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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

Is it Time for a Different Approach to Strategic Planning?

This is the time of the year that most companies begin their strategic planning process. While it's fun to host and participate in an off-site, the end result sadly is often put on a shelf until next year. Mostly the plan is a continuation of the last one, and mostly the plan calls for growth, usually growth that is based on internal expectations. And, unless the plan is translated into numbers and then becomes part of the budget, expectations are infrequently measured against actual outcome. No wonder the reality of strategic planning and the hope are often not aligned. If you are interested in doing it differently this time... Chris Bradley of the McKinsey Consulting firm offers four practical suggestions to tackle the particular problem of bold forecasts and timid actions: Don't hide the hairy back in the bottom drawer Calibrate your projected results to the outside view Build a momentum case Focus on moves, not promises This short article Hockey Stick Dreams and Hairy Back Reality should be required reading...
Read More

Consensus Gives You Beige

When a leader asks for input and then makes a decision, the result is vivid color, i.e. a better decision. It is a better decision for several reasons. First and foremost, your team feels valued when they are asked to participate in the decision process. Second, there is value in the wisdom of crowds; many times the group will surface ideas that the leader hasn't thought about. As a leadership coach and Vistage Master Chair, I see this happen each month during the executive sessions I lead with CEOs. This, of course, is why 23,000+ people around the world are members - we understand the value of seeking input. Where it all goes awry, is when we seek consensus instead of input. With consensus, all the colors get mixed resulting in a dull beige, i.e. a mediocre, watered-down decision. Sometimes this may be okay when the goal is more about participation that it is about making decisions. The key is being mindful of your...
Read More

That’s Not What I Meant

In my work as a leadership coach and peer advisory board chair, I am constantly reminded that despite the fact that we are all the same species, with many characteristics in common, we truly do see the world differently. We expect this to be so when we interact with people who speak a different language than we do. In these situations, most of us have a heightened awareness of our differences and most of us realize we need to pause, think about what the norms are for the other person, think about what we have learned about their culture and modify our interaction and our behavior accordingly. An easy example is how we exchange business cards. In the U.S., we simply toss our card on the table. In Japan, a business card is "presented"; held in two hands and a formal exchange takes place. Yet, when dealing with people who speak our same language, we often forget to pause. I remember...
Read More