Category Archives: Joelle K. Jay

Beliefs of a Leader

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.Joelle K Jay

Your beliefs are a powerful driving force that can work for you or against you. Some beliefs empower you, while others limit you. By becoming aware of your beliefs, you can keep the ones that serve you, weed out the ones that don’t, and choose the ones that will support who you want to be.

Here’s an example: A common belief of busy leaders is, “I have to work hard to get ahead.” Immediately the limitations of this belief are apparent. Working from this belief implies that you must sacrifice parts of your life (home life, health, and hobbies come to mind) to “get ahead.”

Now consider this belief instead: “I have to be my best to get ahead.” This belief is more empowering, because it opens up the possibilities. It still leaves open the possibility of working hard if that is what’s required, but it also allows for the fact that getting ahead sometimes means taking time for the rest and renewal that keeps you at your best.

Developing empowering beliefs is a three-step process:

Become aware of your beliefs: You can go after them directly by asking yourself, “What do I believe?” For example, what do you believe about your own success and ability to achieve it? What do you believe about whether you can be relaxed and happy while accomplishing your goals?

You can also reverse the process by noticing your behavior and asking yourself, “What would I have to believe to behave this way?” For instance, if you are running around in a frenzy to finish a report, what does that indicate you must believe? If you are getting a good night’s sleep before a presentation instead of staying up all night cramming in three more run-throughs, what does that indicate you believe?

Write down your beliefs: Once you become aware of your beliefs, write them down. The simple act of seeing your beliefs in writing makes them real and gives you the opportunity to assess them. Take a look at them on paper with some objectivity. For each one, ask yourself, “Is this belief limiting or empowering?”

Turn limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs: Just change the words, looking for the exact opposite of your limiting belief to find one that’s more empowering. Notice how these examples are direct opposites of each other.

  • Limiting Belief: I believe I am an inexperienced public speaker and need to practice a lot to be successful.

  • Empowering Belief: I believe I am an experienced public speaker and need to trust myself and my abilities to be successful.

  • Limiting Belief: I believe I’m not as strong a leader as I could be, and I need more experience to go after my next promotion.

  • Empowering Belief: I believe I am as strong a leader as I can be, and I am getting the experience I need to go after my next promotion.

Practicing turning around your beliefs from limiting to empowering is simply a process of looking for the opposite words. You might not believe the empowering belief immediately, and over time you may want to tinker with the wording to form a belief you can really take to heart.

An example can illustrate how to turn a limiting belief into an empowering belief. Andy was the president of a structural engineering firm who was raised to believe that if you compliment people too much, they become lazy. He was afraid to commend his team, because he believed that to do so would take away all motivation. He wrote, “I believe that people can become complacent if they are overly praised.”

Looking at his belief honestly, Andy had to admit that it seemed fairly ungenerous. This belief limited his ability to praise the people who worked for him, and he could understand why they were becoming bitter and resentful.

To turn the situation around, Andy studied his limiting belief further and realized that as long as he believed this, he would never be the supportive leader his firm needed. He could see that unless he tried something new, he was going to lose support.

To turn his limiting belief into an empowering belief, he phrased it in the opposite way. He wrote, “I believe that people can become inspired if they are genuinely praised.”

Andy rehearsed his new belief by trying it out 100 times. Every time he hesitated to praise someone, he stated his empowering belief to himself and gave them a sincere compliment. Before long, the results – a more agreeable, cooperative staff – convinced him to retain the new belief.

The process of distilling your beliefs takes time. Allow yourself time to try on different beliefs and see what fits and what doesn’t. Notice when you feel limited and deflated, and when you feel expansive and energized. Keep working with the wording of your beliefs until you’ve created the ones that you can claim with conviction—the beliefs that will help you be the leader you really want to be.

Beliefs are fundamental to the way your life plays out. The difference between a limiting and an empowering belief is quite literally the difference between a limited and a powerful life. Choose your beliefs carefully. They make you who you are.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.” To find out how Joelle can help you reach the next level both personally and professionally, email: or visit:

Your Leadership DNA

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayCan you think of a time you were really uncomfortable? Maybe it was a time you had to speak in front of a large group, or a time you had to confront someone who works with you on a difficult issue. Wouldn’t it be nice to make situations like that a little easier on you? Wouldn’t it be great if you could make them less painful?

You can, and if you want to be your best as a leader, you must. When we are in uncomfortable situations, it’s usually because we’re acting outside of our natural way of being. When we align our natural way of being to the situations in which we find ourselves, we are happier, less stressed, and more effective.

Your Distinct Natural Attributes (Your “DNA”): You are hardwired with certain characteristics that make you you – distinctly, irreplaceably, inimitably you. The way you live, the way you learn, the way you lead – all of these are guided by the gifts you were given at birth and the ones you have collected in the course of your life. Knowing these attributes gives you tremendous power.

To be able to tap into your brilliance, you must answer the question, “What makes you unique?” You need to discover your Distinct Natural Attributes – your DNA.

Your Distinct Natural Attributes include:

  • Your strengths: What do you do especially well? When are you at your best?

  • Your weaknesses: What’s harder for you, goes slower, or is more stressful?

  • Your personality: What do you know to be true about yourself?

  • Your preferences: How do you prefer to do things?

  • Your virtues: What can you claim as being your most virtuous qualities?

  • Your vulnerabilities: What makes you feel small and insecure?

  • Your style: What’s “your way?”

You can use your DNA to turn an ineffective situation into one in which you’ll naturally succeed.

Mapping Your DNA: The more strategies you use to find your Distinct Natural Attributes, the more complete your view will be. Asking yourself the questions above will get you started. You can reveal more of your DNA by asking open-ended questions. To find strengths, ask:

  • Where are you especially talented?

  • What do you love to do?

  • What do you do without even thinking?

  • What do people count on you for?

  • In your social life, what role do you play?

  • At work, what are you recognized for?

  • Given the freedom to do things your way, how do you do them?

To find weaknesses, ask:

  • What activities would you gladly never have to do again?

  • What do you wish you could pass on to someone else?

  • When do you feel dragged down?

  • What do you dread?

  • When do you procrastinate?

Continue the process of exploring your DNA from every angle, getting to know yourself as much as possible.

Putting Your DNA to Work: Once you have a sense of your DNA, you can use your new knowledge to capitalize on your strengths.

Let’s imagine three people, each with different DNA, in a similar situation. They each have to confront a colleague who is not pulling his weight on the team, and it’s starting to affect both the team dynamics and the results. Notice that each of these people will handle the situation differently, based on their DNA.

Person A is shy and reserved, but very caring. She might approach this situation in a quiet one-on-one conversation in which she expresses concern for the person’s feelings as she confronts the issue.

Person B is brash, direct, and focused on results. He might choose his words carefully to avoid insulting the person, and then approach the situation by showing the person the disconnect between their results and their behavior.

Person C is honest and insightful, but finds it hard to have face-to-face conversations without getting flustered. He might actually write the difficult message he has to deliver down on a piece of paper and either use it as a guide to have a phone conversation or turn his notes into a letter or email to address the situation.

You can use the same approach by thinking about your DNA and understanding how it would be most effective for you to conduct yourself in any situation. Knowing your attributes gives you the opportunity to choose from among a varied collection of inner resources, dipping into them as needed for the ones that will serve you best and lead you to your goals.

Exercise: Reflect on a time in your life when you felt most powerful. What might that experience have to teach you about your Distinct Natural Attributes?

Like your genetic DNA, your Distinct Natural Attributes define “what’s true about you.” What’s genuinely true about you – the good and the bad – is also what’s great about you.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”


Let It Be Easy: Making Business Decisions Can Be Simple

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayWith the challenges in the economy in the last few years, many leaders are getting discouraged. It used to be so easy to succeed. Now it’s more challenging. Leaders everywhere have to do more with less working with fewer resources, lower budgets and smaller staffs.

It’s hard to get momentum when everything seems so hard. You can start to fall into the trap of just getting by. But as a leader, it’s your job not to accept the status quo. How can you break out of the difficulties and rise to a level of ease and prosperity?

One simple way – and it may surprise you – is letting it be easy.

“Letting it be easy” is a mindset that can break you out of the toil and struggle that so many leaders experience today. It’s an acknowledgement that even though we can’t seem to control it, sometimes things just work out. We have a breakthrough. We get a golden opportunity. The answers just appear.

It may seem that such good fortune is impossible to attract, as if we just have to wait for it to happen. To some extent, that may be true. On the other hand, you have to be willing to open up to the possibility that maybe, if you could become more trusting and relaxed, those breakthrough opportunities are all around you.

A friend and mentor of mine once taught me this:

If things are going your way, go that way.

If things aren’t going your way, don’t go that way.

To put this suggestion into effect, you just have to notice what’s working and do more of it. Notice what’s not working and do less of it. Easy. Let’s look at some examples of how letting it be easy can resolve some of the tough issues facing leaders today.

One organization was struggling with the decision of how to cut their staff, but the CEO had a strong commitment to avoiding layoffs. What was working? He had a loyal staff that was dedicated to the success of the business. What wasn’t working? He was overstaffed. He decided to start by simply asking people who would accept early retirement or willingly go part-time. The response was surprising, and the CEO was able to reduce the budget without feeling like it had cost people their jobs.

Another organization similarly wanted to cut costs, but leaders were stuck in the dilemma of hard choices about where to cut for the least negative impact. What was working? This was an energetic, creative organization with lots of innovative ideas. What wasn’t working? The organization simply didn’t have the volume in sales to operate the way it had in the past. Finally the leaders decided to do something easy: they asked their employees for innovative ideas about how to cut costs. The brainstorming meetings revealed very clear themes and the answer about where to cut became readily apparent.

In both cases, leaders were faced with impossible choices, and the decisions seemed very hard to make. Opening up their minds to new possibilities, they found the answers came to them. They let it be easy.

This strategy is especially helpful for making difficult decisions or finding your way through confusion. However, it’s important to remember that letting it be easy is not an excuse to be lazy, to accept failure or to give up. Persistence and courage are still important. Letting it be easy shouldn’t be confused with:

  • Rash decisions. Rash decisions may be easy, but they’re not effective. For instance, slashing budgets across the board without thinking about the effects can be devastating. Suddenly quitting your job or closing your business is not always the best choice just because it’s the easiest way out. You can let it be easy and still be thoughtful at the same time.

  • The status quo. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is not to change at all. Just keep going along the same path. Again, that is indeed easy, but it doesn’t help you achieve your vision and goals. The trick to letting it be easy is to remember what is for which your striving, and look for the easy ways to get there.

  • Giving up. There’s a fine line between something being challenging and something being hard. You can learn to recognize the difference. When you’re feeling challenged, the results may not be easy, but they are energizing, exciting, and moving in a forward or positive direction. When something is hard, the opposite is true. Nothing is working. You feel like you’re beating your head against the wall. Your intuition tells you you’re going the wrong way. Letting it be easy is not about giving up. It’s about recognizing the right path when you’ve found it.

Letting it be easy is an approach you can use to see new possibilities. You are able to work smart and let the current of your life carry you in the direction it wants to go. You can put down some of the weight of success by noticing which direction seems easy and right. Try these questions to help you get in the mindset of letting it be easy.

  • What’s going your way?

  • What’s not going your way?

  • What do your answers suggest about what to do next? How can you let it be easy?

Take a step back every once in awhile. Notice where you’re struggling and recognize where it’s easy. Even if just for a while, try going the easy way. It may be the path of success. The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu put it simply: Easy is right.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”


Become a Better Leader: Commit to Continuous Learning

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayIn order to excel in your work, in your life, or as a leader, you need to commit to continuous learning. Many leaders know this, but many more are missing the opportunities for powerful learning that could really help them get ahead on their goals.

Leaders are encouraged to learn “on the job.” The problem is that many of us don’t. Either because we’re too busy, we forget, we don’t know what we need to learn, or we don’t have the resources we think we need, we end up learning by chance or command. Neither one is very powerful.

Learning by chance means you take opportunities to learn whenever they show up, but you don’t necessarily go looking for more. A conference brochure arrives; it seems interesting; you go. A friend recommends a book; it looks good; you read it. You take opportunities to learn as they come to you – in other words, when it’s convenient.

Learning by command means you learn when someone else demands it. When your colleagues tell you that you need to learn to be more decisive, or when your profession requires that you get an advanced certification, or when your boss sends you to a workshop to learn specific skills, you are learning by command.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these approaches to learning. Anylearning that advances your expertise and builds your capacity may be worth your time.

Or it may not, and that’s the problem. You have so much potential, and there are so many opportunities to learn, and there is so much to be gained by learning that it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate your learning to the whims of chance and command. You need to learn by choice.

Learning by choice means carefully setting up your own learning opportunities based solely on what you need to get better results. Learning by choice is based on a number of assumptions.

Learning is leadership: Learning is an essential component of leadership. Some experts go so far as to say learning is leadership, a leader’s constant quest for the improvement of the business, people, and results. As a leader, what do you need to learn? What leadership skills, strategic practices, or management techniques will help you be more effective? Look at your results, and notice where there’s room for improvement. What do you need to learn in order to improve those results? This is the kind of learning that supports powerful leadership.

Learning is profit and competitive edge: The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal leadership is the innovation of the self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run, or be part of a business that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing to change, as well. Think about it. If another company is doing better than yours, what do you need to learn to be better able to compete? If you personally are stuck in a rut in your career, what do you need to learn to get a more competitive edge? Without asking these questions, you will start to languish in mediocrity, and that’s no place for a leader. Refuse to buy into the assumption that the economy, the market you’re in, or your products are creating your results. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, go out and learn what needs to change. You’ll feel more in control, and you will learn to lead the way to a more powerful and profitable place.

Learning is life: In addition to learning for all of the practical and rational reasons that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader, there’s one more: learning is part of the fun of life. When was the last time you picked up a new sport, game or hobby? We learn these things not because we have to, but because we want to. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them. You will know that you can do anything you want to as long as you know how to learn.

Learning is an essential component of leadership, but not all learning experiences are equally powerful. Learning by choice means understanding exactly what you need to learn in order to achieve your vision.

Try this simple exercise to sharpen your approach to learning.

  • Think about your vision or an important goal.

  • Brainstorm. What do you need to learn in order to achieve this vision or goal?

  • Choose one area in which to focus your learning, and choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact.

  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most powerful way I can learn in this area to get the best and fastest results?”

This approach will steer you away from learning by chance and help you choose your learning, so it’s more strategic and leads directly to your vision.

If you really want to lead well and live well, you must learn to learn well, too.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”