Being Human

We get caught up in the busyness of life, the doing of things we should do, the going to places we’ve committed to go to and sometimes we forget to just be.

Being still gives us a chance to rest our bodies and our minds so God can get our attention. Being still allows us to access the dreams and desires God has placed in our souls…

“I am a human being, not a human doing.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Inhale Stillness, Exhale Busyness…
Inhale Intuition, Exhale Exhaustion…
Inhale Vision, Exhale Blindness…
Just Breathe…


The ONE THING You Can do to be a Better Leader

“Leadership is a privilege afforded to you, the leader, by the people you are privileged to lead.” Renita Alexander. Tweet this now!Tweet

Have you ever had a leader go off in a meeting? If watching your leader loose control felt scary that’s because it probably triggered some immediate, primitive emotions in your emotional center, the limbic brain. Your heartbeat may have increased; you may have felt stressed or even experienced an immediate need to leave the meeting. And if the outburst and your negative reaction to it impacted you for the rest of the meeting or even longer, that’s not surprising either; once your emotions have been hijacked like this, it takes concerted effort to reign them back in.

How you respond or react to any emotional stimuli is, of course, your responsibility; an emotionally intelligent leader tries to avoid YOUR negative reaction by controlling how HE perceives and reacts to input.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) guru Daniel Goleman writes in Primal Leadership that the fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead and “that occurs when the leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people”.

“The fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead.” Daniel Goleman. Tweet this now!Tweet

The ability to consistently prime the pump of positivity requires EQ competencies like self-awareness and control. The opposite of resonance is dissonance; a dissonant leader throws people off balance and negatively impacts their performance.

I once worked with a visionary leader, which is considered to be the most effective leadership style. Unfortunately, in a crisis or when his triggers were activated, this leader often TURNED ON and then TUNED OUT others. That prevented him from being able to hear what people were saying at the very moment he MOST needed to listen. He lacked the ability to recognize his triggers or the self-control to respond instead of react in a crises and instead of priming good feelings, frequently created dissonance among his team. The resulting culture was one where other team members were reluctant to speak for fear of setting off an explosion. I personally left many a meeting discombobulated, disengaged and unable to do what I needed to.

Dissonant leaders can be effective in the short term but the toxicity they create usually negatively impacts the forward movement of the team as well as the bottom line. You can avoid negatively infecting your team by learning to lead yourself!

The ONE thing, the most important thing, and the hardest leadership challenge is leading yourself.

The hardest leadership challenge is leading yourself. Tweet this now!Tweet

That requires some understanding of you! What drives you bonkers? What do you believe about leadership? Who are some leaders that you admire? How did your immediate, intimate leadership models make you feel? You CAN become a better leader but it requires some self-development and maybe some outside, objective assistance.

Follow these steps to leading a better YOU!

Step 1: Study YOU!

Before you can become the leader you want to be, you have to know the leader you are. Self-awareness is the first step to leading yourself so spend some time understanding you…what makes you feel elated…what makes you want to stick a pencil in your eye? How do you like to receive information? What do you need to make decisions? Are you empathetic? When talking to others, are you listening to what they’re saying or just listening for a break in the conversation?

Be cognizant of your triggers, the words and actions that set you off but understand ultimately, your reaction is all about you! Do people who play the victim role make you crazy! And then make sure you’re not projecting your own experience; are others really being victims, or are you seeing victims because of your OWN victim experience.

Step 2: Study Leadership!

What makes a good leader? Many entrepreneurs focus on a business plan, attracting capital, hiring employees with no thought as to how they will LEAD their enterprise. Leadership is an art that comes easily to many people, however it can be learned and even natural leaders can fine-tune their skills to be even better.

Leadership can be learned and even natural leaders can fine-tune their skills to be even better. Tweet this now!Tweet

We can only be really good at something we have a talent for so find out what leadership characteristics come naturally to you and focus on developing those. And then try to minimize the possible negative impact of any weakness in key leadership characteristics like communication.

I was blessed to be a part of an organization with a unique tradition of experiential leadership development. None of the military branches have the luxury of hiring a “CEO” at any level from an external source, so the leadership training starts early and happens frequently. As I young officer, I was exposed to formal training, informal and formal mentoring from my superior officers and the special “polishing” that can only come from the senior non commissioned officers! I learned what worked for me, what fit my personality and I looked at each new assignment as an opportunity to reinvent myself as a leader, to take the good and not so good experiences I created or witnessed and apply them with a new team.

Step 3: Listen to Feedback!

Your mom and MAYBE one of your grandparents are the only two people who believe you’ve never made a mistake, EVER. Everyone else has some constructive criticism, an observation, and some feedback they’d like to share about something you’ve done or said. If you truly believe they have the best interests of the enterprise at heart then try to listen to what they’re saying without judgment.

Feedback was an informal, then formal part of the leadership development I experienced in the Air Force. Sometimes the feedback was hard to hear but it gave me a glimpse as to whether what I thought I was projecting was actually being perceived in the way I intended. I had to work on not being defensive and just listen to the lesson and then decide if and how to incorporate it into my leadership.

Leading yourself well is the first crucial step to leading an any enterprise!

So be intentional about how you’re leading by learning yourself and learning from others.

Something to think about:

Do you know how your leadership is affecting your team or your enterprise?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked


We are constantly bombarded with images of what we should have and want until we begin to feel that what we actually have is not enough. But that perception of “not enough” might be based on a comparison that does not reflect our actual reality.

