Mark has worked with Eloquest Health to write an article that goes a little deeper on some of the topics discussed both on the recent webinars with Dr. Tim Hogan as well as his book The Choice to Show up. We hope you like it!

Coping with Compassion: Expert Advice for Managing Stress and Exhaustion

One of the executives I work with shared with me the challenging impact of the current crisis on his business and people. He was quick to point out his message to the senior leaders, “Our job is to shepherd our folks through [the five phases of grief] as honestly and as quickly as possible.”

First, I appreciate his emotional intelligence in that he recognized that people feel, deeply feel the impact of the crisis and the accompanying variety of emotions. He especially highlighted the five stages of grief (Kübler-Ross model). These feelings are not negative. They are real! To ignore the feelings, bury them, or pretend that making a quick decision to move on from them is dangerous. Feelings need to be named and felt. Who better to learn from than grief expert, David Kessler who said about the crisis, “We are dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew!” In fact, in Kessler’s recent book, Finding Meaning, he identifies a sixth phase to the grief process. Think of the process as a scaffolding for the human grief experience: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance, and meaning.

This executive honored people by honoring their feelings and leading them through the process toward healing and meaning. After all, when we get through the pandemic, we will still make choices on how to authentically show up in the new normal.

Secondly, the executive knows intuitively and from experience that leaders dare not shrink from actual leadership during this crisis. More than ever, this is the time to lead: courageously and vulnerably. He specifically highlighted that a way to lead is by “shepherding.” We don’t hear much about how to shepherd. Let’s start with the definition of the what a shepherd does:


/ˈSHepərd/ verb

  1. tend (sheep) | give guidance to | carefully manage (resources or a team)
  2. guide or direct in a particular direction

Got it, a shepherd tends to the sheep. Which begs the next question, “How does one shepherd people through loss?”

I pulled down two books on shepherding that provided me insight over 25 years ago. Another reason for being grateful for my Master of Divinity. The authors brilliantly give insight into the ancient skill and art of shepherding. To shepherd is something to be mastered over time by practicing specific skills.

In order to keep this simple and achievable, below are the verbs, or TEN ACTION STEPS of a leader who makes the choice to shepherd. The goal is not to be perfect shepherd, rather to be human. Since you know the importance of following a process, you might use these TEN ACTION STEPS as a self-evaluation at the end of each day. Rate yourself, “On a scale of 1-10 did I do my best to…?” and then reflect on your answers.

Leaders Who Shepherd

  1. Be Present – FOR THEM. The goal is to benefit the flock. Your constant preoccupation is that each Teammate will flourish.
  2. Guide – People rely on you. They adjust to your style and need direction from you. They anticipate it whether they say it or not.
  3. Know – Get to know your people personally and professionally, caring about them. When they feel you know them, they are willing to trust.
  4. Lead – Steer them away from unhealthy or barren land (staying in a victim mindset) toward green pastures, cool shade, and clean water. Lead them to a better place than they are now.
  5. Comfort – Provide empathy, listen and “hear” what they are saying by acknowledging their feelings. Show compassion – literal meaning “to suffer with.”
  6. Be Honest – Address beliefs and behavior that are counterproductive and help them identify obstacles that are preventing them from living healthier.
  7. Teach – Show them a good path forward, or a better way. Invite them to create their own solutions.
  8. Protect – Keep watch! We are susceptible to negative talk, media, opinions from others, etc. It makes it a challenge to define reality. As shepherd, you can offer skills to help them defend themselves from internal or external predators. Even, give certain people extra time if needed.
  9. Speak Courageously – Let them experience the benefits of following your voice, providing strength and stability.
  10. Affirm – Consistently highlight the unique impact of what each person brings to the organization.







We cannot ignore reality. We could try to avoid it, discredit it or get furious about it. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s staring us clearly in the face. Now, more than ever, showing up authentically takes a level of mindfulness: the decision to focus our awareness on the present moment, or being conscious to what is happening.

The reality is that in this crisis we are directed to practice social distancing. The wise choice is to comply. However, this doesn’t mean that we must face this crisis alone. In fact, it is important that we do not face such a large-scale crisis alone. The pain – discomfort, suffering, etc. – is happening to all of us at some level. Therefore, I would propose that the wise choice is to be communal in our response. Look for ways to practice social connection.  After all, we are wired for connection and is crucial to our well-being.

Fundamentally I have two choices; one is to take care of myself and the other is to make the choice to engage with others. Here are my two resolutions for managing the crisis.

First, I make the choice to take care of myself.

I need to be mindful of “what is actually happening” within me, in my mind and heart. It’s emotionally healthy to take the time to ask and answer questions like, “What am I really feeling right now…is it anger…fear…sadness…anxiety?”

Rather than slow down and ask the challenging questions, I may be tempted to only take some type of action. After all, I tell myself that my action is something I can control. Being responsible is good. Avoiding feelings is not good. Ignoring them (burying, stuffing, etc.) won’t make them go away. It goes into an inner reservoir of pain that in some way at some time, will be transmitted to other people.

I make the choice to take care of myself: to slow down, quiet my mind, pay attention to my heart, and rest in grace.

Secondly, I make the choice to engage in socially connecting with people.

The premise is simple: connection is not an option. It will not happen by osmosis. It will not happen if I wish it so. It happens when I make the courageous choice to ask for connection. Why is this courageous? Because it’s vulnerable to admit that I need connection and it’s just as vulnerable to ask for it.

I am all for exploring the options of shows to binge watch and YouTube videos to explore. However, they will not fill the gap of human connection. While social disconnection might appear to be a gift to the introverts and a bane for the extroverts, every human being needs connection.

So, I find myself having to make the choice to turn off the television, close Facebook and look for people with whom I want to connect. It may start with an email or text depending on the relationship. For those closest to me it’s having phone, Facetime or Zoom conversations. I end the conversations feeling more enriched and most importantly knowing that I am not alone. We are suffering together. And we are figuring out ways to cope. We are sharing mutual gratitude and inspirational stories of how so many people are creatively and compassionately responding to the crisis.

I make the choice to engage in connecting with others: to hear their stories, to listen to their pain and share their hope for the future.

There you have it, two simple resolutions. How will you choose to show up authentically to your world?

Travis Chapman initially posted this article on his LinkedIn, and we found it to be an incredible write up! Travis is currently an Instructor at the US Naval Academy and somebody we highly respect.

Thank you, Travis, for this review, as well as your permission for us to repost it here!

I had a surprise during a conversation with the co-leader of our academic department. We were discussing some challenges we’ve faced as a group during a time of uncertainty and change, and he mentions his observation of my emotional intelligence skills. Now, I don’t often hear any one say, “You know, Bob is really intelligent…emotionally.” So to hear the phrase emotional intelligence alone was surprising. But I smiled and acknowledged the compliment, simply replying, “Well, I’ve had a lot of help understanding who I am and living out of that identity.”

One recent resource that I can say, without any reservation or qualification, has helped my understanding of emotional intelligence and transformational leadership, helped validate many of my professional & personal experiences and feelings, resonated with my story, and is helping me live out of my identity, is Mark Freier’s The Choice to Show Up.

Full disclosure: I know Mark. I’ve been a participant with him on parts of our journey, have heard him speak words of truth and healing, have been challenged by him, and have been loved by him as a brother and fellow pilgrim on this road of life! In that context, much of his writing resonated even greater for me due to our shared experiences. This book is authentic and his true voice.

Unlike many leadership books that provide a convenient outline of highlights, catchy acronyms, tactics of marginal value, or filler quotes that have the nutritional value of a Big Mac, Mark writes something different. He tells us a story. His story. It’s a good story. A tough story. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. If you listen for it, you hear the whisper of beauty and goodness in the midst of a journey filled with heartache, a transition from transactional leadership toward transformation.

