Shelley Row

Connection: We Feel Good When We Feel Connected (Shelley Row)

Winning Well Connection

Shelley and I got to know one another through our Mastermind group at the National Speakers Association. I admire her strategic mind and warm heart along with her amazing resiliency and poise through the most challenging circumstances.

Feeling Good By Staying Connected

Is there someone you work with who could use a little motivation? Could you use a little motivation? You can’t motivate someone else if you can’t motivate yourself and, frankly, we could all use a little motivation sometime. Too often we think of motivation as money or a promotion but intrinsic motivation comes from inside and is powerful. One of the motivation levers in the brain is connection. We feel good – and more motivated – when we feel connected.

As humans, we are designed as social creatures. In fact, we feel good when we feel connected with others. According to a Simply Psychology article, research by Solomon Asch in 1951 illustrated the strong desire to fit in under pressure. Asch showed groups of people a line of defined length and asked them to select the line of the same length from a series of three. All except one in the group were told to select the wrong answer. The test was to see whether the one person felt pressure to change their answer and conform with the group. Of twelve trials, 75 percent changed their answer to conform at least once even though it was clearly the wrong answer. Your staff and teams feel the same pressure to fit in and be part of a perceived “in-group.” You naturally want to connect with those like you because it makes the brain feel good.

Additionally, recent research shows that for those with whom we feel connected, we demonstrate more empathy, trust, and cooperation. Would it help productivity in your office if people were more cooperative? You know the answer. But at the office, we experience in-groups and out-groups. Motivation is enhanced when we feel connected.

It’s easy to think of in/out groups based on gender and race, but it goes beyond that. Do you have multiple offices? Perhaps you noticed reluctant collaboration or less motivation when working between offices. Has your company merged? If so, there may be a lack of trust between members of the formerly different companies. When I worked for a professional association, we had a headquarter’s office and state chapters. We did our best to work together but it wasn’t easy. We were parts of different groups and didn’t have a connection.

Thankfully, the brain readily accepts new connections. How can you create more connection?

You can create more connection for yourself or between others on a team.

Teams create a sense of connection by setting common goals, naming themselves as a team, jointly establishing their performance norms, and conducting team activities (field trips, happy hours, lunches). You can also create individual connections by seeking out commonalities. The gruffest colleague may soften when connecting about kids, sports, or a shared hobby. Connection fosters greater trust and collaboration.

And for you, personally, who can you connect with that would instill more motivation? Invite them to coffee or lunch and listen for opportunities to connect. I’m a member of a speaking association and while they are a wonderful, talented, generous group of people, they can be a little intimidating and effervescent for this introvert. I sought out the organization’s president because, as a scientist, I sensed a quiet thoughtfulness. Over lunch, which he graciously accepted, I found a kindred spirit who gave me valuable advice about how to better connect with my high-energy, uber-talented colleagues. I left feeling more motivated because I felt that I had a connection in the association.

Who can you connect with? How can you help others find connections within your organization? Both will increase motivation and, frankly, it makes coming to work more fun.

Think Less, Live More. Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker

Winning Well Reflection

The trust you need to create lasting breakthrough results, both between you and your team and with team members among themselves, comes from understanding and shared experience. Shelley’s invitation to create connections through personal interest, mutual goals, and spending time together are essential ingredients for high-performing teams that care for one another and supplement one another’s strengths with their own.


Chery Gegelman

6 Ways To Transform a Divisive Culture into a Winning Well Culture: (Chery Gegelman)

Winning Well Connection

I really got to know Chery on our collaboration around the Energized Leadership book project. I admired her commitment and energy that led her to meet with us at 4 am to align with our time zone. She’s an adventurer with a kind and generous spirit. We truly enjoyed her amazing review of the story behind the story of Winning Well. 

My husband and I just returned to the U.S. after living in a giant sandbox on the other side of the world for four years. In the country we lived in, people are valued and LEGALLY treated differently based on their tribe, their race, their nationality, their gender and their religion. Imagine living in a place where the law says that you have more or less value for reasons that are primarily beyond your control. And therefore it is acceptable for you to receive:

• Receive lower pay and benefits
• Stand in different line or sit in a different place
• Be served last
• Be treated unfairly in conflict resolution and legal situations

While your humanity, character, education, knowledge, experience, skills, and contributions are rarely considered. This kind of culture naturally pits people against each other and teaches them that they have to look out for themselves because no one else will.

