FeaturedHow to Be a Great Boss

Most of us want to be great bosses.

We’ve all had bad bosses. Supervisors that were rude, arrogant, overly demanding, insecure or dismissive.

Leaders who were phoning it in, directors who were nice but ineffectual, and managers who were just too darn busy doing their own work to make time for us.

In our zeal to be better bosses, we read leadership books, attend seminars and conferences, watch TED talks and follow the latest gurus/influencers on social media.

But, deep down, it feels like we’re not quite there yet.

Some people respond to our management style.

These people typically become our favourites and we spend the majority of our time working with them. Coaching them. Encouraging them. Rewarding them.

Others do not.

Some don’t even seem to like us. Eventually, we find ourselves spending less and less time with these individuals… avoiding interaction and just hoping they’ll get their job done without us.

We hear them out if they come with an issue or concern, but otherwise, they don’t get much of our attention.

Sound familiar?

Over time, we find ourselves hiring more of the former group – and less of the latter. We convince ourselves that the most effective team is a team made up of people who respond well to our leadership style.

Armed with that insight, we invest time and money (our own and the company’s) in perfecting that style.

This is where most of us get to in our leadership journey.

We become very effective at leading certain types of people.

But a great boss is not someone who can motivate certain types of people.

A great boss is someone who can motivate and work effectively with almost anyone.

To be a truly great boss… we need to shift our thinking.

First… we need to stop focusing on our leadership style – and what we’re bringing to the mix. 

Instead, we need to re-focus on the specific, individual requirements of our employees. And how we, as the boss, can meet those specific, individual needs.

We don’t lead a group. We lead a group of individuals. And most groups are made up of different personality types.

As business leaders, we know that the key to satisfying our customers is to figure out what their specific needs are… and then apply ingenuity and diligence to meeting and exceeding those needs.

So why aren’t we taking that same approach with our employees?

Because we tend to think of our employees as being there to serve us. When, in fact, we are there to be of service to them.

Yes, we may chart the course and lead the charge. But we also support, coach, develop and inspire. We guide, direct, focus, problem-solve and clear roadblocks that are preventing our team from being as effective as they could be. 

So, what does it take to win the hearts and minds of a group of individuals? 

The first step to being a truly great boss starts with one simple question.

What do YOU need from me?

Stop Managing and Start Coaching

The days of command and control leadership are long gone. Today’s workplace requires leaders at all levels to engage, inspire and provide ongoing developmental feedback.

When you shift from directing, controlling and micro-managing to guiding, supporting and encouraging, you’ll find you gain a more committed team.

Here are some quick coaching tips that you can start implementing immediately, from the new book The Culture Solution, by best-selling author Matthew Kelly.

Make every interaction with your direct reports count.
Teach them something you learned in your career. Tell them a story about how you failed at something and what you learned. Show them one specific way they can become better in their roles.

Model a growth mindset.
Be open to any feedback you receive from supervisors, peers and your own staff. Invite your people to bring your attention to ways in which you can grow as a leader.

Students don’t give teachers homework.
Don’t let your team bring half-finished work for you to finesse. Coach them on what needs improving and have them try, again and again, if necessary, until they get it right. It’s not your role to do their work.

Leadership Lessons from the ER

This week did not go as planned.

After a fun-filled day on Monday, I was struck out of nowhere with severe stomach pain shortly after dinner.

By 10pm, there was no position, sitting, standing or lying down, that was comfortable.

Desperate to avoid a long night in the ER, I frantically googled my symptoms in search of answers.

By 2am, doubled over in pain, I had to reluctantly face facts. This might actually be an emergency.

We all know the smart move is to call an ambulance.

Paramedics can evaluate and often start treating you right on scene. They can also facilitate your entry into the hospital.

But one of the city’s top hospitals is less than 10 minutes from my house at that time of night, so my husband grabbed his car keys and we raced over.

Leadership Lesson #1: Constantly Evaluate your Priorities

We’ve all spent miserable nights in a packed emergency room.

Hospitals operate on a strict triage system and, like a local news channel, if it bleeds, it leads. Those of us with less dramatic or non-life-threatening conditions must sit and wait.

But North York General, one of the busiest hospitals in the city, has adopted a smart new approach to triage.

As soon as you arrive in Emergency, patients are immediately assessed and dispatched to one of several zones in the hospital.

Red Zone for Urgent/Critical cases, Yellow Zone for serious issues that may not require hospitalization and another zone (Blue?) for less critical/time sensitive conditions.

Within five minutes of walking in the door, I had been assessed, admitted and sent directly to the Yellow Zone.

Once you’re in the Yellow Zone, you’re no longer competing with Red Zone cases. You’re now triaged against other Yellow Zone patients.

Given the severity of my symptoms, I rose quickly on the priority list.

The issue seemed to be gastro, but a wide range of conditions… gallstones, kidney stones, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, appendicitis and even ovarian cysts share very similar symptoms. They definitely needed more data.

My bloodwork and a physical exam led the first doctor to suspect appendicitis.

But they’d need some imaging to confirm that diagnosis. I was told that a CT scan would not be available until 8am and we’d just have to sit and wait until then.

With a double dose of pain killers barely making a dent in my pain, I knew it would be a long five hours.

Leadership Lesson #2: Don’t Assume the Worst

Knowing the intense burden that the pandemic has placed on our already over-worked and underpaid healthcare teams, I anticipated short-staffing, minimal service and an atmosphere of palpable burnout.

That is NOT what I experienced.

To a person, every single staffer I encountered that night was personable, patient and attentive.

I realize that privileged white women often receive better service than others, but let me clarify that I was NOT there in executive mode that evening, with a designer handbag and a mild case of strep throat.

Nope. I was UGLY sick. Projectile vomiting. Racing to the washroom, puking in my own mask, sick. A total nightmare.

I share those personal, humiliating details reluctantly.

Because even though they had to discreetly page Housekeeping every time I emerged from projectile vomiting in the washroom, I was treated with nothing but courtesy, care and respect.

Leadership Lesson #3: Over-Communicate in a Crisis

After I had my CT scan, I was told it might be an hour before a doctor would be back to share the findings.

In spite of being given two IV bags of morphine, I was in tremendous pain and projectile vomiting a single ice chip.

I sat there in agony, dreading what I might hear.

While we waited, I noticed that routine medical updates were being delivered by the doctors in the waiting lounge itself.

Those who were being called into a small side room down the hall were clearly receiving more sensitive or “bad news” updates. I saw several patients emerge from that room looking visibly upset.

I told myself that if a doctor came out to the lounge to share my findings, it couldn’t be all that bad. But if they called me over to that side room and pulled the curtain, I should probably brace myself for worse news.

When my time finally came, we were asked to follow a nurse down a hallway, past the “bad news” room and through a whole new set of doors. I was led into a new waiting area and told the doctor would be by “shortly” to speak to us there.

As we waited, I looked around at my new surroundings.

My heart sank when I noticed… I was now sitting in the Red Zone. 

That can’t be good.

We sat there for 45 minutes, waiting for a doctor to appear with a Red Zone update.

That may’ve been the longest 45 minutes of my life. 

I’m not sure the hospital fully considered what message is sent to a patient when you escalate them into the Red Zone. To then make them wait 45 minutes for any information whatsoever seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

Note to NYGH… You’re doing so many things right. But may I respectfully suggest that you don’t escalate a patient into the Red Zone emergency room until a doctor is actually available to speak with them.

When the doctor finally arrived, I was prepared for the worst.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the doctor introducing himself as a Surgeon.

This new surgeon informed me that the CT scan did not reveal a tumour, mass, cyst, or even a ruptured appendix.

What it showed was a complete twist in my small bowel.

Somehow my small bowel had managed to wind around itself that evening and was now totally blocked.

Which explained the stomach pain. And all the vomiting.

As I struggled to take this in, he explained that I needed emergency surgery immediately to untwist my bowel.

Leadership Lesson #4: Always Have a Plan

He then walked me through the surgery plan.

He would first attempt to resolve the situation laparoscopically… which would involve three small incisions in my abdomen.

If that didn’t work, he’d have to make a call right there in the operating room to cut me open, pull out my small bowel and untwist it directly.

After carefully explaining all of the potential risks, he asked if he had my permission to book the ER and proceed with the surgery.

I looked him in the eye and asked him pointedly if he felt confident that he could successfully perform this surgery.

With not even a hint of bravado, he assured me that he did.

So, I gave him the go-ahead to book the ER and prep me for major surgery in the next half hour.

This was happening.


To be continued…


Why Do People Hire an Executive Coach?

There are a variety of reasons why people hire an executive coach, but most fall into a few specific categories.

Making Better Decisions Leaders face a multitude of decisions they need to make about strategy, people, opportunities and they need help thinking through the variety of paths in front of them. Coaches help executives see the big picture and generate insights that help them make better decisions.

Having an Accountability Partner An accountability partner helps leaders get things done. Leaders appreciate those who help them identify and focus on their top priorities and support them so they can follow through and take action.

Growth Leaders hire coaches to help them grow and develop. This growth can be personal, professional or the growth of a company.


Dealing with Isolation Leaders often feel like they don’t have anyone in whom to confide. Coaches provide a supportive space for executives to explore, discuss, examine and consider.


Navigating Change Organizations are continually growing, changing and responding to shifts in the business environment. Change can be internal or external, cultural or environmental, unexpected or intentional. Many leaders hire coaches to help them successfully navigate change.

Adapted from an article by Holly Hutchinson for Coach Training Alliance. Reprinted with Permission

Your Nine Point Leadership Tune-Up


Ready to be a better leader than the one who walked in the door this morning?

Let’s go from head to toe, stem to stern, with your nine point leadership tune-up.

1. Your voice:
 Chances are you’re not entirely aware of the vocal patterns that define you and register in people’s minds when you speak. For one week, use your smartphone to record some random thoughts at the end of each day. Listen closely to your recordings and note any negative speech patterns or inflections that may be working against you.

2. Your style: No one knows quite how to feel about the boss who dresses completely unlike everyone else. There may be better ways to stand out at work. A safe bet is to follow the crowd while adding a single memorable flourish. A unique accessory, a statement bag, a stylish notebook, an eye-catching watch—these are the details that set you apart.

3. Your sign-off: Ditch the clever tagline you append to your email signature. Those you interact with frequently are sick of seeing it; others may think you’re trying too hard.

4. Your show: Don’t serve as a weak servant to your PowerPoint slides. Consider a new approach: don’t bring in any visuals whatsoever until you’re at least 20% into a presentation. Remember that you’re the main attraction, not words and graphics on a screen.

5. Your schmooze: If you tend to huddle with your own colleagues at industry events, it’s time to build some connections. Come prepared with a simple opening line that demands a bit of detail so that the conversation flows immediately. Try “I’m curious… what prompted you to come to this seminar/ luncheon/cocktail party?” and follow up with “And are you feeling good about your decision so far?” Keep the tone light and humorous and be prepared to respond in kind.

6. Your authenticity: Always have a failure story in your back pocket to inspire and amuse. A true tale of personal or professional misadventure lends you humility, displays a sense of humour, tells people you learn from your mistakes, and exudes honesty.

7. Your presence:  Putting your cell phone down when you enter a meeting will instantly make you more present, more aware and more engaged. Show the group you’re ready to focus on the matter at hand, not falling behind on your emails.

8. Your walk: If you’re in the habit of racing around the office, looking stressed, try slowing down to a more confident stroll. A relaxed stride and a genuine smile instantly makes you look more in control… like all your fires have been put out and you’re on top of your game.

9. Your image: Think how many times people see your professional head shot online. Take a minute to review it now. Is it up to date? Does the pose look natural… or forced? Do you look like someone who’s authentic, modern and in the driver’s seat?


Adapted from Business Management Daily. Reprinted with permission.

The Price of Perfectionism

Do you pride yourself on your high standards for everything? If so, you’re not alone.

Most high-achievers strive for perfection.

But what if inflexible standards are slowing you down and holding you back?

Obsessive perfectionism can get in the way of a happy and productive life.

I know that my own obsessively high standards took their toll for many years.

Relentless striving, low satisfaction, sleepless nights obsessing over perceived gaffes – and a long list of unfinished projects and initiatives that I was still “massaging”.

Perfectionism is a major factor in procrastination, low productivity, poor self-esteem… and depression.

It keeps you stuck in your comfort zone – afraid of trying new things, for fear of looking bad or making mistakes.

(Not sure if you’re a perfectionist? Try this test.)

The first step to overcoming perfectionism is to recognize when high standards are necessary – and when they’re actually getting in the way of innovation, efficiency and fulfillment.

Getting to a place of “good enough” on most tasks and projects allows you to get more done without compromising quality.

In fact, taking a more open-minded approach can pave the way for greater creativity, innovation and fun.

Freedom from perfection requires flexibility and a large dose of self-compassion.

This is a struggle for many of us.

It starts with embracing the belief that you are good enough, even with the occasional misstep. And that everything, including yourself, is a work in progress.

The next time you notice that you’re driving yourself too hard, procrastinating on projects or tasks, or feeling self-critical about your accomplishments, ask yourself:

“Am I holding myself to standards that aren’t necessary in these circumstances?”

“What would good enough look and feel like?”

Take a deep breath. Open your heart to self-compassion.

Think flexibly about your project or task and let your inner critic relax.

Try a “good enough” approach for your day-to-day tasks and reserve the sky-high standards for rare and special circumstances.

Not only will you get more done, you’ll also feel better while doing it.

Stand and Command: Nailing the Impromptu Speech

I was driving to a party the other day, when I got a phone call with the dreaded last-minute request…

“I was thinking someone should make a toast this evening. Will you do it?”

As a coach and long-time marketing executive, I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my career. Professionally, I have no problem presenting to crowds, large or small.

So why do impromptu addresses… toasts, birthday party speeches, eulogies, etc. seem so much more intimidating?

Here’s why I struggle with these requests.

1. They’re more personal. The stakes seem higher – and the objectives, less clear.

2. You rarely get time to prepare. It’d be nice if people called a week in advance to ask if you’d do a toast. But how often does that happen?

3. There are no visuals to share the spotlight. Bringing up written notes (or worse, index cards) for a personal toast looks (and feels!) like amateur hour.

