Two ways to show up

1: VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.  

That’s our world. There are two ways we can show up.  

Option one? A reactive mindset. “We feel threatened with fear, stress, self-doubt, ego, and conflict; where an unconscious and reflexive series of protective responses can dominate our psyche and ripple through our actions, activating similar experiences in others that can instantly drain energy and fragment teams as well as families,” writes Dr. Daniel Friedland in Leading Well from Within: A Neuroscience and Mindfulness-Based Framework for Conscious Leadership.  

Fortunately, there is a different and a better path forward: “The other involves a creative mindset, where with conscious awareness, self-compassion, and courage, we can lean in and grow, even in our most challenging circumstances,” Danny* observes. “The essence of being proactive is to take responsibility for [our] life rather than reacting to outside circumstances or other people. This is especially important in high-stakes, stressful situations.”

With this second path, “inspiration, energy, and empathy are present, and innovation can flourish, enabling a team to work well together with transparency and trust and become aligned in a shared vision to more fully focus its collective energy to serve others and something larger than themselves,” writes Danny.

2: Yes, VUCA is our reality. But, the challenges and stress we face are not inherently bad. Stress is “simply energy that can be used in both positive and negative ways,” notes Danny. He cites Kelly McGonigal‘s research which shows that we can choose to see stress as harmful or helpful. When we learn how to engage stress as an asset, we can perform at a higher level and generate personal growth. 

The really good news? We can learn to show up more often with a creative mindset. Even when we get triggered and act out, we can recover. Yesterday, we observed as Danny showed up at a crucial board meeting and lashed out at a colleague. Once he became aware, he “consciously chose to align my decisions and actions around what was truly important to me and how I could best serve others.” 

The key, “once we are triggered, feel threatened, and become reactive,” is to use specific skills and practices to help us “get out of the downward spiral caused by feeling threatened and overwhelmed with stress,” notes Danny. How quickly can we reorient towards a conscious and creative mindset?

3: Danny’s creative vs. reactive mindsets are similar to what Carol Dweck characterizes as the “growth mindset” vs. the “fixed mindset.” When we show up with a creative mindset, we don’t see failure as permanent. We realize our setbacks are learning opportunities. “Because people with a growth mindset believe they are always learning, they know they don’t have all the answers, and they never will,” Danny notes. “Such a perspective results in a sense of humility, which makes them less likely to overrate these positive qualities.”

He contrasts this approach with the reactive or fixed mindset, where we see our qualities as “fixed and permanent.” In this mindset, we’re “either capable, intelligent, or successful, or [we’re] not . . . Failure is threatening and unacceptable,” Danny writes. “Thus, it’s not surprising to see reactive leaders overestimate their abilities. It’s hard to admit you’re struggling if you believe you can’t improve.”

More next week.


Reflection: Are there certain people, situations, or circumstances that tend to bring on my reactive mindset?

Action: The next time I feel myself sliding in a reactive mindset, take a moment to “pause, notice, and choose.”

*Danny was my friend, mentor, and business coach. He passed away after a yearlong battle with brain cancer on October 30, 2021. To watch Danny’s memorial, click here. Note: service begins at 12:45 time marker.

How to celebrate someone the right way

Many of us focus on our weaknesses.  We focus on improving in areas where we don’t currently excel.

PCI is a strengths-based company.  We encourage our associates to identify people’s strengths, what they are good at and what they are passionate about, and put those strengths into action.  

Consider the amount of effort and energy it takes to improve a skill from “poor” to “fair.”  Now, imagine instead using that same effort and energy to improve a different skill from “good” to “great.”  

This is where the magic happens.  

Which is one of the reasons that recognition at work is so important.  

As leaders, when we identify and praise someone for what they are doing well, we bring attention to their strengths.  This motivates people to continue to learn and grow in these areas.

Yesterday and today, we are looking at some lessons from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  While the author’s intended audience is parents, several of the lessons are applicable more generally, including this one on how to give effective praise.  

Not all praise has the desired impact.

Imagine being told: “You’re a great ___________” (fill in your job title).”  Or, “You are so thoughtful.”  Or, “You are a rock star.” 

