Influence & Insight | December 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Create a Safe Environment

One of my coaching clients is eager to implement numerous improvements in a rapidly changing information technology organization. Among the targeted improvements is more open and candid communication, especially in meetings. Over lunch, we discussed techniques and ideas worth trying. Three topics came up.

First, use of our personal leadership philosophy. Setting expectations, which may include how we should communicate with each other, is a vital part of anyone leader’s compass. We may even call out the need to keep key stakeholders in mind when making critical decisions, especially when leading teams in a support role to a larger enterprise.

Second we discussed how a safe environment may be created. We discussed our recent Academy Leadership Advanced Communications Workshop, which showcases Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler’s pathfinder Crucial Conversations. The authors share that people who are gifted at dialogue keep a constant vigil on safety; or paying attention to the content of the conversation — that’s the easier part — and further, watch for signs that people are becoming fearful. Think about all the wasted time spent in meetings where real issues are avoided, or the conversation is entirely one-way information sharing. Listening to my client, it sounded as though historical conflict avoidance still exists, and needs to be addressed.

Which leads to our third topic, from Jeff Sutherland’s SCRUM, where he shares how poorly we are at estimating factors such as program cost and schedule. However, Sutherland notes, we are pretty good at making comparative assessments. 

So we put it all together. The client, in a coaching role, can ask the team, on a scale of 1 to 10, with one unsafe, ten extremely safe, how safe they feel bringing up difficult topics and working through them. Let’s say the consensus today is a three for the group. My client can now request that the team work on improving their environment, and perhaps increasing the number from three to five or six in the next several months. It’s also a good idea to see if this new expectation is supported by his leadership philosophy, which he is actively sharing with the group.

How well does your team communicate? Does your team tackle substantive conflict, or tend to avoid uncomfortable topics? Great leaders create a safe environment.

Five Stars | Book Review

“Emotional connection is, indeed, the winning ticket in a world where technologies such as automation, big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating millions of jobs and disrupting entire industries, businesses, and careers.” (p. 7)

Carmine Gallo builds on The Storyteller’s Secret in his new work subtitled The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great. Gallo continues with relevant case studies such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, noting

Siri and Alexa are digital personal assistants that live in the cloud; Lin-Manuel Miranda is a human composer who lives in our hearts (p. 1).

Gallo goes deeper in the this work essentially challenging each of us (read the conclusion on page 215 first) to Find the Tune That Makes Your Heart Sing. He references Dr. Larry Smith (University of Waterloo) who, after 23,000 career conversations with his students is convinced passion and communication are two qualities required to achieve success in any field (p. 215).

In short, by answering Why? Who? and How? we can better understand how to move people, how to excite them, and how to ignite their imagination (p. 3). Gallo convincingly argues emotional connection is the key. This review connects Gallo’s Why? Who? and How? sections to leadership habits we should be practicing. Gallo’s 5-Star principles are summarized at the end of each chapter for easy reviewing.

Why? | Communication | Connection

Fundamental communication skills are not new. Andrew Carton identified the rhetorical formula behind Kennedy’s successful communication (Apollo Program) and explained how his speaking skills triggered massive action (p. 19). Gallo emphasizes that Kennedy made [people] feel, combining what Aristotle called Pathos and Logos: emotion and logic (p. 20). We may additionally combine persuasive techniques, such as those used by Thomas Paine in Common Sense (p. 23):

Antithesis            Juxtaposing two contrasting ideas.
Anaphora             Repetition of the same word or words in successive
sentences or within clauses.
Alliteration          The repetition of similar letter sounds in two or more words
in a group
Parallelism           Several parts of a sentence are expressed in a similar way
to show the ideas are equally important, adding balance and
rhythm to a speech

Recall in our Feedback: The Essential Connection workshops, our role as leaders is to make connections primarily through our words and actions. That’s why our written Personal Leadership Philosophy is so important. According to Andy Grove a leader’s first task is to form a mental image of what he or she wants the company or division to look like (p. 31).

In Dan Pink’s Drive, he broadens use of the word persuade to the more encompassing and active term move. Gallo similarly cites that persuasion (think move) is now 30 percent of the U.S. economy, according to economist Gerry Antioch (p. 36). Increasingly, we’re returning to classical rhetorical knowledge. Gallo reminds us Aristotle believed that audiences found a speaker (think leader) to be trustworthy if the speaker (leader) had three characteristics: wisdom, virtue, and goodwill (p. 42). A speaker (leader) must back up the argument using three rhetorical proofs: logic (Logos), credibility (Ethos), and emotion (Pathos).

Of the three criteria, Pathos leads to vital emotional connections, and subsequent action (influence). Why? Emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events, says molecular biologist John Medina (p. 45). Apple understands this. According to Angela Ahrendts, vice president of retail:

“The more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more we need to go back to the basic fundamentals of human connection.” (p. 53)

Who? | Curiosity | Culture | Breakthrough

For Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, his approach runs deeper than just passion. He calls his style the manifestation of curiosity (p. 66). We can think of curiosity as source fuel for passion.

When we extend curiosity to teams, breakthroughs may result. Anders Sahlman promotes interdisciplinary work drawing together experts from different fields and academic disciplines –- with different values, assumptions, and methodologies – and asks them to perform research together as a team (p. 76). Over time, a culture of learning (see The Knowing-Doing Gap) and openness may form. Alfred Lin (formerly of Zappos) has said a major part of a leader’s role is to keep the culture and the mission of the company front and center (p. 86). Bravo!

In elementary school and college there is great focus on mastering technical skills and accumulating knowledge. Just think about all of the credential designations we wear as badges of honor (e.g. MBA, Ph.D., CPA). However, in a recent Hart Research Associates survey of over 300 employers more than 93 percent of employees said that when making hiring decisions, a job candidate’s ability to think critically and communicate clearly outweighs their choice of college major (p. 99). Yes, we need to know our business. However, in a Gartner survey of 485 CIOs, the second-most important (first is business knowledge) trait to be a successful CIO is “communication skills to influence decisions.” (p. 110)

Gallo mentions that neuroscientists are proving the ancient brain is wired for story (p. 137). We often hear other terms for highly developed communication know-how, such as soft skills. David Rock (in Strategy + Business), which merges neuroscience and leadership, frames soft skills via the acronym SCARF (pp. 123-129):

Status:                We don’t like to be compared unfavorably to others on a team.
Certainty:           People hate not knowing.
Autonomy:          “A perception of reduced autonomy can easily generate a threat response.”
Relatedness:       “If you help people grow personally they’re going to serve their customers better.”
Fairness:             Fairness is served by transparency.

Empathy matters. Other people want to know we care. Dr. David Feinberg (CEO Geisinger Health)  exemplifies this via a wonderful CICARE Program (see, I care) | Connect, Introduce, Communicate, Ask Permission and Anticipate, Respond & End with Excellence (p. 121).

How can we sustain this? Curiosity, or as Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi models:

Leaders must be lifelong learners. (p. 130) 

How? | Storytelling

According to Alan Alda, the missing ingredient in communication is empathy or what actors call “relating.” (p. 147). Soft skills and sharing stories may seem very weird, or outside our comfort zone. How to start? Gallo lists three kinds of stories we can tell (p. 157):

• Stories about personal experiences
• Stories about real customer or clients
• Stories about signature events in the history or a brand or company

Our Personal Leadership Philosophy already offers personal insights. If we tie elements of our leadership philosophy to customer stories and milestone company events, we probably have a powerful story, which will lead to a more energizing culture.

Gallo illustrates a useful Three-Act Storytelling Structure on page 165: Act I The Set Up, Act II The Confrontation and Act III The Resolution and correlates a Hollywood Screenplay to a Business Presentation. It’s a simple and effective template for developing an effective business story. Give it a try.


Great communicators are made, not born. (p. 214)

Note: Carmine Gallo generously provided a copy of his book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Focus on Culture

During a “catch-up call” with a client, my colleague shared that her prior company was acquired by a larger one. During the acquisition, despite a generous offer, she

made a decision to seek a new opportunity at another small company rather than stay with the larger one. The new firm sounds technically sophisticated, hip and rapidly growing - overall a fun place to work and develop at the same time. 

Curious, I asked her how in her HR role she could make the biggest difference from a leadership development perspective. Soon the discussion turned to culture. It sounded very familiar, and brought back my own startup-up CEO memories. The new company is tightly run by a CEO and CTO, or Chief Technology Officer, with an aggressive goal of tripling revenue in three years and has recently added 30 new employees. There is concern at the company about retaining the culture during this period of rapid growth, which appears to be guided today by an unwritten set of core values that everyone more or less “just knows.”

Recall that during an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, all attendees draft a written Personal Leadership Philosophy, as part of their Leader’s Compass, or True North. It’s a pretty unusual kind of thing to write, and also a powerful way to share who we are and what we believe in. Perhaps more importantly, a good leadership philosophy has humility, and makes a commitment to receiving feedback, or accountability, so that we may continue growing as leaders. In an Academy Leadership Advanced Leadership Course, all attendees go further, and develop succinct definitions of their organization’s core values along with normative behavioral statements, or clearly written descriptions of what each of the values looks like in action. We can take another step and develop an Organizational Constitution, as S. Chris Edmonds advises in the culture engine. These exercises are meant to discover, or reveal culture, not “impose” it. Think about that.

The timing sounds perfect and my impression is that my colleague is just where she wants to be, at just the right time. Well-known business leaders such as Tony Hseih of Zappos learned the time to codify core values and make critical decisions such as hiring or firing based on them, is before rapid growth, not after.

What are your core values? What is your leadership philosophy? What informs your decisions as a leader? Great leaders focus on culture.

Influence & Insight | November 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Use Development-Driven Decision Models

During an Advanced Leadership Course with six attendees, we found ourselves repeatedly comparing development-driven decision making with time-driven decision making. For some in the group, the whole idea of a development-driven decision may have been a brand new idea. This should be no surprise. Imaging you are a project manager. Most metrics are tied to fundamental criteria such as cost and schedule, or time.

In a time-driven decision making model, we use decision quality, implementation, and cost as our criteria, with a short-term focus. Think of the typical quarterly financial reports to Wall Street for a publicly-traded company. This model uses the least amount of time to obtain a high quality decision that is effectively implemented. Notice anything that is missing? The time-driven model attaches no value to the development of people. This probably explains why training and development budgets are frequently the first budgets cut when belt-tightening.

In a development-driven decision making model, we use decision quality, implementation, and development as our criteria, with a long-term focus. Think of the best professional sports team, which often have successful farm teams. Think of the companies mentioned by authors such as Jim Collins in Built to Last. The development-driven model uses the most developmental alternative consistent with a high quality decision that is effectively implemented. This model also attaches no value to time.

We revisited Coaching Tips for The Average Performer from our prior Coaching to Develop People workshop, such as finding out what motivates them, teaching them to set goals and rewarding them whenever possible. You see, how we coach, or develop the average performer, over time, will be our long-term report card for leadership effectiveness. If all we care about is cost and schedule, and never people, our report card probably won’t look very good. However, if we adopt a development-driven leadership style, on average the people who work for us will continue to grow and become more successful. Imagine what that report card will look like.

What style do you use? Have you ever tried development-driven decision making? Leaders Use Development-Driven Decision Models.

Radical Candor | Book Review

“Am I showing my team that I care personally?”
“Am I challenging each person directly?”
(p. 172)

Kim Scott shares a personal, insider’s view of leadership in Silicon Valley. Read her deep and candid acknowledgement (pp. 233-238) section first, and consider what Scott poured into this book. Consider Radical Candor a contemporary guideline how to conduct Crucial Conversations as part of an everyday leadership approach.

Scott shares many classical, hard-driving, management focused traits at the beginning of her career. Eventually, she found herself caring less and less about the core business metrics, instead figuring out how to define and teach others this “better way” to be a boss that she had developed (p. xiv).

An organic development -- from manager to coaching-leader -- anchors the book. Scott realized that a boss’s ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening and seeking to understand than it did with telling people what to do (p. xvi).

Part one frames the current leadership landscape and introduces the Radical Candor Quad Chart and Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel, while part two explains how to apply Scott’s tools and techniques as a modern, effective leader. This review summarizes key leadership principles (and relevant Academy Leadership workshops) from each of the two sections. Chapter Three: Understand What Motivates Each Person on Your Team – may be considered the anchor of her book.

New Leadership | Trust | Feedback

In our Leader’s Compass workshops, we define what leadership means to us and learn that credibility and trust form the foundation of effective relationships. Scott’s definition of a leader:

Bosses guide a team to achieve results. (p. 6)

She comments that very few people focus first on the central difficulty of management (via her colleague Ryan): establishing a trusting relationship with each person who reports directly to you (p. 7).

Radical Candor may occur when we care about our whole self and care about each of the people who work for us as a human being (p. 9). How do we challenge others directly? Scott informs us the hardest part of building this trust (challenge directly) is inviting people to challenge ourselves (p. 14) first.

According to Scott, challenging others is better than passivity, or if you can’t be Radically Candid, being Obnoxiously Aggressive is the second-best thing you can do (p. 25).

radical candor quad.png

Both left-hand quadrants, Ruinous Empathy and Manipulative Insincerity are to be avoided, likely the result of sustained conflict avoidance. Manipulative insincerity happens when we don’t care enough about a person to challenge them directly (p. 30).

Scott challenges the classical  9 Box Matrix talent model developed by McKinsey in the 1970s (p. 46), preferring the word growth to potential. Or put another way, she believes everyone has potential, but not everyone aspires to the same vocational goals. This was a belated, yet significant realization for Scott, and says a lot about her leadership philosophy.

For example, people in a superstar phase are bad at rock star (think steady performer not seeking promotion) roles, and people in a rock star phase will hate a superstar role (p. 49). Recall in our Coaching to Develop Leaders workshops, that our ultimate scorecard as leaders will reflect how well we coach the average (think rock star rather than superstar) performers.

To achieve collaboratively what you could never achieve individually, you need to care about the people you’re working with, which leads to Scott’s Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel (p. 81). 

The wheel starts at the top with listening. As with a knowledge sharing process (see The Knowing-Doing Gap), Scott instructs we may create a culture of listening by (p. 86):

radical candor cycle.png

1. having a simple system for employees to use to generate ideas and voice complaints,
2. making sure that at least some of the issues raised are quickly addressed,
3. regularly offer explanations as to why the other issues aren’t being addressed. 

Take a look at debate. It’s an unusual listing. Scott reminds us the spirit with which a debate is launched often determines the tenor of what follows (p. 95), like the safe zone from Crucial Conversations. 

Recall a good leader explains why, rather than rely on pure authority. Scott emphasizes classic steps of persuasion: pathos, logos, and ethos representing emotion, logic and credibility, respectively (p. 102). She implores continuous learning, even when pressure to be consistent and burnout conspire against us (p. 108-109), as the hallmark of a continuously growing leader. 

Tools & Techniques | Feedback | E2L 

Recall day one of a Leadership Excellence Course, and particularly the Energize2Lead workshop, focuses on learning about ourselves. Scott likewise prioritizes the same: The essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances. You can’t give a damn about others is you don’t take care of yourself (pp. 114-115). Scott cautions against treating values sharing as a merely a writing exercise. The most important thing to do is to stay in touch with your personal values, and to live them (p. 121). 

After learning about ourselves, we may then learn about others. As in our Feedback workshops, Scott promotes using the “platinum rule”, or figuring out what makes other people comfortable, and doing just that (p. 124). 

On page 129, Scott introduces a Guidance Box, similar to a Johari Window, which includes Praise and Criticism on one axis, and Get from, Give to & Encourage between along the other axis (p. 129). This aligns well with the three forms of feedback: (see Thanks for the Feedback) Appreciation, evaluation and coaching. Continuous coaching leads to positive outcomes. Scott captures a very good list of coaching questions on pages 204-205. 

Scott shares many examples and stories that essentially describe her growth as a coach. She attributes a noteworthy quote to Fred Kofman: (Conscious Business)  

“Is there anything I could do or stop doing
that would make it easier to work with me?”
(p. 132) 

Scott reflects that one of the funniest things about becoming a boss is that it causes an awful lot of people to forget everything they know about how to relate to other people (p. 142). For example, it’s important to have career conversations in which you get to know each of your direct reports better, learn what their aspirations are, and how to help them achieve those dreams (p. 174). 

A terrific chart is included (p. 197) comparing traits of Absentee Management, Partnership and Micromanagement models. One example is Hands-off, ears off, mouth off; Hands-on, ears on, mouth off; and Hands-on, ears off, mouth on, for each of the three traits, respectively. 

Another golden nugget: Scott shares a list of different meeting types (p. 200), and emphasizes that 1:1, or face-to-face meetings are the most important: 

1.   1:1 Conversations
2.   Staff Meetings
3.   Think Time
4.   “Big Debate” Meetings
5.   “Big Decision” Meetings
6.   All-Hands Meetings
7.   Meeting-Free Zones
8.   Kanban Boards
9.   Walk Around
10. Be Conscious of Culture 

Imagine how effective each of your meetings would be if the objective or type meeting is announced in advance with specified outcomes. 


The ultimate goal of Radical Candor
is to achieve results collaboratively.
(p. 199) 

Scott Sheffer, who took over Scott’s job when she left Google, said repeatedly that the single most important thing she’d done to help him set him up for success was to focus on the team’s culture. (p. 224) 

Note: Kim Scott generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Embrace Conflict and Disruption

By the third follow-on executive coaching session after a three-day Leadership Excellence Course, a chemistry usually forms between coach and learner. It is important to understand that the best coaching relationships are two-way: for sharing, for learning, and for continuously improving. Two positive indicators of substantial learning and ongoing chemistry from a recent coaching session come to mind. The first involves conflict. Most of us seem to naturally avoid conflict, let’s just say years of observation support the claim. It was a delight then to hear that the client wishes to work on conflict leadership. His words: Conflict Leadership. Not just conflict, or difficult people. He used the word leadership. That was a terrific sign he really got a lot out of our Academy Leadership Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshop. It also made me think of all the things we usually do to avoid conflict which can hold us, and our teams, and our organizations back. In Michael Roberto’s extremely well-researched book Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes For An Answer, he argues that leaders must cultivate constructive conflict in order to enhance the level of critical and divergent thinking, while simultaneously building consensus in order to facilitate the timely and efficient implementation of the choices they make. A very strong argument. 

The second indicator was my favorite part - we discussed books, what we learned from them, and most importantly, what we are doing differently afterward. Many of us become so busy, we seem to lose our curiosity, which in turn leads to further losses we probably are not even aware of. My client emailed a list of books, all worthy of reading and reviewing, and I asked my client to look on the choinque bookshelf page online to view my recent review of Whitney Johnson’s S-Curve diagram from Build an A Team. You see, one of the issues my client faces is reluctance to learn, reluctance to change, among several more experienced team members, legacy employees, who have become rather set in their ways. In his industry, travel, innovate or die is existential reality. He thought Whitney’s S-Curve perfectly captured his situation. We both learned a lot in that session.

Who coaches you? Who do you coach? How do you constructively cultivate conflict? Are you and your team curious? Leaders Embrace Conflict and Disruption.

Influence & Insight | October 2018

Leadership Story | Great Leaders Pace Themselves

August was time for vacation, and was also time for the fall semester for college students. After a successful two-day drive returning our daughter to her apartment and roommates, we had a day together before leaving Tori to begin her senior year. It was a gorgeous morning and we found ourselves at Buttermilk Falls State Park, just southwest of Ithaca, NY, for a discovery hike. After just a few minutes it was pretty obvious who was focusing on hiking first, and who prioritized discovery. A feeble defense is in order. You see, Tori is very observant, and enjoys all creatures, great and small. We climbed alongside the falls, which were to our left, while steep, terraced slate rock rose above to our right. Lots of nooks and crannies. Temperature, humidity and lighting were perfect. By the time I noticed several species of spiders, including a few very animated daddy longlegs, Tori had found an abundance of creatures, including a brightly colored, and not small, millipede. She was ecstatic, in her element.

Daniel Kahneman would have smiled at this scene. In his landmark book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he introduces two modes of thinking: Fast Thinking, often impulsive or instinctive, and Slow Thinking, deliberate, often rational, and frequently in conflict with Fast Thinking. Guess who was thinking fast, and who was thinking slow? Kahneman closes his work with chapters on Experienced Well-Being and Thinking About Life. Some of that seemed to be happening, especially when slowing down attempting to observe through my daughter’s eyes. 

After multiple admonishments to slow down, and missing a frog, three more millipedes and the occasional slug, I relaxed and followed. Immediately, it was noticeable that virtually all the other visitors to the park — save a lone photographer carefully awaiting the perfect combination of light, water and background —hurriedly rushed past us while mostly looking down at their smartphones.

It was clear who was the leader that morning. We experienced well-being and shared thoughts about life throughout the day. Great Leaders Pace Themselves.

The Introverted Leader | Book Review

"Introverts also have unique qualities that make them particularly
suited to leading people toward great results." 
(pp. 1-2)

Jennifer Kahnweiler, who introduced us to The Genius of Opposites, narrows her focus and shares developmental insights for the introvert, a worthy companion to Susan Cain's Quiet or Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. 

Imagine a financial or accounting department, largely comprised of inward-focused (dominant green-blue Energize2Lead colors) professionals. It's practically a self-fulfilling prophecy that individuals in such a department would see themselves more as internally-focused subject matter experts than future corporate leaders.

Kahnweiler informs us of changes starting to take hold in organizations across the world, where diversity of style and temperament is becoming increasingly important to consider in addition to race, ethnicity, and gender (p. xv). More and more, the complexity of organizations is calling for new leadership approaches. As a result, an expanding model of leadership beyond one based on extroversion (pp. 5-6) is called for:

• Solving pressing problems
• Increasing engagement
• Creating productive workspaces
• Enabling extroverts to tap into their introverted side
• Accomplishing more together 

This review highlights key leadership chapters four, seven and eight; Leading People and Projects, Networking Your Way, and Communicating and Coaching for Results, respectively.

Challenges | Solution | Managing Energy

Kahnweiler sets the stage with six key themes emergent as significant barriers for introverted leaders (p. 8): 

• People exhaustion.
• A fast pace.
• Getting interrupted.
• Pressure to self-promote.
• An emphasis on teams.
• Negative impressions. 

Recall on the first day of an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, we begin with a fundamental three-dimensional personality profile - Energize2LeadÔ, or E2L - workshop. The E2L profile helps us understand what activities genuinely energy us, and which increase stress, consume our energy, and are tiring. Each of the six barriers listed can be viewed as large energy consumers, particularly the first four. Especially given the frequency of collaborative projects today, a significant part of a leader's role is to connect with people, and without awareness and tools to manage their energy, introverts can become exhausted (p. 9). 

As in her prior work, Kahnweiler (pp. 15-17) visualizes a process for us, the four Ps:

Introverted Leader | The 4 Ps.png

Prepare  This comes naturally to an introvert. Put it to work.

Presence Focusing on others - engagement 

Push Challenge to leave one's comfort zone (disruptive)


Since introverts (green-blue dominant E2L colors) are energized by learning details and planning, the preparatory first step is a great way to start, and building an energy reserve first may make the next steps less fatiguing.

Leading People and Projects | E2L | Instinctive Needs 

An introvert's tendency to observe and process information before making judgements or decisions can be a powerful leadership advantage. Adam Grant mentions that introverts "tend to be less threatened by others" ideas. And they'll collect a lot of them before determining a vision (p. 29). Again, when we deeply understand others, or what makes them tick (think E2L instinctive needs dimension), we'll make a lasting connection and are well prepared for effective training, coaching and mentoring [which] will increase [the] chances of leading and managing others successfully (p. 31).

In our Feedback (Communication) workshops, Leadership by Walking Around is mentioned as a powerful means to "close the loop," or capture vital observations. For an introvert, it may be thought of as additional data collection. Kahnweiler advises that being present with people and projects is an essential part of being an introverted leader (P. 40). A few strategies:

• Walk around
• Write it down
• Listen like a leader 

The third P, Push, will likely be needed in order for introverted leader delegation. Kahnweiler notes "It's tempting to keep a lot of tasks for myself because the energy required to delegate effectively feels high," (p. 51) and subsequently shares several Delegation Hot Buttons on page 52. The first one is significant and calls out for a developmentally based mindset:

I don't want to take the time to train someone else vs. This is an
investment with great potential payoffs. Developmental mindset: The
rewards of building confidence in my employees and freeing time for
me to focus on what matters is worth the training time.

Networking Your Way | Connection

Making connections with people as a leader cannot be overstated. While this may be unnatural to an introvert, a closer look at "why" may help. Kahnweiler defines networking as building relationships for mutual beneficial exchange (p. 94). Well, the deeper we get to know someone, whether in our organization or outside, the higher likelihood a substantial mutual benefit may occur. Conversations about substantial topics, as opposed to small talk, is what leads to connection (p. 101). Kahnweiler calls this substance talk. Terrific term.

Put another way, what happens when a highly observant introvert takes the time to ask a deep question, either in person or through a social media channel? Chances are, the other person will respond favorably, since a lot of networking and social media is superficial communication. In a way, the introvert has a natural advantage. Kahnweiler reminds us that connecting is about reciprocity, and what you have to offer other people in your interactions is important to know (p. 95).

Knowledge sharing also comes to mind (see The Knowing-Doing Gap), or a way of sharing distinctive and positive things about one's organization. Kahnweiler notices that "These leaders use social media to share information on company culture, shine a spotlight on employees, share personal aspects of themselves, and engage in efforts to be more transparent." (p. 97) Consider planning and executing a networking or social media strategy as part of essential leadership communication.

Communicating | Performance Coaching

Watch almost any extrovert in a practice coaching (workshop) session, and observe who is doing most of the talking. In almost all instances, the extrovert is talking more than 50% of the time, and often far more. That's not coaching. Introverted leaders find their natural propensity for preparation contributes greatly to communication success (p. 110). There's no more significant area for an introvert to align personality with performance than coaching.

On pages 115-117, Kahnweiler outlines and discusses the coaching session process GROW: 

Goal           Define the issue or problem.
Reality        Describe the situation.
Options      Understand possible solutions.
Will            Commit to an action plan.

This aligns with both our Coaching Formsand follow-on Action Plans. Each of the GROW steps may be completed in advance, or in preparation for the coaching sessions, a practice which the introverted leader is ideally suited for.

A useful table on page 124 How to Communicate with Extroverts vs. How to Communicate with Introverts gives tips how each type wishes to be approached (think expectations E2L dimension).  


The main takeaway is that introverts are favorably positioned as natural 21st century leaders. Kahnweiler repeatedly brings up the natural habit of introverts to make a plan, write it down, and record how it is working (p. 157). She included an excellent journal format to do this on pages 158-160.

Note: Jennifer Kahnweiler generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Great Leaders Focus on Energy

A recurring theme recently is staying healthy and energized. During an executive coaching session a client shared that a key personal goal is better health for increased energy. Turns out this is a good idea since eight more people were just added to her team. In an Academy Leadership Excellence Course follow-on coaching session, a client shared they are waking up an hour earlier to exercise before work and stopped drinking cappuccinos. Several pounds lost already - very energizing. Next goal, schedule a long-overdue checkup. ChoinqueCast Episode 18 was with Chris Edmonds, and it’s most interesting that he shared the importance of health as he had a personal scare decades ago. Anyone notice a pattern here?

Perhaps we should revisit Charles Duhigg, who, in the The Power of Habit, introduced Keystone Habits - which don’t create direct cause-and-effect relationships but can spark “chain reactions.” A keystone habit, or set of them, can be life changing. The best coaches realize this, and perhaps by modeling this behavior, we can inspire others to do the same.

Also recall in Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement, the focus on energy management. The old paradigm: Manage time while the new paradigm calls for us to manage energy. Likewise, we should seek stress in the sense that life is a series of sprints punctuated by productive downtime, or rest.

Energy. Health. Keystone habits. We should all aspire to these routines. Great Leaders Focus on Energy.

