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What is Your Leadership Mantra?

April 27th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Lumina LeaderMBOne of the activities I often incorporate into the Leadership Workshops I facilitate is having each participant develop their own “Leadership Mantra.” The original meaning of the word “mantra” was a sacred (Hinduism and Buddhism) utterance, sound, or word that was repeated over and over to aid in concentration during meditation. More recently, though, it has come to mean a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently; a truism, or saying. Although the definition has strayed somewhat from its original meaning, a mantra can still be very effective in helping you achieve clarity and maintain focus. And clarity and focus are essential to your success as a leader.

Your Leadership Mantra is what you are willing to “own” as a leader. It is created by you and for you. It is an oath that you will live by as a leader. Your Leadership Mantra will help you gauge your actions with your colleagues, your direct reports and your superiors. It also gives you clarity around how you operate in the world. You will make decisions based on your Leadership Mantra. It will serve as a guide throughout the day as you ask yourself, “Does this action align with who I am and who I want to become as a leader?”

The leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – looks at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them.

A leader strong in the Leading with Vision domain tends to focus on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team. A leader strong in Leading with Drive provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence. The strength of a Leading to Deliver leader lies in planning, follow-through and accountability. And a leader strong in Leading through People focuses on coaching and developing the team, and creating win-win partnerships. Where do you see yourself?

Here’s an assignment. Take some time to think about where your strengths are as a leader, and what kind of leader you want to be. Then develop your Leadership Mantra. Your mantra should be simple, memorable, and applicable. It should be no more than three short phrases. Once you’ve developed your mantra, write it down, memorize it, and live by it.

And on those days when everything seems to be falling apart or going haywire – use your Leadership Mantra to bring you back to clarity and focus. And if you do that while meditating, so much the better!

Till next time,



Leadership, Learning, Personalities, Professional and team leadership


Tips for Adapting to Different Personalities on Your Team

April 22nd, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

IntroExtraAs I often say, the best teams are composed of people with a variety of skills, experience, points of view and personalities. Yes, there may be clashes at times, and…when managed effectively, those differences can spark innovation and even lead to closer relationships.

The key to finding harmony in those “different notes” on the team is recognizing…well, more importantly, accepting… that others may have a different approach to solving problems, to communicating, to making decisions, to working. Leaders need to lay the groundwork for productive dissonance. Team members need to develop awareness around their own style and then learn to recognize and adapt to others. Here are some tips for recognizing and adapting in some typical team interactions.

Team meetings. Extraverts speak to think, and are quite comfortable launching and bouncing around numerous ideas and comments in quick succession. Some of these never land at all and extraverts are OK with that. Introverts, on the other hand, think to speak. They prefer to listen and reflect on one idea at a time. How to adapt: Extraverts, slow down. Breathe. Put the ideas on a whiteboard so team members can begin to reflect on them. Introverts, take some time before the meeting to think through your ideas on the topic so you can be prepared to add them to the list. Propose a structure for prioritizing and narrowing the field of ideas so each can be reviewed and discussed by the whole team.

Team building. Extraverts are energized by other people, and often look at team building as an opportunity to socialize with the entire team. And anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity of the event. The more the merrier. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer smaller groups and as a result tend to build deeper relationships. For them, team building happens one one-on-one get-together at a time. How to adapt: Extraverts, recognize that all-team socials are not the only way to bring the team closer together. Consider small group lunches and other, lower-key team building alternatives. Introverts, attend at least one team social, even if you don’t stay for long.

Team work. Extraverts favor working collaboratively, surrounded by lots of buzz and activity. Open work environments with lots of interactions during the day are just fine, in fact energizing for them. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer quiet workspaces with plenty of opportunities to work solo and spend time in reflection and deep concentration. How to adapt: Extraverts, resist the temptation to interrupt your introvert teammate to chit chat or seek feedback on an idea. Instead, schedule lunch or a specific time to get together. And make the suggestion via email. Introverts, recognize that some ideas are just too great to contain! If you absolutely DO NOT want to be disturbed or need time to recharge, consider working in a conference room for a few hours.

Making the effort to recognize and appreciate other team members’ work styles, preferences and hot buttons, and helping them understand yours is perhaps the best team building strategy of all!

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Personalities, Teams

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Adapting Your Extraversion to the Introverts on Your Team

April 15th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

IntroExtra-2More than one-third of the world’s population are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. That means, if you are leading a team of three or more people, most likely at least one of them is an introvert. And if you’re an extravert, chances are you’ve had some challenges in the way you and that team member interact.

While we all have both introversion and extraversion qualities, which reveal themselves based on the situation, we tend to lean more toward one than the other. Although many people still seem to define extraversion as “outgoing” and introversion as “shy”, the real difference between them has to do with the source of energy. Extraverts derive their energy from others (extra), introverts derive their energy from within (intro). Extraverts love large social gatherings and fast-paced conversations, and often get bored with too much time alone. Introverts prefer smaller gatherings, and are quite content to spend time in more solitary activities such as reading, writing and thinking.

Both extraverts and introverts bring value to the team. The introverts, though, are less likely to tell you about it. So I’ll do it for them, and then give you, the extravert leader, some tips on how to lead them effectively.

Five great qualities of introverts:

      1. They are good listeners.

      2. They are planners.

      3. They form deep, meaningful relationships.

      4. They work independently.

      5. They keep their emotions in check.

To lead introverts effectively, you’ll need to adapt some of your extravert qualities to meet them where they feel most comfortable. Here are some key areas to pay attention to.

Communication: Introverts think to speak. Don’t put them in a position where they have to give an immediate answer or report out on the spot. Pace your questions. Give them time to process information. Allow them to pause and reflect before they respond. Respect their silence and don’t interrupt their thinking.

Recognition: Introverts generally prefer to be recognized for their efforts in a personal rather than a public way. At least give them the option. Come to think of it, this is a simple question you should ask all your employees, both introverts and extraverts – “How do you like to be recognized for your accomplishments?”

Meetings: Send out the agenda before the meeting so they have time to think about the topics and what they want to bring to the discussion. During the meeting, manage the extraverts so that the introverts have the opportunity to speak. Don’t ask for their feedback immediately after the meeting; give them some time to process it. You will get valuable feedback.

Workspace: Introverts prefer a quiet, private workspace that allows them to “recharge” by spending some time alone. If this isn’t feasible because of cubes or an open office environment, allow them to work at home occasionally or to retreat to a conference room.

Work style: Introverts have tremendous powers of concentration. Refrain from interrupting this with multiple check-ins throughout the day. Consolidate your non-urgent questions into one conversation. Best: by email.

The best performing teams are made up of individuals of differing skills, experiences and personalities. Keeping this in mind as you work through the four domains of leadership: Leading through People; Leading with Vision; Leading with Drive; and Leading to Deliver, will increase your effectiveness exponentially.

Want to learn more about the leadership domains and understanding your style and others? Contact me.

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Leadership, People


Lessons from Improv: “And” not “But”

April 8th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

YesAndOne of the things I do in my business (and love to do) is speak to all sizes and flavors of groups – from teams of a few people to organizations and company meetings of 500 plus. Years ago when I first started, I took a couple of Improv classes to help me get better at being “in the moment” and thinking on my feet. I had a tendency to “shoot from the hip” and thought Improv would help me get over that. Well, it did that, and so much more.

Although we tend to think of Improv as a vehicle for comedy, there are some basic Improv principles that can be applied to our everyday lives to help us be better communicators, leaders, parents and partners.

One of the main Improv principles is the principle of “Yes, and…” (as opposed to “Yes, but…”)  This powerful affirmation can make a big difference in one-on-one conversations, brainstorming sessions, performance reviews, talks with your teenager, self-talk, you name it. Think about it. When someone is speaking to you and says “but” in the middle of the sentence, do you remember anything before the “but”? No, of course not. Even though the first part of the sentence may have been something positive, “You did a great job on this report” if it’s followed by a “but” clause, “but I think you could improve the format,” the net interpretation is a negative one. On the other hand, if the sentence were adjusted according to the “Yes, and…” principle: “You did a great job on this report, and I think you could improve the format.” The message is more positive and likely to be interpreted as such. It would even be more positive if the speaker added, “What are your ideas for improving it?” No matter how sweetly the sentence begins, a “but” in the middle signals negative territory ahead.

Most of us throw around “Yes, buts…” without even thinking about it. Here’s an exercise for you. Over the next few days, pay attention to how many times you use the word “but” in personal conversations, in your writing, on the phone, in your thoughts. Keep a tally. Then make a conscious effort to begin replacing “but” with “and.” You may be surprised at the positive reaction you get from others, and how it changes your personal attitude as well.

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Life, Professional development


Time to be Accountable to Yourself!

April 1st, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Accountability-4When was the last time you woke up and decided it was going to be “your day” and you did EXACTLY what you wanted to do? Can’t remember? Well, you’re not alone.

If you’re like most of us, you spend a lot of time during your work week making sure you meet all of your commitments, arrive at meetings on time, return calls and emails promptly, and get done what you said you were going to do. Because if you want to get ahead, if you want the good performance review, you’ve got to be ACCOUNTABLE. And that usually means being accountable to your team, your manager, the company.

And little changes on the weekend. You need to be accountable to your family (as you should be!), accountable to the “homestead” and the pets and your friends and so on.

What about being accountable to yourself? Where do you fit in the mix? Generally last or a close runner-up. Am I right?

I’m here to suggest that it’s high time to start being accountable to yourself. This is different from “personal accountability” which is about owning up to your mistakes, accepting responsibility for your behavior, admitting limitations in knowledge or skills, etc. Most likely by now you’ve got that down. Being accountable to yourself means taking some time to think about what you really want and then allowing yourself (and expecting yourself) to do what it takes to get it. It means taking risks, being bold, stretching to the point that it’s scary and exhilarating and FUN.

Think about it for a minute. Is there something you’ve been longing to do – develop a long-percolating idea, get out of a job you hate, move to a place you love – but keep putting it off because you’re too busy being accountable to others? Who’s in charge here? YOU ARE.

Follow these steps:

    1. Write down what’s truly important to you. Don’t know? Get REAL and figure it out!

    2. Make a plan. Goals. Actions. Deadlines. STRETCH!

    3. Implement the plan. Be BOLD! Be ACCOUNTABLE (to yourself!)

    4. Give yourself a STELLAR review.

    Remember, you’ve only got one life to live. Make sure it’s your own.

    Till next time,


    Accountability, Learning, Life

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