Category Archives: CONTRIBUTORS


What It Takes to Go “All Out” in Running and Life

The next time you see someone staggering across a marathon finish line, barely able to walk, or carried by fellow runners because their legs have buckled, don’t feel sorry for them.

Envy them.*

These are people who know what it feels like to give it their all.

So many of us say “I did my best” or “I gave it 100%” but did we truly? Could we have done better, worked harder?

When I first started running in races, I just wanted to survive. I usually went hard enough that I was sore for days but right after the finish, I always felt like I could have run faster .

As I trained more and got in better shape both cardiovascularly and in strength, I did keep getting faster. I still thought I was running as hard as I could, but soon after finishing, I’d lament “I could have run faster.”

If you’re a perfectionist, this is probably the story of your life. “I could have done better, worked harder, put in more time…”

You probably could have. I don’t think hardly any of us have ever reached that extreme, whether athletically or professionally, where we could honestly say “I absolutely went to the limit. That was the best I could possibly do. Any more and I would have collapsed/passed out/won an award.”

It’s a goal of mine to reach that limit at some point, both professional and athletically.

I’m not talking about damaging yourself. Or ruining your health or relationships by being a workaholic.

I’m talking about going so hard, going all out, that there’s no doubt in your mind that you could have done better or gone harder.

Instead of giving a good presentation, you present like a boss.

Instead of covering the basics, you work out every detail.

Instead of running fast, you go so hard that you cross the finish line with your last possible step.

I’m getting closer, but I want that life experience of knowing I gave it my absolute all.

Here’s what it’s going to take:


In running fast or long, half the battle is getting used to feeling bad. I realize this doesn’t make much of a positive impression on people who are considering running as a sport …

It takes repetition to make the discomfort if not more comfortable, at least tolerable. You learn to keep going, adjust to that feeling, and recover.

This very much applies to business and life. Physical discomfort is sometimes easier to push through than mental discomfort.

We’ve been training ourselves to divide our focus or jump to the next interesting thing. Giving it your all in a writing project, business plan, or marketing campaign often takes long, sustained bouts of thinking and creating which can literally feel painful!

It takes practice to push through that initial desire to stop and do something more interesting or less mentally taxing.


The first time I ran a sub 80-second 400 meter, I didn’t have a watch on and my Coach didn’t call out splits. I just ran. Like a wild woman!

Maybe I’d never run that fast before because I “knew” I couldn’t run that fast. I would glance at my watch and think I was running as fast as I could.

You KNOW that if you think you can’t do something, you’re usually right. Your perception of yourself is going to influence your outcome.

Don’t measure yourself by your self perception. Sometimes you’ve got run without feedback, without knowing where you are, or measuring against previous performance.


Laziness is a survival trait. Understanding that is half the battle.

Your mom was right. Hard work (almost) never killed anyone (it’s the unrelieved stress).

We evolved to do just enough to the get the result we needed. If you were “homo habilis” and you were threatened by a bear, you ran or fought just enough to get to safety.

You didn’t run until you dropped from exhaustion if you didn’t need to. You’d be killed by the next threat that came along because you wouldn’t have the energy to escape that new threat.

Today, most people on this planet are fortunate enough that their daily routine doesn’t include life or death flight or fight situations. If you’ve planned your day or weekend right, you could go to exhaustion Monday through Friday or on a Saturday morning and be safe in assuming you could lounge on the couch the rest of the weekend.

That physiological injunction against going to exhaustion is still very much hard-wired into our brains.

You may run until your brain says you’re “tired” or even “exhausted” but you really aren’t. Your body literally tricks your brain into thinking you’re more tired than you are so you’ll quit or slow down long before you’re completely spent.

Knowing about this mechanism helps you understand the lies your body and brain are telling you.

Jens Voigt, professional cyclist, is famous for his saying “Shut up legs.” He should add “Shut up brain.”


Whether it’s athletic or professional, stretching yourself that hard is probably going to hurt. You’ll suffer on the path to get there.

