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January 5, 2018 standard

As I got off the last lift for the day, I felt burn in my thighs. It was an awesome day of skiing, particularly since it was day two. First day was “work out the kinks” and “build back the confidence” day. Today was a new day, and I must admit, much more about the fun.

As I ascended down the hill, I reflected on the day. It was a great trip. We hadn’t lost anyone and we honored the “marker” signal. When we turned direction, someone always stayed back to mark the pivot point. That marker turned out to be critical. It kept everyone aligned and together. It was a difference maker for the trip.

Funny how in life, recognizing the pivot isn’t always obvious. And so we wander, we get misaligned. We lose momentum and our ability to build forward movement as a team because our mission has become unclear. And although there are stories to tell at the end of the day, it doesn’t exude the same kind of joy.

Recognizing the pivot point and standing as the marker is a critical job of leadership. Working to keep your team moving down the mountain is critical to building momentum towards the future goal. After all, life is the ultimate experience model. And it is definitely not a spectator sport. So it requires each pivot be marked.

Too many times, I see leadership wait until the end is clear before the next mile-marker is established. It is a failed effort to not waste time and effort from others.

Go back to my descent down the hill at the end of the day. Many times during the day we lost our way, but never did we lose sight of the fact we needed to not lose anyone on the slope. We stayed to committed to our journey together and our ability to celebrate the journey at the end of the day.

What a great perspective to bring to leadership. What if we made it our daily leadership pledge to experience the journey together as a team by marking the pivot points and then focusing on what is next? What would the stories be at the end of the day? What would we figure out as we celebrated the day and looked ahead? I can’t imagine the joy and power we would unleash as we practiced working together to figure it out, can you?

December 5, 2017 standard

As we approach this holiday season, the push to get our attention to buy things picks up speed. This unrelenting fever always stops me in my tracks.  Maybe it is the “volume.” Maybe it is fatigue since some merchants put Christmas stuff out beginning in September, or frankly, maybe it is just because I don’t care.

Yes, I said I don’t care.

This quest for “stuff” doesn’t help me with the wildly important aspirations in my life.  Nor does it give me the most valuable currency – our time.  And time is the great equalizer.  Each day we all get 24 hours to use as we see fit.  And we all get the same regardless of our age, our net worth, or our track record of how we used the last 24 hours. Each and every day we get a fresh start.  I like that, don’t you?

So here we are on the cusp of the holidays and I think it is important to think about two things…how we allocate our time and how we show up when give it.  Both matter.

I would argue that the most important thing is to realize you CAN allocate the time and second, that you need to start with an allocation for you.  Yes, I said you.  If you are like me, you worry about everyone else’s needs first and then yourself.  It takes you off balance and then you lose your effectiveness for you and everyone else.  So start with you.

Plan time for you and then be disciplined about it.  Whether it is time to reflect on the day, time to stay fit, time to enjoy a good book, time to enjoy your favorite hobby or just time to be alone and hear yourself think.  Whatever you need to stay recharged and focused take the time.

However, planning the time is one thing, showing up for it is another.  And It took me a while to understand this concept, or maybe I had to learn the hard way. Remind yourself why you are doing it and plan to be present (not in the middle of a crazy time).  Let others hold you accountable.  Otherwise, you’ll show up, but wish you were somewhere else.

And it’s happened to me.   Know this…showing up is not enough.  You don’t get credit for the time unless you engage.  It takes practice and feels weird as there isn’t a lot to show others.  But that isn’t the point.  It is for you.    And I promise you, that in time, you will learn that you will always leave with a new perspective and a renewed sense of energy for those things that matter.  That’s how you know and believe me others can see it too.

So start simple and don’t expect big things.  For me, it started by planning a day off work to see or do things that I always said “one day” I would do or taking my birthday off because after all it is our VERY SPECIAL DAY.  Both of these I started when I had small children and didn’t want to spend the money for a sitter or take more time away from the family.  Then try a long walk, a trip to the spa to get pampered, time to do your favorite things, eventually working towards a weekend retreat.  What’s important is you get started… it’s guaranteed to make you better and why wouldn’t you want that?

I look forward to hearing what you do to stay recharged and the effect it has had on the JOY in your life.


November 21, 2017 standard

As I entered the store, I was truly disgusted with myself.

Planning ahead is one of my core strengths, especially during busy holiday weekends.  The last place I wanted to be was back to the grocery store.  And yet, I forgot some key ingredients.  I had no choice but to go back into the madness.

And it was crazy.  People going everywhere.  The holiday spirit mixed with the chaos of busy families preparing for the next day.  I tried to find some fun in my mistake.

