Start a “To Be” List, Not a “To Do” List

Like you, many of my clients are at a major inflection point in their organizations. I keep pushing them – and myself – to use this unique opportunity to reimagine our potential, instead of allowing our organizations to return to the comfort of “the way we always did things.”

The CEO should be at the forefront of the push for change, because some work can and should be done only by the CEO.  As a result, CEOs need to be extremely intentional about how they use their time.

Use this time to reimagine your potential, instead of returning to “the way we always did things.”

McKinsey research found that CEOs who focus their scarce time on projects that only the CEO can do, and who manage their energy with the same amount of discipline with which they manage their time, deliver higher performance.

One technique is to create a “to be” list with the same rigor that you develop your “to do” list. A “to be” list can apply to your personal qualities as a leader, or the vision for your entire organization.

As you reflect on the past six months, examine how you’ve already made the impossible happen, including your decision-making processes, resource allocation, communication, and location. By applying this immense effort, you moved your team beyond what you ever imagined could be accomplished.

Decide what you want “to be.” Use you time wisely to create the right future for yourself and your organization.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Don’t Avoid This Conversation

Recently a client shared a story that most leaders can relate to, especially in a year where disruption is the norm. The client, “Bob,” described struggling with a 15-year, high-performing direct report, “Michelle.” For several months, Michelle had been experiencing family difficulties.

When I asked how he and other team members handled Michelle’s situation, Bob summed it up in two words: “Avoiding it.”  Bob said Michelle always gives 150% and the team is like one big family. However, when Michelle shares the smallest bit of information about her situation, everyone “runs for cover” and has no idea what to say other than quickly changing the subject.  Sound familiar?

Rather than avoidance, Michelle needs empathy during this challenging time of her life.

Empathy builds connections, fuels trust, and lays the foundation for success in your organization.

Empathy is very different than sympathy. It allows us to take the perspective of the other person and recognize the emotion he or she is experiencing.  When we employ empathy, we do not pass judgment. We simply let the other person know that they are being heard.

What role does empathy play in the workplace, or in any relationship? Empathy builds connections and fuels trust. And trust is the foundation on which you build a shared vision of success for your organization.

Once Bob reached out to Michelle, she felt relieved. She knew that Bob understood what she was going through, and Bob felt that Michelle would return to 150% once her family situation was resolved. They began to trust each other again.

You can dive deeper into empathy in one of my Recommended Books for Leaders, The Empathy Edge by Brené Brown.

Today, more than ever, our world is desperate for empathetic leaders in ALL walks of life.  Will you make the choice to lean in with empathy?  What a great gift you can give to yourself and others.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Let Others Shine

Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored how to become a graceful and grateful leader – one who eschews power grabs and brashness and instead puts others first, employs empathy, and creates an environment of forgiveness.

All of these traits, when present in a leader, create an atmosphere of trust among coworkers and colleagues. This trust is the foundation upon which improvements are made and growth occurs. A graceful leader ultimately works to serve others and allow them room to grow and succeed. The resulting successes are shared among all. A graceful leader is happiest when the whole team succeeds.

When you lead in service, you create an environment where others can shine.

Creating trust is more than simply getting buy-in. Buy-in is superficial and implies that each party is “getting” something in return for supporting an idea. True trust goes deeper and brings a team together to work toward a noble goal.

Being a servant leader means it’s not about you. When you lead in service, you create an environment where others – your colleagues, your family, or your community – can shine.

Gratitude, courage, forgiveness, and service to others add up to leading with grace.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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A Forgiving Heart Helps You Lead With Grace

I’m not perfect, and neither are you. As leaders, we all have flaws, and so does every member of our team. But when we lead with grace, we also lead with a forgiving heart.

When we lead with a forgiving heart, we recognize, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, that “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” A forgiving heart acknowledges and appreciates human frailty, including your own.

A forgiving heart acknowledges and appreciates human frailty, including your own.

An essential component of being a graceful leader is understanding that true leadership is not about you. A forgiving attitude creates opportunities for people to be their best, rather than live in fear of your next outburst or cutting remark.

Those who lead with a forgiving heart know that mistakes are inevitable, and that no one is as bad as his or her worst act. When we embrace forgiveness as a constant attitude, we can believe that redemption and rehabilitation are always possible.

