On this US Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks:

  • To my clients.  I’ve learned a lot from each of them during these past 18 months. And I am grateful that they have allowed me to make a living doing things I love to do.
  • To my network. I am so grateful for the time, conversations, feedback and encouragement to continue on this path.
  • To my family. Your support, love, and wisdom have made this somewhat unexpected journey much easier.  Being an entrepreneur was never a life goal of mine, it just seemed like the best thing to do at this point in my career. I did not expect everyone to be such awesome cheerleaders and so enthusiastic about my taking this path.  I am (and will be) forever grateful.
  • To my friends.   I’m very fortunate to have many friends who also happen to be professionally accomplished and have a breadth of experience.  Even better, they are willing to take a look at my projects and give constructive feedback that makes my work that much better.  Oh yeah, and they get me out of the house every once in a while.  Thank you for your enthusiasm, wise advice, and encouraging me to wear something other than yoga pants on occasion.
  • To my accountability partners (Brian, Julie, David, Judy, Kevin).  Thanks for holding me accountable as I start doing scary new things I have never done before.  Accountability partners are a key ingredient for me to successfully get things done. The fact that these people are willing to spend their time and energy to check up on me means a lot.
  • To Cally, the dog. Thank you for reminding me to get outside every once in awhile.
  • To Ryan.  My success or failure in this venture directly impacts your life.  The fact that you have more confidence in my ability to succeed than I often do means the world to me.  Thank you for being my Chief Organizational Psychologist. I love you!

Aligning Personal Vision with an Organization

As I move through the middle to end-stage of my career, I’m realizing I don’t have many project cycles left.

As a result, it’s become clear that I have to make sure that an organization’s values and vision align with my personal values and vision.

The quality of life that results when my personal values and vision align with the organization is much higher.

Furthermore, the organization gets more of my energy,  higher quality work, and a better attitude.

I don’t think I am alone here.


The late Sir John Whitmore, in the introduction to his 5th edition of Coaching for Performance  (affiliate link), felt that organizations are beginning to reconnect their business to their purpose.

As the people who get stuff done, we can help support this by choosing to work with organizations that have that connection to their purpose.

We are in an era where job stability is an illusion and there is a greater expectation that we will have multiple jobs over the course of a career.  In some areas, job tenure is even seen as suspect.

Because we have more mobility, we can choose where we spend our time and energy.

Let’s support organizations that understand that working for people, planet, and profit is a triple win.

Let’s support organizations that see their employees and contractors as humans rather than cost centers to be reduced or “resources” to be used.

Let’s choose mindfully the places where we provide our energy and labor.

What are your values?

What is the vision you have for your life?

What is the organization’s vision? Does it match your vision for yourself and the world?

What are the organization’s values?  Do they match your values?

Are the behaviors, choices, and rewards in the organization in alignment with the stated values?

If there is a disconnect between your personal values and vision and the organizational values and vision, how bad is it?

What can you do to close that gap?

Why Environment is Important

In my experience, I do my best work in environments where my personal values and talents can thrive.

Environments where who I AM is appreciated, not just the work product, or skills they think I bring to the table, or how many hours I put in at the office.

Work and life are not separate things to be balanced.

Work IS part of life.

Life Balance Wheel

Too much energy spent in one segment makes everything lopsided and impacts the whole.

Hate what you do?  Hate where you do it?  Don’t care about the people you do it with?

That impacts your health, your ability to re-energize yourself, your relationships with everyone around you, and your self-esteem.

I’ve even watched as the raspberry bushes in my backyard migrated from their original location within a bricked plot to 3 feet away to where the pear tree used to stand.

If the plants can move to more supportive environments, you can too.

Why else is it important to make sure you are in a supportive environment?

Remember Jim Rohn’s saying – “You are the average of the five people you spend time with?”

What are the characteristics of those people?

Where are the similarities? Uncomfortable, isn’t it?