Many of my friends and family members are introverted, so I get more than my share of requests for spontaneous remarks.

Here’s what I’ve found works in these situations.

Don’t write down your speech.

This may seem counterintuitive, but written remarks sound… well, written. Most of us don’t speak the way that we write.

Instead, craft your remarks… orally.

Practice saying them. Out loud. In your car. To the cat. While walking around the block. Or, at the very least, in your head.

Stick to anecdotes.

Think of one or two anecdotes that sum up why this person is special – or warrants acknowledgement. Anecdotes are easy to follow – and easier to remember than a list of random accolades. Funny or touching anecdotes are sure-fire winners. It doesn’t matter if you tell the story perfectly. Everyone loves a good anecdote.

Nail the beginning… and the end.

You’ll be most nervous when you first stand up to make a speech. All eyes will be on you and you don’t want to be fumbling for words at that point. Make your first sentence memorable and unexpected – and then memorize that opening line until you can deliver it in your sleep.

The same goes for the final sentence or two. The best speeches end on a polished note. Don’t peter out. Be sure to nail the dismount with a strong call to action… or a heartfelt thank-you.

Live with the silence for a beat or two.

Don’t race into your speech the minute the room quiets down. Give people a second or two to settle and mentally prepare to listen. You’ll create a sense of anticipation if you make people wait before you start speaking. Trust me, this two seconds will feel longer for you than it will for them.

Pause, smile and then hit them with something unexpected… and you’ll be off to a great start.

Cheers – and remember that practice makes perfect. With any luck, the wine won’t be the only thing sparkling the next time you take centre stage!

Making a toast


My Afternoon with Oprah

Every so often, when you’re looking the other way, the universe dishes up a giant serving of awesome. 

This was the photo that appeared in the Toronto Star.

This week, I had the tremendous good fortune of being invited to see a taping of Oprah’s “Life Class”.  

9000 (yes!) die-hard Oprah fans lined up for hours to gain access to this event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. 

Fortunately for me, my host had VIP tickets for the taping, so we were able to bypass most of the four-hour wait time to get in.

The auditorium was massive… with rows of seats that went so far back, I couldn’t even see to the end.  

Incredibly, our seats were 10 rows from the stage.

And, striding on stage, like a warrior goddess, was the Big O herself. She looked stunning.

Somewhere above me, I could feel the spirit of my late mother looking down. And TOTALLY. FREAKING. OUT. 

Oprah has assembled some truly amazing teachers. Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Iyanla Vanzant and Reverend T.J. Jakes are wise, thoughtful and incredibly gifted communicators.  

A master class in communication. Photo credit: Toronto Star

Each teacher gave an individual presentation for 30-45 minutes… then they each appeared in a segment with Oprah as part of the taped “Life Class” program.  

The individual presentations were awe-inspiring. I probably had more “aha” moments in the four hours I spent at this event than I’d experienced in 16 years at school. I wish everyone could audit this class.

I jotted down many quotes throughout the evening. A few that stood out for me were:

1. Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself.

2. Do what you did at the beginning of your relationship – and it may never end.  

3. The only difference between the CEO and the janitor… the happy and the suicidal… are the thoughts that they think.

4. Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.

Simple, powerful stuff. Thanks, Oprah. xo

I’ve been schooled. 

Social Media Getting You Down?

I just read online that today is World Social Media Day. (Isn’t that every day?) 

Here in Canada, it’s also the start of the Canada Day long weekend.

It’s easy to look at social media (especially on long weekends) and think other people are having more fun, cooler vacations, more romantic relationships, have better jobs, better bodies, better kids, better lives.

On #socialmediaday, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that FB, Instagram, Linked-In, etc. are the highlights reel. Not the full story.

Happy Pride, Happy Canada Day and happy long weekend to all my friends, colleagues and clients. Here’s to a perfectly imperfect summer! xo

Am I Ready for Coaching?

Am I ready for coaching?

As a leader, you need to bring three important attributes to any coaching engagement:

  1. Courage (to take the necessary steps towards development)
  2. Humility (to accept what you learn about your specific development areas and demonstrate a willingness to improve)
  3. Discipline (the structure and commitment to put new practices into place)

What steps should I take to ensure the right fit with a coach?

It’s essential that both the client and the coach feel good about the coaching partnership.

  • As a client, you should ask for a consultation call or “chemistry interview.” This call is typically free of charge and will give you some feel for a potential coach in advance of any formal engagement.
  • You should also review the coach’s background and client testimonials to confirm that they have solid credentials and a demonstrated track record of success.

The coach must also feel confident that they’re a good match for the client.

If the coach feels like they’re the wrong fit for a client, it’s their responsibility to be upfront and honest with you and encourage you to pursue other alternatives.

Excerpted from Business Management Daily, June 2019