Tag Archives: clarity


Cross-Learning Clarity

Like you, I want to become better.

Better in my practice of faith, loving and providing for my family (wife and kids, which I wish someone would’ve told me are two different responsibilities!), partnership with Shandel Group, participation in local civic duties, member of the Seattle community, etc.

But why are we unable to quickly and significantly get better?

In a word, “clarity”.  It boils down to our lack of clarity in priority and motivation. Which then bleeds into a lack of uncertainty in how to accomplish our growth process. We simply don’t know why, where or how to start the growth process.

Thinking outside the box to jumpstart growth.

One of the most effective and “out of the box” ways I’ve learned to gain clarity (in various areas of life and leadership) is in practicing Interdisciplinary or Cross-Curricular Learning. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this Cross-Learning and I’ll share a recent example.

I just finished a book about weight loss and personal organization, two things I have a pretty good grasp on. I chose to work through “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” because I wanted to jumpstart my brain into thinking about fresh ways for hitting my targets and attaining my goals by subtracting something in my life.

Alan, this is all fine and good. But I am more interested in how I can lead more effectively. And I certainly do not believe that I have extra space in my schedule to go research and find some sort of Cross-Learning subject to help me do that!

I get it, I’m here to help!

A starting point for practicing Cross-Learning.

You may know that Malcolm Gladwell (author of best sellers like The Tipping Point, Outliers, etc)  has started a new podcast called “Revisionist History”. It is a brilliant podcast that “will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” The most recent episode is called The Satire Paradox.

In this episode, Gladwell and team uncover a brilliant but very sad reality about Western Satirical Comedy. And even more amazingly, whether podcast crew realize it or not, they uncover 2 important lessons that you can take note of. Primarily to gain clarity and learn to be a more effective leader!

So if you are ready to sharpen your leadership skills, click the image below and engage in the Cross-Learning. Listen for the two subtle takeaways (though there may be more than just two).

Consider the following as you practice Cross-learning.

  1. How the general public critically think or process particular topics
  2. In light of this, how can you lead by communicating more effectively

Gaining Clarity Through Cross-Learning.

The two Cross-Learned takeaways that I took from Revisionist History are…

  1. If there is a lack of clarity in communication around a specific directive or discussion topic, your hearers are more likely to comprehend your topic as they want to hear it. Not necessarily as you intend for it to be understood. I.E. They will conform your message to meet their agenda. (A big pitfall in leadership!)
  2. When there is room for interpretation in directive or discussion topic, your people use energy that is intended for execution or implementation of directive. Inevitably wasting energy on thinking and therefore lose effectiveness in taking action or completion of said directive.

Do you agree?

What were your takeaways from this Cross-Learning resource?

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

This article previously appeared at Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel’s book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

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How are you Investing?

How are your investments doing lately? Not your monetary investments, but your investments in the PEOPLE that work for you?

In Week 17 of Clarity I talked about how important it is to invest in your team. YOU are the one who has the greatest ROI!

Mark Miller shares some great suggestions below to empower, develop and align your team.

I love his quote:
I don’t see our people as an asset…
I see them as a gift.

I want to steward that gift well.

Take your greatest assests to the next level this week!

Your Coach,

Today’s Challenge: Investing in People
By Mark Miller of Great Leaders Serve

In challenging economic times, one of the easiest items to cut from the budget is training and development. The rationale is understandable. Rarely will any organization see immediate negative consequences when training is discontinued. It looks like found money in the budgeting process.

Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. Learning and development is like time-released medication: the benefits are derived over time.

Imagine someone who believes they don’t need to save for retirement. This month, even this year, they see no ill effects from their decision. However, if you play the movie forward, many of these same people live their final years in poverty. The decision not to save was painless in the moment – the pain arrives later.

Today I want to respond to a question I received just last week from a business leader: “Why should we invest in learning and development for our staff?” There are many reasons. Here are some of mine…

  • Improve performance – Learning and development may not have immediate impact on the Profit and Loss statement, but it better have long-term impact. We help people grow so we can help the business grow.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of prepared leadership for the future – We’re trying to build a leadership pipeline. This will not happen without thoughtful design and construction. Pipelines don’t build themselves.
  • Increase individual and organizational capacity – Growth should generate capacity. Every organization I know of is asking their people to do more with less. Without new thinking and methods, this mandate is a prescription for disaster.
  • Establish common language and models – When people align their thinking, it’s much easier to align their actions. My favorite example of this is around the topic of leadership. Does your organization have a common definition of leadership? If not, you’ll always struggle to create a leadership culture.
  • Build cultural cohesiveness – Shared learning experiences create common bonds. These experiences also help us grow a small company. Doing life together, including learning, fosters a unified culture.
  • Help staff increase their level of contribution – If you’ve created a healthy organization, people want to contribute at a higher level. People want to add more value. Learning and development facilitates this.
  • Introduce new best practices – Left to their own, organizations can easily become insulated from the outside world. They settle into patterns of behavior that often do not represent global best practices. Investments in learning and development can mitigate this tendency.
  • Combat complacency and stagnation – Living things grow. Growth creates energy and movement. Investments in learning and development are like water on a plant. Without it, growth is stunted and death is not far behind.
  • Maintain people as a competitive advantage – Are your people a competitive advantage for your organization? If so, an on-going investment will be required to maintain that edge. If they’re not, you’ll never enjoy that advantage without investing in them.

For me, there’s one more reason to invest in learning and development. I don’t see our people as an asset… I see them as a gift. I want to steward that gift well.

Why do you invest in your people?


Goal Setting And Group Performance

December is here and I have my red Christmas Starbucks cup in my hand.  It makes me think of holiday shopping and I would love for you to consider the clarity you have received this year and who you might be able to help on their path for 2016.

So I ask you:  Who on your gift list could benefit from the practical tools at Shandel Group?  For example, for your staff, family, kids – What about a stocking stuffer to help them become a stronger, more intentional leader (whether at home, at school, or in the office)? Clarity:Focusing on What Matters makes a great gift.

You might also consider the gift of self-discovery with the Behaviors/Motivators assessments and the debriefing tools. By New Year’s Eve they will have an action plan for personal growth to be the best they can be in 2016.

Speaking of goal-setting, here is a great piece written by a friend of mine in Reno, NV, Dr. Bret Simmons, on his Positive Organizational Behavior blog (http://www.bretlsimmons.com/)  It describes the effect of goal setting on group performance. I think you’ll find some interesting results! Read on…

Goal Setting and Group Performance

Some fascinating new research on the effect of goal setting on group performance was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (full citation below). The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 131 previously published studies on goal setting.

The results show that the worst thing you can do for group performance is to set nonspecific goals. Even easy, specific goals are better for group performance than nonspecific goals. Setting specific difficult goals has the best effect on group performance. Specific goals supported by specific metrics send employees unambiguous and consistent signals about expected performance behaviors.

The most interesting finding to me was that “egocentric goals (aimed at maximizing individual performance) undermine group performance, whereas groupcentric goals (aimed at maximizing the individual contribution to the group) enhance group performance” (p. 7). Goals that force team members to compete with each other undermine group performance.  “When group performance matters, egocentric goals would best be framed as to emphasize the individual contribution to the group” (p. 8).

Select people that value collaboration over competition.  Train them in the knowledge and skills they need to work better with others. Challenge your teams to set high standards for their shared performance, and reward the members that do the most to help the team succeed. Think very carefully about the message you send by rewarding individual performance when the team fails.

Full citation: Kleingeld, A., van Mierlo, H., and Arends, L. (2011). The Effect of Goal Setting on Group Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Your Coach,




Dr. Bret Simmons’ article previously appeared here.


