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.

Episode 13 - Interview with “Violent Leadership” author Wesley Middleton

Are you a CPA, attorney, or a partner in a professional services firm? Choinquecast thirteen showcases Wesley Middleton’s personal and professional journey in his book Violent Leadership. Unsatisfied with the practice and lifestyle found within the usual managerial-styled CPA firm, Middleton has pioneered a different kind of firm, a twenty-first century CPA firm, MRZ Financial, based on a leadership model suitable for any professional services group.

Middleton is also the host of the Violent Leadership podcast, a member of the Royalwood Church band and a team leader of the church’s Men’s Group.

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.

Episode 12 - Interview with “Counter Mentor Leadership” co-author Kelly Riggs

Choinquecast twelves takes direct aim at generational differences in the workplace as we meet Kelly Riggs who has co-written - with his son Robby - Counter Mentor Leadership, a pathfinding generational work. Kelly is the founder of Business LockerRoom, host of the CounterMentors Show, and a dynamic thought leader in the fields of sales and leadership. He is also a business performance coach who walks the talk: As a business owner, as a national award-winning sales representative and sales manager.

Kelly hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is passionate about supporting children, believing that the good we do for the young yields the greatest payoffs.

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.

Episode 11 - Interview with “Disrupt Yourself” author Whitney Johnson

In choinquecast eleven we meet the author of “Disrupt Yourself," Whitney Johnson, who developed her proprietary framework and diagnostics after having founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. This framework is complemented by a deep understanding of how executives create and destroy value, having spent nearly a decade as an Institutional Investor ranked equity analyst on Wall Street.

In addition to her work as a speaker and advisor, Whitney is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, is a Linkedin influencer, and hosts the twice-monthly Disrupt Yourself Podcast.

Coaching 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.

Coaching Story | Leaders Seek Abundance

The scarcity mindset. What is that? According to Whitney Johnson in Disrupt Yourself it is the failure to see the abundance in another person’s success and is actually a form of entitlement. Her antidote: A gratitude journal, or a written list of three things you are thankful for each day and why.

To some degree, we all seem to be conditioned by this both destructive, and limiting, mindset. For example, in our Academy leadership Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops, we learn that a win-lose mindset is not an effective leader mindset, rather a gain-gain (think compromise) mindset is better or a win-win (think collaborative) mindset is the best conflict leadership strategy. It seems there is an inverse relationship between the degree of scarcity mindset and the degree of coaching or leadership effectiveness.

That’s worth thinking about.

J.K. Rowling comes to mind. One person imagined and shared with us the world of Harry Potter, influencing tens or hundreds of millions of people, yet without just her it would not exist. Imagining Harry Potter did not come at the expense of anyone or anything. The abundance mindset allows for this, the possibility of unlimited potential and outcomes for all.

Dr. Brené Brown likewise believes the scarcity mindset disables progress — in ourselves — in addition to others. In her extraordinary book Daring Greatly, she describes ten guideposts, or ways of engaging the world from a place of worthiness. One guidepost is letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark in order to cultivate gratitude and joy. 

The next time the scarcity mindset begins influencing you or those around you, consider disrupting yourself or daring greatly. Leaders seek abundance.

Leadership Story | Leaders Share Vision and 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 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? Leaders share vision and purpose.

Episode 10 - Interview with “Working with Difficult People” author Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim

Choinquecast ten introduces Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. She is a speaker, author, and the executive consultant and founder of The Cooper Strategic Group. She helps employees and employers to get along better, and coaches leaders and employees to improve productivity, morale, satisfaction, and overall work-life balance. Her book, Working with Difficult People, recently hit #1 in sales at Amazon for Business Etiquette books and was highlighted in Parade Magazine.

Dr. Hakim has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, Fast Company, CNBC Make It, Vogue, Inc., The List, and Star-Telegram. She has also been a guest on the KRTH Morning Show, Think KERA Radio, the WBEZ Morning Shift, the Boca Voice, and Business Radio on Sirius XM. 

