Leadership Books

Breathe new life into your leadership with these five books

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of the International Coach Federation Iowa, a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.

ASPIRE books 2016 - Gilbert Brown Cain Kay Shipman GroutI’ve read a number of outstanding books in 2016, many of which I’ve shared with you here. What proves even more transformational than reading, however, is talking about them with like-minded professionals and leaders. This year, the ASPIRE Success Club discussed several game-changing books, each providing a different perspective or sharing a new way of approaching a subject. I’ll highlight five of them to hopefully add to your must-read list!

If you need to expand your sense of possibility, shift to a positive mindset, and celebrate the joys in life, start with Dream Big by Pam Grout. With powerful examples of people living big, combined with practical action steps we all can implement, Grout offers a terrific springboard for living and working to your full potential. “You are not here to ‘get by,’ ” she writes. “You are here to create the good, the beautiful, and the holy.” Inspiring!

Need a boost of confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman offer ideas in spades with The Confidence Code. They seek wisdom from both psychology and neuroscience experts as well as leaders in all types of settings – politics, sports, the military, the arts and more – to uncover the keys to confidence. The big takeaway? “Action separates the timid from the bold.” Step out of your comfort zone and take action.

Whether you consider yourself an introvert or live, work or partner with one, Quiet by Susan Cain is a true game-changer. This book transformed my interactions, gave me a new understanding of how people communicate, and finally explained why I test the way I do on personality assessments! I consider this a must-read for leaders, teachers and anyone wanting to help others reach their full potential.

If you read Brene Brown’s excellent book Daring Greatly, you learned about the power of vulnerability and shining the light on shame and fear. Rising Strong took it up a notch and left many of us with tears in our eyes but completely committed to living stronger, fuller lives. “Integrity,” writes Brown, “is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” Powerful.

We closed out the year discussing Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which busts the door open on fear and reminds us that we are all creative, whether we’re sculpting or spreadsheeting or changing diapers. One of this book’s most valuable lessons involves Gilbert’s insistence that we create for the sake of creating, not for any external validation. “I can only be in charge of producing the work itself,” she shares. “That’s a hard enough job. I refuse to take on additional jobs, such as trying to police what anybody thinks about my work once it leaves my desk.” Create your art, do your best, put it out into the world, then detach.

Christi Hegstad headshot horizontal w leaves sun cropped - FB personalIf you’ve felt stifled, stuck or suffering from a case of the “same old, same old,” these books will breathe fresh air into your work, leadership and life. What book have you read this year that’s changed your thoughts or approach? Add to our ever-growing reading lists by sharing your picks in the comments below!

Christi Hegstad, Ph.D., helps you bring meaning to work and purpose to life! Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all @ChristiHegstad.

Goals: Are they worth it?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of the International Coach Federation Iowa, a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.

42 Days - Day 36 - 80s Country Run - adversity ward quote break recordsNothing quite compares to the thrill of achieving a challenging, meaningful goal. To this day, I can vividly recall crossing the finish line of the Portland marathon nearly 10 years ago – a huge and crazy-for-me goal that required extensive time, training and mindset shifts. While many marathoners set time goals, mine was to complete the event upright and smiling. Success felt amazing!

Just a year or so before that marathon, however, I spent a wild amount of time and energy writing a book proposal and sending it off to potential publishers. I can just as easily recall the sting of disappointment with every rejection letter I received; a sharp pang of defeat and a strong dose of self-doubt seemed to accompany every “Sorry, not interested.” I felt I had failed.

Does not achieving a goal equate to failure?

When I speak in workshops about goals, often someone will say, “I used to set goals, but I felt worse if I didn’t reach them than if I’d never set them in the first place. So I stopped.”

I get it – I really do. But I want to offer an alternative perspective.

Imagine your friend, who is overweight, sets a goal to lose 100 pounds over the next year. He works with a nutritionist, exercises regularly, completely shifts his lifestyle, and at the end of the year he has lost 95 pounds.

Did he fail?

Those same workshop participants I mentioned earlier respond with a hefty, “No way! He lost 95 pounds! That’s an amazing success!”

But he set the goal to lose 100. So, is it really success?

Yes. In my mind, yes. And here’s what goals ultimately come down to: It’s not so much about reaching the goal as it is about who you become in the process. The transformations you experience. The knowledge you gain. The stretching, the discipline, the connections, the growth.

Achieving the goal? That’s the icing on an already-delicious cake.

One of the best books I’ve ever read on goals is "Succeed" by Heidi Grant Halvorson. Along with numerous strategies based on her research on motivation, she writes, “Achieving a goal isn’t everything. What you want and why you want it matters just as much in the long run.”

It always, always comes back to your "why."

As we approach the wrap-up of another year, I encourage you to do three things:

  1. Celebrate the goals you’ve accomplished.
  2. Celebrate the progress, growth and learning you’ve experienced with all of your goals, achieved or not.
  3. Reconnect with your why, your purpose. Why did you set these goals in the first place? What’s your underlying motivation? Why was this important enough for you to turn into a goal?

Christi Hegstad headshot horizontal w leaves sun cropped - FB personalYou may just find that you’ve experienced success even in the goals you didn’t reach. My rejected book proposal? That turned out to be a blessing in disguise; I can see now that was not a book I was meant to write, and that experience taught me immensely, solidified my resolve and fueled future books, including the one I am writing right now.

So, celebrate your growth. Learn from your experience, and use that knowledge moving forward. Reconnect with your why. Then, look ahead to a new year and new goals with a deep sense of meaning, purpose and knowing you – yes, you – are successful.

Christi Hegstad, Ph.D., helps you bring meaning to work and purpose to life! Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all @ChristiHegstad.

What's on your life list?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach, author, speaker, and the founder of Spark. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

  • Background - Sunrise Lake w Coffee w websiteRide in a hot air balloon.
  • Visit all 50 states.
  • Write a book.
  • Run a marathon. 
  • Travel to Australia.

Do any of these appear on your list of dreams from time to time?

Wait ... do you have a list of dreams? 

You've probably heard of a bucket list (aka Life List): things you'd love to do, see or experience in your lifetime if you had no barriers whatsoever. I often coach my clients to create such a list, encouraging them to generate at least 101 items. Yes, 101! What may seem a daunting task at first becomes an excellent exercise in passion, purpose and authenticity.

When nudged to include so many dreams, you get below surface level and really begin to connect with what lights you up, what matters most and what brings you joy. You expand your sense of wonder. Not only a lot of fun, creating a Life List is also a deeply meaningful activity.

Your Life List can address all kinds of categories: places to travel, people to meet, books to read, crafts to try, classes to take, causes to support, you name it. One category to make sure you also include: your professional dreams. Again, if you had no limitations, what would you love to do in your career, leadership or business? Some responses I've heard over the years:

  • Take my team on a five-day retreat to Arizona.
  • Earn my advanced certification.
  • Present at our industry conference.
  • Give a TED Talk.
  • Get published in a respected magazine.

My challenge to you this month, which you'll see below, is to create your Life List -- and I urge you to include both personal and professional dreams. If you choose to accept this challenge, two helpful hints to keep in mind:

Focus On The What.

One of the biggest blocks when it comes to dreaming big is worrying about how you'd ever make the dream a reality. Don't even think about the "how" right now -- that comes later. For now, just focus on the "what": What would light you up, make you feel amazing, change the world? 

Have Fun.

You've likely kept quite busy with work, family, volunteer service and the myriad roles that constitute your life, so don't worry if you have a hard time generating ideas at first. That's completely common! Also, this is not a to-do list or agenda of "shoulds." Strike up dream conversations with others and watch them light up -- and likely inspire you with more ideas, too. 

Christi Hegstad headshot 0916 horizontal sunlight background necklace super-crop for blogCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Write your Life List! Generate 101 items you'd love to do, see or experience in your lifetime -- personal, professional, family, service and every other category that matters to you. You don't need to generate the entire list in one sitting; get it started, then carry it around with you for a few days. You'll be surprised what ideas appear once it's on your mind!

For more ideas, check out my quick video on YouTube as well as Phil Keoghan's inspiring book, "No Opportunity Wasted (N.O.W.)." Here's to your dreams! 

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you bring meaning to work and purpose to life! Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all @ChristiHegstad.

Introverts, extroverts, and the power of showing up

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach, author, speaker, and the founder of Spark. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

Background - Flowers Colorful w websiteQ: Why do extroverts have voicemail?

A: To never miss a call.

Q: Why do introverts have voicemail?

A: To never answer the phone.*

Which response resonates with you?

Whether you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, one thing is for sure: To be of service, develop others, achieve our goals, and fulfill our purpose, we need to be in connection with people. Even my academic researcher client - whom you might think spends her days in scientific solitude - finds the majority of her workday involving others.

And if you have a message to get out into the world, you do a disservice to us all by keeping it - or yourself - hidden.

That being said, the idea of networking makes many people cringe. We often picture a room filled with people we don't know, everyone seemingly paired up and in gripping conversation, business cards flying, while we stand off to the side and secretly plan our escape.

I vividly remember attending my first conference as a working woman in the "real world." I focused on taking good notes, acting professional (read: grown up), and sneaking up to my hotel room during breaks in order to replenish my energy. I went home with great notes but little else: no sense of camaraderie with my fellow attendees, no new relationships to continue to build.

Since then, I've learned to balance my desire for connection with my need for rejuvenating time alone, and I've coached many clients - both introverts and extroverts alike - to make the infamous cocktail party environment meaningful and enjoyable. Here are a few tips you might find helpful:

Remember your WHY.

Part of my purpose is to serve others by inspiring positive action. If I think of networking in terms of what I might get, I'll feel awkward and inauthentic every time. But if I focus on being of service and fulfilling my purpose, I am much more gracious and open. What's your why? Connect with that and your networking experience will transform.

Adopt the role of host.

Ironic though it may seem, public speakers are often introverts; they feel fine if they have a role to fulfill (even speaking in front of thousands of people) but not as fine when left on their own. Even if it's not technically your event, imagine your job is to make others feel welcome and comfortable. Serving as pretend host gives you a role that benefits you as well as other guests.

Transform your vocabulary.

This may sound simplistic, but try replacing the word "networking" with a verb that feels more authentic: connecting, helping, building relationships, making friends, serving, learning. Feel free to adopt my view of networking as a way to fulfill your purpose.

Change your focus.

Let your guiding thought throughout your interaction be, "How might I help this person?" Maybe you can provide a resource, make an introduction, or simply be a good listener - a rare but valuable quality.

Show up. Fully.

"I'm always glad I went," a coaching client recently shared of functions, "it's getting myself to go that's difficult." Creating a mantra like "I joyfully show up," or remembering that honoring your commitments is a sign of integrity, can help. Don't overthink, just show up.

In her excellent book "Quiet", author Susan Cain discusses how many introverts have adapted to our noisy world by learning how to do extroverted things. Doing that, or what some might call "acting as if," doesn't mean being inauthentic; it's perhaps moving beyond your comfort zone to experience as rich a life as possible.

And as we've all probably learned by now, our greatest growth typically occurs beyond our comfort zone!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

First, make sure the events you say yes to support your vision and purpose.

Then, view your next event as an experiment. Choose one of these ideas, or another that comes to mind for you, and notice the difference it makes in your interactions, feelings toward the overall event, and sense of purpose!

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you bring meaning to work and purpose to life! Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all @ChristiHegstad.

* From Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack (Berrett-Koehler, 2010).

Become the leader of your day

- Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach, author, trainer and the founder of Spark. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

SunriseIf you've been with me for a while, you likely know two of my beliefs:

  1. Leaders set the tone.
  2. Mornings rock.

And when you set the tone of your morning, you lead your day.

I've often written about the power of a morning routine (see here, for example). But what about how you start your workday?

Surveys repeatedly show that most of us have the highest energy and clarity in the morning. Yet how do we start our workdays? For most, in reactive mode: flipping on email or social media - ultimately letting others decide what's important and setting up our days accordingly.

But what if you tweaked just one or two aspects of your morning? What kind of difference might that make?

Consider adopting one of these five ways to become the leader of your workday:

1. Power down to power up. Commit to keeping email, voicemail and social media off for your first 15 minutes. Start the day proactively instead.

2. Review your goals. I scan my vision, purpose statement and goals each morning to remind me why I'm about to do what I'm about to do.

3. Set your Daily Top 3. Choose the three priorities that must be completed even if the rest of the day goes haywire. Separate them from the rest of your to-do list.

4. Dive deep - even briefly. What if you dedicated even just 15 minutes in the morning - focused, uninterrupted, results-oriented time - to your No. 1 goal? How would that make the rest of your day feel?

5. Give a compliment or a thank-you. Nothing starts a day - yours or your recipient's - quite like gratitude!

Great resources exist to help you make the most of your day - personally, I love Stephen Covey's First Things First and Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning. While everyone's strategy differs, all seem to have one denominator: purpose. Know your why, and you're much more likely to be the leader of your day, work and life.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Make one small adjustment to your morning routine. Which of the above ideas will bring more meaning and purpose to your days? Which will make a difference for those with whom you interact? Remember, one small change can lead to significant results!

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach helping positive people make purposeful change. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Leadership & legacy lessons

- Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, author, trainer and book addict. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

IMG_4729You will not find "When Breath Becomes Air" in the leadership section of your bookstore. But when I finished reading it -- after feeling uplifted while also wiping away tears -- I couldn't help but think of the leadership lessons inherent in this powerful book.

Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon in his mid-30s, wrote this memoir after receiving a terminal diagnosis. Essentially, it's his story of finding meaning, purpose and joy every day, even amid the great difficulties he faced throughout his journey. It's inspiring, heartbreaking, uplifting and thoroughly thought-provoking.

While I won't attempt to summarize this book in a few words, I will share some reminders to draw upon in your leadership:

1. Let compassion prevail.

Regardless of appearance, everyone is fighting a battle or dealing with challenges we know nothing about. That includes your team members, your children, your leaders, the angry customer calling to complain. Continually turn to your kinder, higher self.

2. Clarify your values.

Whenever he'd ask "should I ..." questions, Kalanithi's physician would steer him back to his values. What matters most? How can you best honor that today? This week? Going forward?

3. Reconsider the perfect time.

Don't wait until everything is perfect to pursue a dream, strive for a goal, make a difference. Your work can bring great meaning to your life, and vice versa. What if now is the perfect time?

4. Surround yourself with greatness.

Consciously spend your time with people who challenge you to be your best. Kalanithi's wife, physicians, various co-workers and other connections served as heroes in his story.

5. Live each day to the fullest.

This is so much more than a cliche. Every day is a gift and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Don't let obstacles prevent you from creating meaningful experiences whenever and wherever you are.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

One of my favorite topics to coach around is what I call your Leadership Legacy. Give this concept some thought this week.

Legacy isn't something to think about only when faced with our own mortality. You essentially choose your legacy by how you live, work, and lead every single day. If you don't have a grasp yet on your "big picture" legacy, consider it in smaller doses:

What would you love for people to say about you when you leave your next meeting?

How would you like someone to describe you to a stranger?

When people think of you, what word would do you want to come to mind for them? How will you live out that word today?

As a leader, you have the profound privilege and responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others through your example, words and actions; something to take seriously while living lightheartedly. Decide, right now, your Leadership Legacy. Then let your days be a beautiful expression of those with every action and interaction.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning coach helping people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Random House, 2016).


How to focus in the age of distraction

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, author, trainer and book addict. Learn more at MAP Professional Development Inc.

Deep Work book NewportIf I handed you a project file and a quiet space, how long would you focus on it before you checked your phone or your mind began to wander?

If you're like the vast majority, probably not long. In his latest book, Deep Work, Cal Newport makes the case that our ability to focus on singular pursuits for any length is becoming more rare -- and increasingly valuable. With technological advances, changing workplace structures, and a host of other factors, we must make a conscious effort to create periods of full-concentration, distraction-free focus if we are to perform at our peak and make the contribution we're here to make.

So, who's thinking, "I crave that -- but can you show this research to my employer / co-workers / team, please?"

Among my executive and leadership coaching clients, this lack of focused time is one of their greatest frustrations. They long for quiet time to devote to strategizing, visioning and high-level work, but they often spend their days in meetings and "putting out fires." What to do?

Some changes need to occur at the organizational level, but there is much you can do as an individual, too. I recently shared five tips on my blog (click here to read); in addition, you might:

Corral your email. 

Consider an autoresponder that tells senders you'll reply within 24 hours. Batch email checks to certain times each day. Remove email from your phone, checking it only when you're at your computer instead.

Turn in your Busy-ness Badge.

If your response to "How are you?" is consistently, "Busy!", let it go. Busy-ness is not a badge of honor nor an aspirational state. Choose to be intentional, purposeful and prioritized. 

Schedule deep work.

In The One Thing, authors Keller and Papasan encourage spending four hours per day -- ideally first thing in the morning -- on your most important goal. Every day. My clients who embrace this practice see a marked difference in purposeful productivity for sure, but not everyone can structure their work accordingly. A few shorter pockets of time per week for this same purpose can be nearly as valuable, especially if you currently have about zero such time scheduled. Newport offers four different scheduling techniques to match your personality and workplace reality, too. 

Make a major change.

"Sometimes to go deep, you must first go big." Newport shares how J.K. Rowling, on deadline with her final book in the Harry Potter series, checked into the luxurious 5-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. Making a grand gesture -- i.e., shelling out $1,000/day for the quiet space to write -- can work wonders for your focus, motivation and productivity.

I had the pleasure of hearing Newport speak at a coaching leadership conference earlier this year. His line that sticks with me the most? "A deep life is a good life." We all have the ability to bring more depth, meaning and purpose into our work and lives, regardless of the distractions surrounding us. 

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

What's your biggest distraction? Perhaps social media, poorly run meetings, staying up too late, TV, or any number of things that keep you from devoting focused time to your priorities and joys. 

Pinpoint the greatest one, then take an action to minimize its effect on you. You might choose from those I've offered, or perhaps you know exactly what you need to do -- you just need to do it. Commit to the action for a week and see what changes in your sense of purposeful focus in just a short time!

How do you maintain focus in this distracted world? Share your best practices below!

Deep Work by Cal Newport (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


3 ways to boost your confidence

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of International Coach Federation - Iowa, a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Background - Goldfinch in Tree - confidenceWhat makes one person's confidence inspiring and another's so off-putting? Should we 'fake it till we make it' or is that disingenuous? How do you exude confidence but not arrogance?

For the past few months, the professional women of the ASPIRE Success Club and I have addressed these and other questions, and the discussion has been nothing less than profound. Confidence is one of those vague, hard-to-measure life areas, yet critical to our success both personally and professionally. How can one succeed without a baseline of confidence?

Although quantifying confidence is tricky, building it up does not have to be. Here are three starting points to enhance your confidence in work, leadership, and life:

1. Take Action.

Spinning in mental circles chips away at our confidence more than just about anything else. As Katty Kaye and Claire Shipman emphasize in their excellent book, The Confidence Code, "Action separates the timid from the bold."

In some instances, your action doesn't even need to be related to the area you're questioning. For instance, have you ever stared at a computer screen for hours trying to figure something out, then the answer instantly comes to you once you go for a walk or hop in the shower? Take an action and let the momentum grow your confidence.

2. Upgrade Your Self-Talk.

Before you skim over this suggestion, watch this 2-minute video by Dove. We have a constant internal dialogue looping through our minds, often without our conscious awareness; this video shows what it's like to hear those things aloud. Commit to fueling your mind with confident, healthy, positive thoughts and let the unhelpful, negative, disheartening ones go.

3. Replace "Compare" With "Learn From."

One of my favorite quotes speaks directly to this suggestion: "Confidence isn't walking into a room thinking you're better than everyone. It's walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone at all." Rather than comparing yourself to others and feeling "less than," ask yourself a few questions: What does my reaction tell me about myself? What action could I take to grow in this area? What can I learn from his/her experience that will help me in my own development? What's the lesson here? 

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE: Which of the above three suggestions would benefit you the most? A word of caution: It might be one that you initially dismissed; after all, we tend to resist what we most need to learn.

Choose one this week and focus on it intently. For example, if you choose #3, notice when you find comparison creeping into your internal dialogue. It might be while in a meeting, listening to a speaker, or scanning your Facebook feed. Notice it, acknowledge it, then ask yourself what action you will take to boost your confidence.

Please, do this without any self-judgment. No worrying about past instances or "shoulds" - just focus on growing your confidence with meaning and purpose from this day forward.

One final thought: Consider why enhancing your confidence is important. What's the purpose behind your confidence-boosting actions? For some, it might be to serve as a role model for your team or your children. For others, it might be to save time currently spent in overthinking or comparing. Let your purpose drive your meaningful actions, and let your confidence radiate out and inspire the rest of us! 

What boosts your confidence? Share your thoughts, tips, and ideas below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Spring clean your leadership

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of the International Coach Federation (Iowa chapter), a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Magic of Tidying book w websiteWhat on earth does decluttering have to do with career, business, and leadership success?

Quite a lot, actually. Consider this scenario:

You wake up in the morning feeling uncharacteristically energized and alert. An exciting project awaits you – one that uses your strengths and passions and that will make a huge difference – and you’ve been anticipating the day when you’d have focused, quality time to work on it. Today’s the day!

You shower, grab your coffee or tea, walk into your workspace, and immediately feel swallowed up by all the papers, files, notes, lists, piles… You can hardly see your desk or chair for all the clutter.

How likely are you jump right into that project now?

Chances are, your energy and focus promptly take a nosedive. Just as physical “stuff” can drain us of precious motivation, so too can clutter in other, less obvious forms.

Good news, though! You can spring clean those less tangible areas, too – at any time of year. Here are five great places to begin clearing up your leadership:

  1. Your schedule.

Is every moment of the day accounted for? The lack of breathing room can contribute significantly to stress and distraction. Build in some buffers throughout the day – even just ten minutes here and there – and use them for quick walks, meditation, or absolutely nothing.

  1. Your meetings.

What do unproductive, aimless, never-ending meetings bring out in you? Probably not your best side. Send a (brief) agenda in advance, clarify and gain agreement on the desired meeting results, hold standing meetings, start and end on time. Side note: Start each meeting with everyone sharing a win. It’s quick, uplifting, and energizing!

  1. Your to-do list.

How many items are on your to-do list today? Now, honestly, how many will you actually complete? Identify what I call your Daily Top 3 – your three most important priorities of the day – then focus on them intently. Practice delegating, outsourcing, re-ordering, or letting go of other tasks.

  1. Your self-doubt.

Everyone questions their decisions and abilities from time to time, but don’t let your uncertainty derail you. “Decide & Take Action” has long been one of my guiding principles; seeking support, reviewing your successes, and surrounding yourself with positive people can all help.

  1. Your message/brand.

What do you stand for? What is your authentic leadership brand? What do you want to be known and remembered for? Trying to please everyone means essentially you please no one, especially not yourself. Conduct a values clarification and revisit (or create) your purpose statement, using them as your filter and guide.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

What’s your favorite spring cleaning tip? Consider how you might apply a variation of it to your work, leadership, or life. For added inspiration, check out a decluttering book for ideas.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, for example, promotes physical decluttering based in one underlying question: “Does the item spark joy?” If it does, keep it, says Kondo. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go.

Ask yourself similar questions with commitments, to-do items, activities, and the like: “Does it help me fulfill my purpose? Does it align with my values and goals? Does is serve the greater good? Am I the best person to do it?”

Pause. Open the proverbial window and let in some fresh spring air. Spring clean your work, leadership, and life – and move a little more lightly as a result!

How will you spring clean your work, leadership, and life? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter (@DrChristiCoach), and Instagram (@DrChristiHegstad).

5 ways to coach in your job

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive and leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

Surely you've heard the ancient lesson: Give someone a fish and she'll eat for a day, but teach her to fish and she'll feed herself for life. Do you agree? How have you incorporated this philosophy into your leadership practices?   

Coaching leadership books Rock StanierMost of us, I'm guessing, believe that helping people to help themselves is the aim of a strong leader. We want our team able to make decisions, solve problems, and be innovative.

But most of us are also probably time-crunched, finding it easier and faster to tell someone what to do rather than draw out their expertise.

As a certified executive and leadership coach, I "teach people to fish" on a daily basis; the nature of coaching invites the space for this to occur. But even if you are not a professional coach, bringing a coach approach to your leadership can transform your team in profound ways. I've partnered with countless leaders over the years to develop their coaching qualities, resulting in more time, stronger engagement, and greater leadership within their teams. You can start with these five strategies:

1. Be quiet.

How comfortable are you with silence? If you're like most in conversation, you probably find silence awkward and jump in to fill it. So do most other people! And in their talking, they're more likely to generate solutions and tap into their own inner wisdom - or at least give you insight into their perspective.

2. Be other-focused.

As a leader, you have valuable experience to share. But the goal in coaching, and in true leadership, is not to showcase your knowledge but to develop the knowledge of others. Ask questions, invite exploration of thought, and draw out their expertise before interjecting your own.

3. Be present.

I can't tell you the number of clients I've coached, both male and female, who find themselves in tears during our first meetings. When I ask about it, nine times out of ten they tell me it's the first time they've felt truly heard in ages. Remove distractions, clear your mind, maintain eye contact, and listen to understand.

4. Be curious.

Remember, everyone has a story - and everyone has something going on that we know nothing about. Keep your assumptions in check. Instead of thinking you know best, ask a few questions first.

5. Believe.

When it comes down to it, coaching relies on one important expectation: You believe the person you're coaching is capable, resourceful, and has potential. Come to your leadership conversations with a true growth perspective and you'll experience far greater outcomes. As you've probably already discovered, people generally rise to our expectations of them.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

For the next week, whenever an employee (or friend or child) asks you a question, pause before responding. See if you might ask a question or two before sharing your advice or suggestion.

For example, if asked "What should I do?" (assuming a non-emergency situation), you could respond with, "What have you thought of so far?" or "I have a few ideas, but can you share yours first?"

This might take less than a minute but allows the person the opportunity to think differently and reminds him that he has wisdom within too. 

Remember: The true measure of a leader isn't how many followers you have, it's how many leaders you've developed around you. Bringing a coach approach can promote leadership in profound and sustainable ways - not to mention free you up for strategy, visioning, and the roles in which you thrive. For additional ideas on bringing coaching into your leadership, check out books like Quiet Leadership by David Rock and The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, too.

How has a coaching approach impacted your leadership, teams, or those around you? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan and Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Want more success? Check your mindset

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

Imagine your day didn’t turn out quite like you planned: You got a C+ on your midterm, followed by a parking ticket on your car, then a brush-off from the friend you called for consolation. How would you likely respond?

Dweck - Mindset bookA. Assume you’re a failure and that the world is out to get you. Take the day as further proof that you can’t seem to get things right. Do nothing about it other than perhaps eat, punch your pillow, or climb into bed.

B. Decide to study harder for the next exam, look at what you did wrong and resolve to do better, pay the ticket, and chalk the day up to “lessons learned.” You’re disappointed but ready to try again.

Your response may clue you into your mindset. And your mindset contributes to your entire outlook, well-being, relationships, level of success, and how you approach the world.

It also affects those around you – likely more than you realize.

I read Mindset by Carol Dweck with a parenting group a few years ago. The book prompted fascinating conversation not only about our children but also ourselves, spouses, teachers, and more.

Shortly thereafter, the book came up in a professional setting and resulted in similar conversation. Each time this book appears (and it is cited seemingly everywhere in business and self-help literature), a proverbial lightbulb seems to turn on.

The crux of Dweck’s research is actually quite simple. She describes two types of mindsets: fixed and growth. But in its simplicity lies one of the most profound learnings you’ll find in personal and professional growth.

If you have a fixed mindset, you likely base your success on winning, looking good, doing well. You tend to believe that qualities like intelligence and talent are innate and “tap out” at certain levels. If you can’t do something well, you might assume you just don’t have the “gift” for that particular activity and, as a result, may not even try it. Those with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenge, not pay attention to feedback if it's anything less-than-stellar, and feel threatened by others’ success.

With a growth mindset, on the other hand, you believe you can improve, change, and grow. You’re willing to try new things, and doing them poorly doesn’t stop you from trying again; you assume that with experience and practice you will get better. In the vignette that opens this article, which Dweck uses in her mindset research, you are more likely to respond in the way described in example B than example A. Those with a growth mindset tend to welcome challenge, see effort as a way to gain mastery, learn from criticism, and become inspired by and/or learn from the success of others.

Quite a difference, eh?

Dweck offers many examples of both mindsets and how they impact our success as leaders, parents, teachers, and friends. In addition, she provides ways to enhance the growth mindset by simply changing the way we talk.

For example, think about how you praise others. If your son aces an exam, telling him “You’re so smart! You have such a knack for science!” sounds nice, but can actually undercut his growth. What happens when he takes his history exam and doesn’t do so well? He may interpret that to mean that he’s not smart, or that he doesn’t have a knack for history so he might as well not even try.

Far better to praise the process:  “Great job! You must have prepared well for this exam!” Highlighting a strategy, choice, or effort reminds them that they influence their destiny and can learn from all experiences. Such a small shift in how we communicate but, as Dweck shares with numerous examples in the book, those small changes can result in transformational results.

Every person I know who has read this book has expressed incredible insights gained. In fact, when I posted about it on Facebook while writing this article, the feedback was unanimously positive with many indicating they planned to pull out their copy and re-read it. If you lead, teach, coach, parent, or influence others, add Mindset to your reading list. You will grow in self-awareness and be able to more readily help others do the same.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

Fortunately, a growth mindset can be cultivated, encouraged, and modeled.

Start making growth-oriented conversation part of your routine at the dinner table or in your meetings: “What did you learn today?” “Where have you put forth a strong effort this week?” “What mistake did you make, and what did you learn from it?”

These types of questions emphasize learning, effort, and growth over “winning” and remind us of the role we play in our own success. This mindset empowers, energizes, and trickles into all facets of our lives!

How has your mindset helped – or hindered – your success? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps people make a positive difference in the world by coaching them to work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach, and (new!) Instagram at www.instagram.com/drchristihegstad.

Mindset by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. (Ballantine, 2006).

Travel, business, leadership, life: What's your quest?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

I can't imagine a better time to write about The Happiness of Pursuit than early in a new year. If you want to think bigger and challenge yourself in a meaningful way, the examples, ideas, and inspiration found in Chris Guillebeau's latest book will prompt you into action. 

Happiness of Pursuit book - GuillebeauThis book focuses on one thing: quests. Not just traditional goals or good ideas, but epic projects that require focus and purposeful intensity in order to fulfill them. Rather extraordinary in scope and often several years in duration, I relate them to what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras refer to in their book Built To Last as BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals - that can be established in any area of work, leadership, or life.

