Be Curious

Curiosity killed the cat, right? Wrong. Curiosity builds strong leaders and teams. Below are a handful of great ways  to remain curious about the world and reasons why curiosity helps you and those around you.

Ways to Remain Curious

  • Keep an open mind when speaking with others or learning new information.
  • Travel and experience different cultures within your own country and abroad.
  • Ask questions of others and be introspective.
  • Look for differences and similarities in all people and places.
  • Read as much as possible and mix your genre up – fiction, non-fiction, history, mystery, and anything else that spurs your interest.

Why Is Curiosity Important?

  1. Curiosity fuels our imagination. When we are curious, we are more likely to be creative at work and open to innovation.
  2. Curiosity improves relationships. Asking questions of others spurs connection and insight.
  3. Curiosity spurs self-knowledge. Thinking about why we think the way we do can help us understand ourselves as well as possible biases and blind spots.
  4. Curiosity prevents “know-it-all” arrogance. When we recognize there is always more to learn, we are humbled by our ignorance.
  5. Curiosity keeps us young. Curiosity about the others, ourselves, and our world inspires the wide-eyed wonder that we had as children.

Good luck on your journey to stay curious. Undoubtedly, your rekindled curiosity will move you forward.

For more about how curiosity can improve your and your team, see Sarah Robinson’s new book  FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team. 




Do You Have a BF at Work?

Saturday, June 8, 2019 is National Best Friend Day! Tomorrow I’ll be talking on WLIP Radio with Frank and Kim Carmicheal about how having a best friend at work can not only help your overall health but can also increase your engagement in the workplace.

Please tune into our live discussion at 2:30 p.m. (EST) at


Thank You ‘FRESH Leadership’ Launch Partners

A huge thank you to the many individuals who made the launch of my newly released book, FRESH Leadership: 5 SKills to Transform You and Your Team, a success. While writing a book might look like a solo activity from afar, up close there are a host of friends, colleagues, and advisers who make up the complicated support network that (at least in my case) is critical to pulling off the daunting task of publishing a book.

My sincere thanks go to:

Nicole Gebhardt and everyone at Niche PressWorks; John O’Haver and Jim Cota at Rare Bird; Eric Pascarelli of Pascarelli Productions; Greg Perez of Greg Perez Studio; early readers and reiewers: Martha Hoover, David Mangan, Brandon Miller, John Kirby, Elizabeth Miney, Eric Spohn, Elizabeth Urbanski, Joanie Muench, Tom O’Neil, Julie McGinnis, Matthew Feltrop, Kevin Pahud, SallyAnn Hulick, JoDee Curtis, Cheryl Graham, Deborah Dorman, Laura Hayes, Eugene Taylor, Laura Taylor, Brent O’Bannon, Cynthia Yosha-Snyder, Michelle Smirnoff, Nancy Merrick, Lisa Spohn, Dana Pahud, and Char Lord; and all attendees of the launch party on March 20 with a special shout out to Eugene and Kimberly Taylor who traveled from St. Louis, MO and Chris Smith, barista extraordinaire!

Thank you all for your support, guidance, and good will!



“FRESH Leadership”- Powerful New Insights and Tools for Today

What’s different about FRESH Leadership? Well, in short, it’s just better. Think of the differences we encounter with other things that are fresh or, conversely, stale – think of a fresh loaf of bread or a fresh scent in the air. No one wants to eat bread that’s hard as a rock, or breathe in putrid, un-circulated, stale air. Similarly, no one wants leadership that relies on decades-old practices that no longer fit today’s fast-paced world.

82% of employees see their leader as fundamentally uninspiring.[1]

FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team is written for managers and teams that are searching for ways to defy the staggering likelihood noted above, that 82% of employees see their leader as fundamentally uninspiring.

Relying upon the most current research, FRESH Leadership provides a road map for teams who are striving to learn more about each other’s deepest motivations and, then, cheer each other on to never-before achieved successes.

