Leadership Communications: 4 Steps to Co-Opt Those Voices in Your Head

So much communications training is about what we say to others, but the most powerful leaders have open communications with themselves too. Learn from Dana’s insights on a new way to lead – from within! – InPower Editors

Great leaders often cite “self-awareness” as the top soft skill responsible for their success. There’s even some research that documents this correlation. I believe that self-awareness is a communication skill, one that starts with communicating effectively with yourself instead of just focusing externally on your relations with others. But how can you develop self-communication prowess and self-awareness if you don’t already have it, and turn it into a professional asset if you do?

I wish I knew a simple answer to this question. I don’t. Self-awareness is a journey, and your strongest ally on this inner journey is the voice in your head — the one you might be used to ignoring, or following without challenging. Learning to communicate effectively with yourself may be one of the greatest communications challenges you’ll ever face.
So much communications training is about what we say to others, but the most powerful leaders have open communications with themselves too. Learn from Dana’s insights on a new way to lead – from within! – InPower Editors

The truth is that we’re talking to ourselves constantly, and in those inner discussions lie clues to who we are and how we act that can make us extremely powerful actors in the world — or can make us slaves to unconscious patterns that doom us to irrelevance or bullying.

The voices in your head are your brain’s attempt to help you become more conscious and mindful about how you’re spending your energy, but to actually benefit from their wisdom, you have to engage with them and become a conscious participant. This means that sometimes you must reprogram them to be more helpful. Here’s the simplest process I know to begin to harness their power.
Continue reading

Part 2 of the Values Schism: Corporate America Needs To Get Real

A young attractive businesswoman working on her laptop

In my last post about how there is a growing schism between the values held by employees and those held by their employers, and how it’s driving employees out the door.

I noted that 54% of millenials are planning on leaving their firms to try entrepreneurship. This is a big number, but even that is dwarfed by a study by Harris Interactive that found 74% of employees of all ages would look for another job if they could. The reasons? According to Alan Hall, Accenture reports that 31% don’t like their boss, 31% feel unempowered, 35% are tired of internal politics and 43% don’t feel recognized for their work.

A 74% level of employee dissatisfaction represents a costly vulnerability for companies, especially as affordable health care and technology reduce the costs for employees to take the risk of entrepreneurship. Projecting forward, the cost to a dissatisfied employee going out on their own is going down as a percentage of their annual salary, while the relative costs to the employer to replace them are on the rise. Today employers can spend 150% or more of a skilled employee’s annual salary recruiting and training their replacements.

While the cost to replace a low-skilled worker is decidedly less than this, many of the people leaving are the most emotionally intelligent and creative. When so many analysts point to both these qualities as keys to competitiveness, on a company- and economy-wide scale, creative brains draining from cubeville should be of concern to employers (though it might actually be good news for the entrepreneurial economy. Continue reading

The Values Schism And How It’s Draining The Brains From Corporate America

Something insidious is happening in the cubicles and hallways of America’s big and midsized companies.

Employees who have attained a chunk of the America dream — a steady paycheck, benefits and a rung on the upwardly mobile ladder — are risking an uncertain job market and quitting their jobs in astonishing numbers (more than 2 million a month). Why?

On the surface, they will tell you that they are in search of personal and professional fulfillment they can’t find in their current positions. Underneath this trend, however, is a deeper motivation. Employees are discovering that their values are misaligned with the companies they work for and that one of their highest values, a deepening appreciation for themselves as integrated human beings, has almost no value to their employers.

Over the last five years, this schism has grown so much that the number of people intending to quit and start their own business has grown by 50%.

Women are the canary in the coal mine

Perhaps the most telling demographic trend indicating a values schism between employees and their employers can be found among women, who begin as more than half the entry-level workforce but are less than 20% of the leadership in corporate America. Most analysts view this exodus of high-potential women as a slam into the traditional glass ceiling, but that explanation misses a more important reality: Many women today don’t experience the glass ceiling as something “done to them”  but as a choice. They know they are talented, but they believe their employers don’t value their skills and strengths.

The persistence of the 23% gender pay gap would be reason enough for them to feel undervalued, but there are other barriers to contend with, so they choose to go where they will be valued. The best place to do this is in their own companies, which is why women are starting more new businesses than men and represent the fastest-growing segment of $10 million+ entrepreneurs in the country. Continue reading

Take The Lead – A Challenge to Women – with Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, Author of Lean In

We are thrilled to announce that InPower Women has partnered with TaketheLead.com to host a keynote speech by Sheryl Sandberg – right on InPowerWomen.com! Sheryl will be joined by other heavy hitters in the women’s empowerment movement. Together they will discuss the challenges we face, and the opportunities we have. Please join us for the LIVESTREAM here on InPower Women on February 19, 2014 (8pm Eastern). Register now (free of charge) to receive reminders and special email invitations to a simultaneous Facebook and twitter chat moderated by InPower Women so your voice can be heard too! – InPower Editors

While we wait for the event, enjoy this interesting TED interview with Sheryl about what has happened since Lean In was published last year.

