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Play, Minecraft and Better Leadership

play, minecraft, leadershipWhile I have written a lot about how the CEO Mindset supports better management of stress and relationships with others, the inclusion of play has been neglected. Certainly downtime can include meditation and breathing, reading a good book or chatting with friends and family. And yet, play is an underrated way of refreshing yourself and even honing skills you can use in your leadership and management.

Lessons from Minecraft

My kids have been playing Minecraft for some time now and they talked me into playing with them. While I have not built anything  even close to elaborate, I am enjoying playing with my kids as well as creating in my own worlds. If you are not familiar with Minecraft, it is a sandbox game in which you can create your own structures and even worlds by playing by yourself or with others. You use resources and tools to do everything from building a simple house, farming, exploring, magic and, in certain modes, fight monsters. It gets as sophisticated as your imagination allows.

The one thing I have discovered in every Minecraft world that I have played is that preparation is everything, particularly in Survival mode (in Survival mode, you have to find or craft what you need or want and monsters are an ever-present danger). Here are some of the things I’ve noticed while playing the game:

  • Timing- With only 10 minutes of daytime, you have to think about what you are going to do and when. Nighttime is dark, even without the monsters on. Like time boxing your business quarter’s objectives, you have to think about your overall strategies and goals and act accordingly.
  • The unexpected- It is a very dynamic game with all sort of things moving in the background. Sometimes the unexpected is hazardous while other times it is serendipitous. Like the business environment, you have to remain alert for both opportunities and risks.
  • Limitations- Minecraft works in a system of blocks so you have to build things in squares and rectangles. There are also the moments when you don’t have enough of a particular item. Small to mid-sized businesses have to think around limitations such as limited capital and other resources frequently.
  • Awareness of inventory– Knowing what supplies and tools you have makes building and exploring more manageable. It also supports the planning process of when to go get more of a particular resource or craft new tools. This aspect is applicable to your business, even if you are leading a business that offers services.
  •  Imagination- In Minecraft, you start in a brand-new world and you can make it into anything. Perhaps you want to build a simple farm or an elaborate palace. Either way, it starts with a vision of what your world will ultimately be. Even in established businesses, there is a moment when it is time to renew or change direction. The vision in your strategic plan starts in your imagination.

Simply put, Minecraft can be another way to practice skills you use in your business without the responsibility that comes with leading a business.

Minecraft and beyond

It is easy to underestimate how important play is to our ability to lead others. On the face of it, you might think that it is a waste of time. It does not make money nor does it get mundane tasks done. It does not even seem terribly inspiring. However recent trends and research are highlighting that adults need to engage in plain old fun. There are concerns that we are creating more emotional difficulties or handicapping innovation by limiting how much our children and adults play. You may have even heard of the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We sharpen our mindsets and abilities while having fun. If we go beyond Minecraft and other video games, we really see that play (sports, recreational activities, hobbies, etc) is a cornerstone to how leaders manage their power stress, understand their world, test themselves and let their imaginations run wild.

The business environment offers us many challenges. Building our ability to be flexible, creative and healthy is crucial to effective leadership.  Play, whether is it Minecraft or something else, is another valid way to nourish the CEO Mindset and lead our organizations better.

 What have you learned from Minecraft?

What kind of play do you engage in?





Gratitude Is Good For Leadership…But Why?

Gratitude, leadership, organizational growthWith the celebration of the US holiday of Thanksgiving, it seems fitting for gratitude to be a topic in leadership circles. And it usually is for those of us in leadership and who work with leaders. However, there is is more to this than a feel-good exercise.

The research so far…

Over the last several years, Robert Emmons Ph.D. of University of California-Davis and Mike McCulloch, Director of Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory at University of Miami and many others have studied gratitude. The studies have found strong correlations between benefits and the practice of gratitude. For leaders, it is worth highlighting these benefits:

  • Prevents and/or reduces toxic, negative emotions
  • Supports resilience (to stress)
  • Encourages feelings of interconnectedness with people

By modeling gratitude, leaders can continuously nurture a positive organizational culture which leads to feelings of satisfaction, higher levels of productivity and fosters open mindsets. All good for responding to the ups and downs of any business.

Where does gratitude fit in with being a CEO?

As I have written on this blog before, your title doesn’t always reflect your role in your small to mid-sized business. You are the CEO with or without the title. It is more about using the CEO Mindset. Gratitude fits right in there. For a lot of business leaders, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activity. Sure, there are things you must do every day but there is also a need to prioritize and even let go of responsibilities that could be done by others or simply don’t fit your organizational culture or structure anymore.

