Category Leading With Courage

What Do I Think About On Remembrance Day


I am often asked about my thoughts about Remembrance Day.

I don’t often share because everyone has a story, and many have gone through more than I could imagine.

This year I thought I would share a story: after returning to Canada from a tour, a unit had arranged for families to be united with their soldiers at the terminal on the Trenton airbase.

There were emotional and tear-filled reunions going on everywhere, and a friend had arranged to meet his wife and 5-year-old daughter on the grass outside the building.

When his daughter sighted her dad, she broke away from her Mom and ran across the grass to her Dad.

As soon as this happened, the Dad started screaming and swearing at the little girl to stop and get back.

Certainly not the reunion anyone expected.

Both Dad & daughter were traumatized.

You need to understand that the father had spent months soldiering in a place full of IEDs, mines & booby traps. IEDs are hard to place on pavement & sidewalks, so the ‘bad guys’ would place them in grass and foliage.

So a grassy expanse was something to be feared.

The dad was reacting instinctively to saving his daughter’s instinctive reaction to seeing her Dad for the first time in over six months.

This I think about on Remembrance Day.

For many years, and as a young man, Remembrance Day was a day to remember all of those who died serving our country and being honest, it was dress uniforms, marching through the streets and drinking with new and old comrades in a legion somewhere.

During the last years, Remembrance Day has come to mean something different to me. I can’t help but think of the thousands of soldiers who returned from war with life-altering, debilitating wounds, both seen and unseen.

I think of those who came home in a box or came home irreparably changed, and I think of their friends and families.

I think of returning soldiers are suffering from some mental health issues, from depression to full-blown PTSD.

Diseases just as deadly as any sniper.

There are failed relationships, tangled finances and legal problems, all caused or exacerbated by the effects of war.

There are homeless veterans and young men & women in challenging domestic situations. Or those who are trying desperately to fit into a civilian workplace where the biggest crisis is the wrong flavour of the coffee.

So, on Remembrance Day, I think of the innocents. Those caught in a fight that isn’t of their making: women, elderly and children who become causalities and are often subject to the cruelty of the evilest acts perpetuated by the evilest bastards on earth.

I think of these soldiers not mentioned on memorials wall or honoured in any fashion, as they are most certainly casualties of war.

I am saddened to think of what those lost, ruined, and wasted lives might have had a chance to accomplish

I think of my friend and his daughter.

Six Strategies to Connect with Empathy, But Lead with Compassion

Based on a Harvard Business Review article

Last week I told you about my chance dog-walking encounter with a bright, intelligent HR Professional. We talked about dogs and podcasts and then leadership.

Why Are There So Many Bad Bosses?’ Freakonomics podcast

During our time together, she asked my opinion about choosing the best candidate for promotion to a leadership role from a pool of 4 candidates who seem to be more or less equally qualified.

I asked had her company had completed any psychometric testing (DISC, Meyers Briggs etc.)? If all things were equal between the candidates, they should consider empathy and compassion as the deciding factors.


Why Empathy and Compassion?

Empathy is an essential differentiator to good leadership.

The risk is that too much of it can weigh a leader down as they take the people’s difficulties onto themselves.

To manage the impact of the potential burden of empathy by balancing it with compassion. 


Empathy and Compassion: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start with some definitions. The words “empathy” and “compassion,” as well as “sympathy,” are often used interchangeably, and they all represent altruistic traits. But they don’t refer to the same experience.

It is helpful to consider that compassion is understanding what another is feeling and the willingness to alleviate suffering for another.

The following HBR graphic is an excellent representation of pity, sympathy, empathy and compassion:



When we experience pity, we have little willingness to act, and little understanding of another’s experience. We only feel sorry for someone.

When we experience sympathy, there is an increase in our willingness to help and our understanding of the other, and we begin to ‘feel’ for the other person.

When we feel empathy, we have an intimate, visceral understanding of the other person’s experience. We begin to feel with the person, but it does not necessarily help the other person, except for possibly making them feel less lonely in their experience.

Finally, when we have compassion, we understand what the other person is experiencing and are willing to act. Compassion occurs when we ask ourselves what we can do to support the suffering person.

Compassion is an intentional act, not simply an action based on emotion.

What about EQ? Click to read more.


Why Does This Matter?

Empathy often helps us do what’s right, but it sometimes motivates us to do what’s wrong.

As leaders, empathy may cloud our judgment, encourage bias, and make us less effective at making wise decisions. It should not be avoided entirely because a leader without empathy cannot make human connections.

The challenge for most leaders is that we tend to get trapped by our empathy, making us unable to shift to support the person who is suffering effectively.

Avoiding the Empathy Trap — and Leading with Compassion

Shifting away from empathy does not make you less human or less kind. Instead, it makes you better able to support people during difficult times.

Here are six key strategies for being empathetic while leading with compassion.

Take a mental and emotional step away.

To avoid getting caught in an empathetic trap, try to take a mental and emotional step away.

Step out of the emotional space to get a clearer perspective of the situation and the person. Often it is only perspective that you will be able to help.

You are not stepping away from the person; you are stepping away from the problem so you can help solve it.

Ask what they need.

When you ask the simple question “What do you need?” you give the person an opportunity to reflect on what may be needed.

This will better inform you about how you can help and allow the person to feel heard and step toward being helped.

Remember the power of non-action.

Leaders are good at getting stuff done. But when it comes to people, it is essential to remember that people do not need your solutions. They need your ear and your presence.

Read why silence is a HUGE power differential.

Coach the person so they can find their solution.

Leadership is not about solving problems; it is about growing and developing people, so they are empowered to solve their problems.

Coach them, mentor them and show them a pathway to finding their answers.

Practice self-care.

Show self-compassion by practicing authentic self-care.

There is a cost to managing our feelings to manage others better. So we must practice self-care: take breaks, sleep, eat well, cultivate meaningful relationships, and practice mindfulness.

As Leaders, we need to find ways of staying resilient, grounded, and in tune with ourselves.

When we show up in the workplace with empathy and compassion, people can trust us, lean on us and find comfort in our leadership.

Tina Turner asked, what’s love got to do with it? – Is There a Place for Love in Leadership?

“A company is stronger if bound by love than by fear,” the late Herb Kelleher, co-founder, CEO and Chairman of Southwest Airlines, once said.

I remember very clearly the first time I heard the word “love” uttered in a leadership context. I was about to teach a workshop on leadership to a group of up-and-coming junior officers. Before being introduced, the unit leader told the room full of mostly men they needed to love the people they were responsible for leading.

You could have heard a pin drop. Coming from this soldier’s soldier, the L-word was utterly unexpected.

Is it okay to use the word “love” in the workplace?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines love as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” As leaders, we need to understand that we may be the most important person in the lives of the individuals we lead.

I don’t recall ever being told that a Boss loved me, but I can remember, as if it happened yesterday, the times when a boss called me by my first name, told me they were proud of me, protected me from someone who was blaming me for something I didn’t do.

Read about Recognition 

All demonstrations of love. All demonstrations of belonging to something bigger than myself.

This isn’t just my opinion. A considerable amount of evidence suggests that social disconnection is widespread today. CIGNA first reported data in 2018 that chronic loneliness in the US has reached epidemic levels based on its research findings.

Beyond helping people feel safe and belonging, there are several compelling reasons outstanding leaders see the difference love can make in the workplace.

Love inspires performance excellence and resilience. Serving others is a reflection of love. Research shows that love has improved performance and protected people from stress and burnout. Call center staff raising money saw their revenue quintuple after meeting a recipient of that aid in person. Radiologists increased their diagnostic accuracy by 46-percent when the CT scans included facial photos of the patients. The most effective leaders inspire people by connecting them with the people they serve to show them how their work is helping others.

Love pulls together. Taking time to get to know and care for the people you lead brings about greater unity, especially as your team faces adversity. When love exists among the team members, they are more likely to pull together than tear one apart. They feel the bond of connection helps them overcome the inevitable obstacles every organization encounters.

Love overlooks minor offences. When love is present in a team, department or organization, people are more likely to assume the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt. Absent love, potentially offending words or deeds are more likely to bring about retaliation and sprout rivalries that undermine performance.

How healthy is Your Organization? Take the test

Relationship Excellence Enhances Task Excellence

Critics say that love makes a work culture too soft. They are concerned that promoting the positive relational side of work will negatively impact productivity or make it harder to hold people to a high standard.

This is quickly addressed by having leaders communicate that being intentional about achieving excellence and results is expected so people don’t lose sight of their importance. And when standards are not met, take action to close the performance gap. This reinforces that, along with love, task excellence and results are essential to serving people well.

What critics miss is that relationship excellence enhances how tasks are performed. People who work in an organization love the people they work with and serve through their occupation. They work harder to please them. They care about the quality of the product or service they provide, and they offer it in a way that reflects love.

Employees of a business that reflects love also interact in loving ways. They are supportive, encouraging, patient, kind, empathetic and caring. 

Gallup Research has shown that the people we work with and how we interact with them are more important to job satisfaction than we do. Engaged workers give more effort in their work, align their behaviour with their company’s goals, communicate and cooperate more, and actively think of ways to innovate. 

Read more about appreciation. 

So, what’s love got to do with it?

Few leaders use the L-word.

