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.

What if You’re Not the Obvious Choice?

“Did you always know that this was what you wanted to do for a living?”


“Sweetheart, I didn’t even know what I do now was ‘a thing’ until someone offered to pay me to do it!”


The conversation was with my older son a few years ago when he was a senior in high school, trying to figure out where to apply for college, what to major in, and what he wanted to be – you know, for the rest of his life.


I wasn’t trying to be flippant with my answer; it was the simple truth. Did my undergrad major (or master’s degree… or PhD… or the various jobs in between) each contribute a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that evolved into my current role and niche?




Did any of them make me the obvious choice to take a leadership role in the world of executive coaching?


Not that *I* ever would have predicted.


But while in the corporate world I may not be a fit as CEO, it does allow me to offer a unique value that’s – to use a West Wing analogy (totally worth binge watching if you never saw the series) – around three parts Annabeth (media advisor), two parts each Toby (communications director) and Sam (speechwriter), and one part each Josh (political advisor) and CJ (press secretary), all working together to elevate the reputation and success rate of you as President Bartlett.


It may not have been the obvious choice from a career planning angle, but it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.


It just goes to show – just because someone doesn’t appear to be the best fit, that doesn’t mean they aren’t exactly what was needed.


Who’s a prime example of that? My guest on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, Chrissy McGarry, COO of Second Front Systems, a national security software company.


Now, as you might well guess, the defense tech world is full of people who are long-time security industry professionals, with backgrounds in programming/development or other computer-related skills, and are, well, male.


Chrissy is exactly none of those.


But as a millennial woman with a background in sales and marketing, she has learned to translate her skills and experience to the role, and is killing it as an executive in the industry.



In this conversation you’ll hear how Chrissy tackles all this and more head-on with a dose of humor to keep it all real as she shares:


  • The value you bring to the table when there may not be someone like you present.
  • The power in having your peers speak to who you are, what you do, and why you are here.
  • Her secrets for redirecting challenging conversations when she has been underestimated
  • How true leaders “pay it forward” and seek to influence beyond their sphere.
  • The inherent strength in always asking how to get even better
  • And her personal philosophy of always striving to “leave it better than you found it.”


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


And speaking of “paying it forward” and having an even greater sphere of influence, if you know that speaking engagements like podcasts are key to expanding that sphere of influence and impact, whether for yourself or your clients, join me Friday for my next LinkedIn Live event:


“Podcast Ready: Prepare Your Clients To Be Awesome Interview Guests.” June 23, 2023, 12:00 PM- 1:00 PM ET. Register here.


After three years of being a podcast host, and a decade of being on other people’s shows, I can tell you what hosts LOVE and what is most frustrating when interviewing guests.


Want to be the best-of-the-best guest, with amazing experiences, mesmerizing stories, fabulous rapport, and the optimal partnership attitude?


(In other words, want to be the kind of guest that hosts invite back again and introduce to other podcast hosts?)


Join us Friday to find out!

Which Pitch Will Change Your Life?

As the story goes, Colonel Harland Sanders was rejected 1009 times before someone believed in him and the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which began the now-global franchise.


That’s not a typo: one thousand and nine rejections.


Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen heard “No” 144 times by all the major publishing houses in New York before HCI, a little Florida-based self-help publishing company said yes to the original Chicken Soup for the Soul.


Even J.K. Rowling got rejection letters from twelve different publishers before Bloomsbury saw the genius potential of all things Harry Potter.


They all kind of remind me of that scene from the movie Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts walks back into the boutique in Beverly Hills where the sales women had refused to wait on her the day before. She shows them all her bags of purchases from other stores and says:


“You work on commission, don’t you?”

“Yes,” one woman replies.

“Big mistake. Big. HUGE. I have to go shopping now…” and she walks out the door.


They’re all such fabulous stories of perseverance and vindication when it seems like the universe is telling you to give up.


Even Dave Noll – co-creator of the mega-hit Food Network franchise CHOPPED and more than 60 other television shows, and my guest on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast – knows what that’s like.


He actually crunched the numbers and realized that in his business it takes 960 pitches to create one mega-hit.


Again, that’s not a typo: Nine hundred and sixty pitches.


But here’s the mic-drop: As Dave so wisely put it, “You don't know which pitch will change your life.”



Knowing that that’s the path forward, and that it’s all part of the process, Dave stays motivated by celebrating each “No” he receives with the understanding that there are only 959 (958…957…) more pitches to go!


Now maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not in television, or an entrepreneur, or in a sales job, so this isn’t relevant to me.


Au contraire.


Zig Ziglar, one of the original sales gurus of the last century, observed: “I have always said that everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of salesperson, but if the business you are in requires you to deal with people, you, my friend, are in sales.


If you have ever tried to:


  •   Float an idea to your team…
  •  Throw your hat in the ring for a promotion…
  • Argue for or against a particular course of action…
  • Advocate on behalf of someone else…
  • Intervene to de-escalate a conflict…


Or even (*ahem*) try to convince someone to listen to a particular podcast…


…you, my friend, are in sales.


Just ask cosmetics pioneer Estée Lauder, who asserted, “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.”


So ask yourself: What do YOU believe in, and do you do it justice when you try to “sell” the idea to someone?


From one unofficial “sales person” to another, one of the many (MANY!) major expert insights Dave offers regarding creating a compelling, successful pitch is the importance of focusing on that “one thing” that brings your whole idea together.


How, you ask?


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




Because the next pitch just might change your life.


PS: If you are looking for additional guidance on how to enhance your (or your client’s) reputation as a go-to thought leader and create even more of those life-changing opportunities, join me for my next LinkedIn Live: “Podcast Ready: Prepare Your Clients (or yourself) to be Awesome Interview Guests.”.

The Truth about what Happens to Your Brain on Zoom Meetings

Some traditions are powerful, even in their simplicity.


This weekend we celebrated Memorial Day, an annual favorite holiday of mine, as our tradition is to celebrate it with extended family at the beach.


Staring at the ocean, the soft, rhythmic roar of the waves is almost hypnotic, allowing me to step out of autopilot from the daily rat race, and most importantly, get grounded. It gives me the space to:


  • Give thanks and honor all those who have served our country, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, so that I can have the freedom and security to pursue my dreams
  • Check my ego at the door, reminding me how small I am in the grand scheme of the universe
  • Take stock of all my blessings, such as a fulfilling career, good health, and a loving family
  • Sit with my thoughts and get back in sync with my goals, values, and what matters most in life.


This last one is particularly important, as we don’t tend to realize how easy it is to get out of synchrony with ourselves and others when our brains are going in too many directions at once. This makes it really hard to form and feel a connection with the very people we’re communicating with in the moment.


Nowhere is this more evident than in the perpetual sense of disconnect we still commonly feel when meeting others in daily video conferences.


But why does that happen?


That’s exactly the mystery we sought to unravel this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast with neurophysiologist and psychiatrist Dr. Jennie Byrne of Constellation PLLC.



If you have theories about why we think, feel and behave the way we do (for better and – *ahem* – for worse) on video calls, Dr. Jennie pulls back the curtain to our brain’s behavior and explains once and for all why it happens, why you can forgive yourself for a lot of your less-than-optimal reflexes and preferences, and how to make the experience BETTER for everyone.


Want a sneak preview? We explored:


  • The real neuroscience of “Zoom fatigue,” (hint: it’s related to our caveman brain’s need to escape hungry lions)
  • How to have more successful virtual meetings (hint: it's about making our caveman brain feel safe)
  • How synchrony plays an essential role in creating the feeling of being connected with other people, and how to strengthen that connection
  • How to make virtual encounters feel more like being in person
  • How to leverage the uniquely equalizing features of video meetings to encourage more even participation and ensure everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of role or position


And so much more!


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


And in case you didn’t have the chance to do it yesterday, don’t forget take a moment for yourself to get grounded again, take stock, and give thanks for all you have in your life too.


Better yet, if you can, thank a veteran or first responder directly.


On that note, for all of you who are or were military service members or first responders and related roles, a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU!

Which is More Intentional: How You Speak or How You Live?

I’ve always been a huge musical theater fan. Show-stopping tunes like “One Day More” from Les Miserables, “The Gods Love Nubia” from Aida, “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, and more recently “My Shot” from Hamilton leave me on the edge of my seat.


But what makes these shows so powerful is not just their ability to have key songs cycle on perpetual loop through my head for weeks on end afterward. It’s the messages that they leave equally indelible on my brain.


Although I only managed to see the recorded version of Hamilton on Disney+, one line that has stuck with me was from Alexander Hamilton (who ostensibly made as many enemies as friends for being so vocal and opinionated) to Aaron Burr (whose motto was “talk less, smile more; don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”)


At one point, Hamilton challenges him: “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?”


While there was inevitably a ton of artistic license taken in the show overall, it doesn’t change the relevance of the fact that Hamilton’s life – at least professionally – was singularly focused, and intentional.


That’s also why I loved the theme of this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast , as Kevin Nolan, CEO of Nolan Painting, Inc., drives home the importance of being “abundantly clear about what you want in life, (and living) deliberately.”



Part of living and leading intentionally is reflected in their remarkable Nolan Painting Promise to their customers which has driven their success for over 25 years. It states outright that they will:


  • Start and finish on time
  • Maintain a neat, clean project
  • Handle all the details,
  • Stand behind the work, and
  • Assure the highest quality.


Each of these action steps is a direct manifestation of that philosophy that every choice and action must be intentional. And each statement in that promise is something that his employees can articulate explicitly, and mean it.


It's about consciously shaping our lives, careers, and relationships through words and actions that allows us to leave a meaningful impact and create a legacy that lasts.


Even his 24-hour influence challenge is about how to get “abundantly clear” on what you want.


It’s making intentional choices, taking intentional steps, and speaking intentionally and decisively … and it all starts with writing a letter to yourself.


You can listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

Why and How to Take the (Verbal) Road Less Traveled

Do any of the following sound familiar?


  • You thought you hit reply… but actually hit reply-all
  • You agreed to help someone with something before realizing exactly what you just committed yourself to doing
  • You said something to someone, and instantly realized it sounded different (and much better) in your head
  • You rambled on and on in the answer you gave (in conversation or email), and realized later that most of what you said was utterly unnecessary


The list goes on, but I’ll spare your cringe-reflex.


A few applications like Gmail or WhatsApp allow written messages to be deleted or unsent, at least for a few seconds. But when you’re speaking to another person, once the words are out of your mouth, you can’t put them back in.


We've all been on that road far too many times, wishing we had taken a different path.


Fortunately, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence podcast, Karen Mangia, President & CSO of the Engineered Innovation Group, shared three key steps (“The Three Ps”) to avoiding those moments of massive regret.


1. PAUSE – Write a draft then put it away for a while and revisit with fresh eyes later before hitting the “send” button, or wait until you’re calmer before confronting someone about whatever displeased you.


2. PONDER – Ask yourself some key questions before you hit send, such as


a. Do those thoughts truly need to be expressed?

b. How should they best be expressed?

c. Do they need to be expressed right now?

d. Do they need to be expressed by you?

e. Is it better to send an email, text, pick up the phone, or walk into their office?

f. Who else should or should NOT be copied?

g. What impact do you want it to have, and what do you think the impact will be?

h. Was the sentiment and intention clearly communicated?


3. PRIORITIZE – Your to-do list is huge… but don’t get lost in the weeds. Ask yourself:


a. What needs to get done first?

b. What information is most important and should be included?

c. What could and should you omit?



Karen was a veritable fount of knowledge. In our conversation she also covered:


  • The importance of defining what success looks like for each one of us in order to achieve it
  • How changing your story changes your results
  • How to connect with the other person in every conversation
  • How to avoid falling into bad habits of lecturing others instead of listening
  • Why and how to take a moment to listen to yourself.


And if that’s not enough, she shares her six-step formula for paving the way to take the charge out of difficult conversations. The acronym to help you remember the formula? SCI-PAB.


Oh – you wanted me to tell you what SCI-PAB stands for? You’ll have to tune in to the episode, or watch it on YouTube here – enjoy!

Why Does a Dog Wag Its Tail?

Q: “Why does a dog wag its tail?”

A: “Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog.”

The notion of “the tail wagging the dog” is an expression that has been around for 150 years, alluding to the idea of something small and seemingly inconsequential controlling a much larger, more important or powerful body.


Although the expression is more commonly used in reference to political distraction and subterfuge tactics, the fact is that in today’s digital world of “nothing is ever deleted or forgotten,” we all have to be almost obsessively careful about what we post or say in public.


A single off-hand remark or clumsily stated comment in the wrong context that gets posted online can require massive amounts of damage control to everything from personal reputations to elections to stock markets… and those are some seriously big dogs!


The office “grapevine” or “rumor mill” is a dangerous place for hearsay to turn into gossip and widespread panic. As leaders, the moment we get wind of such a storm brewing, it’s essential to face it head on.


As Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire global payment network, said in this week's episode of Speaking to Influence, “If you don't set the narrative, the narrative is going to be set for you.”



The person who sets the narrative controls the wagging, and thus the outcome.


Mike shares an incredible story about a time when FlyWire was in discussions to acquire another company, and word leaked in that organization about the possibility of acquisition, creating panic among its employees.


Not wanting to trigger a mass exodus of employees or find himself with an angry mob of a workforce, Mike went against much conventional wisdom and most advice he received, got on a plane and flew out to address the entire organization in person.


Want to know what happened next? Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


Mike offers tons of stories and insights regarding:


  • the importance of resourcefulness and a willingness to learn, especially in fast-paced industries
  • the challenges of transitioning from a private to a public company in a volatile economy
  • the significance of considering all aspects of a potential business transaction,
  • How to treat employees with respect during a company acquisition,
  • And of course, how to establish a leadership narrative.


Setting the right, consistent narrative does wonders for instilling faith in your organization.


And that’s true whether it’s a secular or faith-based institution alike. Which is exactly what I had the pleasure of discussing with Jim Friend this week on his podcast, “Advancing our Church.”


I’ve worked with many religious organizations, from speaking at national Jewish philanthropy conferences to running public speaking workshops for seminarians and beyond, and it’s beautiful to contribute to the goal shared by all: doing good in the world by teaching people to love one another.


Jim and I dive into:


  • The value of storytelling, even in the form of parables
  • The importance of using accessible language and knowing your audience
  • How to motivate and mobilize a board
  • Do’s and don’ts for inspirational lectoring
  • And, per our theme today, strategies for crisis communication, in order to avoid letting the tail wag the dog


Regardless of your own personal faith traditions or beliefs, you’ll be surprised at how relevant, helpful, and even fun our conversation is! Tune in… and wag your tail.

How to Be a Fly on the Wall

Did you ever wish you could be a fly on a wall, undetected but freely able to listen to people’s conversations so you’d know everything that was going on?


The closest I ever came was when I moved to Japan to teach high school English. I was instructed to run an immersion class, all in English, so I would chat in Japanese with other teachers in the staff lounge, but not when students were around, and never in English class.


In class I allowed students to use Japanese as needed to help each other with group activities. It was fun to walk around the classroom, monitoring progress, and see which groups were diligently working on the assignment even if using some Japanese, and which groups looked very studious, but were talking in Japanese about movies and baseball and anything but the assignment at hand.


“Have you found the answer to number three?” I’d ask a group in English, prompting some sheepish looks among the teammates.


“Um… still thinking, teacher,” inevitably came the reply.


I see…


At the end of the first semester, I opened the class in Japanese.


After a moment of stunned silence, one student finally asked, “Teacher, why didn’t you tell us you spoke Japanese?”


I shrugged with a smile. “You never asked.”


I’m not sure which of us learned more valuable lessons that semester!


One of my favorite television shows from a few years back offered similar “fly on the wall” learning opportunities in the business world.


It was called “Undercover Boss,” and presidents or CEOs from major corporations would wear a disguise and pose as a new employee at different stores or facilities in their company to identify which people, products and systems were — or weren’t — working well, through first-hand, unfiltered experience.


Oh, the stories they were able to tell when they were done!


And after producing dozens of these episodes, Damon D’Amore, one of the producers of Undercover Boss and other related shows, and founder of Legacy Mentor, has plenty of stories to tell of his own.



This week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Damon shares some of the biggest leadership lessons he learned through working with all of those executives, and how he translates those lessons into helping C-level executives improve their performance and tell their story to stakeholders today.


Damon offers in-depth insights, strategies and tactics on

  • how to get better at the three core components of crisis leadership,
  • The difference between getting comfortable being uncomfortable and merely getting “out of your comfort zone”
  • making sure you know who your audience actually is and how you need to connect with them
  • knowing the three most important parts of a story, and
  • how to shift your mindset from being reactive to proactive.


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


And of course, beware what you say – you never know who is listening!