What’s In Your Head?


What’s in your head may be totally wrong.

The above statement may make you shrug your shoulders, as you think I’ve grasped something so obvious.

I had a conversation with a client today who relayed multiple stories of leaders who continued to rely on the faulty data roaming around in their heads. It was clear to him that much was missing and much could go wrong on multiple projects. As I’m sure you can imagine, big plans and tight deadlines were the drivers.

I asked him whether these leaders lived inside their own heads. I proceeded to explain why our own thought processes can deceive us. I pointed out that our thought processes have a tendency to be reliant on self and past accomplishments. You’ve experienced this before. A smart person who has been told how smart they are, with success to show for it, typically is not accepting of contrary opinion or advice. Who needs it when you’ve pretty much figured out the riddle of life and work.

People from all walks of life are interesting in how they apply thoughtful analysis, or critical thinking. My coaching client saw an example at work of how very smart people can fall into the trap of leaning on their own mental capabilities. Much of it is a pick and choose proposition. What if you were told by their doctor to come back annually for a test, you’d say of course they will make the appointment without missing a beat. Isn’t it ironic how you can rationalize not doing it. Recognize these sentences:

  • “I have to complete this project, and then I will…”
  • “I feel great and I’m not in any pain.”
  • “I don’t think it’s as serious as he told me it was.”

It really is arrogance-covert or overt. Arrogant people often have the biggest blind sides. Once again, relying only on information that fits what’s in their head. It took me years to turn around on this front.

5 Questions with Dr. Andrew Thorn, Author of Leading with Your Legacy In Mind

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This edition of 5 Questions features Dr. Andrew Thorn. Dr. Thorn wrote a guest post on legacy last year, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to interview him about his new book Leading with Your Legacy In Mind. I know you’ll love our conversation and the book as well.


In the preface for the book, you give a personal take on the struggle between career and family. What’s one strategy from the book that could help someone breakthrough?

Choose to be guided by purpose instead of passion. The purpose of your work is not to be passionate, it is to be useful, to be honorable, and to be of value to your community. When we align with our passion we are constantly caught in the struggle of trying to feed our own self-interests. When we align with our purpose we make a difference, we add value, and we connect our actions to our values.

In our society, fame (even on a small scale), money and status drive many of us to leave our legacy in the dust. Is legacy becoming a forgotten art?

We have forgotten what legacy means and so naturally creating a legacy is a forgotten art. Too often we confuse it with impact, but that is what others feel. We carry our legacy with us. It is the ultimate answer to the question “Who am I?” That is why it is so important for each of us to live and lead with our legacy in mind.

You have a chapter in the book addressing the move from change to growth. What’s that all about?

Change is always driven by external pressures. None of us change because we want to, or because we like to. We may tell ourselves that we do it for those reasons, but in our most truthful moments, we recognize that we only change when we have to. When we do for external reasons, we rarely can sustain the change.

Growth on the other hand is internally motivated. It is the answer to our deepest yearnings and aspirations. It comes about as a result of true desire. This is what makes growth easier to sustain. There are still challenges and trials along the way, but we are committed to our own idea, so we keep at it when the going gets tough.

I read recently, that organizations spend billions on leadership development annually. Are we getting a good ROI in developing leaders?

Sadly, most leadership development initiatives fail to live up to their promise. This is because they are generally focused on the wrong things. Leadership is not a competency or a skill. It is a behavior. Most organizations are ill equipped to measure and manage behavior, but they are very effective at measuring and managing performance. Naturally, and without a lot of effort, most leadership development initiatives become nothing more than just another performance management strategy. When a leadership initiative becomes tied to performance the game is over. Instead of reaching deep into authenticity, it remains an effort to cover up weaknesses and threats. To grow, our weaknesses and threats need to be exposed so that we can understand them and even use them to our advantage.

Another reason why so many initiatives fail is because we forget that leadership is an individual journey. This makes it difficult to teach it in a group setting, but organizations are afraid that it will be too expensive to work with each individual. They know they have to do something so they invest in ineffective strategies, just so they can check the box. We can never check the box on our leadership development efforts. It must be ongoing or we will create a stagnant culture. No one wants that.

Do you believe we’d have better balance in life, if we made legacy a top-of-mind matter? What kind of positive outcomes might we see there?

I think balance happens naturally, so the only time we feel unbalanced is when something is wrong. In life and in work, the unbalances we feel are directly related to our own inability to focus on the things that matter most. We are easily distracted by our business and busyness and we run out of time and energy to deal with what really matters. This is an easy problem to fix. All we need to do is adjust our focus. This doesn’t mean that we forget the things that matter least, which would be impossible because they are directly tied to short-term demands. It simply means that we take time each day to put the big picture in perspective and then do our best to allow our short-term actions to be aligned with bringing that picture to life. When we do this, our legacy is strengthened and we are happy. Most people are surprised by how easy it is to focus and recalibrate their life and work experiences.


