Act as if

It’s the very first thing I wrote down in my notebook. Act as if.

How exactly was I supposed to do that? Surely the trainer was going to reveal the secret during our first day of leadership training. Instead she took us on a year-long journey that started with THINK AS IF …led to ACT AS IF…and ultimately became the way things are. (or in progress of becoming.)

What is leading? It’s knowing when to talk and when to listen. It’s knowing when to lead and when to follow. It’s motivating people to do good work. It’s about having outstanding interpersonal skills. And staying focused on business outcomes. Always.

It’s all of that and so much more.

As I wrote down “Act as if” in my notebook I realized that some of the simplest lessons would be the hardest to apply.

How to say yes

“No!” It’s the hallmark of my 3 year olds vocabulary.  It’s easy to say. It’s definitive. It leaves no room for speculation.

Sometimes it’s necessary to say no at work. But falling into the trap of only 2 answers — “yes” or “no” – is very limiting. There are so many possibilities between yes and no.  Learning to say “yes” (even with caveats and boundaries) opens up a dialogue that leads to creative solutions.

Today I say YES more often.
How to make a better first impression

My dad taught me early on that a firm handshake and eye contact are the ways to make a good first impression. I mastered those when I was 10.

Standing in front of 30 women, I learned to take it up a notch. To convey warmth instead of perkiness. To control the inflection of my voice. To stand tall despite being 5’2” (and a half!).

Today I make a better first impression. Though I am still working on “Good morning” (inside joke for BL18!)

Askfor what I want

This is so.unbelievably.difficult. Asking for what I want means (a) knowing exactly what it is I actually want (b) articulating what I want in a way my audience (manager, co-workers, team) will hear *and* act on (c) demonstrating the benefits of my request.

Askmore questions

One of my mentors explained “showing your value doesn’t mean talking the most. Or the loudest. (I am fairly certain she would cringe at some of the meetings I attend). She told me to ask more questions.  Offer less answers. And BE QUIET.

Askhow I can help

Give me a problem. I want to solve it. NOW. One of my mentors politely asked me, “does your team ask you to solve their problems?”


“Is your team capable of solving problems?”


“Start by asking how you can help. It’s more effective than solving every problem”.  Huh. I discovered this applies to my kids too.

Today — every day — I ask. I ask questions. I ask for what I want. What my team wants. I simply put out my questions, pause, and wait for the answer.

The power of the pause

I admit the first time I heard about the “power of the pause” I broke out into Vanilla Ice lyrics…stop. collaborate and listen… But really? Sometimes silence is exactly what’s needed to get unstuck.

My normal pace is to respond (react?) immediately to everything.  Pausing gives me the luxury of saying the right thing at the right time (I cannot claim to always get this right). Sometimes in that pause I even manage to think up some good questions.

Today I take a deep breath and pause.

Walk away

Have I mentioned that I think every problem is mine to solve? A big-huge-slap-in-the-face lesson I learned is that sometimes a battle is not worth fighting. I have to strategically choose when to collaborate, when to compromise, and when to avoid.

Today I make better choices that lead to better outcomes.

What got you here won’t get you there

All those things that led to my current success? They aren’t the things that will necessarily lead to my next success. And that brings us right back to…

Act as if

In a year I made things possible that I couldn’t imagine when I started this journey. I put life-changing tools in my toolbox and learned how — and when — to use them. I stopped acting and started being the person I set out to be one year ago.

Today I lead.

And people follow!


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