Helping leaders emerge



More Joy in 2023! Train Your Mind with the Dalai Lama!

Happy 2023! May you enjoy the new year with good health, a feeling of peace, and many good times ahead!

This month I want to share the skill of cultivating joy, the idea in which joy is a skill, not a fixed, factory setting. We can benefit from establishing daily, easy-to-do, practical practices to facilitate more happiness in our lives. So, I’m sharing a recent executive’s story, hoping it may inspire you to cultivate more joy in the upcoming year.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, a client shared she wanted to cultivate more internal joy and bring more positive energy to others; she was feeling stuck and not so happy. The daily news around the world was not so positive, the days were getting shorter, darker, and colder, and she was feeling a bit grim. She also sensed others were struggling. She wanted to learn how to shift her mindset to be happier through practices which encouraged internal reflection, keeping a healthy perspective, and mental reframing versus some of the external factors which felt fleeting and not always in her control. Her goal was to be in a better state of mind by the start of 2023.

In her coaching engagement, we began by evaluating how she spent her time, what activities brought her joy, and what activities drained her. She discovered the first step was to think of joy as a leadership skill to be develop, not just something you have or don’t have. She also made the connection that when she was happier, she felt more confident. So, in her coaching plan, under the category of “executive presence,” she made a commitment to enhancing her ability to find joy in her life, radiate positive energy, and show up with a spirit of confidence and happiness for herself and others.

I’m happy to share that this leader reached her goal and felt more confident and joyful by implementing a few new activities: she meditated each morning for ten minutes during the weekdays, journaled each morning about twenty things she was grateful for and why, took short walks during the week to get outside and enjoy daylight, took longer walks with her dog in nature on the weekends, and expressed gratitude to her colleagues during the work week. And when she could, she made a concerted effort to spend more time with individuals who provided more positive energy and less time with individuals who drained her.

She learned cultivating joy is a skill in which positive and negative energy is contagious, and she is a better leader when she showed up with a spirit of confidence and happiness. When she showed up with this enhanced executive presence, she inspired and motivated others to also be happier, more energetic, and more productive.

Resources on Cultivating Joy

  • Express Gratitude. Journal. 15 minutes of Cardio Exercise. Meditate. The Two Minute Note. Click here to learn more about ways to cultivate gratitude and joy by Shawn Achor, a Harvard-educated happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies and author of several books including Big Potential and The Happiness Advantage.
  • Rewire Your Inborn Negativity Bias. Yes, it’s a bit like brainwashing – out with the old and in with the new. Click here to learn more about how to meditate, journal, or pray with phrases to help you cultivate more joy. Feel free to adapt and make the worksheet your own.
  • Identify Your Energy Boosters and Drainers. Click here for a worksheet to learn more about emotional intelligence and activities that give you or drain your energy.
  • FREE CHALLENGE! SIGN UP BY JANUARY 9TH: Train Your Mind and Heart to be Happier with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Click here to join The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness Challenge on Ten Percent Happier. The challenge is free and begins on January 9 and ends on January 19, 2023.

Why Forgive?

As you prepare for your holidays, I thought I’d share a practice one of my clients has been working with and how it has benefited him and then other practices that support cultivating joy, always helpful during holiday stress.

This leader’s father was behaving badly toward my client so he was feeling stuck and full of anger. My client realized his rage was zapping his energy and he really wanted to figure out a way to let go of the negative emotions and feel more joy, more calm, and confident at work and with his family.

We talked about the importance of forgiveness and how it may help. After a bit of resistance, my client decided to try a forgiveness practice (see resources below). Over time, he learned that by forgiving his father, he was not condoning his father’s actions but rather cultivating a self-care practice which enabled him to manage the strong, painful feelings he was struggling with, and in the end, show up happier.

Keep in mind, forgiveness is often a slow and painful process; we do it for ourselves, not the other person. We forgive but we don’t forget; we don’t condone the bad behavior. Forgiveness allows us to take control of our own destiny, understand those in pain often cause pain, and enables us to show up more joyful, lighter, and freer.

This leader and other clients have successfully used the following forgiveness resources.

The 12 Principles of Forgiveness by Jack Kornfield.

  1. Understanding what forgiveness is and what it is not.
  2. Sense the suffering that comes with the inability to forgive.
  3. Reflect on the benefits of a loving heart.
  4. Discover (in relation to your identity), you don’t have to be loyal to your suffering.
  5. Understand that forgiveness is a process, not a single action.
  6. You have to set your intention for forgiveness.
  7. Learn the inner and outer forms of forgiveness.
  8. Start with the easiest thing that can open your heart.
  9. Be willing to grieve and let go.
  10. Sometimes trauma is stored in our physical bodies.
  11. Shift of identity.
  12. Perspective.

Click here to view and listen to Jack Kornfield’s 12 Principles of Forgiveness (14 minutes).

Additional Resources on Forgiveness

  • Click here to listen to and practice forgiveness with Norman Fischer’s guided forgiveness meditation, a client and personal favorite (18 minutes).
  • Click here to download a worksheet about establishing a Forgiveness Practice through Meditation or Journaling.

Practices to Support Cultivating More Joy

  • Click here to read How to Show Up Cheerful During Tough Times which includes many resources to support cultivating joy.

Wishing you a peaceful, joyful, and healthy holiday season and 2023!

Gratitude as a Super Power

As you prepare for your holidays, I thought I’d share a tradition that our family has and how it relates to joy. Each year, at Thanksgiving, while we’re gathered around the dinner table, each person shares what they are grateful for and why.

I really love this tradition because it’s fun to hear what’s on everyone’s minds and in their hearts – and it makes everyone feel good! In fact, the research suggests gratitude positively impacts our brains.

Benefits of a gratitude practice!

  • Improves general well-being
  • Increases resilience
  • Strengthens social relationships
  • Facilitates more efficient sleep
  • Reduces stress and depression

As you most likely know, our brains are designed for us to survive and procreate, not necessarily designed for us to be happy. By bringing self-awareness to what we are grateful for, we can counteract our tendency toward negativity and be more joyful. So, whether at Thanksgiving or in everyday lives, cultivating a gratitude practice helps counteract our innate negativity bias.

How to Cultivate Gratitude in Everyday Life?

Shawn Achor, a Harvard-educated, happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies, suggests the following tips for cultivating gratitude as part of your everyday life.

  • Journal: Each day, journal about one meaningful experience by writing down three specific details about it. It’s called the doubler because the brain doubles the experience, and you get to relive the experience. And, according to Achor, you only need one positive memory to judge the overall day as meaningful!
  • Express Gratitude: Each day find three new things you are grateful for and why. Achor calls this the 45–second disrupter, claiming the practice of spending 45 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth) on what you are grateful for and why, three times a day, has the power to transform someone from being a low-level pessimist to low-level optimist in just 21 days! The key is to find new things (which retrains your brain to scan the environment for positive experiences) and the why (which attaches positive meaning to everyday experiences which may be overlooked or taken for granted).
  • Write a Two Minute Note: Each day praise, recognize, or thank someone by writing him/her a short email, note, or text. Achor claims this is the most powerful habit.

Additional Resources: Science and Brain Health

  • Click here to learn more about Gratitude and the Brain: What is Happening?, for example, how gratitude can produce dopamine, our brain’s pleasure chemical.
  • Click here to learn more about 7 Scientific Proven Benefits of Gratitude, including improved relationships and sleep.
  • Click here to read Can an Annual Flu Vaccine Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease? As the daughter of a mother with cognitive decline, I found this interesting and useful.

How to Deal with Bad Stuff and Be More Resilient and Joyful

This month I’m recommending the book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong by Zen priest, teacher, writer, and poet Norman Fischer (and one of my favorite human beings!).

This gem of a book is a favorite because it helps leaders cultivate resiliency, wisdom, well-being, and compassion in face of life’s difficulties and challenging situations, which are unfortunately unavoidable (ugh!) and part of everyday life. It’s a great resource to help leaders manage stressful emotions and move toward ease, whether in their organizations, families, or communities.

Fischer’s book is based on a 12th century Tibetan text that includes 59 slogans for training the mind and heart. The slogans are to be thought of as short, punchy phrases, (kind of like bumper stickers or advertising taglines), and are practical resources for any leader who wants to develop a more resilient, confident, and joyful executive presence.

How do we change how we think and behave? Fischer explains that the most important factor in mind training is to engage difficult situations and emotions creatively versus avoid them; the slogans will help you do this. In fact, the slogans train the mind (and you!) to move toward difficulty when it arises rather than away from it, a counterintuitive move.

How does it work? Neuroplasticity. We now know that the mind is flexible and trainable. With consistent practice, you can “wash out” old, ingrained, negative habits of mind (like fear and anxiety) and introduce new, intentional, healthier habits (like joy, compassion, resiliency).

How do I practice mind training? Identify one or two slogans you are drawn to and with which you want to cultivate. Meditate on the slogan, think about it, journal about it, talk about it, write it down, and repeat it to yourself. Keep in mind that training requires commitment, repetition, and lots of patience (repetition is magic!). As previously mentioned, you are training the mind to do what it does not want to do, which is go toward, rather than away from, what’s painful and difficult. The result is that you learn to be with and work through discomfort, cultivating resilience, wisdom, and compassion.

Favorite Slogans: with 59 slogans, I chose ten with which for you to start. I encourage you to find your own favorites!

  • Slogan 13. Be grateful to everyone. We are not alone, and we can’t do it by ourselves.
  • Slogan 20. Trust your own eyes. No one really knows how it feels to be you. Only you can determine what is happening in your life and what to do about it.
  • Slogan 21. Maintain joy (and don’t lose your sense of humor). Even in the darkest moments, there is some light.
  • Slogan 25. Don’t talk about faults. Don’t speak of injured limbs.
  • Slogan 26. Don’t figure others out. We judge ourselves by our intentions; we judge others by the effects of their actions on us.
  • Slogan 27Work with your biggest problems first. For a Zen student, a weed is a treasure.
  • Slogan 29. Don’t poison yourself. No, thank you, I don’t eat that stuff (the poison of self-centeredness) anymore; I know it’s bad for me.
  • Slogan 33. Don’t make everything so painful. When something is bad, it’s bad; don’t make it worse by adding additional drama to it.
  • Slogan 34. Don’t unload on everyone. While we should still share our troubles with others (that’s what makes connection and life meaningful), it is for each of us, our own responsibility to shoulder the burden of our own suffering, whatever its cause, and to turn the burden into wisdom and love.
  • Slogan 35. Don’t go so fast. Becoming a grown-up, fully developed, wise and kind human being and leader, is a long, slow process.

In summary, the discipline of mind training is supposed to be gentle, permissive, and easy going! So experiment and have fun. When practicing the slogans, I encourage you to keep Fischer’s advice in mind, “… when your efforts to be good and practice slogans begin to feel like you’re wearing a straitjacket, then I have a slogan for you: ‘Lighten up, relax, maybe go to a movie, have a glass of wine, don’t try so hard, maybe there’s something good on TV.’” (Training in Compassion, page 103).

Monthly Leadership Inspiration

How to Deal with Difficult People

Narcissists feel entitled to get respect.

They aim to be the most important person in every room.

Humble people strive to show respect.

They aim to make everyone feel important in the room.

                    – Adam Grant, Organizational Psychology Professor, Wharton


Many clients sign up for coaching to learn how to deal with difficult individuals because they know that effective leaders need and have practices for showing up calm, confident, and respectful when engaging with tough colleagues. An executive client shared that one of his peers was making rude comments about him in front of others. As a result, my client felt himself becoming triggered whenever he engaged with his peer. Another executive shared that her supervisor was micromanaging her and making unrealistic demands. Both clients were concerned because they had to work regularly with these challenging colleagues and intuitively understood that their colleagues’ behavior was not going to change.

As you (unfortunately!) know, difficult colleagues – as well as people in our personal lives (family, friends, members of our communities) – come in many shapes and sizes, including being self-centered, self-absorbed, bossy, and even, on the more extreme side, unaware about how their behavior impacts others, entitled, demanding, overly critical, mean–spirited and manipulative. And if you’re worried you’re like this, chances are you are not because most difficult people do not self-reflect or have concern about how their behavior impacts others.

Since difficult people are not always interested in or capable of insight, they are most likely not going to change. Therefore, it’s up to you to change how you show up, so that you can remain confident and grounded and protect yourself from their negative energy.

While I don’t believe there is a one–size–fits all approach for dealing with difficult individuals, you can experiment with different self-management strategies to better manage difficult individuals and situations and build your inner resources.

I would say the overall goal when dealing with difficult individuals is to learn how to expand your window of tolerance for dealing with discomfort (an important life skill!), train in the skill of compassion toward yourself and others, and ultimately feel happier and more resilient.


Self-management strategies clients have successfully used when engaging with difficult individuals:

Set a Goal for the Interaction. Your objective is to remain present, calm and grounded, and find some peace and ease during a difficult moment. For example, when I start to feel triggered, I will get grounded in my body, feel my feet on the floor, and start to focus on my breath. See Get Present and Grounded below for more information on how to use your body and breath to remain present, calm, and grounded.

Prepare. Take time and space to prepare for a difficult interaction. It’s helpful to prepare by writing down your goal and process, meditating, and/or taking a walk. Click here to read Courageous Conversations and learn which questions might help you prepare for difficult situations.

Have Compassion for Yourself First. Acknowledge that it’s tough and often draining to deal with toxic individuals. Make sure you give yourself sufficient space to prepare to be with them and engage in self-care after the situation to recover and renew your energy.

Have Compassion for the Other Person. While it doesn’t excuse their behavior, recognize the other person is behaving the way they are because they are suffering. One technique to help with this is a loving kindness meditation ­­– you are welcoming in self–compassion and extending compassion to the other person. You really do it for yourself, because it helps you remain more at peace and find some ease in a difficult situation. For more information, click here to read Why Loving Kindness Takes Time by Sharon Salzberg.

Get Present and Grounded. Use your body and breath to find a sense of equilibrium and ease. Continue to focus on your breath and bring your attention to your feet planted firmly on the floor. Connect with your own breath by counting to three on the in–breath and five on the out–breath – which will activate your rest and digest (parasympathetic) system and stop the fight or flight (sympathetic system) response.

Take a Break. It can be very challenging to remain calm and grounded for an extended period of time, so continue to check in with your goal and feelings during the difficult conversation. If and when you feel like you’re losing your grounding and going into overwhelm (fight or flight) mode, ask to take a coffee or bathroom break, return to your breath, and remind yourself of your goal. One client found it calming and grounding to place her open right hand over her heart as she took three deep breaths.

Stay Out of Drama and Be Solutions Focused. Remain clear about your best intention and vision for the meeting and relationship, so you can come from a place of being grounded and centered versus reactive.

Acceptance. Recognize you are not responsible for the other person’s behavior, and he/she is (most likely) not going to change. Sometimes, by showing up grounded and calm, you can have a positive impact on the other person. But sometimes you cannot. Your goal is to remain grounded and calm – and try to find some ease in a difficult moment – regardless of how the other person behaves.

Let Go. It’s the same thing as acceptance. Remember it’s not your job to fix or change the person. Even if you’re in a situation where it is your job to provide feedback about his/her behavior or actions, the other person is ultimately responsible for his/her own thoughts, words, and actions.

Forgive but Don’t Forget. By forgiving the other person, you are not condoning his/her actions but rather cultivating a self-care practice that releases you from toxic and negative feelings and enables you to meet difficult individuals where they are in order to keep your energy calm and grounded. But it’s important to note that you should always do your best to protect yourself from being in harm’s way. Forgiveness does not mean condoning the other person’s actions. Click here to download a worksheet and learn more about establishing a forgiveness practice through meditation or journaling.

Establish Energetic Boundaries. Some clients find it helpful to visualize a spacious circular bubble around their body, so they feel protected by a cushion of space. Then, if the other person says something that is upsetting, imagine it bouncing off the bubble and back at him/her. This approach keeps his/her negative energy from entering your own personal space.

Maintain a Sense of Humor. You only have to be with this person (hopefully!) for a short amount of time. He/she has to live with him/herself 24 hours a day.

Remember it’s a practice, so experiment with different strategies and always go easy and gentle on yourself!


Monthly Inspiration in Leadership

  • Click here to listen to How to Deal with Emotionally Immature People (Including Maybe Your Own Parents) with Dr. Lindsay C. Gibson on Ten Percent Happier podcast with Dan Harris. This podcast is useful in understanding emotionally immature people (EIPs); Gibson describes EIPs as demanding, entitled, and incapable of emotional intimacy and she offers practical strategies on how to successfully navigate relationships with EIPs.

Why “Thank You” Is Not A Four Letter Word

“The ROI on simply saying “thank you” goes a long way – probably much
farther than you think.”
  – Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School

An executive shared that she typically can tell the level (seniority) of the individual she is working with by whether they express gratitude. That when she emails useful information to her CEO and other senior-level leaders, she usually receives a brief acknowledgement in the form of a short thank you reply email with a “t.u.” or 😊. She has observed that most of her junior clients do not acknowledge emails or say thank you.

In our chaotic, busy lives, many people overlook the importance of expressing gratitude. I’m not sure people do things in search of a thank you but a lack of expressed gratitude might make it less compelling for someone to go above and beyond for you in the future.

Good reasons to say thank you:

  • Gratitude is an important leadership quality
  • Expressing gratitude (or not) says something about who you are
  • A meaningful way to differentiate yourself among others
  • Shows you appreciate and respect the other person
  • Generates positive feelings for yourself and the other person; such an easy way to make the world a better place
  • Sets you up to receive the best from the other person
  • Last, but not least, it’s the right thing to do

For more information and research read The Power of ‘Thanks’ by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School

When Power Does NOT Corrupt

Whether you lead in your business, non-profit organization, community, or family, it’s important to keep in mind that power often corrupts and leads to feelings of entitlement and complacency.

As my mentor, Dale Moss, shared, “Power is so unbelievably intoxicating and over time it almost always does corrupt. To think power doesn’t corrupt is naive and dangerous. To say, maybe ‘them’ but not ‘me’, is the rare, very rare exception. So, if you want to show up as a leader – and I hope you do – start the discussion by assuming power always corrupts and make sure there are checks and balances via regular audits to keep everyone (including yourself) honest.”

In my work as an executive coach, I have learned that leadership is a privilege and a responsibility. One important job of any great leader is to make sure that ALL people feel safe enough to speak up and share their own unique perspective.

Clients use the following thought questions useful to manage their egos:

What reflection-based practices and disciplines do you have in place to support you in being of service to a higher vision? One executive recently shared that he has a practice of walking around the neighborhood every evening alone to reflect on the day’s events. Another client leads a prayer group and mentors others most mornings before work.

How do you make sure the people in your inner circle keep you honest? Who do you trust to be objective and hold you accountable to your values and behaviors? How do you make sure you don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people? One leader makes it a point to hire individuals who are willing to speak up and share their perspectives.

What practices do you have in place to make it psychologically safe for all individuals, especially introverts and/or marginalized colleagues, to speak up? One leader shares that she waits for everyone else to speak up before she offers her opinion and makes it a point to invite soft-spoken and junior colleagues into the conversation. One executive passes out large index cards for people to write down what they are thinking, collects the cards, and shares the insights with everyone – keeping the suggestions ‘anonymous’.

The Power of the Pause

Client leaders are sharing that times are tough (e.g., the pandemic, shift out of the pandemic, a divided nation, and violent shootings). Executives are searching for practices to show up more grounded, responsive, and inspiring versus emotionally reactive and ineffective.

One client’s favorite tool is the “pause button” – simple yet not always easy to do. Another client uses a mantra: stimulus, hit the pause button and wait, then respond. He reminds himself, just because I think it, doesn’t mean I have to say it. And a friend’s son’s baseball coach has a 24-hour rule that no player, parent, or whomever is allowed to comment on the game for 24 hours following the finality of game time.

What is the pause button? The idea of taking some time away when you feel triggered by a situation or person in order to rest and reset. This allows the brain to slow down and the nervous system to settle; as a result, the mind becomes clearer, and you gain a better perspective. Once you are in a calmer mind state, you can show up more intentional and less reactive. It’s interesting to remember that we are wired by evolution to be alarmists, so things are usually not as bad as they seem at first.

One phrase that helps client leaders is this too shall pass. Whatever situation is happening in the moment, however you or others are feeling, whatever joy or pain you or others are experiencing, it’s only temporary.

The Pause Button

Ask yourself

  • Do I really need to react to this situation or person?
  • Is it urgent or can I allow myself to take a pause before I respond, so my brain has time to settle, and I can show up from a place of being calm, decisive, grounded, and compassionate?
  • Keeping in mind, this too shall pass, notice how you feel and what your state of mind is after 24 hours, after 48 hours, and after 72 hours?

Favorite Client Pause Buttons

  • Take ten deep breaths
  • Journal – first draft for yourself, second for the other person
  • Be present in your body (e.g., feel the sensations of your feet on the ground, feel your back against the chair)
  • Walk or be with your dog
  • Have a good night’s sleep or take a nap (emotional first aid)
  • Bake cookies
  • Prepare and have dinner with good friends and family
  • Travel somewhere new for the day, night, weekend, or week
  • Turn off your phone at 5pm (or after hours) and weekends or leave it in another room
  • Be or walk in nature
  • Tend to flowers and plants
  • Paint or draw
  • Gaze at the stars, in the hot tub
  • Laugh
  • Take breaks from the news
  • Play a round of golf
  • Enjoy a glass of wine or watch a good TV show (yes, when done with the right intention, this counts too!)
  • What pause button works for you?