I’ve learned over the past few years that when I can see up close someone who has gone where I want to go, it seems more attainable. Especially when I get to watch them as they go through the process.

On the flip side, when I find myself in toxic environments – everything shifts towards toxicity. It requires that much more energy to maintain focus on goals and the positive things in my life.

The struggle may be real, but it is not entirely necessary.

Why Personal Vision is Important

As I move through this life, the importance of a personal vision becomes clearer.

What do I want my life to look like?

What do I want my relationships to look like?

What do I want my environment to look like?

What activities and causes do I want to support?

How do I want to engage in the world?

Why do I want these things?


Everything, from where I work to what I purchase to what I do, trickles down from the answers to these questions.

If I don’t have solid answers to these questions, I drift.

I wind up in places that don’t serve me or others.

I find myself doing things that serve no good purpose or are actively destructive.

If I do wind up in these places by accident, if I haven’t developed a personal vision, I don’t have anything to measure against.

Just a general sense of “this sucks,” then thrashing about to have things “not suck” but not knowing what “not suck” looks like.

Life is too short to be moving from one sucky environment to another.


I think we all deserve better.

I think we all deserve to be in supportive environments.

I think we all deserve to have our labor appropriately valued and appreciated.

I think we all deserve to have our environments and activities be in alignment with what we most value.

I think we all deserve opportunities to grow into our best selves.

To do that, we just need to spend a few moments figuring out what that looks like.

We also need to allow for modifications along the way as we learn what works and what doesn’t and as we grow, change, gain more experience, and engage in this adventure called life.


What do you want your life to look like?


Small Steps

Over the past few years, I’ve seen significantly more evidence that change occurs in small steps.

Small, bite-sized, easily defined, easily executed pieces.

One of my favorite change management instructors (John Berardi, who just happens to be in the nutrition and fitness space) continues to advocate for selecting one habit to modify and do so in a way that you have a 99% chance of succeeding.  Minor choices lead to major changes.

Yes, there are times you need to yank out the rug.

  • Stop drinking cold turkey – because trying to reduce it doesn’t work for you.
  • Throw out all the junk food from the house – because if it is in the house, it gets eaten.
  • Remove the classrooms – because they are expensive to maintain and run and instructors and students alike are using them as a crutch/excuse not to change.

Use the extreme approach sparingly, when all else doesn’t work.

The rebound can be spectacular if the extreme change is not supported for an extended period.  I’ve seen that too many times both personally and professionally.

So why do we think that change will happen faster if we “pull out all the stops?”  Change all the things all at once?  Have a big, celebratory event and assume it will stick?

I’m beginning to think that we keep approaching change as an all-or-nothing deal because it satisfies some desires:

  • The desire for excitement – gotta admit that big change initiatives, both personal and professional, can be exciting.
  • The desire for certainty – big events have an end.
  • The desire for clarity – big initiatives generally have clear goals.  The only problem is that the destination they set isn’t the final one.

The fallacy is that we think of change as one and done.

Change is a process.

There IS no one and done.

  • Stopping drinking? You still need to make a moment-by-moment decision on what to consume…for the rest of your LIFE.
  • Changing your diet? You still need to go to the grocery store and choose the appropriate foods or select the option at the restaurant that matches your diet vs. what looks “tasty”…for the rest of your LIFE.
  • Moving to online learning?  You still need to make the appropriate instructional design decisions for your course objectives and continuously improve your development skills and your tools.

Those new habits need practice, reinforcement, supportive environments, and mindset changes.

Even with time, it can be shockingly easy to slip back into old habits.

The bigger the change, the bigger the potential rebound.

Let’s stop trying to change all the things all at once.

Choose One Thing

Wendy, do I have to choose only ONE thing?

I had asked my entrepreneurial friend, who had been complaining about being overwhelmed, having too many ideas, too much to do, and not enough focus, what he considered to be the most important thing he wanted to accomplish.

I get it.

