Influence & Insight | December 2016

Leadership Story | Knowledge as a Process

Knowledge as a process - This phrase, this thought, keeps returning since preparing for an After Action Review Workshop in Beckley, WV earlier last month. Pfeffer and Sutton (The Knowing-Doing Gap) discuss the use of the word knowledge as a process rather than a thing. Ponder that for a minute. Knowledge as a thing is easy: Someone learns something, and maybe even stores it somewhere. Knowledge as a thing may be personal, it doesn't have to be shared.

Processes invite sharing, and further, the responsibility to share. Sounds a lot more like leadership, and a lot less personal. Every time someone in an organization learns something new, large or small, imagine the new thing as a responsibility. For example, what if a team member added a story of core values being lived in a competitive proposal, and the company won the bid because of the story. Or how about new work techniques which can reduce safety incidents? Is that just an individual skill or a responsibility to save other's lives? It seems the more as leaders we can instill the value and the responsibility of shared knowledge within groups, as a process, the more our teams and companies may grow.

Influential Reading | Creating Iridium

"I'll tell you from down in the depths of the organization, a lot of times we were kind of amazed that we were given the trust and authority to do the right thing." (Jim Redden p. 54)

Disclosure: Durrell served as Board Chairman during a significant portion of my CEO tenure at innovative systems & technologies corporation (insyte) years ago.

Durrell Hillis' detailed chronology of the Iridium system is a series of interviews which pay tribute to numerous extraordinary people and accomplishments, usually breakthrough technical achievements only possible within a tightly aligned "team of teams." My instinctive reaction upon skimming early drafts of his book was that at the core, it is a story about leadership, although the numerous conversations read like a list of unbreakable sports records achieved.

Start with Appendix I, Durrell's poignant interview with Bob and Chris Galvin, which sets up the book as a leadership initiative. Many Iridium innovations predate more common terms today, such as Scrum Sprints, or Stanley McChrystal's Team of Teams, while embodying the spirit of a John Boyd "Acolyte" such as Raymond Leopold (Boyd, p. 309).

This review collects and groups key chapter takeaways into leadership categories, in particular philosophy & coaching, goal setting, and building high-performance teams.

Leadership Philosophy & Coaching

Hillis' situational awareness (pp. 13-17) recognized a perfect storm of events:

1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
2. The Opening of New Markets in Russia and China
3. The Proliferation of Land-Based Cellular in New Markets
4. A Low Ebb in the Aerospace and Space Business Internationally
5. Motorola's Technological and Market Leadership in Communications
6. The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS)
7. A Seemingly Impossible Chance in 1992 to Obtain the Needed Frequency Allocations Globally

and a subsequent leadership vision shared in the New York Times June 18, 1990 edition (p. 57):

"Pocket phones to Handle Global Calls"

Iridium, the "Secret Program," quickly became well known as a result of the broad based publicity campaign, and by virtue of speeches at major telecommunications conferences and press interviews that were conducted in many areas of the world (p. 56).

In perhaps the ultimate expression of Team of Teams, Hillis insisted on genuine partners, especially for the spacecraft bus, from the top echelon of suppliers, who viewed the program as strategically important to their company rather than just a target of opportunity (p. 74).

Thanklessly, and strategically John Mitchell took on the task of clearing the way of obstacles in the rest of the corporation (p. 47) - like the best coaches do. This was consistent with Hillis' leadership philosophy (p. 49): I feel one of the things you don't want to say at the end of your career is "We could have done that and we didn't have the courage to do it."

Understanding People | Energize2Lead Profiles

In Russia Hillis observed communism's failure (pp. 258-261), and learned the importance of understanding the needs of others, individually and culturally, as well as how to approach strangers. This allowed him to inform the Russians their launch services price actually had to be raised to $280 million.

Similarly, John McBride encountered a very different approach and risk tolerance with rocket launch procedures. This guy had done over 150 Proton launches and says "I [Russian guy] am not aware of any time we have ever scrubbed a Proton launch." There was a constraint on wind on a certain vector and a certain speed but basically rain, snow, visibility, nothing mattered (p. 287). This required a new level of collaboration, rather than compliance in order for the future successful launches.

Building High-Performance Teams

Reminiscent of McChrystal's differing teams, Hillis wished, via a diverse group of 15 across the company, to create or identify one or more space systems opportunities [for Motorola] as a prime contractor leveraging outstanding payload capabilities, along with semiconductor and communications expertise (p. 21). He insisted the teams will be empowered to make decisions at the lowest level and be accountable for outcomes (p. 52). This allowed effective team growth from 20 to 8,000 (2,000 Motorola and 6,000 contractors).

Despite encompassing nineteen strategic partners and eighteen operating companies invested in Iridium, Inc, "We (Jack Kelble - Raytheon) knew that if there was a problem that was brewing at the lower levels of the organization, we could always go to them [Durrell and Bary] and it would be taken care of. So it was the positive top to bottom environment that was set in the program that was really wonderful as far as we were concerned (p. 84)." This was confirmed at the Motorola Management Institute where an expert observing the Iridium engineering teams (p. 145) commented: "You people talk to each other and say things to each other that people don't say, that have known each other for years."

Goal Setting & Setting Priorities

Iridium started with (Karen Bertiger's question (p. 27) "Why can't cell coverage be everywhere?" leading to a vision of turning the cell network upside down and leveraging the ACTS switch (pp. 28-30). Very early, Hillis focused on High Payoff Activities (HPAs): One of the secrets of success was that the team didn't start with a big, thick specifications document (p. 44). They weren't deep "in the weeds."

Greg Vatt shares two critical and overarching design decisions: the selection of the best orbit plan (p. 36), seven orbital planes of 11 satellites for a total of 77 and the initial "Link Margin," required to communicate from handset to the satellites, 9dB (p. 37). On the the other hand, sometimes a specific component, such as the three-kilobit vocoder (p. 87), required selection even before it was commonly available.

Alignment was key - Mike Krutz: When we arrived at the Mission Control Facility in Lansdowne there were three requirements specs and different people were working on different ones.  He provided the necessary leadership focus stating "This is never going to work guys." (p. 206) We're going to have one spec and everybody's going to integrate it.

Dannie Stamp recalls two key strategic goals: A 5-day dock-to-dock cycle time objective at the final factory. One of the key cycle time requirements we laid on the factory floor was to be able to replace anything in a satellite in 30 minutes (p. 148). Even more agility was required, think of Peter Drucker: "Objectives are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future." Jim Redden recalls this leadership approach stimulated block diagram development and significant power consumption reductions (pp. 194-195) saving the program from a show-stopper crisis.


Hillis' motivation style predates Dan Pink's 2009 definition: autonomy, mastery and purpose (see Drive) . He personally interviewed for "A" players, not only in terms of their capability, but to assess their motivation and willingness to work on what would doubtless be a brutal schedule over a long period of time (p. 67).

Dave Montanaro empowered his team: I sent people on a field trip to a Lexus dealer, with instructions to measure the gaps on the trunk lid, the doors, and anywhere two things go together that you can get to and take a statistical sample from several cars (p. 128). This led to the extraordinary performance of the Iridium Satellite Assembly Line (p. 132).

Autonomy and purpose where essential when the link margin increased from 9dB to 16dB, necessitating (p. 171) a complete system redesign. Jim Redden summarizes: The whole Iridium Systems Engineering team just basically rolled up their sleeves and said "Ok, let's get it fixed." (p. 173). One the best stories of autonomy and creativity occurs on pages 243-245 where Bob Foncannon came up with the idea to jolt each passing satellite with a burst of energy to hopefully trigger the phase lock loop circuits, which actually worked.


According to Hillis, Lockheed's program managers never got over the fact that for decades, Motorola was their subcontractor with Lockheed calling the shots (p. 94).  As we learned the best strategy in conflict is collaboration, if time permits. It took quite a while and caused stress, but eventually Lockheed submitted a new proposal that was very close to the $650 million that [we] had indicated was the proper bid (p. 98).

Pages 153-169 describe the greatest - and not just technical - conflict: Numerous national and political entities vying for satellite spectrum (frequency) licenses necessary for Iridium system operation. In this situation, an assertive conflict strategy, competing at times, and ultimately relying extensively on collaboration, led to three issued licenses on 31 January 1995 (p. 169).

Rickie Currens shares a good example of finding a starting point of agreement between different parties: "We decided to use the original document (contract) as the starting point for all negotiations, summarizing all significant changes and sending them out if anyone wanted to reopen negotiations." (p. 217)

Differences in culture frequently lead to conflict. The Chinese taught Hillis that they effectively use silence as a weapon in negotiation. He also knew that "saving face" (p. 298) was important telling his Chinese counterpart that he was personally insulted and walked away from the negotiation.


The Single Vessel Battery Critical Design Review (CDR) description reads like an After Action Review process (pp. 104-107). The best example was difficult communications between Hillis and Vance Coffman affirming accountability within the program. Similarly, Jim Redden recollects ...whatever was talked about in the room could have no repercussions from it. It was a situation where you came in and talked about what the big problems were and what should be done about them (pp. 180-181). "Is there anything that we talked about or haven't talked about that makes you want to kick the dog?" (p. 182)

In the best teams, nobody wants to let others down. "Everybody who had experience said we couldn't do this, and it's only because we didn't know that, we were able to get it done." (p. 203 - Steve Miles) "I was going to do whatever it took and it would never be because of me or any of my teams that we didn't make it."

Effective Decision Making

Iridium's relentless focus on communication led to simplified and effective decision making. After the redesign of the Iridium satellite in 1992 (Jim Redden), virtually all of the data necessary for planning the launches was available to the launch team and its launch suppliers so detailed analysis and specifications for mating the Iridium satellites to each of the launch vehicles could be derived (pp. 224-225). At that time the average size of an Air Force contingent to the launch site was 126 people and didn't include anybody that was back in any other headquarters in a supporting role. [Iridium's] average launch size was in the 30's (p. 225).

Correspondingly, a Scrum-like approach to reducing waste even applied to launch staff: John McBride describes Hyrie Bysal's sharp analysis:  "Only four guys can do everything." In the end we did the actual launch task with 8 guys (p. 274).


Without leadership, there would be no Iridium. Thank you Durrell.

Thank you Durrell for the signed copy of your book.

Coaching Story | Alignment Rather Than Ambition

It's terrific when an organization sends an up-and-coming twenty-nine-year-old to a Leadership Excellence Course (LEC). The first coaching call can be even better, let me explain: This young professional's LEC attendance was encouraged by a supervisor, a VP responsible for Program Management. Not surprisingly, he's ambitious and is looking for more significant leadership roles within the company. What does that really mean to him? I asked. What does leadership really mean to him since the course? I asked. Why might it be useful sharing (both ways) leadership philosophies with his supervisor? I asked.

Why did I ask so many questions? Because most of us at twenty-nine haven't learned (some of us much older!) that alignment is more important than advancement. With so many things shared during our LEC, the opportunity for questions allowing my client to think about alignment with his supervisor's values and the values and priorities of the company emerged. Now, rather than simply stating he's interested in a greater leadership role, this bright and capable young man may ask how best to align with the company to help it become more successful. Can't wait for the next coaching call.

Influence & Insight | November 2016

Leadership Story | Take Charge of Your Development

During the sign up process for a recent Leadership Excellence Course, it was noticeable that one of the attendees intentionally keeps a low social media profile. In addition, and perhaps more interesting, was a minor mystery where this course participant actually worked. Maybe a really shy person I thought, maybe an E2L introvert?

During our three days together, it wasn't introversion that emerged, it was an amazing transformation, as though someone wished to share deep thoughts, but had not been in an environment where that could occur. After the course, an email arrived:

"Early on in my career, I wanted to do some training that was relevant to my job but I was not able to gather financial support from my company to complete this. Ever since then, I use my own personal budget to do professional development - attend technical trainings, conferences, buy books, etc. I set goals around what I want to do and learn and I find that I am sincere in these efforts. A good friend of mine does this as well and we always say how engaged we are and valuable the experience is because we have a personal stake in the effort.  We understand we need to do things to keep our skills sharp and not stagnate and doing it this way makes it something that we want to do.  Accountability and motivation can move mountains.

This was a unique experience in that it wasn't a specific training on an application for example but sharing relevant tools to support fundamental leadership roles and responsibilities. I am very sensitive to how valuable this is personally and how much this is needed in our organizations."

Simply fantastic. How many of you think the same way? Imagine how liberating it might be taking charge of your own leadership development. My impression is that this attendee is now operating at a completely different energy level. After reading this email, so am I.

Influential Reading | Connecting with Coincidence

Expecting the unexpected makes coincidences
a regular part of daily life. (p. 50)

Good leaders frequently seem lucky. During Academy Leadership Excellence & Executive Coaching workshops, repeated emphasis is placed on managing energy, rather than time, as we develop into effective leaders. This is why the Energize2Lead (E2L) self-evaluation is performed by program attendees in advance and launches these typically three day experiences.

Dr. Bernard Beitman must be a very curious person with a deeply developed situational awareness, of himself, and of his surroundings. Trained in chemistry but drawn to psychiatry (p. 3), Beitman sees himself as an engineer for Carl Jung's theoretical ideas, in particular, the concept of archetypes.

Consider reading Part 3 (Chapter 12), The Psychosphere: Our Mental Atmosphere, first, which suggests and offers clues how coincidences may [physically] occur, especially if your temperament seeks (think dominant green and dominant blue E2L profiles) or requires evidence first. This review introduces the psychosphere and highlights selected coincidence findings which may influence how we best position ourselves as "lucky leaders."

