Leading By Example by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


Leaders often do a lot of talking. We speak at meetings, we train, we motivate and encourage our employees. We also spend time talking about what we expect from those employees. images

If you want to have those expectations met, however, you must, as the saying goes “walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. It’s not uncommon for people in positions of power to expect others to behave in a certain way, yet fail to behave that way themselves.

If you’re a business leader, there is simply no substitute for “walking the walk”.  When you behave the way you expect others to behave you immediately gain credibility with others, who will see you as being more authentic. You will gain the respect of your employees. You demonstrate that you are the “real deal”.

You’ll also find that when you model the behavior you’d like to see in your team, they are more likely to display those behaviors, too. Leading by example motivates your employees to be the best version of themselves. Employees become more of a team when everyone begins to model the appropriate behaviors, too.

When employees have a boss who leads by example and expects nothing of others that he or she would not do himself or herself, they become more open to taking on new challenges. They strive to do the best job that they can, because demonstrating their capability and loyalty becomes important.

Take a hard look at your own behavior at work, and list those things you expect others to do, but fail to follow through on yourself.  It’s not always easy to see our own shortfalls, but doing so is the only way to grow as a leader and a person. Whether it’s something as small as ensuring you get to work on time, or something bigger like structuring your calendar or devoting time to an outside charity, you will begin to become the best version of yourself when you consistently model this behavior. You’ll feel it, and others will see it.

We’ve all known a legendary leader at some time in our life. They were honest, hardworking and dedicated to their cause. These are the people we remember and respect. Do your best to become one of those leaders by making sure you always “walk the walk”.


CASE STUDY: Creating a Customized In-House College

The case studies outlined in the “Athena In Action” series are being shared as examples of the variety of solutions we have provided to our clients for over a decade.

TOPIC: Creating a Customized In-House CollegeAIA 600x314 (2)

INDUSTRY: Construction

ASSESSMENT/SITUATION:  It was 12 years ago when I first met with this client.  They wanted to create and run an in-house college where selected employees would attend a 3-year program where they would learn various topics on leadership. Young high potentials with the ability to grow in the organization were selected for the program.  The program would give them the development needed to move to Mid-Level Management. This company was totally committed to creating a powerful program that supported ongoing learning for their managers.

ATHENA PARTNER MATCHING:  The partner I chose for this client was a facilitator/coach who had extensive leadership skills training programs, a wide range of assessment tools and was an engaging facilitator.

SOLUTION: It took a few months to get the program designed.  It included topics such as leadership, delegation, giving feedback, difficult conversations, communication skills, presentation skills, personal branding, DiSC and coaching.  They have also periodically included other programs such as Outlook and Microsoft Office training.


To date, they have had 40 Graduates since the program started in 2005.  Of these, 5 have left the company, 35 have been promoted one level and 9 have been promoted multiple levels.   The current VP Operations is an Alumni of the program.  The Program is very prestigious, and graduates stand out in the organization.   The grad event starts with a Grad Ceremony, they attend a dinner with a guest and all of the executives attend.   They stay downtown and attend a Sunday morning breakfast as well.   They all receive company shares when they graduate.

Confidentiality is very important to us at Athena Training and Consulting Inc.  The company names and individuals have been kept private in these case studies in compliance with our Privacy Policy.

Staying Cool When You’re Hot Under the Collar by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


We all have our buttons, and we all have people and situations that can push them. However, as a professional and as a leader, we need to learn to stay cool in situations that have the potential to make us lose our cool. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself under control when you’re tempted to lose your cool. english-expressions-hot-under-the-collar

  1. Get away from the situation. Your first reaction to a bad situation is not usually the most clear-headed reaction. Before reacting, give yourself time to think and cool off a little. Even if you find that the situation is still overwhelming and needs to be addressed, you’ll most likely handle it much better after some reflection. Remember to breathe.
  1. Consider the other perspective. It’s important to remember that we each see situations from our own perspective. Before you react to another person, try to see the situation from their perspective to gain some understanding.
  1. Plan your approach. It can be helpful to write down points you want to make with the other person and refer to these as you discuss the situation. Your list can help you stay on task rather than veering off into unnecessary territory when handling the situation.
  1. Get advice. This is another tip that’s all about perspective. When you’re angry, it can be difficult to see another person’s perspective on the situation. Talk to a trusted friend when you need help with this. They can let you know if your thoughts are reasonable or if you’re not thinking clearly.

Never let the fact that a situation makes you angry prevent you from addressing it, but never let the anger about the situation get the better of you, either.

As a leader, your immediate reaction to a situation will be remembered by those around you, and can either strengthen your reputation or tarnish it. It’s important that you protect your position as a leader by showing strength, maturity and intelligence whenever you deal with an uncomfortable situation. It isn’t always an easy thing to do, but learning to do so is an important art you must master as you grow in leadership.

Making a Difference by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


As business leaders, we solve problems every day. But, sometimes solving problems becomes a rote action – one we do without really considering what we could do with the opportunity before us. index2

In many business opportunities, we have the chance to not only solve a problem, but make a true difference for someone, whether it’s our own business, the life of a customer, an employee, or someone who simply needs our help. Taking a few extra minutes to look for the opportunity in each problem we encounter can make a big difference in our business or in someone else’s life.

For example, consider filling an open position in your office. When you look at applicants, do you ever consider who needs the job the most? Most of us do not. Instead, we consider who has the most experience, the best education. We look at who will fit in our office environment best, and whose salary requirement is lowest. These are all important considerations. However, if you add who needs the job most, or who will appreciate it most to the list of considerations, you might have an entirely different hiring decision.

Sometimes, when we take an extra moment to consider the impact of our decisions on others, we find ways to make a difference that we never imagined. And, this impact affects us, as well.

One of my colleagues recanted to me one of the best decisions she ever made. She took a job in a business that had just had a serious accident, resulting in the death of an employee. The owner, who had run a successful business for 26 years, without so much as person with a paper cut, had suddenly had a death and serious injury from a single accident. He was devastated and needed someone to come in and evaluate his processes, deal with regulatory authorities and help him make changes. The money wasn’t great, but the need was extraordinary. She made a lot of changes, she made a lot of friends and she kept a business from going under because of regulatory fines. She made a difference.

What can you do to make a difference in someone’s life or someone’s business?  Once you evaluate a few decisions based on the difference you can make, you’ll never look at situations the same way again.

Way to Go! Good Job! by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


Positive reinforcement is one of the world’s most powerful motivators. Many personality types thrive on recognition, and even those who don’t still find it easiest to give their best work when they know their efforts and accomplishments will be acknowledged.

Most leaders understand, at least on some level, that recognition is important. However, many find it difficult to come up with new and innovative ways to recognize employees. Here are some tips to help ensure you let employees know when they’ve dogoodjobne a good job.

1. Be specific. If your company or department has goals, offer incentives for reaching those goals. Perhaps, let the team choose the incentive to help encourage hard work. Specific recognition works well in many circumstances because the work done is measurable, making it easier to see who really shines.

2. Focus on positive reinforcement more than negative. There will certainly be times when negative performance discussions are required. However, if, as a manager, you are seen as someone who offers more positive feedback than negative, your words will have more impact when you need an employee to make changes. In addition, employees are more motivated by positive feedback than negative.

3. Remember the power of the “atta boy.” Many managers waste valuable time and money creating elaborate incentive and recognition plans. These definitely have their time and place, particularly in results focused jobs. However, remember that regular positive feedback is more important to most people than an elaborate reward. Be sure that you’re making it a point to tell employees that you value their contribution on a regular basis. This recognition is free and easy, and is sure to keep employees wanting to come to work.

Most leaders have many plates to juggle. It is easy to let little things like regular recognition go by the wayside. However, it’s very important to remember that ensuring that your employees feel that their work is making a difference and that they are doing a good job can help keep your business running at its optimum efficiency.

“Listening” The Greatest Gift of All


“Listening” The Greatest Leadership Gift All By Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

When I participated in my Alliance Partner’s listening program I gained some great insights into the overall affects of really listening to others.  As a trained coach I had already developed some pretty good listening habits and like most things in life there is a way to take it to the next level.  I still remember and apply her tips for listening.

What I learned was one of the most common mistakes people make is to finish other people’s sentences. Effective leaderlistenings are busy and often want to move the conversation along more quickly.  Unfortunately this can be interpreted as rude or arrogant.  This can be very annoying to the speaker and can create unnecessary tension and cause others to disconnect.  The greatest gift anyone in a leadership role can do is to give their employees the experience of being heard. This is particularly important in a sales or customer service role when there is an issue to be resolved. Customers want to feel you listened to them!

Listening effectively can substantially reduce misunderstanding and costly mistakes.  Have you ever been in a hurry and given instructions to someone and what they did was not what you asked for?  I know it has happened to me more than once.  Think of the mistakes that can be avoided by actively listening and paraphrasing back your understanding.

Here are some tips on listening more effectively:

  • Demonstrate you are listening with your body – relax, make eye contact and use appropriate gestures to indicate you are engaged
  • Set your intention to listen and eliminate any distractions
  • Your listening intention affects how you perceive, and are perceived. Listen with the intention of connecting with the speaker
  • Ask an open ended question that will deepen the understanding of what is being said
  • Paraphrase for understanding
  • Remember you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  There will be times that you are the talker and will want others to listen to you.  Give what you want to get.

Since taking the program and identifying where I needed to improve I make a conscious choice to listen more empathetically and actively.  Often a sales call the person I am meeting with will share with me personal things and it is like our conversation is happening in a bubble.  We seem to connect at a very different level and they will often say “I don’t know why I am sharing this with you.”  I personally believe it is because we created great rapport and truly listened to one another.  Like my title says “It IS the greatest gift we can give to another person.”  Start to really pay attention to how you listen and practice some of the tips above and experience the difference.