Influence & Insight | September 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Cross Generations

While facilitating a Leadership Excellence Course this week, we separated attendees into three generations during a motivation workshop:

Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X born between 1965 and 1977
Generation Y born between 1977 and 2000

Baby boomer group perceptions of Gen Y included:

• Sense of entitlement, digitally connected all the time, did not pay their dues, sought equality and lacked loyalty. Interestingly, impressions also included:

• They are full of energy and innovation, have new perspectives and like change - all the time.

Gen Y perceptions of boomers included:

• Stern, rigid, unwelcoming, direct, challenged by adaptability, and tech averse. Additional Gen Y observations:

• Boomers are natural mentors, experienced, and loyal.

One of the key takeaways from the workshop is that we often get caught up with negative perceptions of others and forget that all generations wish to be treated well as any good leader should.

At the end of the course, one of the Gen Y attendees described it:

“This program is great for understanding and developing what leadership really looks like. As someone who was younger in the class, it provided me with great real-world experience that was discussed in a group and collaborative setting. I found the structure and pace of the class was easy to follow but never became overwhelming…”

Indeed, this Gen Y attendee demonstrated what was just captured in the motivation workshop: Energetic, thirsty to learn and collaborate, and ready to make positive changes in a rapidly changing business environment. Very energizing comments. We should keep this in mind when indulging our perceptions.

Good leaders see the best in others. Leaders Cross Generations.

Thinking in Bets | Book Review

"I realized pretty quickly that I hadn't really
left academics so much as moved to a new kind of lab

for studying how people learn and make decisions." (p. 2)

Annie Duke offers a fascinating, unique and engrossing comparison between leadership decision-making and poker playing in her work subtitled Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All The Facts. In our Academy Leadership Effective Decision-Making workshops (see Vroom) we distinguish between time-based and developmental-based decision making noticing how several decision-making criteria differ between the two. Both methods require effective Decision Quality, and Duke's laser focus on self-improved decision quality over a successful poker playing career offer vital lessons for all leaders.

Many of us struggle with daily distractions, and the pressure of making decisions with imperfect or incomplete information. Duke informs us that is the normal state in poker, where over the course of a hand of poker, [one] could be involved in up to twenty decisions. And each hand ends with a concrete result: Win money or lose money (p. 2).

This review highlights key terms and tendencies both poker players and leaders encounter, highlighted in bold along with great takeaway quotes.

Poker and Life | Imperfect Information

Duke shares a poker player term for our tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome: "resulting" (p. 7). This habit is likely worse when a favorable result occurs and we don't take the time to understand why. Ask yourself how frequently an After Action Review (AAR) or other form of evaluation takes place when everything seems to work out just fine? Keep in mind the difference between a wrong decision and a bad decision; Wrong decisions are part of life (bad outcome) and bad decisions (bad process) are essentially unforced errors.

When we don't review or assess our decisions, our minds are likely to create blind spots, such as hindsight bias, or the tendency, after an outcome is known, to see the outcome as having been inevitable (p. 10). Duke cites Colin Camerer as to why this happens: "We have this thin layer of prefrontal cortex made just for us, sitting on top of this big animal brain. Getting this thin little layer to handle more is unrealistic." (p. 13).

Duke offers a key insight: Chess, for all its strategic complexity, isn't a great model for decision-making in life, where most of our decisions involve hidden information and a much greater influence of luck. Poker, in contrast, is a game of incomplete information (p. 21). It's very natural to wish for more, or perfect, information, just like a chess Grandmaster. But our real world is much more like poker.

On pages 23-24, Duke shares the story about Vizzini (from The Princess Bride), demonstrating the peril of making decisions with incomplete information (p. 23). Vizzini, perhaps like us, made assumptions when additional facts (both cups were actually poisoned) were not available. That poor decision-making process (unforced error) cost his life.

Accepting uncertainty, or that life is indeed like poker, is a great start. The more we move away from a world where there are only two opposing and discrete boxes that decisions can be put in -- right or wrong -- we start living in the continuum between the extremes (p. 34). 

Beliefs | Truthseeking | Motivated Reasoning

Let's presume we've accepted uncertainty. Now it's time to examine how we form our beliefs, or how we base our bets on what we believeabout the world (p. 48). Duke shares this is how we thinkwe form abstract beliefs (p. 50):

1) We hear something;
2) We think about it and vet it, determining whether it is true or false; only after that
3) We form our belief.

In fact, we actually form abstract beliefs this way:

1) We hear something;
2) We believe it to be true;
3) Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false.

Duke introduces a term to help us guard against this tendency. Truthseeking is the desire to know the truth regardless of whether the truth aligns with the beliefs we currently hold (p. 55). We can consider this a form of self-coaching, such as Marshall Goldsmith's realizations in Triggers. It's a vital habit and skill. This is because once a belief is lodged, it becomes difficult to dislodge (p. 59), and this irrational circular information-processing pattern is called motivated reasoning.

Rather than jumping to right/wrong or yes/no judgements, we can imagine gradients or percentages indicating levels of confidence or certainty. Or, as Richard Feynman (p. 72) put it: "Statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but statements of what is known to different degrees of certainty..."

Learning | Self-Serving Bias | Outcomes

Duke stresses the importance of curiosity, or continuous learning: The people who learn from experience improve, advance, and (with a little bit of luck) become experts and leaders in their fields (p. 78). But uncertainty, or chaos, may trip us up. Jeff Boss likewise describes this in Navigating Chaos. "Self-serving bias" is the term for the pattern of fielding outcomes (see Fritz Heider) - or our capacity for self-deception has few boundaries (p. 89). Duke cites an amazing and hilarious array of excuses auto insurers have encountered on claims. Where does this bias come from? Just as with motivated reasoning, self-serving arises from our drive to create a positive self-narrative (p. 94). It's simply natural to do. Remember, losing feels about twice as bad as winning feels good; being wrong feels about twice as bad as being right feels good (p. 114).

There's a real human, leadership lesson here. Have you ever made snap judgements that a lucky outcome (poor process, good outcome) for you is because I am goodand an unlucky outcome (good process, bad outcome) for another isbecause they are bad? The systematic error in the way we field the outcomes of our peers comes at a real cost. It doesn't just come at the cost of reaching our goals but also at the cost of compassion for others (p. 102).

Feedback | Decision Pod

Throughout the book, Duke describes the importance of a group of world-class poker players who formed a decision pod. As leaders, we can generalize: Members of our decision pod could be our friends, or members of our family, or an informal pod of coworkers, or an enterprise strategy group, or a professional organization where members can talk about their decision-making (p. 125).

This coincides with the importance of feedback in our Personal Leadership Philosophy. Not just mentioning that we have an open door policy. Lerner and Tetlock (p. 129) offer an effective feedback process:

"Complex and open-minded thought is most likely to be
activated when decision makers learn prior to forming any
opinions that they will be accountable to an audience:

a) whose views are unknown,
b) who is interested in accuracy,
c) who is reasonably well-informed,
d) who has a legitimate reason for inquiring into the reasons behind participants' judgements/choices."

Again, this looks like an After Action Review type process. Duke offers a handy list of six questions on page 138 to examine the accuracy of our beliefs, useful to ask ourselves or to have others ask of us.

Truthseeking Rules | Sharing Information

Duke references Robert K. Merton's twelve-page paper (part of a 1973 book) as an excellent manual for developing rules of engagement for any truthseeking group (p. 155). Duke's observations appear aligned with an approach for crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap. Recall Pfeffer & Sutton's The Knowing-Doing Gap, where the authors discovered that the few breakthrough organizations crossing the gap all embraced knowledge sharing throughout their organizations as a systematic process.

With courage and humility, Duke shares how rapidly her poker performance improved when she embraced this practice:

Admitting that the people I played against had
things to teach me was hard, and my group helped
me feel proud of myself when I resisted the urge to

just complain about how lucky my opponents were. (p. 162)

Duke has gone a bit further with this approach, finding the best way is to deconstruct decisions beforean outcome is known (p. 167). It's a terrific self-evaluation or self-coaching idea.

In general, the truthseeking approach reminds us of Crucial Conversations techniques, in particular probing with humility and looking for early signs of agreement with the long view in mind. Duke lists several ways to communicate to maximize our ability to engage in a truthseeking way with anyone (pp. 172-175):

• First, express uncertainty
• Second, lead with assent
• Third, ask for a temporary agreement to engage in truthseeking
• Finally, focus on the future

Strategic Thinking | Tilt | Backcasting

We've all heard about publicly traded companies making poor decisions to satisfy the next quarterly investor call. Well, as individuals, we're no better. Away from the poker table, we don't feel or experience the consequences of most of the decisions we make right away (p. 179). 

Duke shares the poker player's worst enemy is tilt, when a decision is made while emotionally unhinged, and in a way visible to other poker players (p. 197). It's a great term we as leaders should adopt. We've all had this experience in our personal and professional lives: blowing out of proportion a momentary event because of an in-the-moment emotional reaction (p. 199).

Imagine a strategic planning session, where the team starts with a written future goal. Then work backwards to identify critical milestones. Backcasting makes it possible to identify when there are low-probability events that must occur to reach the goal (p. 220). This allows introduction and discussion of negative outcomes if the low-probability event does not occur. One of the reasons why this is effective is because we are more likely to execute on those goals if we think about the negative futures (p. 224), according to Gabriele Oettinger.

Think about your next strategy session. A planning process that includes a premortem, or backcasting, creates a much healthier organization because it means that people who do have dissenting options are represented in the planning (p. 225).


This is much, much more than a book about poker. Duke has deeply researched this work, with a considerable selected bibliography and recommendations for further reading (pp. 253-266). It will change how you consider decisions and improve your effectiveness as a leader.

Note: Annie Duke generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Coaching is the Heart of Leadership

Have you ever left a business due to lousy service? Of course you have. How about afterward? Did the business, upon realizing you no longer wished to be a customer - magically seem have unlimited resources, processes and procedures available to regain your loyalty as a customer?

This past week such thoughts are on mind. A colleague who I’ve had the privilege to coach, on and off over the years, shared with me that he has been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan, yes a dreaded P-I-P. What happened? What’s really been going on? Has there really been good communication, especially feedback, occurring?

Recall the three types of feedback are: Appreciation, evaluation and coaching - from Douglas Stone and Sheila Sheen’s wonderful book Thanks for the Feedback. In our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses, we repeatedly observe that evaluation and coaching are often mixed up, and that, sadly, real coaching rarely occurs in the workplace.

We discussed the Performance Improvement Plan. It stated that necessary coaching and feedback - notice they are listed separately - will be offered. The plan also stated that my colleague is ultimately responsible for improving and meeting the objectives of the plan. How interesting. Lots of process. Lots of procedures. Lots of evaluation. I asked my colleague if he is coached by his supervisor with any regularity. What do you think the answer was? 

You’re probably not surprised the answer was “no.” Perhaps coaching is only done within this organization when something is not working correctly. Imagine a sports team operating that way. The players compete with no coach. Only after it’s obvious the team is not winning, does the organization introduce what may even loosely be called coaching. Further discussions also indicate a good bit of turnover within this group, including people who quit rather than submit to a Performance Improvement Plan. Again, how interesting. Additional review seemed to indicate the supervisor really wants someone who will devote the majority of their time managing people and projects. Plenty of evaluation. Not so much leading. It’s unfortunate that my colleague appears to work for a manager/supervisor, and maybe not so much a leader. Unfortunate, but typical.

Leaders take responsibility for their individual team members. Leaders coach. Coaching is the Heart of Leadership.

Influence & Insight | August 2018 

Leadership Story | Leaders Persuade

Ever notice how some of the greatest lessons are found by looking to the past? As what we may call a purpose-driven economy expands, and the global competition for talent likewise increases, the importance of communication skills in leaders becomes paramount. Leaders must be able to communicate well with different constituencies, from the board room to customers, and perhaps most of all, to the individuals and teams they directly lead. 

In Carmine Gallo’s new book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, he describes President Kennedy’s ability to persuade audiences that a person could set foot on the moon by the end of the ’60s decade. Kennedy didn’t convince us with facts alone, he made us feel. He combined what Aristotle called pathos and logos: emotion and logic. When we read Kim Scott’s current bestseller Radical Candor, she likewise shares with us that a good leader explains why, rather than rely on pure authority. Scott also cites the three classic steps of persuasion: pathos, logos, and ethos representing emotion, logic and credibility. A timeless lesson from Aristotle, and more important today than ever before.

The best leaders are lifetime learners. They look ahead and they learn from the past. The best leaders communicate. Leaders Persuade.

Out of Our Minds | Book Review

"Organizations that make the most of their people find
that their people make the most of them. That is the

power of innovation and creative leadership." (p. 244)

Sir Ken Robinson's macro-scale book, subtitled Learning to be Creative, is meant in part for national and international educational policy makers. A treasure trove of insightful and sobering demographic statistics trace the roots of modern education and perceptions of intelligence to industrial-age mechanistic thinking.

Just like our contemporary leadership challenge.

The focus of this book review is on the individual leader, and primarily how a single person may position themselves as a creative leader within an organization given the historical legacy Robinson describes. As a result, much of this reflection examines and discusses Chapter 9, Being a Creative Leader. Key passages and findings are offered from earlier in the work, both to set up the creative leader imperative and to highlight the need for changes in a leader's mindset.


In 2010, IBM published Capitalizing on Complexity, finding three widely shared perspectives of global business and public sector leaders (p. 12):

• They believed that a rapid escalation of complexity is the biggest challenge confronting them.
• They are equally clear that their enterprises today are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity.
• They agree overwhelmingly that the single most important leadership competency for dealing with this growing complexity is creativity.

While many business leaders bemoan the lack of a trained workforce (look at construction workers in the American West today), one could argue employee staffing is only a tactical, or near-term issue. Robinson is asking us to consider a vastly different point of view as a leader:

"It is impossible to grasp the differences between
his [William Shakespeare] view of the world and ours
almost 500 years later, when business travelers routinely
fly across continents to attend meetings for the weekend

and then forget where they've been." (p. 21)

For our purposes, let's equate the challenges in how to think about education with the challenges of the contemporary leader. New forms of work [creative industries] are creating a demand for new sorts of skill and aptitude (p. 43), or more simply, a new mindset.


