Tag Archives: leadership

Just One Moment That Changed my Life

pocket watchesI remember this day like it was yesterday.

I’m sitting in a conference room with three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst. A very talented and professional group.

The meeting is the advisory board for a consulting client of mine who owns a large company out of state.  She’s very sophisticated — extremely bright, completely driven and a perfectionist in the best sense of the word.  She expects excellence in everything she does.  (And in everything everyone else does too!)

She’s reached that predictable growth stage – you know the one – rapid growth, few systems, even fewer policies and the company is completely dependent on her.

Now she’s having a hard time keeping things together.  The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and things are falling through the cracks.  There’s too much to do and everything is a 1-A priority.

That’s where I come in.  She hired me to lead the company through a process to get them through this growth stage.

On short notice, she asks me to attend her advisory board meeting.  I have no role other than to meet the members and hear their discussions about upcoming plans and decisions.

Ah, that’s what I thought!

Without warning, she asks me to come up to the white board and sketch out the model I would use for the changes that needed to take place in the next year.

I launch in and began to draw a diagram with captions.  As I write, I explain that the company needs structure – strategic planning, an organizational chart, job descriptions, and definitions of accountability.

Now, as a trainer and a speaker, I’m right at home with a marker in my hand and a white board.

But now there’s a moment, just one moment…

As I write, I turn to face the board members and notice something.

I’m speaking and they are listening.  No, not just listening.  They’re taking notes. 

For a fraction of a second, my knees go weak. 

Three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst are writing down what I say.

I push this awareness out of my mind and continue.

As soon as the meeting ends, I retreat to the ladies room and sit down on the floor, trembling with … what?  Fear?  Adrenaline?  (Classy, right?)

I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life because this is the exact moment I went from feeling like a fraud, an impostor, to knowing I was a capable, competent consultant. 

I bet you know the feeling I had in that moment.  That sick worry that you’ll be discovered, found out.

This feeling, commonly known as “the impostor syndrome” is one of the biggest factors holding women back.  We suffer from the dreaded disease of self-doubt.

We were raised to be nice girls and nice girls are humble.  We don’t brag and we don’t boast.

Some of us were also raised to defer to other voices.  Some of us were taught to be seen and not heard.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology, spoke to this gender difference in his article about why so many incompetent men become leaders.  “When it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women…is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.”

He explains that people in general confuse confidence with competence.  Men typically behave with more confidence than women.

Women see right through this mistaken belief.  And in a desire to NOT be like that, we go too far in the other direction.

Women confuse confidence with arrogance.  They are not the same thing.  Arrogance is overconfidence — definitely not a desirable leadership quality.

Women value humility, which is indeed an admirable quality.  But any strength overused becomes a weakness.  And false modesty is just as distasteful as arrogance.

Women commonly default to self-discounting behavior.  We discount our own competence and that’s self-defeating.

This self-doubt is what leads to feeling like a fraud – the impostor syndrome.

Women would be smart to adopt a healthy dose of confidence (stopping short of hubris of course!).

Our self-beliefs define our success. 

It’s time to stop feeling like a fraud.  Give yourself credit for what you do well.  

In that advisory board meeting, all that mattered is that I knew what I was talking about — that I was the only one in the room with the particular expertise that the company needed at that point in time.

In that moment (more accurately, sitting on the floor of the ladies room!), I stopped feeling like a fraud.  I never want to over-promise and under-deliver.  But I won’t sell myself short either.

And neither should you.  Believe in yourself!  Find your moment.  (And tell me about it in the comments!) Take care,




P.S.  Would a little knowledge help you develop your competence and find your moment?  Check out my webinar:  9 Specific Steps on How to HIre Great Employees for YOU

Small Changes with Big Impact

It’s a typical Monday morning.  globe compass, compressed

You hit the ground running, armed with good intentions.  You tell yourself, this week is going to be different.  Better.

This week I’m going to get more accomplished.

This week I’ll get organized.

This week I’m going to get caught up.

But you’re crazy busy.

You open your email and you get sucked down a rabbit hole.  You check your social media pages and there goes another hour.   A misdirected employee needs your help to get back on track — another half an hour.  An unexpected phone call eats up twenty minutes.

Sound familiar?

You’re working like mad, but is your business growing? 

Are you working on the right things, the things that help you reach your goals, the things that help you make more money?

The truth is, there’s a ton of stuff to do and not enough time.

Most likely, a full blown strategic planning session with your staff is probably the best medicine.  But right now, that just feels like one more burden.

How could you find the time to carve out a entire day or two for you and your entire staff to just talk and plan when there is already so much to do?

It’s not as hopeless as it sounds.

Small changes can have a big impact.

You’ll be amazed at how just three small changes can make a dramatic difference in what you accomplish.  You’ll begin to feel like a human being again, not just a human doing.

  • Clarify your staff responsibilities:  Get really clear on who is responsible for what.  Make sure your employees know what they are accountable for.  Define specifically what they do and how their efforts move the company forward toward defined goals.  Make their responsibilities measurable.
  • Begin every Monday morning by making a list of your Top Five Priorities for that week.  What five things absolutely must get accomplished?  Then identify the top-one-of-five.  If all else fails, this is the ONE thing I must accomplish.  Have every employee do the same thing.  Then meet every Monday morning to discuss your lists.
  • Never open your email until you have written down your Top Five Priorities.  Yeah, this sucks.  But you have to be ruthless about this.  (Sure, I’d love to think that you want to read my emails first thing Monday morning.  But even this can wait till afternoon.)  Chart your course first, get focused, then set sail.

And if you’re in a place where even these three small changes feel like too much…just do one.

If you can only make one small change, make sure that one thing is your Top Five Priority list.  Your top-five list is your compass, your guide.  Never begin a week without clearly defining for yourself and others what you want to accomplish by the end of the week.

You’ll be delighted with the difference this makes in your productivity.

Sure, a full-blown strategic plan is an incredibly valuable and essential part of being in business.  But sometimes you have to dig yourself out of a hole and get a breath of fresh air before you embark on that journey.

Start where you are. 

The most important thing in life is knowing what’s important.  (Someone famous said that, and I don’t remember who!)

Choosing your Top Five Priorities helps you make peace with the fact that you’ll never be “caught up” — some things just won’t get done.  (Sorry, hate to be the one to break it to you.)  But the important things will.

And my promise to you?  I won’t send you emails on Monday morning! Take care,


Are business problems wearing you out? Try these eight steps…

“The only business without problems is a dead business.”

~ Dr. Ichak Adizes, Author, Corporate Lifecycles

I love this quote, because it simply normalizes the fact that your business will have problems.  Kind of takes the sting out of it.  Makes you feel less…inadequate.

So let’s just be honest with ourselves.  Running a business means solving problems.

Not just occasionally.  Daily.  Hourly.

And these business problems can just wear us slick.

Our time as leaders is not best spent on solving problems.  It is best spent on creating possibilities and opportunities.

So here’s another powerful quote to help move you in the right direction.

“Fast and roughly right decision-making will replace deliberations that are precise but slow.”

~ Rita Gunther McGrath, Professor, Columbia Business School

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy little guide to help you think problems through and make the best decisions possible, as quickly as possible?

Here are eight simple steps to consider in any situation that requires problem solving:

  1. Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Seriously, just like yoga. Because taking in a long slow deep breath and exhaling slowly two or three times instantly lowers your heart rate and your stress level.  So relax.  Breathe.
  2. Suspend your assumptions.  Yup, you have them.  You just have to be intentional about naming them.  It might even help to write them down.  “I assume______.”  We hold on to assumptions because they create a safety zone, preventing new thinking and new ideas.  But they can be fatal unless we check them out.
  3. Ask “Why” five times.  This takes you deep into the core of the problem.  You’re looking for a real solution, not a Band-Aid, so find the core of the problem and fix that.  For example:  The printer won’t work.  Why?  It says the print cartridge is damaged.  Why?  I don’t know, but this happened before.  Why?  Tech support says it’s a known issue with this model.  Why?  There’s a bug in the software.  In just four Whys you realize that you don’t just need to replace the print cartridge.  You need a different printer model.
  4. Define your desired outcome.  What are you looking for, ideally?  Wrap your decision about what really matters most.  Of the five or six strategic objectives you want, which is really the top priority?  Of all the people you are trying to keep happy, which one is the most important?
  5. Think possibilities.  Every problem holds an opportunity.  You don’t need a short term solution that leaves you in the lurch long term.  Look down the road.  What you are facing might look like a huge mountain to climb.  But on the other side of that mountain is a lush valley.  Think bigger.
  6. Apply logic.  Whether we realize it or not, most of our decisions are based on emotions.  We simply use logic to justify them.  Emotions like anxiety, dread, or fear lead to bad decisions.  Know your facts.  Be very intentional about applying logic to the problems you face.
  7. Run your options past a “devil’s advocate.”  Years ago another consultant and I had an intense heart-to-heart with our client, trying very hard to talk her out of a very risky decision.  We were the devil’s advocates.  She decided to pursue the opportunity anyway, but the objections and concerns we expressed provided valuable information that she used to mitigate her risk.  And her project was over-the-top successful!
  8. Make a decision.  Speed matters.  Procrastination is deadly.  We can gather information indefinitely, but if we delay difficult decisions to long, all that information will change anyway.  There are very few decisions that can’t be undone.  Get it over with.  Remember, there really are no “perfect” solutions.  We always have to deal with an uncertain future.  One decision leads to the next.

Above all, teach this problem-solving method to your employees.  Print it out and discuss it at your next staff meeting.

Never neglect an opportunity to train and educate those who work for you.  Don’t just teach them WHAT to think – teach them HOW to think. 