Leadership today is difficult, but it is not impossible. If you are looking to improve yourself, your team, or your organization, take a look at FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team.

For more about individual coaching and group facilitation see

Below are reviews from early readers of FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team.

FRESH LEADERSHIP is a quick-read crash course for managers at all levels, offering a “fresh” perspective on leadership, and why it matters now more than ever. Supported by both data and useful anecdotes, FRESH LEADERSHIP will convince anyone in management that adapting new management norms will not only make for happier, more engaged employees, but also for happier and more fulfilled managers.

Martha S. Hoover, Founder, Patachou Inc.

Not a book to simply place on shelf, Ms. Robinson provides a living document to be utilized and referred to weekly, if not daily, for those working and collaborating with team members seeking meaning and value in their careers.

Kevin Pahud, Partner | BKD

As a Senior Leader in a fast-paced company within an even faster-paced industry, I found the advice in FRESH Leadership completely spot on for creating and maintaining a productive environment for my team. The logic underlying the five basic elements for building a successful, engaged, happy team is beyond solid and laid out in a format that leaders with or without business backgrounds will find easy to understand and implement.

Laura M. Taylor, Executive Director of Compliance, Indiana University Health Plans

FRESH Leadership beautifully blends organizational behavior research and leadership common sense to guide new and old leaders alike on a brand new path. This book is a fast read, but don’t forget your hi-lighter which any leader worth their salt will have in-hand. I have already taken some of my highlighted sections and then transferred them to notes for this week’s meeting agenda. Sarah’s book is both insightful and practical. A winner.

Elizabeth Miney, National Training Manager, H2O at Home


[1] Brewerton, Rasmus, Hougaard Jacquelin, Carter Vince, and Harvard Business Review. “Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?” Harvard Business Review, 5 Feb. 2018,



Leaders Know How to Give Thanks


It can be difficult to carve out time to thank our colleagues and team members. Leaders, as opposed to managers, make sure that giving thanks is a priority that doesn’t fall to the bottom of their to-do list. Why? Because there are a host of great benefits that result from this virtually expense-free leadership technique.


of employees said they’d feel better about their work and themselves if their boss


them more regularly. [1]

Below are a few of the reasons that leaders make time to thank their team members regularly:

  • Regularly thanking others shows appreciation of work and confirms the value of the work performed.
  • Saying “thank you” is a sign of respect. If we do not care enough to say “thank you,” then it may be inferred that we do not care about the person who has helped us.
  • Giving thanks can inspire and motivate others.

Are you unsure of when to thank someone? Do you worry that too much thanks will dilute the importance of saying thank you?  Some thanks are more meaningful than others because timeliness and authenticity are critical components to offering memorable and appreciated thanks.

The timing: Human beings (as compared to, say, poorly trained Labrador Retrievers) are able to maturely delay immediate gratification. For example, we can convince ourselves to “save” dessert until the end of the meal. Despite having the ability to delay gratification, humans benefit from immediate gratification. Waiting for our annual review to hear a few words of praise and thanks pushes the limits of  our human abilities to fully enjoy, or be gratified by, praise and thanks. Giving thanks the day after a big presentation or sending a written note a few days after the completion of a large project are exponentially more rewarding than verbal thanks in a performance review a few months later.

The authenticity: People are also savvy when it comes to sniffing out authentic versus inauthentic thanks. Years ago, I worked for a CEO whose standard form of praise was to say “’preciate it.” Of course, he meant to say “I appreciate it,” but instead he truncated the phrase and slurred the words into an almost unrecognizable phrase. There were a number of reasons why this thanks reeked of being inauthentic but the most troubling was how impersonal and generalized it was. Everyone got the exact same “’preciate it” for any good works – large or small.

Leaders-those who are formally recognized and those who work as unpaid and unofficial leaders-know the power of timely and authentic thanks.

To learn more about how and why to build an engaged workplace, read Sarah Robinson’s soon to be launched book “FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills that Will Transform You and Your Team.”  To order your book from Amazon, click here.