According to McKinsey, companies are in a war for senior executive talent that will remain a defining characteristic of the competitive landscape for decades to come. Yet, only a third of employers provide training beyond the job (p. 71). In Academy Leadership Excellence Course workshops, the differences between management and leadership are discussed at length. Inevitably, a leader is usually described as concerned about people rather than simply work processes or projects. We can call this the developmental mindset.

Robinson muses (p. 107): "We ask how to promote creativity and innovation but stifle the processes and conditions that are most likely to bring it about." What can we do as individual leaders? Consider whether or not curiosity is mentioned in your leadership philosophy, or the importance of an open environment welcoming diverse thoughts or points of view.

Robinson defines creativity as:

The process of having original ideas that have value (p. 151).

Arthur Koestler goes deeper and describes these [creative insights] as a process of bi-association: when we bring together ideas from different areas that are not normally connected (p. 158). As leaders, we can take advantage of our frequently diverse work environment. Rather than attempting to manage or direct others, we may cultivate curiosity. Robinson reflects that some of the most interesting breakthroughs in science, technology and the arts come from reframing the question, just as Copernicus and Galileo chose to question whether the earth was the center of the universe (p. 162).

Leadership and coaching go hand in hand. Robinson describes creative leaders [with high emotional intelligence] are more likely to coach and mentor their staff, rather than direct, in order to encourage them to develop their unique skills and abilities (p. 175). We could say this allows a crossing of the Knowing-Doing Gap, or rapidly turning knowledge into action. Expanded across an enterprise, Robinson observes that the creativity of a culture depends on how open these networks are and how easily we can access knowledge. Creativity is about making connections and more often than not, it is driven by collaboration as much as, if not more than, by solo efforts (p. 212). 

Application | Being a Creative Leader

Nine principles, focused at a personalgroup, or cultural level are presented; on which to develop a systematic culture of creativity and innovation via three processes (pp. 219-220):

• Imagination:     The ability to bring to mind events and ideas that are not
                             present to our senses.
• Creativity:        The process of having original ideas that have value.
• Innovation:       The process of putting original ideas into practice.

How may this start? Just as with a culture of leadership development, creating a culture of innovation will only work if the initiative is led from the top of the organization (p. 220). 

Personal Principles (pp. 225, 228 & 230)

Everyone has creative potential. A common tendency within companies is to think of innovation as a distinct function rather than an inclusive, corporative imperative. Making things worse, organizations may seek outside experts, rather than rely on valuable internal insights. No wonder then, that according to Gallup, 59 percent of 'engaged employees' strongly agreed that their job brought out their most creative ideas, while only 3 percent of 'actively disengaged' employees said the same (p. 226).

Innovation is the child of imagination.

Ask yourself if you have ever been reluctant to delegate for fear a mistake might occur. Consider the opposite, or, as Peter Richards puts it, a creative organization is first and foremost a place that gives people freedom to take risks (p. 228). Recall from our Creating a Motivational Environment workshop, leaders don't actually (or, directly) motivate people.  Robinson showcases the environment at Pixar, where there is a constant flow of new ideas running through the whole organization. People are constantly meeting each other from different areas of the organization and are reminded that they are all part of a single effort (p. 230).

We can all learn to be more creative.

Again, think of the developmental mindset. How many businesses treat training budgets as secondary, rather than primary? For McKinsey the moral is straightforward:

"You can win the war for talent but first you must elevate
talent management to a burning corporate priority." (p. 231)

Group Principles (pp. 233, 235 & 237)

Creativity thrives on diversity.

By diversity, we're not just talking about bringing a token "outsider" onto all all "insider" team. Robinson shares that for each project at IDEO, a team of specialists is brought together from different disciplines, including: engineering, product and industrial, ergonomics, behavioral sciences, marketing and market research (p. 234). The objective is unifying the amazing breadth of ideas by those who think differently. This allows the overall organization to be more in tune with the needs of the changing cultural environment in which it is operating (p. 235).

Creativity loves collaboration.

In our Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshop, we learn that compromise (gain-gain) and collaboration (win-win) are the positive strategies. According to Randy Nelson (Pixar University), collaboration is based on two key principles: First, all participants "accept every offer that is made." Second, "always make your work partners look good (p. 235)." Contemplate if you have ever chaired a meeting with that definition of collaboration.

Creativity takes time.

Leadership from the top is required for this. At Google, engineers can use 20 percent of their time for discretionary projects (p. 237). Likewise, at  Atlassian (ref. Dan Pink - Drive), once a quarter, software developers can work on a project of their choosing, only requiring that the results are shared at the end of the creativity session. At the individual leader role, we may communicate -- via our operating principles, priorities and expectations (in our Leadership Philosophy) -- creative support.

Cultural Principles (pp. X, Y & Z)

Creative cultures are supple.

We may think of supple as a holistic form of agile. Robinson describes John Chambers' transformation at Cisco where he changed his style of leadership from command and control to collaboration and teamwork (p. 239). The emphasis is increasingly on collaborative teams, on cross sector groups drawn from sales, engineering, finance, legal, and other departments. "We're training leaders to think across silos." It's a classic manager to leader narrative.

Creative cultures are inquiring.

Robinson relates the humbling story of a trust manager in Europe (p. 241):

• I had to admit my mistakes
• I had to ask for help
• I began to delegate
• I began to listen

It reminds one of Stanley McChrystal in Team of Teams, where the general eventually realized the role of leader as that of gardener. The trust manager, now thinking as a leader:

"It has required us to increase training significantly, particularly
at senior management levels, including the use of management
psychologists, and has led us to introduce 360-degree appraisals

for senior managers."(p. 242)

Creative cultures need creative spaces.

This is a newer area of study. Robinson notes that until the 1980s, there was very little research into the effects of workspaces on the work done (p. 243). Best practices, such as use of white noise, team meeting rooms, quiet mornings, and more may be seen in recognized offices such as Front Burner Brands in Tampa, FL.

Summary | Deeper Thoughts

Much of Robinson's pathfinder work addresses shortcomings in education especially:

... the popular idea of intelligence has become
dangerously narrow and other intellectual abilities are
either ignored or underestimated (p. 85).

For the intellectually curious, a deeper reading of this generational work is well worth the journey.

Coaching Story | Leaders Align Actions and Values

On the first day of a Leadership Excellence Course, we share the first draft of our Personal Leadership Philosophy. By the end of the course, we have a working draft of the document to share with others and to help hold ourselves accountable. On day three of an Advanced Leadership Course, we explore our organization’s Core Values, defining them and attributing Normative Behavioral Statements to each listed value. Overlap between our individual philosophy and organizational values creates alignment, usually our most significant challenge - aligning our actions and our values. Most organizations simply put up posters listing values, with so-called leaders’ actions often displaying quite the opposite. Sound familiar?

These ideas came up twice in the past week. A client in a coaching session shared that their their organization has an amazing culture, and the client is nervous their amazing culture may be diminished, or worse, lost, as the result of rapid growth this calendar year. At about the same time, S. Chris Edmonds, a fellow “leadership traveler,” shared a copy of his book “the culture engine.” Great timing.

You see, Edmonds’ combines the idea of a leadership philosophy with organizational core values. He calls it an Organizational Constitution. It’s a very attractive and powerful construct. Just as actually creating alignment by demonstrating our values through actions, Edmonds’ process requires that an Organizational Constitution must be lived, should anticipate resistance, and requires gathering formal feedback on valued behaviors. This includes hiring based on values, just as Tony Hsieh of Zappos learned.

Leaders share their leadership philosophy. Leaders live their leadership philosophy. Then they go further. Leaders Align Actions and Values.

Influence & Insight | July 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Understand Team Members Personally

We’ve learned through authors such as Mark Crowley that engagement in the workplace has been flat for about thirty years. Maybe old habits don’t die at all. Maybe we just need a fresh way of looking at things. In Kim Scott’s refreshing book Radical Candor, she challenges the classical Nine-Box Matrix Talent Model, developed by McKinsey, which positions individuals into a box based on potential and performance. Scott’s a deep thinker, and found she didn’t like using the word potential, because she doesn’t think there is any such thing as a low-potential human being. It says a lot about her.

Scott has been successful at top companies such as Google and Apple — very competitive and very successful organizations. So it’s not a big surprise that for the first twenty years of her career, it NEVER occurred to her that some people didn’t want the next, bigger job. She talked with Scott Forstall, who built the iOS team working directly for Steve Jobs, and he proposed using the word “growth” instead of “potential.” It’s brilliant. 

Recall in our Energize2Lead (E2L) workshops we learn than 75% of people are wired completely differently that ourselves. We also learn that there may be deep, instinctive parts of our personalities that are largely hidden. Scott realized the same thing. She tells us:

“The most important thing you can do for your team collectively is to understand what growth trajectory each person wants to be on at a given time and whether that matches the needs and opportunities of the team. To do that, you are going to have to get to know each of your direct reports at a personal level. It’s also going to require you to have some of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have. Sometimes, you’ll even have to fire people.”

That’s Radical Candor. Leadership is hard. Building a team is hard. Leaders Understand Team Members Personally.

Pacing for Growth | Book Review

"Endurance training provides a wonderful metaphor for leading enduring
business growth because the principles by which we expand our body's
capacity to go faster and farther translate directly to expanding the capacity
of an organization
." (p. xiii)

Reminiscent of Jim Collins20 Mile MarchDr. Alison Eyring shares contemporary stories of organizations that successfully adapt, focus, and restrain rather than sprint all-out until failure occurs. Subtitled Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success, Eyring shares four principles, three rules, and two applicationsoffered in nine chapters, respectively, based on in depth interviews with more than 30 top regional executives based in Asia (p. 2).

There's a reason airline and military pilots rigidly follow a checklist, regardless how many hours flown. In The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande describes how central line infections in intensive care units dropped dramatically when doctors followed a simple five-point checklist that involves cleaning skin, washing hands, and using a sterile dressing (p. xi).

Eyring engages us personally by weaving her stories of success and failure while training for endurance events with analogous business leader case studies. Both are predicated on having an "abundance" mindset when it comes to people development (p. 14). This review connects selected stories from each of the sections (principles, rules & application) to specific Academy Leadership workshop observations.

Principles | Core Values, Priorities & The Knowing-Doing-Gap

Eyring introduces the instructive story how Krispy Kreme corrupted core valuesin the mid 1990s (p. 17). How so? At a minimum, pressure for sustained quarterly expansion overwhelmed existing normative behaviors (p. 18). Recall in our Core Values Alignment workshop the desired state is spending 80-90% of time creating alignment while only 10-20% of effort identifying the core values. Krispy Kreme appeared to blindly accelerate rather than establish normative behaviors which could lead to sustained growth such as team accountability.

Like a runner late to a race and wanting to catch up (to eBay), QXLwished to quickly, simply and efficiently match millions of buyers and sellers (p. 37). They wasted a lot of energy and resources without realizing the cost of endless acquisitions. In ourSetting Leadership Prioritiesworkshop, the battle between (see Stephen Covey) Category I (important & urgent) and Category II (important & not urgent) quadrants is won by establishing habits allowing us to spend most of our time in Category II. We recall Category I is filled with stress, is reactive rather than proactive, and consumes enormous energy.

In her Growth Readiness Framework (p. 55), Eyring focuses on two capabilities that drive external orientation: Outside-In Thinking and Customer-Aligned Innovation.

Both require humility, and it reminds us of General Stanley McChrystal's story in Team of Teams, whereby establishing a high bandwidth situational awareness center enabled worldwide, connected teams to cross the The Knowing-Doing Gap.

Former CEO John Chambers(p. 52) of Cisco, had a similar revelation when shifting the company from one selling boxes to one selling solutions (p. 52): 

Growth Readiness Framework.png

"The resources that you have in place aren't necessarily
the same ones you need to be able to grow."

Leaders walk the talk, establishing credibility and trust. By June 2015, Cisco returned to growth, and Chuck Robbins succeeded Chambers as CEO, then named a smaller and younger top leadership team (p. 53).

Rules | HPAs & E2L

During Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, most of us agree activities such as coaching and planning are genuine High Payoff Activities (HPAs) yet struggle with so much to do every day. Focus requires saying no to opportunities, tasks, and ideas that have less merit than other opportunities, tasks, and ideas (p. 81). Eyring highlights how David Novak liberated time and energy to deliver performance while building production capacity for Pizza Hut (p. 83). Similarly, Airbnb's culture is built on a foundation of core values that are centered around the uniqueness of the global community and the lessons that the founders had learned along the way (p. 85). It's just like working out. If our physical training doesn't vary, or if we don't include sprint work or interval training as a priority, there won't be a performance breakthrough.

We learn quite a bit about ourselves and others during our Energize2Lead, or E2L, workshops. One example is we tend to overuse our dominant (color) traits (e.g. triple-red competitive). Eyring also found an overwhelming number of [the] subordinates said their leader used their self-identified strengths too much! (p. 95). The leaders conserve energy but there's no new development.

In contrast, A list of Growth Routine Tips on page 97 are excellent for including in a Personal Leadership Philosophy. For example: Identify the most critical new attitude or way of thinking that your growth strategy requires... 

Tony Schwarz, in The Power of Full Engagement displays how we should toggle between high and low energy positive states, rather than between high positive and high negative states. Eyring found the same, that the better [she] executed physical recovery, the more [she] replenished [her] body as well as [her] motivation to train and exert [her]self more (p. 109). 

It's not surprising that both successful leaders and successful athletes tend to be masters of energy self-management (rather than time). Eyring finds that we remember more and apply the skills better at work when we have short bursts of learning followed by time to absorb what we've learned, integrate it into our job, share it with others on the team, or simply catch up with other things (p. 115).

Applications | Development-Based Leadership

Recall Vroom's Time and Development-based decision-making models (from Effective Decision-Making case studies). In the business world - where millions of people dedicate their life energies and capabilities -- we seem to have accepted a scarcity mindset about talent (p. 126). Try naming an organization that doesn't eliminate training budgets first when reducing expenses. Maybe this is an indicator that developmental goals are not aligned with corporate strategy. Eyring advises what needs to happen at the top of the business is to agree on a small number of capabilities that will enable your business to increase capacity for growth (p. 128).

