Overcome Your Obstacles

We’ve had several conversations recently with both clients and friends who were feeling stuck because a situation that was supposed to go one way, had taken a turn and was going another way. They had run into an obstacle.

To support them on their journey, we shared with them the three steps of leadership (from our Leader in You framework), specifically ACT with POWER.  

As you may recall, the first step is to PAUSE and ask yourself if what you’re about to say or do is in alignment with your goal, the second step is to REFLECT on the core questions about you and about the people you’re trying to lead, and the third step, as we mentioned, is ACT with POWER.

There are 5 critical actions that powerful leaders must do to move forward on important issues and initiatives, and over the next 5 weeks we’re going to dig into each one of those 5 steps.

Today, we’re looking at the P of the acronym POWER which stands for Possibility Mindset.

A leader sees the possibilities inherent in obstacles and challenges.

The key word here is inherent. Meaning it’s already there, you just have to seek it out.

Leadership is critically important when you’re facing obstacles and challenges in your work, in your relationships, or in larger systems.

Obstacles and challenges can take the form of a huge financial crisis, or two co-workers who don’t get along and are impacting the morale of the team, or even a conflict between you and your child.

No matter what the issue, true leadership requires pausing and consistently looking at the difficulties for opportunities. And there are always opportunities inherent in obstacles and challenges – always – but most people get fixated on the obstacle instead of stepping back and trusting that the challenge itself is filled with opportunity.

True leadership requires a PAUSE and a focus on possibilities.

Once you start making the shift to look for the possibilities inherent in the situation, you’ll be amazed at what you see! Bumping into an obstacle can actually be a tremendous gift if you PAUSE and look within the obstacle for the potential possibilities that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

When you switch to a possibility mindset, you open your mind to thinking outside of your box – a box in which you’ve been comfortable and are used to residing.

It takes practice to shift your mindset to looking within the obstacles and challenges for the possibilities, but as a leader in your family, work, and community, you’ll have more power as you come to trust that they are there.

Over and over and over again, remember to ask yourself:

“What are the possibilities inherent in the obstacles and challenges I’m facing?”

Take some time this week to see if you can come up with 5 unique answers to this question.

Join us next week, when we’ll talk about the next step in the ACT with POWER framework which is O = Ownership & Transparency.

Stay tuned!

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Having trouble finding the possibilities in an obstacle or challenge you’re facing? Our transformational one-day small women’s group is for you!

The next two group dates are:

April 27th and May 18th.

Click here to learn more about this powerful group we call TAKE 5 – as in TAKE 5 from your busy schedule to meet for a day with some other powerful women in making some life-changing decisions.

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Is Your Boss a Bookcase?

I’m writing today to share with you a way to understand people that can help you, even under the most trying circumstances, maintain your perspective and choose your responses.

It’s an unusual post as it’s based on a way of thinking that helped me navigate my divorce with more wisdom (or at least with less crazy!).

When I was going through my divorce, I made a commitment to myself to do it ‘well.’ We had young kids and I was determined that they not suffer because their dad and I couldn’t find our way through our challenges and differences.

Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t but I did do it better when I landed on a way to understand what had gone wrong and, as you might imagine from the title of this post, it involved furniture.

I often find that if I can simplify an emotionally heated and complex issue, I can work with it more effectively. One day when I was trying to explain to an old friend what had happened in our marriage I landed on this framework…

Bill (my ex-husband) is a bookcase. He is solid, organized, holds information well, and can be used to hold great thoughts and things of beauty.

I wanted Bill to be a couch; someone I could curl into and feel comforted by and held.

This thought was transformative for me because for years I had complained that Bill wouldn’t change even though I explained to him what I needed and told him why it was important to me that he be different.

Once I had the framework of the bookcase, I realized that I was the problem.

I was standing in front of a bookcase and explaining all the reasons why it should become a couch. And then, I would leave the room shocked, hurt, and offended that it hadn’t become a couch, it was still a bookcase.

When I describe it as a literal bookcase and couch, I could see that it was my behavior that was crazy.

Bill was (and still is) a bookcase! A perfectly good bookcase, probably better than many. But I wanted a couch. And, even if you break apart a bookcase and pad it, it still won’t be a couch.

Bookcases and couches are fundamentally different, serving fundamentally different purposes. If I wanted a couch, I needed to get a couch – not demand day after day that the bookcase become a couch, yet that’s what I had done with Bill.

It was a game changer for me to start to think this way.

People are people and while they can change significantly more than a piece of furniture can change, they can’t change who they are fundamentally.

So, it’s important to consider who you’re hiring, working on a project with, partnering with, or marrying. It’s important that you consider who they are at a fundamental level to ensure that you will get what you need in the relationship.

And if you can’t choose who you work with, it’s at least helpful to consider that they are not trying to make you crazy, they are being who they are and it’s important to think about how to get the best of who they are rather than standing in front of them demanding they be someone else.

I’ve found this to be a powerful image, and it’s fun to explore this concept with clients. They’ll say things like, “Oh, my boss is an armchair – soft but you can’t really relax around him” or “my co-worker is a file cabinet, she loves having all the information available all the time” or “my manager is a kitchen table always surrounded by her buds.”

This week, consider the people in your lives who you find most challenging and think about them as a wonderful piece of furniture. Then ask yourself, what it is you’re looking for.

If you’re going to get the best out of people, you need to make sure that you know who they are and what they have to offer.

Let me know what you find,
Linda Carpenter

PS. If the furniture image doesn’t work for you, consider this . . . you would never go up to your dog and ask that he or she become a cat or vice versa!

TAKE 5 is a day-long session for 5 kick@ss women like you to come together to support each other on getting traction and a new perspective on an issue that’s important to you. 

Whether you’re looking to take your career, your relationship, or a better balance of the two to a new level – this special group is for you.

Join us Friday, April 27th. Only 3 seats remain!

Contact us today for details.

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Conquering Meeting Madness

We’re hearing again that people are struggling to get their work done because all of their time is spent in “useless” meetings…or Meeting Madness as we call it!

Meetings are supposed to be a means to success. Sadly though, they’ve become a time-suck that actually prevent people from making headway on their list of things to do.

But meetings can’t be all bad, can they? When done properly, they’re important and can do a lot to facilitate discussion, share information, inspire passion and commitment, and create a shared vision and plan.

There are 4 key steps to take to make sure you’re having the right meetings. And to make sure that those meetings are as dynamic and productive as possible.

  1. Assessing What Meetings are Needed: There is a meeting formula that we encourage anyone who is tempted to call a meeting to use: A Good Meeting = The Right Reason at the Right Time with The Right People
  2. Creating a Winning Agenda: Agendas go a long way toward focusing the efforts, and therefore the outcome, of a meeting. Setting a good agenda takes time but it will make a huge difference in your ability to be productive.
  3. Key Roles and Rules: By assigning key roles and setting up some agreed-upon ground rules you can create meetings that run more efficiently.
  4. Knowing What to do When Meetings Derail: Meetings derail (that’s just a fact of life) and it’s important to get them back on track as soon as you realize that the group is far from the intended agenda.

Remember, the better your meetings are, the more engaged and collaborative the participants will be and the more time they will have to actually do the work that they need to accomplish.

Using people’s time wisely is not only smart, it’s a key leadership strategy.

You’ve got this!
– Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

Are you spending too much of your time and your staff’s time in meetings that go nowhere? You’ve got better things to do! Contact us today to work with an executive coach and start conquering your meeting madness.

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Your Role as the Conductor

A client was describing the fact that he was struggling to get out of the weeds of the day-to-day. He knew that he needed to be more strategic in his thinking and actions, but instead found himself pulled into doing the work that his team was assigned to do.
To succeed in his job, he needed to support others to do the work that needed to be done while he created the vision and the relationships to get them there.
As our client talked more about the struggle, we asked what kept him from letting go of the work. He told us that he “had let go of the work but that the members of the team just weren’t doing the work very well so [he] was jumping in to help out.”
Our client is a great leader in many, many ways and yet he was truly struggling with stepping back and letting the team do their work.

Learning to lead effectively is a lot like conducting an orchestra.

The conductor’s job is to make sure that all the instruments are playing together in a way that sounds good and accurately represents the musical score.
We asked our client if he had ever been to the orchestra and seen the conductor leave his/her podium and start playing a viola or a French horn. He laughed and said, of course not.
We suggested that every time he left his own work to do the work of his staff, he was behaving like a conductor who left the podium to play one of the instruments.
He paused for a moment and said, “Maybe, but I want my staff to respect me. I want them to know that I’m not above doing the work that they do.”
Do conductors know how to play every instrument in the orchestra? No, they don’t, and yet they’re highly respected by the members of the orchestra because they know how to help each player bring their best to the performance.
We reminded him that in his role as a leader, his job is to help everyone contribute their best so that the business can succeed.
Our client smiled and said that it was going to be hard to not jump in and do the work for his team, yet he understood that when he did so, he was putting the success of the organization in jeopardy.
Before leaving, we created a small card that read, “I’m the Conductor” to help him stay focused on bringing out the best of each member of his team.
This week think about the times you’ve been jumping in and playing an instrument instead of focusing on your role as the conductor.

Your team needs your leadership!

~Linda, Stephanie, Heather, and Sally


We’ve added another TAKE 5 date!
This special day-long session is for kick@ss women who are looking to
move forward or make a change.
Ready to get clear on your direction and start making progress?
Join us in our newly added April 27th date.
 Contact us today if you’re interested,
or CLICK HERE for additional information.

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5 Steps to Decision Making

Last week we talked about how a handful of 2-second hesitations can lead to Failing to Make a Decision. Today, we want to share with you 5 important steps to increasing your ability to make decisions (even when it’s hard).

5 Steps to Decision Making

  • Pause and ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to do in alignment with my goals?”
    • It’s important that you actually know what your goals are. Consider what you are trying to achieve.
  • Explore “What’s the decision I really need to make to achieve my goals?”
    • By completing Step 1 and pausing to consider what you’re trying to achieve, you can begin to tease out what decision actually needs to be made.
    • We watch our clients getting caught in the weeds – making very tactical decisions when they need to make higher-level, strategic decisions.
    • We watch others making high-level, strategic decisions when they need to decide on some specific steps they need to take to create tactical momentum.
    • Consider what your goals are and then what decisions actually need your attention.
  • Consider what will happen if you make a particular decision and then consider what will happen if you don’t make the decision.
    • There is incredible information in understanding the ripples from making a decision and the ripples from not making a decision.
  • Formulate your decision, BUT don’t aim for perfection.
    • You’re aiming for good decisions and trusting that as time unfolds and you get new information, you’ll make new decisions with that new information.
    • Paradoxically, great decision-makers trust that they can say “go” because they trust themselves and their teams to continue to learn and evaluate as things unfold, and they’ll take action on behalf of their organization if required.
  • Make a Decision – decide to take action, decide to delay or decide to do nothing. 
    • Delaying or consciously choosing to do nothing is still a decision. There’s power in making a conscious decision – the act of choosing has power.
    • Then be prepared to share your rationale for your choice – doing so will help you feel more confident in your decisions.

We hope that these 5 steps to decision making will support you when you find yourself feeling nervous or afraid in your life, your work or your world. Don’t let small hesitations keep you from making the important decisions that shape a successful life and a successful business.

TAKE 5 is a day-long session for women’s empowerment to move forward with personal and professional goals. Want to remove blocks to success?

Join us Friday, March 23rd (only 1 seat remains!) or April 27th.  

Contact us today for details!

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Failing to Make a Decision

Linda was recently reading an article in The New York Times Magazine by Jami Attenberg (February 4, 2018) about healthcare decisions. In it, Attenberg said something that seemed powerfully true not only for our healthcare decisions but for all our decisions!

This is what she said:

“. . .[every time I needed to make a decision] I hesitated,
and a handful of hesitations that take only a second added up to
years of failing to make a decision.”

This struck us as one of the more powerful summaries of what happens to people over and over (and over) again as they face decisions that they find difficult or frightening.

In moments of hesitation the decision is delayed, and because the fear doesn’t go away the decision is delayed again the moment the issue comes up.

We’ve seen that these moments add up to:

  • staying entrenched in an out-of-date strategy
  • keeping a team member who cannot do their job
  • staying in a loveless marriage
  • holding onto to an investment that no longer creates success
  • staying in a job that no longer sparks your passion

No one would argue that making decisions is critical to a “business well-led” and a “life well-lived,” but few of us have had any training about making decisions, particularly when those decisions are tough, scary, or where you have too little information.

Spend some time this week thinking about whether you’ve failed to make any decisions because you’ve been hesitating for far too long out of fear of the unknown. Then join us next week when we’ll provide some insights about how to make decisions – even when you’re unsure!

TAKE 5 is a day-long session for women’s empowerment to move forward with personal and professional goals. Want to remove blocks to success?Join us Friday, March 23rd.Only 1 seat remains!Contact us today for details!

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Truly Great Leadership


If you’ve been part of our community for a while, you know that our Work, with a capital W, is helping individuals, teams, and organizations succeed through increasing the leadership of each and every person, regardless of role or title.

As coaches and consultants, we work at the intersection of psychology and business and we know, from 30 years of experience, that the ability to lead requires that you:

  • Pause and manage your reactivity so you can respond powerfully and effectively.
  • Reflect on what’s going on inside of you.
  • Have empathy for the experiences and feelings of others.
  • Take action with an awareness of possibility, transparency of passion and purpose, creation of “we” centered goals, and the support of others taking action and learning from their experience.

Now, in “The Smartest Person in the Room,” an article written by Daniel Goleman, November 17, 2017, and published in Korn Ferry Institute’s Briefings Magazine, there’s more research that supports our approach to leadership success. In fact, it is the critical approach to success in general!

In this article, Goleman reports on research that demonstrates that it’s not a super high IQ that creates the most success in life and leadership, but rather it’s emotional and psychological intelligence that bring together the skills most needed to succeed.

To quote Goleman,

“Emotional intelligence requires two broad sets of competencies.

The first set powers self-management and includes emotional self-awareness, achieving long-term goals, and similar capacities for managing and motivating ourselves.

The second set deals with how we relate to others, such as our relationships and awareness of other people. It includes empathy, organizational awareness and influence, among others.

They are crucial for teamwork, sales, handling clients and particularly leadership.”

If you have a well-developed emotional intelligence, this research will resonate with you. But if you don’t, don’t panic, you can learn how to grow these skills and nurture the leader in you.

There are books and trainings out there to support you, or you can learn our Leader in You leadership framework in a number of ways through our services.

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10 Minutes Can Re-Energize Your Team

We were recently in a meeting with two top executives. They were describing an incredibly challenging time when their leadership team was running at full speed. That afternoon, the team asked to skip a leadership team meeting so they could use that time to focus on several “revenue critical” efforts that were underway.

These executives needed to make a decision that would move their agenda forward, create success for the organization, and manage their staff’s need for some control over their work time.

As they went back and forth about whether or not to meet, one of the executives said something profound. She said, “Today, we don’t have time to meet, but we do have time to connect.”

It was a powerful distinction. She was right, the team didn’t have the time or the head space to meet and do the planning work that was on their plate. Yet, as a growing team, the need to create connection during this high-pressure time was critical.

After a quick brainstorm, the leaders decided they would ask the group to come together for 10 minutes.

During that time, they let the team know that they understood the pressures they were under, and then they had each individual quickly answer the following questions:

  • What excites you about the work you’re doing?
  • What is your greatest challenge?
  • What is a word or phrase that describes the best team you have ever been a part of?

The 10-minute meeting ended with the team feeling energized, grateful for one another, and ready to get back to work.

This week consider how you can facilitate the teams that you lead or work with to have greater connection, even when there is little time to meet.

TAKE 5 is a day-long session for women’s empowerment to move forward with personal and professional goals. Want to remove blocks to success?

Join us this Friday, February 23rd.

Only 1 seat remains!  

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A Simple Trick to Create a Great Team

We’re currently working with a number of organizations with relatively new leadership teams. As is often the case, the people on these teams have made their way up the organizational ladder because they have succeeded in their department or in a specific area of expertise.

While it makes sense that they would move up in leadership as their skills grow, the transition to higher levels of leadership requires a major shift in their approach and mindset. In particular, they need to foster an environment of shared ownership for the success of the business as a whole, not just in their area of responsibility.

Great leadership teams understand that, together, they own the success of the whole.

Yet, when you ask people to describe the leadership teams that they are a part of, few describe a great team that works together to create organizational or departmental success while creating success for their individual areas of responsibility. Few understand the kinds of things they must communicate so that they are making decisions with an awareness of how those decisions ripple through the other areas of the organization. 

Developing a great team happens over time as individuals build shared history, succeed in the face of significant challenges, fail in ways that hurt, and learn to disagree in ways that support them working together to create success. That said, we have found a simple action that can accelerate this movement toward greatness. A simple, almost silly seeming, action that has a profound impact on team success. Placing a ball, the size of a volleyball on a drinking glass at the center of the table when the team meets.

Sounds crazy, right? But consider this . . . Your organization is like this volleyball on the table.

There are areas of your organization that are hard to see, just like the part of the ball sitting on the glass and the part of the ball at the top in the center. 

With effort you can see those areas but day-to-day, as you sit in your seat around the leadership team table, those areas are hard to see. And from your vantage point, you, individually, can only see about one-third of the ball. As is true in your day-to-day role, you actually see a very small slice of the overall organization. 

