Keynote At Pebble Beach: The Inner Game of Executive Leadership

In November of 2019 I gave a keynote to 40 CEOs of some of the largest credit unions in the United States. The #1 and #2 “Best Places to work” in the entire nation were among them. The event was held at the beautiful, world-class Pebble Beach. What I shared with this audience, I will now share with you. You are a success. You have reached the pinnacle of success. You are a C-suite/executive-level leader of a value-based organization that serves thousands, no doubt positively impacting many more people in the communities and businesses in which you operate. Well done! It is extremely important to your future leadership impact and success that you really accept this acknowledgement. Why? Because what you do inside of yourself you will do with others out there. If we cannot acknowledge, validate, and champion ourselves, we simply can never do this well for others. In your role, it is imperative that you easily and frequently acknowledge, validate, and champion those in your care. Nothing could matter more than you feeling good. And by good we mean whole, loved, enough; valued, seen, recognized; alive, excited, inspired… Why? Simply because your life matters. Because you feeling good [...]

By |2022-03-10T16:08:19-08:00December 1st, 2019|Leadership, Self-Mastery|

FORBES: The Moment Of Leadership – Maturing Past Our Desire for Direction and Validation

As published in Forbes We all want to be successful, to win the approval of others and to be chosen for those limited, top, coveted positions. We work hard to become educated, accomplished and known as the best. Unfortunately, the older we get, and the more we move up the organizational ladder, the more elusive and harder to define real success actually becomes. To make matters worse, there is no sure path to achieving it, even if we could clearly define it for ourselves. Senior leadership is daunting, and for those who have risen through the ranks by being chosen, arriving at the executive level can be quite a shock, an uneasy feeling of being untethered and the illusion of an ultimate authority who could offer solid direction, validation and approval nothing but an immature desire. “Tell me what you want me to do.” “Why am I not getting any direction, acknowledgment or validation?” “I don’t know what ‘they’ want!” The transition to the executive realm can be compared to the transition to parenthood. Although we are not all parents, most of us understand the analogy. I remember the first day I was alone with our newborn son. My husband [...]

By |2021-06-28T20:18:38-07:00October 28th, 2018|Global Leadership, Leadership, Self-Mastery|

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: More Humanity. Not Less.

As published in Forbes. Every true act of leadership has only one purpose: to make life better. As such, leadership is rooted in our humanity. It is curious then that so often we hide ourselves within a professional mask of what we think we ought to do and be, only to lose connection, both with ourselves and the people we are meant to serve. When we approach leadership, human “resources,” recruiting, coaching and professional development via mechanical methods, we generally miss the mark entirely. There are a lot of good leaders today. However, too often they lack the one quality that would make them truly great: their humanity. You see, being human is hard. Perhaps the hardest thing we ever do. After all, we seek leadership positions to fulfill our desire for power, control and authority. Yet to be human is to be weak and vulnerable, something most of us fight against our entire lives (and why we love superheroes, as they allow us, if only briefly, to escape our very limited human form). We don’t really understand the power of our humanity until life forces us to our knees, generally through challenging events like job loss, divorce, aging, illness [...]

By |2017-12-20T09:45:13-08:00December 20th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Self-Mastery|

TEDx Talk: Leadership. Lessons Learned in a Barbershop

My TEDx Talk, a tribute to my beautiful mother, Elfie Biro (1945 – 2007).Years ago I wrote this post for my mother to capture all I learned about business by working in her barbershop. She loved it! I am so glad she got to read it before she died. I am certain she would be over-the-moon to know that her lessons continue to live on in me and in the work I do with senior level leaders. I sincerely hope you enjoy this talk and that it reminds you that love is power. May you journey well. With love, Susanne.

By |2017-12-18T12:14:04-08:00December 17th, 2017|Leadership|

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 |2017-12-18T12:14:27-08:00November 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 |2017-12-18T12:14:51-08:00October 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 |2017-12-18T12:15:23-08:00September 17th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Coaching|

FORBES: Leading in Relationships. The Subtle Work of Self-Mastery

As published in Forbes. Several years ago I was asked to design a session that could build upon the skills of my peers: world-class speakers, senior facilitators, coaches, and business development professionals. The meeting would be held in New York, at the incredible Mohonk Mountain Retreat, and new colleagues from the Middle East and South America would be there. For weeks I labored over what I could impart that had the greatest potential to assist each person, given they all held slightly different roles. One of the ideas I shared that day is what I call the “horse and dog analogy.” It is a concept I now know to be relevant to all professionals, regardless of field, title or position. Thus, it is one I will share with you. When I was younger, I used to think that if I were an animal I would be a horse. Horses are sensitive creatures. As prey animals, they constantly read their environment. If you approach a horse with fear, the horse will mirror you and become fearful. However, if you enter a corral and think kind thoughts, the horse will come to you. Horses match emotion for emotion. Being highly sensitive, this [...]

By |2017-12-18T12:27:24-08:00August 18th, 2017|Leadership, Self-Mastery|

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. [...]

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