What really energizes, or motivates us? According to Dan Pink(see Drive), it's autonomy, mastery & purpose. On page 136 Eyring lists Tips to Get the Most Value from Experience, which align well with these three motivational characteristics.

Malcolm Wall Morris found that instilling confidence and trust in the team was essential, and once they felt part of the process, they would do everything to ensure its success (p. 143). Just like The Leader's Compass emphasizes credibility and trust as key attributes of a leader, which, while hard to earn, can be lost in an instant.

Four essential points from Morris' story (p. 144):

• The harder you push; the more support you need to provide.
• To go faster, go slower at the start. Getting your leadership team on board is half the battle.
• The further you take others outside their comfort zone, the more you need to build their confidence that they can succeed.
• As you push harder down the organization, you need to create space for people to push back and express themselves up the organization.

PACER | Dr. Eyring's Leadership Philosophy

Eyring concludes with a five-dimensional PACER for renewal (pp. 159-160), which we could easily map to individual leadership philosophy components:

PACER Dimension                               Leadership Philosophy Element

Peace                                                   Purpose
Adaptation                                          Personal Values
Control                                                Operating Principles
Energy (Physical)                               Priorities
Relationship                                       Expectations & Feedback

Note: Alison Eyring generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Ask Active and Engaging Questions

It’s refreshing when a professional reaches out and asks for help during a period of career growth - for executive coaching. Since this has happened quite a bit this month, Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter’s terrific coaching book, Triggers, came to mind. You may have heard of Marshall before, he’s a really good coach and he’s been doing it at a very high level for decades.

Powerful and lasting growth usually requires objective evaluation and structured coaching. Notice that evaluation and coaching are different forms of feedback. A common example of objective evaluation is a 360 review with inputs from different groups such as peers, direct reports, supervisors, in addition to ourselves.

Triggers was written in part, because we all have many internal triggers that hold us back, especially when receiving feedback. So, how can we think, in a general sense, about how to overcome all of these internal switches we usually aren’t aware of?

Chapters Nine and Ten, The Power of Active Questions & The Engaging Questions, form the heart of Triggers, with numerous engaging coaching stories.  Goldsmith reflects when people are asked passive questions; they almost invariably provide “environmental” answers, often allowing a diversion from needed accountability. As a remedy, four magic moves are mentioned, which trigger decent behavior in others: Apologizing, Asking for help, Optimism, and asking active questions. Active questions can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and the better we know someone, the better questions we may ask. Here’s an example: 

“Tell me something important to you that would allow me to help you become more successful and happier?”

Now let’s introduce Goldsmith’s six engaging questions:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
Did I do my best to find meaning today?
Did I do my best to be happy today?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

Notice that each of these questions challenge us, daily, to do good, or to be choinque. They trigger good behavior. We can call this self-coaching. 

Good leaders coach others, and themselves. Leaders ask active and engaging questions.

Influence & Insight | June 2018

Leadership Story | Great Leaders Practice Deliberately

Has anyone ever said to you that they or their organization embraces “continuous improvement.” It’s a pretty common buzzword, and don’t all of us want to get better at something? How can we think, and more importantly, do, something about that?

In Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool’s masterwork Peak, they describe a significant term — deliberate practice — as a combination of purposeful practice and developing mental representations. 

Let’s summarize. Purposeful practice:

• Has well-defined, specific goal
• is focused
• involves feedback
• requires getting out of one’s comfort zone

Now that’s just a start. Deliberate practice also requires development of mental representations, or pre-existing patterns of information - facts, images, rules, relationships and so on - that are held in long-term memory, and are easy to access. The key to deliberate practice is to go beyond our potential, or to make possible things that were not possible before. The way to do this is to learn a new skill which will then trigger a structural change in the brain rather than simply continuing to practice a skill already learned.

Let’s summarize again. Deliberate practice:

• Develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques have been established
• Takes place outside one's comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her abilities
• Involves well-defined, specific goals and often involves improving some aspect of the target performance
• Requires a person's full attention and conscious action
• Involves feedback and modifications of efforts in response to that feedback
• Both produces and depends on effective mental representations
• Nearly always involves building or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically

An effective leader understands both purposeful practice and that the quality and quantity of mental representations are vitally important. Imagine a leader that not only practices deliberately themself, but one that prioritizes developing others through deliberate practice. Good leaders practice purposefully. Great leaders practice deliberately.

Counter Mentor Leadership | Book Review

Book of the year.

"You see, most companies believe that when you promote
an individual to the ranks of management, that person
miraculously becomes an amazing leader." 
(p. xiii)

Kelly & Robby Riggs have created a well formatted, approachable and funny call to action for anyone seriously interested in improving decades of lousy leadership and engagement survey results in the workplace. On this stage (p. xiv), Kelly represents the BOSS (Boomer, Old-School Supervisor) and Robby the KIDS (Know-It-All-Digital Self-Promoters). Their more expanded generational categories are (pp. 33-34):

1. Greatest Generation (b. 1901-1924)
2. Traditionalist (b. 1925-1946) also called silent generation
3. Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964)
4. Generation X (b. 1961-1981)
5. Millennials (b. 1982-1997)

As we frequently discover in our Academy Leadership Creating a Motivational Environment workshops, the generationally divergent Riggs independently and repeatedly observed (p. xiv):

1. A shocking lack of leadership skills in the workplace.
2. The stunning, often unrecognized impact of technology on the workplace.
3. The culture-killing generational divide that is demolishing many companies.

In four sections the authors describe the leadership landscape, remind us that leadership is not easy, then introduce a contemporary Counter Mentor Leadership Model and Solution, respectively. At the core, the authors believe the key to success in the chaotic, four-generation workplace is completely dependent upon a change in leadership approach (p. 7). Bravo!

The Leadership Landscape

The Riggs observed, as did Stanley McChrystal in Team of TeamsFrederick Winslow Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management (p. 7):

1. Corporations are wildly inefficient in production processes.
2. The remedy for this inefficiency lies in systematic managementrather than in searching for some unusual or extraordinary leader.
3. The best management is a true science, resting upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles as a foundation.

Which still dominate organizational practices today. According to the Riggs, it is only because of a lack of education in leadership that we are STILL trying to employ the Taylorian Management model today (p. 9). 

The authors define leadership as:

The art and science of getting things done
through other people (p. 10).

Notice getting things done is a results oriented approach. Contrast that with our current generation tending to manage, track, and think about time as the metric for work (p. 22). There's a good chance you do too. Is that results or performance oriented? Millennials think differently, they are far more purpose-driven than prior generations. They want to change the world. They just need [us] to mentor and develop them (p. 38). One of the most important roles of a leader is to provide a vision, mission and purpose. 

What happens instead? Well, most corporate managers (p. 43-44):

• Rarely encourage employee input or feedback.
• Are focused on the task far more than the employee.
• Can be stern, even harsh, and in many cases intimidating in an effort to get their way.
• May be given to excessive criticism.
• Tend to be impatient, and they may not listen very well (if at all).
• Often seek power or authority far more passionately than results.
• Believe every employee should have to endure what previous employees have endured.
• May dislike new ideas -- especially from younger employees (thus, it's not theiridea).
• Have typically lagged behind (sometimes far behind) in technology adoption.
• Really don't understand "KIDS these days..."
• Struggle with the radical changes in workplace attitudes.

It's a major disconnect. Not surprisingly, a younger generation thirsty for a motivational, purpose-fulfilling experience usually encounters the opposite. And they'll quickly leave. To compound the leadership failure, a huge perception gap exists between managers and employees (p. 42):

• 89 percent of managers believe employees leave their jobs for more money.
• 88 percent of employees reported they left for reasons other than money.

Leadership is Freaking Hard

Matthew Lieberman offers a staggering finding in his article, "Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?," in regard to employee perceptions of leadership ability (p. 50):

• If a leader was considered strong in social skills, the person was seen as a great leader 12 percent of the time.
• If a leader was perceived to be strong in focusing on results, the number increased to 14 percent of the time.
• For leaders who were strong in both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a strong leader skyrocketed to 72 percent.

Take a moment to process that. 

Almost all individuals who progress from individual contributor
to leadership roles are promoted because of their technical competence or skill
at their previous job
(p. 51).

Whether you are a command and control (think green-red Energize2Lead profile colors) type leader or a social type leader (think dominant yellow Energize2Lead colors), have you developed the other trait? Research tells us almost nobody does this, yet the results if we do are astonishing.

• Less than 1 percent of leaders were rated high on both goal focus and social skills.

Like Mark Crowley (see Lead from the Heart), the Riggs explore, then define employee engagement as: The level of an employee's emotional commitment to the organization -- its purpose, vision, values, people, leadership, and goals (p. 57). Here's the truth when we ignore engagement:

People join companies, but they leave managers (p. 59).

Given this thirst for engagement, the price for mistaking management for leadership is high and likely increasing. Not surprisingly, ineffective leaders (pp. 61-64):

1. Hire the wrong people.
2. Don't create clarity for the team.
3. Don't train effectively.
4. Don't create a culture of accountability.

This is not a technology or process issue. The new knowledge gap (p. 72) is a people problem: connecting with your people, learning how they communicate, understanding their work preferences, and discovering what motivates them! By the way, this is precisely what we focus on the first two days of our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses.

Why is leadership then so hard? The authors reflect: "In our experience, the BOSS is often unwilling to adapt to the monumental changes that technology and the KIDS represent in the workplace (p. 105)."

COUNTER Mentor Leadership Model

This section is the heart of the book. Many of us are poor at delegation. Yet, consider the more you do FOR someone, the more dependent that person becomes (p. 125). What is the perception of us as leaders if we don't appear to extend trust? The Riggs offer four terrific values, which can be considered part of their Leadership Philosophy, to earn trust (p. 129):

• Loyalty
• Humility
• Service
• Gratitude

It's a bit fun, and certainly understandable, that the authors advocate an opposite (of a scientific Taylorian approach), or counter leadership approach. Counter Mentor Leaders:

• Are intentional about their time.
• Are emotionally intelligent.
• Are next-level communicators.
• Are great coaches.
• Are strategic thinkers.

The COUNTER acronym denotes these effective next-generation leaders, who:

• Communicate desired outcomes.
• Own the relationship.
• Understand the different perspectives.
• Negotiate the obstacles.
• Teach essential skills.
• Execute in the real world.
• Review results.

This is very different than the organization which refers to leadership as a position, or a noun. Rather, this type leadership is active and requires focused energy on others and on the organization. Want to improve engagement and retention? Then embrace that it's the leader's actions that influence the employee and directly impact the level of engagement (p. 148).

Do you waste time with annual performance reviews? The Riggs advocate the single most important thing that you can do to communicate effectively with your people is to invest your time in weekly, high-quality communication with your employees (p. 162). Such performance coaching properly renders the typical performance review a brief, administrative exercise.

A coaching, or development based leader owns the relationship by:

taking the necessary steps to provide clarity,
set clear expectations, and create a culture
that fully engages the employees
(p. 181).

Recall the social skills mentioned earlier. Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills (p. 217). Most companies discount such development at their peril. Are you in an institution where most training is expendable, meaning that it's the first line item in the budget to be cut? Compounding this, few companies have specific training and development plans for individual employees(p. 223). There's a huge price to pay for not doing this.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey (p. 225), of great significance in the current survey results is the finding that 71% of those likely to leave in the next two years are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed -- fully 17 points higher than among those intending to stay beyond 2020. 

Counter Mentor Leadership Solution

Many of us recall during our Academy Leadership workshops that 83% of organizations have accountability issues. The Riggs further delineate a twofold problem (p 255): The BOSS doesn't know how to create a culture of accountability; when there is an issue, the BOSS doesn't truly doesn't address the issue.

To address this, the authors visualize a useful construct, the Freedom Box (p. 260) with four primary boundaries:

• Company values and/or guiding principles.
• Expectations.
• Level of Authority.
• Performance standards and metrics.

Freedom Box.png

Which can be thought of as an agreed-upon area of autonomy.

Have you ever been in an organization which tolerates poor performers, or procrastinates addressing substandard behavior? What have we tolerated ourselves? Lack of accountability is easily the single most destructive leadership failure in the workplace: the unwillingness of managers, at every level, to deal with performance issues -- poor performance, nonperformance, missed commitments, or attitude problems (p. 270).

Great leaders are great coaches. Recall, we must separate coaching from evaluation (see Thanks for the Feedback) or criticism. Coaching is helpful, understanding, patient, teaching and caring. On the other hand, criticism is harsh, judgmental, impatient, tearing down and insensitive (p. 283).

It's useful to think of sports. We don't expect or imagine a professional sports coach stepping in for a player on the field. Yet many of us do this at work repeatedly. Gregg Popovich, of the San Antonio Spurs (p. 285) says it best:

"And if a player knows that you really care and believes that
you can make it better, you got the guy for life."

As coach-leader, we have a responsibility to convey purpose: The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves (p. 309).


This is a book for a generation -- for anyone who cares about people, their organizations, or goodness.

Note: Kelly Riggs generously provided a copy of their book for review.

Coaching Story | Super Leaders Deeply Know Their Team

Retention. Talent pipeline. We keep hearing these HR terms. In the past couple weeks, a military commander reached out wishing to improve low reenlistment numbers for first term airmen, a federal bankruptcy court shared plans for a 12-month regional leadership development program for junior team members and a local CEO seeking executive coaching connected on LinkedIn. What’s going on?

In Dr. Sydney Finkelstein’s meticulously researched masterwork, Superbosses, subtitled How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, he explains that 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, legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

It seems each of these three recent events may be describing a need for a more nurturing environment. Finkelstein recognized that all superbosses deeply know their team members, in stark contract to clueless, distanced bosses - think Undercover Boss. We may have been conditioned, especially if we are baby boomers, to simply trust our position of authority, or rank as adequate for performance — leaving development and growth to perhaps a different department. Quite the opposite, superbosses disdain anything that may create physical or emotional distance from those in their charge. What superbosses give protégés, then, is something quite rare in professional life, an opportunity to rebrand themselves, or the ultimate alignment of one’s traits and abilities with not just a job, but also a lifetime path. 

