Discover How Midlife Can Transform Your Leadership with Aneace Haddad


In this episode I’m joined by Aneace Haddad, a seasoned executive coach and leadership expert. Aneace shares his profound insights on the transformative power of midlife and how it can unlock new levels of leadership potential.

Aneace Haddad

With a wealth of experience working with C-suite executives and top teams across diverse industries globally, Aneace brings a unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges that arise during the midlife phase. Drawing from his own journey and coaching expertise, he explores the physiological, neurological, and parental shifts that can catalyze personal growth and the development of essential leadership qualities like humility, empathy, and resilience.

With over 1,800 hours of certified coaching, impacting over 300 individual senior leaders and aiding 100 top teams across 15 diverse industries globally, Aneace has become a trusted guide in steering executive teams to new heights.

Now, in his 60s, Aneace harnesses the opportunities and challenges presented in midlife to help executives unlock new energy and potential within themselves and their teams. His coaching style is shaped by a global perspective, combining proven leadership models with real-world insights from cross-cultural experiences and various life stages.

Aneace’s impact is vividly illustrated by testimonials from industry leaders. Terence Lyons, CEO of TSC, acknowledges Aneace for re-creating their company, shifting the focus to people, team, and culture. Philipp Kandal, Chief Product Officer at Grab, highlights Aneace’s ability to draw from rich personal experience, making coaching sessions enjoyable and effective. Khairul Mohamad, GM at Petronas, emphasizes Aneace’s role in reshaping his leadership approach and achieving goals.


🔑 Key Themes & Takeaways:

  • The Midlife Crucible: Aneace explores the transformative power of midlife, a period marked by physiological, neurological, and parental changes, which can nurture leadership superpowers like humility and iron will. 🔄

  • Letting Go of Identities: Aneace discusses the importance of loosening the grip on labels and identities that may hold leaders back, allowing for growth and self-discovery. 🧠

  • Embracing Uncertainty: Insights into how leaders can navigate uncertainty by acknowledging “I don’t know” and fostering trust and empowerment within their teams. 🔥

  • Organizational Grief: Aneace sheds light on the concept of organizational grief, stemming from events like mergers, acquisitions, and project failures, and the need for courageous conversations to heal. 📚

  • Empathy and Connection: Aneace shares a powerful story illustrating the profound impact of empathy and human connection on organizational commitment and safety. 🌍

  • Self-Awareness and Courage: Aneace reflects on a transformative experience that deepened his understanding of empowerment and the importance of allowing others to find their own courage. 💼

We talk about:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 05:05 The Midlife Crucible: Transformation and Leadership
  • 05:28 Niche Coaching for Midlife Leaders
  • 06:59 Exploring Grief and Leadership Through Fiction
  • 16:01 Organizational Grief and the Impact of the Pandemic
  • 27:17 Exploring CEO Qualities and Midlife Potential
  • 27:49 The Impact of Conscious Leadership on Team Trust
  • 30:31 Real-World Stories of Leadership Transformation
  • 37:26 A Deep Dive into Midlife Leadership Superpowers
  • 38:55 Navigating the Challenges of Aging with Grace
  • 41:50 Rapid Fire Questions

🌈 Closing Thoughts:

This engaging conversation with Aneace Haddad offers a refreshing perspective on navigating the challenges and opportunities of midlife to unlock untapped potential in leadership. Aneace’s insights encourage listeners to embrace self-discovery, foster empathy, and cultivate the courage to lead with authenticity and purpose.

#MidlifeLeadership #SelfDiscovery #Empathy #OrganizationalGrief #Empowerment #SelfAwareness

Connect with Aneace

Connect with me

Show More Show Less


Carolyn: Welcome to evolve a new era of leadership. I’m your host, Carolyn Swora. Today, we are going to be talking with Aneace Haddad. Aneace is a seasoned C suite executive coach and McKinsey certified senior advisor. He has worked. As a leadership coach with executive teams for hours and hours and hours, he’s worked with over a hundred top teams across 15 diverse industries globally.

And before that he had his own business. So I am really excited to talk with a niece about leadership about what he’s learned and what contributed to these two books that he’s written about leadership and really what midlife brings to our ability to lead. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Well, Evolve listeners, welcome to another episode. And I’m really, really excited to be talking to this amazing leader on the other side of the world. We’ve got a 12 hour time zone difference going on here. And Aneace Haddad, thank you so much for coming onto the show and welcome.

Aneace: Thank you, Carolyn. Wonderful being here. Wonderful meeting you.

Carolyn: Yeah, I, I was saying before we pressed record, you can tell me what tomorrow is going to be like, and you said there was going to be some nice weather in store, so I’m going to make sure I pull my tank top out for that.

Aneace: So based on my experience, yes, you will experience equatorial temperatures and humidity. So yeah, that’s how today looks.

Carolyn: It’s a beautiful, beautiful, well, before I get to tomorrow and you end today, I would love to have a conversation about All of this great work that you have done in the leadership space. There’s a depth to your work and he said, I found really appealing and I think will really appeal to our listeners.

