It’s Time For Your Personal Year End Review

There’s one more task to add to your year-end retrospective reviews and planning for next year: your personal review. This isn’t about reflecting on your business goals, like achieving product market fit, expanding into a new channel, or getting to $10M ARR. You likely check in on those priorities already. 


Your personal review is about assessing your growth as the leader of your company. It relates to your intentions for the unique leadership journey that you’re on. 


Notice the progress

As leaders and CEOs, we tend to forget the full breadth of what we’ve accomplished and how we’ve evolved over time. No sooner have we climbed a hurdle than we’re on to the next; barely pausing to celebrate that we achieved what had merely been an idea a year ago.


And as human beings, we also have a negativity bias. We’re more apt to recall (sometimes in excruciating detail) the time we fumbled a critical message, and forget all the times when we accomplished exactly what we’d aspired to do. 


In short, we often don’t appreciate how far we’ve really come and how much we’ve grown. What’s more, many of us get stuck in outdated beliefs about ourselves that keep us from recognizing the true progress we’ve made. 


The distance you’ve already traveled is the launching point for where you’re going next 


If you’re unclear on where you are today, it’ll take longer to evolve into the leader and CEO you want to be.


Here’s the process that my clients follow each year at this time- and the process that I use myself.


1. Take inventory 

Open up your personal goals/ vision board/ journal entries from the beginning of the year. What did you envision accomplishing? What kind of leader did you want to be with your team? What kind of life did you want to have– inside and outside– of your company?


Maybe at this time last year you resolved to finally stop being the bottleneck to your leadership team. Perhaps you wanted to expand outside of your company and assert your voice as a thought leader. Or you wanted to learn how to be less emotionally charged at critical moments. Maybe you were determined to claim more time for the things that bring you high energy. Whatever your intentions, they reflect your unique path, personal experiences, and challenges.


Next, go back to the beginning of the year in your calendar. Scan this and other docs that reflect major events and milestones. Take note of the ones- like that funding round, or your product launch, or the podcast you guest hosted- that became opportunities to work on your personal goals.


Think back on the books you read, podcasts you listened to, experts you reached out to, newsletters you subscribed to. Who is now a part of your world that wasn’t a year ago? These people and resources are helping you expand into the leader you’re becoming. They can also be a helpful reminder that you’re moving forward, especially at times when it doesn’t otherwise feel like it or when your original goal was farther out of reach than you anticipated.


2. Reflect on your growth

Once you’ve reminded yourself of everything that happened during the year, reflect on these five questions.


  • What did you set out to accomplish? How much of it did you achieve? What did you discover about yourself that made it possible to achieve those things?


  • What was on your list that you didn’t achieve? Which outer or inner blocks might have gotten in your way?


  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Why? What did you learn from it?


  • What was your biggest disappointment? Why? What did you learn from it?


  • What stretched you the most this year or took you most outside of your comfort zone? What did you learn about yourself because of it?



3. Set your new intentions for the coming year

Now that you have a clear idea of the progress you made and what you learned over the last year, decide what you want to move towards next. Don’t think of these as New Year’s resolutions, which tend to be lofty and fail more than 80% of the time.  


Instead, take a moment. Close your eyes and picture how you would tackle your vision for your company if you were operating as your best self. What would you be doing that you aren’t doing today? How would you interact with your team, customers, and investors? What’s your approach when the unexpected happens, like when your product launch gets delayed? 


Now, imagine the habits you want to build and experiences you want to create that will help you evolve into this version of yourself. As James Clear advises, focus on the behavior you want to create rather than the outcome. 

5 Reminders On A Hard Day

The founders I coach run very different companies, but they have a few things in common. They’re all dealing with an at times overwhelming amount of change and transition. They’re being pushed, daily, to grow and expand into new skill sets and behaviors and let go of old ones that no longer work for them. As they go, they’re learning new ways to deal with change and the pressure of running their company.

Let’s be honest: as much as they may strive to do so, they’re not always going to show up as their highest, most inspired selves; when their attempts to move through their inner blocks don’t fully succeed.

