November 29, 2019

I confess, I’m a holiday Grinch. People find this surprising about me because in general, I'm a friendly, upbeat sort of person. And, I’ve been known to bake and decorate the occasional sugar cookie. But the truth is, I don’t love the holidays.


Oh, lots of reasons. And all of which are personal to me, and none of your business. I don’t sound so friendly and upbeat now do I? Well, I’m not alone. In fact, right around this time of year, many of my clients confess their own dislike/dread of the holidays.

There’re plenty of us Grinches. We have our reasons for feeling the way we do, and contrary to popular belief, not one of them is that our hearts are three sizes too small.

Some of us are coping with loss. Some are coping with illness. Some have strained or estranged...

November 27, 2019

The surest way for a leader to get stuck is to prioritize their own personal comfort over the truth of what’s happening around them. In the field of system leadership theory, this refusal to see reality in favor of what we wish was real is called “absencing”. When we’re absencing, rather than bravely stepping into the future, we cling to the past. We shut ourselves off from what is emerging. We turn our backs on our employees and ultimately, we turn our backs on ourselves. When we live in an absencing cycle, we’re betraying ourselves. It’s the ultimate self-own.

At the heart of absencing is the desire to run away from difficult people and situations and the uncomfortable emotions they give rise to. Difficulty makes us feel less certain about our place in the world and that threatens our sen...

November 22, 2019

It took a year for Rene Zellwegger to prepare for the role of Judy Garland in the movie Judy. She had to learn to sing Over the Rainbow, a classic that almost everyone remembers from their childhood, and then convincingly perform it in front of live audiences. There was no room for error. And it was terrifying. “At times, if I could have run away, I would have,” she told Vanity Fair.

Each of us has felt that way at some point in our career. And the temptation to run away can be overwhelming. I know I’m haunted by more than one moment from my past where I might have been able to put in a little more, but instead stopped.

One of my favorite quotes from The Unstuck Project came from a CEO I’ll call Andy. Andy’s company is growing so rapidly, I see him in the news at least once a week these days...

November 14, 2019

Usually, sometime around their second or third session, my coaching clients realize that all this Unstuck Leadership stuff I’ve been going on about on this blog and in The Unstuck Leader is hard. Really hard.

It’s hard to manage our needs for certainty and significance. It’s hard to continually prioritize truth over comfort. It’s hard to identify the maladaptive systems at play in ourselves, as well as in our organization. It’s hard to let go of what’s not working. And, it’s hard to create an environment where co-creation happens around us, in spite of us and occasionally through us.

That’s why it takes daily commitment. Leadership is a practice.

It’s up to us to create the circumstances in which we are most likely to commit to doing all the things we need to do to be great leaders. For some...

November 8, 2019

Last week we talked about a terrible, awful thing called the Contractive Cycle. Being in a contractive state is the number one cause of being miserable at work.

But happily, there’s also something called an Expansive Cycle. It looks something like this:

When we’re in an expansive state, we’re grounded in core values, but open to new ideas, situations and people. From here, we experience heightened creativity, energy and joy.

Sound good?

Excellent. It’s time to rumble with our needs for certainty and significance. Let’s do this.

Make Friends With Fear

The first think we need to know about certainty is that our need for it largely comes from a primitive part of our brain, the neo-mammalian part, also known as the limbic system. It’s where our emotions reside. And fear is the emotion it likes best.


November 1, 2019

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November 1, 2019

Okay, maybe you’re happy at work. But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, a lot of the people around you aren’t. In fact, about 80% of my clients tell me in their first session that they feel they’re in the wrong job. Being in the wrong job was also the number cause of stuckness expressed to me by interviewees in The Unstuck Project.

So, it seems a great many of us miserable at work.

You’ve got to wonder; what’s going on?

In my experience, nine times out of ten, it’s a question of personal values and integrity.

But first, let’s look at a few stats. In the Unstuck Project, the average age of onset for a person’s first incidence of major stuckness was 38. Interestingly, this is consistent with loads of academic research. The most quoted study, published in 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences, reve...

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