And so I’m just going to start off sort of big picture first is what drew you to do work in the leadership space? Why is that a place that you want to give back to?

Aneace: I actually, I was a programmer when I started my career. So I’m I’m a techie. From the beginning, and then I became a tech entrepreneur. I built a payment software company in France, where I was living at the time in the south of France grew it to 30 countries.

And then sold it in 2007 when I was 47. And I mean, I knew about midlife crises and things like that, but I was in the middle of everything at the time. So I didn’t really look at it from that perspective. Didn’t have the depth. I don’t think,

Carolyn: Yet.

You didn’t have it yet. 

Aneace: yeah, yeah. So going through that whole product, there was, so I sold my company, was getting a divorce.

Moving from France to Singapore. I’ve been in France almost 20 years, originally from the US, but I’ve spoken French since I was a kid and it was always supposed to be home. And then things turned out differently. Business led me in other places. And I was moving to Singapore. So there was a lot of change going on.

I thought I was going to be a serial entrepreneur because I thought there’s nothing else I know how to do in life. I just I’ve built a company. Yeah. It was, it was successful. It was relatively successful. We had a good exit, but it was a niche company. It wasn’t like one of these big ones that you hear about today.

but then I discovered my heart wasn’t in it anymore. And I really struggled for a couple of years and. And I found that whenever I would talk to people that used to work for me and went on to become CEOs, CTOs, CFOs of other companies, I always found that that was a lot more fulfilling. I had a lot more pride in that than in the company, the technology, the patents.

I had filed, I had written the patents and filed them myself. I had, but I had much more pride in the people. So, I did some leadership training courses where I was a participant, trying to understand what are the things I could have done differently in the past. And that quickly led into the work that I’m doing today.

So by 50, I had transitioned into executive coaching top team facilitation. And now when I look backwards, I see that that is that midlife crucible that many of us go through, but we start questioning things. What’s my purpose? What more do I want out of life? I’ve still got lots of years ahead of me.

What am I going to do with them? The things that were driving me before are not driving me in the same way.

That’s what I write about today. And that’s what I love the most. A year ago. I stopped. I made the conscious decision to stop coaching people under 40. And, and, and I don’t want to say, I don’t want that to sound like reverse a just or anything.

It’s just that there’s. There’s something so amazing that happens in that time period 40s and 50s that I, I really love. So, focusing only on that, I think has allowed me to go into more depth on that on that transformation.

Carolyn: Well, if I, if I listen to what you said about your company, you said that it was a niche service or a niche product. And so I’m hearing you say that this is niche coaching and I think it’s brilliant.

Because when you’re really clear at who your target is, you can really go to that depth. So

I fall into your category.

Maybe that’s why I love your, your profile so much. She’s like, okay, I’m over 40. I might, I might even be over 50. So I am, I mean, let’s face it by the time this airs, I will have had my 52nd birthday. But you know, I have found, I have 

Aneace: birthday coming up soon.

Carolyn: Thank you. Thank you. I I’m loving my fifties. I mean, to me, there is, like you said, there’s just a blend.

There’s sort of this connection of I’ve got time to deal, still do some things and leave a legacy. And I’ve got some experience that’s really informed that and made me much wiser.

Aneace: Yeah.

Carolyn: so Aneace, I know you’ve you wrote a book about an eagle and a hummingbird and there was some nectar involved, right? The eagle that drank the hummingbird, the

Aneace: Yes, there always is.

Carolyn: What was the premise of that book? And And how did it, how does it tie in? Cause it’s a fable. It’s a fable. I know.

And sort of what’s the message for leaders in their forties and fifties, or maybe even beyond that, that that book talks about.

Aneace: So that book I had written 2 traditional business books back 20 something years ago when I was running my payment software company. So they were payment oriented books. and I, I wanted to write again when I moved into this new work that I’ve been doing now 15 years, it still feels new, but I didn’t want it to be a traditional business book.

Cause there’s so many of them out there on leadership and everything. So I, I made it as a, as a novel. It was a very difficult process. I had three, four different writing coaches that worked with me over a few years. And I remember one in particular that kept telling me you’re teaching you’re teaching again, because my voice would sound very professorial and teaching, giving advice so I had to, I had to really take that out.

Which has served me in my coaching because that it’s the same kind of thing the premise was actually my own transition at 50, but totally fictionalized. So it allowed me to go deeper in areas, embellish areas, create a narrative around the transformation that. At the end of the day, really matches my own transformation in terms of events by maybe 20 percent 25%.

The vast majority are things that are worked around that. The premise is well, number 1 choosing to move forward in that new phase of life, rather than holding on to the past. And usually that comes and we don’t have any other choice. Things are just falling apart. We finally go. Okay. I got to do something different now.

So that’s the 1st, chapter of the book is how he deals with that. And then and then there are subsequent chapters of depth. 1 of them is, beginning to look at one’s own biases, limiting beliefs, things like that, and seeing them, but not seeing them in a negative fashion, looking at them as something beautiful in terms of being human, because it’s the way our brains work, but at the same time can be limiting.

And then how do we grow with them, transcend them? The next chapter is on letting go of the identities of labels. So we build up all these labels over the years. I’m a man, a father, an expat in Singapore, former tech CEO, blah, blah, blah. We have dozens, hundreds of these labels.

Carolyn: Right.

Aneace: And they’re shortcuts and thinking, but sometimes they hold us back because we start really getting rigidly fixed with those labels.

So the idea is to loosen them up a bit and see that even though we have these labels that I’m still something else. I’m not, I’m not just my labels. And I can let go of these labels and I still have value. So that’s a, that’s a letting go process that that, that I see a lot in midlife. letting go of control.

That’s a big one.

Carolyn: or,

or letting go perceived perceived control. Cause we’ve never really had it.

We think we have. Yeah, it

Aneace: Yeah, yeah, and it feels good. And, and it, we got all the spreadsheets and everything to show that we really master the next 5 years. This is how it’s going to be. and then a pandemic hits and all those things are out the door. Um, So, so that was the premise, but all done as a novel.

Through the eyes of the protagonist who. Is going through that transformation at 50

Carolyn: and how does this help a leader? So, why would a leader around this age group want to read this book? What’s it going to help them do better or be better at?

Aneace: the huge shift in my opinion from just under that age group to this age group is that under that age group we thrive on. How to kind of advice. So we want lists. Here are five bullet points of what we need to do to get ahead. And it serves very well for that period. But in this messy process.

I don’t believe that’s very useful because it maintains a sense of control. Somebody tell me, it’s also disempowering. Tell me what to do, let me do it so I can get through to the next phase. So the purpose of this book is to, is to go deeper and begin uh, noticing, uh, through stories of others.

Begin noticing how my life, yeah, is also changing. So it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a different kind of learning than, teaching learning. It’s, it’s fiction. Fiction is a fantastic way for this kind of thing to come through. There’s also an underlying current. That only gets revealed at the very end, which reveals a thread of grief throughout the book, which has never mentioned.

So you, you, you, we talked about trauma a moment ago before we started. We all have. Elements of that, but without even mentioning the word, it can come through. So that was a lot of fun when that came together as kind of the final reveal of something that was underlying. And it gives the book a whole other sense that that wasn’t really talked about.


Carolyn: what happens when leaders carry unknown or unresolved grief in them? How does that show up in their leadership? Yeah. 

Aneace: I can give you an example recently chief operating officer of a large company. I was working with the top team. We had a session one day session one day session with the top team 15 people, was extremely frustrated with how people weren’t moving ahead and things were not going to plan and they weren’t doing what he wanted them to do his top the top team and then it became evident in one sharing moment when there was vulnerability in the room.

His daughter was 18. She was about to go away to college. They lived in Singapore. The family lived in Singapore and he was elsewhere. He was traveling around Southeast Asia and had missed seeing her growing up like that and getting ready to leave. And now as she was about to leave. He shared how she would never live with him again and he, he, he was emotional and what hit me at that moment is that he was taking out that frustration on the people around him.

Like, I can’t be with my daughter and I have to be with you idiots.

Carolyn: Right.

How did that show up in his behaviors with the team? Was he short with them? Did he yell at them or did he ignore them? Like, how did it show up?

Aneace: he would get very rigid and tense with them and demanding and micromanaging and it’s, I mean, I’ve kind of conflated. I’ve seen that in several different people. So I, it’s that’s the way I normally see that kind of frustration come through. It comes out, it doesn’t come out. Well, I’m sure it does at times.

I don’t often see it come out and, like, really shouting kind of session, especially in Asia. 

Carolyn: Hmm. 

Aneace: careful with that. However, it comes out. It can be a bit more subtle. But the tenseness is really felt. And so it creates tenseness around everyone else. And once he was able to see that and have a bit of a laugh about it, it eased things up.

A lot of things changed for him over the following weeks with that. What I don’t know, but what I suspect and what I hope for him. Is it also by by letting go by not holding so tightly on this thing of I will never have my daughter at home again. I’m missing the last moments with her as she grows up and leaves.

I’m hoping that by loosening his grip on that, he can start to envision a different kind of future reality with her. Visiting her more often traveling. So it’s that transition, which we all go through as our kids grow up. We all go through that. And it just comes out in different ways.

Carolyn: You know, before the pandemic, I don’t remember reading or seeing much about grief in leadership literature or work. And since the pandemic, though, there’s definitely more written about that. I’m curious what your perspective is on that. the reality of our workplaces, which, you know, just sort of, if I really generalize it, people feel more lonely, they feel more separate.

There’s just a lot more disconnection, a lot, a lot more shortness. Do you think that there’s grief at the sort of cause or I don’t want to say cause, but do you think grief is causing some of this?