Don’t forget to register to join us here on InPowerWomen.com, Facebook and Twitter for the Livestream event!

Is Office Politics Holding You Back?


Early in my corporate career in global companies, I got some massive doses of “company politics” and learned how important they were to my career. I learned that if certain people weren’t willing to go to bat for me, my climb up to the next level (or anywhere, really) would be severely hampered. Working for smaller startups wasn’t terribly different, and there were fewer people to politic with, so in some ways learning how to play the game was even more important.

I’ll admit that many times I found myself thinking, “if people would just stop playing all the games and let me do my job I’d be successful!” It was frustrating.

But as my career progressed and I learned more about leadership and how organizations really worked, I came to appreciate “politics” in a different way.

People make things happen

Organizations are social creatures, made up of social ties between people. When people get together, they can make amazing things happen. That’s how companies and organizations succeed; that’s where their power comes from. So how can you lead a social unit successfully if you can’t be influential within the social culture?

You can’t. So if you want to lead and make things happen, you need to learn to “play” within the culture you hope to lead and effect. It’s part of how you gain credibility to be effective. Continue reading

Creative Leadership

I recently had the chance to talk to a very successful leader about what he thought was the foundational driver of his success. Of course things like integrity and emotional intelligence came up a lot, but I was struck by his observation about creativity.

“I used to think creativity was reserved for painters and writers,” he said thoughtfully. “But now I realize that no one is more creative than me when I’m removing barriers to help my team be more successful.”

Intrigued, I probed for what he meant by “removing barriers.” Essentially, he said that he noticed after taking over a new group a few years ago that most of his team would bring him problems. “That’s what they’d been trained to do with their problems, bring them to the ‘leader’ to solve.” But he found that when he solved the problems for them he became a bottleneck and was soon inundated with more problems to solve than he had capacity for. So he switched his tactics and started helping them redefine the problems into opportunities and empowered them to take advantage of the opportunities they discovered. Soon two important things happened:

  1. his team got better at thinking and talking in terms of opportunities instead of problems and the energy of the group changed and became more positive, future-oriented and enthusiastic;
  2. productivity, satisfaction and quality metrics went up as people felt accomplished at seeking and realizing opportunities wherever they found them.

“As I was working with people to find the opportunities lurking in the problems, I became aware of just how often we all, myself included, start with the negative ‘why not’ aspects of any particular situation,” he said. “Turning that around to find a positive opportunity required a lot of creative thinking on my part.”

He went on to say that now he defines himself as a creative person for being able to find opportunities where others see problems. Continue reading

A Schism of Values: What’s Behind the Corporate Brain Drain

There’s a quiet revolution happening in the cubicles and hallways of America’s companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 about 2 million people a month walked off the job. These employees, many of whom have attained a level of professional achievement equated with happiness — a steady paycheck, benefits and a rung on the upwardly mobile ladder — are risking all that success in an uncertain job market to quit in numbers we haven’t seen since the last time the job market was booming. This isn’t terribly surprising considering 74% of corporate workers say they would leave if they could.

This Seventy four percent of the American workforce reports feeling undervalued and unempowered. What this means is that three quarters of our workforce is dissatisfied, and over half of them (the half that aren’t leaving but want to) feel out of alignment with their companies and held hostage to their job by fear and uncertainty.

Psychologists will tell you that anyone who feels compelled to do what they’re doing out of fear is ripe for change. These high rates of dissatisfaction, when combined with the prospects for declining costs of health care and the lowering costs technology needed to start a new business, could be a revolution in the making.

What would a modern worker’s revolution like? Unlike the protests and violence of the labor movements in past generations, today’s smart-phone wielding workers revolt by leaving big companies to start their own. And in fact, the number of people who intend to start their own business has grown by 50%. Workers – especially the best and brightest – are overcoming their fears and striking out on their own to build companies that reflect the values they want to live.

With seventy four percent of workers unhappy and fifty percent planning to take action, there’s a case to be made that the revolution is already rumbling down the halls of corporate America.

This post originally appeared on Switch & Shift.


3 Steps: How To Deal With Rejection


A client and I recently strategized what I thought was an awesome move for her… and she emailed me back a few minutes after we hung up with this simple statement: “My boss said no.”

I was disappointed for her because the approach would really have positioned her well among her peers and superiors. But hey, the boss said no. I emailed back and told her to pretend it wasn’t about her.

This advice, she said, helped but she was confused about the boss’ response, so I encouraged her to talk to her boss more about it after some time had gone by. I spoke with her a week or so later and it turns out that, it seems that the boss was concerned with the way her proposal would have cluttered up some other proposals he had in the works. So, it wasn’t really about her, it was just poor timing for her to put that particular proposal on the table.

It’s Not (Always) About You

The fact is, sometimes is IS about you. However, going straight “there” and concluding that whatever the rejection, it’s your fault is really missing an important problem-solving opportunity.

And in fact, problem-solving is at the heart of business. However, most of us get fixated on our own problems and forget that everyone else – including the boss – has problems too.

If you want to reduce the amount of rejection you get, make sure you’re focused on the right problems, yours, your bosses and the company’s. This can mean that you focus on solving problems your boss has, or relating the problems you have to priorities you know the boss shares. Either way you reduce the chance of rejection when you’re focused on problems many people think are the ones that deserve attention.

How To Deal With Rejection – Emotionally Continue reading

Is Thought Leadership the Same as Change Leadership?

born leader
There are so many ways to “lead” that sometimes we get confused trying to distinguish them all. At the end of the day, it may not matter as long as leadership happens. But what are you really good at? What kind of leadership can you become more intentional about? What kind of leadership can you become known for?

As the command-and-control model of leadership rapidly gives way to influential leadership styles, let’s look at two leadership models that are available to just about anyone at any level, change leadership and thought leadership. They are not the same, although together they can be powerful. Which can you adapt into your leadership style?

Change Leadership

I believe that every leader should master the dynamics of change, because most of what we lead these days is changing at such a rapid pace. But mastering change means understanding both the technical and social complexities of what makes change desirable and manageable. Most of us are better at the technical stuff because we’re trained, we’re smart and the subject matter has more objective elements that can be measured and analyzed.

The social, subjective, human stuff is more challenging by definition, so it’s where we need to spend more of our developmental energy. The principles of change mastery are relatively simple, understanding human motivation and group dynamics, but mastering them is a personal journey. Mastering change leadership requires us to be intentional about how we are personally motivated, how we interact with others and how we can get our own hang-ups out of the way of the change we’re trying to lead.

Want to be a change leader? Master the human dynamic, starting with yourself.

Thought Leadership

The title “thought leader” is often reserved for those rarified authors, researchers and industry titans who blow our minds with new ideas. Think of Mark Benioff who in less than two short decades has redefined the software industry with his tireless championing (and brilliant execution of) of what is now known as cloud computing.

In fact, thought leadership is accessible to everyone at every level in an organization and it’s a key strategy in becoming an influential leader. Continue reading

Why is Thought Leadership, “Leadership?”


One of the cool things about modern discussions of leadership is that we now recognize that “leadership” is available to everyone, at every level of every kind of organization – or no organization at all. Anyone can lead and can even start a movement, simply by influencing the person next to them to influence someone else. We believe that to lead is to make an impact on the world around you. And anyone can do this. The patriarchal stereotype of leader-as-king-with-army is making room for the reality of idea-gal-with-smartphone.

But there’s a difference between influencing the person next to you and “leading.” What is it?

I believe that much of the power of influential leadership lies more specifically in thought leadership, but not as we’ve traditionally defined it.

Traditionally, thought leaders have been authors, researchers and industry trend makers. You know, people with public relations firms in their stables. Think of Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, and his decade+ championing of what’s now called cloud computing. Or Tom Peters. These idea-guys manage to get above the fray of an entire section of the economy, see a trend, articulate it and influence others by applying their ideas widely and diligently. Hip hip for them. They are surely thought leaders and thank goodness they are because that is how revolutions in thinking are made.

But we can all think. We can all see things that others don’t. We can all share our views and opinions with those around us to influence their perspectives and actions, and most of us do share our thoughts.

When do our ideas shift from opinions, to influence, to leadership? Continue reading

Welcome, InPower Leaders…

I'm dedicated to supporting leaders driven to fuel their professional success through their personal development. In addition to supporting executives individually, InPower Consulting offers unique soft-skills development programs, team dynamics seminars, and leadership development workshops.

Be sure to check out InPowerCoaching.com for online professional development and InPowerWomen.com for inspirational insights from women leaders. ~Dana Theus, President & CEO

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