In talking to some founders today, I taught them a presencing check-in called Mad, Sad, Glad. At the end of the coaching, I noted for the founders that it was very important that whatever their employees said in a check-in like this, you can never us it against them or it will be the last time they are honest with you.

Image for post
Image for post
Image by Alexandra from Pixabay

Not letting personal information they share blow back on employees is a cornerstone to creating safety on your team, and a skilled way to build trust. And it’s a different process for different people. Some people assume a high…


It’s a question I ask founders when I’m trying to get to know them, learn how the work and think about how to help them. We’d all prefer it if no one ever broke, or hit a wall, or fell in a hole. Whatever you want to call it, it happens. Entrepreneurs in startup land go at warp speed for so long that they don’t see it coming- their humanness catches up to them. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk wrote this famous book in psychology circles that comes to mind in those moments: The Body Keeps the Score.

It’s one…


Dear founders, startup people and anyone who’s livelihood is knowledge-generated, it turns out that you, the thing you think of as you, otherwise known as your mind and its thoughts, are attached to a body. Obvious, but easy to brush aside. Take a second. Notice that your while your brain is talking and thinking and planning and worrying and scheming, it is IN YOUR BODY. I feel bad for the underappreciated flesh and bones.


I was talking to another friend in operations at a startup, and I asked him what his philosophy of company building was. How would he prioritize these four things: people, process, product and profit? I wasn’t looking for him to agree with me, I was wondering how clear that picture was for him. I’m wondering, how clear is that picture for you?

Image for post
Image for post

I care about the order of priorities in company building. That order is important because each builds on the momentum of the one that comes before it, and it shapes the ultimate culture of the company. …


What does it mean to be welcoming? How would you take it to the next level? What would you do if you wanted someone at your company or on your team or in your accelerator to feel incredibly welcome?

Image for post
Image for post
Day One at Techstars Boulder, We Were Excited to See You!

I used to give this a lot of thought with my colleague at Techstars. We felt like day one was important for setting the tone for everything that was to follow. Day one at a new job is a lot like day one of school- everything is new, you get a fresh start. Do you remember the last time you had…


Image for post
Image for post

I was recently talking with a startup that is having success, growing fast and also hasn’t been around too long and is still taking shape. I asked the founders if they had outlined values for the company yet. I was impressed with their reply: they had outlined four values they felt were important for the company, relatively easy to remember with accompanying stories from the company’s history that illustrated their importance and contribution to success. …


Johari’s Window and Transformative Work

The first “Hawaiian island” of transformative work I experienced was Conscious Leadership more than four years ago, it was shortly followed by my second, which was Burning Man. Both created radical shifts in my self-awarenesses and relationship to others. So much so that when I retuned to work, one friend commented he’d “never seen a shift that big in a week”. I agreed. I was happier and better off for both the experiences. It inspired me to visit a few more “islands” on my own journey of self-development. I’ll explain.

When I hear people talking…


“Just let it roll off your back….” “Forgive and forget….” “Just let it go.”

I’ve never been good at letting go. I tend to fight more than I need to and hold a grudge longer than I care to admit. On a spectrum from easy-going to my- way-is-best, I know I my natural tendency is to fall closer to the opinionated, dictatorial jackass end. Letting go always kind of felt like giving in or giving up. …


And what happens to the tent when you’re tired?

Image for post
Image for post

Leadership is like a tent, it makes space for people to come inside and belong, have a community and a space to create, feel taken care of, etc. I like to envision it as a circus tent, big, expansive, able to hold many people under it, with a center pole in the middle holding it up. The taller the center pole, the bigger the tent, the more capacity it has, more people can fit in the tent. For example, I’m a member of a group of people that goes to burning…


Do you do your own conflict, or do you sometimes let others do it for you?

Image for post
Image for post

Imagine for a moment that having conflict is a task or a job in your life. That disagreeing or having an alternate opinion is some small but measurable amount of work. How might you be outsourcing that function in your life, and what are the consequences of not doing that work yourself? Are you someone who takes on having conflict on behalf of others? This relatable story illustrates what I mean by “conflict outsourcing”:

My friends were flying home with their kids in tow…

Julie Penner

Explorer of the Soul of Startups and lean vulnerability, outdoorswoman, dog mom, coach, facilitator, operator, truth-teller, sometimes investor.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store