When people live and work in divisive environments, it takes more vision, character, energy and grit to create a winning well culture. Which begs the question, is it worth the effort to be a winning-well leader in a divisive culture?

People that work with Winning Well leaders:

  • Recognize and cherish fairness
  • Feel valued and supported regardless of their label
  • Know they are heard
  • Experience less stress
  • Become less self-focused and more understanding and supportive of others
  • Focus more on their work
  • Are more productive
  • Have more fun
  • Are never the same

Below are 6 tips to help you transform a divisive culture into a Winning Well culture:

  1.  See what is and understand why: Recognize finger pointing, and conflict as a result of a divided and unfair culture. And understand that it encourages self-protective thinking and behavior.
  2. Be motivated by “what could be”: People are happier, more creative, more energetic, and produce greater results when they live and work in places that create synergy instead of division.
  3. Don’t waste your time or energy raging against unfairness or judging the culture: Regardless of how you are labeled – do what you can with what you have, right where you are.
  4. Take one bite at a time: Know that massive change always starts small and gains momentum as people begin to trust titled leaders and believe in the vision.
  5. Model the behavior that people need: Balance compassion with accountability; striving to be consistent, fair and explainable at all times.
  6. Take time to recharge your batteries: It will take immense energy to build trust and engage people in a culture that is so divisive.

So pour yourself into the organization and people when you are they are there, and fully leverage your off time to play, refocus and recharge. Are you ready to make a life-altering difference for the people and the organization you serve?


Energize Your Leadership

Winning Well Reflection

At some point in your career, you are sure to encounter the situation Chery describes. The organization doesn’t want to win well, your boss doesn’t care about her soul, much less yours, and people are disempowered. What do you do then? Chery’s suggestions put you on the path to creating what we call a ‘cultural oasis.’ Remember that no one, but you chooses how you will treat people. Whether or not you succeed in changing the entire culture (and you may!) you will have made a difference for your team.

The Danger of Over-Confidence (Jeremy Kingsley)

Winning Well Connection

Jeremy is one of those kindred spirits who just picks up the phone every now and then and says, “How’s it going? and How can I help?” He’s a great role model of confident humility and understands that the real competition is mediocrity–the more we help one another’s businesses to grow, the more collective impact we can have in the world.

I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas and resources with him over the years.

The Danger of Over-Confidence

In this video, Jeremy Kingsley shares about bragging, ego, encouragement and the danger of overconfidence, via a story from history.

Winning Well Reflection

“When you brag about yourself, that’s called ego. When you brag about someone else, that’s called encouragement.” There’s definitely a tension between telling the stories about yourself that build your credibility and visibility and not becoming arrogant or overconfident. We’ve both walked on either side of that line and appreciate the recommendation Jeremy shares to be confident in your abilities, yet humble in your attitude. What a great expression of confident humility!


May Busch

How to Be the Best Leader You Can Be (May Busch)

Winning Well Connection Reflection

May comes to us from London. We first got to know May when she invited us to share our Winning Well message in her Career Mastery Challenge. We’ve enjoyed getting to know her and the important work she is doing in the world.

These days, being a leader is about your behavior, not your title. So, every day you and I have a golden opportunity to be the leader we want to be – that best version of ourselves. Being that “best self” leader takes conscious effort, but it’s worth it. You’ll feel great, bring out the best in everyone around you, and make a greater impact in the world.

In my experience, there are three main areas to focus on as you keep advancing toward being that “best self” leader:

• How you work with People

• How you work on the Business

• How you work on your Self

And of course, these areas are interlinked.

The key is to figure out where spending some time right now will make the biggest positive difference for you. And that will change over time because we’re always a work in progress.

Here are a few quick thoughts on each area to get you started.


There’s a saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” As a leader, it’s important to bear in mind the noble intent behind that advice but otherwise ignore it because it won’t make you effective.

Instead, treat people the way they want to be treated. Like snowflakes, no two people are the same. And just as I might prefer that you get right to the point, someone else might like some rapport-building small talk first.

The best leaders understand the person they’re interacting with and figure out how to communicate most effectively with that person. It’s not one size fits all, so start noticing how things land with others.

While it’s tempting to revert to your comfort zone, you’ll be more effective if you can adapt your approach to suit the person and the situation. Of course, while still being yourself… but the best version of yourself for that occasion.


No matter what your work may be – whether it’s delivering commercial results, contributing to the social good or something in between – there are many dimensions to working on the Business. Having vision, being strategic, and delivering results in innovative ways, just to name a few.

Click on the image for more information about May’s book.

But at the core, being a leader means making decisions and acting on them. Often those decisions can be difficult, involving tricky trade-offs. And doing nothing is also a decision … sometimes the riskiest one of all.

I find that the best way to lead well is to make those decisions based on your core values. It keeps you from being buffeted by the winds of special interests that otherwise may be hard to resist.

So get in touch with your core values, and make sure you’re working in a place where there’s alignment between your values and those of the organization. And if you’re in charge, then make sure you hire people who share those values and can help you build the culture.


The more you understand about what makes you tick, the more you can put yourself in a position to be at your best more of the time. When you have a strong foundation, you’re in the best position to support others.

Part of that foundation is confidence, and you’ll benefit from building confidence both in yourself and in others. Since no one is confident 100% of the time, the key is to tap into the areas where you do feel confident and build from that. It could be confidence in your technical expertise, or in a time you mastered a new skill. Use that as a touchstone you can come back to and recall the feeling of confidence. Then, channel that into the areas where you’re less sure.

Extend this confidence building to people you work with as well. Help them tap into their best, strongest selves. Encourage them to step forward, and support them along the way.

WHAT WILL YOU DO? Now, it’s over to you. What’s the one area that would most move the needle for you if you worked on it right now, and what will you do to move forward on it?

Winning Well Reflection

In her three areas where we work (on the business, with our people, on ourselves) May has captured the critical Winning Well focus of results and relationships. You cannot build sustained breakthrough results without working in all three of these areas. We appreciate May’s observation that it all begins by leading yourself. Cultivate confident humility and watch your influence soar.

Marshall Goldsmith

The Performance Appraisal that Really Matters (Marshall Goldsmith)

Winning Well Connection

From his books that taught us and informed our early careers, to the selflessness he consistently demonstrates, to his embodiment of professional confident humility, Marshall has been a tremendous supporter of Winning Well. We were honored when Marshall wrote the foreword for our book. Thank you once again, Marshall for your unwavering commitment to blending the bottom line with the human spirit and your support of Winning Well.

I’ve made a career out of helping business leaders develop better relationships with their colleagues and team.  In the course of that work I’ve seen many managers who struggle to achieve business success; much less build meaningful professional relationships.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. The truth is that in companies, nonprofits, and government offices around the world it’s not hard to find stressed out, frustrated, (and often hopeless) managers.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not for you.

It’s a message we can’t repeat often enough: you can achieve business performance without sacrificing your humanity, your well-being, or your sanity.

I often share with executives that the only performance appraisal that really matters is the one you give yourself as you look back over your life. When friends of mine interviewed people in the last years of their life, three themes emerged: be happy now, friends and family are critically important, and if you have a dream, go for it.

From a business perspective, my ultimate business advice isn’t very different:

  • Life is short – have fun.
  • Do whatever you can to help people.
  • Do what you think is right.

When you cultivate a healthy management mindset, improve business performance, experience less stress, and build better relationships with your colleagues and team, you’re on your way to a great life and great results. To me, that’s Winning Well.

Ultimately, your work as a manager is about far more than what you make or how you serve your customers. Whether you give it conscious attention or drift along, you will leave a legacy – in fact, you’ve already built one. Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • As of today, what is your legacy?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • What life will you build for yourself, and your family?
  • How will you impact the people around you while you do your work?

There’s a temptation to wait for ‘someday’ before you take action, but that day will never come. Today is the only day there is where you can take action and build the leadership legacy you want to leave the world.

Life is good,

Marshall Goldsmith


Click on the image for more information about Marshall’s book.











Winning Well Reflection

One of the things we appreciate about Marshall is his ability to cut through complexity and identify the MITs: have fun – help people – do the right thing. Leading well isn’t complicated when we remember that above everything else leadership is a relationship – and relationships are your greatest legacy.

Chip Bell

Confident Leaders Display Their Passion (Chip Bell)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve enjoyed getting to know Chip over the years and are so inspired by his passionate approach to creating a great customer experience. He truly understands the importance of Winning Well not just with employees but with customers as well.

Click on the image for more information about Chip’s book.


Larry Smith lost it! And of all places, he lost it in the big-deal quarterly leadership meeting. He absolutely went over the edge in his impassioned plea for some issue around a key customer. No, he didn’t cry; although he did wipe his eyes before his cheeks got streaked. No, he didn’t pound the table; although he did demonstrate a few gestures that would be the envy of any aspiring thespian.

But, what Larry did do in his “out of control” passion clearly crossed all normal bounds of rationality and routine boardroom decorum. And yet, he engaged the hearts … and commitment … of every single person in the leadership meeting. People were truly moved. And, it did make a difference. Stuff happened!

The “Larry loses his cool” incident led me to reflect on the true meaning of leadership. I thought about how much the land of being “confidently in charge” contained artifacts of control, rationality, logic and “keeping your cool.” I thought about how little these sensible artifacts had anything to do with inspiring spirit in any context of life.

People do not brag about their rational marriage, their reasonable hobby, or their sensible vacation. There is rarely “in control” behavior when Junior is rounding third base or Julie “sticks” her dismount. Exhortations of ecstasy are never restrained on the fishing bank when the cork suddenly disappears and with surprising force. But, somehow all that Larry-like spirit is an unwelcome distraction after the time clock is passed. And, the closer one gets to mahogany row, the less tolerance there seems to be for “sounds of the heart.”

I thought about how freeing it was for everyone in that room when “Larry lost his cool.” Were we uncomfortable? Yes! Did we wonder “Where the hell is this going?” Yes! But, we all felt momentarily in kinship with real life. Julia Roberts echoed the Larry theme in Steel Magnolias when, as a courageous diabetic expectant mother facing the life-threatening potential of giving birth, said: “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Great leaders are not rational beings … they are spirit carriers. They passionately “give birth” in the face of threatening circumstances. The biography of almost every great leader who ever faced the potential of bodily harm accompanying his or her cause communicates a consistent theme:  “Why we were there played so loud in my ear I never really heard what might happen because we were there.” Passion played and leaders put issues like “in control” on some emotional back burner. We know Larry. And, Larry is not an irrational, illogical person. Yet, somehow, that day we trusted his passion more than his reason.

“Whoa!” you say. We can’t have the chaos of unbridled emotion. What would the stockholders say? After all, is it not the role of a leader to bring forth a sense of “grace under pressure,” or “order when all around you is losing their head?” Should leaders not strive to be more anchor than sail? More rudder than oar?

“No!” We have missed the boat on what it means to be a confident leader. The organization, the marketplace, and the situation offer far more “predictable” than is predictably required. The truth is rationality oozes from the seams of every business encounter. Leaders do not have to bring order, sanity, rationality or logic. Every dimension of business life reeks with those qualities. Sane leaders foster insane passion.

Great leaders call up in each of us a visit to the raggedy edge of brilliance and the out-of-the-way corner of genius. When we feel inspired … incensed … ennobled …we have visited the magical realm of passion. We typically return from that realm renewed, revitalized … and slightly revolted. And, when a leader has had a hand in that visit, there is a sense of security married to an otherwise solitary search.

Passion takes the plain vanilla out of encounters. Philosopher Goethe called it “boldness” and said: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin in boldness. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”

Today’s followers need passionate connections from leaders who come soaring from the heart to awaken boldness. It builds a relationship platform that raises everyone to a higher level. Imposing mountains are climbed, culture-changing movements are started, and breakthrough miracles are sparked by leaders who take the governors off rationalism and prudence, letting their confident spirit ascend from within.

Winning Well Reflection

We hear all the time from leaders around the world who wish their teams would “put their heart into it.” If you’ve ever wistfully wondered where your team’s passion is, Chip offers you a fantastic look at where that igniting force comes from. In order for your people’s heart to be in what they’re doing – they’ve got to see yours. Be real, be authentic, and let us know why it matters.


Five Strategic Ways Leaders Provide Clarity (Mark Miller)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve always been big fans of Mark Miller and his prolific writing. What makes Mark unique from many leadership authors is that he’s actively working as a corporate executive while staying committed to inspiring leaders through his writing. 

Click on the image to purchase Mark’s book.

Engagement in leadership is vital. However, as you go through your career it changes.

That realization came to light when someone recently asked me a question I had never really considered: Does engagement look different as a leader moves through his or her career?

Although the core drivers of engagement are largely universal, I think the question itself could point to an insight.

Over the course of a career, a leader’s primary focus often shifts.

Preparation – Early in your career, you may spend more time and energy focused on learning. You may not know enough in the beginning to add real value. This phase could include learning about your chosen field, your role, the skills needed to excel, the industry, etc.

Production – During the next phase, as you learn and grow, you should be able to produce more. If you are in sales, you should close more sales; if you are an engineer, the scope and complexity of the problems you tackle should increase. As a leader, you should become more proficient at helping your team accomplish their goal.

Reproduction – Finally, as you mature, leaders often experience one more shift; you could easily find yourself investing more time and energy in future leaders. This could be teaching, coaching, mentoring younger leaders, or even representing the organization in various settings. Emerging leaders gain huge advantage when you provide historical context and perspective.

I now feel the need to state the obvious: I believe our careers rarely fit so neatly into these phases. We can, and do, move in and out of these different stages throughout our careers.

However, if you are finding it difficult to engage in your current role, consider your stage of career. Perhaps the answer is right in front of you … Prepare, Produce or Reproduce. Adjust your focus as needed and stay engaged!

Judging Your Engagement

As we discussed just above, one’s engagement phase ebbs and flows throughout a career. Regardless of the stage you’re in, you’re on the right track.

Men and women who are fully engaged outperform those who are merely going through the motions. This may be the most staggering revelation of common sense to anyone who leads people.

However, this obvious reality also occupies many waking hours for leaders around the world. Though there is no single, miraculous tactic to permanently lift the engagement of people, an engaged follower base always begins with an engaged leader.

Here’s a good starting point to judge your level of engagement, no matter the phase you’re in:

An engaged leader provides clarity.

The engaged leader sees and senses ambiguity. He or she is close enough to the work and the people to know when an infusion of clarity is needed – which is daily!

Clarity may be the greatest gift a leader can give an organization.

You may be thinking: “Clarity around what?” As much as possible!

All high-performance organizations have staggering levels of alignment. Alignment is impossible without clarity.

Here are five candidates for clarity:

  1. Purpose – Does EVERYONE in your organization know WHY you exist?
  2. Mission – Does EVERYONE in your organization know WHAT you are trying to accomplish?
  3. Values – Does EVERYONE in your organization know the beliefs that should guide their behavior?
  4. Goals – Does EVERYONE in your organization know what a win looks like?
  5. Strategies – Does EVERYONE in your organization know how you plan to win?

Obviously, once an organization reaches any scale, a single leader cannot carry the mantle of clarity single-handedly. Engaged leaders create the expectation and the infrastructure to cascade clarity.

Clarity which resides only in the heart and mind of the leader is merely a figment of the imagination.

Clarity must reach the front lines – that’s where the real power resides.

Is your organization clear on what matters most?

Winning Well Reflection

In our experience with thousands of leaders and managers around the world, the number one cause of workplace relationship problems is expectation violations. In other words: people simply aren’t on the same page. Mark’s suggestion that clarity the greatest gift you can give your people cannot be overstated. A strong focus on results where everyone knows exactly what winning looks like is vital to your success.


Kevin Kruse

One Sentence Engagement? (Kevin Kruse)

Winning Well Connection

Kevin has been a remarkable supporter of my speaking and writing from very early on in my journey. His Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers has led to some amazing keynote opportunities to spread the Winning Well message. We really enjoyed his Winning Well interview in Forbes and love contributing to his LeadX Community. He’s surely a Winning Well kindred spirit and works hard to build platforms for speakers and writers to positively impact the world. 

Is it truly possible to condense the science of employee engagement into a single sentence?

It is and I’m about to convince you of that.

But first I need to explain why I’m taking this extreme exercise in reductionism. Unfortunately, employee engagement continues to be a topic that many find confusing. This confusion is unnecessary. Despite our VUCA world (characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) that has made both time and money endangered species, it’s never been easier to drive massive engagement throughout your organization. It’s never been easier to engage your own direct reports. It doesn’t require a high IQ, high-priced consultants, long-term planning or even a lot of time or money.

The idea of a one-sentence employee engagement course is intended to cut through this noise. To make things as simple and as actionable as possible. Just 20 words. Words that I’ve seen work miracles in countless organizations. The goal is to craft a sentence that all front-line managers can remember. A single sentence that can be scribbled on the inside of a Moleskine notebook or perhaps jotted on an index card and taped to a computer monitor. It’s not a sentence that one delivers to others, but rather a sentence that one remembers.

So here is my one-sentence employee engagement course:

“People give loyalty and discretionary effort to those who foster growth, show appreciation, share a compelling vision and are trustworthy.”

