Archive for the ‘Self Trust’ Category

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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On June 12th Get a Taste of Coaching for the Price of a Coffee

June 9, 2009

If you live in the GTA and could use a little boost, then head on down to one of four Starbuck locations where the International Coach Federation GTA Chapter is hosting “Coaching Conversations for Power and Possibility“.

A few of my peers in the coaching community got together and asked: “What do coaches have that can help people cope with the impact of the current economy?”  Well, coaches are trained to help people shift perspectives from downward, spiraling conversations to those that are more empowering and uplifting – leading to more purposeful action.

So more than 70 professionally trained coaches are donating their time on June 12th at 5 Starbuck locations. For the price of a cup of coffee you can get a taste of an empowering coaching conversation. And proceeds go to the United Way so not only will you be helping yourself, you’ll be helping others in need too. Now how could you go wrong with that?!

Check it out! Read more here.

To a TGIM Worklife!


What is Your “Up” Side of Down?

March 22, 2009

Losing a job just has to suck. There’s no sugar-coating the financial impact, emotional wear and tear, lost of confidence – and all else that goes with being laid off.

Or is there?  Is there an upside to being ‘downsized’ ? 


(Photo courtesy of svdvene on Flickr)

Lately, I’ve been hearing more stories about people who are finding the ‘up’ in their downsized situations.

The Toronto Star featured an article today profiling “faces of the recession“. The front page article, “How I lost my Bay Street Job and Found True Happiness”  written by Andrea Fitzpatrick was very inspiring. This woman recounts how for years she focused her work purely on getting to the next rung in the corporate hierarchy. All the while, never questioning if the work was truly satisfying. Rather, she only asked  ‘would it facilitate the next promotion’. Upon being laid off, she confronted her situation and started to ask the important questions: What are my values? What do I enjoy doing? What do I really need to be happy – and more. The result: she found her true passion, has re-evaluated her work-life priorities and for the first time in her life, says her work-life is truly fulfilling. Read it here while it’s still posted.

An aquaintance I know was laid off recently. She is scared. But she was slugging it out for years in an environment that showed no respect, no appreciation for her contribution (and she worked hard!) and no empathy for who she was as an individual. She is now exploring more meaningful paths for her work-life. While it’s no fun being laid off, she is embracing this ‘event’ in her life knowing there’s possibility for a more meaningful work-life ahead. She’s got her nose to the grindstone and her past experience has taught her what she doesn’t want — and getting her closer to knowing what she does want in a more satisfying work-life.

Sometimes the tough kicks in life prompt us to ask the important questions. It’s not the event itself – but how we be with it. The reflections, questions, choices we make as a result that open up the life-changing shifts.

I can list countless stories like these and others where people (myself included!) face adversity but come out stronger and better for it. Some people refer to these challenging times in their life as a gift. It’s hard to see the ‘gift’ while you are right ‘in it’ but after a little while, perspective sets in.

How about you? Are you dealing with anything right now that you can pause the panic button and reflect: what’s the up side of all this? How do I want to be in this? What is most important? What’s my opportunity hidden under the angst?

We could all use some inspiration and a bit more positivity these days so bring it on and share!

To a TGIM work-life for all!



New! Teleclass Series: “Assertiveness at Work” for January 2009

May 19, 2008

UPDATE – as of DECEMBER 2, 2008:

More than 700 people registered for my  CICA-hosted Webinar “Assertiveness at Work” this past spring (May). That’s a lot of interest! Leaders of all levels find themselves stretched as the stakes of work and life keep getting higher. Competent and talented — they recognize that assertiveness is not an all or none proposition. Fuency in assertiveness skills is personal and for many of us, can be further developed over time. Part of the emotional intellegence skillset, assertiveness plays a role in the degree that we are fulfilled, how effectively we perform — and generally how much we get of what we want and need in work and life.

Does this resonate with you? If so, please take notice….Drumroll please…..(darn I’m buring the lead in this post:)

INTRODUCING: the  Big Cheese Coaching Lab© — with the first offering focusing on a Teleclass series on: “Assertiveness at Work”.

 I am offering a six-week group coaching teleclass series (weekly)- starting this January 2009. The proposed starting date is: January 13th at 7pm Eastern Standard Time. However, if there is enough interest for an additional time I may add a second group.

I would like to keep the group size small (up to about 10 or so people) so first come first serve. If interested, pls contact me and we can schedule a brief phone chat to see if this is a fit for you.  I will have a promo developed shortly with additional info (topics; fees; etc.) and would be happy to email to those who express interest.

There is still time to share some of your own input! In the spirit of the Big Cheese Coaching Lab©No obligation but if you would like: You can TAKE A COUPLE MOMENTS TO COMPLETE A SHORT SURVEY HERE. 

Please assert yourself and make your voice heard!:)

Additional articles: See my CICA “Ask a Coach” article on assertiveness here.

And check back soon for more details!

Till then, here’s to a TGIM worklife!


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Webinar: Assertiveness at Work

May 7, 2008

I’ll be presenting a Webinar called “Assertiveness at Work” on May 21st for the CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants). If you are interested in this topic, email me – I might be able to arrange some access for a few more people.

Here’s the Webinar promo description:

Do you occasionally (or often) feel held back in your career because you haven’t appropriately asserted yourself? Do you find it challenging to promote yourself, your views and your opinions?

Do you feel uncomfortable and/or hesitate to speak up — especially on issues that might involve some conflict? Do you find yourself frequently saying yes — when you’d rather say no?

….. Whether you have an outgoing or shy disposition, there are assertiveness skills you can develop to help you more effectively and authentically express yourself in a variety of work and life situations……

If interested in developing assertiveness – either for yourself and/or others in your work-life, contact me to learn more/explore coaching and/or workshop possibiliites. Assertiveness is part of the emotional intelligence spectrum and is increasingly becoming an area of focus for me in my practice. 

Hey did you notice how I just asserted myself in that previous paragraph…..well, gotta practice what I preach!:)

To being authentic, self-expressed and getting more of what you want! Sounds like a TGIM work-life!

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When Praise Falls Short

April 10, 2008

Who doesn’t like a pat on the back or some acknowledgement for a job well done?  I certainly do. But gratuitous praise just doesn’t cut it. In fact, unwarranted praise can sometimes backfire.

The Globe and Mail Life section ran an interesting article earlier this week on this topic. According to a study by Niro Sivanathan, praising people inappropriately can result in something called “Escalation of commitment’. That’s when someone increases their commitment to an idea or decision — even if it’s a bad idea or poor decision. Sivanathan says people who have low self esteem might to stick to their decisions even if they are the wrong ones to avoid owning up to perceived failure or being wrong. Praising someone to make them feel better in light of an error or bad decision might deepen their commitment to ‘look good’ and stay the course.  Conversely those with higher self esteem are much more apt to admit when they are wrong.

So what are the implications for leaders who must give feedback to their people – both for positive performance as well as for performance gaps?

Acknowledgement is increasingly becoming an important engagement driver for retaining talent and promoting high performance. Acknowledgement helps develop confidence, improve self esteem and self trust which is important to grow into one’s potential. People want to feel good about who they are and what they are doing. But as this study reinforces, gratituitous or inauthentic praise is not the way to go.

Here are some tips to consider when giving acknowledgement:

1) Be authentic. Never fake an acknowledgement. It will ring untrue and won’t serve the purpose and it could also reinforce unacceptable behaviour.

2) Be specific about the behaviour that is to be acknowledged — i.e. “You did great work on that proposal – You came up with some very innovative solutions”.

3) Include an acknowledgement of who they were being in their actions to further build their self trust. E.g. “You were courageous to take such a bold stand in that meeting.”  Notice how much deeper that is than simply acknowledging their actions (i.e. “you spoke up in the meeting”). They can leverage that feedback and sense of being courageous to other situations.

4) For tough feedback (i.e. poor performance), focus your comments specifically on their actions and behaviours vs. their character. E.g. “Your behaviour of missing deadlines is unacceptable,” is better than  “your inability to meet deadlines…”. Notice the distinction. Do not generalize bad behaviour to a permanent character trait (the word “inability” is a character assault and is closing the door to possibility for change).

5) Balance the tough feedback with appropriate positive feedback. It can be demoralizing when feedback is all negative – so balancing it is key.  Try to find something positive to acknowledge the person for — but make sure it’s authentic and it doesn’t overpower the message you need to deliver. Sometimes in efforts to include a positive acknowledgement the other critical message gets lost.

6) If you can’t find anything within the behaviour or performance to acknowledge look to who the they were being in the process to cull something positive. E.g.  “While we need to ramp up the quality of this particular assignment – I do want you to know that I recognize how hard you worked on this and the commitment you demonstrated. …etc.”  (if that is indeed the case)

So there you have it — a few thoughts to share. As always, I welcome feedback of all kinds (especially acknowledgements:) (kidding) on how to create a TGIM worklife!


