Can you identify your distinctive strengths?

This is mash-up post! Part book review and part inspiration, both thanks to Whitney Johnson and her latest book, Disrupt Yourself:  Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work. Be prepared to answer “yes” to Whitney’s question, “Are you ready to jump?”


jump on strengthsOne of the most insightful and telling exercises I do in my workshops with women leaders is asking them to list their personal strengths. It’s amazing to see powerful women pause, either uncertain of what to list or fearful of appearing too brash and bold for knowing what they do well.

Whitney defines a distinctive strength as “something that you do well that others within your sphere don’t.”

For anyone, regardless of gender, who is uncertain as to what they could identify as a personal strength, Whitney provides a thorough list of questions, all guaranteed to trigger thoughtful self-reflection.

If, at this moment, you’d be stumped in identifying your distinctive strengths, use Whitney’s six questions to spur your thinking.

6 questions to ask yourself to identify what it is that you do well

  1. What skills have helped you survive?
  2. What makes you feel strong?
  3. What exasperates you about others?
  4. What made you different, even an oddball, as a child?
  5. What compliments do you shrug off?
  6. What are your hard-won skills?

Were you successful in determining some things you do well?

This personal development exercise is but one many available in Whitney’s book—and all apply to all genders. Her book outlines how to take the framework of disruptive innovation and apply it to our personal lives. As she notes, “We are living in an era of accelerated disruption; no one is immune. If you want to be successful in unexpected ways, follow your own disruptive path. Dare to innovate. Do something astonishing. Disrupt yourself.”

For years, I liked the comfort zone of my corporate job. It made me feel secure. I knew I had a “place” and I knew where that place was. But eventually that comfort zone made me feel stuck.

For those who feel stuck and are unsure of how to chart a going forward path, Whitney’s principle of disruptive innovation applied to our personal selves is a smart—and practical—method to assure forward movement. Relevance and freedom, too.

As Whitney asks, “Are you ready to jump?”

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3 ways for leaders to model going above and beyond

going above and beyondI was working in another state, traveling in an area unfamiliar to me. At the end of the day, I asked a member of the management team if there was a route I could take back to my hotel that might bypass the crazy rush hour traffic.

“Of course there is. I’ll show you,” she replied.

My expectation was that she would provide directions and perhaps show me a map. But that’s not what she meant when she said she would show me.

She wanted me to follow her vehicle as she led me back to the hotel!

5 tips for leaders looking to unleash creativity

Today’s guest contributor is Neill Wallace, an author, consultant and former sales and marketing executive. Neill, who resides in Portland, Oregon, is passionate about leadership.


ideas and creativityComputers, smart phones, the internet, and the like have made our work habits vastly different from what they were less than a generation ago. Even more important is technology’s impact in heightening the speed in which companies need to constantly adapt their strategy.

As such, it’s important for companies to have innovative employees who have both the time and engagement to generate ideas.

Despite all the changes and technological advances occurring around us, the work environment and long-held management beliefs have stayed mostly the same, which unfortunately stifles creativity.

Anatomy of Transformative Change

Today’s guest contributor is Karen Kimsey-House, the co-author of Co-Active Leadership and Co-Active Coaching. Additionally, she is the co-founder and CEO of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. Learn more about Karen’s work at or connect with her on Twitter @kkimseyhouse


transformative changeI’ve been thinking lately about transformative change (change that occurs at the level of identity or being) and how it is a process with several stages or phases.

This is not a novel idea. 

Many others have created a map for a transformative journey, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey being one well-known model.

Loving it: 5 ways to co-actively lead

5 ways to leadI love it when something challenges us to reconsider entrenched paradigms, and that’s just what Karen and Henry Kimsey-House do in their new book, Co-Active Leadership:  Five Ways to Lead. This short, pithy gem gives us  five dimensions of choice, opportunity, and possibility for creating a 360 degree model of leadership support for leading ourselves as well as others.

Sticking with the theme of 5 ways, there are five reasons why this book resonates with me.

3 things women can do to start changing the stereotype they aren’t good with money

Today’s guest contributor is Cynthia Fick, an investment advisor, advocate for women, and author of The Sisterhood of Money: The Art of Creating Wealth from Your Heart. ” She lives in Phoenix, Ariz., with her two teenage children and Goldendoodle, Buddy.


stereotype of women and moneyIt’s a perplexing situation.

Women control half of the wealth in the United States, yet studies have shown that many of them are convinced they are lacking when it comes to understanding finances. Too often, they believe they aren’t capable of making prudent investment decisions.

I say that’s not true, and I want to change that mindset.

How to keep things running smoothly when family and business mix

Today’s guest contributor is Marsha Friedman, a public relations expert, founder/CEO of EMSI Public Relations, author, advisor on PR issues and strategies, and speaker.


success in a family run businessI once agreed to be a guest on a radio talk show. I thought we would be discussing marketing tips. Not so!

The radio hosts had noticed that in addition to me, my husband, two sons and a daughter-in-law all worked at EMSI Public Relations. So rather than talking about marketing, the hosts asked me about the dynamics of working in a business with so many family members.

Before answering that question, I pointed that there were even more family members working at EMSI—a mother and daughter and in the past other married couples!

Mindset twist: give thinking of conversation as an operating system a try

Today’s guest contributor is Brady Wilson, co-founder of Juice Inc., a corporate training company. This article is based on principles from Brady’s latest book, Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need. Follow Brady on Twitter @BradyJuiceInc or visit his site.


leaders using conversationYou may not realize it, but your organization is home to an incredibly powerful operating system (O/S).

Think outside the realm of technology. What has the potential to engage and energize your employees, bring teams closer together, and create a high-performing workforce?

It’s conversation.

How to improve workplace culture by investing in people

Today’s guest contributor is Maxine Attong, Gestalt Organizational Development practitioner, Certified Evidence-Based Coach, Certified Professional Facilitator, Certified Management Accountant and former Quality Manager. Maxine’s latest book is Lead Your Team to Win: Achieve Optimal Performance By Providing A Safe Space For Employees.

workplace cultureGetting your people to contribute more to your organization while simultaneously establishing stronger talent retention must cost a pretty penny, right?

Not really.

You don’t necessarily need to add expensive new ingredients to the stew; you just have to know how to use your ingredients better.

A talented chef—or in this case, a corporate or organizational leader—knows how to let an ingredient speak for itself, perhaps with just a touch of seasoning or guidance. 

What is the guidance—is it competition or is it incentives such as bonuses? 

Not exactly. 

Collaboration is risky. Now get on with it.

Today’s guest contributor is Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, and Dare, Dream, Do. Additionally, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review. Learn more about Whitney at her website or connect with her on Twitter.


Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson

Last week I arrived home from work to see my 8th grade son toiling away on a science fair project with his classmate Marc. As I observed their breezy back-and-forth, one at the computer, the other laying out the poster board, both fully engaged, no ego involved, I found myself taken back. In part, because as a parent, I’m always a little surprised when children do their homework without parental micro-management, but also because these two 8th graders made collaboration look like child’s play.

And yet that’s not always our experience in the office. Rather than the free-wheeling interchange of ideas and labor we anticipate — we’re grown-ups after all — working together is typically everything but easy.

Why is teamwork so difficult?