How to Avoid Being Misunderstood

misunderstoodDo you feel misunderstood by your direct reports or colleagues? Do they think you’re an ogre when you’re really fun and fair? Or maybe they think you’re a pushover when you’re really purposeful and committed.

There might be a disconnect between what you intend and how you’re coming across. Here are four ways avoid misunderstandings by closing any gap between your intentions and your actual impact on others.Get clear about what you want to happen. Conventional wisdom says that we are on auto-pilot about 95% of the time. Which means we are consciously thinking about or aware of what we are doing very little during the day.

  • Get clear. Know what you want to accomplish before you go into a meeting, have a conversation with a co-worker, or work on a project. Ask yourself what you want to get out your time spent.
  • State your intentions. Based on the outcome you want to create, state your intentions out loud, especially when interacting with others. By doing so when going into a meeting or conversation, you are not leaving to chance how the other person will interpret what you say or do.
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective first. As a leader, when you speak, your words carry weight, and that weight often shuts down others who are further down the food chain. Additionally, listening first will give you a chance to tune in to the other’s perspective.
  • Seek to reconcile different perspectives. With a clearly stated intention and after sharing perspectives, you will have a better understanding of how the different perspectives overlap or don’t. Revisit your intention again, and ask for how you can move forward by using what most important from each perspective.

By consciously focusing on a clear intention and being open with your perspective, you can create conditions that allow others to “see” you for who you are.


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5 Powerful Pivots to Go From the Rank and File to Leader

leadership pivotHow do you react when you think your direct reports are making you look bad? Do you focus on yourself and scurry to salvage your reputation? Or do you focus on your team and take the opportunity to improve your team’s skills and processes?

You’ve spent the better part of your career making sure you were performing, achieving, and getting noticed for what you could produce. Now as a leader, things shift. Instead of you being in the spotlight, the focus is better placed on your direct reports and what their capabilities are. In a weird way, you are in the background, shining the spotlight on your team.

It’s time to rethink what it takes to become an effective and admired leader. To make the shift, here are five powerful pivots you must make to move from being one of the rank and file to standing out as an effective leader.

1. Decrease Focus on Task Work.

Have you ever received a request for something that someone on your team should really do? Did you take it upon yourself to do it “because it was easier” for you to do it rather than delegate it? Wrong. Chances are those types of things are not the best use of your time. Sure. You have task work associated with your position, like drafting various documents, for example. But avoid doing the task work that is meant for your direct reports. (See more about Building Capacity below.)

2. Increase Focus on Fostering Relationships.

You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” To a large extent, that’s true for any leader. Now that you’re in a leadership position, your power comes from harnessing the efforts of other people, which requires persuading, influencing, and collaborating with people who are inside and outside your company. And even though you have authority over your direct reports, you will be more effective if you foster better relationships with them. Pivot away from simply barking marching orders and, instead, seek to coach and influence them.

3. Give Credit; Take Blame.

When you were an individual contributor, you learned to call attention to your capabilities to prove you were a good employee. However, to be seen as an effective leader, eyes are on how well your team does. Pivot away from focusing on yourself and instead highlight the standout contributions of people on your team. Also, pivot away from blaming others for any gaffs and accept responsibility for things that go wrong instead.

4. Listen More.

Along with the idea of focusing on maximizing and highlighting your team, pivot away from freely asserting your opinion first and often. Instead, hang back and listen more to others’ perspectives. Listening more gives you deeper insight into what is going other with other people.

5. Ask More Questions.

When you listen more, you have the opportunity to ask more questions. Asking questions enables you to help your direct reports articulate their thoughts (without you telling them what to think), which will give them confidence and teach them how to think through issues.

When you make these powerful leadership pivots, you will demonstrate the hallmark of solid leadership: building the capacity of those around you.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

Leadership Development: Using Your Fate as a Clue to Your Destiny

impactYou encounter leadership problems or challenges all the time. Did you ever notice that they end up being the exact circumstances you need in order to evolve as a person and a leader? You may have issues with people who don’t respond to you as you’d like. You might experience frustrations with initiatives that don’t go as planned. Whenever there is a “rub” that bothers you, it often shows you something about yourself now and who you can become. It is as though these leadership challenges are put in your path as part of your fate.

Fate: Past and Present

In Ancient Greece, the well-known mythology of the Three Fates explained why life unfolded as it did. Lachesis was the Fate who drew the lots, giving each person certain characteristics and conditions along with a plot line for their life. Clotho spun the thread of each person’s life into the larger tapestry of time, giving each human a “twist of fate”. And Atropos decided how each human life would end and presided at the finish to cut the thread of life.

