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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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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How Do You Know When It Is Time To Go?

Whether you are a business owner, a professional manager, an advisor, or anyone engaged in an enterprise for an extended time - how do you know when it is time to go? "Nothing is forever," the saying goes, and yet sometimes, perhaps even frequently, we stay too long. We watch professional athletes stay past their prime, and we participate in the debate about term limits for our congress. Yet, when it comes to our own engagements, how often do we look inward and debate our own need for term limits? When I was negotiating my exit from the corporate world years ago, I remember a conversation I had with a friend. My friend asked, "What are you going to do if you don't get the deal you want?" My answer was, "I guess I will stay one more year." Her response, "How many more years are you going to say, one more year?" At that moment, I realized it was time for me...
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Who Knows What Is Good and What is Bad

A few months ago, I began a Mental Fitness Coach training program with Shirzad Chamine, founder of Positive Intelligence. I have found this program to have profound results, and I have integrated it into my YOU PIVOT™ coaching practice. A key tenet of the program is the concept of The Sage Perspective.   The Sage Perspective encourages us to look for the gift in everything that happens and is grounded in an old Chinese Proverb that goes something like this. A farmer has a stallion as his most prized possession. One day he enters his stallion in competition, and his stallion wins first prize.  His neighbors bring their congratulations—the farmer replies, who knows what is good and what is bad.  The neighbors go away, puzzled by this strange reply. A week or so passes, and the thieves in the area, having discovered the stallion has won first prize, come and steal the stallion.  The neighbors bring their condolences—the farmer once again replies, who knows what is good...
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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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YOU PIVOT™: What Is Your Tomorrow Story?

In my work with CEOs and senior executives in my YOU PIVOT™ Program, I ask them to begin by telling me the story of who they are today. Then, I ask them to consider and share what matters most to them. Only then, when they have clarity on their today story and what matters, I ask them to craft their vision for the next version of their life and career. I ask my clients to write this vision in story form. It's hard to write a story about ourselves. For me, I find that just the act of thinking about the story, perhaps writing some notes about it, is a helpful way to get started. I am a big fan of Steve Covey's Seven Habits, and one of my favorites is, Begin with the end in mind. That said, without a good understanding of where we are today, how that is working or not working for us, it...
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