Leaders are ultimately coaches. Leaders nurture. Super Leaders Deeply Know Their Team.

Influence & Insight | May 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Manage Energy

In our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses, self-evaluation scores at the beginning of the Setting Leadership Priorities workshops usually plummet - with distractions and interruptions common culprits. Perhaps never before has the opportunity for distraction been so commonplace. Yet, there are those who are still effective getting things done and those who are effective leaders.

Most of us probably don’t know who psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik was, but we ought to. By the way, she was one of the first Russian women to attend a university. She studied memory in relation to complete and incomplete tasks, and found that incomplete tasks are easier to remember than successful ones. This is now known as the Zeigarnik effect. What does that mean for us as leaders?

First, it means that the best way to finish a task is to start it, since the now incomplete task will occupy our minds with little energy required. Until it is done. Maybe that is why we sometimes say “sleep on it,” intuitively knowing the Zeigarnik effect will assist during our slumber.

Second, the best leaders, like the best athletes, are masters of energy management; aligning tasks, their assignment and their completion, minding these effects. The best leaders are Zeigarnik masters. Leaders manage energy.

Disrupt Yourself | Book Review

"Failure to acknowledge and see the abundance in another
person's success is a form of entitlement."(p. 67) 

While focusing on individual growth and transformation, Whitney Johnson offers systematic guidelines for any leader to revamp others and their organizations. Her personal stories of bridging from secretary to investment banker (p. xviii), and collaboration with Clayton Christensen are captivating and credible.

Johnson identifies seven variables along the S-Curve path, developed by E.M Rogers in 1962, his attempt to understand how, why, and at what rate ideas and products spread throughout cultures (p. xxii). Many of us have seen this model in business school. By understanding these factors, we can speed up or slow down the movement of individuals or organizations along the curve by:


• Taking the right risks
• Playing to your distinctive strengths
• Embracing constraints
• Battling entitlement
• Stepping back to grow
• Giving failure its due
• Being discovery driven

Day one of an Academy Leadership Excellence Course teaches us to understand ourselves as the beginning of a leadership path, or if we apply the right variables, we can explode into our own mastery (p. xxvi). In a way, Johnson has written a self-coaching work, and this review advocates a dual approach, additionally for developing others and revolutionizing organizations.

Situational Awareness

Disruption often implies "risk," which has assumed mostly negative connotations (p. 8). Rather than act on impulse, Johnson calls for clarifying fundamental personal objectives. Think of our Energize2Lead (E2L) assessments, where we learn what we like to do, expect from others and instinctively need. When we understand ourselves, and others that deeply, we can ask, as coach or mentor, what might be lost by standing still (p. 9). This situational awareness allows us to take the right risks.

Johnson introduces a key takeaway, distinguishing between competitiverisk and marketrisk (p. 9). Think of competitive risk as little ventured, little gained, or what everyone else is already doing. Market risk is the right kind of risk when you're looking for a new learning curve to scale (p. 11). It's innovation. You'll know you're dealing with market risk when you realize there is no one else doing a job that needs to be done (p. 16). 

Alignment & Focus

Innovators, or disruptors not only look for unmet market needs, they match those needs with distinctive strengths (p. 19). This reminds us of the E2L preferred dimension. Consider asking questions such as "What energizes you?" or "Can you recall what happened the last day you went home from work energized?" As a leader, have you asked direct reports and peers questions like these?

Our Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) can help answer what makes us and others different (p. 21), or even an oddball. Recall we share our idiosyncrasies in a PLP. Aligning unique strengths with a new endeavor provides initial energy up the S-Curve. Johnson advises humility at this early stage, and many of the associated activities as "pay to play," constituting initial learning milestones (p. 34). Imagine releasing a team of "misfits" with aligned passions to revolutionize an industry.

With a developmental mindset, we can orchestrate a series of focused jobs starting with pay-to-play, then disrupting ourselves (or others) accumulating additional skills along the way. Johnson describes Michelle McKenna-Doyle's CIO journey (pp. 44-45) as an excellent example. The best mentors (as opposed to a coach) embody such lifetime advocacy.

Johnson wisely recommends embracing constrains, which may be better understood as applying a laser focus. She points out the most definitive scientific experiments are conducted when you change only one variable at a time (p. 43). Or, think of Google VenturesSprint practice of week-long focused prototyping with direct user feedback. Need proof this works? As many as 72 percent of [these] successful businesses were pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (p. 49). 

In A Beautiful ConstraintAdam Morgan and Mark Barden outline a six-step (pp. 53-55) prescription for marshalling constraints:

• Move from a victim to neutralizer to transformer.
• Break path dependence.
• Ask propelling questions.
• Reframe to "can-if."
• Seek new sources of abundance.
• Activate emotions.

Humility | Battling Entitlement

Dog ear the incisive Chapter 4, Battle Entitlement, the Innovation Killer. Johnson cautions us as we move into the growth phase of our learning curve and gain more confidence, entitlement is a risk we all face (p. 61). Recall that Stanley McChrystal in Team of Teams, an already successful general officer, discarded prior best practices and embraced radical knowledge-sharing while fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Johnson shares a similar story recalling how Johnson & Johnson assembled small, cross-silo teams and got them in-country to find ways to better deliver health-care access in an emerging market (p. 65).

Watch out for the destructive scarcity mindset. Failure to acknowledge and see the abundance in another person's success is a form of entitlement (p. 67). A leadership philosophy or family contract are good ways to discourage this kind of thinking. Johnson suggests a gratitude journal, or a written list of three things you are thankful for each day and why (p. 69).

Forming the habit of seeing good in others is one of the hallmarks of leaders. 

Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts,  found that "inexperienced people, whether recent university graduates or experienced professionals coming from other organizations or functions, are surprisingly strong performers." (p. 72)

Let's not forget Johnson's admonition: We must disrupt ourselves before we disrupt others (p. 74).

Be a Coach

Setting Leadership Prioritiesworkshops usually have rather low self-evaluation scores. Isn't it interesting that the same people with these modest scores regularly struggle to step back and delegate? Effective leaders sacrifice some of [their] own productivity to teach employees new skills, making the whole team more effective down the road (pp. 77-78). 

There's a good chance prior metrics won't work when we're moving up the S-Curve. Johnson cites Christensen:

"A disruptive innovation must measure different attributes of
performance than those in your current value networks."
(p. 89)

This is vital for any innovative leader. Dr. Stacey Petrey of Mylan Pharmaceuticals (p. 90) offers powerful performance metrics:

1) Talent developer
2) Innovator
3) Value Integrator

Imagine coaching your team using these three metrics embedded in your leadership philosophy. This may be a radical change, since many of us have been conditioned by our workplaces to believe technical perfection is the ultimate goal, and failure the worst possible outcome. 

Not surprisingly, Johnson found that straight-A girls were the most likely to throw in the towel when confronted with a difficult problem (p. 97). How much innovation or disruption will that mindset produce? As coaches, we can help subordinates resist believing a failure becomes a referendum on [them], allowing a millstone of shame to drown [them] and [their] dreams (p. 103).

Curiosity | Being Discovery Driven

One of the most significant common characteristics of effective leaders and coaches is lifetime curiosity. A sense of purpose provides the energy. According to David Brooks

"Most people don't form a self and then lead a life.
They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed
gradually by their calling." (p. 113)

When we align our leadership philosophy with purpose, rather than procedure, agility will result. Or put another way, if you are driven by discovery, at any of these checkpoints you may decide to alter your course as you evaluate the functional and emotional job that you are hiring [education] to do (p. 116). That is our current business reality. 70 percent of all successful new businesses end up with a strategy different from the one they initially pursued (p. 119).


As leaders, we must continuously keep in mind the power of purpose. As Lisa McLeod found studying the sales force of a major biotech firm: the top performers had a far more pronounced sense of purpose than their average-performing companies (p. 124).

Or, the more that you disrupt, the better you'll get at it.

Note: Whitney Johnson generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Great Leaders are Rare

During a recent coaching session, a client mentioned employee turnover issues within their organization, in particular with newer, younger hires.  Among the factors brought up for the recent departures was low pay. I paused and asked how frequently coaching occurred between supervisors and subordinates. A culture check if you will. Let’s just say it got really quiet for a bit. You see, there’s often a significant disconnect between what we believe about people leaving an organization, and what really happened.

In Kelly and Robby Riggs’ eye-opening book, Counter Mentor Leadership, they cite:

89 percent of managers believe employees leave their jobs for more money; and
88 percent of employees reported they left for reasons other than money.

Many old-school manager types believe focusing on results only is all that matters - the proverbial bottom line. Matthew Lieberman has some pretty interesting findings in his article “Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?” Great question. His findings:

If a leader was considered strong in social skills, the person was seen as a great leader 12 percent of the time. Okay. What about that bottom line?
If a leader was perceived to be strong in focusing on results, the number increased to… 14 percent of the time. That’s all. Just two percent more.
For leaders who were strong in both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a strong leader skyrocketed to 72%.

Pop quiz time: What percentage of leaders rate high on results focus and social skills? Take a guess.

Less than one percent. That’s why Kelly and Robby Riggs conclude Leadership is Freaking Hard. And they are right. Great leaders are unicorns. They focus on results. They focus on people. Great leaders are rare.

Influence & Insight | April 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Embrace Feedback

“Nothing affects the learning culture of an organization more
than the skill with which its executive team receives feedback.”

from Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s eye-opening Thanks for the Feedback candidly and systematically breaks down why receiving feedback is so difficult and what we as leaders and our organizations can do about it. Notice the emphasis on receiving feedback rather than offering it. How many times has someone in a senior leadership position asked you for candid feedback about themselves or the organization rather than offering you feedback or telling you something that you “ought to do?”

Does your organization even have a learning culture? Or is it the type organization where a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset prevails.

The authors remind us there are three forms of feedback: Appreciation, evaluation, and coaching. Most of us understand appreciation, but often mix up evaluation with coaching. Years of facilitating leadership courses and executive coaching suggests many people and organizations will claim coaching occurs, but more often than not evaluation is occurring rather than coaching. As a result, performance coaching gets a bad rap. An easy indicator: Who is doing the talking in the coaching session? If you are talking more than 25% of the time, it’s not coaching. It’s not even listening.

Indicating your commitment to receiving feedback in your Personal Leadership Philosophy is a great first step. Welcoming it comes next. Leaders embrace feedback.

Work Without Walls | Book Review

"Daydreaming in the grocery line can actually be more productive than checking email. Seemingly idle times like that are often the very moments when we have mental breakthroughs." (p. 38) 

In Academy Leadership's Creating a Motivational Climate workshops, Hackman & Oldman's job design research is cited. Maura Nevel Thomas goes further, offering the contemporary leader a practical guide for an effective workplace both today and tomorrow in Work Without Walls.

Thomas dispels common myths many of us were conditioned to believe are characteristics of a productive knowledge worker (p. xii):

• Being available for work 24/7/365
• Maximum face time in the office
• Working on vacation
• Multitasking
• "I can sleep when I'm dead" attitude
• Busyness as a "badge of honor"

Rather, Thomas reminds us the individual productivity of a knowledge worker is based on the extent to which that person makes progress on his or her significant results in any time frame (p. xiii). This requires knowing what our High Payoff Activities (HPAs) are as we discovered during Setting Leadership Priorities workshops or via sustained deliberate practice.

This review explores and discusses an effective leader's responses to the crumbling walls between work time and personal time -- and between work spaces and personal spaces (p. ix).

People |Energy

Like Schwarz, Thomas identifies energy management via the term Holistic Well-Being, intersecting (p. 2) both Employee Wellness and Employee Engagement, and calling out calm, happy, and energized as the three states of mind that most achieve effectiveness and performance.

Similar to Energy Management workshop participants auditing hourly energy levels with corresponding activities, Thomas cites Dr. Travis Bradberry (p. 3): "Highly successful people don't skip meals, sleep, or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge in order to get even more done." What gets in the way of good energy management? Self-evaluations frequently inform us that daily distractions or "fire drills" are often the cause. Thomas instructs us that attention management is the antidote to distraction (p. 6). It's a worthy term we should use in coaching sessions. Imagine asking how well one has managed their attention toward high payoff corporate goals. Not many business leaders do this today. Thomas calls out Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, and Arianna Huffington as executives who intentionally and strategically incorporate mindfulness into their business strategy (p. 7).

Is yours a stressful work environment, leading to burnout and high turnover? Burnout is more intense than stress, and often the results are more dire. According to psychiatrist Dr. Harry Levinson, the symptoms of burnout include chronic fatigue, anger at those making demands, self-criticism for putting up with the demands, cynicism, negativity, irritability, a sense of being besieged, and hair-trigger display of emotions (p. 11). It's not surprising many organizations are incorporating wellness centers, gyms and the like as a countermeasure.

Distractions | Email

In numerous Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, distractions such as email overload frequently dominate discussions and shared stories. Technology is not the only culprit. Research has shown that employees in open offices experience reduced attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, concentration, and motivation (p. 22).

Thomas recommends providing comprehensive productivity training rather than time management training (pp. 26-28). A Personal Leadership Philosophy can be of great help, especially if aligned with company goals.

Look at the typical work day (p. 39) and how much time email captures. One quick tip is to review messages between tasks rather than during them (p. 41). A deliberate action is required as there seems to be no end to daily email volume. Bottom

9 hour workday.png

line: Make a conscious decision about both how often you will review email and how much time in your day you will leave available for email processing (p. 42).

Thomas suggests a knowledge management approach may be more useful. Consider taking advantage of group communications tools such as Slack or HipChat which are designed to take important information out of personal inboxes and storing it instead in a corporate resource that anyone can access (p. 45). More generally, as leaders, we must set the example and dispel productivity misperceptions:

Being connected in off-hours during busy times is the sign of a
high-performer. Never disconnecting is a sign of

a workaholic. And there is a difference. (p. 47)

Recall a leader's responsibility is creation of a motivational environment. Gaia Grant author of Who Killed Creativity and How Can We Get It Back? writes (p. 51): "Creative thinking requires a relaxed state, the ability to think through options at a slow pace and the openness to explore different alternatives without fear." To what degree do we as leaders foster such surroundings? Or facilitate meetings?