Practicing habits of gratitude fits in with being a CEO. Here are some to think about:

  • Positive mindset so you can stay open for problem-solving, new ideas or whatever may pop up during the day
  • Increased patience so you can effectively train and delegate tasks to your team, particularly when your company is about to make a big leap
  • Noticing others’ contributions and saying “thank you” makes people feel respected and appreciated. This has a  direct effect on productivity and morale
  • Increases self-awareness by taking time to examine your day and list what you are grateful for. This process enables you to notice blind spots, mistakes, strengths and moments of joy.

  These may be just a starting point but it is interesting to see how gratitude supports what you want most for your company.

Reason(s) to incorporate gratitude into your leadership style

Incorporating gratitude into your day mindfully will certainly bring health and psychological benefits for you individually. However, in your role as leader, it is so much more. Leaders are always looking for ways to support productivity and high performance from their teams and employees. These are directly connected to the bottom line. Leaders who practice gratitude avoid taking their people for granted, foster the exchange of information and cooperation and build trust. Research keeps telling us that these qualities (among others) create much stronger business results. Imagine how you could positively affect your organization when you add gratitude to your leadership style!

 Image by GustavoFrazao/Fotolia


CEO Mindset: Be the Goose, Be a Better Leader

empathy, leaderWhat does being a goose have to do with being a great leader? Well, it starts with a story…

The Farmer and the Goose

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had a flock of geese. One day a fox came into the yard where the geese lived and tried to snatch a goose. There was a terrible flurry of wings and beaks pecking at the fox. Eventually the fox was driven off but one goose was left with a broken wing. The farmer saw all of this and went to help the goose. But the goose kept hissing and running away from the farmer. After chasing the goose around and not catching it, the farmer asked, “how can I be the goose?”

Concerns and assumptions may interfere

There are times we avoid asking certain questions like “how can I be the goose?” because we think it is not becoming or appropriate. After all, generally being a goose is associated with foolishness. Also there are times when we feel disappointed in or angry with a team (or staff person’s) member’s behavior.  But at the same time, who will get things running smoothly again? Ultimately, it is our model that shows others what is expected. Asking ourselves to examine more closely why we are avoiding the difficult situation or people can highlight what concerns and assumptions are going on in our heads.

Great leaders are empathic

There is some confusion as to how an empathic leader behaves. Empathy is not sympathy or pity. It does not imply or state agreement. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding his/her perspective. You do not even have to agree but acknowledging the other person can give you insight so you can identify the actual problem (which can be very different from what is being reported), if your vision and expectations are clearly communicated or the strengths and weaknesses of your team. While people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are lionized for being harsh, driven leaders, the statistics of disengaged workers (63% of workers worldwide are not engaged) is a wake up call for leaders in small and large companies. In a 2014 survey conducted by Lee Hecht Harrison, it was reported that 58% of managers fail to show understanding towards their employees.  And how many anecdotes have you heard about people enjoying their work but unable to tolerate the organizational culture?

How to “do” empathy?

As Henry Ford  once said, “The secret of success – if there is one – is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and to consider things from his or her point of view as well as your own. ” It is both easy and hard to do.

  • Quiet yourself- If you have a chatterbox in your head, you will remain focused on your opinions, assessments and thoughts.
  • Listen actively- Ask questions, reflect back what you heard, summarize both agreement and disagreement and request suggestions for resolving the issue

  • Watch the nonverbal cues- Eye contact, tone of voice, speed of speech, posture and choice of words are all hallmarks of how engaged the person is in a conversation. If something feels off, even if you cannot identify what, acknowledge the disconnect by stating, “I think I missed something here” or asking “do you have any additional concerns?”.
  • Lend a hand- Asking how you can help get a task done opens the door for conversation. Your team member may say he/she does not need the help but your offer lets them know you noticed.
  • Practice, practice, practice- Even the most empathic of us have off days or get distracted by the enormous amount of work and responsibility. If you are new to expressing empathy in a leadership role, it might feel awkward. No matter your experience level or stress level, empathy is improved with use.

“How can I be the goose?”

Asking the question is the start of empathy. When you see a staff member struggling, you are like the farmer wanting to help the goose with the broken wing. As you go along, you may notice that some people respond well to questions about how the work is going while others may need to hear you tell them to take a break and refresh themselves. Empathy gives you a better sense of how your small business is functioning and lets your team (and staff) know you want them to be well and perform well.

 Related posts:

    How To Be the Sun When Leading Change

    Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships With Self and Others

    Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment



Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightment

leadership, mindfulness, meditation, CEO MindsetThis post is from this month’s newsletter and since this topic has been cropping up in my writing, in the Twitter chat,  KaizenBiz and in my newsletter, I thought I would share it with you as well. In a conversation over the last few days on Twitter, it seems that many people are wondering just how to deepen themselves as leaders as well as cope with the stress of leading a business in a quick change environment. What if we took Peter Bregman’s suggestion in this HBR Blog Network post and treated laughter as a business metric? Is there an ROI for meditating or simply being in the moment?

Where is the stillness?

For many of us, it is the start of winter and it’s easy to become more like a hibernating bear with the longer hours of darkness. Perhaps that’s why I get a kick out of the Christmas lights and public holiday displays. These shiny, twinkly and even gaudy lights are moments of child-like fun. Standing in the morning or evening darkness in the still, quiet (yes, even in a city) air is an invitation to look around and up. Perhaps you notice the stars or the stark branches against a dark sky? This moment of stillness is mindfulness. There is nothing else but this moment…and you are here.

More than just the latest leadership craze 

Meditation and mindfulness are very popular right now in leadership circles.You may have heard of people like Bill Clinton, Bill Ford, Rupert Murdoch or Marc Benioff are active meditators. Nelson Mandela who recently died has talked about how meditating changed and supported how he was able to lead South Africa as it started its transition away from apartheid. And there is good reason for this. While it is easy to dismiss it as some woo-hoo or fluffy stuff, there is ample research pointing out how even 15 minutes can ease chronic pain, stress and inflammation. For leaders, there are additional benefits increased focus, creativity, composure, memory and agility of response) that you would use multiple times during a typical day.

Doesn’t have to be transcendental either

There are many reasons why people do not develop the habit of meditation. For some, it is difficult to sit still or maybe a particular style isn’t quite “right.” If you can breathe, you can meditate. It is that simple. Try an experiment, breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth for 5 minutes  What do you notice about your body? Your mood? Many people report feeling quieter and energized at the same time. And that’s just 5 minutes. Others find that eating something and really paying attention to the color(s), smell, appearance and feel of the food provides a similar response. I’ve even had clients describe walking or running as the way they quiet their minds and return to the office ready for whatever is on their desk.

Enlightenment can be practical

Leadership is largely an art and based on our mindsets. There are plenty of posts telling us how to identify a bad boss and none of us want to be that person. If you’ve read my other writings about the CEO MIndset, you know that there is an emotional life to running your business. Try an experiment…every day for 1 week, simply breathe deeply in and out for 5 minutes while sitting comfortably with your feet on the floor. Put a timer on, if it helps. Notice how you feel immediately afterwards and then also notice how you feel later in the day. If, after a week, you notice a positive difference, maybe it’s time to make it a regular part of your day.

While leadership fads come and go, meditation and mindfulness are practices that stand the test of time.  It might even enhance your executive presence and inspire your staff. At the very least, it will support you as you develop the CEO Mindset and grow your business.

If this is an area of interest and  you would like to see a webinar, in-person event or an individual consultation regarding meditation, mindfulness and the CEO Mindset, please let me know. Plus, if this post piqued your curiosity (there are other goodies as well) and you would like to subscribe to the Key Notes newsletter, please fill in the form on the upper left of this page.

I wish everyone a lovely and relaxing holiday season and may you have the best year yet in 2014!

Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

Thanks, gratitude, emotional intelligence, leadershipWith all of the recent interest in emotional intelligence and leadership, it is easy to wonder just what the fuss is about. When you break down mindfulness, you discover that it is simply focusing your attention to where you are and what you are doing at this moment. Break it down even further and couple that with this week’s  US holiday of Thanksgiving and you discover that one of the elements of emotional intelligence, gratitude,  can deepen your ability to lead more effectively.

Gratitude is a “chosen attitude”

With the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative, it can be hard to see positives. However, recent research has made some interesting discoveries about gratitude.

  • Better ability to ride out negative events
  • Energizing
  • Able to help others or access compassion more easily
  • Exemplifies emotional maturity
  • Helps access mindfulness more easily
  • Promotes physical health

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Richard Emmons, researcher and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, gratitude is both a cognitive and emotional process. Indeed, gratitude doesn’t work unless both are activated. Gratitude gets its power to influence our behavior when we choose to use it.

The intersection with leadership

Recent leadership research keeps coming back to the best leaders being the most emotionally intelligent. Gratitude reinforces the most basic pieces of emotional intelligence by combining both internal awareness of your emotional life with the external awareness of how we interact and experience other people. Appreciation of what is in your life is a way of opening yourself is certainly an aspect of the CEO Mindset. But there is a transformational piece that is a direct link to your leadership.

  • Saying thank you to particular people for their performance encourages loyalty and good will
  • The  positive attitude demonstrates resilience and the ability to tolerate positive and negative events competently
  • Helps remove the “white noise” of our lives and work so you can think clearly about how you want to lead and where you want your organization to go
  • Keeps you open to listening to positive and negative feedback so you continually learn how to lead better

 What will you give thanks for?

See for yourself how gratitude can be transforming. Keep a gratitude journal everyday by writing down three things you are grateful for. They can be anything from thanking someone for telling you how you are doing a lousy job to acknowledging the beautiful sunset you saw on your commute home. Find out how you aren’t as stressed by negative events. Make someone’s day by thanking them for his/her hard work on a specific task. Increased loyalty, positivity and productivity are pretty good outcomes if you are willing to cultivate gratitude into your daily schedule.

 How will this add to your leadership?


The 15 Reasons Leaders Fail Their Small To Mid-Sized Businesses

Leaders, Small to Mid-Sized Businesses, LeadershipI’ve recently wrote about confidence and turnarounds which is certainly the toughest road any business leader can be on. But, to be fair, not everyone is is desperate straits with their small to mid-sized business. In talking with my clients and prospects, I’ve noticed that there are things that we do that make our work and leadership far more difficult than it has to be.

The 15 reasons (in no particular order)

  1. Keeping the business plan in our heads
  2. Too satisfied with progress of company and stop leading
  3. Not delegating enough
  4. Staying too tied into the day-to-day operations
  5. Avoiding difficult conversations
  6. Refusing to adapt to new circumstances and/or technology
  7. Procrastination
  8. Unclear vision or direction
  9. Feeling like you have to continue on a particular path, even if it is not working (sunk cost fallacy)
  10. Inconsistent communication skills
  11. Stop being curious
  12. Want to be liked more than anything else
  13. Avoiding fiscal oversight and responsibility
  14. Responding to too many crises and not stepping back to plan ahead
  15. Lack of personal and professional development

Did you see anything you might need to change?

It is safe to say that we don’t intentionally get in our own way or prevent others from doing their jobs. Sometimes we get into bad habits due to having a long career or simply not taking the time to reflect on who we are and where we are as people. So take a moment and look at the list. If you recognize something you’re doing, ask yourself if you want to stop. If you do want to stop, come up with an action to take or find someone who will help you adapt to something that works for you.

Wishing you every success!

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, executive coach and trainer who guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to be comfortable in their own skin. Change can be growing your business, expanding in the US or adapting to a new leadership roles. Visit my Services page to see how we can work together or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.



More On CEO Mindset – The “Right” Habits & Less Ego-Driven Leadership

CEO Mindset, leadership, habits, leaders, Tweak Your Biz, KaizenBizAs some of the regular readers of this blog know, I blog on Tweak Your Biz and KaizenBiz as well. If you have missed my latest posts there, here they are:

Becoming CEO Of Your Small Business Means Finding “Right” Habits

For many successful small to mid-sized business owners, having the CEO Mindset is everything. While I’ve talked about how small business owners (even sole proprietors/ sole traders) are really CEO’s of their companies on Tweak  Your Biz and here, this is just the beginning.

Every day there are things we do or don’t do that influence the direction and pace of business growth. A lot of this is much more internal than it might seem at first glance. One area that is written about quite  a lot is the habits or common behaviors of  famous business leaders.  Reading these posts leads you to believe that if you just did these things, you would be successful. My post isn’t one of those posts. Often what is left out is the work and the business leaders did to find the “right” habits that work for them. So, before you think “if only I did X”, remember they had to do the work of finding what works for them. Becoming CEO of your small business means finding your “right” habits.


Is It Feminine Leadership We Crave Or Less Ego-Driven Leadership?

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a chat on Twitter called #KaizenBiz. (Shameless plug here: Every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9amPT and all are welcome) If you are not familiar with this chat, we take business topics and apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. This past Friday (August 16, 2013), we looked at The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule the Future and the ongoing global conversation about gender, traits and leadership.  There is a perspective that the lack of women in executive roles contributed to the organizational failures that triggered the global recession.

Is there a female style of leadership? A male style?  Are people wrong in their rejection of so many men in decision-making roles as found in recent surveys? Could it be more likely that highly effective leaders of both genders exhibit the same traits? Read this post and add your thoughts.


Thank you

Thank you for taking a look at these posts, commenting, sharing or simply thinking about them. I look forward to sharing more posts next month.



Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships with Self and Others

I saw an interesting tweet from Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak on Twitter) yesterday.

“Find harmony within yourself before looking for alignment with others.”

It caught my attention and I thought, hmm…wouldn’t that mean you might spend not so much time with people? So I tweeted back, ” I saw your tip about finding harmony. Wouldn’t that be lifelong quest? Not sure can’t happen in tandem”

Most people spend a good portion or all of their lives seeking to understand themselves better. Leadership is a relational journey. It can be a journey to get to a position where you are in a one-up position over others. That may not be the most pro-social relationship but it does exist. For others, the key is being compassionate and competent in having the difficult conversations.

Great leadership comes from developing one’s maturity. Things like developing patience and knowing that one’s outlook and mood can encourage or limit the productivity and morale of the staff. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that time and experience season us as leaders. We see our foibles and warts when we bounce off other people. But it isn’t necessarily a negative. Sure, in the moment, it might be an unpleasant lesson about ourselves. But we wouldn’t see things so clearly without people stopping us in our tracks.

Managing conflict may be the greatest test of how leaders manage relationships. Click here to read more »


A Tale of Two Managements

Okay, I may have taken some liberties with the English language and with Mr. Dickens’ fine book title.

Grocery and managementBackground story

There are these two grocery stores that I shop at each week. One is your basic store. There are very few gourmet type foods, no electronic scanners to use at your cart and the prices are lower. The other grocery store I shop in has more variety in produce, ready-to-eat foods, exotic foods and some technological stuff for customers to use while shopping. Since I have family members with food restrictions, I have to go where the food is.

These stores are completely different. But the most outstanding feature is how the managers and employees interact. In the first store, I’ve seen managers walking around the store and chatting with people stocking the shelves. The employees are welcoming, helpful and move quickly to serve their customers. In the second store, I’ve seen managers avoid speaking to employees and be critical of their performance. The employees barely make eye contact with customers and move so slowly that you just know they are paid hourly. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct an food order when they’ve give me the wrong amount or the wrong item.

You can learn a lot about management while shopping Click here to read more »


Can You Be Trusted?

There is a world of difference between managing a business and leading a business. You probably know this already. Even when you’re a sole proprietor or a small shop, you still switch hats between manager and leader. You want to have systems in place to avoid getting too panicky or too complacent. But maybe we’re missing a more important question?

Should you be the CEO (even if de facto) of your business?

It’s tempting for some to say “but I’m not a CEO“, particularly when you run a very small business. But that’s just shortsighted. You’re already setting the stage with your vision, your pace and emphasis on certain initiatives. The thing that may be missing here is trust.

Trust or no movement forward

No matter how much experience you have as a leader, trust plays a major role in how far your people will go with you. In such difficult economic times as we’ve experienced over the last four years, you need that trust to be strong. Given that change is an integral piece of the “new normal”, what resistance is present in your organization?

Trust is earned and some styles of leadership depend on it more than others. However, trust is not easily rewarded. Sure, just having a certain position gives you the basic level from most people.Titles do that.

So, you have to ask yourself, am I demonstrating…

  • consistency in my words and actions?
  • consideration for others’ schedules and abilities?
  • respect for others when I have requests and directives?
  • honesty in how I present myself?
  • that I believe I have a good team in my staff?

 No movement forward if you haven’t built more than a baseline of trust

You probably have your own war stories of working for someone that you could trust to be harsh, confusing or just plain infuriating. How did this affect your productivity? Don’t be that guy! You already know how it feels. And it’s important to remember that how people perceive that you “feel” is what determines the level of trust you’re given.

What do you notice creates breakdowns in the day-to-day tasks?

What do you do that makes you a trustworthy leader?