How Do You Announce Change?

Everyone has needs; some of them are just more intuitive than others.


Ever ask yourself, “Why do I always do that?” If so, read on.


Most of us are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs, which dates all the way back to 1943, ranging from physiological needs at the bottom (e.g. food, water, shelter), moving upwards through safety needs (employment/money, personal security), to self-efficacy at the top, i.e. (I’ll borrow a slogan from the Army here) the ability to “be all that you can be.”


Less well known is Tony Robbins’ model of the six human needs, but boy does it do a lot to explain human behavior.


At the foundation are two oddly contradictory needs:

  • Certainty (i.e. security and – ahem — control)
  • Variety (i.e. “uncertainty”)


Then there are two needs that address how we relate to others:

  • Significance (feeling important, needed, special)
  • Love and connection (platonic or romantic closeness, union)


And at the top are two more “spiritual” needs:

  • The need for growth (personal or professional)
  • The need for contribution (wanting to serve others regardless of personal benefit)


The biggest difference is that for the most part, Maslow’s needs are in logical order: i.e. if you don’t know where your next meal will come from (level 1), you’re not likely to be concerned at the moment with improving your social status (level 5).


But at any given moment, our driving force could be any one of Robbins’ needs.


Think about it: most of us are probably pretty secure in our homes and careers, and like to volunteer and “pay it forward,” which would be at the top of the hierarchy.


Nevertheless, have you ever succumbed to self-sabotaging actions? Maybe something like:

  • Procrastinating and “accidentally” missing deadlines for job applications or proposals
  • Eating half(?) a container of ice cream when you’ve been working hard to get healthier and lose weight
  • Picking a fight or breaking up with someone when everything has been going fine
  • Spending money on “retail therapy” when you know you’re trying to save for a mortgage down payment or to get out of debt
  • Setting unattainable goals… or not bothering to set any at all


If so, at that moment, your driving force is the need for certainty.


When we’re afraid of the goal being too hard, the risk being too great, or failing to live up to expectations (our own or other people’s), we grasp at the opportunity to control something, even if it means creating the exact opposite of what we actually want.


The problem is that if there’s one thing that’s constant in life, it’s change, and even good change brings an element of risk.


That’s why the announcement of a major change has to be handled so carefully – so as not to trigger everyone’s fundamental need for safety and security (a-la Maslow) or certainty (a-la Robbins) and result in widespread panic.


How do you introduce change to your team? To your family? To your relationships?


Want an example of announcing and managing massive change on a global scale? Look no further than this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence.


In honor of kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month, my guest, Dr. Richard Santiago, CFO (and retired lt. colonel) of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), shares how he had to become an agent of change in order to implement institution-wide digital transformation that could not afford to fail across more than one hundred locations around the world.



In our conversation, Rich dives into how he:

  • Developed a change management framework
  • Communicated his role to all key stakeholder groups
  • Built coalitions internally and externally
  • Centralized problem solving
  • Surrounded himself with subject matter experts
  • And gave his people even more autonomy


All to ensure the success of the mission.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


While stress is a part of every change, and just about every job to one extent or another, a crucial distinction to identify is whether it is temporary or chronic, and whether it’s something we can reduce for ourselves, or is a systemic part of the institutional structure and culture.


In other words: Is the stress we’re feeling generic “burnout,” or more deeply, are we actually experiencing “Moral Injury”?


That’s exactly what Dr. Jennie Byrne, MD PhD and I discussed on Friday’s LinkedIn Live conversation.


And trust me, even if you missed the live event, you can’t afford to miss the replay, which you can find here.

How High is the Mountain You Need to Climb?

In the summer of 2000 I was living in Japan, and decided to accept a friend’s mountain of a challenge.




The challenge: to climb Mt. Fuji. 


Now, to be fair, Fuji is no Everest (>19k feet high.) But at 3776 meters (12,393 feet) above sea level, it was still quite the experience. I went with a group, and though it was August and hot as heck at the base, the transitions at the various stages were stark, from lush and green and humid, to cool and barren, to downright cold and snow capped at the peak.



It was also harder to breathe at that altitude, where the air was much thinner. Steps became small and slow and labored – a very humbling experience for my then-20-something self.


At various points, the only thing to do was reach up and grab the hand of the guide or whoever was in front of me and had more stable footing, or otherwise to turn around and extend my hand to the person behind me.


