BLOG: Extraordinary Leadership and High Functioning Teams

3 Keys to Reinvigorating Your Work and Your Life

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, Jul 14, 2016

It’s vacation time! Hopefully you are taking one and feeling reinvigorated when you return. What else can you do to keep yourself and your company refreshed, rejuvenated and invigorated? Here are our keys:
1. Take a new view 
Physically, this is as simple as moving to a different seat, desk, room, venue. Do what it takes to turn around and take a different view. Or to take a new mental view and play devil’s advocate on a topic with a colleague - ask them to switch “sides” with you and have fun poking holes in your previously held beliefs or suggestions. (Note: this takes courage and the ability to get out of your comfort zone.) 
2. Get exposed to a lot of new ideas in a short period of time
Attend a conference whether it is in your field or not or carve out an hour to read as many different articles online as possible about a topic that intrigues you, and then go talk to someone about them
3. Pick a passion
Identify a topic, challenge, love, field, idea, or anything that energizes you, and dedicate some time to it. Our secret this year was doing it as a group. 
Every year as a company we make the commitment to grow and develop ourselves personally and professionally, much as we encourage our clients to do the same. We have the same possible excuses NOT to do so as you do: we are heads down on projects, there’s no way we can leave the office for a day, much less a week; we can read about it later; maybe one of us should go and tell the rest. You name it, we’ve said it; same as you. But every year we sign up, we go, we learn, we share. And we are are completely energized, jazzed, thrilled, and renewed.
So far, this year has been particularly robust with development opportunities, including:
1. Take a new view: In March we moved to larger space!!! And that provided a lot of new views and discussions and the opportunity to create new collaborative space that inspires not only us, but our clients, too.
2. This May we were exposed to myriad new technology and ideas for talent development at the spectacular ATD (Association for Talent Development) conference this summer in Denver. We got to see Simon Sinek and Brene Brown in person.
3. And we have so many passions it’s hard to pick, but we did. Since we are all dedicated to the practice of appreciating diverse perspectives and experiences, it was a natural fit for us to dedicate ourselves to a 4-day immersion on Inter-Cultural Intelligence, a program born overseas and brought to the US by Knowledgeworkx. Experiential, insightful, exploratory. A remarkable experience for each of us as individuals and for us as a company. 
Talk about extremes:  
  • with ATD we were surrounded by 10,000+ of our closest allies in talent development for 4 days in Denver, attending up to 5 workshops a day plus keynotes, meeting fascinating people from around the globe, hearing personal and professional stories that inspired and enlightened
  • with ICI we were off the grid for 4 intense days with 20 other people from around the globe, absorbed in the experience and discussions about a topic of great interest and need for all of us: opening our eyes to inter-cultural intelligence
More on the content of the ICI program in a future blog.  For now, say hello to a passionate group of global leaders from the Atlanta program March, 2016:  
 Photo courtesy of KnowledgeWorkx Newsletter
So, what’s your secret for getting out of your own way and staying refreshed, energized, passionate about your work and your life?

Invite Clearwater Consulting to speak at your event.

Tags: work life balance

5 Ways To Help Your Employees and Future Leaders Improve Their Executive Presence

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Jul 12, 2016


Executive Presence is frequently talked about in the business world. It’s meant to describe those employees who have the “right stuff” for promotion into leadership roles and positions. While many might believe they possess the proper leadership competencies and personality traits to move up, their boss and peers might not have the same perspective.

Do your employees and future leaders understand Executive Presence? Are they often frustrated when getting passed over for new projects or promotions? Do they know how other team members and managers perceive them? These are questions that HR professionals must help them address as part of their organization's Leadership Development programs.

What is Executive Presence?

First, let's understand exactly what Executive Presence means. Executive Presence is the ability to project leadership, technical, communication and behavioral skills combined with confidence, remaining cool under pressure, poise, assertiveness and appearance. It’s not just having the right professional job experience; it’s exuding your abilities through your demeanor, influence, and business results. You’re sending the “right” signals to others so they perceive you as a leader.

5 Ways to Help Your Employees and Future Leaders Develop Executive Presence

  1. Help Them Assess Their Current Status
    Do they create a positive impression? Are they able to engage and influence others? Does their appearance and communication reflect a commitment to being remarkable? Be honest about it. The only way for them to get better is to have them look at their executive presence and realistically rate themselves to see what areas they need improvement. Use this free short assessment to get started.

  2. Help Them Develop Their Vision of Career Success
    Where do they want to take their career? They'’ll never get there if they don’t have a destination or goal. Help them develop their vision with the GROW model. 
    1. Goal: Begin with a destination. What job title or role do they aspire to? What would they feel if you achieved it?
    2. Reality Check: Take stock of the situation. Is this role realistic? How has their past job experience prepared them for this new vision?
    3. Options: Brainstorm possibilities. Brainstorm as many ideas as they can that would support their advancement to this role. What actions can they take to move forward?
    4. What’s Next? Move the action forward. What is one specific action they can take immediately to be ready for their new role? How committed are they to making this a priority?

  3. Assess Their Leadership Brand. Have them think of the top 6 to 8 words that best describe themselves. Are they known for being kind, direct, creative, focused, calm or passionate? How are they misperceived or misunderstood? Which single brand characteristic could they focus on to improve?

  4. Help Them Build Confidence by Seeking FeedForward. Confidence is built through greater self-awareness and truth talk. Unfortunately many people view feedback as “bad” and fear hearing what they are doing “wrong”. Teach them to seek FeedForward by picking one behavior they want to change or improve. Have the employee describe this behavior to a colleague and ask him/her for two suggestions for the future that will help them improve it. Have them listen to these suggestions and thank the colleague for the ideas. Have the employee refrain from commenting on what the colleague said or getting defensive about their suggestions.

  5. Help them Develop Integrity. Do they value honesty, directness, ambition, creativity, courage, facts, or a supportive atmosphere? Have them rank their top 10 values in order of importance from 1 to 10 and think of a time when their values were tested. Did they deviate from their values under pressure? What would they do differently if they could do it over again?

Once they begin to focus on developing their Executive Presence, they will find their voice as a leader. Their boss and peers will stand up and take notice when they do.


Tags: leadership development, leadership coaching, Executive Presence

Leadership Development and the Foreign Concept of Seeking Feedback

Posted by Conni Todd on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

cc_360_degree_feedback_programsIt is our experience from working with hundreds of leaders that the opportunity to actually seek feedback is a foreign concept. So much so that to really stand out today, a leader needs to learn to take charge of his/her own career and become more proactive in seeking feedback that is future oriented and given consistently.

What does a leader do to enhance his/her chances for growing and developing inside an organization? For many, this notion of leadership development means waiting for the annual or mid-year review process to see how the boss is feeling about their performance.

Accentuating the negative is easy to do. As human beings, our brains are wired for finding fault with performance and the feedback delivered tends to focus on what happened in the past. “This report is filled with errors and you need to do a better job proofing” may leave one feeling awful about their work and anxious about turning in future assignments. When this negativity bias is combined with a boss or leader’s desire to avoid actually giving the feedback to a direct report in the first place, we find leaders who lack a true understanding of how their boss feels about their performance at all (80% of the population is conflict or bad news avoidant).

The opportunity for making adjustments or leveraging strengths is harder to do when we don’t know how our boss feels about us or, if all we ever hear is what we did wrong. In the workplace, this approach rarely results in improved performance without negative consequence to relationships and culture. 

According to Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, if the intent of feedback is positive behavior change then “the focus should be on a positive future, not a failed past.” Being proactive by asking for feedback takes Goldsmith’s theory to a new level; seeking Feedforward is the differentiator
 that separates leaders who are extraordinary from those who are just ordinary!  

Why does developing the skill of actually seeking feedforward move you from ordinary to extraordinary?

  • It sets you apart from peers as someone who really wants to hear what you need to do to improve
  • It makes it easy for your boss to give you feedforward (very few leaders look forward to giving feedback on performance)
  • It allows you to set the boundaries for how feedforward is shared with you

There are 2 important steps to collecting feedforward:

  1. Ask directly for what the boss liked about the way you handled the situation (meeting, presentation, sales call, assignment, etc.)
  2. Ask the boss specifically what you can do to improve future presentations (sales calls, meetings, etc.) 

 “When you think of giving feedbacktry giving feedforward...focus on the promise of the future rather than the mistakes of the past”

--Dr. Marshall Goldsmith,

World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker

Feedback is a gift when delivered in a feedforward fashion. You can receive such a gift simply by asking for it. Do so and embrace your road to extraordinary leadership. Let us know how it goes.

assess your feedback skills


Tags: definition of leadership, leadership development, 360 Feedback for Leaders

7 Bad Leaders Who Can Ruin Your Company's Reputation

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Wed, Jun 01, 2016

cc_difficult_conversations_004.jpgWhile our firm has the luxury of working with some really terrific companies around helping develop their leaders for the future, not every company understands the need to be congruent on what they say they want in their leaders' behaviors AND what they actually get in behavior. We are always amazed by the notion that some companies prioritize a leader's results over bad leadership behavior without even considering how this could affect the company's reputation in the long run.

We see this time and time again in the following illustrated examples:

  1. Leaders with 360 feedbeek results where direct reports fear reprisal or backlash for telling the truth, so they sugarcoat their real feelings about the leader's performance and impact 

  2. Team leaders who only think "I" instead of "we" and undermine the growth and development of the talent on the team by focusing only their own accomplishments

  3. Leaders who only know how to direct or tell their people what to do, not empower or problem solve dilemmas with future impact, treating their people like order takers, or even worse, like sheep

  4. Boorish leaders on a power trip who talk badly about direct reports who are not in the meeting

  5. Leaders who blame others instead of stepping up and taking responsibility

  6. Leaders who want to control every aspect of their functional area

  7. Leaders who bully or intimidate based on their power base
The impact this bad behavior has on your company is often hard to measure. You may fool yourself into thinking that as long as the results are good, everything is okay and that is the problem. Somewhere in your organization, right now, there is a person who reports to one of these difficult leaders and they are thinking:
  • Why do we even have a leadership competency model if we are not going to use it?

  • What is management thinking by tolerating, and even celebrating, this leader as a high potential?

  • How do I get out of here? It is time to look for a new job because they just don't care.

  • Why should I stay late to finish this project when my leader doesn't care about me?

We know that people do not leave companies -  they leave bad bosses. But you can bet when they are out in the community or have landed at another company and are asked about their employment at your company, they will talk about that bad boss and they will also show their anger and disappointment with your company.
 What are you doing to develop your leaders so that their behavior and their results are in alignment? Your company's reputation just might depend on your answer to this question.

  prepare for a difficult conversation in the workplace

Tags: leadership development, leadership coaching

6 Steps to Clarity of Vision for Visionary Leadership

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Mon, May 23, 2016


If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine De Saint Exupery

Clarity of Vision for Visionary Leadership

At Clearwater Consulting Group, we work with many clients who are trying to calibrate goals, starting with the corporate set and drilling down through to the individual list. Inevitably, we see a pattern where the initiative fizzles out or gets bogged down. Why? There are myriad reasons, but let’s focus on a couple of the most common, both practical and emotional.

To answer the question "Where are we going?", it requires clarity of vision. Definition. A clear picture. Whether we answer that question for ourselves as individual leaders, for a team, a division, or an organization, we need to envision an outcome as a future reality.

Emotionally, it depends on whether we can see ourselves in that picture and whether we buy into the vision and the philosophy behind it. Yes, that sounds like a logical (practical) act, but in reality it is more an emotional one of commitment, of finding meaning. When my work supports the future vision, it is meaningful work for the company. When that vision and my values align, it is meaningful to me. When leaders create the environment in which that bridge occurs, it is potent. Incredibly.

“A leader has a vision and a conviction that a dream can be achieved. S/he inspires the power and the energy to get it done.” - Ralph Lauren

So first, how to translate vision into strategy with teeth? Consider the following:

1. How clear and concise is your vision? (Ask others for their evaluation)

2. Can your vision be translated into 3 to 7 key strategies? And then each of those interpreted for each level within your organization?

3. Does each leader in the organization understand how they practically contribute to each of those items? Can they literally see this future and themselves in it?

4. How do you keep the conversation and the work alive to help the team stay focused and energized?

5. What level of commitment exists? How does each leader as well as their staff find personal or professional meaning in the initiatives that support achieving those strategies?

6. Do the strategies and the process to get there create the opportunity for a triple win: good for the customer, good for the company, good for the employee?

We find that many organizations stumble at step #3.

At one organization, a relatively new president cascaded his vision throughout the organization in a very simple way. No big posters in the hallway, no glitzy PowerPoint presentations, no catchy slogans. After he honed and shared the lanes they would pursue, he periodically walked the halls popping in to ask, “Which of the strategies are you supporting today?” (Note - this was in the spirit of being curious and encouraging. Staff found it liberating, not controlling or micromanaging.)

A year prior as the organization grappled with priorities, resources and identity in the midst of growing competition, the president established a few key strategies. The short list included three items: 

  • delivering what matters most to the membership (know the evolving customer)

  • accelerating relevant product development (content, process, materials)

  • implementing future oriented technology (integrated enterprise, customer facing, etc.).

The simplicity was refreshing to an organization with endless to-do lists and countless ideas of what was possible, but previously had no meaningful clarity. In addition, he held the focus with great integrity, encouraging his staff to track what specific endeavors were underway, milestones achieved, and encouraging the team to think big but practically. 

Yet, the most telling moment was when he'd pop in to an executive's office or visit one of the conference rooms where a team was bringing to life a recently brainstormed concept and ask, "Which of the strategies are you supporting today?" As simplistic as it sounds, that query, repeated over time, held the focus and inspired the commitment and creativity of the senior team and their troops.

Clarity is all. What are we doing? Who are we? Where are we heading? What's the most important thing we can be working on right now? How can I personally contribute? 

Meetings have purpose and a sense of urgency -  to bring to life these broad directives. It's less about the classic definition of time management - getting things done in a particular amount of time - but more to the point of doing things that matter, because that fuels our energy and our creativity and our pursuit of the vision. And when we personally get jazzed by the process of bringing those strategies to life, then we are engaged.

What keeps work meaningful for each of us is subjective. In general terms, ask yourself the following:

Do my values fit with those of my company? 

Can I see a positive impact of my work on something or someone? 

Specifically, what can I contribute to these strategies at hand? 

What excites me about the work? Does it require me to brainstorm, explore, prototype, test, collaborate, discern, defend, persuade, influence, fail, stretch, produce? 

Where do I fit in this?

Quote graphic above by David L. Laufer, Brandbook, LLC

 Help your leadership gain clarity of vision with our free eBook,

"3 Steps to Launch Your Extraordinary Leadership"

develop extraordinary leaders

Tags: leaders, action planning, high functioning teams, clarity of vision

Leadership Secrets: Disarm Negativity to Build Team Trust

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, May 05, 2016

According to neurological research referenced by the Neuroleadership Institute (NLI), here are two conclusions to consider in disarming negativity and building trust on a team:

  • The brain craves certainty
  • AND the brain is wired to be alert to threat

How challenging! We’re in a dynamic state of wanting one thing—assurance that all is well—and driven by the hardwiring in our brains to be on the lookout for what’s wrong, so it’s no wonder we’re stressed!

"Fruitful collaboration depends on healthy relationships, which require trust and empathy. But in the brain, the ability to feel trust and empathy about others is shaped by whether they are perceived to be part of the same social group." David Rock, "Managing with the Brain in Mind"

What can you, as the leader, do to ease these tension points?

1. Create a sense of Certainty

Given that change is constant—new team leader, new team member, new product, new competition, new owner, new problems and new opportunities—how do you as a team leader create a safe environment so that your team members can experience enough certainty that they stay focused, productive and engaged?

A key component of creating team certainty is helping your team see the horizon. Knowing what your vision is (that you have a vision!) creates a sense of direction so we know where we are going. It enables team members to prioritize and creates a sense of certainty. We want to know what to expect, what’s next, what’s in store, who we can count on—answers to these questions help relax the brain from its OMG attention to perceived danger.

  • How clear is your team about the direction you see for it, for them?

  • What information can you share with your team today that can contribute to their sense of certainty?

  • What have you been keeping from them that could disarm their unspoken worry?

  • Even if the situation has not yet been resolved, can you share the status of the situation and what is being looked into or explored?

Certainty isn’t always about having a definitive answer. It can be about feeling assured that you’re part of the solution, know as much as is reasonable at this stage, and you aren’t being completely left out and at the mercy of someone else’s decision.

2. Recognclearwater_stress_001ize and Release the Negativity Bias

There are 5x more negative networks in the brain than positive according to NLI. We are constantly scanning the surroundings for cues of what is amiss and needs to be addressed. The switch from always searching for what’s wrong or who’s wrong to what’s working and who’s contributing is actually quite significant.

Without self-reflection of our natural biases (positive, negative, open to change, resistant to change), we remain caught up in ancient habits. Yes, when the fire alarm actually detects smoke and it’s time to run out the door, we’re very happy we have these ancient wirings. But when we remain in the mode of high alert throughout the work day, we not only exhaust our minds and bodies, but we miss the cues for what’s working well!

How often do you catch yourself complaining? Is it about you, others, or the situation? Think about these as lanes in the brain that have been rutted with use over time. Choose to create a fork in the road.

3. Name the Perceived Threats

One of the tactical ways to turn down the volume on negativity, team anxiety and the collective anticipation of everything that could possibly go wrong is so simple, most people dismiss it. It's the simple act of naming what is. Labeling or naming a perceived threat or acknowledging a situation can diminish the chemical response in the brain that heightens the sense that something is amiss. And it happens very quickly.

You are actually calming yourself and the collective perception when you can guide your team to identify the elephant in the room or the perceived threat. Then it’s a shorter stretch to reach toward antidotes and solutions.

When we stay in a threat response mode all day long we are exhausted by end of day because it uses an enormous amount of brain energy to run at that high alert state (David Rock, "Managing with the Brain in Mind")

4. Identify the Dynamics on Your Team - is it one Tribe or a multitude of Warring Factions?

What's the current state and nature of your team in the workplace?

Is it a senior level team, essentially cross functional in construction? Or a project team focused on a very specific initiative?

How many of the members are new to the company, to the team, or to their roles?

Think about what happens when a new team member joins your group. First and foremost, we evaluate the individual on all levels—mentally, emotionally, physically.

  • Do they have the expertise we need and value? Are they trustworthy?
  • Do they do what they say they will do?
  • Do they share our sense of humor and social respect for others?
  • Do they look, sound, and act like me?
  • Do they “fit” with the workplace team?

Every change in personnel creates a rift in the equanimity of a team, raising into question each person's degree of power, influence, status and responsibilities.

Creating safety and building trust on a team includes helping your team develop the skills to craft certainty for themselves. It will help them build their self-awareness, practice naming what is possible and what is not, including the team dysfunction that reigns at any moment.

As the team leader, how adept are you at addressing tensions before they escalate?

How committed are you to developing your team members with the leadership skills and other crucial traits necessary to build team trust through respectful and productive interaction?

Of this, I am certain, the more of us who practice the art of creating certainty and safety for our teams, the more inspired, productive, and collaborative your team will become.

Solve team conflict with the GROW Model for Teams


Tags: building trust, high functioning teams, high performing teams, team building and accountability, leadership secrets

4 Ways to Eliminate Difficult Conversations About Performance Reviews

Posted by Karla Sinclair on Fri, Apr 29, 2016

clearwater_office_team_006-resized-600.jpgPerformance reviews remain one of the most difficult conversations that most leaders dread having with others. So what can one do to have a positive experience during a performance review? What can a person do to take the difficult conversation around performance, money or expectations and change it into a more engaging one where both parties--the manager and the direct report--walk out feeling good about things?

4 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews

  • Break annual goals into quarterly milestones and meet quarterly to review them. Whether you are the manager calling the meeting or the direct report, be sure this step happens so there are no year-end surprises. Make sure the quarterly goals align with annual performance numbers. Also, make sure your results deliver more than just the numbers. If you are a sales manager, you will be looking at the numbers consistently. But what about the specific behaviors that led up to those results? Did you establish and meet your quota on cold calls, or set and get the number of appointments you wanted to? Did you convert at a higher rate than last year? The more specifically you can tie behaviors to your numerical goals the better the conversation will go on both sides with an appreciation for the work it takes to achieve success.

  • Ask for feedback on a regular consistent basis. As the employee, take responsibility for seeking feedback. Not just from your manager but from your peers, clients, direct reports. Learn to stand out in the crowd, by asking your manager for feedback before he gives it to you. After an important board meeting or sales call, circle back and invite him/her: "tell me a few things you think I did well and a few things I can do better next time". Thank your manger for the feedback!

  • Be bold and request a 360 degree feedback assessment. As the employee, show your commitment to professional development by requesting a 360 degree feedback assessment. This is a great way to get some feedback in a more formal way and it is a great developmental tool that can improve your performance going forward. Make sure you build a plan to constructively leverage the 2-3 things you want to work on for the year after receiving your report. And, go back and thank your raters. Sharing with them what you are working to improve is a great way to create support for your development. 

  • Be prepared for the annual review by doing your homework. Both manager and employee should heed this key. From the direct report perspective, this means really bringing to the review what worked well for the year, what could have gone better and what you will focus on in the future. From the manager perspective, this means doing your homework upfront as well. Going the extra mile in sharing all the data with the review committee and challenging assumptions around the ranking system will really pay off for both your people and yourself.

Being mindful of what it takes to motivate each member of your team requires understanding who they are as individuals. If you are using the same approach with all your people, you are missing out on the ways to motivate their performance.

Consider requesting each team member complete a DiSC® profile to help you learn how to approach each person according to their style, create more trust, and communicate in a more positive manner.

So what's your experience been like with performance reviews? Have you had one you'd rather forget? And, if so what did you do to turn it around the next year? 

prepare for a difficult conversation in the workplace


Tags: difficult conversations, tough talk, performance review, Career Development

Leaders: Will your team still be engaged after summer vacations?

Posted by Karla Sinclair on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

clearwater_time_001-resized-600.jpgYes, it's still springtime, but not to early for leaders to prepare for employee summer vacations. As we have 
previously covered, vacations give employees a much needed break and time to contemplate their work situation, job satisfaction and their next career move. Some return from vacation with a renewed commitment, but not to your organization. Instead, they are committed to looking for a new job.
How can leaders ensure employees return from vacation this summer with an attitude of engagement and commitment to their team and organization? Start now in making sure they are engaged and committed before they leave for vacation!
The field of positivity supplies vast amounts of research on the connection between trust, positivity and results and the impact they produce on engagement levels and culture. Company culture and trust in leadership are key to this. 
Use the questions in Does Your Organization Have the Summertime Blues? to assess where your team and organization stand.
There are several situations leading to lack of employee satisfaction or engagement where TRUST is the underlying issue. Address them now.
Lack of trust in leadership or within teams can simmer away on its own until it reaches a full boil of distrust, lack of communication and commitment from both leaders and team members. Dysfunctional teams then spawn poor results, disengaged employees and a damaged company culture. 
Do you see yourself as a trustworthy team leader? Are you perceived as a trustworthy leader? How would you know? 
Start with learning how leaders impact trust in a team or organization. Check our post 3 Ways Leaders Erode Trust in an Organization  and use the free self-assessment there to rate your team leadership.
team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace
Clearwater Consulting Group is a nationally recognized company dedicated to developing leaders and managers in organizations committed to creating cultures of engagement. Principals Andrea Hopke and Becky Dannenfelser lead the Clearwater Consulting Group team of experts with headquarters in Atlanta, GA and a regional office in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Tags: building trust, corporate culture, employee engagement

Work-Life Balance: A relationship-centric life doesn't require balance

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Mar 08, 2016

Our many thanks to Steve Wittry, Director, Human Resources, Carter’s | OshKosh B’gosh, for this very insightful guest blog post.

stones_balanced_on_wood_cropped_.jpgTypically, I don’t give a lot of thought to the concept of work-life balance. Until presented with the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the topic, I don’t know that I ever even took the time to define or articulate what ‘work-life balance’ means to me.

As one of the panelists, I was presented in advance with a list of questions that might be asked.  The first question, the one I spent the most time reflecting on, was ‘What does work-life balance mean to you?’ Great question, it intrigued me and became the catalyst for a lot of much needed personal reflection on the topic.

I find ‘work-life balance’ to be an odd term or phrase – as though work isn’t a part of life. Taken literally, in order to balance two things they generally must be separate, two different things with opposing purpose – slow & fast, hard & easy, rest & activity, far & near, etc. I can’t say how many people actually look at it this literally, but my sense is that many do. 

A holistic work-centric view of life

Over time I’ve developed a holistic view of my life - my life is work-centric. I’ve stopped making any effort to separate work life and personal life. It would be like trying to not use my arms if I’m using my legs or vice versa.

That’s not to say that my life is all about my work, but my work life and my personal life are inextricably connected, they feed off of and are related to each other.

There was a period of my life when work started where personal ended and personal started where work ended. Looking back, there wasn’t much rhythm in my life then and I don’t remember feeling very fulfilled – seemed I was always searching for something I hadn’t defined and which, of course, made it very elusive. 

With all the starting and stopping, the separating one from the other, my life in my workplace and outside my workplace both lacked momentum. Without that momentum, I was working so much harder to be impactful in whatever I was doing.

So as I prepared for the upcoming discussion, I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s changed.  I’m very much at ease with myself and with my life – the direction, the velocity and the momentum.

Shifting to relationship-centric

My focus has shifted, and to a large degree, intentionally – and I’m a much more fulfilled person for it. The last 10 years have brought a significant growth spurt – spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.

I spent a lot of time earlier in my life focused on being ‘successful’, although I never took the time to really define what that meant either. My focus has shifted to being significant - adding value to others. Consequently, I’m finding that my life has changed for the better, has a great deal more value – because my work life, just like my personal life, is relationship-centric.

The focus in my work has shifted (intentionally) to relationships – developing them, growing them, restoring them, to learning to do the things well that support relationships. This is ‘why’ in my work – it’s what makes my work sacred. The focus isn’t on results first, but relationships first – the driver of results.

This spills over into my time away from my workplace – but my work continues because the ‘why’ that makes my work sacred never changes. It’s a thread that runs through my play, my community involvement, my solitude, my exercise time. The skills I’m developing and wisdom I’m gaining by being more intentional in my relationships are most frequently experienced in my work environment.   The only thing that really changes apart from the activity I might be engaged in is who I’m engaged with.

I want the ability to engage – genuinely, passionately, honestly, consistently – to be at the heart of everything I do. I’m committed to growing that ability, to being better at relationships to drive better results. I heard John Maxwell state, “You weren’t born to be average, you were born to be significant. You have no right to be average.”

To the degree that I’m successful in adding value to others, the results in every endeavor we’re engaged in are improved and enhanced. There is nothing to balance.


What are your thoughts or quandries on work-life balance? Is this something you seek or have attained? Please comment below. 

See other posts on work-life balance:
Work-Life Balance: Become More Mindful

Finding Meaning in a Complicated World

Tags: work life balance

Top 5 Reasons Why Dysfunctional Teams Lack Accountability

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Tue, Feb 23, 2016

Bad teams cause stress. They zap our energy. They hurt our ability to be engaged at work. They kill productivity and can do damage to our health. Toxic behaviors invade the dysfunctional team and blame/defensiveness, contempt, gossip, silo thinking and territorial in-fighting dominate the climate. 

In our work at Clearwater Consulting, we are often called in to these types of settings when things get this point. And we are usually asked to focus on the leader. Get him or her in line and all will be well. Prepare a 360° feedback report or coach the leader to get things back on track. After all, it has to be the leader’s fault, right?

Sometimes getting the leader back on track is part of the solution. But, in our experience that is just one part of the problem! The real issue that troubles most of the teams we see in a dysfunctional haze centers around the inability to hold one another accountable to the goals, commitments, and values that create purpose for the team. Patrick Lencioni’s research with over 12,000 team supports just how hard it is for teams to hold one another accountable—2/3 of the time it was the lowest score on his team assessment.


Accountability is so hard to develop on a team because it doesn’t just fall to one person—like the leader! Instead, if a team is going to practice holding each other accountable, it has to overcome these 5 reasons they lack accountability:

  1. They don’t trust each other.
    Teams without accountability keep score, they hold grudges. They have never really taken the time to get to know one another. They haven’t shared their fears, their desire for help, they find it hard to admit there are wrong. When a team hasn’t done the real work around being vulnerable with each other, they engage in false bravado and it’s every man/woman for him/herself.

  2. They don’t know how to be candid or to have the difficult conversations.
    They practice turf wars with mean-spirited personal attacks vs. trying to leverage the intellectual horsepower of the team to solve common problems through spirited debate. When a team doesn't see the value in engaging in difficult conversations, it steps over issues, refusing to call out and discuss the real concerns that can strengthen the team and move them towards innovative problem solving together.

  3. They are not aligned around a core purpose or vision for the team.
    Team members care only about what they have to do, not how to best engage the power of the whole team. People are not helpful because they fail to understand the inter-connectivity of the team.

  4. Feedback is not shared peer to peer.
    Instead cliques within the team share gossip and spread stories about who is performing and who is not. If work doesn’t get done, it is not seen as anyone’s fault. Apathy rules because no one has the courage to care enough to confront a slacker or see if someone needs help to accomplish a task.

  5. The team leader avoids holding others accountable to the agreements they have created.
    His/her fear of conflict creates an environment where team members ask themselves "why should I care if my boss doesn’t?"

Sometimes the best thing a team can do is to acknowledge how hard it is to hold each accountable and ask team members what this lack of accountability costs the team. Then the real work begins.

  improve team accountability in the workplace


Tags: high functioning teams, high performing teams, team building and accountability