Business Is Complex—Listen For Nuances To Improve Your Leadership Reputation

Business Is Complex—Listen For Nuances To Improve Your Leadership Reputation

As I learned from my CEO and business mentor, Annie Hyman Pratt, when a situation is easy, it is easy to show up well. It’s how you show up in the hardest moments that determines your leadership reputation.

In over half a decade working within entrepreneurial businesses, the one thing I have learned is that business is complex. It is not often that there are super simple clear-cut answers to the problems we are faced with as a team.

I wish it were simple. And if it were that simple there wouldn’t be a need for business coaches or training programs like the A Plus Leader Program, of which I am proudly the Program Director. As an executive coach, I am in the fortunate position to see the inner workings of a multitude of companies. This window into other organizations has shown me that imperfection often gives birth to successful innovation and that the bumpy parts contribute greatly to our overall success. Because of this, I can have deeper compassion for myself and my own team when things don’t go according to plan. I have learned to swim in the complexity and ride out the waves.

I have also seen that what happens within organizations is a microcosm of what is happening in the world at large. The way emotions can raise when stakes are high, how it is hard to take in someone else’s perspective that seems foreign to your own, the way it is easy to feel personally slighted when your idea is not chosen…these are just a few of the challenges that happen often in business and in an even larger way in the world beyond our computer screens and outside our windows.

To anchor me, when the storms brew, I thought I’d join the popular New Year trend of picking a word for the year. A word that helps me remember my commitment to being a force for positive change in these turbulent times and helps me stabilize when the waters get stormy.

My word for 2023 is nuance. Nuance is defined as a subtle difference in shade of meaning, expression or sound. Recently, I noticed how I put focused effort into better understanding someone if we both speak different languages. It requires my full attention, and I am listening to capture the fuller meaning beyond the words. I am considering all the nuances. I am open to the fact that nuances exist, so much more so than if I am speaking with someone who speaks my same language. In truth, I noticed I make assumptions of understanding too quickly often if we speak the same language. And unfortunately, I move even quicker with my assumptions when receiving the communications of others that I come into daily contact with; be it at home, work, or in my community. 

Here’s the biggest challenge: active listening is not the natural default human setting. We are hard-wired to be more focused on our own survival. Which in a modern-day business setting often means that we are most focused on having the best response. That is why, we must consciously choose to be intentional and practice active listening. 

What we long for is a sense of being heard and understood. Active listening, the type that listens with the intention to understand beyond the surface, is the paramount to the best collaborative thinking and problem-solving. It doesn’t matter to me if an idea I put forward doesn’t get chosen in a team meeting, but I noticed that what does matter to me is that my idea was heard, and others listened in hopes of understanding my vision. If that has occurred and it is not the right idea for the business at that point and time, no problem. I have also witnessed this being so for other business leaders.

Nuances lead us to greater understanding and therefore connection. When we listen for where we agree, we find more alignment. When we collaborate well within business, we seek out the ways our ideas build upon each other and give birth to a greater solution than any one mind would have found.

True leadership is knowing how to harness the power of the group think tank; actually, being excited that you have more than just your one brain to solve any given problem. I am so grateful to be a part of a team. And I want you to harness the joy and accomplishments that come from being on a team working together to achieve results, but please know it isn’t always easy, and that is good.

Daring to really hear and understand an idea that seems contrary to your own requires courage. Why does that other person have such a different perspective? If you listen for the nuances and choose to ask more questions of that person, often a valuable nugget is revealed. Perhaps the person’s solution is flawed, but why they are proposing the solution is because they can see a potential problem that others have missed. And now that potential problem has surfaced, and the negative impact is avoided because we work this new awareness into our overall solution. That is a big win. 

Will you join me and look for the nuance in 2023? Listen to understand. On the surface communication can be misleading. Sometimes we are saying the same thing, or agreeing more than we might realize, but all we really hear and focus on is what we disagree with because that so strongly jumps out at us. I invite you to silence the part of you that may feel an urge to be right or make someone else wrong. 

Don’t let the louder voices of the larger world, the ones that stir up our fear and keep us from really hearing one another dominate. If we do this, I believe that we can work together to turn the tide. Remember, being a human is challenging. And being in business is complex. We will face many challenges in the year ahead, but we never lose the ability to choose how we show up.

Remember, life is filled with nuance…get curious and show up. Leadership is calling!

You’ve got this!


PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can watch it over on YouTube:

Or you can tune in here:



Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Learn How to Partner with Your Team

Learn How to Partner with Your Team

In 1995 when I was CEO of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the height of our rapid expansion, I was in the middle of scrambling to remodel stores, open a new store every month, while simultaneously attempting to resolve our staffing and efficiency issues! It was a lot to say the least AND training new team members was a major investment in time and resources, and if an employee stayed only a short time, the entire staff felt the impact. This often turned into a cycle of overworking the trained people to the point of burnout, because there just weren’t enough of them! 

And, because our growth was mostly fueled by traditional bank borrowing, if we put money into stores that performed poorly, our entire growth plan could collapse, and then we’d have trouble paying our debts.

The slew of new (and stressful!) pressures made the company like a bucking bronco—so I dug in my boots the only way I knew how: adopting my dad’s top-down management style. All these years later, I can laugh and admit that I am a “recovered micromanager.” But back then, I wouldn’t listen to my team. My management style forced store managers to wait on me and my decisions, when they should have been presenting their solutions to the issues that they were dealing with on the ground. Instead of asking, “What do our stores need?” their default was, “What does Annie want?” 

I vividly remember the gut-wrenching day I realized I had to change. My HR manager and I had a major disagreement about management staffing, and while storming out the door, she didn’t mince words about me and the “ivory tower” she felt I lived in (spicing in language that I don’t dare repeat) and how my leadership style “wasn’t working!” And she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Many other managers threatened to quit en masse, and for the first time it hit me that having an unhappy, overworked, under-inspired workforce could put us out of business.

In the undeniable reality of this painful moment, the light turned on, and I realized that a viable company isn’t just a product or a service, nor is it a combination of systems or processes—it’s all about the people who work there. After all, they are the ones who, day in, day out, deliver results. Their skills, their commitment, their teamwork, and their heart are necessary to drive a business forward. I couldn’t have sustainable business success without my team—I had to learn how to partner with them.

I mulled over this thought: How could I let people know they were an essential key to achieving our goals within our company? How could I make the best use of our great employees—the people I now call ‘A’ Players—and at the same time structure teams in such a way that they worked together like the well-tuned parts of an engine? I needed a business model that allowed me to step back to do the bigger strategic thinking while filling the gap with people who stepped up and took responsibility!

To make this happen, I had to radically change my management approach. I couldn’t sacrifice our company values to get results, no matter how tempting, because then everyone who worked there would do the same. I realized I wanted a company whose reputation highlighted the value of our products and our people—people who were empowered to make decisions and encouraged to lead. I admit this transition was a challenge for me for a while. I had to learn to develop my team so I could reliably trust that they would think and act in the most effective, best interest of the company and its goals. And once they got developed, I had to trust that they had the skills and perspectives to do not only the operational tasks but also the ongoing managerial activities (such as problem-solving and decision-making) that I had kept control of for far too long.

These realizations were part of a humbling and growing season for me as a person and a business leader. After all of my running around, working long hours to continue our expansion and strengthen our reputation for having the best ice-blended mocha beverage on the market, I was still slammed with the fact that we could go under from poor operations. Up until this time, I had believed it was my role to figure everything out and then dole out the instructions to my team. My leadership shortcomings were the driving factor behind the challenges we were facing, and this harsh reality got my attention. At that point, I started to think, I have to learn how to do this differently. Our company would not survive if I didn’t change my approach and transform into a leader who recognized the people who worked for me as my most valuable resource. 

And if I could do it (a reformed micromanager!), I know you can too.

So how do you uplevel your own leadership skills? 

You must learn how to partner with your team so that you can empower them to become leaders who are able to problem-solve and make decisions anchored in the outcomes of your vision and strategic plan. This is key to your long term success. The days of top-down authority are over and any business committed to caring about their impact on their team and clients will lean into collaborating and developing their team to drive outcomes.

And that’s what the people part is all about. 

We teach companies and their leaders how to come together to align and make conscious agreements that help you take effective action together.

And before you dive into ACE teamwork, you (and each member of your team) have to be in Self-Leadership which is the basis of critical thinking, performance, and effective interaction. Because, if you are continuously showing up in self-protection, your best thinking is NOT available. And that means your ability to make the best decisions in partnership with your team is also not available.

Here are a few tips to help you get out of a reactive state (self-protection) and show up in Self-Leadership so you can effectively collaborate with your most valuable resource—your team:

  • Start noticing and recognizing when you might be in self-protection and don’t make any decisions in the moment if you can help it (this might not always be possible especially if you’re in the middle of a presentation). But, it is more possible than most realize to ask to postpone the decision until later in the day, or the following day, to give time for emotions to pass, and all to be certain they are seeing things clearly.
  • If you are having a reaction where you feel like you want to defend, prove, fix, or blame (or any other reactive impulse), pause in a way that helps calm down your own reaction. It can be as simple as sitting back in your chair, and pulling your focus inward, or putting your emphasis on listening. Active listening is a leadership super skill that can be very revealing in the best possible way. 
  • Depending on the circumstances, once you’ve paused, do something that helps you regulate your emotions so you can shift back to a more neutral state—go for a walk, take a dance break, play with your dog or kids, watch a funny video, or whatever else helps you move the energy of your emotions. These moments we step away, often prove to feed our creativity, so even if you feel you couldn’t possibly take the time, trust me and take the longer pause.

Strengthening your own emotional endurance is the one thing you can do everyday to help ensure you have the leadership stamina to meet the moment. Self-Leadership is key to your empowerment. The more you can become aware of your own reactive behaviors and get yourself back into Self-Leadership, the easier it will be to work with your team effectively.

You and your team are in this together and you need each other, with your best thinking, to reach the best results! Deploy united teamwork today with ACE: alignment to outcomes and consciously made agreements, set you up with the best chance to take effective action. 

You’ve got this!





PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here:

Or you can watch it over on YouTube:




Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Are You In The Stands Or In The Game?

Are You In The Stands Or In The Game?

You’ve just walked into an arena to watch a big game. 

You’re excited—you grab a beer (or whatever your drink of choice is) and your favorite stadium snacks. You head to your seat and settle in, ready to be entertained.

Then, a couple of players on the team you’re rooting for start missing passes. They even miss a couple of clear shots. Things aren’t going the way you envisioned and it isn’t looking good for your team…

It’s easy to judge when you are sitting comfortably in the stands. There’s no risk for you to be there, no skin in the game (unless you have placed a bet or you’re one of those diehard fans who has some superstitious ritual that helps your favorite team win!). You’re there to sit back and enjoy watching the action.

You get to observe and make quick assessments of how the game is going from the vantage point of someone who isn’t on the team or directly involved… 

In other words, it’s easy to have an opinion about what should and shouldn’t happen when you’re on the sidelines. It’s a totally different experience when you’re actually in the game.

The same is true when you’re working inside of an organization and on a team. It’s easy to judge and have a limited perspective of how a business or team should operate when you aren’t directly involved with them. It’s a much different experience when you are directly involved and responsible for achieving a successful outcome with others.

Take the following example—you have a teammate who hasn’t completed a project that’s been on their plate longer than the original timeline. While it isn’t directly affecting you or your workload, you start making judgments about how this teammate has dropped the ball. You may question their abilities overall or think that if you had been in their shoes, that you would have surely achieved that goal.

It’s easy to judge how your teammate is handling their part, while totally ignoring the fact (or conveniently forgetting) that YOU, too, have missed a deadline or that you likely have had a future project or two that you couldn’t get moving as quickly as you would have liked. Judging is our human default. We all do it. But great performers and humans who strive to have an impact strive to be better and do better. That’s why putting good critical focus on how you can uplevel your performance is key to you being successful in the game. The more you put the focus on your part, rather than hanging out in judgment of others, the bigger impact you’ll have on the overall outcomes and goals that you and your team are going for.

And, you have a bigger impact than you think.

You have a part to play and you get to choose to be conscious of this or to keep sitting back and unconsciously judging others without considering how you can jump in and make a positive difference.

Which do you choose? 

If you’re ready to jump in and be part of the change, it’s important to consider that there are a lot of challenges in the world today that are affecting all areas of our lives. And that means we need outside of the box thinking, great minds collaborating, and humans striving to make a positive difference, and enduring when the game plan needs revising along the way. 

This means that you are one part of a team (and humanity as a whole) who has the power to make a positive difference in the way you choose to show up when you’re in the game. You get to choose your impact and bring your best self to the table when working with others. 

Will you always do this perfectly? Of course not, but your willingness to drop judgment and remember that you and your team are doing the best you can under a lot of challenges and stress is a huge win. You need each other, through all of the ups and downs, to be successful in the game. That starts with your willingness to show up and do what it takes to succeed.

In our teaching and training, we emphasize and model that everything begins with you from a place of empowerment rooted in Self-Leadership. This means that you are showing up with your best thinking available and you are not in a reactive state—AKA you’re not taking action from a place of judgment. You’ve done the work to get back into Self-Leadership by using our CCORE Empowerment Process, (click here to get the full process, complete with exercises) and then you are taking the most effective action together as a team so that you have the best chance of reaching your goals. 

When everyone on your team is moving together rooted in their own Self-Leadership, you’re able to make decisions that keep making you a winning team. 

Will you jump in or stay on the sidelines?

To your best and most empowered self,



PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here:

Or you can watch it over on YouTube:




Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Become Aware of Your Own Self-Protection

Become Aware of Your Own Self-Protection

Have you ever witnessed someone who was totally unaware of the impact of their behavior?

I’m sure you have—we all have. It isn’t pretty and can look gnarly, but it is helpful to know that we all have stealth, hidden blind spots that happen when we are reacting from self-protection. These behaviors are often unconscious and automatic, but can have an impact on the way others experience us and the results we achieve.

When you are able to slow down and become aware of your own state of reaction in the moment, you’ll be better able to ask yourself, “What’s the impact I’m having here, and is this what I am intending?” Often the impression we have of ourselves and how we want to show up are completely different from what others are experiencing in the interaction with us.

That comes from a lack of awareness of the effect of our self-protective behaviors on others.

What I notice often in our work with leaders, especially during these times of so much uncertainty and external influences that are impacting people and business, is that our team is under huge amounts of pressure and stress not only at work but within their personal lives. Due to this, so many leaders are finding themselves in self-protection more often. In uncertainty, we are hardwired to have protective reactions—and that’s okay because it’s normal. It is part of being human. Yet, we need to pay attention to the impact we have on others in order to create secure and supportive relationships for achieving the results we are going for together.

How do we become aware of our own self-protective behaviors especially when we might be more reactive due to current stresses?

In our coaching sessions, I remind Entrepreneurial Leaders to consider the whole person now more than ever. Everyone has been affected by the current economic and social climate over the last few years. People are feeling stressed with added pressure from multiple avenues—it is understandable that we may find ourselves and others being more emotionally reactive in situations, and we want to be sure we are compassionately keeping this consideration in mind. 

How can we each be more aware of our own behaviors when interacting with others?

It starts with pausing to recognize and observe, and then fully accepting our own reactions through the lens of compassion. If we always apply compassion to ourselves first, then this is key to being able to extend the same kindness and compassion to others on our team. 

As you pause, ask yourself, “What is happening right now and what is it I’m going for?” These questions bring forward curiosity and openness. When you pause long enough and lean into curiosity, you are able to choose your impact and easily anchor in a positive intended outcome—especially when there are a lot of moving parts and external drivers that are impacting not only the business, but everyone on your team.

Being in Self-Leadership brings a sense of confidence and security. When you lead from this place, it is easy to be open to what others are thinking and even what their self-protection may be informing you. How can you meet them where they are?

The truth is we may not know everything that a team member is experiencing inside and outside of work; therefore our part is to be compassionate, curious and anchor in the awareness of the influence and impact we are going for, and stay aware of our own process to keep returning to Self-Leadership. From Self-Leadership, you will be best positioned to have the positive impact you are going for and connect with your team members in knowing they are doing the best they can in circumstances of change and uncertainty. This is Leadership!

The People Part always comes first—it is up to us to be intentional in creating an environment that includes more safety and security. This creates the container for you and your team to do your best thinking together and drive results to reach your successful outcomes.

So how do you put this into practice?

Here are some tips and reminders that can help you be more aware of your own self-protective behaviors and ways you can lean in and lead with more compassion…

  • Get curious about your own self-protective behavior. Knowing your own reactions and becoming more aware of when you find yourself blaming, judging, defending, hiding, or any other reactive behavior, the better opportunity you have to be a witness to others having a similar experience. Remember: we are all hard-wired for self-protection. The key is to be aware and to do the work to return to Self-Leadership.
  • Practice extreme self-care. The more you are under a lot of pressure and stress, the more you need to employ the practices that help you refuel and return to a neutral state. Your best thinking isn’t available if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
  • Anchor in viewing everyone through the lens of compassion. Assume positive intent from your team members. We are all doing the best we can in any given moment and the truth is—we may not know what others are experiencing that is impacting their ability to do their best. 
  • Use the power of the pause when you recognize you are in self-protection. Once you are in the habit of recognizing your own reactions, be sure to pause. This allows you to slow down the flood of emotions enough to choose your next best step from a place of Self-Leadership.
  • Keep asking yourself, “What’s my part and what’s the impact I’m going for?” This practice is a powerful reminder that you and your team are in this together. It helps you anchor in your own positive intent as you move together to reach the outcomes of the business.

Remember, that you have the power to make a difference, lead with positive intent, and create a safe environment so that you and your team have a better chance of navigating the changes being brought forward during these unknown times.

This is leadership and you are doing great!



PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here:

Or you can watch it over on YouTube:




Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Work Closely Together to Navigate the Unknown

Work Closely Together to Navigate the Unknown

In our current economic climate, it can be difficult to determine what to do next when the market doesn’t feel as predictable as it may have in the past. That is totally normal—there are so many unknowns and variables that many of the businesses we work with have never experienced before. What’s important to remember is that the most successful businesses that come out on the other side of this are the ones that are able to stay closely connected to their team.

The more you can connect and collaborate with your team, the better chances you have for the next best moves to come forward. Your team is your think-tank during challenging situations—that’s why you’ll want to circle up more often to navigate all of the impactful external drivers that are changing frequently. You and your team can then make the best agreements with the information on hand and your goal(s) in mind, and then get aligned together to take action. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid challenges, mistakes, unexpected changes, and failures along the way. You’ll get better as you go, but it’s a long voyage that demands education, commitment, practice, and a willingness to endure difficult feelings and situations.

The journey from A to V (A = your current state, V = your future desired state or vision manifest) usually goes something like this: You make a plan for the direction you want to go, you take a few steps, and then you assess what actually happened. Sometimes things go exactly as you expected, but most of the time it’s something pretty different that requires you and your team to address issues, make changes, and plan pivots—all while learning in the process. And in this rapidly changing business environment with so many unknowns on the horizon that may require you to pivot quickly, you and your team need to realign to your V State and make the adjustments based on what will put you back on track to achieve those future desired outcomes. Then, you take a few more steps and see what happens. Be open to new information as it comes forward. Adjust. Repeat! 

And take heart from this quote I love, from an author who’s unknown but, to me, brilliant: “The bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you refuse to make the turn.” Right now, there may be many bends and that’s okay as long as you and your team are making those turns together.

One more word to the wise: When you step off of A and things go differently than you anticipated, do not waste time, energy, and resources trying to return to A because it seems better in retrospect than these new challenges. That option is no longer available! Seriously, once you step off of A, it no longer exists. This is because the world keeps moving forward. You can’t go back to how things were before. Even if you tried, your customers’ needs and expectations have likely changed, or one of your competitors could be gaining market share, or perhaps a popular product of yours is about to go obsolete. You can change your direction, but you still have to move forward, because returning to the past isn’t possible. 

So what do you do instead?

Here’s a list of suggestions that can best set you and your team up for success as you continue to navigate these challenging times…

  • Make sure you are doing your part to show up in Self-Leadership. This might mean doubling down on your self care so that you are showing up as your best self. During challenging times, it can be difficult to stay out of reactivity. This is why you have to be more willing to do what it takes to get back into Self-Leadership.
  • Dedicate part of your current meetings to check in on each other to make sure everyone is doing okay. This may seem obvious, but it is worth pointing out—this will help create another layer of psychological safety. When everything you are doing isn’t predictable and business as usual, you and your team may be stretched far out of your comfort zone. This can leave each of you in self-protection more than normal.
  • Create a weekly meeting to discuss current external drivers that may have an impact on the business. Being in it together will help you discuss the best ideas as to how to proceed each week. Even if there isn’t much new information week to week and no new actions are needed, adding in this level of check in helps create the safety needed to pivot quickly when appropriate.

While you cannot always accurately predict what is going to happen during these challenging times, you can work together to find the best ways to navigate them together and come out on the other side stronger.


This is leadership!





PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here:

Or you can watch it over on YouTube:




Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

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