The only way up was to ensure we all got there.


There were multiple times when I thought to myself, “This was the dumbest thing I ever agreed to do; what on earth was I thinking?”


Until I got to the top, and watched the sun rise.



It was glorious. I marveled at the vista, and all I would have missed out on if I had passed on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or turned back at any point along the way.


I was also aware of the sense of accomplishment and how huge it felt, along with the contrasting awareness of how incredibly small I felt in the universe at that moment.


And I was equally aware of and grateful for all the hands that had helped me up – and would soon help me back down, which is just as difficult in some ways, without whom I never would have gotten there.


What a lesson it became for so many other challenges and opportunities in life after that!


Smitha Murthy , CEO of Beagle Security, knows exactly what I’m talking about, and this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast (link), she shares it all, including:


  • Her own impending trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro (which, at around 19,400 feet, is a solid 60% taller than Mt. Fuji!) and how she is training for it in… New Jersey??
  • Her on-going efforts to mentor and raise up other women leaders in the still-very-male-dominated world of cybersecurity
  • How she builds rapport and alliances to get things done
  • How she increased consumer satisfaction (CSAT) scores while strengthening the company culture
  • And more.



Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


Sometimes those mountains can feel insurmountable, with no end or rest in sight.


If you sometimes feel like that, join me live this Friday at 12 noon ET on LinkedIn Live for a critically important conversation with Dr. Jennie Byrne, MD PHD exploring the difference between simple “burnout” and the lesser-known but greater challenge of “moral injury.”


Moral injury isn’t about “morality” in the traditional sense, but if it’s impacting you and/or others in your organization, the effects can be devastating. Not sure if that’s what’s occurring, and if it is, then not sure what to do about it? Then you can’t afford to miss this conversation.



Register HERE.


On the other hand, if you’re ready for some quick tips and feel-good suggestions for how to live your best life overall, check out Nate Haber’s podcast, “The Optimal Life.”



Nate and I had a great conversation about taking life to the next level, whether personally and/or professionally, and how it all starts from being a better communicator. Check it out here.


And speaking of living your best life, that often stems from fresh starts, so for all who will be celebrating (the new year) later this week, happy Rosh Hashanah!

That’s When I Sat Up and Took Notice

Sometimes the person who is the least qualified on paper makes the most profound and lasting impression.


A few years ago I had the pleasure of selecting a dozen university student applicants to participate in an international entrepreneurship program taking place in Washington, DC and Cairo, Egypt. Applications were abundant and impressive. 


As I conducted the interviews, there was one student who stood out initially for the wrong reasons… and then for the best reasons of all.


He was definitely the underdog – not a particularly good writer, decent but not stellar grades, and nothing particularly noteworthy on his resume.


He was polite, respectful and answered the questions thoughtfully, but where I sat up and took notice was at the end when I asked him if he had any questions for me.


“Just one,” he said. “Looking up the various organizers who are part of this program, I understood why (Company X, University Y, and Organization Z) are all involved, but I don't understand your connection with it all. Why are you running this program?”


It was the best question he could possibly have asked. Simple, clear and direct, it showed me that he had done his homework, was fully prepared, and was truly invested in ensuring full understanding and the best possible experience.


It’s not that I wanted the conversation to be about me, but not one other student asked about the relationships among the players or anything beyond the basic logistics and what their individual experiences would be like.


Yep, he knocked my socks off. It's amazing the lengths to which some people will go to stand out from the rest of the herd and make a powerful and lasting impression.


Similarly, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Sardor Arkhmedov, chief revenue officer of mobile app-development company also described a time when a candidate for a sales role knocked his socks off.
The candidate had a good first conversation virtually, then took the initiative to fly across the country and show up on Sardor’s doorstep in order to have a face-to-face conversation as a demonstration of his commitment to his word and his own brand promise of going the extra mile (or thousand miles) to get the job done.



Sardor also shared insights regarding:

  • Why you should ask for something even when you’re sure the answer is “no.”
  • How telling a client exactly what they DIDN’T want to hear resulted in a more trusted, lasting relationship
  • Why he created a Chief Happiness Officer position and how they’re leveraging it to create a more cohesive company culture in a distributed, virtual workforce
  • How he encourages even the most introverted employees to join in the company’s social events


Oh – and as context, he has also been:

  • A member of the Harvard Business Review advisory council and Forbes Business Council
  • A member of the board of advisors for Pace University’s business school
  • A consultant for USAID
  • An angel investor for (that note-taker app connected to Zoom)


and all before he turned 25!