Those are the days they get just a little too close to the edge of their tipping point. Suddenly it all feels like too much.

Maybe they didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe a client complained or an employee quit. Maybe their child is sick, or the events of the world feel just too damned heavy in that moment.

The point is, despite our desire to consistently show up and be productive, creative, and in the zone, we’re human. And as such, there will be hard days. Days when our energy is low and our self-judgment is high.

Here is the advice I most often give when founders are having a hard day, or when they’re totally falling apart.

1. Stop beating yourself up, already.

If your energy is consumed by frustration and negative self-talk, then you’ll be less able to make positive change. Michael Singer, spiritual teacher and author of The Untethered Soul wrote, “No solution can possibly exist when you’re lost in the energy of a problem”. Instead of judging yourself and your situation, try relaxing and simply notice what’s happening to your thoughts and emotions. Then try to shift your focus to what you want to create. That can be easier said than done, but it’s the trying that counts. When you’re able to make the shift, you’ll lift your energy and make fresh progress more possible.

2. Stay curious.

As you work to remove your blocks and create the growth you desire, be open and test the conditions or routines that work best for you. Over time, you’ll learn which tasks you can delegate so they no longer consume your mindshare. You might find that there’s a time of day where you’re at your most creative. You’ll notice the mental chatter that limits you. You’ll discover what you need to create, and let go of, to make the change stick. Stay curious and experiment to find what works.

3. Focus on small gains.

Right now, focus on making progress toward your goal. Take the pressure off yourself about achieving the ultimate outcome. Celebrate the small gains you make today, like the productive hour you had before your day got hijacked. Or the crucial conversation with someone on your team that went better than last time. Or that you logged off in time for dinner with your family. If the overwhelm feels particularly acute, remember Robin Arzon’s (Peloton instructor and overall badass) advice: “Forward is a pace”.

4. Use your imagination.

One of the founders I work with spends five minutes each morning visualizing having already had a good day and the details that made it so. It’s a particularly powerful routine to keep his energy high during periods of prolonged intensity. The power of visualization has been well documented: imagining the outcome you desire conditions the brain to more readily turn it into reality.

5. Treat it like a practice.

The inner blocks that limit you today were created over a lifetime, so they’ll take time to unwind. Instead of expecting immediate results, continue to work the process until you start experiencing the level of energy, confidence, and inner alignment you desire. Like any practice that you dedicate time to, your results will fluctuate along the way, but it’s the long game that counts.

What’s In Your Way?

A founder I’ve been working with–I’ll call her Alice–was noticeably frustrated when she arrived at a recent coaching session. Despite months of effort, she still couldn’t master her inbox. Each morning, she awoke to a tidal wave of new emails and immediately felt buried– stuck in reactive mode for the rest of the day. 


Logically, Alice knew she should be concentrating her time on her highest priorities. And yet, the slides for the next day’s all hands meeting stared back at her unfinished and a note to her investors was long overdue. To make matters worse, none of the new routines she tried seemed to help her break out of the pattern.


The overwhelm made sense. Her company was growing so rapidly that the demand for Alice’s time outpaced her capacity and the many hats she was still wearing. And with each failed attempt to gain control of her time, she felt more and more desperate.


Sound familiar?


The tension between expanding into new behaviors and responsibilities while feeling stuck in the old ones is a common growing pain for founders. It can feel especially acute when your company is expanding rapidly.   


So, what can you do when you know you need to adapt for both you and your company to thrive, but you can’t seem to make a new approach stick?


First, you need to understand what’s getting in the way of creating the change you seek.



It Could Be an Outer Block


Sometimes, we’re unable to change our behavior because we don’t have the right skills, tools, or knowledge to make it happen. As a trained Core Energy coach, I think of these obstacles as outer blocks. As the name implies, outer blocks are limitations that are external to us, like time, money, or education. 


You may need to learn a better way to organize your inbox. Or figure out who to delegate to in order to reduce your volume of email. Maybe an app that helps you keep track of your highest priorities each day could help. 


By addressing outer blocks with new knowledge and routines, it’s possible to gain control of things like your inbox.


But perhaps you try all of that and only make minimal progress. Or worse still, your attempts work for a while but you eventually slip back into your old habits. In that case, something bigger is likely holding you back.



It’s Probably an Inner Block


More often than not, when we’re struggling to make sustainable change, it’s because inner blocks unconsciously disrupt our progress. Like the inner voice that persuades you to respond to the emails that are more in your comfort zone in favor of the ones that will make a bigger impact on your company. 


Inner blocks are fueled by unproductive thoughts and beliefs. How can you tell they’re unproductive? Quite simply, they’re the ones that limit you. They don’t serve you in a healthy way, empower you, or help you achieve your true goals. 


Dr. David Burns, a well-known cognitive psychologist, explains how our unproductive thoughts lead us to have unproductive feelings and, in turn, unproductive actions. In addition to derailing our best intentions, such thoughts (when left unchecked) can also cause stress, anxiety, and depression. 


In my coaching practice, I see four main types of inner blocks:


Assumptions are born when we expect that what happened before is bound to happen again. Like when you assume you won’t really be able to delegate your work because you failed at it the last time you tried to do so.


Generalizations look like limiting ideas that we’ve been told and that we’ve adopted as the truth. You may have heard (and taken as fact) that “it takes money to make money.” Or that people with MBAs (or conversely, college dropouts) make better founders. 


Interpretations are the stories we tell ourselves about events, viewed through our personal lens and informed by our past experiences. Though our interpretation is based on our individual perspective, we often see it as the absolute truth. Like believing that you’ll never truly get control of your inbox because you’ve been scattered and disorganized your whole life.


Your Inner Critic is the most powerful block of them all; this is the inner voice that tells us we’re simply not good enough: not smart enough, not capable enough, not creative enough… the options are endless. The inner critic is what makes you believe deep down that your struggle with your inbox is further proof that you’re not capable of expanding into the CEO you need to become. 


What can make the inner critic so destructive is that it surfaces the most when we’re attempting to change. This is what often causes us to retreat to what we know to avoid the potential pain of the unknown. The inner critic goes to extraordinary lengths to keep us “safe”.


How To Move Beyond An Inner Block


First, understand which type of block is causing you to feel stuck. Is it a generalization that you’ve been carrying around and need to let go of? Is your inner critic telling you not to stop until something is perfect? 


Next, tap into your curiosity and challenge the limiting belief. Note: it’s incredibly important to approach this from a place of curiosity- which ignites your creativity and solutions-thinking, than from a place of judgment- which draws on shame and will only fuel your blocks.


Start by asking yourself, “what makes this belief true and accurate? What’s different about me now that makes it less true? If I reshaped this belief, what would be possible?”


Then, choose a new belief that you want to move forward with. A few options:


“I’m ready now to delegate this work.”

“There are countless ways to make it as an entrepreneur, and I’m proud of the path I’m on.”

“I’ve overcome way bigger obstacles than my inbox. I have the creativity and resilience to make this happen too.”

“I have the confidence and openness to grow into the CEO I want to become.”


You’ll find that some inner blocks are relatively easy to shift (like generalizations) once you’ve replaced them with a new belief. Others may take far longer to resolve. We become experts at what we practice, and you’ve likely practiced your old, limiting beliefs for much of your life. It may be time to build new expertise.


How To Rewrite Your (Emotionally Charged) Story

Ever notice the stories you create when you’re dealing with an emotionally charged issue? That was me this weekend. Before I knew it, my imagination had woven a story that could rival a bestselling novel. Like any great story, mine had a hero (me!) and a villain (the other person, naturally!). The drama and intrigue totally sucked me in. 


The trouble is, almost none of my story turned out to be true, so I wasted a perfectly nice weekend consumed with anger, resentment and frustration.


How do you know it’s a story? It’s based on what you imagine is the truth versus what you’ve validated to be true. Your particular interpretation- your story– is fueled by your life experiences, assumptions and beliefs.


The next time you find yourself lost in a story of your own making, try this instead:


First, open up a doc and reflect on these four questions. Then write down your responses as if you’re saying them to the other person involved.


#1 Your observation

What are the objective facts of the situation, ie, the details that anyone witnessing it would also observe? For instance, “you canceled our last two 1:1s at the last minute.”

WHY IT WORKS: It pulls you out of the drama of your story, lowers your stress level and shifts you back into rational thought.


#2 Your interpretation/feelings

What is the story you’ve made up around the situation? “The story I’ve created is that you don’t respect my time and that you think it’s a waste of time to meet with me.”

WHY IT WORKS: It reinforces that how you’re feeling is based on a story– not fact– and creates space for alternative interpretations. It also prevents you from sounding accusatory, which can trigger the other person’s style under stress.


#3 What you need

What do you need instead of what you’re experiencing? “As co-founders, I need us to commit to our time together so we stay aligned.”

WHY IT WORKS: It forces you to clarify what you *really* want as an outcome versus what you want in the moment (which is usually to win). 


#4 Your request 

Ask the other person to commit to your desired outcome. “Can we be more dedicated to our 1:1 time together?”

WHY IT WORKS: It helps you evaluate a realistic “ask” and makes a resolution more possible.

Next, when you’re no longer stressed, let the other person know that you’d like to have a conversation. Then let your prep work guide you. Remember: seek to understand the other person’s point of view as much as you seek to be understood.


What Undisciplined Meetings Are Costing You

Let’s imagine a scene.

Team members filter into a conference room for five minutes. This is followed by another few minutes of chit chat. In the midst of casual conversation, someone brings up an urgent (to them) issue that consumes another ten minutes for whoever is paying attention. The group eventually focuses on the agenda, though a few people seem mentally checked out or are busy multitasking. Twenty minutes before the meeting is supposed to end, the team gets around to discussing the most pressing issues. Even though the meeting goes over by 15 minutes, no decision is made and no alignment is reached.

Sound familiar? The real question is: How much are undisciplined meetings costing your company?

It may not seem like it on the surface, but if your meetings look like this, you have an expensive problem on your hands. Simply put, your team has a finite capacity to get things done each week. Every minute spent in an undisciplined meeting is mindshare and productivity lost.

Let’s say there were six people in the meeting I described above. Do some quick math: multiply the amount of people in the meeting times the amount of time the meeting lasts. That one hour meeting that ran over took up 7.5 hours of your company’s time. Now ask yourself, how satisfied are you with the value you created with those 7.5 hours?

If your answer is “not enough”, then here are a six easy rules to create better meeting habits:

Rule #1 Every meeting has a purpose and a desired outcome.

Simply put, what are you there to do? Do you need to solve an issue? Brainstorm ideas? Make a decision? Ensure everyone is aligned around a plan? Consider adding the meeting purpose to the invite so your team can come prepared and you don’t waste valuable time.

Rule #2 Every person in the meeting understands their role in it.

Are they present to provide input? To understand the details of a decision that affects their work? Or to coordinate on a complex project? Encourage your team to ask for clarification when they’re unclear.

Rule #3 If a person doesn’t have a role, they don’t go to the meeting.

If someone’s purpose for being in the meeting is unclear, encourage them to decline the invite or leave the meeting; no apology or explanation needed. In fact, celebrate when people take that action. It’s the quickest way to create a healthy meeting culture.

Rule #4 Start and end on time.

One of the quickest ways teams lose focus (and energy) is when the scheduled meeting time is not respected. When you commit to work within your meeting time, it creates positive pressure to focus on the most important topics and it keeps the discussion more organized and concise. This makes forward momentum in the way of decisions and next steps more likely.

Rule #5 Always discuss what’s next.

A meeting is only as valuable as what comes out of it. Use the last five minutes of your time to recap any decisions that were made and what needs to happen next.

Rule #6 Give yourself a grade.

Have the team share accountability for improving meetings by having everyone rate the meeting at the end. How valuable was the discussion? How well did you move forward on key issues? Was it an effective use of the team’s time? By giving your meetings a grade, you can also track your progress over time.

There’s a final benefit of good meeting habits that may even outweigh the others. Meetings reflect your company’s culture in action. They are the proof of what your culture is; not what you wish it would be.

Discover These 6 Things From Founder Feedback

Photo by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash

When was the last time you wondered how your team really feels about you as their leader? Does the thought of finding out evoke curiosity or give you a pit in your stomach?

If you dread getting feedback, you’re not alone. In fact, even the most seasoned leaders can feel self-doubt about it at first. (Rest assured- it gets easier the more you do it!).

And though it may be tempting to avoid, Founder Feedback is actually one of the most important elements of your leadership practice.

Why? Quite simply, it’s the best way to know what you do that brings your team high energy, and what may take it away.

In extreme cases, leaders resort to getting feedback when either they as the founder- or their team- have reached a breaking point. They have no other choice but to find out what’s at the root of the friction.

But if you make Founder Feedback a regular leadership routine, it’ll never be a lagging indicator of what’s not working.

In fact, think of the data as a leading indicator — of what makes your team feel inspired and motivated, as well as potentially distracted or drained.

Here are 6 things you’ll discover through a high quality Founder Feedback process:

1. You’ll see yourself through your team’s eyes.

As human beings, we normally only see ourselves and our actions through our personal set of filters. We create our unique lens from our life experiences, which in turn shapes our beliefs, assumptions and interpretations.

In contrast, your team’s feedback enables you to view yourself through their lens. You can see how others experience you and can compare your team’s perceptions against your own. Why is this change of perspective so important? Because your success as a leader is directly correlated to whether they believe you motivate, inspire and align them.

2. You’ll discover the strengths you undervalue.

Many of us — especially those who battle self-doubt — can overemphasize our shortcomings and undervalue our strengths. Quite simply, we don’t believe our talents and gifts are as exceptional as others do. By seeing yourself through your team’s eyes, you can appreciate the exact ways in which you positively impact your team. This will allow you to draw on those natural strengths more intentionally, especially at crucial moments.

One founder who recently went through this process discovered that his honesty and sense of humor were key to getting the team through an intense funding round and product pivot. While he knew he possessed these qualities, he didn’t realize how profoundly it helped the team get re-energized and inspired during a dark period.

3. You’ll learn about your blindspots.

Like the strengths that we undervalue, we’re often unaware of our behaviors that get in the way of our true goals. During these moments, our style under stress can get activated and cause us to act less consciously and intentionally. And what we communicate- verbally and nonverbally- has an outsized impact on the person receiving it. Left unaddressed, blindspots can become one of the biggest blocks to long term success.

A founder with a passion for debating ideas learned that some on her team felt she needed to win these discussions at any cost. They felt put down by her tone and that their ideas weren’t valued. With this insight, the founder was able to make some small adjustments to her approach to create a more productive outcome.

4. You’ll understand your full impact on the team.

By getting input from multiple people, Founder Feedback creates a composite view of how you influence the team. You’ll understand how your presence affects their collective ability to create, share ideas, collaborate, problem solve, and express different points of view. Then you can intentionally choose approaches that best motivate your team.

A founder’s team sensed him shift into intense command mode whenever a timeline slipped. During these moments, he tended to make abrupt decisions that caused huge changes to people’s existing priorities. His intensity also elevated the team’s stress level, making it harder to focus on getting things done at an especially important time. The feedback motivated him to get help to manage his stress more productively.

5. You’ll gauge the team’s alignment.

How is your team interpreting your key messages? Are they excited by your new strategy or concerned about the pivot? This is your chance to understand how your team is responding to your story about where the company is going and what you want them to know, feel and do.

One founder learned that his team hadn’t entirely bought into his decision to launch a new product channel. Based on their feedback, he realized he had to spend more time providing context about the opportunity in order for the team to feel as confident about it as he did.

6. You’ll measure the level of trust in your culture.

The quality of the feedback you receive indicates how safe your team feels to share what they really think. This depth of honesty is a crucial marker of company culture; if your team filters their opinions, then you can’t fix their issues. Which means the issues will likely fester and eventually erode morale, retention and productivity.

