Influence & Insight | December 2015

Leadership Story | Teaching is Leading

During personal introductions at a recent leadership program, one of the attendees mentioned retirement was just a few years away. Two days and six workshops later, sharing knowledge and coaching emerged as both a leadership priority and a purposeful goal prior to taking leave. However, these newly formed objectives were not visible in the first draft Personal Leadership Philosophy. After a bit of email feedback, the following excerpts surfaced:

“My job as a leader is to try and be an influence to you to be the best you can be to make you successful for yourself, your family and the team. If you feel that I am not providing you with all the things you need to accomplish your goals please let me know so I can try and fix it. I want to use my experiences and knowledge to make this happen. As a company we have some of the best young leaders in the industry and we should pass along our knowledge to them as others have passed it to us.”

What does leadership mean to your organization? To you? Imagine if all Baby Boomers, as well as their corresponding organizations, adopted this attitude of coaching, knowledge transfer, and commitment to sustained excellence. 

Influential Reading | Whale Done 

“One thing we learned quickly was that it doesn’t make much sense to punish a killer whale and then ask a trainer to get in the water with him.” (p. 6)


Ken Blanchard, Thad Lacinak, Chuck Tompkins & Jim Ballard’s short, six chapter, SeaWorld parable centers on redirection, or more simply, focusing on positive behavior. Blanchard retells (p. xiii) how a pact (Chuck would teach Ken about whale training while Ken would teach Chuck about people training) led to the realization both trainers were doing the same things.

The heart of Whale Done reminds one of Goldsmith’s recommended technique in Triggers, as the SeaWorld trainers redirected energy toward a positive outcome (or trigger), rather than focus on what went wrong.

E2L | Energy

When Wes Kingsley (think of Guy Cedric in The Leader’s Compass) asks Dave Yardley, in charge of SeaWorld animal training (p. 4) “How do you trick these animals into performing for you? Do you starve them?” Dave replies with an “Energize2Lead-type,” or E2L answer:

“Shamu wasn’t about to do anything for me or any other trainer until he trusted us.” (pp. 7-8) “That trust and friendship is the basis of everything you just saw in the show.” (p. 9)

Rather than focusing on correcting wrong behavior, SeaWorld trainers ignore mistakes and redirect behavior, placing high priority on recognizing and rewarding tasks correctly performed. This is a great mindset for coaching.

Wes reflects (p. 13) “I think most people don’t accord their fellow humans, let alone their pets and animals, the kind of respect and understanding you’re describing.” Dave then relates positive reinforcement to energy management (p. 14) “If you don’t want to encourage poor behavior, don’t spend a lot of time [energy] on it.”


Via an introduction to Anne Marie Butler, Wes learns ABC’s of Performance (p. 25), or how to utilize Dave’s techniques with people:

A = Activator                Whatever Gets Performance Going
B = Behavior                 The Performance That Occurs
C = Consequence          Your Response to the Performance

Key to the ABCs are the 4 Kinds of Consequences (p. 30):

1.   No Response
2.   Negative Response
3.   Redirection
4.   Positive Response

Of the four, redirection is by far the most effective way to address undesired behavior (p. 31). Page thirty-four describes the redirection response, much like our approach to coaching, and the following comparison (pp. 38-39):

GOTcha Response                 Catching people doing things wrong.
WHALE DONE Response       Catching people doing things right.

Anne Marie suggests “If you grew up being GOTcha’d a lot, maybe you’ve tended to perpetuate it with others” (p. 42). Think about that. The authors remind us good management [leadership] is influencing people to do the right thing when you’re not around. (p. 56) Or put another way, “[we] want people to start catching themselves doing things right, and act accordingly.” (p. 56)

A tip combining E2L, motivation, and coaching (p. 59) from Anne Marie:

“Say to them, ‘I know you have been doing a good job on that inventory problem.’ What’s the best way I could recognize your efforts, in the short run and the long run?” Answers to questions like this are ideal for a motivation form.

Similar to hidden E2L Instinctive colors, we are reminded never to assume we know what motivates a person (p. 61). Just like our commitment to feedback in our Personal Leadership Philosophy, the authors suggest making changes, or courageous admissions (pp. 72-73), and asking for constructive criticism.

Further Application

On pages 96-102, Wes relates a WHALE DONE relationship makeover at home, reminding us leadership applies to our personal lives at least as much as at work. Near the end of Chapter Six (pp. 114-115), performance review curves are challenged:

“If you don’t hire people on a performance review curve, why grade them on one?” -- similar to our coaching workshop focus on regular feedback rather than annual reviews.

Wes comes full circle (p. 119) back at work starting team meetings “by catching each other doing things right. Who’d like to go first?” -- a great habit which I shall propose adding to our Family Contract.

This is a terrific book for coaching and a reminder how effective positive reinforcement truly is.

Coaching Story | Learning is Leading

What did you learn today – or during the past month while coaching your teams? Reflecting on November, and numerous coaching sessions, apattern emerged: Many of us are moving too fast, and missing lessons along the way. Perhaps it’s a holiday rush. For example:

• A client received 360 feedback: “You’re trying to solve all team problems yourself.”
• Multiple clients are struggling with delegation and trust (competence).
• Many are framing performance issues in a negative rather than opportunistic light.

This made me think of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, (click here for review) and our tendency toward allowing our impulses to interfere with deliberate leadership, or development-based decisions.

Here’s an idea: What if we slow our impulses, and rather than attempt correcting things, we position ourselves first as leaders. Over time we will find our leadership habits are a source of learning. Just like the lesson from Whale Done!

Influence & Insight | November 2015

Leadership Story | Values Alignment

This month surfaces the term “Administrative Knowledge,” perhaps a new phrase, since so many organizations list, print, and display values but spend almost no time discussing virtuous behaviors, or values in action. Our Core Values Alignment workshop suggests spending 80-90% of our time creating values alignment and no more than 10-20% identifying core values and 0-5% drafting and redrafting statements. Reading The Knowing-Doing Gap, in particular the pioneering case studies, has strengthened my belief, both with a client, and as a private school board trustee, that values alignment is key to successful growth and transformation. Specifically, we must be energetic and courageous moving past routine values administration, and begin discussing, describing and documenting what our values look like (normative behavioral statements) before embarking on critical strategic decisions.

Influential Reading | The Knowing-Doing Gap

Use Your Leadership Philosophy to Fill the Gap

Academy Leadership’s focus on Personal Leadership Philosophy development, follow-up Action Plans and Executive Coaching address prevalent issues identified in Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton’s well-researched analysis questioning organizations incapable of taking positive steps forward.

This review emphasizes Chapter 4, highlighting fear as a primary factor hindering positive action, and Chapter 7 (case studies), as both chapters detail actual companies successfully traversing the Knowing-Doing Gap. Introductory chapters persuasively convince us of the widespread number of groups that seemingly know what to do, yet do not “do the right thing.”

The Gap is Big and It is Everywhere

Before reading Chapter 1, take a quick peek at the Appendix Survey (pp. 265-269), which sets up the book. Pfeffer and Sutton coined the Knowing-Doing Gap after asking:

“What prevented organizations that are led by smart people from doing things that they know they ought to do?” (p. x)

A key clue uncovered is that many top-performing firms – Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Men’s Wearhouse, ServiceMaster, PSS/World Medical, SAS Institute, AES, Whole Foods Market, and Starbucksdon’t recruit at the leading business schools and don’t emphasize business degree credentials in their staffing practices (p. 3). Similar to findings in Scrum, the authors noted “A study of apparel manufacturing demonstrated that modular production, with an emphasis on team-based production, produced far superior economic performance along a number of dimensions when compared with the traditional… Nonetheless, in 1992 about 80 percent of all garments were still sewn using the bundle method…” (p. 7).

One could make the case corporate antibodies resist even proven, positive change, or that “Evidence… shows that knowledge of how to enhance performance is not readily or easily transferred across firms, or even within firms…” (p. 8)

Using the Appendix survey for a restaurant case study, the authors found in 17 of 25 management practices, there was a significant difference between what the managers thought was important for restaurant success and what they and the assistant managers reported using (p. 10). Much like Tom Peters’ finding that 87% of executives believe they are effective communicators while only 17% of their subordinates concur. A good reference table on page 11 shows differences between Knowing and Doing in 120 units of a restaurant chain.

We seem to focus much more on knowledge than doing, exemplified on page 16:

“But the view of knowledge taken by many consultants, organizations, and management writers is of something to be acquired, measured, and distributed — something reasonably tangible, such as patents.”

Let’s call this administrative knowledge, which is often presumed, that once possessed, will be used effectively, which in practice is often not valid. The corresponding Knowledge Management Projects Figure 1-1 (p. 17) shows that, by far, the most common initiatives undertaken focus on intranet creation and data warehousing and support software installation. The usual result: Adding technology without changing behaviors only extends the Knowing-Doing Gap.

Pfeffer and Sutton discuss the use of the word knowledge as a process rather than a thing as a helpful habit well worth developing (p. 21). Similarly, (p. 22) when benchmarking other organizations, most companies:

“overestimate the importance of the tangible, specific, programmatic aspects of what competitors, for instance, do, and underestimate the importance of the underlying philosophy that guides what they do and why they do it.”

The authors First Principle: If You Know by Doing, There is No Gap between What You Know and What You Do, or as David Sun (Kingston Technology) says, “just do what they tell you they want.” (pp. 24-26) Sure sounds a lot like our Platinum Rule.

Samples of common tendencies toward writing plans about what the organization should do, and collecting and analyzing chartjunk rather than taking action, launch Chapter 2, When Talk Substitutes for Action. The SAS Institute, New United Motor Manufacturing, Saturn, Continental Airlines and General Electric illustrate excellent examples (starting with Leaders Who Know and do the Work, p. 57) of managers actually involved with work processes, who focused on learning and translating knowledge into action. Performing After Action Reviews (AARs), designating specific, accountable individuals, and conducting feedback leading to something happening, are mentioned as key successful behaviors.

Driving Out Fear

Chapter 4, When Fear Prevents Acting on Knowledge, starts with W. Edwards Deming’s prescription for translating knowledge into action: Driving Out Fear (p. 109). With many organizations modeling behaviors after “Chainsaw” Albert Dunlap, it is no surprise apprehension remains commonplace in many organizations. Widespread trepidation may lead otherwise honest people to violate their principles, as the authors reflect:

“People who fear their bosses do more than hide bad behavior to avoid guilt by association. They have considerable incentive to lie about how things are going.” (p. 123)

Think about publicly traded companies concentrating only on the next quarter’s financials and that “Fear makes the short term almost the only thing that people see or focus on.” (p. 126)

In welcome contrast, PSS/World Medical addresses fear through their values:

“The right to communicate with anyone, anywhere, without fear of retribution is one of the core values at PSS.” (pp. 127-128).

Another positive example articulated by SAS Institute’s Vice President of Human Resources David Russo:

“We punish nothing. We reward creativity. Very much like Maria Montessori [the famous educator], we believe creativity should be followed, not led.” (p. 129)

Or, as George Zimmer, Chairman and founder of the Men’s Wearhouse, believes “We’re in the people business, not the suit business.” The chapter closes with Levi Strauss’ and Citibank’s contrasting approaches to large-scale workforce reductions illustrating prediction, understanding, control, and compassion. (pp. 134-135)

Examples Worth Following

Chapter 7, Firms That Surmount The Knowing-Doing Gap, easily tops the others, with energizing exploration into British Petroleum, Barclays Global Investment and the New Zealand Post.

John Browne’s legendary transformation of British Petroleum (pp. 216-221) essentially established a network of people using post-project appraisals (much like the aforementioned After Action Review) and four mechanisms: peer assists, peer groups, other federal organizations and personnel transfers.

• Peer assist – lending members of staff to another business unit.
• Peer group – confederation of business units facing similar strategic and technology questions.
• Federated organizations organically evolved addressing common issues affecting multiple peer groups.
• Particularly within the exploration division, BP emphasized knowledge and wisdom transfer via moving personnel.

Barclays Global Investment needed to become a truly global firm, and realized: (p. 224)

“We wouldn’t be who we are if we said it’s okay to have a confederation of different investment managers with different philosophies and different principles, because that’s not us.”

Barclays ruthlessly eliminated individuals not agreeable with core values and principles, committed to driving out fear, and vastly simplified organizational status categories. The authors’ case study reminds one of Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams, creation of a large-scale, unified, global integrated business, primary determined to transforming knowledge into action.

The New Zealand Post’s great turnaround story, as described by Harvey Parker, managing director at the time, focused on:

“…significant changes in management style and practices… A new decentralized style and form of management was instituted, vesting accountability for operational decisions and resources at a local management level, at the closest point to the customer.” (p. 238)

The Post questioned everything from what positions were needed, discovered bulk as a critical cost driver rather than weight, and built its own transportation system, improving service delivery and aligning union employees with the firm’s mission. Wow!

The authors close with Eight Guidelines for Action:

1.   Why before How: Philosophy Is Important.
2.   Knowing Comes from Doing and Teaching Others How.
3.   Action Counts More Than Elegant Plans and Concepts.
4.   There is No Doing Without Mistakes. What is the Company’s Response?
5.   Fear Fosters Knowing-Doing Gaps, So Drive Out Fear.
6.   Beware of False Analogies: Fight the Competition, Not Each Other.
7.   Measure What Matters and What Can Help Turn Knowledge Into Action.
8.   What Leaders Do, How They Spend Their Time and How They Allocate Resources, Matters.

We should ask ourselves if and how much we (and our organization) are doing these things, and whether our core values embrace the transfer of knowledge to action.

Coaching Story | Cultural Awareness | PLP and E2L

During a recent coaching session with Jeff (Jean-Francois) Arnaud, he shared deep and powerful reflections about his Personal Leadership Philosophy and intended use of additional E2L profiles. Jeff leads a talented group of Program Managers, who serve a diverse client base throughout Europe. In a manner very similar to Barclays Global Investment (case study from The Knowing-Doing Gap), Jeff plans to consolidate and unify his team’s individual Leadership Philosophies into a single organizational description of values and purpose. It’s a wonderful idea.

Going further, Jeff will obtain E2L profiles of his consultant team, but only after carefully explaining the intended use and with corresponding sensitivity to privacy. Listening to Jeff opened my eyes to the possibility of using E2L profiles with less than honorable intent. His plan is to explain both the use and the advantages of E2L profile use prior to his consultant team completing the survey. Jeff’s team will then pair consultants and clients based on the known temperaments of individual consultants. In both instances, Jeff increased my awareness how two key leadership tools may be perceived and used advantageously in different cultural settings. Thank you Jeff!

Influence & Insight | October 2015

Leadership Story | Break Through the Knowing-Doing Gap

Sometimes we forget about our Leadership Philosophy, or just don’t put our core beliefs and values into action.  At least five of the attendees at our Advanced Leadership Course in Tampa this past month left highly energized taking significant, immediate, actions. One recently promoted attendee was asked to put her name in for another promotion to director level (we worked over the weekend on it), while another texted our course team just before a crucial conversation with his “authoritative” boss. A third flew directly to meet a technology company CEO regarding a senior leadership position, and a fourth discussed and addressed a direct report team Crucial Conversation occurring in real time. Finally, a fifth attendee shared the “coaching revolution” she has launched and will sustain with her more highly energized team. Now that’s breaking through the Knowing-Doing gap!

Influential Reading

SCRUM | Jeff Sutherland retells his multi-decade story of radical developmental change and improvement in the tech industry, yet largely unknown in business.

Recommended Start

Strongly consider starting with the Appendix, Implementing Scrum – How To Begin (p. 234), followed by Chapter Five: Waste is a Crime, especially if you are prone to multi-tasking. Demonstrable findings on page 91, Loss to Context Switching, are breathtaking; for example, working on five projects at once usually leads to 75% wasted time. Working Too Hard Makes More Work (pages 101-106) shows a wonderful productivity curve:

Illustrating we often make many mistakes when working long hours, only fooling ourselves. We should monitor our energy, not time, consistent with an homage to Csikszentmihalyi’s flow.

