Head, Heart & Spirit: What Sled Dogs Teach Us About Leadership (2 minute read and PUPPY VIDEO!)

Last week I had the privilege of visiting Alaska to work with the Great Northwest Athletic Conference SAAC representatives on communication in leadership. I took advantage of an opportunity to visit Denali National Park, home to the only working sled dog kennel in the national park service. And, there were PUPPIES!!

The kennel ranger explained that the dogs “remain more reliable than most machines when it comes to starting up at 50 below zero. Additionally, the dogs can go where snowmobiles legally cannot” in the pristine wilderness of Denali.
 
“Wilderness” as defined as by the Wilderness Act of 1964 is, “a place where the land is untouched, and where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”.
 
I sat enthralled by puppy bliss thinking about how of all this relates to sport…
 
As a coach, our players come to us as "puppies" and grow into essential members of our team. Our programs are much like the wilderness; each player spends a brief time with us but does not remain, transitioning out after they’ve exhausted their eligibility.

A ranger showed me what they look for in their sled leaders, and we look for the same essential qualities of head, heart and spirit in our team leaders.

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Head: “The ability to learn, follow verbal commands, and concentrate on the job at hand are essential qualities of a [leader]”.  
 
Heart: “Works in harmony with the [coach]. Each must trust the judgment and skill of the other. The heart of a [leader] is the desire for the team to succeed and the will to make it happen”.
 
Spirit: “The [leader] is the spirit of the team, providing experience and enthusiasm to the rest of the [team]. A great [leader] thrives on the responsibility to break a snowy trail, to plunge first across an icy stream, or to push through a blinding ground blizzard”.
 
Sure, our team leaders may not be responsible for breaking snowy trails or diving into icy streams, but they tackle the athletic equivalent when they offer a supportive word to teammates breaking down, by being first back to the line in conditioning, and by pushing through adversity during challenging times.  

Best wishes to each of you on developing a team of great leaders who are prepared to weather any conditions.

"Mush!" (Let's go!)

communication, Change, leadership

The Power of a Question (2 min read)

Throughout history there have been some profound and powerful questions.

In 1938 Bud Abbot and Lou Costello famously asked, “Who’s on first?”

In 1957 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

During his inaugural speech in 1961, John F. Kennedy told Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”

In 1969 Tootsie-Roll asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Pop?” and in 2000 Lil’ Kim and Sisqo revisited that same question in a verrrry different context with their hit song, “How Many Licks”.

According to Shakespeare, “To be or not to be” was THE question, and French philosopher Voltaire implored us to “Judge a person by their questions rather than their answers.”

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins summarized why it’s important that we ask thoughtful questions when he said, “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

At the end of my communication workshops I tell the audience, “A natural close after you’ve taught something is to ask, “Are there any questions?” But what is the difference, however, if instead I were to say, “What questions do you have? What changed?”

[The point being that we can use language in the context of a well-articulated question to remove barriers to communication.]

Yesterday Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) asked Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh a simple yet immensely powerful question,

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?”

There's removing barriers, and then there is asking something which clearly conveys an unspoken message. There are no government laws regulating men’s bodies.

“No question is so difficult to answer as that for which the answer is obvious.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Our capacity to make an impact hinges on our ability to ask powerful questions - of ourselves, and of others.

As you head into your day, think about the questions that you ask, and then ask yourself if you can think of better questions.

Stay curious, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                

More Good Things (2 minute read)

The little boy in 3A couldn’t have been older than four. Dressed in suspenders and a collared shirt, the first class seat swallowed his miniature frame, making him look like a teeny CEO. 

He was smiling and as I shuffled by I heard him say, “Good things. Good things. More good things!” Judging by his first class window seat, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, that kiddo has clearly mastered this manifestation stuff!”

After a nearly 4 hour delay my fellow passengers would have probably liked to see the young lad manifest us an on-time departure, but he’ll get there folks, give him time.

As we taxied out for takeoff his little voice repeated in my ears, “Good things. Good things. More good things.” What struck me about what he said was his tone. One might assume a boy of his age would be asking for or demanding, “more good things”, but his tone suggested an attitude of appreciation.

He was grateful. 

Last week I got a call from a friend who coaches women’s soccer in the Ivy League. She’s a great coach, and her teams have been successful, I think, largely because she’s in constant search of that extra something. Anything she can gift her team that will benefit them this season and in the many seasons of their lives after college. 

“Bets, we’re in pre-season and I wondered if you could do a webinar for our team. The past few years we’ve covered every topic from leadership to grit to mental toughness to resilience. The one topic we’ve yet to dive into is gratitude. It’s not that our kids aren’t grateful - they are - I just think there’s something more to explore there.”

Handing over the creative reigns she allowed me to design a customized 45-minute webinar and “A Season of Gratitude” came into existence. Citing work from some of the leading gratitude researchers across the country, we talked about the ways in which gratitude is a choice, a skill, a matter of perspective, and a competitive advantage. We discussed how gratitude improves sleep quality and increases athletic performance, while at the same time decreasing stress and depression. 

We applied gratitude to adversity and one insightful comment after the next tumbled from the players as they practiced, collectively, the quality of being grateful. 

During our time together they reaffirmed for me that gratitude isn’t simply a choice, a skill, a matter of perspective or a competitive advantage. It’s a way of living. 

While sitting in the airport terminal I heard countless passengers bemoan the inconvenience and rage against circumstances they could not control. 

Yet as our delayed flight rose into the now sunset-soaked sky I couldn’t help but think,

“More good things”.

[Thank you for reading and continuing to share! If you'd like to create a 45-minute gratitude experience for your workplace or team, let's connect and make it happen!]
 

communication, Connection, Life Lessons, Perspective

Walk With Me (3min read)

Lewis: “Betsy, I’d like to spend some time with you before you depart tomorrowbut my schedule is very tight. Would you care to join me for my morning walk so we can have a chat?”

“I’d love to. What time should I meet you?”

Lewis: “How about 5am?”

“Sounds great!” I said, trying to mask the realization that 5am in Houston would feel like 3am in California.

Lewis: “Brilliant. See you then.”

And that’s how I found myself taking a walk at 3am PST in someone else’s shoes.

Literally.

(I’d only packed sandals for the two day trip and had to borrow Nike’s that were 1.5 sizes too big from a fellow I’d met the day before.)

As I left my room it occurred to my sleep-addled brain that walking the dark streets of downtown Houston with a lovely 67 year-old man may not be the safest decision I’ve ever made. I quickly grabbed my phone in case of emergency, and headed to the lobby.

Upon meeting Lewis I was introduced to a safety measure far greater than my phone. Caleb was a 6’4, 270lb former offensive lineman with the presence of a tattooed giant and the warmth of southern hospitality. My hand disappeared in his as he shook it, and with that our mismatched cadre took to the streets.

I’d come to Houston to meet Lewis M. Senior, the co-CEO of Equilibria, and learn more about what they did as the “personality diversity experts”. Having heard Lewis speak a few times I was conscious of the fact that this walk could very well be a “Tuesdays With Morrie” type experience. Although “Walkies with Louie” made for a questionable book title, I imagined the pearls of wisdom might be similar.

2 hours, 8 miles, and 1 Starbucks later, I was certain of it.

Much like the path we took along the bayou, our conversation twisted and turned through the topics of personality, innovation, diversity, inclusion, vulnerability, communication, confrontation, connection, possibility and human potential.

I was impressed by what was included in our conversation, and even more impressed by what was not; there were differences of opinion, but there was no judgment. There was an eagerness to share, but there were no interruptions. There was a genuine desire to understand which left no one feeling misunderstood.

Not to go all Nicholas Sparks on you, but it was absolutely A Walk to Remember.

It will take a while to digest all that happened on that walk, but the moral of my story is this...

The greatest gift we can offer another person, is our time.

When someone offers to gift you their time, show up for them - even if you feel unprepared. (Josh, thank you for the shoes!)

And finally, if you’re fortunate enough to know people who make you feel safe - whether to share your thoughts or venture into the unknown - take every opportunity to invite them to walk beside you.

 

[Photo credit: GETTY IMAGES/BOONCHAI WEDMAKAWAND]

Coaching, communication, Change, Life Lessons, mental skills

Step Into the Ring: Hurt vs. Harm

In conversations over the years a good friend of mine has routinely said that she desires a relationship with someone who isn’t afraid to “get in the ring” with her. Someone who will call her on her shit when she deserves it, and who will put on the gloves to protect themselves from being knocked around. Someone who (when necessary) will stand up and fight because they know who they are and what they deserve.
 

For much of my life, I was not that person. 

 

Before we are able to get into the ring with someone we have to have confidence in ourselves as a fighter.


I was once someone who freely admitted I did not like confrontation. Over the years I have learned that confrontation – when practiced and done skillfully – is one of the healthiest things anyone can do for building trust within a relationship. I’ve learned that conflict and disagreement can co-exist with love and compassion. Most importantly, I’ve learned that building the body of a fighter who can step into the ring with anyone involves understanding what it means to set and hold boundaries. Without them, the hits will keep coming and getting knocked out is inevitable.
 
We often fail to set boundaries for fear for hurting someone’s feelings, never realizing that our failure to set boundaries eventually results in lasting harm – either to ourselves, the relationship, or both.
 

Hurts will heal, but harm endures.

 
Assuming that others should know our boundaries sets them up for failure. People don’t know where our boundaries lie until we tell them or show them, and most folks won’t respect our boundaries until we do.
 
We tend to think of boundaries as restrictive, but in reality boundaries are limits that promote integrity in our lives. Setting them allows us to live with greater energy and intention and we get to draw the lines in any area we choose; with our family, friends, partners, co-workers, strangers… in conversations, in relation to our bodies or to experiences or emotions… the list is endless.
 

If you’ve yet to set boundaries in an area of your life for fear of hurting someone, please consider the harm it may cause by failing to do so.
 

Remember: The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefited from you having none. 


Setting boundaries can be challenging, but it is absolutely worth it!
 

May you cultivate the ability to step into any ring with confidence and fight skillfully and passionately for our own integrity.
 

P.S. If you could use some help with your training, please reach out.

"Are we there yet?" (2 minute read)

As I boarded my flight to Dallas there was a woman behind me with a little boy. I first noticed them as we stood at the gate waiting for Group 6 to be called.

 

“Are we there yet?”, the boy asked.

 

“Not yet sweetie. It’s time to get on the plane now.” she said, taking his hand.

 

We entered the plane and waited in the aisle while a passenger struggled with the overhead bin.

 

“Are we there yet?”, the boy asked again.

 

“Nope. Not yet. We need to sit down first.”, she replied with notable patience.

 

I gave her an empathetic smile and she sighed before asking me, “Are we there yet?”

 

I laughed and said, “Growing up that was a 25 cent question. You could ask, but it was gonna cost ya.”

 

Are we there yet?

 

As a child this was a question I couldn’t afford to ask. Maybe once or twice, sure, but after that my pockets were empty.

 

As an adult I now realize that asking this question still costs us – not in money, but in time.

 

From an early age we’re taught to take the next step; eat your vegetables, grow big and strong, go to school, get a job, go to more school, get a better job, find a someone, earn a promotion, get engaged, get a dog, get married, have kids…

 

It’s shockingly easy to focus on what’s next; in our work, our relationships, our lives. We spend our days traveling to “The Island Where It All Works Out”. Passage to the island can be found aboard boats with names like, “When I ____”, or “Once I _____”, or “After I _____”. The problem with the Island, though, is it’s a mirage… constantly juuuust out of reach leaving us continually in transit, yet never arriving.

 

“Are we there yet?” is no longer a 25 cent question. It’s costing us our lives.

 

As I write this, Macklemore’s song “Good Old Days” echoes through my headphones…

“Maybe these are the moments,

maybe I’ve been missin what it’s about;

Been scared of the future,

Thinkin’ about the past

while missing out on now.”

 

But Betsy, it’s called “the PURSUIT of happiness” for a reason.

 

Yes – and absolutely keep striving! Grow, expand, continue taking your next steps. But along the way may we also take time to rest and appreciate exactly where we are and precisely how far we’ve come.

 

Are we there yet?

 

Yeah kiddo, we’re here. Welcome to now.

For Your Future Self

Having just finished facilitating a webinar I sat at my desk trying to motivate myself to go ride the bike. It sounded something like this,

“Seriously, Bets? You taught spin for SEVEN YEARS! 45-minute classes, sometimes back-to-back, and you can’t go ride for 20 minutes?”

It was a solid point.

I wondered how that could be - that I could teach for so long and now struggled to find the motivation to head to the gym. Wondering was, debatably, another form of procrastination, but the conclusion I came to was this;

Teaching classes was for other people. This was just for me.

That was the difference, but spin wasn’t the only area of life where this rang true.

I admittedly have a history of showing up for others yet failing, at times, to show up for myself. If someone needs me, I’m there. But when I’ve needed me, I can’t say I've always been present. [Yes, this is absolutely related to things like “self-love” and “self-worth”. Understanding your own value it’s a game changer. That journey of self-discovery was not a quick one for me, but I’m grateful for it].

So there I sat, still at my desk and not on the bike. Having realized the difference my question now became, “How could I change my thinking to act as if I was showing up for others when it was just for me?

The answer: my future self. She is someone I haven’t met yet. Her energy, health, well-being, creativity, ability to do things like present and engage and connect and design and everything else – she is who I am responsible to.

Tonight I hop on a plane for in prep for delivering an all-day workshop tomorrow. While standing for 7 hours in front of a room full of strangers, at some point future me will feel a heckuva lot better having ridden the bike for 20 minutes today.

Tugging on my padded bike shorts (super sexy, I know) I was reminded of the old adage, “Do one thing a day that your future self will thank you for.”

This is not new.

What is new, however, is it's application. Most of us have heard that quote before, but how many of us routinely live it? As in, daily?

I’m currently coaching someone who is so far from her ideal that it seems nearly impossible to get there. Nothing in her life has ever shown her that what she is attempting to do for herself IS, in fact, possible.

What she does have is perspective – an understanding that an accumulation of small things over time is what it will take to get where she wants to go. Each night she texts me a list of the things she did that day that her future self will thank her for.

Not just one, but four or five or six… She’s living it. And, it’s working! And I'm incredibly proud of what she's done.

So here’s to showing up. If not for you, for your future self and the way that person will impact the world.

If you're looking to do something for your future self and could use some help, let's connect to see if coaching may be right for you.

it doesn't work unless... (2 min read)

8:12am - notices battery at 41%. plugs phone into power strip.

9:47am - notices battery at 34%. turns power strip on.

I laugh at myself often, and this morning was no exception! I hadn’t had coffee yet, but as I turned the power strip on I thought, “Geez, how often do we do this?!” …

First Class and Thanksgiving

I’m 34 and this week I flew First Class for the first time.
 
As a Delta employee I get to fly standby on any flight and arrived at the San Diego airport around 10am to start the journey back to Austin. There wasn’t room on the first flight I’d chosen, or on the second…

Flight 3217

As flight 3217 taxied in off the runway I walked along the left wing until it stopped on the appropriate mark for a 717 aircraft. I chocked the wheels and placed the safety delineators (orange cones) around the wingtip…