Aneace: Yeah. and for me, the, the, the, the, the word grief is, is anyway, it’s a loss of something. 

Carolyn: Right. 

Aneace: in the traditional sense, a loss of a loved 1, but it’s also a loss of an identity loss of a label. Something has changed and that can feel very much like the loss of of a loved 1 loss of certainty.

I think 1 of the biggest things with the, with the pandemic is on a massive scale. We’ve all experienced loss of certainty. We don’t know. What’s going to happen? We don’t know where we’re going and still we need to be able to live and find joy and all that. So I see the same thing you’ve seen.

There were, there were 2 top team retreats that I did not this 1 that I was just talking about 2 other top team retreats that I did soon after the reopening. after COVID within a couple of weeks of each other, and this is the CEO and the top, there is small teams, six, seven, eight people.

And even though there were interviews before doing the retreat and in order to design the retreat and all that for them still organizational grief and trauma came up in both of those situations, which had not been surfaced or raised before And once it came out, it was able to be talked about and things were worked through it.

are things that work through pretty quickly once they once they come out. I was struck by how those came out in such similar ways and completely different companies and completely different countries. And the only thing I can see in common is something with. pandemic having put us into a deeper mode.

Carolyn: Yeah. Was there, is there something you could share about what organizational grief looks like? Like sort of a topic or a theme? I haven’t heard many people mention that before in that way.

Aneace: so many things happen in organizations that create lingering frustration and grief mergers acquisitions, top battles between very senior people. And 1 of them loses out and leaves the company a major project. There was the brainchild of one of the founders and the project fails and gets cut and the founder has to leave.

And the people that were behind that are upset and the others that remain the others that were outside of that feel grief, feel trauma from how. in some cases that I’ve seen. the people that were there, the legacy people were being treated like they were old and not old age wise, but they didn’t have anything new to offer.

And we were going to modernize this company and change everything. And then it didn’t work. The way it was planned and the people that had been kind of beat up as being uh, irrelevant are struggling to re find their relevance. So it, it, it comes up in many, many different ways. And the most effective way I’ve seen of dealing with all this is having frank, open, courageous conversations that, that, that you’re, you’re certified and dare to lead.

Carolyn: I am. Yeah. So when you say surface tension and have difficult conversations, I’m like, ding,

ding, ding. Yes.

It’s, and 

Aneace: That’s exactly it.

Carolyn: what I find interesting about just the year 2020, I mean, lots happened in that year it sort of like took this bandaid over this off of this big gaping wound.

I mean, the bandaid was just really sort of a surface. These things were there before, right? You and I have both seen companies and leaders go through mergers and acquisitions and transformations and all that. I think what was interesting about 2020 is. There was no place for the pain or the grief, or there was no place to silence any of those emotions. And it has to come out now. And we have to have these conversations. We have to surface these tensions. Cause as you said, there, there’s a loss of certainty and we just don’t have a choice anymore. Are you seeing that with leaders too? Like you, you cannot be a leader today and effective leader without navigating uncertainty.

Aneace: Yeah, there’s an exercise I’ve done a few times is having people say, I don’t know an answer to every question.

And it’s it’s a challenging exercise. A lot of their people that really struggle with them. I don’t know.

Carolyn: What, and what, what’s the purpose of the exercise?

Aneace: It’s to, um, start noticing how we, we feel that we want to know everything we want to have answers to everything. Pre midlife. I think the main value that we have as we grow in our careers is having the right answers, knowing the right things, getting things done, all that stuff. And that’s where our value, we start to realize I have value because I, I’m a problem fixer and I’m, I’m fast.

That’s my value. And then when things start to change, and that stuff doesn’t work anymore, we go, well, where’s my value? Then,

every parent experiences that as kids grow up in teenage years, and then they get ready to leave. It’s like, well, if you don’t want me to tell you what to do, what’s my value as a parent?

Carolyn: Right.

Aneace: your parents. It’s my role to tell you what to do trying to hold on to something That was an early fascinating thing I found in my coaching was our parenting stage kind of mirrors our leadership stage. when you see slightly younger leaders in the organization their kids are a bit younger CEOs.

They tend to have teenagers or or late teens, even board members. Their kids have just grown up and and left and the level of trust and empowerment and. Level of comfort, which takes quite a lot of time to develop the level of comfort of saying, okay, do your thing. Do your thing. I trust that you’re going in the right direction.

I don’t agree. Maybe with how you’re doing it, but do your thing that comfort level goes up. and I see midlife as a, as a, as a perfect storm for accelerating that process because so many things that our bodies are changing. It’s just not responding the way it gets to. I don’t have the stamina.

Our brains are changing. We’re forgetting where our car keys were. We look at a spreadsheet that we’re talking to the board. We’re looking at a spreadsheet and we can’t remember what the formula was behind 1 of the cells where we used to know it all.

Carolyn: Wow.

Aneace: And our kids are growing up and leaving home and behind all of this, I find amazing opportunities for growth and for learning and for moving into wisdom.

