by renita kalhorn


“If you want a quality, act as if you already have it. If you want to be courageous, act as if you were – and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Over the years, I’ve shared a variety of approaches to goal-setting. In 2012, I suggested focusing on creating habits. In 2013, I said, start at the micro level, with micro-goals and micro-practice. In 2014, I said let’s resist the “all or nothing” lure of a new start and start fresh every moment.

Whatever approach you take, you can turbocharge the process by shoring up your belief that what you want is possible. How do you demonstrate that? By acting as if your future has already happened. This isn’t a new idea, of course. Napoleon Hill wrote about it in the early 1900s with his classic, Think And Grow Rich. Wayne Dyer says “you’ll see it when you believe it.” And Tony Robbins may have mentioned it a few times too. ;-)

So why don’t we practice it more?

Because we’ve been conditioned to wait for concrete evidence — a signed contract, a deposit in our bank account, our photo on the magazine cover — for confirmation that what we want is on the way.

Because it takes incredible mental strength and imagination to see beyond the current physical reality, to disregard doubt (your own and others) and sustain consistent belief in what’s possible.

Because it’s not easy to break out of autopilot and the familiar comfort of routine.

But this is what people who achieve the greatest, most unlikely goals do. They start to think and act like their future self before anything in their current reality warrants it.

When tennis player John McEnroe was asked how, early in his career, he beat Adriano Panatta, one of the top-ranked players in the world, he said: “I was number one in the world. My ranking just hadn’t caught up yet.” Do you think that mindset — behaving like a #1 player who was used to winning instead of one ranked hundred something?— affected how he played when he was at break point?

When Amos Winbush III started his tech company in 2008, he was a 20-something musician with no business or technical experience to speak of. And yet, he was able to negotiate partnerships with CEOs and COOs of $60 billion, $40 billion companies without getting intimidated because he envisioned himself on their playing field. As he told me, “At the end of the day, I have a service, you have a company, you have customers that you have to give really great products to. We’re kind of scratching each other’s backs. So I just do it.” In six years, he’s built CyberSynchs into an $180 million company.

Sophia Amoruso, who went from a string of dead-end jobs to building Nasty Gal into a $100+ million online fashion player says: “You create the world, blink by blink. It is entirely yours to discover and yours to create.”

Stop seeing your current reality — your lack of revenues, discouraging press, competitive market — as an indication of what’s possible. Your mind can trump matter. Spend 10 – 15 minutes every day rehearsing how your future self would “show up” in the various scenarios of your day, and start acting like that…now.

by anne lueneburger

right now. what would you [your name goes here] do?

This is the question that changed everything for Jerome Jarre. Feeling lost and unhappy with life he has an epiphany: life is about living at your full potential, getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself everyday. Today Jerome Jarre is no longer the homeless school dropout but a successful social media star, video producer, and storyteller who is invited on the Ellen DeGeneres show and has over 8 million followers on Vine. How did this happen? Jerome Jarre took risks most of us are not prepared to take. We may want to have this option of charting an exciting, meaningful journey through life. Often, however, when we come to this juncture in our conversation, my clients tell me that they’re deadlocked, held up, controlled by circumstance.  They feel they are at an impasse because they’ve learned not to grasp – or even see – the opportunities that lead to the fulfillment of their aspirations. And here is the good news: the opportunities are there. And often these opportunities present themselves in small incremental changes that we can make. Part of getting my clients out of the paralysis to act is to help them dip their big toe into the water (and not ask them to jump right in).

So rather than leave a job or a relationship or a life altogether, the next time you face the choice of answering another slew of emails as opposed to going home and watch the dance recital of your daughter, ask yourself: “If I were 99 years old and on my deathbed and all of the sudden I have the chance to go back to right now, what would I do?” Ask yourself this question often enough throughout the day and you will see that these small changes will sum up to a life better lived. Willing to give this a try for a week?

by anne lueneburger

Are you looking to lead a life with purpose and passion? Do you struggle with selling your ideas, your products, yourself? Are you unsure how to inspire your team? Simon Sinek does a superb job of explaining why answering the question of “why” is superior to answering the  “what” and the “how” if we want to be successful and feel fulfilled.

happy holidays



“One Optimistic Unicorn” by Liv Lueneburger

As 2014 comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment and thank you for reading our entries and being a part of the North of Neutral community. Our offices will close on December 20th and will be back open on January 5th. We are much looking forward to supporting our readership and clients in the coming year.

May 2015 be your best year yet!

Your North of Neutral team

Not only great music, but also rivalry, jealousy, and betrayal are at the heart of “Amadeus”. At 4:59 of this clip, Mozart humiliates the powerful composer Salieri at the court of the Austrian Emperor. And as the talented Mozart gains recognition, Salieri becomes consumed with plotting Mozart’s downfall.

Stories like these feed the notion of politics as nefarious scheming: it’s not enough that I win, but you most lose. In other words, politics gets a bad rep when we fail to put something greater than ourselves first, or when we fall short of doing the right thing.

But politics, per definition is neither good nor bad. Being politically competent involves applying our skills and strengths to be more effective. It describes informal efforts to sell ideas, influence others, increase power, or achieve other objectives. Aristotle described human beings as “political animals”, noting our tendency to live in “polis” – organized social units. Mix people and power, and you get politics.

As coaches, we sometimes see careers derail because of a lack of political competence. If we ignore politics, we risk being under-political and naïve. If we fall prey to naked self-interest, we become over-political and lose the trust and support of those around us. Ironically, both situations can lead to isolation.

Not surprisingly, political skill is an important component of successful leadership and starts from the inside out. When is the last time that you have carefully assessed your own degree of political savvy? Dr. Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman assessment can help you get clarity.


Their assessment lets you confirm your preference for an either less or more political style, broken down into six individual dimensions for each style. This instrument also helps you identify areas where you may in fact be under or over political, and you can start taking measures to self-correct. As with any assessment, a feedback and review session with a trusted third party is an essential part of the process. This could be a friend or a colleague, but if you prefer an outside source, consider partnering with a coach who can ensure that you optimize rather than overcorrect.

Here, finally, are some of the lessons we have seen play out time and again among our most politically astute clients:

1/Be sincere and authentic.

Inspiring trust is the foundation of being a politically competent leader. Contrary to what many think, being straightforward and transparent around our agendas helps to de-politicize issues rather than add to them. As others know what our agenda is, we invite stakeholders into the decision-making process, clarify their needs, and can start looking for win-win solutions.

2/Think before you act.

Beware of amygdala hijacks…This is one of the highest predictors for career derailment if we don’t’ know whether, when and how to voice our thoughts. If we are in a situation that triggers us, we need to take a deep breath and center ourselves in the presence. Only then are we able to think clearly through what would happen if we acted in a certain way and can explore alternatives.

3/Scan your environment.

First, start by identifying distinct stakeholders and their degree of influence in the organization. Next, in order to influence these stakeholders, we must be able to observe and, understand what matters to them. By paying attention to what they say (and what they don’t say), their non-verbal cues and facial expressions, we can get a better idea of their concerns and hot buttons. Putting ourselves in “their shoes” and validating our perceptions with someone that we trust to compare notes with.

4/Be plugged in.

Many successful executives have stalled their careers as a result of poor networking. This includes their immediate teams, managing up effectively (how well do we keep our boss in the loop at all times?), but also people outside of the organization as well as lateral and vertical relationships in the organization. Forging alliances, tapping into the grapevine, and identifying sponsors is what we call basic career hygiene. Not only will these connections support our growth when all goes well, but they also can have our back when we experience a professional low. Unsure about the “how to”? Consider observing effective networkers and see what you can learn from them.

Or read up on how effective leaders create and use networks.

5/Tell your story (or others will do it for you).

By engaging in negative self-talk and holding ourselves back we sabotage our ability to succeed. Do you want to be universally liked or do you want to get promoted? Ask yourself: “What kind of impressions do I make on others and what kind of impressions about me do I want them to walk away with?” Being proactive, putting ourselves out there and ask for assignments allows us to be visible and take credit.

Now, if you are a normal mortal, but – like Mozart – already have made an influential enemy, here are some great ideas on how you can make your enemies your allies. The good news: political savvy can be learned and previous blunders can be overcome.

by renita kalhorn

From the time we start school around the age of five, we learn very quickly that there’s only one right answer: 2 + 2 = 4.  And it pays to know what it is. Our identity gets increasingly wrapped up in knowing the right answer and we’re conditioned by society that we’re just supposed to know, in no uncertain terms, everything from what career to choose and who to marry, to what to say to in a difficult conversation with a partner or what’s going to happen in the board meeting.

And even though we live in the most uncertain, unpredictable time in the history of mankind ever, nobody tells us that it’s okay to not know. So we all walk around pretending that we do know and hoping we won’t get busted.

As usual, Dilbert knows what I’m talking about.


(Just to be clear, I’m not talking about fact-based knowledge. When the CFO gets on an earnings call with analysts, he better know what the current financials are — but he doesn’t have to know where the economy is going to be in nine months and exactly how that will affect the company’s sales in Asia. We want our doctor to know how to treat a common condition — but she doesn’t have to know exactly the cause of a rare combination of symptoms and the surefire way to treat them.)

The thing is, being in a place where we think we should know spits us out of the present moment. To be wholly present, we have to be willing to step into the unknown, where we’re not trying to control our future based on past experiences. That’s when we plug into the big database in the sky, get access to Infinite Intelligence. That’s what happened with Einstein: after he had his flash of insight into the theory of relativity, he then had to go back and learn the math to explain what he intuitively understood.

So here are some things I know about “not knowing:”

  • Slow down and shut up. Ask the universe/God/whatever higher power you believe in for guidance — and then pay attention. The answer might come in a song, a movie, a book or an old friend that you haven’t seen for awhile.
  • Get used to the feeling of unfamiliar. Our body craves the adventure of the unknown. A photographer friend says he loves that feeling of butterflies in his stomach when he’s on a shoot that tells him: “I’m about to do something creative.”
  • Acknowledge what you do and don’t know. Even the most prickly conversation will go better if you say: “Here’s what I know based on the information I have. You have different information than I do so I’m curious to hear your point of view.”

It’s not “all or nothing.” You don’t know have to know every single step on the path before taking action. In fact, you can just get excited about finding out what the next step is.

Really, it’s okay to not know.

by carolyn mathews

(posted in 2011, our readers rated this as one of our all time favorite posts so here it is again)

Mention a 360-degree feedback process to those who have experienced it and you will likely witness the rolling of eyes, apparent cringing, or the telling of personal horror stories. This is what I witnessed almost across the board when I told people my dissertation topic. (For the record, its title is, “Enhancing the 360-Degree Feedback Process: A Strengths-based Approach.”) If you read this blog, you likely work in an upper-management/executive position within your organization. Just as likely, you have participated in a 360-degree feedback process, as both a rater for someone else or as the person being rated (the “ratee”). I have been through the process myself. So, it was with some trepidation that I signed up for the Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) Assessment Certification Workshop.

My trepidation was borne from my skepticism regarding the process, not from the assessment products offered by CCL. Research shows in many cases, 360s are mishandled from the start in terms of stated purpose, accountability, and psychometric properties. I am happy to report that CCL addresses all of these concerns in their training of consultants, coaches, and HR professionals. Indeed, according to a colleague in the class who experienced the CCL products and process within his organization, when CCL professionals are brought in to run a 360-degree feedback process, they emphasize and explain these elements before any assessments start.

Okay, so having established some 360 ground rules, we know to declare a clear purpose to all participants (preferably developmental as opposed to administrative). We also know that accountability on the part of the raters, the ratee, and the organization is crucial for employees to view it as something from which they will benefit. Further, we recognize that a psychometrically sound instrument, one that has been validated and reflects the organization’s values, strategies and goals, is crucial for the success of this process. But what is a positive psychology coach like me supposed to do with a process that traditionally focuses on deficits rather than strengths?

The 360-degree feedback process is often used as part of an annual appraisal process, and as such, there is a tendency for organizations and managers – and the ratees themselves – to concentrate on deficits while virtually ignoring strengths. Strengths represent what is “right” or going well for the employee. Therefore, we tend to pay little attention to these non-problems. Instead, there is collective focus on what’s wrong, also known as (with a positive spin) “room for improvement,” or “opportunities.” No matter what we call this deficit target, research by the Gallup organization shows that the greatest opportunities for success come not from focusing on what’s wrong, but by emphasizing what’s right.

Does this mean as managers, HR professionals, or coaches we must ignore a person’s lack of skills or behavioral concerns? I don’t believe so. The use of positive psychology in the workplace is not meant to suggest we can ignore problems in favor of the positive. Positive psychology in the workplace provides a holistic approach; one that asserts the “biggest bang for the buck” comes from the acknowledgment and use of strengths as a way to build creativity and collaboration, solve problems, and even address areas those “opportunities” for improvement.

So how can you incorporate a strengths-based approach into a traditional 360-degree feedback process?

Ongoing management: Address problem areas immediately, instead of waiting for this annual feedback process. This is the responsibility of management, and one that often slides further down the “to-do” list. No one likes to be the “heavy.” However, if issues are addressed when current, it will appear more relevant to your direct report than a mention months later in the comments section of the 360 questionnaire.

Before the 360-degree feedback process: Assure your team that the purpose of the 360 process is for developmental purposes (not administrative) and will be considered along with other information gleaned throughout the year.

During the feedback session: Use the feedback related to strengths to discuss how your direct reports can rectify problem areas. This helps align the solution needed for the organization with the person’s personal values, which may result in longer-lasting change. In addition, ask them to imagine ways that using one or two strengths exclusively may turn it into a weakness. A balanced approach is best.

After the feedback: Collaborate with your direct reports on their development plans, based in part on the feedback they received. Ask them to suggest goals that not only relate to the organization’s overall mission, but also will incorporate their personal strengths. My research shows an integral link between elements of positive psychology, positive organizational behavior, and a successful 360-degree feedback process. Adding a strength-based component puts that personal stamp on the goal, making it meaningful.

Ultimately, the 360-degree feedback process is an efficient way to track someone’s development, how well they play with others, and to help direct their developmental goals. And, it can be used in a way that emphasizes positive opportunities for success.


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