I hope you’ll read that sentence again. That single sentence encapsulates the “why” and the “how” based on two decades of studying and applying the principles of engagement.

  • The why: engagement results in increased loyalty and effort.
  • The how: to feel emotionally committed, we all want to: * learn, grow and be challenged * feel appreciated * work for a higher purpose, not just a paycheck * and the first three items don’t matter if we can’t actually trust our leaders.

Can it be that simple? Try to find a reliable survey instrument that measures engagement and its drivers that doesn’t include growth, recognition, vision/meaning, and trust. I don’t believe one exists.

Think about the best job you have ever had and more specifically, the best boss you ever worked for. Can you see how she helped you to grow, to feel appreciated, to feel that your work was important and was she trustworthy?

Many will dismiss this “one-sentence employee engagement course” because it is so simple and obvious. Indeed, Frank Lloyd Wright said, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” I would argue the power is in its simplicity. The correct application of these simple principles can get you into the top deciles of engagement.

So, then, what should managers actually do to drive engagement, according to the one-sentence course?

To foster growth … it’s not about corporate training programs and annual performance appraisals. It’s about having career path conversations (i.e., stay interviews), and giving feedback in the spirit of a caring coach.

To show appreciation … it’s not about award ceremonies—the winners’ circle is always too small. It’s about saying thank you in sincere ways all throughout the year.

To share a compelling vision … it’s not about the mission statement poster hanging in the conference room. It’s about repeatedly connecting and aligning the weekly work with the big hairy audacious goals of the organization.

To be worthy of trust … it’s not just about ethics and telling the truth. It’s about being authentic and transparent.

With this article, I’ve tried to reduce the science of engagement to a single sentence. I acknowledge that there are many variables omitted that often drive engagement including: fair pay, work-life balance, having the right tools, having a best friend at work, quality, corporate responsibility and on and on. But my reductionism isn’t supposed to be all encompassing; it’s supposed to simplify a topic that has become way too complex. It’s supposed to be memorable and actionable. It’s an attempt to help leaders master the most basic principles of engagement, allowing other behaviors to be layered on at a later time.

Whether you find this approach helpful or harmful to the field of engagement, one thing is clear: your team members want growth, recognition, meaning and trust.

Click the image to learn more about Kevin’s book.

Winning Well Reflection

In a world where it’s all-too-easy to over-complicate and lose sight on what matters most, Kevin brings us back to the essentials of employee engagement in one sentence. “Is it possible?” he asks. We believe the answer is an unqualified “Yes.” When you interact with your team, when you have a one-on-one or even an accountability conversation, you don’t need a body of theoretical principles, you need practical tools you can use right away. Kevin’s given you the road map: growth, appreciation, vision, and trust.


Eileen McDargh

The Down-and-Dirty Truth about Humility (Eileen McDargh)

Winning Well Connection Reflection

I first met Eileen when a mutual friend said “You two should really know one another,” and she was right. Eileen has a warm and generous spirit and is an amazing role model of confident humility. 

Before you throw up your hands in horror, consider the root of the word “humility.” The term comes from the Latin humilitas, which may be translated as “humble,” but also as “grounded,” or “from the earth,” since it derives from humus (earth). Put your hands into rich humus, that dark soil that is the incubator for plant life. Your hands will emerge dirty and your knees probably dusty from getting down on the ground. However, if properly tended, you might have created a garden of bountiful flowers, a vine that produces wine, or a tree that bears fruit.

Winning well with others, creating an organization that thrives just like that garden, requires humility—a trait that is impossible if a manager looks down rather than gets down with team members, colleagues, and associates. Sadly, we see far too many examples of ego-filled executives in both public and private sectors who claim to have all the answers. That position threatens the resiliency and staying power of the executive, in fact, of the organization.

So the question becomes: “Can humility be developed?” The answer: perhaps.

My colleague Bill Treasurer asserts that it will take a “leadership kick in the ass:” a failure, a demotion, a serious downturn, or other significant loss. Even with that, some so-called leaders have such emotional insecurity and fragile egos that any “failure” will be recast as blame on someone or something else.

Click on the image to learn more about Eileen’s book.

Let us instead turn a light on you—a leader who is part of this symposium because you believe in growing your skill. That simple belief loosens the soil for proactive steps that we all can take to develop and strengthen humility.