As, as you mentioned earlier. So,

Carolyn: Wow. And so, what I’d never thought of that parental. I mean, I know it’s there, but I just appreciated how you just outline that, you know, like, board members are typically at a different point in their career. Kids will be older. They’ve seen a lot more. They’ve experienced a lot more and, you know, It’s really interesting.

So I guess like with all your years of experience, you can probably, can you sort of see the leadership style and have a good

sense at the parenting style that goes along with it?

Aneace: yeah, yeah, yeah. If I see an organization with lots of Smallish KPIs and requirements and stuff like that. I know there are a lot of small children at home, especially in the H. R. department. They still have a lot of kids at home and, and, and they’re kind of bringing that same energy in. So things like a doctor’s certificate, a doctor’s letter saying that you really are sick, stuff like that If someone is working from home, are they really working? What can we put on their computers to make sure that they’re really attentive? That all those kinds of things. That kind of thinking, I know there are a lot of kids that are still at home in the organization. That’s the style of it. 

or top down here are our values.

Learn them rather than surfacing it, bringing it up from the people and then adopting it. I’m at the top you. Okay. Oh, those are our values. Cool. Okay. I’m going to adapt to those values. It’s a. It’s a very different kind of energy. 

Carolyn: Once you get through the teenage years, you know, damn well, you’re not, you

Aneace: You don’t know best.

Carolyn: Sometimes you don’t think, you know, anything. But Hey, that’s a whole other podcast. So the sense I’m getting, so I want to, I want to sort of, maybe not untie, but dig in a little bit deeper. Are we saying that great CEOs have to be over 50? Why or why not?

Aneace: No, I believe I’ve seen, I know people under 40 that are exemplary and that have gone way beyond all of these things. But I think it’s a very rare characteristic. If you look at the leadership literature, Robert Keegan, who talks about the five levels and all that Jim Collins their top level, the way they describe it is it’s extremely rare.

The top level again talks about 1 percent of people reach that top level of consciousness. Now when you look at the age of these particular writers when they came up with their theories, when I did some research on that, they were all in their mid 30s. And I believe it is rare earlier on, but I believe it’s there.

I think it’s very possible and we see them. What I really think it’s not so much that you have to be over 50. What I think is that in midlife, those qualities become less rare. I think in midlife, there’s an opportunity for them to emerge kind of naturally because of all the stuff that we’re going through.

For example, Jim Collins, his top level is, is humility and iron will having those 2 together. Which is quite rare over 50, it’s a lot more rare. I mean, a lot less rare. There are a lot more people that have humility and iron will, because there’s so many things that have not gone the way they thought they would go.

so in answer to your question, it’s totally possible to have great CEOs, well under 50 but the potential grows a lot in midlife.

Carolyn: Hmm. if we

let go, what’s the impact on the team when a CEO does this work to, I’m just going to use, you haven’t used this word yet necessarily, but like deepens their level of consciousness or raises their level of consciousness. What’s the impact on their team when that happens?

Aneace: the fundamental one is trust. And if you’re familiar with Patrick 5 dysfunctions of a team, his pyramid trust is the foundational of that 1 and that’s usually the area that we work on that. I work on the most with top teams. As soon as very senior leaders. Start they shift they go from a process of saying something like it’s hard to do.

That’s just audio. We need to change and pointing at everybody else. Hey, guys, everybody, we need to change, but the, the message underneath that is you need to change. And that’s a very, very common message. Now, when, when the shift comes from I need to change how I’m doing stuff. I’m the source. Of everything that’s happening here, I take full responsibility for it.

How am I creating distrust in the organization? I want greater empowerment. I want people to take more initiative. How, what am I doing that’s sending messages to dampen that? And if I start searching on those things and I find them and they can be extremely subtle things, then things shift and trust increases.

So that’s the main, that’s the main thing is that trust amongst the team raises and we get more things done because we’re not constantly doubting each other.

Carolyn: It’s, it’s, isn’t it amazing when a senior leader has that revelation?

Aneace: It’s quite beautiful. It’s quite beautiful. When that shift happens

Carolyn: Cause it’s not, It’s not for us as, as coaches or consultants to teach or tell, right? Like that,

that’s, that’s not where you see the big shifts. Yeah, it really, I, I, I just had a few images there as you said that. And inside, I’m sure that the client saw the big smile on my face. It’s like, yes, hello, welcome. Or, or I’m sure the same has happened with me as I’ve been through my own sort of a journey into deepening or elevating my levels of consciousness to kind of inviting in the, the other side and recognizing like there is a side that I haven’t seen and it’s about time we got to know this person.

Cause she’s holding you back.

Aneace: you have a story with a client that you could share right now. I’d love to hear.

