The Elephant In the Room

The other day, I asked for feedback from a team I was working with about the program's value. One of the members came up to me afterward and said, "please don't take this personally," and gave me some additional feedback. My response was," the elephant is in the room whether we talk about him or not. For me, I would prefer to know what you are thinking and feeling so that I can modify the program to give you results that meet your needs." Yes, the elephant is in the room whether we talk about him or not. There he is, clomping around, banging into things. And yet, we often refuse to talk about him. Why is that? Here are the reasons I hear: I don't want confrontationI don't want to hurt anyone's feelingsWe can't do anything about it anyway My experience is that our reluctance to confront causes the elephant to cause more damage than if we just talked about him and got...
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Perception ≠ Reality

We often hear the phrase perception is reality. Philosophers tell us that we cannot perceive reality directly; perception is all we have. “If a tree falls in the woods…..” As leaders, we transfer this rule into behaviors, i.e., how we perceive a product becomes what it is. How we perceive a person or a company’s reputation is who they become for us. And, at work, how our peers, subordinates, and bosses perceive us becomes their reality and drives their expectations of us.  And yet, perception is often far from reality. Even in the physical world, if we don’t have enough information, reality can be variable, e.g., without knowledge of time, darkness can be perceived as either night or a storm. I was reminded of this fact recently when I attended a gathering with other coaches. Coaches as a group tend to pay attention to the subtleties; after all, we are trained to do so. Therefore, one would think that this would translate to “knowing” that what we perceive may...
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Words Matter

We live in a diverse world, and at the same time, it seems we have become increasingly intolerant. The more you look for signs of both, the more you will find it. Some say we need to stop looking so hard; I say we need to start looking harder. Diversity is part of my core; I work hard to create diversity in my life. I find people who are different from me interesting. I learn more from people who see the world differently than I do from those who see it the same. Diversity of thought is the hardest. And, groups that achieve it consistently outperform. When everyone is thinking and saying something different, the member has a richer experience and a richer opportunity to make their own decisions. So what does this have to do with words? We have a choice. We can live our lives surrounded by people who are exactly like us, listen to news that supports our way...
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Better, Better, Maybe Not?

The notion that we can constantly make ourselves and our companies better, in theory, is a great idea. But when does it become too much? For me, the best way to answer this question is to notice our strengths and work to enhance them. As an executive life coach, I refer to this as discovering and working in our genius. Sometimes we become so focused on achieving that we cannot appreciate who we are or what we have already accomplished. When we are constantly reaching, it's a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.  What? Wasn't I just quoting Florence Nightingale a few weeks ago, who said discontent leads to innovation? Yup. It is indeed a delicate balance, isn't it? For me, the subtle difference between striving to make the world a better place and pausing to celebrate accomplishment comes with self-awareness. The stoics said it well. We must be careful not to become reactionary or to accept, without question, the status quo. We must know ourselves, know our geniuses, and...
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What Is Weakness?

Last week I wrote a blog entitled "What is Vulnerability," in which I made an effort to describe the difference between showing vulnerability and showing weakness. A couple of readers wrote in taking issue with my description of showing weakness.  Here is what they wrote:  "I'm going to send this to my client who struggles with vulnerability. I would suggest something, though. Your definition of weakness - leaders often don't know what to do and are uncertain. I tell people they don't need to know all the answers, and it's OK to be uncertain. They can name that and ask the group." "I want to argue again. The definition of weak is as bad as the prohibition of vulnerability. Weak = uncertain!!!!! Really. Where does that take leaders? They get paid to be uncertain and lead. So everyone has to pretend to be certain. I don't know what to do, but here's what we choose to do, is what leaders get paid for. Easy...
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The Gift of Feedback

Feedback is a gift. It is an opportunity for personal development and, ultimately, leadership development. And, it is hard; Very hard. I am not sure which is harder, giving feedback or accepting it. Recently I was with a small group of fellow coaches, several of us long-tenured, and we were discussing this very topic. We spent a couple of hours working with each other to improve our skills at both. I mention long-tenured, as a reminder to myself, that no matter how skilled we think we are at this, it is hard, and requires constant practice. Following are the reminders I heard. When giving feedback: Start from a place of care, ask yourself what outcome you want to achieve from the feedback, and get clear that you really believe that outcome is possible, i.e., is the person capable of the behavior change you want to see? You can earn trust with truthful, specific, positive feedback (TSP as speaker, Michael Allosso, calls it). When giving constructive...
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Let It Rest

As leaders, most of us are action-oriented. Something crosses our desk, we deal with it. An issue comes up with a customer, a vendor, an employee, and we take action. And, sometimes, especially in these times, it’s best to let it rest. Most of us feel a lack of control over so many things today that when something arises, that feels like something we can control and can do something about, we are spurred to take action. And same as before, Sometimes action is needed, and sometimes nothing is required. Sometimes, that annoying email doesn’t require a response. Sometimes, when a negotiation stalls the best tactic is to leave it be, or If the other side has already done that, let it rest. Sometimes, doing nothing is simply the best strategy. Two quick stories from two CEO’s I know: First, a long term negotiation on a contract has gone on for several years. As an outsider looking in, one might wonder, why not...
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It’s Not About Color, Or Is it?

I've spent a lot of time this past week talking about racism. The conversations began with wondering why, the murder of George Floyd last week sparked protests nationwide when the killing of Eric Garner, in 2014 did not. Then when the looting began, the conversation turned to one about fear. As a teenager in 1968, when protestors were attacked by the police during the democratic convention and later at universities, I felt solidarity. Friends tell me their teenage and young adult children feel similarly now.   For me, today, it is more complicated. It's a conversation about the increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots. It's a conversation about violence. And, as I have come to realize, most importantly, it is a conversation about racism.  As a country, we are reluctant to talk about race and even more unwilling to talk about racism. And yet we must if we are ever to understand our fellow Americans. When the...
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Just For The Record

Just for the record, we introverts don't like this any more than extroverts.  You are probably asking yourself, where is this coming from? I had a conversation last week with an extroverted friend of mine, during which he said: "I know you introverts are secretly loving this."  People often have the belief that introverts aren't social, want to be alone all the time, etc. etc. this isn't so. While the more introverted folks amongst us, may prefer time alone to time with others, the primary difference between introverts and extroverts is where we draw our energy. Introverts go within; extroverts tend to "think out loud." Another way to say this, introverts tend to need quiet time to recharge more often than extroverts do. All humans are social animals. The mental health toll of this shelter in place isolation may be more significant for introverts because for many introverts in analytical jobs, working at home means working alone, no zoom, no contact. And...
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Introvert or Extrovert: Who Makes the Better Leader?

Extroversion is the dominant style in the United States. As a result, we sometimes confuse leadership with charisma. Yet, research shows that not only are 40%-50% of CEO's introverts, some of the more "famous" CEOs are also introverts, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Charles Schwab and Steve Spielberg.  Amongst entrepreneurs, the numbers are higher. Why? Because entrepreneurs frequently are the expert at their chosen business and experts most often are introverts. So what does this mean? First, recognize that extroversion/introversion isn't binary. Most leaders tend toward one style or the other. Leadership, by its very nature, doesn't attract people who live in extremes. As with all style differences, start by celebrating and leveraging the differences in style. While other factors come into play in style differences, the key difference between introverts and extroverts is where they draw their energy.  Both introverts and extroverts seek input. Introverts tend to ask for feedback and then "go within" to think things over and make a decision. One thing to keep...
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