Extra Points: Leadership is Empathy

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40Serena Williams is arguably the best female tennis player of all time; heck she may challenge Roger Federer as the greatest tennis player of either gender. She lost the US Open Championship on Saturday in what became a highly chaotic and confrontational scene involving Williams and the head judge.

What isn’t up for debate is that Naomi Osaka, her 20-year old Japanese competitor, completely outplayed her and won the match in two sets. It was a historic victory, the first ever Grand Slam Championship by a Japanese player.

The decidedly pro-Serena fans in New York voiced their displeasure during and after the match. The travesty is that they actually booed when Osaka was introduced as the champion, bringing this young champion to tears. What should have been a crowning event for the 20-year old was turning into humiliation. That’s when Serena showed why she’s also a champion as a human.

She graciously put her arm around Osaka’s shoulders when it was clear that she was being overwhelmed by the scene. She then took the microphone and implored the fans to stop the booing and give this young lady her time on the platform as a champion.

It’s a reminder to all of us that dealing with adversity with empathy and humanity is a trait of strong leadership. It’s a rare individual than can take a moment to consider someone other than self. Sometimes its forgiveness; other times it’s understanding; still other times it’s compassion and kindness.

Leadership begins with empathy and a genuine sense of how others are being affected; and continues with acts of compassion and kindness to help someone at the moment they need it most. On Saturday, that was a win for Serena Williams.

Quote of the Week:

”Obstacles are things a person sees when they take their eyes off their goal.”

~ E. Joseph Cossman

© 2018 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The key to personal and professional improvement is accountability. My mentoring and coaching program has availability. Contact me at dan@danweedin.com or (360) 271-1592 to apply.

Superstars Are Coached…Why Aren’t You?

From my July column in the Kitsap Business Journal…

In June, I watched two celebrated sporting events — the French Open in professional tennis, and the U.S. Open in men’s professional golf. These two sports feature great individual athletic prowess. They also illustrate what is widely acknowledged and accepted in all sports, arts and entertainment. Superstars are well coached.

At the French Open, champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova receive constant coaching and support from their coaches. At every break in play and regularly from the sidelines, they get suggestions on how to improve both tactically and strategically. At the U.S. Open, every golfer from champion Webb Simpson to Tiger Woods, and to the amateurs competing, receive input from swing coaches, mental coaches, putting coaches and caddies.

Regardless of the sport, athletes simply can’t maximize their skill and ability without strong coaching. The same is abundantly true in business. Executives and business owners who accept coaching are more likely to be “superstars” than those who don’t. But unlike sports, where all athletes understand the value, most business owners eschew the concept of coaching. The question is … why?

Why You Say No

I’ve worked closely with small business owners for over 25 years. In my experience, there are five key reasons that business leaders don’t take advantage of coaching:

  1. No concept of value. Coaching is viewed as a cost, rather than an investment. The owner only thinks about what they are losing (money) rather than the value they will receive (more discretionary time, enhanced skills, ability to earn higher revenue more quickly, and a sounding board for frustrations).
  2. Arrogance. “I’ve been in this business all my life. I know what I’m doing!” That’s exactly why you need coaching. This myopic view leads to the downfall of many because they don’t have a firm understanding of the traps and opportunities around them.
  3. Ignorance. You don’t know coaching even exists. You think you have to traverse the world of business as a self-made (or self-destroyed) man or woman.
  4. You’re not broken. It is a fallacy to think that only those that are broken need coaching. Actually, “coaching” is for those who are already really good, and want to maximize their talent. If this excuse were real, athletes like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams would all be walking around “coach-less!” In fact, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant hires five new coaches every summer to find out what he doesn’t know, or new ways to improve what he does know.
  5. Lack of vulnerability. Owners can be reticent to open up and let someone else hear that they want/need help. They feel that they will appear weak. In fact, the business leaders who are vulnerable and allow themselves to be coached demonstrate tremendous self-confidence.

