Your Top 5 Stressors (And How to Send Them Packing)

Jen Roberts Engagement, Stress

How do you feel most days at work? If you’re like many executives, your first reaction to this question was probably, “Stressed.” That’s unfortunate. And, unfortunately, it’s incredibly common. Where does your stress come from? Usually, we feel that stress comes from out there, and is caused by people and situations. Pressure exists for everyone. We all have deadlines, workloads, and responsibilities to others. It’s not really pressure that causes the pain you feel every day. It’s what your mind does with that pressure that turns it into stress. The truth is that much of your stress is self-inflicted. Yes, you read that right… I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably bringing a lot of this on yourself. You certainly don’t do this to yourself on purpose. Nobody wants to have more stress in their life! It’s often just the byproduct of trying to be a good …

performance reviews

Performance Reviews: From Transactional to Transformational

Jen Roberts Communication, Engagement, Leadership, Productivity, Stress

As a leader, how do you usually feel when the time for performance reviews rolls around? Let’s be honest. Most leaders don’t enjoy the performance review process for several reasons. Usually, they feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of meetings they have to hold in a short period of time. Often these conversations are also tied to employees’ compensation. With many companies making budget cuts these meetings can be tough when you don’t feel like you have much to offer beyond praise. The result is that many leaders end up viewing the performance review process as tedious and time consuming (and it shows). Employees, on the other hand, can fall on both sides of the fence when it comes to performance reviews. Mostly, employees just want a chance to sit down and chat with you, offer up some ideas, and walk away feeling like it’s worth getting up each morning. …

The Workaholic’s Guide to Taking a Break

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Stress

It’s holiday season—a time for rest, relaxation, and trips with family and friends. But for many reasons, the idea of taking time off is tough for most leaders I coach. Leaders often tell me they’re too busy to take time off. My coaching clients constantly express how stressed they feel as they prepare for vacation (or the aftermath of 200+ emails upon their return). Many say they feel like they “have to” work during their vacation and aren’t the slightest bit rested when they come back. “I need a vacation from my vacation,” one client shared. Here are a few challenges my coaching clients have shared about why it’s hard for them to take breaks: Feeling the need to be available or “on call” even when out of town “Having” to check emails at night/weekends/on vacation for fear that they’d be too overwhelmed upon returning to work Feeling compelled to …

leadership autopilot

Are You on Leadership Autopilot?

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity

How much of your day do you actually spend engaged in leading others? Most leaders say things like, “I give 110%,” or “I can’t work any harder than I already do,” and even, “I put out fires all day. Then I do my work.” Sound about right? When you think back to your first leadership role what did leadership mean to you? What did you envision for yourself and the people you’d be leading? What kind of impact did you imagine your leadership would have on not just the individuals you lead, but the entire organizational culture? Actually, many people haven’t put much thought into these types of philosophical questions about leadership.  For most workers, assuming a leadership role (or management/supervisory if you must) is just the next logical step in their career; a reward for their hard work and success. Perhaps you imagined having people who could help do all the work; a team that …

meaningful work

3 Key Ingredients For Meaningful Work

Jen Roberts Engagement, Productivity

Nothing feels worse than getting to the end of a crazy day and wondering, “What did I actually accomplish?” My clients often need coaching to deal with the stress and overwhelm of their jobs. People seem to run on a never-ending hamster wheel yet often feel as though they have nothing to show for all their hard work. We all want to feel as if our work is meaningful and serves a purpose—typically to help our companies succeed. Yet many of my executive clients report not even having their official goals for one quarter at the beginning of the next. If you have no structure to your work, you might be in for a frustrating experience. Let’s fix that! First, a mindset shift may be in order: Working harder or longer hours does not necessarily create better outcomes. Working on purpose does. “Success takes intention, clarity, and commitment to proactively create …


Manage Yourself (Not Your Time) for Greater Productivity

Jen Roberts Engagement, Productivity

Have you ever arrived at the end of a busy day (week, month, year) and wondered where the time has gone? I know I have. In coaching hundreds of leaders all over the world, I’ve noticed that I’m not alone. Nearly everyone I talk to wishes there was more time to do all the things they have to do. So, they put in longer hours. They multitask, work through lunch, on evenings, weekends, and during vacation. And they still don’t get more done. They’re not any happier (in fact, they’re usually exhausted and disengaged). Here’s the thing: Time is a finite resource. You can’t manage time—it just keeps ticking away. And all of us get the exact same amount of time each day! So what makes some people seem more productive? They know how to manage their energy, not their time. Many people don’t think of their energy as a …

engaged leader

Are You an Engaged Leader?

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership

This  post will be short and sweet. Why? Because if you’re like most people, your attention span is pretty short (so I included a video). After all, you have a lot going on! We all have our own unique way of viewing the world. Everything you experience passes through this filter, and your perceptions shape how you think and feel about, and behave in response to situations. We tend to attract into our lives what we focus on and pay attention to. You’ve probably heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy: If you expect something to happen and focus your energy on it, you’re more likely to get the experience you expected (whether positive or negative).  We also have a tendency to selectively look for data that supports our belief systems–this is called a confirmation bias. That’s the reason that we choose to pay the most attention to the things we care about and are …

Micro-Management Creates Macro-Problems!

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity

Micromanager. Just that word alone might make you have a visceral reaction. Along the path of our careers, we’ve all probably encountered the dreaded micromanager. You know, the boss who always seems to be looking over your shoulder, inspecting, controlling, or criticizing everything you do. But have you ever stopped to wonder if you’re one, too? Yikes! Leaders micromanage for lots of reasons, not all of which are to intentionally make your work life difficult (I know this might be hard to believe!) Some of the most common reasons for micromanaging are often well-intentioned but leaders fail to see the negative effects these behaviors bring about. For example, leaders might micromanage because of: Concern about the details of a project (and ultimately feeling responsible) Feeling like they’re the only one who can do a particular task (or perform it best/fastest) Time or performance pressures from others Insecurity about his/her own …

Culture of Recognition

5 Ways to Build a Culture of Recognition (Without Salary Hikes)

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership

I have two elementary-aged children who are great students and also play sports. At their age, recognition is a given.  Parents, teachers, and coaches recognize their accomplishments like getting good grades on a test or report card or scoring a goal at the game. Why? To build their self esteem, boost their confidence, and to simply celebrate. Something shifts, however, as we become adults and enter “the real world” and suddenly all that praise comes to a screeching halt.  Do adults not need recognition anymore because they earn a paycheck?  Does your job ever seem like a thankless endeavor? Your employees may feel the same way.  Oftentimes, leaders feel that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” In other words, as long as everything is going well, there’s no need to point anything out to employees. It’s when problems arise that employees hear about it and the challenges begin. It can certainly …


5 Clues Your Employees Aren’t Buying In

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership

We all have things we’re “supposed” to do. Sometimes we want to do them, sometimes we don’t. This is just a fact of life. In the workplace, we label these as tasks or objectives. The basic premise is the same, however. Employees are either engaged and bought-in to completing these tasks to the best of their ability or they’re not. Have you really ever stopped to think about what holds people back from being completely engaged in a task or activity? When it comes to engagement and buy-in, there are four main approaches to work: 1) Resistant to engaging The employee won’t take positive action. Maybe they don’t feel like it’s worth it, or they’ve tried before and failed. The chance of success is low. 2) Engaged, but through effort or force The employee is enthusiastic about the activity, but they feel unprepared somehow to effectively complete the work. Success …

Inspiring Leader

Are You an Inspiring Leader?

Jen Roberts Communication, Engagement, Leadership

Inspiring. It’s a word most people think of as an important leadership quality. But what does being an inspiring leader really mean? Oftentimes when leaders imagine inspiring, they think of standing up in front of their team during a challenge and having the ability to motivate the masses; saying just the right words to make a powerful impact and move people into positive action. This is about them. On the flip side, what would happen if leaders shifted their awareness to inspiring for the benefit of others? My son came home from school with a handmade bookmark that captured several statements about “Luke’s Super Star Qualities” written by his classmates (not all of whom were close friends). I was so moved to read some of the things that were written. Among them were… “Luke is helpful!” “Luke is strong.” “Luke is a great writer.” “Luke makes people laugh a lot.” …

employee development

Raising the Bar: An Investment in Talent and Employee Development

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity, Retention

There’s an age-old dilemma that stymies many leaders: How to decide if investing in employee development is worth it. I recently saw a thought-provoking quote concerning employee development. It went like this: CFO asks CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” CEO replies, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?” This is an interesting perspective and one that’s probably important to consider when it comes to ensuring that your organization’s talent pipeline is fully prepared to move into key leadership roles to sustain your company’s success. Yet in many organizations employee training and development and leadership coaching are seen as “nice to have” but not necessarily essential. In fact, according to a survey from executive team consultancy Gap International, only 43% of executives planned to invest in leadership training and development. In the spirit of debate, let’s assume the CFO’s point is valid. …

Leading by Example: Why Consistency Matters

Jen Roberts Communication, Engagement, Leadership

You’ve probably heard the phrase “consistent action leads to consistent results,” which makes logical sense. The more important, and perhaps unspoken, truth in this statement is that the quality of our results depends not on merely doing something, but on taking intentional action that fits our end goal. In other words, you get out of something what you put into it. Consistency, or lack thereof, can be the defining factor between failure or success. If you have children (or know anyone who does) you’re probably aware of the importance of consistency. Children learn how to behave through reinforcement and punishment and also through observation. To feel secure, children need parents to be consistent with them and are trusted not to send conflicting or confusing messages. Consistency as a parent can be difficult and exhausting, but it is of paramount importance. The same is true in business. One of the most …

habits to build awareness

Three 5-Minute Habits to Build Awareness & Enjoyment at Work

Jen Roberts Balance, Engagement, Leadership

I went shopping the other day while my car was being serviced. I decided to go into a home and craft type of store where I can get lost for more than an hour. I couldn’t believe my eyes; there were Christmas decorations lining the aisles. “Christmas decorations in June!?” my disgusted inner voice shouted. Ridiculous! As I stood in that store, frozen in place for more than a minute, I wondered when we started getting so ahead of ourselves. What ever happened to enjoying the season we’re in? This, of course, made me think about my corporate clients and the workplace equivalent of “Christmas decorations in June.” It occurred to me that many leaders I coach struggle with being present in the moment. The typical corporate environment supports—even rewards—futuristic thinking. Don’t get me wrong: strategic planning serves a great purpose in guiding work, and I love a good plan. …


What You Hear is What you Get: Communication Lessons for Leaders

Jen Roberts Communication, Engagement, Leadership

In business, effective communication is crucial to your success. Most leaders aspire to be viewed as effective, if not eloquent speakers and writers. Leaders are called to communicate in myriad ways every day. You use these skills to resolve conflicts, convey ideas, inspire your team, defend decisions, and hold performance and development conversations, to name a few. When you consider all the ways to become a better communicator, what most likely comes to mind are things like improving your ability to influence and persuade others, being able to “think on your feet” and appear competent and articulate, speaking with ease in front of large groups, or sharing your expertise to garner respect. All of these aspects of communication are concerned with the delivery of your message, regardless of the modality you use. It’s interesting that the most important part of communication (the part that matters to others, anyway) doesn’t require …

encourage fun

Encourage Fun in the Workplace: 5 Tips for Leaders

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity

What words would you use to describe your work environment? My guess is that FUN probably isn’t one of them. It’s called work for a reason, right? Should work also be fun? My vote is yes! Here’s why… You spend as much or more time with your office mates as you do with your significant other, and you wouldn’t stay in that relationship if it didn’t make you happy. Imagine waking up each day and actually looking forward to going into work! Making fun and enjoyment a part of your work culture can drastically impact how you feel about going to work, how you behave when you’re there, how you interact with others, and how well you perform. Happy people are more motivated and engaged. When people have fun and enjoy what they do, they are more motivated to work harder and to put forth their best effort. People who …

Kill Engagement

[VIDEO] 5 Leadership Behaviors That Kill Engagement on Your Team

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership

This article originally appeared on As a leader, what do you expect from your direct reports? Most leaders want employees who take the initiative, get involved, make decisions and generate ideas. In fact, because your team is likely made up of educated, competent, seasoned employees (some of whom you may have hand selected), it’s natural to expect that they would need little direction to take the proverbial ball and run with it. You have a vested interest in their success because, when your team performs well, everyone wins. Likewise, employees of all generations share a desire to work autonomously toward the communicated vision. No one wants to feel as if they’re operating under someone else’s thumb, especially team members who are smart, ambitious and motivated. If autonomy is an essential ingredient for promoting employee engagement and motivation, and given that both leaders and employees desire empowered environments, what keeps leaders from encouraging …

taking care of business

Taking Care of Business: The Importance of Time Off

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity

Recently I did something I rarely do. I took a sick day. I pride myself on being a good listener for my coaching clients, but I guess I haven’t been listening to myself very well lately. For the past few weeks I’ve been pushing myself to keep going despite feeling sick-ish, knowing how much I have to do. Finally, my immune system gave in and I had no choice but to slow down. When is the last time you took a full day off because of an illness? And I’m not talking about just not physically going to work—I mean not working. I’m guessing it’s been a while. That day, I did nothing. And I discovered something… It was difficult to keep myself still and quiet to get the rest I needed to get well. I felt a wide range of emotions: guilt for not working on the myriad things I …

Winning leadership brand

3 Factors to Create a Winning Leadership Brand

Jen Roberts Communication, Engagement, Leadership

When you think of a typical career trajectory, most people start out as individual contributors—the doers of the office—and aspire to getting promoted one day. However, many people don’t CHOOSE to be a leader with intention (they take on the role because it’s the next logical step). Once in a position of power, they often feel they’ve arrived. In leadership, there is no arrival. You’ve probably heard the famous Woody Allen quote, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Have you ever stopped to wonder how you “show up” as a leader? I hear people all the time complaining about their employees’ behaviors: they can’t be trusted, they aren’t good communicators, or they just don’t perform up to par. Here’s the reality: Much of what you see in your environment is a reflection of how you lead, both good and bad. Remember that employees often model the leadership behaviors …

environmental effects of leadership

Climate Control: The Environmental Effects of Leadership

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Management

How much control do you feel you have over your work environment? Many leaders and employees alike feel as if they are at the effect of things going on around them. People say and do things, decisions are made that affect them, and all they can do is deal with the situation at hand. While attending a meeting recently, I heard a great analogy: “As a leader, are you the thermometer or the thermostat for your environment?” Think about the difference. A thermometer provides useful information, but its job is to measure the state of the environment, and is merely a reflection of what’s going on externally; a reaction to changes in energy in the atmosphere. A thermostat, on the other hand, senses the temperature of a system and makes changes to the environment so that the system is maintained near a desired setpoint. Many leaders operate on autopilot, meaning that they don’t consciously …

Evolved or old-school

Are You Evolved or Old-School? 5 Questions for Leaders

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership

Ever wonder how you’re “aging” in your corporate environment? How do your employees see you as a leader? You probably don’t want to consider yourself an “old-school” leader. To most, that makes it sound like you’re behind the times, inflexible, or stuck in a rut. Most leaders I work with want to be seen as creative, supportive and innovative, and most of them are just that. Some people, though, might be sending the wrong signals that can turn off their employees. The most successful leaders are adaptable, and able to flex with the changing times. With today’s speed of business it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with all of the emerging trends and technology, not to mention the generational differences in the workforce. Tweet: The most successful leaders are adaptable, and able to flex with the changing times. Don’t think that sounds like you? Well, here’s a quick …

results within reach

Results Within Reach: 5 Tips to Overcome Inaction

Jen Roberts Engagement, Leadership, Productivity

There’s a little voice we all hear in our minds. People call it many different things: your conscience, your higher coach, the angel on your shoulder…whatever name you’ve given yours, you know what I mean. The constant dialog is there because our brains are always at work processing information and helping to guide our actions. Usually the message is loudest and has the biggest effect on us when we’re about to do something that we feel is risky…or that we’re afraid of…Or we’re uncertain about…The common denominator is fear. I’ve recently been experiencing some pain in my wrist AND numbness in my foot. I know that I should go to the doctor. But I haven’t. Why? Because I don’t want to hear bad news, or have to stop exercising, or work harder to recover. I’m scared of those things so I’m avoiding taking action that might just help me.  Oftentimes we know what we …

5×5: Essential Leadership Lessons From 5 Years in Business

Jen Roberts Balance, Engagement, Leadership

When I was still working full time in my corporate job and feeling stressed to the max and way out of balance on the personal side, a wise friend said to me, “Five years after you leave this place people will say, ‘Jen who?’” This part hurt my ego a bit, but then she went on to say, “But your kids will never say, ‘Mom who?” Tears still well in my eyes each time I recall that pivotal conversation. Shortly after that, I struck out on my own and founded Difference Consulting determined to build leaders worth following from the outside-in and help them create work environments that bring out the best in everyone. I won’t say that being an entrepreneur is always easy, but starting this business was easily the best decision I’ve ever made. I want to share my biggest and best lessons to save you time in …