Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Can You Sleep Your Way to Great Job? 7 Tips….

May 8, 2012

Can you sleep your way to a great job? I think likely not. But I know if you don’t sleep well, that can be a show-stopper to a great work-life.  Lack of sleep can get in the way of your performance, your edge and your mojo!

Not enough sleep — is becoming an issue for too many people. For some, it’s by choice. We are a society addicted to productivity. As we try to squeeze more out of our days, sometimes we do so at the expense sleep.  Staying up late or waking up an extra hour earlier to squeeze in a workout or get a jump on the workday.

For others, lack of sleep is not by choice. I’m hearing so many people complain that they either can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep or they wake up too soon – sometimes in the middle of the night.

On occasion, I experience this too. So I’ve been taking the issue very seriously – it is an essential ‘TGIM work + life’ strategy! In fact, I spoke about this in my recent webinar (Bogged Down and Overwhelmed? Tips to Help You Cope).

It’s time to wake up to the issue of ‘not enough sleep’!

Sleep is imperative for our brains to function optimally and our brains need to function optimally if we are to bring the best of ourselves to our work and life. There’s a growing body of research on the impact sleep has on our brains (and our productivity, performance, thinking, etc). Sleep consolidates our learning, revitalizes and replenishes key hormones, and more.

The Neuroleadership Institute hosted a symposium last year in which leading experts on sleep talked about the Leadership Lockdown Syndrome. According to the researchers, our brains need three things to function properly: moderate stress, good sleep and positive affect (mood). They are inter-related of course. Poor sleep affects stress and mood. Stress and mood affects sleep. And so on…it’s all connected. When leaders (or anyone) experiences high stress, poor sleep and low mood well then it’s ‘bye bye thinking capacity and hello brain freeze’.  A performance showstopper indeed! Leaders take note. And really anyone who is interested in performing optimally should take this seriously as well.

How much sleep do we need? Individuals may vary but experts say adults still need an average of 7-9 hours a night.  That may seem like a lot – but that’s what the research says (read more about some research here).

How many hours are you getting? For myself, I know there is nothing like a great night sleep. I can conquer the world when I’ve had my ample dose of great zzzz’s. I’m more creative, resilient, optimistic, energetic. And I have more discipline. When I don’t sleep well — especially if this is happening frequently, I find I’m operating on half a battery. And everything suffers: my mood (mojo), thinking, resilience, creativity, etc. I am even clumsier!

Here are some tips and ideas to ‘put you to sleep’ (literally not metaphorically, I hope!):

1) Set the intention to get enough sleep. Go to bed at a deliberate time to get enough hours.  Sometimes people get ‘busy’ and distracted and don’t realize the time. Especially true for ‘night owls’ (“oh, I didn’t realize it’s already 1am!”). Make it a point to go to bed by a certain hour so that you can get your 7-9 hours of sleep. If you are lucky enough not to have other sleep issues, it can be as simple as setting an intention and following through.

2) Create a ritual of habits that will optimize your ability to sleep. If you’ve been working, frazzled and rushing throughout your day, then make a habit to wind-down, disengage and calm your mind – at least an hour before you get into bed. If you go to bed frazzled, you may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

3) Milk and cookies before bed! Yes, you read this right…I got this tip from Aileen Burford Mason, PH.D (scientist, and ortho-molecular nutritional expert) who recently wrote a book “Eat Well Age Better“. There’s a whole chapter on sleep. The point of milk and cookies is that getting  some tryptophan into our brain can help us sleep. Milk is a great source of trypotphan but alone, it can’t cut across the blood brain barrier. It needs a bit of help. The insulin from the carbs and sugar in the cookie help break that blood/barrier and (…here I”m skipping more of the scientific explaination:)….voila…a nice sleepy feeling. Aileen provides a much more credibly, scientific explanation but I needed very little to convince me to have milk and cookies before bed. By the way, I’ve tried replacing the milk and cookie with the occasional ice cream treat too..oh yeah!! Try it – you’ll like it. But remember: the tip is a glass of milk and a cookie (or something like that). Not the whole row of cookies!

4) Create darkess in your room: Who knew – the darkness is actually what helps create melatonin…another essential ingredient needed for good sleep. Apparantly even slight rays of light creeping in can interrupt the production of melatonin and disrupt sleep. Aileen Burford-Mason suggests trying out one of those eye masks to create more darkness. I tried it. I’m sure I look funny but it works!

