Building A Better World, One Conversation At A Time

This hadn’t happened to me often before.

I could feel Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, beginning to make a dramatic and positive effect on me before I had even finished reading the book. Its message that struck me immediately and was sweeping me along through the final page was the belief that, between any two people who know each other, the conversation is the relationship. Scott’s book was making me rethink every relationship I have.

Many of us have heard an adage that goes something like this: “Tell me what book you’re reading now, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be talking about over the next three months.” This is almost always true for me. As a strategic coach, I need constantly to find fresh ways to explain and reinforce the NextStep Elite principles to my clients, not to mention stay relevant. That’s what keeps me looking for good books.

If you are in a leadership role in at least one aspect of your life, you must read Fierce Conversations. You don’t have time? Then sit with me over coffee, and discuss some of its key concepts. The author is the founder and CEO of Fierce Inc. Her company’s mission is to transform the conversations that determine their clients’ success. The vision of Fierce Inc. is to build a better world—one conversation at a time.

What is “fierce” conversation? From Scott’s perspective, it’s what happens when we come out from behind ourselves to step into the conversation and make it REAL. She challenges us by asserting that, while many of us are afraid of “real,” it is unreal conversations that should scare us to death because they are irreversibly expensive. Talk isn’t cheap; too often it’s wasteful.

Think about it. What conversations have you been unable or unwilling to have—with a spouse, boss, colleague, employee, child, or with yourself—in the last week that, if you were able to have, might change everything?

Conversations are the workhorses of your company or team. Think again of the benefits of “real” or fierce conversations to your company with more truthful and creative brainstorming sessions, with clearer and well-constructed objections to poor ideas being forced into action, or with honest feedback about the dysfunctions and lost productivity caused by poor—even angry—leadership.

When you think of fierce conversation, think of passion, integrity, authenticity and collaboration. Think cultural transformation.

Fierce Conversations reminded me of a quote on effective leadership by 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

A few years ago, I heard Tom Goodwin, former Major League Baseball outfielder and current Major League Baseball 1st base coach reminisce about an extended stint in AA while trying to get to the Big Leagues. Reflecting on the experience he said, "Leslie, the toughest person you'll ever have to confront in the mirror is yourself." Goodwin's claim prompted me to action on the spot. 

Coincidentally, I was reading Fierce Conversations at the time. The combination of Goodwin and Scott was perfect harmony. Goodwin challenged me to follow Rumi’s words of wisdom, and Scott skillfully provided the cookbook to take even better control of my conversations … of my relationships … of my effectiveness … of my life.

I am trying to encourage you to set a similar course, and NextStep Elite is positioning to help you. 

In the meantime, I encourage you to think about that earlier quote “Tell me what book you’re reading now, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be talking about over the next three months.” So if our paths cross in the next couple of months and I ask you what you’re currently talking about, what will your answer be?

Be great,


So you REALLY want change in 2015? Me too. START SIMPLE.


  • You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, Twitter and Instagram follows included.


  • All leaders are readers.


  • Start where you are, use what you have.

  • Addition = clutter, multiplication = simplification. 


  • Batteries die, memories last.

Be great, 


Selfies, Brunching, Cubicles, and Everything In-between...

A tale of the quarter-life identity crisis....

A few years ago someone, somewhere decided that I am a “millennial.” I’m still not completely sure what that means, although I have been told that half of “us” are underemployed and that supposedly “we” want instant gratification, work-life balance, and recognition. It has also been relayed to me that “we” are a tech-savvy bunch of connected multi-taskers. Last I checked, that sounds a lot more like Mark Zuckerberg than me.

To be transparent, I have yet to install the latest OS update on my iPhone and the mere thought of a new iMessaging format is way too much to process amidst my hectic work and social calendar. Sound dramatic? It probably is, after all I am a millennial. And although I find myself resistant to select technological change, I must admit that my life does look pretty sweet through an Instagram filter. In fact, it seems to portray many of the above millennial attributes, especially when I select the right photo border—follow me @nextstepleslie (shameless plug).  

And because I am a “millennial” I suppose I also run the risk that by the time you read this Instagram, and Mark Zuckerberg for that matter, may be obsolete. So read quickly, the world is changing.

My brilliantly crafted Instalife aside, the “millennial” stereotype has me perplexed. I remain unsure how I have been labeled without my consent by a term I can barely spell aloud. Frankly if I’m going to be something, I would like to be sure what it is. Even Merriam Webster seems to be confused and a bit discouraged by the label. Although she has cataloged “millennial” as a derivative of  “Millennium” and defined it accordingly:


1.     of or pertaining to a millennium or the millennium.

2.     Worthy or suggestive of the millennium


3.      Informal. a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S.; a member of Generation Y. 

She remains quick to tell us how favorable our future looks by reminding us who we are with the following contextual example:

“Millennials are facing a deep economic crisis.”

Awesome. Thanks for the attempt Merr, but I’m still puzzled. “Language of origin please?” Where’s that little 3rd grader sporting hipster frames in the National Spelling Bee on ESPN when we need him?

Probing deeper, I recently went looking for statistics to support the word “millennial,” or at the very least give it some depth. I certainly couldn’t launch a national speaking campaign without facts and figures, after all my LinkedIn says I’m “dependable” and “results driven.” I think I even have a few endorsements from an old boss and college professor or two.

Amidst my mass Google search, I came to find that most “millennial” statistics speak in generalizations, frequently suggesting things like “half of all” or  “less than 50%.” Only to leave me sitting in my chair thinking, “Anyone can speak in halves or 50 percentiles, give me some real numbers.”

That said, when is the last time you took a survey regarding your “millennial” status? Better yet, who is out there conducting and answering these questionnaires and why did you leave me off your mass mailing list?

Somewhere between Google and Amazon, I decided I had three options: 1. Accept the limited millennial description as fact 2. Become cynical 3. Get to the root of this quarter-life identity crisis.

Number 3 it is, stay tuned.

So it goes. 

Be great,


What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

The chronicle of a first date that was over before it ever really began...

“It’s too late,” he said as he leaned over and shook the glass filled with ice and what was once a Manhattan. “What do you mean it’s too late?” I responded, “You’re 28 years old.” He smirked, the smile of denial. “I’ll take another, this time no cherry, thanks,” he said to the waitress.  “No, see you don’t get off that easy. You just told me that your job is ‘alright, it pays the bills’ but when I asked you what you’d rather be doing you said it’s too late,” I fired back. “Because it is too late, not everyone gets to do what they want to do, some of us just need to get by for right now,” he mumbled. “And just how long is right now?” I asked.

About then I realized it probably best I change the subject, maybe resort to the day’s weather or some box scores, barring I had any intention of carrying on conversation or at least getting my meal paid for on that date. Even if I knew the night would be ending somewhere between No Shot Circle and Neverland Avenue, I was hungry and well, I should have known better than to hit this west coast dreamboat, who drives a two-seater Mercedes on credit, with a fierce conversation on a Friday night. Rookie mistake.

Sassy, yes. Honest, definitely. But fearful? No. We’ve all got our vices but fear isn’t exactly one of my mistresses. Because of this, I often get myself into these types of dinner dialogs (or debacles), forgetting albeit for a second, that although I’m not sleeping with fear, most of my peers are. Boy, I’d hate to catch that bug.

For innovators, entrepreneurs, or in my case the occasional 20-something girl wearing heels she paid too much for and likely skipped a few meals to afford, fear might as well be Aftershave cologne—cheap, unappealing, and used only to mask whatever it is you are ashamed of. Sure, Aftershave may, momentary, seem easier than a shower and more cost effective than a new shirt, but much like fear, both are best known for suffocating and or paralyzing all who tread in their midst. Proving, once again, that easy isn’t necessarily satisfying…and that there is no truth to Axe advertisements.

I am constantly reminded, or rather reminding myself, that majority of people operate from a place of fear instead of security. I am increasingly convinced that this is not a generational epidemic although its manifestation may differ depending on age, maturity, or era. It may show up as desperation, apprehension, or in its worst costume, envy. No matter the form, when it does rear its ugly head, we can most assuredly agree it kills hope, faith, and possibility…yet another parallel to Aftershave on a Friday night.

So refresh my memory, why I was sitting across from a fellow millennial, graced with the same childhood catch phrases of,  “You can do anything you set your mind to,” and, “If you dream it you can achieve it,” having this depressing discussion? Let’s be honest, growing up in the 90’s, our lives were basically one giant fortune cookie. How then, did he choose Aftershave, when it was so easy for me to choose designer? At which point did trust become the logical colleague for me, but fear his preferred ally? We’ve got college degrees and imaginations, wasn’t that supposed to promise us the world?  Where then is our inheritance if not at the bottom of his glass?

In a generation thirsty for ownership, why do we go on spending our days building our bosses’ dreams for right now, but fall asleep dreaming of a better tomorrow. There is freedom in commitment, but if we aren’t committed to ourselves then who are we committed to and where then will we find our happiness?

This question is not meant to be misconstrued, although it almost always is. Self-commitment is not some narcissistic pledge to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. Instead, it is a promise to be the greatest version of yourself and find out what you (and only you) are the best in the world at so that you can contribute to the greater good of mankind, of which you are but a small yet essential fraction.  Believe it or not, this involves and often requires other people.

Fear inhibits us from ownership and frightens us away from the healthy responsibilities that lie within our dreams. Human happiness is contingent upon self-ownership; more specifically, ownership of the actions and decisions we choose that impact people in our sphere of influence—the people who ultimately make or break our fate.

True ownership demands trust in the self.  As we well know though, trust is earned and never freely granted—for good reason. That said, do you truly want to believe it’s too late to trust yourself? After all, that is what he was telling me across the table that night, right? That it’s too late to trust himself to do what he really loves, yet it is just the right time to imitate his way into someone else’s future and his own unhappiness? How exhausting.

I’m not saying everyone is called to be an entrepreneur; however, if you get the man right, you get the world right. It is our responsibility to care enough to find out who we are and what we want, then define and pay the price it takes to actually be that. Don’t kid yourself, our uniqueness is the only thing we were born with and the lone thing we will die with.

In hindsight, after he told me it was “too late,” what I really should have asked him is how long he’d been working so far. Assuming he graduated college at 22, chances are he would have replied with a number around 6 years. That said, it may have been more appropriate to follow by asking him when he planned to retire. Imagining he would have thrown out a figure near 60, a subtle reminder that his next 32 years lend him “plenty of time” to start fresh and commit to what makes him happy may have been more helpful. And maybe, if he’s lucky, and the time tested clichés floating around prove true, he may find that following his passion increases his odds of “getting it right” sooner, rather than later. So let’s then say it takes him 20 years of work instead of the suspected 32, safe to argue he’s spared himself a few grey hairs. Now he’ll not only be retired and happy, but he’ll look better to doing it.

Being that he’s only banked 6 years in the workforce so far, 14 more should seem pretty encouraging.

Sitting there staring at his cup of ice though, it just seemed harder to see the glass half-full. Never has there ever been a more appropriate time for a refill. 

Be great,