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The #1 Essential Leadership Skill

What’s a top essential leadership skill every leader should master?



It used to be that the smartest people in the room asked great questions. Now, people think they need to have all the answers to be a great leader.

But in today’s fast-paced world with all our change, innovation etc., can we truly have all the answers?

As leaders, embracing the art of pausing can work wonders.

Pause before responding, pause before sharing your opinion.

It’s not about losing expertise; it’s about empowering others and avoiding burnout by thinking you need to have all the answers by yourself immediately.

Try it. Before responding: Take 3 mindful breaths, twist your ring 3 times, or count to 3. See the magic unfold!

This is Hard! But Are You Sure?

Do you find yourself droning the lament “this is hard” about several things in your life? Like the slow whine of some oddly strange and out-of-tune stringed instrument, this lament vibrates and swells in the background of our days, magically sapping little bits of energy with every groaning tone.

I relate. I caught my “this is hard” lament this morning.

I was complaining about bookkeeping and redoing bank logins and API integrations when a dear friend looked up at me mid-whine and said quite pointedly, “Operations are easy. You are dealing with mostly predictable outcomes that can be implemented for a time and then changed later for scaling, etc. If you want to talk ‘hard,’ sales and marketing are hard. They have infinite outcomes and infinite possibilities. Finding out what works there – now that is hard.”

It stopped me in my tracks.

I paused. What if all the “hard” stuff I complain about is easy?

As I said this to myself, I felt my gut and heart lighten and lift, a telltale sign from my intuition that the answer was yes. I was finally telling the truth and wasn’t lying to myself anymore. It was easy work. I just wasn’t “energized” by it. No biggie.

Suddenly, I realized that I had been using “Lazy Labels.”

What is a Lazy Label? It’s a label we use that has not been reflected on, investigated or given due diligence to ensure it is accurate, appropriate, and true for us. Lazy Labels are usually found in prompts – some of which look like these:

  • I am [X]
  • This is[X]
  • We are [X]
  • You are [X]
  • They/He/She are [X]
  • I have [X]
  • This has [X]
  • We have [X]
  • You have [X]
  • They/He/She have/has [X]

Labels are powerful, needed, and effective when you put thought, diligence, and reasoning into using them. In our busy lives today, however, many people – myself included – will slap a label on something and not realize that it can be inaccurate and even damaging.

What happens to us internally when we use a Lazy Label?

When you use a Lazy Label, you risk lying to yourself. And when we lie to ourselves, our bodies feel heavy, drained, and lower on energy. Lies take a lot of energy to maintain.

When I carelessly used the “hard” label, I was lying to myself. This Lazy Label, or in my case, “lie,” felt like I had added 50 extra pounds of bricks on top of the task itself. No wonder I procrastinated, whined, and took forever to finish these things.

So, I reflected.

Instead of using my Lazy Label, “This is hard,” I tried calling these tasks “easy.” That felt more like the truth in my body. It felt even better when I acknowledged and without worry that these ops tasks didn’t give off the energy I enjoyed compared to other tasks – and that was totally OK.

Once I stopped the lie, I noticed that the smart parts of my brain – which were no longer heaving under 50 extra pounds of bricks – began to not only direct me through these tasks with more ease, but ideas popped into my head around automation and delegating. Whoo hoo!

Simply put, I felt better, so I could do better.

The next time life feels heavy with complaints and Lazy Labels, inquire! Reflect and try asking yourself a question (fill in the blanks) such as:

“What if what I’m complaining about or calling [x] is actually [y]?

And then notice if you feel a little better when you turn your label into another one closer to your truth.

Experiment and see what happens. Remember, unquestioned thoughts and labels can do damage and make terrible lamenting music. So, pause, take a chance on a new tune closer to your truth, and let the lovely melody of authenticity guide your way.

Thinking Filtered – Part 1

Scientists have found that our five senses feed our brains a staggering 11 million bits of information every second. But did you know our conscious minds can only process 40-50 bites of information per second?

Do you really know the whole picture? Can you size up any situation completely?

Aha – think again! …………….pun intended 😉

We can’t “know” the whole story. The truth is, at best, we can only size up a fraction of a situation.

So what are we missing?

What are we filtering out mentally to get to our 40 to 50 bits of information per second?