It wasn’t working.  All I could think about was what was left to do.

Finally, I had my last item and headed to the check out.  Which line would be the fastest?  Ahaa, here is one with just a few people and they didn’t have full carts.  Perfect.

As I waited in line, I noticed the man in front of me with two small children.  He had a cute dress for the little girl, a small tie for the boy and some socks for himself.   Their excitement for the holiday was contagious.  And it lifted my spirits.

Then it was gone.

I saw the man slump his shoulders as the cashier said there were no funds in his account to purchase the items.   The man looked puzzled but stepped aside and sat on the bench against the wall.  He just stared at his receipt.  I looked over and saw the disappointment and stress begin to emerge on his face.  His children wondered why they were not leaving the store.

All of a sudden, my irritation at the forgotten items didn’t seem so important.

When the cashier finished ringing up my order, I asked her how much the man needed to purchase his things.  She didn’t understand at first, but then shared the total. It was under $50.  I asked her to include it in my total.  Again, I could see a look of wonder in her eyes.  Why should I care?  I didn’t even know him.

I asked her to share the news with him after I left the store.  I wanted him to be able to hold his head high in front of his children.

As I went back to my car with my bag of key ingredients, my list didn’t seem so ominous and the ingredients not so key.  I smiled thinking about this man and his children and hoped his day was looking brighter too.  And so I waited.  Finally he emerged from the store with a small bag and holding the hands of his children as they made their way to the car. All seemed right in the world again.

This holiday season, let focus on giving grace.  To those closest to us and to those in need.  So they too can enjoy the spirit of the season with a sense of pride and hope.

We can all make the world a better place, but none of us can do it alone.  Let’s pay if forward together.  I look forward to hearing how you are making a difference in the lives of others.

November 11, 2017 standard

Are you a 31’er?

As I sat down to think about my week, it became clear that the pace of things around me was on a one-way ticket to faster.  That is true for everyone.  Because everything is 24/7, we never shut down any more.  We are becoming 31’ers.   Hmm, it stopped me in my tracks.

Learning to be an advocate for what you need to stay healthy has never been more important.  Without a sense of boundaries, a discipline to unplug and the ability to truly be present, our lives will just become a run-on sentence.

This week I heard on the radio that Chicago is considering writing tickets for pedestrians that cross the street while they are on their phones.  There have been 24 deaths reported due to distracted walking.  Wow, distracted driving, now distracted walking.

Funny how this constant need to be connected, blurs the line of what is important, truly urgent and just nice to know.  It is easy to treat everything the same and miss what is truly special in the places we go, the people we see and the conversations we have.

This week is the launch of my book GROUNDED-Leading your life with Intention.  It is dedicated to helping each of us learn to live our best life.  By staying curious EVERYDAY about what works, we can lead our lives with intention, and make it possible to lead others.

This notion of being GROUNDED isn’t about age, it’s about attitude.  Your life will have impact.  Choices will be made.  GROUNDED is dedicated to building the skill so you decide, not someone else.  Your life is simply too important to leave it to chance.  And without your intention, you are destined to become a 31’er.

You can follow the “inside story” of the book on my Facebook page Nancy M. Dahl.    Thanks in advance for continuing to follow this blog and now for your support of the book.  And remember to share the news with those that matter in your life.  It makes the conversation more interesting.



May 23, 2017 standard

It was a glorious day on the water.  After dinner, people started to gather around the campfire.  The conversation was alive with stories that replayed the day’s events – the classic crashes, the great accomplishments and of course the fun and games.  Each story met with a round of laughter!

Eventually, the conversations moved on to thoughts about life and the question “how to get from here to there.”  And of course, it’s fun to listen to aspirations and dreams explained as the fire cracked.  Some people were more curious than others or maybe it’s better to say courageous.  You see in this conversation, I was not the President of the company, I was just the neighbor lady at the cabin for the summer.

Connections started earlier in the weekend, with an introduction, a nod to my oldest son and a thank you for the use of my paddleboards.  That night as I sat around the campfire, the conversation turned to me – the neighbor lady, and questions about my career.  Exactly how did I make all that career path happen?

To them, and honestly to most, it appeared to be a straight line.  And isn’t that true for all of us as we look at someone else’s life.  We see the results of the work, but somehow we don’t see the setbacks, the times things didn’t go as planned.  We just see the high points. Here is one thing I know; the line is never straight – up close. Everyone’s path diverts up and down and all around.

I truly love these conversations around the campfire.  It allows for a vulnerability and focuses everyone on learning to understand their potential so they can optimize it.  Too many times, we think it is only about figuring out the right move in our life or organizations we work for.  And while this is important work, the most valuable work is to figure out what you need to optimize you.  This is what matters to you.

And this is what will give you the courage to move forward. To seek experiences that help you learn more, get clearer, improve your impact and elevate your game.  By the way – it will make life more fun because you are living your life optimizing “you” and not playing someone else’s game that THEY think you should play.  Because that game isn’t winnable.

Life is the ultimate experiential model.  Our thinking and knowledge only represents potential.  It is our courage and discipline to practice being our best that allows us to optimize potential.

How is your practice going?  Mine has been full of adventure.  But I am glad for that.  It has made it worth traveling.  And I am thankful for the advice and feedback of my fellow travelers.  Their insight has been invaluable.

I look forward to hearing how your insight has allowed you to optimize your options.

May 9, 2017 standard

It started out simply. A way for me to “call out” less than stellar behavior that was counter-productive to change while keeping the focus on the behavior and NOT the people. Guardians of no progress©. You know – those rascals that sit in their offices and think through all the reasons why change will not work.

Whether it’s in my keynote speeches, or my leadership role, “guardians of no progress” resonates with everyone leading change.  We all know one. And when I share the term, it is always met with a smile and an almost instant list of names that fit the description.

But the focus on the people isn’t the issue.  We need to stop. We need to focus on the behavior.  When you take time to separate what the behavior looks like “unattached” to names, it lets others see it for what it is. Quite simply, it removes the emotions associated with the people doing the behavior and allows everyone to focus on understanding the behavior for what it is.  Fear. And how as a leader, you can and should avoid the pitfalls.

For many organizations, these team members look the same. Guardians of no progress overtly support the change.  It’s their version of camouflage.  And then later because they want everyone to be safe.  They bring questions, spot issues (and non-issues), identify risks that cause others to alter the course or slow the change.

It can also bring a sense of fun to the conversations around change. Yes, fun…

Use the term when you want to call out behavior without attacking the person.  Just try it…it keeps everyone focused on supporting the change vs. being called out as the “guardian of no progress.” No one wants to be that guardian.

By taking the time to describe the behavior as a team, it allows everyone to see the signs and stay committed to their role which is to support the change and ensure a successful transition.  In other words, change is going to happen, how do we work together to do it well.

Do you know any guardians of no progress?

What does your list look like?

Is it well understood by your you and your team? I’m excited to hear your thoughts and your ideas for shining the spotlights on this important change obstacle.


April 17, 2017 standard

Spring is a time of renewal, of evaluating who we are and what we want. Have you ever asked yourself “what is your leadership commitment?”

It’s a big question triggered by an engaging and fascinating conversation I had recently with a friend I see rarely. How do we engage as leaders to make change. And it’s a challenge for everyone…regardless of your level of responsibility or experience.  The ultimate leadership test, measured in our ability to rally a diverse group towards a common goal.  It’s you, plus others.

On this day, the conversation focused on this very conundrum…the challenge we face of “you + others.” Here’s what I know as a leader.  You need to:

Manage EVERY day…Be engaged

  1. Be accessible.
  2. Be a student of the business.  Don’t assume you have all the answers.
  3. Create an environment that engages your teams.
  4. Build Trust with your teams AND the executive team.
  5. Live up to agreed upon values and hold others to them.


  1. Business status: Flash Report, Monthly Financial Performance and Strategic Plan/Dept initiatives.
  2. Solve small issues before they become big…manage conflict productively.
  3. Insist on alignment with strategic plan and current reality.
  4. Get commitment within and across departments.
  5. Service orientation to the field and departments.

Make accountability real…focus on results

  1. Be clear on roles, goals and deliverables
  2. Define success and drive work plans to make it happen…finish what we started.
  3. Thank people for contribution.
  4. Debrief progress & learn out loud.

And secondly for our teams, can we help them see “The Big Picture”.  People will naturally become more passionate about their work when they clearly understand they are part of something bigger than themselves.  As a leader, you must be able to answer the five questions team members commonly ask (and they are asking these questions – whether you hear them or not):

  1. Where are we going? (Strategy)
  2. How are we going to get there? (Plans)
  3. How can I contribute? (Roles)
  4. What is our progress (urgency/accountability)
  5. What’s in it for me? (Rewards)

Leadership is not for the faint at heart.  But the results can be rewarding.  As we wrapped up our conversation, it was fun to see the action plan unfold.  Can’t wait to hear the update and compare notes.  Can you?

March 28, 2017 standard

It was early, just after 5 in the morning.   You could see the colors of the sky beginning to change in anticipation of a beautiful sunrise.  A grand celebration for the world to see, that a new day has arrived with all the promise of what is possible.

And on this day, as I ground my coffee, I reached simply for a coffee filter.  The very last one. 

There was nothing special about this. I knew I had an extra in my pantry.

It wasn’t until a bit later, as I sat and watched the sun come up and enjoyed the AWESOME view over the water, that I began to think about the idea of the “last one.”  Is the last one really the last one, or a harkening to the arrival of a new fresh box of filters.

Think about it. We often see endings only in the construct of what has ended.  How about we re-frame that view – and see endings as a signal of a new beginning.  It’s important to stop and think about this so you can come out of the box ready to begin anew.

For me, it signaled the end of summer.  It had been almost 50 days and 8 weeks of no watch, no shoes- only sandals, a dedicated focus on health and wellness and time to read, tell stories with my photography and be in my gardens.  Learning to be in the moment and notice the smaller things in life was a gift.

But it too, was time to begin anew, with a fresh perspective to optimize the road ahead.  So, I am glad, it was the last one.  It charged me up to prepare for the new start of the season and my next chapter.  It is going to be awesome.  I know yours will be too.

I look forward to comparing notes.  How did your “last one” allow you to begin anew?  And how is your journey going?  I hope you take time to enjoy the celebration of a new day as you ponder your next move.  It is a gift that arrives every day and encourages us to impact the world with our best work.  The final choice, of course, it yours.  Let’s do it together, the world is counting on us.


March 14, 2017 standard

My love for photography started years ago with my Aunt Anita.

Each time she visited, we explored another chapter from her travel log.  Her images and stories were mesmerizing to me as a child.  And much to my family’s chagrin, the cause for her late arrival to family functions.  You see, there was always something along the way that caused her to pause. A need to capture the moment.

And photography stuck in my life.  Much later, I had the good fortune of working with another photography master.  You’ve most likely heard me speak of him before. I was fortunate to both work and travel with him.  In fact, our time together always felt like a gift because it led to new discoveries.  And those discoveries stirred a curiosity that has shaped my view of the world.

Here’s my fascination with the art of photography. Many photographers capture similar images, but none of them look the same.  The images are always shaped by the person behind the lens not the people in in front of it. And critical to defining the view is learning to ask the question, “what do you see?”  Let’s be clear here, sometimes this difficult question doesn’t have an obvious answer.  It is in knitting together the many viewpoints that provide true texture.  This is where the depth of life can be explained.  It also requires that we don’t assume others can see what we do.

You see, no one sees it like you do.

Taking time to ask, value and share your perspective is important.  Don’t assume what is clear to you is also clear to others.  You will miss the value of discovering the view from another vantage point.  And it may be just what you need to make the next leg of your journey.

What do you see?   I look forward to hearing your perspective?


February 28, 2017 standard

In this  world of “Big Data”  our natural curiosity fuels the urge to seek to understand the essence of every detail, because the data is now available.

Knowledge gives us potential but it is through practice we build mastery.  So I just want to say something radical here…not all DATA matters.

We have to ask ourselves to identify the value of knowing.  It’s the classic, SO WHAT question.  The answers will help us decide if it is worth the doing to know.  Big data without a business strategy provides interesting but worthless insight unless the data can drive action.

And sometimes, I have to admit – we struggle for strategic clarity. So we look for the data to help us bring clarity.

But here’s the conundrum: data that doesn’t drive action doesn’t matter. It is important to establish the hard trends separate from the soft trends.  The hard trends are those things we know are going to happen and everyone can agree:  demographics are getting older, government regulations will increase, technology will continue to enable new ways of doing things which means we will forever be in a state of dealing with legacy systems.

And to be clear, I don’t worry about legacy systems, I worry about legacy thinking as we approach our future. Our view of the future effects how we move forward.  And that view is effected by our view of the past.

So learning to identify our position and opinions that shape our view, let us be aware and intentional.  Then the hard facts enable us to focus on the things we can do something about.  This is truly what makes it possible to anticipate what lies ahead.  Are you using both the hard – data and the soft?  The data empowers us to predict scenarios and prevent certain outcomes.  Without this approach we will forever be in a react and respond mode and unable to lead.

And as we work to fill in the blanks, learning to identify the soft trends with a clear identifier of MIGHT will make it clear what we have left to figure out.  It will prevent us from beginning to believe in the reality we have envisioned as REAL.  It only lives in our scenario planning.  This clarity of the hard, soft and our own opinions allows us to separate the noise from what really matters.

And it is in this moment we lead with clarity and can begin to practice the agility  of our leadership and build our mastery of leading in this dynamic world.

I look forward to hearing how you challenge yourself to ask the “SO WHAT” question so you can lead with clarity and the intention to do your best work.