I have had several instances that have popped up in recent weeks around the topic of attitudes and how they can affect organizations. In these instances, I have had the opportunity to lead, and problem solve, and unfortunately to fail.  However, the good news is I am able to make a correction and move forward purposefully in the right direction and encourage that behavior in my team too. 

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I wrote in my last blog about the struggle I am having at work with one of my supervisors. Despite my best effort, I have a bad attitude when I have dealings with her.  Even after our conversation last week where I told her I was not being my best self.  There is still something there that doesn’t sit right.  It is affecting our interactions, productivity on joint projects, and how we are approaching situations as a dyad. I know this is temporary, and that I have control over how I behave, and if I continue to work on it, I will eventually get to a place where we can be cohesive.   

In another situation, I had to break the news to my team that we need to start trickling back into the office for work as pandemic restrictions are relieved.  This has been rough as most people have various attitudes about returning, including anxiety.  I have been really transparent with them on how I would approach this as a manager, and we have been mostly on the same page about strategies and schedules.  However, I have one employee is really digging in her heels about coming in, citing a variety of issues which existed before she left, so how are they suddenly an issue now. 

See what I did there? I just passed a judgement and chose to have a bad attitude about why she wasn’t returning instead of taking a moment to reflect and think about other reasons she might be reluctant.  Obviously not a proud moment, and thankfully I was able to quickly recognize that lapse in good judgement (and good leadership), and make a correction.  I relayed the importance of understanding her position, and committing to a sensible solution for everyone involved.

Let me be clear, this is not a cut and dry event, but a process that requires continuous fostering in order to be successful.  I know that my attitude is a choice.  I have the power to change it if I want to, and if I am quick enough to see it happening.  It is important to be humble in the recognition, and in the willingness to share these shortcomings with our teams.  It reinforces the fact that we are all human, will never have all the answers, and that we are able to live a life we are proud of if we will get out of our own way once in a while.

Do you have pitfalls of a bad attitude?  I would love to hear about them.  Shoot me a comment!

Practice what you preach

This blog is all about leading, and creating a safe space to be transparent with those we work for and with, and creating effective organizational culture.  Well, full disclosure, I have not been great with practicing what I preach in one area of my job.  Don’t worry, all is not lost.  Last week I found myself so angry about a specific instance at work that I finally threw my hands up and decided to get real with one of my supervisors.  I am still alive to tell the tale, so let me break it down for you.

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When I first started at my job, I went from being an office of one, to having responsibility over four departments and roughly 12 people.  I was without a supervisor, mingling with a group of academics who really didn’t respect me, but did what I said because I had the backing of the Dean.  This was a tricky place for a girl with just a bachelor’s degree and specific experience in higher education.  But, I worked hard and made decisions when nobody else would, and slowly started to build a rapport with these high achieving scientists.

Everything was going along swimmingly, until I had patched all the holes left from previous administrators, and started to really dive into the operations.  Recall, I did not have any formal training, so I just did what I thought was right.  I addressed burn-out, ensured people were paid appropriately, and started to develop procedures.  Some of these items were not appreciated by the academics, who were used to having people at their beck and call, so once again I was on the outs.  Literally cannot win.

I have been struggling with the conflict between what is right for my now team, versus what the expectations are of the people they formally reported to for two years.  It is the single most frustrating part about my job.  Last week, I went to one of my now new supervisors seeking help and guidance.  I have exhausted every other avenue I could think of, now it was time for me to get the help I need to remedy this situation.

She was very understanding and had a lot to offer in terms of potential solutions.  I confided that this was a key contributor to my stress at work and we discussed strategies for mitigating that.  Though we don’t typically see eye to eye, I was grateful for her counsel and willingness to really hear where I was coming from.

The point here is that if I am going to be a safe place for things like this with my team, then I need to trust that others are there for me in the same way.  I was humbled by our conversation, and was kicking myself a bit for not approaching her sooner.  We are all just here trying to figure this out, and if we are able to approach conflict in this cooperative manner more often, the better our organizations will be for it.

