The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

Your Search for communication

We were having dinner at a friend’s house and admiring his family memorabilia neatly arrayed in the bookshelves. There were the kid’s sailing trophies, family photos, delicate antique demitasse cups and a bright blue tube. A bright blue tube? “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh….it’s a kaleidoscope,” my friend replied. “Here, try it.” As I turned the tube, colors swirled and twirled. Each small movement altered the view and each view was as lovely as the other.

Why can’t we bring a kaleidoscopic view of the world into our workplace and into our leadership? When it comes to new perspectives, your brain works against you. It’s easier on the brain to see the world, to see a person or to see a decision as you’ve always seen it. But, with a little effort, other views – just as relevant – become visible. It’s as though you slightly turn the kaleidoscope.

Here are three areas where a kaleidoscopic world view is particularly valuable to your leadership and life.

See personnel situations from several perspectives – A disgruntled employee complains to you about his co-worker who they “just can’t work with,” and the list of grievances starts. In that moment, their argument sounds reasonable and valid. But, when you ‘turn the kaleidoscope’, you can likely see opportunities for misunderstanding, miscommunication and differing opinions. There are at least two sides to every story. It’s best to, first, seek out other perspectives; second, help the employee see beyond their singular view, and perhaps facilitate a conversation that highlights varied views of the situation.

See options for big decisions –When faced with a big decision, the brain prefers familiar solutions because, for the brain, the familiar is a short cut that feels effortless. However, big decisions benefit from a kaleidoscopic view. Here’s a technique that I discovered in a Harvard Business Review. As you debate a big decision and your team comes up with the expected approach, ask, “Let’s pretend that this option is not available to us. If not this approach, then what could we do?” This is a simple and effective way to force a shifted perspective. It’s as though you turn the kaleidoscope. Plus, you can use the same question repeatedly until you have a range of options upon which to base the decision.

See that it’s not always personal – Whether it’s with family, friends or co-workers, situations inevitably arise where feelings get hurt or questions arise in your mind. An offhand comment makes you feel peeved and you think, “That was an insensitive remark.” Or, maybe you’re left out of a meeting and you wonder, “Did they leave me out on purpose? Is the boss trying to tell me something?” In those moments, turn the kaleidoscope to see another perspective. In my experience, these situations are almost always explained away when viewed from a different viewpoint. Before letting your mind run away with your first interpretation, shift your outlook to find a different interpretation – one that doesn’t have you at the center.

Kaleidoscopes remind us that there’s always another way to see the world. Even a small rotation shifts the image, shifts the interpretation, and shifts the options. As an insightful leader, you must see a variety of views. And maybe you’ll discover that, like the kaleidoscope, each view is beautiful in its own way.



You drive along admiring the fall colors when suddenly the check engine light comes on in your car. What does that mean? For most of us, the check engine light indicates that something is wrong inside the car. We best find out what it is.

You have an internal check engine light. It’s the nagging feeling you get when something isn’t sitting right. Do you diagnose your nagging feeling just as you diagnose your car?

You tape over it. At a recent keynote address, I asked the audience what they do when their car’s check engine light comes on.  A woman on the front row said, “I tape over it!”  When your check engine light comes on, do you tape over it, ignore or discount it? As with your car, ignoring it is unlikely to be a sound solution. The source of the nagging feeling is still there.

Much in our culture reinforces the misguided notion that feelings lack validity or are not worthy of notice. We may be embarrassed by them or simply not have the skill to notice. The nagging feeling typically arises because the situation is incongruent with your brain’s expectation. Maybe the situation (or person) flies in the face of your value system. That always sets off the check engine light. Maybe the person has a communication or work style approach that radically differs from yours and it feels uncomfortable.  Maybe your experience leads you to see the situation differently from your colleagues.

Incongruence increases stress, causes you to over-react, make a poor decision or create an upset with a colleague.  You can prevent those unhealthy outcomes if, like in your car, you notice it.

Notice the check engine light. You notice the light in your car and you know that you need to do something … soon. Unfortunately, many of us power through the day without attending to the emotion that bubbles under the surface. We shove it aside.

It’s time that we relearn how to notice the nagging feeling in the gut. The feeling brings information and wisdom to your situation. The best way to notice the feeling is to practice naming it. “I feel annoyed by that discussion.” “My boss frustrates me!” “Something doesn’t feel right about this decision.”

Give voice to the gut feeling. It’s like acknowledging the check engine light and the need to attend to your car. You need to attend to your inner wisdom.

Understand the problem. The best action is to dive under the hood of the car (for real or with a mechanic) to find the source of the alert. Maybe it’s an indication of a big problem or maybe it’s an easy fix. It’s the same for you. The wisest of us notices the check engine light and dives under the hood to understand the nagging feeling.