  1. Think of 2 or 3 challenges from your past life. What personal strengths did you use AND what were your personal weaknesses? Were these weaknesses based on lack of knowledge, skill, faulty information? If you were to encounter those challenges again, whom could you turn to in order to create a better outcome? What’s stopping you right now, from developing those relationships? In the heat of the moment, it will be too late to gather support around you if you haven’t already been growing it.
  2. Create a sounding board of 2 or 3 “critical lovers.” Lovers are those people who never give you straight feedback. You are perfect in their eyes, or they pretend you are perfect. Maybe they are the “suck-up” kinda folks. Criticizers are those who find that everything you do or say is wrong. These folks are demoralizing and dangerous. What you want are “critical lovers.” These are people who care about you enough to be straight-forward about what they see. They will call you on your behavior and, at the same time, offer helpful advice.
  3. Practice reflective listening. We all hear but few people are skilled in listening. Learning to carefully listen is akin to learning how to play a musical instrument. Practice. Ask a question and then carefully listen for both content AND intent. Content is the words. Intent is the emotions behind the words. Learn how to ask clarifying and reflective questions. Practice. As is written in the Book of Proverbs: “Seek first to understand rather than be understood.”
  4. Find a Yoda. Yoda was a legendary Jedi Master (Star Wars) and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. Small in size but wise and powerful, he trained Jedi for over 800 years. Yoda is a metaphor for a person who seems wise—often wise beyond their years. My first-born daughter is my Yoda. She offers insights that I need and yes, it takes humility to admit that age does not guarantee wisdom.
  5. Realize that lost is a place. Humility is developed in coming to grips with the fact that there are times in our life when we do not know where to turn. We feel small, insecure, frightened, and possibly alone. I wrote my last book, Your Resiliency GPS, because I needed to find answers when death altered my world.

I humbly thank you for taking the time to read this. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Winning Well Reflection

As achievement-oriented entrepreneurs who are often our toughest critics, Eileen’s thoughts about how humility resonate strongly with us. All of us can do with more self-compassion. Her invitation to consider that ‘lost is a place’ helps leaders to release the need to have all the answers and dictate direction, to “trust the trenches”, and include the team in critical questions and answers.



Scott Friedman

4 Ways to Bring More Celebration to Your Organization (Scott Friedman)

Winning Well Connection

Scott has a special place in our hearts as he’s been an incredible encourager and friend both personally and professionally–and was actually on our first date (unbeknownst to him at the time). Scott is the founder of Together We Can Change the World with whom we’re on tour with during our second half of the Asia trip. TWCCTW is also our partner for our Winning Wells initiative bringing clean water wells to Cambodia.

When doing research for Celebrate! Lessons Learned from the World’s Most Admired Organizations, we asked our survey respondents: “What is essential in making celebration work in any organization?” The top for answers were: inclusivity, gratitude, play, and surprise.

Inclusivity – Making sure that everyone feels a part of the team. Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging … it’s giving everyone a voice and the feeling that their voice matters.

Gratitude – A grateful feeling, emotion, or attitude of acknowledgment of the life we have and those that we share our life with. It’s the ability to count our blessings even when we’re feeling the pressure of daily responsibilities. It’s being thankful and showing appreciation for those that make a difference in our lives.

Play – Living in the present moment. It’s the ability to let go of anger, resentment, and emotions from the past and truly bring our best self to the task at hand. Being in this state of flow will allow humor, spontaneity, fun, and play to flourish in the present moment. How much fun is that?

Surprise – Honoring people through the element of the unexpected – surprising them with what is highest on their joy list. It’s catching people doing the right things and recognizing them on the spot. The reason celebration fails in most organizations today is that it becomes stale. There is a lack of creativity or conscious thought that is needed to make a celebration special. By learning more about what motivates employees and what brings them great joy, we can creatively add the element of surprise to their lives, and what a nice surprise that is!

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well we encourage recognition and celebration – after all, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. But what really stands out about Scott’s approach to celebration is that it is more than an isolated response to something that’s happened. For Scott, celebration is a way of life. All of us can do with more appreciation of the good in our lives, our teams, and our work. You can follow up and incorporate more celebration into your life and work because Scott is graciously providing two free e-books to our readers.

Click on the images to download the books. Thank you Scott!




