And the winner is….Tom Kiley, Project Leader, Sandvik Special Metals!!!

During my keynote presentation for International Project Management Day 2015, “From Cowardly Lion to Lionhearted Leader,” I spoke about the need to summon up our courage in order to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge people in a heartfelt and authentic way. Here’s what I invited those in attendance (thousands of people) to do:

“Take a moment now… and think about what stops you from really opening your heart to your people. (I think I can “feel” you squirming as I ask you this…) But just jot down at least a few of the thoughts, feelings, ideas and words that describe the “excuses” you use for withholding what most makes your people come alive. And here’s an offer for you: the most creative “excuse” will earn you an hour of free coaching from “yours truly” if you email it to me at [email protected]. But it has to be authentic or it doesn’t count!”

Quite a few of you took me up on that offer! What was amazing about just about all of them is how “logical” and “creative” they are. They dramatically and truthfully represent what we all do to stop ourselves from opening our hearts and letting others know their value to the team or to the whole organization. Think of what it would mean in our workplaces, our families and our communities if we could just “thank” our minds for sharing, for being so clever, and then acknowledge the person or people anyway!

Our team read through all of the responses, and had trouble coming up with the “best” one, because they were all so good. But with some difficulty, we finally chose this winning “excuse” from Tom Kiley, Project leader at Sandvik Special Metals:

FIRST PRIZE!  “I was trained in the US Navy to refrain from fraternization, in order to maintain order with shipmates, especially after promotions to higher positions.  I’ve taken that into the civilian workspaces, and it’s very hard to break.  And, ironically, the Navy core values I learned were Honor, Courage and Commitment!”

TK Award Final2

We can all empathize with Tom, I’m sure. He was trained to refrain, so how can he break that inhibiting habit? Well, of the prizes we offered him, Tom chose one hour of personal coaching with Yours Truly. I am thrilled with his choice, because it shows that he wants to change this habit and make a true difference in his workplace, to have his people feel valued and appreciated. When I informed him that he was the winner, he was both surprised and pleased. He showed me the photo of the poster of the 5 C’s that he had put on his office wall to remind him on a daily basis to acknowledge people. So we can all applaud him for his honest effort and willingness to change.IMG_1527 (002)

I couldn’t resist sharing some of the other “excuses” people submitted, because they were so creative and interesting! The ones cited below will all receive Honorable Mentions in our unusual contest and receivers of this “prestigious prize” get to choose a print edition of any of the three books on acknowledgment I have written! 

HONORABLE MENTION #1 Ameera Ashrof-O’Neil, Leed Green Associate Senior Project Manager  AA HM2

“I tend to have issues with smells and there are times when the staff may give off a smell I can’t function around. It makes it difficult to speak with them in person and though I have complimented via email, it doesn’t appear genuine because it’s difficult to be around them. I feel (and their body language suggest) it sends mixed signals and there is an awkwardness in interactions.”

Don’t you just love how creative that one was? We all have our versions of these, but we can just recognize them and deliver the acknowledgment anyway. Ameera has agreed to work on that, even though it is a very, very good excuse!

HONORABLE MENTION #2 Shelli Underhill-Shopp, PMP®


“In the company that I used to be in some time ago, a telecommunications company which is not in business anymore, I communicated in front of a group how I appreciated that leadership that was provided by our very high level organization manager in Switching Systems, and I was told by other women that I shouldn’t do that because it appeared that I was being flirtatious…..” This one is a real “ouch” – but Shelli and the rest of us need to be courageous and not worry so much about how we are perceived by others for this kind of heartfelt and courageous behavior. Let these others see how energetic, loyal and engaged our team members are and wonder how that happened…

Summary: So let’s all be CONSCIOUS of how counterproductive our good excuses are, and have the COURAGE to thank our minds for sharing, and then do what we know will make a different to the people we value and care about. Let that be our COMMITMENT!

My personal thanks to all who submitted these wonderful excuses, and to the winners for being brave enough to make themselves vulnerable, loveable and real! Congratulations to you all!