So the next time you hear a leader speaking about “love” in terms of how colleagues treat one another and work together, pay close attention.

As it turns out, love is a powerful source of competitive advantage.

In the words of the great philosopher, Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it?



6 Tips to Speak Confidently in Meetings (Even When You’re A Bit Scared)

Based on an article written by Melody Wilding, LMSW

When I speak to a group, I am surprised that one of the most recurring questions people ask is: ‘How can I speak confidently in meetings?’

Next Week? How to get people to speak up in meetings.

It usually comes up in raising issues derailing a project or impacting the organization’s health and culture.

Most people are very anxious about raising issues that they may feel are contentious—the idea of speaking in front of peers and bosses and being paralyzing to some.

Whenever it comes time to contribute, some people freeze, overthink their response, or end up rambling.

Afterward, people beat themselves up, feel like an imposter be less confident.

Sound familiar?

If so, you’re far from alone.

Read about running great meetings.

Speaking Up in Meetings

It’s not uncommon to be a high achiever and, at the same time, highly sensitive. This describes many of us who thinks and feels everything more intensely.

Everyday workplace situations might be moderately stressful to the average person can cause some to shut down, especially when overwhelmed. Thanks to your ability to process information more thoroughly, you bring many assets and talents to the table.

But it also means you are more susceptible to stress and emotional reactivity, mainly when it involves judgment or evaluation from others (like in a meeting or on a conference call).

Meetings can be harsh environments because:

  • You want and feel you have to listen carefully to others’ ideas
  • You prefer to observe and absorb what’s happening before offering an opinion
  • You have a high sense of responsibility, so you show respect by deferring to the leaders at the table
  • You tend to be more reserved, which mean more outgoing coworkers may dominate the discussion
  • You are overwhelmed more quickly and may freeze under pressure
  • You can think deeply and see all sides of a situation, which can lead to overthinking
  • You are so empathetic that you worry about what other people think of you


6 Strategies to Speak Confidently in Meetings

Sitting frozen and fearful through yet another meeting is a terrible feeling. Take heart because it doesn’t need to be this way. It is entirely within your power to take control and ditch a habit of staying silent so you can get ahead.

Elevating your visibility at work is essential if you want your career to evolve and grow. You work hard and have great ideas to contribute—you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve.

With a bit of practice from these tips, you’ll finally feel like the integral team member you’ve always been.

  1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters

Your hands are shaky. Your stomach is doing somersaults. You suddenly start second-guessing every thought you have. These are common pre-meeting anxieties. It’s normal to experience anticipatory stress when you feel your intelligence or contributions are being evaluated.

Instead of doubting your jitters as a sign that you’re inadequate or otherwise not up to the task at hand, befriend your stress response, reframing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best.

Ease Into It

It may be tempting to arrive right before a meeting starts to appear prompt or avoid awkward small talk. But if you feel rushed or short on time, this will only exacerbate the existing stress you already feel during meetings.

Instead, build in a buffer and plan to settle in before things get underway. Allow yourself to ease into the physical meeting space. If it’s a virtual teleconference, get comfortable with the webinar controls, your mic, and webcam ahead of time. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time.

This can help ease anxiety and make speaking up for the duration of the session seamless.

Commit To Speaking Early

Have you ever come to a meeting with ideas and planned what you want to say, then left realizing you said nothing the entire time? You are not alone, but staying quiet is doing yourself a disservice. It typically gets more challenging to enter the conversation as the meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build.

Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to speak up early. Ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal. Try to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session–whether to welcome attendees, present your main argument, ask a question or offer an opinion on a new business proposal.

Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up

You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up coworkers’ comments with a simple “Great idea! I can see that working we” l.”

You can also focus on asking powerful questions. You are likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

Be The One To Take Action 

Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.

This is an excellent example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards desired behaviours, be more motivated and likely to follow through.

Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing

Many people’s leadership instincts may be held back by the ‘Imposter’s Syndrome’ where subconscious insecurities can seep into our behaviour to this day when speaking up.

Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts like: “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”?

Read what an employee might tell you. If they could.


Don’t be held back by real or imagined negative feedback.

Somebody hired you because you are intelligent, competent and qualified to do your job.

If they thought that, the least you could do is respect their opinion and speak up.

You have got a lot to offer.

Now it’s time to let everyone know it.

What Is a Red Team Exercise & Why Should You Conduct One?

The most enduring leadership lesson I ever learned was a military adage that says:

“Your plan is only good until first contact with the enemy.

And the enemy’s job is to stop your.”

 In military training, friendly forces are called the ‘Blue Team,’ while enemy forces are considered the ‘Red Team.’

The Red Team’s job is to stop the Blue Team’s plan.