I stare at all of the ideas that I have and things I want to do and the niggly odds and ends and details to get me there, and I sometimes want to throw my hands in the air and pray that the magical productivity fairies come down and do all the work for me.

Unfortunately, those magical fairies are in my hands and my head.  I still need to do the work – physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Because there is one of me and only 24 hours in a day, I still need to decide what is most important.

Right now, the most critical priority is preparing a new service for launch (target – January 2018).

This priority includes all of the marketing, branding and sales efforts, nevermind putting together 15+ years worth of experience and 10 years worth of blog posts into something that others can digest and use.

Oh yeah, add the struggle of getting out of my own way since my inner perfectionist gremlin is going bonkers right now.

Because this priority is so all-encompassing and requires so much energy, it means that other things I want to do I need to put on the back-burner for later.

Or let go of. 

It’s not easy.

There’s a fear of loss that trickles in when I decide to let go of something. Even if it just for “later.”

I need to be OK with letting something sit for a bit.  Ideas that I’ve allowed to simmer tend to be much better in execution when I get to them. Even if I do wind up letting go of the idea, or “miss the boat,” it turns out for the best.

Mentor and Coach

Remember the list of behavior changes you made?

There were two parts:

  1. Identify desired behaviors
  2. Identify undesired behaviors

During that process, I asked you to identify substitute behaviors.

Substituting one behavior for another is more comfortable than removing a behavior altogether.

People will find substitute activities anyway. You might as well leverage that.

Behavior change is uncomfortable.

Think about when you last tried to “stop” doing something.

Hard, isn’t it?

I find that I am much more successful when I have a “replacement” behavior that fills the gap.

I am working on reducing my coffee consumption.  As of this writing, I’m down to 2 cups a day – most days.

The days I am successful, it is because I have access to hot tea.

Tea-drinking serves as an excellent replacement behavior for coffee-drinking because:

  1. I like hot tea, and I often drink coffee to stay warm vs. any desire for coffee itself
  2. There is a little bit of caffeine, so I don’t trigger the caffeine withdrawal headache

Eventually, I will “rip off the band-aid” and eliminate coffee from my diet.

When I am ready, I will find a mentor/coach.  Ideally, this mentor is someone who has been through this change before and currently models the behaviors I wish to adopt.

In this example, that means I am looking for a person who:

  1. Used to be a die-hard coffee drinker
  2. No longer drinks coffee
  3. Has substituted coffee with a healthier beverage (i.e., NOT someone who replaced coffee with 10 Diet Cokes per day)

The ideal mentor, for me, is someone who understands the struggle of changing that particular behavior.

Someone who is introspective and honest enough with themselves to be able to identify and share where they ran into difficulty.

Someone who I can relate to. If my mentor could do it, I can too.

Having this mentor provides a behavioral model and individual accountability.

This mentor asks questions when I slip and when I succeed.

What is working?  What isn’t? When do you struggle? When is it easy?

The accountability and encouragement of reflection help the change stick; even if it takes a few tries.

You can use this same process with organizational change.

Encourage the individuals who have successfully embodied the change to mentor others.

Provide support, training, and rewards for this mentorship.

Celebrate successful mentoring. Who have the mentors influenced?

For your part, listen when people tell you of their struggles to change.

Where are they struggling? How can you support them?

Use “just suck it up” sparingly.

Your people will notice the disconnect if the change doesn’t impact you or your work.

Your best people won’t tolerate it.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The Heart of Coaching: Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-Performance Coaching Culture

Rewards and Reinforcements

If you are going to make a change, you need to develop the environment for that change to thrive.

You have identified the behavior changes you want to reinforce, right?

From here, it’s time to start evaluating your current environment.

  • What is happening in your environment NOW that will support the changes you wish to make?
    • This includes behaviors people in your environment are already demonstrating.  The more you can support what people are already doing; the less dramatic the change will seem.
  • What is happening in your environment that might block the change?
    • Which obstacles can be easily removed?
    • What needs to happen to remove those obstacles?
  • How dramatic is the change in mindset required?
    • The more dramatic the mindset change, the more time, patience, and reinforcement will be required.

Once you know where you are at, you can review your destination.

  • Is there something new you need to put in place to support the change?
  • Are there reinforcement mechanisms already available in the environment that just need tweaking?
    • Can you add the behaviors to the performance evaluation process?  What is required to do that?  Do you have that level of support?
    • Can you add the behaviors to the job descriptions and career ladders?
  • How open is your organization to different reinforcement techniques?
    • Has your organization tried gamification before? How successful was it?  What worked and what didn’t?
    • Do you have the funding for prizes?
    • Do you have reward mechanisms already in place for collaboration and mentoring?  What would you need to build that?

As you and the organization work through the change, it is up to you to develop the environment for that change to thrive.

Think of it like a scientific experiment. Try one thing. Is it working? Did something else appear that you didn’t anticipate?  Are people gaming the system? Is there an adjustment you can make? Is there something else you can try?

Rewards and reinforcement do not have to be expensive.  They just have to be consistent across the system and across time.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook: The Complete Guide

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

Safe Spaces

The second most important thing you can do as a leader is to provide safe spaces for change.

(The first most important thing you can do is model the change yourself).

Find a way to create a safe space – no matter how “high stakes”.

This is where “pilots” come in.

Tiny, quick projects to test the idea.

Pilots perform multiple, essential functions:

  1. A pilot allows you to see whether the change will work.
  2. A pilot lets you see where the sticking points will be around within the change
  3. A pilot creates people who model the behavior and can then spread that behavior among their colleagues.
  4. A pilot helps you confirm your behavioral reinforcement strategies

Ideally, these pilots are low-stakes.

Don’t let an argumentative, impatient, high-stakes team bulldoze you into making them be your “pilot.”

These teams tend to

  • Do things that are central to the operations of the organization
  • Have no patience
  • Squawk as soon as things “go wrong”
  • Spread that discomfort to the rest of the organization
  • Derail any future efforts

You will know who these teams are pretty quickly.

Fundamentally, you want your pilot to be a team that is impacted by the change, but any problems that appear do not paralyze the organization.

My best tactic is to explain to the impatient, high-stakes team that we want to do a small pilot so that we minimally impact their critical work.  We want to get the majority of the kinks out first.  By waiting a short period of time, we save them significant time and energy.

The argument doesn’t always work at first. Find an example from the organization’s history where their impatience made a change more difficult than necessary.  Document and share with your project champion and your team.

Find an example from the organization’s history where their impatience made a change more difficult than necessary.  Document and share with your project champion and your team.  Do your best to cool the high-stakes team’s jets.

Don’t know what law this is, but I found the following to be true:

“The higher the stakes, the more likely things are going to go wrong.”

Your attempts to create a pilot (a safe zone for the change) with a lower stakes team may not work, but at least you have the documentation if things go off the rails.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration


Modeling Behavior

For any change, particularly changes that are significantly different from “the way we’ve always done things around here,” it helps to provide explicit models of the new behaviors.

Development of that model starts with you, even if it is not clear that it is your “job.”

Are you thanking your team for their hard work?

Are you sharing the impact the team’s work has made – even if it is “unfinished”?

Are you using and sharing the tools and techniques the team members have developed?

How are YOU modeling the behavior?

The second stage is finding a small group of people who are demonstrating the behavior.

Find people who are close to the “action.”

What are they doing?  How are you going to celebrate them?

How can they share the process they went through to make the change?

You don’t need many.  You just need people closer to the individuals impacted by the change.

Ideally, the folks impacted by the change look up to the people modeling the behaviors.

The closer the modelers, the more relatable the change.

Remember that change is a process.

People need multiple exposures to a particular change for them to absorb it for themselves.

Change – in mindset and behavior – is not a “one and done” activity.

Resources – Amazon Affiliate Links

The Success Principles(TM) – How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be