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

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

How to Succeed with People without Trying Too Much

A Leader’s Perspective

Intrigued? Sound a bit counter-intuitive? Because we want to be liked or successful, sometimes we just try too hard with people. And trying usually shows up in selling oneself, which is the opposite of how to succeed with people. There’s a better approach to connect with people and achieve more success in leading them.

Most people focus on making a good first impression, and yes, first impressions pertaining to appearance, body language, and facial expressions are important. However, first impressions extend into those first few words spoken. If you’re like many, when you initially meet someone, especially someone important, you might start talking about yourself, a project, or chat about the safe topics like the weather. Instead, focus on the other person. Be a study of other people and help them FEEL accepted and valued: understood, needed, and affirmed for who they are. When you turn the focus on others, and genuinely engage to talk about themselves, you win a friend, ally, or colleague.

You may not feel skilled at this point in making people the center of attention. I wouldn’t expect you to be if you haven’t practiced it. I only wish these relationship skills were taught in high school or college. If so, we’d all be more prepared when we stepped into the real world. At first, you will likely have to be intentional in how you connect, but don’t worry, with practice, it will become second nature.

Some concepts you need to keep in mind:

  1. People can spot fake. Understand who you are, and if you’re not happy with how you show up, develop and take action in changing your attitudes and behaviors. Always operate within your authentic self.
  2. Build trust across all your relationships. Trust is both the foundation and mortar in every relationship. Trust starts with you, and if it’s an area you’d like to learn how to deepen it, reach out for a conversation. It’s an essential element worth exploring if you need help.
  3. Engage people beyond the surface conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so ask lots of good open-ended questions that stimulate thought, make people laugh, or put people more at ease.
  4. Ask people for advice. People love to be asked what they think and believe as long as they know their response will land on non-judgmental ears.
  5. Find common ground. What do you share in common? You might be interested what you learn when you ask meaningful open-ended questions.
  6. Identify people’s strengths, then find opportunities to leverage those strengths as well as promote them.  

Overall, people are complex, because they are a mixture of core values, personality preference, motivations, and external pressures. However, as human beings we all share the deep desire to FEEL loved and accepted for who we are despite being a work in progress. We acknowledge that not everyone has to like us, but we want to FEEL valued.

When you interact with others, how do you make them FEEL? If you’re a leader, inspiring people is less about logic and more about how you make people FEEL. If you’d like to explore specific situations or relationships, or need a tune-up, schedule a coaching session. I can 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 stories. 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 4R’s to B2B Selling Success in the Virtual World

How difficult are you finding it to connect with new clients in this business environment that continues to go more viral? If your job focus is new business development, landing new clients has become more challenging. In the 3-R Strategy for B2B Success, the new selling world requires a story that answers one or more of the key selling drivers of RISK, REGULATION, or RETURN. The 3-R strategy brings a technical solution with your product or service. Many would have you believe that relationship doesn’t matter as much as it once did. I’m not sold on that conclusion.

At its most fundamental level, sales is one person saying “yes” to another, unless of course we are talking about an online auction facilitated exclusively by a software program. The human factor hasn’t yet been eliminated from the selling equation. Therefore, selling success in the new virtual B2B world is still focused on leveraging the 3-R strategy on top of the fourth R, otherwise, known as RELATIONSHIP.

How Relationship Building Should Pivot

Gone or minimized is the in-person, face-to-face relationship building meeting, replaced by the virtual call. [Note: If you’re still showing your clients a dark screen during Zoom, turn on your camera.] Building trust, demonstrating competence, and growing likeability on-line requires a more knowledgeable and intentional strategy.

I know this firsthand, because I’m an independent professional coach and consultant. Having already developed an in-person relationship before COVID, it’s easy to continue the relationship virtually. However, it becomes more challenging to make new connections and establish new clients.

Virtual selling requires different or exaggerated techniques. The most effective relationship builders have a strong command of people skills and interpersonal intelligence. They know that communication comprises 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% words. Unfortunately, virtual meetings significantly cut peripheral vision, so that both parties can miss key body language signals, and depending on visual screen quality, critical feedback on facial expressions may be overlooked. Today, salespeople no longer have the handshake in their toolkit that helps convey likeability and confidence.

Virtual Selling Strategies

Below are a few of the new or expand skills that the best salespeople deploy in virtual selling: 

  • First impressions are made within the first few seconds. We decide whether we believe, like, and trust someone before ever having heard their voice. Whether conscious or not, we are intentionally trying to assess and decide whether you are friend/foe, winner/loser, ally/enemy in the most primitive of terms. The best salespeople show and use their hands in virtual calls take up as much of the screen without appearing be under the microscope, sit erect and keep shoulders back, and look straight into the camera at eye level.
  • The most effective salespeople avoid the small talk and focus on stimulating conversations starters. Why? Because it increases the dopamine and pleasure centers of the brain. The best salespeople ask questions that allow clients to share about themselves. Fresh questions might involve some homework to find some interesting topic to open the conversation. A powerful conversation starter might be, “I saw on LinkedIn that you’re involved with Habitat for Humanity. How did you get in involved with that organization?” or “Your company appears to be a disruptor in the industry. I admire what they’re doing? How did you come to work for them?”

These are just two selling strategy examples that help build a relational foundation to do business in these virtual times. If you’d like to explore some of the other powerful relationship building strategies over video conferencing techniques, reach out to schedule your 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 stories. 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 3-R Strategy for B2B Selling

The new virtual work world is forcing a pivot in selling strategy. In the past, most salespeople focused on building a relationship first with the expectation of a product sale later. Unfortunately, the days of private, face-to-face, distraction-free conversations in the privacy of a client’s office are minimized or even over for some. If you can still get your foot in the door and build a relationship first, go for it! However, don’t be surprised if you need to use some of the 3-R strategy to build your sales portfolio.

Today, you’ll likely be growing the relationship in parallel with another selling strategy. What’s this new selling strategy? A focused conversation around the 3 R’s: RISK, REGULATION, and RETURN. Salespeople shouldn’t focus on selling product but instead solving problems around risk and regulations and finding those opportunities for a meaningful return on investment. Why the important distinction? When you focus on the product, you may not truly understand its value. Value is variable and contextual.

The selling environment is changing with studies showing that buyers are doing more research on their own before approaching a seller. They are not relying on the seller’s expertise like they might have done in the past. Many of today’s buyers are driving the buy-sell process to a simple impersonal transaction. However, it’s still important to know your audience. There are still buyers who consider the relationship as a factor in their decision-making. A one-size approach does not fit all.

Regardless of how much your client values the buyer-sell relationship, a “coaching” seller can’t go wrong if he or she:

(1) has a working knowledge of the buyer’s industry to understand regulations, trends, and talk the lingo,

(2) asks open-ended questions that bring the buyer to a higher level of thinking about an issue impacting the buyer’s business,

(3) listens and learns of the buyers’ pain points, thoughts, and ideas,

(4) discusses and recommends solutions that drive on the 3 Rs.

The best sellers help buyers see problems they weren’t aware of or from a different perspective as well as highlight opportunities to save money, reduce risk, and meet regulation. If you’d like to explore specific sales situations, brainstorm selling approaches, and perhaps develop an inventory of powerful questions that can make a difference in your pivot sales strategy, reach out to schedule your private 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 stories. 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 4Ps of Success: Purpose, Passion, Pursuit and Persistence

People often ask, “Is there a formula an entrepreneur follows that helps assure success?” An established company may focus on the 4Ps of product, place, price, and promotion; however, in my experience the 4Ps that a self-made person drives on are purpose, passion, pursuit, and persistence.

Becoming an entrepreneur who plans on making a living as a self-employed entity truly needs a business plan. This plan goes far beyond the requirements that might be asked by a venture capitalist investor. Speaking as an entrepreneur, starting a business is rough and not for the faint of heart. As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s the mantra of the successful entrepreneur.

What does that really mean in today’s business terms? Although I haven’t studied the statistics in the coaching profession, I imagine they would be similar to real estate. My realtor friends say that 90% of licensed agents quit, because the walk is too long before seeing any sustainable income. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation on the 4Ps.


Purpose: I was called into this profession while still working in Corporate America in the chemical industry. I had a deep desire to apply my skills, knowledge, and competencies to help other people be successful in their lives. This was truly a calling. I had a deep sense of purpose.

Passion: This purpose was fueled by my passion. What’s my fuel? Feedback from my clients describing how I had a hand in changing their lives for the better. Their words are the premium unleaded that fills my tank after driving on fumes. After nearly 40 decades of work, there’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you changed a life.

Pursuit: People may not know what I do, the value I bring, or that they even need my services. Days of frustration naturally come with the territory. Clients don’t line up at the front door after hanging up the “open for business” shingle. An entrepreneur must be a go-getter and connector. The law of pursuit is critical to success, just like it’s critical in all relationships.

Persistence: I know some entrepreneurs who have purpose, passion, and pursuit, and yet, don’t have the staying power for the long-haul. Although there’s always exceptions to the rule, many entrepreneurs underestimate the time and effort it takes to achieve critical business thresholds. Studies show that people don’t accurately estimate schedule or fully absorbed cost. I believe people don’t identify all risk factors, calculate and apply probabilities, and/or know how best to mitigate risk. Hence, one of the best tools of the entrepreneur is persistence and resilience.


The 4Ps are fundamental not just in business but in life as well. These 4Ps apply to my life coaching clients who are identifying purpose with passion and receiving coaching accountability for pursuit and persistence. Of the four 4Ps, which ones are missing or shining dimly in your life? Which ones need more attention to propel you forward? If you’d like some help mapping out your 4Ps in life, reach out for a conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. 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