Who Are the Best Leaders?

They say with age comes wisdom, and the older I get, the more I believe this to be true. To be clear, wisdom is not knowledge, but the ability to see the landscape accurately where you’re positioned, recognize your strengths and limitations, and influence those around you to contribute their best work. With each passing year, as I rely less on my own fallible knowledge and misunderstandings and instead draw out those who become the heroes of their own stories, the more I see great leadership emerge.

The best leaders aren’t those who come up with the best ideas, but those who encourage the team conversations that contribute diverse thoughts, debate ideas, and develop a forward plan. The best leaders usually share their opinions last so as not to intimidate or direct the conversation. However, they ensure that the team identifies, discusses, and considers the risks and merits in the decision-making process.

The best leaders ask lots of questions that drive discussion, because they have enough wisdom to know they might not know it all. Many leaders, who practice this approach, usually have a solution in mind. These leaders are often surprised how the outcome is a modified version or a completely different approach. The benefit of helping others solve their problems is greater buy-in and commitment to carry out the consensus solution.     

Did you think the best leaders had the best ideas? Perhaps you may rethink what you thought. I once read, the best leaders let go of their ego. How well do you agree with this statement?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Has your DE&I Achieved Belonging?

First there was Diversity (D) with affirmative action, then Inclusion (I) was added to the equation and more recently Equity (E). With DE&I at the forefront of current political and social action, where does this initiative go next? How do we measure the outcomes? How do we know when we’ve reached the goals of DE&I?

As a part-time consultant with ALULA, my kudos go to these leaders who are taking DE&I to the next level—belonging (B). With the launch of their intranet site UBelong, ALULA has tapped into an important fourth variable or at least the ultimate measurement of what DE&I set out to accomplish.

Why is belonging an important part of the DE&I equation? Because it taps into an important motivation that explains why people do what they do. Belonging represents how people feel—a powerful element—about being in connection with a company, colleagues, a cause, or community, and in general with each other.

Diversity represents a number, equity measures distribution, inclusion focuses on the behavior, and belonging describes the feeling. Companies can be committed to diversity in hiring and promotion, allocate training and services to those who need them most, and practice inclusive behaviors and yet still miss the mark on creating a deep sense of community. Inclusion can positively influence belonging no doubt but doesn’t guarantee it. 

Companies tend to shy away from dealing with employees’ feelings. Yes, feelings are real and powerful motivations, and definitely challenging to influence and measure. Yet, if we don’t try to tap into and influence how people feel, we won’t be taking DE&I as far as it can go.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Leading By Walking About (LBWA)

If you spent any of your professional years working in the 1980’s, you’re probably at least slightly familiar Tom Peter’s best-selling management practice of Managing By Walking About (MBWA). This highly influential concept was for managers to walk the workplace and engage in discussions with people in all positions to define what’s working, what’s not, and what can be improved.

Simple stuff, but at that time less common than you might imagine. Later, in my opinion, the introduction of personal computers, email systems, as well as the shift of work for most managers to be partial individual contributors, undermined this successful practice.

Today’s times call for a step up, and what I’ll call, a modernization of the old practice. I believe we need to launch “Leading By Walking About” (LBWA). Technology advances and now the virtual work arrangement has physically siloed employees, yet that doesn’t mean that LBWA can’t be adapted. Leading By Walking About can be modernized for the times, it just might be a slower walk.

When was the last time that you called a colleagues or direct report and asked:

  1. What do you think is working well at the company, process, etc?
  2. What’s not working as well?
  3. What do you think can be improved? And how?

The premise hasn’t changed that the people doing the work are the best people to provide feedback and insights about the work. Leadership is about asking the right questions to the right people at the right time.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Coaching Vs. Counseling for the Introverted

A life coaching client said to me regarding his experience with prior counseling, “I do a lot of talking but don’t feel it changes anything. I’m an internal processor, not an external one. I like to think and pray on it.” When he shared this thought, I saw some past correlations in my practice with other clients.

Reflecting on clients I’ve come to know well and understand as introverts have also commented, “I’ve been to counseling for years, and never made the progress that I’ve had in a few coaching sessions with you?” When I asked one why he thought that, his response: “We have a dialogue, you give me different perspectives and tools, then I can go off, think about it, and have work to do. I like having goals because it helps me see the progress I’m making. I didn’t get any of that in counseling. I basically answered questions and wasn’t even sure what I said was true at the time. I needed more time to think about it.”

Why Coaching May Be More Effective Than Counseling

Coaching is different than counseling, and I believe for people who identify with introversion, coaching can be more impactful process, because it enables the client to do most of the work outside of the session and at their pace. Coaching is future focused toward change and allows the client to process thoughts and feelings in the environment that serves them best. There’s plenty of work to be done outside the session, but during it, the coach provides perspectives, insights, and tools, as well as serves as a brainstorming partner.

