Success Story

Breakthrough in the Boardroom: University of Utah Research Enterprise Success Story

Sally Jo


   One key concern she had was the increased level of accountability required to effectively manage the projects and meet deadlines. She trusted the teams to get the job done on time but hoped to eliminate any finger-pointing or excuses. Sally Jo was not optimistic about hiring another consultant, so she was relieved when a trusted colleague referred her to The Russell Consulting Group, with the promise that “they’re different.”  The Russell Consulting Group was hired to do 1:1 Leadership Coaching for a 6-month commitment.


In the individual leadership coaching sessions, The Russell Consulting Groups Executive coach gleaned that confusion about roles, and reporting structures was the main contributor to the department’s inefficiencies and wasted resources. The solution for that concern was put on the back burner to address leadership development first.

One of The Russell Method’s leadership principles, Finding Your Barrier to Empowerment (BE) proved especially effective for Sally Jo and the team.

“Finding your BE” is a process that helps leaders identify the one unconscious automatic human need they default to when faced with uncertainty or discomfort. A Barrier to Empowerment (BE) is rooted in looking good and protecting the ego rather than authentically relating. When left unconscious, a leader’s ability to powerfully lead is compromised.

Sally Jo’s conscious awareness of how her BE was impacting her leadership came to light during a team meeting that Patricia was observing. To appear collaborative and inclusive, Sally Jo had learned to ask her team “What do you think we should do about the issue at hand,” even when she had a clear idea of how she wanted to handle it. When Patricia noticed Sally Jo falling into her automatic behavior, she paused the meeting and called her over. “What are you doing?” Patricia asked with a wry smile. “I’m letting them come up with the answer.” Sally Jo retorted. “I don’t want to look bossy or controlling.”

At that moment it became clear to her she had adopted an “easy-going” demeanor to avoid being seen in an unfavorable light. Her Barrier to Empowerment (BE) was wanting to be liked. With the new awareness, Sally Jo could clearly see how often being liked kept her from getting the results she wanted. It also drained her energy and made her feel tense. Even worse, Sally Jo saw how that way of being was adding to the lack of clarity in the team and why she always felt disappointed with the results.

This realization left Sally Jo empowered. She began to lead differently. Instead of falling into the fear-based easy-going nature, she would stop, question if her actions were motivated by her BE, and then shift how she communicated. Knowing and using her BE allowed Sally Jo to provide clear direction when needed, address poor performance and also engage the team in finding solutions to issues with new inner strength.


With an increased level of accountability and understanding of their individual “BE”, meetings became productive and deadlines have been met consistently without hand-holding or overwhelm.

Patricia is a straight shooter who brings awareness to what you didn’t know you didn’t know. She has an acute ability to sniff out the root of the problem with brutal honesty. But she’s able to deliver challenging information with a dash of humor and authenticity that makes it easier to swallow.”

– Sally Jo Zuspan Director of Research , University of Utah

“She brings the element of hope back.”
– Jan

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