Choosing to Go Forward

If you’re not facing a business crisis right now, you will be soon. Are you prepared?

The waves are rough in a sea of adversity. But learning to swim in that setting provides you with one heck of an opportunity.

You may not be able to change the events and circumstances of the world around you. But you can choose your attitude, change your behavior, and act intentionally to take advantage of all the prospects that surround you.

However, until you stop reacting to the loss of “what was” and start responding to “what is”, you will stay in an emotionally arrested state, hunkered down in a state of fear which will never produce the results you can be proud of.

I am not saying, “Just think positive.” What I am suggesting is, surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth and help you focus not on the “how” or the “what” of your operation, but on the “who” and “why.”

What you can control, influence, and impact, do so. What you cannot control, surrender to. Not surrender in a give-up kinda way. Surrender in a courageous, bold way – intentionally dismissing the fear (false sense of controlling) and the negative self-limiting beliefs so that you may see through eyes of faith (the opposite of fear) to the amazing opportunities all around you.

Get help, get clear, and get in front of your team and talk to them! If you are scared and you actually have control, information, and power, consider your people’s emotional state every waking hour of the day without control, information, or power. Pull your employees together and methodically process with them the emotion, the fear, and the uncertainty of what is going on. Get them on the same page of how to maximize results and creatively seize opportunities!

Once you have done that, look around your sphere of influence and help others do the same. People need the real you to lead them. Courage is key in a time like this. The faster you can come to grips with your own fears, the sooner you are ready to reignite hope and optimism from an authentic place.

Your Coach,



Pushing Your Limits

What do you think of when you hear someone (like me!) say, “You need to push your limits”?

Envision yourself standing on a high peak of the Rocky Mountains watching a storm rage below. An eagle soars up through the thunderheads, and arcs toward the sun. The rainwater on his wings glistens like diamonds. Had it not been for the storm, the mighty raptor might have remained in the valley, and you wouldn’t have caught a glimpse of its beauty.

Pushing through storms gives people the opportunity to grow in character, expand their sphere of influence, and live on higher ground. It strengthens our self-confidence and encourages us to keep reaching for more.

Being a coach, I push people every day to challenge their self-imposed limits and to go for the stretch goal. Faulty belief systems are the main thing that limits people in pursuing their personal greatness.

But the limits I see people breaking aren’t the right ones. They are overloaded, and living on caffeine, adrenaline and mediocre success and yet they keep striving! Forgoing sleep, answering emails 24/7, working 60 hours a week, saying yes to every request, climbing the invisible ladder of success, justifying their adrenaline addiction. And then because they are overstretched, calm themselves by eating, drinking, spending, or self-medicating.

We have confused which limits to break through and which ones to honor and create space for. What suffers is our true fulfillment and satisfaction with the things we do have, value, and desire in life. In fact, living a life of purpose, vision, and legacy is about moving beyond your own limits and comfort zone to something greater than you.

I invite you to decide where you need to set new limits for yourself to live intentionally by your values and to generate creative space for true living to occur.

Your Coach,



What Will Your Legacy Be? Clarity #44

Do you realize that you have an innate desire to live a life that is significant, and leave a legacy that outlives you?

If you don’t, then you may keep running on adrenaline, chasing the next thing – hoping it will bring you the satisfaction you are looking for and the answer to the question: How do I make a difference?

After selling PayPal for $1.5 billion, the 32 year-old co-founder, Max Levchin, still couldn’t turn off his drive to succeed, and started a new company. I was fascinated when his fiancé got part of it right, telling a New York Times reporter on camera that it’s not about the money for him, it’s about the competition within him. However, Max himself diagnosed his own disease.

Max: “On a grand scale I worry about being irrelevant. That is sorta my number one concern in life is I don’t want to wake up and be in this sorta ‘Where-Are-They-Now’ file.”

Most successful people are unconsciously trying to prove something to someone. As we read in Week 11 of Clarity, it is a constant searching after the answer to the question, “Do I have what it takes?” and a desperate run from the fear, “What if I am found out?”

In short, we have a deep wound of insignificance: the feeling of having little or no meaning, value, or importance just as I am. The only way we feel worthy is when we keep producing, keep selling, keep moving – with the hope that one day we will achieve enough to stop having to prove ourselves to the unknown voice in our head. Mr. Levchin discovered that $1.5 billion isn’t enough. What is?

I suggest that we start from the inside out. When we settle the issues inside of us, we usually accomplish so much more with so much less – and also give to our spouse, our kids, our neighbors, and the world.

Good for Max Levchin for speaking truth on what he is really after: a relevant, meaningful life. I wonder how long he will work 100 hours a week and how many companies he’ll start before he realizes that relevance and significance are only found in what you do in the lives of others, meeting their needs – and many times those are intangible things without price tags.

Your Coach,



Ten Things Leaders “Should” Do

I wrote Clarity: Focusing on What Matters for leaders who like short reads (400 words or less)  and big application. That is why I fell in love with this article by Robin Sharma as I think he has a great perspective on what authentic leadership looks like when the leader is keeping it real. Enjoy!

What would your life look like if you had absolutely no fear? What kinds of things would you do if you lived from a frame of reference that your thoughts literally could form your world?

How brightly would your light shine if you stepped out of the limitations that are keeping you small and stretched yourself well past your comfort zone into the place that you know, deep within, you are meant to be?

Authentic leadership is all about being the person you know in your heart you have always been destined to be. Authentic leadership does not come from your title or from the size of your paycheck. Instead, this form of leadership comes from your being and the person that you are.

Here are 10 things that authentic leaders do on a regular basis:

 1. They speak their truth. In business today, we frequently ‘swallow our truth’. We say things to please others and to look good in front of The Crowd. Authentic leaders are different. They consistently talk truth. They would never betray themselves by using words that are not aligned with who they are. This does not give anyone a license to say things that are hurtful to people. Speaking truth is simply about being clear, being honest and being authentic.

2. They lead from the heart. Business is about people. Leadership is about people. The best leaders wear their hearts on their sleeves and are not afraid to show their vulnerability. They genuinely care about other people and spend their days developing the people around them. They are like the sun: the sun gives away all it has to the plants and the trees. But in return, the plants and the trees always grow toward the sun.

3. They have rich moral fiber. Who you are speaks far more loudly than anything you could ever say. Strength of character is true power – and people can feel it a mile away. Authentic leaders work on their character. They walk their talk and are aligned with their core values. They are noble and good. And in doing so, people trust, respect and listen to them.

4, They are courageous. It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd. It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary. It takes a lot of inner strength to do what you think is right even though it may not be easy. We live in a world where so many people walk the path of least resistance. Authentic leadership is all about taking the road less traveled and doing, not what is easy, but what is right.

5. They build teams and create communities. One of the primary things that people are looking for in their work experience is a sense of community. In the old days, we got our community from where we lived. We would have block parties and street picnics. In the new age of work, employees seek their sense of community and connection from the workplace. Authentic leaders create workplaces that foster human linkages and lasting friendships.

6.They deepen themselves. The job of the leader is to go deep. Authentic leaders know themselves intimately. They nurture a strong self-relationship. They know their weaknesses and play to their strengths. And they always spend a lot of time transcending their fears.

7. They are dreamers. Einstein said that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It is from our imaginations that great things are born. Authentic leaders dare to dream impossible dreams. They see what everyone else sees and then dream up new possibilities. They spend a lot of time with their eyes closed creating blueprints and fantasies that lead to better products, better services, better workplaces and deeper value. How often do you close your eyes and dream?

8. They care for themselves. Taking care of your physical dimension is a sign of self-respect. You can’t do great things at work if you don’t feel good. Authentic leaders eat well, exercise and care for the temples that are their bodies. They spend time in nature, drink plenty of water and get regular massages so that, physically, they are operating at planet-class levels of performance.

9. They commit to excellence rather than perfection. No human being is perfect. Every single one of us is a work in progress. Authentic leaders commit themselves to excellence in everything that they do. They are constantly pushing the envelope and raising their standards. They do not seek perfection and have the wisdom to know the difference. What would your life look like if you raised your standards well beyond what anyone could ever imagine of you?

10. They leave a legacy. To live in the hearts of the people around you is to never die. Success is wonderful but significance is even better. You were made to contribute and to leave a mark on the people around you. In failing to live from this frame of reference, you betray yourself. Authentic leaders are constantly building their legacies by adding deep value to everyone that they deal with and leaving the world a better place in the process.

Thank you Robin for sharing your wisdom with us!

Your Coach,



It’s Not Position, it’s Attitude that Matters

My favorite chapter of my book Clarity is Chapter 1 and since it’s summer, it’s a good time to pull it out of the archives and re-visit the idea that it’s not your position, it’s your attitude that matters!


Every summer, our family camps at Bucks Lake, where I enjoy a week of watching the eagles perch, fly, and hunt. I love the way their beady little eyes go back and forth, searching, scanning until they see it, then the eyes become intensely focused. (No doubt where the term “eagle eye” came from!)

Leaders need clarity on who they are (values), where they are going (vision) and how they will get there (mission). There are folks who search for meaning with great energy but don’t allow for moments of silence to reflect and focus. Without that clarity, they never really see what truly matters.

How this has anything to do with jellyfish, well, you need to read this excerpt from my book and figure it out.

Week 1 from Clarity

Have you ever been frustrated by people whose lives seem so smooth and easy, while you are working diligently only to encounter trial after trial?

When I was fresh out of college, I posed that question to my wise mentor. Answering my jealousy over the easy life of my peers, he explained that there are two types of people: jellyfish and eagles. Building upon his words, I have used this analogy throughout the years to encourage greatness in others.

Consider the jellyfish. Sure, it gets blown and tossed by the tide of the sea, but basically it just floats along. It lives on what comes its way. There’s not too much conflict, and no need for adventure. Just enough movement to stay with the current until it dies.

There may be a few exceptional jellyfish that stand out, but a jellyfish is a jellyfish – content blobs existing in the sea. For a jellyfish, there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing else is expected of a jellyfish.

Now consider the eagle. Food doesn’t just come bobbing by for the eagle – it has to go get it. Have you ever watched how many times an eagle will dive for its dinner? Relentless! For goodness sakes, on the first day of flight school, the baby eagle gets dropped out of the nest!

While they have an incredible view from the top of the world, they often perch alone because of their choice for higher living. The trials and difficulties of the eagle are what breed the character we admire: courage, vigor, and freedom. Nothing is abnormal about the challenging adventure they live – that’s an eagle’s life. Nothing less should be expected.

Unlike the animal kingdom, humans have a choice in how they want to live and who they want to be. You choose your attitude and your behavior. It doesn’t matter if jellyfish parents raised you; you can learn to be an eagle. I’ve seen organizations with jellyfish CEOs and eagle janitors. It’s not your position; it’s your attitude.

The challenge is when you naively see yourself soaring like an eagle, but you are blind to your jellyfish lifestyle. Anyone can be an eagle, but you must commit to pay the personal cost of higher living and consistent integrity. Choose today to find higher ground and learn the way of an eagle.

Your Coach,



Clarity and Alignment

Eliminate the Emotional Drain from Leadership

Do you know how much negative emotional drain is costing you and your organization? How about you as a leader? When I ask that question to an executive team, I have them actually calculate the amount of hours they personally spend:

  • Preparing for a meeting they know will be laboriously taxing.
  • Couching what they need to say with enough political correctness to not offend anyone.
  • Recovering from a difficult conversation.
  • Listening to gossip. 
  • Venting to others or their spouse when they get home.
  • Silent pretend conversations you have in your head about what you would really like to say.
  • Fantasizing about firing yourself or others off the team.
  • Using your favorite escape vice to recover from the stress and dysfunction at work.