S. Chris Edmonds

An Exclusive Culture Leadership Charge for Symposium Readers (S. Chris Edmonds)

Winning Well Connection

Despite living only a few miles apart for several years, I (David) only knew Chris online. We first met in person when he was sharing tips from his fantastic book The Culture Engine with a group of tech leaders committed to building healthy business cultures. The three of us finally met in person at a gathering of the Colorado Chapter of the National Speakers Association. Chris offers one of the clearest, practical guides to creating a positive corporate culture that you will ever find. If you’ve never built an organizational constitution that transforms values to daily behaviors, give Chris’ book a close look.

Here is Chris Edmonds’ Culture Leadership Charge video episode made exclusively for the 2017 Winning Well Symposium. In this concise video, Chris shares how his culture clients leverage two of the Winning Well principles, results, and relationships, to craft purposeful, positive, productive work cultures.

Winning Well Reflection

“Trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction…” – that sounds like Winning Well to us (not to mention the foundation for a phenomenal culture that achieves lasting transformational results). Well said, Chris!

Click on the image for more information about Chris’ book.




Five Ways Leaders Unintentionally Sabotage the Team and One Way Forward (Alli Polin)

Winning Well Connection

Click on the image to visit Karin’s store and download the book she co-authored with Alli free.

Ever since I met Alli online, I’ve considered her a kindred spirit in the leadership space. Also a former executive, a mom, and a leadership writer and consultant, we’ve shared so many common challenges and values. Alli and I really got to know one another through our collaboration around two projects: the Energized Leadership book and our e-book A Parent’s Guide to Leadership (available for free download here). I’m grateful for our friendship and continued support on our leadership journeys. 

You want to be a good leader. Heck, why stop at good? You want to be a great leader, and that means keeping a lot of plates spinning. If it doesn’t get done and get done right, it’s your head. That could be why you may have adopted some less than helpful behaviors along the way.

Many years ago, I worked for a manager who told me, “Your job isn’t to make me look good, it’s to do your job to the best of your ability. My job is to make you look good and help you stretch to be your best.”

I remember the conversation nearly 20 years later because she was the first person I’d ever worked for who put maximizing my contribution at the top of her list. She cared not only about her success, but ours. Not to mention, she was invested in our relationship and as a result, so was I.

Many of the other people I worked for had an underlying drive to prove themselves as worthy leaders. It was as if they alone were the ones to get it done, make things happen, and create success. It never quite felt that we were on the same team.

Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot working for them too. They just picked up some bad habits on their quest to get things right. They were sabotaging the team by taking on sole responsibility for team success. Truth is, they were sabotaging their leadership too.

Five Ways Leaders Unintentionally Sabotage the Team and One Way Forward

Taking all the meetings

Bet you know leaders who go from meeting to meeting with little time to even go to the bathroom let alone do their job. Moreover, the team can’t reach them for help or insight because they’re always in meetings.

Speaking for other leaders

Most senior leaders are asked for details about issues that are happening on the front line. While you, the leader, have an understanding of it, you’re not the one closest to it. Still, the temptation is to know everything and have every answer, so you speak for the leaders who work for you and hope you’re getting it mostly right.

Giving detailed directions all the time

How else can you get exactly what you want if you don’t tell them exactly what to do? (Hint: lots of ways) The trouble is that you have smart people who work for you that can and want to figure things out. Also, when you dictate the details, you miss out on creativity and alternative paths and solutions.

Treating the team like Tinker Toys™ 

When results are less than optimal, there are leaders who jump in and make changes to team structure, process, and incentives to stimulate increased (and immediate) success. Always tinkering to find the magic combination, the team never has enough time with any one approach to acclimate and determine what’s possible.

Taking your bad day out on the nearest body

A culture of fear may get results, but it won’t get the best from employees or a good reputation in the market. We all know what it feels like when stress reaches a breakpoint; however, blame and raised voices only serve to give people a reason to leave, not to stay.

The Way Forward: If you don’t want to unintentionally sabotage your team (who would want that?) you have to talk to them to get their input and support to make a positive change. It may feel painful and be intimidating to let yourself be vulnerable but never forget, change starts with a relationship.

Schedule a series of 1x1s and ask the following questions:

What do you need from me? Where do you need to grow? (Here’s what I see, what do you see?) Where do I need to grow? (Here’s what I see, what do you see?) How can I best support you?” It’s not too late to change. The key is to do it.

Winning Well Reflection

What a great list from Alli! Look back on our careers, we can see places where we committed some of these self-sabotaging maneuvers. As we reflect on these items, we’re reminded of the need to trust your people. Train them and trust them. Give them power (including the power to get it wrong – within healthy limits) so they can grow.