Counseling, on the other hand, demands to know your thoughts and feelings right there to questions asked by the counselor such as (1) what do you think of… or (2) how do you feel about…  As one introverted coaching client told me, “I would get asked questions and feel like I needed to respond. I wasn’t in touch with my feelings and wanted to go off and think about it. I wished my counselor would’ve just sent me a list of questions that I mull over before showing up. I would’ve felt better prepared and that I got my money’s worth.” Additionally, my clients who’ve shared their experiences with counseling said they got insights into their feelings, but then was left with the unanswered question of “what do I do next”.

Many counselors never see or interact with their clients between sessions. Coaches usually make themselves available in multiple capacities in between. Counseling has its place and benefits but don’t discounted that life coaching can be more impactful, especially for clients who prefer introverted processing.

There’s an expression that rings true: not everyone needs a counselor, but everyone can benefit from a coach. And this may be especially true for those who self-identify as introverted.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Self-Confidence: The Unintended Consequences of the Helicopter Parent

The best parents have the best intentions for their children, but in today’s times, many are unaware of the unintended consequences of their decisions that are undermining their children to grow into productive and fulfilled adults. As a life and marriage coach to parents, who are struggling with parenting of younger children, I’m seeing a disturbing trend—late teenagers and young adults with low self-concept and confidence in their abilities to “adult”. With all the attention on how to help your child have high self-esteem, how come there’s such a high degree of young adults by their own admission who don’t have it? I have a human behaviorist theory that I’ve tested in my coaching practice. Parents who’ve implemented it have had success when started early enough in a child’s life.

The Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence Problem

Parents want good things for their children, and in the process, have typically become what most would label the “helicopter” parent. The helicopter parent makes sure to give their child everything they can afford, clears the struggle from their child’s life, and heaven forbid, when their child makes a mistake, swoops in to “save the day”. They shield their child in how the real world operates and the negative consequences of their child’s poor decisions. They make their child’s life as comfortable as possible, under the rationale that they want their child to have it better than they did.

What these parents may not have self-reflected on is how their struggle helped them learn, grow, and develop resilience to not give up and to find a way through the disappointments and rejections that come with living life. Parents, with the best of intentions, are robbing their children of those teachable experiences that afford their children the opportunity to become masters over their own life by struggling through and finding a way to the other side of their disappointments.

What are the unintended consequences of the “soft” life? These young adults have no self-confidence to work through their problems, because they’ve never had the opportunity to flex and build that muscle. They know they’ll be on their own and feel ill-equipped. They know it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be confronted with a “big” issue, and it’s causing them incredible anxiety. When will the shoe drop?

Compounding the issue is that their low self-confidence makes them unattractive to a partner who has self-esteem and self-confidence. The type of partner they attract is similar in their own struggle. I know that parents don’t want this outcome for their children.

The Solution

As a parent are you questioning whether your parenting style is setting your child up for success? The earlier in your child’s life you can catch yourself in unhealthy parenting decisions, the better the chance of self-correction and getting your child onto a development track that builds resilience and self-confidence.

If your children are older, there’s not much you can do as a parent, other than recommend an intervention. As a life coach, I work with young adults who are trying to move forward from their parenting experiences and get on a healthier adult track. If you’re a parent or a young adult who wants to further explore this topic, reach out for a conversation to discuss how I might be able to help.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Work Trends: Coaching at the Office for Mental Well-Being

Today there’s a lot of talk about mental health in the workplace. COVID has taken a measurable toll on people’s lives and their capacity to cope and remain resilient. Depression, fatigue, and loss productivity are only a few outcomes for those struggling to keep jobs, do more with less, parent, and work from home. How are people responding? Prescriptions for anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and insomnia have increased by double digits.   

Medical intervention has its place, and companies should be applauded for offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and other counseling services through their benefits program. However, there’s less medically evasive solutions that can help workers not only to cope but find ways to thrive in the new normal. The best tool in the tool life kit may be coaching.

Many times, people don’t need a pill to calm their nerves, they need a coach to help them see a different picture: set a vision, strategize on options, develop a plan, learn new tools, adopt a different mindset, find support, and partner with them through the journey to the opposite side of the continuum of mental well-being. Many people already have the solution inside of themselves. They need a coach to help them untangle the thoughts into a well-conceived plan or share some tools that will make them the master of their lives.