Thorn_Press Materials_Headshot-NEW

A pioneer and leader in the field of work/life balance; Dr. Andrew Thorn is widely recognized for his breakthrough thinking on how to help people discover their sense of purpose and create greater meaning from their personal and professional experiences. He personally guided 2 of the top 50 business thinkers, currently listed on The Thinkers 50. His work extends to over 50 major corporate clients and over 250 Senior Leaders from many of the Fortune 500 Companies.

Graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Dr. Thorn also holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology and a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching.

He resides near Los Angeles, CA with his wife of 25 years, Stacy, and their seven children.

Old Leaders, Old Ideas

Decided to take a look back and found this post from June of 2005. Ever experienced old leaders and their old ideas? Maybe you’ve approached your life this way. It’s a dangerous place, either way.


Isn’t it tragic how old leaders bring old ideas?  Here are some reasons for this dysfunction:

  •     Old leaders look through the lens of the past.  A place that “once was”
  •     Old leaders believe (foolishly) that what worked in the past will work again
  •     Old leaders grow old gradually…over time, and die before they are buried
  •     Old leaders are insecure and need an organization that will grow old with them
  •     Old leaders think change applies to others

I was at a holiday get-together this past weekend.  One individual gave me some interesting insights.  She worked for a company where many of the key leaders had moved onto another competitor.  This was the result of a management shake-up some years ago.  These leaders were now trying to implement a structure like the one they had some ten years ago.  She hauntingly noted; “it didn’t work at our place ten years ago, and it won’t work at their new place.”

One of the common mistakes of management is the dysfunction of justifying the old by glorying in the “moments in the sun.”  They experienced the success, and believed that is was a one-way ticket to everlasting success.  Again, old leaders with old ideas.

Why Women Lead Well

From quite a few years ago.

Some of my best leaders have been women.  Many of them gave me something essential to growth-affirmation.  Is this a motherly instinct?  I can’t say for sure, but it has made a difference in my career path.

The Juggle has a great post (Is it Better When the Boss is a Mom) on the potential benefits of a woman leading the charge.  I think a woman being the leader of a group or organization can be an advantage, but whatever the reason I am a better leader because of the influence of these ladies in my life.

Here are some reasons (in addition to affirmation) why women can be wonderful leaders at work and home:

  1. They seem to understand that life is wide as it is long.
  2. They have instinct that, as a man, I only wish I had.
  3. Many women are comfortable in their own skin.
  4. They often understand the importance of legacy (maybe the motherly thing).
  5. They know how to walk away.


Here’s to the women who lead and the difference they make.


What I Need From a Leader


I have influencers and so do you. So, the following are some traits I need from leaders in my life:

  • Integrity-a worn out word that represents our culture’s desperate desire for someone who is willing to do what’s right, no matter what. This is an area of choice. We choose to have integrity or we choose not to. By-the-way, integrity is not measured in degrees. You either have integrity or you don’t.
  • Creativity-this is not confined to the painter and musician. It’s the person who is engaged and willing to try new things. They also are not afraid of making mistakes or being laughed at.
  • Unimpressed-a trait where the person doesn’t care about titles, office locations or how many letters/words come after their names. I’m ok with the titles, I’m not ok with a leader who needs to wear a title like a name tag.
  • Humility-same as integrity in many ways. It also represents someone who has been hurt, someone who faced down adversity. These are what I call, “been to the edge” leaders.
  • Realism-an ability to dream and yet understand what is in front. A dreamer without realism is often a wanderer. Believe me, I have first-hand experience.
  • Vulnerability-one of the most difficult traits to live out, but essential in building real trust. I’m a work in progress in this regard. I’m glad to meet leaders who are focused on keeping it real and are willing to let me see the losses.
  • Giving-this is not only for charity, it is also related to a mindset. These are people who see other people as gifts from God and are willing to give them a chance.

5 Questions with John Baldoni, Author of The Leader’s Pocket Guide

                The Leader's Pocket Guide

I had the pleasure of doing this interview with leadership expert, John Baldoni, who is the author of the new book The Leader's Pocket Guide a few weeks ago. I've always admired his wisdom and energy. Enjoy!

your book you note the importance of what people think, but in a way that
builds a solid reputation. What’s at stake in doing this?

is good because it points us in the right direction. But when it comes to
leadership, action counts. Leaders put their thinking into gear when they lead
by example.

important is critical thinking to the growth of a leader?

must often choose between two good alternatives. Critical thinking teaches
leaders how to balance alternatives as well as to put things into context.

role does hubris or arrogance play in hindering a leader from impacting their
organization in a positive way?

a Greek word, is the condition by which a leader is blind to his or her faults
and often leads to living in a bubble, surrounded by yes people. This is never
a good thing.

of the last tips in the book mentions the importance of finding interests
outside of work. What keeps leaders from doing this?

time. time… Anyone in a leadership position needs to recharge themselves. A
hobby, a trip or close associations with family and friends can do this.

In your mind, what
organizations are doing the best job of developing and growing leaders?

than focus on names of companies I focus on the many capable leaders in
organizations large and small who are making a positive difference in the lives
of their customers, employees and customers. They are legion.


JOHN BALDONI, president of Baldoni Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author. In 2011, Leadership Gurus International ranked John No. 11 on its list of the world’s top 30 leadership experts. He is a regular online contributor to CBS MoneyWatch, Inc, and Harvard Business Review.



The Essential Element

Until organizations realize that people are the essential elements of what make things work, we will forever have a win-lose proposition. Meaning, the organization thinks they've won and people are always on the losing end of the stick. Paying lip-service to this will only further deepen the hole. 

I admire any leader that has the courage to speak up and act. These types of leaders are willing to pay a steep price, in-order to fight for something worth fighting for. This is rare. Far too many people of influence are looking the other way.

The absence of leaders willing to raise their hands is the rot we have on our hands.

Are You Restless?

I heard a "motivational coach" once say that people need quick coaching.  In a sound-bite world like ours, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe he thinks that if it takes longer than ten minutes, people won't move.  Is this true for you?  Are you restless? In some ways it is true, but I think its more a matter of leaders not giving people substance and candor. Clarity goes a long way in the creation of energy. People rise or fall on the expectations of the leader. And certainly he or she's time spent in helping a follower matters. 

In my experience, nothing has come easy or overnight…no matter how much I wished it would have.  The truth of what the term "long run" means, applies hear. You probably get that reality is far different than fantasy and we avoid the ugly truth of waiting like the plague. 

We claim we're too busy to spend more than ten minutes to grow ourselves.  It's as if life is lived half-empty. What a mistake!  I think most are just lost and not sure where to go.  They've given up on their dreams and are accepting a poor imitation.  Titles, money, power and the like won't fill up the vacuum inside you.  Human beings were not wired to be fulfilled by the titles, money and power.  Titles, money and power were designed to be used for the benefit of others…that's the only way they can be held in check.

Think about the following:

  1. Is what you're chasing really that important?
  2. Are your relationships suffering or growing because of what you're chasing?
  3. Why can't you give more than ten minutes (if that describes you) to the gift of life?
  4. Do you really know what your priorities are?
  5. Do you realise that its not all about you (see A Note from Bosses to Employees post from Execupundit)?
  6. Do you know that all of us are terminal?

A Glass Half-Full in a Half-Empty World

Sustained optimism in the craziness of modern life is essential. It pulls you through in hard times and keeps you wide-awake in the good times. What makes it difficult is many attach their optimism to good fortune-small and large.

Let's face it, anyone can be optimistic when the glass is half-full in a half-empty world.

I've written before that human beings are excellent actors. This is really true in our modern life. You've seen it (maybe by accident) before. A leader works on summoning the right words, the right posture, the right look in the eye, all to portray something either not true or something less than sure. This is the strange dichotomy of being real versus the act.

True optimism requires truth.

I've found that people who have followed me just wanted me to be me. They were just looking for truth. Followers are often not under any delusions about where things stand these days. Pity the poor leaders who have convinced themselves otherwise.

So what's your glass like?

Changing People

I've never been able to change one person in my entire life.

I've been told by men and women greater than me, that trying to change people is a road to futility. You might be able to create conditions where someone might want to change. Life could make an impromptu appearance and crush someone to a point where they see no other way but to change. In the end change resides inside each and every one of us. Inside is the keyword here.

So what's with organizations trying to change people?

Organizations can become enamored with their own marketing and brand appearance, not to mention their profit engine. Just like someone who is told repeatedly how great they are. Here that often enough and some will think greatness is theirs. The next-door neighbor to arrogance is power and both work to will over people. It's really a facade, but these types of groups force and intimidate. Like walking a dog that doesn't want to go, they just pull them anyway and can't see the folly of dragging.

So are you in the business of changing people?

Maybe we'd get more if we just started looking at our people as they truly are and then realign, remove, restructure so that the band is playing together and in-tune. This is a courage-based endeavor that few leaders have a stomach for.

Find the courage.