Was Fraud The Intent or the Outcome?

Thank you for allowing this shameless self-promotion before today's story. In October, I was a guest on the Northern Trust Advisors Podcast, and I just learned that this podcast made their top ten for 2021. So exciting! Here's a link if you want to listen to a 1.5-minute excerpt.  Psychologists, anthropologists, everyone who studies the human brain tells us we are hardwired to respond to stories. A while back, I watched two documentaries chronicling stories told by storytellers who were later indicted for fraud, Billy McFarland, founder of Fyre Media and creator of the Fyre Festival, and Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos.  Perhaps because I watched them back to back, I was struck by the common themes. Both founders passionately believed in their stories and told them well, so well, that investors and buyers flocked to them.  We will never know whether these storytellers and others like them set out to commit fraud or whether they believed so passionately in their stories that they were blind to the...
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Are You Green & Growing?

The further along, we get in our careers, the more we know and the more we are challenged to stay curious. Every now and then, I meet a leader that knows it all. They have "the way" they do things that worked for them in the past, and as leaders, they are confident it will work today. They share "the way" with their team, expecting them to accept "the way" and to become successful because of it. They do this with the best intentions, yet the results don't come. Frustrated, they try again. If only folks would simply execute "the way," they will be successful, and so will our company. Alas, they discover, it doesn't work the way it once did. This leader has two choices, s/he can continue to lead as s/he has always done, or... s/he can become curious. What I have noticed is businesses, like ourselves, are living beings. And, like a plant, if I am not willing and able to...
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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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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...
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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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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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