September 19

Let’s Nix The “Soft Skills” Label

Ask any coach and you’ll find that the phrase “soft skills” is towards the top of their pet peeve vocabulary list. It certainly is for me. The label is often so dismissive. It assumes the skills we describe as such aren’t difficult, that their impact isn’t measurable in the way “hard skills” are, or that they’re only a nice-to-have. I’ve heard all this and more when discussing such skills. The reality is: most of the skills people label as “soft” are actually the ones many leaders struggle with the most. There isn’t one right way to lead a team or to be more strategic or to become a more (CONTINUE READING)

June 12

Leadership Is A Choice, Not A Position

This sentiment has been expressed by so many different leaders it’s difficult to attribute it as a quote to one person. Everyone from Stephen Covey to Jack Welch to Seth Godin has offered some form of this wisdom. I have my own experiences of this too, and I’ve seen the “a-ha” of this reality in my work with executives and leadership teams. While leadership roles certainly offer many opportunities and can be accompanied by perks, they really aren’t for everyone. With that in mind, I really appreciated this recent blog by Wally Bock: “Thinking of a Leadership Position? Six Questions to Help You Decide if It’s For You.” If (CONTINUE READING)

March 18

The Height of Insanity: Learning from “Free Solo”

This weekend we watched the terrifying and thrilling “Free Solo.” This National Geographic documentary captures an unprecedented climb by Alex Honnold: scaling the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite Park without a rope or safety gear. When I first heard about Honnold’s climb, I thought “that’s insane!” along with “why would anyone do that?” These sentiments were echoed by those closest to Honnold, other elite climbers, and most especially, by his film crew. There was a good chance they’d capture him falling to his death. One particularly compelling aspect of the story to me was the “both/and” angle: how Honnold saw the impossible by working with the possible. “You need (CONTINUE READING)

January 16

“You can be a great leader and also have a life.”

Says one of the feature articles in the December Harvard Business Review. I could not agree more. In fact, I’d argue the title of the article could be: “in order to be a great leader, you must have a life.” This article addresses one of the greatest leadership challenges I see. All too often, leaders make incredibly high degrees of personal sacrifice for the sake of their work. The results can have an incredible, negative domino effect in their organizations. Though I prefer the phrase “work/life integration” over “work/life balance” (balance is a precarious myth…), I love that this article highlighted stories of leaders who have found new and (CONTINUE READING)

October 2

When “My Way” Needs to Hit the Highway

One of the most consistent aspects of leadership is inconsistency. No two weeks are alike. Days start with one plan and end with another. Employees leave, competitors innovate, customer needs shift. Most leaders are drawn to the excitement of unpredictability. They claim they’d be bored in roles that are too routine. Equally, I hear about the frustration and exhaustion that stem from a changing reality, for them and their teams. One difference I’ve noticed between leaders who relish these conditions and those who don’t is whether they expect everything to adjust to them or whether they’re willing to do the adjusting. Broadly speaking, it’s the difference between “my way (CONTINUE READING)

May 10

“You Made A Difference in My Career.”

Playing a role in the development of another person is really pretty cool. Think of how it feels when someone says: “you made a difference in my career.” Pretty great, right? Too often, though, this part of leadership can feel like a burden. For many leaders, the topic of staff development can be a source of guilt. Can you relate to any of these? Development conversations fall to the bottom of the list in the midst of day-to-day tasks. There just isn’t time. Maybe next week. You want your staff to develop a skill or show up in a certain way that you yourself don’t know how to do (CONTINUE READING)

March 19

Learning to Lead from The Inside Out

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it is that we must learn to lead ourselves before we can effectively lead others. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that learning and living this lesson and helping others learn and live it is the raison d’etre of my work. Our ability to lead ourselves first is the secret ingredient of effective leadership. Thus, I was pretty excited when Connie Steele of Flywheel Associates asked me if we could have a chat about this topic for her “Strategic Momentum” podcast. It was so much fun to delve into this topic! Here are a few of the points (CONTINUE READING)

January 26

By Teaching We Learn

Anyone who has been in one of my leadership programs knows that one of my favorite quotes is “Docendo discimus.” This is a Latin proverb which means “by teaching, we learn.” I share this with participants on Day One to encourage them to talk openly about their experiences with each other across the program. This is fundamental to how we grow as adults: by sharing what we’ve learned through our experiences and hearing the experiences of others. (I also love that it sounds like a Harry Potter spell!) I had this concept in mind when I came across this article from the January / February 2018 issues of Harvard (CONTINUE READING)

November 20

Thanks for the Tough Stuff

Much has been written about the relationship between being grateful and being happy. One such book is Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Its Amazon description: “Scientifically speaking, regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25%, while keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy.” I confess I’m a believer. I’ve had a gratitude practice for a few years now. As we prepare to go around the tables this week here in the U.S. and think about what we’re grateful for, I want to share another version of this practice I’ve been working on: finding a (CONTINUE READING)

July 6

Halfway Through 2017: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

I like to find leadership lessons in odd places. Today, as I’m still shaking off sand from the 4th of July, I’ll borrow the sage guidance of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris’ wisdom certainly rings true this week: we’re officially halfway through 2017! It’s time to stop and look around. Necessary and Not Sufficient Most organizations have quarterly reviews of some form in place. Even in my small business, I take stock of revenue, ops and project statuses at each quarter beginning. These reviews are critical and necessary. They’re often also insufficient. (CONTINUE READING)

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