Mark provides great coverage of topics that I’ve found invaluable on my own journey. Understanding the value of people’s individual story. Acknowledging the spectrum of emotions we all experience and how we can engage with emotion in healthy (if sometimes messy) ways. The process of resisting transactional relationships and living from a confident core identity. Keeping my hands open and palms up, to be ready to receive with gratitude. Setting appropriate boundaries for myself and others (after all, “you get what you create and what you allow.”*) Knowing the value of deep friendships and the challenge we will face in keeping those vital connections going.

Lastly, as the title implies, I finished with a deeper appreciation for the choice to show up. To show up as myself and not a poser, that false image of who I think people want to see or will like or will be regarded favorably. The choice to take ownership, accountability, and exercise authority over that which has been entrusted to me. The choice to be self-aware of my own feelings, and also to actively seek out and listen to those around me and acknowledge their concerns, pains, joys, frustrations, anger, gratitude, and everything. The choice to be with them. Emphasis: to be (not “to do”, my default option all to often!)

Kind of gushy for a LinkedIn post, right? It’s a reflection of my appreciation for what Mark’s done in writing down his story and using it as a lens for anyone to view their own story and leadership journey. It took 0 seconds to decide: the lifetime value of just one of these concepts is worth the price of admission! Don’t just add it to your “someday” list of professional reading; fast track it to the next book you read.

* Credit to Dr. Henry Cloud Boundaries for Leaders

Equally related is my experience with another exceptional talent mentioned in the book: Matt Emhoff’s coaching through Deeper Ministry was a game changer for me, and an early step in developing an emotional language and understanding my Clifton Strength of Empathy. He’s just great people, and a professional I deeply respect.

#thechoicetoshowup #Transformational>Transactional

This is the fourth of four BLOGS dedicated to reflecting more of the “why” of being a transformational person.

My premise is that if someone understands the “why” being of transformational person it will inspire them and give them sustainability.

Transformational people are externally-open!

Let’s set the stage. Being someone who is externally-open does NOT mean you need to be an extrovert nor be a person who is non-principled or can be easily swayed. Rather, it means having an openness to learn and become aware (of yourself and situations around you).

As a coach and trusted advisor I encourage people to be open to new ideas or processes. Initially, they may not make sense and, of course, there is always space for healthy debate and disagreement. This is about noticing that our first response could be, “I’m open!”

We humans share a common trait, we go to great lengths to defend the status-quo or what we perceive as “normal.” Routine is not bad; mindless routine is. Consistency is beneficial; mindless consistency is debilitating. Defending a principle is not bad; being closed-minded is. The question is, “Are you open?”

How do I know if I am internally-closed? Evaluate your response when change is suggested, constructive criticism is offered, or your point of view challenged. Do you roll your eyes, huff, or mumble under your breath, “Whatever!”? Do you feel yourself shutting down; not listening? Are you preparing your defense instead of using your energy to listen and learn? Do you find yourself blaming others, passing the buck, or repeatedly saying, “No!” If you do, these are signs that you may be bordering on being internally closed.

Transformational people – who are pursuing inner transformation and a new normal – choose a different perspective. They intentionally put rhythms in their life to support the “why”: they seek to become people who are externally open.

  • They are aware of their tendency to resist anything that challenges their “normal” and make conscious decisions to become more aware of themselves and the situations they are in
  • They become avid learners of themselves
  • They seek feedback and look for the kernels of truth
  • They are open to the possibilities of being challenged
  • They take themselves less seriously and are open to more enjoyment and fun

If you to take some steps on becoming a transformational person, step four is to intentionally look for ways to be open. When you know the “why” your “how” and “what” will have the right inspiration and direction.

This is the third of four BLOGS dedicated to reflecting more of the “why” of being a transformational person. My premise is that if someone understands the “why” being of transformational person it will sustain them, inspire them, and give them sustainability.

Transformational people are other-centered!

I spent five years working in the hospitality industry. My learning curve in every area of the business was steep. While I interacted with many wonderful, bright, compassionate people, I realized early on that there are just as many other people whose actions reveal a negative mindset to those in the service industry. I would regularly have to coach my team members how to navigate clients who:

  • Demanded service combined with a demeaning tone
  • Rolled their eyes in disgust
  • Intentionally left messes stating that it was someone else’s job to clean up after them

One could argue that anyone who enters the hospitality industry should expect some rudeness. That is true. I would counter with an “and…” What we experienced was systemic of a larger issue; dealing with an unhealthy ego. An unhealthy ego is truly egocentric, approaching life with a selfish pretense that seeks to put self-interests over the collective interests of others. It manifests itself in the way we manipulate life to be in control and our rigidity at anything that challenges it.

Our society has even adopted a phrase used by young and old alike, “Sucks to be you!”

As transformational people choose to live more in alignment with their values, they are free to serve the world. Liberated from the bonds of insecurity and fear they can engage, fully attentive to the needs of others, making wise decisions of when and where they can be of need.

Transformational people – who are pursuing inner transformation and a new normal – choose a different perspective. They intentionally put rhythms in their life to support the “why”: they seek to become people who are other-centered.

  • They seek to build rapport with people, establishing healthy boundaries
  • They genuinely want others to succeed and cheer them on to be their best
  • They seek to serve others, engaging in a variety of activities around their unique talents
  • They have empathy, not only allowing themselves to feel but also to be compassionate and take time for others

If you to take some steps on becoming a transformational person, step three is to intentionally look for ways to serve others. When you know the “why” your “how” and “what” will have the right inspiration and direction.

This is the second of four BLOGS dedicated to reflecting more of the “why” of being a transformational person.

My premise is that if someone understands the “why” being of transformational person it will sustain them, inspire them, and give them sustainability.

Transformational people are inner-directed!

At first blush this may sound that I’m advocating a type of focusing on self that borders on narcissism. Actually, it is quite the opposite. The airlines have been instructing passengers for decades that if the emergency oxygen masks deploy and you have a child be sure to put your mask on first. They are reminding parents that to “be there” for their child they need to take care of themselves first.

All of us face some kind of “normal” whereby we tend to define ourselves by the opinions, beliefs, and perceptions of others. Marketing campaigns are designed to appeal to our temptation to purchase products based on how it will establish us in relation to other people. They have learned that whether we like it or not, there is a part of us that is tempted by social pressure. It is manifested at its worst when we make decisions based on upon “what other people think.”

The ugly truth is that if we are intentional, this ugly dynamic will be a driving force by which we measure our success and compare ourselves to others.

Transformational people – who are pursuing inner transformation and a new normal – choose a different perspective. They intentionally put rhythms in their life to support the “why”: they seek to become people who are inner-directed.

  • They are clear about their values and define themselves by these non-negotiable.
  • Their values not only give them strength and freedom. They approach life with a deep sense of calmness because they have clarity about who they are.
  • Because they have deep-seated values, they can view situations with a more complex understanding because the situation does not define them.
  • They recalibrate to their values on a regular basis in order to assure that their behaviors match their intentions.

If you want to take some steps on becoming a transformational person, step two is to be clear about your values. When you know the “why” your “how” and “what” will have the right inspiration and direction.

If you type in “Transformational Leadership” into Wikipedia you’ll find four distinct elements described as action steps of someone desiring to be an agent of change, with individuals or a social system. While I believe there is merit in learning about “how” and “what” to do as a transformational leader it misses the basic foundational principles of transformation.

I’m dedicating four blog posts that will reflect more of the “why” of being a transformational person.

My premise is that if someone understands the “why” being of transformational person it will sustain them, inspire them, and give them sustainability. “What” and “how” – the method – may vary, but “why” is the fuel for the jet engine.

Transformational people know their purpose!

The antitheses of people who are purpose-centered are people who are comfort-centered. Their “normal” is the path of least resistance. Comfort and ease are the default. For instance, when someone cuts you off in traffic what’s your initial reaction? Just last week I must have given someone the impression I was cutting them off and I got “the finger” for over a mile. I challenged his perception of normal. (He challenged mine. I noticed a small part of me wanted to ram him.) Apparently, he and I both felt as if we owned the road and his path was not going to be deterred by anyone. Sound familiar?

It’s sounds so trite but that often happens when protecting our path of comfort. When our comfort is challenged, we react.

Transformational people – who are pursuing inner transformation and a new normal – choose a different perspective. They intentionally put rhythms in their life to support the “why”: they know their purpose.

  • They have a clear definition of life that gives them meaning and directs their actions. They know where they are going. It doesn’t mean they are pushovers. It means they can embrace a detour or a challenge (yes, even on the road) because it doesn’t affect their purpose.
  • They have a personal mission that not only provides direction but also gives them focus and consistency.
  • They have a “due north” by which they can set positive, challenging, and self-chosen goals.

If you want to take some steps on becoming a transformational person, step one is to know your purpose; be clear about your mission in life. When you know the “why” your “how” and “what” will have the right inspiration and direction.

In many cases the quest into our interior world for meaning, purpose, and clarity is a choice we make. However, history tells us this has not always been the case.

Native American young men had their own vision quest. Boys were forced to head out to the wilderness, find a solitary place, and then wait. On his own in this challenging environment each boy had to find his vision of an animal spirit that would guide him into adulthood. The intention was that he would gain insight, wisdom, advice, and protection from a supernatural source. It was marked by receiving clarity of his destiny as the Great Spirit gave him his true name, affirming who he was and what his life’s purpose would be.

While this rite of passage may sound harsh to us post-modern Westerners, there was a grand tradition behind it meant to give inner clarity and purpose.

Rites of passage today are more often sterilized and concentrate on information-sharing instead of experience-gaining. The Bar or Bat Mitzvah may be arduous and beneficial but, in many instances, it does not provide deep clarity for life’s purpose; neither does the rite of “Confirmation” in the Christian religion (been there, done that…it’s cerebral!).

What the point? By abandoning such traditions or gutting the them of their experiential power, what are we left with today?

Instead of people willing to take a journey “into the wilderness” and face the highest challenge of solitude, we live in the Information Age inundated with people telling us what to do: wear this…buy that…achieve this…etc.

Noise! Noise! Noise!

The results are generations who are on-the-outside striving and on-the-inside stymied.

No matter your age or background, it is worth going on a vision quest. Take the challenge of entering your interior world.

Have the courage to block out a time of solitude (even if for ten minutes) into a weekly schedule.

Dare to give yourself the gift of silence and face the onslaught of messages you may get initially to find clarity over time.

Sit long enough so that you can gain insight into what you offer to the world.

Photo of a sheet of music being held up by a member of a chorus

This is the time of year when so much is vying for our attention it can be somewhat difficult to know how to listen. The traditional Christmas Carol asks the question:

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?

While sitting around our Advent wreath with friends (our tradition of Christmas preparation), we contemplated these words from author Henri Nouwen: “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is obedire, and audire means ‘listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is absurd. If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word ‘absurd’ comes from.”

Somebody who is not listening is leading an absurd life…It would be easy to spend this Holiday Season being absurd.

Listening has nothing to do with our hearing capabilities. I have met many deaf people who can truly listen and know many people with perfectly fine hearing who are quite absurd. The challenge for us, in this season of noise is to make the intentional choice to listen.

Join me in choosing to spend this Holiday Season truly listening. I wonder what we will hear.

Here are just some of the things I have listened to already. I look forward to and anticipate hearing so much more:

  • The depth of the lyrics of a Christmas Carol and the skill of those who perform it.
  • The well-wishes of acquaintances who look me in the eye, pauses for a moment, and say, “Merry Christmas!” or for those of other traditions who greet me with, “Happy Holidays!”
  • The loneliness of those who experience another holiday without someone they once held dear; grieving their loss.
  • The stories, laughter, and passion of friends who make the choice to live in deep and rich community with me.
  • The silence; when all lights are turned off except the lights of a Christmas tree (and the burning of some candles).
  • The words of Linus (A Charlie Brown Christmas) when he recites Luke 2:1-20, in response to the screaming question of Charlie Brown, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

I look forward to hearing so much more…as long as I make the choice to listen!