Do you have what you need? Do you have a place to live? Do you have enough to eat? Do you need the expensive car, the outrageously priced sneakers, or the designer clothes? Most importantly, will any of those things lead you to meaning and purpose?

“Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.”  Galatians 6:4, LB

Inhale Enough, Exhale Want
Inhale Sufficient, Exhale Dissatisfaction…
Inhale Contentment, Exhale Comparison…
Just Breathe…



America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world… rich in resources, rich in ingenuity, rich in our willingness to take risks. Our richest resource is our diverse population and the innovation that comes when differences are explored versus exploited.

There is enough for all of us to have what we need, even what we want if we are willing to see the humanity in each of us and to take responsibility for using our God-given gifts to make it better for all of us.

Inhale Grace, Exhale Greed…
Inhale Sharing, Exhale Hoarding…
Inhale Contentment, Exhale Consumerism…
Just Breathe…


3 Things to Help You Get Feedback Without Getting Upset!

During the “Black and White” gala celebrating the end of my previous life (my retirement from the Air Force), I got roasted pretty thoroughly. There was video with “actors”…my car had a starring role. Whenever the audience’s laughter lagged, there was a laugh track…featuring me.

My own laugh was the laugh track to my roast!

Prior to the event, two young officers infiltrated my office for the sole purpose of making me laugh so they could record it.

It was pretty funny.

And I understood the power of my laugh as I watched people who didn’t laugh at first, laugh at me. I also understood why some people hearing me laugh wanted/want to know “What IS that noise?”

It was great feedback for me about something that is such an authentic part of who I am. And while I can’t change the sound, I can be sensitive to and conscious of my impact on others in a way that doesn’t suppress my natural exuberance for life.

Which brings me to the real topic of this blog (no, it is not #LaughingWhileBlack)…Feedback!

I thought of my retirement party during last year’s Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit where self-awareness and feedback were frequent topics of discussion.

The presentation by Shelia Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback (a sentiment most of us have a hard time feeling, let alone expressing), particularly resonated with me. Heen reminded the attendees that since we don’t get to hear our voices, see our faces or feel the energy others feel emanating from our persons as we present ourselves to the world, feedback can be very helpful if we can receive it well. In fact, the ability to receive feedback is crucial to effective leadership.

“People have info about you that’s invisible to you.” Shelia Heen. Tweet this now!

But feedback often triggers reactions that make the giver uncomfortable, ensuring needed feedback will be withheld in the future.

You won’t get feedback unless your team believes you can hear it. Tweet this now!

And it’s not just the negative stuff we have a hard time hearing; studies show that even comments that would be considered complimentary are hard for most of us to accept. That’s because most “people actively seek to verify their own perceptions of themselves, whether those are positive or negative.” So even a comment intended as a compliment can gets pushback if the receiver doesn’t agree with it.

The problem is we all want to be loved and accepted for who we THINK we are. Most of the time, we’re not intentionally choosing behaviors meant to elicit negative reactions. So when the reaction is other than what we expect, we get frustrated, defensive, and unable to hear.

I experienced this a few time in my previous life where feedback was vital part of the promotion process. Annual performance evaluations helped determine who stayed on active duty in the “up or out” military promotion system. Feedback sessions to establish performance goals and analyze progress were an informal, then formal part of the process.

Sometimes the feedback was hard to hear but it gave me a glimpse as to whether what I thought I was projecting was actually being perceived in the way I intended. I had to work on not being defensive and just listen to the lesson and then decide if and how to incorporate it into how I led. Every new assignment was a new chance to be a better leader with a team not influenced by my previous mistakes.

“People who are willing to look at themselves are just easier to work with and to live with.” ~ Shelia Heen. Tweet this now!

My experience receiving feedback in the Air Force has helped me learn to take a minute, understand what the feedback means and if and how to incorporate it in my performance. Heen introduced some language around the types of feedback that I wish I had during my time on active duty. She described the three types of feedback as Appreciation, Coaching and Evaluation.


We all want to be seen and heard and know that what we are saying and doing matters; expressing appreciation is a way to say “Thank You” and affirms to the listener that his contributions to the team are known and necessary. This is so important the Profit Pathway team sets aside time during what we call Affirmation Friday to express appreciation for the gifts and talents we each bring to the enterprise. It encourages each member of the team to really look for ways the others are contributing they may have missed initially.


Helping others discover ways to grow and develop is what coaching is all about. Being focused on your continuous growth can make it easier to for you to receive feedback; the feedback is not necessarily about what you did wrong but what you can do better.

Or maybe it is about something that went wrong; coaching feedback can help you find the lessons in the mistake.


An evaluation is like an assessment. In a work environment, your performance is usually being evaluated against a standard or against others doing the same or similar work. My military evaluations contained high points from the previous year as well how my performance ranked among that of my peers. My evaluations helped me assess my standings, my chances of being promoted and earning more responsibility.

The person receiving feedback has the power to determine the effectiveness of the feedback. Having a growth mindset helps…so does knowing how to ask for the type of feedback you want and learning to recognize the type of feedback being given.

“Nothing affects the learning culture of an organization more than the skill with which its executive team receives feedback.” ~ Shelia Heen Tweet this now!

from Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well is by Shelia Heen and Douglas Stone.

Something to think about:

  • How well do you receive feedback?
  • What type of feedback impacts you negatively?
  • What can you do to change how you receive feedback?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked