Want Greater Success? Nurture Your Butterflies

Want Greater Success? Nurture Your Butterflies

Good leaders always strive to have butterflies in their stomach, says Kathleen L. Flanagan, president and chief executive of Abt Associates, a $450mm consultancy firm.

When we are out of our comfort zone, we have the greatest opportunity for success. It’s when we become complacent and run on auto-pilot that we as leaders are most at risk of failure.

In this interview in The New York Times, Kathleen describes her first big promotion, the first time she managed people, how she had butterflies in her stomach the entire first year, and how she ultimately learned to trust her gut.

Her advice is the same advice she heard from her first boss and mentor, the one who gave her that first job. “There is no blueprint, you have to make a plan and be goal oriented. Always have butterflies and always plan for success.”

To the advice she received from her former boss, Kathleen adds her own wisdom: Be flexible. Listen to people. Give them the opportunity to give feedback, tell you what worries them, what they are thinking about, what part of the strategy they think is risky.

As a leadership coach, I ask myself and you the following questions as we plan for 2012:

  • What is your vision for success?
  • What specific goals have you set to move toward your vision?
  • Are we taking the risks that create butterflies, and if not, why not?


Elisa K. Spain



Laws Of Success: When Is It the CEO's Job To Create Drama?

Laws Of Success: When Is It the CEO's Job To Create Drama?

Recently, one of our Vistage speakers, Don Schmincke, spoke to my CEO group on “Discovering The Leader’s Code:  Ancient Secrets For Executive Performance.”

The primary message Don drives home is the importance of having a positive Leadership Saga – because, in the absence of drama created by the leader, your team will create their own.

Supporting Don’s message, an article in the September 30 issue of Science describes the efforts of two sociologists at the University of Vermont who tried to better understand the rise and fall of people’s spirits. They studied the moods of 2.4 million people by analyzing the words they used in over 500 million tweets originating in 84 English-speaking countries over two years (February 2008 through January 2010).

What they found was a daily cycle of positive and negative feelings that seemed to apply consistently across cultures, geographies, and time zones. Around the world, people’s positive moods peaked in the morning (6-9 a.m.), dropped through the day until reaching a trough by mid/late-afternoon, began to pick up in late afternoon, and peaked again in the evening.

Both Don’s research and that of Science Magazine raise the following questions:

  • What are we doing every day, to maximize how we spend our time during the positive time of our day? (Are you reading email first thing when instead you might be working on innovation?)
  • What are we doing each day to create the kind of drama that reinforces the vision we have for our business and inspires our team to do great work?
  • What results are we likely to achieve by taking action and changing what we do each day?

Click here for a full discussion of the Science article and implications for leadership.

Elisa K. Spain