Vacation | Rest | Recharge

One of the most noticeable differences between U.S. work environments and our overseas counterparts is how vacation is viewed. A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for the U.S. Travel Association shows that huge majorities of American workers say paid time off (p. 58):

• Helps them relax and recharge (90 per cent)
• Offer the opportunity to do what they enjoy (88 per cent)
• Makes them happier (85 per cent)
• Improves their concentration and productivity (66 percent)
• Results in greater satisfaction at work (61 per cent)

If we consider vacation time as people recharging and re-energizing rather than fewer billable hours, the research suggests a much more positive and productive work environment will result. Consider the opposite. Arianna Huffington, only after collapsing from exhaustion, realized that mindfulness and taking care of your well-being are critical measures of success (p. 63).

This mindset is also consistent with a leadership development ethos. Full Contact (A Colorado technology company) documents in their blog:

If people know they will be disconnecting and going off the grid for an extended period of time, they might actually keep that in mind as they help build the company. For example:

• They might empower direct reports to make more decisions.
• They might be less likely to create a special script that ... only lives on their machine.
• They might document their code a bit better.
• They might contribute to the company Wiki and share knowledge (p. 67).

Office | Work | Improvement

Thomas has learned through research that the open office (about 70 per cent of workspaces) impairs cognitive function due to the noise and constant interruptions (p. 73). Interestingly, while visiting a client (Front Burner Brands), distractions from an open layout were mitigated with white noise generators, greatly improving productivity. Many other communication and productivity methods are also implemented there.

If, as leaders, we keep in mind that the products of knowledge work are creativity, communication, and decisions, none of which thrive in noisy, shared workspaces where interruptions abound (p. 77), we can seek creative solutions to open physical workplaces. Chances are, we only need to ask what will help most.

Are you the type who believes subordinates must be constantly monitored? Thomas suggest managers who have the outdated bias that employees must be supervised in order to be productive should have a skill update (p. 100). Again, much of this is mindset. Part of that challenge is leaving behind notions about what constitutes productivity -- such as constant availability, face time at the office, and even a certain pride in working at a relentless pace (p. 107).

As leaders, continuous vigilance for distractions is required. Professor Gloria Mark and the University of California, Irvine has conducted research that shows the costs of distractions (pp. 109 - 110). 

costs of distraction.png

A great antidote: create a culture with intention. Think of Jim Collins' references to alignment. These steps can help (pp. 112 -113):

• Identify misalignment between your culture and your stated beliefs.
• Set policies and best practices
• Get the word out and model the behaviors you want to see
• Equip workers with the skills they need to succeed in the world of work without walls

An additional benefit: What might be less obvious is that these same issues that influence productivity also influence happiness (p. 117).

Looking Ahead

Thomas asks us to include #workwithoutwalls and/or @mnthomas or otherwise tag her to stay connected and share. She also includes a great section on "Access Economy" Companies, plus further reading and terrific apps, tools, and other resources in appendices at end of book.

Note: Maura Nevel Thomas generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leaders Create Accountability

In a recent coaching call, a client shared a significant challenge - how to grow a team from 200 to possibly 700 this calendar year - without having the proverbial “wheels come off.” We talked about the importance of front line supervisors who take care of the teams at “the tip of the spear.” The topic of accountability came up.

Recall from our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses that 83% of organizations have accountability issues. Kelly and Robby Riggs concur in Counter Mentor Leadership. They describe accountability struggles as a twofold problem: The BOSS doesn’t know how to create a culture of accountability; then there is an issue, the BOSS doesn’t truly address the issue.

The Riggs’ visualize a useful construct, the Freedom Box. Imagine a rectangular box with four primary boundaries:

• Company values and/or guiding principles.
• Expectations.
• Level of Authority.
• Performance standards and metrics.

Our values, expectations and performance standards can be expressed within our Personal Leadership Philosophy. Our level of authority provides delegation and coaching guidance. Putting this all together, the Freedom Box creates an agreed-upon area of autonomy. Just what we need for a rapidly growing organization, rather than having the wheels fall off. Leaders create accountability.

Influence & Insight | March 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Make Time

It’s pop quiz time again. What are the four most dangerous words in a leader’s vocabulary?

According to Kelly & Bobby Riggs  — in their pathfinder book, Counter Mentor Leadership — the answer is:

“I don’t have time.”

Let’s do a quick self-evaluation: When is the last time you said that to yourself, or, even worse, when was the last time you told that to someone you are responsible for? What are we really telling someone when we communicate that, directly or indirectly?

I don’t have time to listen to you, to coach you, or to take an interest in your life. Gee, why do we have a turnover problem in the company?

I don’t have time to slow down, breath, and express daily gratitude. Gee, maybe that’s why I’m taking all these over the counter pills and ignoring annual medical checkups.

I don’t have time for training and development of anyone on my team, nor myself. Gee, nobody seems engaged around here and we don’t really know or care about each other.

Priorities lead to clarity. Share your priorities. Learn to say no to the many distractions we encounter daily. Leaders make time.

Conscious Communications | Book Review

The choices that you make will shape your life forever (p.85).

Mary Shores' introspective personal journey mirrors the adult learning model, particularly self-evaluation, reflection, observation, and identifying what she learned to do differently utilizing an action plan. On pages 197-199, an action plan exercise form allows summary capture of all the numerous exercises thoughtfully inserted throughout the work.

Like an awakened participant in an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, Shores has learned the power of journaling: "I truly believe the intimacy of writing to yourself is the best way to examine your own thoughts and actions" (p. 2).

Derived from her experience as a young company president, Conscious Communications is a simple yet powerful process that consists of eliminating negative language, using words that work, and focusing on what you really want (p. 4). Or put another way, Conscious Communications a model application of Shores' Personal Leadership Philosophy. The significance of this practice is backed up by many neuroscientists [who] have determined that most of our thoughts on any given day are the exact same as the day before (p. 5).

Many of us score poorly when evaluating how we use our time, especially when we have not established our genuine High Payoff Activities (HPAs). Shores' applies a similar 80/20 rule called Will this cleanse me or clog me? (p. 6), enabling the required focus necessary for improved outcomes based on actively changing our thoughts.

Five type of expressions (p. 7): Self-talk, spoken words, affirmations, goals and gratitude form the heart of Conscious Communications, with emphasis on gratitude - implying we have voluntarily made a choice to focus on the good we have (p. 8).

Getting Started | Cleanse or Clog

Conscious Communication is not possible without first identifying our own cleansing activities. Several favorites from Shores list include (pp. 118 - 123):

Cleanse                                         Clog

• Exercising                                 Frequently consuming over-the counter pills
• Exceeding expectations          Having a consistently negative attitude
• Honoring the other                  Failing to acknowledge efforts to improve or
   person's dreams or goals        change
• Writing in your journal            Sacrificing your need to have personal time
• Knowing and living                  Engaging in gossip or lashon hara
   in your purpose

These habits may take time to form. Health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found that establishing a new habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, but generally takes 66 days to fully form (p. 28). Shores' cleansing habits fostered deep questions:

I asked myself questions about my purpose, about where I was
supposed to be, what I should do, and where I should go (p. 15).

Learning to Know Yourself

Shores learned that when we begin choosing to see life through our own personal [leadership] philosophy (p. 16), we then truly begin to know ourselves. Positive and powerful experiences are then likely to occur. An example is seeing the connection between our brain and our environment -- experiencing a synchronicity -- or, according to Carl Jung, a meaningful coincidence (pp. 20-21). Even Harvard Medical School has published studies on gratitude, and in 2011 reported that "gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness" (p. 29).

We can change our personal story. As in Crucial Conversations , Shores asks us to re-create our stories, avoiding feeling stuck in our own victimhood (p. 37), via three steps (p. 44):

• Stop hitting the play button on your repetitive, tragic stories
• Loosen your grip on the traumatic emotional injuries of your past
• Tell a new story

Are we too late as professional adults to do this? Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, wrote that the brain retains the capability to change in response to experiences at any age (p. 49). Or, as Shores concludes, when you change your internal beliefs to align with your conscious desires, you will begin to value yourself more (p. 55). This is a perfect example of truly living within an individual leadership philosophy.

In an Academy Leadership Setting Leadership Priorities workshop, the word appearance is included in the definition of urgent. It sure seems that many things we initially believe are urgent, are actually not. Perhaps this is because the most fascinating part of the fight-or-flight system is that it cannot determine whether a threat is real or perceived (p. 60). Developing a habit of detecting false urgency and curtailing reaction to such events is a critical energy saver. Additionally, Shores offers tips to keep one's nervous system balanced (pp. 63-64):

• Exercise
• Control your sensory input
• Do things to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system
• Avoid talking on your cell phone on the way home
• Surround yourself with positivity
• Properly nourish your body
• Get a full night's sleep
• Adopt a vitamin regimen
• Do your research

Holistic physical health is key. In his 2011 study, gastroenterologist and UCLA professor Dr. Emeran Mayer stated that the gut-brain connection likely affects motivation, higher cognitive functions, and intuitive decision making (p. 73).

Application | Making Conscious Choices

Now we are set up to make better choices. The more [we] use [our] nervous system to make a decision, the more power there will be behind [our] everyday choices (p. 89). Or, think about how our leadership philosophy may inform our decisions, and how aligned and powerful they may become.

Shores advises focus on the now (p. 91):

• What do I really want?
• What do I want right now, and what do I want in the long run?
• Are the two matched up, or in alignment?

Recall, Shores had originally turned to implementing Conscious Communications for two main reasons: 1) because people wouldn't budge to pay their debts, and 2) my staff needed to succeed at their jobs in order to want to do good work and keep coming to the office (p. 131). But the process became much more.

Like Dr. Brené Brown in Daring Greatly, Shores identifies the scarcity myth as an issue. It's natural to want to talk about what's not working, as it doesn't take much imagination (p. 143). This may require a mindset change, especially given our currently selected job or career. Shores found herself asking:

"How can I pursue an authentic, spiritually driven life, like Marianne Williamson, and still be a debt collector, my spirited Julia Sugarbaker self?" (p. 149).

Again, it is all about knowing who we are, sharing who we are, and becoming an authentic person and leader. Shores offers a good list of self-exploration questions on page 153 including "What movies inspire you?" and "What causes do you find yourself drawn to?"

A few more questions to ask yourself (p. 157):

• If I were someone other than who I think I am, who would that be?
• If I could be anyone, who would I be?
• If I were not being others (including society) prescribed, who would I be?
• Am I sacrificing my end-result goals for short-term satisfaction?
• What would I change my name to if I could?

This self-knowledge leads to additional benefits, such as decluttering our minds. Bravo.

When We Live Our Leadership Philosophy

Eventually, Shores awoke to her consciousness, sensing an invisible connective thread (p. 170). It sounds similar to Buckminster Fuller's description of people ultimately as pattern integrities. Likewise, it reminds us of Dr. Larry Arnn's often mentioned assertions that our human capacity for speech sets us apart from other species in so many ways.

Recall Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen define three forms of feedback: Appreciation, evaluation and coaching. Shores lists five types of affirmations, which may be thought of as self-appreciation:

• Negative and disempowering affirmations
• Releasing statements
• I am statements
• Asking statements
• Gratitude statements

This allows us to immerse ourselves in the life [we] want to create through deliberately aligned speech (p. 175).

In the end:

Our words are an act of creation (p. 173).

Note: Mary Shores generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Coaches Share Vision & Purpose

Two recent client exchanges are worth sharing. The first was a visit to Tesla’s Gigafactory site in Nevada, the second a series of conversations with a director at a major health care consortium.

Both on the drive to the Gigafactory site with a client and as a passenger on numerous Uber trips in Reno, discussion about the local area centered on the tectonic transformation occurring in the Reno/Sparks area. Viewing the corporate infrastructure footprint of not just Tesla, but other companies such as Amazon, Apple and Switch makes one think of the vision leading to this transformation.

On the other hand, my discussion with the health care director focused almost exclusively on the process of implementing a single Project Portfolio Management software tool. Interestingly, the director mentioned concerns about internal survey scores and how to compete for talent in the Silicon Valley area. Not a word about improved lives through healthcare or any mention of people.

Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao’s book Scaling Up Excellence came to mind, especially chapter three which focuses on finding the “hot cause,” or overarching purpose that must be driven through an organization. Not just words on a poster in the lobby, but relentlessly demonstrated as the core mission and even better aligned with a one’s Personal Leadership Philosophy.

Think about that. How well and how frequently do you communicate the big picture rather than the immediate project at hand to your team? Coaches share vision and purpose.

Influence & Insight | February 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Manage Energy

Have you ever wondered why some days are exhausting and some days seem magically energizing? There’s no shortage of management and efficiency books and exercises offering advice how we may manage our time better. However, like the best athletes, the most effective leaders focus on energy levels, not time.

In Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s marvelous book, The Power of Full Engagement, two paradigms are compared. In the old paradigm we:

Manage time
Avoid stress
Life is a marathon
Downtime is wasted time
Rewards fuel performance
Self-discipline rules
The power of positive thinking

Were you brought up that way? Many of us were. By studying top athletes, the authors found a new paradigm, where we now:

Manage energy
Seek stress
Life is a series of sprints
Downtime is productive time
Purpose fuels performance
Rituals rule
The power of full engagement

Think of lions in the wild. They spend most of their time resting, until it is time to hunt. Then it’s all out until a successful kill. As leaders we should always focus our energy in a positive way, between relaxed or tranquil states and invigorated or challenged states. We should avoid negative energy, since it is wasted. Think about it. Leaders manage energy.

Live What You Love | Book Review

"Living a purposeful life is about energy. And there's nowhere
better to start than your physical well-being." (p. 350)

Naomi Simson's personal journey & well-referenced book models passion-based or next-generation leadership. Her story offers sharp contrast with a typical, low-energy lifestyle and informs how we may discover what we want to do most leading to a more fulfilling life. This review ties Simson's 4 P's (Passion, Persistence, Positivity and Purpose) to a recommended leadership path.


Identifying personal dreams and goals (both our own and others) is a central part of the Leadership Excellence Course Goal Setting workshop. Simson tells us it might take some exploration to discover (p. 8) our inner spirit. If we're overbooked, or repeatedly chasing shiny things, this won't happen. Simson realized when everything was urgent (pp. 9-10), nothing is important and she missed connecting with her children as a result. Ouch.

We know what it looks like, afterward, when someone has aligned purpose with joy. Simson asks why are entrepreneurs so revered. It's not magic, and it's not just risk taking, it's about becoming real:

"If you're not being real, you're not going to attract the
kinds of people around you who will support your passion." (p. 34).

One of the key ways to build an organization Simson cites is identifying shared values (p. 35), similar to our focus in Core Values Alignment workshops. This approach allowed her to target five ways (p. 63) to well-being (from the New Economics Foundation):

1. Connect to the people around you -- be present.
2. Be active -- go for a walk, play a game.
3. Take notice -- be curious about what goes on around you.
4. Keep learning -- try something new.
5. Give -- do something nice for a friend or a stranger.

Simson points out Raj Sisodia, who advises "Make people your primary purpose" (p. 88), leading to happier employees, who are (via Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage):

• 31 per cent more productive.
• 40 per cent more likely to receive a promotion.
• less absent, with 23 per cent fewer fatigue symptoms.
• up to ten per cent more engaged at work.
• able to sell more -- happy sales people produce 37 per cent greater sales.

Simson hints at her own Personal Leadership Philosophy by asking "Do you know what you stand for? (p. 109). When we do articulate that, it allows for a consistency between both the team and the leaders, in turn, creating trust for the brand (p. 111).


"Resilience and persistence are the game changers.
They give you the strength to live a powerful life instead
of playing small and being plagued by insecurities"
(p. 145).

Over time, those we coach and develop will tell others more about us than any other factor. Simson agrees: Being a leader is not about yourself or your profile -- it's about the legacy that you create (p. 135). She wasn't (me neither) always like this (p. 122): "I had always been pushy -- often at the expense of not knowing the impact it was having on the people around."

Guess what? When we are focused on helping others grow, we'll likewise want to improve ourselves. Like Anders Ericsson's definition of deliberate practice, Simson describes Luciano Pavarotti's approach (p. 175) to singing: "I concentrated on doing better than I had the day before and stopped worrying."

Most of us have hang ups we must overcome before living this way. Simson lists Five Famous Fears (p. 178):

• Humiliation
• Separation
• Poverty
• Unknown
• Missing out

Both the entrepreneur and leader feel these insecurities, but move ahead anyway. Or as Simson mentions, whatever you practice is what you become good at (p. 186).


Simson courageously admits her prior self-centered focus (p. 203): "In my earlier years as a business leader what I lacked was the ability to include others." Now she looks to Jeff Haden's list of what makes a great boss (p. 207):

1. They believe in the unbelievable
2. They see opportunity in instability and uncertainty
3. They wear their emotions on their sleeves
4. They protect others from the bus
5. They've been there, done that ... and still do that
6. They lead by permission, not authority
7. They embrace a larger purpose
8. They take real, not fake risks

At its core, Simson finds that leadership is about positivity, authenticity and connection (p. 232). What kind of environment do we create when leading this way? Let's look at ten traits positive people have in common (pp. 254-257):

• They feel great
• They live longer
• They are healthier
• They keep going
• They are in relationships
• They have deeper conversations
• They look for good
• They spread positivity
• They are productive
• They are lucky

Compare a work (and life) environment with these attributes vs. the typical disengaged organization. This is the result when we align work with passion.


Simson references Oprah Winfrey, perhaps channeling Maslow (p. 298): "The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but on significance." The following Venn diagram shows the intersection we should seek:


As with Simson, it may take some time to intersect all four areas. But when we do:

"Living your purpose will mean you experience
life at a whole new level. You will thrive,
flourish or excel. Your context will change
and so will your view of the world."
(p. 297)

Keep in mind, it is never the business which creates the purpose (p. 313). In her book (p. 330) The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown describes belonging as, 'the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.' First, establish the purpose; Second, start the business; and third (p. 331): "It is important to hire people who are aligned with the company's purpose."


Simson's journey to leadership started with a sense of purpose (p. 364). So can yours. She invites us to contact her via her blog

Note: Naomi Simson generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Coaching Means Connecting

How well do you connect with others? Do your subordinates and team perform as well as you would like? Have you thought about how you might improve your communication skills and raise your game?

Christine Comaford, author of Smart Tribes, mentions five types of communication in her Clarity of Intentions and Energy section — Information sharing, requests, promises, sharing of oneself and debating, decision-making or point proving.

Pop quiz time. Only two of these five types of communication actually drive results. Which two do you think they are? Just two. Hint: It’s not point proving.

According to Comaford, only requests and promises actually drive results. It sounds very simple, but it’s powerfully clarifying.

Ever been in a meeting where only information sharing occurred, a one-way broadcast that never led to anything? We all have. Without specific requests and subsequent promises or commitments, what is there to be accountable for?

Keep in mind requests and promises the next time you compose an email, talk on the phone, attend a meeting, or especially, delegate to a team member. Make it a new habit. Coaching means connecting.

Influence & Insight | January 2018

Leadership Story | Leaders Set Expectations

During the second of three coaching sessions following an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, a client in a highly technical profession critical to national defense shared an uncomfortable decision made since our first coaching call. Turns out the client fired a team member, who was described in our initial discussion as a “challenge employee.” Chances are you may have a similar term for someone at your workplace.

While sharing the history leading to this event, the client revealed that performance issues were allowed to fester. Because substandard performance was tolerated, others team members were eventually asked to backfill work not being completed. Toward the end, the client attempted to highlight the mission critical nature of the work, but in the end it was too little too late.

This is one of many typical situations a Personal Leadership Philosophy is meant to preemptively address. Recall, an effective Personal Leadership Philosophy includes:

What leadership means to each of us
Our personal values
Operating principles
Personal idiosyncrasies
Commitment to receive feedback for our own growth as a leader

This was a powerful coaching session. The client realized expectations were not properly set and agreed-upon at the time of hiring, and ultimately the entire team was affected. While priorities were eventually communicated, recovery was no longer practical. Rather than point fingers or make excuses, the client realized a leadership responsibility had been missed. He is now actively sharing his leadership philosophy, and has already received positive feedback afterward.

Does this story sound familiar? It probably does. Remember, our leadership philosophy allows for continuously improving individual, team and organizational performance. Leaders set expectations.

drop the ball | Book Review

"Martin, I've been bringing my clothes to you for nearly two years now.
How come you never told me you guys deliver?"

"You never asked?" (p. 102)

Tiffany Dufu, rather personally, shares with us the ultimate manager/leader struggle in the form of a personal memoir. If you've ever had trouble delegating anything, especially at home, you'll relate to her story.

Dufu recalls: "I had grown up being told I could do anything I put my mind to, and as I got dressed that first morning back, I couldn't imagine I'd have to compromise on anything: career, marriage, raising a family, keeping our home life running smoothly while advancing the cause of women and girls (p. 2)." How many of us have entered the workplace, accepted a promotion or volunteered to do more with that mindset? There's a good chance, as Dufu found out, our idealism may be shattered on day one.

One of the Dufu's observations is that the professional world assumes that every full-time employee has someone else managing his or her home (pp. 4-5). In her case, where this was not happening, she (and in particular many women)

... end up more exhausted, stressed out, depleted,
and sick than any previous generation of women
(p. 6).

This review highlights key inflection points along Dufu's journey from manager to leader, including several takeaways which comprise her developing leadership philosophy.

Part I | Omnimanager | Omniwoman

Dufu's begins by setting up the environmental circumstances forging her fierce self-reliance: My parents broke a vicious cycle of poverty, substance abuse, and violence in one generation, and in the process, they taught me a fundamental truth: if you want something you've never had before, you'll have to do something you've never done before in order to get it (p. 17). She also relates how fragile this can be, as her parents divorced, and shares her mother's struggles afterward.

Dufu struggled to maintain control of her household -- fueled in part by a reluctance to abdicate responsibility to the one place female authority is unquestioned (p. 59) -- while succeeding as a professional. Recall in our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop self-evaluation, many of our scores plummeted because we likewise overburden ourselves rather than delegate or develop others.

Judith Shulevitz (p. 15) reinforces this in her 2015 New York Times op-ed, "Mom: The Designated Worrier:"

"I don't mean to say that she'll be the one to do everything --
just that she'll make sure that most everything gets done."

Serious self-reflection was in order: "Professionally and publicly, I was an advocate for women's empowerment, but privately I was on Stepford wife (p. 36) autopilot." In our Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, we define effective as doing the right thing and in order of priority. Dufu essentially admits she had not learned to delegate or prioritize. Her problem was that she had fallen into a trap of imaginary delegation (p. 45). It's a great term. Think about what we signal to others when we are perfectionists -- that there is only one correct way to do anything -- who in their right mind will volunteer to help us out?

Dufu candidly defines her perfectionism as Home Control Disease (HCD), and it appears her case was not mild. She shares...

... many women still focus obsessively on everything about it [the home] -- how it's organized, how it's managed, and how the cooking, cleaning and caretaking get done, right down to the smallest detail (p. 53).

Part II | High Payoff Activities (HPAs) | Priorities

For Dufu, candid feedback from her Sage Mentor Margaret Crenshaw was invaluable: "You've got to slow down and prioritize (p. 82). You can't do everything. What do you really want?" This reinforces how essential feedback is and why requesting feedback informs a well-written Leadership Philosophy.

Similar to Dan Pink's correlation between motivation and purpose, Dufu cites Joanna Barsh's (In How Remarkable Women Lead) writing about the critical role that meaning plays in the success of women (p. 83). She and her husband Kojo adopted a different mindset:

... instead of waiting for life to happen to us or for someone to tell us what to do,
our marriage would be its own blueprint
(p. 90).

In short, Dufu adopted an active rather than passive mindset. Instead of focusing on being perfectly busy, she now understood what you do is less important than the difference you make (p. 94). She then examined eight items on my [her] original to-do list, and found that only one of them was critical for me [her] to complete myself [herself] in order to accomplish what mattered most to me [her] (p. 96). Bravo!

The D Word | Live Your HPAs

Dufu tried a delegation experiment - she ignored the mail, allowing it to pile up until husband Kojo took notice. Eventually, and for the first time, he really saw the mail, and felt the desire for it to disappear (p. 116). The takeaway: "Kojo had a threshold for disarray at home -- (p. 117) his tolerance was just way higher than mine."

This led to a series of task requests and commitments (think Christine Comaford's Smart Tribes) leading to a (p. 126) Management Excel List (MEL). The MEL didn't just divide tasks between the couple since they both prioritized making a difference in life. "The most interesting part of our MEL exercise (p. 127) was deciding which X's should go in the No one column." It's a fantastic example of genuinely deciding how to live according to one's HPA's.

Who then to delegate to? Dufu tapped into a blend of personal and professional networks, in a way describing a family contract (pp. 142-149), or in her case a village including five groups of people:

• Family members
• Neighbors
• Nonpaid Working Moms
• Babysitters
• Specialists

On The Other Side | Leadership

Now managing her HCD, Dufu accepts that in every home, there are leaky faucets: "It's time to take a page from Princess Elsa of Frozen (p. 154) and simply let it go." This new understanding allowed formation of a leadership mindset, and likewise revealed examples of self-limiting behaviors:

• Women become less eager to speak their minds, and their companies are denied their potentially valuable contributions (p. 171).
• Women are concerned that being highly talkative will result in negative consequences (p. 171).
• "Done is better than perfect" (p. 166).
• Gratitude is a particularly powerful form of affirmation because it enables value -- and everyone wants to be valued (p. 175).

Dufu's leadership mindset also applied to home life: The more capable I assumed he [Kojo] was at home, the more energy I was able to direct outside the home, and the less time I wasted worrying about how well the kids were being taken care of when I wasn't there (p. 181). This refreshing perspective contrasts many messages we receive daily as described in Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be. The authors (p. 184) Ross Parke and Armin Brott discuss framing or male stereotypes in the media, and the three messages we need to retire (pp. 189-192):

• "He can't manage the details"
• "He isn't here."
• "He doesn't know what best for our children"

Now in an authentic leader role, Dufu becomes more aware of her energy, rather than managing to-do list. She describes three happiness hurdles (pp. 192-202):

• Break free of guilt
• Respect our boundaries
• Develop Happiness Habits

and four Go-Tos most effective when integrated into our daily routines (p. 225):

• Going to exercise (building your stamina)
• Going to lunch (building your network)
• Going to events (building your visibility)
• Going to sleep (building your renewal)

Notice how Dufu has now integrated leadership, happiness and energy. That's authentic. Instead of striving to meet unrealistic (see Daring Greatly) expectations and hustle for "likes," we can refocus energy on what matters most to us -- as any insecurities we might experience are being spurred by an incomplete picture to begin with (p. 242)."

The final summary:

Loving ourselves as imperfect is
the prerequisite to Dropping the Ball (p. 245).

Note: Tiffany Dufu generously provided a copy of her book for review.

Coaching Story | Leadership Means Connecting

In a recent coaching session following an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, a client in the construction industry shared his action plan progress. One of his documented leadership lessons was: “I have no idea if the people on my team are motivated and need to get to know them better through some motivation assessments that will allow me to understand them better.”

The client then described a particular “sit down session” with a staff member who had been working in the office as a Project Engineer. The Project Engineer had not been very effective in this role working in an administrative setting. So the engineer was moved into a superintendent role working in the field.

The client immediately noticed several things: One, that his new superintendent is a really good speaker. And very intelligent. The client could readily foresee a senior superintendent development path including greatly improving project interviews among other responsibilities. The superintendent told the client “This was the first time anyone ever sat down with me and asked what I wanted to do.”

Ponder that. The now highly effective and motivated superintendent has been in the general contractor business for about 15 years, and perhaps 20-25 years when including prior carpenter work. Imagine what can be done with periodic 90 minute “sit down,” or performance coaching sessions with everyone on your team. Leadership means connecting.