Are You Good at Vulnerability or Shame?

Accountability Growth mindset


Key Point: Shame is the feeling that “I AM wrong, there’s something deficient in me and I am just not good enough.” It is the FEAR of disconnection. Shame is not like guilt, which is “I did something wrong.” And shame is not like embarrassment, which is “I have done something silly.” Furthermore, perfectionism is often one’s attempt to avoid the feelings of shame. So, when a person is a perfectionist, that person is carrying the voice of shame, which tells them that they ARE wrong and not good enough. Social scientist and author Brene Brown’s research on the issue of shame is very powerful and deserves much more attention. People don’t talk much about it. She makes an important point. When we are embarrassed or guilty we can often acknowledge and talk about it. There is something to report on and since it is behavior, we can address it and change it. But when we FEEL shame, we do not discuss it because there is nothing to discuss. We accept it as a given and it eats away at our insides. If I make a mistake and focus on my behavior and describe it as stupid, I can change that “stupid” behavior. But if I define ME as being “stupid,” then there is nothing to discuss… I’m just “stupid’ and ashamed. This leads to self talk in the mirror like, ”I’m just not good enough,” “you are an idiot,” “you are undesirable,” ”you are just not good enough and never will be,” “why would anyone love someone as unworthy as me?” Ouch.

Learning how to become more self-accepting, vulnerable and authentic is hard work. It involves self-awareness, and takes practice. It also takes courage and vulnerability. Here is a segment from one of Brown’s blogs:

“Shame resilience is key to embracing our vulnerability. We can’t let ourselves be seen if we’re terrified by what people might think. Often ‘not being good at vulnerability’ means that we’re damn good at shame. ‘We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us – that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough – and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.”

Character Move:

  1. Download the Thought It Was Just Me Worksheet. Have the courage to be imperfect.
  2. Watch her TED video below (it has more than 6 million views).
  3. Dare and have the courage to work on being more authentic and accept that you are enough… While still being committed to personal growth.
  4. Remember that connection is why we are here on earth and the key to that is authenticity, vulnerability and being resilient to SHAME. You and I are totally worthy of love and belonging.

Vulnerable and connected in the Triangle,


Don’t Be a Putz, Wash Your Hands… Use Soap Too!

Accountability Management Productivity


Key Point: One of the best principles I’ve ever learned is the following: Everything is a process and a process is everything. Anyone who understands this principle appreciates that process and personal judgment go hand in hand. Process is never intended to be mind-numbing bureaucracy. Actually a checklist is usually a reliable method and best-known way of doing something. It is a good thing. One would think that this principle would be comprehensively endorsed and adopted by ALL industries, especially medical practitioners. Apparently this is not the case. Dr. Atul Gawande‘s book and New York Times best seller, The Checklist Manifesto, is about process and checklists. Gawande, a surgeon and author, notes that 93 percent of physicians surveyed wanted checklists used if they were on the operating table, while 20 percent question their value when operating themselves. What’s surprising to me is that process control, according to a number of studies, appears to be at the clinician’s discretion. Yikes… This is like every commercial pilot having their own take off approach protocol, or none at all. I don’t know about you, but I like to see those pilots going through their standard, industry defined safety checks as I board a plane. It actually matters to all on the plane if we take off and land safely.

One of the most distressing points the book makes is regarding simple hand washing. Almost two hundred years after it was statistically proven that hand washing saves countless lives, clinicians are still struggling with compliance (in fact, a May 2010 study indicates that clinicians complied with hand washing guidelines less than half of the time). According to Gawande, this lack of discipline extends into the Operating Room, where he describes complex tasks that must be highly choreographed between many professionals in order to produce positive outcomes that have no script or checkpoints. Geez… If I ever need an operation, I’m going to pin an infection prevention checklist to my chest!

Why do people in most organizations that don’t have strict regulatory guidelines, resist the discipline of checklists? Well apparently part of the reason is the role of our “ego.” We apparently don’t need checklists but others do. My view is that this arrogance can get us in serious trouble regardless of what work we do. Another barrier to checklist application is inertia. It is simply easier to not follow a protocol.

