FORBES: The Thrill of Seeking Mastery

As published in Forbes. Photo credit: Lori Ann Hansen Photography As a senior leadership coach, I am a human behaviorist, an avid reader and a life-long student. I know that working on myself is a critical requirement for effectively helping others. I would like to tell you that this work has always come naturally and easily to me and that I have been a willing and eager student of myself, but that would be an outright lie. Only a decade ago, I recall telling my professors, who had strongly encouraged me to visit the on-staff counselor, that although I was certain that kind of professional help was needed by my classmates, I myself did not require it. I am sure they struggled to keep a straight face. The irony now is not lost on me. Here I was completing my master’s degree so I could advance leaders by having them look at themselves and how they interact, react and impact others, while I was unwilling to do the same. Worse, I actually believed I had no personal work to do. Now, that is the definition of arrogance. Today, I still struggle to master myself in terms of my inner thoughts and [...]

FORBES: Leadership. What Not To Do.

As published in Forbes. In my career, I have learned more about exceptional leadership by being on the receiving end of its opposite. Here are three fundamental things I have learned never do to others, simply because I know first-hand how damaging they can be. 1. Don’t lie. This includes blatant lies, half-truths and errors of omission. If you make a mistake, own it, clean it up, and apologize to all impacted. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Be transparent, sharing your thinking and your decision making process. Share what you can, as soon as you can, so people don’t need to make up a story. Be brave, pick up the phone and have the real (and often hard) conversation with the person you need to have it with. Live your values, as everyone is always watching. Call yourself on your own bull. This is perhaps the most important one, as few human beings handle power well. Keep your ego in check. When you need help, ask for it. Be human alongside the rest of us mortals. Remember whom you serve. Keep your promises. Be your word. Address reality. Discuss the undiscussables. Do the right thing. I repeat: [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:14:27-07:00November 18th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching, Leadership Communication|

FORBES: Leadership Levers. Two Powerful Levers to Initiate Change

As published in Forbes. What one change, if you made it and were able to stick to it long term, would have the greatest potential to positively impact your professional success? Having asked this question of thousands of senior-level leaders, I know the answer is often a personal one: eat better, walk more, stop watching late night TV, turn off the phone on weekends. For you, perhaps it would be to better manage your time or the focus of your mind? Most of us know we could be better listeners, clearer communicators, less distracted and more productive professionals (or parents, spouses or friends), and more effective in working with and through others (aka leadership). However, getting ourselves to change in even the one area we know would contribute most to our happiness and effectiveness is often nearly impossible. We make excuses, complain, point fingers, or wait and expect others to do what we ourselves cannot:  change. My job is to assist organizations to become more successful by helping their top leaders to become ever more effective. This is a tall order, as I frequently work with some of the world’s best and brightest. However, over the last 16 years that [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:14:51-07:00October 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching|

FORBES: Leadership Development. The Path To Becoming Our Highest Self

As published in Forbes. We call ourselves “human beings,” but I think that title is aspirational: one we are meant to earn. Being human should mean we are capable of higher-level thought and can choose rationally how we respond to external events as well as to internal thoughts and emotions. Now, I don’t know about you, but all I need is to be cut off in traffic or have my husband use the wrong tone of voice to witness my own inability to do this well. Perhaps the most surprising element in business today is that we often behave in ways that are extremely ineffective and quite beneath us. Even those among us who are highly educated senior-level professionals fall into these traps. For example: • We send an email or text when we know we should really pick up the phone. • We make a mistake but never apologize to those impacted by our actions. • We ignore the questions we don’t want to answer. • When we think we can get away with it, we are rude, short, or dismissive with others. • We don’t feel empowered to have the real conversation with the person we really need [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:15:23-07:00September 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching|

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 [...]

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|

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 [...]

Can We Please Move On?

Lately I have found myself having a similar conversation with a number of clients. The conversation begins with my client stating they want to increase their visibility within their organization and better position themselves to work at a more senior, strategic level. They want to be noticed and earmarked for succession by supervisors; to be seen as a thought leader by peers; and, ultimately, to position themselves as someone ready to participate in the larger decisions facing the company. What is surprising to me is that these are the same people who will either completely fail to show for one of our scheduled sessions; send an email stating they need to reschedule at a minutes notice, or; arrive late and unprepared for our time together, and, then fail to apologize for their lack of professionalism. I often find that the way a client manages their time with me is indicative of how they manage themselves with others. Therefore, some of the behavior I experience is serious cause for concern. If my client is unable to successfully arrive at our meeting – on time, prepared, and having followed through on the commitments they made at our last meeting – it is [...]