The quest begins with a dream because, as Guillebeau writes in the prologue, "If you want to achieve the unimaginable, you start by imagining it." The quest presents a challenge, requires sacrifice, and leaves you a better person than when you started. The adventure changes you and brings meaning and fulfillment along the way.

Guillebeau begins by explaining his own quest: to visit all 193 countries before turning 35. He shares his experience throughout much of the book as well as highlighting others' inspiring quests, such as:

  • Circumnavigate the globe, solo, in a small sailboat.
  • Take, process, and edit one million photos.
  • Produce the world's largest symphony.
  • Refrain from talking for a period of time (which turned out to be 17 years).
  • Read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in one year.
  • Give $10/day, every day for a year, to a different charity.

That's just for starters.

Big. Bold. Time- and energy-consuming. Perhaps a little nuts, right? Guillebeau does a nice job addressing all of these components in the book. He emphasizes how your quest must come from the heart; it isn't about impressing others, and in fact others may question, or even poke fun at, your quest. "Not everyone needs to believe in your dream," Guillebeau wisely states, "but you do."

I read with particular appreciation his ideas around fear. I have found in my coaching practice that many people hesitate to dream big or set bold goals because of fear - often the fear of not achieving them. I continually emphasize it's not as much about achieving the goal, quest, or dream as it is about who you become in the process: What you learn, how you grow, the transformation you experience. Guillebeau adds, "You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn't exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

Your quest may come from a variety of sources: the idea floating around since childhood, the more recent thought that just will not let go, the thing that breaks your heart. Oftentimes, your quest will essentially find you rather than the other way around; you'll know it when it strikes. And it will certainly evolve as you go.

This book is a particularly good read if you are:

  • in a rut and need a burst of inspiration;
  • ready to think bigger and bolder;
  • feeling an inkling for "something more;" or 
  • need a kick in the pants of any sort!

To be fair, I live in this space of big dreams and bold goals that Guillebeau writes about, so I am a bit biased. I believe everyone can benefit from creating some of these big, exciting projects in their work and life. They provide a sense of ongoing excitement and unusual focus. They allow you to get jazzed about something in the future while savoring and acting in the present moment. They help you prove to yourself that you are capable of what you set out to do.

On top of that, little compares to the feeling that comes with embarking on a significant, thrilling, not-fully-certain challenge - and achieving it.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Whether or not you feel ready to take on a quest just yet, there's one activity sure to get your creative-dreamer juices flowing: Start your Life List (a.k.a., bucket list). What would you LOVE to do, try, experience, see, or create if time and money were in unlimited supply? Personally and professionally, solo and with others, self-focused and other-focused...what comes to mind (and more importantly, to heart)? 

Start writing those ideas down. Not in to-do list fashion, just as a fun Life List that you can add to whenever an idea arises. I have currently challenged the ASPIRE Success Club members to come up with 101 items for their lists, and I encourage you to do the same. Not only will this spark your creativity and open your sense of possibility, it will provide clues to your passions and purpose as well.

And who knows? You might just decide to turn one of those ideas into your next quest!

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders, executives, and meaningful achievers to succeed and make a difference in work they love! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Guillebeau, Chris. The Happiness Of Pursuit. Harmony, 2014. 

Christi's top 5 leadership books of 2015

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

Do you keep a book log? It can prove quite an enlightening way to learn about yourself and your “seasons” over time. As I look through mine from 2015, I’m struck by the themes that stand out: Apparently I had some learning to do in the areas of vulnerability, resiliency, and comfort zones!

Books Single Flower w quoteI’ve read a lot of excellent leadership books this year (and a few not-so-great ones, too), but these five top my list:

Quiet Leadership by David Rock

I first learned about Rock’s work while enrolled in my coaching certification program years ago and have been a fan ever since. He takes the fascinating, yet somewhat overwhelming, field of neuroscience and provides practical application to work, leadership, and life. Quiet Leadership offers an excellent framework for developing others by helping them think differently and from new perspectives (a key tenet of coaching, by the way), as well as sample dialogues and supporting stories. A great resource for any leader, coach, or individual passionate about helping others grow.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

It took me awhile to get into Brown’s work, but ever since I did (often to my dismay, as I write about here), I have been blown away by the power of her message. Her research has opened up a whole new level of conversation on topics like shame and vulnerability, both in the personal and professional realms. The ASPIRE Success Club has discussed her work in detail, with a resounding theme shared: “She makes me feel like I’m not alone in how I think/act/feel.” Proven research, powerful practices, and affirmation all in one.

The Happiness Of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Every year, just as I’m finalizing my Top 5 list, a late contender sneaks onto my desk and subsequently onto the list! This year’s late entry is all about the power of quests – not goals, not adventures, but quests – and how they bring a greater level of meaning and purpose into our work and lives. Examples of quests highlighted in the book include: travel to every country in the world; take, edit, and publish one million photos; read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year; produce the world’s largest symphony performance; and more. A great read as you’re considering goals for a new year!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I have been a huge fan of decluttering for years and have read countless books on the topic – but none quite like Kondo’s. While certainly a bit unusual in parts, I love the simple decision-making power in the question: “Does it spark joy?” I have actually implemented her methodology not only with physical stuff in my office and home, but also with activities, opportunities, even food choices. Her book inspired me to conduct a major decluttering of my bookshelves – something I’ve never had success with until now – so it definitely spoke to me!

Living Big by Pam Grout

If I had to describe this book in a word: INSPIRATION. From beautiful stories of human potential to quick-and-easy kindness ideas to the transformation that comes with dreaming bigger, bolder, and higher, I devoured this book and felt uplifted each time I opened it. I particularly loved the stories of people who felt uncertain of their purpose and unsure of their leadership potential but remained open to possibility, took steps in the direction of their passions, and made a positive difference for others. Her assignments with each section had me thinking differently – and bigger – as well.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotWhat a terrific year for leadership books! Which ones would you add to the list? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Want to add a few more to your to-read list? Check out some of my favorites from years past: 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives succeed in work that they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Quiet Leadership (HarperCollins, 2006); Rising Strong (Random House, 2015); The Happiness of Pursuit (Harmony Books, 2014); The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed Press, 2014); Living Big (Conari Press, 2001).

Creating a flourishing, values-based organization

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

Book - Hsieh - Delivering Happiness w websiteMost people who engage in coaching do so with a desire to improve themselves. Passionate leaders, however, typically strive to enhance their teams, departments, and organizations as well. Wanting to create an engaging and flourishing culture, strong leaders know that they set the tone and are always on the lookout for ways to do that effectively.

As you surely know, success leaves clues and we can learn a lot from the experience of those we admire.

In that vein, when it comes to coaching around organizational culture, I often find myself referring to the book that captures Zappos’ experience so well: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It’s a terrific case study of an organization that strives to wow its customers with service, empower employees to make decisions and lead with confidence, and create a fun, engaging, even weird place to work.

How does Zappos do it?

It starts with one foundational piece upon which everything else is built: core values.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values define the company’s character and brand,” explains Hsieh, who goes on to share Zappos’ 10 core values:

  1. Deliver WOW through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and learning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.

Defining your organizational core values can prove the guidepost for decisions, actions, and commitments. Once clarified, you can turn to your values when interviewing new hires, planning development goals, conducting staff meetings, and more. They become the touchstone of your entire organization.

The fear, and unfortunately, often the reality is that values become simply another item to put on the website or employee manual and then forget. You must work the values into your day-to-day operations for them to have any bearing, and Zappos does a terrific job of this.

In probably its most notable example, after their first weeks of training, all new hires are offered $2,000 to quit. Why? “We want employees that believe in our long-term vision and want to be a part of our culture,” says Hsieh. Fewer than 1 percent take the offer, and Zappos also boasts a retention rate not many can match. To take a phrase from author and researcher Jim Collins, Zappos takes extra measures to “get the right people on the bus,” and it works.

The “fun and weirdness” value is expressed in a variety of ways, from themed costume days to hot dog socials to on-campus petting zoos. And I love some of their strategies for value No. 7, such as “The Face Game”: In addition to a login and password to get into their computer, the photo of a randomly selected employee will also appear on their screen, and they must identify the person’s name. Once they do, a profile and bio of that employee appears to share a bit more insight.

“In the end, it turns out we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: happiness,” writes Hsieh. Creating a positive culture will benefit everyone involved as well as the bottom line, and it all begins with clear values upon which everything else is built.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

What are your organization’s core values? How do employees fulfill them on a day-to-day basis?

If you can’t easily answer these questions, take some time this month to read Delivering Happiness. 

Then, take the initiative to reevaluate your organization’s (as well as your own) values. Seek the necessary support to define clear, agreed-upon values that truly fuel your business. You can then design the path to ensure those values are honored and celebrated on a daily basis – and you, your employees, and your customers will reap the benefits!

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives succeed in work that they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness. Hachette Book Group. © 2010.

Feel the fear - and lead anyway

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

At my high school graduation, I did something a bit unexpected. One of a handful of student speakers, I walked up to the podium, took a deep breath, and proceeded to sing a peppy little song I had written for my class. I am not a singer (not for lack of trying!) and who knows what possessed me to stand in the arena in Duluth, Minnesota and sing to my class. But I did.

Jeffers - Feel The FearAfterwards, people commented on my courage. (Alas, no one mentioned my singing prowess, but I digress.) “How on earth could you stand up there and sing your graduation speech?” they asked. “That took guts!”

But here’s the thing: Sometimes I think I’m the biggest chicken to ever walk the face of the earth.

I can stare at an email endlessly, stomach flipping the entire time, as I contemplate whether or not to click “send.” I can create public speaking scenarios far worse than simply tripping onstage. You think political debates seem endless? You should hear the ones I have in my head sometimes!

I remember being told we must be fearless if we are to live to our full potential. I heard it. I admired as I perceived it in others. Yet I’d still feel my cheeks heating up and my heart racing when I encountered a new or uncertain situation.

Then, like a gift, I read Dr. Susan Jeffers’ classic, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I learned that everyone feels fear, and that we don’t need to fight or ignore our fear but rather learn to move forward with it. Just as the title suggests, we need to know how to acknowledge our fear and still take action.

