Archive for the ‘Personal Presence’ Category

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

book-creatorscode

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.

Play

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

book-vorhaus

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.

Play

Three Ways to Coach the Person, Not the Problem February 27 2015 5 responses

waterbottle2Back when we were co-teaching The Flow of Coaching module at the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, my good friend, hero and fellow Davidson College alum Frank Ball used to do a funny bit with a bottle of water. To make the point that coaches and leaders should coach people and not problems, Frank would put a bottle of water on the table in the front of the room and say, “This bottle of water represents the problem.” Then he would start coaching the bottle of water. Needless to say, he never got very far. The bottle just didn’t have that many insights on what to change or how to change it.

That’s the thing. People have insights, problems don’t. If you’re a leader who cares about growing and developing your people, you have to coach them, not their problems.

That’s counterintuitive for a lot of leaders and even a lot of professional coaches. The solution to the problem is so obvious (to you) that you just want to jump in there and solve it for them.  That’s not coaching; that’s providing the answer. There’s not much growth in that approach. In fact, you might set growth back by creating a dependency that locks both of you into doing what you’ve always done. And of course when you do that, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.

So, the next time you feel the urge to coach the problem, try one or more of these three ways to coach the person and not the problem.

If You Can’t Be Confident in Your Knowledge, Be Confident In Your Ignorance February 6 2015 3 responses

confidence1The title of this post comes from a comment made at a global leadership team meeting I was facilitating earlier this year. The purpose of the meeting was to review 360 degree feedback on the team and its members. In the format we were using, each team member had around 15 minutes in the spotlight to share what they learned from their feedback, what they are working on to take their game to the next level and to get advice from their colleagues on simple things they could do that would make a difference.

It was interesting that in a very accomplished group of people, more than a few were working on issues that, in one way or another, related to showing up with confidence as a leader. Given how hard it is to lead and all of the twists, turns, ups and downs that leaders face, it’s not really surprising that confidence can come up as an issue. When you add in all of the information, projects and decisions that leaders (and just about any professional for that matter) need to keep up with, it’s easy to see why feeling confident and projecting confidence is such a common opportunity.

It’s harder than hell to keep up with everything. When you know in your gut that you’re not keeping up, your confidence can suffer.

We were talking about that dynamic in the meeting when one of the executives shared a maxim she started practicing years ago that has served her well ever since: “If you can’t be confident in your knowledge, be confident in your ignorance.”

When she dropped that line on us, the conversation stopped for a moment while everyone let it sink in. We asked her to tell us more about what she had just said. She told us that she realized years ago that she couldn’t know everything and instead of trying to fake her way through situations where she didn’t know things that other people maybe expected her to know, she just started to confidently acknowledging her ignorance on a topic.

Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t play stupid and she’s clearly not. Rather, I’d say she’s one of the more intelligent people I’ve met lately. She’s smart enough and confident enough to acknowledge when she doesn’t have the facts at her fingertips, doesn’t understand the point that’s being made or needs more information to make a decision or offer an informed opinion. That strikes me as a pretty great strategy for staying sane, effective and respected in a world where it’s impossible for anyone to stay on top of everything that’s going on.

It’s worked for her. She shared that in the years since she’s started being confident in her ignorance, she’s only had one boss jump down her throat. It turned out that he didn’t last long in his role anyway. Everyone else has thanked her for being straight up. Many have told her they admired her honesty.

So, food for thought. Where and when do you need to be confident in your ignorance?

Seven Ways to Play a Bigger Game This Year January 15 2015 no responses

bigger-gameIn fifteen years of coaching high potential and senior leaders, I’ve conducted thousands of hours of colleague feedback interviews. One of the themes that I hear a lot from senior executives talking about high potential leaders is that the client needs to play a bigger game. What the executives mean by that is that the high potential needs to start making an impact beyond their immediate function and start acting as a leader of the entire organization and not just their function.

With the performance reviews and goal setting sessions that come at the beginning of the year, now is a great time to think about how you can play a bigger game this year – the kind of game that really changes things and makes a big difference.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked around three dozen high potential leaders to answer the question, “What’s the one thing you need to do to play a bigger game this year?”  I’ve boiled their answers down to seven ways to play a bigger game. If you’re ready to play a bigger game, you’ll want to take a look.

Leaders Behaving Badly December 12 2014 no responses

Leaders Behaving BadlyYou don’t have to look very hard in any given week to find examples of leaders behaving badly. This week had a couple of doozies.

First, we had the story of Heather Cho, the vice president of inflight customer service for Korean Air. She was travelling on her own airline and as her plane from taxiing away from its gate at JFK, a flight attendant gave her macadamia nuts without asking if she wanted any and, (worse!) left them in the package. Cho flipped out and called the lead flight attendant to her seat to dress him down. She ordered him to look up the correct macadamia nut procedure in the KAL customer service manual. When he couldn’t produce the manual, she fired him on the spot and ordered the pilot to take the plane back to the gate so the lead attendant could get off the plane. The story went viral and created a PR problem for the airline. They apparently didn’t see it as that big a deal, however. Cho lost her job as head of in-flight service but is still a vice president with KAL. The fact that her dad is chairman of the conglomerate that owns the airline likely has something to do with that.

Then, there’s the case of Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman. As first reported on Boston.com and later on Slate and in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Edelman was overcharged four dollars on a $53 order of Chinese takeout from a local restaurant who had some out of date information on their website.  Over the course of several days and what had to be many hours of e-mail writing, Edelman escalated a simple and honest oversight into the threat of legal action and gave boatloads of grief to a guy who’s running a family restaurant and was trying to make things right. When the story went viral, Edelman backed off and posted a short statement on his own web site saying he had gone too far. Some great role modeling there for his students at the B School.

Maybe one of the good things about the 24/7, go-viral-in-a heartbeat age that we live in is that’s somewhat more difficult to be a jerk as a leader and get away with it.  It used to be that the question leaders needed to ask themselves before doing something untoward was “Do I want to read about this on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times? The likelihood of that actually happening back in the day was pretty small. Now, it’s exponentially larger and, as I wrote here last year, the impact of your freak-out can have such a big ripple effect.

If someone can Tweet about what you’re doing, post your emails or shoot a video of you freaking out on their cell phones (and they can and will do all of those things), you really have to stop and ask yourself,  “Do I want to present myself this way to a large part of the world?”

Not a bad question to ask before you head down the path of behaving badly.

Which Matters Most? Ambition or Talent? November 20 2014 5 responses

fishbowlsOne of my favorite Saturday routines is spending an hour or so browsing through the weekend edition of the Financial Times on my iPad. There are often fascinating long interviews with newsmakers in a feature called “Lunch with the FT” and usually some interesting reviews of books I won’t read but am interested in learning a little bit about.  Without fail, though, my favorite feature is a short one called “The Inventory.”  Each week, the FT asks a person of note twenty questions, most of which are the same week after week.  Two of the most intriguing to me are, “Are you environmentally conscious?” immediately followed by “Do you own more than one home?”  Others I like include, “If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would he or she think?” “If you lost everything, what would you do?” and “Do you believe in an afterlife?”

My favorite question in “The Inventory”, though, is “Which matters most?  Ambition or talent?”

While the occasional few interviewee tries to fudge it by saying both or by redirecting the question, most come down squarely on one side or the other.  Of those with a clear point of view, it seems to be about evenly split between ambition and talent.

Lately, I’ve been asking colleagues and clients this question.  One of those folks spent close to ten years as a bat boy for two major league baseball teams when he was a kid.  One of those teams won the World Series.   This guy has seen a lot of talent in his life.  When I asked him the ambition or talent question, he immediately answered, “Ambition, no question about it.”  When I asked him to explain he told me he’d seen a ton of major leaguers with plenty of talent wash out after a year or two.  His observation is pretty much everyone at that level has a ton of talent.  The differentiator between the stars and the journeymen is ambition.  The stars work harder.  They put in the hours on the practice and the reps.  They block out the distractions.  They focus on what they’re there to do.  (Derek Jeter comes to mind as I write this.)

As I think about my own observational experience in business and other fields, I’m inclined to agree with my former bat boy friend – ambition matters most.  Sure you have to have a certain amount of talent to get in the game but the differentiator is ambition.  Another word for it might be relentlessness.

What’s your take? Which matters most? Ambition or talent? Would love to read your opinion and why you have it in the comments.

Mindful Mondays: What’s on Your De-Stress Checklist? November 17 2014 no responses

ChecklistIn a meeting with a group of CEO’s last week, we were talking about how to show up at your best under conditions of high stress. One of the group shared a checklist of that a wellness expert had given him. It was a list of activities you could do either indoors or outdoors that would lower your stress. Each activity has a point value assigned to it. The goal is to get in 100 point points worth of de-stressing activities a week.
Here are some examples of what was on the list and the point values assigned to them:
Activity Points
Massage 50 points
Meditation 50 points
Yoga 40 points
Warm Bath 30 points
Social Interaction 25 points
Swimming 25 points
Walk 25 points
Gardening 25 points
Music 15 points
Reading Fiction 15 points
So, I don’t have any research for you that explains how the points were assigned to these activities or why the goal is 100 points per week. Still, the idea is interesting. What if you had a personal list of activities that you knew would even out your fight or flight response with some rest and digest? And, what if you incorporated a few of those into your routines each day? Pretty soon, you’d have 100 points (or whatever the number should be) a week of activities that will make it more likely that you show up at your best.
Some of the items on my de-stress checklist include time with my family, yoga, reading, meditation, deep breaths and laughing and connecting with people.
What’s on your de-stress checklist? Which activities get the highest number of points?

Seven Things Leaders Can Learn from Bill Clinton About Connecting with People November 13 2014 9 responses

bill-clinton1Delivering his monologue after the midterm elections last week, David Letterman was talking about President Obama’s low approval ratings and landed a great line:

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

As Letterman said, before delivering his punch line, being President of the United States is a “lonely, lonely gig.”

Being an ex-President of the United States? Not so much. According to Gallup, the most popular ex-Prez is Bill Clinton. His approval rating earlier this year was 64%. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. Most Presidents are more popular out of office than in. In Clinton’s case, he likely gets a lot of credit for the work he’s doing through his Foundation. He also does a lot of public appearances and is a master communicator and connector.

Earlier this week, I got to see exactly how much of a master he is when President Clinton spoke to a packed house for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. For just under 90 minutes, Clinton held an audience of 1,500 people rapt as he answered questions on everything from Ebola to education to Putin to what his most favorite thing was about being President (that last question was submitted by the moderator’s 4th grade son).

There were a lot of things I noticed Clinton doing that makes him world class at connecting with an audience. There were a lot of lessons that leaders can use to connect with their people. Here are seven of them: