Are You Gushing with Gratitude?

Simple ideas for expressing your thanks

Grateful leaders are a joy to work with. Leaders who take the initiative to express their appreciation are even more of a gift to those around them.

If expressing your gratitude doesn’t always come naturally to you, below are a few simple ideas to get you started today.

Specific ideas for WHOM to thank:

  • Team members, vendors, and clients who work with you.
  • Leaders and mentors who advocate for you.
  • Friends and family who encourage you.
  • Authors, artists, and speakers who inspire you.
  • Counselors, coaches, and clergy who support you.

Meaningful ideas for HOW to thank them:

  • A handwritten note.
  • A call or video message.
  • A public shout out via email or social media.
  • A treat they love to eat.
  • An introduction or referral to someone they would love to meet.
  • A gift they would never get themselves.

For even more ideas, check out my previous post, 5 Simple Ways to Thank Your Team. 

What’s the most meaningful way someone has expressed their thanks to you?




3 Ways to Speak Up and Be Heard

1187222_86767710Not too long ago, I had a coffee catch-up conversation with a frustrated friend. This leader loves where she works, enjoys the people she works with, and knows her contribution is making a difference.

So what is she frustrated about? Her limited voice at the bottom of the organizational food chain.

As we drank our espresso laced lattes, my friend shared how she sees a blindspot the leaders at her organization are missing. And the only thing making her crazier than this issue going unresolved is the limit to which she perceives her voice can speak into this issue.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like your position is limiting your voice?

Leader, let me share with you what I shared with my friend over coffee:

Your authority may be limited but your voice is not. There is no lid on the potential of your influence.

If there is something broken, something unjust, some blindspot, some opportunity being missed, bring it into the light and help make it right. The health of your organization, your customers, and your co-workers depends on your sharing what you see.

How? Here are 3 Ways to Speak Up and Be Heard:

  1. Exhaust the Appropriate Channels: Share it with the first people first – the people in your organization designated to receive this kind of information. This may be your direct supervisor, your HR representative, your team, or all of the above.
  2. Unite a Choir of Voices: If you are not the only person who has noticed the need, gather others to raise the concern together. There is strength and confidence in numbers.
  3. Take Advantage of Advocates: Look to mentors, advisors and others with authority who are willing to advocate for your voice and idea to be heard.

What do YOU do?

Happy young business colleagues shaking hands in the officeIt’s the go-to, get-to-know-you question.

Just after, “What’s your name?” inevitably comes, “So, what do you do?”

Over the years, I’ve answered this question with all of my various job titles and organization names. Some sounded boring. (“I’m the membership assistant at the local Chamber of Commerce.”) Some sounded mildly impressive. (“I’m the Marketing and Communications Director for one of the largest mega-churches in the country.”) Some made people confused. (“I’m the Directional Leader to Women.” Huh?)

I used to dread that moment. That moment when I would be sized up and judged by how cool my company was or how important my title sounded or how many people or dollars I was responsible for.

Not any more.

Now when I’m introducing myself for the first time at a client meeting, an airport, a soccer game, or even a fashion show, I can’t wait for people to ask me the “So, what do you do?” question.

I look forward to the previously dreaded moment because I’ve ditched all the titles – impressive or not. And I think you should to.

You see, now when people ask, “What do you do?” I answer with my purpose, not a position. I give an answer to inspire, not to impress.

“What do I do? I empower women leaders to change the world.”

This is what I do. This is my big dream. Yes, I’m a leadership coach, speaker, consultant, author, wife, and mom. But what I do is empower leaders whether at a conference or a coffee table.

Leader friend, your position is not the point, your title not even close to the tell-all description of God’s design for your life and leadership.

What about you? What’s your big dream? Beyond your title or position, what has God put in you to do?

Leader friend, how will you answer this question: What do YOU do?

*If you need help figuring that out, look no further. I get a huge kick out of walking alongside leaders on this discovery process. Helping leaders like you discover your leadership style, purpose and potential is one of my favorite things ever. Email me today to get started!



Boundaries for Leaders


In my last post, I shared a few thoughts on overwhelmed schedules and our best yes. Today, I asked leader friend and licensed professional counselor, Tiffany Ashenfelter, to give us some background on why boundaries are so important and how to implement them. Enjoy!

We live in a world full of boundaries: like fences, the lines in a parking lot, our office space etc…But what does it look like personally and professionally?

To put it as simply as possible, boundaries are a dividing line between what is you and what is someone else. 

One of my favorite books on the subject is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life written by Cloud & Townsend (a must read for everyone!). They describe personal boundaries this way:  “in the spiritual world boundaries are just as real (compared to property/fence lines) but often harder to see.” They are “an ever present reality that can increase your love and save your life.  In reality, these boundaries define your soul…” Now to me, that is such a powerful statement about the importance of healthy boundaries in our lives. Boundaries give us personal identity and help us to protect ourselves.

There are 4 main areas in which we create boundaries for ourselves:

  1. Physical – think personal space
  2. Emotional – managing your emotions and how you respond to the emotions of others
  3. Mental – having the freedom to manage your own thoughts and opinions
  4. Spiritual – how you manage and maintain your spiritual life

While often times we think that boundaries keep people out, or are selfish, the reverse is actually true. When we have established healthy boundaries with those in our life we actually gain a greater sense of safety and freedom. Without boundaries, anger and resentment build up and actually hurt our relationships.

So how do we set boundaries?

The first rule to setting healthy boundaries is to know yourself. Our definition of boundaries is the dividing line between what is you and what is someone else. To set and follow through with healthy boundaries you need to know what they are and clearly communicate them. (Check out my blog on healthy communication skills to learn more about how to effectively communicate your boundaries.)

So, we’ve set the boundary. Now what?

Once we’ve identified our boundaries, we need to establish a consequence for if/when the boundary is not respected. A boundary with no consequences isn’t really a boundary at all. When it comes to creating a consequence, we need to make sure it’s realistic and something with which we are willing to live. We also need to be prepared for the fact that as a result of setting healthy boundaries our relationships will likely change. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the relationship is fraught with unhealthy boundaries. Remember healthy boundaries create freedom and safety within ourselves and our relationships. I won’t pretend this easy to do; it can be very difficult but the result makes it worth it.  (Be sure to check out my 3 tips to having a difficult conversation as you prepare to communicate your boundaries.)

Remember, without boundaries we are at the mercy of others. Healthy boundaries allow us to live and lead without resentment or guilt.

Tiffany AshenfelterTiffany Ashenfelter is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Approved Supervisor in private practice in Dallas. Tiffany works with women and teens struggling to manage and overcome the many curveballs life throws at us. She also partners with her husband Michael, a counselor as well, to help couples work through the many challenges they face within their marriage on both a joint and individual level.  Tiffany has served on the leadership team for Polish: Refining the Details for the past 5 years.  You can follow Tiffany on Twitter @AshenfelterAsso and find out more about Ashenfelter & Associates counseling practice online. 


3 Confident Comebacks When Pressured, Pushed, and Put on the Spot

woman with leadership blues

I’m normally a pretty confident leader. I feel good about the strengths, skills, and experiences I bring to the table.

That is, until I’m pressured, pushed, or put on the spot.

In those scenarios, I sometimes become a less confident version of myself. I second guess my sound judgment. I question my decision. I fret to meet others expectations.

Ever been there, leader friend?

Over the years, I developed some tried and true responses for when I feel cornered. Next time you feel pressured, pushed, or put on the spot, try one of these 3 confident comebacks:

1. When you feel pressured: Try offering a choice.

How many times have you been cornered by a team member and their emergency request?

“I need your approval on the colors for our new logo within the next 15 seconds or the whole company will be doomed forever!”

Early in my leadership, I would feed off their frenzy and respond in kind: “Oh no! The clock is ticking! Purple Passion and Assuming Avocado as our new logo colors or not?! OK…yes! No! I mean, maybe! Absolutely yes! Whew – did we make it in time?”

Now, when a team member, boss, client, or child pressures me with their emergency approval, request, or demand I offer them a choice: “If you would like my answer right now, my answer is no. If you would like to give me until tomorrow afternoon to think it over, my answer might be yes. Your choice.”

When you make it clear to those who work with you (and live with you) their emergency is not yours, the number of super-urgent demands brought to you will exponentially decrease.

2. When you feel pushed: Try “asked and answered.”

I wish I had known about this response when I worked with a persistent, smooth-talking leader named Leon. Leon would regularly ask my opinion on projects. When I disagreed with him or offered a perspective he didn’t like, he would ask again: “But don’t you want our logo to communicate our passion for our product?” And then again, “Surely you don’t disagree with the global logo experts who say Purple Passion is the best color, do you?” And again, “Don’t you remember that one time you said Purple Passion was a fresh logo color? Don’t you want our logo to be fresh?” Over and over he would push, push, push me to feel bad about my response and ultimately change my mind.

What I should have said to Leon is what I now say to my children when they ask me for dessert right before dinner over and over (and over). “Asked and answered.” As in, “You’ve already asked me that question and I’ve already answered it.” Period. End of discussion. And when they try to ask “But why?” just one more time I say, “Asked and answered.” (Again.)

Eventually, my children get sick of hearing my broken-record response. Your smooth-talking Leon will get tired of hearing you say, “You’ve asked me the same question five different ways. I’ve answered you each time. My answer will not change. Please don’t ask again.” 

3. When you feel put on the spot: Try turning the tables.

While I like to think I’m pretty good on my feet, I absolutely hate having important things sprung on me. Especially in front of other people. It seems team meetings and conference calls are fertile grounds for these kinds of sticky situations.

A few of the best responses I’ve heard (and used myself) when put on the spot are:

“That’s a great question! What do you think?”

“I’d really like to hear what someone else has to say.”

“I don’t know but I would be happy to find out.”

“I would really like to speak with someone who has expertise in this area in order to offer an informed response.”

What about you? How do you respond when the pressure is on?


5 Ways to Fill in the Blanks When Communicating about Change

SONY DSCIn my last post, I shared how saying nothing when communicating about change is like taking a Mad Libs approach to leadership. By saying nothing, you’re forcing your team to use assumption, speculation, and gossip to fill in the blanks for what’s going on in your organization. While this approach leads to some hilariously heartbreaking stories, it also leads to frustration and mistrust.

Which is just what you need when you are navigating the waters of a significant change. (Said no leader ever.)

The questions remain: What do you say when you need to say something but feel like you can’t say anything? How do great leaders keep their teams informed and moving in the right direction when everything is still up in the air?

The following are 5 ways to fill in the blanks for your team:

  1. Say “I don’t know about X” or “I’m not sure about Y.” Admit what you know and what you don’t. Don’t make stuff up. Don’t beat around the bush or use complicated jargon to disguise the state of affairs. Say what you mean to say. Then quickly follow up with, “What I do know is A” or “What I am for sure about is B.” Be sure to share in detail what you do know when being honest about what you don’t.
  2. Share the process. Let your team know the step-by-step process you and your leadership team will be using to make decisions about the changes to come. Tell your team what information you are looking for, who is involved in the process, and the overall time frame you are working with. Let them in on the challenges as well as the milestones as you go along so they can see the progress you’re making, too. And let them know when the process hits a bump or two: you don’t have to share all of the gory details, but you can share how you will be sprinting hard the next two months because you had to replace a sub-contractor doing less-than-stellar work.
  3. Share the change communication plan. Assure your team members by letting them know the process and systems you will use to make sure everybody knows about the change in a timely manner. This is also a good time to ask what tools they might need to go and communicate the change effectively for themselves.
  4. Create a pathway for two-way communication. Provide a way for questions to be answered, input to be given, and feedback to be offered. Respond quickly.
  5. Give a deadline. Let your team know when the change/decision/new program/re-org will take place. (Then hold fast to the deadline like your life depends on it. Because your credibility and the trust of your team is most definitely riding on it.)

What about you, leader friend? How do you fill in the blanks for your team?


Change Communication Plans and Mad Libs Leadership

In speaking with a leader friend recently, we admitted most of us leaders do a lousy job when it comes to change communication plans.

We’ve all experienced lousy communication with changes like:

  • A re-org is in the works but not being discussed until its finalized.
  • A staff member gets moved, leaves or is fired and the rest of the team is left wondering why and if they’re next.
  • A new direction is being determined by the top-level leaders and nobody knows when it will be decided or how it will affect their area.
  • A plan on the verge of implementation gets put on hold unexpectedly, leaving the team in limbo.

My friend shared that her organization was in the middle of a tremendous transition and she and her team felt completely in the dark. I related how hard it can be for a leader to know what to share and when.

Leaders are afraid that if we say something:

  • The information we share might change tomorrow.
  • The information we share might be used against us.
  • People will overreact.
  • People will want to weigh-in on the decision.
  • People will want more details that we just don’t have.

So instead of saying anything wrong or incomplete, we wait. We withhold. We say nothing.

Saying nothing is the absolute worst thing we can say as leaders.

Best_of_Mad_Libs_book_detail (1)Let’s put it another way: saying nothing is like handing your team a book of Mad Libs. Remember playing this wacky word game when you were a kid? Each page has a different story with lots of blanks to be filled in. You ask a friend to say a noun, verb, place or name and you fill in their responses in the appropriately labeled blanks. Then when all the blanks are filled, you read the story back to your friend and laugh hysterically at how “Francisco went swimming in sesame seeds wearing a fur coat and witch hat.” How silly!

When we decide to tell our teams nothing about the change in the works, we basically hand them a book of Mad Libs specific to our organization. Each page features a different story about a leader, team, product, or process. And each story has lots of blanks to fill in: people, places, actions, decisions, reasons. Our teams become consumed with completing all the stories during coffee breaks, lunches, cubicle drive-bys, hallway meet-ups, and after-meeting meetings. Then, our team members start to compare stories with each other:

Frida: “Francisco got fired because he loves cats and I love cats so I’m getting fired, too!”

Felipe: “No, no, silly. Francisco was fired because he hates Tuesdays. Everybody else who hates Tuesdays will be transferred to a new office in Siberia where they don’t have Tuesdays.”

Frida: “Oh. That makes more sense. Whew! Good thing I love Tuesdays!”

Felipe: “Lucky you. I’ve already sold my surfboard and started buying long underwear.”

Leader friends, the worst thing we can do in times of uncertainty, change, or transition is say nothing. When we say nothing, our teams start filling in the blanks to the stories by way of speculation, assumption, and gossip. While a Mad Libs approach to leadership communication can give us some ridiculous story lines, this approach also brings uncertainty, anxiety, and mistrust.

So if you need to say something but can’t say everything, just what do you say to avoid saying nothing? My next post will feature 5 tips for filling in the blanks with meaningful something when you feel like you can’t say anything.

* I absolutely LOVED playing Mad Libs as a kid. As an adult, I’ve bought countless books as gifts including the Lego Star Wars and Christmas Carol versions.






15 Ways to Build Team Trust

Communication builds trust and trust builds a team.

team buildingThe smallest acts of intentional communication can have the biggest impact on teams. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni outlines how building trust is the foundation for strong, successful teams.

How do you help your team build trust? Through communication and connection.

One of my favorite ways to connect leaders and teams is through powerful questions.

Here are 5 Questions to Ask Your Team Today:

  1. What are you hearing from our customers/patients/congregants/members/clients?
  2. Who on our team did you catch doing something great today? (Who would you love to brag about?)
  3. What’s getting in the way of our own success? (What obstacles do we need to move?)
  4. If you were me, what would you do differently?
  5. How can I help?

But it’s not enough to just ask the question; you have to listen to their answer, as well.

Here are 5 Ways to Show You’re Listening:

  1. Focus on them. Get rid of distractions and treat them like they are the most important person in the world so you can really hear what they have to say.
  2. Keep listening even if you don’t like their answer.
  3. Respond genuinely.
  4. Follow-up and follow-through.
  5. Thank them for taking the time to share with you.

And after you listen, you need to respond.

Here are 5 Responses to Avoid: 

  1. Allowing interruptions. When you let someone stop by with a “quick question”, you’re saying they are more important. (Same thing is true of answering calls or texts.)
  2. Bursting into tears. Or fits of rage. Basically, any severe emotional reaction will only make your team realize they should never honestly answer your questions again. Ever.
  3. Dismissing their problem or concern. You do this by saying something like, “That won’t be a problem.” or “There’s no reason to be worried about that.” or “It’s stupid/silly/ridiculous to feel that way.” If you can’t relate to their concern, ask them to tell you more about where the concern is coming from. Ask for them to share the solutions they would recommend.
  4. Cutting them off. Realizing you are late for a meeting right in the middle of their response only communicates that you didn’t really want to hear their answers to begin with.
  5. Making promises or offers you have no intention of fulfilling.

What about you and your team? What questions would you add to this list?

Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection.
Julie is a leadership coachconsultant and communicator
You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


3 Tips and 3 Resources for Your Next Critical Conversation

Businesswomen Sitting TogetherYour key volunteer is late to the mandatory meeting. (Again.) Your boss ignores your recommendation to the detriment of your team. (Once again.) Your assistant has a passive aggressive reaction to your request. (Yet again.) Your remodel contractor doesn’t follow through with what he promised he would take care of three weeks ago and you see it every time you walk into your new bathroom. (Letting it go.)

As a leader, these situations pop up all the time. An issue arises where opinions vary, emotions are strong and something needs to be done. We just aren’t sure where to start without hurting feelings, losing our cool, or worse.

To lead well, we have to get comfortable with initiating and facilitating critical conversations with those we lead. The following are 3 tips for your next critical conversation:

  1. Decide on your purpose: At the end of this conversation, what do you want to have happen? What do you want to accomplish? What are your intentions? (Are you wanting to win? Are you wanting to defend yourself and your position? Are you wanting to find the truth and a resolution?)
  2. Discover their perspective: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: consider their perspective and communication style. Watch their body language and determine if they are receiving and responding or reacting and retaliating. If the other person is receiving your words and responding well, proceed. If they seem to be reacting, proceed with caution. If your words are met with retaliation, protect yourself and end the conversation.
  3. Determine the best time and place: For your purpose and the other person, what is the best time to talk? Being mindful of your purpose and the other person, where is the best place to converse? Some of the best advice I’ve been given on timing is to never talk about your feelings while you are still feeling them. Give yourself, and the other person, space to cool off and gather your thoughts. Also, give the other person advance notice about the conversation–nobody likes a significant conversation sprung on them.

And to really help you prepare, the following are my 3 favorite books around this topic:

  1. Boundaries Face to Face: How to have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  2. Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler
  3. Leading Women Who Wound by Dr. Sue Edwards

What helps you through a critical conversation? We’d love to hear your best advice and resources in the comments!

*You might also like my post about How to Know If You’re Wasting Your Breath.

Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection.
Julie is a leadership coachconsultant and communicator
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You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Stop Assuming and Start Asking

raise your hand“There’s no way she has time to take on this project.”

“Because that one client loved this, I’m sure everyone else will, too.”

“I don’t want to bother him with this question.”

“I can’t stand this kind of work; I can’t possibly ask someone else to do it.”

Ever said something similar?

As leaders, we make the mistake of making assumptions all day long. Unfortunately, this approach to leadership comes back to bite you. Hard.

You assume Amanda has too much on her plate to take on a new project or attend a conference. So you double your workload and miss the new connections from the conference. All the while, Amanda is itching for a new challenge and some fresh perspective. (Ouch.)

Or maybe you hear from Austin how much he needs this very specialized program you could offer. So you put all of your marketing eggs in this basket only to find out that this problem was unique to Austin. And now you’ve spent your entire budget promoting a program nobody else needs. (Ouch again.)

Want a simple way to avoid the bite?

Stop assuming, and start asking.

Stop making assumptions. Period. If you have a hunch, a theory, prove it to be true by asking questions.

Ask your key clients what their needs are before assuming how you can meet them. Ask your team members if they are interested in tackling something new before you add it to your own to-do list. Ask your boss/mentor/admired colleague when would be a good time to seek their advice before you assume you will be bothering them with your questions.

Stop assuming. Start asking. Your success rate will soar, and your bite rate will decrease dramatically. (Thank goodness.)

What question do you need to start asking today?

Lead True and Lead On! Julie Pierce, ACCCCLC

Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection. Julie is a leadership coachconsultant, and communicator. Sign up here to receive her posts and Friday Favorites email in your inbox. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.