America’s Life Coach Valorie Burton: ‘Are Others Better For Having Crossed Paths With You?’

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, the life strategist and CEO of Coaching and Positive Psychology discusses the hallmarks of her “optimistic thinking style” and how to lead others by asking questions together.

Valorie Burton grew up participating in track and gymnastics until she reached high school, at which point she discovered two life-changing activities: cheerleading and leadership. An only child and daughter of a career military man, Burton took naturally to leadership on the first real “team” she ever joined. Although she recalls being a bit too “Patton-like” as a young leader, she took away lessons that served her well as the author of 13 books and founder of Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute (CaPP), headquartered in Atlanta.  

“Even way back then, when we thought about the cheer team, we wanted to connect with our purpose,” says Burton. She says that cheerleading wasn’t just about cheering but also building community, within the squad and with the fans. “We wanted to figure out how we were going to show up, what we wanted to express, and how we were going to work together,” she explains. “And if you haven’t tapped into purpose, vision and values, it becomes a lot easier to give up at some point, or to lose your energy or your enthusiasm. But when you’re tapping into purpose, vision and values, you get excited and energized to keep going even when it gets difficult or frustrating.”

Burton argues that if you’ve ever locked arms at the base of a cheer squad pyramid or depended on your teammates to catch you after being hurled skyward to perform aerial loops and tucks, you know exactly the kind of shared vision she is referring to.

Burton sees life as an adventure, one that moves through various “seasons” which she translates roughly as stages or phases we grow into and, eventually, out of. The wisdom lies in understanding when a season has reached its natural endpoint and then asking yourself what you’ve learned and what opportunity or even blessings have arisen during it. “And then to look ahead to new seasons, with an anticipation that there are new lessons,” says Burton.

In 2021, she joined four other distinguished writers and motivational speakers as part of John C. Maxwell’s League of Extraordinary Leaders. Maxwell formed the group to diversify his organization’s voice and guarantee its future vitality.

Over the course of writing her books, the most recent of which is Let Go of the Guilt: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Take Back Your Joy, and running CaPP programs, Burton has honed what she calls an “optimistic thinking style.” The hallmark of this style is that it confronts challenges without sugar coating them, while taking care to reframe them as opportunities that individuals, as well as teams, can work through to learn and grow.

It is a style anyone can learn to cultivate, and in the podcast, listeners will learn about some of the practices Burton uses with clients to develop an optimistic thinking style. These include:

• The 3:1 principle of good news to bad news and why it is absolutely critical to building strong teams.

• Why Burton always begins meetings with a “win or a grin” moment.

• How you know when stretching and growing require you to stay put rather than change.

• What Burton means by the “growth gap” and the question we must be able to answer if we are to bridge it.

Burton says leaders bear responsibility for modeling a positive approach to problem solving because a leader’s attitude is “contagious” among her team. “The question I put to leaders is this: ‘How are others’ lives better because they crossed paths with you?’” If you understand your purpose, Burton continues, it serves as a compass to guide the decisions you make. “Your ability to start from a positive place, handle setbacks and be resilient reflect how you want the rest of the team to face their own setbacks.”

I hope you’ll put yourself in a positive place and enjoy this mini-master class with a woman I like to call America’s Life Coach. Listen now.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.