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. And learn to say no to the many distractions we encounter daily. Leaders make time.

Episode 9 - Interview with “Work Without Walls” author Maura Nevel Thomas

In choinquecast nine we’re introduced to the power of attention management by Maura Nevel Thomas, an award-winning international speaker, trainer, and author on individual and corporate productivity, attention management, and work-life balance.

Maura has trained thousands using her Empowered Productivity™ System, a process for achieving significant results and living a life of choice. She is a TEDx speaker, successful entrepreneur, and author of Personal Productivity Secrets and Work Without Walls. She is featured in The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, US News and World Report, and the Huffington Post.

She appears weekly in business outlets such as FastCompany, Inc., Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review. Maura is active in her local community of Austin, Texas, where she has held volunteer leadership positions in a variety of different community organizations and charities. Maura offers quarterly pro-bono presentations to nonprofits and donates a percentage of all her revenues to charity.

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

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

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.


Communication Story | Leaders Effectively Communicate

How well do you communicate 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. Leaders effectively communicate.

Motivation Story | Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, is home to an amazing collection of giraffes, seventeen in total. During a recent tour, my daughter & I noticed most of the giraffes were outside. Our tour guide Amy showed us the giraffe’s indoor facility where a training, or enrichment environment was set up. Four of the giraffes were here, performing specific, positive tasks for the trainer, and afterward were rewarded with food. 

Here’s the interesting part - the giraffes preferred choosing to successfully perform the enrichment task for the food rather than just have the food available to them.

My thoughts turned to Dan Pink’s insightful book, Drive, and some of his key findings. He found that once people are compensated enough to begin thinking about the work they are performing rather than the money, three fundamental motivators emerge: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. 

Think about that, especially if you don’t regularly coach those who you are responsible for.

Do you regularly remind your team of their purpose, and your organization’s purpose? Do you also encourage an environment where people can make choices and regularly improve themselves?  Motivation comes from autonomy, mastery & purpose.

Episode 8 | Interview with retired Motorola Senior Vice President Durrell Hillis

Choinquecast eight showcases one of the finest examples of leadership, program management, and innovation you may not know about. Durrell Hillis had responsibility for the research, design, and development of advanced communication and electronic systems for a host of domestic and international commercial users, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Defense, and a variety of other local and national government agencies.  

Our choinquecast focuses on the story of the IRIDIUM® global satellite telecommunications system, as told in Durrell’s book Creating Iridium.

Durrell is or has served as a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, Valley of the Sun United Way Campaign Cabinet, the Board of Governors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Scottsdale, Arizona State University Engineering Dean's Advisory Council, and numerous other roles. He is also a very dear personal friend and colleague.

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.

Episode 7 - Interview with HGTV Co-founder Susan Packard

For choinquecast seven we connect with Susan Packard, who helped to build powerhouse media brands like HBO, CNBC, and HGTV. She was the co-founder of Scripps Networks Interactive and former chief operating officer of HGTV. Under Packard’s helm, HGTV became one of the fastest growing cable networks in television history. Today HGTV is available in more than 98 million and distributed in over 200 countries and territories. She is also the author of New Rules of the Game - 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace.

Susan now writes, speaks, and works with women in all stages of life, at for-profit and not-for-profit companies.

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.

Episode 6 - Interview with “Work Simply” author Carson Tate

Our sixth choinquecast kick-starts our productivity with Carson Tate, creator of the Productivity Style Assessment® and the Work Smarter, Not Harder program. Carson is an internationally-renowned productivity expert and coach with strategies featured in top-tier business media including Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS Money Watch, Fast Company, Forbes, The New York Times, Shape, USA Today and Working Mother.

What energizes Carson most is the unique privilege and opportunity to coach clients in the art of reclaiming their lives and finding the time, space and freedom to create a life that allows them to work simply AND live fully.