What leader shadow are you casting?

What leader shadow are you casting?

Good leadership cascades out and impacts the team long after a leader leaves the room. Like a shadow, it follows a person and can be even larger than the person themselves. As you can imagine, that shadow can have both a positive impact and a negative one. 

During the pandemic, the CEO of REI,  Eric Artz, announced that he was suspending his pay and refusing any additional incentives as stores closed across the nation. The board also took pay cuts as well. Those funds were diverted to help keep paychecks going for people in the field during uncertain times. 

Absenteeism (Show 173) Micromanaging (Show 314) or leading like a seagull (Show 260) can all lead to a negative shadow that demotivates others, fosters a culture that is counter to what is productive, and does additional damage long after you are gone. 

What kind of shadow are you casting? Today we’ll look at four areas to reflect on as you think about what type of shadow you cast on your work and on others. 

What am I saying?

Your people more than likely want to do right by you and your organization. As a result, they are highly influenced by what you say and communicate to them.  For example, if you say things like “I know the policy says this, but we actually do this” or “I know what my leader said, but this is what we are going to do,” the shadow you are casting is telling your people not to trust or take policies too seriously and not to trust what other leaders are saying. 

How are you communicating priorities? Are they one-off conversations or are they ingrained in the regular expectations? An easy example here is diversity. Is there a discussion once or twice a year or is it a part of the regular conversation?

Self-reflection tips for your communication

  • Does my communication align with the larger direction and vision?
  • Is my communication inclusive of others?
  • Is my humor appropriate?
  • Does my communication instill trust and confidence?
  • Is my communication clear?

How do I act?

Actions truly do speak louder than words. A popular saying goes, “People won’t remember what you say, but how you made them feel.” Yes, your actions are the ones that people tend to remember the most, but inactions can communicate just as loudly. 

Self-reflection tips for your actions

Fulfill your commitments and show that you care for the team’s well-being in order to help strengthen and lengthen your leadership shadow. 

What do I prioritize?

This is a category that is highly emulated by those that you lead and includes both business goals and well-being efforts. When I worked in a senior-level operations role, I discovered that no one could recite our Values or knew the mission statement. How could we ground our work if there was no foundation? I made it a priority and had everyone recite them together during the daily team huddles. In a few short months, hundreds of people across a large geographical area were doing the same thing. Having that foundation, made other conversations around accountability, expectations, and care easier because they aligned with the Values that everyone knew. 

What you prioritize, will be the same things that your team will prioritize as well. Much in the same way as your actions, your team will not likely highly prioritize things that you don’t yourself. 

Self-reflection tips for prioritization

  • How supportive are you in prioritizing other’s well-being?
  • Do your priorities align with the larger business goals?
  • Are you making the priorities a part of your everyday conversations?
  • What items or topics do you engage directly with your team about?

What am I measuring?

Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, Chief of the U.S. Army said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I knew I had to be clear and direct about what was unacceptable behavior in the Army and that there would be tough consequences for anyone found to be in breach”.  If you as a leader don’t embrace accountability, then your words can mean next to nothing to your team. Accountability is the culmination of your words, actions, and priorities and determines how strong your shadow is. 

Self-reflection tips for accountability

Your Leadership Legacy is what you leave for generations to come. Your leadership shadow can be a huge influence today. Focus on these four areas and watch your influence grow beyond your expectations. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Bouncing back from a layoff

Bouncing back from a layoff

Facing a layoff can be a challenging and emotionally overwhelming experience. It can rock your financial stability, self-esteem, and career trajectory. To make matters worse they can also come out of nowhere at times, taking you at a total, unwelcome surprise. Setbacks like these can also be seen as opportunities for growth and transformation. Today, we will explore how to bounce back from a layoff and turn adversity into a springboard for personal and professional development.

Embrace Resilience and Prioritize Self-Care

Losing a job can take a bigger toll on mental and emotional well-being than you may want to recognize. It’s easy to get into a mindset of just grinding out a job search until you land something.

It’s crucial to allow yourself time to grieve, process the loss, and acknowledge the associated emotions. Practicing self-care during this period is essential. Engaging in activities that promote mental and physical well-being, such as exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, and pursuing hobbies, can help reduce stress and maintain a positive outlook. Cultivating resilience in the face of adversity is the first step toward bouncing back. There is a good chance that your journey may not be a sprint or a marathon, but somewhere in between. Pace yourself and take care of yourself as you go on this journey.