Carolyn: yeah, it’s probably similar to what, to what you said, Aneacee where the revelation turns from, we need to be doing this, but the we is sort of, it doesn’t, the words aren’t aligning with the felt sense. And underneath, it’s like, it’s like, Oh no, no, they need to be the ones, like, I know where I’m taking this, but they need to be the ones to follow versus, you know, and this, this didn’t, this doesn’t happen overnight, but this revelation of, wow. I’m realizing X, Y, Zed and like really identifying some of the things in themselves and then asking questions.

I can think of one person that asked me straight up, is this what’s happening on the team? Because I’m doing X, Y, Zed.

Aneace: Oh, wow.

Carolyn: and that was like, Yeah, it could be a contributing factor. I’m not the knower of all things, but that’s a great question to ask. And then, then I just found the questions and the desire to know more about themselves just deepened

Aneace: Yeah, that’s 

Carolyn: you don’t to ask them to do anything. It just, it becomes this place where they want to go. 

Aneace: to mind a story that’s in my book that comes from an early coaching session I had the managing director of a textile factory in India. They were having too many accidents and they had some fatalities. And I, I don’t know anything about factories or safety or anything like that. So I wasn’t coaching him on that.

But when we got into a conversation, and then I asked him I love using 1 to 10, especially with senior executives, because they, they love to take these very mushy. Things and put them into some way that they can kind of measure them. So I asked him from 1 to 10, how committed are you to safety? And he said, very, very high nine out of 10.

And then the conversation quickly moved toward maybe, maybe that’s why people are dying. If it’s not 10 there’s something he’s feeling that was off. But then he got angry. He said, I can’t be 10 out of 10 safety. I, I’ve got thousands of people. Most of them are uneducated. They do stupid things. The shop floor is very long.

If a forklift is going by and somebody wants to get one into the other, he’ll jump on the front of the forklift. He knows he’s not supposed to. I can’t be on everybody’s back. That was his definition of 10 out of 10. I backed off because he was angry and was like, okay, I get it. I don’t know anything about you.

About your factory then uh, at our next coaching session, he was really excited. He says um, I found my 10 out of 10. He says he was, he told me a story. He was walking through the shop floor. There’s a janitor, elderly janitor who slipped. Twisted his ankle and the CEO, the managing director stopped and helped him and he called the health and safety people, come down and make sure he was okay.

And he said, up until then, that’s nine out of 10. That’s what I would have always done. If I was walking by and something happened, I would have stopped and checked on them. Then he said um, he, as he was searching for what is more, what’s, what’s missing. When the safety people said the man was okay, he just needed to go back to his home and rest and not walk on his foot for a couple of days.

The CEO said he decided to drive him home in his car. And so he personally drove the man home. He helped them into the house, helped them into the house, met his wife, made sure the wife would make sure that the man stays in bed for a couple of days. He had tea with them. And it was this, this level of empathy of connecting with others as human beings.

That just that just took it a notch higher and people talk. I mean, hey, did you see that? The CEO took the janitor home in his own car. People talk about it and and the commitment goes. So I never would have been saying I’d never been. It would have been able to say, hey, if you see someone fall down, put them in your car and drive them.

It’s not that it’s really for him to find what is missing and for him. What was missing is that that extra level and empathy. And human connection

Carolyn: What a fabulous story. And I mean, it just takes it to a whole other level. Like you said, you can’t write that out and prescribe it. It just came from a different place for this leader.

Aneace: yeah so i’m i’m i’ve never been a big how to put it stickler on 10 out of 10 commitment to that kind of thing until that story and now i use it all the time and and and when i have a group i have a team of leaders. I’ll have them use a flip chart, put a red dot on where you see yourself today as a team in terms of effectiveness from 1 to 10.

The dots are usually 4 to 7. Where do you need to be? People will put 8, 9, 10. And then we have a big conversation on, okay, everyone in the room sees that you did effective needs needs to go up. Got it. And we start unpacking. Why are people seeing things differently and all that. And then the final unpacking is why not 10 out of 10.

And you have a few people that put 10 out of 10 dots. They’re completely on board. The others, all the same conversations come up over and over again, 10 out of 10 is perfection and means that I can’t grow anymore. So it’s good not to be 10 out of 10. And it always goes in that direction. And then I’ll, and then I’ll drop at the end of it, a little story.

I’ll say, remember when your baby, when you first became. A father or a mother, and you’re holding your baby in your hands, and you say, I love you 7 out of 10. I know that I’m not, I know that I don’t know how to be a parent yet. don’t know who you are, what you’re going to grow into. 7 out of 10 feels about right, right now.

And it might reach 8 or 9, and we don’t think like that. We don’t think like that.

Carolyn: we

Aneace: that always 

Carolyn: what, 

Aneace: and they get it.

Carolyn: Oh my, that is such a brilliant way to describe that. Cool. Well, Aneacee, like, we’ve already been talking here. We have to wrap, we have to start into the wrap up side of things. I’m kind of sad by


Aneace: on and on.

Carolyn: We could, you’re going to teach me all these things. I just want to give you a moment to share a little bit about your new book coming out later, I think the spring, correct?