Today, we often use the terms “fate” and “destiny” interchangeably, but these terms can be thought of as two different things. According to mythologist and storyteller, Michael Meade, “fate” is all of the limitations and challenges we encounter throughout our lives (conditions along the path); while “destiny” is our purpose or the ultimate contribution we make to the world (the destination).

Using Your Fate to Achieve Your Destiny

This distinction is key. Reflecting on your fate allows you to examine your past experience (your fate thus far) to maximize the impact you can have now while increasing your potential for achieving your destiny or potential.

So, if you find yourself repeatedly encountering the same frustrating situations, you could think of the irritation as your “fate” poking you to take a look at things more closely. Maybe there are characteristics you could change or evolve further. Maybe there are new ways of thinking that could emerge from those particular circumstances. Often in leadership, we are asked to reflect by looking inward to question our approach, to throw off old patterns, and to step into new learning that will better serve us and those around us.

When reflecting on your “fate” to date, look back on your experiences thus far and take notice of the following:

  • People who were hugely influential to you;
  • People who showed up randomly or “out of the blue” to provide guidance or assistance;
  • Odd or surprising twists that put you in certain places or positions;
  • Odd events that might not even make sense yet;
  • Themes that keep coming up (whether or not you’ve figured out what to do with them yet); and
  • Situations that, at the time, seemed negative, but that turned out best in the long run.

As you look backward, what sense can you make of any of it? What clues does this emerging story provide for where you might go next? What kind of support or new learning would benefit you as you forge ahead?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

Leadership Development: What’s Your Destiny?

confidence, destinyAs you look at your own leadership development, have you ever had an inkling of where your life might take you? If so, you could say you had an insight to your destiny. It might sound far-fetched to some, but to others, there is an unexplainable “knowing” that helps us make sense of the world and to see where we might be heading in it.

Destiny in Mythology

In the Jewish mythological tradition, the Angel of Conception, Lailah, implanted each tiny soul in its mother’s womb. By the light of a candle, Lailah showed the incubating soul a preview of its unique role in life and what adventures awaited it in the world. Just before birth, Lailah blew out the candle. And as the newborn emerged from the womb, Lailah placed her finger on the baby’s lips. This caused the child to forget everything it learned of its life in the candle-lit womb, sealing the child’s lips shut. Thus, the story goes, your philtrum (the indentation running from the bottom of the nose to the middle of the upper lip) signifies the place where Lailah “shushed” you with her finger, causing you to forget the everything you had seen in utero as you came into the world.

Similarly in modern times, Carl Jung espoused the idea of the “collective unconscious”. This is a universal “soul” that includes inherited, pre-existing, unconscious instincts and archetypes that are shared by all humans. As with the myth about Lailah, Jung taught that we are all born with a forgotten knowing about our lives and the world at large.

The “fun” of all of this is to discover what we will become. After all, achieving your destiny wouldn’t be challenging if you knew exactly what it was. This is true of who you are becoming as a leader, too.

Fate Versus Destiny

Often the terms “fate” and “destiny” are used interchangeably, but you can think of them as two different aspects of your unfolding life. “Fate” defines the context and all of the constraints you operate under during your life. This include your family, your physical appearance and capabilities, the time period in which you live, where you live, the beliefs you acquire, your personality traits, etc. In contrast, “destiny” is the destination of your life. Think of it as your purpose or the ultimate contribution you are capable of making to the world. You have and will continue to experience the twists and turns of your fate along the way. But it remains to be seen whether you will achieve your ultimate destiny.

No matter where your destiny lies, the fateful experiences you have as a leader provide a fertile ground for learning what you need to know to achieve your destiny. The problem is, you must feel your way along, never really certain where everything will end up. As Michael Meade writes in his book, The Genius Myth, “Life must be lived forward but can only be understood by looking backward.” That is, every person, every encounter, every setback, and every success is part of your “becoming”. They point toward your destiny.

This is important because viewing your leadership trajectory in light of your history, helps make sense of who you are becoming as a leader. And knowing this, you can step more fully into the leader you’re meant to become.
Where does your destiny lie? Is your destiny directly related to your career? Or does it lie in another aspect of your life? Is your leadership role simply a twist of fate on the way to something else? Or is it your destiny?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

5 Beliefs That Are Wasting Your Time

jugglingFeel like you don’t have time to get around to important tasks? You might be frustrated that you are extremely busy but aren’t accomplishing the important stuff that would move your strategy forward. Underneath, you may be angry or resentful that you have to do it all. What if you are wasting your own time because of a few of your own subconscious beliefs? These five beliefs are counter to time mastery and could be causing you to waste your time:

1. “No one else will do it right.”

Have you ever found yourself working on a project or task that you could have delegated or assigned to someone else because you didn’t have faith that others would do it correctly? You are the victim of a perfectionistic belief that only you know how to do things to high standards. That may or may not be true, but does everything need to be done perfectly?