Above all, when you lead with grace, you become aware of the awesome and ultimately self-redeeming power you possess to forgive others.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Book Recommendations For Leaders

Like you, I have shelves of books on management and leadership. I love to read and glean nuggets of wisdom from a variety of writers. Here are some of my favorites:

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Many of my clients get results from the simplest of tools: the checklist. In this book, we learn how checklists can streamline processes, eliminate errors, and improve operations. This book is a must read if you are looking for ways to make a tremendous difference in a simple way.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Why are teams so dysfunctional? The author highlights common behaviors observed over decades of coaching teams: lack of accountability, low standards, fear of conflict, and more. His book offers methods for creating cohesive and high performing teams.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Are you an intuitive thinker, or more deliberative? The author, a Noble Prize winner in Economics, explains the two systems that drive the way we think. Your daily decisions, from corporate strategy to where to take a vacation, are shaped by these systems.

The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill
I love how “old” books can still be relevant today. Here, the author says that success requires adapting to the ever-changing environment of life. My favorite parts are  Hill’s 15 essential lessons, which can serve as a blueprint to help you reach your dreams.

The Empathy Edge by Maria Ross
Empathetic leaders can imagine what others are going through, even if they haven’t had the same experiences themselves. Author Maria Ross reveals that some of the best business process improvements and product development come from empathetic listening. She shares data that prove how active empathy creates profitability. The book includes tips on how you can become a more empathetic leader.

Dare To Lead by Brené Brown
Vulnerability, shame, and empathy are interconnected, and Brown explores how these powerful qualities balance with leadership. I recommend this book because every leader – no matter how large or small the organization – faces obstacles, and Brown’s writings can help you make the changes necessary to achieve higher levels of success.

Tomorrow Is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt
As First Lady of the United States from 1933-1945, Eleanor Roosevelt was a leader unique for her time. She helped to drive the nation’s agenda at her husband’s side, but did so with grace and courage while allowing others to succeed.


Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss
As an FBI hostage negotiator Voss employed empathy to better understand his adversaries’ needs. This approach helped to build trust, which is essential in all relationships. I met Voss recently and during our discussion,  he explained how this technique can lead to win-win solutions in the workplace.

A Simple Path by Mother Teresa
There are leadership lessons to be gleaned from Mother Teresa’s writings, regardless of your faith or beliefs. Her mission was clear, which made it easier to follow her. She practiced what she preached. Her life is a powerful lesson in loving, serving, and respecting others. When Mother Teresa spoke at Bishop Dwenger High School in 1982, Principal John Gaughan said her message was that “we all have specific talents, and those talents are not for ourselves – they are meant to be shared with others.”

Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
The authors help us see that as leaders, we have a huge impact on the results achieved by our organizations. Whether you are a CEO or committee chair, your personality and motivations can sway outcomes. This book exposes how we ignore our own shortcomings and fail to acknowledge our true motivations. The engaging stories and characters make the book easy to relate to and give readers insights that can lead to personal growth.

The Magic of Thinking BIG by Dr. David Schwartz
This book is a must-read if you are open-minded, believe you can succeed, and look to yourself (rather than others) to improve. The author shines a light on our blind spots, such as making excuses for not taking action and placing our success in the hands of others. One of my favorites!

The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld
How do you know if your customers are loyal?  What if you could measure how customers contribute to business growth? This book teaches how to measure this important indicator and how it can lead to business success.



Does Leading With Grace Make You a Pushover?

Being a graceful and grateful leader, rather than being brash and audacious, might be viewed as weakness. Won’t people walk all over you?

Not at all. When you lead with grace, you’re not a pushover. Instead, you lead with courage and quiet determination toward your goals. You may even inspire others to act courageously.

You’ll lead with quiet determination toward your goals.

We are all feeling pressure on many fronts right now, and you may be tempted to choose an expedient solution over a difficult one. When you lead with courage and grace under pressure, you develop the fortitude to choose the right path, even if it is not easy or popular. You will develop the dignity to rise above instead of responding to insult with insult.  And you will have the strength, above all, not to blame others and to accept the responsibility that comes with leadership.

Employing grace and gratitude creates trust among your colleagues and your team. This trust forms the foundation on which you build a shared vision of success for your organization. From here, you can courageously guide your team through today’s storms, and be better prepared for the storms that lie ahead.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Be a Grace-filled and Grateful Leader

Leading with grace in our modern world may seem counterintuitive – it rarely gets the attention that audacity and swagger may elicit. But a graceful leadership style builds trust and collaboration among your team and your colleagues. And it all begins with gratitude.

I learned many years ago that grace is about gratitude. To lead is a privilege, partially earned and partially due to all sorts of luck. Leading with grace means you are grateful for the opportunity to lead, and are thankful to those around you.

No leader can go it alone. Leading well means relying on others. Those who trust you to lead them and those on whom you depend deserve your gratitude. A 2018 Inc. article by Michael Kay entitled Why Expressing Gratitude Is Crucial In Business explains how employing gratitude can yield unexpected results.

To lead is a privilege, partially earned and partially due to all worts of luck.

Why does being a grace-filled and grateful leader matter? Executives attribute 64% of a strategic initiative’s success or failure to their employees. So, leaders must build strong connections with their teams before they can achieve successful outcomes.

Yes, it’s true – gratitude is connected to successful outcomes!  People trust leaders who are genuine and grateful.

Start today by building grace-filled and grateful practices into your leadership.  Our world needs some of this right now!

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Leading With Grace

What does it mean to “lead with grace” in today’s world?

To lead with grace is to be at the service of others. When we are gracious, we make others feel at ease and give them an opportunity to feel graceful themselves. To lead with grace is to recognize that true leadership is not about you.

Grace is defined as an intentional act of unmerited favor or an inclination to promote others’ interests and bring them joy.  Yet grace is more than just an action – it is a deeply spiritual word.

Grace can seem nostalgic and countercultural in today’s harsh and coarse world.

Grace is where style and substance meet. Grace can seem superficial, but when properly understood, it is genuinely profound. Grace is a way of moving through the physical world and a way of touching the realm of the spiritual.  It is a concept that is evocative and elusive.  Grace can also seem nostalgic and countercultural in today’s harsh and coarse world. Brashness and bravado are rewarded far more often than the gentler and subtler act—and art—of grace.

When unsure what to do or how to respond to workplace challenges, go with grace. Ask yourself what it would mean to act graciously.  By leading with grace, you create opportunities for others to be their graceful best, whether they are your children or your colleagues.

Leading with grace will always help you find the best possible outcome.  Embrace your grace, cultivate it, and share it with colleagues and the world, which desperately needs it.

Lead with grace.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Finding Positives In The Midst Of Change

“Unusual events are guaranteed to happen.” That was the message from Chris Voss, author of Never Split The Difference and a speaker at last year’s Global Leadership Summit. When he spoke these words, none of us could possibly know that major changes – in the form of COVID-19 – were on the horizon.

As leaders, we should expect change and be delighted in the possibilities it can bring. Of course, the devastating loss of life from the pandemic is a horrible tragedy. But has the shutdown opened new opportunities within your organization?

We should expect change and be delighted in the possibilities it can bring.

At the Center For Extraordinary Success, we believe that your team holds the key to finding these opportunities. Rather than  focusing on data, start a conversation with your staff – maybe even with employees with whom you often disagree. They may see hidden gems that you have missed. Approach these conversations with an empathetic mindset, and you may find something transformative amid the uncertainty.

Let us help you ask the right questions and seek the right input from your team. Together we can create the most powerful path to success from today’s uncertainty.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

We Are All Leaders During a Crisis

We often think of “leadership” as a specific role within a company. But in reality, we are all leaders – especially in times of crisis. Whether your organization has one employee or thousands, each is a potential leader who can step up during challenging times no matter what their role is.

How do you tap into this leadership potential? Here are some ideas:


What a great time to practice finding solutions together! Gather your team virtually to discuss top priorities right now. Create a list of solutions to address the situation, including those that may be unthinkable.  Engage employees from all levels of your staff – they experience uncertain times through a different lens and may offer insights that differ from your own. Once a solution is agreed upon, determine the who, what, when, and how of implementation. Have a daily or weekly call for updates, changes, and progress.

Engage employees from all levels of your staff – they experience uncertain times through a different lens and may offer insights that differ from your own. 


Employees thrive when they are empowered with as much direction, certainty, and involvement as possible. By listening to your team members’ unique perspectives and knowledge, you show that you value and respect them. Communicate clearly and often during times of crisis and invite feedback from your team. Many leaders believe this approach may diminish their authority – not true. This strategy will strengthen a leader’s executive presence and earn the respect of their employees.

Don’t Go It Alone

In the end, you cannot do leadership alone. It’s all about building trust through the way you treat people, and how you show compassion for their concerns.  When you have the trust of your staff, you can make smarter decisions and anticipate the needs of your employees more clearly.

Contact me if you need help empowering your employees to be leaders.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success