Performance Unleashed by Susan Stitt

Ideas & Insights

There are many things that drive me nuts about the leadership development industry.

One is the extreme over-simplification of a complex topic. Our social media feeds overflow with leadership articles outlining lists and lists of “Top Ten Essential Activities,” which – just by incorporating into my day – will guarantee my own high performance and that of my team and organization.

Can you hear my eyes rolling?

You won’t find any top ten lists here. Instead I’m sharing hard-won insights from 25+ years of experience, along with enduring concepts, tools, books and articles that I use and share with leaders time and again. In addition, I’ve included a few articles that I’ve penned (quite irregularly!) over the last few years. I hope you find these ideas practical and provocative.

One thing I know for sure

Change starts with you. You simply cannot get different results without tackling your own shit first. This truth has revealed itself to me over and over again, which inspired me to pull together a visual model to help describe the Five Areas of Focus that I work through with leaders all the time.


An essential part of becoming a great leader is really knowing ourselves… the good AND the bad. On the ‘good’ side, think strengths, values, purpose, passion, vision, goals. On the ‘bad’ side: anything that gets in the way of our effectiveness or detracts from the impact we want to have is something we need to inspect more closely. Typically, this means becoming aware of limiting beliefs we hold, assumptions that we make, the identity we hold for ourselves, our habits of thinking and behaviours that detract. Below you’ll find a couple of tools I use regularly with leaders that will get you started on your own discovery of who you are.

Discovering Your Values

Reflection Exercise


As a leader, it’s essential that we understand how we impact other people. Because we do, greatly. Most of us make the mistake of under-estimating our impact, or worse, not considering it at all. The way we begin to understand our impact on others is through feedback. A scary proposition I know, but essential. The tool that I use all the time is The Leadership Circle Profile™. It’s the best tool I’ve ever used. Below I’ve included a link to a website so you can take a peek and explore some of their great resources. I’ve also included a few easy feedback questions you can start using today with your direct reports, peers, boss and customers.

The Leadership Circle



Leadership is tough. Really, really tough. I don’t need to tell you that. Great leaders learn how to effectively self-manage their internal worlds (e.g. taking on new mindsets, controlling emotional bursts and impulses, being resilient and flexible in the face of obstacles, staying optimistic when pursuing tough goals, finding the courage to challenge others etc.).  Below you’ll find an article from Richard Boyatzis, outlining a compelling case for why leaders need to effectively self-manage. And a couple of iconic books that provide both insight and strategies into managing your inner world.

Neuroscience and the Link Between Inspirational Leadership and Resonant Relationships. Richard Boyatzis. January 2012.

The War of Art. Stephen Pressfield

Taming Your Gremlin. Rick Carson


Ever worked with someone who keeps using the same old stories and the same approaches, time and again, no matter what problem they encounter? The person that feels out of touch with today’s realities, and dated in their approaches and their thinking? Please don’t let that be you. Today’s work reality is far different than when most of us started our careers. Solving the problems we face today demand that we be more innovative, more agile and better able to deal with increased complexity. That won’t happen by accident. It requires us to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we learn and grow. It’s helpful to adopt a mindset of continuous learning – i.e. there is always something for us to learn and that our learning is never done. Below you’ll find a few of my favourite books that I hope will inspire you to take a conscious approach to how you evolve.

Mastering Leadership. Robert J. Anderson & William A. Adams. 2016

Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Angela Duckworth. 2016

Creativity, Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Ed Catmull. 2014


We need to understand how to get our own best performance before we can begin to truly understand how to get great performances from others. Most of us, though, work like we’re machines rather than humans. We think our energy is a reliable, never-ending resource (it isn’t) and that we’re just as productive working 12 hours a day vs. 7 hours a day (nope). This isn’t easy wisdom to come by, thanks to media, advertising and societal norms that reinforce images of us being superhuman. The world today seems to demand that we are always on, always connected. Our attention is fractured into a thousand different directions and email for many of has become the master vs. the tool it was designed to be. There are many elements to self-care that I work through with leaders. Setting boundaries around work. Making time for non-work-related priorities. Finding new methods to help prioritize work, including finding time every day to work in a deep, focused fashion on the most important priorities. Learning to say no. Finding better ways to forecast, plan and organize your work… (I can go on and on!) Below I’ve attached a few resources that I’ve found particularly helpful in my own learning journey in this area.

The Healthy Mind Platter. David Rock & Daniel J. Siegel. 2011

The Power of Full Engagement. Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Cal Newport. 2016

Mindful Leadership Training. Michael Carroll. Available through Sounds True.