Is It Capacity Or Is It Making Choices?

As an Executive Life Coach for CEOs, I've seen several common traits in those who have successfully grown their businesses. I've told stories in the past about the importance of having a vision, having the right people, and having strong execution. Another more subtle characteristic shared by successful leaders, they seem to have an incredible "capacity." Webster defines capacity as: the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating  an individual's mental or physical ability the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating the facility or power to produce, perform or deploy: maximum output It's this facility for maximum output to which I am referring, the ability to take on more, handle more stress, be present regardless of outside circumstances, or simply do more. It's more than ability, it's, well, capacity. And, here's what I observe. While it appears that these leaders can simply handle more and do more than others, they also can choose. To make a choice and accept that when...
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Set Boundaries

As we come to realize that these "interesting times" are likely to be with us for some time, we are also beginning to accept that we must find ways to adapt. While the form that adapt and accept takes will be different for each of us, one thing is true for all of us; we must focus on what we can control, be mindful of determining what that is, and set boundaries. When I said this to a client recently, he asked me what I meant by boundaries, here is my reply. For those who see ourselves as servant leaders, especially those who are people pleasers, setting boundaries begins with putting ourselves first. It is only by "putting our oxygen mask on first" and following three key steps that we can be in service to others.   In today's world, this begins first with setting aside "me" time. Me time can include exercise, meditation, watching TV, whatever works for us to relax and recharge. Next, it's making time for...
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Oops, I Was Thinking Out Loud

How often have we said this to ourselves and discovered unintended consequences? As leaders, we know that others are always watching what we do and listening and reacting to what we say. And, when we are with our office staff, in the factory or the field, most of us are conscious of what we say and how we show up. I wonder though, if we have this same awareness as leaders when we are with our leadership team. Or, for that matter, when we, as members of the leadership team, are with our bosses and our colleagues. You may be thinking (silently?) so, are you saying I want to be aware of what I am saying all the time? Yikes!! My sense is the answer is yes. When we think out loud, sometimes we create expectations, alarm, or even actions that we did not intend. Recently, one of my clients shared this story: "I was sitting in my office with my VP of...
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Are You a Prey Dog?

I had an interesting conversation the other day with one of my clients. He was comparing drive in humans to the prey drive his dogs have. Not being a dog owner, I hadn't heard this term before. He explained that prey drive is exactly what the words describe, a drive to go after prey. And, a large part of dog training is around managing their prey drive. It's this drive that causes some dogs to run after anything and everything and sometimes bring it home dead. According to dog trainers, the stronger the prey drive in a breed, the more critical it is to train your dog to have what they call "a strong recall"- coming when called. You are probably wondering by now, where is she going with this? Bringing it back to humans, the discussion was about the human prey instinct. For those of us who are driven to succeed, what are we doing to manage our prey dog-like instincts so...
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Friction

Friction slows things down and makes motion difficult -- it’s basic physics. We also know less friction eases movement and increases speed. When things are faster and easier to use, commerce happens. And, when friction is present, movement slows or worse yet, simply stops. We see this all the time with technology adoption. Have you found yourself abandoning a website, because you forgot your password and the reset didn't work? Or the website was slow and you were busy? Or, the app on your phone crashed? Or? Or? Or? Recently a friend abandoned attending a show with us because try as she might she couldn't get into the website to buy a ticket. I have been thinking about friction ever since. Wondering what each of us may be inadvertently doing to create friction for our customers, or even for ourselves? None of us sets out to create friction and yet it happens all the time. As the economy tightens, perhaps now...
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Trust Your Gut For the No

Often when we are buyers, we find someone or something we like and then work to find data (experience, accomplishments, etc.) to convince ourselves why this person or this product is something we should buy. When it comes to interviewing for key candidates, Vistage speaker, Barry Deutsch recommends we take a more structured approach to interviewing to improve our hiring success. He recommends we start the process first by clearly defining the success factors for the role and then asking the candidate to tell us stories about how they have achieved this success in the past and how they will do it for us. It dawned on me recently that this approach works in many (most?) situations when we are buyers. After all, when we are hiring, we are buyers. So, am I saying no gut at all? All data? No. Absolutely, there is a gut to every decision we make, and in most situations, especially when we are buyers, trust your gut...
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The Choice

  The Choice The intellect of man is forced to choose Perfection of the life, or of the work, And if it take the second must refuse A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark. When all that story's finished, what's the news? In luck or out the toil has left its mark: That old perplexity an empty purse, Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.  William Butler Yeats, 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 I came across this poem some time ago and was reminded of it in a recent discussion about "what matters". We often talk about achieving balance; we perceive that it is the stress of modern times. Yet this poem was written in the early 20th century, a reminder that this quest is the human condition, a daily challenge of choice.  Here are the questions that come to mind: Must we choose between success in life and work? Or is it the search for perfection of one or the other that forces the choice? e.g., Albert Einstein was portrayed by his biographers...
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Let Things Unfold At Their Own Pace

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; we take action. And, sometimes, if we let things unfold at their own pace, we achieve a better result. What?? Isn't that avoidance or procrastination or fear of confrontation or, or, or? Sometimes action is needed, and sometimes nothing is needed. 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 bring this to closure. And, then we learn, it's been 20 years of negotiation, minimal dollars spent, many thousands at stake. Even if it eventually settles,...
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It’s All About Style

There are lots of tools available for assessing personality style, and each has its nuance. Stripping away the nuance, with few exceptions, the assessments produce a matrix of 4 primary personality styles. These styles result from an understanding of extroversion vs. introversion, the relationship of each to detail orientation; and then adding to this, a person's proclivity to focus on an outcome or to seek harmony. In my experience, no matter what your leadership role, knowing and understanding your own style and that of each person you work with is the key to achieving the results you want. I had a conversation recently with a friend that drove this home for me once again.  My friend is an advisor to the CEO of a large company. This company is in the midst of a reorganization, and my friend is struggling with one of the leaders of the new organization.  As we talked through the situation, it became clear to both of us that the root cause of her challenge is style.  She...
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Does It Really Matter?

I had a conversation with a friend the other day that left us both laughing.  The two of us have an affiliation with the same organization, and about a year ago, during another conversation, we were sharing our outrage about something.  When we talked the other day, we both remembered our outrage, but neither of us could remember why we were angry. Our inability to remember the issue is what left us both laughing. I tend to be one of those people with a strong sense of justice.  I care. And I am willing to speak up.  And yet, this conversation was a great reminder that beyond our care for people we love and the things that we can do something about, there are few things in life that matter. Really. Elisa K Spain Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click here    ...
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