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+00:00December 20th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Self-Mastery|

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+00:00August 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. [...]

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+00:00March 18th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Communication, Self-Mastery|

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+00:00November 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+00:00October 18th, 2016|Leadership, Self-Mastery, Time Management|

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 [...]