Three C’s for Listening Like a Leader


Listening is a vast ocean surrounded by empty beaches.

I’ve been paying attention to listening, both my own and others. You’re more likely to meet a red-crested tree rat* than to meet someone who actually listens.

5 reasons shallow listening is normal:

  1. Desire. Listening is such a bother.
  2. Ignorance. You might listen if you knew how.
  3. Time. Hurry up. The clock’s ticking.
  4. Energy. You don’t have energy to listen deeply.
  5. Discipline. On a list of “hard things to do,” listening is near the top.

Set the stage for deep listening:

Unfocused conversations feel like chasing chickens.

Establish conversational direction or you’ll end up exhausted and disappointed.

  1. What’s on your agenda today?
  2. What good thing might come from our conversation?
  3. What would you like to accomplish during this conversation?
  4. What’s important for you to bring up during this conversation? What’s important to you about that?

Three C’s for listening like a leader:

#1. Character.

#2. Calmness.

Breathe deeply.

Although listening takes energy, it requires a calm spirit.

Inner agitation blocks listening.

#3. Compartmentalization.

Set a fence around your listening space. You don’t have anything else to do except attend to the person speaking.

Explain time limits before you begin. Because listening requires rigor, you might need to set short-time limits.

After explaining limits, attend fully.

The character of a listening leader:

#1. Courage.

Churchill put it this way, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

#2. Compassion.

“Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions for others. … It’s the ability to understand others and use that as a catalyst for supportive action.”**

#3. Confidence.

Insecurity seems to loosen tongues and close ears.

#4. Openness.

A closed mind lies behind closed ears.

Poor listening is a character issue.

What’s one thing you could do that would make you a better listener?



Leadership Freak Reading List for March

I’m currently two thirds the way through The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam. It’s the story of Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots.

The book is a bit dated, published in 2006, but it’s really the story of a father’s influence.

Steve Belichick, football scout for Navy, had a huge influence on his son Bill.


Bill is often quoted as saying, “Do your job.”

Hard work was part of Bill’s life because his father worked hard, harder and longer than other football scouts. Bill’s dad reminds me of mine.

I was fortunate to be brought up on a dairy farm. Hard work is synonymous with life for dairy farmers.

My dad was the hardest working man I ever knew. He never preached about hard work. He simply did it and expected his children to live that way too. Frankly, we didn’t think there was any other way.


I don’t understand people who work so they don’t have to work.

We are made to work. Work gives meaning to life.

Success apart from hard work is shallow, degrading, and unfulfilling.

The work of leadership begins with modeling the way.*

#1. Do the work.

Get off your butt. You can’t lead from a chair. If you aren’t sure what to do. Do something and learn as you go.

Show the way. Don’t simply point the way.

  • Ask more of yourself than you ask of others.
  • Get dirty. Perform menial tasks.
  • Identify with support staff.
  • Never look down on people who do work that’s different from yours. Organizational silos disrespect the work of others.

#2. Support others while they work.

  • Challenge and cheer.
  • Notice progress.
  • Honor the qualities that produce results – things like industry, discipline, and attention to detail.

#3. Remove obstacles to successful work.

Make the work of others less frustrating and more productive. One corporate leader told me, “My main job is figuring out how to remove obstacles that slow my team.”

If you have position, you have authority to eliminate barriers and create connections.

Reading list for March:

What are you reading in March?


Tapping real-time analytics to create a digitally enabled organization

As a society, we can and are collecting data in many ways. The question is not how to get more data, but how to use it effectively?

By 2020, approximately 1.7 MB of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.1 That is an incredible amount of data!

Yet, of all the data the world is creating both personally and professionally, less than 0.5 percent of it is ever analyzed and used.2 Analyzing less than 0.5 percent leaves a lot of opportunity on the table.

Not just volume, connection and integration

Clearly, as a society, we can and are collecting data in many ways. The question is not how to get more data, but how to use it effectively? In healthcare, how do we capture greater knowledge from the right data at the right time for truly actionable insights?

Many healthcare organizations have started down the road to digital transformation by capturing more data from various service lines with different technologies and systems. However, that information is often captured and used within silos, which limits the impact. The true transformational change occurs when we put all of the data together – i.e., integrate the data, analyze and then share those insights across the organization.

Rapid analysis, insights and action

Better integrating and connecting data is, however, only one part of the equation. Insights from big data days, weeks, months or even years later limit our ability to make corrections and find opportunities for improvements. Speed to insights from the data is critical.

Technically, the data must be made available and analyzed in time to affect decisions. For example, near real time information is typically important for clinical care decisions. Once the data, analysis and insights have been generated, the individual making the decision needs to make that information part of the workflow and the decision-making process.

The digitally enabled organization

The organization needs to build trust in and adopt these new insights as tools to assist making the best decisions for each patient at the right place at the right time. This requires making the organization a digitally enabled organization.

The digitally enabled organization leverages experience, expertise and the best data-driven insights to make the right decisions, and operate most efficiently. The digitally enabled organization is agile and is enabled by the right insights at the right time. The digitally enabled organization drives the expansion of precision medicine, transforms the delivery of care and improves the patient experience.

Witness firsthand how digital agility and the digitally enabled organization can improve patient care and engagement. For example, organizations can create data-driven solutions to patient leakage challenges and rise to their operational opportunities. The result is optimal utilization and enhanced patient experience.3

Into the future

Achieving a digitally enabled organization lays a strong foundation to adopt new tools, ways of working and driving continuous improvement. This shift also allows the organization to incorporate predictive approaches and other advanced analytics that may include artificial intelligence. A layer of trust in insights creates a powerful data-driven culture that is transformative.

42 Inspiring Quotes That Demonstrate the Importance of Emotional Intelligence

EQ is often cited as the difference between winners and losers. Use these quotes to up your game.

As far as I know, my MBA program didn’t teach any classes in emotional intelligence. While I got a solid education, I can’t help but think that I might have been served better by taking a course or two in EQ. After all, study after study has shown that emotional intelligence is the different between a successful CEO and an also-ran.

Here are some of the best quotes to inspire you to become a more emotionally intelligent leader:

  1. The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.
    -Rasheed Ogunlaru
  2. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. -Jack Welch
  3. In my 35 years in business, I have always trusted my emotions. I have always believed that by touching emotion you get the best people to work with you, the best clients to inspire you, the best partners and most devoted customers.
    -Kevin Roberts
  4. When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. -Dale Carnegie
  5. When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves. -Jess C. Scott
  6. No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
    -Theodore Roosevelt
  7. Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business. -Norman Vincent Peale
  8. When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. -Stephen R. Covey
  9. Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution. -Kahlil Gibran
  10.  Remember that failure is an event, not a person. -Zig Ziglar
  11. Unleash in the right time and place before you explode at the wrong time and place. -Oli Anderson
  12. Emotional intelligent people use self-awareness to their advantage to assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, process, and hold back from reacting head on. At times, it means the decision to sit on your decision. By thinking over your situation rationally, without drama, you’ll eventually arrive at other, more sane conclusions. –Marcel Schwantes
  13. It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  14. People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. –Travis Bradberry
  15. The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and influence their actions. -John Hancock
  16. Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. -Epictetus
  17. Every time we allow someone to move us with anger, we teach them to be angry.  -Barry Neil Kaufman
  18. Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values. -Joshua L. Liebman
  19. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. -Leo Buscaglia
  20. Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way. -Mavis Mazhura
  21. Experience is not what happens to you–it’s how you interpret what happens to you. -Aldous Huxley
  22. Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. -Bill Gates
  23. Don’t let the baggage from your past–heavy with fear, guilt, and anger–slow you down.  -Maddy Malhotra
  24. Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. -Charles J. Sykes
  25. It isn’t stress that makes us fall–it’s how we respond to stressful events.
    -Wayde Goodall
  26. Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame. -Benjamin Franklin
  27. Pausing helps you refrain from making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. –Justin Bariso
  28. No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it. -Jack Welch
  29. Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand … prejudice, fear, and ignorance walk hand in hand. -Peart
  30. Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. -Charlotte Brontë
  31. The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions. -Donald Calne
  32. Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions–so find out how to light their fires. -Jeff Dewar
  33. If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. -Daniel Goleman
  34. Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.  -Janis Joplin
  35. Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.
    -Anthony de Mello
  36. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
    -Carl R. Rogers
  37. I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing. -Socrates
  38. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, do we have the right to laugh at others? -C.H. Hamel
  39. We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful. -Eric Micha’el Leventhal
  40. When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. -Ernest Hemingway
  41. Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone … just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had. -F. Scott Fitzgerald
  42. Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. -C.G. Jung

What’s your favorite quote about emotional intelligence that needs to be added to this list? What inspires you to develop your EQ further on an ongoing basis?

