March 3, 2019

Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott: Real conversations and beachballs

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About the Author

Known for her bold yet practical approach to executive coaching and leadership development, Susan Scott has been challenging people to say the things that are hard to say for over two decades. Susan founded Fierce in 2001 after 13 years leading CEO think tanks, more than 10,000 hours of conversations with senior executives, and one epiphany: While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life—any single conversation can. Susan continues to share her expertise with clients through her keynote presentations, and award-winning books.



About the Book

This book is a big literary kick in the ass for anyone who is a manager or leader of others. It shines a painful light on the crappy ‘best practices’ that have become the norm in organisations (I’m looking at you, feedback sandwich) and the apathy around what we willingly accept.

It’s practical – providing frameworks, methods, conversation starters and perspectives on how teams can work better through powerful, clear, open conversations. 

I took copious notes through the book and have used some of the ideas in client workshops and with teams. My biggest take away was the overriding concept that the biggest problems will be from the conversations you didn’t have.


BIG IDEA 1 (2:21) - Do real conversations properly. See the other person. This might mean opening up a conversation about something that everyone knows but nobody talks about (the proverbial elephant). Bringing the real issues to the table and talk about it to create a shared language.

One of the ways Susan mentioned in the book about creating shared language is through the ‘Beach Ball’ framework. Each person shares their view of the world, feedback or input about a situation from their ‘stripe’ of the beachball. This helps everyone understand what others see from their stripe and acknowledge it.

Two important questions that you can use with your team to uncover some things that need to be said - ‘What do you need from this team that you are not getting?’ and - ‘What can you contribute to this team that you’re not contributing?’. This is about what’s holding people back from bringing their best to the team.


BIG IDEA 2 (5:12) - Lookout for your DNA. This is about finding your fingerprints on the things that have gone wrong and asking yourself how you contributed to this situation. This is being visibly accountable to your own action and not searching for who is to blame. This is important in creating a high performing team by asking your team questions that will bring out their sense of self-accountability. YOU are the culture and what you do, and the examples you set, influence the rest of the culture in the organisation. Another way to look for your fingerprints is to look into your team’s behavior and figure out what you might have contributed to that behavior (or lack of behavior).


BIG IDEA 3 (8:23) - Engage and be brave. This idea is about stepping up to true leadership.  All of the big ideas won’t work unless you make it happen. True leadership involves being both brave and engaged. Apathy exists in a lot of organisations today, where average performance is acceptable and most leaders forget (or are ‘too busy’) to step up. Leaders should have the ability (the ‘squid eye’) to see behaviors and toxicity as signs of dysfunction and use these tells as the impetus to take action.

Listen to Brene Brown's Dare to Lead Episode

Music By: I Get Up - Acoustic - Instrumental Version By John Isaac


Click here to buy on The Book Depository


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