Below are comments from early readers and reviewers.

FRESH Leadership, by Sarah Robinson, is a must-read for any leader focused on building an engaged, high-performing team! The insights and tools presented in each chapter of this book are practical and easy to implement. I found myself leveraging them immediately after I started reading; challenging myself and my leaders with the self-examination questions and then utilizing the group discussion questions in leadership team meetings. Among many of the topics addressed in this book, Sarah’s take on service as an essential piece of what distinguishes a leader from a manager is fantastic!  I have found that “servant-leader” is such an overused and misunderstood concept, yet Sarah describes it beautifully. Overall, her common sense approach to leadership, bringing together “book smarts” and “street smarts”, make this book perfect for all leaders.

David Mangan, Executive Director, Marketing, Indiana University Health


Sarah does a beautiful job of engaging the reader by mixing research statistics with personal stories. The self-examination questions at the end of each section are powerful and allowed me to refresh the  learnings into my own business and personal life.  Sarah’s FRESH model is focused and easy to remember; it applies to all of us, no matter our position; it’s a book everyone should read!

JoDee Curtis, SHRM-SCP, Purple Ink LLC, Author of JoyPoweredTM, The JoyPoweredTM family, and The JoyPoweredTM Team


In my company, I am both led by a leader AND I am a leader to a team. Fresh Leadership was very eye opening for me in both aspects of leadership.  I now feel empowered to request change from my superiors and implement change in how I lead my team to create the success I aspire for our business.  Sarah has filled this book with so many resources to create an environment that will allow myself and my team members to have a work atmosphere that makes us all feel a part of a team. Recognizing everyone’s skills, feelings, frustrations and challenges will enable positive change and solutions.  Fresh Leadership is a critical tool to generating a business that employees can thrive, enjoy work and ultimately achieve success!

Elizabeth Urbanski, Etcetera Stylist, District Sales Leader


This is a well-written and practical guide for future and current managers. I love the summary at the end of each chapter and the helpful appendixes. If you ever wanted a list of things to go do, you can find it here. Whether you are a seasoned leader or a brand new one, this book is for you. This is a step by step guide to develop ourselves so we can better develop those we lead.

Laura Hayes, Director of LeadWell, MavPak


Sometimes I think all we need is another book on leadership. But, after reading FRESH Leadership by Sarah Robinson, I am convinced that we did need another leadership book. Ms. Robinson ties together many of the principles we have learned regarding leadership. Then she tweaks those principles and applies them to the fast-paced world we live in today. Covering generational differences – or lack of differences, employee engagement, connection, leading vs. managing, her perspective on each of these topics plus others draw the reader into thoughtful consideration and application. It’s not a hard read but it is one that can make a great impact. I read through the book quickly and then went back to work through the exercises at the end of each chapter. Lastly, I will involve my team in the exercises she suggests to include them in the process. Great points Ms. Robinson! Thanks for sharing!

Sallyann Hulick, Chief Marketing Officer, BSA LifeStructures


FRESH Leadership clearly speaks to overcoming the common pitfalls of a modern workforce – including issues I encounter with my team. Sarah Robinson doesn’t sugarcoat the solutions and the kind of leadership required, instead she makes the real solutions accessible. The self-evaluation and team questions at the end of each chapter get to the heart of what it means to lead a Millennial staff. I am already planning some team building time to apply these helpful tools. “The Unwritten Work Needs of the Present” on page 22 was a big ah-ha and possibly the biggest take-a-way from the entire book – especially as a leader who is hoping to leverage all that Millennials have to offer.