Senior Executives Get More Sleep Than Everyone Else


It’s no secret that most of us don’t get enough sleep and suffer for it. If you’re between the ages of 16 and 64, and don’t get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, your logical reasoning, executive function, attention, and mood can be impaired. Worse, severe sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and symptoms of paranoia. In the long run, sleep deprivation is a main contributor to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Surprisingly, one group that doesn’t need to heed these warnings is executives. In our assessment of 35,000 leaders and interviews with 250 more, we found that the more senior a person’s role is, the more sleep they get.

There are two possible explanations for this. Either senior executives, with the help of assistants and hard-working middle managers, do less and take more time for sleep. Or senior executives have had the wisdom and discipline throughout their career to get enough sleep and thereby maintain a high performance level without burning out.

Our conclusion is that the latter is the case. “Sleep has always been foundational for my performance,” Cees ’t Hart, president and CEO of Carlsberg Group, shared with us. “And especially to perform in a way that is required by my current job, I need seven hours of sleep, every night. Of course, with intense travel and work commitments, sometimes this is compromised, and when that happens, it comes with a cost. When I sleep less, I perform less.”

In contrast, our data found that 68% of nonexecutive leaders get five to seven hours of sleep per night. When there are not enough hours in the day, they steal some from the night. Many leaders stay up late to catch up on email or other tasks. According to our research, this tendency is widespread, regardless of gender.

This is a problem. For leaders, sleep is not a luxury. Research has found that there is a direct link between getting enough sleep and leading effectively and that sleep-deprived leaders are less inspiring.

It used to be a badge of honor to brag about sleeping few hours, but our research should serve as inspiration for aspiring leaders to make sleep sacrosanct. The key message: If you want to be an effective leader, and rise in the ranks, get enough sleep.

Of course, it’s one thing to make a commitment to go to bed early, and another to actually get seven or more hours of quality sleep. For many leaders, going to bed is only part of the problem. The other part is getting high-quality, restorative sleep.

Fortunately, a good night’s sleep is not a random event; it’s a trainable skill. Here are a few guidelines that will help you.

  • Catch the melatonin wave. Go to bed when you’re just starting to feel drowsy (usually between 10 PM and 11 PM). Melatonin, a natural hormone released from the pineal gland, deep inside your brain, makes you relax, feel drowsy, and ultimately fall asleep. If you learn to notice it and go with its flow, you’ll enjoy falling asleep and have better-quality sleep during the night.
  • Avoid screens. Turn off TVs, smartphones, and laptops at least 60 minutes before bed. Why? Each of those screens emits high levels of blue light rays. That blue light suppresses your pineal gland, and in turn, the production of melatonin. It’s almost like your brain reads the blue light as if the sun is still up, when in reality the sun has probably been down for hours and you should be sleeping.
  • Enjoy only perceptual activities 60 minutes before bed. Too much thinking is another enemy of late-evening drowsiness. Conceptual activities like intense conversations, replying to emails, working, or reading can arouse your attention and suppress your natural sleepiness. In contrast, perceptual activities like doing the dishes, going for a walk, or listening to music can help you better catch the wave of melatonin as it rises.
  • Avoid eating two hours before bed. Most people know to avoid caffeine in the hours before going to bed, but in fact, eating anything can negatively impact your ability to get good sleep. Eating activates the flow of blood and sugar in the body, keeping your body and mind alert and awake. Not the ideal state for a good night’s rest.
  • Practice five minutes of mindfulness when you go to bed. Practicing mindfulness has proven to enhance sleep quality. Do five minutes of it sitting on your bed before you go to sleep, as the last thing of the day. You can find simple instructions here.