How to Learn to Pivot through Failure


I am reading Kristen Hadeed's book, Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing Everything Wrong.  This book has really helped me reflect the last week on how I've developed my own leadership skills through various failures.

As a child growing up, I have always been a perfectionist.  I had to get perfect grades, and excel in everything I set up for myself as a task.  My first failure hit me hard senior year of high school when I was denied admission to the music school I wanted to attend, to become a concert flutist.  I was devastated.

I entered college my freshman year undecided with the hopes that I could re-audition in the spring for fall entry into the music program.  I studied flute with a doctoral student in the hopes to get better.  In the spring, I auditioned again, and again, another denial.

This was also the time I met my mentor, who brought me in to the field of behavior analysis.  Once I experienced the second failure, I pivoted and focused my attention on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after support and discussion with my mentor (who was also a classically trained musician, and worked on that skill on the side).  Looking back at this time, I felt like it was the biggest failure, and I would never succeed in life.  What it really taught me was when we come up against challenges, we need to learn to pivot our direction (much like hiking when you come to a block in the path, or a cliff, you must pivot your direction around or away from it), so that we do not drown in our failures.  This lesson has come up for me time and time again throughout my practice and development as a leader in the field.

Pivoting is important because it helps us to re-focus our energy on a new project, or new skill to develop.  At this stage in my development, I don't look at failures as failures, but rather as "triggers" to pivot to a new idea or project.  

Want to hear more about my story?  Here’s a podcast I did with Coaching for Leaders host, Dave Stachowiak!

Have your own "failure" experience to share?  Leave a comment below!

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Four Strategies When Holding 1-on-1s

By: Daniel Soeiro Sanches, Guest Post


I took quite some time until I found out how 1:1's would work out well for me and my team--it actually took me a year. When I look back and think about what has actually helped me in having constructive 1:1's, I have 4 points that I follow:

1) One Size Doesn't Fit All

People are so different from each other and have so many different interests and ambitions (personal and professional) that even though you might standardise on a template or a series of questions, the most important is that over time you understand how to get each person talking which will be unique.

2) Understand Why You Need to Have 1:1’s

Across the different types of people that I have managed, driven by their uniqueness in styles and background I have found out extremely useful to understand why I need to have 1:1's. The most frequent whys that I have discovered are: 1) a need for coaching; 2) a need for getting up to speed on the small details that are not talked in the drumbeat team meetings; 3) provide a safe environment for feedback and discussion and any other topics that could be affecting performance; and 4) provide a time slot to discuss career and ambitions.

3) Good Quality 1:1's Require Preparation

This can be done via a template, but what I typically do to make sure there is always something to discuss is: 1) note down three to four things concerning the person's work that I want to know more about; 2) note down specific feedback from the past week/weeks (and this alternates between feedback on how to improve, and recognition for work completed); and 3) always request feedback on something I may have done over the past time period since we last talked.

4) Some 1:1's Should Be Strategic On a Quarterly Basis

I always ask my reportee to review her/his workplace and provide me with an overview of the results achieved to date and whether they are on track/off track. This provides room for discussion, open and honest feedback and typically also supports my building of a story for the person when the performance review time comes up. It also makes sure both of us are up to speed.

For more information and to connect with Daniel, please see his LinkedIn Profile:  www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-sanches-ab56a52


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Three Questions to Ask When Creating a Mission Statement


Simon Sinek, in his book, Start With Why, makes it clear that leaders must ask the correct questions when guiding their teams.  Sinek believes that this question is "Why--" to determine why the team exists, and their purpose.

This purpose can be summed up in a mission statement.  From a larger company level, or a specific team level, all teams need to have a mission statement to guide their work.  Though Sinek makes a compelling argument to "Start with Why," I feel that there are actually three questions we must ask when we are creating the mission statement for our team: 1) Who, 2) What, and 3) Why.

1) Who

The "who" is important because it describes who is responsible for carrying out the mission of the company or the team.  It is helpful to list this out from a broad (company) perspective, but also at a specific team level, so that all can adopt the mission statement as part of company or team culture.

2) What

The "what" specifies what the company or team will be doing on a day to day basis.  This can describe from a broader sense what it is the company does, or from a team level the work the team accomplishes.

3) Why

The "why" is the third question teams should ask when creating the mission statement.  The "why" describes the purpose of the organization, and why the team exists.  This is the goal of the organization or team.

By answering these three questions, we can create mission statements that unifies our team to actions that accomplish our larger goals.

For more strategies on creating mission statements, see our eWorkbook: How to Create A Mission Statement.


Sinek, Simon. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Portfolio / Penguin, 2011.


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What You Should Know About Leadership and Management Roles


In my career, I have held management positions where I was actually a leader, and in leadership roles where I was in a management position. As I reflected this week, I wondered, what is the difference?  Can someone be a Manager and a Leader?  Or does it have to be mutually exclusive?

Carl Binder, in his article "Integrating Organizational-Cultural Values with Performance Management," (Binder, 2016) writes that it is actually "work output" that defines the role (he takes it a step farther to define work output as the metric for defining company culture, but that will be an article for another day, so stay tuned...)

"Work output"  (Binder, 2016; www.sixboxes.com) can be seen as analogous to Thomas Gilbert's* concept of "accomplishments (Gilbert, 1978)."  It is the product of the behavior, or the goal of what the person needs to accomplish.  The following outlines the differences in work output between a manager and a leader.

1) Leadership

For a leader, work output must be defined from a telescopic viewpoint.  In this job description, we are focused on the "big picture"--the vision of the company and how to incorporate that vision within the metrics of the business as a whole.  The leader focuses on the purpose of the business, and work output is focused on incorporating that purpose within everything that management and employees do in the day to day.

2) Management

The manager's work output can be defined from a microscopic viewpoint.  The manager is focused on the day to day operations, and making sure that everything from an operational standpoint is running smoothly.  In other words, widgets are made, staff are performing, and deliverables are shipped.

Can a leader be a manager and a leader at the same time?  From experience, I say yes, depending on the resources the leader has at their disposal.  If a leader is able to delegate, the microscopic work outputs can be moved to managers, leaving the leader time to think about the big picture and ways to constantly evolve the business; however, if the resources are not there, the leader must take on multiple hats.  This is possible as long as the leader can make time to take off the management hat, and put on the leadership hat, so that they can continue to focus on "big picture" projects.  A business will not be able to grow and scale unless it has managers and leaders...even if they are the same person.


Binder, C (2016). Integrating Organizational-Cultural Values with Performance Management. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 36(2-3), 185-201

Gilbert, T.F. (1978). Human competence: engineering worthy performance.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company

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How Practicing Mindfulness Can Shape Development


The practice of mindful meditation has recently been very much publicized in the news and the interwebs lately, and for good reason.  In fact, I recently did an online search at a bookstore for the topic and it came up with 2,231 search results for book topics and related material!

Practicing these behaviors have been shown through empirically validated research to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase emotion regulation and focus (Davis & Hayes, 2011).  Steven Hayes also provides support for the practice of mindfulness within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically validated intervention, which exists within the one of its six tenets: "Being Present (Hayes, 2004)." (see also  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)* With the benefit of modern technology, the practices of mindfulness and meditation are no longer accessible to those traveling to far off places who participate in retreats or structured classes, as many applications and books provide support in the practice, teaching beginners and advanced learners.

I have to be honest, I was incredibly resistant to engage in mindful meditation.  However, as a highly (self-proclaimed) anxious individual, I read countless articles proclaiming its benefit  to increase productivity and decrease anxiety and stress...so I decided to give it a try.

I started to notice a difference in my thinking and reactive behavior after the first week, though I'll be honest, and I almost gave up after the first or second session.  I scheduled time first thing in the morning to block off five minutes where I would sit in silence and "practice" mindful meditation.  I focused on my breathing, and tried to simply "notice" my thoughts.  The first two sessions were a disaster, and my thinking just kept racing at quick speeds about everything I needed to do that day in my business.  The third day, I was on the verge of giving up, when it finally clicked. One of the practices of mindfulness, advises people to think of a metaphor of a "Passenger on a Bus," to practice noticing your thoughts.  In this metaphor, the person practicing meditation imagines that they are a passenger on a bus, and all the thoughts and feelings present in the mind, pass by out a window as if you are a "passenger on a bus."  As soon as I visualized that scenario, I was able to think more on my breathing, and react less to the thoughts and feelings occurring.  By the end of the first week, I already saw a difference in my thinking and reacting to stressful situations.  By the end of the second week, I was able to stretch the practice time to 20 minutes instead of just 5 minutes.

As a skill set, practicing mindfulness, shown through both research and my own experience, has allowed myself and others to access more information, focus on work, and reduce stressful thinking practices.  If all leaders: teachers, parents, and business executives learned to practice this skill, and then in turn teach the skill to those they lead, we could all develop new ways to combat stress and anxiety in our daily lives!

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Hayes, S.C (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition (pp. 1-29). New York: Guilford.

Davis, D.M & Hayes, J.A.(2011) What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. Psychotherapy 48(2) p 198-208


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The 3 Assessments Every Leader Needs To Guide Their Organization


As a behavior analyst, I have always used assessments to guide my decision making.  Prior to making any recommendations to a client, or feedback to staff working in the field, it is necessary to have data to support recommendations or feedback.  This is where assessments become important and valuable tools.

Assessments can come in two forms: objective and subjective.  Behavior Analysts typically favor objective assessments, but in my experience, subjective assessments can also have a purpose when a leader wants staff members to provide a self-report on their behavior, or when a leader may also want to do some self-assessment on their own behavior.  Here are the assessments that I typically use in my practice:

1. Performance Checklists

This is the primary objective assessment I use, in which measurement is based off of direct observation of staff, performing their assigned tasks during a specific time period.  The manager in this situation, would write out (using behavior-specific definitions) the responses required in each task outlined in a person's job description.  Once defined, the manager can than observe the person performing the tasks, and then derive a score based off of performance.  Ideally, the manager will then use those data to create a performance development plan for the individual they are supervising (Note: it is always best to provide feedback following the observation, as soon as possible, and allow the person to remediate the skill that was not performed with criteria outlined.)

2. Leadership Practices Inventory

This assessment was created by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  It divides leadership skills into constructs of leadership practices which are: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.  Based on self-report, answers are ranked with a ratings scale and the inventory provides a rating score for each heading.  Kouzes and Posner have developed a workbook and a book that is based on these principles to help leaders develop skills, and can also be used to develop managers in your organization.  The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organizations by Kouzes and Posner* is a great resource for leaders to develop managers in their organization, as well as to develop their own leadership skills.

3. StrengthsFinder 2.0

This is an assessment created by Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath in collaboration with Gallup.  The purpose of this assessment is to "help people discover and develop their natural talents."  This is a great tool for leaders to use to assess staff strengths, and then create job descriptions and performance development plans based off of those strengths.  This assessment can be found at: http://strengths.gallup.com.  Ideally, this is an assessment you would complete during the orientation period of a staff member, however, it can also be utilized during staff promotions or when there are changes in the organization that would effect an employee's position in the organization.


Whatever tool or assessment you use, keep in mind that leaders should always use data to drive decisions when guiding their organizations!   Subjective assessments in conjunction with objective measurement of performance, are useful tools in shaping the development of staff and leaders.


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