The Awesome Leader Blog

I write about anything that can help leaders gain a snappy, specific set of skills for managing up and managing teams.

"I haven't seen it" + The Magic 8 Ball + BLM

I'm starting off with politics.
If that makes you feel uncomfortable, then I think you're lucky that that statement is one of the things that makes you feel uncomfortable today. With all the fears, worries, and lost hopes around us today, yep, you're lucky if this is what gets under your skin. Side note: for my friends outside of the US, apologies that we generate so many headlines. In the words of Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and others credited with this perfect for 2020 quotation, "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without knowing civilization."
Trump loves to use Twitter, and he loves to make fun of people. When reporters ask members of the Republican party for their responses to some of the more (whew, this is hard) ill-mannered tweets, these politicians respond with phrases like these:

  • I didn't see it
  • I don't know what you're talking about
  • I'm not familiar with the episode
  • I don't have time for...

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Harvey Milk, and Dogs on Zoom

eq leadership May 16, 2020

Yes, I'm pulling these three together. Keep reading. 

In April, I shared my thoughts about leaders we need to recognize. I wrote about how I needed to remind myself that there are awesome leaders out there, and they are working hard to move us (us = communities, cities, states, provinces, and countries—heck, the world) forward in a safe for all manner. 
Before I share ideas on how messy leadership is, a few new (and fun) items to share:

  1. I’ve set up two free workshops on EQ (Emotional Intelligence), scheduled for May 21 and 28. Learn more and register here. Each workshop is just an hour long, and I’ll share best practices, practical tips, and also listen to your questions and provide live coaching on your EQ challenges. Join me.
  2. If you haven’t yet seen Scottish sports broadcaster Andrew Cotter holding a Zoom meeting with his two dogs, well, first finish reading this newsletter, and then go...

Keep Looking for the Leaders Around You

leaderhosen Apr 24, 2020

Hello everyone,

In my last newsletter, I shared my thinking about the leaders around us who are doing amazing jobs: the people to recognize and breathe a sigh of relief in as we see them, listen to them, read about them.

They are the ones wearing Leader Hosen
embracing leadership and publicly and sanely guiding their teams. 

If you missed that newsletter and you're now thinking, "Whew, Leila is probably losing it because she's been in her house too long with her children," first, you might be right, and second, you can read that piece here

And, now, on to a new list of Leader-Hosen wearing, ahhh, leaders (and a new free learning series that starts May 5).

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. Her leadership methods include using varied forms of communication (such as Facebook chats), showing she is approachable (by showing, literally, that she wears old sweatshirts; I...


Executives are People, Too: Tips for Working with Execs

communication Apr 15, 2020

What is it about the word “executive” that makes many of us nervous? Why is it so
difficult to walk into a C-level person’s office and have a conversation?

The executives at your company are people just like you, but their responsibilities and
stresses are vastly different from yours, which can make you feel that you’re walking on eggshells when you speak with them.

How you operate with your manager isn’t how you operate with the CEO, founder, or
co-founder. And how you speak with these folks isn’t how you speak with the members
of your team.

Working with people with “big” titles isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. And while it’s
smart business to realize you do need to work with them differently than you work with your team or even your peers, that doesn’t mean you need to completely change the way you act when in front of that title.

Remember that execs are people, too, and so, treat them as such. As...


Leaders Putting on their Leader Hosen (not a typo)

leaderhosen Apr 09, 2020

Hello everyone,

This is not a story filled with tips to help you work more effectively at home. 

Instead, it's a story about what I call Leader Hosen.

Yes, Leader Hosen.

This is a story about the leaders all around you, each day. People with big names and jobs—people you've probably read about recently or listened to over the last few weeks. It's also a story about people you don't know, names you maybe never would have recognized before this pandemic hit us.

So, settle down into the couch or straighten up into that crappy office chair in your guest bedroom (it's so bad that it should be put on the street with a "FREE" sign, right?). And then let me know the people who come to mind after you read my story.

Over the past few weeks, I've been switching back and forth between reading the news and ignoring it. Going from, "Holy $#@%! We're doomed!" to "It's going to be just fine. Let's eat...


5 Tips to Ask for Help at Work--NOW

career help working Apr 08, 2020

There is one question, no matter who asks it and in what context, that is almost always initially answered with a, “No”. 

