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The “Secret Sauce” is Closer Than You Think

The Secret Sauce is Closer Than You Think

Author of Contagious Culture, Anese Cavanaugh reveals the secret to making a real change is yourself.

My client “George” wanted to become a better leader. Specifically? He wanted a stronger leadership presence with his team, he wanted to be known as someone people could trust, and he wanted to make partner the following year. Personally, he wanted to be a dad his kids knew was available for them, a husband his wife could lean into, and have a bit of space for himself to do the stuff he loved.

Not a bad wish list. All do-able.

For our first three meetings, he showed up late, tired, and often both.

Each time he’d share a worthy list of reasons why, his apologies (for being late, not getting his work done in between, or both), an expression of overwhelm, and a promise to do it better next time…

And then he’d be late. And tired. And overwhelmed.

Now, this guy is brilliant, big-hearted, and a good leader, husband, dad, and human. And he wants to be better, but he — up until this point — couldn’t figure out what was getting in his way. (As is often the case when we are getting in our own way and standing right in it, he couldn’t see it, yet.) Even better, he noticed his employees were starting to follow suit; they were often late, tired, and overwhelmed. And the more they showed up this way, the more George felt that way. They were in a contagious cycle of late, tired, and overwhelmed.

The last time he showed up late and tired, full of reasons and feeling terrible, I asked him, “George, how can you expect to command the trust and devotion of the people in your life if you can’t honor your own promises with yourself? How can you be someone to lean in to, if you can’t count on yourself to show up? How can you have the level of leadership presence you desire, if you are constantly exhausted? And how can you expect differently from your team if that’s what you model? You being tired and late for me is not what it’s about, you are tired and late for you. You’re not honoring your agreements with yourself. I’d love to explore your relationship with ‘personal impeccability’.”

When people come to me or this work they’re often looking for a number of things:

  1. Increase their leadership capacity
  2. Build their trust and credibility
  3. Get out of busy, burnout, and overwhelm and/or create more space in their lives and feel better
  4. Create a better leadership presence
  5. Make a really big impact on something they care about in their lives (be it personal, professional, short or long-game)
  6. Transform the DNA of their organization so that it supports healthy leadership and positively contagious culture (which ties into #1-5 here)

We dig in. We look at what they’re up to. We evaluate the situation.

Most of all we breathe.

See, they’re often looking for the magic skill, the “thing” that is going to solve it all, make the pain go away, change them. Be it an app, a book, a program, a skill, anything… what is it that will help them change whatever it is that brought them to the work originally?

They’re often surprised, disappointed, and liberated all at the same time to find that really… the secret sauce to address all the above is closer than they realize.

That sauce? Themselves.

They’re the answer they’re looking for. And it’s likely simpler — at first — than they think. (The harder and more complex stuff will come with “doing the work” to change it all.)

But the simple easy part? It’s them; their breathing, their intentions, their energy, their presence, their personal integrity and impeccability, and their power to be intentionally contagious.

What’s happening around them; the people, the circumstances, the office politics, chaos, tragedy, etc. is really out of their control. (Darn.)

But what’s happening within them; their breath, presence, impeccability, and contagiousness? Well… that it totally within their control.

So we start there… looking at their personal level of presence, purpose, and personal impeccability. And how they show up for themselves, so they can also show up for others.

In twenty years of doing this work, this is what I notice…

The better we take care of ourselves — the more we have for others.

The more present we are — the more we know what to do, and the more others will feel us with them.

The more connected we are to purpose — the more clear we can be in our intentions, our why, and our energy for leadership. And the more others will trust us, be inspired, and want to follow (versus have to follow).

The more impeccable we are with ourselves and trust ourselves — the more trustworthy we become, and the more others feel it, respond to it, and proceed accordingly.

And it’s all contagious…

We have to start with ourselves….

How do you start with you? An invitation to consider how your intentions, energy, self-care, and presence are setting you and those you love and lead up for success. Start with the breath, take a moment, get in front of it, and be positively and usefully contagious.

To read more from Anese Cavanaugh, check out her new book Contagious You.

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The "Secret Sauce" is Closer Than You Think

Anese Cavanaugh is the creator of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®) as well as a leadership and collaboration advisor, strategist, and thinking partner to some of today’s most innovative organizations and business leaders. Through her speaking, writing and creative leadership programs, people learn how to optimize their leadership and presence, bringing their best selves to the table for greater collaboration, impact, and cultural success. Follow her on Twitter @anesecavanaugh. A dynamic, highly sought after, award-winning speaker who has been called “transformational”, Anese has appeared on stages across the country—Stanford University, the Inc. Women’s Summit, the Education Equals Partnership Annual Conference, Small Giants, InBound and many others—all in service of Showing Up well and creating positive impact in the world. In addition to appearing in publications like HBR, The Huffington Post,, and the NY Times, Anese writes regularly for in her column “Showing Up”. Anese is the author of CONTAGIOUS CULTURE: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Create an Organization that Thrives (McGraw-Hill, 2015), IEP SURVIVAL GUIDE: First Aid for Your Presence and THE LEADER YOU WILL BE: An Invitation (2018). Her next book, CONTAGIOUS YOU: Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want (McGraw-Hill) is now available for pre-order on Amazon.