You’ve gotta want it badly. If it’s not your passion, your desire, your obsession … you’re just not going to want to go past that “danger signals” point.

This means that going all out is probably going to be limited to just a few things in your life. Maybe only one thing.

Personally, running is one of those things for me. I’ve had a few experiences where I crossed a finish line and could barely lift my legs to get off the track…. And I loved it!

Not the burning pain of lactic acid. Or the searing lungs.

But the feeling that I absolutely put it all out there. Did my best. Laid it on the line. Gave it my all.

I want to feel that feeling again and again and again.

*They’re fine. They’re usually just glycogen depleted and just need rest and carbs. Gonna hurt the next few days though!

Cover photo courtesy of Juan Esparza Loera.



Hungry for This Wine: The Wine for Transitions: Donnafugata SurSur 2016

The Donnafugata SurSur is a transitional wine, and I do not mean that it’s the wine that’s in transition.

Donnafugata SurSurIt’s us who are transitioning, and this is the wine that is bridging us this week from one place to the next. Literally. We are moving houses, from one part of the city to another and, though we left most of our wine in the “old” house for now, this wine made the cut of the very few bottles that we hand-carried on our move.

Here’s why I’m that hungry for this wine.

We live in Atlanta, and it’s the month of July, and it is hot. As in, sweltering. In the midst of that heat is the physicality of moving heavy boxes and bulky furniture, and making 537 decisions about what needs to go where inside a new home that we don’t yet know.

It is all, in a word, exhausting, even for someone who enjoys the karmic shake-up and editing process of a move.

So I knew that, at the end of the day, I would want something cool and refreshing and, especially in these conditions, white and crisp.

That’s one reason that the Donnafugata SurSur made the cut.

The second reason has two parts: it’s from southwestern Sicily (Sicilian wines are all the rage right now, thanks to a major surge of interest in volcanic wines from Mount Etna), and it’s made from a native grape (Grillo) that is mostly unfamiliar to me.

Being Sicilian and unfamiliar raised the chances significantly that I would be interested in this wine even though I may have been too tired to be interested in much.

And then there were the bonus points. Its low alcohol (12.73% ABV), with just enough body without ill-timed weight or heft, and fruit and florals (which I love) on the nose. There is also a clever naming convention that, among my “tougher-minded” friends, I’d be embarrassed to admit that I find adorable. In addition to being the name of an ancient indigenous Sicilian grape, “Grillo” is also the name for the cricket, which brings good luck. “SurSur” means cricket in classical Arabic, which was once also spoken in Sicily.

That’s a lot going on for one bottle of wine that made our very short-list transitional cut.

I placed a bet that I would – still – be hungry for this wine, even in a time of transition. And that bet paid off.

This wine reminds me why I love wine. Which reminds me why I love living my life. Which reminds me of all the thousands of things I’m grateful for, including moving and fresh starts and the luxury of relishing a glass or two of thirst-quenching wine at the end of an exhausting experience.



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Things I learned from being nice on social media

A few months ago, I decided to ONLY be nice and positive on social media.

I made this decision for two reasons: One, I grew tired of spewing my own social media venom; and two, because I grew increasingly tired of observing others doing the same.

Online, all far too many people seem to know how to do is SCREAM all day long; bitching and venting about this and that. It never seems to end.

Personally, I no longer wanted to add to the noise.

In terms of my past online behavior, this largely manifested itself in two ways: One, I bitched, moaned, and complained when a brand or organization wronged me (at least in my opinion); and two, I injected my political opinion into the wider dialog around a specific political news event or policy discussion.

At the end of the day, this was getting me nowhere. I needed to stop. I was getting frustrated. And it was causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

And the spiraling behavior could only be dealt with by feeding it more. And more. And more. The process would never stop.

In the end, I decided that I needed to model better behavior online, the kind of behavior I’d prefer to see online, at least from others in my various social networks. I realized that I cannot control the whole internet, but I can control what I do and whom I follow online.

So, in addition to my stopping my own venom, an important part of the work was also to distance myself from people doing specific things online, activities that would ultimately provoke me into responding, or at least commenting. This would usually be something not very nice. Or at least not optimistic or supportive.

I grew weary of people picking political fights just for the sake of picking fights (not because they had a legitimate or principled stand on any actual policy position). They just relished the fight and heated, angry debate.

I grew to dislike people who stirred up trouble and controversy, not because they believed strongly in the issue, but because they wanted to have 100 people comment on their post, and stir the pot within the comments. It was more about the action there.

I also tired of people who spent twenty-four hours a day complaining about brands. Endlessly. It really came to a head for me when United Airlines had its unfortunate experience of dragging the poor fellow off the plane. It felt to me that people relished the chance to pile on to a brand who had done wrong…not to necessarily voice deeply-held, principled opinion, but rather, they loved the schadenfreude. That made me sick. I unfollowed more people after that incident than any day since. And have been a shadow of my former self on Facebook since that incident.

And when one controversy ends, they wait and pile on the next brand that does wrong.

On the occasion that I did offer my thoughts and opinion on a matter of political opinion, people would jump at the chance to shit on my opinion. No, these people never commented or engaged with anything else I did online, but jumped at the chance to smack me upside the head when I offered something political. It was almost like they were lurking in the shadows waiting for me to say something…

Finally, and most frustratingly, I no longer wanted to observe people complaining about their lives (and doing nothing about it).

All these behaviors combined, grew very, very tiresome. And I was tired of feeding it all with my own venom and vitriol.

So now, when someone acts in this way on any of my networks, I unfriend and unfollow, or disconnect however appropriately. It’s not personal, really, but I just don’t have time for it.

So, here are the basic guidelines I’ve made for myself:

1. I will no longer complain about brands online. I will contact the brand directly if I have a complaint that warrants further action.

2. I will not discuss religion or politics. I will conduct face-to-face, offline debates with people who are interested in understanding my point of view on an issue; not with people who just want to shout louder than I can.

3. I will not engage on someone’s post to disagree and debate. If I feel strongly enough to discuss it with them, I will do so offline.

4. When there is a big controversy that has got everyone commenting and offering their opinion, I will simply unplug, get offline, and read a book.

So what will my behavior look like? Well, I’m going to post lovely photos of my hometown, the food we eat, the travel I do, our crazy dogs, share music I am listening too, and document my marathon training (which is taking more and more of my time).

And of course, I will continue share the results of the work from my media company: Our interviews, client work, our business series, and other fascinating material generated on our platform from our collaborators.

Some of you might find that boring. But I make no apologies, because that’s my life. You’ll engage with it, or you won’t. I won’t lose any sleep over it.

So, how’s it going so far?

Well, for several months, I haven’t been negative, haven’t complained publicly to and about any brands, have ignored and/or unfollowed anyone who has been politically nasty, and disconnected from most people who spent all day long complaining about people, brands, and their life.

I will admit, it wasn’t always easy. In today’s crazy political climate, it wasn’t easy to keep silent, especially in the face of some pretty repellent behavior, commentary, and media coverage.

But I did it. And now, it’s like I’ve gone through detox. I no longer miss it. It’s easier and easier to disengage and not pay attention to all the childish antics and behavior.

Here are my key lessons learned and (sometimes surprising) observations:

1. Assholes have stopped picking fights with me. This alone was worth the effort.

2. I’ve literally stopped sending dozens and dozens of tweets complaining about things. Nothing ever really comes from doing this anyway. And I don’t even really feel better after doing it either.

3. When I do make a comment on something now, I have to put a positive spin on things. This changes how I react to situations, and that’s a good thing. I am more optimistic and positive, rather than negative. Big, positive mindset shift!

4. I have become more proactive on these channels, rather than always reacting to people stirring up trouble. This affords more control to my personal messaging.

5. Similarly, this has made me a better journalist myself, as I am no longer reacting to poor journalism. And I am learning what NOT to do myself.

6. I had long felt required to follow provocative people just to be able to react to them. Now, I can simply unfollow them, get their vitriol and poison out of my life, and stop wasting my precious time.

7. I’ve learned how to discern real news, rather than trying to count on untrustworthy sources to get their opinion on the day’s events.

8. When I personally stopped pouring gas on the fire, a lot of the negative crap went away, at least in my world (which saved me a lot of anger, time, and stress).

9. Instead of taking so much of this crap personally, I can now laugh at most people online, and realize how foolish they are acting. It now amuses me, rather than infuriates me. My blood pressure has gone down significantly.

10. I’ve learned how relatively unimportant social media is. For as a result of my decision, I spend a lot less time on social media, and much to my surprise, I really don’t miss it.

11. At first, the urge to go negative was strong. But over a couple of months, that same urge has largely gone away, and now, I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve got more important things to do.

12. And WOW the time I have saved from not getting dragged into useless, pointless debates with people whom I will NEVER convince otherwise. That time can now be spent on positive activities, at least for myself.

So, those are my key findings from being nice on social media for a couple of months.

As I’ve said before, I won’t judge people for how they act online. The beauty of these digital channels is that you can utilize them however you see fit. So, far be it from me to judge people on platforms such as these.

Do as you will, and as many have continued to do, do your worst. But for me, I’m over it. I don’t have time for that anymore.



How to achieve better results on social media, at least for me

To achieve better results on social media, I’m changing my approach to how I spend my time there. Effective immediately.

I’m fed up with the nastiness. I’m fed up with the near constant negativity. I’m fed up with people using the platforms to complain about everything, and I mean everything. And I am really fed up with people who instigate combative debate just for the opportunity to tear people down and pick a fight, or to say something mean, just because they can.

I’m not innocent in this.

Online, I’ve complained about the media. I’ve complained about Hollywood. I’ve whined to airlines and the TSA when I have travel issues. And I’ve certainly offered my opinions and frustrations on politics.

But I’m done with that. And frankly, no one is listening anyway. They’re too busy complaining or tearing down. Too busy trying to shout louder than their (perceived) rival on the other side. And honestly, my bitching accomplishes little, other than to give a few unhappy people the chance to hit me right back, and me the phony satisfaction that I’ve gotten something off my chest.

What am I focusing on instead? My life in Chicago: my wife, my nutty dogs, my foodie adventures with Stephanie, my local experiences living in our beloved city, and of course, my ups and downs with training for the Chicago marathon.

In other words, I am going positive.

That’s what I’m personally doing. In the end, you will observe some of my life, or you won’t. And if you don’t, so be it. I know you have your own life to live.

Life is short. Life is precious. I am happy. And I’m going to celebrate it – I am no longer surrounding myself with negative.

And of course I will continue to share the work of my little media company: telling the stories of the people and organizations teaching us to be better at business, practicing our humanity, and improving our lifestyle design.

In terms of the social platforms themselves, here’s where I stand:

FACEBOOK. I’m hardly active there anymore. Too many people complaining 24/7. And it’s all memes now. Or the results of silly games to see what your Christmas Elf name should be, or what foreign country is truly right for you. Not judging if this kind of stuff is interesting and fun to you, or worth your valuable time. It isn’t to me.

I’ll see you around the FB neighborhood from time to time, but not often. There are still people here that I care about and will look in upon from time to time.

TWITTER. Becoming increasingly irrelevant to me. Why? Because unless you are Donald Trump or some big celebrity, no one is paying attention to you anymore. Shame the platform evolved that way. Just a PR tool for celebs. And frankly, half of them are paid to do it anyway.

Yes, I met my wife on Twitter. Probably the only reason I’ve stuck around this long. I sometimes wonder if Stephanie and I would have even connected on Twitter if the year was 2017, instead of 2009.

INSTAGRAM. This is my new home on the social web. This is where I can best tell my story and chronicle my life. This is where I can best observe and engage with others trying to do interesting things with their lives. Here on this platform I can still be inspired by others, and that’s what I value most. Things seem simpler and less complicated. Find me on Instagram here!

Oh sure, there are negative and nasty nabobs on Instagram too. But much, much easier to ignore them here.

And, if I am being honest, most of what I share to Facebook is fed through Instagram in the first place…

TO RECAP: I’m done with negative people on social media, and I’m committed to stop being negative on social media.

I’m done with spending time on platforms only housed with unhappy people who complain all the time, and will spend my time on platforms where I can still find inspiration.

Normally I’d ask you to join me in this new approach, but I’m not going to this time. Use social media however you want to. It’s up to you. Far be it from me to preach that my way is the only way. It’s only my way.

My new approach will free up my time to do and focus on things that matter to me. It will make me less angry, less bitter, and more celebratory of the good stuff in my life that I’ve been too blind and distracted to see.


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Hungry for This Wine: 2016 Malbec Rosé from William Chris Vineyards

It’s very hard these days to not get into a rosé mood.

Malbec RoséThe weather’s changing. The earth is tilting toward the sun. Its radiance is stronger on our face. The green grass is greener, and the blood flowing through our muscles is somehow warmer.

Welcome to the season of rosé, the one that lifts our mood and reminds our tastebuds of all that’s light. Translucent, even. And definitely sunny.

I am huge fan of rosé and here are two reasons why: it can be made from just about any grape (giving it tremendous diversity and range), and it can be made from just about anywhere.

By “anywhere” I mean the places you’d expect, like the Provence region of France, Italy, and California.

But did you also know that rosé is made in places that wouldn’t expect, like the Rioja region of Spain, South Africa, and Chile?

And also… wait for it… Texas?

Yes, Texas indeed.

Stay with me here.

It may not have hit your radar yet but a THING for wine has hit Texans. Hard.

In recent years the amount of grapes grown and wines made in Texas has leapfrogged over most other US states. This momentum has been bolstered by local and regional tourism boards, which are posting enviable numbers of consumer visits and engagement.

Here’s one of the best parts, in my opinion, of this major upswing:

The rosé of Texas.

I love it because, as this week’s wine pick shows, it’s made from unexpected grapes like Malbec.

I love it because, when I pour it for friends, they are surprised — actually, “shocked” is more accurate — that it’s from the Texas Hill Country.

I love it because they love it even before I tell them that.

I love it because it’s opening all of our eyes.

And I love it because it’s GOOD, and because it’s exactly the wine that I am hungry to drink right now.



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Hungry For This Wine: Cecchetto Raboso Passito

Can you taste “hungry” in a wine?

CechettoThat is, can you taste the desire that brought the wine into being? Can you taste the passion that brought the wine to your glass?

I think you can. But only if you’re really (really) lucky.

A few weeks ago I was in northern Italy for a wine trade fair, and one night I was lured away from the usual crowds and boisterous evening activities to visit one single, quiet producer called Cecchetto, some 90 minutes away.

I was lured away, that is, because they are hungry for this wine.

They are so hungry to share this wine that I’ve received personal, thoughtful emails from them for more than a year.

They are so hungry for the mystery and the science of the winemaking process that they travel to places like Armenia and Georgia to share knowledge and experience with the winemaking community there.

They are so hungry that they experiment incessantly, from wood for barrels (oak, chestnut, mulberry…) to aging in huge casks for years and years on end. Their experimentation, and the end results, have attracted the attention of Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, among others.

They are so hungry to preserve their heritage that they’ve committed to a grape – Roboso Piave – that long ago represented a significantly greater percentage of vineyard plantings in their region. Today the quantity of Roboso is lean, replaced by the über-popular Prosecco and Pinot Grigio. But Cecchetto plants it anyway.

And they use it to make this wine, a passito version of it, which concentrates the fruit, the process, and the intention.

It’s the kind of wine my husband loves, because he loves Port and other wines in that sweet style. It’s the kind of wine I also love, because I love the narrative and the heritage of it. It’s the kind of wine we drink together, slowly and when it’s dark outside and we are capping another day.

This is the kind of wine we, also, are hungry to drink.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Cecchetto Raboso Passito wine!

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Hungry For This Wine: 2014 Oris (Ciù Ciù Winery)

What’s hot right now when it comes to wine?

Ask that question to wine professionals anywhere in the country, and here’s what I bet most of them will answer:

“We can’t tell you.”

They aren’t being coy. They do have a good reason for not saying what’s hot, but it isn’t because of something sensible like trends not having matured yet, or because they aren’t paying close enough attention to their audience.

Wine pros can’t tell us what’s hot because “what’s hot” is unknown, or at least it’s obscure. It’s also difficult to find, and probably even more difficult to pronounce or to spell.

What’s hot, in other words, hasn’t really been identified yet. When it comes to the next big thing, wine pros want what they haven’t had yet.

It’s an attractive idea.

Of course we can go for the old reliable stand-bys and the bottles that have seen us through thick and thin.

But honestly, where’s the fun in that? This is wine! Not some old sweatshirt you’ve had since college. Let’s try something new on for size.

What’s hot now is what we haven’t heard of yet. Which explains why, at a tasting I hosted recently of wines from the Marche region of Italy, the most popular wine (by far) was made from… wait for it… Pecorino.

No, not the cheese. The grape.

And the Marche region? Haven’t heard of that either? More points for you!

The Oris wine by Ciù Ciù winery (don’t know how to pronounce it? Great!) is made from Pecorino, Passerina, and Trabbiano grapes (triple threat right there!). It’s a white wine made in the hills of eastern Italy. It was hand-harvested and can be drunk in the springtime following the harvest.

Which means it’s casual, and fun, and light, and easy. And this week, it’s exactly what I’m hungry to drink.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Ciù Ciù wines!

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Hungry For This Wine: 2014 Smith-Madrone Riesling

Smith-Madrone RieslingThis wine arrived just in the nick of time. 

It was a Friday night, my husband and I were home alone, our twin boys having been invited to a sleepover elsewhere. It was a long and exhilarating week of work that we both love but lordy, by that point, exhaustion had won out.

We didn’t want to cook, we didn’t even want much to think. It was an order-in night for dinner — Thai food, in our case — and it was the sustenance kind of dinner that you expect to fuel you with calories and, honestly, not much else.

But then there was this wine. 

It had arrived earlier in the week, along with bottles that this particular Napa producer is frankly better known for, namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. But my husband and I are both suckers for Riesling, and spicy Thai food was on the way. We pulled the cork, casually poured a few measures of the wine into our glasses, and took our seats.

To be honest, I didn’t even smell it first. I know I should have; it’s something “wine people” do, but this producer is familiar and I respect their wines and their process. They want to make wines that express their place on the earth, they say, and they also want to make wines that express themselves as people and as winemakers.

That, I get. As winemakers in Napa for more than 40 years, certainly Stu and Charles Smith are keyed into what the market wants and what their land is best suited to produce. By and large, for them on Spring Mountain, that means Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

But then there is this Riesling.

This Riesling says that they have their independent streak. It says that they listen hard enough to their land (and its steep hillsides) that they know it is suited, too, to produce the grapes for this wine. It says that they know this wine will be good.

This Riesling IS good, and refreshing, though in a way-beyond-sustenance kind of way. You get oranges and white flowers and fresh acidity. You get the desire to take another sip and then another.

It’s the kind of Riesling that reminds you to be grateful that wine, and this wine, is part of our life. It’s the kind of wine that makes you grateful that your kids have a friendly and active social life, and that you have this time alone with the person who loves you most in the all the world.

It’s the kind of wine that I’m hungry to drink, with Thai food for dinner or many other things too. It was just the right thing at just the nick of time, to pull us back from the far edge of everyday life.

CLICK HERE for additional details on this wine!

