Yearly Archives: 2010

Envision Success in 2011

 |  Leadership

As one year ends and a new one begins, the time is ripe to consider what you want to make real in the new year. Success in the new year begins with a vision. Next New Year’s Eve, what do you want to celebrate? For what would you be extremely grateful 12 months from now? Having some awareness of what you would celebrate and be grateful for will provide you focus to plan, execute, and “make it real.” Take the time now to imagine your vision for 2011. Here are some questions to spark your imagining what you will celebrate next New Year’s Eve.

• What business results to you want to celebrate?
• What leadership experience do you want to celebrate?
• What career position or advancement do you want to celebrate?
• What personal finance accomplishment do you want to celebrate?
• What health and fitness accomplishment do you want to celebrate?
• What spiritual experience or commitment do you want to celebrate?
• What travel and leisure experience do you want to celebrate?
• What family experience do you want to celebrate?
• What personal relationship experience do you want to celebrate?
• What successes of others (family members or close friends) do you want to celebrate?

Rework your answers into a list with the heading,”On December 31, 2011, I will celebrate…”

Happy New Year!


For Your Year End Reflection

 |  Leadership

As another calendar year comes to a close, it is appropriate to take a look back to ‘attend’ and reflect upon your experience and accomplishments in the year gone by. What you learn through this process will empower you to ‘imagine’ your way forward and ‘move’ to have the experience and achieve the results you want in the new year.

Reflection is always the first step on the path of leadership. From there, our self-awareness grows and with it our capacity to engage and lead others. Find a quiet, distraction-free place to reflect upon each question. Give yourself ample time to consider each question carefully. It may be helpful to write your answers in a journal or on a piece of paper.

• What were the 10 most important challenges you faced this year?
• What were your 10 biggest accomplishments of the year? (Things you did well, ways you’ve developed as a leader / person, goals you achieved, etc.)
• What about your attitude and behavior were instrumental in achieving your biggest accomplishment this year?
• What was your biggest disappointment this year and what was your role in the situation?
• What were your top 10 sources of frustration / energy drains?
• What were your top 10 sources of happiness / energy producers?
• Who were the most important people in your life this year and how have you let them know of the impact they had?
• Of the top three goals you were aiming for, how satisfied are you with the results you achieved?
• Of the top three goals you were aiming for, how satisfied are you with how you achieved them?
• What is the biggest lesson you have learned this year?

Give Me a Break!

 |  Leadership

A few weeks ago I wrote about the pace I see people keeping as they try to get more and more done in the same amount of time. I remain concerned that the pace is not sustainable. While some may be experiencing short term gains and wins, the manner in which they are getting those wins and the negative impact on their personal and professional relationships adds a hefty price tag.

I went on a great run this morning. I’m trying to work up both my time and distance in preparation for some trail races in early 2011. In the middle of my run I intentionally slowed and walked for a bit to give myself a break so I could recharge just enough to get in some more time and mileage. I thought about the pace we are moving at. More than that, I thought about the importance of breaks.

It’s funny. When we work with teams in a meeting or workshop, we go at it all morning or afternoon and then announce a break so people can (in theory) take a break and recharge so we can come back to our work with some energy. What I notice is that most people don’t actually take a break. They simply move to another task. They’ll answer email or voice mail. They’ll call someone to continue another business conversation. They’ll huddle over a laptop with someone working on a presentation for the next day or next week. They don’t actually break. How could they expect to sustain such a pace without intentionally stopping and resting for even a few minutes?

Our brains and our bodies, if we want to operate at optimal level, need opportunities to recharge and renew. I’m not so naive to think that people will change the pace at which they work overnight. I do however believe that it is perfectly appropriate to expect that we become more intentional about giving our brains and our bodies a few minutes of rest a couple times a day. I tried it today. Once in the morning and again in the afternoon. I ended up being able to get in more time and get lots more done by giving my brain and body a few minutes to recharge. So, come on. Try it. Give me a break!

Gratitude is Good for Business

 |  Leadership

I wrote last week about the need to own our reality and be mindful of how the real and imagined demands of business can lead us into a pace of working that is not sustainable. I suggested that the fast pace we keep can contribute to reactivity and poor decision-making. We need to get control of ourselves and think through decisions to ensure we choose the optimal COA and not just the obvious one.

A side effect to the crazy pace many keep is that we easily see what’s wrong and miss the stuff that’s right. As folks in the US head into a holiday meant for “Thanks-Giving” it’s a good time for all of us to remember that we have much to gain, personally and professionally, from practicing gratitude on a regular basis.

Recent studies on gratefulness demonstrate that practicing gratitude has a positive effect on both mental and physical health. It also goes a long way in keeping teams and key players engaged and performing at a high level. (No one ever complains about getting too much positive feedback or thanks!)
So if you’d like to begin feeling more optimistic, more socially satisfied, less envious and in a better mood, start expressing gratitude through your words and deeds. You may find that you also start feeling better, sleeping better, and wanting to get out and move around (exercise) more. It’s good for you and good for business.

As I write this I am tremendously grateful for the family and friends who love me and whom I get to love. I am grateful to all the people I’ve met along the way who have contributed to my growth and development – teachers, friends, mentors, and coaches. I am also always grateful every day for the opportunity to do exciting and meaningful work that doesn’t feel like work with terrific people around the world. I’m a lucky man, indeed.

Talk to you soon. Thanks,


Is Your Race Pace Sustainable?

 |  Leadership

I run road and trail races from time to time. When the starting gun goes off, I take off with everyone else, usually going faster than I normally run. I eventually settle in and find my pace. If I don’t, I hit a wall and have a very bad day. It doesn’t mean I’m not competing. I am. It means I have to find a way to sustainably compete in order to go the distance.

We have to do the same in business. We have to find a way to compete in a sustainable way. I have had coaching clients who get caught up in the pace of business being set by others – superiors or external market factors. With compensation and bonuses tied to hitting a number and growing revenue or market share, it’s no surprise that we get caught up in trying to get more and more done in the same number of hours and days we’ve always had.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t race. I’m saying we need to get smarter about how we race. I look at the decisions some leaders and teams are making and have to ask, “Is this sustainable?” “Can the amount of energy and time being expended last for more than a quarter or year?” My short answer is “no. It’s not sustainable.” Even if we hit the target we are aiming at, the experience of achieving the objective is dissatisfying at best, devastating to a team at worst. Relationships get damaged, health gets compromised, morale goes down and engagement and performance drops.

During a race, runners make decisions to expend more energy to overtake someone or get to a milestone in a particular time; but unless you’re an elite runner you don’t sprint for an entire marathon. It’s just not sustainable.

When the call comes from the top to double down and chase growth, the obvious solution (to put more time and energy into the same timeframe) isn’t always the optimal solution. Sometimes it may be; most times it’s not. The optimal solution is to remember how to run smart.

Don’t get caught into the frenzy that happens at the start of a race. Take a moment and attend to where you are now and what your experience is? What is the smartest way to respond to what you’ve been asked to do? What are the obvious gaps? Imagine resetting your strategy and execution game plan to move toward your objectives in a personally and professionally sustainable way. What adjustments might you make to how you spend your time and energy? How might you shift how you engage your team and leverage resources? Move forward with a plan that is sustainable for you and your team.

Don’t just run the race. Run YOUR race.

EI Benefits Strategic Thinking

 |  Leadership

We are in the midst of an LD process with a number of leaders. In a recent conversation on emotional intelligence, we put forth that all decisions involve emotion and that growing our own EI is foundational to effective leadership that drives positive business results and people development. In most conversations with leaders about EI, the discussion goes to its applicability. “How is this EI stuff going to help me in my job tomorrow?” “Why do I need to bother with this?”

Some new recent provides yet another answer to these questions. Strategy (and strategic thinking) and execution are two important and connected leadership tasks. These two kinds of thinking rely on social-emotional reasoning as much as cognitive function. This is especially true for those most adept at strategic thinking. In a study by Gilkey, Caceda, and Clinton (Harvard Business Review, September 2010), the authors write:

“In a recent study we conducted with Diana Robertson and Andrew Bate of the Wharton School, we asked managers in an executive MBA program to react to fictional strategic and tactical management dilemmas and measured their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. Instead of simply identifying which parts of the brain “lit up” in response to particular tasks, we looked at how the brain regions were interacting.

The area of the brain people tend to associate with strategic thought is the prefrontal cortex, known for its role in executive function. It allows humans to engage in anticipation, pattern recognition, probability assessment, risk appraisal, and abstract thinking. Those abilities do help managers solve problems. However, when we examined the best strategic performers in our sample, we found significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than in the areas associated with “gut” responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence (that is, the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the superior temporal sulcus). In other words, the conscious executive function was downplayed—while regions associated with unconscious emotion processing operated more freely.

Of course, IQ-based reasoning is valuable in both strategic and tactical thinking—but itʼs clear that managers integrate their brain processes as they become better strategists. When companies realize that, they may approach strategy and execution more holistically.”

Why bother with EI? Being able to understand and manage our emotions enables us to interact with others more effectively. We accept that even if we don’t see that as an immediate business application. The research of Gilkey, Cadeda, and Clinton suggests that growing our EI can positively impact our capacity for strategic thinking and execution. That’s an application most business leaders can understand and get behind.

When Emotional Reasoning Trumps IQ by Roderick Gilkey, Ricardo Caceda, and Clinton Kilts (HBR, SEPT

Listen Up: The Key to Unlocking Success

 |  Leadership

Listening is one of the fundamental and essential skills for a leader. Active and full listening is non-judgmental, unconditionally constructive, and totally for the person to whom we are listening. Active and full listening provides the clues a leader needs to ask the right question in the right way in the right moment. Without active and full listening there can be no true leading.

Many times when we would like to think we are listening, we aren’t. We may hear others; but we aren’t really listening. We don’t listen most of the time. We pause and wait. We wait for our turn to talk again. While we are waiting, we are thinking ahead for the point we want to make next, or about what we want for lunch, or how boring or incompetent this person is.

I’ll say it again, without active and full listening there can be no true leading. Listening takes lots of focus, energy, and practice. It also requires that leaders are curious and empathetic.

Active and full listening requires us to be curious. What is the experience of the other person? What might be a barrier to this person’s full engagement and high performance? What is driving their current behavior? What does this person need from me right now?

To actively listen with authentic curiosity requires us to practice empathy. Listening with empathy shuts out our own voices of judgment about the other person. It shuts out our own voices of cynicism or fear about what the person might be saying or how the person might be making us feel. Active and empathetic listening fully acknowledges the presence and the message of the other person. Listening at this level is affirming and empowering.

Leaders who wish to unlock the key to their own success and the success of their teams work hard to be better and better listeners. Everything else builds on this simple fact.

What I know.

 |  Leadership

Last year, in a conversation with my coach, I discussed this question, “What would I like to be able to say I truly know in my life, about my life?” Here’s what I wrote:

“I know that we have a capacity to achieve anything. I know that we are responsible for our choices and for the life we create. I know that we are interconnected. I know that I do not always live in a way that demonstrates that I believe these first three statements.

I know that how I act teaches my children more about life and who I am than what I say. I know that I am always searching. I know that my search is both an outer and an inner journey. I know that I know that I have the talent and intelligence to succeed. I know that the secret is to let go. I know that’s hard.

I know that in spite of all this or because of all this or both, I am enjoying my life. And if I’m not, the responsible party looks at me in the mirror every day.”

How about you?