When assigning a task to a direct report, make sure you describe the quality standards required. To keep things on track, schedule follow-up meetings to check in and encourage your employee to check back with you if there are questions about how well something needs to be done.

2. “I can’t count on anyone else to get it done.”

Do you find yourself working on something that a direct report should be doing because you don’t trust them to get it done? Similar to the control of perfectionism, you might have a trust issue around the timeliness of completion. In addition to deadlines and check-in points along the way, counter this belief by working with your employee to prioritize the work. This may include identifying other tasks that can be postponed, re-assigned, or dropped altogether. This way, you can keep things on schedule for timely completion without doing it yourself.

3. “I’ll pick up the slack because my employees are already overworked.”

It’s not a bad thing to assist your team with task work once in a while. However, you know it’s a problem if you believe you need to rescue them often. Also, you may feel resentful that you are picking up slack even though you chose to do it for them. When you frequently take on the work of others, you often bury yourself with work that is not of strategic value for your own role.

Before being tempted to ride to your employees’ rescue, help direct report prioritize their tasks. Often, they will be able to see where they are spending too much of their time on tasks and projects that are not that important at the moment in favor of those that are more pressing and strategic.

4. “I need to be available to everyone 100% of the time.”

When you put yourself at the mercy of the needs and timetables of others, others will interrupt your attention and focus frequently. You might “need to be needed” or “need to be liked”. It’s not selfish to schedule some uninterrupted time to work on your own tasks. It’s akin to being in a meeting when you wouldn’t expect others to interrupt you for routine questions.
To counter this belief, train your staff that a closed door means “I can’t talk to you now.” Also, build some predictable “open door” time into your schedule, when they are welcome to pop in. Finally, train them to save non-urgent questions for regularly scheduled meetings, such as weekly one-on-ones or weekly team meetings.

5. “It’s easier to do it myself.”

Yes. You can do many tasks faster than your employees because of your experience and knowledge. However, when you do this, you deprive employees of the experience. You also deprive them of the lessons they could learn from making a few mistakes along the way. Either you’re showing off or you are falling victim to a notion of false expediency.

Making time to delegate the task with clear expectations and a reasonable timeline will save you time in the long run as you build up employees’ independence and competence. Over time, you’ll be able to delegate more and more to them, saving you more time in the long run.

As a leader, your main job is to facilitate the work of others based on strategic priority. Your job is not to mire yourself down in the task work of others. When you catch yourself with these beliefs, you’ll find that they are really about you wanting to show that you can produce the work like a sole contributor. Great. But that’s not your job anymore. Time to pass on your know-how to your direct reports and free up your time to lead.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at:

How to Turn Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Catalyst

shameChances are, your Inner Critic is one of your biggest obstacles to achieving the big things you want in life. Part of learning to trust yourself enough to achieve the big things you want in life is learning to control your thinking, including the thoughts attributed to your Inner Critic. Here are five steps you can take to turn your Inner Critic into your Inner Catalyst:

Recognize your Inner Critic

How do you know what your Inner Critic sounds like? For most people, it’s that voice inside you that is judgmental and critical of things you say, do, or think. When you feel as though you are being chastised like a child or discouraged from moving forward on something you want to try, that’s probably your Inner Critic. (In contrast, an inner voice that is accepting and encouraging is inspired intuition.) Many of your Inner Critic’s messages come from those you heard over and over in your child, and these messages are contained in the well-worn ruts of your neural networks.

Take away its power

Once you recognize the voice of your Inner Critic, you can start to realize that you are not your Inner Critic. This means you have the choice to decide how much power you want it to have over you. One way to put the voice of the Inner Critic in its place is to image changing aspects of its voice. What effect does the message have on you once you give it a higher pitch, make it sound like a cartoon character, or turn down its volume? What if you give it a lisp or an accent? You soon realize the impact of Inner Critic is completely within your control.

Look for the positive intention

Even when you were a child and were scolded by an adult, there was a positive reason behind the criticism or scolding. The same goes for your Inner Critic. So, ask yourself, “How does telling myself I can’t/shouldn’t [fill in the blank] help me?” Usually I find that my Inner Critic is protecting me from potential failure or disappointment. Once I realize the positive intention, I thank my Inner Critic and tell it, it has done its job and can stop the message.

Move from the perception of the emotional brain to thinking with the rational brain

The next step is to explore your Inner Critic’s message with the executive function of your rational brain. To do this, Coach Debra J. Payne, PhD., a recent guest on my podcast about “perfectionism” and the Inner Critic, suggests focusing on the self-doubt created by your Inner Critic and creating a mind map of all the thoughts that pop into your head around the particular situation. For example, let’s say you sincerely want to get a new job and have all the qualifications. Yet, you find yourself stuck and not pursuing the new job, leading you to justify your lack of initiative by saying you “can’t get a better job”. You (or your Inner Critic) start listing all the reasons why you can’t get a better job: you’re too busy . . . it doesn’t really matter that much . . . you won’t get it because you’re not part of the inner circle. . . .

You might map out your self-doubt or limiting belief (from your Inner Critic) “I can’t get a better job” this way:

Self-Doubt at the Center



Then, explore the message of doubt from your Inner Critic:

Self-Doubt at the Side

from Debra J.Payne

(1) Set aside your Inner Critic’s main message (“I can’t get a better job.”)
(2) Give yourself some space or breathing room
(3) Explore each “reason” your Inner Critic has created that keeps you stuck with powerful questions to test the validity of the reason.

Debra suggests using these question stems to question the self-doubt from your Inner Critic:

  • What (specifically)?
  • Because?
  • In what way?
  • Such as?
  • When?
  • How do you know?
  • How specifically?
  • What else?
Take Baby Steps

After you explore the validity of your Inner Critic’s messages, you’re ready to take a few small steps in the direction of the thing you want. And once you accomplish those, do a few more small steps. By making incremental progress, you’ll eventually do the thing you never thought possible.

To conclude, by allowing our Inner Critic to hijack our desire to accomplish things that are important to us, you keep yourself from fully realizing what you want and from experiencing your capabilities. Instead of succumbing to your Inner Critic, transform it into your Inner Catalyst.

This post was inspired by my podcast conversation with Debra J. Payne, PhD. Here is more about her:

Debra-Payne-UtahFacing a project that overwhelms you? Debra Payne, PhD helps you to sift through the noise, make a plan, and execute. She has helped hundreds of people to get their work done while managing the stress and confusion that can come with big, scary projects.

Debra began her coaching life working with dissertation writers and faculty members to overcome procrastination and fear, navigate the writing process, and get their projects done. She gradually discovered that her “get it done” skills are transferable and she began working with professionals in the corporate world, as well.

As an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Debra has coached online groups, taught workshops, and provided both individual and group coaching. Debra has the ability to listen intently and meet people where they are. She is able to help people find their stumbling blocks and gain the motivation they need to accomplish their goals.

Debra recently co-authored a book with Dr. Lynda Brown, entitled Get Naked: Helping Women Strip Away Limiting Beliefs. More about Debra can be found at .

How You Might Be Undermining Your Team’s Drive for Results

business team

I was recently asked, “How do I get my senior team to run with the ball instead of relying on me so much to tell them what to do? They should know how to and when to move things forward!”

Every CEO wants a highly competent and motivated senior team who, with some planning and reflection, can move their areas of responsibility in the right direction, based on company vision, values, and goals.

When this doesn’t happen, the CEO must look at him-or herself first. After all, as CEO you control the conditions employees work within, including your senior team. So it’s a safe bet that you might be encouraging or discouraging certain behaviors – in this case, an over-reliance on you and your opinion.

In general, I assume you have the right people in the right roles, but that is something to take a look at. Maybe a senior team member isn’t competent or in the wrong role. Well, that at least tells you something about your hiring process and criteria. Maybe you need to look at that. But assuming you have capable individuals in place here are some things to consider:

1. You could be sending mixed messages. That is, your actions say one thing and your words say another. For example, you might tell a direct report to “run with” an idea, but if you believe that you are the smartest person in the company or that no one does as good a job as you do, you might criticize decisions your direct report makes or grill him on how things are being done, even when his judgment calls are perfectly acceptable. You might say you trust him to move forward, but you end up breathing over his shoulder for every move or even wrest back control by inserting yourself into decisions or conversations with others. In effect, your actions end up cancelling out your words.

2. You may not have set a clear path with an aligned vision, goals and priorities for your executive team, so they know what to do, when and how to work together. That means that they need to check with you frequently about what to do next.

3. You may not have put in place work structures to support the interdependent cooperation and accountability you want. These structures include fair compensation that is internally equitable and externally competitive, bonuses that don’t get in the way of taking appropriate risks, and recognition for things like creativity, innovation, surpassing customer expectations, etc.

4. Maybe you haven’t intentionally created a culture of responsibility and accountability, meaning behavioral expectations are lacking for handling conflict, working across “silos”, taking risks, etc.).

Assuming you have the right people on your senior team, you are probably doing something or have failed to do something to be clear about the fact that you expect them to take responsibility in their areas to meet company goals. It all starts with you.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives to become positive agents of change in their companies, so employees are as invested in the company’s success as they are. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: