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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Go Ahead, Drop Some Balls

A friend of mine recently received a significant promotion. While he is excited about his promotion, he is searching for his replacement and, for now, is doing both jobs. When I asked him how it was going, he responded, "just trying to get it all done, without dropping any balls." This conversation reminded me of one I had with one of my clients. She was lamenting the challenges one of her executives has with burnout. In this case, the CEO said, "I wish he would learn to drop some balls; his effort to get everything done is what is causing his burnout!" The' to-do list' can seem endless for those who want to dot every I and cross every T (I admit I am one of them). What I heard this wise CEO saying was, "go ahead, drop some balls," just choose the ones you are going to drop. What if, instead of starting each day with a list of what we are going to do, we...
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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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The Dog Days of Summer

What if we simply accept August as the time to recharge our batteries, then get started on next year's personal or business strategic plan in September? The “dog days” occurred in late July to the Greeks and Romans, when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun. They referred to those days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever or even catastrophe. Today we think of dog days as the time of the year marked by lethargy and often inactivity. Here’s another spin: What if we were simply to accept August as the time to recharge? And then once we charge our batteries, we get a jump-start on what we want, personally and professionally, for next year? All of us possess an inner reservoir of positive energy. It is this positive energy that enables us to move forward. And the human body, like all other energy-powered machines, needs to be charged regularly. Most of us think of recharging...
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Is It Time for Something New?

Our parents taught us, and we teach our children, the importance of sticking to something, the value of not giving up, and continuing to stay the course even in the face of adversity. But what about the flip side? What about the importance of recognizing when it is time to find something new? Time for the entrepreneur, who doesn't have traction after five years, to try the next thing. And instead, she shows up every day to try, try try, but it is not fun, perhaps never was, and the results show it.Time for the founder who created something special, had fun when it was small, and is no longer working in his genius to move on. Perhaps hire a president, possibly sell, maybe even shut down. And instead of moving on, he shows up every day to try, try, try; but it is no longer fun, and the results show it.Time for the young professional manager to pause and think about...
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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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What Is Vulnerability?

I find that the topic of vulnerability comes up frequently in discussions amongst leaders with varying descriptions of what it means to "show vulnerability." Here are some questions to expand the dialogue: Does vulnerability have to mean showing emotion? It's OK for a woman to have tears and talk about feelings, but still not OK for men? What's the difference between showing vulnerability and showing weakness? How do we, as leaders, coach the leaders we work with on how to show up both confident and vulnerable? And here are some stories from leaders I've worked with: "I was a relatively new leader of a high growth business. We missed our numbers one year, and up in the front of the room, I teared up when I shared the news with my team. I felt shame that I didn't control my emotions. Yet, the team rallied, each leader coming up to me to commit to what they would do to make sure it didn't...
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Declare Your Independence

One of my favorite books and one I recommend to all my clients is Necessary Endings, by Henry Cloud.  In this book, Cloud uses a metaphor of rose bushes and compares them to our businesses, careers, and lives. He explains that a rose bush cannot support all the buds it creates. The beautiful ones only become so because of pruning. Cloud describes three types of pruning: pruning the good but not great branches, pruning the sick branches, and finally pruning the deadwood. Perhaps the last two types are obvious, albeit sometimes hard to do in life. The first made me pause; really, I need to cut off some good branches for my rose bushes to flourish? As I think about Independence Day, I am noticing the parallel between necessary endings and independence. For some of our forefathers, my guess is the relationship with Great Britain was good but not great. It certainly had benefits to go with the taxes and other challenges. And...
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There is as much fun in getting there…

Occasionally there are small moments in life that leave a lasting impact. Years ago, I was sitting on a bench at the old Union Station. An old man sat down next to me, and we engaged in conversation. I asked him where he was headed, and he replied with glee, "San Francisco!" "Wow," I said, "that is a long way to go on the train." His reply: "There is as much fun in getting there as there is in being there." This man's answer has stayed with me, and I often think of him in these situations: When I am too focused on getting to the outcome When it's time to pause When it's time to remember to be in the moment In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama, these two extraordinary seers inspire us with their tales of being in the moment and experiencing joy, even in the face of adversity. I wonder...
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