FORBES: What Really Defines Leadership in Today’s World?

As published in Forbes. Lately, I have been thinking about what makes a leader in today’s world. Are we leaders simply because others report to us, or because we are responsible for an area of the business? Are we leaders because we have a future vision that no one else seems to be able to see just yet? Or is the answer that we are only leaders when others are following? After all, how can we call ourselves leaders if, when we turn around, no one is following us or the initiatives we need them to support? After much contemplation, I propose that a leader today is someone who sparks in us a desire to help. In our networked, matrixed, dotted-lined, ever-changing organizational structures, a leader today must be a follower tomorrow, and vice versa. Therefore, we are not leaders simply because of our titles or responsibilities, nor are we leaders because we have a vision for the future. What makes us leaders is our ability to connect with others in a way that makes them want to help us. I once received an email from a new colleague in Asia. This colleague needed information she hoped I could provide. [...]

FORBES: Why Focusing On Your Teammate’s Success Is The New Performance Review

As published in Forbes. Countless organizations today are striving to create a learning, feedback-rich coaching culture. Having personally taught coaching to (and mentor-coached) hundreds of senior leaders in organizations like American Express, General Electric, salesforce.com, St. Jude Medical, and the Mayo Clinic, I know firsthand the significant investment companies are making. Recently, General Electric announced it was abandoning formal annual reviews and its legacy performance management system for its 300,000-plus employee workforce. What will replace these? More frequent feedback via an app. Given GE’s influence on the rest of the world, this change represents a fundamental shift in how organizations will develop, manage and evaluate people in the decades to come. This is a good thing. Our world is moving faster than ever — so who has the time to wait until next week, let alone the end of the year, to learn if all they were focused on, exhibiting and driving toward, was deemed effective or not by their managers and key stakeholders? We need to have more real-time, feedback-rich interactions, whether these occur in person or via technology. Such interactions create the basis of a coaching culture in which we support each other, with the tacit message underneath being simply: [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:28:25-07:00June 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching|

FORBES: The Four Foundations of Exceptional Coaching

As published in Forbes. Many professionals believe they understand coaching well. However, when I teach coaching to leaders and put them into their first conversation, I inevitably find the coach giving advice to the person they are supposed to be coaching. It would seem our desire to help can be our own coaching Achilles heel. Telling others an answer they can (or ought) to arrive at on their own is rarely helpful. It might feel good to the coach, but it undermines the experience and ultimately, the success of the person the coach is supposed to be helping. Whether leaders, managers, consultants, entrepreneurs, teachers or parents, our goal is to develop the capacity of others so they one day go on to surpass us. Unfortunately, few have received training in the processes that distinguish effective coaching from the mechanical aspects of managing performance. In coaching, we start with the premise that we are dealing with a fully functioning human being – another person (just like us), filled with his or her own hopes, dreams and aspirations, as well as insecurities, limitations and fears. Thus, we intuitively understand that coaching is not a neat cognitive process that begins with listening, moves [...]

FORBES: Is Your Leadership Brave Enough to Have the Conversation You Don’t Want to Have?

As published in Forbes. Conversations are not important to leadership. They are leadership. Whether one-to-one or one-to-many, conversation is the leader’s primary tool. With so much taking place within any interaction, it is often difficult even for seasoned leaders to process all that occurs. Frequently, we realize we have not addressed the real issue long after a conversation took place. On our commute home, we find ourselves playing out a discussion. Or we notice ourselves having the real conversation we failed to have earlier in the day with our spouse over dinner, only this time sharing key points we didn’t share with the person who could actually do something about them. Much has been written on the topic, which tells us how necessary but rare the skill is. Books like Fierce Conversations, Difficult Conversations, Crucial Conversations and more recently, Conversational Intelligence and The Power of Noticing provide us with tools to more fully recognize all that occurs. By bringing greater awareness to the complexity of human interactions, the goal is to speed up the time it takes for us to (1) recognize the real conversation begging to be had and (2) effectively address it in real time. While most conversations involve the [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:29:26-07:00April 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication|

Presence: Where Do You Think You’re Going?

In The Road Less Traveled, author M. Scott Peck makes the claim that life is difficult. On the surface, I agree. Being a spiritual entity in a heavy, physical body on this dark, dense, material plane is definitely no picnic. Our bodies never look how we want them to look, they rarely function as we hope, they break down often, and, eventually, they fail each and every one of us. This is one thing we know for certain. So it is that each of us is trapped in a limiting form and bound by time. Of course, life is difficult! What an inherently frustrating experience this is. I know I am so much more than I can show you in this physical form and in the short amount of time I have. I suspect you feel the same. This is why many of us cannot accept the present moment. It is also why so many of us focus our time and energy solely on getting to what we believe will be a better place. We are working to make our image of ourselves a reality. “This is not yet me,” we all unconsciously say. We are simultaneously inspired and envious [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:18:27-07:00March 18th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Self-Mastery|

The Secret of Exceptional Coaching

I have spent the better part of the last 15 years teaching mid- to senior-level leaders how to more effectively coach for performance. My clients have included thousands of successful men and women in some of the world’s best organizations. These talented professionals have advanced degrees, upwards of 40 years’ of leadership and management experience, and sometimes even advanced coaching certifications. Many consider themselves to be highly skilled at coaching. Some are, most are not. It is not that ALL of these exceptional men and women do not understand what great coaching entails. Having asked thousands of leaders in many parts of the world to tell me about their own personal best coach—someone who had a profound and significant impact on them becoming the person and professional they are today—I know they understand it well. Some tell me about their mother or father, a grade school math teacher or football coach, a first boss, or, better still, their current supervisor (although I hear this less frequently than I should). When I ask them to tell me about the character of their own best coach, the relationship they shared, and if there is something that this coach did or said that [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:18:56-07:00February 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching|

“This is How We Do Things Here, Now”: How to effectively change your corporate culture

My mother and father were European, Austrian and Hungarian to be specific. One of the things this meant for me growing up was that if someone came to our house, everyone had to come out from wherever they were, say hello, and immediately we had to offer that person a drink (preferably alcoholic). If the person stayed for more than 30 minutes, it was necessary to offer them food and then, even if they declined (and sometimes especially if they declined), feed them. Providing the basic necessities of life (drink and food) was understood as a sign of abundance and wealth. We had it to give away and my parents took great delight in sharing what we had. If a guest refused our offerings, we (especially my mother), took offense. “What’s wrong with my cooking?” she would demand. “Mom, maybe they just aren’t hungry,” I would try to reason in front of our increasingly uncomfortable guest. She couldn’t conceive of it. The funny thing is that now when I enter someone’s home and they fail to offer me a drink, I find it strange, even a little rude. That’s the thing with culture, it colors how we interpret everything and, [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:19:23-07:00January 18th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Leading Culture|

Right Here & Now: The use of immediacy in coaching

“I just think we got off on the wrong foot,” he said. Mark* was the senior vice-president of a multinational technology company and this was the reason he gave me as to why he had called the sponsor asking if he could work with another coach. When I heard this, I responded calmly: “Look Mark, I am more than happy for you to work with another coach. In fact, I will facilitate an introduction immediately following our call. However, before I do that, let’s look at what occurred in our brief relationship, as I suspect an important learning opportunity exists right here. You game?” I knew that what my client was trying to do was escape me. Simply providing him with another coach would have been easy, but adult development and changes in behavior do not come through easy actions. Although I could sense his skepticism, I give Mark full credit for being open to further discussion. I was able to share with him the key moments I believed had affected our relationship, the kinds of behaviors I suspected were limiting his success with others. I began: “Yes, we did get off on the wrong foot. And isn’t this something [...]

Women, I Have An Important Favor to Ask: Please Speak Up!

Years ago, I had the good fortune of hearing American politician Madeleine Albright speak. She told the audience of her time in the White House as the first female U.S. Secretary of State and shared a story I will not forget. The story was about a particular meeting with then President Bill Clinton and various officials. In this meeting, she claims, she tried several times to add her position to the conversation but found it difficult to get her voice heard. She said (and I am paraphrasing from my recollection), “There I was, sitting around the boardroom table with President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and the respective cabinet ministers, and I couldn’t seem to get a word in edgewise! I thought to myself, ‘My goodness, how powerful a woman does one need to be in order to get heard?’” Clearly, if there was a title powerful enough to demand a voice, she held it. After all, not only was she the U.S. Secretary of State, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. I recall the audience bursting out in laughter. Laughing mostly, I suspect, out of relief. For if Madeleine Albright had difficulty [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:20:26-07:00November 18th, 2016|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Self-Mastery, Women Leaders|

Time To Lead. Getting Out From Behind The Eight Ball: 5 Strategies for Greater Success

Several clients have recently used the phrase “behind the eight ball” when describing their current professional situation. It is a curious phrase, so I decided to look it up and this is what I found: a difficult position from which it is unlikely one can escape; in trouble, in a weak or losing position; broke. What my clients are, no doubt, trying to convey is their feeling of being constantly behind, with so much to do, so much expected of them, and simply not enough time or resources in which to do it all. Naturally, they are finding it difficult—if not impossible—to keep up. And this is to say nothing of all that is required of them in their personal lives. The pendulum has often swung so far that merely trying to “keep their head above water” at work (incidentally, another interesting phrase) is often all we have time to discuss in our one-hour meeting. I have a great deal of compassion for my clients, as I recognize the demands of organizational life and executive schedules. In one word, they are relentless. I also have a great deal of admiration as I watch these talented men and women strive to [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:20:57-07:00October 18th, 2016|Leadership, Self-Mastery, Time Management|