The Psychosphere: Our Mental [ E2L] Atmosphere

To Jung, archetypes were enduring patterns that existed outside the ebb and flow of life -- they father the patterns by which life is formed. To Jung an activated archetype is also associated with all meaningful coincidences (p. 272). There are at least two ways we may think about this as leaders. Our E2L workshops greatly encourage we understand other's deep (instinctive) needs and master how we approach others (through expectation profile colors). Both require expanding our situational awareness, which likely served as a starting point for Dr. Beitman. Also recall in Communication (now titled Feedback) Workshops the significance of non-verbal communication especially when not communicating in person.

Dr. Beitman theorizes there must be mechanisms by which energy-information (E-I) like this is converted into electrical nerve impulses the brain can process into emotion and behavior (p. 259). We may think of this as the underlying physical manifestation of "connecting" with others -- so vital for effective leadership. Just as food smells much better when we are hungry, so E-I receptors are more likely to be open and operating during periods of need, transition, and high emotion (p. 265).

Here's some interesting research worth monitoring. Fowler and Christakis studied more than five thousand people enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study between 1971 and 2003. They reported that the happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of others whom they don't know but with whom they are connected through others (p. 279).

Beitman believes a starting place for understanding how our human GPS (Global Positioning System) might work comes from the human ability known as proprioception -- the capacity to know what our arms, legs and head are doing (p. 265) -- and imagine there are probably many different receptor types for these subtle forms of energy-information (p. 268).

Coincidences and Leadership

Recall our [Feedback Workshop] objective of improved connections with others. Beitman (p. 10) introduces mirror neurons - that remarkable collection of nerve cells in our brains that are activated when we perform an action and when we observe that same action, leading to resonance, or connection. This may explain why the two-way nature of coaching -- or deep listening followed by supportive sharing of oneself -- proves so effective.

The most common triggers for these experiences are death or dying and major illnesses or injury -- "feeling the pain of a loved one at a distance" -- suggest that something out of the ordinary is going on. Dr. Beitman calls this experience simulpathity (p. 14). How does this happen? Beitman describes each of us is part of an intricate web of emotions that exists both inside and outside our bodies, and he calls our participation in this matrix of feelings the psychosphere (p. 19). These thoughts and descriptions remind me of R. Buckminster Fuller's term pattern integrities, specifically applied to people. Regardless the characterization, such experiences underscore tapping into all of our energy sources (physical, spiritual, etc.) for effective leadership.

According to Dr. Beitman, breaking out of a pattern, high emotions and transitions increase the probability of coincidences (pp. 31-32). Our business and personal lives are riddled with uncertainty, so perhaps a leap into disorder, outside the comfort zone, offers new possibilities. In randomness, in chaos, even in crisis, there is opportunity (p. 28). This is what Jeff Boss' Navigating Chaos enthusiastically informs us.

Researchers have identified a group of cells in the brainstem of pigeons that record both the direction and the strength of the magnetic field (p. 72), so this may correspond to a human ability to detect and move toward a needed someone or something (p. 82). Dr. Beitman insists this sensibility can be developed (p. 115). To Horace Walpole, the word serendipity meant finding something by informed observation (sagacity, as he called it) and by accident.

We can sometimes predict events or attract what we are thinking (p. 153). Dr. Beitman advises before reaching for divine explanations or settling for statistical simplicity, we need to look for possibilities within ourselves, including the capacity to access knowledge beyond our conscious memory and five senses (p. 159). It's easy to understand how this can help with goal setting, that is once we document and share goals with others, all of our senses (and perhaps the psychosphere) may be activated.

Much of effective coaching depends on asking good questions. Beitman suggest we miss many opportunities because we are not able to recognize them, are not prepared to move quickly, or are afraid to ask (p. 184). But a good coach may elicit unexpected possibilities. Psychologist Richard Wiseman found that lucky people create their own luck - they persevere, are optimistic, learn from failure, and rely on intuition (p. 191). Further, the word intuition comes from a Latin word tutio meaning "a looking after, guardianship." It is related to the word tutor, the business of teaching pupils. Intuition is our "inner teacher." We may hone our intuition by following some of our inner urgings to see what happens (pp. 194-195).

Be The Lucky Leader | Integrate Coincidences Into Your Life

Dr. Beitman focuses on instrumental coincidences and their two uses: providing just what you need and helping with decision making (p. 209). Keeping a written journal, documenting goals, and reflecting on leadership aligns very well with this advice.

Among many Jungians to individuate is to become more clearly ourselves - to become more genuine, more authentic, more real to others, and to know with increasing clarity our strengths, weaknesses, and desires (p. 214). Each of these traits, or habits, are also outcomes from effective leadership growth facilitated by our personal philosophy.

Freudian psychoanalyst Gibbs Williams believes that coincidences are created by each person in an attempt to solve problems (p. 224). Beitman advises that we integrate coincidences in [our] life by (pp. 253-254):

• Look for them, especially during times of intense emotion, need and transition.
• Remember coincidences are sign posts, not directives.
• Speculate about explanations, particularly about how you might be contributing to them.
• Write down what you need to find to develop a record. Look for patterns in your coincidences.
• Read about coincidences to increase their frequency.
• Participate in coincidence websites.

In summary, we may create an intention within the realm of possibility, then energize it and allow [our] subconscious to help carry it out (p. 251). Great advice for all of us as leaders. 

Note: Dr. Beitman generously provided a copy of his book for review.

Coaching Story | Starting Something New | Be a Coach

During coaching calls in the past month, an interesting pattern with two very different colleagues formed well worth sharing. One client is launching a new service offering, essentially a new company, in a dynamic business and regulatory environment, which will require both organizational and communication agility. Separately, another has been asked to forge an international alliance between highly technical and defense related organizations, also forming a new entity in the process. Listening to each of these challenges, sometimes over a weekend call, had me thinking about some of our leadership workshops: Motivation, conflict, feedback, E2L and certainly leadership philosophy came to mind.

In both cases, it became clear (in my opinion) each client is in an ideal position to share their leadership philosophy, create alignment with multiple organizations, and essentially lead by becoming an effective coach. This leads to an interesting question: How many of us are challenging ourselves, or offering ideas or proposals, to lead something new? It is a fun question, and the more we think about the leadership tools we have in our toolbox, we may challenge ourselves and our colleagues to consider putting more of them to use.

My hope is to write about each of these two developing initiatives these from a coaching standpoint.

Influence & Insight | October 2016

Leadership Story | Create a Positive Leadership Environment

Flashback: September 2013 Leadership Excellence Course day three. While introducing the coaching workshop, one of the attendees appeared physically agitated; shifting uncomfortably and resisting eye contact. Upon asking if anything was wrong, the attendee bluntly announced:

"At my organization, if you are sent to coaching,
it means you'll be gone in two weeks."

Needless to say, more than a bit of the energy in the room escaped as we all stared at our colleague. We shared stories about workplace culture and climate, and unsurprisingly nobody wanted to trade places and work there.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago at our Advanced Leadership Course, the same attendee strolled into our training room, with a big smile announcing how delighted her workplace has been. Pod person? What happened? The answer: A change in organizational leadership, and clearly a different and far more motivational environment. Wow! Think about that. We plan on working much more together in the future and hopefully will have more details about this most positive story...

Influential Reading | Lead From The Heart

The studies prove that our traditional leadership model has reached the end of its effectiveness. Workers across the country have grown widely disengaged and disheartened, and American productivity is being greatly undermined as a result (p.11).

Mark Crowley courageously explores root causes of obviously outdated leadership models, with convincing demographic research and proposes we rethink and reapply ourselves. His journey transcends science leading to our physical hearts, not just as a source of emotional connection, but as a unifying energy source. Crowley offers a four-part antidote we should all wisely incorporate within our Personal Leadership Philosophy.

Our Toxic Leadership Environment

Alex Edmans, Wharton Finance Professor, finds contemporary leaders still attempt to (p. 1) "squeeze as much out of [employees] as possible and pay them as little as possible." reminiscent of Winslow Taylor's (see Team of Teams) legacy of treating employees as subhuman machinery parts to be utilized for maximum efficiency. Crowley realized our worst mistake is that we compromise our foundational and fundamental values ... believing efficiency alone will make our enterprises more productive and profitable (p. 52).

Crowley references Maslow (pp. 1-2) noting that with our basic needs mostly satisfied via our careers, higher level needs for things like respect, recognition and even fulfillment in the workplace have become much more important (p. 3), hinting at affinity with Herzberg's Motivator-Hygiene theory. Or, put another way, what's really happened is that people have ascended in their needs and have landed on work as the place to fulfill them (p. 4).

Professor Ioannis Theodossiou, University of Aberdeen agrees:  "I suppose that if one spends roughly two-thirds of his or her life at work, satisfaction with life will be heavily dependent upon job satisfaction." Patricia Aburdene, in Megatrends 2010, goes further, predicting "The Power of Spirituality" will be the greatest megatrend of our current era (p. 8).

What does that mean for us as leaders? These findings place a premium on knowing instinctive needs (within our Energize2Lead Profile), of ourselves, and especially of those we serve.

Crowley references the Conference Board of New York's survey from 1987 to 2009, citing an alarming twenty-two consecutive years of declines in worker happiness (p. 11). It is clear the "employment deal" -- or what may also be called a social contract -- [requires] emotional connections gained through things like fairness, career development and seeing how their work fits into the bigger picture of the organization (p. 13). How much does our leadership philosophy address these factors - or engagement?

Engagement is more complex. It takes into consideration these same cognitive connections that people have with their jobs in addition to two other components: Emotional attachments to work, and behavioral responses to those attachments (p. 17). Crowley finds just four "drivers" explain 67% of the overall movement of employee engagement: Organizational Health, Managerial Quality, Extrinsic Rewards and Workplace Readiness and that these results are consistent across the world (p. 21).

John Gibbons (Conference Board) summarizes (p. 24): "It's critical that they know they are part of something bigger than themselves." It's a form of love, reminding us of Joel Manby's Love Works and agape love. Companies are [now] proving the effects of a much more sustainable and effective leadership model. A model which ensures all constituencies win and that creates prosperity, in the grandest sense, for all (p. 35).

Crowley goes deep in Chapter 4, Engagement is a Decision of the Heart, the soul of this book. Gary Zukav, author of The Dancing Wu Li Masters, frames the root cause: Religion has become a matter of the heart and science has become a matter of the mind (p. 55). Dr. Mimi Guarneri challenges this distinction in The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals The Secret of Healing, concluding what people feel in their hearts has tremendous influence over their motivation and performance in the workplace. The human heart is the driving force of human achievement (p. 41). To Dr. Paul Pearsall the brain makes us individualistic -- focused on our own achievements -- while the heart needs interrelationship and connection (p. 42). Dr. Pearsall indicates the heart has the amazing ability of accurately detecting the nature of energy coming from another's heart and people cannot be fooled by false or unsupportive intentions (p. 48). Similarly, Bruce Creyer, co-founder of the Institute of HeartMath, shares we have learned that the heart is creating an energetic field & science is coming around to validate this (p. 54).

The Leadership Antitoxins

Crowley's prescribes four antitoxins (p. 60) for our downward leadership spiral:

  • Hire People with Heart                   Build A Highly Engaged Team
  • Heart to Heart                                 Connect On A Personal Level
  • Empower the Heart                         Maximize Employee Potential
  • Inspire the Heart                             Value and Honor Achievements

Academy Leadership's Energize2Lead, Feedback, Motivation and Coaching workshops correlate to each of these antidotes, respectively.

For practical application, Crowley offers eight steps in hiring (pp. 66-75):

• Define and Be Absolutely Clear On What Talent You Need
• Always Seek To Improve the Strength and Talent on Your Team
• Look For Evidence of Ambition and Winning Ways
• Interview With Purpose
• Involve Your Team In The Selection Process
• Obtain Job Samples
• Before You Make an Offer, Five Finalists a Clear, Thorough and Honest Summary of Your Expectations and   Job Duties
• Listen To Your Heart When Making a Hiring Decision

In a way, leadership is a calling.  Peter Senge (p. 77) pronounces that to be effective today, the leader shoulders an almost sacred responsibility to create conditions that enable people to have happy and productive lives.

Here's how Crowley suggests we connect on a personal level (pp. 81-91):

• Clarify Your Motivations And Intentions For Holding One-On-One Meetings
• Launch The Discussion By Expressing Gratitude For Having Them On Your Team
• Stick To The Agenda And Focus On Your Employee
• Discover Their Dreams and Aspirations
• Demonstrate Your Intent To Grow Them And Develop A Plan
• Use The Discussions to Grow Your Own Leadership Effectiveness

According to Covey, [leadership requires] an abundance mentality, leaders inherently must have a deep inner sense of personal worth, self-confidence and security. Building on this, Crowley insists feeling valued is essential to the well-being of all people and to the spirit which motivates performance (p. 122), leading to five recognition habits:

• Give Recognition Only When Its Earned
• Never Ration Recognition When It Is Earned
• Ensure All Recognition Is Genuine And Sincere
• Institutionalize Recognition
• Encourage People


Coming full circle, the word "encourage" dates back to the fourteenth century and, not surprisingly, means "to give heart" to people (p. 131). That is our leadership challenge.

Thank you Mark for the signed copy of your book.