The Value

There is a myth that a coach must be superior in tale——not to the person being coached. Last time I checked, Tiger Woods has won more major golf championships than all his coaches combined! The truth is that athletes have the talent. Coaches have the innate ability to transfer their knowledge to maximize the talent, and take them to heights they could never reach on their own. Consider this — we are all able to stretch on our own before or after exercise. But, our own bodies limit us. If a trainer or therapist stretches you, they are able to use leverage to maximize the stretch and attain optimal results. That’s how it works with coaching.

Reason #1 above was no concept of value. Here is a list of values I’ve heard from business leaders who have been coached, and from personal experience:

  • Improved ability to prioritize results in more discretionary time for you.
  • Reduced stress through better communications with management and employees.
  • Enhanced ability to communicate leads to more sales and improved bottom line.
  • Improved ability to lead, respond, and accept changes and volatility in business.
  • A sounding board. The last place you want to bring your challenges is home!
  • Improved efficiency at your own job.

Coaching can take the form of many areas that small and medium-size business owners can improve on. For example — improved speaking skills; better time management; enhancing life balance; strengthened leadership skills; and focus on specific goals, outcomes or projects. Coaching sessions can last for a month or a year. It can take the form of accessing a coach’s “smarts” on a retainer basis. However it ends up looking, good coaching will improve the condition of the “player.”

That “player” is you!

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved


Serving Up Your Strengths

Serena Williams

I enjoy watching professional sports on television, not only for the pure enjoyment of the sport, but for the great parallels and lessons it teaches us. Last weekend’s Wimbledon Tennis Championship is an excellent example.

In the Women’s Championship match between Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, Williams found herself in a precarious situation. She had easily won the first set, stumbled in the second, and now had lost focus in the third and decisive set. Down 2 games to 1 and serving, Williams decided to just focus on her strength…her serve. Throughout the tournament, she lapped the field in aces. In this pivotal game, she served up 4 straight aces. Radwanska never recovered and Serena cruised to her 5th Wimbledon title.

How often do we get caught up in minutia and lose focus? How many times do events derail us and we panic or lose direction? In my experience, the answer is too many. In a world where we desire self-help books and looking to improve our weaknesses, we should instead focus on our strengths.

Athletes over-think in pressure situations. The true champions actually turn pressure into an ally by simplifying the situation and going with what got them there. For Serena Williams, it was her dominant serve. What is it for you?

Where do your strengths lie and what can you do to enhance them? Your focus should be on making what you do really well even better. Don’t spend time and effort on weaknesses. Delegate, subcontract, or simply don’t worry about them.

As an example, one of my strengths is public speaking. One of my weaknesses is setting up and organizing speaking events. So, my focus is on making myself a better speaker. I like it and it’s what I’m good at. I hate making arrangements and doing the heavy lifting of administration. I delegate this to my assistant who likes to do it and it’s her strength. This produces a win-win situation.

Your time is valuable and finite. Your energy level and passion needs to be focused and strong. You can only be passionate about what you like and what you’re good at. Build on your strengths. It will come up aces for you!


© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved


When Jo-Wilfried Tsonga upset Roger Federer at Wimbledon the other day, he snapped a streak. Federer, long the top men’s tennis player in the world, had a 178-0 record when winning the first two sets. Tsonga spotted the Swiss star the first two sets and then came storming back to capture the next three and win the match.

All good things come to an end.

You may have your own big streak…

  • Days without an employee injury
  • Days without any claims on your insurance
  • Days without any workplace violence
  • Days without any theft of property
  • Days without any data breach

Some of these days may even stretch into years. But, as with Federer’s streak, all things eventually can end. Federer doesn’t get the chance to compete further in this tournament. Your consequences could be more dire.

Don’t take success for granted. It’s what I call the success trap. You get trapped into thinking that everything is just swell. It may be for a while, but you must be prepared for a loss. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And, be ready to play again another day…

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved