Byron's Babbles

What Inspires You?

Yesterday I had a person ask me, “Byron, how do I deal with the person who does not want to learn or go through any professional growth experiences?” She went on to explain this was an experienced leader who believes she has seen it all. I explained that was a tough one. I have experienced these type of individuals. The type who say, “When you’ve been around as long as I have you’ve seen it all and know how to deal with…” Really, seen it all? I think not! Amazing!

In all honesty, I’m not sure there is a lot you can do with a person with that disposition. I say disposition because while I do believe leaders can be developed and don’t have to be born automatically a leader, I do believe that there are certain dispositions you must possess to be a great leader. One of those is a propensity to be a lifelong learner. I actually just blogged about lifelong learning this week in Lifelong Learning: The Farm Way.

So what was my advice? To have the tough conversation about the fact that all leaders need to continue to learn and find inspiration. I am a huge believer that those we serve as leaders need to see us learning and taking part in self development. Even better if they can experience this alongside us. If that doesn’t happen, I’m not sure how that person can be effective and I’m not sure how long they could continue in an organization that believes in growing its team members and being a learning organization.

During my own personal growth time this morning I had this thinking affirmed in the great book I am currently reading, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. I was inspired to study Nelson Mandela by Richard Branson. Madiba is one of Branson’s leadership heroes. Just as Richard Branson is one of mine. Talk about a guy (Branson) who continues to learn, grow, try new things, and start new thing. Pretty sure he has never said, “I’ve seen it all and know it all.”

In Kalungu Banda’s book he tells the story of Mandela going into the locker room before a soccer match and asking his favorite professional soccer player, Mark Fish, to switch jerseys with him. Mandela was wearing a jersey with Fish’s number on it. Fish agreed and Mandela went on to explain how much he was inspired by him and learned from him. Fish was very touched and inspired by this and said that any time he wore or even looked at the jersey he had gotten from Mandela it inspired him to get better. What the story about Mark Fish in this great book shows is that great leaders also need to be inspired. Mark might think that it was Mandela who inspired him and not the other way round, but it is clear from the story that Mandela had long been inspired by Fish.

Martin Kalungu Banda gives some great, what he calls in the book, Food For Thought on this story:

“We often do not imagine great leaders to be in the process of learning. Indeed, most leaders do not look as if they want to learn or have the time for it. They are either giving advice or opening a workshop for other people. We are surprised when we hear that a leader spent a day at a conference as a participant.”

As I said earlier, we need to be seen by those we serve, learning. Even better to be learning right next to them.

“Imagine what becomes of leaders who do not find anything to inspire them. My guess is that they soon dry up. They cease to inspire others because they have no replenishment themselves. We can only give what we have. So, to be leaders who inspire our organisations and communities, I am convinced we need clear sources of inspiration ourselves. Inspirational leaders continue to be moved by the surprises and wonders of life –people and nature, and the interaction between the two. Such leaders position themselves so that they continue to experience the awesome character of the world that surrounds them and the profundity of human life.”

What inspires you? You cannot inspire other people unless you get inspired and continue learning yourself.

“They [leaders] are always learning. Learning is about lending oneself, through practice, to the ‘how’ question: How can I hear other people better? How can I do this better? How can I understand this situation better? This style could explain why in spite of his age Madiba beams with the joy and vitality of a 21-year-old. It could be his ability to be inspired by other people. The readiness to be inspired by a footballer.”

When we feel so knowledgeable that all we want to do is impart what we know on others, it is a sign that we have stopped learning. There is no such thing as standing still in learning, however. You are either learning or you are regressing. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to regress!


Learning By Serving & Making The World A Better Place

If we want our young scholars to be more successful in the classroom and ultimately in life, then we need to be deliberate in giving them civic experience and experience with community service. Let’s not just tell them to hit the books and study more. Don’t get me wrong; that’s important, too. Instead, let’s help them to head out into the community to help others. Let’s help them come up with projects and work along side them as coaches and mentors.