Coaching Story | A Coaching Master

At long last, this month allowed a review of Durrell Hillis' Creating Iridium. Disclosure: Durrell served as Board Chairman during a significant portion of my CEO tenure at innovative systems & technologies corporation (insyte) years ago. Over the years, Durrell occasionally shared "Iridium Stories" - sometimes for example, and sometimes over a drink after a long day. Each of his stories paid tribute to an extraordinary accomplishment, usually a breakthrough technical achievement only possible within a tightly aligned "team of teams."

My instinctive reaction upon skimming early drafts of his book was that at the core, it is a story about leadership, although the numerous interviews read like a list of unbreakable sports records achieved. Durrell's interview with Bob and Chris Galvin, tucked into an appendix, offers a glimpse into the soul of leadership. Rereading their interactions - first -  allowed me to properly notice Durrell's often unspoken coaching unfolding within each chapter. It is my belief he always was, and perhaps still is, quietly serving as that rare model, both coach and mentor. Without leadership, there would be no Iridium. Thank you Durrell.

Influence & Insight | September 2016

Leadership Story | Don't Sweat the Little Things

Returning from Colorado this summer, we arrived in Tampa where our daughter Tori had been working as an Assistant Veterinarian Technician, and taking care of the house. For a month. Let's say a lot of little things looked different to me, and very likely, to my wife Cheryl as we unpacked and settled in...

The reunion was great for the four of us, especially since Tori just finished her first year of college. Her passion for animals, great and small (including things that crawl and slither) in not only intact, but increasing in proportion to all she is learning.

The most noticeable thing was the kitchen table, which was stacked with presents, either hand-made, hand-wrapped, or both along with Tori's beautiful hand-drawn gift cards. She was alone in Tampa for our wedding anniversary and Father's Day. Not only had Tori not forgotten these things, they were clearly a high priority to her. Her anniversary present to us was a hand painted wooden serving tray. The entire tray was painted turquoise, Tori's favorite color, inscribed with our family contract.

It's really easy, especially for triple-red, quick-to-judge fathers like me to draw conclusions returning home after a month. Tori reminded me that the big stuff, like our family, and how we think about each other, is far more important than a lot of little stuff that can get in the way each day. Thank you Tori, for the wonderful gift, and even more so, for your leadership reminder.

Influential Reading | The New IT

Jill Dyché's subtitled How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age, is a tectonic wake up call for an industry, as well as a blueprint for a generation of aspiring leaders. Geoffrey Moore accurately introduces Dyché's call for a new social contract between IT and the lines of business (p. x). This book is ideal for IT project managers who are witnessing the erosion of IT responsibilities and who are finding themselves immersed in political battles (p. xviii).

Dyché uses rock lyrics and an inviting intuitive, visual communication style offering three parts:

Part One              addresses IT issues (chapters 1-3)
Part Two              majority of the book focus on transformation (chapters 4-8)
Part Three            focuses on leadership (chapters 9-11)

This review focuses on Part I, IT Challenges, Real and Perceived; and Part III, Leadership in the New IT; allowing leadership opportunity focus. Part II is highly recommended as a practical and visual template for how to actually transform one's organization, with numerous case study templates.


Dyché repeatedly observes that business leaders didn't really care about the technology standards or underlying architectures -- they were laser focused on the rules of engagement between the business and IT (p. xv) -- leading to Shadow IT (p. xvi), or when businesspeople, frustrated with jargon-heavy excuse making, take on IT responsibilities outside IT's purview (p. xvi). Leadership By Walking Around could be an easy corrective step.

Technically inclined staff are more comfortable playing in the technology (competency) sandbox than solving business problems (p. 9), which may fundamentally ignore leadership character development:

Leadership Competencies

Vision and Strategy
Job Competence
Industry Knowledge
Communication Skills
Leading Change

Leadership Characteristics

Leadership Image
Developing a Following
Personal Ethics
Building Teams

Not all of the problems are due to nerdy IT introverts. A lack of vision for the future - indeed, the inability to see IT's potential to enrich the organization -- is the fault of the company's top leaders (p. 13). Solution: How about a Personal Leadership Philosophy to start.

Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big, explains more and more small companies are cropping up and staying small, and attracting the attention of your customers, and they could become your competitors (p. 15). In order to successfully rebrand their organizations and redefine their own roles, IT leaders should consider three new decision levers that will drive change: operation, connection, and innovation (p. 17).

Rahoul Ghose, CIO of Lifetouch, stresses the need for CIOs to transcend operational focus and offer business solutions (p. 18). David Delafield, [former] CFO of Swedish Medical Group (p. 19), asks: "How do you take a big company and its people and try to drive a certain amount of alignment with technology, with limited capital and resources?" Ron Guerrier, [formerly of] Toyota Financial Services, appointed division information officers (DIOs) as extensions of business units, with dotted line responsibility to vice presidents of the respective business units (p. 21), very similar to Stanley McChrystal's liaison officers in Team of Teams.

Each of five common justifications (page 26) for inertia:

"They don't give me the authority I need to do what needs to get done."
"In order to build new things, I need to destroy old things."
"When they hired me, they didn't know what they were recruiting for."
"The CEO told me I'd have influence beyond just technology."
"There's no mission here."

May be solved with a shared leadership philosophy, particularly setting and aligning expectations with one's superior and the overall organization.

A six IT Archetypes spectrum is introduced: Tactical, Order Taking, Aligning, Data Provisioning, Brokering, and IT Everywhere (pp. 28-40). Dyché describes tactical as keeping the lights and IT Everywhere as shifting control of technology to those who use it. Later, she stresses the importance of asking "What's our primary model?" Similar to the Energize2Lead Profile (E2L), consider how your organization behaves when it's under stress (p. 44).

Leadership Opportunities

Don't mistake fads for leadership. Free sushi, Ultimate Frisbee, and nap pods won't keep tech-savvy millennials, whose average tenure at companies is a meager three years, from seeking greater pastures (p. 193). Dyché reflects on her experience (p. 196): "the companies that have consistently achieved strategic objectives are those with the highest staff retention rates, and for good reason: the connection between talent and performance is only as good as corporate priorities are clear."

Dyché defines holocracy as work that is purpose driven and delivery focused, with minimized chain-of-command and hierarchical structures (p. 210), or think of Conscious Capitalism & Mackey (p. 211) explaining, "good deeds also advance the company's core purpose and create value for the whole system."

After observing Peter Schuck, author of Why Government Fails So Often, Dyché realized the dysfunctions of any kind of institution can actually be traced back to the failures of its leaders (p. 218).

Think of or our E2L, Leadership Philosophy, and Feedback workshops as forums for addressing these disconnects, or more generally (p. 228):

... the missionary work of educating different lines of business about the value of rationalized enterprise but also collaborating with executive leadership and peers around a common vision for success.


Larry Bonfante, CIO at the USTA, and author of Lessons in IT Transformation, cites three capabilities of IT Leaders: They deliver IT services and projects, they understand how technology can drive business value, they master competence of human dynamics (p. 238).

Note: Jill Dyché generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Make Team-Building Safe

Both July and August have been filled with cross-country team coaching and after action review activity -- usually with large groups -- and often bringing up tough, uncomfortable issues. Recall Crucial Conversations occur when stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. Introductory remarks, stories, and expectations can really help set the table. Here's what we tried. After an opening story, everyone spoke to a colleague about something which needed to be brought up, but hasn't been discussed in their organization. Then we shared and captured what these tough topics are. At the end of the event most in the group committed to specific changes in behavior, usually based on what was brought up earlier. Not everybody did this and that's o.k. Trust-building takes time, as we learn to create a safe environment for tackling conflicts, disagreements and misunderstandings.

Influence & Insight | August 2016

Leadership Story | Millennials

This month has found me thinking about Millennials, especially perceptions Baby Boomers have of them. Martha Stewart recently admonished Millennials in print, echoing what many mention during our motivation workshops: Lazy, entitled, unmotivated are among the most common perceptions and/or judgements. A few weeks ago, after a very late return to Denver, I hoped an Uber driver might take me 75 miles to our home in the mountains. Let me tell you about my driver that evening, Travis. He was under no obligation to take me outside the Denver metro area, and during our 80-minute drive we shared stories.

Travis is thirty-one and has held thirty jobs he can count, and has already started and sold at least one business. He is passionately curious, has worked with disabled people, and spent a summer in France working as a farmer. Oh, by the way, he is fluent in French and Arabic. His interest in languages led him to join the Army National Guard. Currently, he is a licensed commodity futures and securities, and forex broker.

Travis is on a different journey than Martha Stewart, me, and many of you. My impression is that he is searching for a life with meaning, with real authenticity. This young man is o.k. with me. We traded contact information, he's happy to take me to and from the airport, and sometime in the future my hope is to help him with his purpose.

Influential Reading | Masters of Command

“Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good piece, and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.” (from Churchill, p. 196)

Barry Strauss undertakes a deep study, or  After Action Review, about styles of wartime leadership, and their application via a detailed historical analysis and comparison of results. Although occurring centuries ago, Strauss uncovers patterns and lessons learned which we all may benefit from today. Deeply sourced, (see comments pp. 253-266), Strauss chronologically segments, compares and contrasts Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Caesar, attempting to discern who was the best leader. One may benefit from copying the three campaign and civil war maps (just before Chapter one) for repeated reference.

Let’s imagine Strauss’ Ten Qualities of Successful Commanders (pp. 6-14) as a Leader’s Compass 360 Evaluation, or a blend of leadership competencies and characteristics:

Commander Qualities

Divine Providence

Comp | Char


360 Evaluation Criteria

Personal Ethics
Leadership Image
Industry Knowledge
Vision and Strategy
Developing a Following
Developing a Following

Strauss compares these famous commanders throughout the following Five Stages (p. 15) of War, perhaps a more concise compilation of Sun Tzu’s thirteen elements of war.

Leadership Evaluation | Attack

As in a start-up (p. 30, p 64), all three commanders had deficiencies in money or manpower, but more importantly, each had infrastructure, or industry knowledge within experienced armies (p. 30). Strauss points out a decisive will, or a smart application of a Personal Leadership Philosophy, was even more important throughout this phase than moral and physical traits.

Alexander created a motivational environment by bonding with his soldiers (p. 33), a combination of cavalry & infantry, and communicated effectively with both the Persian army and Greek public opinion (p. 40) – particularly tapping into the Greek instinctive need for revenge. He developed a following as a liberator for all Greeks (p. 43), and also lavished kindness on his soldiers (p. 52), burying the dead with their weapons and exempting their surviving families from taxes.

Hannibal was extremely competent (industry knowledge), particularly with horsemen, but did not succeed in having subordinates perform well on their own (p. 35). He had the toughest situation, largely because Rome was mostly unified (p. 39), yet earned the love of his men (p. 43), employing public relations and religious appeal, and branding himself as a new Hercules. Hannibal was both manager and leader, applying cunning, ingenuity, and fortitude (p. 55), and master of strategic surprise (p. 56).

Caesar’s strategy depended on decisive speed, especially to counter his lack of a navy (p. 39). He branded himself a military giant in The Gallic War, (p. 45), and offered the Roman people a program of welfare benefits (p. 46), eventually becoming more popular than the Roman senate. With unity of command, Caesar specialized in what we call shock and awe today (p. 47), and understood the importance of understanding how enemy thinks. “He thought surprise, daring, and taking advantage of the moment (p. 60) could achieve more than preparing for a regular invasion.”

Leadership Observations | Resistance

In the past, just as today, plans meet reality, offering tough lessons and requiring adjustment. Think about SCRUM sprints employed during many effective programs.

After Granicus, Alexander had won a battle, but not the war (p. 69), making a poor decision at Halicarnassus securing a tactical victory at strategic expense (p. 72) as a result of dismissing his navy. He recovered at Issus, where his coolness, steadiness and caution won the battle (p. 75). Alexander knew his enemy (Darius) and surprised him by readjusting his cavalry, displaying terrific strategic intuition (p. 78). He also had good luck laying siege to Tyre, especially when multiple Persian navies switched sides sealing the city’s fate (p. 80).

Hannibal, with a very depleted army after his surprise crossing of the Alps, displayed uncanny leadership in a crisis (p. 85), deceiving and luring the Romans into battle at Lake Trasimene (p. 85), killing or capturing more than twenty-five thousand men. However, after this stunning victory, Hannibal indecisively did not march to Rome, only eighty-five miles away (p. 86), allowing Rome’s newly minted dictator, Fabius, to launch a civilian slash-and-burn strategy in advance of Hannibal’s army (p. 88). In addition, Rome attacked Carthaginian forces ultimately controlling most of northern Spain (p. 90), in large part due to Hannibal’s lack of strong military subordinates in his absence.

Caesar, like Alexander, wanted to defeat his enemy’s navy on land, but Pompey’s ships escaped Brundisium (p. 93), allowing occupation but not control of Italy.  Caesar seized the initiative, taking out the enemy’s strengths piecemeal, while Pompey remained operationally timid (pp. 94-95). He captured Spain in three months, displaying audacity, agility, good judgement and a combination of military and political acumen (p. 95). However, Pompey goaded Caesar into a war of attrition, Pompey’s strength, leading to Caesar’s retreat to Thessaly, outfoxed but not defeated (p.103).

Leadership Observations | Clash

This section showcased the commanders’ execution, and greatest victories, paragons of mastery (Dan Pink, Drive). Rapid growth of companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google may serve as contemporary counterparts. Each of the winners took operational and tactical risks (p. 141), but the ability to hold their armies together (p. 142) was key. A more important factor was the superior professionalism – the better infrastructure – of each victorious army. The ability to feed their men in hostile country was also a matter of infrastructure (p. 144). Think of Energize2Lead instinctive needs, as these wartime factors may be the ultimate examples of leaders taking care of fundamental needs, leading to historic results.

