Become the Person You Want To Be

Dear Springboard:

It’s only the end of February and I’ve already given up on my lofty “goals” for the year.

I’m not losing weight, exercising or even meditating.

Plus, I’m not listening better to my staff members as I had promised.

It feels crazy to give up already.  How to make the changes I say I want?

Sign me,

Not in The Habit

Dear NiTB:

You’re not alone. There is a reason why gyms sell annual memberships.  They know the crowd will have thinned by this time of year to just the consistent regulars.

It’s interesting that you sign off referencing “habit.”  A core message of the current best seller Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is that even small changes (hence, atomic) with small incremental increases over a long time can yield significant gains.

Imagine getting 1% better every day for a year.  Or, if you shifted your direction on a map by 1 degree and progressed that way over a long period of time, you would end up in a very different place.


The book suggests we look at systems versus goals.

With goals, we have a metric to achieve and once we’re there, we create another goal and so we’re always in pursuit of what we think will make us happy.  The satisfaction of achievement is fleeting, and elusive.

Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.  A system consists of the action steps we take in pursuit of a goal.

I remember an English teacher in high school telling me: do the work and the grades will take care of themselves.

How do we create a system and what sustains it?  Our individual system will be the outgrowth of our personal set of beliefs and so it becomes about our identity.

A personal example is that my number one rule for myself is to show up.  That becomes:  I’m the type of person who is a dependable because I am very consistent in showing up.

When we repeat behavior, it becomes a reinforcing loop. Habits shape identity, and identity shapes habits.

Over time and with consistency, one is no longer looking for a change, but instead just acting like the person they believe (or want) themselves to be.

True behavior change is about changing our self-identity. The reason we stick with a new behavior is that it becomes part of our identity.

And so it follows that the biggest barrier to positive change is identity conflict.

Good habits can make sense rationally, but if they conflict with our identity we will fail to maintain them.

The bottom line with atomic habits is that they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone.

Here’s an interesting and individually challenging dynamic to this: to get the results we want, it requires we create a system based on honoring values we say (if only to ourselves) are key to us; it means we must demonstrate our commitment to a value or principle and be faithful about it.

How to act on this?

The author’s two-step process for change is:

1.    Decide the type of person you want to be (honoring your values and principles)

2.    Prove it to yourself with small wins

Not sure when to begin to answer the first question? Ask yourself:  what kind of person could get the outcome I want?  What would _________ do?

For a deeper dive and a practical understanding of how to act on these ideas, I suggest checking out the book.

It breaks down how a habit is constructed with a cue, craving, response and reward.

Plus, there is considerable discussion on the strategies involved in the recommended four steps to creating a positive habit.

1.    Make it Obvious – Ensure the cues of good habits are visible.

2.    Make it Attractive – Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

3.    Make it Easy – Prepare your environment to make desired actions easy (leave exercise clothes out, e.g.). Downscale habits until at least a portion can be done in two minutes or less (very doable as an initial start and later as a minimum for continuity).

4.    Make it Satisfying – Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete a habit. Track your habits to monitor progress. Never miss twice in a row because missing becomes the new habit.

We’re not throwing goals out with the bathwater.  Goals still have a role and are good for setting a direction. The key is that systems are better for making progress.

The invitation is to decide what kind of person you want to be and then live into it with value-based habits.

To successfully make big changes. . .

. . . start small.

Dear Springboard:

When I met with my boss yesterday to make a project proposal, he was really frustrating.  I created a very detailed schedule with good reasoning for all the time frames.  

All my boss cared about was the final output and, he insisted that we deliver two weeks early!  It’s unrealistic and it’s unreasonable. I want him to understand all the thought we put into the proposal.

Sign me,

Feeling Frustrated


Dear FF:

Yes, it can be frustrating when we feel that we’re not being heard and not being appreciated.  So, I can see how you might feel your preparation was disregarded and you did not get the respect you needed.

I get that, AND I have a different perspective to offer here.

I suspect your boss has a D (or Dominance) style on the DiSC model.  The other letters stand for influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. People with a D style are focused on tasks (in contrast to relationships), and are more likely to tell and direct (vs. ask and follow).

Given their emphasis on results, Ds are often only marginally interested in the details of execution and the people impact.

The DiSC model is widely used around the world for professional development and has been established as reliable and valid.

It’s an assessment that helps people learn about their own behavior and communication style, that of others, and how they can flex to meet someone on their terms for better outcomes.

It’s a tool that enables communication agility for better relationships and greater influence.

Let’s look at the whole model.


The two in the top half – D and I – are active, fast-paced, assertive and bold.  The bottom half – C and S –  are more thoughtful, slower-paced, calm, and careful.

The left side is task oriented and the right side is relationship oriented.

At the risk of oversimplifying or stereotyping, you might think of the styles like this:

  • Dominance – Senior business executive focused on driving results
  • influence – Fast-moving, gregarious salesperson full of possibilities and little interest in details
  • Steadiness – People-centric HR leader concerned about harmony and consensus
  • Conscientiousness – Data analyst emphasizing orderly process and verifying details

When someone takes the Everything DiSC assessment, they receive a report that includes a graphic with a dot on the circle.

Depending on its placement, the dot can represent just one of the four DiSC types or it can be a mix of two types, or even with some of a third type.

DiSC does a very good job of capturing the nuances of individuals and so it’s no surprise my clients remark on how accurate the narrative is in describing them.

I tell my clients that there truly is no bad place to be on the circle.  Each type contributes value.  If a type is missing or underrepresented on a team, it shows up as dysfunction.

It’s important to know that we are not limited by our type.  We can and do behave against our natural type.

The difference is our type is a comfort zone and typically we can function in that way for long periods of time without undue fatigue.  Operating against type is tiring.

Our data analyst (the C) can work on spreadsheets for a long time comfortably but is drained by mixing at a large convention reception.

Our gregarious salesperson (i), however, is drained by an hour with the spreadsheets and energized by socializing at the reception.

I use DiSC with all my executive and career coaching clients.  It helps managers and leaders to strengthen their emotional intelligence for more effective communication.  It also helps those in career transition identify the roles for which they are a natural fit.

Beyond the basic assessment of an individual’s DiSC type, there is a whole suite of different reports available. I often use the leadership version, or the versions that report on productive conflict or a leadership team’s group culture.

I’m such a believer in the power and value of DiSC, I would be happy to make the assessment available to you or anyone else who is a reader of Dear Springboard at a discount of at least 10%.

That offer applies to individuals and also for corporate accounts. Just write with DiSC Discount in the subject line.

FF, one of the important takeaways from working with DiSC is that we don’t have to take another person’s behavior personally.

We can recognize that it is their style and understand it’s not about us. We can be intentional and learn how to work effectively with many different styles.

All that said, don’t give up on doing your best and in your way.  That’s your unique contribution and it is valued.

From the Watercooler


We tend to see things as we are, not as they actually are.


Let Go. . . Or Be Dragged

Dear Springboard:

My boss runs a weekly meeting with all of his team.  We’ve been meeting first thing Monday morning for as long as I can remember.  

Last month, he changed the time to Friday.  He said it’s so we can review the current week, get set up for the coming week, and remove any barriers to our jumping in Monday morning.

I’m having trouble getting used it this change and am feeling a little resentful about it.

Sign me,

Liked the Way It Was



You’re not alone in struggling to embrace change. Change can be challenging:  it requires us to let go of what we know and take a risk on an unknown. One fear is that we may lose what we have and not get what we want.

While the personal experience of change can be very complex, I want to focus on one aspect of it: Letting go.

We get attached to what we know and find comfort in that familiarity and this is true even if we have complaints.  Think of all the things we hang on to even when they don’t serve us anymore.

When I make a mistake, I beat myself up.  Sure, it’s useful to acknowledge the misstep and learn from it.  So, when am I going to put down that big stick and practice some self-compassion and let go?

When someone wrongs me, I get angry.  In my resentment, I relive the negative experience again and again – all without any impact on the other person.  When will I have the courage and intellectual honesty to find and accept my role in it and then let go?

When I assign a task at work (or make a request at home) if I don’t feel confident about the outcome, I might micromanage the follow through. That usually backfires and generates conflict which interferes with the result I’m seeking.  When will I take actions and let go of the results?


Self-limiting beliefs hold me back and I can let them defeat me before I even try. I need to let go of the self-doubt and remember examples of personal positive experiences to shore up my self-confidence.

Expectations can be a set up for disappointment. I need to let go and start with a beginner’s open mind.

At this time of year, children are returning to school and parents need to let go. Kids leave for college to become young adults and need to let go of their high school years.

In my executive coaching, my niche is to support managers as they transition to roles of greater responsibility.

To be successful, they must let go of some familiar ways of managing to make space to be available for new ones.  Examples include more delegation, coaching their direct reports to their own solutions, intentionally shifting to a broader, more strategic perspective.

The more I think about it, the longer my list gets of things I want to be able to let go of.  There are a few that I do want to hold tight:  my key relationships and the core values that inform my purpose and day to day decisions.

I want to develop the capacity to both fully engage and appropriately let go.

Yes, there is an inherent vulnerability in letting go.  I like to believe the future is friendly and it’s worth the risk.

So LTWIW, while you may have liked the meeting schedule before, the invitation to you now is to accept that we live in a rapidly evolving world that rewards flexibility and resilience – in a word, agility.


Do You Have What It Takes?

Dear Springboard:

I’ve been in my new job for a while now and I’m getting the hang of it.  I feel like I know what I want to accomplish and how to get it done.  

But, just the other day, my boss told me that I need to present myself as more of a leader if I’m going to get the support of my peers on the leadership team.

I think I understand what he’s getting at. How do I go about making the change?

Sign me,

Feeling Marginalized


Dear FM:

An important part of being seen as a leader is executive presence.  While it’s hard to succinctly define, we know it when we see it.

Executive presence says you’re in charge of your domain and you deserve to be.  With strong executive presence you will be more credible.

You’re likely to be challenged less that someone who doesn’t have strong EP, and even if you are challenged, you’d have no trouble standing your ground.

Your opinion matters.  You have influence.  You have power.

EP is not enough by itself to support ongoing effectiveness as a leader (technical competency is still a must), but its absence is a major negative and would handicap any leader in a serious role.

I refer you to Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Executive Presence. She explores the topic fully and thoughtfully and there is much to be gained from her book.

As an example, she cites data from a survey conducted with 268 senior executives and notes three universal dimensions of EP: how one acts (gravitas – 67%), speaks (communicates – 28%), and looks (appearance – 5%).


Gravitas stands out as the core characteristic.  Double-clicking on gravitas reveals the top aspects to be:

Confidence & “grace under fire”                78%

Decisiveness & “showing teeth”                70%

Integrity & “speaking truth to power”        64%

Emotional intelligence                               60%

Reputation & standing/ “pedigree”             56%

Vision/charisma                                        52%

It’s interesting that “grace under fire” tops the list.  Leaders who can remain calm and competent in a crisis earn respect.

Confidence is key and faking it doesn’t cut it.

Just last week, as a normal part of a coaching engagement, I had a 1:1 meeting with a coaching client’s boss.  A very senior leader in a Fortune 100 company, the boss immediately took command of the room and the meeting.

It was intangible and yet unmistakable.

What exactly did he do?  I can tell you what unfolded in the meeting, and I think those things collectively added up to the impact he had that started the moment we shook hands.

During our meeting, he: was extremely focused on what he wanted to accomplish; knew what he stood for and so what was acceptable and unacceptable to him (defined by his personal values which aligned with the corporate culture); was comfortable with himself and willing to be appropriately open and vulnerable; didn’t have anything to prove; and, let me know that he had the heft of significant political capital within the company.

Another major dimension of EP is communication.  It needs to be clear and direct.  In general, less is more.  Being concise is more powerful than longwinded.

Ultimately, effective communication is all about connecting and that means active listening, making eye contact, mutual respect and letting your purpose shine through uncluttered.  Interestingly, the way we communicate is more impactful than the actual words.

Pay attention to your energy, voice quality, body language.  For important meetings, think ahead of what outcome you want and then how do you want to BE to support realizing that outcome.  Watch other leaders to see what you think is effective and what isn’t.

A few years ago, I was working with a client who was promoted into a bigger management role and also into a completely new division. She had the challenge of adjusting to both a new level of leadership and new functional expertise.

There were great demands on her time, particularly to attend meetings. She was stretched too thin and she felt insecure about her contribution and especially in these meetings.

By establishing priorities, she was able to focus, and that meant taking the time to be fully prepared for the important meetings.  When she felt more confident, she began to command the room as the leader she was meant to be.

Like so many things that lead to success, EP is an inside job, and that explains why appearance makes up only 5%.

Great grooming is the goal. To my mind, it’s more about what not to do.  Don’t be too provocative; if your appearance is getting a lot of attention, pay attention to that.

Read your work culture.  Be sensible.  An old rule of thumb is dress for your next job.

What can you do to develop your own EP?

  • Be very prepared so you are confident
  • Know your stuff cold and stand your ground when challenged
  • Keep your cool, don’t let yourself get rattled
  • Take a position and be clearly resolute about it
  • Know your own values and consistently honor them, even when it costs you something in the near term
  • Be consistent in building a positive reputation

How can you get started?

Think about what really matters to you.  What do you stand for?

Put a mental stake in the ground for that.

Success is yours

5 Steps to Get More of What You Want

Dear Springboard:

Last week, I gave my first presentation to the leadership team.  I’m new to the team and I laid out my plans for the next 12 months.  

Overall, it went well. I made some good points and there was vocal support for the changes I proposed but there was one part where I stumbled and it was really awkward.  

I can’t get that out of my head.  It’s all I can think about.

Sign me,

Obsessed and Not in a Good Way



First off, I’m glad the meeting went well.

Internal presentations are important as they are sometimes the only, or major, impression that some key co-workers have of us.  And, we know perception is essentially reality.

Plus, none of is perfect and the fact that your presentation wasn’t flawless just confirms that you’re human like the rest of us.

AND, I want to urge you to focus on what went right and build on that.

It sounds like 95% of it went well and you have fallen into a trap of focusing on the 5% that didn’t.

If you believe that what we focus on gets bigger, then bear with me as I introduce you to Appreciative Inquiry, or AI.

AI comes from positive psychology. The basic message is this:  instead of looking for problems (and finding them!) and then developing solutions to those problems, AI seeks to identify what has gone well (appreciate) and then analyzes and develops a strategy (inquiry) to get more of it.

While this mindset is usually applied to organizations and change management efforts, I think it can be applied at an individual level as well.

Let’s explore how to build on the 95% that did go well.


The AI model provides a useful structure and has five steps:

DEFINE: What is your topic? 

Let’s say business presentations.

DISCOVERY: Appreciating the best of what is.

Specifically, what is it that went well? Reflect on your own efforts, how others contributed and any systemic (organization) factors that were helpful.

DREAM: Envisioning what could be. Imagine an ideal outcome.  What does it look like? Feel like?  How have you contributed to it?  Who else has had positive impact and it what way? Recast the issue from a problem to be solved to an affirmative topic.

DESIGN: Co-Constructing what should be. Look for examples of what has occurred that you want more of.

Draft some affirmative statements (also known as provocative propositions) of what you want to realize.

Then, check these statements to make sure they are challenging, innovative and a stretch; they are grounded in examples of what has actually happened; they resonate and there is enough passion to persevere; they are in the present tense (as though they were already true); and, while they are bold, they are achievable.

DESTINY: Create what will be.

Into action! Whether you are working with others, which is a big advantage as a group’s energy helps propel the effort forward, or on your own, the fact that the desired future is derived from reality (what has already occurred), we know we can achieve our goal.

Even if your Destiny is mostly your own objective (such as your future business presentations), collaborating is an advantage in achieving success.

You don’t need to do this, or anything for that matter, alone.

My advice is to stop looking for problems to solve and instead mine for the gold in your positive experiences.

You don’t even need to let go of thinking about the bad 5%.

If you really focus on what you want more of (a shift in your obsessing), the negatives will just slip away. . .