Want to make someone else sit up and take notice? Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

Want to Know What Charisma Looks Like? Watch This.

One of my all-time favorite books on leadership presence is Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (2012).


Fully debunking the myth that charisma is some X-factor that you’re either born with or not, she operationalizes charisma in a very simple, three-part equation:


Charisma = Power + Warmth + Presence


Power is whether or not you appear to be able to have an impact.

Warmth is the perception of good will, i.e. will you use your power to help me or hurt me?

Presence is whether it seems like you are physically and mentally here with me, 100% attentive and undistracted.


Because these three factors are perceptions, people tend to assess them on first impression, as a gut-reaction, in the “reptile brain,” before logic kicks in; then confirmation bias looks for supporting evidence.


As a result, vocal and visual message delivery (i.e. the sound of your voice; and how you look while talking, such as how you are dressed, facial expressions and body language) are in some ways even more impactful than the facts you verbally claim (valid or otherwise), because they are processed subconsciously.


Ultimately Fox Cabane summarizes charisma as “the ability to move through a room and have people go, ‘Wow, who’s that?’”


Want a crash course in how that looks and sounds in practice (or not)? Look no further than last night’s first Republican primary debate of the 2024 election season.


If you’ve read my election debate analyses in past cycles, you know I keep all political opinion out of it. My goal is to identify best (and worst) examples of leadership communication practices in the event, and present them as case studies for all of us to learn from in order to be more inspiring, influential leaders, whether or not we would ever vote for any of the candidates referenced.


So with that caveat, here are a few select examples of what I’ll call “charismatic do’s and don’ts” from the event.


Track Records as Evidence of Power


Most candidates listed achievements in their current or past roles as senators, governors, business leaders and more as evidence of what they will also be able to do as president (power).


Presenting data is important – but remember that it speaks to the “logic” part of the brain which may or may not register with the listener, as it is not visceral. Good data with poor, unimpactful delivery, is lost value.


When combined, as Ron DeSantis did in his opening statement, with commitments like “…and I will not let you down,” which is an overt statement of warmth, and delivered with a strong, certain voice, and unwavering eye contact, in that moment, it felt like he was talking to me, fully present, and meaning every word of it (presence).


Statements of Identity


Whereas track records are evidence of what you have DONE, statements of identity are evidence of who you ARE, which can reflect power and warmth alike, though sometimes in contradictory ways. For example:


  • Nikki Haley identified herself explicitly as an accountant, implying fiscal responsibility (power and warmth), and a military wife and mother (warmth)
  • Vivek Ramaswamy positioned himself as both product and evidence of “the American Dream” as the son of Indian immigrants, husband and father, and the only non-politician, specifically “the only one up here not bought and paid for” (all warmth)… oh, and an entrepreneur who has built billion-dollar companies (power)
  • Ron DeSantis stated that he was a blue-collar kid, a combat veteran (in Iraq), and a father of three very young children, all of which intend to demonstrate non-entitled, service-oriented mindset and protective nature (warmth)
  • Tim Scott shared that he had been a “disillusioned young man,” from a “single-parent home, mired in poverty,” and whose values around hard work and responsibility were instilled by his mother (warmth)
  • Doug Burgum specified he was from a small town (population 300), who lost his father at a young age and was raised by a single mother, and was a manual laborer most of his life (warmth)
  • Mike Pence frequently referenced both the Constitution and Christianity as his internal compass and driving forces – a combination that could feasibly either make him the most or least trustworthy (warm) candidate, depending on your own persuasion.




Body language is a funny thing, as it usually is an unconscious manifestation of what someone is feeling in the moment.


For example, for most of the debate, Scott had an odd habit of speaking with his head permanently cocked about 30 degrees to his right. Subliminally, that can be interpreted as him saying “Well, maybe…”, or otherwise being “off balance” (undermining power). Ironically, for a conservative Republican, it also literally and figuratively appears to the viewer that he is “leaning left.”


On the other hand, as Scott has a very powerful physical stature (power, positive), it could also serve as a softener (warmth), contrasting against some people’s preconceived (ridiculous) racial stereotypes such as “the angry black man.”