The problem with statements like these above is they don’t tell us what we did right and therefore we can’t build upon it in the future.  Recognition like this is too generic and fails to land.

To give effective praise, Adele and Elaine offer a simple, three-part formula:  

1: Describe what we see.  Imagine a video camera capturing the scene.  We want to describe in detail what the person has done.

2: Describe what we feel: “It makes me so happy to work with someone who demonstrates this level of follow-through.”

3: Sum it up with one word: “That’s what I call excellence!”

Being specific provides insight for the person being praised about exactly what they did that was noteworthy which motivates them to do it again in the future.  When we affirm someone at their best, it gives them something they can remind themselves of during times of doubt or discouragement.  

When we share how we feel and how the person’s behavior impacted us, it cannot be argued with or denied as it is our subjective experience. 

The other benefit of this approach?

It requires us to really look, really listen, really notice, and then say aloud what we see and feel.  

In short, this practice requires us to be more aware.  Which is the key to a richer, better life.

Two other suggestions from Adele and Elaine:

1: Avoid the type of praise that hints at past weakness or failure – i.e. “I never thought you would be able to solve that problem.  But you did.”

2: Avoid praise that starts with “I’m so proud of you …” which shifts the focus from their achievement to our pride and what they need to do to make us proud.  Note: this advice is similar to what Carol Dweck offers in her brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  Instead, we may say, “You must be so proud of yourself” which affirms the person.


Reflection:  When I give praise, do I tend toward generalities, or do I share the specifics of what I see and feel?

Action:  Be proactive about recognizing someone today.

Observations on 100 Years: Becoming a Learning Organization

There’s an expression I like: the day you stop learning is the day you start dying.  That can happen when we are 17.  Or 97.

This week we’re exploring five lessons which have helped PCI survive and thrive over the last 100 years. 

Lesson #3:  Becoming a learning organization – learning, growth, and getting better at getting better – is the best strategy to stay ahead of the frantic and unpredictable change which characterizes modern life.    

It’s also a lot of fun.  Growth is never boring!

There are two primary strategies to pursue continuous learning in our lives and that of our organizations.

Strategy #1 is to invest ourselves in our own self-development.  In prior RiseWithDrew posts, we’ve looked at the power of the Miracle Morning where we get up 30-minutes or an hour earlier and start our day with intention.  This time is our time.  It is perfectly suited for continuous self-development.  We can read, watch a TED talk, envision the type of person we want to be, or journal about our goals.

Strategy #2 is to pay attention and learn from our mistakes.  Yes, reading and learning from others is smart.  But we can also learn and grow through our own experiences.  

In her brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck encourages us to understand our intelligence can be significantly increased through effort, to be proactive about seeking feedback, to embrace experimentation, and to realize setbacks and mistakes are part of the learning process and to persist when we are frustrated.

Carol calls this approach the “growth mindset” where our goal is to learn, improve, and get better.  We understand and accept that this process involves experiment with different strategies and by definition will take time.  She contrasts the growth mindset with the “fixed mindset” where our primary goal is to look smart.  Here, we experience setbacks as frustrating failures and often give up.  Or worse, stay in our lane and resist trying new approaches all together.

As leaders, we set the tone for our organizations.  We can encourage our teams to experiment and learn.  We can also be transparent about our own errors and what we learned from them.  The seeds of tomorrow’s success can often be found in today’s failure.  

Last year, I championed a new approach with a new venture which did not work as well as I’d expected.  At our Quarterly Business Meeting in which all 400+ of our associates participate, I made it a point to share (1) it was my idea to take the approach which resulted in over $1 million in lost revenue; and (2) we had learned from this experiment and made improvements which ultimately resulted in significantly better results. 

I could have skipped #1 and gone right to #2.  But, my goal is to create an environment where all of us at PCI are experimenting and being thoughtful and sharing the lessons we’ve learned as a result.


Reflection:  When has a lesson learned from a failure or setback ultimately resulted in a much better outcome? 

Action:  Journal about my answer to the question above.