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Don’t Tell The Truth And Find Your Integrity

14619487_sI value honesty and integrity. You do too! Yet there are times when you shouldn’t “tell the truth”.

“Really?” you may ask.

Yes, really!  Whether you’re an executive, coach, consultant or other leader, don’t get caught in the false belief that “speaking your truth” is your first response in every situation. It isn’t. Sometimes not speaking immediately builds integrity rather than destroying it.

Here are some times to avoid “the truth” and feel really great about yourself.

When you are angry… Your anger is a clear sign that you need to do something, but blaring out what you think isn’t it. Rather, go on an exploratory mission. First, sit with the angry feelings. What are they about? Make a list. Check what about the current situation feels familiar – in other words, when have these feelings come up this strongly in the past. Circumstances? Who is involved. Ask yourself: Does this situation bring up the old one? When you are clear about what is really at stake, you can have a more meaningful conversation in which you explore the other person’s perspective, share your own without rancor and integrate what you hear.

When you feel wounded…  You might feel slighted, “thrown under the bus” or worse. Don’t share “your truth” prematurely. Separate your ideas about what the other person intended from your experience. Again, ask yourself what about this experience feels familiar? Get really curious. Is that old hurt impacting how you receive the current situation? Could the person have meant something other than what you judge to be his intention? When you can list several other interpretations for events than your original “take”, you’re ready to have a conversation.

Often, “being honest” is just vomitting undigested feelings, sensations and ideas all over another human being. It gets ugly and smelly pretty fast and is hard to clean up. Don’t confuse “telling the truth” with revenge acting out your hurt, or attempting to punish the other with words.

You don’t need to hold back your feelings or thoughts, just save that volcanic eruption for after you’ve done your exploration.

Some questions to ask yourself:

1) What is this REALLY about? Am I triggered (reacting to events from the distant past that this situation has a whiff of)?

2) Is my response appropriate to the circumstances?  (You know the scenario of a difficult week at work, a traffic accident on the commute home, locking your keys in the car and then blowing up at your partner when he mentions doing the dishes.)

3) What would I like to have happen as a result of the conversation? (Get really clear about the outcome you want. Is it to punish? Is it to clarify? Is it to share/ Is it to find a way forward?)

If you do your work first, you’ll be able to tell the truth with integrity.

Annette is a former high school principal, a certified Integral Coach, an Accelerated Learning specialist and curriculum developer. She is an NLP trained executive coach and co-author of The Game of Truth: A Humorous Guide to Self-Discovery.Annette has taught Power Reading, Memory and Creativity courses around the globe. Her coaching and teaching has taken her to South Africa, Greece, Singapore and Moscow and she has presented workshops at Stanford, USC, Wellesley, Amherst, George Mason University and University of Arizona. Annette has facilitated Ropes Courses and led executive trainings at Anheiser Busch and Nikon. She counts among her clients leaders at NASA, Genentech, Twitter, Clorox, Intel, Cisco and SpaWars.

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Does Your Life Really Work? Check it Out.

11725353_sYou have lots of feelings. They play throughout your day. Some of them make you feel great while others clearly do not! You often talk about your emotions with trusted folks. Not so much, your needs. Why?

Are you as aware of your needs? Do you reflect on whether they are being met? You might want to tune into these important indicators of where you are in your life.

Most people, when beginning this exploration, name less than a handful of needs. It may be that they haven’t given much thought to these, or that they prefer to live in the “moment by moment” exploration of their feelings. Yet those very feelings arise from needs being either met or unmet. So…

Look at this far from definitive list of needs. Really look. Then think about your life. Where are these needs being fulfilled and where are there holes?

You cannot begin to move into living a fuller, richer life without reflection. While the list below isn’t exhaustive, its a great starting place.

And if you want to go deeper, as you reflect on these needs, note which needs aren’t being fulfilled. Ask yourself, what would it look, feel and be like if this need were being met? How can I begin moving in that direction? Who can support me in that movement?

Then begin…

You don’t have to be in crisis, to start a movement toward living a more yeasty, fulfilling life.

You do have to examine yours. So go for it.


























to know and be known

to see and be seen

to understand and

be understood























sexual expression











celebration of life


















to matter










The Shadow of Great Leadership

7715632_sLeaders are the target of a lot of writing. Blogs, articles, courses. I know. I’m one of the perpetrators. Executives, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs are leaders – of small to large teams and organizations. If you are one, the writing targets you.

Much of the advice is useful. Especially articles and blogs that focus on emotional intelligence and what we’re learning from neuroscience that directly impacts adult behavior change. More and more research shows that self-aware leaders move from being effective to being great. (See my discussion on LinkedIn.)

Understanding themselves well, leads these great leaders to understanding others – which is better than simply sympathizing. Why? Because understanding leads to compassion – and compassion is not hierarchical. Its holistic and egalitarian.

Where the stage goes dark (pun intended) is on the shadow-side of leadership. Very little is written about the shadow side of leadership – for good reason. Shadow work takes courage, takes time and is often difficult.

And there can be little self-awareness until some shadow work occurs. Uncovering for yourself what has been hidden surfaces what you project onto others. And  once you begin to see the projections, you can take responsibility for your part.

In addition to knowing yourself better, you grow the capacity to understand others – how they operate in the world, on your team in your organization. Wouldn’t that be useful going forward?

Its also true that shadow work is deep, scary and often avoided or sacrificed to more “skill based” development – like presentation skills or accounting. But because it is so fundamental, it cannot be overlooked when  a leader wants to make deep, lasting shifts.

So what is shadow work and what does working with it look like?

William Faulkner, the great American writer said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  

That’s a good way to begin thinking about your shadow. Its the part of you, arising from your past that lives on in your unconscious, but acts out in day to day behavior. It shows up is the judgments you hold about others and in your interpretations of their actions.

Why? The parts of you, as a child, that weren’t appreciated or accepted may have gone far underground, but you’re still carrying them. And when something triggers a strong reaction, you can be sure, your shadow is behind it.

Also, as David Richo, author, therapist and teacher explained, your projections onto others sheds light on your own material.When you look at the judgment you make of others, you can discern some things in yourself you avoid seeing.

Are you triggered by a controlling partner (in business or life)? Most likely there’s a controlling part of you that you’re denying, not willing to see. And the way to work with that is to begin to admit to yourself what lurks beneath consciousness.

You may shy away from the controlling parts of yourself from an experience (or belief) that controlling people are manipulative, demanding and worse, domineering. Whatever the reason, as a leader, until you surface and begin to shift your responses, your leadership suffers.

Shadow work takes skillful, ongoing support. You can’t do it alone. So, great leaders get that support, from coaches, therapists and skilled professional…and they do the work! They know that reaching their full potential requires it. And they demonstrate courage in taking on the challenge.

Unlike talking therapy, shadow-work requires action in the office, on the tennis court, at home. It includes specific practices, tailored to the individual after an in depth conversation and assessment, and its an ongoing process of discovery, awareness and action.

Your shadow doesn’t just hide the dark, often negative qualities we think of first – anger, jealousy, greed. It can also hide loyalty, generosity, brilliance, empathy.

The good news about this process is that once begun, uncovering the qualities liberates your energy – the energy you’ve burnt up in keeping the lid on – for creative pursuits. Innovation comes from that creativity as does balance – qualities that great leaders share.

While there are so many positive outcomes from doing this work, it comes with the warning that shadow-work is not for the feint of heart. It requires courage, open-mindedness, commitment and follow-through. Wow, aren’t those the qualities those myriad articles, blogs and lectures aimed at leadership underscore?


Annette is a former high school principal, a certified Integral Coach, an Accelerated Learning specialist and curriculum developer. She is an NLP trained executive coach and co-author of The Game of Truth: A Humorous Guide to Self-Discovery.Annette has taught Power Reading, Memory and Creativity courses around the globe. Her coaching and teaching has taken her to South Africa, Greece, Singapore and Moscow and she has presented workshops at Stanford, USC, Wellesley, Amherst, George Mason University and University of Arizona. Annette has facilitated Ropes Courses and led executive trainings at Anheiser Busch and Nikon. She counts among her clients leaders at NASA, Genentech, Twitter, Clorox, Intel, Cisco and SpaWars. Click here to receive to get your 5 Minute Planning Tool.

The Little Known Secret That Will Make You A Great Leader and 7 Ways To Manage It

11420529_sIf you want to be a great leader, you have on your team or will soon hire, benign subversives. These are desirable team employees but not for the usual reasons.

What is a benign subversive? Great question!

A benign subversive may be a naysayer or simply someone who sees things very differently. She (or he) stands out because she doesn’t subscribe to the “groupthink” of a solid enterprise. Moreover, she isn’t shy about sharing her thoughts, ideas or criticism. Sometimes “hard to take”, this person really has a lot to offer.

As a great leader, you can corral the worthwhile opinions, analysis or criticism without taking the “sting” that often attaches, personally. In fact, having the support of a benign subversive may be the magical formula to resolving serious, entrenched issues in your product, service, operations or strategy.

A benign subversive is a person working for the overall benefit of the organization but in unique, often not aligned with the protocol, ways.  In other words, doing her own thing while bringing about desirable results – often great results.

The benign subversive can have irregular work habits or irreverent meeting protocol. She may show up in strange dress or pontificate about  weird food fetishes, spout strong opinions about matters most people consider private.

Does it matter if her offerings are brilliant?

In the old days, these people were demoted or even fired. Keeping to a protocol was so highly valued that anyone playing a different game was out! And naysaying wasn’t allowed.

Today, we’re finding that especially astute great leaders hire and nurture these people. Though they work with fuzzier lines to their box, are a bit messier with their colors, benign subversives bring original thinking to their problem solving. They often think so far out of the box, they come up with innovative products or services. Or even question core values and force everyone else to do so!

Another appeal of these folks may be that they invite new customers or clients into the organizations – nontraditional ones,  more like themselves, opening up new income streams.

Gary R. Coulton writes:

History is littered with examples of leaders, organisations and even governments whose drive to uphold an increasingly untenable core vision mutates into self-fulfilling “groupthink.” The organisation ends up assuming the best of everything and never prepares for the worst.

Schlomo Ben Hur, Nikolas Kinley and Karsten Jonsen describe this destructive scenario wonderfully in their paper “Coaching Executive Teams to Reach Better Decisions.”

“Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right that they’re not interested in listening. And that leads to a lot of suboptimal solutions in the world.” ~Jacqueline Novogratz founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture capital fund

And if you’re sold on the desirability of these, you’ll still have to learn to nurture them ( and transcend your own discomfort). Dealing with these team members may not be easy – at first. What’s required is curiosity and a re-frame of your thinking. Here  are seven key steps:

1. Center yourself. If you are grounded, you’re less likely to be triggered by what you’ll hear.

2. Assume the benign subversive has the organization’s best interests at heart (that’s the re-frame required).

3. Get very curious about what she or he brings to the table. Ask lots of questions. Hear her out. Take notes. Thank her.

4. Don’t commit. Tell her you’ll reflect on what she brought.

5. Reflect – really think about the content of the message, rather than the method of delivery. (Often these aren’t diplomatic in their presentation. So what? Its the ideas you’re after.)

6. Try offering these ideas to other decision makers in your own language, with a positive spin to see what might be added, subtracted, altered or dismissed, then reflect some more.

7. Decide –  as the leader. Take action, even it is no change at all.

By nurturing the benign subversive you’ll guarantee fresh viewpoints, different insights, original processes and an end to “groupthink.” But even better, you’ll cultivate your own curiosity and flexibility as a leader – qualities that lead to greatness.

So begin your search now.

And for more great resources and insights like these, I invite you to listen to this strategy session. It offers tools, strategies, and mindsets for staying calm in chaos, choosing effective action, massive productivity (with minimal stress), and  the confidence to take the right, strategic leaps in your business so you can create success, faster.