Chris Christie would occasionally shift from “official answer” mode into “let’s get real” mode, turning to face his opponents in center stage and leaning on his right elbow on the podium, a much more casual, “frank” posture. (Presence)


Ramaswamy spent much of the time trying to present himself as a youthful, “new generation” candidate, trying to “have fun” on stage, and using humor, with a big smile across his face (all warmth), distinguishing himself from his more stoic (he might even say stodgy) counterparts. However, at times it bordered on flippant and even potentially irreverent, given the role for which he is effectively auditioning (lack of presence.)


That being said, he also had an impressive ability to flip a switch and look instantly serious, such as when reciting litanies of government agencies he thought should be shut down, and common values that he believes unite the American people and are driving his campaign (power and presence).


Attire is also funny, because we know it’s the ONE thing all candidates can control, and almost certainly agonize over before events like this. Yet while most were dressed to the nines, there were some odd choices.


Asa Hutchinson, for example, wore a red tie, which is classic for Republicans, but the pattern and sheen on it made it look oddly pixelated on television, which was visually distracting and unpleasant (undermining both power and warmth).


Haley’s suit choice was also interesting. It was nice and fit perfectly, but it was an oddly tweed-esque, pastel blue pattern with fringe around the edges. I’m far from a fashionista, but this choice seemed to dive headlong toward the “warmth” end of the spectrum. Perhaps she was trying to be more relatable and approachable to the stereotypical “middle-America housewife” avatar by eschewing anything that looked like a classic “power suit.” To me, it seemed like she traded “power” for that extra “warmth.”


Too Much?


DeSantis was consistently confident and intentional in everything he said (power), but confidence descends into arrogance when it becomes selfishly aggressive in grabbing spotlight time. Specifically, at one point the moderator asked the panel to indicate yea or nay by show of hands on a question as a preliminary visual gauge, but DeSantis jumped in, saying that a “show of hands” was “the wrong way” to do it, dismissing the moderator entirely and hijacking the format, and launched into his answer (undermining warmth).

Three-Dimensional “Miss”


Doug Burgum had the dubious honor of being first to give his closing statement, and his nerves got the best of him.


As I always teach in my workshops, and is the foundation of my book, it’s the simultaneous alignment of verbal, vocal, and visual communication (i.e. words, voice, and body language, respectively) that creates the image of credibility, and Burgum was indeed in perfect alignment… just in all the wrong ways.


Verbally, he stammered, used fillers like “uh,” and “um,” and searched for words. Vocally, his speech was choppy rather than fluid, and he kept clearing his throat. And visually, he kept shuffling his feet and shifting his weight. Credibility was utterly absent in that statement.


The main message he conveyed was, “I’m not confident.” That implies an utter lack of power… and no warmth, because while he poses no imminent threat, he also doesn’t appear to be able to protect us against others who do. (I predict he’ll be gone first.)


“Wow, who’s that?”


If, as Fox Cabane stated, charisma comes down to the ability to make someone say, “Wow, who’s that?”, which candidates had me completely engrossed at one point or another (for better or worse)?


Overall, Haley, Ramaswamy, DeSantis and Christie were the leaders with the greatest number of commanding-presence moments that made me sit up and take notice.


Scott and Pence were both very measured, mostly serious, with energy levels that ranged between 4 and 6 or 7 out of 10. (I don’t think Pence’s facial expression changed once the entire night.) They made no specific mistakes, and made some very good points, but were also not particularly noteworthy.


Sadly, our remaining two candidates, Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson, while perfectly nice, and generally unoffensive, were also utterly forgettable.


So what?


None of this should have much if any bearing on whom you vote for, of course.


But I do hope it gives you food for thought, and a new lens to look at yourself and your leadership presence. Most importantly, think of this as a practical “case study tool box” to identify actionable items to help you increase your projection of Power, Warmth, and Presence when speaking to others; in other words, to enhance your natural CHARISMA.

What Do You Value The Most? (Are you sure?)

When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother saying, “Laura, the older you get, the faster time goes.”


I didn’t understand how that was technically possible at the time, but now – several decades later – I know exactly what she meant, and frankly, it’s a little scary.


In some ways it’s good: Back in high school, it felt like every period in calculus and physics lasted a year, and each week seemed like an eternity, especially sitting in classes on Monday. But now the weeks fly by, which is at least 98% due to the fact that whereas I dreaded those classes, now I love what I get to do for work every day.


But in other ways, it gives me pause.


For example, have you ever had that feeling when the week is finally over, and in a quiet moment over the weekend you sit there and wonder what you actually accomplished in all that rushing and busy-ness, and more importantly, what it’s all for? In all that time that’s now rushing by, what value do we have to show for it?


Viktor Frankl called that feeling “Sunday Neurosis.” It's like a mini existential crisis waving goodbye to the workweek, and looking at more of the same in the upcoming week.


But what if the secret to avoiding that “Sunday Neurosis” is hidden in one simple question to ask yourself:

“What do I value the most?”


And here’s a deeper challenge: after you come up with you answer(s), follow it up with:


“Am I sure? That’s what I tell myself I value…
but are my choices and actions consistent with that belief?”


Imagine the true transformational power of your choices – whether it's just deciding what to eat for dinner, or a major business decision – if they were consistently based on your real core values.


That’s the epiphany described by Jacob Baadsgaard, president of Disruptive Advertising, on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast



As a child, Jacob was painfully aware of his family’s financial struggles, and committed himself to achieving professional and financial success above all else.


Although he succeeded in achieving the material wealth he sought, he also discovered that having more “stuff” wasn't a one-way ticket to happiness.


His business victories were like a superhero’s cape, shielding him from dealing with personal issues, and blaming others for his problems. But underneath that cape? A fear of not measuring up and a phobia of the f-word: failure.


The transformation began at work, realizing that they had taken on too many clients who did not align with their core values. Jacob pulled a “Jerry Maguire,” letting go of those clients and consciously limiting their clients to organizations and industries that were in sync with his company’s values.


Then came the internal transformation, as he discovered that he’d been using his business success as a diversion to avoid taking responsibility for his own personal relationships.


Jacob's adventure is like a treasure map to value-based decision-making and authenticity. His journey illustrates that values, peace and purpose aren't just buzzwords; they're real-life treasures you actually can – and must – uncover for true fulfillment.


Listen to the full podcast here or watch the video on YouTube here.

What Instrument Were You Born to Play?

Old habits die hard.

Maybe it’s something in the water, or the phase of the moon, but I’m amazed at how often in recent weeks I’ve heard people justify self-limiting behaviors with reasons that I bet they’d never let a friend say about him/herself, e.g.:


  • “I never wear sandals because when I was a kid my sister always told me my feet were ugly”
  • “I am afraid to speak in a loud voice because I’m a big person and I’ve been told I’m intimidating.”
  • “I slouch because in middle school I was a head taller than all the boys so I was always trying not to stand out.”
  • “I don’t like public speaking because I’m short so I can’t command a room.”
  • “I think people don’t like me because my voice is too raspy/nasal/other so I don’t socialize with colleagues”


Trust me, the list goes on. It’s amazing.


I’ll leave the sandals comment alone, but the rest of those comments do matter to me because they are directly related to your executive presence, which does impact career success.


Specifically, it’s the mindset and respective behavior (or lack thereof) that impacts your career success, and those are the kinds of things I often work on with clients.


To use a musical analogy, if you were born with a piccolo in your throat, I can’t teach you to swap it out for a tuba, or vice-versa.


What I CAN do, however, is teach you to play that instrument masterfully.


  • It IS possible to have a big frame and speak in a strong voice without being categorically intimidating
  • It IS possible to tall and blend in, or short and still command the room
  • It IS possible to bond with coworkers no matter what your voice sounds like (and if there’s an on-going difficulty, it’s probably not voice-related at its core)
  • And it IS possible to take whatever vocal “instrument” you were born with and play it masterfully and beautifully.


That last point is exactly what we focused on this week on Speaking to Influence. Dr. Mark Wilkinson, voice expert, speaking/singing coach, professional singer and actor, took a deep dive into understanding the realities of your voice, and how to use it masterfully as a speaker.



One of the highlights of our conversation was tackling the misconceptions that often hold people back from achieving vocal excellence. Our myth-busting included common issues including:


  • What it really means when people say “speak/sing from the diaphragm” (and why that’s actually an erroneous phrase)
  • The six different vocal qualities and how to balance them
  • The importance of vocal warm-ups before speaking or singing – and some of his favorite “do now” warmup exercises
  • How to be authentic while also adapting and adjusting to different contexts and cultures in order to effectively communicate and connect with others
  • Critical voice-care best practices, and the impact of different foods on the voice


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.


