Choose the Right Mirrors

“As humans, we know who we are by looking at the mirrors of others’ eyes.
For that reason, it’s important that you choose your mirrors wisely.”
~ Dr. Linda Carpenter

To be a successful, powerful leader, it’s critical that you regularly reflect on who you are, what matters to you, and how you want to engage others in your life and your work.  

It’s equally important that you’re willing to understand your impact on others, the way they experience you in real time, and how closely your impact on the world aligns with what truly matters to you.
One very important way that we know who we are and how we are in the world is by looking into others’ eyes to see what they see. 
Despite all of the messages in Western culture that suggest we shouldn’t need others, we are intricately and neurologically connected with the people in our lives, and their reflection back to us can help us know our truth or distort our knowledge of ourselves. 
Our first mirrors were the adults who raised us. We learned a lot about who we are from early interactions. Some of us have had great adult mirrors and others of us were raised by people who, themselves, had bad mirrors so are incapable of providing us a clear view of ourselves. 
Who you have as mirrors in your life matters because, just like actual mirrors, some are crisp and clear – reflecting back an accurate image of who you are and how you’re showing up in the world. And some are distorted and warped – like a funhouse mirror or the glass from a hundred years ago; you can see a reflection but it’s not an accurate one.
Accurate mirrors reflect the many sides of you. They’re not distorted to show you only the good nor are they warped, showing you only the bad.

You are human – wonderful, special, messy, and flawed.

The goal is to be aware of your gifts and of your messy so that you can more consciously and thoughtfully choose how you manage yourself to create the success that matters to you.
So how do you assess who in your life is an accurate mirror and who presents a distorted view of you? Consider the following three questions:

  • Is this a person who you respect because of their integrity and clarity in the world?  
  • Can they put aside their personal agendas when they engage with the world or is it always, somehow, about them?
  • When you see their view of the world, is it a view that is thoughtful and wise?

Staying close to people who are clear mirrors in your life supports you in seeing the ways that you’re showing up just as you planned and differently than you imagined.

We all need a range of mirrors in our lives. 

Looking into different peoples’ eyes can help us see ourselves more clearly so we can take the steps to live in the ways that truly matter to us.

This week, consider the mirrors in your life. Are they clear and crisp or warped and distorted?

A good friend, family member, or coach can help you know more about who you are, and with that information you can move forward to create the successes that truly matter to you.

~Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

Do your mirrors authentically and accurately reflect the full-dimensional you?
If you want to gain more perspective on how mirroring impacts you and how you impact your world, contact us today to learn about our Executive Coaching.

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What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?

This week, we want to share with you an article that we read recently. The article is written by Carl Richards and appeared in the New York Times. We’ve pasted the article in the body of the post, but you can also click to read the article here.

As you’ll see, the article is about empathy, and understanding that all of us will–at some time–be dealing with something that rocks us to our core. The trouble is that for most of us that pain is not always visible to others in the moment.

Despite all of the ways that we’re so connected in this day and age, we can still be so alone with our pain and grief.


“Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?”

By Carl Richards

I was in the airport when I found out that the mother of one of my best friends had just died quite suddenly. She was at dinner with a friend, felt sick and was dead within a few hours.

I learned this through a message from my mom, who heard about it on the local news.

I called my friend. Imagine this scene for a second: There I am in Terminal 2 of the San Diego airport, calling someone whose mother had just died.

He answered. He was crushed. We cried.

His mom was one of the few people who always saw past my stupid behavior in high school. She always loved and accepted me, despite my being quite unlovable at the time. She gently influenced me to be better by not trying to influence me at all. She was amazing.

My friend knew that better than anyone. He told me about her last moments in the hospital. He told me about begging the doctor to do more.

Life. Is. Heavy. And then I boarded a plane.

I thought about everyone else on the plane. I wondered if the airline employee scanning my boarding pass could see that I had been crying. Were my eyes red? Swollen? I wondered if there would be room for my bag in the overhead bin. If the person next to me would be nice.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about how odd the situation felt. All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with.

I thought about the airline employee who had just checked my boarding pass, the man sitting next to me, the woman across the aisle. Did they have a sick child, or a friend in the hospital? Were they on that plane in a race against time? What about the person who had been yelling at the gate agent or, for that matter, those who were yelling on Twitter while I checked it standing in line?

As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions.

What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew?


As you go through your week, we encourage you to think about what might be going on with others around you. What was once deemed a soft skill, empathy is now recognized as a critical skill of successful leaders.

~Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in Pausing to create better engagement with your teams,

contact us today about our Executive Coaching. We’re here for you!

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If You Toss Someone a Grenade…

If you toss a group a grenade…they will run for cover.

Starting a conversation with accusations or anger is akin to tossing a grenade into a room and expecting people to want to play “catch.”

No matter how valuable your insight or how accurate your concern, the act of grenade tossing will result in people not hearing you because they’re consumed with ducking for cover.

In talking to a client about his accusatory behavior he stated, “But the grenade isn’t real. I’m just trying to make a point!”

Maybe so, but the receiver has no way of knowing how “real” the grenade is, so they’ll assume it’s lethal.

We recently saw this when we were brought in to support a board during a challenging time. The board shared difficult financial news with an explanation of how it came to be, and they noted that a follow-up meeting was planned to discuss the situation further.

One of the board members believed, and was correct, that they were missing a key point but instead of bringing that to the attention of the group with respect and calm he responded by disparaging the integrity of the other board members.

And, as you would expect two things happen when you toss a grenade, people leave the room – even if they remain at the table – and others will fight back.

As a result, no one could work with the point the grenade-tosser was making.

One of the lessons we teach leaders—and anyone who struggles with anger—is how to PAUSE before they speak so that what they’re about to say is in alignment with their goal. If their goal is to be heard, then Pausing to take the anger out of their leading sentence will increase their chances of being listened to.

If you think that your message is getting buried beneath the rubble of a grenade then we encourage you to practice the PAUSE. Getting your message heard can be a challenge in the best of circumstances; don’t hinder yourself by wrapping it in explosive language.

In this day and age when people seem to be swift to anger, we invite you to foster your curiosity and see if you can invite others to do the same.

We’re here for you,

~Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in Pausing to create better engagement with your teams,contact us today about our Executive Coaching. We’re here for you!

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The Fundamental Pause

As coaches, we get hired because people – despite the best of intentions – are struggling to change the things that are getting in the way of their success.

Our goal is to help you recognize and overcome those habitual reactions that keep the changes you’re working toward from taking hold.

The key behind the work that we do is helping people manage their reactivity, and to do that we teach them something we designed called, the Fundamental PAUSE.

The Fundamental PAUSE is a powerful yet simple step that can help you be a better leader, a better team member, and it can help improve communication with your partner or family. It can even help you relate more effectively to your kids.

If you’re going to effectively influence others, and if you’re going to be influenced by others (especially during stress-filled times), you have to interrupt old reacting patterns. This is what the Fundamental PAUSE is designed to do.

So, what do we mean by reacting? We mean those times when something happens, or someone says something, and you say or do something that only makes matters worse–whether that’s coming on too strong or saying nothing at all!

Reactions take away your power and decrease your credibility. Reactive people rarely get the respect or the attention of people they want. A reaction is like a grenade. If you introduce it into a room, most people are going to scatter!

So, in order to not react, and instead respond as a leader, you need to PAUSE.

PAUSING can make a tremendous difference in your success at work and at home.

So, how does the PAUSE work? While it sounds passive, it’s really an active moment that helps you regain control of your emotions and helps you align with the path towards your goal(s).

The PAUSE itself may be a breath, scribbling a note, grabbing a glass of water, or taking a bathroom break. It’s a moment between what’s incoming–that trigger that makes you see red–and what you do next.

In this moment as you PAUSE, you ask yourself:

Is what I am doing or about to do or say in alignment with my goals?

This PAUSE is your opportunity to stop reacting and to start responding in ways that move you forward toward your goals.

Day to day, start paying attention to your reactivity. What are the situations when you blow up or maybe get quiet and mentally leave a conversation?

The first step to PAUSING is understanding your triggers and recognizing how you react when things get hard so that you can interrupt that behavior and do instead what’s good for you.

We’ve got a helpful downloadable worksheet that you can use to plan ahead for those particularly annoying instances when you know you’re most likely to get reactive.

To help you complete the worksheet see our suggestions below:

  1. Write down a situation where you’ll likely get reactive or where you’ve gotten reactive in the past.
  2. Write the things that are most likely to trigger a reaction in you. It may be a tone of voice, people talking over one another, someone undermining the value of something you did, etc.
  3. Note how you typically react in that section. Do you get silent and lean back? Do you get snarky, defensive, or angry and dismissive? This is particular to you. There is no right answer. It might be helpful to think about the feedback you have gotten from others. What’s your hot button?
  4. Imagine that you’re able to PAUSE in that moment and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do in alignment with my goals?” Now, write down how you would respond if aligned with your goals.
  5. Explore what you believe would be your new results if you responded to the situation as a leader rather than old reacting patterns.

It certainly won’t go exactly as you picture it, but this is a very powerful and productive tool that will help you begin to defuse your triggers–even if just a little at first. The beauty of the PAUSE is that you can practice it anytime you want.

Filling out this worksheet before tough situations arise can help you prepare so that you’re not caught off guard. Or, filling it out afterward allows practice in understanding what triggers you and how you might do something different next time!


Try it out and let us know how it goes.

~Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in Pausing to create better engagement with your teams, contact us today about our Executive Coaching. We’re here for you!

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What Motivates Us?

Motivation of self and others is a hot topic in business precisely because it can be quite a challenge. What motivates people over the years has changed in large part because how we work has changed.

Never in the history of time have so many people held jobs where their contribution is based on their knowledge or building on the knowledge of others.

Motivated employees are more successful, more committed, more upbeat, and more engaged—as are kids and community members.

Unfortunately, most of us have very outdated ideas about what it takes to successfully motivate others. Outdated motivational modes actually demotivate others; so, it is essential to look at what works in this day and age.

Several years ago we discovered Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and recognized it to be a great resource. If you haven’t read it yet, we highly recommend it: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

We know that the time demands of reading can be a challenge; so if you’re too busy to read the book, we’ve included a 10-minute “Cliff note” YouTube version of it that’s easy to digest. It will forever change how you approach motivating others!

As you’ll learn in the video, in order to motivate others it’s critical that you identify people whose purpose is aligned with the company’s purpose, that you help them to master the critical skills to do their jobs successfully, and then give them increasing levels of autonomy.

On the flipside, if you’re the job seeker, be sure to look for a company whose purpose is one you’re passionate about. This can make all the difference between liking your job and loving it. You’ll also want to look for clues in the job description, or during the interview process about the level of mastery and autonomy you’ll be able to attain in your role.

Take some time today to think about your purpose, your level of mastery, and how much autonomy works best for you and the company you work for. Motivating yourself or others is an ongoing process—it will be iterative as you move through the phases of your success path.

Click below to watch a video adapted from Dan Pink’s book Drive, which illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace. FYI the video begins with an ad that you can skip after a few seconds.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

If you’d like some support in putting these methods into practice (either in hiring or motivating the right people, or in finding that perfect job) contact us today about our coaching services.

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When Life Gets Dark and Heavy

One of our clients recently had a difficult month, and a dear friend and mentor sent him this writing by John McQuiston called “Each Day”. We want to share it with you, as it is an important reminder when life feels dark and heavy.

Each Day

At the beginning of each day, after we open our eyes to receive the light of that day,

as we listen to the voices and sounds that surround us,

we must resolve to treat each hour as the rarest of gifts,

and be grateful for the consciousness that allows us to experience it,

recalling in thanks that our awareness is a present from we know not

where, or how, or why.

When we rise from sleep, let us rise for the joy of the true work

that we will be about this day, and considerately cheer one another on.

Life will always provide matters for concern.

Each day, however, brings with it reasons for joy.

Every day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven,

have the courage to expect good from it.

Be gentle in this life and use the light of life to live fully in your time.


Spend a few moments with this writing and notice what speaks to you.

When Linda first read it, she was struck by the phrase “Life will always provide matters for concern. Each day, however, brings with it reasons for joy.” She has found this to be true. . .always matters for concern and always reasons for joy.

Heather was touched by the phrase “When we rise from sleep, let us rise for the joy of the true work that we will be about this day, and considerately cheer one another on,” because she knows the difference it can make when we have support and are of support for one another.

And, Stephanie found herself noticing how she wants to “…treat each hour as the rarest of gifts…,” particularly on those days when she felt she wasn’t able to make a difference in her moments.

Let us know what speaks to you!

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’re looking for more passion and purpose in your life, contact us today about our Claim Your Power Women’s Group. We have two spots left!

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Great Questions Can Change Your Life

Last week, we wrote about Growing Your Wisdom built on the quote by Mark Twain: “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.”

At the end of that post, we promised that this week we would look at how to formulate questions that create meaningful conversations.

Over the course of our careers we’ve discovered, time and again, that identifying a great question can dramatically change your interaction.

We’ve talked about this when we described the framework of Benefits, Concerns, and Suggestions when asking for feedback.

When asking for feedback if you ask the question “so what do you think?” you likely get the response of silence or non-helpful opinions such as: “great”, “ok”, “not what we’d hoped.”

Yet if you ask, “what are the benefits of this proposal? what concerns do you have? what suggestions would you like us to consider going forward?”, peoples’ responses are more thoughtful, informative, and can help to shape and influence your upcoming decisions.

