If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

As a leadership coach, I come in contact with managers and everyday leaders who have no idea what they want in life or who they are without their titles. They might be able to tell me their roles in life, like mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, but they don’t have the foggiest notion of why they “do what they do” and “act the way they act,” especially under pressure.

Many times they don’t know their values. They’ve never given thought to their personal “non-negotiable.”  Many don’t have a moral compass, a set of values that they will NOT go beyond.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While that’s a little harsh, it does make the point that you must examine your life. For what?  To pinpoint your “moral compass” – your true values. Leaders know their values, why those values are important, how those values play out in life and most important what they will sacrifice for those values.

You can’t have one set of values in your work life and a different set in your personal life. Your values go with you everywhere.  A mess up in one area of life can easily affect another. For example, it was a seemingly personal value that distracted and somewhat derailed Bill Clinton’s career, not a business value, which shows that values are not compartmentalized. So if you don’t examine your life and know what you stand for, you can easily get sidetracked.

Getting to know yourself starts with honesty – with others and especially with yourself. While most people have “cash register” honesty, meaning they’d never steal money from their employer, they aren’t always honest in other ways.

Perhaps they tell the world they value one thing and display something else. Their insides don’t match their outsides. For example, some people will tout the value of hard work and claim they work harder than anyone else. Yet when you look at their work behaviors, you find that they’re spending much of the day on long conversations about how busy and overwhelmed they are. Some spend a lot of time on social media – things that don’t advance the company. That’s not personal honesty or personal awareness.

I’d invite you to take a half-day – go to a quite place and think about what values you will sacrifice for. If you’d like a template, below is a link to a list of values. Pick 10 and then pare it down to 5. You’ll be amazed.

I Googled “List of Values” and they can be found at listofvalues.com. You’ll see by the length of the list why I suggested a half-day of alone time for you to pare your values down to the top 5!

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #6

The following is the 6th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

6. Do what others won’t do.
In every department there are a few things that need to get done (or that are important to the boss), but no one wants to do them. Find out what those are…and then volunteer for the tasks. Yes, some people will call you a “kiss up,” but that’s okay. Ultimately, you have to please your boss and to some extent your peers and direct reports, not the nay-sayers who have little chance of reaching the top.

No Compromise on Religious Traditions

Dear Jean,

Here comes another religious holiday (not my religion), and all the little kiddies will be hunting eggs at my boss’s ranch.  If I refuse to take my child to the big shindig, I’m a spoilsport.  If I take her, I’m a hypocrite.  Please help me, Jean.  If you can come up with some compromise, I’ll be eternally grateful.


Based on the information you gave me, I don’t see any need for a compromise.  The party conflicts with your religious traditions, and that’s that!  You can explain that to your daughter in words she can understand.  Remind her of all the fun activities that coincide with her own traditions as a way to soften her charge that you’re a spoilsport.

I don’t see any reason that you should be embarrassed about not taking your child to the party.  Just send a nice handwritten note to your boss.  Something like this would work well:

Dear Boss,

Thank you for your kind invitation to the Easter egg hunt at your ranch.  Because the party conflicts with our family’s religious beliefs, we must decline.  We appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness.


Punished for Honesty

Dear Jean,

I’m a salesperson for a large company.  I feel that my sales manager overlooks and doesn’t monitor people who over exaggerate their numbers just to reach their quotas.  I feel I am being punished because I am being honest.  What should I do?


It depends on your motives.  Are you concerned for the welfare of the company, or are you concerned that your bonuses won’t be as big as your co-workers’?  If you are truly concerned for the welfare of the company, blowing the whistle is certainly an option.  It does have its drawbacks; I’m sure you know what they are.

If you are concerned about your numbers and bonuses as they compare to your co-workers’, stop.  There is nothing you can do about someone else’s behavior on the job.  Don’t give much thought to telling anyone else at this point.  The boss will find out sooner or later, so just keep your mind on your job and be honest in reporting your quotas.

Forget Time Management…Are You Managing Your Energy?

Phrases like “manage your time” and “do more with less” have become the buzzwords for this decade. The idea is that if you can manage your time well, you’ll be more productive in all areas of life. The only flaw in this thinking is that time is finite. In other words, you can manage time all you want and continually push yourself to get more done. But all this managing and pushing tires your brain, drains your spirit, and disengages your soul. That’s when mistakes occur and burnout ensues. The key, then, is not to simply manage your time, but also to manage your energy.

Unlike time, energy is restorable. And when you manage your energy well, you’ll have more energy for your priorities, whether they are personal or professional in nature. If you don’t manage your energy, you can’t manage your time. Sure, you can think about all the things you need to do and you can schedule them, but if you don’t have the energy to do the tasks, you won’t be able to accomplish them appropriately.

Realize, too, that managing your energy goes beyond work/life balance. While many people talk about work/life balance (devoting ample time to all areas of your life), few address those things that make life rich and fun. With so many things competing for your attention daily, you need to give attention to energy replenishment so you can devote the time your life’s priorities demand. This is why it’s important to manage your energy before you manage your time.

The Three Pillars of Energy Management

Keeping your energy in check means giving attention to your brain, your spirit, and your soul. Think of it like a three-legged stool. For the stool to be useful, you need all three legs. Remove one leg from the equation, and the stool topples over and is useless. The same is true for your energy. Therefore, to keep your energy replenished, implement the following suggestions into your daily life.

  • Stimulate Your Brain

The human brain likes control and certainty, and it’s very good at predicting the next thing that is likely to happen based on the information it has. That’s why you often feel better when you perceive you have control over a situation and feel stressed if you think you have no control over events. Additionally, the brain is programmed to fear. This is a good thing, though, because the inborn fear is what has allowed our species to evolve. The only drawback to this natural fear is that the brain will take three pieces of information and make a story out of it—usually a negative one. This negative story becomes your reality until you get another piece of data. Talk about an energy drain on your brain!

In order to replenish your brain’s energy, do the following:

  • Since your brain is part of your body, it needs to be fed the right food for optimum health. Eat three nutritious meals a day, exercise to increase the oxygen flow to your brain, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
  • Reconstruct your stories. You have to purposefully stop the story and seek out the missing pieces of information. For example, if you get an email from your boss telling you not to take part in a task you volunteered for, with no explanation why, you would likely think your boss doesn’t believe you’re capable of the task. In reality, your boss may need you for another task, he or she may think the task is not challenging enough for you, or your boss may simply not need any assistance on the task any longer. But you’ll never know (and never stop the negative story) until you ask.
  • Analyze what helps and hurts your thinking ability. For instance, do 200 emails staring at you first thing in the morning make you exhausted before you even start the day? If so, then don’t do that task first thing. Do the most important things when you’re alert and at your best, as those tasks will actually energize you so you can handle the stressful tasks later.
  • Give yourself two hours a day for focused attention on a key project—the earlier in the day the better. No multi-tasking during this time! Whether you are a night or a morning person, the fact is that your brain is rested after your sleep, so this is the key time for focused attention and productivity.
  • Awaken Your Spirit

The human spirit yearns to soar. The spirit enjoys lofty goals and challenging tasks to accomplish. How spirited someone is often relates to how purposeful he or she is. In fact, it’s common that when people lose their purpose in life, they feel deflated and even depressed. Hence the phrase: “Her spirit was broken.”

An energized spirit is what catapults you out of the mundane and into a new and exciting endeavor. In order to replenish your spirit’s energy, do the following:

  • Do one thing every day that makes your spirit soar. Whether it’s reading poetry or listening to music, if you feel your spirit is fed by that, do it.
  • Think about what you want to do in your life. Dream big! Give planned time to your future in order to nurture your spirit.
  • Read things that stretch your mind. Your spirit wants to reach for the next best thing. Unleash the power of your spirit by exposing your mind to new things—even things that you feel are impossible to accomplish right now.
  • Take time each day to think and concentrate. Many people are in knowledge-oriented jobs and need some degree of quiet time. So even though a particular task must get done, that task often requires planning and thinking. Your spirit can’t gain energy to tackle big goals unless it has some quiet time to prepare. So let people know that you require quiet thinking time, and actually put this time in your schedule. If others know your needs and intentions, they will respect them.
  • Feed Your Soul

The human soul likes the familiar, the deep, and the poignant. The soul likes ritual, doing the same thing at the same time every day. It also enjoys the simple things in life, beauty, and nature. The soul is what connects you to life and to what is deeply meaningful to you.

In order to replenish your soul’s energy, do the following:

  • Clarify your intentions and plan what you want your tomorrow to be like before you go to bed. This allows your subconscious to work on your challenges and big decisions while you sleep.
  • Take time for enchantment. Linger through a museum. Enjoy preparing a simple elegant meal. Go outside regularly and really look at nature. Your soul loves beauty and wants a connection with the earth.
  • Experience the present fully. Focus on the things around you—the colors and textures. Be mindful of your current surroundings and activities rather than always trying to multi-task. Really engage in life in the moment. Feel yourself breathe.
  • Build rituals for yourself and your family. Even something as simple as eating dinner at the same time every day is a ritual. Both your soul and your brain crave ritual and gain energy from it.


By focusing on these three areas of your life—your brain, your spirit, and your soul—you’ll gain the much needed energy to tackle life with enthusiasm and zest. With your energy fully replenished, time will no longer be an issue. You’ll feel ready to handle anything that comes your way with ease…and you’ll do it much faster. So make it a habit to stimulate your brain, awaken your spirit, and feed your soul. It’s one investment in yourself you can’t afford not to make.

Thanking the Boss’s Mom

Dear Jean,

Our boss lives with his mother and this sweet old lady has been baking us “holiday goodies” for the office.  We love to nibble her “offerings” when we go to the break room.  Should we send the boss’s mother something?


Of course.  A flowering plant and a thank-you note would be an ideal gift.  It would also be nice to remember her for these kind gestures during the holiday season, and if practical, on her birthday.  Aside from pleasing her, it will please your boss too – and you can’t go wrong with pleasing your boss.

They Needle Me to Drink

Dear Jean,

I’m a lawyer and I work with a team of high-strung, deadline-oriented lawyers.  Occasionally, after a long, intense day, we go out together for a drink.  Most of them drink quite a bit.  I don’t drink at all, but I enjoy being with the group.  With holiday parties coming up, I need to know how to keep them from needling me to drink!


Just say, “I don’t drink, thanks.”  The next time they needle you to drink, just say, “I don’t drink.”  The next time — repeat it again…..

Thank-you for a Thank-you

Dear Jean,

I am one of those people who might be called a workaholic.  I’m the type who gets to work early and stays late.  I love what I do.  No challenge is too great.  Occasionally, I’m rewarded for my “above and beyond the call of duty” work and receive dinner for two or symphony tickets.  Should I write a thank-you note for a thank-you gift?


I’m so glad you asked that question.  I’m wondering when you last received a personal thank-you note.  How did you feel?  Great, I’ll bet.  Pass it on!  I strongly believe that everyone wants to feel important – the way you felt when your boss handed you the tickets.  Because thank-you notes are never in bad taste, I hope you’ll write them often!

In this high-tech society, the personal touch has sadly given way to e-mail, voice mail, express mail, and the more-than-ever-present telephone.  That’s really too bad, because there’s something deeply touching about a personal, handwritten thank-you note.  In many cases, they are more impressive than a gift.  Anyone can buy a gift.

Recently, I received a thank-you letter from a woman I had helped to find a job many years ago.  I want to stress the word helped because in fact, I did not find her the employment she desired.  I had not had any contact with her since that time.  She lives in Dallas and is in an excellent upper-management job.

In her letter, she thanked me for the personal interest I had in her and told me that my believing in her had made a difference in her life.  The letter blew me away.

When was the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note?  What did you do with it?  Did you save it?

I save all the thank-you notes and special cards I receive during the year.  I put them in a file folder and label the file by the year.  Whenever I feel gloomy or when I want to spend a rainy afternoon alone, I go through my old cards and letters.  I have long forgotten about most of the gifts I have received in the last few years, but I still have ALL the letters and cards.

When the mail comes to my office, I speedily run through all the items hoping to find a small envelope with handwriting on it.  I open those first.  The busier I perceive the senders to be, the more impressed I am to receive cards from them.

Thank-you notes are written for all kinds of reasons.  Brian Tracy, a popular public speaker and business consultant says, “You will double your income in one year if you will write 25 thank-yous a week.”  Can you find 25 things to be grateful for every week?

One of the best reasons I have heard for writing thank-yous and notes of congratulations is that it makes the other person feel important.  Who doesn’t like to feel important?  Another very good reason to take pen in hand is that it’s just nice manners.

People continuously ask me, “What should I thank people for?”  I say, “Everything!”

Relief Receptionist Resentment

Dear Jean,

My boss is asking me to be “relief receptionist.”  My real job is administrative assistant.  Don’t you think he is being unfair to expect me to be a receptionist when our real receptionist goes out to lunch?


I know other offices with similar situations.  They require that someone be at their front desk eight hours a day.  Although having to pull an administrative assistant away from her work may be uncomfortable, the commitment to your clients should out-weight any regrets.

There will always be things in our work life we don’t like and don’t want to do.  Try to keep a willing attitude about this and other office inconveniences.  I doubt if your boss regards this as punishment.  I hope you won’t either.

You Don’t Have to Lie

Dear Jean,

One of my co-workers always wants me to lie when certain people call her on the phone.  Is this right?  Should I continue to lie?


You don’t have to lie for anyone, and if the “certain people” you spoke of in your question happen to be supervisors, you could be in serious trouble.  Before another day goes by, meet with her in private and explain your feelings.  Avoid judging her behavior.  Just say something such as, “When I mislead your callers, I feel uncomfortable, and I’m not willing to put myself in that position any longer.”  This will reduce your stress and make it clear to your co-worker that lying for her crosses your value system and you won’t continue to do it.