Do you have an open door policy with your teams?  I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Consistency over intensity

The number one thing this affectionately captioned “COVID year” has taught me is to slow down.  On the heels of that, is the importance of consistency over intensity.  I spent the first 5 years of what is turning out to be a wonderful career being so intense that I periodically shut people out because they were “in my way.”  I was consumed with hyper productivity.  I touched a little bit on this in a previous blog on boundaries and breaks.  Now more than ever I am truly understanding the importance of calmly staying the course, trusting my gut, and doing the next right thing.

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Professionally, I am moving away from what was an entry level job, to an advanced, executive level role with additional responsibilities.  I am ready to humbly take on this new challenge and figure out how to take these responsibilities to the next level.  Old me would be panicking, begrudgingly putting in 60 hour weeks to “prove myself” to effectively nobody.  What I learned over the course of this year is that all that extra time wasn’t making my product better, and other areas in my life started to suffer.

My false urgency was due to a lack of confidence as a young leader.   I attributed my success to coincidence or luck, not to actual ability.  I struggled to internalize and accept my accomplishments, and doubted my deservedness and ability.  An article by Forbes defines “imposter syndrome” in exactly these terms.  My affliction became so serious that it actually started to have an opposite effect on my performance.  It cost me time and energy to actually do the best job, in the interest of doing all the jobs in an effort to perpetuate my value.

What is real to me, is the effect it had on my team.  I went from being this effective, involved leader, to being too busy to really connect.  It cost me a couple of relationships that I cared about, which had downstream effects for their managers and their attitude toward work altogether.  However, when the world shut down, I was able to retreat to those who helped me get to where I am. Fortunately, they were welcoming, and I focused wholly on holding them together, as they do (and had done) for me.  This was true in my personal life as well.  My husband and children who I love (but put to the side while I was being a big deal), became my only physical interaction.  This was a humbling experience for sure.

What I learned is that the people who matter will stick around, both personally and professionally.  At work, I am worth far more to them at 100%, and executing consistent, thoughtful productivity, over churning out volume of mediocre work.  My colleagues have noticed the change, recognizing the peace I am feeling, which is rewarding for me in trying to be my best self.  I am leading in this regard in both spaces, others are taking my lead, looking within, and adjusting their perspectives to live a healthier life all around. 

Slowing down hasn’t cost me any success (quite the opposite actually).  I am still the bad ass boss babe (so I have heard) that I dreamed I could be.  The difference is I am self-aware and secure enough to know my limits (and my worth).  As long as I adhere to my values and remain consistent, I can’t go wrong.

What did you learn from the COVID year?  Drop me a comment to let me know!

Administrative Professionals Day

Did you know that that the observance of this day originated in 1952 and was originally called National Secretaries Day?  The name was later changed to Administrative Professionals Day in 2000 when the day was moved to April, and we lowly admins only get the day instead of the month that was celebrated in the 50s.  You know what they say, one step forward, two steps back.

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One of my managers and I struggled this year to think of a form of recognition that would be meaningful to a group who has weathered such a chaotic year.  We can’t go to lunch together due to social distancing, and there isn’t a tangible gift that really encompasses our appreciation.  So, we settled on an extra paid day off to be taken whenever they want (as long as they aren’t all out at once).  I found it interesting that a token of appreciation is time away.

It turns out, giving employees extra time off is a great way to say thank you.  In a recent survey, roughly 40% of workers said that extra paid time off is a top form of recognition.  Better yet, it doesn’t break the bank.  In fact, employees who are offered extra time away are far more productive when they return, and are better motivated to do stellar work. 

This seemingly arbitrary “holiday” can go far beyond just donuts in the breakroom (though I DO love a donut).  It can serve as a reinforcement for a job presently well done.  Regardless of what you do with your teams, don’t let this day pass without doing something.  This is true for your peer group as well.  Let’s make sure we are lifting each other up whenever possible.

What are some of the things you are doing with your teams to celebrate?  I would love to hear about them in the comments.


A family friend once said to a very anxious teen me, “Expectations are planned resentments.”   I didn’t know it at the time, but this statement would resonate with me throughout my adult life (adult life so far I should say).  I also didn’t know that the origins of this slogan came from 12-step programs, which is also interesting.  Open for interpretation depending on circumstances, I use this as a philosophical check point as I navigate through this leadership life.

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In my current position, we are merging with another organization, and my job will either get really big and exciting, or it will go away completely.  This is pretty scary for me.  I have worked hard for the last 8 years to build something special, and it could just be sold off to this other entity.  But, there is a choice, and I can either make it or break it.  The key being ME.  I have the power to do something big, or let something happen to me. 

I am clearly choosing the former!  Otherwise why are you reading this blog about being a bad ass leader anyway?

The subject matter quote in this instance means that I cannot just expect something to happen to me just because I worked hard to get here.  There is still more work to be done, and following through is everything.  A new player in the game doesn’t relegate me to the sidelines, rather, it presents a new opportunity to show others what I am made of.  This reframe has been really important to me this week as the final agreement inches closer to completion. 

Keeping this in mind, I have started to do my part of the integration my way.  I am essentially doing all the things that I have been talking about in my previous blogs.  I am speaking up frequently when I see people behaving without integrity or trying to cut corners.  I am challenging the way people have always done things so we can start out on the right foot when all is said and done.  Most importantly, I am being brave; brave for my team and advocating for their place in the new structure.    

Something I learned in an article recently is that people pin their hopes and happiness on fulfilled expectations.  What happens when we are expecting the wrong things?  Or what happens when we are expectant so much that we leave little to the imagination of what could be?  This is something I have had to accept and let go of in order to really be able to dive deep into this merger process.  If I am really walking my talk, then I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this situation, no matter what the outcome. Being reassured by my integrity and grounded in my values is the biggest win for me.

Expectations are what you make of them.  If you want something, go out and get it.  Just make sure you are doing it for yourself.  I promise the uncertainty is worth it.

Have you followed me on Twitter yet?  If not, you should probably do that already!

Word Salad

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone is droning on and on AND ON about something using an expansive vocabulary?  The noises they are making sound very impressive (all the syllables), but what they are actually saying cannot be determined?  This is a common mistake people make when they are attempting to sound intelligent but really don’t have a good grasp of what they are doing.  Big words can also be used as a signal of stature or rank where they act as an intimidation tactic

Below are 3 reasons why you should keep it simple when trying to communicate.

  1. What are you really trying to say?

Communicating is hard enough, why would we need to complicate things with the need for a thesaurus?  By using concise language, you are showing your listener you really care about being understood.  You are also conveying that the information is important and thus cannot be subject to being misunderstood.  Think about the objective of the conversation and what you are trying to get out of it (decision, opinion, etc).  By being thoughtful you will be able to ensure your intention isn’t getting lost in the sauce.

  • Don’t be a jerk.

I love an educated person just as much as the next guy, but I don’t need to be assaulted by expansive vocabulary.  Using big words as a means to conflate your position is boring.   This goes for those email signature blocks too.  If I have to Google the myriad of degrees and certificates after your name, you have already lost me.  Email signatures are the new business cards.  Think about what you want someone to take away from both the content and closure of electronic correspondence.  Do you really want them to know you have a certificate in auditing?

  • You care about what you are doing and who you are doing it with.

We spend so much of our time working, doing a job that we hopefully are able to enjoy.  The people we do that with deserve our respect and our effective communication so we can all do a good job.  When email gets too convoluted and you find yourself assuming the intent of someone, pick up the phone. Remember we are all human, and misunderstandings can just as easily be resolved, as they can be escalated.

Talk to people how you would talk to friends.  This shows them that you aren’t someone different when you aren’t working; what you see (hear) is what you get. That kind of authenticity and candor builds relationship capital that can help you down the road.

I would love to hear about some of the ways you have refined communication and eliminated word salad in your organizations.  Drop me a comment and we can talk about it!

This is how we do it…

Or, that’s the way we have always done it. How many of us work in a place where we see a process or a policy that doesn’t make sense? When we challenge or inquire about said protocol, how often is the response, “well that is the way we have always done it?” In my experience, this (sometimes infuriating) response is given 75% of the time. So, if we are committed to our workplaces and their vision, why do we let these things continue? In my experience, fear is a key reason why people don’t challenge the status quo. Data suggests that people don’t speak up when they think something is wrong out of self-preservation. They are worried about rocking the boat for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is due to what type of employee they are and concerns over whether they will be heard. They don’t have the position capital necessary to really make a difference or enact meaningful change. In some instances, there is genuine fear because they have had their ideas shot down before. It is imperative as leaders, peers, and bystanders to call this out. I maintain that engaging all levels of employees is crucial to an organizations success as it builds trust and strengthens collective vision.

Another reason people are hesitant to call out inefficiencies is because seeing change through to the finish line (or even a pause point to reevaluate) is hard, and it takes a long time. When I was new in my role, I inherited a hodge podge of administrative staff who managed complex functions related to millions of dollars of grant funding. I assessed the situation, focusing on the people doing the work first, and proposed a centralization of support to enhance standardization of processes, and continuity of service.

This was not the way it was done. I had a chair of a department who was very upset and challenged me every step of the way (publicly, in meetings and emails, all the time). What he didn’t realize is he helped me identify flaws to make the system better. However, the process of continuously explaining, defending and advocating for what was best for the institution was exhausting (not to mention demoralizing and soul crushing). This happened two years ago, and he continues to make passive aggressive comments.

Having the resilience to see the change through hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. The productivity and efficiency is better than any unit on campus. My team is happier, appropriately classified and compensated, and people can actually go on vacation without a disruption to service.

Organizations are typically change averse, because they are comprised of people who won’t always see (or want to see) your point of view. What is important to keep in mind is if we are really walking our talk as authentic leaders, then we need to be brave enough to challenge the way things are done so we can continue to innovate and improve. Think about how you are communicating the change, know your audience, and be sound in your motivations so you can listen and pivot based on good feedback. I read a great book on change management that provides guidance on making it more digestible. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Being a good leader takes courage.  Courage to stand up for your beliefs and the advocacy of your teams, and courage to say no to things that contradict your values.  Courageous leaders take calculated risks to move their vision forward. Why do some choose this more difficult path while others go with the flow? 

A Harvard Business Review article states that the 5 characteristics of a courageous leader are authenticity, resilience, emotional intelligence, self-discipline, and commitment to purpose. Having learned how to be (and how not to be as a leader), I thrive to embody these characteristics and promote them with my team too.  Recently these characteristics have been challenged in me as my organization is undergoing a merger and the behaviors I am seeing from more senior level leaders are lacking these virtues. 

Authenticity to me means being honest and forthcoming at all times.  It means operating in good will for all stakeholders involved.  Behaving this way, even if it is scary and the odds are not in your favor, is the ultimate hallmark of a courageous leader.  In my current situation, I am being asked to follow the lead of the people I work with to “tactfully” navigate this merger process.  When I don’t fall in line and challenge the status-quo, I am told to “read up” on how these processes usually work.  As a leader who is walking my talk with my team, and exhibiting that behavior for my peers, I cannot simply tow the line for something I don’t believe in.

This is where the rest of the characteristics come into play for me.  I KNOW wholeheartedly (emotional intelligence) that not acting in good faith when negotiating with another party isn’t a good way to start a relationship.  I think we learned the basis of that in kindergarten (does The Golden Rule ring a bell?).  I also know that conveying this to the leaders of this process will take some time, and tact – I can’t just beat it into them (self-discipline).  By being patient, deliberate in approach, and data driven, I will be able to appropriately influence the process and keep my values in tact (resilience).

I have found a comfort in defining my purpose and staying committed to it. It is a wonderful grounding force as I lead both formally at work, and informally with my friends and family.  It provides a certain solace and peace as I navigate my professional life.  I make sure to share this journey with others in an effort to encourage such a connection.  So often I witness this distinct separation between connecting and producing which leaves the latter lacking in substance.  I think there is something to be said for putting your heart into what you do – especially at work.

Courage is a skill that should be cultivated and rewarded in our teams.  Managed appropriately, it can provide agency and strengthen relationships.  What are some ways you will promote courage in your workplace this week?  Drop a comment and let’s talk about it!


