Fear Is Contagious

Fear is like a virus – it’s contagious. It spreads among individuals and, when left to flourish, it can take down organizations.

Let us share an example. A few years ago, we worked with an organization where the CEO of the company was not a very skilled leader. She was harshly critical of the work of others at all levels of the organization.

Her critiques were not always wrong mind you, but the delivery of the message was often highly emotional, sharply angry, and personally insulting.

As we worked with the CEO we discovered that she was afraid.

She was afraid of many, many things. She was afraid that the staff didn’t understand how to deliver a sharp, crisp, and innovative product. She was afraid of the reaction of her board and shareholders to a challenging time. She was afraid she would lose her job just when her son was starting college.

She was afraid.

And, because of her behavior when she was afraid, her direct reports and staff around her were afraid to make a mistake and suffer her wrath.

Because of her behavior, her team was reluctant to talk directly to her about ways to effectively respond to the board and shareholders and even worse, they didn’t take any risks to create sharp, crisp, and innovative products but rather tried to guess what she would like.

This CEO’s fear and anger drove people away and in turn created a lack of confidence in her leadership. This ultimately resulted in a cycle that threatened her job.

Her behavior inadvertently helped create all the things she feared.

You see, when one person is afraid, particularly someone with some power, everyone around them experiences their fear and the behaviors driven by that fear, and then typically their actions change as well because they’re afraid.

We’re not here today to tell you not to be afraid. We’re here today to remind you that fear is contagious, and engaging with your team, your boss, or your peers about ways to mitigate that fear can be powerful and create alignment behind a vision for success.

We didn’t suggest to the CEO that she tell everyone she’s afraid, but we did suggest that she apologize for her behavior and that she share with them that the challenges facing the organization had thrown her off her game.

It took a number of months for her to regain connection and alignment with her team. For the first few months, they expected her to explode. But once she learned some new ways to manage her fear and to lead through it, she created a path forward for her team and organization.

Don’t let fear keep you from being your best self.

If fear is keeping you from being the successful leader you want to be, contact us today about Executive Coaching.

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Life Is Anything but Fair

Whenever we hear, “Life is anything but fair,” most of us think about the ways that life has not been fair to us. We think about all the ways that life could have or should have gone differently – in our favor.

Our challenge to you today is this:

Take a moment to consider that life is anything but fair and then think about how you have benefitted from life in ways that others have not – through no fault of their own.

Our goal here is not to induce guilt – but rather to help you to consider where life has been kind to you and to encourage you to reflect with gratitude on these experiences.

There is research that shows that as humans we say, “life isn’t fair” when things don’t go our way and yet we blame others when things don’t go well for them instead of acknowledging that life wasn’t fair to them.

This Thanksgiving we hope that you can be thankful for those times when the winds of life have blown in your favor, and courageous enough to help others who have not had such favorable winds due to no fault of their own.

Let’s make life as fair as possible for everyone we meet.

In gratitude,
Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’re struggling with an unfair boss or colleague, contact us today
about Executive Coaching. We’ll help to support you in stepping into your leadership.

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30,000 Feet

We’ve been contacted by many of you over the years saying that you’re unhappy or worn down by your work and are considering a change.

You feel like your company isn’t the same place anymore and you’re unmotivated or frustrated. You’re looking to update your resume and cover letter and see what’s out there that will be better than what you currently have.

At first glance, this makes a lot of sense and yet it’s often the wrong first step. Why? Because while it may lead you to a new workplace, you’ll likely still be doing the same types of things. And, of course, that may be enough for some people, but for some of you, it’s not necessarily the old workplace that’s changed but rather you personally, have changed (not in a bad way!).

You’ve grown in your wisdom, skills, and expertise, you’re more mature, you’re more confident in saying what you like and what you don’t like doing . . . you’re evolving and you need work that’s an expression of your evolution.

So, this is a great time to PAUSE, and spend some time getting yourself up to a higher level to consider what you want from your life and how your work can support those goals.

From the time we are kids, we learn that winning the prize is an important goal. The ‘prize’ changes as we get older and while it may start as something like getting onto a sports team you try out for, it morphs into getting into a college you’re excited by, and then becomes getting the job you want.

In many ways, the getting . . . getting the job . . . is the prize and doesn’t take into consideration whether the job is actually the one that is best for your life.

So, this week, whether you’re currently considering a change in work or not, take a few minutes to look down on your life from about 30,000 feet and ask yourself:

  1. What is most important to me in my life?
  2. Then list 5 – 10 things that you really want in your life.
  3. Once you have that list, ask yourself, What do I need from my work to increase the chances that I will get these things in my life?

Answer this question for every single thing on your list, even if it seems like you are repeating yourself.

Now step back and look at what you need from work to get the life that feels good and right. Using your list, consider what you need to do in your current job, or in any future job, to increase the chances you’ll get your life priorities.

This can be a powerful way of reflecting on not only your work but creating a life that brings you meaning and satisfaction.

Let us know what you discover.

If you’ve answered our questions and are thinking, “Now what?”, contact us today about Career Coaching. We’re here to help.

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I’m Outta here * . . . * almost

As executive coaches, we often work with clients who are getting ready to take a new job and yet need to stay engaged and effective until they formally leave their position.

Being able to stay engaged is really important not only to your self-esteem and your colleagues’ last impressions of you but also to your reputation – so it’s important that you do it well.

So, what can you do to stay engaged when you know you’re moving on?

  • Put a reminder on your calendar, your mirror, your watch . . . somewhere that you’ll see it every morning that simply says, “Show up today as if you were staying – you still have a lot to give!”
  • Talk to your boss and your team (even if they don’t yet know that you’re leaving) and ask them how they’d like you to focus your efforts in the upcoming weeks.
    • If they don’t know you’re leaving, you can simply say that you have a lot on your plate and want to be certain you’re contributing at your best.
    • If they know you’re are leaving, they will love you for this opportunity to get the best of you while you’re still around.
  • If people tell you that they’re sad you’re leaving, let them know that you’re sad to be leaving and ask if there’s anything you can do for them before you depart. If you can do it great, if not let them know gently.
  • If people take pot shots at you for leaving, let them know you realize that transitions are hard and you’ll do what you can to limit the disruption in the wake of your leaving.
  • Take care of yourself during this time, being extra careful to eat well, move throughout the day, and get a good night’s sleep. It’s stressful to be in transition. – to be ready to go forward but have to remain in place for a bit longer. Give yourself an extra bit of TLC.

It’s exciting to be moving forward and important to finish one opportunity well before you begin the next. Do your best, give yourself a break when you catch yourself acting ‘done’ before you’re finished, and then put a reminder on your calendar, your mirror, your watch….

We’re here if you need us,

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’re considering a move to a new job let us know. Our executive coaches are here to support in staying engaged even while you’re leaving.

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Brand: YOU

Brand You


Good morning, instead of a narrative today, we have a hot seat moment for you: What is your brand?

Your “brand” is a combination of your values, your contributions, your attributes, and it is the essence of what you offer to the world.

  • In the next 30 seconds, write down the 3-5 things that best describe Brand You.
  • Do you like what you wrote?
  • Do you feel proud of your brand?

Now, identify 2 people who know you and ask them to describe the 3-5 things about you that they think makeup Brand You!

  • Did they describe Brand You* as you described your brand?
  • Does their description of Brand You make you feel proud of yourself?
  • Is there anything you wished they had said that they didn’t?

Next, re-write your brand using both sets of information and then add anything that you want your brand to be known for. Then set about making it happen.

Changing a brand identity takes time and effort.

Defining your Brand, and the narrative that goes with your brand, is an important part of being able to be authentic in your role – whether you’re the CEO or the new line staff.

Take some time today to figure out your brand! Trust us, this stuff matters.

- Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’d like help fine tuning Brand You, let us know.

Our career coaches are here to support you in putting your best self out there.

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Take Time to Think

We have the privilege of working with leaders in a wide range of businesses – for profit and non-profit, large and small, service companies and product driven – and one of the major changes we’re seeing in all of them is that leaders are running hard and fast, going from one thing to the next, with not a moment to think.

Not a moment to think.


These women and men are running companies that need their leadership and yet, they don’t have a moment to think. And, it’s a problem.

Reflecting and thinking are how new ideas are incubated and born; it’s where “what is” is toppled by “what can be;” and where strategies are given legs. Without a moment to think we can only do as we have always done.

We all benefit from a moment to think.


In the September 3, 2015, Harvard Business Review Article, 5 Strategy Questions Every Leader Should Make Time For by Freek Vermeulen, we found this quote:

The CEO of a large, global bank once told me:

“It is very easy for someone in my position to be very busy all the time.

There is always another meeting you really have to attend,

and you can fly somewhere else pretty much every other day.

However, I feel that that is not what I am paid to do.

It is my job to carefully think about our strategy.”


