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What to do when you feel like you have no more bandwidth

What do you keep telling yourself when you have no more bandwidth to do one more thing? 

If you are a high achieving business person, I bet you just said to yourself, “I can always do just one more thing today.” 

That’s exactly what my senior VP client told me two weeks ago. 

And yesterday I got a call from his office that he wanted to talk, that he was feeling somewhat better from the raging headache, high fever, and chills that Covid19 had blessed him with. 

He called me later in the day and said “Sylvia, I really am a jerk. I thought I was invincible. Yes, I feel better now but I know the fever will get me again and I just wanted to tell you that you are right. And thanks.” 

Before I could ask him what I am so right about he said he had to go (he meant that literally) and rushed to the bathroom.  

Today he called again and had more time to put his thoughts together. 

He asked me to write my weekly blog about what he las learned in the very long and unpleasant past few weeks. 

 “I want everyone to know that they better prioritize what really matters before crazy COVID does it for them. I was such a high achieving guy that I would listen to people who talked about work-life balance as if they were all wimps. Male and female, they were the ones who would never be the top leaders. 

I, on the other hand, was always there saying things like ‘As soon as….’  

Our bottom line is better. 

There are a few more experts on my team.     

Our technology issues are handled. 

 I can delegate to the newbies.

I come up with some new products.

Here is what I learned. So sad, I had to learn it the hard way. I know you have been encouraging me to look for a better balance. And, I must admit, I figured you were just giving me your ‘be kind, be nice’ woman talk. 

I saw myself as fierce, kinda the ‘large and in charge’ type of guy. It’s all bullshit!  

This pandemic takes out whoever gets in its path.  

Unless you, that means everyone who reads this, learn to prioritize, stop barreling though because you can, ignoring the pain, both physical and emotional, from having to be a super-achiever, not stopping to say “What the hell am I doing and even better, why am I running on empty?” you may never get a second chance. 

I’m lucky. Like Chris Cuomo on CNNI’m getting better and am able to get great care from my wife. I only hope that she and my three kids stay well. 

I am now willing to do whatever it takes to have a life that is more about sharing and caring than about being the first up the hill. 

I want some pointers on what I can do to be a more effective human being, not just a more effective leader. 

Tell everyone that life includes work yet it is not just about that slippery word, success unless you have it in all areas of your life.” 

And there you have it.  

We are all being given the opportunity to look inside ourselves and make some vital decisions.  

When you feel like you have no more bandwidth, I suggest that you take a break so you won’t break down or burn out.

Hopefully, the virus will pass you by. Or at least, you will have the stamina to fight it off. 

Live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. Now, that is a great definition of success. 

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Telling the Truth: Not for Wimps

Why does telling the truth have to be so darn hard?

So much information, so much confusion.

Who do you believe? 

Which media outlets are pushing out fake news and which are telling the honest, open truth?


No one?

Telling the Truth: Not for Wimps

If you missed out on being part of past revolutions, like the revolution of 1776, or the 1960s, now is your chance to be part of a revolution that is underway right now.

It’s about something that can be terrifying. 

It causes excessive amounts of stress.

It’s about telling the truth, and especially, telling truth to power.

Leaders today are under so much scrutiny and that’s a good thing. There has always been the “backroom truth” and the “public truth.”

Truth is coming into the public domain thanks to social media.

Telling the Truth is Good for Business

The organizations I have worked with that have truth as a core value has been successful. Because what is found is that telling the truth is good for business.

It increases trust and trust increases collaboration and enhances creativity.

Now, every revolution needs a bumper sticker. Remember “No taxation without representation” or “Make love, not war”?

How bout now “The truth shall set you free.”

We all want honest people in Congress, in our corporations, family businesses, start-up companies. 

At the core of who we are, I believe we would all prefer having someone telling the truth instead of being set up and scammed.

Let’s see truth-telling become the way we work.

Let’s see leaders step it up and model truth-telling and requiring the truth from those who report to them.

No more denying or ignoring, no more playing CYA to avoid being held accountable. Being honest is at the tipping point of gaining respect once again.

Diversity and Truth-Telling

In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Team of Rivals” Doris Kearns Goodwin underlines how talking truth to power created the tension between despair and conviction that helped accentuate truth and encourage trust.

During times of revolution as well as times of accelerated evolution the extremes of the good the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful are highlighted.

That time is now.

Here’s some good news. YOU can develop skills to deliver difficult feedback, manage resistance to change, orchestrate conflict resolution, and keep stress levels from going through the roof.

More good news. You do not have to be a charismatic orator for the truth to be heard and accepted. 

More good news. When you tell the truth, you have less to remember.

Pioneers on the Road to Truth 

Are you ready to be a pioneer to demand truth at work and in the community? Are you ready to stand for calling out brutality, be it from police or those who want to polarize the world?

If you get concerned about what happens when you tell the truth, think like the child in the tale The Emperor’s New Clothes.

During the time of the Emperor’s reign, vanity and greed made it possible for clever con men to make a financial bundle.

They convinced the Emperor, who was a shallow and self-absorbed Narcissist that only the “pure of heart” would be able to see his new royal garb. Brilliant ‘spin doctors’, the clothes were spun of ‘fools cloth, as in great marketing with no substantial product. And then the ‘piece de resistance’, a viral PR campaign that hypnotized the whole town into an agreement. After all, wouldn’t you want to be in the ‘pure of heart’ camp? So, when the Emperor rode into town  ‘al fresco’ it took an innocent little kid to shout “BUT THE EMPEROR  IS NAKED”!

That innocence, that willingness to speak out and say the truth is often drummed out of us early in life. It’s time for that to change.

Telling the Truth is Riveting

So, like the Emperor’s town folk, is it safer to pretend, to not see? Say the words ‘not see’ over a few times, say them quickly, and notice you are saying Nazi”!

When we play it safe it causes us to lose our magic, our zest for courageously questioning the status quo or situations that lack a clear focus. 

Telling the truth is NOT for wimps. 

We are starting to see a global groundswell for change, for truth, for the trust for really understanding that we are all part of the human race and no one wins unless we all do.

Join the movement by telling the truth and the reconciliation so needed in our world right now.

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What Is Needed NOW In Leadership

Hi everybody! Sylvia Lafair here, and I woke up this morning pretty agitated in distress, and when I turn the news on, of course, it was validated with what’s going on in Minnesota and literally all over the country for that fact, and I started thinking with school not in, and kids not able to congregate and especially the teenagers and you know not being politically correct to talk about things like this in school.

We have got to do something social media can be used for good, and it can be used for trouble, but right now we have an opportunity.

So, my question is, what is it we need to teach our children? What should they be learning about? What’s going on in our culture in the world? What is it that we’re missing in their education at every level? But especially the teenagers, and I started to think about it, and this song came to my mind, and I know we have an opportunity, and I’m thinking about how we can do this. It’s just a first formed thought about using social media, using zoom, using dialogues. Getting the kids involved to talk about this, without giving them answers, without forcing them to take a test, what to begin to listen. We’ve become a very big soundbite world, and we usually don’t go past the obvious. Our work, the work I’ve been doing is about how patterns repeat themselves.

So, what we’re seeing as someone said, isn’t new. It’s just now being filmed. The disparity of how people are treated and from different cultural areas, colors. So, I’m going to end this because I have some thoughts, and I will be back. I’d love to be able to create the beginning of a dialogue and see where our children fit into this,
but this is from a South Pacific, from Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I literally copied it.

So, I have the words. Although, they’re embedded in my head because this is what we’re working with. You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year-to-year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught, to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you were six or seven or eight to hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be carefully taught. Maybe it’s time to break this pattern repetition of hate and division. We can do it.

I will be back with some ideas, but please under this video, please put your comments and thoughts and ideas because if not now when? And it’s been too long.

Thank you so much.

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Have the Rules for Competent Leaders Changed?

Have the rules for competent leaders changed over time? 

Has social media and the fast pace of the world made the qualities of what real leadership is so different? 

I say NO. 

I spent time researching what the leaders of old did to keep projects moving quickly. I spent time looking at what was expected of leadership teams and leadership development way back when there were so few ways of calculating and keeping records

Here is what I found.

There are 5 qualities of competent leaders that have not changed over the centuries. 

I was musing about this looking at old photos from when we took a group of senior executives on our “Leadership in Action” trip to Peru.  

When we visited Machu Picchu, I was awestruck by the buildings fused together without mortar, as if dropped from the sky in the middle of this gorgeous Andean mountain range. I asked and really pondered over the magnificence, thinking “How’d they do that?” 

Then on another trip to Egypt, I stood in awe at the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza and had the same thought, “How’d they do that?” 

I imagined the leadership teams that were assigned the tasks of getting these sites completed. I mused about the challenges and disputes that likely occurred. How did the ancient leadership executives get the jobs done? 

Here are the 5 qualities of competent leaders that have lasted over time and are still in place today. Please let me know if you agree. 

Quality #1: Effective communication.

Whether by megaphone or cell phone, a key requirement is to let people know what is expected of them. The words and the images these words create are vital to getting to the goal. 

Finding the exact ways of requesting and requiring what has to happen is a skill for leaders that transcends the centuries.

Quality #2: Preparation.

Being proactive is the ability to make things fall into place, rather than merely responding after the fact. When you are prepared, you can, in a sense, see the future before it occurs. 

You study the weather, the adversaries, the details, and you are ready to intervene rather than be at the mercy of unforeseen events.

Quality #3: Listening.

Leaders pay attention to the body language, gossip, rumblings of the subtle discontent. It’s not about arguing and making others feel stupid or unnecessary.

It’s about taking in all the information to make the most effective decisions rather than grandstand what you and only you think and want. 

Quality #4: Understanding the system.

 Knowing how the whole is connected to the parts is critical for leaders. It has been said that when someone sneezes in India, someone in Indiana may catch a cold (or a virus). 

The ability to facilitate sustainable change by identifying and strengthening positive connections and limiting the negative implications of a project is a high-level leadership skill.

Quality #5:  Balance macro and micro initiatives.  

Finding the sweet spot between too much or too little interaction keeps things moving smoothly. The need to exert excessive control can kill creative energy and teams become like robots. However, on the other side, letting it be a free-for-all creates havoc and shoddy work results. 

The key is offering suggestions and making definite calls in the moment, where they are required while permitting input from others, is the sign of adept leaders. 

While the modern workplace is now volatile, bewildering and frustrating, is it really that different in the human requirements? 

My e-book, “5 Leadership Development Lessons” continues the dialogue and is available here. 

Comments? Send me an email or better yet, pick up your smartphone and call me. 

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How To Have A Difficult Conversation Productively

Who do you think has the hardest time with feedback? Is it the giver or the receiver?

In most leadership development programs the focus is on how the giver, the leader discusses feedback with the receiver, the employee.

The team leader comes into the meeting armed with a pre-thought-out performance review, feedback from others on the team, and the comforting fact that they are in charge.


What about the individual being reviewed?

Many who have been in our Total Leadership Connections program over the years have all said a variation of “I hate this situation. I feel like I’m back in school and being judged with not much chance to stand up for myself. I have a kinda, take the hits and get out fast attitude.”


Do you hate to be judged? And more to the point, what happens to you when you know you will be judged?


This is when the idea of feedback becomes even more interesting.

The self-doubt goes both ways. It invades the emotions of the receiver, yes, we know that. However, did you know that the giver also often must reach for anti-acids before, during, or after a feedback session?


Here is a memory Janet shared in a leadership coaching session that gives a clue.

“When I was around 9 years old, we were doing multiplication tables at school. The teacher would say 9 times 7 and then randomly point to one of us kids. I hated the finger-pointing and the need to perform like a circus animal. You know, she would snap her fingers and we had to perform to her expectations. If I got the answer wrong, she would keep moving on. Yet, the kids would snicker out of their own discomfort. I began to shut down emotionally and that has stayed with me through the years. So, when it’s time for feedback, I just want to puke!”

Fast forward 30 years and there is Janet, filled with anxiety and self-doubt when her boss tells her what she did or did not do correctly.


I was also coaching her boss who shared this with me about feedback sessions.

“Twice a year at feedback time I sleep little and eat lots. Eating is my go-to reaction when I’m stressed. I think if I had more direct reports I’d end up on TV’s “The Biggest Loser” because of excessive weight. I don’t like to give negative feedback and yet, to be honest in my job, I have to say things that will upset others. Yet, I can’t tell this to anyone. They’d shrug and say, tough, that’s part of being a leader.”


Both the sender and the receiver can become aware that there is a real, live human being sitting on the other side of the table. Yes, even when one has, it seems, more power than the other. 

That is NOT the point.  The point is that each side needs to be sensitive to the self-doubt that is sitting in the room, like a great big yet very quiet elephant.

Acknowledge that the meeting is stressful and anxiety-producing. No, that won’t make the nervousness go away. It will, however, shrink the elephant to a smaller size and make the situation more honest.


There are ways to make difficult conversations more productive. 

Here are 4 major aspects of feedback that need to be in any discussion:

  1. Make sure you are both clear about what is to be discussed.
  2. Keep it simple and stay on the subject (no ‘furthermore’ or ‘in addition to’).
  3. Be respectful (no unnecessary jokes, leave that for having a snack together).
  4. Agree to the next steps together (the key here is to make the decisions about the next steps with each other not with one being dictatorial and the other submissive).

This is the first step in a communication model I have used to help thousands of high achieving leaders and those aspiring to leadership positions find the common ground for effective dialogue.


You don’t have to let the self-doubt voice in your head become a tsunami of negative thoughts saying over and over that you are going to mess up or disappoint.

My team and I have a short, simple process for better feedback and better communication.

Set up a breakthrough call with me.

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Get the BUT Out of Your YES

Do you ever get frustrated with petty conflicts at work? You’re not alone.

A whopping 93% of workers report being affected in a negative manner by conflict. 

The other variable is the length of time consumed by on-going, unresolved conflict. 

Even worse is the fact that litigation for workplace harassment and hostile work environments has gone up exponentially in the past decade, and still growing. 

BIG QUESTION: Why do tensions at work get so dialed up? 

BIG ANSWER: The intensity of change is increasing at an alarming rate. AND, time starvation along with generalized anxiety is becoming the norm which makes us all less productive and more defensive. 

While conflict will never go away totally, it can be tamed effectively.

Here is my response to Sandra, a senior vice president who said, well, let her say it in her own words.

“Dear Dr. Lafair,

I’m feeling so bleak these days, and it seems to be getting worse. I drag myself out of bed, having tossed and turned all night. Why, because I have some nasty direct reports who are driving me crazy. It seems that no matter what I say to them or how I say it, it falls on deaf ears. There are four of them and my name for them is so bad I don’t even want to put it here.

Well, for clarity to help you give me an answer, they are The F##king Four. Not original, yet I guess it makes me feel better, well not better, just more stable.

Anyway, am I missing something? Can I communicate better? I love some of the ideas about communicating more effectively in Don’t Bring It to Work. However, I need more insight from you, please.”

Here is my response to Sandra:

“Communication is both simple and complex at the same time. Hey, I hear you thinking, well, that’s not much help.

Let me continue…

We have dumbed down the way we communicate with each other. So, I am going to give you a few ideas to use when you next talk with your “Fabulous Four” and see if they make a difference.

 The Fabulous Four

Think before you speak: You know this, you’re a seasoned professional. However, please take a few minutes before you meet and make sure you know the direction you want to take in talking with the others. Be specific in what outcome you are hoping for.  

Silence is still communicating: Lean into those awkward moments of silence. Often this is where the best communication occurs. If you wait the others will tell you what is really going on underneath the obvious. Ya gotta wait! 

Be visual: Our world is filled with color and sound so when you use words to describe your thoughts and feelings you help others see and feel what you want to really communicate. Talk about feeling blue, or seeing red, or looking for the yellow of sunshine. Find your own style and descriptive words. 

Get the BUT out of your YES: Qualifies are deal-breakers. What I mean is that when you acknowledge what the other person says and then add a “BUT” no one really hears the acknowledgment. They get stuck on the BUT. Change to AND when you want to add something. I promise it will make a difference. 

You are the major ingredient in making conflict move faster or slower. 

Take a deep breath a big deep breath and lead the way.” 

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What’s the best present you received?

What is the best present you received this year? I mean, the very best.

Is it something you requested or did someone simply make a great guess, and voila, there it is in front of you?

And what is the best gift you gave to yourself?

Think about the following the next time you are ready to give and to receive.

This year, I have been surprised, and yes, delighted to see the huge number of articles about giving meaningful gifts. 

And so many are focused on experiences over material goods. 

Remember those days when gift-giving, for any occasion, needed to include a designer symbol? If it said DKNY, Gucci, Prada, or Lauren, it either suggested you are rich, have rich friends, or you want to be seen in the company of the rich and powerful.

Not so much anymore.

The focus today is on being with people you enjoy and gathering fond memories that will last a lifetime and on the importance of self-care.

In our present world, so many feel overwhelmed, blurry-eyed, and fuzzy-headed because it seems impossible to find time to take a break and relax. 

When considering what the best present to gift yourself is to ask yourself: What do you need more of? And how can you get ‘the more’ you want and need?

The best way to answer these questions is to give yourself the gift of silence. Clarity comes more easily to a quiet mind than if there is so much chattering no new ideas can’t come through.

Here are suggestions for the best present you can give yourself and to others:

  • Take a break: At work, at home, just find a quiet place and simply stare at the wall, look out of the window, close your eyes and be still. Do this for 20 minutes. Practice this and you will find a new level of calmness and appreciation for getting your work done effectively and more easily. Call it meditation if you like, or just call it zipping it!
  • Journal: Write out your thoughts and feelings for 10 minutes. No worry about the right words or grammar, just write. Often, you will become clear about the next steps toward what will bring you joy and health. Once a month look back and review.
  • Exercise: Walk for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week. No cell phone, no need to get somewhere. Just walk. Concentrate on how your body maneuvers as you walk. It’s amazing to think about all the internal messages that get your feet to take one step after another. Appreciate all that your body does to get you from here to there.
  • Read: Keep a book of quotes or one that guides you to new ways of thinking near your desk or night table. Take time to read a few pages every day. This can redirect your thoughts to ‘the better angels’ inside you. Or find some TED Talks that inspire you. (May I suggest “GUTSY: How Women Leaders Make Change” )
  • Breathe: Deep breathing for 7 minutes will bring more oxygen to your body-mind. Do this: Deep breath to the count of 7, then hold your breath for the count of 7, then breath out to the count of 7, and then hold your breath again for the count of 7. Do this 7 times. When you open your eyes, the world can look brighter.

These best presents can move you out of overwhelm so you won’t have to battle burnout. Make yourself a promise to explore these easy and available gifts and put your own designer name on them. And know that YOU are rich and powerful.


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Time for a Change?

Time for a change? Not quite ready?  Does life feel confining Spinning your wheels? 

That’s what I’m hearing from so many clients these days. Complaints range from climate change to politics, to getting ready for the holidays. Everyone seems just a bit more on edge than only a few months ago when the longer days of summer made life feel easier. 

These times of higher stress are here to push all of us out of the summer comfort zone to start moving in new directions.  

Old behavior is confining. Thus, we are given a great opportunity to make changes, even if we initially resist. 

Sometimes it happens when a job offer backfires, or when a manuscript is rejected. Sometimes, it’s because of a health scare, or a fire or ……. (fill in your worst nightmare). 

Change can be frightening. Or change can be energizing.  

Let a lobster be your guide for making a change in a positive manner. Yes, a lobster. You see, you and a lobster are similar. “How” you ask?  You both make vital changes throughout the life cycle. 

When you are in a time and place that needs change, needs expansion, be like a lobster and molt! 

When life gets too tight, the lobster goes to a quiet place and sheds its shell. This is called ecdysis, for those who love scientific terms. The overall term for this shedding is called molting. 

Think of the hard shell of the lobster and then see that your hard shell is the environment you live in along with all the old, ingrained patterns of thinking and behaving that make up your mindset. 

Times have changed and you want to change with them. You need and want to release old patterns and habits that don’t work for you anymore.  

This is where learning from the lobster is critical.  

When change is in the air you become vulnerable. It’s best to find a safe, quiet place. Then give yourself the room to heal from the old and make room for the new. 

More about the lobster. 

When the new shell is in place, the lobster once again, is strong and can do whatever it is lobsters do. 

Now about you. 

When you break free from old patterns and cast off your old shell, you will begin to find new meaning in your life. This is the time to get a coach, go to a seminar, talk with a friend. It’s time to go slow to get strong. Then, like the lobster you can do whatever you want to do. 





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Gravity Statements (A New Way Of Thinking) Saves Leaders Aggravation

Today I’m discussing:

Gravity Statements (A New Way Of Thinking) Saves Leaders Aggravation.

Here is what you will learn when you listen in:

* How Gravity Impacts your conversations.
* The key to a great Gravity statement.
* Let Gravity help you get past overwhelm.

Are you ready to explore this powerful concept deeper? Sign up for a breakthrough session with me here:

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How Do You Know If You Are a Real Unicorn (i.e. GUTSY) Leader?

So how do you know if you are a real Unicorn (i.e. GUTSY) Leader?

Unicorn Leaders are extremely rare:
+ They shatter expectations
+ Take business to the next level
+ People love to be in their presence.
+And more!

In this broadcast (from Italy!) I share the 10 attributes needed for you to become a unicorn leader.

Go Bigger, Go Bolder. Go GUTSY