Leaders listen first and are open. Are you listening?

Leaders listen first and are open. Are you listening?

I’ll never forget how it made me feel When a coach, my “boss” (in his head), told me I was a thorn in his side and he had been ready to fire me several times.  He said he wasn’t sure how he could continue to work with me, with a smile.

It was stifling.  I had to force myself to remember how to breathe.  I had given him everything.  I knew I better not speak right away.  30 seconds.  

It takes 30 seconds for a thought to travel from your amygdala to the frontal lobe of your brain.  I had to wait for my emotional response to travel to the place that helped me make my decisions.  I found myself counting . . 22, 23, 24 . . . I told myself I could do this.

I knew we had been hitting heads the past year, but I had never expected this.  Have you ever been so totally thrown off your balance that you felt like your head was spinning?  That was me.  I pinched myself, and I am not sure why, but I did it anyway.  I forced myself to think about how my face looked, what reactions I was showing him.  Could he really see what I was thinking?  

Then I listened.  No, I could tell he couldn’t see anything I was thinking or feeling.  He wasn’t even paying attention, at all.  He was too into himself.  And he actually looked joyful.  I don’t think he would have acknowledged my feelings if I had made it as obvious as folding my arms over my chest, puckering my lips and squinting my nose.   

shari pheasant headshot

But, I wouldn’t do that.  What would I do?  I knew it would be my turn to talk soon.  

I wanted to be honest, but if I was, I would end up losing my position.  

It was a moment of integrity for me.   

So, I told the truth.

It had been a miserable year.  The first six months of the struggle I attributed to a learning curve, I took it like a champ, but from there forth, it was torture.  I was dedicated, I bent, I adjusted and I learned. I used best practices and I spent hours working in the business while working to develop a scalable model of growth for someone I once respected.  It was what he had asked me to do when he hired me.

The second six months were spent being held back by the habits and barriers that he built around us, still believing I could help this great coach build his business. He hired me to scale a national training facility for him (which I did accomplish somehow). This last year was the worst.  As I got comfortable, knowledgeable and gained momentum in my reputation, he complained more and found more fault in everything I did.

The biggest problem in our business relationship was: He never bridged the gap.  That’s it.  His huge EGO (built on insecurities) required him to be right, always. 

He never worked to understand my perspective or learn anything from my hard work, research and experience.  He acted as if he thought he was better at everything and that I had nothing to offer him but my time, at his direction, which he never made time to accomplish.  At least, from my perspective that’s how he behaved.  

And let’s be real, it was about my perspective – and his – but he never bridged the gap and only one perspective was ever heard.  His.  I went from respecting a man who had guided me to build our business to dreading any interaction with him and being so utterly disappointed in his lack of integrity and his “do as I say-but not as I do” attitude that I found myself frustrated and almost angry. 

I knew it would end soon, so that day, I was honest.

Only four months later, just one day short of two years it ended.  Not bridging the gap can have irreversible consequences.  The funny thing is; he still blames me for his own failure.  His failure to lead, to cooperate and to support the success of his team.  I won’t even get into the cracked culture of teaching others what we do not practice ourselves.  As a business coach, for me, that was a deal breaker too.

The best thing you can do is open yourself up to be a vulnerable leader.  It is possible to not be perfect and still maintain respect from your direct reports and co-workers.  Even partners in a business.  Work to bridge the gap with others by giving them a voice that is heard and can initiate action to help the good of all versus “what’s in it for me”. It is about having supportive, fair, difficult conversations.

There are three things I practice to help bridge the gap with others.  I list them here for you, so you can consider if you really are “bridging the gap”.

  1. Ask questions.  You find out more when you ask questions of others.  Instead of talking about yourself and your ideas, ask others to share.  
  2. Listen.  Give them time to share and work through their ideas.  Be attentive and genuinely learn about what they have to share.
  3. Take Action.  Allow the best of these ideas to lead to actions.  There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have a voice through action.


I wish you strength in working to bridge the gaps you find around you.  The more you know, accept and understand your “Naked Truth” the easier it is to identify the gaps you need to bridge.

Get your greatness on! I know you have it in you!


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