Archive for the ‘Personal Presence’ Category

Mindful Mondays: How to Be Present and Win July 13 2015 one response

ticketsWe are all familiar with the phrase, “You must be present to win.” Here’s a story from one of my clients, Jessica, about how that idea can play out in real life.

“I made dinner for my family last week. That usually happens like once a quarter. But I’ve been thinking about and doing things differently lately and decided on the way home from work that I was going to leave my phone in my purse and just be present with my family for three hours. I made a quiche. The great thing about making quiche is you just use whatever is your fridge – the vegetables you weren’t going to use, the leftover breakfast sausage, fresh eggs. You put it all in a pan and bake it. It couldn’t be easier. While the quiche was baking, I goofed around and had fun with my daughter. I use Instagram as a kind of gratitude journal. I post pictures of things I’m grateful for. My quiche was very photogenic so I posted it. It wasn’t just the quiche, though, it was gratitude for dinner with my family and fun with my daughter. I was so grateful to stop and take time to appreciate the goodness in my life.”

Jessica is one of around 30 participants in a Developing Leadership Presence program I’m doing for rising leaders at a well known Fortune 500 company. Like a lot of professionals, she’s working in an environment of constant change that can quickly consume all of a person’s time, attention and energy. Jessica shared her quiche story during a check-in video conference we had for the participants. They’ve all been working on practical ways to build their leadership presence. Almost all of them have also been working on being more present.

To help with that goal, all of the leaders have created a Life GPS® to get clear about how they are at their best, the routines that reinforce that and the outcomes that should result from showing up at their best. Those outcomes aren’t just at work; they’re at home and in the community too. When I asked everyone on the video conference to talk about what difference their Life GPS was making for them, what I heard about was making the choice to be present.

Jessica made a choice that evening to unplug and spend quality time with the people she loves most. Michelle talked about the dance parties she’s been having with her pre-schooler in the early evenings. Susan talked about the choice she’s made to spend her first 10 minutes after waking up each morning with her bare feet in the grass. She’s found that doing that literally and figuratively grounds her. She used to start her day worrying about what was happening at work. Now she starts it by feeling grateful for the beauty of nature and the other good things in her life.

When I asked the group what kind of impact these personal choices were having on their work, just about everyone had a story about that too. James, one of the guys in the group said he’s realizing that if he holds on to what he needs to do for himself to show up at his best, it helps his team. Another guy, Josh, said that the routines he’s outlined in his Life GPS are “the only thing that’s keeping me in the game. The difference for me is I can bring joy to the room at work rather than anxiety. That makes me feel like we’ve got a shot.” Many of the leaders said they’re sharing the Life GPS® with their team to show that they care about how the people they work with feel.

Stories like that are overwhelming – in the best possible way – for me to hear. I’d love to hear your story. If you’ve read Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative and have been using the Life GPS®, let me know what difference it’s making for you. If you’ve been thinking about using it or want some guidance with it, consider downloading a copy of the Life GPS® Personal Planner. No matter how you proceed, remember that you can make the choice to be present this week and win.

How to Be a Coaching and Mentoring Ninja June 10 2015 3 responses

ninja1One of the elements I love the most about our leadership development programs like Next Level Leadership® group coaching and Developing Leadership Presence is the peer coaching. In both of those programs, the participants are expected to pair up with a peer colleague and spend 20 minutes a week coaching each other.

That might sound complicated, but it’s not. What I want them to do is to take ten minutes each to ask their partner questions that get them off the dance floor and onto the balcony.  One of my favorite ways for them to do that is ask each other three questions:

  • What’s the most important meeting or conversation you’re going to have this week?
  • If that meeting is a wild, full-on success, what happens at the end?
  • How do you need to show up to make that full-on success likely?

The beauty of that coaching model is that they don’t have to know each other’s business to help each other. In fact, I prefer that they not work in the same function, because I want them to draw the insights out of each other, not just give each other advice.

Coaching is a brilliant way to go when you want to help someone develop and act on their own insights. Mentoring, on the other hand, is a great approach when you want to share experience and knowledge that can help the other person leap frog their learning curve. The most effective mentors know that they have to go beyond saying, “Here’s what I think you should do.” Instead, they talk about times when they faced situations similar to the protégé’s, how they thought through the situation, the approaches they tried, what worked and what didn’t and what they learned from all of that. The ninja level mentors then flip into coaching mode by asking things like,

  • What’s the same or different about your situation?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • What else could you try?
  • What are your next one or two steps?
  • How can I help?

So, if you know the distinctions, you can be both a coach and a mentor. I find myself toggling between those roles in my work. When you think about it, you probably do in yours as well. They’re not mutually exclusive roles; they’re complementary roles.

From either the giving or receiving end, what are the ninja level coaching or mentoring moves that work for you?

What Makes It So Hard to Let Go? June 4 2015 one response

wordcloud1Earlier today I was presenting a Leading Next Level Teams workshop to about 70 senior leaders in a global financial services company. It was a fun session made even more so by the use of a cool interactive technology called SpotMe where everyone could use special iPads to answer a few questions I was interested in.
One of the early questions was “Which is harder, picking up new skills and behaviors or letting go of old skills and behaviors that used to work for you but likely no longer do?” Eighty four percent of the group thought letting go is the harder thing to do. Then I asked them to input their one word reasons on why it’s harder to let go of the behaviors that maybe got you to the next level but almost certainly won’t keep you there.
Their answers are captured in the word cloud picture that accompanies this post. The words that are bigger are the ones that multiple people entered. The patterns are really interesting.  There are a lot of variations on the word “comfort” and a couple on “habits”.  ”Inertia” and “muscle memory” are kind of in the same ballpark. My favorite little response was “mybaby” which was someone’s clever way of saying, “I don’t want to let go of my baby!”
One of the bigger words you see in the cloud is “fear.” And that’s kind of it in a nutshell isn’t it? Fear is the emotion that underlies a lot of everything else on the chart. If you want to be successful in letting go of the things that keep you from being effective in your next level leadership role, you’ve got to deal with the fear of letting go.
How do you do that? I’ll be sharing my thoughts on that in a post I’ve written for Fast Company magazine that will be going online next week. I’ll share it with you here a few days after it’s up on Fast Company.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How have you dealt with the fear of letting go of behaviors that used to serve you but no longer do?

Five Simple Ways to Make Creative Thinking a Daily Habit May 27 2015 2 responses

Where or when do you get your best ideas?

I ask that question to a lot of clients and executives attending my presentations and seminars. The answers I often hear are things like “In the shower,” “Walking the dog,” “Working out,” “On my commute,” “Taking care of the yard,” or “Cleaning the house.”

But do you know what answer I never hear? “At my desk in front of my computer.” In fact, when I ask if anyone gets their best ideas at their desk, everyone laughs because the very idea is absurd.

People hardly ever get their best ideas at their desks, and yet that’s where most professionals spend most of the day. If it’s not the desk, it’s a conference table, and hardly anyone gets their best ideas there either.

The irony, of course, is that most of the great work any of us do depends on the sparks of insight and creativity that come when we’re not actively focusing on a particular task or trying to solve a problem. We need to create and leave time for unconscious thought.

(Read more at Fast Company)

Mindful Mondays: Hug the One You’re With May 4 2015 one response

goldbergAs I was skimming through the headlines from the New York Times on Saturday morning, I was stunned to read the news of the death of Dave Goldberg. You may not have heard of him until this past weekend. He was the 47 year old CEO of the online questionnaire company, Survey Monkey. He was also the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO and author of the mega best-seller, Lean In. Goldberg died while he was on vacation with his wife.

By all accounts, most especially Sandberg’s in her book, Dave Goldberg was a great guy. It appears he was one of those people who spent his life encouraging others while doing interesting things himself.

It’s a tragedy when anyone dies unexpectedly in the prime of life. What literally took my breath away when I read the news of his death was the stark reminder that tragedy can happen to anyone at any time. Power couples don’t get much more powerful than Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg. Wealth, fame, friends, access, interesting work, a beautiful family, a vibrant marriage – they seemed to have it all.

None of that, of course, could protect them from the tragedy of sudden loss. When it comes to that, we’re all in the same boat.

I’ve written a lot about being present in these Mindful Monday columns over the past month. What Are You More Likely to Remember? and What Do You Have to Share? are the two most recent examples. The subject of today’s post is one more reminder to be present with the people you care most about.

Take some time today to hug the one you’re with. There’s not going to be a better opportunity than the one you have today. Don’t wait.

What’s the Difference Between Executive Presence and Leadership Presence? April 23 2015 7 responses

exec-draperThe title of this post is a question I was asked yesterday during an interview for the book summary service Get Abstract. (Audio excerpts from the interview will be available in a few months.) While I guess I’ve thought about the difference between executive and leadership presence over the years (I wrote a book on the latter after all), I have never had the question put to me that directly.

My answer was that, depending on the situation, executive presence can be a subset of leadership presence. As I unpacked my answer, the interviewer referred a couple of times to Don Draper of Mad Men as someone who embodies executive presence. As a fan of the show, I could see what she meant. No one wears a business suit better than Jon Hamm as Don Draper. When Don Draper is sober and in full pitch mode he embodies what the very traditional picture of executive presence looks like.

And that, in essence, is the difference between executive presence and leadership presence. The simplest distinction between the two is that executive presence is about how you look and leadership presence is about what you do. If you want to take it further, executive presence is about how you talk and leadership presence is about what you say when you do.

First impressions count so advice on executive presence often focuses on how one dresses, enters a room, makes eye contact in conversation and other behavioral nuances. The challenge with advising or coaching on executive presence is that one size doesn’t fit all. Every person is different; organizational norms are different and cultures are different. What works in one setting doesn’t necessarily work in another. As I wrote here earlier this month, it’s possible to have too much executive presence. If you’re too polished and too slick, you create distance. And the judgment on too polished and slick is in the eyes of the beholders. Because almost every leader is operating in a global context today (social media and web conferencing makes that the case even if you never leave your hometown), executive presence doesn’t travel like it used to.

Leadership presence, on the other hand, is much more portable. That’s because it’s about the people and not the leader. Taking the perspective of the leader, it’s about you, not me. As Harvard professor Dean Williams and I discussed in a recent audio interview on this blog, the most effective leaders use their presence to help the group identify the work to be done or the adaptive challenge to be overcome. They help set the agenda. They help organize the team. They coach. They ask questions that help people come up with their own answers. They encourage accountability. They celebrate success. They applaud effort. They help the team learn from failure, self-correct and move on. In all instances, the leader’s focus is on them – the people.

So, those are some of the distinctions I’m making between executive presence and leadership presence. What do you think? What’s the difference between the two? What’s the impact of one vs. the other? What have I missed?

Three Signs That You Have Too Much Executive Presence April 9 2015 2 responses

vincev-exec2It’s common for leaders who want to make a bigger impact to work on building their executive presence. It’s so common, in fact, that my company offers a seven month group coaching program for high potential leaders slated for executive roles. Our goal in that program is to make the often discussed but rarely clearly defined topic of executive presence a tangible and actionable thing to develop.

We try to move away from the “I know it when I see it,” definition of executive presence by focusing on specific behaviors and tactics related to factors like showing up with an appropriate amount of confidence, tailored communications, building great teams and working with colleagues to get bigger things done.  Along with all of that, we focus on the idea that it’s possible to have too much executive presence.

Too much executive presence? How, you may ask, could that possibly be a problem?  It’s a problem when the leader’s executive presence creates distance between them and the people they’re leading or working with. In my experience, this usually happens when the leader puts too much emphasis on “executive” and not enough emphasis on “presence.”

Is it possible that you have too much executive presence? Here are three signs that could tell you the answer may be yes.

Too Many Perks:  If you find yourself grooving on the perks that come with an executive level title or perhaps viewing them as an entitlement or even taking them for granted, then you probably have too much executive presence. If you can’t come up with a list of the perks that come with your job, that’s a sure sign that you need to step back and look at things from a different perspective. Try looking at it from the perspective of the lowest paid people in your organization.

Too Many Meetings in Your Office:  Do they come to you or do you go to them? If you’re taking most of your meetings in your own office, that’s a sign that you have too much executive presence. Again, look at it from their perspective. Is it possible that they feel like they’re being summoned for an audience on a regular basis? And, by the way, what are you missing or overlooking by not getting out of your office?

Too Much Structure:  So, yeah, you definitely need to have processes and systems in place that enable you to be accountable for results without having to be personally responsible for all of the results. Definitely put those in place, but don’t over do it and don’t put yourself as the focal point of the structure. It’s not all about you. Too much structure that is focused on channeling information to you is a sign that you have too much executive presence.

What do you think? Is it possible to have too much executive presence? What are some other signs that a leader has too much executive presence?

What is the Creator’s Code? March 26 2015 no responses


What do Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank all have in common? Amy Wilkinson has done the research and knows the answer. She shares it in her new book, The Creator’s Code.

Wilkinson’s book is based on what she learned in 200 interviews with entrepreneurs who founded and built companies that have generated at least $100 million in revenue for at least five years. Drawing on her training as a sociologist, she sifted through the transcripts of those conversations to identify the six skills that these entrepreneurs have in common. She shares those in The Creator’s Code and she shared them with me in a recent conversation.

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur with aspirations of starting your own multi-million dollar business, I think you’ll want to listen to the recording. The skills that Amy has identified in her research are the skills that distinguish people who get big things done from those that don’t in this new world of work.


Ten Ways to Lead Bigger March 19 2015 4 responses

goldfishAs I wrote here a few months ago, the biggest development opportunity for many of the rising leaders I work with as an executive coach is to play a bigger game. Once a leader achieves a level of mastery in leading his or her functional team, the next step is to play a bigger leadership role (informal, formal or both) in the broader organization.

This dynamic has come up in a couple of coaching conversations I’ve had lately which prompts me to share these ten tips for how you or the rising leaders you work with can step up and lead bigger. The list that follows are based on ten of the 72 specific leadership behaviors in the 360 degree assessment that’s based on my book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

Which ones present the biggest opportunity for you? Which ones would you like to read more about on this blog? Leave a comment and let me know.

1. Take time to get to know your peers and their interests.
2. Work to understand what is important to other functions and how those priorities fit into the bigger picture for the organization.
3. Seek out the input of peers, subordinates and superiors in the organization.
4. Make offers in support of the agendas of peers and follow through on those commitments.
5. Work with peers to develop win-win solutions to cross-functional problems.
6. Choose effectiveness as a more outcome than “being right”.
7. Put the agenda of the broader organization ahead of your functional agenda.
8. Contribute or even sacrifice key resources for the good of the entire organization.
9. Scan the external environment for trends and ideas that could have an impact on the organization.
10. Collaborate with colleagues to push through ambiguity or tough times to move the organization forward.

Mindful Mondays: One Less, One More March 16 2015 no responses


We’ve all heard the phrase less is more. Perhaps it’s also true that more is less. I think that’s where Robbie Vorhaus is coming from with his recent book, One Less. One More. Follow Your Heart. Be Happy. Change Slowly.

Vorhaus is a well respected crisis expert and communications strategist with years of experience advising corporate leaders, government officials and celebrities about how to get things back on track when they’ve run off the rails. After years of building his business and reputation, Vorhaus found himself about to run off his own rails and decided to make a change.

More accurately, he began to make a series of changes. That process is what led to his book, One Less, One More. Profound in its simplicity, the big idea of the book is to commit each day to doing one less thing that keeps you from following your heart and one more thing that will enable you to do that. From there, it’s rinse and repeat. It’s one less thing and one more thing each day.

In the accompanying conversation (which is a little longer than most of my interviews), Vorhaus and I talk about what he’s learned along the way, what it means to follow your heart and why it’s best to change slowly. I think you’ll find it thought provoking and perhaps life changing.