Mathew Feltrop, Executive Director, Patachou Foundation


[1] “Gratitude Revealed.” John Templeton Foundation, 7 Mikel, Betsy. “Science Finds You’d Take a 32 Percent Pay Cut If Your New Job Offered This


Lack of Engagement Matters

Why Lack of Engagement Matters, Seriously

This statistic-that a mere 1/3 of all workers in the U.S. are engaged – is OLD NEWS, to put it mildly. Most executives and H.R. folks have come to accept the idea that a shocking 67.5% of employees are either not engaged at work or are actively disengaged at work. In fact, I have been pointedly asked why we should even bother to keep measuring engagement, since lack of engagement seems to be the norm.  There are a number of reasons why we need to keep measuring engagement. First and foremost, engagement scores are similar to blood work that is assessed during an annual medical check-up: it tells you what’s really going on – are you healthy or not?

Below are three scenarios that explain what engagement, lack of engagement, and disengagement look like in an organization.

Scenario 1: An employee drives to work and parks in the designated employee parking lot. As the employee walks toward the office building, she notices that there is an empty fast-food bag that has just missed the trash receptacle. The employee thinks, “Oh shoot, someone missed the trash bin. I’ll put the bag in the trash as I walk into the building.”

This employee is engaged at work. Unfortunately, only 33% of the workforce (according to Gallup) fits into this high-potential, high-energy, committed group.1

Scenario 2: An employee drives to work and parks in the designated employee parking lot. As the employee walks toward the office building, she notices that there is an empty fast-food bag that has just missed the trash receptacle. The employee thinks, “Oh shoot, someone missed the trash bin. I’m sure the facility and maintenance people will be around soon to get it.”

Trash pick-up is not is her job description, so she does not consider her inaction to show a lack of dedication. Her thought is “That trash is not my problem.” This employee is not engaged. Gallup’s research shows that nearly half of all employees, 49%, are not engaged at work. Employees who are not engaged do the minimum required of them at work.

Scenario 3: An employee drives to work and parks in the designated employee parking lot. As the employee walks toward the office building, she notices that there is a trash receptacle where she can place her now-empty fast food bag. She attempts to make the “bucket,” but her empty bag lands just a foot away from the bin. The employee thinks, “Oh shoot, I missed the trash bin. Just my luck. Is it Friday yet?”

This employee is actively disengaged. A sobering 18% of all workers are actively disengaged at work. Workers like the one described here are potential loose cannons at work because they can drag others down with them. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy, and they demonstrate this unhappiness in their actions, words, and non-verbal communications, all-the-while bringing down the spirits of their colleagues.  

In sum, engagement is a vital sign of organizational health, just as blood work is a critical piece of physical health. Should you stop measuring your blood sugars just because you consistently see that you are pre-diabetic?  NO! A more thoughtful solution would be to try a new medicine or a new eating plan to positively impact the less-than-ideal results.

The same goes with measuring engagement. If your engagement scores are stuck at the same level year after year, it makes little sense to stop measuring the problem. Instead, make positive changes to impact the issue.  

1 Gallup, Inc. “Employee Experience vs. Engagement: What’s the Difference?”, 12 Oct. 2018,

To learn more about how and why to build an engaged workplace, read Sarah Robinson’s soon to be launched book “FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills that Will Transform You and Your Team.” A pre-order link will be available soon.

Below are comments from early readers and reviewers.

I am an owner of a small business and I struggle with habits of being an uninspiring leader…focusing too much on creating company sales and not enough on improving fulfillment and culture. FRESH Leadership really hits the mark on addressing these and other workplace challenges, but more importantly gives the tools to implement positive change right away that can be sustainable. I will be buying copies of Sarah’s book for our management team.

Eric Spohn
Spohn Associates, Inc.


What a FRESH perspective on leadership and teamwork! This book is chock-full of smart research and timely footnotes to dig even deeper. Written clearly with street smart quotes and case studies that inspire every leader! Every CEO and manager should have their copy!

Brent O’Bannon
Author of Let’s Talk Strengths


FRESH Leadership beautifully blends organizational behavior research and leadership common sense to guide new and old leaders alike on a brand new path. This book is a fast read, but don’t forget your hi-lighter which any leader worth their salt will have in-hand. I have already taken some of my highlighted sections and then transferred them to notes for this week’s meeting agenda. Sarah’s book is both insightful and practical. A winner. 