With the volleyball – your organization at the center of the table – you can see that:

  • You need enough people, and the right people, at the decision-making table to ensure that someone has eyes on all aspects of the organization or at least as much as you can see.
  • If you aren’t communicating with your team members regularly and thoughtfully, you will be missing two-thirds of the data about what is going on. 
  • If you make significant decisions without collaborating with the members of your team, the ripples of those decisions could impede the success of other teams and the organization. 
  • If you are the leader of the team, you need your team to be engaged, to understand that they hold the whole, and to communicate effectively. Then, when you meet individually and need to make a decision quickly, there is wisdom about what is happening in the whole to arrive at the best outcome.
  • The “we” of the team, matters more than you could imagine.

We’ve brought volleyballs to more organizations than we can count. Meeting after meeting the ball sits in the middle of the table and the team begins to have different conversations about the whole, they start sharing information that could have rippled problematically through the organizations, and they understand that having one another’s backs means supporting as well as challenging each other to create success in both the individual areas of responsibility as well as in the whole.

Give it a try – not just one time but for 6 months or a year. We’ve seen over and over again that great leadership teams must collaborate to ensure success of the whole. If your team is struggling let us know -  we would love to help. 

If you want to sharpen your leadership skills,
our TAKE 5 Women’s Group may be just what you need. Contact us today for details!

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3 Simple Steps to Effective Delegation

The following is a post that we shared several years ago. We’ve had several clients ask us to run it again as a reminder of the steps to delegate effectively so that they can share it with their colleagues and staff.

As coaches and consultants, we find that many people regularly struggle with delegation, and they tend to feel uncomfortable admitting it because they believe they should know how to do it.

In our experience, delegating is a challenging skill . . .
one that few of us are taught.


People are frequently told they should, “just delegate that” but when they do, and they don’t get the results they hoped for, they give up and just heap the task onto their already full plate.

So, today we’re going to share the 3 steps that will create more successful results when you delegate to others.

Individuals are most successful when they’re engaged in a process and can influence how it unfolds. Yet often when managers are delegating work, they hand off a task with no context, without sharing what success looks like, and without explaining how they’ll need to work with (or around) others to get the task done.

So, whether you’re delegating to a C-suite colleague, a supervisor, staff member, a person who is working on your home, or your child, consider these 3 steps as you’re delegating a task or project:

Step 1:  Context 

Explain the larger context to the person you’re delegating to.

  • Tell them what you’re trying to get done, how it fits into the big picture and why it’s important.
  • When you ask someone to do something for you, they’ll be much more likely to succeed if they understand what you’re trying to achieve and see that their contribution is important and valued.
  • You’ll have engaged them in the larger process so they can see that their work matters.

Step 2:  Content

Tell them the specifics of what you need done.

  • Really talk it through with them.
  • Describe what success looks like, who they need to work with or ask information from to succeed, what the timeline is for the effort, and what the potential ripples will be of this going well or going poorly.
  • Again, if people know what you’re asking of them, they can give you feedback on whether they can actually do what you’re  asking, in the timeframe that you need it, working with others or alone.
  • They’ll have an opportunity to influence you as you determine how you’d like them to move forward.

Step 3:  Connection

Be explicit about how you’ll follow up or how you’d like them to follow up.

  • Don’t hand something off and act like it’s no longer your concern.
  • While you might hope that they’ll let you know if they can’t get it done, have run into an obstacle, or are struggling to understand exactly what you wanted, they probably won’t unless you’ve agreed on check-ins to make sure it’s going well and to help them navigate any difficulties they’re having.
  • People do best when they feel connected to the person who has delegated to them and have a sense of the ways their work is directly helpful.
  • These check-ins are an opportunity to remind them of the ways the work is helpful to you, and to help them understand any new information you have as things unfold.

The ability to delegate is critical to success in work and life. It takes some time and effort to ensure it’s done well, but what you’ll find is that as you delegate effectively to the people in your life, you’ll build a trusting working relationship that will allow you to be more effective and successful over time.

This week as you think of those things you need to ask of someone else, practice these 3 steps and see what a difference it makes. And, watch how you get things delegated to you. See if you can ask your manager to give you clarity on the 3 steps — Context, Content, and Connection — so that you can be highly successful in your tasks as well.

Feeling overwhelmed with too much on your plate? Our TAKE 5 Women’s Group may be just what you need.

Contact us today for details!

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