my clients to tell me what they gained from having worked with me. I keep their comments written down and review them whenever I find myself in a particularly bad bout of self-deprecating thoughts.

3. Find what makes you feel good

Finding yourself in a funk can be remedied by doing something that makes you feel good. Find what nurtures you and do it. Maybe you enjoy listening to music or reading books. How about having your significant other massage your hands or feet? Sometimes, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt, I take a hot bath. My husband finds his joy in playing, writing and arranging music. This always changes his state of mind and heart. Make sure you make time in your day to play at whatever you enjoy and get enough sleep. All of these things will help you maintain a healthier state of mind and body.

4. Reach out to others and connect

As much as we can try to do things for ourselves in our moments of self-doubt, reaching out to others for help is essential. This is where coaches and therapists, teachers and mentors really come in handy. They are trained to listen and support us when we need it most. We can also benefit from acting in this role for another. One of my favorite ways to neutralize my self-doubt is by coaching someone else. Just by taking the focus off of me and being present to them, I automatically benefit from the interaction. And, it always gives me a different view finder through which to look. Even reaching out to a co-worker or friend and asking how they see something can help us adopt a more positive point of view.

This week, try using some of these methods to cast self-doubt and deprecation out of your mind. No one ever got anywhere by listening to their inner thoughts telling they couldn’t do something. See if one of these methods helps you cultivate a different set of thoughts that serve you better. How about working on your attitudes about success and failure? Maybe just seeing it completely differently is enough to encourage you to keep going.

Having the courage and determination to keep trying in the midst of failure seems to be one of the major keys to success. When you experience self-doubt, don’t give it any more power than it already has.

As Steve Jobs powerfully reminded us,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

~ Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO of Apple Computer

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Founder, Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.