Read more about planning

Red Teaming

Recently a simulated battle took place at the U.S. Marine Corps training Centre at Twentynine Palms, California. The exercise involved 600 British Royal Marines acting like the ‘enemy’ force, or ‘Red Team’ against a much larger U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) unit preparing for deployment overseas.

The British press gloated that the Royal Marines trounced the USMC so severely during the exercise that US commanders asked for a pause to reset their plans.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a similar simulated defeat, and I was glad for it.


Except for a few bruised egos, nobody was hurt. We learned important lessons. And plans were tested and improved. And we were better for the experience and more prepared for the day when we faced off against a real enemy.

This is the point of exercising and training: To test your plans and capabilities.


How about your plans?

Outside of the military, most organizations conduct their planning with a small group of executives. Or worse, planning is done by one person, the CEO.

One of the best ways to ensure your strategy or projects are successful is to test it by an objective team, a ‘Red Team,’ that sees it through clear and new eyes.

The red team evaluates a strategy, a presentation, or a business plan for weaknesses and checks that any unanswered questions are answered to improve the plan.

And give it the best chances of success.

if your presentation or strategy has serious problems, they should tell you that, “This is not making sense!”

Red teaming can be a very unsettling experience for some – but the goal of each member of the red team is to help improve the strategy, presentation, value proposition, business plan and chances of success.

Remember, to have success; you occasionally have to break a few eggs!

Here are some optimal guidelines for forming and running a red team review:

  • Because of their experience, members of our red teams emulate the process and mindset of the stakeholders.
  • Pick at least three people to serve on each team.
  • They are knowledgeable in the company’s space.
  • Team members must have no prior connection with the team that is presenting.
  • They must be willing and able to commit the necessary time and attention to the process.
  • Insist that members are given at least two days to read the materials in the presentation and do a bit of personal research.
  • Team members must be committed to helping the team improve their chances of success.

Read about how to get results

Benefits of a Red Team Review

A Red Team Review is an independent test of the executive’s decision-making.  The results will provide you with guidance and direction on what must be done to improve your plan’s chances of success.

A Hero, The Colours, A Badge: Leading With Courage

Angus Duffy served throughout WWII with honour, ferocity and courage. He returned home and continued to serve as a soldier, business leader, husband and family man.

Most would say he was a war hero, community hero, family hero, or all three. In my opinion, none of these was the most heroic thing he did in a long, unbelievable and history-making life.

The most heroic thing he did was a quiet, humble and dignified demonstration of moral courage.

Click here to read more about Moral Courage.

Post-WWII, Angus became the Commanding Officer (CO) of a storied infantry unit. As CO, he was entrusted with the symbols that embodied the Regiment’s ethos, history and culture: its Colours.

Historically, the Colours served as a rallying point for that unit’s soldiers in battle. Today they are a record of the proud and costly history of each Regiment, and they are protected as if made of gold.

When Angus was the CO, someone stole the Colours from the Regiment. There is a whole story behind this heinous crime, but suffice to say, it would be the equivalent of someone breaking into your home and violating your most personal family artifacts.

The CO is personally responsible for the Colours, but no thinking person blamed Angus for the theft, and this is where one of the most selfless, courageous acts that I have ever heard of took place. Angus took his regimental cap badge off of his beret because he took personal responsibility for losing the Colours.

Angus was never charged or accused of misconduct with the loss. To my knowledge, no one ever publicly blamed him for negligence, nor was ever a mark placed on his record regarding the matter. He took on the personal responsibility and public punishment for losing the Colours and never wavered from it.

The Regiment obtained replacement Colours, and Angus went to his grave, never putting his cap badge back on.

What have you done to take responsibility?

Have you resigned on the point of principle or refused to do something that did not align with your values?

Click here to read more about walking the talk.

You don’t have to wear a hair shirt for the rest of your life, but here are three actions you should do when taking responsibility:

  1. Take personal responsibility

Colonel Duffy could have blamed many people for the theft and embarrassment to the Regiment over losing the Colours.

He didn’t. He said, “I am the Commanding Officer. As such I am personally responsible for the Colours, and I am responsible for their loss”.

  1. Go public

Angus certainly went public.

He publicly demonstrated his responsibility by taking down the second most important thing in a soldier’s life, the emblem of his regimental family affiliation: His cap badge.

  1. Be consistent with your values and brand

Holy Moly, was he consistent or what!

Until his death, Angus demonstrated his responsibility. His values and brand were on demonstration to everyone.

Do You Measure up?

Once you knew Colonel Duffy’s story, you would have followed him anywhere.

What wouldn’t you do for a leader who demonstrated that level of moral courage?

Once you understood his devotion to duty, you were not likely to fail the Regiment.

Are you leading your people by taking responsibility?