The more capable they are of solving problems and making decisions, the fewer problems that will land on your desk!

Take care, Darcie


Almost forgot!  Get your free Self-Growth Secrets – a new 3-part podcast series you can listen to at your convenience.  We’ll talk about stress, guilt, self-doubt and creating your personal vision.  Get it right now, just click here…

Do Women Really Need to be Empowered?

This week I had an interesting conversation with a husband-wife team who own a business together.  Since I work only with female business owners, I wasn’t sure why Mr. Biz owner sat in on my conversation with Ms Biz owner, but I didn’t ask any questions.

I could tell that my “women only” service made him uncomfortable because he went over the top professing that his wife made her own decisions, that he’d never told her she couldn’t do something. When a man has to work that hard to convince me he’s not a chauvinist, I get a little skeptical.

I listened politely but soon became weary of his campaign to convince me that he’s a progressive kind of guy. Then he dropped the “E” word.

“My wife is an empowered woman,” he said.

I couldn’t resist. “Well you sound like a pretty empowered man to me,” I replied cheerfully.

That’s when he got red in the face and sputtered, “I don’t have to be empowered. I’m a man!”

I doubt they’ll invite me to dinner.

So why is it that women need to be empowered, but men get offended at the thought of being empowered?

Ah, they already power! To be empowered implies that we don’t have power and someone has to give it to us, as evidenced by this man’s reaction to my compliment about how empowered he is.

Perhaps women in developing countries, where it is common for women to be marginalized, need to be empowered — through legal changes, education, culture shifts, access to opportunities — but do women in the U.S. really need someone to empower us?

So ladies, how do you feel about your own power?  Do you feel comfortable embracing your own power or do you believe someone needs to empower you?

I’d love to read your comments.  And of course, if you are intrigued by what you read, feel free to share, but only if you think it adds to a good conversation.


girlfriend reunion

8 Life Lessons from My Girlfriend Reunion

Take eight high school girlfriends, add forty years, multiply by many thousands of miles and what do girlfriend reunionyou get? One great day of memories, hugs, and laughter, plus a few crucial lessons for both life and business.

I grew up in southern California, and moved away almost forty years ago (what was I thinking!!!). When I planned a trip back to attend a women’s conference, on a whim I reached out through Facebook to seven high school girlfriends who all still live in the area.

I hadn’t seen several of them since the day we graduated.

One of the women lives on a small lake, so we gathered there. We spent the afternoon on her boat, stopping for lunch, and sharing our stories (with plenty of photos and memories too!).

Together we heard about one another’s many joys and accomplishments. But real life isn’t just happy times, so we also heard about one another’s many obstacles, disappointments, and losses.

I’ll reflect on this sweet day for a long time.

That night I thought about all the challenges faced and overcome, all the love given and received, all fears and the courage. I thought about all the choices made, the opportunities seized and lost. I could see the steady paths followed, and could see the sharp turns and the roads not taken.

We had all changed, of course, yet we were the same. That small kernel of who we were on graduation day, who we ARE at the core, remained.

I came away with eight lessons worth sharing – meaningful lessons about both life and business.

1) Pursue your dreams, even though those dreams may shift and change. What we thought we wanted on the day we graduated might not have been what energized us after all. When one dream fades, put another in its place.

2) Build on your strengths, don’t limit yourself to them — add more. We were all good at something back in high school, and each of us added to those strengths by tackling challenges and being open to new learning.

3) Plans don’t unfold neatly, in life or in business. Plans have to be changed, sometimes dramatically. When one direction doesn’t work, look in a new direction.

4) Grief is inevitable. Every one of our eight friends had lost something – jobs, homes, husbands, children, and lost body parts (yes, feminine body parts). We can’t stay stuck in grief. We face life and change without losing who we are. We can let grief make us bitter, but why not let it make us better?

5) Resilience is crucial. Never ever give up. And in the words of one friend, “Don’t let your disappointments define you.”

6) Burdens are lighter when shared and some burdens are meant to be set down altogether. Forgiveness lightens the load we carry. That means forgiving ourselves too.

7) Always keep learning. Take a deep dive into what really interests you. Most of all, take a deep dive into learning about yourself. Self-awareness is fundamental to our happiness and success.

8) Your self-beliefs shape everything else. Pay close attention to what you tell yourself ABOUT yourself. Notice what you believe about who and what you are, because that’s who you will be. Always remain authenticity you, not who others defined you to be.

Take a second look at those eight lessons and ask yourself how they apply to your personal life and your business as well. I hope my girlfriend reunion leads to an “aha moment” for you.

And the last lesson…whether you are 25 or 65, keep in touch with your girlfriends!

P.S.  If you want to “go deep” into how your self-beliefs might be holding you back, and explore your unique purpose, check out my online course, The Alpha Mare: Embrace the Grace of Power.  You’ll learn lessons to shape the rest of your life, I promise.