What’s Your Leadership Start-Stop-Continue?

by Alli Polin on July 30, 2013

Leaders are responsible for their self development start stop continue

I was recently working with a client that was really frustrated that he’d been stuck at the Director level for what he considers “far too long” and had a big goal to eventually sit in the C-suite.  When we talked about what’s going on and what was most holding him back, I heard a lot of:

–       I can’t because…

–       They think…

–       Everyone else…


It was time for me to stop coaching the saboteur, the tiniest version of my client, that sits on his shoulder, whispering in his ear all of the reasons why he’ll never, ever achieve his dream.  (Sound familiar?)  I needed to start coaching the successful, smart client that hired me; he needed to get on the phone and in the game ASAP.

Together, we focused on what he needed to do to make the leap from his current position to living his dream.  We crafted a set of Start-Stop-Continues that would be a meta-reminder of both his values and goals.   His Stop-Start-Continue enabled him to not only be happy where he was, but also focus on his self-development, let go of his “whoa is me” attitude and engage his fire and passion.

Through my work with leaders at all levels and experiences from the boardroom to the PTA board, here are some of the Start-Stop-Continues that other’s have adopted and have led to inspired action.  Do any of them ring true for you? 

Stop-Start-Continue to Break the Frame and Lead with Passion and Purpose

Stop talking about what isn’t and start focusing on what is

Our language matters!  When we are constantly focusing on and talking about the gaps, we miss all of the bridges that are ready for us to cross.

Start making things go right instead of fixing what’s wrong

This is truly a mindset that takes you from fixer to leader; it’s all about your attitude and perspective.

Continue to focus on your way of being and not only your way of doing

Any behavior, hard or soft, can be done with love and respect for the other person.  When you correct, coach or make suggestions it feels 100% different when you hold the other person as another human being, equal to you and not inferior.

Stop worrying about the time and title

We close ourselves off to being great in the present moment when we buy into “too long at level.”  Who says you’re a better leader with a bigger title, can influence more, or have a greater impact?  Not me.

Start building more relationships

Relationships are the cornerstone of everything.  If you want to be a change catalyst, an exceptional leader, or a part of a meaningful community, you can only make it happen through relationships.

Continue to do work that lights you up and share your passion with the team

When you’re bored by the work, your team will be too.  Connect with why the work matters and share the message far and wide.

Stop worrying that it’s not your turn

Leadership is not like kindergarten when everyone gets an equal number of turns as the line leader and the weather announcer.  Notice the opportunities where you are, not only where you’re going.

Start to swim in the bluest waters

Blue Ocean Strategy reminds us that we need to find the space where we’re swimming alone and not stuck in the bloody red ocean with the rest of the competition.  You can innovate, create, and separate from the pack.

Continue to stay focused on what you want your life to be, not your title to be

When our personal leadership goals are only title centric, we miss out on why we want the title in the first place. What will it create in our lives or the lives of others?  That’s what matters and we can create that starting today.

My client?  He actually left his corporate position to start his own company, where he is now the CEO.

BREAK THE FRAME ACTION: Sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm your personal leadership start-stop-continue.  Tap into the list above.  Share it with a trusted advisor so they can be your accountability partner as you move towards your goals.

What is the top thing you need to start, stop or continue doing that’s holding you back from making the leap from where you are today towards your dream?

For speaking, coaching or consulting, Let’s Connect!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman July 30, 2013 at 6:42 am

Alli –

This is a great post! It is such a good reminder to use the tools that we learn in Corporate America with our own lives and to open ourselves up to new tecnology, new relationships and new ideas.

What a great gift you gave your client! …Helping him find his voice!



Alli Polin July 30, 2013 at 7:34 am

Thanks, Chery! Yes, “finding your voice” is near and dear to my heart. I started using Stop-Start-Continue when I was in HR as a structure during site visits to our largest programs. I would do interviews with everyone and gather feedback and insights to share with the leadership team. Became evident that the leaders benefitted from my ideas and insights but really needed to step up and decide what they were willing to do.

Applying corporate tools to our lives really works for people that truly understand that way of thinking too!

Thanks for your comment and adding to the conversation!


Kaarina Dillabough July 30, 2013 at 7:16 am

Oh my goodness, this is close to my heart as I’ve used what I call the “Stoplight Questions” for over 25 years now. As you’ve indicated here, I have clients ask themselves 3 simple questions:
What am I doing now that I should stop doing?
What am I doing now that I should continue doing?
What have I not yet considered or thought seriously about that I should start doing?
Kindred spirits, like minds 🙂 Cheers! Kaarina


Alli Polin July 30, 2013 at 7:29 am

Love ’em, Kaarina! Powerful, right? Great exercise and one that I use often. Absolutely with you on the like minds. Appreciate you!


Hoda Maalouf (@MaaHoda) July 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

It’s a great post Alli!
Could I suggest that you turn the headings into a Pinterest post?
It would make a great Poster!


Alli Polin July 30, 2013 at 9:32 am


Thank you for your feedback and for your suggestion! I think that playing with putting this into a poster would be a fun creative exercise. I’m not active on Pinterest but appreciate the encouragement!

Many thanks!


Matt July 30, 2013 at 8:39 am

Brilliant post! I love, love, love the bit about watching our language. As meaning-creating and meaning-seeking creatures language is the primary currency of our human experience.


Alli Polin July 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

Well said, Matt! I’ve often heard said that our words create worlds. Definitely lofty but our words absolutely create our reality and being that we’re human… we’re great at talking ourselves into things that do not serve us! Appreciate your comment and insight!


Joy Guthrie July 30, 2013 at 9:11 am

Great post, Alli. Are you sure you weren’t talking about me? I could swear many of these things applied to me several years ago. I think you must have been listening! In any event, I absolutely love your play on words on “Whoa is me” vs the traditional “woe is me.” Your wording really shows how that what is stopping you is YOU…and that inner voice inside. So, your “whoa” is leading to your “woes.” Great job.


Alli Polin July 30, 2013 at 9:30 am

Joy, Thanks so much! More than anyone else, we are the ones that most often get in our own way. Making a commitment to taking an intentional look at what we’re doing and not doing, opens up entirely new experiences. Love your comment and think that you rock! Thanks, Joy!


Terri Klass July 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

Terrific coaching and post, Alli! Your stop-start-continue approach is a perfect way to face a “glitch” in our lives. I do sometimes feel that I am the culprit for not proceeding forward at a faster pace. I am going to try your methodology and see where I land. Thanks so much!


Alli Polin July 31, 2013 at 12:52 am

Thanks, Terri! It takes us out of a to-do list mentality that can feel like a vicious cycle, helps us take a step back and reconnect with what truly matters (why are we killing ourselves over our to-do lists in the first place).

I hope that it works for you! Even if it’s only a source of reflection, you may find some meaningful ah-has.

Thanks so much!


Lalita Raman July 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

Change comes from within and cannot be forced but once the mindset to change is made, to continue the process and keep it sustainable a trusted sounding board in the form of a coach is essential.

Good post Alli.


Alli Polin July 31, 2013 at 12:57 am

Mindset truly matters. We can say till we’re blue in the face that we want to change but when we’re deeply stuck in our story, it’s impossible to move. A coach can be a critical partner on the journey when our stuck-ness no longer outweighs the desire for change.

Thank you so much for reading, reflecting and sharing, Lalita!


Blair Glaser July 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Such a simple formula and so useful, Alli! Thanks for offer three simple words and ways to guide us to our clearer calling and connect with our larger tasks.


Alli Polin July 31, 2013 at 1:00 am

Thanks, Blair! It can be easy to get frustrated that we do indeed need to stop doing some things to make room for more behaviors and perspectives that truly serve us. Still, Stop-Start-Continue is a structure that most of us can understand – the hardest part is keeping the commitment front and center. A coach, trusted advisor, BFF… all help along the way.


Jon Mertz July 31, 2013 at 7:12 am

This is something we must do, and I must do! I admit. I think about this but, taking the step of writing, it is a necessary step to take. Thanks for the inspiration and call to start-stop-continue! Jon


Alli Polin August 4, 2013 at 8:01 am

Jon, It’s a valuable exercise – especially when we decide to follow our own advice and stick to it instead of falling back into old behaviors, ways of thinking and doing. Thanks for your comment! Hope you do it too!


Dr. Christi Hegstad July 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Super post! When embarking on a new goal, I think many of us will consider (perhaps at the urging of a coach) what we need to start and stop doing in order to succeed. But the question “What will I *continue* doing?” isn’t always addressed – and is so important! It’s good to step back and take stock like this, and to celebrate our successes from time to time. Thanks for this reminder, Alli!


Alli Polin August 4, 2013 at 8:04 am

Thanks so much for your comment, Christi! It’s true, we don’t often consider that there are things that we’re doing really well and are absolutely serving us! By explicitly making these good things our continues, we make them visible, even to ourselves instead of “just what we do” without even thinking about it.

Also, you’re so right – it’s not only about taking stock but truly celebrating our successes too! Why is it that when good things happen we’re so quick to move onward and upward instead of savoring the moment? Another post may be brewing 😉

Thanks, Christi!


Fernando Carvalho August 1, 2013 at 7:36 pm


That is very creative way of Coaching! I love the Start – Stop – Continue idea, it really makes us take a step back and put things in perspective. I most certainly will take the time to look into my own Leadership under that light.


Alli Polin August 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Thanks for your comment, Fernando! It is a great structure to use to not only brainstorm on what needs to change but also what should you continue doing that is serving you well. So glad you’ll be applying it! Let me know how it goes!


Vilma January 15, 2014 at 1:38 am

Hi Alli! It is such a blessing that I was led to your website as I ponder upon what I want 2014 to be like…for my family, the company I am working in, and for me. I would like to start refreshing my mind on 2013’s beautiful things I had done that ended with good results, hence, aiming to CONTINUE them, STOP those that were ‘nice to do’ but did not significantly contribute much, and START doing those ‘need to do’ in 2014 so there is more focus on the goal we want to achieve, maximizing on the resources, meeting the challenge of having to produce more with less, balancing our technical/business skills with people skills, enhancing one’s capabilities, living on the values you believe in and making these values the staging areas for our decision making. So, looking back, see what needs to be continued and which ones to be stopped……and looking forward, work on those that need to be started. Start doing the right things and start doing things right!


Alli Polin January 21, 2014 at 2:12 am


Many thanks for sharing your insights! There is nothing special about January 1st other than a great reminder to take stock of what each of us needs to Start-Stop-Continue.

Really love that in all three areas I sense so much positivity and potential from you.

Big thanks and welcome to the blog!




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