What is incongruent for you? Does their behavior fly in the face of your values? Does the decision you face challenge your assumptions? Does the person conduct their work differently from you? These are examples of incongruence in the brain. Your experience doesn’t square up with your expectations. When that happens, the check engine light goes off. It’s your job to understand why and decide if the reason is valid.

Your car may break down if you ignore the check engine light. Your health, life and leadership depend on noticing and resolving the nagging feeling inside. What’s your check engine light telling you?

Photo: Bwylezich



The night was warm as we stood looking over the Annapolis harbor at the gathered crowd. It was a perfect evening for (are you ready?) tango. Yes, tango. Argentine tango, to be specific. The bricks of the Annapolis City Dock were covered by a smooth dance floor and a small band played tango music. If you are not a dancer, Argentine tango is not like a typical ballroom tango. Ballroom-style tango has specific steps. Argentine tango does not. It is all improvisational. The men learn to lead by shifting their bodies. Women learn to sense and follow their lead.  As we watched, the men were steady and (relatively) straightforward with their steps while the women twisted, turned, and flicked their feet with grace and style. They represented a subtle communication between leader and follower that resulted in beauty and art.

When I think about being an insightful leader, there are three lessons from tango.  The tango leads provided:

  1. Direction. The leader provides the forward direction. Will he steer his partner slightly right, slightly left or straight ahead? He watches other couples and navigate between and around them. He adjusts their rate of progress to account for others. It’s the same for leaders in an organization. You, too, provide direction and navigate employees, staff and projects around obstacles. In your case, obstacles may be political, technical, financial or personnel. It’s your job to watch the surroundings, notice openings and deftly steer the organization forward as though you are dancing together.
  2. Framework. The tango lead held his frame. He provided a firm, physical frame that gave his partner the boundaries for her dance. Within his arms and the space around his steps, he contained the space of the dance. A leader does the same. You provide the organizational framework within which staff perform and work happens. In this case, your frame work may be the organizational culture, a way of doing business, the boundaries of acceptable business practices or acceptable behaviors at work.
  3. Flexibility. Perhaps the most striking part of the tango was the flexibility afforded to the woman dancer. Our tango lead provided direction and a framework that allowed her to improvise. Steps, kicks, flourishes, twists and turns. She was the show. He gave her the space to explore her creativity and develop beauty. Too often, this element of leadership is missing. Sometimes, we as leaders create a framework that’s too tight. It confines creativity in the workplace. Instead, insightful leaders create space like the tango. There’s an openness to new ideas, new processes and procedures. Staff are encouraged to develop their creativity and show off their highest skills. The creativity of the staff can be the showpiece under a wise leader.

Because of the skill of the tango leader, the woman improvised, added her unique style and created a work of art while moving forward within the framework. How well is your organization dancing under your leadership? Maybe it’s time for a tango lesson!

Copyright: timurpix / 123RF Stock Photo



Moving too fast to add insight into your leadership?

The Micro Insights Coaching Program is Fast, Personal, Simple and Powerful
It brings insight that fits into your busy life (at an affordable price)

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean that you can’t live with fulfillment and lead with insight.

Are you clear on the value you offer? Do you feel confident enough to position yourself for the next promotion or career change?

Your natural communication and work style pervade everything you do. Your preferences determine the type of work you enjoy and your strengths. Ironically, you may overlook your natural strengths because you do them seamlessly. We frequently hear, “Oh…I never thought of that as a skill. It’s just what I do.” Exactly. The clearer you are about strengths the more you can use them to your benefit.

Micro Insights Coaching includes a 12-question assessment that takes minutes to complete. The one-page results are easy-to-understand (not theoretical mumbo-jumbo). That one-page is a powerhouse of insight and Shelley will walk you through the practical application of your results.

Micro Insights Coaching includes: 
Communication DNA self-assessment that provides a quick, consumable, personal profile of your natural communication preferences 
60-minute coaching session with Shelley to apply your results to your specific situation.

Micro Insights Coaching is high impact and low cost. $297

“The results (of the Communications DNA Assessment) and short dialog with Shelley opened up new ways to see myself, present myself to others and position myself for future positions. The bottom line impact is greater confidence and that’s critical.” – Kristin Tufte

Most people hope for success but rarely invest in themselves to make it a reality. If you are not “most people”; are serious about your personal and professional growth; or if you want to live a more fulfilling life and lead with more insight – Shelley has done it and is here to support you. She is also an ACC certified coach through the International Coaching Federation.

Contact Shelley at shelley@shelleyrow.com or 443 994 3600

Is it seeding doubt or confidence? Is it reluctant or aggressive?

Is it frustrated with your work, boss, co-workers or all of the above?

Is it afraid to make that big career change that you’ve been dreaming of?

Would it help you to have a partner who can assist in gaining insight into and rewrite those
internal stories?

Would you benefit from a confidant outside of your work environment to collaborate in your
success and growth?

And, would it be valuable if you had unlimited access to that confidant?

That’s where the Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program can help. It is tailored and
personalized to your situation and needs.

You see, the stories in your head shape your work relationships with colleagues, the approach you take to your career, and the actions you opt to pursue or neglect. The good news is that unhelpful
behaviors can be rewired, …but it takes focused, intentional action. That’s where individual, personalized, targeted coaching pays off. A research study showed that a training program alone increased productivity by 28% and the addition of a coaching component increased productivity by 88%.

The Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program includes:

  • 30-minute initial consultation to discuss your specific goals
  • Business DNA Behavior self-assessment summary report (5-page report with access to
    more)
  • Unlimited 20-minute phone, video or email coaching sessions for six months
  • PDF of my book, Think Less Live More: Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker

The Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program kicks off with a 30-minute meeting by phone or video. In that meeting, we identify your goals, objectives and desired outcomes from the
program. Maybe you need:

  • support with a difficult work relationship,
  • Techniques to more effectively manage staff,
  • Strategies to position yourself for the next promotion,
  • Analysis of assessing career options,
  • Approaches to enhance your personal brand,
  • Improving communication or presentation skills,
  • Clarity to navigate a career shift or more.

You decide and I work with you to identify specific actions as first steps toward your goals.

Next, we will create a tailored, specific homework for you to complete. Also, you will receive access to the Business DNA Behavior self-assessment that will provide additional insights into your personal communication and work style. Upon completion of the homework and the self-assessment, you schedule unlimited 20-minute phone, email or video sessions over a period of six
months from our initial call. At the end of the six months, we will reassess your progress and create a list of next steps so that your personal and professional growth continues after the
Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program concludes.

Guarantee: As an added benefit, if after the first 30-minute session you do not feel confident that this program is right for you, I will refund your money. You have no risk to get started.

The loudest voice in the room is the one inside your head. Make that voice count!


$1497 per person

 

*Note that this program is intended for individuals. For information on corporate or team coaching, contact Shelley.

Insightful Leaders Coaching Programs

Your work situation is unique. Your challenges are yours and yours alone. Your career is your responsibility to manage. As good as group workshops and books are, you know that you’d benefit from individual coaching.  After all, you get coaching for golf, tennis, math, music, Excel, Java and more.

Most people hope for success but rarely invest in themselves to make it a reality. If you are not “most people” and are serious about your personal and professional growth invest in one of the Insightful Leaders Coaching Programs.

Whichever program you choose is tailored and personalized to meet your goals. Plus, each program includes a DNA Behavior self-assessment in either the concise or complete form. Between the assessment and coaching with Shelley, you will walk away with new insights to grow your leadership abilities and make your best choices.

In your coaching program, your goal may be to:

  • Enhance your ability to collaborate even with those who frustrate you.
  • Better communicate through constructive face-to-face meetings or presentations.
  • Improve complex decision-making so that you stop over-thinking.
  • Self-manage more effectively to reduce reactivity and stress.
  • Gain confidence to better represent your views and make choices that serve you well.
  • Understand and maximize the value you bring to your work.
  • Position yourself for the next career move.

Here are three Insightful Leaders coaching options.

Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program

The Insightful Leaders Individual Coaching Program is designed for maximum benefit and value. It includes six-months of unlimited coaching with Shelley. It is tailored around your identified goals and includes the complete version of the Business DNA Self-Assessment. $1497 

Micro Insights Coaching Program (link paper)

The Micro Insights Coaching Program is fast, simple, impactful and designed to fit into your busy work life. It includes the concise Communication DNA Self-Assessment and a targeted coaching session with Shelley. $297

Insightful Team Coaching

The Insightful Team Coaching is designed specifically for each team that Shelley works with. It includes a DNA Behavior Self-Assessment for each team member.  Contact Shelley directly to discuss this option and design a program to meet your team’s needs.

I was in my hometown of Smithville, Texas for the big Jamboree celebration. Jamboree includes a coronation, parade, dances and a livestock show and sale. For the livestock show, kids raise steers, pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits to be judged and sold. The two-year old granddaughter, Kyndall, of my childhood friend was fascinated by the rabbits. An eighth-grader holding a white bunny walked past and Kyndall was ON IT. She patted the rabbit, rubbed its ears and, in a moment of brilliance, she bent over to be at eye level with the rabbit as though she was communicating with it. It was an adorable moment that captured my attention. Here’s why.

In today’s world where email, instant messenger, LinkedIn messages and more are a predominant form of communication, the insightful leader understands the importance of relating person to person (or, for Kyndall, person to bunny). Here are three tips to be more relatable, particularly for high-stakes conversations.

  1. Make eye contact. Kyndall got it right. She made every effort to make eye contact with the rabbit. You, too, must make every effort to make eye contact and that can only happen in person. Increasingly, the staff I work with seek to hide behind email, but an insightful leader meets in person and makes eye contact – for real. Yes, it’s easier to email but the personal touch makes all the difference. Force yourself, make the time, and make the effort to talk to your staff face-to-face and eye-to-eye. That’s how you connect as people.
  2. Use language that is relatable. Multisyllabic, pretentious (big, showy) words may make us feel educated but they create a barrier to communication. Recently, I assisted a client to craft an important communication to all employees in the company. We intentionally used words that are simple and understandable to all. You create connection via your communication. Think about the simplest terms you can use to communicate effectively. Simple, concise and clear are the recipe for relatability.
  3. Show your interest. Kyndall carefully ran her tiny fingers through the rabbit’s fur and over its ears. As I watched, it was clear that she loved the rabbit and the rabbit sat calmly under her touch. Your staff may not have soft ears and fluffy fur but you can still communicate your interest through sincere curiosity about their perspective and interest in their work life. How do you express your interest in your staff? What do you know about their thoughts and ideas? Do you inquire about their suggestions to improve their work? Like Kyndall’s rabbit, people respond to those who they sense are interested. What would your staff say about your level of interest in them?

Let’s learn from Kyndall and her rabbit. As insightful leaders, you can take a few simple steps to be more relatable to your staff. It’s pays off in dedication and the hard work that comes from feeling connected.



Best Audience: Association staff or boards, association chapter executives and their elected leaders, organizational teams, mid or upper management staff, new executives who want to fast-track their understanding of staff talent

insightful teamwork - keynotes & workshops with Shelley Row

Boost your team’s performance ….NOW! This timely and relevant professional development program will share the characteristics and traits top team members possess.  Specifically, everyone will take a self-assessment using the specialized DNA Behavior Self-Assessment tool (abbreviated or full version). The assessment transforms human-based behaviors into a science-based approach that is easy to understand and apply. For new leaders and managers, this program will save time and frustration in learning the skills and characteristics of staff. The workshop uses insights from neuroscience to create practical actions for enhancing teamwork.

This professional development program results in tangible steps to aid teams to enhance individual strengths and adapt to differences. As a result, complex work is accomplished effectively and with less drama. Team members learn to work with their natural behavior style and that of teammates. Divergent opinions will not bog down progress and those with similar opinions won’t skew results.

Learning objectives:

  • Discover your natural behavior style and preferred work environment.
  • Learn how your strengths benefit the organization and where they can torpedo effectiveness.
  • Recognize and leverage the differences between you and your team members for improved communication and reduced tension.
  • Uncover and overcome team blind spots.
  • Leverage natural decision styles to optimize complimentary views

“There’s no place for feelings at work!” I heard it frequently as a young engineer. Thankfully, I learned this admonition was impossible to achieve and very bad for my career. Today, after interviewing 76 effective leaders, it is clear that the skillful use of feelings is essential to leadership success. To deny feelings is to deny a key part of your intelligence. To use feelings is not about being carried away by each whim or passing flutter in your gut. It’s about having the self-awareness to discern the source of the feeling and how to constructively put it to work as a leadership asset.

Here are five skilled ways that leaders use their feelings that merit attention and practice.

1. Emotional feelings are red flags. Your nervous system is a sophisticated sensing network. Over time, your brain became hard-wired to know situations or events that run counter to what it believes it best for you. Your body, via the nervous system, picks up the warning signs and launches a red alert. Your body will hijack your brain with an old story. Left unchecked, your brain will generate a knee-jerk reaction that is unlikely to benefit your career. Effective leaders learn to recognize when an emotional feeling is coming. They develop the skills to slow down the knee-jerk reaction and rebalance the nervous system so that the cognitive brain has time to catch up. Techniques such as relaxing the face, breathing deeply or counting to ten can buy just enough time to engage the brain. This key skill allows you to separate productive feelings from those that are emotionally reactive.

2. Feelings alert you to issues you might otherwise miss. I heard it over and over from leaders. When faced with a difficult decision, leaders paid attention to their own hesitation. “Something is bugging me.” “This is just not sitting right.” They described a nagging feeling that was….well, nagging. Effective leaders pay attention to that feeling. Then they dig in. What is the feeling? Where is it telling me to probe further? What other questions should I ask? They don’t necessarily seek more data. Instead they seek more insight about the context or impact of the decision. The nagging feeling points the way to issues that transcend mountains of data.

3. Feelings align decisions with values. Effective leaders are clear on their values and principles. These values ground their decision-making. Complex decisions frequently have great latitude and range of choice. Without values, it is hard to chart a course through an open sea of options. Leaders describe searching for and trusting in the decision that is in alignment with their value system – the decision that “just feels right.” They also point out the importance of having a personal value system that aligns with the company culture. In that case, they trust their feelings to guide them to the best solution for the company and for them.

4. Feelings point to the higher goal. Early in my career, I over-thought everything (before my recovery began). Every career choice was agony. Should I or shouldn’t I? Is now the best time for a change or later? Is this the best next step or not? Over and over the options tumbled in my mind. In one instance, by boss called. Others asked that she call and ask me to stay. Instead she said, “Follow your heart.” Over time, I learned to check in with and trust my feelings. My gut seems to instinctively know the choice that is best suited for me at a particular time. My biggest career decisions were made from the gut. It required courage and trust…and a lot of hard work, but each instance brought success and life-changing experiences. My boss was right. Today, my heart points to goals and my head manages the steps to reach it.

5. Feelings underpin authentic communication. What is it about some leaders that make them seem more attentive and more human? Research shows that leaders who are better listeners are viewed as having more charisma. These leaders do more than listen for facts, dates, and results. They listen for and hear feelings. They pick up on the atmosphere in the room, the tone of voice, the comfort or discomfort of the other person. They validate discussion content and feelings – proud, frustrated, exhausted, striving. It’s the feeling that makes real communication happen between person to person instead of from boss to employee.

The next time you try to push your feelings aside…stop. Consider the wisdom they bring, unravel their message and put them to work to create more effective leadership.



It’s a cold winter’s day and the fireplace is blazing.  Yellow flames grasp upward and their heat warms the room.  It’s the gas fireplace in my living room. Down the road the fireplace is blazing at my friend’s house.  Yellow flames grasp upward, heat warms the room and the burning logs crackle and pop as the embers fall under the grate. It’s a “real” fireplace. While both functionally use produce heat from fire to warm the room, the experience of the real fireplace is different. Many would say that there’s no substitute for a “real” fireplace.

Similarly, every day as we communicate with others, we choose whether to communicate via email or voice-to-voice.  In both situations, we use words to share information but the experience of voice-to-voice communication is different. As an insightful leader, you need to know when you use each approach.

Email is quick and easy, like my gas fireplace. Most of us use email as an easy and quick way to communicate and, for some needs, email is the perfect tool. In fact, we couldn’t do without it. But sometimes, email is not the best fit. Email can create more harm than good.

Email is your best choice anywhere simple communication is appropriate, the opportunity for misunderstanding is small, and the situation requires little nuance.  Use email to:

  • coordinate schedules for meetings or events
  • distribute meeting agendas
  • confirm action items
  • summarize key discussion points
  • relay short, simple or low-sensitivity messages
  • document conversations, meetings or events to serve as a record
  • distribute technical information or other data such as specifications, price quotes or reports
  • disseminate a non-critical message to many recipients (such as, holiday greetings, thank yous)
  • solicit input for future discussion

Voice-to-voice communication provides opportunity for nuance. My friend’s wood-burning fireplace is, admittedly, more time consuming, messier and requires frequent caretaking. And, it provides a more complete fireplace experience. Talking in-person and, to some extent, talking on the phone, allows a more complete communication experience. Voice-to-voice, we pick up subtleties and the intangible factors that can make or break good communication. Tone, volume, pace, urgency, facial expressions, and body position all provide additional communication clues. That’s why voice-to-voice communication is essential for any situation where nuance is key, multiple interpretations are possible and where emotional reaction can sway the outcome.  Use voice-to-voice for

  • conversations to reach complex decisions
  • performance feedback and mentoring conversations
  • discussion of goals and objectives
  • sensitive subjects
  • confidential information
  • delivery of good or bad news with significant implications
  • personnel issues or disciplinary action
  • topics that need full understanding, discussion and interaction

Like the “real” fireplace, voice-to-voice conversations take more energy than email. However, just as there’s no substitute for a “real” fireplace, there’s no substitute for a “real” conversation when the situation calls for it.

Use your insight to assess when you need “real” discussion. Then, make the time and bring the energy to engage and connect.

Photo Credit: Romolo Tavani