Do you know what that question is? 

It’s, “Do you need help?” 

Our first instinct when answering this question is always, “No.” 

We say to ourselves, “Do I need help?! Of course not!”

But - maybe. Maybe I do. 

You probably do need help with something. 

 For some of us, admitting that we need help is akin to admitting we can’t do something, which we see as basically failing. But that’s not the case.  

Asking for help, or even just admitting that you need help, isn’t failure. It’s far from it.  

Asking for help is something many of us equate to weakness or lack of ability. We think to ourselves, “If I ask my manager for help, she will begin to think I’m not capable. The economy is in a bad state and who knows if...


Managing Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry

Uncategorized Mar 24, 2020

No one likes to apologize. I mean… by definition, you’re only apologizing if you were in the wrong. And no one likes to be wrong. No one likes to make a mistake. It’s not fun. It’s humbling. And it makes us uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, saying you're sorry is a fairly consistent part of life. You have to do it all the time -  in your professional life and in your personal life, so you might as well accept that and get good at it now.  

No one likes to apologize because—big surprise—no one likes to be wrong or make a mistake.

But saying sorry, especially as a manager, is necessary to build and foster trust. Don’t avoid doing it. Instead--keep reading for tips on how to make it as painless as possible while also making it authentic.

It’s a fact that we all make mistakes. However, not everyone says they’re sorry. Some people just can’t bring themselves to admit it when they get something wrong. Don’t be...


Managing Poor Performers

managing motivation Feb 18, 2020

Some of the leaders I work with remind me of tortoises when it comes to the poor performance of some of their team members: they hide from the reality of it and when they FINALLY emerge from their shells to see what's going on (ugh), they are slow to address it. And I get it. Who wants to have those conversations? No one wants to be the one to tell an employee that they’re doing a bad job or not pulling their own weight. 

However, you don't have a choice. As the manager, one of your main jobs is to keep your team running smoothly. And when one team member isn’t pulling their weight, or is consistently doing their work incorrectly, causing the rest of the team to pick up the slack or constantly go behind them fixing their mistakes, you’re going to have a team that’s dispirited, frustrated, and increasingly fractured. You have to stop this behavior as soon as you see it. It won’t correct itself, and it’s very likely that once an employee has...


Stop Relying on Luck for Leadership

Uncategorized Jan 22, 2020

I wish it were this easy for leaders: Fortune Teller Fish

As a kid in San Francisco, I traveled in a pack with other kids on my street, exploring our neighborhood and the ones surrounding it: Noe Valley, the Castro, and the Mission. Seeing where fortune took us.

A regular journey was hiking over the hill from 20th and Sanchez where we lived to 24th Street where we could get a bagel or a donut or a comic book or a cheap toy. 

My weekly allowance was 25 cents, and one of my favorite stores was Cathexis, where cheap and fun knick-knacks filled the shelves. One of them was the Fortune Teller Fish.


A semi-transparent piece of red plastic in the form of a fish, it twisted and turned when you placed it in your palm, telling you your fortune (remember, I'm a kid in this story). 

If it moved its head, you were jealous. If it turned over, you were false (a liar).

You didn't want it to move its head and tail because if it did, you were in love, and...


How to Have a Heart-to-Heart Conversation

eq peers workplace Oct 08, 2019

Do you have an employee or a peer who is in pain and needs some very honest advice? 

In your battle-scarred life as a leader, knowing when and how to have a heart-to heart-talk is critical to your success and to help your employees stay focused and engaged. 

However, having an effective heart-to-heart conversation is not something most companies provide on the job training for. And, who wants to prepare to have a heart-to-heart? No one.

Instead, we usually learn how to have them through trial and error, often making mistakes along the way. 

In my work coaching leaders, I see that knowing how to have these intimate and oftentimes intense conversations is a necessary skill. 

So, I’m going to show you a straightforward, foolproof way to cut to the chase so both you and your employees come out ahead in such conversations. 

First, let’s talk about what we mean by a “heart-to-heart” conversation. 

I define a heart-to-heart conversation...


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Even if you’re not a new manager, you may be surprised that you’ve never had some of these conversations. So, start talking, manager!

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