We need to facilitate our students volunteering their time to make the community and world a better place. I was reminded of this tonight when out shopping for four families in need for a project I am working on. At the completion of shopping I was beginning to stress over wrapping and organizing all the gifts in a presentable way for the school I am working with. Anyone who has ever seen my wrapping knows why I was stressed. Wrapping gifts is one of the many skills and talents I do not have!

Anyway, on my way out of the last store I was approached at the door by some enterprising Cub Scouts. The boys said, “Sir, we would like to wrap any gifts you have.” Well, my prayers were answered. I proceeded to their table and said, “Can you wrap all this, plus what’s in my truck?” The boys and their moms said, “Sure!” I was sold! Of course, as they got started, I went out and got all the other gifts.

They organized all the gifts by the initials of the students I was buying for and even wrapped each child’s gifts in different paper. They obviously could tell that being organized is something I need help with. I had so much fun visiting and working with them as the wrapping was being done. I even had the opportunity to discuss our project for helping families in need and the fact that there are children that do not have all the advantages that these young men have. The young men were very attentive and we had a great conversation about helping others.

As the job was being completed I asked J.P., the Scout who seemed to be leading the charge, “We have wrapped 11 boxes; what do you think that is worth for a donation?” He talked to the other boys and then thought for a minute and said, “$6.00 per box.” J.P.’s mom exclaimed, “Oh J.P.! That is way to much!” Well, I started them down this road so I said, “J.P., if that is where you value it at, that’s what I’ll do.” I Then gave him the $66.00. J.P. and the other Scouts proceeded to tell me all the projects they were doing and how the money would be used.

I have to tell you I was impressed with these young men. Here’s the deal. While completing community service projects, students develop real world 🌎 skills that will help them succeed in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond. This gives our young scholars relevant practice in:

• Leadership

• Problem-solving

• Collaboration with others

• Time management

• Communication

Most importantly, students develop a richer perspective of the world they live in. Additionally, this experience helps young people develop a richer perspective of the world they live in. This is why I am so proud that the Graduation Pathways our Indiana State Board Of Education just passed has a community service component for students. We cannot just leave this to chance. All young scholars need the opportunity to learn the lessons these Cub Scouts were learning tonight.

Lifelong Learning: The Farm Way

IMG_1470Many times leaders wonder what they can do to become well-rounded and competitive while increasing both their success and significance. An often overlooked yet simple way to improve is to increase our knowledge by being a lifelong learner. Structured education and professional growth opportunities are very important, but much success is derived from highly motivated individuals that have dedicated their lives to the concept of lifelong learning. Many times this learning is unstructured and just involves us paying attention and recognizing opportunities to learn. We all need look for these opportunities and prioritize the creation of time in our busy lives each day to educate ourselves on new concepts and ideas.

IMG_1471Last week I had an opportunity to learn just by observing the technique of someone else. We had two of our show heifers dehorned and we always get pain medicine (comparable to Tylenol® or Ibuprofen) in the form of boluses (big pills) to give for seven days. These are given orally with a bolus gun (pictured here). Growing up as a farm kid I have done this hundreds of times. It always seems, however, I end up fighting with the animal before I get the pill given. This time, though, I watched as the veterinary technician gave the first round while still at the vet’s office. She had an interesting technique and I took note of the way she held the calf’s mouth open. The calf did not fight and the pill went right down. The next day I used her technique and voila′ it worked perfectly. Let me tell you, I gave the seventh and last bolus tonight and all went perfectly with no fights every night. I am very excited to have learned a new technique.

This experience reminded me just how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. I try to learn something in everything I do. In fact there is a direct correlation between individuals who strive for growth in their personal lives and those who thrive in their professional lives. I really believe that the learning I do in my farm life does help me grow as a leader in my professional life. In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to stay current, competitive, and up to date – both in our personal and professional lives. We must rid ourselves of assumptions and convictions so that we can be open and receptive to new information and learning. The uncomfortable part is that at times the things we are observing or learning may contradict what we believe to be true. If we truly open our minds to lifelong learning we will come across information that challenges your worldview. We need to strive to jump out of our comfort zone, use this time to stop, reflect and shed light on these ideas in a way that can develop and expand our knowledge and vision. Just like my learning a new way to give calf boluses by watching someone who does it many times per day.

Now, I realize that my story from the vet’s office is a simple one, but the concept is important. We need to always be on the lookout for ways to improve and learn. Again, these do not need to be structured, and I would argue many times the best learning comes from paying attention and observing. Think about it, I could have just said, “That’s not the way I do that.” All that would have got me is the same old inefficient way of giving boluses and continuing to wrestle with calves every time I do it. Amazing what an open mind can bring us.

Hopefully this reflection will give us all a renewed commitment to learn new ways to expand and to sharpen our personal and professional skills. Reading great books, consuming excellent electronic media, and participating in engaging continuing education programs, from varied sources, will keep us informed, in touch with, and energized by new ideas – but only if we commit to our own learning. And, pay attention to lessons happening around us. Will you commit with me to being a dedicated lifelong learner?

Leading Like A Glue Stick

As an educator and leader I understand the value of a good glue stick. Glue sticks are very convenient for class and leadership retreat activities, but don’t last as long. The time they save in the classroom and the ability to create quickly is worth it. I can’t even imagine having to go back to bottles of messy glue that takes forever (it seems) to hold things in place. All of that being said, however, I would like this morning to look at the glue stick as a leadership metaphor.

This past week I had the opportunity to be a part of a convening of business/industry leaders, local/state government officials, school leaders, and community stakeholders in Goshen, Indiana – Elkhart County Indiana. The group was convened by Horizon Education Alliance (HEA). Dr. Jason Harrison, Director Of Facilitation for HEA, did an outstanding job of facilitating our convening. It is awesome how HEA has become the glue stick for Elkhart County to come together to improve all aspects of the community. Specifically, how to make sure our young scholars are prepared for any post secondary endeavor they choose. The idea is for all stakeholders to understand the needs and obstacles of each other. Then remove the obstacles and create great things for everyone in the community. Now that’s leading like a glue stick!

Here is an article in The Elkhart Truth I was interviewed for at the conclusion:

Additionally, I had a former team member text me this morning and I texted back to keep being the glue of the organization. She texted back and said that sometimes we need to be Super Glue. True. Then I got to thinking, what does it take to be the glue stick of an organization? I have heard it said that the indicators of a great team are its level of grit and the strength of its glue.

To me the glue of an organization measures how a team sticks together and how its members meld into an effective team, especially in tough times. Abraham Lincoln is famous for a quote he used when describing the division during the Civil War in the United States 🇺🇸: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He actually borrowed that phrase from the New Testament of the Bible. Probably why it is such a powerful quote no matter what divisions are being struggled with. The “house” can apply to our state or federal governments, our organizations, our teams, our local communities, or our families.

Relationships matter. Really, we need to know each other, trust each other, and hold a healthy respect for each other to achieve excellent results. Mutual respect and understanding of each other’s beliefs and values is key. These relationships are the glue that holds us together. Leaders need to create the space for team members to work together and encourage them to take the time to really see and learn from each other. This also means giving all team members the ability to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, and if treated as such, this can be Super Glue.

Furthermore, these relationships serve as glue sticks because teammates who build each other up, show appreciation for one another, and connect with each other are key parts of any great team. When we all work to be the leadership glue sticks of an organization it becomes a community working toward a common vision. This allows big and bold things to happen.

Are you a glue stick in your organization? How can you better distribute and develop all the glue sticks in your organization?

Graphic Recording: Good Quirky Or Too Off The Wall?

Recently I have been both criticized and lauded for using graphic/visual representations in my meetings. So, in reflecting on the negative reactions, I have thought deeply about the value. My first reaction was that “Wow, these people are very antiquated in their thinking and have had no experience with this great way of facilitating and thinking.” In all fairness, however, I wanted to dig a little deeper. In convenings I have facilitated the results have been positive and far-reaching. Engagement is improved and graphics give the group a way to quickly review thoughts and work that has been completed. In other words, a birds eye view into the work. What we have experienced makes sense given that 65% of the population are visual learners and there is evidence that we retain information as much as six times more effectively when it’s presented through a mixture of speech and visuals rather than speech alone.

There is so much work being done right now using graphics and visualizations to help convening groups understand the work they are doing. It is one of the key practices recommended in a book I am reading right now, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin. This great book blends storytelling, theory, and hands-on advice to help any leader or manager facing a tough choice. In the book the authors recommend drawing pictures of the choices and visualizing the possible solutions. I have found this to be such a powerful way to work through creating the best choices. Every person’s thoughts and ideas become very real when they are put on the board.

There is such power in seeing your own words be put up on the board. This was powerful as a classroom teacher and also powerful when facilitating the convening of meetings. Top facilitators make sure all participants’ words are recorded instead of their own.  They write what was said, regardless of theperception of value by anyone collaborating at the time. When working with groups long term, I really like to get them to begin to do their own graphic recording. This is very powerful when the group takes ownership and owns this. Once written, follow-up questions can be used to get the participant to clean up the words and flesh out other thoughts.

Furthermore, the use of graphics make an outstanding way to do a review at the end of a meeting or any time further clarification is necessary. I have made it a custom in any convening I facilitate to do a review at the end. This has proven to be a very powerful way to end meetings and make sure everyone is on the same page. This review can be very quick or very detailed depending on the work that is being done. It is also great to have the visuals available when reporting out from small group or breakout group work. It allows fellow collaborators to actually see the work that is being done and literally watch it develop. Really, this all works on the principle known as the picture superiority effect. Basically, using effective visuals will improve learning. The principle states that people generally have a better memory for pictures than for corresponding words.

Finally, the use of the graphic story boards from previous meetings serve as an awesome gallery walk prior to the next meeting. In fact it was awesome in a project I recently chaired to watch individuals get to the meeting early to review all the graphics from prior meetings. I have to give credit where credit is do and say that I learned the best practice of the gallery work review to my experience with the Harvard Learning Innovation Lab (LILA). Graphic recordings can help learners comprehend abstract concepts using visual language to depict meaning. In other words, the idea is to concretize abstract information with a corresponding visual when possible.

I also believe graphic recordings enrich the meeting space. Displaying the graphic recordings in the meeting space itself is one of the most effective ways to ensure the visuals are part of the ongoing discussion. People will naturally refer back to what was said — the graphic recordings serve as a tangible record in full view of everyone. Again, as I stated earlier by displaying the graphic recordings, you’re showing participants that their words and thoughts are valued and you’re encouraging people to review and discuss the content. This creates a safe environment to share ideas and conflicting opinions.

Bottom-line: Why do companies like Google, the Gap, Lego and Johnson & Johnson use graphic facilitation? Because they know how valuable their meetings are, and they know how graphic recording helps them get the most from their investment of time, money and talent to get their best people in one room. Therefore, I believe making a graphic recording makes the discussion visual. This enables those convened to have snapshot of the ground that has been covered so far. Almost immediately, you can see which points need to be built out and which have yet to be explored. We can “read” images much faster that written word, so the feedback loop is much quicker.

While some may think is quirky, I am a major believer in the use of graphic facilitation. I believe that when the meeting, leadership training, retreat, or any other type of convening really matters, graphic recording and facilitation will make that meeting more effective and productive.

Pictures in this post are of graphic recordings done by Mike Fleisch. I have learned a great deal from Mike and value the experience of having him facilitate many convenings with me.

Leading With Intellectual Honesty

I am reading a great book right now that is super hard to put down every time I get a chance to sit down and do some reading. The book is by one of my favorite Presidents, Harry S. Truman. Where The Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings Of Harry S. Truman. This great book was published by President Truman’s daughter, Mary Margaret Truman Daniel. Although the book is entirely written by President Truman, with the exception of the introduction, he did not want it published till after he and the former First Lady, Bess Truman, had both passed away. The reason was that he is very critical of some of the presidents before and after him and did not want his thoughts released while he was alive. In the book, our 33rd U.S. President gave his “cut to the chase” theories and opinions on leadership and what it takes to be a great leader. He even gave his picks for best and worst presidents and, in detail, defended his reasoning.

It would seem that my post today is to promote the book, but really that is not the case. Although, I would recommend reading the book. I was intrigued by a comment President Truman made in the book when arguing that the appearance, height, or stature of President has nothing to do with greatness. President Truman said:

“A president has got to have qualifications to do the job that he’s supposed to do. He has got to be honest. Particularly, he’s got to be intellectually honest, and if he isn’t, it doesn’t make any difference what kind of appearance he makes. In the long run, his good looks or good public presence doesn’t amount to anything because he’ll do a bad job, and he’ll be found out. Or even worse, as I’ve been pointing out in this book, some presidents go into the presidency and don’t do any kind of job at all.” ~ Harry S. Truman in Where The Buck Stops (Kindle Location 1369 of 6958)

I bolded the term that intrigued me: “intellectually honest” or intellectual honesty. What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs. President Truman was reminding us that the great leaders approach problems and decision-making as rationally as possible. In other words we make arguments we believe are true as opposed to arguments we are supposed to by popular opinion or public pressure. We should not be afraid to show vulnerability or admit when we are wrong or don’t not know something. Probably a President, more than anyone else, can appreciate that facts and information may likely change, requiring a shift in execution.

The best leaders I have observed have the curiosity to learn and improve — and an innate desire to create, innovate, iterate, and discover better and more efficient ways of doing things. When great leaders see change as an opportunity for growth they are able to pivot and execute effectively. We must work really hard to not cover up what we don’t know, or let personal beliefs interfere with our pursuit of the truth. As President Truman pointed out, this is not easy. We must continually work at it.

Leading Like Sitting Bull

As a note taker who always has a notepad or notebook with me, I am always finding notebooks or find myself studying old notes from the past. This week I came across a notepad (see picture) that referred to the book The Genius Of Sitting Bull: Thirteen Heroic Strategies For Today’s Business Leadersby Emmett Murphy and Michael Snell. These were notes from a workshop back in the ’90’s. Interestingly, I only wrote down nine of the strategies – not sure why not all 13. The lessons, however, are still very applicable today in 2017.

Having traveled to the Black Hills in South Dakota this past summer and studying and retracing the steps of such historic figures as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and General Custer it was very cool to come across this notepad. Here are the 13 strategies:

  1. Commitment
  2. Integrity/Trust
  3. Empowerment – Intent based leadership
  4. Living among your people – working shoulder to shoulder
  5. Healing – be responsible for the welfare of others
  6. Communicate
  7. Strategic Vision
  8. Respect the competition
  9. Redefine the rules of battle
  10. Guardianship – knowing the terrain
  11. Right people in the right places
  12. Courageous – welcome crisis
  13. Success – measure the results

It was great to reflect back on the lessons learned from Sitting Bull, particularly after taking a journey this past summer in his homeland. Hopefully this will prompt you to reflect on the 13 heroic leadership strategies and how you are doing related to them. If you are like me there is always a lot of room for continuous improvement.

Racing Toward Success!

This weekend we went on what I am sure to be the first of many college visits with our son, Heath. We went to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky home of the Racers 🏇. Picking a postsecondary path is not an easy thing to do. While chairing our state’s Graduation Pathways Panel over the past several months this has become glaringly obvious. Everyone, as you can imagine has their own idea of what success is. I still ascribe to the definition of Dr. Felice Kaufmann. She defines success as:

“SUCCESS: Knowing what one wants in the world and knowing how to get it.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufmann 

Dr. Kaufmann was a teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky and served on the Boards of the National Association for Gifted Children and The Association for the Gifted. I believe that while her work was with gifted children, the principles apply to all. Furthermore, I believe all children are gifted in some way. This is why it is just as important for us to make education relevant and form relationships with our scholars as it is to make education rigorous. Success looks different for all of us and it is not something we can graph with a straight line.

“The best piece of wisdom I have learned from studying gifted adults for 30 years is that achievement for achievement’s sake does not necessarily provide a lasting and meaningful structure for living one’s life. While achievement is important, in the long run success means being able to identify and understand one’s real needs and finding ways to meet those needs in a constructive and personally meaningful way -whether it’s finding a cure for cancer or influencing and being deeply loved by family and friends. E.M. Forster said it best and most succinctly: Only connect.” ~ Dr. Felice Kaufmann 

As we were visiting Murray State University this past weekend I really began thinking about this. It is our job, as Heath’s parents, and his school’s job to help him identify and understand his real needs and support him in finding ways to meet those needs in a constructive and personally meaningful way. Not an easy task. In thinking about this I was reminded of thoughts from Howard Gardner at a recent Project Zero gathering at Harvard Iniversity: we need to move away from thinking “How smart are you?” To “How are you smart?” To me this means we need to take into account how our students learn and what he or she really wants to be learning about and doing. 

Heath With Racer 1

The mascot of Murray State University is the “Racers” – a thoroughbred race horse. Actually we had the chance to meet Racer 1, the current mascot this past weekend up close and personal. It is such an awesome mascot. Thoroughbreds are known for their agility, speed, and spirit. In fact Murray State’s motto refers to the thoroughbred: 

Having raised and raced thoroughbreds for a time in the past I can so relate to this. Every racer had a mind of it’s own and every one had different talents – distance, sprinter, likes mud, likes to be challenged, wants to come from behind, needs to take the lead, high spirited, easily distracted (needs blinders), et cetera. Sound familiar? Heath still likes playing in the mud! Our challenge as educators and parents is to, like the role of a jockey, rein and channel a constant flow of ideas. The art is to know how much rein to give and when to give it. 

I was so impressed with Murray State’s student centered focus. And, you guessed it, even ended up tweeting about it with Murray State University President, Dr. Bob Davies. We had a great Agriculture School Ambassador, MacKenzie Jones, from the Hutson School Of Agriculture who spent time with Heath and have him a personal tour of the university and university farms. He was so impressed with how personal the education was tailored and the close relationships between professors and students. MacKenzie drove home the fact that it is not just about getting a degree; it is about getting a true education through hands-on experiences and the faculty understanding the students’ needs and what makes him smart. She explained that a tudents in the Hutson School of Agriculture receive a “large university” education in a small school setting.

It was great to visit a university that is truly student focused, giving students the personal attention they need, but also providing them with current and breaking agricultural technology to take their education to a level that will make them highly competitive in the job market. 

And…by the way, we spent time with the football team. The racers defeated Tennessee Tech 31-21. Go racers! 🏇

Why Aren’t You Perfect Already?

Originally published on the Flynn Heath Holt Blog by Diana Faison, Mary Davis Holt, Kathryn Heath, and Jill Flynn

What’s on your to-do list this season? We’re guessing there’s a “make this,” a “go here,” a “buy that.” We’re also guessing is there isn’t a “do this for myself” on it anywhere either. Besides wrestling other shoppers for the last turkey at the grocery store, you may be lifting your feet for the office janitor to vacuum the floor, trying to get year end projects finished. But why not keep your sanity this year? We have a few ideas of how you can.

One of the rules we ask women to break is the “it’s all or nothing” point of view. The holidays are particularly tricky in trying to get it right both at work and at home, but it’s not all or nothing, it’s both-and. We’ve seen women in our coaching set themselves up for failure by trying to do it all and make it look easy. You can have your fruit cake and eat it too- you just may have to tweak the way you do it.

Delegate. Have a teenage son who’s at home from school on break? Give him the grocery list. Maybe the intern who’s been waiting for a project should write that memo so you can finish your expense report. Don’t do every little thing yourself- only the important things.

Prioritize. Focus on that which makes you the happiest, and have realistic goals you can build on. If decorating your home is your thing, do it; but go buy the pie you’re in charge of bringing to your parents’. Blend your work-life and consider compromise. Sometimes we’d be a lot happier if we simply decided to let go of the little things that don’t amount to much.Give yourself a break! Take some time during your day to leave the office and read a magazine, call a friend, or take a walk. Make some time for you this holiday season- even if it’s just 20 minutes. You’ll feel recharged and more positive both in the office and at home.

Whatever your holiday plans this year, try not to get burnt out; it does nothing for your career or your personal life. Stay positive. Move forward. And Happy Holidays from your friends at Flynn Heath Holt!


About Kathryn Heath:

Kathryn Heath is a founding partner at FHHL who develops leadership programs, coaches executives, and designs training. She co-authored Break Your Own Rules, which landed on the best-seller lists of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post. She also co-authored The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders Previous to FHHL, Kathryn was Senior Vice President and Director of First University at the nation’s fourth-largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where her inventive and results-focused approach won her numerous awards in the field of learning and development.

About Diana Faison:

Diana Faison is a partner at FHHL and worked with the firm as a consultant for over 10 years prior to her partnership. She began her career as a teacher of Leadership Development studies and a Dean in Student Affairs at Queens University and the University of North Carolina—Charlotte. Diana is a sought-after keynote speaker on business leadership topics such as political savvy, brand, personal power, authentic leadership, and well-being. She is also the co-author of The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders.

About Mary Davis Holt:

Mary Davis Holt is a partner and co-author of Break Your Own Rules, and The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. She is an in-demand speaker who shares her hard-won insights and promotes the firm’s new rules for success to a wide range of audiences. Mary is also a sought-after facilitator, executive coach, and she works with companies to plan strategies that change the culture to support women leaders. Prior to joining FHHL, Mary held executive positions at Time Warner with oversight that ranged from finance to information technology, marketing, human resources, manufacturing and distribution.

About Jill Flynn:

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.

What’s Possible When You Dream Big with Passion, Purpose, and Joy

Originally published on the Flynn Heath Holt Blog by Diana Faison

When my younger daughter graduated from college. Her accomplishment got me thinking about how graduation is an opportunity to reflect on what’s possible.

As you reflect, I want you to explore big dreams and move forward with a sense of purpose. And I want you to seek joy along the way.


My daughter has big dreams to be the world’s best third grade teacher. Her passion and drive remind me of my early career. On my first day working at a small women’s college, I was passionate, legacy-driven, committed. The women I served were my top priority, and I wanted to make a difference in each of their lives.

Early on in that job, I met a high school senior with limited resources. I encouraged her to apply for a full scholarship. Over her four years with us, I watched her bloom and gain confidence. We still stay in touch, and she’s grown into a successful entrepreneur in her own right. I cannot help but feel we can all make a difference one conversation at a time. She had big dreams, and so did I; we supported each other.


You may feel a strong sense of purpose on day one of this new life adventure following graduation. I felt a calling early – I knew I was a born coach. I knew I was a teacher, an educator.

But it took me years to realize that my work was fulfilling my purpose to coach and lead high-talent, women leaders. I was able to get here now because I had key women and men who gave me a chance. The Academic VP at a woman’s college hired me. A mentor made me teach large university classes at a young age. Two female executives at a large financial institution gave me my first significant contract which launched my solo practice. Now, I am in partnership with three talented women leaders and we own a multimillion dollar company.

Embrace that person who believes in you and wants to show you the ropes; ask them questions; let them know what you’re “doing”. The dots will connect much faster, and your purpose will reveal itself to you sooner than you think.


In her recent commencement address at Berkeley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg talked about joy as ever present; we forget about it because we are bombarded with negativity. So we must SEEK joy. Turn off anything that’s reminding you of the world’s problems or bad news. Yes, work gets hard and life throws mean curve balls. But, there are things for which we are grateful. Before I left for my freshman year of college, my childhood home burned to the ground. It was a devastating loss for our family. But my mother’s response shifted everything for us. “Well, now at least we can rebuild the house we dreamed about,” she said. I could have been trapped in that burning house, but I survived. We survived. I am forever grateful.

Seeking joy means seeking gratitude. I reflect each and every day and ask, “For what am I grateful?” My kids hated this ritual at the dinner table. But, today they would say it paid dividends. They are joyful adults exploring big dreams, moving forward with purpose, and making a difference.

The future is simple: It’s shaped by the magic that comes from your passion, purpose, and joy.


About Diana Faison:

Diana Faison is a partner at FHHL and worked with the firm as a consultant for over 10 years prior to her partnership. She began her career as a teacher of Leadership Development studies and a Dean in Student Affairs at Queens University and the University of North Carolina—Charlotte. Diana is a sought-after keynote speaker on business leadership topics such as political savvy, brand, personal power, authentic leadership, and well-being. She is also the co-author of The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders.