leadership incorporated blog

April 12, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Every Leader Needs a Metaphor

My dear friend Lee (and her amazing family) are fighting lymphoma. Yesterday, her husband Jay sent an update to friends and family and shared with us the metaphor that they have chosen to help them get through this battle.

Turns out both of their families had prize fighters in their history and they are choosing to experience this challenge as a championship fight. As Jay puts it: “It honors our roots, brings us strength and it speaks in the kind of feisty language that we love…and our enemy, the cancer, deserves.”

Reframing their journey in the nuances of fighting imagery is helping them to process, prepare and do what’s necessary with grace, hope and clarity.

This image is bringing them all together with a shared vision of the entirety of where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Understanding the particular challenges of the middle rounds of a fight (where they see themselves now) is giving them a strategy for approaching the middle rounds of chemo: “save yourself, slow down to make sure you have what it takes in the championship rounds”

There’s a great leadership lesson for all of us in what they are doing.

Want to get yourself, your organization, your team, your family over, around under or through the brick walls that are blocking you? Whether you’re trying to turn your business around, find a job in this economy, overcome financial, health or relationship challenges, get some powerful metaphoric imagery that brings people together, gives you a new framework for seeing your situation, new ways to approach it, and creates the courage and strength to persevere.


  1. Make a list of words that describe your situation. Use words from the perspective of the challenge itself, also words that depict what is required of you and others. Add some words that reflect the outcome you want. Use action words and feeling words. Don’t hold back or edit!
  2. Walk away for at least a few minutes to refresh your mind. When you come back, look at the list as if you’ve never seen it before and let your eyes find the top 3-5 words that speak to you, that really get at the essence of the challenge, your experience and/or the outcome you desire.
  3. Brainstorm other situations that share some or all of your selected words. Feel free to refer to movies, literature, the news. You’re looking for the idea that connects straight to your gut. The one that excites you. The one that just feels right.
  4. Sketch out further similarities between your situation and your metaphorical situation that you can use as you move through the various stages of what’s required.
  5. Use it creatively.See this as the movie of your life. Have fun with it!

Here’s a brief list of overcoming the odds situations to get you started:

Running a marathon (or the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race)

Hunting big game

Scaling an ice wall

Climbing Everest

Building the pyramids

Playing chess with Bobby Fischer

Diving for buried treasure

Dodging Somali pirates

Sailing through a storm

Mastering an obstacle course

Outsmarting Voldemort

Carrying the Ruling Ring to its destruction at Mount Doom

March 1, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Creating Opportunities in this Economy: Yes, You Can!

Things I heard many times from many people this week:

“It’s awful out there. It’s not reasonable for me to expect things to be good now.”

“I don’t really want this client, but if they show up, we’ll have to take them.”

“I know I’m going to have to settle.”

“I’m just not good at this.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I keep pitching but nothing happens.”

“I don’t have the time.”

“I know I need this but I don’t have the money.”

“I’m waiting for things to get better”

“it’s really hard right now.”

“it’s not like me to toot my own horn.”

How many of these have you been repeating out loud or to yourself over and over? Can you see how this kind of thinking can get in your way of creating new opportunities?

Last week we talked about what NOT to do if you want to create opportunity in your business, career or life. This week let’s talk about what you CAN DO. Here are 10 Ways to Be that Create Opportunity:

  1. Be unreasonable. Expect success. Go after big clients. Plan to transition up. Of my transition clients, those who aim low, land low. Those that are open to aiming high, land higher. Brian Tracy says “You can never earn more in the outside world than you earn in your own mind.” This holds true in terms of landing clients, winning pitches, searching for work, getting promoted, or any other goal you want to set.
  2. Be effectiveness-minded. We’re all hyper-productive now. Productivity doesn’t count unless it produces results. Be willing to take a hard look at what isn’t working as well as what is. Don’t just keep working regardless.
  3. Be new. The world is reordering itself into something new all the time, to be successful we need to be willing to try new things, think in new ways, tap into new resources, take new approaches.
  4. Be an opportunity magnet. When we put our focus on what’s wrong, how bad things are and what we’re afraid will happen it can’t help but limit our ability to create new opportunities for ourselves and our business. Put your focus on what is possible, what you would like to create, and where the opportunity is hiding.
  5. Be a solution. Know and be able to speak to the problems you solve for others. Nothing creates opportunity so powerfully.
  6. Be intentional. This is closely related to being effectiveness-minded. Focus on one thing at a time, know why you’re doing it and what its purpose is. Give it your all. Time Mastery expert, Bill Barena says “I don’t have time for anything I’m not fully committed to or it’s simply a waste of my time.” He’s right. Watch where you are wasting your time by not being intentional and choose differently.
  7. Be generous. Of course, being generous requires being connected. How do you feel toward people who are generous with you? Doesn’t your regard for them increase? Don’t they make a memorable impression? Don’t you want to reciprocate? What would happen in your business, your search for work and your life, if instead of looking for how others could help you, you looked for how you could be of service to others? In my experience, this is the most powerful tool for success there is.
  8. Be a student. Learn from those around you. Especially those who challenge you most. Learn from your mistakes (they’re not failures unless you give up). Get the support you need. Fill necessary gaps. Invest in your own growth and development. And watch new opportunities, new associations, new possibilities blossom in front of you.
  9. Be mad. Is it okay with you to settle? To compare yourself unfavorably with others? Is it okay with you to give up on your business, your self in little or big ways? Is it okay with you to be financially strapped? Is it okay with you to fail? If not, don’t just accept this. Get mad. Decide not to play this game. Take your ball and go play a different game. (If you don’t know how…call me. I love showing people what else is possible!)
  10. Be easy. For people who think what they need to do to be successful in this economy is hard, it’s hard. For those who think what they need to do to be successful in this economy is easy, it’s easy. It’s the same economy.

June 3, 2009

Devastating Mistakes Businesses Make in This Economy: #3

Forgetting that current employees are the ones who will deliver future success. Studies show that after a reduction, there is a predictable and significant decrease in productivity. Errors and mistakes increase. Morale declines while conflict and tension rise. Customer service drops which leads directly to drops in client retention. Yet, most companies do little or nothing to support their retained employees — instead demanding more, and requiring they take on tasks and responsibilities for which they may have no training….and all for less reward. Hardly a recipe for motivation or corporate recovery.

Solution: Offer customized group workshops, individual coaching and other programs that value, empower and support employees through the transition. These may include but aren’t limited to: the opportunity to process feelings resulting from the layoff or current conditions, development of time and stress management skills, communication skills, and  specific customer service and sales training that solves the problems posed by current economic conditions.

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