Aneace: So the new book is titled soaring beyond midlife. The surprisingly natural emergence of leadership superpowers in life. 2nd, half. So it, it takes the themes of the novel, but it places them into a larger context of multiple protagonists stories that they’re going through. And it unpacks what I call the 3 winds of change of midlife, the physiological changes we go through, the neurological changes.

I mentioned earlier, not remembering car keys, but we also have our 2 hemispheres that are connecting more. So we’re able to connect the dots. And a better in an easier way than when we were younger and the 3rd area is parental change. So the, the kids growing up, leaving home and how that’s impacting us.

and in my opinion, the, the, in the, the premise of the book is that this gives rise to leadership superpowers, like. Humility and iron will so there are a variety there. There’s several of these that come through that are directly impacted by those 3 changes. It’s a fleshing out of this idea that midlife is an amazing crucible for nurturing exemplary leadership qualities.

If we’re able to let go of what has served us previously and explore in depth. What the future is going to look like.

Carolyn: Do you know what else I think it does too? Is it, it helps us move into this phase of our lives with excitement. With

gratitude versus like, Oh, I can’t believe I’m so old. Or

I, you know, I tell you how many people like, Oh, well, you know, you’re in your fifties, you’re closer to the door now. I’m like, well, yeah, you’re

closer walk door if you want to. But it’s so, and, and it, it makes me sad, you know, that, that people view getting older as a punishment or as,

you know, something that, that we’re suffering. So I’m really, I’m really excited to get my hands on this book when it comes out. Aneacee, where, where could people find out more about it? Can they do pre orders?

Aneace: they will be able to do pre orders probably mid May is when the pre orders would open up. It’ll all be on Amazon. Easy to find. There’ll be print versions, Kindle ebook versions. The prior novel is also on audio. I hired a voice actor because there’s several, there are several different characters.

It wasn’t just one voice. There are different characters.

Carolyn: cool. Cool. Cool.

Aneace: This one is not, not yet an audio. It would be a more traditional one. And maybe I’ll maybe I’ll narrate this next one. But yeah, it’ll all be on Amazon. Pretty easy to find.

Carolyn: Fantastic. Well, we will make sure that those links are in the show notes. If you do an audio version, I’m going to pass on a little secret that somebody shared with me is to drink apple juice while you record.

Aneace: Really?

Carolyn: Yep.

I, I did mine. It does something for your throat. I don’t know if it’s like true what it actually does scientifically, but we’ll just say it’s, you know, a little, a little wisdom.

It worked for me. I mean, my throat never went dry, I didn’t cough and you know, just always had my apple juice. A good friend of mine has a recording studio. So I recorded my book at his studio and I would show up every day with my, my little liter of apple juice. So here you

Aneace: so you narrated your own book? How many hours was that?

Carolyn: It was probably how many chapters, 12 chapters an hour to like probably 24 hours in total. Like

Aneace: Right. Okay.

Carolyn: everything. Yeah. Once, once you get a rhythm it’s good and you can’t do too much at once. Like you really, I really noticed anyway, I would get tired and then my intonation or, you know, sometimes I might


Aneace: yeah.

Carolyn: So there was really I couldn’t power through, I couldn’t maintain the same level of energy.

Aneace: Right. Right. We can go on and on in this conversation. There’s so many other 

Carolyn: Yes. We just like, we just changed the whole topic of the podcast there for a second. Well, Aneacee, before we sign off and you continue into tomorrow and I will finish off today. Can I ask you the three questions I ask all our listeners, or I ask all of my guests.

All right. So the first question is about self awareness and just would invite you to share a short anecdote or a lesson that you learned that really took your level of self awareness to a whole other level.

Aneace: It was kind of the event that sent me into this. Work when just after I had sold my company, I was doing a leadership training. I was, it was a ropes course, you know, where you’re up in the trees and you’ve got the ropes and everything. And I was paired in 1 exercise. I was paired with a, a, a young woman who is scared of heights.

And in this particular exercise, you go up to the top and there’s a rickety bridge in front with with pieces of wood missing. And one of you is supposed to put a mask on a blindfold. So the facilitator told me to put the blindfold on. And so I did so basically, I was supposed to allow my partner to lead me across and experience that and she froze.

She didn’t want to move. She was paralyzed and I was encouraging her. Come on, let’s go. Let’s go. And then my type a personality kicked in and I said, okay, well, the goal is to get to the other side. That’s the goals I kind of in my mind, put aside all the other learning things. And so I told her what you get behind me, I’ll keep the mask on.

That’s the rule of the game. And she came behind me, she held my straps and I felt my way across without a slipping or anything. And I was really proud and the facilitator glared at me when I came down. She said, what the hell was that about? And she said um, you, you wasted the opportunity to experience what it feels like to truly trust someone else.

And you wasted her opportunity to find her own courage. And that hit me so hard. it took my understanding of empowerment to a much, much higher level. And I realized that I was I came up with the term courage vampire. 

this, tendency. If people are not showing up, courageous show up, then then my courage would come up to kind of fill the gap

Carolyn: along. Yeah.

