High integrity vs High expertise

Are you looking for integrity or expertise? 

If you’re trying to hire someone on a tight budget or in a competitive market you’re going to end up with a lot of candidates that fall into one of two categories:

  1. High expertise / low integrity – These people know a lot about the subject you need help with, but they aren’t very reliable. Either they have a long turnaround time, some character flaws or their work is uneven. 
  2. High integrity / low expertise – These people are hard workers, they strive to meet deadlines, and will be honest, but often they don’t know a lot about the job you need done. 

Choosing between these people can be super challenging because you really want both. You want someone who knows a lot and is reliable, but very often these people are is short supply or very expensive to hire. 

So If you can’t have both which one do you choose? 

In most cases, the best answer is to hire the High integrity low expertise person. The reason is simple. Knowledge can be learned but integrity is hard to change. Some people will get better with the right incentives or the right coaching but people with character flaws and challenges are often reluctant to change. 

But high integrity people, people who do what they say they’re going to do, those people are pretty amazing. Because they can use that integrity to learn, grow, and become better. 

The only place where you should choose a high expertise low integrity person is when either:

  1. The role demands expertise and it demands it now
  2. You only need them for their expertise and not their execution

For example, let’s say you need someone to give you feedback on your speech. Working with a skilled speaker will make your speech much better, but if the only person you can find to help is a little flaky that’s ok. Make sure you figure out a fast and simple way to get their feedback and give yourself enough time that they can cancel or delay. 

You can do something similar with programming. If you need really good code written it might be better to hire someone like them to start the code (create the framework) and then hire someone else to finish it in their style. 

Again this isn’t ideal but often if you think and strategize you can limit or compress your need for expertise instead of doing what I see a lot of people do, which is hire brilliant people and then try to wrangle and deal with their difficult personalities. 

I know it may take longer, but generally, it will still be faster and less stressful if you limit your exposure to low-integrity people and only rely on them when you absolutely need to. 

It’s a simple lesson, but one that I’ve seen a lot of founders and entrepreneurs have to make again and again.


Is God or the Buddha in the room with you? 

What is it that you want in the room with you when you’re making big choices about your business? 

For many leaders that I coach, the big things they want in the room with them are the right data or knowledge and their own instincts. 

They also love having me as a coach in the room with them because they see me as a sounding board. Someone who’s smart enough to get their ideas, but objective enough to challenge and push their thinking to a new level. 

But what they don’t always realize is that we’re not in the room alone. If I’m in the room, the Buddha is in the room too. Not that I’m the Buddha, far from it, but I try always to bring a bit of that stillness and Zen sensibility into the space with us. 

And I think that’s more vital than most people realize. Yes knowledge in the room, yes instincts, yes some crazy wisdom, but don’t we want God in the room with us? Don’t we want the one bright mind of the Buddha? Or the brilliance of Saraswati?

Our work may be of this world, but your calling is so much deeper. It’s a calling to serve and create something that matters. And even if all you have is a sliver of the divine don’t you want it in the room with you? Don’t you want it sitting with you as you decide which direction to go? 

So how do you do this? 


  • Create some space for silence when you’re making a big choice or contemplating your next move
  • Let go of thinking and sink into your body, feel the energy that flows through you
  • Offer a prayer or ask for guidance as you make a choice, even if you don’t know who or what you’re speaking to
  • Be open to the possibility of guidance from something outside of yourself as you chart your path
  • Imagine a mentor you value in the room with you sitting quietly in the corner listening

Maybe this feels too woo woo or maybe it speaks to something you’ve always felt, but it’s so simple to start bringing it in. And even if all it brings you is a little more peace and clarity of mind, isn’t that alone worth it? 

When you make big choices who do you want in the room with you? 

Think beyond the people in your life to the energy that helps you be as wise as possible. 




Leadership: The Secret Existential Crisis Entrepreneurs Never Talk About

At some point in your journey as an entrepreneur, if you’re lucky, you’re going to face an existential crisis. It’s something few of us talk about but many of us have faced. But if you know it’s coming and you’re prepared, you can get through it with as little pain as possible.

You see . . .

When you start a business or side hustle your work is about two things
Doing great work and/or providing a valuable service or product
Finding customers and helping them understand the value of what you have to offer

These two things are not small, easy, or simple to figure out, but they are at least straightforward. Your work needs to be good and you need customers who see that…

But as you grow and get more customers, offer more complex services, and start to hire people to support you or do some of the work for you, your role begins to change.

You go from being a person who does great work to being a person who creates great work.

And this transition is challenging. Doing great work is simple, you sit down and do your best. Creating great work is more complicated, you are planning, leading, and assuring that great work is getting done.

The skills are different, the former is about keeping track and executing. The latter is about defining and communicating what is good, and then making sure “good” is happening.

I remember when I worked as a house manager at a music venue and the boss asked me to come downstairs. “What’s wrong with this picture?” I looked and everything looked fine to me. “It’s too bright in here,” she clapped back in my silence. “Oh?”

“How dark should it be?” She groaned and lowered the lights. “I can’t tell you everything, you’re just going to have to figure it out.”

I felt discouraged. What she was saying was somewhat helpful. Most places lower the lights at a certain time of night. It increases the vibe, encourages people to buy drinks, and makes it feel less harsh when you come in from the night. But it’s not something I had ever thought about before.

It was good she wanted to teach me, but this was the WORST way to do it. Instead of helping me learn and giving me some guidelines, she just got mad at me. What was OBVIOUS to her was NOT obvious to me.

This is essentially a failure in leadership and it’s something I see founders, entrepreneurs, and owners do ALL the time with new team members.

It all starts with What Can’t They Just!

Often when I listen to founders and entrepreneurs complain about their team members at some point they’ll say Why Can’t They Just . . .
Send me the updates I need
Answer this email
Make a decision on their own

The underlying assumption is that other people SHOULD think like you think. They should be capable, they should be leaders, and they should know what you know and act how you act.

But if your team simply duplicates your skill then
You need more skills
You’re not hiring the right people

The best people bring new ideas and talents to the table. The best people approach problems differently. The best people create things but not the way you will.

The hard thing for most leaders is that they don’t understand how to get good work out of people who are different from them.

So they expect what they would produce and then get upset when they don’t get it.

Next Level Leadership

This isn’t really leadership it’s cloning.
So if you want to be a better leader you’re going to have to let go of this strategy.

The question you should ask yourself is how do I get the best work out of the people I have?
NOT how do I get them to think like me?

The reason why this is so hard for most leaders is that it requires a shift in identity.

You start with the identity of I’M GREAT AT DOING THIS

And that shift in identity is hard.

It’s why so many founders end up writing code, getting on sales calls, or micro-managing people on their team.

They don’t trust what other people do and they are unwilling to let anyone else be better than they are.

So as you grow your business get ready for this.


It’s a key initiation as a leader. And a threshold you need to cross if you want to truly become a great leader.


Your Urgency Is Made Up—2 Steps to Being a Better Leader

Most of what you think is urgent isn’t urgent.

You don’t need to reply to that email.
You don’t need an update on that in the next 10 mins.
You don’t need to solve that problem on this call.

After working with hundreds of leaders I’ve noticed a pattern.

The most important and hardest problems never get dealt with.
Instead, what’s urgent gets dealt with instead of what is important.

And often why something is urgent is because the leaders think it’s urgent.

Partly this is due to how much founders and entrepreneurs have to get done.
Hell, it seems like we’ve ALL got a lot of things to get done.

The impact of this is that everything seems urgent.
Because you’re behind.
On everything.

So what’s the antidote?

It has two parts:

1) Space

Almost every leader that I’ve coached does better when they have space to step back and reflect. They begin to see the big problems and start dealing with them.

But creating space requires courage, it requires boundaries, it requires commitment.

If you want to be a better leader get ruthless with creating space.

2) Start Distinguishing Fear From Urgency

The other thing that makes leaders get urgent is if they’re anxious. They are worried that something is going to go wrong so they go looking for it. And like a dog hunting for a bone, they won’t give up until they’ve found something.

If you can simply notice when you’re afraid, you can work with your fear. It requires emotional intelligence and honesty, but it’s life-changing.

That’s it. If you just do these two things your leadership will get better and your urgency will go away. Ok maybe not completely but it will get less.

And the result will be a more grounded trustable version of you.


Offering a No From a Masculine Perspective

The feminine doesn’t like to hear the word no. Or at least the feminine in me doesn’t. It can get bratty, resistant, and even a bit defiant. And yet the feminine longs for a strong no, a no it can’t shake or get past.

Recently I did some work with other men, one of the men asked me to take on a practice. I said no. I felt him fully with my heart, I loved where he was asking from, but I was still a no.

It was perhaps the most powerful practice I have offered another man, my complete honest and loving no.

For the masculine the no can feel quite powerful, you draw a line, you put it forth with aggression NAY ANGER, your no is furious, full or power, and solid.

Or the no can be plaintive, rejecting, longing for freedom and throwing no’s like daggers of resentment.

But there is another way. A way to offer the no with love and clarity. A subtle sense that there will be aggression or stand if need be, but for now the no is offered, with an open heart and a strong back.

For a long time I felt afraid to offer my NO this way. I either threw it angrily or flopped it out on the table hoping no one would notice. I’m afraid my no would make her leave, make him mad, and make me bad.

So I hid my no until it became ferocious until my NO was scary enough to be listened to.

Slowly I have learned to see the gift in the NO. NO and I love you. NO and I’m not making you wrong for asking. NO and I mean it.

This gentle loving line, this supple stand, the clear and powerful offering of a NO to the feminine. The feminine may not ‘like’ it in every case, but it learns to trust it. As I have learned to trust my own masculine more and more.


Can You Help Me Meet Myself?

Can you help me meet myself?
Because that’s what you said
That we could never hope that someone would meet us
Not fully
That we could only
In the slow tenderness
Of long nights
And long cries
Meet ourselves

And so
If we’re no longer looking

For an empty piece
For a heart to match our own
For a forever person
Because nothing is forever

All we can ever really hope for
Is for someone to help us

Pick up the broken pieces of the mirror
That we’ve been cutting our fingers on
For so long
That we don’t even remember what a hand
Not covered
In dried or wet blood
Feels like any more

Can you help me?
Pick up these fragments
So softly
That I no longer cut myself

And turning the image
Towards my own tired eyes
Red from grief
Full on longing
And a glimmer of hope

So I can see myself
As you see me
As my friends see me
With love
And understanding

Can you help me?
Reach through
This shard of an image
To touch my own hand
And feel the softness of my own skin
And the warmth of my own heart

Can you help me?
Meet the me
That will show up with love
And give it
Even when I’m certain I’m not worthy
Even when you’ve left me
If even it’s simply to go on a trip
Or to the bathroom
Or for someone else
Or for a destination beyond the beyond

Can you help me?
As I help you
Arms entwined
Each with our own jagged edges
Looking at ourselves

Until we look up and notice each other
Meeting those me’s
And smile


Is it enough?

Each day
Waking to a question in my mind

Is it enough?

This body
with some muscles and some fat
some wrinkles creeping in around my eyes
some part of me leaking out when I don’t want

Is it enough?

This life of making coffee
doing work I love
but making less money than other people make
and more than many do
having less fame then other people have
and more than many do

Is it enough?

The noise of traffic outside
a few plates in the sink
things mostly in their place
but clutter too

Is it enough?

A walk with friend to pick up dinner
talking about things we’ve talked about before
and yet enjoying the new curiosity on old pages

Is it enough?

Knowing the I’ll get old and die
well actually not knowing about the old part

Knowing it will be forgotten
all the laughter and angst

Knowing the earth is getting hotter
that racism is still a thing
that I don’t respect our leaders

Is it enough even though it’s never enough,
more days
I could handle anyway
more money
than I could spend
more life then
I have stomach for

Is it enough?
And what if it was?


Accept It or Change it: Eliminate Suffering In Your Life

If the world were full of angels, or robots, or digital avatars things would have the possibility to be perfect. But the world for good or for ill (and often both) are filled with humans. Humans have the potential for other worldly creativity, love, passion, dedication, sacrifice, and possibility. But they have the equal potential for stagnation, hate, boredom, laziness, selfishness, and scarcity.

You can look at your own life and you can see both. Elements, moments, events, etc that show your divinity, your endless possibility . . . AND failures, bad habits, shameful episodes that show your frailty, fallibility, and even your dark evil parts.

Because of this we often encounter other people and people-created institutions that annoy or frustrate us. The DMV, tax bureaus, bosses, retail stores and clerks, and all sorts of other things. We often wish these things worked differently and so we commit a two way sin
We refuse to accept things the way they are
We have no clear commitment to change these things.

This is where suffering comes in. If we can accept things, even if they are bad, we can be at peace with them. Even if this takes time and work, acceptance is a powerful human trait.

And of course, there are some things we don’t want to and probably shouldn’t accept. If we’re unwilling to accept something our only other choice is to commit to changing it. If we don’t, we’re essentially committing to suffering.

Because A – Things don’t usually change on our time table and B – when we refuse to accept things that we aren’t working on we tend to get very whiny and victimy about those things.

Committing to changing something is daunting because a true commitment to change requires we meet the thing we want to change fully where it is and become responsible for it being or occurring differently to us regardless of other people, situations, circumstances, history, or habits.

And this is hard because we like to blame other people for showing up as humans (even as we ask forgiveness for how we show up that way) is one of our favorite things to do.

But all progress is dependent on people doing just that. Seeing what they can’t accept and working to change it despite the obstacles that arise.

So we’re back to our BIG choice again, do you accept it or do you commit to change it?

Because even if it doesn’t change, working to change it can give you meaning, drive, hope and possibility. And even though acceptance might be hard, accepting something that is can liberate you from the suffering attached to it.

So you’ve got to pick. Change it or accept it. And no matter which you choose, you will be literally creating your world from choice rather than from the resignation that suffering so often causes.


Is Luxury Stingy? Overpriced Hotels and Restaurants

I love staying at nice hotels, but often they feel like a ripoff.

While the La Quinta Inn in Walla Walla Washington offers free wifi, the Grand Hyatt in Los Angeles charges $5 a day.

While In and Out offers free refills on sodas, some five star restaurants charge you $2.00 for every glass you get.

The cost of hosting one more person on wifi or giving someone another $.05 glass of soda is marginal, but the impact is significant.

Maybe most people that go to nice restaurants and hotels don’t care about a dollar or two here or there. But for me instead of creating an experience of luxury, it creates an experience of stinginess. I start to feel like I’m getting nickeled and dimed, because that’s what’s happening.

Which makes me think about who I am as a leader and business owner. Because generosity (within reason) almost always leads to a sense of spaciousness and abundance. Whereas holding things tightly creates the opposite impact on both sides.

So the question is how do I want people to experience me as a leader. After all, the word of mouth created by my generosity is much less expensive than the cost of advertising.


How To Lead When Employees Disagree With COVID Policies

Sometimes when you’re a leader you get to decide the rules of your workplace and sometimes you don’t. This is especially true during the COVID pandemic. While some leaders own or operate their own businesses and can set their own policies, many leaders work inside larger organizations that set policies that you and the members of your team may agree or disagree with.

So what do you do when your company sets a COVID policy on masks or vaccinations some or many of your employees disagree with? The key is to be human and focus on the bigger issues behind the opinions.

Here are my best tips taken from years of coaching leaders to talk to their employees about charged topics, whether that has to do with disagreements around strategy or big personalities in the workplace.

1) Get good at helping people feel heard –

Despite how strongly members of your team may express themselves in most instances, what they really want is to be heard. I can’t even tell you how many conflicts I’ve resolved between team members on professional or personal issues, by just listening to them and asking them if they feel like their point of view has been heard.

Listen carefully to what they have to say.
Then reflect that back to them as closely as you can.
Bonus points for letting them know their feelings make sense. (Which can be true whether you agree with their point of view or not)

2) Encourage people to share about underlying feelings and desires –

Often when it comes to divisive topics the biggest disagreements come into the right strategy to take. But if you look underneath those strategies the feelings and needs are often very similar.

On both sides of masking and vaccinations is a desire for safety, autonomy, and respect. If you can get team members to share the feelings and desires underneath their positions you can often find common ground.

3) Help team members think of themselves as leaders vs factions –

A leader is someone who chooses to be responsible for what is happening around them. If you encourage members of your team to think of themselves as leaders who need to both: create safety, as well as, make sure everyone can come to work, you may be surprised by the solutions they come up with.

4) Remind people that safety is always hard to achieve –

At the root of much of the anxiety people feel is a desire to be safe, but two different types of safe. Real safety is hard to create in the world. We take risks all the time.

Instead of playing the safety game with your team, talk about the risks they are and aren’t willing to take. And why those choices matter to them. By moving them away from puritan or moralistic thinking you may be able to help them make choices that feel better for them without becoming polarized.

Final Thoughts –

With divisive topics like COVID or politics it may seem easier to try and avoid talking about them at all, but a good leader understands the need for healthy debate and even conflict. If you can foster an environment where people are welcome to share their concerns with you and you help them talk out how they can move forward with empathy and consider all sides of an issue, not only will they feel less stressed, you’ll also be helping them develop key leadership and team working skills at the same time.