Elizabeth Miney
National Training Manager
H2O at Home 


Sarah is a Winner’s Coach. And this how she does it. This book is what managers and leaders need to know today.  Actionable strategies, insights, and information to help you lead yourself and your teams to higher levels of success.  If you want to win in the market place today, Sarah is your guide. This book delivers!!

Nancy Merrick
Certified GALLUP® Clifton StrengthsFinder Coach
Merrick Consulting


Thank you, Sarah Robinson, for reminding me that everyone is some type of leader in their professional lives and private family lives. FRESH Leadership reminded me that we have so much influence on those we interact with. I have many take- a-ways from reading Sarah’s book and it has already helped me to improve my team. FRESH Leadership is a great tool for leaders and team members who strive to satisfy customers, have fun with friends as work, and model important work-life balance behaviors. 

Julie McGinnis
Account Executive


Create a Trusting and Fair Environment

Trust is the foundation of good leadership and strong teamwork. Being fair and trustworthy is a leader’s first order of business. Squashing attempts by team members to create an unhealthy work environment—an environment of backstabbing, cynicism, cliques, or one-upping—is the second most important order of business. High performing leaders are good at detecting early signs of such behaviors and nipping them in the bud.

33% of employees said a lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale.1

The third order of business is having open communications within the team. Some leaders encourage “stabbing them in the heart, not the back” which translates into “telling  team members directly when you are put out or peeved with their behavior instead of telling another teammate about this behavior behind someone’s back.”

Some might think this language and such a confrontational demeanor is too harsh for the workplace, and I might agree. But regardless of the specific wording, the message from the leader—communicated by words and actions—needs to be “our team behaves in ways that promote trust and fairness.”

Ways to build trust:

There are a variety of ways in which a leader can build a trusting environment. One critical component of a trusting team is the team’s acceptance of various opinions and feedback – both positive and constructive. Leaders, as opposed to managers, model behaviors that show the best ways to give and receive, constructive feedback.  

To create trust, when giving constructive feedback one should:

  1. Give the feedback in a timely manner.
  2. Have a purpose for giving the feedback  (for example: improvement, extinction of behavior, explaining perceptions of others when behavior occurs).
  3. Discuss the situation, not the individual.
  4. Be direct, but not formal.

To create trust, when receiving constructive feedback one should:

  1. Listen to better understand the issue(s).
  2. Be appreciative of the feedback given. At a minimum say, “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
  3. Ask questions to fully understand the issue(s).
  4. Assure the feedback giver that consideration will be given to the comment(s) and ask for time to respond or follow-up.
1 Gadd, Michael. “Poor Communication Hurts Morale – Leadership Strategies – Communication.”, Inc., 6 Nov. 2008, communication.html.


To learn more leadership tips, read Sarah Robinson’s soon to be launched book “FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills that Will Transform You and Your Team.”  A pre-order link will be available soon.

Below are comments from early readers and reviewers.

In Fresh Leadership, Sarah Robinson has managed to do something that many other great books on leadership have failed to do – provide a lot of excellent “take home” material on how to actually implement the many great ideas that she has assembled.  Perhaps it’s her background in teaching, but this book is meant to be highlighted, with notes written in the corners – in other words to be a valuable resource, and not just returned to the office bookshelf.  It’s a terrific, easy to read guide on how to grow managers into effective leaders that should be in every leader’s tool bag.

Tom O’Neil


This is an important book for anyone in a leadership position, or aspiring to a future leadership role. It presents a core set of leadership principles that are easy to grasp, and backed by insightful, real-world examples and sound advice. Each chapter provides helpful exercises and discussion points to enhance learning and turn thought into action. If you want to be a better leader, read this book!

Kevin Fix
Senior Financial Advisor
Fullen Financial Group, Inc.


FRESH Leadership should be mandatory reading for anyone wanting to build a successful organization – whether you’re a leader or a team player. As a business woman and a leader, I found Sarah’s book to be both inspiring and practically helpful for facing the ever-changing and challenging world we live in today.

Deborah Dorman
Award Winning Indianapolis Realtor for 25 Years
Exclusive Referral Agent for Ryan Dorman
ReMax Legends


FRESH Leadership is a must-read for every leader, manager and employee. It offers hands-on tips and tools to allow everyone to be of the best version of themselves in the workplace. Sarah writes with knowledge and experience and also draws from outside research to bring it all together in a relatable and easy read. Critique versus criticism, employee engagement versus satisfaction, it is all here. This will totally transform your workplace. Well done! 

Cheryl Graham
Small Business QuickBooks Coach
author of Quickbooks Tour Guide


This is a book that helps a leader examine their current experience and test it against leading edge organizational research and findings.  It offers clear directions and challenges leaders to assess their current practices in the light of multiple insights offered in each chapter.  Leadership will always be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding, especially when one finds some new behaviors and beliefs that offer creative options and approaches.  Workers want to be effectively led and FRESH LEADERSHIP provides a fast track into 21st century transformational leadership skills.  I believe this book can build a leader’s confidence to follow their heart, mind, and experience and become the empowered leader that they personally want to become, and the leader that both their companies and workers are searching for now!

John V. Kirby
Organizational and Human Resources Consultant


HNY! BTW: Goals Need to Be More than SMART

Happy 2019! Are you considering your New Year’s resolution(s)? If so, here are some tips that can instigate greater success.

We all know about SMART goals, right? The acronym has helped many people and organizations get serious about achieving goals. As a quick reminder, a SMART goal is defined in the following way:

■ S for Specific: What needs to be achieved? Vague goals like “make more money” or “improve my grades are not specific, and do not readily allow for an unbiased evaluation of how much progress has been made toward completion of the goal. When determining this component of your goal ask yourself, who will complete the goal, what will signify completion, how long will this goal need to be met to achieve full success?

■ M for Measurable: Goals are most effective when there is a measurable end result. For instance, running a 5K in 13 minutes, increasing revenue by 10%, or losing 10 pounds are all examples of measurable achievements. Creating measurable goals increases performance because the desirable outcome is a fixed, non-moving, target.

 A for Attainable: Can you start working on this goal today? Have other people achieved a similar goal? Do you need new skills, an adviser, or more experience to achieve your goal?

 R for Relevant: How and why is this goal relevant to you? How will the achievement of this goal add to your personal or professional life? Why do you care about success or failure?

■ T for Time bound: How long will it take to achieve this goal? In order to stay on-track with reaching a goal we need to determine if it will take days, weeks, months, or years to reach it.

As a coach, I frequently get the inside scoop on goals: how they’ve been achieved and what makes some goals- once achieved – more rewarding. I recently met with a new client, Lori, who proudly explained that she had just quit smoking. Wow, I was impressed. I have seen so many people struggle with this challenging goal. How did she do it? What allowed her to be successful?

Let’s start with recognizing that Lori’s goal fit the parameters of a SMART goal: it was specific (no smoking), measurable (no cigarettes purchased or smoked), actionable (once she made up her mind to quit, she started the next day), relevant (she wanted to do it because her boyfriend had recently quit and wanted her to quit too), and time bound (she would use a nicotine patch for 2 weeks but be nicotine-free after that).

There was more to Lori’s success than the goal being SMART.

Lori had longed to quit smoking in the past and had not chosen to move forward and follow-through on her desires. Something was different this time around that made her desire to quit more salient and gave her the strength to resist the temptation to smoke and to, ultimately, fall off the wagon.

From my perspective, there were two key differences this time around.

  • First, Lori had changed the way she viewed smoking and how it impacted her life. Smoking was no longer just a habit, it was a problem. It was a problem that negatively impacted her at work and at home.
  • Second, this shift in perspective put Lori into “problem-solving mode,” which meant she could effectively harness her strengths to take on this life-altering challenge.