One founder learned that her new Product lead was feeling his skills were underappreciated. He was even starting to question whether he should have taken the job. Because her Product lead had been completely candid, the founder was able to immediately address his concerns and get them aligned.

The process requires one final thing: an open mindset. Remember that you’re a work in progress. The feedback reflects how you’re showing up at this moment. With new insights, you can consciously choose your approach with your team in the future.


Great Company Cultures Are Made, Not Bought.

A new founder was venting to me recently that she can’t afford an impressive office space for her growing team. As a result, she lamented, her company’s culture was clearly going to suffer. 


It’s easy to see why she’d think that.


After all, the internet is filled with stories that equate a strong culture with “things”: laser tag outings, wine tastings, flashy retreats– and yes, award-winning office spaces.  


Good news, I replied. Your culture has nothing to do with your office space.


What Really Matters

In contrast, I described what really matters– like Core Values that mean something, or the way the team behaves when a mistake is made. But I could see that she struggled to fully connect with my explanation. 


Searching for a fitting analogy, I told her about a trail hike I’d recently taken. 



It was a quiet, sunny August morning, and I was hiking the trails of Block Island. When I rounded a bend, I came upon this tree: majestic and wild, with the sun glowing from behind. 



I paused in my tracks, captivated by its mystical beauty. And then I imagined how strong its roots must be, to keep its tangle of branches anchored to the earth. 


Your company is like that tree, I explained. And your company’s culture are the roots


Like a tree’s, your company’s roots are mostly invisible to the naked eye, but contain the substance and energy that feeds your company. They need to be strong and run deep in order for your team to thrive as it grows. 


Grow Strong Roots

Your company’s roots become stronger when you:


  • Know- and act in alignment with- your company’s Core Values. This means hiring people who share your values, and making tough decisions that keep you in line with your values.
  • Reward behavior that strengthens trust, collaboration and psychological safety– and avoid acting in ways that weaken or destroy it. 
  • Listen to- and act upon- what your employees tell you they need. Are your benefits too basic? Do they feel it’s too hard to get things done? Probe for what really matters.
  • Commit to continually improving- as a founder and as a company. Rather than being a sign of weakness, treating yourself and your company as a work in progress encourages people to be more open and creative.


If you’re still unclear about how to cultivate your culture, let these two questions lead you: 


Is what you’re doing nourishing your company? 


Will it help keep your company anchored for the unexpected setback? 


Here’s What A Great Company Culture Sounds Like

We’ve all heard the glossy stories of companies that are celebrated for their impressive company culture. But here’s a well-kept secret: some of the best cultures can be found in places that you may have never heard of. 


These lesser-known startups aren’t focusing on their culture for the viral success story. They simply know who they are and they build around what they value. 


Since every company has unique Core Values, there’s no one right way to foster identity. Which means that external validation is a pretty meaningless barometer for creating the environment that your people can thrive in. A far better indicator is what your employees say about working there.


In fact, you can find the answer in the very words your employees use.


I recently spoke with several engaged employees who described what it’s like to work at their company. This is what it sounds like when you’re part of a culture with a lot of constructive and creative energy:


“There’s space for everyone to have a voice.”

“Everyone is true to themselves and the work we’re doing.”

“We can rely on and understand each other.”

“I’m emotionally attached to this business.”

“I’ve been in the trenches with this company and this company has been in the trenches with me.”

“I can be who I am; I don’t need to be a character.”

“I have the freedom to try new things, be creative; I’m encouraged to ‘be more me.’”

“This company has taught me that you can actually not burn out at a job- not feel like your entire life is being sucked out of you.” 


When people are respected and accepted, they focus on their work, rather than worrying about how others will react. They’re curious and love learning new things. They share their opinions. They act intentionally and seek outcomes where all win.


As a result, the team has a broad and rich understanding about their priorities. And people tend to feel deeply connected to their work and their company.

To better understand your team’s engagement, listen to the words they use. Get the conversation started by meeting with each of your employees and asking them thoughtful, open-ended questions. You’ll quickly learn what does versus doesn’t matter to your people and your culture.