This book prompted a turning point for me, and became one of the first books I had the ASPIRE Success Club read, too. Years later, we still bring up concepts we learned from this powerful resource. A few takeaways:

  • Embrace your inner Pollyanna. “It’s reported that over 90% of what we worry about never happens,” Jeffers wrote. “That means our negative worries have about a 10% chance of being correct. If this is so, isn’t it possible that being positive is more realistic than being negative?” In brief: Think positive!
  • Take responsibility. Staying in victim mode or living in blame serves no useful purpose. Of Susan’s seven definitions of taking responsibility, the one that resonated most with me: “Taking responsibility means figuring out what you want in life and acting on it. Set your goals – then go out and work toward them.”
  • Action is the key to success and the antidote to fear. I once had a client who understandably worried about her husband deployed in a war-torn country. She realized that while her worry did nothing, she could do a lot. She organized a group that made care packages, she got involved politically, and much more. Taking action changed her entire demeanor and outlook.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Leadership can incite all kinds of fear – so much so that many shy away from a leadership role altogether. Whether you fear uncertainty, rejection, messing up, or the 80,000 other potential concerns that appear in any given situation, try this:

Check in with your values. Decide what’s best for the greater good. If you’re singing your high school graduation speech, perhaps consider voice coaching.

Then, feel the fear…and do it anyway.

What helps you move forward even in the midst of fear? Share your ideas below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to successfully do what they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Jeffers, Susan. © 1987. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. New York: Fawcett Books. 

Happiness: The what, why, and how

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the popular event, Spark!


Happiness BooksI recently had lunch with a friend who never ceases to amaze me. She’s an inspiring leader, a caring mom, a savvy professional and an excellent athlete. She’s also one of the happiest people I know. I always leave our get-togethers feeling better than when I arrived.

Her life isn’t perfect. She faces overwhelming responsibilities at work, worries about her aging parents, and is navigating some tough issues with her teenagers. She also deals with an uncertain health diagnosis that often saps her energy, bringing in its place pain and fatigue.

And still, she's one of the happiest people I know.

Contrary to what some skeptics would have you believe, happiness isn’t about ignoring pain or pasting an inauthentic smile on your face no matter what. You can experience the full range of life’s emotions – including grief, fear, and sadness – and still live a happy existence. As a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested, happiness is more about building your mental and emotional strength than about maintaining a constant state of rah-rah.

And why does happiness matter, really? When I first began my business, I wondered how to educate employers that happiness at work isn’t just a nice-to-do; it’s a critical component for success. Fortunately, research now abounds in this field (see my column last month, for example) and brings with it personal and workplace benefits: higher engagement and productivity, lower turnover, greater morale. In all, a healthier bottom line along with a healthier workforce. Check out the work of Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Shawn Achor for starters, as well as the real-world application shared in Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness and Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

So the big question: How can we elevate happiness in work, leadership, and life? Here are 5 evidence-based principles to kickstart happiness:

  1. Express gratitude. Several of my executive coaching clients keep a gratitude journal, jotting down three things they’re grateful for each day. This simple strategy not only encourages recognition of the small joys, it shifts your mindset to focus on the positive.
  2. Commit to meaningful goals. “Find a happy person and you will find a project,” writes happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky. Striving towards goals engages our strengths, feeds our sense of optimism, and provides a sense of purposeful challenge.
  3. Connect with others. In addition to cultivating relationships, practice random acts of kindness, too. Give some thought to how you might do this with your coworkers, clients, and others with whom you work – so fun!
  4. Get into flow. What activities grip you so much, you lose track of time? However possible, weight your day in favor of your strengths, and help your employees do the same.  
  5. Practice mindful presence. Over 40 years ago, Ram Dass titled his popular book “Be Here Now” – and that advice has only become more necessary over time. Rather than constantly thinking about what’s next (or what you’re missing), savor the moment.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

Choose one of these practices to implement daily over the next three weeks. Jot down a few notes about how you believe the practice might benefit you; you may wish to also record how you engaged your practice each day. Then, three weeks from now, review what changed for you. You may be surprised how quickly these happiness practices can impact you and those around you!

What’s your favorite happiness booster? Share your ideas below.


Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to succeed in meaningful work, and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

What's your positivity ratio - and why does it matter?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

Think about your typical day. I know – “typical” probably doesn’t exist in these ever-changing times, but humor me for just a moment.

Fredrickson - Positivity bookOn a typical day, how many positive acknowledgments do you receive? Praise from your colleagues, sincere gratitude from your leader, “You’re the best parent in the world” from your kids, that kind of thing.

Now, on that same typical day, how many negative acknowledgments do you receive? Perhaps criticism, expressions of disappointment, “You’re the meanest parent in the world,” and the like.

Would you say your negative number is usually equal to or higher than your positive? On some days, the ones that have you reaching for your TV remote or vice of choice, the negative might really outweigh the positive.

But what can we do about it? And is it really necessary to do anything at all?

According to Barbara Fredrickson, researcher and author of the book Positivity, YES. The amount and quality of positivity in our lives impacts our relationships, well-being, even our physical health. We must consciously invite more positivity into our work and lives if we, and those we lead, are to flourish.

Positivity is more than simply replacing negative thoughts with positive ones or becoming more “Pollyanna-like,” asserts Fredrickson. It runs deeper, tapping into true joy, gratitude, hope, inspiration, and more. Just like a flurry of complaining and frustration can lead us into a negative spiral, conscious positivity creates an upward spiral that benefits not only you, but transfers to those around you as well.

I first learned about the book Positivity while attending an executive coach training in Santa Barbara, CA. After a few instructors mentioned it, I picked up a copy at a local bookstore and devoured it on my entire flight home. Even if you shy away from “researchy” books, Positivity is a rare breed: thoroughly based in science but also entertaining, engaging, and pertinent to anyone who wants to lead with joy and purpose.

Positivity shares powerful research and applicable tips on everything from boosting one’s own positivity to dealing with negative people to bouncing back from challenges. One of the most intriguing takeaways from the book involves the positivity ratio: Fredrickson encourages us to shoot for a positivity ratio of 3:1; in other words, three positive, uplifting experiences for every one negative or heart-wrenching experience. While the examples I offered in the opening sentences mostly include experiences that happen “to” you, keep in mind that you are the leader in your own positivity. You can create, seek out, and inspire positive experiences at any time, and you have a lot more power in this realm than you might think…especially as a leader!

You don’t have to be peppy, hyper, and happy-go-lucky all the time in order to experience the benefits of positivity; remember, the ratio is 3:1, not 100:0. You do, however, need to consciously cultivate positive moments into your daily experience. Check out Dr. Fredrickson’s quick online quiz to see how you presently fare: www.positivityratio.com.

Tipping the scales in favor of positivity is not always an easy thing to do, but your life will never be the same once you make this your habit!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

This month, start every meeting – staff meetings, 1-on-1 meetings, performance reviews – on a positive note. My favorite way to do this is to allow each person to briefly share a win they’ve experienced since the previous meeting. Don’t let people off the hook; everyone shares something, even if it’s “I kept my tomato plants alive another week”!

By starting positively, you raise the energy and mindset of everyone in the room, which will prove helpful when delving into important topics and challenges later in the meeting. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

How else might you bring positivity to work? Share your ideas below.


Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to succeed beyond their expectations while bringing meaning and purpose to work. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. (Crown Publishing Group, 2009).

The 'It's not my job' syndrome

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc, coaching leaders to succeed with meaning and purpose.

A few weeks ago, I rented a board room for a leadership meeting in a quaint, classy hotel. Just before the meeting I made a quick visit to the nearest restroom, where someone emerged just as I approached.

Upon entering, I noticed paper towels tossed on the floor, and a few of them even shoved between the wall and the handrail. Although not disastrous, I was surprised to find any mess at all in this nice hotel.

Books - Leadership Challenge & Career DistinctionI was especially surprised since the person exiting as I walked in was a hotel employee.

While I doubt she made the mess (at least I hope not!), I couldn’t help but think about why she wouldn’t take the 30 seconds to clean it up. How do you think she might respond if asked?

Perhaps with a phrase we’ve all likely heard at one time or another: “It’s not my job.”

When employees feel disengaged at work – which Gallup tells us upwards of 70 percent do – they don’t see a point in going the extra mile. They may believe any extra efforts will usurp their already-limited time and energy, go unnoticed, and result in the same 2 percent raise everyone else in the company - including the "bare minimums" - receives. Why bother?

Whether overt or suspected, this “it’s not my job” mentality provides a real challenge for leaders. Many of my executive clients have sought coaching with good hearts and fantastic questions:

How can I help my employees feel more engaged?

How can I support them in purposeful work?

How can I create a culture where people feel happy to go above and beyond – even amid a frozen budget?

Approaching the situation with these kinds of questions is the place to start. Hundreds of sound strategies exist and, although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the best solutions remove the outdated “carrot and stick” methodology from the equation and instead explore vision, purpose, and making work meaningful.

They also require a dual focus: on leaders and on individual employees. Leaders set the tone, and everyone contributes to (or pulls away from) the culture being cultivated.

I recommend two excellent books to prompt ideas for both perspectives in navigating the “it’s not my job” syndrome. The Leadership Challenge, now a classic in the field, supports leaders in fostering a positive, from-the-heart culture. My favorite chapter, Inspire A Shared Vision, stresses the importance of gaining the support and enthusiasm of all employees toward a compelling vision – which can help bring a sense of purpose to even the most mundane tasks (i.e., picking up garbage, even if you aren't the one who dropped it).

Career Distinction helps individual employees decide who they are and how they want to be, developing their own personal brand. Perhaps ironically, one way to establish that standout brand involves doing those above-and-beyond tasks! Arruda & Dixson offer numerous other strategies, however, along with a free downloadable workbook to allow readers to reinforce their learning with applied action.

Reading a couple of books won’t magically prompt everyone to pick up the stray paper towels on the bathroom floor, of course. But implementing the principles you learn, and modeling the behavior you wish to see, will go a long way toward establishing an above-and-beyond culture from which everyone – leaders, employees, customers, and the bottom line – benefits.

How would you address the “it’s not my job” syndrome? Join the conversation of solutions by commenting below.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad develops confident, strengths-based leaders who make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

The Leadership Challenge, 3rd Edition, by James Kouzes & Barry Posner (Jossey-Bass, 2002). Career Distinction by William Arruda & Kirsten Dixson (John Wiley & Sons, 2007).

3 authors who helped shape my business

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, Trainer, and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Books That Shaped MAP IncAbout 13 years ago when I made the decision to start a business, I knew I needed to reach out to experts, small business resources, and other entrepreneurs. Before making those important connections, however, I turned to books. Not so much for business expertise, but to help me refine what exactly I intended to do and for whom.

Several of my executive coaching clients have asked what books helped shape my business in those early years and beyond. Three authors quickly come to mind and, along with them, a one-word summary of what I took away from their work:

Stephen Covey

While most known for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it was his later book, First Things First, that proved an even bigger game-changer for me. With this book’s guidance, I wrote my personal mission statement, clearly defined my values and priorities, and made the conscious decision to design my business – and my life – around what matters most. Covey’s approach to personal leadership and time management have truly stood the test of time.

One-Word Summary: Values

Favorite Line: “Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic.”

Also Recommended: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Principle-Centered Leadership.

Marcus Buckingham

When marketing experts talk about raving fans, I would qualify as one of Marcus Buckingham’s. I’ve led book club discussions around his work, purchased his Strengths Essentials Kits and other products, and invested in coaching from his company. Now, Discover Your Strengths reiterates that when we focus on strengths, we become more productive, heighten our engagement, and are able to flourish with meaning and purpose.

One-Word Summary: Strengths

Favorite Line: “Look inside yourself, try to identify your strongest threads, reinforce them with practice and learning, and then either find or carve out a role that draws on those strengths every day. When you do, you will be more productive, more fulfilled, and more successful.”

Also Recommended: First, Break All The Rules; Go Put Your Strengths To Work; Find Your Strongest Life.

Mary Kay Ash

My first introduction to Mary Kay came at a young age when my mom sold the products; I can still picture Mom’s pink notepad with “The 6 Most Important Things I Must Do” at the top of each page. What I appreciate most about Mary Kay – and what she lays out beautifully in The Mary Kay Way – is her clarity and focus on priorities, not only for herself but for her entire company. Personally and in her business, she defined her top three priorities as 1) God, 2) Family, and 3) Career – in that order, without question.

One-Word Summary: Priorities.

Favorite Line: “Whenever I meet someone, I try to imagine him or her wearing an invisible sign that says, ‘Make me feel important.’”

Also Recommended: More Than A Pink Cadillac by Jim Underwood; any of Mary Kay’s early material.


Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH’S CHALLENGE:

Choose your leadership legacy. If you wrote a book, what would the “one-word summary” be? What word or phrase do you want to come to mind when people think of you?

Decide how you want to be remembered as a leader – what I call your leadership legacy. Then, intentionally start living, working, and leading in alignment with your legacy.

Remember: You choose your leadership legacy by how you choose to lead each and every day.

What’s your leadership legacy word or one-word summary? Share in the comments below!


Dr. Christi Hegstad develops strong, confident leaders who make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

First Things First by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, & Rebecca R. Merrill (Free Press, 1994); Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton (Free Press, 2001); The Mary Kay Way by Mary Kay Ash (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Are you ready to dare greatly?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, Dream Igniter, and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Brown, Brene - both books“Alright class, let’s get into our topics for today: Shame! Vulnerability! The fact that we will never, ever be perfect!”

So began our leadership sessions last week. You might think with an opening like that, my group would have turned and run for the hills. Quite the contrary: After an initial moment of “For real?” these professionals delved into our topics with honesty and great candor.

Afterwards, I think we all left the room feeling like a weight had lifted.

Professor and author Brene Brown has paved this path of conversation for us with The Gifts of Imperfection and, more recently, Daring Greatly. Her practical, down-to-earth warmth coupled with decades of research has opened floodgates of discussion. Once-taboo topics that deeply impact us all can now hold center stage.

So what place does vulnerability hold in leadership? How can the awareness of shame actually enhance our effectiveness at work? What does “wholehearted living” have to do with career success?

As it turns out, the leadership implications of Brene’s work are significant. Consider your own role, for example. Do you:

  • Engage openly in difficult conversations rather than tiptoeing around them?
  • Provide honest feedback, coming from a place of connection and growth?
  • Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers and are o.k. with that?
  • Allow people to dare greatly - even though mistakes and failures may ensue?

And here’s a big one: Do you admit your own mistakes and failures? Even to those you lead?

In a group coaching session recently, a few of my clients were discussing failure, fear, and vulnerability. “I always thought admitting my failures would decrease others’ respect for me,” one courageous professional admitted. “When I shared my big flub-up last year though, I experienced an outpouring of support and a newfound level of respect because I was real. Now my team knows they can take risks – even if they mess up sometimes – because how else do you grow?”

Vulnerability isn’t letting it all hang out; rather, as Brene writes, it’s “sharing our feelings and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.” A few other nuggets to bring into your leadership:

  • Be You. Whether your leadership style is charismatic joviality or quiet compassion, flow with your strengths. “Authenticity,” Brene shares, “is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
  • Quit Comparing. Seek mentors and role models, look for opportunities to grow, but don’t bother with comparison. We can all probably relate to Brene’s words here: “I can’t tell you how many times I’m feeling so good about myself and my life and my family, and then in a split second it’s gone because I consciously or unconsciously start comparing myself to other people.”
  • Make It Meaningful, whatever your profession or role. “When we cultivate our gifts and share them with the world,” she confirms, “we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.”

As a leader, be willing to dare greatly. Dare to take a stand. Dare to stand up for yourself. As Brene so eloquently writes, we all want to be brave.

We all want you to be brave, too.


Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH’S CHALLENGE:

Commit to daring greatly this week. With the support of your coach or trusted adviser, explore where you’ve been holding back and decide how you can now take a step forward.

Can you share a story with your team about a time when you were less than perfect? Apply for the promotion that self-doubt has kept you from? Admit that past mistakes do not define your future?

Don’t just think about daring greatly – take an action that puts you into the arena, knowing that you’ll make a difference and come out stronger.


Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches professionals who want to become strong, confident leaders that make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010) and Daring Greatly (Gotham, 2012) written by Dr. Brene Brown. 

Uncommon leadership: lessons from Lady Gaga

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Gaga book cropWhen you think of Lady Gaga, what comes to mind? Probably her musical talent (six Grammy awards so far), perhaps her outrageous wardrobe (meat dress, anyone?), maybe her unusual antics (the infamous awards show entrance in a giant egg). Only 28 years old and she has certainly made a name for herself.

But as Jackie Huba outlines in her book, Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics, there’s much more to Lady Gaga than meets the eye. In fact, she proves an excellent case study in authenticity, service, and powerful leadership.

Unfamiliar with the book when I picked it up, I had few expectations. I merely hoped to get a bit of insight into why Gaga does what she does, but the introduction set my aim higher: “Lady Gaga’s business sense impresses me,” writes Huba, “but her passion for changing the world for the better through any means possible is what truly inspired me to study her.” Page after page, Huba shows how Lady Gaga takes extraordinary measures to make a difference to the causes and people that matter most to her.

A few lessons in uncommon leadership from Lady Gaga:

  • Focus on those who matter most. Have you ever heard hurtful criticism from someone you don’t even know – or maybe know and don’t respect – and let it bother you? Let it go. You’ll never please everyone, especially if you’re challenging the status quo. Focus on your mission, values, and those who matter most.
  • Start with why. Huba shows how Simon Sinek’s “golden circle” approach (start with why, then how, then what) applies to Lady Gaga’s work, and how we can bring it into our own work as well. Gaga’s why? “To transform the culture to create a kinder, braver world where everyone is valued.” Her why shines through everything she does, from her songs to her interviews to her Born This Way Foundation that empowers youth to build confidence and end bullying. 
  • Go big or go home. “No one talks about products or companies that are just average,” Huba shares. “The way Gaga sees it, whatever you are working on, you should blow it out.” Don’t let the fear of what others might say keep you from honoring your authenticity. Playing small or hiding your light serves no one.

Lady Gaga also reminds us of a key principle in leadership: it’s not about you. As it turns out, the meat dress, as well as her other attention-grabbing “stunts,” involve purposeful action: to support a cause, speak out against an injustice, or give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.

While you may not agree with nor want to attract the same kind of attention as Lady Gaga, her ability to connect deeply with and inspire her most engaged fans offers terrific leadership insight. “What I do [in my concerts],” she explained to MTV, “is, in essence, create an atmosphere for my fans where they don’t leave loving me, they leave loving themselves.”

Consider how you can more powerfully focus on those who matter most, start with why, and go big – all in service of a brighter, stronger world. Because remember: regardless of your title, fame, or the number of Grammys on your shelf, your leadership is not about you.


How can you step outside the norm in your leadership? Where could you make an inspiring splash or bring an unexpected delight to those who matter most? This month, step outside your comfort zone and take an uncommon action in service of those you lead. Share your uncommon leadership ideas in the comments!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders to make a meaningful difference doing what they love. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics by Jackie Huba (Penguin, 2013)


How do your values impact your leadership?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.


Muzyka - Life By CupGeneral Norman Schwarzkopf once famously described leadership as a “potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

Strategy is often clear-cut: you inspire a vision, create goals, and execute the necessary tasks. You have a clear measuring stick and, while life and leadership are rarely black-and-white, you have a map with guideposts along the way.

Character, however, isn’t always so well-defined. Our values play a huge role and, if unidentified, you may often find yourself waffling, spinning your wheels, and making inconsistent decisions. On the flip side, clear values lead to clear actions – and powerful leadership.

Zhena Muzyka, founder of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, seemed to know this early. As she vividly shares in her 2014 book Life By The Cup, she began her business out of necessity: a single mother to an infant son with medical issues, she needed a way to pay for his healthcare. She blended her passion for tea, her desire to care for her family, and her core values to form an enterprise.

Zhena experienced lean days familiar to many entrepreneurs. During those times, opportunities arose that perhaps would have significantly increased her revenue and business stature, but would also prove a slippery slope with regard to her values. Time and time again Zhena chose in favor of her values, and now her business – as well as her integrity – thrive.

This book holds many insightful tips for the purposeful professional, including:

Reach out. So many of us “go it alone” or feel that as smart, capable people we should be able to figure everything out. I love that Zhena never pretended to have all the answers, or even most of the answers, but she held her vision high and reached out to others who did. “When we learn to ask for help,” she reminds us, “we allow others to participate in our life and invest in the relationship.” Rather than thinking of asking for help as a burden, we can actually view it as a gift.