If you plan to practice listening fully and well, we’d encourage you to pair listening with asking questions that invite others to share their experience, expertise, and perspective with you in new and more engaging ways.

These are not simply practices for work – you can use these same tools to grow your wisdom and connection with you partner, children, parents, friends, and neighbors.

This week, we encourage you to try these three suggestions for creating great questions:
  1. Limit yes or no questions. They actually close down a conversation rather than opening and deepening it.
  2. Ask questions that invite others to reflect on their experiences, expertise or perspective. For example:
    • Can you tell me about a time when this approach worked well?
    • What was your favorite part of the conference?
    • What did you learn in school that surprised you?
  3. Once you’ve asked a question and the other person is sharing, you can deepen their sharing by saying “I’d love to hear more about that” or simply, “say more!”

Of course, if you say “say more” like a drill sergeant, that won’t work! However, “say more” said with curiosity and interest can really open up the conversation.

Let us know some of the questions you’ve found most helpful in your life and work. We’ll create a list to share with everyone in the Monday Morning Business Coaching Community!

Until next time,

~ Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in creating engaging and thoughtful questions for your team,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching. We’d love to help.

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Growing Your Wisdom

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening
when you would rather have talked.” 
~ Mark Twain

We love this quote from Mark Twain as it reminds us of a core truth – one must listen fully and completely to gain wisdom and perspective. And, wisdom and perspective can help us create more meaningful lives, more success in our service to others and to our work, and more impact in our worlds.

Unfortunately, listening isn’t as natural or as easy as most of us would like.

Day-to-day, many of us feel that we need to perform . . . we need to demonstrate our skill in our jobs, our competence as parents, our confidence in our own opinions. It can seem necessary to talk, and talk a lot, to convey our expertise to others.

While demonstrating competence does matter, demonstrating wisdom and perspective creates trust in who you are as a person and a leader, and lets people know there’s more to you than “the show” . . . something deeper and more authentic.

People want to be around and to follow authentic, wise leaders.

So how do you grow in your ability to listen deeply?

  • It takes self-control and patience to listen fully and well. 

When we coach leaders to listen well, we’re coaching them to slow themselves down and be open to the information they’re hearing. Many of us have noticed that as soon as someone starts talking we start planning what we are going to say in response – before they’ve even finished a sentence!

  • It takes decreasing your reactivity to listen fully and well.

Many leaders describe their fear of listening, telling us that they fear that they’ll hear something they don’t want to hear or something that challenges their sense of competence. They describe getting caught in reacting versus responding like the leader they want to be. 

We remind them of the Pause – taking that moment to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do in alignment with my goals?” 

If your goal is to listen fully and well, pausing will be a game changer.

  • It takes growing your curiosity about others’ experiences and perspectives to listen fully and well.

In our culture, many people believe that they must always know the answer.

That being an adult is having an answer to pretty much any problem that crosses their path.  

We remind our clients that people who are curious and passionate about learning with and from others often have the most success. 

This is for (at least) two reasons:  When you’re curious about others’ experiences and thoughts, they feel valued and it increases the sense of connection and camaraderie and you’ll learn things about people, their lives, the world, and even content that you would never have learned otherwise.

Wisdom is, indeed, the reward you get from listening with openness, managing your reactivity, and leading with curiosity about others’ experiences and thoughts. 

Next week, we’re going to explore questions. A great question can lead you into profoundly meaningful and helpful conversations.  

Stay tuned!

- Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in showing up as a wise leader, 
contact us today about our new women’s groups. 

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Last week brought the stunning loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain by suicide. We know that there is pain in everyone’s life – some more visible than others.

So we want to take a moment to remind you that,

You matter in this world.


Take a moment to think about your life and how you treat yourself as you go through your moments, days, weeks, and months.

You matter because you are YOU.  


Your moments matter and if you’re going to matter in your own life, it’s important that you pay attention to your moments.

You matter because when you lean in to make a difference in the world, we are all better for it.

The world needs you.

So, the world needs you to matter to yourself.

It needs you to respect who you are and where you are right now—even if your goal is to be somewhere else in your life. To honor the contribution you make while committing to doing things to get you to new opportunities to do more. To respect your need for rest, silence, connection, and love.

Your family & friends need you.

Pay attention to treating yourself like you matter in this world because we know you do.