For a pretty good team that is being conservative in its estimation – I get around 40 total hours per week. For teams who haven’t done work on building trust, understanding communication styles and resolving personal conflict, that number is too high right now for you to actually believe it is possible.

Next, I have them take that number and multiply it by the average billable hourly rate.

____ # of hours


_____$ billable rate


_______ Cost of the emotional drain…not to mention opportunity loss.

Needless, to say it is a very expensive problem that doesn’t have to be. With just a small investment of time, energy, and resources this can be reversed quickly.

The Key Is Clarity

Clarity of the WHY: Purpose, values and vision.

Clarity of the WHO: Build and develop the team via understanding communication and motivator styles, team emotional intelligence, and individual stories and conflict blockers.

Clarity of the WHAT: Long-term vision, 3-5 year plan, one year strategy, and quarterly initiatives.

Clarity of the HOW: Goals, tactics, action steps, communication methods, behavioral norms and team agreements.

Clarity of the WHEN: Meeting rhythms, accountability charts, and white space in place.

Alignment Is The Result

Leadership is a joy when there is clarity. From clarity comes alignment of purpose and productivity. When all people are rowing in the same direction for the same purpose the results are an amazing and exhilarating culture. The right people doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason. YES!

How can you get clarity and eliminate the emotional drain you are experiencing at work?

Your Coach,



jen and emmanuel (224x300)

Givers VS. Takers – Who Are You? Clarity #38

In order to be an effective giver, you must first be a good listener. This type of listening includes asking questions and being curious about the other person’s thoughts, needs, and desires. Week 38 of Clarity focuses on the difference between givers and takers. We talk about this all the time in our world of coaching here at True Life, Inc. Coach Mary Beth King introduces our very own Jenny Bookamer while Shandel is out of town – enjoy!! Jenny’s blog invites us to consider whether we tend to give or to take in our relationships. She points us to the clearest indication of our tendency: how do we listen?  Do we listen and respond from thinking, “it’s all about ME”? I need you to let me be in charge. I need you to know that I am brilliant. I need to feel like I’m helping you.  Or, do we listen and respond from thinking, “it’s all about YOU”? How are you? What do you truly need? How can I help?  Notice whether you are listening to have your needs met or serve others, and you will clearly see whether you tend to be a giver or a taker!    ~ Mary Beth King, PCC Here’s Jenny… In order to be an effective giver, you must first be a good listener. This type of listening includes asking questions and being curious about the other person’s thoughts, needs, and desires. Week 38 of Clarity focuses on the difference between givers and takers. We talk about this all the time in our world of coaching here at True Life, Inc. In re-visiting this chapter it reminded me of another part of my world where I am a childbirth educator in the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth and a birth doula (a doula is a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family, by providing physical assistance, and emotional support).


Courtesy of Nichelle Isaacson Photography

In this part of my world, an aspect of my role is to teach the support person to be tuned in to laboring woman. Support people may think they have a good idea of what is needed, but until they truly listen to women as they work through the process of labor and birth, they only have part of the equation. As a doula I once made the mistake of gently insisting the laboring mom try a certain position because I THOUGHT she was tired. She told me she wasn’t, and yet I persisted. With her next contraction it became very obvious that I was way off base. That was a big moment of understanding for me about the importance of listening in order to give effectively. What would happen if we intentionally listened and asked good, open-ended questions to gain insight into a person’s thoughts and heart? How would that change the way we give to others? I suggest that it would allow us to give to others in ways that would affect them in profound ways. It would make the process of giving more about the receiver, than the giver. We all have something to contribute in our sphere of influence. Start being an intentional listener and an effective giver and see what a difference YOU can make!

Jenny Bookamer