Without going deep into neuroscience (see your RAS or Reticular Activating System in your brain), our minds filter much of our reality based on the stories we tell ourselves and the experiences we hold on to (consciously or subconsciously).

A famous story, “This is hard.”

Your mind will say – “Yes, boss! Confirmed! This is hard,” and start filtering your 40-50 bites of info/second towards proof that life is hard.

What about this story? “I am who I am – nothing can change me.”

According to science, the truth is closer to “I am how I choose to experience the world.”

– – But hang on a second.

Before you start smacking your head for how you are experiencing your world – have a bit of self-compassion.

We haven’t been taught much of this at an early age – how uniquely powerful our minds are, how beautiful our configuration is, and how many internal tools we have.

My mother always smiled and said, “When I was young, I thought I would know it all. Now I find that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.”

So what now? If you aren’t happy with how your mind experiences a part of your world, START NOTICING.

What? Just notice?

Yep – one of the most significant parts of changing how you experience your reality – your world – is noticing your thoughts.

Ask yourself: “What is the story I’m telling myself about this right now?”

Heck- yesterday, I caught myself growling, “I had to pick up the kids, so I don’t have time to check these things off my list and cook this food, so that sucks, and I’m behind, and life is hard.”

What was I not noticing? Instead of sweating and prepping food in the kitchen all night, I had my boys in the car, chatting with me, opening up about their lives while the glorious sun was setting over the Burrard bridge in a wash of golden, rose-coloured light surrounded by the deepest blue sky. Yeah – rough, Teresa!

If you wish – after you notice your “filter” or “story,” you can also ask yourself, “What else can I see or experience here?”

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next post for what to do next.

Thinking Filtered – Part 2

“Stop taking life so seriously! You are making it a negative melodrama!”

Yeah – that’s me occasionally catching my filter of ‘taking it all on’ and focusing on the negative (thank you, unchecked Default Negativity Bias in our minds! Whoop!).

Can you relate? What have you noticed about what your mind is filtering for and thinking?

In our last post, I shared that our conscious minds can only process 40-50 bites of info/per second out of the 11 million bites of info coming into our brains and bodies. We also talked about the filter we create in our minds to make sense of this 40-50 bites of info/sec reality – and to start NOTICING what we were thinking – AKA noticing what thoughts we are filtering for.

What did you notice in the thoughts that your mind is filtering for?

Ah – I bet you found some good – and some thoughts and internal stories you might be sick of.

For the stuff you are sick of – what now?

Well – let’s pull out the toolbox and grab three easy tools:

One simple tool? Act like the radio in your car. Thoughts are like radio stations – one comes along you don’t like – switch to another radio station with a better story/thought. 

NOTE – this only works if you are kind to yourself. Coaching clients I work with are rather good at thinking they are broken and need fixing – or something is wrong with them. But those thoughts are just other “thought” filters we can put aside, like yucky radio stations. Like a scientist, simply observe and try another thought that feels better. 

But what if the station won’t change? 

Usually, emotion is making it stick, and the thought is on repeat. According to Jill Bolte-Taylor, neuroanatomist – there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body that is triggered by the thought; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop – repeating those 90-second cycles by repeating those thoughts.

Yeah – I have that, too. We all do! The following tool can help process contagion emotion.

According to the book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, one of the most powerful ways to move that uncomfortable thought and emotion is through movement.

Boogie!! Bike ride! Run! Walk!

Ideally, you are so absorbed in physical movement that you aren’t thinking the toxic thoughts – or you are changing the channel when those thoughts come.

One more?

When the unpleasant thought is sticky and is filtering your world to be dark and gray – your nervous system is “dysregulated.” And to get back into a regulated, more peaceful state, your repetition of 3 seconds of breathing in and a 6-second-long exhalation will tell your nervous system to chill after 3-5 minutes – at least a bit more than what it was before.

In the grand theater of life, don’t let yourself be the star of a negative melodrama. Embrace these simple tools, switch the channel when needed, dance through discomfort, and breathe deeply. Your mind’s filter can change, and with practice, you can rewrite the script to one filled with positivity and joy. So, step into the spotlight of your own happiness and let go of unnecessary drama. It’s your show, make it a masterpiece!