My week didn’t go the way I expected it to go last week.

Whatever my plan was, events mandated a new plan.

Life’s experiences have a unique way of conditioning you into a new state of normal.

You can theorize or intellectualize leadership and then you confirm that what’s most important is the living out of leadership.

Does this sound like a week you’ve ever had? Can you relate?

This past week highlighted 10 important leadership lessons that have further shaped the importance of my view on awareness and an eyes wide open perspective.

  1. You truly don’t know what you don’t know. You can only control what you can control.
  2. No matter what you know, there are moments where that knowledge is both completely relevant and irrelevant at the same time.
  3. No matter what you know, there’s more you don’t know that can, and must be learned.
  4. Smart, intelligent, intuitive and wise are uniquely different characteristics and well-developed leaders possess a balance of all four.
  5. Pressure will reveal the true nature of a person.
  6. People are the most complex part of a company. Empathy makes people less complex.
  7. Building relationships and developing teams is the result of the experiences you share together.
  8. Relationships inspire commitment and commitment is your currency.
  9. The character of your leadership when no one’s looking, had better be the same as when everyone’s watching.
  10. Growth, development and awareness, beyond what we know right now, most definitely matters.


Reflect on how these lessons relate to you, your experiences and your growth.

With increased awareness,



P.S. Have you ever had a week like this? Share with me what you learned from it.

Are Your People's Problems Important to You?

If there’s one thing we talk about in Thoughtwave routinely it’s that you have a choice in every interaction.

One of the most important choices you can make in an interaction is the choice to be empathetic or sympathetic.

Now, rather than thinking of empathy as an unnecessary soft-skill, think of the difference between sympathy and empathy like this: You can choose to look at the problem alone, or take interest in the person helping you solve the problem.

There comes a point when technical skills alone won’t get you any further and people skills become imperative. Skilled leaders know that the true business they operate in is the business of people.

Are your people’s problems important to you?
If you’re a High D (like me), or High Dominant person, fixing problems is in your nature. The phrase, “A problem is just a solution waiting to be found,” might resonate with you. However, attached to those problems are people, and often, empathizing with the person or treating the situation with empathy will get you to a better solution.

Sympathy Versus Empathy at Work

Situation: One of your employees needs to miss a day of work to go to a funeral.
Sympathetic response: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Empathetic response: “I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for you. Thanks for taking the time to let me know in advance.”

Situation: A co-worker shows up with a broken leg after the long weekend.
Sympathetic response: “At least you can walk with crutches.”
Empathetic response: “I know how it feels when you can’t do everything you’d like as easily as normal. Let me know if I can help.”

Situation: A co-worker has hit a sticking point in a project.
Sympathetic response: “That’s too bad. Keep working on it.”
Empathetic response: “How can I help you look at the problem differently?”

Leadership is multifaceted. There are many ways to be a “good leader.” The best leaders however, understand this core truth--solutions are the result of people working together effectively--and act accordingly. When you lead with an awareness of others, you become a stronger leader. It’s why we at PDI, believe in the power of behavioral assessments and why we’re constantly talking about thinking beyond your own boundaries.

Sympathy is responding without awareness. It’s a blanket of acknowledgment without understanding. Empathy is responding with awareness. It’s the choice to understand how the situation truly feels to another person. And before you think I’m talking too soft, when you respond with empathy you unlock much more than a person’s feelings, you unlock insight into their reactions, concerns, and motivations. Empathy equips you with the information you need to make better decisions.


1. Are your people’s problems important to you?
2. What is one problem that needs some empathy pumped into it this week?
3. How can you empathize with your customer to make your sales pitch more effective?

Make it a great week,

PS - Want to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

3 Questions to Help Improve Your Communication

It’s Alyssa this week with some follow-up thoughts on last week’s email.

There’s one phrase from my dad’s post last week that has stuck with me, “people often pay more lip service to communication than they do the effort, emphasis and priority to make communication real and meaningful.” Talking is easy, communicating is hard work. And yet, because we’ve been gifted with mouths and taught to speak since we were toddlers, we don’t put the work into learning communication like we would any other skill--until a problem arises. Every conversation is a chance to actively practice our communication. And we could all use more communication practice.

Communication is often the culprit for team problems. Combined with a lack of self-awareness and you’ve got a vat of lava just waiting to erupt. Here are 3 questions to help improve your team’s communication:

First, take a look at yourself. What are your communication pet peeves? Does anyone on your team do them frequently? How can you reframe your reaction to this person?

Miscommunication isn’t always an error in what was said. Sometimes, it’s an error in how we react. In family business, this is especially true. Where we would normally be patient with someone outside the family, we can be much quicker to snap with family members. What are your communication pet peeves? People talking too long? Buzzwords? A specific word? Knowing what sets you off ahead of time can help you react more rationally in the moment.

Then, take a look at your team. What is currently accepted in your team’s communication? Think about the positives and negatives.

Do you have clear rules of engagement for meetings? Do you value people who show up with fact-based information or do you value opinions? How does this influence your team? Do you let meetings run over, causing people to get frustrated?
Which (if any), of these habits need to stop? What do you need to encourage?

Do you talk about the problem rather than addressing the problem?

One of the most toxic communication habits is talking about the problem to multiple people, without ever addressing the problem directly. If someone continually talks long in meetings, venting to employees about that person’s behavior isn’t helpful. Creating a culture where talking to the person is the first course of action will lead to less back-channeled, manipulative communication. Sometimes, a person simply needs to be made aware of a bad communication habit to fix it.

Bonus: What is the elephant in the room when it comes to your team’s communication?

What do you know bothers everyone, but have yet to address? With communication being one of the leading causes of employee satisfaction or dissatisfaction, taking the time to work on your team’s communication is worth it. Every team has a communication elephant. What is yours?

When we put the work into communicating effectively, the outcome is a functional, high-performing team, that enjoys working together. Don’t let strategically improving communication within your organization continually take the back-burner.

Make it a great week,

P.S. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.


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