April 15

Leaders: Being “Touchy-Feely” Is No Longer Optional

Years ago I published this post “Yes, You’re Touchy-Feely. Get Over It.” One statement I wrote was: “whether we like it or not, every person operates daily with and through emotions. It’s simply part of our biology.” These recent weeks have brought our shared and universal emotions to center stage, and much has been written about the importance of attending to our emotional states. What I’ve been noticing are the different and perhaps covert ways our emotions are making themselves known. Everybody Handles Things Differently Though we are all experiencing the same pandemic, one thing to note is obvious and worth remembering: people respond to fear in different ways. (CONTINUE READING)

February 19

One is the Loneliest Number

This song lyric makes me wonder if its writer, Harry Nilsson*, used to spend time with leaders. His bio doesn’t really suggest that, but his sentiment describes so aptly how leaders often feel. I started thinking about this as I was reading evaluations from a recent leadership program I taught. One executive wrote: “I most enjoyed sharing stories because I learned that I am not alone.”  Though his sentiment is common, it struck me. Leaders face so many challenges daily and many of them legitimately require confidentiality. So many others could be shared, and aren’t. I know I can be guilty of keeping my obstacles and challenges to myself. (CONTINUE READING)

November 14

“Either I can run it or it will run me.”

I think this is what is known as a “truth bomb.” This statement is from Julia Gillard, who was Australia’s prime minister from 2010 to 2013 and is the only woman to have held the position. She was interviewed for HBR’s November/December “Life’s Work” column. The question she was answering was “as prime minister, how did you get things done?” Her full response was: “The government machine is so big that I literally used to say to myself every morning, “Either I can run it, or it will run me.” Enough gets fed up to you that if all you did was respond, you’d be busy. But you wouldn’t (CONTINUE READING)

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)

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