5) Easy on the caffeine and red wine: I found I have to stop any caffeine by early afternoon. You may have your own ‘boundary’ but pay attention to this. As well, red wine — it may make you initially sleepy but it is a stimulant and can keep you up later.

6) Nutritional deficiencies: If you are on medications or not eating right, there’s a bunch of repurcussions from a bio-nutritional perspective that will impact your sleep. Again, a full chapter on this in Burford-Mason’s book. Worth checking out and go to someone who specializes in holistic nutrition, especially if you are on medications for other health issues. The medical field does not amply bring nutritional considerations to their prescription approaches. There are easy things you can do to balance out the deficiencies but you need to be aware of what they are.

7) Stressed out? Don’t bring this to bed: Yup, stress will rob you of a good night sleep — if you let it. There are many ways to deal with and ‘park’ the stress that can keep us awake at night. Check out my oodles of tips in the recent webinar I did on Bogged Down and Overwhelmed? Tips to Help You Cope” (It’s free – no strings attached!).

8) BONUS TIP (Update): Exercise, exercise, exercise! Ahhh, my own brain might have been in a bit of a ‘lockdown’ when I first drafted this article. I forgot to include a very key tip and a friend read this article and pointed out  that I forgot to mention how important exercise is. Regular exercise does a whole bunch of good that will help you get your quality zzzzz. So build that in! Just try not to wake too early for the workout!  A shout-out of thanks to David for the reminder!

I’m sure there are more tips (would love to hear them). But to sum up, my key points are: take sleep seriously, pay attention to what you need to get enough, practice new rituals, explore strategies — and get to bed!!

To your TGIM work + life!


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Do You Need a Title or Authority to be a Leader?

April 24, 2012

A big part of my coaching practice is related to leadership development. I coach leaders – of all levels – to bring the best of themselves to work (and life). My focus is to help individuals (and groups) optimize their personal, professional wellbeing and to recognize the impact they can have on others — and learn a whole bunch of personal/professional skills along the way.

But do you have to be an ‘official’ leader to lead? Do you need the authority to influence? The title – and formal position?

I don’t think you do. Authentic leadership is a skill and not a position. And it is essential for anyone who wants to bring their best to their work and life. 

This is the theme of a workshop I am facilitating tomorrow at the Administrative Professionals Conference in Toronto- called “10 Ways to Lead.”

Here’s a shout-out of thanks to Dr. Gail Levitt of Levitt Communications Inc. who invited me to this particular conference opportunity. Gail is a professional colleague whom I respect greatly – we share this similar philosphy about leadership.

I’ve always believed that leadership is not limited to one’s title. In fact, when I started Big Cheese Coaching in 2003, I chose the name “Big Cheese” to reflect my belief that we can all be ‘Big Cheeses” regardless of our positions if we access and develop our potential and hone our authentic leadership.

Sure there are oodles of skills to learn to be a great leader — and I love diving into those ‘buckets’ — but my message is: we all have a leader within. Own and hone your leadership and you will have a greater chance of leading/living your life by design and not default. Now who wouldn’t want that!?

Here’s to the leader within each of us!

TGIM Work+Life


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Wellbeing: My Word for 2012…..And You Can Have It Too.

January 9, 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot about wellbeing lately.  Guided by my year-end/new year reflection questions (“12 Questions To Complete The Year And Start Anew“), my attention’s really been focused on question #9: “In what ways will you take care of your ‘mojo’ – resilience, energy, inspiration and sense of wellbeing?”.  So much so that I think “Wellbeing” is my theme word for 2012 – personally and professionally.  Maybe time to update the bio? 🙂

Wellbeing. It packs a lot of punch doesn’t it? At first glance it might seem like it’s all about health (wellness) – and to a great extent it is — but it’s so much more too.  Emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing, financial wellbeing…….personal wellbeing, professional wellbeing, organizational and community wellbeing…..the list goes on and so much goes into each facet.

This word gives me a visceral hit. It feels so authentic and envelops so much that I’m passionate about both personally and professionally.  Ironically, it’s not a new concept to me. It’s been there all the time. In my work as a coach (Big Cheese Coaching) I help people navigate their work and life in a way that fosters more meaning, joy, success and fulfillment. I specialize in emotional intelligence for leaders (of all levels) and pay great attention to the skills (personal, professional) we need — in pursuit of our various work/life goals — to be our best, to be happy and to create environments and relationships that foster ‘TGIM’ (thank goodness it’s Monday) attitudes and aptitudes for all. Isn’t that all about personal, professional and organizational wellbeing? 

And concurrently for the last 9+ years, I have a professional relationship (providing communications advice and service) with an organization that is all about financial wellbeing – setting standards for financial planning.  Who can argue that one’s financial life can have an enormous impact on one’s personal wellbeing? 

And yes, the fitness side of things…with a degree in fitness from Mcgill (my first career with a continued lifelong interest) I was heavily involved in promoting fitness and wellbeing for nearly 10 years. 

So nothing has changed – yet everything has changed. Because sometimes a word, theme or phrase has the power to remind us of what is important and what we stand for.  Naming and claiming a word can illuminate what’s already there but perhaps needs to be brought more into focus. Or at least it can serve as an anchor or central theme to encompass disparate pieces that have more value when you look at the ‘whole’ vs. just the parts. 

So yes, “Wellbeing” does that for me and it’s my word for 2012. It’s in my focus for my own life and for my clients who come to me to be better leaders and/or to have more success and fulfilment in various contexts of their work and life.

Of course I realize I’m not alone in loving this word.  I’m in good company. It’s everywhere these days. The health and wellness world have a piece of it; the financial industry; and even economists are incorporating wellbeing into measures of what makes for a strong, healthy economy.  And one of my favorite sources of ideas and inspiration: the field of positive psychology. In fact, the guru of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, frames his latest book “Flourish” as a ‘visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing’ (great book and brilliant guy). And of course, wellbeing is a central theme to the EQi (emotional intelligence assessments).

I welcome the ‘crowds’ (there’s room for all) and am staking my place on “planet wellbeing”.  Care to join in?

If you are wanting to create more joy, optimism, success, energy, peace of mind (and the list goes on) in your work and life this year — professionally and personally — then I invite you to hop on board the Wellbeing train too. Not sure how to get there? I can help!  

Wellbeing.  It’s my word and now you can have it too. You’ve got my word.

Now let’s get to work — and create success and wellbeing in 2012 with a TGIM work + life!


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Six Ways to Focus Your Career in 2012

January 2, 2012

New Year, fresh start! For those of you who have career advancement on your mind, the Globe and Mail published an article called Six Ways to Focus Your Career in 2012″ — offering tips on how to take action to advance your career. 

I was invited to contribute one of the tips. I recommended leaders (of all ranks) learn coaching skills. I do a lot of work in this arena — teaching leaders a variety of coaching skills — via workshops, webinars, and directly coaching leaders. No longer can a leader get by just on technical/functional smarts. They need to inspire, grow, invest and develop their people to bring the team and organization to excellence. Unfortunately for too many, the rise to leadership came without any guidance on how to coach/lead others. If you have your eyes on a bigger game this year, make sure you add ‘coaching skills’ to your learning agenda this year. And of course, check out the other very worthy tips from others in the Globe and Mail article!

Warning: shameless promotion coming up! You can read what people have said about my workshops, presentations and coaching  in this area in my “Workshop Testimonial” page  and “One-on-one leadership coaching testimonials

To a TGIM work+life in 2012!


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Are You An Empathetic Manager?

September 1, 2011

The Globe and Mail just launched a new career section on their online site and invited me to be one of their regulars for ‘Ask an Expert’ (career coach).

Here’s my first article about how to manage people more effectively.  

If you have a question you’d like to send to Globe Careers, email it to:

Step out of Judger Mindset to Give Effective Feedback

February 13, 2011

Further to my earlier posts on giving feedback, the Globe and Mail invited me to write up a Mentor Minute on this topic. Have a look if you’d like: 

And see earlier post on my Webinar on this topic – if you missed the Webinar, you can still catch it via recording. See this page (workshops and webinars) for links to the Feedback webinar and a few others.

To feedback that fuels — and a TGIM work-life!

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Invitation (free Webinar): Giving Feedback that Fuels Success

January 12, 2011

UPDATEthis one hour webinar was first presented on January 27th . If you missed it, the recording is still available (and free!). Read on. 

Do you cringe with anxiety when you have to give someone some tough feedback? Do you avoid it? Or maybe you hold your breath, suck it up and try to get over it as quickly as possible. What about positive feedback? Do you give acknowledgement regularly? Meaningfully???

If  you said yes to any of these questions, then mark the date (January 27th at 12:30pm ET) and attend a free, one-hour Webinar that I’m presenting called: “Giving Feedback That Fuels Success.” Generously hosted by CICA as part of its Careervision Webinar series, it’s open to anyone who is interested. All you have to do is register in advance (takes a few seconds). You can listen live on the date, or access the recording anytime after.

Giving meaningful feedback is an essential part of a manager/leader’s role — but it doesn’t come naturally for many people. But with the right skills, know-how and attitude, feedback conversations can be turned into opportunities to develop people, improve performance and even build more trusting relationships.

See you there!

To a TGIM work-life!

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In the News: Ramp up the ‘People’ part of your Leadership

August 22, 2010

I was invited by the Globe and Mail Careers to respond to another Mentor Minute question from a reader. They published the column in Friday’s paper ( I wrote it a while ago).

The Scenario: The readers asks…

“I’ve just completed my first year in a leadership role and had a disappointing performance review. My boss acknowledged that I have good skills in advancing projects but he said he wasn’t seeing enough effective leadership. He wants to see me ramp up the “people” side of the job. I’m at a loss. What is he looking for?”

My Response: The Mentor Minute columns don’t get posted online but I did scan a copy and you can read my response here!

It seems performance development is becoming quite a theme in my coaching business of late. I have been invited to contribute an article to Canadian HR Reporter on ‘giving feedback’ (I will post it as soon as it’s published). As well, I am doing some work for a College in Ontario – developing and facilitating a training module for leaders at the college on performance development. Specifically, I will be teaching a myriad of coaching skills that are increasingly becoming recognized as a valuable leadership competency and fundamental to the performance development cycle.

Check in again for more updates on this area.  In the meantime, here’s another Globe and Mail Mentor Minute article I contributed related to Performance Reviews.

Here’s to a TGIM Work-Life for you and your team!

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John Wooden (RIP), masterful leadership coach on and off court

June 8, 2010

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” John Wooden

(Malcolm Emmens/US Presswire)

These are the words of the late John Wooden who passed away on June 4th. Wooden was revered as a coach who built UCLA’s basketball program into one of America’s dynasties. He was known for his coaching mastery and success by stressing life values not just on the court but in life.  Integrity should’ve been his middle name.  His work, inspiring lessons and philosophies  in leadership development is revered and modeled by many (including yours truly!)

“Caoch Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics, what he did was produce leaders,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a statement released by the school.

RIP John Wooden!

P.S articles everywhere – here’s one that I caught that is worth reading.

Are SMART goals dumb?

April 26, 2010

Are SMART goals dumb? Well, yes, if you want to do GREAT work. At least that’s the conclusion of a study by the Leaders IQ consultancy, which found that so-called SMART* don’t always correlate with success.

Photo: from Flickr/js3pt

(* Smart goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive. )

According to the research, goals crafted within the parameters of SMART (see above) can be impediments to doing great work. They make us play it too safe; lack the impetus to make us reach for bold challenges and end up encouraging us to to mediocre performance.

The research looked at more than 4,000 workers from nearly 400 organizations and looked at what goal-setting processes lead them to achieving GREAT work. They came up with 8 attributes:

1. I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
2. I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
3. My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.

4. I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.

5. I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish

my goals.

6. My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.

7. My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (customers, the

community, etc.).

8. My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year.

Notice no mention of ‘realistic and achievable’; nor of time-sensitive and measurable. Hmmmm.

Not that I’d throw out all those attributes. I think different goals will serve different purposes. But there is an important lesson here: if you are wanting to step it up into doing GREAT things in your work and life, you need to step it up on creating goals that are more than just SMART.  They need to get your heart pumping and have a bigger impact beyond yourself. They must touch and benefit others too.

The researchers coined a new acronym. Instead of SMART – they suggest you go for HARD. This stands for: Heartfelt (will enrich others lives); Animated (I can vision how great it will be when achieved); Required (these goals are necessary and make a difference to others) and Difficult (I must learn new skills and leave my comfort zone).

I know I am in the midst of creating some new programs and am so excited about these. Interestingly, to keep me moving forward, I inadvertently have been thinking about many of these things the research suggests. I’ve been visualizing; thinking about the impact and contribution to others; and learning (always in learning mode) — a whole bunch of stuff to help make this happen.

Hmmm. Maybe me and my goals are smarter than I thought 🙂

How about you? What goals need to be shined up a bit…or a lot!?

To a TGIM work life filled with wonderfully HARD goals that inspire you to success and fulfillment – and make a difference to others as well!


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