Everybody Needs A Coach

“Everybody needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you are CEO, a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player, we all need feedback”  so says Bill Gates & Eric Schmidt in this 1.25min TED Talk.

Perhaps a bold statement.  And yet, doesn’t every professional athlete and every famous performer have one?  You may be surprised to learn, so does every successful CEO, whether leading a Fortune 500 company or a privately held company.

If you buy into what Bill and Eric are saying, and you are a:

  • Soon-to-Be, or Newly Appointed CEO or Business Owner
  • CEO or Business Owner Wanting to Up Your Leadership Game
  • CEO or Business Owner Considering an Exit
  • Executive Pivoting to Entrepreneurship
  • Former Executive Considering Re-Entry

Or perhaps, you are simply looking for clarity, to define where you are and where you want to be.

Wherever you are in your journey, if you want the feedback that Bill and Eric talk about, and the accountability to get to your goals, now is the time.

Let’s work together. You can learn more about my leadership coaching and peer advisory boards here.

Leadership Quote: Compete With Things To Come…


This month’s leadership quote:

“Compete with things to come – not with things that were.”

-Carlos Rizowy

 So easy to look in the rear view mirror and ask ourselves, what’s coming? And, what Carlos reminds us is that what we see in the rear view mirror are only the things that are present now. The things to come require “eyes down the road”, as they say in driver training. It is only when we are looking down the road that we can see what we will be faced with and, therefore, will be competing with.

If we wait until it is in front of us, it is, at a minimum, more costly and often too late to respond.

Elisa K. Spain

Consensus Equals Beige

Consensus Equals 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 lots of 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 Vistage Chair and leadership coach, I see this happen each month during the executive sessions  I lead  with CEOs and Key Executives.  This, of course, is why 15,000 people around the world are members of Vistage – because we know the value of seeking input from others.

Where it all goes awry, is when we seek consensus either from our team or from our Vistage group (or our family, friends, book club, etc).  With consensus all the colors get mixed together, resulting in a dull beige, i.e. a mediocre, watered down decision.

Next time you are asking for input, ask yourself  if what you want is color. And, if it is color you want, don’t settle for beige.  Make the final decision yourself.

Elisa K. Spain


The Introvert's Guide To Leadership (& The Extrovert's Guide To Leading Introverts)

The Introvert's Guide To Leadership (& The Extrovert's Guide To Leading Introverts)

Some say 40% -50% of the top large company CEO’s are 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 for those of us who are introverted leaders and for extroverts with introverted leaders on your team?

As with all style differences, first 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 seek the input and then  “go within” to think things over and make a decision. Extroverts tend to think out loud, drawing their energy from the interaction with others. One thing to keep in mind about introverts – they aren’t necessarily shy, frequently just quiet – taking it all in.

Introverted leaders are frequently your “back of the room” leaders – they are calm, unemotional and perceived as wise. They are the ones that speak infrequently, but when they do, everyone listens.

Extroverted leaders are typically the “charismatic leader” – they are engaging, inspiring and people are naturally drawn to them.

If you are an introverted leader, leverage your natural strengths:

  • allow yourself to pause and reflect before making a decision and let others know that this is your style
  • leverage your ability to build relationships with small groups inside and outside your company
  • And, take note when it is time to access your extroversion to rally the troops inside your company or externally show up as an ambassador

If you are an extrovert leading introverted leaders, you can help by…

  • giving the introvert time to think
  • asking them what they think rather than assuming by being quiet they are not in agreement
  • inspiring the introvert to step out of their comfort zone when it it time for them to be inspiring to the team

Lisa Petrilli, a fellow leadership coach, has a great series of posts on this topic starting with The Five Myths about Extroversion from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.


Elisa K. Spain





Questions Of Culture – What Are Yours?

Questions Of Culture – What Are Yours?

Despite the sticky unemployment numbers, businesses are hiring. See 9/20/11 Blog “The Economic Shift” for a discussion as to some reasons for this dichotomy.

Now, back to the point of this post…

I am seeing a lot of discussion about the questions to ask in an interview to learn the fit of a potential hire.

Two of my favorites,

From Bob Herbold, the former Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft Corporation and author of What’s Holding You Back: 10 Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders.

When you were young, who was the person that was most influential in teaching you valuable lessons about life? What were those lessons the person taught you? What are those tapes this person put into your head that are still there today and have emerged as guiding principles for you?

The lessons you are looking for are basic principles that suggest a high degree of self confidence, a sense of personal responsibility, a strong drive to achieve, and solid fundamental ethics. No hint of these kinds of traits should be a red flag.

From Jeffrey Stibel is Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and author of Wired for Thought.

Describe a time when you failed, tell me what you learned. Jeff asks all of his employees to share their answer to this question on “the failure wall” posted in his office. His passionate belief is success by failure is not an oxymoron. When you make a mistake, you’re forced to look back and find out exactly where you went wrong, and formulate a new plan for your next attempt.

As Vistage speaker Brad Remillard always says, “we hire on skills and fire on behavior”.  These questions above are two of my favorite behavior questions, what are yours?

Elisa K Spain

Vistage CEO Confidence Index Q42011 Results

Vistage CEO Confidence Index Q42011 Results

After precipitous declines during the prior two quarters, CEO confidence bounced back at year’s end with the largest quarterly gain since the start of the recovery in 2009. The Vistage CEO Confidence Index was 98.8 in the 4th quarter 2011 survey, up from 83.5 in the 3rd quarter, and reaching the highest level since 105.2 was recorded at the start of 2011. The Q4 2011 Vistage CEO Confidence Index reflects responses from 1,641 US CEOs, surveyed between December 12 and December 22, 2011.

Read More

Elisa K. Spain

Laws Of Success: It's All About The Ride

Laws Of Success: It's All About The Ride

Years ago, I was sitting on a bench at 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

Recently, I came across this TED Talk by Professor Srikumar Rao, who developed the first MBA course on Creativity and Personal Mastery. Professor Rao is known as the happiness teacher. Like me, he is a leadership coach and he teaches his students how to achieve success by first plugging into your hard-wired happiness.

I wonder if my traveling acquaintance, from many years ago, realized that he had seized on the secret to happiness and success…

Perhaps something to consider in the new year?

Elisa K Spain

Want Greater Success? Nurture Your Butterflies

Want Greater Success? Nurture Your Butterflies

Good leaders always strive to have butterflies in their stomach, says Kathleen L. Flanagan, president and chief executive of Abt Associates, a $450mm consultancy firm.

When we are out of our comfort zone, we have the greatest opportunity for success. It’s when we become complacent and run on auto-pilot that we as leaders are most at risk of failure.

In this interview in The New York Times, Kathleen describes her first big promotion, the first time she managed people, how she had butterflies in her stomach the entire first year, and how she ultimately learned to trust her gut.

Her advice is the same advice she heard from her first boss and mentor, the one who gave her that first job. “There is no blueprint, you have to make a plan and be goal oriented. Always have butterflies and always plan for success.”

To the advice she received from her former boss, Kathleen adds her own wisdom: Be flexible. Listen to people. Give them the opportunity to give feedback, tell you what worries them, what they are thinking about, what part of the strategy they think is risky.

As a leadership coach, I ask myself and you the following questions as we plan for 2012:

  • What is your vision for success?
  • What specific goals have you set to move toward your vision?
  • Are we taking the risks that create butterflies, and if not, why not?


Elisa K. Spain



In The Search For Self-Improvement, Don’t Forget To Celebrate Your Genius

In The Search For Self-Improvement, Don’t Forget To Celebrate Your Genius

The notion that we can constantly make ourselves 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. In my Vistage work and as a leadership coach and advisor, I refer to this as discovering and working in our genius.

According to Alina Tugend, author of this New York Times article Pursuing Self-Improvement, at the Risk of Self-Acceptance, it was Dale Carnegie who ushered in the era of introspection and self-improvement.

She asserts that we have become so focused on achieving that we are never able to appreciate who we are or what we’ve already accomplished: “[W]hen we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.”

For me the best way to avoid the “better, better, better” trap is to ask the following questions:

  • What am I already good at? What do I need to do to become excellent at this?
  • Of the things I am not good at and am striving to be better at, what can I delegate to someone else?
  • Can I find a way to accept being adequate or “good enough” at the rest?

Once we know and understand what we are good at, and focus on that, we not only become more effective, we become more satisfied and ultimately become better leaders.

Elisa K. Spain