As a leader, whether in title or in the way you live your life, it’s important that you take a moment to think about:

  • Your vision for your company or your life
  • The obstacles that challenge you living that vision
  • What you can do to get around those obstacles
  • Who is in your world that can contribute to success
  • What you need to know to make the best decisions.

Do it now – look at your upcoming week and plan a moment (or two) to think!

Let us know how it goes.

- Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Are you an executive who is too busy to do important strategic thinking?

Get in touch with us today, our Executive Coaches can help.

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What Can I Do? The World Is So Dark!

In the face of continued loss and tragedy in our world, we heard from many of you saying:

“I’m so overwhelmed that I’m paralyzed. What can I do?”

These are dark times, with many people on both sides of the aisle still grieving the election and the resulting divisions.

We find ourselves stunned by blatant acts of racism, sexism and homophobia in our country, as well as the escalating threats to our safety posed by North Korea. We’re grappling with how to support the victims of hurricanes and flooding, mass shootings, and the stories from around the world of horror and genocide.

What can you do when horrible things happen?

Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, we can’t help but be affected by the tragedies that seem to be happening almost weekly. As if the news itself wasn’t bad enough, there are also the grossly insensitive and incompetent responses to these incidences that make getting through them that much more challenging.

We originally had a different post planned for this week, but we wanted to switch gears and instead create something to support you as you consider the question, “What can I do?”

What to do in the face of overwhelming tragedy and loss:


1. Don’t overload your brain with endless news and images of the events.
  • It’s traumatizing to re-watch footage of human despair and destruction.
  • We encourage you to STOP re-watching traumatic footage – your viewing it multiple times won’t change the outcome.

2. Notice how you’re reacting and hold yourself gently.

  • You may feel anxious, unsafe, irritable, angry, vigilant, helpless, sad, have headaches, fatigue, problems sleeping, it may be hard to concentrate, etc.
  • Many people find that they’re flooded by memories of their own life traumas in the face of others’ trauma.
  • It’s also not unusual to have no reaction at all – especially in the face of so many overwhelming events.
  • Honor what you’re feeling and be patient with yourself.

3. Get support, which is different than venting.

  • Reach out to people who can support you in your experience of these tragedies.
  • Limit conversations that leave you feeling worse. Be careful that you aren’t spending time with family and friends simply rehashing how horrible things are in the world.
  • Reach out to a coach, therapist, or clergy member who can help you explore how the current tragedies interact with your fears and wounds so that together you can create a plan that helps you move forward.

4. Take action.

  • Write a letter to your congressperson, donate blood, volunteer, or send money (even five dollars would help) to an organization that you believe in.
  • Don’t get paralyzed by the amount of need in the world.
    • Identify the 1 – 2 things that speak to you the loudest and support those efforts.
    • One of the wonderful things about our differences is that if we each pay attention to the 1 – 2 things that speak to us the most, things that matter will be covered. Our differences let us respond with passion to different issues and tragedies.
  • Taking action is important to help you have a sense of being able to make a difference rather than collapsing into helplessness.

5. Join or create a community that shares your values.

  • This may be as simple as beginning to have conversations with your neighbors and friends about ways to make a difference.
  • Consider organizing an informal group (e.g., through Meet Up). Such activities can provide a forum for support.
  • For many people, they find community in a spiritual or religious organization.
  • Increasingly, there are groups forming around the concerns and challenges of our time, and they may help you feel less alone.

These are difficult times and you need to take care of yourself as you integrate the sorrow and loss. You cannot fix the world, but you can make a difference in someone’s day, you can seek wisdom from others, and you can contribute to organizations that do things that matter to you.

We know it can be paralyzing to wade through the number of charity organizations out there. To help, we’ve included a couple of recent articles by Consumer Reports and Business Insider that include tips as well as lists of their top rated charities.

We’re here if you need us.

- Your coaches and allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Are you feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed?

Get in touch with us today, we’re here to help.

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Batsh!t Crazy

Two weeks ago we did a post on losing a great boss. We were touched by some of the stories we heard from you in response. It’s clear that it’s an incredible gift to have the opportunity to work with a great boss.

Some of the ways you described their impact included increasing your self-esteem, changing your understanding of your skills, growing you in unprecedented ways, helping you overcome fear, opening doors, etc.

Great bosses can change lives.

In addition to the stories we heard about the impact of great bosses, we also got a powerful email from “Mike” who asked, “Yeah, but what about when you have a boss who is batsh!t crazy? What do you do then?”

His comment highlighted an experience that a number of you shared. Many of you said something along the lines of: “I’d love a great boss but I am suffering under a really challenging one.”

So what can you do when you have a boss who is batsh!t crazy?

  • Start by exploring if you can lead into a different kind of relationship with your boss. Set a goal for the relationship and then, whenever you are going to meet with your boss:
    • Pause and ask yourself “Is what I am about to say or do in alignment with my goal?”
    • Then consider, “What am I afraid of in this situation and how would I show up if I felt safe?”
    • Then ask yourself, “What is my boss afraid of in this situation and how can I help my boss feel safe?”
    • Now, Act with POWER . . . coming in with a sense of possibility, owning the success of the effort and sharing why it’s important to you, creating we-focused goals with your boss, discussing how you can enable action and then reviewing and refining the plan to move forward.
    • We know you may think to yourself “this will not work!!!!” but exploring it thoughtfully gives you the opportunity to consider how to increase the chances of being able to influence your boss.
If you have determined your boss is not influenceable then you have a couple of options.
  • Consider how you can avoid, or at least decrease regular contact with your boss while partnering with others to get the work done in ways that create success for the organization and a sense of pride in your life.
    • It is important that you do NOT badmouth your boss to others in the organization. When you describe to others what you want to achieve, it’s important that you frame your goals in terms of organizational goals. If your boss is, in fact, batsh!t crazy, others know that and don’t need to hear it again. Besides, you don’t want to be seen as someone who complains vs. someone who brings solutions.
  • Explore other opportunities within the organization and outside the organization.
    • Sometimes your only option is to leave and yet leaving is not always something you can do immediately. So, begin by getting as much distance as you can from the crazy behavior and then start your search for a new position while you maintain your current one. Get your resume up to date and set up networking meetings where you can let people know you’re ready for a new opportunity.

We know that some people would recommend you go to your boss’ boss. In some instances, that is an option, but it is rarely successful. If you do choose to go to your boss’ boss, you have to be careful not to be seen as the problem . . . the person who can’t get along with others.

Your boss’ boss is likely aware of the erratic behaviors of your boss, and for whatever reason they’ve decided not to take action, or they would have already!

The tricky part of being a human is that all humans . . . ALL OF THEM . . . are messy and can act out of fear or a personal agenda, so you need to be intentional about your behavior. If you spend your time focusing on creating benefit for the organization, rather than complaining about your boss, you’ll have much greater success.

That said, you need a place to share your frustration, fear, and concern, so make sure you have a friend, colleague, or coach who can help you navigate this challenge in a way that is good for you.

Take good care of yourself!

- Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Are you dealing with an exceptionally difficult boss? Contact us today. We can help you navigate this tough situation.

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To Get Around Fear, Seek Experience

We’re so touched and impressed by the stories of personal leadership that people share with us that we decided last year to create special posts to highlight those people. We’ve called this series, Faces of Leadership. Today we have another great story of personal triumph and leadership from Lorianna Kastrop.

It is tempting to let fear control our lives. Fear can be a strong, visceral feeling that is like an alarm bell going off in your head warning you of danger.

There are those times when you must listen to your fear. Feelings of fear that actually alert you to impending danger or high levels of risk – that fear you need to listen to. But for most of us, our day-to-day fear, the fear that can really stop us in our tracks, is not impending danger fear. It is more about a lack of experience than about something that is truly dangerous.

Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, CFO of The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects responded to one of our posts about courage. Her wisdom is a powerful reminder that we don’t have to let fear stop us.

“I do a lot of public speaking, and I’m often called upon to host or be the M.C. at large public events, sometimes with thousands of people in attendance.

I’m comfortable speaking from a script, or off-the-cuff, and into a microphone. I am also comfortable singing in public and will do so, when asked.People who request my help often thank me profusely, as though I have really bailed them out.

I always say that it’s no problem for me, it’s just something I know how to do.

Many folks have asked me how I overcame the natural fear of public speaking. Here’s the reason—

I had a speech defect when I was born.
I had a lot of speech therapy. My mother took me weekly to a doctor who taught me how to breathe, how to swallow, how to say a variety of words, and eventually how to speak in sentences.I had to practice with the doctor and at home. I had to sip water over and over while the doctor watched to make sure my tongue was in the correct position. I said lists of words until I was blue in the face, making sure that I didn’t mispronounce or slur any of them.
I got over my self-consciousness because I was just trying to complete the task.
I still have trouble with what is called a “sibilant S”, which is a slight hissing sound on words with the letter S. It bothers me, but I can live with it.Malcolm Gladwell noted that “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness”.  My speech therapy wasn’t 10,000 hours, but it was a lot, and it was while I was a child.I build upon those hours every day. So, by now I probably do have 10,000 hours of speaking in front of other people. And I’m delighted to say, I’m no longer concerned about it.

I’ve learned that some of the things that cause fear are just a matter of inexperience. Try the skill, and if you have an aptitude for it, then get training. After that – practice, practice, practice.
Eventually you will no longer be afraid. You may not be perfect, or even be an expert, but you will no longer be afraid. Now that’s an accomplishment.”


This week, spend some time observing yourself to identify those times when you let fear stop you – believing you are in danger – when in fact, the fear is about doing something that you don’t have experience with.

As Lorianna shared with us, pushing through your fear can bring a great sense of accomplishment and in some instances may even help you develop a skill that you become recognized and respected for.

Let us know your experience of managing and overcoming your fear.

- Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

We’d love to hear your story. If you have a leadership story that you would like to have highlighted in our Monday Morning Business Coach post, please submit it to: leader@carpentersmith.com. Please note that we receive many more submissions than we can publish, and we often have to say no to good proposals due to limitations of time or because they’re not distinct enough from other pieces we have published.

Are you struggling with fear and would like to overcome it? Contact us today. We’re here to help you learn ways to get around your fear.

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3 Key Steps to a Great 1:1

In many companies, managers meet regularly with their team members in what is called a 1:1. Over time, these meetings become the norm; it’s on the calendar and the meetings happen, but many managers report that they don’t really know how to structure those meetings so that they’re helpful for them, as the manager, and to their direct reports.

In many ways, these 1:1 meetings are mini-planning sessions.

You’re coming together to identify a vision for the work you’re doing, to identify any obstacles that may challenge your success, and to create a plan for getting around the obstacles to achieve success.

We’ve found that the very structure that we use to help organizations do their strategic planning is a powerful structure for 1:1 meetings.

If your 1:1s could benefit from a new approach on focusing the efforts of your team, here are some pointers for how to introduce this idea and how to run your future 1:1s.

Making the transition to this framework can be as simple as starting to talk about what you’re focusing on going forward, then going through the steps, or you may want to say something like:

“We’re going to structure our meetings somewhat differently going forward and then we’ll assess if it’s helpful. As you know this is our company’s strategic plan/vision/focus (review the plan) and these are the things that our department needs to do to bring it to life (review those).

If we’re going to be successful, we need to be certain that our day-to-day activities line up behind these efforts so that individually you succeed, as a department we succeed, and the organization thrives.

So, let’s start each meeting with a review of the things we agreed to at the last meeting, and in addition we’ll:

  • Review your focus for the upcoming days, weeks and month
  • Identify the things that are in your way and where you may need my help or other resources to succeed
  • Discuss your plan for moving forward so we can have a shared agreement about your next steps and any ways I need to be involved

Do you have any questions or concerns?”

You can use your own language, but be sure to lay it out for them so that they understand where you’re heading and why.

Again, here are the 3 key steps to a great 1:1:

  • Ask about their vision for what they want to achieve within a specific time frame.
    • When you’re managing effectively, you and your team member need to have a shared understanding of the work they’re focusing on to be certain that it’s aligned behind the company’s and departmental visions.
    • You may talk about this as a “vision” but in 1:1s you’re more likely to talk about what they have on their plate, their focus, or their goals for the upcoming week, month, quarter, etc..
  • Once you have an agreement about where they’re focusing their efforts, ask them to review with you the challenges and obstacles they believe could get in the way of getting this work done effectively.
    • In knowing the challenges and obstacles you and your team-member are looking at, you’ll be able to make a realistic effort to create success and identify support and resources they’ll need to be effective.
  • Finally, explore ways they’re thinking about getting around the obstacles to create success and then support them in creating an approach that has the highest chance of succeeding.
    • Wrapping up the meeting with a plan, timeline, accountabilities, etc. creates a shared plan that you can follow up on in starting your next meeting as you talk about their upcoming days, weeks, and months.

Using this structure – and teaching your direct reports to use it with their team members – powerfully increases your department’s focus and the focus among the members of your team.

Do you struggle to create effective 1:1s with your direct reports or employees? Contact us today. We’re here to help you find new ways to focus yourself and your team.

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  • About the Authors

    Carpenter Smith Consulting

    Linda Carpenter and Stephanie Smith started Carpenter Smith Consulting in Portland to support individuals and teams who dream about having the power, impact and influence to create success and meaning in ... Read full profile
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