Episode 42: Lisa Marshall On Exiting, Firing, and Burnout Nation [The Amiel Show]

Sometimes it takes a wise voice unperturbed by convention to make us radically rethink everyday acts. Consider these questions:

  • How do you lay someone off?
  • How can you exit an organization gracefully?
  • What does it take to make meetings juicier?

Lisa Marshall wants you to consider these questions with greater maturity, clarity, and thoughtfulness. That way, in the very act of doing what you’re paid to do, you can grow into a leader others want to hire, partner with, and follow.

Listen in as this seasoned leadership coach and author breathes new life into old questions.

Lisa Photo 2


  • 5:00  We still live in Burnout Nation
  • 13:30 Why Lisa insists on putting her coachee’s interests first
  • 16:15 Meaningless meetings vs environments rich in stories of helping customers
  • 22:30 Why the juiciest subjects belong at the start of meetings
  • 25:30 Body language tells you whether a “yes” is genuine
  • 32:30 How to tell someone they’ve been laid off
  • 38:00 Leaders hold the walls of the container
  • 49:30 How to leave an organization gracefully
  • 1:00:00 Saying “I’m sorry” before you leave the organization
  • 1:07:30 Why maturity matters
  • 1:11:30 Why Lisa gardens

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Tweet a Quote

Any meeting without an agenda is almost by definition a waste of time.

–Lisa Marshall  Tweet this quote

‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ are the two key elements of completion.

–Lisa Marshall  Tweet this quote

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What’s on my head today

And on a lighter note…

Have a lot on your mind? Then maybe it’s time to put something on your head.

Like this head cushion created by back pain expert Esther Gokhale.

It’s a handsome addition, don’t you think?

Today it accompanied me on the half-mile walk from our home to my office.

The cushion is a nifty little tool for improving upper body posture and strengthening the longus colli muscles.

I took this picture to capture this moment of jubilation. No falls (the cushion or me) onto the concrete!

Don’t get your head stuck inside of a barrel

For once, my “don’t do this at home” advice isn’t based on my own experience.

At least not directly.

Recently, I happened upon this scene at the Oregon Zoo.

Lion head in barrell

It wasn’t immediately obvious why the lion’s head was in the barrel or how it got there.

So I waited to see what would happen. Maybe the answers would reveal themselves.

Five minutes later, I started to wonder something else: will the lion ever get its head out?

That’s the thing about getting your head stuck inside of a barrel. It’s a vulnerable position. Your eyes can’t see what’s happening to your torso. And if someone or something decides to attack your skull, your arms and legs are powerless to stop it.

This is why most of us don’t voluntarily get our heads stuck inside of barrels.

We’re pretty smart about that.

But we’re not smart about everything body-related. All too often we forget that we even have bodies. Sure, we employ them for sports and sex. But otherwise our level of body intelligence is relatively low.

We might as well have our heads in a barrel.

One time years ago, I got steamed at someone for telling me “Amiel, you’re in your head.” What bothered me is that I like being in my head. It has served me well. And it has served our species well (for the most part).

What’s wrong with being in your head?

Nothing. But that wasn’t this person’s point. What she meant is that I was out of touch with my body. That I was speaking only from my head. And she was right.

How did I know this? Not long after, I was telling someone how frustrated I was about a particular aspect of my life. (OK, it was dating. You forced it out of me.) He said to me, “OK, how does this frustration show up in your body?”

I had no idea.

These days as a coach, I ask people the same question.

“How does this feeling show up in your body?”

Half the time, people have an answer. “Tight shoulders,” they reply. Or “my jaw is clenched” or “knots in my stomach.”

That’s a lot better than I used to be able to do.

But the other half of the time, people are as clueless as I was. They give me that sincere yet pained looked that says, “I have no f__ing idea what you are talking about.”

And for good reason. They’re not as connected with their bodies as they could be. Nor are most of us in modern western organizations. Bodies are a great source of wisdom, but you wouldn’t know this by studying the leadership literature or reading the list of competencies that companies consider significant. Emotions have broken into those clubs, but the body is still on the outside looking in.

Just like that lion at the Oregon Zoo.


Episode 7: Bob Dunham On Reliable Promises And Listening For Commitment

Amazing things happen when you remove your blinders and see what it actually takes to coordinate action with others. First, you focus on how we make commitments to each other through conversation. Then, you realize that listening isn’t about being nice. It’s about producing reliable promises. Finally, you take seriously the notion that your public identity–or “personal brand”–depends on your understanding of others’ concerns, the offers you make to address those concerns, and your emotional mood as you walk down the hallway.

Bob Dunham has been introducing leaders and coaches to these points for three decades–and helping them practice their way to excellence. In Episode 7 of The Amiel Show, Bob distilled these lessons into an hour of actionable insights. Bob and I discussed:

  • 2:00 Our blindness that action starts with commitment
  • 7:00 How understanding conversations demystifies innovation
  • 13:00 Bob’s rapid success as a manager by evoking reliable promises
  • 21:00 The conversation for action, listening acts, emotions, and body language
  • 33:30 Getting people to say “yes” is an absolute disaster
  • 40:00 Having opinions but no evidence
  • 51:00 Personal brands and influencing senior leaders
  • 57:30 What Bob is personally practicing in his life


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Getting Unstuck: The Vending Machine Incident

I once got my arm stuck inside of a vending machine. The scene of the crime was Camp Geneva in Wisconsin. I was six. The goal was to steal a Milky Way bar by reaching up the chute and opening the latch.

These were the 1970s. Vending machines were not yet designed to prevent such theft. That made this period the golden years for kids with a big sweet tooth, little money, and few scruples.

Truck Stuck

Lunch had just ended, and six of us – all boys my age – were in the cafeteria. Except for us, the room was empty: the perfect time for stealing candy. I was the last to perform the heist, mainly because I was afraid of getting caught. After a dose of goading from the others, I reached my arm up the chute, extended my fingers toward the Milky Way, and…found myself unable to reach my target. I pushed and wiggled, but no luck.

Regaining Center After The Bull Strikes

He came after me like a bull charging a matador.

“What’s your success rate? I need numbers. What percentage of your clients get promotions?”

These were fair questions for a prospective client interview, and I’d heard them before. But this man, an up-and-coming executive, delivered them with an intensity and ferocity that was surprising. He was testing not only my experience, but also my fortitude.

Bull attacking

“I’m not sure,” I stammered, suddenly feeling like a six-year-old boy facing the class bully in a far corner of the playground. “I, um, haven’t tracked that too closely.”

Six-year-olds don’t make good matadors. This bull tasted blood.

“Then what are you going to do for me? What…are…you…going…to…do…for…me?”