I applaud those businesses that offer coaching to their employees as an alternative to medical intervention. If your company doesn’t offer free or nominal fee coaching, there’s nothing stopping you from hiring your own coach. Coaching isn’t therapy, it’s targeted support. Do you need a pill, or do you really need a coach?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Work Trends: Living Your Values at Work

I have a forecast! All the disruption going on in the world today is forcing people to reflect on who they are and what they stand for. I believe now, more than ever, people will seek to find companies that align with their values. In the past, living your values was reserved more for the domain of family, friendships, churches, and community. Where you worked was more about the best place to make money, advance a career, build for retirement, and have fun while doing what you loved.  

In America, companies are taking more of a role in shaping the country’s culture, belief system, and citizens’ values. For instance, Amazon is now paying certain employees to take time off to reflect on their white privilege. Others are dictating COVID vaccination as a basis of employment or as some of my clients have experienced—coworker bullying if they haven’t chosen to take the vaccine. Other companies, with a servant heart, require or put pressure on employees to serve as an employee group in charitable endeavors.

With more companies flying their value flag and requiring employees to be part of what they represent, they influence their employees’ attitudes, personal belief system, and behaviors. I forecast a trend toward more businesses bringing their values to the forefront and attracting those employees who share similar views. Your decision to work for a specific company or an employer hiring you may be heavily decided by a value formula more than other historical factors.  

If you are searching for work, perhaps it’s time to get clarity on your values and how to search for companies that align with them. If you’re a business, today may be the perfect time to get clarity on your values, how to promote them, and then screen potential candidates. If you are interested in exploring this topic further, reach out for a conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The Second Wave of a New Normal: How Will You Respond?

People keep talking about a new normal and asking: what’s the new normal going to look like and will life be anything like pre-COVID? The reality: we’re moving into a second wave of “a new normal”. The first was exclusively working from home, fighting for internet bandwidth, home schooling while working full-time, learning how to cook versus eat out, finding a closet to work privately, wearing masks, obsessing over pandemic statistics on TV, entertaining bored children, and keeping teenagers from consuming even more technology. These were the struggles for the lucky who still had jobs. As if we didn’t have enough imbalance, we added several more responsibilities to juggle in new ways. Some people are mastering the change, while others are still trying. Now…

…the pendulum is swinging back. Just when you felt like you’d gotten command of this new way of balancing work and home, your employer talks about bringing you back into the office. But this isn’t about stepping into the old way from a year ago. Not everyone is going back at the same time, the work environment is setup differently, and some services you depend on for the old normal aren’t available or they cost more. You’ve restructured life during the regime of COVID. We are entering the second wave of a new normal, which…

…brings on a new set of problems and possible anxieties. Perhaps even your pets are having separation anxiety thinking about you returning to the office and leaving them home all day. What can you do?

  • Acknowledge that it’s okay that you’re feeling overwhelmed and recognize it’s because we are entering into a second round of trying to create a new normal. Give yourself credit for weathering through the first round and have faith that you can do it again. This isn’t as easy as picking up where you left off.
  • Decide what mindset you’re going to adopt? Are you going to have a fixed or growth mindset? If you’re not sure what mindset you have, you can learn more about mindset by reading The Power of a Growth Mindset and the Risk of Holding on the Fixed. How will you look at the change? Will it be an opportunity to create something new or will you grudgingly look at it as “woe is me or why me”? Will you see this change as an opportunity for growth or an excuse of why you have it so bad?
  • Find your tribe and support system. You weren’t designed to go it alone. We were built to live in community, to support one another, and to be supported. We need to be both givers and receivers of support.
  • Consider hiring a life coach to be your partner to help you develop a vision of your future, design a game plan, hold you accountable, and be your cheerleader.

We won’t be going back as we move into the future. Tomorrow brings a new set of struggles never seen before. Stay confident, have faith, set a vision, create a plan, and take action.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

The Power of the Growth Mindset and Risk of Holding onto the Fixed

People talk about wanting more knowledge, additional talents, and greater personal strengths. They may also talk about working on their character, understanding their core values, and identifying their personality preferences. I bet rarely will you hear people express a desire to expand their “growth mindset”. You may wonder (1) what is a mindset and (2) why is it important to understand it. Because mindset can predict behavior and future results.

Have you ever been in a situation and asked yourself (1) how can he think that way or (2) why did she do that? No one intentionally chooses an illogical action or makes an illogical decision. Although there may be an untold number of factors, one contributing explanation could be a difference in mindset between you and the other person.

Your mindset is a reflection of your belief system. Think of mindset on a continuum, anchored on one end by “growth” and “fixed” on the other. Are there different areas of your life where you have a different mindset approach? Answer the questions below and self-assess where on the continuum you may fall today. 

The Growth Mindset

  • I’m not discouraged by failure. In fact, identifying with failure isn’t difficult for me, because I think of it as learning.
  • I have a passion for stretching myself and sticking with it even when things aren’t going well.
  • I routinely take inventory of my strengths and weaknesses and aren’t afraid to acknowledge them to others.
  • When I reflect on my setbacks, I turn them into future successes through perseverance and resilience.
  • I get excited to see how I improve when I continue to press forward.
  • I surround myself with people who are smarter than me, so I can learn from them.
  • I love to be challenged and learn new things.
  • I like hard problems.
  • I readily admit when I’ve made a mistake.
  • My failures don’t’ define me. I can always change if I choose to.
  • I feel comfortable sharing my honest opinions, even when it’s not popular or part of the group think.
  • I can easily forgive people.
  • I prefer to be acknowledged for my commitment and effort rather than my results.
  • I welcome coaching, because I want to improve.

The Fixed Mindset

  • I look for opportunities to confirm my level of intelligence, character, and talents.
  • I’m concerned whether people consider me successful.
  • I strive to be accepted.
  • I sometimes avoid situations where I believe I will fail and be judged.
  • I believe talent is something people are born with. Practice can only improve talent so much.
  • My intelligence is something that I can’t change much.
  • I find it difficult to admit mistakes.
  • I look for ways and people to validate me.
  • I make safe choices where I have a reasonable opportunity to succeed.
  • In situation I can influence, I’m usually the smartest one in the room.
  • I like easy problems.
  • I typically transform failure (I failed) into an identity (I’m a failure).
  • It makes me feel better to hang out with people who are worse off than me.
  • I blame my failures on other people or situations, rarely taking responsibility for my failures.
  • I believe if you are talented or smart it should come naturally and take little effort.
  • Effort is required for those people who don’t have talent.
  • I don’t usually seek feedback.
  • I feel uneasy or uncomfortable with people give me feedback.
  • I do things for the sake of receiving praise.
  • I find myself judging people.
  • I don’t see the benefit of a coach.

“The worst fear of the fixed mindset person is to try and still fail without the ability to make excuses or blame others.”

Growth Mindset Benefits

What are the benefits of the growth mindset in companies? Studies show that employees have much higher trust in their company and leaders, and have a greater sense of empowerment, ownership, and commitment when led my leaders with a growth mindset.

In business, fixed mindset leaders can damage company performance. At the extreme, these leaders become so concerned with their reputation for personal greatness, they may set the company up for failure after they leave. What greater testament to their greatness than for the company to fall apart after they resign. They don’t want great teams; they want to be the smarter person in the room. The fixed mindset leaders have a strong need to prove their superiority and fail to develop and empower employees.

The fixed mindset leader causes a cascade effect. They become controlling and everyone starts worrying about being judged. Their direct reports stop learning, taking risks, and wait for the orders to come down from above. And then they wonder, “Where’s the talent?”

You Choose Your Mindset

The study of mindset provides thought-provoking insights into the impact on relationships, business, and life success. The good news is that you may now have a fixed mindset, but it doesn’t have to stay fixed. You can choose to move toward a growth mindset, and the mindset you choose will profoundly affect the way you lead your life.

If you’d like to learn more about mindset, check out Dr. Carol Dweck’s Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential. And if you’d like to do a deep dive, we can schedule a coaching session.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

What You Want from Your Leaders

You spoke. My informal LinkedIn poll asked: in your opinion, what behavior undermines a leader’s influence the most? I had colleagues betting on which of the four answers would rise to the top. A few said they couldn’t choose, because they were all important. No doubt.

Where does your choice align with the following results?

  • Micro-managing your work: 27%
  • Under-appreciating your value: 23%
  • Not providing clear direction: 21%
  • Failing to meet commitments: 29%

Although these are only a handful of leadership behaviors, what conclusions might be gleaned from the limited data.

  • With the highest percentage of votes for “failing to meet commitments”, what is this behavior really measuring? I’d propose it undermines the foundation of trust in any relationship. The resulting mindset: if I can’t count on you to do what you said you’d do, I can’t trust you.
  • “Micro-managing your work” received the second highest number of votes. Again, what does this behavior imply about the leader’s relational influence? I’d suggest that direct reports would infer that their leader didn’t trust them to deliver the quality of work and/or meet important deadlines.

As a leader, when was the last time you evaluated and then developed a plan to expand the trust factor with your direct reports, your teams, and even your family members? Trust is the foundation of every relationship in your life. Without trust, anything you build on its shaky foundation has a high risk of toppling. If you value leadership, you’ll spend some time exploring the value of trust in what you do, what you say, and how you lead.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life story. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com