Lori’s “Top 5” strengths are Restorative, Context, Empathy, Intellection, and Responsibility. In a nutshell, Lori saw herself as a problem solver, who intuitively grasped the emotions of others, and used her thoughtful, problem-solving and emotion-sensing abilities to get things done. She was a fixer who wanted to make other people happy.

As someone with Restorative as her #1 strength, Lori has a strong desire to find solutions to problems, and this troubling issue of smoking was bothering her. Once Lori recognized that smoking was a problem (it kept her from getting more work done, it was adversely affecting her health, it was expensive), she used her Intellection and Context strengths to think about how to quit and what had (and hadn’t) worked in the past.

The clinchers, the elements that gave this goal emotional buy-in, were related to Lori’s Empathy and Responsibility strengths. Lori’s boyfriend was strongly encouraging her to quit. As a past smoker, he knew that quitting was difficult but not impossible. Lori, for the first time, had someone who was cheering her onto success and who might be disappointed in her if she failed. These emotional elements hooked her Empathy and Responsibility strengths.

Interestingly, Lori was not fully aware of her strengths, or how she had used them, until after she quit smoking. However, when we talked through how and why she was able to make this goal a reality, Lori fully understood the connection between her strengths and her new achievement.

Creating SMART goals makes a lot of sense. Creating SMART goals that are connected to your strengths makes even more sense.


For more about achieving your goals using your strengths see Unstuck at Last: Using Your Strengths to Get What You Want.

Pre-Gaming with Santa: Harnessing His Strengths for the BIG DAY

Like so many long-time clients, Santa appreciates a bit of coaching before a major event. After a few years of experimentation, we’ve finally found that it works best to have two pre-scheduled strengths coaching calls during the year. We normally connect at the beginning of THE MOST IMPORTANT MONTH (and most wonderful time) OF THE YEAR, December, and again in mid-June when things are less harried.

While the exact details of the entire coaching call with Santa are privileged information, Santa – a huge CliftonStrengths believer – encouraged me to share an excerpt from our conversation, with the hope that others could similarly use their strengths more intentionally to be successful when the stakes are high and top performance is imperative.

Santa, always interested in helping others, gave me the ok to share his “Top 5” strengths. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to share Santa’s strengths, for fear this information might be inferred to be “the ultimate gift-giver’s best strengths” but let’s never forget that being authentic is what really makes a difference – in strengths and in gift-giving. With that said, I’m sure you’ll quickly agree that Santa’s “Top 5” are fantastic strengths for the world’s most busy Christmas present procurer and deliverer: Individualization, Strategic, Woo, Relator, and Restorative.

SKR: Santa, so good to reconnect with you! Please give me an update on everyone.

Santa: Well, Donner and Blitzen have had a tough off-season. They’ve both had issues with their hooves (Donner’s right front and Blitzen’s left rear). We found some terrific specialty doctors who performed small surgeries on each of them. Since then, these two great reindeer have really dedicated themselves to their rehabilitation exercises and seem to be 100% – just in the nick of time.

Mrs. Claus and I took all of the elves on a cruise this summer. What a blast. They work so hard all year long and the 10-day cruise was just what they needed to relax and celebrate their amazing work.  The best part was that there were so many different activities and options on the cruise that the elves could tailor each day to their own interests. Mrs. Claus and I really appreciated having some good individual time with the elves in a relaxed environment as well.

SKR: I see so many of your strengths at work in these stories, Santa. Of course, your Individualization strengths seem to motivate most of your actions. Whether you are finding each reindeer the best doctor or picking a vacation that allows individual expression for the elves, your #1 strength seems to always be at work. I know it’s hard for you and Mrs. Claus to get away, but it sounds as though you were able to strengthen your already strong bonds with the elves. I know those authentic relationships – Relator #4- are so critical to you.

Tell me, what’s been going on at the malls? Are there lots of long lines this year? Have you had any particularly interesting gift requests?

Santa: How I love meeting with all of these kids every year! It just gives me so much energy and excitement to hear all of their stories and, of course, learn what they really want for Christmas. I try not to look at the lines . . . I just want to be present for each precious child who makes his or her way up to my lap. It’s impossible to single-out the most interesting gift request, since I consider each request magical and important in its own right.

SKR: I love hearing your Woo and Individualization at work here. I’m amazed at your stamina but you actually gain energy by being at the mall and meeting all of these children. Wow.

Let’s talk logistics. Have you started checking weather patterns yet? Can you discuss your route?

Santa: HoHoHo, Sarah, you know I can’t reveal my route! However, I’ve been looking at weather patterns for the last few weeks. I get a lot of enjoyment out of considering the many possible ways to get these presents delivered on time and to the right house in the most effective and efficient way possible. I, honestly, cannot believe people consider it difficult. It’s a very intuitive process for me.

SKR: Santa, just about everyone I’ve ever talked to with Strategic seems to say something along the  lines of “the multiple paths seem so obvious,” so I guess I’m not all that surprised by your response.

Ok, last question, what was your biggest obstacle or challenge last year, Christmas Eve 2017?

Santa: As you know, I’m a fixer. When I realize that a chimney has been bricked up, or that the front door is double latched and triple bolted, I always smile. In my mind, these are not problems – they are opportunities! Some people think that keeping the pets quiet during a delivery might be difficult. But I love pets! It’s great fun to meet so many friendly animals on the big night. I honestly cannot think of a big obstacle last year. As they say, “It’s all in a day’s – or I guess in this case – a night’s work.

SKR: This is a great example of how you use your Restorative strengths to address delivery challenges that pop up along your way. My guess is that, of your Top 5, Restorative might be a surprise to folks. However, year after year, you’ve shared some Houdini-like stories of how you got yourself and your big bag-full of gifts into a house that was locked up tighter than Fort Knox.  I know you find that rewarding and fun.

Santa, just keep doing what you are doing! You are putting your strengths to great use. You never cease to amazing me and I know many other people feel the same way.

Santa: Sarah, thanks for reminding me of how I’m using my strengths during the busy season and throughout the year. I know a big part of why I love my job so much is that I get to flex my strengths every day!

Being Vulnerable Takes Strength

My work as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach leads me to frequent discussions about focusing on one’s strengths. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, duh.” But hang in there with me for a moment. This simple shift toward focusing on strengths and away from concentrating on weaknesses is profound for many, who, like me, have previously thought that the best/easiest/most direct way to “win the game of life” was to convince the world that they were weakness-free. The revelation that a weakness-free life is neither realistic, nor attainable, is actually a huge relief for many of the people that I’ve had the privilege to coach.

No one wants to appear frail or unsteady. However, we connect on a human level with our friends, family, neighbors, spouses, and workmates when we can be authentic. Authenticity means seeing the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, the highs and the lows in a person’s life. Many of us are unaccustomed to sharing the negative pieces of our lives: the bad, the embarrassments, and the lows. However, as the quote above aptly reminds us, the courage to show vulnerability, and speak the truth, is a strength in and of itself.

Vulnerability Enhances Leadership 

Notable business leaders have used their vulnerability to better connect with their team and the public.  Howard Schultz and Cheryl Sandberg are two well-known and revered leaders who have both shown vulnerability when they encountered a crisis – a historic business decline and the unexpected death of a spouse, respectively – and emerged better leaders for their trials and tribulations, honesty, and openness. Sandberg has acknowledged that while most leaders do not seek out ways to show their vulnerability, since her husband’s death she is “much closer to the people around (her) than (she) was.” (

How can you be courageous and vulnerable? How can you recognize your strengths while simultaneously speaking the truth and sharing your weaknesses?

  • Admitting a mistake
  • Making amends
  • Giving credit where credit is due
  • Sincerely apologizing

These are all skills that take leadership and strength but, also, take vulnerability and authenticity. As we approach the holidays, let’s try to take the lead at work and at home and practice these skills that depict strength, courage, and authenticity.