Assess and refine your skill set

A layoff can serve as an opportunity to reevaluate your professional skills and identify areas for improvement. If you’ve been in your role or industry for some time, there is no doubt that things the needs of business and your role changed around you. Use this time to engage in self-assessment, identifying strengths and weaknesses. Upskilling or reskilling through online courses, workshops, or certifications can enhance your qualifications and make you a more attractive candidate in the job market. Learning new skills not only boosts your confidence but also demonstrates your adaptability and commitment to personal growth. 

Look online at jobs, roles, and careers that you may be interested in and look to understand what types of skills people are looking for for those positions. Some organizations will list their required skills out while it is more challenging to easily see the skills in others. Combine your aspirations with your detective work to understand what kind of skill catalog you may need to invest in strengthening. 

Networking and your personal brand

Building and nurturing a strong professional network is essential in today’s job market. Reach out to former colleagues, mentors, and industry contacts to inform them of your situation and seek advice or opportunities. Online platforms like LinkedIn provide excellent avenues for expanding your network and showcasing your expertise. Crafting a compelling personal brand through an updated resume, a well-crafted LinkedIn profile, and a professional online presence can significantly enhance your chances of being noticed by potential employers.

Have a look at your online social media profiles and posts. Switch your view to public view and have a look. What do you look like to the general population? If you see misalignments, make notes and go back and clean up your profiles. We all grow and evolve over our career journeys. There may be posts, and viewpoints that you shared that you may no longer align with. 

Explore and set realistic goals

While returning to a similar role might be the ideal scenario, it’s a great opportunity to keep an open mind and consider exploring new career paths. Identifying transferable skills and industries that align with your interests can lead to exciting opportunities. Set clear, achievable goals for your job search, breaking them down into smaller steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Celebrate even the small victories, like securing an interview or attending a networking event, as these steps contribute to your progress.

Bouncing back from a layoff requires a combination of emotional resilience, skills development, networking, and goal setting. The journey can be challenging, but it also presents an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Remember, a layoff is just one chapter in the larger story of your career, and with the right mindset and strategies, you can author a remarkable comeback.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Reasons for Leaving: Unsustainable work expectations

Reasons for Leaving: Unsustainable work expectations

Have you ever been through a slog of work and thought to yourself, “When is this going to let up?” It may be due to layoffs where you are now taking on an additional workload. Perhaps the team is already short-staffed, or maybe you are going through a major culture change/re-org at your company. Regardless of what the reason is, Unsustainable work expectations may be able to be met for a short time, but shouldn’t be something that you deal with for the long term. 

How to address unsustainable work expectations

While you may not control who and what is thrown at you from a work perspective, there are some ways how you react and respond to those situations. 

Set (and reinforce) boundaries
As much as we want to blame a leader or the organization for unsustainable work expectations, we play a part in the issue as well. When having coaching conversations where the leader shares about their team, it’s not uncommon to hear something like, “They need to learn to say no more,” or “They always take on anything that is asked of them even when they are at capacity.” 

Servant leaders and those aligned with company values like helping others. It’s part of their DNA. Setting boundaries is important to you as an individual and as a leader. If you continuously take on too much, your team suffers because it’s more time away from them, and you suffer, because you are now likely out of balance with your work-life rhythm. 

When someone asks something of you that you know you don’t have the time or capacity to take on, respectfully respond that you can’t take on the ask and give some context as to why. Next, offer some guidance or feedback on how they may get some help in getting the task done.  “I’d love to help, but we are currently at capacity with this project that is due in the coming weeks. Scott’s team may be able to give you a hand with this though. I’d be glad to give you an introduction if you haven’t met him yet.”

Setting healthy boundaries is just as important to you as it is to everyone that you work with. 

Connect to your leader’s intention and give feedback
Unless you have an awful boss, more than likely they have positive intent when they come to you with an ask. Realize that they are coming to you because they have a need, and likely feel confident in your ability to get things done. 

There is a good chance that your leader may not fully realize or understand what your current workload looks and feels like. Be courageous and have an honest conversation with them and share your perspective. If you have a good level of trust and respect with them you may even share some of your struggles and concerns. They won’t know there is an issue until it’s too late if you don’t give them feedback and share your insight and feelings. 

Manage up to your leader
Part of being a holistic leader is the ability to not only lead the team below you but also your peers and those above you as well. Just as you reinforce and encourage your team as they show good behavior and positive impact, do the same for your leader when they give you or help you have a manageable workload and expectations. Show appreciation to your leader during those times to reinforce and influence them as the work continues to evolve. 

In addition to influencing your leader through relationship management, you may also need to drive consistent communications. If your leader doesn’t communicate with you effectively or consistently, you’ll want to be proactive in reaching out and communicating with them. Ask focused questions to understand their expectations and again share your feedback if you feel that there may be a gap or misalignment. Doing this consistently, helps you understand your role better and helps your leader understand what kind and type of communication they need to provide to help you be successful. 

Create a timeline or workflow outline to support your perspective
Sometimes a new work project is thought up and created with positive intent, either for the customer or for the employee. When you are seen as a high performer they may bring you things without realizing what all the ask needs to be successful or how the ask connects or impacts other areas. They just see how you get things done!

Take some time to create a quick timeline or workflow starting from the due date and working backward to the current day. Doing so will help illustrate the extra complexities, prep, alignment, and other resources needed to be successful. It could also be helpful to create a version with realistic expectations or how additional resources would be needed to accomplish the task on the original timeline. 

Prioritize well-being and celebrate success
As you make it through big (and small) projects and workloads, be sure to celebrate your team, and yourself, as part of the process. Your work-life rhythm is just that….a healthy rhythm from one to the other. Sometimes it leans a little more work-focused and other times frees up to allow more personal time and space. Be sure to schedule self-care and personal items and to-dos on your calendar to ensure that you are taking care of yourself well. 

Don’t fall victim to long-term unsustainable work expectations.  Lead your team, yourself, and your leader, to ensure that proper expectations and resources are in place in order for you to be successful. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Reasons for Leaving: Lack of meaningful work

Reasons for Leaving: Lack of meaningful work

Meaningful work is something that we crave, whether we think about it and realize it on a daily basis or not.  According to a McKinsey and Company study, 31% of people would quit their job due to a lack of meaningful work. Another study showed that people were willing to give up an average of $20,000 in salary if it meant that they could have a true purpose and meaning in what they do. 

What is meaningful work anyway?

There can be the tendency to think of meaning and purpose in work and gravitate toward service roles such as healthcare where people are on the front lines literally saving lives every day. While those roles can certainly carry a lot of purposes, the reality is that true purpose and meaning varies greatly from person to person.

A study by KornFerry asked people about roles and jobs that found meaning in. 44% of jobs listed as meaningful were identified as meaningless by other people. On the other end of the spectrum, 55% of roles that were identified as meaningless, were identified as meaningful by someone else. 

Meaningful work really comes down to you, but it does often share some themes – A purpose larger than your own, alignment to things that you hold as important, and the empowerment to accomplish that work.  

Connecting to meaningful work impacts the employee and the business

Connecting to meaningful work doesn’t just impact the employee, it’s also profoundly important for the business as well. 

  • A sprinkle of extra effort – Those who identify themselves as having meaningful work, will work an extra hour a week. They are also more likely to take extra training and stretch assignments to broaden their horizon. 

  • They stay longer – People who connect with meaningful work are nearly 70% more likely to stay around in the next 6 months compared to those that aren’t. 

  • Less likely to hit burnout – Those with meaningful work also build a natural resistance towards burnout. Only 6% who are connected to meaningful work experienced burnout in the previous 6 months compared to 75% of their peers. 

  • A better employee experience – A study by IBM and Workhuman showed that a person’s connection to meaningful work had the highest impact on their employee experience.

How to connect people to meaningful work

Connect work to their values –  A lot has been said in our previous shows about the importance of true Values at your company that you speak about on a consistent basis, integrate into performance evaluations, and make a part of your daily work routine. While that practice is essential for a healthy organization, many people don’t share company values in exit interviews when there is a disconnect here. Instead, they’ll share how the company and work are disconnected from their personal values. The gap can often be summed up as the tension between efficiency (or profits) and quality. Ex. care of a patient vs. moving the patient on early to free up a bed. Be aware and help your team balance the tension between the quality of work and business goals. 

Keep things focused on the work they love – People hate busy work and tasks that don’t add much personal value. In health care, clinicians generally don’t enjoy doing all the administrative paperwork. It’s tedious and it takes time away from either serving more patients or being home with their families. I currently work in healthcare and we are constantly looking for ways to leverage technology to decrease the time a clinician is spending on a tablet as much as possible. People find meaning in their work when they know what they should be doing. Eliminate as many barriers as possible between your team and the work that they should be doing. 

Empower your people for success – People can either feel empowered or disempowered by the way you run your business and lead your team. When people feel like they aren’t being listened to, trusted with their expertise, or valued for their experience, they will feel a sense of disenfranchisement that leads to a feeling of meaningless work. Be open to feedback that they share around this topic and take it to heart. You hired that person for a reason, and you both want the same thing – to meet the goal that was set out ahead of them in an impactful way. 

Connect them to others – I was once assigned a project to help turn around the retention rate of a key clinical business position. After many feedback sessions and focus groups, the results were clear. It wasn’t the pay or education, but a sense of isolation and disconnection from the organization that led people to leave. It’s hard to sustain work-life on a proverbial island. Be intentional to connect your people to peers across geographical locations and help them build collaborative relationships and connections with others across teams and businesses. People will find more meaning in their work as they have opportunities to connect and lean on others for support and insight. 

Remember purpose is in the eye of the beholder. Help your team members connect the work that they do to their personal values and priorities. Your people will be more fulfilled, give you more effort, and will stay around longer. 

You can find more information on finding purpose in your work in episode 312 – Four Ways to find purpose in your work

Make a better tomorrow. 

Reasons for Leaving: Uncaring and uninspiring leaders

Reasons for Leaving: Uncaring and uninspiring leaders

Have you ever heard the term that people don’t leave companies, they leave their leader? It’s true, 34% of people would leave their job because of uncaring and inspiring leaders, and according to a McKinsey & Company survey, it’s one of the top reasons that people quit their previous job. 

Some managers are just truly uncaring and have little interest in changing their style or pursuing personal growth. At the end of the day, they likely see their employees as a commodity and number that can be replaced rather than a person to invest in. If that is your current situation, run! Find somewhere else that will value and appreciate you. However, maybe you know a leader or are one yourself, that could benefit from raising your level of care with others to keep them around longer. 

Taking care a level deeper

Some leaders may consider being friendly and courteous to their team as being a caring leader. While that is part of it, a good caring leader takes it a layer deeper with their people. 

  • Caring for someone is more than just being cordial, smiling, and asking how their day is going.
  • Caring leaders listen without the intent to respond.
  • Caring leaders truly know their people. Get to know three things about each person. Interests, hobbies, and family are good places to start.
  • Caring leaders are curious. They ask their people for their insight and opinion.
  • Caring leaders understand without having to agree or prove a point.
  • Caring leaders share information and are as transparent as possible.

Showing wise compassion for those who are struggling

A great caring leader can get tough things done in a human-focused way. That means pairing and prioritizing well-being with your expectations. 

Help them prioritize (and re-prioritize) the work – Roles are constantly being reshaped and reformed as layoffs happen, reorganizations occur and the business adapts to new needs. The team will feel your care as you help them prioritize the continuing change in work. Be an advocate for your team and help them understand when to say no to help protect their capacity and boundaries. 

Lean into empathy to show appreciation – When times are challenging or when people are struggling, a part of the equation likely involves the amount of extra effort that they are putting into the work. Let people know that you understand the amount of effort that they are putting in and the sacrifice that they are making in order to get things done. Feeling like they are recognized and appreciated goes a long way for people to feel like their leader cares about them. 

Create a community and safe space – Going through tough times are obviously not fun, but it can be more manageable when you have others to lean on and share your thoughts and feelings with. Build trust and transparency with a team (Shows: 323, 307, 305) in order to build a space where people feel safe to share their true feelings and vulnerabilities. A community inside the team can often be built without a caring leader, but it also excludes the leader and leans more negative and cynical in nature as a result. Get out in front and lead a positive work community for those you lead. 


Just like everything else in life, balance is the key to being a caring leader for others. Be mindful of the relationship level and guard yourself against going too far. You aren’t called to be someone’s counselor (unless that’s your job). For the chronic complainers, have them write down their problems and solutions so can discuss them together. This puts the action of solutions in their court. For those who are angry, listen but don’t encourage the conversation. It will burn itself out quickly.  Lastly, you want to handle every relationship and person with a great deal of integrity.

How are you doing as a caring leader? If polled, would your team call you a leader that truly cared for them? For many leaders, this is easier to master once they realize there is an opportunity to increase their level of care with others. Showing care to your team is a must-do in today’s environment.

Make a better tomorrow.