Work with purpose. Zhena’s work is an obvious extension of her values and an expression of her purpose. She never waffled on those values, even when it would have been lucrative to do so. She also didn’t get “lost in the weeds” of the day-to-day tasks: “There is no higher purpose or honor in anyone’s life,” Muzyka writes, “than to serve and nourish others. May your days be filled with this knowing.”

Show up. As somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur myself, I can second Zhena’s suggestion that a big percentage of success is just showing up. Planning plays an important role, but at some point we need to dive in. Attend the meeting. Write the draft. Do the work rather than ruminate and overthink. One of my favorite lines in the entire book: “I was moving so fast that fear couldn’t catch me.”

This book unexpectedly snuck into my pile late last year and turned out to be one of my favorites of 2014. I am a full-fledged coffee lover but was even inspired in the beverage arena: I consumed more tea while reading Life By The Cup than the entire year prior! For a heartfelt glimpse into purposeful entrepreneurship, values-based leadership, and succeeding in meaningful work, grab a cup of tea and this book. You won’t be disappointed.


What are your 3 core values? If you cannot easily answer this question, conduct a values clarification. One route: Review a large list of values, highlighting those that matter most to you. Continue paring down until you’ve identified the three that resonate deeply with your core and that imbue your decisions, actions, and choices. Values clarification isn’t necessarily easy, but knowing those values makes decision-making (and nearly everything else) much easier.


Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotWhat is one of your core values? How does it impact your leadership or business? Share your comments below!

Dr. Christi Hegstad develops strong, confident leaders who make a meaningful difference at work and in life. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Life By The Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success by Zhena Muzyka (Atria Books, 2014) 

What's your "one thing" in 2015?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc, and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

Keller - One Thing bookTake a moment to consider your various life roles. What comes to mind? Perhaps parent, employee, troop leader, spouse, basketball coach, entrepreneur, friend… Given enough time, your list of roles would probably span into the dozens.

Now consider your goals, projects, and dreams for the future. Do you want to start a business? Lose weight? Earn seven figures? Complete RAGBRAI? Fund a college scholarship? Travel?

Add to these lists the routine upkeep of life – dental appointments, grocery shopping, tax prep, and so on – and it’s little wonder many of us feel overwhelmed and stretched to the max.

As cofounder of the largest real estate company in the U.S., Gary Keller knows about roles, responsibilities, and dreams. He’s also created a solution that has caused his book, The One Thing (with Jay Papasan), to hit the business bestseller lists and serve as a model for executives everywhere.

The main premise of the book is fairly simple, and likely something we all know: You can’t do it all, all at once. So, decide what’s most important, then put the majority of your time and energy there.

We know this. But how many of us practice it?

Keller believes in thinking big: big visions, big dreams, big goals. I love the example he gives of Arthur Guinness who, upon establishing his first brewery, signed a 9,000-year lease! But right from Chapter 1, he stresses the importance of going small. “’Going small’ is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do,” he explains. “It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.”

When you know what matters most, your decisions become easier and your actions more aligned. You can decrease that “spinning your wheels” feeling and move forward with clarity and focus.

Last month, about 2 dozen clients and I attended The One Thing Fundamentals seminar in Des Moines. In a few quickly-passing hours, presenter Don Hobbs brought core concepts of the book to life: decide what matters most, clear away the excess, and invest your time and resources accordingly. When you have that clarity, you act with intention and contribute more meaningfully. After all, as Keller writes, “A life lived on purpose is the most powerful of all – and the happiest.”


Many things are important, but they can’t all be the most important. Take some time this month to decide: What’s your One Thing in your work or leadership in 2015? Then put Keller’s question to the test: What’s the One Thing you can do – this week, today, in this moment – to move more purposefully towards that powerful goal?

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotFor added accountability, share your One Thing in the comments below. If you’ve read the book or attended the seminar, what was your biggest takeaway?

Learn more about Dr. Christi Hegstad's coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan (Bard Press, 2012)

Christi's top 5 leadership books of 2014

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

If you are an avid reader, you know the pressure surrounding the question, “What’s your #1 book recommendation?” What?! Just one? It feels a little like being asked to choose your favorite child!

Books - 2014 Top PicksBut difficult as it is, this year – as I do every year – I will embrace the challenge and share my favorite leadership reads. These five books made it onto my reading list in 2014 (though not all were published this year) and have affected my and many of my clients’ work, leadership, and life in profound ways.

(One caveat: This list does not include books about which I’ve already blogged; if it did, It’s Your Ship by D. Michael Abrashoff and It Worked For Me by Colin Powell easily would have made the cut.)

My Top 5 Leadership Books In 2014:

Fearless Leadership by Carey Lohrenz 

A former F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, Lohrenz shares an extraordinary story of perseverance, passion, and not letting obstacles keep you from your dreams. The lessons she learned easily translate to the business context, reminding us that the fundamentals of leadership apply whether we work in an office, from our homes, or in the cockpit of a jet. I found the chapter on vision particularly compelling: “No matter how much time we spend developing a strategic plan,” writes Carey, “if the vision is not clear, the strategy will not matter.”

Repacking Your Bags by Richard Leider and David Shapiro 

With so many adults (more than 70 percent, according to Gallup) dissatisfied or disengaged at work, Leider and Shapiro’s book helps readers define – then begin achieving – meaning and purpose at work and in life. Their formula for the good life: “Living in the place you belong, with the people you love, doing the right work, on purpose.” If you feel the need to do something different with your days but aren’t sure exactly what, this book can help you start to uncover the answers.

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman 

A fascinating and extremely helpful resource for an area that weighs heavily on our success: confidence. The authors interview leaders from sports, politics, psychology, and more to share why so many of us struggle with confidence and what we can do to increase it. The main message? Take action. “Action separates the timid from the bold” is a line I highlighted, underlined, and starred. Terrific practical suggestions throughout this excellent book.

Before Happiness by Shawn Achor 

If you are unfamiliar with Achor, start by watching his TED Talk, “The Happy Secret To Better Work.” This Harvard scholar teaches us, in a hilarious but research-based way, how to stop waiting for happiness and instead create it for ourselves – and why this is so important to workplace success and emotional well-being. He poses a terrific question I’d encourage leaders to ask regularly: “What are you doing to help people at work fall in love with your company?”

Life By The Cup by Zhena Muzyka 

This one just snuck into my reading pile last month and quickly made this list. Zhena created her tea business out of passion and necessity (to pay medical bills for her young son). Her story is a fantastic testament to the power of designing work around clear values and a compelling mission, as well as demonstrating how significantly that clarity helps with challenges, enticing but questionable requests, and a company’s bottom line. “Each of us is born with a particular genius,” writes Muzyka. “Our job in life, our purpose, is to uncover and use it.” I adore coffee but this book has even inspired me to drink more tea!

It’s been an incredible year for books; several others nearly made this list, but these five stand out as truly exceptional. (Feel free to check out my 2012 and 2013 selections, too.) Oh, and for the record, all three of my children are my favorites!

What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Share your recommendations below!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotLearn more about Dr. Christi Hegstad's coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Fearless Leadership (Greenleaf, 2014); Repacking Your Bags (Berrett-Koehler, 2012); The Confidence Code (HarperCollins, 2014); Before Happiness (Crown, 2013); Life By The Cup (Atria, 2014).

How to be a go-giver

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.


“I hate selling.”

Go-Giver booksHow many times have you heard that frustration from an employee, or even said it yourself?

It’s especially common among entrepreneurs: You start a business because you’re passionate about your product or service and want to make a difference. But you’d prefer clients just find you, because selling, in its traditional sense, can feel cheesy, manipulative, and inauthentic.

But what if you didn’t worry about the sale? What if you focused solely on adding value instead?

Such is the premise of Bob Burg & John David Mann’s bestselling book, The Go-Giver, and its follow-up, Go-Givers Sell More. In the first book, the authors share a story about a true go-getter: Joe works crazy hours and holds a “whatever it takes” attitude to make the sale. He hits a wall, however, and – with ulterior motives in mind – schedules a meeting with a hugely successful bigwig, Pindar.

Pindar volunteers to share his sales secrets with Joe over the course of a week. Instead of focusing on topics like how to close a deal, however, Pindar offers five Laws of Stratospheric Success:

  1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

In a nutshell: Focus on giving.

The follow-up book takes these five laws and provides real-life examples, best practices, and solid ways to implement them into your own work.

Most of us know that success in life comes when we serve graciously, give generously, and focus on making the world a better place. The authors have done a great job reminding us that these same principles lead to success in business, too – in terms of satisfaction, morale, and revenue.

So how does one become a go-giver?

Listen more than speak.

Add value more than promote your product – which sometimes means saying, “I know someone else who can better help you.”

Above all, remember: It’s not about you. It’s not even about your product or service. When you make it about you, you’ll struggle.

Then what is it about? According to Burg & Mann:

"It’s about adding value to the other person’s life. Your product may be one vehicle for doing that, one among dozens. Yet a person may never actually buy your product and still have his life changed by meeting you and getting to know you. And that person – even though he never actually becomes a 'customer' – will refer many others to you."

I first read The Go-Giver several years ago and implemented a practice that I encourage you to adopt: Do a go-giver activity first thing each morning. Send a card to someone, just to let her know you’re thinking of her. Leave a voicemail for a colleague wishing him a great day. Mail a newspaper clipping to a local businessperson recently highlighted. Write an unexpected testimonial.

There are so many meaningful ways to become a go-giver, and it’s a great opportunity for each of us to change the world for the better. Read these two books for additional inspiration, then put your go-giver actions to work!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad develops strong, confident leaders who make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

The Go-Giver (2007) and Go-Givers Sell More (2010) were published by The Penguin Group.

In addition to those that I offered, what other simple actions might make someone’s day? Share your ideas below!


What's your purpose? Insights from Simon Sinek's book "Start With Why"

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

“I feel like a cog in a wheel. All I do is enter data. I never even talk with customers unless they’re upset. I feel so replaceable.”

As a leadership coach, I’ve heard this sentiment from many clients over the years. Does one of your employees feel this way?

Start W Why - SinekChances are, more than one does. Gallup studies tell us that 70 percent of employees are dissatisfied and/or disengaged at work, even top performers. A big reason for this – the motivator for starting my company, in fact – is that people feel disconnected from the bigger picture, the purpose. We long for meaning and purpose at work but often struggle to find it, and the results can be devastating to our economy, our relationships, and our human psyche.

Simon Sinek wrote his bestselling book "Start With Why" around the concept of knowing your purpose. “People don’t buy WHAT you do,” he argues fervently, “they buy WHY you do it.”

Inspiring leaders know that they must first clarify the why – the purpose – behind an initiative, product, or action. Once the why becomes clear, then the details (how, what) can take the front seat.

If you believe in inspiring people into action rather than manipulating, valuing people over numbers (including those with a dollar sign in front), and building a successful business with heart, you will devour this book.

In addition to offering practical tools for discerning your organization’s why, Sinek shares thought-provoking examples of purposeful organizations achieving extraordinary measures of success. Imagine working for a financial firm, for example, that awards its agents bonuses not based on production numbers but on the number of thank-you cards they send out!

While reading "Start With Why" I found myself often thinking back to one of Patrick Lencioni’s statements in his excellent resource, "The Advantage": “All organizations exist to make people’s lives better… Every organization must contribute in some way to a better world for some group of people, because if it doesn’t, it will, and should, go out of business.”

Purposeful organizations don’t just happen by chance – they are intentionally built. A few questions, inspired by "Start With Why", to help you move towards purpose:

  • Why are you in business? Hint: “To make money” is not a purpose, it’s a result.
  • How does your organization make lives better? Knowing how you contribute to a better world strengthens every aspect of your business, from marketing to HR to product design and everything in between.
  • Do your employees know why you are in business? We all want to know our work matters. Understanding how you, as one individual, contribute to the bigger picture increases engagement, trust, and passion for the work.
  • How safe do your employees feel with you? As a leader, you set the tone. When people feel protected, your organizational culture exudes a sense of belonging, support, and the space to innovate.
  • Do you hire primarily for skill, or for passion/cultural fit? “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them,” asserts Sinek, “they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Once you know your why, you can make decisions – including hiring choices – using purpose as your anchor. As Sinek writes, “When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens.”

This month, make clarifying your why a top priority. When you know your purpose, you have the foundation to become much more productive, streamlined, meaningful, and successful.

Start with why!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad is Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc. Gain more leadership tips from Dr. Christi via Facebook and Twitter.

Website: www.meaning-and-purpose.com

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Do you agree that knowing your purpose is crucial to success? What’s YOUR why? Share your thoughts below.

Optimistic leadership: what works for Colin Powell

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc., and Founder of Spark!

“High-performing, successful organizations build cultures of introspection and trust and never lose sight of their purpose,” writes Colin Powell in his latest book, It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership. This outstanding resource is packed with simple but poignant leadership lessons, which Powell brings to life with stories from his extraordinary career path.

Powell - It Worked For MeIt Worked For Me, which I would describe as part memoir/part leadership guide, opens with Powell’s “Thirteen Rules” – the overarching principles that have guided arguably one of the most influential leaders of our time. From “Share Credit” to “Get Mad, Then Get Over It,” he offers the guidelines that served him as he rose to four-star general in the U.S. Army and eventually to Secretary of State, with many other notable milestones.

Throughout the book, Powell places a hefty emphasis on one critical, but often overlooked, leadership principle: Optimism. “I have always tried to keep my confidence and optimism up,” says Powell, “no matter how difficult the situation.” Sharing stories from his military experience, he demonstrates how “perpetual optimism” strengthens the success of individuals as well as an overall organization, which research by Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, and others clearly supports.

Yet although Powell clearly favors hoping for the best, he doesn’t suggest putting on blinders and ignoring realities. With characteristic wit he writes, “I try to be an optimist, but I try not to be stupid.”

I wore out a highlighter on It Worked For Me, so narrowing down to three takeaways proved quite challenging! Here are key guidelines that you can apply to your current leadership role as well as build upon for future roles:

1. Insist on clarity.

Powell always held high, specific expectations of his team but also insisted on making those expectations extremely clear. He describes conversations with new staff, warning them that the first few weeks will include continuous correction and nitpicking but will ultimately lead to success. Leadership experts consistently emphasize this need for clarity; in her outstanding bestseller Reality-Based Leadership, Cy Wakeman goes so far as to state that ambiguity is the source of all conflict. Have high expectations, but make them very clear. Set up your team for success

2. Hire for potential, not just performance.

While past performance offers the backdrop, it doesn’t necessarily predict future success. Powell lists several characteristics he would look for in new hires including competence, intelligence, and previous accomplishments but also qualities like “toughness with empathy” and “ability to inspire.” Look for a superb track record of success, but gauge for future potential.

3. Always be kind.

Kindness, this decorated military leader explains, isn’t “being soft or a wuss,” nor is it a weakness. On the contrary, kindness shows confidence.“Taking care of employees is perhaps the best form of kindness,” Powell concludes. Choose kindness. Always.

I found Powell’s thoughts on moral courage, true victory, getting over failure, and servant leadership especially fascinating, and his unique positions throughout his career offer a perspective most of us wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.

While you won’t necessarily agree with all of his strategies, the title of the book clearly explains that is not his expectation. Extraordinary leadership stems from influencing authentically: take pointers from those you admire but don’t attempt to mimic them.

Perhaps the most significant point reminds us that although leading others is important, your most important leadership role is that of being the leader in your own life:

Always do your very best. Even if no one else is looking, you always are. Don’t disappoint yourself.


What do you believe has made Colin Powell such a celebrated leader? Share your comments below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad, Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc., and Founder of Spark! Gain more leadership tips from Dr. Christi via Facebook and Twitter.

Stronger decisions = stronger leaders

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Imagine you have a bright, talented employee who has all but checked out: He does the bare minimum, contributes little in meetings and displays a sour attitude. He’s not officially doing anything wrong but, as a leader, you know his behavior negatively impacts your culture.

He also happens to be the best at his technical skill.

What do you do? How do you decide?

If you’re like many, you might weigh pros and cons, seek group consensus, or research all possible solutions, become overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing.

All common. None optimal.

Decisive - bookIn their latest book, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work, Chip and Dan Heath strive to help us make stronger decisions more consistently. Through extensive research and case studies, they entertainingly teach us “four villains” standing in our way of effective decision-making and provide a new “WRAP” model – Widen your options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong – to improve. While perhaps not suited for split-second decisions such as those an ER doctor or firefighter might make, the strategies provided in Decisive can support leaders in continuously improving and staying consistent – an important but often overlooked component of positive leadership.

Three key takeaways from Decisive that can help your decision-making immediately include:

1. Honor your core priorities. You must have a clear understanding of your vision, values, and priorities in order to make strong decisions. Your calendar and bank statement typically serve as your most accurate scoreboard: Where you place your time and money reflects what matters most to you.

Decisive reiterates Jim Collins’ advice to create a stop-doing list. Imagine receiving a phone call that you’ve inherited $20 million, no strings. Moments later, you learn that you have only ten years left to live. What would you do differently and, just as important, what would you stop doing? Reflecting on this scenario can help you clarify your priorities.

2. Consider the opposite. “If you haven’t encountered any opposition to a decision you’re considering,” the Heaths assert, “chances are you haven’t looked hard enough.” Assign someone the role of devil’s advocate, or honestly ask, “What if our least favorite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that?” We often confuse research with simply fishing for support; considering an opposing possibility heightens our effectiveness.  

3. Set tripwires, or signals that boost you out of autopilot. For example, Zappos offers new employees $2,000 to quit if they realize the company isn’t a good fit. This may seem pricey but, compared to the cost of a disengaged employee, it’s a bargain. The monetary offer removes any nagging uncertainties (“Is this job right for me?”) and guides employees into a clear decision-making opportunity. Tripwires protect against the dangerous “We’ve Always Done It This Way” syndrome, too.

Your Turn: What decision are you currently mulling over? Make a hypothetical choice, then apply the three above tips: Lay out your core priorities to determine if your choice supports them. Look for opposition and see if you’re truly convinced. Finally, create a few tripwires that will signal if a different or modified decision needs to be made.

“Being decisive itself is a choice,” the Heaths remind us. “Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

What helps you make strong decisions? What other decision-making books have you enjoyed? Share your comments below!

Dr. Christi Hegstad, Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc. Find more book reviews & coaching tips on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet new blogger Christi Hegstad

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive and leadership coach and the president of MAP Professional Development Inc. She specializes in positive leadership, employee engagement, career development, and meaningful work. 

How many leadership books have you read in the past year? Christi Hegstad

How many books sit on your nightstand, grace your office shelves, or linger on your Kindle while you wait for a few spare moments to read?

About eleven years ago, I felt a little busy: I was finishing up my doctorate, finding my way around my new hometown of Des Moines, mothering two toddlers with a baby on the way, and starting my executive and leadership coaching business. Not a lot of free time (that I didn’t spend trying to catch some sleep, anyway!).

But because of my lifelong love of books and my core value of growth, I continued to read. I’d finish a few pages while stirring the night’s dinner, wrap up a chapter while in the carpool lane at preschool, or sneak in a few pages before crashing in bed for the night. A day never feels quite complete for me if it hasn’t held some reading and writing.

Maybe you can relate?

Many of the leaders I coach want to read more but, with so many urgent needs and responsibilities, they feel at a loss for time. Again, maybe you can relate. But you might also find yourself staying quiet when a competitor shares how the concept of Level 5 Leadership from Good To Great has transformed her organization or a colleague mentions that the principles from Quiet have helped his previously disharmonious staff thrive. It’s not so much about missing out on a book discussion as it is being unable to learn and apply the key takeaways to advance your business, facilitate employee growth, and create a culture of leadership development in your company.

That’s where this blog will help!

I am an addicted avid reader of nonfiction and constantly share the tips, tools, and principles with my executive coaching clients. Now I’ll share them with you each month, too.

Rather than give you the basic back-cover summary of each book, I’ll share a few key takeaways that you can apply in your leadership role today. As someone who reads extensively (over 100 books some years), I’m quite selective about what I consider worthy of sharing. So rest assured, what you’ll gain from this blog are tips you can use – the best of the best.

We’ll start next month with "Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work" by Chip and Dan Heath, and go from there. Feel free to share your experiences, additional takeaways if you’ve read the book, questions, or even suggestions for future books. Your contributions to the conversation will make this all the more valuable!

I look forward to this virtual book group where leaders can have an opportunity to learn, grow, and share with one another. As John F. Kennedy wisely stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

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