  • When you’re successful, acknowledge it to yourself. And when you feel afraid, lonely, unsettled, or stupid—acknowledge that too. And acknowledge it with the gentleness you would offer someone you love deeply.
    • Hold yourself in high regard and say to yourself, “I can see that you’re afraid or feel stupid and I’m sorry. It’s hard. And, you matter. You will move through this.”
  • Take care of your basic needs. Pay attention to your hunger and thirst. Go to the bathroom when you need to go to the bathroom (seriously). Slow your pace and breathe as you walk down the hall.
    • It’s truly stunning the number of people who ignore their basic needs throughout the day.
    • If you matter, your needs matter.
  • Get a notebook, use your phone, tear off a few scraps of paper, and on and off throughout the day write down the things you’re doing well. The things you are proud of. The things you didn’t think you’d do but did. They don’t have to be big or in any way meaningful to anyone else.
    • For us, they are sometimes getting out of bed after a crazy, personally challenging week, not snapping at a colleague who pushes our buttons, or staying present in a meeting that was tedious and boring.
    • Notice yourself and what you do well.
  • Look for small ways to give yourself a treat—just because. Not a reward but a treat for being in this life and mattering in this life.
    • A few minutes on a deck overlooking a river near your office, 5 minutes to taste that latte you just bought, listening to the birds, noticing the clouds, laughing with a co-worker, hugging your partner or kids just a bit longer.
  • Find ways to laugh. With others would be best, but if that’s not possible, watch a Saturday Night Live routine that always makes you laugh, watch a show that’s funny and charming, join a group that plays well together, create a game night with friends.
    • When you laugh, you remember yourself and can gain perspective.
    • You matter enough in that moment to soften.

You need you.

We want to remind you to matter to yourself and to love yourself. To help support you, we’ve created a worksheet to help you remember. Click here for the worksheet.

Please, please, please, if you’re worried about yourself as you read this, reach out to someone for support, call a therapist, or talk to a coach. If you feel suicidal, get to an emergency room, call a suicide hotline, or ask someone to stay with you until you can get support.

Hugs to you,
Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

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What To Do if Your New Boss Is Horrible

We recently had a conversation with a client who was feeling disheartened at work.

He had a long history with his organization and had, for many years, loved working there. He was invested in their mission and wanted to contribute to business success. He had a great deal of respect for the leadership team and felt valued and appreciated for his contributions.

Then it all changed.

About six months ago the organization hired a new COO (who our client reported to directly). Shortly after this new COO arrived, the feeling in the office started to change.

Our client described a range of concerning behaviors of the COO including mocking team members who spoke up in meetings, insulting the work of others, and pitting colleagues against one another when decisions needed to be made.

He said that every time the COO was around, people in the office got silent and tried to avoid being the one to get insulted. Our client’s job went from something he loved to something he dreaded, and he was lost about what to do.

While we’d like to say that we gave him three easy steps and it all turned around – that’s not the way these things go. We did give him three steps though – to assess if he could stay in the organization or if he needed to start looking for a new job.

This is what we suggested to him and what we’d suggest to you if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. If you believe there is a chance that you can have some influence with this person, ask if he/she is open to some feedback.
    • To increase the chance of a successful conversation, pause and think about your triggers and triggers they may have. Work to stay focused on the problem vs. the person. “I have seen you struggle to get alignment behind your ideas, perhaps if you . . . “ rather than “When you do this . . . “
    • Try to stay open and non-defensive.
    • If you don’t feel safe doing this, skip to #2.
  2. If that fails (or you don’t feel safe having the conversation), document the incidents and identify the patterns.
    • Start by making a list of all the things the challenging individual is doing.
    • Look for the 3 – 5 patterns that are most challenging and have the greatest negative impact on the organization.
    • You’ll always have more power if you highlight the negative consequences to the organization vs. focusing on your pain or the pain of your peers.
  3. Identify and meet with 1 – 3 people in leadership who you believe will value your perspective on what’s going on. Consider your HR leader as well as others you’ve worked with successfully on the leadership team.
    • Meet one-on-one and share your concerns about the potential damage to the organization and your uncertainty about how to proceed. Then ask for their guidance and support.
    • Stay calm and clear as you share your perspective.
    • Give one or two examples and let the person know similar kinds of things are happening to others.
    • Stay focused on the potential for damage to the organization.

When the person you’re working for becomes a significant problem to the success of the organization, you’re walking a bit of a tightrope – you have to balance the fact that you need to respect your boss’s role even if you don’t respect his or her behavior.

It’s important that you take these steps slowly and you trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, don’t share your experiences. Trust your gut.

At the same time, you may want to put together a resume and start to share with friends and colleagues that you’re considering leaving.

Living through this kind of experience is painful, scary, and diminishing – make sure you are caring for yourself as you go through this.

We’re here for you!

– Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

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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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