Archive for the ‘Personal Presence’ Category

Three Ways to Coach the Person, Not the Problem February 27 2015 one response

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 problem and not the person.

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 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:

Mindful Mondays: What You Can Learn About Focus from the World Series MVP November 3 2014 2 responses

bumgarnerIf I ever write another book, I want to interview Madison Bumgarner for it. That dude knows how to focus and I’d love to know more about how he does it. As you may have seen last week, the San Francisco Giants starting pitcher came on the mound in the 5th inning of game seven of the World Series and pitched for the rest of the game. The scene was set in Kansas City and the Giants had a 3-2 lead over the Royals when Bumgarner took over. He shut the Royals down pretty much exactly as he had when he pitched a nine inning shut-out just two days earlier in game five.

As reported in this summary, the World Series MVP pitched a record 52 innings in the postseason with a 1.03 ERA. He threw 32.7 of the innings in the Giants’ 17 postseason games and 34 percent of the innings in their World Series Games. In an era when starting pitchers typically work on a five game rotation, Bumgarner pitched in three of the seven games of the Series and allowed only one run.

Watching him pitch in game seven was mesmerizing. In a rocking stadium filled with a sea of Royals fans wearing blue, Bumgarner just kept doing what he was there to do – retiring batters. As I watched him between pitches, I was totally struck by how calm and focused he was. There was no psyching himself up between pitches. As he looked down at the mound, you could see him take a quiet breath through his nose and then turn to face the batter and release his pitch. Every time, it was the same thing. When the inning was over, he would quietly and deliberately walk back to the dugout, take his seat and fix his gaze on an indeterminate point in the distance.

Bumgarner is a man of few words and I’ve been unable to find any interviews where he talks about how he’s learned to focus like he does. This brief quote from an article in the New York Times offers a few clues:

“I was just concentrating on making pitches. I wasn’t thinking about how many innings I was going to go or how many pitches or any of that. Just thinking about getting outs.”

That’s pretty much it. Don’t focus on the distractions. Focus on what you’re there to do. In Bumgarner’s case, his focus was pitch by pitch leading to out by out. In the last half of game seven he got 15 of them. Little steps – pitch after pitch, out after out – led to a big result – the World Series championship.

What’s the takeaway if you don’t throw a 95 MPH fastball? For me, it’s focus on your breathing and then focus on what you have to do. What’s yours?

Three Short Videos for the Overworked and Overwhelmed October 29 2014 2 responses

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Summers and other great folks from the American Management Association to talk about Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. The AMA has a really cool little video series called Three Questions where authors give short answers to questions in their wheelhouse.

If you’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed or know someone who is, these videos just might help. You can watch all three in under five minutes.




And a Big Shout Out…

I’m so grateful to so many people who have helped me let the world know about my new book. They’re great people that you should get to know. Here’s a partial list of some of the people on our launch team and the coordinates for where you can find them.

Name Website Twitter
Halelly Azulay TalentGrow @HalellyAzulay
Lyn Boyer @lyn_boyer
Mimi Darmstadter My Life’s Work Coaching
Working Mama Group
Lori Ermi, PCC, SPHR The Ermi Group @LoriErmi
Mark Fortier Fortier PR @Bizbookpr
Joel Garfinkle Garfinkle Executive Coaching @JoelGarfinkle
Terri Hughes
Terri Hughes – LinkedIn
Henry J. Lescault Untouchable Leadership  
Lawrence Levin Top Teaming
The Levin Group
Chris Perry Career Rocketeer @CareerRocketeer
Suzi Pomerantz @suzipomerantz
Rae Ringel The Ringel Group
Patricia Wheeler Leading News
The Levin Group

Coming Clean October 8 2014 17 responses

Scott EblinIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re undoubtedly aware that I have a new book coming out, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. I hope you’ll read it and get a lot of value from it. But before you do, there’s something that I want to share with you, as a regular reader of this blog, that has, for the past five years, been a private issue between me, my family and a few friends. That private issue is now public. Because you’re a regular reader here, I want you to hear about it from me in this setting before you read about it in the new book.

In the summer of 2009, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That came as a shock because I was pretty healthy up to that point, had run a couple of marathons and thought I was pretty much bulletproof. Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, I could barely walk around the block and had to pull myself up the stairs by the banister to get to bed. I had bad days and somewhat better days the rest of that year and through the end of 2010. I tried some of the MS drugs but they didn’t agree with my liver and I had to stop taking them. In October of 2010, my wife, Diane, encouraged me to go to a yoga class because she had read that it helps people with MS function better.

I nervously went to a class and when I got there I took the instructor aside to tell her about my condition and to please keep an eye on me in case I passed out or something. She told me not to worry, that they regularly had people with chronic illnesses in class and that she would take care of me. She also told me if I came to yoga three times a week it would change my body and if I came more than three times a week it would change my life. She was right. I chose the more than three times a week option and it changed both my body and my life.

Today, I’ve written my second book, completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program, been to Paris with Diane for our 25th anniversary and travel all over the place coaching and giving presentations. (I’m writing this post on a plane from Washington, DC to New York). I’ve gone from not being able to walk without support from Diane for balance to doing head stands, hand stands and arm balances most every day of the week. In short, I’m living at my best.

Managing stress is very important in managing MS. Yoga has been a big component of a system that along with intentional breathing, vibrant relationships and regular routines of reflection helps me do that. None of that is to say that I don’t get overworked and overwhelmed. I do just like everyone else does. The difference for me is that I recognize that feeling more quickly now and have learned how to respond to that feeling to get back to a more productive and healthier state.

That’s one of the big reasons I wrote the new book. I wanted to share the system based on mindful routines that keep me at my best physically, mentally, relationally and spiritually. The other big reason I wrote the book is that see a need among so many of my clients and audiences to an alternative to the overworked and overwhelmed state they often find themselves in. At this point, I’m passionate about sharing what I learned through interviews with successful executives and thought leaders, reviewing the latest research and my own experience. It feels like a mission for me.

I’m confident that I would not have written the new book if I had not had MS. Because my experience with not just surviving but thriving with the disease was so pivotal in writing Overworked and Overwhelmed, I felt like I had to make the private story of my illness public and write about it in the book. So, that’s what I mean by the title of this post, “Coming Clean.” Because you’ve been a regular reader here, I wanted to share the backstory with you before you read the rest of the story in the book

And, like I said earlier, I hope you’ll read it and that you take insights and action steps away that will strengthen your leadership and improve your life. Please share your stories and thoughts with me if you do.