Just as General Stanley McChrystal challenged numerous management practices originating with Frederick Taylor, the author sought understanding of how we work:


Thinking About Work

“It was because of the way people were working. The way most people work. The way we all think work has to be done, because that’s the way we were taught to do it.” (pages 4-5)

Sutherland is a thinker, and wondered about Gantt charts:

“Why a World War 1 artifact has become the de facto tool used in twenty-first-century project management has never been quite clear to me.” (p. 6)

and from rugby coined “Scrum;” (p. 8) careful alignment, unity of purpose and clarity of goal coming together. Challenging the way we see things reminds one of Edward Tufte’s  Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.


The first two chapters - The Way the World Works is Broken & The Origins of Scrum – answer the question “Why Scrum?” Sutherland advises - similar to our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop – (p. 12) making people prioritize by value forces them to produce that 20 percent, or 80 percent of project value, first.

Much of Scrum’s ideas are attributed to Toyota’s (Taiichi Ohno) Production System (p. 13) leading to “Sprints” based on doing things, and lessons learned afterward focused on how things were done, not what one [they] did.

A former fighter pilot & student, Sutherland mentions the OODA Loop (Observe Orient, Decide, and Act), introduced on p. 24 (for more see Boyd), as means for improved decision making. Similar to findings in Triggers, the author spent about a decade studying how to make complex state changes positive rather than negative. As with conflict avoidance, organizations and people frequently fear the unknown.

How can we figure out some simple rules that will guide teams to settle into a more productive, happier, supportive, fun, and ecstatic state? (p. 26)

Sutherland draws from Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka (Harvard Business Review “The New New Product Development Game”) and W. Edwards Deming’s continuous improvement concepts (Plan, Do, Check, Act, pages 32–36), further developing his novel concept.

Scrum is for real.


Introduced team characteristics (p. 44), Transcendent, Autonomous & Cross-Functional (again from Takeuchi & Nonaka), beg the question: “How many of these traits do we encourage or sponsor in our Personal Leadership Philosophy?” – similar to Dan Pink’s findings in Drive. A series of three great coaching questions follow on page 50:

What did you do since the last time we talked?

What are you going to do before we talk again?

What is getting in your way?

NASA’s horror story (pages 52-53) and after action dissection by Dr. Richard Feynman prosecute the folly of linear stage-gate processes. In Scrum at War (pages 54–58), Sutherland describes that Special Operations Forces are

unlike much of the “regular” military, they don’t separate intelligence gathering and operations planning. There are no handoffs from one team to another, where mistakes might be made.

and recounts stories from McChrystal’s Team of Teams.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game, serves as a wonderful E2L reminder to view from another’s point rather than commit a Fundamental Attribution Error (Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning and Discovery  - Holland). Chapter six details planning guidelines taking into account human perceptions of relative sizing, flaws in judgment (bandwagon effect), and effective use of storytelling. Planning Poker (pages 129–132), describes a clever and useful estimating exercise anyone can use.

Be Happy

“Happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity, and, in particular, our jobs, careers and business.” (p. 148)

Sutherland reminds us even small gestures (p. 153) can have great impact, similar to (Caroline Arnold) Small Move, Big Change, and that Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (think Dan Pink) lead to great teams. A retelling (pages 157–160) of Delivering Happiness, Tony Hseih’s story at Zappos & HBR Jan-Feb 2012 Issue zero in on happiness, or more descriptively, “thriving.” Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath (p. 161) found thriving people

Performed 16 percent better than their peers, had 125 percent less burnout, were 32 percent more committed, and 46 percent more satisfied with their jobs. They took fewer sick days, had fewer doctor’s appointments, and were more likely to get promoted.

Closing Thoughts

Sutherland closes with Scrum, or radical productivity improvements, taking on worldwide challenges such as poverty. Very energizing. This fine work leaves me thinking about Shuhari (p. 38) & three levels of mastery – and my continuing journey.

Coaching Story | Believe In Your Influence

Corporate acquisitions inevitably beget frustrations, but similar to conflict, provide leadership growth opportunities. During a recent transition from small company to a larger organization, a client shared (via text) the 200-person organization she was joining lacked fundamental leadership behaviors, anticipating short-term failure if corrective actions were not taken. Redirecting her exasperation into professional feedback, she agreed only to stay if a combination of executive coaching and leadership training immediately commence. Guess what? The Vice-President has agreed to get help and she was promoted to a director position. Believe in your influence, and communicate effectively as a leader, committed to your organization’s success. Bravo!

Influence & Insight | September 2015

Leadership Story | Continue Growing As A Leader

“What were you hired to do?” is a great question worth asking, especially during transitions. If you also asked your supervisor that question, and your subordinates, how different would the answers be? Over the past several weeks, this thought came to mind after a client informed me their start-up company was being acquired by a larger firm. That’s an exciting time, and often involves financial incentives, which can detract us from fundamental questions about our roles and responsibilities. It is also a perfect time for clarification about our job description, and equally important, an opportunity for proposing our goals for sustained leadership growth and coaching. With much of an acquisition’s focus on compliance, legal and administrative concerns, communicating our passion for leadership growth and alignment with a new organization’s values, mission and strategy is usually a welcome message to both our new supervisors and those we are newly responsible for.

Influential Reading

Triggers | Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter surgically diagnose and prescribe remedies for numerous behavioral triggers holding us back from sustained leadership growth. Filled with relevant and contemporary real-life experiences, Goldsmith reinforces that powerful and lasting growth requires objective 360 reviews and structured coaching. The authors fundamentally challenge the habit of allowing a distracting environment control over us, rather than vice-versa, and how to vastly improve performance results through the use of active questions.

“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. And the result turns us into someone we do not recognize (page 38).”

Visiting the Doctor

Eight diagnostic chapters answer “Why Don’t We Become the Person We Want to Be?” beginning with a trigger defined as any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions (p. xv), and our environment declared the most potent triggering mechanism. Recall our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop’s generally low self-evaluation scores. Goldsmith suggests because our environmental factors are so often outside our control, we may think there is not much we can do about them (p. xvi). Or worse, that some people say they want to change (think coaching), but they don’t really mean it (p. 8).

Fourteen belief triggers, or inner beliefs, allowing us to fail before we start are introduced on page 14. The first one, If I understand, I will do, which usually does not happen, validates our need for Action Plans closing the Knowing – Doing Gap. Trigger eight (p. 19), I won’t get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur, advises daily scheduling recognizing high probability of low-probability events (stuff happens). Number ten (p. 20), My change will be permanent and I will never have to worry again could be applied to the folly of lottery tickets as a retirement plan. Number fifteen, I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior recalls Tom Peter’s findings that 87% (compared to subordinates reporting 17%) of leaders believe they are good communicators. We overrate ourselves.

Goldsmith states we fundamentally misunderstand how our environment (think about our E2L or energy levels) shapes our behavior (p. 33) and asks us to consider our more immediate environment, or area of influence, so that we may focus especially during coaching sessions. He poses a great question: “What if we could control our environment so it triggered our most desired behavior – like an elegantly designed feedback loop?” (p. 44). Six behavioral trigger distinctions are listed (pp. 44-48), with emphasis on the sixth, A Trigger Can Be Productive or Counterproductive. A natural goal then, is creating encouraging and productive triggers.

The Prescription

We are instructed (p. 57) to build on Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, by inserting impulse, awareness and choice steps between our triggers and our behavior, reminiscent of Kahneman’s classic Thinking, Fast and Slow. In Chapter eight, The Wheel of Change (p. 86), Goldsmith describes creating, preserving, eliminating, and accepting (think of our coaching forms), as a construct matrix, setting up Part Two, Try, and a prescriptive, or action-oriented section.

Chapters Nine and Ten, The Power of Active Questions & The Engaging Questions, form the heart of the book, with numerous engaging coaching stories. Goldsmith reflects when people are asked passive questions; they almost invariably provide “environmental” answers (p. 102), often allowing a diversion from needed accountability. As a remedy, four magic moves are mentioned (p. 101), which trigger decent behavior in others: Apologizing, Asking for help, Optimism, and asking active questions.

Goldsmith’s engaging questions are:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today?

Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?

Did I do my best to find meaning today?

Did I do my best to be happy today?

Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

Did I do my bet to be fully engaged today?

These remind us of coach Grant Taylor in Facing The Giants. Consider having your own version of engaging questions – in your Personal Leadership Philosophy, weekly meetings, and coaching repertoire, similar to Berson and Stieglitz’s Leadership Conversations, which help us develop new leaders.

Much of the remainder of Parts Two and Part Three (More Structure, Please) advises us increased intensity, or asking engaging questions hourly, or specifically during events which tend to trip us up, can help us activate positive triggers. Chapter twelve describes the author’s evolution as a coach, and concludes that as we develop more as coaches, we become our own coach. It’s a terrific goal we should all endeavor reaching.

The Alan Mulally coaching story (Chapter 14), describes the Business Plan Review (BPR, p. 169) as a paragon of organizational rhythm and transformation. It is similar to General McChrystal’s daily operational tempo in Team of Teams. Mulally’s BPR combines classical executive dashboard reporting with daily questions driving sustained performance changes focused on the primary metric (p. 173) “How canwe help one another more?” We should all consider a similar model for our organization.

A Final Takeaway

Our leadership path should become a 24/7 journey, blurring the lines between work, home, and our other environments. Goldsmith tells us via a coaching story in Chapter nineteen:

“We are professionals at what we do, amateurs at what we want to become. We need to erase this devious distinction – or at least close the gap between professional and amateur – to become the person we want to be. Being good over here does not excuse not so good over there (page 213).”

Think about that.

Coaching Story | The Last Conversation

During a recent Leadership Excellence Course, one of the attendees seemed surrounded with negative energy, like a fog or cloud. I felt compelled to gently bring it up, and did, leading to a productive outcome and a renewed commitment to a positive attitude. We scheduled our first coaching session. Last week, the attendee’s spouse sent me an email informing me she passed away unexpectedly eleven days after our course. He wanted to let me know that our course was a pivotal point in her life, pulling her out of a recent depression, and that it was a shame this change was followed so soon by her loss. This is deeply humbling, and a gentle reminder to all of us we never really know what effect our coaching may have, or when a last coaching session may occur. Sigh.

Influence & Insight | August 2015

Leadership Story | Commitment to Excellence

In January 2011, I facilitated my first three-day Leadership Boot Camp in St. Petersburg, FL. Dr. Perry Martini, Academy Leadership’s trainer of all new affilates, provided me with the benefit of a multi-hour, fifteen page (at least in my imagination) debrief, highlighting let’s say quite a few areas where improvement opportunities existed. Fast forward to our Tampa Leadership Excellence course this month with fourteen energized participants, and a guest, Dr. Martini, attending quietly in the rear of our room at the Beck Group. The participants were terrific, generating incredible discussion and energy, a program to remember. True to form, Dr. Martini provided me feedback again. My sentiment: Thank You. What four years of facilitation has taught me is Keep Getting Better, Keep Improving. Thank you Dr. Martini, please continue to give me the feedback I Need to better serve.

Influential Reading

Team of TeamsGeneral Stanley McChrystal (retired) with Tantum Collins, David Silverman and Chris Fussell share the limitations and failures of a traditional command and control centric response to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), their transformative and successful adaptation and response, and the relevant lessons for any contemporary organization.

Organizational Self-Audit

Think of Part I, The Proteus Problem, as a call for self-audit of your organizational structure. McChrystal, a very well trained and competent military officer, wondered why AQI was not collapsing under increased military action. From page 26, “But it [AQI] didn’t. It continued to function as persistently and implacably as ever, demonstrating a coherence of purpose and strategy.”

Central to Part I is the story of Quaker Frederick Winslow Taylor (introduced on page 36). McChrystal persuasively argues any organizational endeavor would learn well Taylor’s lasting influence about how people and teams do things. Taylor focused on extreme efficiency, which correspondingly discounted people:

“[A laborer] shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type… the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work. He is so stupid that the word “percentage” has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself into the habit of working in accordance with the laws of this science before he can be successful (page 43).”

With humility, McChrystal’s team (page 52) concluded, “the proliferation of new information-age technologies rendered Taylorist efficiency an outdated managerial paradigm.” A great story on pages 53-54 describes how Hosni Mubarak’s reign in Egypt ended within just three months after Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi’s horrific self-immolation protest. The authors also draw an important explanation and differentiation (on page 57) between complex (sharp increase in interactions) and complicated (many parts, but may be broken down) very instructive for leadership understanding, concluding (on page 59) “small things in a complex system may have no effect or a massive one, and it is virtually impossible to know which one will turn out to be the case.” The also authors mention Steven Johnson’s Emergence, which strips the mythology of the Ant Queen away (pages 103-5), eventually yielding that “order can emerge from the bottom up, as opposed to directives from above.”

By Chapter 4, Doing the Right Thing, we may (as McChrystal’s team did) feel outdated, outflanked and uncompetitive, very similar to our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop focusing on a leader’s need to be effective rather than efficient.

This sets up Part II, contemporary examples of the need for agility, including the sobering comparison of United Flight 173 (airline crews structured as a command) with US Airways Flight 1549 (airline crews functioning as a team). Or, perhaps worse, the number of [annual U.S.] deaths due to medical error is now estimated to be between 210,000 to 400,000, which equates to the third leading cause of deaths in (CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 2011 (page 124). McChrystal’s summary: “We just needed every member of the Task Force to know someone on every team.” Think about that and whether or not it applies within your (often matrix) organization. The authors cite J. Richard Hackman and “Brooks Law,” in Leading Teams, arguing that adding staff to speed up a late project has little chance of working (p. 127-128).


Part III, Sharing, offers penetrating chapters which challenge how well we share, communicate, and ultimately delegate. McChrystal was faced with several truths:

• “Our operation was a success at the level of each individual team (page 137), but was also rife with opportunities left unrealized for our Task Force at large.”

• “The problem with the logic of ‘need to know’ depends on the assumption that somebody -- some manager or algorithm or bureaucracy -- actually knows who does and does not need to know what material (page 141).”

The Secret of Apollo, Stephen B. Johnson – a fantastic story (page 147) is offered as an example of what type of organizational structure was necessary.

Chapter 8, Brains Out Of The Footlocker, is magnificent.  McChrystal describes how, starting from scratch, a headquarters was assembled with continuous Situational Awareness, worldwide, as a primary objective. Compare that with (P. 163) 93 percent of those working in cubicles saying they would prefer a different workspace.

McChrystal observed “How we organize physical space says a lot about how we think people behave; but how people behave is often a by-product of how we set up physical space (page 159).” Rather than brick and mortar, the team invested in bandwidth for communication and patiently solicited broad participation, resulting in the Operations & Intelligence (O&I) briefing becoming one of McChrystal’s most powerful leadership tools.

McChrystal addressed the challenge of The Prisoner’s Dilemma with collaboration, or more specifically a linchpin liaison officer (LNO). Imagine [functional] LNOs within your organization and the challenges facing them (especially access to senior leaders) and the benefits when supported and trusted throughout an enterprise. In summary, systemic understanding and strong lateral connectivity (page 187) are needed for success, exemplified with contrasting recent leadership at General Motors and Ford Motor Company.

Be a Gardener

In Part IV Letting Go, McChrystal described supervising processes leading to a 1,567% increase in raids (from 10 to 18 to 300) per month (P. 218).  The authors conclude with an analogy again based in humility, that of a gardener. “The gardener cannot actually ‘grow’ tomatoes, squash or beans – she can only foster an environment in which the plants do so.” Much like findings in our Motivation Workshop, our role as a leader is establishing the environment and then tending to it, letting it grow.

A must-read for anyone serious about the future of his or her organization.

Coaching Story | What Does Your Organization Look Like

My original plan this month was to review the book “Triggers” (next month). However, one of my clients shared Team of Teams with me and we are using many of the ideas in the book as part of a reorganization/growth strategy. The book review this month was a little longer, intended to provoke you and your teams to consider your organization in the same way General Stanley McChrystal did. From the idea of a Situational Awareness-based command center, increased bandwidth, functional liaison roles, and vastly increased sharing, we are working to create an industry leader based on exceptional values and a continuous commitment to excellence. How fun to read a book and put it to practical use via coaching real time.

Influence & Insight | July 2015

Leadership Story | Reflections in China

This leadership newsletter arrives during family vacation to China, allowing first-hand observations of Asian culture referenced in this month’s book review. Introversion is very noticeable each day, for example, many people living in the narrow Beijing streets (Hutong) quietly spend time indoor focusing on crafts such as paper cutting and knot tying. Juxtaposed with solitary city dwellers are loud street vendors wishing to capture attention of tourists, ready to haggle in a most extroverted way! The larger cities (Beijing, Shanghai) seem to physically represent both introversion and extroversion, quiet temples (such as the Summer Palace or Temple of Heaven) now coexisting with some of the tallest, most modern skyscrapers reaching upward…

Influential Reading

Quiet | Susan Cain

Susan Cain takes readers on a deep, well-researched exposé challenging traditional notions of extroverted leadership, or a value system (p. 4) based on the Extrovert Ideal. Cain’s work may be considered an intellectual bookend to Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Both works persuasively share demographic trends, that is, the emergence of deeper, knowledge-based habits, vital for future leader and organizational success. Energize2Lead (E2L) profiles, both individual, and in combinations used as team building tools, are natural companions unifying the goal of increased understanding at the core of both works. This review summarizes key E2L reflections stimulated by Cain’s work.

E2L Reflections

Part One explores the Extrovert Ideal. In Chapter 2 we join Cain as participants in a Tony Robbins - paragon of the Culture of Personality – extravaganza:

“But it seems, according to Tony, that you’d better act like one [extrovert] if you don’t want to flub the sales call and watch your family die like pigs in hell.”

Cain contrasts (p. 42) Robbins with Abraham Lincoln as the embodiment of virtue during the Culture of Character. She also finds similarity with Jim Collin’s (p. 54) Level Five Leaders (see Good to Great), known for humility and intense professional purpose. Chapter three abounds with nuggets such as Stephen Wozniak’s (p. 72) development of the first personal computer, an archetype of the solitary engineer engaged in Deliberate Practice (p. 81). The Apple Computer story suggests we need symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships (pp. 92-93), such as Wozniak and Jobs.

A deeper dive is found in Part Two, Chapter 4, Is Temperament Destiny? Cain’s exploration of individual hard wiring is directly related to our E2L Instinctive Needs. Jerome Kagan’s Galen’s Prophecy changed the author’s mind (p. 106), who now acknowledges temperament is more powerful than she thought. Recall, our E2L profiles represent our core needs; for security, for trust, and what we actually listen for in conversations and relationships. The remainder of Part Two explores how we can adapt, or coexist in an often-extroverted world, despite an introverted temperament. In our Conflict Management workshops, we learned that individuals who regularly have their instinctive needs met operate at higher (more effective) energy levels. Cain seems to reach the same conclusion (pp. 124-126):

“Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality,”

Termed “optimal levels of arousal,” or one’s sweet spot.

Part Three details the effects of Asian-American introversion and achievement, reminding us of Amy Chua’s manifesto Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, highlighting Chinese cultural focus on inner confidence, and subsequent academic success. However, this striking difference between introversion (Eastern) and extroversion (Western) temperaments leaves many Asian-American introverts left out or uncomfortable (p 194) in the United States.

Cain’s solution, or approach in Part Four leads us to another E2L analogy, questioning (p. 206) whether we have fixed personalities or “person-situation” traits. Examination of highly contrasting instinctive and preferred (or expectations) profiles is a suggested approach to answering the author’s question. In fact, Cain offers career suggestions based on three questions (p. 219) very similar to survey answers which form our preferred E2L profile, and likewise reminds us (P. 228) how hard it is for extroverts to understand introverts need to recharge at the end of a day.

In summary, Cain applies her findings personally in Part Four, letting us know that leadership is really a holistic exercise not just left to co-worker relationships. This is great reinforcement for Personal Leadership Philosophy development and refinement, based on continuously improved understanding of ourselves and each other, at work and at home.

Coaching Story | One Thing at a Time

During a series of (one-on-one) executive coaching sessions with a client executive team, we became (with several of the leaders) focused on a single improvement area for a time rather than the overall set of goals (at once) for improvement this year. This has become an energizing approach allowing significant changes in communication, role clarification, and the beginning of genuine delegation (growing one’s team). This wasn’t apparent at the start of our coaching sessions, as we had a well-defined list of improvement areas and subsequent behavior changes identified from 360 reviews. Some of the goals will simply take more time then others, and we are correspondingly prioritizing our coaching sessions. Coaching is indeed a two-way learning process.

Influence & Insight | June 2015

Leadership Story | Catch the Wave

In the past several months, reading about organizations focused on character & culture, speaking with and coaching professionals worldwide, it is apparent (to me anyway) the work environment is changing rapidly, with tectonic consequences. Particularly in coaching sessions, stress and fractures between traditional organizational structures and contemporary expectations of autonomy, flexibility and hi-energy workplaces are evident. Like ocean waves on the beach, we can fear the tide or ride the crest. For any aspiring or growing leader, now is the time to “catch the wave.” Or put another way, this is the time to share a positive leadership vision, explore your sphere of influence, and make any changes aligning your values, happiness and environment. It is indeed your time.

Influential Reading

Return on Character | Fred Kiel

Book of the year.

Fred Kiel persuasively answers affirmatively whether the character of a leader (and their executive team) improves financial performance in his watershed Return on Character. He defines character (p. 17) as:

“An individual’s unique combination of internalized beliefs and moral habits that motivate and shape how that individual relates to others.”


Read Appendix A before Chapter 1, setting up CEO selection criteria and note the interesting demographics as most of the companies selected were privately held with under 500 employees. Full data sets on 84 (of 121) CEOs include both the leaders and their core principals, as the author team made a significant change adding executive teams to the analysis midway through the effort.

Breakthrough Findings

Kiel’s’ team created a metric (Part I) for assessing character-driven leader behavior, starting with Edward Osborne Wilson’s concept of the integrated self (Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge) and Donald Brown’s four universal moral principles – integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. The most highly principled CEOs, labeled Virtuoso, are similar to Jim Collins’ Built to Last Level 5 Leaders, while the lowest scoring are labeled Self-focused CEOs.

Over a two-year period, Virtuoso CEO led organizations achieve nearly five times (4.84) the Return on Assets (ROA) of the Self-focused CEO led (p. 3-4 & 233-238) groups. Many of the CEOs in this research had never before received unfiltered employee feedback, suggesting Thanks for the Feedback and Corporate Compass 360 as recommended follow on reading and survey tools. This book is for those in a range of leadership roles; including board members, company officers and frontline workers (p. 8).

Influenced by Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, Kiel’s findings establish the best leaders have Keystone Character Habits, merging the aforementioned unified principles and positive behaviors. The author team finds all Virtuoso CEOs are skilled businesspeople, are individuals of strong character (described by their employees), and have selected and lead an executive team of strong character (p. 22).

Look at the amazing contrast listed on pages 71 & 72; Virtuoso CEOs consistently demonstrate nine positive beliefs:

Self-Focused CEO behaviors demonstrate:

1. Employees must not be treated too kindly by management or else they will become lazy and unproductive.

2. By generating conflict, one can usually find the truth about a situation.

3. Meeting quarterly goals is generally wiser than focusing on the long term, since there are so many unknowns.

4. When it comes down to it, most people cannot be trusted.

5. Most people have to be closely monitored to make sure they perform.

6. People have limitations and weaknesses, and it is pointless to try and change them.

7. In the final analysis, the only person you can depend on is yourself.

8. There is no one in the company who will look out for us – no one will “have our backs.”

9. I am afraid of change unless I am in control.

10. I really don’t know much about what drives me or gives me meaning.

11. What drives me or gives meaning is proving to those important in my life that I have succeeded.

Virtuoso CEO behaviors demonstrate:

1. Most people grow and change throughout their adult life.

2. Most people want to be honest, responsible, and kind to others.

3. Most people can be trusted until they prove otherwise.

4. Leaders find meaning through growing and stretching their natural gifts and talents.

5. Leaders are driven by the desire to leave the world a better place.

6. All businesses, no matter how large or small, share a responsibility to contribute to the common good.

7. All people deserve the same respect, regardless of the size or status of their jobs.

8. All people have core strengths and talents that should be engaged.

9. The best managers have good relationship and communication skills.





Kiel mentions the work involved in exploring your own nature, identifying weaknesses in your character, and then working to overcome them can be difficult and even painful (page 7). Most Self-focused CEOs engage in considerable self-deception (p. 67), reminding us Johari Windows and self-evaluation help, along with impulse control (reference: Kahneman’s classic Thinking, Fast and Slow). For example, on page 93 John Kotter and Dan Cohen (via The Heart of Change) introduce Paul the CEO (pp. 92-95), who created a clear vision centered on customers. Further underscoring this process are (p. 101) significant Accountability and Executive Character ratings differences between Self-focused and Virtuoso CEOs – 15-point differences between self-evaluation and group evaluation in both cases.

Taking Action

Part II describes leadership in action. Four Keystone Leadership Skills (pages 82-83) - vision, strategic focus, executive team development and accountability - are introduced. The Return on Character Matrix (p. 152) delineates Head and Heart primary divisions, which may be loosely correlated to Corporate Compass 360 Leadership Competencies (Energize2LeadÔ Green & Red colors) and Character Traits (E2L Yellow and Blue colors), respectively. Kiel likewise mentions workforce engagement (pp. 118 – 123), similar to Dan Pink’s conclusions in Drive

Part III (chapters 7 and 8) examines case studies (Mark and Heather, respectively) highlighting a process for becoming a virtuoso leader and developing a superior organization. Step one is critical, that is, acknowledging feedback as an opportunity to change. Mark (p. 174) realized he no longer needed to be the smartest person in the room, and Heather (p. 205) found the board of directors might not even care about her character-based (rather than financially-centered) strategy. Indeed the leadership path may be lonely.

Lastly, upon finding that small, private companies didn’t perform as well as medium and large sized ones, Kiel suggests (page 134) younger CEOs were less skilled than CEOs who ran larger organizations. This may further suggest younger CEOs (and their executive teams) may greatly benefit from earlier leadership development.

A breakthrough work.

Coaching Story | Recommendations Matter

After listening to a client unenthusiastically describe the results of a recent performance review (rather than a coaching session), and likely new job search plans, my thoughts turned to social media. Since my client has generously and repeatedly helped arrange an overseas course location, a LinkedIn recommendation describing leadership traits demonstrated was in order. Turns out my client applied for a promotion and transfer within the organization and the LinkedIn recommendation led to a discussion and eventual hire. What a great story! - And a very important reminder that we can always make recommendations for those we are coaching and helping to continue leading.

Influence & Insight | May 2015

Leadership Results

Craig Pugh, who has served as Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo CEO the past five years, announced his resignation this past month and planned return to Chicago for a new leadership opportunity.

The organization Craig is leaving is in quite a different state than when he took over during a very troubled period for the Zoo. Lowry Park Zoo just received a renewed five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), along with prestigious awards for care and conservation of elephants and manatees.

Craig Pugh has fundamentally changed Lowry Park Zoo through effective leadership. His Personal Leadership Philosophy is an archetype for anyone in a position of trusted not-for-profit service and captures the purpose and mission of what a Zoo can and should be. More importantly, Craig has placed trust in his executive team and unique set of committed employees and volunteers. Visit the zoo and observe the results of his leadership legacy.

Congratulations and well-done Craig!

Influential Reading

The Gift of Wisdom | Neal Whitten

“Decide who and what you want to be,

and then do it – live the life you want.”

Good advice (page 135)  from Chuck Soukup, a former Naval Engineer, and one of many golden nuggets from Neal Whitten’s thoughtful compendium of lessons learned from a diverse set of twenty-five mature adults (at least 67 years old).

Whitten is both an engineer and a Project Management Professional (PMP), looking for more – a sense of purpose – and has shared his findings with us. The Gift of Wisdom is an uplifting reference when we need a time out. Time out to ask big questions, or perhaps to ask

“Where is my Personal Leadership Philosophy leading me?”

At least four Academy Leadership Workshops align well with The Gift: Managing a Leader’s Style and Energy (E2L), Aligning and Accomplishing Goals, Your Personal Leader’s Compass and Setting Leadership Priorities. Whitten’s work may be imagined a distillation of lifetime Steven Covey’s Quadrant II (Important Not Urgent) best practices.

At a personal level, several of the contributor findings aligned with our Emerick Family Contract tenets, providing validation, an energy boost, and a gentle reminder to live our values.

Recommended Approach

Meet Mr. Whitten’s contributors first, on pages 439-462. They are like you and me, and our neighbors. After that, read the preface, and then scan the chapters. Patterns emerge such as time (Time Management, Hobbies and Leisure Time) and goals (Dreams, Goals, Doing It All Over).

Selected Golden Nuggets

Chapter Five, Spirituality, is the heart of the book. Ann El-Moslimany (page 132):

We each have a purpose in life, even multiple purposes, as we evolve over a lifetime. We must seek out that life’s purpose through thoughtful contemplation, an openness to inspiration, and a willingness to give and serve others...

Common sentiments in chapter five include deep humility and connecting with others in a deep and meaningful way, leading to integrity and purpose.

Learning to focus energy is another common theme. Hilda Byrd (page 31) advises If you harbor envy, transform that negative energy into taking positive action… El-Moslimany (page 48) advises Create an Exciting Start to Your Day and Sandra Harrsen similarly (page 348) notes People who stay physically fit and active in their retirement tend to be not only the healthiest, but also the happiest.

Establishing life priorities (think Personal Leadership Philosophy) and a positive attitude, and demonstrating them are dominant themes. Rod Randall tells a fine story (work/life balance) on page 102 about living family priorities. Harrsen (page 49) instructs us to Focus On The Things That Count, and Royce Breedlove reminds us how to Stay Upbeat and Hopeful, even during his wife’s (pages 310-311) three-year bout with ovarian cancer. Paul Zeiss admonishes (page 268) us Turn Your Dreams into Action by moving from the dreaming to the planning stage, and Randall tells us (page 431) Believe in Yourself through a high school story. Finally, Chuck Soukup bluntly reminds us, regarding retirement (page 348), that Boredom Is a Choice.

Service repeatedly surfaces. Many of Whitten’s contributors have served (military and other forms) in some capacity, and in Chapter 24, Other Thoughts Royce Breedlove (page 437) describes that a national service program would allow us (especially when young) to give to a cause greater than ourselves.

Buy this book and keep it near your Personal Leadership Philosophy. When and if you feel your philosophy needs a rewrite or something is missing, Mr. Whitten and his twenty-five contributors are a fine support team. A gift indeed.

Coaching Story | Listening is Everything

During a first (after a Leadership Excellence Course) coaching call, a program attendee described her frustration with one of her direct reports. After I listened to a familiar performance issue pattern emerge – aloof behavior, lack of self-awareness, accountability issues – it was my turn to ask a question. “Have you considered asking your direct report what their performance looks like to others, and to you” and then let them answer? At that moment, she realized the difference between admonishing and coaching. Most of coaching is listening and asking good questions. Then the hard part: Listening. And this coaching session was a good reminder for both of us!

Influence & Insight | April 2015

Leadership In The Field

Great Southwestern Construction (GSW) invited me to spend several days in eastern (and windy, wet and snowy) North Dakota where 140 miles of high-voltage electrical transmission conductors (cables) will span 85-foot transmission towers. Two of the towers required placement via a specialized helicopter “crane” in a Badlands canyon. Clearly this is exciting, physically demanding, and dangerous work.

Witnessing GSW’s comprehensive safety focus was powerful. At the start of each day, the entire group huddled in a large outdoor hangar-style tent, in hard hats, and performed calisthenics to loosen up. After that, a safety topic was introduced by a team leader, followed by volunteered safety reminders, particularly if a work crew planned a new or modified activity. Each morning brought forth new and different safety stories.

Further, in the work trailer (headquarters), prominently displayed, were two posters: When to Intervene and How to Intervene. From How to Intervene:

4. Ask if the task could be done more safely. If you get a response such as “I’ve always done it this way hundreds of times without getting hurt” you should feel confident that you are right to challenge the work.

Finally, a framed Personal Leadership Philosophy, further stressing safety as top priority, was visible in one of the trailer offices. Wow!

Influential Reading

Performing Under Pressure | Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry

“The Bottom Line – pressure is the enemy of success”

Summarizes (from page 3) Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry’s well-researched dissertation. The two authors methodically challenge mistaken conventional, hero-based thinking about performance, and instead offer practical guidance for self-improvement, and more importantly, for coaching others. The key takeaway - four attributes: confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm (COTE) - lead to consistently best behavior while in pressure moments.

Recommended Approach

Read the Acknowledgements (story starts 39 years ago - page 283) and Appendix B (page 275 very similar to Leader’s Compass 360) first. This builds author credibility and sets up the book. Part Two, Pressure Solutions, describes 22 suggested techniques, forming prescriptive future reference.

Part One | Pressure

Backed by data, the authors cite Roy Hobbs and Michael Jordan myths (pages 22-29) and dispel the belief some people perform better in clutch situations. Chapter Two: The Stress of Pressure, offers terrific differentiation between stress and pressure, and subsequent ramifications (page 42):

“Confusing stress for pressure makes it even more difficult, because we end up wasting physical, emotional, and psychic energy on things that, ultimately, don’t matter.”

Additionally, a high-pressure situation definition is offered (page 46):

The outcome is important to you.

The outcome is uncertain.

You feel you are responsible for and are being judged on, the outcome.

The more intense the pressure situation, the more likely you are to underperform.

The Nature of Choking, Chapter Four (pages 56-70), is a gem. A wonderfully revealing working and procedural memory discussion on pages 62-65 prompts powerful individual reflection. This is very similar to the referenced Daniel Kahneman pathfinder Thinking, Fast and Slow. Choking has more to do with the effects of pressure on performance than on the outcome (page 57). A fantastic chapter for coaching, especially for helping those who have lost confidence and/or are making bad (rather than wrong) decisions.

Chapter Six, Pressure Traps, meditates on typical and misguided motivation techniques. The authors specifically recommend creating a mastery motivational climate (similar to Dan Pink’s Drive), rather than an ego oriented (think of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross) one.

Part Two Pressure Solutions

Scan the twenty-two solutions, find your favorites and try a couple new ones. These jumped out:

Pressure solutions one and two (pages 111-115), Befriend the Moment and Multiple Opportunities could easily be combined and retitled your Attitude is your Destiny. Or put another way, we may choose that an event is an opportunity or a crisis, and may likewise choose to under or over exaggerate situations. Less exaggeration equals less pressure.

Pressure solution six, Recognize That You are Worthy (page 122), asks to list values and importance as well as positive attributes, much like composing a Personal Leadership Philosophy.

Pressure solution eighteen, Be Obsessive and Compulsive, is full of nuggets helpful for public speaking, competition, and many other situations.

Part Three, Building Your COTE

of Armor, describes each of the four traits and encourages active practice beginning on pages 177, 220, 241 & 259, respectively.

Engaging in Confidence Habits (page 189), lawyers and pessimism (page 199), Instilling Optimism in Yourself (page 220), Talent is Never Enough (pages 226-228), Hope (pages 235-239), Tenacity and Energy (pages 241-243, including reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow), and the enthusiastic one-person  (pages 256-259) finding are memorable examples solidifying the four traits.

Finally, pages 263-266 call for connecting with the goals of one’s organization (also an excellent approach to a Personal Leadership Philosophy) and Connection as the basis for team building referencing John Lasseter at Pixar. Great story.

Coaching Story | Are You a Good Candidate for Promotion or Succession?

A common theme during three coaching sessions this past month was developing confidence in direct reports for promotion/succession. One of the direct reports (successor) needs to finish an academic degree and likely initial leadership training. Another is already a strong candidate who has not developed a Personal Leadership Philosophy. In the third case a direct report already in a leadership position needs coaching, and will likely benefit when we introduce suggested habits in Performing Under Pressure. Together, these discussions suggest we may not be aware of the continued need for coaching, and that we should address development – of ourselves and of our direct reports. Let’s remember both!

Influence & Insight | March 2015

Leadership Story | Social Contract

Earlier this month Kristen Lowers of Saddle Creek Logistics hosted a one-day, two workshop program; Advanced Leadership Communications, based on the book Crucial Conversations; and Feedback, based on the book Thanks for the feedback. Representing two functional groups, Data Management & Transportation, the team resonated greatly with Crucial Conversations, and explored how to maintain improved communications after the course. 

Her team found two creative solutions in the afternoon Feedback workshop. Before the workshop, Kristen completed a Johari Window between herself and her team.  Her team then completed a Johari window (Kristen left the room for a few minutes) with Kristen as supervisor. What a great way to receive feedback during a workshop! Turns out the Johari windows were not that different, and in both cases with room for the Arena to grow. Second, Kristen's team assembled a Social Contract for use after the workshops, with several agreed-upon bullet points for accountability and continued improved team communication. Thanks Kristen!

Influential Reading

DELIVERING Happiness | Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced “shay”) book, subtitled A PATH TO PROFITS, PASSION AND PURPOSE, written in a personable, storytelling style, illustrates many truths we face throughout our lives. In Hsieh’s case, he encountered numerous significant decisions and reflections as an entrepreneur, and has shared them in a book essentially weaving personal and business leadership.

We All Have a Leadership Story | E2L

“One day, I woke up after hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock six times. I was about to hit it a seventh time when I suddenly realized something…”

Much of the first section of the book, PROFITS (Chapters 1-3), recounts Tony’s academic and business success, including the launch and sale of LinkExchange. More importantly, Hsieh realized that “building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy (page 53),” constituting his core instinctive needs. From an early age, Hsieh was exploring his motivational needs while accumulating business experience. Chapter three, Diversify has a wonderful analog, whereby Tony learns via poker we should not confuse right decisions and individual outcomes (page 64), and it was “easy to get caught up and engrossed in what I was doing, and that made it easy to forget that I always had the option to change tables (page 69).” Going further, Hsieh extends his understanding to the organizational level (page 76) promising never to lose sight of the value of [corporate culture] a tribe where people feel connected.

Corporate Culture | Walk The Talk

Chapter Four, Concentrate Your Position, culminates (page 124) with a major decision - eliminating drop ship products from the Zappos web site – exemplifying Hsieh’s primary focus on customer service even at the expense of profit. Looking back, Tony wishes he focused on culture and core values sooner (page 155), eventually listing ten codified core values (page 154). Ten is a lot, but Zappos’ core values all begin with verbs (e.g. Be Passionate and Determined) and are intertwined with operations and day-to-day behavior.

In short, Zappos Walks the Talk.

BCP | Why We Develop Others

Perhaps inspired by Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Hsieh and Zappos focus on building a sustained talent pipeline rather that just consider individuals corporate “assets.” On pages 198 & 199, Hsieh outlines a sample of 29 Pipeline Team courses ranging from Tribal Leadership to WOWing Through Tours. Pretty amazing. Zappos belief (page 137) is that “our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline (internally BCP) are the only competitive advantages what we will have in the long run.” WOW indeed.

A Couple More Nuggets

Testimonials abound, with a reflective series on pages 161 – 182. Hsieh recounts on page 82 the power of building relationships (rather than common ‘networking’) often leading to something positive and unanticipated. On pages 204-208 Tony shares his story of public speaking and how tying his stories to passion and knowledge make all the difference.

Finally, in Chapter 7, End Game, Hsieh reflects on Maslow culminating in parallel purpose and passion charts (see page 239). Additional on-line resources are listed on pages 245-246.

A great story. A great book.

Coaching Story | Listening | A Leadership Island

During a recent coaching session with a senior-level government civilian, it seemed my colleague had just read DELIVERING happiness. More specifically, the client had a Leadership Development Plan in place for each team member, as well as two executive-level sponsors supporting her, including an ongoing 360 review cycle. Listening to my client's story cataloguing numerous organizational changes within the past year exposed a wonderful observation, that her team generally maintained higher stage cohesiveness (norming or performing stages) with a relatively higher civilian/military team mix, and correspondingly less turnover. Perhaps without realizing it, a leadership island of influence and stability had formed which we realized could reduce organizational churn (forming or storming stages) caused by more frequent staff changes in the greater organization. Wonderful!

Influence & Insight | February 2015

Leadership Story | Transformation Takes Time

Successful organization transformation requires tenacity, strong and consistent leadership, and takes time. Earlier this month, Rick Dauch received one of Academy Leadership’s first Leadership Excellence Awards. Listening to Rick’s story was compelling: Over the past four years the majority of an (absentee) executive leadership team was replaced, core values were instilled into the company, while Accuride has expanded into a rapidly growing and increasingly cost-competitive global market. Rick and Accuride’s continuing leadership success story is an inspirational reminder the journey is indeed possible.

Influential Reading

Leading Change | John Kotter

John Kotter’s Leading Change builds on his watershed 1994 Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail article, beginning with a preface reflecting upon his motivations for continued study on the topic.

Recommended Approach

Perhaps mimicking Kotter’s recommendation for creating urgency, try reading Chapters 10-12 first. Chapter 10, Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture, reminds us (via Drucker) that Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. Page 157 has a terrific table reminding us why modifying group behaviors and ultimately culture, ranges from hard to extremely hard to change.

If you are ready to embark on leading significant change in your organization, or wonder why it has not worked, this book is a great reference manual.

Chapter 11 describes The Organization of the Future, summarized on page 181. Anyone whose organization largely resembles the left column of Table 11-1, Twentieth century, ought to be very nervous about the future. The right column, Twenty-first century, describes structure, systems and culture any leader should be focused on today. Finally, Chapter 12, Leadership and Lifelong Learning, outlines (via a flow chart on page 187) how to increase our capacity for future success.

Management versus Leadership

“For most of this [20th] century, as we created thousands and thousands of large organizations for the first time in human history, we didn’t have enough good managers…

… For every entrepreneur or business builder who was a leader, we needed hundreds of managers to run their ever-growing enterprises.”

(pages 28-29) Explains well why we have so many managers and so few leaders, yet Kotter informs us successful organizational change requires 70% - 90% leadership. We don’t manage change.

The result of an over managed, under led corporate culture is summarized in an excellent diagram on page 31. Arrogance, insularity, and bureaucratic antibodies result leading to failure.

Kotter’s Eight-Step Process | Thoughts

Chapters 3 through 10 detail Kotter’s recommended approach, which forms the basis of Academy Leadership’s Leading Change workshop.

Kotter repeatedly references failed transformational efforts due to skipping early steps in the process, and in particular underestimating the need for a sustained and powerful guiding coalition (see page 58 for necessary contemporary decision making).

An effective vision statement is shown on page 80. It’s a gem, and a strong reminder we need to put a lot of thought into developing one, which also meets this rule:

“If you cannot describe your vision to someone in five minutes and get their interest, you have more work to do in this phase of a transformation process.”

For those encountering stubborn colleagues resisting change, Kotter has a great script using a winning lottery as an example (page 114).

Application | Your Personal Leadership Philosophy

Walk the talk, or Lead by Example (pages 97 – 99) reminds us continuous leadership is required. We can go further by incorporating elements of the eight-step process into our Personal Leadership Philosophy, and additionally aligning operating principles and priorities between guiding coalition members.

Finally, we should return to Chapter 12, and reflect how we may benefit from The Power of [Personal] Compounded Growth (pages 189-190), as lifelong leaders.

Coaching Story | A Lifetime Coach

Several months ago, while facilitating PMI’s 5 Star Leadership program in Phoenix, I had lunch with Durrell. Durrell Hillis served as Chairman of the Board of the small company insyte years ago, and helped guide me and us through rapid growth and subsequent acquisition by ITT.

While discussing numerous events and generally catching up, I realized how much of a lifetime coach Durrell has been to me. He is a rare combination of mentor, coach, and friend. It became apparent how much I missed our discussions while we were leading our little company. Before our meal ended, I found myself telling Durrell that since my father passed, he is also the closest person I would consider a father.

A wonderful day. A wonderful lunch. Thank you Durrell.


Influence & Insight | January 2015

Leadership Story | Shackleton

Sometimes exploring great historical leadership stories yields future benefits. While pondering relevant content for a corporate keynote speech scheduled for December, I recalled Sir Ernest Shackleton’s amazing survival story in the Antarctic and South Atlantic. The more I researched and recalled details of Shackleton and his crew, the more I found intersection between Shackleton’s and the corporate client President’s Personal Leadership Philosophy. When one considers Shackleton and his crew survived nearly two years in formidable terrain and weather without losing a single individual, the idea of growing a company without losing any team members appears much more possible!

Influential Reading

Drive | Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink’s Drive is a powerful book which captures decades of scientific findings regarding motivation, reminds us that few businesses have actually put these results to use, and challenges us as leaders to transform our point of view and our organizations. A quirky and provocative video summary of Drive may be downloaded here, and convincingly argues autonomy, mastery and purpose as elemental motivators. This review focuses on the part of the book not captured in the video, and the application section of the book called the Type I Toolkit.

A Suggested Start

Pages 218-223 comprise Drive: The Recap, a succinct summary helpful in selecting which chapters of the book may hold more appeal and a useful reference (especially the Twitter and Cocktail Party summaries).

After summarizing key research findings (such as Theory X and Theory Y or Type A and Type B behavior), Pink introduces Type I and Type X behaviors in Chapter 3 (page 75). We can relate these behaviors to our E2L Profiles. For example, Type I behaviors are fueled by intrinsic desires, or the instinctive E2L dimension, while Type X behaviors are fueled by (classical) extrinsic desires. Pink calls the human operating system (page 16) based on seeing and rewarding punishment (or carrots & sticks) Motivation 2.0, an analogy to computer operating systems. Out challenge then is to cultivate Type I behavior via a newer Motivation 3.0 operating system.

How We May Apply Type I Behaviors

Part Three, The Type I Toolkit, contains a variety of strategies and ideas for putting Motivation 3.0 to work.


On pages 153-161, Pink offers nine strategies for activating our personal motivation. The first and sixth really stand out. First, understand what activities contribute to our “flow” state (see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and then protect our flow states with a “to don’t” list, or behaviors and practices (idea from Tom Peters) that pull down our energy levels and distract us. For several years, I have called out “energy loss alerts” when encountering people or events sucking away at my energy or positive attitude. Pages 216 & 217 apply Type I tips to personal fitness, a wonderful example of creating Motivation 3.0 lifetime habits.

For Organizations

Pages 162-177 contain thirteen excellent ideas for any organization; keeping in mind not all of us can effect our entire environment. The first idea, Carve out Time for Noncommissioned Work: The Big Idea, reminds us of Steven Covey’s Category II, Important Not Urgent quadrant. If we don’t create a safe and regular environment for big ideas, then we probably won’t have any (see interesting aside on pages 96-98 why attorneys are so miserable). Ideas nine and ten are wonderful. Many people use pronouns to disassociate themselves from organizations (Robert Reich’s idea nine), and we should listen for these clues. Idea ten (page 172), Design for the 85 Percent, suggests many organizational policies are compliance based “so a small group of losers won’t abuse the system” rather than unleashing the majority of performers who don’t need someone watching over their shoulders. Terrific.


Kudos to Pink for (pages 197-215) listing fifteen essential books both for deeper background (e.g. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation) or contemporary ideas of success (e.g. Outliers).

Coaching Story | Jack

A few weeks ago our daughter Victoria (aka Tori) was accepted to her college of first choice via the early decision process. Naturally we feel proud as parents and look forward to Tori’s future opportunities. At the same time, I reflected and realized that our son Jack, who is autistic, will need even more coaching than our daughter and that I have not been there for him as much as I should. My 2015 plans must include coaching Jack far more during his remaining two years of home schooling (at the high school level), and even more so afterward as we explore remote learining opportunities tailored to his unique strenghts and interests.