Category Archives: Coaching

Intro To My Influencers: Sanyin Siang

Photo: LID Publishing

Author’s note: A while ago, when I began my coaching business, I started making a list of those people that influenced me. But a list alone isn’t compelling enough so I wanted to do a deeper dive into each of my influences to share HOW they influenced me, my personal development, and my coaching. Enjoy!

Sanyin Siang is the most famous anonymous person I know. She has over a million followers on LinkedIn. She’s got the winningest coach in college basketball history on speed dial. She’s written two books and has met and coached some of the world’s best leaders. Still, it’s a fame that is largely hidden so unless you know Sanyin, you could pass her on the street and never see the tremendous impact she has had on others. 

And yet if you ran into her around town as I have on a number of occasions, she will give you a big hug and spend a few minutes with you before she runs off to her next meeting or to pick up her kids. And those few minutes will be magical, with her searching her mental rolodex for people who could help you with whatever challenge you may be facing, which always happens to slip out when you talk with her. 

Despite it seeming like she’s perfect in every way, Sanyin will readily admit that she doesn’t have all the answers and she faces the same doubts, fears, and worries that we all do. In fact, the part of her most recent book (The Launch Book) that resonated with me the strongest was the final chapter where she acknowledges how hard the process of writing was and how she didn’t know how to complete the book. This upfront vulnerability is missing in many of our leaders today and it is so beneficial to see her model that for us.  

As we’ve all struggled during COVID times, Sanyin’s occasional Facebook posts on her engagement with her family–a garden exploration, a cooking experiment–are also complemented with her at-times overwhelming frustration at remote learning or parenting in general. Stars…they’re just like us. 

This leading with vulnerability and humility are the lessons that I’ve pulled from my decade-plus long relationship with Sanyin. The only way to be a truly great leader is to recognize you don’t have all the answers yourself and be willing to share that reality. Another way of looking at it is that Sanyin is a human first and a coach (or mother or wife or teacher or volunteer or…)  second and not vice versa. By putting the weight in the appropriate place first (her authentic self, her true essence), she ensures that whatever else she does will be successful. And that’s something we all can learn from her.


Intro to My Influencers: Ari Weinzweig

Author’s note: A while ago, when I began my coaching business, I started making a list of those people that influenced me. But a list alone isn’t compelling enough so I wanted to do a deeper dive into each of my influences to share HOW they influenced me, my personal development, and my coaching. Enjoy!

My family introduced me to Zingerman’s Deli a few years ago and I made it a tradition to stop by there and do a pilgrimage each time I made it to Ann Arbor, which admittedly wasn’t that often. Zingerman’s prides itself on high quality of food, unique and local variations of regional and international cuisine, and high standards for customer service. So, when a work trip with a couple colleagues necessitated a visit a few years ago, I made a reservation for the three of us at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. 

Zingerman’s Roadhouse is a sit-down outpost of the Deli. More down-home American classics than traditional deli fare, but perfect for an introduction to the quality of food and service that Zingerman’s was known for. And it didn’t disappoint. 

Our server was attentive and thoughtful, even using her own body to demonstrate what part of the cow the steak I was interested in was from. Our water glasses were refilled with regularity. Our plates cleaned of every last morsel. 

We had a professional development budget to buy the books or attend the conferences that we wanted. Ari Weinzweig, the CEO of Zingerman’s, had written several and I convinced my colleagues that we should each get his books so our server dropped off a stack of 9 thick hardback books on the table as I polished off the remains of the donut ice cream sundae that marked the end of our meal. 

And then, the water guy sidled up to our booth, sat down, opened the first book (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part I: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business), and started signing them. My colleagues and I all looked incredulously at each other. 

“Are you Ari?” as if that wasn’t already self-evident. 

“Yes, welcome to Zingerman’s! I hope you enjoyed your meal.” 

“We did! But weren’t you just filling our water?” 

“I was. That’s Secret 25: Managing by pouring water.” 

We opened the book to that chapter and indeed, there it was, Secret 25, Managing by pouring water. Turns out that every week, Ari works at the Roadhouse one evening so that he can check in with the team, get an eye on operations, and interact with the customers. So that he doesn’t just sit around making everyone uncomfortable while he observes what’s going on, in the spirit of servant leadership, he identified a job that he could do that would be valuable to the guests and the team, but also could be covered by others should he be out of town. He settled on refilling the water glasses.

I have to admit that this was a pretty good party trick and clearly, we weren’t the first people he had pulled it on. But more than that, I was impressed with his dedication to his craft, to his team, to his customers. 

So began a deep dive into the history of Zingerman’s Deli and it’s growth from a small delicatessen into a community of businesses–all in the Ann Arbor area–that support each other. Beyond the Deli and Roadhouse, they also have a mail order business, coffee shop, coffee roastery, candy manufactory, bakehouse, training company, Korean restaurant, farm, creamery, mail order, event space, and food tours. As I dug into Zingerman’s, I also explored all of the many writings of Ari Weinzweig. There have been so many inspirational parts of his work that have influenced my own personal development as well as my coaching. Here are just a few:

  • “Don’t get furious, get curious” as a reminder to dig into the root causes of what angers you and to dig underneath the immediate emotion.
  • If feeling lousy, find three people to thank. Gratitude changes your perspective pretty quickly.
  • Knowing and accepting what is “enough.” This one deserves an essay all on its own but recognizing what constitutes enough (money, fame, external validation, rest, etc.) will change your life.
  • The art of giving excellent customer service. It’s not enough to simply provide good customer service once, you have to have an underlying philosophy and the processes in place to make it a consistent reality. 
  • The power of visioning. This one also deserves an essay of its own, but I’ve found that creating a compelling vision of a future state that I want has changed my life.

Ari’s influence on me is not limited to the content of his writing. I also appreciate the vulnerability and thoughtfulness that permeates it. He clearly spends a great deal of time thinking and reflecting, also skills that I desire to practice more. The voluminousness of his writing also inspires me. He produces so much great content that I’m amazed he has time for anything else, let alone helping to run a multi-million dollar organization. 

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