What is Your Team’s Us of Identity?

In a recent conversation with a friend, he shared his experience as a member of two different peer advisor business groups. My friend was saying that the second group seemed to lack the intimacy of the first. When we dug deeper and explored the differences between the two, here is what we uncovered. The first group had been together for a long time and was homogenous. The members were all male, all from the same socio-economic class, and all about the same age. On the other hand, the second group was diverse with gender, race, ethnicity, background, economic class, and other differences. In a previous blog on this topic, With Diversity Comes Diversity, I share my experience in building diverse teams. What is missing in this previous story are the questions my friend raised, "What was different about the second group? Why didn't it have the same level of intimacy as the first?" I believe Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks gave us the answer in his...
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The Unreliable Narrator: Part II – The Flip Side

Last week I featured the familiar unreliable narrator story, the one where we judge ourselves harshly and thus tell an unreliable story of our accomplishments. As I reflected on this story in conversations with readers, I was reminded of an unreliable narrator of a different sort that can be equally misleading. In this version, the narrator tells a story of accomplishments that may also be lies, i.e., the flip side. As a reminder, the unreliable narrator is a storyteller who withholds information, lies to, or misleads the reader, casting doubt on the narrative. Authors use this device to engage readers on a deeper level, forcing them to come to their own conclusions when the narrator's point of view can't be trusted. In the flip side story, the narrator has convinced himself (or herself) that s/he is bulletproof. A while back, I watched two documentaries, both of which chronicled storytellers who were later indicted for fraud, Billy McFarland, founder of Fyre Media, and the Fyre...
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Are You An Unreliable Narrator?

Last week I wrote about the importance of telling your today story before answering the question, What is Your Tomorrow Story? One of the challenges I observe in my work as an executive life coach is we are often an unreliable narrator of our own story. Successful people tend to focus on what is next. They become accustomed to asking themselves, "what could I do better?" "What could my company do better?"   While this approach is perceived to drive results, it also leads to negative feelings and perceptions, judging ourselves, others, and our circumstances. This judgment then shows up when we tell our story. I recently began work with a CEO who had spent the last seven years transforming a founder-led, founder-dependent company into a steady, stable, independent profitable growth company—the result: a company that couldn't find a buyer, sold for multiples of EBITDA. Yet, when I asked him to tell me his story as he prepares for his next gig, I heard a story...
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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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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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Leaders Are The Unsung Heroes

As chair of a CEO Peer Advisory Board, I am getting to see first hand the courage, dedication, and determination of leaders during this pandemic. I am humbled and inspired. Leaders of essential businesses all over the world are working hard to keep their employees safe while serving their customers at the same time. Not one of these individuals, trained for this or frankly signed up for this, and yet here they are doing what they know they must.   Each day, these men and women are on the front lines making the hard decisions to maintain that delicate balance between safety and production.  Each day, these men and women must stay current on the latest developments. Each day, they must adapt to whatever changed from yesterday.   It's the outgoing CEO of the public company, who could easily call it quits and instead visits factories; The CEO of the privately held company that quickly pivoted to make safety products thereby keeping the business viable and...
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Gratitude For The Light

Dear Readers, As most of you know, I lead a CEO Advisory Board in affiliation with Vistage International. My clients meet monthly, and before each meeting, we share an update of our lives since we last met. Typically, we give a brief overview of significant events in our business and personal lives. With nothing typical at this time, I wrote the following letter instead of my usual update. I am sharing this with you in the spirit of finding common ground in our humanity. "As I read over last month's updates, I am stunned by how much has changed since then.  First, let me say how I continue to be in awe of the leadership demonstrated by each and every one of you. From the leader who is navigating staying open and supporting the building of critical health care facilities while managing fear when an employee got sick; to another pivoting to make materials to keep grocery store employees safe.  Those in the food business are scrambling...
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It’s Tough To Be A Leader At A Time Like This

II received two wonderfully inspiring leadership notes last week, and I decided I couldn't wait until Sunday to share them. Thank you, Joan and Ozzie, for reminding us of the responsibilities we have as leaders in difficult times and how hard it is. From, Joan Davison, a member of my Vistage Peer Advisory Board: 17 Hard Things You Have To Do To Be A Great Leader You have to make the call you are afraid to make.You have to get up earlier than you want to.You have to give more than you get in return right away.You have to care more for others than they care about you.You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.You have to grind out the details when it is easier to shrug them off.You have to deliver results when making...
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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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