Aneace: and pull me along and and and inhibits.

It doesn’t it. It allows it. It doesn’t demand that their courage come up. that was quite a deep thing for me that 1. That was a long answer to your 1 question.

Carolyn: no, it was a gradient. It’s like you were a courage, a courage vampire. We don’t want courage

vampires. We want courage, but not the vampire. Yeah.

All right. So second question is about how, how you regulate or how you can bring yourself into a place of calm or presence. What cues or rituals, what strategies do you have that help you?

Aneace: Oh, mindfulness is a huge 1. I meditate every day at least an hour a day. Mindful moments. While listening to people. So mindfulness is a huge one with physical exercise at least three times a week, walking in between having a lot of movement. Without that, everything just gets very stale, very, very stuck for me.

I need that. 

Carolyn: Yep. 

Aneace: I need that focusing

Carolyn: Nice. And what’s a, what’s a mindful moment when you said that you have mindful moments listening to people? What do you mean by that?

Aneace: entirely on the person, noticing when my thoughts Have gone into areas that are unrelated to the person, noticing when my emotions or physical sensations have shifted. And in a coaching conversation, being mindful of when those physical shifts are my own. And when I may be mirroring something that I’m sensing in the other person.

And then when I bring it out and it says, it feels like my chest is constricted or something. And the other person, if they say, yeah, that’s how I feel, then, you know, you’ve touched on something deep. So that. I guess that’s a super mindful moment that other kinds of mindful moments is just noticing

Carolyn: I’m hearing attunement and it’s a beautiful, I think, segue into the third question, which is around co regulation and what you were just describing there is like co regulating with somebody through attunement. So one of the things that I, I think helps co regulate is music. You know, music is such a way that we can bond and stay connected or be connected with each other.

So I’m curious what genre of music or song helps you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.

Aneace: my, I think, through my work, this uh, high level of attunement, empathy and all that made a loud noise is very, very difficult for me, or crowds have become a lot more difficult for me. If I’m out and there are noises, if we’re in a restaurant and noises are bouncing everywhere, and I can’t focus on my wife speaking.

When I focus everything comes in at the same level because it’s just not, I’m not tuning out the way I used to. It’s like, so, because of that I can’t, I haven’t been able for the last few years to listen to music with Lyrics, for example because there’s too much going on too much too much input.

So I, I, I love I love chillax kind of music. just, yeah, it’s just kind of background music. I, it’s, I’m not really good at that. And my wife just went out. My wife and son went out to a Bruno Mars concert and my stepdaughter the day before. And I can’t go to those anymore.

Carolyn: Mm. Well, you

know, all types, all types of music and like you said, the chillax or the, the, I guess I’m going to guess there’s a frequency of sound that isn’t,

aggravate the auditory capacity that you have. 

Aneace: yeah. So, so music. I’ve loved music early I used to like playing the guitar. But I just can’t. It doesn’t work anymore.

Carolyn: Wow. Well, thank you for sharing Chillax. So we’re going to go look at those up in our, on our music platforms and see what comes up with Chillax, because I guarantee you there’s going to be some sort of playlist to go with Chillax.

Aneace: There are, I’ve, I’ve listened to many of them.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. So Aneacee, thank you so much for coming on the show. We’re going to make sure that folks have your links really quickly though, where could people find you?

Aneace: So, my name, my first name is quite unique, especially in the spelling and my website is simply a nice dot com dot com. Um, That’s kind of the easiest place. And then I’m on LinkedIn. I’m easy to find because my name, you just put in a nice. A N E A C E, and I’m quite easy to find.

Carolyn: It’s like Cher. It’s like Cher and Madonna. You just, you’re just what, or, or more Madonna the soccer player, right? Like you’re the one

Aneace: Beyonce, Madonna, yeah, 

Carolyn: Exactly. There you go. There you go. You’re among royalty and ease. Well, it’s been such a pleasure speaking with you. I, I, I know that this, our listeners here have just gleaned some really fabulous insight.

Good luck with your book launch and it’s been a

pleasure with you.

Aneace: Thank you, Carolyn. Wonderful meeting you.

Carolyn: Well, I’ve learned a new term. I mean, I learned a lot of things on this conversation, but this term of courage vampire, I’m going to sit with that for a while, especially given the amount of work that I do in the space of courageous conversations and courage and vulnerability. It made me wonder. Times when I might’ve been a courage vampire, when I have stepped in to try and fix something and not allowed the person or people I’m working with to step into some of that discomfort and learn how to embody courage.

That’s just one of the things I took away from the conversation with Aneace. I’d love to hear what you took away from this conversation. Send me a message, Leave a comment or a rating. Would love to hear what you thought of the show. Thanks again for tuning into this episode.

We’ve got more in store for you. And as always, if you’d like to find out more about my work, you can find me at See you soon. 

EVOLVE Podcast Episodes


Welcome to the Evolve community

Skip to content