Then, once you’ve learned to play your natural instrument masterfully, it’s time to put it to work in “concert” with other speakers.


As an extra bonus this week, there are several other opportunities to explore speaking in context.


First, join me in speaking with host Anne Bonney on her aptly named podcast, “Dancing in the Discomfort Zone”.


With a good dose of empathy and humor, Anne seeks to empower everyone with the ability to stop avoiding the uncomfortable issues, and get to the heart of what’s most important.



On her show, we took a deep dive into the world of “Listening to Understand.” I shared the key steps to take when you need to have a hard conversation with someone, but in a way that allows both people to emerge feeling happy and confident that they have each been heard and understood by the other.


That feeling is priceless.


Then, on “How I Raised It,” I had the opportunity to speak with Nathan Beckord, founder of Founder Suite and Funding Stack. We focused on the unique realm of speaking to influence when pitching for investor capital.



Whether you’re a new startup looking to raise a bit of seed money from a “friends and family” round, or an established company seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in on-going venture capital, the simple truth is that there are key “do’s” and “don’ts” that need to be heeded if you want to be heard (and funded.)


Nathan gets right to the big questions, and together we shed light on the answers.


But whether you’re in a “discomfort zone,” a funding round, in a meeting, or out to lunch with colleagues, learn to play your instrument masterfully. Break free of those ancient (and useless) beliefs that hold you back, and be a maestro of your voice, and a composer of your future!

How to Make Someone’s Day

One challenge I have consistently heard people struggle with is how to initiate or break into a conversation at a networking event, conference, or simply a meeting where you don’t know anyone.


Fortunately, sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective – and powerful.


When in doubt, pay someone a compliment. It doesn’t need to be gushy and effusive; as a matter of fact, the shorter the better – then it just seems like an “instinctive blurt,” so they know it’s sincere.


For example: look for someone who is wearing something that catches your eye. It could be a piece of jewelry, a pair of shoes, a handbag, glasses, a retro t-shirt, snazzy socks, headphones/earbuds, or even a unique hairstyle or visible tattoo.


Then walk up to them and say:


“Love the shoes!”

“That’s a beautiful necklace.”

“Impressive ink.”

“That’s a great color on you.”

“Nice socks!”


Occasionally I hear men express concern about complimenting a woman for fear of their intention being misinterpreted. I’m pretty sure a sincere and casual compliment, following the simple structures above, would be appreciated by just about anyone.


But if you need a little insurance, consider qualifying with something like, “My wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter would absolutely love those shoes.”


Even if they’re already talking to someone else, it’s very easy to break in by simply walking up with a little smile and wave, and when you have their attention, say:


“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt; just wanted/had to tell you (insert compliment here).”


Watch the smile burst onto the other person’s face with the near-guaranteed response, “Thank you!”


Then transition with a simple “by the way, I’m (name),” and let the conversation flow from there.


I don’t have many solutions that I consider foolproof, but this one is at the top of the list.


And I’m not the only one who believes in the power of the simple compliment.


This week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Lisa DiPaolo, CHRO of Karyopharm Therapeutics not only believes in the power of compliments, she made them the focus of her 24-hour influence challenge to us all: She challenges us to compliment as many people as possible within 24 hours.



Lisa also shared how she chose to be vulnerable with her team after a disappointing experience. Rather than hiding her emotions, she courageously expressed her feelings, creating a safe space for her team to open up as well. This vulnerability, rather than weakening her influence, actually strengthened the bond between her and her team.


It's a remarkable reminder of the power of authenticity and the potential it holds to forge meaningful connections with others.


We also explored various strategies for communicating in diverse cultural contexts and critically important tips to remember when communicating with non-native English speakers, no matter how fluent they may be.


Listen to the full podcast here or watch the video here.


By embracing vulnerability, expressing genuine appreciation, and actively engaging with others, we can create a positive ripple effect that brightens not only our lives but also the lives of those around us.

Are you being humble, or Just Timid?

There’s one question I hear more than any other when helping clients prepare for career interviews:


“How can I talk about my accomplishments without sounding like I’m bragging?”


The beauty of this question is that there actually is a simple answer at its foundation. Here’s the secret:


                Stick with nouns and verbs; avoid adjectives and adverbs.


In the context of describing accomplishments, nouns and verbs describe concrete actions and results, e.g.:


  • I designed and led the initiative that increased revenue by 130% in 12 months
  • I ran a team of eight direct reports at the X level with 65 total employees under me
  • When X emergency hit, my team and I worked round the clock to get everything back up and running in under 36 hours.
  • I brought together leaders from four different departments and facilitated negotiations until we reached agreement on X.
  • I’ve helped clients save over $5 million in expenses/taxes/lawsuits/other
  • My clients’ average rate of return is X%, which is Y% above market average.


The key is that you can’t state that you think you’re an awesome/inspirational/expert leader; ascribing such evaluations to yourself most definitely does sound like you’re rather full of yourself, to say the least, and makes the listener doubt the validity of your claims at worst.


But if hearing you state those matter-of-fact results makes the listener think to herself, “Wow, that’s amazing! This person must be really organized/expert/inspirational as a leader,” then GREAT. As long as they derive that conclusion for themselves, they will believe it, and you’re not bragging!


Now, this gets more complicated in other contexts aside from interviews, when people are not likely to say, “Tell me about your accomplishments.”


And it gets even more complicated when you’re either a person who does not like to draw any attention to themselves, or were raised to believe that humility was not just a requirement, but an all-or-none concept, in which you were either being “humble” or “arrogant,” period.


Although well intended, this framework is limiting in its application.


For example, in the American workplace (and many other contexts), to some extent or other, it’s important to learn to advocate for yourself. Do you want to be considered for a promotion, to lead a project, or to have face-time with a new client? Heck, do you even want people to listen to your opinion? You need to step up and throw your proverbial hat in the ring.


But you also have to ask yourself: are there times when I don’t speak up, and justify my silence as virtuous humility, when in reality, I’m making excuses to avoid taking risks and being vulnerable?


In other words: At times, are you truly being humble, or just timid?


This powerful challenge was posed on the Speaking to Influence podcast by my guest this week, Aïcha Ly, Head of Consumer Insights at OpenSignal.


What’s the difference, you might ask?


Aïsha laid it out, plain and simple: when you act (or fail to act) out of timidity, people won’t know the value you can bring to the world.





In our conversation, Aïcha shares her insights on:

  • How to showcase your gifts while still being humble, and without sounding arrogant
  • How to find the courage to be deliberate about what you want to say
  • The importance of working with people who have different skills but similar values and standards
  • How to empower others to solve their own problems (and how to resist the urge to solve their problems for them)

and more.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.


Aïcha won’t tell you how amazing of a guest she was – but you can take my word for it, and tune in. Trust me: you’ll draw the very same conclusion for yourself right from the start!

Does This Habit Hold You Captive?

Senior year in high school, my history class took a field trip to Washington DC. There were a lot of powerful moments in that trip, but one that sticks with me is standing in the Jefferson Memorial and reading the quote inscribed around the inside of the dome:


“I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”


As we celebrate Independence Day this week here in the US, this quote jumped back into mind, and I found myself pondering what other kinds of “tyranny over the mind” we are still fighting, perhaps without even knowing it.


Then I spotted a book on my desk I’ve been reading and thoroughly enjoying, and I realized what’s probably the most prevalent form of covert tyranny over our minds in daily life. (No, it’s not social media, but it’s right up there).


The book is called Perfect Attendance: Being Present for Life, by my good friend (and apparently terrific author too), Harriet Stein.



The tyranny: habitual, compulsive multitasking.


  • We eat lunch while in meetings instead of taking a lunch break.
  • We catch up on the news while making dinner or folding laundry
  • We send emails while sitting in the bleachers at our kids’ sporting events
  • We glance at text messages while in conversation with someone else
  • We even respond to text/Slack/Teams messages while walking to the bathroom (but not while in the bathroom, no, we’d never do that…)


Sound familiar?


But more powerful and tyrannical is the mental multitasking, which is even more compulsive and far less conscious in our behavioral self-awareness.


It’s where our thoughts go when they should be somewhere else.


If you’ve been in conversation with someone and they’ve ever testily said, “Hello? Did you hear anything I just said?”, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.


We’re not mentally present to ourselves or to others when our brains are simultaneously


  • Chastising ourselves for the hundredth time about something we should or shouldn’t have said in last week’s meeting
  • Stressing about an upcoming meeting (so as not to make the same mistake again)
  • Making a mental to-do list of things we don’t want to forget in planning someone’s birthday party
  • Worrying that the outfit we’re wearing doesn’t fit the way it used to
  • Wondering when we’ll hear back about that promotion
  • Stewing over last night’s argument with a family member


You know that list is endless.


Harriet’s book is full of crystal-clear anecdotes that keep evoking the same mental response (“Oh shoot, yep, I’m guilty of that one too…”), followed by simple 30-second exercises to help recognize where we allow our thoughts to hold us hostage and stop the cycle, in order to find more joy in every day.


How’s that for an independence worth celebrating?


Oh – and to Harriet’s credit, Perfect Attendance is NOT available in Audible format… so you can’t multitask while reading it!


Of course, we still want you to enjoy your favorite podcasts, whether while walking the dog, driving to a weekend barbecue or to keep you company over breakfast, so this week we thought we’d give you a chance to catch up in case you missed an episode or two along the way.


Here are a few of the highest ranking “Speaking to Influence” episodes to date according to Apple Podcasts:



Ep. 146 – Yesi Morillo, SVP Citi – “Stay Ready!”




Ep. 153 – Dina Pokedoff, Senior Vice President of Kuehne + Nagel: Grit and Resilience




Ep. 131 – Dave Rowan – CEO, BLOCS: Curating Stories and Fostering Donor Relationships




Ep. 104 – Marc Brownstein, President & CEO of the Brownstein Group: Repeatable Messaging and Brand Longevity




Ep. 132 – Rachael Jones – CEO, Syntax, a Redesign Health Company: Stakeholder Messaging and Radical Accountability



Ep. 105 – Cindy Lewis – CFO of Coho Partners, Ltd: Accountability and the Three C’s of Influence





Thanks for being a part of our Speaking to Influence community. As always, questions, feedback, or topic suggestions are always welcome so feel free to reach out to us.

Yesterday we celebrated the independence of our country. Starting today, let’s celebrate being mentally free and fully present in every day.

Is it More Important to Be Comfortable or Truthful?

I was in a business development seminar a while ago, when the facilitator said three words that smacked me in the face:




Now, I would not label myself as one who is typically conflict averse. But if I’m being honest with myself, there are definitely things I procrastinate, whether consciously or unconsciously, for example:


  • Getting started on big projects that I want to do, but find intimidating or overwhelming in their scope
  • Anything that requires learning some new technology
  • Starting any writing from a blank page
  • And yes, even the occasional conversation if there's enough potential for drama.


Sure, avoidance of anything can be counterproductive, even self-sabotaging, but selfish?


But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right.


If I want to build a new program because I believe it will allow me to train or coach even more people, but I delay creating it, I’m prioritizing my own comfort over my desire to serve others. That’s selfish.


If I delay learning some new technology that would help my business run more smoothly because “I’m too busy” (or I just dread the thought of having to learn it,) thereby potentially creating more legwork for my team, that’s selfish.


And if I put off having a feedback or accountability conversation with someone, I can tell myself it’s because “it’s not that important” or that I don’t want to upset them, but it just allows the problems to drag out. That’s selfish.


Now that’s not to say that I should just be tactless and blunt, under the guise of simply “telling the truth” or “calling it like I see it.” After all, the beauty and power of diplomacy is the ability to make a point without making an enemy, as Daniele Vare purportedly said.


But avoiding the issue overall prioritizes my own comfort over what I know is ultimately more important, and isn't in service of anyone other than myself. And that’s certainly not a hallmark of leadership.


Without using the judgmental labels like “selfish,” (no matter HOW apropos it might be,) in this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Dr. Bill Auxier, President and CEO of the Center for Rural Health Leadership, asks an equally powerful question:


“Is it more important to be comfortable, or to deliver the message?”


He actually asked himself that question as a way of overcoming his nerves when faced with a major public speaking opportunity. Regardless of the context, the question demands serious introspection.


Bill is also a renowned author, speaker, and teacher, and boy did he share some powerful stories that landed key lessons.



Want another one?


How’s this: What’s the ROI (return on investment) of always needing to be “right”?


Does your need to be right (and have the other person admit that they’re wrong) ever overshadow the bigger picture? When you win those battles, is the momentary catharsis of victory worth whatever fallout comes later?


Or how about this: Bill shares his definition of leadership and challenges us to come up with our own personal definition in one sentence or less. Talk about the need to cut the fluff and be crystal clear on what matters most!


Our conversation looked at these questions and more through the unique lens of the challenges in rural healthcare.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.