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Ask the Coach: Assertiveness at Work

January 21, 2008

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source – the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. It’s about a theme that I encounter a lot……the issue of assertiveness at work.  Perhaps this will resonate with you or someone you know. In any case, if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. I just had my annual review and had hopes of being promoted. Unfortunately I was bypassed — yet again. My boss said I have a lot of potential but need to work on some leadership abilities. He said my functional skills were great but I should focus on becoming more assertive if I wanted to move into a leadership role. I’ve never been a particularly aggressive person and can’t envision changing my whole personality. But I don’t want to stand still in my career either. Any advice?

A. I’m sorry about your disappointment in not being promoted. The good news, however, is that assertiveness can actually be developed — with some practice, self awareness and a dose of courage. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Well, sometimes that’s true in life too. Those that assert themselves have a better chance of getting more of what they want at work and in life. The key, however, is to “squeak” appropriately. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive — nor does it require you to change your personality. Rather, it’s more about being authentic, self-expressed and standing up for yourself when it’s called for.

Defining assertiveness

Assertiveness is a core competency within the spectrum of emotional intelligence (EQ).  According to one definition,* assertiveness can be described as: the ability to express feelings, beliefs and thoughts and defend one’s rights in a non-destructive manner. It’s comprised of three elements: 1) the ability to accept and express feelings; 2) the ability to express beliefs and thoughts openly even when it is emotionally difficult to do so (I call those courageous conversations!); 3) the ability to stand up for personal rights without being aggressive or abusive.

To better understand how your own level of assertiveness might be factoring into your career experience, here are some questions to reflect on:

* Can you identify specific instances in your work where you felt held back because you haven’t asserted yourself? What was the cost of not asserting yourself in those situations?

* Generally, when you have an opinion and/or feelings that differ from others, do you tend to shy away from voicing these opinions or do you take a stand and articulate what is important?

* How do you feel about speaking up on issues that might involve some conflict?  Does that give you anxiety? Do you worry that others may think less of you?

* Are you able to set and enforce boundaries for yourself in terms of how you want to be treated and respected?

* When you need or want something that is important to you, do you proactively and directly make requests for it?

* Do you find yourself frequently saying yes — when you’d rather say no?

* How do you validate your own feelings and views? Do you acknowledge them or tend to dismiss them and instead defer to other people’s views?

Developing new habits of assertiveness involves courage, self awareness and various communication skills. For some people, these skills come naturally; others have to work at it. Here are some steps you can take to develop your own assertiveness.

1. Tune into your inner game by owning and acknowledging your feelings, ideas, beliefs One of the key elements of assertiveness is having the ability to acknowledge and accept your own feelings and beliefs. Without validating your own perspectives with yourself — how could you confidently express them to others? Start paying attention to those moments when you have an opportunity to assert yourself — perhaps you have an opinion, idea or challenge that either differs from others or isn’t yet on the radar. Take a few minutes to reflect on why this matters; what it’s about; what’s at stake if you don’t express it. The idea is to check in with yourself first to clarify and own your beliefs so that you can more confidently express them to others.

2. Identify any limiting beliefs that might be preventing you from being self-expressed
If in those moments of opportunity you find yourself hesitating, take a moment to explore what’s really holding you back. Often it’s our internal voices of self-doubt and limiting beliefs that keep us stuck.  Perhaps you have a belief that if you speak up something negative will happen. Do you have an inner critic that says:  “Don’t rock the boat!” or “Who are you to speak up?” or “You don’t have the credibility.” We all have our inner critics — the key is to acknowledge and manage them.If the voice of the inner critic is holding you back, try on a different perspective.  Instead, listen more closely to your own empowering voice of reason and wisdom. Remember, you just explored that in step #1.

3. Before speaking up, think about how you want to show up in the conversation.  Remember, being assertive might involve voicing your opinion — but in a way that doesn’t violate others.  This is where execution counts.

Here are a few tips:

* Choose your words wisely: Assertive communication involves being direct and open — but not brash. Choose your words carefully before you communicate.

* Tone is as important as words: Of course, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Pay attention to your tone which includes language, voice and body language if communicating face to face.

* Speak directly and with clarity: Don’t beat around the bush. Say what you need to say but do so sensitively and diplomatically. It’s important to speak with clarity. Being vague, hinting, or just implying — can be counterproductive.  It can also sometimes appear manipulative.

* Communicate empathetically: Even if your views differ from the other person(s), show understanding and compassion for their viewpoint and/or situation, e.g. “I know you worked hard on this and put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate that. But I have another perspective that I feel strongly about that I’d like to share.”

