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Coloring the World With a Blue Pencil

December 30, 2021

A simple change in perspective can transform your leadership style

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My Gramps was a professor who specialized in education. He taught classes like Child Psychology, The Learner, and Child Growth and Development. And he taught my mom an important lesson about leadership early in her teaching career.

My mom was teaching her 3rd grade students to print letters. A few students were having trouble with their letters. She graded their papers in the way she’d learned: mark the mistakes with a red pencil. But, as time went on, the students weren’t improving their handwriting.

She asked her dad what to do. “Instead of marking incorrect letters with a red pencil,” he suggested, “why don’t you use a blue pencil to circle all the letters that were printed correctly?”

So, my mom started using a blue pencil to highlight all the letters that were printed well.

The result? The students quickly improved their writing.

I’ve carried this lesson with me since I first remember hearing the story.

My Gramps lived his life using a blue pencil. He looked for the best in every person he met. And by doing so, he made those around him feel extraordinary.

Is there one person you work with—an exec on your team, or a board member, or the employee you can’t quite connect with yet—and use the blue pencil approach?

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Through the lens of coaching and a 360-degree experience of the startup ecosystem, I’ve helped hundreds of founders untangle the limiting mindsets that hold them back.

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