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The Hazards of Business Execution, Part 4 of 4

This is the final segment of a four-part series!

I want to share with you in a series of 4 brief articles, how to overcome the obstacles to effective and predictable business execution of strategic initiatives.

There are chronic issues that exist in all organizations and far too many leaders accept them as a non-negotiable part of the business environment — things like resource disconnects, decision stalls, organizational politics, weak or passive-aggressive support, or everyone simply being too busy.

Previously I talked about the first 3 steps in the MOVE model
M = The Middle
O = Organization
V = Valor

Today I want to talk about the fourth and final step in the MOVE model: E= Everyone

Although you can lead a transformation from the top, you can’t DO a transformation from the top. Successful transformation requires that everyone participates. If they don’t move forward, you don’t move forward.

Telling does not equal communicating

You need to be ready to consider this first telling of your strategy to your organization as pretty much a throwaway effort. Yes, it’s a step in the process. Yes, you need to communicate top down. But to genuinely communicate, and to get your message internalized, and for your transformation to take hold, you need to create a fundamental shift in the way that you think about communication. You need to change your existing idea of communication to instead become conversation — that involves everyone.

Your broadcast has almost nothing to do with whether or not something has been communicated. Simply telling people your strategy does not mean they heard it.

You should not assume that just because you have told everyone your strategy (for the first time!), that they were listening carefully, internalized it, know what they need to do personally to act on it, know how to optimize it with regard to their current work, and will actively do the right things to implement their piece of it.

And in fact, it’s kind of funny, when an executive realizes that people “aren’t getting it”, typically I find there is an inverse relationship between the level of emphasis an executive will use to say, “but I was very clear” and how much has actually been internalized by their audience!

Conversation vs. communication

The right measure is never about how clearly you think you have communicated. The only right measure is about how much your audience has internalized.

You have communicated successfully when the people in your organization are talking about it amongst themselves.

For your transformation to work, the change must be part of the social fabric of the whole organization in a very real way — and that happens through conversation.

For example, when you can approach an employee at any level at random and ask, what is the most important thing for us to be doing right now, and why? — and get the same answer most of the time — then you can say that your communication has been successful.

Conversation creates forward momentum, and safety

People will only feel safe to keep doing the new thing if they hear their peers are still talking about it. If the conversation stops people will start asking, “Are we still doing this?’ and your strategy will stall.

Decorate the change
To give people confidence to keep going they need to see signs of the new strategy every single day. Through your conversations and physical modifications to the workplace you can “decorate the change” to make the new way a tangible part of the social fabric of the organization.

Listen and Share
Too many organizations treat communicating as an afterthought, and this is deadly to a successful transformation. It’s important to do not only top down conversations, but foster and environment of sharing information across groups (by making information sharing part of performance objectives!)

Power and Trust
As leaders we have a choice to share power or hoard power. If you share power you build trust, and trust is rocket fuel for keeping motivation and momentum in a transformation. And with trust there is no neutral. You are either building trust, or destroying it. You must invest in building trust through building conversation.

My new book MOVE is about decisively executing strategy

Get your copy of MOVE to help you truly engage people on a personal level, build trust, and increase confidence to move your strategy forward. Learn how to change communication into the kind of conversation that fuels forward momentum, and how to decorate the change so the path forward is an obvious part of the environment every single day.


You can find Patty Azzarello’s upcoming book here:

Download a FREE Preview of MOVE

In my years of leading business transformations and turnarounds, building highly successful management teams, and working with countless clients to implement their strategies, I have determined what factors enable faster, more decisive execution, and reduce risk.
It’s all in the book! I can’t wait to share it! Available in February.

Get a copy for your whole team!
Or if you’d like to pre-order a copy for everyone on your team, contact us for bulk-order discounts.


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The Hazards of Business Execution, Part 3 of 4

This is part three of a four-part series!

I want to share with you in a series of 4 brief articles, how to overcome the obstacles to effective and predictable business execution of strategic initiatives.

There are chronic issues that exist in all organizations and far too many leaders accept them as a non-negotiable part of the business environment — things like resource disconnects, decision stalls, organizational politics, weak or passive-aggressive support, or everyone simply being too busy.

Previously I talked about the first 2 steps in the MOVE model:
M = The Middle
O = Organization

Today I want to talk about the third step in the MOVE model, V= Valor:

Everyone is scared

If you are human, you will be scared sometimes. If you are leader you will be attacked and challenged sometimes. At times your job will feel so ugly and impossible that you think you will surely fail. In my experience, the bigger the job, the harder it gets. Because as you move higher, there is less clarity of expectations, less support from your direct manager, less feedback, and higher stakes. There is also much more competition for budget, people, and charter.

That brings us to the section on V=Valor. Because leadership is hard. That’s why you need Valor to progress through the long Middle.

Welcome to being a leader

I can remember feeling at various points in my career, that the mission just didn’t make sense, or that it was unsupported. I felt like I was out on a limb owning all of the risk, and with not enough resources to succeed. Or I felt like the corporate bureaucracy, the board, or another group or particular adversary, was blocking me (or sabotaging me) from doing the right things that I knew needed to be done. Or I would get a directive that didn’t make any sense like, “you must cut costs by 50% but you can not make any cuts to the biggest program.”

As a leader, this unreasonable, soul-crushing stuff is just part of the job description. There are always big, ugly, seemingly impossible problems, annoying people, and exhausting obstacles in the way of getting your job done. And when you are leading, by definition you are going to a place where others aren’t. You are embarking on new territory, which can be scary and lonely.

Think of Valor in this way:

Once you embrace the fact that: YOUR JOB = Your job description PLUS all the crap that gets in the way of delivering on your job description…You will feel (and BE) in a lot more in control.

I coach a lot of senior executives and with pretty much everyone we reach a point where I tell them, “You’ll be better off if you start your thinking with this:

Everything is impossible and everyone is a shark.

That’s just the way it is. And it’s your job to deal with that.” Usually that makes people feel better because they can let go of the idea that it is about them personally, and they can step back, see the problem more clearly, and treat it like any other challenge or project.

A leader needs a lot of Valor to navigate a transformation through the long Middle because people will lose faith, rebel, and there will be political attacks along the way.

Burn the ships at the beach

You need to be so unfailingly consistent in your communications and decisions that people realize the only way through is forward. As Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell… keep going”.

Too busy to scale

Most new strategic initiatives fail because the pressures of the current workload are so overwhelming that there is no time to do new things. You must find a way to rise above the current workload and priorities the strategic over the urgent. This is one of the hardest parts of leadership but has the biggest payoff if you are willing to do it.

Clarity and Conflict

The more clear you become about what it will take to stick to your strategic initiative, the more fire you will draw. It’s more comfortable to keep your goals at a generic level that everyone can agree to.

Once you start getting specific, “in order to do this new thing, will take these resources from the old thing, and delay the current plan on this other thing” people will disagree! But this is the only way to actually make progress.

If you never talk about what you will actually do in this concrete way, you will never actually do it!

Don’t trade a comfortable shallow agreement in the short time for a slow moving train wreck in the long term as you fail to implement your strategy.

Get your copy of MOVE to help you increase your confidence as leader to guide your team through the long Middle to implement your strategy decisively without hesitation, doubt and fear. You need Valor to stick to it and to help your team feel confident to keep doing the new stuff despite the many pressures to go back to the old way.

Check back next time for the final part of the MOVE model, E = Everyone.


You can find Patty Azzarello’s upcoming book here:

Download a FREE Preview of MOVE

In my years of leading business transformations and turnarounds, building highly successful management teams, and working with countless clients to implement their strategies, I have determined what factors enable faster, more decisive execution, and reduce risk.
It’s all in the book! I can’t wait to share it! Available in February.

Get a copy for your whole team!
Or if you’d like to pre-order a copy for everyone on your team, contact us for bulk-order discounts.