Have you ever heard that saying “when you assume, you make an ass out of you, and an ass out of me,” or the rough equivalent of that?  Well the older I get, the more I start to genuinely understand the sentiment.  Specifically related to organizations and how people interact within them, assumptions are like a gateway drug to getting really burned out really quickly.  Assumptions coupled with the inability to admit you were wrong, are particularly dangerous.

Image from Clipart

A trusted friend once told me that when people assume, they are filling in a story they have created in their minds with the pieces they don’t know (I believe she learned it from this Brene Brown podcast).  They are literally creating their own narrative.  Sometimes this tale isn’t too far from the truth, so people start to trust their gut and do it more often.  The bad part about making this part of your behavior, is that sometimes you can’t escape.  You create a false reality and assign attributes to people with no basis other than the incomplete story you started with.

This can lead to a level of bitterness and distrust that is hard to come out of.  It can result in you behaving poorly toward these characters you created, and unwilling to see even the slightest hint that they aren’t who you made them to be in your mind.  When this happens, it is up to you as an individual to break your own habit.  You need to look at yourself to determine how you came to those conclusions, and reach out to those people to allow them to tell their story.

I am currently living in one of these little bitterness cycles with some people I work with.  I have been so beat down by their rhetoric and entitlement that I literally can’t see them as anything other than villains.  Today on a call, one of them made some really thoughtful and encouraging comments to which I rolled my eyes.  This is NOT the kind of leader I want to be for my team.  I need to do some work.

I am working to put my beliefs in check and to look inward about my motivations to always assume the worst.  I feel like this opportunity presented itself to me today after a problematic stint of reacting off assumptions (both personally and professionally).  I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow, and that I am humble enough to do the work.  Simon Sinek recently posted a quote on his Instagram that says “Leadership is not expertise.  Leadership is a constant education.” What a beautiful promise of an exciting journey.

I encourage all of you to check your assumptions at the door (aka try not to be an ass), and have the self-awareness to challenge yourself when necessary.  


In a meeting with one of my team members this week she talked about how she felt a little out of her scope of expertise on a call earlier that day.  She is new to her position and we are working on a cooperative research study that requires several different institutions to develop common practices and operations to execute the protocol.  The largest task at hand is a budget that works for all the various sized venues.  She asked to be included on another site’s budget discussion to get some insight on their process.  She reported back that she had so much to contribute to that meeting, they asked her to run the national meeting. 

Image from Clipart

This person has only been in this position for 7 months, and has been learning the ropes faster than I ever could have imagined.  I recruited her because I knew her socially, and recognized her as having a wonderful skillset and temperament to do the job of a research coordinator.  She has quickly become one of my best team members.  She is always so eager to learn and contribute, I honestly hit the lottery with this one.

During the call, she mentioned that she felt intimidated with speaking up.  The other people on the call were (seemingly) seasoned research personnel, so truly she thought she would just listen in.  However, when one of the physicians missed a crucial detail about the protocol, she respectfully chimed in to correct her.  This instance of speaking up opened the door to several more questions, including some on the budget methodology and operations questions.  She answered the inquiries flawlessly, but got off the phone wondering why they wanted so much information from her.  Who was she anyway?

She recognized this as imposter syndromeAdam Grant talks about this frequently on his social media platforms, books, and podcasts.  He stresses the importance of taking this feeling out of “syndrome land,” which inherently has a negative connotation, and normalizing it as something everyone goes through from time to time.  He further encourages us to use it as an opportunity to rethink and grow from the experience.  How exciting is that!

I discussed this sentiment with my team member and encouraged her to speak up more often in these settings.  Not only does she deserve to be here, but her new and fresh approach to looking at these things is invaluable to this large, multi-disciplinary team.  I told her to run the national meeting if she was comfortable doing so, and to be transparent about where she needs more input on some of the nuances of the protocol.  Only good things can come from humility and the genuine seeking of input to make a collaborative project stronger.

I want you to literally take a page from Adam Grant’s book “Think Again” and re-think what imposter syndrome means to you and your work life.  I would be thrilled to hear the results!