Alexander figured out Darius’ plan at Guagamela (p. 113) and came up with a plan to counter it, arranging a reinforced right flank and goading Darius into a surprisingly strong formation. This led to Darius’ retreat, a hard-fought cavalry attack, and Alexander’s greatest battlefield victory (pp. 118-119). After Guagamela, Mesopotamia and Iran lay before Alexander for ensuing capture.

The battle of Cannae had nearly as many deaths as the Hiroshima atomic blast (p. 120), instead using swords, spears, sling stones, horses’ hoofs, the weight of thousands marching on the fallen, heatstroke, exhaustion, terror and even despair. Similar to Alexander, Hannibal provoked the Romans into abandoning their defensive posture, and ultimately obliterated most (75 percent) of them. The Roman dual command structure (p. 123) possibly contributed to this outcome, and their focus on previous battle.

Pompey underestimated Caesar’s maneuverability and resourcefulness positioning him poorly for the battle of Pharsalus (p. 130). Pompey made a mistake giving Caesar breathing space in Thessaly (p. 133). Caesar waited for Pompey to bring his forces down from the hills, and eventually Pompey did, strategically arranging his much larger army. He didn’t surprise Caesar, who like Alexander, created an innovative rear line (behind his cavalry). Pompey’s army panicked when they encountered Caesar’s fourth line (p. 139), and were massacred.

Leadership Observations | Closing the Net

This phase offers a line of demarcation between tactical and strategic purposes. Think about your leadership philosophy, and whether it offers long-term guidance beyond a current job, program, or tactical initiative. Strauss considers this stage, when successfully performed, a transition from soldier to statesman (p. 15), and subsequently the most challenging and complex stage.

Alexander quickly attacked Susa and Persepolis, and each surrendered, allowing the young “King of Asia” to become the richest man on earth, also signaling (branding) to Greece a message of payback (p. 149). While Alexander obsessed with defeating Darius, chasing him hundreds of miles through Iran only to find eastern satraps had assassinated him (p. 150), his troops wanted to return home and enjoy their amassed loot. “Mission Creep,” continued into conquest of the Persian Far East: Aria, Arachosia, Bactria, Sogdiana (p. 156), culminating in victory at the Hydaspes, eventually followed by mutiny in late July 326 B.C., and return to Iran by December 325 B.C.

Hannibal did not attack Rome and the city did not agree to negotiate terms, leading to a strategy of surrounding Rome with a web of enemy alliances and slowly squeezing it to the point of surrender (p. 163). His allies did not help Hannibal, instead they tied him down as the Lilliputians did to Gulliver (p. 164). Needing reinforcements, he turned to Carthage, whose generals refused to risk a battle (p. 165). This allowed Rome to employ Fabius’ strategy of shadowing Hannibal’s forces and cutting off food supplies (p. 165). Hannibal eventually withdrew to southern Italy, a virtual prisoner (p. 168), paying dearly for departing his philosophy of mobile warfare (p. 171).

After Pharsalus, Caesar was rich in victory, but not in cash, lacking a fleet, manpower and ability to divide his enemies (p. 175). He wanted to take power away from the Senate and share it with the common people of Italy (p. 176). He hurried on to the chase for Pompey, just as Alexander chased Darius. Pompey escaped to Egypt, but was promptly murdered by the Ptolemies (pp. 177-178), his severed head offered to Caesar three days afterward. He returned to Rome, installed more trustworthy politicians, and headed to Africa (p. 180), following Hannibal’s strategy, awaiting reinforcements while Scipio employed a Fabian strategy. Caesar returned to Rome, was elected dictator, and launched a wave of reforms. In 46 B.C. Caesar hurriedly set out to quell corruption in Spain, winning a sloppy campaign, and again returned to pacify the political class of Rome (pp. 186-188).

Closing the net requires strategy, agility, new infrastructure and morale management (p. 188). Strauss’ finds Caesar employed the best strategy, Hannibal the worst. Alexander was standout at agility, while Hannibal was best maintaining capability and morale.

Leadership Observations | Knowing When to Stop

During Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshops most of us admit regularly setting goals but usually tracking them and following up only sporadically. Our three leaders were much the same.

Alexander’s first and biggest issue was with identity (p. 197), as he did not establish necessary administrative structures for his empire (p. 198), nor did he fully resolve unifying Persia with Macedonia. The last eight months of his life was filled with sex and violence, washed down with gigantic amounts of alcohol (p. 203). Of the two million square miles conquered in just eleven years, it looked quite different fifty years after his death: Macedon was an independent kingdom, as was Egypt. India and northeastern Iran had broken away, as had most of the Greek city-states (p. 207).

Hannibal faced the challenge of transition to statesmanship if he could survive his prior military failure (p. 208). Scipio had done so much damage in Africa that by the time Hannibal arrived, there was very little chance of defeating him (p. 209). Scipio learned from Hannibal that the war would be won by invading the enemy’s homeland (p. 210). Scipio invaded Africa while Hannibal remained in Italy, unable to go on the offensive (p. 211). Hannibal attempted a peace treaty with Scipio, was turned down, and Zama became Cannae in reverse, with Scipio the victor (pp. 215-218). Hannibal went on to a new political career at home (p. 219).

After Munda, Caesar had no more military enemies, and to bring peace, he had to shift from commanding Romans to courting them (pp. 220-221). He wanted to have the power of a king but without the title (p. 222), having himself declared dictator perpetuo, or dictator for life. Caesar instituted many reforms and encouraged professionals to immigrate to Rome. He also made plans to wage war against the Parthian empire, an Iranian state founded in a revolt against Alexander’s successors (p. 223). Caesar was assassinated the day before his scheduled wartime departure (March 15, 44 B.C), by a conspiracy of sixty senators. The tragedy of the Ides of March was a return to civil war rather than a restoration of the republic (p. 228).


None of the three ended their wars well. Hannibal’s conflict ended in disaster. Alexander avoided disaster, but he stretched his empire to the limit. Caesar ended his war most successfully. Alexander and Caesar each died as he was about to start a vast new war (p. 229).

Strauss gives the nod to Caesar as antiquity’s greatest commander (p. 249), while this masterpiece should remind each of us about humility as we address our own combination of leadership competencies and characteristics.

Note: Barry Strauss generously provided a copy of his book for review

Coaching Story | Team Coaching

Don't forget about team coaching opportunities. During a recent team coaching session (following an in-house Leadership Excellence Course) in Nevada, there were a couple noticeable takeaways. First, outside of a classroom environment, many of us are bashful about sharing our leadership philosophy. Second, conflict avoidance is common in many organizations, especially rapidly growing teams. At the end of our three-hour session, the team opened up, sharing what keeps some of them up at night, revealing heartfelt thoughts about legitimate corporate growth issues. Learning that peers shared similar anxieties and openly discussing how to address them was something not possible with individual coaching sessions. We were all surprised at the openness, and agreed to topics for a second session - thank you!

Influence & Insight | July 2016

Leadership Story

Effective coaching usually entails a two-way relationship. During a coaching session over lunch, Bob Loeper and I chatted about ways to improve journaling effectiveness. Bob mentioned a software application called Day One, which he had not tried yet. Later that week I installed the application on my iPhone, and also the corresponding client software on my laptop. My journaling has dramatically increased (43 entries since our lunch) with this easy to use application which synchronizes iPhone, iPad and laptop. For example, all of my executive coaching sessions are now captured real time in this software and I enthusiastically recommend finding an effective daily method to journal if one has not been found. Thank you again Bob and I look forward to our next session at our favorite restaurant. Hopefully I will be as much service to you as you have been to me!

Influential Reading | It’s Your Ship


We remember stories. Captain D. Michael Abrashoff narrates his inspiring command journey, via the USS Benfold, defining and aligning (via his actions) with his Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) using effective techniques similar tothose in several Academy Leadership workshops.


During assignments prior to commanding Benfold, Abrashoff detected leadership shortcomings similar to civilian observations, such as a Gallup study, which found that when people leave their companies, 65 percent of them are actually leaving their managers (p. 3).

Abrashoff deduced that leadership effectiveness depends on three variables: the leader’s needs, the organization’s atmosphere, and the crew’s potential competence (p. 3). As our Energize2Lead (E2L) profiles teach us, real leadership is about understanding oneself first, then creating a superb organization (p. 4). He didn’t fire or replace anyone, rather he tapped the potential that had never been recognized (p. 5), ultimately realizing “The more control I gave up, the more command I got (p. 6),” hence the delegation-based title It’s Your Ship (p. 6).

In business, as in the Navy, there is a general understanding that “they” don’t want rules to be questioned or challenged. For employees, the “they” is the managers; for managers, the “they” is the executive cadre…

“They” is “us.” (p. 7)

By the end of the book, Abrashoff reveals his own growth (p. 217), learning to celebrate his successor “Good for him.” He came to understand the greatest satisfaction comes from helping others reach their potential (p. 217), that the managerial role has changed from order-taker to people-developer, from authoritarian boss to talent cultivator (pp. 218-219), that victory will go to, as it did then, to the forces with the greatest horizontal leadership, the ones imbued with small-unit daring and initiative.

Management and Leadership

Dr. William Perry served as mentor and inspiration for Abrashoff. On page 33 Abrashoff realizes the difference between individual contribution and real leadership, and that some never make this jump, especially when unable to delegate technical details. Or, that he had learned to think like his bosses (p. 36); that his job was to make sure the secretary’s mind was free to think about the big problems, and his role was to create the conditions in which the policy makers could do their work (p. 40).

Living a Leadership Philosophy

While taking command of Benfolds crew, Abrashoff points out we’re in a different communication and expectations age. Never before had employees felt so free to tell their bosses what they thought of them (p. 12).

Searching for reasons why the crew was demotivated, Abrashoff assumed low pay would be the first reason people were leaving, but in fact it was the fifth. The top reason was not being treated with respect or dignity (p. 13). He resolved the key to being a successful skipper (p. 13) is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew (think of Ron Fournier in Love That Boy). Abrashoff retells a terrific story (pp. 13-14) about the US Navy applauding empowerment in theory but actually rejecting it in practice, spreading false notions of initiative.

Contrary to naval traditions, Abrashoff believed the crew’s insights might be more profound (p. 15) than even the captains (think of Stanley McChrystal in Team of Teams), and eventually the crew thought he cared more about performance and about them than about his next promotion (p. 19). Aboard the Albert David (before commanding Benfold), Abrashoff experienced poor leadership or old-fashioned command-and-control; a skipper barking orders and micromanaging everything (p. 22). He resolved not to give up on people until exhausting every opportunity to train them and help them grow (p. 23).

As in business, no one person can stay on top of it all. What’s needed is a dramatic way of inspiring people to excel while things are happening at lightning speed (p. 25). Think of your PLP. Abrashoff offers a terrific example of a normative behavioral statement (for decision making and initiative): Whenever the consequences of a decision had the potential to kill or injure someone, waste taxpayer’s money, or damage the ship, I had to be consulted (p. 27). This led to an environment of relaxed discipline, creativity, humor, and pride (p. 28).

Abrashoff reflects upon clear communication (p. 43):

Did I clearly articulate the goals?
Did I give people enough time and resources to accomplish the task?
Did I give them enough training?

And realizes:

“It’s Funny How Often the Problem is You.” (p. 43)

He shares that we as leaders need to understand how profoundly we affect people, how optimism and pessimism are equally infectious (p. 45), and that no one follows a leader who lies (p. 48), a common leadership philosophy non-negotiable.

Core Values Alignment

Abrashoff found what works best is a staff that works together and backstops each other (p. 182). Piercing a popular shibboleth:

“Forget Diversity. Train for Unity.” (p. 182)

Abrashoff began by recognizing common interests (p. 183), and did not delegate this vital task. To him, diversity training had merely made people more aware of their differences: “Our unity training focused on common interests and positive reasons to value others instead of a top-down prohibition against devaluing them (p. 186).”

In Abrashoff’s view, the prevailing zero-defect mentality is a cancer spreading throughout too many organizations, including the military (p. 192). He shares a terrific and candid story about integrated women in the Navy (pp. 192-198), which serves as a great example for any organization:

“How is it that twenty-two-year-old Gussie Jones, standing her second watch, had the good judgment and common sense to bring those sailors out of the rain when the officers on the other ship did not?” (p. 198)

A Leadership Toolbox

Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9 and 8 align with Academy Leadership’s E2L, Feedback, Motivation, Goal Setting and Effective Decision Making workshops, respectively, forming a powerful toolkit.

Abrashoff realized Dr. Perry was loved and admired because of the way he listened (p. 54); yet, like most organizations, the Navy seemed to put managers in a transmitting mode, which minimized their receptivity (p. 55).

An example of learning by listening to his crew, Abrashoff compiled two lists of all the tasks performed on the ship. List A was mission-critical tasks, List B all non-value added chores. He tackled list B with gusto (p. 58). He also learned the power of language to affect morale (p. 61) and decided Benfold was going to be the best damn ship in the Navy.

Abrashoff’s leadership cadre used every possible means of communication; including private email to key superiors, daily newsletters for the crew, and his own cheerleading for good ideas and walking around the ship chatting (p 64). He kept talking, telling everyone personally what’s in store for him or her – new goals, new work descriptions, new organizational structure, and yes, job losses, if that was the case (p. 65).

Recognizing even a broken clock (the U.S. Army) is right twice a day, Abrashoff’s crew enthusiastically utilized After Action Reviews (AARs - p. 71), recalling “When people saw me open myself up to criticism, they opened themselves up (p 72) and when they feel they own an organization, they perform with greater care and devotion (p. 73).”

Abrashoff found trust is a kind of jujitsu: You have to earn it, and you only earn trust by giving it (p. 74). He walked the talk, sharing a story offering a second chance for the junior officer – “He knew more than some of my department heads, yet he was only twenty-three and barely out of the Naval Academy (p. 77).” Acting as Superboss, Abrashoff encouraged the crew to take initiative – and made sure the officers welcomed it, compelling his staff to know one another as people (p. 94).

The Captain shares his “wake up call,” his decision that any ship under his command would be battle-ready and manned by the most highly prepared, motivated and respected sailors in the Navy (p. 133). With an overarching priority, goal setting and training flowed naturally. The point is to be sure to take responsibility as the Commanding Officer (CO), because how well the crew is prepared and how well it performs typically is a reflection of how well the CO leads (p. 137). After soliciting performance improvement feedback, Abrashoff implemented the lower deck’s ideas on how to improve the way they did business, the ship’s energy began heating up (p. 139).

Abrashoff observes leaders often think new ideas aren’t innovative or cool or complex enough, or that others have considered and discarded them. That’s a big mistake (p. 142): “We can do this better, we can help the shipyard. We can show them how to dovetail all these jobs so that nothing ever has to be redone, and the whole project gets finished on schedule, if not sooner.” (p. 144)

“Bet on the People Who Think for Themselves.” (p. 117)

“It’s crucial to practice often so that you become proficient, and also to make sure that when your junior officers become commanders, they won’t be afraid of refueling their ships (p. 118).” Abrashoff observed that many companies have cut back so much that they are only one-deep in critical positions, leaving no margin for error. He saw this as a prescription for disaster, instead committing to cross-train in every critical area (p. 119).


Eventually, Abrashoff believed his job in life was to turn kids into grown-ups who would make Edward Benfold, the ship’s namesake, proud (p. 153): “I’m absolutely convinced that positive, personal reinforcement is the essence of effective leadership (p. 156),” or put more simply, good coaching. He reminds us that people seem to think that if you send somebody a compliment online, it’s as good as the human touch: “It is not. It’s easier, but much less effective. Social interaction is getting lost in a digital world… (p. 156).”

Abrashoff shares a great on-boarding idea. “Every sailor (p. 162) who reports to us is someone’s son or daughter. We owe it to them to treat their kids well. It is our duty.”  Imagine how powerful such a statement would be in a leadership philosophy. This led to his realization that nothing was more useful – and moving – than learning why a kid had joined the Navy, and whether he or she had dreams or was just drifting (p. 171).

Are you continuously coaching, providing, and receiving feedback?  Abrashoff found the key to a successful evaluation is whether or not your people are surprised the day you give them their grades (p. 176). His was the offbeat ship that wasn’t afraid to loosen up, make the best of what had to be done, and shared fun with everyone (p. 210). Benfold taught Abrashoff the secret of good work is good play (p. 211).

Overall, this is an outstanding series of authentic leadership stories, with great relevance for any organization, and highly recommended for opening discussions in an executive retreat.

Note: Michael Abrashoff generously provided a copy of his book for review.

Coaching Story | The Power of a Fresh Start

During a series of executive coaching sessions, within the same company, a positive pattern emerged well worth sharing. The client company is currently expanding in two regions, the eastern U.S. and Canada, in each area directed by a newly promoted or a newly hired leader. Both expansion region leaders have recently developed a Personal Leadership Philosophy and have Energize2Lead (E2L) team sheets for accelerated trust building. Also, both attended a recent retreat (mentioned last month) where we discussed It’s Your Ship.

One of the new leaders mentioned in a recent coaching call that their kick-off meeting was highly energized, with specific expectations shared (leadership philosophy) and that a group has formed to support individuals and families in their (economically distressed) municipality. The organically forming support team was inspired, in part, by the story of Michael Abrashoff’s team which launched an educational initiative in San Diego. What a terrific example of multiple leadership tools launching a new corporate site inspiring action that no one had asked for! Bravo!

Influence & Insight | June 2016

Leadership Story | On-Boarding & Culture

At an executive retreat a few weeks ago, our group discussed Michael Abrashoff’s  It’s Your Ship leadership story, and more specifically, what lessons would most readily apply within the organization. The concept of on-boarding resonated strongly, perhaps inspired by Abrashoff’s realization:

“Every sailor (p. 162) who reports to us is someone’s son or daughter. We owe it to them to treat their kids well. It is our duty.”

Our plan is immediate improvements in on-boarding, not just for the company, perhaps influencing an industry. The discussion brought back memories how we did this in the military, and particularly at the USAF Academy years ago. Terrific idea and corporate goal.

Influential Reading | Love That Boy

Evolution of a Personal Leadership Philosophy

Prompted by President George W. Bush to live his book’s title as a leader, Ron Fournier at first (I) didn’t get it (p. 3).

Fournier’s meticulously referenced work may be best understood as evolution of a Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP), from a superficial (or self-centered) focus to an external (Tyler and spouse) viewpoint. Recall, one aspect of a Personal Leadership Philosophy is inclusion of personal quirks, or idiosyncrasies revealing our authentic self. With emotional grit, the well-known columnist, via the story of his Aspie (one with Asperger’s Syndrome – on the Autistic spectrum) son Tyler, narrates his transformation from a typical command-and-control manager to genuine leader who influences and inspires.

Of Academy Leadership’s three Energize2Lead (E2L) personality dimensions (Preferred, Expectations & Instinctive), two highly correlate with Fournier’s outline. Part One | What We Want corresponds to expectations & Part Two | What We Need aligns with instinctive needs. Gentle reminder: An E2L workshop teachable point of view is 75% of people are wired unlike us.

Similar to reflections by Susan Packard (New Rules of the Game) & Stanley McChrystal (Be A Gardener in Team of Teams), Fournier recognizes he (and many of us) repeatedly and unknowingly project our expectations:

• Parenthood is the last chance to be the person we hoped to be (p. 4).
• An ego-inflating career that I often put ahead of my wife and kids (p. 5).
• We rush into parenthood to compensate for our shortcomings (p. 11).

Contemporary advice abounds anchored by Heidi Murkoff’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting, considered the pregnancy bible (p. 15), social orthodoxy as described by Carl Honoré (p. 12 in Under Pressure “an extension of the parental ego – a mini-me to eulogize around the water cooler or on Web sites,” leading to “Contemporary hyper-parenting is a true product of our times,”  via Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise in (p. 14) The Overscheduled Child.

Tyler and Ron Fournier’s presidential site visits correspond with eight individual chapters, each ending with an appropriate presidential quote. This review shares leadership growth observations attributed to expectations from chapters one through six and (instinctive) needs based on Tyler’s interviews with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, in chapters seven and eight.

Expectations | Management

A common leadership revelation is realizing we have been controlling, or telling people what they should do (managing) rather than finding out what motivates and inspires others (leading). On page 23, Fournier realizes: “The problem here isn’t my son. It’s not even autism. It’s me.” In Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon believes (pp. 25-26) parents must ask “Do I simply accept my kids for who they are, or do I push them to become their best selves?”

Think about it. Aspies should actually be easier to lead since according to Dr. Tony Attwood, author of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, they harbor interest in one or two subjects (p. 32) – so there is a premium on connecting with the autistic via their interests. Like many working for disengaged managers, Aspies know when they are not the focus. Tyler offers brutal self-awareness on page 73 when queried about a Harry Potter reference: “Why do you identify with the Hufflepuffs?” He answered “They are the ones nobody cares about.”

And we push very hard, contributing to the poor leader examples such as the workaholic. Denise Pope, co-author of Overloaded and Underprepared, observes “I’ve got kids on a regular basis telling me that they’re getting five hours [of sleep nightly]” and overmedication likely abounds according to Peter N. StearnsAnxious Parents (p. 53), as Ritalin production soared 500% between 1990 and 1996.

Managers, perhaps like high schoolers, often pick the easy or the popular rather than what is right. Fournier starts seeing popularity as a trap (p. 75). In Popularity in the Peer System, researcher Antonious H. N. Cillessen – when asking characteristics of popular kids, encounters a surprising amount of negative responses (p. 70) including “mean,” “snobby,” and “hurts other people.” This reinforces the importance of declaring our values, or what is right, in our leadership philosophy. Fournier ties smart use of energy to good leadership referencing Bringing up Geeks author Marybeth Hicks, who encourages parents to pour their limited energies into raising Genuine, Enthusiastic, and Empowered KidS (pp. 77-78). It’s a terrific example of a family leadership philosophy, or family contract.

David Brooks, says “an epidemic of conditional love” is shaping parenting (leadership) early in the 21st century (p. 88),” or support based only on parental expectations. How do kids respond to this form of command and control parenting? The Journal of Research in Character Education reports one in every 10 kids acknowledged cheating in a game – twisted concepts of sportsmanship (p. 90) – while 13 percent have tried to hurt an opponent. We get what we measure and reward.

Fournier the manager (Daddy) thought he knew best. Leadership is not about presuming what is best for others: Upon learning his third child Tyler would be their first boy, Fournier reflects: “But I know what to do. I bought him a baseball glove (p. 97).” The temperamental reality is children (and employees) will seek a backup if they cannot have their preferred activities met. An example: Tyler called the bench at school his “happy place.”

Validating Dan Pink’s Drive in her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington dismissed the traditional definitions of success as money plus power, two things Huffington had accumulated in large quantities as an online publisher (p. 116). Like the best leaders, Fournier awakens to the correlation between leading and facilitating happiness, magnifying his powerful chapter six.

Expectations | Happiness | Leadership

In The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, author Dr. Edward M. Hallowell recalls early memories:

“I was also acquiring the all-important qualities of playfulness, optimism, a can-do attitude, and connectedness – qualities that have deepened in me since then, qualities that make me, for the most part, a happy man.” (p. 128)

Reading Hallowell provokes Fournier to explore these qualities, to develop corresponding normative behavioral statements (p. 129), and to formulate key elements of his emerging leadership philosophy. We can apply Fournier’s thoughts to coaching as described in (p. 132) Positive Pushing. Author Jim Taylor calls “emotional mastery” the first of three keys to a child’s success. Second is self-esteem, and third is a sense of ownership of their course in life.

Drawing from the research of psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hallowell concluded, “Play generates joy. Play becomes its own reward.” It’s a key to happiness (p. 133). The best coaching relationships are often two-way, and Tyler brings his father to tears proclaiming “I knew it was important for you that we play together. So I did. I did it for you (p. 134).” Marc Gellman provides a relevant and incisive (p. 134 “An Argument Against Happiness”) distinction: The synonym for happiness is not pleasure; it’s goodness (see choinque). Fournier approaches a new and transformed leadership position: “What do I ultimately want for my kids? I want them to pursue the happiness that is found in goodness (p. 136).”

Needs & Leaders

President Clinton and Tyler are both huge fans of Teddy Roosevelt, who exemplified grit, or what Angela Duckworth described as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals (p. 152).” Perhaps Tyler recognizes perseverance as courage, a core trait we can easily miss. Fournier comes to understand with every conversation, an Aspie risks failure, and requires mettle as relayed by Alan Dworkin (p. 153).

Clinton is like Tyler in the sense that he loves to talk about what he loves to talk about (p. 155), and shares “I liked him [Teddy Roosevelt] because he liked action and he liked reading (p. 156).” Tyler, like an executive coach, after 45 minutes with one of the world’s most famous men, sat mirroring Clinton’s posture (p. 160), capturing his instinctive needs:

“Nice guy, he talked about himself and his stuff.” (p. 163)

Returning to President Bush, Fournier observes the president’s genuine interest exploring Tyler’s needs, by way of exploring his career aspirations. In contrast, Fournier still held to his expectations: “I knew what I had wanted him to be – a ballplayer – and because of his diagnoses and these guilt trips, I wasn’t coming to terms with the fact that my dreams weren’t his (p. 172).” We cannot truly lead without understanding the dreams and aspirations of others. Stephen Gray Wallace (p. 175) calls this  “meeting them where they are.” Julie Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Company, did the same with our son Jack.

Eventually, Bush finds out that Tyler may actually wish to be a comedian, and Fournier observes: “I was beginning to think that many people are more perceptive and less judgmental toward Tyler than his own father (p. 178). Bush certainly was.” 

Leadership Transformation

Fournier transitions from manager to leader: “In the Oval Office years ago, I thought Bush had ordered me to ‘love that boy’ in spite of his idiosyncrasies. Now, I realize I love my boy because of them” to which Tyler replies:

“I get it, Dad.” (p. 181)

Tyler embraces the theory of neurodiversity, defined (see NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity) by Steve Silberman as the “notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture, rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions (p. 186).”

“Now, finally, I know what perfect is. It’s a child blessed with the grace to show goodness, even on the worst of days. No, Tyler is not my idealized son. He is my idea one (p. 199).”

Fournier is now living his Leadership Philosophy….

Thanks to my friend Hugh Hewitt for recommending this book

Coaching Story | Enduring Value of a Personal Leadership Philosophy

Here is an excerpt from an email last week:

…About a year ago, alumni in earnest began to found a Master of Science in Communication Alumni Association and, after being nominated as a candidate for President, last Saturday I stood beside other candidates before a couple dozen alumni in a lecture hall at the Evanston campus.  To work as I now do at a public relations agency and to have the opportunity to help guide networking and continuing education for 1,500 fellow alumni from Northwestern is a wonderful opportunity.  For about 20 minutes, fellow candidates and I fielded questions from the floor. You can imagine my boundless joy when a member of Northwestern’s staff asked of me and the other candidate for president this question, “To give us a sense of your leadership style, what is your leadership philosophy?” Jim, until I had the privilege of your coaching, I had never given much thought to articulating my specific philosophy of leadership, but last Saturday morning I can truly say I had no problem re-capping what I value most, what are principles I consider never to be violated, and even my idiosyncrasies and pet peeves.   They all came flooding back (I had of course reviewed the document that you and I had prepared together—I often review it the night before a Big Meeting) and I had you to thank.  I felt as if I were flying and the view from up there was terrific…

We never know when our PLP will serve us, and others…

Influence & Insight | May 2016

Leadership Story | After Action Reviews (AAR)

It seems a recent in-house Colorado Leadership Development Program team and I became blizzard magnets the past two months. During our two-day March session Denver and most of Colorado came to a halt when a fierce windy whiteout greeted our second morning.

Another winter blast greeted us during our April seminars, and both constituted an excellent topic for a practice After Action Review.

Take a look. It’s natural the group would find issues such as road closures and accommodation problems. Notice the team found quite a few positive occurrences such as ease of cell phone communication, meeting new people, and enhanced camaraderie. The multinational assembly also discovered differences between Canadian and U.S. holidays, which should be taken into future training schedule consideration. A takeaway for me was packing an overnight bag for multi-day program events, as dangerous road conditions did not allow a safe return home. Now that’s a timely and practical AAR!

Influential Reading | Superbosses

Sydney Finkelstein’s meticulously researched masterwork, subtitled How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, is a necessary resource for anyone concerned about developing people and teams.

Tracing talent sources, Finkelstein notices (p. 3) genealogical “trees:”

“If you looked at the top fifty people in these industries, you would find that perhaps fifteen or twenty had once worked for or had been mentored by one or a few talent spawners – or ‘superbosses.’”

Found in numerous industries and fields, Finkelstein focuses on a primary list of eighteen: Lorne MichaelsRalph LaurenJay ChiatLarry EllisonBill WalshJorma PanulaBob NoyceBill SandersMiles DavisMichael MilkenMichael MilesAlice WatersNorman BrinkerRoger CormanJulian RobertsonGene RobertsGeorge Lucas, and Tommy Frist.

Rather than Bossy Bosses (e.g. Donald Trump), superbosses look fearlessly in unusual places for talent and lavish responsibility on inexperienced protégés, taking risks that seem foolish to others (p. 6). Finkelstein notices many of the best bosses today tend to think of themselves as professional managers (p. 7), not leaders, and confesses his biggest discovery over time studying organizations is it really is about the people (p. 9). Finkelstein’s work systematically and empirically studies what really motivates, inspires, and enables others to achieve their full potential.

Chapter one defines superbosses and the following seven chapters (p. 9) offer a “superboss playbook – or the techniques, mind-sets, philosophies, and secrets the world’s best bosses use and other’s don’t.” Each playbook chapter concludes with useful application (…like a superboss) ideas.


Superbosses (pp. 14-15) fuel the talent for an entire industry by making other people successful. They can make any organization attractive (p. 18), quantitatively (tally successful protégés) and qualitatively (boss’s reputation). Finkelstein cites Bill Walsh as an excellent controlled environment case study (pp. 16-17), producing a dominant number of National Football League (NFL) coaches.

“If you’re a senior leader interested in creating a never-ending pipeline of world-class employees, these are the kinds of bosses you want to seek out, support, and multiply in your organization.” (p. 21)

Superbosses fall into three distinct patterns: Iconoclasts, who care about their work and their passion, such as Miles Davis, and are often artistic. Next are the Glorious Bastards, who care solely about winning, and know they need the best people to win, such as Larry Ellison, who has spawned a breadth of talent in Silicon Valley. Last, are the Nurturers, or activist bosses, who consistently guide and teach their protégées, such as Bill Walsh (pp. 25-29).

All superbosses hold common character (leader) traits including extreme self-confidence (fearlessness), competitiveness, imagination (visionary), integrity (core vision or sense of self) and authenticity (pp. 30-31). Finkelstein discovers they had their own unique and often counterintuitive (p. 34) behaviors – a clear, powerful “playbook.”

Showcasing the common habits of superbosses, Chapters 2-7 align strongly with coaching and use of one’s Personal Leadership Philosophy, and form this review’s focus.


Finkelstein recognizes superbosses deeply know their employees or team members, in stark contrast to (think Undercover Boss) clueless, distanced bosses, their complete antithesis (p. 110). Similarly, traditional managers (p. 111) often talk about coaching, but don’t actually spend their time that way. At a minimum, any leader must include coaching as a High Payoff Activity. Going further, superbosses disdain anything that might create (p. 113) physical or even emotional distance (e.g. corporate perks) from those in their charge.

What superbosses give protégés, then, is something quite rare in professional life, an opportunity to rebrand themselves (p. 133), or the ultimate alignment of one’s traits and abilities (think Energize2Lead, or E2L profile) with not just a job, but also a lifetime path. In the deepest sense, superbosses blend coaching with mentoring (mastery advocate), finding a third path between micromanagers, who are afraid to delegate because they don’t trust their subordinates, and free riders, who (p. 140) delegate without control because they are lazy or incompetent. Finkelstein shares a major theme: They [superbosses] will ultimately push protégés to step up and take responsibility for their own development (p. 143).

Another was to think about superboss coaching is lifetime coaching, in part because it’s a two-way street (p. 178), leading to networking long past working in the same organization. Finkelstein shares that some superbosses create completely new businesses for them [protégés]  to run (p. 182). Frequently this results in a hodgepodge of formal and informal relationships that can only be described as idiosyncratic (p. 185).

Personal Leadership Philosophy

Imagine amplifying your Personal Leadership Philosophy with a superboss vision, in Finkelstein’s terms; without exception unique, authentic, and consistent. Like Dan Pink, Finkelstein finds money doesn't (p. 75) fully motivate most people. Instead, as leaders we should answer questions such as: Why does [our] organization exist? or Why does [our] team exist? (p. 77), essential elements of a Leader’s Compass, with concepts such as continuous improvement or insatiable curiosity.

On page 84, Finkelstein notes that aside from their primary vision, superbosses encourage rethinking virtually everything else about their jobs, or put another way, protect the “Why,” while everything else may, if not should, be changed or discarded. Not surprisingly, innovation is the DNA of superbosses (p. 88), as they energize (p. 98) people around them, just as we find in our Leadership Philosophy Workshop. Finkelstein identifies a mindset of change (pp. 98-99), rather than a process or reaction (e.g. Kotter or Collins).

Operating principles and priorities are clear to a superboss, exemplified by “There’s something special about an environment (p. 151) in which nobody is more important than the show.” Likewise, superbosses ardently support and reinforce their protégés sense of themselves as a “chosen people” by constantly reminding them that they can accomplish anything if they set their minds to it (p. 154).

“Get It”

Chapter two, Getting People who “Get It,” warrants special mention and reinforcement. We cannot be coaches, live a Personal Leadership Philosophy, or become a superboss, without a fundamental understanding of people. Envision understanding a person’s E2L profile as a starting point, never stop learning more, and make it a top priority:

 “If your schedule is filled with meetings, how much time do you actually spend asking opinions, affirming abilities, establishing employees’ status as members of an A team, alerting them to the underlying purpose behind short-term priorities and objectives, and so on?” (p. 77)

Final Thoughts

Finkelstein’s concluding reference chapter contains numerous ideas for adopting superboss strategies into our personal leadership philosophy, our organizational culture, and our day-to-day lives. A great list of ten questions for both seasoned managers and younger, first-time managers is found on pages 201-202.

Coaching Story | Five Types of Communication

April included many executive coaching sessions, including several extemporaneous discussions including job transition planning. Widespread themes included frustrated delegation attempts, less than expected subordinate performance and exasperating explanations how to do things right. Sound familiar?

While listening and asking clarifying questions, Christine Comaford’s Smart Tribes came to mind, specifically her Clarity of Intentions and Energy description. Recall, there are five types of communication: Information sharing, requests, promises, sharing of oneself and debating, decision-making or point proving – yet only two drive results, requests and promises. As an impulsive E2L triple red, it’s frightening wondering how many times point proving supersedes request making, a good brief-back defining the future outcome along with a promise. Keep that in mind as leaders, effective communication and results are our responsibility.

Influence & Insight | April 2016 

Leadership Story | Organizational Silos and Trust

While visiting a client a few weeks ago, we enthusiastically spoke about alignment workshops, which could bring together groups from different parts of the country. This particular company has many highly trained and experienced professionals with deep technical and often military backgrounds. Which made the latter portion of the meeting and the action items all the more interesting.

Turns out, despite the strong technical abilities of the teams, or leadership competencies, the first area we ultimately agreed to work on was trust between geographically separated teams. Although having common organizational goals and unquestionable credentials, silos exist between at least two divisions. We weren’t talking about acts of corporate sabotage, rather the candid realization not everyone was on the same page. We defined a short-term action plan, allowing objective evaluations and workshops for the individual sites, enabling a language and culture of trust to form first, before our mid-term alignment workshops.

Think about that. How often have we presumed fundamental conditions of trust exist, attend workshops or retreats incorrectly assuming groups instinctively will work together, only to have everyone return to their silos afterward, with no effective changes in behavior, or subsequently improved performance?

Influential Reading | Originals

Driven by great curiosity, Adam Grant’s exploration of pioneering minds reminds us of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Sheryl Sandberg’s forward refutes the “Conventional wisdom holds that some people are innately creative, while most have few original thoughts. Some people are born to be leaders, and the rest are followers. Some people can have real impact, but the majority can’t.” (p. ix) On the contrary, Grant reveals originals

“Feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us.
What sets them apart is that they take action anyway.” p. 28

In Grant’s penetrating inquiry of what originals do can be found what good leaders often should do, and may be reinforced with a personal leadership philosophy. In multiple instances, Grant finds success more common when core values are communicated when leading change. He finds the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists -- with curiosity (p. 7) the starting point.

Grant coins the wonderful term Risk Portfolios (p. 19) explaining why people become original in one part of their lives while remaining quite conventional in others. Also, economists find (p. 22) that as teenagers, successful entrepreneurs were nearly three times as likely as their peers to break rules and engage in illicit behavior and subsequently (p. 25) they set out to create a new vision of their roles, more ideal but still realistic.

As with the Knowing-Doing Gap, application (Parts II and III) of Grant’s findings prescribe closing the gap between insight and action (p. 25). Thematic leadership references such as Situational Awareness (think Energize2Lead or temperament), Communication & Feedback and Leveraging Conflict confirm relevance and utility for effective self and organizational improvement.

Feedback and Conflict

Bolstered by Ira Glass (p. 36-37), This American Life and Robert Sutton (p. 37) “Original thinkers will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures,” originals adopt a leader mindset, embracing failure as a necessary process, while gathering critical feedback (p. 38). In contrast, when managers vet novel ideas, they’re in an evaluative mindset (p.40). Grant reveals that as we gain knowledge about a domain, we become prisoners of our prototypes (p. 41). As leaders and team builders we must consider such tendencies, especially in dynamic markets. Grant’s research instructs us (p. 42) we ought to turn more to our colleagues – e.g. fellow artists, rather than test audiences or managers to assess originality, or even better, develop a few ideas before (p. 44) screening other’s suggestions. Further, artistic hobbies (p. 47) significantly magnify originality, or the personality trait called openness. We can likewise gain breadth by widening our cultural repertoires (p. 48) and the deeper the better.

Grant indirectly advocates for objective and inclusive After Action Reviews (AARs), sharing Alison Fragale’s (p. 65) findings that people are punished for trying to exercise power without status, or when exerting influence but lacking respect, others perceive those speaking up as difficult, coercive & self-serving.

Think of (building social credits for later issues) the Accommodate Strategy in Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshop. Edwin Hollander called these tokens idiosyncrasy credits, or latitude, to deviate from group expectations (p. 67). We must approach others with new suggestions according to their expectations (E2L) since our tendency, according to Chip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick – (p. 76), is only hearing our point of view (the song in our head). This is why we often under communicate our ideas. John Kotter emphasizes we under communicate change by a factor of ten (p. 76).

Leader Timing and Teams

Grant notices great originals (p. 102) are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether,  similar to Stephen Covey’s quadrant two opportunistic premeditation. This allow us (p. 94) time to engage in divergent thinking rather than foreclosing on one particular idea.

Marketing researcher Lisa Bolton validates Grant (p. 104) “Although first movers face some advantages in particular industries, the academic research remains mixed and does not support an overall first-mover advantage,” exemplified by the terrific story of Nintendo (pp. 104-105) acquiring Odyssey’s distribution rights for Japan in 1975 and launching the successful Nintendo Entertainment System.

Grant advises as we age (p. 112), our best bet is to adopt an experimental approach, since originality depends on our style of thinking (p. 109), and Chicago Economist David Galenson‘s cautions that conceptual innovators are sprinters and experimental innovators are marathoners.

Grant recommends (p. 117) an avoid (conflict) strategy (to let people cool down and regain perspective) when forming alliances with opposing groups, especially when a faction is “all in,” such as the (p. 118) vegans showing nearly three times as much prejudice toward vegetarians as vegetarians showed toward vegans.

In a fascinating discovery, Grant reveals (p. 121) common methods of engagement (think E2L again) allow affinity formation even if groups care about different causes, showcased by Meredith Perry‘s uBeam wireless power transmission observation (pp. 122-124): “Every single person that is now working at the company didn’t think it was possible or was extremely skeptical.”

Application | Originality and Leadership

Grant again reminds us of the platinum rule (treat others the way they wish to be treated), citing teenagers defy rules when they’re enforced in a controlling manner (p. 164). Creative groups (via Donald MacKinnon) had parents exercising discipline with explanations – “emphasis was placed upon the development of one’s ethical code” – akin to a family contract.

According to Grant, (p. 177) there’s a fine line between having a strong culture and operating like a cult. Sociologist James Baron finds company founders employ three dominant organizational model templates: professional, star, and commitment (pp. 179-180), with commitment far superior to the others. Also, (p. 205) the relative importance of multiple values guides action. Or, when organizations fail to prioritize principles, their performance suffers. We should keep this in mind when composing and sharing our personal leadership philosophy or organizational values.

Recalling we all have common fears, Grant suggests (p. 214) the trick is to make fear your friend, or similar to Goldsmith, beware of our Triggers. Use energy wisely, per (p. 216) Susan Cain “Your stop system slows you down and makes you cautious and vigilant.” Rather than trying to suppress a strong emotion, it’s easier to convert it into a different one.

Dave Hoffman and Grant found that the most inspiring way to convey a vision is to outsource it to the people who are actually affected by it (p. 221), or describe a vision (p. 222) and then invite a customer to bring it to life with a personal story. The author closes with John Kotter’s admonishment that the first error (p. 232) companies undertaking changes make was failing to establish a sense of urgency.

Further Actions

Grant offers individual, leader and parent & teacher (pp. 245-254) Actions for Impact, for reference and continuing leadership improvement.

A necessary bookshelf addition for leaders, and more importantly, the curious.

Note: Adam Grant generously provided a copy of his book for review.

Coaching Story | Three Types of Feedback

Our Academy Leadership team made numerous 2016 changes to our Communicating the Vision Workshop, now called Feedback – The Essential Connection, influenced in part by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback. One of the teachable points of view in the new workshop is articulation of the three types of feedback:


Most of us are comfortable with appreciation, but (based on workshop and coaching experience) seem to co-mingle evaluation and coaching. Think of an athletic competition, say, a half-marathon race. Our most recent race time, say 2 hours and 17 minutes, is an objective evaluation – a fact.

Coaching is everything done in preparation for the next race, let’s say to bring the race time under two hours, in as positive and supportive a way as possible.

A good question we may ask is: “Am I evaluating while talking or coaching by listening?” Chances are the more we are listening and supporting the performance goal, the more we are actually coaching. 

Influence & Insight | March 2016

Leadership Story | We Want to Be Better Leaders

Returning cross-country from the recent Seattle Project Management Institute (PMI) 5 Star Leadership experience provoked multiple powerful reflections. Perhaps stimulated by PMI’s increased leadership focus (PMI talent triangle), our group of thirty-seven (34 attendees, three facilitators) manifested a commitment to Personal Leadership Philosophy development extending well beyond the course.

At least one table group continued meeting each morning at breakfast bound to help each other with feedback. Numerous attendees asked for extemporaneous coaching during breaks and lunch, creating visible one-on-one pairs in the vestibules outside the ballroom. Finally, two fellow facilitators, Judy and Jay, remained well after our 4.00 pm finish Monday-Wednesday either assisting a table of attendees or individuals wishing further Personal Leadership Philosophy refinement. The quality of final draft readings Wednesday and Thursday was evident, especially in the energy and passion of each delivery. Thank you for going all-in and creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Influential Reading | Work Simply

Know Yourself

Carson Tate’s detailed, sensible roadmap addressing typical productivity and effectiveness issues aligns tightly with Academy Leadership’s workshops and focus on self-knowledge. After first reading Chapters 1 – 3, targeted strategies, based on one’s individual productivity style, comprise a powerful and vital additional to our leadership toolbox.

Her overarching theme is personalizing our own productivity (pp. 13-14):

“Your work strategy is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods. This approach is usually unconscious and unsystematic…”

Two roadblocks to success are cited: Locus of Control & Guilt and the Shoulds. Locus of Control from Julian Rotter (p. 18) refers to the extent individuals believe they can control events affecting them. An internal locus of control means a person believes success or failure is due to themselves while an external locus of control means one believes success or failure is controlled by other people, environmental factors, chance, or fate. Tate cautions us guilt leads to shoulds (especially for self-starters), and our need to break free from them (p. 23) by establishing P.O.W.E.R. (Priorities, Opportunities, Who, Expectations and [Get] Real), very similar to essential Personal Leadership Philosophy elements.


Chapter 3 introduces Ned Hermann’s Whole Brain Model using Analytical, Practical, Relational and Experimental quadrants (pp. 27-28) leading to a Productivity Style Assessment (pp. 30-34).  Carson’s four productivity styles correlate to the Energize2LeadÔ Profile as follows:

Prioritizer    is similar to dominant red E2L
Planner       is similar to dominant green E2L
Arranger     is similar to dominant yellow E2L
Visualizer    is similar to dominant blue E2L

Characteristics of the productivity styles are detailed on pages 35-44, and beginning with pages 56-57 (and afterward throughout the book) approaches based on style are itemized, offering a lifetime, personalized reference.

Academy Leadership Workshop Alignment

“According to a 2005 study by the productivity research firm Basex, interruptions, distractions, and recovery time consume 28 percent of the average knowledge worker’s day.” (p. 48)

Tate’s Chapter 4, Manage Your Attention findings correspond to typically low self-evaluation scores in Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, and she links our neurochemical dopamine (p. 50) as a key physiological culprit. Referencing Winifred Gallagher’s (see Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life) call to recognize and exercise focus, three saboteurs usually interfere: Intense emotion, Physical discomfort and Psychological insecurity. Her solution is managing voluntary attention, with five good questions (pp. 52-53) – akin to military situational awareness.

Four primary distractions (pp. 57-59): technology, emergencies, interruptions and meetings are called out; with specific notoriety reserved for digital distractors (see Erik Brynjolfsson’s productivity paradox). E-mail is the worst culprit. The Work Simply countermeasures on pages 66-68 are outstanding for addressing interruptions, a serious issue for most of us.

Chapter 5, Set Your Priorities, is an analog to the Life’s Compass Rose exercise (from Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshop) while Chapter 6; Invest Your Time Wisely (p. 83) relates Jeff Weiner’s (LinkedIn CEO) approach to addressing urgent versus important events, comparable to a Setting Leadership Priorities workshop. Tim Feriss (The 4-Hour Workweek) offers a personalized synergistic approach limiting tasks to the important while shortening work time to limit tasks (Pareto Principle) to the important.

Tame Your Inbox, Chapter 9, combats email, a ubiquitous beast during Feedback and Setting Leadership Priorities workshops. Tate’s E-Mail Agility Circle Read-> Decide -> Act -> Contain process is marvelous; moreover she reveals effective email message techniques. Likewise, Chapter 14, Lead a Meeting Revolution (akin to Meetings workshops), clarifies six meeting types: Informational, Decision-making, Problem-solving, Brainstorming, Team-building and Instructional or skill-development, and advises us informational is usually the most unnecessary type. Tate urges a POWER (Purpose, Outcomes, Who, Execution and Responsibility) agenda (p. 238) before agreeing to any meeting.

Planning, Energy & Delegation

Chapter 7’s Think, Ask, Sort, and Keep exercise is a terrific leader’s guide for action plan creation and delegation. Tate’s idea (p. 112) for grouping action items by energy level required (she lists 7 methods) is quite appealing. Get More Done: Complete Tasks and Projects with Ease, Chapter 8, goes further by considering (p. 120) time, resources, and once again, energy level.

Stanley McChrystal’s “situational awareness” headquarters from Team of Teams comes to mind in Shape Your Space for Mental and Physical Freedom, Chapter Ten and Tate proposes establishing (Chapter 11 Stop Pushing Papers) retrieval systems rather than outmoded filing systems (p. 173) – a great reorientation – especially since so much information is available on-line.

Many dominant Planners (Chapter 12, or dominant E2L Green) struggle with delegation. Tate advises only safekeeping tasks and projects (p. 187):

• That align with why the organization hired you.
• Where you are the only person in the organization with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to complete the work and where your unique abilities are highlighted.
• That bring meaning and joy to your work.

Tate additionally presents five leadership principles for effective delegation (pp. 189-190) addressing skills alignment, delegation and feedback (coaching).

Your Personal Leadership Philosophy

Consider applying Tate’s numerous productivity ideas, especially asking for help (p. 257), in your daily routines, and incorporation into your Personal Leadership Philosophy.

After purchasing this this invaluable lifetime productivity reference, additional on-line resources and tools may be found here.

Note: Carson Tate generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Breakthrough Questions and Feedback

After an early December first coaching session, a client mentioned wishing to ask good questions, gain a better direct report’s point of view, and to simply listen better. So I mailed a copy of Berson & Steiglitz’s Leadership Conversations to her. The breakthrough progress described in our second call was fantastic, especially how much was learned by asking good questions and focusing on a positive future. “You never asked this before,” was one of the direct report replies, and more importantly, a leap in demonstrated leadership. The team shared a strong desire for a more positive work environment, flex time, PTO time, wanting to know what is “the next move for me,” as well as mentioning “fight for us” and “don’t let the producers beat us.”

We decided for our third coaching session to meet in person and review the client’s progress “coaching up” and Team Words of the Year. Her team really enjoys the “soft approach” of coaching, trusts the client enough to share critical feedback, and has a very different approach to goals for 2016. Bravo!

Influence & Insight | February 2016

Leadership Story | Sharing our Triggers

At an executive retreat in late January, thirteen corporate leaders took a large step toward working closer together in preparation for regional expansion. Working in small groups, each participant identified several trigger questions based on Marshall Goldsmith’s Triggers, specifically Chapters 9 and 10. We added their trigger questions to the group’s Energize2Lead detailed team sheet, now allowing individuals to ask each other if they did their best each day in a variety of professional and personal situations.

In our final workshop (it was a three-workshop retreat) we developed normative behavioral statements for the company’s seven values. This is a challenging task for a one or two hour workshop, and we plan to re-evaluate and share the behavioral statements throughout 2016. What a terrific way to start the year!

Influential Reading | Smart Tribes

Be Smart

Christine Comaford deeply explores the human condition and shares remarkable results addressing three things leaders (p. 1) request: increased performance, increased innovation, and increased emotional engagement. From the term “tribe” originating in survival based on belonging (p. 2) and our fight-or-flight response Comaford’s designates our Critter State (p. 3), in contrast to our preferred Smart State. When a team, and culture, operates in a Smart State, then the team is a SmartTribe:

SmartTribes are focused and communicate clearly and directly. They are unusually accountable to their promises and powerfully influential. And they have the energy and enthusiasm to do what needs to be done – consistently. (p. 3)

Via diagnostics (Part 1), solutions (Part 2 - the five SmartTribe Accelerators), and an Action Plan (Part 3 – including Case Studies), Comaford persuasively demonstrates performance improvement and return on investment via sustained SmartTribe behavior, backed by James Heskett and John Kotter’s Corporate Culture and Performance findings. (p. 4)

Diagnostics | Our Brain | E2L

Comaford cites (p. 9) talent constraints affecting corporate growth (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers CEO Survey) & profitability, and diagrams typical revenue inflection points (pp. 12-13) with recommended breakthrough solution paths. She compares Industrial Revolution (p. 16) management with contemporary leaders exhibiting SmartTribe Accelerators: Focused, Clear, Accountable, Influential & Sustainable Results, and further advises treating the (organization) system rather than individual symptoms. (p. 13) Evolving and optimizing one’s people – the company’s culture -- is always the hardest part of the process. Wisely, Comaford begins all engagements with assessment.

Pointing out human triggers (think Marshall Goldsmith and Mark ReiterTriggers), Comaford begins a deep neuroscience dive into our brains, reminiscent of our Energize2Lead (E2L) profiles. Our neural connections and association giving us meaning are formed between birth and seven years old, very much like our E2L instinctive dimension. Carl Buchheit of NLP Marin (p. 24) combines the limbic system with the survival mechanism in the reptilian brain calling it the critter brain, similar to Maslow, focused on survival, not quality of life. This ignores the neocortex part of the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, which enables us to plan, innovate, solve complex problems, think abstract thoughts and have visionary ideas (p. 25).

Our leadership challenge then, for innovation and growth, is aligning an organization with the Smart State rather than the Critter State. Brené Brown in Daring Greatly calls on us to rehumanize work reigniting innovation and passion. (p. 25) Reminding us of Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind, engagement, excitement and passion reside in the right hemisphere of the brain, primarily in the temporal lobe (think yellow and blue E2L colors). Or put more simply, Comaford points out (p. 29) a SmartTribe synthesizes the Critter (emotional) and Smart states – the best of both. Page 33 lists behaviors that send us into our Critter State (think Conflict Management Workshop Hot Buttons Exercise) and Smart State.

…if team members yelling at or disrespecting one another, gossiping, and public beheadings are considered normal, then you may be dealing with a Critter State, fear-driven company culture. (p. 30) 

Accelerators | Personal Leadership Philosophy

Carol Dweck, in Mindset, asserts we must embrace a growth mindset, which requires seeking feedback, as required in our Personal Leadership Philosophy. (p.30) Comaford adds that our brain’s thalamus may delete what we don’t want to see, hear, feel or deal with (p. 40), challenging our need to focus on the now - by being present with conflict and increasing safety – in order to develop trust. (p. 43)

Similar to the (Academy Leadership Advanced Communications Workshop) Committed Communications Process (Boss Talk, Lauridsen & Sherman), Comaford calls for clarity of our words, of our vision and plan, and of our intentions and (demonstrated) energy. (p. 51) In her Clarity of Intentions and Energy, five types of communication -- information sharing, requests, promises, sharing of oneself and debating, decision-making or point proving -- only two drive results, requests and promises. (p. 59)

Comaford defines accountability: Assigner’s Clear Expectation + Owner’s Agreement + Personal Rewards and Consequences = Self-Ownership and High Accountability. (p. 69) This allows for Needle-movers, (p. 70) very similar to High Payoff Activities (HPAs), including minimum and mind-blower targets. She adds trust (think instinctive E2L) is broken in three ways: Capability, Commitment or Character, and Ego triggers (hot buttons) occur when competence, significance, or lovability is questioned. (p. 80)

Worthy of a separate book, Comaford introduces our Map of the World (identity, beliefs, resources, behaviors, capabilities and limitations), and that neuroscience-based techniques can edit (influence) ours and other’s Maps. Three tools for editing Maps are rapport, flexible behavior and influencing phrases. Comaford distills Shelle Rose Charvet’s Words That Change Minds, Meta Program influencing process (which could be called “Applied E2L”) into six key Meta Programs (pp. 102-105) similar to E2L dimensional color combinations: Toward-Away, Options-Procedures, General-Specific, Active-Reflective, Internal-External, Sameness-Difference. Recall from E2L, 75% of people are wired differently than we are – reinforced in a case study of a talkative Fortune 1000 insurance CFO. (pp. 111-112)

For sustainable results Comaford stresses focus on outcomes (p. 120), energy management (E2L), and win-win (conflict leadership) agreements. Her Energy Allocation Chart (p. 121) exercise is a great idea. Lastly, she introduces Dr. Stephen B. Karpman’s drama triangle comprising Victim, Rescuer & Persecutor roles and how that leads to problem rather than outcome focused influence styles. (pp. 125-127) With an outcome focus, the drama triangle roles transform into Outcome Creator, Insight Creator and Action Creator, respectively, releasing energy and confidence. This is ideal for empowerment-based coaching sessions. (see chart p. 129)

Action Plan | Case Studies

“…we have found that if you start inward at the core/culture and align the outer layers (e.g. environment, behavior, capability) with the inward changes, your changes will be deeper and lasting.” (p. 138)

concludes Comaford using Gregory Bateson’s systems theory delineating six concentric (p. 139) levels of change. This explains why most reorganizations rarely improve culture (p. 140), adding weight to focus on identity (aligned action and values - see Jim Collins) and culture. However, Rodger Bailey’s Organizational Change Adoption Path (p. 146)

Resistance -> Mockery -> Usefulness -> Habitual -> New Standard

Acknowledges 65% of Americans can tolerate change only if it is couched in a specific context (e.g. don’t use the word change), so we must be patient while becoming a SmartTribe. Additionally, organizations must become learning organizations in order to be effective (Peter Senge), including Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision and Team Learning. (p. 156)

Four compelling case studies, addressing representative dysfunctions, offer an energizing finish:

1. FounderitisReed Hastings (CEO Netflix) “In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success.” (p. 164)
2. Silos, sabotage & system dysfunction – two founders at war; aggressor & saboteur splintering organization into two camps. (p. 176)
3. Chaos Culture – Fear driven culture with owners believing sales were the only issue, with actual problems much deeper. (pp. 184-185)
4. Crushed Culture – Mentioning 2011 a Gallup Poll – 71% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” (p. 193) highlighting three companies in early stage cultural death spirals.

Comaford’s case study solutions effectively reference her Navigating Common Revenue Inflection Points (pp. 12-13), and usually addressed more fundamental issues than the client anticipated.

Additional Tools

SmartTribe (p. 200) includes solutions (book chapter references) to common scenarios; additional references on page 207, and a practical appendix with numerous exercises. Overall, this book is highly recommended for corporate leaders genuinely interested in lasting change and anyone who wishes to facilitate lasting communication and behavioral change.

Note: Christine Comaford generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Implementing Our Action Plan

Similar to reticence sharing a Personal Leadership Philosophy after a Leadership Excellence Course, it can likewise be challenging initiating changes codified in our Action Plans. During our series of three (after a September 2015 Leadership Excellence Course) coaching calls, it was apparent my client, a Project Management Professional (PMP), immediately put her Action Plan into motion.

Summary of her Action Plan:

Leadership Behavior: I will arrive early for work
What it Looks Like When I Am Successful: Perception about my commitment may improve
Leadership Behavior: I will be less sarcastic about hiccups and challenges
What it Looks Like When I Am Successful: Perception about my willingness to accept change may improve
Leadership Behavior: I will tackle the challenging stakeholder, share my philosophy and my profile
What it Looks Like When I Am Successful: This may provide understanding about who I am and what my needs are

It was very clear during our first coaching call that all three behaviors were undertaken, leading to “life changing” results. Turns out she was offered a significant new position at a different company, and is now leading a group of 30 people for a multi-year project. Great job and thank you for the feedback!

Influence & Insight | January 2016

Leadership Story | Ask to Lead

Remember to share your passion to grow as a leader, especially if your position as a Project Engineer (manager) may appear to be more of a staff rather than line position. From an email this past month:

I attended the 5 Stars Leadership course in September in Denver and I wanted to say thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity!  I attached my leadership philosophy to my annual self-assessment.  Yesterday I had my review with my boss. He was very impressed and inspired by it and rewarded me a salary raise, a promotion with a leadership role, and a new office!  How cool is that!
I apologized if I did not give any news since the class was over. I travelled to visit my family in Québec right after the class, and then I got very busy at work. 
I hope we can keep in touch. 
Happy Holidays to you and your family,
Merci beaucoup,

Often sharing our Personal Leadership Philosophy for the first time creates anxiety, fear of the unknown, etc. If we don’t ask to lead, others may not know!

Influential Reading | New Rules of the Game

Susan Packard shares timely, personal and practical stories centered on how women may succeed today in her subtitled 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace, with additional lessons, insights and reminders for men. Seven rules form Part I (Chapters 1-7), whose practice lead to emotional maturity skills in Part II (Chapters 8-10), together comprising an authentic leadership lifestyle.

Think Games and Sports

Packard introduces a convincing career & coaching sports analogy via Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee’s Athletic Director, who had no trouble competing with boys. (pp. xv-xvi) Each chapter starts with a game (sport) context, then correlates the theme to business, followed by relevant stories with numerous successful female leader’s stories. Each chapter ends with Your Turn – questions to ask yourself, appropriate for a personal Action Plan.

Packard’s use of the term Gamesmanship reminds one of Dan Pink’s term Moving in To Sell is Human, in that these terms center on lasting influence, rather than current fads. Dr. Jane McGonigal, from Institute for the Future, advocates four positive traits of video gamers: Urgent optimism, Social connectedness, Blissful productivity and Epic meaning; offering supplementary context. (pp. xvii-xviii)

Be an Athlete

Men enjoy competing, and typically that is the framework of business. Correlating findings in GoldsmithLyons & MacArthur’s Coaching for Leadership, Packard notes many women focus on self-mastery, or perfection, rather than leveraging existing talent via competition (p. xxi). She does not sugar coat realities for women, or persisting inequalities (p. xxiii), such as bossy (women-bad) and aggressive (men-good). She also includes typical female advantages such as collaboration, observation and listening (think Energize2Lead, or E2L personality profile).

Know Yourself

Chapters 1 and 6 discuss conditioning and practice, starting by “getting in the game” via line experience, financial knowledge & global perspective. (p. 3) Packard recommends a creative posture, as many positions today may constitute indirect line functions. Linking a Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) to the future mission of an organization is a great application and Dean Gilbert provides an  example how looking ahead in a larger organization (pp. 8-9) can spark innovation.

Packard recommends learning company metrics (p. 13) and broad financial knowledge (e.g. Dow Jones Industrial Average, p. 15). She also emphasizes most of the world’s customers live outside our domestic borders and (p. 22) learning the importance of trust (instinctive E2L dimension) leads to lasting partnerships and professional relationships.

Referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, (p. 108) Packard advocates active (vocational) practice, (p. 111) postscript meetings similar to an After Action Review (AAR), as well as rehearsals. She includes a terrific story about staying curious on pp. 112-113, and the recommended habit of lifelong reading (e.g. ForbesFortuneWall Street Journal). Her ideas to balance industry learning by day (reading) with fun reading at night, demonstrate wise energy use and prioritization.

You Are Being Watched

Chapters 2, 7 and 8 highlight how women may be perceived, encouraging self-awareness. Packard mentions how women are being watched and evaluated all the time (p. 27), especially for their “hot buttons” (think Conflict Leadership Workshop), and corresponding emotional responses, similar to Goldsmith’s Triggers. She also stresses body language awareness, keeping in mind voice tone and body language (Communication Workshop) may convey far more than words. Likewise, what you wear to work every day is part of your workplace brand - does your wardrobe align with your leadership philosophy? Packard also advises (p. 33-34) economy of words very similar to the military BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front style.

Packard cites how Padmasree Warrior, Silicon Valley leader, meditates each night to “reboot,” stressing energy management (p. 39-42), and knowing your personality type, especially instinctive needs. Similarly, she advocates attitude control, using an example of being turned down for a promotion as a choice to learn or be a victim. As an example, Colleen Repplier stayed professional while losing a promotion opportunity, creating relational capacity, which allowed her to become President of Tyco Fire Protection Products. (pp. 144-145)

Your Personal Leadership Philosophy and Career

Chapters 3-5 address (career) development, and likely challenges along the way. Packard encourages asking for what you need to be successful, diplomatically, and how this differs from old school assertiveness (illustrative story p. 50). She shares her (p. 53-54) early vision of a future cable network as an example. When we incorporate leadership development and vision in our PLP, asking “what’s next” is natural not aggressive.

Similar to Academy Leadership’s Conflict Strategies matrix, is Packard’s Brinksmanship Strategy. Collaboration (win-win p. 63) is the ideal goal, but keep in mind you may be on a playing field requiring more assertive competition. Carly Fiorina offers good advice from Tough Choices, don’t take competition personally. Packard takes this further, recommending humor, trust & working well with men, citing The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up by Scott Christopher and Adrian Gostick (pp. 86-87). When forming HGTV, Frank Gardner’s No Asshole Rule – or let’s not hire anybody who will blow up the place, considered the opposite of humor in corporate culture.

Altogether, women wishing to run a company need to work on competency, results & trust, yet often (p. 93) do not want to take the time. Recall, trust is the most important (instinctive) part of our personalities. Supporting themes in Working With Men: Engage constructively, Manage Confrontation & Build Rapport, while always adding value (p. 102), finish the point.


Chapter 9, Show True Grit, dominates Part II. Imagine taking care of your (E2L) instinctive needs over time, and allowing emotionally mature habit formation. Packard sees Grit as Resilience, as Defense, and as Courage, reminding us Michael Jordan missed over 50% of his shots and that professional baseball players bat under .400. Angela Duckworth’s study of grit finds perseverance and conscientiousness more predictive of success than intelligence. (p. 154)

Packard includes Diane Coutu‘s (Harvard Business Review) synthesis of organizational resilience factors:

1. An acceptance of reality
2. Deep beliefs in larger value systems
3. Remarkable ability to improvise

Honesty and feedback within an organization, clear vision and aligned values, and continuous improvement via After Action Reviews align well, respectively, with these three factors.

Packard shares a difficult and personal story on pp. 159-160, demonstrating her own grit and courage, eventually seeking professional help. In a way, this is similar to asking for feedback via our leadership philosophy, except the circumstances are most extreme.

Pages 167-170 features an outstanding set of fear or conflict-avoidance questions many career women (and likely men too) have. Like our hot buttons, if we do not control them, then our fears control us and hold us back.

Your Lifetime Leadership Philosophy

Chapter 10, Be a Team Player, posits we have both a work team and a home team. (p. 173) Packard defines culture as combination of leadership, values, and how the team gels to carry out its mission, and that a company can be successful, at least in the short term, with corrosive values (p. 175), including lack of trust.

She shares how HGTV formed, focusing on the importance of great culture and trust (p. 177), and the general importance in picking the right team – or company – to join including the smart idea to ask HR for examples how the organization lives its values. Packard finishes with thoughtful meditation on work-life balance, girlfriends, and purpose, especially after achieving professional success.

Athlete Becomes Coach

Packard’s epilogue is a gem, sharing her leadership realization:

“The big aha moment was realizing it was no longer about racking up my own personal wins.” (p.199)

She follows with networking and women’s advocacy stories, coming full circle to her current role as coach and mentor.

A must read for professional women and anyone serious about coaching.

Note: Susan Packard generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Don't Forget Special Needs

A client reached out this month with an unusual, and admittedly personal, coaching request. Turns out one of his recently assigned direct reports has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Was this a personal request? (Our son’s condition can be considered Asperger’s) Was this a professional request? Good question.

My reaction was gratitude that a client trusted me enough to ask, and it certainly says a lot about a company that will not just hire, but invest in and develop a young professional with special needs.

We had a long conversation, blending coaching techniques, personal stories, and suggestions for books to read for additional perspective. In a way, the call was a gift to me and a reminder what coaching really is. Thank you!