Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness with Rayona Sharpnack

Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness with Rayona Sharpnack

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As part of our mission to help you succeed, SharpAlice will regularly share with you our summary reviews of key books on leadership, managing people, influencing, negotiation, and communication.

These reviews are by no means intended to replace the benefit of actually truly reading these books yourselves. However, by introducing you to the key tenets of these books, we show you why they are so worth your time (of which all of us have too little anyway). Moreover, after reading the book these summaries can also be used as reminders and cheat sheets to help you truly adopt the ideas, from these great books.

The subject of our first summary review is Rayona Sharpnack’s fantastic book “Trade-Up!: 5 Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership and Life from the Inside Out

SharpAlice Business Book Summary & Review

Trade-Up!: 5 Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership and Life from the Inside Out by Rayona Sharpnack

This is truly one of our “business bibles”. In fact our copy has been read and re-read several times and has highlights and scribbles in the margin throughout. It is not just a book but can also be used as a work book to guide you through the 5 steps.

It is 191 pages, beginning to end, and written in a very accessible and clear style with plenty of illustrative examples from real-life female leaders who worked through this process during one of Rayona Sharpnack’s training programs at her Institute for Women’s Leadership

[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Introduction” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Why your beliefs matter and why changing them could significantly improve your effectiveness as a leader

Highly effective leadership requires a high level of awareness to perceive how people experience your personality and leadership.

However, most of us are trapped in our own conclusions, we assume that everyone sees the world the same way we do, and we can’t understand how reality can be interpreted so differently by other people.

Sharpnack refers to this set of conclusions are our “context”. To be precise, Sharpnack defines “context” as “the often unexamined mind-set or frame of reference we operate from that informs our behavior and evokes behavior from others – i.e. it is the foundation of our “operating system”.

Trade-up is a book that lays out a process that enables you to gain that much needed awareness of what your presence feels like to others and how to then modulate your power so that people receive you in a way that is helpful towards realizing your goal, vision, cause or purpose


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Chapter 1″ icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]The act of discovering your historic “operating system”

Step 1: To reveal your or your team’s or organiation’s prevailing context, you need to try and articulate the key context (i.e. beliefs, mindset, frame of reference, etc) that you or your team or organization hold and that produces certain behaviors and actions which then produce certain outcomes/impacts.

Most people, when they try to undergo personal or organizational change, focus solely on their behavior and actions or outcomes and impact, because that is what is most concrete and visible. However, Rayona Shaprnack’s approach focuses on addressing the underlying context (beliefs, conclusions, mind-set, etc) as this then gives you a chance to address the whole system: beliefs -> behavior -> outcomes

Sharpnack explains that revealing your context is about answering questions such as “What is shaping or limiting who you are, what you do and how you learn? If it were possible to fundamentally change those beliefs (your context), then what opportunities would become available to you or your organization? What different results could you or your organization produce in that case?

For example, one leader who went through the program realized that her default context was: “In order to survive I must work extremely hard and be extremely nice.” As a result, she had indeed build a very successful multi-million dollar consulting firm. However, not only did her own personal life suffer from this context, but her whole team did as she had created a culture of extremely hardworking and nice people who bend over backwards for their clients and took on more than was humanly possible, thereby sacrificing their personal lives and health and happiness.

This process of revealing your prevailing context is however hard work Sharpnack admits. Therefore most leaders will only do this when they are motivated by a compelling future they want to achieve or some point of pain they want to relieve for themselves, their team or their organization


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Chapter 2″ icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Once you reveal your beliefs and how they may limit you or your organization, don’t rush to change them. Really explore their consequences, both good and bad, first.

Your old context may not have always provided the best attitude for the life you want to lead, but it had its upside. It was confortable and safe, and it gave you the sanctuary of profound certainty, whenever you felt threatened, anxious or stressed. Naturally, your attachment to the context of the past underscores the ease with which you could drift back into old habits or ways of thinking if you are not deliberate about reinforcing your changes.