Character Move:

  1. What do you do that requires or would greatly benefit from a checklist and/or reliable process? What do you do to ensure consistent attention to following and improving on these? Be self-accountable and define them.
  2. Does your ego or inertia get in the way of applying and/or inviting others to help you apply these checklists? Processes? Why? What will you do about it? Be respectful and listen to others. Be open to feedback regarding reliable methods you govern.
  3. Do you recognize that a checklist/process/standard method actually can lead to more creativity and mastery? If not you might benefit from exploring this paradox further.

Checklists in The Triangle,



Thanksgiving… Who Cares?

Abundance Community Gratitude


Key Point: We ALL care about Thanksgiving. I’m both an American and Canadian citizen and as you likely know, both countries have a Thanksgiving holiday. And while both dates provide a moment to celebrate and give thanks, they are both remarkably different AND similar. My observation is that for Americans it is a pause for reflection and chance to take a deep breath (for many, four days off work). It is also the gateway to the holiday season. In some ways Thanksgiving in the U.S. is a “bigger” event than Christmas. Because the Canadian holiday is a long weekend in October, the pause is shorter and the connection to the Christmas season is distant. The common ingredient to both holidays and countries however, are reflections of gratitude, family, friends, food and football. Yet I think the best ingredient in the beautiful recipe of Thanksgiving is that it is spiritual but not necessarily religious. We ALL get to fully participate regardless of faith, race, or position in life. It is not exclusive to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or any others. Thanksgiving is essentially free, unburdened by material expectations or faith obligations. It is simply a moment to say thank you to each other, our selves, and to our own Divine.

Character Move:

  1. Simply, be grateful. Having the breath to do so and the freedom to celebrate is a great place to start. Remember to say a genuine thank you to yourself… Forgive yourself, accept and cherish your humanity.

Thanksgiving in The Triangle,


P.S. every Thanksgiving our family tries to watch the funny and touching comedy movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The unlikely combo of Steve Martin and John Candy’s characters struggle to get home for Thanksgiving. Through a riotous and unlikely adventure they find the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Give yourself the gift of watching it… In my case, for the 20th time, and I promise a smile will cross your cranium. Happy Thanksgiving!  

Would You Win in an Attribute Contest?

Abundance Collaboration Management


Key Point: Attribute talent wins! One of the common questions I get from people at all levels in organizations is, “When will all the chaos stop? When will we get past all the change going on?” My response is, “NEVER.” Some days or months may be less or more hectic than others but the whirlwind will not stop or slow down. I actually believe that turbulence will increase. The reasons? We will experience even more of the following: Intense global competition, constant technology revolution, rapid innovation, and unpredictable geopolitical turbulence. A business model or revenue stream… Even an organization… Can disappear in a breathtaking few months. No value – no money – no work. Literally nothing is certain, except “death and taxes” as the old saying goes.

So here is an assumption about people and work I deeply believe in: The competition for top talent will become more ATTRIBUTE intense than ever. I do expect to hire very smart people who are exceptionally proficient in performing certain skills. But a great formal education is table stakes to just get in the talent competition pool. However if I can hire a hungry, self-accountable, respectful, abundant thinking individual who is capable of connecting, translating, collaborating and creating… WE THRIVE and SUCCEED in a sustainable way! Why? People with these attributes realize THEY are the key to defining and contributing to success. They are mega collaborators. They do not depend on somebody leading “change” because improvement, growth, and personal change management is built into their mindset. This type of talent is happy to be engaged AND engaged to be happy! They expect to navigate through tough challenges and even seek out that kind of environment. Agility helps define who they are. They are content and yet realize good is the enemy of great. And the better lead the organization, the greater leverage and value results from this attribute talent.

Character Move:

  1. When you think about how much you’re improving, think about describing it in terms of attributes along with numeric results. The good news is that the distinguishing variables to find these desired attributes are not necessarily resident in any particular age, gender, IQ, size, shape, GPA, University, country, or region. They are evident through results and behavior.
  2.  Self-evaluate and build a development plan on the following attributes: A. Self-accountability, B. Respect, C. Abundance, D. Hunger, E. Connector, F. Creator, G, Translator, H. Catalyst, I. Collaborator. These are not necessarily ALL of the right attributes but they are a great list to work from.
  3. If you were asked to provide a story as evidence of how you have displayed each of these attributes and achieved results that have had an impact and inspired others, how would you do? If you haven’t been asked to do so, expect that you might in the very near future.

Attributes in the Triangle,



You Never Listen to Me!

Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: Listening is more than just “hearing,” and a skill we’re in danger of losing in this world of digital distraction and big data overload. Stop: What do you hear right now?

By asking you what you are hearing, it causes your brain to take control of the sensory experience, and it makes you listen rather than just hear. According to scientists, that’s what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of our auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is ATTENTION. How do we sharpen our attention skills so we don’t have to wait for the “big bang” noise to really listen?

When you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, according to Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind

“A separate ‘top-down’ pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.”

Unless our hearing is impaired, it happens naturally and easily. But listening and attention are more challenging. Especially with all the additional distractions and work we put our brain through with all the BIG NOISE around us. But listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the non-visual parts of our world feeds into everything that helps us grow our intellectual, emotional and physical capabilities. Really paying attention and listening is a huge part of the RESPECT value I talk about. In my case, when I’m in a stuck or deteriorating relationship, it is often related to me not listening as well as I might. I’m just not in the moment, present, and paying attention! The reverse is often also true; I connect with others much more and on a deeper level when I listen.

Character Move:

  1. Horowitz suggests that we can train our skills doing things like listening to different music, carefully capturing emotions attached to the harmonics in the voice of people we work with and significant others. Like everything else worth developing: Practice, practice, practice!
  2. Please just put the darn smartphone down, look the other person in the eye, and listen. Pay attention. If you still have the smartphone or iPad in your hands, you are likely more interested in waiting for the person to stop talking than really listening.
  3. Think about being at a cocktail party, when someone glazes over your shoulder for somebody “more interesting.” That’s kinda what it feels like when we aren’t paying attention and not listening.
  4. Remember that the best things to say during conversation will naturally come out of really listening, not loading your mouth up and waiting for the other person to stop talking.

Attention in The Triangle,



What Makes a ‘WE?’

Accountability Collaboration Teamwork


Key Point: The word “SILOS” sucks the energy out of me. I don’t know when it replaced “communication” as the default word for all that’s wrong in organizations? But it seems to be the reason people use to explain why many problems exist. What bugs me more is that if we know living exclusively in silos restricts organization flow and hurts results, why do we have such a hard time getting past this “silo hell?” Well maybe it’s because we are not skilled or practiced at developing the WE that’s necessary in crossing the chasm? Maybe looking after number one, is easier or better? Or maybe we just don’t know how to make it so?

However, as research demonstrates, and Ben/Rosamund Zander explain in their wonderful book, The Art of Possibility, something enormously creative and possible happens when we focus on US or WE as an entity. Rather than compromising on finding something between you and me, something magical happens when we create and focus on the new persona of WE.

This concept is much bolder than finding common ground between you and me. It involves a deep inquiry into what’s best for US. What if we all had this philosophy in organizations? I think we would reinvent business and organization effectiveness. Why? Because stakeholders and customers rarely care about what just you or me are able to do on our own (or departments for that matter). However, they are deeply impacted by the output of the “WE.”

Character Move:

  1. Develop a WE story; the possibility that comes out of focusing on WE as a unique entity. This can apply in the workplace and your family.
  2. Like the Zanders’ suggest in their book, “listen and look for the new, emerging entity.” It is a greater sum than you and I.
  3. Ask what the WE wants to have happen? What’s best for US?
  4. Identify the next steps best for the evolved entity that becomes the “WE” and progress is made.
  5. Celebrate milestones that belong to the “WE” versus you or me…. And breakthrough happens.

WE in the Triangle,