Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone is Changing Adolescent Girls Lives

By Linda Alepin and Moiyattu Banya-Keister

Edited by Maame Afon Yelbert-Sai

The teenage years are known for being emotionally trying times. The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated young people making the emotional maturing process even more difficult. One organization, Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone (GESL), is taking bold action to transform the teenage years’ experience. They have created a holistic curriculum and processes that allow critical conversations about mental health and well-being to occur in safer spaces for young women. 

Key Data

According to 2019 data from UNICEF[1], one in seven adolescents experience mental health conditions. The true burden of mental health disorders among adolescents globally could be direr than estimates suggest. The report emphasizes that increased data and evidence on mental health among adolescents, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, is urgently needed since they are at higher risk due to their economic condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation for adolescents.[2]

As a country, Sierra Leone is experiencing a mounting mental health crisis brought on by the four-fold effects of the ten-year civil war and its associated violence, the Ebola epidemic, recurring mudslides /flash flood, and the Covid pandemic. What country and its people can endure all these calamities without it impacting their mental well-being? Multiple physical, emotional, and social challenges, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, are resultant of the succession of crises faced over the years. Prolonged school lockdowns resulted in lower levels of peer engagement further contributing to poor mental health for youth.

Promoting psychological well-being and protecting adolescents from adverse experiences and risk factors will positively impact their potential to thrive, yet Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) and Wellbeing Care Development (WCD) have yet to be activated. Furthermore, propositions about ways, systems, and structures to respond to the huge treatment gap are missing.

What action is GESL taking? Diagram

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With a grant from the International Women Leaders for the World Fund (I-WLWF), GESL is teaching teen girls about mental health and wellbeing, thereby giving them building blocks to maturity. In January 2021, GESL launched its Sister Circle Solution program with the aim of supplementing its many programs aimed at transforming the teenage girls’ experience. Early months in the project focused on enrolling five partner schools, recruiting ten Wellness Ambassadors, contracting with an expert course developer, and designing an age-appropriate curriculum. By May, despite the difficulties of operating with numerous Covid-19 roadblocks, the first training sessions for the Wellness Ambassadors were held. Shortly thereafter, the first circles at Freetown schools were convened. Using their own lunchtime, eighteen young women would meet with the two leaders in a circle to discuss parts of the curriculum. Each session was designed for thirty minutes with four sessions planned per month. The discussions were conducted in English.A person holding a sign

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            What happens during the course? 

Module 1 helps the Ambassadors to create a safer space for conversation, overviews the flow of the course, and defines mental wellbeing. This is inclusive of:

  • Understanding mental health and wellbeing
  • General signs of poor mental health and wellbeing
  •  Physical, social, and emotional effects of poor mental health and wellbeing
  • Ways to deal with basic mental health or wellbeing challenges

In addition, each young woman signs a “sisterhood contract”. 

            Module 2 teaches the young women to identify impending crises with a focus on effective response and basic coping skills such as getting enough rest, eating healthy foods regularly, talking to and spending time with family, friends, and other trusted allies. It covers:

  • Understanding what a crisis situation is all about
  • The effects of crisis situations
  • Coping strategies for positive mental health and wellbeing
  • Self and community response plus self and community care in crisis situations.

            Module 3 is focused on how to engage community support for help. Lessons include:

  • Understanding what community support and help seeking behaviors entail
  • Basic principles of community support and help seeking behaviors in crisis situations
  • Watching for and protecting girls from abuse during community programs and events
  • Basic relaxation skills for self and community careA picture containing text, indoor, wall, person

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Upon graduation, each young woman receives a certificate and food for their families.

What has been learned?

            Before the project, it was known that conversations about mental health are new to the country.  They were only accessible to the elite and were only provided by some of the international non-governmental organizations like the World Health Organization. When mental health emergencies occur, there are no support systems, particularly for young women.  GESL saw an opportunity to create a new generation of young people who are intentional about their mental health and can influence their communities. 

            While the training of the Ambassadors went smoothly, GESL had under-estimated the need for direct staff support. GESL hired a mental health curriculum developer with extensive experience in the Sierra Leone context. Given the nascent nature of this topic, much of the content and vocabulary were new to the girls; it took more time than anticipated for it to be digested.  For the first sister circles, GESL staff members participated alongside the Ambassadors and assisted them in teaching the material.

            The girls brought a lot of creativity to the program — they wrote songs, poetry, and drew pictures to increase their absorption of the concepts. 

            Some of the wellness ambassadors had this to say:

            Miatta Lamin – “I have learned to keep my emotions in check to help me identify mental health triggers. Also, I have learned that young girls like me; need to be able to identify mental health triggers as well. I plan to start a sister circle group in my village when I go for holidays. Other young girls should experience what I have learned as well.’’

Hawa Kamara – “During the sessions I was able to learn a lot about mental well-being. Initially, when I heard about mental health issues, I thought it only referred to ‘mad’ people. Now I know it is important for everyone especially adolescent girls to take care of their mental wellbeing.’’A person holding a certificate

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            What next?

            GESL and I-WLWF have high hopes for expanding the program.  GESL will be submitting a request for a 2022 sustaining grant that will allow them to engage schools outside of Freetown.  What is learned through the next phase may eventually be turned into a worldwide effort. 


About Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone (GESL)

GESL is a holistic girls driven organization that nurtures and transforms girls into social change agents.  It offers programs that foster self-development, leadership, advocacy, social change, wellness education and well-being.  GESL offers comprehensive year-round support and programming to girls while giving them the knowledge, tools, resources, and networks to make an impact in their own lives and their communities.

GESL provides self-development and empowerment programs for communities led by school going girls to bring out their leadership potential, develop their skills, ensure safe space for sisterhood and peer to peer learning, and provide enrichment opportunities for their future growth and learning.

GESL is intentional about keeping girls in school. GESL does this through an innovative self-development and knowledge hub that focuses on these key programmatic areas — leadership and self-development, wellbeing both mental and physical skills development, academic and career focused enrichment, and at the community and national level activism. Through its many innovative programs, GESL has directly impacted a total of 250 girls and indirectly 2000+ girls.

More about GESL can be found at

About International Women Leaders for the World Fund (I-WLWF)

I-WLWF is a donor-advised fund that provides resources to established women leaders working to transform their communities in Asia and Africa. It envisions vibrant and sustainable communities mobilized by whole women leaders. It fosters inclusive communities where women-led organizations are able to

  • Access relevant resources, support, and expertise
  • Work collaboratively to amplify their impact
  • Share their learning globally

More can be found at our website ( or our Instagram account ( Join us on Facebook or Mighty Networks.

To donate to the 2021 fundraising campaign, go to The fund is hosted by the King Baudouin Foundation United States. 

About Women Leaders for the World (WLW)

            WLW is a transformational leadership education program originally launched by the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN). The program consists of classroom instruction plus ongoing coaching and advising. Its goal is to accelerate women’s leadership so that ripples of local impact create waves of global change. It is now managed by How Women Lead (HWL),



Int’l Women Leaders for the World fund

Many of you know me – Linda Alepin, a co-founder of the Global Women’s Leadership Network.

Giving basic food stuffs

Over the almost 15 years that I served that organization, I was privileged to meet many magnificent leaders from around the world.  Every one of them lives in my heart.

This summer, I decided to start a Donor Advised Fund to benefit the international graduates of the Women Leaders for The World transformational leadership education program.  I did this in part because of the stories I was hearing about their organizations pivoting to help with COVID relief.

In some countries like Nepal, there was severe economic impact from the collapse of the tourist trade.  In others, lack of a clean water and soap hampered efforts to avoid COVID infections.  Hunger was already present then and continues to grow to this day.

The needs sounded urgent and I knew that only 2% or less of U.S. donations are made to international organizations.  Maybe less with growing needs here.

Fast forward to December.  We have had 15 different organizations submit grant requests – every one of them is compelling and relates to saving lives.  Unfortunately, current donations will only allow us to respond to 2, or perhaps, 3 of their grant requests.  I can assure you that small grants have a disproportionate impact through these worthy grassroots organizations.  

So, this is an appeal to you for donations.  Many of you who have generously responded to my requests in the past.  The donor advised fund is established at the highly regarded King Baudouin Foundation in New York City. 

I assure you that no donation is too small and that every donation is appreciated.

Join me in bringing COVID relief to many around the world through the graduates of Women Leaders for the World. 

Donate HERE:

Here is a recording of this message:

The Impact Report

By Linda Lubin Thompson

Do you believe that if you work hard and do a good job that rewards—recognition, bonuses, promotion—will follow?

Sadly, many people find that unless they tout their accomplishments, these may be ignored, or at most recognized briefly and then forgotten. With the pace of today’s society, it’s easy to see how this can happen.

How can you ensure that not only your work but also the impact of that work is recognized and valued?

One simple tool is the Impact Report.  You can use it to describe your accomplishments in terms of what greater goal they achieve.  It answers the “So What?” question, as in, “Ok you did that. So what? How does it contribute to your department’s goals, to your manager’s goals, to the business? What does it allow for or make possible going forward?”

Contributions to an organization’s goals are important in all sectors – for-profit, non-profit, academic, etc.

You fill in each of these three columns in the Impact Report:

Result “SO WHAT?”

What will this allow for?

What will it enable / make possible?

Next steps

Most of the time when we report on our accomplishments, we only use column one.  We simply list what we have done—our results. And sometimes we will say what we will do next.  But the real impact, the “yes, you did that but what does it mean?” is often lost. The closer we can get to quantifying our answer to, “What will it allow for/enable/make possible?” the more clearly others and ourselves see the impact on the mission.

For example, if you solved a difficult customer problem, “what that allows for” could include increased future sales, a referenceable account, information back to your company that could prevent such problems occurring in the future.  This goes in column two.

And if you ask again, ”Well, what will that allow for?”: future sales increases revenue and growth, a referenceable account means increased reputation and encourages prospects to become customers, and prevention of the problem occurring again increases productivity and saves money.

If you work for a food bank and invent a new way of storing produce so that it does not spoil, you have increased the amount of food available to your clients.  Well, “what will that allow for?”:  healthier people, less hunger, less waste.

This process takes some thought.  Every result should be able to connect to the overall goals.  If it does not, then maybe it is not necessary.  (An exception to this may be regulatory requirements, but even those lead to saving money on audits and protecting company reputation).

Column three, Next Steps, flows naturally from the results and their impact.

There are two effects of clarifying the benefits of your work.  First, the person receiving the report understands more clearly the impact on the organization.  Second, and a very powerful outcome, is that you feel that what you do has meaning and value.  You know your results are integral to the success of your organization and, perhaps, society.

So, record and communicate not just your results, but what they make possible for your team, your company, and the world.

Linda Lubin Thompson is the founder of L2T Leadership Development.  You can read her LinkedIn profile HERE.

A Leader Who Builds Effective Leaders

An Article about Linda Lubin Thompson by Linda Alepin and Barbara Key

Leaders in government, industry, academia, and non-profits have many accountabilities – financial goals, visions for the future, responsible governance, etc.  Among the most important, however, is their duty to develop their employees — to create new leaders — to grow a healthy organization with skilled, resourceful, innovative, and effective leaders.

Linda Lubin Thompson of L2T Leadership Development ( is an expert in helping people to do just that.  In particular, she enjoys focusing her passion and talent on helping organizations to develop leaders just below the executive level and women at all levels.

What approaches does she take to assist people in growing and reaching their full potential?

She starts by asking her clients questions like –

  • What are you most proud of in your career?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • What do you want your legacy to be in three to five years?

Their answers reveal what they care most deeply about.

Linda does not stop there.  She challenges people to face their issues and find their own answers.  She encourages people to reframe their experiences, to open new possibilities through interpretation and choice.  She stimulates practicing, refinement, and mastery of new capabilities.

She provides practical, behavioral, easy to understand, “applicable to my job” tools that allow people to demonstrate leadership practices in their daily work. She compares this to following a recipe.  The first time, you do all the steps in order, and then, after tasting the results, you may add an ingredient, change an amount, heat a longer or shorter time—to make the recipe as successful as possible for you, your style, and your preferences.

The accompanying column in this newsletter describes one of those tools — the Impact Report[1].

Linda notes that “Clients, especially women, do not always get the recognition they deserve and do not know how to get it without feeling like they are boasting.  The Impact Report helps them describe their accomplishments in terms of what it makes possible for the business, the “so what” of their work.” It is not, however, only a tool for women – many of Linda’s male clients report finding it is a valuable way for a team to clearly see their accomplishments.

She leads people to understand their strengths and to solicit/value the advice of others.  Her approaches make it easier to be a leader when you do not know everything yourself or must make decisions with incomplete information.

Creating leaders can be among the most rewarding experiences in life.  As a coach, Linda has had the opportunity to watch people grow and take pride in the results they have generated.  Those leaders, in turn, will create more leaders of effective organizations all over the world.

Can you imagine working with a coach like Linda to increase your impact?

[1] Adapted from the “Register for Accomplishment” used by the Generative Leadership Group in the 1990s.

Model the Way

model the way 2019-12-21By Linda Alepin and Barbara Key

Leadership Challenge® by Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes is recognized as one of the top 100 best business books.  Based on hundreds of thousands of interviews, it introduces five practices that can give everyone access to being an exemplary leader.  The first of those practices is Model the Way.

Step one in modeling the way is to clarify your values.  Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.

What do you care about?  Personally?  Organizationally?  Answering these questions can uncover true values.

You may identify a long list of what you care about; for example, relating to health, family, and community. What are the three most important values for you?

What are everyday examples from both your personal and organizational life that demonstrate your commitment to them?

These examples are the second step in modeling the way – living by them.

Values are your personal bottom line.  They influence every aspect of your life; e.g. moral judgments, commitments to personal & organizational goals, and the way you respond to others.  They serve as guides in action and set the parameters for the hundreds of decisions you make.  They tell you when to say yes and when to say no.

Step three is broadening personal care to the team level.  Sharing what you care about with your team builds trust because they learn about what is important to you and what that will mean for them when working with you.

The clearer you are about your values, the easier it is for you and everyone else to commit to the chosen path and to stay on it.  When there are daily challenges that can throw you off course, it is crucial that you have some way to tell which way is true north.  Your values are a compass with which to navigate the course of your daily life.

What steps will you take to apply your values in modeling the way in 2020?

Living Your Values

By Linda Alepin and Barbara KeyLynda 1

Lynda Haliburton, a Women Leaders for the World graduate from 2012, is clear about the purpose of her life’s journey – she is here to empower others.

She has been in service to others for years at City Team Ministries, San Jose State University’s (SJSU) Communicative Disorders and Sciences Department, and with Optimum Self Care, Anger/ Relationship/ Life Management using UpTalk. For thirty years, she has cared for her mother who has a disability.

Two of Lynda’s basic values are tenacity and commitment.  When asked about her “best” as a leader, she tells about the Mexican kitchen she helped to build. Lynda calls her story “No is Nothing”.

Her church was affiliated with a small town in Mexico where many people were fed from a community kitchen.  The kitchen had no floor, no roof, and very little equipment.  Lynda took on the challenge of getting a complete kitchen built.  At the beginning, Lynda had no idea how to accomplish this.  She started by enlisting the help of a friend in the U.S. who belonged to Rotary.

Rotary needed a contractor to give an estimate of what the construction would cost.  Lynda, with only basic Spanish skills, reached out to a woman in the village.  The woman stood outside a contractor’s office day after day being ignored – a silent form of “no”.  Finally, the woman’s tenacity and commitment were noticed by the owners of the construction firm and they gave her a quote.

Lynda took this back to Rotary, only to find that a lot more detail was needed and that it was not possible for them to financially back the project.

Lynda did not accept this “no”, either.  Her passion for the people who needed daily meals propelled her to find other financial means.  Eventually, a proper kitchen was built and today continues to serve hundreds of meals each week.

Through this process, she developed as a leader.  Now, she engages others in what she terms her five “pillars” – love, nurture, environment, covering, and purpose.  These are the foundation for a group of caregivers who send text messages of support to each other every day.

She recognizes the almost unlimited influence that each of us can have.  Many days, she wears a bracelet on each wrist.  The one with the small beads is her former self and the ones with the larger beads represent her leadership today.   You can view the interview of Lynda at  You can see her lovely bracelet reminders.

Creating Tech Women for the World

By Linda Alepin and Barbara Key

Deanna Kosaraju epitomizes being a global leader.  As she said in her interview with us (, she moved from trying to plan a San Jose-based conference for women to launching a global conference using technology.

The Global Tech Women’s Voices Conference has been named by The Muse as one of the top four conferences in the world for tech women.  It focuses on finding solutions to the gender gap and building an international community of women.

As her Global Tech Women website ( says their goals are to —

1.  Decrease isolation, provide role models and create consistent support structures.

2. Create a goal-oriented network because technical women are all as unique as they are spectacular. What works for me may not work for you.

3. Provide each woman with a roadmap for personal advancement and career objectives based on her own definition of success.

Deanna shares leadership by involving ambassadors from multiple cultures who promote individual and corporate activities to fulfill these goals.  She states in her interview that such lofty aspirations need to be achieved through teamwork.

At the foundation of Deanna’s leadership are these beliefs:

  • Everyone has a dream, just as she had a dream to develop a worldwide movement of women in technology
  • Successful organizations are inclusive and collaborative
  • The best environments are places where people can learn and grow

When asked who she acknowledges in the world, she recognized many people.  Most notable among them was an Indian event planner who taught her that the way to run successful conferences in India was not necessarily the same as her experience in the United States.

Who is Deanna Kosaraju? 

She is the founder and CEO of Global Tech Women, a network of women in technology offering resources, inspiring role models, mentoring and creating communities in every corner of the globe. She has worked with hundreds of companies, large and small – such as IBM, Microsoft, Intel, State Farm Insurance and Google, on diversity efforts that led to increased productivity, innovation, profitability and greater employee engagement.

Before founding Global Tech Women, Deanna was the VP of Programs for the Anita Borg Institute (ABI). She was responsible for growing the Grace Hopper Celebration in the U.S. and was the founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration in India — starting the first network for women in computing there. Deanna was one of those responsible for the 2011 launch of TechWomen, a Silicon Valley-based mentoring program for women in the Middle East and North Africa, created in partnership with the U.S. State Department and IIEE.

Linda Alepin, a resident of Tucson and a member of AZ Tech Council, and Barbara Key are founders of You as a Global Leader, a transformational leadership organization.  See

A Revolution in Leadership

By Linda Alepin and Barbara Key

Leaders and leadership practices are responding to the acceleration of complexity in our world.

Are you a part of this revolution?  If so, where are you on your journey?

This article highlights three current trends in leadership that are part of the revolution.  As you read this article, ask yourself the question, “How have I adopted or am I adopting one or more of these futuristic approaches?

The leadership trends are:

  • Generative/Transformational
  • Conscious
  • Global

Generative/Transformational Leadership

This type of futuristic leader is one who creates contexts for stimulating innovation.  Further, she/he focuses on forming diverse communities of commitment that can operationalize those innovations.

What conversations start people thinking innovatively?

Leaders start conversations about “big hairy audacious goals”.  They encourage the generation of new ideas and creative approaches.  They help people recognize their limiting beliefs and assumptions – their “cultural blindness”.  Once these roadblocks to innovative thinking have been recognized, new visions for the future are formulated based on what people care about.

The conversations around vision and caring are amplified by generating possibilities for moving forward and identifying the first actions to be taken.  The “transformation” part of this approach to leadership is taking new actions aligned with visions and values even under the same old pressures.[1]

Another characteristic of this type of leadership is that, “leadership is occurring at all levels of the organization: affected by the people involved, their situations, and their influences on each other.[2]  Communities of commitment are formed.  These are “groups of like-minded people who are relating to each other in a supportive, direct and conscious way”.[3]  They are committed to achieving shared visions.

Here are a few actions one could take today to be a more generative leader:

  • Ask a co-worker what they care most about at work and in life
  • Discover one stereotype you hold that produces cultural blindness
  • Identify one community of commitment you belong to and your role in it

Conscious Leadership

“We define conscious leadership as standing for living and working more consciously while committing ourselves to be 100% responsible for the impact we have in the world.”[4]

As a conscious leader, one might notice the constant pull to buy new, shiny products and decide to resist this culturally embedded impetus.  One might notice that a person in a meeting has been quiet and ask them to share their thoughts.  One might be aware of people with whom they avoid collaborating.

Jennifer Cohen suggests some ways to be a more conscious leader today:[5]

  • Cultivate self-awareness – be more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and motives
  • Adopt a practice of self-care like meditation – quieting the mind
  • Be intentionalbring intention to everything you do
  • Practice the four agreements by Ruiz
    • Be impeccable with word
    • Take nothing personally
    • Avoid making assumptions
    • Always do your best

Susan Taylor, CEO, Generon International, and Forbes Councils member has suggested some questions that one might ask oneself:

  • Do I want to live the rest of my life playing out yet another variation of contemporary leadership values and actions?
  • Am I willing to test the boundaries of my self-worldview to glimpse a larger, perhaps very different universe of leadership capability?
  • Am I willing to take risks for the possibility of new understanding, knowing there is no money-back guarantee?”

Global Leadership

And now, we overlay “global” on top of these ways of leading.  Until just a few years ago, only multinational companies had to worry about this.  Now, with instantaneous communications and global supply chains, every part of society is becoming more global.

Most authorities agree that a true global leader has a global mindset—“the ability to influence individuals, groups, organizations, and communities that have different intellectual, social and psychological knowledge and experience from your own.”[6]

How diverse is the group that you work with from the standpoint of intellectual, social and psychological knowledge?  How effective are you in leading those who are very different from you?

Stephen Cohen goes on to identify four overall skills of global leaders[7].  They are —

  • Think globally
  • Appreciate cultural diversity, including communication tendencies
  • Build partnerships and alliances
  • Share leadership

So, a global leader thinks about issues from a global perspective whether climate change, violence against women, an equal representative in governing bodies, pay equity, etc.  They make a choice as to whether global or local factors are involved.

A global leader has an appreciation for different cultures and the impact on decisions such as how people from different cultures build trust for one another.[8]  A global leader is an expert in building teams across various cultures and sharing leadership with others in many countries.

Actions to begin to think more as a global leader include:

  • Determining your own basis for granting trust to someone
  • Identifying an area where you want to add your influence at a global level
  • Talking to one person who was born in another culture to discover how they define leadership
  • Examining your thinking – when is it local or global?


Leadership has many facets.  Hopefully, this article has led to more questions than answers.  That, however, is the very nature of leadership.

[1] Strozzi Institute

[2] Evolution of Leadership Theory, Albert S. King

[3] Peter Block

[4] Conscious Leadership Guild,

[5] 5 Ways to Be a Conscious Leader by Jennifer Cohen

[6] Effective global Leadership Requires a Global Mindset, Stephen L. Cohen

[7]Effective global Leadership Requires a Global Mindset, Stephen L. Cohen

[8] Cultural Dimensions, Collectivism, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, G. Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, 2nd Edition, 2001

Our Conversations Create Our Results

Once a human being has arrived on this earth, communication is the largest single factor determining what kinds of relationships she makes with others and what happens to her in the world about her. Virginia Satir

Most of us struggle with habitual thinking and speaking patterns. We talk to ourselves in ways that hold us back from taking on unfamiliar challenges or stepping into new opportunities.  A common habitual pattern is to lead with what is wrong or complain without taking action. When these conversation patterns repeat day after day, they limit our ability to accomplish what really matters. You can change your conversations to create a breakthrough in personal and team performance.

The quality of your everyday experience is a function of the conversations you’re having. We choose what we say. We craft conversations that move us and others forward or slow things down. What we say and don’t say (both in our heads and in the world) is a choice we make every day, many many times a day.

Do you ever find yourself caught in conversations that bring you down, derail relationships, stop progress on important projects, prevent resolution to sticky problems? Notice when your comments slip into a familiar negative groove. Since we are the ones who said it, we can instead connect to our passion to make a difference, crafting a conversation that matches the contribution we want to make, and the world we want to live in.

I am honored to consult with leaders and their organizations that have a powerful sense of mission. Sometimes, when a team that is floundering, I use this approach. Try it for yourself. Write down the phrases you heard in the last couple of days on one side of the page, with room to write a more generative version down the other side. Speak them out loud (they often sound quite silly). Then, write replacement phrases down the other side, phrases that match your deepest commitments. Repeat the new conversation patterns out loud. They will feel awkward at first. Practice is key – write them, sing them(!), repeat them again and again until a new groove is established.

Our internal conversations can be automatic, which repeat the past, giving us the life and results we already have. Or our internal conversation can be generative, creating a new future, producing new results and the life we most want to live.

Habitual or automatic conversations stop action. They slow things down, move things backward, and set up limits, shrinking the solution space. We get stuck in what isn’t happening, where the problems are, the gaps, or what we wished was different. We feel we are not responsible, victims or martyrs, someone else needs to make this work, reiterating some version of “I can’t do anything to change this.”.

Research shows that we don’t live as much in our life as we do in our conversations. Changing our conversations gives rise to breakthroughs in both personal and team performance. The generating power of our life force is set free to contribute to our community or company. Crafting a conversation that expresses what really matters opens possibilities, attracting collaborators and opportunities. Plus, life begins to be a whole lot more fun.

Karen Wilhelm Buckley, Communicore, is an Executive Coach and Consultant to leaders and their organizations. Her clients develop wise leadership – the skills, strategies and presence to cultivate committed performance and effectively drive change.  Her website is

Karen designs focused authentic dialogue that results in extraordinary action. Addressing underlying restrictions while amplifying the best of what is working, she facilitates breakthrough change in leaders, key meetings, and across companies.

Karen is a published author and experienced speaker and leads an annual wisdom retreat in Hawaii for women leaders.

By Transforming His Conversations, He Changed His Results

This is a case study by Karen Wilhelm Buckley

Authentic personal authority comes from choosing to speak in a way that expresses your choice to create a new future – powerfully, directly, with a clear purpose and profound care.

This is an amazing success story about a highly motivated manager. He transformed his daily results by changing his conversation, both in his head and with others.

The Operations Manager in a small but fast-moving firm of 120 employees, struggled professionally with a certain gloomy resignation. He had a good job and great family but a morose attitude at work that dragged everybody down. You could hear it in his conversations.

His “something is wrong again” comments gave him the nickname of Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne created Eeyore the donkey with classic lines like, “If it’s a good morning, which I doubt.” “I’d say it’s thistles, but nobody listens to me, anyway.”

The COO position was opening up in two years, but his habitual conversation patterns meant that no one thought he was capable of moving up in the company. He was seen as a good soldier but not a good leader. He was seen as a sturdy sort, trudging along to get the job done. The way he pointed out what was wrong instead of acknowledging what worked led to turnover, lack of confidence from his boss, and feedback from colleagues that he wasn’t a team player.

He needed help and his boss called me to begin an Executive Coaching Program. She wasn’t sure change was possible, but since he was “such a nice guy” she wanted to give him one last chance with active support.

Since he didn’t believe the change was possible, we started by leveraging his strengths – his focus on what isn’t working. First assignment: A checklist – to track each day how often he said a variation of, “there’s nothing I or anyone can do about this.” He enrolled his boss to alert him if he said it and didn’t notice. Shocked at the length of the list, the way this phrase or something like it dominated conversations, he admitted that his internal thoughts were 10 times more than what he said out loud.

We discussed what he does want and spent time crafting phrases that more accurately matched his heartfelt commitment to the company, his team and to smooth running operations.

The change didn’t come easily; the new phrases felt awkward, although they felt honest. He began to see the possibility of change and started practicing the new phrases at home, in the car driving to work, in his mind until he could use them fluently 5-6 times a day.

We also changed his internal conversation to focus on what is working. As he began to change his thought patterns, he saw how much more he wanted to accomplish. In meetings, his conversations began to move things forward. His comments to the team encouraged people and accelerated the right actions.

He always held strong convictions. But they were buried under his habitual conversations. Now he became a visible stand for effectiveness. Now he knew how to choose language that showed his committed engagement, reinforced priorities, and fortified company values.

As he spoke forthrightly about what he will do (rather than being in a complaint about what can’t be done), he connected more with others and trust in his leadership bloomed. With a lighter heart, his personal happiness grew. Others witnessed his new-found stability and within two years he was chosen as successor to the COO. He’d transformed his conversations to change his results and as we ended our coaching year, he promised to carry this forward throughout his career.

Karen Wilhelm Buckley, Communicore, is an Executive Coach and Consultant to leaders and their organizations. Her clients develop wise leadership – the skills, strategies, and presence to cultivate committed performance and effectively drive change.

Karen designs focused authentic dialogue that results in extraordinary action. Addressing underlying restrictions while amplifying the best of what is working, she facilitates breakthrough change in leaders, key meetings, and across companies.

Karen is a published author and experienced speaker and leads an annual wisdom retreat in Hawaii for women leaders.  Her website is