It is therefore important to do an audit of the upside and the downside. Many people/leaders have a tendency to skip over this step. But Rayona implores us that we need to dwell in the downside, examine the unintended consequences of our beliefs and contemplate the casualties that have arisen as a result. Doing that deep work is according to Sharpneck the only way to reach the critical threshold where you finally realize that the compelling need to design a new set of beliefs trumps the compelling pull of your historical beliefs.

As part of this phase Sharpneck explores the need to use the tools of listening and feedback to gain an even deeper understanding of how our old beliefs have driven all kinds of unhelpful behavior and actions that have created unwanted impacts and outcomes, as well as at the same time starting to explore what new beliefs could be more useful in helping you and/or your organization achieve its goals.


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Chapter 3″ icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Trade Up!: Design a new context

The next step of the process focuses on defining the new set of beliefs (“context) that would help you and/or your organization create the desired future. This is the “trade up” in context that is referred to in the title of the book.

However, Sharpnack warns us that this does not mean moving wildly into an alternate direction – i.e. this is not about making a “pendulum swing”. Your new set context (beliefs, conclusions, etc.) should not be in direct opposition with your previous context. Instead your new context should be informed by the past – by your experiences, passions, dreams, and interests.

Sharpnack illustrates this amongst other things with her own shift in mindset from believing that “I’ll never get anywhere in life if I don’t keep my nose to the grindstone” that led her to a lot of success in life but ultimately started taking a heavy toll, to a mindset that “It all turns out with Grace and Ease” which led her to change her behavior which then led to a significant reduction in her personal stress as well as that of her own team, which in turn led to improved performance of her business.

The starting point for designing this new mindset is to ask yourself “For the sake of what?” ? What is the compelling vision, purpose, reason or cause that would make doing this hard work worthwhile? Sharpnack explains that once you have determined what the game is that is worth playing, it will be easy to define what the context is that can contribute to and accelerate achieving that vision.


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Chapter 4″ icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Don’t just say it: Do it.

Sharpnack kicks off this chapter by reminding us that designing a new context is an exciting and exhilarating experience, but if you don’t put it into practice, then that desired future won’t happen.

The next step is therefore to focus on what new supportive behaviors we need to adopt and what old behaviors we need to stop or decrease. In business speak: You need to “operationalize” your new context.

To do this, Sharpnack explains how we need to not just change our behaviors (i.e. the things we do and say), but also our “embodied practices” (i.e. our body language). Sharpnack underscores that this is critical, because 90% of what we communicate is through our body language, yet most of us are terrible communicators because we don’t know how our body is speaking above, beyond, and beneath our words.

Moreover, consciously changing some of our body language by developing and implementing new physical rituals can actually act as useful cues for us to maintain our other behavioral changes.

For example, one leader, in order to come across less in full force all the time, devised an approach to walk flat-footed to meetings. Upon adopting this habit, she no longer came flying into meetings, disrupting the energy of the group. In addition, it then also put her in the right mind set to help her listen more closely, disrupt less and take better notes.


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Chapter 5″ icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Engage others in you context shift – both to help you make it a reality as well as to drive bigger impact.

In this last chapter, Sharpnack stresses that it is through the support, reinforcement, feedback, and partnership of a community that you sustain your new practices and keep your new context alive, while also sharing the possibility and capability for shifting your mindset with the people around you.

She shares a number of considered approaches on how to identify who you should engage and how to most successfully do this.

Moreover, she explains that holding your passion and purpose close to the vest does little to help you realize your larger goals. Instead, when you are deliberate about what compelling future or vision you want to accomplish through this shift in context, express your reason for leading, are engaged with people who can support you and your cause and conscious of the larger impact of your actions, then you can achieve groundbreaking results


[textbox icon=”fa-star” heading=”Link to the book” icon_background_color=”#f31b02″]Click on this link: Trade-Up!: 5 Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership and Life from the Inside Out


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