* Practise, Practise, Practise…Developing habits of assertiveness takes practice and ongoing reflection. Situation by situation, moment by moment — each will give you an opportunity to practise, learn, reflect and adapt accordingly.Developing assertiveness not only calls upon courage — it builds courage!  Stretching yourself to be a little more assertive will increase your self confidence over time.  

* Enlist support:
There are a lot of ways to enlist support to help you develop yourself in this area.  Hire a coach who is skilled to work with you; take a course or enrol in groups such as Toastmasters; actively get involved in pursuits that will stretch and challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and/or provide you with leadership opportunities (e.g., perhaps within a volunteer endeavour).It’s an ongoing journey, but it’s worth the effort. Remember, appropriately assertive people get more of what they want in work and life; it helps them to feel more authentic and self-expressed.

*Assertiveness as defined by the BarON EQi system and Connective Intelligence.


T’is the Season of……RUSH!

December 9, 2007

Busy these days? Madly trying to complete projects before year-end? Is your December to-do list filled with shopping lists, work-related (and other) party planning/attendance/organizing — and more!?

 (photo courtesy of SophiMuc on Flickr)

 Ahhh yes, well t’is the season…to rush, rush, rush

How’s that working out for you? Feeling joyous? Or overwhelmed with too much to do? Feeling a little….

Seasonal Angst…?

Where’s the joy? True, we are a society used to being busy (even addicted to it), but December ‘busy-ness’ tends to take on a whole new dimension. 

I know for myself, if I don’t pay attention, I end up on a crazy treadmill of stuff to shovel off my to-do list.  I caught myself recently feeling so weighed down by it all that I was missing the fun that I know could come with this time of year. A lot on my list is stuff that typically would provide meaning for me. Work that I do enjoy; holiday festivities that are lovely….cards to make; gifts to buy (for people that I do want to express gratitude to); etc.

But instead, I found myself ploughing, ploughing my way through “The LIST”. From one task, thinking and planning the next. Productive and busy…..but not really present.

 Until I remembered to….

“Pay attention to what I’m paying attention to”.

Notice I didn’t say ‘stop doing’ or ‘do less’. I still have a lot I want to do and need to do and will do in the weeks ahead leading up to the December/New Year break. But I reminded myself to pay attention to my inner game.What was going on internally (my inner conversations around all this ‘doing’)?

Who was I being in all my doing?

Well I realized I was defaulting to a worried grinch with myself and giving too much energy to the negative thoughts of worry…….”yikes I have too much to do…I’ll never get it done… am I going to manage it all? What if I fail….Where’s all my free time gone….this is a pain….I have to do x, y,z….then a, b, c….don’t forget blah, blah, blah.”

By focusing so much on the limiting beliefs (the time that I don’t have, doubt….and all kinds of negative self-talk) — I was energizing a negative mindset. And hence, feeling weighed down.

Do you ever do that? Who doesn’t from time to time? We all do. Part of being human. When on the ‘doing treadmill’ we can easily forget who we are. How resourceful we are; what is most important; and what it’s all about anyways.

And sure, there are lots of other practical strategies that we can employ to help us navigate the seasonal demands of work life (being organized, saying ‘no’ when you need to; prioritizing, delegating, etc. ).  But this post isn’t really about all that….it’s about…. 

 The inner game and paying attention and managing your self (and yes, so very ‘EQ-ish” if I might add).

Here’s a helpful equation to keep in mind: 

Our thoughts impact our emotions which impact our choices (and actions or non-actions) which impact our results.

If you check in with that equation –it will help you become more aware of how your mindset is impacting how you navigate any given situation. While you can’t control everything, the good news is you can actually control more of how you ‘be’ with any given situation. Start with becoming more aware of what’s going on internally…your thoughts, beliefs (limiting and/or empowering) — because those are significantly influencing factors in how you’ll feel…and what you will choose to do or not do.

How you experience the lead-up towards and within this holiday season (and any time for that matter) begins with your mindset.

So a few questions to help you pay attention mindfully:

  • What are you thinking?

  • What judgments are you applying to whatever situation you are in this time of year?

  • Do you have ‘evidence’ that these judgments truly hold true (e.g. “I’ll never get this project done on time “) — or are they exaggerated voices of doubt?

  • How’s that internal voice working for you? Feeling joy, peace — or angst?

  • What are some new perspectives you can consider? What’s the voice of reason saying? The voice of inspiration? Try them on….

Feeling a little lighter yet? I know I am….even though that ‘list’ still beckons.

To navigating your work-life with more holiday joy this season!


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If You Attended Today’s CICA Webinar….

October 29, 2007

Thank you to everyone who attended the Webinar I presented today at the CICA exploring TGIM worklife with Emotional Intelligence! It was a great turn-out (more than 400 attendees!) and based on the questions I received at the end – a very enthusiastic group indeed.

I thought I’d post the links to some of the articles I mentioned that might be of interest (rather than having you search for them). So here are a few:

1) Emotional Intelligence at Work — an article I wrote for HR Reporter that provides an at-a-glance summary of some of the concepts I explored today about EQ.

2) The Lizard who wouldn’t eat…. About using your Signature Strengths to feel gratified at work.

3) Tips to Make the “Bigness of Monday” Just a Little Bit Lighterwhen you could use a little boost. And the Globe and Mail article “Thank God it’s Monday“.

4) Finding Flow: Intense Work but Without the Struggle

5) Is HR Prepared to Keep the Keepers — another article I wrote for HR Reporter on employee engagemeng for high performers and high potentials.

6) Employee Engagement – Respect

AND….there was one participant who asked about self employment as a career option…so for those that might be interested, my reflections starting my 10th year in biz

AND…there’s much more so I invite you all to have a look at the blog…and visit again! Also – I did mention that I’d be introducing a tele-class program in January for leaders who want to develop more resilience at work (to navigate and deal with the ever-increasing load and work-life hurdles we talked about).

More about that later but if interested, please let me know by email or a call and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as I confirm the details (with no obligation of course).

Of course, if interested in exploring how you can learn more about developing a TGIM worklife for yourself and/or others you work with….please do get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

To a TGIM worklife!


Overcoming Work-Life Hurdles

September 8, 2007

Perdita Felicien

Perdita Felicien,
originally uploaded by
Erik R. Bishoff

Who hasn’t faced challenges along the way in their work and life? Hurdles come in many forms: disappointing work experiences; losing a job; ending personal relationships (divorce, separation, other) – etc. The real question isn’t whether or not there will be occasional set-backs in our work and lives – rather, it’s how will we cope and overcome them?

It takes a lot of smarts to deal with life’s challenges. More than IQ, more than technical and work-related smarts – it takes emotional intelligence (EQ) to successfully hurdle life’s challenges and disappointments.

Who better to look to for inspiration than the queen hurdler herself – Perdita Felicien. Perdita is the Canadian champion hurdler who just earned a silver medal in the 100 meter hurdles event at the world athletics championships. One year away from Bejing Olympics, this athlete’s dynamo performance last week marked a major come-back from her crisis three years ago when she crashed into the first hurdle in the Olympic final at Athens.

Do you remember that? The frustration, agony and disappointment Perdita faced after her fall in Athens – ouch! After so much hard work, with all her talent – she barely got out of the starting gate. With a bruised and battered foot – her confidence was equally shattered.

So how do you get up from there?

Perdita had a lot of work to do to come back. Both physically and emotionally. Her emotional journey was front and centre in last week’s newspapers. When so many others lost faith in her — she had to find it in herself to remember who she is and what she’s capable of.


Got any hurdles you are dealing with? When the chips are down how do you cope? How do you regain your footing after a ‘fall’ or set-back?

These are the times when emotional smarts really count the most.
When life and/or work gets tough, this is when your own inner game matters most. How are you with you? How do you talk to yourself through a set-back? Do you become the judger or the supporter? Do you dig deep to find your truths – or look outside to others for affirmation and/or worse, judgment?

A few tips:

1) Remember who you are. I always find these four little words very helpful when times get tough. Ask yourself, has this set-back really changed who you truly are? Does it take away all the gifts, strengths, talents and past accomplishments that you’ve developed and earned thus far? We’re often hard on ourselves…and quick to forget who we are because we are too busy beating ourselves up. This leads to the next point.

2) Practise humility. Sometimes we screw up – or fall short of reaching our goals. Sometimes it’s ourselves who are accountable and other times it’s just not meant to be. Being empowered is great but as long as we remember that we don’t get to control it all. Sometimes the universe is bigger than us. These are the times to practice humility. Simply letting yourself be human.

3) Learn from the experience and go from there. Ever hear the expression ‘things happen for a reason’? Try to find purpose and meaning in the challenging times and disappointments; learn from them and use the experience to grow.

4) Develop the ability to tap into faith and self-trust. Trust that if you do what you can do -then what’s meant to be will be. Trust yourself; trust the universe and balance the ‘doing’ with the believing. This mind set will be as important as all those other ‘hurdling’ skills.

And more…would love to hear your ideas – bring them on!

In the meantime, to you – and a TGIM work-life!